The Third Season

Parental Advisory Rating: L, N, AC

Break out those V-Chips, everyone!


Created, Produced, Directed and Written:

Fanatic and TNovan


Episode Eighteen: Kingsley v Kingsley

"I have the extra sleepers here in the top drawer. Diapers are here, on the shelf at the end of the table, and there are a dozen bottles in the fridge for when they get hungry. If you need us, I’ll have my cell phone, the number is on the -"

Harper wraps her arms around me, laughing. "Chér, Brian knows where everything is. He does live here. And he has your number more than memorized."

I tilt my head back to look at her. "Sure, laugh it up, Tabloid. You’re far worse than I am and you know it."

"Mais non!" Innocent blue eyes meet mine. "Brian knows I’ll simply kill him if anything happens to the kids while we’re out."

Brian brings his watch dramatically up to his eyes and points to it. "Hey! Look at the time! Shouldn’t you be going to not miss your reservations?"

Harper’s response is to lean down and kiss me. Not quite the one Brian was looking for, but I certainly won’t complain.

I start to pull away but Harper’s hand comes up and cups my neck. She continues kissing me, leisurely, deeply, not caring that Brian is in the room. I hear the kitchen door close and I assume Brian has left. I hope he didn’t go for the camera.

Ooo, nice.

Harper knows how to kiss, that’s for sure. No wonder I married her. Before things go too far, and it’s still too soon for me to do anything else, I begin easing back. I give her a series of little kisses, taking us back from the brink. When I pull away this time, Harper is breathing hard, her eyes a shade darker. I smile. "Ready to go out?"

"Oh, chér, what you do to me."


* * *


I take Kels downtown, to the French Quarter. No big adventure planned for tonight. We have a lifetime to get her acquainted with this wonderful area. Tonight we’re just barely entering the Quarter to go to the Red Fish Grill. I don’t want my girl to have to walk too much. She says she’s doing better after the C-section, but I don’t take chances with her.

We are seated in the rear of the restaurant, in a separate room, that is quiet and private. The maître d’ knows my family well and he recognizes Kels from television. Lining the walls are black and white photographs taken by the proprietor’s mother, showing New Orleans and Louisiana when things were simpler. Our booth is surrounded by old shutters, recovered from mansions that were being torn down. It gives us the feeling of privacy. We order and relax before our dinner is brought out.

"Motherhood agrees with you, chér. You are more breathtaking than ever before." I enjoy the smile which breaks across Kels’ lips at the compliments. "I’m so glad our family is together now."

"We have a lot to be proud of. We’ve come a long way."

I think back to last Thanksgiving and Christmas, how different it all was. How different we were. "So when do you think we can take the twins to DisneyWorld?"

"Well, we can take them when they’re six or seven and old enough to enjoy it, but I’ll take you anytime you want to go."

"Really?" Cool! All right! I wanna go! It’s probably too early to leave the twins right now. Maybe in January. "Thanks, chér." I reach across the table and take her hand in mine. "How are you doing, sweetheart?"

She heaves a sigh, which I feel in my chest. "I’m having my moments. Everyone tells me it’s normal. You know. You’ve been with me."

I rub my thumb across the back of her hand. "You’ve been terrific. What can I do to help you?"

"You’re doing everything you should. It’s not you, it’s me. It’s all those nasty little leftover baby hormones. I’ve got the hormones, just no babies anymore. Even though those last few weeks were uncomfortable, now I feel like a part of me is missing. I miss feeling them move, you know? It’s weird, but true."

It’s weird, because I’m the complete opposite. I’m so happy they’re out here where I can see them and feel them move. Yet, it does make sense. I tell her so. "Is there anything I can do for you? If it helps, you can lay down on the couch wearing a big T-shirt, and I’ll slip the twins under it for you."

This earns me a genuine laugh from my girl. "Somehow I don’t think they’d like that much. They like being outside." She turns her hand over in mine and tickles my palm. "They love being with you."

They do. Almost as much I love being with them. "I can’t argue with that, chér," I say this in my best tongue-in-cheek manner.

"No, I didn’t figure you would, Tabloid." She pats my hand in as condescending a manner as her tone.

"I still think the T-shirt thing might work."

"Trust me on that one. We’ll all three pass."

"How about me in there tonight?" I leer.

"Behave." This is said as our food is presented. Kels ordered hickory-grilled yellowfin and I ordered sweet potato catfish. This is almost as good as Mama’s cooking. Almost.

"For now. So what do you want for Christmas?"

