A Not So Scary Night

Copyright 2014 by Linda Crist

Setting:  This is a Kennedy and Carson short story, two characters first introduced in The Bluest Eyes in Texas.  It is set sometime between "Once Upon a Future Time" and "Airships That Pass in the Night."  Kennedy is a Federal Criminal Court Judge based in Austin, Texas, and Carson is an independent film-maker, also based in Austin.  They have four children, and the kids call Kennedy "Nemah," a diminutive of "Nehemah," the Comanche word for "mother." This story is a stand-alone, and its details may or may not eventually be incorporated in the Kennedy and Carson novel series. If you'd like to read The Bluest Eyes in Texas,  or any other Kennedy and Carson stories, go here: http://texbard.com


"Mommy, mommy!" A dark-headed boy came running across Liberty Square, dodging several other costumed children, his pirate hat hanging by its chinstrap and flopping down his back. "Look! Captain Jack Sparrow gave me candy!"

"He did?  Jaxon, let me see."  Carson lifted the boy up onto her lap, mindful of two things: his ever-increasing weight and the knowledge that at six years old, it wouldn't be much longer before her youngest would decide he was a 'big boy,' too old to sit on his mother's lap.

His large eyes tracked up to hers, the dark irises sparkling from the overhead lamps, which had just come on in deference to the growing dusk.  Save for his eyes, he resembled the rest of her clan, born of love, if not by blood, and she hugged him close for a minute, reaching around to peer inside his trick-or-treat bag.  "Wow, Jaxon, you have a lot of candy in there."

"I know!" Jaxon bounced excitedly and scrambled off her lap. "Nemah!" He ran toward a tall, lean figure that strode toward both of them bearing another, slightly older boy on her shoulders.  At nearly six feet tall, Kennedy towered over the children and many of the adults that were milling about, taking advantage of the controlled smaller crowds of the evening Halloween party, held at Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

"Hey there, JJ."  Kennedy lifted Garret, her next-to-youngest from his perch, twisting and flipping him over to land on his feet next to his brother. Jaxon Joseph and Garret Parker, she mused, realizing how quickly both of the boys were growing up, and just how much they were both proving to be Noconas, through and through.
"Garret, did you get candy from Captain Jack, too?" Carson called out, reluctant to leave her seat.  It was so rare that she ever had the opportunity to sit down with no other task at hand.

"Yes. And I made sure Jaxon got plenty, too." On feet that seemed to be currently too large for the rest of him, Garret ambled over to his mother, tugging at the burnt orange and white baseball uniform he'd insisted on wearing as his costume.  Earlier in the year he had worn it while pitching for his little league baseball team, the Lago Vista Longhorns.

"That's my boy."  Carson lifted his baseball hat and gave him an affectionate head-ruffle, resisting the urge to pull him onto her lap as she had Jaxon. "You take good care of your brother for me."

Garret grinned then, his smile almost exactly like her own, his green eyes lighting up from inside, while a mop of straight, black hair fell across his forehead below the bill of the cap.  His two front teeth were missing, and a third tooth threatened to fall out any day.  Carson had carefully tucked a gold dollar coin into her wallet before they left Austin, just in case the tooth fairy had to visit them in Orlando.

"I left the girls in the line for Big Thunder Mountain." Kennedy sat down next to Carson, groaning and stretching out her legs.  Reaching up, she briefly rubbed both temples and closed her eyes, tilting her head down and turning it from side to side.

Carson heard the audible pop as Kennedy's vertebrae slipped into place.  "Ouch, honey, do you have a headache?"

"Mmmm." Kennedy smiled tiredly, pressing her lips together.  "Not a physical one, no."

"You look exhausted.  Now I feel badly for asking for a break earlier and leaving you all four of them to look after."  Carson slid closer and reached over, massaging the tight muscles at the base of Kennedy's skull.

"You have about twelve hours before you have to stop that," Kennedy moaned in appreciation.

"Hah. If only." Carson glanced over to where Garret and Jaxon were chasing each other, running around and around a light pole.  "You do realize that in another few hours we are going to have four sugar-filled children under the age of thirteen, all of whom will have been up way past their bedtimes."

"Well, maybe not."  Kennedy glanced at her watch.  "I have a little Halloween treat for you, Mrs. Nocona."  Kennedy bumped her leg against Carson's.

"Oh?" Carson momentarily paused, her fingers going still against Kennedy's skin. "What might that be?"

"Don't stop or I won't tell you."  Kennedy chuckled, as Carson quickly picked up with the massage again.  "Better.  Mallory is on a plane that should be landing here in about thirty minutes."

"It isn't nice to tell lies to tired old mamas," Carson chastised.

"I'm not lying."  Kennedy leaned over, pecking Carson on the cheek.  "Our nanny is at this moment about to land at Orlando International Airport, where she will be shuttled to our suite at Animal Kingdom Lodge.  She's going to entertain our children in their room, while you and I are going to lock the door on the master suite. After the kids fall asleep, Mallory will bunk on the sleeper sofa in the living area."

"Dear lord, I love you." Carson hugged Kennedy and then ducked her head, kissing her solidly on the lips.  "I only wish I wasn't so tired. I hate to waste a perfectly good locked door."

"You, my dear, are going to sleep in like a Disney princess." Kennedy laughed lightly.  "I also arranged for Mallory to take the kids to the character breakfast at Tusker House in the morning.  We probably won't see them until noon."

"Ohhhh, that sounds wonderful."  Carson kicked a little at the pavement in front of her, her voice faltering.

"But?"  Kennedy frowned.

"Make sure Mallory takes the camera with her.  I hate to miss –

"Sweetheart." Kennedy sighed.  "We're taking all of them to Cinderella's Table on Wednesday for the character breakfast, and you have that Princess Tea with the girls at the Grand Floridian on Friday.  It's one morning for us to be alone on our vacation."

