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It Is Not Easy Raising Teenagers

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I.

He meets Leo about two months after his and Tasha’s first date.

Donald’s dropping her off at her apartment and she invites him in for coffee. As she’s scooping beans into the grinder, she turns around and, casually as she can, says, “Leo’s in his room playing video games if you want to say hi.”

“Oh.”

Donald’s mentally rehearsed meeting her son for weeks, but he still feels unprepared. If the kid hates him, then that’s it for him and Tasha.

And he really likes her.

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll go say hi,” he says, taking a deep breath to calm himself before heading down the hall. Leo’s bedroom door has a little decorative sign with his name on it as well as a poster of Einstein sticking his tongue out. Donald counts to three and then knocks.

“Come in.”

Tasha’s son is thirteen, small for his age, and judging by all the books and geeky posters plastered around his room, he and Donald have a lot in common. “Hey there,” Donald says to Leo, who’s scrunched up on his bed with a Nintendo DS in his lap. “You’re Leo, right?”

“That’s what it says on the door.”

“Right.” And there’s the panic setting in. “Mind if I sit down?” Leo just looks sort of pointedly at the edge of his bed, so Donald takes that as a yes and sits. “I like all your posters.”

“Me too,” Leo says. “That’s why I put them up.”

“Your mom sure doesn’t like science fiction movies,” he sighs, faltering for some kind of connection with the kid. “I took her to one the other night and she fell asleep.”

Leo’s staring at his DS so hard he could bore holes into it. “Are you gonna be my new dad?”

Donald gapes, not prepared for that question. “I…” What the hell is he supposed to say? He’s only known Tasha a few months. “Well, I guess that’s sort of up to you.”

Nailed it.

II.

He sits them all down one day to tell them about Tasha. “Adam, Bree, Chase, you remember how I met that woman from the internet?”

“Tasha Dooley,” Chase reels off. “News anchor, 39 years old, enjoys embroidery and charity work.”

Way too pretty for you,” Bree adds.

“Well,” Donald says, clapping his hands together. “I’m gonna ask Tasha to marry me.”

As soon as the words are out of his mouth, Bree and Adam start celebrating, whooping and hollering and dancing around the room. “We’re getting a mom, we’re getting a mom,” Adam chants, giddy with excitement. Bree just looks so happy, and it’s killing Donald that he has to shut this down.

Fortunately, Chase is always at the ready to lower the mood.

“Guys, guys, Tasha’s not gonna be our new mom,” he tells them, sounding irritable. Donald doesn’t actually know if he’s ticked off at his siblings or at him. “We still have to keep our existences a secret, remember? Even Mr. Davenport’s wife can’t know.”

Adam and Bree look crestfallen. “Chase is right,” Donald says. “Tasha and her son are going to live upstairs, and you three are still going to stay down here in the basement, where you’re safe.”

“She has a son?” Bree says, hands on her hips. “So you’re replacing us with another kid?”

“What?” Donald says. “No!”

“C’mon, Bree,” Adam says, putting a hand on his sister’s shoulder. “Let’s go get ourselves a new dad.”

“Where?” she scowls as she stalks off with Adam. “We can’t even leave the lab.”

“Then I’ll be our new dad.”

Donald watches them walk away toward the game room, wondering how he could have done this better.

“Don’t worry,” Chase tells him. “They’ll get over it.” He sighs. “It’s just… they think that you’re training us to save the world but you won’t even let us live in it.”

Donald looks at his youngest son, really looks at him. “Do you think that, Chase?”

He pales. “Um,” he squawks. “Well, um. You know what, my new dad Adam is calling, so I gotta jet.” He scoots away, leaving Donald alone with an engagement ring in his breast pocket.

III.

He gets interrupted from the invention he’s working on when Adam walks into the lab waving a worksheet.

“I need help with my biology homework,” he announces, throwing himself onto a stool by Donald’s worktable. “I’m s’posed to talk to my parents about genes. And not the kind you wear, ’cause I asked that at first, no, like hairdryer genes.”

“Hereditary genes?”

“Yeah, that’s what I said,” Adam goes on. “So I talked to Tasha but she said she probably couldn’t do it because Tasha and I don’t have the same genes, I guess, because I’m white, see?” He holds up his arm just in case Donald didn’t know that.

“So you wanted to get my help on it?”

“No,” Adam says, “I was gonna ask you if you could unfreeze Father-Uncle Douglas and I can talk to him about it because he’s my real dad.”

Donald’s face falls and he takes a seat beside his oldest son. “Look,” he says, trying to sound gentle, but realizing it’s his feelings he’s more concerned about, not Adam’s. “First of all, no, we are not unfreezing my evil mad scientist brother so you can get an A on your homework.”

“Of course not,” Adam points out. “I’m gonna get a C.”

“Anyway,” Donald continues like Adam didn’t say anything, “you, Bree and Chase were genetically engineered. So there’s no telling what got cooked into the three of you when he made his weird little test tube soup babies.” He pauses. “Although, you know, somehow Chase ended up with his hair…”

Adam sighs. “So what am I supposed to do?”

“Here, let me see it,” Donald says, taking the sheet and clicking his pen. “Widow’s peak, yeah. Attached earlobes. Brown eyes, brown hair.” He glances up. “Can you roll your tongue?”

“Totally,” Adam says, sticking his tongue out and making an attempt.

“You’re not doing it.”

“Am I doing it now?”

