Story Title: Working Without A Net

Rating: T

Description: One-shot. Complete. Third in the Bathroom Monkey series. Falling is a tricky business.


She was wearing the pinkest, girliest tutu that could have ever been created, courtesy of one Lorelai Gilmore. It had sparkles and ribbons that swirled when she twirled. Her daddy had bought her a back-up; in a duller rosy shade, without all the extra adornments should she simply want to fit in with her other classmates. But this little girl had no interest in fitting in. This little girl wanted to be high above her onlookers, dazzling them with her unique talents.

Which is how she fell down. She'd insisted on no safety net—a true performer didn't need one. And she'd worked the venue before. It was her home crowd. All of her teddy bears and dollies were lined up on the couch, watching in awe as she put one foot in front of the other, walking in the straightest line, higher even than the people swinging on the flying trapeze below her.

Her mother came racing into the room when she heard the howls. Instant annoyance filled her as she saw the rigged contraption. In her creativity, the young girl had dragged her father's old hammock out of the upstairs closet and put it between the couch and the chair before attempting to walk between them on said hammock. She was in a circus phase this week—yesterday Rory had caught her trying put her head in the jaws of the Hancock cat's mouth. The cat had been happy to lick at her fingers, making her giggle but the visual never came to be. She'd asked all night for a bigger cat; luckily she'd forgotten by the morning. This morning all she could focus on was obtaining a tightrope.

Rory scooped the little girl gently up in her arms, careful not to touch the little knee that was already turning an angry red color. Her baby cried for her to fix it, to make her better, wriggling uncomfortably in her pain.

"Careful, Hon, you don't want to get blood on your tutu, do you?" Rory soothed, instantly dampening the effect to a mere whimper.

"It hurts, Mommy," she sniffed.

"I know, baby, I'm gonna make it all better," she promised as she slid her down to sit on top of the vanity in her bathroom. She opened up the medicine cabinet, pulling out a few key items and beginning the distraction process.

"You wanna hear a story?"

This child was the number one fan of story time. She didn't like to hear the same one twice, ever her father's child, and the more drama the better. She had her favorite yarn-spinners; Lorelai being a close second with all her princesses (that always tended to share the captivated girl's name) and princes and the evil servants named Michel and Rune, only to her favorite: Uncle Finn. For her Uncle Finn spun such wild tales—careful to make them child-appropriate most of the time—taking her on rides through foreign lands with mythical creatures that her daddy and he had so bravely slain.

To her daughter's dismay, she was sure, Finn was no where to be seen. It was only the two of them in the large house. Well, there was the crowd left holding their breath as to whether or not their tutued hero would survive the fall. But she'd never let them down yet.

"Yay!" the little girl bounced, only to realize it made her knee feel worse. Her bottom lip jutted out from her upper lip and she howled again.

"Shh, it's okay," Rory took the small hands off the offending area as she wiped the beadlets of blood away with a cool damp cloth. "What story do you want to hear?"

It took no decision time. "How you met Daddy."

Rory smiled. It had never been a request before. Normally she wanted harrowing tales that kept her on the edge of her seat, or in this case, the countertop. Not that their meet story wasn't a harrowing tale. Rory kissed her forehead and took out the antiseptic swab.

"Okay," she said as the wide blue eyes focused on her. "Many years ago, in a far away land, in the land of coffee," Rory added, remembering the little coffee cart she'd been standing at with Marty when they had been so rudely interrupted, "your mommy was standing with a friend, ready to enjoy their beverages, when three loud boys came rumbling through, knocking into my friend."

"Mean boys," she frowned as the sting of the medicine burned into her broken skin. Rory blew softly on the skin, making the hurt disappear.

"I didn't pay much attention to the boys, to be honest, I was more concerned for my friend. They went on their way, out of our lives as abruptly as they came."

"But what about Daddy?"

Rory unscrewed the lid to the ointment. "I'm getting to that," she promised. "The next day, I was helping another friend hang posters, because a very important and beloved man had died. We were inviting people to come to say goodbye to the man, when again I heard the call of those three loud, obnoxious boys from around the way."

"Did the boys kill the man?" her eyes were huge in anticipation.

"No, Sweetie. These boys were annoying and rude, but not evil."

The little girl nodded as Rory rubbed the clear ointment gently over the scrape. "Anyhow, I tried to ignore the loud boys, but they approached my door, and began to knock on it."

"What did they want?"

