“Christopher?” Michelle said in surprise when Sean’s older brother walked into the flower shop. “Sean isn’t here, he’s at work.” They regularly took their breaks together and it was the talk of all the shops. They had even made the tourism webpage, a photo of them both sitting in their aprons drinking tea on the bench in front of her shop. She was embarrassed but had also noticed Sean had printed the photo and hung it in his shop. She got a thrill each time she walked in and saw it.
“I know, I’ll go see him later,” Christopher poked at some flowers. “His birthday is next weekend.”
“No it isn’t,” Michelle protested.
“Yeah trust me, I remember when Mum brought the bastard home, he was ugly and tiny. Not much has changed,” Christopher grinned.
“Oi,” she snapped. “He’s much more handsome than your squigy face.”
“I could like you,” Christopher said. “You could be great for him. Anyways figured he’d try to get away with you not knowing his birthday. He thinks he’s an old geezer. Which he is, but you know, we should celebrate how gross he is getting.”
“You’re four years older than him,” Michelle pointed out.
“I’m like cheese I get better with age.”
“I think you mean smellier,” Michelle grinned.
Christopher laughed. “Right, well planning a party to torture him with, out at the farm. You and your girl, clearly, since he never shuts up about the two of you,” he said giving her a look. “And suppose your mental pack is invited too.”
Michelle was feeling a warm glow that Sean talked about her and then the other words the man said, registered. “No,” she said. “Oh god no.”
“Not the pack,” Michelle said quickly. “You are not ready for them. Sean is not ready for them at a party. I’ve lived with them for over three years and I can’t cope with them at a proper party.”
“I want to invite them to the party,” Christopher said.
“I told you, Sean isn’t ready for that,” Michelle replied. She recoiled a bit when the alpha’s scent hit her. Michelle backed up a little. “I’m sorry,” she said swiftly.
Christopher sighed and put a little space between. “Look, I don’t think you understand, he’s gone on you.”
Michelle frowned, “I’m gone on him too.”
“He doesn’t think that,” Christopher explained. “He knows you like him and are having fun, but he fully expects you to walk away.”
“Because of his first wife,” Michelle nodded understanding.
“No,” Christopher said. “Because of you, because you don’t let him into your life.”
“I spend a bunch of time with him. Daisy spends time with him,” Michelle said. “We go on dates, he teachers her to cook, I’ve seen him covered in mud playing footie with the lot down at the park.”
“All stuff you do with him, what about what he does with you? He’s mentioned he’s asked you out and you can’t because pack cuddle night or movie night, or video game marathon. You invite him to that ever? When he picks you up at that giant house, he ever come in or are you already outside waiting for him?”
“You said it yourself, they are mental,” Michelle protested. “I’m just -”
“Leaving yourself an out?” Christopher asked. “Because you can always say well he didn’t get along with your pack, wasn’t the right fit.”
“You don’t understand,” Michelle said.
“No, guess I don’t,” Christopher agreed. “Well, I’ll email you the details of the party I’m throwing him yeah?” Christopher went to the door. “He’s got a huge heart and it got stomped on but good. And he likes you so much, that he doesn’t care. He thinks you’ll stomp him too and he doesn’t mind because he gets you and the girl until then. Trying not to hate you for putting that thought in him.”
Michelle’s eyes filled and she walked into the back of the shop. She sat in a chair and tried to compose herself. She wiped away the tears but they just kept falling. She felt Mrs. Carsons kneel in front her her. “I can kill someone, if you need me to.”
“I…do you mind if I head home?” Michelle asked.
“Need a drive?”
“I can manage,” Michelle whispered. She let Mrs. Carsons hug her and drove home. She went on in and followed the noise. Tequila was doing the hokey pokey for the babies and they were giggling and trying to do it along. Izzy was standing and would fall on her butt almost immediately. Hunter was a little better but each wiggle caused him to fall. She gave Tequila a wave and hurried up to her room. She decided to have a bath. Michelle stole some Tilde, pretty vanilla smelling ones and she made the water a little too warm and just sank in. She closed her eyes and let the water soothe her, listening to some music on her phone.
