The Chronicles of Caspinar: The Balance of Life

Caspinarian

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Adult Baby, Diaper Lover, Little
This is the fifth story in my "Pampered Princes" fairy tales series. You don't have to read the others to understand what's going on, but here they are if you want to do so.

1. Lost and Found
2. Family Matters
3. The Social Circle
4. The New Royalty

Part 1

The ceiling was lit brightly by the reflection of the sun hitting snow on the ground when Prince Noah opened his eyes. The oldest and sweetest of the three nannies who looked after him and his twin brother Sebastian stood over him with a gentle smile. He drew a long, deep breath and yawned, feeling the soft silk of the sheets sliding smoothly across his skin.

“Good morning, Irina,”

“Good morning, young sir!” the nanny said cheerily.

Bastian stirred beside him, and Noah looked over to see that his brother’s long, dark brown hair was a mass of tangles and cowlicks. “G’morning,” he mumbled sleepily.

“And good morning to you too, sweetheart. Who’s first?”

She was referring to the diaper change they needed every morning because of their incontinence. They had an understanding that the one who was driest would let the other one be changed first. Due to nerve damage from a virus that exacerbated their already-weak bladder control, the two nine-year-olds had been in diapers ever since. But with so many people around to take care of them, they were rarely inconvenienced by their disability.

“I’m kinda soaked,” Bastian said after squeezing his diaper under the sheet and the thick comforter.

“I’m not that wet. You’re up,” Noah said.

“Yay, I’m the wettest! I win!” Bastian said jokingly, sending both boys into giggles.

Irina shook her head but smiled as she wheeled the little cart she’d brought with her into position and turned her attention to her charges. She pulled the covers down, and both boys shivered a little, despite the fact that the room wasn’t cold at all. She grabbed a nearby blanket and laid it over their torsos.

“I know, it always feels cold first thing in the morning, doesn’t it?” she asked. The boys only nodded in response.

She took the wipe warmer off the cart and laid it beside Bastian, untaping his diaper and starting to clean him off while he laid back, his hands behind his head, raising his hips at her prompts. Noah laid under the blanket, clutching his teddy bear and staring out the window, happily daydreaming. The middle-aged nanny had plenty of experience, so she was done in no time, taping Bastian into one of the boys’ custom-made disposables in purple, green, and blue, a thinner one than the one she’d just taken off him for daytime use.

“There we are! Now, go and get dressed for breakfast,” Irina said.

He hopped out of bed and walked into the boys’ closet to choose an outfit for the day, a simple pair of jeans and a long-sleeve Iron Man T-shirt. By the time he walked out of the closet, fully dressed, Irina had finished changing Noah and was sending him to dress. She put their wet diapers into a trash bag on her cart for one of the maids to dispose of and brushed Bastian’s hair, gently coaxing out all the tangles. She did the same for Noah after he walked out of the closet dressed similarly to his brother but wearing a Green Lantern shirt. With the twins dry and looking presentable, they hurried downstairs to the cozy dining room on the second floor where their family ate most of their meals.

As usual, their mum, dad, sister, and brother were already at the table sipping coffee and waiting for them when they got there. Prince Alexander was the youngest son of King Harold. He and his wife Eleanor, who went by Ellie, had two other kids in addition to the twins: eighteen-year-old Ava and sixteen-year-old Lukas.

Everybody said good morning as the twins sat down, and Noah said as he picked up his glass of limeade, “I can’t wait to see what we’re having!”

Breakfast was usually a large meal at Vaskerton Palace, a wide variety of foods prepared and served to the royal family, who rarely knew exactly what to expect, and the staff got their pick of whatever was left.

“We’ve been waiting on you two to find out, as usual,” Alex said, leaning over to kiss the top of Noah’s head.

With the whole family seated, a couple of butlers wheeled out two large silver carts laden with covered silver platters. They began lifting the lids, revealing mouth-watering dishes. There was quiche Florentine, oatmeal, eggs prepared a variety of ways, smoked salmon, sausage, yogurt, fresh fruit, sliced meats and cheeses, and a plate of pastries. The platters were placed on the table one by one, and the family helped themselves to whatever they wanted. Noah had quiche, sausage, fruit, meat and cheese, and a cinnamon roll.

“Did all of you sleep well last night?” Ellie asked between bites of salmon.

“Yes, Mum,” Ava answered.

“I could have done with a little more sleep,” Lukas said.

“Then you should have gone to bed earlier,” Ellie replied.

