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Mischief Managed

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“Mama! Mama! Mama!” Mia yelled as she jumped onto Jane and Maura’s bed, landing right on top of Jane.

“Umph,” Jane mumbled as her 7 year old daughter landed on top of her.

“Mom. Mommy.” Jackson whispered, attempting to wake Maura more gently than Mia had awoken Jane.

“Merry Christmas, baby,” Maura told her son as she pulled the nine year old into bed with her. He was quickly reaching the age where he didn’t want to cuddle with his moms anymore, so she had to take advantage of every opportunity she had to hold him close. “Where’s S…”

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!” Sam was screaming in excitement as she ran into the room, answering her mother’s unfinished question.

“Too loud,” Jane grumbled as the four year old collided with the bed, falling to the floor in the process. Sam was undeterred, though, and was quickly on her feet, pulling at Jane’s arm to get her out of bed.

“Mamamamamamamamamamamamama!” Ben called from the top of his voice from the other room in his unique way of combining mom and mama to make sure he got both of their attention. He was stranded in his crib, unable to follow his siblings into his parents’ room.

Jane groaned again, causing Maura to laugh. “They’re definitely your kids,” she teased, giving her wife a light shove as they laid in bed covered in kids.

Jackson immediately removed himself from Maura’s arms. “I’ll get him,” he said as he quickly left the room.

“Please be careful when you lift him out of his crib!” Maura called after him.

“Maur, he knows how to get Ben out of his crib,” Jane said with a laugh as she sat up, rubbing her eyes. “He’s been doing it for almost two years.”

“I know,” Maura replied as she too sat up.

“Come on!” Mia whined as she and Sam resumed their attempts to pull Jane out of bed. “I wanna see if Santa came!”

“He did!” Sam said quickly. “I checked.”

“You weren’t supposed to go down there yet, noodle,” Jane said, finally standing up, but Sam and Mia both ignored her, already running back into the hall to find their brothers.

“Are you going to try to tell me you never snuck downstairs before you were supposed to on Christmas morning?” Maura said quietly as she walked around the bed, a huge smile on her face. Jane’s smirk was enough of an answer. She wrapped Jane in a hug. “Merry Christmas, love.”

“Merry Christmas,” Jane said into Maura’s hair, pulling Maura tighter against her.

“Mama! Mommy!” Mia called from the hall. “Can we pu-leaseeee go downstairs?”

“We’re coming; we’re coming!” Jane said in faux annoyance, reluctantly releasing Maura.

They followed their over-excited kids down the stairs and watched as each one took their place next to the stocking with their name on it and corresponding pile of presents.

“Can we start?” Jackson asked excitedly.

“You can start with your stockings but wait until I get back to start your other presents, please,” Maura said. Jane sat down on the couch while Maura went to the kitchen, returning a few minutes later with two steaming mugs of coffee. Maura handed Jane her mug before taking her place on the couch next to Jane. She snuggled into Jane’s side, pulling her feet up and tucking them under her body. Jane automatically put her arm around Maura’s shoulders, holding her close.

Maura turned to look at Jane. One of her favorite things was watching Jane watch or interact with their kids. Jane’s face was alight with joy and love. It made her look years younger and infinitely more beautiful – if that was even possible – in Maura’s opinion. Her dimples were on full display as she smiled, watching the kids excitedly show each other what Santa had brought.

A loud squeal from Sam pulled Maura back to the present. “Mama! Look, I got a new mitt!” Sam excitedly told Jane as she ran over to her to show her the baseball mitt that (unknown to Sam) Jane had painstakingly researched and selected just for her. Sam had been talking all winter about how she would finally get to play t-ball this spring. Maura was pretty sure that Jane was just as excited as Sam was for t-ball. Both Jackson and Mia had tried t-ball, but while they enjoyed it, neither one loved it in the way Jane and Sam did. Jackson loved basketball and – much to Maura’s displeasure – football while Mia preferred soccer and dance. Ben wasn’t old enough for organized sports yet, but both Maura and Jane were sure that dance would be his favorite. Mia would make up elaborate dances and teach them to Ben. While he wasn’t quite coordinated enough to do all of the movements Mia wanted him to, he could remain engaged in her lessons for hours.

Letting go of Maura, Jane leaned forward to give Sam her full attention. “This is a great glove, noodle,” she said, her voice betraying her own excitement.

“Oh my god! Mom! Santa brought me ALL of the Harry Potter books!” Jackson exclaimed, holding them up for Maura to see, his dark chocolate eyes twinkling and his dimples mirroring Jane’s. Their kids might be most similar to Jane, but they all seemed to have Maura’s love of reading and learning, especially Jackson. Maura had been worried about whether or not Jackson still believed in Santa. While he said he did and talked like Santa existed, especially around his siblings, he had also made some comments that suggested he might know the truth. Looking at the pure innocent joy on his face right now, though, Maura realized it didn’t really matter if he believed in Santa – the magic of Christmas was still very much alive.

As the kids finished opening their gifts, still excitedly playing with their new toys, Jane turned to Maura, a glint in her eye. “Can I give them now?” she asked quietly. Maura nodded in response, her glowing smile matching Jane’s.

Jane stood up from the couch and grabbed four boxes from the other room, each about the size of a shoe box.

“Okay, so, we have one more gift for each of you, but you have to open them at the same time,” Jane explained.

“‘Cus they’re all the same?” Mia asked, and Jane laughed.

“Sorta,” Jane said vaguely with a smile as she handed out the boxes. Sam was literally bouncing in excitement as she sat with her box while Ben watched his older siblings, trying to figure out when he could open his.

“These are from mommy and me,” Jane said. “And open!”

All four kids tore into their boxes, ripping the paper apart in perfect imitations of Jane opening a gift. All four of their kids’ personalities were much more similar to Jane’s than to Maura’s, and Jackson and Sam had more in common with each other while Mia and Ben were more similar. Still, each one had their own unique personality, and Maura loved watching them grow. Maura could feel Jane nearly vibrating in excitement as she watched them open the gifts.

Somewhat surprisingly, Ben was the first to get his box open, but he clearly didn’t know what he was looking at. He picked up the envelope on top before looking at his siblings to see their reactions. Jackson was the first to open the envelope, his eyes growing wide with each word he read. “Wait? Is this real?” he asked excitedly.

“What?” Mia asked, her brother’s voice pulling her away from her own envelope. Sam and Ben had also opened their envelopes, but since neither could read yet, they had quickly discarded them to the side in favor of looking at the rest of the items in the box.

“Read it out loud so your sisters and brother can hear too,” Maura instructed him.

Dear Mr. Rizzoli-Isles,

We are pleased to inform you that you will be going on a vacation to Universal Studios Orlando to visit Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment to pack.

The vacation begins on Sunday, May 17. We will return home on Thursday, May 21.

Sincerely,

Mommy and Mama

As he finished reading, Jackson quickly asked, “Are we really going to Harry Potter World?”

“Yes,” Maura said, and Jackson launched himself into her arms. Mia was quickly behind him, hugging Maura as Jackson moved to hug Jane.

“Waaaaaaa!” Maura and Jane both turned at the sound of Ben bursting into tears.

“Oh, come here, baby,” Jane said softly, holding out her arms for Ben. He immediately went to her and allowed her to pull him into her lap as he buried his face in her shoulder, his cries quieting to soft sniffles.

“Why is Ben crying?” Mia asked, her face scrunched in confusion, making her look even more like Maura than she already did.

