By Elegant Butler

Chapter Two: Flowery Roderick and Molly the Gingham Dog

Two of the toddlers could be heard in the kitchen through the open window wrestling over a stuffed dog when Brandon stepped onto the deck of the family's houseboat.

The idea of living on a houseboat had been Brandon's idea as well as that of hiring an au pair for the triplets so that Janice could have some help while he was at work. He figured he was pretty safe, but a houseboat would allow quick relocation if necessary.

Through a bit of legal trickery on his part, Brandon had inherited the credits that Bryce had amassed during his time at Network 23. They went into a new account, though most of them had gone to paying for the houseboat, which Brandon had named Sunset Sky after the time of day he'd bought it.

"Do you both really have to play with the same toy at the same time?" he asked them as he walked into the kitchen. He would've scolded the other adults, but Janice was just visible in the children's room off to the side of the small living room with their only daughter, who was in bed with a nasty cold.

"I had it first," Jason pouted.

"But I wan' it more," Lee argued.

"You know what," Brandon said, going over to the toy chest and picking out another stuffed dog, this one made of a blue material with yellow and pink flowers. "I think Molly wants to play with Roderick." As if to confirm this, he made Molly's flowery nose touch the nose of the little yellow and white gingham dog whom the children had christened Roderick.

Lee looked skeptically at his father for a moment, considering if this was true. Finally, he smiled and took Flowery Roderick from Brandon, making its little stuffed paws hug Molly the Gingham Dog.

"Your genius knows no bounds, Mr. Williams," Mrs. Pearce told him.

"I have my limits," Brandon admitted. "I'm an utter disaster in the kitchen. Just ask anyone who's ever tried the last thing I tried to make."

"Shropshire Fidget Catastrophe," Janice said as she returned to the kitchen. "Brandon, if Lily's temperature doesn't go down by tonight, I'm taking her to see a doctor."

"I'll go with you," Brandon told her. "We should have the others looked at also, in case it's contagious."

"That would be a smart idea," Mrs. Pearce agreed. "Why don't you head off now, I imagine you'll be there for at least an hour, so I'll start up supper in a half so you'll have something nice and tasty when you get home."

"Thank you, Mrs. Pearce," Janice told the au pair as she went into the bedroom to fetch her daughter.

"Don't want coat," Lilyanna pouted. "Hot."

"I know you feel hot, Lily," Janice said. "But it's cold outside and we want you to get better. Please? For mommy and daddy?"

Lilyanna looked over at Brandon who was doing his best impersonation of a pleading anime cat.

"Okay," she agreed.

"That's one down," Brandon smiled, trying to get Lee and Jason into their coats.

Janice smiled at her sons, then at her husband. "I'll bet you a bag of crunch fries that Jason will be the first to get his coat on," she said to Brandon.

"No way," Brandon countered, smirking at her. "I know for a fact that Lee is faster."

"I'm faster," Jason said.

"Okay then, let's see who's fastest," Brandon told them. He took the coats and put them in front of his two sons. "When I say, both of you put the coats on. The first one gets to share those crunch fries."

"What does the second one get?" Lee demanded.

"Well, daddy," Janice asked.

"The second one shares a juice pack."

"Okay," Lee decided this was a fair runner-up prize.

"Ready," Brandon said, "set, go!"

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