Dylan entered his house and placed the tote bag next to the door. He watched as Ellie carried his crying daughter across the living room and around the corner disappearing into the hallway. The six year old Niall stood there watching her and gulped. He was wearing his school uniform.
Dylan closed the door and responded tossing the monkey doll, “Niall, give this to her. She dropped it.”
“Okay,” Niall responded catching it.
Across the hallway carrying her crying niece and putting her bleeding hand in her pocket, Ellie approached the locked playpen. Taking Hayley, she placed her seated on the floor. The three year old girl cried making a tantrum on the floor as she flashed her sharp canines. With a growl, Ellie muttered angrily walking back across the hallway and entered the bathroom.
Taking her hand out, she turned on the faucet and washed her hands clean of blood with the warm soapy water. Drying it off, she opened the cupboard and took out a bandage. Wrapping it around her hand, it soaked the blood as she sealed it off allowing the bandage do its work to heal the bite wounds. Turning the water off, she turned and watched Niall pass across the hallway. She shouted, “Niall!”
Ellie exited the bathroom as he spoke approaching her holding the doll, “Yes mom?”
Looking at him sternly with an angry expression, she snatched the monkey doll and spat, “Come with me. Hayley needs some time alone.”
“But mom-,” he started as the doll was snatched from his hand. Standing straight and walking with military strides, Ellie ignored him. She carried the doll and rubbed her bandage on her hand. The heavy footsteps of her steel toed black military combat boots retreated toward the living room away from Hayley’s crying. The three year old just wanted her father.
Niall stared and put his hand in his pockets responding, “Yes mom.”
Back in the living room, the fuming pro fighter crossed his arms and scowled at the hallway. Hearing his sister’s loud marching footsteps getting closer and louder, Dylan uncrossed his arms and approached. As Ellie appeared carrying the doll in her hand, he spoke as he opened his arms out, “Ellie, come on!”
Gripping the monkey doll with her strength, Ellie approached her brother and stopped before him. Compared to Dylan’s strong, muscular body built form, Ellie’s shoulders were boarder and sturdier giving her an intimidating look over her brother with her straight back and military style bun.
Wringing its neck with her hands, she coldly spat, “You are responsible for taking care of your daughter. You are not to see your friends again. You should have called for a sitter to watch her. She is also far too young to hang out with your friends. What if she gotten hurt or worse, kidnapped?”
The fabric of the monkey doll creaked as Ellie used her arm strength to twist the neck. The white bandage covering her hand numbed the pain as it worked to mend her broken skin. Niall appeared from the hallway and stood to attention with his back near the wall. With a gulp as he placed his arms behind him and assumed the stand by position, the six year old observed.
Dylan protested, “She was fine. I took her elsewhere while they went into the bar. She was underage.”
Ellie scoffed laughing a little while rolling her eyes, “Oh, well. It’s all fine and dandy that she had fun with the guys, but there were certain restrictions in place for her safety.”
As she put pressure on the doll’s neck, Dylan argued, “She was safe with me and she likes Nate.”
“Nate? Oh well yeah, that’s official,” she scoffed sternly as the monkey doll was being twisted out of shape. Muscle lines were visible under her sleeves as she ranted, “I don’t trust Nate. Hell, I don’t trust anyone to hold my niece except family. You were responsible for her. Therefore you should be the one to hold Hayley and not him. I don’t ever want to see him hold her!”
When she enforced that last word, she popped the head off the eight pound weighted monkey with her upper arm strength. Niall was watching and his eyes grew big as he gulped watching the weighted beads come falling out from inside the monkey doll and onto the floor. They made clattering noises as they scattered across the floor. Behind him across the hall, Hayley cried loudly for attention.
Meanwhile, back at the securely locked playpen, Hayley cried as she gripped the child safety barrier. She pushed and pulled at the barrier with her thick muscled fat body and arms. The strong three years old was agitated wanting her father and her monkey doll. Flashing her sharp canines, she screamed. The secured door lock was already worn from three years of use as she pulled and pushed against the barrier over the years whenever she wanted her father’s attention.
