An Unexpected Event

Monday morning. I hate Mondays. I like to think that I’m pretty normal about that particular thing. I especially hated this Monday because Jude, Ben’s Mom, was leaving us until Christmas. While she was here it was like having my own mom back again and it made me ache for the days when they were alive. This particular Monday I was brooding in to my coffee on the chaise in the bedroom, watching the snow come down. Ben was in the bed behind me, still sleeping. At least, he was trying to. The latest addition to our household of strange and freaky creatures was a dragonet of bright, emerald-green.

That’s right. You read that correctly. That egg that Ben managed to foist off on me? We’re now the proud parents to a baby dragon. He’s currently annoying the crap out of his adopted father, trying to wake him up with chirping noises and pawing at his hair. It’s adorable really, but Ben’s having none of it this morning.

I was doing me best to ignore what was happening because I wanted to keep my brood, but when I heard a squeak and then turned to look, Ben had rolled over and trapped the dragonet under the blanket. I snickered and Ben opened an eye to look at me.

“Give up. He got me out of bed this morning at five.”

Ben groaned and sat up, letting the poor baby out of the blanket.

“You know, we’re going to have to name him eventually.” I said as I watched the dragonet pop up, tongue hanging out and blanket still half on his head. I clicked at him to come here and he chirped and scrambled over, crawling in to my lap and wrapping his tail around my waist.

“You do realize that he’s growing faster than I anticipated?”

“Don’t side step the issue. He’s been out of egg for twelve hours and we still haven’t come up with a name.” I chided.

“Henry?”

“No. How about Tristan?”

“No! God, did you even read that story?”

I snickered. “Yes, I’m teasing. Gwain?”

“You want to name him after a dragon killer? Irony.”

“I’m not entirely sure that’s irony, but yes.”

Ben considered. “If we’re going to do that, we might as well name him Beowulf.”

“Oh, doom him from the beginning, why don’t you?”

“Said the woman who wanted to name him Tristan.”

I scratched the dragonet’s chin and smiled when he leaned in to my hand. “Percival.”

“Just going down the list of potential dragon killers, aren’t you?” Ben pouted.

I laughed. “Thomas, then.”

Ben thought about it. “Samuel.”

“No. Beckett?”

“No. How about Indiana?”

“Now who’s cursing him?” I teased.

Ben managed to look innocent and spread his hands out in a ‘who me?’ gesture. I thought about names and sipped my coffee, while scratching the dragonet’s neck ridges.

“William?” I said after a few minutes.

“If this is how it’s going to be for a dragon, I’m worried about the names if we have a child.”

I threw a pillow at him and stuck out my tongue. I thought for a minute and the smiled brightly. “Hoban.”

Ben started laughing. “I’m not naming our dragon after Wash. I don’t care how much you liked him.”

“I assume you want to name him Jayne or Malcolm, then.” I looked down at the dragonet who was asleep in my lap. “Poor child, your father wants to saddle you with a name unfitting your regal stature.”

Ben lost it then and started laughing. “Regal? Wash? He was goofy at best.”

“I’m insulted. He was loyal and noble.”

Ben snickered. “Would you name him Simon?”

I thought for a second, then looked down at the dragonet. I rolled the name around in my head. “No. It doesn’t fit him.”

“and you think Hoban does?”

“He’s adorable. Wash was adorable. It fits.”

“You’ve gone bonkers.”

“You’re just jealous you didn’t get there before I did.”

“Bonkers. Bananas. Nutty as a fruit cake.”

“How about Logan, then?”

That brought Ben up short. “That’s a low blow, using my love of the X-Men against me.”

I snickered and Ben sighed.

“All right. Logan it is.” Ben said as he got up and came over to where Logan and I were sitting on the chaise.

“Don’t you dare pick him up, he’s sleeping again.”

“The little brat.” Ben muttered as he snagged my coffee and drank the last of it while I frowned at him.

“I hope you know, that means you’re going to get me more coffee.”

“Of course I am, but first;” He trailed off as he leaned down and kissed me. “Good morning.”

I smiled up at him. “You’re still going to go get more coffee.”

Ben laughed and pulled on pants before heading downstairs. I stayed where I was with the sleeping dragonet on my lap. This Monday morning was definitely unusual, but I still hated Mondays. I sat there for another half hour before I realized Ben was not coming back.

“Come on Logan, let’s go find your dad.” I said with a sigh and picked up the dragonet.

