Arrivals

I pulled the car in to our drive and stopped at the end. The house had outdone itself, the pine trees had been replaced by large oaks and while everyone was out of the house, it had changed from a two-story castle to three and added a turret. Everything had been edged in multi-colored lights. I started laughing.

“Ben.” I said as I nudged him so he’d stop checking on the boys in the back seat. “Look.”

Ben turned around and his eyes went wide. “I guess no one’s home then.”

I snickered and took my foot off the brake pedal. The car moved forward and we made our way down the drive and went right in to the garage after pushing the button. Ben and I got out of the car. I went to the backdoor and before I could reach in for Alphonse, he was already up and in my arms. I smiled down at him.

“It’s okay, luv. You’re home now.” I said and tucked him under the cloak with me.

I’d have to do something soon about his clothing situation soon. I looked over the car at Ben, who had Logan. He grinned at me and I shook my head, smiling at him. I started toward the house with Alphonse and Ben caught up with me, taking my hand in his.

“You still sure?” Ben asked.

“We’re home. I’m sure. Now let’s go in.” I said and gave his hand a tug.

I gave Ben my keys so he could open up the door for myself and Alphonse, Logan had wrapped himself around Ben and hung on. As soon as we got inside, Logan took off, chirruping and flying through the house.

“Well, it looks like someone is happy to be home.” I said with a smile.

I walked in with Alphonse and Ben helped me take off my cloak. I tried to set Alphonse down, but he clung to my neck tightly. There was no way Alphie was going to let go of me yet.

“My darling, I have to make dinner, it’s my turn so you have to sit down. Would you like to sit down in the kitchen with me, where you can see?”

Alphonse nodded and finally let go when I pulled out a stool for him to sit at the table. Alphonse climbed on to the stool and sat, staring at me.

“I wish I could hear him.” I said to Ben softly.

“You will.” Ben said.

“Dinner ideas?” I said, wanting to change the subject. It hurt not hearing Logan or Alphonse.

“Pancakes?” Ben said.

“Is that coming from your or Alphie?” I asked as I opened the fridge.

“Me. He wants waffles. I can’t trust a kid who likes waffles better.”

“I knew I liked him.” I said as I winked at Alphonse. “Waffles it is.”

“You wound me, woman.” Ben said, dragging the words out in to a whine.

Alphonse giggled and I looked over at him and smiled.

“What should we have with the waffles? Berries? Bananas? Lots of syrup?”

“Alphonse wants Bananas and syrup. I want the berries in that sauce you make.”

“All right, but I need a favor from you.”

“Anything.” Ben said.

“I need you to go find Mark and Miles so they know what’s for dinner. You’ll also need to tell them about Alphie.” I said.

“What about my translating?” Ben asked.

Well well just have to deal until-” I was cut off by the backdoor opening and Mark walking in, stomping his boots off.

“You would not believe the amount of epic sh- ah, crap that is going on out there.” Mark said. He got a good look at Alphonse and then at me and Ben. “Did I miss something?”

I smiled over at Mark. “This is Alphonse.”

Mark looked at me, then back at Ben again, his mouth opening and closing like a big fish. Alphonse giggled at Mark. I looked over at Ben.

“He says Mark looks like on of the fish from the tank at the hospital.”

I laughed. “I thought the same thing, Poppet.”

“Hospital? But you- I mean, how could you- you’ve only been seeing each other for six months!”

I burst out laughing. “Mark! We’re adopting him. I didn’t give birth that fast!”

Ben started laughing and scooped up Alphonse, setting him on his lap. “This little one hatched a month before Logan. He needed parents. We’re adopting him.”

Mark looked at all of us. “You people are crazy.”

“Ben take Alphonse in to the Great Hall with Logan.” I said as I went over to Mark and led him to the table.

Mark dropped his bags and sat down as Ben and Alphonse left the room.

“There’s something out there, causing this much havoc and you want to adopt a child? Ben almost died!”

“I know better than anyone how it feels to lose someone, but life doesn’t stop going on just because they’re dead. Ben and I made the decision together,” I said. “we’re going to try to keep living our lives, Mark. Even with all this mess going on. Alphonse needs a family. We just happen to be building one.”

“Yes, but what about if one of you dies? What’s going to happen then?”

“I imagine that either one of us will find a way to keep living, even if it’s just for the kids at first.” I said. I placed my hands over his. “You’re over thinking things. It’s over for now. Let’s just take the quiet as it comes and hope that it stays that way for a good long while.”

