Melissa finished cleaning up the counters as Krista filled her stainless steel kettle at the sink. "Want a cuppa?" Krista looked to the other woman as she turned the taps off and moved to the stove. She placed the reflective kettle onto the burner, and turned it on to boil the water.
The redhead glanced at Krista, somewhat surprised by the invitation, before she glanced back to where the man that her friend had been on a date with was sitting at the small table; Delta Rue was sitting in his lap, chattering away. Realizing that she hadn't answered yet, Melissa shook her head gently, "No thank you. I mean it'd be nice, but I don't want to get in the way." She squeezed the excess water out of the dishcloth she was using to wipe down the counters.
Krista's brows furrowed together as she looked at her friend, before briefly following her gaze back to the kitchen table and the other two people present. When it occurred to her that the babysitter meant she didn't want to interfere between her and the man she had been on the date with, she almost laughed. "You wouldn't be in the way. Besides you've been looking after Delta Rue all day, I'm sure you could use some tea."
Melissa once again looked between Krista and the man; Roo wasn't listening to them speaking; his full attention was on the little girl in his lap. Yet again Melissa shook her head, "I should probably be going anyway, yeah? I'll talk to you soon; call me if you need me." She set the dishcloth down back over the faucet and wiped her hands off on her trousers. "I'll just be off." The woman walked past the confused Krista, and out through the main door the kitchen.
Krista was confused, it was like Melissa didn't want to be in the room with them, and she didn't know why. What had they done? Nothing! They'd been teasing and playing slightly when they came in, and Melissa seemed to think that their banter was leading to the bedroom, but honestly that's the way that she had always been with Roo. In their formative years he'd been as good as her brother, which led to pseudo-sibling rivalry. Naturally that had changed when they grew older, but truth be told they'd never lost that hint of mischievousness that was between them (well, other than in the years that they weren't together, but that hardly counted); she'd been raised in his house by his parents after John and Marion were named the legal guardians of her in her own parents' Will. She tried to ignore the nagging feeling in her stomach; was Melissa hiding something? Was there something Roo wasn't telling her? Was that why he wouldn't, or couldn't, look at the babysitter, and why Melissa had to leave so quickly?
"Okay… bye…" the young mother said lamely as she heard the other woman grab her bag from the door and pull her shoes on quickly. Before she had finished saying it, the front door opened and hurriedly closed as Melissa's shoe heels clicked down the front steps.
Krista continued to stand in the middle of the kitchen floor, somewhat confused, for a moment as the kettle came to a boil. The whistling barely even entered her mind as she tried to figure out what just happened.
"Hm?" she turned her eyes to Roo gently, still unmoving in the centre of the room.
His gaze was soft as he pointed lightly towards the stove. "Kettle's boiled."
Krista turned her head and saw the stainless steel vessel violently emitting steam. Snapping out of her reverie, she blushed just a little, "right, sorry. Tea." She didn't like being suspicious about things and it wasn't suspicion so much as confusion. Too many things had happened in the last month and it was hard for her to concentrate all of the time. She turned the burner off before carefully lifting the kettle by its insulated handle and setting it down on a piece of tile which sat on the counter, so the counter top wouldn't be burned by the bottom of the red hot object.
Roo slid his hands under Delta Rue's arms, circling her small ribcage, so he could lift her off of his lap as he spoke up. "I can get it—"
Krista turned her head to him, and smiled at him over her shoulder. "Don't be silly, I'm already the one up. Besides, I don't think Delta Rue has any plans on leaving her new chair any time soon." She snickered, pushing her previous thoughts from her mind; pushing all thoughts from her mind. None of the other stuff mattered right now, all that mattered in this moment, was the present. Everything else was either history, or could be dealt with when it happened in the future.
Roo smirked slightly at her comment, "she does seem pretty content in her placement." He chortled as he shifted and ran his right hand back through the little girl's hair while the child leaned back into his chest, watching her mother sleepily.
"Dash of milk, right?" Krista spoke up as she opened her cupboard and took out a fancy tea tin decorated by Art Nouveau images and opened it up to retrieve the teabags. A thought struck her, and she halted her actions for just a moment. She bit back a laugh, in order to speak up again. "Do… do you still sweeten your tea with Skittles?"