"I have everything I want, Tabloid. Don’t worry about me. You have two other people you can spoil now."

"I already ordered the custom Harleys." I say this only to get her reaction. Three – two – one –

"Uh huh, sure." Hmm, my girl didn’t buy it. I must be slipping.

"Do you want to talk about it?" I may as well bring up the subject. I feel like it’s a pink elephant at the table with us. And there sure as hell ain’t enough room for the three of us.

"Talk about what?"

"Your mother."

Kels stops eating and regards me solemnly. "Why ruin a perfectly good evening by doing that?"

Okay, I guess it’ll remain the pink elephant. I’ll just scoot over here a bit to give it some more room. "No reason whatsoever, chér. I just thought since we didn’t have any distractions, we could talk. But I am just as happy – I take that back – I am much happier to simply sit here and make goo-goo eyes at you all evening."

I get another laugh. "Well, please, continue to enjoy your evening."

Given permission, I rub my leg against hers under the table. "Will do."

"Glad to hear it."

I feel a jolt of electricity when she rubs back.


* * *


"Yes, that’s my sweet, little girl." Funny how being with a baby will turn the most mature adult into a blithering idiot.

I am no different.

I put on her little socks and she kicks at me, curling tiny toes to try to keep me from succeeding. This child does not like to wear clothes. We are going to have our hands full keeping her dressed when she gets older. I decide for the moment that socks, her diaper and a blanket will be warm enough while I feed her. She’ll be more relaxed that way.

"Come on now. Time for lunch. By the time you’re done your Mama and your brother should be back from walking the dog."

I settle down with Brennan and hold her close. She immediately begins searching and turning for my breast. "You’re as bad as your Mama," I tease her.

God, she’s beautiful. Feisty and determined. Well, at least she comes by it honestly. I’ve noticed when Collin nurses he likes to fold up and get as close to me as he can. Brennan, on the other hand, likes to stretch out and seems to relax immediately.

"We’re going to go to see your Grandma and Grandpa Kingsley tomorrow. Yeah, we’re gonna spend the whole day there. It’ll be your first official day in the Kitchen Conspiracy. All your aunts will be there. We’ll fix dinner and talk about your Mama and your uncles. But you have to promise not to tell anything you hear. Not that we ever say anything bad about them, but they don’t know that and it drives them nuts."


* * *


"Would you please just go outside with your father!" Kels snipes at me as I settle the diaper bag in the corner of the kitchen.


"Don’t Kels me. Just go."

I look to my Mama who gives me a disapproving look as she picks Collin up out of the carrier. "I didn’t do anything." I defend myself. It’s the truth. I didn’t do anything. It’s not my fault that Kelsey has turned into hormone woman from hell.

"I know," my Mama says softly. "It’s the way things are after a baby comes. It won’t last forever."

I glance over and see Kels is tending to Brennan and completely ignoring me. "How long will it last?" I ask out the side of my mouth, praying to God that crazy lady doesn’t hear me.

"Until it’s over." Thanks a lot, Mama, that was a big help. "Go outside and help your Papa with those Christmas lights. He scares me when he gets up on that ladder and starts swinging things around."

I sigh and give my boy a kiss on the head. I venture over to no woman’s land and hope to do the same with Brennan. Kels let’s me kiss my daughter, but I’m not even gonna venture a kiss from her. I like my head right where it is, thank you very much.

Leaving the kitchen, Mama presses a thermos and two mugs into my hand. "For you and your Papa. He’ll explain everything to you. Go talk to him before your brothers get here. I’ll take care of Kelsey."

Thank God, someone needs to. Or I’ll be forced to slip valium in her juice.


* * *


Papa glances down from the ladder, a string of lights slung over his shoulder, nails in his mouth and a hammer in his right hand. He once swallowed a nail and we spent the start of the holiday season in the emergency room. Mama was not very happy about it. Papa was less happy when the doctor said to let things work their way out naturally. He still does things his own way, though.

I open up the thermos and pour a mug of Mama’s wonderful coffee. Oh, that’s nice. "Morning, Papa."

He looks down and smiles. He starts to speak, but realizes what he holds between his teeth. I hold up the mug and he climbs down the ladder. Mama’s coffee always makes us Kingsleys come running.

Carefully, he puts the nails into his tool belt pouch. I don’t know why he doesn’t keep them there to begin with. All of us have given up asking him that little question though. I hand him the empty mug and fill it for him. He takes a long drink. "Now that’s good coffee," he jokes pointing to the mug in imitation of the old Folgers commercial.

"How are you, Papa?"

