A/N: Miss Dylan? Mara?

Did you miss me? I apologize so much for the lack of "Home" updates. Don't worry though. It's the end of semester over here and I will have more time to write and update. And oh, I have to get the writers outta my head. They're stealing my stories. Haha…

Again, this is a part of "Since that Cold November Day" series. SMACked baby fluff. Enjoy!

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AAACCCHHHOOO!

© CATE

i. achoo!

Five-year-old Dylan Christopher Taylor snuggled deeper into his sheets. He didn't want to get up but he had school that morning. He was in Kindergarten-2 at the same school he was attending last year. Bobby and Bettina Feehily, Carrie Eames, Ernie Coley, Jonas Hart and Maggie Berringer were still his classmates this year.

His dog Blue was starting to wake him. He was up but he wasn't feeling well. His toes were colder than his dog's nose. His own nose felt stuffy. Blue was trying to push the blanket away from his body. Dylan tried to push the dog away with his feet, hugging his bear Mr. Cheeks closer.

Stella checked the bedside clock. Seven in the morning. "Time to get up," she said to herself. Her husband, Mac Taylor was still asleep and wrapped around her. He was exhausted after pulling a double shift the day before. He did come home just in time to tuck Dylan and Mara in for the night. After a soothing massage from his wife, he fell asleep soundly.

She managed to extricate herself from Mac's embrace and exited their room to check on Mara. The 10-month-old was an early riser and as expected, the baby was already wide-awake. Mary Alexandra was staring at the Rainbow Bright mobile hanging over her crib while holding her feet. She was rocking from side to side and it sounded like she was humming a song.

The door opened wider and Stella peeked inside. She turned off the Little Star nightlight and walked over to her baby daughter. When she peered over the edge of the crib, the baby burst out in joy. "Good morning, little princess," Stella cooed, tickling Mara's tummy. With similar curls and green eyes, mother and daughter looked very much alike. Mara began babbling excitedly as if telling her mother about her dream. Stella carried the squirming bundle in her arms and took a bottle from the warmer nearby. She only breastfed during the nighttime feedings.

Mara took hold of the bottle herself and managed to smile around the nipple. Stella rocked her gently and hummed a tune. After Mara finished the bottle and was burped, she resumed her story telling babbles.

"Oh yes, Mara," the proud mother said, giving the little one a raspberry on a chubby arm. "We should be waking up big brother, right?" Mara just laughed and pulled a lock of her mother's hair. "Hey, what did Mommy tell you? No pulling…" she said, placing Mara down on the playpen against some pillows. The 10-month-old could sit up and crawl around already. "You wait here, sweetie."

Dylan's room was right in front of Mara's princess wonderland. It had an outer space theme, complete with glow-in-the-dark stars and comets and space ships on the ceiling. The train set he got for his 4th birthday was mounted around the perimeter of the room. Stella found her son on his big boy bed, totally wrapped up in the blanket. Except for his feet, that is. Blue was on the bed trying to nose away the sheets to reveal the person under it.

When he sensed that there was somebody else in the room, the cocker spaniel looked up and bounded over to Stella, pulling at her pajama bottoms. He sat and whined, nose pointing at Dylan's direction.

"Dylan…" Stella said, sitting on the bed and patting her son's form, "time for school. Time to get up or we'll be late."

She thought he was still asleep and was going to repeat what she said when she heard a faint sob. "Mommy…"

"What's the matter, baby?" she said. She knelt and pulled the blanket away. The little boy laid there on his bed, flushed and shivering slightly.

"I don' feel sho good, 'obby," he whispered, clutching the sheets and pulling it around him.

His mom placed a hand on his forehead and exclaimed, "Oh Dylan, you have a fever." She tucked him in closer and continued sadly, "You can't go to school like this. Here, let's keep you warm."

Dylan sniffed, his eyes watery. "Thanksh, 'obby," he managed to say. Stella kissed his forehead. Blue was on the floor, his head on his front paws. Even the dog looked sad.

