Chapter 60: Moves
"Ready for this?" Clayton asked Olivia as they stood on the sidewalk outside their new home.
Despite Liv's assertions that the only things she needed to pack was Auggie's and her clothes and his crib, even she'd admitted when they started packing that she had more stuff than she knew what to do with and it was going to be a little less simple than she'd originally thought it would be. And when they started packing Auggie's stuff, they found the little guy had more than Olivia had been aware of. So Cam and Shana had helped her fold and pack clothes (and in so doing, a lot of Liv's old clothes had found their way into Cam's possession, and her old maternity clothing had unerringly found their way to Shana's; as civilians now, they needed regular clothes. Although no one said anything, the look Clayton had given Liv plainly said he thought she'd engineered it that way, but she just gave him a bright smile and refused to comment.
They'd ended up renting a moving van for Liv's stuff, and Ettienne and Alex were driving it out to Staten Island from Manhattan; Shana, Cam, Allie and Courtney were following in the base's Hummer along with a few items deemed too fragile to fit in the moving van.
Clayton and Liv had taken Liv's Mustang, gotten to the house before everyone else, and were now standing on the front sidewalk looking at the new house. Already, to Clayton, it felt like home; there was just a warm, welcoming feel.
Then an arm slipped around his waist, and he smiled. No, the house wasn't as welcoming as the woman standing next to him and the baby crawling on his hands and knees in the thick green grass of the lawn, giggling as a late-season white butterfly started up out of the grass in front of him. It was the perfect day for moving; not too hot and not too cold for a mid-September day in New York. Happiness put a smile on his face as he and Liv strolled up the walk and he slipped the key into the front door of the house that was now theirs.
It didn't matter that the furniture was old and slightly shabby, or that it had belonged to someone else, or that it was worn. He flopped down in the couch, found a nice comfortable dip just the right size to fit his ass into, then grinned and held out a hand. "Have a seat, Liv."
"I have to get—" she was fussing with the carpet in the front hall, rolling it aside presumably so that when Ettienne and Alex got there with the moving van, they'd be able to start carrying items right in.
He lunged off the couch in one smooth move, tackled her amidships and scooped her up as she screamed with laughter, a sound he didn't hear often enough and never got tired of, then carried her back to the couch and sat down, arranging her across his lap. "Whatever it is, it'll wait a couple of minutes. Just sit for a moment with me and enjoy the peace and quiet."
And at just that moment Auggie decided to try pulling up on the coffee table, spread with a delicate crocheted-lace doily, and the ceramic vase of artificial flowers sitting on the coffee table went crashing over. Olivia lunged to rescue the vase before it hit the floor, and Auggie screwed up his face as if wondering whether he wanted to cry.
"You were saying something about peace and quiet?" Olivia's lips quirked in a grin that should have been sardonic but had too much happiness in it to really be called that. He opened his mouth to respond to it and was interrupted yet again, this time by the sound of a vehicle door slamming and voices outside on the driveway. Moment later, here came Alex with a small box in her arms, and Ettienne with a larger one, and both were smiling. "So where do you want this?" Alex asked her.
"Are those my dishes?" Olivia peeked into the box. "Yes. Good. Okay, dishes in the kitchen." Alex disappeared around the corner to the kitchen as Olivia peeked into the box Ettienne held. "Those are Auggie's things. Here, let me show you which bedroom's his…"
By the time the Hummer pulled up, Clayton had already carried a couple of boxes in and one bag of baby clothes; Cam joined him immediately and grabbed another box.
With so many hands helping (and Shana watching Auggie for Liv) they got done the process of clearing out the moving truck in record time. Then it was Ettienne who drove the truck and Courtney who drove the Hummer back to the truck rental place (when Ettienne signed the truck back over he'd ride back to the house with Court) while Clayton, Liv, Shana, Allie, Cam and Alex got the boxes unpacked and things put away, because the boxes were going to have to be reused to pack Shana, Snake Eyes, Cam, and Charlie's things for transport to Liv's old apartment.
Clayton was still shaking his head over how it had all worked out. Alex had dropped the last of the charges, freeing Cam from having to testify in court at the same time that the discharge papers had come through, the house had closed, and there was four months left on the apartment's lease. Shana's due date was a month previous to that, so the babies would be a month old by the time the lease ran out and they could decide if they wanted to stay a couple more months, or head on out to their California cabin, or (as had been hinted at) go and visit Cam and Charlie's new place in Western New York for a few months. It was also going to mean they'd be here in New York long enough to celebrate Auggie's first birthday, something that Cam had promised she would attend.
