It had just been one of those nights.
There was nothing particularly awful about that night, per say. Not too hot now that they were out of the sticky LA summer. Under different circumstances, the rain against his window might have been more than enough to lull him to sleep.
As it stood, despite the almost perfect conditions, sleep evaded Phoenix.
The numbers on the clock climbed higher and higher. The red glow seemed almost sinister, mocking. It was just passed three when he finally realised any attempt at sleeping now would be futile.
Rather than stare at the fan on the ceiling all night, Phoenix pulled himself out of bed, tiptoed passed the door that read TRUCY in glittery art foam, and made his way to the kitchen.
Almost instinctively, he pulled open the cupboard under the sink, freezing when he realised. What he was looking for was no longer there. Hadn’t been for over a year.
It had been routine, once. Back when the nights where he couldn’t sleep were often, he’d abandon his bed and reach for the bottle, only to blackout and awaken hours later, as his young daughter returned from school.
Phoenix took a deep, grounding breath, and gently closed the cupboard. He settled, instead, for a can of soda.
He moved into the living room and settled himself comfortably on the sofa. He highly doubted there was anything interesting on television at this time of the night, but whatever was on had to be at least slightly more entertaining than the ceiling fan in his bedroom. He turned the television on, setting it’s volume as low as he could while still being able to hear it, and began slowly scrolling through the channels.
Three in the morning is hardly prime time TV, most channels showing infomercials or conspiracy theories. Phoenix eventually settled on an old B-Horror.
Phoenix craned his neck to see his daughter stood in the doorway, leaning against it’s frame as she yawned. He frowned. “Sorry, honey. I didn’t mean to wake you,” he said, turning the volume on the television down further.
Trucy moved into the room, stretching her arms out in front of her. “You didn’t,” she lied, her sleepy smile more infectious than ever. She climbed onto the couch next to her father, curling up comfortably and resting her head on his chest.
Phoenix wrapped his arm around her, pulling her in close. He’d never get used to the rush of warmth and light that filled him whenever she was close to him. He loved the bones of his little girl, loved the pure joy she brought into his life. She, alone, had pulled him out of his darkest times, and she would never know how much he had to thank her for.
Though, she’s not quite so little any more, he noted, a little despairingly. She’d grown up in the blink of an eye, evolving from a cheeky little girl to an accomplished young woman.
She’d worked hard to get where she was, practising for hours and hours until everything was perfect. She balanced her performances and school life impeccably, and still had time to trail after Apollo, offering her insight when he hit a wall in his cases.
To say that Phoenix was proud of the woman his daughter was becoming was more than and understatement. God knows she didn’t have the easiest childhood. But, she never complained, even though she had every reason and right, she faced everything with her beautiful, almost defiant smile.
Trucy stirred in his arms, moving her head to look up at her father, fighting the sleep that was tugging at her eyelids. “What’cha thinkin’ ‘bout?” she slurred.
“You,” Phoenix answered, honestly.
Trucy giggled. “Me?”
Phoenix nodded his confirmation. “I was thinking about how proud I am of you,” he said, smiling as he watched blue eyes struggle to remain open. “You’re so kind, and you work so hard. You’re incredibly intelligent, you’re strong, and you don’t have a bad word to say about anybody.” He moved his free arm to wrap around her. “You’re a remarkable girl, Trucy. Everybody loves you. I love you, Apollo loves you, Athena loves you, Klavier loves you, Miles loves you.” He paused, brushing wisps of chestnut hair out of Trucy’s face. “Trucy,” his voice was a little quieter now, barely above a whisper. “Do you like Miles?”
Trucy’s eyes were closed now, her mind somewhere between not asleep, and not quite awake. She smiled, humming quietly. “Of course. I love Uncle Miles,” she replied, curling into Phoenix’s body as she began loosing the battle for sleep.
With a sigh, Phoenix raked his fingers through Trucy’s hair. Maybe three in the morning, when she was on the edge of consciousness, wasn’t the best time for this conversation. “C’mon, you,” he said, gently patting her shoulder. “Let’s get you back to bed.” He stood, keeping an arm around her shoulders and wormed one arm under her knees. He lifted her slowly, a little surprised he was still able to do this.
He carried her to her bedroom, the way to her bed illuminated by the Pink Princess night light that sat on her bedside table, a gift from Maya for Trucy’s first Christmas as a Wright. Phoenix gently lay her on the mattress and pulled her comforter over her. He began tucking it around her, making her giggle and squirm.
“You don’t need to tuck me in, daddy,” she said, through a yawn.
“I know,” Phoenix smiled as he pressed a kiss to his daughter’s forehead. “I want to. Night light on or off?”
“Daddy!” Trucy whined, rubbing her eyes as she settled into the pillows. “I’m not a little kid anymore.”
Phoenix chuckled, brushing Trucy’s hair out of her face with his fingers. She was right, of course. She wasn’t. But, Phoenix still had trouble picturing her as anything other than his little girl. He couldn’t help but smile. He felt as though he finally understood the way his mother used to smile at him and say those words.
“You’ll always be my baby.”