"I know," Carson replied.  "And believe me, I'm grateful. I didn't get much rest last week and I was tired going into this.  It's just that this is the first trip to Disney that Jaxon will probably remember.  And Garret is losing his teeth.  Jules wants her ears pierced and Piper asked me to buy her a razor.  They're growing up so fast, and –"

"Since when does Piper need a razor?" Kennedy asked disapprovingly.

"Honey, she's twelve.  Hair happens," Carson replied gently. "None of them turned out blonde. She's starting to get a little self-conscious about the dark hair on her legs."

"Oh, so now it's my fault?"  Kennedy groused.

"Well, for Piper, technically you can blame Parker, but for Jules, um, yeah. Sorry, hon, they didn't get those thick black manes from me."  Carson patted Kennedy's thigh.  "I don't suppose you want to know that we went training bra shopping a few weeks ago."

"No!" Kennedy's voice rose in panic. "She has nothing. I had nothing up top until I was nearly fifteen.  There's no reason on earth Piper needs to be wearing a bra!"

"Shhhh. The boys will hear you and tease her mercilessly." Carson touched a finger to Kennedy's lips.  "I seem to remember you shopping for Erin when she decided she needed one."

"Well of course, but she's Parker's.  Piper is mine!"  Kennedy poked her thumb against her own chest for emphasis.

"I know she doesn't actually need one just yet, but the other girls in her class are wearing them."  Carson reached across, smoothing Kennedy's bangs away from her eyes.  "She just wants to fit in. They change clothes for gym class in junior high, honey.  She told me she's one of the only ones who doesn't wear one. The other girls are starting to say things. Kids are so self-conscious at her age, and girls can be really mean to each other sometimes."

"Good opportunity for her to learn it's okay to be different," Kennedy grumbled.

"No," Carson answered firmly.  "She's got two semi-famous mothers. She's already different. In this, we have the chance to allow her to be just like every other girl in her class, in a way that won't hurt anything.  We'll have plenty of chances to teach her to stand firm against peer pressure. Cigarettes, drinking, drugs, sex.  We –"

"No! No sex!" Kennedy's decibel level was high enough that an older man walking by with two small children paused and looked at her knowingly.

"Lady, if you'd like some advice from an old grandpa, if I had a good-looking thing like her sitting next to me –" He nodded at Carson. "– I wouldn't be turning her down."  He laughed and walked on by.

"I can't believe he said that." Carson felt her cheeks grow warm.

"I –" Kennedy uncharacteristically blushed to match her, her red face visible in the overhead lantern light. "Cheeky old codger." She regained her composure.  "Piper? Sex?" She hissed.

"She's twelve," Carson reminded her again. "Give her another year or so and she'll be physically capable of getting pregnant. Don't you think we should discuss that with her before then?"

"She knows about the birds and the bees," Kennedy objected. "I'm just not ready to discuss condoms with her."

"One of us has to." Carson rubbed light circles at Kennedy's back. "We have three more to go after her, Stud. It isn't going to get any easier.  Just wait until the boys start noticing girls."

"They'd better keep it in their pants or they may end up the last true Eunuchs in the Vienna Boys' Choir," Kennedy threatened. "And why are you so calm about all of this?"

"Not calm, exactly, just realistic.  We have four healthy red-blooded children. Odds are some or all of them are going to be experimenting before they graduate high school, no matter how much we'd rather they didn't," Carson reasoned.  "I don't want them to go into their first experience uneducated about birth control and safe sex."

"Four children." Kennedy shook her head in wonder.  "How in the hell did we let that happen?"

"Hey, Brangelina, I was ready to stop at two." Carson gave her a smack on her hip.  "You were the one who convinced me we were letting Parker's perfectly good swimmers go to waste if we only used them once. I had no such qualms about Gordon's donation to you."

"You know I'm kidding, right?" Kennedy grinned.  "Besides, I believe you were the one who let Pa convince you that Jaxon needed a home and it should be with us. You both ganged up on me."

"His mother was a fourteen-year-old alcoholic, hon. We're lucky he escaped fetal alcohol syndrome." Carson looked across the way at her sons, both of whom had quit playing chase and were sitting sprawled on the pavement, digging happily through their candy bags and scarfing down chocolate hand over fist. "And don't forget you're the one who told me that living in poverty on a reservation is no way to raise a child.  You know his mother was only a year older than Piper when she got pregnant with him."

"La-la-la-la-la." Kennedy covered her ears. "Don't need to hear this.  Please, Carson, I promise I'll sit down and talk to her when we get back to Austin. Just no more talk about razors and bras and sex and my first-born daughter while we're sitting in the middle of the House of Mouse.  You're going to make what's left of my brain explode."

"Sorry, sweetie." Carson relented. "I'll give you a break.  Thank you in advance, though.  I've always thought that when they reached their teens, I was going to be especially glad to have you by my side. You're still my rock.  I hope you know that."

With that, Kennedy felt all the tension drain from her body, and she leaned over, taking Carson's face with both hands, and kissing her for a long, timeless bit.

"Ewwwww." Garret suddenly appeared right next to them. "Yuck."

"Guess I don't have to worry about him for a while longer." Kennedy pressed her forehead against Caron's and they both laughed. "Come on." She stood, pulling Carson to her feet.  "Let's go find the girls and take a family spin on Pirates."

"Pirates!"  Jaxon came running up, hopping up and down as he held a candy bar in each fist.  "We get to see more pirates?"

"More pirates than you'll ever see anywhere else," Kennedy promised him. "Come on, JJ."  She scooped Jaxon up and swept him up onto her shoulders. Looking down, she noted Garret's disappointment at having to walk instead of ride. "Hey." Kennedy winked at him. "Why don't you hold your mom's hand for me?  She might get scared with all the spooky characters running around here."

"Mom, scared?"  Garret studied Carson skeptically.  "Are you scared, Mom?"

"I won't be if you hold my hand like Nemah asked you to." Carson held out a hand and Garret grasped it, his hand almost as big as hers. "I've got my wife and my boys with me.  Now I know none of the monsters can get me."

