Sean walked home at 2am. He was exhausted. He was always exhausted, but there had been a large party with important people in it and he was the head chef and had to be there the whole. They applauded him and bought him a drink and tipped his waitstaff for crap. He had gone to culinary school wanting to make good food, that was environmentally friendly before that was even the thing to do. He had write ups in magazines a couple cook books out, even been on telly a bunch.
And he had missed father’s day.
He got home and let himself into the cramped townhouse and saw the balloons. He had promised he’d try to be home, even if he just popped out for an hour. And then the big party had come in and stayed for hours, and he never let anyone else clean up the kitchen, he was fussy like that.
Sean looked at the cupcake on the table, frosting rock hard at this point and he ate every damn bite and read the cards that the kids left him out. He smiled at the drawings inside, of them all cooking together.
This time he meant it when he swore to himself that he was going to take more time at home. He didn’t want to miss anymore time with the kids, they’d be grown far too soon. He crawled into bed and his wife didn’t even roll over. He kissed her shoulder and stared at the ceiling for an hour before he went to sleep.
“You’re mental,” he said. He and his brother were cooking in the old kitchen in the family farm. “You can’t be serious.” They moved around each other seamlessly, decades of working together. “You have a job in the city, the family.”
“They like the idea,” Christoper replied. “I mean not work, I haven’t told them yet. But the family? They love the farm.” He chopped some carrots and added them to the pot. “Not like I’ve forgotten how to run it.”
Sean took apart a chicken with ease. He didn’t get to do this work at the restaurant and he relished it. The bones broke easily under his strokes and he sighed. “The farm barely breaks even.”
“I have ideas about that,” Christopher smiled at his little brother. It was a smile that lead Sean to riding their bikes past the train tracks, to their first stolen beer, to the matching tattoos of the family crest. Christopher’s alpha scent was cajoling. And he kept with that smile.
“No,” Sean said. “Whatever you are thinking, no.”
“Uncle David wants to retire,” Christopher said. “You take over the butcher shop.”
“Forget breaking even, his shop is barely afloat and mortgaged to the hilt,” Sean protested. He broke down another chicken and started to season them.
“Because he tried to compete with the main grocery store,” Christopher said. “Think about the change in population, in the village. People from London who want the small town vibe but all the luxuries they are used to. They don’t want factory farmed.”
Sean could see what he was getting at. “Ethically sourced,” he said. He put the chickens in the oven. “Small independent farms, organic. Hand made sausage, fresh cured bacon. Grandfather’s jerky.”
Christopher’s smile and scent grew. “And oh look, I’m going to have a farm. Where the animals will be treated better than my own kids.”
“That’s because your children are devil’s spawn, just like their father,” Sean shot back.
“Tell me you don’t remember how much you loved working in the shop,” Christopher said.
“I was 17 and wanted money to impress Robyn,” he said. He looked out the window where his wife was on the phone. He had fallen in love with her when he was 16 and never looked back. Followed her to London, went to culinary school, worked insane hours to help her with law school. They were both top of their fields and she loved it. And Sean realized he hated it, had hated it for years. “Is the shop in decent shape at least?”
“God no,” Christopher said. “Needs at least 10k in updating.”
“I hate you so much,” Sean groaned.
“We’ll take a drive after dinner,” he suggested and they worked together some more, making their mother’s favourite meal for her wake. The family ate outside and toasted her memory. The got the shop keys off of Uncle David who looked hopeful. Sean didn’t want him to get too hopeful. He knew he was dreaming and once back in the city it would seem like a foolish idea. He noticed that the empty stores of the last few years were mostly gone. “People push out further every year,” Christopher explained. “About an hour, bit over into London. Remember the estate?”
Sean rolled his eyes. “Course I do, we broke in often enough,” he said. “Been turned into hotel or retreat or something.”
“No, has a family. A pack at it, been there for years,” Christopher said. “Small one, but they’ve been doing lots of renos, funneled gobs of money into the village.” Christopher unlocked the butcher shop and turned on the lights. It was clean and tidy, well maintained but could definitely use a face list. “My meat, your shop,” Christopher said. He went behind the counter and dug about. Their old work aprons from when they were kids under there collecting dust, bringing up memories.
“You are a real bastard,” Sean replied. He could picture his little girl in it easily. Though at 8 she was growing so fast. And his boy was 11. And cared only about video games. He wondered if he could get him into the shop, earn money towards them, spend some time together. He’d be able to be home by 8 at the latest, earlier once the shop could sustain proper staff. “Let’s see the back then.” It was worse than the front, the walk in chill chest needing replacement which would be a huge expense. “This is a crazy idea. I haven’t even talked to Robyn about it.” Sean sat at the counter where he had watched his uncle carve meat, he remembered the first time he used the ancient grinder. And he felt more at home than he ever did in his restaurant in London. He went to the roll and tore off some butcher paper and found a pen. “The farm wouldn’t be enough to sustain this place. Beyond anything, no bloody cows.”
Christopher leaned forward. “I can get you a cow,” he said. He had already talked to a few other farms in the area and they knew people further afield. They spent an hour lost in numbers and ideas.
“You are asking me to give up my restaurant,” Sean said. “Our life.”
“Tell me you are happy,” Christopher said seriously. “Tell me that things are okay in London, that it is the dream you had when you moved there. That it is everything you ever wanted. That all those appearances on the telly satisfy you more than the summers your worked here and I’ll back off.”
“Robyn and I are in counseling,” Sean told his brother softly. “She had an affair. I was never around. We’re working through it.”
“This job, you’d definitely be around more,” Christopher said. “Think about it?”
Sean nodded and endured the headlock that his brother put him in and they went back to the farm. Sean didn’t mention the idea to the family until they were back in London for a few days. The three of them looked at him like he grew another head. “We love the village,” he said.
“To visit,” Robyn said sharply. “You know how much I hated it growing up. And the commute for me to the law office?”
“You’ve talked about your own firm, you could do that there.”
“And go from multi-million dollar accounts, to wills and leases?” she sneered a bit.
“That’s what you do now,” he pointed out.
“You have one of the most successful restaurants in the city!” Robyn shouted, her omega scent growing dark and the kids slunk out of the room, used to their parents fighting. “We have everything.”
“And I’m miserable,” Sean said.
“All adults are, and you suck it up. Bit early for a midlife crisis,” she said. She went to the cupboard and poured a class of wine. “How would you even get the money for this?”
“Sell the restaurant,” Sean replied. He poured himself a whisky. “We aren’t happy. Maybe a change would help.”
“It would make you happy,” she said. “Not us.”
In counseling it was regularly pointed out that he seldom asserted himself in their relationship. He tried. “I really want this. It could be good for the family. We’d have more time together, that’s what you want isn’t it?” When she was quiet he just nodded. “How’s Jason?” She froze a bit and he sighed. “You really should have married an alpha. Never knew why you said yes when I asked you out.”
“Because you had these floppy curls, and the most beautiful smile I had ever seen,” she said. She looked at him. “I am not counting the last two weeks, not with what happened. But when did I last see you smile and mean it?”
“I wish I knew,” he said. “I think I’ll go stay at the farm a bit. At the very least help Uncle David get the shop in tip top shape for sale. I’ll come in on the weekends, to see the kids, work at the restaurant.”
“You’re talking a trial separation,” she said.
“I love you Robyn, and I can’t even remember the last time we enjoyed each others company,” he replied. She smelled sad and usually he would pull her into his arms and nuzzle her and make it better. But they hadn’t been able to make it better for each other for a while. “I’ll talk to the kids tomorrow.”
“We’ll talk to the kids,” she said. “Will you stay in our -” she didn’t finish the sentence.
“Guest room,” he said. He got up and kissed her head and went to sleep on the impossibly hard mattress. The next day they told the kids who didn’t cope well after having lost their grandmother and now this, and since he was the one walking away he shouldered the blame no matter that Robyn tried to bring some onto herself. He grabbed an overnight bag and stopped by the restaurant which was a well oiled machine and said he’d be back for Friday and Saturday night and drove back out to the farm.
Christopher and family welcomed him with open arms and he and Christopher got completely shit faced out in the smoke house.
They talked and kept running numbers, and made trips to other farms, them and Uncle David and it all seemed to be falling into place naturally, like the world wanted him to be here doing this. When he drove back into London after three days the noise and crowds got to him. The kids wouldn’t talk to him, Robyn already had papers written up and the restaurant didn’t need him.
Three days and he was removed from his life. So easily. Like he didn’t matter at home. And hell, with the hours he had kept, how much difference to the kids did it really make. He talked to his head chef and the general manager and they jumped at the chance to buy 70% of the business. Sean asked Robyn to help with the paperwork and she recommended someone at her firm. He went back to the village and took a sledgehammer to the back of his uncle’s shop. It was almost theraputic. Weeks he kept going back into London for the weekend and getting nowhere with the kids and then everything was sold and Robyn suggested they needed some space. That maybe he try again in a month. He nodded and left the gifts he brought and wasn’t surprised when he passed Jason in the hall.
It didn’t hurt when a month later they didn’t come to the grand reopening of the store. He hid the children’s aprons he had had made up for the kids in the back storage. He was the one to leave, there was no reason they should come to him. He put on a smile and went out to the people eager to take photos with the chef they had seen on the telly. He hoped his face and name were enough to get people in and that what he was selling would keep them coming. The counters gleamed white, and the shelves looked good and when his nephew hugged him, he could pretend for a second it was his son.
Sean was in a suit. The shop had been breaking even which was good but he knew he could do better. And the key was to lure business away. He used to be charming, he could do this. He had sent letters to a couple local restaurants and few households asking for an appointment to discuss moving their business to him. One of the restaurants had agreed, so long as he helped them out in the kitchens when they were short staffed. A few years out of the limelight and he had been largely forgotten and to be honest, he liked it. They weren’t asking him to fill in because of his restaurant or old cookbooks but because they knew the family, and trusted him not to cock up making shepherd’s pie. A line cook for a bit of a hipster pub he could do. Only one private household had answered his letter.
The biggest house in the village, the estate at the outskirts. He drove out with a sampler box of what he could provide in the cooler and fuck things were supposed to look smaller when you got older, not bigger. “Bloody hell,” he said aloud in his delivery station wagon. He stared up at the house and realized that his suit, which was well made would look cheap next to whatever the fine gents and ladies who lived there wore. But it would have to do. He had met celebrities and Prime Ministers, this was nothing, just maybe the new roof. No big deal. He got out of the car and tugged at his jacket a little and hauled the cooler out. One thing he had to say, the big of pudge he had been putting on at the restaurant was gone and his arms were killer from everything he had hauled and helping at the farm for the last 2 years he had been running the butcher shop. He trudged up the steps and rang the bell. He could hear it echoing. After a couple minutes he rang again and a teen girl answered. “Hiya,” he said. “I have an appointment with Percival Rockford?” He flinched at the young alpha scent.
“Sorry, still dealing with ruts, they are balls,” she said. “What’s in the cooler?”
“Uh, samples from my shop. Steaks, game hens, sausage and a bacon I cured myself,” he explained still holding the cooler.
“Fuck a bacon sandwich would be brilliant right now. Da is trying to control the idiots. He’ll be available in a sec. Come to the kitchen.” She started walking into the house and he wasn’t quite sure what to do, but in the end he followed. He walked into the kitchen and sighed. It was gorgeous. All bright natural light with herbs on the windowsill and and a huge range. The girl banged a pan onto it and turned the heat up high. She pulled a package of bacon out of the fridge and looked ready to just toss it on. It hurt his soul.
“Stop,” he said.
She growled at him, an impressive noise for her age, but he was old and well used to the asshole alphas found in the kitchens of London. He looked at the bacon she pulled out and shuddered. “This is pure salt and fat.”
“Well, yeah, bacon. And if you have turkey bacon in there, you can just fuck right off and just try to leave here without a cleaver in your head.”
He tried not to laugh, little alpha trying to sound tough. “Yes, bacon should have salt and fat, but not so much you only taste those.” He turned the range off and the oven on. “Find me a baking sheet and rack for it.” Roxy shrugged and found them. “Tinfoil?” She pointed to a cupboard. He lay some down on the sheet and added the rack. He went into the cooler and pulled out a package and unwrapped it. “How many sandwiches do you need?”
“Two,” she decided. “Rut’s coming on, going to have to wank at some point.”
He blinked. “Are you supposed to share those details with me?” he asked. “I’d hope my son doesn’t share that with strangers.”
Roxy frowned. “Sorry,” she said.
She said in an odd voice. “Are you sorry for over sharing or that my son doesn’t?” he asked.
Roxy grinned at him. “Oooh you catch things quick.”
He lay out 6 strips of bacon. “Oven the fat drips down, cooks more evenly.” He couldn’t stop himself and put on one strip of the cheap stuff she was going to cook up. “Look at the difference,” he said. “Mine still beautiful fat to give it flavour, but actual meat there as well. And watch what happens when they cook.” He put it in the oven and then washed his hands. “Although, I should be saying this to Mr. Rockford.”
“Saying what?” Percival asked as he walked into the kitchen. “My apologies Mr. McKnight. My mate and our pack alpha are idiots.” He reached out a hand and Sean shook it. “What are we doing?”
“Cooking bacon,” Roxy replied.
“In the oven?”
“What he said to do.” Roxy went to the toaster and threw some bread in.
“Please call me Knights,” Sean said. “Work nickname that seems to be sticking.”
“Very well,” Percival said. “Your letter intrigued me. Especially when you made it clear you would cost me more money. Not a common selling feature.”
“Not going to lie, just to get my foot in the door,” Sean replied. He should have, it was what had gotten him so many rejections. “It is about quality. Live in a house like this you have to understand quality.”
“Live in a house like this, you learn the importance of saving a dollar or two,” Percival countered. “You know we have an account with the grocery store, every other week delivery, we pay our bill on the last of the month. This is our average list for them with their price break down.” He handed the list to Sean. “How do you compare?”
Sean looked at the oven, he had two minutes. He looked at the list and took the pen Percival offered. He knew enough to know it was a thousand pound pen. He wrote his prices in comparison. He slid the page over to Percival and checked the oven. He switched it to broiler and hummed god save the queen. He pulled the sheet out of the oven and put in on the range. He ignored the muttering from Percival, he knew a lost sale easily enough. He pat the bacon dry and gestured Roxy over. “Look.”
Roxy stared at the pieces her mouth watering. “The one looks so shriveled, and how does it look burnt and anemic at the same time?” She poked at it and growled like the bacon had personally offended her. Sean went to the toaster and pulled out the slices. He checked the fridge and grabbed the mayo and a tomato.
“Tomatoes should be on counter, the fridge will kill their flavour,” he said and sliced it thin. He put the sandwich together for Roxy and handed it to her. She took a bite and her scent which was already high swam with pleasure.
“Dad,” she said. “Dad, this is soooo much better.”
“All bacon is bacon,” Percival replied. He opened his mouth and his daughter jammed it into his mouth. He chewed and then scowled at both of them and Sean had no idea what that meant. Percival swallowed. “No,” he said. “They are in a mood.”
“Too bad, they need to try this,” Roxy said and went to an intercom. “Kitchen. Code bacon,” she said. She ate a few more bites and Sean backed into the counter when two men ran in with a battle axe and a sword.
“Where’s the pig we need to kill?” One of the alphas snarled and Sean barely managed to not tilt his head in submission.
The other didn’t say a sentence just growled and this time Sean absolutely tilted his head. Roxy grabbed two strips of bacon that hadn’t been put on a sandwich and tore them both in half. One was the grocery store stuff, the other his. She took it to them. “Eat,” she said. They both kept glaring at him and chewed.
Eventually the one who was clearly the pack leader looked at Percival. “Take care of it,” he said. He then swung the sword and the man easily blocked. They were clashing and running out of the kitchen and the girl grabbed an 8 inch kitchen blade and started to follow.
“Don’t you dare,” Sean said unthinking. Percival made a low noise in his throat, strong for a beta, and Sean didn’t care. “That knife is dull. A kitchen knife should never be dull. Sharp knives save lives.” He looked around the drawers and found what he was looking for. “Not a proper sharpen but it will at least help.” He gave several smooth strokes and the blade was more even. “There we go.” He handed the knife back over and she ran out and he realized what he had actually done. “I armed a girl the age of my children to go fight men with swords.” He sat in a chair. “I’ll just pack up and go.”
“No, you won’t,” Percival said. “Because you are right, I recognize quality. And that was excellent bacon. Is there steak in that box?”
“A rib eye,” Sean said.
“Cook it for me. If I like it, we’ll talk numbers,” Percival said. He easily ignored the sounds of crashing and battle cries.
And if he could, Sean could too. Because if he got this account, it would mean he would get others, just from people wanting to copy those at the grand house. Who he was pretty sure were insane. He cooked the rib eye and left with a six month contract.
All he could think was that was a house that sorely needed an omega in it. But what omega would take these people on?
“Hey boss,” Mikey said hurrying into the back.
Sean was busy with inventory, they had done a brisk business the last couple of weeks and he needed to keep an eye on sausages. The nice weather had people breaking out their backyard grills early. “Hmm?” Sean didn’t look up from his counting.
“Customer,” Mikey hissed. “Get out front.”
“Mikey, you’ve worked for me for six months, I think you know how to handle a customer.”
“Of course I do, but you’ve also made it clear to come get you if it is the blonde lady you fancy.”
Sean flushed a little. “I don’t -”
“I will play you the recording of when you sold her that lamb,” Mikey warned. “You stammered.” He looked at the paper in his hand. “I’ll box this up, you go talk to her.”
Sean went out and there she was. Ms. Unwin. He felt ridiculous having a crush at his age, but there is was mooning over her like he had Robyn when he was 16. A crush was a much better look for a 16 year old than a 55 year old long divorced beta. She brushed her hair behind her ear and he smiled a little. She was so pretty. “Ms. Unwin,” he called out. She turned her head and he saw the bites on her neck. He remembered when he first saw her she covered up a lot, hiding the multiple alpha and pack bites and then one day she stopped hiding them all. Dared anyone to comment on it. He thought her so brave. There were whispers about her and the lad, the Mathe pack omega, but never been confirmed and they were well a part of the community now. She babbled a little and he barely heard it staring at her and the way her eyes scrunching as she talked. She had an expressive face and a sweet scent. He told her about the new bacon he was putting in the box, reserve stuff that he should be charging almost twenty quid for and gave away. Christopher would never let him live it down.
He carried it out to the car for her and debated for the millionth time asking her out. Christopher had been yelling at him to for nine months. That no one should be a hermit, that one bad experience didn’t mean anything. Like that experience hadn’t been almost 30 years of his life. Sean decided to be a little bold and reached out and squeezed Michelle’s shoulder. He felt her freeze under his touch and her scent went from happy to wary in a second. Guess he knew how she felt, she was just a friendly sort. He felt like a fool. He quickly backed off and wanted to run to his shop but he had some dignity.
"You could come by the flower shop sometime? I've thought a couple hanging baskets outside your door, or a barrel, they could be nice?" she called out.
Sean paused and looked back to her. She was biting her lip, chewing off the pink lipstick. She looked worried that she upset him. He wished he could read her better. But he was miserable at reading people. If he was better at it, he would have seen his marriage collapsing. If he was better at it he might have a relationship with his kids beyond birthday cards and Christmas cheques he sent. “You next work Tuesday right?” he asked. She mentioned that anyone at the shop could help him. “I’ll maybe come by on Tuesday,” he said, hoping she understood he was doing it for her. She gave him a small smile and he thought yet again that maybe he should ask her out.
Sean went to the shop and Mikey took one look at him. “Jesus man, ask her out! You are killing me. And I don’t even know you that well boss man.”
“Oi shut it and go count those jalepeno sausages, we are selling a lot of them.” Sean gestured to the back and Mikey went and Sean sent a message to Percival to make sure that the next order would be correct. So very odd for that man to screw up something so simple.
But he got to have a few minutes with Michelle so he wouldn’t complain.
“Hey, Mum?” Eggsy and she were prepping breakfast for the pack. She was making a mountain of toast and he was frying up the bacon that Percival kept calling flirtation bacon.
Which it wasn’t.
And she was not paying attention to the fact that it was Tuesday and that maybe Sean would be stopping by the shop. Not that she cared, but lots of businesses had their flowers out front and it looked good. She just wanted the shop to look as good as Sean. As good as the shop could. Bugger. “Yes Eggsy?” she said when she realized she hadn’t answered him.
“I’m okay with it,” he said. He gave her his most serious face, the one he copied from Percival when he was trying to yet again explain the concept of budgeting to Harry. He turned his head when Zoe babbled in her booster seat. “Just a minute love, Gran and I are talking and then you will have all the most wonderful fruit puree you can handle.” Zoe clapped her hands and they both smiled. “Mum, I am okay with it. Just go slow yeah?”
“With the toast?” she asked, honestly clueless about what he was talking about.
“No be quick with that, I hear everyone,” he replied and put bacon on a plate. “Just you know, I think you should go for it.”
“I’ll keep that in mind son,” Michelle agreed and they brought food over to the table and everyone filed in, more babies put in booster chairs and Daisy clinging to Merlin’s leg. “And what’s all this then?” Michelle asked.
“I’m too weak to walk,” Daisy said and faked a truly pathetic cough. “I need to stay home today,” she said and tried coughing again. “I have a fever.”
Michelle bent over and pulled her off of Merlin’s leg. “Using his body heat to warm you up some hmmm?” she said.
“Nooooo,” Daisy said slowly and tried smiling.
“Want to reconsider that lie?” Michelle asked.
“Yes,” Daisy agreed and sat at the table and ate some dry cereal despising milk on it. “Do I have to go to school? Tilde is staying home.”
“Aye, because it is her turn,” Merlin said calmly. “Until we find a nanny whom we don’t scare off there is a sacrificial adult. We all rotate.”
“But I can help, I love the babies,” Daisy pouted.
“We know you do, but those apples aren’t going to add themselves or whatever you do,” Eggsy said. “You are going.”
“Finnnnnnne, it’s gym day anyways,” Daisy said. “I run fastest.”
“Damn straight you do,” Roxy said and held out for a fist bump. “Right, I’m driving,” she said and ran before anyone could dispute it. She then ran quickly back to kiss Tilde and her daughter which was enough distraction that Merlin bolted out first. “Dammit I called driving!” Roxy yelled and took off after him. Harry helped Tilde with cleaning up the babies and then kissed his son goodbye. Percival vaguely followed already reading emails on his phone. Eggsy gave Daisy a hug, Zoe a kiss and his mum that serious look. “Go for it Mum,” he said.
“Okay, I’ll wear the pink top to work,” she agreed. She had thought it a little too tight but Tilde had sworn it looked good on her.
“Mum,” Eggsy chided. He shook his head that she was playing willfully dumb and went to go corral the alphas. Michelle helped Tilde bring all the babies to the family room. Hunter immediately crawled for the exosaucer and tried to put himself in and Zoe and Izzy babbled at each other and went for the stuffed animals.
“You okay?” she asked Tilde.
“Of course, and you’ll be home by one, yes?”
“Yup,” Michelle agreed and kissed her granddaughter. “Come along Daisy, you need to finish getting ready for school - like brushing your teeth.”
“Nooooooooo,” Daisy fell to the floor dramatically.
“Well I know someone that is hanging out with Harry too much,” Michelle said. “Go.” She looked around the family room. “Maybe the next nanny will take.”
“Have you ever noticed that people run out of here quickly?” Tilde asked. She looked at the twin battle axes on the wall, that couldn’t be pulled down without a biometric scan. “We are like that American family, the one passionately devoted to each other, and perfectly sane. They wore a lot of black and had a hand.”
“The Addams Family?” Michelle started to laugh. “God we are. We should all wear more black.”
“Hmmm, Roxy in a black suit. Yes, I support this idea.”
“Watch it,” Michelle joked. “That is end up with another baby sounds you are making.” She ran up to her room and put on the pink shirt and jeans and ran back down where Daisy had to be dragged away from the babies. Michelle got her to school actually early enough she could play on the jungle gym with her friends a bit. She parked at the flower shop and went in, grabbing her green apron. “Hiya,” she called out to the owner.
“Morning Michelle,” the woman replied. “Can you put together a few bouquets with daisys, feels like the sort of day people could use daisys.”
“They can have mine,” Michelle joked. “The sass this morning.”
“You’re the one raising her in that mental pack,” she shot back. “Be thankful she hasn’t lead an armed resistance at the school yet.”
“Oh believe me I am,” Michelle replied and went to make up some ten pound bouquets. She put them in the front window and took the chalkboard outside listing the bouquets and what flowers just arrived. She was pleased with it, it was an absurd thing to be proud of how well she wrote on a chalkboard, but Harry had told her once that she had an elegant hand and he was a real artist, so it had to count. A shadow fell over her and she looked up. “Sean,” she said happily. “Good morning.”
“It’s Tuesday,” he said.
“It is,” she agreed. He held out a hand and she stared at it. “You shaking hello? Because that’s weird.”
“I was going to help you stand up,” Sean replied.
“Oh right. Yeah, that makes more sense.” Michelle stared at the hand and remembered all the smacks that she had got when she had been down. She stood herself up without the aid. “Is there something I can help you with?” She felt off footed and hated that. He smelled nothing like Dean. She stuck her chin out and projected as much confidence as she could.
Sean ran a hand through his had and ruffled it into those adorable spikes before putting his hands in his pockets. “You mentioned the idea of flowers in front of the shop,” he said.
“I did!” Michelle immediately relaxed. Flowers she could talk about. “What would you like hanging baskets or maybe a barrel?” She pointed around the street to a few shops that had flowers out.
“I was thinking more a barrel,” Sean said. “Customers often go out with larger boxes for parties and the like. Don’t want them braining themselves on hanging geraniums.” He scratched his jaw. “And I were wondering…”
“Yes?” Michelle opened the door and gestured him into the shop.
“What if it were edible flowers?” he asked. “Just thought maybe edible flowers, maybe a herb or two. That makes sense don’t it? Outside a butcher shop?”
Michelle grabbed her pad where she had done hours of work already for Sean on seasonal flowers and deleted them all. She hoped he didn’t notice the files. She did some quick googling. “What about some lavender? Thought that doesn’t really go with meat does it.”
“Smells pretty though,” he said. “It isn’t the most gorgeous plant, but lemon thyme?”
“Hmmm, it looks almost like ground cover.” Michelle blinked. “Oh I have an idea!” She ran to the fridge. “Back in a mo, have an idea for Sean’s shop.”
“Who?” her boss asked. She looked out the glass and saw the man. “Knights, sure. Have fun.”
Michelle ignored the way her boss winked. She was caught up in her idea and didn’t think, just grabbed Sean and tugged him along outside and to the front of his store. She looked at the window. “Here,” she said. “Built in planter the length of the window. Edible flowers and herbs. People come in wanting to know how to cook their food right?” She looked at Sean who nodded. “You could bring them out front, show them the thyme, chives, whatever and explain what they need.” Michelle paused. “I mean, I assumed since you sold meat you know how to cook. You do right?” She didn’t understand why Sean seemed to be holding back a laugh. She wondered if he was making fun of her. “I thought it was a good idea,” she began to shrink in on herself a bit.
“No, it is a good idea,” Sean said quickly. “My sister in law is a bit of a builder. She could put something in and then you could do the flowers and herbs?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she said. “You really like the idea. Suppose it is a bit stupid.”
Sean shook his head quickly. “No we grow herbs in the small greenhouse Chris put in at the farm. Where the marinades we sell come from. Having it out front to show people what’s in there, even take a small chive emergency clipping if they need it. I like it.” Mikey rapped on the window and held up a paper that just said bank on it with an angry face. Sean groaned. “Bloody hell.”
“Problem?” Michelle asked and unthinkingly took a step back.
“My bank person retired and the new person dealing the mortgage on the shop is difficult.” Sean sighed. He leaned in a little. “They are cheerful.”
Michelle spluttered. “Cheerful? This is your problem, your bank person is cheerful.”
“Old Mr. Johnson never checked up on my, as long as payments went through, never heard from the gin soaked bastard. This girl sends weekly emails about ways to invest in your future! I’m 55, my future is this shop for another 15 years and then retire to Spain and complain about the sun.”
“Really? That’s the plan?”
Sean laughed. “Nah hate their footie teams and naps. Would never survive.”
“Wait, who hates naps, beside my granddaughter?” 8 months old and Zoe already fought sleep like it was an evil dragon.
“Naps throw you off schedule, keep you up at night. They are just weird,” Sean said. “Well I need to go in and tell her yet again, that I am fine with how we have everything set up.”
“Maybe she’s flirting with you,” Michelle said.
Sean burst into laughter. “Oh yeah, most 28 year old omegas are attracted to this.” He gestured to himself and laughed some more.
“You know you are sexy,” Michelle replied and they both stared at each other in shock. “I…gotta go.” Michelle bolted back to the flower shop. She went to the back of the shop and sat down and tried to remember to breathe. Why couldn’t she remember how breathing worked? She felt arms wrap around her, and leaned into the hug.
“Shh, dear,” her boss said. “Shh, just in and out, in and out. With me now.”
Michelle had warned her boss, Mrs. Carsons, that sometimes she had panic attacks and her boss who had been in military said it wasn’t a problem, she was used to all manner of things. Michelle got her breathing under control. “I might have cost us a pretty large sale,” she said. “I ran from Sean.”
“If Knights cancels a sale, fuck him,” Mrs. Carsons, replied.
Michelle laughed at her oh so proper boss, cursing. She calmed down and nodded. “I’ll go to the front counter.”
“You can work in the back today,” she offered.
Michelle stood up. She marched out front and dealt with customers until it was time to go home and help Tilde. She watched them during nap time, and Tilde went to make a few phone calls. Michelle sketched out a plan and outlined the cost and emailed it to the butcher shop with an apology for running. That would sort it or it wouldn’t. It was time to go get Daisy anyways.
She smiled a little when three days later, Mrs Carsons showed her the invoice from Sean that listed everything Michelle had suggested.
Two weeks later Michelle was working in front of Sean’s store, planting the herbs and flowers in the box which gorgeous wood and branded with some sort of crest. She dug into the soil and hummed as she planted. She could see him inside through the window adding things to the counter, calling back to Mikey. He looked so calm and happy working in his shop. She appreciated seeing that. She added in the lemon thyme, which did smell absolutely gorgeous and the door opened.
“Brought you a bottle of water,” Sean said. He held it out to her and then winced. “Oh uh, guess your hands are busy.”
“Little bit, but I appreciate it,” she replied. He put it on the ground beside her and looked at the box. “You like?”
“I do,” he said. “Should look great for the street party this weekend. You working it?” For Victoria Day weekend the village always closed down the main street for a big street party, the stores had a sidewalk sale and there was music and kid’s activities.
“No, but I’ll be in with the family,” Michelle said. She put the last plant in and then stood up. “How does it look?” She was admiring the plants and didn’t notice that Sean was looking directly at her.
“It’s beautiful,” he said sincerely.
“I’m glad you like it.” Michelle knew her scent was pleased as punch and didn’t care about trying to control it. She loved working with flowers. She watered the plants and began to pack up her tools. Sean bent to help her. “You’ll get filthy,” she protested.
“Michelle, I regularly slaughter and cut up animals,” Sean pointed out. “Little dirt, not so big a deal.” He helped her put everything in the crate and picked it up. “I could carry it to the shop for you.”
“Thanks,” she said and grabbed the bottle of water he brought out for her. They are quiet as they walk down the street to the flower shop. “See you at the party?” she asked.
“I’ll be out front, grilling food,” he agreed. He handed over the crate and they just sort of stared at each other. “Thank you for the flowers.”
“You paid for them,” she said. “And care service, so I’ll check on them for you.” They usually had a co-op student who would do that, but she would take care of Sean herself. “Okay, bye.” She went into the shop and swore at herself for the abrupt goodbye. She’d do better at the party.
Her face was a tiger. Daisy had seen the face painting and now, Eggsy, Michelle and Daisy were all tigers. Michelle had spent 30 minutes on her makeup and it was covered in orange. Zoe even had a little painted nose. Merlin was not painted. He went to sit down for a tiger face and the poor omega working the booth began to panic and Merlin walked away oddly offended like he didn’t look and smell terrifying. Harry had a butterfly and Percival just refused face paint, and Roxy and Tilde had all this glitter and looked ethereal. She could have looked ethereal, but no.
“Mummy, balloons!” Daisy shouted and dragged her over. And now she had a balloon attached to her wrist because Daisy ran to the kids zone where little games and prizes were set up. She realized that everyone had scattered a bit and wandered about and bought a silk scarf from one of the clothes shops, it was long and beautiful and an indulgence. It had taken a year with the pack before she let herself have an indulgence with the allowance Percival gave her, not believing it was really real. She smiled at waved to people she knew and caught Daisy as she ran to her, holding a knit doll.
“I won a prize. I have good aim,” Daisy said proudly. “Harry taught me.”
“With what, sweetie?” Michelle asked, ready to murder Harry.
“Water balloons,” Daisy replied and Michelle was relieved. They promised no fight training until Daisy was 8. Not that they were keeping that promise, but at least they tried to hide it a little. “Hungwy,” Daisy said.
“Try again, darling,” Michelle said. Daisy’s speech had improved so much over the last two years, but there were still slips.
“Hungry, Mummy, and I smell food.” Daisy pointed and there was Sean manning a grill like he said he would be.
And he was in a t-shirt and a snapback, looking far younger than what he said he was.
Michelle in an instant understood Harry’s arm kink.
And she was painted like a tiger. “How about the pub?” Michelle suggested but Daisy was already darting through the crowd and getting in the small line. The group ahead of them weren’t locals, that she remembered and she overheard them talking about lucking out that the village was having a party. She held Daisy’s hand and they moved forward and she could hear Sean ask the group if they wanted sausages or burgers.
“Oh my god,” one of the women said. “I know you!”
Sean looked at her and frowned. “I’m sorry, ma’am, have we met?”
“My mom has your cookbook, you are like famous and stuff. She drools over your photos in it.” The woman giggled a bit. “You know the one.”
Sean turned bright red. “Oh lord,” he said. He focused on flipping burgers.
“Can I get a selfie with you?” she asked.
“I guess?” Sean replied and gave an awkward smile when the photo was taken.
“Why are you out here? Weren’t you on telly?” she asked as she took a burger.
“Lives change,” was all Sean said. “Enjoy the block party.” The group moved along, the woman still nattering on about meeting him, saying that he was totally a person like 15 years ago.
“Hiya,” Michelle said. He still looked flustered and it was adorable.
“Hiya,” Sean replied. He then pretended to jump back. “Oh my goodness, it’s two fierce tigers. Please don’t eat me.”
Daisy giggled and let out an impressive roar. “Feed me or I’ll chomp your leg.”
“Right away, Miss Tiger,” Sean said. He leaned in “I can make it a cheeseburger. Only for special folks, that is.” He winked.
Daisy grinned. “Yes, please!”
Sean went into the cooler and put on a slice of cheese. “Michelle, you too?” Michelle nodded and two perfect burgers were served up to them. “There you ladies go.”
“What do we owe you?” Michelle asked. Sean waved her off insisting there was no need even though there was a pay what you want box beside the condiments. When he wasn’t looking she slid some money in. “You famous then Sean?”
Sean laughed and gave the next people in line some sausages. “Lord no,” he said. “She was exaggerating.”
Michelle could tell he was lying. She was very good at sniffing out liars. “Well, have a good day yeah?”
“You too,” he said and kept feeding some people.
The pack all got home late staying out for the music and fireworks. Michelle had spied Sean a few more times, working hard, and hoped he would get lots of sales out of people in the future. His burgers were really incredible. She settled Daisy into bed, face paint and all, the pillow case could be washed and went to the bathroom to remove her own paint and put pajamas on. She pulled up her laptop and googled Sean McKnight.
She couldn’t believe everything that came up.
She looked at articles, amazon still had one of his cookbooks in print, it was a high seller even being almost twenty years old. On youtube there were tons of videos of him on the telly. He looked young, dark hair, less lines around his eyes and mouth. But he smiled less. The Sean she knew was always smiling. He was so serious in the videos. It was odd reconciling the two. She stayed up way to late watching him cook, watching telly hosts fawn over him. She fell asleep listening to him talk about roast chicken.
But it proved something she had thought. A man that had been famous like that? What would he want with her?
“Merlin I am busy you know, why did you call this meeting?” Harry asked.
Merlin didn’t look up from his computer. “When have I ever called a meeting in my life?” He kept working away.
“Well I received an email from you to be here,” Harry said. Percival, Roxy, and Tilde all rolled in. “You as well?”
“I honestly didn’t know Merlin knew how to use our scheduling function,” Tilde said.
“I wrote the damn code for it,” Merlin muttered.
“And you wrote the code for that jungle vine swing, and I have yet to see you beat the level in your own game,” Tilde replied and smiled sweetly at him.
“It’s the stupid clock on it,” Merlin complained. “And again, I dinnae call a meeting. I never call meetings, unless it is about picking a movie. I hired all you smart people so I can code and fuck my mate on lunch break. You run shit and it works great.” Eggsy came in and Merlin took one look at him. “You hacked my email!”
“Not that hard to hack the password yayfruittarts,” Eggsy said. “And yeah I used you to call this meeting. It had to be a day when we were all here, and had a lull. We need to talk about Mum, I’m real worried about her.” He made sure he was standing in front of the door in case the alphas went out to slay dragons with no other information. And sure enough scents went haywire. “Oi, remember we’ve talked about listening to the whole story?”
They settled a little bit, though he damn well knew Harry and Merlin were checking weapons and Percival was on his phone, transferring money to more accessible accounts. Tilde was sitting on Roxy to keep her from pacing. “Mum likes Knights,” Eggsy said. “Like full blown crush on the butcher.”
