Violet was the first one awake. Violet was always the first one awake. Keith was alerted to the fact by the sound of her small feet quickly hitting the hardwood floors before she launched herself into the bed, her shoulder digging right into Keith’s thigh. She giggled quietly as she crawled up towards Keith’s face, her small fingers poking his cheek.
“Daddy, wake up!” She whispered, though it could hardly be called that based on the volume. He let out a loud snore, causing her to giggle and poke his face again.
“I know you’re awake!” She said, still fake whispering. Keith turned his head sideways, pretending to bite her fingers. She squealed and pulled her hand back quickly. She then clambered up over Keith’s body and wormed her underneath the blanket to settle in the middle of the bed.
Keith first looked to his right to see the time. The clock showed a bright red 5:08 AM. Keith sighed and turned to his left. Violet was already asleep, or at least pretending to be convincingly. Lance’s face was hidden behind her hair; the french braids he did in it must have fallen out last night. He appeared to still be asleep. Keith huffed, wishing he still had the same luxury.
Surprisingly, next was Valeria and Lia.
“Hey, Lance?” Lia’s soft voice said from the doorway. Lance lifted his head, spitting out some of Violet’s hair that ended up in his mouth. He was met with the sight of Lia standing in the doorway, Valeria sniffling in her arms.
Lance jumped out of bed and crossed the room, taking Valeria and cradling her against his chest. He put his other hand on Lia’s shoulder.
“You didn’t have to get her, Lia. I’m sorry she woke you up.” Lance said, genuinely apologetic. Lia didn’t sleep much and did this a lot. Violet shuffled around in the bed, but didn’t wake up. He bounced Valeria up and down a few times.
“I was already up. I went to go see if she was okay because I know she doesn’t like being alone in her room. And I knew Violet was already in here,” she explained, shuffling her feet. She’s been living with Keith and Lance for 2 years, but has never broke the habit of over explaining herself.
Lance looked back at the clock on the bedside table. It blinked 6:14 AM. He sighed.
“I’m gonna get Val to calm down. Do you want to join the party?” He asked. Lia shyly nodded and calmly walked over to Lance’s side of the bed. She crawled up and settled gently beside Violet. Keith shuffled towards the edge of the bed, pulling Violet with him to make room for her. Lance wasn’t even sure he was awake.
Valeria seemed to be settling down, so Lance stood with her for a few more minutes bouncing her softly until her breathing evened out. He then gently laid on his back, placing Valeria on his chest, one hand on her back. He drifted into a light sleep, determined to get at least 2 more hours.
The only thing that alerted Keith to Bahati’s arrival in the room was the sound of her sniffling next to his face. He didn’t hear the door, nor her footsteps up to the bed, but the sounds of her crying were unmistakable. Keith opened his eyes and saw her kneeling right next to bed. Her pink comforter was wrapped around her shoulders.
“Hey kiddo what’s wrong?” Keith questioned, already sitting up, rubbing the eye he had pressed against the pillow. He used his other hand to rub the spot in his back where Violet’s foot was wedged.
“My head hurts,” she hiccuped, squinting her eyes like it pained her.
“Hop in bed, I’ll be right back,” Keith replied. He walked to the bathroom to grab the children’s tylenol and a glass of water before walking back to his bed. Bahati’s comforter was abandoned on the floor and she was lying face down in Keith’s spot on the bed.
“Hey, kiddo,” he said softly. Lia opened one eye and promptly closed it after she realized Keith wasn’t talking to her.
Bahati sat up and took both cups from Keith, first drinking the medicine then half the water glass in one sip.
“Thank you,” she mumbled laying back down. Keith looked over at the clock. 6:51 AM. He climbed in bed behind Bahati. There was barely enough room for him, but he made it work. He fell asleep rubbing Bahati’s back.
“Hey! Why didn’t somebody come get me?” Takashi wailed from the doorway, the words garbled behind his crying. Lance lifted his head to talk to him, but then Valeria let out a loud cry right next to his ear. Lance dropped his head back on the pillow.