Using her small upper body strength, Hayley pulled with her arms and pushed with her body against the barrier. The secured barrier gave away as it broke under pressure. With a grunt, she tumbled onto the floor and stopped crying. Wiping her eyes, she crawled out of her play room and used the wall to stand up. She sniffed and suckled her thumb as she touched the wall with her other hand walked along to find her father. Hearing the loud arguing noises, she followed it.
Watching her hold the broken headless monkey doll with a vengeance, Dylan offered his open hands up and responded, “Ellie, I hear you and I’m sorry, okay, but you don’t talk to me or my friends like that. I will do as you say and will restrict my movements, but they deserve better.”
Ellie scoffed responding sharply, “I don’t care about your friends or their feelings. I am trying to protect you and Hayley. I am doing what’s best for her. As a mother and an officer of the Alliance, I am doing everything I can to make sure the Alliance doesn’t find out that Hayley was conceived against their law and judgment. I covered for you while you raised her alone.”
Dylan spat back, “While I appreciate your protection, I do not need this kind of tone from you. I’m sorry I took her out without your direct permission. I didn’t know I had to share my decisions with you about my plans with my daughter.”
Holding the broken doll toy out for him, Ellie approached and finished her thoughts coldly, “As you should, Dylan, which will be a start. I need to know exactly what your plans are for Hayley as I am taking care of her. She needs a mother and a stable one at that. I can be both because it’s my job to take care of her. From now on, you tell me everything you plan to do with her every week. I will rest easy knowing that’s what she’s doing with you and we won’t have this kind of conversation. I need to be able to trust you. I won’t use my tone if you do exactly what I ask. Is that understood?”
Dylan scoffed and responded taking the broken monkey toy, “Yes ma’am. Anything else?”
Ellie nodded as placed her arms around her back, stood up straight and heels together. Her white bandage itched. She responded sharply, “Good. Also, at some point down the road we need to talk about Hayley’s biting because that is a huge no-no. We live in a civilized society for crying out loud. Now, I will be deployed again for the next week or so. After that is the Thanksgiving week we’ll be spending with father and step-mother. I’ll be there briefly for a couple days, but after that I will be deployed again for about a year. I want you to take care of Niall and make sure he goes to school today for an inspection at the Camden Wells Academy. You can do whatever you want as long as you follow my instructions to the letter. I will be expecting a schedule from you within the next couple days.”
Dylan grunted shrugging his arms while waving the broken toy in the air. She turned and headed toward her son as she spoke, “Niall.”
“Yes mom,” Niall wondered. Ellie approach and knelt down as she touched his chin with her hand. She responded, “I will be gone for a while. You be good and listen to your uncle.”
He nodded as Ellie released and stroked his hair. Niall attempted to hug her but Ellie stopped him. Straightening up his school uniform, she replied sternly, “Don’t hug me. I don’t want your uniform to be creased and messy. You need to look your best today.”
Niall exhaled a sigh and nodded, “Yes mom.” He gave her a kiss as she got up and walked toward the door to exit. Taking out her military cap, she placed it on. Without a back glance, she slammed the door. The pictures on the wall shook with force. Niall turned to watch his Uncle.
Dylan stood there attempting to control his anger. His arms flexed as he was breathing heavily. From around the corner of the hallway, Hayley started to cry. Dylan snapped as his patience wore thin. Taking the broken toy, he tossed it across the living room in the opposite direction with force. The metallic beads made noises as it spilled everywhere. He shouted at no one in particular with a growl, “Not right now!”
Niall jumped and gulped keeping his arms behind him while standing straight. Dylan turned to him and responded controlling his temper, “Niall, watch your cousin. I need time to myself. Clean the mess.”
Niall nodded responding, “Yes Uncle.”
Dylan added with another exhale, “And for cripes sake, keep your uniform clean and wrinkle free. Your mother will tan my hide if she hears from the school how messy your uniform is.”
