Dawn's hooves clacked as she typed away on her laptop. She would periodically look up from her current novel to check on her lambs, smiling as she watched Trevor poring over his new B&B books, writing down notes in a little notebook on the side while laying on his belly on the carpet in front of the couch. Lily was sitting to Dawn's left on the couch, focused on her sketchpad, working on her drawing. The ewe felt her heart swell as she looked on, watching her children with pure joy. Presently, Vernon was with Alice at her team's practice. They were all looking forward to Alice's team's first game, the young pup easily the most excited.
After finishing off a final paragraph for the chapter. Dawn saved before moving the laptop off her lap and stretching a little. She leaned over and saw that Lily was sketching a picture of her, sitting on the couch, typing on her laptop. Dawn smiled, quickly scooting over to giver her youngest a hug. "Well aren't you just the little artist," Dawn said as Lily let out a giggle.
"It's you, Mommy!" Lily elatedly said, proudly showing Dawn the picture.
"It sure is," was Dawn's reply, which was followed up with a kiss to the top of Lily's headmane, which was currently braided again into a ponytail. After finding out how much Lily had enjoyed it when Qali first braided her long patch of headfur, Dawn had made sure to muzzletime with the arctic vixen in order to learn how to properly do it, in the process learning that Qali had first learned how to do it with a horse friend of hers she would have sleepovers with when they were children. Lily had been delighted when Dawn had first surprised her, after Dawn had managed to successfully do it with her hooves.
"It's a lovely picture, sweetie," Dawn said, giving her one more squeeze. She hopped off the couch and walked over to Trevor, the little black lamb looking up at her and letting out an involuntary happy bleat.
"So I take it that you're excited to play Beasts and Battalions with Mommy and Daddy tonight?" Dawn playfully asked.
"Uh-huh! I'm almost done making my character!" Trevor said, holding up the notebook he had been taking notes in, flipping back a few pages to his character. In the bottom left corner was a crayon-colored drawing of a black ram wizard, holding a fireball in his left hoof. While not as detailed as his little sister's drawings, Dawn praised him for his artistic attempts as well, giving his black head poof a pat, before looking over his hoof-made character sheet for Arzoth the Firesome.
"Oooh, you went with a Sorcerer; good choice, sweetie," Dawn said, looking at the spell list and the stats.
"Yeah, he likes to throw fireballs and fight zombies!" Trevor said excitedly.
"Oh? Well, we may just have to make sure that he has some zombies to fight tonight, then," Dawn said with a wink. "Now, how about a snack, hmm?"
"Can we have ice cream?" Lily asked, perking up and cocking her head to the side, similar to how her big sister cocked her head.
"I was thinking something a little more healthy, but maybe tonight after dinner."
"'Kay," Lily said energetically.
"Nice try, Lily," Trevor said with a smile. Just as Dawn was heading to the kitchen, she heard the front door open. Turning, she saw her mate enter, the large wolf with a much smaller wolf in her blue soccer jersey perched on his shoulder, both looking elated, two tails wagging.
"We're home!" Vernon called out, only to suddenly find Lily and Trevor latched onto his legs, Lily hugging the left while Trevor hugged the right. Vernon chuckled as he bent down to hug them back, before picking Alice up off his shoulder and setting her down next to them.
"How was practice?" Dawn asked, starting to feel their combined enthusiasm.
"She's a natural, Lamb Chop," Vernon stated with obvious pride, making the little black wolf pup blush and look embarrassed.
"I'm okay," Alice said.
"That you are, Allie," Vernon said, reaching down once again, this time to ruffle Alice's headfur. "And we can't wait to cheer you on at your first game." Trevor and Lily both audibly agreed.
"...Thank you..." Alice said in a small voice before dashing upstairs to change out of her uniform, Dawn spying the corners of her muzzle turned up in a smile as her oldest daughter jogged by. Dawn turned and beamed at her mate, who was currently swarmed with Trevor and Lily, both attempting to climb him to show off their projects. Dawn slipped away to make a large plate of snacks, returning shortly after to find Alice already back in the living room, now dressed in some jeans and a shirt, wrestling Lily, who giggled. Vernon was sitting on the couch, Trevor in his lap, with his notebook and B&B books open, the two discussing his character.
Dawn set the platter of various fruit slices on the coffee table, happy to see Alice scramble over at the sight of the apple slices, Dawn having learned early on that Alice loved apples, especially the sour green ones. She also included grapes and clover crackers, for Lily and Trevor respectively. She blushed when her lambs all thanked her, before each taking some of the provided snacks. As Vernon and Trevor resumed their discussion, and Dawn asked Alice about her practice, and listened to her story. Both she and Vernon would look over at Lily, who busied herself with her drawing again, making sure to ask their little mystery mammal questions and otherwise ensure that she felt included. It was just as Vernon was about to get up and offer to start dinner, that Dawn felt her phone buzz. Taking a second to unlock it, she saw that it was her mother calling, and she immediately answered.
