Book 6: Rainbows.

Series: Light, Water, Muses.

Rating: NC17 for the smut getting' serious!

Warnings: One mildly outrageous sex act. Really, nothing we haven't written about before.

Category: The continuing saga of Reflections/ Resurgences/Refractions/Rapids/Ripples.

Pairings: nothing of note.


Website: ShatterStorm Productions – Light, Water, Muses

Archive: ShatterStorm Productions only.

Summary: The chaos of the Farazell grandparents deepens, but things slowly improve. The New York contingent finally arrives.

Chapter 2 :: Orange

++ Janet ++

I feel an odd sensation at the sight of the elder Farazells. I can clearly remember the last time I'd seen them together, almost twenty years ago; spring break of our senior year in high school to be precise. All four of the Dinky Jinx had visited Dare's family. It had been a great trip… until her father caught us fooling around. That had been a harrowing experience; all that screaming and yelling, which only got worse when she told him about the ROTC scholarship. I thought he was going to pass out. But no, he just threw us all out and told Darya she was no longer his daughter. Understandably, Darya had been devastated. That hurt was only paralleled by Em's death fifteen years later.

"Momma?" Darya's voice brings me back to the present. There's just the slightest hint of a tremor in her tone and I automatically feel my hackles rising. "I'm so glad you could make it."

Trembling, Dare moves to wrap her arms around her mother gratefully. I know my old friend well enough to know there are tears in her eyes before I even have visual proof. The whole room has gone silent at the reunion. They've all heard at least a few of the stories about Dare's upbringing. I have no quarrels with Darya's mother, not really, but I watch Poppa Farazell closely. At least Brigid has tried to keep in touch with her daughter; even going to the funeral and meeting her infant granddaughter at her birth.

"Do you honestly think I'd miss this?" answers Brigid's equally tremulous voice. There is an uncomfortable pause before she continues in the tone I remember from nearly twenty years ago. "Water under the bridge, sweetheart. We resolved our issues, remember?"

As one, the two women turn to face David and I bite back a spiteful smile at the discomfort in his stance, his eyes. Serves him right to be uncomfortable; the tables are turned and he isn't in charge here. I'll show him the same mercy he'd shown us all those years ago if he provokes me. I turn at the gentle hand on my shoulder, surprised to see Dace standing there.

"This is between them, Janet," she murmurs, eyes still trained on the tensely reuniting family. "Why don't we clear out the room and let them do this in private?"

I nod and turn to see my beloved ahn-drahs, Zo, Kim, and X all starting to usher people toward the kitchen and the back yard. So I move to gather up the babies and return them to the nursery. This is no place for them to be if things turn ugly. Settling my own son and checking on Sam's sleeping daughter, I feel a strange conflict in my heart. I was and still am so angry with Darya's father; but he's come, hasn't he? And now, as a parent, I know exactly what it means to have hopes and dreams for my children. Hell, Cassie will be going off to college far sooner than I care to think about. I may not have given birth to her, but I have hopes and dreams for my adopted daughter, just as I do with the three children I've suffered through labor for. As I stand there, smoothing the blanket over my son's stomach, I try to think of what any of my children could tell me that would make me react the way Darya's father had. And I come up with nothing but a sick feeling in my heart at the thought of separating myself from any of them. A fiercely irrational part of me wants to scoop up all eight children in this household, hold them close, and never let them go.

Sometimes it really sucks to be a mother.

++ Davie ++

I give Janet a reassuring smile as she steps back into the room. Things are going far better than I've hoped. No, it isn't going to be sunshine and puppies right away, but this is a start, right? There hasn't been any yelling or raised voices. Perhaps things might just work out this time after all.

"Darya, please understand why I did what I did."

He didn't actually just say… I feel myself cringing at those words. Maybe this won't be going as smoothly as I'd hoped. A quick glance around the room shows me all the support Darya needs is ready at her slightest command. I'd have known it even without my empathic sensitivities. I honestly wasn't sure who would be most protective of her: Karen, Janet, or Dace. The statuesque blonde has obviously provided a very stabilizing presence in my sister's life and I'm glad she had such a supportive extended family.

