Author Topic: Just a Quiet Afternoon  (Read 701 times)

Rhys Bristol

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Just a Quiet Afternoon
« on: April 21, 2020, 02:59:29 PM »
There was something always vaguely suspicious about a quiet house with three small children in it, Natalya Bristol mused to herself, cocking her head toward the living room. She knew she had left Ana and Micah playing together, technically keeping an eye on Dylan, who was sleeping in his Moses basket on the floor near them. But the playing had gone very quiet indeed. She couldn't even hear the dogs, though they were out in the garden sunning themselves. All very suspicious.

Quiet usually meant someone was up to trouble, whether that be the kids or their father, but today, when Nat poked her head into the living, the reason she didn't hear anything was because no one was there.

She frowned, narrowing her eyes. Most people would assume their spouse had been involved in the disappearance, but Nat was not most people. Still, she kept the panic down as she turned to call out. "Rhys?"

No one answered her call, the room entirely too quiet, but as observant as she was, she'd likely notice that the dogs were barking somewhere outside, and she might catch a flash of movement from the window.

The dogs' barking wasn't actually a good sign when there was no response. Growing visibly tense, Nat silently summoned her Dagger of Avalon into her palm, holding it low by her hip as she moved stealthily to look out through the window. As she moved, her fingers touched the amulet at her neck, soundlessly calling out to the Lady.

There wasn't just the sound of the dogs barking now, but the sound of a child's squeal that sounded suspiciously like laughter, and then a rap at the window to draw her attention.

Instinct sent her skidding back against the wall at the sound of the tap, even as she peered toward the window, expecting to see something dreadful there. Lady ... I do not think we are alone in our home.

A figure suddenly loomed in front of the window, but it was only Rhys holding baby Dylan with one arm, while he waved to her with the other, a silly grin on his face.

The look he got back from his wife was less than friendly. Panic faded into annoyance, barely contained fury, making a show of dismissing her dagger. She pressed her lips together tightly and turned back to stalk into the kitchen once again, silently assuring the Lady that her husband was an idiot.

The Lady probably knew that already, but it wasn't like Rhys had done it on purpose. The sun was shining, and he just thought he'd let them get some fresh air and get out of her hair for a while. He hadn't even thought about telling her; he'd assumed she'd known where they'd gone. The door opened, but it wasn't Rhys who stepped inside but Ana to fetch her mother outside.

"Mama, come play!"

It took a moment for Nat to calm herself down enough to meet her daughter's eyes with a relaxed smile.

"And leave lunch half done?" she countered. "I will come out when the food is ready, solynshka. Tell your papa not to be so impatient."

Pouting a little, but surprisingly quick on the uptake where her mother's mood was concerned, Ana nodded. "M'kay!" She turned and skipped out through the back door, yelling to Rhys, "You're in trouble!"

Rhys frowned at the news that he was in trouble, though he wasn't sure why. He supposed he should have told her he was taking the kids outside, but he assumed she'd figure it out. "Why am I in trouble?" he countered. "You're the one who wanted to learn how to play hopscotch!"

The little girl grinned up at him impishly. "Mama's all growly and bangin' on the food," she informed her father. "You're a baaaaad boy."

"Why am I a bad boy?" Rhys said, furrowing his brows at his daughter. "She can see us right out the window!" he pointed out, before realizing that he was arguing with a child. He exhaled a sigh, knowing he was probably going to be in the dog house ... again.

From inside the house came the sound of a rolling pin being slammed onto a counter a little too hard for its purpose, followed by a muted curse in fluent Russian. Ana snickered. "Can we sit with Dylan under the tree, papa?"

Rhys flinched at the sound of the racket from inside the house. Well, at least she hadn't hit him with it ... yet. "Okay, but I'm gonna have my eyes on you from the kitchen, so no funny stuff, okay?" he asked, taking her hand and starting toward the tree so he could lay Dylan down in his basket beneath the tree. "Come on, Micah!" he called to his son, who was chasing or being chased by the dogs.

"I won't, Papa," Ana promised, happily walking along beside him to where they had laid out a wide rug in expectation of lunch in the shade of the tree.

On the other side of the garden, Micah looked up in surprise, along with both the dogs, automatically toddling toward Rhys as he was called.

"Sit here with your sister and keep an eye on your baby brother, while I go fetch your mother, okay?" Rhys asked, ruffling the boy's hair as he toddled over. He understood how Nat worried, but he was confident the children were safe in their own home and their own backyard. After all, Aurelia had warded the entire block, and the dogs weren't going to let anyone they didn't know get close without putting up a fight.

"Da, Papa." Obediently, Micah plunked down onto the blanket next to Ana, both of them peering over the edge of the basket to gawp down at their baby brother as he wriggled in his sleep. At least Rhys could be sure they were past the stage of poking the baby to make him squirm.

Rhys quietly instructed the dogs to keep watch before making his way to the back door to face the music. "Knock, knock," he said, as he poked his head inside. "Is it safe to come inside yet?" he asked tentatively.

"I suppose that all depends, does it not?" Nat asked, savagely beating holy hell out of eggs in a bowl. "Do you know why I am not happy at this moment in time, or did you conveniently not think it over?"

"No, I'm pretty sure I know why," he said, moving over to slide his arms around her waist, if only to help her with the eggs. "Here, let me," he insisted, taking the whisk from her hand.
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"Dream On" - Aerosmith

Rhys Bristol

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Re: Just a Quiet Afternoon
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2020, 03:00:02 PM »
For possibly the first time, she did not relax into the wrap of his arms, standing stiffly there as he took over the cooking. "And?" she asked, staring at the cupboard directly in front of her.

"And I'm sorry," he added, making quick work of the eggs. If he wasn't mistaken, she was making a quiche. He left the whisk in the bowl and unwound himself from her so that he could add some salt and pepper. "I know I should have told you, but I didn't want to bother you, and I thought you'd hear us outside."

"I did not hear you," she told him, stepping away from the bowl, her arms wrapped about herself as she turned to look at her husband. "All I heard was the quiet. All I saw was our children missing, and no response from you when I called out for you. Anything could have happened, Rhys. And I have made a fool of myself calling to Elaine for the sake of a silly prank that went wrong."