That comment took him off guard, and he couldn't stop the loud, hog-like, snort that escaped from him. "I um…"
Krista, with a teasing smirk slowly turned herself around, using only her heels as she looked to him. "Would that be a yes?"
"Oh all right! Yes! Yes I pour Skittles into my tea and let them melt…" by now he was nearly the same shade as the red candy in the package.
"Never did grow up, did you?"
"Hey! To be properly fair I only ever did that at work! If I'd done it at home Mattie would have – she would have left me." He trailed off a little.
Krista chose ignore the emotion behind the end of his statement. "Her loss." She shrugged as she went through the cupboard for moment "Oh! Sweetie you're in luck!"
"I have a packet of Skittles." Suppressing a smile, she turned around and held up the red package of candy. "How many do you take?"
Roo smiled as he shook his head disbelievingly. "You really don't need to do that."
"How many do you take?" she repeated herself.
"Oh, fine. Seven."
"Seven? Why not eight?"
"Why not six? Eight's too sweet and gums up the bottom of the cup, and six isn't sweet enough. Seven gives me the saccharine flavour that I'm used to, and most of them melt off. What doesn't melt and blend in, I usually remove with the spoon and eat."
"Okay, you're the King." Krista stuck her tongue out at him as she opened up the package.
"Prince." Roo corrected her easily.
"Pardon?" she looked up from her task of counting candies for his tea.
"Nothing." Roo shook his head lightly and with a minor shake of his shoulders brushed the entire joke off.
"Okay." Krista smiled contentedly as she dropped the seven candies into the cup of tea that she'd made for Roo; two red candies, one orange, one green, and three purple. She remembered the berry flavoured ones were always his favourite when they were younger. The sweets entered the steeping liquid with a series of soft 'plop' sounds before she turned and retrieved the pitcher of milk from the fridge. Dribbling just a little of the white liquid into the twin tea cups, she watched until the milk diluted the tea and turned the hot beverage into a deep beige tone. Satisfied, Krista put the milk back into the fridge before picking both cups up by the handles and walking back to the small table where the man was sitting with her little girl on his lap.
Roo smiled up at her and spoke with his voice lowered, due to the woman's proximity, "Thank you sweetheart."
Krista paused for just a moment; his gentle tone wasn't as cautious as she expected it to be when it addressed her with the artificial moniker and she was taken aback. She smiled back at him as she set his cup down. "You're welcome luv." The slight force of the cup hitting the table cause the melting candies to bob back up to the surface of the sea of Earl Gray in which they were swimming.
Absentmindedly Roo ran his hand over Delta Rue's back as she yawned and shifted her position; the child turned herself until she was sitting with her bottom on his left thigh which allowed her rest her cheek against his chest; she was almost asleep. Still his hand continued to rub soothing circles as she relaxed all the further.
Krista took her seat next to him; her chair was turned to allow her to look at the two people she cared for most. Her brows furrowed together when she saw just how close her daughter was to sleeping. "Sweetie, didn't you have a nap today?"
Delta Rue yawned, not caring how impolite it might be (surely the two people she was with didn't care in the slightest). "Nuh-uh." She was passed the point of speaking properly; her lids were getting heavier and heavier as her mother's friend's hand ran in loops over her spine.
"Why not?" her tone was altered, she was wondering if perhaps that was the reason Melissa fled; to avoid the irritated conversation that would happen when the mother of the child she was paid to babysit found out that her child was awake and cranky.
"I wanted to make cookies for you and the nice man instead." Delta Rue yawned once again, a little wider this time. She nearly lost her balance, and wavered for a moment but Roo's hand on her back pressed in firmly and steadied her before it returned to its leisurely swirls.
Krista wasn't sure what to say; it was a sweet sentiment. Deciding to play, she heaved an exasperated sigh, "Well I guess that was a better use of your time." She finished with a giggle, flashing a glance to Roo. The man kept his eyes on Delta Rue, but smirked just a little in response to the child's mother's reaction. "You're exhausted though, you know. You should go to sleep."
