Author's Note: When I finished writing Aequitas, Veritas, Parilitas, Fidelis I thought I was done writing BDS fiction. However, halfway through posting the story, I got hit with this idea. I know it's fairly common in the world of BDSFF, but I really couldn't help myself. After everything I put the MacManuses and MacCoys through in the story, I couldn't resist doing this for them. And, y'know, I really didn't want to end the story, so here's one last hurrah. Enjoy the adorableness!
Disclaimer: Still don't own Connor or Murphy. Devin, Niamh, Liam, Owen, Maggie and Eva are mine, though. Originally I had planned to post this as a oneshot, so if there is repeated information or a writing style better suited to a one-shot than a story chapter, that's why.
Hopewell House well deserved its reputation as one of the best orphanages in Southern Ireland, despite the fact that it had only been operational for five years. The orphanage remained small, caring for around twenty children at a time. The founders of the orphanage worked closely with the local church and the country's adoption agencies to give their charges loving homes. The children were firmly convinced that their caregivers were angels, and that their adopted daughter Maggie was the luckiest little girl to ever live.
Today, the usually well-run orphanage was a madhouse. Murphy MacManus had shooed his wife Devin off to spend the day with her twin sister while Murphy and the children prepared a surprise party for Devin's birthday. And when Mama was away, her chickadees would play.
Murphy headed down to the kitchen mid-morning, gripping the head of his cane. Normally, he no longer needed his cane to walk, for which he was profoundly grateful; it was difficult to keep up with 23 children and his wife when he was hobbling on three legs. Today, though, he'd woken up with the telltale twinges in his hip, the ones that meant heavy rainfall and pain. Not the best day for him to try and corral the orphans on his own. Fortunately though, it was a weekday. He'd managed to bustle all the children to the bus stop after the morning feeding frenzy, leaving him only with his own kids- ten-year-old Margaret Caitríona [universally known as Maggie] was sick with the flu, and his twins Liam Alastar and Owen Keelan were only toddlers. As Murphy made himself a cuppa [Jesus, he was getting too much like his da with his tea addiction], his cell phone rang.
"Mornin'," Murphy greeted his brother. "Where are ye?"
"Headin' ta yer place," Connor replied. "Eva wants ta play wit' 'er cousin, an' I figured you could use help settin' up fer the girls' party."
"Ye thought right," Murphy said. "Door's unlocked, come on in."
As Murphy hung up with his twin, two dark-haired little boys sprinted into the kitchen, giggling and babbling at each other.
"Me boys!" Murphy grinned, lifting Liam into his lap while Owen clambered onto the table. "Ye didn' wake yer sister, did ye?"
"Unh-uh!" four-year-old Owen shook his head.
"Tha's a good lad," Murphy said, kissing both boys' cheeks. "Yer Uncle Con's comin' over wi' Eva, d'ye like tha'?"
Liam made a face. "She's a girl!" he whined.
"Aye, tha' she is," Murphy nodded. "But ye'll have yer uncle ta gang up on!"
The boys giggled, leaping to the floor and demanding food.
"What? Ye jus' had breakfast!" Murphy exclaimed, mock-horrified.
"Oatmeal! We're hungryyyy! Pleeeeease, Da?" the twins pouted, jumping up and down.
"Oh alrigh'," Murphy relented, standing to spoon them more oatmeal. "Where's all tha' food go, huh?"
"My toes!" Owen exclaimed, as Liam laughed.
Murphy laughed along with his boys, a warm feeling spreading through his chest. Had he and Connor been like this when they were little? Were these the moments his parents had lived for? For the millionth time, Murphy sent up a silent prayer of thanks to the Almighty. His Calling meant nothing in comparison to this.
There was a sound of dogs barking, a door opening, and voices. A moment later, Connor walked into the kitchen, his and Niamh's three-year-old daughter Eva on his hip, while the three dogs [Maggie's, Devin's, and the orphans'] trailed him.
"An' what've we got here, then?" Connor asked.
