The Fourth Season

Parental Advisory Rating: L, N, AC

Break out those V-Chips, everyone!



Jessica Grant

Created, Produced, and Written:

Fanatic and TNovan


Episode Nine: April’s Fools

"Be careful with my son," I chastise Luc as he holds Collin a bit too much like a football. One that’s about to be fumbled.

He scowls, but adjusts his hold. "I have two of my own now, Harper Lee."

"Two that don’t break when dropped. At least, not quite so badly," I amend. I stir the infant cereal and sniff it. Nasty. But my boy loves it. Kels and I first tried it out on him yesterday, and after the initial shock, he clamored for more. He’s growing up so quickly. His sister is too; she loves this paste.

They’re not taking a lot of it right now, only enough that Kels has been able to cut back on one feeding a day. I think that’s helped her a lot. Yet part of me is afraid my darling wife may have a bit of trouble when it comes time to wean them entirely. I know she enjoys connecting with them like that and it’s going to be as hard on her as it will be for them.

Brennan is happily outside with her Mom. I stare over at the kitchen table, and find it disconcerting to see all my brothers sitting around it. This is like some episode of ‘The Twilight Zone.’ Everything is the opposite of what it should be. Gerrard is at Katherine’s spot, Jean at Elaine’s, Luc at Rachel’s, Robie at Rene’s, Papa at Mama’s, and I’m over fixing up dinner for my son. The only thing that’s constant in the kitchen is Brian. He’s at his usual spot at the counter, enjoying himself a bit too much for my taste.

"Harper, shouldn’t you be wearing your Mama’s apron?"

I wave a sloppy spoon in his direction. "Why aren’t you outside?"

He crosses his legs prissily. "Because I am an honorary member of the Kitchen Conspiracy, not an actual member. I can come and go as I please."

"I think you’re a spy," Jean grumbles. "But, let me tell you, after five kids, I know my way around a kitchen. And a diaper." He pats his son’s, Geoffrey’s, bottom. Geoffrey, at eighteen months, is starting potty training, and is wearing ‘big boy diapers’ lately.

"No baby," Geoffrey corrects his father very seriously.

Jean smiles proudly. "Not much longer, buddy."

"So," Brian smirks, "you were raised in this house, right?"

"We all were," Gerrard replies. "Papa grew up here too."

"Okay, then which cabinet does Mama keep her spices in?"

Papa gets up and walks over to the cabinet closest to the stove. He opens it up with a flourish. Unfortunately, it is bereft of spices. Coloring, he mutters, "She must have moved them."

We all laugh, but none of us move to show him which cabinet they are in. We aren’t willing to admit we don’t know. It’s not our fault, though. Mama doesn’t allow anyone but the Conspiracy in here while she’s cooking. And she slaps our hands whenever we try to do something on our own. It’s quite understandable.

It is.

I take over the cereal and the tiniest spoon ever invented over to the table. I take Kels seat, and begin feeding my boy. He doesn’t need much of the cereal, but it’s darn fun to watch him gum away.

"Papa," a small girl’s voice says from the doorway. Two heads swing in the direction, only Gerrard and Jean have little girls who can talk at this point. It’s Caitlin, part of the other set of fraternal twins in the family. She’s wearing a pretty sundress, sky blue with yellow dandelions. Her eyes are the color of her dress and she looks up at Jean. "Mama said that you would bake us some cookies."

Jean glances out the window at the Conspiracy. "Did she?" He holds out his hand and she comes to him, climbing up in his lap readily.

Caitlin gives her little brother a big squeeze, causing him to lose focus on his coloring for a moment. Geoffrey squirms and refocuses on his task. Caitlin turns to her dad and says, "She said you could make us choca chip cookies."

He nods. "Not a problem. Of course, we can make some." By we, I assume, he means someone other than himself. He can’t boil water, let alone do something complex in the kitchen.

Her tiny hands reach up and frame his face, squishing his cheeks together comically. "Really, Papa? You promise?"

"I promise, squirt. Did Mama say anything else?"