"'m not tired…" the little girl snuggled herself in further to the warm, solid, wall that she was using as her pillow. Beneath her tiny ear she could faintly hear Roo's beating heart and the sound lulled her nearer and nearer to sleep with its rhythm.
"Mm" His hum sent a slight rumble through his chest as he slowed his circling of her back. "You're nearly asleep where you are, luv. Go to sleep…" he urged gently.
"No, I should take her to bed. Your lap can't be comfortable, not for either of you. Come on – oh." Krista blinked, realizing a little late that her child had already fallen asleep in her mate's lap. She smiled a little sadly.
Delta Rue shifted and wrapped her tiny arms as much of the way around Roo's lithe waist as she could. Already fast asleep, she was curling tightly into the warm nest that surrounded her.
Krista watched her daughter for a moment, before lifting her eyes to Roo's face. "I should move her."
"There's no hurry." He lifted his eyes and smiled brightly while he shook his head. "She's fine where she is."
"She's sort of heavy – "
"Krista, really, she's fine. Besides she just fell asleep, no need to disturb her just yet."
"You're…" her voice trailed off for a moment as she thought about exactly what she wanted to say. "You're too good with her." she laughed as she lightly stirred the cup of tea that sat before her. "You seem to know what you're doing, with children I mean." She risked a momentary look up to his face as she slowed the spoon down once again. She prayed that she hadn't hit a nerve with the topic at hand.
If she had, Roo never let her see the discomfort.
"It's not too hard when you're dealing with an amazing child and her mother." Roo answered her gaze with a tender smile.
"Don't be silly. Where you learned it I'll never know. I mean I had to learn it the long, hard, way with Delta Rue." Krista tittered quietly.
Roo paused and lifted his face to properly look at her. He gazed at her for a long moment, unblinking, until Krista felt as though his very stare would burn up her soul and turn her existence to ash. His hazel eyes were like search lights; boring their way through her flesh and like gazing at the wall clock that was directly behind her head. When she cowered slightly under his silent scrutiny, he realized the effect he was having on her, and he shook his head a little to break the gaze. But, he sighed a little, "You really don't remember, do you?"
"Remember what?" She responded with a voice tinged with bewilderment.
Roo looked back down to Delta Rue, and once again ran his hand through her hair gently as he thought about where he should start. "She looks just like you did at this age you know. Except for her hair, that's darker than I've ever seen yours. Not that that matters much." He fell silently for a moment, his mind swiftly running through each of the possible ways of leading this conversation. Eventually he came to the one that he thought was best. He continued to pet the little girl as he finally found his voice again. "You were only a baby when you came to live with us."
Krista's brows furrowed; she already knew this. Besides he was only a baby as well. Rupert was six months older than her, making him and his twins around a year old when she came to live with the Alcott-Birdwhistles. Before she could say anything, he motioned for her to wait just a moment, as he continued.
"When you were young you used to have nightmares about the car accident; you didn't understand it, and at the time neither did I, but every year around September, the night terrors would grow in ferocity. You'd wake up crying and screaming, when we were still very little, and you'd wake up the entire house." He couldn't help the sorrowful little laugh that passed his lips as he looked up at her and gazed affectionately into her mystified eyes. "But, eventually the nightmares would wind down and cease, around the end of the month; when I was older I realized that they were growing in intensity every night as the anniversary of your parents' fatal accident grew ever closer.
"When we were a little older, over the age of six, every year when the night terrors would start up, you would wake up from your nightmares, whimpering, and trying to be brave. But you never wanted to be alone, so I'd leave my bedroom door open at night. You'd pull yourself out of bed, plod up the hallway to the next door, and come into my room. You'd climb into bed with me, trembling something terrible, and eventually fall into an easier state of sleep.
"You did this every year until we were about ten or eleven; every night when you'd come into my room, you were inconsolable. You needed someone to love you, to hold you, and god knows my parents weren't much for doting physical affection on any of the four children in their household. So every night when you'd crawl into bed with me, I'd wrap my arms around you and hug you. I'd rub your back until you stopped sniffling and finally fell asleep. That's why on your ninth birthday I gave you that stuffed kangaroo; you never had a beloved childhood toy before then, and I thought it was someone for you to cuddle with when I wasn't there with you."
