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Ninety-nine

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Simon was all for live-in help, but Ryan hates that sort of thing, so their nanny, the kind of pretty young girl that most women with any sense won’t let anywhere near their household, goes off duty once Ryan’s home from work in the late afternoon. And now that the children are in preschool and have more of a fixed schedule Simon is trying to get a bit more diurnal. There’s something to be said for working while everyone else is sleeping, but he doesn’t want to be sleeping while everyone else is having family time. He doesn’t have it completely down quite yet, but one thing they have managed is to always have dinner together, the four of them.

Eric is babbling about some sort of game they played at preschool that day, and how he told the teacher that he thought they should change some of the rules to make it more fun, and as some of the children agreed they were going to make up their own game the next day. It was stories like this that made him glad that Ryan had insisted on the hippy-dippie creative learning school, about which Simon had been dubious; that sort of behavior at Simon’s own school got him into trouble more often than not, but even at four Eric was shaping up to be quite the little leader, not to mention someone who tries to rearrange the rules to suit himself, and Simon’s pretty sure where he got that little trait.

Ryan, of course.

But Emily, who’s generally all sweetness and charm and conversation, is unusually subdued and a little restless, and doesn’t eat much of her dinner. Ryan looks worried, but then Ryan always looks worried; Ryan has visions of strange childhood illnesses. He feels her forehead, because she is a bit flushed, and takes her up for a bath.

Eric helps Simon clear the dishes, and then they’re on their own for some playtime and reading. Ryan comes in for hugs, says Emily nodded off fast after her bath, which isn’t like her; usually Simon puts her to bed because he can be a little more patient with her, not worrying about needing to get up at four a.m. Simon gets Eric bathed and into bed and tells him not to worry about his sister. When he’s done he finds Ryan in Emily’s room, as she’s awake again, and he asks Simon to fetch the thermometer from the bathroom.

"She's just so warm," Ryan says, his hand lying across Emily's forehead.

"Little ones run high fevers," Simon replies, hoping he comes across as confident because Emily does look a bit weak, and hands Ryan the thermometer.

"Papa, my throat hurts," Emily says, and her voice is rough and tired.

"I know, darling," Ryan says. "Open up." He puts it under her tongue and they wait. Ryan sits on the corner of the bed, looking at his watch, and Simon stands just behind him, smiling down at Emily, rubbing Ryan's back.

Simon takes out the thermometer. "There, thirty-eight," he says, handing it to Ryan. "Just a bad cold. We'll get you some tea, sweetheart, and keep you home tomorrow, and all will be well."

"Okay, Dad," she says, and scooches further down into her bed.

As they walk out of her room Ryan leans into Simon for a kiss. "Thanks for humoring me."

"Of course," says Simon. "Don't I always?"

Ryan snorts in reply.