"It wasn't a prank," Rhys said, in weak defense of himself. All his life, all he'd wanted was a little normalcy - the way things had been before his father had ... Well, he didn't really want to think about that now. Then again, he loved his life with Nat and their children, and he couldn't help but revel in the fact that it wasn't normal, and yet ... Rhys frowned as he turned back to the bowl and whisked the eggs and milk mixture together. He wasn't sure what he was feeling exactly. He wasn't angry at Nat really, only at himself. "I just wasn't thinking, I guess," he half-murmured in reply.

"It is my instinct to think the worst," Nat said, her voice shaking as she tried to calm herself down. The last thing she wanted to do was burst into tears and worry the children. "I thought we had been attacked, that our children had been taken right out from under my nose. I thought I had failed to protect them. To protect you. I would have killed anyone who walked in through the door, Rhys, without stopping to make sure they were an enemy."

Rhys was still frowning as he poured the egg mixture atop the veggies she'd already spread out on top the pie crust. He knew she was right and that he probably would have thought the same thing, but he hadn't really thought about it much, since they were just going out into their own yard. "I guess our lives will never be normal," he murmured to himself. "I'm sorry I worried you. It won't happen again," he promised, though his back was still turned to her, almost afraid to meet her gaze. It was a mistake to think their lives could ever be normal or even pretend they were normal. It was a mistake that could cost them their lives, if they weren't careful, and he knew that.

He could no doubt hear her breath shaking as she struggled to calm herself. "I could not bear it if anything happened to you," she said quietly, her voice half-choked. "To our children. I am sorry. I ... overreacted."

Rhys' frown deepened as she took the blame on herself. He could hear the tears in her voice, but before he could soothe her worries, he needed to pop the quiche in the oven, or lunch would quickly become dinner. It only took a moment and then he was wrapping his arms around her to pull her close. "I'm sorry, Nat. I just didn't think."

This time, she didn't stay stiff, hugging into him close as she held on tightly. "It is my fault," she kept saying, still trying not to cry. "I should not have ... should not have thought the worst. I am so sorry."

Rhys flicked a glance out the window to make sure the kids were still safe under that tree, while he held their mother close, one hand gently rubbing her back. "I would have done the same, you know," he admitted, though he might have looked a little harder before freaking out. "We've done everything we can to protect them, Nat. If they can't play in their own yard, we might as well move to Avalon."

"I did not know they were in the yard," she pointed out. "I could not hear them out there. All I knew was that they had disappeared, and you did not answer my call." She shook her head, lifting her red-rimmed eyes to his. "I am sorry."

"No, I'm sorry," he told her, his eyes dry but full of remorse as he lifted a hand to touch her cheek. "I never meant to worry you, baby. Ana wanted to learn how to play 'hot scots', and I was laughing so hard, I forgot to tell you we were going outside. I thought you'd hear us."

She blinked, her shock and tears forgotten in the face of another Ana-ism. "Hot ... scots?" she asked, a faintly curious smile beginning to quirk at her lips.

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure sure she meant hopscotch, but I could be wrong," he said, gently brushing the tears from her face, smiling softly. "I'm sorry, Nat. Really, I am. I didn't mean to upset you."

She sniffed, shaking her head. "I think we were both wrong here," she said quietly. "I should not have panicked so quickly. A lesson learned, da?" She turned her head, kissing his palm affectionately.

"For both of us," he agreed, turning her face toward him so that he could give her a kiss. "I promise to tell you where I'm going next time, and you promise not to panic, okay?" he asked, a soft smile on his face.

"I promise." She smiled, answering his kiss with her own. "But I still have to finish lunch, or Ana may incite a mutiny out there." A quick glance through the open door showed that Ana and Micah were cloud-gazing now.

"They're safe, Nat. Aurelia has this place so warded, a mosquito couldn't get in. And the dogs would kill anyone who dared get close," he assured her, though he, too, worried for the children's safety - and hers.

"I know." And to her credit, she did know that. But there were some habits that were so ingrained they might never leave her entirely. She could definitely try harder not to give into that instinctive panic, though. "I will do better."

He slid his arms around her waist, a reassuring smile on his face. "You're doing fine." He chuckled as a thought came to mind. "And here I thought I was the over-protective one," he teased.

"I am just better at hiding it until the very last moment," she teased him in return, brushing another kiss to his jaw. "You will never again suspect that I am not ready for a fight, I think."

"It's not a bad thing necessarily," Rhys remarked. "I mean, I think we should be prepared, just in case, but we don't want to scare the kids," he reasoned, frowning a little as he recalled the last threat, which had happened a few months ago at Micah's daycare center.

She mirrored his frown, remembering the same incident, the same panic she had felt then. "We were lucky last time," she murmured. "We had a friend we did not even know existed."
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay.

"Dream On" - Aerosmith

Rhys Bristol

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Re: Just a Quiet Afternoon
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2020, 03:00:17 PM »

"Yeah," he agreed. "You know, the Lady mentioned something a few years ago about some danger she sensed in the future, but she couldn't see more than that. You think maybe that was it?"

"Perhaps." Nat shook her head, her shoulder rising and falling in a futile shrug. "I do not think even Elaine knows the exact moment of the things she sees in her Well. Such accuracy would surely drive her mad."

"I suppose," he said, frowning again, as he turned his head to check on the kids out in the yard. "You know I'd never do anything to put them - or you - in danger."

"Rhys, I know that," she assured him. "As you know I would never intentionally put any of you in harm's way. We are lucky in our friends, in their abilities and their sense. Perhaps we should lean on them a little more."

"We are both a little stubborn when it comes to asking for help," he admitted with a smirk, though he wasn't too sure what kind of help they might ask for exactly. They'd done everything they could to keep their family safe, short of moving to Avalon.

"Only a little." She was smiling again, though, gently easing out of his arms to finish putting together their odd little garden picnic. The quiche would be cooked soon.

His smirk widened as she eased her way out of his arms, knowing him well enough to know he'd happily keep her there in his arms all day, if he could. Then again, he was a bit of a slave to his stomach, and it was growling in anticipation of lunch. "Can I help with anything?"

