It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… Part two

Ben and I made it back to the house around noon and then he was off again to check on his patients at his practice. I was grumbling uncharitable things under my breath about the lack of help when Mark wandered in to the kitchen. The smell of alcohol hit me and my head snapped up.

“What is it, Mark?”

He looked at me, eyes wet with tears. “I miss Max.”

“Oh honey,” I gathered him up in a hug. “I know you do.”

“I want him back, Marlowe. I want him back so bad.” He shuddered with his tears and clung on to me.

There was nothing that I could say to make him feel better. I knew that much. So I stood there in the kitchen and rubbed his back while he cried. Miles came in and saw us together and without saying anything, wrapped his arms around the both of us. A small hiccup from Mark shook us out of our reverie and I patted Miles on the shoulder.

“Miles is going to finish putting away the groceries for me and I’m going to take you upstairs, where you’re going to lie down for a change.” Mark protested and I held up a hand to his mouth. “No. I know you haven’t been sleeping. You will take a nap and I will stay with you, understand?”

Mark relented and nodded. I guided him out of the kitchen and up the stairs, calling for Gibbs along the way, but he was too busy being a puppy with the Twins in the other room. I shrugged and Mark and I walked up the stairs together. I talked Mark in to getting in to bed and pulled a chair over. I closed the curtains in the room and then sat down in the chair.

“Marlowe?”

“Yeah Mark?”

“I love you.”

“I love you too, Mark.”

“You’re the best friend I could have.”

“You’re damn right I am.” I heard Mark laugh a little and I smiled.

“I miss him. We had just started talking about adopting when he died.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“We didn’t want to tell anyone yet. Still discussing where we were going to adopt.” I heard him shift in bed and then a sigh. “I’ll sign the papers on the thirteenth. The Realtor found a buyer already.”

“So that’s it? You’ll finish moving in here then?”

“Yeah.”

I thought about it for a while. “You know you’re welcome to stay as long as you want, right? You’re family.”

“Yeah.” There was silence from his side of the room for a bit and then he said, “as much as I miss Max, I’m glad I have you.”

“Me too, Mark. Now close your eyes and try to sleep. I’ll be here.”

“Okay.”

There was some shifting around. His breathing evened out after a while and I yawned. I might as well take a nap too since I was here.

Ben shook my shoulder a few hours later and motioned for me to come in to the hall. I checked on Mark, he was still sleeping. I stepped out in to the hall ans stretched. My neck popped and Ben winced.

“You know, most men would be jealous if they came home to find their girlfriend sleeping in another man’s room.”

“He’s not sleeping. Had a break down today.” I said as I stepped in to his arms and hugged him.

“I know. He’s been pacing his room and the hall for a couple of weeks now.”

“He’s hurting and I don’t know how to help. Mine was so different.”

“We’re doing what we can. He knows we’re here for him if he needs help.”

“I know. It’s just frustrating.”

“I know, ‘Lowe.” He said and he kissed my hair.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“I’m gonna go back and sit with him some more. Will you take dinner tonight?”

“Yeah, I can do that. Pancakes?”

I smiled. “Apples and cinnamon?”

“You got it.” He kissed me and strolled off down the hall.

I smiled and walked back in to Marks room. Settling down in the chair again, I heard Mark sigh and roll over.

“How long was I out?” He murmured sleepily.

“Well, it’s about six now and you went down about one; so about five hours.” I replied. “Ben’s home, he’s making apple cinnamon pancakes.”

“My favorite.” He said with a yawn.

“Mine too so if you want some, you’re going to have to get out of that bed and shower. You reek.” I said and watched him smile.

“Okay.”

“While you’re doing that, I’m going downstairs to hassle Miles about Denver. I feel nosy today.”

“He took Denver’s ring back to the store.”

That brought me up short. “You’ll have to elaborate on that.”

Mark sighed. “He’s not going to propose anymore. He’s pretty much going to break things off with Denver because they just can’t seem to work out their issues.”

I tapped my fingers on my chin. “Is there a pool on how long that’s going to last?”

