Vacation: Day Two
To Scully's surprise, her brother pulls her aside after dinner the next night. She gives him an expectant look, feeling a lecture come on like he'd given her so many other times over the years when she's done something that he hasn't approve of. For the life of her, though, she can't think of anything she's done recently to concern him.
He looks down, which is unusual, and begins with "I hate to ask this because you're a guest and I'm supposed to be a good host, but do you think it's remotely possible you and Fox could bring Mattie and the kids to Aubuchon Park tomorrow? Tickets on me, obviously."
"Um..." she stammers, stunned that he hasn't taken her aside to express fraternal disapproval.
"And you could leave Zoe and Brianna with us," he says quickly, as if he suspects that her hesitation is center around not wanting to bring the not quite two-year-old twins to a busy place. "We'll be having a mother's helper over then anyway, so another two is no big deal, and if they stay home everyone would be able to go on rides without having to sit with them."
When she doesn't say anything, his shoulders sag and he looks even more guilty. "I worry about Mattie getting lost in the shuffle these days. At first Tara and I were spending most of our time at the hospital with the babies, and now that they're home... He's been begging to go all summer, and I just don't see it happening."
"I'll ask Mulder, but I don't think he'll object," Scully tells him. And even if he does for some reason, she's pretty sure that it wouldn't take much talk about a lonely little boy to change his mind. "My kids would love it too."
Her brother leans down and kisses her cheek. "Thank you!"
As she watches him walk away, she finds herself grateful that caring for some of their children has never left her and Mulder worried that they're neglecting the others. Although if Angel had survived and then needed to spend months in the NICU...she pushes the thought away with a weary sigh. Even after four years it's still hard not to dwell on what might have been.
"What are you sighing about?" a voice asks behind her.
She tries her best to smile before looking at her husband. "Guess what we're doing tomorrow."
"Sleeping in?" he asks, a hopeful note to his voice.
"Bill's buying us tickets to Aubuchon Park."
Mulder looks mildly confused. "So we can have a picnic and play frisbee?"
"Not that kind of park. It's an amusement park."
He looks a lot more excited about this than she anticipate. "Roller coasters!"
"Sure, why not."
Vacation: Day Three
There's a timid knock on the guestroom door when they're supposed be getting ready to leave for the park the next morning, and Scully calls "come in" fully expecting to find her nephew on the other side of the door - her kids are entirely too excited to think about niceties like knocking. Matthew doesn't disappoint her. He's gotten a little taller since the last time she'd seen him, and there are dark circles under his Scully-blue eyes. Considering how many times she's found herself waking up over baby noises in the house the night before, she's not surprised that he's finding it difficult to get a good night's rest with four infants in the house.
"Hey, Mattie. Are you excited to be going to an amusement park today?" she asks, her hair brush still in her hand. When she realizes that she's been holding it for over a minute without running it through her hair, she puts it down.
"Yeah!" he says a little too desperately. Glancing at the boy, and thinking of how difficult it would be to even go grocery shopping with four babies in tow, she strongly suspects that he hasn't been getting out any more than Bill junior or Tara have.
"It'll be fun. Your cousins are looking forward to it too."
"But not your babies, right?" Mattie asks, his tone hard to read.
"No, the girls are still a little too small to really enjoy a place like Aubuchon Park," Scully agrees. "So they're staying here with your parents and the quads."
"Aunt Dana, can I tell you something?" he asks, voice suddenly grown small.
"Of course you can, sweetheart."
When he looks up, Matthew has an ashamed look on his face, and she can't imagine why. "Don't tell Mom and Dad, but I think I wished too hard for a little brother or sister."
Shaking her head, Scully sits on the bed. At first he looks even more guilty and steps away, at least until she holds out her arms. When he finally comes to her, she pulls him onto her lap. "You didn't wish too hard."
"But I think I did!" he moans and leans back against her. "If I didn't wish so hard-"
"-there would be so many babies?" Scully interrupts him to ask.
"Yeah, exactly," he says glumly. "Mom and Dad never get to do anything fun now because of me."