"Toast the bread?" she suggested, gesturing toward the bread bin on the counter. "I am determined to get Micah to eat something that isn't cheese-based today."

Rhys chuckled. "Gook luck with that," he said as he went to do as she asked, sliding a few slices of bread into the toaster before moving to the fridge to fetch the butter.

She chuckled. "I do not need luck," she said impishly. "I have bribery. We have raspberries for dessert." Micah's newest love affair with fresh fruit was an exciting development.

"Raspberries?" Rhys echoed. "All by themselves?" he asked, dubiously. He thought they should at least be able to put some whipped cream on them or something. Who wanted to eat naked raspberries?

She glanced over her shoulder at him. "For the children, yes," she told him. "There's brandy cream for you." She did know her husband, after all.

"Oh, well ... That's okay then," he said, grinning. She really did know him too well. He was glad he didn't have to follow the same rules she'd laid down for the kids. He reached for the toast as it popped, dropping the slices quickly onto a plate as he realized how hot they were.

"Papa?" a little voice asked from the doorway, drawing their attention to little Micah, leaning on Cody's back as the pair of them looked in from the garden. "When's Dyl gonna be awake prop'ly?"

"Dyl?" Rhys echoed, blinking over at his son, a brief wave of panic constricting his chest. "What's the matter with him?" he asked, abandoning the toast to push out the back door and sprint toward the tree, where baby Dylan was supposed to be resting in his basket. It seemed now it was Rhys' turn to panic.

As it turned out, there was nothing wrong with Dylan. He was just sleeping, as babies of around six months were wont to do. Ana was also sound asleep, which was probably the reason Micah had come calling. No doubt in his small mind, Ana was asleep because Dylan was asleep, so Dylan being awake meant more fun with his big sister.

"Oh, thank God," Rhys muttered, leaning against the tree one-handed to take a few breaths. "He's okay!" he called back toward Nat, relieved. Now, who was over-reacting?

She smiled over at her husband, one hand stroking over Micah's hair as they watched him from the doorway. Who knew what they were talking about over there since he had apparently leaped bodily over his son and the dog to get outside?

He knelt down to brush Ana's hair from her face. "Ana," he called her softly. "Annybananny," he repeated, using his pet name for her. "Wake up. It's almost time for lunch."

The little girl stirred easily, yawning as she woke up, one hand rubbing her eyes clumsily. "Did I fall sleeped?" she asked drowsily, blinking up at her father. "Where's Micah?"

"Yeah, he's, uh ..." Rhys frowned, looking back at the house in search of his young son, hoping he hadn't hurt him in his panic.

It seemed as though being used for a hurdle was the high point of Micah's day, though. The toddler was cackling with laughter as Nat lifted him back and forth over Cody's back, the dog's tail wagging furiously in enjoyment of the silliness. Next to the basket on the blanket, Sasha raised her own head, ending her yawn with a snap of her muzzle as she looked around.

Rhys smiled with relief at the sound of Micah's laughter. "Some watch dog you are," he remarked, as he turned back to ruffle Sasha's fur affectionately. "Time to wash up for lunch," he told Ana, knowing that might prove a project in itself, knowing Micah.

Sasha rumbled happily at the affection, adjusting herself until her big head was resting directly over the basket, as though making a show of protecting the baby since everyone else was going to be busy for a little while.

Ana giggled, stretching her arms as she sat up. "Sasha's a good doggy."

"I know she is," Rhys admitted. "I'm just teasing her. You know, like I tease you sometimes," he said before lunging toward Ana to tickle her sides.

The little girl squealed, arms flailing in a futile attempt to fight her papa off even as she cackled with laughter to match Micah's. In the basket, Dylan stirred, complaining a little before settling once again, apparently reassured by the cold dog nose that touched his cheek as he grumbled.

Ana clapped a hand over her mouth, eyes wide. "Bad Papa," she told Rhys, through her own muffler. "Waked up the Dyl."

"He has to waked up sooner or later," Rhys pointed out. Preferably after lunch. "Can you keep an eye on him while I help Mama with lunch? It's almost ready."
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay.

"Dream On" - Aerosmith

Rhys Bristol

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Re: Just a Quiet Afternoon
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2020, 03:00:33 PM »
"Me an' Sasha can," Ana announced, filled with self-importance at being put in charge of the baby. "We're the bestest pro-tek-torrs in the umbiwerst!"

Rhys just barely managed to stifle his laughter at his daughter's mangling of the English language. Thankfully, he was familiar enough with her "Ana-isms" to know what she meant.

"You're an awesome big sister, Anakins!" he praised her, taking a moment to kiss the top of her head.

She beamed, positively buoyant with the praise, and sat herself down on the other side of the basket to Sasha, little fingers scritching the calmer dog's head. "We got this, Papa."

"Good girl!" Rhys said, chuckling as he corrected himself. "Girls. I'll be right back. Yell if you need us, okay?" he asked, knowing she would. He really hated leaving a small child in charge of another small child, but he felt they were safe enough in their own backyard for the few minutes it would take to get the picnic together.

"I will! I'll yell really loud and everyone will wake up," she informed him confidently. It wouldn't take long to grab the food and bring it out, and they could be reasonably assured that Sasha would enthusiastically savage anyone who tried anything with her pups.

Rhys chuckled again, knowing his daughter could carry through on that threat if she really wanted to. She could be possessed of a blood-curdling screech akin to that of a banshee when the need arose.

 "I'll be right back. Promise!" he told her, scritching Sasha's ear and darting a quick look at Dylan before sprinting back to the house to help Nat with the food.

In the kitchen, Nat had loaded up Micah with the plastic plates and cutlery to take outside, which he was doing as carefully as he possibly could as Rhys arrived.

"Scuse me, Papa," the little boy politely said, though the way he braced suggested he was expecting his father to leap over him again.

"Are you okay or do you need help, Micah?" Rhys asked the small boy, not even realizing his son was bracing for another leap.

"M'kay," Micah assured him, concentrating fiercely on his little pile as he toddled out through the door.

