A/N: Sorry for the long space between updates. The rating will be bumped up to mature starting next chapter, by the way. Just a quick warning.
Oh, and this just reached 20,000+ words. YAY!
Chapter Twelve: A Birthday Better Off Ignored, Part 2
Kids. All Haddock could see were kids. Babies, toddlers, young school children, children Colleen's age, teenagers, university students. And on top of that, all were crying, or yelling, or fighting, or some combination of the three. No, it was not Abdullah's classmates. But it was a whole another type of kid tribe, and one he had seen before. Same black hair, same skin tone, similar facial and skeletal features. All of these children were related, and he knew precisely who sired them all.
One of the university students, a bespectacled male with short gelled hair and a gray suit and black tie, noticed the shocked, fingernail biting captain holding the open door. He pointed and said something Captain Haddock could not hear from the distance and shouting. Like a flock of dodos the entire tribe simultaneously hushed and cocked their heads forward. Then they dashed towards the doors so fast Haddock had no chance to slam the door.
The next several seconds past in a blur of kids dashing by and feet of varying sizes stomping about his feet. Haddock cried out in pain, unsure of which foot needed to be held onto first, before finally giving up on caring. He squeaked in pain and clumsily raised a crunched foot forward.
By now all the kids crowded around Nestor. The butler appeared somewhat overwhelmed, yet somehow able to not lose control as little hands tugged about on his white clothes. A little boy, one half of a set of coral overall wearing twins, jumped at Nestor's hat. Haddock tried to count the number of kids swamping the poor butler just to get an idea of how many more guests he was dealing with. He lost count at seven. Ish.
He added three more definite guests to his tally when a voice made him jump with fright and lingering pain.
"Good morning Captain!" Jolyon said, wearing his usual purple suit. Behind him was his wife, wearing the same floral hat and a sea blue maternity muumuu and an old lady in a squeaking wheelchair. "I hope you don't mind me and my little brood coming over right now! I compared everyone's schedules and I said, 'Jolyon,' I said, 'gosh Jolyon this time will be the only time everyone is around to meet Captain Haddock's little flower for the first time!' Now where is sh—Ooh, are you having a party right now?" He flicked a finger against Haddock's hat. Haddock gnashed his teeth.
"Is it for us? We just love parties! Don't we, honey?" He turned to his nodding wife. A plastic white daisy fell to the ground. "Why, my Uncle Anatole, he used to throw the greatest fetes! Oh, you should've seen them! They were—"
Nestor silently raised a hand between the two fathers. "Why keep the conversation here, Mister Wagg? You and Master Haddock may resume in the parlor, where everyone else is in."
Haddock was unsure whether to thank Nestor for interrupting. He did not realize until then that the foyer was calm again. Nestor helped wheel Grandma Wagg along while Haddock opened the door. Jolyon pushed the captain's hand off and caught the flap with his own.
"Aw, you shouldn't have Captain! Let me go after you; you are the host!"
"Um…" Haddock placed his hands in his pockets, was unsure yet again what to feel. "…Thanks…"
The parlor was not the largest room in Marlinspike, but it was suitable for light company, perhaps a small cocktail night. Now with an ever increasing number of guests inside Haddock was surprised it was not can of sardines tight in there. Jolyon spawn swarmed the area whilst Tintin scrambled to find other games to play. Abdullah pouted and leaned against a corner, surrounded by two guards. Colleen stood in the opposite corner, clutching Snowy like she would Suzie (if the doll still had a body). She suddenly dashed towards her father in the chaos. Snowy squirmed in her clutches.
"Why'd you let them in, Dad?" she asked.
He opened his mouth.
"Ab-Whatever his name is—"
"Yeah, that! He's not happy. I'm not happy either. We just finally agreed I was gonna be Miss Scarlet and he was gonna be Mister Green and Tintin was gonna be Colonel Mustard when the insurance man's family came in and ruined everything!"
"They sure did! This is the worst birthday ever!" Abdullah stopped by Colleen's side with the two guards a yard or so behind him. Haddock pressed a palm against Colleen's shoulder, motioning her to take a step or two aside. The prince continued, "Blistering Barnacles, make them go! Banish them! I don't want them here!" He stomped his foot.
"Please sir," the stubby bearded guard on the left pleaded, clasping his hands. "Do make our master's son happy. It is such an important day for him!"
The guard on the right, the one with a beard that reached down to the edge of his neck, concurred with a head nod.
"Okay, everyone!" Tintin called out and clapped. His words somehow had not completely drowned out amongst the throng's clamor. "Settle down, settle down…" Somehow everyone shut up and faced him.
Tintin forced a grin, adjusted his tie. His hands were behind his back. "I'm afraid we don't have enough board games for everyone to play. But, I did manage to find these," he revealed a stack of playing card sets with the cardboard containers beat up and crackling apart. "Does anyone know a card game?"
"Poker!" A kid, presumably a pre-pubescent male, squeaked.
Tintin blushed. "Poker? Uh… No, I'd rather us not play poker right now."
"I wanna learn how to play poker!"
The room rocked with kids squawking in concurrence like a flock of seagulls.
Another boy, one about Colleen's age and wearing a white collared shirt with brown shorts and suspenders, stepped towards Tintin.
"I know another game!" He said.
"Oh, you do?" Tintin smiled.
"Yeah!" The boy snatched all five decks from Tintin's grasp. "Fifty-two pick up!"