We all await her answer eagerly. The Conspiracy can be plain mean sometimes. "No. She was too busy putting out the fire."

All of us swing around to look out the window. I begin counting heads, more than glad when I see Kels and Brennan safe in the distance.

"There go our steaks, boys," Papa sighs. "I better go check on the barbecue."

We all cross ourselves, hoping nothing happened to it. That thing has been a proud member of our family for as long as we can remember.


* * *


I’m sitting off to the side with the smaller of the children, who aren’t quite old enough for the serious horseplay of the elder sibs and their Mamas. My broken wrist is keeping me out of is as well.

I learn pretty quickly that inside or outside, Mama rules the KC. I understood that the second she snatched the football out of my good hand and sent me off to the sidelines to tend to the little ones.

We have two playpens set up and a variety of toys to keep everyone happy. Everyone, that is, except my daughter, who has decided to be a right little witch today. Nothing makes her happy except sleeping in my arms. Not that her choice makes me unhappy, but the second I think she’s asleep and try to ease her down, she’s awake and crying again.

Glancing down, I watch her nurse. I’m hoping after a little midmorning meal she’ll feel a little better and take a nap in her carriage, so my good arm can have a rest.

"Jonathan Kingsley!" I look up to see Mama waving a barbecue fork in his face and backing him up toward the rear door of the house. "Don’t you dare come out here and try to tell me…"

I have to laugh as the scene unfolds. She said it would and she was right. She told us all that as soon as they heard the word ‘fire’ come out of Caitlin’s mouth, one of them would come out and it would most likely be Papa.

The ‘fire’ hadn’t been more than a flame up around the food cooking on the grill. It was never a fire and it was never out of control. Elaine merely told Caitlin to mention it to see what would happen. The boys love their grill.

I’m surprised they all didn’t rush out here with half the New Orleans fire department hot on their heels.

Slowly, Brennan falls asleep. She’s not quite willing to give me up, yet at the same time, is getting so relaxed she can’t help it. Rene comes over and gently takes her from my arms and places her in the carriage. My sister and I both share hopeful looks as we watch my girl snuggle down next to her favorite stuffed bear.

She really loves this bear because it smells like Harper. The child is no dummy. She uses the same method of keeping her Mama near that I do. And when they nap together, this bear is always tucked between them. So she uses the teddy bear the same way I use Harper’s pillow when she’s out of town. I don’t care why she’s sleeping. The point is: she is.

Okay, she is, until Jean comes out the backdoor with a tray of buns for hamburgers and hot-dogs and lets the screen door bang shut.

"I’m gonna kill him!" I grind out and start for my brother.

Rene’s hand shoots out and clutches my sweatshirt. "No, don’t do that. Elaine will only have to replace him and we’ve already spent so much time on his training."

She manages to get Brennan quieted back down without picking her up. My baby snuffles back to sleep, with only one little tiny tear creeping down her cheek. I reach out and wipe it away. I hate to see her distressed. But now that she is finally sleeping, I may let Jean live. Ren’s right; it would be a waste to let all of Elaine’s hard work go down the drain like that.

That reminds me.

"Oh, Rene, dear?" I give my sister an evil grin. "Don’t you think you need to have that little chat with Harper?"


* * *


"How long do we have to boil these potatoes?" Robie asks, poking one with a knife.

"Until they’re done."

Robie shoots our eldest brother a look. "Do you want to do these, your Honor?"

Gerrard pushes himself up from the table and saunters over to the stove. He stares over the edge of the pot at the mass of boiling water and the dozens of potatoes at the bottom. "I thought people normally cut these things up first."

"Not Mama."

"I’m kinda at a loss then."

"Let Harper fix ‘em," Luc mutters wandering in from the family room, having gone there to fetch playing cards. "She’s a girl. Or so Kelsey says."

I reach over and smack him on the back of his head. "Keep it up, funny boy, and you’ll be one too."

"Ooo," the boys echo my threat.

