Author Topic: The Littlest Lassiter  (Read 585 times)

Evan Lassiter

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The Littlest Lassiter
« on: January 11, 2020, 01:01:14 PM »
It might have taken a few years, but Marin had finally worn Evan down far enough that he trusted her to drive him in and out of Rhy'Din in her sturdy four-wheel drive. And this was just as well, because it was highly unlikely that the orphanage would have allowed them to finally officially adopt the newest member of their family if their only means of transportation had been horseback. As it was, their new baby boy was nestled into his car seat on the backseat as Marin drove up the main road toward the gate to the Brambles' sprawling acreage, dozing quietly almost in preparation for coming home for the very first time.

Though Evan was quietly nearing his 40th birthday, Marin seemed confident the man still had enough life left in him to handle a third child - and a little one, at that. They'd been debating the idea of adoption for a few years now and had finally decided that it was either now or never. While Evan was thrilled to be a father again, the looming 40th birthday made him a little nervous about the prospect.

"You sure we're doing the right thing?" he asked his ever-patient wife for about the umpteenth time. "I ain't gettin' no younger, yanno."

Marin glanced over at him with a faint smile. "I seem to recall this being your idea," she pointed out. "We wouldn't be bringing him home today if the professionals didn't think we could give him everything he needs. Stop thinking life ends at forty - you'd be surprised by how many people become parents for the first time in their forties."

Evan snorted in amusement. "Yanno how old I'll be when he turns twenty?" he asked, though it wasn't too hard to do the math. He couldn't deny that it had been his idea, though he almost wished they'd decided sooner. Still, better late than never, he supposed. And Rhy'Din was not Texas of the 1800s. He'd noticed people tended to age slowly and live to a ripe old age here.

She rolled her eyes, smiling as she turned the wheel to take them onto Brambles' property. "You just need to let go of worrying so much about things you can't control," she reminded her husband. "And I'm pretty sure Maggie and Caleb don't care how old you are; you're their father."

"Reckon I should learn how to drive this thing," he grumbled, more to himself than to her. More often than not, Evan appeared to be a little grumpy, when he really wasn't. It was just his nature to speak his own mind. He smiled at the mention of their children. "Maggie's gonna be over the moon," he said, knowing how much another sibling meant to their oldest. Maggie wasn't Marin's daughter by birth, but she'd raised and loved her like her own.

"She begged to come along to pick him up today," Marin said with a low laugh. "This little man is going to be the most spoiled little brother in the history of little brothers." Caleb was just as excited as Maggie about the new addition to the family, after all.

Evan chuckled, as he glanced behind them at the "little man" contentedly sleeping in the back seat. "Not to mention the most spoiled son," he told her with a grin. Despite his sometimes cantankerous moods, there was no denying he adored his children. "He reminds me a li'l of Cal when he was a young'un," he added thoughtfully.

She chuckled along with him, careful not to hit the worst of the potholes they were going to have to do something about once the snow had thawed. "What, angelic when he's asleep, and a screaming nightmare when he's awake?"

Evan smirked, hoping for their own sanity that that wasn't the case. "I meant the way he looks," he clarified. The little boy had blond hair and blue eyes, just like his older brother, even though they weren't related by blood.

"I think that's the best we could have hoped for," Marin admitted, carefully drawing the car up to the space right in front of the farmhouse. "They're all going to look alike."

"He's a fine looking boy," Evan said, once again more to himself than to her, a soft smile on his face. It was probably as close as the man was going to get to admitting how enamored he was of their new son.

"He's our boy," she agreed quietly, twisting in her seat to look over at the sleeping infant. "Seems a shame to disturb him. But he can't spend his whole life in the car."

And it wasn't going to be long before Caleb and Maggie came rushing out of the house to meet the newest member of the family. "I'll take him," Evan volunteered, confident he could untangle the little boy from the baby seat without waking him - if he could figure the dang thing out.

Marin's smile was just a little on the smug side; she knew her husband well enough to provide him with the subtle prods he needed from time to time. "I'll get the bag," she volunteered, moving to open her door and jump out onto the packed snow.

He caught a glimpse of that smug smile, though he didn't admit it, letting her think she was getting away with something. He managed to figure out how to get out of the vehicle and into the back seat. It took a little longer than necessary for him to sort out how to get the little guy out of the car seat, but he eventually managed it without cussing, carefully easing the boy out and onto his shoulder. For such a large, gruff-looking man, he had a surprisingly gentle touch as he stroked the little boy's back and cooed to him quietly.

As they approached the porch, the door banged open, and Cal came running out, flushed with eagerness to see the brother they had all been a part of deciding to adopt. Maggie was a second behind him, getting her hand over his mouth before he could yell out his welcome and wake the baby up.

"A welcoming committee, hmm?" Marin teased them both. "Mind if we all come in first?"

"Easy, Cal," Evan warned his eldest son quietly, cradling the youngest member of the family protectively in his arms. "He's asleep," he explained simply, though he might not be for long considering all the people who'd be wanting to welcome him.

