Turn Down The Lights
Night had already fallen by the time that Alex Karev arrived back from the practice. The idea of him taking a position at a private practice had been that he got to spend more time at home; more time with his family, but it didn't always work out that way. Of course, it wasn't a matter of him ringing home every evening, apologizing that he wouldn't make it back for dinner, or that he wouldn't be on time to pick up children from soccer practice, swimming lessons or math club. Instead, it was only the rare nights that he was back after the sun went down, and that was only because he'd been doing paperwork all night. It had gotten to the time of year where, he'd spend all of his day before his desk, marking papers that were all written on the same subject, so that when he arrived home that night, the last thing he wanted to do was see anything that would remind him of hospital referals or basic prescriptions.
That's what he loved most about going home. Now, when he left work, he wasn't collapsing onto the nearest bed surface with exhaustion. His living room wasn't the most used room in the house, because he had a reason to go up the stairs and into his bedroom. The house he lived in now was a suburban dream, with a front porch, a back yard, and a bedroom for every child, if not more, as well as an office for him to use at home. He had the perfect division between his family, and his work, and it didn't take three choices for him to decide which he'd rather spend his time with. Life with his family had been every part the dream in which Izzie had described it to him.
When he thought back to ten years ago, when they mentioned the idea of a family together just after their wedding, he had looked into the future, testing out the idea in his mind. Could he see himself raising a family with Izzie Stevens? Yes, he could. In fact, he couldn't see himself having any other woman as the mother of his children, or as the love of his life. She fit the roles perfectly, and excelled as both lover and mother. Now, ten years had passed, and it felt strange to look back on times when he had imagined family life to be the two of them welcoming a child into the world together, and shortly after that, another child, perhaps another, and everything being a long-lasting perfection.
But there was very little he'd have changed of his life if he could have lived it over.
He shut the car door behind him as he stepped out onto the driveway. All around him, the street was in darkness, and he wasn't surprised. A quick glance at his watch told him that it was almost eleven o'clock. An accident on the freeway had diverted traffic, which meant that a usual thirty-minute drive had turned into a snail-pace two-hour drive, and he had to admit, even his favourite radio station had failed to occupy him with entertainment for this long. Apparently this time of night was perfect for playing the newly-released albums that teenagers were buying at the moment, and he recognised some of them as being ones that his daughter was trying to get Izzie to buy for her, so that she'd look cooler at school. The exact reason for her wanting it had made them less inclined to buy it for her, so she was currently saving up her allowance to buy it for herself.
In the darkness around him, the house before him shined like a beacon in the night. Of course, this wasn't because it was so late, and he was so tired, longing for sleep and thankful to get away from his work. It was more because every single light in the house appeared to be turned on. He sighed, a small smile crossing his lips as he looked at all of the illuminated windows; the kitchen, the living area, the front hall, and the front two bedrooms. He knew that the back bedrooms and the other hall lights, as well as the bathroom, would be on as well. Despite his and Izzie's attempts to get their children to help them save energy, they still forgot to turn off a light switch when they left a room. It was hard enough to keep their electricity bill down with the amount of games consoles, and Izzie alone kept the phone bill rather high, and whilst money wasn't an issue for them, it was nice to feel they were doing their bit for the environment. They weren't going as far as some of the protesting university students that they save on the news, who were currently protesting by refusing to shower altogether, but they were making an effort, if nothing else.
He went towards the house that was brighter than England's Blackpool Illumations. He'd been to the amusement part as a child whilst staying with his grandparents, and he was starting to suspect that his home, after nightfall, might make a large contribution to the light-filled fairground. Instead of shipping his home off to England, however, he took his key out of his pocket, and quietly placed it in the lock. He turned it slowly, knowing that within seconds, the dog would be at the door barking, and he didn't want the children to wake up. No doubt he had already missed them going to bed, which was a shame, as he hadn't had much time with them that morning before he went to work. As he suspected, no sooner had the door closed quietly behind him, their border collie puppy was around his feet, wagging his tail excitedly.
Charlie had been a family present at the Christmas before last. Whilst he was still only a puppy at fifteen months old, he was the same height as a fully-grown border collie, just skinnier with a higher level of hyperactivity that seemed to come in the same waves as it did with the children. The children had been begging for a puppy ever since their grandfather had gotten one as a way of easing his aged loneliness. For six months after that, they had all begged for a puppy whenever they saw a dog, and it seemed highly convenient for their argument that they lived down the street from a park. Still, whilst Charlie was usually never far from the children, he'd always follow Izzie around, especially when she was cooking in the kitchen, where he might get tip bits before his dinner, and he was always the first one at the door when Alex got in from work.
