A/N: No, I'm not starting a new series…just thought I'd have a little fun. This story would take place eight years after Bat Wedding. Babe story…but it really only features Ranger and his little girl. Thanks to Alf for being my loyal beta. The purple eyeliner is for you!
Warning: Shameless fluff
Ranger Versus the Cupcakes ~ A Pastry Story
I leaned over the sofa and tugged the afghan off the back and shook it out while taking in the sleeping forms of my beautiful wife and our infant son. Even after eight years of marriage, looking upon my wife in sleep still causes my blood to stir while at the same time giving me a profound sense of peace. I smiled softly as I focused on my son, belly down on Stephanie's chest with his rump up in the air while he suckled his thumb. I laid the afghan carefully over them, tucking it no higher than the baby's waist and paused a moment to smooth my wife's wild curls away from her face.
I straightened and turned to take in the destruction of the den. Christmas had started very early this morning at the Batcave. While I am usually an early riser, I would have liked to have slept past 0448 hours this morning especially since I stayed up until 0230 hours ruining my wife after our stealth mission of delivering entertainment provisions for our two little soldiers. Stephanie had been a very bad girl this year and I had to take an hour or so to show her my appreciation.
But my little Catarina was a girl on a mission. My six year old daughter had launched herself in between Stephanie and me before dawn and had been virtually vibrating with unsuppressed excitement. Steph had rolled away, not before pulling the covers over her head and muttering unintelligibly.
"Daddy, Daddy, we have to go downstairs now! Santa's been here, I just know it!"
Catarina had quickly given up trying to roust her mother, knowing it was a lost cause. She shimmied over my torso and straddled me like a horse and begun bouncing enthusiastically on my stomach, knocking the breath from me.
"Uhn, uhn, Catarina, uhn, Princesa…STOP!"
My baby girl froze above me and stared at me solemnly in the dark. I couldn't see her expression but I knew my little girl. My words were too harsh; I hurt her feelings. I stretched my arm up and flipped on the lamp on the nightstand. Turning back to her, I propped myself on my elbows and looked at the little girl perched precariously on my lap.
Even at the age of six, she had more hair than her mother or I knew what to do with. She had Stephanie's riotous curls and they fell just passed her shoulder in an inky black mass. Her skin was only slightly lighter than mine. Her eyes were a deep chocolate brown and at the moment, were big as saucers and glistening with tears. Her cupid's- bow mouth was quivering and I watched in horror as her tiny lower lip curled outward right before my eyes.
I sat up straight and wrapped my arms around my baby girl and murmured nonsensical Spanish phrases into the mass of her hair. I pulled back slightly and cupped her tiny face in my hands. "Shush, baby. I'm sorry, Princesa. Papa is just tired. I know you're excited to see what Santa left for you. Please don't cry."
From under the covers, a disgruntled voice croaked, "She's totally working you. Who's the parent, Carlos?"
I leveled a glare at the lump under the duvet. I heard a pronounced sniffle and turned back just in time to see a fat tear roll down my daughter's downy cheek. I swiped it away with my thumb, cleared my throat of its inexplicable lump and said, "Go on. Go wait at the top of the stairs. I'll get Mommy out of bed and we'll go down in a few minutes."
Miraculously, her face lost all traces of sadness, only to be replaced by suspicion. "Why can't I wait here?"
"Uh…well, sweetheart… we need to brush our teeth."
Catarina narrowed her eyes at me, clearly not believing my explanation. "Did your jammies fall off again?"
I heard a snort from under the covers.
"Mmm-hmm. That's right, baby. Now go on." I hoisted her off the bed and watched her pajama clad form scurry out the bedroom door.
I was startled out of my reminiscing by the incessant tugging of my hand by my mini-Babe. "Daddy, come on! You promised you would help me try out my Girl Gourmet Cupcake Maker!"
I heaved a sigh and looked back at my unconscious wife, hoping against hope that Catarina's high pitched voice woke her from her slumber and I would somehow be saved from this. But no. Damn her.
I took Catarina's small hand and we kicked and shuffled our way through piles of shredded wrapping paper and ribbons towards the mountain of still boxed presents to look for the dreaded cupcake maker. I squatted down and set about the task of rifling through boxes to get to our goal. Ninety eight dollar American Girl Doll with pierced ears. Ninety eight frickin' dollars for a doll. Eight coordinating ensembles for the overpriced doll. Don't even get me started on the Bratz dolls. They should be called 'Tartz'. Some of their outfits make Lula's look like Sunday frocks. Personally, I think each individual Bratz doll should come with its own pimp. Hannah Montana wig. Hannah Montana microphone. Hannah Montana c.d.s. Hannah Montana make-up set? Oh, I don't think so! Who authorized this? Finally! The dreaded cupcake maker. I made a mental note to buy the company who made it and shut it down.
We made our way to the kitchen with the box and I set about unpacking it on the kitchen island. Catarina danced around a bit in her footie pajamas before gamboling up on a bar stool. She bounced on her bottom excitedly and said, "Can we make a bunch?"