"Well, it seems that the loudest of them all, or the man you call your Uncle Finn," Rory tweaked her daughter's nose with her ointment-free hand, "was in search of his true love."

"Auntie Lane?"

Rory giggled. "No, though her name was short. In fact, they weren't in the right place at all. In his haze of, um, excitement, he'd forgotten his way back to the girl of his dreams. So his friends were helping him find her."

"Did he find her?"

"No, they found me. As I told him that the girl he sought wasn't behind my door, his friend—your father—told him to leave his own phone number behind as a trinket. To which I replied it was all quite unnecessary, for I had a boyfriend."

"You had a boyfriend before Daddy?"

Rory giggled. "Yes, honey. Your daddy apologized for any inconvenience they had caused me, after a long, drawn out argument over whether or not I cared for him."

"You did," the little girl giggled.

Rory turned to look at her, open mouthed in surprise. "I did not! He was rude to my friend."

"Daddy says you fell in love at first sight."

"Daddy likes to tell tall tales," Rory reminded.

"You didn't love him?"

Rory smoothed back the soft curls that framed her daughter's face. "Not at first. I was, intrigued, you might say."

"In-trigged?" the little girl frowned.

"Intrigued. It means interested, wanting to know more."

"Then what happened?"

"He insulted me and left."

"I did not insult you," came the all-too-familiar voice from behind her. She turned from her daughter to find her husband leaning in the doorway.

"How long have you been standing there?" Rory demanded.

"Not long. Just a few factual misrepresentations," he assured her before catching sight of the still-red blemish on his daughter's knee. "What happened here?"

"Tight-rope," Rory supplied.

"It still needs an Ouchie-Aid," came the small voice attached to the knee he inspected.

"Well, by all means, hand me an Ouchie-Aid," he turned to his beautiful assistant. "She needs to be in working order—our first guest has arrived."

"But the story isn't finished!" came the cry of protest.

"That's how we met," Rory assured her, bending to kiss the now fixed knee.

Logan scooped the now-properly Power Puff Girls bandaged girl up with one arm. "But you didn't like Daddy," she complained.

"That's not entirely true," Rory smiled at her husband. "He annoyed me."

"It was a front, and you know it. You wanted me," he kissed his wife's cheek.

"You're delusional," Rory pointed the first aid kit at him before placing it back in the medicine cabinet. "Who's here already?"

He raised his eyebrows. "You want to hear how Mommy fell in love with Daddy?" he asked his pride and joy.

Rory grimaced. "I thought we'd decided not to discuss certain things," she warned in a sing-song voice.

"Please?"

Neither of them could deny that face. Logan held her up, and stuck out his own bottom lip. "Yeah, please?" he tormented her.

"Fine. Tell away. I'll just deprogram her later."

"Okay. So, your mother, who was allegedly annoyed by me," he began.

"All-leggedly?"

"She's learning way too many words today," Rory sighed.

"Allegedly. It means that she says she felt one way, but I don't believe her," he instructed.

The little girl nodded solemnly. "Anyhow, one day, your mother got it in her head that she needed to write about me for the school paper."

"It wasn't about you."

"Come on, Ace, like I couldn't see through you? It was about me," he assured his daughter. "So, she tells me she's gonna follow me, and dig out all the details of my life—in fact, she had learned all about my family. I was afraid she was gonna boil a rabbit," he teased.

"Boil a rabbit?"

"Do not, on threat of death, explain that one," Rory shook her head.

"It's hard to resist a girl that pretty that wants to be with you everywhere you go," he told his daughter. "So, I invited her along on a few trips with Uncle Finn and Uncle Colin. She had such a good time, she invited me to one of her family's gatherings."

"I told you, for the millionth time, I didn't invite you. Grandma did."

"Sure, sure," he winked. "Your mother dressed up like a man and asked me to dance at a wedding," he explained.

"You were playing dress up?" her eyes twinkled.

"Sort of," Rory nodded, ready to be subjected to her husband's side of the story.

"Anyhow, she asked me to dance and told me she liked me. And then," he paused for dramatic effect. "She kissed me."

"And then you insulted me," Rory pointed out.

He looked up to his wife. "I did not!"

"You said it was like kissing a man," she said, feigning hurt and rejection.

"Trust me, it was nothing like kissing a man," he said with all authority until he saw his daughter looking at him intently and his wife holding in a look of absolute delight. "Any chance you're gonna help me out here?"

"Nope," Rory shook her bemused head.

"It was Finn, and it was a dare," he said. "And I didn't much enjoy it."