"Unca Con!" the boys squealed, leaping off their chairs and attacking Connor's legs.
"Ah, tryin' ta attack me, are yeh?" Connor growled.
He handed Eva to Murphy before lunging, grabbing Liam around the middle and flinging him over his shoulder while Owen clung to Connor's free arm, all three of them laughing as Connor spun in a circle.
Eva giggled, clapping her hands. "Da's silly," she grinned.
"Aye, yer da's a loony," Murphy grinned, shifting to get a better grip on his niece. "Le's get you up ta Maggie, yeah?"
"Yeah!"Eva cheered, wrapping her little arms around him.
Nudging the dogs away with his cane, Murphy headed for the stairs, then down the hallway to Maggie's room. The room was painted pink and was ballerina-themed, tutus and ballet slippers strewn across the floor with dolls and books. Maggie herself was laying propped up in bed, holding her stuffed monkey named Bunny and looking quite sick.
"Look who came ta visit ye, Miss Maggie," Murphy smiled, carefully traversing the sea of toys and depositing Eva on the bed. "Now, Maggie has ta stay in bed till she feels better, but I kin put in a movie for ya?"
"Kin we play tea party, Da?" Maggie asked hopefully.
"O' course, mo chuisle," he smiled, heading for the door.
"Will you play with us, Unca Murph?" Eva piped up.
"Oh no," he shook his head. "Tea parties're fer you princesses."
Maggie pouted, the pout she knew from experience would get her da to do whatever she wanted. "Pleeeeease, Da?"
Confronted with such a face, Murphy was helpless. "Alrigh', love. Get the costumes."
The girls cheered, Eva jumping off the bed to get the needed dress-up clothes. Shaking his head, Murphy walked back to the kitchen to make a pot of Irish breakfast tea. He passed Connor and the twins in the living room, making a mess with glitter, glue, markers, and scissors.
"Wha's all this?" he asked.
"Dec'rations! Fer Momma!" Owen grinned.
"Well lookit that," Murphy grinned. "They're fantastic, boys."
"What're you up to?" Con asked.
"Makin' tea fer the princesses' tea party," he responded.
"Well isn't that nice," Connor said, a shiteating grin on his face. "Are ye gonna join 'em, Princess?"
"Shut up, ye ass," Murphy muttered, heading to the kitchen.
But Connor just followed his little brother, mocking him as they got into the kitchen. Murphy rolled his eyes; some things never changed, despite the fact that they were 33 and married with children.
"How's work goin'?" he asked, to change the topic.
"Same as always," Connor shrugged, leaning against the counter. "We leave Shannon fer a weekend, fly out ta the fuckin' desert in the middle o' nowhere, shoot some motherfuckers and risk gettin' killed, yell at each other fer takin' too many risks, then come home like nothin' happened."
A faint grin played across Murph's face. "I'm amazed ye haven't killed each other yet."
"Oh, it'll happen," Connor replied, shaking his head and grinning. "She kin be more irritatin' than you."
Murphy tossed wet tea leaves at his brother's head, but otherwise didn't respond. Connor laughingly ducked them.
"Ye look good, Murph," he observed. "Happy."
"I am," Murphy nodded, pouring the tea into a floral patterned teapot. "The orphanage is doin' well, Dev's happy, we've got the kids… life is good."
"Even without the Callin'?" Con asked.
Murphy paused for a moment, considering the question. It had been nearly five years since a gunshot to the hip had ended his vigilante career as a Saint. Did he miss it?
"I miss it, sometimes," he nodded, getting milk and sugar and cookies. "The rush, an' the joy. But…" he looked around the kitchen, a look of supreme contentment on his face. "This is where I belong."
Connor nodded, leaning against the counter. "There are days when I envy ye, you know that?" he asked, looking around the kitchen.
"Ye should be envyin' me everyday. I got the beautiful wife, you got… a handful," Murphy smirked.
"Don' ye dare start teasin' me wife, she'll hit ya in the bum hip," Con laughed. "Go upstairs an' enjoy yer tea party, Princess."