"No," Scully says firmly, making him look up at her in surprise. "That's not what happened at all."
For a moment she hesitates, but finally decides that her brother would be more upset to learn how angst-ridden Mattie is than if she over steps her bounds telling him the medical truth. She knows that Bill junior will be completely devastated if he and Mattie ever have the same conversation, so maybe explaining things to Mattie will keep that from happening.
"Auntie Dana?" Mattie asks worriedly.
"I'm going to tell you something, but I don't want you to talk about it to your dad or mom unless they bring it up. Deal?"
"And if they tell me I don't say you told me already?"
After a second's hesitation she says, "Yes."
"There aren't a lot of babies because anyone wished anything. And if wishing could make babies, a lot more people would have them."
"I don't understand," Mattie confesses.
"I know. When you're a kid it seems like all you need to do to have all the babies you want is to grow up, marry the right person, and that's it. And for a lot of people it is. But it's not always easy."
"It was for you and Uncle Fox."
"Yes, it was. But it wasn't for your mom and dad. They wanted you a long long time before you arrived. You know that your dad is older than me and Uncle Charlie, but you're younger than Page, Sammy, April, and Brandon, right?" She doesn't add Emily to the list considering that the way the girl was brought into the world had nothing to do with Missy and Alex's relationship at the time.
"What you don't know about yet is something called 'fertility'. That's what makes it really easy for some men and women to make babies, and harder for others. Both men and women can have problems with their fertility, and sometimes they can't have any babies at all."
"So they adopt?" Mattie asks, proving that he's thinking hard about what he's telling her. "My friend Michael's mom and dad don't have other kids 'cept his little sister Ashley, and she's adopted too. I think they had the same first mom and dad, though, 'cause they look alike." From the look on his face she knows that this is the first time he's ever considered why his friend's parents adopted him and his sister.
"Well, sometimes. Some people decide not to have kids at all, and some people who could have kids easily adopt anyway for other reasons like wanting to give a kid who already has been born a good home. But yes, a lot of people who can't make babies do adopt babies and children."
Mattie thinks about this. "My mom and dad didn't adopt anyone."
"Nope, they kept trying and had you," Scully agrees. "But once you were born, they didn't have any luck giving you a brother or sister."
"So how come I got four now?"
"There are things doctors can do to help people increase their fertility and make it more likely that they can have a baby. Some of the things they do make it more likely for a mom to have more that one baby at a time. And that's why you have four baby siblings now."
"So it's not my fault?" Mattie asks with a look of near disbelief.
"It's no one's fault," Scully says instantly, least he blame her brother and Tara next. "It's just how things worked out."
Patting him on the shoulder, she says, "It's going to get easier, you know. They won't always be this little and needing so much attention. Your mom and dad will figure out how to get out of the house more."
"Promise?" he demands.
The thought of four two-year-olds flits through her mind, but she knows that even that stage is fleeting. Surely the quads will be manageable by the time they're three or four. "I can't promise how long it'll be, but I do promise that it'll get better."
"Okay," he replies, obviously trying to believe her. "If your babies stay here too, does that mean we'll get to go on all the rides?"
"All the rides everyone is tall enough for," Scully says firmly. There's no sense arguing against being allowed on rides, the ride workers take almost as hard a line on the rules as the TSA does.
"Good enough." Mattie climbs off her lap. "Gotta go get ready."
"Right," she says faintly, watching him scurry out of the room.
He might be struggling a little with being a big brother now, but she thinks he'll get the hang of it and be glad for the siblings he's overwhelmed by now. She didn't ask him if he'd rather of had no siblings still than four, but now wonders what his answer might have been.
It seems like there are a million people on the midway as Mulder helps his wife shepherd their children and their nephew through the park's gates. He has William firmly held on his hip, and from the wide-eyed slightly apprehensive look the child is giving the crowd, keeping him in his arms isn't going to be a problem. Christopher is clinging tightly to Scully's hand, and their other kids look like they're excited rather than as nervous as their youngest brothers.