“Okay?” Merlin said. “Do ye object to this? Does he not return the affection?”
“We save at least 15% when Michelle goes to the butcher shop,” Percival replied. “He is enamoured of her booty and we have reaped benefits.” Everyone winced. “Shall I stick with arse?” he asked and they all nodded. “The point stands, he seems to find Michelle attractive.”
Eggsy made a face. “Of course he would, Mum’s gorgeous,” he said. “But Mum don’t see it, or don’t want to see it.” He figured it was safe to leave the door, no one was going to run out to murder anyone. He went over and sat in the comfy chair. “Told her to go for it, I’ve seen the way she smiles at him, and she honestly didn’t understand.”
“She ordered his old cookbook,” Harry said. “Arrived a few days ago.”
“Cookbook?” Eggsy frowned. “He wrote a cookbook?”
“Several,” Percival explained. “Sean McKnight was once a rather famous chef. Often on the telly, a restaurant with a three month wait list, bestselling books. And he just gave it all up to buy his uncle’s butcher shop. His brother runs the farm that the chicken and pork are from. It was their family farm. Few speeding tickets, shop is in the black, so is the farm. Not a large margin, but bills are all paid on time, and they have enough to live off of. True neutral beta, divorced with two children, late teens or early twenties, very little contact. No bad whispers about him anywhere, seems to be what the packaging suggests.” They all looked at him. “Look I like a flirtation bacon discount, but I wasn’t going to pimp your mother out to an asshole.”
“Bruv, I feel like we need to talk about you pimping her out for cheap bacon at all,” Eggsy replied.
“The montreal steak spice bacon is worth a little pimpage,” Harry added, defending his mate.
Eggsy looked at everyone and they were all clearly in agreement on this point. And fucking hell, it was great bacon. “We all like this guy well enough, and apparently we have done some background checks on him, which trust me I appreciate. And Mum deserves to let her hair down a bit. But she isn’t going to and that’s the problem.”
“Pay his mortgage off on the condition he dates her?” Merlin suggested.
“Again that runs into the pimping problem,” Eggsy said gently. “We just sort of need to nudge them together and hope he gets the balls to ask her out.”
“Maybe he is worried about us?” Tilde suggested. “We are a little…” she tried to phrase it delicately.
“Amazing, incredible, dashing, suave?” Harry listed off.
“Insane mother fuckers with massive boundary issues,” Eggsy suggested.
“We’ve had to move our nanny search to a world wide based one as no service in England will work with us,” Tilde said. “Apparently 2am Merlin is scary.”
They all looked at him. “I wasn’t used to their scent,” he complained. “They startled me.” Merlin pouted a little. “We are an enthusiastic group,” was what he decided on and he ignored Eggsy’s snort. “But one of us needs to be subtle and inform Knights we aren’t going to kill him if he does ask Michelle on a date. We’ll only kill him if he doesn’t.”
Eggsy went over and kissed his mate, appreciating that Merlin wanted his mum happy. “I go, it’s a little creepy, like I’m well…pimping Mum. Merlin has resting murder face, Percival would ask about discounts.”
“He’s already wary around me, issue from a few years ago. I over shared and then he armed me,” Roxy added. “He’s never really gotten over it.” She nuzzled Tilde a little and hoped that the meeting would be done soon so they could have a visit to the supply closet.
“Tilde or Harry?” Merlin said.
Everyone, even Harry, said Tilde’s name. “I will subtly express the packs non-murdery feelings towards him, and let him know we are amenable to him beginning a relationship with our dear Michelle.”
Merlin was distracted because Eggsy had stayed leaning against his chair and he smelled nice. “Good great, new pack member wee. Go away now.”
The others all left quickly recognizing what Merlin’s intentions were, but Eggsy was still a little distracted. “He ain’t pack yet, Merlin. We are going to let this happen slowly, naturally, nudge it a time or two if need be. And they might not work out.”
“We did,” Merlin replied and pulled Eggsy into his lap and nipped at his bite mark.
“Merlin,” Eggsy laughed. “Give my brain a second to change gears from thinking about my mum to thinking about sex.”
“She’s still young enough, I think, her and Sean could have a baby. We’ll also have to add the sex soundproofing to her room for when he moves in,” Merlin said. He whimpered when Eggsy pushed off his lap. “What?”
“Bruv, there is no mood left after that sentence,” Eggsy said. He kissed Merlin and went back down to his cubicle. He ignored the whiny texts from his mate. It would teach Merlin not to mention his mum and sex together. This was about romance not shagging.
“Ma’am,” Sean said as Tilde walked in. “Gorgeous day isn’t it?” He smiled at the baby. “Hello, little one. She is getting big.”
“They all are,” Tilde agreed. Izzy babbled Mama and a whole bunch of other sounds and then reached out. “No down, sweetie,” she said. “Not that your shop isn’t clean Knights, but…”
“You don’t want a wee one exploring the ground,” he agreed easily. “Never know what is brought in.” He smiled at Izzy who kept reaching out.
“May I?” He hurried around the counter and Tilde was very curious and let him hold Izzy. “You are beautiful, you are. Look at your cheeks and pretty mouth,” Sean crooned. Izzy rubbed his face, fascinated by the stubble. “That is rough stuff little one, don’t scratch your little fingers.”
“Everyone stays so clean shaven at the estate, she is not used to scruff,” Tilde said. It was quite attractive scruff. Sean was rather attractive she realized. Tilde flushed just a bit. “Merlin had a hankering. He read a thing about beer can chicken on the grill?”
Sean wasn’t really paying attention, making faces at the baby. “Mikey,” Sean called. “3 chickens.” He let Izzy squeeze his nose. “Oh my gosh where did my nose go?” Izzy giggled and patted his nose. “Oh thank goodness, it’s right there is it?” He smiled at Tilde. “This one is going to be a clever one.” Mikey came from the back with three chickens wrapped. “Thanks Mikey. I recommend Newcastle for the can, gives a decent flavour. And…” he shifted Izzy easily to his hip and went to a shelf. “Coat the chickens in this marinade.”
“Thank you, Knights,” Tilde said. She took Izzy back and gave over her reusable bag and he packed it all up. “Charge it to the account,” she said. She kissed Izzy and smiled at the butcher. “You know, Michelle is very pleased with how the flowers came out in the front of your shop.”
“I’m the one who is pleased,” Sean replied easily. “They look good and been dead useful when people ask cooking questions. She has an excellent eye for pretty things.”
Tilde smiled at him, her old persuasive one that brought millions into the royal charities. “Do you? Have an eye for pretty things?”
Sean froze a little. “Ma’am?”
“We might seem like an odd group, but we are a very…welcoming bunch. Not scary, very loving,” Tilde said. “Just so you know. Any overtures would not be met with objections.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Sean’s voice was a little stiff and handed the back to her. “Enjoy the chicken.”
“Of course,” Tilde gave him another sweet smile and left.
Sean stared after her for a bit. “Mikey, need to run an errand.” He took off his apron and almost ran down to the flower shop. He saw Michelle at the counter and waved to her. She waved back. He huffed and waved some more. She wasn’t getting the hint. “Can you come out here?” he asked poking his head in.
Michelle hurried outside. “Problem with your planter?” He looked worried, almost panicked. She kept a good bit of space between them.
Sean paced a little, tugged his hair into those spikes that Michelle didn’t find charming. “Counseling. They need to go to counseling.”
“Who? Sean?” Michelle was getting worried. She took a deep breath and wouldn’t think of Dean, would think of what would have happened in a different life. She reached out and touched his shoulders to stop him from moving. “What is going on?”
“I think Tilde hit on me?” Sean said. “And she’s gorgeous and sweet, but she’s what mid twenties?”
“32 actually,” Michelle replied.
“Wow, good skin care regimen there,” Sean said absently and then tried to focus. “Her and the girl alpha, Roxy, the over sharer, they are perfect together. And I don’t know if she was hitting on me, or asking for a threesome. This is none of my business,” Sean said helplessly. “I don’t want to be a part of a bonding falling apart, I’ve been there. It sucks.” He hung his head. “I want them to work out.”
Michelle’s heart melted even as her brain whirled. “Sean, whatever it was you misread it.”
“She smiled all flirty and asked if I liked pretty things and told me how welcoming the pack was,” Sean protested. “It was not a normal conversation to follow talking about beer can chicken.”
Michelle’s brain quickly moved through the options and figured it out. She was going to kill her pack after her shift ended. “Sean, thank you for telling me about this. But I promise you, she was not hitting on you. She and Roxy are fine, no threesome, no orgy, no matter what the rumours are about our pack.”
Sean flushed a little. “I don’t pay attention to gossip like that. You pay your bill on time, and always look happy when I see any of you in the village. Ain’t my concern. But you didn’t seem the sort to be shagging your son in a sex dungeon.” He turned bright red as he said it. “Please forget that sentence existed.”
Michelle smiled. “Don’t worry. I haven’t even had cause to use the sex dungeon yet.”
“Wait…there is really a sex dungeon at the estate?” Sean’s jaw dropped. He had no idea if she was joking or not.
Michelle’s grin was evil and unbearably sexy and made his knees want to go out. “Wouldn’t you like to know?” That seemed to use up all her confidence and she stared at her chalk sign. “Promise, she wasn’t hitting on you.”
Sean nodded. “Okay good. She is way too young for me. Not that I judge age differences,” he winced thinking of Michelle’s son and the pack alpha. “I just like people with a little more life experience on them. Anyone under 42, immediately off my list.”
“I’m 46,” Michelle said quietly.
“That’s um…good to know,” Sean said. “I need to get back to the shop. Bye.” He hurried away, feeling like a fool for the whole conversation.
Michelle had to murder some people.
Tilde woke up and realized Izzy was still asleep she scrambled for a shower before anyone could need her and enjoyed an actual long shower with no interruptions. She dried off and wrapped a towel around her hair. When she went to the bedroom she saw that Roxy had gotten up and was snuggling with Izzy on the bed. She kissed them both. “Good morning,” she said.
Izzy tugged at the towel and then screamed bloody murder.
“What?” Tilde asked. Izzy was sobbing and Roxy was staring at her in shock. Roxy just pointed at Tilde’s head and Tilde went to a mirror. She cursed in about five languages when she saw her green hair. “How was this even possible?” She looked at her hands and could see a faint green tinge on them. Tilde hurried back to the bathroom and tilted out her shampoo and conditioner bottles and green poured out. She dressed and went into the hall. “Who did it?” she roared.
Various doors opened some people more sleepy than others. Michelle was wide awake and gave a little growl. Everyone was shocked, she never asserted herself like this. “Be lucky I didn’t do worse,” Michelle snapped.
“How? Why?” Tilde asked hurt.
“Grass clippings, and a few leaves all ground up, it will wash out quick enough,” Michelle said. “He thought you were hitting on him!” she yelled.
Tilde’s mouth dropped open. “I wasn’t. He’s so old!”
“Oi!” Merlin and Harry said, knowing they were the same age as Sean.
“I don’t mean…I was just trying to -” Tilde cut herself off.
“Yes, what were you trying to do?” Michelle asked. She looked at everyone gathered. “What were you all trying to do? Because she wouldn’t have done this on her own.”
Merlin stepped forward, Zoe in his arms, ready to take the hit. It made Eggsy fall in love all over again how Merlin protected him. Eggsy moved in front of him. “I was just worried that he might not ask you out, because they all have a reputation for being insane.”
Percival couldn’t help himself. “That reputation has decreased about 18% since you joined the pack. You are considered a calming influence.” He shut up when Michelle glared at him.
“That number is pretty close to the food discount you like isn’t it?” Michelle snapped and Harry stood in front of Percival to absorb any blows. She gave each of them a look and they all seemed repentant. “He is a very sweet man, who is being nice to a customer that is all.”
“That is what you want to see, Michelle,” Merlin replied. “You don’t want him to like you, like you like him because then you might have to step out and try.”
“Babe,” Eggsy hissed.
“No no, go on Merlin,” Michelle demanded.
“He isn’t Dean,” Merlin said. He looked contrite when Michelle flinched. “I know a few alphas in town have asked you out and you turned them down. You weren’t interested in them, fine. But you are interested in Knights. And that terrifies you.” Merlin shrugged a bit. “We just thought we’d remove one potential stumbling block. You know the one where people think we are odd or scary or whatever the current rumour is.”
“Back to orgies,” Michelle said and focused. “And you aren’t scary. You are morons! This isn’t a thing. You are making a thing out of nothing!”
“If it was nothing, you wouldn’t be this upset,” Percival pointed out. “This is a thing situation.”
“I have to get Daisy ready for school. Stay out of my personal life, or you will all suffer.” Michelle pointed at each of them.
Eggsy shook his head. “See we can’t do that Mum. Because we are already suffering because of your personal life. As in we are suffering because you clearly want a personal life and are ignoring it.”
“Baby I love you, but fuck right off,” Michelle said and stalked to her room and slammed the door shut. That should at least by her a few days without their interference. If she was lucky.
But she knew her idiots and doubted on that luck.
Merlin went into the butcher shop and glared at Sean.
“Oh what now?” Sean asked. He finished wiping down the scale. Merlin made a low noise and Sean fought hard not to bend his head in submission. He blinked when the alpha’s scent went from dangerous to pleased. “How can I help you?” Sean asked after they stared at each other for a good few minutes. He was freaking out, the high alpha was scary. But he was damned if he was going to show it.
“Tilde tried for subtle, she used to be good at it, what with her old job, but we ruined her.”
“You know if you say you ruined someone you should sound contrite and not pleased as punch, just a suggestion,” Sean threw the wipe into the rubbish bin. “Now what are you here to purchase or you can leave.” Fuck, he hoped he didn’t just kill one of his better accounts.
“I am removing subtlety from the situation. The pack has no objections to you asking Michelle out on a date. You passed a basic background check and have a good reputation in town. I see no reason to have you removed from the planet. Ergo, you can date Michelle.” Merlin nodded, pleased that he had solved the problem. “Have a good day.” He paused. “Oh and if you hurt her, I will tear your throat out with my teeth. And yes I have actually done that to someone and know it is physically possible. There we go think that’s everything,” Merlin was clearly racking his brain. “Oh and you were right about using Newcastle for the beer can chicken. Bye!” He was whistling as he left.
“What the fuck?” Sean said out loud into the empty shop. “What in the actual fuck was that?”
They were completely mental. He needed to steer clear of them. He was debating canceling their account when Michelle came with a watering can and checked on his flowers. She gave him a small wave through the window and her hair was up in a messy bun and with barrettes clearly put in by her daughter. She kept them in even when the child wouldn’t see. Sean sighed a little.
Maybe he could put up with a little bit crazy.
“I hate you,” Sean slurred into his phone, barely awake. “I saw you 10 hours ago what do you want?” He refused to get out of bed. He was supposed to have the day off, it was his one day off a week dammit.
“Melanie woke up with a migraine,” Christopher said.
Sean winced in sympathy. “Shit,” he said. He knew they hit her hard. “Need me to come out?”
“Yes but not to help with chores,” Christopher said.
“Okay?” Sean sat up. “I’m really going to hate this aren’t I?”
“There is an end of school year field trip coming in today, to learn about animals,” Christopher explained. “I can’t do it without back up.”
“Fucking hell, Chris,” Sean groaned.
“They are six years old. There are going to be 21 six year olds on the farm, and Melanie who is good with kids has a migraine.”
“Your children are only 40% pure evil, you had a part in that,” Sean said. Always felt weird to call them children, but he remembered them with scraped knees, not the doctor and member of parliament they were. God they were getting old.
“Please? Please?” Christopher just kept begging.
“Fine, I’m coming,” Sean said getting up.
“Best little brother ever.”
“Whatever,” Sean said and hung up. He had a shower and made a quick breakfast with a cup of coffee. He sent a message to Mikey saying he was at the farm if there were any problems and then went to the wardrobe. His usual at the farm clothes were pretty gross and he figured he had to look a little better than the denim with a rip on the arse. He went to the laundry pile on the chair and found the one pair of intact denim and did a quick sniff to confirm that had been the clean laundry pile. There was also a pair of socks and an old but decent black t-shirt. It would all do. He got dressed and put on his boots and headed out to the farm. He smiled as he saw his brother blowing up balloons and the welcome sign. Sean got out of his car and went over. “Oi, bit fancy innit?”
“Shut it, I like the field trips ok?” Christopher muttered.
Sean helped him set up.
Michelle looked at her phone. “Aww crap,” she said. The whole table even babies looked at her. “Right which of you can spare the day?”
“Why, Mum?” Eggsy asked.
“Daisy’s field trip is short a parent,” Michelle explained. “I’m on baby duty today, and they are desperate. So either one of you is going on the field trip or staying home with the babies so I can go.”
“I’m not allowed on any more field trips,” Harry pointed out. “Remember? Lifetime ban.”
Percival pinched his nose. “Remember? We aren’t supposed to be proud of that fact. I have meetings all day.”
“Same,” Roxy agreed.
Tilde shook her head. “I am doing that presentation at the college about career opportunities.”
Michelle looked at her son. “Sorry, Mum,” Eggsy said. “You know I’d do it in a sec, but I have meetings too.”
“I can stay with the babies,” Merlin offered. “I have a video call planned today, but can easily do it from home.” His scent went all pleased and Eggsy laughed at him.
“Talking to our crush again are we?” Eggsy teased.
“I dinnae have a crush,” Merlin muttered.
“You totally have a crush,” Eggsy said. “You want to smooch her brain.”
Michelle glared at Merlin. “Excuse me?” He was not going to be stepping out on her son, she’d kill him.
“Don’t worry, Mum,” Eggsy reassured her. “It’s this woman he met in an online forum. He trolls them to see what people say about our games. She mentioned a glitch, and how it possibly happened and was right. Merlin sent her a message and they got to talking. Now they do this code monkey talking that only they can understand. It’s adorable. It’s like a play date. Merlin has a friend that isn’t one of us. He is engaging in humanity.” Eggsy sounded so proud. “On his own, like a real big boy.”
“I’ll show ye big boy later,” Merlin growled low and Eggsy tilted his neck and leaned in. “I like her skills, and am trying to lure her away. She is wasted in the american company she works with. But I haven’t figured out the right job offer, she laughs off everything I throw at her. I wanna play with her brain in person.”
Tilde looked up. “This is that Ginger person yes?” Merlin nodded. “I read the file you created on her. She would definitely be an asset to the team. Have you mentioned covering all Visa expenses and setting up a flat?”
“No, I’ll do that this time,” Merlin said eager.
“So do you want to sleep with this person?” Michelle demanded.
“Ewww, no, I just want to play with her brain,” Merlin said. “I only want to shag my mate, Michelle, I swear.”
“Okay, then, play away?” Michelle agreed. “And that means you stay home with the babies and I go on the field trip with Daisy.”
“Wooo, we’re going to the McKnight farm, there might be baby chickens teacher said,” Daisy chimed in.
“McKnight?” Michelle asked. When she signed the permission slip she hadn’t really paid attention. Crap. But at least Sean was unlikely to be there. It was no big deal. “Well, we should get ready,” she said. “Farm at least means don’t have to dress all fancy like that field trip to city hall.” Jeans and a shirt would do fine. “Come on then! Field trip day!”
Daisy shouted and ran to finish getting ready. The table slowly dispersed those heading into the city leaving, and Eggsy telling Merlin to have fun on his play date.
Merlin settled into the family room with the babies, on the ground and let them all crawl over him. It was their favourite game to play, the little ones all adoring the scent of the pack alpha. They were all tumbling about when Michelle and Daisy poked their heads in to say goodbye, Daisy quickly running in for a quick tackle of Merlin, who gave her a nuzzle and sent her on the way.
Hunter tried to copy his father’s growl and it was the cutest thing Merlin ever heard. He recorded it and then put Hunter in his exosaucer, removing the safety bottom so that he could scoot around. Merlin remembered to close the door to the family room; Hunter would escape otherwise. Merlin had a grand time playing with the babies until his watch reminded him of the time. He turned the computer in the corner on and in a moment was accepting a skype call. “Ginger!” he said cheerfully.
“Merlin, hi,” she replied. “You seem to have something growing on you.”
“I do? Where?” Merlin spun his chair a couple times quickly and Zoe giggled. “I don’t see anything.” Zoe booped him and he swung her into his lap. “Oh this old thing?” He nuzzled her. “This is my Zoe.” He gestured behind him. “Izzy is there asleep on a stuffed animal and Hunter is trying to make a break for it.”
“All yours?” she asked in surprise.
“Nae, just Zoe, the other two are pack.” Merlin smiled. “Now let’s talk that file you sent me, because it is crap.” The two talked shop for almost an hour with breaks for Merlin to ride herd on the babies. Eventually Zoe fell asleep in his arms. “Christ I wish they would sync their naps.”
“No nanny?” Ginger asked. She knew how busy Merlin was.
Merlin shook his head. “We’ve tried. We are…a unique pack and have scared off multiple nannies. No agency will work with us. But we are looking and happy to use our contacts to bend some Visa laws to our whims,” Merlin’s grin sharpened. “Which we would also be happy to do for you if ye came to work for Kingsman. And we also could provide a flat,” Merlin cajoled. “You know you want to work for me.”
“I do,” Ginger admitted and she looked sad. “I really do, but I have concerns about my mate.”
“Your mate?” Merlin asked. “I have an incredible human resources director.”
“He’s not really an indoors computer kind of guy.” Ginger held up a finger. “Bobby baby? Wanna meet my friend?”
“Hell yeah!” Merlin blinked when a very attractive and muscled man popped up on the screen. “Howdy, heard a lot about you and BABY!” the guy said. “Aww, Ging, look at the baby!” he waved even though Zoe was asleep. “Hiya!”
“Hello, Bobby,” Merlin said. The guy never took his eyes off of Zoe. “Pleasure to meet you.”
“How old is she?”
“10 months, thereabouts,” Merlin said. He shifted her in his arms and heard a crash behind him. “HUNTER JAMES HART! No battle axes until you are 10!” Merlin hurried over and picked up Hunter who had been trying to climb the wall. “Sorry about that.”
“Can’t blame a little tyke for being curious,” the man said. “I need to go, nice to meet you Ginger’s nerd friend.” He gave a wave and was gone.
Merlin corralled Hunter and put on Pocoyo, it might distract him for a bit. He turned back to the screen and Ginger looked a little embarrassed. “Sorry, he really likes babies.” She sighed a bit. “I’d love to come work for you, but he would need work too, and I don’t think there are a lot of jobs for ex-rodeo clowns in England.”
Merlin could hear Hunter trying to climb out of the play yard. He smiled slowly. “Ginger I might have an idea for a job for your mate. Let’s talk.”
Ginger was a little scared of that smile. It was a her life was about to change smile.
Sean watched the kids all burst off the bus and laughed at their enthusiasm. He watched the teacher attempt to line them up, the room aid and parents forming a loose wall to stop any kid from wandering too far. For a moment he thought he saw someone familiar but they were hidden behind a father. The kids walked in a line and he went to open the gate for them. “Hiya,” he said cheerfully. “Welcome to the McKnight farm.”
“Hi Mr. McKnight,” the children all chorused.
“Hi, Mr. Sean,” Daisy said and gave him a big wave. “Hi!”
“Hello, Daisy,” Sean replied.
“Mummy’s here, hiding behind Mr. Gupta. Mummy why are you hiding from Sean? You always smile a happy smile when you talk about Sean. Shouldn't you give him your happy smile?” Daisy asked trying to see her mum. All the kids turned too. The adults as well.
“Not hiding,” Michelle said, her scent completely embarrassed. “Hi, Sean.”
“Hi, Michelle,” he replied. He realized he was holding everyone up. “This is my brother’s farm and he is waiting for you over by the barn. He has lots of exciting things to show you.” Sean waited until everyone was through and then closed the gate carefully. He then brought up the rear of the group, where Michelle happened to be. “I didn’t realize this was Daisy’s class. My brother was short a pair of hands, asked me to help.”
“Why I’m here, they ended up short a pair of hands.”
Christopher had laid out some blankets and the kids all sat and he did a short talk about the farm and taking care of the animals. He did great, and the kids got super excited when they got to see a real pig. “It’s huge!” a kid shouted.
“They are, much much bigger than people realize,” Christopher explained. The children all lined up to pet the pig.
“I need to help with seeing the baby chicks,” Sean said.
“Sure, I need to help get snacks ready,” Michelle explained.
Sean took half the kids into the chicken barn and would switch off in a little bit. He explained about chickens and showed them the hatching coop and the kids were very excited about the baby chickens. They switched off and then it was snack break for the kids. Sean helped Christopher get things ready for the greenhouse tour and Christopher nudged him. “That’s the woman isn’t? The one you swoon over?” He pointed at Michelle.
“I don’t swoon.”
“I have heard you spend 20 minutes talking about the colour of her hair, which come on clearly comes out of a bottle,” Christopher said and Sean kicked him.
“So what if it does?” Sean replied, “Still looks good on her don’t it?”
“Ask her out,” Christopher said.
“Shove off, it’s not that easy.”
“You open your mouth and say a sentence. It’s not that hard.”
“Scuse me? Mr. Sean?” Daisy asked.
Sean crouched down. “Hi, Daisy, need the loo?”
“No thank you,” she said. “I have a lolly.” She held out the lollipop.
“Need help with the wrapper?” Sean reached out.
“It’s got 3 flavours,” Daisy explained. “It’s a fancy pants one. You can have it if you take Mummy out for food.”
Christopher had to run away before he laughed in the little girl’s face.
“I’m sorry?” Sean asked.
“I heard everyone talking. Eggsy said you like Mummy and Mummy likes you. Tilde tried to let you know we were okay with it. And I guess Merlin Merlined? Percival was disappointed in his bluntness.” Daisy waved the lolly in front of his face. “And Hawwy…” Daisy took a breath., “Harry said maybe if we gave you something you’d get it together and tell Mummy you like her. So lolly. Mummy needs to hear that people like her. Sometimes she’s sad and scared of people. My alpha da was mean but I’m not supposed to know about that.” Daisy smiled. “So…lolly. To be nice to Mummy.”
Sean’s heart melted. “Daisy, it doesn’t quite work like that.”
“Harry bought Eggsy a car to like Merlin,” Daisy said. “I can’t afford a car. I have 10 monies in my piggy bank. It’s a really good lolly.” She noticed the pocket on Sean’s shirt and put the lolly in it and patted his shoulder. “There you go. You just think about it. Mummy likes the pub.” Daisy skipped back to her friends.
“What the hell is that pack teaching that girl?” Sean said out loud. He stood up and went through the motions of the rest of the field trip, being mostly useless for his brother. The kids all thanked them and were loaded onto the bus. Michelle was one of the last on the bus. Daisy banged on the window and point at Sean’s pocket. “Hey, Michelle?” Sean said.
“Yes?” Michelle smiled at him. “We have to go.”
“I know. No, I know. It was just nice to see you.” He touched the lolly and took a breath. “The pub has a good local band in on Tuesday nights.”
“That’s nice.” The teacher called and Michelle nodded and stepped onto the bus. “Thanks for the head’s up.” Michelle said and was gone, the bus pulling away.
Christopher walked up and plucked the lolly out of his pocket. “That was pathetic. And you don’t get this until there is an actual date.” He shook his head. “You are an idiot.” He walked back to the house, leaving Sean alone.
That night when all the kids were asleep, Michelle was sitting with all the adults and a few bottles of wine were open. “Sean mentioned the pub has a good band on Tuesdays.” Her eyes widened. “Oh god, I think he was about to ask me out.”
Everyone was about to answer to that when Merlin coughed, “I hired an American ex-rodeo clown biological alpha to be our new nanny.”
“I…okay which do we address first?” Eggsy asked into the stunned silence.
“His nickname is Tequila,” Merlin added.
“Sorry, Mum, we’ll sort out that fumble of a date ask in a second,” Eggsy decided. “What the fuck Merlin?”
“I wanted Ginger’s brain, this was the price we pay!” Merlin replied. The whole family exploded talking over each other and Michelle went up to her room.
She needed to figure out if maybe Sean had been about to ask her out.
And if he had, what would she want to say. That thought kept her up for hours.
“I don’t even know if he will be there!” Michelle protested. Harry was digging through her wardrobe and making Harry noises. “And I have a 6 year old, a million grandpups and work in a flower shop, the wardrobe is pretty basic. Stop looking for things that aren’t there.”
“I know I’ve bought you more dresses than you have in here,” Harry protested. “Pretty summer cotton ones. I buy everyone in the family clothes.”
Michelle flushed a little. “Didn’t have nowhere or no one to wear them for so…” She gestured to the bed where she had turned them all into a summer quilt.
Harry looked at the blanket. “Wait, that is really well done.” He picked it up and looked at the stitches. “We own a sewing machine?”
“Found one at the charity shop and decided to experiment a bit, someone in this house always has something that needs mending with how you pups scrap,” Michelle said. Harry got that look. “What are you doing?”
Harry strode to the door. “Percy! Money!” he shouted.
“No!” Percival shouted back.
“Michelle sews and has a cheap charity shop machine,” Harry shouted back. He began to count.
He made it to three. “On it,” Percival shouted.
Harry nodded pleased. “There we go, proper sewing room shouldn’t be longer than a week for you.” His scent was happy that he made his mate provide for his pack. Well Merlin's pack, but whatever. Merlin wouldn't provide unless you told him to.
Michelle shook her head and hugged Harry. The man was just hopeless and forgot sometimes he wasn’t actually in charge. But he loved taking care of people. She kissed his cheek. “You are a very sweet pup,” she said.
“I’m older than you,” he said.
“You and Merlin are 15,” she replied. “And we all adore it.” She went to the wardrobe and pulled out a black summer dress that had bright exotic flowers splashed all over it. “I kept this one.”
“It will do,” Harry said. “Now then, hair and make up. You want Tilde or me?”
“You,” Michelle replied. “I have seen the photos of you in drag, and Tilde wears foundation and lip balm and calls it a day.” She stripped out of her day clothes and went to put the dress on.
Harry whimpered. “New knickers, please.”
“They might be mine,” Harry said frowning. They both looked at Michelle’s crotch. “No, I think those are Roxy’s. We really need to be better about sorting laundry.”
“I think this might be one of those things that leads to people thinking we are freaks,” Michelle pointed out. She wondered if she was repulsed wearing someone else’s knickers but they would have been washed. And seriously she was changing all her knickers to boy cut boxer briefs they were so comfy.
“Hmmm, talking about our pants with many people are we?” Harry asked. He laughed when she flipped him off. “I’m not saying lace and a corset will build your confidence. I am saying you worked this morning and fresh pinnings under fresh clothes will feel nice.”
Michelle actually thought that was a fair point but still. “Harry?” She looked at him and he didn’t move. “Harry, remember I don’t do the naked thing as easily as the rest of you.” This was a family that seriously had no boundaries.
“Oh yes,” Harry smelled contrite and hurried to her bathroom to check her makeup stash. Michelle adored her foolish back. She put on fresh pinnings and then the dress. She went to the bathroom. “Lovely,” Harry said. “It might get a little nippy, Tilde has a jumper that will go well with it. Hair up or down.”
Michelle looked at the multiple bites on her neck on both sides. She nodded, if he couldn’t accept it she needed to know. “Hair up,” she said. Harry worked quickly and her hair was in a soft ballerina bun and looking sweet. He had her close her eyes and in 15 minutes had her make up done as well. She had highlighted cheeks and lush looking lips. “Thank you Harry.”
“I helped Roxy get ready for prom,” Harry said, remembering fondly. “She looked astounding in her tux and goth makeup.”
“Of course she did,” Michelle agreed. They walked together to the family room where most of the pack were tiring out the babies. Percival came in a little behind them. “Do you need a quilting machine as well as a sewing machine?” He was building a shopping list and had several articles up. “Hmm, maybe a serger. Yes those look practical. Storage too. Hmmm, down on garden level there is a spare drawing room, near Harry’s serial killer office. It will make a good sewing room.”
Michelle nuzzled Percival and he gave her an absent minded hug. “Not that lavish ok, love?”
“Of course, I would never. This is not more than five thousand pounds.” Percival gave her a distracted smile. “Maybe we should do built ins,” he muttered as he sat down.
“Mummy, you look beautiful,” Daisy said.
“Thank you darling.” Michelle tugged at the dress. It hit just above her knees but still she was feeling rather exposed. Eggsy echoed the sentiment and she smiled at her son and granddaughter all snuggled into the couch.
Merlin stood up and came over to her. She’d worry how solemn he looked, but that was just his face. “Would ye like me to come along to chaperon?”
Michelle melted and tilted her neck a little. Merlin nuzzled her pack bite and she immediately felt calmer. “Be a bit odd, have my son in law as my chaperon.”
“I’m your pack, you need me I can sit at the bar and read,” Merlin replied. “I did it for Roxy when she was a pup.”
“46,” Michelle replied. But she let him nuzzle again. “I’ll be okay, more worried that our guess is wrong and he won’t be there.”
“Oh no, I stopped by the shop yesterday,” Eggsy chimed in. “He’ll be there.” He grinned.
“Thank you,” Michelle said. “Right then, I’m off. Daisy does have school in the morning so bedtime will not be ignored too much, you hear?” the room all made a vague agreement.
Merlin gave her another look, but relented a bit at whatever he saw in Michelle. “Weapons check,” he said.
“Oh lord, Merlin, it’s the local,” Michelle said.
“Weapons check,” he insisted.
“Pepper spray, key chain alarm, key chain hidden knife, all on my person,” she reassured.
Merlin kissed her head. “Have fun, there are no security cameras in the alley behind the pub if you want public sex.”
“Oi!” Michelle and Eggsy said.
Merlin blinked. “How is that not good information to know? Roxy and Tilde have been grateful for it.”
“Daisy is right there,” Michelle said and stomped on his foot.
“Consent is fucking required from both parties!” Daisy said, proud she remembered her lesson. Roxy fist bumped her and Michelle decided to let the swearing slide this time. She wished she had grown up learning that lesson, would have saved her a lot of pain and heartache.
Merlin let out a pleased growl. “And what do we do if our partner does not get our consent?” he asked Daisy.
Daisy got up and tried to growl and launched herself at Merlin. “We feed them their own heart!”
Merlin spun her around. “Good girl,” he said. “Michelle, remember that.”
Michelle nodded. “Bye all!” she called. At the front door she pulled on flats, to make it easier if she had to run and the Tilde jumper was waiting. She put it on and went to drive to the village. Michelle parked at her spot behind the flower shop and walked to the pub. She found it difficult to breathe, what if Sean wasn’t in there? What if this was foolish? What if he was there and when they tried they failed miserably? That friendship had been mistaken for flirting? What if she cost Percival his cheap bacon?
That last thought snapped her panic in half. Percival was building her a sewing room because he loved her. He cared about her more than bacon, no matter how he went on about finances. He would want her to have a good time. Most importantly Michelle wanted to have a good time. In the pub, with Sean. She opened the door and went in. It was busy but not packed. She scanned the bar but he wasn’t there. Likewise the tables. She wouldn’t be upset.
“Michelle,” Sean called out from a corner booth at that back. He stood and she saw him. He was wearing a button down shirt with his jeans and his hair was almost styled and he had shaved. He looked gorgeous.
Michelle walked over. “Hi,” she said softly.
“You look stunning,” Sean replied. “And uh, Michelle would you like to go to the pub with me on Tuesday night? I didn’t really get to finish the question before.” He started to run his hand through his hair, and stopped remembering all the product in it. He hadn’t texted Melanie to find out what to wear tonight.
“Thank you, Sean, I would like that very much,” Michelle said and looked at the bar. “Let me just go get a pint yeah?”
“You sit,” Sean said swiftly. “What would you like?”
“On it,” he agreed and hurried over. Michelle took the opportunity to admire Sean’s arse in the jeans as he leaned over the bar. Her phone buzzed in her pockets and there were a ton of messages incoming from the pack. Merlin reminding her how to break a nose, Harry about how much alcohol she could drink and still drive home, Percival sent photos of sewing machines, and Tilde small talk conversation starters. Eggsy sent a filter photo of Zoe and him doing thumbs up for her on a date. She couldn’t stop the giggles and was still laughing as Sean returned with a couple beer.
“What’s so funny?” Sean asked. She just kept giggling. “I didn’t think this shirt was that bad,” he said looking at himself. It was a little old and not bespoke like how her pack wore but still. He put the beer down and sat and felt so awkward.
Michelle kept giggling. She held her phone to her face and then in a serious voice said, “Tell me Sean, how do you feel about the direction Rian Johnson took the Star Wars franchise in?”
Sean stared at her. “I’m sorry?”
“That one didn’t work, hmmm.” Michelle scrolled. “Oh, can you believe how *insert football team here* did at their last match. Ludicrous display wasn’t it?” She handed him her phone and kept laughing.
“Good lord, you have 20 conversation starters here,” he said. “Wait 25.” The little typing bubble popped up. “27,” he said. He handed the phone back to her. “Do they think you don’t know how to talk?”
“Well they sure as hell don’t,” Michelle replied. She turned her notifications from everyone except Eggsy off and put the phone in her purse. “How was work today?” she asked.
“Good,” Sean replied and smiled at her. That made a lot more sense. “Busy, glad I hired Mikey. He’s good with customers.”
“So are you,” she said.
“I am but it also gives me time to work in the back, prepping everything. Allows me to go up to the farm a little more.”
“It was a beautiful spot,” Michelle said.
“Been in the family for almost 200 years the land,” Sean said proudly. “I mean it doesn’t compare to your…do I call it a house, the estate?”
“Home,” Michelle said. “And Merlin vaguely knows the history of it, mostly he likes the space.”
“Lot of space.”
