Epilogue: Halloween

The whole thing went down as planned. Almost to the letter. 

People arrived. My dad gave me a hug and when he stepped away he both remembered and forgot who I was. It was odd watching the light of recognition fade. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. At least Alex never had to see the memories fade right in front of his eyes.

I fought back tears more than once. Happy and sad. Joyful and depressed. I couldn’t decide which way I felt.

I spent a great deal of time on the balcony alone. Some of my friends were here, but Sage and Mia were absent. And I understood the reasons, they weren’t Alex’s friends. And I didn’t know them. They didn’t know me in this forgotten world. But I missed them on this big day.

Ryan and Ant were here. Alex had Kish and Kay flown in. They did not want to shadow walk. And that was alright. Jesse was here. Though he didn’t know me either. But he was here for his sons. He didn’t understand why, but he was.

Dorian and Marco came to the party for the kids, but when I got a hug from Dorian in congratulations for my upcoming nuptuals he remembered me and he squeezed me so tight I lost what little control I had. Which was why I was on the balcony to begin with. I didn’t want to let go. I didn’t want Dorian to forget me again. I pretty much left Dorian in the lurch when I fled his embrace.

Alex cleaned up the mess and Hunter gave Dorian a stone. My mentor joined me on the balcony. “Your father will hate this if he knew.”

“That I fell apart because I hugged you?” I laughed.

“That you can handle him forgetting you, but not me.” Dorian said taking a sip of his wine as he leaned against the railing to look over the edge.

“I’m surprised you are here.”

“I’ve always tried to conquer this fear.” I said.

Dorian nodded. “You have. Much to my displeasure.”

“Alex’s too.”

“I’m glad you stopped because he asked you to.”

“Me too.”

“You okay?”

“Are you going to forget me again?”

Dorian held the stone Hunter had given him in the palm of his hand, “I’ll get this mounted into a bracelet, so maybe for a few days while it’s done.”

“We can do that.” I said.

Dorian nodded, “Marco said he knew a guy. So we’ll go that route. It’s beautiful.”

“Hunter made it.”

“He told me when he handed it to me.” Dorian looked back through the glass doors, “You should get inside, the ceremony is about to begin.”

I sighed. “Yeah okay.”

Dorian pulled the sliding door open, and we stepped through. Alex took my hand and took me to where Vin stood. Vin cleared his throat and several people yelled and clanged their glasses. The music played softly on the speakers around the space. More tears fell as the soft instrumental of a song Alex played for me over the years provided background music for the ceremony. Stand By Me would always make me cry just from the old memories. This new one was unsurmountable.

Vin started, “We are gathered here together to join these two love birds. Does anyone have any exceptions?”

I rather expected someone to joke about something but you could heard the sound of everyone breathing as we took this moment of silence. Until Ryan shouted, “Just get on with it I want to bob for apples.”

The whole room burst out in laughter and Vin rolled his eyes. I was barely holding it together.

It wasn’t a traditional ceremony. Vin was a vampire ordained centuries ago by the Roman Emperor himself. We’d gotten him ordained in real time by the internet – cause that was a thing now. He was hardly a practicing Catholic now. Dead and believed damned until recently, Vin said the words, but there was magic in the air.

Kish and Kay said their spells. Isabel and Rosana their own. Ant had his own set of wiccan magics here too. It wasn’t just a human wedding with paperwork. Every coven, every clan, every blood line, and every pack made an offering. They didn’t know what they were doing in the perfect sense of their forgotten world. But if I went up to them they would remember the agreement we made. They bound their followers to me, in the truth that they didn’t remember knowing that I’d find a way to give it all back to them, and I’d find the people who took our memories. In the middle of my thoughts there was a simple command, say I do, Pretty boy! 

“I do.” slid out of my mouth, with barely a skip in the ceremony but my thoughts continued on in the direction they had been going.

It was reigniting a flame that had been flickering for months. We solidified the lines of our city. At least in the shadows we would remain strong.

“I pronounce you married.” Vin stumbled over the latter part and Alex snickered as he pulled me in close and kissed me hard.

He muttered when we lingered in close, “Even in our ceremony you go off into thoughts. It’s a good thing you take cues well.”

