I wasn't going to, but when daxandpat reviewed, wondering if baby #2 would be a girl, this scene immediately jumped into my head. I told myself no, but I noted down the idea anyway, and it's now been languishing away in the back of my mind for two weeks, occassionally moaning about being ignored. I gave in and wrote it.
Six Years Later
Ranger pulled the black SUV up to the gate and put the car in park, reaching over the into the back to retrieve the backpack that had been stashed there and handing it to his son in the passenger seat beside him. As he did so, he took a moment, as he did every day, to drink his appearance. Just in case.
The curls that had been kept adorably overgrown and messy for most of his life up until this point were cropped shorter and carefully managed with just a little help from his mother. She'd mourned the day Nicky had announced that he wanted to cut his hair short, because as much as she liked to complain about her own curls, she loved the way they looked on their son. Steph had once told him that she was pretty sure it was addition of Ranger's genes that made Nicky's hair so obedient. He couldn't fault her on the logic. It did seem that the combination of their DNA tended to balance out their worst traits, tempering certain wilder characteristics.
Ranger kept a hold of the bag strap until Nicky – no, Nick, he reminded himself of the other change that had come with the gift of age – was forced to look up from his phone to see why his bag wasn't coming with him as he tried to leave the car. "Have a good day at school," he said as soon as he caught sight of those blue eyes that had always stuck in his mind, no matter what. They were one of the first things to come back to him after he'd lost his memory, and he could understand why. Both his wife and his son had immensely expressive eyes.
"Don't forget it's my birthday this weekend," Nick replied, tucking his phone in his pocket as a show of respect. "You promised to take us to the beach."
The urge to roll his eyes was strong. It had been six years since he'd lost his memories, and while he couldn't claim that he'd uncovered everything he was missing, he'd managed to regain enough that he didn't feel bereft of the time he'd forgotten. "I didn't forget, Nick," he assured him solemnly. "I only promised you an hour ago."
Nick shrugged, sliding out of the car and hefting the bag onto his back. "Yeah, but it wouldn't be the first time you forgot something important," he said, smirking as he slowly closed the door, raising a single brow at him through the car window. Oh, how he was paying for all the times he'd taunted Steph with that same look.
When Ranger had first arrived home from the hospital after the mission that had stolen away all the history he had with his wife and young son, they hadn't planned on revealing to the boy just how much he'd forgotten. It was easy enough to cover up the gaping holes in his memory by getting his son to help him with tasks and teach him how to do things. And in time, with experience and familiarity, the memories had started to drift back into his brain like a summer breeze.
It wasn't until a year ago when Nick had overheard his uncles talking about that time in their lives that he discovered the full extent of his father's ailment. It had lead to some rather angst filled discussions as Nick grappled with the idea that someone like Ranger, a father who had always been there for him, and never seemed to lack in understanding and information, could just forget their own son, but before long, with the help of both Steph's unwavering optimism, and Bobby's medical explanations, he was able to accept that these things happen sometimes, and it didn't mean that Ranger loved him any less. In fact, it strengthened the depth of his love for him.
Plus, it helped to learn the extent of memory loss in relation to the love of his life, mother of his children, and all-around soul mate as well.
Now, it seemed that Nick was taking every opportunity to tease him for it.
He shook his head, eyes drifting from the retreating back of his eldest, to the smiling eyes of his youngest in the rear-view mirror. "You forget your son's existence one time," he told her, holding up a finger for emphasis. "And he never let's you live it down."
"Did you forget me too, Daddy?" Rosie asked, a thoughtfully curious expression entering her eyes as she peered back at him.
"I could never forget you, Princess" he assured her confidently, looking over his shoulder in time to catch the 200-watt grin that spread on her lips. Gods, if Steph was right and his little girl had inherited that million-dollar smile directly from him, he had better start preparing himself for her teenage years now. How many boys would he have to stare down at the dinner table, quietly warn as he shook their hand, stop himself from acting against when they broke her heart? The day Rosie discovered boys was the day he got rid of all his weapons. It was for the best.
"That's cos you love me more, right?" she said, eyes twinkling.
Ranger raised a brow at her. "I love you both the same," he said firmly.
"Then how come you don't call Nicky a prince?" she countered, flawlessly executing her mother's patented move: to disarm him with slightly skewed logic.
"Because he would never let me call him a prince," Ranger said, turning back around and easing the car away from the curb. "He doesn't even let us call him Nicky anymore! And can you imagine what Mama would do if she found out I'd turned both of you into royalty? She'd demand to be a queen. We'd all have to call her Your Majesty."
"She'd want a crown!" Rosie added. "And a stick thingy with jewels on it."
Ranger nodded emphatically with his daughter's assessment. She was his queen, though, and without her he didn't know who or what he'd be. She brought colour and meaning to his life, and he was grateful for that every day.
Rosie continued to ramble about the many royal decrees her mother would make as Queen of the Kingdom of Rangemania the rest of the way to her own school drop off point. "Mama would make a good queen," she concluded, removing her seatbelt and sliding off the seat, sticking her head between the front seats. "And you'd make a good king, Daddy," she added. "But I know princesses are your favourite." Her smile was teasing, and her eyebrows wiggled up and down as she leaned closer to plant a kiss on his cheek. "I'm your favourite."
He couldn't help but smile. "That's our little secret, Rosie," he told her, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. "Don't go blabbing to anyone about it. Especially not Nicky or Mama." Little did she know that he'd told the exact same thing to Nick just the day before when they were playing soccer in the backyard after dinner. And to his wife that morning when she'd joined him in the shower after his run. Her triumphant grin made the little white lie worth it, though. He'd never get sick of letting his family know how much they meant to him.
And they lived happily ever after, obviously.
Thanks again for reading