A/N: Set in the VSG 'Verse. This is a birthday gift of sorts to celebrate Caden's arrival. Since he is not accepting gifts I dedicate this to my favorite author and on line BFF Emm12. (Check out her work, especially the Various Shades of Grey 'Verse this one-shot is built on. It's fantabulous!)
Disclaimer: I don't own or pretend to know any of the people real or fictional that make up this story.
FYI: Nanay and Tatay are Filipino terms for mother and father.
Summary: A milestone moment in Chris' life inspires him to reflect on parenthood and growing older. CrissColfer Future Fic.
In the Blink of an Eye
The faint beep from the front door lets Chris know Caden has made it home. Out of habit he glances at the schedule on his office wall, but he doesn't have to, he knows it by heart; Tuesday is Caden's free day and 'Risa still has Cheerleading for two more hours.
Chris quickly makes his way to the kitchen, heart in his throat, he has been anything but productive today, sitting on pins and needles waiting to find out Caden's answer... well Jamie's answer.
He had the makings of an afternoon snack on the counter when his son finally made it into the kitchern, curly head hunched over, digging through his backpack. Chris was dying to see Caden's eyes, more Katie's brown than Darren's gold; after sixteen years he could read his son like a book and his eyes could never hide his feelings. However when Caden finally raised his head, his lopsided smile gave everything away.
"Just tell me 'Den I'm dying here!" Chris had to hear him say it, but more importantly he wanted to hear how their plan had played out.
"She said yes" Caden replied shyly, but Chris could hear the pride in his voice.
"YES!" Chris was tempted to do a couple high kicks and a victory dance but Caden would have rolled his eyes and quickly vacated the kitchen at the display. So he held everything in check, and grabbed the back of one of the chairs at the kitchen bar so hard his knuckles turned white. "So you gonna tell your old man how it went down or what? I'm not above begging or torturing you with kisses."
"Poppa, I just did what you suggested. I told her I liked spending time with her and I wondered if she would be interested in being my girlfriend."
"And she said yes," Chris supplied.
"And she said yes," Caden repeated eyes sparkling now. "And we made a date for Saturday. You'll drive us won't you?"
"Mmm… Saturday... I have a play production meeting. Maybe Naya could drive you."
"Poppa... not Nanay, I think Jamie is scared of her and she'll probably want to give me another sex talk with Jamie right in the car. Please, please, please, you're the coolest parent I have."
"I bet you say that Katie and Darren when I'm not around too."
"Mum and Tatay are cool, and so is Nanay, but you just get me you know... Plus I want you to be there, I have a feeling I'm gonna make a fool of myself and you can text me pointers like you used to do. Remember my first date with Allison last year, I never would have gotten through it without you reminding me to breathe and not fidget -"
"And keep your hands to yourself."
"And keep my hands to myself. Geez Poppa, you don't have to keep bringing that up."
"Listen. No one wants to watch their fifteen year old son make a move on a girl."
"But you and Tatay-"
"What me and Tatay do is allowed because we are married. End of discussion or you're gonna end up with a chaperone and not just a ride... Got it?"
"Got it. Can I go now?"
"Yes, interrogation over. You can go." Chris slid the chicken salad sandwich he had been holding hostage toward his son.
Caden threw his backpack over his shoulder and grabbed the sandwich sans plate and started heading for the door. Just as he was about to pass through the opening he turned "Thanks for everything Poppa. Love you."
Chris' heart fluttered in his chest but he managed to speak "Love you too, sweet boy. I'll come up in a bit to see how your homework is going – no video games 'til you're done." Caden nodded in concurrence and was gone.
Chris put a hand over his mouth, but it couldn't contain his smile. His son had a girlfriend. His son had a girlfriend. When did he get a son old enough to have a girlfriend and a daughter begging him to go to cheerleading camp in the summer and starting high school in the fall? Wasn't he just in high school himself, being tortured for being different, for not being 'cool'. And now here he was 'cool' parent of two smart, beautiful, well adjusted kids.
