Chapter 36 – Past the HorizonA Piratical LegacyChapter 36: Past the Horizon
"It is time for a new course of action," the cowled and shadowed figure at the head of the table said authoritatively."Thats obvious, Fortune," another admonished. "Just because youre the Chair for this meeting doesnt mean youre in charge.""Dont even start, Family," another figure said in exasperation. "We all know you and Fortune cant stand one another.""She makes a good point, though," another figure pointed out."Of course youd take her side, Romance," Family sneered, but she then fell silent.
Silence filled the room for a moment before Family spoke up again: "What are we going to do? Knowledge? Got any ideas in that head of yours?"Knowledge stretched languidly before beginning to speak. "It behooves us to review our past failures.""There are kind of a lot of them," a fifth voice, presumably Popularity, chimed in."Not as many as you might imagine," Knowledge contradicted.
"Not so many?" Popularity yelped. "Ever since that family moved to this island and promptly started ignoring us, weve been actively seeking waysof getting rid of them!""No, weve been having a lot of meetings where we squabble at one another," Fortune said delicately. "Weve only acted a few times."
"If the legacy founder had actually married Fortune or I like he wassupposed to, we wouldnt still be here dressed in these ridiculous The other five jumped.costumes," Family complained. "Ah, Grow Up," Fortune said nervously. "We hadnt realized you"Could we please get back to the subject at hand?" Knowledge were paying attention."pleaded. "If were actually going to get something done, that is. Ifthis is just turning into another bickerfest, Im going home." There was no response from the foot of the table."Let the recitation of our past atrocities begin," a hushed voice said "Perhaps I ought to begin, then," Romance said with much throat-from the foot of the table. clearing.
"We have attempted to disrupt the Buccaneer familys hold on the island on four separate occasions," Romance continued solemnly. "Firstly: thematter of the Buccaneer family curse. Knowledge and I met with one Anthony Greaves, a much-distraught former concubine of the then-heiress,Ivy Buccaneer. This Greaves was bound and determined to stalk Mrs. Buccaneer. We felt then that he would be unsuccessful, but Knowledge wasable to impart a particular bit of arcana and the result was that when Greaves died, the family was cursed.""Yeah, but then the next heir went and lifted the curse," Popularity complained."Yes, but the result of that was the return to life of our patsy," Romance said. "We were able to convince him to interfere once more. He succeededin seducing Marie, wife of fourth generation heir Roche, and she had his child. This child was named heiress, and we would have succeeded atbreaking the family if someone hadnt told the child of her parentage. She resigned."
Romance took a sip of water before continuing. "Our patsy disappeared, and for some time we did nothing. But then two more pawns fell into ourgrasp: Septimus and Octavia Toyonaga. These two were of the legacy family but felt they ought to be in control of said family. They were easy tobend to our whims. Unfortunately, they were also highly ineffective and were stopped before their plan could come to fruition."
"Yes, but we had some measure of foresight this time," Fortune said. "You did see the look on her face," Fortune snorted. "It was all over"We put other plans into motion at the same time, specifically in the the front page of the newspaper."legislature." "I know!""That wasnt really foresight," Knowledge said. "It was pure dumbluck. The relevant legislation had been enacted some generations "But what does it matter?" Family interjected. "She foiled that oneearlier. We were able to tweak it beneath the notice of anyone." too, and now there are two more heirs!""Yes, and then bring it to the attention of the authorities when the The circle bickered amongst themselves, casting blamelegacy brat tried to contravene it," Romance said gleefully. "I would indiscriminately, for some time. They were stopped by a cough fromhave loved to see the look on her face when the police dragged her the foot of the table.poor fiancé away." The five of them looked up fearfully. "What is it?" Fortune asked.
The small, hooded figure known as Grow Up seemed to slouch evenfurther beneath robes of black. "I have a plan." "I do not see that we have much choice, fellow conspirators," the childish voice pointed out at the last.They listened intently. As one, the other five were forced to agree. "It seems not," Popularity"But thats--" conceded. "Very well, Grow Up. We will give your plan a chance. It cant go any more badly than the others have gone.""I am still speaking." "Excellent. I shall put it into action immediately. I know just theMore protests. dupe..."
"Whos the cutest baby in the world? Kennit is!" Gertie crowed, dancing around the kitchen with her newest great-nephew. The baby gurgled andcooed happily in response."You might want to be careful doing that," Ching Shih laughed. "Kennit likes to shower people if they bounce him right after hes eaten.""Shih, Kennit is the sixth baby Ive helped to raise," Gertie pointed out, bouncing the happy baby on her shoulder. "Im well aware of the risks."
"Have you and Jim given any more thought to our proposal?" Grace asked her daughter. "It would only be for three or four days, and Shere Khanand Zing are fine with Sterling going.""I suppose," Ching Shih sighed at last, keeping one eye on her son. "Jim and I just dont like being away from Balthier for so long. Its bad enoughthat Balthier didnt even meet his daddy until he was three years old.""Yes, but you wouldnt even know theyd ever been apart to look at them now," Grace pointed out reassuringly.
"You arent going to barf on your Auntie Gertie ever, are you Kennit?" Gertie cooed over the sounds of mother and daughter--not quite arguing, butdefinitely discussing headedly. "No youre not! Youre much too cute and innocent to barf on your very favourite auntie in the whole world!""Youre his only auntie," Shih pointed out with a chuckle."That just means theres less competition for the title," Gertie said proudly.
"Anyway, its only to the Three Lakes cabin," Grace said cajolingly, Ill pack Balthiers suitcase."drawing her daughters attention back to her. "Well make it just aweekend if that makes you feel better." "Wonderful!""I suppose it does," Shih smiled slightly. "Yeah, you can take him. Just then, Kennit made a curious-sounding noise and mother andWhen are you planning to go?" daughter turned to see the baby erupting all over his Aunt Gertie. Simultaneously, the two of them burst into laughter."I know its short notice, but we would like to go this weekend,"Grace said. "Is that okay?" "Go book your plane tickets," Shih chuckled. "Ill get things cleaned up in here.""Yeah," Shih said. "Ill call Jim at work and let him know, and then
"You know," Ching Shih said to her younger son a short time later, "that wasnt very nice."Kennit just looked up at her with his big, blue eyes and blinked innocently. But Ching Shih was sure shed seen the hint of a smile about thecorners of his mouth."Probably just gas," she said fondly as she tucked her son in for his nap. "Sleep tight, Kennit!"
