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Chapter Notes: Written for the schmoop_bingo prompt "Kidfic - birthday".
Chapter 11 :: William's Second Birthday
By A. Magiluna Stormwriter
++ Monica ++
"What are we going to do when he's old enough to actually remember these parties?" Dana asks softly, leaning closer into my body.
"No idea," I whisper back. "But I’m more worried about what we're going to do with all these Thomas toys. There's got to be fifteen different toys here at least!"
Dana chuckles ruefully, as if just realizing the implications of what I'm saying. Thankfully, the rest of the adults were quite judicious in what kind of toys they got for William. And given that he's the youngest of six boys here at the Ranch, these adults have a good grasp on what toys are appropriate for him. Anastasia and Tessa spoiled him with clothing and a fantastic little ice cream cake of his very own, which is currently being smeared across his face and chest. Hopefully most of it is making it into his mouth. I'm quite sure it's a gourmet cake, too; Anastasia is not the kind of person to frequent a place like Dairy Queen or Baskin Robbins.
Darya wanders past us, holding a limp Wynnie in her arms. The little girl has been going through a growth spurt that has been wearing her out easily of late. Of course, all of the games with the other children have more than contributed to her exhaustion, too. Darya settles next to us at the table, shifting Wynnie against her chest more comfortably.
"This was a wonderful party," she replies with a tired grin. "Want to plan the party for Trisha and Dobby, too?"
"Um, maybe not?" Dana is quick with her less than positive response, smirking broadly. "How on earth do you do it with four kids under the age of ten, Dare? William alone is sometimes more than I can handle."
Darya shrugs and smiles, eyes going distant for a moment with some memory or other. When she blinks and blushes, we offer knowing chuckles. "We just do, I guess. Then again, we really have eight under foot. Emily and Cubby are fantastic at helping take care of their younger siblings. Fawn does what she can, but she still prefers playing baby doll with Wynnie more than anything else." She pauses, glancing down at her sleeping daughter. "I'm not sure I could deal with just one anymore. When it was just Emily in the beginning, she was my everything. And she still is, don't get me wrong, but each of my children are so special to me. I wouldn't give up a single minute of any of it."
Dana's smile is just the slightest bit hesitant, but I don't think Darya notices it, being so focused on her youngest child. I lace my fingers with Dana's and squeeze lightly. I've been vaguely toying with the idea of approaching Dana about another child. I don't care which of us carries the new baby, though I certainly wouldn't mind doing it myself. And yet, because of that hesitation on Dana's part, I'm reticent to bring it up to her. And I certainly shouldn't be doing so on William's birthday.
"Mami! Mama! Cake!"
William's happy little voice cuts into my thoughts as easily as a hot knife through butter, and I set thoughts of more children aside once again. Dana starts to get up, but I squeeze her hand again. "I've got it, mi corazon," I reply, getting to my feet, and nod at Dare before walking over to the high chair in the middle of a large tarp. He's only been a few feet away from us this whole time, and Kat has been keeping him company while he tries to eat his cake by osmosis. "Hola, mi hijo," I say around a laugh at the sight of chocolate ice cream and bits of cake in his hair. "Mama isn't going to be able to find you under all that cake and ice cream."
"Some?" He thrusts a drippy brown hand toward me, and I dutifully lean in to take a bite of mushy cake and frosting.
"Mmm, that's yummy! May I have another bite?"
When he nods, I take a second bite and trap his little index finger between my lips, licking it clean until he giggles in delight and squirms in his chair. The moment I release his finger, he grabs for another handful of the gooey mess that's pretty damned tasty. I'm kind of jealous that he got this awesome cake all to himself. Maybe I can snag the leftovers; if there are any leftovers, that is. William's done a pretty good job of decimating the tasty treat as it is.
"Milk!" he says suddenly, turning to face Kat.
"What do you say, William?" she asks patiently, holding the cup just out of his reach. He grabs for the cup and pouts when he doesn't get it. "No, you know what to say to get your milk." After a moment, he finally signs the word please, smearing more of his cake into his clothes. "That's a good boy," she replies, holding the cup and straw closer for him to get a drink. When he's had his fill, he signs thank you and goes back to eating his melting cake and ice cream sludge.
"Thanks for keeping an eye on him, Kat."
"Anytime, Monica," she replies with a grin, then leans in with a conspiratorial twinkle in her eyes to whisper, "I kind of like being the official birthday kid herder around here. Just don't tell anyone that, okay?"
Chuckling myself, because we both know the truth that everyone knows she likes it, I nod and hold my hand up as if swearing an oath. "It'll be our little secret." Turning to face my son again, I just shake my head at the mess he's made of himself. "I think you are wearing more cake this year than you were last year, mi hijo. We're going to need a sandblaster to get the cake out of your hair."
"No, I think it'll require the clippers," Kat says in a deadly serious tone.
Whirling to face her again, I stare into those eyes, searching for the tiniest twinkle. "Don't you dare say that! Dana will have your hide if you think you'll be able to cut his hair yet."
"Who's going to be cutting my son's beautiful red hair?"
I stiffen at the sound of my beloved partner's voice coming from behind me. How in the hell does she sneak up on me like that? "Hey, baby," I say, turning to face her. "We were just--"
"Talking about cutting my son's hair to get it clean? Yes, I heard you. You're both on my list for that, you know." She pauses, leaning over to press a kiss to the only clean spot on William's forehead, and offers him a bright smile. "How's my birthday boy? Is that good cake?"