Chris grabs a Diet Coke and heads out to the pool deck. He shakes his head, its unbelievable really, sixteen years in the same house, practically unheard of by Hollywood standards. But Chris had insisted that his kids have a place they could call home. He wanted consistency and normalcy and he was willing to fight tooth and nail to give it to them. Their family dynamic was confusing enough without having their memories clouded and confused by multiple moves and different schools.
He thinks that in most ways he has succeeded. His kids have friends. Tons of them, if the twenty odd bathing suits, ranging from modest one pieces to outlandish board shorts, that reside in the downstairs bathroom, waiting for their turn at the many impromptu pool parties, that are more common place than the exception, are any indication.
Both kids excel at sports. Darisa shows no fear during her cheerleading performances, which prevent Chris from ever properly growing out his nails. She also excels at swimming and is so dedicated to her early morning practices she often wakes Chris up before his alarm, braving the boys side of the house and knocking on his door with a quiet "Poppa… time to get up, I've already put the coffee on."
When her laugh carries over the field, Chris hears Naya's laugh and sees Naya's dark brown hair, but she has his hands, and teeth, and eyes, though hers remain blue, and his determination and of this he is most proud. Who knew Speech and Debate skills could be passed down like his grandmother's locket? Darisa has all four of them, five if you include Caden, wrapped around her little finger, and Chris knows she will be the one to turn him grey with her crazy schemes and inability to back down from a challenge.
Not that Caden is any better; he is fearless on and off the soccer field and has the scars to prove it; he was in J.V. football in the fall but Chris has a feeling he will probably bow out next year. Like Darren and Katie, he is petite and though he had a small growth spurt last summer, Chris fears he's almost at his adult height. Something that 'Risa, two years younger, but only an inch shorter never lets him forget.
Chris wonders, for the thousandth time, if all kids are like this or were they just blessed with 'hard headed children' as his mom likes to call them. Mama Criss calls them 'spirited' and after surviving Chuck and Darren's teenage exploits Chris thinks that's saying a lot. Only their children's Abuelos, Naya's parents, seem to take the challenge that is their grandchildren in stride and have become default baby-sitters when all of their schedules have them out of town at once.
Not that that happens frequently. They all made a commitment from the beginning to raise the kids together with Katie and Chris taking up most of the slack. Chris stayed very close to home for the first twelve or so years, focusing on writing and the odd guest starring role. But now that the kids are older and everyone else has followed their dreams and developed their careers he has taken a few more obligations under his belt, his current play being the latest and greatest of them.
Naya has settled into work at her talent agency and her agent keeps her flush with available scripts. Darren's movie career has afforded them many luxuries, including a row house in San Francisco and beach house in Hawaii. One of Chris' new favorite sayings is he's 'never met a mid-term he didn't like' and he loves nothing more than to book vacations for his very functional family, thank you very much, whenever their schedules allow.
Naya and Katie also have a love nest on the coast a short drive from LA, and though the kids know it exists, it is used solely as an adults only retreat; both couples use it at least once monthly to reconnect and relax. Naya had purchased it right after Darisa was born when she and Katie were going through a rough patch. It took a while, and some counseling, for them all to realize that their special circumstances afforded them enough time to focus on their relationships with their significant others without sacrificing the children's upbringing.
Chris passes the sand box, long forgotten, and getting its only use from their cat Tiny, who is anything but, and pauses at the fire pit to look over the yard. If he closes his eyes he can hear Darisa counting for hide and seek, hear 'Den shouting 'Look at me Tatay' from the pool and remember his thirtieth birthday party when he left eighty guests mingling idly while they all rushed 'Risa to the ER because her screams and fever had told his 'daddy instincts' that something was really, really wrong. Chris doesn't realize he is crying until he feels the tears fall off his jaw and onto his bare arms. If he had waited just three more hours the ruptured appendix could have cost Darisa her life and he can't bear to think of life without her, without any of the five other souls that inhabit these walls, that pull on his heart strings and make him glad to be alive.
