Shane’s day starts off in the way he was dreading for the past year: it is Tess’ first day back at work and of course, she has the morning shift, which means that for the first time in months, he wakes up all alone in their bed.
It’s nothing new, waking up without Tess. Most of the time they worked opposite shifts and either Tess or he would already be gone by the time the other woke up. However, it is new considering she spent a little over ten months at home and he woke up or fell asleep next to her every single day.
Reaching for her with his eyes still closed, he grunts when he realises that yep, she’s definitely left. He drags a hand down his face as he rolls on his back and sighs deeply, already feeling grumpier than he hoped. When he glances at the clock, he realises it’s half past ten and that Sylvie must be already up and in Pete’s room, as per usual.
Getting out of the bed as he yawns, Shane stretches and puts on a clean pair of boxers, some sweatpants and a dark long-sleeved Henley that Tess had left for him at the foot of the bed. After quickly brushing his teeth and splashing some water on his face, he forgoes shaving and heads to his son's nursery, Sylvie’s voice already reaching him in the hallway.
Shane stops and leans against the wall just outside Pete’s room, peeking at his kids. As predicted, Sylvie is standing by Pete’s crib in her pyjamas playing peek-a-boo with him. The crib is a little too tall for her, so she’s standing on a small stool Shane bought for her so she could watch over Pete like the big sister she is.
Grinning at this beautiful sight before him, he hears his son giggling as he approaches them and sees that Sylvie is now tickling Pete’s belly.
“Daddy!” Sylvie yells when she notices him coming and beams at him.
“Hey, honey pie. When did you get up?” Shane asks his daughter, leaning down to kiss the top of her head as she wraps her arms around him and snuggles her face into his shirt. Her hair is still tied in a braid Tess made last night.
“Awhile ago. I wanted to see if Pete woke up. And he did!” she’s unwrapping her arms and directing her attention back to her brother, eagerly awaiting for the next step – her daddy taking her brother out of his crab and letting her hold him like he does every morning.
Shane shakes his head and chuckles, resting his hands on the crib and looking down at his son who is squirming and reaching up his arms to be picked up.
“Hey there, lil Walsh. Sleep well?” Shane picks him up, holding him close to his chest as he kisses his cheek and coos to him. The baby squirms when Shane’s stubble pokes at him and grabs a fistful of his dad’s still uncombed hair.
Sylvie is propping herself on her toes to get a better look of her brother as Shane apologises to his son for the state of his beard. Pete doesn’t respond, instead grabbing onto his dad’s finger and starting to nibble on it.
At six months old, Pete has already gained some weight and has started to crawl. His favourite person is his mom, then his sister, judging by the excitement he shows when he's with them.
Of course, Shane isn't jealous - he loves his kids more than anything in this world and he know they love him too. There's no competition between Tess and him, and even if there was, Shane wouldn't mind one bit if she won. He prefers her over himself as well.
Shane pads to the rocking chair he bought for Tess when she was pregnant with Sylvie and sits down, Sylvie following behind him. She already knows what to do. Pulling in her blue chair and sitting beside him, she reaches out her arms and Shane hands her over Pete.
She’s careful to hold him firmly, still afraid she’ll drop him because she’s “not as strong as you, daddy”. Shane has his hand on the baby’s back just in case.
“Heya Pete, hey Petey,” Sylvie says, bumping her nose with his and leaning her head so her locks tickle his face. She knows her baby brother likes when she makes him giggle. His soft chubby hands are reaching for her hair and he tugs her slightly, but Sylvie doesn’t complain. Instead, she's grinning at him, telling him how cute he is and kissing his forehead.
Shane watches his two kids, observes the way they interact and not for the first time he realises how blessed he is for having such a wonderful family. The happiness he feels every day he is with them is immeasurable, that often he’s scared something will happen and put an end to this joy.
He reminisces of all the struggles Tess and he went through, all the hurdles they had to jump over to have what they have now. Thinking over those bad memories, Shane realises he wouldn’t change a thing, because whatever happened, it all added up to this – Sylvie and Pete. No matter the pain, he’d go through it all over again if it meant having his family just the way it is now.
They sit like that for about ten minutes, allowing the siblings to play until Shane has to change Pete’s diaper and send Sylvie to go brush her teeth and change out of her pyjamas. Tess probably left her some clothes out to put on as well.