Nat chuckled softly, carefully lifting the quiche out of the pan onto a plate. "He wanted to do something helpful," she explained. "There was a suggestion that he might bring the jug out by himself."

"He's a good boy," Rhys said, smiling proudly as his son toddled out behind him. "Dylan is okay, by the way. I guess it was my turn to over-react," he told her, a sheepish grin on his face.

She smiled. "We are quite the pair, are we not?" She kissed his cheek. "No one will ever be able to fault us for our protective instinct, that is for certain."

"They might be able to fault us for leaving our children in the care of a couple of dogs," Rhys pointed out with a chuckle, though they were only a few feet away really and in both sight and earshot. "What can I help with?"

She gestured to the food laid out on a couple of trays on the table. "Pick one and take it outside," she said with a grin, putting the jug of juice down on one of the trays as she did so. "Lunch is served."

"As you wish," he said, taking up the heaviest of the two trays and thankfully, not acting like a smart ass, but clutching it in both hands and carefully carrying it out to the blanket they'd laid out under a tree where the kids were waiting. "Lunch time!" he called as he approached.

"Yay!"

The plates and cutlery were already laid out carefully for everyone, leaving space for the adults to set down the food and serve everything out. And, of course, Dylan chose that moment to wake up hungry.

Nat laughed, rolling her eyes as she settled the baby boy to his own meal before reaching for her cup. "Someone is going to have to cut up my food for me!"

"Looks like your mother outdid herself yet again," Rhys remarked, though he'd had a small hand in helping with the quiche preparations. "Looks like I'm that someone," he added with a chuckle as he served up lunch for the children before making a plate for Nat.

"Is there mushrooms?" Micah was asking, inspecting the contents of both his plate and Ana's as though expecting to find some discrepancy between the servings.

"I don't know, are there?" Rhys replied, not denying or confirming, a smirk on his face as he cut up Nat's food. "Would you like me eat it for you, too?" he teased his wife.

Nat stuck her tongue out at him through a laugh. "I am fully aware that you can eat an entire quiche by yourself, dusha moya," she assured him. "But your son is eating, so I think I should eat as well." As usual, the breastfeeding was eliciting sly interest from the two children, but they had learned by now not to poke.

"I could feed him, you know," Rhys reminded her for probably the umpteen-thousandth time. It was true he'd have to use a bottle, but he thought plenty of babies had been bottle fed without any lasting repercussions.

"I thought you were on night duty tonight?" she countered with a smile. She was not one to deny Rhys this kind of bonding with their babies, after all.

"Am I?" he asked, a smile spreading across his face. He was probably the only man alive who actually enjoyed losing sleep just so he could take the two a.m. feeding.

Ana giggled at the look on her father's face. "You gone all smiley, Papa!"

Nat grinned, glancing at the two children as they giggled together, swapping bits and pieces on their plates. She looked back to Rhys.
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"Dream On" - Aerosmith

Rhys Bristol

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Re: Just a Quiet Afternoon
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2020, 03:01:00 PM »
"It is your turn, milaya," she reminded him affectionately. "You get the evening, the night, and the morning."

"And I'll be sleeping all day tomorrow," he added, with a wink at the children, though he handled sleep deprivation better than most. It came from years spent hunting or being hunted by demons. Sleep had been something of a luxury then.

"Nu-uh, Papa, 'cos you said we go skatin' tomorrow," Ana pointed out vehemently. "Jus' you an' me, an' if you sleepin', then I don't get my Papa time!"

Rhys rolled his eyes. "I guess we're going skating them. Just make sure I don't fall asleep on skates, okay?" he asked his daughter, though that was hardly likely. He might if he sat down for a while though.

"Yay!" Happy now that was confirmed again, Ana went back to her lunch, leaving Nat to smirk faintly at her husband.

"Really, milaya, you should know better than to mark off Ana time directly after night duty," she teased him affectionately.

"Maybe we should put up a calendar," he suggested, as it seemed he was having trouble keeping track of his own schedule - even without having to earn a paycheck, like most people did. "Anyway, I'll sleep when I'm ..." he broke off, before he blurted the rest of that thought in front of the children.

"And that will not happen for a long time yet," Nat agreed. She glanced up in time to see Cody gobbling down the ham on Micah's plate. "Mischa ... pay attention to your plate, please."

Technically, he'd died once already, but neither of them was eager to repeat that incident anytime soon or even think about it too hard. Thankfully, neither child seemed too phased by their father's unfinished remark.

Micah frowned a little at his mother's scolding. "But I don' wike it, an' Cody does," he pointed out with childlike logic.

"If you do not like something, you should tell us," Nat told him gently. "We would not force you to eat something you do not like, solnyshko. But letting the dogs eat off your plate is not a good thing. What if they ate something that made them sick? Sometimes humans eat things that are very bad for dogs."

"Why'd they ate somethin' makes 'em sick?" Micah asked, looking confused now and more than a little bit worried.

"Dogs don't always know what's good for them," Rhys tried to explain. "They'll eat whatever we give them. That's why we have to be careful what we give them to eat. Understand?"

"You have not hurt Cody, Mischa," Nat added reassuringly. "But if he wants something, he has to sit, and he has to be a good boy and take it from your hand, not from your plate. Da?"

Micah nodded his head obediently, no longer on the verge of tears. "Okay, Mama!" he replied, turning to Cody to scold the dog. "You has to sit an' be good. Mama says," he told the dog, waggling a chubby finger at him.

Rhys bit his lip so he wouldn't laugh. "Let me get you a fresh plate. No mushrooms and no ham, right?" he asked his son, to which the boy nodded again. "We're having raspberries for dessert, you know," he added.

Ana perked up on hearing this, her mouth full of salad. "Weally?"

Nat chuckled, gently lifting Dylan up onto her shoulder to let him hang for a moment as she covered herself up before burping him. "Really," she confirmed. "With special cream for Papa so he does not complain like last time."

Ana snickered, remembering Rhys' small dissertation on naked fruit.

"Yes, but you have to eat your lunch first," Rhys added, mostly for Micah's benefit. "Mischa, you do know there's cheese in that quiche, right?" he asked the boy, knowing how fond Micah was of cheese.