"Don't worry, Mama, we'll protect you, won't we guys?" Kennedy spun around once.

"Yeah!" Jaxon bounced up and down as they turned, and Kennedy quickly grabbed his ankles before he went tumbling backward off her shoulders.

"Poor Mallory." Kennedy laughed. "Maybe we should give her permission to ply them with whiskey, just this once."

"K –" Carson gave her backside a smack with her free hand.  "Not funny."

"Or maybe we should just ply me with whiskey," Kennedy mumbled, her smile fading.

Carson frowned and tilted her head to the side. "Where'd that come from?"

"Sorry.  Just been thinking too much.  Seems work followed me all the way to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party."  Kennedy drew in a deep breath and slowly released it.  "Guess I haven't earned my ears yet, huh?"

"Guess not," Carson replied thoughtfully.  She stepped closer and shoved her hand into Kennedy's back jeans pocket, feeling a firm muscle purposefully flex against her palm.  She glanced over and Kennedy tightened her gluts again.

"Your rock, huh?" A smile tugged at Kennedy's lips.

"Always." Carson gave her a little squeeze.  "Some parts more rock-solid than others, I might add."

Kennedy wiggled her hips a little in response.  "It's getting late.  What say we ride the Pirates and blow this pop-stand? I'd like to spend some quality time with my wife tonight."  She turned a corner and they made their way toward Big Thunder Mountain.

"Nemah, what about the fireworks?"  Garret asked hopefully.  "And the parade?"

"We did promise them," Carson gently reminded her.

"That we did," Kennedy grudgingly admitted. "Very well, damn the wasted door locks, full speed ahead. If there are fireworks and parades to be had, we're going to have them, mateys, even if we have to pillage and plunder the castle. Arrrrr." She flipped Jaxon from her shoulders and tossed him up in the air once, catching him and tickling his ribs as they reached their destination.

"Ne-mah!!!" Jaxon giggled uncontrollably, his entire body wriggling as he tried to escape her grasp.

"I'm going to frubert your belly!"  Kennedy lifted his shirt, planting a raspberry on his stomach.

"Ahhhh, Ne-mah!" Jaxon gasped for breath between laughter.  "Mommyyyyyy, make her stop!"

"Nope." Carson shook her head gravely.  "Not if it wears you out just a little bit more and spares poor Mallory some effort getting you to sleep.  Hey, boys."  Carson looked from Garret to Jaxon, who was now standing on Kennedy's feet as she let him fall backward while hanging from her arms. "K, I need to talk to them for a minute."

"Alright." Kennedy righted her son.  "Have at 'em, sweetheart. I'll go over to the Big Thunder exit and wait for the girls."

"Thanks."  Carson led her sons over to a blessedly empty bench.  "I know we promised you fireworks and the parade.  Do you think you can make me a promise in return?"

"Hmmm." Garret frowned, his face scrunched up in thought.  "Oh, okay."

His expression was so sober that Carson couldn't help but laugh. "That's my big guy."

"I promise too, Mommy!"  Jaxon was not to be outdone by his brother.

"Good. I knew I could count on the men of the family," Carson encouraged them, watching both boys swell with pride.  "Mallory is going to join us tonight and spend some time with us this week."

"Oh, boy!" Jaxon clapped his hands.  "Maybe she'll bring us candy!"

"Just what you need." Carson rolled her eyes.  "She's on a long flight from Austin. I need for both of you to promise me you'll listen to her tonight.  When we get back to the lodge, she's going to get you your baths and changed into your pajamas, and probably read you a story or two.  But when she tells you it's time to go to bed, no matter how much you want to stay up, I need you to do as she asks you, please?"

"Do Piper and Jules have to go to bed when we do?" Garret's voice rose to a near-whine.

"If they don't go to sleep at exactly the same time as you two, they won't be far behind.  Good enough?"  Carson looked up and saw Kennedy collecting their daughters. "It may be that they take their baths while Mallory gets you two into bed. Besides, they're older. When you're older, you can stay up later."

"Mommy, you need to have more babies so when we're older there will be kids who have to go to bed before we do," Jaxon replied seriously.

"Mommy and Nemah are very happy with you four," Carson responded, extremely glad that in her marriage there was no chance of accidental pregnancy.  "There's an upside to being youngest. You won't ever get stuck babysitting when you'd rather go out with your friends.  Jules and Piper need to stay out of Mallory's way until she's taken care of you two.  She can't tuck all four of you in at the same time."

"Mommy, are you going to tuck me in tonight?"  Jaxon's eyes were wide and beseeching, and Carson felt her heart melt.

"JJ, I told your Nemah I'd spend some time with her tonight. Unless you want to go to bed as soon as we get back to the room, then I may not be able to tuck you in tonight, but I promise to give you a goodnight kiss before Nemah and I go to sleep, even if you aren't in bed yet.  Which will it be: Go to bed as soon as we leave here and have me tuck you in instead of Mallory, or just a good night kiss from me and you get to stay up a little later?"

"Just a kiss and stay up later!" Jaxon clearly and loudly stated his choice.

"I thought as much."  Carson stood as the rest of her family joined them. "How was Big Thunder Mountain?"

"Piper always says we're going to get our heads knocked off when we go into that tunnel." Jules glared at her sister.

"I heard about this boy who really did get decapitated!" Piper exclaimed. "True story, I swear!"

"Kind of like the headless horseman?"  Kennedy pulled her own long t-shirt up until it covered her face and exposed her stomach, then lunged for Garret. "Bwahahahahahaha!"

Garret yelled and Jules shrieked, while Carson and Piper burst into laughter.  Jaxon simply clung to Carson's leg, watching Kennedy as her head re-appeared and she snagged a child under each arm.  "Let's go ride Pirates!" She exclaimed joyfully.

"So much for thinking I was only going to raise four children," Carson muttered, to no one in particular.

