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Pretension, · Inc.

One of Terence's most notable freakouts about fatherhood happened…

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One of Terence's most notable freakouts about fatherhood happened three weeks after they'd brought Jack home. The trigger was a well-meaning (read bitch) woman from the ("department of pointless dyke shit") women's pages, the head of a faction who'd sent dinky P.C. GLBTQSAWTFBBQ fuckin' balloon-ettes and dinky fuckin' cards about what a good job he and Si ("Si". "SI". no way he was simon or babes and babes only if you were Terence, or you got your teeth to keep your kidneys company THAT was what) were doing building their little rainbow-purple familee and how these sad bitches APPROVED of it, fucking pseudo-liberal (even ANTHONY couldn't hack it, and he was IN a bloody GSA) whores.

Her crime had been emailing Terence, asking him to do a special feature: his Thoughts and Emotions (alarm bells, natch) on the Ongoing Adoption Experience. How he and his life partner (fuckin' HUSBAND, get it right, Simon minded that kind of thing) were bonding with their child.

Easily refused, of course - he never mentioned family in print, and tried to break the fingers of anyone else who did it without good reason (like saying what a hot sexy genius Simon was, and how he lived with the hot sexy hack Terence Higgs). All the same, it got him thinking. Panicking, even. Would he even have known what to write? Would he say something wrong? Did people want him to write itjust to read about the mess he was making of parenting? Was this the kind of article they'd want him to write, from now on?

Was he, Terence Higgs, the great prick of the Prophet, losing his edge?

That evening, re-enacting epic Star Wars battles while Jack splashed in his bath (the kid laughed easily, especially when Terence made his squeaky Darth Vader toy blow bubbles), he started to wonder.

Later, Terence couldn't sleep. Simon had seen Jack off with his nightly dose of Judy Garland (the old, edgy Terence Higgs would so NOT have got misty-eyed over his babes singing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" in a wobbly tenor), and now lay beside him, dozing. He'd been radiant since the adoption, beautiful and happy and beaming with pride. Terence liked all of this.

They hadn't stopped having sex. Terence also liked this. In fact, the new-parent euphoria had led to some pretty amazing fucks, and Jack's sleeping patterns had always been on their side (Terence jokes that it's the vodka in his baby bottle).

Jack was great as well. Shit, he was better than great. Terence loved his smiles and the shape of his head and his dark eyes when he looked at you (really LOOKED, like the ...eye of God or something, which was a bit weird really but anyway). At moments like that, Terence felt himself transcend everyday happiness with a rush of something that was like a drug, or a headrush. Everytime that baby opened his eyes, Terence felt as shit-scared and happy as the first time he'd seen Simon (or kissed him or held him or made him come).

S'an edge, isn't it? Shit, but what if he fucks up? This thought pursues Terence all day every day, sharpening everytime Jack cries or sicks up his milk, and corresponding nicely with the apparent dulling of his creative powers. Terence finds himself snarling at the "Terence Higgs is away" where his byline ought to be. Alright, he would NOT have missed ANY of this kid stuff for the world, but... there is no EDGE. Peter and Olivier are off shagging and clubbing, Anthony and Percy being all poncy intellectual with their perfect lives, and Rookwood and Igor (this is the part that really gets him - Rookwood the ex-con and Igor the queen) being perfect bloody fathers to SIX kids. Even the weird-ass Slavs seem to have managed it.

He, Terence Higgs, is going to fuck up.

Or, y'know, die of boredom.

Then one day Simon collapses in the supermarket and Terence has all the edge he could possibly wish for. He accelerates towards it on the way to the hospital, and thinks he'll go over altogether when he sees Simon's heartrate and breathing measured out in electronic squiggles on a screen. Jack's howling, terrified by the noise and the machines and the inept attentions of the nurses, and when a doctor tells Terence that his partner (husband, get it - Simon, wake up and tell them you hate it, babes) has bronchopneumonia, he'd like to howl as well. Instead, he grits his teeth and tries to calm his son down, making the doctor explain everything. He makes the necessary phone calls with Jack sitting on his hip (he can smell the social workers hovering), because no fucking way will he leave his son alone again. Reinforcements arrive at once; Simon is moved to a private room, and Terence stands there looking at him for a long moment. Simon is very ill, someone explains gently. Terence tells them to go fu - to go away.

While Simon stays on his ventilator, Terence Higgs lives life in the fast lane.
He has no fucking idea how to do this on his own. Simon knows. Simon knows how to get Jack to stop crying without relying on jokes that get boring after the fifth repetition. Simon knows how to work fucking nappies and sterilisers and fuckin' BABIES full stop, and ohgod Jack stop crying stop crying listen mate I promise I'll hold this together just cut me some slack. His hands are shaking so much (no sleep means coffee means coffee means no sleep) that he almost calls Igor to come rescue him, but pride holds him back. When it becomes apparent that Simon might never come home, Terence caves and makes the call anyway.

After that, things acquire a pattern. Terence leaves Jack with Igor for an hour each day. He doesn’t know why it’s Igor he trusts at a time like this; Igor does, but never mentions it. Every day, Terence races to the hospital and spends the hour sitting by Simon’s bed, gripping his hand tightly and explaining in words of one syllable why Simon has to open his eyes and get better. He kisses his cheek and takes his temperature and tells him not to be scared, that Jack and he both love him, and they’re really really looking forward to seeing him again. Then he whispers “Love you, babes,” and runs. Walking back through the carpark he smokes three cigarettes and talks himself up. At no point does anyone see him cry.

