This had to be the best job ever. Being paid to play video games and mess around on a computer was nearly every child’s dream, and he was living it. Lor had wanted to be a kraken, but then again Mal had come to understand that Lor shouldn’t be used as a measurement of what was normal in a lot of things. Hopefully his fiance would never achieve his dream of becoming a ship-wrecking monster, but with some of the experiments he did at work it was always a possibility.
The game over screen flickered across the computer and he leant back, sighing. He’d win one day.
“Dad? I’ve got a friend over, ok?”
Huh, that was new. Ellie didn’t normally bring people home with her.
“I just wish I didn’t have to keep looking like this while she’s here.”
“She seems to be ok with the rest of us. She’ll be fine if you take the disguise off.”
“But what if she tells her other friends at school that I’m not a sim?”
Lyra looked up at her brother. He really had made things complicated for himself – she wondered if he’d keep it up all the way through school. What if he stayed like this forever?
“Ly? What’s wrong?”
She shook her head and smiled at him reassuringly. “Nothing. I was just thinking.”
“Oh no, someone fetch the doctor!” her twin said, popping up behind her and swimming away again.
“Shut up, Leo!”
Ellie grinned as shrieks of laughter and the sound of water splashing reached her ears.
“That one looks like a bunny, don’t you think?” Kelsi said, turning her head to look at her.
“It does! That one looks like a carrot – maybe the bunny is trying to catch it?”
“Do carrots run away?”
“If you tie them to a really fast bicycle they do.”
“Al? Aren’t you worried that you’ll drop your book in the water?”
“Well, I am now!” he said, crawling away from the edge to kneel down next to Lyra. “What did you get for question 4b?”
“Stop, drop and roll.”
“Phew. So did I.”
“Leo? I don’t think the answer is ‘Just don’t do it.’ That isn’t very helpful if someone is already on fire.”
“Well, that’s their own fault. Who’s daft enough to catch fire, anyway?”
“Don’t say that in front of Grandma Morgan.”
“Why? Was she on fire a lot?”
“She wasn’t very good at cooking. I think her maiden name was an omen.”
“Why? What was it?”
“Papa? Dad? Leo broke the dollhouse again!”
They broke apart, resigned to the fact that with four children they really should have expected the interruption. Mal quickly kissed him on the lips one last time before heading over to the dollhouse. He was getting pretty good at fixing it, now.
“Leo, that wasn’t very nice.”
Ellie was determined to help curb her brother’s destructive ways, no matter what it took. If it meant leaving her friend with Al and her papa while she forced him to play dolls with her, she was willing to make that sacrifice.
“Why don’t you play the mum, and I’ll be the baby?”
“Why am I the mum?” Leo said, wrinkling his nose.
“Do you want to be the baby?”
Lor forced his eyes open, which was easier said than done with Malik kissing his neck like that. “Mmm?”
“Let’s get married. This weekend, so we’ve got time to get everything ready.”
“Say the word, and I’ll marry you here and now.”
“You have no idea how tempting that is,” Mal said, working his way around the soft skin of Lor’s neck. “We promised Ellie she could be a bridesmaid though, and I know Lyra wants to be one, too.”
Lor moved his hand to cup Malik’s chin and brought him up into a proper kiss. “This weekend, then. Let’s have it at night, so my parents can be there too. If we’re doing this we might as well do it properly. Do you think your mum can make it?”
“She wouldn’t miss it.” Malik looked at him, serious for a moment. “Thank you for giving her another chance.”
“She’s your mum, Mal. Besides, she’s been fine since the shock wore off.”
“Can you what?”
“Can I invite my sister, too?”
Lor raised an eyebrow. “The sister who set fire to your house and kidnapped your mother?”
“You know how in stories the evil fairy only curses people when she’s not invited to things? I’m kind of hoping that she’ll be so happy to be there that she won’t cause trouble. She loves weddings.”
Lor sighed. How could he argue against fairy tale logic? The evil fairy was going to be invited, and then they could have their happily ever after.
“Oh no, Mrs Appleby, your child is missing! Someone phone the police!”
They really should send him to bed, but this was far too cute to interrupt. They crept up the stairs, trying not to laugh.
“Watch out, Mrs Appleby, that cave belongs to a bear! It’s a good thing you have a black belt!”
Malik snorted at that, before covering his mouth quickly and running into his bedroom. Leo span around, but there was no one there. Weird.
“I challenge you to a duel, Mr Bear! En garde!”
Leo would never admit it, but maybe dolls weren’t as dumb as he’d thought.