Thank you for the amazing response to the first chapter! I wasn't expecting so many reviews, it's lovely to read them all. Hopefully you'll all like this chapter as much! If you want updates as to where I am with my writing and when to expect new posts, follow me on twitter on theloveinsideus
Chapter Two: Welcome Home
Forty-eight hours came and went, and at fifty hours, the nurses told him that baby Alexander was officially in his custody and his responsibility. He filled in the birth certificate, still putting Cate's name in as the mother, of course, and then told the registrar the name he and Sydney had chosen for the boy. Alexander Nigel Bailey. It was now official. He never imagined that he would be naming a child with Sydney (well, that was a lie, but it had been a long time ago that he had those thoughts), but he was glad that she knew him well enough to know the kind of name that he wanted for his son. The more he spoke the three words, he was a little more proud of Nigel being his middle name. He didn't understand how his own father had looked at his eldest child and thought to himself 'yes, this boy is as perfect as me, he shall have my name' because he didn't consider Alexander to be anywhere near his own perfection levels – he was soaring above them.
This baby had no insecurities, no nerves, and no qualms about speaking up. He cried when he was hungry, he cried when he was uncomfortable or wet, he cried when he just wanted attention. He knew what he wanted and was not afraid to develop his lungs to make sure he got it. He had been born with a confidence that all babies had, with no one ever having told him 'no' yet, no one had ever spoken down to him or made him feel like he wasn't good enough at anything. He was tiny, and perfect, and loved.
Nigel had not seen Sydney since the previous afternoon, but just as the nurse was giving him his final crash course in bathing Alex, she returned, watching from the doorway as Nigel picked up his son and cradled the towel-wrapped, angry child against his shoulder. Apparently bath time was not an activity he enjoyed. He calmed quickly though when he realised that the bath was over and it was then that Nigel turned to see his friend in the doorway. He smiled at her, but she gave him a sad smile in return.
"She didn't come back?" she asked quietly, stepping up beside him. He just shook his head, and she laid her hand on his arm. "I'm sorry, Nige,"
"Don't be," he told her, with more assurance than he really had. "It would be worse if she'd stayed and resented him for it."
"Yeah," she agreed. "So...um...you may not want to look at your next credit card statement," she told him carefully. "Neither will Karen and I...or Claudia."
"Claudia's here?" he asked, ignoring the first statement.
"No, we called her and she sent some bits over, had them shipped overnight from New York. She gets some vacation time in a few months once the fashion rush is over, she wants to come visit and meet the baby then. I send her a photo on my phone yesterday and she's so pleased for you Nigel, she thinks he's so beautiful."
He nodded. "So how much, roughly, am I in debt by?"
"Don't think of it that way," she told him. "Think of it that your son now has an amazing bedroom with everything that he needs for when he comes home."
He smiled, sighing. "Thank you for helping out, Syd. I really appreciate it."
"No problem, it was fun," she told him. "I'm not sure who got asked when they were due more often, me or Karen, but quite a few people commented on how great I was looking."
"Why would they do that?" he asked.
"When we were buying the bed sheets for the crib and we asked for blue they asked how we knew it was a boy, and I said that he'd been born the day before and we needed to get him something to come home to, and the woman told me that I looked in fantastic shape for giving birth a day before."
Despite himself, Nigel laughed. "Thank you, Syd."
"So when does the little guy get to come home?" she asked, leaning in close to his shoulder to say hello to the now content baby.
"Now the bath is over, as soon as they bring me the release paperwork, which should be in about ten minutes," he told her, suddenly nervous again. "Then it's just the two of us, no nurses to cover my back."
"You don't need them," Sydney said confidently.
"No, I really do," he told her.
"Nigel, you'll be fine," she assured him, placing her hand on his shoulder. "All new parents go through a struggle, but you're going to be no different from the rest of them."
He smiled slightly. "You really think so?"
She gave him a falsely exasperated look. "How many times am I going to have to tell you that you'll be a wonderful father?"
"Just enough for it to sink it," he smirked back at her. "Now, if you want to hold your favourite Bailey, I'll make sure his things are ready to go."
Despite his jibe at Alex being her favourite Bailey, which she'd insisted the previous day that she was, she could scarcely had picked up the boy faster. "He looks different already," she cooed softly. "Looks less like an old man and more like a tiny person."
"He is a tiny person," Nigel defended.
