Marshall came awake slowly, aware of the deep ache in his muscles. He smiled to himself as her remembered the activities from the previous night that were the cause of his soreness. He reached behind him expecting to find the sleeping form of his new wife, but touched cool sheets instead. Marshall opened his eyes, his gaze falling on the alarm clock next to the bed: 7:04.
Standing up, Marshall threw on a pair of boxers and a discarded t-shirt from the floor. He peeked his head into the room they had put Andrew in for the week, only to see that the crib, too, was empty. He paddled down the hallway, founding nothing but stillness in the rest of the house. Marshall walked onto the front porch finally finding his family. He stood in the doorway, silently watching as Mary rocked Andrew in one of the chairs. She was singing softly to him. Andrew was cuddled close to her neck, sucking on his thumb. This was one of the things he loved most about Mary and one the things she rarely let others see.
"Da-Da," Andrew said, faintly, finally noticing Marshall standing there. Andrew made no attempt to move, content in his mother's arms.
"Morning." Marshall kissed them both of the tops of their heads before laying claim to the other chair. "How long have you been up?"
"Just ten minutes or so," Mary told him. "I heard him when he was first waking up and was able to get to him before he realized that he didn't know where he was."
Andrew's wake-ups in the morning were like a three-act play. When he was thrown off his routine, world war three had a tendency to break out. He had definitely inherited his mother temper and reluctance for change and his Nana Jinx's diva behavior.
"So, what do you want to do today?" Marshall asked. It was only their second day at the beach. The first day had been spent exclusively getting settled.
"After last night? We're doing a lazy day at the beach." She smirked at his blushed. "I didn't realize it was possible for someone to scream so intensely and never make a sound."
Andrew sat up suddenly. "Da-Da, 'ancakes?"
"Did you teach him that?" Marshall demanded.
Mary chuckled. "I can neither confirm nor deny that. I'm pretty sure the kid wants bacon, too, though. Right, Bear?"
Andrew nodded as he always did when his mother asked that question. He raised his tiny hands to his father when Marshall stood to go make breakfast. Marshall took him from Mary and into the kitchen. Andrew babbled the entire time.
"He's really turning into a beach bum," Mary commented as she and Marshall watched as Andrew dug a hole in the sand just a few feet in front of their beach chairs. Andrew flashed them a huge grin as if he knew they were talking about him. It was their forth day of vacation and everyday had been spent on the beach.
"He's not the only one," Marshall retorted, his eyes roaming over her sun-kissed skin appreciatively. He grabbed her hand to place a kiss on her wrist before releasing her.
"Do you ever think about having another one?" Mary asked after a few minutes of silence."
"What brought this on?"
Mary shrugged. "Not sure. So, do you?"
"I think about it sometimes. I grew up with three brothers. Some of my best memories from when I was kid were with them. I think about how great it would be for Andrew to grow up with a sibling." Marshall studied her while she kept her gaze on Andrew, trying to decipher exactly what she was rolling around in her head. "You know he's been mine since the second I figured out you were pregnant, right? Genetics be damned."
"I know." Mary gave him a reassuring smile. She had been testing him, despite her best efforts to stop doing that where Marshall was concerned. She knew she had done it anyway and knew he knew, too.
"Then, what's this about?"
"I was just realizing that we never talked about it: having more kids."
Marshall turned in his seat to more fully face her. He captured both of her hands to direct her attention. "You and Andrew are all I need."
"Da-Da! Play!" Andrew demanded.
Marshall released Mary's hands. "Sorry. Da-Da's gotta go play."
"Hey!" Mary burst out. "What do you say we nix the birth control and see what happens?"
Marshall flashed her a huge grin. "Sounds like a plan."
Mary found herself grinning back at him. She settled back into her chair, watching her boys, trying to picture another child with her blond hair and Marshall's blue eyes playing along side of them both. He had passed her test as he had passed all her tests. She couldn't imagine anyone more perfect for her or her children.
"Da-Da. Da-Da," Andrew called out from his crib the next morning. His voice was growing louder with each pronouncement. "Da-Da!"
"Ow!" Marshall exclaimed when Mary elbowed him sharply in the ribs.
"Go get your son," Mary ordered, her face buried in a pillow.
"Da-Da! DA-Da! DA-DA!"
Marshall groaned as he rose out of the bed. "You're the one who kept me up half the night."
"And I have half a mind to do again tonight if you don't stop complaining."
"You are an evil woman."
"DA-DA! DA-DA! DA-DA! DA-DA!" Andrew fired off in rapid succession. Marshall hurried into Andrew's room to find him jumping in the crib, banging a plastic book off the railing. Andrew threw his hands in the air when he saw Marshall, which had the effect of tossing the book into the wall. "Da-Da."
