The Third Season

Parental Advisory Rating: L, N, AC

Break out those V-Chips, everyone!


Created, Produced, Directed and Written:

Fanatic and TNovan


Episode Nineteen: Adoption

I am sitting in the living room nursing Collin when the phone rings. Harper, Brian, Brennan and Kam are romping in the backyard. I hope Brennan is all right. Harper has her in the Roo pack, with the Navajo blanket tucked around her, so I think she’s warm enough. They tried to go outside with a Frisbee and a football. I stopped them at the door and confiscated the toys. Hurt the child and die, Harper Lee.

I reach over to the end table and pick up the phone. Bringing it to my ear, Collin kicks my arm. For someone so small, he’s surprisingly strong. He is also very possessive. He hates it if my attention is at all divided from him. "It’s okay, Fuzzy. I won’t be on long, I promise." I press ‘talk’. "Hello?"

"Hi there, beautiful!" Beth chimes happily. "How’s motherhood and apple pie?"

"Just fine, thank you very much." I hug Collin a little tighter in fact. "It’s all very sweet, if you must know. I’m feeding my son even as we speak." Collin makes a big slurping sound on cue. "Wait until you see him, Beth. He’s beautiful. He has thick, dark hair just like Harper."

"They are her children, after all. Makes sense that they look like her."

"Actually, Brennan favors me." I let out a small laugh as I think about my next statement. "But she acts like Harper."

Beth pauses and tries again. "They are her children, after all." Her tone is teasing, as if I’ve missed the joke.

Are they? "When did the judge sign off?"

"Not five minutes ago. I have the order right here. So you can tell tall, dark and gorgeous that she is now officially required to attend all PTA meetings."

"That’s wonderful! Although I fear for the twins’ teachers. Harper is the most involved parent on the planet already." I close my eyes and take a deep breath, feeling a peace settle over me that had been missing for the last week or so. "It’s gonna make her breathe easier. I know, I feel better already too."

"It’s signed, sealed and delivered, Kelsey. You have nothing to worry about. I told you I’d take care of it. I almost hope your mother tries something. I’d enjoy ripping her apart in court."

"Let me tell you, Beth, I hope she’s going to behave. But I’ve got a bad feeling." In fact, every time I hear my mother’s name spoken, I hear evil organ music in the background.

"I’ll worry about her, honey. That’s what you pay me for." Right, Beth. Other than a retainer, you’ve not taken a dollar from me in this matter. "You enjoy your babies. When do I get to meet them, by the way?"

"We should be back in New York right after the first of the year."

"Perfect. Will they have stopped that whole spitting up and needing diapers thing by then?"

I shake my head. Beth doesn’t have a maternal bone in her body. She is pure killer shark. I can’t wait to put one of the babies in her arms and watch what happens.

I’ll make sure she’s sitting, of course. And I am nearby.

"Umm, no. They’re going to be doing that for quite some time to come." I look down at my little boy with milky lips. I tickle his stomach and he kicks in protest.

"That sounds messy." I hear the other line on her phone ring and she puts me on hold for a moment. When she comes back, she sounds pissed. "I need to run, dearie. I have some lawyer ass to kick. Congratulations! Your family is legal tender."

"Go get ‘em, Shark. I have a Mama to tell the good news to. See you soon."


* * *


We’re outside, enjoying the fresh air, keeping out of Kels’ hair. She’s better lately, but still a bit touchy. I find getting out to be one of the best solutions. Kels took away our toys, but we’re managing. I am sitting on the swing and rocking back and forth. Brennan completely loves this. When we first came outside she was a little fussy. She’s asleep now. Brian is wrestling with Kam, holding the end of a piece of rope in his mouth and playing tug of war with the dog.

"You’re going to lose some teeth doing that," I warn. God, I sound like Kels.

On cue, Kam pulls hard and Brian collapses on the ground. "Ow!"

"It’s your own damn fault."

Brian rolls over onto his back and points at me. "Two dollars, Stud!" I flip him the bird while pretending to scratch my nose. He laughs even harder. "Oh, subtle!"

We both crack up.

And then I notice Kels and Collin standing by the back door. I wonder how much she saw and heard.

"Harper Lee, come in here, please." Hmm, I’m thinking she heard something. "Like now!"

