It was so fast.
One moment Carl was working on dinner while his son played with Archer nearby. He turned to put something in the sink, and the next moment, there was a scream and a crash.
Babies scream a lot, for different reasons, but this was the type of scream that even a non-parent would recognize as pain. He whirled and saw Luke on the ground with the hot wok on the ground and rice scattered around, and he was screaming and screaming and screaming...
Carl scooped up his child and hit his emergency teleport bracelet in one motion. They appeared in the Project Archer bunker. "Infirmary! He's burned!" Carl yells, and the technician there redirected him immediately to the ER.
Later, he would figure out that Luke had pulled out a bottom drawer and climbed up, grabbing the frying pan as a handgrip.
Later, he would be grateful that he'd already finished stir-frying the rice and set it aside so that it wasn't as hot as it had been a few minutes earlier.
But when Sunny was summoned from the machine shop to the infirmary, all he could do was collapse against her and cry that Luke was burning, burning, and it was all his fault.
Two hours later, they returned home. Archer had taken it upon himself to clean up all of the spilled rice. It was lucky for everyone that Carl had turned the gas burner off before the accident had happened, or there might not have been a home to return to.
Charity had been on duty in the infirmary, but Bugs signed her off early and gave her emergency leave for a few days. "Your sister needs you," he said, and Charity didn't argue. The baby was fine, with only superficial burns and a goose-egg knot on his head. He was crawling around on the floor like nothing had happened. But Carl... he was in a full fledged PTSD meltdown, and Sunny needed all her attention for him. Charity called for Edijar to pack them a bag for a few days and come to the cabin. She didn't know how long they'd be needed.
It turned out to be about a week. Long enough for Carl to see, with his own eyes, that Luke's burns were healing well, and that there was only one place where it had even made a blister. Long enough for him to start to believe that he wasn't a bad father just because there had been an accident.
It helped that Luke wouldn't leave him alone. He put up with being cared for by Aunt Charity and Uncle Edijar for a day before he wanted his mommy and daddy. He accepted mommy's care for another day. But then the howling started. Because though all Big People were his, two of them were more his than others, and of those two, his Little Big Person was not paying him the attention that Luke considered his due. At first, Carl took the cries as evidence of pain, and Bugs was called in to give the baby a full examination. Some instinct led the doctor to unceremoniously plop the baby in his father's arms, too quickly for Carl to refuse, and the crying immediately stopped. Luke cooed and grabbed at Carl's face, happy once more.
Charity and Edijar stayed a few days after that. On the last day, Edijar made a picnic lunch, Bugs came for the afternoon, and the family went out to a hillside with a nice view. Archer ran around barking at butterflies, and Luke crawled after the pug, laughing and babbling.
No one let the baby out of their sight for a moment, so it wasn't necessary when Charity said, "Oh man, you guys, I'm dying of cute here. Look!" Archer had finally exhausted himself, and Luke crawled on top of the pug. Charity pulled out her phone to snap pictures of the cute pair.
But Luke wasn't done. He only remained flopped over the dog for a moment before pushing himself upright to stand, balancing himself against Archer's bulk. The dog had infinite patience with the baby when patience was needed, and so right now, he didn't move. Luke kept a hand on Archer and took a step with great care. Finding that he didn't fall, he took another. Archer was exactly the right height for a three-quarterling baby to use as a walking aid.
"He's really doing it, isn't he? He's walking!" Sunny whispered, pulling Carl close.
Carl expressed his feelings in a tight squeeze, and fought to blink back tears. He didn't want anything to keep him from seeing this.
Charity switched her phone to record video instead of photos. Edijar's joy was tinged with the sadness that would never fully leave him as he thought of Rebecca and what might have been. Bugs simply soaked in the scene, taking undiminished delight in his namesake's achievement.
And Luke looked up at his daddy, proudly triumphant.