"No, Father, I don't think so," Dare replies levelly and I am so very proud of her. "What am I supposed to understand about you kicking me out of your life for nearly twenty years? You rejected all overtures I made at reconciliation. You wouldn't even put aside your prejudices when I needed you the most. Don't you understand how much I wanted you there when Em and I got married? When we had Emily? When Em died? Hell, when I married Karen? But as soon as Davie and Momma told you there was a grandson, you're suddenly all fired up about reconciling with me? If all you want out of this is to have a grandson to carry on the family name and poison with your prejudices, you know where the door is."

Stunned is too mild a word for the emotion running high in the room at this point. None of us were expecting that! I certainly wasn't. A part of me still expects Dare to give in again, to take the olive branch he's offering, strings attached and all. I certainly never dreamed she would be able to tell him to leave like that.

Rock on, little sister!

Father takes a tentative step toward her, hands raised in surrender, and looks at her for a long moment. "I admit that was part of it. I can confess to the vanity of having a grandson. I'm only human, Darya."

I sense more than hear the low growl, eyes shifting from my family to the couch where Karen sits between Dace and Janet. The redhead's hand is on her sister's thigh, squeezing slightly, as if keeping her in place. Interesting; I didn't think Dace and Dare had gotten that close already. Maybe there's more to it than that.

"I mean it, Poppa. If you're only here because there's another male to carry on the Farazell name, you can leave. His name will be Taylor. You've also got two beautiful granddaughters who deserve far better. I won't have you ignore them for my son. This is an all or nothing proposition. You accept me and my family as it is, or you don't. The choice is yours, but you need to know that it will be final as far as I'm concerned."

At the name, I relax minutely. She called him Poppa. That's certainly a good sign, since she hasn't called him that in… well, since all of this hell started so long ago. The room is quiet again as father and daughter stare at each other for long minutes.

"Do you want to know the real reason I agreed to come along, Darya?" he finally asks in a low voice. There's something in his tone that I can't quite place, something that intrigues and confuses me. Without waiting for her response, he continues, "I turned sixty just over a week ago. Did you remember that? And I realized earlier this year that I'm getting old. Hell, I am old. Darya, I don't want to end my life with this separation between us. Facing your mortality is pretty daunting."

"I don't understand…"

"A month or so before you had the twins; I had a brush with death."

Dare pales, and I'm quite sure my face reflects that same fear and curiosity. Even Momma looks startled at this revelation. I've certainly never heard anything like this. In the corner of my eye, I see Karen move to stand behind her wife, offering the silent support she's always given freely.

"There was a lump, a growth. My doctor thought it was testicular cancer at first. Turns out it was simply a benign tumor. But the reality of facing my own death without having resolved things with you was something I didn't want on my conscience when I faced my fate in the afterlife."

"Cancer? I never knew…" That is Momma's faint tone. I'm far too stunned to do more than stare at my father. "David, why didn't you tell me?"

"I covered up the surgery and initial recovery with the story of a business trip," he continues in that same low tone. I suck in a much-needed breath as I realize that I'd sensed something off about him back then, but had been far too preoccupied with the impending births here to have put much stock in that last phone call with him before the alleged trip. "I did quite a bit of soul searching while I recovered, as it seemed oddly appropriate that it happened when it did. As I lay in that hospital bed, all alone, without even your mother at my side, I realized that I couldn't continue like this."

"Why didn't you tell any of us sooner then? Why wait until now?" Is that actually my voice? I certainly won't begrudge myself for the hint of anger in my voice. "Is it a pity plea?"

When he turns those familiar dark eyes on me, I feel the weight of his decisions fully, and I realize pity is the last thing on his mind. "No, Davie, it's not a pity plea. You and I have always had at least a tenuous relationship. But I couldn't face the idea of dying without seeing your sister again, or meeting my grandchildren." He turns to face Dare again, taking another tentative step closer. "Darya, every time your sister would send us updates on you and Emily, I pretended to turn a deaf ear. But the moment I was alone, I would look at all the pictures she'd send along. I was just too damned stubborn and foolish to swallow my pride and contact you. I wasn't sure if you'd even accept such a gesture."