"We made lunch," Maggie offered, pulling her younger brother backwards into the house to let their parents in. "Well, Jodie made lunch, but we helped."

"It smells wonderful," Marin complimented her, letting Evan get inside first so the baby could acclimatize faster.

"Smells delicious," Evan echoed Marin's praise, his stomach grumbling loudly to remind him he hadn't eaten since breakfast a few hours ago.

"Can I see him, Papa?" Caleb whispered excitedly, trying very hard not to be too loud. This was even more exciting than when their father had given them pet mice, a few years ago.

Evan Lassiter

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Re: The Littlest Lassiter
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2020, 01:02:46 PM »
"He's sleeping, Cal," Maggie reminded her brother fondly. "He'll wake up when he's hungry, right, Papa?"

Behind Evan, Marin smiled, moving to set the bag down behind the couch for the time being before joining the gentle wander to the kitchen and the source of the warm meal awaiting them.

"I reckon so," Evan replied, though that much seemed certain. The little boy would certainly let them know when he was hungry or otherwise unhappy. "How 'bout I sit down and then you can take a proper look at him?" he suggested, looking from one child to the other.

"That sounds like a sensible plan," Marin agreed, reaching out to swipe Cal's hair off his forehead as she passed him by to investigate the pot on the stove. Maggie grinned, clearly just as excited as Cal but trying to be more in control of it, since she was the eldest.

Cal was rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet, so filled with excitement he was having a hard time staying quiet and still. Evan pulled out a chair and lowered himself into it, giving both his children a look that told them to take it slow and easy.

"All right then," he said, in a quiet but commanding tone of voice. "Come and take a look at your new li'l brother."

In an attempt to keep Cal under control a little more, Maggie hugged her little brother from behind as they approached to take another look at their new little brother. They had met him before, of course; even played with him a few times, but this was him coming home. It was a big moment.

"He's smaller than I remembered him being," the teenager murmured, her chin resting on Cal's head.

"I reckon he just looks smaller," Evan said, though he wasn't too sure why. Maybe it was because the baby got a little lost in his father's strong arms, but he wasn't too sure.

"But it won't be long 'fore he's bigger, right, Papa?" Cal asked, hopefully. He didn't think there was much fun to be had with a little brother than just ate and slept and pooped all the time.

"He's already bigger than he was when we first met him," Marin pointed out from the stove, where she was ladling steaming soup into bowls from the pot. "Babies grow fast. And we get to celebrate his first birthday in just a couple of months."

"You jes' wait," Evan warned again, this time with a lighter tone of voice. "He's gonna be following you around like a shadow in no time," he told his children, a smile on his face. "He's already trying to get to his feet."

"And he's definitely home to stay?" Maggie asked, belatedly releasing Cal to go and help her mother carve up the freshly baked bread that had been baked just for them.

A mild look of panic crossed Caleb's face and he gasped in shock at his sister's question. "What do you mean?" he asked, looking from one person to another. "You can't take him back, can you?"

Marin smiled gently at her son, bringing bowls over to the table. "We're going to have visits from the officer who helped us find him," she told Cal. "By the end of two months, we'll be able to adopt him officially. But they have to make sure that we all fit together well before they'll sign off on it."

"You mean ..." Caleb started, looking up at his mother with tear-filled eyes. "If they don't think we fit together, they'll take him away?" he asked, obviously distressed by the thought of that.

Evan exchanged glances with Marin, hoping to soothe the little boy's fears. "It's okay, Cal. That ain't likely to happen," he said, though he couldn't promise him just yet.

"Oh, baby ..." Setting down the bowls, Marin wrapped an arm about Cal's shoulders, hugging him close for a moment. "It's just a precaution," she told him. "It hardly ever actually happens, because they're so good at matching children with families. And it never happens with children under two years old. So don't worry, okay?"

"But why?" Caleb asked, sniffling, not quite understanding why anyone would take his new little brother away. "Why would they take him away?" he asked, not really understanding his mother's explanation.

"Sweetie, they would only take him away from us if being with us was making him sick," Marin told him. It wasn't quite true, but it was the closest she thought a seven year old could understand. "But he's not going to get sick of us, is he? He's family now."

Caleb still wasn't sure he understood, but he trusted his mother enough to believe her when she assured him they wouldn't take his new baby brother away. "Okay, Mama," he said, sniffling back his tears. "Can we have lunch now? I'm hungry," he said, his fears forgotten.

"Only if you sit at the table," she told him, kissing his forehead with a smile.

Maggie finished setting out cutlery and glasses, thumping down into a seat on the opposite side to Evan, magnanimously giving up pride of place beside Papa and the baby to her little brother.

Evan smiled proudly at Maggie, his daughter's little sacrifice not lost on him. "Come sit by me, Cal, and you can get a better look at your brother," he told the boy. There would be plenty of time for Maggie to hold little Jack later.

"Okay, Papa," Cal readily agreed, thumping down beside his father. "Are we still callin' him Jack?" the little boy inquired.

"That's the plan, unless you came up with something better," Marin told him, easing down into her own seat to take up her spoon and begin eating.

