Disclaimer: Not mine, not ours, not yours, never was, never will be... let's start a collection bucket!
Author's Note: Too much fluff... too much fluff... TOO MUCH FLUFF, I TELL YOU! TOO MUCH FLUFF!
New Year's Special
"Is it midnight yet?"
"How about now?"
"How about now?"
"No!" Ashley finally exclaimed, her patience wearing thin. "It's not even eleven yet, Melissa!"
Ashley's mouth opened, closed, and opened again. "Go ask your dad."
Melissa raced out of the kitchen in search of her father. Breathing a silent apology to Andros, Ashley tore open several bags of chips, dumping them into the largest bowls she could find.
Ashley rolled her eyes up at the ceiling, but when she turned to her youngest daughter, she was smiling. "Hey, Bea... It's not midnight yet," she added hastily.
Bea's lower lip jutted out as she pouted. "But I want it to be!"
"So do I," Ashley assured her wryly. "But we don't have to wait until midnight to have chips."
"Chips?" Bea's big brown eyes lit up. "How about now?"
"Sure," Ashley agreed wearily. "Go find your dad and your sister, all right? I'll bring all the food out..."
"Mommy, is it midnight yet?" Melissa's little but loud voice rang through the house just as Bea ran out of the kitchen.
"What does Daddy say?" Ashley shouted back.
"To ask you."
Andros grinned at her innocently as Ashley appeared in the living room with a bowl of chips in each hand. He laughed when she wrinkled her nose at him, quickly busying himself with finding the right channel on the TV.
"The chips are icky," Melissa complained, pulling a half-chewed potato chip out of her mouth. Ashley smiled sweetly at her husband before vanishing into the kitchen.
"Try these," Andros suggested, pulling the red bowl out of her grasp, telekinetically nudging the larger, less breakable bowl towards his daughters. "These are the plain kind."
"Who wants popcorn?"
"Memememememememememe - "
Andros rolled his eyes and reached out to take the largest bowl of all from Ashley. No sooner had he set it down on the coffee table than the two girls pounced, unpopped kernels flying as they dug in greedily. Ashley eyed the two girls warily for a moment before shrugging. Dropping a six-pack of soda down alongside the chips, she joined Andros on the couch, pillowing her head on his shoulder.
"Is it midnight yet?" he muttered in her ear, careful that his words didn't reach the two girls. Ashley slapped at him playfully, choking on her laughter.
"Now I know how my parents felt," she whispered back, nuzzling closer to him. "Jeff and I were horrible..."
"I wasn't," Andros said smugly, maintaining an expression of perfect innocence.
"You didn't have New Year's on KO-35," Ashley retorted.
"Is it midnight yet?"
Ashley felt the sudden tension of Andros's body as he stiffened a laugh and sighed. "If you stop asking, I'll tell you when it's midnight, all right Lissa?"
Melissa hesitated. "But what if you forget?"
"I'll remind her," Andros cut in. "How's that?"
"But what if Daddy forgets too?" Bea wondered.
Andros rolled his eyes. "Then the TV will tell us."
"Okay," Melissa agreed finally. "How long until midnight?"
"Fifty-five minutes," Ashley said, glaring at the clock. "Now, stop asking, all right?"
"Okay... what do we do until midnight?"
"New Year's Resolutions!" Ashley exclaimed suddenly, thinking that it just might work. "We'll make New Year's Resolutions."
"What are those?" Bea asked.
"It's a promise," Ashley explained. "On New Year's, you make a promise to do something and you do it the whole year long."
"Umm..." Ashley paused thoughtfully and then grinned at her daughters wickedly. "Like keeping your room clean."
"No!" Melissa shrieked. "No!"
Ashley laughed at her. "We'll talk about that later... Here, I'll go first. This year, I'll, umm... I'll, well, this year, or at least most of this year, I'll need to make sure I take very good care of myself. So I will."
"How come, Mommy?"
"I'll tell you later, Lissa," Ashley said, smiling up sweetly at Andros. He was staring at her suspiciously, a question burning in his eyes. Ashley buried her face in his chest, mumbling, "You know me too well."
Andros laughed then, resting his chin on the top of her head. "Are you..."
"Yeah," she whispered into him. "I am."
Andros kissed the top of her head, smiling down into her hair. "Ash... We'll talk later?"
Ashley nodded her head against him. "Course we will, silly."
"What are you, Mommy?" Melissa demanded. "Tell us!"
"Yeah," Bea agreed. "We wanna know."
"Later," Ashley said, gently but firmly. She shot a pointed look at Andros, who was having trouble not to grin. "Your turn."
He made a face at her but shrugged and thought for a moment. "I'll remember that nothing is ever going to matter than all of you."
"Cheater," Ashley whispered softly, though she was grinning. "You already know that."
"I don't care," he whispered back, tugging her closer and closer to him until she was nearly in his lap. "I'll never be able to love you too much."
"We love you too," Ashley said softly, sharing a soft, secret smile with him before tearing her eyes out of his. Her gaze landed on her eldest daughter. "Your turn, Melissa."
"I'll... umm... I won't eat that much soda."