"Hi, Mom," Dawn said.
"Hello, Dawnie, sweetie!" Clover responded, sounding excited. "Me and Cammy were talking and we were wondering if now would be a good day to come by and meet the grandchildren."
Dawn paused for a moment, "O-oh! Well... I suppose that it would be alright."
"Oh, wonderful! See you all in a little bit, Dawnie!" the older ewe said before hanging up.
"So they're coming over, Darlin'?" Vernon asked.
"It looks like, Puppy Love," Dawn said, before turning her attention to her lambs, all three of whom were looking at her for an explanation.
"Well, kids, your grandma and grandpa are going to be coming over in a little bit for a visit," she said.
"From the ranch daddy was talking about?" Lily asked, having set down her sketching pad.
"No, sweetheart," Vernon said, "that's my ma and pa. This is your Granma Clover and Grampa Cameron; they live in the city."
"Are they nice?" Lily asked, starting to look nervous. Dawn slipped down from the couch and walked over to her daughter, giving her a hug.
"They sure are," she said, "and they're both just going to love all three of you." Dawn and Vernon briefly shared a look. Whenever the subject of their extended family would come up, all three children would seem more nervous than excited, especially Lily, who so far was the most prone to asking if they were nice.
Satisfied with the grin on Lily's face, Dawn and Vernon then set about checking to see what needed straightening up before the arrival. In less than an hour, the doorbell signified the arrival of the grandparents, and Dawn, starting to feel eager, made her way to the door. She looked back to see Vernon, now with Lily and Trevor in his lap on the couch, Alice sitting next to them, looking vigilant as per her default setting. That brought a slight pang to Dawn's heart, but she quickly brushed it away, throwing open the door to the sight of her mother, an older ewe, and her stepfather, Cameron, the older russet fox holding a stack of boxes.
"Hi, mom! Hello, Cameron!" Dawn said, her mother suddenly pulling her into a hug.
"Oh, Dawnie," Clover said, nuzzling her daughter's head poof before letting go, "I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am that I'm finally going to get to meet my grandlambs!"
"We're both very excited, Dawn," Cameron said, his muzzle peeking around the boxes, his glasses slightly askew, "and we decided to bring some gifts for the kits."
"Oh, that's so sweet! But you didn't have to go and do that," Dawn said before offering to take some of the boxes.
"We wanted to," Cameron replied, "and it's quite alright, I've got them."
Dawn stepped aside and ushered her mother and stepfather in. They made their way to the living room. There was a brief moment of silence as Alice eyed the newcomers, having scooted closer to her brother and sister, the latter of whom was hugging the former close to herself, almost involuntarily.
"Well hi there, Clover," Vernon said to his mother-in-law, his tail already thumping, which Dawn noticed helped to make Lily visibly calm, "and howdy, Cameron."
"Hello, Vernon," Clover said, smiling brightly at the sight of her grandlambs as Cameron made his way to the coffee table, setting the boxes down on top, spreading all three out next to one another.
"It's nice to see you again, Vernon," he said, stepping back and smiling at the children.
"Kids," Dawn said, walking over to stand next to where they were sitting on the couch, "this is your grandma and grandpa. Mom, Cameron, this is Alice, Lily, and Trevor."
"Hello there," Clover said, waving a hoof. She blushed a little when she felt Cameron rest an arm around her waist, and felt his big bushy tail flick itself over her legs. Both the older ewe and fox looked to the three children, both pausing briefly when they looked upon the partially hidden Lily, but said nothing.
"Hi... uhm... Gramma and Grampa!" Lily said, surprising Dawn, Vern, and even Alice and Trevor. The little mystery mammal still looked a bit shy, but was clearly making an effort to be brave and show her enthusiasm. The sight of the brightly colored pink and blue boxes on the coffee table also piquing her curiosity. Clover cooed while Cameron gave her a squeeze. The tension broken, the children began to relax, much to Clover's joy. She wasted no time in offering hugs and cuddles to her grandlambs, keeping in mind what Dawn had said before about possibly overwhelming them. Cameron, despite his usual formal mannerisms, was also quick to show affection to his new grandkits.
"Oh, it is just so nice to finally be able to meet you three," Clover warmly said.
"We've both heard so much about you," Cameron added, motioning to the boxes, "so we both brought you all a gift that we hope you like."
