Summary: Amelia is Jeff's daughter, but Mike's in this with him.
Notes: I originally started writing this for lakeeffectgirl's birthday, and then realized it was too large a story for that. I did email her bits and pieces of how the story would go, but at this point, it's going to be not!fic forever.
Story on AO3
She doesn't just appear on the doorstep. There are phone calls, DNA tests, and a flight to fucking Columbus, and then Jeff's in a hotel room in Columbus with legal papers making his sole custody official and a baby who's just stopped crying. He wants to go home, but not, he realizes to his parents, as helpful as they might be. He wants to go home to Manhattan Beach and Mike.
He texts Mike, buys tickets, and spends too much of the plane ride walking up and down the aisle and giving apologetic looks to people who paid a lot of money to be away from things like crowded seating and crying babies.
He gets the car seat installed in the car, drives home from LAX in something of a daze, and doesn't bother to bring in any of the stuff when he gets there.
"This is Amelia," he says.
Mike takes her like he's held babies all his life, supporting her head and keeping her close, and Jeff crouches down to scratch behind Arnold's ears and let him lick all over his face.
"I don't know what else you'll need," Mike says, "but I set up a crib and a changing table in your room, and we're interviewing nannies tomorrow." Jeff looks up, and Mike crooks a smile at him. "I think we can handle it alone for a day. Whoever we hire can have the spare room."
Jeff looks back down, lets Arnold take his attention. "I wasn't sure you'd want to."
Mike kicks his shin. "We're in this together, Carts."
Jeff rubs at Arnold's jowls for a moment before he can make himself look up. "Okay."
"Okay," Mike says. He kicks Jeff again. "Dumbass."
Jeff lets go of Arnold and stands. "You're going to teach her terrible habits."
"You're not going to be any better." Mike doesn't give Amelia back. "Go get your stuff. I've got her."
Mike has an actual printed list of questions for them to ask the nanny candidates, and he also says, "We're not hiring anyone either of us wants to fuck."
Jeff startles into a laugh.
"Seriously, that shit can get awkward."
Jeff says, "Okay," and asks the questions Mike wants him to ask.
Mike called a very expensive agency, so they all blend together a little: a bunch of women with child development degrees and experience with babies. There are a couple Jeff would fuck given the chance, but only one he rejects on that basis. Mike rejects a second one. Jeff would flip a coin over the rest of them if it weren't for Nicole, who looks between them and says, "Look, I like to party. I might go out and hook up on my day off, but I'm not looking for a built-in family, and I'm not looking to hook up with either of you." That makes it easy to hire her.
"Cute," Cabbie says, peering at Amelia.
"Want to hold her?" Jeff asks.
Cabbie makes a hilarious face.
"Come on," Mike says. He plucks Amelia out of Jeff's arms and takes her to Cabbie. "You know you want to hold our kid."
Mike doesn't listen to him, but instead pushes Amelia at him in a way that he has no choice but to take her. If it were anyone but Mike, Jeff would worry about them dropping Amelia in the process, but Mike's not about to let anything happen to her.
"All right," Cabbie says after a minute. "She's cute." He looks up at them. "Can I do a segment on you with her?"
Mike says, "No," and Cabbie raises his eyebrows as he looks at them.
"Come on, Carts," Cabbie says. "She's cute. She'll look great on camera."
"Mike said no."
"You're letting baby bro make decisions about your kid?"
Jeff shrugs and takes Amelia out of Cabbie's arms. "If Mike says no, then no."
Mike quirks a smile at him and says, "Sorry, bro," to Cabbie without seeming to mean it.
When it's Jeff's day with the Cup, he has Nicole and Amelia with him, and Nicole has Amelia for most of the day, keeping her out of sight of the cameras. But there's a bit when the cameras and photographers aren't following his every move, so then he puts Amelia in the Cup and they take some pictures, just for family. Jeff takes one on his phone and sends it to Mike. Later, when they're all at the house in Kenora, Jeff sees that Mike's using that picture as his phone background. Mike just shrugs and says something about how the Cup and Amelia are the two most important things.