“I can’t imagine how empty it must have felt when it was just he and Harry. Grew up in flats in London, the quiet of the place freaked me out the first few months after Daisy and I moved in.” Michelle drank some beer and then gave him a look. “Bought your cookbook that is still in print.”
Sean looked at her in horror. “You did not.”
“I did,” she replied. “Couple of the recipes aren’t so bad.”
Sean groaned. “It is all so fussy,” he complained. “Fucking hell I was a prat. If it isn’t Himalayan salt you are ruining your dinner. How dare you not make this with this particular herb that costs some families their whole daily food budget?”
“I thought you’d complain more about the photo of you just in an apron,” Michelle teased.
Sean turned bright red and couldn’t stop himself from mussing his hair. “I have removed that incident from my memory forever. That photo doesn’t exist.”
“Yes it does, on page 123.” Michelle giggled again at how flustered he was. “It is a good cookbook,” she said.
“Get a royalty cheque that pays my internet bill every once in a while so won’t knock it, but fuck I don’t miss those days,” he said.
“You just lied,” Michelle said. When he gave her a look she shrunk down a little. “Never mind.” People really hated that she could tell when they were lying.
“I miss my kids,” he amended. “But I don’t miss the life itself. The hours were murder, the pressure to stay on top? It killed my marriage and relationship with my kids.” Sean shrugged. “Can’t change the past though can you?”
“Do you see your kids much?” Michelle almost reached out to squeeze his hand but she had used up all her bravery just walking into the pub.
“No,” he said. “And they are mostly grown now, early twenties. They don’t really remember a life where I wasn’t running out the door or just gone. My fault.”
Michelle found a kernel of bravery left in her and reached out and squeezed Sean’s hand. “Their loss,” she said softly. They smiled a bit at each other and looked over when someone tapped on a mic. The music began shortly and they listened to the first set. Sean had been right, they were good. When they took a break Michelle stood up. “Excuse me for a moment?” she said and he nodded. “Way back I’ll grab another round?” Sean smiled at her and Michelle couldn’t stop the giant smile that spread over her face. She went to the loo and was humming as she went to the bar. She ordered them a couple pints and an alpha leaned into her.
“Well hello there,” he said and he reeked.
Michelle frowned and moved a little away. She looked over to Sean and he waved at her. One pint was poured and she was waiting on the other.
“Look at your neck,” the alpha said. He tried to wrap her in his scent, thinking it was attractive. It was not. “You clearly like a good time.”
“I’m on a date,” she said firmly. She gripped the counter to stop her hands from shaking. She glared at the bartender but he didn’t seem in a rush to help her.
“I’m better, I bet,” the alpha said. “Come on love, give us a smile. Let me buy you a drink.”
“No,” Michelle said. She looked at the bartender. “He is harrassing me. Please ask him to stop.”
“He’s just being friendly.”
“Yeah, I’m just being friendly,” the alpha said. “I bet you love to suck on a knot.”
Michelle looked over at Sean, scared as hell and saw him stand him up and start moving through the packed bar. He would rescue her, it would be fine. And she’d call the owner of the pub tomorrow to talk about the bartender. Almost over.
Then the alpha slapped her ass and leaned into to force his scent on her.
Michelle’s vision went honest to god red, and she heard Harry’s voice in her head telling her what to do and Merlin telling her to remember her value. She belonged to the Mathe pack, that carried weight. She was Michelle Unwin, and that carried its own value. Her elbow snapped up and back and she heard him grunt and she spun around until she was a bit behind him and slammed his face into the bar and when he was bent over she delivered a short kidney punch. “You do not touch me,” she said. Her scent was distressed and several other alphas in the bar were moving in to defend the omega. The bartender realized it was going to be a situation.
“Your drinks are on me,” he said quickly. He waved to the doorman to get the alpha out of there.
“I am calling the owner tomorrow,” Michelle said. The scent of all the alphas closing in was starting to choke her. They wanted to protect her but it was making her think of Dean and when he let the pack circle her. She began to panic. A space of a more neutral scent came up to her and she saw grey hair. “Sean,” she whispered. Her breath was growing choppy.
He grabbed her purse as she started to drop it and hurried her out of the pub. He checked traffic and they crossed the street and he sat her on the bench in front of the flower shop, figuring the location would comfort her. “Are you alright?” he crouched down in front of her, and made sure there was a good bit of space between them.
Michelle couldn’t control her breath. It was coming to fast and the adrenaline was spiking. “I’m sorry, please, just give me a minute and I’ll be fine. I’ll make this okay.”
“You don’t have to make it okay,” Sean said. He could see though that she was getting worse. “Michelle, I’m going into your purse.” He sat on the concrete and pulled out her phone. He held it up to her, “Put in your pass number.” Michelle had to unclench her fingers from the bench and managed to type it. Sean scrolled the contacts and picked what seemed the best option. “Merlin?” he said when it was answered. “There was a situation at the pub, and Michelle is having a panic attack. We are outside on the bench in front of - hello?” Sean stared at the phone. “He hung up,” he said in shock.
“Oh god,” Michelle said. “Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck. That was a bad idea Sean.” Tears began to fall. She wasn’t sobbing, they just dripped down her face tracks against her skin.
He stayed seated on the ground in front of her. “Michelle, why was that a bad call? Is Merlin going to hurt you?”
Michelle laughed hysterically. “No,” she said. She was laughing and crying and shivering even in the jumper, even though it was a warm night.
Sean had a vest on so he didn’t think about it, just took his shirt off and put it over her shoulders. “Do you know how to grill the perfect steak?” he asked.
The odd question stopped her laughing for just a moment. “I’m sorry?”
“There is a lot of debate about what makes the perfect grilled steak. Pages and pages devoted to the best cut. And it’s all bullshit that aspect because it is about what you like. Chris swears by the rib eye, but me? I like a t-bone,” Sean rambled. He couldn’t think about what else to do. He sat on the concrete and talked about how to grill a steak ignoring traffic and people who gave him dirty looks as they walked around him. He talked about salt and pepper and the right heat, gas vs charcoal until he heard a car stop right by them and the scent of high alpha was overwhelming even from metres apart. He turned in case it was the guy from the bar. He wasn’t a good fighter, but he wouldn’t let him near Michelle.
But it was Merlin and Harry.
Sean was not comforted. It could have been the guns that Harry had in double holsters that he wasn’t even trying to hide.
“Sit rep,” Merlin barked.
“She went to stand us a round. Bloke at the bar hit on her,” Sean said. “She looked nervous and I was going to her but then he touched her and well,” Sean looked at Michelle.
“Panic attack,” Harry said. “Right I’m into the bar then. Back alley has no cameras, I’ll deal with it there.”
“He’s probably already at the A&E,” Sean said. He was a lot scared by what Harry might have meant by deal with it.
“Excuse me?” Merlin and Harry both said. They looked at him pleased. “You defended her then,” Merlin said and nodded.
“Fuck no, I mean I woulda in a second,” Sean said. “But uh, she sorta laid him out? Broken nose at least.”
“You don’t get consent, you get fed your own heart,” Michelle said and began to hyperventilate.
Merlin went over and picked her up and Michelle leaned into the scent of her pack alpha. “We have you,” Merlin promised. He gave Sean a short nod and he got into the back of the car with Michelle and Harry drove them both away.
Sean walked to his car and drove home. That was not the first date he expected.
Michelle woke up at 1am jammed in between Merlin and Eggsy, the rest of the pack except the babies all surrounding her. She got up to use the loo and saw her purse on a chair. She reached in and typed a quick email to the butcher shop. She realized she didn’t actually know Sean’s number. She apologized for all the dramatics and thanked him for the fun that was had before it all fell apart. She sent it and crawled back into the pile.
Merlin looked at her sleepily. “Your second date will be better,” he said.
“He won’t want one,” Michelle replied.
Merlin kissed his pack bite on her neck. “Then he is a fool.”
Michelle was in the back of the shop and heard the door chime. She hurried out and there was Sean in his work clothes. “Hiya,” she said.
“Hi,” he said back. They stared at each other in awkwardness. “I need a bouquet?”
“Of course,” Michelle said. “We have some prepared, or I can make one up?”
“Uhh, as long as it has soft pink I’m good with whatever,” Sean said.
Michelle looked at the premade bouquets and plucked one out. “How’s this?”
“Yeah, that looks pretty,” he agreed. “Need one of those cards, to write a note.”
Michelle pointed to the little spinning tray of cards and Sean picked one while she wrapped up the bouquet. “Ribbon?” she asked.
“Why not?” He was writing on the card very carefully like it was the most important message in the world.
“What’s the occasion?” Michelle asked, like she did with everyone who came in.
“Trying to convince a beautiful and courageous woman to go out with me,” Sean said and signed the little card.
Michelle felt her heart fall into her stomach and tried to not let her scent grow heartbroken. “She is a lucky lady,” Michelle said quietly. “That will be 15 quid.”
Sean paid and carefully attached the card to the stick in the bouquet. “Wish me luck,” he said and smiled at her. That stupid perfect smile of his.
Michelle’s smile was wobbly. “Good luck, Sean.” She put the money in the till and watched him walk out of the shop.
He then stopped.
He stayed just standing in front of the shop and Michelle figured he was just getting up some courage before going to wherever he was going.
Only he came back into the shop.
“Forget something?” Michelle asked trying to be cheerful.
Sean opened his mouth and then closed it again. “Fuck, this seemed a lot more clever in my head,” he muttered. He then thrust the flowers at Michelle. “Fuck this was stupid.”
Michelle took the bouquet, thinking maybe he changed his mind. He pointed at the little card.
Michelle, I had a lovely time with you before it went to shit.
You were amazing.
You are amazing.
Go out with me again?
“Meant to write something more romantic than that,” Sean said. “Ugh, this was dumb. Never mind yeah? I’m gonna go meat cleaver something.”
“I’m free on Saturday,” Michelle said. “I like lunch? Lunch is not very likely to go to shit.” She took a deep breath. “Maybe you could grill me a steak? Bit of a hankering after how you went on.”
“I would love to,” Sean replied. “That would be brilliant.”
“Okay then, Saturday.” Michelle smiled. “And thank you for the flowers.”
“Yeah,” Sean said and hurried out before he could cock it up.
When she told the pack at dinner that night, Tilde hit Roxy. “Why couldn’t you have game like that?”
“Shit, I wish I had,” Roxy replied. “That was smooth af.”
“What’s af?” Daisy asked.
“Way to swear around ye, without actually saying the word,” Merlin explained.
“Oh. Can I come?” Daisy asked her mum.
“No,” Michelle said. “Maybe after a few more dates we can include you.” She looked at the group who all looked eager. “Oh god, no. You aren’t being unleashed on him en masse yet. Maybe ever.” Grown ass alphas began to pout. “Ugh fine. 3 months. Give me three months and then we’ll see.”
“Good,” Merlin said.
Eggsy hugged his Mum. “So proud of you.”
“It’s just a second date.”
“Proud of you,” he repeated.
Michelle smiled. “Yeah, I’m proud of me too.”
Sean was starting to pack the shop up. They were open for another thirty minutes, but it had been a miserable day out and he doubted many more would be coming in. He was exhausted; Mikey had been out sick the last few days. He hadn’t realized how much he relied on the lad until he was gone for a week. Sean’s back was feeling it. He heard the bell over the door and groaned. “Almost closed,” he said and stood up. “Eggsy, Daisy? What’s up?”
Sean had had another 5 dates with Michelle over the last month and thought it was going well. She was clearly nervous and frankly he was too. They now held hands and last time he had dropped her back at the estate and kissed her cheek. They were 12. Or middle aged people with a lot of baggage. He wondered if this was going to be some sort of shovel talk.
Eggsy nudged Daisy forward. “This is your idea, love,” he said. “You gotta ask.”
Sean came around the counter. “What do you need, Daisy?”
“I have 20 monies,” she said seriously.
“Good for you?” Sean asked hesitantly.
“Mummy’s birthday is in two weeks. She reads your cookbook all the time. I can read a little, but there are some big words in there. They have shapes on top of them.” Sean thought about it and realized she probably meant accents. “So I will pay you 20 monies to teach me how to cook one of your foods for her for her birthday.” Daisy nodded and handed him five pounds. “That’s a deposit,” she said, pleased she remembered a Percival word.
“I…” Sean looked down at her and then at Eggsy.
“I can understand if you are too busy, bruv, know summer the shops get hammered,” Eggsy said providing an out.
Sean looked at Daisy’s face, all earnest and thought of how he had always wanted to teach his kids to cook and never seemed to have the time. “This is really what you want to give your mum for her birthday?”
Daisy nodded seriously. “She looks at your book allllllll the time. This is a better gift than the my little pony action figures I was gonna get her.”
Sean grabbed a piece of paper on the counter and wrote down his address for Eggsy. “I know your mum has this already, but still I’d imagine we’re trying to keep this a surprise?”
Eggsy gave him a smile. “Yeah,” he agreed. “Mum works day after tomorrow 1-6. Would you have some time then?”
“My place 2, should work,” Sean agreed. He put the five pounds in his pocket, determined to pass it off to Eggsy later. “Daisy I look forward to cooking with you.”
“Thank you, Mr. Sean,” Daisy said. “If you teach good, I’ll even throw in another lolly.”
“I appreciate it.” Sean gave her a smile and Eggsy pushed her out the door.
Sean wondered if he’d ever understand this family. He closed up the shop and went home. He ate some leftovers and then went up to the attic. There was an old chest he had found at a charity shop and he brought it downstairs. He opened it up and there were his cookbooks, awards and a few other things. He hadn’t looked at one of his cookbooks in over a decade. He picked up the one he knew Michelle had and started flipping through it. It was as bad as he remembered. A third of the recipes in it weren’t even his, but from sous chefs at the restaurant. He read some of the easier recipes in it and shook his head. “These are garbage,” he said. No way would a six year old be able to do anything in there without a lot of help. And he had a feeling Daisy was determined that most of this would be done by her, she seemed the determined sort. He threw the book back in the chest in disgust.
He paced a little and wondered what to do. A memory came to him, of he and his mother and the helper chair. The smell of freshly crushed herbs. Smash them like they are evil monsters, dear one. Give mama the monster goo. He picked up his phone. “Oi, loser,” he said once his brother picked up. “I need Mama’s cookware and journal.” He held the phone away from his ear as Christopher cheered. He waited while his brother babbled. “No, you don’t need to drive it to me at 8 at night in a thunderstorm. Bring it to me tomorrow okay?” He waited as more babbling happened. “I’ll explain why now when you are here.” A little more waiting and then he just hung up. He was going to put the chest back in the attic when he noticed the tissue paper at the bottom. The aprons he had made for his kids when he had reopened the shop. The one for his daughter would be big on Daisy, but not too huge. He took it out of the chest and then returned the chest back up to the attic.
Sean had expected Eggsy with Daisy but it was Percival. “Hey mate,” Sean said. “Hello, Daisy.”
“Hi, Mr. Sean,” she said. “Percy is with me.”
“I see that,” Sean replied. He gestured and they came into the small house.
Percival looked around. “I’m going to be here in the living room, okay Daisy?”
“Sure,” Daisy agreed. She looked at Sean. “Mum hasn’t given the okay for me to be alone with you. In case you decide to sell me to pirates.”
Sean snorted. “You are too stringy to sell to pirates. Maybe a traveling circus.”
“I can walk on a tightrope that is a whole metre off the ground,” she said. “They’d give you a lot of monies for me.”
“I’ll keep it in mind if a circus comes to town.” He winced worried that Percival wouldn’t find this funny but he seemed to have settled into the chair with his laptop already. “Shall we go to the kitchen?” he asked Daisy.
“Yup!” Daisy kissed Percival’s cheek and skipped down the hall.
“You can be in the kitchen if you want,” Sean said.
“There is nothing to suggest we will have any problems,” Percival said. “And if there are, you’ll find out I’m as scary as Harry and Merlin, just with less practice.” Percival smiled at him. “Go on, teach her to cook.”
Sean nodded and went to the kitchen. Daisy was standing there. “Have a seat,” Sean said.
“I don’t see your book,” Daisy said. “Do you have it all remembered?” She pulled out a chair and sat down.
“No, the book sucks,” he said and sat himself down.
“It has to be from the book,” Daisy protested. “Mummy likes the book.”
Sean shook his head. “Daisy, do you want this to be a good gift for your mother, one where you can do most of the work?” Daisy nodded. “Then that book is useless for you. What you want is in here.” Sean tapped the front of the leather journal. It was worn, with grease stains and cracks. It smelled like his mother.
“That looks magic,” Daisy said. “Is it a spell book?”
“It is,” Sean agreed. “Such powerful magic I was scared of it for a long time. But now I think I am ready to open it. But first I need to ask you some questions.”
“Do I have to do a secret handshake to look in it?” Daisy asked. “Merlin and I have one. Same as he and Roxy had. You spit in your hand.”
“Bet your mum loves that,” Sean said dryly.
“She haaaaaates it,” Daisy replied.
“What flavours does your mum like?”
“I bet you hate broccoli right?” Daisy nodded. “And you love spaghetti?” Daisy nodded eagerly. “Well think about your mum. What dinners make her smile and what ones make her sigh in ugh not this again but I’ll eat it because I’m too lazy to make a pb and j?” Daisy giggled a little. “What does your mum go for seconds of?”
“She likes chicken more than red meat,” Daisy said. “And she doesn’t like the things Harry like that smell like they make you want to cry.”
“She doesn’t like it spicy,” Sean figured out.
“Yeah,” Daisy agreed. Daisy was pleased with herself and Sean realized that was all he was going to get. But it was enough.
“Are you cooking just for her or the whole pack?”
“This is special,” Daisy said softly. “We’ll do the pack party but this is just for Mum, and me and Eggsy.” She looked at him. “I can manage three right?”
“I can teach you to manage three,” Sean promised. He picked up the book and kissed it. “Hi, Mama,” he said softly. He was surprised when Daisy leaned so far forward on the table that she almost fell over.
She kissed the book too. “Hello Mr. Sean’s Mum,” she said to the book, very seriously. “It will open now right?”
Sean smiled. “It will.” He opened the journal and flipped through. “Here, can you read the title?”
Daisy traced the letters a little bit. “The Best Comfort Chicken Ever?”
“There you go,” Sean said. “This is one of the first things my mother taught me to cook. I’ll make sure Eggsy has the list of ingredients that you need for it, for the big day. And I think that since you are in charge of dinner, he should definitely be in charge of dessert. You don’t need to worry about that.”
“Oooh, smart,” Daisy said. “The rest of the writing is messy.”
“It is, there were lots of tweaks to the recipe over the years,” he explained. “Now step one, we put on an apron.” Sean wrapped her in the small apron and it only needed a little folding to fit. “Next we preheat the oven and gather our ingredients.” Sean went over to his oven and preheated it. “See the number?” Daisy nodded. “That’s what it is to be set to, and don’t worry about it, it will stay warm while you prep.” He went to the counter and grabbed the butter. He had pulled it out of the fridge an hour ago to soften. He put it in a bowl. His mother’s mixing bowl, his grandmother’s bowl. He gestured Daisy over to his window. “Fresh herbs, do you have some growing at the estate?”
“Yup, but we don’t have any names on them, so they are a mystery. Except for the mint. Harry knows the mint for cocktails.” Daisy grinned. “He likes cocktails.”
“That seems about right,” Sean agreed. “Okay a lesson then.” He told her about the different herbs, how to recognize leaves, to tell the scents apart. He plucked sprigs of what they needed and showed her how to strip leaves off into the mortar. He added some salt and pepper and fresh garlic cloves. He handed her the pestle.
“What do I do, Mr. Sean?” Daisy asked.
“Smash them like they are evil monsters, turn them into goo,” Sean said. “And you absolutely need to do an evil laugh as you do it. Evil laugh brings out the flavour.”
Daisy tried for an evil laugh and Sean added his to it. He then showed her how to use the mortar and pestle. She was doing a decent job and he added a little more muscle to it. “Excellent, now we need the monster goo in the butter. Give me the monster goo.”
Daisy giggled and tried to lift the mortar. “Heavy,” she said.
“It is marble,” Sean explained. “Pick up the goo with your hands. Cooking should be a little messy.”
Daisy picked up the goo and put it in the bowl. “Now what?”
“Now we squish,” Sean said and together they mixed the herbs and butter.
“It’s sooooo gross,” Daisy said, thoroughly pleased.
“Oh no, it gets much grosser,” he said. He cleaned his hands and went into the fridge and pulled out some chicken pieces. “You can do a whole chicken but that takes a lot of time. If you have it broken down like this it will cook faster.” He rinsed them and pat them dry. “Now the super gross part. We have to jam the butter we made in between the skin and meat. It feels so ooogy.” Daisy almost fell over laughing and once she calmed he showed her what to do. They then washed their hands again and put it in the oven. “It will take about 50 minutes at the temperature we have the oven at. If it was winter I would show you how to make roasted vegetables with it, but being summer, we’ll go with a salad okay?”
“I’m cooking, Mr. Sean,” Daisy beamed at him. “You are worth 20 monies.”
Sean thought of once upon a time where he catered the wedding of a minor royal and was paid thousands. The 20 monies mattered a lot more to him. “Thank you, Daisy, you learn very quickly.”
“I’m smart, Mummy and Eggsy always tell me,” Daisy said. “Everyone at home does. Even when my words were bad they said I was smart.”
“Had a big cussing streak when you were a toddler?” Sean joked. He took out lettuce that he had prewashed and they began to tear the leaves.
“No, I have problems with words,” she said. “Because of things. Eggsy went to school, to learn how to help me and everyone helped and my words started to sound like words. They only don’t word when I rush or am tired.” She dumped all the cherry tomatoes onto the lettuce. “Do we make our own dressing?”
“That’s a pretty big lesson,” he warned her. “Think you are up for it?”
“I’m up for anything, even murder!” Daisy shouted.
“No murder until you are 18,” Percival called out. There was a pause. “Wait, I think I am supposed to say no murder ever.”
Sean laughed. “Do people ever tell you your pack is a little odd?” he asked Daisy.
Daisy nodded. “All the time. They just don’t like that we are happy being odd.” She looked at him. “We’ll get to eat all this right? Cooking makes you hungry.”
“Yes, we’ll get to eat it before you leave. And we’ll practice it again before the big day, just to make sure you have it down.”
Daisy ate the piece of cucumber he offered her. “I learn lots of different things, from lots of people.”
“That is a good thing to do,” Sean agreed.
“After Mummy’s birthday, could you teach me more food?”
Sean thought of all the hours by his mother’s side, learning to cook, hours he never passed on to his own children. “If your mother is okay with it, I’d love to teach you to cook Daisy.”
Forty minutes later, Sean, Daisy and Percival were eating chicken and salad and Percival was heaping praise onto Daisy.
“Mr. Sean taught me good, from his magic book,” Daisy said. “It doesn’t have that nekkid picture of him in it that mama likes in the other book, but I think it is a lot more better.” She ate another bite of chicken.
“Naked picture?” Percival smirked a little. “I am quite shocked.”
“I’m not naked,” Sean muttered. He ate some salad. “You did very well, Daisy,” he said. “Your mum is gonna love this.”
“What are you getting Mummy for her birthday?” Daisy asked. “More nekkid you? Because you know she likes that?”
Sean’s jaw dropped and Percival laughed at him, the bastard. “Umm, no,” Sean said when he collected himself. “Do you have any other suggestions?”
Daisy ate some more and thought about. “Flowers, dark chocolate, ummm, books with the nekkid guys on the front kissing women in falling off dresses. She reads those a lot.”
It took Sean a moment. “Mills and Boon?”
Percival nodded. “Michelle is very fond of happy ever after.” He finished his food. “I can email you a list of Michelle’s basic likes and dislikes from my own personal gift giving files.”
“Percy makes real good lists,” Daisy promised Sean.
“I’ll try on my own,” Sean said. “But good to know there is help available. Now you two can get gone,” Sean said.
“No,” Percival disagreed. “Daisy was a part of making the mess, she will clean it up. Family rules.”
“I don’t mind,” Sean insisted, but Daisy was already dragging a chair over to the sink to stand on. She squeezed dish soap into the sink and put water on. Sean went over to help her. He didn’t notice Percival take a picture of them, to show Michelle after her birthday. They took their leave with Daisy giving Sean a quick hug, so quick he didn’t have time to respond. He made himself a cup of tea and flipped through his mother’s journal. He hadn’t realized how much the writing was fading, pages stuck together, stained. He grabbed his laptop and decided to write up a recipe or two a night.
The second lesson went even better, Tilde the one to be there this time, with Izzy as well. Sean made the baby a yoghurt smoothie that Izzy went nuts for and Tilde demanded the recipe. Tilde also managed to get a few more photos of Sean and Daisy working together. They were both so seriously about the task, Daisy copying everything Sean was doing.
At the end Daisy handed him the rest of her money and the lolly. “You were good,” she said.
Sean tried to push the money back to her. “I don’t need your money, sweetie,” he said.
“Uh-huh. We agreed. 20 monies. Take the money.” Daisy thrust it at him. Sean looked at Tilde who mouthed to take the money.
Sean put in his pocket. “Thank you, Daisy. You call if you run into any problems okay?” This time when she hugged him, he managed to hug her back.
When there was no phone call, he figured it went off without a hitch.
Sean had a line in the shop when Michelle walked in. He gave her a small wave and kept weighing the current order. He could see that she was restless and her scent was strong, but he couldn’t pinpoint what it was conveying. He rang up the order and the person left. Sean looked to the next person in line.
“Sorry everyone,” Michelle said and stormed forward.
“Michelle?” Sean was shocked at the rudeness.
“Shut it, before I lose my courage.” Michelle grabbed his face and planted a kiss on him. It smashed his lips against his teeth and her scent was all over the map but he couldn’t think. Michelle was kissing him. She pulled back. “Thank you so much, for that.”
“You’re welcome?” Sean replied.
Michelle repeated the kiss a little softer. “Thank you for my birthday gift.”
“I have that in the back,” Sean was lost.
“No, thank you for my birthday gift,” she repeated. “She was…she was brilliant. The food, her confidence. It was perfect.” Someone in the shop coughed and Michelle flushed. “Right. Bye.” She ran out of the store.
Sean stared after her until he couldn’t see her. The person coughed again. “Sorry about that,” Sean said.
“Isn’t she in the Mathe pack? They’re crazy,” one of the customers said.
“They are bloody amazing,” Sean snapped. “And if you think different there are other places to buy meat.”
The customer held up their hands in peace and Sean gave them a few cuts that had a little extra gristle on the edges.
When he got home that night he typed up the recipe for the Best Comfort Chicken Ever and changed the file name to Daisy’s 20 Monies Chicken.
“You do know I’m not a caterer, right?” Sean asked Merlin.
“You cook. You used to cook for lots of people daily. You cook for Michelle a couple times a week, and you are giving Daisy lessons,” Merlin ticked off. “Why can’t you cater for me?”
“I don’t have the supplies, the interest, the time?” Sean ticked off in return.
“Chafing dishes, proper china, the large pans you need to go for however many people are coming?”
Merlin actually began to count on his fingers. “10 and the babies.”
“That’s just a couple extra people from the pack, why do you even need it catered?” Sean asked.
“Because I want to impress my new best friend!” Merlin growled a little. “We finally got their visas sorted and they come in tomorrow and will actually be here on Sunday.”
Sean snorted. “How does Harry feel about you calling someone your new best friend?”
“What?” Merlin blinked confused. “He’s fine. He knows he’s my everything.” Merlin paused. “Shit that explains the machete. Gotta go. Feed us on Sunday!” Merlin ran out of the shop.
Jesus, the man was a nutter. “Mikey? I’m taking a break,” Sean called into the back.
“Going to see if Michelle wore shorts to work again?”
“Oi, shut it,” Sean shouted, even that was sort of the truth. He grabbed two teas from the coffee shop and stopped at the window of the flower shop. Michelle saw him and smiled. She came out of the store in her apron, and Sean realized he still had his on too. They were a pair. “Break?”
“Love one, when did August become a wedding month? We are so busy,” she said. She sat on the bench and took the cuppa. Sean smiled when she leaned into him a bit. He wouldn’t comment, it would be rude as hell, but she was starting to develop a scent that he thought was maybe just for him. “How’s your morning?”
“Well your pack alpha came into the shop and was odd.”
“It’s Merlin,” she said. “You need to be a lot more specific than that.”
“He wants me to cater this Sunday?”
Michelle perked up. “Ginger and Tequila arrive.”
“No drink is made with that combo, Harry would know that.”
“Americans what can you do?” Michelle said. “Merlin finally was able to hire Ginger for Kingsman, and Tequila, or rather Bobby, is going to be our new nanny.”
“Didn’t the last one run naked screaming out of the house get thee behind me satan?”
Michelle huffed. “She wasn’t naked. And she didn’t scream. The get behind me satan part is right though.” Michelle laughed. “Merlin decided an ex rodeo clown would be a good nanny.”
Sean didn’t say that seemed about perfect for them. “But if it is only two extra, why does he need a caterer? They are Americans and it is summer. Cookout, burgers, sausages it’s easy.” He pressed his shoulder against Michelle’s a little more.
“He’s never made a friend on his own and is desperate to impress Ginger,” Michelle said.
“He’s my age, how do you not make friends?” Sean was gobsmacked. “Even I have the geezers I play footie with every Thursday night.”
“Merlin does not deal with people well, due to certain circumstances,” Michelle said delicately.
“You know for a pack that live large and open, you sure have a lot of fucking secrets,” Sean pointed out. “And what about Harry? When I joked about this new person and Harry, he called Harry his everything. That sit okay with your boy?”
Michelle kissed Sean’s jaw. He smiled, she was doing that more and more. He kissed her head in return. “Harry has been crazy jealous the last week during Merlin preparing. Hopefully they have some armed combat and a cuddle to fix this up. Merlin and Harry are…they are Merlin and Harry. They haven’t had sex since well before Percival.”
Sean paused, “They are both alphas,” he said.
Michelle eased away from him. “Is there a problem with that?” Her scent was clearly getting ready for a fight, her eyes had that flash she had when she took the guy out at the bar.
“No, but they are with a beta and omega is all.”
“Because sexuality can’t be fluid?”
“Michelle, I really don’t give a toss, beyond not wanting your son to be unhappy in his mating,” Sean said firmly before the conversation could be derailed by misunderstanding.
Michelle melted against him and gave him another of those jaw kisses. “You are very sweet. And Eggsy is deliriously happy with Merlin and vice versa. Merlin and Harry are soul mates, forged that way in fire and loneliness,” Michelle explained. “They adore their mates beyond anything, would die for them. They just need each other? Can’t properly explain it, you sort of just have to live in it to understand it.”
“Fair enough,” Sean agreed. “Still can’t understand the caterer thing though.” Michelle was quiet. “Michelle?” She was spinning her empty cup in her hands. “Hun?” She squirmed a little. “You want to tell me?”
“It was supposed to be Percival or Tilde that came to you, they are the ones who can make things sound logical,” Michelle explained.
“And you couldn’t?” Michelle shook her head. “Can you now?” he asked softly. He put the cups to the side to return to the coffee shop and took her hand.
“It were my idea?” Michelle admitted. “But I didn’t want you to know that.”
“Honestly, not really sure,” she said and frowned. “Got mixed up in my head a bit. We’ve dated the whole summer yeah?” Sean gave a nod of agreement. “And you haven’t spent any time at the estate. We are out and about or at your house, with Daisy, even Eggsy a time or two. But never at my place with the whole group. It’s like you are scared of them.”
“Michelle, I have seen Merlin and Harry fight with battle axes, had a teenage Roxy inform me about her upcoming rut. I have had Percival negotiate a contract with me, and I’ve seen Harry stand in the middle of the street with guns on not caring, ready to murder for you. Merlin said he would rip my throat out with his teeth,” Sean listed. “Michelle, of course I am terrified of them.”
“That’s why I thought catering would be a good option,” Michelle insisted.
“I don’t follow the logic,” Sean admitted after a minute.
“Because you can run away when you feel overwhelmed,” she said. “If you feel the level of crazy gets to high, you can disappear into the kitchen. We want to be outside because the weather forecast is actually nice, and you can be at the grill and sort of see them, like creatures at a zoo, or watching a documentary.”
“Comparing your pack to animals does not help,” he said.
“Ugh, I want you to spend time with my family but not run away in terror and moving to a different country!” Michelle realized she had yelled at a man a decent bit larger than her. Fuck. “I’m sorry. I I I I…”
“I’d love to cater for the Mathe pack,” Sean said. “I’ll mock up a menu and price for Percival tonight.”
“You know, aside from the sheer terror of them, the reason I haven’t hung out at the estate with you, is because you haven’t actually asked me to.”
“I have,” Michelle protested. She thought about it. “Haven’t I?”
“I figured you didn’t want me in your space, and I am content with whatever you give me.”
Michelle picked up his hand and linked their fingers and rested it on her leg. “In my space.”
They sat in silence on the bench watching the crowds until Mikey poked his head out of the shop. “Your brother is on the phone!” he yelled down the street.
“Tell him to piss off!” Sean shouted back.
“I did, he said something I am not shouting!”
Sean rolled his eyes. He kissed Michelle’s head. “See you later, hun.” He ambled back to the store to deal with whatever not crisis crisis arose in his brother’s life. He came up with a menu and price and absolutely overcharged Percival curious if the man would let it slide, because he wanted the pack to make a good impression.
He didn’t laugh when he was woken up at 630am by Percival knocking furiously at his door about the bullshit of a price for catering services. He let the man in and made them coffee and a breakfast while the man kept ranting about the cost. He watched as Percival brought up the statistical average of caterer prices for a party of their size. Sean didn’t even know where you would find that information. He cooked them up some breakfast and slid a plate in front of Percival and the man was still going.
“I deliberately inflated it by 200 pounds to see what you would do,” Sean said and then bit into his eggs. He had actually silenced the man.
“You never be mean to numbers!” Percival admonished. “What did they do to you?”
“Well they hurt me plenty on my tax forms,” Sean joked. He stopped laughing when Percival looked eager. “Look mate, if tax forms are a kink or something for you, I really don’t want to know.”
“If you and Michelle become a more permanent situation, I will be take over all your financial paperwork for you,” Percival said. “Personal and business. Just a little incentive.”
Sean gave him a look. “Michelle alone is enough incentive to date Michelle.”
“An excellent answer,” Percival agreed. He finally ate some of the food. “You really are quite competent at cooking.”
Sean smiled at the fellow beta. “Competency is a high compliment from you isn’t it?”
Percival raised his mug in salute and finished eating. They talked numbers until a real one was agreed upon. Percival gathered all his papers. “We’ve been reined in a solid 18% since the arrival of Eggsy, if that helps you any.”
“If this is all of you being sensible members of society, it actually increases my terror levels,” Sean replied. He took their plates to the sink. “How was it, when you first started dating Harry?”
“It’s different,” Percival said after a minute. “They are honestly a lot better than they used to be, and so much of what happened then was driven by other circumstances.”
“Am I ever going to learn about ‘other circumstances’?”
“I am sure you will,” Percival said. “Michelle matters a great deal to us all. Merlin and Harry they were broken and being pack helped them. They see in Michelle what they used to be. And they helped and it made her better. They are idiots with a great deal of weapons, but there is no pack in England that loves as much as ours.”
“Your love left any bodies in its wake?” Sean had no idea if he meant that to be a metaphor or literal. Percival didn’t answer not that Merlin really expected him to. “Well, see you on Sunday then?”
“See you Sunday,” Percival agreed and left to head back to the estate, it was his turn as the sacrificial adult. He was so happy there was a nanny coming.
Sean arrived an hour before the guests were supposed to show up. He had a car full of supplies, unsure what the estate had, though they promised a decent grill was available. He lifted the cooler up and had a flash back to when he came to get the personal account. But this time it was Eggsy who answered the door, Zoe in his arms. “Hey, bruv,” Eggsy said and Zoe waved.
“Hello you two,” Sean said. “Excited about the nanny?”
“No fucking clue,” Eggsy replied. “I’ve talked to him a couple times, but we’ll see.” He started to walk towards the kitchen and Sean followed. It was as good a space as Sean remembered, only now the fridge was covered in photos and Daisy art. Harry was stirring a bowl.
“Sangria is ready,” Harry said. He ladled some into a cup and sipped. “Not too strong, excellent.” He offered a cup to Sean who took it and when he brought it to his nose he was pretty sure he was instantly drunk on the fumes.
“What the hell?” Sean asked. His eyes were watering and Harry was sipping like it was nothing.
“Harry is like super posh, they can hold their booze to an insane level,” Eggsy said. “Water me down a cup with some extra juice Harry.”
“Why don’t I just finger paint on the Mona Lisa,” Harry muttered but doctored the cup for Eggsy. “I’m going outside, finish helping Percival move furniture about.” He refilled his cup and went outside.
Eggsy put Zoe in a high chair. “Banana?” he asked her and she babbled excitedly. Eggsy chopped it up for her to make a mess with and she immediately began to squish it. “Now, what can I help you with?”
Sean opened the cooler and handed Eggsy tupperware containers. “Room in the fridge?” Eggsy began to put it all away. “Where’s Michelle?” Sean asked.
“Daisy had a slight incident with some mud, they are re-getting ready,” Eggsy explained. “Figured help you out until she was available.”
Sean nodded and turned the oven on to get some bacon ready for on top of the burgers.
“Fry pan over there,” Eggsy said.
“But you know how to cook bacon,” Sean said. “I taught Roxy.” Eggsy just shrugged and Sean explained why to put it in the oven. There was a brief lull in the work and Sean just looked at Eggsy. “So is this about you giving me a talk about not hurting Michelle or you’ll kill me?”
