Summary: Many years have passed since Will first stumbled up to Halt's doorstep. Now, he is practically a son to the grizzled old ranger, and Halt is presently settling into his newfound role of adoptive grandfather. Series of oneshots.
Author's note – PLEASE READ!
Alright. This story probably seems extremely out of the blue, and I hardly ever bother with OCs, so let me explain.
Unbeknownst to practically anyone who has ever read my fanfictions, I have a small army of OCs running about in my head for multiple fandoms. Now understand, these OCs aren't anyone that I intentionally sit down and conjure up with a particular purpose or plot in mind. I just turn around one day and find them sitting comfortably on my favorite fandom, and I scream, as politely as possible, "Who the heck are you and when did you get here?!" to which they will kindly explain their history and place in Araluen, Narnia, Coruscant or whatever place I happen to be dealing with at the time. They tend to develop and grow without me noticing, and before I know it, all my OCs are waiting in line to have their million and one different fanfic plots put onto paper.
This story is just one of them. I've never been a particular fan of reading OC stories, and I don't like to be contradictory, so I usually don't bother writing or publishing mine. But, Daniel's (you'll meet him in a moment) big cute eyes were just too much to handle. I had to write him.
Oh, and please, if you do like this story, tell me. I might just post some of my other RA OCs up here if anyone does, by some miracle, like the OCs in this story.
Will's hand clenched and un-clenched nervously as Alyss buzzed around their humble home, cleaning and dusting and hauling heavy furniture around like a madwoman. Will winced as she heaved to re-arrange one of the lounge chairs for the third time that afternoon. He knew this was natural - all part of the process. Hormones, the healers called them. But none of it mattered to Will. Because no matter how much he knew that his wife wasn't going to hurt herself or their unborn child with her restless antics, his instincts told him otherwise. He pressed his lips together and tried not to panic as Alyss, oblivious to the worry she was putting him through, squatted down carefully to pick up a heavy bucket filled with firewood and move it from one side of the fireplace to the other. She then reached around her swollen abdomen to delicately arrange each piece of wood, smiling when she was satisfied. She strode to the front door and looked back to survey her work. She was still smiling as she glanced around approvingly at her work. For one wonderful moment, Will thought she might sit down and stop fussing about the house and its fixings – but then she frowned, and marched back purposefully into the room.
Will let out a frustrated breath that he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Would this ever end? Lord only knew that she shouldn't be re-arranging the furniture in her state. Alyss was seven-and-a-half months along in her pregnancy, and while she took her drastically changed physique in stride, Will watched her nervously, as if she would keel over at any moment. He tapped out a meaningless rhythm with his fingers as he prepared himself for another nerve-wracking episode of housekeeping. But when Alyss put her hands to the arm of their long couch and bent herself to push it forward, Will had decided that he couldn't take it anymore.
"Alyss!" He burst suddenly, rising from where he had been sitting.
As if noticing her husband's presence for the first time that day, Alyss looked over at him curiously, still bending over the couch. "Yes, Will?"
"Alyss, please just…" Will stepped forward and put out a hand, as if to steady her. "Just sit down. Please." He wore a pained expression as he mentally willed her to straighten from her precarious-looking position. Alyss did, much to his relief.
"Why?" She asked, looking genuinely confused.
"You really don't need to bother with all of this…" Will gestured to the living area around him. "This housekeeping." He held his breath. He was toying with fire, he knew. With her mood swings, he could never be sure when she would become spontaneously enraged with the tilt of his eyebrows, or melt down into tears over something as insignificant as a butterfly.
"Oh, it's alright, Will. I just think that this place needs a little freshening up, that's all." She bent back to move the couch.
"Alyss, please!" Will said, stopping her before she could over-exert herself. "You're making me nervous. Please sit down, for the sake of my sanity."
