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No Longer Alone

 
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Emrys
Young Wyrm
Young Wyrm


Joined: 25 Jul 2013
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 11, 2017 6:53 pm    Post subject: No Longer Alone Reply with quote

Fatherhood was looming. No, fatherhood was imminent. Fatherhood was threatening to happen right there in his hands if he didn't pull himself together and start being supportive to his laboring mate. Emrys was not having a good start to his day. With any luck, he'd have a good end to his day, if all went well with the birth, but all that depended on Marissa, as well as on Mara to get there before all hell broke loose.

"Kitten ... why is there a note on this birth plan to bring the pigs inside for moral support?" he asked a little helplessly, shoving said birth plan in his mouth to free up his hands for padding out the bed in preparation for the birth.

"Because the pigs are ..." Marissa broke off with a groan of pain. Her contractions were getting closer together and more importantly, they were getting more painful. "Em ..." she gasped, one hand resting on her heavily swollen belly, while the other tightly clutched the arm of the chair she was currently sprawled in.

Seren had spent the last four months or so predicting that her always composed brother would completely lose his composure when faced with the imminent birth of his children. She was definitely wrong. Despite this being a completely new scenario for Emrys, that calmness he held around himself was staying firmly in place, even as he dropped the sheets and loped across the cabin to drop down onto his knees beside Marissa.

"You're doing fine, Marissa," he promised her softly, easing his hand between hers and the chair to let her squeeze as hard as she liked. "Just fine ... and they're fine, too. Mara'll be here any minute."

At least one of them was calm because Marissa certainly wasn't. She'd never given birth before, nor had any of the other Marissas that existed only in her memory. She was scared, but she was excited, too, and anxious to give her beloved two healthy children. "M-maybe I should have gone to the hospital," she said, searching his face for some sense of reassurance that they were doing the right thing.

"With a mate who can't drive, kitten, that's not the best idea," Emrys reminded her gently, leaning close to kiss her brow. "Mara will be here soon, and she said something about bringing the local healer, just in case. Try and be calm, love." He smiled, stroking his free hand against her cheek. "Do you really want the pigs in here?"

She frowned at his question, drawing comfort from the tenderness of his touch, and even the sound of his voice. He was her rock and her safety net and her voice of reason. She knew she'd never be able to do this without him. As far as the pigs were concerned, it wasn't them she really wanted close right now. It was him. "No, I just want you."

"We can show them the little ones later," he agreed, relieved she really wasn't going to ask him to manhandle their pair of pigs into the cabin for the duration of her labor. Attached as she was to them, that wasn't exactly hygienic. His sharp ears, however, picked up the familiar sound of hoofbeats coming their way. "There now, kitten. Help is here."

She'd heard the hoofbeats, too, but she clung to him, hesitant to let go. "Don't leave me," she pleaded, even if all he was going to do was go outside to meet their friends. "Em, I can't do this alone."

"I'm not going anywhere, kitten," he promised her, lowering back down onto his knees. "She can let herself in, she's been here often enough." He drew her hand to his lips, kissing her palm tenderly. "You're not alone, Marissa. I'm here. I will always be here."

She smiled at his reassurance and reached up to stroke his hair, which was almost as wild as he was, though he was gentle as a pup. The smile didn't last long, though, as another contraction wracked her with pain and she gripped his hand hard.

To his credit, Emrys only whimpered a little as she clamped down on his hand, wiping the wince from his face to attempt as encouraging a look as he could manage while he felt his bones grinding together. This was what Mara walked in on, breathless from her ride and with a big bag over her shoulder. She took one look at the laboring pair, grinned, and headed for the bed to make sure it was ready to be birthed on.

Duncan was there, too, outside tethering the horses, while Mara took care of things inside. Marissa gripped Emrys' hand for a long moment, trying her best to breathe through the contraction like she'd been taught. It only lasted a moment, but for that moment, she was lost in the pain.

As the contraction eased, Mara came back into view, crouching down in front of Marissa with a warm smile. "Today's the big day," she announced a little superfluously. "Why don't you two scramble over to the bed so I can drop your drawers and see what's going on up there?"