Cal seemed to consider that a moment, wrinkling his nose in thought. "No, I like Jack. It fits," he declared as he picked up his spoon and dug into his soup.

"Jack it is then," Evan said, looking at Maggie to see if she had any objections.

"I like Jack," Maggie agreed around a mouthful of bread. "Short and sweet, like him. Isn't that why we call Cal Cal, and not Caleb? Because he's short?" She flashed her brother a teasing grin over her bowl.

Maggie was rewarded for that remark by Caleb sticking his tongue out at her. "I won't always be short, will I, Pa?" he asked his father, hoping one day, he'd be as tall and strong as his father.

Evan Lassiter

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Re: The Littlest Lassiter
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2020, 01:02:59 PM »
Evan smirked at the good-natured teasing between his children. "I s'pect not, Caleb," he said, choosing to call his son by the full version of his name on purpose. "Can you please hand me a hunk of bread ... Margaret?" he asked, that smirk still on his face.

"Why, certainly, Father," Maggie responded, passing over a hunk of the bread onto Evan's side plate. "Would you like me to feed you, too?" She subsided from her sarcasm at a warning glance from Marin.

"Only if you'd like to sleep in the barn tonight," Evan replied with a sweet smile back at his daughter. It was obvious they were only teasing, as most families who were comfortable with each other did from time to time.

"Don't be silly, Papa. S'too cold to sleep in'na barn," Caleb pointed out helpfully, with a mouthful of bread.

"You're right, Cal," Maggie agreed. "If he kicks me out for being cheeky, guess I'll just have to go and ask Ms Mara if I can sleep with Rob tonight."

Marin, who had only just started to swallow, abruptly choked on her mouthful, groping for her water as she spluttered with laughter.

Evan's eyes narrowed as his eldest tread on dangerous ground. He was well aware that Maggie's feelings for Rob had grown deeper than mere friendship - all one had to do was see them together to glean that.

"You are too old now for sleepovers with Rob," he pointed out. "But there's plenty of room in the barn for both you and Cal," he added, trying to smooth over the mild scolding with a little teasing.

Maggie grinned, knowing she was pushing her luck, and winked across the table at Cal, who was probably wondering why he'd been included in the threat to kick Maggie out for being cheeky.

Marin cleared her throat finally, rolling her eyes at all of them. "No one is sleeping in the barn," she said firmly, her eyes flickering to little Jack on Evan's lap as the baby boy started to stir.

Cal's eyes widened and he was about to protest, when his mother stepped in. Though he had no reason to fear his father, he visibly relaxed, relieved he'd be allowed to spend the night in his own warm bed. Summer was the time for sleeping out of doors, not the dead of winter.

Evan bit the inside of his mouth to keep himself from laughing at the children's reaction to his threat, though he was secretly worried about Maggie and Rob's so-called friendship. If the two became any closer, they'd have to get married, and he thought Maggie was still too young for that.

"Well, it seems your little brother is gonna be wanting lunch, too," he remarked, having only eaten half of his own lunch, thus far.

"Can I feed him, Papa?" Maggie asked, her cheekiness gone in a sudden rush of hopeful enthusiasm.

Marin left that one to Evan, rising from her seat to grab a small pot of chunky mush that was mainly sweet potato and pork from the fridge to warm it in the microwave as the infant woke up. Jack looked around blearily, rubbing his eyes as he took in his surroundings with a solemn expression.

Evan might have glanced to Marin for help in answering, but she had already turned away to get the little one's lunch. "Have you finished your soup?" he asked, as he shifted his hold on the small boy on his lap.

Shoveling the last spoonful into her mouth, Maggie nodded, setting her bowl to one side. "Now I have," she promised, for once the first person at the table to have inhaled her food before anyone else.

On Evan's lap, Jack was studying the faces around him, his own little face lighting up in a smile as he recognized them one by one.

Cal grinned a greeting at the little boy. "Jack, you're gonna live with us now and be part of our family!" he told the toddler, as if he'd understand what he was saying. "We're brothers now, ain't we, Papa?" he added, as he reached over to give the toddler's little hand a friendly shake.

"Yep," Evan confirmed. "Maggie, can you help me with the high chair?"

As Maggie got up to fetch the high chair and make it ready for use, Jack clamped his little fingers around Cal's hand and giggled, shaking it up and down.

Marin chuckled as she stirred the now warmed mush, pausing to put together a sippy cup for the baby as well. "Best big brother ever," she complimented her older son fondly.

Cal beamed proudly at his mother's praise. He'd been happy being the youngest, if a little bit lonely, and was eager to become a big brother himself.

"Why don't you grab his sippy cup, Cal?" Evan asked, as he moved to his feet and stepped over to the high chair to ease the toddler inside.

"Here, you can put his bib on him, too," Marin added, offering Cal the soft cloth designed to protect Jack's clothing from the inevitable mess about to happen.

