“I hate you,” Sean slurred into his phone, barely awake. “I saw you 10 hours ago what do you want?” He refused to get out of bed. He was supposed to have the day off, it was his one day off a week dammit.
“Melanie woke up with a migraine,” Christopher said.
Sean winced in sympathy. “Shit,” he said. He knew they hit her hard. “Need me to come out?”
“Yes but not to help with chores,” Christopher said.
“Okay?” Sean sat up. “I’m really going to hate this aren’t I?”
“There is an end of school year field trip coming in today, to learn about animals,” Christopher explained. “I can’t do it without back up.”
“Fucking hell, Chris,” Sean groaned.
“They are six years old. There are going to be 21 six year olds on the farm, and Melanie who is good with kids has a migraine.”
“Your children are only 40% pure evil, you had a part in that,” Sean said. Always felt weird to call them children, but he remembered them with scraped knees, not the doctor and member of parliament they were. God they were getting old.
“Please? Please?” Christopher just kept begging.
“Fine, I’m coming,” Sean said getting up.
“Best little brother ever.”
“Whatever,” Sean said and hung up. He had a shower and made a quick breakfast with a cup of coffee. He sent a message to Mikey saying he was at the farm if there were any problems and then went to the wardrobe. His usual at the farm clothes were pretty gross and he figured he had to look a little better than the denim with a rip on the arse. He went to the laundry pile on the chair and found the one pair of intact denim and did a quick sniff to confirm that had been the clean laundry pile. There was also a pair of socks and an old but decent black t-shirt. It would all do. He got dressed and put on his boots and headed out to the farm. He smiled as he saw his brother blowing up balloons and the welcome sign. Sean got out of his car and went over. “Oi, bit fancy innit?”
“Shut it, I like the field trips ok?” Christopher muttered.
Sean helped him set up.
Michelle looked at her phone. “Aww crap,” she said. The whole table even babies looked at her. “Right which of you can spare the day?”
“Why, Mum?” Eggsy asked.
“Daisy’s field trip is short a parent,” Michelle explained. “I’m on baby duty today, and they are desperate. So either one of you is going on the field trip or staying home with the babies so I can go.”
“I’m not allowed on any more field trips,” Harry pointed out. “Remember? Lifetime ban.”
Percival pinched his nose. “Remember? We aren’t supposed to be proud of that fact. I have meetings all day.”
“Same,” Roxy agreed.
Tilde shook her head. “I am doing that presentation at the college about career opportunities.”
Michelle looked at her son. “Sorry, Mum,” Eggsy said. “You know I’d do it in a sec, but I have meetings too.”
“I can stay with the babies,” Merlin offered. “I have a video call planned today, but can easily do it from home.” His scent went all pleased and Eggsy laughed at him.
“Talking to our crush again are we?” Eggsy teased.
“I dinnae have a crush,” Merlin muttered.
“You totally have a crush,” Eggsy said. “You want to smooch her brain.”
Michelle glared at Merlin. “Excuse me?” He was not going to be stepping out on her son, she’d kill him.
“Don’t worry, Mum,” Eggsy reassured her. “It’s this woman he met in an online forum. He trolls them to see what people say about our games. She mentioned a glitch, and how it possibly happened and was right. Merlin sent her a message and they got to talking. Now they do this code monkey talking that only they can understand. It’s adorable. It’s like a play date. Merlin has a friend that isn’t one of us. He is engaging in humanity.” Eggsy sounded so proud. “On his own, like a real big boy.”
“I’ll show ye big boy later,” Merlin growled low and Eggsy tilted his neck and leaned in. “I like her skills, and am trying to lure her away. She is wasted in the american company she works with. But I haven’t figured out the right job offer, she laughs off everything I throw at her. I wanna play with her brain in person.”
Tilde looked up. “This is that Ginger person yes?” Merlin nodded. “I read the file you created on her. She would definitely be an asset to the team. Have you mentioned covering all Visa expenses and setting up a flat?”
“No, I’ll do that this time,” Merlin said eager.
“So do you want to sleep with this person?” Michelle demanded.
“Ewww, no, I just want to play with her brain,” Merlin said. “I only want to shag my mate, Michelle, I swear.”
“Okay, then, play away?” Michelle agreed. “And that means you stay home with the babies and I go on the field trip with Daisy.”
“Wooo, we’re going to the McKnight farm, there might be baby chickens teacher said,” Daisy chimed in.
“McKnight?” Michelle asked. When she signed the permission slip she hadn’t really paid attention. Crap. But at least Sean was unlikely to be there. It was no big deal. “Well, we should get ready,” she said. “Farm at least means don’t have to dress all fancy like that field trip to city hall.” Jeans and a shirt would do fine. “Come on then! Field trip day!”
