Life from the Ashes Series - River
Jo B
purplefox@usfamily.net

Rating: PG-13
Keywords: M/Sk/K SLASH
Disclaimer: The X-Files characters Fox Mulder, Dana Scully, Alex Krycek, Walter Skinner, Jeffrey Spender, CSM, the Lone Gunmen, Kimberly Cook, Senator Matheson, Bill Scully, the morph etc. are the property Chris Carter, 1013 productions and Fox Broadcasting. All other characters in the series are mine.
Summary: This is an Alternative Universe Story. It takes place after an alien virus has killed off most of the world's females and caused mutations in forty-five percent of the remaining males.
Authors Notes: This is a standalone story. It takes place four years after book four. The story is told from River's POV.
I would like to thank all of my wonderful beta-readers Laurie, Tobiette, Nicole, and Demi-X for their edits and plot advice and suggestions. I want to thank Helen for her great editing, and Kiyoko, Dawn, Cerulean Blue, and Susan for their suggestions and feedback.
Feedback is always welcome. Any constructive suggestions are appreciated.
WARNING! This story contains references to male/male sex.
Okay to Archive: please ask first.


River
by Jo B

March 15, 2007

I look up at Yori as he comes out of the kitchen drying his hands on a towel. Sammy and I spent the afternoon playing video games on his family's computer.

"River, you're wanted back at the palace," Yori says.

"Why? Daddy Fox said I could stay and eat supper here tonight." I was looking forward to Lev's stuffed dumplings.

"Your new brother was born a few minutes ago," Yori says.

"He was?" I'm surprised. My Dad wasn't due for over two weeks, and I haven't even been gone four hours. "I better get home then! He might need me!" I grab my jacket and rush out of the cottage's door. "Bye, Sammy!" I shout over my shoulder.

I no longer pay attention to the guards who follow me as I take the cobblestone path leading toward home. This past year has been one of my most memorable. I think back to this time last year...

***

March 2006

The sunlight is streaming in through my large bedroom window directly onto the painting I have propped up on the wooden easel. Most of the morning, I spent working on the portrait of my sister Angelique. I plan to give it to my Dads for Father's Day in June. I use a fan brush to add more white paint to her wings. The tube of titanium white is nearly empty, so I grab a pencil and roll it over the tube, forcing the last bit of paint from it onto the palette. I've already used up most of the paints in the acrylic paint set Daddy Walter gave me for Christmas. I'm planning on using my allowance to buy more tubes of paint.

Rex is sleeping on a rug next to the bed and snoring loudly, he wakes up as my younger brothers come storming into my bedroom.

"River, can you play with us?" Sergei asks, running through the open doorway. Sasha follows him into the room and jumps up on the bed. Rex raises his head, looks at the two little boys, then climbs to his feet and pads out my bedroom in search of a quieter place to sleep.

"Sasha, stop jumping on my bed. You know that Daddy Walter doesn't like it." I am upset over having my personal space invaded by my four-year-old brothers. I wonder briefly where Ethan, their nanny is. Then I remember it is his day off and Uncle Langly had volunteered to watch them. My three-year-old brother Nicky isn't with them, which is unusual. The three of them are usually inseparable. Daddy Fox refers to my little brothers as the three musketeers, while Daddy Alex calls them the three terrors. I tend to agree with my Dad Alex's description. They become the four terrors whenever Duncan comes upstairs to play with them.

"But it's fun, River. Besides Daddy Walter isn't here," Sasha says, bouncing up and down, going higher into the air with each bounce.

I roll my eyes -- kids! Was I ever this lame? I'm going to be eleven in October, only two and a half more years and I'll be a teenager. I watch Sasha bouncing up and down for several seconds before I shout at him, "Get down, brat! I don't want you jumping on my bed!" Sasha giggles and ignores me, continuing to jump. I'm about to drag him off when I glance over at my painting to find Sergei running his fingers through the wet paint and putting them into his mouth. "SERGEI! You're wrecking it!" I quickly grab his hand pulling his fingers out of his mouth. "Are you nuts? You don't eat paint!"

"I wanted to see what it tasted like. It doesn't taste that bad," the little boy protests.

"C'mon, let's wash your hands off in the bathroom. Get off the bed, Sasha!" I yell over my shoulder as I drag Sergei into the bathroom and over to the sink. I put my hands around his waist and give him a boost up so he can reach the faucet. It takes most of my strength, since my little brother weighs more than I do, although he's eleven inches shorter than me. My Dads are always arguing about putting Sergei on a diet, but Daddy Fox and Daddy Alex always back down when Daddy Walter gets angry. I plop the bar of soap in his hands. "Use the bar of soap, Serg."

"Okay, River," the little boy says.

"Where's Uncle Langly?" I ask.

"He's in the kitchen with Nicky. He said it was okay for us to come and see if you wanted to play with us. Will you?"

"Only if I can pick the game."

"You always get to pick," Sergei pouts.

I lower him back to the floor and hand him a towel. "I'm older and it's a rule that the oldest always gets to pick."

"That's not fair!"

"It is too." I really don't want to play with them. But if I have to, then I intend to choose what we're going to be playing. No way am I going to play baby games like Candyland or hide and seek. I'm way too old for that stuff.

"It's not fair, River!" he yells, stomping his feet on the floor.

"Look, Pig, if you want me to play with you, then we play what I want to play!"

"Don't call me that!" Sergei shouts and plows into me...his little fist pounding against my chest. It is all I can do to hold him off without hitting him back.

"Stop it right now, you fat Pig!" I snap angrily.

"You're mean! I hate you!" Sergei shouts. He has tears running down his chubby cheeks as he tries to bite me.

I almost feel guilty, but not guilty enough to apologize or stop picking on him. "And you're a big fat cry baby!"

"I'm telling Daddy Fox!" he cries, running out of the bathroom.

"Wait, Serg!" I try to stop him. The last thing I need is to be grounded again. Out of all of our fathers, Daddy Fox is the strictest. He especially doesn't like name-calling and really gets mad when it involves Sergei's weight. He's even gotten mad at Daddy Walter for using the nickname piglet. Sergei is already out the door and racing down the hallway before I can stop him. I notice Sasha standing on the bed, his eyes wide. I can't leave him alone to chase after Sergei. That's one rule that all my fathers have - Sasha must never be left by himself. Being an immortal, they fear that someone might try to kidnap him or worse.

"What's wrong with Sergei? Why is he crying?" Sasha asks, jumping off the bed.

I look at him and sigh, "Nothing, he's just being a big baby."

"But why is he crying?"

I'm starting to feel really guilty now. "I called him a name that I shouldn't have. Now I'm going to be in big trouble. C'mon, let's see if we can catch him before he finds Daddy Fox." I take Sasha's hand and walk with him down the hallway. There is no doubt in my mind that Sergei is heading for our Dad's home office. The office door is open when we get there. I pause outside listening to Sergei crying and my Dad's soothing voice.

I decide that retreat is preferable to facing my Dad right now. "Stay here, Sasha. I'm going to the village to visit my friends." I turn to head toward the elevator, figuring to give my Dad some time to cool down.

"River, get in here right now!" Daddy Fox's voice calls out.

I stop in my tracks. Damn, how does he do that? I turn around and walk hesitantly into the room with Sasha following behind me. Daddy Alex is sitting on the leather sofa with his feet propped up on the coffee table and a file folder opened on his lap. He looks at me and winks. Sasha runs over to him and squirms his way onto Daddy Alex's lap. I turn my attention back to Daddy Fox who is sitting behind his desk, holding Sergei on his lap. Sergei looks over at me and sticks out his tongue.

Daddy Fox glances at me standing nervously by the doorway and asks, "River, would you like to tell me your side of the story?"

"No, sir."

"No sir?"

I stare down at the floor so I will not have to look into his eyes. If I look, he'll have me crying and begging for his forgiveness. I can't look at him. I love him too much to see the disappointment I will find there.

"River, look at me."

Damn, he knows. I slowly look up and meet his eyes.

"Son, I'm not angry with you. At times, we all get angry and say things that we regret. You do regret what you said, don't you?"

I can't stop the tears from forming in my eyes. "Yes, Daddy. I'm sorry."

"Apologize to your brother."

"I'm sorry, Sergei," I say it automatically. I really am sorry. I didn't mean to call him names. He's my brother and I do love him, even if he is irritating most of the time.

Dad smiles gently at me, he removes one hand from Sergei's back and holds it out, beckoning me. "Come here, River."

I walk over to him nervously. I wonder what punishment I've earned. My Dad has never hit me, but I'm still apprehensive. Even after six years, I still remember my uncle and his punishments. To my surprise, I'm pulled against Daddy Fox and kissed on my forehead and both cheeks, then a quick peck on the lips. He smells so good that I lean into him, no longer feeling nervous. I ignore Sergei, who is glaring at me as he rests his head on our Dad's shoulder. This is my Dad and I know he'll never hurt me. I feel foolish for being afraid.

"River, between school and your painting, you've been working far too hard lately. I'm going to cut you some slack this time since you apologized to your brother. However, you and I are going to have some downtime together. How about just the two of us go to the mainland and see the Knicks' game tomorrow? Then we can visit our favorite pizzeria and spend the night at the New York Hilton."

