"Daddy! Daddy! You're home!" Two identical black-haired mini-tornados's charged down the hallway straight into their father's arms.
Lee put his hat aside and scooped one up in each arm. "Hello Rachael, hello Krystal, have you been good girls today?" He kissed each one on the cheek and carried them through to the kitchen where the rest of us were.
"We did painting today," Rachael said.
"Did you? Did you paint something for me?"
"No only Mummy," Krystal stated.
"Hey Handsome, I thought that was you." I gave Lee a kiss as I walked past with Jake's dinner, sliding into a dining chair opposite the high-chair that held the fifteen month old baby. Jake let out a crow of delight and eagerly gobbled down his first mouthful.
Lee lowered the twins to the floor and they raced off to argue over the TV.
Chelsea was up on a chair near the stove stirring a large pot of soup she and I had made.
"Hi Dad, I'm helping Mum make dinner," Chelsea gave him a huge smile as he looked over her shoulder.
"I can see that. What are we having?"
"Don't know." Chelsea shrugged.
"It's called soup," I replied as I spooned some mashed vegetables into Jake's eager mouth.
Both Lee and Chelsea leaned over the pot and looked closely at its contents.
Chelsea giggled, "It looks like runny poo-."
Lee clamped his hand over her mouth, "That's enough out of you. You keep stirring and hope it changes colour."
They both laughed when Lee came over to the table and tickled his son who let out a shriek of happiness. Jake promptly lost all interest in his dinner as Lee started a game of Peek-A-Boo with him.
"Lee!" I groaned annoyed, "If you're going to distract him you feed him."
"Ot oh we've annoyed your Mother. Dad won't be getting any desert tonight," Lee stated cheekily.
I sighed, dumped the spoon in the small plastic bowl and stood up. "You feed him while I help Chels with dinner. What did you do with the Mitchell's?" I asked as I too peaked over Chelsea's shoulder to see how the soup was going.
"Maddie was working late so Mav took the boys over to the office. They're going to take her out to dinner and come home later."
"Mum! Rachael won't let me watch my movie," Krystal walked into the kitchen rubbing her four year old eyes.
"It's not your turn!" Rachael yelled following her older sister into the kitchen. Krystal was older by three minutes. "Mum she's had four turns already and I've only had one."
"Oh well then it must be my turn," I replied looking at my twin daughters. "Either that or I turn it off?"
"It's okay Mum we'll find something else to watch." Rachael ran off out of the kitchen. "Come on Krys, let's choose something else."
Krystal followed her sister back into the living room.
"Now that's what I like, a tightly run ship." Lee grinned at me.
"And that's what I love, mashed veggies on a white uniform." I swiped a finger at the brown muck on the front of his uniform shirt courtesy of Jake.
"I can easily fix that." Lee stood up and unbuttoned his shirt with a sensuous grin at me. God he could tease. The shirt slid off his shoulders revealing the figure hugging white T-Shirt he wore underneath. Balling up the shirt he threw it across the kitchen in the general direction of the laundry where it hit the wall and finished in a heap.
I rolled my eyes at his blatant attempt to seduce me. Little did he know it worked.
"No kidding," I laughed and leaned down to reward him with a kiss. I loved him in T-Shirts, seeing the stretchy fabric highlight his toned muscular body was a dammed good sight but then again so was his bare naked body. The best thing about my husband was he knew all this and rarely wasted an opportunity to show off.
Jake squealed and clapped his hands before blowing a raspberry and showering Lee with more mashed vegetables and gravy.
"Kid you're the best; I knew we had you for a reason." Without any hesitation Lee slipped his mashed veggie and gravy covered T-Shirt off and threw it in the laundry as well. It didn't make it and came to rest on top of the crumpled uniform shirt. He then proceeded to smother his son's face in kisses making Jake squeal with delight.
It was late when I finally snapped off the hall light and was able to join Lee downstairs. I met him coming out of the kitchen with two cups of coffee in hand.
"Oh yum, thank you," I accepted the cup and wrapped my cold hands around it.
"They all asleep?" Lee asked snapping off the kitchen light and following me into the living room. I sank gratefully into the cozy cushions of the sofa. Lee settled beside me and promptly swung his feet up onto the coffee table, holding an arm out inviting me to snuggle up against his side. I didn't hesitate as I enjoyed the feel of his hard and sculptured chest beside me.
"Just about, Chelsea's reading and Jake's playing in his cot but the other two are out to it."
"Good." Lee's arm settled across my shoulders and I leaned back enjoying the peace and quiet. With four kids life could get pretty chaotic at times and add to that Maddie and Maverick's pair and you had a Kindergarten. Or so we called them.
Lee unearthed the remote control from beneath some cushions and turned off Bambi, the twin's current favourite show.
"They've decided to let some more women through the course. We've got four of them starting on Monday."
"Sounds interesting just remember you've already got yours." I kissed him.
"Oh I know that's why I put that ring on your finger."
"Sure you did." I leaned back and looked at him.
At that moment the key in the door announced the arrival of Maverick, Maddie and their two sons, Darry and Eli. Darry was seven while Eli was five. Maverick carried Eli while Maddie had hold of Darry.
"Hi," Maddie whispered as she nudged the half asleep Darry up the stairs. "Come on mate, you can say hi to Ashley and Lee in the morning."
"Is the coffee hot?" Maddie asked reappearing two minutes later.
"Yeap, help yourself." Lee replied as Maverick joined us in the living room. Maddie carried in two cups of hot coffee for them.
Maverick wrapped his arms around his wife and pulled her in close, nursing his coffee in one hand.
"So have you told her yet?" Maverick asked his partner.
"Nope," Lee answered throwing an unreadable look at his friend.
"Tell me what?" I asked curiously.
Lee sat back and sighed not looking too happy. I watched him for a moment sensing a reluctance to talk. "We're being promoted again only this time it's big."
"Huge, highest position ever that a pilot has reached."
"One star Admiral, Rear Admiral that is."
"What?! Oh Lee! That's wonderful! Congratulations both of you." I gave Lee a hug but he wasn't his normal responsive self. Maddie was also strangely quiet and Maverick stared out the window like he wished he hadn't said a word. "Lee? What's going on? Why aren't you happy?"
Lee sighed tiredly, "There's more to it but I'd rather not discuss it right now Ash, please. We're up for promotion that's all you need to know at this stage. I'm going to bed."
Lee stood up suddenly leaving me cold and alone.
"Lee?!" I cried after his departing back feeling incredibly confused and lost. I turned to Maverick and Maddie not understanding at all what had just happened. "Does one of you want to tell me what's going on?"
"With the promotion comes an ultimatum," Maverick said.
"What ultimatum? What's going on Maverick?"
"If we take the promotion we cease the flying. Our careers are dust basically."
"And if you don't take it?"
"They have hinted at us taking early retirement."
"What?!" I cried for the second time that night. "They can't do that can they?"
"Yeah they can, they're the navy," Maverick muttered suddenly looking older and more tired than his thirty seven years.
"Look it's been a long day, how about we get a goodnight's sleep and things will look better in the morning," Maddie suggested yawning, her day in court catching up to her.
Maddie nudged her husband's shoulder and offered him her hand pulling him up off the lounge. Only he wasn't just happy with holding just her hand and swooped down, picked her up and threw her over his shoulder in one fluid movement.
"Maverick!" Maddie squealed as they disappeared from the room leaving me to follow when I was ready.