The dining room was small compared to its formal counterpart on the first floor. The walls were painted a warm orange-brown-golden hue with ornate cream-colored molding in a large grid breaking up the darker colors. Overhead were three moderate, modern-style gold and crystal chandeliers, and a lush carpet with a deep blue color covered the wood floor, the upholstery on the chairs at the dark wooden table matching it. One wall was dominated by large windows, topped with elegant deep blue drapes, overlooking the grounds behind the palace, and the opposite wall featured three paintings in blues with splashes of red and yellow at regular intervals. The entire room had a relaxing, soothing atmosphere, giving the family a respite from the formalities to which they were often subjected. From the table, the family could look out onto the snowy landscape below them. Noah found himself staring at it as he nibbled on some cheese.

“What about my twins? Any bad dreams last night?” Ellie asked, cutting into the boy’s reverie.

“No, Mummy. Everything was fine,” Bastian said, Noah smiling in agreement.

“Well, after my morning correspondence, I have a meeting with a representative from the National Child Advocacy Organization about a new initiative they’re planning,” Alex said. “What do you guys have going on today?”

“Ava and I are going to do some shopping and visit some people in hospital,” Ellie replied before turning to her sons and adding, “And you three have your lessons.”

“Not for long, though,” Lukas said, who had a different tutor than the twins. “After Professor Benson is done with me, I’m going out with some friends. I’ll be home before dinner, though.”

“Just be careful,” Ellie said, getting a little eye-roll in response.

“I guess we’ll just go out and play in the snow after our lessons,” Noah said.

“Well, you guys have fun, but don’t stay out too long,” Alex smiled.

Outside, the snow on the ground glistened in the light of the sun shining on a wonderful new day at Vaskerton Palace.



“Right. Let’s review your exams now,” said Professor Cornell as he picked up the twins’ freshly-graded tests from his desk.

“Excuse me, Professor,” Noah interrupted. “I need to use the bathroom.”

“Of course. Bastian, I’m sure you need to go as well.”

“Yes, sir. We’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Although the twins had no bladder control, they still had full control of their bowels and used the toilet when the need arose. Since they usually ate at the same times, they usually had to evacuate at the same time too. They’d had a few unpleasant accidents after waiting too long to go, apparently because they’d gotten used to the comfort, convenience, and security diapers offered. So, they had learned to go and find toilets when the need arose. When they found out they’d have to wear diapers, they had been shown how to pull them down to use the toilet and back up again. After several minutes, they returned looking relieved and ready to continue their lesson.

Professor Cornell was looking at something on his cell phone when they came back but put the device down and smiled up at them when they walked back into the study where they met for their lessons.

“All better now? Good. So, onto your exams. You both did well, as usual. Noah, you continue to make excellent progress, and Bastian, you continue to show a good grasp of the material. We only have a few incorrect responses to go over. Bastian, the lower chambers of the heart are called the ventricles, not the vestibules. Noah, the aorta is an artery, not a vein, and remember that arteries take oxygenated blood away from the heart. Also, the ventricles expel blood, sending it out into the body. Do you understand?”

The boys nodded.

“Good. Now, let’s talk about a little assignment I have for you boys. I’d like you to spend some time with your parents and learn a bit about how they balance their life at home with their royal and business responsibilities. In other words, how do they make time for their family? Report that to me tomorrow, and we’ll discuss how other people do the same thing in their professions, how people manage their work lives and their home lives. Do you think you can do that?”

“Yes, sir,” Bastian replied.

“Very good. I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”



After their lesson, the twins had a quick lunch of salad, pasta, and sandwiches in their apartment. By then, Ilsa was their nanny on duty, and they asked her to change them as their dishes were being carted away. They were usually rather wet after their daily lesson, which of course seemed much longer to them than it actually was. She readily obliged them, of course, in turn pulling down each boy’s pants, removing the soggy diaper, and replacing it with a fresh one. This was a part of her job that she had rather mixed feelings about. Ilsa loved the twins and enjoyed taking care of them. She didn’t enjoy dealing with soiled diapers, but the boys looked so cute and innocent lying on their large bed and looking up at her, sometimes smiling or giggling, that she quickly forgot the unpleasantness. Besides, like babies, they couldn’t control their wetting, but unlike babies, Bastian and Noah were always cooperative, well-behaved, and reasonable. In fact, she often had little conversations with them during changes. They were innocent yet intelligent and altogether charming.

