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hide and seek

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“Rory! Time to go!” 

But when Alex pokes her head into her daughter’s room - the last place she saw both of her kids - there are no kids to be found. The toys are abandoned in the middle of the floor and Alex’s forehead wrinkles. “Rory? Riley?” 

There’s no answer and no sign of them in Riley’s room either. Probably not playing hide and seek then; Riley always hides under his crib. 

“Dylan!” 

“Yeah?” He’s in the kitchen, packing the last of Riley’s snacks.

“Have you seen the kids?” 

Dylan looks up from the diaper bag, a frown on his face. “Rory was just here.” 

“They’re not in her room.” And Alex is trying very hard not to panic. “Not in Riley’s either.” 

“Did you check the closet? Riley’s discovered it’s big enough to play in.” 

So Alex climbs the stairs again, pads down the hall with a little more urgency in her steps and whips open the closet door. There isn’t so much as a shuffle, no sounds of little giggles. 

Where the fuck are her children?

“We didn’t lose them,” Dylan says when she’s back downstairs. “You take this floor, I’ll check downstairs.” 

There’s no sign of either Rory nor Riley in the living room, the toy room, or the den. They’re not in the kitchen either, and Dylan agrees when he comes up. Riley’s sticks aren’t even out. No pre-hockey mini-sticks with her little brother. 

“They have to be here,” Dylan says. “It’s their house. They’re not leaving. Rory wouldn’t walk to practice.” 

No matter how many times she’s threatened. 

“Where else do we even look?” 

“I don’t know. Outside?” 

If Rory has managed to get Riley into the yard, by herself, with all the snow, Alex might have to shake her. Riley is too young to be out without supervision, not that Rory is, herself. Alex leaves Dylan to check the yard and she heads into the garage. The trunk is open in their SUV and Alex all but beelines to Riley’s side of the car. 

Her little boy looks up at her with a bright smile, a puck clutched tightly in his chubby fist. She can hear the rustling of what she assumes is Rory’s hockey equipment from the open trunk.  Alex almost sags in relief. “Rory.” 

Her daughter’s head pops up from the trunk, already half in her gear. “Are you ready? You and Daddy are taking forever , I’m going to be late !” 

Alex absently takes the puck Riley holds out to her. “Hi, baby. Did Rory buckle you in?” 

Riley babbles and slams the helmet in his lap. His little baby hands reach out, focused on the puck. Alex is terrified his puck obsession will turn him into a goalie. He hums and plunks the puck into the helmet. Alex would bet he’s been playing that game the entire time. 

“You scared the hell out of us,” she says to Rory, tries with all her might to put on her sternest voice. “We had no idea where you were or if you’d disappeared.” 

Rory stills. It’s not entirely out of remorse. Alex knows her daughter. “We’re gonna be late,” she says carefully. 

“We’re going to be later now because Daddy and I had to look for you,” 

Her forehead wrinkles. “I told Daddy?” 

“Did you?” 

“I told him it was hockey time,” Rory answers. “He was packing my snacks. And then Riley was whining so I promised him a puck in the car.” 

Said puck smacks Alex’s let as Riley pitches it out of the car. 

“Did you find them?” Dylan sounds downright frantic. 

“In the car,” Alex replies as she bends for the puck. Riley cries out, so she hands it over, keeping her grip until her son looks up with a mutinous frown on his face. “No. Throwing.” 

“Jesus Christ. Rory James.”

Her head pops up again where she’s trying to wiggle into her chest protector. “I told you we had to go!” 

“I didn’t know that meant you were going to take your brother into the car,” Dylan scolds, looming over Alex’s shoulder. 

“We’re going to be late!” 

Alex huffs and glances up at her husband. “No mini sticks today, Ror. We’ll talk about it when we get home.” 

“Mama!”

“When we get home, Bug.” She turns to Dylan. “Keys?” 

“In the house.” 

Alex huffs and tilts her head for a relieved kiss. “I’ll grab them.”