Disclaimer: Don't own'em

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Birthday Cake

Mac stared at her reflection in the mirror. She sighed. There was no fighting it. She was getting old. She took a closer look. At least she had no gray hairs. Yet. But her face definitely looked older. Definitely. No denying it. Oh, god. Soon she'd be all wrinkly and sagging and ugly ... Mac sighed again, now thoroughly depressed. Her birthday was tomorrow and it would be a whole other year added onto all those already lining her face and weighing down her skin. And then she'd get deep wrinkles and gray hair and liver spots, and it would all be over.

It was hopeless. She was thoroughly depressed. There was nothing she could do. She sighed yet again.

Mac left the washroom with a heavy step. She trudged down the stairs, and dragged her feet into the living room where Harm was lying on the couch watching ZNN. She made her way to him and dropped herself on top of his prone form, burying her face in his neck.

She moaned her discontent.

"Mac? What's wrong?" Harm asked in surprise, his arms immediately encircling her. "Are you okay?"

"No." She muttered, burying her face deeper, all ready to hide from the world.

"What happened?" He was genuinely worried. As well he should be, thought Mac. What was she going to do.

"I'm old."

To her utter dismay, he laughed.

"Not funny." She scolded half-heartedly, too busy feeling sorry for her poor old wrinkly sagging self.

"Is this about your birthday tomorrow?" His amusement was going to start annoying her very soon.

She groaned. She did not want to think about it.

"Hey, look at me, Mac." His tone was gentle, so she lifted her head thinking he would say exactly what she needed to hear to not feel as terrible as she did now. He did after all have a way of making her feel better about lots of things.

His eyes caught hers, full of affection and warmth. He brought his hand to her face and slowly traced his fingers over her skin; over her eyebrows, the shell of her ear, the line of her jaw.

That felt really, really good.

"Mm," She sighed happily, and rewarded him with a smile.

He, however, didn't stop in the soft movements of his fingers over her face. Unexpectedly, the warmth in his expression was replaced with a frown, and instead of feeling really, really good, his touch started to feel like a minute inspection of her face.

"Harm?" Mac shifted somewhat uncomfortably under his scrutinizing eye. "What are you doing?"

"Making sure it's you." His finger traced a line down her cheek. His frown deepened. "I don't remember you having these many wrinkles. And is that a gray hair?"

Mac slapped his hand away, appalled he would say such a thing to her. "You big jerk!" He was supposed to be sensitive and understanding. She gave him her fiercest glare. "I can't believe you would say that to me!"

He laughed heartily and hugged her tight to his chest. "You have never looked more beautiful to me, Sweet thing. You look the same to me as you did the day we met."

Mac dropped her head on his chest. "Liar." She mumbled.

"It's the truth," He insisted.

"Then you're going half-blind and fully senile with age." Her face was again buried in that really comfortable spot where his neck met shoulder.

"Mac." His amusement was evident in his voice. "We are not that old."

"I'm definitely not as old as you. You have four years on me."

"Four years and infinite wisdom," He teased.

"You are terrible at this empathy thing."

"Mommy? Daddy?"

Mac looked up to see five-year old Matt eyeing them curiously.

"Good morning, big guy. Did you sleep well?" Harm asked.

Matt nodded. "Is mommy okay?" He asked Harm.

"I'm fine, sweetie." Mac smiled at their son, then sighed heavily. "I am just facing the indiscriminate, joint forces of time and gravity."

Matt looked at her for a moment, a frown slowly forming on his expressive brow.

"Can I watch cartoons?" He finally asked.

Mac laughed. If only things could be that simple. "Yes, you may."

"Have you had breakfast?" Harm slid into dad-mode, sitting up on the couch as he questioned Matt. Mac sat up as well, regretting that she had to leave her very comfortable hiding place.

Matt shook his head.

"How about pancakes?" Harm offered.

The boy's face lit up.

"Great. Why don't you watch cartoons and keep your ageing mother company while I make us some pancakes?" Harm stood up, grinning while Mac again glared at him.

"With blueberries? Please." Matt looked hopefully at his dad.

"You got it, kiddo." Harm's grin mirrored his son's. He kissed the top of Matt's head, and made his way to the kitchen.

"Come aboard, Matty." Mac sat cross-legged on the couch, her arm out in invitation. "Let's watch some cartoons." Matt happily clambered onto her lap.

"What are we going to watch this morning?" She handed Matt the remote, covering them with the afghan that was draped over the arm of the couch.

"Dinowars!" He deftly turned on the television and switched to his channel of choice.

"Ooh," Mac settled them both comfortably into the cushions, "My favourite."

A few minutes remained until the start of the show, so mother and son sat in companionable silence, watching the credits roll from the previous show.

"Mommy?" Matt suddenly said.