“Everybody just got here, bud. We were just about to come get you. Why don’t you come on up?” Lance settled on. What the 4 year old didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. Takashi stopped his crying right away and scrambled over to Keith’s side of the bed, putting his arms up. Keith lifted Takashi under his armpits and pulled him into his chest, his one hand coming up over the back of his head to soothe him. Lance lifted his head again to glance at the clock. 7:17 AM. It’s the latest this has happened in a while.
“Hey Dad?” Bahati asked at a volume much too loud for the hour. Or so Keith assumed. “Takashi is on my arm and I gotta go to the bathroom.” She continued. She was in the process of untangling her legs from under Violet. Somehow, everyone ended up tangled with Violet. Keith braced Takashi against his chest and stood up, allowing Bahati to rush to the bathroom. 7:42 AM. He’ll take it.
Takashi seemed to still be asleep, so he laid him back on the bed, putting a pillow next to him so he wouldn’t roll to the edge. The commotion seemed to have woken up Valeria who was started squirming against Lance’s chest.
Keith walked to the other side of the bed and smoothed a hand over Lance’s forehead, pushing his hair back and dropping a kiss there.
“I’ll take her,” he whispered against his hair, lifting Valeria up. Lance let go easily, opening his eyes only to give Keith a soft smile before drifting back to sleep.
Keith took Valeria out to the kitchen and placed her in the high chair, throwing some cheerios on the tray. She yelled “Thanks!” before smacking the tray with her fist sending some flying to the floor. Keith would clean it up later. Navy the golden retrieve got there first. Next, Keith started a pot of coffee and pulled out the ingredients for pancakes as Saturday was pancake day.
A few minutes went by while Keith waited for the coffee to finish before he heard footsteps in the kitchen entrance.
“Since I’m the first one up do I get to pick what goes in the pancakes?” Bahati asked excitedly, bouncing on her toes.
“Hmm, I don’t know I’ll have to think about it,” Keith replied, smiling mischievously at her from where he leaning against the counter, drumming his fingers on the countertop.
“What if I pick strawberries?” She asked, lilting her voice in a way that means she knows she’s already won. She was right of course.
“I guess that’s okay then,” he replied. He began to gather the ingredients for the pancakes while Bahati scampered over to the fridge to pull out the strawberries.
“Should we make blueberry for Papa? They’re his favorite,” Bahati said thoughtfully, her head still stuck in the fridge.
“If you want,” Keith replied. Valeria smacked her hand against the tray again, sending more cheerios flying onto the floor. Ruby the border collie beat Navy to the mess. Bahati kicked the door closed with small boxes of each fruit in her hand before making her way over to Keith to deposit them on the counter.
“Ready?” She asked, bouncing with excitement. She was never up in time to help with Saturday pancakes.
“I’m ready!” A voice yelled from the kitchen doorway about 2 seconds before the source of the voice crashed into Keith’s legs, wrapping their arms around them. Takashi was always up in time to help with Saturday pancakes. He unwound his arms from Keith and jumped up onto the nearby stool, shoving a handful of blueberries in his mouth as he did so. Bahati made a face at him.
“Those are for Papa’s pancakes!” She yelled, pulling the box away. Keith lifted the box from between them before it could escalate anymore. It had already evidently already escalated enough when he heard slow footsteps on the stairs and could see Lia’s blonde head over the railing. Four kids up and he didn’t even have any pancakes on the griddle yet. Takashi and Bahati were still arguing over the blueberries. Valeria smacked her sippy cup off the high chair tray and it hit him in the foot. He’s been shot multiple times, yet this was one of the things that has caused him the most physical pain.
“Can we put chocolate chips in the pancakes?” Lia asked sleepily. Keith was immediately about to agree as Lia never asked for anything, but Takashi had other ideas.
“No! We’re putting blueberries in all the pancakes,” he proclaimed with the certainty of someone with no authority over what went in the pancakes as he was 4 years old.
“How about-” Keith started but was cut off by all three of the older children as they started bickering with each other and Valeria smacked her sippy cup off the tray again. It hit him in the shin this time, “We all make our own pancake batter today?” He continued, hoping to gain back some semblance of control in the kitchen. All three kids turned to him.
“You can do that?” Takashi asked, eyes wide like he had just been told the most amazing thing in the universe. Just wait until he finds out he’s going to disneyland this fall.