"You weren't sure?" she asks, voice cracking dangerously, and blinks furiously. "Do you have any idea how devastated I was after you kicked me out, Poppa? When you didn't show up for my graduation? High school or college? I sent letters begging you to reconsider, to forgive me. When none of them were answered, I gave up. I tried again when I met Em, but got the same results. I even thought a grandchild might change your mind. Or the thought of your daughter grieving for her spouse, but no. All I got was stony silence."

"I have all of those letters still," he admits softly.

"That doesn't matter!" she spits back, voice gone squeaky with the strain. "I needed you to be there for me then, and you weren't. And now you're saying that it wasn't until you faced your own mortality that you had a change of heart? Well that sounds pretty fucking selfish to me."

She starts to turn away, but Karen holds her still, murmuring something softly in her ear. I watch their whispering for a moment, eyes sliding over to watch my parents' reactions as well. I can't move. As much as I'm hurting from the revelation of my father's brush with mortality, this is something that he and Darya need to resolve before any of us can really move on. It really is all in my sister's hands at this point.

"Darya, please, give me a chance here." I've never heard that almost begging tone from my father. Except for when Darya'd gotten pneumonia as a child and nearly died. "I admit I screwed up, but I'm willing to try to make amends, if you'll let me. I don't want to die a bitter old man who doesn't even know his daughter or his grandchildren." When she doesn't answer him, he sighs heavily and finally meets Karen's intense gaze. "Karen, I realize I don't have any right to be asking you this, but I'd like to get to know you and your family. You've done something for my daughter that I've always wanted for her. I was too stupid to get to know Emma when she was alive. I'd rather not make the same mistake twice."

Karen fixes him with a flat, heavy stare, still comforting Dare. As the silent conversation of eyes drags on in the pregnant stillness of the room, Poppa withstands the scrutiny admirably. Maybe, just maybe this will all work out. Breaking the stare, Karen leans down to murmur something to Darya again before returning that laser green gaze to my father. "That's an admirable goal, sir," she says flatly. "And if it's sincere, I would be honored to get to know my wife's parents, to let my children know their grandparents. But know this, David Farazell. If you hurt my wife or my children in any way, it's over. There will be no more chances and no further contact, not even through Davie. As far as I'm concerned, you will be dead to this family."

Father nods slowly, torn between obvious relief and bristling against the authority in Karen's voice. "That's fair," he finally replies slowly.

"But it's not my final decision either," Karen adds.

"Whatever you want, Darya," Father says softly, staring at her back. "I'm willing to abide by any rules you want to put into place. I don't want the animosity anymore. I want my family back."

"Mommy? Why are you crying?" Emily's voice startles all of us in the room. How the hell she managed to sneak in without a sound boggles my mind. But there she stands in the doorway, Fawn scowling right behind her.

Janet is instantly on her feet, moving toward the girls. "Emily, sweetie, this isn't really the time. Why don't you and Fawn go back and play with your Gramma Stasia?"

"No, Nana," comes the imperious little voice. "Mommy is crying. Why?"

"That would be my fault, Emily," Father admits, crouching down to be level with her, but doesn't make any moves to get close.

"Why did you make Mommy cry? It's not nice." Emily crosses her arms and glares at him, Fawn echoing the posture behind her. Despite the gravity of the situation, I can't help but smile.

"It wasn't intentional," he replies, hesitating on any sort of endearment for her. "I was trying to apologize for being mean to her a long, long time ago."

"Kryn says it's naughty to be mean. I get a time out and no cookies when I'm mean."

Father smiles and agrees, "Your Kryn is exactly right. That's why I'm trying to apologize to your mommy."