Alice, Trevor, and Lily all looked to Clover and said thank you before looking to Dawn, silently asking permission to open their gifts. Dawn gave a nod, knowing her mother and having an pretty good idea as to what she had gotten her children. With only a slight hesitation from Alice, all three grabbed the boxes with their names on them and started tearing them open. Trevor was the first to have his opened, and held up a sweater with his name on it. It was bright green and had intricate patterns on the sleeves in light blues and yellows. Alice held up a purple one with her name on it, and Lily held up an orange one, with reds making up the patterns. The children all looked quizzically at the sweaters, before Trevor recognized what they were made from.
"A-Are these wool... uhm... G-Grandma?" he asked. Clover nodded, looking a little anxious, which Cameron noticed and was quick to give a slight reassuring squeeze to his mate.
"Yes... I made them, with Cameron's help of course, from my own wool," Clover said, starting to wonder if perhaps the gift wasn't something the children would like after all, before Lily surprised them again by quickly pulling hers on.
"Thank you, Grandma, it's so pretty!" she said. Trevor, now grinning, pulled his own on. Alice looked on, a little unsure of how to feel, but having picked up that this was intended to be a nice gesture, so she, much like her brother and sister, started to put hers on. As she did, she found that it was a perfect fit and felt very soft and warm. This led to the pup's tail beginning to thump, matching Vernon's, which of course made Lily start to giggle. All of which helped to further put Alice, the protector, at ease.
"I'm so glad that you enjoy it, sweetie!" Clover said, unable to stop herself from hopping down from the loveseat where she and Cameron had been sitting, and walking over to the three to give each a hug. Once again, Alice hesitated, but it was only very slight, and she immediately returned the hug, not fully sure of just how she felt, but trying to hide that. Vernon leaned over to ruffle her head fur, which helped to bring out her own giggle, and soon everyone was enjoying the visit.
Clover and Cameron asked the children all sorts of questions about what they enjoyed, how they were liking their new school, and other such subjects. The initial awkwardness having given way to a more comfortable rapport, the visit was positive, and involved quite a bit of Clover cuddling her grandlambs, multiple times. So much so that when it came time for Clover and Cameron to leave, Lily and Trevor voiced their objections.
"We're sorry, children," Clover said sincerely, already wanting to spend more time with her grandlambs, "but Cameron and I live so far away, making it a very long drive. We'd love to stay longer, but we have to leave soon."
"Although we do promise to come back plenty of times," Cameron added, taking one of Clover's hooves in his paw. This offered very little in the was of consolation to the children, but they accepted. There was another round of hugs and cuddles from Clover, and even some tentative hugs from Cameron, and further promises of returning very soon, as well as an added guarantee to be at Alice's first soccer match, something that the little wolf found herself looking forward to, before finally they had to leave. Soon, Vernon was in the kitchen, starting dinner.
"So," Dawn started, looking to each of her lambs, "what did you think of grandma and grandpa?"
"They were really... nice," Alice said, Dawn taking that as the pup's endorsement for grandparent set number one.
"Just like you said, Mommy!" Trevor exclaimed. Dawn and Vernon had noticed that when excited or lost in happy thoughts, Trevor's stutter seemed to disappear.
"I'm so happy to know you enjoyed yourselves!" Dawn said, noticing Lily was distracted by looking down at her sweater, which she was still wearing, Trevor and Alice having already removed theirs.
"Lily?" the ewe asked, looking with concern at the little mystery mammal who finally looked up, a wide grin on her face.
"No one's ever made me something before..." Lily said before looking down at her sweater. While Dawn felt elated to know that Lily loved her new sweater, there was an internal frown. She reached over and rested her hoof on one of Lily's paws.
"That's something you all will get used to from now on, sweetheart," Dawn said, enjoying how much Lily's face lit up.
After making sure that the children had washed up first, she then herded her children into the kitchen, where Vernon was finishing up the spaghetti. They had confirmed with Lily's pediatrician, as well as her new dentist, that her species were naturally omnivores, and have been slowly introducing meat into her diet, naturally making sure she was comfortable with trying the new foods beforehoof. So on the plate that Vernon happily made for her, he included some beetle meatballs, which he and Alice were already looking forward to, as well as some of the vegetarian meatballs, made of soy, that Dawn and Trevor both enjoyed quite a bit.
After all sitting down at the table, the conversation quickly went from the visit with Grandma Clover and Grandpa Cameron, to the upcoming trip they were all going to take to the Hunter family ranch, to meet Grandma Audrey and Grandpa Dorian, as well as Auntie Vanna and Uncle Zach. Vernon described the ranch, and how there they'd get to explore the surrounding woods, with supervision as Dawn was quick to remind, and the corn fields. Dawn felt her heart swell with joy as she saw how excited her mate seemed at the prospect of showing their children where they grew up in the Meadowlands, before Dawn was pulled out of school.
