Family Goes, Trouble Stays: Part 3

There’s one good thing about losing your shit in a hospital over being separated from your love one:

The next time you have to go to that hospital, they are far less likely to stand in your way the next time you have to come in with a half-frozen loved one.

I ran in with the EMTs who had Ben, frantic that he was too cold. The nurses and doctors all gave me a very wide berth. The only time I was asked to step back was when they were working on him. I stood outside the room, backed up against the nurse’s station, watching Ben.

“Marlowe, he’s going to be okay.” One of the doctors said.

“I know, but that doesn’t stop me from worrying.”

“Worry all you want, just don’t get in the way.”

“Fix him. I need him back, safe and whole.” I said as I looked up in to the face of a doctor who couldn’t have been more than twenty-five.

He nodded and went in to the room with Ben. I knew somewhere in the back of my head I was worrying over nothing, that he was going to be fine, but with whomever was doing this to us still out there; I needed to see him open his eyes again.

When they finally let me go in to see him he was breathing normally and his color was back in his face. I leaned down and kissed his forehead, then waited. I don’t know how long I sat there, watching him until he coughed and started coming around.

“You’re not allowed to go where I can’t follow.” I whispered in to his ear.

“I have no plan on leaving you behind.” Ben replied. His voice was hoarse.

“That’s good because I have no intention of letting you.” I said. I gave in and kissed him.

“What happened?”

“The jerk who’s doing all of this forced your change again.” I replied.

Ben groaned and tried to sit up. I pushed him back down.

“No. You’re staying until they say you can go. No sitting up. You spent the entire night as your other self chained to a cliff.”

“The whole night? How did I survive?”

“Blankets, a couple of bonfires and a lot of praying on my part.” I replied.

“You never pray.” Ben said looking up at me.

“I did for you.” I replied. “This was the closest I’ve gotten to losing you. I don’t care for it.”

“I don’t care for being a guinea pig either.” Ben sighed. “I think whatever she’s doing, she’s building up to something.”

I saw Ben rub his eyes. “Go back to sleep. They’re going to keep you here for the day and possibly over night.”

“You’ll be here?”

“Yeah. I’m not going anywhere.”

Ben nodded and closed his eyes. He was asleep before I could look up at the clock.

“Asleep then?” The doctor asked as he walked in to the room.

“Yes. He woke up though.”

“That’s good.” He said as he checked Ben over. “I’m going to assume you’re staying with him?”

“Yes.” I said as I gripped Ben’s hand tightly.

“Okay then. We’re going to move him upstairs in a little while. Keep him over night for observation.”

“I figured. When will he get to come home?”

“Possibly tomorrow. I want to check and make sure there’s no damage from being out there all night.”

I nodded and looked down at Ben. “I’m going to assume you’ll want me to go home and get some sleep at some point?”

“You’re smart. I’m sure they Sheriff will send someone to watch over him, but you’ll do yourself harm if you stay here all night with no sleep.” The Doctor said as he checked me over after checking Ben. “It’s almost five now. You’ve been here all day. Visitor’s hours are over at nine tonight. You will go home and sleep.”

I looked from Ben to the Doctor. “Provided he has protection, I will go home and sleep. I do not like the fact that I’m leaving him here.”

“I know you don’t, but you have to do what’s best for you.” The doctor said with a smile. “You being here and pacing half the night, worrying yourself sick is not going to help either one of you right now.”

I looked up at him and nodded. “Just this once, I’ll go home. If anything happens while I’m gone, you’ll never get me out of this hospital again while he’s here.”

“Fair enough. I’ll take it.” He  said as he stepped out of the door. “Go home. Sleep. Those are doctor’s orders.”

“At closing time.” I said and turned back to watching over Ben.

The Doctor came back in at nine, after they’d moved him upstairs and gave me a pointed look. “Go. Home.”

“Is the detail here yet?” I asked.

“I am here.” The Sheriff said as he came in to Ben’s room.

“You’re going to watch over him?” I asked. I was a little startled to see Eric there.

“You wouldn’t trust anyone else enough to go home and get any kind of sleep.” The Sheriff replied. “I’ll stay and watch over Ben.”

I slid out of my chair, walked over and gave Eric a huge hug. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Now go home. Get some sleep. I’ll go over everything with you in the morning.”

I nodded and pulled my coat on. The Doctor walked me out and to Duke, who was waiting with a car to take me home. I don’t really remember the ride, getting home or going upstairs. I do remember showering, crawling in to pajamas and then in to bed with the dogs and Logan, who chittered at me until midnight. We all finally fell asleep at about one am.



It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… Part two

Ben and I made it back to the house around noon and then he was off again to check on his patients at his practice. I was grumbling uncharitable things under my breath about the lack of help when Mark wandered in to the kitchen. The smell of alcohol hit me and my head snapped up.

“What is it, Mark?”

He looked at me, eyes wet with tears. “I miss Max.”

“Oh honey,” I gathered him up in a hug. “I know you do.”

“I want him back, Marlowe. I want him back so bad.” He shuddered with his tears and clung on to me.

There was nothing that I could say to make him feel better. I knew that much. So I stood there in the kitchen and rubbed his back while he cried. Miles came in and saw us together and without saying anything, wrapped his arms around the both of us. A small hiccup from Mark shook us out of our reverie and I patted Miles on the shoulder.

“Miles is going to finish putting away the groceries for me and I’m going to take you upstairs, where you’re going to lie down for a change.” Mark protested and I held up a hand to his mouth. “No. I know you haven’t been sleeping. You will take a nap and I will stay with you, understand?”

Mark relented and nodded. I guided him out of the kitchen and up the stairs, calling for Gibbs along the way, but he was too busy being a puppy with the Twins in the other room. I shrugged and Mark and I walked up the stairs together. I talked Mark in to getting in to bed and pulled a chair over. I closed the curtains in the room and then sat down in the chair.


“Yeah Mark?”

“I love you.”

“I love you too, Mark.”

“You’re the best friend I could have.”

“You’re damn right I am.” I heard Mark laugh a little and I smiled.

“I miss him. We had just started talking about adopting when he died.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“We didn’t want to tell anyone yet. Still discussing where we were going to adopt.” I heard him shift in bed and then a sigh. “I’ll sign the papers on the thirteenth. The Realtor found a buyer already.”

“So that’s it? You’ll finish moving in here then?”


I thought about it for a while. “You know you’re welcome to stay as long as you want, right? You’re family.”

“Yeah.” There was silence from his side of the room for a bit and then he said, “as much as I miss Max, I’m glad I have you.”

“Me too, Mark. Now close your eyes and try to sleep. I’ll be here.”


There was some shifting around. His breathing evened out after a while and I yawned. I might as well take a nap too since I was here.

Ben shook my shoulder a few hours later and motioned for me to come in to the hall. I checked on Mark, he was still sleeping. I stepped out in to the hall ans stretched. My neck popped and Ben winced.

“You know, most men would be jealous if they came home to find their girlfriend sleeping in another man’s room.”

“He’s not sleeping. Had a break down today.” I said as I stepped in to his arms and hugged him.

“I know. He’s been pacing his room and the hall for a couple of weeks now.”

“He’s hurting and I don’t know how to help. Mine was so different.”

“We’re doing what we can. He knows we’re here for him if he needs help.”

“I know. It’s just frustrating.”

“I know, ‘Lowe.” He said and he kissed my hair.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“I’m gonna go back and sit with him some more. Will you take dinner tonight?”

“Yeah, I can do that. Pancakes?”

I smiled. “Apples and cinnamon?”

“You got it.” He kissed me and strolled off down the hall.