As he’s cleaning and changing Pete, Shane blows raspberries all over his stomach and Pete's giggles grow even louder than before, and he slightly gurgles on his spit.
His eyes are bright and joyful, much like his sister’s when she was his age. Matter of fact, baby Pete is an exact copy of his sister, reminding Shane of the times he used to change Sylvie's diapers and carry her around in his arms. Those days are long gone and he can't say that he doesn't miss them. She's growing up so fast that sometimes he feels he's missing out.
When he's all done with Pete and the baby is dressed in some clean onsies, Shane heads to the kitchen where Sylvie's already waiting for them, having already taken out the plates for her and her dad.
Shane sits Pete in a high chair then sets about making some waffles for Sylvie, and eggs and bacon and coffee for himself as Sylvie plays with Pete.
When he's done with their breakfast, he makes Pete's - one pureed banana which he knows Sylvie will insist on feeding to him. Tess already fed him some milk before she left, judging by the baby bottle drying on the dish rack.
They settle around the table to eat and Shane sends a quick text to Tess wishing her good luck on her first day back and snaps a photo of the kids as Sylvie feeds a spoon to Pete and smiles at the camera.
We love you so much, darlin'. Can't wait for you to come home, the text says and he knows it sounds sappy but he doesn't care, dammit. He misses her so much already.
As they eat, Shane probes Sylvie about what she would like to do today and they agree to go to the park when he's done with house chores and they take their afternoon nap.
A text arrives from Tess then:
You made me cry, Walsh. Beware when I get home. Miss u 2, my sweet angels ❤
His heart swells and he reads the text to Sylvie, who becomes worried her mommy cried. She wants to call her, but Shane explains to her that it's nothing bad, that mommy's okay. She just misses us and wants to be home, but she had to go to work.
Once they are finished with breakfast, Shane leaves the kids in the living room to play on a mat as he washes the dishes and changes the sheets in their and Sylvie's bedroom, then loads the washing machine.
He checks on the kids every few minutes and sees Pete trying to crawl and Sylvie encouraging him to crawl towards her. She’s lying on her stomach and flailing her arms around and Pete’s babbling at her.
The scene makes him laugh so he joins them on the mat, crawling towards them. Pete rolls around and ends up next to Shane who places him on his chest. Pete’s drool lands on his shirt but he couldn’t care less. Sylvie joins them, leaning her head on her dad’s chest too and Pete immediately latches onto her hair, babbling something as he’s looking at his sister.
A few hours later, the kids are tired so Shane decides they’ve had enough fun for the time being. He takes Pete to the nursery to get some sleep since he was getting fussy and lets Sylvie sing him his lullaby as he rocks him in his arms. When Pete’s asleep, he puts him in his crib and lets Sylvie go to her room to get some sleep as well while he finishes some work around the house.
He fixes the cupboard door Tess told him was hanging loose, puts the clothes from the washing machine into the dryer and opens the windows to let some fresh air in. He dries the dishes from the dish rack and puts them back in the place. Knowing that both Sylvie and Pete sleep like logs, Shane also vacuums and washes the windows, wanting to leave as little work as possible for Tess.
She’s going to come home exhausted after working the whole day and he’d resent himself if he didn’t do as much as possible to help her out.
Having finished all that he could, Shane sets an alarm on his phone and goes to sleep himself, lying on Tess side of the bed because her pillow smells of her pomegranate shampoo.
* * * * *
It’s two hours later when he wakes up with his daughter curled into his side. He has no idea what time she came in nor why, though it was nothing unusual.
“Sweetheart. Hey, Sylvie,” he calls her, brushing stray strands out of her face.
She stirs slightly but other than that, she’s oblivious to him. Instead of waking her up, Shane tucks her in and leaves her be. He goes to check on Pete, who’s still asleep too, then decides to use the time he has and make lunch.
While the food is cooking, Shane calls Tess to see how her day is going. They chat for a bit and then she has to go because there was some problem at the reception. It’ll be another few hours before she comes home. With a resigned sigh, he ends the call just before he hears Pete’s cries.
“Hey, lil man. What’s wrong, ha? Whatya cryin’ ‘bout?” Shane asks as he picks up Pete, noting the way his face is all red and tear-stained as more tears keep rolling down his cheeks.
“Hey, buddy. Hey, don’t cry. Let’s see.”
