Danny Castellano knows a thing or two about building gingerbread houses. The craftsmanship. The precision. The laser-like focus. The zen mindset.
His wife likes to say that he is so obsessed with his creations because it helps him work out his unexpressed childhood frustration of being unable to hold a broken home together. Danny tries not to roll his eyes at her psychobabble too hard. He doesn't always succeed.
No, in reality, Danny just likes making beautiful things.
He grins at one of his most beautiful creations yet, sitting across from him with her little brow furrowed as she tries to mimic his actions on her own piece of gingerbread.
"How's it coming, Abbey?" he asks, chuckling when she huffs in frustration, a mini-Mindy in so many ways.
"Daddy, you do it!" she orders, but Danny shakes his head at the five-year-old.
"No way, Abblesauce. Daddy's got to finish his own part before Mommy's party tonight." He tries to level a stern look her way. "You told me you wanted to help, so you need to finish it. Besides," he cajoles as she starts to pout, "think how much prettier my house will look with your door on it! And everyone from Mommy and Daddy's work will be so impressed at what a big girl you are!"
Abbey thinks about that prospect for a moment, chewing her bottom lip, then looks up at him out of her mother's dark sparkling eyes. "Even Morgan?" she asks hopefully.
Danny hides a wince. He's not sure what it is about their crazy nurse, but Abbey is obsessed with him and demands his presence every time there's any kind of event at their place. "Yep," he manages, "even Morgan."
She grins up at him with her dark bangs falling into her eyes, the sight never failing to leave him elated and humbled, and says, "Alright."
"Alright," Danny echoes with a grin of his own.
They work quietly for a bit, until the jangle of keys comes from the front door. "Mommy!" Abbey cries as Mindy walks through, purse slung over one shoulder as she balances their two-year-old on the opposite hip.
"Hi, Crababble! Are you helping Daddy a lot?" Mindy grins and drops her bag, moving Piper up to her shoulder. Danny is up in a flash to take the baby and kiss his wife hello. She smirks into his mouth as Danny picks up a hint of a cinnamon roll and gives her lip a soft bite.
"Yep!" Abbey answers. "Cause I'm a big girl. Right, Daddy?"
"That's right." Danny takes his seat again with Piper in his lap. "And some day, Piper will help, too."
Abbey purses her mouth into a little rosebud. "I guess," she allows reluctantly. She hasn't taken to being a big sister very well, something that is entirely baffling to both him and Mindy.
Mindy walks up behind Abbey and starts to talk quietly to their daughter about the gingerbread door, oohing and aahing over it. Danny puts a little bit of frosting on Piper's knuckles and watches her go nuts over it, chuckling at her impatient noises as she waits for him to give her more.
By the time they need to wrangle the kids into a bath and party clothes, the gingerbread house is barely complete, the door is lopsided, and there's barely enough frosting decorating it. Frankly it's a house that the Danny Castellano of six years ago would have been ashamed to show.
But looking at it that night, it makes Danny swell with pride, because that is the first gingerbread house he built with his family.