He lowered the magazine cautiously. So it began.
"Hi! You're up!" He tried to affect an air of cheerfulness, but it sounded forced even to him.
"My tummy hurts," she cried, and she dragged out the word hurt for a good three seconds, pitifully clutching her stomach.
Oh, god, now it was her tummy? His mind raked over the possibilities: 24-hour stomach bug, food poisoning, irritable bowel syndrome? Maybe she was bit by a mosquito while playing outside and now she had malaria. Or maybe it was actually her appendix and she would require surgery. What if it was more serious than that?
His thoughts were racing when she tugged at his sleeve, and he looked down at her in confusion after having momentarily forgotten her presence amidst all of those worst case scenarios.
"I'm hungry," she whined, and he sighed in relief. That he could handle.
He threw down the magazine and turned his full attention to her. He knew he wasn't good with her when she was sick, that it only took so much as a sneeze and he would be panicking and frantic, but it was his job to take care of her today and he was determined to keep a straight head.
"Okay. Well, what do you want?" He lifted her gently and placed her on his knee. The flu she had been bogged down with for the last few days had left her pretty exhausted, and the little ball of energy he loved so much was barely able to keep her eyes open. But she still managed to kick her legs out back and forth, the bottom of her fuzzy bunny slippers hitting Logan's jean-clad shins. She mulled over her options while he played with her long and tangled wavy blonde tresses.
Her hair felt sticky and knotted, and he realized that she probably needed a bath. She'd been wearing the same t-shirt, an old Hearst one that used to belong to Veronica but still absolutely dwarfed their tiny daughter, for the last two days. Dried remnants of Robitussin stained the front, and Logan frowned at the memory of her knocking the tablespoon out of his hand when he tried to give her the medicine the night before. She would be due for another dose soon…
"Ummm," she thought out loud, drumming her finger against her bare knee. "Ummm."
"Sorry, we're all out of ummm," he teased, lightly bouncing her. But her furrowed brow and stiff lip let him know she was in no mood for joking around, and he recoiled. For a whole two seconds there he had forgotten that he wasn't dealing with his little girl, but rather the sick and miserable version that was absolutely hell bent on making everyone around her just as unhappy.
"Cereal?" he parroted, thrilled by the idea that she might actually eat something. He sat her in the kitchen chair next to him. "What kind of cereal do you want?"
He went to the cabinets, looking over the different varieties available. Logan used to be a big fan of the sugary crap filled with empty calories, but Veronica only ever bought Cheerios and Raisin-Bran anymore. Seemed she only wanted the healthier choices on hand for their rug-rat, and Logan wasn't about to try and argue.
She agreed to Cheerios, and Logan poured a bowlful and then went to grab the milk from the fridge. But his hand froze on the handle when he remembered Veronica saying something about no dairy. Damn.
"Hey, how about I make you some soup instead?"
"It's my super special soup. I'll make it just for you and it might help you feel better."
She sighed, but agreed, and Logan mouthed a silent thank you to the patron saint of pissed off four-year-olds.
He reached for a can of chicken & stars, but his offspring started protesting as soon as she saw the familiar label. "Hey! That's not special soup!"
"I'm going to add spices," he retorted, rather snottily. "Calm down." So he emptied the can into another bowl, pretended to wave the salt and pepper shakers over it, and then stuck it in the microwave. He tapped his fingers impatiently against the countertop while he waited for the beep, not daring to turn around for fear she'd burst into tears in another temper tantrum.
After adding an ice cube to cool it down, he sat the bowl in front of her, waiting expectantly. She looked up at him with sad brown eyes but he promised himself that he'd stay strong this time. Veronica never failed to let him know when she thought he was over-indulging (or "spoiling her rotten" as she often put it), and he wasn't about to give her more ammo.
"C'mon, eat up. You'll feel better."
He exhaled in relief when she finally took a bite.
A few hours later, after some cartoons, she yawned, her eyes dropping. Logan scooped her up from the couch and carried her upstairs to her bedroom, tucking her in securely and turning to leave. But her frail and congested voice begged for a story. He settled in next to her, reaching for one of the many children's books on her nightstand, when she started crying about wanting to hear a "new" story. That always meant that he had to make one up, but Logan was so exhausted after worrying over and dealing with his sick daughter that he was sure he didn't have the energy to even try to be creative.
"Please?" she begged, sniffling, and he was gone.
"Once upon a time," he began, already at a loss. "There was a…girl."
She batted her long eyelashes, waiting for him to continue.
"And this girl…was a princess."
"What was her name?"
"Hm, what do you think her name was?"
She thought about it for a minute. "Molly?"
He grinned at her, his eyes shining happily. "Yes, what a guess. That's exactly her name. So one day Molly was taking a walk, exploring around her castle or something, and she found…um…" He trailed off, his thoughts not able to catch up to his mouth. "Um, what do you think she found?"
She pouted, no longer falling for it. "You don't got a story! You want me to tell it!"
"Hey, you need to use your imagination! It'll help you get into a good college."
"You're not using yours!" she returned, her little voice rising despite earlier proclamations of a sore throat.
Damn she had a smart mouth. Where the hell did she get that from? "I don't have to use my imagination. I'm over 30."
She huffed, rolling away from him and burying her face in her pillow. Logan waited a beat before peering over her head, checking to see if she was asleep yet. Her eyes were still open, staring off into space, so he sat patiently until he heard her soft snores a few minutes later.