Lia nodded exaggeratedly and ran over to the pantry to pull out chocolate chips.
“Hey why don’t you all go wake up Papa and Violet. I’m sure they’d love to make their own pancakes,” Keith suggested in a hopeful voice. Bahati smiled widely before grabbing Takashi’s hand and rushing out of the room. Lia pulled Valeria out of her high chair and hurried after them up the stairs. Keith finally got to pour himself a cup of coffee. He even poured once for Lance too. He’d need it.
Lance heard them before he saw them. It was impossible not to.
“Shhh Lia we gotta surprise him,” Bahati whispered in the doorway. Lance cracked an eye open and saw all his kids minus Violet, who was still asleep next to him, in the doorway.
“Vi! Violet!” Lia whispered loudly after appearing at the foot of the bed. She was tugging on Violet’s foot to get her attention. Violet sat up with a start and was about to yell out until she saw Lia with her finger over her lips, signaling her to be quiet. Violet looked curiously at all her siblings before seeing where Bahati pointed to Lance sleeping on the bed. Violet nodded in response. Lance closed his eyes and tried to hide his smile when they all turned to look at him.
“One, two, THREE!” Violet yelled before all five kids descended on Lance. Lia landed down by his feet, sprawling across both his legs. Bahati and Takashi both threw themselves against his chest on either side, Takashi giving him a sloppy kiss on the cheek. Violet jumped right on his middle, causing him to let out an “oof” right as Valeria smacked her little hands on his thighs.
“Ahhhhh! I’m being attacked by monsters! Help!” Lance yelled as he gently struggled against the kids, “Keith! Help!”
Keith appeared in the doorway, his lips quirked up at the scene in front of him.
“Oh no, Lance! I’ll save you!” Keith yelled, swooping in and grabbing Violet in a bridal carry, lifting her up and blowing raspberries on her stomach. All the kids laughed while Violet squirmed against it, kicking her feet and giggling wildly. Keith gently dropped her back on the bed before asking “Who’s next?” The kids all looked at each other wide eyed.
Before anybody could answer, he grabbed Takashi and hoisted him up onto his hip, running out of the room and down the stairs towards the kitchen.
“Go save your brother!” Lance told the girls as all four of them scrambled off and followed Keith downstairs. Lance followed just as quickly, laughing the whole way.
Ten minutes later, all the kids except Valeria were stationed at the counter with their own individual pancake batter and were throwing an assortment of things into it. Lance stood in the doorway with Valeria on his hip, a soft smile on his face while he watched them all work in intense concentration. Keith kissed the corner of his mouth while shoving a cup of coffee into his other hand. Lance’s wedding ring clinked against the ceramic of the cup. The noise caused Navy and Ruby to lift their heads towards the source of the noise.
“This is the smoothest pancake Saturday we’ve had in a long time,” Keith said, eyes soft as he looked at Lance. The only light in the kitchen was that of the morning coming in through the windows. They bounced off Lance’s curls and lit up his eyes. Keith’s eyes somehow got softer.
“Says you. Violet crushed all my internal organs this morning,” Lance mumbled around the rim of his coffee mug.
“Well Valeria hit me with her sippy cup. Twice,” Keith replied, sticking his tongue out at Valeria when she clapped at hearing her name mentioned. Lance winced in understanding.
Valeria dropped her sippy cup on his foot.
“Papa that’s $2.25 for the swear jar.”
By 9:30 AM, all the kids were just finishing up breakfast, bringing their plates up to the sink for Keith to wash. Lance stood next to him with wet paper towels wiping off each kids face as they came up, even Lia and Bahati when they squirmed away with cries of “I’m old enough to wipe my own face!”
Pancake Saturday in the McClain-Kogane household was always chaotic. At least one plate always broke (Lance’s today), one kid cried (unsurprisingly, Valeria today), and one shirt got ruined (surprisingly, Lia’s today).
“Hey, Keith?” Lia questioned once everyone else left the room. Keith turned to look at her and hummed, pausing in washing the dishes.
