by Charlie Kirby

Lisle took a deep breath and rolled her shoulders. If anyone had told her a few years ago that a baby could kick your ass as thoroughly as a big bad UNCLE agent, she would have laughed. Not anymore. She'd learned the hard way that having kids wasn't for wimps - not hers at any rate. And Leon's - he had to figure into it as well.

She sipped her tea and shut her eyes. She was bone weary. She remembered when she and Leon had first gotten together. They'd talked about lazy trips around the world, winning the lottery, endless bouts of sex. Now they talked about eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, silence, and adult conversation that didn't center on the kids.

This morning had been a non-stop race and she envied Leon being able to escape for a few hours to UNCLE HQ with his father. She, in turn, had been left with a colicky twelve week old, his equally fussy sister, a bored slightly older sister and a son who wanted to do nothing more than play soldier when he was supposed to be getting ready for nursery school.

It had seemed like he'd no more than left than he was back, demanding lunch, along with his three siblings. There had been a temper tantrum, two major spit ups, a no-holds barred fight, and that was all before her husband and father-in-law walked in at noon and witnessed her own melt down.

She'd threatened to cook them up for lunch and Irina had come unglued at that part. Alex knew she was kidding, the babies didn't care, but Leon had taken notice.

Lisle paused and shut her eyes - at least the quiet part was happening right now. She'd conned Leon into taking the twins in for their twelve-week check up. Leon's father had taken Irina and Alex to the park with the hopes of tiring them out. She chuckled at that thought. Chances were it would be the opposite and Napoleon would be down for the count three minutes after arriving home.

He could run UNCLE North America; he could entertain a dozen or so dignitaries. He could thwart her former employer without breaking into a sweat, but his oldest grandchildren would run him into the ground without effort.

She glanced over at the counter and reached for the tea kettle. She filled another cup with water and studied the selection of teas. She settled on one, no reason for her choice, and filled a tea ball with it. Putting it in the water to steep, she gathered an assortment of cookies and put them on a small plate.

That accomplished, Lisle put the cup, plate, and condiments on a small lap tray and carried it down the hallway. When her father and father-in-law had moved in, they had remodeled the top floor of their old Victorian for them, making a nice little two-bedroom apartment up there. What none of them had anticipated was Illya's gradually worsening hip. The day came when he simply could not climb the three stories. They'd talked about putting in an elevator, of Illya moving into a small studio close by, but in the end, both she and Leon wanted him here. There was some shuffling and the men ended up on the bottom floor, sharing the master suite, while she and Leon took the third floor.

Now that Illya had finally allowed his operation, he'd soon be back in form and able to make the climb the stairs and they'd reshuffle again, but for now, he was confined to the bottom floor and hating every minute of it.

She paused at the door and pushed it open. A blond head turned in her direction and Lisle smiled at her father. Instead of resting as he was supposed to be doing, he was studying a tome on Quantum Mechanics. They could restrict his body, but never his mind.

"Hey, Dad, how are you holding up?" She carried the tray to the bedside table and set it down. His surgery had been only a little over a week ago and she could already see the signs of cabin fever setting in, a trait they both shared. He was pushing too hard and the Physical Therapist had left frustrated and more than a little annoyed this morning. The only one more annoyed and frustrated had been her father.

"Aside from contemplating primal screaming, all right, I suppose." Illya pulled off his glasses and set them on his book. "How are you doing? That was some episode this morning, at least what I heard of it."

"Great! I'm perfect... good, really... okay..." She looked at him and sighed. "I'm exhausted, I breast feed non-stop, I feel like I haven't slept in a month, and I've had just enough me time in the last week to shave one leg. I still can't fit into my jeans and every time I pass a mirror, I see a cow and want to moo." She was shocked and slightly annoyed as she felt tears escape and leave a burning trail down her cheeks.

Illya smiled and patted the bed beside him. After a moment's hesitation, she settled beside him and he wrapped an arm around her, pulling her down against him.

"You are an excellent mother, Lisle, I think you are just a little hard on yourself."

Her mother hadn't exactly been the poster child for normal human relationships and Lisle had to fight the urge to shrug her father's arm off and push him away. It had taken her forever to get used to Leon's more touchy-feely approach to life. He was just like his father that way. Napoleon was one of the most tactile men she'd ever met. Instead she settled down against Illya and then frowned, lifting a hand to his forehead.

"You seem warm to me, Dad. Are you running a fever? I think you are."

Illya reached up and grasped her hand to pull it away, first to kiss it and then rest it upon his chest. "I'm fine, Lisle. I get enough of that from Napoleon. Allow us to both enjoy our respite please, you from your children, me from my overly-protective partner."

"I never realized how much you do around here with the kids. I've missed you this past week."