"Doing good. Trying to get these lights strung. Every year it seems to get a little bit more elaborate."

I laugh. "That’s because you indulge your grandchildren. You have Santa standing near the chimney, gators doubling for reindeers on the roof, lights outlining the frame of the house, wreaths hung in every window and lights strung on every branch on our old oak tree. No wonder it takes forever to get it set up each year."

"You know the best thing about it, Harper? I mean, other than the way the kids love it?"

I shove one hand into my jeans pocket. It’s cold out here without my gloves on. "No, Papa. What?"

"It really drives Madam DuBois down the street wild. I don’t think that old biddy has a happy bone in her body. It makes her crazy to see this many lights on one house." Papa breaks into a dead-on imitation of her. "‘It cheapens the neighborhood. Don’t you realize you live in the Garden District?’" He drinks more of his coffee. "No need to not enjoy life. Besides, it makes my kids happy."

"It’s all about keeping the kids happy, isn’t it?"

He claps me on the back, nearly causing me to choke on my coffee. "You’re finding that out, eh? Paybacks, Harper Lee."

God, I hope not. I’ll die if my kids are too much like me. "Question, Papa. How do I keep the wife happy?"

"What’s going on?"

I shrug and shake my head. "I wish I knew. She’s a woman possessed. She ordered me out of the kitchen and the Conspiracy wasn’t even there yet. She was completely pissy with me on the way over here. And, Papa, I hadn’t done anything. I swear it. It’s like living with Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde."

"You are, sweetheart."

"I am?" Damn.

He sets down his mug and starts climbing back up the ladder. "Yeah. It’s called Post-partum depression and it’s a bitch."

"That’s an understatement." I climb up behind him joining him on the roof. I love the gators. Of course, I’ve always had a fondness for wild critters. Speaking of them. "So care to explain it?"

"Your Mama and I went through it together five times. It typically showed up about two weeks after one of you were born. She’d get tired, depressed and more cranky than a Cajun woman should ever be." My father sits down on one of the gators. "Some days, I was very happy that my French isn’t so good. Or, at least, I’d pretend I couldn’t understand what she was saying."

"How long does this last?"

"Depends. Couple weeks, typically. Just ride it out with Kels. Be good-natured. Help with the kids. And, whatever you do, Harper Lee, don’t explain it to Kels."

"Is this said from experience, Papa?"

He nods, his expression self- proving. "With Gerrard, I didn’t know what was happening. But with Jean, I had it figured out. So I told Cecile why she was being so evil to me. I told her about the medical information I had found out and how it was merely her hormones out of control."

I close my eyes, imagining the scene. It’s not a pretty one. "What happened?"

"Let’s say I had to pretend I didn’t know a lot of French. I was lucky to get to hold my son for about a week. And, while I wasn’t tossed out of our bedroom, it was mighty chilly in there."

"I got it. No telling Kels I got her number."

"Not if you want to live to see the twins’ first birthday."


* * *


I tuck the blanket around Collin as he settles down for his nap. "Sleep tight, Fuzzy."

I wander back into the kitchen where the rest of the KC has finally gathered. Taking my juice, I drop into my chair and watch as Katherine cuddles Brennan. "This is the best part about this family: now the younger members are having babies."

"Do tell," Rene grumbles, running her hand over her stomach. Oh, I feel for her.

"Katherine and I get all the pleasure of hugging and cuddling new babies without having to have any more," Elaine pipes up, taking her place at the table. "We can now leave that to the younger, more energetic of our sisters."

"I’m as about as energetic as a slug these days." I allow my head to fall to the table, which gets a round of laughter.

I raise it when I feel Mama’s hand in my hair. "Is Harper not helping you the way she should?"

"Oh no! Harper’s being great, most of the time. Until she says something stupid then I want to kill her."

"Uh-oh." I hear all my sisters and Mama say at the same time.

"What? It’s true. The other day I asked her how I looked and she said, ‘Great for a woman who recently had twins’. I mean, come on, why didn’t she just say, ‘Kelsey, you look like a Guernsey cow?’"

Now they all burst out laughing at me. Elaine is laughing so hard, she has tears in her eyes.


"Kels, Harper was being sincere. You do look great for a woman who recently had twins," Rachel offers. "You simply took it wrong. It happens a lot after you have a baby. Trust me." She waves her hand over the table. "I’ve seen it a lot with these three."

