April 18, 1992 – 13 months old
Remington looked around the park with horror in his eyes.
"There must be a thousand children here, Laura," he announced woefully, as the couple unloaded their own three children from the SUV. Her eyes scanned the crowd.
"A few hundred, maybe, but by no means a thousand, Mr. Steele," she corrected with a laugh.
"Remind me again why we're here?" he groused.
"Because Easter Egg hunts make children happy, and we like for our children to be happy," she replied patiently, much as she had thirty minutes ago, an hour ago, three hours ago… last night.
"If it makes them so bloody happy…" he held up a hand in apology when she scowled at him over his choice of words "…how is it we've managed to avoid this… this…" he flipped a hand towards the park "…uncontrolled… frivolity... all these years?"
"Come to Da, mo mhac," he crooned to his son, as he picked the toddler up out of the car seat.
"Girls, unless your Da or I tell you otherwise, you are to be holding one of our hands at all times, understood?" Laura instructed Olivia and Sophia. "There are a lot of people here and we don't want you getting lost." Two pairs of somber eyes – one green and one bright blue – peered up at her as the preschoolers shook their heads.
"Yes, Mommy," they agreed in chorus.
"The girls were unaware of the 'uncontrolled frivolity' until Mary Kate told them about it at her birthday party last weekend," she reminded her husband, as though there had never been a break in the conversation.
"Well remind me next year not to be quite so generous where our present to—"
"Mr. Steele," she drew out his name in warning. He flicked a hand in her direction.
"Fine, fine." The quintet walked through the entrance to the park in silence.
"There's Mary Kate!" Olivia screeched happily.
"And Addison!" Sophie added. "Can we go play with Mary Kate and Addison, Mommy? Please, please?" Sophie danced on her tiptoes and Olivia joined in.
"Please!" Laura glanced at her watch then at Remington.
"Five minutes until the egg hunt starts. One of us will have to take the girls, the other Holt. Choose now, or forever hold your peace."
Remington quickly weighed the pros-and-cons of both options. With the newly walking Holt, it could take half an afternoon to collect enough eggs to meet Laura's standard of a decent effort. On the other hand, he could always carry Holt, pick up a half dozen or so eggs himself, plop them in the basket, then be done with it. Laura would never know. But should Laura find out? He mentally shuddered at the thought. Still, the idea was appealing until he looked towards the area where the two-and-under crowd would hunt, and found several women eyeing him as though having identified their next snack… despite, mind you, he was standing right next to his wife and children at that very moment. Yeesh.
He turned and looked at the second section of the park, reserved for children three-to-five. That section was packed, by far the most populated of any age group. The idea of keeping the girls in his sight line while working his way through that mass of screeching, screaming and squabbling children made his head throb. Ah, but there he had an ace-in-the-hole in the form of his firstborn: Olivia, the child that had never once opened all her presents. When she was done, she was done, and nothing would budge her. And standing next to her? His ever agreeable, very compliant Sophie Bird. Three minutes, tops, and they'd be out of there. He looked more closely at the field of participants, or rather the mother of those participants. A few hostile looks sent his way when he was caught looking, but generally just bone weary parents who would rather be anywhere but there, much like himself. Nothing to fend off there.
"I'll take the girls," he announced.
"Alright," she drew out the word with suspicion as she reached for Holt and took his basket from Remington's hand. "Meet us over there when you're done."
Laura walked at a sedate pace next to Holt, holding his chubby little hand in hers.
"Ba! Ba!" Holt called, pulling on Laura's hand.
"Very good, Holt!" she praised, stooping down as the baby bent over and picked up an egg. "But it's not a ball, it's an egg. Can you say egg?" Holt slipped his hand out of hers and toddled forward excitedly.
Standing, basket in hand, she crossed her arms and followed behind him, a smile on her face. Shiny objects and pretty colors. Both of the children she'd given birth to shared the inability to resist either, just like their father.
No sooner had she relieved her son of his treasure than he toddled-stumbled to the next. He'd just grasped the plastic prize in hand when his precarious balance gave way, and he tumbled over, bottom's up. Two quick steps, brought Laura to her son's side, and she knelt down and swooped him up, setting him back on his feet. His full lower lip quivered and a sheen of tears threatened to dampen his thick, dark lashes.
"Any damages?" she inquired, keeping her voice purposefully light, as she inspected face, hands, elbows and knees finding them injury free. "Good to go! The only thing injured is your pride," she kissed him on the cheek, "And contrary to what your father believes, a little ding to your pride is not the end of the world."
She tipped her head to the side when Holt plopped down on his padded bottom. No longer worried about his fall, his eyes were fastened on the shiny, colored, foil covered objects that had fallen out of the egg which had cracked when he fell. Reaching for one, he immediately tried to stuff it in his mouth.
"No, no, not with the paper on." Plucking the candy out of his mouth, she quickly unwrapped it as her own mouth watered. "This is a Hershey Kiss and it tastes much better without the foil." She eyed the candy and determined it was a choking hazard. Biting the candy in half, she slipped the smaller portion into his mouth. "Try it."
