A/N: This is another collaboration with Toma. It's a slowish burn.
Kender was so relieved once everything had been unloaded into the house. All that was left to do was the arduous task of unpacking. At least the furniture had been placed where he wanted it, for the most part. His little Renael had been roaming around exploring the new house and he was so afraid something would somehow squish the little boy.
The kit in question had pulled out his favorite blanket from his box and was running around with it. Ken caught him quickly and scooped him up. "How about we take a break, kiddo?" he asked aloud with a tired smile.
Ren looked at him with his soft pink eyes and bounced in his arms happily as if to say yes. The toddler enjoyed cuddling into the warmth of his father just as much as he enjoyed eating and playing. So, when the older fox sat down, Renael tugged his blanket closer and settled down.
Kender leaned his head back against the couch and closed his eyes for a moment. The knock on the door startled them both. His paternal instincts were sharp enough not to allow the toddler on his lap to fall. He carefully set Renael down before standing back up.
"Let's go see who that is, then," the blond decided with a sight.
When Ken opened the door, he was surprised to see a young family."Ah, hello there. May I help you?" He asked. He barely felt the familiar grasp of his son's tiny fingers upon his pants and looked down to see the kit peeking at their visitors.
Andrew and Dena Dewin had been surprised when they found that the for sale sign was gone from the house across the street and their new neighbor's U-haul stood at the driveway. Remembering how difficult it was for them to move in, they decided to introduce themselves and offer their help.
"Welcome to the neighborhood!" Dena greeted as she handed their new, bespectacled neighbor a cheesecake. "We're your neighbors from across the street and we wanted to offer our help. My name is Dena, and this is my husband Andrew. And our little one is Septimus."
As he held the cheesecake in his hands, Kender tried to curb his surprise."That's kind of you but I couldn't ask that of you." He responded. Unpacking by himself would be quite the undertaking, but with the passing of his wife, he had been learning to do everything on his own."My name is Kender," he added looked down at Ren. "And this shy little guy is my son, Renael."
The bespectacled blond placed the cheesecake on a side table and picked his toddler up. "Look, they have a little boy too. Can you say hi?" he asked his son.
Though Ren was a bit nervous, he waved his hand towards the other toddler and sent him a smile before hiding his face against his father's chest.
"Nonsense," Dena huffed, placing her hands on her hips. "You're just going to have to suffer our help." She quieted down when they were introduced to Renael. "Oh, Drew, isn't he absolutely precious?"
"Can you say hi back, Sept?" Andrew urged his dark-haired son. Septimus responded by reaching out his hands in a "hug" gesture and trying to wriggle out of his father's arms. "Whoa, settle down. You have plenty of time to play with Ren."
"Wen!" Sept squeaked happily, all sleepiness was forgotten.
Kender put Ren down just as Andrew put Sept down. "Ren, this little one is named Sept," he affirmed.
Septimus rushed over to the blond toddler, the two of them almost falling over with the enthusiastic hug. But, only laughter bubbled out of the little boys.
"Wen!" Sept repeated as if to commit the name to memory.
"Sheb!" Ren responded with a giggle.
"Looks like you've made your first friend, Ren," Kender responded, his lilac eyes softening at the sight of the boys bonding.
Ken's initial reluctance was chased away the more he talked with his kind neighbors. Between the three of them, they managed to unpack around three-fourths of the boxes. A part of the lilac-eyed man felt a bit envious of the young family. The ache in his chest at the thought of his wife only proved that he was still alive and he needed to do his best for little Ren. As his gaze fell on the toddlers, he realized he had made the right decision in welcoming the Dewins into their new home. He couldn't remember the last time he saw Renael so happy to share his blocks and rings.
"They sure get along," Andrew remarked.
"As will we," Dena insisted. "Know that you can come to us for anything, Kender."
A knot formed in Kender's throat. Paige had been just as kind, determined, and thoughtful as the young woman before him. The two couldn't have looked more different on the outside...Dena was petite with dark hair and his Paige was a tall blonde. But, it was yet another example that there were more similarities than differences within everyone.
"The same goes for the three of you," The blond man finally responded.
"Besides," Andrew piped in as he smiled at the kids. "We should have these little guys hang out often." He turned to look at Kender. "Should you ever need babysitters, we'd be more than glad to watch over Ren every now and then."