He takes another moment to shed a few more tears for the souls that were never meant to be his... theirs. There was a failed IVF attempt and a miscarriage between 'Den and Darisa, and for the sixteen months between Naya's retrieval and 'Risa's birth, Chris had tried to keep his hopes down and fears secret but Darren and Naya had ended up walking on egg shells for over a year around he and Katie because they each blamed themselves after every failure. Katie was so heartbroken during that time. She had wanted Naya and Chris to see themselves in someone else's eyes, but her body kept rejecting the pregnancies. Chris simply thought fate was trying to tell him something, that he was never destined to have it all. Those were the hardest months of his adult life and he was glad to be long past it now. Their family was complete and he was happy.
Chris tugs on rope of the tire swing, in almost 16 years it had only been changed once, after Naya and Darren decided to join Darisa and Caden on it one Sunday afternoon. After about ninety seconds of everyone vying for a comfortable spot, it had popped and all four had landed in a tangled heap on the St. Augustine grass. Chris still doesn't know how no one got seriously hurt. He guessed it was a matter a luck.
Though luck had not spared the family entirely. There had been numerous trip to the pediatrician for smashed fingers and stitches and broken bones (cheerleading is a contact sport and don't you doubt it for a second) and that pea Caden got stuck up his nose at eleven months. Oh and the split lip Darren got when he fell down half a flight if stars after tripping on some haphazardly discarded shoes; no one will let him forget that the offending shoes were in fact his.
And this is so not the tangent Chris wanted to be on when he came out here. He grips the rope and hauls himself up onto the tire rim, leaning back tentatively to try and start some momentum. His left shoulder aches, arthritis the doctor says, and he has a reality check: he is closer to forty than thirty and maybe he should get down before he breaks something. It's this thought however that spurs him on to bend his knees and really lean into it. The tree creaks above him and he wonders if this is the craziest (and most childish) thing he's done in weeks, months maybe, and when he realizes it is, he revels in it; reminding himself that just because he is a father doesn't mean he can't be a kid sometimes and maybe somewhere in the carpool lane or the toiletry aisle of the grocery store he has forgotten this and he is determined, determined to not forget again.
Chris is breathing hard and smiling dizzily when he reaches back inside the kitchen. The swing has cleared his mind and he is feeling generous and light and horny and won't Darren be surprised at what he has planned for them later.
He's flipped the breaker on the hot tub they installed, but they rarely use and thinks he and Dar deserve to treat themselves tonight, because its Tuesday and their son has a girlfriend and Chris can still climb tire swings and live to tell the tale.
And he is going to make dessert! Something he can stick in the oven with Caden's favorite meal, meatloaf and twice baked potatoes. He was almost certain that Jamie was going to say yes, but on the small chance that he was wrong, he wanted 'Den to have something to smile about today.
You can't hear the door alarms in Caden's room, but a quick glance at the clock tells Chris everyone should be home by now. Darren and Katie had been working on a duet for his latest album, but they weren't on deadline and everyone knows Chris is a stickler for family dinners. No text messages usually mean everything is going to plan.
Less than a minute after he thinks this, both he and Caden's phones chirp simultaneously with text message alerts. Chris doesn't even bother to check his, but Caden confirms his suspicions when peeks at his phone and says "They're ready."
The table is set and everyone else is already seated. Chris can't help his grin as he greets the rest of his family.
He leans down and kisses Darisa's hair. "Little girl."
"Hey I'm almost fouteen..." his daughter starts, but he ignores her and carries on.
He kisses Katie on the cheek. "Big girl."
"I take offense to that..." Katie begins but there is no bite to her words. They play this game almost daily.
It's air kisses for Naya next. "Satan," he gets out with a straight face.
"Watch your back while you sleep, Porcelain," is the response, but Naya can't hide her smile.
At the end of the table sits the love of Chris Colfer's life. Darren's eyes are shining, this is what he comes home for. "My love," Chris breathes out softly before capturing Darren's lips in a kiss just shy of inappropriate for the dining room table.