Yup, she heard and saw something.

"Harper’s in trouble, Harper’s in trouble!" Brian sings.

I’d tell Kam to bite him, but Kels’ wonderful guard dog would actually do it and it wouldn’t be a pretty sight. Nevertheless, I obey my wife. "Come on, Brennan, let’s go inside. Maybe you can protect your Mama."

Inside, Kels is giving me the look of death. I smile valiantly, figuring she won’t kill me holding the baby.

"Put Brennan in her chair."

That’s so not a good sign. I kiss Brennan’s fine blonde hair. "Remember me, sweetheart."

Once she’s strapped in, I turn and face my wife. She points to the couch. I sit. "Yes?"

"You have to learn to be more careful with your children, Harper."

Huh? "What? I was sitting on a swing, Kels," I protest. "I didn’t do anything. God, I swear, Kels, I’d never let anything happen to Brennan or Collin. Ever." Hormones, hormones, hormones. I hope they go away very, very soon.

Kels shakes her head and wags her finger at me. "Yeah, well, be that as it may, your babies are very fragile right now …"

Is she serious? What did I do? I look over at Collin, wondering if I broke him somehow when I handed him off for his feeding. He seems all right to me. Brennan chooses this moment to chew on her fist. She seems okay. "What did I do?"

"I just want you to be more careful with your kids, Tabloid."

Kels is chewing her bottom lip.

She never does that except when she’s trying to keep from smiling.

I go over her statement again in my mind. Be more careful with my kids.

My kids.

My. Kids.

The adoption?

"You saying what I think you’re saying, chér?"

"What do you think I’m trying to say, Stud?"

Stud. That’s me. My chest puffs out a little at the assessment.

I leap to my feet, and gather both twins in my arms, kissing them repeatedly. "Mama’s here."

Kels joins us, sliding her arms around us. "She certainly is. It became official a half hour ago. Beth called with the good news."

I turn my head and give Kels a kiss. "We’re a family, sweetheart."

"We’ve always been a family in every way that counts," Kels counters, tapping my nose. "Now we have the paperwork to prove it."


* * *


The twins are finally down for the night. Or part of the night, as the case most often is. Thank God for naps. I take them almost as often as the twins do. I don’t know how I’m going to survive when I have to go back to work.

I crawl into bed and snuggle up next to Kels. Ever since the twins arrived, she falls asleep immediately after laying down. This is not a good development, in my opinion. Right now is only interferes with our conversations. Later it will interfere with more important activities.

No, no, no. That’s no good.

I wrap my arm around her waist and pull her back tight against me. I kiss her neck, nuzzling my way through her hair. "How are you, sweetheart?"

She manages to mumble, "Sleeping."

I chuckle. "No, you aren’t. You answered me." I kiss her neck again. "You’re okay with us christening the babies this weekend, aren’t you?"

"Of course."

I nod, not surprised by the answer. "I guess, I mean, we’ve never really discussed what we believe, or don’t believe. In a religious kind of way." I suppose some would think we should have had this conversation a long time ago.

"I know," she replies, caressing my forearm and top of my hand. "But it’s very important to Mama and Papa, so there’s nothing wrong with it. Our children will make their own decisions in these matters when they’re old enough. Who knows? Collin may want to be a Buddhist monk." Kels rolls onto her back and I observe the sway of her breasts in the moonlight. Not that I can do anything about that right now. I content myself with scratching her belly.

Back to the topic at hand. "True. He might. Though I don’t know what they’d do with his fuzzy head. Personally, I’d miss his hair." My handsome boy. I wonder, "What do you believe in, Kels?" I prop myself up on my elbow to look at her.

"Hmm …" Kels is momentarily thrown by my abrupt change in topic. "I guess I never really thought about it."


"No, not really." She does a combo shrug and yawn. "I’ve been exposed to more religion since I met and married you than I have my entire life."

I settle down next to her again. "Does it bother you, chér?"

"No, not at all. I know that a lot of families have deep beliefs and your family is one of them. Does it bother you that I don’t?"

I lean over and kiss her. "Not at all. If you hadn’t noticed, darlin’, I’m not a practicing Catholic."