"I'm not exactly a leper you know. They are welcome in here as are you."

"You need time to heal, Dad and to rest. You just got out of the hospital two days ago. You can't have the kids crawling all over the bed. Besides, Irina's afraid of you a little. She says you smell funny."

Illya smiled at his daughter's bluntness, a clear sign of Angelique's parenting. "Probably all the drugs they have me on. They alter the body chemically." He winced as he adjusted his position slightly to take some of the pressure off his recently repaired hip. "Children are more sensitive to it."

"But she misses her Poppy, I can tell."

"She misses my hair, you mean. Give it another couple of days; I'll be off nearly everything by then."

"Not according to your doctor."

"No, according to me..."


"Lisle, I appreciate your concern, but I've been taking care of myself for a long time." He stroked her head gently and in spite of her best intentions, she found herself drifting off, lulled into a pleasant state of drowsiness by her father's touch, the slow regular beating of his heart, and the sense of security and peacefulness that spread over her.

Leon struggled in the front door and managed to do it without dropping a kid or a diaper bag.

"Take that you THRUSH dogs," he said as he jiggled his armful. Peter whimpered and Inessa began to chime in. "I know you're both hungry... just give me a minute more." Leon looked around the immediate area. "Lisle? Alex? Dad? Illya? Anyone living? Dead?"

At the lack of response, he frowned and took a few steps into the living room. Toy-strewn and as messy as usual, at least that part was comforting. He set the diaper bag down and struggled out of first one Snuggie pouch, then the other. Snuggie pouch, my ass. One more thing to emasculate fathers, Leon thought as he peeled off his jacket and rolled his shoulders. He had to give Lisle credit. She did this all day long and rarely complained; he'd had his fill in one afternoon.

Leon dug each baby out of their fabric pouches, grimacing at the smell that greeted him. "All you do is eat and poop. I'm thinking we could free up a considerable amount of time if we just stopped feeding you," he grumbled, unsnapping Peter's one piece. The baby giggled and kicked. "Oh, you think that's funny, do you?"

He had diaper changing down to a fine art by now and it was just a matter of a minute before the dirty diaper was tucked away and Peter was again complaining about a definite lack of food.

"Okay, kiddo, let's go find your mom. I do believe she has exactly what you need." It had taken a bit of practice to hone the art of juggling two babies at once, but he'd gotten rather good at it.

At least, he knew where Illya would be. The man was just starting to get around with a walker. Another week and they'd be strapping him down to the bed, but for now they were reasonable assured of him being where they had left him.

"Ill..." he started as he walked into the room, but he immediately quieted at the sight of his wife, a spitfire of independence and stubbornness, sound asleep in her father's arms, her head nestled into his chest, snoring slightly. Illya brought a cautionary finger to his lips.

"Hell, she wouldn't cuddle with me like that until after we were married," Leon murmured with a smile. "Trade you?"

He set one baby and then the next down beside Illya and reached for his wife.

She stirred at his touch and murmured, "Leon?"

"It had better be. Let's put you to bed, little one."

"The twins..." She started to struggle as Leon lifted her off the mattress.

"... are in good hands." Leon kissed her temple and she drifted back off.

Illya watched the young man carry his daughter away and felt a twinge of regret. He'd missed so much of her life and then he grimaced in pain as Inessa flailed an arm and connected with his thigh, right below an incision.

He picked her up, shifting her to her mother's vacant spot. He lifted Peter and realized the baby was eyeing his chest where his pajamas gaped.

"Don't even think about it," he advised, readjusted the top so that it was closed. "You really are all-Kuryakin, aren't you?" The baby grinned and gurgled. "And you sound like you could use a plumber."

He glanced over as a head poked around the door jam. "Thought I heard you talking." Napoleon entered, grinning. His normally neat hair was windblown and the knees of his beige slacks were stained green with grass. "Looks like you have a full plate."

"Or, at the very least, a full bed. Would you get me a couple of bottles?"

"Are you sure you're up for it?"

"I can always start." He adjusted Peter's position. "With him, it's a gamble whether or not you'll finish."

"Hey, how come the babies are in here?" Irina asked from the door, warily eyeing her recumbent grandfather. "Mommy said this was a 'do not disturb' zone. I heard her say that."

"You can come in too, Irina," Illya said, glancing up from her baby brother. "There's plenty of room up here."

"I don't want to."

"I think you do." He settled Peter on his shoulder and looked slyly over at her. "But I think you're afraid of me for some reason."

"Am not." The bottom lip came out in a pout.

"I think you are." He dropped a hand down to Inessa and rubbed her back. "But Inessa isn't nor is Peter, are you?" Peter started gumming his fist and drooled onto his grandfather's shoulder. "No, I'd say there's no fear there... saliva, but no fear."