But Sydney wasn't listening, she had gone over to the chair in the corner and seemed to be having an intense staring contest with his baby son while she mumbled away to him. Alex seemed to enjoy this, so she continued. He packed up the bag and readied the car seat for them to leave, all that was needed now was the nurse to bring the paperwork and for Alex to go into the car seat, and then it was time to leave. Time for him to be the grown up responsible adult who knew what he was doing – and in the absence of actually being that person, he had to find the confidence to fake it.
When he was finished, he stood holding the car seat and looked at Sydney. She held his son with such care, he knew that she had a delicate touch when it came to relics and things of historical value, but he had always wondered just how much of that delicate touch she applied to people as well. True, she was his best friend, and she knew when he needed a hug, and when simple contact like a hand on the shoulder would do, but it didn't take a genius to see that the way she held his baby was different. At that moment, Alex was the most important thing in her world, he could see that by the way that her arms encased him so securely – any man would enjoy being in her arms like that, even one who was two days old.
She looked up at him and smiled, and before he could speak everything happened to quickly. The nurse came in with the release paperwork and a last bag of supplies for him and then everything was signed and he was nothing more than a guest in the hospital. Neither of them belonged there anymore, not him or Alex, but instead they were thrust upon the world with a good luck and goodbye. He turned towards Sydney, time to announce that they were going home, but he couldn't find himself to say the words.
And as always, when his words failed him, Sydney found them again. She looked at him with a bright smile. "Time to go?"
He nodded numbly and made the awkward transition from Sydney's arms to the car seat.
Turns out, Alex hates the car seat. Alex hates the sound of road diggers. Alex hates dogs barking, and car alarms, and moving cars, and anyone trying to comfort him while any of the above present themselves. It was an eighteen minute car journey from Hell, filled with the sounds of a baby crying who had not yet found his lungs. True, the cry was loud, but it was holding back – the kind of cry that in three weeks time would make getting in a car unbearable. He wasn't sure how Sydney managed to drive safely with all the noise, but reminded himself that she was wonderful under pressure, whereas he was just dreadful. He was trying to train himself – keeping his eyes on the road while keeping track of the baby in the backseat, but every time Alex made a new sound Nigel was whipping round in the seat and half climbing into the back to see what it meant. He was probably more of a driving obstacle than Alex's noise functions.
But when they pulled up at home – now a proper home, not just an apartment, he had settled peacefully and was fast asleep again. He looked up at the apartment block before him, a relatively small block of twelve apartments, one of which on the second floor was his own. It had said on the ad that it was two bedrooms, but the second bedroom was scarcely more than a cupboard he'd managed to fit a desk and a bookshelf into, so he was curious to say the least about how Sydney and Karen had managed to decorate a bedroom for his son. Perhaps they'd thrown a blanket in the 'second bedroom' and moved Alex into his own room? No, surely they'd not be that cruel to him. Not that he wouldn't do that, of course, to give his son somewhere to sleep. Of course he would. He'd do anything for this boy.
"Nigel?" Sydney asked, as she came to stay before him after locking up the car. "Everything ok?"
He hesitated for a moment. "Isn't my apartment a bit small for a baby?" he mused.
"Yes," Sydney said instantly. "Incredibly too small, I didn't think of that. In fact, you better just take him back to the hospital."
Nigel whipped his head round to her and found that she was grinning at him. He frowned. "That's not funny, Syd."
She continued grinning. "Come on, we want to show you what we've done!"
"We?" he questioned.
Karen was waiting up in the apartment, presumably having used Sydney's spare key that had never been used until his son's arrival. Similarly, his credit card hadn't been used in at least six months, having paid it off finally after some emergency expenses on a hunt in Saudi Arabia which the university insisted were not essential and hadn't reimbursed him for. Sydney had apologised and offered to pay him back, but she was the one who usually footed the bill on the non-reimbursed payments so he'd stood his ground.
The apartment was instantly looking cleaner than he had left it in. Although, he had left it in the middle of preparing meal when Cate had called to say she was on the way to the hospital. He was pleased to see with a quick glance into the kitchen revealed that one of them had disposed of the half cooked noodles he was warming on the stove when he got the call. The whole apartment looked cleaner – they'd vacuumed, dusted, even done all the small jobs that were usually overlooked – women's touches, he thought to himself. It had an air of women's touches.
Karen fussed over the baby in the car seat, overjoyed at seeing the little boy and gushing over how much he did look like Nigel. It was uncanny, but everyone was pleased that for now the baby showed no signs of resembling the woman who abandoned him at birth. Plus, how cute was a tiny Nigel going to be, they kept pointing out. Even Nigel had to admit, until the 'Podge' phase had set in, he had been an adorable child. Before anything else could be said or could happen, Nigel found himself pulled towards the bedroom they'd created – instantly realising that they had chosen the 'second bedroom' for Alex's room.