"I'm going to wake Daddy up and get you some baby Tylenol, okay?" she said before going out of the kid's bedroom.

She found Mac already up and entertaining their little girl in the other room. Mara had her chubby arms around her dad's neck and sighed in contentment.

"Oh hey, Stella," he said upon seeing her. He noted immediately her troubled expression. "Something wrong?" The baby looked up and gave her little, "Huh?"

Mac walked over to her and kissed her forehead. She stroked Mara's cheek lovingly. "Dylan's sick," Stella said. "I think he has a cold. There's a bug in his school."

"Do we have baby Tylenol around the house?" Mac asked, swinging Mara to his other hip. "Have you taken his temperature?"

"Yes and not yet," Stella sighed. "Mac, I don't like it when they get sick." She wrapped her arms around herself and frowned. "I don't want to see them miserable."

Mac stood beside her. "They're kids. They get sick from time to time. Heck, everybody gets sick," he said, placing a hair strand behind her ear. "He'll be fine after a few days. Dylan will be okay."

"I know, honey," she sighed again. "It's just that… I don't want to see him mopey and unhappy. I don't want him missing school and his friends."

Stella looked like she was ready to cry. But Mara made sure that her mommy won't by pulling her hair again. She laughed out loud and smiled. That made both parents smile.

After putting Mara back in the playpen, he said, "Okay, honey… you go get the thermometer and I'll get the Tylenol. I'll meet you in Dylan's room." Stella obliged and they then found themselves in their son's room.

Dylan was back under the covers with Blue whimpering by his bedside. "Dylan?" Mac said, brushing his son's hair from his forehead. "Mommy's going to take your temperature, okay? So be still." The boy just nodded.

Blue walked out of the room and into Mara's. The parents heard the little happy baby exclaim the dog's arrival in her room. And she was clapping and 'talking' to the dog. She was totally oblivious to the fact that her big brother was sick in the next room.

His temperature confirmed Stella's hunch. "Oh poor baby boy has a fever," she said, covering his toes. This time, he didn't kick them off. He was sniffling and wiping tears from his eyes. Mac brought some cookies with him from the kitchen.

"Son, you have to sit up and eat something before you can take your medicine," he softly said. Dylan gave a loud aacchhooooo that shook the bed. "That's my boy," Mac chuckled. "Now up… you need to take something before the medicine."

The boy shook his head weakly. "I don' likesh the menecine," he whimpered. "Tashte bad." He sniffed and pulled the Buzz Lightyear blanket over his head.

Oh boy, "This is never easy," Mac thought. Last year, Dylan had an overnight fever and a lot of tears were shed before he was able to administer the single teaspoon of syrup needed for his son's recovery. That and a promise of new sneakers when he got better.

Stella excused herself to give their daughter a bath. She found her hugging their pet dog while Blue was licking her little round face. She was still giggling when Blue pulled away. "Acchhiiii…" Mara sneezed but not because of a cold. She wiped her face with her hand and held up her arms to her mom.

"Come on, baby. Bath time," Stella announced on her way to the bathroom. She filled the tub fourth of the way and threw in the rubber ducks and plastic fishes. Mac could take care of Dylan since it was his day-off.

Mara loved the water. Once she got comfortable with the temperature, she began to splash around happily. She was sitting on Stella's lap, rubber duck in hand. Stella proceeded to shampoo her little baby's hair with the 'No More Cry' formula; tipped her head back and rinsed. She then washed the chubby baby carefully.

When the baby girl was clean and smelling fresh, Stella let her play in the tub for a while. She even pulled out the drain stopper. Mara watched intently as the water and soap seeped out into the drain hole. She looked up to her mommy with wide eyes in amazement.

Stella placed her daughter on the changing table and pinned on her diapers. An aqua-colored "Coolbeans!" tee shirt came next; a gift from Lindsey. She managed to wiggle her into a similarly colored pair of shorts. She couldn't resist another raspberry.

