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

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End of the First Week With the Parents, Part 2

I’m going to start-up again with the kitchen conversation. That’s not a conversation I’m likely to forget any time soon. It started out innocently enough. I asked her what kind of tea she liked. It snowballed from there in to a place I wasn’t intending to go to so quickly. I’ve learned though that things in Blueville never go as you intended. As we were sitting down with tea in the kitchen, Ben’s mom was looking me over.

“Ask. Just go ahead and ask.”

“I didn’t say anything.” She said innocently.

“I can see the question rattling around in your head. Just ask it.”

“Ben’s a dragon.” I nodded and she continued.”What are you?”

To answer her I floated the metal tea kettle over to her and poured water over her leaves. She yelped and I might have smiled, just a little.

“So you’re a telepath?” She said as I poured my own water the same way and set the kettle on the stove again.

“Not exactly. I believe the word is Metalmancer. I can control metal. All forms of metal. That’s also what makes me so good at my job.”

She eyed me. “You’re a mechanic, yes? My son’s letters always talk about your work. He says you’re very good.”

“I am. I enjoy it. The metal talks to me and allows me to see its life. All the lives its touched. I get a special kind of pleasure in being able to fix something someone considers so important to their life.” I waited for her to respond.

She looked at me, thoughtfully. Her head was tilted to the side and a smile was slowly spreading. “You and he are alike in that way, I think. I asked Ben the same question and he responded in much the same form. He really loves what he does, which confuses the hell out of his father. Mo just doesn’t understand why his son would much rather go around cleaning up dog shit than people.”

I laughed. “It’s actually more like dragon, unicorn and flying tentacle parrot shit. At least that’s what he has as patients this week.”

“A unicorn? Really? I’ve always wanted to see one.”

“They exist and they’re quite brainless animals.” I watched her face fall. “I’m sorry. Yes, they’re very pretty. Pretty doesn’t mean smart though. It’s a trade-off.”

“You know, he was always fond of those books about dragons and unicorns. The legends. I’m glad to see he didn’t have to give up his dreams when he moved out here. His father ranted for weeks about how he was ‘burying himself in that godforsaken wilderness.'”

I laughed. “It does seem like that some days. The wilderness part, but we’re happy.”

I trailed off after that and stared off in to space. I knew that dopey smile was on my face and I didn’t bother to stop it.

“You love him.” She said to me.

I smiled. “Yeah. I do. Every greenish-yellow scale.”

“Well that’s not going to make his father happy.”

“I have a hard time living up to what other’s want. He’ll just have to be disappointed in me too. It won’t make Ben any happier, but we’re pretty happy already without him or his approval.” I snorted that last part in to my tea.

I wasn’t expecting his mother to laugh.

“Oh I really do like you. You’ll be good for him.”

“I already am.” I shot back. That got a nod of approval.

“You are. Mo tries his best, but he grew up in the old way. He’s not exactly the most open man.”

“How did you meet?”

“I was in Petra studying the ruins there. I’m an archaeologist. He was,” She paused. “the most striking man I’d ever seen. It was a fabulous five months. He followed me home a month after I left. The man was in shambles, which wasn’t like him at all. He was usually exceptionally well-groomed and fussy with it.”

I snorted in to my tea. “So that’s where Ben gets it from. I wondered.”

She smiled. “Yes. He’s as fussy as his father with his appearance, but when it comes to cleaning up after himself,”

“He can’t.” We said together and then started laughing. Damn it. I really liked her.

“He changed, after we married the following year. It didn’t happen over night, it was more like a slow slide. I knew he’d been talking to his family, the kind of scars the left behind on him have lingered. He kept pushing Ben to be like him and Ben just wasn’t. The night of their big blow up I let him have it after Ben stormed out. I told him flat-out that I’d had enough of his constant pushing Ben to be what he couldn’t be, perfect. I threatened to leave him if he didn’t make it right. He didn’t. Ben doesn’t know that his father and I divorced four years ago.” She stared down at her tea and went silent.

The silence was deafening after she finished. I knew there was a lot she’d left out, but she had said enough. My heart broke for her. I reached over and put my hand over hers, squeezing gently. She smiled at me.

“Will he be coming?”

She shook her head. “I don’t think so. I took vacation from my job at Columbia. I’ll be spending Thanksgiving with you and then going to South America for a couple of weeks to observe a dig. I was hoping you’d have me back for Christmas.”

I smiled. “Ben and I would love to have you back for Christmas. For now though, lets see about your rooms. I’m sure you’re dead on your feet.”

I pushed back from the table and picked up my cup and spoon. I took Mrs Solt’s from her and yelped when I touched her spoon. A rush of memories screamed at me and they were so loud I nearly dropped everything in my hands. I made it to the sink and leaned against it, breath panting.

“Oh honey, what’s wrong?” She said as she got up and came over to help me back to my stool.

“Your memories are very strong when they’re attached to the metal. What you were thinking about when you were playing with the spoon. He hit you.” I was furious with Ben’s father before, now I was beyond anger.