“I think he’s a little overwhelmed by all the excitement,” Maura answered as Jane rubbed soothing circles on Ben’s back. “He’s okay,” Maura assured her. Realizing that Sam had been suspiciously quiet, she looked around her two older children to see that her younger daughter’s face and fingers covered in chocolate. Despite internally cringing at the amount of sugar she had already consumed, Maura couldn’t help laughing at her. “Sam, did you eat all of your chocolate?”

Her hazel eyes wide and her sticky fingers in the air, Sam silently nodded, trying to hide her smirk. Jane laughed, and Ben finally pulled his face away from Jane’s shoulder to see his sister.

“Come here; let me clean you up,” Maura said, standing and leading Sam to the kitchen. Sam quickly returned, running into the living room with Maura following behind her. Once she had sat back down, Maura asked, “Sam, baby, do you understand what the gift is?”

Sam looked at her mother in confusion. “Chocolate,” she said as though her mother had lost her mind. Jane, Maura, Jackson, and Mia all laughed in response, causing Sam’s confused look to quickly change to one of frustration and annoyance.

Maura held out her arms, inviting Sam to climb onto her lap. Once she had her arms wrapped around Sam, she explained, “Yes, there was chocolate in the box, but the gift is actually a trip to Florida. We’re going to go to Universal Studios Orlando, and you’re going to get to see Harry Potter World. You’ll also get to see the Cat in the Hat and the animals from The Secret Life of Pets.” Sam was familiar with Harry Potter from hearing Jackson talk about the books and movies, but she was still too young to have experienced them herself, so Maura thought the other parts of the Universal Studios parks would appeal more to Sam and Ben.

Finally understanding somewhat, Sam asked, “We’re going on vacation? All of us? Jackson and Mia and Ben, too?”

“Yes, all of us,” Mia answered for Maura.

“Oh! We should all read the books together before we go!” Jackson suggested excitedly. He had read all seven books, and Mia had read the first four, but Sam and Ben had not read any of them.

“We can definitely read the first few,” Jane said. “I think some of the later books might be too grown up for Sam and Ben. We can read them together at bedtime if you want.”

“Starting tonight?” Mia asked.

“Sure,” Jane said, chuckling at their excitement about reading. Jane had to admit that she had thoroughly enjoyed the books when she had read them, but since she read them when they first came out, it had been years. She was also looking forward to refamiliarizing herself with the stories before their trip. “Why don’t you look at what else is in the box,” she suggested, knowing Jackson and Mia hadn’t gotten past the letter.”

“Chocolate frogs, Harry Potter socks, Harry Potter hair bows, and what’s this?” Mia listed the items in the box, holding up a card.

“It’s a gift card,” Maura said. “You each got a gift card for $50 to use to buy whatever you want at the parks.”

“But you have to give those back to us to hold on to until the trip,” Jane said quickly. “Otherwise, at least one of you will lose yours.”

“Thank you!” Jackson said, standing up and hugging his mothers.

“Thank you, mommy. Thank you, mama,” Mia echoed her brother, also hugging her mothers.

“Are you excited?” Maura asked. All four kids nodded enthusiastically. Maura was pretty sure that Ben still didn’t fully understand, but his siblings’ excitement was infectious. Maura and Jane shared a glance, their own excitement mirroring their children’s.


Later that evening, Maura stood outside Jackson’s bedroom door, just out of sight. Jane and all four kids were piled into Jackson’s bed. Jane’s voice carrying into the hall as she read:

“You never told him? Never told him what was in the letter Dumbledore left for him? I was there! I saw Dumbledore leave it, Dursley! An’ you’ve kept it from him all these years?”

“Kept what from me?” said Harry eagerly.

“STOP! I FORBID YOU!” yelled Uncle Vernon in panic.

Aunt Petunia gave a gasp of horror.

“Ah, go boil yer heads, both of yeh,” said Hagrid. “Harry – yer a wizard.”

There was silence inside the hut. Only the sea and the whistling wind could be heard.

“I’m a what?” gasped Harry.

“A wizard, o’ course,” said Hagrid, sitting back down on the sofa, which groaned and sank even lower, “an’ a thumpin’ good’un, I’d say, once yeh’ve been trained up a bit. With a mum an’ dad like yours, what else would yeh be? An’ I reckon it’s abou’ time yeh read yer letter.”

Maura’s smile was so bright it could light up a room and her love for the five people in that room warmed her heart. This had probably been one of their best Christmases ever, and Maura could not wait for their vacation.

Chapter Text

“Okay,” Jane said out of breath as she ran up the stairs for the fifteenth time that hour, “the bags are all in the car, but what happened to the one suitcase and one carry-on per person rule?”

Maura raised a playful eyebrow as she watched her wife bound up the stairs. “Did you ever think that would actually happen?” she teased.

Jane smirked at Maura, who was standing at the top of the stairs with Ben on her hip. “I already gave you an extra since we combined the kids’ stuff into two suitcases plus Ben’s stroller,” Jane said with a laugh. She left a kiss on Maura’s cheek when she reached the top of the stairs to let her know that she was just teasing her.

“I need one for my clothes, one for all of our shoes, and one for bathroom necessities,” Maura explained. “Besides, the last two have things for all six of us in them, so I don’t think they should be counted as mine.”

Jane laughed. “Are you saying I wouldn’t have been able to make everything we actually need fit into in fewer suitcases?” Jane asked, raising her eyebrow in an unspoken challenge.

Maura returned Jane’s laugh. “I’m not even going to touch that one,” she said. “Anyway, Ben’s ready and I have his carry-on, but the other three are still in their rooms.”

“Alright, I’ll get them,” Jane said.

“I’m going to pack a couple of snacks for the kids,” Maura said as she started down the stairs with their youngest, “then, I’ll be ready.”

“Pack some for me too?” Jane asked over her shoulder. Maura just laughed in response since they both knew Maura had already been including Jane when she said, “for the kids.”

“Samantha Grace, are you ready?” Jane said as she walked into the four-year-old’s room.

Sam instantly stopped what she was doing to turn to her mother with the sourest look she could muster. “Don’t call me Samantha,” she pouted with her hands on her hips.

“Aww, but I love the name Samantha,” Jane said as she scooped her daughter off her feet and tickled her.

Sam tried to hold her pout, but she couldn’t resist the tickling. Her sweet giggles bubbled up without her permission.

“Mama, stop!” Sam panted through her laughter. “Stop! Maaaammmmaaaaa!”

Finally, Jane relented and set the girl back on her feet.

“I’m ready, Mama,” Sam told Jane once she had calmed down a bit.

“Can you show me, noodle?” Jane said.

Sam held out her dinosaur backpack for Jane to see. “I packed my cway-ans, my paw patwol cowowing book, and bun-bun,” Sam explained showing Jane the crayons, paw patrol coloring book, and her favorite stuffed bunny rabbit stuffed haphazardly into her bag.

“Good job, noodle,” Jane said. “Can you take your bag downstairs and help mommy and Ben?”

“Yes!” Sam said excitedly as she took the zipped-up bag back from Jane and ran out of the room.

Jane chuckled to herself, glanced one more time around Sam’s room to make sure nothing was forgotten, and moved on to Mia’s room. However, Mia wasn’t in her room; Jane found both Mia and Jackson in Jackson’s room. Mia was sitting on Jackson’s bed swinging her feet back and forth with her ballet backpack lying next to her. Jackson was frustratedly trying to stuff his sweatshirt into his own Red Sox backpack, which looked like it might burst at the seams.

“Hey, buddy, do you need help?” Jane asked as she walked in his room.

