(Hallo! You're reading my first story, so welcome. It's a collaborative work with Moon Lion, so please give them some love and comment if you enjoy this!)
Stefan knew this plane ride was going to be hell. Actually fuck that, worse than hell, if that was even possible.
He looked over at Karl, rubbing his eyes, as he leaned back in the uncomfortable fake leather seats. "God, I'm so tired."
Karl narrowed his eyes at Stefan as he gently rocked their toddler. "Who was the one that said we should take the flight this late at night?"
Stefan rolled his eyes, forgetting to be quiet as he responded. "You said it was okay!" Both men suddenly peered into their child's car seat with alarm.
"Oh thank God." Karl pressed a hand to his chest, eyes closing in relief. Ilse was still asleep, her tiny, meaty hand pressed to her mouth.
"What?" Karl demanded as quietly as possible when he caught Stefan's smirk. Stefan dramatically recreated the hand to the chest gesture, knowing that it had to be something Karl picked up from one of the moms at daycare.
"Oh shut up, du arsch."
"I'm just saying," Stefan chuckled, stifling a yawn. He saw Karl's pointed glare. "Okay, okay, I'm sorry. I figured we'd have tons of energy, considering that we're around 29, not seventy."
Karl's undoubtedly snarky response was cut short by the intercom system.
"We are now boarding all passengers for Westjet Flight 757."
"That's us," Karl grunted as he lifted Ilse's car seat by the handle, while Stefan scrambled for everything else.
"You see why we should've used the fanny pack?" Karl asked, eyeing the passports, boarding passes, and phone haphazardly held in Stefan's hand.
"Like hell was I going to wear a fanny pack. You know what fanny pack means in Australia?"
"A convenient, masculinity-friendly way to hold a shit ton of papers?" Karl muttered, turning to apologize to a man behind them after their carry on suitcase bumped into him.
Stefan snickered at that, choosing to spare Karl the Australian slang as he handed the tired looking airport worker their boarding passes and passports.
"Should we have woken her up?" Stefan wondered as they made their way to the plane. "I bet she'll be a nightmare on the flight."
"She would've been a nightmare in the airport if we woke her up sooner. I don't know, we'll sleep in shifts or something."
"Such a cute child." The stewardess gushed as they made their way through the plane.
"Thank you." Karl and Stefan said in practised unison, quickly taking their seats.
Stefan popped some Dramamine, already dreading the flight. Karl finished stowing the luggage, and joked about stowing their baby too, earning a glare from a wizened looking woman next to them.
Karl sat down next to him then, snorting at their peacefully dozing toddler. He'd set up the child safety seat they'd bought, and was sorely regretting not waking up Ilse earlier. "Look how innocent she looks now, I bet the little demon will go nuts when this thing takes off."
Almost like he'd summoned a poltergeist, another child somewhere on the plane began wailing. Stefan grimaced, trying to bury a yawn.
"Sleep." Karl whacked him on the shoulder with one of those neck holder things. "You idiot."
"I'll go to sleep when the plane takes off, 'kay?" Stefan got up to help strap Ilse into the child safety seat, pulling Karl in for a kiss when their child was settled in.
"You think that makes up for putting me on the first shift?" Karl asked, smiling against Stefan's lips.
"I had to try." Stefan flopped back into his seat, wriggling to get comfortable. "Also, you were the one excited to see all the in flight movies."
Another set of safety announcements interrupted conversation, and Stefan paid attention because something told him good parents attentively listened to these things.
The seat belt sign came on, more stewardesses gushed over the sleeping baby, and Stefan hoped that goodwill stayed when Ilse became a horrible crying monster.
True to his word, Stefan slept the minute the plane took off, while Karl immersed himself in some comedy involving cops.
A few, sadly short hours later, he felt Karl shaking his shoulder.
Stefan jolted awake, murmuring, "What? Are we crashing?"
Karl laughed lowly, "Nein, but I have to sleep. I'm exhausted and Illse's awake."
Awake and no nuclear fallout? That woke Stefan up.
