Disclaimer: Not mine. I'm just playing. I'll put'em back when I'm done.

Rating: G

Synopsis: A day in the life of a baby.

Sequel to Silence Is Golden

She wobbled, caught a hold of the edge of the table, steadied herself, and walked on. Ayla moved purposefully around the room although her father would never understand what her purpose was. He sat on the edge of the bed and watched her, ready to dash to her rescue should she show any signs of falling. But Ayla was a steady child. She never fell. Sometimes she sat down on her well-padded hinny, but her only response to such occasions was to look up at either of her parents with her big wide eyes and then stick her thumb in her mouth. Not a peep. She never cried, not even when she was hungry. Now Aeryn, she wasn't worried. Ayla, she said, was a quiet child. And that was enough for her. But John was worried. He couldn't help it. The thought had struck him that maybe Ayla couldn't hear, but she responded to sound, turned her head and sometimes her whole body when someone said her name. But she made no sound.

John slipped from the edge of the bed down on the floor and watched her intently. "Hey, pumpkin," he said when she looked over at him. Her face immediately exploded in a toothless smile that went from ear to ear and made her eyes bright and shiny. Another thing he had noticed about her was that she didn't drool like most toddlers he had ever seen. She munched quietly on whatever they gave her and she did stick her whole hand into her mouth, but she didn't drool. Did that mean there was something wrong with her? John didn't know for sure, but he was worried. She seemed miles away sometimes, just sat on her play mat and stared ahead of herself with a distant look in her eyes.

There were never any wild temper tantrums, no crankiness, no whining. She accepted whatever they did, whatever they said, and when they put her to bed, she went straight to sleep. She was the easiest child he had ever seen or heard of and since nothing was ever easy around them, there had to be something amiss.

"You've got your old man worried, you know," he said and held both hands out to her.

Ayla waddled over toward him. Considering her age, she should not have been able to walk with such confidence yet, but she did. That was just another thing she did that was different.

As soon as she reached him, she turned around and sat down on his crossed legs, her chubby little fingers wrapping around his thumbs when he held his hands out to her.

"You are just about the weirdest kid I've ever come across, kiddo," he said and buried his face in her curls. Another mystery. He didn't have curls and neither did Aeryn. So where the hell did they come from? He inhaled her scent, that clean, fresh smell of a baby, and pressed a kiss onto the top of her head. "I'd die a happy man if you would only say one word, honey."

Ayla turned her head and glanced back at him. John wrapped his arms around her and pulled her back against him while he stretched out his legs and leaned back against the edge of the bed. "One word, baby. That's all I'm asking for. Is that too much?" He nuzzled the top of her head and smiled affectionately at her when she tilted her head back and looked up at him with her big, clear-blue eyes.

She started fiddling with the hair on his arm, her nimble little fingers easily grasping them, while she watched what she was doing intently. For a moment, it seemed to John as if she was considering his request. But she still said nothing. And when she tired of that game, she leaned back against him and sighed. Her mannerisms were, in many ways, those of an adult and he couldn't help thinking that his kid might turn out to be the new Einstein.

The thought made him grin, but the grin faltered again. What if something was wrong with her? Both her parents were about as messed up as two people could get without actually dying of it. What if they had passed on something terminal to her, something that caused her to be unable to speak and would mean premature death for her?

He closed his eyes and locked his arms a little tighter around Ayla, his chin resting lightly on the top of her head. The thought alone terrified him. How could they both go on if something happened to this little miracle of theirs?

Ayla squirmed a bit and he released his harsh grip on her. She mossied around until she was standing on his thighs, facing him, her chubby little hands on his face. She wiggled her fingers on his cheeks, fascination in her eyes. Then she rubbed her right palm over his left cheek a few times and it took him a moment to realize that she was caressing him. Aeryn had said she did that to her on occasion, but he had not experienced it before.

For some reason he couldn't readily define, this raised tears in his eyes and he had to struggle against himself to not give in to the need to bawl like a baby at the affection his daughter was showing him. He wrapped his hands around her mid-section and leaned in to nudge her nose with his. "Aw, baby," he whispered and kissed her stubby little nose.

"Da-da," she replied and smiled brightly at him.

The End