“It doesn’t fit,” he said exasperatedly as he turned to look at Jane.

“Okay, what do you have in there?” Jane asked as she stepped over to his bed and pulled the sweatshirt out of his bag. Jane instantly started laughing when she saw what was in his bag. He had packed his full set of Harry Potter books, plus eight other paperback chapter books. Everyone may say that all their kids took after Jane, but it was moments like this that Jane saw how much they were like Maura too.

“Don’t laugh at me,” Jackson huffed, crossing his arms in front of his chest and stomping his foot. He shot Mia a death glare when she started giggling as well.

“Jack, you don’t need to bring this many books, buddy,” Jane said as she desperately tried to stifle her laughter.

“JANE! JACKSON! MIA! We have to go!” Maura yelled up the stairs.

“We’re coming!” Jane yelled back. “Give us two minutes!”

“I know you’re a fast reader, but this is too many,” Jane said as she unpacked his bag. “Since we’re reading it together, I’ll put Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in my bag, but let’s leave the rest of the Harry Potter books at home. Then, pick two other chapter books. If you finish both before we get home, I’ll let you download a book on your iPad.”

“Okay, fine,” he said. He laid out the chapter books on his bed to see what his options were. Jane packed his sweatshirt, tablet, and charger in his bag while she waited for him to make a decision.

“Pick, buddy,” Jane hurried him along. Finally, he handed her two books, which she quickly put in the bag before zipping it up and handing it to him. “Go down and help mom get Sam and Ben in the car. Tell her Mia and I will be down in a minute.”

“K, thanks, ma,” he said and left the room.

“Alright, bug, show me what you have,” Jane said, turning to Mia. Mia unzipped her bag, showing Jane her books and tablet. “Good job, M. Let’s just grab a sweatshirt and you’re good to go.”

Mia hopped off the bed, and Jane followed her to her room, making sure she picked an appropriate sweatshirt for the plane.

When they got downstairs, Jane sent Mia to the car while she did one final check of the house to make sure everything was locked and ready for their absence. By the time she got to the car, all the kids were buckled in, and Maura was in the driver’s seat.

Maura smirked as she watched her wife realize that she wouldn’t be driving today – something they playfully fought over every time they went somewhere together. “You snooze, you lose,” Maura said to Jane when Jane climbed into the passenger seat.

Jane snorted in laughter. “The kids are teaching you too many idioms,” she said as Maura pulled out of the driveway.

“Actually, I learned that one from you,” Maura countered, throwing a smile at Jane when she paused to shift the car from reverse to drive.

Jane’s breath caught in her throat at Maura’s smile. Sometimes, it surprised her that she still had moments like this – moments when Maura’s glowing dimpled smile and twinkling hazel eyes took her breath away, moments when she fell impossibly deeper in love with her wife.

Hours later, they were standing outside Orlando International Airport waiting for the hotel shuttle that would take them to Universal Studios and Portofino Bay Resort Hotel. Maura and Jane were both beyond irritable after traveling with four kids, but they were trying to hide it from the kids who were over-excited.

Maura hated travelling in coach, but they had agreed that the ability to fit their whole family in one row outweighed the benefits of first class. Maura, however, wasn’t so sure she still agreed that this was true. She was sitting with Jackson and Ben while Jane sat with Mia and Sam across the aisle. Jackson had pretty much ignored them all once they were on the plane as he buried his nose in a book. Ben had been fussy, but since he had Maura’s full attention, he had been manageable. On the other hand, Sam and Mia had spent the entire flight bickering. Jane had tried rearranging their seats multiple times to no avail. Nearing her wits’ end, Jane had tried to get Maura to switch seats with her only for the idea to upset Ben in the process.

Luckily, the shuttle bus was not only playing a movie, but it was playing Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. All four kids were instantly glued to the TV. Jane took a deep breath and let her head rest against the seatback with her eyes closed in an attempt to let some of the built-up tension leave her body as the shuttle pulled away from the airport. She opened her eyes and turned her head when she felt Maura move into the seat next to her. They shared a soft smile, and Maura leaned over to give Jane a chaste kiss – a kiss that said everything they didn’t want to put into words in front of the kids – a kiss that said, ‘I’m sorry for snapping at you” and “I love you.”

Maura reached over and threaded her fingers through Janes. They sat in silence, their hands linked, for the rest of the shuttle ride. Maura closed her eyes and ran through a few meditative techniques while Jane watched the scenery go by through the window. They drove through the streets of Orlando. When they got to the Universal Orlando entrance, Jane snapped a few photos through the window. The shuttle stopped at the Hard Rock Hotel before heading to Loews Portofino Bay Hotel where the Rizzoli-Isles family was staying.

The bellhop helped them unload their luggage, and Jane had to roll her eyes when their bags filled up two luggage carts to the point that they were overflowing. Jane wrangled the kids while Maura waited in line to check-in. Mia and Sam resumed their fighting from the plane until Jane relegated them to chairs on opposite sides of the lobby sitting area. Luckily, there weren’t very many people in the lobby, so they weren’t bothering anyone. Jackson had returned to reading his book, and Jane and Ben were sitting halfway between the girls, so Jane could keep an eye on them. Ben curled into Jane’s lap, and Jane could tell by the way he was settling against her that he would be asleep within minutes.

Jane spotted Maura walking back over to them. She stopped in front of Jane and Ben, running her hand through Ben’s curls. “He’s sound asleep,” she whispered with a smile. “The room’s ready. Should we go up?”

“Definitely,” Jane said quietly but fervently. She stood and shifted the sleeping toddler in her arms so that he was leaning against her shoulder. Maura led the family through a labyrinth of indoor and outdoor walkways. The kids were still bouncing off the walls, but since there weren’t any other people around, Jane let them be a little more disruptive than they normally would be in the hopes that they would get out some of their pent-up energy from the plane ride.

Maura used her keycard to open the door to their suite. The kids burst through the door, and Maura held the door open for Jane and Ben. Jane looked around the suite, and said under her breath, “Jesus, Maur, this place is bigger than my apartment.”

Maura laughed. “There are six of us,” Maura said matter-of-factly. “There was only one person living in your apartment. Well, sometimes, two…” Maura added with a flirtatious wink and a smirk.

Jane rolled her eyes just as the three older kids came running back into the main room after checking out the two bedrooms.

“Mama, Mommy, this place is so cool!” Mia exclaimed loudly, her face alight with excitement.

“Shhh!” Maura hushed the kids. “Ben’s asleep.”

“Oh, sorry!” Mia said brightly.

Maura turned to Jane. “Why don’t you go put him down in our bed?” she suggested.

Jane carried the sleeping toddler to the bedroom that had a single king-sized bed according to the kids. She situated the little boy in the middle of the bed, placing an extra pillow on either side of him for good measure. Before she left the room, she took a quick look around. Maura had insisted on booking the two-bedroom Portofino suite, which consisted of two bedrooms on either side of a sitting room. The part that had finally convinced Jane was the fact that the suite had three bathrooms. This would make it infinitely easier to start and end the day with four kids an admittedly high-maintenance wife.

Jane joined the rest of the family back in the living area. She paused and observed her family from a distance for a few moments. Maura was sitting on the couch with a park map laid out on the coffee table. The kids were crowded around the table, and the four of them were excitedly coming up with a plan for the next morning. Maura was the first to notice Jane’s presence in the room. She looked up and flashed Jane a brilliant smile from across the room. “Come join us,” she called, tilting her head to call Jane over to them.