I pick up a knife, give Luc the eye, and walk over to the boiling pot. I stick the knife in one of the potatoes and it slides in easily. "Done. That’s how you tell. Not that difficult, boys." I had to feed myself for a number of years. I can do this. All the other boys went straight from Mama’s house to their own married household. Luc stayed home the longest, though Jean acts like it most of the time.

"Now what?"

I look at Robie incredulously. "You’re a smart one, I bet you can figure it out. What do you think you need to do to make mashed potatoes?"

"A masher?"

"Among other things."


* * *


I scratch my cheek as I stand next to Mama and listen to the clatter coming from the kitchen. "Do you think they’re okay in there?"

"Oh, they’re fine." Mama never takes her eyes from the food simmering on the grill. "I may have done a little rearranging of the utensils; that might have them a bit confused." She looks up and gives me an ‘innocent’ smile.

"Harper’s right. We are evil." I sip my tea and wince when I hear one of the boys yell something that Mama will get him for later.

"It’s the natural born right of every Southern wife, Kelsey. You marry them, you get to torture them. But you must always remember to love them too."

"It’s a lesson I’m enjoying."

"The torturing or the loving?"

"Yes." I chuckle and refill her tea and mine. "Harper’s one of a kind and sometimes she can be so gullible."

Mama laughs, shaking her head and grasping my forearm. "She’s exactly like Jonathan. When we were first married, he’d fall for almost anything. Unfortunately, I could never keep a straight face long enough to really pull anything off."

"I know. There’s something about them. When you look at them, you can’t stand the thought of making it too horrible."

"It’s the blue eyes," Mama states with a certain finality. "The Kingsleys should be ashamed of the way they use those blue eyes to get what they want."

"So," Elaine chimes in as she steals a small piece of hot dog from the grill, getting her hand slapped by Mama in the process. She really should know better. Does coming outside into the boys’ domain make brain cells die faster or what? "What are we talking about?"

"Blue eyes."

"Oh, then don’t forget the sad little way they tilt their heads too." She laughs, immediately knowing we were talking about our respective spouses.

Katherine enters the conversation as she throws the football back to the older boys who are about to start a game on their own. They’ve been properly impressed today with their Mamas’ abilities when it comes to football. Katherine knows how to score a touchdown and never once let the boys forget it.

"Are we taking about the patented Kingsley pout?"

I nearly snort tea through my nose. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought that same thing when Harper turned hers on. "Yes, as a matter of fact, we are."

"Gerard doesn’t even bother anymore. We’ve been married too long. After a few years, it loses some of its effectiveness. Now he snorts at me."

Mama laughs again, finding that comment funny. She coughs when she accidentally breathes in some of the smoke from the grill. "Jonathan doesn’t pout anymore and he’s gone past snorting at me. He walks away grumbling to himself."

Rachel joins us after being inside on a recon mission.

"How are they doin’ in there?" I ask, gesturing to the kitchen.

She takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. "Well, they haven’t caught the kitchen on fire yet. Somehow I think they’d all be happier if Brian would leave them alone. He’s in there picking on them and teasing them. They may toss him out here on his backside before it's over with."

I roll my eyes, knowing what a snot our nanny can be when he chooses to be. "What’s he doing?"

She waves me off. "Nothing serious, merely calling their masculinity into question."

Harper may kill him herself.


* * *


I deliver another round of drinks out to the kids and wives. You’d think it was the middle of summer the way they’re swilling the lemonade, iced tea, water and juice. I started out just bringing lemonade. Rachel casually mentioned she’d prefer iced tea. That was quickly amended to sun tea by Elaine. Mama insisted on water. A couple of the kids, I’m sure prompted by the Conspiracy, asked for juice. So now I nearly break my back each time I bring out more liquid refreshment.

Before going back inside, I collapse down onto the back porch swing. This is where I first kissed Kels, for real, at least. She tasted so sweet. I remember she was crying, overwhelmed by us. I chuckle. Who wouldn’t be? Overwhelmed by family, having never had one before. Forever, I will be grateful to them for adopting her so quickly.

I close my eyes and enjoy the memories of falling in love for the first time in my life.