"Really?" My stomach flutters with excitement. Once a year, our whole family takes a shopping trip to New York City. It's usually before Christmas and we always stop to eat at Aurolio's Pizzeria. This will be the first time that it's just Daddy Fox and me going alone.

"Really, River. Besides your Daddy Alex and Daddy Walter need to spend some time alone together."

I glance over at Daddy Alex when I hear him groan. He's making a face at Daddy Fox.

Daddy Fox sighs and says, "Alex, we agreed. Since you became an immortal, you no longer have any genetic ties to Walter. It is safe for you to have his child."

"I know, Fox! It's just that I don't want to go through that again!"

"Alex, your cycle starts tomorrow and the sedatives aren't working any longer. You're not going to be able to resist this time -- you nearly caved last month."

I listen to this with interest. Daddy Alex has been having a difficult time lately. I'm not naïve...I know that he's been having compulsions to have another baby ever since he stopped nursing Summer and Nicky. My friend's brother explained all about immortals and their uncontrollable need to procreate. My Dads won't let me hang out with my friend David anymore. Daddy Walter said David and his older brother were bad influences on me. I probably shouldn't have asked my Dads if it was true that immortals needed to be fucked constantly. I know that word is bad, but it is what David's brother Chris told me.

"It wasn't as bad the second time around for me, Alex," Daddy Fox says reassuringly.

"Of course it wouldn't be as bad! Fox, you only had one baby the second time around after having quads!" Daddy Alex tosses the file folder on the table and rubs Sasha's back as he looks across the room at Daddy Fox. "What about you, Fox? How much longer are you going to try to hold off? Alek is already older than Nicky and Summer were when I stopped nursing them."

My Dad sighs and hugs Sergei and me closer. I can see sadness in his eyes. I've always been able to tell what sort of mood he's in by their color. Dark gray is his sad color.

"Alex, I didn't want us both to be pregnant at the same time. I'm going to continue nursing her for a few more months. Then I'll fight the compulsions for a few more. By then you should be almost ready to give birth to Walter's child."

Sasha's eyes grew wide. "Am I getting a new brother?" he asks excitedly, turning around and kneeling on our father's lap so he can look him in the eye. His little hands are tenderly petting the sides of Daddy Alex's face.

I watch as my Dad smiles and enfolds my brother in his arms, hugging him lovingly. "Yes, either a new brother or a new sister. Would you like that?" Daddy Alex asks.

"Yes, a lot." Sasha purses his lips out and looks over at me. "I want to go with Daddy Fox and River to see the Knicks game. May I?"

Sergei lifts his head, no longer showing any signs of being upset. "Me too, Daddy!"

I glance pleadingly up at my Dad. This is to be our time alone together and I don't want my baby brothers tagging along.

To my relief, Daddy Fox winks at me and says to Sasha and Sergei, "Not this time, squirts. This trip is for River and me. We'll bring you back a surprise, if you're good."

Sergei grins mischievously up at him. "Daddy, what if we're almost good? Do we still get a surprise?"

"Well then you get an almost surprise, Honeybear."

I grin at the puzzled look on Sergei's face, his brown eyes narrow in thought. It takes him a bit before he catches on.

"Oh, I plan to be a very good boy, Daddy. So please bring me a big *chocolate* surprise."

My dad hugs Sergei and kisses him on the top of his head. "I'll bring you and your brothers and sisters back some very sweet surprises. River, is there anything you'd like to go shopping for?"

"I'd like to go to the art supply store for some paints while we're there."

My Dad smiles and opens his bottom desk drawer and pulls out a brown paper bag and hands it to me. "Alex and I stopped at the art supply store on our way back home from Boston yesterday. I hope we picked up all of the colors you were running low on."

I open the bag and look inside. I'm in awe at all of the tubes of paint. Some of the colors I've never seen before. One thing about my Dads, they always try to avoid spoiling us. So I am surprised that they have bought these for me -- without my having to earn them. I smile at him and look over at Daddy Alex. "Thanks. Can I go back to my room now? I want to organize my new paints."

"Go ahead, River. I'll stop down later to help you pack your suitcase for our trip tomorrow."

I give my Dad a quick kiss then run over to Daddy Alex, clutching the bag of paints in my hands. I kiss him too, and he hugs me briefly then whispers in my ear, "You know, River, Fox and I had purely selfish motives in mind when we bought you those paints. We expect to have a new painting for our office at the FBI."

I whisper back, "Only if you take down those childish pictures I drew when I was a little kid." I really hate for people to think that I was ever that bad of an artist. I've been taking painting lessons for the past three years from Masataka Izumi. He is Kazuo's uncle. When I'm older, I want to travel throughout the world like Mr. Izumi has done.

Dad whispers, "I hate to break it to you, but you're still a little kid," he says gently swatting me on the butt. "Now off with you, brat."

I stick my tongue out at him and race out the door before he can respond. I'm laughing as I run back to my bedroom, holding the bag against my chest. I'm so excited about going to New York City with my Daddy Fox tomorrow.

***

New York City

We're sitting alone at a big round table in the crowded pizzeria. My Dad allows me to have a sip from his glass of beer. Our security force is standing guard throughout the restaurant and outside. They consist of twenty of the world's most powerful sorcerers. All the other diners are staring at us, but I ignore them and continue talking to Daddy Fox. "Dad, I really liked the basketball game. It was way cool sitting up front next to the players. Do you think we can come back next month?"

"I'd like to. But we should take a couple of your brothers and sisters with us to be fair," he says, picking up a slice of pepperoni pizza.

I'm trying to match him slice for slice as I grab my third piece of pizza. "I think we should take Hope and Faith with us next time," I say, then take a big bite. The cheese stretches then breaks, hitting my chin.

My Dad reaches over with his napkin and wipes the grease and tomato sauce off my face. "Hope doesn't like basketball, but Faith does. We can take her and your brother Sergei next time."

"What about Sasha? He loves basketball."

I watch as my Dad's eyes turn dark gray and he puts the slice of pizza back on his plate then takes a sip of beer.

"River, we can't take Sasha with us. It's just not safe. Your brother is an immortal and it's far too dangerous to bring him, unless your Daddy Walter is with us. Sorcerers from different countries would love nothing better than to get their hands on your little brother."

"What about me?" I ask. Like I said, I'm not naïve...I've pieced together everything that has ever been said around me for the past six years. Like Daddy Fox, I have an eidetic memory. I've wanted to discuss this with my Dads for a long time, but I've been too afraid to bring it up until now.

My father's eyes widen. "What do you mean?" he asks softly.

"I'm going to be an immortal. Isn't it dangerous for me, too?" I watch the color drain from my Dad's face as he glances quickly around at the other diners. He frowns, looking at the two men sitting at the table closest to ours. They seem to be listening to our conversation. My Dad turns and signals for Captain George Williamson of our security force. The Captain hurries over to our table.

My father looks up at him and says, "George, we're done eating. I want to go back to our hotel now."

"Dad, I'm not done eating," I say, taking another bite of my pizza.

My father glances nervously around the restaurant again. "River, I'll have room service send us up dessert. How about a slice of hot apple pie with ice cream?"

"Add caramel sauce and you have a deal," I reply smugly.

"River, you are as bad as Alex."

I smile. Daddy Alex has a notorious sweet tooth and I like being compared to him. My Dad takes my hand as we get up to leave. He is keeping me close by his side as we head out the door. I know that my comment about being an immortal has upset him. We climb into the back seat of our limousine and it only takes us ten minutes to drive back to our hotel. We have a penthouse suite on the top floor.

The first thing he does when we enter the hotel is to flag down one of the staff, who rushes over immediately all excited to be talking to my Dad.

"Yes, Prince Fox. How may I help you?"

"I would like a large slice of hot apple pie a la mode with caramel sauce, a cold glass of milk, and a pot of coffee sent up to my suite."

"I'll deliver it personally, Prince Fox," the man says, invading my father's personal space and openly drooling over him, which is making me mad. I'm about to kick the man when Captain Williamson steps between my Dad and the hotel guy.

"That won't be necessary. Anderson, go to the kitchen with this man and retrieve the items Prince Fox has requested."

After they leave, the Captain escorts us to the elevator. He motions for the other guards to take the other elevators as he steps onto ours. When the doors slide closed, he turns to my Dad. "Is there a problem that I should be made aware of?"

My Dad strokes the back of my head looking down at me, then back up at the Captain. "Yes, George. River may have inadvertently spilled the beans about what he really is." George has been the head of my Dad's security detail for over four years and Dad trusts him completely.

"Really is? What do you mean?"

"He's a pre-immortal. We've been trying to keep it quiet. We never even told him. We were going to wait until his sixteenth birthday, but the boy is a bit too smart."

"I'm sorry, Daddy," I say, realizing that I might have placed us in danger.

"It's okay, River. Those men in the restaurant might not have overheard you, and if they did, they might not have believed you."

The Captain shakes his head. "Not likely, Mulder. One of those men at the table next to yours was a journalist for the New York Times. I knew I should have insisted that you dine at a more secluded table."

The elevator doors open on our floor and I follow them out and over to the door of our suite. The guards, when they are alone with my father, always call him Mulder. My Dad doesn't particularly like being called Prince Fox.