“I said I do.” I said. 

Alex laughed and pulled away, “Barely. You didn’t hear a word Vin said.”

“Did I need to?”

Alex sighed, “No love you didn’t.”

We slipped off to sign all the papers Dorian and Vin had for us. We were officially and on paper one big happy family!

Epilogue: Shaving

I headed up stairs to get ready. I still planned on being Ted. It was still a costume party, we were just going to throw a wedding into the mix. A lot less planning Alex said.

Alex was waiting for me in our room. He sat on the bed wearing a pair of jeans and a white t-shirt that simply said “404 Costume Not Found”

I chuckled at the costume and rolled my eyes. “I should have expected as much.”

“You should have. You feel better.”

I nodded. “I do. I’m sorry.”

Alex sighed, “I’m sorry.”

I looked in the mirror and frowned, “Ted doesn’t have a beard.”

Alex chuckled, “You are still going to be Ted.”

“Right on dude!” I grinned at him. 

Alex smiled and took my hand, “It grows back.”

I shivered. Alex dragged me into the bathroom and pushed me against the counter, “Sit.”

I sighed but I complied. Alex pulled out the shaving kit and he went to work. It felt wonderful feeling his fingers against my skin, but the razor only made me anxious. It wasn’t distrust, it was the fact that my carefully kept beard was going the way of the dodo, and it would look awkward for a while as I grew it back in. I didn’t want to look like a child. Or more feminine than I already did. A little makeup and I could pull off a drag queen very well.

But that wasn’t me.

Alex patted my bare cheek softly when he was done. “Keep your eyes closed.”

I sighed but heard Alex pulling a makeup wipe from the box and he started rubbing off the eyeliner and lip gloss. “Ted doesn’t do the make up thing either.” I shivered. My entire person was being rewritten for a costume. “You going to be okay?”

“With you here.” I whispered.

Alex leaned in and pressed a soft kiss to my lips. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Alex left me alone staring at the mirror. The sharp angles of my cheek bones clearly visible. The bare chin was soft and smooth and I looked like a different person. Younger. I saw my mother in me and I turned from the mirror. I didn’t want to hate myself.

Hunter came in with my costume pieces and he smiled up at me. “Daddy?”

“I’m okay.”

“I know. How long am I going to be grounded for?”

“How long did Alex say on the beach?”

He laughed, “Forever.”

I shrugged. “I will work on lessening that sentence but it won’t be by much.”

Hunter nodded. “I’m sorry I ran away.”

“I know you are. Don’t do it again, with or without Vin.”

“Did Vin get in trouble?”

“He did.” I said. Though Vin’s in trouble was more of a please don’t listen to a five year old when you know he shouldn’t be doing things. Thank Vin actually getting punished. Because he did what he was asked. He watched Hunter, he didn’t interfere. He helped as he could, and I couldn’t fault him for that. But Hunter had to understand what he did was wrong. And using Vin was not a good thing.

Hunter sighed, “I’ll go to my room then.”

“Nope. You will get your costume on, and you will sit at the punch bowl serving everyone as punishment. But you will be there, and I might let you off to play some of the games Lake has planned.”

Hunter grinned, “Yes sir.” And off he ran to get dressed.

“You know I would have been okay if he didn’t have to work the party. It’s our wedding after all and he’s your son he should be there – grounded or not.” Alex said stepping into the bathroom while I pulled on the sweat pants for my Ted costume.

“You might have. But he needs to know he doesn’t get a free pass.”

“They hated when I was the big bad Dad.”

“Because you weren’t ever the person to punish them. I was. You were always the fun Dad. By the way, with these wedding papers we are going to sign. Dorian has adoption papers for you to sign too.”

“What?”

“You are the kids Da. Hunter, Cass, Drake and Faelen – all mine. Now if you sign the paperwork – all ours.”

“Really?”

I nodded. “None of them will change last names because I want them to carry on the ones they are given, but they will be officially yours – on paper even if that was already the case.”

Alex grinned, “You surprise me sometimes.”

“I try.”

“Am I still just paperwork?”

“Marriage is all about paperwork. Alex, we’ve been more than husbands for a long time. A wedding just tells the world we are together forever. And the piece of paper tells the government that everything we have we share. But none of it changes how I feel about you. With or without it, I can’t live without you.”