He snuck out of her room, careful to not wake her. When he reached the bottom step, he heard the phone ring, and he ran to the kitchen to fetch the nearest receiver.
"How is she?"
He closed his eyes in relief, exhaling loudly. "Asleep, for now. When are you coming home?" There was no way to cover the anxiousness in his tone.
"I haven't even testified yet. It's a fifteen minute break, and they've still got a couple witnesses before me."
"So how long will that take?"
"A few more hours, at least. I don't know. But I'm sure you're doing fine."
"Veronica," he said, exasperated. "She's been on the verge of losing it all morning. And, frankly, she's starting to smell. Please try to hurry so I don't have to be the one to bathe her."
"Nope. You're going to have to learn to deal with her like this sooner or later. Don't procrastinate."
"I'll pay you. A lot."
"Sorry, no. In sickness and in health, remember?"
"I made that promise to you. Never said a thing to her about it."
"Logan," she sighed.
"Okay, I know. Go ahead, I'll handle it."
"You'll be fine," she promised, and he nodded, unsure. They disconnected, and Logan looked back up at the stairs, eyes fearful.
Twenty minutes later, the munchkin still asleep, he settled in on the couch, turning on the television and flipping through the programming guide. He decided on a cable airing of the first Lord of the Rings movie, and he was hypnotized within a matter of minutes.
About an hour passed before he heard her tiny feet stomping down the steps. He grabbed the remote to turn off the television, and he plastered on a fake smile before rising from his seat to greet her at the bottom landing. "Good nap?"
She grunted in acknowledgment, her bottom lip jutted out in a signature pout.
"How about you get a bath, huh? Maybe the steam will help your stuffy nose."
He braced himself for a fight, but she simply shrugged in agreement, turning to climb back up the stairs to the bathroom.
"See, this might help you feel better, and afterward we can watch a movie or something," he said, speaking the words from over his shoulder as his hand tested the temperature of the bathwater. She stood next to the garden tub, her arms crossed in front of her defensively, and Logan was suddenly struck by how much she resembled Veronica. Man, he'd have to send Keith Mars a Hallmark card.
"Okay, up with your arms," he told her, kneeling in front of her and tugging the bottom off her shirt. She shook her head vehemently. "You can't take a bath with your clothes on," he reasoned, but he already saw her eyes darkening, and he knew it was only a matter of time before she was in a full on fit.
"I don't wanna take it off! It makes me feel better!"
"It makes you smelly!" he returned, once again trying to lift it up past her belly. Her arms tightened across her chest, and she backed away, refusing.
"I don't want a bath! I wanna wear my shirt."
"I'll throw it in the washer and you can wear it to bed." One more attempt at pulling it off of her, and she stumbled back, shrieking, "NOOOO!" so loudly that Logan froze.
He backed off, rolling his eyes as she continued to wail. He didn't know how to deal with her when she was like this. He felt like an ass disciplining her when she was sick, and it broke his heart to know that she was only acting like this because of how miserable she was.
"I don't feel good," she cried, tears brimming in her eyes. "My tummy hurts."
"Shh," he whispered, gently pulling her to him. "It's okay. You'll feel better soon. It's just the flu." It's just the flu. It's just the flu.
She rested her head in the crook of his neck while he ran his hand down her back soothingly. After a couple of minutes, when she calmed down, he decided to try again. "Want to take a bath now?"
She pulled back, nodding dully, and he lifted the ratty Hearst tee over her head. She stood before him, completely miserable in just her pink underwear and her hair a mass of tangles. Logan sighed, wishing fervently that he could do something to take away her sickness. She usually loved baths, loved playing with her mess of toys and laughing while he styled her shampooed hair in a crazy array of shapes. He usually had to pull her little pruned body out of the tub while she protested for just a few more minutes.
"Daddy," she sniffled. "My tummy really hurts."
He regarded her with concern, pressing the flat of his hand against her stomach. "Do you think you're going to be sick?"
She nodded for a second, and then she proceeded to open her mouth and throw up all over him before bursting out into tears.
"Ah!" he yelped, falling back on the marble floor with a painful thud. The vomit was soaking through the front of his shirt, making it cling to his body, and he pulled at his collar in disgust.
"It's okay, it's okay," he muttered, his face scrunched in horror. He stood up gingerly while she continued to bawl. "It's okay."
He ran out of the master bath and to his and Veronica's bedroom, carefully tugging the shirt over his head and then throwing it near his dresser. He then grabbed a clean shirt from the closet and pulled it on, rushing back into the bathroom.
She stopped crying abruptly, staring back up at him with tear-stained cheeks. He sighed, reaching out to pat her head. "It's okay, sweetie."
Her lip quivered, but she wiped at her eyes. "I feel better now!"
Twenty minutes later, with her precious shirt in the washer and her wet hair combed out, he dressed her in her favorite pajamas and then lifted her in his arms, carrying her down to the living room. They settled in on the couch together and she snuggled against his chest.
"Do you want to watch a movie?" he asked, secretly praying that she didn't want to watch Cinderella for the one thousandth time.
She shook her head, her face buried against his neck while she played with the collar of his polo shirt.
"Want me to finish that story?" he wondered, smiling against her hair.
She nodded, and he hugged her to him. "Okay, so Molly was walking around her castle, and she found this ring…"