"Cheese?" Micah echoed, eyes widening as he looked with renewed but somewhat dubious interest at his lunch.

"Da," Nat confirmed. "Two types of cheese. I counted them myself."

Ana snorted with laughter. "S'easy to count to two," the little girl pointed out. "One, two! See?"

"Show off," Rhys teased his daughter, sticking his tongue out at her.

"Two cheeses?" Micah echoed, eyes widening. He was still a little suspicious of the bits of veggies in with the mixture, but the promise of cheese had him digging his fork into the fresh plate his father had given him.

"Well, next time, you can make the quiche then," Nat told their daughter laughingly, amused when Ana stuck her own tongue out at Rhys and crossed her eyes for good measure.

Rhys chuckled. Of all his children, Ana was the most like him, which could either be a good or a bad thing, depending on your point of view. Then again, it was too soon to tell about Micah or Dylan.

"So, what do we want to do later?" he asked his little family.

"Can we watch a moobie?" Ana asked, her tone just a little hesitant. Screen time was, after all, strictly regulated, and movie time was definitely a treat above all else.

"What moobie do you want to watch?" Rhys countered as he scooped up the last of his quiche.

"Not Frozed 'gain!" Micah pleaded. "We watched Frozed last time!" And the time before that, but who was counting?

"I don't wanna watch Frozed," Ana grumped back at her brother. "Wanna watch Winnie da Poop."

Everybody's got their dues in life to pay.

"Dream On" - Aerosmith

Rhys Bristol

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Re: Just a Quiet Afternoon
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2020, 03:01:16 PM »
This was a step too far for Nat, who had to hastily hide her laughter in Dylan's back as he burped on her shoulder.

"The Pooh," Rhys corrected, though he doubted it mattered. Pooh, Poop - it was all the same thing, as far as he was concerned.

"But why's he called Poop?" Micah asked, picking a bit of broccoli out of his quiche with his fingers.

"Why is your bear called Mussels?" Nat countered affectionately. "Winnie the Pooh was real, you know. The man who wrote the stories, he bought a real teddy bear for his son, who named it Winnie the Pooh."

Micah shook his head, not accepting this explanation. "Winnie's a girl's name and poop is poop," he said matter-of-factly.

Rhys tried to hide a snicker, as he looked over at Nat. "He's got a point there." Never mind the fact that Mussels was an equally silly name.

"The bear is a girl," Nat said with a smile. "Her name is Winifred." She eyed Rhys. "And this is all true, so you can look it up if you want to. She's from Canada."

"What?" Rhys said, furrowing his brows doubtfully. "She is not. Everyone knows Winnie the Pooh is a boy." Then again, he was talking about the fictional bear, not the one the creation was based on, of which he knew very little.

"In the books, yes," she said, chuckling at his insistence. "The real bear is girl, which is why the bear in the books is called Winnie."

Ana was watching this go back and forth like a tennis match, her mouth half-open.

"No, that can't be right," Rhys said. "Micah is right. Why would you name a boy bear Winnie? And why Pooh?" he asked, not really wanting to argue about it, but puzzled just the same.

"A.A. Milne's son was called Christopher Robin, so it would appear that strange naming conventions were a way of life for him," Nat offered, sitting the six month-old Dylan in her lap. The baby boy beamed at his brother and sister.

"Yeah, well, everyone knows that," Rhys pointed out, though he really didn't know that much about the origins of Pooh Bear. Even when he'd been a boy, who'd been too busy memorizing baseball stats to have much time for Winnie the Pooh.

She chuckled, rolling her eyes at him. "Back to the subject at hand, though," she said, straightening Dylan as he listed in her lap. "Mischa, would you like to watch Winnie the Pooh?"

Rhys was still eying Nat, and mulling over this naming thing, but he let the debate go for now. Micah looked thoughtful a moment. Ana was the one who'd suggested Winnie the Pooh, but had she suggested it because she really wanted to watch it or just to make her brother happy? Who knew?

"Okay, Mama," he said agreeably, so long as it wasn't Frozen ... again.

Nat smiled, fairly sure Rhys was going to bring this up again at some point, but glad that, for now, it was done. Ana smiled happily, glad not to have had another argument about movies. It seemed as though the eldest child of the family was starting that crucial stage of social development that meant she was going to start paying attention to other people's wishes and wants.

Oh, he was probably going to Google it later, but he was willing to let it go for now. "Winnie the Poop it is then," he said, looking over to see how Micah was doing with his lunch. "All done, Mischa?" he asked.

The little boy nodded, showing off his almost empty plate. He'd managed to finish everything except the cucumber slices, all of which had been very carefully picked out of his salad.

"You want me to take the baby?" Rhys asked, now that he, too, had finished eating. He was on baby duty later tonight, but was willing to help as much as he could.

"Mmm, yes, please." Nat was happy to pass Dylan over to his father so she could finish her own meal, catching Ana's eye only to smile. "Da, you can both play until it is time for dessert," she said, and the two children shot up from their seats, bounding away across the garden with the dogs in tow.

Rhys reached over to take Dylan from Nat and settle him against his lap. "Winnie the Poop?" he said, smirking over at Nat, clearly amused by the latest Ana-ism.

She laughed, relaxing back. "It could have been worse," she conceded, but it was still pretty bad. "She is becoming a lot like young Lyneth was, don't you think?" Though they hadn't met the inquisitive little fae-child for several years now, it was hard to forget her.

"Lyneth?" Rhys echoed, having to jog his memory banks to place that name. "Oh! That kid that belonged to those friends of Beth and Jason," he said remembering.

"Da, the tiny one who spoke like an adult," Nat said, still entertained by the memory. "She charmed you without even trying. It was very funny to watch."

"She was a cute kid. A little precocious, but cute," Rhys said in his own defense. It had never been too hard for a female to charm him, it seemed, no matter that female's age.

"It was a sign of just how tightly Ana would have you wrapped about her finger," Nat informed him teasingly, nudging his knee with her toe. "And adorable, too."

