“Eggsy is having another baby,” Daisy said. “They don’t know what it is,” she added. “They rubbed goo on Eggsy’s tummy and a stick took a picture but the baby wouldn’t show its junk.” She looked at Jesse. “Did your baby show off their junk?”
Jesse laughed a little. “He did but I had wanted it to be a surprise so I didn’t look.”
Daisy looked at the baby. “He’s tiny.” She poked a little at him and the baby grabbed her finger. “But strong.”
“He was a month early, in a bit of a rush. Gets that from me, not his Da. His da is slow as molasses,” Jesse whispered. He kissed his son’s head. “Should have named him a quick name.”
“What’s a quick name?” Daisy asked. “How are names quick?”
“Well, Dash, seems pretty quick,” Jesse said.
“That’s a character from the Incredibles,” Daisy replied. She looked at the baby. “It would have been the wrong name.”
“Indeed,” Hamish agreed coming over. “We had a whole list and when he was born we realized they were all the wrong name?”
“Really?” Daisy looked over at her mum. “Mummy, did you have a list?”
“I did,” Michelle replied. “You were almost Johanna, or Elizabeth.”
“Blech,” Daisy said.
“It was your brother,” Michelle said. “He brought this horrible bouquet of flowers to the hospital, wilted and mangled and perfect. The only flower not beat up in it, was the Daisy. And there we go.”
“That’s a nice story,” Daisy said. She turned back to the baby. “So why did you pick Roland? It’s weird.”
“Daisy!” Michelle said.
Jesse laughed. “It’s from a poem by Robert Browning, I like poems a lot.”
“Oh, okay,” Daisy smiled. “We brought you gifts for having a baby.”
“Thank you,” Jesse said. “Did you pick it out?”
“Yup! Sean has bad taste in baby stuff. He wanted sailor suits and this thing that would make your baby look like a frog.”
“The frog suit was adorable!” Sean protested. “And had a matching blanket.”
Michelle picked up the gift bag beside her and Daisy hurried over and grabbed it and gave it to Hamish. “Happy baby!” she said cheerfully.
“Thank you,” Hamish smiled and stroked a hand over her hair. He liked the girl a lot and had been having fun beta testing the dessert recipes for Sean’s book with her. He opened the gift and pulled sleepers and clothes and couldn’t help but notice, “A bear is okay but a frog is not?”
“He’s already so little,” Daisy said. “Need to make him a bear, it is that thing…you aim towards it?”
Michelle thought for a minute, “Aspirational?” Harry loved that word.
“Yeah,” Daisy said. “Dress him like a bear so he’ll want to be big and strong.”
Jesse smiled at her. “Much better than a frog,” he agreed.
Hamish pulled out a couple extra receiving blankets and then an envelope. There was a gift card for the pub and the promise of 3 hours of babysitting. “You’ll need a break,” Michelle said. “And we know how to keep a baby alive. You have to use that in the next 6 weeks too. New parents need a break.”
Hamish went over and kissed Michelle cheek. “Thank you,” he said. “Now then, I made fairy cakes, is anyone interested?”
“Me!” Daisy shouted. “Me, I’m interested.”
“I don’t think you are because I noticed a distinct amount of carrot still on your plate during dinner,” Michelle said. She smiled when Daisy’s face fell. “You have a carrot debt that has to be paid sometime this week, you hear?”
“I do,” Daisy promised.
“Then you can have a fairy cake,” Michelle said. “Let me help you Hamish,” Michelle stood up.
“No need,” Hamish tried to protest.
“I’m helping,” she said. “And Sean just ask to hold the baby, already.”
Jesse held Roland out and Sean eagerly took him. “Hello there, little man,” Sean said.
“You like babies, how come you and Mummy aren’t going to have any?” Daisy asked.
Sean panicked and looked at Michelle, who just gave a wave and disappeared into the kitchen with Hamish. He took a deep breath and then looked at Daisy. “I do like them. But there is a big difference between being an honourary uncle like I am to Roland here, or maybe future grandfather to Zoe and whomever Eggsy has.” He looked at her. “Babies are a great deal of work, and care, and at the end of the day I’m happy devoting my energy just to you and your mother. More than that, is not something I want.”