Dad sighs, running his passkey through the reader. "George, I'm the one who insisted that we eat in the main dining room. If anyone is to blame, it's me. It's too late to do anything...the damage is done. It would have come out eventually..." He looks at me with sadness, then continues talking, "I need to have a private conversation with my son, so if you'll excuse us."

"Sure, Mulder. I'll assign six sorcerers to stand guard outside your suite tonight."

"Thanks, George."

I follow my Dad into the suite.

"Sit down, River. We're going to need some new rules if it becomes public knowledge that you're a pre-immortal."

"Rules?" I ask anxiously, plopping down on the sofa.

"Yes, rules. Rule number one, you will no longer be allowed to leave the palace alone to visit your friends. You will always be accompanied by at least three of the royal guards..."

"Ah Dad!" I didn't want grownups following my friends and me around. "My friends will think I'm a geek."

"River, I don't want to hear any arguments. I love you and I'm going to do everything in my power to see that you are protected."

"Yes, sir." I look down at my hands on my lap. The sofa cushion sinks down next to me and my Dad is enfolding me in his arms. I snuggle closer, climbing up on his lap. I'm shaking like a leaf.

"What is really bothering you, River?"

I blush. I know immortals have to have sex...at least that's what David's brother said. I am not sure how I can tell Dad my fears, so I just blurt it out, "I don't want anyone peeing inside me."

Daddy Fox makes a choking sound. "River, what are you talking about?"

I bury my face against his shoulder. I'm way too embarrassed to look at him. "W-when guys have sex, one pees inside the other's butt," I explain, wondering why I have to explain this, since my Dad should know all about it. I saw the video of him with his penis inside my Daddy Alex, and then I walked in on them a couple of times. I think, that was way embarrassing.

My Dad hugs me tighter and kisses me on the top of my head. "Son, that doesn't happen when two men make love. Neither of your Dads have ever peed inside me and I've never peed inside of them."

"Then why do you stick your penis inside...?" I blush, unable to finish.

My father sighs. "River, I didn't think I'd be having a chat with you about sex until you were at least thirteen."

"That's okay if you'd rather not..." I say suddenly apprehensive.

My Dad smiles at me. "I promise not to go into too many details, son."

There is a knock on the door and Anderson enters, carrying a tray. He sets it on the coffee table in front of us. My stomach is bunched up in knots and I don't think that I can eat the pie. Dad must have sensed my feelings. He rocks me against his chest and thanks Anderson for bringing the pie and coffee. After the sorcerer leaves, Dad starts talking softly.

"River, you have nothing to fear. When you're older, your body is going to go through some changes. It happens to every child when they reach puberty. It's what signals adulthood. As a male, your sex organs will develop and your testicles will begin to produce sperm. Your testicles will start hanging lower and by the time you're fifteen or sixteen, you'll be producing two hundred million sperm a day. This substance is what is ejaculated through a male's penis into his lover -- there is no pee involved, promise."

I've seen all my Dads naked, so I know what a man's penis and balls look like, but the news about producing sperm is new to me. "Two hundred million sperm, that's a lot. What do these sperm look like?"

Dad chuckles, "They are too small to see with the naked eye. When we get home, I'll show you a picture of one. River, when you're old enough to experience sex, you'll find that it is one of life's most pleasurable sensations. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. As an immortal, you'll experience different changes to your body as well. Every immortal in the world today, excluding your brother Sasha, became one when they were in their twenties or older. I'm hoping you go through the change in your twenties, instead of while you're still a teenager."

"Dad, when I become an immortal does that mean I'm going to have to start having babies?"

My Dad is quiet for a long time and his arms tighten around my body. He finally speaks in a quiet, sad voice, "Yes. Unless we can find a way to stop the compulsions."

"Don't be sad, Dad. I'm not afraid of having a baby. I want to be just like you and Daddy Alex when I'm older." I turn around on his lap and kiss him on the side of his mouth. "The ice cream is melting...I think I should eat my pie now," I say, scooting off his lap and sitting on the floor next to the coffee table. He joins me on the floor and pours himself a cup of coffee. I smirk at him as I take a bite of pie; he's not supposed to be drinking coffee in the evening. He's only allowed one cup a day in the morning, since he's still nursing Alek.

"Tattle on me, squirt, and I'll tell Walter who really shaved Hope's cat with his electric razor," Dad says, grinning around the coffee cup.

I giggle. "I won't tell. Does he still think it was Faith?"

"He only thinks it was Faith because Hope painted polka dots on Faith's cat. That's the reason he didn't punish her."

"Dad, I would have confessed if he tried to punish her." I love my sisters and wouldn't want any of them to get into trouble because of me.

"You never did tell me why you shaved the cat."

"I thought I'd be able to make some more paint brushes, but I only made a mess," I sigh. I wasn't able to wrap the hairs tight enough to prevent them from falling out when I tried to paint with them.

"River, if you need any painting supplies, just ask us. We will buy you whatever you need. This isn't like asking for a new toy or an expensive pair of jeans...we don't consider your painting to be trivial. You are a very talented artist."

"I don't want to be given more than my brothers and sisters. It wouldn't be fair."

"This isn't about being fair. If any of the other kids take an interest in something, we'll spend whatever it takes to support their interest, too."

"I need some new sable brushes." I smile as I pick up my glass of milk and add, "A studio would be nice. Preferably one facing north."

"Okay."

"Okay?" I was only joking, I can't believe he just agreed to give me a studio.

"River, we have dozens of empty rooms in our apartment. I think we can find a nice room facing north that you can use for your studio. Besides, I'd rather have you painting somewhere other than your bedroom. The room's a mess as it is."

"Is that a hint?"

"Yes. Consider it a big hint."

"Okay, Dad, I'll clean my room when we move my stuff into my new studio." I can't keep the big grin off my face.

***

Father's Day
June 2006
5:00 a.m.

I push the cart while my little brothers and sisters follow behind me. Everyone is carrying handmade cards. We're hoping to surprise them. Daddy Walter usually gets up at 5:30, so we'll be there before he wakes up.

Angelique's wings are fluttering excitedly, and making quite a bit of noise. "Shh, Angel!" I say.

"I'm sorry, River. Do you think they'll be surprised?" she whispers, trying to keep her wings still. She is holding onto our three-year-old sister Alek's hand.

"Yeah. I think so." I look back at all my siblings. At ten (and a half) I'm a lot older than them. My sisters Hope and Faith are both six years old and they helped me dress the other kids. We didn't want to wake the nannies. Jacques was up early to fix our Father's Day breakfast because he didn't want a repeat of the disaster that happened last year.

Sergei keeps trying to steal sausage links from under the metal plate covers and I keep pulling his hands away. Kaylie is holding Summer's hand, while Sasha and Nicky try to stay one step in front of the other.

We stop in front of the bedroom doors. Hope and Faith push them open and all the kids run in screaming, "HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!" at the top of their lungs.

"What? It's Father's Day?" Daddy Walter says as he sits up in bed feigning surprise. He has his pajamas on. I know he was expecting us, but the little kids don't. They are jumping up and down excitedly as our other Dads pretend to wake up. They are all wearing pajamas, which is a surprise.

"Happy Father's Day!" Sergei shouts, jumping up on the bed and into Daddy Walter's arms. The other little kids follow him until they are all snuggling in next to our Dads. Only Hope and Faith don't climb on the bed. I've made them my official helpers and they are supposed to help set the breakfast table next to the veranda.

"See what I made for you, Daddies," Angelique says, sitting on Daddy Fox's chest and handing him the handmade card.

"It's beautiful, Angel. Don't you think so, Walter, Alex?"

Before they can answer, all kids are giving them their handmade cards. I set the covered plates on the table. I glance back at the bed and notice that Daddy Alex is sitting at the edge with Alek, Summer, and Kaylie clamoring for his attention. He smiling at them, but he doesn't look well, he's slightly green.

"Girls, Daddy Alex needs to go to the bathroom," Daddy Fox says, sitting up in bed with Angelique and Nicky clinging to him.

Daddy Alex gives Daddy Fox a weak smile as he stands shakily and hurries up the steps. I'm hoping that he's not too sick to eat the breakfast Jacques made for him. Usually he's fine after throwing up. He's four months pregnant now and has a slight belly.

"Let me up, champs," Daddy Walter says, setting Sergei and Sasha on the bed, he hurries to follow Daddy Alex up the steps.

I can hear the sound of my Dad throwing up and Daddy Walter talking soothingly to him. Daddy Fox climbs out of bed with Nicky riding piggyback and Angelique and Sasha balanced on each hip. Sergei, Summer, Alek, and Kaylie are all holding onto his legs, making it hard for him to walk.

"C'mon, guys, let go of Daddy," Faith says, taking Sergei and Kayle's hands. I pull Summer and Alek off, while our Dad sets Sasha and Angelique back on the floor then he swings Nicky from his back into his arms and gives him a raspberry on his stomach before setting the giggling boy down, too.

"Where did the lovely bouquet of flowers come from?" Daddy Fox asks as he sits at the table.

"Hope and I picked the flowers from the gardens," Faith says, leaning up against his chair.

"Thank you, Cutie," he says, hugging and kissing her. Hope hurries over, not wanting to miss out on receiving hugs and kisses, too.

"River, did the kids eat yet?" Dad asks.

"Yes, Jacques made us all breakfast."