"...and the shuttle should arrive at four oclock," Grace continued. "Uh-huh. Yes. Perfect!"
When Balthier got home from school and was told he was going on a vacation with his grandparents and his favourite cousin, he was ecstatic. Heran upstairs to get his suitcase and found his mother just tucking in the last pair of clean socks."Mommy! I get to go camping with Grandma and Grandpa!" the little boy crowed excitedly. "Is that my suitcase? You packed it for me? Thankyou Mommy! Yay!" And, snatching his suitcase from his mothers grasp, Balthier practically cartwheeled down the stairs and out to the waitingshuttle."Do you think hell miss me?" Ching Shih asked herself. But she was smiling when she said it. It was good to see how Balthier had gotten overtheir earlier forced separation.
It was raining when the travelling party made up of Grace, Lee, and And you fed me cheesecake!"Balthier arrived at the family cabin in Three Lakes. Grace tittered nervously. "Well, I didnt know what it would do. And"Is that it?" Sterling asked, somewhat awe-struck. "Wow! Its way I thought it would settle your stomach."bigger than my house at home!" "You always have my best interests at heart," Lee said warmly."Yes, thats it!" Lee said proudly. "We got it at a steal, too. Only cost "Well, what say we check out some of the scenery, kids?"us a few hundred thou." "But its raining!" Sterling and Balthier said in unison."And it was worth every penny," Grace said fondly. "Remember thelast time we were here, Lee?" "So? That just makes it more of an adventure!" Grace said enthusiastically. "Just drop the suitcases inside the front door and"How could I forget?" Lee winced. "It was right after I got probed. were off!"
The rain had cleared up by the time they reached the nearest tourist trap within walking distance. Balthier declared that he was hungry, so Graceadded that she was a mite peckish as well and the two of them sat down at a booth to order Flapjacks."Grandma, these look just like pancakes," Balthier said poking his somewhat dubiously with his fork."Yes indeed," Grace said. "But theyre the Canadian version, which is completely different from what we make on Pirate Island.""Are you sure?" Balthier asked, sniffing. He took a careful bite. "They taste just like regular pancakes.""I think the main difference is the real maple syrup," Grace said."I think I like the fake kind better."
Lee and Sterling, meanwhile, decided to try out one of the local wearing a bathing suit!"pastimes. "I suppose," Sterling said, patting her ducky for reassurance."So we just walk on the log and then try to keep running in place andmake the other person get wet?" Sterling asked, balancing Granddaughter and grandfather played happily for a few minutes.precariously. "There you go!" Lee said encouragingly. "Youre getting it! Now--try to knock me off!""Thats right, Sterling!" Lee said encouragingly. "You can bounce onthe log to try to make the other person fall in if you like." Sterling just looked back at her grandfather with a wicked gleam in her eye. Then she gave an enormous hop, obviously intent on"But then youll get wet!" unbalancing her grandfather and sending him into the drink. Lee flailed wildly as Sterling came down from her jump--"Thats part of the fun," Lee explained. "And its also why youre
--and slipped straight into the water!Lee couldnt help but laugh uproariously at the outraged expression on his granddaughters face."These flippers suck!" Sterling stormed. "They made me slip!""But did you have fun?" Lee asked."Yes!"
Once Sterling was dried off and warmed up, the four of them decided to try their hands at fishing."I havent done this for a long time!" Grace chuckled, expertly baiting her hook."Perhaps its like a bicycle, my silver darling," Lee said. "You never forget how.""A friendly wager, then?" Grace grinned. "First to catch a golden trout gets a shiny new souvenir from the stand?""I want the chunk of wood!" Balthier said excitedly. "If I win, anyway. What do you want, Sterling?""I want the bear carving," the little girl said decisively.
To Balthiers delight, he caught the first fish of the day, though it was a rainbow trout rather than the much rarer golden variety."Good job, kiddo!" Lee said encouragingly."Hey grandpa, over here!" Sterling called suddenly.
Lee and Grace cheered excitedly when they saw the large bass Sterling had managed to hook and reel in."Very nice!""Yeah, but now its all smelly and slimy and dead," Sterling complained, wrinkling her nose."Dont worry about that for now," Lee advised. "Just put it in your inventory and well deal with it later.""You sure about that?" Sterling asked dubiously. "What if it starts to smell?""Inventory never starts to smell," Grace said wisely. "Trust us, Sterling--itll be fine. Maybe we can even have it for supper tonight!"
They fished for the rest of the afternoon but decided to stop when the only thing still biting was the old boot Balthier pulled out of the pond."Can I keep it?""Er, why do you want to do that?" Grace asked."Its, like, a trophy or something!" Balthier said enthusiastically."Well, I suppose it cant hurt to take it home in your inventory," Lee shrugged. "Just make sure you clean it up before you pull it out in the house.""I wanna drink it."
At the end of the day, grandparents and grandchildren found "I think that would be nice," Lee said fondly. "But it will be a fewthemselves soaking in the large granite-lined pools at the local years yet before hes big enough to come camping like this."hotspring. "But this isnt really camping, is it?" Sterling asked. "I mean, were"This is nice. Grandpa?" staying at the cabin and not in tents. I think it would be neat to stay in a tent sometime instead of in a nice cozy cabin. Maybe I could get a"Yes, Balthier?" skink in my tent.""Can we come back here again when Kennit is a little bigger? I want "Youre more likely to get a slimy, yucky, squirmy old toad," Graceto show all this fun stuff to him, too." said, shuddering. "So Gertie says, and she lived in a tent for a while when she was travelling the world."
