Day's End

by Purple Lacey

Story #22 in the Angel Girl series.

It was Vin´s favorite time of the day; work was over, chores were done, and dinner was finished. Buck was upstairs with Angela having their special time together, and JD was down in the basement on the phone with Casey. Rita had retired to her room to enjoy her favorite television shows, and Vin was stretched out across the living room floor covered in wriggling, giggling babies.

This was his time alone with the triplets. The time he could concentrate his attention on the three small children that now ruled his life and his heart. The six month old triplets, Houston, Austin, and Dallas, had only recently learned to crawl and delighted in practicing their new skill by doing it all around and over their laughing father as he sprawled on his back across the plush blue carpet.

Although the children were affectionate to Buck, JD, Angel, and the rest of the Team Seven family there was no doubt who came first in the little one´s hearts. It was obvious to any observer that the bond between the Tanner children and their father was extremely strong. The eager greeting he received from the children when he returned home from work everyday continued to gratify and humble him. No one in his life, with the exception of the mother he barely remembered, had ever showed such open joy at his mere presence. He had only to walk into the same room with the triplets to start a chorus of laughing babbles, and have three pairs of little arms reaching out for him with tiny fists opening and closing in excited eagerness for his attention. Now that the kids were crawling, they no longer waited for him to approach, but would each make a bee-line for their father on sight, racing each other for the privilege of being the first one picked up in his loving arms.

Vin quickly made a grab for Austin´s arm and pulled the baby back up on his stomach when the infant almost took a nose dive off of Vin and on to the floor. Undaunted, Austin stretched out comfortably on his own stomach and calmly began to try and eat the buttons off his father´s blue plaid cotton shirt.

“Boy, that´s not food,” Vin laughed as he tried to keep the buttons out of the boy´s determined mouth, “You can´t be hungry, anyway. You just finished two jars of baby food and then finished the rest of Dallas´s dinner only twenty minutes ago. No way you could hold anymore without exploding.”
Although all the babies had healthy appetites, Austin was the big eater of the bunch. He was always the first to get hungry and the last to get filled up. Vin had worked out his own system for meal times since the children had started “solid” foods. He lined up all three of the wooden high chairs (one he had inherited from Buck and the other two had been gifts from the other Denver ATF teams). Then, with a three-compartment plate filled with baby food and three baby spoons in his hands, and he made use of a castored kitchen chair and rolled from one baby to the next, feeding each child one bite of baby food, then starting all over again. On the days the children were really hungry he was almost a blur of motion. His babysitter, Judith, had told him there was a better way, but he politely refused to consider it. He had too much fun doing it his way and it had the added bonus of keeping the children entertained, too.

The triplets, although born underweight, were growing quickly and according to their pediatrician should be catching up to their contemporaries before they started school. Vin was very relieved to hear this since he had been on the small side when he had started school and knew it could have made the triplets the target of other, larger, children. He never wanted his children to have to endure any of the pain and trauma he had experienced when he had started school. The protective streak that he had discovered in himself when the children had been born was given witness by his determination to make absolutely sure that it never happened to his precious babies.

Vin fully intended to make sure his little ones knew how to defend themselves against anyone foolish enough to pick on them before they started school. Even though they couldn´t walk yet, Vin had already planned out the regimen of defense techniques and martial arts that he would begin teaching all three little ones when he felt the time was right. He estimated they would be ready to start learning the basics about the age of two.

He remembered the looks of blank astonishment that had appeared on five of his teammate´s faces the day he had mentioned his intentions to instruct the babies in self defense moves. They had looked like they questioned his sanity for a moment before they had broken out laughing, convinced he was joking with them. Surprisingly, Ezra had applauded the idea, and offered his help, a move that earned him amazed looks from the other five men as well. Since that day, his friends had been teasing the two men about making “Ninja Babies” out of the triplets.

Vin took their teasing with good grace, but was secretly gratified that at least Ezra understood his need to give his children a better childhood than he had endured. Although Ezra had never expressly stated it, Vin was pretty sure Ezra had been the target of bullies himself. He figured Ezra wanted to shield the kids from the wounds, both psychic and physical, that the thoughtless cruelty of other children could bestow on those that didn´t quite fit the norm; wounds that Ezra and Vin were only too familiar with.

Dallas crawled toward Vin´s head and pulled up to reach his chin. She opened her little mouth and gummed his chin before he could stop her. Vin could feel the slight ridge of a tooth that was trying to erupt from the baby´s sore gums before he turned his head to one side to remove his chin from the child´s reach, and used his free arm to gently pull her up on his chest. He reached down and picked up one of the plastic teething rings he had grabbed from the freezer before exiting the kitchen after dinner and guided it to the little girl´s mouth, letting go when she grabbed it with both little hands.