"Okay, Mama," Cal replied agreeably, setting the sippy cup down on the table and taking up the cloth designed to act as a bib. "You're gonna like it here, Jack," Cal told the boy he already thought of as his younger brother. "We gots goats and chickens and sheep and cows and pigs and even some horses. I like the horses best, but they're too big for me to ride by myself. Papa said if I'm good, he might get me a pony come spring. Maybe when you get bigger, you can have a pony, too!" Cal rambled.

Jack obviously didn't understand a word of this, but was happy to be chatted to as he was set in his high chair and made ready for his own lunch, gabbling randomly along with Cal through a big smile. There was the suggestion of words in there somewhere, but he was only ten months old at this point. He could be excused being a little behind on his development.

Now that the little one was settled in his chair, Evan gave Maggie a nod and stepped out of the way to reclaim his seat and his lunch. He couldn't help but smile at Cal's chatter, and Maggie's eagerness to help. He had a lot to be thankful for these days, and it was all because of Marin. He might have drawn her onto his lap, but with the children around, he could only smile and wink at her, before turning his attention to his soup, before it got cold.

Evan Lassiter

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Re: The Littlest Lassiter
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2020, 01:03:12 PM »
Giving Maggie her own seat to feed the baby from, Marin moved herself around the table to sit beside Evan and finish her own lunch, watching as Maggie tugged Cal down onto her own lap. In essence, both the coherent Evans' children were feeding their little brother his first meal at home, which was ridiculously endearing to watch. She nudged Evan's elbow affectionately. "Who are the parents here again?"

Evan grunted, but it was a familiar grunt full of amusement at his wife's question. "It's good for them. Teaches 'em responsibility," he remarked, as he dunked a hunk of bread in the bowl to soak up some broth.

"I'm just glad they're so happy to have a baby brother," she admitted quietly. "I was worried for a while there that the novelty would wear off before we brought him home."

"Look at 'em, Mare," he said, nodding his head toward the trio. "If that ain't love, I dunno what is," he murmured quietly.

They'd taken the children numerous times to the orphanage to visit with little Jack before they'd decided to adopt him. Their children had been as much a part of that decision as they had, eager to welcome another child into their family and their hearts.

"I know." She smiled, leaning over to kiss his cheek. "You're a genius." She winked at her husband, taking up a small hunk of bread to wipe out the inside of her bowl.

Evan arched a brow, unsure what he'd done to earn that bit of praise. "For what?" he asked curiously. Was she only praising him for suggesting they look into adoption? It had taken them years to actually do it, but maybe there had been a reason for that. If there was one thing Evan had learned, it was that everything in life happened for a reason. Or so it seemed. Maybe Jack was the reason they'd waited so long.

"For putting the idea into my head," she said simply. Yes, it had taken them years to put it into action, but the mere fact that they had discussed it, both alone and with the children, had been entirely because of Evan's suggestion in the first place.

"Well, Cal needs a little brother, don't you reckon?" Evan asked, with a shrug of his shoulders and a slight smirk. They both knew that had only been part of the decision. Though they'd both wanted another child, Cal's birth had almost killed Marin, and it wasn't something Evan was willing to risk again.

"A partner in crime, you mean," she murmured in amusement, watching as Jack gripped his cup and drank before slamming it down on his highchair hard enough to spray water over Cal and Maggie.

Though Cal and Maggie squealed in shock at the drenching, Jack broke into a fit of giggles at what he took to be his older siblings' antics, and soon all three of them were laughing. It had only been water they'd been sprayed with after all.

Evan smirked. "Gonna have to break him of that habit," he murmured to Marin, but he didn't seem too upset over it.

"Well, it's better than painting the walls with poop," Marin commented. That particular phase of Caleb's infancy had been trying, to say the least.

Evan chuckled. "True enough," he replied, unable to think of anything that could be worse than that, but they'd managed. He wasn't naive enough to think this would be easy, but if they succeeded, he thought it would be well worth the effort, for all their sakes. And Evan was no longer asking if they were doing the right thing. "Happy, Mare?" he asked, as he turned to his wife with a smile on his face.

Her smile deepened as she tore her gaze from their cheerful children to meet his gaze. "Very happy," she agreed, already looking forward to the cuddles that were due a little later on. She had missed having a small person to snuggle with - being so small herself, even having Cal on her lap was a struggle.

"It's settled then," Evan said, though it seemed they had already deciding before bringing Jack home. "He's one of us now," he told her, though they still had a few minor details to sort out.

"Mama?" Maggie was frowning as she looked over at her parents. "He keeps spitting it out."

Marin glanced at the spoon in the teen's hand. "You're putting too much on the spoon, love," she said fondly. "Babies push everything to the front of their mouth with their tongue. I promise you, he is eating."

"It won't be long before he's feeding himself," Evan remarked, more to Marin than to Maggie. The little boy was nearly a year old already, but young enough that he'd grow up without remembering what it had been like to be without a family.

"He's fairly close already," Marin agreed, as Maggie turned back to the feeding, this time with smaller spoonfuls. "I should probably boil up some carrot sticks and put them in the fridge. He's already teething, after all."