Logan chirruped sleepily in my arms and curled around so that he was being cradled. His tail was still wrapped around my waist as I carried him downstairs. I met Mark on the landing and he looked at what was in my arms, turned pale.

“Is that?”

“Yes.”

“When?”

“Last night.”

I watched Marks’ shoulders droop.

“He’s already imprinted, hasn’t he?”

“We think so, but it’s only been a few hours. He might decide that the whole house is his new clan. Ben doesn’t exactly know much about dragon raising.”

Mark nodded.

“Come on. When he wakes up I’ll hand him over to you.” I said as I nudged Mark down the stairs with me. We headed in to the kitchen to find Ben making waffles.

“So this is what happened to my coffee.” I said.

I watched Miles’s eyes go wide when he saw what was in my arms.

“Holy shit it hatched!”

I started laughing. “Yes, yes it did.”

Jude came in to the kitchen at that moment and Logan woke up. He stuck his head over my shoulder and chirped at her. Jude yelped and jumped back, running in to the cabinets behind her. I started laughing.

“Logan that was rude!”

That set everyone else off with laughter. Everyone but Mark. He was looking down at the plate Ben put in front of him.

“What the matter, pumpkin?” I said, sitting next to him.

“Logan was one of the names that Max and I talked about for boys names.” He murmured.

I sucked in a breath and looked up at Ben.

“Well then that’s the reason his name will stay. Is that all right with you?”

Mark nodded.

“Good.” I unwound Logan from my waist and plopped him in to Mark’s lap. “Take that and I’ll take this since you’re going to pick at it.”

I slid his plate over while Logan started licking Mark’s face. I snickered and buttered the waffles, adding blueberries and powered sugar. I watched out of the corner of my eye as Mark and Logan got acquainted as I ate. When I was sure they were going to get along, I turned my attention back to Jude.

“So what time are you leaving us? Because that storm out there is getting nasty.”

“I’m not. They cancelled my flight. I’m on the first flight out when they reopen the airport in Whittlemore.”

I winced. I knew she was anxious to get to that dig. “That’s gotta be rough.”

“I already told my site lead that I’ll be late because of it, so they’re holding things for me. I hope I can leave tomorrow or later today.”

“You are coming back, right?” Ben asked. “Christmas wouldn’t be the same without you.”

“Of course I’m coming back, Love. I’ve got my boy back and his weird little family.”

I smiled. “We’ll be happy to have you with us. I know I’ll miss you. Having you here is like having my mom back for a little while.”

“Oh honey. That’s the best thing you could have said to me.” Jude said as she hugged me hard.

“I mean every word.” I said to her.

Miles mock sniffed. “Aw, look at her. She’s grown so much.”

I threw a blueberry at him and hit him on the forehead. The whole room started laughing again and Logan chirruped along with us.

-Marlowe

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

So the first of December rolled around and the house decided to go all out. I was woken up by Ben shaking me. He was laughing.

“HabibI, you have  to come see this. It’s hilarious. My mother is freaking out.”

I yawned, lifted my head out from under a pillow and shoved my hair aside to look at him.

“What?”

“Come see!” He said. “I got up to go pee and the house decorated itself!”

I groaned and wiggled my way to the edge of the bed. I stuck one foot out and touched the floor. With a yelp I pulled my foot back inside and burrowed in to the covers.

“Nope, too cold. Go back to bed, heathen.” I pulled the covers over my head as I heard Ben laugh.

Something landed on my hand as I debated braving the floor again to jump him. I peeked out at it and found a pair of my fluffy socks.

“Damn it. You know my weakness.”

“Get up. I have coffee. We’re not going anywhere anyway. We’ve got another foot and a half out there and it’s looking to keep falling all day.” Ben said as he walked out of the room.

I got up with a sigh and put on the socks as my feet dangled over the side of the bed. I was looking out the window when it dawned on me that four-thirty in the morning should not be that bright outside. Getting all the way out of the bed, I grabbed my robe as I passed the chair and put it on. When I glanced outside, I saw the house was lit up completely and there was a new row of white pine trees that had lights on them lining the drive way.

I sighed. “House? Can you get rid of the pine trees, please, and give us tall Oaks? They’d look nicer all year round. You can even put the lights on them if you like.”

The house rumbled in response and I got the general feeling to look away from the window.

“I’m going downstairs for coffee. Thank you, House.”

I tied the robe as I trudged downstairs. Ben met me in the hall way with a steaming mug.

“What was that?”