"Did Uncle Finn ever find his true love?" came his daughter's gracious response.

"Many times," he nodded, in all seriousness, though a wicked smiled passed over his lips. "Speaking of Uncle Finn, he's downstairs right now, entertaining the brigade of bears that has assembled in the living room."

"UNCLE FINN!" the little girl wriggled out of his arms and took off for the stairs at top speed.

"I can't believe you told her I annoyed you," he shook his head as he reached for her hand.

"Well, it is what you're best at," she arched an eyebrow.

"I just like to see you all riled," he kissed her cheek as she turned her head in protest.

"We have guests," she admonished.

"It's just Finn," he kissed her neck. "And a few teddy bears. Besides, it's never stopped us before."

"Logan!" she pushed him back, unfortunately for her aim, toward the bed. He took this as encouragement and yanked her back with him.

XXXX

"Uncle Finn! Uncle Finn! Uncle Finn!"

He turned to catch her as she came whirring past his knees. "Love!" he held her against his chest. "It's been ever too long. I was just having a chat with your cronies here," he pointed to the teddy bears.

"I'm okay," she promised, as if they had told him all about her death-defying fall. She held up her bandaged knee.

"My word! Was it awful?" he asked dramatically.

She nodded. "Mommy fixed me."

"Where are your parents?"

"Upstairs," she informed freely.

He cringed as he looked up toward the stairs. "Tell, me, Love, were they fighting?"

"Daddy annoyed Mommy," she blinked.

"Well, how about we find something to do down here by ourselves for a bit, shall we?"

"They tried to tell me how Daddy met Mommy, but they didn't agree," she explained. "They used big words."

"They have a tendency to do that, don't they?" he bounced her on one knee as he sat them down on the couch. "Well, lucky for you, I was there to watch it all happen."

"You saw Mommy dressed as a man?" she asked.

"Um, no, though I did hear about it in great detail," he assured her. "But I watched your father, the man that would not be tied down, fall in love."

He had her attention, and he felt a swell of pride. It was not an easy exploit, to hold the attention of a three-year-old child. Many had crashed and burned trying this same feat with the same child.

"We had gone out to eat, a large group of comrades, to the best Chinese restaurant in all of New Haven, not that that's saying much. There were beautiful women everywhere, ripe for the taking, and your father was quite the ladies' man. However on this occasion, he had eyes but for one lady."

"Mommy?"

"That's right. You call her Mommy, but we called her Reporter Girl, as she had charmed your father by writing a story about him for the paper. Anyhow, that night, even though there were many beautiful women there, all he did was pay attention to her. But then, I saw it."

"Saw what?"

"He was playing with her hair as he ate."

The little girl blinked. Clearly she was too used to seeing her father touch her mother. "You see, once upon a time, your daddy didn't set his sights solely on one woman—no one had ever held his attention for more than a moment. But your mother, she had this aura of mystery that he couldn't quite get to the bottom of. And the fact that she didn't seem to give a whip about him, well, that further increased his desire."

"She didn't love Daddy?"

"Not until the day she broke up with him," he said in all seriousness.

"Mommy broke Daddy?"

"Nearly," he chuckled. "She told him that she didn't want to date him any longer, and that she wasn't the kind of girl that he wanted. So he told her that she was exactly the kind of girl he wanted to be with, and she needed no more convincing. He's been playing with her hair at restaurants ever since."

The little girl giggled. "Have you ever played with a girl's hair at a restaurant?"

Finn smiled. "Many times. But they always smack me away," he sighed with an air of sadness. The doorbell rang, and he considered his options. He guessed that his hosts were in no state to answer the unwelcome and still early intrusion. He was yet again playing godfather, and so he wheeled his favorite blonde angel around in his arms as he headed for the large front entry way.

Finn reached for the handle, but the little girl put her hand on his shoulder.

"Yes, Darling?"

"Daddy says to always ask whose there before opening the door—it could be strangers."

Finn nodded seriously. "Wise advice. We don't want you napped from under us, do we?"

She shook her little head, ringlets swinging around her face.

"Go on, then," he offered.

"Are you a stranger?" she yelled at the door, causing Finn to chuckle, and look through the peep hole to see a loaded down Lorelai on the other side, looking rather concerned.

"Baby doll? Where's your mommy at?" she yelled back, her head jerking back as Finn opened the door to find the duo looking ever-so-chummy.

"Either my daughter has lost her mind and hired help, or you've killed Logan and are now my new son-in-law," Lorelai guessed.