"He's a little behind, isn't he?" Evan asked with a concerned frown. Though the toddler had been well cared for in the orphanage, he needed more love and attention than could be given to him there. And it would be good for him to grow up with older siblings to help guide him.

"Babies develop at different stages," she said with a half shrug. "I think he'll come on faster now he has a family around him. He'll start speaking soon enough, I think."

Evan grunted again, more chuckle than grumble. "I wager his first word will be Cal," he murmured to Marin, though it wouldn't bother him if it was. It was only a matter of time before Jack would be babbling as much as his older brother. "It's a good thing we've done, Marin. He'll have a happy life here with us."

"He will," she said with firm confidence. "And he's not that much younger than Deidre, or Marissa's babies, or Sam's girl. He'll have plenty of company his own age if Cal gets bored of having a toddler at his heels."

"Reckon we should take him around and show him off," he remarked, though that was unlikely to happen today. The little boy had had enough excitement for one day, and they didn't want to overwhelm him.

Evan Lassiter

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Re: The Littlest Lassiter
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2020, 01:03:30 PM »
"In a couple of days, maybe," Marin said thoughtfully. "We need him to start looking to us when he needs reassurance, rather than anyone else, before we start taking him out to places where he might need it."

"It's gonna be you he counts on most," Evan pointed out, as was to be expected, given the fact that she was the toddler's mother now. Though it was winter, Evan still had work to do maintaining the farm and keeping it running.

"It'll be all of us," she told him. "The main problem will be stopping Jodie from trying to parent him."

She chuckled gently, but it was a genuine worry. Despite going through all the instructions about getting a child settled into their family, Jodie St.Clair was still going to have to work hard to stop herself from mothering Jack for a good long while.

"Jodie is the closest thing he's gonna come to a grandma. She's family," Evan pointed out. So long as Jodie didn't decide to adopt him right from under their noses.

"I know, darling, but he needs to associate things like that with us first," Marin pointed out. "I'm not going to cut her out - gods know, she's the closest I have to a gramma myself - but this is all very new to him."

"I reckon it'll all work out," Evan remarked, confident of that fact. It had all worked out so far, and he had no reason to think it wouldn't going forward.

"Hey, Pa?" Maggie interrupted, looking hopeful once again as Cal wiped his little brother's face clean. "Can we take Jack out to see the animals? We'll wrap him up warm, promise."

"Um ..." Evan muttered uncertainly, looking to Marin for an answer. "What d'you reckon?" he asked, unsure how to answer that. He didn't think much harm could come from it, but he wasn't too sure she'd agree.

"So long as you're not out too long, it should be okay," Marin said thoughtfully. "It'll be warm in the barn, at least." She smiled faintly, meeting Evan's gaze. It wouldn't do any harm.

"You keep a good hold on him, you hear?" Evan warned, trusting Maggie and Cal, but knowing accidents sometimes happened. It wouldn't be long before little Jack was chasing after his siblings, but he had to learn how to walk first.

"We will, Pa," Maggie promised, flashing a grin at Cal. "Let's find his snowsuit," she suggested to her brother, carefully releasing Jack from his high chair and lifting him up.

Cal nodded in enthusiastic agreement and hurried off to help his sister find their little brother's snowsuit.

"It's in the bag behind the couch !" Evan called after them, as the pair rushed off, hoping they'd heard him before they tore the house apart in their search.

Marin rose, gathering together the bowls and plates with a smile. "It's nice to have a baby in the house again," she admitted, half an ear on the giggles and squeals as the new baby of the family was wrestled into his snow suit for an outing to the barn.

"So, why'd you resist for so long?" Evan asked, moving to his feet to help her clean up from lunch. It seemed Jodie and Bill had gone out for the day, leaving them alone to get little Jack settled in with his new family.

"I guess I wanted Cal to be old enough to make the decision with us?" she said, though she didn't sound entirely certain. "And it did take a lot of nerve to approach the orphanage in the first place, you have to admit that."

"Maybe we were just waiting for Jack," Evan suggested, though that meant it had been more a matter of Fate than of choice. He gathered up what was left of the dishes and brought them over to the sink. "I'd like to think he was meant for us ... Or us for him, wouldn't you?" he queried. It was sad that the boy had lost his birth parents, but Evan was confident they would give him a happy home.

"That's a nice way of looking at it," she agreed, smiling at that thought. She glanced toward the door as Maggie came back into view, wrapped in her own coat and hat, with Jack on her hip, enveloped in his warm snow suit.

"We're gonna go out now," the teen told them, keenly aware that she had to let her parents know where they were going. "We won't be long."

"Don't go too far," Evan warned, though his daughter had already assured them that they were only taking Jack out to the barn to let him meet the animals.

"We won't!" Cal agreed, practically hopping up and down on his feet with excitement again as he rushed to get the door for his sister.

Marin chuckled as the little group left the house, already elbow deep in hot water to wash their crockery. "You know, I don't think I've ever seen Call this excited about anything before."

Evan grunted in reply, as he picked up a towel to help dry the dishes. "He's been asking for a puppy," he said of their son, wondering which Cal would rather have - a little brother or a puppy.