“I want to accept that. I do, but I can’t help thinking that the two of you have made a huge mistake.” Mark said as he looked down at my hands.

“If it is a mistake, then it’s our mistake and you can blame us for it later. For now, I’m going to make waffles for my family. That includes you, if you’re interested.” I said as I got up from the table.

Mark shook his head and picked up his things. “I’m going up to shower. Don’t hold dinner for me.”

I watched him walk out and sighed. That hadn’t gone well and I made a note to sit down with him and Ben later to air everything out between the three of us. I was pulling out my stand mixer when Miles came bounding through the door, covered in snow and looking furious. I put my hands on my hips and frowned at him.

“My kitchen is not a place for an abominable snow beast. Go back outside and brush yourself off.”

“But I have news!” Miles said as he shed his outerwear and plopped down on to the stool that Mark had just vacated.

“What kind of news?” I asked because he was clearly not going to listen to me.

“They found a trace of magic left at the site that could lead them back to whomever is doing all the nasty business in town!”

That got my attention away from the waffles. “Go on.”

“That it, that’s all I’ve got.” Miles said.

I sighed. “You didn’t get any information from Eric?”

“No and he told me to tell you to keep your nose out of it.” Miles said.

I laughed. “That sounds like him.”

“The FBI was there too, including that man.” Miles said.

“Come off it, I know you’re still attracted to him.”

“Attracted, yes. In love? No. The jackass broke my heart.” Miles pouted.

I shook my head. “As it happens, I have news too.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. You’re an Uncle.” I said.

I watched the emotions play across his face.

“You’re pregnant? Already?” Miles asked and then let out a whoop, picking me up and spinning me around.

“No you great loon! Let me go.” I said, laughing.

“Then how am I an Uncle?” Miles looked perplexed.

I snickered. “Ben and I are adopting a little boy from the hospital. He’s in the Great Hall with Ben and Logan now.”

Miles set me down and looked at my face. “You’re serious?”

“Yes. His name is Alphonse.”

“Who saddled the kid with that name?” Miles said with a wrinkle to his nose.

“He chose it. We’re not saying at word, understand? He likes it and that’s that.” I said firmly.

“Can I call him Alphie?”

“We already do. Go say hi.” I said as I started pulling out the ingredients for the waffles. I turned around and he was gone.

Shaking my head, I started making the batter on auto-pilot, letting my mind drift. I made up lists of things Alphonse would need that he didn’t have and sighed.

“What’s up, habibi?” Ben asked as he came back in to the room.

“Alphie. I’m going to need to go shopping tomorrow with him. You too, if you feel up to it.” I said as I finished up the batter and set it back in to the fridge to chill.

“He’s going to need quite a lot of stuff, isn’t he?”

“Including a better coat than the one he has now. It’s too thin.” I said as I stepped in to his arms.

“A lot to take in.” Ben said.

“Yeah; but we can handle it, can’t we?”

“We can handle anything.” Ben said.

I really hoped that was true.

-Marlowe

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An Unexpected Event, Part 2

So after breakfast and keeping the Twins from freaking out over the arrival of Logan, the Sheriff arrived. I could tell by the look on his face that he wasn’t happy about Logan. I thought for a second that it would be because it’s another dragon in his district, but he soon put my mind to ease about that one.

“No, Marlowe. I’m not upset it’s another dragon. I’m upset because he latched on to you and Ben. He’s going to have to be with Mark.”

I nodded and looked over at Ben, who spoke up:

“We weren’t expecting him to hatch so soon. If we had a little warning, we would have moved him in to Mark’s rooms.”

“Breaking his connection to the two of you is going to be hard, but he cannot stay attached.”

“George gave the egg to Ben for a reason.”

Ben sighed. “She gave me the egg because it wasn’t going to be one of hers.”

The Sheriff looked at Ben with a frown. “I think it’s time you explained how you know these things.”

“I can talk to animals. Any animal. I can also hear the thoughts of some people, but not others.” Ben said with a sigh in his voice.

“Why only some people?” I asked. It was something I’d always wanted to know, but didn’t know how to ask.

“The more extraordinary, the less of a chance I have of hearing you. I have no idea why, but I have trouble hearing the thoughts of people who have that something extra.”

“But you can hear mine.” I said.