Karen opened the door, and Sydney led Nigel in with his hands over his eyes. He stepped carefully, knowing that his baby was snuggled in his arms and the last thing he wanted to do was trip over, but Sydney wouldn't let that happen. In what would be three steps into the room, she uncovered his eyes and he opened them to look around him. For a moment, he was stunned into silence, not even a breath escaping him. Alex gurgled in his arms, but was still asleep, but even then he didn't move. He just looked around him, taking in the room that they had created.
It looked larger than before, the desk and bookshelf had been removed – to where he was yet to discover, and the room had been painted in two shades of blue – pale blue on three walls and a navy blue on the length of the wall to his left. On the walls were white painted designs, he assumed stencils, of animals – animals everywhere in the room, actually! The walls were adorned with monkeys swinging from branches, giraffes picking at the leaves and elephants walking a line along the new pale blue carpeting for a border. In between there were parrots with wide wings, sloths with dopey smiles and tigers peeking through some painted grass. In the middle of the animals on the navy blue wall was some three dimensional lettering in another shade of blue, spelling out a single word.
Alexander. His son's name.
His son's room.
The window had been covered with a blackout roller blind in the same navy blue as the wall. Beside the window, in one tiny corner of the room was a plump armchair – he recognised it from one of the baby stores as a baby feeding chair, something mainly designed for breastfeeding mothers, but somewhere he could also sit in his child's room to feed him. It was an off-white colour, not unlike the colour of the painted animals on the wall, and fit perfectly in the pale blue corner of the room. Beside the chair was the smallest of shelves which was currently empty void of some baby books that he was sure he hadn't owned before.
On the wall beside him was a small chest of drawers and wardrobe unit, the drawer space not covered so it was more of a shelving unit, but it revealed the piles of clothes which had been folded and hung in the unit – some he recognised as ones that he had bought for his son to be kept at his apartment, but others were new – the majority, actually. Most of the hanging items looked too large, but the boy would grow into them – a winter coat, folded trousers, all in ones, pyjama sets, small t-shirts, then there were bibs, gloves, a large variety of hats in all sizes, blankets piled in one part of the unit in a variety of blues and whites. On top of the shelving unit in the room was a changing area, with a jungle themed changing mat already resting on top. In the corner was a space where diapers and wipes had been piled.
But the room's main feature, of course, was the crib, a deep rich mahogany crib – the same one Sydney had caught him admiring online a few months back. He'd shrugged it off when she asked him about it, saying that while it was nice, he only needed the travel things in his apartment because the baby was going to live with Kate – but there it was. The crib he had, in his mind, chosen for his son to sleep in. The curves of the corners were the same, the outer side had been lowered so that he could easily see the beautiful bedding set that matched the walls as well – clearly they had invested in a wonderful room set. A matching mobile with white animals also hung over the bed and was swinging gentle as if Karen had finished setting it up only a short while before they came home.
All this work in a day. His son's first bedroom painted and decorated and built in a day, by his Auntie Syd and Auntie Karen – obviously the most important women in his lives, he realised. It was a beautiful bedroom, despite its size. The size didn't seem to matter anymore. It was a bedroom with everything that he needed, besides, he was only tiny himself and didn't need a large bedroom to fit things in.
He went to stand further in the room and overlooked the crib, one hand falling away from Alex so that he could run his hand over the rail. As he looked down, he could see himself coming in here every night and putting his son to bed.
"Syd, Karen..." he started quietly, but words failed him for a moment. He turned to face them and found them both waiting anxiously in the doorway still. "This is amazing!" he spluttered out. "Really, it's wonderful."
"You really like it?" Karen asked.
"I love it!" he gushed. "It's...it's perfect. It's everything he needs...everything I wanted for him."
As he grinned at them, Alex started to wake up in his arms, craning his fragile neck over Nigel's elbow. Nigel returned his hand to the back of his head. "This is your bedroom," he mumbled to the boy. "Your very own room that Auntie Syd and Auntie Karen made for you."
"Not just us," Syd told him. "We had a hell of a time getting this crib in time for you to come home. Claudia pulled some strings for us with that, and she supplied a lot of the clothes – apparently some of it isn't even in stores until Christmas."
That didn't surprise him at all. "Any crib would have been ok," he said softly.
Sydney shook her head. "You loved this crib," she shrugged, as if that were reason enough.
