Sam woke up to the unusual sound of a baby crying. He opened his eyes and saw Amanda sound asleep next to him and a pillow fort surrounding them. He could hear the giggling of children nearby, but it wasn’t drowning out the crying of the baby. Sam appreciated the view of the sleeping Amanda for another minute before he pulled himself up.
He carefully picked his way out of the pillowfort, stepping over Mike and Hannah. Outside of the fort Matt and Lucy were playing a card game and giggling, while Cassie was nowhere to be seen.
“Hi Sam,” Lucy whispered, waving at him. He wiggled his fingers back and grinned before kneeling down next to them.
“Good morning guys, have you seen Cassie?”
“Mhm, she went to explore the house a while ago.” Matt didn’t look up from the game, focused entirely on beating his older sister.
“Thanks.” Sam rubbed Matt’s head and stood up. Sophie let out another cry and Sam reprioritized where he was going. He followed the sounds of Sophie and found her laying in an old crib in a side room.
“Good morning Sophie,” Sam cooed, bending over and picking her up. “You hungry? Or lonely? Or did you make a mess?”
Sam gently started bouncing her while checking her diaper.
“Oh baby, you made a messy mess. Let’s see if big brother Mikey brought any diapers. And then we’ll see about breakfast.”
Sam kept up a running commentary as he found Sophie’s diaper bag and changed her diaper. By the end, she was babbling and grabbing at his face as he bent over her.
“I didn’t realize you knew how to change a diaper?” Mike’s voice came from the door, causing him to jump.
“Oh,” Sam glanced back at him and gave him a smile. “I’m no professional or shit, but it’s passable... I think.”
“Lemme see.” Mike walked over and adjusted the diaper. “Y’know, that’s not that bad.”
“Thanks, did she wake you up?”
“Nah, Lucy had to come get me. I thought you were going to find Cassie, at least that’s what Lucy said.”
“Cassie’s exploring, I figured the crying baby needed attention more. Does she need a bottle?”
“Yeah, I put the spares in the fridge. We’ll need to go heat it up.” Mike shifted Sophie further up into his arms and picked up her bag.
“I want to make breakfast for everyone, but I should find Cas first. I’ll see you in the kitchen.”
Sam and Mike split up in the hallway, Mike heading to the kitchen and Sam beginning to wander. He poked his head into every room he walked past, looking for his little sister. He finally found her in a small library, sitting on the floor with piles of books around her.
“Hey, kid,” Sam stepped into the room. “Whatcha readin’?”
“Hi Sammy,” Cassie looked up at him and grinned. “She has all the Nancy Drew books!”
“That’s great, how’d you sleep?”
“Fine, do we have to go?” Cas looked sad and started putting down the books.
“Not yet, at least not until after breakfast. You wanna bring some of the books downstairs while I make breakfast?”
“Sure,” Cas tucked a scrap of paper into the book before closing it and gathering up a few of them. “What are you making?”
“Whatever I can make out of what’s in the kitchen?”
Sam and Cas walked down to the kitchen where Mike was bouncing Sophie and heating her bottle.
“Good morning, Cassie,” Mike greeted them with a small smile as they entered.
“Good morning Mike,” she smiled back and walked up to make faces at Sophie. “And good morning Soph!”
Sophie gurgled and reached out for Cassie. Mike hesitated for a second before passing Sophie to Cassie, helping her hold Sophie comfortably.
“Alright you two, out of the kitchen, I wanna make breakfast. Go back to the fort and do whatever the hell you wanna do.” Sam started waving the two of them out of the kitchen. Mike grabbed the bottle and flipped him off as they walked out of the room, making Cas laugh.
Sam rolled his eyes and smiled before spinning in a circle in the huge kitchen and getting to work. He pulled open the fridge started figuring out what he had to work with.
“Eggs, ooooh syrup. I wonder if she has-“ Sam muttered to himself as he flew around the kitchen, pulling out ingredients to make pancakes, with sides of eggs, fresh fruit, sausage, bacon, and coffee. After about twenty minutes of cooking, Hannah appeared in the door.
“Morning Han,” Sam glanced at her. “Can you cook?”
“Kinda?” Hannah moved further into the kitchen and stared at all the food.
