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Getting better, not older.

The food was in coolers. Drinks on ice. The cake would be delivered. Two babies (toddlers, now. Running and speaking almost sentences. But, they would always be babies to Alison) in brand new bathing suits with arms encased in inflated water-wings. And Daddy in swimming trunks that kept Mommy's eyes wandering.

It was the picture perfect summer day. Perfect day for a birthday party. They'd packed up early and set out through Nexus portals to a park recommended online. The prime feature of the park was the natural springs. The water was cool and a deep, rich blue in spots. In other spots it was crystal clear and you could see all the way to the bottom. A wooden boardwalk encircled the springs and passed over the spot where the springs emptied out into a river.

Alison and her brood claimed a pavilion off of the boardwalk. It had two picnic tables and a grill. Alison was sure to remember charcoal so that her hubby could spend the day doing one of the things he loves... playing with open flame.

Right now, he was doing another thing he loved. Chasing two blond toddlers who were running in opposite circles, giggling and shrieking. Daddy was going to toss them into the cold water!

Still the one.

Alison woke at a reasonable hour and was only mildly ill. The morning sickness so far with her second pregnancy had been easier to handle than the first. She was especially glad for it on days like today. It was Valentine's Day and she needed to do something special for her handsome hubby.

Following tradition, Longshot had been up early and gone into the camp for his yearly chocolate haul. Despite being a happily married father of three (four soon), he still made out better than most single men in the country. They would be eating chocolate for weeks after the holiday.

While he was out, Alison bathed and dressed the twins in little Valentine outfits she'd bought for them. They got their breakfast and a little stuffed monkey each. Both were white with little red hearts on their palms and the bottoms of their feet. By the time Daddy returned home, there were two babies with slightly soggy stuffed animals and a picnic lunch for four waiting for him.

The Twins: Year one.

"Happy birthday to youuuuuu..." Alison was singing to the twins as she got them bathed and dressed for their very first birthday party. She had been singing all day. All sorts of songs, with Happy Birthday randomly thrown in. Hana giggled every time Alison elongated the word 'you'. Aiden was too busy playing with the plushie frog face on his new shirt.

"Happy birthday to youuuuuuuuuuuu!" More giggles. Alison tugged a pink shirt with a fluffy, white lamb's face on it over the little girl's head. Each baby had matching pants and little socks to go with the shirts.

She scooped up one wiggle worm in each arm and headed down the stairs to the living room. "Happy birthday, Aiden and Hanaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Happy Birthday to you!"

Creepin' and crawlin'.

Alison was being vewwy vewwy quiet. She was hunting babies. Spying on them, really. She was peeking around the door frame from the kitchen. Aiden and Hana were playing on an activity mat she'd spread out for them. When she stepped away to grab sippy cups for them, she returned to a very interesting sight.

Hana was slowly rocking on her hands and knees. A toy she wanted had rolled just out of her reach and she was determined to get it. Alison held her breath as she watched the baby work out how to move her arms and legs just so. They had been inching closer to it for weeks.

Today might be the day!

Splish splash.

"Who's got a little duckie bathing suit on? Who does?" Alison grinned as she tickled Hana tiny foot. The baby in her arms giggled and wiggled. Hana's bathing suit was a one-piece, bright yellow suit with white, baby ducks on it.

It was the twin's first swimming lesson. Longshot was already by the pool, holding Aiden in his lap. The little blond boy was watching the other swimmers with rapt attention. He looked so cute in his little blue swim trunks. Just like Daddy's. Only Daddy's didn't have monkeys on them.

She walked over to her husband and sat down beside him with her legs dangling in the water. "Ready?"

From the mouths of babes.

Alison was stretched out on her side on a blanket. The blanket was spread out in the living room under the big windows. There was a little bit of a chill in the morning air, so she didn't want to have the kids outside. But, they could play on a blanket in the sun light.

Hana and Aiden were both sitting up unaided, now. The twins were each holding a set of plastic toys that looked like enormous house keys. Hana happily gummed away at the green key while Aiden had begun showing a fondness for the red one.

Alison reached over and rattled the keys if either baby looked to be losing interest.

"When's Daddy gonna be home, huh?" She smiled at them and delighted in how their little faces turned to focus their eyes on her. "Daddy's supposed to be home early today to play with us. When do you think he's gonna come home, hmm?"

Aiden giggled around the plastic key in his mouth.

Happy Birthday!

The preparations had begun days before. Alison had sent letter after letter and made dozens of phone calls. Half of the calls had gone to her stubborn step-son. Shatterstar was hard to corral. The other half had gone out to other family and friends. Anyone Alison could think to invite, she had contacted. Her invitations were only part of the deal. She had enlisted her mother-in-law to invite the women from the clan. Whoever Longshot was close to. And given her husband's ability to make friends wherever he went, that list would be long.