Her eyes narrowed at him. The rest of her expression remained unchanged, but Will saw the flash of anger there as she glared daggers at him through her eyes. Never in all his life did Will think that a woman as pregnant as Alyss could look so completely terrifying, but he found himself wishing he could take the words back as Alyss drew breath to break into her tirade.
"What, do you think I am some sort of helpless maid, Treaty?" Alyss stood up and put her hands to her hips. Will winced when she used his last name. She only called him that when she was really mad at him.
"No, Alyss, I just… You really shouldn't be moving all this heavy furniture around and doing all this cleaning – you're nearly eight months pregnant!"
"For your information, I have eight weeks until this baby is supposed to be born and I am wholly capable of managing my own household until that time! I do not need to sit down, I do not need water, or rest – any of it. What I need is for you to bloody stop ordering me around!"
Will gave a desperate shrug. It was incredibly hard to reason with a pregnant wife, he'd learned. "Alyss, I was just trying to-"
"No. I don't want to hear it. Leave. Now."
Before he could even begin to protest, Will found himself standing on the verandah outside with the door shut behind him. He could hear Alyss vigorously sweeping the already-swept floor inside. He let out a sigh and turned to look at his loyal horse, Tug, who'd looked up when his master had suddenly appeared outside. He supposed it was useless to even consider going back to reason with her. He walked over to Tug and patted his mane.
"I love her. I really do. But this is getting downright ridiculous. She was nowhere near this edgy when she was pregnant with Daniel." He said, and smiled at the thought of his small son. "Perhaps we should go visit him, hmm? Him and Halt?" Will offered to his horse, who tossed his mane and nickered with enthusiasm. Will chucked at the reaction and went to fetch Tug's tack. In all honesty, he wanted to stay here and make sure his wife didn't send herself into premature labor by re-arranging the bedroom furniture, (again) but Will knew that any attempts to calm her down would be futile. The best course of action he could take was to leave her alone to cool off and come back when she was in a better mood.
In the meantime, he would go see two of his favorite people in the world.
Halt couldn't help but smile down at the small toddler bouncing in his lap. Currently, the young boy was examining the bright red apple that Halt had picked out for a snack. The wide grey eyes were fixated on its brilliant color. Halt let him take it and touch it. At length, the boy held it out to Halt with two chubby hands. The grey-bearded man smiled, took it, and bit into it. Suddenly, the toddler's smooth forehead twisted up in a younger version of the confused look that Halt had seen on his apprentice's head so many times. He looked at Halt, then at the mutilated apple, and then back at Halt.
"Don' hurt it!" He said, reaching for the apple, as if to save it. Halt moved his hand easily to evade the grab.
"No, here." Halt broke of a small piece of the apple and offered it to the boy. When he didn't take it, Halt bit into the apple again to demonstrate that it was to be eaten. "It's very delicious. You'll like it."
Still looking at Halt, the boy took it and put into his mouth. His bright grey eyes, which were entirely to large for his head, widened with surprise at the sweet, tangy flavor of the fruit and he bobbled happily on Halt's knee as he munched on the apple. When he swallowed, he let out a giggle and reached for the apple. Again, it jumped from his reach at the last second, and he looked up at Halt. The ranger's cocked brow and pointed look said it all, even to one so young.
"Please?" The boy asked. Halt nodded and broke off another piece for him. "Yummy!" The boy said happily as he ate. When he was done, he rose on his feet and unsteadily spun around in a circle atop Halt's thighs, then plopped down so that he was laying across the middle of of the older man's lap.
Halt laughed. "Now why did you do that?" he asked. The boy didn't answer, but instead giggled up at him. "You are a strange little thing. Almost as strange as your father, I'd say." Halt glanced down at the small body. "But I'd wager that you're a bit more ticklish than your daddy." He said, and let his hand come down on the toddler's stomach in an onslaught of tickling. The boy squealed with laughter, revealing a set of tiny, ivory white teeth. Using his rudimentary communication skills, the toddler begged for the tickling to cease through fits of giggling.