"Shh!" Alex whispered to the dog, bending down and stroking the shiny fur on his head, before tickling his ear in a way which made the dog cock his head and thump his tail against the carpet happily. "That's better," Alex murmured to the happy dog. "Don't want to wake everyone up now, do we?" In reply, the dog reached out and licked the side of Alex's jaw line, much to his soft grimace.
"Alex? Is that you?"
He looked up as he saw his wife coming out of the living area. As all the lights were on, he could see the sleepy expression on her face, doubled with the gentle swell of her stomach; their next child on the way. He smiled, getting to his feet as Charlie padded away to stand at Izzie's feet. Going over to her side with all the enthusiasm that the dog had done, Alex kissed her lightly. "Hi." He said softly.
"I was wondering when you'd be back," she told him, sinking into his embrace. "Until I heard about the traffic accident diverting everything I was worried that something had happened."
"I would have called," he told her softly, "only I haven't found my cell phone since the dog ran off with it last week."
Izzie laughed lightly. Charlie had a fond liking for Alex's cell phone, and last week, he had decided to run off into the back yard with it. Since then, it hadn't been seen. "We'll find it," she assured him. "I think I heard it ringing out there earlier."
He shrugged. "Never mind," he waved off. "Are the kids all in bed?"
She shook her head, much to his delight. Spending the day with children that weren't your own certainly made you crave the company of your own offspring. "The girls watched a movie with me, and the boys are up in Chris's room. The girls are both asleep, and so was I until you got in, and I'm not sure about the boys. I should think they're probably asleep, we'll just have to move Jamie and then take the girls up..."
"No." Alex cut in, shaking his head.
"No?" Izzie repeated curiously. "You suggest we leave them on the couch and squashed in the same bed all night?"
"Not that." He smiled at her. "I'll move them into their beds, but you can go to bed as well."
"I don't mind." She smiled back at him.
"I do, you're exhausted." He pointed out.
"You've been at work all day though..."
"Exactly." He concluded. "You've seen the kids all day today, let me at least put them to bed." He reasoned with her.
She shook her head, laughing softly. "Alright." She smiled. "Just make sure you come to bed before I fall asleep again." She warned him. "I miss you when you work this late."
She kissed him softly, in a way of a habit that they'd formed over the past twelve years together, and ten years of those as a married couple, and disappeared up the stairs. Charlie watched her go, torn between following Izzie to bed, or following Alex around, and in the end, chose Alex.
Alex stepped into the living room, looking over the back of the couch that faced towards the television. It was still on, playing the beginnings of a late night movie that he knew the girls would be terrified of watching. Clearly, the movie they had watched had been showing before this one. He picked up the remote on the table beside the lamp, and switched it off, its changing light patterns no longer thrown around the room, dancing on the walls, but instead, a silence, and a stillness, which was calming after a long two hours in traffic jams. He tilted his head, coming across the forms of his two daughters, so asleep that they didn't even notice his presence. Maria, his eldest daughter at six years old, was leaning with the arm of the couch as her pillow, and Kelly, his four-year-old daughter, was sprawled across the couch with several of the couch's decorative cushions flattened out beneath her.
He looked down at Maria, the child nearest him, and gently touched her shoulder, whispering to bring her out of sleep. At six, she was getting a little to heavy for them to carry now, even if it was just in sleep. "Maria...sweetheart, wake up."
Maria's eyes wrinkled up before they opened, an action that she inherited from her mother. "Is Dad home yet?" She asked aloud, not noticing who it was waking her up.
Alex smiled. "Yeah, I'm home, kid." He told her, watching her eyes drift up and then fall disappointedly.
"I tried to wait up, but I think I'm still too little." She explained.
He helped her up from the couch, and started to guide her in the direction of the stairs. "I don't think you're too little," he told her. "I think I was just home too late."
"You missed dinner." She told him, and he smiled to himself. Maria was always a chatterbox, even when she was half-asleep. "We had spaghetti."
"I bet that was nice." Alex said, glad that they had gotten to the top of the stairs without tired stumbling. He pushed open her bedroom door, which was directly opposite the stairs, facing the back of the house. He wasn't surprised to see that the light was already on.
"Of course it was nice." Maria told him simply. "Mom made it."