"Did she go everywhere, Grandma Grace?" Sterling asked, her eyes wide. "Well, you were and still are worth even losing my teaching job for," Lee said fondly."Pretty nearly, I think," Grace chuckled. "Sometimes I wish Id spent sometime travelling instead of going to university, like Gertie did... but then I "Ew, mushy stuff," Sterling complained. "I dont like mushy stuff. Mushywouldnt have met your grandfather, so it all worked out for the best after stuff is why Im getting a brother or a sister or both or something soon."all." "But that means youll have more people to play with," Grace pointed out."Was Grandpa Lee a student like you?" Balthier asked. "Not for a long time--theyre going to be just little! For ages n ages, and Im"Not exactly," Grace said. The redness that suffused her cheeks could be gonna be a teenager soon and having parties every weekend!"attributed to the steam, or the Buccaneer matron could be blushing. "He wasmy brother Nicks professor." The others laughed.
All too soon it was time for bed. recorder. That would be fun--maybe we talk in our sleep too and we could record it and listen to it!""Balthier?" Sterling asked as she pulled back the covers. Sterling stared at him. "Youre weird.""Yeah?" "Do I still hear voices coming from in there?" Lees voice boomed"Do you snore? Because I never shared a room with anyone before down the hall, making both kids jump in startlement. "If you twoand I dont want to share one with someone who snores." arent in your beds before I get in there... no bedtime story!""I dont think I snore," Balthier asked, turning to face her with wide There was a quick scramble to get under the covers and turn off theeyes. "Will you tell me if you do? Or maybe we could get a tape light.
Lee read until both children had drifted off to sleep, and then for a few minutes longer. He was very fond of his grandchildren, and very glad hehad the opportunity to spend this time with them. At the same time, though, he couldnt help but sigh--they were growing up so fast! Sterling wouldbe a teenager very soon, and Balthier wasnt all that far behind her.Finally, he closed the book and put it on the shelf and headed back upstairs to where his wife was waiting for him.
The rest of the vacation flew by very quickly, with each day spent much like the one previous. But before long the trip was over, and foursomewhat tired and very happy people were more than ready to trudge home and see the rest of their families again."Can we go again next year?" Balthier asked Grace sleepily once they were inside the cab."Maybe we can," Grace said fondly, tousling his hair."Yay!"
"Well, Kennit? How did you like this whole weekend without your brother?" Jim asked his younger son a few hours before the travelers were duehome.The infant just gurgled and cooed at him."Yes, it was a little too quiet without Balthier, was it not?" Jim said agreeably. "How about we get you a nice bottle and then you can have yournap, and when you wake up Balthier will be home!"Taking Kennits coo for an assent, Jim bustled into the kitchen. He and Ching Shih had enjoyed the chance to spend a little more alone timetogether, and had even discussed trying for a third child, though ultimately decided against it for the time being. Still, both of them were eager tohave their oldest child back home safe, where he belonged.
"How was the trip?" Gertie asked Grace the next evening over a friendly game of pool."Oh, it was nice," Grace said, smiling. "We had a little fishing competition, the four of us. But none of us were able to catch an elusive goldentrout.""Still, I noticed the freezer is pretty full of dead fishie," Gertie nodded, taking her shot.
"Yes," Grace said. "I didnt say we didnt have a good run of luck. Would you believe it, the kids caught twice as many fish as Lee and I.""Thatll make Shere Khan happy," Borusa, who had stopped by for dinner and been roped into joining the game, chuckled."I think hes actually rather off of fish right now," Grace said. "Poor guy--he says absolutely everything just turns his stomach except for chefsalad.""Now that is funny," Borusa said. "Hes always going on about being a carnivore and a cakeivore, and he cant eat either.""Yes, but it wont be long until the baby is here, and then you know hell be glad to dig into Sterlings catch of the day!"
"Any chance you could send some of that fish my way?" Borusa asked somewhat pleadingly. "Hades cooks most of the time and youd swear hewas a Grilled Cheese sim instead of Pleasure because thats all he cooks. Id like a little variety.""Raid the freezer before you go," Grace shrugged. "You can take anything with your dads or my name on it--just dont touch any that Balthiercaught.""Roger," Borusa saluted. "Now, shall we get on with this game? I believe I was winning...""Dont count those chickens before they catch, son o mine," Grace smirked. "Im two shots away from the end, and its my turn...""Fifty bucks says you miss the shot.""From the man who doesnt even have a job yet? Oh, why not. Youre on!"
"And then--and then he bet fifty dollars he could beat me when it was smiled.my turn before his and Id almost cleared the table!" Grace giggled. "Isunk both balls with one shot, and the two went in before the eight "Almost a hundred simoleons!"ball so I won!" "Woo!""Howd he take that?" "Care for a friendly wager, husband mine?" Grace added once theyd"Upped the stakes and bet I couldnt sink the rest of his balls without stopped laughing at Borusas bad fortune.missing at least one shot," Grace smirked. "Five bucks a ball. I sunkthem all, of course." "Stakes?""Terrific! So how much are we adding to the next holiday fund?" Lee "Loser has to change Kennits diaper--I can hear him crying now."
"I dont think it was a game I wanted to win," Lee chuckled a moment later, wiping some lipstick off of his mouth."Cmon Kennit, lets get you changed and then its to bed with you. Tomorrow is a big day!"
"Papa papa papa papa!" Balthier chanted, pelting headlong down the front steps and flinging himself into his fathers arms. "Guess what? Guesswhat?""What?" Jim asked, hugging his son tightly before stepping back and regarding him with amusement."I got an A+ in school today on my report card and Kennit is having a birthday and Sterling is coming over for the party! All those things happenedor are going to happen! Its so cool."
And sure enough, a few short hours later the family was gathered around a small table in the entryway upon which sat a small cake with bluecandles sparking merrily."...Happy birthday to Kennit! Happy birthday to you!" they all sang in unison, some in better tune than others."Yay! Mommy, you should toss him now so Sterling and I can go play, okay?""One toddler, coming up!" Shih said with a smile, and she leaned forward with the baby in her arms to blow out the candles.
