Summary: Daniel always hated change, especially on days like these.
Disclaimer: The story and original characters are writing copyright to campciabatta, 2010. The characters of nygoldfish54's are used with her permission.
It was one of those days when Daniel wished he was the only person (maybe with the exception of Anna) on earth. It was one of those days that felt like they would never end and the disasters just kept piling on top of each other.
To start with, there were simply too many children around at the same time. Daniel didn’t mind his own kids, mostly because his kids were counted in singulars; Natalie was eighteen months old and the calmest baby Daniel had ever happened upon. He had no doubt that it was all due to the outstanding upbringing he and Anna provided for her.
And even if he might not be entirely objective when it came to his kid, he was quite certain that his daughter was an exemplary child when you compared her to her adversaries (although Anna insisted they‘d be called ‘friends‘).
Daniel’s best friend Fred had two children. Fred, who had failed with almost every other aspect in his life, starting with flunking out of high school and spending a few months in rehab when he was twenty-one due to alcoholism, had outdone himself when it came to his family. He married his high-school sweetheart (who ended up becoming a successful rock star only a few years later) and their first kid ended up being twins. Daniel wasn’t sure if he was ignorant or if the twins were interchangeable, but he had never been able to tell them apart, even though one was a boy and the other one was a girl.
Now, the twins themselves weren’t so bad, at least not in small doses. However, Daniel had watched as Fred turned into a neurotic and fussy parent over the course of a few months. Daniel hadn’t expected Fred to take parenthood lightly or anything, but there was a limit to how baby-proofed an apartment could be, and Fred had crossed that line five baby monitors ago.
The twins would turn three in a couple of months. Secretly, Daniel enjoyed watching them grow up and form their personalities and identities, both around and apart from their parents. Ben was much like Fred in his mannerism and temper. He was mellow and calm and didn’t talk much (but he did talk, as Fred had desperately explained to anyone who would listen, worried that people might assume a birth defect - Daniel thought he worried far too much over everything) but he was also very bright. He liked to read and do puzzles, and Daniel could tell that Ben understood a lot just by observing his surroundings. These character traits could be found nowhere in Fred.
Ben’s sister Elle was the complete opposite. She was energetic, impulsive and unafraid of most things. She mirrored Lex, Fred’s wife, in her own outspoken way, and when the twins got into trouble you could always expect Elle to be the instigator; the brains behind the operation. She was somewhat of a spitfire, and her adventurous personality left her open to take on Fred’s natural talent for any sports. While her brother showed no apparent interest whatsoever in sports, he still joined her anywhere she might lead.
Actually, the twins weren’t really the problem either, Daniel figured. They were always one too many running around, but there wasn’t much you could do about that. No, the root to today’s headache was, as per usual, the ringleader of them all. The one who rallied the troops and caused mischief all around - Jack.
Jack was the son of Lex‘s best friend Jeff. He was almost eleven, and by now highly skilled in the art of driving grown-ups crazy. And he wasn’t a bad kid; most days he was fun to be around and other children liked being in his company. But the kid just couldn’t sit still. He was everywhere, talking and walking and doing and drawing and eating and playing, all at once. This side effect was what Daniel disliked most about children. The fact that they rarely shut up, always had to activate themselves in some way and were frequently sticky. This last one was a specialty of Jack’s. Daniel was deeply proud of the fact that his kid was neither often sticky nor very active. She was alive, sure, but not as apparent as Jack.
Jack’s heart lay in his dedication for animals, big and small (though not reptiles), originally triggered by his first encounter with Kate’s puppy back when he was five. Jack’s fascination knew no boundaries and most of the stories he entertained the younger kids with was about some animal that in the end became the hero or found its way home from a long adventure. And like his dad, Jack also aspired to become a famous rock star one day, an ambition that was sadly (for the band members; Daniel didn‘t care either way) not yet shared by the twins - and Natalie did unfortunately not seem very interested in music either, although Anna still had hopes for an eventual singing voice.