"Absolutely." Mama takes Brennan from Katherine and gives her a bottle she’s finished warming. "It’s nothing to be ashamed of and you can’t control it. Jonathan and I went through it five times and I’ve seen it in each and every one of you girls." She kisses Brennan’s head before shaking her own slightly. "Katherine here nearly had poor Gerrard in tears one time after Joseph was born. You all can be a mean brood of vipers when you want to be."

"I don’t mean to grump at her like I do," I reply solemnly. "It simply seems to slip out."

"We know, Kels. Trust us, we know." Katherine pats my hand. "And it’ll pass. Just try not to be too hard on her. She means well."

"I know. And she’s totally great with the babies. So why does the fact she’s breathing seem to bug me so much? And if I hear the word hormones come out of your mouths, I’ll scream."

They all remain silent. But they snicker at me.

I love my family.

"It will pass. Though, try not to kill Harper in the process." Mama gives me a smile and a wink. "I’m too old to replace her and I wouldn’t go through what you’re going through again for all the gold in Fort Knox. I’ve got mine all raised and now I get to spoil my grandbabies. Besides, I don’t think Jonathan could take the strain of me being the - let’s see, what was it he called me again? - Demon Cajun Woman, I think was his favorite." She checks Brennan’s bottle. "My, what an appetite you have, little one. Which of your Mamas do you get that from?"


* * *


"Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful, and since we’ve no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!" I belt along with Natalie Cole. We’re on our way to purchase our first Christmas tree as a family. The twins are sleeping contentedly in the backseat. They like my singing.

Kels reaches over and turns off the car stereo.

Apparently, my wife doesn’t.

Internally I begin singing my new favorite song, to the tune of ‘Rawhide’: Hormones, hormones, hormones. Oh those nasty hormones. Hormones make my wife nuts. Hormones. Oh how I hope they soon will leave her body. And we’ll all be happy once more. Hormones. Head ‘em up. Move ‘em out. Hormones!

I save my life by not singing that out loud.

I smile at Kels and pull into the parking lot of the nursery. "We’re here," I announce unnecessarily. I hop out of the car, careful to not lock the doors and trap the twins inside. Somehow I’m thinking in Kels’ present state it won’t be readily laughed off. Reaching in, I release Brennan from her car seat and put her in the Roo pack. She lets out a little cry, annoyed that her slumber has been interrupted, but I quickly get her quieted down. Kels is staring at me over the car, looking as if she might take the kid away from me if I’m not careful.

Hormones, hormones, hormones. Oh those nasty hormones.

"Let’s go!" I say, a bit too happily, but, what the hell.

She puts a little cap on Collin’s hairy head and follows Brennan and I as we head into the nursery. I wander over to where the trees are lined up against a wall, divided by type of tree. I head immediately over to the Eastern Red Cedar section. It’s my favorite. It’s a beautiful tree, very dense, a deep green, and it has a wonderful aroma. I begin looking for the best one of the bunch.

There it is.

"Look at that, Brennan," I whisper to my slumbering baby. "That is the perfect Christmas tree." I turn and look for my girl. She’s over looking at a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. No, no, no. That will never do. I walk over and extend my hand to her. I’m taking a risk in doing so. She’s as likely to slap it as take it. "Come see the one I found."

She takes my hand reluctantly. "Okay."

Once there, Kels stares at it for a long time.

I’m so sure that’s not a good sign.

"It’s rather big."

"I know! Isn’t it awesome? It’ll touch the ceiling in the family room. And we’ll have so much room for the ornaments!"

"Do we have ornaments?" Kels asks dubiously, still sizing up the tree.

Hmm. I shrug and offer a charming smile. "We will."

"I see." She points back to the Charlie Brown tree. "I like that one better."

"Chér, you’re yanking my chain, right?"

The angry green eyes looking back at me are screaming no. "Harper, I see no reason to bring a forest into our home. It will just die in there and leave a thousand needles in the carpet." She reaches out and touches the tree, pulling her hand back sharply. "The needles are very prickly." She gives me a glare, like I made the tree that way. "The twins could get hurt."

"Right. When they get up, walk across the room and climb up it." Even as the words come out of my mouth I realize I have made a huge tactical error.

Kels scratches her forehead, probably trying to keep her horns from sprouting out. "Harper, no. We do not need that monster in the house. Good Lord, how tall is that thing? Think: small babies, small tree. As they get bigger, the tree can get bigger." She jerks her thumb over her shoulder. "That is a perfectly lovely tree."

"It’s a shrub," I counter. "Sweetheart, my family has always had good-sized trees. Robie will laugh me out of my own home if he saw that in the family room."

