We headed up to the Infirmary. Cass was crying on my shoulder still. We got to Hunter’s room and the twin instinct kicked in. Hunter screamed and the nurses all came running and I shook my head. “I got this he’s not hurt.”
I tugged Alex in after me and I shut the door behind the four of us. I set Cass down on hunters bed and put my hand gently on his head and he screamed but not because I was touching him. “Shhhh. Hunter, baby, it’s okay.”
Cass was already curled around him. “He knows,” she said and cried into his shoulder.
“Hunter?” I asked. “Can you hear me?”
Alex was there at my side and he leaned over and touched the boy’s forehead and he instantly calmed down. While I wasn’t happy he was manipulating Hunter, we needed him to calm down.
“Hunter. My name is Nox.”
His eyes popped open and he looked up at me, “I know you.” He laid on his back and looked over at Alex. “I know you.” He smiled.
“That’s Alex.” I said, “He’s mine.”
“How do you know us?” Alex asked.
“You are in my dreams.”
“So you know you are coming home with us?” I asked.
Hunter nodded, he pointed at me, “You are my Dad. And I call you Da.” He pointed at Alex. He looked at Drake in Alex’s arms and his grin grew wide, “He’s my brother. I have lots of brothers and and two sisters.”
“Two?” I said. I swore I heard Alex growl but he was smiling brightly at the twins.
Cass looked expectantly at me, but Hunter nodded. “Yes. One day.”
He was telling the future? “Let’s not say more?” I suggested hurriedly. I was going to have to talk to my dad about that.
Hunter nodded. “I’m sad.”
“I know.” I held out my arms to the twins. “We all are going for ice-cream you both want some?”
Cass held her arms up to Alex and I picked up Hunter. Drake clambered over the bed and curled up with Hunter in my arms. “I think we are ready to go?”
Alex laughed but it wasn’t a funny laugh. “I guess this is going to be a thing.” After a while he whispered, “I don’t like sharing you.”
“I’m sorry,” I said for only him to hear. I wished he was in my head. I missed him knowing everything.
The kids were happier, sadness still lingered but they were excited to be a family. It was hard to follow child conversation and Alex wore a fake smile, his bright eyes were dull with annoyance, or anger or something. He wanted to meet the kids. Maybe I should have waited.
Alex smiled at me when I looked at him, “I’ve been thinking. I don’t want to do the thing.”
“What thing?” I asked confused.
“The thing, we talked about it at the coffee shop.” And then the world crashed in on me and I smiled at him. Hiding behind the facade I’d made to keep people from the truth. The reality that inside I was a broken mess.
“None of it?” I asked.
“It’s a piece of paper right, that’s all,” Alex said.
He looked at me and I smiled at him. His smile faded and he cocked his head, but Cass spoke first, “Is he alright, I can’t think straight.” She put her hands to her head and I clamped my shields down tight and she yelped, “Ow.” But she laughed, “It’s gone now. All of it.” She sounded confused.
My heart was racing and I kept on smiling and Alex was frowning. Hunter and Drake felt my tension and wrapped their arms around me and held me. Fuck my kids were trying to comfort me. I was so going to fail at being a father. And down the spiral went.
We made it to Bonnie’s in once piece and Alex set Cass down in my booth and I put the boys down. Alex was off talking with Bonnie I didn’t much care at the moment. He came back and grabbed my hand. “Cass, Hunter, Drake. Ms. Bonnie is going to bring you each a milkshake, and a plate of fries. You sit here and be good while I talk to your Dad a moment.”
They all nodded and Alex didn’t even ask me if I wanted to move. I followed because it was easier than fighting him. He took me out of the dinner but he was looking inside the window watching the kids. His blue eyes turned to me and there was fire in them. “I can’t believe you think I don’t want you.”
“You said you didn’t want to be married to me. Didn’t want to do the thing. What did you expect me to think? After you got a glimpse at my life it’s pretty par for course for you to run when it’s too much.” And I was angry by the time I finished it. But I was still crushed by the despair and desperation so it didn’t matter.
“Stop shielding Nox.”
“I can’t. I’m a mess right now and you saw what it did to her. I was fucking hurting her.”
“You are hurting yourself.”
“Better me than her,” I growled.
“Let me teach her,” Alex offered.
“I want you to. But I’m a mess right now. I’m hurting her right now. Teaching her isn’t going to help right now.”
“Let me help you,” he begged.
Alex smirked. “First, when I said I didn’t want to do the thing, I was talking about the wedding. I don’t want a party, I don’t want to see you walk down the aisle. And I don’t need a piece of paper to tell me how much we love each other And I don’t really need to make you mine in front of your friends. Jace maybe, cause he’s still a fucking prick. But I know Nox. And you know. And that’s all that matters. We’ll do something, when the time is right. We still have a long ways to go in this.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I am broken Alex. No one can love me, has been a mantra I’ve heard all my life. So it’s hard to believe – truly believe you do.”
Alex chuckled, “And everyone leaves has been one I’ve heard.”
“I promise I will always love you Nox. Forever and always.”
I smiled and pressed my forehead against his, “And I promise I’ll never leave you, Alex. Forever and always.”
Alex pressed a tender kiss to my lips. When he breathed he said, “I can help with your shield. If you let me. I can keep Cass out.” Alex sighed, “But that also means I’m inside your head again.”
“I’ve missed you.”
“What?” Alex took a step back.
“I liked having you knowing my thoughts. Even if they were trash, but knowing you know I was in a bad place helped me stay out of the bad places. And I have a feeling a lot more bad places are coming. I have three kids, and two teenage boys I’m responsible for. And I have my first protege, and a job to do. Plus I have a complicated lover I need to take care of.” I smirked at Alex, “Though I think he’s the best part of it all.”
Alex smirked. “Let your shields down and let me help.”
I did as he asked. But my mind wasn’t rolling anymore, Alex had mended most of it. We were getting better at this. And soon there was a strange warmth around me, and Alex looked a little overwhelmed. “Fuck she’s powerful. She needs to stay out of people’s heads.”
“She’ll have a good teacher,” I said.