A knock sounds on his bedroom door just as he is shrugging into a sweatshirt.
"Come in," Ryder calls as a nervousness flutters in his stomach. A dark silhouette appears in the entryway.
"You sure?" he asks, propped casually against the doorframe, and the teen frowns.
Uncertainty marring his tone, he says, "Uh…Yeah?"
Daniel laughs. "Just checking. Now that I have your express permission, I have no intention of leaving, and you’re not allowed to kick me out."
"Is that right?"
"Sure is, bud. Deal with it."
Ryder rolls his eyes, but can’t quite help the small smile. "Okay, so now that you have my attention in what is likely a hostage situation, what did you want to talk to me about?"
"I think you know, kiddo," Daniel answers grimly, taking a seat on the edge of the bed and patting the space beside him. Well, shoot.
Just because he had seen this coming, doesn’t mean he’s glad that the moment’s arrived.
Laying down instead of sitting, Ryder snatches a cushion from the top end and tosses it dramatically over his face, pressing down lightly. "You’re not going to yell at me, are you?" the kid frets, voice muffled.
Chuckling in what he presumes is a negative, the other man attempts to remove the barrier but Ryder grips it tighter with a long, drawn-out, "Nooooo. Just this once, could you let me keep it?"
Heaving a sigh, Daniel counters good-naturedly, "Just this once, I would like to see your face when I’m talking to you."
"Reprimanding me, more like it," Ryder corrects grumpily.
"Talking," he insists. "Now, would you kindly put that down?"
He just wants his cushion.
"Why are you being so pushy about this?" There’s a pause, and Ryder can practically hear him worrying. "Is your head hurting again?"
"No," he remarks quickly. Too quickly.
"Ryder," Daniel warns and he moans, before surrendering, "Yes. It is, actually. But only a little bit."
"Did you take anything for it?"
He groans, "I thought you wanted to talk to me?"
"I am talking to you. Stop deflecting."
"I’m not! It’s not that big a deal-" The bed shifts. "Where are you going?"
"To get you some Tylenol," his guardian replies as if that much should be obvious, (the duh here heavily implied) and then he leaves, returning a few moments later with two pills and a cool glass of water.
"Here." He drops them onto his open palm. "Swallow."
Ryder doesn’t move.
"Yeah, you’re going to have to sit up to do that."
"Ugh. Fiiine." For God’s sake, what is it about him that invites this great deal of mother-henning? After he’s been a good little boy and done as he’s been told, a heavy silence falls over the pair and he almost wishes that he could go back to five minutes ago and prolong their flippant banter.
He doesn’t even get to keep the cushion.
"Ryder," Daniel begins and the younger man holds his breath, stomach churning as the older man admits, "I.. might have been a little too hard on you earlier. I realise that now." He exhales heavily, and Ryder is struck by the fact that it’s been hard on him, too. "I was just… angry, I suppose. And-" Here comes the difficult part, "Worried."
"I’m going to try harder," Ryder murmurs, because he will. He knows he will.
"No, Ry. I was wrong to say what I did. I think you’re trying hard enough." Scrubbing a hand over his face, he adds, "Too hard, sometimes, maybe."
"Whaddya mean?" Now he’s genuinely confused.
"Kid," Daniel locks his gaze with the youngster to say, "I saw the schoolwork scattered everywhere."
"I told you not to concern yourself with any of that. You’ll get back to it in your own time-"
"I can do it now-"
"You can’t, though, kiddo. That’s the problem." The older man shakes his head, forehead crinkling. "See, this is what I’ve been saying. You push yourself too hard and then are disappointed when you don’t get the expected results."
"I am telling you, Dan. I need to-"
"Listen to me, Ryder," he interrupts, voice and face extremely serious - more serious than the teen can ever remember seeing him. "What you need," he stresses the word, "Is to accept the fact that you’re not functioning at 100% right now. That does not make you a failure. Even if you are only working at 20%, that’s okay. Because you’re still here and that’s the only thing that counts."
Suddenly, his lap is the most interesting thing in the world. "I’m not invalid."
"I know you’re not," he soothes instantly, running a hand through the teen’s hair in a gesture that has become second-nature. "I get it. I really do. You feel out of touch - unreliable. Your mind isn’t working at the same speed you’re used to, to put it mildly, but that’s normal, Ry. Unfortunately, that’s just one of the side-effects that come with depression - it’s not you. You’ll be fine. Just give it time."
"But I’m not fine," he bursts out, suddenly irritated. His chest heaves. "I’m useless now!"
"No," Daniel quickly intervenes, if a little panicky. "No, you’re not useless! Not at all!" Evidently failing to convince him judging by his disbelieving stare, the man persists, "The issue here, kiddo, is that you keep comparing yourself to the person that you were before, fixating on all of your limitations, and that’s not benefiting anyone, least of all you. That person is gone, in the past. You need to concentrate on getting through today. And then tomorrow. Day by day, if you have to. And I’ll be with you. Every step of the way." His expression soon turns beseeching, and it’s so unexpected that Ryder starts a little. "Just, please, please, promise me that you’ll stop beating yourself up over things you have no control over."
This conversation cuts deeper than Ryder would have liked, and he whispers, not trusting his voice, "But-but what if this is my 100%?" he confides, nipping his lip carefully, "What if 20% is all I’m ever going to be?"
"Ryder, even if that were true," Seeing the boy’s face fall, he swiftly assures, "Which it isn’t! But if it were, then you still wouldn’t have anything to worry about. Your brain is remarkable, kiddo, and even your 20% is better than most other people at full capacity." Daniel reaches up to tousle his hair, and Ryder grins, surprising even himself. "I said it before and I’ll say it again, kid - you will absolutely fine. You are the last person who needs to worry this." Dan smirks, wrapping an arm around him in a loose half-hug. "You’re making great progress, Ry. I’m proud of you."
And for the first time in a long time, his cheeks actually hurt from smiling.