I smiled and walked back in to Marks room. Settling down in the chair again, I heard Mark sigh and roll over.

“How long was I out?” He murmured sleepily.

“Well, it’s about six now and you went down about one; so about five hours.” I replied. “Ben’s home, he’s making apple cinnamon pancakes.”

“My favorite.” He said with a yawn.

“Mine too so if you want some, you’re going to have to get out of that bed and shower. You reek.” I said and watched him smile.


“While you’re doing that, I’m going downstairs to hassle Miles about Denver. I feel nosy today.”

“He took Denver’s ring back to the store.”

That brought me up short. “You’ll have to elaborate on that.”

Mark sighed. “He’s not going to propose anymore. He’s pretty much going to break things off with Denver because they just can’t seem to work out their issues.”

I tapped my fingers on my chin. “Is there a pool on how long that’s going to last?”

Mark laughed so hard there was tears coming out of his eyes. “Yeah. I’m in for twenty that says they’re back together again by Valentine’s Day.”

“Damn it, you stole the good one.”

Mark hiccuped and started laughing again. “I know. That’s what Ben said when he put his twenty in the pot for Saint Paddy’s.”

“Why am I always the last one to know about these things?” I whined.

Mark grinned. “Because you’d tell Miles and we’re not ready for him to find out yet.”

“I can keep a secret from Miles. I’ve had more practice at it.” I huffed. “Take your shower. I’m going to have pancakes. I will save you some.”

I walked out of the room before Mark could reply and made my way downstairs to give Ben an earful about not telling me about the pool. When I walked in to the kitchen, it was covered in flour again and my very tall boyfriend looked like a ghost. I couldn’t help my reaction. I started laughing.

“What happened?” I said through laughter and hiccups.

“The Twins.” Ben said, ruefully.

That only made me laugh harder. When something cold and sticky hit my chest and sank under the collar of my v-neck t-shirt, I stopped laughing and eyed Ben.

“I hope you know, this means war.”

“Bring it, Red.”

I threw a handful of pre-seasoned apples at him and the war was on. It ended when Jude came in and yelled at us. looking down at my feet while she stared us down, I nudged Ben. He nudged me back and then Judge separated us with an exasperated sigh.

“You two act more like the pair of nine-year-olds that I just took upstairs to bathe.”

“He started it.” I said, sullenly.

The noise his mother made was hilarious.

“You’re thirty years old, Child. You know better.”

Ben snickered and I stepped on his toes. He cursed at me and made Jude smile.

“Clean this up. I’ll ask Miles what to do about dinner.” She said as she walked out of the room. A second later, she stuck her head back in the room and said, “and no making out!”

I started laughing again as I reached for the broom closet. I found myself plucked from my path and plopped on to the counter. I eyed Ben, who leaned down and kissed me. I reached up and pulled him closer, kissing him back. When we broke apart he kissed my nose.

“Thanks for being a five-year old with me.”

“Likewise.” I said and kissed his chin.

“Marry me?”


He kissed me hard and pulled me back in to his arms. I kissed him back, wrapping my arms around his waist and keeping him close. I always imagined the big fan fare and the huge moment; but sitting on that counter in the kitchen covered in flour and spiced applies, I realized that this was perfect.


Thanksgiving, Part 3

After Miles made his big exit, we invited Tucker and Vaughn to have dinner with us. They accepted and were quickly folded in to the party. The good thing about having that many friends? No leftovers. There wasn’t a single thing left in the house after the party was done, so dishes were the main priority after everyone had gone home for the evening.

The other priority was seeing to it that the ones who were too drunk to drive had places to sleep. This included the Sheriff, so while he drunkenly weaved his way up the stairs I carried Bonnie while Ben followed with Peter. I was rubbing an already asleep Bonnie’s back when the Sheriff started singing. I am not ashamed to admit that I kicked the man. Hard.

“Ow! Damn it!”

“Shhhh! Bonnie’s sleeping!” I hissed at him.

He nodded at me like he was some drunk, sage, super cop. I snickered and went to lay Bonnie down in the same room she used the last time. I came back out to the hall and the Sheriff was sitting down, slumped over against one wall. I sighed and waiting for Ben to come back.

“Problem?” Ben asked.

“Help me get him up and in to the Yellow Room.” I said as I picked up an arm.

Ben picked up the other arm and together we managed to haul the Sheriff down to the Yellow Room at the end of the hall. After getting him in to bed with his shoes off, Ben and I took off back downstairs to relax a little. We walked in to world war three with Ben’s father and mother arguing in the hallway.

“Enough!” I shouted. They both went quiet, but Ben’s father opened his mouth to speak, so I jabbed a finger at him. “Not a word. Not one word.”

He closed his mouth again and Ben spoke up.

“You’re not welcome here, anymore.” I put my hand in his and waited for him to continue. “I’m happy here. I’ve a life here. I’m not about to give that up because you want something I can’t give you: Obedience. I can’t do it. Marlowe and I are getting married. We’re going to start a life together. If you can’t accept that I’ve made up my own mind, then you’re not welcome.”

I tightened my hand in his and tried my best not to look up at him. I knew he was still wounded from the other day and that a proposal was unlikely to happen so soon. I looked at his mother instead and she smiled at me and nodded. I smiled back at her.

“I will not have my son marry beneath him.” I glared at his father when he spoke. I was about to say something when Jude slapped him.

“She’s more than enough for my son. I’d be happy to have her as family. Just because you can’t see past your arrogance and prejudice, doesn’t mean that you get to deny your son his happiness.” She yelled at him. Her face turned red with anger and I put a hand on her shoulder and pulled her back a little.

“This is my family. You can be a part of it, as long as you’re willing to accept all of us.” Ben said.

“When he means all of us, he means us too.” Mark said as he walked down the steps with Miles.

“I don’t like you,” Miles said. “but you’re Ben’s father, that means I have to accept that you’ll be a part of my family when they get married. I do not like you. I want it to be known.”

Ben’s father looked at of us and huffed. His hands were clinching and relaxing. I watched him struggled with himself as I waited with the rest of my family.

“You are not my son and that,” He said as he pointed at me. “is not human.”

“No, I’m a fucking unicorn.” I sneered at him.

I heard Mark start choking as he tried to hold back his laughter.

“She’s my unicorn, Dad. She’s my family. You’re not. Please leave.” Ben said.

Ben’s father glared at all of us, turned around and left. I sighed when the door slammed shut. I heard Mark and Miles start howling with laughter at my comeback.

“Really, ‘Lowe?” Ben said with a laugh as he kissed me.

“Yeah, really.” I said.

“That was lovely, dear.” Jude said with a snicker of her own.

“The sass is strong with me.” I said stoically.

That made the rest of the room start laughing. When we’d all stopped laughing, I tugged on Ben’s hand.

“Bed time. This mess can be cleaned in the morning. Is all the food put away?”

“Yeah and the dogs have been taken out. That’s how old sour face got in.” Miles said.

I looked around and then up at Ben. “Tomorrow.”

I kissed his chin. “I’ll meet you upstairs.”

I said my goodnight’s to Jude and everyone else and climbed the stairs to the bedroom. As soon as I had the door closed I started pulling off clothes while heading for the shower. I was naked and waiting for the spray to warm up when Ben found me. He wrapped his arms around my waist and nuzzled my neck.

“Well, we survived.”

I sighed and leaned back against him. “We did, though your father came close.”

Ben chuckled. “While I’m not happy that you almost skewered him with all the knives in the house, I’m glad he’s gone. I feel relieved.”