When the little baby settled back into the playpen, propped on some pillows, Stella checked on her husband and son. She found Mac and Dylan in the living room, the boy still wrapped in his blanket. He was downing a glass of orange juice, half-a-cookie on the kitchen table. Mac wore a "he did it" smile on his face.

"He took the meds?" Stella asked to be sure. He nodded and the little boy managed a smile. "Good boy. How are you feeling?"

"Tuffy noshe," Dylan replied, wiping his nose with a tissue. There was a growing pile on the coffee table beside the magazines. "No school?" Both his parents shook their heads. "Oh," he said sadly.

"I'll call Miss Warwick," said Stella, picking up the phone and dialing the school's number.

Mac pulled his son on his lap and comforted the sick boy. "It's okay, Dylan. It's Friday and come Monday, you'll be back on your feet."

"Pomish?" Promise. His dad kissed his forehead.

In the kitchen, where Stella resumed her call, "Yes, Miss Warwick, it's Stella Taylor. Dylan's mom," she said, making herself a cup of tea. "Yes, good morning. Uhm… Dylan won't be attending school today. He's caught a bug."

"Oh my," the young teacher said over the line, "Two of his classmates have it, too. Is he okay?"

"He'll be fine," replied Stella. "Just needs time to rest. Please do contact us if he has to do homework, okay?"

"Sure, sure, Mrs. Taylor," said the teacher, scribbling something on a piece of paper. "Don't you worry. I hope little Dylan gets well soon."

"We hope so, too. Thank you, Miss Warwick." And they both clicked off.

Stella went upstairs to check on the baby and found her stacking her shape blocks. Blue was sitting attentively by her side as if guarding her. When the blocks fell, the dog nosed some squares and triangles back near Mara. Mara patted the dog's head in thanks. Stella just sighed and beamed.

She went back down to prepare breakfast. She also juiced a fresh batch of orange juice for Dylan. "Dylan baby… what do you want to eat?" she asked softly while stroking his hair.

"Just toast, Mommy," he weakly answered. "With some marmalade please." Stella knew that Dylan couldn't eat much when he's sick but he tries.

"Okay," she whispered back, feeling his forehead.

"What about me?" Mac said with a pout. "I'm hungry, too."

"Get your own food, Detective," Stella joked. Dylan segued with a loud sneeze. "Bless you." She walked into the kitchen and prepared her son's request. She also filled a bottle and a bowl of mashed carrots for Mara. She found that Blue's bowl was already filled with kibble.

Dylan was sniffing and teary-eyed when Stella came back with his food. He thanked her with a smile and had a small bite. "How about Mara?" he asked. Even when sick he always put his little sister first.

"Do you want to eat with her, Dylan?" Mac asked.

He seemed to think about it and said, "I don't want her to get sick, too. But I want to see her. Say g'morning." Mac offered to get the little girl. Stella had the bowl of baby food with her already when they came back, Blue curling up beside Dylan on the couch.

Mara was busy babbling to her father. Mac was nodding his head and laughing as if he understood what she was saying. "Mara…" Dylan said with a scratch in his voice. The baby girl's head turned to his direction and instantly, her eyes lit up. She giggled and waved her hand as if saying 'hello'.

Dylan smiled. He was still wrapped in his blanket, his toes wiggling. Stella carried the baby from Mac and started to feed her. The baby eyed the orange mush on her yellow spoon before opening her mouth to eat it. "Good girl," Stella cooed when Mara started to gum happily.

"Daddy, can I haf shome more juish?" Dylan asked.

"Sure, Dylan," Mac said, ruffling the boy's hair. "Stella, you want anything from the kitchen?"

"Oh there's a pot of coffee all ready," she said; spoon halfway to the baby's waiting mouth. It looked slightly comical to watch Mara's little hands trying to reach the spoon. "And yes, just cereal. Thank you, honey." When Mara started to whimper, Stella continued feeding her.