"Mmm, the farm cats just aren't enough for him," Marin laughed, handing him dishes as they came out clean. "Let's see how we go with the baby first, though. And the inevitable pony in the spring."

"Neither were the mice," Evan remarked with a grin. That little experiment had turned into something of a nightmare. Who knew that mice reproduced so quickly?

She snorted with laughter, rolling her eyes at him. "The mice were a learning curve, admittedly. But we survived it!" She grinned back at him, pulling the plug out of the sink as the last clean dish was handed over.

He took the dish from her, wiping it dry before returning it to the cupboard where it belonged. "Every little boy should have a dog, Marin," Evan told her. "Don't have to be a puppy."

"Are you suggesting that we get one dog each for the boys?" she asked innocently. "What do we get for Maggie, in that case?"

Evan smirked at her questions. "Jack don't know the difference yet, and anyway, he ain't old enough to take care of a dog. It would teach Cal some responsibiity," he argued, leaving the question about Maggie unanswered for the moment.

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Re: The Littlest Lassiter
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2020, 01:03:49 PM »
"Give him a bit to get used to having a little brother?" she suggested in amusement. "Then we can talk about adding another insane animal to this place."

"Sounds reasonable," Evan agreed. "'Sides, Maggie's got a horse. Reckon it's time Cal got a dog, don't you?" he asked, as he folded the towel and hung it to dry.

Marin rolled her eyes, shaking her head. She was beaten on this conversation and they both knew it. "Fine, I give in," she conceded, prodding his side. "But you are responsible for making him responsible for it."

"Yes, ma'am," Evan agreed with a grin. "Ain't no rush though. We can wait to see how he and Jack get along," he added, which was exactly what Marin had already said. It always amused him to claim her ideas as his own.

"Ooh, you ... incorrigible cowboy!" She swatted at him, laughing even in her indignance. "Why do I put up with you, hmm?"

He laughed, as if calling him a cowboy was an insult. As a matter of fact, he really wasn't a cowboy or had ever been one, if one understood the true meaning of the word. He swung around to face her, sliding his arms around her waist and pulling her close. "Cause you love me," he said, with a smug smile on his face.

"You get away with way too much because of that," she agreed, giggling as she looped her arms about his shoulders. "Not that it's ever going to change, mind. You're stuck with being adored by your wife and children."

"Poor me, I guess," Evan said, with a feigned sigh of resignation. "Such a horrible fate." There had, in fact, been a time when his life had been little more than a living hell, but that was before he'd found himself in Rhy'Din and had met Marin.

"However will you survive?" she teased, rising up onto her toes and pulling him down so she could kiss him without either of them getting too much neck or back strain.

He was more than happy to return that kiss, unafraid to let her see his passion or know how much he cared for her, even if they were risking being interrupted by their children. "Best thing ever happened to me was you, darlin'," he told her, touching his nose to hers.

"Best thing I ever did was drag you inside to bleed on my kitchen table," she countered, smiling happily up at him. They weren't a pair that made logical sense, to look at them, but together, they had rebuilt the Brambles and made it both successful and a home. It was no small feat.

Evan grunted at that.  "Reckon I can't argue with that," he replied. After all, if she hadn't taken him in, it was likely he wouldn't have survived. Then again, who knows what might have happened to her if he hadn't been there to protect her?

They each owed the other an awful lot, and if the life they have carved out for themselves here was anything to go by, it was debt neither one of them could ever repay. Not that either of them would have accepted any kind of reparation, that is. Marin grinned at her husband's grunt, bouncing up to kiss the tip of his nose.

"Shall we go and see if they've lost him into the pig pen yet?"

"Let's hope they're not all covered in slop," he grumbled, though he couldn't help but smile a little at her kiss. Somehow, he doubted his statement was true. After all, Maggie was a good girl, and he was sure she'd do her best to keep her two brothers out of trouble, but thoughts of Maggie brought another worry to mind, and that put a small frown on his face.

Settling back onto her heels, Marin raised an amused brow at the frown on his face. "Now what's rolling around in there?" she asked, in a tone that warned him she wasn't going to accept a deflection.

He shrugged as if it was nothing, though he was not the kind of man to worry over nothing. He glanced toward the door, as if to make sure there was no one around to overhear their conversation - especially not Maggie. "Just a li'l worried about her and Rob."

"But nothing's really changed," Marin reassured him. "I know Maggie went all in on declaring that they're more than friends now, but all I've seen of that is the occasional kiss and a lot of giggling. I don't think you need to worry, darling."

"It ain't that I don't like Rob," he pointed out. "It's just that they're so young." He didn't think he needed to say much more than that. He didn't have a problem with Maggie ending up with Rob someday, if that's what she wanted. It was their age that bothered him.

"Says the man who first got married at, what, sixteen?" Marin pointed out with a faint smile. "She's not going to suddenly fall pregnant and force you to give them a shotgun wedding, Evan."

"She ain't sixteen yet," he reminded his wife, though that birthday wasn't too far off. "And that was different," he pointed out further, regarding his own past. At least, it hadn't been a shotgun wedding.