"That would be amazing," Ken agreed. "It's just the two of us, so I really do need someone to watch him when I'm at work."
Sept handed Ren block after block, placing each with their own color. The blond toddler built part of the structure with one color, then the next with another, and so on. "Daddy! It big!" the pink-eyed kit said happily as he pointed to their little buildings.
"I see that! You two make a good team," The lilac-eyed fox responded with a smile.
"Ren says a lot of things for his age," Dena commented, thoroughly amused by the interactions between their sons. "Sept is more of a walker than a talker."
"Ren's the exact opposite... he likes being held so much and it's hard to say no." Kender replied. "Well, if he wants to play with Sept, I guess he'll have to learn so he can keep up with him."
When the light of the sun began to shift to an amber hue, the Dewins felt it was time to head home.
"Ren, can you tell Sept bye?" Kender asked.
Ren smiled with a little nod and kissed Sept on the cheek before doing his little baby wave. "Bye-bye, Sheb!"
The toddler Septimus found one thing he liked even more than Ren's hug. He liked the kiss more. When he saw his parents moving towards him to pick him up, he panicked. The kit tackled Ren to the ground in a grappling hug. "Noooooo! No bye-bye! Wen mine!"
"You'll see him again, Sept," Andrew chuckleD as he leaned down to gently separate them, lifting Sept easily onto his shoulder.
"Sheb come pway mowe?" The blond toddler asked, looking up at his dad.
"Of course he can." Kender said, picking his son up and kissing his cheek, earning a hug from the little boy.
As the years passed, Sept and Ren formed a close bond. They were inseparable at school to the point that they frequently found themselves becoming ill one after the other. Kender and the Dewins were so used to having both boys under their roofs that it felt as if they had two sons instead of one.
However, Kender took careful note of just how many times the boys fell ill. Septimus recovered quickly and, as time went by, he no longer fell ill as often as his Renael. The bespectacled man's concern only grew when he realized how stronger and healthier Sept was than Ren.
As a medical professional, Ken couldn't bear the suffering his son continued to endure season after season. His immune system continued to be weak no matter the number of vitamins and medicines administered to him on a regular basis. Hoping that a change of environment and more natural surroundings would improve Renael's health, Kender made the difficult decision to move once more.
"Stop," A nine-year-old boy said as he rested the side of his face against the chain of the swing that he was sitting on. His body was a lot smaller than a nine-year-old's should have been. The tip of one of his vulpine ears threaded through one of the chain loops. His pink-tipped, blond tail dragged limply along the sand on the ground as the swing slowed to a stop. Strands of his curly hair, the same hue as his tail, swayed with the soft wind. His soft pink eyes were rapidly filling with unshed tears as he gazed out at the city he spent the first nine years of his life in. Renael had to leave in a few weeks because of his rocky health. He had to leave everything he knew and cared about behind to start from scratch with his father out in some mountainous town surrounded by woods on another continent.
Septimus had dragged the blond fox with him to spend the entire day at the park when he realized that their time together was coming to an end. The blond fox always loved it whenever Sept pushed him on the swing. He glanced mournfully at the beautiful pink-tipped locks as they fluttered like a banner behind his best friend. When asked to stop, the dark-haired fox moved to the front of the swing as it decreased in momentum and placed his hands on either side of the chains. His straight, shoulder-length, red-tipped black hair trickled over his shoulder as his peach-hued eyes stared into Ren's soft pink ones. Upon seeing the tears brimming in his beloved friend's eyes, he felt his own do the same. The dark-haired fox didn't want Renael to leave any more than Ren himself wanted to. He said the first thing that came to his mind.
"Don't cry!" Sept warned as his red-tipped, black tail bristled behind him. His vulpine ears flattened against the top of his head. "I-I…I'll steal your first kiss if you even try-" As soon as he saw a tear rolling down Renael's cheek, he dove down in a panic to place a gentle, lingering kiss on the boy's lips.
Up until that point, neither of the boys had ever kissed one another on anything other than their cheeks. They had shared plenty of hugs and gentle touches. But, they had never done anything beyond what friends or siblings did. The kiss that they shared at that moment was a culmination of mixed and misunderstood emotions that the two of them couldn't even describe.
But, it was a moment that neither of them would ever forget...