Krista was in a state of surprise, "I don't remember any of that. I mean I remember, vaguely the nightmares, and Mr. RooRoo my kangaroo of course – he's Delta Rue's now – but I don't remember anything when it comes to having to sleep in your bed. I'm ashamed to admit that I don't remember it being you that gave me Mr. RooRoo either." The alarm was evident in her eyes as she looked at Rupert.
He smiled forlornly, "I know. Most nights you were barely awake when you stumbled into my room. I used to wonder sometimes if that's how your sleepwalking started. It doesn't really matter now, but that's where my aptitude with children comes from. Especially boring them to sleep." He laughed softly as he rubbed Delta Rue's back once again. "As for Mr. RooRoo, well, you named him that because he was a kangaroo, and I bought him because you called me Roo for as long as I could remember when everyone else called me Rupert. It's because of you that Kadence ended up with the name Kanga, you know." He chuckled a little. His twin sister, two minutes younger than him, had been known as Kanga since the start of High School. The three of them, that is the triplet children of John and Marion Alcott-Birdwhistle, were known as Kanga, Roo, and Noah. Noah didn't quite fit the pattern, and for a while he'd been called Dingo, Wallaby, and Drop Bear. Needless to say Roo's twin brother didn't appreciate the names, and remained 'Noah'.
Krista kept her eyes on him, unblinking, as he rubbed her daughter's back. Without breaking her eye contact with him, she took a draught from her tea and set it down on the table. In a trance like state, she got up from her chair, crossed the short distance to where Roo was sitting opposite of her, and laid her hand on his angular jaw. She didn't give him the time to register what she was doing; instead she leaned down and pressed her lips to his.
His eyes widened at the sudden, closed lipped, kiss but he answer it; pressing his lips firmly back against hers as he closed his eyes.
Krista pulled back after a moment and pressed a second kiss to his face, this time to his forehead just under his hairline before easing back. "Thank you." Krista ran her small hand through his dark fringe, but his hair quickly bounced back into place over his right eye.
Roo's brows furrowed a little. "For what Hunny?"
"For everything; On top of all the things that you used to do for me, I wish I remembered that part of our childhood."
Roo reached up and grasped her hand gently; he brought it close and held it against his heart to keep her close. "You really don't; I remember how scared you were. I remember how hard you were crying, and I remember how brave you tried to be. Believe me Krista, it's a blessing that you don't remember."
She shook her head minimally which caused her dark blond hair to sway a little "I didn't mean the nightmares. I mean I wish I remembered you comforting me until I fell asleep."
Roo raised a pale eyebrow in reply to Krista's declaration "Does it really matter? You've fallen asleep against me countless times through our lives. You practically lived with the weight of my arm on your shoulders." he chuckled softly. "We were rarely apart. Any time I'd sit on the couch to read, you were like a cat; curling up against me and staying there."
She half laughed, "I know that. But I wish I'd known then."
"Well, you know now." He beamed up at her, keeping eye contact with her as he picked up his tea cup and drank from it.
Krista leaned in and pressed a kiss to his forehead once again before taking a teasing edge. She ruffled her fingers through his hair as if she were an excitable child petting a long haired dog. She braced herself over him and her daughter as she put all her effort into the action.
Roo snorted, nearly choking on his tea; he'd been taking another mouthful of it when she started in on his hair. "Hey! Hey!" he laughed as he tried to push her back. "Leave my hair alone!" he attempted to move as little as possible so he didn't disturb the child on his lap, or worse, spill his tea on her.
Triumphant, Krista pulled away with a victorious smile and sat back down in her seat. Glancing back at him, she grinned; his hair was standing on end; the long locks were tousled and going in every direction.
Roo heaved a teasingly annoyed sigh as he set the cup down on the table and ran his hands through his hair forcing it to resettle. After a bit of work, his dark tresses laid back down in their formerly manicured state. "You're such a child." He snickered.