There was a lot of chatter as the women unpacked Liv and Auggie's things, folding baby clothes and putting them away in drawers; Clayton and Ettienne were busy rearranging furniture, taking out the bed in the second bedroom, disassembling it and tucking it away in the attic, then assembling Auggie's crib and getting it set up. With that now done, both men headed downstairs, where Clayton proceeded to explain his idea of an entertainment room to Ettienne, then both men headed back up to the attic to find furniture for said entertainment room.
By the time the Girls got Liv and Auggie unpacked and settled, then went in search of Clayton and Ettienne, the two men were relaxing on a battered, worn leather couch that had definitely seen better days that they had found in the attic. The large-screen TV that had been in the smaller office in the back of the house, off the kitchen, had been taken down, the entertainment center disassembled and taken downstairs to the basement and then reassembled, then Ettienne and Clayton had spent a half hour wiring up the DVD player and stereo system, dragging in the small unused refrigerator from the garage and plugging that in also. As it cycled and started to cool, they sat on the couch and started to reprogram the TV. Charlie and Snake Eyes—no, Terence, Clayton was going to have to get used to calling him by a regular name now—had arrived in Charlie's Jeep with a couple of six packs, and by the time Liv, Alex, Shana, Cam, Allie and Courtney came to find them, the four men were cheering the football team playing on TV.
Shana giggled as she poked Olivia. "I will guess that this is going to become a regular sight here at the house on Sundays," she teased. "Whenever Clayton can get off, he'll be coming here along with whoever else might happen to be off and watching football with them."
"I don't mind," Olivia grinned. "You guys are as much Clayton's family as Auggie and I are, so I don't mind hosting. He works too hard, needs to relax more often." She grinned. "Besides, if I time this right, maybe I can get them to cooperate in building that little sunroom off the back that Clayton suggested."
Cam laughed aloud. "Make them work in return for your hosting their football Sundays. I like the way your mind works!" She'd been relaxed and happy the whole day, bubbly and effervescent and cheerful, and they'd all been gratified at the lift in her spirits.
But, although they were slightly unwilling to interrupt the guys' good time, there was still Shana and Terence, Cam and Charlie to move, so they left Liv at the new house, with Clayton taking her Mustang with Allie, Charlie back in his Jeep with Cam, Ettienne in the Hummer with Alex, Courtney, Terence and Shana, and they all went back to base. There was considerably less stuff to move this time, even with four people's belongings—they were military, and military packed light and traveled light, and Liv had, after all, left a lot of her clothes in the apartment for Shana. So it was an abbreviated group that left Fort Wadsworth three hours later: Clayton, driving the Hummer with Terence, Shana, and most of the bags and boxes (since the seats folded down) and Charlie and Cam with a couple of bags packed into Charlie's Jeep. There was significantly more of Shana and Terence's stuff than there was of Cam and Charlie's.
But it still didn't take all that long to unpack; and when they were all done, Cam and Charlie's rucksacks and footlockers in one room, Shana and Terence's belongings in the other, there was still a few hours left before Clayton had to go back to base. "Let's go to Knickerbocker's," he suggested on an impulse. "We've all been moving stuff all day, packing and unpacking, and I'm pretty sure none of you really wants to cook. I'm not in the mood for base food either, so how about one more dinner at our favorite hangout, for old times' sake?"
"Only if you're buying," Shana said impishly, but her smile was warm and understanding. They'd all been fellow soldiers and friends for so long that knowing they were parting ways now was bittersweet, and they wanted to prolong the moment as long as possible.
Their booth at Knickerbocker's was open (of course) but the waitress who showed them to their table did a double-take when she saw four of them in civilian clothes. It wasn't until she'd brought their menus and retreated that Shana had a chance to explain to the mystified Cam. "We rarely ever come here in civvies," she said, taking a sip of her sparkling water and wishing, for just a moment, that she weren't pregnant so she could have a beer like Clayton, Charlie and Terence were. "Snake Eyes—Terence—damnit, I'm going to have to get used to that—tends to wear the uniform when we come here, so it's obvious where he got the scars and people won't ask. The waitress isn't used to seeing us come in not in uniform—and she definitely wasn't expecting me to be out to here with two kids."