Daisy nodded. “Plus when Mummy had me, cause my dad threw her down the stairs, she can’t have no more kids. Cause it was surgery and swessful to her body.”
Jesse looked at Sean in horror and Sean gave a small shake of his head. “Words, Daisy. Stressful.”
“Stressful,” Daisy repeated.
“And yes, your mother cannot have more babies,” Sean said. “Because your birth father was a piece of shit. But even if she could, we are happy as we are. Being your peoples is more than enough.”
“Okay, there are enough babies around anyways.”
“Yes and we can give them back when they make a mess in their diaper,” Sean said and handed Roland back to Jesse. “Have fun,” he said.
“The poop is so gross,” Jesse said. “It is just…ugh, they do not warn you enough about it.” He got up and took the baby to the back of the house.
Sean pulled Daisy into his lap. “We’re a good family, don’t you think?”
“Not yet,” Daisy replied. “You have to move in still. Can’t call you Daddy until we actually live together.”
“Your mum and I agreed, one year remember?” Sean smiled. She had been trying to get him into the estate more and more.
“It’s close enough!”
“Daisy,” Sean chided.
“Finnnnnnnneeeeeeee,” she said. “Yay!” she called when Michelle and Hamish returned with the dessert plates. She ate her fairy cake and the adults talked and she fell asleep against Sean and Sean held her close.
On the drive back to his place, he looked at Michelle. “Would you have wanted a baby if it was possible?” he asked quietly, though nothing woke Daisy once she was out.
Michelle is quiet. “You’d want it wouldn’t you?”
“No,” he replied. “I’m old, and the thought of those late nights and teething and all that goes with it, it exhausts me.”
“You aren’t that old,” she said.
“I’m older than Merlin and Harry.”
“By a year, and they are managing,” she replied.
“They are,” he agreed. “But I wouldn’t. I’ll be honest Michelle, I don’t want another child, I don’t want to think about adoption, beyond maybe a cat? It isn’t…I am very content the three of us.” His hands tightened on the wheel. “And you?”
“We’d make a pretty as fuck baby,” Michelle replied after a minute. “Harry and Percival wouldn’t be able to cope, better we don’t have one.”
Sean didn’t laugh. “Michelle,” he said.
She shook her head. “It’s honestly okay, I don’t want one. I have Daisy to raise and pregnancy in your mid forties not supposed to be the funnest thing ever. It’s more…” she looked at him. “Why couldn’t I have met you before Dean?”
“Not saying that your suffering had a larger purpose, because it didn’t,” he said thinking about it. “He was just a crap alpha and a shit human. But it gave you Daisy. And I wouldn’t have seen you back then, was still too morose over everything.” He reached out and squeezed her hand. “Think we’re where we are supposed to be.”
“Yeah,” she agreed. “Our baby would have been too pretty though.”
“People would have followed us in the street, begging for photos,” he said. “Never a moment of peace.”
They were quiet as they made their way to the estate. “A cat? Would have thought you a dog person.”
“I like cats,” he said.
“Huh, learn something new every day.” Michelle looked in the back seat. “The three of us is more than enough.”
As they pulled in front of the estate a water balloon hit the car and they looked up. Harry was leaning out the window. They unrolled theirs. “Do you bring us Hamish dessert home?”
“No!” Sean shouted back.
“Then suffer!” Harry pelted the car with more water balloons.
“He’ll run out eventually,” Sean said, “and it looks like rain. Car needed a wash anyways.”
It took an hour before they could make a break for it.
Sean stared at the confirmation email. The cook book was with the editor at the publishing company. Oh god he couldn’t breathe. He grabbed his phone. “Christopher the thing is sent off,” he said once the line picked up.
“On my way,” Christopher replied and hung up. He arrived 20 minutes later and he yanked Sean out of the house and dragged him to the car.
“I’m in my gross sweats,” Sean protested.
“You’re just gross in general,” Christopher replied and forced him into the car. Sean saw the six back in the back seat and was relieved. Beer would be good.
“Why are we driving out to the estate?” Sean asked when he realized their direction.