She paled and grabbed my hand. “He can’t know. I stayed for him. To make sure he was safe.”

“I won’t lie to him if he asks me about it. I won’t. We promised each other, but I won’t say anything unless he asks. That’s all I can promise, Mrs. Solt.” I said to her.

She nodded. “Call me Jude and since you’re now keeping family secrets, you’re family so I’m still going to call you Red.”

I laughed. “I like that just fine.”

I was steadier, but still angry. I got up from the stool and led Jude to get her luggage. We walked upstairs together and I showed her to a room that wasn’t too far away from Ben and me. When we walked in she laughed.

“Oh, Ben must have designed this one.”

I smiled. “What makes you say that?”

“It’s just like the one I had in Petra. All the furnishings are nearly exact.” She went poking around in the bottles and then colorful pillows that covered the four-poster bed.

“The house seems to know what we want when we need it. It wouldn’t be surprised though if Ben requested this of the house for you.” I said as I put her bags near the middle eastern style dressers.

“You talk about the house as if it were alive.”

“We seem to think it is, some days. It takes care of us in the ways that it can. We do the rest. It’s a good house, our castle.”

“I thought as I drove up that it looked like something out of a book of tales.”

I smiled. “I thought the same thing when I saw it for the first time. Then when my house, which was next door, combined with his on Halloween; they made a good pair and adjusted the style from a mix of both.”

“I think, that if I lived in this town it would never get boring.”

I laughed. “It’s never boring. Always interesting. You should have been here this summer. The lake beast gave birth in the shallows on one of the beaches. We never knew there was two of them.”

Jude tripped over a rug while I was telling her about Eleanor.

“Lake Beast? I bet Ben had a handle in helping that along.”

“You should have seen him. He came home elated and took me for a dance around the living room while covered in after birth. It was disgusting, but he was so excited.”

Jude wrinkled her nose and made me laugh. I knew how she felt.

“I’ll leave you for the night with that thought. Ben and I are usually down the hall, but for tonight all the occupants of the house, sans you, will be in the dungeon.”

“You sleep down there with them?”

“It’s only one night a month and they sleep better through the change. That nest of your son’s is surprisingly comfortable.” I laughed and made my way to the door. “If you need anything, you know where to find us. Just don’t come down in the morning. They’ll be naked.”

I heard Jude snicker through saying goodnight and let myself out of her room.

I really liked her.

-Marlowe

End of the First Week With the Parents

The full moon went off without a hitch.

Yeah, I can’t even write that without my eye starting to twitch.

I’m going to start with Sunday, the full moon (yes, I know those first two sentences rhyme. I’m finding it very funny at the moment).

So Sunday I’m running around the house because Ben has a cold. This can’t mean good things for when he turns so I cart him downstairs as soon as midday hits because he’ll start turning soon. When we get to the bottom of the steps, there’s no door, only a long hall way now. So we walked along the hall and notice that the room Ben is usually in is in it’s right place, but there are extra rooms that are bare of any furniture for Miles and Mark.

I’m pretty certain at this point I’m not going to change. I guess I’m weird enough that the town has decided I don’t need an alternate form.

So we get Ben in to his nest, he’s curled up with a lot of blankets and a dragon bowl of the tea that I made. It’s simmering on a small fire pit in the center of the room. Oddly enough, that one change made the whole room warmer and more inviting. Ben had complained before about how the room always seemed bare. I led Mark and Miles down to their cells when they got home and changed. I promised to let them out and in with Ben and myself once they calmed down.

“Marlowe, don’t leave us in here. Especially me. I need people for some reason when I’m in cat form.”

“I promise, Miles. I’ll let you out. Mark too. Just relax and change. I’m gonna go check on the sick dragon and -” I was interrupted by the ringing door bells. “Bugger, that must be his mother. She said she was coming today. His father to follow in a couple of days.”

“Be careful.” Mark said.

“I will.” I patted the hand he had on the window of his cell as I passed by on my way up the stairs.

I made sure the door was locked on my way to the door. Couldn’t be too careful, with his mother in the house.

As I jogged my way down the hall to the front door I fleetingly wished for a smaller castle, but knew it was impossible. We had far too many people coming for the holiday for that to happen. I got to the door and flung it open only to be met with a red-head, a little shorter than I was, with laughing forest-green eyes and smirk.

“Well, it’s good to know my son has excellent taste. Nice hair, Red.”

“You too, Mrs. Solt.”

“Darling call me Mom, you’re practically family from what I hear.” She said as she waved her hand.

I moved back so she could come inside. The temperature outside was dropping fast and I was worried. I took her coat and as I hung it up in the closet, Ben started to roar.

“Fuck me. What was that?” She yelled.

“Your son.” I said as I jogged back to the door. “Leave your cases where they’re at, I’ll show you to your rooms when I’ve finished calming him down.”

I knew she followed me and I couldn’t prevent her from seeing what she was about to see. I just hoped she didn’t faint on me.