Eggsy gave him a smile. “Nah,” he said easily. “Mum’s got this, and I want her to be happy. You seem a decent bloke Sean.”
“I am now, was less so when I was younger.”
“I’ve seen the file on you. Your definition of shit husband and da, it’s a lot different than what Mum and I know ok?” Eggsy’s scent took a bit of a dive, lost in memory for a moment but he pulled himself together. “And you are great with Daisy, that counts for a lot.”
“I’m going to do my best not to hurt her,” Sean promised anyways. “Everyone in the pack pussyfoots around their pasts, doesn’t talk about them. A bunch of broken or lost people who found each other, I can get that.”
“We find you Sean?” Eggsy asked and Sean was lost for an answer to that. “You ever put out a cigarette on a woman’s arse after you made her service a member of your pack?”
Sean threw up a little in his mouth. “No, who would even?” He shuddered and had to busy himself with cooking. “Don’t…don’t share more than what is yours to share.” He sighed when Eggsy squeezed his shoulder. “Tell me, he can’t hurt her again,” Sean whispered.
Eggsy chuckled, low and hollow. “Prison is a funny thing, all those pent up alphas. Fights break out on the regular. They never did figure out who shanked him.”
Sean looked over his shoulder at Eggsy and thought of Harry with those guns. “Well then, I’ll be glad my tax money isn’t paying to feed his waste of skin.” Sean pulled the bacon out of the oven and set it to drain and cleaned off his hands. “I should go see the set up outside.” Sean went outside, and need a moment of air. He had guessed that Michelle had a past, that was more than clear enough. But one small tidbit was enough to almost break him. It made him in awe that Michelle was who she was. He took a few breaths and then went to see what there was to work with. “What the fuck is that?” he shouted pointing to the grill. He had only seen the like on American cooking shows. “Oh that is a sexy beast,” he said and went over and pet it.
“Merlin ordered it special a month ago, to make the new nanny feel more at home,” Roxy said. She wouldn't mention that it was also a bribe for when they were going to convince Sean to join the pack. “Hey, Sean.”
“I have a bone to pick with you young miss,” Sean said while he tried to figure out how to light the thing.
“I haven’t done anything,” Roxy protested. She did some quick thinking. “Nope, no I am in the clear.”
“I show you how to cook bacon properly and you do nothing?”
“When did you do that?” Roxy frowned.
“First time I met you. You have been letting your pack eat crap bacon this whole time.”
“Oh yeah,” Roxy said. “Whoops.”
“No bacon on your burger for you,” Sean said.
“That’s no fair,” Roxy pouted like a kid, not the powerful alpha-a she was. Sean made her think of a teacher for some reason. She had always wanted to impress her teachers. “I’ll be good.”
“Prove it and then next time I cook for you lot, maybe you can have some bacon.” Sean wagged a finger at her and then managed to get the grill lit. “Why are you now smiling like that?”
“You said next time, means you are thinking of staying around,” Roxy grinned. “Like Michelle enough, to tolerate us, hmm?”
He fussed with the dials on the grill. “I don’t know,” he muttered. “And stop smelling so smug, go chase your omega.”
“My mate,” Roxy growled.
Sean blinked. “Your mate,” he agreed quickly because Roxy had gone feral in an instant. He even tilted his neck just a little.
Tilde came over and nuzzled Roxy. “Whatever has you all worked up? Stop,” Tilde ordered.
“He didn’t call you the right thing,” Roxy snapped and growled again.
“He didn’t know,” Tilde soothed. “Merlin is ansty, go punch him, you’ll both feel better.” Roxy saw Merlin pacing and ran off to tackle him. “I’m sorry, Sean.”
“It’s okay,” he said.
“I prefer to identify as beta, Izzy is still breastfeeding at night so I’m not on my blockers like I prefer.” Tilde looked at him calmly.
Sean just shrugged. “Good to have more betas around this lot,” was all he said. “The alphas are…” He looked over. “Are those bo staffs?”
“They promised no blades?” Tilde said. “They always have a loophole, but it keeps them well fit,” she almost purred.
“I’m going inside,” Sean decided. He had a feeling the whole day was going to be him having odd conversations and walking away. Michelle and Daisy were in the kitchen now, Michelle in the black dress from their first date and Daisy in her cooking apron. “Hello my beautifuls,” Sean said unthinkingly. Michelle blushed and Daisy held out for a fist bump. Eggsy just raised a brow at him and tried to clean Zoe up.
“I’m helping you,” Daisy said.
“Are you sure you don’t want to play outside, meet your new nanny?” Sean asked.
“You need someone on your side,” Daisy said. “I’m with you,” she said earnestly. “You do need my help right?”
“Of course,” Sean agreed. “Think we should get all these amateurs out of our kitchen?”
Daisy nodded. “Go outside, we’ve got this,” she said. “I get a cut of your monies right, though? For being the soup chef?”
“Sous chef,” Sean corrected gently. He waved Michelle off as she was about to yell at Daisy for asking for money. “And do a good job, I think there could be 10 monies in it for you.”
“Yes! Shopkins here I come,” Daisy said. “How’s your collection doing?”
Eggsy and Michelle both stared at Sean. “I don’t have a Shopkins collection,” he said. “10 doesn’t equal a collection,” he amended. They just kept staring at him. “They are cute, okay? Shut up.” Eggsy picked up Zoe and Michelle gave both Sean and Daisy a kiss. They were then left alone. “Besides I discovered Grossery Gang, I like those,” Sean told Daisy.
“I know a kid at school, I’ll cut you a good deal for some rare ones.”
“Thank you, now dressing for the potato salad,” he said. “Let’s get to work.” He didn’t notice Michelle take a few photos through the window of them.
“Admit it, you are having fun,” Michelle said to Sean. He was flipping a couple more burgers on the grill and everyone was running around, chatting, and eating. There would not be much leftover.
“There have been worse gigs,” Sean agreed. He sipped the beer he had nicked from a cooler, terrified of Harry’s sangria. Tilde was drinking some of it, and so was the person the party was for. That Ginger person. The other one, had barely ate, too busy playing with the babies. He was a big guy, in an actual cowboy hat and his scent wasn’t as strong as Merlin but was pretty close. And he was letting Hunter use him as a human jungle gym and looked blissfully content.
Michelle gave him a hug. “This round almost ready?” she asked. He nodded. “Last bunch right? You could sit and eat one with me?” Sean nodded and spread the cheese and bacon mixture over half them to melt. He closed the lid and hummed itsy bitsy spider. He turned off the grill and put them all on a plate.
“Last round,” he called out and everyone swarmed. He saw Roxy reach for one with bacon and he swatted at her with the spatula and got some grease on her shirt. “No bacon for you,” he ordered. He watched every set of eyes turn to him. “Ma’am?” he added quickly.
“Did you just hit my daughter?” Harry asked and his voice was low and there was a hint of a growl. Roxy looked smug and reached for the burger and Sean hit her again.
“No, you’ve been letting your family eat inferior bacon for 8 years. My bacon ruined for years because your dumb alpha rut brain couldn’t remember to put it on a damn baking sheet. No bacon for you.” Sean sat there and waited to be murdered.
Merlin’s growl had the whole group bending their neck, even the new big alpha nanny. “I have been eating bacon that could have been better?”
“I forgot,” Roxy said. “Jeez, it’s still been good.”
“No bacon for you,” Merlin snapped at her.
“I’m in my twenties, mated with a pup, I can eat what I damn well want,” Roxy snapped and reached for the burger with a growl. She froze when Michelle whimpered. Roxy looked over and saw Michelle almost crying. “Oh god, Michelle, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. Oh shit I’m the worst. I won’t eat bacon ever again. Oh hell, I’m so sorry,” Roxy babbled.
Daisy looked up from her potato salad. “Mummy is faking,” she went back to eating.
Sean looked at Michelle who was grinning widely now, all sight of tears gone. He burst into laughter and hugged her. “You are the best,” he said and kissed her head.
“Sean tells you not to eat something, you will listen to him, is that understood?” Michelle said.
“Yes, Michelle,” Roxy said and went for a plain burger.
Michelle was feeling quite smug and strong at defending her partner like that and the realized that her brain was starting to think about long term with Sean. She was quiet through the rest of the meal. When they finished eating, Harry turned on some music and immediately swept Percival up in a dance, and Percival was quite happy to be swept away. Merlin picked up Eggsy like it was nothing and then they were swaying.
Sean began to clean up and felt a tug on his jeans. “Mummy likes to dance too,” Daisy whispered. “I’ve got another of the fancy lollies.”
“You know, you don’t have to bribe me to like your mum, I like her and you a great deal.” Sean looked at Daisy. “You two are swiftly becoming my favourite people in the world.”
“You should dance with your favourite people,” Daisy said. “Like right now.”
“I am here on a job sweetie, it wouldn’t be very professional of me not to clean up.”
“I’ve got this,” Roxy said. Tilde was feeding a dozy Izzy. “Go on,” she said and pushed Sean towards Michelle.
Sean looked at her. “You can have bacon again,” he said. “Be a couple cold slices up in the kitchen.”
Roxy winked at him and stacked plates.
Sean went over to where Michelle was sitting. The new person and the nanny were dancing too, the small woman clearly leading the man. “Nice song, Harry has moves.”
“He does, all those dance lessons the posh sort get. Plus he is all loose from the booze.”
“Once upon a time, it was suggested I had some moves,” Sean said. “Any even try to show Harry up?”
“No,” Michelle said.
“Do you want to?” Sean held out a hand to her.
“I don’t have any moves,” Michelle said. “Waltzing not a common thing on the block I’m from.”
“Just follow my lead, I won’t steer you wrong,” Sean smiled at her. “Come on? Why not?”
Michelle took his hand and they were on the grass. His palm was warm against the middle of her back. A perfectly gentlemanly spot. “Now just trust me,” Sean said and began to move.
“I do,” she told him softly. “I very much trust you.” Sean smiled at her pleased, not realizing that she meant that she trusted him beyond the dance. But there would be time to explain that another day.
They finished their dance and Sean turned bright red when everyone clapped. He decided that was enough social and went to clean up the kitchen. When he got home he found the lolly that Daisy had sneaked into his cooler and just shook his head and popped it in his mouth.
“Michelle,” Sean said happily when he opened the door. “Just in time, roast is resting.”
“Excellent,” she said but didn’t get off the porch.
“Are you coming? I even have that red wine Harry mentioned you liked.” Ever since the bbq he catered for the Mathes he had received on average three calls, texts, or emails a day about things Michelle did or didn’t like. Everyone who had figured out how to work their opposable thumbs was sending them. Well Daisy was mostly stealing whatever phone was nearest and sending him photos of her looking like a bear but still. He tried to tell them he wanted to discover these things on his own, but they were not the best at listening. Their enthusiasm for his relationship would be disturbing if he didn’t respect that it was because they loved Michelle.
It was still a little disturbing.
“Hi?” Michelle whispered and Sean realized how nervous she smelled.
“Is there a problem? We can cancel, I don’t mind,” Sean insisted.
“Will you just look at my hands and not my face?” Michelle asked and looked down.
Sean did as well. “That’s a bag.” He swallowed heavily. “Is that an overnight bag?” The words were almost a squeak.
“It is, everyone is keeping an eye on Daisy tonight,” Michelle said. Her knuckles were white where they clutched the straps. “If you like, if you don’t, I can put this in the car.”
“I like,” Sean replied quickly. “I like a lot.” He realized they were still just standing there and he reached out and pulled her into the house. He closed the door and hugged Michelle. “Just a bag, we don’t have to even think about it until after dinner and a movie.” Michelle nodded against his shoulder. “Roast will be ready.” They went to the kitchen and he even had the wine open and breathing. He had sent Harry back a filter photo of himself with devil horns when Harry provided instructions on the wine, like Sean didn’t used to deal with that sort of stuff every night of the week. The sommelier at the restaurant had been a small man from north Africa who hated their clientele and would fleece the whole kitchen at poker. He still occasionally heard from him, good bloke. He poured them both a glass and served up the food.
They sat and Michelle wasn’t as talkative as usual. Even when he tried to talk about Daisy returning to school next week, he got short and terse answers. The perfectly cooked roast tasted like a tire to him. “We don’t need to shag tonight,” Sean blurted out. “I’m fine without.” Brilliant, he thought, just brilliant.
“Going to tell me that nothing could be better than a cuddle, feeling me in your arms?” Michelle asked. “That is the next sentence isn’t it?”
Sean poured them both a little more wine. “I’m a 55 year old beta, Michelle, I don’t have the sex drive of an alpha-a, thank christ it seems like so much work.”
“Tilde and Eggsy seem okay with dealing with that sort of work, based on the sounds in the house,” Michelle commented and blushed.
“How weird is it to hear your son shagging?”
“So weird, oh my god, Sean, these people have like no boundaries. You knock on every damn closed door. And they just don’t care about skin? Do you know how many dicks I end up seeing on a regular basis?” Michelle groused. “There is febreeze in every room of the house except the kitchen and the family room - those two rooms are off limits for the sex. I at least have convinced Eggsy and Merlin that they can use Merlin’s office, the gym, and their bedroom.” Michelle shuddered. “Do not need to see that again.”
“What about the sex dungeon?” Sean asked. Michelle smiled and said nothing. “There is standing bet on whether you do or don’t have one up there. I could win 40 quid with some inside knowledge, Michelle. I’d buy you flowers.” He had four more times come in and bought a bouquet only to hand it to her.
It was a foolish gesture and a waste of money.
She had read about how to press flowers and had two from each bouquet in a journal.
“You’ll perhaps find out first hand, one day,” Michelle said. She took a sip of wine. “So go on give me the cuddle would be just as good line you were going to before we got side tracked talking about my son’s sex life.”
Sean ran a hand through his hair. “Never been one to try to get a leg over. There was my wife, and then there wasn’t. Dated a couple women since her, but nothing in the last few years but my right hand in the shower in the morning. I want to fuck you Michelle. Every wank I’ve had since our first date, you’ve been in mind, in the shower with me, in my bed, on the sofa riding me. I picture you naked and dream of touching your breasts, eating you out, holding your hair as you suck my cock. I want to fuck you so hard you forget when your birthday is. I want you to ride me, taking what you want, using me like your personal sex toy until I have nothing left, until you’ve taken it all and I say thank you. I want to discover just how good my refractory period is, and curse that because of my age it isn’t better. I want to watch you touch yourself, learn all your favourite things, so I can do them to you again and again. I want your cunt to clench around my cock more than anything while I breathe in that scent of flowers and rainy nights that just seeps from your skin. I want all that more, Michelle. And wanting that, I can tell you that yeah having you in my bed tonight for a cuddle is just as fucking good as fucking would be.” He slammed back the rest of his wine. “Dessert? I bought fairy cakes.”
Michelle blinked. “Gar,” was the noise that came out of her throat. She coughed and drank a little bit of the wine. “Yes? Fairy cakes good.”
Sean brought out a plate. “That one is creamsicle, this one is chocolate.” She took the chocolate and ate it, still processing all the words he had said.
She finished the cupcake and her wine. “Back in a sec,” she said and grabbed her overnight bag and went to the loo. She pulled her phone out and looked at the options. Fuck her pack would be useless.
Luckily they knew one useful person. She dialed. “Carol, help?” she said when the woman picked up.
“Michelle? Why aren’t you calling the pack if you are in trouble?” Carol was at home, eating take out and planning a Doctor Who marathon. “Oh god, are they all dead, do we have to do Harry’s Charles Bronson revenge plan 3?”
“My boyfriend really wants to have sex with me,” Michelle said.
Carol dropped her fork. “Is he pressuring you? Because you feed him his own heart. I’ll call Harry and he’ll dance in his entrails.”
“No, I really want to fuck him too,” Michelle replied.
“Okay, then, thanks for sharing?” Carol was lost. I mean this wasn’t the weirdest phone call she had gotten from one of this lot, but it was definitely shaping up to top five. “Go forth and shag.”
“I’m bad at sex,” Michelle hissed.
Carol sighed. She was not a counselor despite what these idiots thought. “Shouldn’t you be telling him that?”
“He just did a sex speech so good I left a bloody wet stain on the chair, I almost came from just listening to him talk, Carol. I can’t tell a man who can do that that I’m a shite shag.” Michelle sat on the edge of the tub. “Carol, I want him to like me.”
“Whoa, whoa whoa,” Carol said. “If he only likes you on the possibility of sex then -”
“No,” Michelle corrected. “He likes me. I’m…what if after he finds out I’m shit in bed he stops liking me?”
“Michelle, sex with a new partner often takes a couple goes to get good, new bodies, new preferences.” Carol thought about. “Michelle, how do you know you are bad at sex?” Michelle was quiet. “Michelle, you cannot count whatever that knotless pathetic arsehole sonofabitch said to you. He was an abusive shithole, he does not count.”
“Wasn’t good with Lee either,” Michelle whispered.
“Weren’t you teenagers? No teenager is good at sex,” Carol wished she could hug Michelle. “Michelle, do you get off when you masturbate?” There was silence. “Michelle.”
“This is so embarrassing,” Michelle said.
“Really? I’ve had very long and detailed conversations with Harry about him being tied up and fucked by Percival. Very detailed.”
Michelle laughed a little. “Yeah, I get off,” she said.
“Ergo you are great at sex,” Carol said. “Look, I’ve had a lot of sex Michelle, like a lot a lot, I love sex, and I hate to stereotype, but betas are better than alphas.”
“On average, yeah,” Carol agreed. “They can't trigger your hormones with scent, so they've paid a lot more attention to what touches and kisses get a person off. Now I know it isn’t a big concept in your pack but try actual communication. Tell him your fears, and tell him what you want in bed.” Carol thought about it. “Lord forgive me for this sentence. You actually need to be more like your pack.”
“What the fuck?”
“I know, it hurt me too,” Carol reassured her. “But like the one place they are great at communication is sex. No one in your pack has bad sex. So be like them. Talk about sex and not with me. You have an overnight bag?”
“Of course,” Michelle said.
“Check what’s in it, because I promise it isn’t what you’ve packed. Now go forth and shag well!” Carol hung up. She then texted Percival saying she need her I counseled the Mathe pack bonus in her pay cheque. He texted back if family interference was needed and she reassured him. He promised the money would be on the pay. She went back to her take out and shook her head at the fools she dealt with.
Michelle opened the bag and fell to the floor laughing. She knew she was being loud but she could not care. She picked up the lacy thing and held it up and laughed some more. There was a knock on the door and Sean called her name clearly worried. “It ain’t locked,” Michelle said.
Sean opened the door and saw Michelle sitting on the ground, leaned up against the tub and holding up a scrap of black lace. He said the first thing that came to mind. “That looks really itchy.” That just set her off again and she was giggling and nodding. He then added. “I think you might be holding it upside down?” He tilted his head to look at it. “No, no I think that is right.”
“This probably is like 200 pounds,” she said giggling.
“Fucking hell, it doesn’t even have a metre of fabric,” he said. “Was it made by magic elves?” Michelle was just laughing even more and Sean sat down on the bathroom floor with her. “You know there is more in there.” Michelle kicked the bag towards him and he pulled out three more lacy things. “Guess they wanted to cover their bases on my favourite colour?”
“And they got it wrong,” Michelle said. “Not a pink thing in there. You like it when I wear pink.”
“I do, but teal is my second favourite, so this one would work?” Sean held up a scrap of blue. “Oh god is that sequins?” He threw it over his shoulder. “That’s it for the Victoria’s Secret bullshit, but there are two make up bags in here.”
“I only packed one,” Michelle said. Sean held up two bags, one that was striped, and one with flowers. “Flowers is me.” They both looked at the other bag. “Go on then,” Michelle said.
Sean opened it and dumped out the contents. They stared at the pile of different lubes, condoms. “Percival, this has to be Percival,” Sean decided. He checked the bag and found the taser. “And there is Merlin.” He looked at her. “Your pack is mental. And they love you very much.”
Michelle caught a fit of giggles again. “Sean, I’m lousy in bed.” They were on the cold tile of the bathroom floor, surrounded by itchy, supposedly sexy underwear, and 3 bottles of lube, and five boxes of condoms. His hair was ruffled into the spikes she adored, and he was looking at her like she was all that mattered. “And I don’t want it to be lousy with you.”
Sean scooted forward to her and kissed her, the giant mess in between them. He kissed her and kissed her and nuzzled his nose against her jaw. “It won’t be lousy,” he promised her. “And if it is? So what?”
“So what?” Michelle looked at him. “Well bad sex is bad.”
“First soup I made from scratch made my family sick for 2 days,” Sean said. “Became an award winning chef. First time sucks? Well, we’ll just practice until we get better. And hell, maybe you are brilliant and I suck. You think about that?” The hand that was on her neck slid down and cupped her breast. He ran his thumb gently over her nipple, the sensation deadened a little by layer of shirt and bra and still she shivered. He nuzzled her neck. Michelle sighed in contentment. It was so different not to be choking on an alpha’s scent, their lust filling her nose. Instead there was just that faint beta smell, Sean almost a true neutral. But there was a hint of spice, rich and tempting.
“You have a bed? Because bathroom floor at our age won’t do us any favours,” Michelle said.
“I do, it’s a comfy bed too,” Sean said. “But hopefully they left you in there what you actually like to sleep in. How about we get comfy, watch a movie with another glass of wine, and make out on the couch a little?”
“That sounds brilliant,” Michelle agreed. She took a breath and tilted her head to nip at Sean’s neck and it was his turn to shiver. Perhaps this would be okay. “I’ll clean up the mess in here and meet you on the sofa.”
“Just for the record, I did have some supplies on hand,” Sean said. He pointed at what Percival packed. “Wouldn’t do you wrong like that.”
“I know you wouldn’t,” Michelle agreed. She nudged him and he left the bathroom. Luckily they had left her tank top and sleep pants with the powerpuff girls in there. She put them on and went out. Sean was on the sofa a beat up tee and ancient trackies on. “That really what you sleep in?”
“No tee usually, but yeah, more often than not I fall asleep in these,” he gestured to his bottoms.
Michelle sat down. “You did say, what we actually sleep in,” she said casually.
“Yeah?” he asked and she nodded. He took off the top and was clearly sucking in. She tickled his side and he laughed and stopped. He was a bit soft but not out of shape by any stretch. She liked the bit of hair on his chest. Michelle curled up against him and he put on a movie. She started off paying attention but he kept stroking her hair and back, kissing her head. Michelle in turn kept running her hand over his torso and even scraped a nail over a nipple. Michelle could feel him getting hard under her legs.
“Movie’s a bit boring isn’t it?” Michelle said.
“We were watching a movie?” Sean replied. He turned it off and moved her so he could stand up. He then picked her up and started to walk.
“You’ll hurt your back,” she protested.
“Weight less than a cow,” he replied. He stopped. “Lord, I did not just say that.”
Michelle kissed his jaw. “Just get to the bed, Sean.”
“Yes ma’am,” he said and went to the bedroom. He put her down and smiled at her. “Bet you breakfast the sex is pretty great.”
“You’re on,” Michelle agreed and pulled him into a kiss.
Michelle walked into the estate and went to the kitchen. “Mummy!” Daisy said and ran and hugged her. “Hi.”
“Hi hun,” she said and hugged Daisy tight. She ignored the eager faces of her pack. “You went to bed on time last night?”
“I went to bed at a time?” Daisy tried. “I need to go brush my teeth.” She ran before she would have to properly lie.
Michelle felt all the eyes looking at her. She went and poured herself a cuppa. “Hmm, could be a little stronger. Need the jolt, didn’t get a lot of sleep last night,” she said casually. She snorted at the applause that broke out.
“He were good to you, right?” Eggsy asked a little worried.
“No, love, he was the best to me,” Michelle said. “I however, completely wrecked him.”
Eggsy winced at that detail, even as Tilde held her hand up for a high five with Michelle. Michelle decided to go see if Daisy needed any help. She ignored the burst of chatter that broke out around the kitchen table, but laughed when she heard Percival talk about adding her to the sex dungeon schedule.
Mikey sent photos of the hickey on Sean’s neck to Sean’s brother.
Christopher drove into town just to point at his brother and laugh.
Sean ignored them and called the flower shop to make sure an order was placed, a huge bouquet for Michelle to celebrate their night together. He just managed to restrain himself from having a card added that said told you it wouldn't be bad. Instead it just said thinking of you.
“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.
“Yeah Mikey?” They were in the back breaking down the huge hunks of pork loin Christopher had dropped it off.
“Have the Mathe pack just…been around more?” Mikey asked. “Like the stopping in to say hi, and Percival now plays footie, our computer and cash register have never worked better. Tilde painted us those cute pictures. They are just…around.”
“I know,” Sean agreed. “I feel like I’m being sucked into a cult or something. They are acclimating me to their presence and then they’ll eat me. Christ they’ll over cook me too.”
“Boss that was creepy,” Mikey said. “Really what is up with it?”
Sean brought the cleaver down hard. “I think they are trying to make me like them.”
“By stalking you.”
“It’s a fucking rom com,” Sean said. “And it’s working. I’m Meg Ryan or Kate Hudson or…shit do they not make rom coms any more. Who is the queen of rom coms right now?” They both think about it. “Huh…weird,” Sean said. “Now I want to watch something 80s.”
“I wasn’t alive in the 80s,” Mikey said cheerfully.
“You just fuck right off with that,” Sean said and Mikey laughed at him and they kept working surprised there was no one from the Mathe pack popping in. Mikey was closing that day so Sean headed home and there was a car parked by his house that looked familiar. He went into the cottage and saw a pair of shoes and there was music playing. He grabbed an umbrella by the door. “Hello?” he called out.
“You needed a new mouse,” Merlin called from the office.
Sean sighed and put the umbrella down. He went to the kitchen and decided he just wanted a sandwich tonight. He poked in the fridge and found some chicken and a few other things. He made a quick curry chicken salad and threw it on some buns. He checked the crisper and found carrots and snow peas and hummus that hadn’t quite turned yet. “Food,” he called.
Merlin came out of the office and looked at he spread. “Nice,” he said. “Thanks.”
Sean went to the fridge and pulled out two beers. He held them up questioningly and Merlin nodded. They ate the dinner in silence. Sean had never cared much about people’s status. Being pretty damn neutral he didn’t give a fuck, frankly. But damned if the quiet strength and scent of Merlin wasn’t oddly soothing. “Are you projecting calm?” he realized.
“Aye, Percival calculated a 21% chance you’d cleaver me for breaking in, hedging my bets.”
“I have pretty decent locks on the house,” Sean pointed out.
“You keep believing that,” Merlin replied. “I’ll be fixing that on the weekend.”
They ate a little bit more. “You don’t have to prove to me you are a good caretaker,” Sean said quietly. “I see the pack, I know you are a good man and a good pack alpha.” He hurried over to whack Merlin on the back as the man choked on a carrot. “Merlin?”
Merlin waved him off and coughed a bit more. “I need you to record that,” Merlin said.
“I need that to be recorded for whenever Roxy gives me shit. Harry too. And my Eggsy. And Tilde. And -”
“I get the picture,” Sean said and sat down. “You aren’t…traditional as a pack alpha, don’t mean you are bad at it.” They finished their food and Sean wondered why Merlin wasn’t leaving. “Shouldn’t you get home? Or is there more computer stuff to do?” Sean looked at him. “Or is this about…”
“About?” Merlin looked at him in confusion.
“About me and Michelle?”
“Why would it be about you two? You fuck something up?” Merlin smiled at him and for a second Sean’s blood ran cold.
“Not that I know of. Wondered if this was going to be a talk or asking about intentions or something,” Sean said. He decided he needed another beer.
“No, Michelle is in her mid-forties, she’d do something mean if I tried that. She’s wiley,” Merlin said proudly. “Rest of the pack is fairly blunt force trauma when they are mad at you, she’s vicious.”
“You smell way too happy when you say that.”
“Don’t worry when you join the pack, Harry and I’ll teach you to fight.”
“I’m not joining your pack,” Sean said.
Merlin winced. “Right, Eggsy said not to bring that sort of stuff up until Christmas.” He smiled. “Don’t tell them I did? I’ll get stripped of fruit tart rights.”
“Not even asking,” Sean decided. “So are you just here to…hang out?”
“No, I hang out with the love of my life. This has purpose.” Merlin went back to the office and then poked his out when Sean didn’t follow. “Come along pup.”
“Aren’t we the same age?” But Sean went to his office. Merlin was standing in front of the cork board Sean had up. “It’s nothing,” Sean quickly said.
Merlin gave a soft growl and was pleased when Sean just rolled his eyes. “No, this is something. And I find it interesting. Tell me.”
“It was just an idea I had,” Sean said slowly. He stared at the recipes, the sketches, the photos of him and Daisy. “I hate my old cookbooks, they are cost prohibitive and so much work and so…smug?” Sean sighed. He went over and picked up his mother’s journal. “Been working on teaching Daisy what my mum taught me, and what her dad taught her. Some of the recipes in here are garbage so very 50s and 60s, but it’s fun to look at them with Daisy, show her the history of food and how we can update it.” Sean looked at Merlin. “It’s just for fun with her.”
“Stop and just tell me,” Merlin said.
“A book broken down by cost and ease of the project. We grew up on a farm, not a lot of spare money, but Mum could feed 5 for so little. Adapt it for the 21st Century. How do you cook cheap and still healthy? It’s harder than you think. And not just cheap and healthy, but making cooking a family thing yeah? Kids need to know how to cook, they love the responsibility, the learning.”
“Is it safe to have a child in the kitchen?” Merlin asked.
“Of course it is,” Sean snapped. “If you teach them, rules, guidance. Not like I’m leaving Daisy to cook over an open flame. You give them steps to grow with.”
“Right. That matters to you more than the cheap and healthy - the family aspect of it.”
“Yeah,” Sean agreed.
Merlin sat down and typed. “There we go that was all I missing.” He did a little more work and then gestured. “Your webpage is all set up.”
“Excuse me?” Sean stared at the screen. It was seanmcknight.co.uk and the title on it was Recipes to Grow With. “What is this?”
“You want to write a cookbook. This is a good way to remind people who you are.” Merlin scent was quite proud. “Put some recipes up, advice, whatever.”
Sean felt something in his heart, that he couldn’t quite describe. “Everyone and their cousin has a food blog.”
“Yes but yours will be better,” Merlin replied.
“How can you be sure of that?”
“Because I know you,” Merlin said quietly. He stood up and almost cupped Sean’s neck but pat his shoulder. “Because you aren’t a fucking moron who will use the words ‘eat clean’ and you know you can hide vegetables in cake.”
“You do that, you just make kids like cake,” Sean said.
“Exactly,” Merlin agreed. “See you at the estate in a few days right?” Sean nodded and Merlin headed out.
Sean stared at the screen for an hour before he started writing up Daisy’s 20 Monies Chicken. He posted it and then poured himself a shot of whisky. He looked at the screen and noticed the links section. He didn’t really have any links to put up though he supposed he could add the butcher shop’s webpage. He could figure out how to do that. He clicked on links and was surprised that there were several. His shop was there, and so was the flower shop. And Harry’s art blog, and Eggsy’s blog about video games and speech therapy, Tilde’s about Kingsman Games charitable organization. And a link to Kingsman games itself. He wondered why that was all there and he had a horrible though. He clicked on the About and saw a description of himself.
It had a photo of him lighting on fire one of the cardboard cutouts Michelle had got him, his arm around Michelle and Daisy up on his shoulders. And in the personal information it included that he was associated with the Mathe pack and Kingsman Games.
Merlin wasn’t exactly subtle was he. But Sean didn’t change a word of it.
“Oi, Harry, new rule!” Sean said when Harry was about to get out of the car to watch Percival play footie. “Whole lot decided. You have to watch from your car.”
“Excuse me?” Harry was quite offended and continued to get out of the car. He was watching Percival’s arse the whole time as Percival ran to the grass.
“Nope. We vote,” Sean said and blocked Harry’s way. “You either try to murder someone who trips Percival or smell so much like arousal it distracts everyone. You stay in the car, you can still watch him like a creeper horndog, but less likely to jump into the middle and choke hold a 62 year old parson.”
Harry flushed. “I apologized for that. And the church is getting a new roof.”
“Which trust me, Father Pierce is grateful for, but your arse stays in the car.” Harry growled at him and Sean was unimpressed. “Creeper stays in the car, or Percival can’t play and he’s having a bloody good time and you wouldn’t want to make your beloved mate sad would you?” Sean smiled at him.
“One day, I will have my revenge,” Harry warned. He sat back in the car with a huff.
“Oh just shut it and make being a perv a part of your role play.” Sean ran back to the grass and they all played in peace and when Percival took an elbow to the gut, no guns appeared. It was quite lovely.
Sean got home and could smell and alpha but different than Merlin. These days he didn’t even reach for a weapon. “Am I feeding you?” he shouted as he went to the kitchen.
“No,” Roxy shouted back. There was a pause. “What are you eating?”
“Leftover pasta salad. There is also some bread that Hamish made as an experiment.” Hamish and Jesse had indeed moved to the village and Hamish was baking up a storm to satisfy Jesse’s cravings. Sean got lots of tasty treats.
“No, Michelle and Daisy were making lasagna,” Roxy said as she walked into the kitchen carrying a bunch of his clothes. “The one you taught Daisy to make. Love your web page by the way. The whole office reads your posts. Merlin sent out a memo for people to go to your web page or face his wrath.”
Sean put the bowl on the counter. “Tell me he didn’t.”
“Okay, he didn’t.” Roxy waved and started to walk out.
“Why did you steal my suit and dress shoes?”
“Reasons,” she said and left.
That was going to be trouble for him later, he just knew it. He shrugged and went to eat in front of the telly.
“I’m sorry?” Sean stared at the whole pack. He had come over for Sunday brunch. Well, Eggsy had sent him a text of everyone looking sad and asking about pancakes so he had gone over to make pancakes and eggs. And he realized it was a trap.
“We’re going to London next weekend,” Roxy said.
“You all go into London every day for work,” Sean said.
Tilde smiled. “Kingsman Games is being given an award. The whole pack is going. We have a table.”
“Don’t worry, my tailor has been working on a tux for you,” Harry smiled content. “We know you don’t have one.”
“That’s why Roxy stole a suit of mine,” Sean put together.
“You only have one suit, what the hell is wrong with you?” Roxy asked. “Seriously. One, how is that even possible?”
“Not everyone is the three of you,” Sean gestured to Harry, Percival, and Roxy. “Frankly surprised Percy doesn’t play footie in a suit.” He paused. “And again, I’m not pack.” They all just ignored that, as they tended to when he protested. “I can’t take two or three days off of work,” he added.
Merlin waved a hand. “I called Christopher, he was delighted to help Mikey out.”
“Do I even want to know what you bribed him with?”
“You taking a break and being happy,” Eggsy smiled. “And don’t you want to see Mum all dolled up?”
“I helped pick out her dress, Sean, she’s gonna be beautiful,” Daisy said. She was still wearing her apron. She often refused to take it off when she and Sean had cooked. “And I get to come too,” she added. “Not to the party thing, but everyone is going into the city. Tequila will watch us.” Daisy smiled at him, “And maybe the next day you, me, and Mama could go to the Tower of London? They killed people there and have jewels!”
Sean looked at Michelle who had stayed silent through all of this. “Babe?” he asked.
“I do have a pretty dress,” she said softly. “Having you along would be nice.” She blushed a little. “I bet you would look good in a tux.”
Eggsy kicked Sean under the table. A few others did as well and he got the damn hint. “Well I guess a few nights in London would be fun.” Michelle leaned over and kissed his jaw. “Lots of fun.”
“Ummm, okay?” he said staring at the flat. He knew they had money, the estate was proof of that. But somehow the flat in London was what drove it home. Probably because he remembered what property cost in London twenty years ago and it had only skyrocketed since then.
Merlin thought he was worried for another reason. “Don’t worry I bought the other flat on this floor a couple years ago. Not everyone has to pack into here. Eggsy, Zoe, and I. You, Michelle, and Daisy are in this one. The rest are across the way.” Merlin smiled. “You’ll have to share with Michelle though, the flat only has three bedrooms. Well four, but I converted the other to an office. I suppose you could sleep on the sofa.”
“Only?” Sean looked around. “Right.” He shook his head. “Jesus.”
Daisy tugged on his arm. “I know it’s boring in here. But someday we’ll take you to the castle. It’s the best.”
Sean blinked. “Castle?”
“We have a castle in Scotland,” Merlin said. “Used to be a few, but we are down to one.”
“How is that a normal sentence?” Sean asked.
Michelle hugged him. “You get used to it.”
“I don’t think you do, babe,” Sean disagreed.
Harry came in and smiled and Sean didn’t think, he hid behind Merlin. “That won’t save you,” Harry said. “Come along.”
“Where?” Sean asked nervous.
“Tuxedo fitting. You and me,” Harry’s grinned widened. “Alone.”
“Roxy and Percival?” Sean begged. “They have to be going to.”
“No,” Harry said, “They have tuxes already.”
“You do too, you have to,” Sean protested. He noticed Merlin moved away and was in fact pushing him towards Harry.
“I do, three,” Harry replied. “But I felt something with a little more zip was required for this event. We really don’t want to be late, that would be rude.”
“Only appointment he is ever on time for is the bloody tailor,” Merlin said and kept pushing him forward.
“Michelle?” Sean had no problems begging.
“Sorry love,” Michelle said. “I was outvoted. You needed to be put to the test.”
“Survival skills,” Harry said and gripped Sean’s wrist. Sean could feel his bones grind together. “Let’s see just how emotionally strong you are.” Harry leaned forward. “I told you I would have my revenge.”
“Michelle!” Sean begged. “Daisy?”