"Mmm," Rhys murmured in reply. "Is it that obvious?" he asked, not bothering to deny the fact. Her mother had managed to wrap him around her finger right from the first moment they'd met. He had mourned the fact that she'd slipped through his fingers - until they'd run into each other again, trying to steal the same thing from the Louvre, of all places.

"Only to me," she promised, eyes sparkling with her smile as she set her plate aside, lying back on the blanket in the shade. She let out a contented sigh. "I do love our home, Rhys."

Rhys arched a brow at her remark, though he was happy she was no longer angry with him. "This home or our ... other home?" he asked, not so much as mentioning either their home in Avalon or Glastonbury.
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Rhys Bristol

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Re: Just a Quiet Afternoon
« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2020, 03:01:33 PM »

She smiled, tilting her head to look at him. "Wherever we are, with our family together, that is home," she said softly, laughing a little as Dylan lunched toward a ladybug crawling on Rhys' knee.

"Right," he murmured in agreement. After all, he'd learned that home wasn't so much a place or a house so much as it was family. It had taken a long time for him to learn that lesson; it had taken him meeting Nat. "Because I thought maybe you meant this cookie cutter house in this overpriced development we mostly call home," he said with a smirk, as he offered a finger to the ladybug so Dylan could get a closer look.

She snorted with laughter. "You don't like our cookie-cutter house?" she asked in amusement. "I know the house in Glastonbury has more character, but it is a long way from everyone we consider family."

Rhys shrugged. "I like it just fine," he told her. After all, she had already pointed out that home had more to do with family than with the place you rested your head, and at least the roof didn't leak. "But you have to admit, it does kind of lack character."

She laughed again, rolling onto her side to pick a daisy and stroke Dylan's nose with it fondly. "We could give it character," she suggested in amusement. "A few alterations here and there, to make it unique in all the neighborhood."

"We could," Rhys agreed. "Or we could sell it for a small fortune and buy something we can really sink our teeth into," he said, though he was only half-serious. He was happy here in Brooklyn, living close to their friends, but he sometimes felt their life there was a little too comfortable, a little too easy. "Either that or I've gotta get my hands on an old car to tinker with."

"You need a project, hmm?" She considered him for a moment. "What make of car would you like to be tinkering with, I wonder? Another Mustang, perhaps?"

"Maybe," Rhys murmured thoughtfully. He hadn't really thought much about it until recently. He paused a moment to look around the yard. "Or maybe I should build Ana a playhouse."

"She would like that very much," Nat agreed warmly. "So long as Micah could use it with her. They are very much two peas in a pod, our toddling terrors."

"Well, of course! Maybe a miniature castle," he mused aloud. "What do you think?" he asked, shaking the ladybug off his finger so it could fly away home before Dylan squashed it.

"I think you should sit down and work out what you want to build," she said cheerfully. "We can pick up anything you need easily enough, after all."

"What I need to do is sit down with Ana and Micah and see what they think of the idea," he pointed out. After all, if he was making it for them, he wanted their input.

"Perhaps having a few ideas first would be a good idea," she suggested. "Otherwise, you may find yourself promising to build them a small house of their own out here." She chuckled at the thought of that, pushing herself to sit up. "I should get the raspberries and cream."

He chuckled, knowing the idea could easily and quickly get out of hand, if he let it. "Should I buy another old car instead?" he asked, a teasing smirk on his face.

"My dumpling, that is entirely up to you." She stuck her tongue out at him, pushing herself up onto her feet. "I will be back in a moment." She patted his head teasingly, brushing her skirt down as she headed for the back door and the kitchen.

"You're not much help!" he called after her, chuckling at the way she teased him in return.

He really was happy here in Brooklyn - content even - but after a lifetime spent hunting demons and other nefarious creatures, he sometimes felt a little restless and needed something to keep himself busy besides changing diapers and telling bedtime stories. Now that they had children, they weren't given as many assignments from Avalon, which suited him just fine, but he sometimes felt he had a little too much idle time. All of his friends were still working - Adam with the FBI, and Ian with his scholarly pursuits - but Rhys had never really had a paying job, except for a short stint as a short-order cook. It had never been necessary or practical, and now that he was married to Nat, they didn't really need the money, but it wasn't so much about money as it was about feeling useful.

"What do you think, Dyl? Should I build your sister a little castle of her own? Or maybe a tree house," he murmured, frowning as he looked around the yard, unable to find a tree that was large enough to support such a thing.

In his lap, Dylan gurgled, waving around the daisy Nat had left him with as he looked up at his father, moments from putting that flower into his mouth, as he was wont to do. Cody came galloping across the garden to crash across the blanket and flop down in the shade, followed closely by Sasha and a shriek of laughter from the other children.

Thankfully, Rhys was fast enough to stop his son from ingesting that daisy - not to mention the ladybug - laughing at the dogs and kids came to converge on them on the blanket. "All ready for dessert?" he asked them both as they returned, pulling them both into his embrace, while still balancing Dylan on his lap.

"Is it weally waspb'rries?" Ana asked hopefully, cuddling under his arm with one hand planted firmly on Dylan's chest to hold him still.

At the kitchen door, Nat was just visible, beginning to make her way back out with a bowl and a small jug.

"No, they're fake wazzbewwies," Rhys teased back and would probably have tickled her had he not been holding Dylan in his arms. "What do you think?"

She pulled a face at him, evidently unimpressed with his reply but distracted as Dylan inserted her fingers into his mouth to gum happily through a deluge of dribble. "Ugh, Dyl!"

Rhys chuckled. "You know everything goes in his mouth right now, Ana," he told her. "Let's make room for Mama!" he said, as Micah tried to do just that, a look of eager anticipation on his young face for their dessert.

"Oh, am I going to sit on your lap, too, Papa?" Nat teased, easing down onto her knees to uncover the bowl of raspberries and begin serving them into the little dishes Micah had brought out with the rest of the plastic crockery earlier.
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"Dream On" - Aerosmith

Rhys Bristol

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Re: Just a Quiet Afternoon
« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2020, 03:01:50 PM »

"Maybe later," Rhys promised, a look in his eyes that said he was hoping for more than just snuggling. He plucked up a single raspberry to offer it to Dylan. He wasn't sure how they could eat them without a little sugar to sweeten them up, but fortunately, he could to have cream with his.