The reason that Daniel had to spend so much time with all these children was because, at this point, they were all like a big, dysfunctional family. Jeff’s former girlfriend Kate was also Fred and Daniel’s best friend, and Jeff and Lex were two of Anna’s closest friends. It was all structured like a confusing daytime soap (which, ironically, had been one of Kate‘s mother‘s livelihood once upon a time) and to add children into the mix had only made things even more complicated.
Daniel had accidentally knocked up Anna, and even though they’d been on-and-off since high school the longest they’d been in actual relationship with each other at that point was two consecutive years. But he didn’t mind, really. It hadn’t been the worst shock or disaster in the world, considering how old they were and how many times they’d ended up with each other. They’d argued about it, sure, but never once did they talk about not keeping the baby.
But Natalie was the youngest; about nine years before she joined the ranks, Jack was born, unwittingly to everyone else but his mother, Jeff’s high-school girlfriend Catalina. Jeff was nineteen at the time. The same year he turned twenty-two, Catalina showed up on his doorstep with Jack, dropped the kid in his lap and never saw either of them again. A year or so following that, Kate and Jeff got together, and she became somewhat of a stepmother for Jack, leaving Daniel no choice but to spend time with them all. The relationship ended three years later, and Kate ended up marrying Jeff’s best friend Chris, which meant that they all still played a large role in each other‘s lives. They took the long way around, for sure. But their relationships had always been dynamic; Chris dated Kate in high-school, Jeff dated her in college and Chris just happened to marry her before Jeff could. Daniel had no doubts that Kate would marry them back and forth until the end of time.
Kate had always been a part of Jack’s life, though, despite the turbulence surrounding her love life. She was the closest thing to a female role model Jack had and she loved him like only a real mother could. She never seemed to grieve much over the fact that she couldn’t have children of her own; to her it was enough to be involved in the world’s messiest drama triangle.
While Jack and Natalie were, at first, what you would call ‘accidents’, the twins were quite the opposite. Lex and Fred married at twenty-three - five years later than what Fred had originally wanted and about two years and a compromise earlier than Lex had planned. They didn’t plan to have children until a few years down the line, until it turned out that they might not be able to conceive at all, at which point they started trying much harder. Daniel figured it was lucky they had so much money to spend on doctors and tests, but in the end it was probably just a stroke of luck that dealt them the twins. Neither of them had any hopes of ever having more children.
The twins were pampered, but not spoilt, by their uptight father, and Lex made up for his worrying ways by taking a calmer approach to their upbringing. She was strict but fair and her children loved the way she always came up with something fun for them to do, always making them laugh and showing them new and exciting things to learn. Fred wanted to teach them the way of the world, but his limited knowledge on most things left him a bit incapable. He, on the other hand, compensated his limitations by showing them endless amounts of kindness and love. He and Lex complimented each other splendidly, as they had done since they first started dating.
Ben and Elle would probably grow up to be well-adjusted people, as long as the riches and fame didn’t grab a hold of them or their parents. Daniel guessed they were pretty much in the clear.
Looking back at it, he started to think that maybe he was lucky to have them around despite all the havoc and mayhem and noise - he had met some really awful kids in his days; kids who were badly raised by neglecting parents; kids who fought, swore and kicked when they wouldn’t have their way. Kids who were badly adjusted. Kids who were downright sad.
No, Daniel would never want to trade silence and solitude for his own kid’s happiness and security - or any of his friends’ children either, come to think. He never wanted Natalie to be genuinely sad. And he hated whenever any of them cried.
But today was just one of those days. One of those days when it felt like they were everywhere. You turned around, and one of them would be there. You turned the other way, and there someone else would be, talking. And so on.
Maybe it was a mistake for them all to meet up once a week to ‘hang out’ - ‘chase kids around’, more like - but they were all friends who had become family; a family just as important as any one related to you by blood. Daniel disliked people, sometimes a great deal, but as he had now crossed over into his thirties (unfortunately before everyone else, making him feel even older) and had spent all of his adult life with the same nine people, he had come to think of them as just that: friends. It had taken him a better part of a decade to come to these terms and accept them, but he supposed it was all right.
To be quite honest, he even sort of liked them, their weird relationships and all their kids.
But the only one he might ever admit this to was Anna. And even then, he’d had to be pretty drunk.