“What the hell is my son doing making all that racket?” She asked as she jogged with me down the stairs.

“Well, he’s a dragon. This is Blueville so you’re going to have to get used to that fact. He can’t change what he is,” I stopped when Miles and Mark started making their cries. “That’s Miles, my cousin, and Mark. Mark is a our family friend. They’re a Bobcat and a Wolf, respectively.”

Ben’s mother stopped at the bottom of the stairs at looked up at me. I prayed the woman wouldn’t freak out. I prayed hard. Which is why when she started laughing, I was surprised.

“I’ll be damned. I guess he really did know what he wanted after all.” She smiled.

I smiled at her. I was beginning to like her. “He did. He’s the best Vet I’ve ever seen and a damn good man.”

“He should be. I raised him.”

“His father?”

“Is an ass of epic proportions, but I love him dearly. That’s why I beat it in to his head that five plus years was long enough to be angry his son told him to go to hell when he tried to arrange his life neatly.”

“I thought families were steering away from that practice now?”

“They are, and with good reason. The sons and daughters in the US are not nearly as inclined to go along with parental wishes. It’s easier for a son though. Even a half-breed like Ben.” Ben’s mother spat out the word “half-breed” like there was a bad taste in her mouth and she needed to get rid of it quickly.

I was about to say something else when Ben roared again and started scratching at the door. That’s when Miles and Mark started their noise too. I sighed.

“You might want to stay behind me. They’re going to want to be together, our little pack.” I motioned for her to move behind me as I stepped up to Miles’s door and opened it up. Out stepped a fawn colored bobcat. He sat at my feet and licked his paws. Ben’s mother gasped.

“Oh he’s adorable!” Miles beamed and chirruped at her.

“And being an ass currently. Go sit by the door.” I pointed at Ben’s door. Miles snorted and sauntered over to the door, sitting down neatly and looking like a statue of Bast.

“How’s he being an ass?”

“He’s showing off for you. He knows he’s adorable and he uses it.” I said as I stepped over to Mark’s door and opened it up.

Out stepped a very large, snow-white wolf. Mark licked my hand and walked over to sit by Miles. Together, they made an intimidating pair, but I was too used to it by now to be bothered. On the other hand, Ben’s mother was not.

“Oh. Oh my. He doesn’t look very friendly at all, does he?”

“Don’t worry about him. He’s promised to be nice to you.” Ben scratched at his door and whined. “That would be your son. He wants to see me.”

Mrs. Solt looked highly amused. “Oh? How do you know that?”

“He doesn’t whine for just anyone.” I said as I opened up the door.

Ben immediately reached out and picked me up. Ben’s mother yelped and followed us inside, only to see Ben the Dragon curl up with me in his nest. The other two followed and settled in to the spaces where they felt most comfortable. Ben made happy dragon noises and I scratched his chin.

“Nice to see you too, handsome. Got a kiss for me?” I asked him as he nuzzled my neck.

“He’s rather large.”

“Of course he is, he’s a dragon.” I knew that sentence was rude when I said it and Ben growled at me for it. I flinched. “I’m sorry. I’m not particularly fond of anyone seeing him like this. He doesn’t like it most times. He tolerates it, but doesn’t like it.”

His mother came a little closer. I thought it was brave of her. Ben stretched out his head towards her and bent low. His mother hesitated and then reached out slowly. Ben snorted and made a happy noise when she finally started to pet his nose. I smiled.

“His other self likes you.”

“His ‘other self’?”

I nodded. “Some of the Shapers experience a dual personality shift when they are in their other form. Ben is one, Miles and Mark are not. They have the same personality. Ben’s other half is a little more open and forward. Not by much, because it’s hard to be more open and forward than who he is on a daily basis.” I said that last part with a laugh.

Ben’s mother looked at me. “I think you’ll have to explain my son to me later. He’s different from when he left New York.”

“He’s happier.” I said softly.

She looked at me and nodded. “So his letters tell me.”

I motioned for her to keep talking while I snuck up on Miles. She cooed about how fierce he looked and when she got to Mark, I jumped on Miles and wrestled him in to a pink sweater vest and a pink and blue checked bow tie. When I let him go, He howled with indignation. Ben’s mother cooed at him.

“Oh, what a pretty boy. Aren’t you handsome?” She said to Miles and he came over to sit next to her. He looked very dapper in his new duds.

Ben snorted and came back to me so I could scratch his chin. He nuzzled my midsection and looked up at me. I smiled and nodded. He nodded at me and nudged me towards the door.

I laughed. “Okay, I’ll show your mother around and be back down later to sleep.”

I kissed his nose and took his mother’s arm after she said goodbye. We walked up the stairs to the kitchen to talk.

I had a feeling this was going to be a very interesting talk.

-Marlowe

Digging out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Um, yes?” Mark said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Since Halloween?”

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

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

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

“Not of all time?”

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

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

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

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

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

“You thrive on trouble.”

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

“Just yet?”

“Well, if something cuter comes along..”

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

-Marlowe