"Please say yes, please, please, it can be my Christmas present, please, Mom

"Please say yes, please, please, it can be my Christmas present, please, Mom?" Heather managed to get out in one breath, her expression the cute pleading look that usually killed her father.  It didn't always work great on her mother though.  She watched as her mother looked at the paperwork for the class trip to Colorado for a weekend of skiing.  They were supposed to leave real early the day after Thanksgiving, and come back Sunday afternoon.

Alicia put the papers on the counter, and went back to chopping the carrots for dinner.  "I'm going to have to talk to your father before I say yes," she said finally.

Heather looked positively crestfallen.  "But he won't be back until tomorrow," she complained.

Alicia looked squarely at her fifteen-year-old daughter.  "You want to ask me again?" she said warningly.  Heather got the hint.  That meant the maybe was going to become a no, and when mom said no, it was a permanent no.  Alicia watched her for a moment longer, and then went back to getting dinner ready.  She didn't even turn around when there was two loud thumps from behind her.

"If you two don't start using the stairs, you both will regret it!" she yelled out, knowing it was useless.  In twelve years those two had used the stairs maybe three times since they learned they could jump the railing and not get hurt.  She could kill Zack for showing them that.  Heather took the opportunity to head for her bedroom.  If Mom noticed her while still angry at the twins, her chance to go skiing would be out the window.

"The stairs are too slow," Cameron said.

"And we never do it in front of company," Elizabeth continued in their strange twin-speak.  One tended to finish the thought of the other.  Alicia and Zack had no idea if it was because they were twins, or just genetics showing up like they had in Daniel and Heather.

"That's not the point," Alicia snapped.  "You were told not to do it, and the next time either of you do, you're both grounded for a month."  She dumped the carrots in the steamer, set the timer, and started to work on the potatoes, her hands moving almost too fast to follow.  The twins had always been impressed with their mother's skill with a knife.

Cameron got him and his sister the milk they'd wanted when they came downstairs.  They sat at the breakfast nook, and watched their mother.  "I hope you let her go," Elizabeth said.  "If not, we'll be hearing about it until Christmas."  She drank her milk thoughtfully.

"Especially when she's on the phone," Cameron continued.  "She's very loud then."

That paused Alicia.  Her room was closer to Heather's than the twins, and she couldn't hear her.  "Loud?" she asked them.

"Not volume," Cameron said, trying to express what he didn't have the vocabulary for.

"But we hear her very loud," Elizabeth said.  It was satisfactory enough for them both.  They finished their glasses and went back upstairs.

Alicia watched them go in amazement.  Were they picking up on Heather's thoughts?  Even Cole couldn't "listen in" on a purebred Manticore.  He could read Janna, Max and Logan's daughter with a little difficulty, and Logan was easy.  But Max?  Not a thing.  They theorized that it must be something genetic, rather than training because he couldn't catch anything in Daniel's mind either.  Sometimes strong emotion, but never actual thoughts.  She was going to have to talk to Zack when he came home.  Maybe the twins were just catching Heather's feelings and not her actual thoughts.

We must have been crazy to have four kids, she thought, but then she had to smile.  As much as they drove her crazy, she wouldn't trade anything in this world for them.  She saw so much of Zack in Daniel, and Heather was, unfortunately, her all over again.  The twins were both blondes with Zack's eyes, but their features didn't match either of their parents.  It had always been a little scary when all four were born because she had no idea what any of them would look like.  They could have been a different race for all she knew.  But every one of them had turned out perfectly.  Annoying, but perfect.