Daddy Walter and Daddy Alex are coming down the steps from the bathroom now. Daddy Alex is leaning up against Daddy Walter...he still doesn't look well.

I hurry over to them. "Daddy Alex, Jacques made you a special breakfast in case you weren't feeling well this morning."

"Thanks, River. I'm not sure if I can manage even that. Did he send along any Seven-up?" Daddy Alex sits at the table in his usual spot. He looks under the covered dish as I place a bottle of Seven-up on the table next to him.

My other Dads already have the covers off their plates.

"Mm, my favorite," Daddy Walter says, looking at the eggs Benedict drenched in hollandaise sauce.

"Daddy, Jacques used crab cakes instead of Canadian bacon."

"Can I have a bite?" Sergei asks, leaning against Daddy Walter's chair looking up at him with big doe brown eyes.

Daddy Fox shoots Daddy Walter a warning look.

Daddy Walter sighs, "Sergei, didn't you eat breakfast already?"

"We only got icky oatmeal."

"Sergei, if it was icky why did you ask Jacques for seconds?" I ask smugly.

Sasha looks up from touching Daddy Alex's tummy. "The oatmeal was yummy! I had apples and brown sugar in mine. Is my new brother really inside you?" he asks, petting Daddy Alex's belly.

Daddy Alex looks over at Daddy Walter. "Do you want to tell them? It is your fault after all," he says.

"I'm still not clear on why it's my fault?"

"Because you're too fuc...you're so virile," he says.

I'm wondering what they're talking about. They've been sniping at each other for the past week, ever since they came home from the ultrasound that Doctor Pendrell preformed on my Dad.

"Fine," Daddy Walter says, reaching out and taking Daddy Alex's hand in his. He squeezes it gently; there is love in his eyes as he stares at Daddy Alex. "Kids, Daddy Alex is pregnant with twins."

"Twins, like in two babies?" Sasha asks excitedly, wrinkling his nose then resting his ear against Daddy Alex's belly. Daddy Alex rolls his eyes, but lovingly runs his fingers through Sasha's thick, sable-colored hair.

"Yes, twin girls," Daddy Walter says proudly, taking his hand back and picking up his fork. No one but me notices him slip a sausage link from his plate to Sergei.

"Yeah!" Faith and Hope cheer. They are excited about getting two new sisters.

Daddy Alex must be feeling better, since he's taken the cover off his cereal bowl and starts eating the oatmeal. I study him. Mr. Izumi has taught me to study every detail in the world around me. The way the light refracts off the different surfaces, the intensity of the shadows, the varying textures and hues. I study Daddy Alex this way. He looks different pregnant. His features are more surreal. The light in the room makes him appear to be glowing. He stands out from everyone else. I'm told that I look a lot like him. Not as much as Sasha does, but my features are similar, except I have blue eyes and jet-black hair. I shake myself from my thoughts, looking away. The kids are gathered around the table talking, I can't see how my Dads can follow all of their conversations at once. Daddy Fox laughs at something Nicky and Summer tell him, then he lifts Alek up onto his lap and gives her a sip of his orange juice. Daddy Walter has Sergei, Hope, and Faith talking to him. The other three kids are around Daddy Alex. No one is paying any attention to me. This is a perfect time for me to go to my studio.

"I have a present for you. I'll be right back," I say, running out of the room. I race down the corridors to my studio. It has two big windows. The only furniture in the room is my easel, taboret, stool and a chair. Daddy Walter is going to build me a custom rack to store all of my paintings and canvases. I pick up the painting of my sister Angelique. My Dads all saw it when I first started painting it in my bedroom. However, since I moved into my studio, they promised not to look. I think it looks beautiful. I'm painting Hope and Faith right now. They love to model. I want to paint Kaylie, Summer, and Alek next, then the three terrors. One day I want to paint my Dads. Rex prances over to me, he's started using my studio as a refuge from my brothers and sisters. Daddy Walter has put his foot down on getting any more pets.

"You're a good boy aren't you? I'll take you for a walk later. First I need to give my Dads their Father's Day present." I pet Rex, then leave the studio. He follows me back to my Dads' bedroom. They are done eating when I walk through the doorway. Rex hangs back, eyeing my brothers warily.

Daddy Walter's eyes twinkle when he sees me. He smiles and asks, "What are you carrying, Son?"

"A present for you, Daddies Alex, and Daddy Fox," I say shyly. If I am ever asked who my favorite Dad is, I wouldn't be able to say. I love all of them so much. They are so different and I count on them for different things. Daddy Walter for strength and protection. Daddy Alex for laughter and friendship. Daddy Fox for advice and wisdom. I smile thinking about how lucky I am as I carry the painting over to Daddy Walter.

He gasps in surprise as he holds it up. "River, I've never seen anything so...so masterful. It looks just like our Angel." I smile at the praise. My other fathers have gathered around Daddy Walter. Daddy Fox reaches his hand out and runs a finger over its surface. He has tears in his eyes. I begin to worry.

"It's beautiful, River. Thank you," he says, hugging me.

"Yeah, squirt. You did really good," Daddy Alex says, unable to pull his eyes away from the painting.

"That's me," Angelique says, coming to stand next to him.

Daddy Alex smiles down at her. "And you are so beautiful, Angel," he says, scooping her up in his arms and hugging her.

I'm on the top of the world. My Dads all love my painting. It feels so much better to give than it ever did to receive. I file that thought away for future consideration.

I watch as Daddy Walter wraps his arms protectively around Daddy Alex. I can see that my Daddy Fox feels left out as he picks up the painting and moves away from them. He carries it over to the table against the wall, placing it there for safekeeping. He then starts talking and joking with my brothers and sisters. I notice for the first time that he appears tired and sad. I am concerned. I don't like seeing my Daddy Fox sad. It makes me sad.

Daddy Walter and Daddy Alex must have sensed his mood because they walk over to him and pull him into a three-way hug. "Fox, it's going to be all right," Daddy Walter murmurs, kissing his cheek.

I don't know what they are talking about. What's going to be all right? I want to ask, but I don't want to intrude.

"You'll get to see them. Slava seems willing to deal now," Daddy Alex says, brushing his fingers over Daddy Fox's cheek.

"I don't want to see them, if it means giving into his demands," Daddy Fox says gruffly.

"We're not going to give into his demands. He will have to meet our terms," Daddy Walter replies.

"Guys, Slava's never going to bend. I'll never see them."

I now know whom they are talking about. It's been a couple of years since I've heard them mention his name. I don't like the man. He scares me. He's the one who took my Daddy Alex away from me for such a long time. I know why Daddy Fox is so sad -- he's never seen his Russian daughters.

"You'll see them, Fox. I promise," Daddy Alex says.

"Thanks, guys," Daddy Fox says. "Hey, why don't we all go down to the beach today?" He changes the subject to the excited cheers of my siblings.

"I think everyone agrees that is a good suggestion," Daddy Walter says.

I smile, glad that Daddy Fox seems to be feeling better.

***

July 2006
2:00 a.m.

I walk out onto the veranda carrying a tray with three glasses of lemonade. Daddy Fox is kneeling next to the lounge chair massaging Daddy Alex's swollen feet. They are both naked. Seeing them this way doesn't bother me, as long as we're alone in our apartment and my friends aren't present. My brothers, sisters and I don't have a problem seeing each other naked. We're family. Auntie Dana is the only one who seems to mind.

"Hey, champ, are those for us?" Daddy Alex asks reaching for one of the tall frosty glasses.

"Yeah. Jacques says you need to drink plenty of fluids. He also says it's too hot to be lying out in the sun in your delicate condition," I say, attempting to mimic our chef's voice.

"Delicate, my ass!" Daddy Alex snorts.

"After last night I think your ass would be pretty delicate," Daddy Fox quips.

I roll my eyes as I always do when they start talking about sex. "Dad, how do you know you're not hurting your babies?" I watch as he touches his hot sweaty belly and frowns.

"Maybe I should move into the shade," he says, climbing off the lounge. Daddy Fox helps him move it under the overhang.

"Alex, I don't think you need to worry."

"Fox, I wasn't worried. It is getting rather hot and I just wanted to get into the shade."

"If you say so, Alex." Daddy Fox winks at me and takes the tray setting it on the patio table. He picks up one of the glasses of lemonade and hands it to me, then takes the remaining glass. He sits on a padded chair under the umbrella covered patio table. "How's your latest masterpiece coming along?"

"I finished it yesterday. I'm just waiting for it to dry."

Sasha, Nicky, and Sergei come running out onto the veranda carrying their beach towels. They're all naked, except for rubber sandals on their feet. Their nanny Ethan follows them wearing a pair of cut off shorts; he nods to my Dads and takes a seat at the patio table. He looks tired.

"We going to sunbathe too, then go swimming," Sergei announces.

Last summer Daddy Walter had the veranda enlarged to include a swimming pool for the kids and them. It isn't very deep and my Dads like to sit in it to cool off. Daddy Fox still goes down to the palace's main swimming pools for exercise almost every day.

"Well then let me put some suntan oil on you all, so you won't burn," Daddy Fox says, squirting some of the oil into his hands he gently massaged it into Sergei's torso, arms, and legs. "Turn around, Honeybear, I want to do your face, too."