Mark laughed so hard there was tears coming out of his eyes. “Yeah. I’m in for twenty that says they’re back together again by Valentine’s Day.”

“Damn it, you stole the good one.”

Mark hiccuped and started laughing again. “I know. That’s what Ben said when he put his twenty in the pot for Saint Paddy’s.”

“Why am I always the last one to know about these things?” I whined.

Mark grinned. “Because you’d tell Miles and we’re not ready for him to find out yet.”

“I can keep a secret from Miles. I’ve had more practice at it.” I huffed. “Take your shower. I’m going to have pancakes. I will save you some.”

I walked out of the room before Mark could reply and made my way downstairs to give Ben an earful about not telling me about the pool. When I walked in to the kitchen, it was covered in flour again and my very tall boyfriend looked like a ghost. I couldn’t help my reaction. I started laughing.

“What happened?” I said through laughter and hiccups.

“The Twins.” Ben said, ruefully.

That only made me laugh harder. When something cold and sticky hit my chest and sank under the collar of my v-neck t-shirt, I stopped laughing and eyed Ben.

“I hope you know, this means war.”

“Bring it, Red.”

I threw a handful of pre-seasoned apples at him and the war was on. It ended when Jude came in and yelled at us. looking down at my feet while she stared us down, I nudged Ben. He nudged me back and then Judge separated us with an exasperated sigh.

“You two act more like the pair of nine-year-olds that I just took upstairs to bathe.”

“He started it.” I said, sullenly.

The noise his mother made was hilarious.

“You’re thirty years old, Child. You know better.”

Ben snickered and I stepped on his toes. He cursed at me and made Jude smile.

“Clean this up. I’ll ask Miles what to do about dinner.” She said as she walked out of the room. A second later, she stuck her head back in the room and said, “and no making out!”

I started laughing again as I reached for the broom closet. I found myself plucked from my path and plopped on to the counter. I eyed Ben, who leaned down and kissed me. I reached up and pulled him closer, kissing him back. When we broke apart he kissed my nose.

“Thanks for being a five-year old with me.”

“Likewise.” I said and kissed his chin.

“Marry me?”

“Yes.”

He kissed me hard and pulled me back in to his arms. I kissed him back, wrapping my arms around his waist and keeping him close. I always imagined the big fan fare and the huge moment; but sitting on that counter in the kitchen covered in flour and spiced applies, I realized that this was perfect.

-Marlowe

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

So the first of December rolled around and the house decided to go all out. I was woken up by Ben shaking me. He was laughing.

“HabibI, you have  to come see this. It’s hilarious. My mother is freaking out.”

I yawned, lifted my head out from under a pillow and shoved my hair aside to look at him.

“What?”

“Come see!” He said. “I got up to go pee and the house decorated itself!”

I groaned and wiggled my way to the edge of the bed. I stuck one foot out and touched the floor. With a yelp I pulled my foot back inside and burrowed in to the covers.

“Nope, too cold. Go back to bed, heathen.” I pulled the covers over my head as I heard Ben laugh.

Something landed on my hand as I debated braving the floor again to jump him. I peeked out at it and found a pair of my fluffy socks.

“Damn it. You know my weakness.”

“Get up. I have coffee. We’re not going anywhere anyway. We’ve got another foot and a half out there and it’s looking to keep falling all day.” Ben said as he walked out of the room.

I got up with a sigh and put on the socks as my feet dangled over the side of the bed. I was looking out the window when it dawned on me that four-thirty in the morning should not be that bright outside. Getting all the way out of the bed, I grabbed my robe as I passed the chair and put it on. When I glanced outside, I saw the house was lit up completely and there was a new row of white pine trees that had lights on them lining the drive way.

I sighed. “House? Can you get rid of the pine trees, please, and give us tall Oaks? They’d look nicer all year round. You can even put the lights on them if you like.”

The house rumbled in response and I got the general feeling to look away from the window.

“I’m going downstairs for coffee. Thank you, House.”

I tied the robe as I trudged downstairs. Ben met me in the hall way with a steaming mug.

“What was that?”