Niall nodded as Dylan stormed out. He followed him in a military pace. Hayley was on the floor crying watching her father approach. She stretched her arms out and grunted noisily trying to get his attention. Dylan grunted ignoring her and headed toward his workout room. Niall stopped beside Hayley. The door into the workout room was slammed as Hayley resumed crying covering her face and lay on the ground.
The hangings on the wall shuddered with the force of the slamming door. Niall exhaled and turned his attention to his cousin. Taking her arm, he responded getting her attention, “Hayley, stop crying. Please stop crying. I’m right here. Get up!”
Hayley cried as she was hoisted up to her seated position. She rubbed her eyes and pointed across the hall grunting noisily. Niall responded touching her long hair and straightening it out, “Dad needs time alone. I’m here. Please stop crying.”
Hayley whimpered. She sniffed rubbing her eyes. Crying a little bit, she pointed across the hall before placing her finger in her mouth. Niall kept his hand on her shoulder keeping her attention on him and inquired, “Will you stop crying if I give you your monkey doll?”
Hayley sniffed and nodded whimpering a little. Niall placed his arms around her. He lifted her with a grunt as she hugged him. Being a six year old boy, Niall was barely strong enough as he felt his straining muscles flex lifting Hayley’s body. She was heavy because of her excess fat mutation.
As his small muscles expanded, Niall exerted a grunt standing up keeping his arms around Hayley, “Ahh, you’re heavy, Hayley. What have you been eating,” Niall jokingly asked.
Hayley cooed suckling her finger and stared at him. With her other arm, she wrapped it around his neck and hugged him while resting her head on his shoulder.
With a grunt, the six year old carried Hayley with effort across the hall into the kitchen. Getting close to a drawer, Niall grunted attempting to put her back on her feet, “Hayley, I’m gonna put you down. You have to put your feet out. Gosh.” Niall exhaled forcefully trying to get his breath back.
When Hayley got back to her feet, she suckled on her finger and cooed curiously watching Niall open the drawer. He took out a new, fresh eight pound weighted monkey doll. Exclaiming with happiness, she grunted holding her hand out. Niall smiled waving the doll and handed it to her, “Here you go! A new, fresh doll. We got plenty in batches in reserve.”
Niall smiled watching Hayley play with her doll. The three year old cooed. Looking down on his uniform, his expression changed as he exclaimed seeing his messy uniform. He groaned opening the cupboard and took out a paper towel to wipe himself. He also wiped the dampness from Hayley’s tears on his shoulder. With a sigh, he shrugged giving up trying to clean himself off. There were still a few wrinkles. Taking another towel, he took Hayley’s chin and wiped her face off. Hayley focused on her doll and giggled playing with it before biting it with her sharp canines.
Tossing the towel into the trash, Niall got her attention and hugged her. Hayley returned the hug cooing and bit into her monkey doll again holding it. Taking her other hand, Niall led her across the kitchen toward the hallway returning to her secured playpen. Seeing the broken barrier on the floor, he stopped. Exclaiming, he groaned covering his face with his hand.
Hayley cooed pointing at the broken gate and made a grunt face pumping her arms. Niall muttered with a sigh as Hayley chewed her monkey toy listening to her cousin, “Uncle’s going to kill me for sure.”
Niall walked toward a small closet. He was somewhere in the big house near the door into the basement. The door of the closet opened revealing a small compartment with a small computer. It lowered to the boy’s height of three feet five inches. The word across the plaque was the name A.M.E.S. Below it was the subtext, ‘Autonomous Matrix Efficiency Station’. Recognizing the person before it, it replied, “Hello Niall. How are you today?”
Niall exhaled responding with a shrug, “Hey Ames. I’m alright. How is your matrix?”
The automated voice replied, “It is processing at peak efficiency. There was a minor glitch in the system, but it has since repaired. Do you need something, Niall?”
Niall responded typing a few commands on the keyboard, “A small toolbox, Ames. I need to fix a security barrier for Hayley and I need to clean the floor. Metallic beads spilled.”
The computerized voice answered, “I will get right on it Niall. The toolbox should be ready.”
As Niall typed, images appeared on the screen. Tapping a few things on the screen, the six year old specified what he needed. Satisfied, he withdrew as the compartment closed sealed.