She chuckles. "I noticed. We’ll make sure the children are taught to respect the beliefs of the family, as well as those different from the family’s. When they’re old enough, they can choose their own path."

"Sounds like a good plan. I didn’t want us to be doing something against your conscience. Because you, my dear, are more important to me than anything else in this world."

"Except for maybe those two little someones." My girl points to the bassinets where Brennan and Collin are still sleeping soundly. "And that’s the way it should be. No matter whatever comes to pass between us now or in the future, Tabloid, we have to promise to always do what is best for them."

I take her hand in mine, bringing it to my lips. I kiss it gently, just above her wedding ring. "I promise. As long as you understand, I believe that getting to love you, and being loved by you, is what is best for them. For the rest of my life, for all of your life, for their lives. Get the picture?"

"I got it." She seems to consider everything I’ve been telling her. "I married you, I’m stuck with ya, huh? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?"

"Yes, exactly. I tried to buy diamond studded handcuffs instead of a wedding ring, but Mama convinced me that was tacky."

Kels laughs and I worry she might wake the babies. "Mama is a wise woman, Stud. Pay attention and you might learn a thing or two. I certainly know I have."

I was going to suggest we get some sleep while we can, but now I am intrigued. "What have you learned?"

"I can’t explain it really. It’s a way of thinking and reacting. It’s being a mother."

I nod. It’s late anyway to be having this type of discussion. "You’ve learned beautifully, Kels. You’re a fantastic mom. And I’m not the least bit biased."

"Hmm, sure. But you can be biased all you want." Kels curls into me, sliding her arms around me and placing her head under my chin. That feels nice. So nice. "I just know I’m gonna get comfortable and someone will wake up. Collin knows these things, I swear he does."

"It’s because he has a little periscope over the top of his bassinet. It tells him when we’re comfortable." I massage her back lightly. "I’ll get him if he does. You sleep."

"Deal. Since you took that nice, long nap today. You rat." Kels bites me where she won’t let me bite her nowadays.

"Hey!" I mock protest. That was nice. "Love you. G’night, babe."


* * *


"Mama, you are a guest in our house. You shouldn’t be making breakfast for us," I protest, but it is half-hearted. No one makes biscuits and gravy like my Mama. Add to that sausage and eggs and it’s a heart attack on a plate. But what a way to go.

Mama looks at me from in front of the stove, clad in the apron I bought Brian as a joke. Underneath the apron she is wearing a Channel suit. I worry that grease might ruin it. "Don’t you insult me by calling me a guest," she chides. "Last I checked, I was your mother. That doesn’t stop because I am in your home."

Never try to tell a Cajun woman her position in your life. "I’m sorry, Mama. I simply meant I didn’t want you to have to work."

She is mollified. "I know, mon Coeur. Now, you go finish getting ready. After we eat, we’ll dress the twins."

I obey. This morning Mama brought over my christening gown which is a little big on Brennan, but still workable. With Kelsey, she took it to a dressmaker earlier this week and had a matching gown made for Collin. I will never understand why little boys don’t wearing christening suits, but I have bucked enough traditions in the family to leave this one alone.

I pass Papa and Brian in the family room. They are playing chess and drinking Mama’s famous coffee. I take in a deep breath and enjoy the scent of the Christmas tree. I automatically do a scan for stray needles, still taking Hormone Girl’s threat seriously. I bought a Dustbuster simply for this job. I check the twins, both are content in their sling chairs.

Upstairs Kels is slipping on her dress when I enter our bedroom. I enjoy the view of the expanse of her back and she reaches around to zip it up. "Let me," I offer, startling her.

She jumps and, turning, wags a finger at me. "Don’t sneak up on me."

I give a mock glare. "Don’t turn your back on me."

Kels bats her eyelashes at me. "Then how can you zip me up?"

"Oh, chér," I purr, stepping forward and sliding my arms around her lithe body. "I can think of lots of ways." One hand slips inside her emerald colored dress, caressing the bare skin of her back, sliding under her bra clasp, to rest between her two shoulder blades. "The question really is: why would I want to?" I don’t bother letting her answer, instead, I kiss her. Her mouth opens willingly under me and she surrenders to my kiss, allowing me inside her, letting me explore. Of course, this is previously conquered territory, but I enjoy visiting as often as possible. When I feel her slide her hand inside the back of my jeans, I know I’ve been had once again. So much for my conquest.