To everyones happiness (including this particular author), Kennit has a better mix of features from both parents rather than looking just like hisfather. He and Balthier are about as different as two siblings from the same parents can be!
"So are you two going to have another one?" Coxinga asked as he of them at once!"added another straw to the precarious pile atop the llama. "Hades and I arent sure if were going to have kids," Spandrell pipedChing Shih snorted. "The house is too full, Zing. Besides, its nice up.having Kennit and Balthier. Im not ruling out another child entirely,understand, but I dont think its very likely at this point. How about "No?" Zing asked. "Then why are you both wearing clothes from myyou and Shere Khan? You having more?" maternity line?""Not if Shere Khan goes and has twins next week like he thinks hes "Figured it couldnt hurt to be safe."going to," Zing said, shuddering. "It was hectic enough just havingSterling as a baby and toddler. I cant imagine trying to deal with two "Riiiiight."
Eventually it was time for sleepy children to go to bed and the last of the guests to head home."Ill come by tomorrow, okay mom?" Borusa promised, letting go of Grace after a particularly fierce hug."Oh, you dont have to go to so much trouble as that," Grace chuckled wearily."I gotta win back all that money you took me for!" Borusa said in mock outrage. "Seven oclock, mom.""As you like," Grace smiled. "Now youd better hurry or your brother will leave without you!"
The rest of the guests finally left and everyone went to bed--exceptfor one particularly stubborn individual and his father. "Would you like me to sing you a song?""It is time to go to sleep, Kennit," Jim said tiredly. "No!""No!" "Tell you a story?""Your first word, and you are being contrary already," Jim shook his "No!"head. "This should not be unexpected." "Then what would you like to do, son of mine?""No!"
"Blow fings up wif da rocket!""That does not seem... prudent.""Boom!""How about a bottle before bed instead?"The toddler stared at his father for a moment, considering. "Otay."
But as soon as his father was out of the room, Kennit grabbed the toy rocket again."Boom! Want cannons! An cannonballs! Arrrrrrrrr!"
"Can you believe we have been married almost fifty years?" Lee said happily, cuddling up to his wife on the soft green grass."A long time," Grace smiled. She pointed up at the sky. "That cloud looks like a llama.""Considering the nature of our universe, such does not surprise me," Lee said drily. "Although Im inclined to think it looks more like a yurt.""Maybe, now that the wind has drifted it a bit," Grace agreed. She pointed again. "That one looks like the Pirate Island stock exchange."Lee narrowed his eyes. "I agree. Which we totally dominated over thirty years ago.""And still going strong," Grace smiled.
"How come we never thought of doing this before?" Lee asked "Days when we can lie about in the grass, watching the clouds, whilesuddenly. our ant-like employees fill our coffers?"Grace shrugged. "Perhaps weve always just been too busy? First "Exactly."with the children, and then with our careers, and then with helpingour daughter through her many trials. This is the first time of quiet Grace sat up and stretched her arms. "Do you mind if we go in, Lee?happiness our family has had for some years." Im getting a bit chilled.""True," Lee said. "I wouldnt mind more days like this." "Whatever you like, my dear."
They hiked around the house and inside."Feeling warmer?" Lee asked, taking Grace into his arms and pulling her into a dance."Some," Grace said, smiling. "But I can think of a thing or two that would heat me up even quicker!"
"Like this? For a start, I mean," Lee chuckled and dipped his wife, kissing her passionately."Mmm.""How about we head on upst--"
"THE TIME FOR DALLIANCE HAS PASSED, GRACE BUCCANEER."
"Anna?" Grace whispered as the hula zombies appeared on either ONLY ONE I MUST TAKE TODAY."side of the cowled and be-leied figure. "Tell my family, Anna. Tell them I love them.""YES." "THEY ALREADY KNOW." How could they miss it, my dear"Do you really have to do this?" sister?"FOR MOST SIMS, THERE IS A FINITE PERIOD OF DAYS." "Please?"Oh, Grace... "I WILL, IF THEY WISH TO HEAR IT." We can mourn together...."Well, I guess Im as ready as Ill ever be." "Thank you."Im not. "THEN WE SHOULD LEAVE. YOU ARE NOT THE
As the Grim Reaper handed Grace the fruity umbrella drink and suitcase, the rest of the family finally realized what was happening. Flooding intothe entryway, one-by-one, the tears began to run.
While the family members shared their sorrow around Graces platinum urn, Anna sighed dejectedly (if it is possible for the Grim Reaper to do so)and headed upstairs. Her beloved familys measure of grief was not yet full.
"OH MY. THIS IS UNCOMFORTABLE." "What?""Anna? Youve come for me too? When... when I heard you "YOU WILL SEE HER SOON."downstairs I thought you were here for me. And so I came up here tohide. But then you didnt come, despite the feeling in my bones." "But the others--they need me.""OUR SISTER... IT IS ALSO HER TIME." "THEY WILL TAKE SOLACE IN ONE ANOTHER, MY SISTER. TAKE COMFORT IN THAT. NOW, MAY I OFFER YOU A"Grace? Oh..." a few tears dripped down the cheeks of the worn old FRUITY DRINK?"womans face. "Is it cheese-flavoured?""I AM NOT SUPPOSED TO SAY THIS..." "DO YOU WANT IT TO BE?"
And so the Buccaneer family was left to deal with not one, but two sorrows on that cold spring night.Lets leave them to their grief, shall we?
Across the bridge and down the hill... "At least you get to have a brother or sister soon," Orlando said"Whys everyone over at Balthiers house bein sad?" Orlando Pseudo pragmatically. "My mom and dad keep having babies too. Ive gotasked, looking off in that general direction from Sterlings fort. two brothers and two sisters. That means the boys are winning.""Cause my grandma died," Sterling said. "That means shes gone and "What will you do if your mom and dad have another baby and its acant take me n Balthier fishing anymore." The little girl said this girl?" Callie demanded.steadily while she peered at her house from on high. "That just means that I have to grow up and have a boy so were"Why arent you there?" Calico Legacina asked. winning again," Orlando shrugged."We went to the funeral yesterday," Sterling shrugged. "But now my "I hope I get a sister," Sterling said. "Boys are stinky. Cept you,dad and my papa want me to stay here in case the babies come." Lando."
