This was originally written for the LJ community disney_uberland's Gift Exchange challenge. The person I was giving a gift to gave this prompt: "Any Princess/Prince couple, life after the happy ending." I chose Princess and the Frog because the idea I got seemed to work best with Naveen and Tiana, what with Tiana's restaurant and Naveen being the prince in another country.
The Future Holds
A piercing wail snapped Naveen from slumber, shattering the stillness and echoing throughout the room. Blinking tired eyes and realizing it was still dark, he reached toward the nearby nightstand and fumbled around until the clock came to his grasp. He squinted through the shadows to see the small hand pointing to three and groaned before tossing the timepiece back down and burying his head under his pillow.
It did little to help, however, as the screeching continued. Soon he felt his wife stir beside him, and he searched through the sheets until he found her arm and took hold.
"Can't we ignore it?" he muttered, his words muffled by his pillow and drowsiness. "Perhaps it will stop soon."
"That's his 'hold me' cry," Tiana replied, reminding him that they were not referring to a thing. "He's not gonna stop until someone picks him up."
She moved to get up, but Naveen kept his hand on her arm, preventing her from leaving. "Naveen…"
Pushing his pillow back with his free hand, he then lifted himself up from the bed. "Then perhaps I should get him."
She glanced at him, surprised. "I can do it…"
"You are getting up in a few hours, are you not?" he reminded her, combing fingers to tame his wavy hair. "You should continue to rest so you can work later, and let me deal with him."
Tiana eyed him skeptically. "Can you even hold a baby?"
He huffed, clearly offended. "I have held him before!"
"Yeah, as long as I was watching you. But you've never held him on your own, have you?"
Naveen paused thoughtfully. She was right, of course. But he simply shrugged and replied, "So perhaps it is time I learn."
Somehow, that didn't seem to reassure her. "Naveen –"
"I will be careful, I promise." His lips gently brushed her forehead before he slipped out of bed. "You just go back to sleep."
She hesitated, and he could still see the worry in her eyes. But she nodded anyway. "Okay…" she conceded, slowly lying back down on the bed.
Pulling the sheets up to cover his wife, Naveen then crossed the room, rubbing the lingering sleep from his eyes as he approached the crib. Lying on the thin mattress, the baby squirmed as he continued to cry, his wide open mouth scrunching up his round, tan face.
Naveen sighed slowly to keep himself calm. Then he reached into the crib and carefully picked up the child. 'Support the head, hold the body,' he told himself, repeating the words Tiana always said to him when she placed the child in his arms. He hoped he was doing it correctly, holding him the way he remembered holding the infant before – or at least he thought it was how he remembered doing it.
It seemed good enough, though, as the child's cries eventually faded into murmuring sniffles, looking up at him with curious eyes.
Naveen gently rocked the baby, just as he had seen Tiana do so often. The baby squirmed a little, but then quickly settled down, gurgling softly in that way all babies do.
He couldn't help but smile as he looked at his child. Then, glancing back to his wife and seeing she had already fallen back asleep, he thought for a moment and looked back down at the infant. Slowly he tiptoed to the door, somehow getting it open and slipping out of the room to let Tiana sleep in peace.
The baby fidgeted again, making it difficult to close the bedroom door. He managed, though, and looked at the baby as he headed down the hall.
"Little Ray," he murmured, shifting the baby's positing to hold him more securely as he walked. "Your mama has work in the morning and needs to rest. Can you not wait until the sun comes up before needing attention?"
The child didn't reply – not that Naveen expected him to – and simply gurgled and sucked on some of his fingers.
Still, Naveen smiled and kissed the boy's head, taking a seat on the sofa in the living room. He kept the lights off, hoping the darkness would eventually lull his son back to sleep. "I suppose not," he answered himself. "Your mother blames me for that…something about always seeking attention." He laughed softly. "But then, when one is as adorable as we are, of course we deserve such notice by others. Wouldn't you agree?"
Little Ray looked at him with wide chocolate eyes, pulling his hand out of his mouth just long enough to reach up and grab Naveen's nose.
Wincing a bit as the child tugged, Naveen held his son at arms' length and looked at him with a stern expression. Little Ray simply gurgled again, matching the gaze with a pudgy pout. Soon, Naveen's face crumbled, and he was hugging the child once again.
"You are surprisingly good at that," Naveen murmured, cradling his son with one arm so Ray could grab the index finger of the other. "Though, I suppose my parents would say that you get that from me as well…"
He watched as Ray brought his finger to his mouth and began sucking on the digit. "Hmm…" he said, mostly to himself than to his son, "that reminds me…Mother and Father have yet to meet you. They wish to visit soon, but of course they have been busy…"
Little Ray murmured in what he would almost describe as a sharp tone, forcing him to rethink his words. "Yes, yes, I know it is unfair to blame them for not being able to see you," he replied. "Ruling a country is not easy, and obviously they are busy with that. Besides, it's not as though Maldonia is simply down the road…They would have to find some available time before they could travel here…"
Still…he couldn't help but be reminded of his own childhood, and the many hours he spent yearning for his parents' attention. He always understood why they were busy, and he never doubted that his parents loved him, but he had always wished that his parents could have spent a little more time with him while he was younger.