"Last I checked, I hadn't married your lovely daughter or been hired by her for any kind of services," he said.

"Can I hire you to perform service for me?" she purred.

"I'm a sucker for anyone with those eyes," he said.

"Lovely—I need someone to set up the crap I had to haul over in my car. Where's everyone else at?"

"Well, your daughter is upstairs, having a tête-à-tête with her husband," he began.

"Dirty," she admonished.

"And your innocent girl here in my arms is the only other party-goer thus far."

"Hand the baby over. I'm going through withdrawal—Rory wouldn't let me talk to her this morning."

"Why not?"

"Something about me filling her mind with vicious lies about her father. I have no idea, really," she giggled.

"Well, just so you know, Angel Baby is in the mood for a good story."

"Excellent," she did her best Monty Burns impression.

"I must take my leave now," he said as he set the girl down in order to take the huge punch bowl out of Lorelai's arms. Lorelai immediately scooped the girl up, inspecting her outfit.

"You know it's very dangerous not to wear green on St. Patrick's Day," she advised. "Especially for someone as cute as you—you'll get pinched."

"I wanted to wear my tutu," she patted the tulle with her little hand.

"Then we'll have to find a green shirt that will go with your tutu, won't we?" she said, finally noticing the sign of injury. "Did you hurt your knee?"

A dramatic nod followed. "Mommy made me better."

Lorelai smiled. "Mommies are great at that, huh?"

Another nod. "Then she told me how she met Daddy, but she didn't like him."

"That's true," Lorelai remembered. "Your mommy was able to resist his charms at first."

"Uh-huh, and Uncle Finn told me how Daddy fell in love with Mommy," she explained, pointing to his back as he carried in the first of many large containers, full of green liquid.

"Did he tell you that I was the one that made her realize that she loved your daddy?" she asked.

"No. He said Mommy tied Daddy up."

Lorelai giggled. "Down, Hun, not up. She tied your daddy down."

"What's the difference?" she asked earnestly.

"Good point. Anyhow, your silly parents were driving each other crazy, much like they do now, but back then they didn't seem to want to admit that they only wanted to date each other. Your mommy didn't think that your daddy really wanted to be with her, and she came home to me, crying because she thought he didn't love her."

Her eyes were wide. "Why?"

"Well," Lorelai narrowed her eyes in thought. "See, your father used to date many girls, and your mother, at first, thought that sounded like fun and tried to date many boys."

"But he played with her hair!" came the cry of protest.

Lorelai nodded as Finn came back into the room, now finished setting up all her party accoutrements. "I know, Hun, but she refused to ask him to stop seeing other girls. I asked her if that's what she wanted, to see other boys."

"Did she?"

"She didn't. She only wanted to date him, and that was a problem. She knew she couldn't have it both ways, so she told him that she wasn't going to see him anymore."

"He told me she gave him an ultimatum," Finn interrupted.

"Ult-may-tum?"

Lorelai and Finn looked at each other. "It's when someone makes you choose between something or nothing," Lorelai said. "But she didn't do that. She said they could be friends."

Finn rolled his eyes. "After they'd been having…," he cut off, realizing that he probably shouldn't finish that sentence as it'd originally formed in his mind. "They'd been, well, they knew each other so well," he stumbled with the words. "Logan doesn't like to have things taken from him."

Lorelai snorted. "I know exactly what he didn't want taken from him."

"What was Mommy taking from him?"

"His manhood, Love," Finn offered.

The confused girl looked to her grandmother. "Your Mommy will tell you all about it when you're older," she promised.

"Well, to be fair, she gave it back," Finn soothed.

"How?"

"That's something else she'll explain when you're older," Lorelai kissed her hair. "But she told him that they could be friends, because he couldn't be her boyfriend."

"This is my favorite part," Finn said.

"What did Daddy say?"

"He said he could be her boyfriend. But she told him he couldn't."

"Why not?"

"Because he'd told her, long before, that he didn't want to be anyone's boyfriend."

"Daddy lied?" her eyes grew wider.

"No, he changed his mind. Well, I think mostly he was stubborn and didn't like to be told he couldn't do something," Lorelai smirked.

"That's so very true," Finn agreed.

The little girl sighed. "This took a long time."

"Yes, yes it did. We were all quite frustrated, in fact."

"Hear that, Honey, we're frustrating," Rory said to her husband, from their spot next to each other on the last step. The threesome looked up to them, seeing they'd both seemed to have changed into their party attire.