Sergei giggles. "Am I your favorite honeybear?"

"You're my absolute favorite honeybear. So sweet and cuddly," Daddy Fox teases, giving him a hug and a kiss. Sergei giggles and clings to him.

I smile at how tender my Dad always is with them. I still find it strange not seeing a bellybutton on Sergei or Nicky. It's even stranger knowing that Sasha's bellybutton isn't really a bellybutton, and that one day I'm going to change to be just like him and my Dads.

"Hey, can I have a little of that honey?" Daddy Alex asks.

Sergei smiles and runs over to him, wiggling his way onto the lounge and into Daddy Alex's arms. Sasha is drinking Daddy Fox's lemonade while he waits his turn for the tanning oil. Nicky is grinning impishly up at Daddy Fox as he applies the suntan oil.

"What are you grinning about, sweetie?"

"I love you, Daddy."

Daddy Fox scoops him into his arms. "I love you too, Nickster. Now spread your beach towel over that lounge chair, we don't want to get any of the tanning oil on the cushions."

Daddy Fox looks across the table at Ethan. "Tough day?"

"Yeah. I'm not as young as I used to be."

Dad smirks. "You're only twenty-six."

"Yeah. They've made me old before my time," Ethan quips.

Daddy Fox snorts and takes the empty lemonade glass from Sasha and sighs, "Thirsty, squirt?"

"I'm very thirsty, Daddy."

"We'll just have to have Jacques send out some more lemonade."

Ethan stands. "I'll go to the kitchen for it."

"Can you bring out a whole pitcher and a nice frosty mug of beer for me?" Daddy Fox asks.

"Fox!" Daddy Alex whines.

"Sorry, lover, but I only have one more month I can drink before I'm pregnant again and I plan on living it up!" Daddy Fox grins as he applies the suntan oil to Sasha.

"Can I live it up too, Daddy?" the little boy asks.

"When you're an adult you can live it up as much as you want, squirt."

"I'm an adult and I'd like to live it up!" Daddy Walter bellows as he steps out onto the veranda. He is dressed in a suit and tie.

"Daddy!" Sergei shouts, scrambling over Daddy Alex to get off the lounge, he runs over and throws himself into our Daddy's arms, getting suntan oil all over his suit.

Daddy Walter doesn't mind as he hugs my brother and kisses him. He's been away for two weeks and we're all so happy to see him.

"Hi, Dad," I say, getting a kiss out of him before going back to sit at the table.

Daddy Fox stands and walks over to them, he kisses Daddy Walter then takes Sergei from him. "I didn't expect you back until tomorrow, is everything okay?"

"Yeah. The meeting just ended early. Fox, I'm going to lose the suit. I'll be right back...save me some of that suntan oil." My Dad pauses before he goes back inside and walks over to Daddy Alex. He kneels beside him, placing a hand over his belly, he smoothes his fingers through Daddy Alex's hair with the other one as he leans down to kiss him. "You doing okay?" he asks.

"I'm fine, Walter. Fox has been spoiling me rotten."

"Good. I've missed you both," he says looking over at Daddy Fox, who's still holding Sergei.

"It's been a long two weeks," Daddy Fox says, setting Sergei down.

"How are those suppositories working?" Daddy Walter asks, walking back over to him.

"Like a dream. I haven't had a single withdrawal pain in two weeks." Daddy Fox grabs Daddy Walter's tie and pulls him in for another kiss. "Now that you're back, Walter, I expect something else shoved up there."

I groan and roll my eyes. The little kids are too young to know what they're really talking about. I can't believe I'd ever want to have sex. The whole concept just isn't appealing to me -- it's so gross. I make a face.

"Be careful, River. Your face might freeze like that," Daddy Alex warns, grinning at me.

"Yeah, whatever," I sigh, wondering what my future will be like.

Twenty minutes later, Daddy Walter steps out onto the veranda. He's naked like everyone else, including me. I stripped after he left. I'm in the swimming pool. It is two pools joined at the middle by a water fountain that shoots water across a small portion of both pools. The first pool is for the little kids and is only two feet deep and full of floating toys. The second pool, which I am in, is four feet deep and the water is up to my chin. The pools are twenty-foot circles and intersect in the middle with the fountain.

Daddy Walter steps into the clear cool water. It is just up above his waist. "Mind if I join you, Son?" he asks, leaning up against the side of the pool.

"No." I smile at him. It's good to see him again. Daddy Walter is our softy. He might look tough, but out of all of our Dads, he is the least strict and the easiest to get things from. People outside our family fear and respect him, but to us, he is very loving and more laid back than our other Dads. Sometimes Daddy Alex and Daddy Fox will become sad for no reason. Several times over the years, I've discovered Daddy Alex sitting alone in the dark crying. He'd always wipe his eyes and say he was fine. I know he's seeing a special doctor, who he discusses his problems with. Daddy Fox sees one too, but not nearly as often as Daddy Alex does. It seems to help, because they are both usually less sad after seeing their Doctor.

Daddy Fox walks over and squirts some tanning oil onto Daddy Walter's bald head and slowly massages it in. Then his hands move down to Daddy Walter's broad shoulders.

"Thanks, Fox," he says, tilting his head back for a kiss.

Daddy Fox starts kissing him. Soon it's more than I want to see. "Ah! Come on, Dads! There are kids present!" I shout.

They break apart and look at me. "We were only kissing."

I have gone through all the books Daddy Fox bought me about puberty, so I know what is going on. "If you're only kissing, then why is Daddy Fox's penis getting so big?" I challenge.

Daddy Walter blushes and shifts uncomfortably in the water. "Fox, get in the water," he growls.

My Dad sighs and climbs into the pool, looking at me calmly. He says, "River, we were only kissing. We would never have sex in front of you. Sometimes just being close to Daddy Walter and Daddy Alex causes my body to respond sexually to them. It is called being in love. There is nothing dirty or obscene about such a reaction."

"Ah, Dad!" I roll my eyes.

He smirks at me and says, "I'm marking my calendar, brat. Fifteen years from today, we'll have lunch together and you can tell me all about what it's like being a twenty-five year old virgin."

I stick my tongue out at him and then start giggling. "You're on, Dad."

"I want to be at that lunch," Daddy Alex says, climbing into the pool between Daddy Fox and Daddy Walter.

They both hug him. Ethan is back with the drinks. He kneels and hands frosty mugs of beer to Daddy Fox and Daddy Walter, then hands a glass of lemonade to Daddy Alex.

My brothers all flock around Ethan for lemonade. He serves it to them in plastic patio glasses. I swim over and he pours me a glass as well.

"Daddy, play catch with me in the other pool," Sergei says to Daddy Walter.

"Okay, Honeybear," Daddy Walter says, setting the beer glass down, then he climbing over the underwater ledge separating the two pools.

We spend the next six hours playing in the pools and sunbathing. The sun is hanging low in the western sky when Jacques shows up to announce that dinner will be ready in twenty minutes.

We all know better than to keep Jacques waiting. So, we reluctantly head back inside to dress for dinner.

***

October 13, 2006
2:00 a.m.

I cannot believe that I'm being allowed to watch the birth of my new sisters. Daddy Alex has decided to have them at home in their bedroom. When I asked if I could be present, my parents discussed it amongst themselves, then said yes. So here I am, staying out of the way, as Doctor Pendrell and Nurse Olson assist my Dads.

I've never seen my Daddy Alex in so much pain. I almost wish I hadn't asked to watch. Daddy Walter is sitting behind him supporting his upper body in his arms, while Daddy Fox is sitting on the bed applying pressure to Daddy Alex's lower back. I'd been pacing back and forth for nearly seven hours when all of a sudden pink fluid spurts from my Daddy's navel. It is so gross. His navel has expanded and I can see the top of the baby's head. I stand on my tiptoes to see more...I don't want to get any closer. I nearly jump out of my skin as the baby is suddenly pushed out of my Daddy's body. It is so sudden, but Doctor Pendrell is there to support the baby as she leaves the womb. He cleans out her mouth and nose, then hands her to Nurse Tom Olson, before turning back to check if my Daddy is all right.

I wander over to watch Tom clean my new sister. She is crying loudly and covered in pink slime. She is so tiny. I turn back to the bed when I hear my Dad gasp. "Gross!" I say as a dark blob shoots out of his navel. Daddy Fox winks at me as he spoons behind Daddy Alex's body, holding him as he murmurs lovingly to him. It gives Daddy Walter a chance to get up and stretch his legs. He walks over to us and looks at his new daughter, then turns to me.

"How are you holding up, Son?" he asks stroking the back of my head.

"I'm fine, Dad. It is pretty gross, but I wanted to see my sisters being born."

"Have you decided on names yet?" Nurse Olson asks.

My Dad nods. "Yes, this is Nadia. Her sister will be named Kira."

"Do you have a name picked out for the boy Prince Fox is carrying?" Olson questions as he wraps Nadia in a blanket and hands her to Daddy Walter.

"We're still discussing it. Fox wants to name him after his Scottish ancestor, but we would like to name him, Arman, after our mother's father."

"Aren't all of your sons already named after Russians?"

"Yes...?" my Dad looks puzzled.

"Prince Fox isn't Russian. So shouldn't one of his sons be named for his heritage?"

"Tom, he wants to name the boy Gawain, after a great, great uncle."