“Great, all you have to do is pour pancakes and flip them before they burn.” Sam passed her the spatula and immediately started washing fruits. The two of them worked in companionable silence for a while before Hannah spoke up again.
“So Sam, Cassie is great.”
“She is, isn’t she?” Sam looked at her with an enthusiasm she had never seen before. “She’s an honors student y’know. Straight A’s, reads anything she can get her hands on. And she’s creative as fuck, Hannah.”
“I can tell,” Hannah pulled some chocolate chips out of the freezer and started adding them to pancakes. “So what’s your plan? For the rest of the day?”
“I, uh, I’m not sure yet.” Sam’s shoulders tightened momentarily before he shook himself. “What about you?”
“Whatever it is it better not be at home. All of my extended family is at my house. Nine aunts and uncles, twenty cousins all between the ages of two months and ten. And none of them know how to behave like humans, the fucking aliens were more polite.” Hannah watched Sam carefully during her rant and relaxed as she made him laugh.
“That sounds fucking terrible, Hannah, oh my god.” Sam grinned at her and shook his head. “Good thing you’re here with us instead.”
“Yeah, seriously. They may not have even noticed I’m gone, unless someone wanted to ask me when I’m getting married.”
“What?! Aren’t you like fifteen?”
“Yep, but they don’t fucking care.”
“Damn,” Sam looked at her with a mixture of amusement and sympathy. “Sucks.”
“Mhm,” Hannah shrugged her shoulders and then gave him a small smile. “It’s fine, I’m used to them.”
“Mmmm, what’s that smell!” Lucy’s voice appeared in the doorway a moment before she did. She and Matt walked into the kitchen and crowded up to them, looking at all the food.
“Breakfast! Do you two want to go set the table?” Sam scooped the eggs into a platter, glancing back at them.
“Sure, where are the plates?” Matt was looking at the pancakes with delight.
“I have no idea, poke around.” Sam shrugged and grinned at them. They grinned back and started going through the cabinets, finding plates, bowls, cups, and silverware. Matt carried all the dishes out of the kitchen while Lucy found juice in the fridge. Hannah and Sam plated the rest of the food, making sure to get the syrups as well before following the kids.
“These are my favorite dishes,” Amanda’s voice drifted out of the dining room. “Here, let me help you!”
They walked into the room to find the table half made, Matt setting silverware by the plates, Lucy filling the cups with juice, and Amanda setting the filled cups at the different seats. Mike was sitting at the head of the table, feeding Sophie while Cassie read in the seat next to him.
“Hot food coming in!” Hannah called, walking into the room holding a platter of pancakes in one hand and a plate of meat in the other. Sam followed with a platter of eggs and a bowl of fruit.
“Oh yum!” Cassie jumped up and ran over to grab the bowl of fruit from Sam.
“Thanks, guys.” Amanda smiled at them, coming over to take one of the platters from Hannah. “You didn’t have to make breakfast.”
“But Sam makes the best food! And he never gets to at home!”
“Well thank you, Cassie,” Sam made sure everything was on the table and claimed a seat. “And I wanted to, ‘Manda.”
“Alright, I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.” Amanda held up her hands in surrender and joined him. Everyone scrambled to claim a seat they liked and dug into the food. The room lit up with chatter and laughter as the food was passed around and everyone started eating.
“Holy sh-ooooes Sam, this is amazing!” Amanda moaned around a bite of pancakes. Sam, Mike, and Hannah stared at her for a second before bursting into hysterical laughter.
“Shoes? Holy shoes? What kind of shoes are holy shoes?” Hannah covered her eyes and howled with laughter. Amanda flushed and threw egg at her.
“Oh, shut up.”
“Hey, Amanda?” Matt spoke up through a mouth of food. “Do we have to leave?”
There was a moment of silence as they all looked at him and then at Amanda.
“No buddy, of course not,” she smiled at him. “You, all of you, are welcome here for as you want to be here.”
“Really? Mike, I want to move in here.” Lucy jabbed her fork at Matt and grinned.
“Oh, Luce I’m not sure if that’s what-”
“I’ll help you pick out your room,” Amanda cut off Mike and stood up from the table. “We have several empty ones, you can pick your favorite. You too Matt. C’mon.”
Lucy and Matt jumped up from the table and followed Amanda out of the room, leaving a flabbergasted Mike, Sam, and Hannah. Before Amanda stepped out of the room she turned her head and looked at Cassie.