I murmured distractedly, "Sure Princess."
"Cause you know we're having company tomorrow."
"Mmmm." One of our family's unfortunate and bizarre traditions was that the Morelli's come and enjoy brunch with us the day after Christmas. It started the year that Stephanie gave birth to Catarina and Sasha gave birth to little Joey. I didn't like the look of that kid. Oh, sure, he was a handsome little boy and acted all sweet and polite, but believe you me; I keep the door to my garage firmly locked when that little lothario comes over to play.
I started reading the directions. I looked back in the box, confused. There's nothing in the box that actually makes cupcakes. Sure, there's mix for the cupcakes and mix for the frosting, and those little paper cupcake thingies, but there's no oven. What the fuck? We paid Twenty-nine dollars for a glorified plastic frosting pump?
I know what you're thinking. I'm not a cheap man. I spare no expense for my wife and my children. But you don't get to be as financially secure as I am by throwing money willy-nilly at Toys-R-Us and Wal-Mart.
My musings were once again interrupted by my daughter's incessant chatter. "Daddy, we have to make enough cupcakes so I can give one to Joey."
I looked at Catarina and saw that her eyes were bright and her cheeks were flushed. I smacked a mixing bowl down on the counter and said conversationally, "So is Joey your boyfriend?"
Catarina giggled and said, "No, silly! We're only six."
I mentally sighed. (What? You think Stephanie has a patent on it?)
"We're going to wait until we're eight."
I clenched my jaw as I shook out the packet of mix into the bowl. "Baby. Eight is way too young to think about having a boyfriend. You need to be at least twenty. Also, Joey is your second or third cousin through my side of the family. It's not allowed to date or marry a cousin."
Christ. "Baby, it would be…yucky. He's related to you by blood. And if you had babies with him, they wouldn't be normal."
"Like they would only have one eye and three arms?"
I handed the cupcake mixture to Catarina for her to stir. She was quiet for a while as she worked. Suddenly, she said, "How does a baby get in the mommy's tummy?"
"Was that the doorbell?"
We both sat quietly for a moment before Catarina said, "Daddy, I didn't hear anything. Besides, don't they have to call from the gate to even get in the driveway?"
Damn it. When did the child acquire logic?
I handed her the paper wrapper and guided her in pouring the mixture. Softly she asked, "Aren't you going to tell me?"
"Uh…I thought your mommy told you this when we found out Alejandro was in Mommy's tummy."
She looked at me skeptically as I walked the cupcake in its plastic casserole dish over to the microwave. "Yes. But she told me that God put Alex in her tummy."
"But I think mommy was telling me a story. God did that for Mary, you know, with baby Jesus. But Sister Catherine said that that was the maculate reception, and that was the only time that it ever happened."
Damn nun and her big mouth. I'm halving next year's charitable donations to the parochial school. "It's Immaculate Conception, baby."
"And Joey said that it's the daddy that puts the baby in the mommy's tummy."
I turned from the humming microwave and crossed my arms over my chest. "He did, did he?"
"Uh-huh. But I'm not sure I believe how he told me the seed gets there."
I leaned down with my elbows on the island and said in a low voice, "And how did he tell you the seed gets there?"
She didn't answer, only looked down at the floor and turned three shades of red. Sounds like me and little Joey need to have a little talk. While I'm cleaning my gun.
"Listen baby. If you really want to talk about this, we can. But I think your mom would do a better job of it."
"Mmm-kay. But I have to tell you, if what Joey told me is true, I don't think I'm ever having a baby. It sounds really disgusting."
"It is," I assured her. "Really gross. You don't ever have to do it. You can adopt."
"But you and mommy did it. Twice."
I cleared my throat as a set about helping her mix the frosting. "Uh…we really wanted you and your brother."
She squished up her face in a look of repulsion. I was pleased. My daughter would remain a virgin at least until she was thirty.
One whole cupcake done. Thank Christ. "Okay Princess, let's clean up."
"No! We have to make five more. Maybe even six. Uncle Joe loves eating cupcakes!"
Can you feel a blood vessel burst behind you eye?
Yes, I know several years have passed, and in theory, I should rise above base emotions such as jealousy. I'm a secure man. But there are certain phrases no man wants to hear.
I took a deep, cleansing breath. "Baby, Uncle Joe isn't allowed to eat cupcakes anymore. They give him ulcers."
"What's an ulcer?"
Who knew children asked so many questions?
"It's a like a really bad tummy ache."
Catarina nodded sagely. "Like when I don't make poopie for two or three days?"
"So if Uncle Joe doesn't eat cupcakes anymore, what does he eat?"
"I don't really like to think about it. Hey, why don't we do something else? Want to help Daddy reload some bullets in the basement?"
Catarina frowned and said, "Not really." Suddenly her face brightened and she said, "I could go get my Hannah Montana make-up set and I could make you all beautiful. I can even paint your nails!"
"Or we could make more cupcakes."
"No blue eye shadow and no purple eyeliner like last time. And I get to pick the polish."
Happy New Year!