"I gotta warn y'all though," Vernon said with mock seriousness, "that my ma... may try to hug each of ya to death." His attempt at a straight face sent Trevor and Lily into a fit of giggles, with Alice trying, and partially failing, to keep from joining in.
"What are Uncle Zach and Auntie Vanna like?" Trevor asked. Vernon and Dawn had already informed the children, a few times, that their other grandma and grandpa were nice.
"Well, yer Uncle Zach is a bit of a goofball," Vernon said, pointedly ignoring Dawn clapping a hoof over her mouth to stifle a fresh set of giggles. Vernon calling anyone goofy was the proverbial pot calling the kettle black. "And yer Aunt Vanna," Vernon continued, undeterred, "is the strong generally quiet type. But she's a big softy."
"Really?" Lily asked.
"Oh absolutely," Dawn chimed in, "and while she may not be as expressive as Audrey is going to be about her excitement at getting to meet you, it's going to be pretty clear how thrilled she'll be." Dawn thought about her sister-in-law in question. The large stoic tigress had intimidated her upon their first meeting, but Dawn had been quick to find a much kinder side to her. After dinner was finished, Dawn, reminded by an excited Lily, set about making them each a bowl of ice cream. With the small infusion of sugar. all three children were energized for the first ever family game of Beasts and Battalions.
Trevor and Lily had been excited at the idea of the game, with Trevor helping his little sister to make a character of her own. Alice hadn't been too interested when the idea first had been proposed to her, but she had agreed to give it a try. Vernon and Dawn had both tried to hide their excitement, both having been seasoned long-time B&B players. They wanted to make sure that the kids didn't feel pressured, but were also hoping that they would enjoy themselves and find it as interesting as they themselves did.
"Alright," the large wolf said once they were all gathered around the coffee table in the living room, the sheets of graph paper he had drawn all of the buildings and landscapes for the first game of the campaign on in a neat stack at one end. He reached over and grabbed the first sheet, which showed an aerial view of a forest just outside a fort. He set the little miniatures of each of the children's and Dawn's characters down next to each other and opened one of the books.
"Near dusk, you all come to the fort, which looms ominously ahead. You know that according to legend that there is supposed to be a great treasure inside, but that legend also claims that it is guarded by a terrible beast."
And so the game started. While the finer points of the game seemed to be going over Lily's head, she clearly was having fun playing as the bunny warrior. Trevor was following along with rapt attention, loving playing as his sheep sorcerer. Alice, at first, seemed a bit disinterested and confused, but started to get into it herself, playing as a cheetah ranger. Dawn, mindful of her own wolf wizard, was excited to see more of the excited and happy pup that Alice hid away beneath her armor, and she and Vernon shared a look, in between him having fun getting into the different characters he created for the game. They got past the first few rooms and several traps, along with defeating a few monsters, before bedtime for the children rapidly started to approach. With a groan, and a promise that Vernon had written down where they were in the game and all that they had accomplished, he and Dawn started to put everything away while the kids all got ready for bed. The ewe looked up at her wolf and smiled, hugging him close. No words needed to be exchanged to convey their happiness.
Once they had finished, the parents went up to each child's room for what had become the nightly bedtime ritual. Dawn and Vernon would read a bedtime story to Lily and Trevor, and of course offer the same to Alice, who would claim that she was just fine, usually while trying to hide her stuffed bunny that she never went to sleep without behind her back. Dawn made sure to turn on the pup's night light, after giving her oldest daughter a kiss on the forehead and wishing her a good night. Alice tried to look embarrassed, but Dawn once more saw the shadow of a smile on her muzzle. Vernon finished tucking Lily in, the latter having fallen asleep shortly after the former had started with one of her new books. And of course, Trevor once more fought against sleep, wanting to keep knowing what the next chapter would bring on the space-faring sci-fi adventure story that Dawn was reading to him.
Once finished and sure that the children were all seen to for the night, Dawn and Vernon enjoyed one another's company, watching a late-night cheesy horror film before heading to bed themselves. They were snuggling close, Dawn once more enjoying burying her nose in Vernon's neck ruff, when both of their ears perked at the sound of a door in the hall opening. By now they recognized the sound of Alice sneaking into Lily's room after a nightmare. Vernon gave Dawn a reassuring squeeze, neither one able to resist the urge to check in on them one last time before going to sleep themselves.