Emily nods and walks to him, studying him for a long minute, with such an intense, serious look for a young girl. I can sense a bit of uneasiness from him at the scrutiny, but he makes no moves to dissuade her. Finally, she touches his cheek, tilting her head to the side, and shyly grins before moving to her mother's side, gently tugging at the hem of Darya's shirt. "Mommy? He doesn't feel like a bad man. He feels sad and sorry. You said if someone is really sorry, we should forgive them. Can we forgive him, Mommy?"

Blinking away tears, Darya gives up her death grip on Karen to focus on her daughter. Leaning down, she picks the girl up as Karen scoops up Fawn out of habit. "Is that what you feel about him, baby?" When Emily nods with assurance, Darya glances at her father. "Can you explain what you feel?"

Emily scrunches up her face in concentration. "My purr feels sad, Mommy. He was hurt and scared. And he misses you. It hurts like when Fawn is away." She almost whispers the last line, the fear of that eventuality clear in her voice, and the younger girl reaches over to pet at Emily's hair soothingly. "He feels safe, Mommy."

Darya presses her lips to Emily's forehead and shoots a meaningful look at Karen, before turning to face our father again. "You have no idea how lucky you are right now, Poppa. Emily's trust is a very precious thing. And if you abuse that trust in any way, you're a dead man to me."

++ David Farazell ++

"Thank you, Darya," I breathe out gratefully.

"Don't thank me. Thank your granddaughter." This woman I no longer know is cool, remote, and I once more cringe at a lifetime of stupidity. Yet, even through that, the bands of fear loosen from around my heart at this chance I've been given by the girl child that watches me avidly. "Thank you, Emily. I will do my very best to not mess up again."

"Welcome," she replies openly, then turns a curious gaze to her mother again. My god, but she has that same inquisitive look that Darya had at the same age and my heart aches. It's like reliving the days when Darya thought the world of me. "Mommy, his name?"

"This is your pahpoos [grandfather] David," she replies softly, then points to Brigid, who's been standing so quietly near us during this whole exchange. "And that's your yaya Brigid." The Greek endearments are one more reminder of my stupidity, and I take it as the penance it should be.

Despite the rollercoaster of emotions, I have to grin broadly when Emily sticks out her hand toward me. "Hi, my name's Emily and this is my bestest friend Fawn. Are you her grampa too?"

There's no need to look up, as I can feel the glare from Janet. It's only fair that she still feels as she does. Considering that Janet was one of the people who actually helped put the pieces of my daughter's shattered heart back together, I deserve her wrath.

"No, I'm not her grampa, but I'd certainly like to get to know your friend. Did you know that I knew Janet when she was a young girl?"

Both girls' eyes grow wide at that and, as one, they turn to stare at Janet for a moment. "You did?" Emily asks in surprise. "I didn't know that you knew Nana!"

"It was a long, long time ago, and I hurt her when I hurt your mommy. I just hope that she can forgive me one day, as well." A glance to Janet reveals only a neutral body language and a shuttered gaze. Only time will tell if I can gain any quarter there. "I'm just glad that she's always been around for your mom. That's what a real friend is like."

The sudden movement from the couch startles me and I watch Dace stand fluidly and saunter toward us. I hate to admit that she terrifies the hell out of me. It's impossible to pinpoint just what it is about this woman, but there's something about her that's… dangerous. Scooping up Janet's little daughter onto her shoulders and reaching for Emily, she says brightly, "C'mon, kiddos," but I can feel the hint of steel in her voice.

"But, Unca Dace," they chorus.

"Hey, you two wanted me to teach you stuff, and you've only got me for a little while now. Especially with your Aunt Catherine here, too."

I'm curious about what she is teaching them, but I don't think I'm in a good position to ask. Emily squirms away from the blonde and suddenly reaches for me and I automatically hold out my arms to pull her close for a hug. It feels impossibly good to hold my granddaughter, just one more piece of evidence to my stupidity. When she kisses my cheek noisily, I smile and whisper, "Efhareestoh, Emily. I'm glad to finally meet you."