I patted and kissed Ben’s hands, then tested the water. “I’m glad. Now get naked, Solt. I wanna get cleaned up and then go to bed with you.”

Ben laughed. “Surely that’s not all you want to do.”

“If you don’t get naked you’re not going to find out, now are you?” I laughed and climbed in to the shower.

I watched him struggle with the decision for all of five minutes before shucking his clothes and climbing in with me. We tumbled out again nearly an hour later and in to bed.

“I am damn glad that Thanksgiving is over with.” I mumbled sleepily.

Ben’s laughter was the last thing I heard before I dropped off to sleep.


Thanksgiving, Part 2

So after a lengthy conversation with Grandmama Murphy, She eventually agreed to come over early and help. She didn’t trust that I wasn’t going to go all comic book villain on her and I don’t honestly blame her. The past few weeks I’ve lost my temper and my control more times than I’m comfortable with.

Grandma Oberly would have told me that losing one’s temper is the result of having a family and feelings about them. I would have told her that when most people lose their control, they don’t run the risk of impaling the nearest person with something metal. She would have smacked the back of my head, but reluctantly admitted that I had a point.

I miss her. So much.

When Jude came back in, she saw the knives cleared away and we were all doing our best with the knives that I could fix.

“Need a hand?” She asked.

I handed over my knife. “Go, go veggie chop! I need to shower and clean up.”

I left and they were still laughing. I made my way upstairs and in to the shower without encountering anyone. I needed the time alone.  I was leaning against the shower wall, letting the spray beat over my shoulders when I heard the door open and close.

“You’re late. I figured that you wouldn’t be joining me.”

“Lies. You’re naked. I just had to avoid my mother.” Ben said as he climbed in to the shower with me.

I leaned back against him. “I love you.”

I felt him kiss my hair and smile. “I love you too.”

“Do you think we can handle it?”

“My mother? Yes. Thanksgiving? There might be more blood. I heard Miles complaining about blisters. He was hand whipping cream.”

I laughed. “He does know my mixer is in the cabinet right above his head, right?”

“No and I wasn’t about to tell him.” Ben laughed.

“Evil. I love it.” I said, laughing with him.

“While we still have time to ourselves.. ” Ben hinted. I grinned and turned around to kiss him.

It was an hour and a half before we made it back down stairs, but we were laughing like idiots and feeling good. Walking in to the kitchen we were immediately drafted in to making pies. The turkeys were already in the ovens and everyone was making some sort of dessert for the oven we had left. We worked together, cracking jokes and making each other laugh until the pies were out of the oven and the only thing left was stuffing, gravy and turkeys, but those had to wait until the turkeys were done. So we spent most of the time left setting up tables, buffet style.

“Do you think we have enough seating?” I asked Ben as we shoved another couch in to the great hall.

Ben grunted and shoved the couch along a wall. “If we don’t, I don’t care. my back hurts and I’m tired of moving furniture into the hall.”

I watched him flop down on the couch we just moved with a sigh and then climbed in to his lap.

“Snuggle me.” I demanded as I curled around him.

“With pleasure.” He said.

The sound of the fire soon lulled us to sleep and we woke up to Grandmama Murphy standing over us, clucking her tongue.

“You two. Get up! The turkeys are done and there’s stuffing to be made.” She said. She then turned on her heel and went off to the kitchen.

I yawns and rubbed my eyes. Ben shifted underneath me and yawned.

“Hi Sleepy.” I said and kissed him.

“Hello Beautiful.” He looked around and found that it was almost dark. “What time is it?”

“Time enough to go make stuffing and gravy. Grandmama was just in here.” I said as I got up out of out nest and stretched.

Ben watched me stretch and when I noticed, wiggled his eyebrows at me. I laughed.

“No. We’re not sneaking off and leaving the mess for everyone else.” Ben pouted, but I held firm. “No. Turkey must be carved.”

Ben sighed. “Okay. Give me a hand up, will you?”

I grabbed his hand and tugged, but he caught me off guard and yanked me down on to the couch again and tickled me until I was out of breath.

“That was mean.” I said.

Ben nuzzled my neck. “But worth it.” He gave me another kiss and helped me up. We walked hand in hand in to the kitchen and found a mess. There was whipped creme everywhere. Ben and I stood in the doorway, mouths hanging open.

“What the bloody hell happened here?” I demanded.

Miles and Mark looked down and Jude started laughing. “Food fight!”

I could feel my lips twitching. “Well I’m not cleaning this up. I’ll take the dogs out.”

“I’m with you.” Ben said and we went out in to the main hallway to pile in to outdoor gear for the trip outside.

The dogs figured out what was going on and started dancing at the door to go outside. I opened the door and let the dogs out, laughing along with Ben as they rolled each other in the snow.

We’d been out for at least a half hour when the first of the guests started to arrive. It was the Sheriff and his twins. They were out of the car and rocketing across the lawn to roll with the dogs before Sheriff Stier’s could stop them.

“Oh let them be, Eric. It’s holiday.” I said as I hugged him hello.

He handed over a bottle of wine and shook Ben’s hand.

“I can’t help it. I worry.”

“They’ll be fine, but it’s time to go in. We’ve been outside long enough.”

Ben called the dogs and the Twins in and there was much groaning and complaining as we all piled inside and took off the outdoor gear.

“There’s a new board game in the great hall and Frosty is on the TV, go keep out of trouble.” I said and watched them take off running with the dogs.

“No magic!” Ben shouted at them.

A chorus of over the shoulder “okay!” was faintly heard as they were already in the Great Hall. I shook my head at them.

“They’ll claim they didn’t hear you the second they make something explode, you know.”

“I just hope it’s nothing that leaves squishy bits all over the hall.” Ben grumbled.

“Well, there isn’t any jello in there so this time it won’t be us cleaning it out of the rafters again.” I said as we led the Sheriff in to the kitchen. He was laughing.

“You two don’t tell me anything about my own kids. I’d have grounded them for that.” He said.

“We made them sit in time out for an hour, in different rooms. That was torture enough.” I said.

I handed off the bottle to Mark as we made the introductions. More and more people arrived after the Sheriff did, pretty soon we were looking at a full house. The party was in full swing when Grandmama Murphy brought out the turkey and we set up the buffet. The conversation hum was light and joking and I was just becoming hopeful that we were going to make it without an incident when Grandmama Murphy came up behind me and told me there was a problem. I snagged Ben and we met her in the hall way.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Well I don’t want you to be alarmed, but there’s a couple of FBI agents here and one of them is Miles’s ex-boyfriend.”

I swore. “Oh that’s all we need. I don’t care about them being FBI. I care that Miles and Denver, who are currently canoodling on my settee, are going to get in to another fight.”

“Another fight?” Ben asked.

“Just after they arrived. Something about pastries. I put a stop to it while you were chasing down Gibbs who’d stolen a shoe.”

“So, the FBI?” Murphy said.

I sighed. “Lead on, Grandmama.”

She led us all in to the kitchen where the agents were sitting at the table, eating pie. I smiled at that. Grandmama always looked out for us and whomever need a spot of food on a cold night. I coughed to bring attention to myself and they looked up.

“Hello. I’m Marlowe Oberly and this is Ben Solt.”

They scrambled to stand, but I waved them off and sat down at the table with them.

“I’m Vaughn Beazley and this is my partner Tucker Groue. We’re here to do the pre-investigation for the attempted bombing trial.”

“No offense meant by this, because I’m glad you’re here, but couldn’t it have waited until after the holiday?”

The man named Tucker squirmed in his chair. “We’re kind of pressed for time since the defendant exercised his right to a speedy trial. It means that the trial is moving up to the spring instead of waiting for all the pre-trial hearings.”