"Harper, that tree is six feet tall. It’s very full and respectable. That thing," she gestures toward my tree, "is a redwood in comparison."

"I’ve always liked redwoods. Kels, sweetheart, my family always had these types of trees while I was growing up. I really wanted to get one for my family this Christmas." I give my best puppy dog eyes. Let’s see if the monster likes puppies. Or if she eats them for breakfast.

Kels takes a deep breath. "First time I find a needle on the floor, you and your tree are spending Christmas with Mama and Papa."

I impulsively lean forward and kiss her forehead. "So I’d have to make like Santa Claus and leave your presence?"

Kels doesn’t reply.

I try again. My girl must smile. I know she’s physically capable of it. "I’d have to make like Michael Jackson and beat it?"

"Harper, don’t make me hurt you."

This is a threat I consider serious.

"I’ll go pay for the tree."

She nods and hugs Collin. At least my little boy is safe with her. "Good plan."

When we get home, I’m going to have a long talk with Brian about hourly vacuuming. I’d prefer to spend Christmas with my family.


* * *


We get the tree home without any fuss. I paid to have it delivered. The look in Kels’ eyes when I suggested strapping it to the top of the leased Lexus was priceless. And incendiary. Now that it’s here, I have recruited Robie into helping me get it into the house and set up in the family room. I had first asked Brian without thinking. He was afraid it would rough up his hands.

To mark the occasion of our first Christmas tree, Robie brings over the whole clan. One of the first smiles I’ve seen from my wife’s face comes when Christian rushes over to her. He throws him arms around her with abandon, not caring about wild hare hormones or the like. "Aunt Kels!" he cries out.

Kels hugs him back. I haven’t been hugged like that for a few days. I consider shoving Christian out of the way, but restrain myself. "There’s my big boy! How are you today?"

"I’m three and a half!" he exclaims, holding up his fingers.

"Why, yes you are. That’s why you’re my big boy."

Robie chuckles and nudges me. "He asked the other day if Christmas would interfere with his birthday presents. Ren explained that his birthday was half a year away. He’s been quoting his age ever since, to make sure no one confuses the two."

I shake my head. God. All us Kingsleys are greedy little cusses.

Christian turns his eyes to our tree. "That’s a big tree!"

Kels gives me the eye. "Yes, it is."

I flash a smile. "Mais, oui!"

Rene goes over to the couch and plops down beside Kels. She rubs her belly, my niece obviously giving her a couple swift kicks from her expression. "How did she talk you into that?"

"It was easier than arguing with her. I had a headache."

"You realize that I now have to let a tree at least that big come into our house, don’t you?"

Robie overhears this comment and he rushes over to Kels. "Thanks, chér!" He gives my very surprised wife a quick kiss on the lips.

My girl turns to Rene. "Or, we could both just move into your house with the kids and leave the little children here with the tree." She gives a full wattage smile along with the offer.

"Nah, I have this one changing diapers daily. I can’t give up the service," Rene declines.

Whew. I was afraid for a moment. "Stop kissing my wife and get over here, Robie."

We work on the base of the tree for awhile. It barely fits in it. Thank God it does. If it didn’t, my ass would be grass. I can’t imagine ever hearing the end of it. For the rest of our married life.

Once the stand is attached, we stand the tree up again.

Oh shit.

It doesn’t fit.

The top six inches are bent over.

Kels heaves a dramatic sigh. She’s getting good with them lately. "Rene, I pay Brian good money to change diapers. Are you sure you don’t want to take me up on that? Otherwise, Harper will be coming over to repaint your ceiling too."

"It’s fine. No permanent damage. Let’s lay the tree down and I’ll get the saw."

We start to lower it when Rene calls out. "Clark!"

Her youngest son has maneuvered himself exactly where the tree is heading. Brian scoops him up, eliciting a hearty yell. This awakens Brennan and Collin from their naps. And Kam begins barking, just to get in the act.

I know I’m gonna be blamed for all this.

"Harper Lee, get your backside over here!" I turn around and see Kels moving toward the bassinets. "Kam, hush!"

Great, now she’s yelling at the dog too. I am so doomed. "Yes, dear?"

"Put your dog outside." She points to Kam whose tail droops at the word ‘outside’. "Then come help me with your children. You can play with your tree after that."

Ooo, things that sound dirty but aren’t. But damn if I’m going to mention that right now.

"Harper’s in trouble, Harper’s in trouble!" Robie begins singing. I’m gonna kick his ass later. I put the dog out and pick up my boy. The women in the family seem to be against me right now. Robie, in order to save his life, goes into the kitchen to find the toolbox.

