French Braids

Four years after Natalie packed up and left for the better of them all, Henry faces the struggle of not being able to give his daughter what he wishes he could. One-shot for now, that might be continued!

"I'm so sorry." Henry whispered.

His lips released the words about something so simple and small, but he meant them about the big picture. The big, ugly picture his daughter had to look at every day. A picture that Henry wished could be burned, just as he had done to the others, and forgotten about. Maybe it would be that good one day. Maybe not.

"It's okay, Daddy." Henry's eyes shut themselves at the disappointment in Katie's voice. It really wasn't okay. Henry's fingers held a small clump of his daughter's hair. French braids. French braids. That's all she wanted. Two French braids, one on each side of her head. And he couldn't give it to her. It was a hair-do. She was four years old. In 10 seconds her mind would be somewhere else. But Henry didn't care, because for some reason not being able to give her those French braids made him feel like a parental failure.

It wasn't just the braids. It would be everything that she wanted and deserved that he couldn't give her.

"I can give you pigtails." Henry offered, sadly, and Katie shook her head slowly.

"No thank you, I'll just leave it down."

"C'mere." Henry picked his daughter up and hugged her close to him. Her lighthearted giggling rang in his ear and he whispered into hers',

"I love you so much.", and pressed a kiss on her forehead.

"I love you too, Daddy." She said and let her head sit on his shoulder. Henry closed his eyes and wished it would stay like this forever. He wished it would be as simple as French braids for the rest of their lives, but experiences had blown by him, and burned themselves into his brain and heart, reminding him that this was one of the rare moments of life that would be as simple as French braids. And he couldn't even handle that.

Henry's arms remained snaked around Katie's body, holding her close. Moments like this made Henry's heart ache for Natalie. Not because he loved her and still wanted to be with her, but because Moms knew how to tie French braids. They knew how to talk about boys, and shop, and discuss all of the other things that fell under a realm of total foreignness to Henry. Every little girl as well mannered, high spirited, and sweet as Katie deserved a mom.

But not all of them had one. When it came to his little girl, this sad truth poked and prodded Henry's heart. In the eyes of little girls who are looking at their fathers there are Dads with Moms, Dads with Stepmoms, Dads with Dads, and…just Dads. She had him. But Henry wasn't convinced that he was good enough. Katie was, but Henry would never know it.

Henry was encompassed with guilt. Somehow, everything that had gone wrong was his fault. Every tear on his daughter's face, every skinned knee, and all of the shattered hearts and slamming doors that he knew would come, he was already pouring into the pile of things he was responsible for, and that he wasn't good enough to avoid. He wasn't good enough to make Natalie stay. He wasn't good enough to tie two fucking braids in his daughter's hair.

The girl was nothing but selfless sweetness, and nothing came off of her lips except "please" and "thank you", and he could never even reward her for being too perfect for words, and reminding him that maybe he existed for a reason, maybe he was worth something.

"Can we play My Little Pony? Pretty please?" Katie asked quietly.

Hour long games of My Little Pony…that's what he was worth. Henry's lips turned upwards. Sixty minutes of laughter, and smiles from his daughter that wouldn't last forever. Sixty minutes that he'd be stupid to waste wishing things were different, instead of living full out through the way things were.

"Of course." Henry piggy-backed his daughter to the other side of the room, and the glimmer of genuine happiness in Katie's eye reminded Henry that, yeah, they were different – but that was okay.

A small part of Henry wished more than anything that Natalie would return soon, so that she could tie the French braids for Katie. But the rest of Henry's heart almost wished that she wouldn't – he wanted to learn on his own.

A/N – As corny as it may seem to some, I would like to dedicate this to a friend of mine who also didn't have a mom around to give her French braids – but had two Dads who were willing to learn. I'm a little bit iffy about expanding on this/continuing it, but if I can get some solid ideas about it down I definitely will.

I hope you enjoyed reading!