With much laughter and teasing, they got in line for Pirates of the Caribbean, and eventually boarded a boat, taking up two rows.  Kennedy sat in the front row with Jules and Garret, while Carson took the seat behind them with Piper and Jaxon.  As the boat began to float down the canal and animatronics began singing and dancing, Carson leaned forward and lifted Kennedy's hair, planting a soft kiss on her neck. "You gonna tell me what's going on with you before this night's over?" She whispered in a convenient ear.

"Yeah."  Kennedy sighed and reached behind herself, taking Caron's hand and giving it a squeeze.  Carson leaned forward and rested her chin on Kennedy's shoulder, spending the remainder of the ride that way, while their children laughed and yelled with delight at one of Disney's most popular rides.

It ended all too soon, and they exited the ride and consulted a map.  "Let's go stake out a spot on Main Street for the show." Kennedy steered them past the Magic Tiki Room.  "Girls, each of you grab a brother and don't let go, got me?"

"Yes, ma'am," Piper and Jules answered in unison, as Piper took Garret's hand and Jules grasped Jaxon by the hem of his pirate shirt.

"I'll keep an eye on your Mama." Kennedy draped an arm across Carson's shoulders, feeling Carson automatically wrap her arm around Kennedy's waist. 

After maneuvering through the crowd, with some luck, they found front row seats near the train station and settled in as the parade began.  Kennedy nudged Carson a little and snuggled closer, getting lost in daydreams under the night sky.  It was nice to finally be legally married, and to blend with the crowd, just another family among many.  Most people paid little attention anymore to two women cuddled up together, surrounded by their four children.

After the parade, the fireworks began and Kennedy pried herself away long enough to snap a few requested pictures of their children oooing and ahing at the colorful display.  When the last sparkle dissipated and the thundering booms ceased, they headed for their rental van, and by some luck Jaxon fell asleep on the way back to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

"Shhhhh." Carson quickly ushered the three older children from the vehicle. "Here. Take them to the room, baby."  Carson handed Piper the key card.  "Mallory texted me earlier. She's already there.  Tell her Jaxon's out for the count.  Maybe she can entertain y'all in the living area and we can put him straight to bed."

"Okay, Mom."  Piper led her siblings up the walkway and into the lodge lobby.  Carson watched her for a moment, then turned to collect backpacks, bags, and souvenirs, so that Kennedy could keep her steady, cradled hold on their youngest.

"Got everything?"  Kennedy whispered.

"Yeah, go on.  I’m right behind you."  Carson waited until they were out of earshot, then closed the van door with a click, and locked it, the automatic key making a beeping noise.  With arms full of their belongings, she followed her wife, admiring the view of her shapely assets as she made her way up the lighted walkway.  "Geez.  Seventeen years and I'm still crazy for her.  Go figure."  She glanced up at the moon and smiled.  "Sorry, you've got nothing on her moon, just sayin'."

As soon as they reached the room, Kennedy stepped past the other children and mouthed a 'hello' to Mallory, then took Jaxon to the children's room, saying a silent thankful prayer that Mallory had already turned down the covers on one of the beds. As she gently lay Jaxon down, Carson joined her and helped get his shoes and jeans off.  "Let him sleep in the pirate shirt," Carson advised, and Kennedy nodded vigorous approval.

"Mommy," Jaxon mumbled.  "Kiss?"

"Looks like I get to tuck you in after all," Carson answered, smoothing his dark hair back.

"You da best." Jaxon smiled, his eyes still closed.

Carson felt a lump rise in her throat and she leaned over, kissing him on the forehead, then pulled the top sheet up over his body.

Backing out of the room, they shut the door and turned to spend some time with the rest of the family.

"Hey, Mallory, how was your flight?"  Kennedy sat down on the couch and immediately Jules snuggled up to her.  She looked down and smiled adoringly, pulling Jules close.  It was still unbelievable to her sometimes, that this beautiful child had grown inside of her.

"Perfect," Mallory replied, helping Garret take his shoes off.  "I’m going to draw him a bath.  Do you mind if I –"

"Please, go."  Kennedy gestured toward the bathroom.

"Come on, Garret," Mallory called after him.  "Go get your pajamas while I run the water. I'll wash your hair and then you can finish bathing by yourself, okay?"

" 'Kay." Garret followed after her, then paused. "Nemah, can I have some more candy after my bath?"

"One piece," Kennedy relented. "But then you need to brush your teeth and go join your brother."

"Okay." Garret pursed his lips outward and shuffled along, dragging his feet.

"Wine?"  Carson appeared from the kitchen with two goblets filled with Merlot. 

"Oh, yes." Kennedy accepted the offering, taking a sip.

"Can I have some?" Jules eyed the glass curiously.

"Just a little." Kennedy held the glass to Jules' lips and tilted it up.

"Ick." Jules swallowed and shuddered. "It looks like grape juice but it sure doesn't taste like it."

"It is grape juice, but it's fermented."

"Would you like some apple juice, sweetie?"  Carson started to get up.

"I'll get it for her, Mom."  Piper rose from her seat near the balcony door.

"Thanks, baby."  Carson sat down.  "Did we raise lovely children, or what?"

"We did."  Kennedy looked at her for a long moment, her eyes full of words unspoken.

"Okay, Stud. Spill it, unless it isn't fit for little pitchers."  Carson drew her legs up beneath her, and took a drink from her own wine glass.

"You know how I feel about public school," Kennedy slowly answered, her eyes lingering on Carson for a moment, then looking down at Jules.

"You're its biggest proponent, honey."  Carson's frowned.  "Something wrong with Lago Vista ISD?"

"No.  But I've been looking at a private school I'm kind of interested in."  Kennedy played with Jules' long hair, avoiding Carson's scrutiny. "You know, keeping our options open."

"Oh?  Well, K, you know I'm not opposed to it.  Never have been. I know you support public school, but I think you know my support of Lago Vista schools is because so far they've been good to our children. One false move on their part, though, and I'd yank our kids so fast the school boards’ heads would spin.  But you know this."