"It’s all right, Collin." I kiss his fuzzy little head. I look over at my wife. She still looks annoyed.

Rene moves over and puts an arm around Kels’ shoulders. "How are you doing, Kels?"

"Is Mama absolutely sure I can’t kill her?"

Rene nods solemnly. "The dog would miss her."

Fortunately, Kels laughs. "Yes, well, so would I. I guess." She gives me the look. "Eventually."

"I suppose that’s better than never," I drawl.

Kels smirks. "If I were you, I’d go with it for the moment."

This is the nicest Kels has been to me today. I take the chance and approach her. Rene steps back so I can hug my entire family. God, this feels nice. "Okay," I whisper.

"If you’re good, I might let you apologize later."

Robie begins sawing at that very moment, breaking up the modicum of peace we were enjoying. But he does get me closer to getting the tree up.

I kiss Kels’ temple. "I look forward to it, sweetheart."


* * *


On Sunday morning, the doorbell rings about twenty times before I decide to stick my head out the window. I plan on throwing something at whoever is out there. "What?" I growl, trying not to wake up the babies.

Robie steps back from the door and looks up. "Harper Lee! Get down here! I got skybox seats for the Saints game today. And we’re going!"

Yes! It’s been so damn long since the Saints had a season worth going to. Skybox seats in the SuperDome for a home game. Oh yeah. "They’re playing Denver, right?"

"Sure enough."

Hot damn! I haven’t liked the Broncos since Elway went there. He might have been a good quarterback, but I still am upset with his prima donna attitude. He was drafted fair and square by Baltimore. He just didn’t want to play with a terrible team. So anytime I can watch Denver and root against them, I do.

Now the question is … will Kels let me go?

"I’ll come over in a minute, Robie." I shut the window and turn back to face my awake wife. I walk back over to the bed and crawl under the comforter with her. "Good morning, chér." I lean in for a kiss. I’m hoping to get one this morning. I apologized well last night.

I am rewarded with one. That was nice. Brief, but nice. "Your feet are cold," Kels complains, so I rub them up and down her warm legs. She slaps my shoulder playfully. "Why is your brother waking us up at this hour on a Sunday? I was up with Collin four times last night."

I wince. I know. "You know how Robie is. Doesn’t think. He has tickets for the Saints today. Wants me to go to the game with him. Would you mind? It’s the first time in a long damn time we’ve had a team worth watching."

"Oh, sure, go ahead. Take off. After all, I was up most of the night last night." The sweet moment we were sharing is gone. My wife continues, "I totally understand how you’d need a break from your wife and babies after that."

Oh shit. "Darlin’, I don’t need or want a break from you or the babies. Honest, I don’t. It’s just, it’s skybox seats at the SuperDome. We’re 8-4 this season, the top of our division."

"Hey, I understand totally." Kels slides out of bed and pulls on her robe, cinching it about her waist a bit too tightly. "I know football tickets are far more important than time with your babies. I mean, hey, they’re three weeks old. They’ll stay this way forever. I wouldn’t worry about missing time with them." She walks over to the bassinets and checks on Collin and Brennan, both of whom are blessedly still sleeping. Next she stomps into the bathroom.

I follow. It’s not particularly the wisest choice, but it’s the one I elect. "We’re talking about six hours, Kelsey, hardly a lifetime. I don’t see why you’re acting like I’m leaving the three of you."

Kels takes a deep breath and I prepare myself for the next outburst. Instead, she says, "You’re right. I’m sorry, Harper." Next thing I know, my arms are full of Kels and she squeezes me tight. Startled, but happy, my arms close around her. I don’t want her to feel unwelcome. "You go ahead and go to the game. Have a good time with Robie. You deserve a break too."

I kiss her hair. "I don’t need a break from you or the twins ever. I just want to cheer on the Saints and see Fetch Monster."

"Well, then, give me a break from you," she teases. "I’m not even going to ask what a Fetch Monster is."

"I’ll tell you anyway." I hate hormones but am glad we got through this little outburst without much trouble. "Fetch Monster is a big, old Australian Shepherd that retrieves the kicking tee for us at all the home games. His real name is Bleu, by the way. He has his own fan club."

"Of which I’m sure you’re a card carrying member." She pats my chest gently. "Go. Get dressed and go have a good time with Robie."

I capture her lips for a long moment, while I have her in a good mood. Or while she has me in one. When we finally break apart, I wink. "Thanks, chér. I’ll bring home souvenirs."