Jane sat down on the couch next to Maura, who instantly grabbed Jane’s hand while they both turned their attention back to the overexcited kids. The planning (and scheming) occupied the kids until the bellhop brought their bags. Jane stayed with the kids while Maura showed the bellhop where all the bags went. He promised to send up a travel crib within the hour so that they wouldn’t have to worry about having it in time for the kids’ bedtime.

“We shouldn’t let Ben sleep too long,” Maura said once the bellhop had left. “Otherwise, he won’t sleep tonight.”

“Yeah, okay,” Jane groaned overdramatically. She knew Maura was right, but she hated waking sleeping kids – they were all as grumpy as Jane when they woke up.

Maura laughed. “I’ll do it,” she said. “But then, why don’t you take the kids to the pool while I unpack. I’ll get Ben into his swimsuit.” Maura gave Jane a quick kiss before going back into their bedroom while Jane shuffled the other kids into the second bedroom.

The second bedroom was a mirror image of the one Maura and Jane were staying in with one exception: instead of one king-sized bed, there were two double beds. The kids had already claimed the beds with Jackson clearly having won the battle for the bed closer to the window. Mia and Sam would share the other bed while Ben would be in a traveling crib. After much negotiating, the kids had convinced Jane and Maura to put the crib in the kids’ room. Maura and Jane had wanted to keep the crib in either the living room or their room so that he would have a better chance of sleeping, but when all the kids wanted was to be together, it was hard to say no. They may regret that in a few days when they have an overtired toddler on their hands, though.

Jane helped the kids find their swimsuits put on sunscreen before going to change into her own and covering up with shorts and a t-shirt. She took all four kids to the beach pool, which was one of three pools on the property. The pool had a fake beach and a water slide, so the kids were beyond excited. Jane found a spot on the “beach” where the water was about 10-12 inches deep. She could keep an eye on the older kids as they alternated between playing in the shallow water with Ben and going down the slide. Ben stayed by her, splashing around and having a blast, but he definitely preferred when his brother and sisters played with him.

Jane loved watching her kids play together. Mia and Sam’s fight from earlier was long forgotten, and all four kids were having a great time. They were definitely each other’s best friends, and nothing made Jane happier.

“Mommy!” Ben called out suddenly, and Jane turned to see a smiling Maura walking towards them. Maura kicked off her shoes by the chair where Jane had stored their things and waded into the water.

Ben reached his arms up in a silent request for Maura to pick him up, but Jane held him back. “You’ll get mommy all wet, buddy,” Jane said with a laugh. He gave her a pouty look, but he was quickly distracted when his siblings came running back over.

“You guys were gone longer than I expected,” Maura said, turning to Jane.

“Sorry,” Jane said quickly as she stood up and tried to wipe the sand off of her legs.

Maura laughed. “No, it’s not a bad thing. I’m glad you guys are having fun,” Maura said, “but we should probably feed the little monsters.”

“I saw a pizza place on the way here,” Jane said. “We could get pizza and watch a movie together in the room. I think it might be a good idea for them to have some quiet time.”

Maura laughed again. “Yes, I think we all need some quiet time,” she replied.

They gathered the kids and dried them off before heading back to the plaza. They stopped at Sal’s Market Deli, which sold homemade pizzas, salads, and snacks. The pizza wouldn’t be ready for an hour, so they took the kids back to the room to bathe and get into their pajamas (with the exception of Ben, who they decided to let run around in his diaper until after dinner so that he wouldn’t get pizza all over his pajamas). Not quite an hour later, Maura and Jackson went down to pick up the pizza – and Maura insisted on adding a few salads to the order – while Jane finished getting the rest of the kids washed up.

Maura and Jackson also stopped at the Starbucks on their way back. Maura knew Jane would like a (decaf) coffee, and she wouldn’t pass up a tea. Jackson also convinced Maura to let them get a frappuccino for the kids to share.

The six of them enjoyed their pizza and (forced) salads while watching Despicable Me. Sam and Ben both fell asleep before the end of the movie. Maura had cleaned every inch of the travel crib provided by the hotel while Jane and the kids were at the pool, so they were able to put him right to bed. They woke up Sam long enough to use the bathroom and brush her teeth, but she was sound asleep the second her head hit the pillow. Mia and Jackson stayed up in bed a while longer to read, but Maura and Jane heard them say goodnight to each other and turn off the lights well before their 9pm cut-off.

Jane was sitting on the couch with her feet resting on the coffee table flipping through the available channels on the TV when Maura came back into the living area after changing into her pajamas. Maura easily found her favorite spot curled into Jane’s side with her feet tucked under her body. She rested her head against Jane’s chest and wrapped her arm around Jane’s body at the same time as Jane pulled her close, draping her arm around Maura’s shoulders.

“Today may have been exhausting, but I love our family,” Maura said quietly.

“Me too,” Jane replied as she rested her cheek against the top of Maura’s head. “Even when the kids are driving me crazy.”

“I was thinking, we should talk about what we’re willing to buy souvenir-wise,” Maura said.

“We got them gift cards for souvenirs,” Jane countered. “I thought that was the point.”

“Jane, $50 buys like one thing here.”

“Then they better pick wisely,” Jane quipped, but when Maura gave her side a pinch, she conceded, “okay, fine, what do you have in mind.”

“Well, we came primarily for Harry Potter,” Maura said. “I was thinking for Jackson, Mia, and Sam, we could but them their wand, robes, and a pet. I’m less worried about Ben because I don’t think he’ll want very expensive things.”

“No, he’ll probably just want every stuffed animal or action figure he sees,” Jane said with a laugh.

“Well, I still think we’ll have an easier time agreeing what to get him,” Maura said.

“I get the feeling you looked up these things, so I guess that sounds fine to me,” Jane said. “And in all honesty, they are your kids so they’ll probably all still spend their gift cards within the first day. I want to be reasonable, but I know this is a special trip. Let’s just try to keep track and make sure it doesn’t get out of control. We should also keep an eye on their individual purchases, so they all get around the same amount – cost-wise at least.”

“I agree,” Maura replied. “We can also reassess each evening after they go to bed.”

“Sounds good.”

“Now, I was also thinking we should go to bed early, as well,” Maura said, flashing Jane a mischievous smile.

“I think that’s the best idea you’ve had all night, Dr. Isles,” Jane said as she stood up and offered Maura her hand before leading her back to their bedroom.

Chapter Text

“Slytherin will help you on your way to greatness."

Jane, Maura, and the kids were in line for the water taxi that would take them to City Walk and the parks. Maura was nursing her morning coffee and listening to the kids excitedly talk about everything they wanted to do and see today. Because they were staying at a Universal Resort Hotel, they were able to get into the park, and they were planning to use every minute of their early entry.

They were starting the day at Universal Studios with plans to ride the Hogwarts Express over to Islands of Adventure before lunch. The kids had agreed (after much negotiation) to get their magic wands first.

Jackson had memorized the park maps, so he led them straight back to Diagon Alley.

“Not so far ahead, buddy!” Jane called out to Jackson who was walking so fast that his sisters could barely keep up let alone Maura and Jane with the stroller. When the stepped around the brick wall that blocked the “secret” entrance to Diagon Alley, Jane’s jaw dropped. She felt like she had really stepped into the movie. She had to remind herself to keep an eye on the kids as she took in her surroundings.

The air crackled with a kind of magic that only came from the joy surrounding them. Maura’s heart warmed as she watched the happiness and excitement light up her children’s and her wife’s faces. There was nothing she loved more than the six of them spending time together and being together on vacation was even better.