"Yeah, hes only stinky sometimes," Callie giggled as Sterling slid down the firepole. She turned to Orlando. "Youre next, Lando!""Um, okay," Orlando said hesitantly. He grabbed onto the pole and gripped it tightly with both arms and legs."You have to let go a little!" Callie scolded. "Otherwise youre just going to hang there!"Orlando loosened his deathgrip just enough to slide at a snails pace to the ground below."I dont like his game," He muttered. "Im going swimming instead."
A little while later, Coxinga got home from his sisters house, bringing Balthier with him. Both Shih and Jim had agreed a change of scenery woulddo their son some good--he needed to escape the gloom and doom present in his home at the moment."Dere is caek," Shere Khan said solemnly, gesturing for his nephew to take a large slice. "Caek makes teh sniffoos go way.""We only have cake at birthdays at my house," Orlando complained."Yeah, but you got birthdays all the time," Callie said. "On account of having so many brothers and sisters. You probly get cake every day!""Yeah, but it gets all gross and stale when it’s in inventory for too long," Orlando shuddered. "This cake is good.""Om nom nom nom," Shere Khan concurred.
"Soon kittehs come," he added, swallowing. "Den birfday cakes - no "How did you understand the part about speriments when you werelie!" just a toddler?" Sterling asked skeptically."I know where babies come from," Sterling said importantly. Across "Speriments?"from her, Zing choked on his cake. "Not... everybody needed experiments, Sterling," Zing said quickly."Doesnt everybody?" Balthier asked. "My mom n dad gave me a "Well tell you later, okay?"book." "I wanna know more about these speriments," Orlando demanded."Mine too, just before Muffy came," Callie nodded. "No talking, only eating," Shere Khan ordered. "Nom da caek.""I think my parents told me when I was just a toddler," Orlando saidthickly around a mouthful of frosting. "Awww..."
Shere Khans prediction that the kittehs would come soon proved very apt. That night he woke out of a very restless sleep to wracking pains."Zing! Needs u! Nao!"Thank goodness, it was all over quickly.
"You is boy. Naem Troy. Ooh, I poet, know it!"The infant just cooed at him."Is it can be bottle tiemz nao? And then naps?"
Oh, did I forget to mention? Troy was the second child Shere Khan gave birth to that night. He and Zing also had a little girl, Karat."Im sure my mad scientist husband is thrilled weve got a mutant baby," Zing chuckled, feeding his second daughter a bottle that was longer thanshe was. "I guess I am too. Fuzzy babies for the win!"Safe to say that, the longer theyre married, the more Shere Khan and Zing rub off on each other.
Some time passed, and appropriate cakes were procured. The entire extended family was in attendance, glad to celebrate a happy occasion ratherthan the sad one they were only just starting to get over."No fights over who throws the baybee," Shere Khan said with a grin. "Race?"
This is (obviously) Karat. She looks to me like the spitting image of Ching Shih at that age, though with the tiger skin its a bit difficult to tell.
And this is Troy. He is practically a clone of Zing, and the identical hairstyle doesnt hurt the comparison either. It suited him, and so his parentsdecided to let him keep it.
"I wish mom could have met the twins," Zing said quietly to hissister. "Bet weve got more spensive stuff at my house," Balthier pouted slightly. "Like Kennit.""She would have been thrilled to have a tiger grandbaby," ChingShih agreed with a smile. "But you know... she knows. Somehow, "Kids, dont argue," Shih said absently.she knows. I bet Auntie Susanna tells her everything were up to onpretty much a daily basis." "Has mom haunted yet?" Zing asked eagerly."It wouldnt surprise me," Zing grinned. "Going Knowledge, dear brother?""Is everything in this house spensive?" Balthier demanded of his "Ive been married to Shere Khan for twelve years."cousin. "Good point. No, she hasnt.... but Im looking forward to when she"Yes," Sterling said proudly. "Even the babies." does!"
With the addition of the twins and their growth into toddlerhood, Zing and Shere Khan were pretty sure their family was complete--or nearly so.The adoption of a kitten named Echo sealed the deal for them, though. Sterling quickly gravitated to the small, fuzzy creature and claimed Echo forher own.
She had some competition, however. One or the other of the twins could often be found hugging Echo despite the kittens ardent protestations.Not that Echo minded overmuch. She squirmed and wriggled and meowed loudly... but she never bit, hissed, or clawed. She was a good, patientkitten for the most part--traits practically unheard of amongst felines.
There was another small, fuzzy animal the twins liked to abuse. to do.""Arr! That be me ear, lad! No droolin on me ear!" "Yer blasted father never told ye t chew me ear, lad. He was almost certainly referring to objects o the pastry persuasion rather than the"Arrrrrr! Om nom nom!" plush.""Cease and desist, ye young rapscallion!" "So? Dont care. Bear is nummy.""Nummy bear!" Troy giggled. "Om nom nom. Dats what papa says "This be cannibalism, and that be a fact, mate."
Two working parents meant that the three kids spent a lot of time with the nanny, Karen Gast. Three rambunctious kids meant that all threechildren got into mischief from time to time.Sterlings favourite after-school activity was puddle-jumping, much to the nannys disgust. But when Ms. Gast complained to Shere Khan, he justshook his head, went outside, and joined his daughter in the puddle.
The twins were good at playing nicely together if they wound up in the same part of the house--the two of them were escape artists and earlymasters of using the stairs, and so tended to vanish whenever Nanny Karens back was turned.Fortunately, neither of them liked to head outside and the door to the swimming pool was always kept locked, in any case. If they both wound upon the ground floor at the same time, they could usually be found attacking Sterlings doll house in the living room.