"If the love is there, how is it different?" she asked, tilting her head curiously. "At some point, you're going to have this conversation with her, and if you can't answer that question without falling back on because you aren't me, you are going to have one hell of a shouting match."

"This ain't Texas, and it ain't the 1800s no more," Evan pointed out, though he wasn't sure that argument would work either. He sometimes felt like a relic, from another time and another place.

"That won't be good enough," Marin predicted. "Darling, I think you're fighting a rearguard action here. So don't tell her she can't; tell her to wait a while. And explain why."

Evan exhaled a sigh, a sign that he was surrendering to his wife's better judgment. "I just want her to be happy. That's all," he said, but Maggie was happy, wasn't she? And she wasn't asking to be married tomorrow.

"Have a little faith in her," she suggested fondly. "She's got plans of her own for her life, and they don't revolve around becoming a wife and mother."

"What kinda plans?" he asked, brows arching upwards. This was the first he was hearing of this. He knew his daughter was interested in the theater, but he didn't know to what extent.

Marin looked confused for a moment. "Now, I know you were there for that conversation," she pointed out. "Sound engineer, or make up special effects artist, remember?"

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Re: The Littlest Lassiter
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2020, 01:04:07 PM »
"Right, I remember," he said, though he still looked a tad confused, probably because he wasn't too sure what either of those jobs entailed and had been too embarrassed to ask.

Of course, Marin - who had been a professional musician for a few years - knew exactly what both of them meant, but she didn't want to insult her husband by explaining unless he asked her to. So that was a bit of an awkward silence for a moment. "Anyway, both of those require her studying and learning in college for at least a couple of years."

"I do have faith in her, Marin. I just don't want nothin' to ruin her plans," he said. Though he didn't say it outright, they both knew what he was really worried about was his daughter getting pregnant before she was ready to be. And yet, this wasn't the 1800s anymore, and he was aware it was possible to take precautions, just as he and Marin were doing.

"Do you want me to talk to her about being careful?" she asked him head on. "I was going to wait another few months, but if it's worrying you this much, maybe I should do the talk sooner."

"I dunno," he replied, frowning again. Just because he was worried about something didn't mean it was going to happen, and he did have faith in his daughter to make the right decisions.

Marin eyed him for a moment before smiling again. "You do realise your name doesn't come into that conversation, right?" she pointed out affectionately. "It's a girl talk thing, and the kind of thing a mom should be talking to her daughters about around this age anyway."

"Oh?" he asked, brows arching upwards in surprise. "Course I knew that," he quickly added with a shrug of his shoulders as if it went without saying, though he had obviously not thought of that before.

Marin couldn't help grinning at this. "Darling ... you do know your daughter has had her monthly for over a year now, right?" she said teasingly. She'd been very discreet with those conversations, but surely Evan had noticed the additional paraphernalia in the bathrooms?

"Ahem, um ..." Evan cleared his throat, clearing not feeling comfortable with the way this conversation was going. Men in his day didn't talk about such things - not with their wives and certainly not with their daughters.

"Aww ..." His embarrassment emboldened his wife to reach up and gently pat his cheeks between her hands. "This isn't Texas, or the 1800s, you know," she teased, turning his words back on him purely to watch him squirm.

"Thanks for the reminder," he said sarcastically, scowling at her while she patted his cheeks. "Anyway, that's talk for mothers and daughters." At least, he hadn't said "womenfolk".

She laughed, lowering her hands once again. "So let me handle Maggie and her romantic leanings, okay?" she suggested. "It'll be better coming from me than from you."

"I tell you lately how much I love you?" he asked, touching his forehead to hers, a soft smile on his lips. Not only had she allayed him of his worries, but she'd volunteered to talk to Maggie. He hesitated a moment, unsure if he wanted to say what he was thinking or if she was ready to hear it, but maybe it would be a good thing. "Ellie'd be glad you're takin' such good care of Maggie," he told her, hoping she didn't take what he was saying the wrong way. "You're good for her, Marin. You're good for all of us."

Her smile softened as he leaned down to her, proud to hear that he thought his first wife would be pleased with the way her daughter was being raised. "We're family, darling," she said gently. "I'll mother Maggie as long as she'll let me, just like I will with all our children."

"She needs a mother," Evan said, repeating something he'd told Marin years ago. "She needs you," he added, a soft smile on his face as he leaned in to touch a kiss to her lips.

"She's got me," she murmured, answering his kiss with her own tender response. "You've all got me." A raucous cackle from the porch announced the return of the children, making her laugh quietly. "Sounds like Jack had fun."

"An' we plan on keepin' you," he said, one arm around her waist, a grin on his face, even as he turned to the sound of children's laughter. It was a sound he'd thought he'd never hear again. How did the saying go? It was like music to his ears. Though he might not be the kind to shed happy tears, there was no denying his heart was full of a father's love and pride.