She heard a bang and a crash and just figured one of the babies had done something and then all of a sudden the whole pack was in her bathroom. Thank fuck she had been generous with the bubbles. “How did you get here so fast?”
“Harry drove, he’ll enjoy paying off those speeding tickets,” Percival said.
“Tequila called, what’s wrong Mum?” Eggsy crouched beside the tub. “Flashback, rude customer, fight with Sean?”
“It’s nothing,” Michelle insisted. “Can I get out?”
“My bubbles smell nice on you,” Tilde said and hopped up on the counter. Roxy settled in front of her and Tilde wrapped her arms around her mate. “We will fix whatever it is, yes?”
Eggsy was still crouched beside the tub and Harry settled on the closed toilet, Percival leaning on the wall near him. Merlin was blocking the door. Michelle just sighed. “Sean’s brother came to the shop.”
“What did he say?” Merlin asked ready to go murder the man.
“He suggested I’m not as invested in the relationship as Sean is,” Michelle replied. She gave a laugh that rang incredibly false. “That’s insane isn’t it?” The room was very quiet. Michelle surged up in the water furious, and saw Eggsy wince and cover his eyes. She sank back down under the bubbles. “I am invested!” she snapped. The room stayed quiet. “I am.”
“We know you are enjoying yourself,” Roxy said. She opened her mouth and then closed it again. “Tilde?” she finally said.
“Michelle, you…we are not as scary as you suggest. He has spent time with all of us, and he’s still here.”
“Exactly, he’s spent time with you,” Michelle nodded. “He isn’t a stranger.”
“At some point everyone in this room has asked you if Sean would like to enjoy a pack activity and you said no. He hasn’t been at the house longer than 10 minutes since he catered the welcome party for Ginger and Tequila,” Percival said. “We assumed you didn’t think he fit in with us and were keeping it all separate until the relationship ran its course.”
“He can’t handle you lot, he’s normal,” Michelle said.
“He handled us just fine that night,” Merlin commented. “But you are right, he is perfectly normal, average. Boring. You’ll be bored soon enough and find a partner who is interesting.”
Michelle made a small noise low in her throat. The whole room looked at her, surprised she growled at Merlin. “Sean isn’t boring,” she said. Her scent was growing strong, taking over the vanilla bubbles. “He is plenty interesting.”
“How would we know?” Merlin countered. “You tease and innuendo about your time together, or say that it was fun, but we know more about him from Daisy and people in the village.” Merlin came into the room and sat on the ground beside his mate. He nuzzled Eggsy. “Go on, tell her what you told me,” he said.
Michelle looked at him. “Baby?”
“Mum…are you scared he’ll actually fit in too well and you’ve been leaving an out for yourself?” Eggsy asked.
Michelle’s eyes widen, it was very close to what Christopher suggested. What Sean apparently was thinking. “No,” she insisted. “I like him a lot. I do, so much. He is so funny and charming and kind. I work in a flower shop and he sends me flowers. He adores Daisy, and is fit and just…he’s too fucking good for me and if he got along well with you lot when he realized he could do better, it would doubly break my heart and oh lord keeping you separate was about me and not protecting him,” she realized as she spoke. She closed her eyes and sunk into the water for a moment. When she came back up the whole pack was looking at her, waiting. “Fuck,” she groaned.
Merlin reached out and pressed down on his pack bite and Michelle was a little comforted. “Welcome to being an idiot about love,” he said.
“I need to fix this,” Michelle said. “I never meant…I swear I didn’t…I just wanted…” she sighed.
Tilde gave her a sympathetic smile. “Hell and good intentions, it is a hallmark of courtship with this pack.” She squeezed Roxy tight. “The trick is to own it, and then to fix it.”
Michelle nodded. She bit her lip. “How do you feel about a birthday party at a farm?” She looked at them all. “I give you leave to be yourselves around Sean. No holding back.”