Emrys gaped at his mate's friend, shocked to hear her say that so bluntly. Unfortunately, all he could think of to say was, "She doesn't wear drawers."

Marissa frowned back at Mara, even though Mara was smiling. She made it all sound so easy, but it was anything but. "I-I don't think I can scramble," she said, unsure if she could even get off the chair without groaning in pain.

"That's what you have Emrys for, sweetheart," Mara assured her, rising onto her feet to offer her friend her hands. "Up you come. I'll pull, he can push." And if Mara hadn't already been through this twice herself, that might have been offensive.

Marissa frowned dubiously, though she didn't have much choice. "Can't I just have the baby here?" she asked, reluctant to get out of the chair, even as she reached for Mara's hands.

"Not if you want to actually push them out," Mara told her, calm and smiling as she pulled gently.

Emrys caught up finally, rising onto his own feet to slide his hands down behind Marissa's back and gently guide her up until she was standing with them, his arm automatically wrapping about her back the moment she was upright. "It's just a few steps, kitten," he assured her softly. "Just a few steps, and you can get comfortable again."

She took a few slow steps before stopping dead in her tracks, gasping as her face turned suddenly pale. She'd felt a strange gushing sensation that could only mean one thing. There would be no stopping the twins from being born now. "I think my water just broke," she whispered, almost afraid to say it out loud.

Emrys paused, aware that his mate had just frozen in the act of walking. Her whisper, however, definitely got his attention. "Oh," he managed, squeezing her gently. "That's what's supposed to happen. It's just water." It wasn't, and he could smell that it wasn't just water, but he wasn't going to make a fuss in the hope that she wouldn't, either.

Mara glanced between them, one brow raised. "Were you expecting it to be under your control?"
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Emrys
Young Wyrm
Young Wyrm


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 11, 2017 6:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For a young woman who prided herself on being in control at all times, Marissa was on the verge of coming undone. She even looked on the verge of tears, as if she'd just been scolded, or maybe she was just afraid. She sniffled, knowing she was going to have to be strong and brave and do what she had to do for her mate and her children, if not herself. She had been through worse than this; she could do this. "Help me to bed, Emrys," she instructed, getting a grip on herself.

"Atta girl," Mara encouraged, stepping away to wash her hands thoroughly.

Left with Marissa, Emrys met his mate's gaze with a smile. "Race you to the bed, or carry you, which would you prefer?"

Marissa chuckled a little, even as she sniffled. "I don't think I will be doing any racing for a few days yet, Em," she admitted, though he had to know that already.

"You can do anything," he told her, and he truly believed that. Today, though, he wasn't taking any chances. Gently drawing her arm over his shoulders, he bent to lift her up as carefully as he could, striding over to the bed to lay her down. "I'll clean up while Mara's doing the women's things," he told his mate fondly, leaning down to kiss her. "Won't be more than ten steps away the entire time."

She clung to him as he carried her to the bed and even when he laid her down, her arms around his neck. There were tears in her eyes, but it was hard to tell if they were happy tears or something else. "I love you, Emrys," she whispered, needing him to hear it and to know it, just in case things didn't go as they should.

A knock sounded at the door, and Duncan peeked his head inside, looking for Mara.

Emrys paused, letting his mate hold him there for a long moment, knowing where her mind had gone to and not liking it one little bit. Warm hands cupped her cheeks as he looked into her eyes. "You are the center of my universe, my sun, my moon, and my stars," he told her fiercely. "Don't you dare."

Surprised by this vehement response to what had sounded like a very standard declaration of love, Mara leaned back on her heels, glancing over her shoulder at the knock to meet her own husband's eyes with a certain amount of wide-eyed shock.

Marissa smiled through her tears, as she reached up to touch her husband's cheek. She couldn't promise him anything, but she hoped he remembered what she'd told him. Even if something did happen to her, she would come back to him - she would always come back.

Duncan knew what was supposed to be going on in there. He'd been there when Mara had given birth to their daughter, but he didn't know what was going on between Marissa and Emrys and looked a little confused by the look on Mara's face. "Is everything all right?" he asked, to no one in particular.

