Characters: the Morgans, focusing on Xander and Francis.
Wrote this a while ago, thought to upload here. Enjoy.
The boy stands in the doorway, sheepishly clutching the knob. His eyes are wide and frightened, and Xander struggles for a moment between worry and frustration. It isn't often he gets quiet time with his wife, and the middle of the night is the last time he expects to be interrupted.
"I had a scary dream," the boy whimpers. Almost immediately, the woman starts shuffling to the edge of the bed. Xander sighs quietly, exasperated.
His wife stops short when the boy chimes in again, "I want Dad."
Taken aback, Xander looks first at his wife, then back at the boy, both of whose gazes are trained on him. He doesn't understand. This, he fathoms, is a regular duty of the mother, because he himself is not usually here to carry it out. He remembers one other time when the job was his, but it was more than three years ago. The boy is six now.
She nudges him slightly and raises her eyebrows with expectation. Unable to fight them both, he tells the boy to wait in the hall and proceeds to roll out of bed and clothe himself. He ensures his love is tucked away warmly in wait for his return before venturing out after the boy.
A small hand grasps onto the sleeve of his nightshirt as they walk to the other bedroom, but he doesn't make any move to reciprocate. He wants to be a good father, and he tries. Maybe, he thinks, he tries too hard. His patience has always been thin, however, and at the end of the day, he still feels distant from his son.
It tortures him. So he tries to get in what admittedly harsh lessons he can whenever it's possible, in hopes that he can still raise the boy well despite their limited time together.
He tucks the boy back into his own bed, and after a moment of silence, reaches for the light on his nightstand.
"Wait," the child begs. They pause and look at each other for a few seconds before he adds, "I'm scared."
Xander looks around in close inspection of the room. Everything seems to be in order, so he asks skeptically, "Of what?"
The boy's gaze follows his around the room, much more apprehensive than his calculating stare.
"The monsters in my dreams."
"They're just dreams," the man insists.
For a moment, the boy starts to look relieved. He asks with some hope, "So monsters aren't real?"
Without much thought for the child's feelings, the father responds. He can't help it. He deals with them almost every day.
"There are real monsters."
At this, the boy takes on a more terrified look than before, and his fingers clench tightly onto his blanket. Immediately, Xander feels a pang of guilt. Would it have been better to lie than to say that? He doubts the child will be able to get to sleep now. With some reluctance, he plants himself on the edge of the bed and folds his hands together, trying to think of what to say to comfort his son.
"Do you know what I do at work?" he asks finally. The child shakes his head. Adopting an even firmer tone, he elaborates, "I hunt monsters."
The boy's eyes widen yet further, taking on the appearance of saucers. He stares like this for a moment or two before asking incredulously, "Do you see a lot of them?"
Xander gives a stern nod.
The child continues, "And you catch them all?"
"Yes," he confirms.
The questions keep coming: "What happens when you catch them?" "Have you ever killed a monster?" "How do you kill them? Do you need a special monster weapon?"
To which he responds: "I lock them up in cages." "Yes, plenty." "A gun does just fine."
The boy's face is a mixture of awe and pride. Xander believes he is satisfied with his answers before he carries on.
"Could a monster ever follow you home?"
This question catches him off guard. Maybe he shouldn't have entertained the boy's inquiries this far. But he's tired and his wife is still waiting, and he needs to get the child back to sleep as soon as he can.
"I would never let a monster hurt you," he insists, "or your mother."
A final doubt crosses the boy's face.
"You're not scared of them at all, are you?"
"No," the father lies. This feels harmless; of course he is scared sometimes, but he never lets it cripple him, and he doesn't need to frighten the boy again.
Xander's resolve hardens, in spite of the previous falsity. "Because monsters never win."
For a minute, they both fall silent. Xander can tell the boy's imagination is weaving intricate plots, but he's too exhausted to pay it that much mind at the moment. Eventually, he gets up from the bed and starts for the door.
"You can turn the light off," the boy delays him. "I'm not scared anymore."
He reaches back to flip off the lamp before heading out again.
"I love you, Dad."
This final interjection makes him linger in the doorway, his hand grasping the knob somewhat shakily. His mouth feels dry, and for the longest time, he doesn't know how to respond. It takes his tired mind and cool heart a moment or two, but ultimately, his lips find words.
"I love you, too, son."