Noah was first, stripped to his diaper and changed, and then he went to the large closet he shared with his brother and put on a pair of thermals, then a pair of snow pants, a warm fleece shirt, and snow boots. Bastian walked into the closet as he picked out a thick coat, a scarf, a hat, and a pair of gloves that he carried out with him since the palace was too warm to put them on inside.

“I’ll see you outside!” he called to his brother as he raced out.

Excited, Noah ran out of their apartment and down the hallway to the lift that took him to the ground floor. As soon as the doors slid open, he took off again, dashing through the corridors until he reached one of the outer doors leading to the back of the house, where he paused to put on the rest of his gear. A guard standing at the door smiled down at him, saying, “Going out for a while, Your Highness?”

“Yup! Bastian will be along behind me. Would you have someone bring out our snow toys?”

“Yes, sir. Have fun,” the guard said as he opened the door and held it.

“Thanks!” Noah said as he hurried out.

He winced a bit as the cold wind hit his cheeks, but he took off at a run once more, heading for a little hill several meters away. The bleak, lifeless landscape of gray grass and barren branches was covered in a blanket of pristine, newly-fallen snow, and it made a beautiful picture as his booted feet broke the stillness with satisfying crunches. Arriving at the little hill he’d set out for, Noah stood there for a moment, turning about and taking in the scenery. He noticed movement out of the corner of his eye and turned to see Bastian running out of the house towards him. At the same time, a guard clad in warm winter gear approached from the side of the house dragging a large wagon carrying sleds, shovels, and plastic molds. Bastian saw him and ran to meet him, Noah following suit.

The guard handed the wagon off to Bastian, saying, “Just leave it here when you’re done, Your Highnesses. One of us will put it away.”

“Thank you!” the twins chorused.

“What should we do first?” Noah asked.

“Let’s build a fort!”

Noah agreed, and they pulled the plastic molds out of the wagon and started gathering snow and packing it into bricked walls. Working quickly, they had the start of a wall in a few minutes, but Bastian soon lost interest.

“Let’s go sledding,” he said.

“I want to keep working on the fort,” Noah replied.

“This is boring. Sledding’s more fun,” Bastian declared.

“This will be more fun once we get it finished.”

“Maybe, but that will take a long time. We can come back to it after we sled for a while.”

“Or we could sled after we work on the fort a while longer,” Noah reasoned.

“Come on, Noah, we always do what you want to do!”

Most of their arguments started with one of the twins making this accusation, followed by the other boy retorting similarly. Within seconds, each was listing things he had done supposedly for the sake of his brother that he hadn’t wanted to do very much. It got heated enough that they didn’t notice someone approaching them.

“Boys! What’s going on here?”

Startled, they turned to see Alex walking towards them. “Daddy!” they said at the same time. Then, recovering from their surprise, they both started making their cases against the other. Alex, familiar with these arguments, held his hand up to quiet them and said, “You know what? Why don’t we just have a little snowball fight? Let’s see how long you two can last against your old dad!”

The boys forgot their irritation at each other and were instantly best friends again as they stooped to pack handfuls of snow to throw at their new common enemy. Alex couldn’t help smiling as he ducked the first snowball. He’d ended the argument without choosing a side, something he and Ellie always tried to avoid doing so they didn’t show favoritism, and he was rather proud of himself for it. The twins ducked behind the wall they’d built, and he could just hear Bastian say, “You were right: we should have finished the fort. I’m sorry.”

“Me too,” Noah said. “Now, let’s get him!”

The three of them threw snow at each other for some time, running and ducking behind trees and bushes, laughing all the time. After a bit, Alex suggested they go sledding, and the boys agreed. He took three sleds out of the wagon, handed one to each of his sons, and led them on a short walk to the longest, steepest hill on the palace grounds. There, they trudged up the hill, slid down, and trudged back up over and over before the twins said they wanted to go inside. They carried their sleds back to the wagon, and Alex had the boys pull it to the house to make it easier for the guards to put everything back in storage. As good kids in a good mood after such a fun and happy time, they readily obliged him.

Once inside, they all removed their heavy outer gear, handing everything off to a butler who deftly balanced it all in his arms and carried it off to be laundered. Alex went to his office to make some calls, and the twins ran upstairs to play video games.

On their way, they passed Ellie in the hall, who said, “Well, hello! What have you two been doing?”

“Playing in the snow,” Noah replied.