Eggsy kissed his mum’s cheek. “I’ll borrow Tequila’s cowboy hat.” He stood up. “Your bubbles are not doing much anymore, I’m out of here.” He left and Merlin automatically followed, always happy to follow Eggsy. The rest just kept sitting and standing there.
“Leave now?” she told them.
“Oh, yes,” Harry said and the four finally exited the bathroom.
Michelle rolled her eyes and got out of the water. She had to think of the perfect gift for Sean to make up for this.
“Yeah, Dais?” Eggsy asked. They were playing the video game that Eggsy had in part written for her, to help her with her vocabulary.
“I have an idea for Sean’s birthday gift, but I need help,” Daisy started shouting words with R sounds into the microphone to make the princess run. When they finished that section she looked at Eggsy. “I can do the colouring, but it needs neater words than I can do. Plus I need you to steal phones for photos I think have been taken.”
“Well now, this is quite intriguing,” Eggsy said. “I bought him a new football.”
“He’ll like that too,” Daisy said. “You’ll help me commit some petty theft?”
For a moment, Eggsy saw Dean, and what the man asked him to do but he pushed the thought away; it had no place tainting Daisy. “For you, I would commit major crimes.”
“Nah, that’s what we have Merlin for. You just need to steal phones.”
“I can do that,” Eggsy kissed her head and they helped the princess slay the dragon.
Sean had tried to insist that his brother didn’t have to fuss over his birthday. 56 was not a big deal, but Christopher had finally convinced him to at least come over for dinner. Which he would be kind enough to let Sean cook. But Melanie had bought a nice cake. Sean had laughed but went. He hadn’t mentioned his birthday to Michelle, again not wanting a fuss, not wanting her to feel obligated. He whistled as he drove to the farm and was surprised at the amount of cars in front. And in the middle of them was Michelle’s. Of course his brother invited Michelle. Sean got out of his car and could hear music and noise from behind the house. It was late September but unseasonably warm and sunny so Christopher must have set up outside. He grabbed the cooler he had brought and headed to the back of the house. He dropped the cooler and was grateful it didn’t land on his foot.
That wasn’t Christopher and his family and Michelle. This was a full party. Mikey was there, arm around a girl, the whole Mathe pack, a couple of his footie mates and Hamish.
“Hamish?” Sean asked in shock. The man smiled and came over and they did a hand shake, hug thing. “What the bloody hell are you doing here?” He stared at his old pasty chef. They had been very good friends back in the day and stayed in touch, but hadn’t seen each other in years. He hugged the man again.
Christopher came ambling over. “You never let me throw you a party. So I figured fuck it, I’d ignore you and give you the party I wanted to. Stole your phone, made calls, boom look friends!” Christopher grinned well pleased with torturing her brother.
“I hate you,” Sean said, which of course meant I love you. “Fuck it’s good to see you Hamish, what’s new?”
Hamish looked over to the food tables, because Christopher had been joking about Sean having to cook for his own party. Sean saw Eggsy talking to a man around his own age. Sean whistled. “Trusting that isn’t a long lost son?”
Hamish snorted a bit. “If he is we are definitely going to hell for what we are doing,” Hamish said dryly. “My mate, Jesse. Happened last year. Met by chance, whirlwind week in Paris and all of a sudden I have a mate and a pup on the way.”
“Congrats,” Sean said sincerely. “You two in London?”
“Hmm, but we’ve been thinking of relocating. He’s a teacher, wants a smaller school. And I am tired of working for restaurants. I’ve invested well, and can do catering, making wedding cakes to fill time.” Hamish’s scent was well pleased. “Be a father. The restuarant business doesn’t allow easily for -” He winced. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Sean reassured the sting long numbed. “I made choices. And you are making better ones.” They both heard a battle cry and Sean easily caught Daisy as she launched herself at him. “Hamish, I’m going to make you mad with jealousy.”
“Oh?” Hamish asked.
“This young lady is the best sous chef in the nation,” Sean said. “You always talked about that girl who worked for you like she came from the heavens puff pastry most holy sprung from her hands. Well, my Daisy here? Has her beat, no question.”