She scratches my skin lightly with her fingernails sending currents of pleasure through my body. At the same time, she rubs like a cat against me, the texture of her dress intoxicating, along with her kiss. I feel the swell of her breasts under mine, the fullness of them from the life she gives to our children. Her other arm hooks around my neck, drawing me closer, as if I had any other plans.

When it is clear we breathe the same air, I back away slightly. "How can you expect me to go into a church after a kiss like that?"

Kels’ eyes twinkle. "You started it."

I nod. So I did. "I’m going to take a quick shower." I had planned on just putting on my pantsuit, but now I need to bring down my body temperature to a manageable level.

"You do that, Stud."


* * *


We take our places to eat Mama’s feast. Papa holds Brennan and is giving her a bottle. He’s always loved feeding the grandbabies. My father, despite his reputation as a no-nonsense investment banker, is one of the most gentle men I have ever known. Brennan already responds to his voice, knowing it to be a special one. Collin is having breakfast from his favorite source, Kelsey. He pitched a fit at taking a bottle, so Kels had to do some quick changing so he could breastfeed. I can’t watch, as I normally like to, because Kels has a blanket over her shoulder as a bit of modesty at the table.

"So do you think your daughter will be able to keep her baptismal gown on through the whole ceremony?" Papa asks lightly. Brennan’s dislike of clothing is already becoming the stuff of legend in our family.

"Well, if Rene can hold her tight enough, we’ll be okay." Naturally, we asked Robie and Rene to serve as godparents to the twins. In Catholic tradition, the godparents are responsible for the spiritual upbringing of children. This special bond is to transcend place and time, allowing the child another pair of adults concerned about him or her throughout life. While, for many, it simply means another present at Christmas and at birthdays, our family takes being a godparent seriously. I am godmother to Christian and Clark, even though I wasn’t able to be at Clark’s christening. As such, I feel a bone deep connection with my nephews. I know that no matter what happens in life, they will always have me. That is the vow I made.

"Mama, how long does the ceremony last usually?" Kels asks. All our traditions are new to my girl. Although, I admit to needing a refresher on most of them myself.

"A half hour, at most. The priest is very good at these things. He knows that little babies don’t need a long sermon."

"Or even big babies," I chime in. Brennan lets out a big burp as Papa taps her gently on the back. We all laugh at her innate sense of timing.


* * *


We arrive at the church exactly on time. The parking lot is full of cars. Not only will the immediate family be here, but all of Mama’s relatives too. They take weddings, christenings and funerals seriously. I am thrilled to be able to present my children to Nonny. I had been afraid she wouldn’t live to see them. It’s a rational fear based on her age, but not on her health. Papa insists that Boudreaux women are too stubborn to die. Miss Marguerite, as he calls Nonny, will always be around.

Mama, Papa and Brian hurry into the church to take their seats. Kels and I linger back at the doorway, holding our children and awaiting Robie and Rene. It is custom for the godparents to greet the babies at the door and carry them inside. This is the one thing I don’t like about christenings, I don’t get to hold my children.

Robie and Rene walk down the center aisle and meet us outside. I let out a low whistle, which, at first, Rene thinks is for her. She is about to accept my compliment, when I say, "Robie, looking sharp."

He gives me the mental finger. Not nice for someone about to become the godfather to my children. "I see you managed to do the buttons right on your shirt," he replies.

I smile at Kels. "I had help."

Rene slaps my arm playfully. "We are at church, Harper Lee."

I extend Brennan to her. "Stop hitting me and take my daughter."

We hand off the kids and follow Robie and Rene inside the church. We walk about halfway down the aisle when the priest meets us. Robie says, "Father, Brennan and Collin Kingsley come to ask for faith in the Church of God."

The priest makes the sign of the cross and leads all of us to in front of the altar. I marvel as we stand up there, behind Robie and Rene, how long it’s been since I’ve been inside a church. Normally, when I go, it’s with my family to a sunrise service at Lake Pontchartrain. I guess the last time I was inside was two years ago, at the midnight mass for Christmas. God tends to scare me in confined spaces.

