Captain’s Choice is a series of one-off fics set in and around The Memory Keeper series of stories. In this particular installment, Killian and Emma are parents to Meriel, age 3 1/2, and Finn, who’s a rather restless toddler. You’ll see that Papa Killian has him well in hand . . .
“What was that?” Emma’s voice was muffled in the pillow, and she didn’t open her eyes.
“There it goes again,” she grumbled, giving Killian a push. “It’s your turn.”
“Uuugh. Have a heart, love,” he groaned. “I just got to sleep.”
“So did I,” came the muffled reply. “It’s your turn.” She still didn’t open her eyes.
Killian ran a hand through his hair, sitting up.
“Can’t go, love. I’m naked.”
“Me, too. Not an excuse.”
He sighed, reaching for his breeches and sliding them on. Then he padded over to the door, and down the hall to the nursery. The moonlight from the open window fell across Meriel as she lay sound asleep, with one hand stretched across the bed. Killian walked over, pulling the covers up around her. He attempted to pull her arm back in and fold it over her chest, but she wouldn’t let him budge it, even in her sleep. He didn’t want to risk waking her, so he smoothed her hair and left her as she was.
He yawned, running his hand through his hair again, and turned to the crib.
“Oh, bloody hell.”
He glanced around the room, then finally lit a candle to shed a little more light on the situation. Once again, his son had broken out of his crib and decided to go on an adventure.
In the middle of the night.
“Finn!” he whispered, walking around the room slowly, peeking under tables and behind chairs and toys. “Finn!”
He heard a gurgling sound from somewhere in the vicinity of a giant, stuffed polar bear and a closer inspection showed five chubby little toes peeking out from behind it, where it rested against the wall.
“There you are.” Killian knelt down, giving the toes a tickle, laughing in spite of his fatigue. “Come on, Finn.” His hand followed the toes to a leg, then managed to give it a tug and produce an adorable cherub with a mop of unruly dark hair. He was sporting a mouthful of drool that was still missing a few teeth. Finn grabbed his father’s hair, using it to pull himself to his feet, and then he was off.
“Damn!” The boy was fast. Either that, or his father was slowing down. Killian was reasonably sure it was a bit of both. He levered himself back up, and took off after his son, who was racing around the room, giving off a high-pitched squeal.
“Shhh! Finn!” he cautioned in a loud whisper. “Your sister is sleeping!”
He finally caught up with his son just as he was trying to climb the door.
“Gout!” Finn shouted, gleefully. “Gout!”
Killian reached down, swinging him up into his arms.
“No, you can’t go out. It’s bedtime.” He gave him a kiss on the top of the head. “Come on, lad. It’s back to jail with you.”
He walked back over to the crib, pried Finn’s fingers out of his hair, and attempted to lay him back down. Unfortunately, once Finn’s fingers came off his Papa’s head, they anchored themselves in his chest hair and refused to let go.
“Ow! Finn!” He tried again to lay him down, but Finn was holding himself aloft now, giggling madly at the look of pain on his Papa’s face.
Killian swung him back up into his arms. “Come on, you. You’ve made sure I’m good and awake now anyway.”
He pulled the door open, shushing Finn as he babbled, until he reached the bedroom door and stepped back inside. Emma raised her head off the pillow.
“Really? You’re not bringing him into bed again.”
“He’ll only keep escaping. I think we may have to resort to manacles and a long chain staked to the wall.” He placed his son carefully on the bed and reached for his shirt, slung over the back of a chair. “Watch him a moment, will you, love?”
Finn made his way across the bed to his mother, who held out an arm, ready to pull him in. He bypassed her, climbed right over her and went right over the side of the bed before Emma could turn and catch him.
“Finn!” She flipped over, looking over the side, but Finn was already pulling himself up, courtesy of a nearby chair and running pell-mell toward the open doors to the balcony.
“He’s headed for the balcony!” she said, scrambling to get out of the covers.
“I’ve got him, love. Go back to sleep.” Killian made it across the room just as Finn made it to the doors, scooping the child up and throwing him in the air, much to Finn’s shrieking delight.