"That's a good one," Andros said approvingly.
"Can I still drink soda?"
Ashley choked on her laughter. Andros simply rolled his eyes and glanced at his other daughter, ignoring the question altogether. "Bea, it's your turn now."
"Do I have to?"
"You don't have to," Ashley assured her. "We're just being silly."
"Except for Daddy," Ashley amended, wrinkling her nose at Andros, who smiled smugly at her. "If you don't want to, Bea, you don't have to."
"I want to," she said, frowning. "But I can't think of anything."
Melissa's eyes lit up. "I can!"
Eyeing Andros and Ashley suspiciously, Melissa inched across the floor to her younger sister, whispering something in her ear. Bea grinned and nodded her head. She glanced up at her parents solemnly.
"I won't drink candy!"
The two girls collapsed in giggles. Andros shrugged and glanced down at Ashley, who was slowly turning bright red as she tried hard not to give in and laugh along with them. He smiled and kissed the top of her head, feeling her suppressed laughter gradually fade away as she nuzzled close to him. Taking advantage of the fact that his daughters were somewhat distracted, he grasped Ashley's chin and tilted her face up towards his. It was a short, gentle kiss, just long enough for their lips to meet sweetly and then part, but all the love they felt for each other was there, and that was all that had ever mattered.
"What was that for?" Ashley whispered, tucking her head under his shoulder once again.
Andros nodded at the two girls still laughing helplessly. "Something tells me they won't let me kiss you at midnight," he explained, his hand brushing against her stomach for a moment. "Does that count?"
Ashley smiled and glanced up at him, eyes sparkling. "Only if you kiss me after, too."
Thirty-five "Is it midnight?'s" later
"Happy New Year!" Ashley exclaimed brightly, tapping her 'glass' against Melissa's. Plastic champagne glasses might not make the satisfying chinging sound that the real ones did, but they also didn't break every time small children dropped them.
"Can we drink the shampoo now?"
"It's not shampoo," Melissa informed her younger sister. "You don't get drunk off shampoo."
"We're getting drunk?"
"No," Andros interrupted quickly. "We are not getting drunk."
"See?" Bea said triumphantly. "It is shampoo!"
"Is not!" Melissa countered, screwing up her face in thought. "Mommy, what is it?"
"Champagne," Ashley said, winking at Andros. He grinned and shook his head, glad that the girls had yet to figure out that S-P-A-R-K-L-I-N-G A-P-P-L-E C-I-D-E-R was not quite how to spell champagne.
"Fireworks!" Bea shrieked, nearly dropping her glass in excitement. Andros reached out and plucked the glass from her small hand, setting in down on the coffee table as the not-so-distant booms continued to sound. "Daddy, can we go see? Please? Please?"
"Please?" Melissa joined in. "Mommy? Daddy?"
"Go ahead," Ashley said. "Stay on the porch. We'll be there in a minute."
Exhaling slowly, she began slowly working crushed potato chips and popcorn kernels out of the rug, tossing them into the now-empty bowls.
"I thought that's what the vacuum was for," Andros said, pressing a wad of paper towels to a large spill in the rug.
"I'll vacuum later," Ashley said wearily. "I don't feel like getting it out right now."
"You can go watch the fireworks if you want," Andros offered. "I'll clean up."
Ashley glanced around the disaster area that had once been their living room and sighed. "But that's not fair to you..."
Andros laughed. "What would be fair would be making those two little girls outside clean this up. Go, Ash."
"Thanks," she murmured gratefully, slipping outside. The night air was cold enough for her to wish that she'd brought a jacket out with her, but she wasn't about to get up for anything. The two girls seemed unaffected by the cold, however, and sat on the porch steps, squealing every time a burst of color exploded in the sky.
"Can we do this everyday?" Bea asked sleepily, crawling into Ashley's lap.
"Sorry, sweetie," Ashley said. "Just New Year's. And the Fourth of July."
"When's the Fourth of July?"
"Not for a long, long time," Ashley said, sighing inwardly with relief. "Seven months."
"Aww..." Bea whined. "But I like the fireworks!"
"So do I," Ashley agreed.
Bea fell silent then and simply curled up in her mother's arms. Ashley smiled and let her doze off as Melissa remained wide awake, her attention completely raptured by the fireworks.
"Hey," a soft voice whispered in her ear.
Ashley smiled and leaned back against the arm Andros wrapped around her waist. "You cleaned all that up already?"
"Well... sort of." Andros shrugged and held her closer. "But I'd rather be out here."
Ashley smiled and pillowed her head on his shoulder.
No sooner had she turned towards Andros than she felt his lips cover hers. Smiling into the sweet, tender kiss, Ashley shifted closer to him. It never ceased to amaze her what a... gentle soul the one-time sullen red ranger possessed, and when he focused every bit of that sweetness on her, as he was doing now, she sometimes wondered if she wouldn't just melt away.
"Happy New Year, Ashley," he whispered.
Ashley smiled and nuzzled close to him. "Happy New Year."
Author's Note 2: Happy New Year, everyone!
JAP (Jenny, AH/AY, Phantom Rogue)