"Was? Wirklich?" Stefan craned his neck to see Ilse, quietly observing the world outside the window.
"Yes, please answer all her questions." Karl dragged a hand down his face, putting the neck pillow on.
"Hey, where do you think we are?" Stefan asked Ilse, curious to know how much the toddler understood.
She didn't turn immediately, keeping her small face pressed to the glass, so Stefan unbuckled his seatbelt and carefully made his way to her, grinning when he disturbed Karl.
"Ilse, where are we?" Stefan repeated softly, wondering whether the wings of the airplane always shook like that.
Ilse shrugged, staring at him with adorably big eyes. "I dunno."
"You don't know?" Stefan stretched as much as he could. "We're flying, baby. In the sky?" He tried, unable to tell what the toddler understood, if anything.
IIse smiled delightedly. "I see clouds!"
A stewardess suddenly moved past their seats, and Ilse pointed.
"Wan' go da." She said confusingly, and Stefan shrugged.
"'Kay, come on, love." He helped her over Karl, warning her not to wake Daddy. It gave Stefan a weird parent-y thrill, something he was still getting used to.
Taking Ilse's tiny hand, it creeped him out how much he adored the girl, considering he'd never thought he'd be a parent. He'd never thought he and his fun, hot boyfriend were the parent types.
But they were, or at least they were trying. Ilse cooed, shyly coming around Stefan's leg as she stared at everything.
They strolled the aisle, with Ilse inquisitively staring into every seat, just barely holding onto the armrests with tiny, chubby hands.
Every few minutes she shrieked a question or murmured something, one hand drifting near her mouth.
Stefan tried to answer them, but mostly he just chuckled and nodded, holding onto the toddler when she stumbled. Ilse had somehow grabbed one of the safety plasticky sheets and clearly was intent on never letting it go, flapping it as she made her way down the aisles.
The cuteness of Ilse exploring the plane started expiring quickly.
Ilse started playing in unoccupied seats, going under them, banging the seat belts together.
Some people found it cute, and encouraged her, while others made it very obvious how much they disapproved.
Stefan heard himself using a new, mortified tone of voice. "Ilse, let's not bother the nice man." He said, scooping her away when she continued jumping next to a waking, disgruntled looking man.
Sure, nobody would yell at the sweet, dimpled, big-eyed little baby. But her half-awake, gay disaster father was totally fair game.
Ilse was an unstoppable machine of chaos, Stefan realized as he helplessly followed his daughter throughout the plane, apologizing more than he had ever in his life.
Forget the gym, he could probably get an eight pack just trying to keep up with Ilse. Kid had the stamina of an Olympic athlete.
Nothing was too minute, boring or unworthy of Ilse's attention, and Stefan slowly got ready to sell his soul for the small legged cretin to sit down for ten minutes.
But no amount of begging met her price.
After what felt like an eternity, Stefan pretended to convince Ilse to return, while actually just picking her up and taking her back.
"No, wan' see more." Ilse protested, kicking her tiny legs against him.
"There's so much more at the window." Stefan hardly knew what he was saying when a bout of motion sickness hit him. "Oh, hell!" Then he grimaced, pretty sure swearing in front of children was a big no-no.
"No, wan' see that." Ilse moved against his shoulder, probably pointing at something else.
Stefan didn't bother looking. "No, baby, why don't you sleep some more? Aren't you tired?" His stomach physically rolled when the plane hit some turbulence.
"No." Ilse whined, but Stefan had returned to their seats. "Okay, baby, look at this, huh?"
He turned on the screen and went to games.
Ilse started squirming in the first five minutes and a little selfishly Stefan considered waking up Karl. Who was peacefully dead to the world.
Sleep was trying to pull him into its loving, tempting arms. But someone had to watch Ilse. Colouring was rejected, toys thrown back at him, and when Ilse got to the verge of tearful tantrum, Stefan resigned himself to an eternity of torture wandering crowded aisles to amuse his evil child.
So he strolled the aisle more, taking Ilse to the bathroom, garnering the sympathy of the parents with the wailing child.