There are always people around at Mike's place, but the rush of people ebbs and flows over time. It's a quiet afternoon. Jeff, Mike, and Cabbie are half watching TV from the giant outdoor bed and half watching the lake. Amelia's on the bed too, on one of the tiny, soft baby blankets. She can't move much yet and she's in the middle, so she's safe, and there are a couple of toys she can put her hands on. Nicole's farther out, closer to the lake, lying on a blanket in nothing but a bikini.
Cabbie says something about her, and Mike says, "The nanny's off-limits."
"That doesn't mean I can't look."
Jeff's half asleep, more than ready for an afternoon nap, and only sort of paying attention to what they're talking about.
The sound Amelia makes when she's about to cry or scream snaps him out of it. He sits up, but Mike's already picking her up.
"There's my girl," Mike says, pulling her in against his chest. "Were you tired of being two feet away from us?"
"She's probably hungry," Jeff says.
"I'm going up to the house for a drink anyway," Nicole says from next to them. "I'll feed her."
Jeff looks at Mike, who doesn't look like he's letting go of Amelia any time soon, and says, "We'll do it. Could you just bring a bottle down?"
"I can do it if you want."
Mike grins at her. "Consider us wasteful rich people who pay you to tan while we do all the baby chores ourselves."
Nicole laughs and heads up to the house.
Cabbie turns to watch her all the way. "How serious are you about this off-limits thing?"
"Very," Mike says. "You can always find another girl. I don't want to interview nannies again."
Mike seems to have everything under control, and Amelia's perfectly happy with him, so Jeff closes his eyes and lets himself fall back into a doze.
[Here there would be a lot of story about them and the baby being (platonically) domestic.]
They fly home on Mike's birthday. Some of the guys want to go out that night, but Mike, Jeff, and everyone with kids or wives say no, so they make plans for the next night and agree that everyone can have a day to rest up for it.
Jeff's anxious to get home. They've talked to Nicole every day, and she's put Amelia on Skype or FaceTime, but Amelia's still a baby and doesn't interact that way yet. He's more or less used to this parenting thing by now, but he's still surprised with every road trip by how much he misses his daughter.
When they get home, Jeff doesn't do more than drop his bag in the entryway before he's picking Amelia up.
Mike shakes his head, like he's not going to insist on his turn, and takes the bags upstairs and tells Nicole she's off until tomorrow night.
They spend the rest of the afternoon playing with Amelia and napping while she naps. In the evening, Jeff makes dinner, while Mike hangs around the kitchen with Amelia, talking to her about their road trip and what Jeff's doing. When everything gets to a point where Jeff just needs to wait for it to cook, he leans against the counter and watches Mike and Amelia for a moment, until Mike looks up at him.
"I talked to a family lawyer," Jeff says.
Mike frowns. "I thought all the custody stuff was taken care of."
"Yeah, for me," Jeff says. "I asked about second-parent adoptions. You're already her dad, you might as well be her dad legally. We can do it here and it'll be recognized in Canada."
It actually leaves Mike speechless for a moment. "You want me to be her dad?" he finally asks.
"That means forever," Mike says.
"It's already forever."
Mike shifts Amelia to one arm, crosses the kitchen, cups the back of Jeff's head, and kisses him.
Jeff sighs into it. It's not what he was expecting out of this conversation, but It's good. It's Mike, with Amelia babbling between them and dinner on the stove behind him.
"Yes," Mike says, and then to Amelia, "Your daddy's an asshole, asking me to marry him on a night the nanny's off and I can't take him straight to bed."
"I didn't ask you to marry me."
Mike rubs his thumb against the base of Jeff's skull. "Cartsy, you asked me to adopt your daughter and said we're forever. Yes, you did."
