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You Can't Look Dignified When You're Having Fun

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"Giddyup, horsie!" Myri Antilles squealed, bouncing up and down on the babysitter's back and kicking him in the ribs.

"Giddyup, Mista Wes!" her big sister Syal agreed, tugging on the scarf that served the "horsie" as both tail and makeshift harness.

Wes Janson bucked carefully - a completely tame horsie is no fun when you're three years old - and scrambled across the floor on his hands and knees, dragging Syal and her packing-container sled behind him. "Nhyeeeee!" he whinnied, trying to sound more or less like some species of riding-beast. He wasn't very good at it.

Behind him, he heard the door hiss open. Wes twisted instantly into a crouch, tucking his left arm behind him so Myri wouldn't fall off his back. "Let go, Syal--" he began, then he saw who it was. "Wedge! " he exclaimed, and let Myri slide to the floor, then stood up, grinning. "Back so soon?"

"It's past twenty-one hundred," said Wedge Antilles, his brown eyes laughing. "Having too much fun to keep track of the time?"

Wes shrugged. "More or less," he replied. "Hello, Iella." Syal and Myri, tired of their "horsie" now that Mummy and Daddy were home, were tugging on Wedge's trouser legs and telling him about their day.

"Hello, Major Janson," said Iella Wessiri-Antilles, smiling. "I hope the children behaved all right for you?"

"Oh yes," Wes assured her. "No trouble at all. We played kitchen and horsie and tea-party and X-wings versus TIE fighters..." He laughed and ran his hand over his brow in mock exhaustion. "I should think they'll sleep well tonight. I know I will!"

In the brief silence that followed, Syal observed, "An' Mista Wes fighted a 'ssassin!"

Oh. Right.

Wedge looked up - he'd dropped on one knee to listen to his daughters' recital. "Fighted an assassin, did you, Wes? That sounds very... exciting." His voice was calm, but his face said Details. Now.

"Kidnapper," Wes said, keeping his voice light. "Political, I think. Although he did come at me with a vibroblade. He's tied up in the 'fresher - he kept hinting that I should call planetary security, so I thought I'd better not." He pulled a wry face. "And I had to gag him. I've warned Syal and Myri they mustn't talk like that until they're big... or till Mommy and Daddy say they can." This last remark was delivered with his best innocent face on.

Iella burst out laughing. "Well, thank you, Major Janson. Wedge assured me you were quite a reliable babysitter, in spite of your reputation; I see he was right." She turned to her daughters. "Go and get your nightclothes on, girls, and I'll read you a story. And maybe Major Janson will sing you a bedtime song before he leaves. Okay?"

"Okay!" the girls cheered, and ran off to their bedroom.

"You were right, though," Iella continued, speaking to Wedge. "We should have had a holocam ready before we opened the door. Would you like a drink, Major Janson?" she added smoothly, moving toward the kitchen.

"Yes, please, ma'am," Wes said. "Wait, a holocam? Why?"

Wedge, following his wife, grinned at Wes over his shoulder. "Nice hairstyle, Major," he said just before disappearing into the kitchen.

Wes ran a hand through his unruly black hair and rolled his eyes, grinning in spite of himself. He'd completely forgotten about the sparkly pink hair accessories he'd let the girls weave into his hair at the beginning of the evening.