“Daddy came out and played with us for a while!” Bastian interjected excitedly.

Noah picked up on his excitement and said, “Yeah! He had a snowball fight and went sledding with us!”

Eleanor smiled at their enthusiasm for spending time with their dad, something she knew wouldn’t last as they got older. “That sounds like fun. I’m glad you guys had fun with Daddy. What are you up to now?”

“We’re going to play Switch,” Bastian replied. Suddenly brightening, he added, “Do you want to play with us, Mummy?”

“Actually, I was just about to ask if I could. Let’s go!” she grinned.

The twins led the way to their playroom, where the system was connected to an enormous TV in front of an arrangement of sofas and comfortable armchairs. They all settled on a racing game, started it up, and got comfortable. The adult princess had a little trouble getting used to the controls at first, but then she caught on and started doing better in the races. She laughed with the boys at the silly, cartoonish races, but after a while, she wasn’t having quite as much fun. “Well, guys, thanks for letting me join you for a while, but I’m going to go lie down for a bit now.”

“Are you all right, Mummy?” Bastian asked.

“I just have a little headache is all. I’ll feel better after I take something and rest for a bit. You go on playing and don’t worry about me.” She ruffled his hair, set her controller down, and walked away.

The twins ran one more race before Noah said, “I hope Mummy feels better soon.”

“Me too.”

“Maybe she wants some company. She always stays with us when we don’t feel good.”

“Yeah,” Bastian said thoughtfully. “Let’s go see.”

They turned off the Switch and wandered around until they found their mother lying on a sofa in her apartment.

“Mummy?” Noah said. “We thought you might like some company until you felt better.”

“Oh, that’s so sweet!” Ellie exclaimed. “Do you want to lie down here with me?”

The boys carefully climbed onto the sofa and gently snuggled up to her as she put her arms around them, and they all settled in to a comfortable position with the twins on top of Ellie, one on each side, their little faces nestled into her neck. She kissed the tops of their heads and rubbed their backs, grateful to have such thoughtful and affectionate kids. Her hands drifted lower, and she patted their butts gently, feeling the plastic-and-cloth-wrapped padding under their jeans.

“How are your diapers? Do you guys need a change?” she asked.

“I’m wet, but I can wait a while,” Bastian said, Noah agreeing.

“All right, then. Let me know when you want one.”

They all grew quiet, and Noah drifted off to sleep in the fading afternoon light with the sound of his mummy’s heartbeat in his ear.
 

Caspinarian

Est. Contributor
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79
Role
Adult Baby, Diaper Lover, Little
Part 2

He woke up a little later to Bastian stirring beside him and shifted, looking up at Ellie. Her eyes were closed, but she opened them slowly as he moved and smiled down at the twins.

“I suppose we’ve all had a nice little nap. At any rate, my headache is gone. Thank you for tending to me.” She craned her neck and kissed them each on the forehead. “Now, let’s get up and get you guys changed, shall we?” She picked up the nearby phone and dialed a number. After a moment, she said, “Ilsa, would you bring some changing supplies to my apartment? Thank you.” Turning back to the twins, she said, “She’ll be here in a couple of minutes. How did you guys do on your exams?”

“We passed,” Bastian said. “I got a 95.”

“And I got a 90.”

“Well, that’s good, then,” Ellie said. “I’m so proud of you two. What did you learn about today?”

“Volcanos!” Noah said.

“Oh, that sounds exciting.”

“It is! There are volcanos all over the planet, and when they erupt, they make new land!”

Ellie smiled. “I’m glad you’re enjoying your lessons, Noah.”

“Some of them,” he corrected. “Some of them are boring.”

There was a knock at the door, and Ellie called “Come in.”

Ilsa opened the door and wheeled the changing cart inside and through the apartment to Ellie. “Would you like me to change them, Ma’am?”

“No, Ilsa, I’ll do it. Thank you.” Then, to the twins, she asked, “Right, who’s first?”

“I went first last time, so Bastian’s up,” Noah said.

“Thoughtful as always,” she smiled at Noah. Then, glancing at Bastian, she said, “Lie down, sweetie.”

He laid down, and she set about changing him in her gentle, loving way. She knew her boys weren’t babies anymore, but hovering over them as they lay there looking so innocent and cute, she couldn’t help thinking of when Bastian was a baby and wondering what Noah was like then, what he would have been liked if he hadn’t been kidnapped. Changing their diapers now gave her a feeling of recapturing that time, of having her babies back in some way for just a little bit. When she was done, she rolled up the wet, custom-made disposable and said, “All done.” As he stood up, she looked at Noah and said, “Next!”