"What's wrong with that? It means white hawk."

"Don't tell me. Besides being Scandinavian you're part Scottish?"

Nurse Olson smiles. "Us Scots have to stick together."

"Tom, I'll take your advice into consideration. Gawain," Daddy Walter says, shaking his head. He hands Nadia back to the nurse then goes back over to the bed.

Daddy Alex looks exhausted but seems happy that my Dads are here to help him deliver the babies. Unlike last time when he had them all alone.

"Hey, babe, do you want to get up and walk around for a bit?" Daddy Walter asks.

Daddy Alex sighs, he looks content to just lie there spooning against Daddy Fox's chest. After some thought he says, "I need to pee and a hot shower would be nice."

"Doctor, is it okay?" Daddy Walter asks.

Pendrell nods. "Yes that's a good idea. His contractions have slowed down, it will probably be several hours before your other daughter is born."

Daddy Fox helps Daddy Alex up and both my Dads help him climb the steps to the bathroom. I follow them tiredly. I haven't slept since the previous night, so I walk over and lay down on a cushion-covered bench in front of the floor to ceiling windows. It has been a long night and I figure I could rest until they are done with the shower. Daddy Fox leaves Daddy Walter to care for Daddy Alex and walks over to me and kneels next to the bench. "Hey, Honey, it hasn't been too disturbing for you, has it?" He brushes the hair out of my eyes.

"Is it always so painful?" I ask, looking up at him.

"It's a good pain. Believe me, the end result is well worth enduring it for," Daddy Fox says, smiling reassuringly at me.

"I don't think I'll be able to endure it, Daddy," I say in a weak voice. I find it easy to confess my fears to Daddy Fox; he always makes me feel better.

"River, you're only eleven. You have years before you even have to worry about it. By then, you will be a big strapping young man and quite capable of enduring anything life throws at you. Plus we will always be here for you."

See what I mean? "Thanks, Dad. Nadia is cute even with all those wrinkles," I say.

"Who do you think she looks like?"

"Daddy Walter, she's bald after all," I say giggling at my own joke.

Daddy Fox laughs, "Most babies look like Daddy Walter." My Dad becomes quiet as he glances over at the shower. A soft smile graces his lips. "I'm going to get a blanket to cover you with. I want you to try to get a few hours of sleep."

"I want to see my sister Kira's birth," I protest, trying to sit up.

"River, it could be quite a few more hours. I promise that I'll wake you when Daddy Alex is close to delivering her."

He kisses my forehead, and then stands and heads back down the steps. From where I'm laying, I can see Daddy Walter and Daddy Alex in the shower. He is holding Daddy Alex tenderly as the hot water splashing down over their bodies. I smile closing my eyes. I want to find a man like Daddy Walter someday when I'm old enough to marry. Maybe I can find one who doesn't want to have sex.

I don't recall falling asleep, but Daddy Fox is shaking me awake.

"C'mon, champ, you don't want to miss your sister being born."

I shoot up off the bench, sleep falling off me like water on a duck. I rush down the steps ahead of him. I can hear him chuckling.

"River, we still have at least a twenty minutes."

Daddy Alex looks up at me with pain-filled eyes and smiles weakly. I walk over to the bed and climb next to Daddy Walter who's cradling Daddy Alex's head in his lap. I lean down and kiss him, petting the side of his sweaty face. "I love you, Daddy."

He just smiles at me, and then clenches his teeth as another contraction tears through his belly. A whimper escapes his pink lips. Both my Dads are immediately soothing and caressing him. I scoot off the bed to give them room and walk over to look at my sister Nadia. She's sleeping and doesn't look as ugly as she did when she was born. In fact, she looks rather cute for a baby.

The clock on the wall says it is now eight o'clock in the morning, so six hours have passed since her birth. I turn back to the bed at Daddy Alex's cry of pain, just in time to see the flow of fluid and the baby's head crown. My Dad is panting heavily as Doctor Pendrell eases his hand around the baby's head ready to support it when she is pushed out. I creep closer to the bed for a better view. I'm no longer grossed out like I was when Nadia was born. I watch with utter fascination as my new sister is born in a rush of fluids. Tom hands the Doctor a tube with a bulb on the end that the Doctor uses to clean the fluids out of my sister's nose and throat. She starts crying, which puts relieved smiles on my Dads' faces.

"You did really well, Alex," Daddy Fox soothes. He stays on the bed again as Daddy Walter climbs off and watches Kira being bathed.

I wander back to watch my new sister. I know I have a goofy grin on my face. I can't help but feel incredibly happy at being included in my sisters' births.

***

October 31, 2006
6:00 p.m.

I look at myself in the mirror. I'm dressed as Sherlock Holmes -- my latest hero. I've devoured all of the books about him and watched most of the movies more than three times. Only my Daddy Fox I consider to be a better investigator. He helped me purchase my Halloween costume. My friend Sammy is going to come as Doctor Watson. Hollywood still hasn't recovered since the failed invasion and new television programs and movies are few and far between. We are stuck watching old reruns and even older movies. It is so strange to see so many women and their relationships to men in the old programs.

Halloween is a big event at our home. Daddy Walter bought the little kids Sesame Street costumes. Last year my Dads dressed as Star Trek officers. This year with my sisters' births, they seem too busy to plan anything. I'm hopeful though -- Daddy Fox can be a bigger kid than me when it comes to Halloween.

"River, your friends are in the entertainment room."

I turn and look at my Daddy Alex as he steps into my bedroom. He is dressed in black jeans and a black shirt. He's carrying my new sisters in a snugly strapped to his chest. My Dad hasn't been in the mood to play much since having them.

"Is that your Halloween costume?" I ask, displeased.

"Yeah. I'm dressed as a cat burglar."

I frowned, unable to hide my disappointment.

Daddy Walter walks in the door behind Hope and Faith. My frown vanishes. My sisters are dressed as Xena and Gabrielle, and Daddy Walter is dressed as Hercules. "Holmes, I wanted him to dress as Iolaus, but he refused. Go figure," he quips.

"Walter, I wasn't about to dress in a costume that left my nipples exposed. It's bad enough that I'm leaking again, I'm not about to leak in public," Daddy Alex says, glaring at him.

"Alex, you could have worn an undershirt beneath the vest."

"Daddy Walter, I told you to get him the Ares costume," Faith says.

"Thanks, Cutie, Ares I would have worn," Daddy Alex says, swaying back and forth as one of the babies starts to whimper. She soon settles back to sleep.

"What is Daddy Fox wearing?" I ask, hoping it isn't as lame an outfit as Daddy Alex has on.

"I don't know...he wouldn't tell us."

Suddenly, my little brothers and sisters race into my bedroom dressed in X-Men's costumes. Following behind them on a motorized cart is Daddy Fox. I gape at him. He's shaved his head completely bald.

"I am Professor Xavier and these are my X-Men," Daddy Fox announces.

The little kids run around the room excitedly. Doing little kicks and punching the air in mock battle.

"Fox, what the hell did you do to your hair?" Daddy Walter growls.

"Professor X is bald." Daddy Fox smirks up at him, running his hand over his bald scalp. "Don't worry, Walter, it will grow back in a couple of days."

Daddy Walter shakes his head in disbelief and turns back to look at the little X-Men. "What happened to the costumes I bought them?"

"They were baby costumes, Daddy!" Kaylie says, dancing about. She's dressed as Rogue. It looks like all their costumes were professionally made.

Daddy Alex is chuckling. He frees Kira from the snugly and places her into Daddy Fox's arms. "Since you have a convenient mode of transportation, Professor X, you can help me with the babies.

Daddy Fox eyes him up and down. "What are you supposed to be?"

"A cat burglar...isn't it obvious?"

"No."

"I'm Wolverine, and I'm stronger than Hercules," Sergei says, brandishing his foam rubber claws menacingly and slicing at Daddy Walter's legs.

Our Dad bellows, "No one is stronger than Hercules!" Scooping my brother up into his arms and tickling him. Sergei falls into a fit of laughter before being set back on his feet.

"Wolverine's stronger," Sergei says again then runs over to Daddy Fox for protection.

"I'm Cyclops, Daddy," Nicky says, running over to Daddy Alex and looking up at him through the single frame glasses.

Daddy Alex kneels carefully next to my brother so he doesn't awaken Nadia. "My goodness, Nicky, is that really you? I thought you were the real Cyclops!"

"No, Daddy. It's really me...Nicky!" My brother laughs, thinking that he really fooled our Dad.

Daddy Walter chuckles, picking up Angelique. "And which X-Man are you?"

"I'm Phoenix. I wanted to be Angel, but he's a boy X-Men. Cousin Francis is coming as Angel. Kaylie is Rogue and Summer is Storm because she has white hair. Alek is Jean Grey."

Cousin Francis is Jeffrey and Ian's son. He has wings just like Angelique.

Daddy Alex is smiling at Sasha who is standing with hands on hips tapping his foot impatiently. "Gambit, are you ready to go to the party?" he asks.

"Yes, Daddy. Do you like my costume?"

"Yes, you are by far one of the cutest X-Men I've ever seen."

"I'm not supposed to be cute! I am supposed to be tough!"

Daddy Fox, snickers, "Gambit, you can be cute and tough. Look at your Daddy Alex, he's really cute and as tough as they come."