“I like clothes shopping with Harry,” Daisy said and Michelle just blew him a kiss.
Sean had never been to war. He had barely been in any fights. He was pretty sure no battlefield could compare to the hell of Harry and fabric. Oh dear god, he’d have nightmares for years. He had been asked what his favourite black was and when he said black was black Harry sneered and went on for thirty minutes about different shades of black. He hadn’t even been put in the tux they had supposedly ordered him. “Harry, I’m sorry, but I still won’t let you near the pitch when Percy is playing. Please just tell Michelle I love her and then snap my neck, or whatever it is you can do.” Sean was debating the fetal position on the ground.
“You’ve done better than I expected,” Harry replied and smiled at him. “Plus you accidentally gave me some decent information so we can properly outfit you.”
“I’m a butcher and I help my brother at the farm. My wardrobe is jeans and rubber boots,” Sean said.
“Yes and while that looks stunning on you, you need a few properly fitting suits,” Harry said. “Even Merlin has 5. I will let you get away with 3 everyday suits, an evening suit and a morning suit.” Harry nodded. “It really is the bare minimum for the pack.” He signaled to the tailor. “We’re ready to try on now,” he said.
“I’m not…never mind,” he wasn’t going to start a fight with Harry now. He was scared what colour he would have to judge next. He went into the fitting room and Harry followed. “Hi?” Sean asked.
“Large room, easier together,” Harry said and started to strip to his pants.
“Once you start spending nights, you’ll learn, naked doesn’t bother most of us.” Harry smiled at the assistant and almost purred at the navy plaid trouser. “Oh yes,” he said.
Sean stared in horror. “No dear god, no. I will go to this thing in track pants if you try to put me in something like that.”
Harry laughed. “Like you have the panache to pull this off.” He pet the blue velvet smoking jacket. “We went modern yet classic for you.” He pointed to the tailor who was holding a simple tux.
Sean sighed in relief. “Thank you,” he said. He put it on and wow did it fit well. He had worn tuxes before but mostly rentals. This felt different. The weight of it, the cut. He looked in the mirror and just said, “Huh.”
“Indeed,” Harry said. “You are a ridiculously attractive man.” He went over and fussed with the shoulders while the tailor adjusted the hem of the trousers. “Yes and a long tie, a bow tie wouldn’t suit.”
For a moment Harry’s scent was intoxicating and Sean leaned back before he blinked and straightened up. “Oi,” Sean said. “What is it with you lot?”
“You are getting accustomed to us,” Harry said easily. “I’m not interested in shagging you for multiple reasons but it doesn’t mean I can’t find you beautiful. Similar to how I feel about Eggsy.” Harry smiled. “I like a well turned out man.” He sighed. “I do hope that Percival wears the slim cut tux tonight. I do so adore that.”
It was all so much for Sean to process. “Harry?”
“I guess, thanks for the tux. Michelle will be blown away.”
Harry smiled. “No, I’ve seen her dress, you’ll be destroyed. Now then off with the clothes, we still need to pick socks and shoes for you. If you touch a pair of brogues, I will remove your appendix with a spork.”
Sean touched a pair of brogues just to see what would happen. The forty minute lecture was worse than the spork.
Sean stood by the giant windows in the tux with a scotch. He was so nervous about tonight. No one had said what the award was for but he had a feeling it was a big deal. Tequila had all the kids at the dining room table playing with homemade glitter play doh and staying well away from adults. He caught a glimpse of Michelle in the glass and swallowed before he turned.
It was a rich blue dress that made her look so tall and her hair was up and he knew those would be real diamonds on her ears. And pink lips. “Michelle,” he whispered. He found himself bowing to her. “You look like a princess.”
Michelle blushed a little. “God, you are hot as fuck,” she replied. “Harry had those trousers cut just a little snug didn’t he?”
“I have no idea,” Sean replied. He went over and looked at her, but not as far down as usual because of the heels she wore. “Can I?” he asked.
“I don’t want to ruin your make up but I really want to kiss you,” he said. He looked at her neck. He never nuzzled there. And he had wanted to desperately.
Michelle looked at him and then angled her head. He brushed his nose against the bites of former alphas and didn’t try to kiss, or lick, he just rubbed his nose there breathing in her scent. She sighed and sank into him just a little. He stepped back and was definitely feeling how snug the trousers were cut. “Will their be a chance to find a cloak room at this thing?” he asked, voice low.
“Have to beat the others to finding it. Everyone gets a little horny at seeing their mates in formal wear,” Michelle said.
“I can understand why.”
Merlin and Eggsy arrived then, also dressed to the hilt, Merlin grumbling that someone wouldn’t let him wear his favourite socks and Eggsy shaking his head. They met the others out in the hall and Sean just stared at them all. “Fuck you all are a stupid good looking pack.” They were so glamourous, it almost hurt. He ran his hand through his hair, mussing the careful styling.
Tilde kissed his cheek. “You look incredible Sean,” she said and straightened his tie just a little.
They had a limo waiting out front stretch to fit all of them and when they arrived, Sean realized there was an actual red carpet and press. “Nope,” he said quickly.
Tilde smiled reassuringly. “Harry and Merlin will have to stop and do photos, but the rest of us can head on in,” she explained.
“Excuse me, I have to do what now?” Merlin said.
“We told you,” Roxy replied. “I wrote it down, and told you.” She hit him. “You will smile and be good.”
Merlin gripped Eggsy. “You stay too.”
“That isn’t -” Roxy began and Merlin growled low and deep and they could smell the panic on him.
Eggsy nuzzled his alpha. “Sure, I’ll stay. Be your arm candy.”
Sean noticed that Merlin was gripping his mate tight,and that Harry had slipped his free hand into Merlin’s. Sean would have never thought something like photos would scare an alpha like Merlin. It was weirdly comforting. When they got out of the limo, Harry lead the way to the press and Sean went with the rest of the group. Only one reporter actually recognized him. “Chef McKnight!” they called out. He found himself clutching Michelle’s hand and looking to Roxy for guidance.
Roxy leaned into him. “You can ignore it, or go over and say a few brief words.”
“I…” Sean looked at Merlin who was doing his best not to cock this up. He still didn’t really know what this was about, but he worried that if he didn’t go over, it’d look back for Merlin and he couldn’t do that. He went over to the man that called, grateful that Michelle stuck with him. Percival and Tilde had gone ahead, and Roxy hovered, ready to extract him.
“Chef McKnight, what a pleasure to see you. It’s been years since you’ve been on the scene!” The reporter said. “Are you catering the after party?”
Sean ignored the pictures being snapped. “No, I’m here as a guest.”
“Have you returned to London? Are we going to see you more?” the reporter pressed. “You were a big deal and then just disappeared.”
“I made personal choices to leave and run a family business, and am more than happy doing that,” Sean said.
The reporter looked at Michelle but she wasn’t recognizable so dismissed her. “Who are you here as a guest of?” she pressed.
Roxy stepped forward smoothly. “He is here with Kingsman Games, a close friend to a member of the Logan Mathe’s pack. We don’t want to take up any more of your time, thank you,” Roxy guided them away. “Okay, you ok?”
“Yeah, it won’t make the papers, I’m a nobody these days,” he said, rather relieved by that status. They met Percival and Tilde at their table and Sean looked around the room. “What is the award for anyways?”
Roxy smiled. “It is a diversity in media celebration and we are receiving sort of an equivalent of a lifetime achievement award for our years of supporting varied lifestyles in games and our annual charitable contributions.”
“Don’t forget that rather public time a dudebro started complaining to Merlin about the game having an alpha-alpha romance and pushing a political agenda and Merlin punched him,” Tilde added. “I loved that day.”
“Mmm,” Percival agreed.
Sean looked at them, even further in awe and pride at this group that was somehow slowly reeling him into them. “That’s bloody brilliant.”
They sat down and had a drink and Harry, Merlin, and Eggsy arrived. Harry was calm and perfect and Merlin was a little pale. Eggys ignored his chair and sat in Merlin’s lap to calm him down. “Thank christ that is over,” Merlin groaned and buried his face in Eggsy’s neck.
“You still have to give a speech,” Roxy reminded him.
“Like fuck I do. You or Tilde or Harry can do it.”
“You are the president and CEO of the company, you will do it, or I will make you suffer.” Roxy handed him cue cards. “There you go, easy.” Merlin still looked pissy about it and Eggsy just sat and exuded calm.
It was a good banquet and there were interesting speeches and other awards handed out. Sean held Michelle’s hand for most of it. Then there was a little presentation about Kingsman Games and their work on diversity and charities and he watched video of Roxy at press conferences and Harry and Merlin just shutting down people. He leaned into Michelle. “So like they are a big deal huh?”
Michelle nodded. “Yeah they are,” she agreed. Eventually there was thunderous applause and Harry had to forcibly lift Merlin up. He watched though as Merlin clamped onto Harry and wouldn’t go up with out him. They were presented with the award and then Merlin went to the mic. “Thank you, for this incredible honour,” Merlin began. He stopped talking and read the speech. He frowned.
“No,” Roxy whimpered. “No no no no no no no no no,” Roxy pleaded.
Her father had no sympathy. “You really should have gone up, darling,” he said. He gazed lustfully and lovingly at Harry’s plaid trousers.
Sean watched Roxy began to pray and had a feeling it was useless.
“Roxy, I cannae read this, it is bullshit,” Merlin said and the whole room laughed. Roxy would have slid under the table but Tilde held her up.
“Maybe he won’t say something idiotic?” Tilde whispered.
“I’m not honoured by this award, it’s kind of stupid,” Merlin continued.
Roxy glared at Tilde who shrugged helplessly. The whole room started to make noise.
Merlin made a low growl and Sean couldn’t believe how the whole space quieted. How bloody strong was the man?
“Look,” Merlin began and then paused. “I think I get why you gave this to us, but, seriously we don’t deserve it. We make fantasy and action games and we have characters from a wide range of background and lifestyles and choices. Because it is how it should be. I don’t want a cookie for doing what is obvious. People are complex, why wouldn’t we make our games complex? Everyone made a big deal of the alpha alpha romance in The Gazelle Chronicles but I don’t get it. That was how she was written, because that’s how people are.” Merlin looked to Harry for help. “I just write the code, he creates the characters, he should talk.” Merlin put the award in Harry’s hand and stepped away from the mic and glowered at everyone.
Harry smiled. “My apologies for his abruptness. This is very much an appreciated honour, but even though tactless, Merlin isn’t wrong. We write fantastical universes but that shouldn’t mean we shouldn’t write characters who reflect ourselves and the people around us. When Merlin and I began the company there was a great deal of talk about he and I, some true, most not, and people wouldn’t take meetings with us because of the rumours. So we did it all ourselves, and knew that we would create what we wanted and how we wanted. And that meant broad spectrum representation. We’ve done well but we can do better and more and we will continue to do so. Thank you.” Harry gave a small bow and Eggsy was the one to start the applause which created a great deal of noise in the room.
The two men went back to the table and were hugged by their mates and Roxy was almost shaking. “Some asshole is just going to take Merlin’s start out of context and I’m going to have 5 fires to put out.”
“So you’ll put them out,” Merlin dismissed. “Can we go home now?”
“No, still a party party going to happen,” Eggsy replied, “and you are going to dance with me.”
There was a party after and Sean kept Michelle on the dance floor a great deal and the whole group was there until 1am and rather tipsy by the time they returned to the flat.
Michelle and Sean went to their room and helped each other undress. They snuggled into the bed, and Sean kissed her. “I’m glad I was here,” he said. “Think I might have to check out their games.”
“They are pretty fun,” she said. “Think you’ll be in the papers?”
Sean snorted. “A long forgotten barely a celebrity chef? Yeah, right.” He smiled. “We taking Daisy to the tower tomorrow?”
“Sure,” Michelle agreed. “Should be fun.”
They both heard a thump and Merlin growling and Eggsy moaning. “Oh gross,” Sean said.
“Why we have the room in between them and the kids,” Michelle said. “You learn to tune it out.” But she reached down and threw a shoe at the wall. “Oi! You have gags for a reason!” she shouted. She grinned at Sean. “Better?”
“No, now I’m picturing my pack alpha with a sex gag and that just is disturbing.” He yawned a bit.
“You said your pack alpha,” Michelle pointed out. She couldn’t control her scent at hearing him say something like that. Something that suggested a long future.
“No I didn’t, was the exhaustion and champagne. Go to sleep. Looking forward to the first night I get to wake up with you.”
“Me too,” she said and snuggled in as tight as she could.
Sean’s arm was numb and his bladder was full but that wasn’t what woke him up. What woke him up was being poked in the face. “You said we could have fun today,” Daisy said. “It’s today.” She poked his face again. “Today can’t today if you don’t get up.”
“Today won’t today at all if you don’t give us some privacy and a chance to have breakfast,” Michelle said sleepily.
“I’m gonna go play on my ipad,” Daisy said and ran.
Michelle laughed and rolled into Sean and gave him a kiss. “Good morning,” she said.
He gave her a nod and kissed her head and didn’t reply.
Michelle sat up and leaned more on his torso. “Good morning?” she repeated and he smiled at her. She put a little more pressure on him and right he was way too old to hold his wee. He rolled her off him and quickly went to the loo. After he was done he gave his teeth a quick brush and hurried back.
Sean crawled into bed. “Good morning,” he said and leaned in to kiss her.
Michelle blocked him. “Nu-uh you get a teeth brush and my mouth is still gross? It is both gross or both clean. You cheated. So go forage breakfast.”
Sean nodded and went to the kitchen where Merlin was feeding Zoe and Daisy Cherrios. “Hey, want me to whip up something?” he offered. The toast popped up and Merlin buttered it.
“Thanks, but not well stocked, and I like a light stomach before Roxy starts yelling at me,” Merlin said. “Press will be out. There may or may not be damage control.”
“I thought you did well,” Sean offered. Merlin gave him a look. “I’ve been to a bunch of these things back in the day and you weren’t boring, that counts for a lot.” He put more bread in the toaster. “Everyone staying in town today?” he asked.
Merlin nodded. “Daisy put the idea of playing tourist in everyone’s head. We’ll all do our own thing and meet back here head home and grab takeaway.”
“Sounds good,” Sean ate some toast and read on his phone. He looked up every time Daisy said she had to tell him something important. It never was but he listened anyways. Michelle and Eggsy joined them both ready for the day. Sean made Michelle some toast and then went to have a quick shower. When he came out, everyone else had arrived and Harry was smirking.
“What?” he checked to make sure his fly wasn’t open.
“You made the papers,” Harry said.
Sean looked to Roxy who smiled reassuringly. “Daily Fail,” she said. “The gossips pages.”
“They’re all gossip pages,” Sean replied.
Merlin pulled it up on his tablet and showed Sean. “Honestly, you were attractive then but the silver suits you,” he said.
Sean looked “A D-list celebrity returns? Ugh,” he groaned. He tossed it down and Tilde picked it up.
“Formerly quasi famous Chef Sean McKnight briefly reappeared on the scene last night…talks about the event and how you have aged well,” Tilde said. “Oh they actually did some digging. ‘Chef McKnight now owns a butcher shop an hour outside London that focuses on sustainable and ethically sourced meat. He has also recently begun a web page that has a rural charm and will appeal to granola mums and omegas the country over,” Tilde could not keep the disgust out of her voice. “Yes, because caring about the planet is such a dreadful thing to do.”
Michelle took the tablet from her. “In it there are recipes and discussions about food and the real draw are the candid photos of Chef McKnight teaching his young daughter to cook. He is perhaps more attractive in those happy family moments than he ever was in his old television appearances. Will Chef McKnight become a regular around London again?” Michelle looked at Sean ready to make fun of it, but he didn’t look well. “Sean?”
“Right, just need a minute and then Daisy, I do believe you wanted to go to the Tower of London?”
“Yup,” Daisy said. She looked at everyone. They had worried faces on and were all staring at Sean. “Unless you don’t want to?”
Sean gave a bit of a strained smile. “No I want to, like I said, just need a mo.” He headed to the bedroom and pulled out his phone and dialed his ex. It went straight to voice mail. “Right. Hi. Look.” He took a breath. “I’m in the Daily Mail. They have facts wrong. Not going to push it, but… there isn’t anything I’ve kept secret from you or the kids. If you haven’t seen it, don’t bother. Just a bit of stupid and out of context gossip. So yeah. Bye.” He hung up and stared at his phone. He dialed again and got voice mail again. “Daniel, it’s Sean. Your da. Ignore the Daily Mail and I’ll explain later ok?” He hung up again and made a third call which also went to voice mail. He’d be worried about it but most people let calls go to voice mail if they could. “Hey Reb, it’s Da. I’m in the paper but it is a bare mention and got some facts wrong. I haven’t been keeping secrets. I’ll explain, if you like. Call me.” He sat on the bed for a minute and willed the phone to ring. He didn’t know if he had made it better or worse by making those calls. There was a knock on the door and Roxy popped her head in. “Hey luv,” he said. “Why you?”
“Because I have the most contacts in the press. You need me to get a reporter fired?”
Sean smiled. She would do it in a second. “Just had to call my family. I didn’t want them seeing the words young daughter and thinking I had hid something that huge from them for almost seven years.” He sighed. “Not that they would especially care but still.”
“Sean?” Roxy came in and kissed his head. “You have us.”
“And you’d all kill for me,” he joked.
Roxy was all alpha as she just nodded. “Of course we would.”
Sean shook his head. “There was a culinary instructor 33 years ago, he hated me. Wanna bump him off? Easy target probably in a nursing home by now.”
“You know what Merlin told me once? Our family we don’t make jokes like that, they become less funny when we could actually deliver death upon people.” Roxy’s scent was almost dangerous. She looked like Percival and he knew she wasn’t Harry’s but she smelled like him, looked like him when he had been ready to kill for Michelle.
“I won’t be able to do that, kill people for the pack,” Sean said. “I cry when I have to slaughter a pig.”
“You’re a butcher,” Roxy said rather flummoxed.
“Yup,” Sean agreed and stood up. “Thanks, Rox.” He gave her a quick squeeze. “Now I have to go see some crown jewels.”
“Have fun, we’re going to the British Library,” she said.
Sean took a few deep breaths and head back out. Michelle was helping Daisy remember how to tie her shoes. “Are my girls ready?” he asked.
“We are,” Michelle agreed. “Daisy remember to stay with us. No going ahead, it’s a nice day out place will be swarming with tourists.”
“Yes, Mummy,” Daisy said. She held out both hands and Sean realized she wanted to walk in the middle of them. He took her tiny hand and they headed out. He learned that Michelle knew her way around the city like nobody’s business, Daisy would stop ever five feet to point something out and it was so busy. Sean automatically tried to make himself look a little sterner and when Daisy got bumped into yet again because she paused to look at a crack in the sidewalk that was the shape of a dog, Sean didn’t think and just swept her up and put her on his shoulders. “Weeeee!” Daisy said. She looked around from her new vantage point. “There it is!” she shouted.
Michelle hooked her arm in Sean’s elbow and they made their way to the ticket booth. Sean bought them tickets and they headed in. He was pretty sure the last time he had been there was a school field trip. “I’ve never been,” Michelle said. She looked around. “It’s quite pretty, innit?” There were a fair number of people but it wasn’t completely packed. They took the small tour ran by the Beefeaters and Daisy was bored until they got to the story about the time they were beheading a man and had forgotten to do his portrait and had to pause mid beheading to paint him, holding his head on carefully. “Gruesome girl,” Michelle teased. They went and stood where Henry the VIII had so many wives killed. “He was super stupid wasn’t he?” Daisy asked.
“How do you figured?”
“The thing Merlin says when yelling at the news when people are mean for no reason,” Daisy explained. “Corrals and causes.”
Michelle nodded. “Correlation doesn’t equal Causation.”
“If he banged so many women and none had babies the fault was him and not them. He was a bad alpha,” she said. “Merlin and Eggsy banged without protection one heat and we got Zoe.” Sean turned bright red at the stares they received and choked when Daisy asked him, “Are you and Mummy going to have a baby?”
Michelle crouched down. “No honey, we aren’t,” she said simply.
“Oh thank fuck,” Sean muttered and winced when Michelle glared at him. “Sorry?”
“She’s mad about the swear not the baby,” Daisy added helpfully. “I think.”
“That is correct,” Michelle agreed. “Now, room with the torture devices or jewels?”
It was a horribly hard pick for Daisy but she decided to save the jewels for last. Daisy was starting to flag so Sean decided that it was time to head out, but maybe they stopped at the gift shop and he bought her a thing or five. “Shut it,” he said to Michelle, “This was great.” Daisy looked at him and held her arms up and he didn’t think, just picked her up. They walked out and Sean checked his phone. “How about a treat?” He suggested. “There is KFC or Burger King pretty close,” he said.
Daisy looked up at him, her head on his shoulder. “Really?”
“Yeah,” he agreed. He generally avoided fast food, due to the fact it had a horrible record for how it treated livestock but he also knew little girls deserved treats on big days out. “Which do you want?”
“Burger King gives you a toy,” she said.
“Four block walk it is,” Sean agreed.
“Which Daisy can do,” Michelle added.
“No,” Daisy buried deep into Sean’s shoulder. “Tired.”
“I’ve got her,” Sean replied. “Be a bit easier for me piggy back style though.” He blinked as Daisy easily climbed and swung around so she was riding his back. “Well then, that was efficient.”
“Eggsy is teaching her parkour,” Michelle said. “He says it’s gymnastics but that is a stone cold lie.”
“I can cartwheel,” Daisy protested and almost choked Sean with her grip. Sean adjusted her weight a bit and they started walking and chatting about their favourite part of the Tower and what they might do the next time they are all in London. Sean didn’t believe in fate, not wholly, but he did believe that he just had the worst luck sometimes. And of course he ran into his daughter while Daisy was on his back and the three of them were laughing about the half beheaded man. He froze and stared at her.
She did the same.
“Reb,” he said softly. He wouldn’t look at her swollen stomach. He wouldn’t. He swallowed. “Reb, it’s good to see you.” He tried smiling and she didn’t respond. “Did you get my call?”
“Yeah,” she said. She looked at Michelle and Daisy.
“This is my girlfriend Michelle, and her daughter Daisy,” he said. “Darlings, this is my daughter Rebecca.”
“Hiya,” Michelle said and held out a hand. Rebecca ignored it and Michelle moved closer to Sean. “Congratulations,” Michelle said. “When are you due?”
“6 weeks,” Rebecca said and automatically rubbed her stomach.
“Well, I know Sean will spoil that pup something fierce. He’s constantly cuddling the babies in our pack,” Michelle said. “You and your mate will have to come by the village.” Michelle flinched at the scent coming off the woman.
Rebecca just smiled. “Pup is already being spoiled by his real grandfather, the man who’s always been around. And I don’t have a mate,” she looked at Michelle’s neck, “not all women are so…needy.”
“Reb,” Sean said. “Apologize.”
“It’s fine,” Michelle said.
Daisy looked over Sean’s shoulder and stuck out her tongue. “You’re mean, you can’t come to Burger King with us.”
“Why would I want to? Why would I go to Burger King with complete strangers?” Rebecca stepped around them and continued on her way.
Michelle took one look at Sean and hailed a taxi. Daisy wouldn’t get in and started to whine about Burger King and Sean tried to protest he was ok. “No, we are going to the flat. And Daisy I get it. You were tired and hungry and were promised something that is now not happening. And I am very sorry about that and will make it up to you. But right now Sean is very sad and we need to get him home and take care of him.”
Daisy stopped the half fake tears and looked at Sean. “Okay, Mummy,” she said quietly and they got in the cab. Sean held it together until they made it back to the flat and Eggsy was way too cheerful and Zoe waved happily at Sean.
“Excuse me,” Sean said quickly and headed for the bedroom.
Michelle filled them in on what happened, or what she could tell happen. She was asking Merlin and Eggsy for advice because hell if she knew what to do when she realized that Daisy had slipped away. “Fuck,” she cursed and hurried down the hall. She paused just outside the open door when she heard their voices.
“I’m sorry I was mean to your daughter,” Daisy said. “That’s why I didn’t get Burger King right? Because I was rude?”
“No, darling,” Sean reassured her. “You shouldn’t be rude, but I think your mum didn’t want me bursting into tears in the middle of a whopper.”
“Well that would be one hell of a scene,” he said.
“No, why would you cry?”
“Because my daughter rather hates me. I didn’t even know she was pregnant.” Sean wiped away a tear. “Daisy a long time ago I made some bad choices and they don’t like me very much.”
“Did you hit?”
“No, never,” he said in shock.
“I’m not supposed to know that my alpha da hit Mummy a lot,” she said. She crawled up into Sean’s lap. “He was loud and mean and hurt Mummy and Eggsy.”
“I hurt them by never being there. And then really never being there,” Sean said.
“Did you say sorry?”
“I tried, don’t think I did a good enough job though.”
“Then you should try again,” Daisy said. Michelle was about to go in and Daisy’s next sentence stopped her. “If they like you again, does that mean you’ll go away?”
“No,” Sean said firmly. “I’m not going anywhere.” He looked at her. “Daisy you and your mum matter quite a lot to me. And I hope to be around for a very long time.”
“Until you are dead?”
Sean laughed a little. “Until they half behead me and need to stop to paint my portrait.”
“Okay. Can we go to Burger King now that you aren’t going to cry because I fixed it?”
“I think we’ll probably head home,” he said. “But I owe you one trip to Burger King, okay?”
“Fiiiinnnnnnneeeeee,” Daisy sighed. “Mummy, I can see your toes. You aren’t stealthy like Harry.”
Michelle laughed and went in and sat down next to Sean. “Well, I’ve never been a spy for Queen and Country, have I?”
“Mummy we’re supposed to say diplomat, member? Harry’s stories are just made up. That’s what we’re supposed to say. It’s the one lie I never get in trouble for,” Daisy said. Daisy looked at Sean. “He tells really good stories. He’s a superhero.”
“Very cool,” Sean said. “I’m sad,” he admitted.
“We’ll help,” Michelle replied and hugged him tight. “You’ll stay at the house tonight.”
“I don’t want to impose,” he protested.
Michelle’s grip was punishing. “You’ll stay at the house tonight,” she said.
“Yes ma’am,” he agreed voice thin from the the arms squeezing him tight. They left the bedroom and the pack were all in the living room and tried to act natural when they appeared. He looked at them. The alphas were all radiating worry, and Percival was typing madly. Tilde and Eggsy were making tea and putting out biscuits. Merlin came over and reached out to cup Sean’s neck but a cough from Eggsy had him doing the shoulder pat he had for Sean.
“What do ye need?” he asked.
“Find a way to go back in time and tell me not to cock up my relationship with my kids?”
Merlin thought about it. “I can try,” he said sincerely. “But MI-6 did a bunch of theoretical research into it. It would likely take me about 10 years to even be able to send an apple back.”
Sean had no idea if the man was joking or not. “You really are a good alpha,” he said.
Merlin spun around. “Ha, you all heard it. Can’t call me a liar this time. Good alpha. He said it. In front of witnesses.”
Eggsy rolled his eyes. “Yes yes, oh might alpha, the way you protect us is the awe of the nation.” His voice was sarcastic, but his scent was sincere.
Tilde came over and hugged Sean. “We ply you with tea and cuddles now.”
“It isn’t necessary and ow, what is with you women and the vulcan death grip hugs?” He winced as he found himself dragged to a sofa and sat down. Michelle and Daisy were on one side and Merlin was on the other. Somehow in less than a minute Sean found himself rather thoroughly surrounded. Even Percival who had stayed typing in his chair had stretched out a foot so it was resting against Sean’s. A baby was plunked in his lap and he cuddled it. Hunter patted his face and then mooed. “Your animal sounds are coming along great,” Sean told him.
“Moooooooo,” Hunter repeated and then looked for the biscuit that Sean would usually sneak him. When no biscuit appeared he slid off the lap and walked over to Percival who pulled him into his lap.
“You know the reports of your insanity are greatly exaggerated,” Sean said in the middle of the oddly soothing cuddle.
Eggsy snorted, “Nobody tell him.”
Percival smiled at his computer. “Your ex-wife’s being given a surprise audit.” He looked up quite proud of himself. “What?” he replied when everyone stared at him. “Look, I’m not saying you never did wrong, it does seem you messed up parenting horribly, but I have no doubt that your ex helped facilitate the children wanting nothing to do with you.”
Sean opened his mouth to defend Robyn, so used to years of blaming himself. And he decided fuck it. “Yeah, yeah she probably did.”
“At the very least you have tried to keep some contact and you not being informed of this is disappointing. So audit.” Percival nodded firmly. “It is family tradition.”
“How?” Sean asked.
Harry smiled fondly at his mate. “My mother taught him that. Gave him the contacts.”
“Wish you could have met Grand Eliza, Sean, she was brilliant,” Roxy said.
Tilde looked at her, “She’s not dead.”
“Well sure, but nothing is going to get her back to England, she’s declared England’s rain the worst thing god ever created and refuses to leave the Bahamas,” Roxy said.
“Don’t worry, we’ll do a pack trip to visit so you can meet Mummy,” Harry promised Sean.
“Not pack,” Sean reminded them. As usual he was ignored. He was rather happy they ignored their protests.
“Want a spot of good news?” Percival asked. Sean shrugged. “Traffic to your web page is up a great deal thanks to you being on the gossip pages. Looks like you might become popular again.”
“Weee,” Sean said.
“You don’t like?” Tilde asked.
“Don’t care about the fame, just hope some people like the recipes Daisy and I work on,” Sean said. He was feeling warm. “Jesus Merlin how much heat do you pump out?” He was dying on the side that Merlin was leaning against.
Eggsy grinned. “I don’t need blankets in winter. He’s a personal furnace.”
“Knew alpha-a ran hot, but damn,” Sean replied. He didn’t try to lean away from it. He sighed a little. “Thanks,” he told them.
Michelle nuzzled his jaw. “You aren’t going to be alone ever again,” she whispered.
“That a promise or threat, because I kind of like using the bathroom in peace,” he said.
“Good luck with that,” Percival said. “I haven’t showered alone in 15 years.” Harry blew him a kiss.
Sean just let the cuddle soothe him and eventually they all drove back to the estate and it was made clear he was staying. He cooked them all dinner and found himself cuddled again while they all watched a movie. When he got up to use the loo, when he opened the door, Eggsy was standing there. “Good lord, you lot were serious about the never being alone thing.” He stumbled a little when Eggsy hugged him. He hugged back after a minute. Eggsy smelled a little like Michelle and also wholly his own. “Thanks?”
“I’m an adult, you’ll always be my mum’s boyfriend or husband or mate or whatever, not my stepdad, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want you around yeah? You’ll be a great dad for Daisy,” Eggsy said.
“How can you be sure?” Sean asked. It was his greatest fear that somehow he’d make the same mistakes all over again. “I could cock it up so much.”
“No you couldn’t, because we won’t let you,” Eggsy said. “You got to live your own life before, and no one told you hey look out you are being stupid. That’s not a problem here. I’m very good at telling my pack to stop being morons.”
“Umm, I hate to point it out, but your pack are still very idiotic.”
“Trust me, they used to be much much much worse. No one’s bought you a car. Or just moved you into the estate while you were at work one day.”
Sean laughed a bit. Eggsy doesn’t. “You’re serious.”
“Course I am,” Eggsy said. “Had to stop Merlin from doing that. He likes Mum a lot and wants her to be happy. Plus you are really getting everyone used to a really improved quality of food.”
“Glad to be of use,” Sean said dryly.
“You are of use because Mum and Daisy adore you. Helps that the rest of us think you are decent.”
“I’m getting there,” Sean said.
“Nah bruv, trust me, and ditch the worry. We know from good and bad. And you are good.” They made it back to the family room and Daisy was arguing about bedtime. “Oi, go quietly and Sean will tuck you in,” Eggsy said and Daisy immediately quieted. She went over and held up her arms.
Sean picked her up and took her upstairs and tucked her in. “Love you, Sean,” she said.
“Love you too, darling,” he replied and kissed her head and hoped to tuck her in a million more times. On his way back to the rest he pulled out his phone and sent a text to Rebecca. I wish you all the joy and happiness in the world with your child, they are going to be lucky to have you as their mum. He pocketed the phone and went downstairs to find that Merlin and Harry were rolling on the ground fighting over Mario Kart. He laughed and took the controller Michelle tossed him and tried his best.
feels. so many feels.
“I don’t understand,” Sean said.
“Live stream,” Merlin said. Roxy was sitting next to him and nodding.
“You said that, still not following,” Sean replied.
Roxy leaned forward. “We want to film you and Daisy cooking and put it up on your webpage.”
Sean shook his head. “No,” he said firmly.
“The photos of you and Daisy are a hit, the posts you make about you teaching her to cook have triple the hits, I have the data,” Roxy said and reached for her tablet.
“I won’t put her on display like that,” Sean said. “Photos are one thing, but that is too much for me to be comfortable with.” He held up a hand to quiet Roxy from going into full business mode. “It feels exploitive Roxy. If you want to film me cooking, I’m happy to do it, but I’ll not be putting Daisy to film.”
“She’d do it in a second for you,” Roxy replied.
“For me,” Sean agreed. “Not for herself.” Roxy opened her mouth and Sean shook his head. “That is the end of this.”
Roxy was ready to argue, because she was always ready to argue, but she paused at the pleased scent in the air and turned to Merlin. “This was your idea! Why do you smell so happy?”
“Because he just turned down an idea that would skyrocket his plans because he didn’t feel it was right for Daisy. Because the pack, his family matter more than his career,” Merlin said. “He is becoming a better and better fit.”
“Stop with that nonsense, Eggsy said not until Christmas,” Sean said. “That’s still two and a half months away.” He looked at them both. “I have an idea. A series of videos, pre-recorded not live stream, for the webpage. Me teaching one of you idiots how to cook that perfect childhood comfort dish that you remember but couldn’t for the life of you cook.” He was well please that he had manage to surprise them into silence and left Merlin’s office and headed to the family room.
Zoe saw him first and toddled to him and he picked her up and the whole room froze when she kissed him and said “wan-a.” She was very proud of herself. She pointed at Michelle and said “wam-a” and pointed again at Sean “wan-a.” She wiggled down and went to Eggsy.
“Did she just call me grandpa?” Sean asked stunned.
“Think so?” Eggsy offered. “Was that a new word, beautiful? I think it was! Who gets extra fruit treat tonight?” Zoe giggled well pleased with herself.
Sean was thoroughly flustered and went and sat beside Michelle. “What do I do about this?” he asked.
“Just ride with it,” Michelle suggested. Daisy was very quiet in the corner where she was helping Hunter build a block tower. “So did you tell them no?”
“Is that what you expected?”
“I warned them you wouldn’t like the idea,” she said.
“I suggested a variation,” Sean replied and he kissed Michelle’s forehead. “Now give me that controller. I’m going to kick Harry’s arse.”
“Shield or on it,” she said as Sean started to play Mario Kart. She laughed when Sean lost miserably. No matter how much he played he could not get better at video games. It was sort of adorable.
“Right,” Roxy said walking in. “Sean, your plan is a go. Pick your first victim.” Merlin was grinning evilly behind her and Harry reached for a weapon.
“Percival,” Sean said. “I’m in with you lot because of him, he’s first.”
“First for what?” Percival was wary. Last time he had been volunteered first in the family he ended up handcuffed to a flagpole.
“For your 15 minutes in the spotlight,” Sean said.
“No,” Percival said. “And how is it my fault you are here?”
“Should have made that contract with the shop 10 years ago.” Sean winked at him and laughed when the man flushed a little. He couldn’t understand why they all found him attractive. It was so odd, but he’d use it. “Promise, it won’t hurt.”
“I like a little pain,” Percival replied.
“And now we need to have a private conversation,” Harry said, scent a mix of jealousy and arousal. He put his controller down and went over and threw his mate over his shoulder. “Someone make sure Hunter goes to bed on time.”
“On it,” Eggsy said, not taking his eye off the screen, he almost had Tilde beat.
“Now I can win,” Sean said. He came in last, just like always.
“So why potato soup?” Sean asked Percival.
Percival was struggling to ignore Roxy and her camera, like she had told him to. He felt awkward being filmed, knowing that people would see it, and she insisted he dress casually and he felt naked. His forearms were exposed dammit. Those were Harry’s, and he was pretty sure that was the stupidest thought he had ever had. He wished he had a tie on.
“Roxy stop filming,” Sean ordered and Roxy put the camera down. Sean looked at him. “How are you on hugs? I don’t actually know.”
“Hugs are acceptable,” Percival said after a moment. He was pulled into a warm embrace, and the soft scent of the fellow beta. It was nice to have such a neutral scent among them. His scent had only grown stronger over the years, his high beta status rising to meet Harry. “I don’t want my forearms showing and that feels like such a stupid thing to complain about.”
“Hey, screw what your kid said. She’s thinking like a marketing executive and forgetting that this should be fun,” Sean gave her a pointed look. “You are most comfortable in a suit right?”
“A suit would be absurd right now,” Percival replied.
“What about waistcoat, tie, and shirtsleeves. One roll of cuffs, wrists, no forearms.”
Percival sighed, “That sounds lovely.” He went to the spare room of Sean’s house and changed and immediately relaxed. He came back out and kissed Roxy’s head. “I’m sorry, darling.”
“No, I’m sorry, I’ve gone into work mode. This is family work mode,” she smiled, “Just breathe.”
Percival went back to behind the counter and Sean slipped an apron over his head. He didn’t notice that Roxy had started filming.
“Why potato soup, dad?” she asked. “I don’t really remember eating it a lot.”
“My grandmother made it,” he explained. “It had a year…I was 7? And just caught every illness that rolled through school. Chicken pox, the flu, strep throat, you name it I had it that year.” He shuddered. “My nose bled from headaches, eventually we realized on top of it all I needed glasses.”