I swore. I was just about to ask more questions when Miles and Mark came in to the kitchen with empty platters. I nudged Ben and he got up to take the dishes before Miles saw his ex-boyfriend sitting at our table. I watched Miles turn around and see me, then look at his ex.

“You! What the fuck are you doing here!?” Miles shouted.

I laid my head on the table and groaned. Ben stepped in between Miles and Vaughn.

“Now Miles. Things might have ended badly last year but that’s no reason to shout at the Agent who’s helping your cousin lock up Steve.”

Miles glared at Ben, then at Vaughn and he stormed out of the kitchen.

“Well, that certainly could have gone better.” Tucker said.

Vaughn glared at Tucker and I smiled at him like I’d found a new best friend.



The events from Monday cast a shadow over the whole week and it ended up a pretty quiet week. Ben’s father didn’t give us too much trouble. He pretty much kept to himself or talked to Ben. It was like the rest of us were beneath his notice. I did notice that he and Ben mostly stuck to his practice and when Ben brought home a three headed bearded dragon that actually breathed fire, decided to move out of the house and in to Rose Cottage which was only a mile or two away. That was Wednesday. Not everyone can handle our house.

That was also when I decided the bearded dragon could stay.

“Give him to me, Miles. You jiggle him one more time you’re going to make him sick.” I said as I took the lizard away from Miles.

He was jiggling the poor creature to make it burp fire.

“Aww, but he was happy!”

“He was not, that poor thing is probably full of indigestion!”

Ben laughed. “Probably not, but you could kill him that way.”

I put the lizard in a cage that Ben had brought in from some storage closet. I set the cage on a side table and pointed at Miles.

“Leave the thing alone.”

“I will not leave the thing alone.” He pouted.

Jude started laughing at us. I smiled at her.

“You two. Are you family?”

“Cousins on my Mamma’s side.”

“Sister, you can at least tell her more than that.” Miles chided softly. “You see, her parents died in a car accident when she was five or so. She lived with us for a while, my family, but ended up with Grandmama.”

“Oh. You poor thing. So young.” Jude put her hands over mine.

I smiled. “Grandmama was good to me. The only time I ever felt lonely was when I was around the families that had parents. It was much better when I had Miles and Grandmama to myself. Still, I’m happy I found family by moving here.”

Jude didn’t say anything, just patted my hands. I looked over at Miles, but the little twerp had abandoned me. He was just leaving the room, cage in hand, when I looked for him.

“Get back here with that blasted cage! You’re not setting the house on fire!”

“Mine! My pet! My precious!” Miles said as he ran out of the room with the cage.

I groaned and looked over at Ben, who gave me a small smile.

“Well, at least you don’t have to take care of it?”

“I better not.” I grumbled as I scratched Winston’s ears.

He had padded over and plopped his head in to my lap.

“What do you say, Winston? Should we head to bed? Thanksgiving is tomorrow!” Winston sneezed. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

Everyone in the room laughed, but they got up and said their good nights anyway.

The following morning it was Mark and Ben’s turn for breakfast so Miles and I were in the living room watching the parade with Jude. We were still in pjs when his father arrived. I saw the wrinkle of disgust at what we were wearing and what was on the TV before he moved in to the kitchen to talk to Ben. I shook my head and looked at Miles.

“Mark my words: We’re going to have some kind of fight today and its going to be big.”

“Marked and noted. Now pay attention to the parade.”

Jude laughed. “I need to visit more often.”

I looked over my shoulder from where I was on the floor with Miles, spread out on blankets and pillows. Jude was on the couch with her own blankets and pillows. It was good that we were resting now, because when the parade was over, dinner prep would start and we’d be cooking until 6pm this evening when everyone arrived.

“You know, I’m so glad the kitchen expanded this morning. Those extra ovens are going to come in handy.” I said to Miles.

Miles snorted. “The house is a god send some days.”

“You know, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that.” Jude said.

I laughed. “I said the same thing. You eventually just tune it out.”

Jude thought about it and I turned my attention back to the parade. Before I could get back in to it, there was a loud shout from the kitchen and Mark came storming out.

“That man! I’ve never met a more rude, dismissive person in my entire life.” He stormed by and upstairs.

I sighed. “Okay. Time to lay the smack down.”

“Better you than me.”

“You don’t scare him, I do. He fears my powers.”

“Smart man, in some things. I’d better go with you.” Jude said.

I got up and stretched, then marched in to the kitchen. Ben was giving his father a glare, but was on the other side of the island in the middle of the kitchen. I looked at his father.

“What happened in here?”

“That man, wants me to give you up and marry that woman from New York. The same one I said no to five years ago.”

Jude sighed. “Oh Mo, give it a rest. He’s never going to marry her. You drove our son away with that bit of nonsense.”

“It is not nonsense! It is family duty!”

“From the old country. Not here. He has the right to choose as he pleases. I warned you not to make him unhappy.” I said.

“You do not tell me what to do in my son’s house.”

“It is my house too. We bought it together. I am tired of being dismissed as though I do not matter. I love your son. Your son loves me. That’s the way it is. If you do not accept this, you are not welcome at the table.” I said evenly.

I walked over to Ben and put my hand in his. Ben looked down at me and smiled.

“Mo, you’re going to lose this one. Again.” Jude said.

His father looked at all of us and I could hear him grinding his teeth.

“You will not slander her.” Ben said and his father jerked back like he’d been slapped.

“You will not read my mind!” His father growled out.

“I will if it means protecting Marlowe.” Ben replied.

I looked up at Ben and nodded. “I gave him permission long ago. You never trusted your son. I do. That’s why he will choose to stay. He’s found a home here. A life here. Things he didn’t have back when he was under your boot in New York.”

His father unleashed a string of expletives in Arabic and it felt like I had been slapped. When he advanced on Ben and myself, I lost my temper. After everything that happened, I couldn’t keep hold on my temper anymore. Before I realized what I had done, ever single knife in the kitchen was pointing at Ben’s father and I was standing in front of him. I knew my eyes had gone completely silver.

“You. Will. Not. Touch. Him.”

His father looked at me like he’d seen his own nightmares. Ben had to physically pull me back from his father. He tried to get my attention, but I was too focused on his father. Finally Ben physically picked me up and took me outside in the cold and dumped me in to a snow bank. I came up sputtering and cursing. I looked around and up at him. I saw the look on his face and swore.

“I lost control, didn’t I?” He nodded and I sighed. “I’ll stay out here.”

“No. He had it coming. You’ll come back inside and he will leave.” Ben said firmly.

“I’m sorry, Ben.”

Ben’s face softened a little and he kissed my hair. “No one can hold their emotions in check, and their power, all the time. I know how hard you work to control yours.”

“I’m still sorry.” I whispered. “I could have killed him if you hadn’t moved me outside.”

“I love you, but you owe us a new chefs knife. The old one is embedded in the wall behind his head.”

I groaned. So I hadn’t held all of them back.

I followed Ben back inside, but his father was gone from the kitchen. Miles was pulling knives that I hadn’t managed to control, out of the walls.

“When you lose control, you really do pick the way.” Miles said. He was waving around a steak knife. “Look at this, it’s bent in half! From the impact! There’s another one over on the other side that has a shattered handle.”

I looked around and sighed. “It looks like a cartoon in here.”

Miles laughed. “Mark said the same thing when he got a look at it. He’s off to tell everyone we need knives for today. Grandma Murphy is bringing hers.”

I closed my eyes and concentrated, pulling each knife from the wall and placing it on the table. I’d destroyed every knife in the kitchen, but at least that’s all I had done. I hadn’t killed anyone and that’s always a plus.