Noah laid down, and she gave him the same attention she’d given his brother while
Bastian stared out the window. “What should we do now?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” Noah replied from the sofa, giggling slightly at the touch of the warm wipe. He looked up at Ellie and said, “Is Ava home?”

“I think so. If she’s not in her apartment, she’s probably in her studio,” Ellie answered, referring to the room where the young princess paintings and art supplies were kept.

“Let’s go see her, then,” Noah said.

“All right.”

Once Ellie was done, Noah hopped up, and the boys ran out, saying, “Thanks, Mummy.”

They ran through the wide hallway, their feet plodding softly on plush red rugs covering the dark hardwood flooring as they rounded a couple of corners and came to Ava’s suite of rooms. Bastian knocked on the door, and from inside Ava told them to come in.

“Hey, guys!” she smiled as the door opened. She was sitting at her desk reading an article on her computer. “What have you two been up to?”

They recounted their day so far, putting heavy emphasis on their excursion in the snow.

“It sounds like you’ve had a fun day,” she remarked. Her phone beeped, and she glanced at it, smiling slightly and firing off a quick text reply

“Yeah. How’s your day been?” Noah asked, motioning to the easel she was sitting in front of.

“Good,” she nodded. “I want to start a new painting, but I don’t know what to paint yet.”

“You’ll get an idea. You’re so good at that,” Bastian said encouragingly.

“Thanks, sweetie,” she smiled before typing out another text message. “Something will come to me sooner or later. How did you do on your exams today?”

“We both passed in the 90s,” Noah replied.

“That’s great! I’m so glad you guys do well in your studies. What did you talk about with Professor Cornell today?” At eighteen, Ava was the oldest of the four kids, and she often took on a teaching role with them, taking an interest in their schooling and helping them with their assignments.

“Long division, sentence structure, and volcanoes,” Bastian replied.

“Well, volcanoes are interesting, at least,” she joked. “I remember learning about them once myself. I’m glad we don’t live near any active ones, though.”

“Me too,” Noah agreed.

“The Professor also said he wants us to see how Mummy and Daddy balance their time between their work and home. Do you know how they do that?” Bastian asked, scrunching his nose up a bit.

“Well, you’ll need to talk to them, of course, but I think it’s pretty simple. They spend a great deal of their time dealing with Emistat, their charities, and their correspondence. But they set aside some time every day to spend with their family. What’s the point of that, anyway?” She asked the question while sending another text.

“Well, he said tomorrow we’ll talk about how other people do the same thing. I guess he means the citizens,” Noah said. The twins had been taught to avoid calling non-royal people “commoners” because that description was seen as dismissive and insulting.

“I’m sure he does. Finding time for home and family life while earning a living is something almost everybody must do. It’s something everyone can relate to,” Ava said. She suddenly looked thoughtful and rather absent. “That’s what my painting’s going to be about: the universal struggle to balance work and home. I need to go start on it. Want to come with me to the studio? You can paint with me.”

The twins glanced at each other, and Noah, who was usually the leader, said, “Let’s go see Lukas.”

“All right,” Noah agreed.

“Maybe later,” Bastian said to his sister. “Hey, will you take us to the museum soon?”

“Sure! Let me look at my schedule.” She consulted her phone and said after a moment,

“How about Thursday if you don’t have anything else going on?”

“Yeah! I hope we can go,” Bastian replied. Even for nine-year-olds, royal life tended to be busy and demanding with a lot of commitments and responsibilities.

“So do I,” Ava said, brushing her little brothers’ long, dark brown hair with her hands. It was soft to the touch, and she could still smell their shampoo and conditioner. “Well, you guys are welcome to come along if you change your minds. Otherwise, I’ll see you at dinner.”
They all walked out of the apartment together and split up, Ava heading for a nearby staircase leading down to the second floor where her studio was set up and the twins going around a bend in the corridor to Lukas’s suite. The twins were always welcome there, although their big brother had told them not to barge into his bedroom when the door was closed. So, Noah opened the door, and they walked right in, finding Lukas on his sofa watching a football game.

“Hey, guys!” he said cheerfully when he turned and saw who had come in. “What’s going on?”

“Not much. We thought we’d see what you were up to,” Bastian said.

“I’m just watching a game. Wanna watch with me?”