“I asked the house for a change in it’s decorating plans. I think it likes my idea.”

“What’d you ask for?”

“If the house does as I asked, you’ll see soon. Just don’t look outside yet.”

I sipped from my mug and slowly woke up. That’s when I noticed the inside of the house was just as decorated. There were garlands and wreaths everywhere. I poked my head in to the great hall and found a fourteen foot tall pine tree, fully decorated. I sighed.

“Let me guess, the house has trees everywhere?”

“Yup. Every single room, except for ours. I fully expect by the time we go back upstairs, to have one where the settee is.” Ben said, sipping his coffee.

“Where’s your mother?”

“Lying down. The house shocked the hell out of her when the tree in her room.”

I snorted a laugh. “I know something of what that’s like.”

“You house wanted you to have fun on the fourth. The fireworks were awesome, by the way.”

I leaned against Ben and took in the sight of our tree. At least we didn’t have to go get it and then get have to work out how to get it in to the castle. I was still pondering the tree when I heard a muffled yell from upstairs. I looked up at Ben who smiled at me.

“Miles.” We said together and then started laughing when Mark joined him.

“You know, this house is rarely quiet for long.”

“Would you have it any other way?”

I thought about it for a minute, then shook my head. “No.”

“I thought so. Whose turn is it for breakfast?”

“Mine. I need pants if I’m going to make breakfast though.” I said as I made my way to the stairs with my mug.

Ben followed behind me with his own. “I’ll help.”

“Liar. You just want the shower before all the hot water is gone.”

He laughed as we ducked in to our room. “Maybe.”

An hour later I was downstairs, beating the batter for pancakes when Jude came in. I smiled at her.

“How was your first house decorating?”

She snorted. “This town is bat-shit crazy.”

“Welcome to Blueville. The little town in the mountains where everyone’s definition of ‘bat-shit crazy’ changes on a daily basis until it’s not only normal, but acceptable.” I said with a laugh as I dipped out batter to fry up a stack of cakes for her.

Jude laughed and poured herself coffee. I put the stack of pancakes in front of her a few minutes later while she was sipping from the mug.

“Tell me about how you met.”

“Your son helped me move in when Miles bailed on me for Denver. Apparently, they had really fantastic sex and he passed out.”

Jude choked on a bite of pancake. I slapped her back to help her dislodge the piece.

“Excuse me? He helped you move in?”

“Yeah. He was home that day, the reason escapes me now, but he was quite cross with Miles because no one was helping me.”

“Well, I did raise him to mind his neighbors.”

I grinned and wiggled my eyebrows at her. She inhaled coffee down the wrong pipe as she laughed. Ben walked in at that point and thumped her back for me.

“Are you trying to kill my mother?”

“Nope, just make her laugh.” I said as I dipped out more pancakes for Ben.

Pretty soon the whole house was up and I was making another batch while discussing what we were going to do that day. That’s when Jude announced she was leaving on Monday. The room went quiet. Kind of. I burned my hand so there was a round of expletives and laughter at my carelessness. The Twins thought it was particularly funny until the Sheriff, who was still here because he’d taken the weekend off, glared at them and motioned for them to be quiet.

“But you can’t leave! We like you here!” I said.

“I can and I will. I have a dig to catch up on. Two weeks. I’ll be back in time for Christmas and New Year’s.”

I looked up at Ben. I could tell he was hurting too, but he’d respect the decision. At least he had his mother back in his life.

“Okay, so I think the first thing we should do today is head to town if we can and pick up groceries. That storm might get worse, I want to make sure there’s enough food in the house.” I said, changing the subject.

“I have the roads to check on. Can I leave the twins here?” The Sheriff asked.

“Absolutely. We’ll take them for the day.” Ben said before I could.

“I’ll stay home with them.” Mark spoke up. “I have nothing to go out for. I can do my work from home.”

“It’s settled then. They’re staying. Go do police work.” I said to the Sheriff.

He laughed and got up. “Yes, Ma’am.”