"We were just telling her how you finally fell in love."

"And it still hasn't happened yet," the cross-sounding girl huffed.

Rory laughed. "Well, he had to work for my love."

"I'm still working," he slipped his hand out from around his wife's waist to adjust his shamrock tie that she'd bought him for the occasion. "And you did ask to hear a very complicated story. But if you want the simple version, I'll tell you all about it while we get you into something green. I don't want you all bruised from pinches at the party," he held his hand out to his daughter, who got up walked over to him.

She took his hand. "Are you sure you're gonna tell me?

Logan chuckled and winked at his wife. "Trust me. I know the exact moment that your mother knew she loved me."

The girl looked at him warily, but at the desire not to be pinched now that two people had warned her about it she took his hand so they could make their way upstairs.

Rory turned to her mother. "You're gonna stop being invited if you continue to make her cranky."

"If there was no me, you'd be short a few many gallons of Patty's Saintly Punch," she smirked. "But then of course your daughter probably would have waited a few more years until you had to explain the facts of life to her, as well."

"What did you do?" Rory asked.

"Hey, if you and Logan had a more socially acceptable coming together story, this whole process would have gone faster and to your liking."

"They never think about the effects on the children," Finn said with a sigh.

"Aw, geez," Rory rolled her eyes and left the two alone as she went back upstairs in search of her now troubled child and unsuspecting husband.

XXXX

"How about this one?" he held up a tiny light green shirt for his daughter's inspection.

She shrugged and he pulled it off the hanger to hold up to her tutu. He had learned not to fight her whims, but like his wife and mother-in-law, to go with them. It was easier and in the end, much more amusing. Shaking his head, he put it back on the hanger and looked again.

"You promised, Daddy," she reminded. "I wanna hear how Mommy tied you up."

He chuckled as he turned around with another choice, "You've been talking to Finn."

She nodded. "Gramma says Mommy took something away from you and wouldn't give it back until you dated her."

"Did she now?" he considered the wording. "What did she say she took?"

His daughter shrugged. "She said Mommy would tell me when I get older."

Logan smirked and held up a new shirt. "Bingo. And it brings out your eyes."

"Daddy," she giggled as he helped her peel the matching pink shirt off and then the green shirt came over her head.

"I didn't realize I was in love with your mother as soon as I met her," he relented.

"But you said you loved her when you first saw her," she pointed out.

He nodded. "You know how you didn't want peanut butter because you said it looked icky?" he pulled a reference the young girl could relate to.

She nodded.

"Well, you didn't want any part of it, because you'd never had it before and it looked weird to you, but once you tried it, you decided you loved it, and you found out it was good for you, right?"

She nodded again. "Well, that's how I felt about your mother. But even though I knew I liked her, and probably knew she was good for me, I didn't want to admit it. In fact, she admitted it first. Your mother is a remarkable woman, who actually managed to claim the rights of doing everything first in our relationship. She kissed me first, which is a big hit with boys, by the way, if you're out to capture their attention," he smiled as he helped her arm through the sleeve. "She told me she loved me first, and she knew that I loved her before I did."

"Mommy's smart."

"She is, most of the time," he smirked. "But I made her do dumb things. And the last dumb thing that I got her to do before she realized that she was completely sucked in, was talking her into my being her boyfriend."

"Because you liked her best?"

"Best?" he asked, unsure of what information she'd been fed.

"Gramma says you liked lots of girls, but you liked Mommy best."

He nodded. "That's right."

"That's one way to put it," Rory said, coming in from her hiding spot in the hall. "Sorry, couldn't resist. Mom said this one might have some questions of a delicate nature, and I had to check to see what kind of nonsense you might fill her head with."

"No one dresses her better, though," he held the properly attired girl up for her to see.

"My favorite Queer Eye Guy," Rory giggled. "Come on, everyone will be here soon," she held the door open for everyone to pass through.

"I need to talk to Mommy," came the official decree.

Rory nodded to Logan and bent down to her level. When the sound of his footsteps hit the stairs, Rory fluffed her tulle. "What's wrong? Your knee still hurt?"

She shook her head. "Was Daddy right? He made you do dumb things?"

Rory smiled. "The truth is, falling in love with him was the smartest thing I ever did. He was right, sometimes you shy away from things that you don't recognize right away, but I couldn't stay away from him. He was the most charming, infuriating, and generous person I'd ever met."

A bright smile covered her daughter's face. "You loved him."