"Aye, everything's fine," Emrys answered his friend, leaning down to kiss Marissa once more before gently untangling her arms from his neck. "Be good for the lady holding your undercarriage to ransom, kitten."

Mara snorted with laughter, shaking her head with a chuckle as she turned her attention to checking on what was going on with Marissa.

Emrys flashed Duncan a concerned grin. "Fetch a mop, would you, Dunk?"

Marissa smiled and nodded her head obediently and sniffled one last time. She could do this. She would do this.

"A mop?" Duncan echoed, before dropping his gaze to find the telltale trail of "water" that led from the chair to the bed. "Aye, a mop," he replied, going off in search of one, thinking, "If I were a mop, where would I hide?"

With the men hunting out cleaning supplies calmly, Mara shared her smile with Marissa. "You're doing really well," she promised her friend. "I'm just going to put my hand up there, all right? To find out how close we are to the main event. If it hurts, tell me. Now is not the time to be brave."

Marissa nodded her understanding, though her face was pale with apprehension. She knew all of this was just a necessary part of giving birth, and it would all be over soon, and then she'd have her children.

"Hey." Mara reached up with her free hand, lacing her fingers with her friend's. "Everything is going to be just fine. We know what we're doing, Mr. Hale is on his way, and in just a few hours, you are going to be holding two beautiful babies."

Marissa nodded again, putting all her trust in Mara. Women had been giving birth since the dawn of time and would continue to do so until the end of time. She was just one woman among many, and if they could do it, so could she. Her reward at the end would be two beautiful healthy babies, and for that she had to be strong. An hour passed and then another, with the contractions growing closer and closer together, until it was time for Marissa to push and push she did, as hard as she could.

With two babies jostling for position to come out first, they'd ended up with Marissa on the edge of the bed, Emrys holding her up as she bore down. He just about had his panic under control, hating to see her in so much pain, holding her as close as he could as he murmured gentle encouragement to her.

Despite the awkwardness of the position and the pain, Mara knew this was a relatively easy labor, just as encouraging as Emrys as she guided the first of their newborn children into the world in a mess of flailing limbs and healthy lungs.

"It's a boy," she told them with a bright smile, quick to tie off the cord and cut it before she handed the baby to Duncan. He might as well make himself useful and clean up the lad while the second child was born. Most mothers were allowed to take a break between babies - not Marissa, it seemed.

Duncan had positioned himself so that he could be helpful, but not so that he could see much of the actual birthing of the twins. He wrapped the newborn in a cloth of some kind as he accepted him into his arms, carefully wiping the mess of birth away from the child's face and body. "He's a good, healthy lad," he assured the boy's parents, chuckling a little as the newborn loudly protested his entry into the world. "He's got a healthy set of lungs, too!"

As for Marissa, she was drenched in sweat, her face flushed, completely focused on the task at hand.

"A boy, kitten, we've got a boy," Emrys growled encouragingly against her neck, still holding her up, holding her close, pressing a kiss to her temple as he laughed on hearing his son's complaints about the world in general. "One more, love, just one more, and you can rest."

"It won't be long," Mara promised from her crouch, one hand already supporting the newly crowning head. "This will be easier, I promise."

For all of Marissa's fears and worrying, she made no complaints, only took another deep breath and pushed as hard as she could with the intent of birthing the second and last twin. Though she said nothing, she drew comfort from Emrys' presence, from his constant reassurance and his show of affection. Just when she thought she couldn't push anymore, the second twin slipped free of her body into Mara's waiting arms.
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Emrys
Young Wyrm
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 11, 2017 6:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"I've got her!" Given the squeak that came immediately before that proud announcement, however, it was a fair bet that Mara had just played a spirited game of catch the baby with herself. "All right, back on the bed, and we'll finish up." Cord cut, she turned to tuck the slimy baby girl into Duncan's free arm, wiping her own hands dry to help Emrys settle his mate back onto the bed. This last part didn't need too much help to finish with, after all.

"What am I supposed to do with two of them?" Duncan asked with another chuckle as he took the second one in his arm, also loosely wrapped in a blanket. Someone was going to have to clean the newborns up, and it seemed that someone was going to be him.