Sasha grins. "Okay, Dad...I mean Professor X. Can we go to the party now? I want everyone to see my costume."

I smile, this Halloween is turning out to be one of the best yet. I walk over to Daddy Fox and kiss him on the cheek, then rub his bald scalp. "Thanks, Dad."

Daddy Fox smiles at me and says, "C'mon, Holmes, let's go greet our guests." He backs the cart out the door, steering it with one hand while he holds Kira protectively cradled against his chest.

All the younger kids dash ahead of us, anxious to be first to the party.

Most of the guests are already in the entertainment room when we arrive. My best friend Sammy and my other friends Matthew, Danny, Michael, and Andy are there. They race over to greet me.

"River, cool costume! Your brothers and sisters look really neat!" Matthew says. He's Bill Scully's son and a couple of years younger than me.

"Thanks, Matt. I like your costume, too." He's dressed as a vampire.

I look around the room and smile. Most of the little children run over to greet Daddy Fox when he rolls into the room. It seems there has been a conspiracy going on within the palace, because they are all dressed as different X-Men. Duncan, Uncle Shinji's and Uncle Rory's son is dressed as Sabretooth. Marsha, Uncle Hans' and Uncle Melvin's daughter is dressed as Jubilee. Ari's and Duffy's daughter Kat is dressed as Mystique. Duffy is holding their two-year-old daughter Anna. Since Duffy isn't able to have children, there is a mystery surrounding who Anna's father really is. Neither man will tell anyone.

Hope and Faith race across the room to their friends Ayako, Grace Mari, and Emi Mercy. The three girls are dressed as characters from Xena, too.

Aunt Dana walks up to my Dad and rubs his bald head. "Mulder, you're still the craziest man I know."

"I am Iron Man!" Scully's five-year-old son shouts.

The music is blasting loudly and everyone is talking at once. I have to yell to be heard by my friends. We head out onto the veranda that runs the length of the room. It is much quieter outside. Torches have been lit to provide warmth against the chilly October night. We walk over to the balcony and look out across the moonlit countryside. The air is crisp and laced with the smell of burning leaves.

"River, is it true that your Dad is pregnant with another immortal baby boy?" Sammy asks me.

"It's Daddy Alex's baby, so they think he'll be just like Sasha," I tell them. The baby is due in April.

"Is it true that you're going to be an immortal?" Matthew whispers.

I look at him nervously. Since the scare at the pizza place in March, all my Dads have been worried about my secret getting out. However, since we haven't heard anything since...we have assumed it was safe. "What do you mean, Matt?"

"My Dad says it will not surprise him if you're a pre-immortal."

"Why would he think that?"

"Because you're far too pretty to be a normal human...at least according to my Dad," Matthew adds quickly.

I turn red. I don't like being referred to as pretty by my friend or my friend's Dad.

"Well, are you?"

"Matt, are you crazy?" I snap, bunching my hands into fists.

"Sorry, River. I didn't mean to make you mad. If you say you're not that's good enough for me."

I am relieved that he's taken my angry retort to be denial. I have never been able to lie. "Guys, let's go back inside and get something to eat."

Matthew, at the mention of food, starts for the open patio doors. Sammy and my other friends are looking at me strangely and I'm unable to meet their eyes as we follow our friend back inside. For the first time I feel different from them, not quite human. I need to talk to Daddy Fox, but his X-Men are surrounding him. My eyes search the crowded room for Daddy Alex. He's nowhere to be found. I see Daddy Walter across the room talking with his friends. No. I need to talk to either Daddy Alex or Daddy Fox. They would understand, being immortals themselves. I look back at Daddy Fox and notice he's no longer holding Kira. I immediately know where I can find Daddy Alex.

"Guys, I'll be right back. I need to talk to my Dad for a second." I don't wait for them to answer me as I'm hurrying out of the entertainment room. I find Daddy Alex in the guest bedroom nearest the entertainment room. He is nursing my sisters.

"Hey, Holmes. Why aren't you at the party?"

I take my plaid hunter's cap off and toss it on the bed as I plop down next to him. "Dad, I need to talk to you." I watch as my sisters' tiny mouths suckle noisily at his nipples.

"What about, River?"

"Me. Matt asked if I was a pre-immortal. He said that his Dad thinks I am."

My Dad stiffens and he looks at me with concern and something else. "What did you tell him?"

My eyes widen; I've never seen my Dad this menacing. "I-I asked him if he was crazy."

"And?"

"He took that to mean I wasn't an immortal."

My Dad's eyes study me for a long time. Almost as intensely as I have studied him.

"River, if Bill Scully thinks you're a pre-immortal, then others will, too. We need to take more precautions." He looks down at my sisters who have stopped suckling. "Pick up that cloth to protect your costume and help me with your sisters."

I grab the soft cloth and place it over my lap like I've seen my Dads do countless times. Then Daddy Alex lays Nadia across my lap on her belly and I start rubbing her back. "Dad. Do you feel a lot different from humans?"

"River, Immortals are a lot different. Why do you ask?"

"I never felt different before tonight. My friends were looking at me as if I were..." I struggle to think of the appropriate word. "Alien." My sister burps and I wipe the spittle from her mouth with the cloth. I wrinkle my nose at the sudden smell coming from her diaper. "Dad, she stinks."

"Do you want to learn how to change her?"

"No. I'll pass."

"Smart boy!" My Dad laughs, taking Nadia from me. He then turns serious. "River, you're just self-conscious. You're still very much a human boy and I doubt your friends see you any differently. I will have a talk with Bill Scully and our security forces. You'll need to be guarded more closely."

I feel comforted by his words. "I think I'll go back to the party. Thanks, Dad." I give him a quick kiss, grab my cap, and hurry out of the room, nearly slamming into Daddy Walter in my haste.

"Slow down, champ."

"Sorry, Dad," I smile up at him. He pats me on the back as he enters the bedroom.

"Alex, I thought you'd like a hand with our girls," Daddy Walter says.

"Pull up a diaper, Big Guy."

***

Christmas Day

Noon.

The mess from opening presents has long since been cleared away and I'm sitting at the coffee table pouring over a new book on famous paintings that my Dads gave me. The other kids are all running around the room playing with their toys, while my Dads sit relaxing on the sofa in front of a blazing fire in the hearth, drinking holiday punch and chatting. They are dressed in sweaters and dress pants. Daddy Walter insisted that all of us kids dress in our best outfits today. My sisters are all dressed in velvet and lace, and my brothers and I have sweaters and dress pants on like our Dads.

Daddy Walter and Daddy Alex have been behaving strangely all morning. They'd look at Daddy Fox and smile mischievously at each other. Something is up. I thought it might involve some Christmas gift that they bought him, but we've opened all of the presents and all they gave him was a new sweater and something he wouldn't show us kids. I thought that might have been it, but they are still looking at him funny.

General Kline walks into the room. "Your Majesty, your guests have arrived."

"Show them in, Clay."

I wonder who could possibly have been invited that the General has to show in. Most of my Dads' friends would just stop by unannounced. My heart stops as Nikolai Slava steps through the doorway. How could Daddy Walter invite him? Then I see the seven little girls behind him. I turn to look at Daddy Fox. His mouth is open in shock. He closes it, and climbs shakily to his feet.

"King Walter. Thanks for inviting us," Slava says. Then his eyes linger on Daddy Alex, before locking on Daddy Fox's face. "My Fox, you are looking beautiful. Girls, this is your father, Fox."

Everyone is still for a long time even my brothers are quietly watching. Daddy Fox moves first. He slowly walks over to them and kneels next to the little girls. It was all they needed as they launched themselves into his arms.
"Papa Fox," they chant, hugging and kissing him.

My Dad is crying as he kisses them back. He looks up at Slava and mouths. "Thanks."

They start telling him their names and my other brothers and sisters walk over to meet them. I hang back and watch. My focus is on Slava. I don't like how he is looking at my brother Sasha. He then looks at Nicky and glances over to Daddy Alex as if asking for permission.

My Dad reluctantly rises and takes Nicky's hand and leads him over to Slava. "Nicky, this is Nikolai Slava. He is your birth father."

"No, he's not," Nicky says, shaking his head.

"Yes, I am Nicolas," Slava says, scooping the little boy up into his arms.

"Let me down!" Nicky shouts, struggling violently.

Daddy Alex takes my brother from Slava and glares at him. "Nikolai, he doesn't know you yet. You'll only make him afraid of you, if you try to force him to accept you."

"Very well, Alexei. We'll be here a month. I expect him to get to know me in that time."

I can't stay silent any longer. "Daddy, are they going to be living with us?" I ask Daddy Walter who is like me, observing everyone.

"Not in our apartment. He and his daughters will be staying on the ninth floor. We've given him permission to see Nicky while he's here. As long as Fox gets to see his daughters."

I'm not sure how I feel about that. I want Daddy Fox to be happy, but I do not want that man in our home. He gives me the creeps and I don't trust him.

"River, come over here and meet your sisters," Daddy Fox says, holding out his hand to me.

Everyone's eyes focus on me as I hesitantly walk over to him. I glance up at Slava and the man looks directly in my eyes, his eyes widen briefly. He turns to Daddy Alex and I hear him ask. "River is of Russian descent, is he not?"