“Reasons, now shut up.” Christopher drove and parked in front of the house. “I trust we don’t have to break in this time.”
Sean smiled. “Nah, I’ve got access and like your fat arse could be boosted up to an broken window anymore.”
“Melanie likes the junk in my trunk.” Christopher grabbed the beer from the back.
“Shame I have to commit my sister-in-law, but you do what you have to for family,” Sean said and lead him up and into the house.
“Sean, were we expecting you?” Tilde asked working from home and coming out when she heard the ruckus.
“Not about you,” Christopher said and kept walking. They went through and then were at the balcony they went out and sat on the rail, like they had when Sean was 16 and Christopher was home from Uni and gave Sean his first beer.
“You probably shouldn’t talk to a princess like that,” Sean suggested.
“Oi, we are men on a mission, and they are shit with manners in this place,” Christopher replied. They tapped the bottles against each other and drank even though it was 9am. “Sean, you fucking did it.”
“Still edits and proofs and a million things before it comes out. We’re looking at six months easy.”
“Sean, I know how fucking terrifying doing this would have been for you. The blog, the local business interviews you’ve doing, putting it together?” Christopher shook his head. “Right now, this moment I’m more proud of you than I have ever been.”
“Even when I was 7 and beat your bogie flick record?” Sean joked.
Only Christopher wasn’t laughing. “Even prouder than that. You never let me say it, but Robyn gutted you. She just fucking gutted you, and so did the job, and the kids, and you were just…you weren’t you, for so damn long. And then you clawed your way because to the man I remembered, my little brother Sean who was happy and goofy and kind. Fuck I almost wept when I saw you with Daisy the first time because your heart was on your sleeve again. You could have been happy with the butcher shop, perfectly content with a well run business. But this? Pushing yourself like this, with Mama’s recipes, with your own? Fucking hell you git, you made me feel things.”
Sean stared out at the woods, he couldn’t look at his brother. They both ignored how he wiped his eyes and cracked open another beer. “You propped me up,” Sean said. “You made me admit how unhappy I had been and you held my pieces together until I could do it myself. You are pushy and smug and annoying and I couldn’t have better than an older brother than you.” He looked at Christopher. “Dedicated the book to you.”
“Bull fucking shit, you dedicate a book to the woman you are shagging, if you ever want to get that shag again.” Christopher gave him a look. “How dumb are you?”
“The whole book is an ode to my love for Michelle and Daisy,” Sean countered. “I’m allowed to dedicate it to my smelly brother if I want.”
“You’re almost bald.”
“You two are going to get tipsy and you will come inside and finish the beers on a nice stable couch,” Tilde said leaning on the door. “Come on, bond on a level surface.”
“Tilde tell him Michelle will still fuck me even though I dedicated my book to him?”
“Michelle will always fuck you, and you finished the book?” Tilde went over and punched him and Sean wobbled for a moment and she gripped him tight. “Why did you not tell us?” Her nails dug in. “Christopher call your family, yes? We are partying tonight.”
“No we aren’t,” Sean said.
“Hell yeah we are,” Christopher said. “The princess knows what’s up. This is a big deal.”
“It is,” Tilde said. “Go drink more, and I’ll arrange everything.”
“You don’t have to,” Sean tried again.
“Shut up,” Tilde said. “You don’t decide what is important about you. We do that.”
“Did that make sense?” Sean asked.
“Might after a couple more beers,” Christopher suggested.
By 11 the party began and lasted the whole day. At a certain point Sean stopped protesting when the whole pack kept telling him how proud they were of him.
He was pretty damn proud of himself.
“And now you give them their change,” Sean said and he helped Daisy count out the money. Daisy stood on a chair and carefully handed it over.
“Thank you, enjoy your dead animal product,” she said cheerfully. The woman laughed and promised she would.
“Good job, next time maybe just say, hope you enjoy or something a little less murdery sounding?” Sean suggested.
“Okay,” Daisy said and got down from the chair. “What do we do when there are no customers?”
“We check on the inventory, go in the back and prep the dead animal product, see about any online orders, play Pokemon on my ancient DS system,” he admitted.
Daisy hurried around to the front of the counter and looked. “That row of sausages is running low.”