“Yeah!” They plunked down on either side of him, and he put his arms around them, hugging them gently.

“You’ve had a good day?” Lukas asked.

“Yeah, we played in the snow with Daddy,” Bastian said.

“Oh, yeah? What’d you do?”

Noah said, “We had a snowball fight–”

“And kicked his butt!” Bastian interjected, causing Lukas to chuckle.

“And he went sledding with us,” Noah added.

“You had all that fun without me?” Lukas asked in a playful, hurt tone.

“You could have joined us any time. All you had to do was walk outside,” Bastian said defensively.

In a sincere and rather conciliatory tone, Noah said, “You can come with us next time.”

Lukas laughed. “Thanks, little bro,” he said as he tousled Noah’s hair. At sixteen, he wasn’t like a lot of older brothers, largely because he’d felt guilty for Noah’s kidnapping after he’d wished the newborn twins away out of jealousy. He loved his brothers and didn’t hesitate to show it, and he liked spending time with them. He helped take care of them and entertain them, and they often entertained him by saying cute and funny things like what Noah had just said.

They were quiet for a few minutes before Bastian remembered their assignment.

“Lukas,” he said, “how do Mummy and Daddy balance their work with their family time?”

The older boy twisted to look at his little brother. “That’s an odd question. Why do you ask?”

“Professor Cornell wants to know so we can talk about it tomorrow.”

“Oh, it’s a school thing. I see. Well, wouldn’t Mum and Dad be the best ones to ask?”

“Yes, and we’re going to ask them too. I just thought I’d ask you. What do you think?”

Lukas thought for a moment before saying, “Let’s see, they do their work, and then they spend time with us. Sometimes Dad goes to the office for a while, and sometimes they both go out to meetings, but then they come home and put work aside. Sometimes they take us with them, so they combine work and family time. I guess that’s about all there is to it.”

“I guess,” Bastian said, sounding unsure.

“Don’t worry about it. Just talk to Mum and Dad and tell Cornell what they say. There’s nothing to it.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

They fell silent again and didn’t say much until there was a knock on the door some time later.

“Come in,” Lukas called.

A page opened the door and said, “Dinner is served, Your Highnesses.”

“All right. Thank you.” He paused the game and said to the twins, “Come on, we’ll finish this later.” They got up to go downstairs, and Lukas paused. “Hey, before we go down, do either of you need a change?”

“No, we’re good for now. Mummy changed us a little while ago,” Noah said.

“Good. Let’s go, then.”

On ordinary nights when the palace had no guests, dinner was almost as informal as breakfast. This was one of those nights, so the royal family all wore their comfortable casual clothes to the meal. They all enjoyed an eclectic selection of foods, much of it of the gourmet variety, and balance was always important. After they were seated, they were served crab soup, elk roasted in a blackberry sauce, roasted tomatoes and herbs, steamed broccoli, and bread baked with herbs and a touch of honey. Bastian didn’t like elk, so he was given beef braised in the same blackberry sauce. For dessert, they had an apple cake topped with a maple cream icing and a bowl of mango soup.
The family chatted as they ate, looking out the large windows onto the back lawn of the palace lit by exterior lights that shone on the ivory snow.

“Well, we already know what the twins got up to today,” Alex said before glancing at his two oldest kids. “What about you two?”

“I talked to the director of the Grenstoltz Museum about doing some work with them,” Ava said, referring to a prestigious art museum in
Corusca, Caspinar’s largest city.

“What would you be doing?” Ellie asked.

“I’d help them curate and organize an exhibit or two. But the best part is that I mentioned my paintings, and he’d like to look at some of them to see if there might be a place for one or two in an exhibit. It would be a great way to raise money for local arts programs.”
There were expressions of approval and congratulations around the table before Alex spoke up. “You realize, of course, any paintings will have to be approved for the public first,” he said.

“Yes, Dad, I know,” Ava replied in a playful, mock-irritated tone.

Alex softened his tone and smiled. “But you’re right, it’s a great opportunity, and I’m happy he’s interested in your work.”

“Well, I reached out to a producer who’s setting up a new mystery film,” Lukas said. “I offered some financing and said I’d like to sit in on some of the planning, and he said that could be arranged. I asked him to send me a packet so you could look over it and see if I can do it.”

“I’ll take a look at it when it comes in, and if the movie looks appropriate, I’ll sign off on it,” Alex promised.

“Thanks, Dad.”