With the chatter of Cal and Maggie coming back inside mingled with their new brother's giggles, Marin happily cuddled under Evan's arm, her smiling eyes on the doorway into the kitchen. Cal's head came into view first, bent forward so his face was completely out of view, drawing the eye down to Jack who, clinging to his brother's hands, was taking his first steps with a wild grin of absolute delight.

"Jack!" Evan exclaimed, obviously surprised to see the little boy on his feet and walking with the help of his big brother. "He's walking!" he declared as if it was nothing short of a miracle.

"Well done!" Marin declared, delighted to see the infant toddling along, albeit with a lot of help from Caleb.

Behind the boys, Maggie leaned in the doorway, grinning proudly. "We figured we'd give him a chance to try it out," she explained.

"I don't reckon he's ready to do it on his own yet," Evan put it. That much seemed obvious, but he was proud of his boy just the same. His boy - his son. That's what Jack was now, and it hit him right in the gut to realize it. A proud smile found its way to his face for all his children. "He's gonna be chasing after you both before too long."

"We're going to have to get you some proper shoes," Marin agreed, bending to sweep up the baby boy and kiss his cheek, settling him on her hip to hug Caleb with the other arm. "And how did your little tour of the barn go?"

Caleb grinned with pride, not only because of his parents' praise but because he was proud to have helped his little brother take his first steps. "He laughed at the pigs!" he told his mother, leaning into her embrace.

"Well, they're funny little oinkers," Marin agreed cheerfully, unsurprised when Jack's head dropped onto her shoulder. It was cold outside, and walking did take a lot out of a little person.

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Re: The Littlest Lassiter
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2020, 01:04:35 PM »
"Why don't you let me take him?" Evan suggested. The little guy had had a busy day and now that he'd had his lunch, he was probably ready for a nap. "I'll get him ready for his nap."

"Can I help, Pa?" Cal was quick to volunteer.

"Here." Marin gently transferred the sleepy little lad into his father's arms, letting Cal edge past her hopefully. She caught Maggie's eye with a grin. It was going to take some getting used to, having a baby in the house again.

"Maggie?" Evan asked, in case she wanted to help, too.

It didn't really take three people to get one sleepy little boy out of his snowsuit and in for a nap, but he welcomed the help while it was being offered. He thought it would do them both good to learn how to care for their younger brother and to help them feel like they were being useful.

"If you think I won't get in the way, I'd like to help too," Maggie admitted. She was trying very hard not to insist on getting baby time, knowing that there would be a lot of it in the coming weeks and months, but she was very excited about being a big sister to two little brothers now.

"'Course not!" Evan said, happy to include the older two children in the child care. He had a feeling Caleb would lose interest in the weeks to come - at least as far as chores were concerned - but Maggie might not. "Why don't you take him, Mags? I just need to grab a few things," he told his daughter, handing off the sleepy baby once again.

"Sure thing." Maggie reached out, gathering her baby brother into her arms. "Hey, sleepy boy," she murmured, stroking Jack's chubby cheek. "Stay awake a bit longer, huh?"

Little Jack only yawned, bleary-eyed at his big sister, obviously tuckered out from his busy day.

Evan chuckled at the little boy's reaction to his sister's question. "I think he's fightin' a losing battle there, Maggie," he said, stepping away to grab the little bag they'd brought home with them that had diapers and a clean pair of jammies.

She giggled softly, letting the baby cuddle into her shoulder. "C'mon, Cal, let's go make sure his crib's all ready for him," she suggested to her other brother, who was probably a little jealous not to be the one holding the baby.

Caleb didn't look too concerned really, still beaming over helping Jack take his first steps. "Can I hold him, too, Mag?" he asked hopefully, as he detached himself from his mother to follow his sister to the nursery.

"When he gets up after his nap, sure," Maggie assured him, grinning down at her younger brother as they went. "He's kinda floppy and real heavy right now. When he's awake, he's easier to hang onto."

Caleb's frown didn't last long. He didn't want to drop his new brother the first day his parents had brought him home. "Okay, Maggie," he readily agreed, though he wouldn't forget that she'd promised he could hold him later.

Evan smirked at the pair as they reached an agreement. "Miracles never cease," he murmured, pecking a kiss against Marin's cheek. "You comin', too? Might as well make a family affair out of it."

"Might as well," she agreed laughingly, rubbing her fingers through her hair. "Come on, Mr. Lassiter, before our children manage to disassemble the entire nursery in their eagerness."

"Yes, ma'am," Evan said, chuckling. He doubted the children would go that far, but he didn't want them keeping the sleepy toddler awake too long either. After all the excitement, they could all use a little rest.

With a low laugh, Marin took his hand, leading him out of the kitchen and toward the stairs, following the sound of quiet giggles in the wake of their newly formed trio of children. It had been a long road to get here, and not without its bumps along the way, but here they were, and with Jack's arrival, it felt as though the last piece had slotted into place. The Brambles was, at last, the home they had fought to recreate since that fateful night he had stumbled through the Nexus and fallen from his horse. Not bad for a totally unlikely match.

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Re: The Littlest Lassiter
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2020, 01:05:04 PM »

Jack Samuel Lassiter