Mattie, on the other hand, looks like Mulder imagines a man might look the moment he walks out of a prison, glorying in the freedom of being out on parole. His eyes are merry as he sticks close to Jared and David, and occasionally snatches of their conversation float back to Mulder over the general dull roar of conversation surrounding them. "Then he said he was dropping his kids off at the pool, and he doesn't even have kids," Mattie says, suddenly loud and clear when there's a momentary lull in conversation from other park-goers.
"Matthew," Scully says in a warning tone, and the confused look on the boy's face suggests that he has no idea what is wrong with what he just said. Mulder shrugs internally, deciding that he'll leave it to Bill junior to sort out. There's just no way Scully won't kill him if he gives the scatological explanation about what the person Mattie was talking about meant. Scully seems to agree because she doesn't define the term either.
The three small boys go back to talking, and even though he can't hear what Page and Sammy are saying to each other, he can tell they're talking about the rides from the way they keep pointing at things. Eventually April drifts back to him, and begins to match her stride to his the best she can despite her shorter legs.
This doesn't surprise him, not with the way Mattie is monopolizing the attention of her twin brothers. He's not quite sure when April decided that she has more in common with Jared and David than her two eldest siblings, but she's been playing with her younger brothers far more often for quite a while. When he first noticed this he kept an eye out, trying to make sure he spoke to Sammy and Page if he noticed them excluding her, but they never seemed to do that. April just seems to have decided she's not one of "the big kids" and doesn't try to act like it.
"So," Mulder asks, glancing down at April. "Which ride do you think we should go on first?"
April points off into the distance. "I think we should go on the Ferris wheel first," she tells him.
"How come?" He knows that there's a reason behind her choice, and he's curious about what it is.
His daughter shrugs but eventually explains, "It goes up really high, but not too fast. We can't see all the rides now 'cause there are too many people and buildings in the way, but up there..."
This seems like a clever idea to him, so he whistles to get the rest of their attention. When all eyes are on him, he announces, "April thinks we'll be able to see the whole park from the Ferris wheel, so I think we should ride that first."
"Oh yeah, we will be able to," Sammy agrees.
Page wanders over and cuffs her younger sister on the shoulder. "Good idea. What do they call that, Dad? Like when cowboys ride ahead to look out for danger then report back?"
"Yeah that. That's what April's plan is like."
"But without any danger," Scully immediately protests.
"Obviously, Mom," Page says in a long suffering tone.
Oh no, not again, Mulder thinks, but he tamps down his annoyance at his oldest's attitude. "Come on," he tells them all. "Last one on the ride is a rotten egg."
"Eww," Sammy cries. "We did an egg drop at school and then someone found an egg a month later-"
"Did someone break it?" Mattie asks, interested.
"Well, yeah, of course. Man, did that smell!"
Shaking his head, Mulder takes April's hand even though she's too old to worry about running off. She doesn't seem to mind, still pleased that her idea was well-received by everyone. As they reach the line David and Jared are at the end of it, and immediately declare the other the rotten egg even though they arrived at the same time.
Thankfully, this is nothing like Disneyland, Scully thinks later that afternoon, as April and Page keep her company with William, who is too little for one particular ride. There are no super-long lines, no strangely efficient people with wires in their ears (not all of them wore security uniforms, either), and no over-priced treats. On the other hand... Scully sighs aloud, seeing her husband sitting in the front of a line of roller coaster cars filled with the rest of their male progeny and her nephew. Somehow, she has a feeling that even if he were ninety-five, he'd still sit in the front of the roller coaster, raising his arms and yelling happily, and a small smile graces her lips without realizing it.
"He is so embarrassing," Page sighs, rolling her eyes as if she's already in her teens rather than being only nearly ten. "Why can't Daddy be more like a grown up?"
Scully snorts, thinking maybe her oldest little girl should spend less time watching TV with popularity-preoccupied teens girls as role models and more time playing with girls her own age. "Then I'd have to make sure he wasn't possessed by an alien, a ghost, replaced by a clone, or ingesting psychosis-inducing chemicals..." she says, unable to resist teasing Page while talking over William's head, figuratively and literally.