I sat to eat and Ben got out the list we’d been writing for the week. We went over it together, cutting the sugar out to the protest of the Twins and Miles. Thirty minutes later, Ben and I were piled in to my truck and headed in to town with the list. Miles, Mark and Jude were in the living room, playing on the Wii.

I just hoped the TV was in one piece when we got home.

-Marlowe

Thanksgiving, Part 2

So after a lengthy conversation with Grandmama Murphy, She eventually agreed to come over early and help. She didn’t trust that I wasn’t going to go all comic book villain on her and I don’t honestly blame her. The past few weeks I’ve lost my temper and my control more times than I’m comfortable with.

Grandma Oberly would have told me that losing one’s temper is the result of having a family and feelings about them. I would have told her that when most people lose their control, they don’t run the risk of impaling the nearest person with something metal. She would have smacked the back of my head, but reluctantly admitted that I had a point.

I miss her. So much.

When Jude came back in, she saw the knives cleared away and we were all doing our best with the knives that I could fix.

“Need a hand?” She asked.

I handed over my knife. “Go, go veggie chop! I need to shower and clean up.”

I left and they were still laughing. I made my way upstairs and in to the shower without encountering anyone. I needed the time alone.  I was leaning against the shower wall, letting the spray beat over my shoulders when I heard the door open and close.

“You’re late. I figured that you wouldn’t be joining me.”

“Lies. You’re naked. I just had to avoid my mother.” Ben said as he climbed in to the shower with me.

I leaned back against him. “I love you.”

I felt him kiss my hair and smile. “I love you too.”

“Do you think we can handle it?”

“My mother? Yes. Thanksgiving? There might be more blood. I heard Miles complaining about blisters. He was hand whipping cream.”

I laughed. “He does know my mixer is in the cabinet right above his head, right?”

“No and I wasn’t about to tell him.” Ben laughed.

“Evil. I love it.” I said, laughing with him.

“While we still have time to ourselves.. ” Ben hinted. I grinned and turned around to kiss him.

It was an hour and a half before we made it back down stairs, but we were laughing like idiots and feeling good. Walking in to the kitchen we were immediately drafted in to making pies. The turkeys were already in the ovens and everyone was making some sort of dessert for the oven we had left. We worked together, cracking jokes and making each other laugh until the pies were out of the oven and the only thing left was stuffing, gravy and turkeys, but those had to wait until the turkeys were done. So we spent most of the time left setting up tables, buffet style.

“Do you think we have enough seating?” I asked Ben as we shoved another couch in to the great hall.

Ben grunted and shoved the couch along a wall. “If we don’t, I don’t care. my back hurts and I’m tired of moving furniture into the hall.”

I watched him flop down on the couch we just moved with a sigh and then climbed in to his lap.

“Snuggle me.” I demanded as I curled around him.

“With pleasure.” He said.

The sound of the fire soon lulled us to sleep and we woke up to Grandmama Murphy standing over us, clucking her tongue.

“You two. Get up! The turkeys are done and there’s stuffing to be made.” She said. She then turned on her heel and went off to the kitchen.

I yawns and rubbed my eyes. Ben shifted underneath me and yawned.

“Hi Sleepy.” I said and kissed him.

“Hello Beautiful.” He looked around and found that it was almost dark. “What time is it?”

“Time enough to go make stuffing and gravy. Grandmama was just in here.” I said as I got up out of out nest and stretched.

Ben watched me stretch and when I noticed, wiggled his eyebrows at me. I laughed.

“No. We’re not sneaking off and leaving the mess for everyone else.” Ben pouted, but I held firm. “No. Turkey must be carved.”

Ben sighed. “Okay. Give me a hand up, will you?”

I grabbed his hand and tugged, but he caught me off guard and yanked me down on to the couch again and tickled me until I was out of breath.

“That was mean.” I said.

Ben nuzzled my neck. “But worth it.” He gave me another kiss and helped me up. We walked hand in hand in to the kitchen and found a mess. There was whipped creme everywhere. Ben and I stood in the doorway, mouths hanging open.

“What the bloody hell happened here?” I demanded.

Miles and Mark looked down and Jude started laughing. “Food fight!”