"Kat-kat, why so many people here?" Troy asked."Sterlings birfday, Toy," Karat responded importantly."When is our birfday?" Troy wanted to know."Dunno," Karat shrugged. "We gets caek anyway.""You sound like papa!" Troy giggled."Papa talks all silly-like," Karat replied. "Cmon, Toy. Lets go get hugs from granpa.""Yay!"
It was, indeed, Sterlings birthday--much to the shock and surprise of the adults in her life. It felt like just yesterday shed still been an infant, forgoodness sake! And here she was on the cusp of being a teenager.It was all they could do not to reach over and pinch her cheeks."I wish for... umm....""Dont tell us, Sterling," Lee cautioned. "Remember, your wish wont come true if you do!"
Well, if Sterling wished to beautiful, I think she got her wish! Dont you?
"Youd better get down from there, Persephone," Laertes said."Whee! This is fun!""Okay, fine, get in trouble," Laertes shrugged. "No skin off my nose.""I could zap you and take some off if you like," Persephone offered, stopping her bouncing for a moment."No thanks.""Are you sure? Im getting pretty good at it and I probably wouldnt even take out your eye or anything.""No zapping required here."
"Aww," Persephone complained, bouncing off of the bed and ontothe floor. "Youre no fun, Laertes. I should exchange you for a new "Dont call me Lert," Laertes complained. "And theyre good parents.model of brother." Youre just mad because they wouldnt let you get a pony.""I think my mom would complain if you did that," Laertes said "Why shouldnt I have a pony?" Persephone demanded, rounding onsmugly. her half-brother. "Im good and everything.""Like shed even notice," Persephone snickered. "Our parents are "No youre not!"Romance sims, Lert. Half the time I think they forget they even havekids at all." "Yeah, but they dont know that."
"Are the kids fighting again?" Ophelia complained with a long- committing to me?"suffering sigh. "What? Of course not. Whatever gave you that idea?"Toby listened for a moment. "Nah. I think theyre playing a game." "The fact that you dont actually have any other boyfriends," Toby"Oh, good," Ophelia purred. "Because I have an interesting shrugged, stepping a little closer to his lover and sliding one armproposition for you, Toby Biggs." around her waist."Really." "Too busy, between you and work and the kids. Which is why I thought we could go on a vacation--just the two of us.""I think youll approve of it." "Sure. Ill see if dad can babysit.""Does it involve you giving up your other boyfriends and finally
"Of course your mother and I can babysit," Gavin boomed happily. "Susanna has been so gloomy lately--spending time with the kids will do hersome good.""Er, I am here," Susanna said, waving her hand for attention. "And I think Ive got a pretty good reason for being gloomy. My sister died.""I know," Gavin said sympathetically. "But you have family here too, and we need you. Some time with Persephone and Laertes will do you good.Besides, I think youre the only one who can actually make Persephone behave.""Shes a bit in awe of my powers," Susanna shrugged. "Probably because she doesnt understand them.""So youll do it?" Toby asked quickly.
"Yeah, I suppose we will," Susanna grinned. She cast a considering eye at Tobys father. "Besides, I can think of a few things to do while the kidsare at school...""Mom!""Brainbleach, dear?""Please."
Twenty-four hours later, Toby found himself checking into the poshest resort on Twikki Island with Ophelia."Im so glad you agreed to come," Ophelia sighed, checking out the scenery through the window. "No responsibilities, and nothing but sun andsand and sea for a week.""Enjoy your stay," the bellhop said agreeably. "First beach house on the left.""Thanks!"
Toby and Ophelia decided to find some appropriate beach duds, first thing. None of what theyd brought was suitable, so they decided to goshopping."So, where to now?" he asked once theyd both donned their new togs and posed for an obligatory tourist picture down on the beach below theboardwalk."I was thinking we could head back to our chalet and soak up the sun on the beach," Ophelia said."Sounds good to me," Toby said. "Then again, any excuse to see you in a bikini...""Perv.""Exhibitionist."
"Ahh... this is the life," Ophelia declared once theyd put actions to words. "I could do this all day.""I wouldnt complain," Toby agreed. "Err, but Opie... what do you say to a real date one night while were here? I looked into it and theres thissuper-fancy restaurant down the beach a ways, and I think I can get us a table.""Sure," Ophelia shrugged, rolling over.
Supper time rolled around and Toby and Ophelia decided to enjoy "Nah, I dont like the fake stuff," Toby said. "I had this fling a fewroom service from the balcony of their chalet. months back who insisted on using it and it came off in the shower and was all streaky and gross.""This place is perfect," Ophelia said happily. "Ive wanted to comehere for so long." "Ew," Ophelia shuddered. Then: "Which one was this?" If her voice was a tad higher than usual, Toby didnt appear to notice."The suntanned look suits you," Toby said, ogling her appreciatively. "Oh, I dont remember," Toby shrugged. "One of the groupies from"You, too. Maybe I should pick up some perma-bronzer when we get after the game."home." "Oh, those," Ophelia nodded.
"Yeah, I used to have so many of them I didnt know where to put them all," Toby chuckled. "Funny, though, I havent had any for months. Idalmost think someone warned them off.""Funny," Ophelia said. "Then again, that was around when that reporter was nosing around asking questions about the kids. Maybe they just didntwant complications.""I suppose thats possible," Toby shrugged agreeably. "Doesnt bother me, in any case. That was around when I said I wanted us to bemonogamous, remember?""How could I forget? That practically gave me a heart attack. Im still not sure youre not suffering from some sort of mental illness.""Nah," Toby said. "Ive just realized that as often as I get it, its never better than when Im with you."
"Thats kind of sweet," Ophelia said. "Its the same for me, but thenyou already knew that." "Dont you trust me?""Well, we could try the monogamy thing in small doses," Toby "Of course I do," Toby said. "Or we wouldnt have a relationship atshrugged. "Maybe see if we can make it through this vacation all. I just dont see the point in testing it."without jumping anybody else?" "Oh. Youre kind of strange, Biggs, but I like it. Always have, much"I guess I could try that," Ophelia nodded. "No cheating and sending to my detriment."hot guys over to ask me out, though." "Its getting dark," Toby said abruptly. "We should head inside and"I wouldnt do that," Toby said. put on warmer clothes."