They showed him the rest of the apartment in a blur, eagerly pointing out all the additions in the house. In the closet beside the front door was a folded travel system – containing a three-in-one travel system of the car seat that Alex had come home in, one that appeared compact enough that he could put in the back of his car and get around quiet well with too. In the bathroom another shelf had been added above the bath beneath one containing his hair shampoo and cleaners, and this new one held a variety of baby shampoos, cradle cap shampoo and towels and flannels. Also sat in the bath was a ocean-themed seat which attached to the bottom of the tub – a baby could be sat in it, Karen explained, and they wouldn't risk falling under the water and it also gave Nigel more hands to be able to clean him though worrying about how he was holding him in the water. In the kitchen a variety of bottles was beside a steriliser that sat on the worktop – it fit in the microwave, Sydney told him – and in the far corner of the small kitchen was a collapsible highchair that would suit Alex from birth, she assured him.
It had never felt more like a home.
In his bedroom, his bed had been pushed up against one wall, rather than standing in the middle – it didn't matter to him, he only slept on one side anyway. Along the wall on the far side was a moses basket on a stand, something for Alex to sleep in for the first few months until he was ready to sleep in that wonderful crib. The moses basket was the same one that he had selected and paid for himself, but now it was on a stand that put him at the same level as the bed. He dreaded to think how much money the four of them had spent on restructuring his house of the baby, but at least everything was there. Everything was ready, and his son had come home to a home, not just an apartment with things. A real home.
They returned to the living room, where Karen offered to change the baby. She got excited about using the new changing mat in the bedroom and disappeared off, the whole time the others listened to her cooing and laughing away at the gurgling baby – Alex seemed to be rather chatty with Karen. Nigel collapsed onto the couch, digging his arm behind him to retrieve the small blue bear he had fallen on. This had been the first thing he purchased when he found out that they were having a boy. Actually, the first thing he had bought at all. This was what he was going to give to Alex to take him to Cate's house so that he would always have something there of his father, even when Nigel wasn't able to be around.
Sydney handed him a mug of tea, which he hadn't even been aware of her making, and sat down beside him. "So, you like everything?" she asked again.
"I love it all," he repeated, not taking his eyes off the bear until he felt her lean her head against his shoulder to look at it from the same position. "Really, Syd. I can't thank you all enough. Without you three..."
"It was fun," she mused. "I think I'm going to like spoiling my new favourite Bailey."
"Oh, so I was your favourite at some point then?" he teased.
"Of course," she assured him, leaning back against the couch. "It was either you or Preston. Not a difficult choice." Nigel leaned back and started to drink his tea. "Have you called Preston? Does he know?"
Nigel shook his head. "Telling you and Karen was bad enough, I don't want to hear one of his 'brotherly' lectures right now."
"You think he'll lecture you for stepping up and taking care of your son?" Sydney asked.
"No, he'll lecture me for trusting Cate in the first place," he said. "When I told him I was going to be a father, he asked me if I was going to get a DNA test to prove that Cate was telling me the truth."
Sydney scoffed at the idea. "Well, one look at that baby disproves the need for any kind of test."
"It's strange seeing him look so much like me," Nigel mused, then a thought dawned on him. "I should call Claudia and thank her."
"I'm sure she'll understand if you don't do it straight away," Sydney shrugged.
Nigel raised an eyebrow. "This is Claudia."
She laughed. "Ok, maybe not. So, how does it feel, bringing a baby home?"
"You really want to know?" he asked.
"I might not get to do this myself, so I'm living through you," she told him with a strange smile. "Yes, I want to know."
He let out a shuddering breath. "It's terrifying. I mean, those nurses don't know me at all and they trust me to bring that fragile little person home and look after him..."
A strange movement on Sydney's part sent a flutter through him – she was laying her head on his shoulder. Had she ever done that before? He didn't think so. He was afraid to move, because it felt nice and if he moved or mentioned it she might move away. Then again, she was likely to do so as soon as Karen came back with the baby anyway. He decided to just remain still and enjoy it.
"I trust you, Nige," she told him softly.
"Thanks," he mumbled back.
Karen came back into the room with a clean baby and went to hand him back to Nigel but Sydney's enthusiastically outstretched arms got there first. "I want to hold him, it's my turn!" she exclaimed like a young girl, and plucked the little boy into her own arms. When she was comfortable with Alex in her arms again, she leaned back against Nigel, not as completely as before though. "There's Auntie Syd's favourite little boy," she cooed.
"And Auntie Karen's," Karen agreed.
"Am I anyone's favourite anymore?" Nigel asked. "I don't even think I'm Alex's favourite."
A/N: Once again, thanks for the reviews (and many more please, it makes me update faster :D ) and remember - theloveinsideus!