“Hey Magneto, would you mind not doing your steak knife in to the wall thing for a minute so you can tell Grandma Murphy just why we need all her knives?” Mark shouted from the other room.

I groaned. I was going to kill him.


The Burning of a Dream

Ben and I arrived at the shop. The whole place was engulfed in flames and the Mayor was standing next the Sheriff. A smug look decorated his features and at that point, I wanted nothing more than to break his nose. I’ve never broken anyone’s nose before. I stood there, shaking with anger at him when the Sheriff came up to me. I didn’t hear him talking to me until Ben pulled me around so I couldn’t see the Mayor anymore. It turns out I was making every car in the parking lot shake and the metal groan. If Ben hadn’t pulled me around, I might have totally lost my temper. I owe him for that.

“Marlowe, I’m sorry.” The Sheriff said.

I shook my head at him. “Not your fault.”

“It kind of is. We released Steve this morning on bail. His father put up the money.”

I sighed and leaned in to Ben, laying my head on his chest.

“Did he do this?”

The Sheriff nodded. “There was a note in spray paint in the office before it went up. The firefighters who went in saw it on the wall.”

I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. I was so upset, angry, distraught that I couldn’t find the words. So I nodded.

“Was he still here when you arrived?” Ben asked.

The Sheriff shook his head. “I’ve got patrol officers looking for him, but we haven’t found him yet.”

I finally spoke up and looked the Sheriff in the eye. “Eric, I want to take out a restraining order on him and his entire family. I don’t want them near my place of business, my home or within one hundred and fifty yards of me.”

The Sheriff sighed. “I thought that’s what you’d want. I’ll have the paperwork for you in the morning.”

I nodded at him. “That family picked  the wrong person to bully. I will not be cowed.”

Ben ran his hand over my back and I could feel it through my coat. I buried my face in to his chest to steady myself.

“I’m going to talk with the lawyers after the holiday about all of this, see what they have to say.” I said to Ben.

Ben sighed. “Okay. I’m with you, whatever comes our way.”

I nodded. “I want out of here. Eric, do you need us here?”

The Sheriff shook his head. “No. You can go. I’ll send the Mayor away, make sure that he doesn’t come near you or the house.”

“Miles, Mark, Miss Maggie and Murphy are on that list as well. They will not be harmed because they’re family.” Ben said before I could.

“You’re still coming for Thanksgiving, right?” I asked the Sheriff. He nodded. “Good. We’ll save you a place. The Twins and your sister-in-law too.”

“She’s going back home. The Twins are too much for her.” The Sheriff said with a small smile.

I smiled back at him. There were four of us in the house and they wore us all out. Ben tugged on my shoulders and we walked together back to his car. We got inside and with one last look at my shop, left the yard and headed home.

“Tell me what’s going on inside that head of yours.” Ben said as he picked up my hand.

I was embarrassed that it was shaking. “I wanted to kill him tonight. drive a hunk of metal straight through his black heart and leave him there.”

Ben jolted at my tone and sighed. “Vengeance gets you no where, habibi.”

“I know that. I didn’t do it, did I? But I wanted to.” I gripped his hand tight and looked up at him. “Will you marry me?”

Ben nearly ran off the road. He brought the car back under control and looked at me. “You couldn’t wait four more days?”

I laughed. “No.”

Ben huffed. “I had it all planned for Thursday and you go and do this while you’re all keyed up and angry.”

I smiled up at him. “I’m angry, yes. I no longer want to kill him though. I want to marry you and give him a the finger by living happily together.”

Ben tapped his fingers on the wheel as he looked at me. “No.”

My face fell and I looked down at my seat. “Oh. Okay.”

“You’re not understanding me. No, I’m not living happily with you just to give him the finger. I want to live happily with you because you want to live with me. You’re it, Marlowe. There’s been no one else I love as much as I love you.”

I was shocked. I looked up at him.

“So my answer is no. Not until its me you want. I won’t put up with being someone’s revenge goal.”

He started the car and we headed for home. I sat in the seat looking at him, heart hurting. I’d fucked up.

“I love you.” I said to him as we pulled in to the driveway.

“I love you, Marlowe. I always will.” Ben said as he pulled in to the garage and got out.

I sat in my seat a while longer, thinking. Ben opened up my door for me and grabbed my hand, pulling me out of the car. I made frustrated noises because I’d forgotten to take the seat belt off. While I fiddled with getting the belt off, Ben knelt next to the car. When I’d gotten it undone and swung my legs out of the car, Ben moved between them and cupped my face in his hands.

“I need to know, right now, why you’re in this relationship, because if it’s just for giving that man the finger, I want out.”

It hurt to hear him say it, but I understood why. I’d been so infuriated by that man I’d made a stupid mistake. I looked him in the eye and there were tears in my eyes. My own soon filled. I leaned forward and laid my forehead against his.

“I love you.” My voice was raw and heavy with the tears that I wanted to let out, but I couldn’t just yet. “Just you. No one else. I was angry earlier and I let it fuel my words. I’m sorry.”

Ben kissed me, but stayed silent.

“There won’t be anyone but you. I can’t promise eternity, but I can promise my life. As long as I’m with you, there will be no one else.” I opened my eyes and looked in to his again.

Ben’s eyes were closed. The tears I didn’t want to let come were over flowing and I couldn’t stop them. When he finally opened his eyes and then spoke, his voice was very raw and he croaked out the words to me.

“I’m not going to ask you yet. We need to put some time in between tonight and what happened, but I’m not going anywhere. You’re stuck with me.” With that Ben kissed me and dragged me up and out of the car. He closed and locked it, reached for my hand and linked my fingers with his. Together we walked in to the house to face the questions that would be coming from all members of the house. Even the dogs.

It didn’t really matter if their question was “Hey, you gonna feed me?”


The Second Week Begins

So Friday night was great. Everyone went to bed happy. The weekend was even better. There was laughter and happiness all around.

It wouldn’t last. Ben’s father showed up on Monday. I guess we were all expecting it because no one was really surprised when he showed up at dawn. The castle wasn’t too happy about the interloper though, so Ben’s father had his first experience with being hated by what he thought was an inanimate object.

The castle caged him, quite literally, in the front hall. We got up to the shouting of Miles telling us to get our butts downstairs that we had company. Ben and I dragged ourselves out of bed and didn’t bother getting dressed, just tossed on robes and slippers. Bleary-eyed, we stumbled in to the front hall only to be greeted by a rush of expletives in Arabic. I flinched and made the bars rattle. He went silent.

“Dad, what are you doing here?” Ben asked softly.

“What do you mean? I’m here because my ex-wife invited me for Thanksgiving.” He said as he pointed at Jude.

I sighed. Here we go. I turned on my heel and went to make coffee and find the aspirin. I wasn’t facing that mess until I’d had both. It was a little selfish to bail on Ben and Jude, but the longer I was around that man, the stronger the urge to slap him. I came back in to the hallway with mugs of coffee in both hands and the aspirin bottle in my pocket. I passed out the coffee as they were arguing in Arabic and leaned against the wall.

I waited for the right time. Just as Ben’s father was getting puffed up to continue yelling at his son, I put my coffee down on the side table and allowed my eyes to turn silver. I stepped up to the bars and placed my hand on them. They vibrated under my control and the shouting stopped.

“You are a guest in our home. Ben and I will not tolerate your disrespectful behavior. He was a good man and beside him, you’re very small.” I said, lowering my voice and staring directly in to his eyes. He backed away from the bars.

“You’re another freak like my son.”