“The spacy,” she said looking at the letters. Reading cursive was hard. “Spicy?”
“Good girl, can you man the front while I run back and get them?”
“Yup!” she said happily. She got back up on the chair and stood there waiting, and staring intently at the front door, willing customers to appear.
Sean went in the back where Twitch was prepping roasts for sale. “Going well?” Twitch and Mikey had decided on their own shifts, in some sort of schedule that Sean didn't even pretend to understand. But he had two days off every week now and wasn't going to complain about that.
“Yup,” Twitch replied. “She’s great.”
Sean flushed. “No idea why she picked me of all her options for take your child to work day.”
Twitch gave him a look. “Well I’d imagine she wanted time alone with her Da.”
“Not her Da yet,” Sean said and grabbed some sausages.
“You keep telling yourself that boss,” Twitch said and brought his cleaver down and cut some meat. “God I love that sound,” he said.
“Not creepy at all mate,” Sean pointed out and went back to the front.
There was a customer who hadn’t been in since before Valentine’s day. He looked rather awkward, and Daisy was glaring at him. Sean put the sausages in the display. “Hi, Daniel,” he said softly. “What can we get you today?”
“No,” Daisy said. “We have the right to refuse service to people. So bye.”
“Excuse me?” Sean stared at her. “Since when are you rude?”
“He looks like you!” she said. On her chair she was still shorter than Sean. But she tried to draw herself up. “So he’s the other one right?”
“That is my son, Daisy, and I would appreciate you not being rude to him,” Sean said firmly.
“But he’s probably here to be rude to you,” Daisy turned and glared at him. “The other one was mean, he probably is too.”
“Daisy,” Sean cupped her neck.
“Mummy told everyone about Valentine’s Day and I wasn’t supposed to hear it, but Merlin was mad someone was mean to you and he and Harry wanted to go talk to her. You know what that means.”
“I have an idea,” Sean said. “She was audited again wasn’t she?”
“I don’t know,” Daisy replied. She pointed at Daniel. “Are you here to be mean to my Dad, because I know three punches. And and and. I HAVE A HARRY AND HE HAS AN AXE!”
Daniel looked helpless. “I’m not here to be mean,” he said.
“Prove it,” Daisy said. “Say something nice about Sean.”
“Daisy, that’s enough,” Sean said. He picked her up off the chair. “Go help Twitch in back.”
“I had a chair too,” Daniel said. Sean and Daisy stared at him. “I stood on it to stir the batter for waffles. We had them once a month and I always made a mess got batter everywhere, and Dad just laughed. He was never mad about the mess.”
“Have to have a mess when you cook,” Daisy said. “A bit of one.”
“Because a mess means you worked hard to make your family’s tummies happy,” Daniel said.
“Sean says that to me a lot,” Daisy stared up at him.
“My mum always said that to me,” Sean told them both.
“Okay, I don’t think you’ll be mean, but if you are, Harry. Axe.”
“I understand,” Daniel replied. “It was very nice to meet you Daisy.”
“Nice to meet you too. Bye,” Daisy ran into the back.
“She called you Dad,” Daniel said into the heavy silence.
“I’m not, we’re not even promised to be bonded, Michelle and I, not for a few more months anyways.”
“Mum said…unkind things about her, your Michelle,” Daniel said. “Said she threatened mum and well…”
“Oh, Michelle absolutely did, but your mum had been a bitch to her first, and Michelle doesn’t take crap these days,” Sean said proudly. “Might be a panic attack after, but the pack has made sure she knows her value.”
“That’s the first harsh thing you’ve ever said about Mum,” Daniel said. He took a breath. “I believed her. Reb did too, Reb still believes her. But…there are cracks? It was easier to believe that you didn’t love us, didn’t care when you were gone and never came to anything.”
Sean had spent years being quiet and decided it was time to borrow a little of the courage Michelle had. “I tried the first few years, she always said she asked and you didn’t want me there. And I had screwed up enough that I believed it.”