"I'm not afraid of you, Poppy."

"What? I can't hear you." He kept his face turned from her as he tickled Inessa. "Did you say something?"

Then he felt the touch to his arm. "I'm not afraid of you, Poppy."

"Hmm, possibly not. Do you want to hold Peter or your sister?" He asked as she climbed up onto the bed and settled beside him, eyeing his covered leg. He'd have to find out later what story Alex had told her. The boy loved tormenting his very sensitive sister. Reminded him a little of himself.

"Inessa , she's a little lady."

"According to your grandfather, those are the ones you have to watch out for." Illya struggled to keep from groaning as she set a hand upon his thigh and adjusted her position. "Sit back... please," he whispered and he handed her a baby.

"Hello, sweetheart, did you miss me?" Irina cooed to the baby. Napoleon came in, grinned and passed her a bottle and handed the other to his partner.

"Gotten over the hump, I see." Napoleon glanced at the girl and back.

"Working on it." Illya grimaced as Peter latched onto the bottle and began to suck. "I don't know how Lisle does it."

"Does what?"

"Breast feeds. This child should be renamed Hoover or one of those other vacuum cleaner brands."

Napoleon smoothed the baby's hair into place. "It's not for the weak, that's one thing for sure. Probably why they leave it up to the women."

Leon walked back into the room and rubbed his hands together. Alex followed him in and climbed up on to the bed. Illya shut his eyes in pain and Napoleon caught the boy and lifted him into the air and up onto his shoulder. "I think that bed has reached its maximum limit, my friend."

"I'm going to cook dinner tonight," Leon said, tickling his son's closest knee. Alex squirmed and squealed. "So the question is..."

"Pepperoni!" Alex shouted and Napoleon winced.

"Cheese, lots and lot of lovely cheese!" Irina spared a quick glance from her charge.

"Dad? Illya?"

"I'll go with the crowd. Illya, morphine or opioid?"

"Funny." Illya juggled Peter slightly. "Very funny."

"I want morphine too if Poppy's having it!" Irina said.

"No, you don't," Illya said quickly. "Napoleon, you need to be careful what you say."

Lisle rolled over in bed and stretched. Oh, she felt lovely, warm and relaxed, her limbs weighed down with a pleasant lassitude. She hadn't felt like this in ages and ages. Then she looked over at the bedside clock and propped herself up on her elbows.

"Eight o'clock, what the bloody hell?" She sat up and glanced down at herself. She was wearing just her nursing bra and panties, two things she never slept in. She got up and found one of Leon's tee shirts. She pulled it on and it came nearly to her knees. Barefoot, she came down the stairs, pausing halfway to look around. Nothing and no one... then she heard a faint sound coming from the master bedroom.

She got to the door and stopped, smiling at the scene. Napoleon and Leon were sitting in matching recliners, their attention split between watching TV and talking. Alex was camped out in front of the TV, his hand moving back and forth between his mouth and the bowl of popcorn that sat between him and his sister. Irina was carefully offering her doll a kernel of popcorn before slipping it into her own mouth. Remnants of pizza boxes and paper cups, along with two wine glasses and a few bottles of beer littered the coffee table.

Illya was sound asleep in spite of the noise, a baby to either side of him and a pillow on either side of them, an impromptu crib railing.

"So this is where all the cool kids are hanging out," she said. Immediately Alex and Irina were on their feet and in her arms. She kissed them and smiled as they both started talking at once, their voices growing in volume as they tried to out-shout each other. "Shh, you'll wake Poppy."

"No chance of that," Napoleon said, half turning in his seat. She walked over to him and kissed his head. "He's down for the count."

"Why's that?"

"A glass of wine and all his medication. He'll be lucky if he wakes up before next Tuesday."

"He'll wet the bed!" Irina was scandalized.

"I'll make sure he doesn't." Napoleon assured her with a wink as Lisle plopped down in her husband's lap. "Feel better?"

"Much, thank you." She sat forward to grab a piece of pizza and chewed it. "Mmm, cold greasy pizza, my favorite."

"You're funny, Mommy." Alex returned to his position. "We're watching a show about lions. They eat things... living things... while they're still living..."

"I see. And who's going to sit up with you tonight when you have nightmares?"

"Grampy said he would."

"Brave man."

"That's one word for it." Leon murmured. "I have another one though. Sucker comes to mind..."

She laughed and settled back against Leon and leaned in for a kiss.

"Mmm, pepperoni flavored kisses. My favorite!" he whispered. "Love you, my little one."

"You, too." Lisle said, glancing over at the bed and then at the floor. "And our life."

"You didn't sound so sure about that this morning."

"This morning I didn't realize just how rich we are or how lucky."

Napoleon looked from one to the other and he grinned. Somehow, he felt compelled to agree with her.

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