* * *


I look over at Collin who is in his little sling chair, chewing on his fist. "Yes, Fuzzy, you’re next." He flails his hand and kicks little feet. "You can protest all you want, but a bath is in order, so you’re getting one."

Brennan slaps and water spills over from the tub onto the counter. "And you, little girl, well, you enjoy this way too much." She latches onto the washcloth and tries to bring it to her mouth. She always wants something in her mouth. "How can you look so much like me and act so much like your Mama?" When I rub the cloth over her tiny body, she really seems to enjoy it. I merely shake my head.

Reaching over, I grab a big, thick purple towel and unfold it before lifting Brennan onto my shoulder and wrapping her up, all snug and warm. She really loves this part. She has been known to fall asleep curled up in her towel while I dry her off.

I lay her on the table and get her diapered and dressed quickly to ward off any chill. Snapping up her sleeper, she looks up at me and for a brief moment I realize this is where my future is.

My future is lying here, trusting me to take care of them, to always be there for them. It doesn’t end when they turn eighteen. It doesn’t end until I close my eyes for the last time. They will always be my babies. No matter how big they get.

No matter what they do in their lives. My love for them has to be more than I have ever given to anyone. Tears spring to my eyes when I realize that it is. They have me now. Forever.

I blink back the tears and smile at my little girl. A tiny pink tongue pokes out from between red lips. "Well, that’s your opinion," I tell her as I snap the last closure on her sleeper.

When I kiss her cheeks, she squirms and wiggles around, making soft baby sounds. "Okay, it’s your brother’s turn now." I lift her into her chair and place a blanket over her, fastening the safety belt into place. She turns her head to her left looking for her pacifier which is attached to the chair by a string. A brilliant answer to a problem encountered by Brian last week when he was bathing them. Brennan kept spitting out her pacifier while he was trying to bathe Collin. He finally tied it to the chair so he wouldn’t have to search for it and be distracted while he had Collin in the tub.

I give it to her and watch her eyes close. She is bathed, fed, warm and happy, and ready to sleep. And this little girl is exactly like me in that respect, she loves to sleep. Boy, waking her up is a crime punishable by the best fit she can throw, and she can have a real tantrum when she decides one is needed.

Collin looks positively terrified. He really hates bath time. I know if he could speak, I’d be hearing my first, "Awww, Mom, do I have to?" "Yes, Fuzzy, you have to." I chuckle.

While I undress him, Brian comes into the bathroom. "Ooo, the princess is asleep. Do you want me to take her to your room?"

Looking at her brother, I nod. "Yeah, I think he’s gonna have a fit."

"Kels, he’s like every other man I’ve ever known. If you’re not doing what he thinks you should be doing when you got him naked, he’s gonna have a fit."

I laugh and finish stripping Collin. "You are truly evil."

"No, realistic." He carefully scoops Brennan up without waking her. He is so very tender with them, it’s sweet. He’s going to be a great father someday, if he chooses. "Hey, Boss. How are you doing? Are you okay?"

I wrap Collin in a blanket and put him back in his chair while I get clean bath water for him. "Yeah, I’m fine. I’m just adjusting to being a mom. There are always a million little things to consider, and I find that I’m constantly trying to think three steps ahead now. God, Brian," I return to the counter with the baby tub, "I love them so much. But it’s not only physically tiring, but mentally tiring too." I smile at Collin as I reach for him. "Come’re, Fuzzy, let’s get that hair washed."

"Is there anything more I can do to help you? Sometimes I feel like I’m taking money for nothing. You and Harper are always right there."

"Yeah, well." I loosen Collin’s diaper but don’t remove it. It didn’t take me long to learn that first lesson of being a mommy to a little boy. "You’ll more than earn your money when we get back to New York and Harper and I go back to work. For right now, though, I just want to be here with them."

Placing Collin in the water, I slip his diaper out from under him and place a wash cloth over him. "Not gonna get me today, Squirt," I tease, reaching for another washcloth. He gives me a long, loud groan in protest. "You should learn to relax and enjoy these as much as your sister does." I am rewarded for my words of wisdom by getting splashed squarely in the face when his fists and feet come down in the water. "Okay, don’t."

Brian kisses the top of Brennan’s head. "Ooo, little girl, you smell good. All powder fresh. Let’s take you in and tuck you under your special blankie, huh?"

It doesn’t take him long to put her down and come back. I’m about to wash Collin’s hair and get him all done. He actually hasn’t done too bad today. He’s been pretty calm about this whole thing, although I need to change my clothes because I have been given a thorough bath myself.