God, my memory is great, because I feel her touching me. I groan as fingernails gently scrape over the back of my neck. Her breath is gentle on my cheek. I turn my face to kiss her, opening my eyes so I can see her gentle gaze.

"Holy shit!" I curse, jumping back, cracking my head against the back of the swing.

"Easy, Harper, don’t hurt yourself," Rene coos, joining me on the swing, sitting a little too close.

"Robie is in the kitchen," I manage, swallowing hard. I can’t imagine that she mistook me for him. We do have more than a few obvious differences. I glance over around the porch, hoping Slugger isn’t coming. She’d kill one or both of us, that’s for sure.

"Yeah? And your point would be what?" Ren moves closer, letting me catch a whiff of her perfume. "Since when am I not allowed to sit next to you?"

"Next, not on," I mumble.

"What is wrong with you?" Rene asks, gently nudging me. "You act like I’m gonna bite you."

I shake my head, my daydream must have messed with my mind. "Sorry. I was thinking about Kels when you came over."

"Yeah, Kels is very lucky."

There’s a sadness in her voice that I don’t ever recall hearing before. Seeing clearly now, I note that Rene has a worried expression on her face, marring her beautiful features. Getting over my initial shock, I reach out and take her hand in mine. "What’s wrong, darlin’?"

"Eh, I was just thinking."

"About what?"

"About how lucky you and Kels are and how happy you seem to be. It’s been really noticeable since you moved home." She looks up at me under thick lashes and smiles, teasingly. "You might want to make sure your bedroom window is closed from now on."

Is it hot out here, or what? "Darlin’, I am merely trying to inspire my brother to greater heights." I figure since I’m totally embarrassed already, I may as well embrace it.

"You might not inspire him, but you certainly inspire me."

Oh, shit. Memories of Rachel assail me. I gently release Rene’s hand and place it back on her lap. "Ren …"

"Harper," Rene leers at me.

"God, I love you, Ren. I do. But I could never …" I’m at a loss for words, surprised as hell to find myself in this situation. "I love Kels completely, and …"

"Yeah, well, I love Kels too. That doesn’t mean I can’t love you. I have to tell you, Harper, when I heard Kels yell your name the other night, my mouth started watering."

I am in hell. And I am much too close to the flames. God knows, I find Rene incredibly sexy and attractive, but she’s my brother’s wife, and my wife’s best friend. I stand up, popping up like a cork held underwater too long. "I think you and Robie need to have a talk. Do you want me to go get him?" While I’m at it, I think I’ll take a step back. Or two.

I yelp when I feel two arms slide around my waist. Since one has a cast, I have a fairly good idea of who my captor is. "Hiya, Sexy. What’s up?"

How much as she heard? Can’t be much, since Rene and I are both still alive. "Nothing."

"Ren, I thought you were going to come over and talk to her."

"I did. She doesn’t seem to be interested." Rene shrugs her shoulders appealingly.

Harper! Avert your damn eyes before you have to get the neighbors do another round of fireworks. "Huh?" I opt for stupidity. At the moment, it seems safest.

"Not interested? Did you explain it?"

"I was starting to when she jumped up."

My eyes narrow when Kels begins stroking my stomach. She knows better than to do that when she’s not serious. It’s what she uses at night to let me know we could be doing better things than sleeping.

"Maybe I should go so you can finish talking to her. I’m sure she’s feeling a little shy about the thought of sharing." Kels’ hand ‘accidentally’ brushes my breast.

And suddenly I see things with clarity. I catch her hand and hold it there. "Sharing?" I echo, keeping a touch of confusion in my voice.

"Yeah, sharing." Kels slides around me so she can look at Rene. I wonder how they can keep from breaking into laughter. "Ren and I’ve talked about it. We think you’d make wonderful filling in a sandwich."

"Really? You’d be okay with that?" I am the picture of utter sincerity. My expression, my tone of voice, my posture all convey my genuine surprise at the offer. And genuine interest.

"Sure. We think it’d be a great deal of fun. Don’t you?"