"Are they-are they okay?" Marissa asked, all out of breath and clearly exhausted.

"They're perfect," Mara promised her, busily dealing with what had to be dealt with while the new mother and father sprawled together on the bed and her own husband was hopefully cleaning the babies up a little.

Emrys was laughing again, hugging his arms around Marissa as he nipped her jaw affectionately. "Hear them, kitten," he told her, weary and wild and deliriously happy. "A boy and a girl."

"A boy and a girl," she echoed, smiling up at the man who had given her these children and made her life complete. There was still the matter of the afterbirth, but that was nothing compared to birthing two babies. "I want to see them," she told Emrys, needing to see them, to make sure they were as healthy as they sounded.

"So do I," he chuckled, but he didn't rush to have Duncan bring the children over. He trusted their friend to have the babies in hand, preferring to make certain Marissa was as comfortable as he could possibly make her before gesturing for Duncan to come closer and hand them over.

It was no easy task juggling two newborns, but Duncan was no rookie at handling babies, and it wasn't long before he had returned with each twin cleaned up as best he could and wrapped in a blanket.

The sight of his newborn children distracted Emrys from seeing just what was in the bundle of blankets Mara removed from the bed, his gaze and nose centering on the twins as Duncan brought them to the bed. "Here," he said, trying to curb his excitement as he reached out to take the first that came to hand, twisting to lay a squirming baby boy into Marissa's arms.

When Duncan laid the baby girl into his arms, though, he just sank down beside his mate, unable to quite believe all this was happening. He had a mate; he had a family, children. He was holding his daughter ... and slowly, the tears started to drip from his face as he smiled down at his family, leaning over to nuzzle his face against Marissa's hair.

Marissa looked down at the bundle in her arms, so small and fragile and yet, as far as she could tell he looked healthy and robust. He certainly had no problem making his displeasure known. "Oh, Emrys," she said, looking from the boy in her arms to the girl in his, and then to the man who had made it all possible. She noticed the tears on his face before he leaned close to nuzzle his face against her hair and suddenly, she was crying, too - happy, relieved, weary tears.

Duncan smiled at the couple, touched by the moment and at the honor of being witness to it, but he knew when two people needed a moment alone and he turned to help with whatever Mara needed him to do. It wasn't exactly glamorous, but it got them out from underfoot as the two new parents sobbed together over their beautiful children.

Emrys was murmuring something utterly incomprehensible to both Marissa and the twins, but it didn't really need words. It was all in his tone - the love, the wonder, the forceful protectiveness that he would always look after them.

It was more than Marissa had ever dreamed possible. In all her pasts and futures, none of the Marissas she'd ever known had ever been so happy, and it was all because of Emrys. Some of those Marissas had known love, but none of them had ever had a child or known such happiness as this. She nuzzled her face against his, her face wet with tears, the bundles in their arms quieting at last, as if they knew they were safely in their parents' care.

"What are we going to call them?" Emrys asked finally, rubbing his nose on his opposite shoulder as he made an effort to get his sniffling under control. "I can't remember any of the names we were talking about."

"I don't know!" Marissa exclaimed, laughing. "Thing One and Thing Two?" she suggested in jest, though it was likely he'd miss the reference to the Dr. Seuss book.

"We are not calling our children Thing," he insisted with a warm smile, glad to see her laughing after her long ordeal. "Or It, or That, or This, or anything else that isn't a unique name that belongs to them." He stuck his tongue out at her playfully.

She grinned up him. Despite her weariness, it was good to laugh with him and to see him happy. She knew she had made him happy in giving him a family and her heart soared with the knowledge of it. "I would like to give our daughter your sister's name, but not for a first name. That would be too confusing."

"You know Seren means star, right?" he mentioned, looking down at their daughter in his arms. He drew a fingertip along the baby girl's cheek, smiling as she flailed to take a firm grip on his digit.

"Does it?" she asked a little wearily, smiling dreamily as she watched him with their daughter. "I am not good at naming," she said, as was evidenced by the pigs who were simply known as Frick and Frack.

