Prompt - hot cocoa and animal crackers
“Cwwakweeews.” The word comes out long and whined and high-pitched, her little heels pounding against the side of the kitchen island on which he’d sat her.
“Raaaaawwwwr. Moo moo. Rawwwwwrrrr.” She’s crying now, fat crocodile tears rolling down her chubby cheeks that are flushed red in frustration.
“You don’t want your hot chocolate? Daddy made it just for you?” He curls his arm tighter around her torso, afraid her temper tantrum will flop her right off the kitchen counter.
“Cwwakweews,” she screams, pounding her fists against his chest.
“Joey, that’s enough!” He catches her flailing arms and the sternness of his voice shocks her into temporarily silence. The tears keep flowing, desperate little sobs hiccuping from her tiny chest in all her earth-shattering toddler pain. “Cwwakweerws, daddy, rawr raaawwwr,” she sobs, rubs her face against his shirt, smearing tears and snot against his collar.
Castle sighs, runs his fingers through his hair. He thinks he knows his daughter so well, and then there are moments like these when he can’t seem to help, doesn’t know what she wants. He spends so much time with her and yet he can’t even understand what it is she needs. He feels like the world’s worst father. But Joey is tired and cranky, her nap long overdue, and she’s probably suffering from cabin fever - like they all do.
It’s been three days of uninterrupted rain. The wind is howling around their Hampton’s house, the air brisk and unusually cold for mid-June, the rain drops pounding against the windows relentlessly. What was supposed to be a nice short break for them at the beach is turning into a frustrating nightmare. And all he wanted was to give Kate a nice break to relax, for them to sit in the sun, and play in the sand, let their baby discover the joy of the sea.
“You okay?” Her voice is low and soft, and he lifts his eyes to his wife who’s climbing down the rest of the stairs and still towel-drying her hair, kneading the long maroon strands with the purple fabric. He’d send her to take a long, relaxing bath in the Jacuzzi tub upstairs, and her body is wrapped in a thick terrycloth robe. She smells so good, like warmth and comfort and Kate, and his knees feel weak.
“Mommyyyyy,” Joey squeals again, her sobs once more at triple volume, flailing in his arms and straining for Kate. It’s all he can do to keep a safe hold on her while he tries to hand his daughter over to his wife’s arms. “Cwwakweews, mommy, rawwwwr.”
“Hi, baby,” she murmurs, curling her baby into her arms and Joey cuddles against her chest, all of her relaxing as if in great relief.
“She keeps repeating that and I don’t know what she means. We made some hot chocolate; I was hoping I could get her down for a nap…”
“Oh.” Her eyes rise to his. “She wants animal crackers.”
“Rawwwwr, moo moo, rawwr,” Joey mumbles as if in agreement, her head lifting off her mommy’s neck. Kate strides toward the cabinet, takes out the box from the top shelf, and the little girl squeals, in pure joy this time, clapping her little hands together.
Castle leans against the counter, suddenly feeling abjectly exhausted. “I could’ve thought of that.”
“Probably my fault,” Kate hums, plating six little animal crackers on a saucer. A lion, a cow, a hippo, dog, cat, another chubby little lion. “It’s a treat we have together when we have warm milk.”
She hoists Johanna higher up against her hip, holding the plate in the other hand. “Come on, Castle,” she hums, smiling just for him, “let’s sit down. Bring the hot chocolate.”
He takes a mug in each hand, following his wife to the living room. The fire is still roaring gaily, and Kate sinks into the couch, their daughter slumping into the cushion next to her, cuddled against her side.
She pats the space on her other side, and he lets himself relax into the soft sofa cushions, didn’t realize how tired he felt until his body melts against her side. “Oh you smell good,” he sighs. She giggles and he feels the sound vibrating through her body. God he loves her so much. Some days he wonders how he ever made it without her, how life was ever as good as this. Toddler temper tantrums and all.
Kate helps Joey take a sip from her hot chocolate, makes sure the girl has a secure grip on the sippy cup, then hands her a cracker.
“Rawwwwrrr,” she giggles, all tears forgotten as she jostles the baked lion shape through the air as if it’s running for her mouth. Kate reaches for the remote, pushes a few buttons until an episode of ‘Blues Clues’ fills the screen, the volume low, just audible enough to keep Joey entertained.
“Come here, relax,” Kate murmurs into his hair, patting her lap, and so he slides down the cushions, stretches out his limbs along the rest of the couch, and nestles his head in her lap. She curls her fingers into his hair, runs her fingertips along his neck and his eyes fall closed almost despite himself, every part of him sinking heavily, his skin tingling beneath her touch.
“I love you, Rick.” He sighs, buries his face against her thighs, feels her warmth and inhales her scent, and it’s as if everything just slides off of him, every weight and worry. This here, it’s all that matters.
“Best vacation ever,” he mumbles, and then he falls asleep.