I glance over my brother’s shoulder and am pleased to see that both of the twins are still snoozing. It was our plan. We made sure they ate right before the ceremony so they’d go down for their naps. Nothing worse than a christening where the kid screams the whole time.

Not my kids. They are perfect angels.

I was a little hesitant about the christening. As Kels and I discussed last night, I am not exactly considered a practicing Catholic. The fact that Mama was able to get my children christened in the church at all is a testament to her faith and our priest’s progressive attitudes. Although I can’t quite imagine my children in a church which condemns their mother and I. But, at the same time, I can’t imagine them not sharing the faith that resides in my parents.

The thing that always gets me about christenings is the concept that the child has original sin and would, if left unbaptized, go to hell. The thought that there is anything staining the soul of my children makes no sense to me. I have never encountered more innocent creatures in my life. Collin, my sweet little boy, and Brennan, my determined daughter, are completely unsullied by all the bad things in the world, including my own shortcomings. They are perfect. We shouldn’t be baptizing them, but ourselves. Somehow, I recall the Bible saying we were to become like little children.

I’d like to be like Collin. He’s happy and he clings to the good things in life. His mother. And I’d like to be like Brennan. She believes in making her way in the world – naked. She is her own woman. Already. They also both know that Kelsey is the best thing alive.

A simple life they have. They love and are loved. I pray that is the case forever.

I watch as the priest performs the rite of baptism on our children. The sign of the cross. The placing of the stole. The profession of faith. The pouring of water over their heads.

This does not please Fuzzy. His eyes fly open and he begins to protest this messing of his hairdo. The priest and Robie chuckle at his consternation. Robie smoothes down his hair and this seems to calm him. Vanity, thy name is Collin. Brennan, on the other hand, sleeps through her baptism.

As the priest speaks, I reach out and hold Kels’ hand. If anything were to happen to us, God forbid, I am glad our children would have Robie and Rene to look after them. Robie is my best friend and my brother. Sometimes I think we’re the same person. Except for that lawyer thing he has going. It’s a family affliction. And Rene, next to Kels, is the most spectacular woman in the world. If the twins couldn’t have us, they could do no better than their new godparents.

In the audience, Mama and Papa are beaming with pride. I am glad to do this for them, and for the twins to have another community to look after them as they grow up.

Thinking of adoption, I find Jake and Stevie sitting on their new parents’ laps. The boys seem to be doing pretty well getting used to our big, loud, Cajun family. Their older cousins, especially, have made their transition pretty easy. Joseph, being the eldest of the grandchildren, has decided to take them under his wing. He’s just like his father, a natural leader. Jake and Stevie now adore him and trail him like puppies around Mama and Papa’s house. Laurent is playing mother to them as well.

I suspect we’ll be here celebrating their christening as soon as their adoption is finalized. Gerrard confided to me earlier that he hopes to help expedite it before the beginning of the year. I hope so. Everyone deserves a family for the holidays.

I am startled out of my thoughts when I feel Robie hand me Collin. His head is still wet as I press my lips to his hair. He blinks sleepy blue eyes at me. "It’s okay, buddy. I’ll get the blow dryer out of the car."


* * *


An hour later, we are all assembled in a restaurant for the reception. It’s the twins’ first public appearance and all the relatives have joined us. For their part, Brennan and Collin are doing well. They are handling being poked and prodded and examined by all sorts of people. Fortunately, all the pokers and prodders adore our kids. As they should. They are, simply, the best.

I’ve been watching for one particular family member to arrive. When she does, I gently extract Brennan from Tante Madeline’s arms. I catch Kels’ eyes and she and Collin head over to me.

Kels smiles at me. "Yes? Is it that time?"

I nod. "Nonny arrived."

We walk over to the matriarch of the Boudreaux family and sit down next to her. I look at the lines on her face and the gray in her hair and see Mama’s future. While Nonny may have shrunk with age, her spirit has not. She fixes startlingly clear blue eyes on us and then at the twins. Her hand, though shaky, reaches out and strokes Collin’s hair. "Exactly like you, Leone."

I nod ruefully. "Let’s hope not exactly, Nonny."

Nonny grins at my humor and then pats Kels’ knee. "You have your hands full, do you not?"

"Yes, Ma’am, I do, but I adore it. They are simply my life." I am not sure if she means the babies or me, or both, but it works for me.