"Get a room," 'Risa groans and Chris smiles against Darren's lips - she is so Naya's child.
"Have you no shame?" This from Caden, who is used to his Dads' displays of affection but doesn't want to be left out.
Chris stands to his full height and makes it over to his seat next to Darren before he answers, "No, not anymore. I think I left in the Walgreen's in 2014."
Darren laughs behind his hands and Katie sing songs "Storytime" while the food is beginning to get dished out onto their plates.
"Really?" Chris tries to act resigned, but he has been the master story teller in this house from the beginning so with all eyes on him he starts his tale.
"It was Spring 2014. 'Risa you were a newborn and Caden you were in the midst of your terrible twos. Katie was suffering from a little post-partum. Naya was filming her second movie and was working very, very, long hours. Darren was finishing off his first full length album and still guest starring on Glee. And I was trying to handle the house myself and failing miserably. Believe it not kids, I was not always the competent house husband I am today." This comment is met with sarcastic cries of disbelief from everyone at the table.
Chris holds up his hand to silence their comments and laughter. "Enough from the peanut gallery. Do you want me to go on?" Chris eyes his family critically, but doesn't wait for them to answer.
"I don't think I had slept in two days and all my jeans were dirty because I had fallen behind on the laundry. Katie needed pain medication and 'Den was out of teething gel and there was no more Diet Coke in the house. I told Katie I would just pop around the corner to Walgreen's and be right back. I had a short mental list in my head but before I left she gave me a list Naya had left with her."
"Ten minutes later I'm in Walgreen's, in my pajama pants, trying to figure out why there are twenty different types of Maxi pads." Everyone at the table is giggling. "Hush... I am now, strangely and unfortunately, very educated and aware of all the feminine needs of everyone in the household, but back then I was totally lost. So I pick up three random types and carry everything up to the check out counter. And who do I bump into in line? Well I'm glad you asked. One very dapper Darren Criss." Chris reaches over and squeezes Darren's hand on the table.
"I had forgotten my phone and Darren had called on the way home and Katie had asked him to pick up 'just one more thing'. So we are at the checkout with the most arbitrary stuff imaginable. Darren is holding my hand and kissing my neck while Maxi pads and baby food and bottle liners and lube... I mean... pain medicine and women's deodorant," Chris pauses to blush, "is getting scanned. The cashier kept looking at me weird. I hoped it was the combo of pajamas pants and no product in my hair, not for one second did I think she recognized me - I was a wreck. And well... I felt like such a freak. She kept eyeing me until I couldn't take it any more. 'What?' I barked at her, tired and fed up and just waiting for some derogatory gay remark. She just casually replied 'You have spit-up all over your shoulder' ." At that everyone at the table was in stitches and Chris took a mental picture of moment to remember their laughter and love he felt radiating off all of them.
"And that ladies and gentlemen is the reason I never go to that Walgreen's anymore. But I just want you to know... Darren, Naya, Katie, Caden and Darisa it was all worth it. You were all worth it. You are all worth it. I love you. You have given me the best life ever and I wouldn't change a single moment, and yes Poppa is crying because he loves you so very, very much." Chris felt Darren reach over to wipe the tears on his face, his touch warm, familiar and so tender.
Chris has another a moment of clarity. When you are in the middle of being tortured for your voice. Or holding a colicky baby for the ninth night in a row. Or getting exasperated trying to show your kids how to use an actual paper dictionary. Or watching them mope day after day because their crush doesn't like them back. Days like that feel like they will never end, like you are trapped on a ferris wheel of pain and uncertainty, but then you blink and suddenly you're thirty seven, with a husband, two kids and two best friends you call family. And you have to smile and say: this is my life. I made this. And the tears were worth it.
A/N: Dearest Emm, I know this can go without saying, but I'll say it anyway, this one shot comes from a place of love and admiration for what you have built with this 'Verse. I hope I have not screwed up your head cannon too much, but Chris came to me the other day and had something to say and I couldn't help myself.