I could feel my lips twitching. “Well I’m not cleaning this up. I’ll take the dogs out.”

“I’m with you.” Ben said and we went out in to the main hallway to pile in to outdoor gear for the trip outside.

The dogs figured out what was going on and started dancing at the door to go outside. I opened the door and let the dogs out, laughing along with Ben as they rolled each other in the snow.

We’d been out for at least a half hour when the first of the guests started to arrive. It was the Sheriff and his twins. They were out of the car and rocketing across the lawn to roll with the dogs before Sheriff Stier’s could stop them.

“Oh let them be, Eric. It’s holiday.” I said as I hugged him hello.

He handed over a bottle of wine and shook Ben’s hand.

“I can’t help it. I worry.”

“They’ll be fine, but it’s time to go in. We’ve been outside long enough.”

Ben called the dogs and the Twins in and there was much groaning and complaining as we all piled inside and took off the outdoor gear.

“There’s a new board game in the great hall and Frosty is on the TV, go keep out of trouble.” I said and watched them take off running with the dogs.

“No magic!” Ben shouted at them.

A chorus of over the shoulder “okay!” was faintly heard as they were already in the Great Hall. I shook my head at them.

“They’ll claim they didn’t hear you the second they make something explode, you know.”

“I just hope it’s nothing that leaves squishy bits all over the hall.” Ben grumbled.

“Well, there isn’t any jello in there so this time it won’t be us cleaning it out of the rafters again.” I said as we led the Sheriff in to the kitchen. He was laughing.

“You two don’t tell me anything about my own kids. I’d have grounded them for that.” He said.

“We made them sit in time out for an hour, in different rooms. That was torture enough.” I said.

I handed off the bottle to Mark as we made the introductions. More and more people arrived after the Sheriff did, pretty soon we were looking at a full house. The party was in full swing when Grandmama Murphy brought out the turkey and we set up the buffet. The conversation hum was light and joking and I was just becoming hopeful that we were going to make it without an incident when Grandmama Murphy came up behind me and told me there was a problem. I snagged Ben and we met her in the hall way.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Well I don’t want you to be alarmed, but there’s a couple of FBI agents here and one of them is Miles’s ex-boyfriend.”

I swore. “Oh that’s all we need. I don’t care about them being FBI. I care that Miles and Denver, who are currently canoodling on my settee, are going to get in to another fight.”

“Another fight?” Ben asked.

“Just after they arrived. Something about pastries. I put a stop to it while you were chasing down Gibbs who’d stolen a shoe.”

“So, the FBI?” Murphy said.

I sighed. “Lead on, Grandmama.”

She led us all in to the kitchen where the agents were sitting at the table, eating pie. I smiled at that. Grandmama always looked out for us and whomever need a spot of food on a cold night. I coughed to bring attention to myself and they looked up.

“Hello. I’m Marlowe Oberly and this is Ben Solt.”

They scrambled to stand, but I waved them off and sat down at the table with them.

“I’m Vaughn Beazley and this is my partner Tucker Groue. We’re here to do the pre-investigation for the attempted bombing trial.”

“No offense meant by this, because I’m glad you’re here, but couldn’t it have waited until after the holiday?”

The man named Tucker squirmed in his chair. “We’re kind of pressed for time since the defendant exercised his right to a speedy trial. It means that the trial is moving up to the spring instead of waiting for all the pre-trial hearings.”

I swore. I was just about to ask more questions when Miles and Mark came in to the kitchen with empty platters. I nudged Ben and he got up to take the dishes before Miles saw his ex-boyfriend sitting at our table. I watched Miles turn around and see me, then look at his ex.

“You! What the fuck are you doing here!?” Miles shouted.

I laid my head on the table and groaned. Ben stepped in between Miles and Vaughn.

“Now Miles. Things might have ended badly last year but that’s no reason to shout at the Agent who’s helping your cousin lock up Steve.”

Miles glared at Ben, then at Vaughn and he stormed out of the kitchen.

“Well, that certainly could have gone better.” Tucker said.