After the guests were settled, she focused on food. The cake had been a big deal to her... it had to feed dozens of people, and it had to be appealing to her husband. It had taken ages to find a baker who could produce what she wanted. In the end, it had been worth it and she couldn't wait to show it off. For lunch, she had enlisted the help of Longshot's two favorite cooks: Momoko and Maria. The day of the party, the kitchen and dining room were piled high with the best food Italy and Japan had to offer.

The living room was the designated present area. A table had been set up along a mostly unused wall and had begun filling up with brightly wrapped packages of all sizes early that morning. Lisa and Gloria Jean had been assigned inside decoration duty and had roped Rogue into helping. She could fly and get to the high places, they reasoned. Dakota and the boys had pulled outside duty. There were balloons and streamers all over the place. The more the better, as far as Alison was concerned.

John had been stuck with the hardest job of the morning. He had been assigned the task of getting up dreadfully early and taking Longshot out of the castle long enough for them to prepare the party. Since he had been spending so much time at work catching up after his vacation, he used the excuse that he wanted to spend time with his son on his birthday before he had to go to work. And the best early rising activity he could think of was fishing. At a lake. Far away from the castle. He might be tired by the time they returned, but he knew Longshot would perk right back up when he saw the party dedicated to him.

It was early in the day, still, when the party was all set up and they just had to wait for the guest of honor. Alison had showered and changed. The babies were fed, clean, and dressed in new little outfits their Mommy had picked out especially for the occasion. They had picked up on the excitement around them and were giggling and babbling happily to anyone who would listen. Lisa and Glora Jean each had a baby in their lap and were laughing and making faces right back.

Alison shifted impatiently in her seat and tried to will her husband to appear.

More OOCness...

My Personality
Openness to Experience
You do not experience strong, irresistible cravings and consequently do not find yourself tempted to overindulge, however you tend to lack energy and have difficult initiating activities. You lead a leisurely and relaxed life. You would prefer to sit back and smell the roses than indulge in high energy activities. You prefer dealing with either people or things rather than ideas. You regard intellectual exercises as a waste of your time. You are tenderhearted and compassionate, feeling the pain of others vicariously and are easily moved to pity, however you are not adverse to confrontation and will sometimes even intimidate others to get your own way. You have a reasonable amount of will-power and are able to follow through on tasks that you feel you need to complete. You can be distracted however and have been known to procrastinate.

Take a Personality Test now or view the full Personality Report.

The best Buying Pet Gifts.


Promise kept.

After a night of ups and downs -- if she were entirely truthful, it was a lot more downs than ups -- Alison made good on her promise to her mother-in-law. She started out early. The babies were fed and kissed, and her husband snuggled thoroughly. It had almost given her time to talk herself out of leaving, but in the end, the jonin had gently nudged her out the door.

The trip required several portal hops through the Nexus. Instead of an Italian spa, Natasha had chosen an American spa in New York for Alison's gift. It was a good choice. Alison would have had a difficult time relaxing in Italy without speaking the language. And it was nice to see the States again. She hadn't realized that she missed the familiar sights and sounds.

The spa people had their work cut out for them, though. Alison was about as tightly wound as she had ever been. Getting her relaxed and happy was a task that usually only Longshot managed. And he did it with techniques that the people at the spa were not allowed to use.

Despite her reluctance and hesitance, she found herself relaxing as she received the full spa treatment. First, she enjoyed a full body massage. Even ger toes got some attention. That had been the part she didn't think she'd like, but once it started she melted right into the table. Longshot's were better, but it was also nice to get a rub down without any sexual expectations at the end. In fact, the only expectation at the end of the massage was a long soak in an herb infused hot tub.

Over the next few hours, Alison was pampered within an inch of her life. Her hair was trimmed and highlighted. She got a manicure and a pedicure; a facial and a make-over. Even an acupuncture treatment. She wasn't afraid of the needles anymore. Once every conceivable treatment had been lavished on her, she finally emerged into the afternoon sun. It was on the edge of her mind to head for home, but the day was only half over and she had been told to take it for herself, so... shopping!

It was nice to wander the mall and spend some time just looking. Window shopping was a lost art. Eventually, she found some new clothes that she had to have. And some toys for the babies. Well, she couldn't completely forget them all day, after all. Not even if she tried. Nor could she stop thinking about her husband. She wondered if he was thinking about her? He said he would miss her today. She'd have to find him something, too. Hmmm.

Ah, wait. She had the perfect idea. And she knew right where to find it.

The walk home took a bit longer than the trip to the spa. Mostly because she was enjoying the early evening air and the slow sunset. She was never without light, so the night didn't worry her. But, she wanted to get home before too late. No need to worry anyone.

She hummed softly to herself as she mounted the steps to the front door and opened it. As she toed off her sandals in the entryway, she called out, "I'm home!"


OOC: Silliness.

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