“I’m around you all the time. I have more practice listening for you.”

I thought about it for a second and thought it was a little strange, but I couldn’t throw stones. I can control metals.

“Our children are going to be pretty weird.” I said.

Ben started laughing. “No weirder than anything else in this town.”

I looked up at the Sheriff and smiled. “Who had December 1st in the pool?”

The Sheriffs jaw dropped open. “Murphy. I knew she was up to something when she bought in on Thanksgiving.”

I started laughing. “Nothing gets by Grandma.”

“Well, a new dragon in the house won’t. We’re going to have to give them their space you know.” Ben said.

I sighed. I’d grown attached to Logan, but Ben was right. He wasn’t ours to keep.

“House?” I said looking up. I heard a rumble in response.

“Okay, that’s just freaky.” The Sheriff said.

“We need an apartment above the garage, please. I also need three lifts inside the garage if you please.”

The house rumbled in response to me.

“Well, let’s go find Mark and tell him.” Ben said.

“Kitchen. Mark was trying to get Logan to eat.” I said.

“Kitchen it is, then.” Ben said as he took my hand and we walked together with the Sheriff in to the kitchen.

As soon as I stepped in to the room, Logan chirruped and bounded off the table to come settle on my waist. I sighed. This was going to be hard. I scratched his neck ridges as I sat at the kitchen table.

“He’s been a ball of energy all until you walked in.” Mark said. “I couldn’t get him to eat anything.”

“He’s chittering and calling her mom.” Ben said quietly to the Sheriff. They were standing behind me.

“He might be too attached to be able to break the connection.” The Sheriff whispered back.

“What’s going on?” Mark asked.

“Logan is yours. You were married to Max when he died. Max has no other family, which means you’re Logan’s father.”

“No. I never knew about the egg. I just knew that he’d gotten out a few years ago.” Mark said with a shake of his head.

“Years? That egg has been incubating for years?” I asked him, then looked up at Ben.

“At least ten that I know of.” Mark said.

“Don’t you want Logan?” I asked him.

“I don’t know. Part of me wants to say yes, but the part that’s still grieving says no.” Mark replied.

The room went silent, except for Logan’s chirruping.

“You all need to make the decision today as to who he’s going to call his parent or parents. When the full moon hits, whatever growing he’s done will be the age he changes in to once the moon rises.” The Sheriff said as he looked around the room.

“Just how many of these have you gone through?” I asked the Sheriff.

“Ten. We lost most of the dragons over the years due to various accidents or in a couple of isolated cases, murder.”

“What usually happens?”

“Well, after the change? It’s just like having a child instead of a dragon. They change monthly with the moon just like an adult.” The Sheriff said as he sat down next to me. “Really, it’s no different from adopting. You get a child and have to help him or her to catch up with everything else.”

I looked up at Ben and found him staring off in to space. “Ben?”

“Hmm?” He said as he turned his attention back to me.

“Wanna join us?”

“Sorry.” He said looking a little sheepish. “I was talking to Logan.”

“What’s up?” I asked.

“He wants to know why we’re thinking about making him stay with Mark over the garage.”

Mark made some noises in the back of his throat like he was about to protest. I patted his hand.

“We love you. You know we do, but if you’re going to keep Logan, you’ll need your own space to get to know each other.” I said.

Mark turned his hand over and smiled. “You’d do that for us? Even though I know you want to keep him?”

“Yes. He’s yours. It was wrong of me to think I could keep him.” Even saying the words hurt, but I tried not to let it show. I’d grown irrationally attached to the dragonet.

“Not wrong. Ben did give the egg to you months ago. The only reason why I thought it was Max’s was because of the color.”

“Well, it is possible to get egg variations in different color parents that aren’t that parent’s original color. Unlikely, but possible.” The Sheriff said.

“I’m assuming there’s all kinds of information about this down at the station?” Ben asked.

“Yeah. The archives from when the town was first founded. A Council decision I won’t fight, says that everything that has to do with the unusual gets recorded. Dragon births, how to raise them, what to expect.” The Sheriff looked apologetic. “I’m sorry. I’ve been meaning to have this conversation with you since the Council approved your key.”

“They approved me? I didn’t know I needed their approval.” Ben snorted.

“Well since you’re the town’s only vet who handles the unusual cases, they’ve approved you to have a key. You’re going to need it. The seven-year span on the satyrs not breeding is coming to an end.”