Vaughn glared at Tucker and I smiled at him like I’d found a new best friend.

-Marlowe

The Twins

So when Ben and I walked in to the castle, we found chaos. Mark floated by, looking annoyed. Ben and I started laughing.

“It’s not funny.” He said.

“It is. A little.” I snickered.

I saw his lips twitch a little bit. “So maybe it is a little funny, but I was making dinner.”

I shouted for Bonnie and when she walked in to the room I pointed at Mark. “We do not disrespect those who would make us dinner when we do not have to. Set him down. Gently.”

Bonnie pouted and looked from me to Ben, then sighed. “Okay. Fine.” She waved her hand and Mark floated down, landing gently.

She turned to leave and I coughed. “You’re forgetting something, young lady.”

There was an even bigger sigh, followed by “I’m sorry, Uncle Mark.”

“Apology accepted. Now, come with me and I’ll show you how to make fish sticks.” Mark said as he took her hand and led her in to the kitchen.

Ben wrapped his arms around my waist and kissed my temple. “Well handled.”

I ran my hands over his and smiled. “Thanks. She just wants attention. Losing a Mom is hard.”

“At any age.” Ben said.

“Yeah. At any age.”

“I’m not mad you know.” He said as he walked us towards the hall closet so I could take off my coat and boots.

“What gave away my worry?” I said as I wiggled out of his arms and took the items off.

“You forehead wrinkles and your jaw muscles twitch when you’re worried,” He picked up the twin’s bags that had been left in the middle of the hall and moved them to sit by the staircase. “and you frown a lot.”

“You pay too much attention.” I said as I moved to stow my bag in the closet after removing my cell phone. I had a feeling I was going to need it tonight.

“Not nearly enough, in my opinion.” He said as he picked me up and kissed my nose. “For example, I didn’t notice that you’d gone without this morning or I’d have made you very late for work. I also didn’t notice that you smell of grease and it’s be coming quite sexy.”

I grinned and kissed him. “While Uncle Miles and Mark have them busy, let’s escape. You can wash my back.”

“I like your brain.” He said as we headed up the stairs. We got halfway up the flight when there was a loud bang and a sharp cry coming from the great hall. The sound of murmurs coming from the room settled us though. Miles sounded like he was handling things just fine.

“Hurry. Before they catch us or something else happens.” I said and Ben ran up the stairs.

We were back down stairs an hour later, laughing together like a couple of idiots. Hand in hand we walked in to the kitchen and found ourselves in pure chaos. There was flour everywhere. It covered every single surface and all six of its occupants. I groaned and tapped my forehead against Ben’s arm.

“Um, what happened?” Ben asked as he looked around the room.

“Well, I was trying to teach Bonnie how to properly dredge and flour fish when Miles and Peter chased Gibbs in here because he had a hold of Miles’s new shoes. Peter tried to cast a spell and it exploded the eggs. Bonnie tried to cast another one, before we could stop her, and that exploded the flour.”

When Bonnie and Peter started to giggle I shot them a look. They immediately sobered up and looked  down at the floor. The headache that I had earlier from the knocks to the head I took was coming back with a vengeance.

“Okay. Everyone cleans. No one leaves the kitchen until it’s done. Ben and I are going to take the two dogs upstairs and give them baths.” I said. I stopped and scooped up Gibbs.

“No magic. As soon as the kitchen is clean, clean yourselves.” Ben said as he picked up Winston who was trying to hide under a table.

We walked out while Bonnie and Peter were still whining about not being able to use their magic. I stopped, went back and poked my head in to the room.

“You don’t have control over your magic. I have control over mine. That’s why I can use mine and you are not to use yours.” They tried whining again and when I caused two pots to smash together, they shut up. “Do not use your magic. Look at the mess you created while trying to use it for something that you should have done with your hands. In this house we do not squander magic on what can be done by hand.”

With that, I marched upstairs with Ben to wash the dogs. Locking ourselves in the bathroom, I took a minute to down a couple of aspirin after we put the dogs down. Ben came up behind me and rubbed my shoulders.

“You handled that well.”