“Could I collect eggs today? I don’t really like feeding the goats that much.”She paused as if considering her next sentence “If not that’s okay I mean I can-”
“Lia,” he cut her off, smiling, “That’s fine. Go get dressed, bud.” She smiled and turned to leave the kitchen. Keith smiled to himself. After two years, she was finally getting comfortable enough to ask for the things she wanted.
“PAPA!” Violet screamed, her yellow polka dotted rain boots splashing up mud in all directions as she bolted away from the two goats in the pen. The metal bucket in her hands smashed against her knees as she ran as fast as her six year old legs would carry her. She only stopped once she was safely behind Lance’s legs. The goats looked on, unamused. They hadn’t moved an inch.
“Violet, the goats aren’t going to hurt you. We come out here every weekend and you feed them everytime. What’s wrong?” When Lance looks down at her, there are tears gathering in her eyes, threatening to spill over. Lance quickly drops down onto his knees, ignoring the mud soaking through his jeans. He puts his hands on Violet’s shoulders.
“Violet, hey. It’s alright. I’ll go with you okay?” she hiccups and nods. Lance stands up and takes her hand, the one that’s not holding the bucket. They slowly walk over to the goat and Lance reaches out of pets his head.
“See? It’s fine. You try.” Violet hesitantly reaches out a hand and pets the goat. Nothing happens. She beams at him. Lance smiles back even wider.
Keith lead Valeria and Takashi over to the vegetable garden by the hands.
“Okay guys! Are you ready to help me with the garden?” Takashi nodded eagerly and Valeria clapped her hands together. She was just excited to play in the dirt. He let go of both of their hands and Valeria dropped right into it. Her overalls were covered in mud already.
“Okay, see this plant right here?” He asked them pointing at a mature tomato plant. Valeria blinked at him and Takashi nodded eagerly. “See how some of them are green and some are red?” he pointed at each fruit respectively. “We’re gonna pick the red ones and put them in the basket. Can you do that?” Keith asked gently, trying to hold Takashi’s attention.
“Yeah! That’s easy! I learned my colors last year!” Takashi proclaimed, getting right to work in gently pulling the ripe tomatoes off the vine. Keith looked over at Valeria in time to see her pull a sprout of something out of the ground and put it in her mouth.
:Valeria! That’s yucky!” He said, gently pulling it from her mouth, but she’d be fine. A little dirt won’t hurt. Valeria bit down on his finger in repayment. Keith looked over his shoulder before spinning them both to face the other way.
“Here try this,” he said, breaking the ends off a sugar snap pea and giving it to her the gnaw on. She smiled around the vegetable at him. Keith also took one for himself.
“Dad look!” Takashi yelled, tilting his basket to show Keith all the tomatoes he collected. This tilting resulted in a fair amount of them rolling into the dirt of the garden. Takashi looked heartbroken and his lip started to wobble.
“Hey bud it’s okay! We have to wash them up anyway before we can use them. I’ll help you pick them up and then we can go wash them up okay?” Keith asked, hoping to soothe him. It worked like a charm and Takashi was bouncing around the garden, picking up the fallen tomatoes and even some new ones off the vine. Keith couldn’t stop the smile from spreading across his face.
“Lance, I don’t think I want to do this anymore,” Lia said, eyeing the hen warily. Bahati was already working her way around the other side of the coop, singing a song to herself. The words consisted of “picking up some eggs, getting some eggs, gotta get those eggs”. Lance thought it was grammy worthy.
“Lia you just gotta go for it. Worst that happens is you lose a finger like me!” Lance replied cheerily, holding up his right hand and showing where half his pinky was missing, definitely not the result of a chicken incident. Lia did not look impressed. “Seriously though, look at Bahati go. She’s not getting hurt. I’ll go with you.” Lia took a step closer and then a step back again.
“What if it pecks me?” She asked, not taking her eyes off the hen she approached.
“Then we get you a band aid. It’ll be okay I promise. Ready?” Lance asked. Lia looked at the chickens one more time before nodding and sticking out her hand. Lance grabbed it and walked with her towards the hen. Lia reached in the box and when she pulled her hand back out, there was an egg in it.
“Lance! I did it! Look!” She said excitedly, holding the egg up.
“Good job, Lia! I told you that you could!” He said, grinning brightly, holding out his basket for the egg for Lia to gently deposit it in.