"Good morning, Bear," Marshall told him as he picked him up. Marshall gave him three kisses on his forehead before changing his diaper. "Let's go snuggle with Momma."
"Momma," Andrew agreed, nodding his head solemnly. Andrew crawled right into Mary's arms when Marshall placed him on the bed. He burrowed close to her chest, once again sucking his thumb. Andrew closed his eyes and let out a little sigh of happiness.
"Someday, you're going to have to let me in on your secret for getting him back to sleep like that," Marshall commented, standing over the bed.
Mary opened one eye. "You just need to grow boobs. My son has always been a breast man."
"Just like his daddy. I love your boobs," Marshall sighed, blissfully, just to get a reaction out of Mary.
Mary didn't disappoint as she shot him a glare that made lesser men crumble. "Get in here, idiot."
Marshall giggled as he crawled into the bed. He pulled Mary and Andrew close to him. Andrew shifted slightly so that he could put his free hand into Marshall's hair, patting it as Marshall often patted Andrew's hair. Marshall chanced a glance at Mary. Her eyes were closed, but a small, sweet smile lay upon her face. There were no worry lines on her, no tension in her body. She was more peacefully than he had ever seen here. Marshall moved his hand from her shoulder to her rib cage. He ran his thumb lightly over the side of her breast just to hear her sigh in euphoria.
"You have a beautiful family."
Marshall looked up from the counter where he had been studying the flier of different types of ice cream bars. He glanced back at the corner table where Mary was playing "Itsy Bitsy Spider" with Andrew. She grinned at him when she noticed him staring. Marshall turned his attention back to Sam, who was holding two ice cream cones in his hand.
"You say that everyday, Sam."
Sam chuckled at him. "I mean it everyday. If I was thirty years younger, I'd make a play to steal your wife right from underneath you. How long have you been married anyway?"
"A week on Saturday."
"Really? You act like you've been married for years."
Marshall snickered. "Sometimes, it feels that way."
"What were you two talking about?" Mary asked him when he sat down, handing her one of the cones.
"He was telling me his plan to steal you away from me." Marshall licked the ice cream around the cone once before putting it to Andrew's mouth so he could take a sample.
Mary raked her eyes over Sam critically. "I don't know. He's not bad for an old guy and he keeps me supplied in ice cream."
"Yeah, but can he make you howl at moon?"
Mary choked on her ice cream, heat rushing to her face and groin. She scowled at him when laughed. "I'll make you pay for that one."
Marshall wagged his eyebrows at her. "I most sincerely hope so."
"Da-Da, pay," Andrew told him, glancing between his parents as they bantered.
"You're suppose to be on my side, little man!" Marshall said, pretending to be aghast.
Andrew gave Marshall his best Mary glare causing Mary to burst out laughing. She kissed his temple. "Sorry, Dad. He is Momma's boy. Right, Bear?"
Andrew nodded, which made Mary snort.
"I'll back you pay for that," Marshall retorted.
Mary repeated, "I most sincerely hope so."
Their last full day at the beach was marred by violent thunderstorms rolling off the ocean. Marshall and Andrew say at the front window for hours watching the lightening brighten up the sky and the waves crash violently on the shore. Mary wasn't sure what Marshall was whispering to Andrew, but she occasionally overheard a giggle or a sigh or a solemn "yeah" for their son. She was content to let her boys have their alone time.
Mary occupied her time by putzing around the house, packing up odds and ends. She found one of Andrew's socks under the couch, his toy sailboat in the freezer (Must have been Marshall), and his teddy bear from Nana Jinx in their bath tub. She didn't even want to think of the game that led to that last one. She also found Marshall's t-shirt partially under the crib mattress and her black lace panties on top of the wardrobe. That last find caused her spend some time sitting on the bed, reliving the activities that caused that placement.
The weather cleared just as the moon was beginning to rise over the water. Marshall stepped onto the front porch to find Mary leaning over the railing, taking everything in. Her hair shined in the moonlight; her tanned glowed against her white tank top. A small, pleased smile lay upon her lips. Marshall stood behind her, enveloping her in his arms. She leaned back into him, placing her hands over his. They both sighed pleasurably when Marshall rocked them gently.
"Andrew go down okay?" Mary asked after a few minutes.
"Straight to sleep as always. I think he really had a good time this week."
"I think we all did." Mary paused, briefly. "Did you ever think we'd be here? Together?"
"Honestly? No." Marshall lifted one of her wrists to his lips for a kiss. "But I always dreamed we would. I never gave up on you; on us."