Micah and Ana, however, were more than happy with just their raspberries on their own, slithering down off Rhys' lap to sit side by side as they shoveled the fruit into their mouths cheerfully. Dylan inspected the raspberry offered to him, closing his fingers around it on the second try, and immediately smashed it into his mouth.

Nat snorted with laughter, rolling her eyes. "Like father, like son."

Rhys shrugged and smiled, secretly proud of that fact. He thought Ana took after him most, but he didn't mind that Nat saw a little of him in all of their children. "Is that such a bad thing?" he asked, with a smirk at his wife.

"Have I ever said it is?" she countered, dolloping the sweet brandy cream over his dessert and offering it to him as Dylan smacked his lips, apparently undecided about whether raspberries were worth all the trouble.

"Not that I know of," Rhys replied, honestly enough, though he doubted Nat had ever said a bad word about him to anyone. He knew he wasn't without faults, but she was the only woman who had ever seemed to overlook them or make any attempt to really understand him. He leaned in close, his lips mere inches from her ear. "Have I told you lately that I love you?" he whispered.

She blushed, the sweet endearment unexpected and more touching because of it. "Not today," she murmured in answer, turning her head to brush her lips to his tenderly. "But then, I have not said it either. I was intending to show you later on."

"I won't argue with that," he said, with a twinkle of anticipation in his eyes.

"No whisper!" Micah suddenly interrupted, tugging on his father's sleeve with sticky fingers. "Mama says no whisper!"

"Did I say that?" Nat asked, turning wide, innocent eyes on their older son above a fond smile. "Well, then, I am very sorry, Mischa. Can you forgive me?"

Micah nodded his head, as if her apology or his parents' whispering hardly mattered. Then again, rules were rules. But at the moment, he was far too busy enjoying his raspberries to say much else.

"Spasibo, solnyshko." Chuckling, she kissed the little boy's head, finally getting around to eating her own little bowl of fruit in a warm shade of their only decent tree.

"So, I was thinking ..." started Rhys, as he scooped up a third spoonful of cream-covered raspberries. "This yard is a little too bare. What do you think we should do about that?" It wasn't quite as bare as he said - there was a flower garden and a few young trees - but he wasn't talking about plantings.

Ana looked around curiously. "We gonna get toys?" she asked hopefully, with all the selfish sweetness of a five year old. After all, if Papa was asking them, then it must have something to do with what they would like. Right?

"I think you have plenty of toys," Rhys replied with a chuckle, but quickly followed that up, so as not to disappoint. "I was thinking more along the lines of a playhouse or maybe a jungle gym or something like that."

"What's a junga-jim?" was the inevitable question, but he definitely had Ana's full attention, at the very least. If something was going to happen to her garden, then she reserved the right to be consulted fully about it first.

"It's ..." Rhys trailed off as he tried to find the words to explain it. "You know, like at the playground," he said, which was not quite the best explanation. "Or a swing set or something. I don't know. What do you think?" he asked, letting his children mull that over.

"Oooh." Ana nodded as though she fully understood, and informed Micah loudly. "Papa wants to make a playpen for Mama." Nat bit her lips, deciding not to get involved in this one. It was Rhys' pet project, after all.

Rhys exhaled an exasperated sigh, scowling a little at his eldest. "No, that is not what I mean. I am talking about building something for you and Micah. Unless you're not interested," he added with a shrug. Two could play at this game, after all, and he wasn't going to be beaten by a five-year-old.

"For us?" Ana blinked, surprised delight showing itself in her expression. "Like the stuff at the park?"

Nat smiled. "Da, just like the things at the park," she confirmed, rescuing Rhys for a moment. "Something just for you and your brothers."

"You is gonna build us a park?" Micah asked, eyes as wide as saucers.

Rhys laughed. "Not a whole park, Mischa, but maybe some things to play on right here in our own yard. I'm just not sure what you'd both like."

"Can we have a house we can camp in?" Ana asked, her enthusiasm piqued now by the prospect of something special in their garden that was just for them.

"A house you can camp in?" Rhys echoed, looking to Nat for confirmation. He'd been thinking about building them a playhouse in the form of a miniature castle, and there was no reason they couldn't camp out in it, if it was big enough. "You don't want to camp out in a tent?"

"But what if it rains?" Ana pointed out. "Or it's cold? Like on Habboweem, we could camp and have a fire and martsmarrows."

Nat rolled her eyes - they were going to have to do something about the cutesy language at some point.

Unlike Nat, Rhys didn't even blink an eye at the cutesy language, accustomed to it as he was. "If it rains?" he echoed, frowning. "If it rains, we make a tent inside, like we always do."

"But you an' Mama don't fit in the tent with us," Ana pointed out mournfully. "You want a campin' house, right, Micah?" She nudged her little brother, hoping for some back up.
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Rhys Bristol

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Re: Just a Quiet Afternoon
« Reply #8 on: April 21, 2020, 03:02:08 PM »
"If you want to go camping, we can go camping without building a house for it, Ana," Rhys pointed out. After all, Dylan's old hunting cabin was empty now that Ian and Aurelia had bought a house of their own. In fact, if he worked on fixing it up, it might make the perfect place for a summer getaway. But that wasn't what this discussion was about.

"Oh." The little girl visibly deflated, but she accepted that no was no, going back to her raspberries in a little more of a subdued mood.

Rhys was frowning again, too. He hated ever having to disappoint his daughter, but he didn't want to spoil her either - or maybe he did. "I was thinking about building a miniature castle," he murmured, waiting to see how that went over with the pair.

"With a tower?" This time, Ana was obviously forcing herself not to get too excited right out the gate, but the thought of having their own castle was pretty exciting.

"Um, sure, why not? It's not a castle if it doesn't have a tower, does it?" Rhys replied, relieved Ana didn't hold their little dispute against him.

"Mama, Mama, can I have 'punzel hair?" And there was the enthusiasm back again. Natalya laughed as Ana scrambled across the blanket to hug her and kiss her cheek, angling for something that would apparently make a castle even better.