Nonny leans back and gives my girl the eye. "Did you marry my Leone?"

"Yes, Ma’am, I did. I love her very much." That was directed at me. I lean over and kiss her cheek.

"Then you shouldn’t call me ‘Ma’am’. I am your Nonny."

A beautiful blush graces my girl’s cheeks and she smiles. "Yes, Nonny."

"Much better," Nonny praises. She reaches out her hands for Brennan, and I help settle our daughter in Nonny’s lap. "Did Leone tell you about the time she was eight and Jonathan was in a play?"

Uh oh.

Kels glances at me. "No, Nonny, she didn’t." She looks at me again and winks. "Imagine that."

Nonny chuckles and smoothes back the tiny amount of hair Brennan has. "At the firm Jonathan had at the time, they had a tradition of performing a play at the holidays to raise money for charity. None of them could act, of course. They were all investment bankers and others with no sense of imagination." She grins, enjoying teasing my father even though he isn’t around to hear it. "Well, this particular year, Jonathan was playing some part that involved him having to kiss a woman other than Cecile. For whatever reason, at that point in the play, Cecile was not in the theatre. When he did, Leone stood up in the middle of row and screamed, ‘Mama, Papa is kissing some other woman!’ She then ran as fast as her eight year old legs would carry her and reported his infraction."

Kels begins laughing at me. "So that’s where Danielle gets that from." Was it only just over a year ago I first kissed this wonderful woman?

Nonny holds out her other hand for Collin. Kels places him beside his sister. At first, Collin is not appreciative of the change of scenery. He starts to protest, but quickly stops when Nonny begins singing to them.

"Couvres-toi bien, ne prends pas froid. Toi, mon enfant, toi qui t’en vas passer. Quelque temps chez celui qui t' a aussi donner la vie."

Nonny used to sing this to me. My love, my child.

Kels snuggles into my arms and we watch Nonny bless our children.

Yes, this was a good decision.


* * *


I reach out and take the phone from its cradle. "Someone had better be dead," I mumble.

"I’m gonna be if I don’t get Ren to the hospital, Kels. She’s gonna kill me." Robie laughs. "Can you and Harper come get the boys?"

I sit up immediately and turn on the light. "Of course!" I slap Harper’s ass. "We’ll be right over. Is Ren okay?"

"Great, for someone in labor." He laughs again. He’s trying to cover it, but I can hear that nervous father-to-be timbre in his voice. "See you in a minute." He hangs up and I jump out of bed, pulling on my robe. "Come on, Harper, get up! You have to go get Christian and Clark. Robie is taking Rene to the hospital. Little Kelsey is ready to join the family."

Harper is up and pulling her sweats on without a word. I go to Brian’s room, knocking on his door before opening it and sticking my head in. "Brian?"

"Kels? Something wrong?"

"No, everything is great. I need you to go next door and help Harper with Christian and Clark."

"Ooo, another baby joins the Kingsley rabbit farm." He chuckles as he gets up and scratches his head. "Let me grab my jeans and sneakers."

I return to our room hearing from the hallway Brennan’s fit. I smile. I’m very proud of the fact I can tell them apart by their cries now. Harper is leaning over the bassinet trying to get her quieted down. I go over and scratch Harper’s back. "You get going, sweetheart. I’ll take care of her. It’s about her feeding time anyhow."

"Okay. We’ll be back in a few minutes."

"You can put Clark in one of the cribs when you return. And we’ll put Christian in here for the rest of the night. I’ll make up the lounger for him."

"Got it." She pauses and smiles at me. "Mom," she teases before leaving the room.

She’s right. Lord, who would have thought it was possible? I manage to get Brennan content enough that I have enough time to make up a bed for Christian. Then, little Miss Harper the Second, refuses to be ignored any longer. I scoop her up in my arms. "Good morning, Grumpy. Is that time?" I settle down in the chair to feed her when Collin decides to join us. I pull his bassinet closer to me and give him his pacifier, leaving my hand on his tummy. "You’re just gonna have to wait your turn, Fuzzy. Brennan beat you to it."