"I'm glad." Mary turned suddenly in his arms, placing her hands around the back of his neck. "What do you think about making this an annual thing?"
"Yeah. Well, vacation here, to this beach. Just us and the kids."
Marshall raised an eyebrow at the use of the word "kids," but wisely said nothing. "I think that sounds wonderful."
Mary, Marshall, and Andrew returned to the same beach house one year later to celebrate Mary and Marshall's one year anniversary. Mary was still "Momma," but Marshall had graduated from "Da-Da" to "Daddy." He took to the beach, the sand, the ocean as if he hadn't been away for the last year. Andrew's dark hair was beginning to lighten slightly as blond highlights settled in. His eyes remained dark as ever. He still agreed with his mother every time she said "Right, Bear?" and still sat with his father for hours watching storms, telling secrets between only the two of them. He no longer slept in a crib and easily climb off the bed each morning to run into his parents' bed for a cuddle session.
Marshall still grabbed Mary's wrist whenever he had the chance to place a kiss on it. Mary still called him "idiot" or "numbnuts" and threatened his manhood on a regular basis. Mary spent her vacation making Marshall scream as silently as possible. Marshall spent several nights making her howl at the moon. They grabbed ice cream every night at Sam's, who commented daily about Marshall's "beautiful family" and joked about stealing Mary away, if only he was thirty years younger. Andrew was old enough for his own ice cream cone and Marshall looked wistfully at him each time he handed Andrew the cone as if unable to believe his son was so grown.
The week went by too fast. Once again, Mary found herself searching the house for odds and ends. She found Andrew's cars under his bed, under their bed, under the couch, in the vegetable drawer of the fridge, and under Marshall's pillow. She found one USB drive of Marshall's in Andrew's clothes and one in the cooler. She assumed they both were fine as she packed them wordlessly into Marshall's bag. Her blue silk panties found their way onto the top of the wardrobe as did Marshall's "I'm Hooked" fish boxers. They spent the last night on the front porch, soaking in the moonlight on the water, the smell of the salt, and the sound of the waves. Mary sat on Marshall's lap until Andrew found his way onto the porch for the third time in an hour. Easy bedtimes were a thing of the past for now.
When they went away from the beach this time, they took more than just fun memories and sun-kissed skin. They named their present Elizabeth Kai Mann; Elizabeth because her mother fashioned her to be willful like "Elizabeth Bennett" and Kai because her father said it meant "ocean," a tribute to where her conception took place. Marshall fretted over Andrew's reaction to his baby sister. Mary fretted over Marshall's fretting giving him an ulcer. In the end, they both worried over nothing. Andrew loved his sister with a fierceness that trumped even Mary's love for Brandi. Marshall did not grow an ulcer, though his teeth grinded more often.
Elizabeth, or as her brother called her, "Lizzie-Beth," was not quite three months old when they returned to the same vacation home. She spent most of her time inside the house, in someone's arms, in her beloved bouncy chair, or asleep in her crib. Her father took most of the day shift so her mother and brother could soak up the sun. Andrew adored the beach as much as ever. Her mother took most of the evening so that her father and brother could hide on the porch, telling secrets they wouldn't share. Mary began to tell her own secrets to Elizabeth and swore she could see Elizabeth smile back at her.
There was no silently screaming or howling at the moon this time around as they kept the portable crib in their room. Elizabeth still woke up two to three times a night. Every morning, Andrew crawled out of his bed and into his parents' room. He stood patiently by his sister's crib, quietly watching until she woke. He waited until one of parents woke enough to get up to tend to Elizabeth before scooting into bed. Morning cuddle time remained one of his favorite activities. Andrew placed himself between his sister and any stranger while they were out and about until his father patted his shoulder, their signal for everything was okay. Sam was so amused by this that he gave Andrew extra sprinkles on all his ice cream cones.
"How's she doing?" Marshall asked, walking onto the porch on their last night.
"Fast asleep," Mary replied, kissing Elizabeth's head. "Andrew?"
Marshall kissed her wrist before sitting in the other chair. "In a deep slumber. He wanted to know if we could stay here forever."
"We've built a good life, haven't we?" Mary pondered.
"It's a wonderful life."
Mary and Marshall groaned at the same time. "I can't believe you just said that."
"Me, either," he agreed.
"Do you ever wish we had done this differently? Gotten together earlier?"
Marshall linked his hand with hers. "Never. If we had done anything differently, we would have Andrew and Elizabeth. We wouldn't have the marriage we have, the friendship, the partnership."
"Marshall?" Mary sighed, blissfully, but he could hear the sarcasm coming. "You really are a sap."
"I love you, too."