God, he was tired. He didn't think he'd ever been so tired. He needed to find the time tomorrow to sit down and go over the stack of applications on his desk. If he didn't hire another mechanic soon he wouldn't survive.
He trudged up the drive after haphazardly parking his bike and tugging off his helmet. His feet felt unbelievably heavy, weighted down, like every step took more energy than he had left in his reserves.
When he got to the door, he took a deep breath and squared his shoulders. This is how it had been for nearly three weeks now. He didn't want them to know. He didn't want them to see how worn out he really was.
He painted a smile on his face and turned the knob.
He was barely inside when a fifty pound ball of energy lunged at him. He almost lost his balance as he struggled with the sudden weight that had landed plastered to his chest.
" Did you miss me, Buddy ?" Patrick asked as he glanced down at the little boy's face.
The boy shook his head ruefully and rolled his eyes in a perfect imitation of his mother. Patrick nearly laughed out loud at the sight. " Katie's been crying all day." He said in quiet whisper with all the maturity of someone twenty years his senior. " It's making Mom crazy. She's been short and snappy and sometimes..." He lowered his face a little more. " just plain mean. When does school start again ?"
" Is she making you clean your room ?" Patrick asked his son as he began walking towards the kitchen where he could hear a commotion.
Evan shook his tiny little head. " Before dinner, Daddy." He threw up his little hands in frustration and outrage. " She wants it done before dinner."
He bent down and put the boy on his feet. " Then you better hurry. You don't want her to get even madder." He told him as he patted him on the head.
The six year old stomped his foot once in frustration. " I thought you were on my side."
" When Mommy's having a bad day, I'm on whatever side makes her happy." Patrick answered with a wink and grin.
The boy huffed again before turning on his heel and heading towards the back part of the house.
Patrick pushed the door opened and glanced inside before actually stepping in. He wasn't sure what was waiting for him on the other side, but it didn't sound nice or pretty. The baby was crying again.
Patrick thought that all baby's were the same. A baby is a baby. But he knew differently now.
Evan had been a wonderful baby. He was quiet and laid back yet he was the most precocious child Patrick had ever met. He figured that must have come from his mother. But the laid back was all him. A perfect mixture of his parents, all the best of both of them.
Then Katie came along and Patrick finally understood that not all babies were like Evan. Katie was demanding and impatient and short tempered. She craved attention constantly and her parents were having a horrible time trying to explain to her that the world did not revolve around Katie. But she was beautiful and smart, maybe even smarter than Evan. She was definitely developing faster than Evan and that was really saying something in itself. Patrick could already see her mother in her, a determination in her eyes when she wanted something bad enough, a terrible look of guilt when she finally realized her parents weren't happy with her.
He opened the door a little further, cracking it just enough to find her. He still loved watching her when she had no idea he was there. She was in front of the stove stirring something in a steaming pot while cradling the phone to her ear with her free hand.
" What do I do after I heat it up ? How do I get her to drink it ?"
The person on the other end of the phone said something and Kat turned to look at her still crying daughter and sighed. " I thought you knew her better than that."
She paused for a moment. " Dr. Brinkley, you don't understand. She will refuse to drink it just because she knows I want her to." Another pause then Kat laughed. " I know she's only a year old, can you imagine what I'm going to deal with when she's a teenager ?"
Katie stopped crying for a moment and her eyes found his. Kat's back was to both of them as she continued to stir and talk on the phone.
Patrick sneaked into the room and over to his daughter. Lifting her swiftly, he bounced her for a moment making her forget all about whatever it was that she was mad about.
Great thing about babies, he decided a long time ago, short attention spans.
Patrick settled her into his chest before stalking towards the stove. When he reached it, he glanced over Kat's shoulder and took a deep breath. Peppermint tea. She was making peppermint tea.
" Whatcha cookin' ?" He asked in his low throat voice sending Kat into the air as she jumped in surprise and dropped the phone.
" What the hell are you doing ?" She demanded. " You are such an ass." She was clutching her chest as she tried to catch her breath.
He smirked at her smugly. " That was a retaliatory salvo in honor of my fallen brethren whom beseeched me only moments ago to seek out your pardon or at the very least a reduced sentence as he feels that your judgment was too harsh since he proclaims to be an innocent bystander in what appears to be a bad day."
" What ?" Kat asked confused by his speech.
He leaned in to kiss her cheek. " Evan doesn't want to clean his room."
" Tough." She answered with her hands on her hips now. " I'm trying to do laundry and I can't even find his clothes in that pit. So request denied."
" It is a big mess in there. Don't you think that maybe getting it done before dinner is a little too much to ask." Patrick asked gently, not wanting to upset her.
She rolled her eyes. " Did he mention that the task was given to him at noon ?"
" No, he left that part out. What's with the tea ?"
" Dr. Brinkley thinks that Katie's crying constantly because her throat is irritated because of all the crying she's been doing."
He chuckled and readjusted the little girl in his arm. " It's a vicious cycle."
Kat came to him and took the baby out of his arms. Then she put her back in her high chair before walking back to her husband and lacing her arms around his shoulders and burying her head in his chest. She seemed to melt into him and he wrapped his arms around her to hold her tightly.