"Maia means star," he murmured to her, though his eyes were on their daughter, gently tugging his finger back and forth as the tiny girl held on tightly. "But you look more like a Ceri to me, cariad bach. What does your Mama think?"

"Mama thinks that's lovely," Marissa murmured back. "But what do you think about Cerys? Cerys Maia. It has a softer sound to me," she argued. Even though she didn't think herself very good at naming things, she knew that names were important and she wanted her children to have names they could be proud of and that would fit them.

"Cerys ... aye, that's a sweet name," he agreed softly, his fingertip gently booping the little button nose in front of him. "Cerys Maia ... I can live with that." He raised his head with a grin, proving that he could more than live with such a beautiful name for their beautiful girl. "And what shall we name the brute? Felix?"

"Felix? No!" Marissa replied, wrinkling her nose in distaste. She'd had a name of sorts in mind, in case they were blessed with a son, but she wasn't sure if he'd agree to it.

He snorted with laughter at her expression, touching a kiss to her temple. "I love you," he chuckled, nuzzling close for a moment. "I have no idea for a lad. Seems wrong to try and name him after me or any of my pack ... what about something Duncan?"

"Duncan?" she echoed again, frowning thoughtfully, unsure if she liked that or not. If they named their son after Duncan, then shouldn't they name their daughter after Mara? She didn't want any hurt feelings, after all. "Would it be so terrible to name him after you? Just his middle name," she asked, pouting a little as if that might help convince him.
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Emrys
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 11, 2017 6:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

He blinked, raising his brows as he tore his eyes from their son to meet her gaze. "You'd truly like that, kitten?" he asked, quietly astounded. What man doesn't entertain the idea of naming his son after him, after all?

She nodded solemnly, the expression on her face one of pure admiration. "I would. I can't think of anyone I'd rather name him for than his father." There were other people they could have chosen to honor, but somehow she thought it fitting that their firstborn share his father's name.

His eyes filled up once again, deeply touched that she thought so much of him that she would name one of the next generation after a man who had spent most of his life believing himself to be an utter failure, both genetically and generally. "Thank you, love."

"There is no need to thank me, Emrys. I love you. You're the best man I know," she told him, solemnly but tenderly. Cradling her son in one arm, she reached with her free hand to caress his cheek, hoping she knew just how much she loved him.

He leaned close, brushing his lips to her own, heedless of the babies for a brief moment as he poured his heart into an intimate touch with his mate. "I couldn't love you more if I tried," he promised her softly. "You're everything to me."

"As you are to me," she whispered back, brushing a kiss to his lips, moved by his words, knowing without doubt that he meant them. No one had ever loved her the way Emrys did, and that was not something she took for granted. "But we still need a name," she pointed out with a smile that hinted at her amusement.

"Aye, we do." He wasn't arguing. He wasn't exactly being forthcoming with ideas, though. He studied their son for a long moment, absently jostling Ceri in his arms. "Something strong. Lorcan, or Lyall, or Rhydian."

She wrinkled her nose again at those suggestions. There was nothing wrong with them, except that they didn't seem to fit their young son. "I suppose we should have thought on this before," she said with a sigh.

"We did," he pointed out with a wry smile. "It's not our fault he doesn't suit any of the names we can remember." He grinned, touching his head to hers as he looked down on the boy in her arms. "He looks like a fighter. What do you think of Bevan?"

"Bevan?" she echoed as she turned her head to regard the little bundle in her arms. "Doesn't it mean 'little warrior' or something?" she asked, trying to remember what she'd learned from her mother growing up.

"Something like that." Emrys nodded, glancing from their son to their daughter, who had managed to pull his finger into her mouth and had fallen asleep sucking on it. "Unless you can think of a name that better suits him, kitten."

"Bevan Emrys," Marissa murmured with a smile as she touched a finger to their newly-born son's cheek. "What do you think? Would you like that for your name?" she asked, him as if he was able to answer.

Emrys felt his smile soften as he watched her, utterly enchanted by the way the tiny boy burbled up at his mother in answer. He'd been right all along - Marissa was already a wonderful mother. It was going to be a privilege to raise these two with her.