Rory nodded. "I loved him. Now, you ready to party?"

The little girl twirled in her tulle, proving her capabilities.

"Let's boogie," Rory instructed, picking her up and swinging her around in circles, making her squee in delight.

XXXX

"… Enjoy yourselves and please eat before imbibing on the punch, I've been warned of a special ingredient this year," Logan instructed the crowd, having welcomed everyone into their home. The whole bottom floor of their home was filled with shades of green. Shirts, hats, clover pins, and even some green hair had been spotted in the crowd. Finn came up behind Logan, draping his arms over his shoulders.

"Are you Irish?" he asked.

"No," Logan laughed. "And neither is she," he pulled Rory close to him, protectively.

"Are you sure? She looks rather Irish," he smiled, almost leering, at Rory. "And you must do as the pin says," he stuck his chest out. It read 'Kiss me if you're Irish,' rather than the old, and he claimed tired, standby of 'Kiss Me, I'm Irish.'

"Maybe Colin Farrell will show up, I hear he's Irish and loves to snog," Rory giggled.

"He may actually be sluttier than Finn," Lane said, edging her way in toward Rory.

"Hey, when did you get here? Love the shirt," Rory laughed. Lane sported a bright green shirt that had a guy holding a Guinness that read, 'How I Became Irish.'

"That counts," Finn said gleefully.

"I'd take it off, but he'd probably take that as encouragement, huh?" Lane joked.

"AUNTIE LANE!"

"You're so rock and roll in that outfit!" Lane picked up her goddaughter. "All you need is some crimped hair!"

"Can I, Mommy?"

"Go nuts," Rory laughed.

"So, Ms. Patty's recipe?" Lane asked as Logan handed her a cup of green punch.

"New and improved," Lorelai answered, "This year, she achieved the perfect green shade by adding green tea to it. She claims it's festive and full of antioxidants."

"Ugh," Finn groaned. "I'll stick to my Guinness. Some of us want to die young. It's far more dramatic."

Lane nodded. "And fashionable."

He looked to her longingly. "You complete me."

The little girl in her arms looked between them before asking her uncle a question. "Are you going to tie her up?"

Rory glared first at her husband, then Finn, as they both broke out into erupting laughter. Lorelai couldn't hold it in either, and soon Lane found her voice.

"Excuse me?"

"I will drink the green tea crap if she'll tie me up," Finn winked at her and sniffed the drink. "Is it an aphrodisiac?"

"I'd stick with the beer if I were you," Lane said, shaking her head.

"What's a after-disiac?"

"Way too many words today," Rory grumbled as Lane grabbled for a proper meaning that wouldn't scar the child. Logan handed her a cup of punch, figuring her need for alcohol was sure to be at an all time high.

She waved it away, as Lorelai took the child out of Lane's arms, asking her if she wanted to show off her pretty skirt and fancy moves to the crowd.

"Come on, Ace, I can make it an after-disiac," he mimicked their one and only child.

She smiled warmly, resting her head into his shoulder. "You've been known to make water an aphrodisiac," she said playfully. "But I can't drink."

"Why not? It's our party, you don't have to drive and neither do I."

"Because I can't be responsible for contributing to the delinquency of a minor," she smiled as she waited for him to catch on.

"What?" surprise covered his face. His hands tightened around her waist. "What are you…?" he asked again.

Rory smiled again. "I nominate you for the ensuing 'where babies come from' explanation. Though it actually might turn out to be less dicey than the how we fell in love story," she couldn't contain her grin as she continued to speak.

He hadn't responded yet, and she held the glass he'd poured for her up to his lips.

"Maybe you should have some punch," she offered, starting to be concerned for him now.

He put it down and picked her up, holding her level to him so he could kiss her hard. "Did I really annoy you?"

She shook her head. "You just pulled my safety net out from under me."

"Look how well it's been turning out so far," he turned her to look as their daughter entertained and enthralled their friends and family, walking her own imaginary straight line just as she had for her stuffed friends earlier.

"Yeah," she breathed. "Safety nets are for wimps."

Just as she said it, her daughter lost her balance and toppled over, falling a very short distance to the ground, but her previously unscathed knee taking the brunt of the fall against the hardwood floor.

"I'll get the Ouchie-Aids, you start distracting her; but this time, try Goldilocks and the Three Bears, huh?" his eyes twinkled as he looked at his wife before they split up to divide and conquer the tears that were already in the process of being soothed by those that loved her most.