“Ma! Look!” Jackson yelled loudly as he pointed to the Gringotts’ dragon as it roared. Jane jumped when the dragon breathed real fire, causing Maura to laugh at her reaction. Jackson turned to laugh at his mama, too. “The dragon roars right before it breathes fire,” he explained.

“We should try to get a picture!” Jane replied excitedly.

“Okay, but after Ollivander’s,” Maura suggested, pointing to the quickly growing line.

The six of them got in line, which was already starting to flow outside the building. Luckily, it seemed that there wasn’t much of a line inside, though, because they quickly reached the front of the line.

“How many in your group?” the attendant asked.

“Six,” Maura replied.

“Alright, if you can step to the side, you’ll be first in the next room, but we’re going to let a smaller group into this room,” he explained, and Maura nodded in understanding. “Do we have a group of two or three?” he said to the line at large, and two young adults behind them raised their hands.

Once the previous room was filled, the attendant directed them to the next room. As soon as they stepped into the room and to the side where the kids could get a good view of the show, another attendant walked up to them. Speaking quietly to Jane and Maura, she asked, “As part of the show, we ask one or more children to participate in the wand selection ceremony. Would you like your three older children to participate?”

“Of course,” they both answered excitedly.

“Wonderful, you all can wait here, and Mr. Ollivander will call the children forward during the show.”

Jane snapped a picture of Mr. Ollivander as he started the ceremony, and Jane continued to take pictures of the kids as they participated in the wand selection ceremony while Maura videoed the ceremony. All three kids had the biggest smiles on their faces, and Jane wanted to remember this moment for the rest of her life.

Ollivander's Wand Ceremony

After the ceremony, the same attendant who had chosen Jackson, Mia, and Sam for the ceremony guided them into the store. While they weren’t required to purchase the wands that “selected” the kids – because “the wand chooses the wizard” after all – there was no way any of the kids were going to choose a different wand.

Jane wanted a wand as well, and the kids convinced Maura to get one, too. They hadn’t been planning on buying Ben a wand since he didn’t really show much of an interest in Harry Potter, he didn’t want to be left out of something all of his siblings were doing. Therefore, they ended up purchasing six wands before leaving the store, and Jane was quickly realizing that this vacation was probably going to be their most expensive yet.

“Picture time!” Jane exclaimed excitedly as they left the shop, and she annoyed her kids by forcing them to pose for picture after picture. They also found someone to take a picture of all six of them with their wands.

Maura rolled her eyes when they finally finished. “I think you are worse than your mom sometimes,” she teased Jane, giving her a light shove.

“Ma! The dragon!” Jackson called out as they heard it roar again. Jackson grabbed Maura’s phone and Jane used her own phone. They both tried to capture a photo of the dragon breathing fire, but it was Jackson who got the best picture.

Gringotts' Dragon

“Can we ride Gringotts?” Mia asked.

“Sure, let’s go see who’s tall enough first,” Maura suggested. The height requirement for Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts was 42 inches, meaning that Sam, who was tall for her age, just barely made the cut. Since the ride had child swap, they could bring Ben into the pre-show, which he very much enjoyed. Maura decided not to ride, so she waited with Ben in the child-swap area. Maura had tried to convince Sam not to ride, but the girl was just as fearless as her older siblings and her mama. Maura was worried that the roller coaster would be too scary and fast for the four-year-old, but she was definitely wrong. All four of them – Jane, Jackson, Mia, and Sam – were ecstatic when they got off the ride.

“Can we ride it again?” Sam asked her mothers excitedly.

“Yeah, can we?” Mia echoed.

“Not right now, but you guys can definitely ride again later,” Maura suggested. “We have a lunch reservation at the Three Broomsticks, which is in the other park. I was thinking we could explore a few of the shops here in Diagon Alley then take the Hogwarts’ Express over to Hogsmeade in time for lunch.”

The family headed over to the Magical Menagerie, which was right next to Gringotts. The shop was full of “pets” to be adopted, which were really stuffed animals.

“I want an owl!” Jackson said as he ran towards the display full of owls with his sisters following close behind.

“Mom and I agreed that we would buy your wands, robes, and one pet each,” Jane said. “So, you can pick one, but if you want anything else, you have to use your gift cards.”

Jackson ended up picking Pigwidgon, which was Ron’s owl in the books; Mia chose a purple Pygmy Puff; Sam decided on a pink Pygmy Puff after Mia told her they couldn’t get the same color; and Ben chose Scabbers the rat, much to Maura’s dismay.

When they got to Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, the kids got into a detailed discussion about what House everyone in the family would be in. After a long debate and each kid trying on many different robes, Jackson ended up with Ravenclaw robes, Mia selected Gryffindor, and Sam got Slytherin. They also convinced Jane and Maura to each get scarves for their respective houses – Gryffindor and Ravenclaw – and to get Ben a hat from Hufflepuff, which they all agreed would be his house. The kids wanted to wear their robes, but since it was already hot outside, Maura convinced the kids to allow the robes, scarves, and hat to be sent back to their hotel. She knew that they would end up carrying them, and they already had too many things to carry.

The kids really wanted to try Butterbeer, but Maura wouldn’t let them get any until after lunch. She knew that the sugar would not only ruin their lunch, but it would lead to a sugar rush followed by a crash if they had the drink on an empty stomach. So instead, they got in line to ride the Hogwarts’ Express over to Hogsmeade. The station in Universal Studios was modelled after King’s Cross Station in London, and Maura was impressed by how accurate the replication of the station was. She decided that their next big international family trip should be to London.

Jane was impressed with the ride as well. She thought it was cool how they created such an innovative experience to move people from one park to another. Even Ben was enthralled with the train and the ride experience.

When they got off the train in Hogsmeade station, they were able to take a few pictures of the train itself and of the kids and their entire family in front of the train before exiting the station.

Hogwarts' Express

They just barely made their lunch reservation, but since the place wasn’t crowded, a reservation probably wasn’t even necessary. Maura wasn’t thrilled with the selections, but the food ended up being better than she expected. Maura and Jane shared the fish and chips along with a garden salad for each of them. They ended up getting two orders of kids’ chicken fingers and two orders of kids’ fish and chips for all four kids to share, which ended up working well. Jane also tried one of the specialty beers, Hog’s Head Brew.

After lunch, they explored a few of the Hogsmeade shops. The kids had wanted to go right to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, but Maura was sure at least one of them would end up throwing up if they rode a roller coaster right after lunch. Eventually, though, she couldn’t convince them to wait any longer (and Jane wasn’t much of a help since she wanted to ride it as much as the kids did). They stopped to take a few pictures of the castle, which was amazing before they entered through the Hogwarts’ entrance gates, which were guarded by winged boars as Mia explained to Maura.

Hogwarts' Castle

Since Maura and Ben weren’t planning on riding, they didn’t need a locker. However, they were stopped at the entrance to the ride queue.

“Good morning, young witches and wizards,” said the young man at the entrance to the Forbidden Journey, smiling down at the kids. “Welcome to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. You are all welcome to experience the castle tour, but the two younger children will not be tall enough to ride the attraction. When you are close to the loading area, one parent will have to stay with the younger children in the child swap area, but you will not have to wait in line again for the second parent to ride. You will be able to…”

“I want to ride!” Sam suddenly interrupted the young man as she realized what he was saying.

“Sam,” Maura chided her daughter. “Please don’t be rude. You will still be able to see the castle, but you aren’t big enough…”

“No!” Sam shouted at her mother. “I want to ride!”

