He wakes up with a small oof as the air is knocked out of him, kneecaps pushing down on his stomach, grabby hands clutching and tugging on his tee accompanied by impatient wriggling and light bouncing.
Throwing an arm over his eyes and wishing he could simply roll over and go back to sleep but knowing that was never going to happen, Daniel stifles a groan and instead mumbles, “It’s a bit early to be up, don’t you think, kiddo?”
“Nuh-uh!” Cue frantic shaking of the head. “It bight, Daddy!”
“Hm, fool-proof reasoning, I‘ll bet,” he smirks, sitting up and rubbing the last of his sleepiness away. “Alright, well, let’s go get you changed, then we’ll grab breakfast, ‘kay? How’s that sound?”
With a petulant huff, Ry pouts and protests, “No wet, Daddy!”
“Sure, and pigs fly,” he mutters, eying the diaper sagging at the toddler’s waist. “Now put that face away. Daddy hasn’t had his morning coffee yet and he’s grumpy enough to put you in time-out if you don’t behave.”
“No wan time-out, Daddy!”
“No-one ever wants a time-out.” Seeing Ry’s little frown deepen, he cuddles him close and smiles, gently stroking his hair, before taking hold of the youngster under the arms and lifting him up as he untangles himself from his sheets and stands. “Okay, cheeky monkey, you win. No time-outs. But you do need to be changed; there‘s no avoiding it.”
Grabbing a diaper from the small stack in the bathroom under the sink, Daniel lies the toddler down on the changing mat and removes the previous one, giving him a stern look as he begins to unhappily squirm, even as he inwardly frowns. Ryder’s not usually this resistant to diaper changes.
He wipes his bottom clean with ease and after a sprinkling of fresh powder that makes him choke a little, tapes a thick new diaper on. Patting his padded bottom almost unthinkingly, he then raises Ry up into a comforting hold, who slides his thumb into his mouth and leans in, practically face-planting against the man’s chest.
“You okay there, monkey?” Daniel asks, rubbing the boy’s back.
He nods in response, simply nudging his nose against Daniel’s collar and whimpering, “Tiwed,” but the father thinks there’s more to it, though he can’t quite put his finger on what.
By the time lunch-time rolls around, however, all has been forgotten as Ryder plays quietly by himself while Daniel sorts through some emails. A rarity for him, he has the day off, so Daniel had let Felecia know in advance that she wouldn’t needed, though he is somewhat surprised that Ry hasn’t been wondering where his nanny got to. He’s also quite amazed that his son isn’t glued to his side and taking full advantage of his abnormal presence, for that matter. Usually, Ryder is incredibly clingy on days like this.
Soon enough, though, Ryder turns to him and thrusts out a slobber-coated police car, yelling, "Tome pay, Daddy!"
"Right, play. Of course," the older man indulges with an affectionate smile. Eyeing the carpeted floor in distaste, he kneels down beside the animated youngster and reluctantly accepts the damp, slimy token.
Content to simply have his father sit unreceptively beside him, Ryder continues exuberantly propelling the tiny cars his across the living room, but Daniel soon becomes fed up and starts idly pushing his own loaned toy back and forth, lips twitching and warmth surging in his chest when Ry glances over and beams at seeing him join in on the fun - regardless of how half-heartedly.
Stabbing a finger at the police-car in Daniel’s hand, he declares, "Dat yours, Daddy."
He quirks a brow. "You sure about that, kiddo?" the man chuckles in amusement. "Because I’m warning you now, you give this to me now, you won’t get it back."
"No mine," the boy insists with big brown eyes that are far too endearingly earnest for his own good. Mouth set in an immovable, stubborn line, Ryder once again asserts, "For you!"
Why’s it his kid that has to be so aggressively generous?
"Okay, okay," he grins, holding up his hands in placation. "Jeez, enough with the puppy-dog eyes, Bambi. I got it. This is mine." Determined not to be a complete pushover, Daniel adds, "But just for now, okay? You can have it back later."
Ry nods, seemingly appeased. But after only a handful of seconds, he pokes Daniel on the shoulder and tacks on just for good measure, "Youws?"
Aw, hell. There is no denying it. This is too frickin’ adorable.
"Mine," Daniel soothingly agrees, reaching out to ruffle the toddler’s hair, who subconsciously leans into the touch and feeling a twinge of something. He thinks it might be loss.
But then Ryder giggles and beams up at him, so very, very sweet.
Not bittersweet. Not a hint of sadness. And he decides: No, none of that. Let’s just be happy.