"Me, too, pahpoos," she whispers back before wriggling away and taking Dace's hand once more. As the tall blonde heads out the door with the girls, Emily waves at all of us and calls out, "S'pos!" To which Karen, Darya, Davie, Janet, and her partner all reply in kind with chuckles.

I quirk a curious brow at my daughters. "S'pos?"

"My son Cubby started it," Janet points out. "It was his way of saying s'ahgahpos. All of the kids are learning Greek, thanks to Art."

I nod in her direction. "You're obviously doing a wonderful job at teaching them. I wish I'd let my own daughters continue their education after my mother passed away. I was foolhardy and stubborn about having things my way, instead of looking at what was actually best for them." I turn to my daughters. "I apologize for that, Davie, Darya. I thought I was protecting you from the Farazell family legacy. But it's more than clear that not only do the two of you have the gifts, but young Emily does as well."

I resist the urge to startle at the soft touch on my arm and turn to my daughter, my long lost princess, pulling her into a hug without hesitation. Completely ignoring any awkwardness, I'm not surprised by the tears soaking into my shirt, or the faint shudders that accompany them. Murmuring softly, I just hold her as she cries, letting a few of my own tears free. When I feel more arms surrounding us, I glance up to see Brigid and Davie have joined in on the hug. A new ache blooms in my heart as my family surrounds me. If it's the last thing I do, I'll make damned sure I never lose touch with my family again.

Pride is not worth the heartache and loneliness.

++ Brigid Farazell ++


It's a strange sensation to be sharing a bed with David again after all these years. Once Darya had been sent off to the prep school, we chose to utilize separate bedrooms. And yet, there's an odd sort of comfort in having him close again. Particularly in light of the bombshell he dropped on all of us yesterday afternoon.

It took me forever to fall asleep last night. So many things were racing through my head, and nothing I did would quiet my mind. When David rolled over and pulled me into his arms, the tears began to fall. I don't remember the last time I'd cried so hard. David was quietly supportive and comforted me until I fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.

I can sense he's awake and feigning sleep; I'm doing the same thing, aren't I? I just feel better listening to the slow, even beating of his heart beneath my cheek. The thought of losing him hurts more than I care to admit.

"Stop it, Brigid," he admonishes softly. "I'm fine now."

"But you might not have been, David," I reply, leaning up on one elbow to face him. "I can understand not telling the girls, but I'm your wife, your best friend. I've been here for you for over forty years. Do you think so little of me?"

Damn it! This is not the conversation we should be having the morning of our grandchildren's Naming Day. But I can't help myself. Better to get it out now than let it fester and ruin the festivities later.

"No, quite the opposite, in fact." He sighs softly and shifts to sit up. "I didn't want to worry you, Brigid."

"Well that failed with a spectacular display of pyrotechnics, didn't it?" I retort sarcastically.

"Drop it, Macks!" he growls back. "I didn't want to worry you, and when it turned out to be nothing, I didn't think it was important any longer. Darya was about to have the twins and I didn't want to put a damper on that." Once again, he lets out an explosive, heavy sigh. "I didn't want to dwell on the negative. I'd been given a second chance at life, and I wanted to live it. Can't you understand that?"

"I'm sorry, David." I pull him into an embrace, resting my forehead against his. We're silent for a long moment.

"I really didn't want to upset you, Macks," he murmurs finally. "And I was scared. You know I don't do well like that."

"Which is why I wish you'd told me," I reply and lightly tug at the corner of his moustache. "I could have helped you."

"Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa."

I chuckle, kissing the tip of his nose. "I wonder sometimes why I stayed married to you all these years, Davidos Farazell."

He scowls good-naturedly. "Because I adore you, and I'm safe. Who else is going to up with those ice cubes you call toes?"

Before I can retort, there's a knock at the door. A glance at the alarm clock reveals it's barely five a.m. Who on earth could this be? "Come in," I call, assuming it's Karen or Darya. This is their bedroom after all. Imagine my surprise when the door opens to reveal my granddaughter.

