Peter Matthew Caine wriggled in his mother's grasp. From his current vantage point, riding high in his mother's arms, he could see a room full of wonders just waiting to be explored. He wanted down, and he made absolutely sure that his mother knew this.
"Peter, sit still sweetie."
"Down!" the tyke demanded.
Laura sighed and flashed an exasperated glance at her husband.
"Put him down, Laura. It is all right."
Ping Hai chimed in, "If he wishes to crawl around, that is no problem. There is nothing within his reach in the Temple that can harm him. And besides, the other priests will happily keep an eye on young Peter."
So Peter got his wish. His mother placed him gently down on the floor as Peter giggled with delight. Looking up at the big people, he immediately flipped onto his stomach, pulled himself into a crouch, and crawled toward the big round thing in the corner of the room. He had first noticed it when 'Pin'ai' had pointed it out to his father. It had a big hole in the middle, like in his bathtub, only much larger. And it had pretty designs the sides, designs like the ones Daddy had on his arms.
Just as he was getting close to his goal, Peter heard a terrible sound.
"Where ya' going, sport?"
Peter stopped his advance and glared up at the priest reaching down to pluck him from the floor. The priest did not notice. Peter sighed.
"How ya' doing Petey?" *Bounce Bounce*
Peter quietly suffered through the annoyance of being tossed in the air, and the indignity of having his tummy blown on, before deciding to bring an end to the priest's fun.
As expected, Mommy and Daddy came running.
The priest immediately surrendered the wailing infant to his father and asked what was wrong.
Kwai Chang Caine shrugged his shoulders and replied, simply, "I do not know."
Peter quieted immediately at the familiar warmth of his father's touch. He sat still for less than a minute before once again demanding, "Down!"
Kwai Chang and Laura looked at each other and smiled. Kwai Chang addressed the younger priest as he set his son back down on the stone floor, "I think, perhaps, that my son merely does not wish to be picked up."
Peter ignored the big people. The second he was firmly on solid ground, he resumed his mission. Although he saw and heard more big people, no one else moved in to grab him. Peter thought that his Daddy might have had something to do with that, but the thought was fleeting. His goal was within sight.
Suddenly, he noticed an obstacle. Peter stopped crawling and sat back, resting his weight on his legs, and considered the problem. He had crawled almost all the way to the big round thing, but he couldn't reach the pretty designs from where he sat on the floor. He put one hand out, tentatively, to see if he could pull himself up, but the round thing swayed slightly in its cradle. Peter was afraid it might fall off of the black legs that held it, so he pulled his hand back.
Glancing over his shoulder, looking for something solid to pull himself up on, Peter caught site of the small walls only feet away. He wrinkled his nose in thought. Mommy and Daddy didn't crawl, and neither did the other priests. And all of them could easily touch the big round thing. His excitement grew as he recalled his Daddy holding his hands and trying to help him move around like the big people. He had not seen the point at the time, crawling seemed to be a much easier and more efficient mode of transportation, but was now beginning to understand. He quickly crawled over to the wall and pulled himself into a standing position. Peter cautiously released the wall and moved his right leg forward, like his Daddy had taught him. That seemed to work, so he tried the left leg. This time he wobbled a bit but managed to stay upright. He toddled, unsteadily, closer and closer to the big round thing, proud of his accomplishment. Just as he came within reach of his target, an unmistakably maternal squeal frightened him and plopped him down on his diapered bottom.
"Kwai! Oh, Kwai, did you see that? He was walking. Our baby was walking!"
The loss of his prize, so close and yet so far away, combined with his ungraceful landing, prodded Peter to make use of his considerable lung capacity. He wanted to make certain that everyone in his world was well aware of his unhappiness.
In the next instant, his mother reached down and scooped him up off the floor and into her arms. She cuddled him protectively to her chest, ran a soothing hand up and down his back, and gently rocked him. The reality of his goal faded into oblivion as he relished the warm scent of jasmine and his mother's whispered comfort. Once he had settled down, she lifted him high over her head and twirled around, laughing. Her joy was infectious and soon Peter was laughing along with her, his earlier disappointment long forgotten.
As she turned to walk away, Kwai Chang Caine winked knowingly at his son and grinned.
"One day, my son. You will touch the cauldron one day."