Apart from that, he is with Jack every minute of the day. He takes a piss holding the door open with one foot, in case Jack calls. He takes Jack from powdered to normal milk and teaches him to crawl. He buys the pushchair and the new clothes and a Judy Garland tape and finds it ironic that when the big dyke breakdown occurs, it’s to that junkie’s whinings about the fuckin' rainbow. Again, nobody is there to witness, and when it's over, he picks himself up off the floor and pretends it never happened.

He doesn’t think about work – the only times he picks up a pen are to write shopping lists and occasional midnight ramblings he locks in a drawer and forgets. He finds himself sitting in a church one day with no memory of travelling there. He sleeps on Simon's side of the bed because it's easier than seeing it empty.

Simon opens his eyes one day when Terence is almost on his way out of the room. Terence swears, dashes back, stays for another three hours and gets four speeding tickets on the way home. By the time he gets to Igor's to collect Jack, he has no licence and the biggest smile on his face anyone has seen in weeks. Simon is out of danger. Simon is going to come home. Back at the hospital (drive fuckin' faster no I DON'T bloody care buy new brakes tomorrow) Terence kisses his hair, his cheeks, his mouth and his neck and then does roughly the same to all the nurses. A wide-eyed Baby Higgs becomes the darling of the ward, with Simon proudly showing off husband and son to everyone who comes his way. Room 69 (Simon insists later that they chose it on PURPOSE, going very pink and indignant - Terence loves the pink and kisses it) becomes a sort of ongoing champagne reception. Terence is unusually quiet, but his eyes shine and he clings to Simon's hand.

Simon stays in hospital another three weeks, Terence and Jack the two permanent fixtures at his bedside. Peter, Anthony and Percy commandeer Ministry resources to make a compilation of every soap opera episode he missed while unconscious - Percy insists his presence at the viewing is only to be friendly, but ends up gobbling popcorn and hushing everyone when Frankie's About to Discover Danny's affair with Leanne. The Princess, with the perception that's so bloody freaky when he trots it out, cuts Simon's hair and stocks their fridge and hugs Terence in ways that endanger the latter's sang-froid.

The day Simon comes home, Terence is slightly more nervous than they day they adopted their son. CAREFUL WITH THE BABES, he shouts at the people helping him down the drive, Jack in his arms, the heating on full and the flat preternaturally clean. The guests sit and sweat while Terence snaps at their heels (move bitches, I want the cushions for his back), wrapping each bit of Simon in an individually selected brand-new breathable fibre blanket NO SHOES ON THE CARPET, WOLFE. Glaring furiously, he sits their friends down and hands each one (including the Minister) a list of the things they must avoid while in Simon's presence. Anyone allowed in the flat must be free from fags (the SMOKED kind grow UP Wolfe), drugs, dog hair, synthetic fibres or the odours thereof. Everyone humours Terence. Simon, after thanking everyone six times and saying how lovely it all is, falls fast asleep.

That night, Terence lies awake watching the light on Simon's face. He looks young, and fragile, and Terence has to blink a lot. For a while, he traces wavering lines over his cheeks and brow, then stays still in the darkness to listen to him breathe. They manage a full ten hours of sleep before Jack starts bellowing for his parents (ha! best word ever) to bring on the dancing girls, let the jugglers and fire-eaters commence and generally make him his breakfast, damnit. Terence knows it's probably a trick of the light (stay in bed, babes, princess brought us CAKE and then - god, love you so much), but when he leans over the cot and does his Chewy noise (he'd got nearly as good as Simon), the smile on his kid's face seems to resemble both of theirs.

Not right away (sex, kids, cleaning) but soon after, Terence does write a feature for the dyke from Femail, the world's worst named women's page. It's not the first thing he writes (the first is an obscene ode to the beauty of Augustus P(erfectly) S(hagworthy) Rookwood, which appears anonymously as a full-page ad in the paper), but he writes it. After checking for the ninetieth time that Simon isn't burning or getting bored or running out of fruity cocktails, Terence nuzzles into his side, cranks up their very large sun-lounger and writes. He writes and writes, about (as requested) the Ongoing Adoption Experience. About what to do when your husband gets put on life-support. About social workers who swarm like locusts round your kid because obviously single dads can't cope and gay ones are probably paedos to boot. About babies that won't sleep, nappies that won't fasten, food that keeps coming back up and bereavements that seem inevitable. About underpaid nurses and unsexy diseases and what exactly it means to watch somebody you love in pain. He writes and writes until he comes to the end of his jotter.

A piece of paper falls out. Frowning, Terence opens it, and blinks as he recognises his own words. It's one of the souvenirs of his nights of terror.

...and it actually isn't bad. Huh.

There is a sudden squirming beside him. Terence squints sideways into Simon and the sun and sees that the former is very pink. And beaming, a bit guiltily.

"Um. Yes. I found it while I was... yes well never mind. I just happened to - look, darling, it's wonderful," he says suddenly, looking anxious and earnest and taking Terence's hand in his. "It is, it's really brilliant, and I wish you'd go on with it, and oh darling I'm so sorry, so very -"

" - hey, hey. Babes. Babes, shhh," he murmurs, drawing Simon into his arms, kissing his hair and making bad jokes until everything is quiet again. Then he grins. "..you really think I should go on with it?"
Simon nods. "It's the best thing - it could be the best thing you've ever written." He kisses him again. At their feet, Jack shouts happily and smacks the sand with a spade. They both smile at him for a moment, and then Simon says, very quietly, "I'm very proud of you, you know. So go on with it. For all of us."

Terences decides he'll do just that.
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