Within a few minutes, I hear Harper and Brian return. Brian takes Clark, who is apparently still sound asleep to the nursery and Harper hauls a half-conscious Christian into our room. She has him against one shoulder and Elmo is tucked under her arm. She lays our nephew down and tucks him in, giving him Elmo. He seems content enough and rolls over.

His sleepy eyes open at me. "Hi, Aunt Kels." He slurs his words.

"Hello, sweetheart. It’s late, go back to sleep," I tell him even as Harper covers him.

"Yes, Ma’am." He snuggles into Elmo and is sound asleep in seconds.

"I wish I could sleep like that." Harper yawns, pulling her sneakers off from her spot on the floor. "Clark didn’t even so much as wake up when we were picking him up and wrapping him in blankets. Slept through the whole thing. Not a peep."

"Well, it’s hard work playing all day. Really takes it out of you."

Harper falls dramatically back to the floor with her arms flung out from her sides. "Don’t I know it."

Collin fusses more angrily than before. I don’t think he wants to wait any longer. Either that, or he heard his Mama and is pitching a fit to get her attention. Whichever it was, it worked. Harper rolls over and crawls to him.

"What’s the problem, Fuzzy? Is Mommy taking too long?"

"Not me, it’s his sister."

"Think he’ll take a bottle?"

"You can try." I sigh. He seems to be getting much more difficult about it, but it’s late. He might be convinced.

"’Kay." She scrambles to her feet to go get him a bottle. I’m not sure exactly how she seems to warm them so quickly. It never seems to take her as long as it does me. Could be because I’m half asleep when I do it and she always seems to be wide awake. The moment the babies make a noise, and she knows she has night duty, she’s up and ready to go.

She brings it back in and scoops him up, settling down at my feet. She attempts to give him the bottle. He takes it, then spits it out. I hear Harper sigh and try again. Again with the same result.

She shakes her head. "Kels, he’s not liking this."

"Trade me." We make the switch. Brennan happily accepts the bottle and Collin happily accepts me. This concerns me. I need to remember to talk to his pediatrician about this.

I look down at the two favorite women in my life. They’re having a grand old time. When Harper holds her, Brennan spends more time playing than eating. People have tried to tell me babies don’t smile this young. They are so full of it. If they could see Brennan in Harper’s arms, they’d see a baby with a big old smile on her face. This little girl adores her Mama. Which only makes sense, since her Mama adores her as well.

Christian yawn and blinks again. He seems to be waking up on us. I’m sure having his night totally interrupted is the problem. "Tante Harper?"

"Yes, Christian?"

"Where are Mama and Papa?"

"They’ve gone to the hospital. Your Mama is going to have the baby."

He pops up, suddenly wide awake and very alert. "My Kelsey?"

We both laugh. "Yes, your Kelsey."

"Oh boy!" He claps his hands, startling Collin, who momentarily forgets what he was doing. "When?"

"Oh, sweetheart, these things take time," Harper tells him. "But someone will call us and tell us just as soon as she gets here. Until then, you need to lay down and try to get some sleep. That way you’ll be rested and ready to go see your baby sister when she gets here."

"Yes, ma’am!" He snuggles back down and closes his eyes. We both look at each other and roll our eyes. He is so adorable in his determination to try and sleep.


* * *


The call doesn’t come until almost three in the afternoon. Ooo, will Rene be unhappy with Robie for awhile. It doesn’t matter that he had nothing to do with how long her labor was, he got her pregnant. I told Harper the same thing, and mine was pretty quick for a first pregnancy.

I put Christian on the phone with his father to hear the good news directly. "She’s here? My Kelsey?"

"That she is, my boy," Robie booms over the speakerphone. "She’s very pretty, just like your Mama."

Christian nods, rubbing his hands together. He can’t wait to get his hands on her. I must admit that I am anxious to see her, as well. No one has ever named a child after me. No one has ever wanted to name one after me. My, my, how things change.

"Can I see her, Papa?"

"Sure enough, chér. I’ll come get you in an hour. Think you can convince your Aunt Kels and Tante Harper to tag along?"

He turns his eyes on me. I, of course, readily agree. "We’ll be ready, Robie. Just need to tell Brian he’s on babysitting duty with the twins."

"Wonderful. Let me make a couple more calls and then I’ll come get you, son."

"Give our love to Rene."

"Bye, Papa."