Daisy beamed at Sean. “Happy birthday,” she shouted right in his face. “I got you the best gift. You won’t even want to open the others.” She pulled the tiara from her hair and put it on Sean. “You’re pretty now. Bye!” She squirmed and he put her down where she ran back to Christopher’s grandchildren, that she was clearly getting on with.
“Why didn’t you ever tell me you had a daughter?” Hamish admonished.
“She’s mine,” Michelle said coming over to them. “You look lovely in Tilde’s tiara.” She kissed Sean’s cheek. “Happy birthday, darling,” she said. She smiled at Hamish. “I’m Michelle, Sean’s girlfriend. That’s my girl, Daisy.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Hamish said. He heard a call and smiled at Jesse who wanted to go see the chickens. “If you’ll excuse me.”
“He brought your cake you know, it’s bloody gorgeous,” Michelle said. She laughed at him.”You can take the tiara off.”
“Nu-uh, I bet I look quite fetching in it,” Sean struck a pose.
“You do,” Michelle said. She kissed him again. “I’m quite cross at you.”
“What did I do?” Sean had a good idea though. “It’s just a birthday. One that pushed me closer to 60 than 50.”
“You don’t look a day over 51,” Michelle teased. She laughed when Sean picked her up and spun her around. “Drop me and I’ll kill you,” she shouted. When he put her down gently she looked up at him. “I’m really sorry for what will happen.”
Sean froze. “What do you mean?”
“Harry really likes birthday parties,” Michelle warned. “And he convinced your brother to let him make the punch.”
“Oh lord,” Sean said. “Tell me my brother bought beer.”
Michelle slipped her hand into his. “Come on,” she said and lead him to the food and drinks.
Sean had to admit he had a great time. Everyone was just milling about and he sort of planted himself on a fence and let people come to him. Michelle often stood in between his legs, resting her arms on his thighs and the scent of her just filled him up. She smelled so happy. He drank a few too many beers and grilled Hamish’s new mate who was delightfully befuddled by humanity and gave him a book of recipes that was pretty old looking. He opened it and the print date was 1804. “Wow,” he said. He flipped through it. “This is Jane Austen shit.”
“Well no it is more -” Jesse began but was cut off when Hamish squeezed his neck.
“No book history,” Hamish said. “He won’t care. But he will make you something from in there.”
Jesse grinned up at his mate. “Wonderful.” He leaned in to Hamish. “I like it here. Definitely on the list of locations to move to. Plus built in friends! I like Eggsy.”
“And I like Sean,” Hamish agreed. “Added to the list.”
Sean was ignoring them fascinated by the book. Daisy had come over and looked. “Nope, my gift is still better.”
“Uncle Sean, you old geezer, come play!” His nephew, the member of parliament called out.
Sean rolled his eyes, “I’ll show you old,” he replied. He looked at the ball that had been dragged out. “And Jesus, it’s right there. I think that is the ball your Da and I used when we were kids.”
“Ha! Knew this was the right gift!” Eggsy shouted and Zoe on his hip hurried over to the present table. He ripped open the wrap and threw the ball at Sean who automatically head butted it to the place where he and Christopher had always played. He and Christopher were on opposite teams, not that you could really tell who was on which team. Daisy was with Sean though, and they scored a goal together. The game went until a good number of people were filthy and starving. Melanie brought out huge pots of spaghetti which was a nightmare to eat outside and no one cared.
Sean braved a cup of Harry’s punch and swore he saw through time. “How do you have a liver, mate?”
“Practice, along with a long genetic history of debauchery and drunkenness,” Harry said calmly. He was in a full suit and a party hat. He was the only person at the party in a party hat. “Now then I require cake.”
“You ate three bowls of spaghetti,” Sean said. “What the fuck is your metabolism like?”
“He has a special one for parties,” Percival explained. “It is an odd thing, I haven’t found a proper explanation for and trust me, I’ve been looking.”
“Cake,” Harry repeated. Sean wasn’t moving he rolled his eyes and broke into For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow to get things moving.