Placing him on the changing table, Shane cleans him up and changes the diaper, which proves to be a challenge with all of baby’s fussing and squirming around. He curses a few times and chuckles imagining Tess scolding him for it. All the while, Shane keeps talking to Pete in hopes of calming the baby.
The diaper finally changed and with still-crying Pete in his arms, Shane figures that his son must be hungry.
With an impending headache, Shane perches Pete on his hip and goes to the kitchen to check the progress of the dish. It takes another ten minutes before it’s done.
Meanwhile, Shane paces up and down the kitchen with some music playing on his phone, hoping that will sooth Pete who hasn’t stopped crying yet. Shane sings softly to him, rocking him to and fro while Pete babbles, pushing his head under his dad’s chin.
“Heya, buddy. Alright, alright. Pete, my boy, why you gotta do this to your ol’ man, ha?” Shane asks looking into his son’s face and for a moment, the crying ceases and Pete just gazes at his dad, only to start wailing again.
Shane presses him to his chest, cradling his head, “Alright, alright, son.”
When the lunch’s ready and the table set, he wakes up Sylvie who’s a bit cranky, and they all take their time while eating in silence. Sylvie’s not yet fully awake so she’s mostly just pushing the peas around her plate. Pete’s hungrily downing his mashed potatoes and peas, and Shane just shakes his head; his son already has his appetite.
“Sylvie, sweetheart, you gotta eat. Come on, we’ll go to the park later,” he says to his four-year-old, worriedly observing her picking her food.
Unlike Pete, Sylvie is not much of an eater and Tess and he sometimes have a hard time making her eat more than a few bites.
At the mention of the park, she perks up and hurries eating, occasionally asking to feed Pete which allows Shane to take a few bites himself.
Sylvie inquires about her mom and Shane assures her she’s gonna be home soon. Sylvie just nods, but he can tell she too finds it hard to adjust to Tess not being at home all the time anymore, even though this is only the first of many days in the future.
Lunch over, Shane goes about dressing the kids and adjusting Pete in a carrier on his chest. When they’re all dressed and ready, Shane picks up a bag with Pete’s things and takes Sylvie by the hand who’s more than eager to go outside.
The Walsh family is strolling down the street towards the park and Sylvie takes the opportunity to tell her dad about a drawing of him she did the previous day but forgot to show him.
“It’s you in your un’form, daddy,” she tells him as she hops from one foot to the other.
“Well, you gotta show me when we get back. I’mma frame it and put it on my desk at the station.”
She looks at him wide-eyed then, stopping in her tracks.
“You will?” Her voice is full of hope and Shane nods, assuring her that yes, he will display his baby girl’s art so everyone can see. Ruffling her hair, he crouches slightly and kisses her head as she giggles and runs away from them.
“No running, remember! Wait till we get there.”
Grudgingly, Sylvie obeys and slows down, allowing Shane to catch up with her. When Shane looks down, Pete’s mumbling something, turning his head left and right, taking in the environment.
They get to the park and Sylvie immediately runs to the slide while Shane settles on a bench with Pete. He takes him out of the carrier and holds him so they can both see Sylvie going down the slide. Pete’s pointing ahead, his hands reaching for his sister, but Sylvie’s too far to hear his babbles and too distracted talking to her friends to see him.
“Buddy, we gotta let her have some fun without us, ‘key?” He kisses Pete’s temple and returns his gaze to Sylvie, watching her carefully.
He’s always afraid she’ll fall and hurt herself. It’s happened so many times by now, but it kills him seeing even a drop of blood or a scrape on his little girl. Tess likes to tease him mercilessly about it, but he can’t help himself.
Sylvie’s running around with a few kids from their street and Pete wiggles his legs and butt when Sylvie passes by and waves at them.
One of their neighbours sits next to him on the bench and Shane just briefly nods at her, keeping his gaze on his daughter.
When he’s out with his kids, Shane makes it a rule not to talk to other parents. Not because he doesn’t want to. Rather, it’s because he’s scared he’d get distracted and lose Sylvie out of his sight. He prefers to spare himself and her mother a heart attack and premature death.
* * * * *
An hour later, they’re home. They head towards the living room to find Tess, who obviously just finished having a shower since her hair is still wet and she’s in her plushy blue bathrobe. She’s lounging on the couch flipping through the channels.
Hearing them come in, Tess calls out for them with a wide smile plastered on her face. Pete immediately stars flailing his arms and squirming when he hears his mother’s voice.
