"Read it again, Daddy!"
Phoenix scrunched up his brow, his hand resting on the cover of their well worn copy of "Oh, The Places You'll Go!" "You've already heard it five times, squirt," he said disbelievingly.
"But it gets better every time," Peter insisted, tugging on his father's shirt sleeve pleadingly.
Phoenix rolled his eyes before turning a warm smile on his son. "No, you're just a sly little thing and you want to see how many times you can sucker Daddy into extending your bedtime."
Peter crossed his arms indignantly at being found out. Phoenix chuckles. "You're young, kiddo. You have all the time in the world."
Peter blew his dad a raspberry. Phoenix blew one back. "Stop being a pain and go to sleep. Old men like me actually need sleep, y'know."
"That's because you're boring."
Phoenix pretended to be offended. "I'm the most exciting thing that's ever happened to you," he said challengingly. "One day you'll be old and you'll know how I feel," Phoenix warned.
Peter scrunched up his nose in an expression that greatly mirrors his dad. "No, I'm gonna stay young forever."
"When you figure out how, get me a piece of that action."
Peter leaned over to wrap his arms around Phoenix's torso. "You'll be the first person I give it to," he promised.
Phoenix looked down at his son fondly, his hand coming up to tangle in his boy's messy hair. He buried his nose in it, breathing in deeply. He felt a horrible, aching swell in his chest. Holding Peter for the first time, it had frightened him. Now he was used to it, but the intensity of it never faded. It throbbed and fluttered and ached beautifully within him, like his very essence was gripping tightly to the boy next to him and feared letting go more than anything in the world.
He wanted to tell his son that here with him was the first time he could remember knowing the meaning of the word "family." He wanted to tell him that Peter and his mother were everything to him, the twin Suns to his solar system of revolving planets. The planets would keep revolving until the Suns died out, taking the planets with them. They were the stars in his sky and the breath in his lungs, as much a part of him as himself. With them, he was invincible and effortless.
But Peter was too young to understand the meaning of the word "everything" or comprehend the loneliness of a life without a home. One day though, Phoenix would tell him. He wanted Peter to know how much his love was worth.
"Goodnight, my sweet, sweet boy."