"Yes, Matt?"

"What's a-...ageing mean?" He looked at Mac over his shoulder.

Mac sighed. "It means mommy's birthday is tomorrow, and she'll be a whole year older."

Matt's eyes widened. "Wow. How old?"

"Old enough that numbers don't matter." She answered, guessing that for a five-year old kid, any number beyond five was too large to fathom. She didn't think her already fragile ego could handle seeing Matt's reaction to her actual age.

"You mean, old like dinosaurs?"

Mac tried really hard not to be offended. After all, he was only five. Her attempts to be mature about this conversation were thwarted by the sudden laughter coming from the living room doorway. Mac and Matt both looked up to see Harm merrily chuckling away.

"I am not that old." Mac glared at Harm. She looked at Matt. "Your father is even older than I am."

"Really? Older than dinosaurs?" Matt was awed by the mere thought.

"Even older than that," Came Mac's prompt – and, admittedly, thoroughly immature – reply.

Harm just laughed harder. He walked into the living room and sat down on the couch. "Your mom is just trying to be funny, Matt."

"Will you have a birthday party?" Their son asked eagerly.

Mac and Harm answered at the same time:

"No," She said.

"Yes," He said.

Matt looked from one to the other in confusion.

Their poor kid, Mac thought. He'd need some serious therapy if she and Harm kept up this thing of always contradicting each other. So she changed her answer.

"Maybe."

"No," Harm said at the same time. They both looked at each other, apparently having thought the same thing about their parenting methods, and broke into laughter.

Matt just seemed even more confused.

"What we mean is," Mac said, still eyeing Harm with amusement, "We'll have a small party just you and me, daddy, Katie and Leyla."

"Will there be cake?" His voice went up a notch with excitement.

"You bet."

"Dinosaur cake?" His eyes were wide, his smile waiting to explode.

"That sounds yummy." Mac said enthusiastically.

Matt whooped with excitement, just as Katie walked into the room. She was still wearing her pink cotton nightdress, her hair a complete tangle of curls, lazily rubbing sleep from her eyes. She walked up to the couch and looked up expectantly at Harm.

Harm picked her up and gave her a big kiss. "Good morning, sweetheart."

Katie yawned, which made Mac grin. She was as much a morning person as Harm was.

"Katie!" Matt said with unrestrained excitement, his words tripping over each other. "Mommy's birthday is tomorrow and Daddy is older than, than dinosaurs and, and we have cake!"

"Cake?!" Katie was suddenly fully awake and roaring to go. "Now?"

Matt looked to his parents, eyes full of hope, this idea never before having occurred to him. "For breakfast?" He whispered, as though this were beyond the limits of possibility.

Mac had to work really hard not to laugh at his reaction.

Katie turned her doe-like eyes on Harm, "Please, Daddy."

Mac knew Harm was a goner.

He only hesitated for a fraction of a second. "Well, I did buy mommy's birthday cake before you guys all woke up..." He said reluctantly, "But her birthday is tomorrow."

Mac looked at Harm in surprise.

He met her glance and shrugged. "You always go on about how old you're getting the day before your birthday. I thought cake would keep you from walking around depressed all day."

She was touched. And slightly offended: she did not walk around depressed all day.

"Please, daddy? Daddy please?" Matt cajoled.

"Please, daddy?" Katie took her big brother's lead slightly further and outright begged. She stood on his lap with her tiny hands on his shoulders. "Please, please?"

"Now, kids..." Harm began, and looked to Mac for help.

She grinned, feeling quite mischievous. "Please?" She added to their kids' pleas. "It is my birthday cake."

Harm sighed, eyebrow raised, not impressed at all. He was a huge believer in healthy breakfasts. But she knew from the way he was looking at her that he was about to cave.

"Fine." He relented. "It's in the fridge."

Matt jumped off Mac's lap while Katie half-jumped, half-fell off Harm's lap. They rushed to the kitchen, Katie trying very hard to keep up with her brother.

"We are going to have to deal with two sugar highs today." Harm told her, as Matt and Katie's squeals of excitement came from the kitchen.

"Actually," She teased, "You'll have three sugar highs to deal with. I'm having cake for breakfast, too."

He laughed, and dropped a kiss on her lips. "Happy Birthday's Eve." He pulled her close. "And you do get more beautiful with every passing day."

"Thank you," She grinned, leaning in for a more thorough kiss. "Even if you are a liar."

"Daddy!" Two tiny voices cried out from the kitchen, interrupting their sweet interlude. Harm and Mac both sighed, then shared a smile.

"Cake!" Came another squeal from Katie. Just then, the baby monitor on the coffee table registered Leyla's distinct cry for attention. They both looked at the monitor.

"She's probably feeling left out." Mac said. "I'll go get her."