“Sam!” Jane’s stern voice caused Sam to pause her tantrum, but it didn’t stop her anger. There was nothing she hated more than not being able to do everything her brother and sister could do. Before Jane or Maura could say anything more, Sam took off running.

Jane made eye-contact with Maura. In a fraction of a second, they held an entire conversation. Knowing the other kids were safe with Maura, Jane took off after her youngest daughter.

“Sam!” Jane called, her voice betraying the fear that had pushed aside her anger.

Jackson turned to follow Jane and Sam, his protective nature outweighing his common sense, but Maura was expecting this. She was able to grab his arm to stop him before he got away.

Offering a quick apology over her shoulder to the surprised young man working the entrance to the ride, Maura hastily ushered her older children to the side along with pushing Ben’s stroller out of the way of the crowds of people trying to enter the ride queue. They weaved their way through the people walking towards the entrance to the ride as they made their way back to the Hogwarts entrance gates. Maura knew that if Jane didn’t catch Sam right away, Sam would likely head back to where she left her family, but it was unlikely the attendant waiting at the entrance gates would let her in alone.

There was a bench off to the side of the entrance gates where Maura would be able to see Sam and/or Jane if they tried to get back to where they had all been separated. Maura pulled the stroller next to the bench and sat down. Jackson immediately sat next to her while Mia sat on her lap.

“Mommy,” Jackson’s voice shook as he spoke, “where did Sam go?”

Maura wrapped her arm around Jackson’s shoulder. The fact that he had called her mommy, something he rarely did anymore, telegraphed his fear as much as the tone of his voice did. She knew he was worried about his sister. She also knew that it was probably hard for him to sit here, feeling like he wasn’t doing anything to help find Sam. He was so much like Jane in that way. He protected his siblings with everything he had, and he was a “man of action” for lack of a better phrase.

“She was upset she couldn’t ride the ride,” Maura said, trying to keep her own fear from leaking out. She didn’t want to worry Jackson, Mia, or Ben any more than they already were, but Maura was scared. She had thought Jane would immediately catch Sam and return to them, but both Jane and Sam had been gone longer than Maura expected. She knew that Sam would most likely be fine and that Jane would either find her or someone would help Sam find her parents, but that didn’t stop all the worst-case scenarios from flitting through her mind. Most of the time, she loved her job, but it was moments like this – when knowing the worst of humanity exponentially increased her fears that something would happen to one of her children – that she hated her job.

“We need to go find her,” Jackson said. “Why aren’t we looking for her?”

Maura allowed herself a few seconds to close her eyes and center herself before she answered, “Mama went after Sam, but Sam is most likely to return to where she last saw us if Mama doesn’t find her first. We need to be here if she comes back,” Maura explained. She kept her eyes on the entrance to the ride but tried to comfort Jackson and Mia by holding them close. Ben was luckily too enthralled with watching all the people around them to notice their distress, and Maura hoped it stayed that way.

Jackson didn’t answer, but he tucked his body closer to his mom in a silent response. Mia hadn’t said a word since Sam’s outburst, which Maura knew was how her daughter showed her distress. Mia rarely stopped talking, so if she remained silent for this long, something was wrong.

Meanwhile, Jane’s own fear was threatening to burst out of her chest as she chased after her daughter. Usually, she was much faster than Sam. In fact, she was still faster than all of her kids, but she knew Jackson would surpass her soon. However, Sam was much smaller, and therefore, she could weave through the crowds of people much more easily than Jane could.

Luckily, Jane had caught a glimpse of Sam’s light brown braid flying in the wind just as she got to the place where the path split, so she knew that Sam had headed back into Hogsmeade rather than over the bridge towards the Jurassic Park area. However, Jane didn’t see her daughter again through the entirety of the Hogsmeade street. When she got to the stone arch entrance to Hogsmeade, she paused, wondering if she should continue in this direction, which would take her out of the Harry Potter area towards the Poseidon and Dr. Seuss parts of the park, or go back through Hogsmeade.

Just as she decided it was more likely that Sam stayed in the Hogsmeade area, she heard Sam’s voice scream, “No!” through the crowd. She would know any of her children’s voices anywhere. Panic gripped her heart as she ran towards the sound. Sam’s voice sounded more angry than scared, but Jane couldn’t help but think of all the terrible things that could happen, that could be happening.

Jane immediately spotted her daughter. A park worker dressed as a Hogwarts Express conductor was kneeling in front of her, while Sam stood there, her arms crossed defiantly in front of her chest.

“Sam!” Jane said quickly as she reached the girl, gathering her up into her arms.

“Mama!” was all Sam said as she wrapped her arms and legs around her mother and burst into tears.

The park worker stood up and smiled at Jane. “I saw her running. We’re trained to stop runners,” he explained.

“Thank you,” Jane said, relief obvious in her voice as she held her daughter tight. “She just took off. Thank you, really.”

“It’s pretty common,” he said. “You guys enjoy the rest of your time at the park.”

“Thank you,” Jane replied again as she turned away from him and buried her face in her daughter’s hair.

“I’ve got you, baby,” she whispered, so only Sam could hear her. “You’re okay. Let’s go find Mommy and your brothers and sister.” She rubbed Sam’s back in an effort to comfort her as they walked back through Hogsmeade. She wanted to get back to Maura and the other kids as quickly as possible, since she knew they were all probably worried. Her phone was in the stroller; otherwise, she would text Maura to let them know Sam was safe. The combination of running through the park in the humid Florida heat and the fear that had wreaked havoc on her had sapped her energy, so she was slower than she would have liked while walking back to where she knew Maura and the kids were waiting.

She continued to whisper reassurances to Sam the entire way back. She knew they would have to punish Sam, but that could wait until Sam had calmed down and until Maura and the other kids knew Sam was safe. By the time they could see the entrance to the castle, Sam’s crying had subsided.

Jane spotted Maura and the kids on the bench at the same time Maura noticed Jane and Sam. Maura stood immediately and all three of them ran to Jane and Sam while Jackson pushed the stroller with a now-sleeping Ben.

“She’s okay,” Jane said quickly as Maura wrapped her arms around both Jane and Sam. “She’s okay.”

Maura took Sam from Jane’s arms and held her tight, squeezing her eyes shut as relief flooded her mind and body. Jackson and Mia let themselves get wrapped up in Jane’s arms. Finally, Maura made eye contact with Jane. She hoped that Jane could see in her eyes all the things she didn’t want to say in front of the kids.

Jane gave her a soft smile. “I think maybe we all need some butterbeer,” Jane said.

“Yes!” Jackson and Mia both exclaimed happily.

Jane held her arms out to take Sam back into her embrace. “Why don’t you guys get the butterbeer? I saw a cart close to the bridge,” she said, pointing back towards where the path split. “Give me a few minutes to talk to Sam?”

Maura nodded, wiping away the couple of tears that had managed to escape.

“Okay,” Jane said. “We’ll meet you guys by that little stage we saw earlier. It’s just across from the butterbeer cart. Will you get me and Sam each a butterbeer, too?”

“Of course,” Maura said, reaching out to give Sam a comforting rub on her back before leading her other children to the cart.

Jane carried Sam over to the bench that Maura and the other kids had just vacated. She set Sam down on the bench and kneeled in front of her. Sam refused to make eye contact as she stared at her hands in her lap. Jane placed her hands on her daughter’s knees in what she hoped was a comforting gesture. She sighed before speaking, “Sam, baby, you scared us by running off like that.”

