Title: The Courtship of Hal, Butch and Prudence's Father

Author: Forever Fan

Rating: K

Spoilers: Various episodes

Category: Romance/family

Disclaimer: This property belongs to David Gerber Productions and FOX Television.

I make no profit and intend no infringement.

Summary: Lots of dates with lots of nice ladies should add up to something, shouldn't it?

Feedback: Yes, please

The mid-summer Saturday afternoon was hot and the three Everett children were bored. They all sat at the picnic table in the backyard in the shade of an oak tree trying to concentrate on playing checkers. Their menagerie was taking an afternoon nap and even Waldo was sprawled under the table fast asleep. Hal and Butch were involved in the game and trying to avoid the flies that buzzed around their sweaty glasses of lemonade. Prudence combed her doll's hair while waiting for the game to end so she could play the winner. Out of the blue she said:

"Do you think Daddy will ever get married again?"

The boys both looked up from the checker board and blinked at her.

After a moment Hal spoke, "What makes you ask that, Prudence?"

She shrugged and cuddled her doll. "I just wonder if we'll ever be a whole family again. And guess I wonder if I'll ever have a baby sister."

Butch rolled his eyes. "Gee, I hope not! One little sister is enough around here!"

Not rising to the bait, Prudence shrugged again. "I don't care if it's a baby sister or a baby brother."

"Are you tired of being the youngest?" Hal grinned at her.

She nodded then said, "All of my friends have baby brothers or sisters and I think it looks like fun helping to take care of one. Amy's new baby sister is so cute."

"Not when they're crying all night," Butch grimaced and made his move on the checker board.

Prudence leaned forward and considered Butch's move. She saw where Hal could jump his piece even if Butch couldn't. Satisfied that he would probably lose the game, she ignored his comment and directed her question to Hal:

"Did I do that?"

Hal could remember when they were a whole family and had a mother in the house. He could also remember when both of his younger siblings had come home from the hospital. They were good memories, but he didn't like to think about it much. Hal jumped Butch's checker and moved onto an end block on the board.

"Yeah," Hal answered Prudence, "but you didn't cry any more than Butch did. King me!" He told his brother.

"I did not cry as much as her!" The younger boy protested, but his anger died down in deference to the afternoon heat. He crowned Hal's checker with another red piece.

Frowning Prudence said, "I don't care. I still want a baby sister."

Hal shrugged, "Well, Dad sure doesn't look like he's in a hurry to get married again, Pru. You may have a long wait."

"But he sure has gone on a lot of dates with a lot of nice ladies." Butch sometimes thought it might be good to have a mother again and be a "whole family" as Prudence had said; but he just didn't know how to talk to Dad about something like that. He attempted a move but kept his finger on the black piece while he considered completing his turn.

"Dad hasn't dated anyone recently, though." Hal waited a moment then said sarcastically, "Will you make that move today, Butch?"

As Butch finished his move, Prudence said thoughtfully, "I liked Dr. Miller."

"That's just because she believed in your Wiblet." Butch said making a face.

"That's not so!" Prudence stuck her tongue out at him. "And Nanny believed in my Wiblet too!"

"And you liked Dr. Carlyle because she had those funny pictures and all of those animals."

"Yes, but Nanny said her animals weren't very happy in those small cages where she kept them," Prudence suddenly looked sad. "I don't care if they do help her to help children – I feel sorry for those poor, little animals."

Hal watched Butch move another checker then moved his own piece in a double jump. Trying to think scientifically about which of his father's lady friends would be good mother material he said, "Miss Finley was fun and she sure was pretty."

"Not a pretty as Nanny!" Prudence said loyally.

"Yeah," he nodded in agreement, "but it doesn't matter 'cause she never came back and Dad said he invited her to visit us again."

Butch was frowning over the small number of black pieces left on the board. "Maybe we scared her off and she thinks we always chase balloons," he joked. "Or maybe she really doesn't like kids – I heard Miss Myers say that to Nanny. And stuff about there being too many kids on the planet already."

"Tattletale!" Prudence accused. "You're not supposed to tell what you overhear of other people's conversations!"

"Guy!" Butch threw up his hands, "If you didn't overhear things around here you'd never know what was going on!"

"Well, I'm sure glad Daddy didn't marry Dr. Carlson – she has three boys and then I'd have three more yucky brothers." She hugged her doll and repeated into the doll's ear, "Yucky brothers!"