A throat clearing drew his attention over to where Mara was watching them with a smile, one hand in Duncan's. "We should probably get going," she said quietly. "You two have everything in hand here."

Marissa lifted her head at the sound of Mara's voice, a look of abject terror on her face. "Go?" she echoed, though she supposed the couple wanted to get home to their own children. She looked between the pair before looking to Emrys with a look that seemed to ask if they were prepared to do this alone.

Emrys didn't look quite as panicked as Marissa to be left alone with the babies, but he didn't look pleased about it, either.

Mara chuckled softly, moving over to them. "Welcome to the wonderful world of being a parent," she told them, leaning down to kiss Marissa's cheek fondly. "All you need to do is keep them clean and fed, and do the same for yourselves. That is your goal. And we'll be back tomorrow."

"But ..." Marissa started, breaking off when Mara promised to be back tomorrow. And if worse came to worse, she could call the Brambles for help. Thankfully, the genes she'd inherited from her birth mother gave her the ability to heal quickly, but what she really needed was a little rest.

"No buts," Mara told her firmly. "Everyone goes through this. Everyone drops the baby at least once, everyone makes mistakes with their newborns. That's how you learn what works and what doesn't. And besides ... if they can't latch on to your boobs, you have an alternative that I certainly didn't."

Emrys choked on a laugh as he caught onto what Mara was suggesting, unable to keep himself from imagining the beautiful tiger that was his Marissa with two human babies attached at the nipples.

"Drop the baby?" Marissa echoed, looking almost as aghast at the very thought of doing that. She flushed at the mention of her boobs, with an embarrassed glance at Duncan, who only laughed.

"Don't worry. Nothing much shocks me anymore," he assured her, mostly because he was married to Mara.

Mara smiled. "My point? Every parent has done this," she told her friends calmly. "We have all made the mistakes, and our children have all come through them. No one else can raise your children but you, and this is where it starts."

Marissa could have come up with half a dozen more "What ifs", but somehow she knew there was no point in mentioning them when Mara would only explain her worries away. She frowned worriedly, sighing in resignation. "But you will be back tomorrow?"

"Yes, we will be back tomorrow," Mara assured her warmly. "All you have to do is get through the night, and I have every confidence in you. Both of you," she added, including Emrys in her glance.

He glanced at Marissa, not entirely sure that confidence was well placed when it came to him, but not about to say it out loud.

Though Mara had already reassured her of that fact, Marissa had needed to hear it again. Marissa's gaze turned to Emrys, as well, and she smiled at last. She believed in him, even if he didn't believe in himself. She had yet to realize that he felt the same way about her. "We will be fine, won't we?" she asked him, with obvious adoration in her eyes.

"We'll ... yes," Emrys fumbled his agreement, nodding fervently. "We'll be fine. They'll be fine." He probably wasn't going to sleep tonight, though.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 11, 2017 6:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Somehow, they would both manage some sleep, even if it took taking shifts, one awake while the other slept. At least, Marissa hoped so. She was exhausted, but a little too excited to sleep just yet.

"Sleep when they sleep," Duncan suggested, giving them the best piece of advice he could think of. "We'll see you tomorrow."

"And don't bath them just yet, just wipe clean for now," Mara added as they stepped away, wiggling her fingers in a goodbye. "See you tomorrow, Mom and Pops."

Emrys snorted with laughter at the farewell, nodding gratefully to Duncan. He had a feeling they were going to need all the advice they could get over the coming days.

"So much to remember," Marissa murmured quietly with a frown and another sigh. But they were as prepared as they could be, and help was only a phone call away.

"We can do this," Emrys promised her softly, watching their friends out through the door as he settled down at her side once again. "Do you need anything, kitten? Hungry or thirsty or something else?"

"Tired," she admitted. More tired than she'd ever felt before in her entire life. "But all I need I have right here," she added smiling up at him, each of them with one child in their arms. "I'd ask you to switch, but I think our daughter is enjoying your finger too much," she said with a very Marissa-like giggle.