“Hey Cas, if you want to pick out a room too you can. For whenever you want to stay-”
Before Amanda could finish the sentence Cas was up and following her out of the room. Sam gave a faint smile after them and leaned back in his seat.
“Holy shit did she just invite me and my siblings to move in?” Mike was staring at the door after them in shock.
“I think so, and I don’t think she’s going to let you say no,” Sam replied.
“Wonderful,” Mike looked down at Sophie and sighed. “I don’t think I’d want to say no.”
“Here I’ll take Soph and you can go make sure they haven’t made plans already to add another wing to the house.” Sam stood up and took Sophie, letting Mike trail after his siblings to try and perform at least a little damage control. Sam sat back down and cradled her close.
“Hey baby, hey! Aren’t you a happy baby, aren’t you a happy giggly baby!” He started cooing to her, trying to make her laugh and smile. Hannah sat and watched him, munching on fresh fruit. After a few minutes, he glanced up and saw her watching him, causing him to flush a dark red.
“I didn’t think you’d be this good with kids,” Hannah admitted, looking away and picking up dishes. “It’s impressive.”
“Thanks, Cas has been a blessing but it gave me a lot of experience with kids.”
“Sam! Amanda says to get your butt in here!” Cassie’s voice suddenly yelled from another room.
“Alright! Geez, give your brother a heart attack!” Sam yelled back, standing up and walking out of the room with Hannah right on his heels. “What's up?”
“Well, an old family tradition of mine is to decorate for Christmas on the day after Thanksgiving. I wanted to know if you all would want to join me in that this year.” Amanda was digging around in a closet under the stairs, coming out with a Santa hat on, a box, and a grin.
“What happened to the bedrooms?”
“We already picked those out, now it’s time for Christmas!” Matt ducked into the closet and pulled out another box, following Amanda into the living room. Lucy, Cas, Mike, and Hannah exchanged quick looks before grabbing boxes and following them, Sam trailing behind with Sophie.
“Alright!” Amanda clapped her hands together and surveyed them all. “Ready to get your assignments, troops? Mike, you and Hannah can assemble the artificial tree that goes in this room. Lucy, you and Matt tear down the fort and then set up the Christmas village. I can show you where if you need ideas. Cas, I have one hundred and forty-five Santa figures. Your job is to set them up throughout the house. I’ll deal with the greenery. Sam, you can sit on the couch with Sophie and look pretty.”
“And give fun commentary.” Sam sat down on one of the couches, cuddling Sophie close and grinning at everyone.
“Alright! Let’s get started!” Amanda pulled open her box, spurring everyone into work. Within five minutes, Lucy and Matt had the entire fort dismantled. They piled the blankets and pillows on the couch with Sam and put the chairs back. Mike and Hannah were arguing about the tree placement, Hannah wanting to put it next to the window and Mike wanting it by the wall.
Cas had vanished with one of the boxes of Santas and Sam just knew they were going to be finding Santa dolls for months. Amanda was pulling garlands, wreaths, and mini trees out of other boxes and arranging them around the fireplace, then taking the extra ones to the front room.
After working in silence for a little while, Sam stood up and left to grab the radio, intent on finding some station devoted to Christmas carols. He brought it back and plugged it in, balancing Sophie on his hip. She was watching the chaos with a look of pure excitement, clapping her hands and giggling as Sam jostled her around.
“Ok, silence is for losers. Let’s see if we can find at least one good station.” Sam fiddled with the radio until Christmas music came blasting out. Lucy and Matt immediate started singing along with Wham!, dancing around the room as they picked out a spot for the village.
Sam settled back on the couch and watched them all decorate, throwing out suggestions and comments as he saw fit. After a little while, Amanda settled next to him.
“You know, if you wanted, there could be a room here for you, too.” Amanda wouldn’t look him in the eyes. “Mike picked out a room.”
“Yeah? But you know Cas and I can’t just up and move in here. My dad would never let us.”
“No, but you could show up whenever you needed and have a safe place to go.” Amanda started brushing her fingers along Sophie’s face. “I would love to have you, all of you.”
They sat in silence for a minute, watching Mike and Hannah move the tree around, arguing the whole time. Lucy and Matt were laughing at them as they set up an intricate village. Cas reentered the room just in time for Mike to overbalance the tree on top of Hannah.