Ben sat down heavily at the table. “I thought something was odd about that.”

“There’s other things coming as well, but that’s the first one. It starts next month.” The Sheriff said. “I wouldn’t be alone after dark next month. Male or female.”

I started laughing and that woke up Logan who chirruped unhappily.

“So about Logan?” I said.

“I can’t take him.” Mark said.

I was stunned. I was certain that he wanted Logan.

“Why?”

“He belongs in this house. With everyone. Not above some garage with me alone.”

“What if that means Logan becomes attached to Ben and I more than you? You do have rights as his real father. You were married to Max.”

“I’m no more his real father than anyone else in this house, just because of who I was married to.” Mark said. “You have to admit, we all made a good team when it comes to The Twins. What could be so hard about raising Logan that way?”

“Well it’s definitely unusual.” The Sheriff said.

“So’s the town.” Mark said. “I didn’t grow up here, I grew up in a Main Street USA kind of town. I’m here now. I’m staying here. That means Logan is too.”

I looked over at Ben, then down at Logan who was asleep in my arms again.

“Okay. We’ll give it a shot.” Ben said.

The Sheriff shook his head and got up from the table. “I need to go check on the road conditions and see my kids. I assume they’re with Miles?”

I nodded. “Yeah. He’s in the Great Hall with them. They’re playing some Zelda game on the Wii.”

The Sheriff nodded. “I need a word with the two of you, alone.”

I nodded and got up from the table.

“Don’t. I’ll take Logan and go check on Miles.” Mark said as he eased Logan out of my arms and in to his. Logan chirruped sleepily and settled back in once he realized who had him.

I sad back down at the table with Ben.

“What’s up, Eric?”

“The Priestess who we brought in for the October killings? She says there’s going to be another event soon and she wants us all to be careful. So I’ve thought about it and spoken to The Twins aunt.” The Sheriff said as he sat back down. “If something happens to me over this mess, I want the two of you to take The Twins.”

I gripped Ben’s hand tight. “But Eric, They have family.”

“Who wants nothing to do with them and I don’t have family left alive. I was an only child.” He said.

I looked up at Ben, who nodded.

“Okay.” Ben said.

“I thought it would be harder than that.” Eric said.

“Eric, you’re a great friend to both Ben and myself. You’re family to me,” I said, then corrected myself when Ben nudged me. “to us. Of course we’d take The Twins if something happened.”

“Six months ago I’d never thought I’d ask a newbie to take my kids, but you’ve proven yourself.” Eric said to me.

“I hope it never comes to it, but I’d be happy to take them.” I said. “Even if I’ve only been here six months, you’ve known everyone else longer than that and I’m sure you’ve asked them about me.”

“Oh, I did a background check too.” Eric said with a laugh.

I laughed and looked up at Ben. “You owe me twenty.”

Ben frowned. “Damn it, I was sure you’d let it go this time and wouldn’t do it to another newbie.”

“Gotta protect my town.” The Sheriff replied with a grin. He got up and walked out of the room to check on his kids.

“We’re so fucked, aren’t we?” I said when he left.

“Do you want to be anything else?” Ben replied.

I thought about all that I’d gone through in the last two years and shook my head.

“No. I’m much better off than I was two years ago. Happier, too.”

“Speaking of happier; you need a ring.” Ben said.

“I do need a ring.” I said.

“Wanna go shopping with me next week?”

“Nope. You’re going with Mark and Miles.” I said with a grin.

“Gonna make me stick to tradition?”

“Damn right.” I said. I slid in to his arms and kissed him.

“You’re worth everything I have and more. What do I get you?”

“I’m going to go with that old ‘You’ll know it when you see it.’ phrase.” I replied.

“I hate that phrase.”

I laughed. I hated it too, but I trusted Ben. I said so.

“Best thing that’s ever been said to me.”

“I thought that was last night, when I told you your ass looked great naked.”

“That was the best part of my life till now.”

“Oh, I do love you.”

“I love you too.”

“Come on, let’s go check on everyone.”

“Sure. By the way? Your ass looks hot in those pants.”

I was laughing as I walked to the Great Hall with him. So far, this month was turning out great.

-Marlowe

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

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.

“Marlowe?”

“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?”

“Yeah.”

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.”

“Okay.”

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.

“Okay.”

“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?”

“Yes.”

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.

-Marlowe

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