Murphy gathered everything onto a tray, then frowned when he realized that he couldn't carry it and his cane at the same time. Silently, Connor grabbed the tray for him. He didn't make a big deal of it, so as not to embarrass his brother, but he was quick to take it when he saw the trouble Murphy was having. Con teased his little brother about a good many things, but never when it came to the cane. He'd almost lost his brother that day, and that was a thought that still occasionally gave him nightmares.
The brothers headed upstairs together, to find Eva and Maggie all ready for their party. Both were in dress-up dresses that Devin had made for them, with crowns and plastic jewelry. They looked up when they heard Connor and Murphy, grinning.
"We're all ready!" Maggie giggled. "Aren't we, Countess Glitter Sparkles?"
"Yes we are, Duchess Pink and Lace," the countess, otherwise known as Eva, nodded. "We just need the tea. Oh! An' we're waitin' fer Lady Sugarplum Tiara!"
Connor snorted, almost succeeding in biting back his laughter. Murphy hit him in the shoulder before walking around to the far side of the bed, where a big floppy hat, pink feather boa, and white lace shawl were waiting for him. Silently groaning at his forced emasculation, Murphy donned the girly wear, batting his eyelashes and adopting a ridiculous falsetto.
"Sooo sorry about me tardiness, me dear Countess an' Duchess," he trilled as Connor left. "But the cook was takin'a horribly long time ta get our tea. Good help is so hard ta find these days."
"Tha's very true, Lady Sugarplum Tiara," Maggie nodded gravely. "Would ye do the honor o' pourin' the tea?"
"Me darlin' Pink and Lace, I would be delighted," Murphy cooed, before pouring three cups of tea. "Glitter Sparkles, please do help yerself ta cookies."
"Thank you, Lady Sugarplum," Eva grinned, grabbing a big handful of cookies.
Connor managed to hold his tongue as he left the girls to their tea [and yes, he fully included Murphy in 'the girls'], but once he hit the stairs he laughed long and loud. They might be 33 now, but Con was still the same little boy he'd always been, and he delighted in every chance he got to make fun of his twin.
When he got back down to the living room, he blinked in confusion. There was glitter spilled all over the coffee table, glue mashed into the carpet, paper scraps everywhere… but no Owen or Liam. This was not good; Owen and Liam were frighteningly like their father and uncle had been when they were that age. If they saw a chance to run off, they would take it without a second thought.
"Fuck," Con muttered, scratching the back of his head. "Owen? Liam? Where've ye run off to this time?"
He checked all of the twins' usual runaway spots- the kitchen [where the cookies lived], the attic [where the delightfully weird furniture and odds and ends became forts and mountains], the basement [where the basement monster lurked], the front and back yards, every last tree on the property. And still nothing. Oooooh this was not good. He hated to go upstairs and tell Murphy, but… the safety of his nephews trumped the teasing he would get for losing the boys.
"Murph!" he called as he jogged upstairs.
"What?" came the irritated question.
"The boys're gone!"
Murphy ran out of the room on three legs, the feather boa somehow only adding to the panic in his eyes. Murphy tersely ordered the girls to stay in their room as he ripped off the costume, and the brothers ran downstairs, Connor grabbing the guns from his jacket while Murphy grabbed one of his old Berettas, just in case [old habits die hard]. They sprinted outside, adrenaline helping Murphy to ignore the pain in his hip when he abandoned his cane, calling for the boys.
Murphy veered a sharp left at the sound, coming around the corner of the garage to see the boys covered in mud. Evidently they'd been throwing it at each other- or wrestling, possibly. Either way, they were covered head to toe, and giggling. Murphy sighed in relief, dropping his gun and hurrying over to them, while Connor drew a deep breath and sent up a silent prayer of thanks to the Almighty.
"Jaysus Christ, boys, don' do that ta me!" Murphy exclaimed, falling to his knees and scooping them up, mud and all.