“Oh, that’s good. “I sighed leaning back against him. “You handled it well too. I didn’t think of the ‘no magic’ rule.”

“That’s because you’re not used to dealing with kids who have powers that need to be controlled.” Ben pointed out as he let go of me and removed Winston’s collar.

I opened the taps and adjusted them so it was warm water coming out. “And you are?”

“In the five years I’ve been in town, Maggie tried to set me up with more than one woman who had kids.” He said as he started to rinse off Winston. His coat was an egg and flour filled mess.

“That  sounds like her.” I said as I started shampooing where Ben had already been with the water.

Ben laughed. “It’s very much like her. Anyway. The Thompson twins are witches too.”

I bobbled the shampoo bottle. Thompson. Marjorie Thompson. No wonder why she glares at me when I’m in the Countryside Market. I groaned.

“Fuck. No wonder she doesn’t like me.” I hung my head, which Winston took as a sign I needed kisses and started to lick the side of my face. “Thanks Winston.”

I saw Ben’s lips quirk and then he leaned over and licked my mother cheek. I started laughing and pushed him off.

“Gee, that was sweet of you.”

“I do what I can.” Ben said as he started rinsing the soap off of Winston’s back.

We worked in tandem, cracking jokes and getting each other wet fighting over the hand-held shower head on the bathtub. The dogs thought it was great fun and joined in, getting us even more soaked and covered in the smell of wet dogs. We were drying the dogs off when the twins appeared in the doorway, still covered in flour and egg goop. I nudged Ben.

“Well, looks like you two had fun.”

The twins sighed and rolled their eyes at us.

“The Uncles sent us upstairs. They said to tell you that and to ask you where we can shower.” Bonnie said.

“You can shower in here, Pete. Bonnie come with me.” I said as I got up and led Bonnie to another bathroom down the hall.

I went and chose rooms for them while I was waiting. When Bonnie stepped out of the shower, I showed her to her room for the evening. She squealed with delight when she stepped in to the room that was painted in a rich purple and decked out in a four poster curtained bed.

“I take it you like your room?” I asked. She just hugged me.

“Yes! How did you know?”

“How did I know what?”

“That this was my favorite color and type of bed?” She said, practically bouncing from one foot to the other.

“Really? Mine too. I really like the curtains.”

Bonnie stopped bouncing and looked up at me. “Will you read to me tonight?”

“Sure thing, poppet. What would you like to read?”

Bonnie ran down the hall and got her bag that she left in the bathroom. Hauling it down to where I was at, she brought it inside and dug through it until a tattered copy of The Hobbit was revealed. I laughed.

“You know this was my favorite when I was your age?” I said as I took her hand and helped her get in to bed.

Bonnie brushed her hair as I settled down in a chair next to the bed to read to her.

“No way!” She said.

“Big way. Now lie down and I’ll read.” I watched until she settled down in bed.

Then I began reading to her. Bonnie didn’t even make it past the first chapter before she was out like a light. Smiling to myself, I got up and walked as quietly as possible out of the room. As I closed her door, I head a cough from Ben.

“Well?” He said with a raised eyebrow.

“One chapter of The Hobbit and she was out. You?”

“Chapter and a half of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.”

“Well, at least they have good taste in books.” I said as I took his hand and walked down stairs with Ben.

It was after 9pm when we walked in to the kitchen. It sparkled. We walked in to the great hall to find Miles and Mark passed out cold on the couches.

“Next time we’ll have to make sure they’re not involved. They weren’t supposed to help.” I whispered to Ben.

“What makes you so sure there will be a next time?” Ben whispered back.

“I promised the Sheriff I’d babysit if he passed along information.”

Ben was quiet and for a second, I was afraid he would get angry. I should have known better. Ben is not Timothy.

“That’s actually a pretty good idea.” Ben said. “Good thinking.”

“Thanks.” I said and tugged him out of the room. “Another shower and then bed for us. They’ll pick themselves up later.”

“Another good idea. You’re just full of them tonight.”

I laughed. “I try.”

An hour later we tumbled into bed, clean and happy.

-Marlowe