"Well." Harm grinned. "The three whirlwinds will definitely keep us young for a long time to come." He stood up, pulling Mac with him and wrapping her in a hug. "Worth the price of a few wrinkles and gray hairs, right?"

"I do not have gray hair!" She replied petulantly.

"Fine." He amended with a laugh. "Worth the price of a few wrinkles."

"I'm not wrinkly," She defended her fading youth.

"Mac," Harm said, exasperated. "Fine. Worth the price of ageing."

"Daddy!" Two voices again cried out from the kitchen, just as Leyla again called for attention from her crib.

"Maybe," She would not admit it. And why couldn't she have this without the wrinkles? Mac sighed, and decided she might as well find the silver lining in all this. "Well, at least I get to eat cake for breakfast."

"Can't forget the cake now can we," Harm shook his head at her, wearing her favourite grin. "Now go get Leyla, beautiful." He pushed her gently towards the stairs. "I'll start on the blueberry pancakes, and at least try and get something healthy into you three before you ruin your appetites with cake."

Mac nodded, and headed up the stairs to Leyla's room. When she reached, she couldn't help her wide smile at the sight of their youngest babbling away in her crib.

"Hey, sweetheart." Mac picked up Leyla, holding her close. "How's mommy's angel doing? Are you all ready to change your diaper and put on some fresh clothes?"

Leyla babbled in response.

"Good morning to you, too." She set her on the changing table, and began getting Leyla ready for the day. "Did you sleep well?"

Leyla continued her string of baby talk uninterrupted. Mac grinned at the sweet sound.

"We're chatty this morning, aren't we? Can you say 'happy birthday'? It's mommy's birthday tomorrow."

Leyla's big blue eyes focused on Mac. "Ma ma, ga ba."

"Close enough," Mac laughed, and Leyla grinned in response.

"Well, baby, at least you're happy it's mommy's birthday tomorrow." Mac then added in a conspiratorial tone, as she disposed of the dirty diaper. "Mommy is not such a fan of birthdays. At least not my own. Haven't been since I was young."

"Ba da guh," Leyla babbled, her tone laughing.

Mac grinned, fastening the snaps on Leyla's onesie. "You're right. I am being silly. So what if I'm old and wrinkled and sagging with gray hair and liver spots."

Leyla laughed, waving about her chubby legs.

"You think it's funny?" Mac tickled the toddler. "It's not funny. Your brother thinks I'm as old as dinosaurs."

Leyla reached her arms out for Mac, who gladly picked her up. "There you are. All nice and clean. Do you want to have pancake for breakfast?"

"Ma ma da."

"I'll take that as a yes." Mac, with Leyla in her arms, made her way to the kitchen.

"Mommy! Chocolate cake!" Matt said excitedly as soon as she entered the kitchen.

"Yum," Mac replied. She glanced at Katie whose face was half covered in frosting. Katie looked at Mac and grinned.

"Cake!" She said, before diving right back into her treat.

"I have never seen them eat pancakes so fast," Harm said walked over to Mac. He took Leyla and blew a raspberry on her cheek. Leyla squealed in delight. "Good morning, sweetheart." He greeted her.

Mac watched Harm as he kept up his monologue with Leyla, all the while strapping her into her high chair. She then looked at Matt and Katie who seemed to be engaged in a contest of who could eat their cake the fastest. Katie was winning, but only because half the cake was either on her face or had fallen on the floor before it reached her mouth.

Mac frowned, losing herself deep in thought. It was true, she knew, that twenty years ago she would never have thought that she could have this kind of life. So maybe getting old and wrinkly with a family she loved and who loved her back was better than getting old and wrinkly all alone. She had Harm and the kids, a job she loved, a beautiful home, and chocolate cake. That was all good.

"What are you in such deep thought about?" Harm asked as he set a pancake in front of Leila. "And you'll get wrinkles if you keep frowning like that." He grinned at her.

She returned his grin with a scowl. "Keep that up and I'm not sharing a bed with you tonight."

His smile told her he didn't believe she would do that. But instead of teasing her further, he set down two plates stacked with pancakes on the table. "Breakfast is served, Birthday Girl." He said grandly, making Matt and Katie giggle.

Mac could only laugh at his dramatics. She took her seat at the table, ready to eat pancakes and cake. As she and Harm fielded their elder kids' questions on what tomorrow's birthday party plans would consist of, contentment quietly settled in Mac's heart. She did have a life she was proud of, a life that made her happy. She'd just have to work hard at reminding herself of that from time to time, as age lined her face and grayed her hair and made everything sag...

"Mommy?" Matt asked, pulling her from her thoughts.

"Yes, Matty?"

"Did you have a pet dinosaur when you were five?"

Mac's face fell as she looked at Matt. She would definitely need to work hard at it.

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The End.