As the three-year-old tries to repeat "psychosis-inducing" without tripping over his tongue, his oldest sister sighs loudly. "Mommy, you're so weird," the blonde girl rolls her eyes again.
"No, she's not," her younger sister corrects her, pausing in her game of counting how many times she can catch her baseball. "She's normal."
Scully's smile deepens, and then she briefly hugs her children to herself. "It's okay," she says, "I love your Daddy anyway."
Then she notices Christopher looking a little nauseous among the passengers stepping shakily off the roller coaster, and she hoists William onto her hip and hauls ass. Her daughters are startled but follow after her.
"Mulder, I'm gonna kill you!" Scully hollers, effectively killing the sentiment she'd shared moments earlier with her older girls.
Mulder, who'd been corralling the other boys together, spins around just in time to catch his second-youngest son puking over the railing. He grimaces, patting Christopher's back while everyone else scatters or makes the appropriate "ewww" noises.
"Sammy, Mattie, can you grab the other boys and take them to your-" he's about to say 'sisters' but that would only be true for one of them, "-um, to Page and April, please?"
They look only too happy to be away from the little boy heaving his guts out, and before Mulder knows it, Scully is in his face, with a glare that would be deadly for mere mortals, but fortunately for him, he's immune to it. That, and she has to pay attention to Christopher now rather than tearing him a new one.
"Are you okay enough to move?" she asks gently, her expression now that of a mother concerned about her little boy. After a few seconds, Christopher nods, and she herds the blond boy to the bathroom, before tossing a parting glare over her shoulder. Yikes.
"You're in such big trouble," Page proclaims.
Thanks for telling me something I didn't already know, he grumbles inwardly. Aloud, he says, "Yeah. So, what can I do that would make Mommy happy? Um, happier."
Mattie looks surprised, as if he'd never heard an adult ask kids for help. The way Bill junior rolls, probably he hasn't. Sammy, however, just shrugs. April merely sighs, while David and Jared share a quick smile, but that isn't helpful, either.
Page rolls her eyes with an impatiently snapped, "Just be nice to her."
That actually sounds good. "Okay, I'll do my best," Mulder says.
"Omigod, you are so embarrassing," the blonde girl groans, and Mulder thinks she really should ease off the TV - she's starting to sound just like those smart-aleck (but not really smart) teens. Maybe Scully had been right when she insisted they rarely watch TV when they were smaller. "I hope she managed to clean Christopher off okay."
"Yeah, me, too," he says guiltily. Hoo boy.
There's a jerk on the hem of his t-shirt. "Uncle Fox?"
Mulder looks down at Mattie. "Yeah?"
"I had a good time, even though Cousin Chris threw up," the little boy says, his bright blue eyes even more vivid a contrast to his startlingly pale skin.
And now Mulder feels even guiltier. Mattie's supposed to be the one being consoled by this outing, not him. Argh. Well, technically, he is the adult here, and he should act like it once in a while. "Thanks." He smiles, then ruffles his nephew's hair. Mattie makes a face, but it is a comfortable grimace, as opposed to the mostly-polite face he'd put on most their visit. "Mostly," since the brunette kid actually has cracked a smile more than a couple of times today.
Of course, after Christopher's pukefest, they either take more sedate rides or none at all. None of the kids grumble, however, since they'd already gotten to go on most of the rides they wanted to beforehand. Even Christopher has recovered well enough to be just embarrassed, rather than nauseous, and he insists on riding the carousel with the rest of the youngest kids.
Mulder takes the opportunity to herd everyone in the family on, effectively filling up the carousel with them and one other family. Jared and David share one horse, while Page insists on her own, and Sammy is urged not to encourage his younger brother to "puke, puke, puke!" like he'd been doing in line, so Mulder makes sure Sammy is on his own lion while Christopher is on a seahorse in front of the twins. April and William share a tiger behind Christopher, and Mattie is on a dragon in front of Page. Even though it is a tight fit, Mulder and Scully share a lion at the rear of all their children and their nephew, just to keep an eye on them.