He grew up all right regardless (well…more or less), and it had been so long since he thought of that. But after the birth of his son, it was something that began to occupy his mind more often lately.
Because his son is a prince of Maldonia.
"Did I ever tell you," Naveen said slowly, glancing down at his son, "that I am the crowned prince of Maldonia?" The child in his arms cooed in response. "It's true. As things stand now, I am next in line for the throne if your grandparents were unable to rule. If anything were to happen, I would have to return to Maldonia and take their place…
"So what would you say, little Ray?" he asked. "Do you think you would like to live in Maldonia?"
Little Ray gurgled a bit as he continued to suck on Naveen's finger. Naveen grimaced as his finger was soaked with baby spit, but he let his son continue anyway.
Instead, he sighed; though he kept his eyes on the child, he didn't really see him as his mind began to wander. "You know…I haven't talked to your mother about this yet, but sometimes I…I worry about bringing you to Maldonia. Though I doubt I will be taking over for my parents any time soon. But if I did and we all moved to Maldonia…then I may not be able to spend much time with you. And I want to be able to see…everything, and just be there as you are growing up. And I know it is important to your mother that I can spend time with you, having been so close to her own father. So…living here, right now, will let me be a normal father, and I want that to last for as long as possible."
He blinked, his eyes focusing through the darkness as he looked at the child again. "However, if we remain here too long, then returning to Maldonia after you have grown up here might be difficult as well. And it may be especially hard for you, depending on how old you are when you must begin learning about our country and how to rule. I had to learn all of that throughout the course of my life, so I could not imagine how it would be if you start later.
"And it would also be unfair to Tiana," he added, another sigh trailing his words. "The restaurant has been her dream since she was a child, but I do not know how she could run it if she became the queen of Maldonia." He chuckled suddenly. "Though I imagine if anyone could do so, it would be her."
Little Ray cooed at the mention of his mother.
"It would still be challenging, though, and I would never ask her to give up what she has worked for all her life." Naveen paused thoughtfully, squinting through the darkness. "There is the option of passing the right of the crown to my brother, your uncle…Actually, your grandfather the King was the one who reminded me of it, back when your mother and I were first married and she told Grandfather and Grandmother about her plans for the restaurant." He frowned slightly. "At the time, I was surprised when he suggested it, but with all these things to consider, I see why he mentioned it in the first place."
The baby squirmed a little, finally releasing his father's finger. Wiping his hand on his pants, he then held the child up and lifted him over his head, earning a giggle from the boy.
"What do you think?" he said, grinning a little as the child continued to giggle. "Do you think Uncle would make a good king?"
Ray laughed softly, kicking his feet in the air.
Naveen smiled, holding his child so that he could sit on his lap. "Personally, I think he would make a better ruler than I would." The smile faded as he watched his son suck on his hands. "He is still young, though, and that is a lot of pressure to put on a child." He snorted. "Believe me, I would know."
Falling silent again for a moment, he stared through the darkness as his mind began to drift. "Still, I wonder…Would I feel any better if I did pass on the crown? Would things really be so simple if I only give up my claim to the throne?"
He jumped a little, abruptly pulled out of his thoughts when little Ray suddenly began crying once again. Cradling the baby, he gently began to rock him. "Shh, shh…" he said, trying to comfort the child. "What is the matter now?"
"That's his 'feed me' cry. He's hungry this time."
Naveen glanced up as Tiana circled around the couch and approached them. "I thought you were returning to bed."
She shrugged, sitting next to him and gently taking the child from him. "Couldn't sleep," she replied, resting against his chest as she leaned back. "Besides, I wanted to see how you were with him."
He smiled, wrapping his arms around his wife's waist as she began to nurse their son. "You do not trust me with the baby," he speculated teasingly.
She laughed. "Oh, stop. That's not it. I just…wanted to be with the two of you, I guess." She paused for a thoughtful moment, then added almost hesitantly, "No matter where we end up."
Naveen blinked, surprised by her words. But his expression quickly turned serious. "So you were listening…"
She nodded. "Yeah." She twisted a little in his grip so she could look at him. "Why didn't you ever say anything about it?"
"I am not sure. I just…" He sighed, running fingers through his dark hair. "I do not know what to do. It is just such a difficult decision to make, and I do not want to make the wrong one."
She nodded in understanding. "You shouldn't try to make a decision like that all by yourself, though. We're a family, and we should talk about any big thing like this that would affect us."
He sat silently for a moment as he considered her words. Then he nodded. "Of course, you are right. I'm sorry…"
She gently patted his hand. "It's all right. It just might help if we talk about these things. But until that day comes, we've got time to figure this out, right?"
Glancing at his son – their son – he smiled and gently rubbed the child's head affectionately. "Right," he said softly. "We have some time."