The sun was just barely rising, filaments of gold and hot pink visible on the horizon out the kitchen window. Nick had been up for a few hours already, had done as much of a morning workout as the base physiotherapist would let him under his current condition. The rest of the team had grumbled good-naturedly at him for being a lazy slacker as they'd left for PT with everyone else, and Nick had settled down in the kitchen, getting breakfast ready for his boys. It was the least he could do.
By the time they bustled back into the house, sweaty and energetic and all talking over each other, there was a nearly obscene pile of pancakes on the table, along with several pounds of bacon, fried to a crisp. Ty snatched a handful and Nick smacked his knuckles with the spatula.
"Wash your fucking hands first, Beaumont. And sit down like a civilized human being."
Ty just grinned at him and shoved the bacon into his mouth, throwing a leg over one of the stools by the counter. "Some of us had to work up an appetite, mother." Having met Ty's mother, Nick considered that a compliment of the highest order. She fussed because she loved, and Nick was doing the same.
Kelly barked out a laugh and sat down next to Ty, wiping his face with the hem of his t-shirt. With a smile, Nick placed a separate plate in front of him. Warmth filled Nick's chest when Kelly looked down and grinned, noticing the addition to his own breakfast.
“Why does the Doc get M&Ms in his pancakes?” Owen pouted theatrically, jabbing his own candy-free breakfast with a fork. “The rest of us not good enough?”
Nick grinned. "Nah." In reality he'd had no idea if anyone else would have wanted them. Well, except for Ty, who he knew would have been mortally offended by the presence of chocolate in his own food. Nick had been tempted to give him one just to watch him squirm and whine.
"It’s 'cause I put out," Kelly mumbled around a mouth full of food. Nick chuckled and tried to ignore the weird pang in his chest brought on by Kelly’s dismissive joke.
Owen shook his head. "You guys are nuts. It's too early for this." He grinned, reaching for the bacon and jabbing Digger's hand with a fork as they fought over a particularly crunchy bit.
Nick tuned them out, staring at Kelly and wondering why he'd even gone to the extra effort. The man was so easy-going and laid back; he'd have eaten nearly anything put in front of him. But when Nick had found the candy in the pantry while tidying up, he'd figured the extra few seconds of work would have been worth it. Watching Kelly now, the easy smile on his face as he ate, confirmed it. Something about making him happy made Nick feel content in a way he wasn't really comfortable defining. He looked out for the whole team. They all took care of each other. But this was different somehow.
"Oi, Irish?" Eli's voice cut through the din at the table and Nick snapped out of his reverie. "What's on your mind? You look lost."
Nick shook his head, smiling at Eli. "Nah, nothing. Just..." Nick shrugged. Eli was perceptive, too perceptive sometimes, and too empathetic. "Nothing." he said again, realising how weak that sounded. Elias raised an eyebrow but dropped the issue and Nick went back to rolling his eyes in exasperation as the rest of them bickered comfortably and fought over the pile of food he'd laid out.
Eventually he squeezed in between Ty and Kelly and grabbed a plate. He was surrounded by his team, his friends, his brothers. Their easy banter and laughter comforted him. Kelly leaned on him, grinning. Nick reached out and wiped a spot of chocolate off Kelly's lip with his thumb.
He shrugged. "You like 'em this way, and it's not like it was extra work."
"Doesn't mean I don't appreciate it." Kelly's smile was soft and natural, and Nick found himself returning it easily.