“Is that bad ole tooth bothering you again, sweetheart?” Vin cooed, “Daddy knows it hurts, but I bet that feels a whole lot better than my chin, huh, princess? You don´t need to go chewing on this stubbly face of mine. No you don´t. It´s not gonna be much longer now, though. That ole tooth is almost there. I bet in another day or two you´re gonna be able to show off that new tooth to your Uncles. I´ll sure they´ll be real impressed.”

Houston scrambled over at the sight of the blue, water-filled plastic teething rings and Vin handed the boy one. Houston plopped down on his diaper-clad bottom, popped the ring into his own mouth, and then grinned around it at his father.

“You´re not gonna be too far behind your sister, are you pard? You´re working real hard to get your own set of choppers in, aren´t you?” Vin smiled back at the still grinning boy.

Vin handed the last teething ring to Austin in the hope that the boy would be distracted enough to quit gnawing on his buttons. True to form, Austin tossed the cool plastic away in favor of the small white buttons on the front of Vin´s shirt. Vin often swore Austin had to have inherited his single minded stubbornness from his Uncle Chris. This thought had earned him a glare from the team leader that was almost as black as Chris´ customary apparel when Vin had voiced this opinion to his friends one Sunday afternoon.

Vin yelped when the little boy managed to get a mouthful of Vin´s skin along with the cotton shirt and chomped down hard. He might not have many teeth yet but he had one powerful set of jaws. Vin finally had to pick the boy up and set him on the floor beside him to make him stop his determined attempts to get at the buttons on Vin´s front.

Stubbornness wasn´t the only thing Austin had seemed to inherit from Chris, Vin thought as he glimpsed the frown that crossed the child´s face at having what he considered his new toy taken away from him. The annoyed look he received would have given one of Larabee´s infamous glares a run for its money.

Vin stared into the boy´s eyes without blinking and firmly stated, “NO.” The child and man maintained eye contact for almost a minute before Austin looked away, and smiled then started crawling over Vin´s legs as though nothing had happened.

Teething ring firmly grasped in his locked jaws, Houston crawled to up to his father and snuggled his little cheek against Vin´s. Vin turned his head toward the baby and blew a raspberry kiss on the little boy´s velvet soft cheek causing the child to give a rumbling belly laugh and drop the teething ring from his mouth when he opened it wide in a delighted grin. Vin had to do it again just to hear that wonderful laugh once more.

Houston turned around and took off as fast as he could away from Vin then stopped to look over his shoulder, and Vin had to laugh to himself at the expectant look the baby threw at him. The blonde haired man gently deposited the other two children on the floor and rose to his own hands and knees. This was the signal for the general mayhem to start. Houston took off again, followed by his babbling siblings, and the chase was on.

“I´m comin´ to getcha,” he growled and Dallas squealed with delight and made a break for the living room doorway, only to be cut off by her laughing father. “I don´t think so, squirtblossom,” he chuckled as he redirected her back into the living room. “You guys already outnumber me. No way I´m I gonna try and chase you all around this house. These knees would never make it.”

Austin had almost flanked his father while his attention was on Dallas, but Vin spun around quickly and lowered his head to touch noses with the baby, and issued another playful growl. Austin reacted to this by plopping his little bottom on the carpet and grabbing Vin´s face with both hands. Vin gently tossed his head as though unable to escape the child´s loose grip, much to the delight of the chortling boy. While Vin was crouched on hands and knees as he pretended to be trapped by Austin, Houston crawled underneath the bridge of Vin´s torso like a fast moving train with Dallas gleefully following behind him.

“No, no, let me go,” Vin pretended to beg in silly high pitched voice then growled again saying, “Okay then, if you won´t let me go then I´m gonna have to GET YOU.”

He surged up onto his knees, grabbed Austin under his arms and lifted the baby over his head.
“MMMM, baby belly, my favorite,” he said then he began taking pretend bites from the baby´s tummy, making appreciative noises as he “ate”.

Austin buried his hands in his father´s long blonde hair and giggled so hard his whole body shook with it. His chubby little legs kicked wildly as he tried to squirm away from the tickling bites Vin was giving him.

Vin deposited the still wildly wiggling Austin on the floor and the baby crawled away squealing with glee. Vin grabbed Houston when he crawled close enough and held him up for his turn. Then Vin chased Dallas around the coffee table on his knees before lifting her up to continue the “Belly Banquet”.