" It's okay." He whispered into her hair. " It's almost bedtime."
She gave a choked, watery laugh but refused to lift her eyes to his. He held her tighter and noticed how tense her shoulders were.
Her lips brushed his fleetingly and he could feel her smile against his own. " Did you have a good day at work, Sweetheart ?" She asked while batting her lashes at him.
" I had a typical day at work." He answered, not wanting to discuss it. " I'm sorry you had such a bad one though."
" Ek," She shrugged. " It's good now that you're home."
He kissed her again as he tightened his hold on her.
" Did you work from here all day ?"
" Yeah, but I didn't get much done. Dad's taking Katie tomorrow so I can work on the Dulcant trial. The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, so I have to get started on it or I won't be ready."
" The Dulcant trial," He shook his head. " My wife taking on the big guys."
It was her first major trial and she was sitting second chair for the trail beside her boss and mentor, James Henderson, a man she looked up to almost as much as she did her own father.
Katie took that moment to decide she wasn't getting attention from anyone and let out a raspy wail in protest. Kat sighed heavily.
" I understand that she doesn't feel good." Kat told him as she pulled out of his arms and went back to preparing the tea. " But she's been like this all day. No nap, no downtime. She's exhausted which is just making her more cranky and she keeps crying despite the fact that her throat hurts. She's making herself feel worse."
" Look who's here !" Evan announced as he burst through the door excitedly.
Patrick and Kat both turned smiled as Walter entered the room carrying a several bags of take out food.
" Are you abusing my granddaughter in here ?" He asked, dropping the bags on the table and going straight for the little girl who raised her arms out to him immediately. " I can hear her all the way out in the hall. You're both horrible, mean people."
Darlene Thorpe Stratford entered the room a moment later and Evan went to her.
Kat had had a hard time adjusting to her father's marriage. Her stepmother had taken some getting used to. Bianca still wasn't happy about the arrangement.
" Can we come stay with you tomorrow ?" Evan asked hopefully as Darlene bent to wrap him in a hug.
" We had a better idea, actually." She told him. " We were thinking that if it's okay with your parents, maybe you could come stay with us tonight and tomorrow."
Patrick and Kat both looked at her in surprise.
Walter cleared his throat from beside her as he bounced the little girl in his arms. " We thought you two might like a night off. So, " He shrugged. " The take out is for you. I insist you light some candles , put on some music and have a little time out – grown up style."
Evan tugged at his father's hand. " What is grown up time out ? Are you in trouble ?"
Darlene came forward and took his hand in hers. " Yes, they are and because they were bad, they have to go to bed early and they can't have any dessert." She smiled.
Evan let go of her hand and came back to Patrick, pulling him down close so he could whisper and still be heard. " I'm sorry, Daddy. I would have had your back if you had told me."
Patrick ruffled the little boy's black curls and chuckled. " It's okay, Little Man. I think your Mommy and I can handle it."
He shook his little head in dismay. " I don't know, you have to go to bed early AND you can't have dessert, you must have really been bad."
It took less than half an hour to get the two children packed up and out the door. Time in which Patrick had occupied himself with setting the dining room table, lighting candles at Walter's insisted and with his help and taking a quick shower.
He loved his work. It was exactly what he had always wanted to do. He owned his own shop, spent all day tinker with motorcycles and he was the best in town, so business was good. The unfortunate downside to that was that he always came home dirty and smelling of gasoline and oil. Kat never complained. He was surprised by that. He had figured her for the type that would bulk at having a husband who spent his days getting his hands dirty. He should have known better. Especially since right after graduating from high school they had spent a year in the Peace Corps, at her urging, living in mud huts in South America.
" Dad just told me to call them when we were ready to take them back." Kat laughed as she entered the room. " I'm sure he was joking though." Then she shrugged. " If not an entire night and day with Katie will cure him of it."
He laughed. " She's not that bad." He protested weakly.
" She's not bad at all. She's my daughter and I love her just as much as I love Evan. But sometimes..."
He came to her and wrapped his arms around her still slender waist. " I love you." He tried to change the subject.
" I love you, too." She answered letting her lips brush across his.
" I think your stepmother said something about going to bed early." He whispered in her ear suggestively.
Kat laughed and pulled back from him so she could see his face. " She also said you couldn't have any desert."
" What if I earn it back ?" He asked hopefully.
" And how do you plan on doing that ?"
" I'm thinking strip pillow fight and the winner gets a naked Kat sundae." He announced.
" Ew," She answered. " What if I win ?"
He shrugged as if to blow her off. " Not going to happen."
" I've won a few rounds." She argued.
" Alright, on the off chance that you might manage to win, you can have whatever you want."
She was suddenly pulling out of his arms and he couldn't figure out why, but he was doing his best to fight against it. When she'd finally wiggled free, she took off towards the doorway to the living room.
He chanced along behind her, dinner forgotten on the table as they went about enjoying their rare night off.
Author's note : That's going to wrap this one up, folks. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm very sorry it took me so long to put a cap on it. It was a hard chapter to write. I knew it was over, I just wasn't sure how I really wanted it to end. Then life got in the way. So anyway, here it is finally. Again, sorry it took so long. Hope you enjoy it.