Eventually, Halt used one arm to pin the boy to his shoulder, upside down, while the other occupied itself with tickling the round belly that had been exposed when the toddler had been turned upside down. The squealing laughter that rang through his apartment lightened Halt's heart considerably, and despite his unsmiling reputation, he was grinning widely.
"Daddy!" The boy cried suddenly, stretching his arms out towards the doorway. Halt looked up to find Will standing there, smiling. The tiny boy quickly disentangled himself from Halt's grip and slid down the man's leg as if he were some sort of tree to be climbed on. Halt may have been considered short by adult standards, but to this child, he was a giant.
"Hey, Dan!" Will said happily, squatting down to catch Daniel as the boy launched himself into his father's arms. "How are you?"
"Grampa's attacking me!" He cried, still smiling as he buried himself in his father's arms. "Hide me!" Will glanced over at Halt and then back at his son.
"Hide you? What if daddy wants to tickle you too?" He asked, jabbing at the boy's sides.
"No!" Daniel squealed through laughter, and Will stopped with a chuckle. He carried his son over to sit in a chair across from Halt, who was enjoying the rest of his apple.
"How are you, Halt?"
"Quite fine. This little one here has made sure my day has been anything but dull. Or quiet." He regarded the small figure in Will's lap, and then Will himself. "I think he might get that from you."
Will smiled and rolled his eyes. Despite the fact that Halt had said it with a completely serious expression on his face, Will knew that the comment was a jest.
"He's behaved himself?"
"As much as a three-year-old can be expected to."
Will looked down at Daniel with an eyebrow arched high. As his young son grew to be more mischievous, Will had begun to master the look that he had once attributed to Halt alone. At the sudden attention, Daniel simply smiled and in general looked like a perfect angel. Will scoffed affectionately, and turned his gaze away.
"Good." He ruffled the small head of thick brown hair practically identical to his own.
After that, he and Halt launched into the kind of comfortable conversation that a father has with his son. Too energetic to stay in his father's lap for more than a minute, Daniel was soon on the ground playing with the various toys strewn about Halt's normally tidy living room.
"How is Alyss?" Halt asked, already guessing at the answer.
Will sighed. "Restless. Angry at me, last time I spoke with her. I'm not entirely sure why, though. All I asked her to do was to sit down – she's been cleaning and re-arranging furniture all day long."
"That bad, hmm?" Halt asked, hiding the mild amusement he gathered from the circumstances. Thankfully, Will didn't catch it.
"Indeed. She's always yelling, screaming and cursing. And when she's not hauling furniture across the house and back again, getting mad at me, or cleaning the spotless windows, she's breaking down into tears for no apparent reason at all. Honestly, I don't know what to do with her. It's all so completely unlike Alyss, I'm at a loss." Will shrugged and fell back against the cushions of the couch. "I'm just glad that she'll be getting at least a little bit back to normal when the baby is born." He said.
Halt smiled as his former apprentice. "I'm sure she'll be glad for it too. I doubt it's easy carrying a child around as she does for nine straight months."
Will nodded. "True." He held this thought for a moment, and then rose to stretch. When he was done, he looked to Halt.
"Have any coffee?"
Will nodded, and wondered why he'd even asked in the first place. This was Halt's household – of course it would be stocked to the brim with coffee. "Right. I'm going to make a pot. You want some?"
"I'd love some." The other ranger replied, and Will nodded.
Will had rummaged through Halt's cupboards as if he were in his own home. Years as Halt's apprentice had dissolved any unfamiliar boundaries between them, and each of them were completely at ease in one another's homes. Once he'd put the coffee on to brew, Will stayed in the kitchen to hunt around for something to snack on. He found a good-looking roll sitting in the breadbasket, and munched on it hungrily.