Hal laughed. "Yeah, and with the three of us we'd all be like that awful TV show."

His brother and sister both made a face at the thought.

"That's the same with Dr. Nielsen," Butch made a careful move that caused Hal to study the checker board more closely. "Even Dad said he didn't like her three nasty kids."

"And Nanny said it would "take a lot of understanding" to get them under control," Prudence remarked, then she quickly added, "I'm not tattling – Nanny told me that herself when they visited."

Hal made his move on the board then said to Prudence, "You know if there were six kids in the family you probably wouldn't get your baby brother or sister."

At Prudence's frown Butch tried to be encouraging, "But if Dad married somebody without kids like Miss Peters or your old teacher…"

"Miss Peters didn't seem to like us kids or Nanny either," Prudence said. "And Miss Fielding is now Mrs. Brand and she's going to have her own baby."

"Well, what about Miss Bradshaw? She was fun and she always gave us surprise stuff."

"She was too kooky," Hal voiced his opinion while jumping another of Butch's checker pieces on the board. "Besides, she moved to Colorado."

"And fell out of a plane," Prudence shuddered.

"She jumped out of a plane Prudence – with a parachute," her oldest brother clarified.

"She still got hurt," the girl said.

Butch made what he considered one of his last good moves left on the board. "She got hurt 'cause she landed wrong and broke her leg," he told his sister. "Gee, how exciting is that? I'd love to do that!"

"Break your leg?" Prudence asked fearfully.

"No, jump out of a plane! And I wouldn't break my leg 'cause I'd do it right." He then thought for a moment. Miss Bradshaw was like Nanny and always saw the fun side of things. "I guess it might be nice to have a Mom that did things like that."

Prudence shook her head. "I wouldn't like that. I want a Mommy that stays home – like Nanny does."

"Nanny works here," Hal explained. But he did agree with Prudence that he preferred a mother that would stay at home – like their own mother had done. "Maybe when she gets married and has a family she might still work taking care of kids and wouldn't be home with her own kids all of the time."

"But you said before that Nanny couldn't take care of us if she married Mr. Feathers," Prudence protested. "Do you mean she could stay here if she got married?"

Butch realized the game was lost but moved one of his last checkers knowing Hal would jump him and take the piece easily. "Nanny couldn't work here if she moved away with Mr. Feathers though."

"Nanny isn't moving away!" Prudence was adamant. "I want her to stay with us always!"

Hal looked thoughtful. "When Uncle Ben was here I heard Dad tell him that Nanny would probably be with us another year before going away to get married."

For the moment the children forgot all about the family rule on eavesdropping. Butch and Prudence turned their attention to their brother.

"What did Uncle Ben say?" Butch asked.

Hal jumped Butch's remaining pieces on the checker board. "He said: "Some engagements are meant to be broken."

"What does that mean?" his little sister asked.

"It means things could change and Nanny wouldn't be marrying Mr. Feathers anymore."

The younger children were silent while they processed this new information. Butch was so distracted he didn't comment on the fact that Hal had won the game.

After a moment Prudence asked quietly, "What about Swinging Sam?"

"Professor Samuelson left town," Butch informed her. "Martin said he went back to his hometown and married his old girlfriend."

Their conversation was interrupted when Nanny came out of the back door carrying table settings on a tray.

"Children," she called as she crossed the yard, "Please put your draughts game away and set the picnic table for dinner."

"We're eating out here, Nanny?" Prudence asked as she helped gather the checkers.

Setting the tray on the table Nanny smiled as she brushed some stray hairs off of her damp forehead. "Yes, it is much too hot to eat in the kitchen tonight."

"Are we having a cookout?" Butch enthused. He quickly folded the checker board on top of the game pieces then placed the lid on the box.

His question went unanswered as his father suddenly appeared in the open doorway to the house. Professor Everett was smiling and looking relaxed in casual slacks and shirt. The kids shouted and waved at him in greeting and he returned their waves.

"Whew! That kitchen is like a sauna." Joining them at the table he continued, "I wouldn't have lasted two holes on the golf course in heat like that."

Nanny gave him a beaming smile. "I'm sure you had an excellent game, Professor. What was your final score?"

"An eighty-five," he told her happily, "and I missed a hole in one by about that much." The Professor showed them a five inch span between his thumb and forefinger. "Still, that's the best I've played in a long time."