He pulled over the blankets on the bed, and waited whilst she crawled into place on the sheets before he placed them back over her. She looked just like her mother when she lie like that, he couldn't help but think. Her blonde hair, golden like the sunshine, was sprawled out on the pillow behind her, and the blue eyes that gazed up at him were ones that he had seen a million times before. All of his children had neither mothers blue eyes, and he was thankful for that. Izzie's eyes were the most beautiful he'd ever seen, and the way that they glittered when she was happy and excited seemed only fitting for a child's eyes as well. Maria was a sporty child as well. Her room was decorated with peach-coloured walls, but they were hidden by the amount of swimming certificates and rosettes that were pinned up on the walls between posters of singers and movie stars. She was six-years-old, but already more obsessed with celebrity lives than her own, which he'd been told was all part of growing up. As a child, Alex had been more admirable towards famous sportsmen, but Maria was more impressed by Beyonce and Justin Timberlake.
"Goodnight, Daddy." She yawned, and Alex smiled again. At the moment, in attempt to prove to her elder brother that she was grown up, she was only calling her parents 'Mom' and 'Dad', rather than the 'Mommy' and 'Daddy' that they'd grown more than used to over the years. However, she'd forgotten that she had to give up saying this when she was tired as well.
"Goodnight, baby." He replied, leaning down for the kiss that he knew was coming. As usual, he felt the pair of tiny lips against his, and then Maria sunk back into the pillow of her bed. "Sleep tight, angel."
He stood from the side of the bed, and flicked off the light switch on the lamp beside her bed, before he crossed the room to turn off the main light switch, making sure that her nightlight was on before he plunged the room into darkness. They'd brought Maria, Jamie and Kelly nightlights to cure the problem of the hall light being left on. Chris had started to moan that it was keeping him awake at night, and the younger three all insisted that the light be left on at night, which had sometimes resulted in the sudden screams when Chris thought it would be sneaky, yet hilarious, to turn off the light at some point in the night.
When Alex left his eldest daughter to sleep, he left the door open a fraction, and went back down the stairs into the living area once again. As he had suspected, Kelly hadn't moved a muscle, but Charlie was sat at the side of the couch by her head, thumping his tail against the floor when Alex entered the room again. He leaned down, putting his arms around the small girl. As she was only four, he had no trouble carrying her up to her bedroom. Instantly, she sunk into his arms, putting her own tiny arms around his neck and holding onto him tightly. "Daddy?" She asked in a sleep-filled voice.
"Yeah, it's Daddy." Alex whispered to her, kissing the side of his daughter's head. "It's bedtime, now."
"'Kay, daddy." Kelly muttered as she appeared to fall back into sleep against his shoulder, exhaling deeply as she did. As they left the room, Alex turned off the light switch in the now empty living room, as well as in the kitchen and the front hall. When they went upstairs, Alex heard the soft padding of Charlie's feet on the stairs behind them, clearly not wanting to be left behind when the family went to bed.
Kelly's room, unlike Maria's, was a bright shade of pink, or at least, half of it was. The room was split down the middle, with bright pink on one side, Kelly's half, and a medium of blue on the other side. This room was shared between Kelly and Jamie, their four-year-old twins who still refused to sleep in separate bedrooms. They'd tried everything; coaxing Kelly to sleep in Maria's room, and Jamie in Chris's room, but the twins refused to be separated. Eventually, they'd stopped trying, and embraced the fact that their twins were close, even though they knew that, with them starting school at the end of the summer, their differences would start to be enhanced.
Crossing into the side of the room that was filled with dolls and stuffed animals, Alex placed Kelly down in her bed, sweeping back some of the soft brown hair that fell into her face. The twins, apart from their eyes, were the image of him, or so he was told. He always thought that they looked more like Izzie, if not for the hair colour, but other were adamant that the twins were the exact replica of himself.
"Goodnight, Kel." Alex whispered, kissing her in the same way he had done with Maria. "I'll see you in the morning, baby."
"Night, Dada." She whispered back, tiredly curling around her favourite stuffed animal.
"Sleep tight." Alex said.
"Sleep tight." Kelly repeated.
After turning off Kelly's bedroom light, Alex didn't need to go back downstairs into the living area. All he had to do was go into the next bedroom, which belonged to his eldest son, Chris. There, he found his two sons asleep in a sitting position, leaning with their backs against the bed behind them. First, he approached Chris, the complete image of his mother in the same way that Maria was. Chris was to be nine-years-old next week, the first visual image of his parents love, and no sooner had Alex shaken him awake gently, the boy was crawling into his bed, drawing up the covers around him as Alex bent to say goodnight.
