No matter how hard he tries, Madoc still couldn't manage to fit in with the Goya family. Despite his relationship with Wesley being in a good place, he hasn't managed to reach the same level of eccentricity it takes to fit into his family. They were loud, out-spoken, brazen, and weird. Every reason was part of why he loved them all so much. From an outside perspective, the Goya family was a regular Addams family, but to him, they were the family he always wished he had growing up. So when the biggest family event arrives, Madoc knows the best way to prove that he truly belongs in the family is to win the trophy. This was an annual tradition that dates back years, and no one in the family can agree on just who started it.
"What has you in such a thoughtful mood?" Wesley asks. He had returned from his snack run to find Madoc gazing at the lawn musingly, which in certain places would make sense, but Wesley had specifically chosen a boring patch of grass to picnic on.
"Just trying to figure out how I'm supposed to know which ball is mine." Searching for a croquet ball wasn't what he thought his boyfriend meant when he said they had to find their weapon of choice.
"It's a bit like adopting a pet," Wesley explains, setting a little wicker basket down in front of Madoc before plopping down next to him. "Oh, they aren't sentient," he hurries to explain. Madoc's look of panic recedes to one Wesley interprets as interest. "They're animated and all, but they don't have feelings."
"You hit animated objects around a field..." He barely makes it out of the way of an oncoming blur that whirls past him. "What was that?!" Madoc looks up to see a croquet ball lodged in a tree. "Please tell me that one isn't mine..."
"Aw, you got chosen first!" Wesley plucks the croquet ball from the tree and wrestles it into the crook of his arm. "A competitive one, too!"
"That one's really mine..?" He stares at the ball. The last thing he wanted was crazed sports equipment trying to behead him. He carefully takes it from Wesley. "This feels more like it will kill me..."
The croquet ball goes still the moment it's in Madoc's hands.
"See?" Wesley says. "It's yours!"
"Yay..." Madoc stares at it. And just like that, he thought this would be the weirdest moment of his day. He was wrong.
The field was a simple assortment of grass, grass, and more grass. The occasional tree would provide an obstacle for the croquet balls to shoot through - or into if they were like Madoc's ball. He watches as the ball once again looped around a tree before finally going through the appropriate wickets. To add to his frustration, he had to listen to Wesley's Uncle Wilder bragging about how it was his wife Trio that came up with the game, to begin with.
"Uncle Wilder is a liar," Wesley's sister Meadow says mildly.
"Everyone but him accepts that Aunt Trio is terrible at all things sports," Wesley agrees. "Though I don't really have a leg to stand on," he sighs, watching as his croquet ball ambles through the tall reedy grass on a mission only it knows.
Madoc yelps when his croquet ball leaps back around and nearly beheads him … again. "I don't see why that one has to be mine..." He sighs. "Then who did make up the came?"
"I'm telling you," Wilder interjects, walking up with a croquet mallet over his shoulder. "Trio was the one that made it up. She was seventeen and - honey, tell them the story," he encourages, nudging his wife.
"I was seventeen," Trio says grandly, her croquet bat nestled in her arms like an awkward baby. "It was summertime, and all my peers were bored..."
Wesley shoots Madoc a pained look.
"I was something of a leader then," Trio says, her tone confiding. "So, of course, it was only natural that I took charge. 'Family,' I said, 'it is a beautiful day, why don't we go out and explore the grounds?'"
"And explore they did," Wilder said proudly, taking her hand and kissing it.
"We were at this very spot when I suggested we come up with our very own game," Trio continues, beaming at her husband. "I insisted we use croquet balls, and here we are!"
Madoc found the easiest way to deal with the Goya family was to agree with all of them. So he did. And then, when they finally go to the end of the field and finally got to let the evil little croquet ball go, he found that the next stage in the game was to swim across the lake. The lake that the family's pet alligator tended to lurk. An idea that didn't fill him with much confidence. But it was either continue with the game or listen to Clo talk about how she was the one who came up with the game. Not her sister Trio.
"Swim away," Violet, Clo's youngest daughter, advises. "Mom won't shut up for at least an hour."
He should have taken her advice. Clo's next comment was about how she made up the game after getting into a race with Strawberry - the family's pet alligator. "So you see, I took off swimming as fast as I could because I was still unsure about the relationship between us and was fairly sure that he was going to eat me." She laughs, a cross between a cackle and a snort. "And then I made it to the other side, found a croquet ball, and then that's when I thought, 'hey, this should be a game.' So you see how it was me."
"How dare you!" Trio cries. "Strawberry would never chase anyone, and even if he did, you wouldn't have been able to outswim him!"
By the time that argument ended, and the sisters were yelling at each other, Madoc decided it was a better idea to jump into the lake. By the time he made it to the other side without drowning - though a slight incident halfway through nearly gave Wesley a heart attack, and now Madoc has proof that his boyfriend will come to save him - he felt like a monster that came out of a swamp.
"Whoever came up with this part should pay," Wesley says darkly, shaking himself off like a dog. Muck goes flying but not enough to make much difference.
"Well, if they ever decide who actually did it..." Madoc grumbles. He was starting to think impressing Wesley's family was a dead end.
"I honestly doubt it was anyone still alive," Wesley says, coming over to swipe at Madoc's clothes. "Most of our inventors don't live long."
"Then why does everything think they made it up?" His question receives an answer from Wesley's great aunt Euphemia.
"Because they all want credit for my idea," she insists. "I remember it from decades ago. We were playing this with our parents, and well, we didn't have a gator then, but our cousin would chase after us with a stick, so that was pretty close."
"Now that I believe," Wesley says.
"Too much sense," Meadow says, giving her great aunt a skeptical look. "How did you come up with the idea?"
"Easy, we were whacking balls - tennis, I believe it was at the time - and then we started to race. Had a wild hair and took a leap into the lake." Euphemia was proud of her answer, so Madoc wanted to believe her.
"I really want to believe you, great aunt Euphemia, but..." Violet glances at Wesley for help.
"But it just seems so unlike you to be wild like that," Wesley says quickly.
Thankfully they didn't get to hear the end as the bell rang for them to race through the obstacle course. In hindsight, Madoc should have predicted that it would be a series of strange and unusual activities. He also should have predicted that he was dead last when Ferry - Wesley's grandmother and matriarch of the family - started walking with him. But her encouragement was infectious.
"What a fun game!" Ferry enthuses. "Thank you so much for running with me, dear."
"Thanks... Though I lost..." And made a fool of himself in front of the entire family.
"There will always be winners and losers," Ferry says. "What's important is, did you enjoy yourself?"
"... Sure." Madoc rubs his arms. He felt like he was a walking swamp and felt humiliated, but he didn't see the point in telling her the whole ordeal. "Though I can't find Wesley."
"Oh, didn't you hear? Wesley fell in a hole!" Ferry shakes her head. "These kids and their pitfalls."
"What?" Madoc practically shouts. "What hole?!"
"You know," Ferry says, gesturing over her shoulder. "One of those."
Madoc groans. What was with the holes? "I don't understand how anyone could have thought up this game."
"Oh, you can thank my dad's dad's dad for this," Ferry says helpfully. "My grandpa always used to say his grandpa was a prankster and a half!"
"And so he made up this whole game?" Madoc asks, gesturing around him.
"Believe it or not, this is simple compared to what he and his brothers did. A single game took three days to play!"
Madoc didn't even want to think about three days of this. "Thanks for toning it down..."
"You're welcome!" Ferry grins. "Now, maybe you should go find your man?"