Sam crossed her arms protectively across her chest, but otherwise, she didn’t respond. Jane reached her hand up and gently guided Sam’s chin so that she was forced to make eye contact with Jane. Jane looked into the sad hazel eyes that reminded her so much of her wife’s eyes. “What you did was very dangerous,” Jane explained patiently. “You know you are supposed to stay by me and mommy at all times. We have that rule because we want you guys to stay safe. Do you understand?”

Sam nodded as tears clouded her eyes. “I’m sorry, mama,” she wailed as she threw herself into Jane’s arms. Jane stood up with Sam in her arms and sat back down on the bench, so that Sam was now sitting in her lap.

“I know you’re sorry, baby, but you know that doesn’t fix everything.” Jane lifted her daughter up and turned her so that she was still sitting on Jane’s lap but was now facing her. Sam looked up into Jane’s face, and Jane could read the contrition written all over her face.

Jane sighed. “You know that there are consequences for your actions,” she said, and Sam nodded. “I think we can wait until after the trip for your punishment, though, okay?” Sam nodded again. “When we get home, you lose all of your screen time for a week.”

“A whole week!” Sam said indignantly.

“Yes.”

“But…but…”

“A week, Sam. Running away was a really bad choice, and you have to face the consequences.”

Sam huffed in annoyance and crossed her arms in front of her again. Jane had to use every ounce of self-control she possessed to remain serious and not laugh at Sam’s reaction.

“And Sam,” Jane paused to make sure she had her daughter’s attention, “if anything like this happens again while we are here, you’re done with the trip, okay? You and I will stay in the hotel room for the rest of the trip while Mommy, Jackson, Mia, and Ben enjoy the parks.”

Sam looked like she was going to argue but decided against it when she realized how serious Jane was. “I won’t do it again,” she said quietly, but Jane could still hear some of Sam’s attitude leaking into her words. Jane pulled her daughter in a tight hug to hide her smirk.

“I love you so much, baby,” Jane said into Sam’s hair. “You scared us, okay?”

Sam nodded against Jane’s chest and wrapped her arms around Jane to return the hug.

When Sam sat back, Jane smiled at her. “Now, should we go enjoy the rest of our vacation?” she asked.

Sam returned her smile and nodded.

Jane stood up, taking Sam with her. “Alright, let’s go,” she said as she walked back towards Hogsmeade. “You ready to try butterbeer?”

“Yes!” Sam said excitedly. Jane tickled her, causing Sam to giggle loudly in her arms. They immediately spotted the rest of the family and went to join them.

Maura smiled up at Jane and Sam as Jane leaned down to set Sam back on her feet. Jane sat down next to Maura and gave her hand a reassuring squeeze.

“Mia and I wanted to try both the regular butterbeer and the frozen butterbeer,” Jackson explained. “And since the cups are pretty big, we decided to share, so we got two frozen and two regular butterbeers for all of us to split. Try the regular first, though,” he told Sam as he handed her one of the drinks.

Sam took a sip. Her face scrunched in response to the bitterness of the cream soda base, but she had a big foam-mustache-topped smile when she pulled the cup away from her mouth. Jackson and Mia both laughed at Sam’s mustache, causing Sam to start laughing as well. Sam went to lick the cream off her lip, but Maura stopped her, “Let me take a picture first.”

Maura took a picture of Sam smiling with her mustache. Then Jackson and Mia both took a sip, so Maura took a few more pictures with all three of them adorned with foam-mustaches.

“Mama, too!” Mia said excitedly as she handed her drink to Jane. Jane obliged, taking a sip purposely allowing the cream to leave a foam mustache on her own lip, which Maura, of course, captured in more pictures.

After cleaning off her mouth and handing the drink back to the kids, Jane wrapped her arm around Maura’s waist and pulled her close. Maura turned her head, so she was facing Jane, and their lips met in a soft kiss. Jane could taste the sweet drink on her wife’s lips as she tried not to get lost in the kiss. Jackson’s “eww!” followed by giggles from all three kids broke them apart.

Maura and Jane laughed at their kids’ response as Maura leaned back against Jane’s side. They sat like that for a while watching their kids interact; the kids’ conversation filled with laughter as they continued to share the drinks.

After a while, they made their way back to the Forbidden Journey. Jane could tell that Sam was still upset that she couldn’t ride, but she didn’t say anything. The queue for the ride went through Hogwarts castle, so Sam’s mood picked up for a while as she enjoyed the experience with her brother and sister. However, her pout was epic when she was forced to wait in the child swap area with Maura and a still sleeping Ben.

The Forbidden Journey exited directly into a gift shop, Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods. Maura found cute backpacks in each of the house colors, and she suggested to Jane that they get one for each kid so that they could carry their own items. Plus, they would hang easily on the handles of the stroller while the kids went on rides or when they inevitably got tired of carrying them. Outside the shop, Maura and Jane helped each of the kids put their pet and wand in their backpack.

Jackson and Mia agreed to wait to ride Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure when they realized it was another ride Sam wouldn’t be tall enough to ride. Since they were planning to come back to the Harry Potter area of the parks every day, they decided to visit some of the other parts of the park, starting with Jurassic Park.

Ben had woken up by that point, and he was overly excited about all of the dinosaurs. Maura ended up buying him a stuff dinosaur while Ben, Mia, Sam, and Jane rode the Pteranodon Flyers, which Sam declared cool but boring, making Jane roll her eyes. While it was relatively slow since it was a ride designed for kids, she had still enjoyed it, and she knew Sam had as well. Since they would likely get wet on the Jurassic Park River Adventure, Jane convinced the kids to ride it another day when they could go back to the hotel right after.

After finishing the Jurassic Park area, they visited Skull Island, where they got in line to ride Reign of Kong. They were surprised to find that at 36.5 inches tall, Ben was actually tall enough to ride the ride, but in the end, Maura decided it wasn’t a great idea as she was afraid he would be scared. After riding, Jane decided that this was probably a good idea. It wasn’t necessarily a scary ride, but it was dark, loud, and likely too intense for a two-year-old.

By now, all of the kids were dragging, and Jane could tell that if they didn’t do something relaxing soon, they were bound for a meltdown from at least one of them. After scanning over the map for an option, she suggested, “Why don’t we get milkshakes at Captain America Café?”

“Yes!” Jackson, Mia, and Sam said together, while Ben yelled out “Yay!”

“Jane, that’s too much sugar,” Maura all but whined. “They already had Butterbeer.”

“We have to do something where they can sit for a while, preferably in air conditioning, and it was all I could think of.”

“Fine, but everyone is having a healthy dinner,” Maura replied.

“Deal!” Jane said quickly, shooting her wife one of her trademark smiles. Maura tried to remain annoyed, but she couldn’t help but smile back when her wife looked at her like that.

By the time they were all sitting down with their milkshakes, Maura could tell that the kids were exhausted, even if they didn’t want to stop, so she suggested that they go back to the hotel and order room service. The kids reluctantly agreed, and Maura realized how good of an idea it was to head back to the hotel when Sam fell asleep on Jane’s lap while they were on the water taxi. Mia didn’t look far behind her sister as she leaned against Jane in a daze.

Jane gave Mia and Sam a bath while Jackson showered, and Maura ordered room service. They had options that would appeal to everyone in the family. She ordered the Portofino House Salad for Jane, the Greek Salad for herself, the spicy black bean & quinoa burger for Jackson, and the chicken fettucini alfredo for Mia and Sam to share. She made sure to ask for extra chicken and to add broccoli to the pasta since it wasn’t the healthiest option on the menu. She also ordered fresh fruit for all of the kids. She wasn’t sure what to get for Ben since the kids’ options weren’t very healthy, so in the end, she ordered the Turkey Club without mayonnaise with the intention of taking it apart and giving him the turkey, bacon, and tomatoes.