“The kid is wide awake!” Emma complained.
“I know, and his father is too. I’ll just take him for a bit of a walk.” He put a finger to Finn’s lips, shushing him again as they stepped out into the hallway and he pulled the door shut behind him.
“Come along, lad. It’s a warm night. Let’s take a stroll.”
He moved Finn up to his shoulders, making his way through the main hall and out into the courtyard. It was a quintessential beautiful summer evening, and Killian found himself surprisingly more awake once they got out into the air.
“You know, mate,” He said to the boy who was presently drooling onto the top of his head, “In my younger days, I’d still be up this time of night, sharing a pint with my crew.”
Finn made a squealing sound that Killian decided to take as an endorsement. “Yes, those were quite the days. Of course now,” He gave Finn a good bounce, “Now I’ve got your mother and you to keep me up till all hours of the night. Your sister’s the only one with a thought to my need for rest. She sleeps like a stone, but not you, my lad. Oh, no, not you. You were born restless.” He said it more as a point of pride than a complaint.
He walked on through the quiet market, not yet stirring with pre-dawn arrivals and setting up. Finn occasionally called out in his exuberant baby gibberish, pointing here and there, and Killian indulged him.
“That? That’s a rabbit, Finn. We eat them. But don’t tell your sister that. And over there – well, that’s an oxcart someone’s left beside the road, waiting for a shipment to market, no doubt. I’ll agree, it looks like a fine place to play, but I can’t trust you not to run off with it, now can I?”
Finally, they made it to the docks, and Finn started bouncing happily up and down, nearly unseating himself. Killian reached up, pulling him down into his arms. “Easy, there, lad. You very nearly went for a swim.” Finn pointed out at the water, his hand reaching out as if he wanted to touch it.
“That’s right, my lad. And it surprised me not at all that it was your first word.” He gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Come on, you. Let’s see what there is too see from the deck.” He headed up the gangplank, with Finn squealing in delight, pointing up at the billowing sails.
Once they were aboard, Killian pulled up the plank, setting Finn down and letting him run, trying his best to stay a few paces behind. That lasted for less than a minute before Finn started trying to climb the ropes up into the riggings and Killian had to pull him down.
“Apologies, mate, but your mother will have me sleeping in the nursery with you for a month if she’d caught me letting you climb. Give it another year or two, will you?” Killian flipped him around, and Finn threw his arms around his father’s neck, grasping his hair with a chubby hand as he let out a giant yawn.
“Oh, ho! You’re tiring, are you? Well, it just so happens I have the best nursemaid in the world at my disposal.” He walked up to the bow, lowering himself onto the deck with his back against the rail and settled Finn against his chest. “The Jolly Roger and the sea below her have rocked me to sleep on many a fine night,” he said, smoothing Finn’s hair back and rubbing his back soothingly. “And on many a not-so-fine night, as well.” He raised his brows, remembering.
“Word of advice, Finn, my lad – a rocking ship is no place to be when you’re full of rum and questionable food.” He dropped another kiss on his son’s head, chuckling to himself. “There. My first piece of fatherly advice. I promise, I’ll think of more.”
Finn squirmed a bit, pulling himself in tighter to his father’s chest, and laid his head down on his Papa’s shoulder, sucking on his fist.
Killian stroked his back contentedly, letting the motion of the sea lull them both. He felt Finn give a tiny shudder, then he went utterly limp. He managed to carefully shimmy his shirt out from between them, lifting it up and over his son, adjusting it so that Finn’s head poked through the opening, but the rest of him was covered as he lay against his father’s chest.
“There now. That’s cozier for us both, don’t you think?” He craned his head a bit to glance down at his son, who was now sound asleep. Killian gave a brief thought to getting up and heading into the cabin, but just now, he really didn’t want to move.
He closed his eyes, feeling the deck rising and lowering beneath him, listening to the waves as they slapped at the sides of the ship and the rippling of the sails as they moved with the night breeze. He felt his son’s breath against his neck.
And in that moment, he believed in magic with all his heart.