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Throwing an arm over his eyes, Ben tried to force himself back to sleep. He wanted at least a bit more sleep before he had to get up. Since it was his birthday, he figured that much was acceptable. Normally he’d get up when his wife did but she’d gotten up even earlier than usual.

As he eased back into sleep, he missed the creak of his door. A part of him registered the sounds of not-so-quiet-whispering but pushed it aside. That was his mistake. Not moments later three little bodies bounced into his bed and onto him.

“Uncle Ben! It is time to get up!” He cracked his eyes open and glanced down to see who had been assigned as his alarm clock. The kids took great joy in it since he did not sleep in often and by the three grins, this day was no different.

“Don’t want to.” That said, he shut his eyes again and rolled over. With a tug, he pulled the blanket over his head and sent the kids squealing to the other side. It wasn’t long until they were back and shaking him.

“Come on,” Geneva grumbled, using both hands to shake him while Louis and Henry tried to pull the blankets off. Though not related by blood to any of the kids, he did consider them family and couldn’t keep up the charade of going back to sleep for very long. He had to get to the bottom of why they were here in the first place.

“Alright,” he let them tug the blanket down a bit before rolling back around and throwing one arm across them. It pinned them loosely to Aine’s side of the bed. “I’ll get up, but only if you tell me why you three are here.”

“Because we ha-” Geneva’s hand cut her twin brother’s explanation off while Louis laughed at them. Her small glare only made him more curious. It was so much like Viv’s glare that it was hard to believe that she was only eight.

“Auntie Aine sent us in here.” Louis finally chimed in, effectively saving Henry and calming Geneva all in one go. Ben had to keep from chuckling at the relief in Henry’s eyes. “Faye and Zach are helping her make breakfast.”

His brow rose slowly at that little tidbit of information. Did all of his friends decide to drop their kids off at his house? The only one that didn’t have kids to drop off was Adaline and that was because Marlon was either oblivious or refused to see how much she loved all the munchkins they had around now.

While it was his birthday, it was still Valentine’s Day as well. Just because he’d never been a fan of the holiday, or celebrating his birthday with it, didn’t mean he didn’t have plans to do something with Aine for the day either. Ben mentally sighed and had to admit that even if his plans went down the drain, it was nice to see all of them.

“Well, we better hurry and get up then or Zach may eat everything.” He released them and gave into the chuckles as all three of them practically tripped over themselves to get out of the bed and out the door. They were all balls of energy that he could hear thundering down his stairs.

Even though he fully planned on following them, he took his time getting out of bed. There was no rush, not even with Zach threatening the food in the house. Not only was it his birthday but it was Valentine’s Day, and it was a holiday that he preferred to avoid going out in public during and so he stocked up for a lazy day in.

Ben rubbed the back of his neck as he made his way down the stairs, rethinking the plans he had originally made. Aine liked to celebrate his birthday more than Valentine’s Day but he still tried to do something special for her too, especially since she was the one who helped him to stop hating it so much.

The last step of the stairs dropped off into their living room, and he had to turn around the corner to get to the dining room where he could smell all the food. That small moment was enough for him to not realize what was going on until he had a face full of confetti and more than one voice crying out surprise.

He had to blink away the shock of tiny pieces of paper being flung into his face and process what he was seeing. Instead of all of his friends dropping off their children, everyone was crowded in the dining room and laughing at his shock.

“Faye, I think you broke him.” Zach laughed from his seat next to his father, who was chuckling whole heartedly at him. Ben turned to eye the suspiciously empty canister in Faye’s hands before looking at the girl in question.

“Color will do you some good, Uncle Ben.” It was the only answer he got before she launched at him in a hug and was wishing him a happy birthday. His predicament was definitely a colorful one but he still returned the hug before he made his way to the table to sit.

It warmed his heart to have them all there. Since they had all grown out of the need to have everyone close by, it wasn’t as common to have everyone around for a birthday. The only holiday that they never missed was Christmas at Ryker’s parents’ house but other than that he was normally traveling with Aine so much that they rarely were home for events like this.

“Happy Birthday,” thinking about his wife seemed to summon her from thin air. His hand came up to catch hers as her arms wound around his neck from behind. “You have no idea how hard it was to keep this all a secret.”

“How long?” He lifted her hand to brush a kiss against the back of her hand, his gaze watching as Zach and Tucker had a stare down over Winny’s famous cobbler while the cook in question acted like she didn’t see it to talk with Adaline. Viv was helping her husband Dietrich while he balanced their youngest boy, Tobias, in his lap and tried to keep the other two from horsing around. It was crazy but he enjoyed it.

“Over a month now,” Aine giggled in his ear and he had to glance at her out of the corner of his eyes. She had been surprising him since they met, he didn’t think that would ever change. “Why are you giving me that look?”

“I am just thankful to have you.”

“And I’m thankful to have you,” she kissed his cheek and he smiled. Taking advantage of the distraction of the family around him, he was able to snag some of the food laid out. It was a breakfast for champions and he found himself enjoying it more and more as the plans for the day were laid out. His old disdain for Valentine’s Day was completely gone and he found that he could actually get behind all the fuss with everyone around.

It wasn’t long until Ryker was standing up with a cup of orange juice, doing a toast as if they were in some fancy restaurant and not in his dining room. He resisted running a hand over his face as his friend went on about how they appreciated him and decided to spend the entire day just doing fun things so that he knew how much they cared.

As everyone started going around and joking about things and wishing him a happy birthday, he nearly missed Aine setting down a small basket in front of him.

“Just wanted you to know how much I appreciate you too,” her secretive little smirk set off bells in his head as he picked up the basket. “And how amazing I think you’ll be as a dad.”

He didn’t quite process what she said until he pulled out the tiny little shoes from the basket. As the words and gift clicked, he nearly gave himself whiplash to look up at her.

“Really?” He almost couldn’t trust his own voice as the others processed. Too soon the girls were squealing and talking at once. They almost drowned Aine’s answering ‘really’. Since he still caught it, he reached over and pulled her close by her waist. It was easier to hug her when he was sitting down and it allowed him to press his cheek to the stomach that would grow as his unborn baby did.

The room got louder and nosier as the kids finally realized why their parents were excited but now his full attention was completely on the woman in his arms. It felt like Christmas and his birthday had all rolled into one. The sculpture he made for a Valentine’s gift was so inadequate in comparison.

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It is only a couple days late but Happy Valentine’s everyone!

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