Piper returned with two glasses of juice, handing one to Jules.

"Piper, we're going to private school," Jules informed her.

"We are? Mom?"  Piper looked from Carson to Kennedy and back again. "I don't want to go to a different school.   I like my school."

"We're just talking hypothetically, baby."  Carson motioned for Piper to join her on the opposite couch. "Aren't we?"  She received no answer. "Kennedy?  Which school?"

"Um."  Kennedy reached up, scrubbing at the side of her neck.  "Sidwell Friends."

"Sidwell Friends."  Carson's voice grew icy.  "In Washington, D.C.  That Sidwell Friends?"

"I got a call from President Schlossberg this morning while you were in the shower.  Justice Valdez is stepping down in January.  Decided it's time to retire." Kennedy finally looked up, steadily meeting Carson's cold stare. "There's the confirmation process first, of course, so it's not a done deal or anything. But she thinks if we're ever going to do this, now's the time –" Kennedy trailed off helplessly.  "I know you have that shoot in LA starting in February, but I figured we'd work it out."

Carson sat back and drained her wine glass in silence.

"You got a call from the President?"  Piper's eyes were wide in amazement.  "That's so cool!"

"Are we going to get to meet her?"  Jules joined in.  "Please, Nemah?"

"Maybe."  She looked imploringly at Carson. "Carson, please say something."  A clock on a shelf chimed, piercing the near-silence of the room.

"Girls, Mom's tired.  I’m going to bed."  Carson set her glass down, kissed Piper on the cheek, then rose and kissed Jules. She paused long enough to let a withering glare settle over Kennedy, then turned her back on all of them and knocked on the bathroom door. "I need to kiss Garret goodnight."

"Oh, sure."  Mallory opened the door and ushered Garret toward her, a towel wrapped around his waist.  "Goodnight, sweetie."  Carson kissed him on the forehead.

" 'Night, Mom."  Garret hugged her and then went back into the bathroom. 

"What about Kennedy?" Mallory questioned, her head poking out the door to look around.

"Kennedy?"  Carson didn't turn around, her back still toward her family.  "She can kiss him goodnight whenever she's ready to.  Thanks for flying out here, Mallory. We'll talk some more tomorrow.  Don't let them run you ragged.  When you're ready to sleep, make them go to bed. Good night."

"Will do."  Mallory glanced at Kennedy and back at Carson.  "Good night."  She closed the door.

Carson turned and entered the master suite, shutting the door firmly behind her.

"Mom's pissed," Piper observed.

"Girls, I need to –"

"Go on."  Piper sighed dramatically.  "We'll be fine until Mallory gets Garrett to sleep.

"Thank you." Kennedy hugged Jules and kissed her, then rose to greet Piper, who stood and met her halfway.

"It'll be okay, Nemah." Piper gave her a hug.  "You know Mom loves you. She just has a short fuse."

"Dynamite comes in small packages." Kennedy smiled ruefully.  "Good night, girls.  Don't stay up too late."

"Can we watch a movie on cable?"  Jules picked up the remote.

"Okay, provided you keep the sound low and also provided Mallory doesn't decide she's ready to go to bed. She has to sleep out here, so when she's ready to crash, turn it off, finished or not. Deal?"

"Deal. Thanks, Nemah."  Jules hugged her.

Kennedy made her way to the bathroom and knocked, and Mallory opened the door again. "Sorry.  I should have done this when Carson did.  Is he bathing?"

"Not yet. I just washed his hair and was about to comb it out." Mallory motioned her in and stepped into the living room, leaving her alone with her son.

"Hey, dude."  Kennedy sat down on the toilet lid.  Garret was sitting on the edge of the tub, the towel still wrapped around his waist. His hair was wet and the tub water was running.  The mirror was coated with steam, which also hung thickly in the air, causing sweaty rivulets to run down the tiled walls. Sitting on the side of the tub was a bottle of complimentary Mickey shampoo, along with a dish containing a mouse-head shaped cake of soap.

"Hey, Nemah."  Garret stood up and shook his head, sending water flying around the room.

Kennedy smiled and pulled him to her, giving him a hug and a peck on the cheek.  "Be good for Mallory. And don't forget to wash behind your ears, okay?"

"Okay."  Garret hugged her back.  "Can I have Mickey pancakes for breakfast in the morning?"

"Oh, I imagine you can."  Kennedy smiled.  "Mallory is going to take y'all out for a special breakfast tomorrow."

"You and Mom aren't going?"  Garret frowned.

"Not this time, but we'll be taking y'all out to breakfast on Wednesday. And don't forget I'm taking you and JJ to the Wide World of Sports complex while Mom takes the girls to tea." Kennedy ran her fingers through his wet hair, tousling it.  "I'm going to spend some time alone with your Mom in the morning."

"You gonna be mushy?" Garret's nose wrinkled up in disapproval.

"I hope so, buddy."  Kennedy stood. "Good night, sleep tight."

"Don't let the bed bugs bite," Garret finished, grinning.

"He's all yours."  Kennedy made her way back into the living room and traded places with Mallory.

"Everything okay?"  Mallory questioned gently.

"Eh, they will be," Kennedy assured her. "I hope. Thanks for coming out here.  You have the directions and breakfast reservation info for tomorrow morning? I put their parkhopper passes in Piper's backpack, in case y'all decide to hit the park after breakfast."

"Sure do. All the info's saved in here." Mallory pulled her phone from her pocket.  "Go on.  Go talk to her and make it better, whatever it is. We'll be fine and you know I'll call if we need to."  Mallory shooed Kennedy away and closed the bathroom door.

Kennedy glanced across the room where Piper and Jules were already engrossed in their movie, stretched out in front of the TV with their noses nearly pressed to the screen.  With a sigh, she girded her loins and approached the master suite, reaching across and turning the copper-tinted doorknob, grateful when she didn't find it locked.