A few minutes later, Sean could have wept. Hamish’s cake was as good as he remembered. Daisy was sitting beside him. “Can we make this?” she asked. “It’s really good.”
“I don’t do desserts,” Sean said. “I mean a few cookies and a basic cake, but nothing that tastes like this.” He ate some more and decided screw it, he was going for a second slice. Harry and Percival were about to cut more cake as well.
“Sean, I was wondering if I could perhaps join you for your football games,” Percival suggested. “They look like fun, and I wouldn’t mind a different sort of activity.”
Sean shrugged. “Don’t see why not. My mates tend to throw elbows and cheat. Just to warn you.”
“I can hold my own,” Percival replied.
“You don’t play football,” Harry said confused. “15 years I have never seen you play football.”
“You play cricket.”
“No, Harry, I don’t,” Percival replied.
“But you have a cricket bat in the boot of your car!” Harry was almost shouting. “Why have a cricket bat if you don’t play cricket?”
Sean wondered if he should sneak away but dammit he wanted another slice of his birthday cake which was behind the couple.
“It was James’s and I have it to protect you.”
“Protect me?” Harry’s mouth opened and closed but no words came out. “Protect me? I have over 90 confirmed kills. I hold records to this day at MI-6. I was so badass out of gratitude they will cover up 3 more kills for me. How is an accountant with a cricket bat going to protect me?”
“Uhhh,” Sean shifted on his feet. “Are you supposed to say stuff like that in front of me?” Because learning that really explained a lot, and he did not want to be killed for learning it.
Harry flapped a hand, “It isn't a secret in the family.”
Sean did not know what to do with Harry calling him family.
“Harry at some point everyone in the accounting office has wanted to strip your budget or shave foam your car. I have...explained why that is a bad idea. The cricket bat helps with that.”
“You are so fucking sexy,” Harry breathed out and his scent grew stronger.
“Imagine me in gym shorts,” Percival crooned. “Sweaty, bit dirty.”
Harry’s eyes were glazing and the two men were drifting towards each other.
“Oi, not at my party, at my brother's home. Stow it until you get back to your sex dungeon. And get the fuck out of the way of my cake.” Sean pushed between them and took another slice and stormed back to a table. He sighed when the two men tried to be subtle going behind the barn to make out.
“The tiara does look quite nice on you,” Tilde said as she sat next to him. Roxy was walking about Izzy in her arms, trying to get her to fall asleep. Hunter had decided Christopher’s beard was fascinating and had not let go of the man for a while yet, and Christopher adored babies so didn’t really have a problem with it.
“Heard it was yours. Fancy dress bit?” Sean asked.
“No, I’m a princess,” she said and Sean choked on his cake. She took his fork and ate a few mouthfuls.
“What do you mean?” Sean asked sure she was joking.
“My uncle is the king of Sweden,” she said like it was nothing. “When I mated Roxy I renounced some titles and ranking. Only 3 titles left anymore? I can’t remember. Harry has more.”
“You lot aren’t just rich, you’re royalty?” Sean stared at her. “The guy who went to blow his mate behind the chicken barn is royalty?”
“Hmm,” Tilde agreed. She decided to keep eating his cake since he had abandoned it. “We mostly ignore the titles. Your queen is nice though.”
“Not mine,” Sean said automatically. He had never cared much for the monarchy. “Bloody hell, I’m never bowing for Harry.”
“You don’t need to, not that high up,” Tilde reassured him. “I do hope you like the birthday gift Roxy and I picked out for you.”
Daisy was running by, “Mine’s still better!” she shouted and was chased by Jesse who was told to slow down by Hamish and was completely ignored.
Tilde kissed Sean’s cheek. “You’ll get used to it.”
Sean somehow doubted it.
Melanie clapped her hands. “Sean open your gifts before we lose the light.” Dusk was coming and children were getting sleepy. Melanie turned on the fairy lights she had strung up everywhere and she pulled Sean to a chair that was by the gift table. She even had a camera.