"Yes. Why do you ask?"

"I can see quite a bit of Cossack blood in him. He's a beautiful child, Alexei. Have you tested him for mutant genes?"

"River is a normal human male. He has no mutant genes," Daddy Alex says.

I'm amazed at how well my Dad lies. I am only half listening to Daddy Fox as he introduces me to my new sisters. I make a pledge to myself to stay well away from the Russian Tsar.

"Daddy, can I go to my room?" I ask.

"What's wrong, River?" Daddy Fox asks feeling my forehead.

"I'm a little tired. I kinda would like to take a nap before our Christmas Dinner." This is true. My brothers and I were up at two o'clock this morning looking at the presents Santa left. I know Santa isn't real but they still believe in him.

"Okay. I'll stop down later." My Dad kisses my cheek and I quickly leave.

***

The next month is exciting and aggravating. I've come to love my new sisters, but I grow to hate and fear Slava more and more. The man has a coldness about him that I can never learn to trust. I've become impatient for him to leave, even if it means taking my new sisters with him. However, Nicky and my brothers like him.

Since their arrival, I spend most of my time concentrating on my school assignments and artwork. My new sister Elizaveta who we've nicknamed Lisa, which is Russian for Fox, since she's the spitting image of Daddy Fox, shares my interest in art. Lisa isn't very good yet, but some of her crayon drawings show a lot of promise. She spends a lot of time in my studio drawing at the table my Dads moved into the room just for her.

I spend time teaching her things Mr. Izumi has taught me. Since they arrived at the palace, my art teacher has vanished. I have been told that Izumi hates Slava and will resurface to continue my lessons once the Tsar leaves.

It is Saturday and I'm up early working on my newest painting that I want to give to Daddy Fox and Daddy Alex for their office. It is of an alien landscape that I've created in my mind. I'm so involved in my painting that I don't hear the door open until Slava is standing beside me.

"That is remarkable, River," he says stroking the back of my head. I start and move out of his reach.

"What do you want? Lisa isn't here," I say.

"There is no reason for you to be afraid of me, River. I will never hurt you." He smiles and wanders around my studio, looking at the different paintings and drawings I have scattered about. "You are very talented for one so young. How old are you?"

"Eleven," I say, keeping my eyes on him.

"Your parents were Russian immigrants to this country. Someday you should come back home to Russia and I will show you the parts of the country where your ancestors hail from."

"He's not going anywhere near Russia, Nikolai," Daddy Alex says, stepping into my studio.

"You can't keep all of the immortals to yourselves, Alexei," Slava says.

My stomach sinks, he knows. I walk over to stand next to Daddy Alex.

"No one touches my son!" Daddy Alex growls.

"He's only your adopted son. He's a Russian immortal. His parents were killed before they could become American citizens, which makes River still a Russian citizen," Slava says.

I wonder how he discovered so much about my parents and me.

"River was born in America. He is a citizen of New America and my legally adopted son. You are to stay away from him or else the deal we've reached involving Nicky and Fox's daughters are off! Is that clear?" Daddy Alex is having a hard time containing his anger. I see anger burning behind the Tsar's eyes as well.

"That is quite clear, Alexei," he says. Then he turns back to me. "River, thank you for befriending my little Elizaveta, she talks nonstop about what a great teacher you are. Hopefully she will be allowed to continue to see you on future visits."

"I like Lisa, she's more than welcome to continue to visit me," I say, looking up at my Dad to make sure it was really all right.

"Of course Lisa is welcome here, River, she's your sister."

Slava looks at my Dad bitterly before leaving the studio.

It is hours later that I am walking past the library and hear laughter. I look in through the open doorway and see my Daddy Fox sitting on the floor with my Russian sisters gathered around him. He is reading to them. Slava is hovering over them. He is asking my Dad if he'd like anything.

My Dad smiles up at him. "Tea would be nice. You can tell Jacques. He knows my preferences."

"I'll return shortly with it, moi Fox. And with milk and cookies for our little Czarinas."

It is surreal to see my Dad this way, so relaxed around this man who has brought him nothing but pain. I don't know all of what has transpired between them, but I've overheard enough.

"River, don't just stand out in the hall, come in and help me read to your sisters," Daddy Fox says.

I walk into the room and sit down next to him. He pulls me closer and places the book across both our laps. It is a large illustrated fairytale book.

"Would you like to read the part of the Prince?" Daddy Fox asks with a twinkle in his eye.

I smirk at him, "No. I'll read the part of the princess my voice is higher."

My Dad chuckles, "Thanks, River. I owe you big time!"

"This is a one time deal, Dad," I say. I love to see him happy, and would be more than willing to do this for the rest of our lives just to see the smile gracing his lips.

"I really appreciate it, champ."

We read the story taking turns as the characters. This is the most fun I've had in weeks. My sisters are laughing by the time Slava and a servant arrives back pushing a cart with refreshments. By the time we go to the dining room for the final meal together before they head back to Russia, we are all quite happy, even Slava.

***

March 15, 2007

I'm impatiently riding the elevator back to my floor. I cannot believe Daddy Fox has already given birth. I had been hoping to be present as I was at Daddy Alex's delivery.

"How could he have had the baby so quickly," I mutter.

"Prince Fox had the baby aboard this elevator," Arty says.

"He did? How is that possible?" I ask. Daddy Alex's delivery lasted hours and hours.

"It was rather remarkable. Do you want to see it? I have a video recording of it," Arty metallic voice chimes.

"Yes."

The elevator comes to a stop and the lights dim. One wall lights up and I am watching the interior of this elevator as the doors open and my Dads, Uncle Rory and Shinji step inside. They are talking and laughing. Daddy Fox goes and leans up against the wall, he is smiling at a story Uncle Rory is telling him. Daddy Fox doesn't look well, but he is trying to conceal how he is feeling. Suddenly the front of Daddy Fox's white shirt is drenched in a dark pink liquid. He cries out and sinks to the floor holding his belly. Daddy Walter and Daddy Alex leap quickly to his side and rip open the linen shirt.

"Gross!" I can see a little foot sticking out of my Daddy's bellybutton.

"Shit! The baby's breech, we need to turn it!" Daddy Walter says.

Shinji kneels down beside them. "I'll do it, my hands are smaller."

Daddy Fox is sobbing in pain as Shinji gently pushes the tiny foot back inside, and inserts his hand. Daddy Walter is cradling Daddy Fox against his broad chest. I close my eyes. I am becoming nauseous by the sight of Shinji with his arm up to its elbow inside my Dad's body. My whole body tenses up at the screams of agony coming from my father and I squeeze my eyelids tighter together. I open my eyes several minutes later when I hear a baby crying. Daddy Alex takes the baby from Shinji, while Daddy Walter scoops Daddy Fox up in his strong-arms and carries him off the elevator. Daddy Fox isn't moving and I become extremely anxious.

The lights in the elevator come back on and it begins traveling the remaining distance to my floor. I run down the hallway only slowing when I approach my parent's bedroom. The door is open and I can hear talking. I step inside. Daddy Fox is soundly sleeping tucked under the bedcovers. I sigh with relief. Daddy Walter is holding my new brother while Daddy Alex is cooing at the baby. My brothers and sisters and their nannies are in the room, being very quiet.

"Hi," I say walking up to Daddy Walter and Daddy Alex.

"River, this is your new brother Gawain."

I look at the baby and am surprised to see a thick head of honey blonde hair. "He's blonde! He looks a little like Summer," I say.

"Is that so surprising? A third of your Daddy Fox's heritage is German and Austrian..."

"Yeah, I know, it's just weird seeing blonde hair on my new brother. Is Daddy Fox going to be all right?"

"He was in quite a bit of pain, but he should be fine once he awakens," Daddy Alex says walking over to the bed to look at my Dad.

"Would you like to hold Gawain?" Daddy Walter asks.

"Yes." I sit cross-legged on the bed and my Dad places Gawain in my arms. "Hi, little guy, welcome to the family," I murmur. I now have four brothers and eight sisters, fifteen, if you count my Russian sisters. One thing's for sure...I'll never run out of subjects to paint.

***

The end.

Coming soon book 5 "Generations.

Below is a table of the children. Don't read the table before the story, if you don't want the story to be spoiled.;)

The kids - Parents - Date of Birth

River - Their adopted son - October 15, 1995
Hope - M/Sk's daughter - May 1, 2000
Faith - M/K's daughter - June 3, 2000
Angelique - M's seraph daughter - December 11, 2001
Kaylie - M/Sk's daughter - December 11, 2001
Sergei - M/Sk's son - December 11, 2001
Sasha/Hunter - M/K's son - December 11, 2001
Summer - K/M's daughter - October 1, 2002
Nicky - K/Slava's son - October 1, 2002
Aleksandra - M/Sk's daughter - December 25, 2002
Nadia - K/Sk's daughter - October 13, 2006
Kira - K/Sk's daughter - October 13, 2006
Gawain - M/K's son - March 15, 2007

Mulder and Slava's daughters:

Ekaterina (Katja) - March 3, 2001.
Anatasja - March 3, 2001.
Raisa - March 3, 2001.
Marina - March 3, 2001.
Natalja - March 3, 2001.
Svetlana - March 3, 2001.
Elizaveta - March 3, 2001.