Fifty-minutes later, Remington arrived – face sweat-sheened and shirt dampened with perspiration, looking as though he'd just finished a triathlon – with two skipping, bright eyed little girls. He peered down into Holt's basket.
"Only five? Threw in the flag, did you?" he needled, turning a pointed eye to the girls whose baskets were both overflowing with eggs.
"When he's done, he's done." She held up a hand and dropped it as though to say 'what can you do?'
"Da!" Olivia tugged anxiously on his sleeve. "We has to open the eggs!" she informed him, insistently.
"You know the rule, Livvie Bee: No candy until we take it home and inspect it," he reminded her.
"Actually, that rule applies to trick-or-treating," Laura corrected, "Not Easter egg hunts. It's… different." He gave her a look suggesting she'd lost her mind.
"I don't see how as both involve candy from strangers," he rebuked.
"It just… is," she shrugged.
"And we need to see if we got golden tickets!" Sophie interjected into the conversation. Remington's eyes shifted to his strawberry-blonde daughter.
"Golden ticket?" he inquired.
"if you have one you winned prizes!" Livvie explained, while Sophie nodded her head in enthusiastic agreement.
"Then let's sit down and start opening," Laura suggested. "Dump your eggs on the ground then put the candy in your basket and the empty eggs in Holt's basket," she instructed. Tucking her legs to the side, she leaned back on arms braced against the ground and watched the girls, listened to them chatter, a contented smile on her lips.
"Don't you think we ought to open Holt's eggs before they're buried?" Remington inquired, reaching toward the basket. Lunging upright, she grabbed at his arm and quickly tangled her fingers with his.
"I'm sure they don't do golden tickets for the babies," she insisted. "Let's just—"
"Yes they do, Mommy," Livvie contradicted as she broke open an egg.
"Uh-huh," Sophie confirmed. "The lady said everyone has a chance of finding the gold tickets."
"Well, there you have it." Dropping Laura's hand, Remington reached into Holt's basket and fished out the five still intact eggs. "Would you like to help?" She didn't even have the opportunity to answer before he cracked open the first egg. "What in the…" he eyed the girls, and refrained from completing the thought. "Confetti?"
With a pained look she turned her head away from him. Quirking a single brow, he opened a second, then a third with the same results.
"Holt! No, no, that's my candy!" Olivia scolded her little brother when he grabbed a fistful of colorful candies from her basket.
"Kith!" he cried out happily.
"Kith, indeed, mo mhac," Remington hummed, taking in the brown stains all over his small son's shirt then his wife who still refused to face him. He opened the final two eggs to find the same as the first three. "Uh, Laura…" With a final scrunch of her nose, Laura blanked her faced and turned to look at him with wide-eyed innocence.
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but when we left the house this morning, wasn't our son's shirt a solid color and not… polka dotted?" She couldn't help the smile that twitched at the corner of her lips.
"Holt had a couple of chocolate kisses earlier," she answered, breezily.
"Ah, I see," he leaned closer to her. "Holt had a couple…" He pursed his lips and waggled his head, playing along. "The evidence would suggest he enjoys chocolate as much as his mother."
"Oh, he was definitely a fan," she confirmed, straight-faced. Her façade threatened to crack, when he leaned over and snatched an egg from Livvie's pile. Cracking it open, he dumped three kisses into his hand. He held them up for Laura to see.
"You're quite sure it was only 'a couple?"
"Well," she drew out the word, "Maybe a little more."
"Ah, I see," he repeated, scooting closer to her on the grass, eyes gleaming with amusement. "A thought occurs to me, Mrs. Steele…"
"Oh, and what's that?" She lifted her brows at him, suppressing the threatening laughter.
"That particular, well-sated look on your face only occurs under three circumstances." He edged slightly closer.
"When we've solved a particularly daunting case," he ticked off. "After a we've shared a mind-blowing—"
"Mr. Steele," she drew out his name in warning again.
"…Metaphysical experience," he finished without missing a beat, in the instant before his lips covered hers. His tongue darted into her mouth for a quick sample. Helplessly, she laughed against his lips. When their lips parted he smacked his lips together a pair of times. "And when you've indulged in a good deal of chocolate."
"I did it for Holt," she defended. At mention of his name, Holt wobble-walked in his mother's direction.
"Of course you did," he agreed quickly… and disbelievingly... a wide, knowing smile on his face.
"Kith!" Holt declared insistently holding out a foil-wrapped candy to his mother.
"I did!" she protested, taking the Kiss out of Holt's hand and peeling off the wrapper. "It's a choking hazard." She held up the candy for his inspection. "Unless…" She bit off a large chunk, and eased a sliver into her son's waiting mouth "…I do this."
"Purely for safety reasons," he commented, keeping her farce alive.
"Purely for safety," she agreed, flashing a dimple at him.
"I got one! I got a golden ticket!" Sophie exclaimed happily, drawing the attention of both parents in her direction.
"Kith!" Holt demanded, again, as a line of chocolate tinted drool dripped off his chin and onto his shirt.
Remington and Laura exchanged smiles, and settled in to watch the girls finish opening their eggs.
A/N: Find the conclusion of Easter 1992 in Vignettes of Steele: Olivia - April 1992