"I should get the camera and get a picture of him while his hair is wet and laying down." Brian grins down at Collin, who has grasped his nanny’s finger while I dress him.

"Go ahead." I take a brush to his hair and smooth it over, being careful of his soft spot. "Your Uncle Brian is gonna take your picture, Fuzzy. Try to at least look happy. Because in twenty-five years, when I pull these out to show your significant other, I don’t want them to think you were abused as a baby. And a bath simply doesn’t count as abuse. No matter what you think."


* * *



Peace and quiet.

The twins are sleeping. Brian is out exploring the French Quarter. And Kels and I are snuggled in front of fireplace next to our newly decorated tree. The lights are twinkling on and off. It was a struggle to get lights put on the tree. Kels was convinced they would start a fire. I had to show her the underwriter laboratories’ warranty before she would relent. Even then, it was touch and go for awhile.

But now, with the glow of the fireplace and the lights from the tree, we are bathed in romantic light. Kels is in my arms, for the moment in a good mood. I intended to keep her in one. We have mugs of hot chocolate beside us, a tray of pastries from Haydel’s bakery and Christmas carols on in the background. In fact, it’s one of my favorites.

"In the meadow we can build a snowman," I sing along softly in Kels’ ear. "And pretend that he is Parson Brown. He’ll say are you married, we’ll say ‘No, man, but you can do the job when you’re in town.’ Later on, we’ll conspire, as we dream by the fire, to face unafraid, the plans that we made, walking in a winter wonderland."

Kels snuggles in closer to me. If it were possible, we’d be sharing the same skin right now.

I kiss behind her ear. It’s one of my many favorite spots to kiss on her. "We’ve done pretty well with the plans we’ve made, right, chér?"

"We’ve done very well with the plans we’ve made, Tabloid. Why?"

I kiss the spot again, spending a few long moments simply nuzzling against her skin. "No real reason. It’s just been a bumpy couple days. Wanted to make sure we were on track."

"Well, you’re on track. But I think I’ve got a spoke or two loose at the moment. I’m sorry I’ve been so hard to live with."

I tilt her jaw so that she faces me. "You’re never hard to live with, chér." I caress her cheek, once again marveling at the softness of her skin. "I’m lucky to have you in my life. On even the worst days, my life is a thousand times better with you in it. Plus, I love that I have the most beautiful of all the Kingsley wives." I kiss her nose.

"Suck up." She rolls her head and pops her neck. I feel it in mine. "I’m so tired. I don’t know why. But this is really nice, relaxing like this."

"You’re tired because you’re raising the two most beautiful and intelligent babies in the world. Takes a lot out of you."

"You’re raising them with me. Why aren’t you tired?"

I decide it’s probably safe to play. I wait a moment and then smirk. "I am younger than you."

"You know, that’s a really good point." Kels gives me a gentle poke in the ribs. "So just for that, you get to do all the feedings tonight. I’m sleeping. You can burn up some of that young energy."

"Deal. Seeing how I can’t burn up some of that energy in other ways." I smile to take the sting out of the words. I am more than happy to wait until she is ready, willing and able to resume other activities. "But, seriously, darlin’, I think that’s a great idea. Why don’t we set you up in the guest room, so you aren’t disturbed at all?"

"No. I don’t want that. I just want to know I don’t have to get up tonight."

"You don’t have to get up. In fact, I want you to sleep in as late as you can. Brian and I will take the twins out in the morning." I lean forward and indulge myself in another kiss with my girl. "Right now, it’s your turn to be pampered. Okay?"

"I’ll agree to it now. Maybe I’ll feel more human in the morning and we’ll all go out for a nice breakfast or something. Brian’s been working really hard too. By the way, we need diapers."

I don’t know why but that strikes me as incredibly funny. Here we are, enjoying a nice romantic moment, loving up on each other, and she’s discussing diapers. I think I might be losing my touch. I keep laughing, unable to stop.

"And the funny part of that statement was what, Tabloid?"

I choke back another laugh. "Well, chér, we’re sitting here necking by the fire and you’re talking to me about diapers. Have I lost my touch?"

Now that she understands she joins my laughter. "No, of course not. It just popped into my mind and I’m so tired, I thought I should mention it before I forgot. Because, let me tell you, it won’t be nearly as funny if I have to use your Tulane sweatshirt to wrap your boy’s backside in."

"Don’t even joke that way." I cross myself. I will remember to get diapers first thing. And hide my sweatshirt.


<fade out>


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