When everybody was fed and the dishes were taken care of, the family was back in the living room. Dylan's temperature has improved but he still wasn't feeling well. He sunk himself into Mac's side, hugging his father by the waist. The TV was on but neither boys nor girls were paying attention to it. Stella was sitting on the floor by Dylan's feet, reading 'Jane Eyre'. Mac was talking to Dylan, keeping his spirits up. The little boy loved school and disliked missing it even for a day. Little Mara was crawling on the carpeted floor, chasing the dog around. Mac had pushed the coffee table to the side to open up the space for her to crawl on.

Midway through the Today Show, the TV was shut off and the room was filled with baby giggles and laughs. Blue would woof from time to time and pant while Mara chased after him. Stella checked Dylan's temperature again and he was a bit better than the last time she checked.

When Blue decided it was time for his lunch, Mara crawled over to her mom and snuggled. "Oh my little baby girl," Stella hummed against the baby's curls.

"Mara…" Dylan called. Upon hearing her nickname, the baby looked up to her brother, chuckled and waved. If Dylan always waved 'goodbye', his sister always waved 'hello'.

"Wheeeee…" the baby squealed when Stella lifted her up to Mac on the couch. She clapped her hands when her weight settled on her daddy's lap.

And then all of a sudden, Dylan gave a very loud and very wet, "Aaaaaaaaaaaacccccccccchhhhhooooooooooooooo!"

Stella and Mac both sat up straight; Blue started barking. And little Mara began to cry. Dylan had tears and snot on his cheeks, nose and chin. He reached for the tissues on his lap and wiped his face.

Mara was crying, her arms flailing. Stella stood up and took her. "Shhh, baby it's okay," she tried to quiet her down but Mara was really distressed. "Now, now… Mara. Oh…"

Mac took care of their son, wiping the fluids away from his face and clothes. "That's a big one, Dylan," he chuckled, making the boy smile.

"But I made Mara cry," he said; his nose cleared up after the sneeze. He sniffed twice before looking up and seeing her little sister bawling. His eyes filled with tears and one by one, the tears fell. "I'm sorry I scared her," he whimpered.

"There, there, it's not your fault," Stella said over the crying. "Dylan sweetheart," he looked up at the affectionate nickname, "It's okay. Mara was just surprised." He nodded and again wiped his face.

"I'm feeling better now," he said with a slight smile.

"The sneeze did you something good," his daddy said, collecting the crumpled tissues and throwing them into the wastebasket. "Do you want to take a bath now, son?" Dylan nodded.

Stella went upstairs to Mara's room to quiet the baby down. The Patrick Star stuffed toy always calmed her. While she's at it, she checked if the baby was crying for other reasons. It wasn't the diaper nor the bottle… just the sneeze. Stella sat on the rocking chair and placed Mara on her chest. The toy was on her lap.

The baby's cries lessened a bit when she bunched the fabric of her mother's sleeve in her hand and proceeded to suck on it. Soon, she was calm again. Stella managed to extract her from her sleeve, leaving a wet mark on her shirt. She wiped the tears off of Mara's face and kissed her softly. "Okay now, baby?" Mara smiled in return.

Instead of taking a bath, Dylan actually fell asleep. Mac was tucking him in when Stella entered the boy's room. "Said he was tired," Mac explained. Mara reached out to him and soon, she was also asleep in her daddy's arms.

"You have the Sandman's touch, Mac," Stella joked. He smiled and opened his arms out at her. "Oh no, I have a lot of things to do today."

"Suit yourself," he brushed off coolly. They placed the sleeping baby in her crib and went to their room. The master bedroom had an adjoining bathroom and it had the bigger bathtub of the two in the house. Stella sat on the bed, already tired so early in the morning. Mac proceeded to his closet and pulled out some clothes.

Stella gazed at her husband, the thin shirt he was wearing moving with the muscles of his back. She walked over to him and wrapped her arms around him from the back. "Can I interest you to a bath, Detective?" she moaned against the soft fabric.

Mac turned around and gave Stella a slow kiss. He unbuttoned her shirt (which was actually his) and said in a whisper, "Only if you'll join me."

They started to soap and shampoo only after their skins started to prune.

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Tbc.