“She babysat you a lot, that year?” Sean asked. “What potatoes did she use?”
“I have no clue,” Percival laughed. “There was no recipe that I ever saw. I would be sick and at noon a sandwich and potato soup would appear on a tray before me. She let me watch Thunderbirds on the telly.”
“My Mum, she made a potato soup,” Sean said. “So we’ll start there and see if any scents or flavours jog your memory.”
“What was she like, this was Grandpa’s Mum right?” Roxy asked.
“She was,” Percival began. He paused when a potato and a peeler were put in his hands. “What do I do?”
Sean laughed. “You peel the damn potato,” he said. “You’ve done that before.”
“I have,” he replied. He started to work a little clumsy.
Sean wrapped his hands around Percival’s, “Like this, pretty sure your grandmother didn’t add blood to her soup.”
“No onion,” Percival remembered. “I hated onions. I remember my grandfather complaining about the no leeks in it and her saying, like I care what you want when my angel is sick.” He smiled and looked down at the potato. “I’m happy we’re doing this,” he realized.
“Food making you happy is a good thing. Food can be to just fill the gap, rushed, calories to keep you going, but when you have the time, it should make you happy. The best food makes you remember.” Sean said. “Now then we need 10 potatoes.”
“Is that a lot?” Percival asked and went to work on his second.
“No, barely any,” Sean replied. He had three already done. The two men talked, Sean explaining the cooking and asking Percival questions about his grandmother, about what he remembered and Percival relaxed more and more. Roxy occasionally interjected and an hour later Percival and Sean were sitting at the counter, bowls in front of them.
Sean was quiet as Percival took a spoonful and ate. He tasted it himself and nodded. “Well?”
“It isn’t quite what I remember,” Percival said. “But…it reminds me.” He ate a little more and smiled. “It reminds me of watching Thunderbirds and her hovering. It reminds me,” his voice was soft.
Sean squeezed his shoulder. “I’m glad mate,” he said. “Rox, stop filming and eat.”
Roxy turned off the camera. She edited it on lunch hours that she wasn’t shagging Tilde on, and broke it into three parts. She was very pleased with the results. The hits they got were impressive. She had her team start planning merchandise to sell.
“I’m not making Haggis,” Sean said. Roxy was trying not to laugh as Sean and Merlin stared at each other. Merlin tried a soft growl and Sean rolled his eyes. “Miss me with that crap.”
“Sean that was almost hip,” Roxy said.
“I work with a 22 year old and my best friend got himself mated to a 23 year old. I’m getting down with the lingo of the kids,” Sean said.
“One that sentence negates any cred you had. Two you are so old if you think 23 is a kid,” Roxy joked.
“I’m plenty cool,” Sean replied. “Daisy thinks I’m cool.”
“She’s in the single digits, she thinks Hello Kitty is cool.”
“Hello Kitty is cool,” both Merlin and Sean replied and Roxy was laughing so hard the camera was shaking. “And Haggis is my childhood comfort food,” Merlin replied.
“You are just winding me up,” Sean said. “You know how I know that?”
“Because I made Harry liver one night and you paled. You honest to god went white at the thought of eating an organ.” Sean pointed at him. “No way is Haggis your childhood comfort food.”
“I would have expected it to be fruit tarts,” Roxy said. “What with the way you love them more than your mate.”
Merlin glared into the camera. “Eggsy I love you more than fruit tarts,” he swore. He finally relented a little. “Mum made this steak and mushroom pie,” he said. “Coldest night of the year, she had this gift to know what night would be the worst, when a storm would rage. I was scared of snowstorms, sure they would swallow the house whole and we would die.”
“That’s rather dramatic,” Sean said.
“I grew out of it.”
“Like hell you did,” Roxy said and Merlin’s smile was all teeth.
“Did she make her own crust?” Sean asked.
“No, she never had time for that,” Merlin said. “She’d buy frozen, bet you think that is a crime.”
“Nah, I’m shite with pastry. Honestly it is so much work for what you get out of it,” Sean replied. “I always have a couple of shells in the freezer. Could never get the hang of it. My mom made the most perfect flaky crust ever. Mine was so rubbery, you might have as well patched tires with it.” Merlin laughed and Sean grinned. “Anyone who says they can do everything in the kitchen is either lying or has way too much time on their hands. And what matters most here is the meat and mushroom and gravy they are in. How peppery was it?” Sean went to his fridge and pulled ingredients out.
“Enough that she always sneezed four times when making it. Always four,” Merlin remembered. He paused. “I had forgotten that.” He chopped the onion that Sean handed him. He glared at the camera. “All tears are because of the onion,” he warned.
“Of course,” Roxy agreed.
The videos were even more of a success than the first set.
“Now see this is a treat for me,” Sean said. “I get to learn today.” He grinned at the camera and then bowed to Tilde. “My lady,” he said.
Tilde giggled. “My lady has been almost ruined by appalling men in stupid hats, but you almost save it.”
“Oi, that’s my giggle,” Roxy said and Tilde blew her a kiss. Roxy made kissy noises back. Sean coughed.
“Yes well I will teach you how to make klimps, dumplings,” she explained. She then paused. “But I don’t actually know how to make them. There were always cooks.”
“Well then,” Sean said. “What do we do?”
“See, this is why I want to prep these videos more!” Roxy growled at them a bit. “If we rehearsed we wouldn’t be stuck with cooking videos with no cooking.”
“Tilde, you make fruit tarts, correct?” Sean said.
“Yes, the ones Merlin sings the song for.”
Sean paused. “Of course he has a song,” he finally said. “Wanna make a mess with fruit?”
“Oh very much,” Tilde said. She winked to Roxy and the camera. “Would you like me to be…messy?”
Roxy’s growl was low and deep and Sean quickly took the camera away. “Kids, when two people love each other very much and are mated, sometimes they express that love in ways you need to ask your parents about. I was thinking we were just making jam. I am surrounded by crazy people, send help.”
Roxy snatched the camera back. “Get to work you two.”
After those videos went up, Sean couldn’t easily keep up with responding to all of the messages he was getting. Roxy loaned him her assistant to help manage the website.
“How is your childhood comfort food cocktails?” Sean asked Harry. He stared at the array of booze bottles on the counter. “Seriously, what the hell?”
“It wasn’t,” Harry said. “My parents aren’t animals. I didn’t try champagne until I was 14.” He stared at them all. “I just…”
“Just what?” Sean asked quietly.
“There were so many functions, so many responsibilities. I remember Father making Mummy a drink for while she dressed. I would be in my pajamas and watching him prepare her a drink. The clinking and shaking, and him putting on a tray and taking it up to her. Never a servant, always him. She’d be in a robe when she answered the door and she would let him in and a while later they’d come out looking so glamourous. For far too long, I thought the cocktails were magic, that it transformed them into fairy tale characters. It was absurd. But the routine of it, the care Father took into making that for her, bringing it to her, I thought that is what love was. Crazy that a cocktail equaled love.” Harry looked at all the bottles and reached to sweep them away.
Sean stopped him. “It is love,” he said. “You saw care, and affection, and a parent working creating something to make the other happy. A gesture that shows a lot. Do you remember her favourite?”
“She didn’t have a favourite favourite. Martinis in the spring, sidecars in the fall, a Rob Roy in February. Never understood that.” Harry’s scent was fond, lost in memory.
“Harry, can I interest you in getting a little sloshed in order to relive memories and wax poetic on love?”
“Sean, that sounds bloody fantastic,” Harry agreed.
Roxy had to put a warning before the video that there was middle aged drunken men with…colourful language in the video.
“I don’t have a childhood dish,” Eggsy said. He was restless, tapping his fingers on the counter. “Had it a bit rough growing up, know it must have been there, but my dad died when I was 7 and just…I don’t remember comfort really.” Eggsy shrugged. “Sorry to make this a bust.”
Roxy was ready to turn off the camera but Sean cupped Eggsy’s cheek. “You have a daughter yeah?”
“Zoe,” Eggsy beamed. “The light of my life.”
“You can never know what will become the food that a child finds comfort and shelter in, but what if I taught you a few things to prepare you for when she needs them?”
“That’d be brilliant,” Eggsy said. Sean set about teaching him tomato soup from scratch. “What were your kids favourite comfort foods?” he asked.
Sean paused in his stirring for a moment. “Daniel liked fried banana peanut butter sandwiches.”
“Wot the fuck?” Eggsy laughed in horror.
“He had this odd Elvis phase when he was 9 and that was the only food that would comfort him. He had an impacted tooth, required surgery and he wouldn’t eat anything once he was allowed to, terrified he would hurt his mouth more. I tried everything, didn’t go to work for a week trying to get him to eat and the only thing I could eventually get in him were fried banana peanut butter sandwiches.” Sean added a little cream. “This soup was Reb’s favourite.”
“It looks great,” Eggsy promised. “They were lucky growing up, having an award winning chef as a Da.”
Roxy looked at Eggsy, wondering what he was doing, this was completely unexpected.
“I tried,” Sean said. “But chef means you are at a restaurant late. Missed so many dinners. But I made them breakfast. I ran on 4 hours sleep for so long, just to make them oatmeal and pancakes, french toast on Sundays.” He held a spoon up to Eggsy’s mouth. “Taste,” he said.
“Yeah okay that is better than the condensed can that costs a pound.”
“Gee, thanks,” Sean said. He made some grilled cheese to go with the soup. “Wanna hear something crazy?”
“You seen who I live with, trust me you don’t have crazy.”
“I make myself a friend banana and peanut butter sandwich on Daniel’s birthday. The tomato soup on Reb’s,” Sean shook his head. “I wasn’t around, relationship is crap, so I send them a card, leave a voice mail, understand when they don’t call back and I make their comfort food.”
“You love them,” Eggsy said. “Wish I had memories of french toast and terrifying sandwiches with my Da.”
“You’ll make those memories with your own children,” Sean promised.
“Child,” Eggsy said.
“But you’re pregnant,” Sean said.
Eggsy’s eyes widened. “How did you know that? I haven’t even told Merlin that!” He looked at the camera. “Surprise?” he said and smiled sickly. “This video doesn’t have to post until I tell him right? We can edit right?”
“Going for a verite feel with these, Eggsy. Takes me a day to edit if that helps,” Roxy said cheerfully.
“I gotta go talk to Merlin,” Eggsy said and bolted from the room.
Roxy dropped the camera she was laughing so hard.
Business at the butcher shop was almost double. Sean was debating higher another person to work there.
“Okay it is weird to be on this side of the camera,” Roxy said. Merlin was holding the camera. “Hi everyone. Thanks for your comments and support. Once we’ve gone through the whole pack, we’re going to set up a live stream, you’ve been sending in so many questions for Sean we’re going to have him answer a bunch.”
“Stop being all Roxy badass business woman, and put on your apron,” Sean said. “Now, comfort food.”
“Sorry, I’ll have you stumped,” she said. “Because you don’t bake, and my comfort food is bread pudding, and you don’t do that. So ha!”
“Yes but your father, warned me in advance, and I brought in a specialist.” Sean whistled and Hamish came out from the hall. “So ha!”
Roxy made a face. “I’m having a talk with him later.”
“Why do you object to this?” Sean asked.
“I hate cooking,” Roxy muttered. “It is so…it hates me.”
“You dislike when you aren’t good at something right away,” Merlin said. “Been a fault of yours, always. That’s the problem with being so clever and talented. And an alpha-a, when we aren’t good at something, we blame the thing and not ourselves.”
“Oh shut it, or my mate won’t make you fruit tarts.”
Hamish looked at them all, “I promise it is easy.”
“You have to kiss one piece of the bread,” Roxy blurted out, “So the pudding has the love of the person who made it in there, so that it ends up in the person eating it. Makes them strong. My dad taught me that.”
“That sounds fanciful for Percival,” Sean was surprised.
“Not him. My other dad, James,” Roxy said.
“Tell me about him,” Sean said as Hamish began prep.
The words spilled out of Roxy and she kissed a piece of bread as she added it to the tray.
Roxy was crowing over the success of the videos and that she had been fielding calls from people wanting him to come on the telly again. Sean was absolutely refusing.
“Well, no, not yet, you still need to write the book,” Roxy said, “And you have one more video, the one with Michelle, but in the future…”
“Two,” Daisy said. “He’s doing two more, because the one with me.”
The whole table paused and looked at Sean.
“I wasn’t going to do a video with you,” Sean said. “I didn’t want you exposed like that.”
“I’m on your webpage,” Daisy protested. “I’m on the Daisy’s 20 Monies Chicken.”
“Your face is never 100% clear in the photos,” Sean explained. “And I don’t want -”
“You don’t want to have fun with me, even though I’m your sous chef. Because everyone else matters more than me now.” Daisy got up and ran from the room.
Michelle stood up to chase and Sean stopped her. “No, I need to fix this,” he explained. Michelle bit her lip but sat back down until Sean had left.
Harry looked at her. “You need another minute before you go to spy,” he said. They all looked at the clock and after a minute, Merlin, Eggsy, and Michelle all followed where Sean had gone.
Daisy had gone to her playroom, the magical space Tilde had created for her. She hid in her reading tree and ignored when Sean knocked on the door.
Sean groaned as he settled onto the ground. “I promise, I don’t think the pack matters more than you.”
Daisy wasn’t going to answer. “I haven’t had a lesson in weeks, because of you making the shows with everyone else,” she said. She kicked the wall a little. She wasn’t going to say anything else. “Percival couldn’t even peel potatoes right. I can.” Okay, now she wasn’t going to say anything else.
“You can,” he agreed. “Daisy, I’m sorry,” he said. “You are right. I have been wrong, and shouldn’t have put our lessons on hold. Roxy is very persuasive.”
“You are supposed to be my people!” Daisy shouted.
That confused Sean a little bit. “I am your people?” he said, lost.
Daisy opened her tiny door, and glared at him. “Zoe called you Grandpa, no one was supposed to call you anything until I called you Daddy. Because you are my people.” She was crying. “Zoe already has two people, all the babies have two people.”
“You have so many people,” Sean said, “so many people who love you very much. You have a whole pack.”
“It’s not the same. All the babies have two peoples and you are supposed to be my peoples. You and Mummy are my peoples, only you’ve been busy being other people’s peoples.” Daisy began to sob. “I just want two peoples.”
Sean reached out and Daisy collapsed into his arms and he began to rock her back and forth. “Oh my little one, my heart,” he crooned. “I’m so sorry.” He kept repeating that over and over.
“I wanted you to be my peoples,” Daisy whimpered.
“I want to be your peoples,” he whispered, he promised. “But that is the sort of thing that your mum and I have to figure out. I do think we are moving in that direction, but I can’t say for sure hun, not yet.” He wiped her tears and kissed her head. “But Daisy?”
“No matter what happens between me and your mum, I’m going to be your peoples, I promise.” He kissed her forehead. “I’m your peoples, just like you are my peoples, even if your mum and I don't last like I hope we will,” he swore.
“Then why can’t I do a video with you?” Daisy said. “I’m tons better at cooking than them. Like soooo much better. I make the green monster goo for the chicken perfect!”
“You do, you have mad goo making skills,” he said. “I just was keeping you safe, not wanting to plaster you on the internet.”
“Have you seen my pack? How am I not safe?” Daisy asked.
“Okay, that’s a fair point,” Sean had to admit. “I didn’t…I didn’t want you to feel forced.”
“But cooking is our thing,” she said. “We’re a team.”
He nodded. “We are,” he agreed. “And I should have asked. You know your own mind. So, Daisy, want to film one of the videos with me?”
Daisy hugged him. “I do, Sean,” she said.
“What do you say, you and me show your Mum how to make your chicken?”
“Yes!” Daisy cheered, eyes and cheeks red from crying. “We could make a whole family dinner right?”
“A whole family dinner sounds good,” he agreed.
They heard a sob from the hall and turned around. “Oi, come on out,” Sean said.
Michelle hurried to them and sat down and pulled Daisy in for a cuddle. Eggsy was wiping tears on Merlin’s jumper. “Bloody first trimester hormones,” Eggsy muttered.
Merlin opened his mouth. “You aren’t supposed to do it yet,” Sean reminded him.
Merlin shook his head. “Fuck that, I’m tired of everyone saying it is too soon. Daisy just said you are peoples, that counts,” Merlin growled a little. “What the fuck are the words?” He looked to his mate for help but not like Eggsy knew what they were. “This is Harry’s crap. Right here we go. Please come to our sanctuary, that it may one day become one for you as well. We would share our hearth and fortune with you.”
“I’m already here, and I cook your food three nights a week at this point,” Sean said.
“It’s bloody symbolic, okay?” Merlin muttered. “Just know that should you and Michelle bond or whatever, you are welcome in the pack. There, that’s done now.” He was very pleased with himself. “Okay, going to get dessert.”
“I could use some ice cream,” Daisy said.
“Go on with Merlin and Eggsy,” Michelle said. “Sean and I will be along in a second. And none of you are sticking at the door to listen,” she warned. She got up and made sure they were well down the hall and returned to Sean. “You don’t have to pay any attention to that,” she told him.
“And if I wanted to?” he asked. “If I wanted to be peoples and I wanted to be welcomed here, in a more traditional sense?”
Michelle bit her lip. “I…I rushed in with too many men, and with Dean, and I know you are different. But it’s been not very long.”
Sean nodded. He cupped her face. “I get it, and I agree. But just…I can dream and plan, just a little?”
“Little dreams are good,” Michelle said. “I want little dreams too.”
He kissed her and then nuzzled his nose along her neck. “Little dreams can become big dreams.”
“They can,” she agreed and gripped him tight. “A year,” she said. “A year from when you bought me flowers the first time, ask to be peoples.”
“Okay,” Sean promised. “It’s a date.” He paused expecting to hear some cheers and was surprised when it was quiet. “They behaved?”
Michelle went to the intercom which had a little green light on. She whistled shrilly into it and Harry’s curses carried down the hall. She went back to Sean and they stayed in the room just a little longer by themselves.
“Ready, Daisy?” Sean asked.
Daisy adjusted her pink mask over her eyes. “Ready.”
Roxy began to film.
Sean looked at the camera. “Today, my Daisy and I are going to show you how to make our 20 monies chicken.”
“It’s only the best thing ever,” Daisy said. She was standing on a chair.
“I don’t know,” Michelle said. “It’s pretty good, but is it the best ever?”
“Uh, yeah it is,” Sean and Daisy said. They shook their heads. “Amateurs,” Daisy added sadly.
“What could be better than your 20 monies chicken?” Sean asked.
“I’m looking at it,” Michelle said softly staring at the two of them.
“Mummy, I’ll show you how to make monster goo,” Daisy said proudly. “I make excellent monster goo. And then you get to rub it on the chicken’s butt!” Daisy leaned in. “It’s super gross, it’s great.”
“Gross is great,” Michelle agreed.
“To work, ladies,” Sean said. He snapped a tea towel at Michelle, making sure it didn’t get within a metre of hitting her and she put him in a headlock.
Daisy looked at Roxy and the camera she was holding. “They are so silly.”
“Parents, what can you do?” Roxy agreed.
Daisy nodded. She was grinning to herself as she made her goo, because Roxy had just called Sean her parent. He was going to be her peoples one day. “Sean?” she asked.
“Yes, poppet?” Sean asked. “Problem with goo?”
“No, just wondering. We’re going to write a cookbook aren’t we?” she asked. “Like a real one? Heard Eggsy talking about it.”
“I was thinking about it. Recipes you and I work on, how to cook with your children, what do you think?”
“As long as you aren’t nekkid, I think it will be good,” Daisy said. “I know Mummy likes the nekkid picture in the old stupid book, but I think you are supposed to save the nekkid for Mummy now?” Daisy leaned over. “Right, Mummy?”
Michelle grinned at the camera. “Damn right, everyone. The nekkid belongs to me now.” Roxy snorted at it all, and Sean turned bright red.
“Let’s just focus on the cooking, yeah?” Sean suggested. “We’ll talk about the cookbook another time.”
Daisy and Sean taught Michelle how to make their chicken and Roxy grinned at how much like a unit they looked.
Harry was already planning the bonding ceremony for Sean and Michelle. Percival was readying adoption papers.
It was going to be great.
Sean was crouched down behind the counter, and heard the bell. “Hiya, how can I help you?” he asked as he stood. He looked at the young man, though he wasn’t so young anymore, not really. “Hello, Daniel,” he said.
“I remember the sandwiches,” Daniel said. “And the french toast.”
Sean nodded. They stared at each other. Completely at a loss what to say to each other. Sean was pretty sure this was the first time he had seen his son in person in 3 years.
“Right,” Daniel said, “I’ll just…go?”
“Do you still like kebabs?” Sean asked. “You always loved kebabs.”
“I do,” Daniel said.
Sean went to the chill chest. “Here, try these. Your Aunt Melanie made the marinade. On the house.”
“Thanks,” Daniel said and just walked away. He paused outside to look at Sean and gave a wave and went down the street.
Sean put up the be back in fifteen minutes sign and went and sat on the bench in front of the flower shop, even though it was the second week of December and cold out. Michelle came and sat next to him and held his hand. “My son looks like me,” he said. “Really grew into my face. That’s so weird.”
“It’s a gorgeous face,” Michelle said.
“On him, maybe, mine’s rather worn.”
“I love worn,” she said and kissed his jaw. “Go back to work, and we’ll sort your heart out tonight yeah?”
Sean nodded. “Sounds good,” he agreed. He squeezed her hand and went back to work.
He had seen his son. Because his son sought him out.
He was singing Christmas carols the rest of the night.
okay sean's ex is a bitch
“How is a castle in Scotland in winter romantic?” Michelle asked. “It is missing some roof.”
“Not like we’re going to be hanging out in that section,” Eggsy made a face at his mom. “And two nights alone with Merlin before I’m too giant to move? Hell yes.”
“I thought Valentine’s day was just marketing crap.”
“Mom, Merlin, my beloved Merlin remembered that marketing crap. Merlin came up with this idea on his own.”
“Bullshit,” Michelle said in awe.
“I know! Trust me, no Harry or me hinting. This was all him.” Eggsy packed his bag. “Just…two nights away from Zoe.”
“Hey, Tequila will be staying over, plus last I checked I’m a pretty good babysitter too. We got Zoe well looked after.”
“Yeah but you’ll be in London,” Eggsy said unthinkingly.
“Why would I be in London?” Michelle asked confused.
Eggsy bit his lip. “I…uh…I gotta go throw up.” He ran out of his own bedroom and down the hall.
“Oh I don’t think so,” Michelle said and hurried after him. He had locked the bathroom door and she banged on it. “What is going on, Eggsy?”
“Nothing!” Eggsy shouted through the door.
“Liar!” Michelle shouted and banged on the door again.
“I WILL NOT BE THE WEAK LINK!” he shouted and turned on the shower and some music to drown her out.
Tilde was walking down the hall, Izzy toddling along. “This is a lot of racket, isn’t it?” she said and Izzy babbled in agreement. “What is the fuss?”
“I am apparently going to London,” Michelle said. “Would you know anything about it?”
Tilde quickly gathered up Izzy and went down the stairs without another word. Well then, Michelle had two options go to the source, or go to a person most likely to crack. She walked down to the kitchen where Percival was already sitting and reading emails with a cuppa.
“Hi there,” Michelle said and sat next to him. He just nodded absently. “So, you and Harry have any plans for Valentine’s day?” she asked casually and took a scone from the centre of the table. She was pretty sure they were paying for Hamish’s kid’s college at this point with the amount of baked goods they were buying and the kid weren’t even born yet.
“No,” he said. “Going into the city, I think? Nice dinner out, maybe some dancing. Crash at the flat.”
“Happy to babysit Hunter for you, I know Tequila is spending the time here for Zoe, but happy to lend a hand.”
Percival smiled happily at her. “Thank you Michelle, I appreciate you providing back up.”
Michelle stared at him and tossed the scone down. “You can’t lie for shit. You’ve been told nothing, dammit you were going to be my answers.”
Percival shrugged. “Harry was keeping a secret. He did not share, saying I would ruin it. I assumed it was about Valentine’s day.”
“Shouldn’t you be more worried when Harry has a secret?”
“Probably,” Percival agreed. “But at this point I really have decided it is better for my blood pressure just to bat clean up.”
“That is terrifying,” Michelle said. She tapped her fingers on the table. “Merlin?”
“Even if he knows, he might not know he knows,” Percival said. “Roxy was in your room the other day with a notebook.”
“Thank you Percival,” she said.
“Good hunting,” Percival said. When Michelle left, Harry walked out of the pantry and Percival pulled out the comm that had been in his ear that Michelle couldn’t see. “Thank you for feeding me what to say darling.”
“You are very welcome.” Harry looked around. “Where’s Hunter?”
“With you,” Percival said.
“With you,” Harry replied and they both looked at the empty high chair. Since Harry was already standing he ran upstairs. The comm made noise. “Mayday, mayday, he removed his own diaper. Dear god, it is in his hair. Help me!”
Percival crushed the little ear bud under his shoe and kept reading emails. It was a decent revenge for Harry making him take Hunter alone to the latest round of vaccines.
Michelle found Roxy upstairs finishing getting ready. “Why were you in my room, and what is Sean planning for Valentine’s day?”
“Reasons and things,” Roxy said calmly. She put on some earrings and nodded, liking the black suit today. “Now then, stop trying to find out and ruin his surprise.”
“I hate surprises,” Michelle said.
“We all do, but he has to learn that for himself.”
“You could have told him?” Michelle suggested.
“No, there was an off chance you might like surprises from him. We required the raw data.”
“Okay, Percival Junior,” Michelle muttered. “How big a surprise is it?”
Roxy softened a little. “Little one,” she promised. “Perfectly normal Valentine’s day surprises.”
Michelle took a few breaths. “Okay,” she said. “I can handle a normal surprise.”
Roxy looked at her. “Michelle?”
Michelle shook her head. “Been a long time since there was a good surprise from a man, is all. I do remember them,” she said. “And it is Sean, it will be lovely.”
Roxy bit her lip. “Are you sure? I can spill the beans.”
“No, it’s fine, I’m sure he’s put a lot of work into it.” Michelle gave a nod and went to get Daisy going for school.
Valentine’s morning when Michelle went downstairs she had a handmade card already waiting on her plate. “Thank you, Daisy,” she said and opened it. “It is lovely.” She kissed Daisy’s head. “Now then, what is the schedule?”
“Merlin and I leave pretty much now,” Eggsy said, “and we’ll be back late on the 16th.”
“Harry and I will just stay in the city after work,” Percival said.
“We’re going to be here helping Tequila with Hunter, Zoe, and Daisy.”
“Sean is so excited!” Daisy said and clapped her hands over her mouth. “I will not be the weak link!” she shouted. She then ran out of the room.
Michelle pointed her oatmeal spoon at Eggsy. “She’s been with you too much.”
“Bye,” Eggsy said and got up and kissed her head. “Happy Valentine’s day, Mum.”
Merlin also kissed her head. “Happy Valentine’s day, Mum,” he said and they looked at each other. “Aye, it never works does it?”
“Since I’m younger than you, not really.”
“I’ll buy ye something to make up for that.”
“Thank you, dear, now have fun in Scotland,” she said.
Tilde looked at her. “A car will pick you up at 4 and take you into the city to a hotel, where you will have clothes waiting, and you will dress for a nice dinner out and then enjoy an evening in a hotel room.”
Michelle relaxed. “Okay, yeah, that sounds lovely,” she agreed. Dinner and the privacy of a hotel room. That was good, that could be handled.
Harry touched her hand. “We’ll be at the flat. Call us,” he said. “We’ll be there.”
She leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Thank you.” She got up and readied Daisy for school and went into work, which was insanely busy and also profitable since Mrs. Carsons charged triple for bouquets and roses on Valentine’s day. The scent of all the roses was cloying and reminded Michelle of all the apology roses Dean gave her. She hated roses. At least the price gouging meant she’d get a nice bonus cheque. At four a black car pulled up in front of the store and a driver emerged. Cap and everything. He came into the shop. “I am here to pick up Ms. Unwin,” he said and had a card in his hand.
Michelle took her apron off and went over. He handed her the card. It was a dopey valentine’s meant for first crushes and Sean had written in that he looked forward to seeing her and that Merlin had personally checked the driver’s credentials. She nodded. “Mrs. Carsons, I’m off!”
“Have fun with the multiple orgasms!” Mrs. Carsons shouted back.
Michelle turned bright red and stared at the driver.
He smiled politely. “I am given to understand those are enjoyable,” he said.
“Right,” Michelle replied, her scent well embarrassed. “Let’s go please?”
He nodded and they went out and he held the door for her and everything and soft music played the whole drive into London. Michelle was a bit terrified where they would end up and sighed in relief when they were in Kensington and pulled up to a nice looking hotel called The Bailey’s. “Thank fuck, it isn’t the Savoy or something,” she said relieved.
“Ma’am?” The driver asked.
“Well that is just so over the top you know?”
“I thought women enjoyed over the top on Valentine’s day?”
“Some perhaps,” Michelle said. The driver stopped and came around and opened her door. “Do I have to tip you or anything?”
“No ma’am,” he reassured her. “Just enjoy your multiple orgasms.”
“Oh lord,” Michelle said and lightly punched his arm and hurried into the hotel. It was a really pretty space, welcoming, nice mix of grandmother’s knick knacks on a modern frame. She wasn’t sure what to do and went to the counter. “Hiya,” she said, “I’m Michelle Unwin. I think I have a room to go to?”
“You do,” the woman smiled. “Room 407,” she said.
“Thanks,” Michelle smiled and went up the stairs and found the room. She knocked on the door and there was Sean. “Look at you,” she said.
He grinned, a bit bashful in the new suit and opened the door wide. “Hi,” he said and ran his fingers through his hair.
Michelle walked into the room and relaxed even more. It was a nice space, a lovely room with a king bed, but again, not a full suite, nothing too insane. “This is nice,” she said. She stood on tip toes and kissed his cheek. “Happy Valentine’s day,” she said. “I don’t recognize the suit.”
“I let Harry take me shopping,” Sean replied.
“Holy buggering fuck in hell, you must love me,” she said in awe. Her scent spiked into pure happiness.
“I think I now own seven suits,” he said sadly. “And bastard wouldn’t even let me pay for one. He was so happy that he had a personal Ken doll.”
“Worth it,” Michelle said, staring at the way the grey suit fit Sean. The ice blue shirt, and black tie, it was all just… “You probably have a reservation for dinner yeah?”
“I do,” he agreed. He leaned down and gave her a thorough kiss. “At 6:30, and we can walk to it from here, so you have time to change.”
Michelle had lived with Harry and Percival long enough to know that Sean was in a casual suit, so wasn’t too worried about what she’d find hanging in the bathroom. She gave him another kiss and went in and sure enough her make up bag and a dress bag were already in there. She had a quick shower to wash work off and then was relieved Tilde had packed her own hair dryer, hotel ones were miserable. For a moment she thought about leaving her hair down but Sean had never given a fuck about all her bite marks and she wanted it up tonight. Michelle put it up in a soft bun, and used a light hand on the make up, and put on Sean’s favourite pink lipstick. She opened the garment bag and nodded, pleased.
The dress was a simple blue wrap dress to emphasize her waist. She figured it probably cost a fortune, but that she would also be very comfortable in it. There were also knickers provided, because of course there were. Oh, and nice, almost knee high boots as well. She remembered how appalled Roxy had been when she said she loved tall boots, that they made her feel powerful and sexy. They were the thing in her old neighbourhood. And Roxy with all her posh, couldn’t quite get it. But she packed them for Michelle now. The girl was owed a giant kiss when she saw her tomorrow. Michelle finished getting ready and went out to the room. Sean was sitting on the small sofa and watching telly. His tie was already loose and his hair a mess.
He was so perfect.
“Sean,” she said.
“Just a sec, the bloody bastard needs to pass the ball!” Sean gave her a brief glance and then was back to the telly. It was barely a three count and his eyes returned to Michelle. “Bwha,” was what he said.
Michelle would have bit her lip all sexy, but dammit she had done a good job on her lipstick. “Hi,” she said.
He turned off the telly. “Hi,” he replied. He stood up. “It’s not that fancy a restaurant, we could order takeaway.”
“Nope,” she said. “You got all pretty, and I’m showing you off.”
“But boots,” he said.
“And think how you’ll enjoying seeing me walk in them.”
“It’s almost five blocks, can you do it in those boots?” he asked worried, looking at the heels. It had been a dry couple of weeks and there wouldn’t be any ice, but he worried about her ankles.
“Only a small heel,” she said and laughed when he tilted his head to look. “Darling, I’m a girl who rather had a lot going on in her twenties, I can go a lot further on a lot higher heel.”
“Didn’t know you then, haven’t even seen photos really, but I think you have a lot going on right now.” He went to the wardrobe and pulled out her overcoat. “Here you go,” he said and put on his own. He kept a protective hand on her the whole way to Bumpkin, worried she’d fall, but she didn’t have a single issue. “A little impressed,” he said.
“You were married, for how long? Didn’t she wear heels?” Michelle asked.
“Those tiny ones, pussy heels?” Sean winced. “Oh I know that was wrong.”
“Kitten heels,” she said, and did not laugh. She looked at the restaurant. “This looks charming.”
“I know the owner, a little. Source meat from similar farms,” he said. He held the door open and Michelle went in. They were dressed slightly more up than the rest of the people, but not so much, she would feel awkward. Sean gave his name and they were lead to a corner table. The sat and took the menus. When they were left alone, Sean looked at her. “This hasn’t been too much of a surprise? There were hints that surprises were bad.”
“No, this is perfect,” she reassured him. “I’m not…I don’t want to talk about it tonight, but surprises have a history of being bad.” She looked at the menu. “Thank you for not filling the room with roses?”
“Do you know how much money that would have been? On Valentine’s day?” Sean said. “I love you Michelle, and I want to treat you well, but Christ on a cracker, that would have been like 400 quid. No thank you. Rather spend that money on getting you a piece of jewelry or something.”
“Tell me you didn’t buy me a four hundred quid necklace on top of all this,” she replied.
“I had Hamish make us truffles, and downloaded a couple old musicals onto my ipad for us to watch in bed.”
“You are perfect,” she said. The waiter came and they both ordered cocktails and then remembered to actually read the menu. “Sean? What looks good?”
He was scanning the options. “I vote the fixed menu for tonight. Bit of a sampler thing, gets us a little of a lot. I go option A and you go B and we can share.”
“Lovely,” she said. When they waiter returned they ordered, and then talked about everything and nothing. Sean about a new farm he had found for lamb, her about Mrs. Carson’s husband painting the family room and somehow putting a hole in the wall. They talked of Daisy and Eggsy’s pregnancy and Sean mentioned that his son had come in a couple more times and bought meat and walked away.
Michelle gave him a look. “Have you tried talking to him when he comes in? You know, more than, this is a nice piece of chicken?”
Sean gave her a virtuous look. “We briefly discussed the weather last time.” The appetizers arrived and he was relieved that it distracted her.
For a minute. “You could tell him that you miss him,” she suggested.
“I feel that was implied in the ‘brisk wind today’ comment I offered.” He ate a prawn and was pleased. “Nice,” he said. “How’s yours?”
Michelle tried hers. “Yum,” she said. “And not getting out of this.”
“I don’t want to scare him off,” Sean said after a minute. “He’s coming by, and if more occurs, then it does.”
“And your daughter?” Sean shook his head. Michelle reached out and squeezed his hand. “Well you’ve got us.”
He squeezed back. “And I’m lucky for it.”
Michelle knew to change the conversation a bit and during their mains rested her ankle against his under the table. He smiled and ducked his head a little. They were on dessert and a coffee when they were called to. “Sean?” a man said. “I can’t believe it!”
“Bugger,” Sean whispered and shot Michelle a look of panic and heartbreak. He then turned and smiled politely. “Jason,” he said and he looked a little behind the man. “Robyn, how nice to see you.”
Jason came over and actually hugged him. Sean realized that he had perhaps been spending too much time with Harry and Merlin when his first thought was which ribs he could slide a knife through. He wondered when he had even picked up that knowledge. Sean and Robyn just stared at each other for a moment. “Who’s this then?” Jason asked and held out a hand to Michelle. “Hi, I’m Jason.”
“Michelle,” she replied and shook his hand. “How do you do?”
“Well, well,” he said. “What are the chances, huh? Sean are you in London again?” The host came over and Jason smiled. “Hey can we have this table next to them?” The host nodded and Jason and Robyn sat down. “Well this is cozy,” he said.
“Cozy is certainly a word for it,” Sean agreed and settled back down. He figured it was twenty minutes at most.
Robyn gave Michelle a glacial stare. “You look well Sean,” Robyn finally said.
“You as well,” he replied. He felt Michelle press her ankle against his again and relaxed just a bit. “How’s the law firm?”
Jason beamed. “She was made partner!”
“Congratulations,” Sean said sincerely. “I know how much you wanted it. Should have happened years ago.”
“It should have, but I did have to take all that time off after you left, to help the children cope, it backed up my plans by a few years,” she said.
There was an awkward silence and then Jason coughed. “Michelle, what is it you do for a living?”
“Work in a flower shop a block over from Sean’s store,” Michelle said.
“Oh I bet you’ve been dreadfully busy the last few days,” Jason joked. “Want to choke any panicked men with some flowers?”
Michelle laughed. “One or two,” she agreed.
“Well bet you get sick of flowers,” Robyn said. “And a boon for Sean, because when he forgets an important anniversary, he can excuse it that you already are surrounded by flowers.”
“Robyn,” Jason chided. He looked at Sean, “And how’s your shop doing?”