The room was dark, save for a block of light spilling onto the floor, coming from the master bath.  She walked quietly across the plush carpet and knocked on the door, even though it was halfway open. "Carson?"  There was no response and Kennedy sighed, then pushed the door all the way open and stepped inside.  Carson wasn't in the room.  "Hmmm." Her voice echoed slightly against marble and tile.

Kennedy went back out into the bedroom and turned on a bedside lamp, soft light illuminating the still-made up canopy bed.  The closet door was also open and she saw Carson's jeans and t-shirt from earlier in the day draped over a nearby chair arm.  "Okay. It's a big room, but it's not that big. Where could she be? The sitting room maybe?"

Entering the master suite's private sitting room, she found it also empty. "Carson?" She called out hopefully, as if her wife might magically appear. "Well, it is Disney after all. They do claim to be magical."  Then she noticed the balcony door was open a crack. "Ah."

She shuffled across the floor and opened the door, poking her head out.  Carson was leaning against the railing, staring out across the dark Animal Kingdom savannah.  "Carson?"

"Shhh." Carson didn't turn around, but merely held a hand up behind her. "Some animal's out there. Can't make out what it is, though," she whispered.  Kennedy hesitantly moved closer until she was standing next to her.

Kennedy also leaned on the railing, squinting into the darkness.  She heard a rustling noise and was glad they were at Disney, where only non-predatory animals lived on the savannah adjacent to the lodge.  Whatever was out there, it wasn't likely to leap up onto the balcony and attack them.

"Carson –"

"Don't," Carson cut her off. "I'm so angry with you right now. I know it's illogical and I know this wasn't completely unexpected. But I'm madder than hell and I just need to be angry for a little while."

"O-kayyy." Kennedy moved away from her, taking a seat in a chair at the far end of the balcony.  It was a long structure, stretching from the master bedroom all the way across past another sliding door that was connected to the living area.  From where she sat, she could hear Piper and Jules laughing, the sound muffled by the glass that separated them.

Across the way, bullfrogs croaked from a pond, and in the tall grass crickets chirped their songs into the night air.  The humidity outside was thick, and Kennedy swatted at a mosquito, realizing the bug repellant was in the bathroom.  "The Florida national bird is about to eat me alive."  She got up.  "I'm going to go spritz with that Avon oil you brought."

"The Skin-so-Soft?" Carson turned toward her for a moment. "Can you please bring it back out here?"

"Sure." Kennedy shrugged, wondering if Carson was still mad, no longer mad, had forgotten she was mad, or if she was overlooking her anger long enough to attend to creature comforts.  After seventeen years together, getting angry at each other from time to time was a given, just as eventually making up was a given. If you had to attend to the business of living during an angry interval, that was just the way it was, especially with four children.

She went inside and located the spray bottle of oil in her overnight bag.  They'd decided on the oil for a number of reasons: it actually worked at repelling the bugs, it did help soften the skin, the children didn't object to it as they did the more 'stinky' Off, and perhaps one of the greatest reasons – it smelled nice and was non-toxic, so if they did have a rare chance at family vacation intimacy, they didn't have to shower it off before they could get busy.

Back out on the balcony, Carson turned again as Kennedy slipped through the doorway, and this time she managed a slight smile. "You want me to put this on you?" Kennedy held up the bottle.

"Please."  Carson moved closer and Kennedy started at the back of Carson's neck, holding the bottle close enough to spray her skin without getting it on her clothes. She spritzed a few times and then used her fingertips to rub the oil in, before moving downward to Carson's bare legs. She was dressed in a pair of comfy shorts and an old t-shirt she sometimes slept in, and Kennedy detected the scent of their dryer sheets from home, which was quickly masked by the sweet-scented oil.  With a firm hand, she rubbed the oil all over Carson's legs, massaging her calves in the process.

"That feels so good after walking all day," Carson commented.

"Normally, I'd think of this as foreplay," Kennedy attempted to joke, getting no immediate response.  As she finished, she stood and moved around front, rubbing oil into the exposed skin at Carson's throat, and finishing with a rubdown of her arms. She stole a few glances at Carson's eyes, finding a sparkle returning to them.

Carson smiled fully as Kennedy stepped back a few feet.  "Thanks.  You want me to do you?"

"Any way you'd like," Kennedy joked again, feeling the ice melting between them.

"Mmmm."  Carson moved closer and pecked her on the lips.  "Hold that thought."  She took the bottle from Kennedy and returned the favor, her hands warm against Kennedy's skin.  Still in her jeans, Kennedy's legs were neglected, but Carson took her time with her arms, and repeated her earlier neck massage as Kennedy mewled her appreciation, making sure to hold her long hair out of Carson's way.

"Better?" Carson patted Kennedy's backside and set the bottle on a nearby patio table.

"Yes.  No more bug bites.  Thanks." Kennedy scooted over to the balcony corner and motioned for Carson to join her. 

Carson tilted her head and shook it in resignation, then complied, easing beneath Kennedy's outstretched arm.  A kiss to her forehead sent the remainder of her anger skittering away somewhere onto the darkened savannah.  "Truce?"  Kennedy whispered in her ear.

"Never can stay angry with you for long."  Carson pressed up against her and they looked out over the simulated safari scene in silence, as the moon rose, joining the stars overhead.   The rustling noise grew closer, and out of a thicket of trees, a mother gazelle stepped into a pool of moonlight, followed by two young fawns.  Carson stared hard at them, her eyes growing wide. "Is that gazelle --?"

"White, yes," Kennedy finished for her.  "So is one of her babies."

"Like our buck," Carson observed in wonder.

They'd not seen the white buck in many years, and Kennedy made silent note of the fact that Carson had come to think of him as a spirit guide to both of them.  "Maybe he's sending us a reminder?" Kennedy hesitated.  "Last time I saw him –"

"You were deciding whether or not to get pregnant with Jules."  Carson leaned closer, nuzzling Kennedy's shoulder.