Cards flew everywhere, spraying about the air like confetti on New Year's Day. Kids scattered about grabbing the cards. Tintin retreated against a wall and slowly crept away from the chaos's center. The university aged kids, a boy and a girl, appeared to try to corral their younger sibings for the first time all day. Snowy howled. Colleen cried with a startle and accidentally dropped the dog while clasping her ears.
"Oh! I'm so sorry, Snowy!"
Abdullah cried out in frustration. He pulled at Haddock's suit coat. "Blistering Barnacles! They're taking all the attention from me!"
Jolyon stepped beside Haddock again. "Haha! Look at them! They're having the time of their lives!" He slapped the captain's back so hard a pop sound could be heard.
Tintin reached the overstuffed green leather sofa. He jumped away when a kid pounced at a card located on a burgundy decorative pillow to his right. Someone turned on the TV and shot the volume to full blast. In addition to screaming kids was the poorly tuned hellfire sermon of a Catholic priest.
"Hey! Turn that off!" Tintin cried to deaf ears. A leather bound book whished over his head and struck the wall behind him; his quiff quivered from the mini jet stream.
He felt someone tug on his brown coat. He released a sigh of relief when he faced Captain Haddock. "Come on, lad! Let's get out of here before they tear us apart!"
A jade green vase narrowly missed Haddock's head as the two scurried out the parlor. Tintin followed his partner into the dining room across from the room they just escaped from. The other refugees inside included Colleen, Abdullah, Snowy, and the two servant-guards instructed to follow Abdullah at all times. All sat in chairs situated next to the dining room table (except for Snowy, who was in Colleen's arms again).
The prince shoved a fist into the table. "This birthday has been the worst! Those spoil sports ruined everything!"
Stubby-bearded-guard patted the weeping boy's back. "There, there, your highness…"
"Captain, Jolyon's family is going to demolish Marlinspike if they don't leave now," Tintin said.
"I know, lad, I know…"
Abdullah wiped a tear away. "I could prank them." He sniffled. "That will teach them a lesson."
"A prank!" Haddock snapped. "A prank! Abdullah, that's—"
"Genius!" Tintin interrupted. "Abdullah, you're a genius!"
He grinned. "Yes, I certainly am a genius."
"Tintin!" Captain Haddock said, "Surely you can't be serious! How can a prank help us?"
"Captain, if we pull the right prank on them, then we can scare them away!" He clutched his chin. "Now the only trick is to figure out what that right prank is…"
"Maybe we can dress up as monsters," Colleen suggested.
Abdullah laughed. "Yeah, that's good! But you know what would be better?"
"Yeah?" Colleen asked.
Abdullah signaled everyone to circle him. "Come, and you'll find out…"
Tintin and Haddock stealthily crept into the parlor. They turned white at all the shattered glass and pottery everywhere. The television was still on full blast, and a dance record was on full blast as well. Some of the kids danced. Others fought or pounced on Nestor. The twins in coral overalls hopped up and down the leather sofa like a poor man's trampoline. A foot stamped a decorative pillow and feathers flew about. The parents, meanwhile, jovially conversed whilst Grandma knitted a cream baby bootie. The twosome leaned against the same wall Jolyon and his wife was against and waited.
They did not wait long. The two servants slammed the doors against the wall as they yelped and screamed into the room. Amazingly amongst the chaos everyone stopped and stared. A couple younger kids laughed, thinking grown men screaming was amusing. Everyone else but those kids and Tintin and Haddock stared with confusion and concern.
"A leopard!" Stubby screamed.
"There is a leopard in the hall!" Neck Length yelled.
"A leopard?" Jolyon guffawed. "Are you sure you aren't seeing things, my good s—"
A roar came from outside. Jolyon gulped. "Say, did you hear—"
Another roar. "I-it's from the telly. You're just hearing the TV. Yes, that's it! It's the—"
A leopard, eyes glazed and teeth bared, entered with a roar.
The entire Wagg clan screeched in horror. The leopard chased occupants about the room as family members scrambled to leave as quickly as possible. As their last screams resonated outside the home, laughter filled the parlor.
Abdullah and Colleen tossed the leopard skin aside.
"Well I'll be," Haddock said. "That actually worked!"
Tintin shut the television off. "Good thing we had a leopard skin in the state room!" He stepped towards the record player and reached towards the needle.
"Hey! What are you doing, Tintin?" Abdullah asked. "Let's dance! I wanna dance!"
"I thought you wanted to play Clu—"
"Board game later! Dancing now!"
He clutched Colleen's wrist. "Let's dance, Blistering Barnacles, Junior!"
Abdullah rhythmically shook. Colleen shrugged her shoulders and boogied along.
"Hey!" Haddock said, stepping closer to the two. "What did I tell you about—"
Tintin took Haddock's hand. "Relax, Captain. Let them have their fun. Come on, let's dance together."
"In front of everybody?"
Tintin smiled. "Look."
Haddock looked. Along with the Colleen and Abdullah pair, the guards began what the captain presumed was a traditional Khemed dance. Snowy panted and wagged his tail to the music. Even Nestor seemed about to start dancing, he could faintly see Professor Calculus outside, clutching a brown leather bag and his umbrella, "talking" to the butler.
The reporter lightly nudged. Haddock, without words, took Tintin's hand. Slowly they began a waltz, hand in hand. Despite the lively party music playing they slow danced. Haddock kept looking out from the corner of his eye, perpetually worried what everyone else would think, but no one else even looked at them. Eventually he kept his attention solely on his dancing partner, the love of his life, closed his eyes, and enjoyed the moment.