"We didn' leave!" Owen said. "We stayed right here!"
"Momma said we could play outside if we didn' leave!" Liam added.
"Yeah, but yer s'posed ta tell someone when yer goin' outside!" Murphy said.
"There was no one ta tell!" Liam protested.
"Yeah! Unca Con lef' the room an' you were upstairs wit' the girls!" Owen nodded.
Murphy shook his head, groaning as he got to his feet. Upon seeing his wince, Connor took Liam from Murphy's arm, balancing him on one hip.
"Le's get you boys cleaned up before yer ma sees ya an' shoots me," Murphy said.
"Bu' that means a bath!" Owen protested, with all the righteous anger of a four-year-old boy.
"Aye, an' tha's what ye get fer running out without tellin' us," Murphy said.
The boys both protested all the way up to the bathroom, but Murphy wouldn't be budged. One way or another, the boys were getting bathed. With the synchronicity characteristic of their elders, Owen and Liam prepared to throw a royal fit, but Uncle Connor's promise to be the one to bathe them placated the twins. Uncle Connor always made bath time fun.
After a silent conversation that consisted of shared glances, raised eyebrows, and a glare from Connor, Murphy capitulated to Connor's silent demand that Murphy take painkillers. Connor took charge of the twins while Murphy headed back to the girls [leaning heavily on his cane], stripping them of their filthy clothes while the tub filled, then popping them in.
"So what's it ta be today, boys?" Connor asked as he squatted by the tub. "Soap crayons? Bubble bath?"
"Pirates!" Owen exclaimed.
"Pirates, eh?" Connor said, grinning; pirates may or may not have been his favorite bathtime game. Squinting one eye shut, he frowned and growled, putting on his best pirate drawl. "Arrrgh, and where be me booty, ye scurvy dogs?"
"Hidden!" Liam giggled.
"Ye'll tell me where it be, or I'll 'ave you sunk!" Connor exclaimed as he splashed them both.
Both Connor and the bathroom floor were soaked before bathtime was over, but the boys did end up getting clean, and Connor had never found the boys' hidden treasure. This of course put the twins in a very good mood, so they submitted easily when Connor told them they all needed to clean up the living room.
Before they knew it, the kids were coming back from school, and the afternoon took off with its usual small catastrophes. Mary couldn't find her kitten… Peter and Michael were teasing the little girls again… Clara couldn't get the birthday cake to rise… the kids were arguing over who was going to set the table and who was going to blow up balloons… Murphy had to grin to himself as he walked through the house, solving one problem after another. God, how he loved this orphanage he and Devin had built up together. This Calling suited him exactly. He had all the twitchy energy of the children under his care, and all the protective instincts of his former life. He was a father for all the fatherless, and he loved it. Let Connor have the bullets and adrenaline, Murphy had everything he needed.
Well, maybe not quite everything, he thought as he glanced at his watch. Where on earth was his wife?
"I see Mama's car!" Catherine exclaimed.
A moment later, all the children had taken up the cry, and were crowding around the window. Murphy gently pushed aside a few of the kids to see Devin and Niamh getting out of Devin's car. He smiled to himself; whatever the girls had been doing with themselves today, it had apparently done Devin some good. She looked relaxed and easy, as if the stresses and cares of the past few months had been peeled away from her.
"Everyone hide!" he exclaimed, waving his hands.
Instantly, everybody scattered, diving behind furniture or into closets. Connor ushered Eva, Liam and Owen into the hallway closet while Murphy hurried upstairs, bundling Maggie up in her pink robe before they snuck down the stairs, waiting for the door to open.
It seemed to take forever, but finally they could all hear the scraping of the lock, and a creak as the heavy wooden door opened on its ancient hinges. There was the click of Niamh's heels and the soft tread of Devin's chucks as they got into the foyer.
"Hullo?" Devin called as the door shut. "Where are ye all?"