The mom was anxiously patting the kid on the back, while dad and her debated quietly on what to do.
Thank god they hadn't travelled when Ilse was that old, Stefan privately reflected. Karl's parents just visited them from Germany when she'd been born.
"Dada, why is the baby crying?" Ilse asked, in what must have been the loudest whisper in the world.
People in Russia probably heard that question. People in seats 12 ABC certainly did, if their sleepy glares were any indication.
Stefan bent down to her level, hoping she'd keep that high pitched voice a little quieter.
"I don't know baby, maybe he's sleepy. Are you sleepy?" He added hopefully.
The answer was no, and Stefan felt his sanity take a hit. He'd puked twice in the bathroom, and was around 80% sure he'd puke more.
He felt dizzy, and Ilse's energetic explorations were showing no signs of slowing. God, parenting was completely thankless.
All this hellish torture and he was sure Ilse would go on to listen to death metal and inform him that he didn't get her as a teenager.
Hopefully, she'd grow up a little and then become president.
Stefan once again ignored the toddler when he cajoled and herded her back to their seats.
Blessedly, the arrival of food gave him a reason to wake up Karl.
"Mhmm?" Karl blearily opened his eyes. "Oh, food. You okay?" He asked Stefan, who looked green and exhausted.
"Our child has ADHD." Stefan downed the small cup of coffee he was offered.
Karl giggled, sitting up a little more. "Ah, that bad huh? Have you been naughty, Ilse?"
"No, daddy." Ilse replied, messily eating the crackers they'd packed. Stefan scoffed at the lying brat, getting more giggles out of Karl.
Stefan made the decision to ignore the food, his stomach mutinously warning him that nothing eaten would stay.
"Motion sickness?" Karl asked sympathetically, taking his hand, and Stefan nodded.
"Between Ilse and the plane, I don't think I'm making it out alive. Eyes look your last!" Stefan declared melodramatically, sliding deeper into his seat. Ilse continued playing with her crackers, unaware of the charges levelled against her.
"Arms take your last embrace," Karl chuckled, "But I'm not kissing you, I feel like you've puked." He affectionately ruffled Stefan's short, blond hair.
"Wow, so no righteous kiss? Eh, wise choice." Stefan popped a few mints. He was smiling though, charmed by their shared nerdiness.
"Okay, you can take a break, we'll be landing in a few hours, so why don't I deal with our child?"
"Oh, thanks." Stefan dropped his head on Karl's shoulder, murmuring into his jacket. "Why did we have to have a kid?"
Karl messed with his hair, his tone teasing. "Such a drama queen. I bet you got a lot of kicks out of running up and down the aisle, looking like some handsome, poor dad chasing an adorable girl. All those people feeling bad for you."
Playfully, Stefan punched him. "Oh shut up, you use our daughter all the time to win points with people. Remember Mr. and Mrs. Wang? You taught Ilse how to say Happy New Year in Mandarin to prove we're cultured."
"No, you can't even deny it." Stefan argued.
"No, shush, she's asleep!" Karl flapped his hand.
"Oh, come on!" Stefan gasped, "Finally!" He closed his eyes, pressing his back against the annoyingly upright seat.
Karl whispered quickly, eyes twinkling. "For the record, Mr and Mrs Wang already thought I was cultured, I just wanted you to look good."
Stefan hit him with his pillow. Lightly, he didn't want to kill the person who would have to deal with Ilse for the rest of the flight.
"Shush, go to sleep, you'll feel so much better when we land." Karl stroked his hair, giggling madly.
"I hate you." Stefan shot back, curling up into the blanket.
"Sleep." Karl insisted, and Stefan closed his eyes, drifting.
"Daddy, daddy, are we there yet?" A small voice interrupted and Stefan bit back a smile, closing his eyes even tighter.
"You sure fell asleep fast." Karl muttered to his unconvincingly sleeping partner, feigning annoyance, taking Ilse out of their seats again. "No baby, a few more hours left."
Stefan drifted off to deep, dreamless sleep. It was gratefully that he let exhaustion wash over him.