"Dad, can we go to the park tomorrow?" He asked tiredly.
"You have school tomorrow, remember?" Alex prompted.
"Oh." Chris said, looking rather crestfallen. "I wanted to take Charlie to the pond."
At the mention of his name, the dog jumped up onto the end of Chris's bed, the place where he usually slept, and he curled in a ball. Alex looked at his disappointed son, and ruffled his blonde hair. "Well, if you don't get in any trouble at school tomorrow, then we'll go when I get home from work." It was a worthless deal really, as Chris never got into any trouble at school, it was Maria who was the cheeky troublemaker.
Alex nodded, kissing him on the forehead. "I promise. Goodnight, son."
With Chris falling into a slumber in his bed, and Charlie curled up sleeping on the foot of the bed, Alex bent down to lift Jamie into his arms, who hadn't woken up even when the dog had brushed past him. Just like his twin, however, he woke when he felt his father near. "Dad, I had a funny dream." He mumbled.
"Good funny?" Alex asked him.
"Yeah, it was about aliens and robots." Jamie continued, mumbling a story about how he had controlled a robot army against an army of aliens, whilst Alex turned off Chris's television and bedroom light. Since Chris had been given a television for his eighth birthday, Jamie was always waiting for the opportunity to get a chance to watch it as well. They went into the bedroom that he shared with Kelly. "...and then the aliens ran away and me and the robots won." He concluded, just as Alex was lowering him into bed.
"Well, if we ever have a robot and alien fight to save the world, I'll make sure you're in charge." Alex humoured his tired son.
Jamie smiled tiredly. "Night, Dad."
"Goodnight, Jamie." Alex said, and Jamie turned to go to sleep. "Wait a minute," Alex interrupted with a smile, and Jamie looked up at him. "Are you too big to say goodnight to your Dad now?"
Jamie giggled, and kissed Alex on the cheek. "Night, Daddy." He laughed, settling down on the pillows again.
"Night, son. I'll see you in the morning. Sleep tight."
"Sleep tight. Don't let the Boogeyman bite."
Alex stopped. Boogeyman?
"Who told you about the Boogeyman?" He asked.
"Uncle George did." Nathan yawned. "Uncle George locked the Boogeyman in a cupboard all on his own." He said awefully.
Alex rolled his eyes, unseen by his yawning son. "I'm sure he did." He lied. "Now, go to sleep, I'll see you in the morning."
Alex kissed him again, and then turned off the bedroom light, checking before he left the room that Kelly was sleeping soundly. She was, naturally, and he left the door ajar as he went down the hall to his own bedroom. He closed that bedroom door behind him, and took off his shirt as he got ready for bed. His and Izzie's room was different from the rest of the house. Whilst the rest of the rooms had glowed ominously with the illuminations from the light bulbs, their room was lit simply by the bedside lamp on Alex's side of the bed. Already in the bed, Izzie rolled onto her side, watching him. "There you are." She smiled tiredly. "I was starting to think you'd fallen asleep in one of the kids rooms."
He smiled back at her. "You know, it takes time putting four kids to bed." He told her cheekily. After all, putting them to bed was normally a routine for them, but routine had been broken that night now that the lights had been on for all hours and they'd attempted to wait up for him. Once he was ready for bed, he crawled under the blankets beside Izzie, pulling his wife against his chest as they settled comfortably in bed.
"We'll be putting five to bed soon." She reminded him, as both of them rested their hands on her growing stomach.
"Three months to go." Alex counted off, awaited the day eagerly when his next child would come into the world.
"Five kids in ten years." Izzie mused aloud. "That's a lot."
"Yeah, we love them all though." Alex pointed out.
"And we do get lots of babysitting help." She reminded him.
"Speaking of that babysitting..." Alex realised. "It seems that your 'best friend' has been telling our youngest son stories about the Boogeyman."
"What?" Izzie asked, her head rising from the pillow quickly.
"Apparently, George looked the Boogeyman in a cupboard on his own, and Jamie seems quite impressed by that."
Izzie sighed, returning her head to the pillow as she snuggled against Alex once again. She smiled a little, her breath hitting his chest. "Hhmm...I love you...goodnight."
"Love you too." Alex whispered, kissing her forehead as he reached out one of his arms to flick the switch on the lamp, extinguishing the last light in the house.