A year went by blindingly fast, and having Phoenix in their lives made things wonderfully chaotic. Even if Jon was on the road for long stretches of time, coming home to his beautiful girlfriend and lively daughter made the absences that much more worth it.
At a year old, Phoenix was a curious little girl. It was absolute insanity when she started walking. It seemed like she completely skipped walking and was running all over the house as soon as she found her legs. Phoenix was a happy kid, always smiling and giggling and her happiness was infectious. Nothing gave Jon more joy than chasing her around the house and listening to her laugh. He loved to lay on the floor with her and watch her play with her toys. The nightly ritual with Phoenix when he was home was one of his favorite things. They would alternate who gave her a bath and put her in her pajamas. Then they'd tuck her into bed, and read her stories until she fell asleep.
Jon and Dani had been planning her first birthday party for weeks. Now the day was here and Jon had spent most of the morning chasing Phoenix down to try and get her into her party dress.
"No! No!" Phoenix giggled, running as fast as her little legs would carry her.
"Phoenix, come on," Jon sighed. "You know you wanna wear your pretty dress."
"No!" She shouted.
"Having trouble?" Dani laughed, scooping Phoenix up in her arms. She wriggled and fussed, reaching for Jon.
"Oh now you wanna come to Daddy, huh?" Jon laughed and Dani passed her to him. "Can we get dressed now?"
Phoenix smiled and laid her head against Jon's cheek, wrapping her little arms around his neck. Jon carried her to her room and got her dressed quickly before she started fussing at him again. Jon kissed her little forehead and put on her shoes, setting her down on the floor. From downstairs, he heard the commotion of people, knowing guests were starting to show up.
"There we go, pretty princess," Jon said, taking her hand. "Come on, I think I hear Uncle Colby."
Phoenix tugged on Jon's hand, suddenly urgent. "Coco!"
"Yeah, you hear him too, huh? Let's go see Coco." Jon laughed.
He swung Phoenix up into his arms, smiling at her little giggles. She tried to wiggle out of his arms half-way down the stairs as soon as she saw Colby. Jon put her on her feet at the bottom of the stairs and she took off immediately to him. Colby grinned and scooped her up off the ground, hugging her tight.
"There's the birthday girl! Hi, princess!" Colby said. "Look how pretty you are!"
Dani appeared at Jon's side, wrapping an arm around his waist. "He was a sucker for that little girl before she was even born."
"I think the wording you're looking for is Colby was a sucker before Phoenix was born." Jon laughed.
"Shut up," Colby made a face at him and Phoenix giggled. "I'm just her favorite uncle."
"Lies," Joe said, giving Phoenix's side a little tickle. "Hey birthday girl."
Phoenix squealed, reaching her arms out for Joe. Colby frowned jokingly and passed Phoenix to Joe. She made a happy little noise and immediately grabbed a handful of his hair.
"So is everyone here?" Jon asked.
"Just about," Dani said, squeezing Jon's arm as she headed to the door. "Her little friend from next door just got her with her Mom. Now I think we're just waiting for AJ and Celeste and my Mom, Melany, and Kennedy."
"Hey, Jon, a little help?" Joe said.
Phoenix had wrapped both of her hands in Joe's ponytail. Laughing, Jon carefully untangled his daughter's hands from Joe's hair. Phoenix whined unhappily when Joe put her down on her feet. She seemed to forget, however, when she saw Kennedy, and the little girl from next door. Jon smiled, watching her scoot away to play with them.
"She's gotten so big, man." Colby said.
"No kidding," Jon sighed. "It's crazy."
"So how's fatherhood treating you, brother?" Joe asked.
"Surprisingly well. Phoenix is such a great girl," Jon said and he couldn't help the grin that spread across his face. Talking about his daughter always made him feel proud. "I'm still kinda blown away sometimes at how cool she is and how fun it is to watch her grow up. She's always so excited when I come home. Man, I don't even know how to explain it. She's incredible."
Colby grinned. "Still hard to believe you're a Dad?"
"Uh, every fucking day, dude," Jon said. "But it's nice, ya know? Like, she just makes every day better. Dani sends me pictures and videos of her all the time. And here she is now, a year old, right? And like, getting bigger everyday, learning new stuff and shit. I love this girl so much."
"Well man, congratulations on making it through the first year," Joe said, thumping Jon on the shoulder. "Here's to quite a few more."
To Dani, the best part of Phoenix's birthday party was watching her 'feed' her Daddy her cupcake. She had a big blob of frosting in her little hand and smushed the whole thing into Jon's face. He laughed so hard there were tears in his eyes and Dani was sure almost everyone took pictures of the scene. Phoenix received more presents than Dani and Jon knew what to do with (including a pair of 'baby's first Converses' from AJ) but she seemed to have more fun playing with the colored wrapping paper than the gifts that came inside them. A few of their friends stayed around long after Phoenix had fallen asleep on Colby's lap. But now, Dani and Jon were alone in a quiet house with a sleeping baby and more toys, books, and clothes than one little girl could ever imagine.
Dani dropped down onto the couch beside Jon, resting her head on his shoulder. Jon wrapped an arm around her and kissed the side of her head. "She still out?"
"Mhm. She might actually be down for the night," Dani said. "She had a big day. I think she's all partied out."
"It's amazing isn't it? She's already a year old." Jon said.
"I know," Dani smiled over at him. "Baby I'm proud of you."
"Hm? Why?" Jon asked.
"Look at where we were two years ago. Look at where we are now," Dani said, kissing Jon on the cheek. "Can you imagine what it would be like if we never met on that flight?"
"Hmm, I don't wanna," Jon said, pulling Dani into his lap. "That was the best thing that ever happened to me, even if I was an asshole about it at first. I'm still a little amazed sometimes that we ended up here, but I wouldn't have it any other way."
"I love you, Jon." Dani said, resting her head against his neck.
"I love you, too," Jon paused for a long time. "Hey, Dani?"
"Marry me." Jon said softly.
Dani moved faster than he expected and he scrambled to catch her before she fell of his lap. Her expression was surprised, confused, but completely elated. "What did you say?"
"Marry me," Jon repeated, biting his lip. "I know... this isn't really the way I'm supposed to go about it... but that sappy stuff isn't me, you know that. I don't even have a ring or anything to give you but I also didn't know I was going to even ask. But... it just feels right. I'm sorry it's not perfect or..."
Dani grabbed Jon by the face and kissed him. When she pulled away, she was crying but smiling. "It is perfect. Perfect for us. I wouldn't have you any other way, Jonathan Good. So yes! Yes I'll marry you."
This is it guys. I can't begin to thank you all for reading and any and everyone who reviewed and followed this story. I'm really proud of how this turned out and I couldn't have had a better time writing it!