As I hang up, Christian throws himself into my arms. "She’s here!"

"Yes, she is, sweetheart."


* * *


When we enter the hospital room, Clark dives from Harper’s arms for Rene, while Christian bypasses her completely. He nearly collides with the bassinet in his enthusiasm to reach his sister. He stares at her for a long moment and then turns to his father. "Why is she so old?"

Hmm. I’ve never thought of an infant as old. Neither has Robie as he peers over Christian’s shoulder. "Why do you say that, son?"

He points to her face. "She’s all wrinkly. Like Nonny."

We all burst into laughter, including Rene. She immediately regrets it, wincing and twitching on her hospital bed. Clark tightens his hold on his mother, burying his face in the crook of her neck.

The noise startles little Kelsey and she lets her displeasure be known. Just like me. We need our beauty rest. Christian jumps about three feet backward. We start laughing again and Robie scoops up his daughter. "It’s all right, boy. She is just saying hi to you."

"To me?"

Robie nods and walks over to the chair. He sits down and invites Christian up onto his lap as well. Carefully, he settles Kelly into her brother’s arms.

I walk over to Harper and slide my arm around her waist. "I wish I had a camera."

My smug spouse pulls a small digital camera out of her jacket pocket. "Like this?"

I give her the eye. "Just take the picture, Tabloid." She does so immediately.

"You have her well-trained," Rene comments.

I go over and give my sister a well-deserved hug which includes Clark sandwiched between us. "How are you, Ren?"

"Tired and achy."

Been there, done that. "Well, I happen to know first hand that the Kingsley clan tends to feed its new mothers well. We still have a couple meals in the freezer."

"I can’t eat Jean’s special chili either."

That’s exactly the dish I refused to thaw out. It might be his specialty, but it’s deadly. "She’s beautiful."

Rene pats my back. "She has quite the name to live up to."


* * *


We are playing poker in the family room. I promised Kelsey we would keep it to a dull roar so as to not disturb the twins. Also all of us have been given rather strict curfews by our spouses. With three of the five of us having new kids at home, the wives seem to think we should be there as well. Imagine that.

Robie studies his hand intently. This means it’s pretty good. He’s trying to figure out a way to bluff us. "I’ll see your bet, Jean. My luck has to change sometime."

Yup. It’s a bluff. I glance at my cards. Three of a kind. Not good enough, most likely. "I fold," I lay my cards face down on the table.

"How are your boys, Luc?" Gerrard asks. "They looked very handsome at church yesterday."

He laughs and shakes his head. "You should have seen what Rach had to go through to get them cleaned up. I swear Jake is like Pig Pen from Peanuts. Wherever he goes, dirt follows."

I’ve seen evidence of that at Mama’s. It is a unique skill he possesses. "Did you consider helping her?" I tease.

He tosses a pretzel at my head. "Bite me."

Gerrard picks up the pretzel so I don’t get in trouble with the boss. "That sounds like a ‘no’, Lucien."

"You should have seen what Rachel looked like when she finally got out of the bathroom with them. She was soaked from head to foot. I had already showered." Luc smirks, seeming to realize he should have helped. I’ll let him off the hook for now. I can’t imagine getting away with that with Kels. Or wanting to.

"You looking forward to getting back to New York?" Gerrard asks me as he pulls the poker chips in his direction. Robie’s bluff couldn’t beat his full house.

"Yes and no. I love the job, but I don’t like being away from the family. Though why I miss you four is beyond me."

Jean stops chewing on his unlit cigar long enough to reply. "It’s my scintillating conversation."

"Yeah, right. How ever do I live without your constant presence?"

He shrugs his broad shoulders and picks up the cards dealt to him. "I’ll buy you a locket to wear." We all guffaw.

Gerrard lifts up his beer mug. "A toast."

Okay, that’s unexpected, but we all go along with it. "To parenthood. As a wise man once described it, sometimes it seems like it’s nothing but feeding the mouth that bites you -"

"Kels would agree there," I snicker. Glad Kels isn’t in the room to hear that. I’d get seriously thumped for that.

Gerrard shakes his head at me. "But there is nothing more rewarding in your life. I am so glad we all get to experience it together. To our children."

We clink our glasses and drink.


<fade out>


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