Meanwhile back at Hayley’s room, the three year old sat holding and chewing her monkey. From her right side, a metallic toolbox appeared in the hallway. Curious, she cooed and crawled over to it. Touching the casing, Hayley giggled and banged her hand on the covering. She looked up at the sound of Niall’s footsteps and cooed pointing at him.
“Hey Hayley. Wanna help me fix the gate?” Niall wondered with a smile taking the toolbox. Hayley giggled watching her cousin take the box and open it. Niall removed several tools and picked fallen gate. Securing it on the doorway between Hayley’s room and the hallway, the six year old started the work.
Niall was in the living room sweeping up the mess with a small dustpan. He searched nook and cranny for the little metallic beads that spilled across the floor. Ames was helping him detect metallic substances that could be one of the beads. Sweeping the last bead into the trash, the boy exhaled wiping his forehead and sat down. A phone chimed. He gasped dropping the cleaning items and ran over to the table.
Taking the small step ladder, he stepped up before the table. Resting his arms on the table, he tapped the surface of the table. The musical chime ended as the image of Ellie appeared on the screen. Niall waved at Ellie’s stern expression and spoke, “Hey mom.”
Ellie responded, “Hello sweetie. Is Dylan there?”
“Hang on, mom,” Niall responded and muted the voice as he turned with a shout, “Uncle, you there? Mom’s on the phone.”
There was silence. The boy waited before trying again, “Uncle?”
He gulped and cringed when Dylan’s voice bounded back, “Tell her I’m not here!” The man sounded angry in his tone and didn’t want to talk to her.
Niall understood and turned back to tap the surface. The voice returned as he spoke, “Uncle’s busy.”
Ellie sighed and responded, “Okay, well make sure he knows what I expect him to do. I know him. He doesn’t always do it, but I need the schedule from him soon. Another thing. Make sure you keep your uniform clean. It’s a big inspection today and I want you at your best, okay?”
Niall nodded replying, “Okay mom. Don’t worry. I’ll keep it clean and wrinkle free.”
Ellie finished, “Good. I have to go, but I will see you soon. Don’t forget.”
“Yea-,” Niall tried but Ellie ended the communication. He sighed, “Love you too, mom.”
Stepping down from the step ladder, he looked at his own uniform. It was wrinkled and creased. The boy exhaled with a groan shaking his head. There was no way for him to get a cleaner uniform now. His mother would be disappointed at him.
With the child safety barrier back and fixed partially, it blocked access from the little play room. Hayley sat alone in the middle of her room. Chewing her new monkey doll, she waited for someone to come to her. Feeling hungry, the bored and dejected three year old grunted noisily getting up. She waddled toward the barrier and tested the strength of it. It felt a little loose.
With a grunt, she pushed her body against it. It broke after a few times as she hit it with her body. She pushed through the little hole she made between the barrier and the doorway into the hallway. With a coo, she looked around for a few seconds while putting her finger in her mouth. Holding her doll tight, she waddled across the hall looking for her father.
After exploring and getting lost wandering into a room, Hayley saw Niall slouched on the chair napping. She giggled with a coo pointing and placed her monkey doll into her mouth chewing on it. Placing her finger on her lips, she made a shh sound before turning around and walking across the hallway.
Eventually, Hayley found a door marked Workout Room: Do not disturb. The door was left slightly open. Touching it, she pushed it as it creaked open. Looking up, she cooed watching her father do pull ups with the two handles overhead. He was shirtless as his tattoos were visible on his defined muscular form. Waddling into the room, she grunted noisily reaching out with her hand and tried to grab for him.
Dylan stopped and noticed Hayley entering the room. He jumped down and exhaled a sigh taking the towel to wipe beads of sweat from his brow. Looking at his daughter, he exhaled with a tired expression. Pumping his twenty inch biceps, he flexed his chest and walked over the bench to sit down. Picking up the protein shake from the floor, he took a swig. A fossil shark tooth hung around his neck.