“You just did.” Alex smirked.

“Not well, Alex.”

I finished with the costume and pulled on the wig. I dared a glance in the mirror and didn’t see my mother staring back. “Woah!” I mimicked.

Alex chuckled. “Woah!” He ran his finger down my jawline and I could see the lust in his eyes. “You going to be okay?”

I shrugged, “But I’ll be okay with you.”

Alex nodded and took my hand and we joined the rest of the family just as people started to arrive.

EPilogue: Impromtu Therapy

Two days before Alex’s birthday the entire family got their memories back. But everyone was under strict order to never mention that fact. The good thing was, that most of us already knew how to keep secrets and well the kids, they didn’t go to school with normal people. So our secret was safe – we hoped.

That first night I spent in Alex’s bed. Our bed was hard for me. I think I cried for most of it not actually sleeping. How the fuck had I forgotten everything? Specially my kids. And then there was the whole self doubt – they didn’t even need me.

I was so far down the rabbit hole even Alex needed a break, though he never left my side. But I knew he’d shut me out. Our bedroom was blocked, so none of my magic escaped. Something Alex had done to all of the rooms, so the telepaths could have peace. I hated that I was a wreck.

But come morning I pretended to be right as rain. As Rider and the pack started preparations for a wedding. That was our only plan to get me back in the house so the bad guys didn’t know. So Alex and I would wed on his birthday. He didn’t seem to care one way or the other.

“Are you sure?”

Alex laughed, “Fuck, Pretty Boy, yes. I’m sure. My birthday doesn’t mean much to me, but you.” He grabbed my shirt and pulled me close, “You mean the fucking world to me.”

I kept my emotions in check for two days straight. Bottling things up and I knew eventually I’d blow, but right now, the family needed me stable even though I was far from it. I called Adrian and we talked down in Brew while everyone else planned a wedding.

I didn’t give Adrian a stone, but he remembered the moment he sat down at the table. Close proximity to me, and the fog lifted. Which is the reason Hunter had taken the stone to begin with. I couldn’t do with Alex forgetting me over and over again. But I had done the same to him for so many years. It pained me.

“You aren’t doing alright.”

I shook my head. “I’m more of a mess than I’ve ever been before.”

“Wedding jitters?”

I shook my head, “No. I’ll marry Alex any way possible as many times as possible. This is just hard. I forgot everything. They didn’t need me. They don’t need me now. I hurt Alex by forgetting him in the dreams for years growing up. Every time he’d come into my dreams every night – I’d forget him. And then I have the the same thing happen and I let my son take it away so I don’t have to watch as Alex forgets me. How is any of that fair?”

“Two things first. Alex did need you. So did your family. And so does the pack. In two days of you being back in the know and the pack is stronger than it’s been in months. Rider’s control is firm again. He’s not a sixteen year old Alpha. He’s our Alpha. Everyone feels the difference your power makes Nox. And I’m going to forget why, but Nox, we need you. I’ve always needed the strength you give. When I brought you into the pack I brought you in for your power. You were a scared kid, with so much ambient power, you didn’t even know what you had. I brought you in to control you. But as you got older that power shifted the omega grew stronger and you calmed the pack without the pack knowing. And as that grew so did the power and the alpha side. I had to make you leave or they would have convinced you to oust me.”

“I wouldn’t have done that.”

Adrian nodded, “I know. But they didn’t. I didn’t want a mutiny on my hands.” 

I sighed. “You survived without me.”

“I haven’t in years Nox. Rider is using your power base. You are Alpha of Alphas. You are the King of New York. You are the Third Ascendant, the Imperodo. You rose from the dead. Don’t tell me we don’t need you Nox. And your family was a mess. Alex buried himself in work. Rider was too busy to stay on top of the house hold. That left Iz and she didn’t want any of it. We all helped Rider as we could, but the longer you were away the more things fell apart. Hunter running away was the last straw for a lot of us. And in two days your household is back. You don’t think you do anything, but they know Nox. They just know. Hunter did the right thing making the stones for you.”

“And you are okay forgetting all this?”

