A/N: Okay. I realize that the timeline of "Rewind" doesn't work with this. So just ignore that. This is the real story. And thanks for your reviews!
Auggie had fallen asleep in an Adirondack chair hidden in the shade almost as soon as he sat down. Annie left him there, his face peaceful and relaxed. He only reached that level of Zen when they were here. She wished he could achieve this degree of calm in his everyday life and naps, but she knew that wouldn't ever be possible. He thrived in his new position in the DPD, and she continued to build a network of operatives under her in Eastern Europe. There were even whispers that Annie had made the short list to take over for the retiring station chief in Berlin next spring. While the consideration was flattering, she wasn't sure about the timing. She and Auggie were building something good together by actually being together. She loved Europe, and she knew he did, too, but she wasn't sure what would be there for him now. She assumed he'd heard the same things she had, but he hadn't said a word. That had to mean something.
She collected their glasses from the back porch and brought them into the kitchen where Gwen was starting to prepare for the large family dinner. Jim was checking off a list before heading out for a final shopping trip with Emmett standing by, keys in hand. Brendan had found his own chair in his own corner of the front living room and had adopted the posture of his younger brother outside.
"What can I do, Gwen?" Annie asked as she rinsed the cups in the sink.
"Well, I think we'll eat outside, so maybe if you could wipe down the table and countertop outside and get things ready for place settings, that would help." She turned back to the refrigerator and instructed Jim to add more seltzer to the list before he and Emmett headed out. "Is Auggie sleeping?"
"Mmm hmm," Annie confirmed.
"Troy called again. They were almost all in the car when Althea fell asleep, so now they're going to wait for her to nap and then come, so who knows when they'll actually be here."
"Should Auggie talk to Rhett and Ruth before tomorrow? Is there anything special he needs to do?"
Gwen shook her head. "And all he has to do is be on time and promise to protect the baby from Satan or something like that."
"Oh," Annie deadpanned. "Just that."
Both women laughed before Gwen spoke again. "Cole really is a sweet, sweet baby. I think if he'd come along a few years ago, they would have decided on a couple more."
"Is Ruth back to work?" Annie knew how much Ruth valued her career and enjoyed what she did on a day to day basis.
"I think she's going back on Monday. She initially took a little longer off, but the baby basically sleeps all day long and then all night long, so she's going a little crazy in the house. I have a feeling they may show up tonight even though Rhett said they weren't coming."
"What a horrible predicament." Annie immediately empathized with Leah and the thought of Ruth's sleeping baby.
"I know! Troy never slept. Ever. I don't think he does now, which works out pretty well for Leah. He's been on baby duty. He went to work today, but I think it's the first day since Callista was born." Gwen paused and considered her words before she started again. "Leah is an excellent mother, but we've never had another baby around at the same time. She's comparing and doubting herself for no reason."
"I am by no means an expert, but aren't babies just different?" Annie asked.
"Yes. They are."
"Who are what, Gran?" Asked Eamon as he entered the kitchen, a gleaming smile on his face.
"Babies are different. Even twins," she added. "Well, I'm assuming it went better than the last time?"
Eamon held out his license for her to examine. "Hey, Annie," he added, giving her a little wave.
"Congrats, Eamon!" Annie praised. "What did you do with your mom?"
"I dropped her at the house. She had to do something, but she didn't say what. She said she'll call when she's ready for someone to come get her." He accepted the plastic card back from his grandmother. "Where's Auggie?"
"Sleeping out back. Leave him for a little bit, though, okay?" Annie asked.
Eamon nodded. "Where's everybody else?"
"Not here yet. Why don't you swim?" Gwen suggested.
"Yeah, okay." He placed his phone on the table. "I'll leave this here in case Mom calls."
"They've really grown up over the past few months," Annie noted.
"I know," Gwen sighed. "They're not kids anymore. Your sister's girls must be getting big, too."
Annie nodded. "They are. I barely recognized Katia when we were there over Thanksgiving." She reached to pick up a rag when Gwen stopped her.
"Forget that for now. We'll get things together when then others arrive. Why don't we play some tennis while we wait?"
Annie smiled. "That sounds great."
Gwen had just taken set point when the court was overrun by small Andersons. Helena and Althea both tugged at their grandmother, mouths going a mile a minute. Maeve sidestepped all of the commotion and arrived at Annie's side, hugging her tightly.
"Hi, Sweetie!" Annie hugged her back.
"Annie. I'm so glad you're here," the almost 10-year-old sighed.
"I hear things have been a little crazy for the past few weeks."