I hold my hand out to Rene, pulling her up from the swing and over to us. I wrap my arm around her waist, and stand between them. "It’s what I’ve dreamt of," I whisper, leaning in to kiss Rene’s neck. Instead, I lick my sister, for being evil and trying to mess with my mind.

As she recoils with a shriek, Kels bursts out laughing. "Okay, lover, you caught us. Get your lips off that woman."

I wag my finger in front of her face. "You are very bad."

"Actually," she manages between laughs, "I thought we were pretty good. We had you going." My wife and my erstwhile girlfriend high five. "Happy April Fool’s Day."

I wipe my forehead. "She scared me." I point at Rene now. "It was a little too real for a moment."

"Too real?" Rene stamps her foot indignantly. "I don’t play sexual frustration that well, thank you very much!"

"Apparently, you do." Kels wipes my forehead, leaning into me enticingly. "Look at her, she’s sweating."

"I’ll be right back," Rene promises.

I am about to protest, to suggest that we play this game on Robie, but then I notice that Kels is still pressed against me, and we’re alone. "Wanna neck?" I whisper. "We can relive old times out here on the porch."

"I’d love to."

That’s my girl.


* * *


I don’t think I’ve managed to kiss my wife but a few times when I sense eyes on us. My thumb caresses Kels’ cheek as I pull back slowly. Maintaining eye contact with my girl, I ask the person behind us, "Something I can do for you?"

A giggle. Hmm, it’s one of the kids. I decide, after a brief moment of hesitation, to stay exactly where I am. Kels’ eyes are the color of summer, and I can’t seem to tear myself away from their promise.

"You two kiss a lot."

It’s Danielle. Who should know exactly how much Kels and I kiss since she seems to keep track constantly.

Kels hums appreciatively. "Yes, we do." Her fingers slide up my arm and shoulder to bury themselves in the hair at the nape of my neck. My body is electrified at her touch.

"Do you like it?"

What the hell kind of a question is that? I am about to blurt my thoughts out when Kels’ lips get in my way. She kisses me gently, but thoroughly. "Oh, yeah," Kels replies later on our behalf. "She’s good."

My face flushes and I’m glad that Danielle can’t see me.

Kels kisses me again, even longer this time, making me forget all about my niece. "This seat is magic, eh?"

I nod vigorously. "Absolutely. Thanks for coming home with me, chér."

She pulls me back in for more. "Thanks for asking."


* * *


"I don’t get it," Luc sighs, folding his cards.

Robie gestures to his diminished pile of chips. Literal chips, by the way, since we don’t have our poker ones handy. Right now we’re using various versions of Lay’s potato chips for our score. Barbecue are worth a quarter, sour cream and chives a dime, and regular a penny. "Obviously, you don’t. You keep eating your damn money, Luc."

Luc sighs and takes a bite of his ruffles. "What do they do in here all day long?"

I chuckle and shrug. I just finished changing Collin’s diapers and now he’s laying in the crook of my arm, having a snack. I should still be on the swing making out with my wife, but Danielle wouldn’t leave us alone, and Robie came and dragged me back in here. Apparently, I should have still been inside, as we were commanded to do so today. My son was happy to see me, his Uncle Gerrard was having a hard time keeping him entertained. Collin and I have bonded thoroughly, though, and simply being together is enough for us. Well, being together and a bottle. "They talk about us," I say before brushing my lips against my son’s unruly hair.

"I still don’t get it. I mean, good Lord, what do we do that is that interesting?"

My other brothers begin laughing at Luc. "Damn, Luc, if you don’t know …" I leave the sentence unfinished. Given my history with Rachel, it’s best if I let it alone.

"Do I need to send you a package in a brown paper wrapper?" Jean asks over the top of his cards.

Lucien folds and eats another chip. "Bite me. It’s just … I mean, I look around and I see the same four people I grew up with. I know where you work, I know your wives, I know your kids. What else is there?"

"Our emotions." Gerrard mock sniffles.

"Our inner beauty," Robie joins in.