“And happy to be one. I’ve made my peace with who I am. I’m sorry that you haven’t.” I replied. “You’re welcome to stay, but you will be respectful in this house or you can leave.”

I turned my eyes back to their natural shade as Ben’s father stared in to them. I smiled up at him, slowly and with all the coldness I could muster. Ben placed his hand on my shoulder and I stepped back from the bars. Wrapping his arm around my waist, Ben stood next to me.

“You’ll do as she says. She speaks for us both on this matter.” He said and he pulled his mother in on the other side. “I do still care about what happens to you, Dad. You don’t have to leave, but you will not bully anyone inside of this house. We’re a family, all of us.”

Mark and Miles stepped up on either side of the trio we had going and I watched Ben’s fathers eyes dart back and forth between us all.

“In spite of everything that happened Mo, I do still love you and I’d like you to be a part of Thanksgiving. But what happened is in the past. If you can’t let go of it, please go.”

I could see the man in the cage seething. He clearly wanted to be in control of the whole thing. I felt sorry for him because it just wasn’t going to happen.

“Okay. I’ll do my best.”

I looked up at Ben. “It’s up to you, if that’s good enough.”

Ben nodded. “I believe he’ll try. Let him out.”

I nodded and held up a hand, the bars rattled and shook, then vanished back in to the floor. His father’s eyes widened as he saw what happened.

“What are you?”

“No one to be messed with.” I said as I picked up my coffee and took a sip. “I’m going to go get dressed. I still think I have some of the sausage from the other day. Does anyone want eggs with it?”

I didn’t bother sticking around, I walked back upstairs and got ready for the day. I had no doubts that this week was going to be a week of waiting for the other shoe to drop. I could feel it in the air. Ben could too because when he came in to the bathroom while I was pulling on a sweater, he scooped me up and carried me to a chair. Flopping down with me in the chair, he kissed me and then cuddled me close.

“Can we just run away? I hear the Bahamas are great this time of year.” He said.

I smiled and kissed him. “Nope. We’re stuck. The best we can do is make sure your Mom and Dad don’t kill each other.”

“I think he’s already afraid of you. I’ve never seen your eyes turn that color unless we’re in bed together.”

“It’s my natural eye color and I can’t control it when I’m with you in bed.” I murmured and kissed him again.

“This pleases me.” He said and I laughed, punched his shoulder.

We cuddled in the chair until the light from the sunrise let us know that the day would start whether we’d like it  to or not. With a sigh I reluctantly got up.

“Who’s turn is it for dinner?”

“Mine. I started it last night, in the slow cooker. We’re having pot roast.”

“Your pot roast is better than mine, which isn’t fair.” I said.

Ben laughed. “I had to keep myself from starving when I got here and Murphy taught me to cook.”

That was new. I didn’t know that. “Interesting. I wonder if she’d part with her recipe for her sugar cookies.”

“You don’t have to ask. I already have it.” Ben said as he got up and started stripping for the shower. I stared at his behind and sighed. I really liked that man’s ass. Ben heard my sigh and shook his butt at me. I laughed and threw a used towel at him and he started laughing.

“You’re lucky I’m already dressed.” I said.

“Letch. Come scandalize me.” He replied.

“I wish, but there’s breakfast to be made and it’s my turn.”

“Miles and Mark took it. Gonna join me now?”

I didn’t have to think about it long. I shucked my sweater. “Yep.”

An hour later we were downstairs and laughing like a couple of teenagers as we walked in to the kitchen. There were four people in the room and the silence was deafening. Ben and I shrugged and made enough noise for those four people until they joined in. We talked about when to get the tree for our first Christmas together and what time we all wanted to eat on Thanksgiving. Only Jude and Ben’s father remained silent. When breakfast was done, Ben and I stood at the sink doing the dishes while Mark sat at the kitchen table making notes about Thanksgiving dinner. We were going to go get everything that day. Jude came in and took a look at the list.

“I’d like to add a couple of things, if I may?”

“Go for it, that’s not a complete list anyway. Most likely when we get to the store it’ll be bigger. There’s about,” I paused because I didn’t know how many people were coming. “Well I don’t know how many people are coming, so we’re planning on turkey and trimmings for at least twenty people.”

Ben snorted. “You seriously under-estimate our friends. We should plan on at least thirty.”

I thought about it and decided he was right. “Thirty then.”

Ben’s mother looked at us and shook her head. “You two have built something I’d call amazing. What time are we leaving for the store?”

“As soon as Mark says ‘Enough! That’s enough food!’ but it hasn’t happened yet.”

“It’s bigger than the cookout we threw back in the summer. Even I’m not sure there will be enough food.”

I paused for a second then turned to Mark. “Who exactly volunteered us for this year?”

Ben snorted. “Grandma Murphy. She opened her mouth and pretty soon my phone was bombed with acceptances.”

I groaned. That woman was going to be the death of me. Ben and I finished the dishes just as Miles came back in, followed by Ben’s father.

“So when are we leaving?” Miles said as he rubbed a towel over his hair.

“Leaving? You’re all leaving?”

“Yep and so are you. If you’re going to be here, you participate.” I said as I dried off my hands and handed the towel to Ben so he could do the same.

“We leave as soon as Mark has finished getting ready to go.” Ben said. “We won’t be back for at least three or four hours. There’s a lot of errands to run and since Marlowe has the only 4 wheel drive car, everyone goes.”

“Ben there’s six of us now. We’re going to have to split up.”

“I rented a Land Rover, yesterday. We can take the rental.” Jude said.

I nodded. “I like that idea. We’ll drive, everyone else rides. Ben go with your mother and Mark. Miles and Me with your father in my car. Everyone happy?” There was a round of nods. “Good. Mark, go shower, we’ll finish up the list while you’re gone.”

Mark got up and left and I sat down and took over. His neat and precise handwriting stared back at me. “This list is.. extensive. We’re going to have to start the night before if we’re going to make all of this.”

I looked up at Ben and passed him the list. We bickered back and forth, good-natured name-calling with Miles about whose best at making what. When Mark walked in, he joined in and took over the list again. Soon he said enough and we all got ready for the trip outside. This included letting the dogs out so they could go to the bathroom. When they came back in, we left.

Getting in to our separate cars, Ben’s father sat up front with me and Miles got in to the backseat. As I started the car I hear him clear his throat.

“Yes?” I said.

“Why’d you see to it that I was in the car with you?”

“I’ll not have Ben upset. Thursday is important to him and you will not upset him.” I said looking over at him.

“What makes your think I’m going to upset him?”

“Your very presence upsets him. The two of you didn’t part kindly. I mean it when I say I won’t have him upset. You upset him and I’ll make you bleed.”

Ben’s father went quiet as we drove in to town. “You love him.”

“More than I ever imagined I would love anyone. Do not upset him.” I said as I parked the car at the grocery store and hopped out. I waited for Ben to get out of the car and arm in arm, we walked in to get the things needed for Thursday.

We walked out again an hour later after bickering over nearly everything on the list. What to get, how much to get and how much we were paying were the biggest ones. When Ben scooped up a lamb shank and other items for his father that was halal, I said nothing. I figured if doing that meant there was no arguments on Thursday or getting to Thanksgiving, we’d be okay.

We were on our way home when I got the phone call that my shop had been broken in to. I dropped everyone off at the castle and sped back over with Ben. We got there just in time to see the whole shop go up in flames.


End of the First Week With the Parents, Part 4

After the events of the full moon and Monday, the rest of the week settled down. Jude was a welcome guest in the home and Ben spent more time home from work, which was good because the man hadn’t taken a vacation since he arrived.