Daisy shouted and ran to finish getting ready. The table slowly dispersed those heading into the city leaving, and Eggsy telling Merlin to have fun on his play date.
Merlin settled into the family room with the babies, on the ground and let them all crawl over him. It was their favourite game to play, the little ones all adoring the scent of the pack alpha. They were all tumbling about when Michelle and Daisy poked their heads in to say goodbye, Daisy quickly running in for a quick tackle of Merlin, who gave her a nuzzle and sent her on the way.
Hunter tried to copy his father’s growl and it was the cutest thing Merlin ever heard. He recorded it and then put Hunter in his exosaucer, removing the safety bottom so that he could scoot around. Merlin remembered to close the door to the family room; Hunter would escape otherwise. Merlin had a grand time playing with the babies until his watch reminded him of the time. He turned the computer in the corner on and in a moment was accepting a skype call. “Ginger!” he said cheerfully.
“Merlin, hi,” she replied. “You seem to have something growing on you.”
“I do? Where?” Merlin spun his chair a couple times quickly and Zoe giggled. “I don’t see anything.” Zoe booped him and he swung her into his lap. “Oh this old thing?” He nuzzled her. “This is my Zoe.” He gestured behind him. “Izzy is there asleep on a stuffed animal and Hunter is trying to make a break for it.”
“All yours?” she asked in surprise.
“Nae, just Zoe, the other two are pack.” Merlin smiled. “Now let’s talk that file you sent me, because it is crap.” The two talked shop for almost an hour with breaks for Merlin to ride herd on the babies. Eventually Zoe fell asleep in his arms. “Christ I wish they would sync their naps.”
“No nanny?” Ginger asked. She knew how busy Merlin was.
Merlin shook his head. “We’ve tried. We are…a unique pack and have scared off multiple nannies. No agency will work with us. But we are looking and happy to use our contacts to bend some Visa laws to our whims,” Merlin’s grin sharpened. “Which we would also be happy to do for you if ye came to work for Kingsman. And we also could provide a flat,” Merlin cajoled. “You know you want to work for me.”
“I do,” Ginger admitted and she looked sad. “I really do, but I have concerns about my mate.”
“Your mate?” Merlin asked. “I have an incredible human resources director.”
“He’s not really an indoors computer kind of guy.” Ginger held up a finger. “Bobby baby? Wanna meet my friend?”
“Hell yeah!” Merlin blinked when a very attractive and muscled man popped up on the screen. “Howdy, heard a lot about you and BABY!” the guy said. “Aww, Ging, look at the baby!” he waved even though Zoe was asleep. “Hiya!”
“Hello, Bobby,” Merlin said. The guy never took his eyes off of Zoe. “Pleasure to meet you.”
“How old is she?”
“10 months, thereabouts,” Merlin said. He shifted her in his arms and heard a crash behind him. “HUNTER JAMES HART! No battle axes until you are 10!” Merlin hurried over and picked up Hunter who had been trying to climb the wall. “Sorry about that.”
“Can’t blame a little tyke for being curious,” the man said. “I need to go, nice to meet you Ginger’s nerd friend.” He gave a wave and was gone.
Merlin corralled Hunter and put on Pocoyo, it might distract him for a bit. He turned back to the screen and Ginger looked a little embarrassed. “Sorry, he really likes babies.” She sighed a bit. “I’d love to come work for you, but he would need work too, and I don’t think there are a lot of jobs for ex-rodeo clowns in England.”
Merlin could hear Hunter trying to climb out of the play yard. He smiled slowly. “Ginger I might have an idea for a job for your mate. Let’s talk.”
Ginger was a little scared of that smile. It was a her life was about to change smile.
Sean watched the kids all burst off the bus and laughed at their enthusiasm. He watched the teacher attempt to line them up, the room aid and parents forming a loose wall to stop any kid from wandering too far. For a moment he thought he saw someone familiar but they were hidden behind a father. The kids walked in a line and he went to open the gate for them. “Hiya,” he said cheerfully. “Welcome to the McKnight farm.”
“Hi Mr. McKnight,” the children all chorused.
“Hi, Mr. Sean,” Daisy said and gave him a big wave. “Hi!”
“Hello, Daisy,” Sean replied.
“Mummy’s here, hiding behind Mr. Gupta. Mummy why are you hiding from Sean? You always smile a happy smile when you talk about Sean. Shouldn't you give him your happy smile?” Daisy asked trying to see her mum. All the kids turned too. The adults as well.
“Not hiding,” Michelle said, her scent completely embarrassed. “Hi, Sean.”