"Timing was bad, but the biological clock was ticking," Kennedy replied in memory.  "That sealed it when I saw him.  I knew then it was something I was meant to do."

"It seems like bad timing and destiny are always butting heads with us, doesn't it?" Carson sighed.  "I'm sorry about earlier.  I expected eventually we'd be having this conversation.  I just didn't expect it quite this soon, nor did I expect to have it during the middle of a vacation we took to get away from reality for a while."

"Sweetheart, if we waited for the timing to be perfect, we'd have no children. Hell," Kennedy mused. "We wouldn't even be together if we'd waited until neither of us were dealing with any external crap."

"True." Carson acknowledged. "But now – really bad, K.  You know it is. I'm going to be in LA and Vancouver for what amounts to half of next year.  And what about the kids?  This isn't going to be a part-time gig.  The Supreme Court is in session nine or ten months a year. This is for life, honey.  Or until you retire.  If you do this, this is it for you. Are you sure?"

"No." Kennedy laughed nervously.  "This isn't something I'll ever be sure about. Not even after I've been confirmed.  But Caroline – I mean the President – wants this now.  I'll be the first openly gay and first Native American Justice.  Honey, when the President calls on you to serve, it's not something you can easily turn down. It's bigger than me."

"I know.  And we've talked about it, but it has always been something that was possibly out there in the future until now."  Carson looked up at her for a very long moment. "Is this bigger than us, K?  Bigger than our family?"

"No. You know that's not how I feel." Kennedy felt her own anger stir.  "Dammit, Carson.  It's not like that. But I've led a life of public service for over a decade now, and we've still managed to have four children and launch your career.  You've got that documentary Oscar nomination coming up in a few months.  Everyone thinks you're going to win and that will only push you further into the Hollywood limelight. We're these two people with some very big responsibilities. It's been like that for a long time now, and we've always managed."

"I don't want to leave Austin," Carson mourned. "I love our life there."

"Who said anything about leaving?" Kennedy felt a bit of a shock roll through her system at the thought of giving up the life they'd built there. "I don't want to sell the house. We'll still want it to retreat to when the Court's not in session and for holidays."

"But the children. And me –" Carson fussed a little bit, tugging absently at Kennedy's shirt collar.  "We'll be based out of Washington. That's a fact.  We have this crazy life already.  I'm gone half the time.  I don't want us trying to kid ourselves into thinking Austin is going to be our home after you're confirmed. If we're going to have any kind of normal, stable family life for the kids, we need to commit to life in D.C."

"Yeah."  Kennedy covered Carson's wandering hand with her own, squeezing it.  "I've been thinking for a while now.  Babe, I think while we're at it, we need to buy you something in LA. – a place that can be a home for the kids if they need to be with you out there part of the time."

"That would be a relief."  Carson smiled.  "Living at the Beverly Wilshire is getting old. The service there is great, don't get me wrong, but it isn't home.  It would be nice to have a real home to retreat to after a long production day. My own bed and my own things. And bedrooms for the kids and Mallory. It doesn't have to be a house. We could buy a condo or something."

"I just thought, you know, if we're going to co-ordinate a move to D.C., we might as well co-ordinate one to LA at the same time, and handle it all at once, especially if we're going to move some of our things from Austin to one place or the other."  Kennedy felt her heart beat increase, thinking about it, a slight rush of adrenaline-infused fear filling her system.  "And I need to talk to Mallory – find out how committed she is to us vs. Austin.  We need a nanny who will be primarily with the kids, no matter which house they’re at."

"Oh, honey.  I hope Mallory stays with us. We've had her around since Jules was a baby.  The kids love her. Maybe if we offer her a big fat raise."  Carson sighed again.  "I'm so tired, just thinking about all of this.  And I was already tired."

"I know." Kennedy pulled Carson closer, tucking her head beneath Kennedy's chin.  "I know," she repeated, kissing the top of Carson's head.  "I told the President I wouldn't make a final decision until after we get back to Austin, but I think she knows where I'm ultimately going to fall.  It's the biggest thing I've ever asked you to do, Carson.  I won't do it without your blessing."

"You already have that. You know that."  Carson closed her eyes, soaking in the closeness as if it might slip away if she didn't draw it all in that instant.  "I married you once for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, and beyond death.  I married you again when it was legal, so that we could more fully-protect our children and our future.  I think this could fit under either of those categories.  I am your wife, and you are mine. I'll support you, K, just as you've always supported me.  Hey, you know, Washington isn't such a bad city.  There are a lot of things that will be good for the kids – they'll be in a rich learning environment."

"The girls are going to have a difficult adjustment, though," Kennedy replied, her heart heavy with the knowledge. "They both have their friends and all their school activities.. The boys I don't worry about so much.  But the girls – they're getting to that age where their friends are going to be more important than us, unfortunately."

"Better they be uprooted now than in the middle of high school.  In some ways, I'll be glad if we get them into a place like Sidwell Friends. I'm not so keen on the typical Texas 'cheerleaders are the queen bee' mentality.  I know Lago Vista schools are good, but let's face it, hon, our girls are likely to end up married to a couple of good old boy in our current environment.  Not like there's much variety in that area in our neck of the woods."

"No daughter of mine is going to end up a weekend football widow," Kennedy vowed.  "Maybe they'll turn out to be gay like us."

"Oh, yeah, that'll solve that football widow problem, because no lesbians watch football."  Carson poked Kennedy in the ribs, and they both laughed.

"You got me there."  Kennedy laughed again and hugged Carson, then indulged in a long series of kisses.  "Hey."  She surfaced for air. "How about we forget about the Supreme Court and moving until tomorrow morning, and enjoy this here vacation we're supposed to be on?"

"Sounds good to me, but honey, I am truly exhausted." Carson yawned at that moment, covering her mouth. "You know, I was watching your ass as you walked into the lodge tonight, and I still think you're the hottest thing on two legs. But my feet are killing me, and I'm just weary to the bone."