Adrian laughed, “Nox, there are worse things in the world than not knowing why my life just got righted.”

I sighed. “Thank you.”

“My job.”

“Actually…”

Adrian laughed, “Ryan’s job, but you needed a third party.”

I nodded. “I miss Margo for that.”

Adrian stood up and offered me his hand, “We can schedule coffee once a week to discuss you if you’d like. And keep our standing times for business.”

“I’d like that, if you don’t mind.” I took Adrian’s hand and shook firmly. 

“I’d like that too.” Adrian leaned in and gave me a hug, “Stay well, my friend. Until we see each other again.” He meant that in a different way this time. He walked away and didn’t look back. I wondered what he remembered just happening. But I didn’t dare ask.

Missing Kid

Everyone was bounding around like chickens with their head cut off. Alex was walking past and I cracked open the wine he’d bought and poured a glass. When he rushed past again I held the wine glass out to him impeding his progress. He stopped and looked at me with a frown. “I’m sorry. We…”

“I know. Doesn’t he have a watcher?” I interrupted.

Alex shook his head. “Not in the house. And no…” he frowned, “We don’t have cameras in the bedrooms.”

“I’ll go look for him in the park, that seems to be where he likes to go.” I said. Alex was clearly pissed and he didn’t need my help finding his son. I set the glass on the counter, “Dinner’s warming in the oven but it’ll dry out.”

I walked out of Alex’s house again. I took the stairs and out of the lobby before anyone caught up to me. 

“Jesus, Nox. I’m a bit preoccupied I don’t have time for this shit.”

“I’m going. Don’t worry about it. I’ll help look for him. Go back.”

Alex grabbed my arm and frowned. “Nox. Stop.”

“No Alex. This is your life. You want to be an ass when I ask questions then fine, but I don’t have to stick around.” I growled. “Vin, come get me.” And I started walking away.

“Why did you just call Vin?”

“Because he’s mine.” I said and kept walking pulling away from Alex.

“You remember something?” He followed me.

“No.” I walked to the alley and waited. Vin came out of the shadows shortly after I arrived.

“Hunter said you’d call.”

“I remember. Where is he?” I asked.

Vin frowned, “He made me promise not to tell anyone.”

“Vin, he ran away. He didn’t tell anyone. His family is freaking the fuck out. He’s five fucking years old, he can’t do this.” 

Vin nodded, “I’ll take you to him.” He looked resigned.

“Yes, let’s go to Hunter, but how is Vin yours?” Alex asked.

“Hunter will explain. Come on.” Vin took Alex’s arm and steered him towards the shadows of the alley he’d emerged from. I followed him willingly. Though I was pretty sure Vin wasn’t willingly taking us to see Hunter.

Vin held out his hand and I took it easily. And then in the next step we were in the shadows of a summer house way out at the far end of the Hamptons. I didn’t really know how I knew where we were but it looked remarkably familiar. “Why are we here?” Alex asked.

I pointed out by the water, “Hunter’s over there.”

“You can see that far away?”

I shrugged. “He’s looking for rocks against the beach over there.” Vin added.

“You left him on the beach alone?” Alex growled and started running in that direction.

Vin and I followed and when we caught up to him, he was already on his knees hugging Hunter tightly to his body. He at least loved the little boy, though I was still feeling like this wasn’t something he wanted for himself. I wondered why he stayed.

Hunter was safe and now Alex was yelling. Vin and I stayed out of ear shot and Hunter started crying. He ran towards us and wrapped his arms around my legs. “I was just trying to help.”

“Did you?” I asked

Hunter looked up at me with tear streaked cheeks and a bright grin. “I made enough. I can’t wait anymore. Everyone’s so broken.”

He handed me a charm bracelet and as I took it in my hands I felt like I’d always known things I had forgotten. The magic of the spell washed away the fog of my mind and I knew me. I knelt down and smiled, “You made enough?”

Hunter nodded enthusiastically and he held out the palm of his hand with a bunch of smooth rocks with a slight glow and a rune etched into the side. “But nothing to hang it on?” Hunter nodded.

I sat down in the sand heedless of my phobia. I had things to do and Hunter needed help.

“What are you doing?” Alex asked. 