"Can I come in, Yaya?"

"Of course, you can!" David says with a grin that Emily echoes as she scrambles to climb in the bed with us. "Where's Fawn?"

"She didn't wanna get up with me." There's a sort of manic energy to her this morning that sets me slightly on edge. "Today is the special day for my babies."

"That's right. Are you excited?"

"Oh yes, Pahpoos!"

And then I remember. "Emily, did you come over here by yourself?"

"Uh-uh. Mommy said she'd wait downstairs in case you were sleeping."

Smiling, I press a kiss to her forehead and get out of bed. "Okay, I'll be right back. I'm going to let your mommy know she can to back to bed."

Grabbing my robe, I slip quietly downstairs, looking for my daughter, unwilling to disturb anyone else still asleep in the house. I bite back a chuckle when I do find her in the kitchen, head resting on her arms on the table, snoring softly. Gently stroking her hair to wake her, I kneel next to Darya. She jumps at the touch, despite my care for not startling her.


"Easy, Dare," I murmur. "I just wanted to let you know that Emily's up with your father and me. You can go back to bed now."

Darya grins sheepishly, rubbing at her eyes. "If I was smart, I'd just stay up. There's so much still to be done today."

"No, sweetie, you need your rest. Things will be just fine." When Darya nods and yawns hard enough to make her jaw pop, I chuckle. "Are you able to get back next door safely?"

"I'll be fine, Momma," she replies, standing up. "I've got the pathway memorized."

I watch from the back door until I see her entering the Fraiser house. Satisfied she's in the house, I make my way back upstairs, only to find my granddaughter curled up against David's side; the two of them fast asleep. I've always envied David and Darya's ability to fall asleep anywhere, anytime. It would appear my granddaughter has inherited this, as well. Closing the door quietly, I slip back into bed and snuggle up against them. For now, things feel right with the world.

++ Sam ++

The scent of roasting lamb draws me into the kitchen, but the sounds of rapid fire Greek keeps me there. Standing in the doorway, I can't stop watching the easy camaraderie of the four Goldston siblings. Being with her brothers and sister makes Art look younger, happier than I think I've ever seen her. She really needs to have them around more often.

"You know, Sam, you could go in and grab some food, they won't bite." Kerry's teasing voice comes from behind me. "Well, Art and Zo might. I'm not so sure about the boys."

At the sound of her name, Art turns to face us and fixes me with a heated look. "Kahli mehra, ehromenee," she purrs, blowing a kiss at me.

I shudder, glad it's no longer my time to stay in Baby Central. I missed my lovers last night, and today's going to be too busy to even consider cuddling with them. The mere thought of sex makes my body hurt, but it's only been a couple of weeks since Elana was born. I've been told it'll pass; I'll believe it when it happens. "Kahli mehra, Artemis. Anything I can taste test for you?" Her look goes totally incendiary, and I can feel the blush heating up my face. "Art!" I hiss, batting at her arm. "Not in front of your family."

Cory laughs and hands me a bowl of the soup Darya adores. "Oh please, Sam, you think Artemis is the only Goldston who lusts after her partner? Mama and Bahbas started it. They were downright embarrassing some days." He pats my cheek. "Consider yourself blessed to be on the receiving end of the Goldston adoration."

I still can't help the flush of embarrassment, but flash him a game grin as I head to the table to eat my soup. My eyes water as the first spoonful tastes like it's all lemon juice, but I eat it gladly. This is definitely going to help Darya's equilibrium after yesterday's events. And speak of the devil… I nearly choke on my soup when Darya stumbles in blindly, scrubbing at her eyes as her sniffing nose leads her. Without breaking from the conversation he's having with his brother, Cory turns and deftly ladles soup into a large coffee mug.

"I've got your soup, Emily," Cory teases, holding the mug just out of Darya's reach. She growls pissily at him and starts to grab for the mug when she stops and turns to stare at Fin, who's now waving a mug of that strong Greek coffee.

"I've got your coffee," he sing-songs. "And we know how you like your coffee."