"Our every waking thought," I mutter. Women.

"And why we looked the way we did when we said something we weren’t paying any attention to." Jean is always getting in trouble for that.

"Do girls really do that when they’re together?" Luc asks me. Suddenly, I’m the resident expert.

I shrug. "I dunno. Kels and I will talk. And it’s great, because it’s at a deeper level than with you guys. I know all about her." Oh, yeah. I sure do.

Gerrard nods but makes a quasi-disagreeing face. "Yeah, but I feel the same way with Katherine. I know her by heart, but we don’t sit around for hours talking all the time. We’ve done that, especially when we were dating, but since then … I can’t recall a time when we were doing the whole soul-baring thing. Except maybe after the kids were each born."

"So what do you talk about?" Robie asks.

"Life, as it happens. Joseph’s grades, Laurent’s upcoming recital, Danielle’s reading club, T-Jean’s pee wee football. We’ll go over household things, and our upcoming plans."

"How do you know she’s happy?" Luc asks. I wondered what was prompting all of his questioning. He must be worried about Rachel. If it were big enough, he’d say something. Until then, none of us will call him on it.

"She says she is. Plus, I watch her."

Jean nods sagely. "Lainey normally tells me if she isn’t. Or gives me a cold dinner. That’s always a good clue."

"Gerrard," I am interested in learning more from him, as I strive to imitate him a great deal in my own marriage. "When you say you don’t do the soul-baring thing, what do you mean? Katherine’s real sensitive. How can you not?"

"I guess, I mean, I don’t. But I always listen to her. She’s great about keeping me up-to-date on how she’s feeling."

"Of course, that’s all with our wives," Robie says, dealing out another hand. "What do they talk about when they get together? Mama has them in here the whole time on Sundays. Every time one of us step in the kitchen, they all clam up tight. Meanwhile, we’re outside playing, sleeping, barbecuing, whatever, but we’ll do ten things and they’ll only sit and gab."

"They seem to enjoy it."

"No offense," Luc says, preparing us for an offensive statement, no doubt, "but I can’t imagine being that interested in anything y’all had to say."

"Same back, Luc," all four of us seem to mutter at the same time.

I love my brothers.


* * *


It was a truly wonderful day with the family, but a little quiet time with Harper is now a must.

Brian is in his room with his new computer and CD burner, downloading God only knows what off the internet. Sometimes, I expect the men in black to show up on my doorstep and ask to see him.

Both babies are bathed, fed and with Uncle Brian, who has promised that their mamas will not be disturbed tonight unless someone ends up demon possessed and starts throwing up pea soup.

I’m stretched out on our big feather bed, tucked quite comfortably between the silk sheets I put on it for this evening.

Harper is still in the shower. When we got home, I made her head straight there. Someone at the poker game today was smoking cigars and the smell was clinging to her. I haven’t been able to tolerate the smell of cigars since the LA incident. But now I can ask her to wash it out and I’m okay.

I listen to her in the bathroom, singing in the shower. She really does have a beautiful voice. She should sing more, or, at least, not be embarrassed by the fact when she does.

Listening carefully, I hear the water stop, the shower door open, then close with a slight bang. Now she’s humming. She’s happy tonight. It was a good day with family, even though a good portion of the day was spent simply being rotten to each other. It was all done in fun, and with love, and that made all the difference.

I roll over to face the bathroom door when she exits, clicking off the light as she does. Her hair is still damp; I love it when it’s like that. Her skin is still pink from the hot water and I can already smell her soap and shampoo from here. She’s dressed in boxers and an old t-shirt that’s nearly worn out. It’s going to be time to throw it away soon, and that’ll be an argument. I’ll throw out the old rag, and she’ll rescue it. We’ll go on like that for weeks. It’s almost a game between us now.

"You," I start with a little growl, stretching out, "have far too many clothes on."

She stops and grins down at me. "I do, huh?"

I nod. "Uh huh. You are not getting on these silk sheets with," I gesture to her outfit, "that on."