“Good job, Lia! You’re so brave!” Bahati called from outside the coop, genuinely proud of her sister. Lia beamed and went back for more eggs.
“Papa! Come here quick!” Bahati called from right outside the coop. Lance rushed out to find Bahati on her stomach, half under the raised part of the coop. She was wiggling backwards and when her head popped out there were twigs in her hair and a small chick in her hands. “Look!” She said excitedly, pushing the chick towards his face.
“Did you find that all by yourself?” Lance asked, mystified. She was all the way under to coop. He has no idea how she saw it.
“Yeah! I heard him under there and knew I had to go get him! Look how cute!” She said, cooing and running her finger over the chick’s head. “Should we put him in the coop?”
“I think that’s perfect, Bahati. You’re like an animal scientist already,” Lance praised. The 9 year old’s face lit up as she pulled the chick closer to her face again. Lance smiled softly at her.
By 1pm all the farm work was done and everyone was washing up for lunch. Lance placed another sandwich on a plate and slid it over to Keith so he could place some sliced vegetables from the garden on it. Keith then filled a cup up with the child’s drink of choice and brought it over to them at the table. The system worked. Usually.
“Takashi took my sandwich!” Violet said loudly from the table while trying to pull the plate out from the place in front of her brother. Jelly was smeared all over his face and the rest of the sandwich was already on both his hands. Keith doubted she wanted it back. Before he could intervene, Lia did.
“Hey, Vi,” she said gently, putting her hand on the corner of the plate, “Why don’t you just wait until the next one. I know you’re a patient big girl and can do it.” Violet instantly settled down and sat back in her chair, determined to be seen as mature by her older sister. Lia looked hesitantly up at Keith and Lance as they both gave her wide smiles.
Saturday afternoons were lazy in the McClain-Kogane household. They consisted of everyone laying around various positions inside and outside the house. The weather today was beautiful, sunny and not too hot, and therefore everyone was outside.
Lance and Keith sat close on the porch steps, whispering like teenagers that haven’t been married for 10 years. Their eyes kept flicking from each other to the various children spread throughout the yard.
Bahati was laughing loudly across the yard with a bag of treats in her hand and she waved both sticks and her arms around wildly trying to get Navy and Ruby to do tricks for her. Every now and then, she actually succeeded, causing her face to light up. There were still twigs in her hair.
Lia was under the tree in the right side of the yard. She was holding a book in her right hand that she was reading out loud softly while her left hand carded through the thin hair on a dozing Valeria’s head.
Violet and Takashi were chasing each other around the yard with sticks, fighting. Violet screeched and she lunged at Takashi, but overshot and fell face first into the dirt. Takashi instantly dropped to his knees on the ground next to her to comfort her.
None of them ever wanted to be anywhere else.
“Lia is really mature for her age,” Lance said conversationally on the back porch. The afternoon sun was glinting off his hair, he looks like he hasn’t slept in 6 weeks, and he looks gorgeous. Keith tells him the last two of those things. Lance rolls his eyes fondly.
“You know what she’s gone through. I’m proud of her. She’s really starting to open up to us” Keith replied, remembering himself at that age. All Lia and him at that age had in common is dead parents (supposedly) and a closed off attitude.
“Yeah, she is,” Lance replied.
“Bahati told me she wants to be an animal scientist. I’m not exactly sure what she meant by that but I do know our house is about to become a real zoo soon.” Lance started after a lull in conversation.
“Lance, we already have 2 dogs, 3 goats, 14 chickens, and 2 pigs. I think we’re already part way there.”
“Actually, 15 chickens now.”
“Violet told me that she hates yellow today.”
“Her whole room is yellow.”
“All her clothes are yellow.
“Literally everything she owns is yellow.”
“I think Takashi is starting to take after his namesake.” Keith says warily as he watches Takashi climb up on top of the dog house with the only intention being to jump off of it.
“No hoverbikes until he’s 16.”
“Valeria ate a plant today. Like she just straight up pulled it out of the ground and ate it. I couldn’t even stop her. Why are kids like this?”
“Like you wouldn’t just eat a plant out of the ground if you didn’t know what it was.”
“Yeah. You’re right. I wouldn’t.”