"Better yet," Art pipes up. "You could always mix them together, so she can have the best of both worlds."

She crosses her arms over her chest with a pout I've seen on both Emily and Fawn's faces many times now. "Fuck you all," she grumbles and turns to walk out.

It's Zo that takes pity on her and grabs both mugs from her brothers to set them in front of Dare as she plops into the chair next to me. In no time, my fellow mother digs into her breakfast with gusto. The brothers go back to their food preparation, bantering about the best way to season each dish. As Cory's older kids wander in, they're given duties to assist, and I'm glad once again that this kitchen is as big as it is. When Cassie comes in, Art points to the backyard where the dogs have been all night.

"Fin," Darya finally asks, sounding more like herself than her daughter. "Are you going to wear your full regalia today for the Naming Ceremony? I can't remember now if you'd said you would or not."

Fin hands off the cooking assistant duties to Zo and wanders off with Darya to discuss the ceremony.

++ Gabe ++

Never again. I swear, if we ever have to deal with delays like this trip has had, I'm going to be drugging her completely unconscious. I can understand the delays; well, no, I can't, but I can take them in stride far better than she can.

"I want a beer and a bottle of bourbon," she growls as we step out of the rental car.

KC chuckles from behind me as Michael stalks off toward the front door. I leave our bags until we know exactly where we're staying; Bane hadn't made that information exactly clear. KC was lucky enough to sleep the entire trip. Michael and the pups weren't quite so lucky. I only managed a catnap or two, spending most of my time trying to calm down Michael. Boot's never liked conflict.

"Michael, mate, slow down!" I call out, jogging to catch up to her as she rings the doorbell. She glares at me and lean over to pat her shoulder. "We're landed, we're in one piece, and we're about to be reunited with Bane and Dace for a happy occasion. Just remember that, yeah?"

She growls again, plastering on a fake smile when the door actually opens to reveal Bane standing there. Thank God! "You and your family had best be worth the hell I just went through, Bane Sidhe. Where's the alcohol?"

Before Bane can do anything more than point toward the living room, where Dace's head suddenly appears, Michael has stalked off past her. "What the fuck? Nice to see you too, Fen." She turns to face me and I chuckle amusingly.

"You do remember our plane troubles, right?" I reply, pulling her into a quick hug. "She hates being out of control, you know that."

"She needs to get laid," KC retorts, muscling in to pull Karen into a hug of her own. "Where's the beer and the kids?"

Shaking off her surprise, Karen guides us into the house. "This way, ma'am. Let me introduce you to my family."

I make sure the pups follow us in and get lost in the sea of people before me when a small redhead attaches herself to me. "You have hair like me!" she crows delightedly.

"Do I now?" I ask, kneeling down to be level with her and her friends. "And who might you be? You can't possibly be the wee babes that were just born. I bet you're Darya."

"No!" she giggles. "That is Mommy's name. I am Emily. An' this is Fawn and Cubby."

"Pleased to meet you, my dear," I reply, pressing my lips to her tiny little knuckles, then repeat the motion to her little friend Fawn. "You are perhaps the prettiest little ladies I've ever met." They giggle girlishly, and I turn to face the young boy and shake his hand. "And you have a firm handshake, young sir. Well met!"

He grins broadly at me. "You talk funny."

"That I do. I was born in a place called England. It's a long way away. That's why I talk so differently."

"That and he likes the attention it brings him," Dace replies with a snort of amusement. "How the hell are ya, Brann?"

"Quarter, Unca Dace!" the three children chorus, and the raven-haired girl snatches the bill dangling from Dace's hand.

"Now, let Uncle Gabe stand up and get a proper hug from me." Without another word, the kids scatter, and I'm surrounded by the once again whole and healthy blonde. "Glad you're here, dude," she mutters. "But did you have to piss Fen off so bad?"

I snort and tug at her short hair. "It's not always my fault, you know. Now, where's Bane's bird? I'm anxious to meet the woman who tamed the great tiger for good."

To Be Continued…