She crosses her arms over her chest. "What do you suggest I wear?"

I lift the top sheet so she can see what I’m wearing. "Something like this."

Slowly she wipes the corner of her mouth and clears her throat. "Not much there. I might catch cold."

"You might," I agree with a little pout. "Then again you might get so hot, you’ll sweat."

She nods and wiggles her brows at me. "You really think that could happen?"

"I’m willing to bet good money on it, Stud."

She pulls the T-shirt off quickly. "Then I’m going to have to risk it."

As soon as she’s in bed, we are in each other’s arms. There is no doubt that it’s going to be a long sleepless night, but we’re going to have fun. "Harper?"

"Hmmm?" She nuzzles my neck, knowing exactly where to nibble to drive me crazy.

"Did you close the window?"


* * *


The next morning, I wander downstairs to get the paper. I’m impressed that I’m even up at this hour. I feel wonderfully relaxed and happy. Sated is another word that comes to mind. Oh, yeah. Sated.

I think fresh air is just the thing for the Conspiracy. We need to get them out more often. Let them run around and work up an appetite. She was voracious last night, that’s for sure. I’ll have to see if the boys found the same thing out.

I open the front door and find the baby monitor crushed on top of the Times-Picayune. I chuckle. Guess Robie and Ren found it in their bedroom last night. I hope Ren doesn’t choose to mention our little broadcast last night.

I also hope they didn’t listen too long before smashing it. I glance over at my brother’s house and see him walking toward his car. "Mornin’," I call out sweetly.

He alters course to visit with me before heading off to work. "Care to explain?" He nudges the remains of the receiver with his toe.

I smile. "Oh, Ren mentioned something about wanting to be inspired."

He folds his arms across his chest, puffing it out, and trying to look studly. It cracks me up. "I hardly think so. We do have three kids, Harper Lee."

"Robie, you and I both know that reproduction has very little to do with finesse. I mean, come on, Jean has five rug rats."

"True," he admits. "Do you mind, however, in the future not broadcasting how happily married you and Kels are? I know you don’t suffer from it, but, well, some of us can have performance anxiety, if you know what I mean."

I chuckle. "I gotcha."

"Of course, Mama had a good laugh when she dropped off one of the toys we left behind yesterday."

I feel my face flush. "You’re shitting me."

Robie grins. "You hope I am."


* * *


Ah, peace and quiet. Brian and the babies are still asleep. Kels is snuggled against me in the kitchen. She’s wearing a rather sheer robe, for which I’m grateful that Brian is so gay one could almost consider him a lesbian. I’m in my boxers and tank top. I found it in the trash this morning. Kels needs to learn to not do that. So I’m wearing it.

We’re lazily sharing bites of breakfast and kisses. We’re doing less well sharing the paper, but we’re managing.

Suddenly, our quiet morning is interrupted. Christian comes running in through the back door, the screen door banging closed in his wake. Next to rumble through is Clark, followed by Kelly in a stroller. Rene is at the stroller’s helm. She surveys our state of casual dress and rolls her eyes. "Good Lord."

"Problem?" My girl gives my sister a huge, shit-eating grin that does me proud.

Christian looks up at his favorite aunt. "You’re all clear, Aunt Kels."

Kels laughs, but, in an effort to not highlight the issue more, doesn’t bolt from the room. "Yes, dear, I know. Tante Harper is going to go get me a heavier robe, isn’t she?"

I reach over and snag the apron from the nearby stool. I drape it around my wife’s neck. "Does this warm you up, sweetheart?"

"No. And if you don’t go get me a proper robe, it’ll be awhile before I warm you up again."

Christian snickers, able to recognize I’m in trouble, but not quite sure why. I tousle his hair as I hustle upstairs. I’m not stupid. I take that back. I’m not that stupid. I grab Kels’ heavier robe and head back to the kitchen. "Here you go, chér," I try again, leaning down to kiss her cheek by way of apology.