“One sec.” I held up a finger and I pulled my magic about me and I made a simple cord and Hunter burrowed a hole into the stone and we strung the cord through the rock and tied a simple not at the end. I stood up and tried not to freak out as the sand fell away from my ass and legs. Alex’s shorts were no match for the sand and I started to feel the scratchy edges to them and I closed my eyes as I walked towards Alex. He didn’t flinch away from me as I strung the pendant over his head and tucked it inside his shirt.

He blinked at me. The confusion and then the realization and he wrapped his arms around me and he held me tight. “Fuck Pretty Boy.”

Hunter handed Vin a stone and the vampire smiled at me. “It’s good to remember boss.” He chuckled at the word.

Alex turned around and looked at Vin, “You… That makes more sense now. I broke your bond with Ant?”

I shook my head, “No, but Vin’s is strong because it’s one of loyalty and friendship. Ant’s was forced.”

“Ant’s power is what I have though.” Vin said. “I’ve never been a powerful vampire. Shadow walking was never something I could do. And this daylight thing. Yeah pretty sure that should never have happened.”

“It’s all Nox.” Alex said, “He fucks up magic.” He chuckled and looked at me with a bright smile, “I fucking missed you Pretty Boy.” He leaned in and kissed me.

When Alex broke the kiss his eyes were shining with tears too. “Don’t ever do that again!” 

I chuckled, “I didn’t do it in the first place. Why would I want to forget you or our life.”

Alex pulled me close. “I know baby, but that begs the question. Who did?”

I sighed. “I have no idea, but now that we know we’ll work it out.” I hugged Alex tighter. “With you I know we can accomplish anything.”I sighed. “I have no idea how, but now that we know we’ll work it out.”

A shadow passed over Alex’s face, almost like he might already know something, then he rolled his eyes and it was gone, like I imagined it. “So fucking confident,” he teased.

“Why not?” I shrugged and hugged Alex tighter. “We’re back together now, we can accomplish anything.”

“If you can get Cass to clean her room I just might believe that.”

“Me too,” Hunter chimed in, reminding me we weren’t alone. “It’s a disaster dad!”

“Well, I guess we should get back. Vin?” I let go of Alex and Hunter stepped between us, gripping both our hands, then Vin took my free hand and we were back home, back to reality, and all that entailed.

Dinner Prep

I rummaged around in Alex’s kitchen and found it was pretty well stocked. Chicken thawed, vegetables in the crisper, and there was even a few high protein carbs that would work. Alex was buying a wine. I hoped a white as that was one of my go to dishes. But Alex’s fridge had a fine white already opened.

The kids came back but only Hunter was smiling. The other two looked grumpy. “Did you guys have a fight?”

Hunter shook his head, “They haven’t stopped. They always fight.”

“Do you fight?”

Cass growled, “Hunter’s a goodie goodie do gooder.” Drake was nodding reverently as well.

“Nothing wrong with that. The world needs them just as they need two overly eager youngsters who need to learn to get along.”

“Why?” Drake growled.

“Siblings, whether they are blood, or not, like you and Cass at some point in your life is all you are ever going to have. You’ll find that low and you’ll need your family. And Alex won’t be around forever.”

“Shows what you know.” Cass growled, “Da’s immortal – he’s bound to Ant as his Chevalier. He’ll live forever.”

I blinked and her words and Hunter lost his smile. “Cassidy Donovan you don’t have to be so cruel.”

Hunter slide off his stool and storm out of the room past Rider. “Hey,” he said as he side stepped the aching child.

I sighed, “Maybe you guys should go to your rooms and away from each other.”

Rider helped both of them off the stool. “Go.” For a moment I smelled the soft scent of pine needles on a cold autumn morning. And then it was gone, and with it the children were off in opposite directions to their rooms I supposed.

“Sorry about that.” Rider said. “Hunter’s been off. He’s not been sleeping well. And Cass and Drake are at each others throats almost constantly. Even Fae can’t calm them.”

“Fae?” I asked as I started chopping vegetables and garlic. 

“A garlic white-wine sauce?” Rider asked.

I nodded. “I’ll help. You want to bread the chicken or grill it after a marinade?”

“Grill.” I smiled. 

