Kai's Operation: Babysitting
Kai stared down at the tiny, young dragon-shifter laying asleep inside a strange pillow that surrounded her body and willed himself not to blink and let down his guard.
His dragon spoke up. She's our niece, not some enemy we're afraid will escape.
You say that, but what if she rolls a certain way and falls out of the pillow, off the sofa, and onto the floor?
His inner beast sighed. Babies have survived thousands and thousands of years, with all kinds of parents ranging from horrid to brilliant. Louisa isn't going to become some fragile flower and wilt away if you blink.
Kai merely grunted. This was the first time he was watching Louisa by himself, without Jane's help. Jane and Nikki had wanted a night out at the clan's pub to relax and have some sort of female-only talks. Since Nikki's mate, Rafe, was away on army business for his liaison position, Jane had said it was the perfect time for Kai to try his hand at the whole watching a baby thing.
He'd put it off for as long as possible, but hadn't had any kind of excuse this time.
And sure, it seemed silly that Stonefire's head Protector feared a tiny baby. But while he could fly into an enemy's territory and swerve around lasers, or stalk through the forest to catch some dragon hunters by surprise with no problem, babies were different.
A person couldn't reason with a baby, let alone ask what they were doing next.
No, they were helpless little bundles who could break far too easily for his liking.
Crossing his arms over his chest, he studied his niece. Louisa was asleep, some of her dark hair falling over her forehead, and a little trail of drool sliding from the corner of his mouth.
“I just wiped her face,” he muttered as he turned to his table of supplies.
Like any good solider, he was prepared for anything. And for ease of access, it was lined up on the table next to the sofa.
Scanning the contents, he found the pile of thin baby blanket-towel things, snatched one, and leaned closer to Louisa. He listened to her breathing and waited for the right time. If he tried to wipe her face too early, she'd move into his hand and wake up.
No, it had to be just after she moved her head to a new position, and he'd go in for it.
His dragon snorted. That worked last time, but I doubt it'll work this time. She's a child, not a robot. There's not always a pattern.
Ignoring his dragon, he watched Louisa breathe. In, out, in, out. She turned her head a fraction to the left, exposing the cheek with the drool, and Kai slowly moved his hand. He dabbed lightly a few times, but as he pulled his arm back in retreat, she turned her head again and snuggled on top of his hand.
Damn. He was stuck.
His dragon laughed inside his head before saying, I told you. She's not a robot.
Kai focused on the little sleeping one. He needed a new strategy, one where he could have his hand back and the baby would still be asleep.
Because he knew if she woke up, it would be almost impossible to get her back asleep again without Nikki nearby. Jane could sometimes sing Louisa to sleep, but Kai wasn't exactly the softly singing type. He wouldn't even know where to begin.
Craning his head, he surveyed his table of supplies until he came across the small pile of stuffed animals. Right. If he could manage to snag the little giraffe, he could make the switch. Not only did Louisa love that thing, it would make a nice replacement for the support of his hand. He reached out his free arm as far as possible, but he was a about a foot too short.
His dragon chuckled. You can't reach it. Now what?
Said like the stubborn male you are.
Like you are any less so.
Focusing on the pastel orange, yellow, and cream giraffe, Kai shifted his weight to one leg and lifted the other. He tried using his foot to kick it closer, but all it did was skid another six inches away.
Fuck. There had to be a better way.
Next time, he'd definitely keep his supplies closer, just in case.
His dragon spoke again. You could partially shift a wing or tail and kick it closer.
Except that would make some noise and wake her up.
Is it really so bad that she wakes up? We only have half an hour or so before Nikki and Jane come home.
Remembering the last time he and Jane had watched Louisa for a few hours, and how they'd both crashed to bed right after from exhaustion, Kai mentally growled. No way. I have some important tasks tomorrow and I can't be dead tired. Everyone will notice.
Maybe, but they won't say anything. Or, at least most of them won't.
Regardless, I have a problem and I'll bloody well figure it out so that both me and the little one will get enough sleep tonight. Now, leave me alone so I can concentrate.