“Michael! Get this off of me!” They could see her arm waving from under the tree, but her voice betrayed the amusement she felt. Mike hauled the tree off of Hannah while Cas helped her stand up.
“You know, the tree is supposed to be vertical, not horizontal,” Cas said, laughing while looking down at the tree.
“Ughhhh,” Hannah groaned and buried her face in her hands. “Mike just set up the tree, then we’ll do ornaments. I’m going to go angrily clean something.”
Hannah left the room, winking at Lucy and Matt on her way out. They laughed at her and continued setting up the village.
“I’d like that. Yeah, okay, I’ll take a room,” Sam finally said, glancing over at Amanda. She grinned at him and leaned over to press a kiss to his cheek before jumping up again.
“Alright, Mike, I’m coming to help you!” She danced across the room to the music, leaving a dazed Sam in her wake. When he blinked back to himself, he saw Cas giving him a knowing look, causing him to flush deeper.
Mike and Amanda got the tree situated quickly and then set to work getting the room in order. Matt and Lucy wandered off to go help Hannah in the kitchen, while Cas sat down next to Sam and took Sophie out of his arms.
“Don’t want you to miss all of the fun,” she said, kicking him lightly as she settled into the couch with the napping Sophie. Sam hesitated for a second before he stood up and walked over to help Mike and Amanda.
“As soon as we get all of these boxes put away, we can put the ornaments on the tree!” Amanda grinned at him and lifted a few of the boxes. Sam smiled back and followed suit. Between the three of them, they had the room cleaned up in about twenty minutes, at which point Hannah, Lucy, and Matt came back in.
“This is fun!” Lucy bounded into the room, jumping into Mike’s arms. “Christmas is fun, Mike!”
“It is,” He agreed, standing still and letting her climb on him until she was hanging from his back.
“We can we decorate our bedrooms too?” Matt asked, sitting on one of the couches and looking around.
“Hmm, maybe. Not today, but sometime before Christmas I’m sure we could.” Amanda moved the ornament boxes to the couch and sat down next to Matt. “Now, Matt you and I are going to unwrap the ornaments and everyone else is going to put them on the tree. Sound good?”
“Mmm, I wanna put ornaments on the tree too,” Matt pouted.
“I’ll unwrap,” Cas passed Sophie back to Sam and sat down next to Amanda. “I wanna see them all.”
“Awesome!” Matt jumped up and stood next to the tree. Amanda and Cas opened the boxes and started unwrapping the various ornaments, passing them to whoever was closest. Occasionally, Amanda would share a memory about a specific ornament, only getting overwhelmed once or twice.
After they finished hanging the ornaments, Sam looked at his watch. He let out a deep sigh and looked at Cas, who pouted back at him.
“Sorry Cas, I think we have to go.” He stood up and passed Sophie back to Mike reluctantly.
“I don’t want to. Can’t we just move in here?”
“No, you know we can’t,” Sam rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. “It won’t be that bad.”
Cas and Sam stared at each other for a minute before Cas sighed and looked away. Everyone else in the room had gone tense, not knowing how to deal with the new tension in the room.
“Cas,” Amanda said hesitantly. “You and your brother can come back, whenever you want.”
“And we will, but we have to go home at least tonight.” Sam reached out and cupped her shoulder. “But, we’ll be back tomorrow. Or next week.”
“We promise.” Cas gave Sam a significant look.
“Here,” Amanda stood up. “I’ll drive you two. It’s too far to walk. Hannah do you need to go home too?”
“Yeah, but I’ll be back tomorrow.”
“Great, I’ll drive you too. Mike, you and the kids can settle in. I’ll be back in like twenty minutes.”
The four of them walked out of the room, leaving the Jaundice siblings sitting around the tree. Mike snuggled Sophie close and settled into the couch, only needing to wait a second before Lucy and Matt were on either side of him.
“I hope they come back soon,” Lucy whispered, not looking away from the tree.
“Me too Luce, me too,” Mike replied, remembering the bruising on Sam’s face when they first met and the injuries he’d seen since then. He wrapped an arm around Matt and leaned on Lucy, thankful that he had them. They sat in silence watching the tree until Amanda came back to join them.