They headed inside, but it was safe to say they didnt put on warmer clothes.
The rest of the week passed in something of a blur of sun, sand, and steamy bedrooms. Toby did manage to procure a reservation at La Hacienda,the ritziest restaurant on Twikki Island."Blue?" Toby asked, whistling appreciatively at Ophelia when he caught sight of her in front of the restaurant doors. "Thats unusual for you.""The red dress was feeling a little tight... and a little too hot for this climate," Ophelia smirked. "Shall we go in?""Our table should be ready."
"Wow," Ophelia breathed, glancing at the menu. "Are you sure wecan afford to eat here, Toby? I dont think my paycheque would even "Oh," Ophelia said, blushing. "I can live with that."cover the price of the water!" "Speaking of the deal," Toby added, "how are you finding it?"Ive got an in with the owner," Toby said smoothly. Constraining?""Oh?" Ophelia asked suspiciously. "Reneging on our deal?" Ophelia pondered that for a moment. "No, not really," she admitted. "I can be myself around you, Toby. I dont always have to be on my"What? No!" Toby said, offended. "Ricks a huge sports fan. We just guard like I need to be with others. Its nice to just let loose. I knowhave to pose for the paparazzi on the way out." you wont hurt me."
"Well then," Toby said, beckoning to the sommelier. "I propose a toast, Ophelia. To a successful experiment."Ophelia gave a tinkling, silvery laugh. "I dont know about that, Biggs. The week isnt over yet.""We leave tomorrow morning," Toby said. "And I plan on keeping you tied up until then.""Promise?" Ophelia grinned, but she raised her glass. "Touché, Toby. I can drink to that. I suppose the experimental results do look ratherpromising, after all."
"Wow, this food is fabulous," Ophelia said, putting down her fork for a moment. "I think this is the first fancy restaurant Ive ever been in that livedup to the hype--and the prices.""I know how to pick things like this," Toby nodded after he swallowed, "but this place is even better than Id heard.""The owner must really want the publicity," Ophelia chuckled. "Well, Im stuffed. What are we doing next, Biggs?""I thought we could walk down to the beach and watch the stars for a while," Toby said, blushing a little. "Nothing fancy, but I thought it wouldbe... nice.""Well get sand in our nice clothes," Ophelia pointed out."Thats okay," Toby nodded. "Well just end up taking them off very soon afterwards."
"So, about that experiment," Ophelia said hesitantly. "Do you want to It took Toby a moment to get it. "Nine months? Thats--wait, do youtry it again when we get home?" mean--""Only if its what you want," Toby said. "Is it?" "Yeah," Ophelia said. "Ive been trying to tell you all week.""I think so," Ophelia said. She took a deep breath and rested one "Aww, Opie," Toby said affectionately. He stood up and pulled herhand on her still-flat stomach. "I was thinking maybe nine months to her feet. "I dont think I can commit for nine months."would be a good length of time." "Y-you dont?"
He dropped to one knee. "Forever, or nothing."Ophelia took a deep breath and stared at Toby for a long moment. "Toby... are you proposing? You?"Toby stared up at her. "Ive been carrying a framming ring around in my pocket since we got here. But I didnt want to ask if it wasnt somethingyou wanted. Do you?""I..." Ophelia gaped at him for a moment. Then, reaching forward, she pulled Toby to his feet.
"I will," she whispered, so softly Toby wasnt sure shed spoken at first."You sure?""Would I be saying yes if I wasnt?" she glowered, smacking him on the shoulder.Toby caught her hand and pulled her close. "Guess Romance sims can change their spots, huh?""Nope, the deals contingent on you keeping those leopard-print tighties," Ophelia smirked."Ill show you leopard spots," Toby growled. And, suiting actions to words, he grabbed her hand and started leading her back to their bungalow."Ooh, you beast."
"So let me get this straight," Persephone said, wrinkling her nose. "You guys went on a super fantastical fun vacation without us and came backwith a baby inside? That is so gross.""Oh, I dunno," Laertes shrugged. "I think itll be cool to have someone to boss around.""Ive already got someone to boss around. Fancy you trying to boss around anybody," Persephone shook her head at the sheer ridiculousness ofsuch a notion. She turned back to her father and step-mother. "Well, it would have been nice if you wouldve asked our opinion on such amomentous move. Anything else you ought to inform us about?"
"Were going to get married," Ophelia said. and would wear a purple dress.""Yawn," Persephone declared. "I saw that coming months ago." "No you didnt!" Laertes contradicted her. "You told me all about it and you didnt say anything about a purple dress.""Really?" Toby asked. "No doubting the deity-powers! I hath commandmented it.""Really," Persephone said. "I think its one of my deific powers fromGrandma Sarah. I also foretold that I would be a junior bridesmaid "Kids!" Toby said sternly. "So youre okay with it?"
"She was real mad when she first had her preom-- premol-- dream thingy," Laertes said. "She threw all her toys out of the toy box and all of thebooks off of the shelf, but Grandpa Gavin caught her and made her put them back. She even listened. And then she wouldnt talk to me for threedays but you guys didnt notice because you were out of town for some games.""Well, Im going to be home a lot more since I cant play until the baby is born," Ophelia said."And Im going to take a leave of absence too," Toby said. "I just have to top my career before Im old and gray, just like your mom. Plenty oftime."
"Can we at least get another girl?" Persephone asked, changing the "I wonder if I could use my deific po--"subject back to more important matters. "There are too many boys inthis house and Im feeling seriously outnumbered." "No.""Tell me about it," Ophelia muttered. "Aw, but daaaad--""Cant promise that," Toby shrugged. "Babies are surprises every "No."time." "Youre no fun."