Vin and the triplets continued to crawl around the living room, with Vin occasionally pretending to trip and letting the children climb all over him again before resuming the chase. The game went on until Vin heard the water start in one of the upstairs bathrooms. He knew that Angela was now having her bath and that bedtime was fast approaching. As much as he had been enjoying himself, he knew it was time to start letting the triplets wind down. Vin had found out the hard way that they needed that period of relaxation before bedtime or they wouldn´t settle down to sleep without a lot of crying from them, and frustration for him.

An hour later Vin had just finished snapping the last snap on Dallas´ sleeper. The two boys had already been diapered and put in their sleepwear and were inside their cribs. Austin was pushing his teddy bear around the crib with his head, and Houston was cheerfully trying to suck on his toes through the heavy fabric of his sleeper. Vin lifted Dallas and laid her in her crib then picked up Austin and one of the bottles he had already prepared. Vin always started with Austin when it came to bedtime because the little boy was too impatient to wait when it came to his bottle. Vin had discovered he managed to get all three asleep faster if Austin was the first to be fed and rocked.

Vin sat in the padded rocking chair that he had bought right after he had moved into Buck´s home. This was another evening ritual that he enjoyed. Vin pushed back and set the chair to rocking as he guided the baby bottle to Austin´s mouth. The child wrapped his little hands around the bottle and contentedly watched his father as he fed. Vin hugged the boy a little closer and began to hum at first and then sing.
The day has said goodbye, my little one, my little one.
Bright stars fill the sky, my little one, my little one.
Now close your sleepy eyes
And I´ll sing your lullaby
Soon in dreams you´ll fly, my little one, my child.

Austin´s eyes began to drift closed and, still softly singing the song Vin rose from the chair, careful not to rouse the baby. He bent his head down to place a small kiss on the child´s forehead then walked over to the crib and gently placed him on the mattress. The baby never even stirred. Vin went to the next crib and lifted out Dallas. He grabbed another bottle and returned to the rocking chair and continued singing for her.

There´s no need to cry, my little one, my little one
I´ll always be close by, my little one, my little one
You´ll never hurt at all
For I´ll be there when you call
To catch you when you fall, my little one, my child.

Vin smiled into the serious little face watching him so closely as Dallas tried her best to fight off sleep. Her sleepy blue eyes kept blinking slowly, but the energetic playtime and gentle rocking soon caught up with the little girl and her eyes eventually stayed closed. Vin made his way to her crib and gave her a kiss before he laid her down, and pulled her soft blanket up, tucking it around her.

Vin turned to the last crib and watched Houston chew on the toe of his sleeper for a minute. He reached out and stroked the boy´s downy-soft, brownish blonde hair before lifting the baby out and taking him to the rocker with the last bottle. Vin continued to sing softly and Houston decided he needed to “sing” with his father a few minutes before getting down to business so he babbled along with Vin for awhile before latching onto the nipple of the bottle.

No more time to play, my little one, my little one
So put your toys away, my little one, my little one.
Let your dreams take flight
To explore the wondrous night
But hurry home come light, my little one, my child.

It wasn´t long before Houston joined his brother and sister in sleep. Vin enjoyed the weight and warmth of the child in his arms, and relished the feeling of love and joy he experienced by being surrounded by his sleeping children. He wasn´t ready to give that feeling up yet, so Vin continued to rock himself and the sleeping baby as he listened to the sound of the wind blowing outside, and the noises the other occupants of the house made as they readied themselves for the night. Buck stuck his head in the door and raised an eyebrow in question to check if Vin needed any help and mouthed a goodnight to the contented father when Vin shook his head no and smiled.

Before long the only sounds that could be heard in the large house was the muffled sound of Buck´s snores and the sound of Vin´s rocking chair. Vin continued to rock, hugging the small body closer to him until Houston gave a little wriggle that signaled he would be waking soon if Vin didn´t put him into his crib. Vin sighed at the loss and rose from the rocker one last time to take Houston back to his crib. Vin placed a kiss on the little forehead then laid the child in the crib and pulled up his blanket.

Vin stepped back and picked up the three empty baby bottles from the table by the rocker then turned and walked to the bedroom door. He switched on the small lamp they kept lit as a nightlight, turned off the switch for the overhead light, and checked to make sure the baby monitor was on. Before pulling the door shut, Vin remained standing in the doorway for another moment just watching the triplets sleep, and saying a prayer of thanks to the god he once had problems believing in for the three wonderful miracles that now belonged to him.

Lying in his bed later while the quiet peace of the night surrounded him, Vin fell asleep with a contented smile on his lips.


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