Once Jane, Mia, and Sam were done, Maura gave Ben a quick bath, so that all of the kids were clean by the time their dinner arrived.

After dinner, it was still early, so they decided to go down to the plaza to hear some of the live music. On the way there, they stopped at the gift shop where each of the kids decided to buy another stuffed animal with their gift cards. Jackson got Toothless the dragon from How to Train Your Dragon, and Ben got a minion. Mia got a Unicorn Pillow Plush like the one Agnes had in Despicable Me, and Jane and Maura both had to admit it was an adorable stuffed animal. Sam was having a hard time deciding between Snowball, Gidget, and Chloe from The Secret Life of Pets and Branch and Poppy from Trolls. After much deliberation and a threat from Jane that if she didn’t choose soon, she wasn’t getting anything, Sam finally settled on Poppy, the pink troll.

They found an empty table where they could sit and listen to the live music. Ben quickly curled up in Maura’s lap with his little arm wrapped around his new minion. Sam made her way into Jane’s lap not long after. They let Jackson and Mia explore a little as long as they stayed in their mothers’ sight. Jackson took Maura’s phone with him to get a few pictures of the plaza in the setting sun. Jackson was becoming quite the little photographer.

Portofino Bay Plaza

Portofino Bay Plaza

Eventually, the family made their way back up to their suite. All of them were exhausted, so the kids went to bed immediately after brushing their teeth and using the bathroom. Jane and Maura sat on the balcony a while longer, just enjoying the atmosphere and each other’s company. They decided to go to bed early, as well, knowing that morning would come sooner than they’d like.

Jane tried not to wake Maura up as she tossed and turned in bed. Eventually, she gave up and went to sit out on the balcony.

Maura woke up just as the sliding door shut. She reached out to the other side of the bed, but it was empty. She quietly crawled out of bed, pulled on her robe, and followed Jane onto the balcony.

Jane looked up when Maura stepped out the door. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you,” she whispered as Maura took the seat next to her.

“It’s okay,” Maura replied quietly. “Are you okay?”

“I couldn’t sleep,” Jane said, breaking eye contact with her wife. Maura reached out and placed her hand on Jane’s shoulder, gently rubbing her upper arm in an attempt to offer some comfort. After a few moments, Maura shifted so that her chair was up against Jane’s. She leaned over and wrapped her arms around Jane’s shoulders, pulling her close. She rested her chin on Jane’s shoulder.

They sat in comfortable silence for a few minutes until Maura broke the quiet. “Is it about what happened today? With Sam?”

Jane nodded, and she felt tears stinging the corners of her eyes.

“She’s okay, Jane,” Maura said gently. “She’s just behind that door, asleep with her brothers and sister like she’s supposed to be.”

“I know,” Jane said, but her voice cracked, and the tears broke free. Maura attempted to pull Jane closer in an effort to comfort her. Finally, Jane gave in and leaned towards Maura, allowing Maura to hold her while she let out all of her pent-up anxiety from the day.

“I didn’t catch her,” Jane said through her tears after a while. “The park attendant stopped her. I didn’t catch her.”

Maura kissed the top of Jane’s head. “You did, Jane. Just because someone helped doesn’t mean you didn’t get to her.” They hadn’t had a chance to talk about what happened without the kids around since they had all fallen asleep around the same time, but Maura had pieced together some of what happened from Sam’s comments throughout the rest of the day. She surmised that Sam had made it through Hogsmeade before a park worker dressed as a Hogwarts Express conductor – who Sam thought was an actual Hogwarts Express conductor – had stopped her progress, at which time Jane caught up to her.

“I know that you want to be able to protect them singlehandedly, but it’s okay to accept help,” Maura said reassuringly. “Sam is perfectly fine. She wasn’t hurt, and I don’t think she was even scared.” Maura paused with a laugh. “I blame you for all four of their lack of fear by the way,” Maura teased, giving Jane a poke in the side, but Jane didn’t laugh.

“I blame myself for their recklessness, too,” Jane said so quietly that Maura almost missed it.

“That’s not what I meant, Jane,” Maura said gently. She brought her hand up to brush Jane’s hair off her face. She continued to run her fingers through Jane’s curls as she continued, “All four of our kids are so much like you, and you have no idea how happy that makes me. They love with everything they have, they’re protective of each other, they’re brave, they’re confident, and they’re so so strong. Yes, they also have some of your stubbornness and defiance, but even if that sometimes makes parenting more difficult, we both know that will serve them well in life. Jane, they are so lucky to have you as their mother.” Maura could feel Jane’s tears soaking through her pajama top, and she wished she knew the right thing to say. Jane would know what to say if this was the other way around. “And I’m so lucky that you’re my wife and that I get to parent with you. I was scared today, too, when she took off, but there is no one else in the world I would want to go after her. Neither one of us can prevent every possible bad thing that could happen to them, but I knew that you would do everything within your power to bring her back safely.”

“But what if…” Jane started.

Maura cut her off. “Don’t do that,” she said quickly. “She’s safe, and she’s happy. Don’t go through all the possible ‘what ifs.’ That doesn’t help anyone, and it will only upset you.”

Jane sighed and finally lifted her head off Maura’s chest. Her face was still wet from the tears, but her eyes were clearer when she made eye contact with Maura. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. Maura shook her head and leaned in to give Jane a gentle kiss.

“You have nothing to be sorry for,” Maura replied. Finally, Jane nodded, and Maura gave her another soft kiss, this time on the cheek.

“She burst into tears when I got to her though,” Jane said, realizing that maybe she needed to talk about this.

Maura nodded. “I think she realized at that moment what she had done. She realized that she had made a bad choice, and it overwhelmed her.” Maura paused for a few moments before asking, “What did you guys talk about when you took her aside after you got back to us?”

“Just that what she had done was wrong and that she’d have to have a consequence. I didn’t want to ruin the trip though, so I told her she would lose one week of screen time when she got home,” Jane explained. “I don’t really know if that was the right decision or if there should have been something more immediate.”

Maura shrugged. She didn’t really know either, but she trusted Jane’s judgement.

“I did tell her that is she did anything like that again, her vacation was over,” Jane continued. “I told her that she and I would spend the rest of the trip in the room while you and the other kids went to the parks.”

Maura nodded. “I think that’s a good idea, but I don’t think she’ll do it again. I think she learned her lesson, but if it does happen, I’ll stay back with her, okay?” Maura said. “You’ll go on more rides with Jackson and Mia, and I’d like to minimize the effect on their vacation.”

“If it happens, we can figure it out,” Jane said. “Hopefully, nothing else happens. You know, though, if this does happen, Jackson and Mia are probably going to protest and say they won’t go to the park without Sam.”

Maura laughed. “You’re probably right. Let’s just hope nothing happens.”

“Otherwise, we’re going to have spent thousands of dollars for all six of us to spend the whole time in the hotel room.”

“We could just lock them all in the room and go have fun at the parks just the two of us,” Maura teased.

Jane snorted. She knew Maura was joking; neither one of them would ever do something like that, but it was funny to think about. They stayed on the balcony, wrapped up in each other for a while longer before they eventually found their way back to bed. This time, Jane was able to fall asleep almost instantly as she allowed herself to enjoy her wife’s comforting embrace. She fell asleep with her head on Maura’s chest to the sound of Maura’s steady, calming heartbeat. Maura followed close behind her.