The fact that the young prince was interested in making movies put his mum and dad in a difficult position. The entertainment industry wasn’t traditionally seen as an appropriate thing for a member of the royal family to be involved in, much less so the horror movies Lukas enjoyed. Alex and Ellie had a responsibility to their family and their country to try to keep their son behaving in a way that was expected of him, but they wanted him to be happy and to do what made him happy. So, they reached a compromise: Lukas could be involved in movies with scary elements that had obvious artistic value so it could be said that the family was supporting the arts as they had a reputation for doing. The boy and his parents were both happy with this deal, and Lukas was grateful to them for letting him indulge his interest.

“This elk is delicious!” Ava exclaimed.

“I’ll take your word for it. This is good,” Bastian said, motioning to the beef on his plate.

“I think she’s right,” put in Noah. “I don’t know why you don’t like elk.”

“I just don’t like the taste of it.”

Noah shrugged and took another bite, saying “Yum, yum!” through his food.

“Noah, don’t talk with your mouth full,” Ellie chided gently.

He swallowed the bite in his mouth and said, “I’m sorry. I forgot.”

Alex changed the subject, saying, “Things are going well for the American expansion. We should be able to get it together soon.”

He’d wanted to expand Emistat, the family company, into America for some time, but he hadn’t felt the time was right until recently. Now that it was starting to come to fruition, Alex knew he would need to fly over there to get everything finalized.

“That’s wonderful,” Ellie replied. “Do you still want to combine that trip with our tour?”

“Yes, I think we may as well get them both out of the way.”

Now that Noah had been brought home and educated, his parents were planning to take him around the world to visit various countries to introduce him to other cultures as well the responsibility of socializing with world leaders he’d one day inherit. It was a trip that both excited and intimidated Noah.

When dessert was served, the twins each managed to help themselves to a large piece of cake, and they topped it off with the sweet mango soup, which had a foamy consistency but a very sweet taste. Finally, they all stood up from the table, full and satisfied, and thanked the butlers as they started to clear the dishes.

“Would you change me, Mummy?” Bastian asked Ellie.

“Sure, sweetie. Let’s go. You too, Noah?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied, hopping off his seat.

She led them into a small sitting room off of their dining room where a small store of supplies were kept and changed them both into fresh, dry diapers after they’d gotten quite wet since their last change. When she was done, they joined the rest of the family in the large drawing room where they liked to spend their evenings after dinner. The TV was on, and Alex, Ava, and Lukas were trying to find something to watch that everyone could agree on. Alex was on a large, elegant love seat, and his two oldest kids were on sofas on either side of the love seat. Ellie sat next to her husband and cuddled up to him as he pulled her to him. There were other places for the twins to sit, but on nights when the family relaxed together like this, they preferred to be with Ava and Lukas because this was when they got the most affection from the older siblings. Noah climbed onto Ava’s lap while Bastian plopped down next to Lukas, who put his arm around his little brother.

They watched an animated movie that had the right mixture of humor and action they could all enjoy. During the movie, Alex and Ellie chatted and smooched intermittently while Ava and Lukas tapped away on their phones from time to time. Noah and Bastian, on the other hand, watched excitedly with all their attention. Ava held Noah on her lap, gently stroking his hair, and he leaned against her, comfortable and happy. By the time the movie was over, Lukas was lying back on the sofa, Bastian’s head resting easily on his chest. It was a picture of domestic bliss that could be seen in any home around the world: a family relaxing at home and showing their love for one another. Noah’s years with the violently abusive Gustav, who he’d thought was his father for eight years, now seemed distant and faint like a terrible dream fading into the waking world.

There was one particular scene that was clearly aimed at younger viewers, and it found its mark in Bastian and Noah, who guffawed at the screen, which made the rest of them laugh. Still chuckling, Lukas reached down and tickled Bastian just below his ribs, saying, “Think that was funny? How about this? Is this funny?”

The little boy exploded into hysterical laughs and giggles, playfully shrieking, “No! Stop!”

The older boy tickled him a little more and squeezed him into a hug as the giggling died down.

When the movie was over, Ellie stretched her arms, yawning, and said, “All right, boys, it’s time you two had a shower.” She didn’t mention their names, but everybody knew she was talking to the twins.

“All right, Mummy,” they said in chorus. They hopped off the sofas and headed upstairs to their apartment.