They all popped out at once, jumping up and down and laughing, rushing forward to embrace Mama and Aunt Niamh and to wish them a happy birthday. Devin was borne into the living room on a sea of happy children, where they ensconced her in her wingback armchair and all chattered at once.
"Where's me babies?" Devin asked, hugging and kissing every child who reached for her.
"Here we is!" Liam exclaimed as he and Owen hurled themselves into their mother's arms.
"An' yer sister?" Devin asked, pressing her cheek to the top of each head.
"With Da!" Owen said, pointing.
"Ah, there's my bonny wee Maggie!" Devin said. "How's yer fever, love?"
"She broke it this afternoon," Murphy replied, wading through the children to kiss Devin's forehead.
"You gotta open yer presents now, Momma!" Owen said. "Before Unca Con an' his pirates take 'em all!"
Devin cocked an eyebrow, glancing up at her brother-in-law. "What've you been tellin' 'em this time?"
"We played pirates in the bath!" Owen giggled.
"Let's get Mama her cake!" Connor exclaimed in a very obvious attempt to deflect attention from that afternoon's mishap.
The party raged through cake and ice cream and Devin and Niamh opening their presents as Connor and Murphy congratuated themselves on keeping Devin from finding out that they'd temporarily lost the boys. Hours later, after homework had been done and children bathed and put to bed, the MacManus and MacCoy twins sat in the living room, trading fond memories and 'do you remember's.
"We've 'ad a good time of it, these past years," Connor remarked, shifting Niamh on his lap while sipping his beer.
"Aye," Murphy nodded, sighing contentedly. "An' now we're gettin' old."
"Who're you callin' old, Murphy MacManus?" Devin asked, frowning.
"Connor, o'course," Murphy grinned.
"Ah, fuck you," Connor replied good-naturedly.
"They're learnin'!" Niamh grinned. "Wasn't that long ago Connor would've tackled Murph for sayin' such a thing as that."
"Hard ta tackle him when you're in the way," Connor said, grinning up at his wife. "'Sides, he's a bum hip, he's clearly the old one."
"I'm not fuckin' old!" Murphy retorted.
"Would you boys please behave before I throw ye out?" Devin asked, stretching. "I'll have no fightin' on me birthday. Now where's our presents?"
"Ye mean ya didn't get enough from yer kids?" Connor teased her.
"We haven't gotten our presents from you," Niamh said, folding her arms. "Cough up."
"What if I didn't get ye anythin' this year?" Connor asked, blinking up at her innocently.
Niamh frowned. "Then yer sleepin' on the couch."
"Well fuck," Connor said. "It's a good thing I got ye this, then."
He handed Niamh a long, skinny package wrapped with a red ribbon, which she happily ripped open, her eyes widening when she saw the three-stone drop diamond pendant inside.
"Like it?" he asked.
"It's beautiful," she breathed.
"Fuck me, Con," Murph said. "When'd you get so fuckin' gay?"
"Shut the fuck up!" Niamh frowned.
Devin raised an eyebrow at her husband. "It's romantic, not gay."
"No, this is romantic," Murphy said, handing Devin a wrapped package.
She opened it up to find a red bikini, two plane tickets to the Bahamas, two tickets for a cruise ship through the Caribbean, and a pair of ruby stud earrings.
"We never really got a honeymoon," Murphy said. "I figured it was about time we did tha'."
"What about the kids?" Devin asked.
"Da already said he 'n Ma'd take care o' the place fer a week or two," Murphy said.
"Aw, go on, Devin," Niamh urged. "Ye deserve a proper holiday."
"An' you don't?" Devin asked.
"Stop fightin' it, Dev," Connor said. "Yer goin' on vacation, get over it."
Faced with all three of them ganging up on her, Devin was helpless. "Oh, alrigh'," she laughed.
"Happy birthday, girls," Con and Murph said, each kissing his wife.
Connor and Niamh gathered up their half-asleep daughter and left shortly afterwards, heading for their own apartment. Devin sighed in content as she went about straightening up the house.
"Why is there mud all over the kitchen?"
Just another day in Paradise.