“No.” Donald marks an X in that particular box. “Alright, you’re six-foot-two and I’m… six-foot… negative one…” He helps Adam fill out the rest of the worksheet, fudging the facts a bit in some places to make up for Adam’s genetic uniqueness. “Finally,” he says, “can you hop on one leg?”

“Yeah, check this out,” Adam says, and starts hopping up and down on his right leg. “That’s a genetic thing?”

Donald laughs. “No, I just wanted to see if you would do it.”

“Give me that,” Adam says, scowling at him and snatching away his homework. “Hey, thanks for helping me, Uncle-Father Davenport. This may be the first time I actually turn in my homework.”

“Well, I’m always happy to help my kids. Or whatever the heck you are.”

Adam flashes him a grin and heads for the elevator, homework in hand.

IV.

The little a-hole stands her up.

Donald’s stomping around furiously in the kitchen while Bree stands by the front door wearing a brave face and her prom dress. It’s been almost an hour since her prom date was supposed to pick her up, and he hasn’t even tried to call.

“What do we do?” he whispers to Tasha, who’s been stress-slicing veggies the whole time. It looks like they’re planning a party with all the carrots, cucumbers and celery littering the counter.

“I don’t know,” she whispers back. “Ooh! You could hunt this guy down with your freeze ray or something and make him pay.”

“How would that help Bree?”

“Well, it would make me feel better!”

Leo’s already at the prom with Janelle, Chase is in the lab with no plans to leave it and Adam went to the prom already along with about four of the bionic former soldiers. It’s Bree’s last big outing before leaving Mission Creek for the island, and it was supposed to be amazing.

And then Donald gets an idea.

“Hey,” he says to Bree a few minutes later, popping up in front of her. “How ya doing, Princess?”

She looks up at him and breaks his heart; she’s trying not to cry. “Do you think,” she says, “that we can convince Uncle Dougie to go be evil again and, like, capture Avery and lock him up in a cave for like a hundred years?”

“If only,” he sighs. “But, hey, you deserve to go to your prom. So I got you another date.”

Bree stares at him. “Oh God,” she says. “I am not going to the prom with my dad.”

“No, wait—”

“No offense, I love you, Butterfly Kisses, Cats in the Cradle, yadda yadda yadda, not gonna happen.”

“That’s not what I meant!” he says, and he steps aside to reveal the Exoskeleton standing there at the ready in a tuxedo. Bree gapes at the thing for a long moment. “Now, if you just give me like half an hour, I can modify a cyber cloak to make ol’ Exo look like a generic teenage heartthrob, and then—”

“Are you kidding?” she shrieks, pushing Donald out of the way so she can pin her date’s boutonniere on the Exoskeleton. “Forget teenage heartthrob, I’m going to prom with the Exoskeleton!”

Donald looks confused as she swiftly pulls out a phone and takes a selfie with her “date.” “You’re not upset?”

“Look, I would’ve been upset last year,” she says, talking as she takes more selfies. “But this is it, this is the end of my time at Mission Creek High. And I want to go out with a bang.” She hands her phone to Donald so he can take a picture of her with the Exoskeleton. “Besides, at least I know he won’t step on my toes.”

 V.

Yeah, he’s had the fate of the world teetering on his fingertips. Nuclear missiles, trains full of nucloneum, proton reactors. But he’s never actually held the whole world in his hands before. Not like this.

“Hey, Naomi,” Donald says, keeping his voice quiet because she’s got tiny little ears. “How’s it going? What do you think of the world so far?”

She blows a spit bubble in response and blinks at him. Tasha’s finally getting a chance to get up and walk (with Rose and Leo cautiously escorting her around the hospital) and she left Donald alone in the hospital room with their daughter.

“You wanna know a secret?” he says to the baby nestled in his arms. “I’ve never really done this before. Your brothers and sister I kinda just picked up along the way. Or, you know, stole, your uncle might tell you. I’ve never, ever had a baby before. And you, you’ve never ever had a daddy before.” He wipes his eyes; but screw it, they’re all getting weepy today. “You’ve never ever had an anything before. You’re brand-new.”

She must agree, because she wiggles her fingers up at him.

“There’s a lot I need to tell you,” he says. “But the most important thing is… I’m awesome. Your daddy is probably the second most awesome person you’re ever gonna meet.”

“Okay, okay, I’m back, you’d better not have put bionics in my baby girl,” Tasha says, stepping back into the room.

“And there’s number one,” Donald whispers to his daughter before kissing her lightly on the forehead and passing her to Tasha. “Don’t worry, honey, I’m done putting machinery in our kids.” She quirks an eyebrow. “I’m… I’m trying to quit.”

“Come here,” she says, taking his hand and tugging him toward her and the baby in her arms. “Isn’t she gorgeous?”

“Yeah,” he says. “All me. You’re welcome.”

She laughs and kisses him, and then they look back down at Naomi, completely transfixed. “I can’t believe we made this.”

“I know,” Donald agrees, wrapping his arms around Tasha and the newest member of his family. “I’m so proud of us.”

She smiles at him. “Are you sure we’re ready to be parents?”

Naomi reaches up and wraps her whole hand around Donald’s finger and he about buckles. There’s no stopping the waterworks now. “Eh, the other four turned out okay,” he says. “We’ll probably be fine.”

His baby holds onto his finger so tightly it feels like she might never let go. He’s pretty sure he never wants her to.