"Hey, Scully," Mulder murmurs into his wife's ear.
"Imagine, if I got the vasectomy reversed, in a few years we could fill this whole ride up," he whispers.
Scully turns to give her husband the Infamous Eyebrow Raise, but he leans over and kisses her. Some of the younger kids who happen to look back go "ewwww," and when Page looks back, she'd only murmurs, "So embarrassing". Mattie says nothing, but his blue eyes are wide.
"Mulder!" Scully blushes.
"Yeah?" Mulder smiles a little. ::Even after all these years, I can still make her do that,:: he thinks, ::nice.::
She pouts. "You could've waited until we got to our room."
His smile gets lazier. "No, I've got something more intimate there. Kissing, on the other hand, is something we can do in public."
"Mulder!" Scully's cheeks flame a deeper red.
Now her bright eyes narrow. "You just wait until we get to our room."
He waggles his eyebrows, then winks at Mattie, who is gaping at them. "He looks like he's never seen a mommy and daddy kiss each other."
A corner of Scully's mouth twitches upwards. "Are you teasing him, then?"
"No, that's just icing on the cake," he admits, then grunts when she elbows him. "I just want to make my wife happy."
She leans back against her husband. "I am happy," she says. "We're spending time together as a family." Then she looks reflective as the music and the ride slow down.
"You know what would make me happier?"
"If you'd help put all the kids to bed while I'm catching up with Tara after dinner," she answers.
Argh, he groans inwardly. But he smiles and nods. "Only if I get to 'catch up' with you afterwards," he tells her and proceeds to waggle his eyebrows again.
"Mulder," she tries to scold him, but blushes again. ::I'll have to get a complete physical checkup when we get back home,:: she thinks, ::I hope I'm not having hot flashes so early.::
The dinner table is noisier than usual, and it isn't just because there are now two very large families. It's because there are so many more children under the age of five under Bill and Tara's roof than before, and Mulder sympathizes with his brother-in-law. Tara seems to take a lot of things in stride, but after she finishes eating, she turns a tired smile to her husband before she goes to take care of her multiple babies.
"So, how was the park?" Bill junior asks Mattie.
"I wish you could've been there," the blue-eyed boy answers honestly.
Mulder, having been distracted by children and food for the past half hour or so, is tempted to thump his head against the table. He knew he forgot something: prepping his nephew on the inevitable interrogation. Oh well, this is more a matter of sparing his brother-in-law's feelings, if nothing else. Scully, who notices his slightly pale face, merely smirks a little before returning her attention to Zoe and Brianna's twin babbling.
"Me, too, sport," Mattie's dad says. "What did you do?"
The seven-year-old launches into a breathless account of the day, as seen through his eyes: going on endless rides, eating tons of junk food (Mulder could almost swear Bill junior's eye twitches here), enthusiastically describing his cousin's upchuck (Christopher blushes and Scully sighs), and his uncle and aunt kissing (Mulder and Scully both blush here). "And then we took turns at the games, so it'd be fair," Mattie goes on, oblivious to his father's reaction to his uncle and aunt's red faces, "none of us got the prizes, which was funny, 'cause you always got something at the summer fair. No, wait, April got a keychain from the hit-the-milk-bottle game, 'cause she throws better than a girl."
April glares at him. "I am a girl," she snaps. "And of course I throw good - I'm the best pitcher my team's had in ages!"
Now Mulder and Scully look at their second eldest daughter. Wow, the coach must be good, is Mulder's thought, and I really should pay more attention to her games is Scully's.
Bill junior, however, chokes on his potato wedges. "What?"
Mattie, however, only shrugs. "Oh, okay," he says, promptly forgetting about his unintentional insult. "I didn't know. When did you start playing?"
And as their conversation evolves into Little League baseball talk, it's joined by David and Jared, and, against their better judgment, Bill junior and Mulder. Scully plays occasional conversational referee in between watching over the littler ones, making sure that Christopher and William are watching age-appropriate TV shows, and assuring that Page and Sammy are doing their part to clean up after the meal before they get to take control of the remote control.