Rider took up a place next to me with a cutting board and the chicken and started pounding the chicken thin. He wasn’t cutting them which was awesome. After he got started, “Faelen is another of their adoptive brothers, but he’s our omega of the pack. They are supposed to help calm the restless. But it’s not working real well. I either suck as Alpha or Faelen isn’t quite as Omega as we thought.”

“You are an Alpha werewolf?” 

Rider laughed. “Yeah. I turned in August. Apparently being Alpha is something you are born not something you earn.”

“So a power thing.”

Rider nodded, “Yeah. Lake is just a normal wolf. No one knows why I made it to Alpha.”

“Twins.” I said. “One is strong, the other weak. One is night, the other day.”

Rider stopped pounding the chicken and looked at me, “How?”

I shrugged, “A memory. Almost like I’m remembering words spoken to me but I didn’t understand them then. You and Laker are like opposites?”

Rider nodded, “Can’t get more opposite. I’m out going, he’s shy. I’m athletic, he wants to play video games, but Matt won’t let him.”

“He likes boys, you like girls.” I added.

Rider blushed, “I could like boys if they were cute enough.”

“But do they do it for you?” I rolled my eyes.

“I’d be lying if I said no.”

“You have a crush on a guy?”

Rider laughed, “No. Not exactly.” He sighed and continued pounding the chicken like the chicken was the object of his ire. “With the pack connections I get all sorts of feelings. And being Alpha I have a lot of them, and I feel things that I don’t normally feel. Like an attraction to people I wouldn’t normally be attracted to.”

“It could be a purely platonic connection.” I said.

Rider shook his head, “No. Wolves mate for life. And unlike wolves whose instinct is to breed our human natures kinda dissolve the breeding instinct, and only go with the what would make a powerful mate. Since our drive isn’t to create more little humans, our human instincts override the wolf. And mating is about what makes me stronger.”

“And a guy in the pack would make you stronger?”

Rider nodded, “Yes. At least that’s what Adrian says. Adrian and Leah are mated. They enhance each other’s abilities. She tempers his need for complete control, and he controls where she does not want it. And it’s not a bedroom thing.”

“I get it.” I smiled. I knew that. I don’t know how but I did. “Who is this guy?”

“I’d rather not say right now.”

“Do you find him attractive?” I asked.

“Not really.”

“But you have feelings for him?”

“Not those type of feelings.”

“So what’s the draw then?”

Rider sighed, “Power. Control. I don’t know… family. Love, but not romantic.”

“Your beta?”

Rider shook his head, “No. It’s hard to describe because it feels good. He’s a new addition to the pack. But yet it feels like the bonds are so tight I’ve been connected to him a long time.”

Rider and I worked in relative silence for the next thirty minutes. Chopping vegetables, simmering the white wine and garlic sauce. Rider grilled the chicken on the indoor grill. I loved this kitchen.

I didn’t hear the door open but I could feel Alex walking down the hall. He opened up a door peered inside them moved on. He did that several times and kids followed him out. I knew most of their names, but as Alex moved closer to us from the hall he looked concerned, “Where’s Hunter?” He asked as he stopped in the kitchen door.

“He ran off to his room.” Rider said.

“He’s not there.” Alex sighed, “I just checked.”

That set Rider, Laker and Matt along with Alex off in search of the young boy. Dinner was forgotten – mostly as everyone started turning everything over looking for Hunter in earnest. And I had this feeling that Hunter was missing because of me.

Not So Perfect

We walked out hand in hand – me wearing Alex’s clothes. It was the first time I really got a good look at their place – my new place? Alex squeezed my hand and I looked at him, “Your place.” He smiled.

It took a little bit to know he was in my head.

Hunter came into the kitchen followed by Cass and Drake. They were all giggling and talking erratically. And then the yelling started. “Da.” Drake whined, “Cass won’t get out of my head.”

Cass pointed at the young dragon – a fucking dragon, “Drake is talking about me behind my back. Drake called me a suri.”

“I did not.”

Cass growled, “I heard you.” She said pointing a finger at her own temple.

“So you heard Drake call you a suri in his head?” I asked. “Why were you in his head?”