“Jesus, I’m not 6,” he protested.
“Oi, you ape, indulge my mate or I’ll make sure the shop has overly fatty bacon,” Christopher shouted. He had his own grandchild in his arms, Hunter having switched back to his Da. Harry was swaying while he held his son and looking very relaxed. Sean wondered if it was the booze or the outdoor sex. He then wondered if he could convince Michelle to sneak behind the barn for a snog before the night was over.
“Fine,” he said. Michelle came over and helped him pick. “Mikey, this from you mate?”
“Yup! It’s for the shop. I know you hate the bell we have on the counter,” Mikey was grinning. That wasn’t a good sign.
Sean opened the box and it was a cow. When you pressed his head down, the cow mooed a low and terrifying noise. “Well that’s just dreadful,” Sean said.
“Thanks, Mikey.” He opened gifts from his nephews, wine and steak knives, and was appreciative. Christopher and Melanie had found an old butcher shop sign that he adored, and Roxy and Tilde had purchased him a subscription of a beer of the month club. “Well now this is a bloody brilliant gift,” he said.
“Yeah, I’m the best at gift giving,” Roxy was quite smug.
“Mine’s better,” Daisy said.
“Been hearing that all night, that mean yours is next?” Sean asked.
“Last, you save the best for last,” Daisy said. She plunked herself down in Sean’s lap. “Need help with the rest?”
“I could.” There were four things left. A large box, a small one, and two gift bags. He guessed the bag with lollies was Daisy’s. “Right, who is left?”
“Big one is me,” Merlin said. He had Eggsy and Zoe in his lap.
“You got me the ball,” Sean said.
“No, Eggsy got you the ball, this is from me,” Merlin said.
“Even money it is a weapon,” Eggsy joked.
“Of a sort,” Merlin agreed.
Sean cut open the plain brown box and looked at what was inside. “Bloody hell,” he said. “You got me a computer?”
“Built it from scratch for you,” Merlin said quite proud of himself. “Michelle said yours was ancient.”
“It’s three years old," Sean replied.
“Aye, ancient.” Merlin had been appalled when Michelle had mentioned the computer that Sean had, a clearance bare bones sort of thing. No one in the pack had a bad computer, it was untenable.
Eggsy nuzzled his alpha. “I love you.”
“I’ll help you set it up later in the week,” Merlin promised Sean.
“Thanks,” Sean said, damned impressed. He looked at the others. “Percival which is yours? And please tell me you picked it and not Harry.”
“I did and it is quite appropriate,” Percival reassured him.
Sean was relieved until he opened the box. “I don’t…” It was getting dark, and he wasn’t wearing his bifocals, which he absolutely didn’t need, but he made it out well enough. “Did you pay 6 months of the shop’s mortgage payments?”
“Your banker is very perky,” Percival replied.
“What the hell?”
“I would have paid the whole thing off, but you seem the sort to feel that is too forward,” Percival replied. Harry was beaming and kissed Percival's head. Hunter mostly asleep went limp between his dads and Percival easily picked him up and cuddled him.
“Yeah! A little bit,” Sean almost shouted. He looked at Michelle’s pack who seemed to believe this was a perfectly reasonable gift. “Thank you,” he finally said. He looked at his brother who at least looked as lost as him. “Michelle, that bag is you right?”
Michelle nodded and nudged it towards him. Everyone got quiet, very curious. Sean pulled out all the tissue paper and stared inside. There was a box and a piece of paper. “Paper first,” she said trying not to smile.
Sean read it. “This says that 20 life size cardboard cut outs of my custom image will be delivered to my house in a week.” He glared at her and held the paper facing out. “That’s the naked apron photo of me from the bloody cookbook.” He wasn’t surprised when all her people cheered at whistles and Christopher was clearly about to pee himself laughing. “Thanks babe, really,” Sean said.
“I thought it would help drum up business,” she said innocently.
“You will pay for this,” he warned her and she just winked in reply. He opened the box terrified what may be in there and he looked at her, and his eyes filled. “It’s that watch from the window.”