He heard Halt's deep voice softly from the other room, and could also make out Daniel's higher voice as well. As quietly and unobtrusively as he could, which was practically silent, being a ranger, Will edged to the door and peered out to see his mentor playing with his son. He couldn't keep the smile from his face. The sight was heartwarming. Halt was bent over as he politely played along with Daniel's current make-believe game with his toys.
Whenever he was in the presence of Daniel, Halt expressed a side that Will had never witnessed before his son was born. Who was he to guess that Halt would have such a huge soft spot for small children? Or was it just Will's children? He didn't know. What he did know was that Halt had been undeniably taken with little Daniel from the day he laid eyes on him. He still upheld his reputation as a gruff and grim character, but wherever Daniel was concerned, Halt turned into a loving, albeit a bit overprotective, caring grandfather. Adoptive grandfather, Will allowed, but what did it matter? Will was like Halt's son, Halt like Will's father. When Daniel was born, Halt had taken up the role naturally, and Daniel addressed him as his grandfather regularly. Will smiled as Halt bounced Daniel on his knee, smiling. He recalled the words of his best friend, Horace, and had to agree that Halt really was just a pussycat. But he would never let him know that he thought so.
He turned back to the coffee brewing on the stove and poured two cups, taking them back into the living room. He handed one to Halt. The other man thanked him and sipped at the black liquid.
"Pauline should be back within the hour. Perhaps I should send her to speak with your wife?" Halt said. Will's brow shot up.
"Would you? That would be most helpful. She'll listen to Pauline."
Halt smiled. "Most people do."
"Daddy!" Daniel interrupted "Lookit the horsie!" He held up a stuffed horse doll, which looked remarkably like Tug, for his father's inspection.
"That is a lovely horse, Dan. What's his name?"
"And a lovely name. You should show Tug when we get ready to go back home."
Daniel's shoulder's fell. "Home? Wanna stay here with grampa!" He said.
"You don't want to come home with me?"
Will eyebrows rose, and he looked up at Halt, who was smiling down at Daniel in an oddly triumphant way.
After several minutes of convincing Daniel that he did, indeed, have to go home without grandpa's company, Will fell back into his conversation with Halt. The sun slowly set down past the horizon as they talked on, Pauline came and left to go speak with an unreasonable Alyss, and eventually, Daniel ended up sleeping soundly on his father's shoulder, hugging his Tug beanie close to his neck.
Halt smiled at the boy. "I suppose you'd best be getting him to his bed."
Will smiled. "Yes, probably. I hope Alyss has seen reason."
"If anyone can calm her down, it's Pauline." Halt said, rising from his seat. "Now go home and put your son in bed. And don't forget to get some sleep for yourself." Halt said as Will yawned broadly.
"Alright. Thank you for taking him for the day, Halt. I know Alyss appreciates it too." Will said, adjusting Daniel on his hip.
Halt smiled. "The pleasure was mine. Goodnight, son." He said, gripping Will's shoulder firmly. He then gently ran a hand over Daniel's sleeping head. "And grandson. Tell Alyss hello for me."
Will nodded. "Alright. Goodnight, Halt." He gave his mentor an awkward half-hug, with Daniel still asleep in his arms. "Thanks, father." He said, quietly acknowledging the close relationship between the two of them.
Halt watched from above the castle yard as Will mounted up on Tug, careful of Daniel's sleeping form. Then, he slowly rode out of the castle to the small cabin that he shared with his wife and child, the very same cabin that he trained in as a young teen, the very same cabin that Halt had lived in for years before that. In all those years, Halt had never expected to find himself as a member of such a closely-knit family - and a grandfather, no less! Halt smiled in spite of himself. Many things, such as the cabin, were meant to be passed down through the generations. And many other things, such as the days he spent with Daniel and the hours talking with Will, were meant to be shared by the generations as sweet moments to be cherished.
Not for the first time, Halt thought that parenting – and grandparenting – was rather enjoyable. And soon, he considered, he would have another grandchild. He smiled at the thought. Oh, what fun this adventure would be.