"Can I has a sword like yours, Papa?" Micah asked, tugging on his father's sleeve again. If they were going to have their own castle, then he wanted to be a knight of Avalon, just like his father.

"It would appear you are building a castle, milaya," Nat told Rhys with a grin, hugging Ana against her side fondly. "And we can make you some Rapunzel hair, I am sure, Ana."

The little girl squealed happily, and would have thrown herself at Rhys to kiss and thank him if he wasn't holding a bowl and a baby at the same time.

"Maybe a plastic sword, Mischa," Rhys told his son. "But you have to be careful with it, so you don't hurt anyone." He turned to Nat, chuckling at her remark. "I guess that decides that. Maybe later we can look at some pictures and see what you both like," he suggested.

"Oh, yes, please, Papa!" Mood restored with the minimum of effort, Ana beamed over at Rhys, shoveling the last of her raspberries into her mouth with one sticky hand.

"I'm not sure you'll be able to camp out in it, but we'll see okay, Ana?" Rhys said, hoping to reach a compromise, though it seemed Ana had already forgotten her disappointment.

"Perhaps you could get Joey over here to show off some of those woodworking skills he is so proud of," Nat suggested, pulling Ana onto her lap for a cuddle.

"That's a good idea," Rhys replied, just as Dylan stuck his entire hand in his father's bowl of raspberries and cream and brought his fingers to his mouth.

"Ah, ah!" Nat lunged to catch the baby boy's hand. "Nyet, little man, we do not want a drunken infant in this house!" She grinned as she wiped the little hand clean, blowing a raspberry onto his palm to smooth over the moment.

The littlest Bristol looked like he was almost on the verge of tears, until his mother made him laugh and Micah offered him a naked raspberry.

"Like father, like son," Rhys said, with a grin at Nat, thankful she had been faster than him that time.

"Good boy." Micah earned himself a kiss from his mother for that selfless offering. "See? Even Papa doesn't pay attention to his plate sometimes!"

"I was distracted," Rhys said in his own defense, which wasn't entirely untrue, excited as he was about building the kids a castle.

"Which proves it can happen to anyone," Nat confirmed, smiling over at Micah with a wink. She didn't want their son to hold onto feeling guilty about letting Cody eat off his plate earlier.

"Even to Papa," Micah repeated what his mother had said, snuggling up beside her, his bowl almost empty of raspberries.

"You should have seen what you were like at that age," Rhys told their middle child, reaching over to ruffle his hair.

It was rare for both the older children to cuddle up with her at the same time, so Nat was absolutely glorying in this, extracting one arm from about Ana on her lap to hug Micah into her side affectionately. "You are a very good boy," she promised him. "I think your sister is asleep again, though. "

"M'not," Ana said indistinctly. "M'cuddlin'."

Rhys chuckled at the cuddlefest that was going on in Nat's lap. "I think maybe it's time for a nap," he suggested. They didn't always take a nap in the afternoon, but today had been a busy day and both children were flagging, as well as their parents. "I know this little guy is about ready for a nap," he said, meaning Dylan, not himself.

"No, m'awake," Ana tried to insist, but it wasn't very convincing.

Nat hugged her gently. "You can still watch a movie later," she promised. "There is nothing wrong with napping for an hour. Adults do it all the time."

"I'd take a nap everyday if I could!" Rhys confirmed. As for Micah, he had his thumb in his mouth and his eyelids were getting noticeably heavy.

"I think I am stuck here for a little while," Nat said, stifling the urge to laugh in case it disturbed the sleepy pair piled on top and around her.

"Nah," Rhys said, moving over to lay the little guy back down in his basket before moving to scoop Micah up into his arms before he moved to his feet. "You wanna give me Ana?" he asked, one arm still free, Micah balanced against his hip.

"I've got her," Nat assured him. "You take Dylan as well." How often did she get to cuddle with an Ana who had fallen asleep on her lap? It was no secret that Rhys was the favored parent when it came to that, after all.
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Rhys Bristol

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Re: Just a Quiet Afternoon
« Reply #9 on: April 21, 2020, 03:02:22 PM »
"Okay," he agreed, making no argument. He knew it wasn't often Nat got a chance to cuddle with her daughter and he wasn't about to deny her that. He easily scooped Dylan up from his basket and moved toward the house with one son in each arm.

"Come on, solnyshka," Nat murmured to her own sleepy armful. "Up we go." With a little effort, she made it to her feet, adjusting Ana onto her hip as the little girl stirred enough to curl her arms about her mother's neck. Nat would come back to tidy up the picnic messes, but for now, she was going to revel in the opportunity to be the one to put Ana down for a nap.

By the time Nat reached the bedrooms, Rhys had already settled Micah in and was doing the same with Dylan. Unless they surrendered to sleep themselves, it looked like the adults were going to get at least an hour to themselves.

With kisses and whispered promises to keep them safe, Nat extricated herself from Ana's arms, tucking her in gently as she sighed and drifted properly into her nap. It took a little longer to leave the bedroom - there was something arresting about the sight of their children asleep that could hold her in place for hours at a time.

Rhys caught up with her, sliding an arm around her waist as they watched their eldest lost in sleep. "Can you believe our luck?" he asked her quietly, barely more than a whisper.

"Not always," she whispered back to him, tucking herself under his shoulder. "Some days, it seems too good to be true, you know?"

"Believe me, I know," Rhys replied, unwilling to tear his gaze from their sleeping children just yet. "We are truly blessed, Nat," he whispered. He wasn't exactly the religious type. He hadn't been for a long time, despite his angelic origins, and yet, he had a feeling there had been a higher power at work in all this, perhaps even beyond that of Avalon.

She smiled, leaning into him tenderly. For all the trials of their first few weeks, theirs was a connection she knew she would never willingly be without. Rhys had opened her heart, given her a home and a family; shared himself with her in ways she had never thought she would be able to share with anyone. And all because of a sword and a memorable plane trip.

Had it been some grand scheme of Fate that had drawn them together, after all? Even Rhys' guardian angel had seemed unable to answer that. But it hardly mattered, grand plan or no, so long as they were together - so long as they were family.
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay.

"Dream On" - Aerosmith