They each ordered one of Knickerbocker's famous burgers; Cam, they all noticed, ate as if she were making up for lost time. They got the all-you-can-eat salad, and watched as she put away two plates. Halfway through the third plate she realized they were all looking, and her cheeks turned a dusky copper. "Sorry," she said, but she sounded happy, and not really sorry at all. "I don't know, I'm just suddenly really hungry."
It was Shana who broke the silence and said what they were all thinking. "Don't be sorry. Eat as much as you want. You lost all the weight you gained on our honeymoon stressing out over the trials that you should be eating like a horse now to make up for it." And then, with a wicked grin, "Clayton can afford it."
He rolled his eyes, at which Shana and Cam both giggled.
Over dessert Clayton finally got serious and asked them what their plans were. "Well, Terence and I are going to stay in New York till the babies are born," Shana said as she finished off the last of a truly impressive slice of triple chocolate cake. "Cam and Charlie are going to stay too—Cam says she wants to be able to help with the babies when they get here, and they should be about a month old when Auggie turns one." She shook her head. "Jeez, it feels like Liv was comatose in the infirmary just yesterday, and I was…not talking. Has it really been a year?'" She blew out her breath. "Anyway, Cam promised Liv that she and Charlie'd both be at Auggie's first birthday, so they're staying till then. I'm going to keep my prenatal appointments, accumulate lots of stuff for the babies, and generally enjoy being a civilian. I've got over two million dollars in my bank account, and two new babies to shop for—I'll enjoy myself."
Terence grinned broadly and gestured to Shana. What she said.
"I'm going to finish up with the scar reduction treatments," Cam said quietly. "Dr. Flowers asked me if I perform any kind of regular physical activity, and I told her I danced—she said I should continue dancing so that the skin stretches gradually and develops the flexibility it's supposed to get. So I was thinking…once the treatments are over, I'll enroll in an adult ballet class so I can get back into shape." And, even more quietly, "The executor was only too glad to do all the paperwork that would release the money my Dad set aside for my ballet career. He talked to Mama Annie and Uncle Art over the phone and faxed over the papers, then they signed it and faxed it back, and that was it. Twenty thousand dollars. I want to use that to pay for my dance lessons—a sort of tribute to him. It…seemed fitting." And then she brightened, and a merrily wicked smile curved her lips. "I may also take a class in Irish dancing—Shana's Dad taught me a little but I'd like to learn more. Maybe when I go to visit again I can surprise him."
"Dad would LOVE that," Shana declared happily. "Dad's a phenomenal Irish dancer. He's always tried to teach Mom, Siobhan and me to dance, but we never did—Mom and Siobhan weren't interested in anything that didn't advance them in society, and me—I told him that I was hopeless at it, but really, I just didn't really want to learn. I think he was always a little disappointed but he never made an issue of it. He'd be tickled pink that an adopted daughter would finally be the dance partner he wanted."
"Then that's what I'm going to do. And in the meantime…" she blushed. "I have all this money and I haven't spent any of it—too busy stressing over the trials to really care, I guess. So yeah, I'm going to have a little fun with the money. There's so much I've always wanted to do but never had the money or the time to try—I've never tried Thai food, never had real Italian food, and I've never gone swimming just for the fun of it. I used to have ice skates at Osan, and I loved skating—it's been so long, and I miss it. I've never gone to a real movie theater to watch a movie, never been to a rock concert, never been to the beach to play in the sand, never been to a football or baseball game. I remember watching football games with Dad on base, and we'd argue over which team was the best and bet each other who would lose or win, and he always told me one day he would take me to a football game so I could see for myself what it was really like. He's not around anymore, but maybe wherever he is he'll know I finally got to see a game."
Silence around the table as each of her listeners thought about their own lives, their own experiences. Things they'd taken for granted, like being able to try new foods from different cultures; sitting in a darkened movie theater waiting for a movie to start with a tub of hot salted popcorn; cheering for their favorite team at a ball game. Shana remembered Snake Eyes teaching her how to skate one winter in New York's Rockefeller Center, in the big outdoor rink on New Year's Day; it had been cold but incredibly fun, and then of course the warming her up later had been a different kind of fun…
"You'll get to do all of that," Shana said finally, her voice determined. "All the stuff you've been missing you'll get to try. I know Charlie would love to take you to a ball game, and since we'll be here through the winter, you'll get a chance to go skating and do all those things you wanted to do."