“I asked the house for a change in it’s decorating plans. I think it likes my idea.”

“What’d you ask for?”

“If the house does as I asked, you’ll see soon. Just don’t look outside yet.”

I sipped from my mug and slowly woke up. That’s when I noticed the inside of the house was just as decorated. There were garlands and wreaths everywhere. I poked my head in to the great hall and found a fourteen foot tall pine tree, fully decorated. I sighed.

“Let me guess, the house has trees everywhere?”

“Yup. Every single room, except for ours. I fully expect by the time we go back upstairs, to have one where the settee is.” Ben said, sipping his coffee.

“Where’s your mother?”

“Lying down. The house shocked the hell out of her when the tree in her room.”

I snorted a laugh. “I know something of what that’s like.”

“You house wanted you to have fun on the fourth. The fireworks were awesome, by the way.”

I leaned against Ben and took in the sight of our tree. At least we didn’t have to go get it and then get have to work out how to get it in to the castle. I was still pondering the tree when I heard a muffled yell from upstairs. I looked up at Ben who smiled at me.

“Miles.” We said together and then started laughing when Mark joined him.

“You know, this house is rarely quiet for long.”

“Would you have it any other way?”

I thought about it for a minute, then shook my head. “No.”

“I thought so. Whose turn is it for breakfast?”

“Mine. I need pants if I’m going to make breakfast though.” I said as I made my way to the stairs with my mug.

Ben followed behind me with his own. “I’ll help.”

“Liar. You just want the shower before all the hot water is gone.”

He laughed as we ducked in to our room. “Maybe.”

An hour later I was downstairs, beating the batter for pancakes when Jude came in. I smiled at her.

“How was your first house decorating?”

She snorted. “This town is bat-shit crazy.”

“Welcome to Blueville. The little town in the mountains where everyone’s definition of ‘bat-shit crazy’ changes on a daily basis until it’s not only normal, but acceptable.” I said with a laugh as I dipped out batter to fry up a stack of cakes for her.

Jude laughed and poured herself coffee. I put the stack of pancakes in front of her a few minutes later while she was sipping from the mug.

“Tell me about how you met.”

“Your son helped me move in when Miles bailed on me for Denver. Apparently, they had really fantastic sex and he passed out.”

Jude choked on a bite of pancake. I slapped her back to help her dislodge the piece.

“Excuse me? He helped you move in?”

“Yeah. He was home that day, the reason escapes me now, but he was quite cross with Miles because no one was helping me.”

“Well, I did raise him to mind his neighbors.”

I grinned and wiggled my eyebrows at her. She inhaled coffee down the wrong pipe as she laughed. Ben walked in at that point and thumped her back for me.

“Are you trying to kill my mother?”

“Nope, just make her laugh.” I said as I dipped out more pancakes for Ben.

Pretty soon the whole house was up and I was making another batch while discussing what we were going to do that day. That’s when Jude announced she was leaving on Monday. The room went quiet. Kind of. I burned my hand so there was a round of expletives and laughter at my carelessness. The Twins thought it was particularly funny until the Sheriff, who was still here because he’d taken the weekend off, glared at them and motioned for them to be quiet.

“But you can’t leave! We like you here!” I said.

“I can and I will. I have a dig to catch up on. Two weeks. I’ll be back in time for Christmas and New Year’s.”

I looked up at Ben. I could tell he was hurting too, but he’d respect the decision. At least he had his mother back in his life.

“Okay, so I think the first thing we should do today is head to town if we can and pick up groceries. That storm might get worse, I want to make sure there’s enough food in the house.” I said, changing the subject.

“I have the roads to check on. Can I leave the twins here?” The Sheriff asked.

“Absolutely. We’ll take them for the day.” Ben said before I could.

“I’ll stay home with them.” Mark spoke up. “I have nothing to go out for. I can do my work from home.”

“It’s settled then. They’re staying. Go do police work.” I said to the Sheriff.

He laughed and got up. “Yes, Ma’am.”

I sat to eat and Ben got out the list we’d been writing for the week. We went over it together, cutting the sugar out to the protest of the Twins and Miles. Thirty minutes later, Ben and I were piled in to my truck and headed in to town with the list. Miles, Mark and Jude were in the living room, playing on the Wii.

I just hoped the TV was in one piece when we got home.

-Marlowe

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.

-Marlowe

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.

-Marlowe

Thanksgiving

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.

-Marlowe

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?”

-Marlowe.

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.

-Marlowe