"I'm beat, too," Kennedy confessed. "But I would like to curl up naked with you in that nice comfy bed in there, and hold you all night."

"I'd like that, too." Carson stood on tip toes and kissed Kennedy again, cutting off with a gasping laugh when Kennedy lifted her off her feet and simply held her suspended there against her, as they both drifted in a hazy, happy lassitude.  Finally, Kennedy lowered her back to her feet.  "The reality of this hasn't set in yet, has it?"

"Oh, no. Not at all."  Kennedy vigorously nodded in agreement.

"When do you think it will?"  Carson took her hand and led her back inside.

"Hmmm. Maybe five or so years after I've been sitting on the Bench?" Kennedy ventured.

"Yeah, that's what I figured, too." Carson stopped in mid-stride. "Oh, my God. Your Mom is going to freak."

"Yep.  That she is." Kennedy continued on, and Carson followed her into the bathroom, where they both washed their faces and brushed their teeth, taking advantage of the double sinks in the master suite. "You know –" Kennedy wiped her face dry with a soft towel.  "I've talked to Pa about this, but Mama, I haven't. So unless he's said something to her. – I asked him not to, but maybe  –"

"You know he hasn't."  Carson shook her head. "He has way too much honor sometimes. You're going to have to call them, hon. I know we're on vacation, but stuff like this, it gets leaked to the press.  You don't want her to find out over morning coffee.  She needs to hear it from you, first."

"I'll worry about them tomorrow."  Kennedy hung the towel up and tugged Carson toward her, pulling the t-shirt over her head and then easing Carson's shorts and underwear down, kicking them aside. "Right now, I just want to feel every inch of you against me."

"I think that can be arranged."  Carson worked at Kennedy's belt buckle, un-tucking her shirt and together, they divested Kennedy of her clothing as well.

As soon as they were both naked, Kennedy engulfed Carson in a bear hug, rocking back and forth as they both enjoyed the contact, their eyes closed as they swayed together. "Mmmm. This is so delicious."  Carson's breath was warm against Kennedy's skin, and she ran her hands lightly up and down Kennedy's sides.

"Don't rub the lamp unless you want the genie to come out and play," Kennedy teased.

"Does the genie want to play?"  Carson looked up, noting a banked fire in Kennedy's eyes.

"Let's just say I could get un-tired real fast."  Kennedy nuzzled Carson's neck. "But I've always been wired that way when it comes to you."

"In that case –" Carson took her hand and led her to the bed, giving her a few playful pushes until Kennedy fell backward onto its wide, inviting surface. "I'm going to rub the genie all over." Carson climbed up onto the mattress and hovered over Kennedy, then began kissing her way slowly up a long, muscular leg.  As she reached the curve of a hip, Carson moved toward an enticing navel, giving it a few healthy licks.  She paused and looked up, winking at Kennedy.  "Wonder what will happen if I press the genie's magic button?"

Kennedy flashed a sexy grin, and Carson dipped her head down, placing an intimate kiss between her lover's legs. "Happy, happy genie," Kennedy moaned in approval.


Carson trembled in Kennedy's arms, as powerful waves rocked her from head to foot.  Once their lovemaking began, the day's weariness had melted away, and they'd taken turns giving and receiving pleasure for well over an hour.  "Feels so good, " she murmured, clutching Kennedy as one last shockwave worked its way through her system.

"You feel good."  Kennedy kissed her on the nose and then on the forehead, and hugged her lover close.  She was still inside Carson, enjoying the intimate connection. With her free hand, she rubbed Carson's back and then brushed her fingertips lightly against her two favorite butt cheeks, before giving each one a gentle pat.

Carson reached between them and grasped her lover's wrist. "Stay where you are a little while longer?" She tilted her head up and met Kennedy's lips in a lingering exchange.

"Long as you want." Kennedy kissed her again and lightly stroked in and out a few times. "More?"

"Oooo, tempting as that offer is, you wore me out, genie." Carson laughed lightly. "Maybe after we sleep a little while?"  She gently removed Kennedy's fingers and drew her hand up, playfully sucking each fingertip.

"After all this time, every time you do that, it makes me feel like such a sexy beast."  Kennedy smiled and pecked Carson's lips. "If beauty needs to sleep, her wish is my command." 

"Hey, beastie, now that I've rubbed the lamp and the genie all over, do I get three wishes?" Carson traced circles across Kennedy’s belly.

"Should I be afraid if I say yes?"  Kennedy's sated, relaxed expression indicated fear was pretty far out of the picture.

"Never of me," Carson replied, nuzzling Kennedy's ear.

"The fire away, princess."

"I wish for health, happiness, and love, for us and for our children."  Carson closed her eyes and rested her head on a strong shoulder.

"Oh, sweetheart. If all of that were in my power, I'd surely grant it, but I can promise you this: I will do everything I can to protect the health of our family, but I'll be there to care for y'all in those times when illness strikes.  I will do whatever I can to see that all of you are happy, but I'll be there to dry the tears in the sad times.  And the last is a given. You and the children have all of my love forever.  And no president or Supreme Court will ever come before my family, not in things that truly matter."

Carson inhaled deeply of their mingled scent and opened her eyes.  She reached over and cradled Kennedy's face in one hand, stroking a soft cheek with her thumb.  "I'm the luckiest woman on Earth.  Genie, I couldn't wish for anything more. You're free to go after your dream. I'll be right beside you, cheering you on."

Kennedy's eyes reflected the moonlight pouring in through sheer curtains.  She smiled and hugged Carson tightly, kissing the top of her head. "The Court is a career. You, my love, you and our family, are and always will be my dream."

"And you inhabit mine."

They shared a long affirming kiss, and drifted off to sleep in each other's arms.  Outside, a blanket of stars twinkled overhead, keeping watch over a not so scary night.


 The End? Or only the beginning?