I spent more time at work because seeing them together made me miss my own parents. It’s not fair to Ben or Jude, I know that. So when Miles and Mark showed up to yell at me for burying myself in my work and caught me flipping through the pages of the photo albums I’d stashed away that morning to bring with me (it was a slow day), there wasn’t much yelling going on. More like sniffling and maybe a few harder sobs.

“Marlowe, you can’t keep sitting in the shop like this. You’re going to have to tell them why you’ve been avoiding them.”

“It’s hard to tell someone who you’re jealous of the fact that they can still have a relationship with a parent.”

Mark hugged me. “I don’t have my parents, either. They wrote me off when I came out. You’re the closest thing I have to a sister, so I’m telling you this for your own good: You’re a fucking doorknob.”

I slapped the back of Mark’s head and he laughed. “I’m serious. I lost Max. It’s still hard, but you’ve had nearly 25 years without them. It might be time to let some of the pain go.”

Mark put his hands over mine and looked me in the eye. “I love you. I really do, but it’s time.”

I gripped Mark’s hands and smiled. “Guilt is a funny thing. It doesn’t usually let you go.”

Miles hugged me from behind as I stared down at the photos of my parents.

“What do you have to feel guilty over? You didn’t hurt them. That was the driver who crashed in to them.”

“They wouldn’t have been out there than if I hadn’t gotten sick at home. They were coming home because of me.”

“That’s bullshit, Marlowe. They were already on their way back when they got the message on your father’s beeper. My Mom said so. She just used to tell you it was her fault because she felt so guilty about messaging them over your fever in the first place.”

“I’m not exactly going to trust your mother with any version of the truth, Miles.”

“Fair enough. There are reasons why we don’t talk, but being jealous of Ben and his mother is going to come between you and him eventually. I’ll sit there like a cancer.”

I sighed. “Okay. I’ll try.”

I hated it when he out Spocked me with logic. Miles hugged me from behind again. I felt Mark join in on our hug. Miles pulled away first.

“I have to get back to the library. It’s my night to close up. Are you going to be okay?”

I nodded. “Yeah, I’ll be fine.”

“Okay. Good.” He kissed my forehead and was gone.

I looked up at Mark. “I guess this means you’re leaving too?”

“Only to meet with the lawyers. I’m selling the house.”

“So you’ve decided?”

He nodded. “Yeah. I can’t stay there.”

“Ben and I discussed it a couple of weeks ago so don’t even bother to ask. You’re staying. You’re family.”

Mark laughed and kissed my forehead. “Do you mind if I called you Sis?”

“No. It’d be the best in the world, Bro.”

We hugged inside my front office until the door opened and Ben walked in. We opened up our circle and Ben walked right in, no questions asked. When we finally let go, Ben tossed my coat at me.

“Close up, it’s a mess out there and no one’s going to come in tonight. Besides, we’re going to have a snowball fight.”

I laughed. “Who’s idea was this?”

“Mine. Hurry.”

“It’ll go faster if the two of you would get the shop doors while I did the books.”

“Deal.” Ben grabbed Mark and they went and locked up my shop while I did the books for the day. With the take bagged up and in the safe, we all walked out together. I locked up and Ben and Mark followed me back home. I had the only four-wheel drive car, so they had to wait for me to go through the snow first, then follow. It was going to be a bad storm. I just hoped that it wouldn’t be so bad as to snow us in for a few days.

We pulled in the driveway and were just in time to see Jude out front of the castle, waiting on us all. I might have teared up a little, I kept seeing my mother’s face on hers. It was still painful, no matter what I told Miles. I’d work on letting go of some of that pain, like I told Miles I would. I pulled my car up to the door of the garage and waited until it opened. Driving right in, I parked next to my Thunderbird and sighed over it. I couldn’t wait for spring so I could go cruising with Ben again. Ben and Miles parked in their spaces and got out. Ben grabbed my hand and pulled me along with him.

“No moping. I hate it when you mope. It means you’re unhappy and if you’re unhappy, I’m unhappy.”

“That makes no sense. You could be happy without me being the same.”

Ben stopped and kissed me. “Not anymore. Now come on, I want a snowball fight.”

Something cold and wet hit the back of my head and I turned around. Jude was laughing her ass off at Mark who was preparing another snowball.

“What? You said you wanted a battle.” He threw the next snowball and hit Ben in the chest.

“Oh, it’s on.” I said as I bent to make my own snowball.

Soon, the driveway was filled with the sounds of laughing adults and barking dogs. When Miles finally arrived he was subjected to a barrage of snowballs as soon as he stepped out of the doorway of the garage.

“Idiots.” Was all he had to say before he joined in.

When we were so cold that we couldn’t feel our fingers we trooped inside after knocking some of the snow off. Dinner was chicken noodle soup that Jude made. I was happy and when I looked around the table at the family I’d found and made, I realized I wasn’t the only one.

Sometimes, all you need is a snowball fight with your family to make a bad week great.


Digging out

Ben and I were woken up at dawn once again by the twins. They were poking at us and whispering to each other.

“Boo!” I yelled and grabbed Peter’s shoulder when they weren’t looking.

They screamed and fell backwards. I laughed and hauled myself upright. I looked down at Ben and saw that he was still asleep. That man could sleep through a brass band parade. The twins and I ended up making breakfast for ourselves, then we all got cleaned up and met back downstairs. Ben surfaced about eight and with a quick kiss for me, disappeared to get himself clean. He was back down in less than an hour to report that he’d called the weather hotline and the blizzard was going to blow over by nightfall.

It was more like three in the afternoon and by that time Ben and I were out shoveling our way to the garage while the twins played with the dogs in the snow. We hadn’t seen Miles or Mark all day, but when they mushed up on a dog sled, it was a little surprising.

“Well? Explain this one then.” I said as I stuck my shovel in to the snow.

“Um, I really can’t. It showed up this morning. So Mark and I, uh, ‘borrowed’ it and went in to town.” Miles said, looking a little sheepish.

“So a strange mode of transportation just shows up out of no where and you decide to use it?” Ben asked. We shared a look over the heads of the twins who were petting the dogs.

“Um, yes?” Mark said.

I turned to Ben and rolled my eyes. “It’s so tragic that they should lose their minds as such a young age, don’t you think?”

“I agree. Maybe it’s best we get them a sitter instead of the twins.” Ben said as he put his arm around my waist.

I sighed and looked at the two still on the sled. “Think for a sec about what’s happened the last couple of weeks.”

I watched their faces go white and they jumped off the sled.

“That’s exactly what I’m talking about. You don’t know who could have sent that sled! You could have been killed!” I shouted.

When I saw the twins faces go white I knew I’d gone too far. I sighed and picked up Peter. Ben picked up Bonnie and we walked in to the house together. Miles and Mark followed after unloading the sled of everything they’d bought in town. It included the mail and packages for both Ben and I, as well as dinners from Murphy and Miss Maggie.

I was loading the fridge when I saw Ben’s face as he opened a letter. His jaw was slack and his mouth a little open. Concerned, I put my hand on his arm. He looked up at me, eyes a little wider than normal.

“My parents are coming to visit,” he said quietly.

I cursed. I knew what it meant, of course. We’d talked about what Ben was like when he first came to Blueville. He was withdrawn, moody. According to Murphy, who I bribed on the sly with my grandmother’s stew recipe; if it wasn’t an animal, he wouldn’t talk to anyone longer than necessary. From what I gathered from Miles is that he spent the majority of his time in this house.

Ben is the one who told me what really happened to him before he left New York.