“You said it reminded you of one your grandfather had,” she said. “You like?”
Sean pulled her into a thorough kiss. “I like very much.” He let her strap it on his wrist and for a moment was lost in her eyes and her happy scent.
Daisy poked him. “Mine now!”
“Right,” Sean agreed. “The best gift ever, or so you’ve said.”
“It is,” Daisy insisted.
Sean noticed Eggsy moving closer and looking tense. Protective. Whatever was in the bag, no matter what, Sean was declaring it the gift of the night. It was getting dark and Melanie put an extra lantern on the table for him to see. He took off the tissue paper and pulled out pages of construction paper hole punched and tied with string.
In a child’s printing on the front it said Super Duper Tastiness by Sean and Daisy. She had taped on a photo of them in their aprons making the Daisy’s 20 Monies Chicken. He flipped it open and inside there were more photos of them cooking together, ones he hadn’t even known had been taken, and their ‘recipes’ or as well as Daisy could remember them. There weren’t a lot of measurements just lists of ingredients and vague directions, clearly filled in by an adult. There were drawings of cows and pigs and herbs in pots dancing about each page.
“Well?” Daisy asked eager and just a little worried.
Sean made sure when he put it down it was on tissue paper so nothing would get on it. He held her tight. “Yup, you were right,” he agreed, voice husky. “Best gift, no contest.” He had to clear his throat and blink a lot so the tears wouldn’t fall.
“I knew it,” Daisy said and hugged him back just as tight.
Eggsy settled back into Merlin’s lap relieved.
“Do I do the welcome to the pack thing now?” Merlin whispered into Eggsy’s ear.
Eggsy shook his head. “Nah, betting by Christmas though.”
Soon after the party began to break up and Sean carried Daisy to Michelle’s car. “Thank you,” he said to them both.
Michelle buckled Daisy into her booster seat and then smiled at Sean. “You want to come over for dinner and a movie night after tomorrow? Mondays we always have pizza and watch a movie.”
Sean looked at her and nodded. “That sounds good,” he agreed. He gave her a soft kiss. “You are wonderful.”
“So are you,” Michelle said. She got in the car and drove off. Sean kept staring after them until his brother was beside him and handed him a beer.
“Sure,” Sean agreed. They went back to the tables and sat, Christopher’s kids having cleaned up most of the mess. Melanie kissed both their heads and went to tuck grandchildren in. “This was good,” Sean admitted. “Great actually. Was wonderful to see Hamish again.”
“Glad of it. He’s one of the ones you talk of regularly from your life back then.” Christopher sipped his beer. “That pack wasn’t as mental as I feared.”
“There is probably jizz behind the barn,” Sean said.
“Like it’s the first time that happened,” Christopher replied. “Made Nathaniel back there.”
“Ewwww,” Sean shuddered. “Paid off six months of the mortgage, what the hell?”
“Means you can swing that grinder and a few other things you’ve had your eye on,” Christopher replied. He looked up at the stars. “You fit with them,” he said.
“Yes I really go well with titled and rich as fuck people,” Sean joked.
“You do, which was a surprise to me, but you got on well with them. They like you,” Christopher grinned. “No accounting for taste.” Sean kicked his brother under the table. They were quiet for a bit. “I called them,” Christopher said finally.
Sean began to peel the label off his beer. “I figured.”
“They had plans.”
Sean nodded. “I am sure they did,” he agreed. He looked at his brother. “I appreciate you trying, but they’ve lived most of their lives without me, hard to change that pattern.”
“You could try,” Christopher suggested.
“Better to leave them alone,” Sean replied.
Sean shook his head. “Please, not tonight, not after how wonderful this was.”
Christopher nodded. They sat in silence until they finished their drinks and went back in. Sean settled in his childhood bedroom. He looked at the pile of gifts in awe that people cared about him like that. He read the cookbook Daisy made for him again and thought of the recipes he was writing up from his mother’s journal. He had a foolish idea jump into his head and pushed it aside. He fell asleep thinking about recipes and Michelle.