From behind Hayley, several footsteps were heard. Niall ran into the room. He exclaimed in a panic rushing through the doorway and grabbed Hayley on the shoulder, “There you are! Sorry Uncle, I’ll-
Dylan waved his hand responding, “At ease, bud. I’m feeling a bit better actually.”
Niall breathed a sigh of relief as he nodded standing at ease. Hayley cooed with curiosity. Dylan responded with a half smile spreading out his arms, “Well? Come here, little monkey.”
Keeping the doll tight against her chest under her arm, Hayley giggled as she waddled her way toward him. Dylan smiled as she got close. Grabbing her torso, he got up and hoisted her over with effort into the air before moving her close to hold her. He kissed her head and stroked her hair as she gripped his shoulder trap and laid her head on his chest. She felt safer with him than anyone else.
Dylan whispered to her kissing her cheek, “I love you, little monkey.”
Hayley understood that as she smiled and hugged him with a giggle. Sitting down, Dylan spoke as Niall approached, “Hey bud, I wanted to say Im sorry for snapping earlier.”
Hayley cooed as she was placed on his leg. She chewed her monkey doll watching Niall. Niall responded placing his hands in his pocket and shrugged, “It’s cool, Uncle. I did as you say and cleaned the mess. Also, I fixed the security barrier in Hayley’s room. Not well enough, though.”
Dylan looked at him and inquired confused, “Huh? What happened?”
Niall responded, “Well, Hayley broke the gate. It took some time I guess and the lock wore out over time, but she broke the gate. I fixed it, but not well enough I guess cause she broke through again.”
Dylan made a light laugh as he pressed his hand on his other leg and looked at Hayley. Impressed, he responded, “You broke the gate twice? Aren’t you a strong little monkey? You’re becoming a regular little Hulk. You planning to be as strong as me?”
He added exerting a grunt while flexing his twenty inch bicep. Hayley cooed as pointed at his muscle. She made a grunt as she flexed her own arm and made a face before pointing behind him. Dylan seemed to understand that as he responded, “You may have to wait a few more years before I let you lift weights till I talk to your doctor about it. You’re still pretty young and growing. I won’t stop having you make those exercises cause they’ll help you a bit later down the road.”
Hayley grunted as she lifted her eight pound monkey and showed it to him. He responded touching the doll, “For now, this is your size. You keep using that to work on your strength.”
Hayley cooed taking the doll and stared at it. With a grunt, she spread her chunky arms and hugged his neck. Dylan grunted shifting her weight and pushed her up while rubbing her back. Holding her weighted doll, Hayley started suckling her thumb. Keeping her on his shoulder, he noted Niall beckoning him forward. Seeing the obvious wrinkles on his uniform, he exhaled inquiring calmly, “Niall, you want to explain why your uniform is a mess?”
“Oh,” Niall exclaimed. He inhaled and exhaled looking at his uniform. Looking down, he mumbled, “Well, I. Umm.”
Dylan placed his hand on Niall’s shoulder and spoke touching his chin to have him make contact, “Niall, look at me. I’m not mad. I just want you to explain why.”
With his hands still in his pockets, the six year old shrugged as he shuffled his feet, “Well, Hayley was crying. I wanted her to feel better, so I carried her without thinking. I didn’t think it would mess up my uniform. I’m sorry, uncle. Don’t be mad.”
Keeping his hand on Niall’s shoulder, the retired pro fighter responded, “Ah. I’m not mad. This was bound to happen, so I prepared for it. There should be a spare uniform your size in your bedroom closet.”
Niall was wide eyed with excitement as he exclaimed taking his hands out of his pocket, “Really?”
Dylan nodded responding, “Yes, as long as you don’t ruin that one. I really, really do not want your mother to nag me about it. Now hurry and change. We leave to take Hayley to see a doctor. After that, I drop you off to Camden Wells Academy. Between those two times, we might stop for ice cream.”
Niall gasped overcome with happiness and pumped his fist exclaiming, “Yes!” Dylan laughed as he watched Niall run out. Hayley popped her head out curious. Making a noise, she cooed and waved her hand goodbye to Niall.
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