Hal sported a proud smile. "You sure must've beaten Professor Taylor and Professor Fisk with that score, Dad."

Seeing his father wink at Nanny, Butch asked eagerly, "How much did you win?"

"That's not important, Butch," the Professor's tone was stern, but he grinned at the boy as he ruffled his hair. "But I will tell you this: I did win enough to take you all to the drive-in tonight."

"Yay!" A cheer rose up from all three children.

Nanny smiled. "What a treat. We shall all cool off being outdoors in an open car after the sun goes down."

"And it will really cool us all down if we get ice cream!" Prudence hopefully suggested to her father.

"Maybe…maybe," However, the indulgent way the Professor was looking at her let the little girl know a double vanilla ice cream cone was in her near future.

Nanny handed the table setting tray to Hal and at her gesture towards their lemonade, Butch and Prudence picked up the glasses and the pitcher from the table. As she smoothed a tablecloth over the picnic table, she said, "Now let's get moving and set up the table. And Professor, you'll need to get the grill started."

"After being out in the broiling sun all day you're going to make me slave over a hot grill?" The Professor turned to Nanny with mock annoyance. "I was planning to just sit here in the shade with the kids, drinking lemonade and reading the evening paper."

"And watch me slave over that hot grill?" Nanny put her hands on her hips and frowned up at him. Their gaze held a moment then the Professor grinned at her mischievously.

"All right," she told him with a grin of her own, "then you will need to finish up in the kitchen if we are to get to the drive-in on time. There is the salad to finish, the corn to prepare to roast, and the baked beans will need…"

Holding up his hands the Professor conceded, "O.K., O.K., I'll take my chances out here with the grill."

"Good," Nanny's grin turned into an approving smile. Heading back towards the house she said to him over her shoulder, "The charcoal is there next to the grill, and those steaks have been marinating long enough."

The Professor hurried after her. "You did make potato salad, didn't you?"

"With egg and onion, just as you like," she told him. "And there is ice cold watermelon…"

There was amusement and affection in his voice, "Nanny, you do think of everything. How did you know that ice cold watermelon is my favorite…?"

The children watched as the adults disappeared into the house and their voices faded. Silently Butch replaced the lemonade pitcher and his glass on the table while Prudence put her glass and Hal's next to where her oldest brother was setting the plastic plates. Hal then passed out the silverware and napkins and together they finished preparing the table.

After a moment, Butch spoke, "Gee, Dad never takes us to the drive-in on Saturday nights. Even when we took Miss Baxter that time – it was on a Thursday."

"That wasn't a real date," Hal said, sounding annoyed. He didn't like to admit he still harbored a small crush on the pretty 18 year old college student who in turn had had a crush on his dad. "But you're right. Dad used to say that Saturday night was date night – when he was dating."

"Isn't Daddy going to date anyone anymore?" Prudence asked her brothers.

Hal paused and with a pensive expression looked towards the house. He wanted them to be a whole family again, too. He wanted their dad to find some nice woman to marry – he needed a wife as much as they all needed a mother. But here was one more Saturday night and Dad was without a date –

"I don't know, Pru."

Butch also seemed lost in thought. "The last time we all went to the drive-in, everybody fell asleep before the picture was over. Even Nanny fell asleep. I only woke up when Dad started the car to drive home."

"Nanny was in the front seat with Daddy and fell asleep on his shoulder," Prudence said quietly.

"How did you know that?" Hal turned to her. "I thought you were asleep all the time. Dad had to carry you to bed when we got home."

Prudence shrugged. "I fell back to sleep by the time we got home." The little girl then explained, "I guess it just felt so nice for the whole family to be all together and asleep – and knowing Daddy was taking care of us."

"Yeah," Butch agreed, "it did feel nice to be all together – a whole family."

Hal looked towards the house where their dad was now on the lawn firing up the grill. Standing next to him was their nanny holding out a tray of steaks. Hal watched as they talked and smiled at one another. Although he couldn't hear what they were saying, they appeared to be in a light hearted disagreement about something – possibly the positioning or the readiness of the charcoal. Hal knew his father believed there was an absolutely accurate and scientific way to grill steaks – and Nanny didn't. Then he saw his father lean closer to the petite woman and say something. When they both started laughing Hal turned and gave a small smile to his brother and sister.

"All together," Hal echoed, "a whole family."