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It takes a night (and a girl)

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When the infant had been deposited into Kevin's arms, Ray had not been sure what to expect.

This was not because he had had any doubts regarding Kevin's ability to care for children, but rather because he had never really seen his partner be around any before. He knew Kevin was able to take care of them (had, in fact, when Martin was younger) just not how comfortable he was in doing so. It was uncharted territory, this.

With that lack of a precedent in mind, Ray did nothing but observe as Kevin's hands shifted—instinctively, it would seem—to cradle the presently unnamed baby closer and support her neck. Once she was fully settled into the crook of his elbow with her head resting against his shirt, Martin’s wife, Christine, withdrew her hovering hands and sat back down. Ray watched the newborn, all snuggled up in her blanket, sound asleep and puffing out funny-sounding breaths. He noticed the relaxed set of Kevin’s shoulders, the slight curve of his spine, and the way in which he appeared to have subconsciously adjusted the way he breathes to keep from jostling his niece.

Kevin was a natural.

For whatever reason, Ray had not been expecting that. He had always known Kevin to be more comfortable around books than people, but it would seem that this did not include young relatives. (Or perhaps young humans, in general. More data was imperative.) Raymond mentally filed that tidbit of information away in a folder marked 'Dr. Kevin Cozner, PhD', subsection: 'things about this man that have managed to surprise you; still.'

The following half-hour was filled with small talk, as was usual when they drove up to see Martin and Christine. They were just getting into the comings and goings at Martin's stomatology practice, when the baby stirred in Kevin's arms. She hiccuped once, twice, and then she started fussing and squirming. In an uncharacteristic show of single-mindedness (or, rather, what was most likely an idiosyncrasy of his that Ray had just never been privy to before) Kevin cut short whatever he had been saying to whisper reassurances in the wispy down that covered his niece’s head, while he gently rubbed her stomach. His breath must have tickled because her eyes burst open to peer up at him curiously.

“Oh,” Kevin breathed, "Hello, dear!" In response, the infant squashed three of the fingers on her tiny little fist into her mouth and started happily slobbering onto them, maintaining eye contact with her uncle, who was staring down at her like she had just hung the moon. The conversation around the pair of them had died down; Martin and Christine had taken to looking at each other, holding hands and smiling, bone-tired but happy, and Ray was staring at Kevin still, because of course he was.

After a short while, the tiny human undoubtedly exhausted with the effort of holding her eyes open, she made a contented sound (as if to say: “Warm, good. This is perfect. You are perfect; don’t move.” Ray could not agree more.) and nosed at the fabric of Kevin's shirt, before burrowing deeper into his chest.

That’s when it hit Ray; the realization that Kevin looked like—like such a good father, coddling this little girl in his arms. He wondered if they were going to have to talk about this. As if picking up on what his partner was thinking, Kevin’s eyes met his.

Ah.

Ray braced himself. They were definitely going to have to talk about this.

-

Outside, the barren trees slid past them at a pace conform to the speed limit. Their headlights lit up the stroke of asphalt before their car, and Kevin was dozing, eyes half-lidded and hands folded together in his lap.

The car ride had been silent so far. Ray’s hands gripped the steering wheel a little tighter, veering to the left infinitesimally to avoid collision with what was either a big rock or a decently-sized rabbit. Ray looked in the rearview mirror just in time to see the rock’s eyes light up glassy red in the taillights. It hopped away.

“Kevin?”

Kevin’s eyelashes fluttered open. “Yes, Raymond?”

(They had talked about it: having children of their own, because it had been the pragmatic, responsible thing to do. They had ended up deciding against it by making a bullet-pointed list. The bringing of a child (singular, or—Heaven forbid—plural) into their lives would not only jeopardize their respective careers, but Kevin had also failed to see how taking care of a child could fit into their already hectic schedule, what with Ray often working late at the precinct, and he himself busy with his dissertation. Neither of them had ever felt the profound urge to father a child either, which dismantled another obvious argument.

They had decided against it, and Ray had (naively, he could now admit) believed that that would be the end of that. Now, he was not so certain anymore.)

“Is there something that you would like to tell me?”

Anyone else would probably have reacted startled and disorientated, not knowing what Ray was referring to. Kevin, being himself, needed all of twelve seconds to catch up with the entirety of Ray’s inner monologue and react accordingly.

He said: “Only that I thoroughly enjoyed meeting my niece today. I spoke to Martin and Christine, and would like for us to keep on cultivating a relationship with her."

Ray hummed in response. He wouldn't have expected anything different.

Kevin paused briefly. (In order to arrange his thoughts, if Ray knew him at all.)

"It is true that meeting her made me wonder if maybe I had changed my mind about certain things. But I have since concluded that even though I liked holding her close and interacting with her—” Kevin placed a hand on Ray’s thigh, thumbing the rough fabric of his dress pants, “that did not mean I wanted anything else to change.”

“It didn’t?” Ray asked, incredulous. He could not make out Kevin’s facial expression in the dark and so he gave up on trying, his eyes flicking back to the road ahead. They were approaching a sharp turn, a sign warned. Ray did not glance over at his passenger again, hands neatly at ten and two. Safety first.

“No,” Kevin insisted, “the fact that I seem to possess some type of paternal instinct, does not affect the decision we took together when we first started dating. Maybe,” he added, thoughtfully, “if the legislation were different, or if I had not managed to get into the PhD program or—something, it could have been a different story. But I doubt that.”

Another beat of silence followed. Then Kevin said, rock-steady and low: “I have chosen you, this life, all that it entails, and all that it does not. Nothing could make me regret that.”

Ray looked at him, then. Couldn't not. He felt the overwhelming urge to pull this wonderful man into a kiss. Instead (because they were still very much in a moving car), he settled on whispering: “I love you,” into the air between them, and Kevin squeezed his thigh, smiling beatifically in the glow of the suddenly-materializing street lights, soft at the corners and so, so beautiful.

“I love you too, Raymond.”

The rest of their trip home was quiet. They savored every second of it.