Maeve rolled her eyes, shielding them against the sun with her hand. "Mom is really stressed, but they went to the doctor yesterday to make sure nothing was wrong with her." Baby Callista had already been relegated to "her." That wasn't a great sign.
Annie grabbed a towel by the baseline and wiped her face. "Let's go find your mom."
"The baby's sleeping. Finally. My mom probably is trying to, too. Like Uncle Brendan and Uncle Auggie." She rolled her eyes again. "Men."
Annie couldn't help but laugh. Maeve reminded her so much of Chloe and Katia. "Let's go see who's still awake." They followed Gwen and the littler girls who had already started back across the lawn toward Eamon and the pool.
When the two of them arrived on the porch, Auggie sat, now awake, with a tiny bundle of baby in his arms. True to Maeve's estimation, Leah had curled up across from them on the glider and was already breathing the deep breaths of sleep.
"I told you," Maeve whispered. "And we may need to keep Uncle Auggie at our house if he makes the baby sleep."
"I heard that," Auggie piped up. "She's quiet right now."
"Don't expect that to last long," Maeve mumbled before she gave up with this band of grown-ups and joined her sisters and the others at the pool.
Troy came through the back door and onto the porch. Although he had shaved, his hair was not as carefully coiffed as Annie remembered. He looked tired and rumpled, two words she's have never previously used to describe Auggie's brother who always strove for physical perfection. He quickly looked around, taking in the locations of his five girls.
"Oh. You guys have my kids. Good. I'm taking my wife to bed. For sleep." He reached down and prepared to scoop Leah into his arms when she woke.
"The baby?" she asked, her voice thick with sleep.
"Auggie and Annie are gonna watch her for a bit. We're taking a nap. Want me to carry you?"
She shook her head and stood. Annie saw then that her hair was also longer and darker than ever before. It was also pulled into a ponytail. "There's some Alimentum in the bag in the kitchen. The doctor suggested we try it for a few days and see if it helps with the fussiness. I don't think changing her formula will make a difference, but I'm willing to try anything." She followed Troy toward the back door. "Thank you guys. You're lifesavers."
Annie dropped into the chair beside Auggie. "She doesn't look that scary." In fact, Callista was a gorgeous baby.
"I'm not really willing to find out. I'm not anxious about moving her while she's asleep. But I really have to pee."
"I'll take her," offered Annie, reaching her hands carefully under the baby's head and bum to allow Auggie to stand. He started forward, realizing he'd come in with Emmett and had left his cane inside the house. "Are you good?" Annie asked when she made the same realization.
"Yeah. Anything between here and there?"
"There's a chair to your three, but about four feet from where you are. If you go straight from here, the door's about 15 feet." She stood. "Actually, I'll come in with you."
He found her arm and they made their way into the kitchen, the baby still securely in Annie's arms. Once Auggie was headed to the bathroom, Annie found Callista's bag and the item she hoped she'd find, a baby sling. She wriggled into it, securing the baby against her chest while leaving her hands free. She sat at the bar, waiting for Auggie, when Brendan entered the kitchen.
"How'd you end up with that?" he asked, pointing toward the baby. "And where are the others?"
"Her parents are sleeping, Gwen's out back with Eamon and the other girls. Emmett and Jim are at the store, and Dana's at your house. She hasn't called yet for a pick up."
He glanced at his watch. "I'll run by and see if she's ready."
"Auggie's anxious to see her."
He smiled. "She's glad he's here, too." He patted his pockets. "Where did Eamon leave the keys?"
"He's in the pool," she called over her shoulder as Brendan walked through the kitchen and into the backyard. Auggie rounded the corner just as Brendan exited.
"You want to take a walk?"
"We have the baby."
He moved close to Annie and found the baby in the sling. "Seems like you worked that out, and babies love walks."
She rested her head on his shoulder, taking in his clean, masculine scent. Who in the world still used Irish Spring but this man she loved? "Sure, but let's not get too far, just in case she wakes up." She grabbed his cane from the counter and placed it in his hand before they started out the front door as Jim and Emmett pulled in. They passed with quick greetings before Annie and Auggie finally made it down the driveway, hand in hand.
"You think it's like this all the time here? All the coming and going and figuring out where everyone is," she asked.
He chuckled. "Yeah. I'm sure it is. That's what it was like growing up, just on a smaller scale. But now, with all the wives and kids and everything, I'm sure it's always a zoo."
"Troy and Leah look exhausted."
"They have a brand new baby and three other kids." He shrugged. "I'm sure my mom was pretty exhausted by the time I came along, but I'm glad she didn't stop with Max, you know?"
Annie reached up and kissed him again. "I definitely agree."