He blinked, glancing down again to chuckle at the sight of Ceri sucking his finger in her sleep. "She might prefer your finger, you never know," he pointed out in amusement, easing closer to her. "They're beautiful, Marissa. As beautiful as their mother."

"I think they have a little of their father in them, too," she pointed out, leaning her head against his shoulder as he eased closer. As tired as she was, she did not think she could ever feel more happy or content than she did at that moment. Of course, that feeling might change when it was three a.m. and both babies were screaming for her attention.

"Judging by the noise they made coming out, I'd agree with that," he conceded with a smile, kissing her hair tenderly. "I will always be here, kitten," he promised, his low voice fervent in the stillness around them. "I will never leave you. Our family will always be protected."

"I know," she replied quietly, not needing his words to tell her that. She knew in her heart that he loved her, and she loved him just as much in return. "I waited all my life for you. We are meant to be together, Em."

His smile was soft and warm as he closed his eyes, resting his cheek against her hair as they cradled their newborn children close. Then a thought occurred to him. "Your ... step-mother-person," he said in a wary tone. "She isn't going to do anything unspeakable to me for getting you pregnant before she met me, is she?"

"Step-mother?" she echoed, giggling a little. Colleen wasn't what Marissa would consider a step-mother, but it was hard to explain. At least, that was who she assumed he was talking about. "No, love. She is going to adore you. Trust me." And probably adore him even more for giving Marissa her children.

"Well, your family is even weirder than my family," he defended himself with a grin. "At least I only have a slightly strange sister to remember. You have an entire pantheon of weirdness."

"Perhaps one day I will take you to meet the tribe," she told him. If he thought her adoptive family was weird, that was nothing compared to her birth mother's family.

He chuckled. "Would they accept me?" he asked in surprise. "I am a mongrel wolf, after all." Which wasn't entirely true - if anything, he was likely more pure-blooded than most lycanthropes out there in the world, if a little in-bred because of it.

"I am not sure," Marissa replied, honestly enough. "But my siblings are half wolf and the tribe accepted them," she admitted, realizing too late that she might not have mentioned her siblings before.

He frowned thoughtfully. She had mentioned siblings before now, but never in much detail. "How many brothers and sisters do you have?" he asked her curiously. He knew her mystical side of the family was vast, but how big was the other side?

Little did he know that her tribal family was almost as mystical as her adoptive side. "Um, half a dozen or so?" she replied, not uncertainly, but a little timidly, unsure what he might make of that.

"Half a dozen?" He laughed a little disbelievingly. "You weren't all one litter, were you? I mean, I know you said you were born alone, but the others?"

"No, not one litter. I am the eldest," she told him. Or at least, she believed herself to be the eldest, but there was a lot about her birth parents that she didn't know.

"Like humans, right?" he asked, still a little fuzzy on the details there. "Like Robert and Deirdre?" Mara and Duncan were the only humans who had procreated that he knew well enough to be able to use them as a reference.

"No, they are ... like us," she said, after a moment's hesitation. "Like me," she clarified. "Of mixed blood." It was still not easy for her to speak of such things, but it was getting easier for her to talk about it with him.

"No, I mean ... in order of birth," he explained gently. "Seren and I, and our brothers and sister, we were born in one litter. You and your siblings were born the way humans are born, one at a time?" Gently extracting his finger from Ceri's mouth, he wrapped his arm about his mate affectionately. "Mixed blood like your children," he added, kissing her temple. "All three of you outdo me in the wild creature stakes."

"No, I was the only one born alone," she told him, which might give him a sense of the loneliness she'd endured most of her life. She'd always been alone, separate, different from all the rest in more ways than one. But none of that really mattered anymore.

His arm tightened around her. "You're not alone anymore."

She smiled up at him, all the pain and loneliness of the past forgotten, warm and content in his embrace. "Neither are you."

"Because I found you." He met her smile with his own in a tender kiss, somehow easing their daughter into her arms along with their son so he could wrap his own warms about all three of them. So long as he lived, nothing would ever harm them. No longer a lone wolf, he would protect his pack.
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To look into the eyes of a wolf is to see your soul. Just be sure something you want to view is there.
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