“We wanted you there. Even when I didn’t, I still secretly hoped you would show up. And you’ve never looked anything but happy to see me when I stopped by. Even when I was saying nothing, you just looked so thrilled to see me. It didn’t match what she always said about you. And then after Valentine’s Day she just went off, about your young and trashy woman, and Reb bought into it, but I read the blog and have seen photos of Michelle, it didn’t match what Mum was saying. And I remember cooking with you, I remember waking up from a nightmare and you just getting in from work, exhausted but you checked under my bed and made me warm milk.” Daniel shrugged. “I hate that you stayed away, but I’m starting to realize that maybe you didn’t know you were wanted.”
“I didn’t,” Sean said.
“I can’t speak for Reb, and well she’s not speaking to me right now anyways, bit pissed that I defended you to Mum, that I’ve come up here a bit. But I was hoping maybe next time I come up, we could also grab lunch?”
Before Sean could answer Michelle came barreling through the door. “Daisy called, threat level undecided, who do I have to kill?” She held her flower snips up. “Pretty sure I can do something with these.”
Sean laughed. “No one,” he said. “Michelle, this is my son Daniel, he was just hoping he and I could have lunch one day.”
Michelle squealed and hugged Daniel. “Oh you look like him, is this what Sean looked like in his 20s, god I would have climbed him like a tree. I mean I do that anyways, but still.”
“Dad, help,” Daniel said. “Snips poking kidney.”
“You really only need one of those.”
“Now then, tell me all about yourself,” Michelle said. “Oh wait, no you can do that next time. I have to speak to my daughter about not calling in codes!” Her voice raised on the last few words.
“I regret nothing!” Daisy shouted back.
“Oh you are going to regret it, especially if you called anyone else.”
They all heard a screech of car and turned.
Daniel stared. “He really does have an axe. I thought that was going to be a metaphor.”
Sean sighed and went to the door. “Harry, calm your tits and go home, no axe is required.”
“Calm my tits?”
“I picked it up from Twitch. You don’t need to murder my son.”
Harry came into the shop even though Sean tried to bar the door. The axe rested casually on his shoulder, on the perfect bespoke suit even though he had been working from home that day. “Hello, I’m Harry Hart.”
“Daniel McKnight,” Daniel said. “Axe.”
“Yes well, needs must,” Harry smiled. “Lovely trousers, who tailored them?” He looked him up and down. “Though a full break overwhelms you, I’ll give you my tailor’s number.”
“Daniel,” Sean said. “Now is just a good time to run.”
“No,” Daniel said and planted his feet. “I’ve taken self defense classes. I work in legal aid, I face cold turkey junkies and murders. I’m prepared.”
Harry’s smile and scent sharpened. “Are you now pup?” He tilted his head a little.
Daniel tipped his neck. “Jesus, Dad, this is the pack alpha?”
“Oh no,” Harry smiled, “I’m much more mellow than him. I’m the nice one.”
“Gulp,” Daniel said.
“Told you I had a Harry and an axe,” Daisy said. She had sneaked back into the front of the store. “I already have an older brother. Eggsy, he’s good. But we can be family too, I don’t mind.”
“Thanks,” Daniel said. “I think maybe I want to be family. With Da though, and you and your mum, maybe not the guy with the axe though.”
“Your Uncle Christopher would love to see you too,” Sean said. “Next weekend, how about a meal out at the farm. You loved it when you were little.”
“I did,” Daniel agreed. “That sounds good. I’m going to go now. If the man with the axe lets me?”
“Of course,” Harry said. “I’ll email you my tailor’s information.”
“You don’t have my email,” Daniel said. Harry just smiled politely. “Riiiiight. Bye Dad.” Daniel hurried out.
“You have a date with your son!” Michelle said and hugged Sean.
“He wasn’t mean!” Daisy added.
“I didn’t even get to be really threatening,” Harry said sadly.
“I have an ex that stole my motorcycle, you can have a go at them!” Twitch shouted from the back.
“Excellent,” Harry said and went back to discuss it.
Sean was squeezed tight by Michelle and Daisy. He had a date with his son.
Dear god he had to keep the pack away. Michelle leaned up, “Don’t worry I have a plan,” she said like she had read his mind. He just nuzzled her neck.
“You are perfect,” he said.
The door chimed and a customer came in. Daisy ran to her chair. “Hello, what carcass can I help you with today?”