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The Selay’uu Mansion has never seen such a hubbub since its founding. Not even at Christmas were things this mad (well, especially given that, on Christmas, the Doctor was probably off saving the world again; Obi-Wan was trying to arrange the New Year’s Ball on Coruscant–I swear that someone in the Senate must hate him, since it’s not protocol for a Jedi to be named Master of Ceremonies–when he wasn’t trying to restore order to the Jedi Order; Will, Gilan and Halt were celebrating in Araluen with Pauline, Alyss, and the now-royal family {Duncan, Evanlyn, and Horace}; Frodo and the rest of the Fellowship were celebrating at Sam and Rosie’s; and just about everyone else went home to celebrate with their families. I actually invited Horatio home to celebrate with us and pretended he was my date when going to some college-sponsored thing. It was all good fun.)

And the reason?

Not one, but two, of our friends’ birthdays were coming up, on the Fourth of July. Of course, one of those birthdays is pretty obvious (Steve Rogers’), but the other might surprise you.

Horatio Hornblower was born on the exact same day the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Ever since Alex, Siri, Rose and I had come to that conclusion, we had concluded there was only one thing to do–naturally, to hold a combined double birthday party and Independence Day celebration!

Of course, Gandalf was in charge of most of the fireworks, but other than that, it was up to us. Siri attacked the kitchen with gusto, explaining American staples such as potato salad to Rose with grave attention. Alex showed her artistic side with her inventively gorgeous decorations.

But now–this morning–the morning of the Fourth of July–we were into the last-minute crunch zone, and we still weren’t ready.

I was in charge of the cakes and had a corner of the kitchen to myself. Chocolate ganache was cooling on the stove, as was a coconut and pecan concoction in another pan. When in doubt, go with German chocolate and strawberry shortcake. The shortcake and strawberry sauce were already hiding in the refrigerator, Bucky was making short work of the whipped cream (with nothing other than his metal arm), and Obi-Wan, who we had taken into confidence, was outside working at the grill with Connor and Nat, who was trying to teach Connor the finer points of lighting a grill with no fluid.

I poured the last of my concoction onto the cake, shouted at Bucky that if he made a mess he’d have to clean it up himself and then make more, and heard a hiss. I whirled around and almost burst into tears as I saw the pudding I had attempted emitting black smoke. It had burned on. Hurriedly, Siri grabbed the pot and rushed it to the sink. “Boiled dry,” she said.

“I guess I’ll just have to do custard, then,” I said in defeat.


 

The Doctor finally brought Steve back from wherever it was they had gone, and Horatio was back from buying new shoes with Archie (we wear out an awful lot of shoes around here–mostly, I blame the Doctor). Both the Doctor and Archie were in on the surprise, so they delayed the two birthday boys outside until Bucky texted Archie to tell them that we were ready. Then they guided them inside. Bucky bulled into Steve in a tackling hug and Archie put his hand on Horatio’s shoulder as everyone shouted in unison. “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”

Then it was chaos.

Tony Stark produced a pie tin filled with whipped cream out of nowhere and smashed it into Steve’s face– “a little white to go with your red and blue!” Horatio tried to escape, but Bush caught him–and hugged him. Steve caught Tony around the waist and picked him up, threw him over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, and then sat him firmly down on the sofa next to a laughing Pepper. Will jumped on Steve from the rafters and gave him a hug. Someone started tickling Taysee, the resident youngling and purveyor of pranks and mischief, and the resulting shrieks of laughter threatened to deafen everyone. Obi-Wan clapped Horatio on the shoulder and then got tackled by Siri.

Dinner was no calmer. I pulled the pot roast out of the oven, and we put together our tremendous buffet. Fortunately, there was more than enough food for everyone. Clint Barton stuffed a whole bread roll in his mouth just to prove a point, to a chorus of “Ewws” from the girly-girls who were mostly marginalized. Calypso got over-excited and did a handstand on the table, nearly falling into the over-sized punch bowl full of lemonade. Sandy demonstrated a complex flip over the table, somehow not destroying anything as she went. Meg had expressed a desire to eat nothing but ice cream for dinner, but we convinced her to at least eat a roll first.

And then it was time for presents. Tony (of course) insisted that they open his presents first, to which everyone responded with an eyeroll and a “Sure, Tony.” But he had gotten them both lovely warm scarves, so we all chorused “Awwww”, deliberately, to embarrass him.

Ruffnut and Tuffnut had given them both incomprehensible drawings. Hiccup had entirely redesigned Steve’s gear harness with a more secure clip for the shield and a loop that would prevent it from shifting around when he did backflips. Will presented Horatio with a new pair of socks and forever debunked the myth that knitting is unmanly. The Doctor, who had recently taken apart Horatio’s watch in an attempt to fix something else, presented him with a new one, fitted with miniaturized navigational equipment, as an apology. Matthias gave Steve an IOU for lessons on how to better use his shield against opponents with bladed weapons. Everyone had come up with useful and fun things to give them. (I had knitted them each a throw, over a long stretch of time and with no little difficulty.)

At the end of the night, there was not much incident with the fireworks, except that there was a Dragon Incident (as always.) This time, though, it was not Merry and Pippin–who behaved themselves and limited themselves to setting off fountains–but the twins.

At last, we all had s’mores, even though it was a second (or even third) dessert for most of us, but who cares? S’mores don’t count, because there are always more of them.

At the end of the night, Horatio had a pocket full of fireflies and Steve had to carry Obi-Wan inside–I guess I’ve been working him too hard lately.

All in all, it was a lovely Fourth of July, and went off with surprisingly little fuss. I suppose that should make me worry about the future, but for now, I think I’ll just enjoy the moment.

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