Thankfully his dragon fell silent and Kai surveyed his surroundings. There had to be something he could use.
Then he spotted the little popup play area under the table. The rounded, crisscrossed top might give him just enough reach to fetch the giraffe.
He hooked his foot at the base of one of the curved sections that made up one of the arches and pulled it closer. Once it was in a good location, he shucked his sock and stretched his toes.
It was go time.
Picking it up with his toes by one of the arches, he lifted his leg and maintained his balance with the other. Slowly moving it toward the giraffe on the table, two plastic bits of the hanging toys clinked together. He froze, watched Louisa's face a few beats to ensure she was still asleep, and resisted sighing in relief.
Narrowing his eyes in determination, Kai moved his leg again and stretched as far as he could manage it. Yes. If he could just position the toy just so behind the giraffe, he could push it forward.
Slowly, slowly, he lifted it over the giraffe and finally lowered the play area toy down. As he moved it toward him, the plastic bits jangled again. But Louisa seemed oblivious.
His dragon sighed. I doubt she'd even wake up if you moved your hand.
Not risking it.
Inch by inch, Kai moved the stuffed giraffe closer until he could release the popup play area and pick up the little pastel animal.
Sighing, he turned toward Louisa, only to find her wide awake and staring at him.
His dragon roared with laughter. All that work for nothing.
Someone cleared their throat from the entrance to the living room. Looking over his shoulder, Kai saw Nikki and Jane standing there, trying their best not to laugh.
Jane lowered her mobile phone and said, “I'm keeping that for blackmail. Who knows when I might need it?”
He glared but kept his voice somewhat light so as to not upset Louisa. “We'll see about that, Janey. We'll see.”
Kai offered the giraffe to Louisa, and she held it to her little body, releasing his hand in the process.
Nikki snorted and moved to stand next to her daughter. “I can't wait to tell Rafe about this.”
Kai grunted. “If trying to let your daughter sleep more is a crime, then so be it.”
Nikki sighed. “Don't get bent out of shape. Of course I'm grateful that you're so sweet around Lou-lou.” She looked down at her daughter and smiled. “You love your Uncle Kai, don't you?”
Louisa merely gnawed on the ear of her giraffe.
Jane came up to him and leaned against his side. “But at least it wasn't that bad, right?”
His mate's presence calmed him a fraction and he pulled her tighter against him. “It was okay, but I made some rookie mistakes. I'll have a better strategy for next time.”
Jane grinned as she met his gaze. “I'm not sure strategy is what most people plan for babysitting, but it suits you.”
Nikki picked up Louisa and sniffed before holding her out to Kai. “You have one last duty for tonight, though. You're supposed to give her back clean.”
He raised an eyebrow. “She was clean five minutes ago.”
Nikki rolled her eyes. “Fine, fine, I'll do it. But maybe next time, I'll leave her with you wide awake. That should be even more of a challenge for you.”
He muttered, “Remind me why I picked you as my second-in-command again?”
Nikki winked. “Because I'm brilliant.”
Jane laughed as she lightly patted his chest. “She is, and you know it.” She searched his eyes. “But so are you.”
Taking in her flushed cheeks, he replied, “You're a bit tipsy.”
She leaned more against him. “Maybe. But you know what that means—adult fun time once Nikki's gone.”
His dragon hummed. Hurry, tell Nikki to leave so we can carry Jane to our bedroom.
Jane became rather adventurous in bed when she was a little drunk, which drove his dragon crazy.
Nikki gathered her daughter's stuff and shook her head. “And that is more than I need to know. Thanks for watching Louisa, Kai. Maybe we'll make this a weekly thing.”
He grunted noncommittally and barely noticed Nikki and Louisa leave. No, he couldn't look away from his mate's eyes.
Jane whispered, “What are you waiting for, dragonman?”
With a growl, he scooped up Jane in his arms and raced up the stairs.
And as he treasured his mate, all thoughts of retrieving a pastel giraffe vanished.
At least until the next morning, when Jane couldn't stop playing the video repeatedly. But secretly, he didn't mind. He loved little Louisa and would've done far more to keep her happy.