"When is the wedding?" Laertes asked. "I guess thats okay," Persephone finally said. "But NO kissing. If I see any kissing, Im gonna have to zap somebody.""We were thinking after you get home from school tomorrow,"Ophelia said. "Itll be just the four of us that way." "Be nice, Phoney," Laertes said. "Theres always kissing at weddings.""Arent weddings usually big giant normous huge parties?"Persephone demanded. "Dont call me Phoney, Lert," Persephone scowled."Sometimes, but we want something smaller than that," Toby "Kids!" Ophelia said sharply.explained. "sry."
The next evening, Toby and Ophelia promised to stop sleeping with other people.
It was a very moving ceremony, in the eyes of the happy couple and Laertes. But there was kissing, much to Persephones disgust.
"Yay!" Laertes said happily once the ceremony was officially over. He paused for a moment. "Mom, does this mean that we dont have the samelast name anymore?""Of course not," Ophelia said affectionately.
"Great," Persephone said, clapping half-heartedly. "Dad, does this mean we dont have the same last name anymore?""Nope.""But how does that work?" both kids asked in unison."We decided to each keep our names," Toby explained. "It seemed easier that way.""Oh, I guess thats okay," Persephone conceded. As they filed downstairs to eat wedding cake, she turned to her brother. "Did you know they coulddo that?"
That night, Ophelia woke up absolutely starving. Shed just finished a light snack and a drink of juice when she felt an old, familiar sensation."Looks like we got married in the nick of time," she muttered. "Wedding dress wouldnt have fit if wed waited any longer. I hate this part."
The next day, a line of family members stood cheering in the basement. And why were they cheering?
"Happy birthday to me," Persephone trilled. Leaning forward, she made a wish and blew out the candles. If anybody noticed that the lightsflickered somewhat and the radio went all staticky for a moment, they didnt comment on it.
Persephone is perhaps the most striking-looking, if scary, of her generation. She grew up very well, though Toby was heard muttering somethingabout buying a baseball bat.
Laertes was up next, a few minutes later. He closed his eyes and also made a wish.Baby brother... baby brother!
Theres no denying whose son he is. Especially since this young hottie rolled Romance, just like his mother and his father.Between him and Persephone, Toby and Ophelia are in for a wild ride.
"Mom, you look like youre going to explode. Whens the baby due again?"
"Right now!" Ophelia called a few minutes later from the kitchen."Wait, what?" Laertes squeaked, dropping the dishes on the floor. "Ill go get dad!""Somebody stay here with me!" Ophelia howled. "I really hate this part!"
But, for all her yelling, it was soon over.Meet Horatio Smith, everyone. Horatio, this is everyone.Lightning, it seems, has struck twice--Horatio is another blond like his brother and mother before him.
Toby hadnt exactly mentally prepared himself for the babys birth, though, and he spent the next few minutes blubbering on the floor and quackinglike a chicken.
Fortunately, psychiatric service is quick in Paris."Hell be okay, right?" Uncle Don asked concernedly."Should be," Ophelia nodded, feeding Horatio a bottle that was longer than he was. "Or at least, hell get over it.""Good. Need a hand?""Nah, I think well be just fine..."
A swarm of children buzzed happily over the school playground, laughing and chattering and playing as hard as only children can.It sounded pleasant as long as you couldnt actually understand what they were saying.
All except one of them, that is. The blond-haired little boy stared sadly at the other children for a few minutes before disappearing around thecorner of the schoolhouse.
Once he was out of sight, Balthier gave in to the sadness he was feeling and had a good cry. It was ages since his Grandma Grace had died, but hestill got sad sometimes, and when that happened he couldnt help but cry. If it happened at home, his mom and his papa would give him hugs andstroke his hair until he felt better. But when it happened at school, he felt all alone.
"Balthier? What are you doing over here?" a childishly feminine voice called. "Are you crying?""G-go away," Balthier sniffled, not turning around. "Whoever you are, go away."
"Did something bad happen?" the red-headed girl asked, coming a little closer."I said go away," Balthier said, turning around. "Oh, hi Brittany." He sniffled and wiped his eyes. "Sorry I yelled at you.""Its okay," Brittany said sympathetically. "Something bad mustve happened, because everyone knows youre one of the nicest kids in school.""My Grandma Grace died a little while ago," Balthier muttered, giving his eyes one last futile swipe.
"That stinks," Brittany said. "I dont know anybody whos died.""Well, its no fun," Balthier said emphatically. "All it means is that theyre gone, and theyre not ever coming back so they cant play with youanymore or read you any more stories or give you any more snuggles or go fishing with you anymore."
"It sounds like your Grandma was a pretty special person," Brittanysaid. "You were lucky to have her." "Im not sad all the time now," Balthier said. "Just when I think about her suddenly. Like out on the playground, some of the kids were"I guess so," Balthier said slowly. "I just wish I didnt have to miss talking about this movie that I watched with my grandma a long timeher all the time. I just want one more story or something. Even if that ago."makes me sound like a little baby." "Well, how about we go do something else where we cant hear them"Not like a little baby," Brittany corrected him. "It makes you sound talking?" Brittany suggested. "Maybe that will make you feel better."like a person. I wish I had a Grandma who could do those things withme, and if I did then I would be sad if I didnt have her anymore." "I guess," Balthier said.
Impulsively, he threw his arms around his classmate. "Thanks, Brittany. I feel lots better now.""I guess Im glad I could help," Brittany said, shrugging. "Cmon, lets go play."
"So why did you bring me here to play with me now? This is different from where we used to play before.""Its ... different ... now. Now we can play as much or as long as we want to."
"Really?" A moment of puzzled silence, and the long-haired girl frowns. "It feels like someone is missing, though. Someone named... Lee?Shouldnt he be here?""Hell be here in a little while," the black-and-white-haired girl says carefully. "Not yet, though. He has some things to do.""Oh, okay. I dont have to leave this time, do I?"
"Definitely not. Dont worry, Grace... you never have to leave us again.""Thats good, because I like it here, Anna. Even if the sky is all weird. I guess I can wait until Lee comes. Can we build another sandcastle now?""As many as you like."