Rene helps herself to a cup of coffee, and pours the boys some juice. They go over to the little plastic dining set we have in the kitchen. It’s so damn cute. I watch as Christian helps little Clark steady himself on the bench. He’s a good older brother. Of course, Christian then pats Clark’s head like a prize puppy before going to his side of the table.

"Thank you," Kels sighs. She looks over at Rene. "Still so raw this one. Lots of material to work with here."

"Oh, yes, I heard you working."

"No, that was playing," Kels replies.

Rene smirks. "Sounded like a lot of work to me. I mean, Harper had a lot of orders to follow all at once."

"Yes, good thing for me she multitasks very well."

My face is turning red, but neither Kels nor Rene looks bothered at all. Rene swirls more cream into her cup. "Hmm … I didn’t think you two were still in broadcasting though."

"I told her to close the window." I get a reproving look. I wonder when I get a reproving hit. "She just didn’t listen. I told you, I still have things to work on."

"Uh huh." Rene smiles maliciously in my direction. She reaches into the stroller and pulls out a baby monitor and places it on the table. "Recognize this?"

Shit, shit, shit. Hey, wait a minute. I carefully disposed of the remnant earlier. "I don’t," I grumble. Rene ignores me.

"Why, yes; yes, I do. How in the world did you get that?"

"Since yours met an untimely end last night, Robie and I thought you might like ours for tonight. Seeing how there seems to be a competition …"

Oh God. I am burned.

"Harper?" my wife’s voice is still sweet for the moment. "You want to tell me why our monitor met an untimely demise?"


"I really think you should." Her eyes flick toward our sister. "Or maybe you’d like Rene to tell me?"

I try to quickly decide which would be worse. When Rene offers to tell, I make up my mind. "It seems that when I took out the trash last night, that somehow our baby receiver ended up in their bedroom."

"Tell her where the monitor ended up," Rene prompts, enjoying herself far too much.

"I’m getting to that," I growl. "I think it might have been in our bedroom."

"You think?"

I rub my nose and give Ren the bird. It’s straight from junior high, but it works. "Robs been needing some help."

Kels turns to face Rene, and I figure that I am about to be completely roasted. "Robie needs help? How about Viagra? I hear it works wonders." She glances over her shoulder at me. "I don’t think Robie needs our help, though, Harper Lee. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, ma’am. Loud and clear."

"Good. Now apologize to Rene. And tonight, we’re gonna baby-sit so Robie and Rene can have some nice, quality time together."

My sister looks triumphant and I suddenly realize this is why she came over here. She didn’t want to get even, she wanted to drop off the kids. My eyes narrow and I study her, wondering how exactly I will get even. Because, I will. "Sorry, Ren. And we’re looking forward to have the boys and Kelly over tonight."


<fade out>


© 2001 Exposure Productions. All rights reserved. The Content is protected in the U.S. and internationally by a variety of laws, including, but not limited to, copyright laws and treat provisions, and other proprietary rights laws.

You are hereby granted permission to receive a copy of the Content from the mailing list or web site in whole or in part, (and, except where otherwise specified or provided by Exposure Productions, print a single copy of the Content for your own personal use) but only for purposes of viewing and browsing through the Content. You are also hereby granted permission to store the files on your computer for your own personal use. All other use of Content from the mailing list or web site, including, but not limited to modification, publication, transmission, participation in the transfer or sale of, reproduction, creation of derivative works from, distribution, performance, display, incorporation into another web site, reproducing the Content (whether by linking, framing or any other method), or in any other way exploiting any of the Content, in whole or in part, for uses other than those expressly permitted may not be made without Exposure Productions’ prior express written consent.

Legal Disclaimer

Though this series is inspired by certain actual incidents, it is a work of fiction and references to real people and organizations are included only to lend a sense of authenticity. All of the characters, whether central or peripheral, are wholly the product of the authors’ imagination, as are their actions, motivations, thoughts and conversations, and neither the characters nor the situations which were invented for them are intended to depict real people or real events. In particular, the depictions of CBS and NBC are not meant to portray the corporations, or any individual within the corporations, but are only used to lend a sense of authenticity to this work of fiction.