“Really well,” Sean said. “The blog has upped traffic a good bit, had to hire a second worker. Twitch, is an…interesting person, but he and Mikey are getting on like a house afire.” Sean looked at Michelle. “I actually have a spot of good news as well.”
“Oh, shop almost in the black?” Robyn asked sweetly. She froze a little at the murderous glare Michelle gave her. She didn’t expect Sean’s tart to look so scary.
“No, been in the black for years,” Sean said calmly. “Actually, with the blog success, decided to call my old book agent. Sent him a couple chapters from the new book I’ve been working on. He liked it and took it about. Old publisher not interested, not famous enough anymore, but there is a small publishing house, actually pretty interested, and looks like I’ll be signing a contract in the next couple weeks.” Sean blushed a little.
Michelle squealed. “Sean! That’s incredible. Oh my god, baby!” She couldn’t stop herself and got up and went around the table to give him a giant hug and snog. She pulled away and grinned at him. “I’m so proud of you.” She sat back down. “Oh we have to celebrate. The pack will lose its mind.”
Robyn looked at him. “You hate packs, find them antiquated and useless. Said you’d never bend your neck for one.”
“Haven’t yet,” Sean said. “They just pull you on in.”
“They’re sort of like malaria,” Michelle explained. “Get in, and just never leave.”
Jason laughed at that and they ordered food and Sean asked for their bill, wanting to be gone before the whole night was ruined.
“So your pack shares you, that explains all the bites on your neck,” Robyn said. “Explains why Sean went for someone so much younger than him.”
“Jesus Robyn, what the hell?” Sean asked.
Jason was looking at Robyn in shock. “Robyn, it’s been how long? I thought we were at bygones be bygones point.”
“Especially since you were the one stepping out on Sean,” Michelle said sweetly. “Actually a bit surprised, because this is the bloke you were shagging in your marriage bed right? Rather thought you’d have moved on.”
Sean stared at Michelle in surprise. “Uhhh…” he had to admit he had no idea what to do. He looked for the waiter who of course was nowhere to be seen.
“Formerly semi famous chefs, don’t have money, and that will have dried up years ago,” Robyn said. The two women were completely ignoring the men with them. “Your sort doesn’t seem like the type to stay where there is no money.”
“My sort?” Michelle asked. Her tone was dangerous.
Robyn looked at her neck again. “Though I suppose late 30s, looking to latch onto anything before the looks are completely gone. And you can live with the disappointment of him being distant and let’s be real, not that good in bed.” At this point the tables around them were listening in and Jason was clearly regretting coming over.
Sean made a noise low in his throat and Jason and Robyn stared at him in shock. The neutral beta never had growled, even when he had found them in bed together. “You will not speak to my mate like that,” Sean warned.
“She isn’t your mate,” Robyn replied. "Neutral beta, you can't even mate, not really." She sneered at Michelle. “I’ve seen the blog, you use your daughter to latch onto Sean, hook him in, playing on his guilt over his real kids. You’ll take him for the little money he has and then what?” Robyn couldn’t even explain why she was saying all this. But Daniel had mentioned starting to see Sean, and there was the blog with him looking all happy, and now running into them. She just was so angry that he was giving someone else everything he didn’t give her.
Michelle tilted her head and blinked.
“Oh fuck the tilt and blink,” Sean said. “Waiter!” he shouted. He didn’t care how many eyes were now staring at them. He had to get them out of there before she went full Harry or Merlin.
“Thank you,” Michelle said.
“Thank you? You are so thick you don’t realize I was insulting you? Jesus Sean since when do you like dumb bottle blondes?”
“Robyn, what the fuck? This isn’t you,” Sean said stunned. The waiter came over with the bill. Sean reached for it and Michelle gently took the black folder. She put her platinum card in it and handed it back.
“I’m sorry, I thought -” Jason shook his head. “I don’t know what I thought. Robyn’s been under stress, our grandbaby has been sick and -” Jason watched Sean flinched and remembered that it was actually Sean’s grandchild. “Shit, Sean.”
Robyn shook his head. “It is your grandchild, Jason, not his,” she snapped. “And why did you thank me? And what are you proving paying with what is probably a card Sean gave you?”
“I’m thanking you because you proved my skin care regimen is working. Mid-forties, not late thirties,” Michelle said. The waiter came back and she signed and gave a very generous tip. “For causing a scene on Valentine’s day,” she explained when the waiter glanced the amount.
“Not been that much of a scene ma’am,” he said.
Michelle smiled at him. “It is about to become one,” she explained. She turned her gaze properly to Robyn. “Now, I get it. It is damn hard to run into an ex when out and about, especially on a day like Valentine’s day,” she began.
“I’m sure you would know all about that,” Robyn replied.
“Oh no, now you stop talking and listen,” Michelle said and it came out in Merlin’s cadence.
“Michelle, we can just go, she doesn’t matter,” Sean said, and realized in that moment it was true. “You are what matters.”
Michelle didn’t even look at him. “I love you,” she said. Her scent in an instant went angry, which on an omega is an acrid thing and the tables near them flinched away. “That credit card isn’t from him. I have far more money than he does. That is the card for the pack account. The Mathe pack, which is mentioned on the blog. And if you looked them up, at all, you would know we own a very successful video game company, have a man in our pack with 4 or so titles, whose cousin sits in the House of Lords, and is on a first name basis with several princes. And of course one member of our pack is a fucking Princess of Sweden. So if anything, Sean, is using me for my pack’s money and influence. He could be consider my toy if you wanted to put it in those terms. Except of course he isn’t, because he is a good man. How small are you to attack him like that? He did you wrong, but you know what, and I know you know this, you did him wrong too.” Robyn opened her mouth and Michelle reached over and took Jason’s steak knife and just started tossing it in the air. Everyone just watched the blade spinning in the air and her not looking at it catching it easily. Robyn stayed quiet. “Sean is a good man,” Michelle said, “and I’m lucky to be his, and he is lucky to be mine. You will be furious at yourself later for being so wretched tonight. And I just want you to know, you’ll be even sorrier if you are ever this wretched again. Because if you ever talk to us again like this, the audit you had a few months ago, will seem like a joy ride. If you call me names again, or treat Sean as inferior in any way, you will be destroyed. Financially, emotionally, in any way you can imagine, I will see you ruined. And when you are in the gutter, and try to apologize, I will laugh in your face and leave you to drown there.” Michelle pointed to her neck. “This bite? That man he tried to destroy me. He beat me, raped me, let his friends do what they wanted to me. He tried to murder our daughter when she was still in my belly. And we survived. And I destroyed him instead, put him in jail, and he died there, in very odd circumstances, for what he did to me. Do you want to be odd circumstances?” Robyn shook her head no. “Then fucking leave off then.” Michelle stood up. “Enjoy your Valentine’s dinner,” she said and caught the knife with one last flick and slammed the blade into their table. She walked out of the restaurant without waiting for Sean, without looking back.
Sean stared at them and just shrugged. “Jason, I’m glad you are well,” he said. “Robyn?”
“Huh?” she said completely shaken.
“Treat me like shit again, try to stop what Daniel and I are repairing and I’ll just let her loose on you,” Sean said. “Happy Valentine’s Day.” He grabbed their coats and went outside. He had to run to catch up to Michelle she was already a block up. He put the coat over her shoulders. “You know, I thought the chicken a little dry,” he said.
Michelle stopped and turned and looked at him. The heels helped but she still had to look up at him. “I couldn’t. She can’t…I’m not trash.”
“No, you aren’t,” he agreed.
“You aren’t either. And all the shots she was taking at me, were really about you,” Michelle said. “And no one is allowed to treat our pack like crap.”
Sean didn’t deny that was what he was. He cupped her face and kissed her. “Christopher talked crap about her when she and I broke up, but no one has ever stood up for me like that. All our friends took her side in the divorce, the kids…it just all fell apart, and you know what? She helped it fall apart.”
“She did,” Michelle agreed. “She’s dreadful.”
“She isn’t, at least...she's not always dreadful,” Sean said. “She’s just…she had a dream of how we would be. And then it wasn’t what you expect a dream to be. It was never a nightmare, it was just…”
“Life?” Michelle said.
“Yeah,” Sean nodded a little. They started to walk back to the hotel. “I know it doesn’t compare to what you went through -”
“But it still sucked,” Michelle said.
“It did, and I never let myself think about how much I got fucked over in it all,” Sean said. “Gee, isn’t this a fun Valentine’s?”
“Trust me, I’ve had worse.”
“One day, if you ever need to, you can tell me you know,” he held her hand and kissed her fingers.
“One day, maybe,” she agreed. They were almost at the hotel. “Want her murdered?”
“I thought our pack wasn’t supposed to joke about that sort of thing?” Sean held the hotel door open for her.
“Who said I was joking?” Michelle countered.
Sean shook his head. “No murder,” he said. “Let’s just forget it?”
Michelle absolutely wasn’t going to forget it, and would make sure the pack wouldn’t either. This woman was in for a world of hurt. “Of course. And you know, in all that mess, I do believe I remember hearing some good news. Something about contracts for a cook book?”
Sean smiled and ran his hand through his hair. “Small press, limited run, but yeah. It’s gonna get published.”
“They’ll have to do multiple printings. Especially if we let Roxy loose on the marketing.”
“I’m sure they have a marketing team,” Sean said.
“Oh, it’s cute that you think we won’t all get heavily involved in making you a success.” Michelle kissed his cheek and he opened the door.
“Success is secondary,” he said. “I just hope the book helps bring some families together, teaches them about how awesome food is when cooked together.”
“She was a fool, to not see how sweet you are,” Michelle said softly. She sat on the chair to take off her boots.
“I wasn’t this sweet back then, I lost it for a while,” He stared at her legs. “They could stay on for a bit?” he suggested.
Michelle stood up and there was extra sway in her hips when she went over to him. “No more exes talk tonight I think.”
“I can get behind that,” he said. He bent and nuzzled her neck. His nose dragged over the bites. “I’ve never cared a whit about these,” he whispered.
“I know,” she said. She wrapped her arms around him. “We’re you and me. Who we were before, shaped who we’ve become. Sean, the you and me in this room? They are magnificent.”
“You are,” he said.
Michelle shook her head. “She’s done in your brain." Michelle knew she wasn't the only one who carried ghosts in her head, who whispered nasty things in the dark of night. "We are mighty, and loving, and a team that will conquer whatever comes before us and slay our enemies and dance in their entrails.”
Sean leaned his forehead against hers. “That was a little Harry-esque.”
“He isn’t wrong about love. You fall in love, and you fight for that love, every day.”
“Is it cool if I mostly let you slay the dragons? Because frankly you are a lot more badass than me,” Sean said. “What the fuck was with that knife throwing? It was scary and sexy.”
“I’ve seen you with a cleaver,” she said. “Pretty fierce.”
“I’ll slay the baby dragons,” he offered. “You handle the big ones.” Michelle’s scent went odd and Sean worried that he said the wrong thing. “I mean, I can slay your dragons, and I just…oh crap, I’ll support you, and just, I don’t even know what I meant,” he started to babble.
Michelle kissed him. “No man, has ever, ever believed, I could take care of myself, take care of them. No one has believed in me like you do. That is the best Valentine’s gift ever, baby.”
“Wait until you try the chocolates,” he suggested.
“Want me to eat those in just my knickers and boots?”
“Oh yes, please,” Sean said. “How naked do you want me to be?”
“Go for sexy disheveled, loose tie, rolled up sleeves for right now,” she suggested.
Sean kissed her and did as she asked. Because he always would try to do what she asked.
3 scenes from sean's life
“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?”
okay even i didn't expect this to play out this way
and don't murder me
“Good morning Sean,” Percival said walking into the bathroom. “We need to talk about getting you onto the family accounts. Do you want to keep your personal accounts at your bank, or switch everything to our institution?” Percival looked up from his phone and smiled at Sean. “Well?”
Sean stared at him through the glass door of the shower. “I’m in the shower?”
“Yes,” Percival agreed, “But I need to head out shortly.”
“I’m naked,” Sean said, hands covering his dick.
“Yes, that does happen in the shower. Does nudity affect your decision making concerning financial institutions?” Percival asked. “Because Harry did once get me to heavily invest in a kickstarter with an excellent strip tease.”
“Why am I moving bank accounts?” Sean stood under the water, still trying to cover up.
“Because it does make more sense to have all the family’s accounts under one umbrella, but tell you what I’ll send you a pros and cons list to switching banks. Signing off on the family accounts will be easy, I’ve already ordered you a platinum card and will you just continue showering, it is just a dick,” Percival said. “You draw more attention by covering up. Do you cover up in the gym showers?”
“There I’m expecting blokes,” Sean replied.
“Really, Sean, you should expect blokes here too,” Percival replied. He typed on his phone. “Okay financial statements and what not, sent to you for your perusal. Now then, let’s talk about -”
“Darling, Hunter is sick we should stay home,” Harry said walking into the bathroom. “He has a fever.”
“We have a nanny that you have insisted receive a great deal of medical training. Tequila will be fine with Hunter,” Percival replied. He went over and straightened Harry’s tie. “Don’t be a fusspot.”
“I am never a fusspot,” Harry said.
“You threatened my son with an axe!” Sean said. He forgot to cover himself and pointed. “A bloody axe, Harry.”
“Nice penis,” Harry replied and Sean quickly covered up again. “And I received a vague call, and responded accordingly. That was two weeks ago, you’ve seen him since, it’s all fine.” Harry waved a dismissive hand.
“Oi, aren’t we going to work?” Merlin asked walking in. “Morning, Sean. Hey are you cooking tonight? I have a desire for the 20 Monies chicken.”
“Eggsy is still off chicken,” Percival replied.
“Crap, can you make two separate dinners?” Merlin asked.
Sean gave up and just started washing his hair.
“Oh, hello,” Tilde said as she walked in. “I have meetings, why aren't we all leaving?”
“Because apparently everyone had to talk to me right now!” Sean yelled. “Get out!”
No one moved, very confused.
Michelle came in. “Oh for heaven’s sake. No barging until he properly moves in, we agreed.” She herded the idiots away. “Sorry, darling,” she said.
“I just wanted a shower with the good water pressure,” Sean said mournfully. “This doesn’t happen often does it?”
Michelle snorted. “Lock the door, it at least buys you a few seconds if it is Harry or Merlin who want in.”
Sean sighed and finished up. When he stepped out of the shower he paused. “Wait, why am I being added to the family accounts?” He stormed out of the bathroom a towel barely wrapped around him and ran to the window in time to see two cars driving away. “Dammit, I haven’t even proposed to you yet.”
“Percival just likes his numbers all lined up, no biggie,” Michelle said. “Family accounts don’t have to be dipped into, if you don’t want. If you do, I’d imagine you are cleared for 25k a quarter, anything bigger you do have to get Percival’s okay.”
“I’m sorry but what in the actual fuck?” Sean stared at her. “Twenty five thousand a quarter? You all have that?”
“We don’t use it, just it is there if it is needed.”
“How is that normal?”
“You do know we’re super rich right?” Michelle replied. “I mean I’m not, I cover most of my expenses with my flower shop pay, but Merlin and Harry come from money, and Percival has insane investing skills. How do you think they afford the upkeep on this place?”
He sat on the bed. “I made decent money back in my heyday, but you are talking a big number aren’t you?”
“I don’t think there is more than 15 or 20 million floating around?” Michelle said. “I don’t read the annual financial report. And of course that is just personal money, not Kingsman Games.”
Sean couldn’t think of anything to say. “I need to get to work,” he managed. “Out at the farm to talk about the summer season and slaughter plans.”
“You said that you are doing your accounting with all the farms you work with, Percival has drawn you up a -”
“Michelle I have a system and it is fine,” Sean replied. He got up and went to the bathroom and even though he was pretty sure most everyone was gone, he locked the door.
That night at his own place he read all the financial information Percival sent him and then the system he created for Sean for talking to his source farms. He was annoyed that it was so much better than his. But not so annoyed he didn’t start switching everything over. He would ignore the issue of the family accounts for a while yet.
“Hey, uggo, why are there workmen at my farm?” Christopher asked when Sean picked up the phone.
“Jesus, your memory slipping so much that you don’t remember hiring workmen?” Sean replied. He had it on speaker phone and was grinding meat in the back while Mikey worked the front.
“Here’s the thing, I didn’t hire any men,” Christopher replied. “We’re doing well, but not team of ten guys coming to do something or other well. Did you hire them?”
“No, why would I hire people for you? If I was hiring people it’d be to fix my cottage roof.” Sean then had a thought. “Christopher, when the idiots were all out for that picnic last weekend, did you talk to any of them?”
“Of course I talked to your family, are you mental?” Christopher asked. “Oi, why do you fuckers have a back hoe?” he shouted out.
“You need to pay attention to me,” Sean said. He stopped working. “Did you talk to any of them about problems with anything at the farm?”
“Nah, we don’t have any problems,” Christopher said. “Everything is working well enough. I mean I was talking to the blonde foreign one…fuck I just blanked on her name, and no I’m not losing it just a wee bit of stress this second, Tilde. I was talking to Tilde about an article I read about some environmentally friendly septic tanks, and rain collection systems, and a whole bunch of stuff. Things I’ve thought would really be great for the farm but that’s nothing, pipe dream shit.”
Sean sat down. “Oh god, Christopher, you never ever talk about things like that with these people.”
“Why? She were asking about the operation of the farm, really interested in it, heaven’s know why.”
“Christopher, she bought you that water system you were talking about, and these men are there to put it in.” Sean waited in the dead silence that followed. He could hear the construction workers in the background. The silence went on for a while. “If you’ve had a heart attack I’m going to kill you.”
“Sean, do you know how much this cost?”
“Honestly, I don’t want to know,” Sean said. “I can guess.”
“Sean,” Christopher couldn’t say anything else.
“Yeah, I know,” Sean agreed. “What the fuck right?”
“I’m not even their pack or going to be their pack. You aren’t even one of them yet.”
“Yup,” Sean said. “And fuck, Chris…it’s so much.”
“You do for yourself,” Christopher said. “You tighten your belt when you have to, and remember someone out there needs more help than you do, and until you can’t think of anyone who needs it more, you don’t take from others. How many times did Dad tell us that?”
“Countless,” Sean replied. “And to them, this is just nothing. You can’t make idle comments around them. I joked the other day about my dream jag from when I was a kid and Harry was all, oh none of us like that car, it’s in the garage, Percival will put it in your name tomorrow.”
“Sean, it’s brilliant that you are taken care of, but -”
“Weird as fuck because we take care of ourselves?” Sean filled in. “I know.”
“Right, well I need to go supervise these blokes who are going to make the farm like 30% more water efficient.”
“Have fun,” Sean said and hung up. He sat in the quiet for a few minutes before he went back to work.
“Dad?” Daniel and Sean had met in London for lunch. “I need your advice.”
“Of course,” Sean said immediately. “What about? Though if it is a law issue, you really need to take that up with your mother.”
“No,” Daniel said. “She doesn’t like talking law with me.”
“But you both are in law,” Sean said.
“Paralegal with legal aid, when I could have gone to law school and joined her firm?” Daniel shook his head. “Not ambitious enough, she keeps hoping I’ll wise up and go back to school.”
“Are you happy?”
“I am,” Daniel said. “I really am.”
“Then it is the perfect job for you.”
“Thanks. Now my question. How do I stop the guy with the axe?”
“Has Harry been threatening you? I’ll kill him.” Sean paused. “I’ll have Michelle do something to him, that makes more sense.”
“No, but I have a whole new wardrobe?” Daniel shrugged. “I had spent money on one good suit. And two pairs of trousers and filled in the rest with Marks and Sparks. The ones he saw me in. And then he emailed me his tailor’s info and I had figured well I needed a new pair of trousers and went. And then I wasn’t allowed to pay? And now 3 day suits, an evening suit, a morning suit, and 12 dress shirts have appeared. I’m not meeting the queen, Dad, like ever. Why do I have a morning suit? I can’t even fit the clothes in my wardrobe?” Daniel looked at him. “How do I stop a guy who walks around with an axe?”
“It’s usually guns to be fair.”
“Guns? What does he do for a living?” Daniel asked. “Dad are these people…”
“No they aren’t criminals,” Sean reassured him. “Harry is the creative director of a video game company.”
“So why does he have guns and axes?”
“I’ve signed an NDA about that,” Sean said. “And I am sorry.”
“Dad, why is he buying me clothes? Like really nice clothes. Like I have gotten hit on at the bar because of these clothes. I don’t want to give up the clothes, but I don’t want anymore?”
“I know, he’s bought me so many suits.”
“You are a butcher, are you wearing suits to stuff the sausage?”
“Son, please never say stuff the sausage again. There was an incident, that phrase now is cursed.”
“Okay,” Daniel said. “Dad why is a guy who wanted to kill me with an axe buying me suits?”
“I think to impress me, but I don’t know why. I’ll get him to stop,” Sean promised. He thought about it. “I’ll try to get him to stop. Maybe Michelle can get him to stop.”
“They are really nice clothes.”
“They are and I am grateful for them, because likely to have to do some publicity when the book comes out, which lord knows I am dreading,” Sean said.
“How’s that coming along?” Daniel asked.
“Actually have a meeting at the publisher’s after this. There was a bit of a delay on something things, because of some weird internal shake up they couldn’t explain,” Sean shrugged. “My agent said it was a long term good thing. Guess the book will be out in the fall.”
“Liked this week’s blog post by the way, you and Daisy making her school lunch?” Daniel blushed a little, which was odd. “Took some notes.”
Sean leaned back in his chair. “Now why were you taking notes on that?”
Daniel fiddled with his napkin. “The guy who hit on me? Because of the clothes? He has a kid.”
“Yeah?” Sean grinned. “So, not just a hookup then.”
“I dunno, been a couple dates. He’s nice. Bit older than me, omega.” Daniel shrugged. “Don’t quite know what he sees in me.”
“Well, you have work you love, aren’t ugly, and I have no doubt have the sweet heart you did as a kid. Seems there is lots to recommend you.”
“Yeah, but I’m like you, neutral beta and he turns heads everywhere he goes. Alpha’s go nuts for him.” Daniel began to shred the napkin in front of him.
“Hey, he asked you out. Not one of those alphas. Trust him to know his mind and not be whatever you are thinking. Maybe it works out, maybe it doesn’t, but don’t let doubts fuck you over.” Sean grinned, “plus isn’t kinda fun dating an omega way out of your league?”
“Michelle’s out of your league? But you are amazing,” Daniel said. He flushed a little more at that, but he had grown to realize it was true. His dad had tons of faults, but he was pretty great.
“Son, not even the same solar system as her,” Sean said easily. He looked at his watch, “I gotta go. You tell me about this person though and how it goes, okay? And I’ll try to get Harry to stop.”
“Thanks, Dad,” Sean froze when Daniel hugged him. It was their first hug. He then gripped tight.
He was a little annoyed at Harry over stepping like this, but if it gave his son confidence then it was worth it.
Sean stared at Roxy. “I don’t understand,” he said. His agent was there at the meeting and the publisher that was working on the book. “Why are you here?”
The publisher smiled. “We were partly bought by Kingsman Games,” she said happy beyond words. “That’s what the delay has been.”
“What?” Sean didn’t know what to do with his hands. He didn’t know what to do. “Why?”
“When they bought your book, I took a look at the company,” Roxy said. “They put out brilliant books, like these amazing art and coffee table books, some cook books and a few other things. The production value was brilliant but dear god their marketing was shit and because of that the company was starting to drown. Dad ran some numbers for me, and I’ve been saving my allowance so I bought 30% of the company.”
“Did you do this because of me?” Sean asked, his voice flat.
“Well, a bit?” Roxy said and smiled. “I’ve wanted to do some art books for a while for Harry’s teams work on our games. The art of Kingsman Games, but it was a back burner project, and then you brought this company onto my radar and I couldn’t resist. They’ll run pretty much as normal and I’ll transfer a bunch of my team to their marketing division. We’ll get them sorted in no time. And you have the advantage of getting an actual good push on your book.” Roxy smelled quite proud and pleased with herself and the publisher looked at Roxy like she was an angel descended from heaven.
Sean was furious but kept his calm. “So what happens now?”
“Now we look at your book, we have it all designed,” the publisher said.
“Okay,” Sean agreed. “Let’s look.” The meeting took two hours and everything Roxy said and suggested was clever and on point and Sean was happy he was a beta because no one could tell how upset he was by all of this interference.
When he got home his favourite chair was missing from his house.
He tried counting to one hundred and then got in his car and drove to the estate.
When he got there, Tequila was just heading out. “Hey, could you stay for a few extra minutes?” Sean asked.
“Sure, why?” Tequila said easily.
“I am pretty sure I am murdering the pack and the kids shouldn’t see that, need you to keep them in another room for a few minutes.”
Tequila laughed well used to the dramatics of the Mathes. “Sure thing, chief,” he said easily. “Hey Ginger and I tried that apple pork recipe from your blog, it was brilliant.”
“Thanks,” Sean said. They went into the house and Tequila directed them to the family room.
“Tequila forget something?” Eggsy asked. He was sitting in Sean’s missing chair.
“Nope,” Tequila went over and plucked Zoe from his arms. “Come on my little monkeys, let’s all swing to a bath with a million bubbles and bath bombs.” Izzy and Hunter immediately went over and followed.
Daisy stayed put. Sean went over and crouched in front of her. “Daisy, I need you to go help Tequila with the little ones okay?”
“Because I asked you to,” Sean said.
Sean looked at her. “Because I need to yell very loudly at your pack, because my feelings are very hurt by them. I still like them very much, but I am likely to use the sorts of words your mother doesn’t like you hearing.”
“Are you mad at Mummy too?” Daisy asked worried.
“No, just the morons.”
“Okay,” Daisy said and hugged him and ran out of the room. Sean knew the family enough to check that she actually went and then closed the door and made sure the intercom was off.
Sean turned to the group. Michelle started to go to him and he shook his head and held up his hand. “Babe, I’m sorry, but I’m at the end of my rope.”
“I didn’t do anything,” Merlin said quickly. Sean looked at him and Merlin just shrugged. “Usually it is my fault, but this time I do feel it isn’t my fault. Because I can’t remember doing anything to you. You wouldn’t know about the background check I had MI-5 run on you.”
“I do now,” Sean replied. “But no, actually, you haven’t done anything. That is very odd, I’ll think about it later.” He took a few deep breaths. “I have been on my own for 15 years. And maybe sometimes I wasn’t in the best head space at times, but I took care of myself, and I ran a business. I ran a successful business, and helped my brother run a successful farm. I managed this on my own.”
“Sean?” Michelle was curling into herself a little. “What’s wrong?”
“My life is not yours to be toyed with,” Sean snapped. Michelle flinched and he felt like shit. “Not you, babe, but your pack. They interfere so much. Everywhere, little dips and pulls into my life that I never expected, that I never wanted, they are there.”
“We take care of family,” Harry said stiffly.
“I don’t need taking care of, not like how you are,” Sean said. “Do you have any idea how loud you are, how invasive, how chaotic?” They all mostly shook their heads. “You aren’t normal!” The scents in the room were even bombarding his senses. “I lived with the auditing of Robyn, and the general closeness, and I thought I could cope with everything you lot were. But then in the last few weeks? It’s gone insane. I have no room to breathe, because you lot are always there in some way. Did I even get that contract with the publishing company on my own merit?”
Roxy growled in her throat. “Of course you did, don’t be stupid. I only got interested in the company after they signed you.”
“Why would he be questioning that?” Merlin asked.
“I bought a bit of the publishing company,” Roxy waved a hand. “You knew that.”
“I did? I feel like I would know if we bought a company.”
“Read your email,” Percival suggested. “I’m sorry it seems they interfere, but -”
“They?” Sean shouted. “Like you aren’t as bad as them? You who just walk into the bathroom when I’m in the shower, who send me a million lists and emails and completely changed my points of sales system when I wasn’t looking?”
“It is a more efficient system,” Percival protested.
“But it is my system! I get to decide!” Sean snapped back. He ran his hands through his hair and tried not to be too overwhelmed by the angry and chaotic scents. Especially when he could smell the sadness and fear coming off of Michelle. “I love Michelle and Daisy. God I love them so much. And I’ve bought a ring for when I ask her to be mine in a couple months. It’s all I want. But I don’t know if I can handle you, if this is what it is really like every day. And I know, I know, if I asked her to be mine without all of you, she’d say no, and she’d be right to do it, because what am I compared to all of you?” Sean looked at all of them and most of the anger in the room had melted away into shock. “I can’t be this guy. I can’t take up all the space you lot do, and if I don’t take up space, you’ll just run right over me. I’ve been run over in my life before, and I can’t go back to that.” He sighed and his heart hurt. “You can’t just take over my life, every single corner of it. But I also know you lot can’t be any other way. And I don’t know what we do about it, where we all get to be happy.”
“Sean,” Michelle whispered.
“I just need space,” he begged. “I like my space and I like quiet and I like room. Do you know how little room you guys leave me? I just need some space.” He nodded a bit. “And I’m guessing by being weak enough to need that, to not being up to match you guys, I’m going to get more space that I want. Keep the chair, it looks good in here, I’ll find a new one.”
Sean left the room quietly and went back to his cottage. He stood in the silence and enjoyed it for a couple minutes and then just felt weary and tired.
Michelle wouldn’t pick him over the pack. He didn’t even want her too. In that moment he didn’t even know what he wanted.
The silence grew grating.
He went out and walked over to Hamish’s and knocked on the door. Jesse opened it and his smile slowly faded. “I think I did something extraordinarily stupid,” Sean said. “Can I kip here tonight?”
Jesse pulled him in. “Yeah, you can. I’ll get Hamish.”
Sean stood in their living room and tried not to think too much. Hamish came down the hall and looked at him. He didn’t hug or touch Sean. “Come on, let’s go make some food.” They cooked and baked until 2am when Sean finally collapsed on their sofa and tried not to hate himself for throwing his life away again.
okay i start to fix it here, and realized that the fix it had to be broken into two parts to make sense so this long story is getting even longer.
“I would like someone to use very short and simple sentences to explain what just happened,” Merlin said into the silence that followed Sean leaving. His voice was low and his scent was high and everyone in the room bared their necks to him. “Percival, take a moment to reflect and then tell me how we’ve overstepped in the last few weeks.”
“I wouldn’t call it overstepped, per se, but -”
Merlin growled and Percival quieted. “Pause and reflect. Then list.”
“I’m the one who stole his chair and moved it here,” Eggsy blurted out. “I thought he’d be more comfortable with it here.” Everyone stared at him. “I just thought, maybe he wasn’t liking how little of him there was, so if he had the his chair in the family room, he’d feel like he belonged.”
“You are six months pregnant, how did you even move a couch?” Merlin asked.
“Mikey did most of the work, he looks frail but that guy is wiry.” Eggsy frowned and his scent had Merlin pulling him in and nuzzling him. “I wanted him to be comfy.”
“I think that may have been the thing that broke him,” Merlin said and soothed Eggsy when his mate whimpered a bit. “Percival?” Percival gave a very short run down of what had happened and Merlin didn’t say anything but the whole room grew tense and Merlin’s scent grew angry.
“Thank ye for the report, Percival,” Merlin said calmly. “Michelle, could ye do me a favour? I am sure that Tequila by now needs help with the kids.”
“I should stay?” Michelle said, sounding shattered.
“No, Michelle, I am going to be very very angry shortly and you don’t need what that might trigger for you. I promise we are going to fix this,” Merlin said. She was still hesitating. “Michelle,” Merlin put a little strength into his voice, not quite a growl but very serious. “Go.”
Michelle nodded and left.
Merlin eased Eggsy off his lap and stood up. He watched his mate, curl into a ball, and Percival reach for Harry. Tilde eased a little bit into and behind Roxy. Good they understood he was upset, but he had a feeling they didn’t quite grasp why. “I get it,” he said. For a moment they all perked up. “It’s what you’ve always done. For Roxy, for me, this is how we do relationships. We overwhelm, we obsess, we cling, because we’ve all fit together that way. I get it I do,” Merlin said.
“We were just trying to show him -” Tilde began and Merlin growled and she ducked behind Roxy. Roxy looked ready to snap at him.
“Is today the day you challenge me for the pack, pup?” Merlin asked Roxy. “Because today you come at me with anything less than a full challenge, I’ll send ye crying to your room.” Roxy, after a very tense moment, shook her head. “Do any of you have even a base understanding of why he was upset? Of why I’m upset?”
“It’s what they did to me, I handled it…mostly,” Eggsy said.
“The largest heart in existence,” Merlin said to his mate, “that you can see the love in the madness”. “Princess,” he pointed to Tilde, “Alpha-a,” to Roxy, “Secret BAMF,” he said to Percival, and “Harry mother fucking Hart, legend of MI-6”. Merlin leaned against the wall. “And he is Sean McKnight a neutral beta, raised by farmers and after a bout of fame, a butcher.”
“He’s incredible,” Tilde said.
“He is, I don’t disagree,” Merlin said. “But he’s normal.”
“I was normal,” Percival replied.
“No, baby, you weren’t,” Harry replied. Percival looked affronted. “You punched Chester for harassing you. You stood up to me with barely a flinch. You gave as good as you got. Tilde gave as good as she got. Eggsy tamed us and gave as good as she got. What I don’t understand is Sean was doing the same why did that change now?”
“He wasn’t!” Merlin roared and the whole room flinched. “He rolled with it, he accepted it, but he never gave as good as he got. Months and he still can never come about 4th in Mario Kart or Smash Brothers, and he doesn’t even like it, but he plays because that is what we do.”
“He survived shopping with me and did it again!”
“To impress Michelle, not for his own desires,” Merlin said. “Have ye even seen him wear the clothes you bought him? Has he driven the Jag you insisted on signing over to him?” Merlin hammered the questions at Harry. “And you interfere in the fragile relationship with his son. Harry what if that boy decided he didn’t want Sean in his life because you interfered too much?”
“Then he’s weak and pathetic and Sean doesn’t need him,” Harry replied. “He has us.”
Merlin’s growl was the lowest that it had ever been directed to Harry, as far as the rest of the pack knew, though Harry had heard that a time or two before. “Harrison, my pack mate, you are insane but never stupid and in that sentence you just disgusted me.” Merlin didn’t care about the look of horror on Harry’s face. “That is the man’s son! What if Hunter dinnae speak to you for fifteen years and just when he started to rebuild a relationship with you, some stranger came along and just started buying you clothes?”
Harry was quiet. He was terrified at the thought of not having contact like that with his beautiful boy.
“We want him to have the best, because he is the best, and for a long time no one saw that,” Roxy said softly.
Merlin shook his head. “To him, he had the best because he had Michelle and Daisy. That’s what you need to understand, what no one here is sincerely grasping, and I admit I have been struggling with. He doesn’t want the pack and all of you interfering like that is proving to him that he was right, that this life isn’t for him.” Everyone’s scent in the room went sad.
“Merlin what do you mean he don’t want us?” Eggsy asked.
“I mean, that is a man who doesn’t want me to offer him a pack bite,” Merlin said. “Have you not seen how he tries to avoid me? How he keeps distance how he tries so fucking hard not to bend his head?”
“But he calls us his pack, says you are a good alpha,” Tilde protested, “We hear him say these things. You are doing your imagining odd things again.”
Merlin shook his head. “He says them, and then is conflicted. He thinks I am a good pack alpha, to all of you, that doesn’t mean he wants to be included in it. Not really.” He looked at them. “I made the offer in Christmas, the formal words, and he has never once responded to them.” They were all quiet. “He’s older than me, has never been rich or titled, and has been on his own for so long, and here we all come like the hurricane we are. And he cannae figure out what he is okay with and what he isn’t and every time he finds the line, we move it.”
Percival was hugging Harry’s arm. “Oh,” he said softly, maybe understanding, “He can’t figure out what he does want from us, what he wants to be a part of, because every time he thinks he has us figured out, we do something new, something more.”
“And how do you draw a line in the sand with people who made your future partner realize her strength and awesomeness?” Eggsy said. “How does he say no to us and not feel like a jerk? How does a perfectly normal bloke say no to us spending 30k to improve his brother’s farm and not sound ungrateful.”
“Oh fuck,” Roxy groaned. “Oh fucking fuckity fuck, he is wondering how he can ever balance the scales, what does he bring to us, isn’t he? Not realizing all we want is him.”
“I don’t want to have broken his relationship with his son,” Harry said, distraught. Merlin went over and nuzzled the pack bite.
“Percival, Tilde, Eggsy, they all fell into the madness, embraced it,” Merlin said. “A madness that began with you and me Harry, born out of so much blood and heartache. Eggsy is our idiot tamer, but maybe we also need a bit more of an outside view, maybe we all need to change a bit, how we approach situations. We need to stop going into everything hot. Not everything needs the Harry Hart who makes decisions in an instant and then we all live with the consequences. Maybe in our fifties it is time that we both think things through beforehand, because not every choice is life or death.”
Harry leaned his forehead against Merlin, and held Percival’s hand. “Eggsy can fix this.” He had unlimited faith in the pack’s omega. “Eggsy can make him understand.”
“No,” Merlin said, “I’ll fix this.”
“Babe, are you sure? I mean technically I can relate to him more than you,” Eggsy said.
“You are too much Michelle’s,” Merlin replied. “You and he will need to have an important conversation, I think, but this one, this one is for me.”
“Will you go now?” Tilde asked.
“No, he needs a bit of space,” Merlin replied. “Eggsy, I am sure that your mother is freaking out now, go take care of her?”
“Yeah,” Eggsy agreed. “Yeah she’s going to be messed up.” He took a sec to get himself up and went to Merlin who kissed him. “I’ll say sorry and it will be okay right?”