Six years ago, Ben was happily completing his final year of veterinary school and doing his internship at a local vet hospital. One night after losing a dalmatian who was about to pup, he lost all of the pups and the mom from complications, he arrived at his apartment to find it cleaned out and a note saying that he was officially moved home and to forget this “dog doctor” nonsense. He was going to go to Medical school the following semester like he was supposed to and start a completely different career that the one he wanted. When Ben arrived at his parents home, They were just sitting down to dinner. It was Ramadan, so they were breaking their fast after sun down.

Yes, Ben came from a Muslim family. No, I don’t give to flying frogs from Pinks Pumpkin Patch about this fact. I love Ben for who he is, not where he came from.

Anyway. He unloaded on his father, who at that point told him about his impending marriage to a family friend’s daughter. That was a shock because as far as Ben knew, he was a single man who had no time for a family or dating anyone. Words were said, Ben snatched the key to the storage unit full of his things and stormed out of his father’s house. He crashed with a friend for a few days and when his mother arrived at the friend’s house, words were said, a check was exchanged and Ben finished his internship at the hospital. He left for Blueville a month after graduating and hasn’t been home since.

The only person he still speaks to on occasion is his mother, so when I curse because his parents are coming for Thanksgiving – it’s really his father I’m worried about. Not his mother.

I sent the twins off with Miles and Mark to play that new video game system with the plumber brothers in the Great Hall. I closed all the doors to the kitchen and walked over to Ben, wrapped my arms around his waist and leaned my head on his arm.

“We’ll get through this together. I’m not leaving just because your father couldn’t see the value he already had in you.”

Ben moved so that he was hugging me and murmured in to my hair, “I love you. Without question, I’d propose tomorrow if I knew it wasn’t going to freak you out.”

“Wait until Thanksgiving. Toss it back in their faces that you found your own happiness with the freaky ass family we’ve built.” Ben went still and I continued on, “besides, if you wait until then I’ll win the betting pool.”

That broke the ice and Ben started to laugh. “When did you bet on Thanksgiving and who hold the pool?”

“Sheriff Stiles and the night you changed.” I said with a grin.

“You already knew?” He murmured as he looked down at me and brushed my hair away from my face.

“I clean up after you. Those ring catalogs were not well hidden.”

“So that’s how those rings ended up circled.” He said with another laugh.

“Well if you’re going to get me something, I might as well give you hints about what I like.”

“It’s a good thing too, I almost went with the one you crossed out.”

I wrinkled my nose. “That thing was hideous.”

Ben laughed and kissed my nose. “Well, I could probably be mad that you found out before I could say anything. I was hoping to surprise you by Christmas.”

“At least you know I’ve been thinking about it just as much as you have.”

“Since Halloween?”

“Well, it did bring in to a certain perspective when I mangled the laundry cart.”

“He sent me a photo of the cart, by the way. I can’t believe you twisted it like that because you were so upset about not being able to get to me.”

I tightened my arms around his waist and looked up. “I was scared. Terrified. I don’t ever want to feel that way again. You’re the best thing that’s happened to me in years.”

“Not of all time?”

I laughed and raised up on my tiptoes to kiss him. “You’re getting there.”

Ben picked up the letter. “What do we do about this?”

“Invite them for the full moon.” I said with a wicked grin.

“Oh, you devilish woman. I knew I loved you for a reason.” Ben kissed me, hard. “That’ll put the fear in to the old man for sure.”

“Can you imagine? His son the dragon, cuddling his read-headed metalmancer girlfriend on the full moon? Heads will roll and it’ll be so much fun to watch.”

“You thrive on trouble.”

“Only when it comes to making your uptight father regret losing you? Damn right. He lost you, I got you and I have no intention of letting you go just yet.”

“Just yet?”

“Well, if something cuter comes along..”

I didn’t get to finish my sentence, Ben scooped me up and hauled me upstairs laughing.


Mountain Snow

Sometimes I think of Blueville as a snow globe.

Right now it’s white and there’s a couple of inches of snow on the ground. It might be gone tomorrow, but right now it looks like someone shook the globe and it’s falling down.

That’s what I woke up to this morning. Well, that and the twins jumping on the bed. Gibbs and Winston joined them and pretty soon we had a tumble of bodies, both furry and clothed, on top of Ben and I as we woke up. After chasing everyone out so that Ben and I could get dressed, we joined them in the kitchen for breakfast.

“Since there’s no flour left, how about bacon and eggs?” I said as I pulled out the bacon from the fridge.

There were gagging noises coming from Peter. I raised an eyebrow at him and he looked sheepish.

“I really don’t like eggs. May I have oatmeal, please?”

“Since you asked nicely, yes.”

Ben and I were halfway through making breakfast when Miles and Mark stumbled in from upstairs. They’d looked as if they had showered some time in the night. They slid on to stools and Miles promptly slumped over, laying his head on his crossed arms. It took me all of five minutes to slide a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon in front of either. Ben placed a glass of whatever juice we had in the fridge in front of them.

When the Twins had finished eating, they went off to explore the games closet with Ben as I cleaned up breakfast. I eyed the two sitting at the counter still.

“I wanted to thank you two for what you did last night.”

“Ben told us why they’re here last night. He caught us as we were stumbling up the stairs.” Miles mumbled.

“It’s a damn good idea, Marlowe. I hate being so out of the loop.” Mark said.

“Thanks. Now I want the two of you to go back to bed.”

“Can’t, gotta work.” Mark said as he got up from the table.

“Well, you’re not going anywhere in that mess.” I said as I pointed at the backdoor.

It was coming down even harder. It looked like the weather man was wrong about the snow. Miles and Mark swore in unison when they saw the snow coming down.

“I’m going to call in to the library and see if they’re opening. If they aren’t I’m going back to bed. This is bananas.” Miles said as he shuffled out of the kitchen.

“I guess I’ll be in the library, catching up on the paperwork I have here.” Mark said.

“That’s a good idea. Ben and I will be in the Great Hall with the twins. Their father asked us to keep them again tonight. He’ll be pulling double shifts because of all the snow.”

“So early in November though?” Mark asked.

“With all the strange business that’s been happening lately, I’m not surprised there’s an out of season blizzard building up out there. I already did the shopping this week so we’re okay for a few days at least.” I said as I finished cleaning up and set the dishes to dry.

It’s a shame that Castles don’t come with dishwashers, I thought as I went to join Ben in the Great Hall.

I walked in on a rousing game of Munchkin going on and was content to watch as they played. It was a deceptively simple game and Ben managed to get trounced by Bonnie who got up and did a little dance to celebrate. I laughed and looked over at Ben, who nodded at me and mouthed that we’d talk later. The rest of the morning went by like that, then around noon we broke for lunch. Ben and I went for the whole grilled cheese and tomato soup standard. After lunch we sent the twins off to explore the castle. They had more than enough rooms to find trouble in, while Ben and I sat down on the sofa for some rest.

“Two, maybe even four.” Ben mumbled.

“What?” I said with a yawn. I wasn’t used to kids.

“Kids. We need to have kids.”

I snuggled in to his chest. “Really? I was thinking we’d just go until the castle couldn’t hold us any longer.”

Ben snorted a laugh. “Yeah right. You’d lose your patience after while.”

I yawned again. “Fair point. I’m not known for my limitless patience.”

My yawn caught on, because Ben soon followed and pulled me down so we were laying on the sofa, rather than sitting on it together. I nuzzled his chest and didn’t hear what he was saying because I passed out cold.

I woke up to whispers later and someone draping a blanket over us. I smiled and snuggled back in to Ben’s warmth, falling asleep again.

The rest of the night went like that. We didn’t move until morning.