Dinner that night was a family affair.
“Who’s turn is it to bring dinner this time?” Lia asked from her spot on the floor, face shoved in the same book from earlier.
“Uncle Shiro’s,” Lance replied offhandedly from where he was building blocks with Takashi. Takashi concentrated hard on balancing the tower and clapped victoriously every time he got it up another level. Lance was careful not to knock it over for fear disaster would strike.
Bahati groaned from her spot next to Lia on the floor. “But Uncle Shiro can’t cook at all. Why does he still get a turn?”
“Kiddo, you and I both know he has never cooked a single meal since that one time. It’s all Adam and I will not hear you complain about the out of body experience that is Adam’s food.” Keith replied from there he was trying to braid Violet’s hair. She wanted it to be fancy for when Grandma saw it. The braid kept slipping out of Keith’s fingers, and everytime he dropped her hair, she’d turn to glare at him, causing him to drop more.
“Uncle Adam’s food is the best!” Violet exclaimed from the floor in front of Keith. He dropped more hair.
“Is Aunt Allura coming?” Bahati questioned, not able to keep the excitement out of her voice. Allura was probably her favorite person on earth.
“Of course. Aunt Romelle too. They’re bringing Rordar, too, so you guys can finally meet him.”
“Baby!” Valeria yelled from her spot in the playpen like she wasn’t a baby herself.
“Baby.” Lance replied back solemnly.
Dinner thankfully went off without a hitch. Coran didn’t set anything on fire this time. Allura and Romelle’s baby was not harmed by any of Keith and Lance’s rambunctious children. Adam’s cooking was delicious and not prepared in anyway by Shiro. Pidge brought her fiancée and she didn’t run off screaming. Neither Hunk, nor his and Shay’s children, took anything valuable apart (that couldn’t be back together). All of Krolia’s knife tricks in the backyard were safe enough for the vicinity of children. Keith and Lance breathed a sigh of relief.
Valeria’s bedtime was first. Keith laid her down in the crib on her back and removed everything from her crib while Lance covered her lower half with a light blanket. They both stood at the side of her crib; Lance’s right hand was in Keith’s back pocket while his left hand rubbed Valeria’s foot. Keith ran his fingers through her thin hair. Lance sang her an old lullaby.
Takashi’s bedtime was next. Surprisingly, he didn’t even fight them this time.
“I want to hear the story about the blue lion again!” He said, his eyes already blinking closed and popping back open. Lance sat down on the edge of the bed while Keith took the floor. Keith put his hand on Lance’s knee as he sprung into a dramatic story. Lance rubbed Takashi’s back until he fell asleep.
Violet’s bedtime did not go so easily.
“There. Is. A. Monster. In. There.” She said quietly, pointing at the slightly open closet door. Lance glanced back at it then back at Violet.
“I’ll check, okay. Keith, be my backup?” He asked, his lips quirking up into a smile. Keith stifled a laugh and nodded. Lance cautiously opened the door while Violet pulled her blanket up over her face, making sure not to wake up Valeria who was sleeping across the room. Keith put his arm around her shoulder while Lance made a show of flicking on the light and moving everything around before shutting the door again, leaving the light on.
“I think you’re all safe since the light is on. Is there anything else you need me to do?” Violet shook her head back and forth.
“Thank you for being so brave, Papa!”
Bahati and Lia’s bedtime was the easiest. Usually it was a quick kiss on the forehead, an exchange of “I love you’s”, and that was it. Not tonight.
When they walked in, Bahati and Lia were exchanging looks across the room. Lia gave a small nod before Bahati spoke up.
“Can you read us a story tonight?” Keith and Lance met eyes and smiled. The girls never asked for a bedtime ritual before.
45 minutes and one story later, Keith and Lance collapsed on the couch. It was barely past 9 PM, yet Lance feels like he hasn’t slept in 6 weeks. Keith was sitting upright against the couch and Lance was sprawled across him sideways. He head was on Keith’s shoulder and his head was tucked into Keith’s neck. Keith ran his fingers through Lance’s hair and Lance hummed in response. Sometimes the strands got stuck in Keith’s wedding ring. Lance has never been happier in his life.
“Let’s go to bed.”