Just as she gets up, Sylvie runs into her, almost knocking her down. Tess picks her up and covers her face with kisses as her daughter grins from ear to ear.
“Hey, my sweet monkey. Did you have fun with dad and your brother?”
“Yeah, but I miss'd you. Are you goin’ to work again?” Sylvie asks, her voice laced with sadness as she looks at her mom, biting her lip.
“Yeah, pumpkin. I have to.”
Sylvie’s face falls and Tess kisses her temple and hugs her tightly, telling her how much she missed her, which seems to put her at ease.
“Hey baby. Hey, Petey,” Tess leans over and kisses her husband on the cheek and they exchange a glance that conveys a promise of later, before she nudges her nose with Pete’s and pecks him.
“They missed you a lot today. As did I.”
“You don’t say, Walsh. I thought you were sick of me and couldn’t wait to see me leave,” Tess teases him as she puts Sylvie down and Shane hands her over Pete who snuggles immediately into her embrace.
Shane whispers low enough just for her to hear, “I hate to see you leave, but I love to watch you go, darlin’. But being without you sucks,” he tells her honestly and steals a quick kiss on the lips, taking her by surprise.
Tess laughs at his corniness and nudges him with her shoulder, “Mind your language, Walsh.”
Shane just puts his hands up in surrender and takes Sylvie to wash her hands and change and Tess takes over Pete.
When they’re in Sylvie’s room, she runs to her little desk and rummages through her papers until she finds the drawing she wanted to give to her dad.
“Here, daddy,” she gives him the drawing shyly, fidgeting with her hands.
Shane looks at the oddly shaped lines of his face and uniform, and dutifully compliments his daughter on her skills, making her blush and hug him.
“Everyone’s gon’ be real jealous I’ve such a talented kid.”
His voice is full of pride because he does love the drawing though it resembles nothing like him at all. He loves it because it’s a wonderful reminder his daughter loves him and thinks of him, which is enough for him. He doesn’t need some elaborate artwork. It’s the thought that he cares about.
Shane helps Sylvie change out of her soiled clothes and undoes the remains of her braid, tying her hair in a low ponytail. They go to wash their hands and return to find Tess in one of Shane’s shirts and shorts setting the table, a huge cake placed in the middle of it.
Sylvie licks her lips and leans to check out the cake while Shane joins Tess at the sink, kissing the nape of her neck and inhaling her fresh scent. “Did I tell you how much I missed you? A lot.” He wraps his arms around her and she tilts her head back, lacing her fingers with his.
“I missed you too. I hate going back to work. I wish I could stay with you guys,” turning her head, she presses a kiss on his jawline, her hand cradling his cheek and he welcomes her touch, closing his eyes for a second.
They don’t notice Sylvie digging her finger into the icing and licking it clean, nodding to herself in contentment. It is only when they join her at the table and Tess goes to cut it that she notices a large indent on the side of it.
Arching her brow, she eyes her daughter who is a picture-perfect child, sitting still in her chair and looking at her mom like she didn’t taste the cake at all.
“Looks like I got a faulty cake at the shop,” Tess says looking at her, waiting for a sign from Sylvie who stifles a laugh by pressing her lips together.
Tess scolds her for being impatient before Sylvie apologises. Tess serves all three of them a piece of strawberry cake – Sylvie’s favourite. Pete makes a sound to indicate he wants some too. Since she can’t give him cake yet, Tess feeds him some strawberry and banana puree which seems to satisfy the boy.
* * * * *
They agree to watch a movie after, and Sylvie chooses Moana. Tess and Shane cuddle on the couch. Pete’s dozing off in his mom’s arms and Sylvie’s lying on the couch, her head on a pillow on Shane’s lap.
* * * * *
Hours later, after they’ve put the kids to sleep, Shane and Tess plop onto their bed, hardly having any energy to go under the covers.
“Want me to give you a foot massage?” Shane turns to her, brushing his nose against hers.
Tess closes her eyes and mumbling no, pulls him closer. She wraps her arm around him and they stay like that a few moments. Then Shane gets up and adjusts Tess, who is almost asleep, so that she’s under the covers.
When he lies next to her, Tess instinctively snuggles into him, nestling her head in the crook of his neck and sighing contently.
Running his hand up and down her arm, Shane falls asleep to the sound of her even breathing.