I get lost in watching the two of them chattering about the cake and the presents. I could do this for hours, days, and never get tired of it. There's a light in Dana's eyes; it's like she's almost glowing with the love and pride she feels for our son. It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life, and I don't ever want it to end.
"Mon? Do you want to get the presents or the sticky, dead weight of your son?"
Glancing back and forth between the bin of presents and the boy passed out in his high chair, I grin at Dana. "How about you go start his bath and I'll bring the birthday boy, then I'll come back for the presents while you're hosing him down?"
Dana grins broadly at that and nods. "Sounds like a plan," she says and heads off into our apartment.
I take my time in getting William out of the high chair, doing my best not to wake him up. The bulk of the party guests have already headed home to deal with their own over-stimulated children. Kat, Zo, and Kerry are working in a very concerted tandem to clean up the Great Room. I must say that Kat has certainly grown into an incredible young woman in the three and a half years I've known her.
Finally undoing the last strap holding him in, I lift William into my arms and immediately regret the movement as sticky, gluey clothes and skin press into my own. "Definitely gonna need a shower tonight," I mutter, shifting William into a better position, and head into the apartment. A soft little sound, somewhere between a sigh and a snore, emits from the head resting on my shoulder, and it takes everything in me not to laugh and potentially wake him up.
Dana's already got the tub filled and waiting for William when I step into the bathroom. She scoops him up into her arms and sets him on one folded towel on the counter, stripping off his clothes and pull-ups with practiced ease. I fall under the spell of her movements for a moment before she glances up at me with a knowing smirk.
"Don't you have a bin of presents to bring home?" she teases lightly.
Sticking my tongue out at her, I head back out of the apartment and into the Great Room again. The room is pretty quiet, but I can hear Grace Jones playing in the kitchen. Moving around the room to make sure that everything's picked up, I'm still impressed by how quickly the clean up went. Then again, with fifteen children under the age of thirteen, we've all had a lot of practice at these parties. Spotting a fork on the floor in a corner, I scoop it up and head into the kitchen.
"Hey, Kerry, I found--"
The words die in my throat when I register the sight before me. Kerry is sitting on the counter with her shirt unbuttoned and hanging open, Zo standing impossibly close between her legs. And I really didn't need to know just how far back Kerry's back can bend in that position. Thankfully, they have the good grace to look embarrassed, though Kerry doesn't really do anything to cover herself up.
Raising the fork, I set it on the counter space directly in front of me. "Sorry, didn't mean to interrupt. I just wanted to bring in this fork and make sure it wasn't forgotten. I'll just get the presents and leave you two alone now."
I turn around and flee the room before either of them can say anything. I stub my toe on the doorjamb to our apartment, but I don't care. The bin of presents gets dropped by the couch, and I pause for just a moment to determine where Dana and William are. The soft sounds of her voice coming from the bathroom are like a siren's song to me, and I am unable to resist the urge to follow. I lean against the doorframe, watching as Dana gently rinses the soap from William's hair with a cup.
"I don't know how you do it, son of mine," she says softly, "but this icing is just not coming out. I don't want to have to cut your hair, sweetheart, but I may not have a choice in the matter."
"Will an extra pair of hands help?"
Dana turns at my question and smiles her thanks. Moving to kneel next to her, I take over holding our son in place while she starts another round of shampooing his hair. I am struck by the domesticity of this whole scene, and I thank God again for bringing Dana into my life.
"Do you know there was cake smashed in between the cheeks of his cute little butt?"
I snort in startled amusement. "How in the hell…? No, I don't think I want to know how he did that. Do I?"
Dana shakes her head and continues to wash the sweet concoction out of William's hair and skin. I'm not sure how much time passes as we work in tandem to get him clean, but he feels even heavier when I move to pull him out of the tub and wrap him in a warm towel. Dana runs to get clean pajamas and a new pull-up while I dry him off. When she comes back in, she takes up the position I'd had when I first came into the bathroom.
"You look so gorgeous right now," she says softly. "There is something about you taking care of William that just tugs at me. Is this what it's like when you watch me with him?"
Accepting the clothes she hands me, I nod slowly and start to dress our son. "Pretty much. There's something about a mother and her child that just… I don't know how to explain it, Dana. But yeah, I'm guessing it's something similar to what you're feeling."
She grins and lets the water out of the tub as I finish getting William dressed. She leans over to wrap the towel on the counter around his dirty clothes. "It's a good thing Anastasia and Tessa bought William so many new clothes. I think these may well be a lost cause."
"Considering how long it took you to get the cake out of his hair?" I ask with a chuckle. "Yeah, I'd say the clothes are history."
Standing carefully, I shift William again and head into his bedroom. It takes only a moment or two to get him settled in his bed, Thomas lying nearby in case he wakes up in the night. Dana grabs the monitor to take with us, but neither of us is willing to leave just yet. We've both been guilty of spending hours watching William sleep. Dana was the worst about it just after he was born. She'd hold him in her arms for hours at a time, just touching him and watching him sleep. It was beautiful.
"So when are you going to tell me what's been on your mind all day, Mon?" Her soft voice breaks into my thoughts. "Or are you planning to make me work for it?"
I turn to face her for a moment. "It's… It's not nothing, but I'm not sure this is the right time. It's still William's birthday and we should focus on that, even if he's dead to the world right now."
Dana studies me for a long moment, those narrowed blue eyes holding my gaze like a hawk. "Okay," she finally says. "But you know you can talk to me about anything, right? We're in this together, for as long as we don't kill each other, right?"
"Right," I agree and pull her in for a kiss. We can deal with this later on.