The twins’ suite of rooms had been set up with their age and closeness in mind, giving them common space that branched off into separate spaces for both of them. They had their own bedrooms, but they connected to a third bedroom large enough for them to share, which they usually did. Each of their personal bedrooms had its own bathroom, both spacious, luxurious, and decorated in colors suited to the twin it was meant for. It was to these rooms that they walked into, stripping down and tossing their rolled-up diapers into trash cans. Each shower was composed of three walls with no door but with one wall long enough to form a partition against the rest of the bathroom, and it featured multiple jets that could spray water in various modes to massage the user’s body and relax them. The boys sometimes showered together, giggling as they splashed and played, but tonight, they chose to bathe separately. They twisted and turned about, relishing the soothing hot water as it spraying all over them for a long moment before lathering up all over. Once they were all clean, they turned the water off and pulled towels off warming racks mounted on the long partition out of the water’s reach. They dried off and wrapped the damp towels around their waists to absorb any wetting that happened before they got their diapers on. Nobody, including the twins, felt like they were ready to diaper themselves, but they had plenty of people around to do it for them. They walked out of their bathrooms and into their common bedroom, lying on the king-sized bed with their towels still wrapped around them. Sensors had been installed in their bathrooms to let their nannies know when they turned off the faucets in their showers, so all they had to do was turn the water off and wait. After a couple of minutes during which the boys talked and joked, the door opened and Alex walked into the room pushing their changing cart.

“Daddy! I didn’t expect it to be you!” Bastian said.

“I guess you could say I was jealous,” Alex replied, “after I found out Mummy got to take a nap with you two this afternoon. So, I volunteered to get you to bed tonight.”

“Cool.”

“So, who’s first?” Alex asked.

“I’ve wet my towel a little, so can I go first?” Bastian asked.

Noah nodded, so Alex got to work, powdering his son and putting him in a thick overnight diaper. Noah was next, and then the boys slipped under the covers into their soft sheets.

“Well, we’ve had a good day, haven’t we?” Alex asked. “I’m glad I got to play with you guys this afternoon. I don’t always have time for things like that.”

Suddenly remembering their assignment, Noah said, “Oh! Daddy, Professor Lune told us to find out how you balance your time between your work and home.”

Caught off guard, Alex twisted his head slightly and furrowed his brow and said thoughtfully, “How do I balance my time . . . ? Well, I wish I knew!” He chuckled as he said the last part. “Let’s see, though. It does get difficult at times, but of course I’m fortunate to have assistants to do a lot of the work. Still, there’s quite a bit left for me. I just try to set business aside when I’m able and make the most out of the time I have to spend with my family. That part’s not difficult because there’s nothing I like more than spending time with you guys. Actually, there are times when work seems far away, and I have to be reminded of things, so at those times, it comes very easily and naturally. Do you think that will answer the Professor’s question?”

“Yeah, I think so,” Bastian said, knowing his teacher much better than his brother.

“Good. Well, would you guys like me to read to you for a bit?”

“Yes, please,” Noah said politely.

“All right, then.” He picked up a copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. “Where are you?”

“Mummy read us Chapter Four last night,” Bastian replied.

“Chapter Five, then.”

Alex opened the book and started to read. The twins stared up at him, enthralled by the story. Their minds were filled with visions of wizards, witches, and mythical creatures, but little by little, they began to feel sleepy. Their eyelids were drooping when Alex finished the chapter, and he smiled.

“I think that’s enough for tonight,” he said. He closed the book and set it down, picking up Noah’s plush golden retriever toy that he liked to sleep with. “Here’s Blondie,” he said as he handed it to his son, and then he pulled the covers up to their necks. “Ilsa’s on duty if you need anything, and Mummy and I are just down the hall if you need us. Remember you can always call us or come sleep with us if you get scared.”
Bastian thought his brother’s attachment to Blondie was rather babyish, but he was understanding about it and never teased Noah for it. He rolled over and put his arm across his twin’s chest as they both settled in, getting comfortable.

Alex sat on the side of the bed, smiling down and gently caressing their hair. “Sweet dreams, boys. I love you more than anything.”

“Love you too, Daddy,” they said sleepily in unison.

In moments, they’d fallen asleep in front of him, and he leaned over, kissed both of them, and carefully stood up. Alex stood there watching them sleep for a little bit, wondering what dreams they would have that night and thinking about how lucky they were to be so young and innocent. Finally, he turned to leave, smiling as he thought about how lucky he was to have them. He turned the light off as he left, looking forward to the next day with the best family a man could hope for.

THE END
 
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