Cass turned to me and frowned, “What the hell business is it yours. You are a friggin slag.”

Cass stormed out of the room in tears.

I looked at Alex, “And this is why listening to someone else’s thought is bad.” Alex looked guilty. “What’s a suri?” I asked.

Alex shrugged, “First time I’ve heard it.”

Hunter sighed, “It’s what the young kids from the Venatori call telepaths – it means pick pocket in Japanese.”

I looked down, “What’s feras?” I asked Hunter.

He frowned but it quickly turned into a smile, “It means game in Latin I think, like wild animal game. It’s what the supernatural call Venatori hunters. You remembered the word?” He ran to me and wrapped his arms around my legs.

Alex sighed, “Why did you call Cass a suri, Drake?”

“She’s always in my head.” he complained.

“I’ll talk with her.” He sighed and headed off in the direction Cass had gone. 

“What’s a slag?” Hunter asked.

I laughed and started looking around the kitchen to get my bearings in Alex’s kitchen. “Technically it’s the trash left over from smelting or coal refining. But Cass pulled it from my head. A term sometimes uses to describe a woman who is promiscuous or has a lot of boyfriends.” I tried to explain without being explicit. “It’s a term I’ve called myself many times in the past because of self esteem issues – I was trash, and because I didn’t care about the people I slept with – a double whammy.”

“Why did Cass call you that?”

I shrugged, “I guess I was feeling like nothing again.”

“But Da asked you to marry him, and you said yes.”

I looked at the little boy. He grinned and pointed to the ring that was on the left ring finger.

I smiled. “I’m still second best.”

Hunter frowned. “You aren’t. I promise. I wish I could show you, but I can’t right now. I’ll get what I need tomorrow and then I can show you. I promise.”

Alex came back in carrying a pouting Cass. “Apologize to Nox.”

Cass growled then when Alex set her down she looked up at me, hands on her hips like she was going to yell at me. She did yell, “I’m sorry.” Before she turned to Drake and said, “I’m sorry I was in your head.”

“Drake apologize for calling your sister a suri.”

“I didn’t call her anything.” He growled.

“You thought about it, and you know your sister doesn’t have great control. She’s learning.”

“I won’t.”

Alex pointed to down the hall, “Go to your room then. No dinner until you apologize. We do not call people names in our heads or out loud – specially when they are your sister.”

“She’s not my sister. Just like you aren’t my dad.”

“Now.” Alex growled.

I wasn’t sure this was a big happy family like they presented.

Alex gave me a half smile, “We aren’t. There is nothing perfect about any of this.” I felt like Alex wanted to say more. To say he hadn’t wanted any of it, but now he was stuck with it. Alex frowned, “I’m not stuck with it Nox. I want to be here. I’m just frustrated.” Drake didn’t leave, or go to his room and Alex just gave the boy a nod and I was left wondering if he’d apologized to Cass in his head.

That seemed wrong. Specially with all the things that had just gone wrong because of not talking to each other. I sighed, so much to get used to. But Alex was tense and he needed a break, I could feel that much from him. “Well why don’t you go hide for a while, I’ll tell everyone you went to get some more wine.”

“Why don’t I just go get some wine. Then it won’t be a lie. What do you want?”

I smiled, “A couple of good bottles of white wine?”

Alex grinned, “I can do that. I’ll even walk instead of making Ant take me like usual.”

I smiled. “You are spoiled.”

“You have no idea.” He came over to me and pressed a kiss to my lips, “You going to be okay?”

“I’ll be fine. They’ll behave themselves.”

Alex gave each of the three kids a look and they all looked abashed. “If you are sure.”

“I’m sure.”

Hunter climbed up on a bar stool in the middle of the counter, and he patted seats on either side of him. “We can help.” He said.

That was sort of my plan. Keep them busy so they didn’t bother anyone else. “Let’s do it then. Everyone go wash their hands first.”

Cass looked at me and climbed into the chair defiantly. “I won’t say it again.” I said. Hunter and Drake both grabbed Cass and took her off the stool and headed down the hall.

“With just a look.” Alex said as he slipped past me and down the hall after them. I heard him stopping to talk to the three kids in what I presumed was the bathroom before he left with a soft click of the door.