When they go out the next night, neither of them drink enough to be totally wasted, and when one of the guys hassles Mike about not being serious about the women he's flirting with, he laughs and says, "I have a hotel room and plans for this one," with his hand on Jeff's shoulder.
There are a couple of cell phone pictures on the internet of them out with Amelia, but mostly they've done a good job of keeping her out of the public eye. It becomes unavoidable when they win the Cup. (Again, and how awesome is that?) Both of their families are there, and Nicole brings Amelia down to the ice with everyone else.
Jeff does half an interview with Amelia in his arms, tugging at his beard. Mike skates up to join him, and takes Amelia when she reaches for him.
"Are you trying to outshine Madison?" Mike holds her up so she can grab at his beard. "I think you're cuter."
Amelia babbles at him, and then tries to squirm out of his arms.
"You can go on the ice in a minute," he says to her, and to the microphones and cameras pointed their way, "She really likes the ice."
"Does she have her own skates?" one of the interviewers asks.
Mike gives him a look that nearly makes Jeff laugh. "No," he says. "She's a little young for that. She likes putting her hands on it though."
"It doesn't work with ice cubes," Jeff says. "Just skating rinks."
They talk about winning for a minute, until most of the reporters go bother someone else.
"So come on," Cabbie says. "You can't give me an opening like that and then not let me film her on the ice."
Mike looks at Jeff, who shrugs. It's okay with him if it's okay with Mike.
"Okay," Mike says, and they wait for Cabbie to get his camera crew set up before they put Amelia on the ice.
She does what she always does, which is sit there for a moment before she puts her hands on the ice, crawls a little ways, and then sits down again and holds her hands up.
Mike grins at her, and she puts her hands down again. Then he tilts his head up toward the camera and says, "She can do this all day."
They let her crawl for a bit, until they're starting to get too close to some of the other people still milling around on the ice, and then Mike picks her up and Cabbie stops filming.
While Mike's occupied with Amelia, Jeff says, "I want a copy of the unedited film," to Cabbie.
"I'll hook you up," Cabbie promises.
In the morning, or late afternoon, really, when they're hungover but not still drunk and waiting for the coffee maker to do its thing, Mike crowds Jeff into the counter.
"We've won the Cup twice."
Jeff grins at him, because that's never going to stop being awesome.
"And we have an amazing baby girl."
"I know," Jeff says. "They're still on your phone together."
Mike kisses him then, and they make out for a while. "This summer," Mike says, "when we're up in Kenora. We should get married for real."
"I said yes when you asked me the first time," Mike says.
"I didn't-" Jeff starts to say, but then Nicole comes into the kitchen with Amelia, and Mike backs off so Jeff can get Amelia. "Guess what?" Jeff says to Nicole and Amelia. "We're getting married this summer."
Amelia babbles at him, and Nicole says, "Congratulations," and sweeps past him to get herself a cup of coffee.
Their families get involved, but they still manage to keep the wedding relatively small, small enough to have it at the house in Kenora anyway.
Neither one of them needs anything too outrageous, but they wear suits, buy Amelia a cute little dress, and let their parents set up an archway for them to stand under and rows of chairs for the guests. There are only a couple dozen people there, mostly family and a few close friends.
Amelia's going through a fussy stage where if she can see Jeff or Mike, she wants to be with them. They're barely into the ceremony when she starts crying in a way that means she's going to be screaming in a minute. Jeff can hear Nicole trying to get her to calm down, but it's not working.
Mike takes the three steps from where they're standing to the first row of chairs and takes Amelia from Nicole. Amelia calms down once she's with them, and she's perfectly happy to try to chew on Mike's tie while they exchange vows.
Jeff laughs a little when the minister tells them to kiss and they have to maneuver around Amelia to do so, but they're used to that now, and Mike shifts her into one arm without missing a beat.
- Not!Fic: The Most Important Things (Hockey, Jeff Carter/Mike Richards, 2300 words, Teen)