“Hi, Michelle,” he replied. He realized he was holding everyone up. “This is my brother’s farm and he is waiting for you over by the barn. He has lots of exciting things to show you.” Sean waited until everyone was through and then closed the gate carefully. He then brought up the rear of the group, where Michelle happened to be. “I didn’t realize this was Daisy’s class. My brother was short a pair of hands, asked me to help.”
“Why I’m here, they ended up short a pair of hands.”
Christopher had laid out some blankets and the kids all sat and he did a short talk about the farm and taking care of the animals. He did great, and the kids got super excited when they got to see a real pig. “It’s huge!” a kid shouted.
“They are, much much bigger than people realize,” Christopher explained. The children all lined up to pet the pig.
“I need to help with seeing the baby chicks,” Sean said.
“Sure, I need to help get snacks ready,” Michelle explained.
Sean took half the kids into the chicken barn and would switch off in a little bit. He explained about chickens and showed them the hatching coop and the kids were very excited about the baby chickens. They switched off and then it was snack break for the kids. Sean helped Christopher get things ready for the greenhouse tour and Christopher nudged him. “That’s the woman isn’t? The one you swoon over?” He pointed at Michelle.
“I don’t swoon.”
“I have heard you spend 20 minutes talking about the colour of her hair, which come on clearly comes out of a bottle,” Christopher said and Sean kicked him.
“So what if it does?” Sean replied, “Still looks good on her don’t it?”
“Ask her out,” Christopher said.
“Shove off, it’s not that easy.”
“You open your mouth and say a sentence. It’s not that hard.”
“Scuse me? Mr. Sean?” Daisy asked.
Sean crouched down. “Hi, Daisy, need the loo?”
“No thank you,” she said. “I have a lolly.” She held out the lollipop.
“Need help with the wrapper?” Sean reached out.
“It’s got 3 flavours,” Daisy explained. “It’s a fancy pants one. You can have it if you take Mummy out for food.”
Christopher had to run away before he laughed in the little girl’s face.
“I’m sorry?” Sean asked.
“I heard everyone talking. Eggsy said you like Mummy and Mummy likes you. Tilde tried to let you know we were okay with it. And I guess Merlin Merlined? Percival was disappointed in his bluntness.” Daisy waved the lolly in front of his face. “And Hawwy…” Daisy took a breath., “Harry said maybe if we gave you something you’d get it together and tell Mummy you like her. So lolly. Mummy needs to hear that people like her. Sometimes she’s sad and scared of people. My alpha da was mean but I’m not supposed to know about that.” Daisy smiled. “So…lolly. To be nice to Mummy.”
Sean’s heart melted. “Daisy, it doesn’t quite work like that.”
“Harry bought Eggsy a car to like Merlin,” Daisy said. “I can’t afford a car. I have 10 monies in my piggy bank. It’s a really good lolly.” She noticed the pocket on Sean’s shirt and put the lolly in it and patted his shoulder. “There you go. You just think about it. Mummy likes the pub.” Daisy skipped back to her friends.
“What the hell is that pack teaching that girl?” Sean said out loud. He stood up and went through the motions of the rest of the field trip, being mostly useless for his brother. The kids all thanked them and were loaded onto the bus. Michelle was one of the last on the bus. Daisy banged on the window and point at Sean’s pocket. “Hey, Michelle?” Sean said.
“Yes?” Michelle smiled at him. “We have to go.”
“I know. No, I know. It was just nice to see you.” He touched the lolly and took a breath. “The pub has a good local band in on Tuesday nights.”
“That’s nice.” The teacher called and Michelle nodded and stepped onto the bus. “Thanks for the head’s up.” Michelle said and was gone, the bus pulling away.
Christopher walked up and plucked the lolly out of his pocket. “That was pathetic. And you don’t get this until there is an actual date.” He shook his head. “You are an idiot.” He walked back to the house, leaving Sean alone.
That night when all the kids were asleep, Michelle was sitting with all the adults and a few bottles of wine were open. “Sean mentioned the pub has a good band on Tuesdays.” Her eyes widened. “Oh god, I think he was about to ask me out.”
Everyone was about to answer to that when Merlin coughed, “I hired an American ex-rodeo clown biological alpha to be our new nanny.”
“I…okay which do we address first?” Eggsy asked into the stunned silence.
“His nickname is Tequila,” Merlin added.
“Sorry, Mum, we’ll sort out that fumble of a date ask in a second,” Eggsy decided. “What the fuck Merlin?”
“I wanted Ginger’s brain, this was the price we pay!” Merlin replied. The whole family exploded talking over each other and Michelle went up to her room.
She needed to figure out if maybe Sean had been about to ask her out.
And if he had, what would she want to say. That thought kept her up for hours.