Merlin licked his personal bite, just a little. “It will be, aye.” Eggsy nodded and left the room. “Now then, the rest of us will talk practical matters, which is our specific limits of how we interfere in Sean’s life from here on out.” Merlin’s smile was sharp. “Let’s talk about buying a publishing company, shall we?”
“It wasn’t just about him,” Roxy began hotly and then shrunk a little under Merlin’s gaze. “I mean, mostly, sorta kinda. It will be good for Kingsman, I’ve wanted the world to see Harry and Carol’s preliminary art for years.”
Merlin nodded. “Tell me.”
Sean went home at 7am, he had already texted Twitch and Mikey and knew that they’d take care of the shop that day, no way should he be around sharp implements. He had maybe 4 hours sleep, and felt like shit. When he saw Merlin’s car in front of his house, for a moment he hoped that it was a sleep deprived hallucination, but when he closed his eyes and opened them, the car was still there. He went inside and whimpered a little at the smell of fresh coffee. He went to his kitchen and Merlin was there drinking coffee and working on his laptop. “You know, this is kinda reinforcing my points from last night.”
“Do ye need breakfast?” Merlin asked quietly.
“The coffee, and a shower, then some eggs?” Sean replied.
Merlin poured him a cup of coffee. “Go take it to the shower, eggs will be ready when you come out.” Merlin didn’t crowd him.
“I always pretended to be okay with all of you just breaking into my house, I rolled with it,” Sean said. “But I rather dislike it.”
“I know, this will be the last time.”
“Until next time is the last time?” Sean gave him a look.
Merlin shook his head. “No, this is the last time. Go shower, then we’ll talk.”
Sean went and showered and took his time, because he was sure he was going out there and being told that Michelle and Daisy were done with him. One sob burst out at the thought of not getting to be Daisy’s peoples and he reined it back in. He broke and admitted that he was bothered, this was what he deserved. He could have been quiet and endured and had everything he wanted. He could have endured. Fuck. He realized the coffee was empty and got out of the shower. He put on his comfy at home clothes and went out. Merlin was sliding eggs onto a plate.
“May be a little overcooked,” Merlin warned. “Followed your directions, but…well,” he shrugged.
“They look good,” Sean said. He stared at the plate. “Can you just say it, and then leave?”
“I’m sorry,” Merlin said. His scent was more contrite than Sean thought an alpha that strong could go. “I’m so sorry.”
Sean stared at the eggs and used all his strength to not let the tears fall. “Tell Michelle, I understand, yeah?”
Merlin reached out and tilted his face up. “You don’t. I am not here to break up with you on behalf of Michelle. I’m here to offer the pack’s apologies.” Merlin took a breath. “My pack’s actions are mine, and I take their mistakes on my shoulders. I stand before you to apologize and make amends. I humble myself before you, because no true leader would allow their pack to hurt as mine did to you.” Sean had no spit left in his mouth when Merlin bared his neck to him. “Sean McKnight, I offer our sincere apologies and accept on behalf of everyone any punishment ye deem appropriate.”
“What the fuck?” Sean said and Merlin’s neck stayed bared. “I don’t…Has anyone used those words in the last fifty years?”
“Well, I just did,” Merlin said and didn’t move.
“Jesus fucking Christ, Merlin stop that, it’s freaking me out,” Sean said. He put the plate of eggs in front of Merlin. “Eat,” he said.
“I’m fine, I’m providing for you, as you are supposed to do with a formal apology, I googled it,” Merlin said. His stomach rumbled. “But I’m going to eat a little.” He moved the plate more centrally and handed Sean a fork. “Share?”
Sean stared at the eggs. He wondered what he was agreeing to if he shared the eggs.
“It is just food, it doesn’t mean anything beyond hunger,” Merlin promised. They drank coffee and ate the eggs and then Merlin cleaned up the plates. “Have ye ever been shot?”
“No,” Sean said. “God, why are you going to shoot me?”
“Harry has, a few times. A couple bullets I personally removed from him. I wasn’t in the field much, but enough that I’ve been stabbed and electrocuted. One time, the last time we worked, I rescued Harry from torture. I ripped the throat of a man out with my bare teeth and drank his blood for daring to harm my Harry, though I never would have called him that at the time. A bit later he and I were a pack.” Merlin decided to make more coffee. “I don’t think you can comprehend how broken we were, two alphas in a giant estate with pstd, and anxiety, and the belief that in any moment our former bosses would change their mind and sanction us.”
“Merlin,” Sean said and stopped. Merlin was talking of things that happened in movies, or to people he wasn't sure were real. Not men he saw several times a week, who had looney tunes dress socks. “Go on,” was all he said.
“We fought and we fucked each other, not out of passion but of comfort and solace, and the belief that we’d always be alone together. Harry wanted a mate, but figured he’d never deserve one, have one because anyone but me in his bed at night he woke up and tried to murder them.” Merlin watched the drops of coffee fall. “It was a mix of the healthiest and most unhealthiest relationship ever, but it kept us sane as we healed. And eventually he tried to find a mate and found Percival. He fell so hard and that blinding devotion we had for each other expanded to include Percival and Roxy, who had been forged by their tragedy of a lost mate and parent. We let up a bit, but not that much. It just shifted, instead of willing to kill for each other, we grew to have two others we would die for. Love made him stupid and healed him. And then came Tilde, and that was just a mess, because of how us three men made Roxy understand how love works. And then there was my Eggsy, my everything. And he and his mum needed healing too, a pack and we enveloped them into us and treated them like royalty because for too long they had been treated like trash.”
“They deserve to be treated like that,” Sean said.
“They did, and all three grew so much,” Merlin said. “My omega, Eggsy he stood toe to toe with them, because he was raised to fight, had been through enough to not take shit from them. He could play them like a fiddle. And Michelle is where he got that from.” Merlin looked at him. “Everyone else just accepted the dynamic that Harry and I created, they may have found it odd at the beginning but then just got absorbed into it. And ye were confused but then seemed to accept how we are. We had never had anyone love us before who also chafed at the way we are. I could see it on you and thought well he’s just taking longer to adapt. It is to my shame that I pushed ye aside, that I didn’t see maybe we were the ones who needed to adapt. And for that I do apologize.”
Sean looked at him. “I do love all of you idiots like family, but I love you like my family, not like yours. I don’t know that I could ever just walk into Harry’s bathroom while he’s showering because I had a thought that couldn’t wait five minutes. I don’t want all the money Percival wants to throw at me. I don’t…is there I way I can want all of you, but not all of you?” Sean felt helpless. “I don’t even know how that would work. Because all of you are a fucking force of nature, and I’m just not.”
Merlin reached into his pocket and pulled something out and put it on the table. “It starts with this. Months ago, I gave you a formal offer to become a pack member. I rescind that offer.”
Sean couldn’t stop the gasp that came out, the words hurt far more than he ever thought they could. Merlin nudged the item towards him and Sean picked it up. It was a leather cuff with the Mathe crest on it. Sean was confused.
“Sean McKnight, I instead offer you this. The protection and respect of the Mathe pack. I will not bite you and claim you. But I will stand beside you, offer you shelter and warmth and affection. You will not be judged as less than by any of the pack, but they will acknowledge your need for space. And if ever one day you wanted more from us, from me as pack alpha, it would be yours. The day after ye and Michelle bond, five years after, twenty after, or never. We both stand beside you and recognize your independence. If you like. Sorry this is a bit unprecedented in pack dynamics. Google was less than helpful, I had to make up formal sounding shit.”
Sean stared at the bracelet, and ran his finger over the words. “It was good formal sounding shit.”
“Thank you,” Merlin said. “Fuck I hate this emotional crap. I could be writing such beautiful code right now.”
Sean snorted. “Yeah people are the worst, why generally I like dealing with dead animal flesh.”
Merlin laughed. “Roxy is going to make you a superstar again, you know. You’ll get tons of offers. What will you do?”
“Maybe take an extra day off of the shop now and again,” Sean said. “Not going back to a kitchen full time. I like the shop and I like the blog. I don’t want more than that.” Sean looked Merlin. “I’m not…I don’t want to take her away from all of you.”
“I know,” Merlin replied. “And we don’t want to take you away from you.” He frowned. “Bugger, that made no sense.”
“It actually made more than you think.” Sean carefully put the bracelet down. “I am so scared of getting lost again, especially just after I was found. And see that right there is either a born again christian and those guys are nutters, or a country song.”
“I like country music,” Merlin said.
“Huh, would have thought…actually I have no idea what music I thought you would like,” Sean said. “I know you like Eggsy, fruit tarts, computers, and your child, soon to be children. And the pack.” Sean looked at him. “Merlin what else do you like?”
“I like the rain,” Merlin said. “And I like haunted castles, and I like swords. I like old musicals, and singing my mate to sleep. Peanut butter straight from the jar or on toast but nothing else. And Sean, I don’t think this has been said enough to ye. I like you.” Merlin looked at him. “You need to understand all of this, this is us saying we like you. We just say it in ways you couldn’t understand and would never be comfortable with. And we will work on that.”
“I like you too,” Sean said. “Ugh, there is so much that has to be sorted, and I’m shot.”
“Go have a nap,” Merlin suggested. “It can all be sorted in a little while.”
Sean nodded, a lie down did sound bloody fantastic. “You know, all jokes aside, you are a really brilliant pack alpha.”
Merlin gave a small smile. “All jokes aside, I know.”
Sean gave a squeeze to Merlin’s shoulder and went to have a nap. When he woke up two hours later, he had the house to himself and a stack of envelopes on his kitchen table. Formal apologies from the pack, everyone had written him one. He read them all and smiled a bit. He decided to have a second shower and then go find Michelle. On the way he picked up the bracelet Merlin had left and took it to his bedroom and put it in the drawer right next to the ring he had bought for Michelle. He rather hoped that one day they would go well together.
step back to see what happened to michelle after she left the room and i fix it all.
Michelle helped Tequila settle in all the toddlers, and god time was moving so quick that they weren’t babies anymore. She gave Zoe an extra kiss and then went to find Daisy who was in the children’s play room in her reading tree. “Hey,” Michelle said and sat on the ground next to her.
“Mummy, Sean still loves us right?” Daisy asked.
Michelle smiled. “Oh, sweetie, Sean loves you so much,” she promised. “That man is going to love you every single day of your life.”
“Because he’s my peoples,” Daisy said.
“Because he’s your peoples,” Michelle agreed. “Now, the family room is still off limits, do you want to stay in here a bit longer or watch a little ipad in bed?”
“Would you watch with me?” Daisy asked.
“I would love to,” Michelle replied. She stood up and reached down for Daisy and smiled at her little girl and was in as full control of her scent as she could be. She picked Daisy up and had to rebalance her weight. She wouldn’t be able to carry Daisy far much longer, but she could manage to Daisy’s room tonight. Daisy put on her pajamas and brushed her teeth and they snuggled into Daisy’s princess bed and watched some Moana for the millionth time. Daisy slid into a deep sleep about half way through and Michelle turned off the ipad and put it on her dresser. She made sure Mr. Death Bunny was right beside Daisy and kissed her head. “I promise, Daisy, Sean is going to love you until the end of time.” Another kiss and Michelle left the room and closed the door.
She went into hers next door and saw Eggsy. Shit, she’d have to wait to collapse. Eggsy needed her, he smelled so upset. “Hi, baby, I hope Merlin wasn’t too rough on you,” she smiled and sat next to him. She wrapped an arm around his shoulders. “It’s all okay, right? Merlin still loves you, he was just a little grumpy at someone being angry at his pack.”
“I heard you, Mum,” Eggsy replied. “Sean’s going to love you until the end of time too.”
Michelle’s smile wobbled a bit. “Oh honey, I know that.” She tried to keep her scent under control as well. “Now then, need to vent about your alpha? I have a secret chocolate stash.” She started to get up and Eggsy wouldn’t let go of her hand. “Love?”
“Mum, Merlin was pissed at all of us for not treating Sean right,” Eggsy said. “He’s furious that they, that we might have hurt your relationship.”
“If he can’t handle a little interference, that’s on him,” Michelle replied. She jaw was hurting from trying to keep the smile up. “He’ll get over it.” She moved her wrist enough that Eggsy let go. “Or he won’t,” she added. She pulled out the secret chocolate and brought it over. “Merlin didn’t need to lay into all of you that much.”
“Mum,” Eggsy shook his head. “Mum, it’s okay.”
“Of course it is,” she agreed.
“No, Mum, it is okay to be upset.”
“I’m not upset, just a lot of people venting feelings, everyone does it,” Michelle replied. She held open the box of chocolate to Eggsy who gently took it from her and put it on the table. “Mum, Sean loves you, and we love you, and Merlin loves you so much.”
“Oh I think he loves you a little more,” Michelle joked.
“Mum, it’s okay to be upset,” Eggsy repeated. “To be worried.”
“If you get upset, you get hit,” Michelle snapped. They stared at each other as those words hung in the air. “If things aren’t okay, you pretend they are, because if you cry…if you cry, well someone is likely to come along and give you something to really cry about.” Her hands were shaking. “I don’t want to be a bother.” She went to her wardrobe and found her winter housecoat even though it was a warm spring. She wrapped herself tightly into the warm folds. “I’m not a bother, I’m fine.” One tear fell. “I’m fine, eat your chocolate.”
Eggsy stood up and went over to her and nuzzled her Mathe pack bite, that almost covered Dean’s pack mark, but not quite. A second bite could never quite cover the first all the way, not if you wanted it to take. “You don’t have to be fine,” he said. “The man you love and your pack are at a bit of sixes and sevens. It’s gotta hurt.”
“Hurt is…” Michelle quieted herself. “You don’t need to carry that.”
“I saw more than you realized, Mum,” Eggsy said.
She looked at him. “Oh baby, you didn’t.”
“I did Mum. And the guys liked to talk at the bar,” Eggsy’s scent was distressed and Michelle rubbed his back.
“No, Eggsy, I promise, you may have seen more than I wanted you too, but you saw much less than you think.” Michelle smoothed his hair. “It is difficult to get upset about things my pack did wrong, because if I did, well…they were mostly careful about permanent scars and you can just check out when things get really bad. Easy to think of something else when sucking a fourth dick.”
Eggsy gripped her tight. “I want to kill them all.”
Michelle laughed a little. “The devil will get his, in the end.” She leaned into her son. “I know that things are different now. God this was years ago, but. But.”
“But,” Eggsy agreed. “You know, chocolate sounds great.”
“It does, doesn’t it?” Michelle went over and got the chocolate. “Too old to cuddle in bed?”
“No, not too old at all,” Eggsy said and they crawled into Michelle’s bed and hid under the covers just like they had when Eggsy was little only instead of a torch it was Eggsy’s phone light. They ate chocolate and were quiet. Eggsy waiting, Michelle trying to find the words. “What if I have to choose?” she asked.
“I don’t think you’ll have to,” Eggsy said and made a face when he got cherry and put half the chocolate back. Michelle finished it. “There has to be a compromise.”
“What our lot not act crazy? Hold back the tide and stop climate change with those powers,” Michelle said. “He doesn’t think I’d pick him, or that I should. He said that in there didn’t he?”
“He did,” Eggsy agreed. “Mum, Merlin is going to fix it. Swear down, he’ll get it all sorted.”
“It’s my life, shouldn’t I be the one to get it sorted?” Michelle asked. She made a face when she got caramel and Eggsy happily finished it for her. “Eggsy, I’ve always chosen men. I’ve dyed my hair, lost weight, worn clothes I hated, all because the alphas around me, that fancied me and that I fancied had a preference. I never pick me when a handsome man has the right smile.”
“Wait,” Eggsy made a face. “Mum, Dean weren’t never handsome.”
“He had a charm about him,” she replied. “At the beginning. A charisma of a sort. Different than your da. And Sean is so different from them both.”
“He’s…even?” Eggsy said. “Think it is the beta in him.”
“Think it is just him.” Michelle looked at the box of chocolate, they had killed the top layer. “Should we?”
“We should,” Eggsy agreed. They ate a few more pieces. “Mum? What’s your ideal world?”
“Harrison Ford circa Raiders of the Lost Ark, sweeping me away to a house he built for me and feeding me cheese and grapes.”
Eggsy snorted. “Yeah, he’s kinda good looking.”
“Kinda good looking?” Michelle stared at Eggsy. “That man can get it, whenever he wants.”
“Okay, maybe a slightly more realistic ideal world?”
“If I say a man first, and not my career or your or Daisy, I sound like such a shit.”
“Some people are built for relationships more than others, and fuck anyone who thinks there is something wrong with that.” Eggsy held her hand and they both realized they had a good bit of chocolate on their fingers. “You want a relationship, someone to call yours and there is nothing wrong with that being a core part of you.”
“I want Sean,” Michelle said. “I want who we are together, it is fun and sweet and soft. He’s not as loud and brash as your Da was, and he is nothing like Dean was. He makes me laugh, and he makes me swoon, and he makes me fall more in love every time he puts that small apron on Daisy.” Michelle traced her fingers over the flowers on her bedspread just above their faces. “I want him to be happy here, and to be a part of the pack. And watch him and Daisy cook, and take lunch breaks from our shops together, and I want to start using my night in the sex dungeon with him.”
“Aside from ewww,” Eggsy said. “Why haven’t you two used the sex dungeon?”
“Dunno,” Michelle said. “Just haven’t.” She looked at Eggsy. “We haven’t had much sex here, think he is scared of someone walking in at the wrong time.”
“Daisy sleeps like a rock.”
“Not her he was worried about,” Michelle replied.
“I think I need to turn in the idiot tamer mug. I think I’m infected.” Eggsy looked so serious she had to kiss his nose.
“You do pretty darn good, definitely on Merlin.”
“I’m the one who brought his chair here. I now understand why Carol left for Canada for a few years.” Eggsy’s eyes were wide. “They just wear you down. I think we need Sean. I think he needs the idiot tamer mug. He made Harry contrite over his shenanigans. I mean like honest to god, upset, Mum.”
“Shit,” Michelle replied.
“I know. Like you expect the rest to feel like crap, but Harry tends to stand by his actions and he was shook. Mum, Merlin dressed down Harry.”
“Oh Harry is going to be hurting,” Michelle said.
“Percival will take care of him.”
“No, enough of this, come on,” Michelle said and tossed the blanket off.
“I’m supposed to take care of you,” Eggsy protested.
“Baby, I fucked up plenty in my life and took care of myself. I can do that now. Come on, Merlin was the pack alpha, and now you need to be the pack omega.” Michelle grabbed her favourite pillow and went down the hall. Eggsy hurried after her. They ran into Percival and Harry going to their room.
“Michelle, I’m -” Harry began.
“Come on,” she said. She saw Roxy and Tilde and gestured them over. They looked to Eggsy who just shrugged. “Make them feel better,” she told him.
“I don’t know how,” Eggsy replied. “Where’s Merlin?”
“He said he needed to find something old, that it needed to be made into something different,” Percival explained. “Michelle, we didn’t mean to hurt him. We were just -”
“You lot?” Michelle said and they all nodded and smelled so contrite. “Well, Eggsy and Merlin have the giant bed, let’s go.” She marched them all down the hall and they all piled onto the bed. Everyone moved about and Eggsy was in the middle. Michelle smiled at him. “Merlin was mad at them, and now you tell them that you love them, and it will all get sorted.”
“I do love them, and I am sure it will all get sorted,” Eggsy said swiftly. He looked at his mum. “It will all get sorted yeah?”
“I want it to,” Michelle said. “But I don’t know how, because I can’t give this up and I don’t know where he fits in it.”
“Have you asked him?” Roxy asked.
“No, I mean I know we were working towards being a family, but…we hadn’t talked any practicalities yet? Thought they would just work out.” Michelle smiled when Tilde hugged her tight. She kissed Tilde’s hand. “But logistics are a thing aren’t they?”
“I have a suggestion,” Percival said softly. “An in between?” He would have said more but Merlin came into the room. They all looked at him.
Merlin rolled his eyes. “I’m not mad anymore. Come here you fucking idiot.” Harry dove off the bed and ran into Merlin’s hug and let the man scent his pack bite.
“I would like to point out, that Merlin said no names, and my mate ran over sure that he was the idiot, when really it could have applied to most of us,” Percival said. “I feel that speaks to his character and self awareness a good bit.”
“I’m an idiot too,” Eggsy said and his eyes filled. “I can’t believe it, I thought I’d make it a few more years.”
Merlin laughed and guided Harry to the bed. Merlin found himself in a moment trapped between Harry and Eggsy. He looked over at Michelle. “Late I want to talk to you, about what I am going to say to Sean.”
“Don’t,” she said.
“I’m sorry?” Merlin was a little surprised.
“It is for him, you say it to him first. The words belong to him.”
Merlin gave her a smile. “You are a good woman.”
“I try.” Michelle looked at the group. “I could never give you up for him.”
“You won’t have to,” Merlin said. “It won’t play out like that.”
“How can you be sure?”
“Because you won’t let it. You, we all, we’ll find the right way for this to work. We always pull it off.”
“Okay,” Michelle said and yawned. She snuggled in. “Tomorrow we start to sort it.”
“Tomorrow,” Merlin said and nuzzled Eggsy and wrapped an arm over his belly.
They all fell asleep together.
Michelle carefully put together a bouquet at the end of her shift. It was pretty, elegant and also cheerful. It looked good she thought. She said goodbye to Mrs. Carsons and took it down to the butcher shop. The weather was getting nice enough, she’d be able to plant his box outside the shop soon. She went in. “Hi,” she said. He looked a little tired. But she imagined she did too, it had been two days since his tirade. She knew Merlin talked to him but not the details or how it went.
“Hi,” Sean said.
“I brought you flowers. An apology for my pack?”
“They all wrote lovely apology letters,” Sean said. “And you did nothing wrong.”
“Well still, flowers make things better don’t they?” Michelle said and held out the bouquet.
Sean came around his counter. “They do.” They stared at each other.
“Oh lord, boss, go sort things out, you’ve been mopey and walked towards the flower shop at least five times today before you chickened out,” Mikey gave Michelle a wink. “He’s been miserable without you.”
“Jesus, Mikey,” Sean said. “I can fire you.”
“Can you?” Mikey replied.
Michelle laughed a little and Sean took his apron off and threw it at Mikey’s face. “My cottage?” Sean asked.
“That sounds good.” They took Sean’s car and when they got there, he put the flowers in water and put the kettle on. He had a plate of Hamish’s biscuits and they went to the living room. “So,” Michelle said.
“I’m sorry, my darling,” Sean said quickly. “I should have talked to you about how I was feeling, not just let it build until I snapped. I can’t imagine how that hurt you.”
“I’m stronger than that,” Michelle said. “I can handle a fight or two.”
“You can handle dragons,” he replied. “Doesn’t mean I like how I exploded.”
“You did, talk about it a little,” she offered.
“Not enough, not clearly.” Sean ran a hand through he hair and crumbled a biscuit up. “Michelle?”
“Your pack are overwhelming.”
“They are,” she said.
“How do they not overwhelm you?” Sean looked at her. “How do you get yourself heard? Listened to?”
“I dyed Tilde’s hair with flower stems and grasses?” Michelle said. “I blackmail, I bribe. I manipulate my scent a bit.”
“I can’t do those things,” he said. “I can’t…you all find those games fun, and I find them exhausting.” He pushed the tea away. “But I also fucking love those idiots? Like I would hate it if Percival wasn’t at footie, and Harry sitting in the car with his binoculars? I would miss talking to Tilde and Roxy getting ansty because she can’t live without touching Tilde for longer than a few minutes. I have seen Merlin walk into a wall because he is thinking about his work. And do it again because Eggsy said something in his ear. And I even like how they try to help. I just wish -”
“They could ask before they help?” Michelle said.
“It would be amazing, but that would be so hard for them.”
“Harry and Merlin stopped fighting with weapons for the first six months after Daisy and I moved in.”
“Because of Daisy,” Sean said immediately.
“Because of me,” Michelle explained. “Because one of Dean’s crew liked knives and the sounds of blades against each other gave me panic attacks, caused me to throw up.”
“Darling,” Sean looked sick.
“Not about that right now, but the point is, they gave me what I needed. I had to throw up all over Harry for them to get the message, but they got the message and changed.”
“So what, I have to throw up all over Harry when he buys my son another suit?”
“Pretty sure the yelling you did was the throwing up,” Michelle said.
“Merlin rescinded his pack offer,” Sean told her. Michelle’s scent dove into sadness and Sean couldn’t stay away. He pulled her into his lap and nuzzled her neck. “It was a good thing.”
“How is that a good thing?” Michelle asked. “I can’t, how? Why? What?”
“He came up with an alternate. The ball is in my court, I choose when, if ever, I want a pack bite, and if I don’t ever want that, it is okay. He gave me this bracelet, with his family crest on it. Because we can be family, even if I’m not pack.” Sean touched her cheek. “And I like that idea.”
“Merlin is very clever.”
“He is,” Sean agreed. “So the question is, could you be happy with me being family but not pack?”
“Could you be?”
“I could,” he said.
“I could too.” Michelle looked at him. “I won’t give up pack piles. Never had something so cozy.”
“I don’t want you too.”
“And I don’t really care if they walk in on me in the bath.”
“So long as they try not to with me, I’ll live with that.”
“There are going to be times, I will pick them over you,” Michelle said.
“Are there times you’ll pick me?”
Michelle nodded. “Eggsy asked my ideal world, and the first thing I said -”
“Harrison Ford?” Sean said, knowing her crush.
“The second thing I said,” Michelle amended, “was you. Because I love you so much.”
“I love you too,” Sean said. “I just don’t want you upset when I need space away from them sometimes. Because, Michelle, they are fucking crazy, and I am never going to completely get used to that much crazy.” Sean laughed, now that he had calmed down a bit. “Roxy bought the publishing company, because she was worried they wouldn’t market my book right. Who does that?”
“My pack, your family,” she said. “Because they love. They love so very much, and when they love, they just want the best for those they love.”
“I get it, I just want them to understand, maybe on somethings, I might know what is best for me.”
“They’ll, we all, will figure it out. And I’ll get Eggsy to return your chair.”
“No, it does look good in the family room. And maybe my favourite chair will finally give me an edge in Mario Kart.”
“You really really suck at video games,” Michelle said.
“I do,” Sean agreed. “I think I’ll read in my chair while everyone plays.”
“Compromise,” Michelle said. “New word for these people.”
“It is. But they are smart, they’ll catch on. And I’ll learn to deal with a little closeness. And Percival’s point of sale system is better than what I had.”
“Numbers stuff he is always right.” Michelle kissed him. “We are going to be okay.”
“We are, we’re going to work at it and we’ll be okay.”
“Sex now?” Michelle asked. Sean blinked at her and she smiled slowly. “Been a long couple days of worry, and a little relief of emotion would be welcome.”
“Whatever you want.” Sean kissed her. “You understand, in all of this, the thing I don’t want to compromise on is that you deserve everything.”
“Sean,” Michelle cupped his face. “You do too.”
He stood up and held out his hand and they walked towards the bedroom.
Sean was finishing up in the cottage and getting ready to head to the estate when there was a knock. No one had just walked in for the last 10 days. It was brilliant. And Tilde has asked when she wanted to replace the sign above his shop, because Roxy designed an updated one. And it was gorgeous and he didn’t try to pay for it, he just let them go ahead. They were finding their footing.
He opened the door. “Hi!” Daisy shouted. “I have new luggage! It has the sequins that moves back and forth. Look blue and now purple!” She moved her hand over her bag.
“Very cool,” Sean told her. “Why do you have luggage?”
Michelle had two bags with her as well. “You know, lots of babies and noise at the estate, and going to get worse. We rather thought a couple nights a week here at the cottage sounded quite lovely didn’t we, Daisy?”
Daisy nodded and jumped up and Sean caught her. “I get two nights with just my peoples. Isn’t that brilliant?”
Sean looked between the two of them, Daisy’s eagerness and Michelle’s soft and knowing smiling. “Two nights a week, just the three of us sounds really perfect,” he agreed.
“I want to make pizza for dinner. I need to practice throwing the dough.”
“Last time it landed on my head,” Sean said.
“I know,” Daisy grinned. She wriggled and he put her down and she ran to put her bag in the spare bedroom.
Michelle hugged Sean. “I trust you don’t mind sharing your space with us.”
“No, sharing with the two of you, sounds really perfect to me,” he said. He nuzzled her neck. “Really, really perfect.”
“It sounds like that to me too,” she agreed and nipped at his jaw.
“Ewwww, peoples kisses,” Daisy said seeing them.
Sean gave Michelle a dip and a dramatic kiss. “Yes, young lady, lots and lots of kisses will be happening between your peoples.”
“Harry likes kissing Percival’s tummy,” Daisy said. “He likes doing kisses while on his knees. Do you give Mummy those types of kisses?”
Sean choked on his spit enough that Michelle had to slap his back.
“How about you don’t worry about our kisses, and definitely don’t worry about Harry’s kisses. Check the basil in the window to see if it is good for the pizza,” Michelle said and Daisy just shrugged and went to the kitchen. She tried not to laugh too much at the horror on Sean’s face. “They are generally good about locked doors,” she reassured him. “But you will end up seeing things.”
Sean shuddered a little. And laughed a little helplessly. “Tell you what, I’ll give you those types of kisses later.”
“I’ll look forward to it.” Michelle stood on tip toes for a kiss and they both heard a slam and an oops. “Later,” she promised and they went to the kitchen to sort out the mess.
“This was stupid, I should have never done this,” Sean said. He was pacing in the room next to the room where there were maybe people and press. Maybe. It was likely just the pack. “No one will show up, right can you will yourself to have a heart attack to get out of a situation?”
Eggsy finished feeding his son and did up his shirt. “Grandpa Sean is being an idiot isn’t he, Max?” The two week old just burped and fell asleep. Eggsy put him down in the carrier and slightly rocked it to keep the newborn asleep. “Bruv, it’s going to be fine. Events put together by Rox always are.”
“Why did I think anyone would care about this book?” Sean asked. “It’s so stupid.”
Eggsy smiled. “It’s brilliant. Swear down, it is brilliant, Sean.”
Sean ran his hands through his hair, ruining it. “I feel like a pillock in the suit Roxy put me in.”
“Yeah,” Eggsy nodded. “Bit much, I think. Ditch the jacket and loosen the tie?”
“She’ll murder me.”
“Nah, she runs press with Merlin and Harry. If you behave otherwise, she’ll let it slide.” Sean trusted Eggsy that that was right and took the jacket off, loosened the tie, and rolled the sleeves a bit. He immediately felt better. Sean knew Eggsy had been elected to keep him calm, because an omega with a newborn, soothed everyone right out. Also Sean was already in love with his grandson. Almost grandson. He still had the ring for Michelle, terrified she might say no. His life was filled with a lot of terror at the moment. “I’ll be fine,” he tried to sound confident.
“You’ll be great, trust me, Rox designed this to suit you. The you we know, not the you from before.” Eggsy went over and gave him a quick hug. “Come on, just about time.” They walked across the hall of the community centre and peered in the window to the cooking class room. Roxy was standing in the front talking to people passionately and there was a stack of his books.
And one of the naked him cutouts. He forgot his nerves and went in. “Oi, what is that doing there?” he shouted and the whole room. Turned to look at him. Oh shit there was actual press there, like a dozen people. And a panel had opened up to double the size of the room. Looked like a hundred people. “Hiya?” Sean said.
“You used to be on telly,” Roxy snapped. “How did you cock this up, like Harry or Merlin?” She gestured and Sean saw the whole pack standing there, in their finest suits. Looking fucking proud. Of him.
“You have naked young me right there? Why couldn’t you be happy with old dressed me?”
“That’s not how I dressed you,” Roxy said.
“I’m more comfortable like this.”
“I’m very happy with old dressed you,” Michelle called out and whistled. The room laughed and a few women and a couple men shouted their agreement.
Roxy grinned at him. “It shows the difference doesn’t it?”
“Yeah the 2 stone I put on in twenty plus years since that happened?”
“Two stone my arse,” Harry said. “You are well fit.” Again the room agreed.
“Oh just come here, since you ruined your entrance,” Roxy said and stood him beside the cutout. “Why do you hate that picture so much?”
“Well just look at it,” Sean gestured. “It is so…”
“Nekkid, you are nekkid Sean,” Daisy shouted helpfully. “Mummy likes it.”
“Mummy just likes Sean anyway she can get him,” Michelle added and winked when someone in the crowd shouted get it girl.
“It’s a put on,” Sean said finally. “I was attractive, and yes I know to some I still am,” he smiled at Michelle. “Thank god her poor eyesight. But the people who put together that book thought it would be…I don’t even know, but I agreed, even though I hated it. Because whatever right.” Sean hopped up on the counter behind him. “That guy? He was a smug know it all bastard. He cooked stupid needlessly complex things and hung his reviews in his kitchen. He worked long hours and sometimes loved the attention. He forgot how much he loved food. Cooking, became a chore. And my mum hated that for me. And eventually I hated that for me.”
“So what makes your new book so different from the old ones? The award winning ones?”
“Those ones, I wanted to prove I was the best. That if people cooked from it, it would be posh and complex, wow people with the work they did. God the chapter on plating in it takes up more room than the chapter of mains. How mental is that?” Sean shook his head. “The new book…the new book is just about the food. Good food, that fills you up, makes you smile as you cook it and eat it. Food that is practical and well budgeted and shows you how to stretch it for more people.” He looked over at Daisy. “It started because of my girl there. No…no it started with my mum putting me on a chair in the kitchen when I was three and showing me how to mix fresh herbs into goo.” Roxy scrolled on her phone and tapped and the room went awww. Sean turned the screen at the front which had just had the book on it, had an ancient photo, yellowed and him and his mum cooking. “Oh where did you get that?” He rubbed his hand over his heart. “That’s my mum.”
“You were so scrawny,” Roxy said.
“Had to keep up with my big brother, always was running about the farm. Only time I wasn’t running I was asleep or in the kitchen with her.” Sean looked at the photo. “That scarf covering her hair? It’s in my kitchen. Framed.” Roxy changed the photo and it was one now of Sean and Daisy, Daisy on a chair and making monster goo.
“That’s us making my 20 monies chicken!” Daisy said.
Sean held out a hand and she ran over to him. He pulled her up onto the counter to sit next to him. “Do you like cooking? With me?” he asked her.
“It’s the best! I get to use a knife!”
“Excuse me?” Michelle said.
Sean gave her a smile and his hand was in his hair again. “With my hands over hers, not like I’m leaving her alone with a cleaver out.”
“But what about that one time when -”
Sean quickly covered her mouth as the room laughed. “Aside from things that get me yelled at, what do you love about cooking with me?”
Daisy thought about it. “It’s us time. And it is like legos?”
“How so?” Sean asked curious.
“Because you take different parts and put them together and build and you have something new at the end. But you eat it instead of putting it back in the box.” Daisy kicked her feet a bit. “What do you like about cooking with me?”
“The time together,” he said. “Teaching you what my mum taught me, watching you learn. It’s incredible.” Roxy rolled through a few more photos.
“Does the book help people learn?” Roxy asked him.
“I hope so,” Sean said. “Cooking can be a solitary act and often is and fine. That’s great. So many people say ugh cooking for one is work, and it is but a lot of the recipes in here, are one pot or pan kind of things. I don’t shy away from canned or frozen veggies, because for some recipes they are better, and sometimes they are just easier and cheaper. I tried where I could to show how you could budget for fresh vs not, what you need to change in the spices to make it taste equally good. If I had my way, everyone would be able to afford fresh and quality produce, but the world doesn’t work like that and cook books should be both practical and aspirational.”
“Extra lean ground beef costs a lot more than lean, and might be only 5% more lean. Go cheaper and drain,” Daisy recited.
“That’s right,” Sean said. He held out his fist and they bumped. “I would love people buy all their meat from a person like me, one because hey I like my business afloat, two it supports local and nonfactory farmed meat, but again that isn’t practical, when you are feeding a family of five on two part time salaries. Then you are going to the big chain store and getting the about to expire ground beef and freezing a bunch. You should be able to have tasty food too.” Sean shrugged. “I tried to break down the book in terms of both time and budget. Everyday foods that make leftovers, and treats on weekends where you can take all day to cook, and play board games in the kitchen while you do it.”
“I won Castle Panic when we made the thing,” she said.
“My great uncle’s Coq au Vin,” Sean supplied. “Yeah.”
“What are the little hand prints beside each recipe for?” Roxy asked and put up a photo of one of the pages in the book.
Sean wrapped an arm around Daisy. “Recipes for kids under 8 to help with. All kids can help in some way even if it is just helping clean or wash food. The more hand prints the more kid friendly it is.”
“We’re in a cooking room, so we’re going to show them how awesome we are, right?” Daisy asked.
“I wasn’t sure -” Sean said.
“You absolutely are,” Roxy agreed and put up another photo. “Sean McKnight and Daisy -”
“McKnight, I’m a McKnight too,” Daisy said swiftly. She looked at Sean. “I know my last name is Unwin, but I’m a McKnight aren’t I?”
Sean looked over at Michelle who was crying a bit and nodded. “Yeah, you are a McKnight too.”
He hopped down and helped Daisy down and they went behind the table and Daisy stood on her chair and he helped her with his apron and he put on his. “Now what the hell are you having me cook?” he asked and looked up at the screen. “Summer pasta, okay good pick, we can be done nice and quick and not bore these people.”
“You aren’t boring,” Merlin growled.
Sean rolled his eyes. “Pack alphas,” he said and the crowd laughed. Sean began to cook and explain what he was doing and why he put the recipe in the book. Roxy guided the conversation and Daisy chattered and the pack kept shouting out suggestions and comments. When it was done, Sean put it in a bowl and he and Daisy ate some. “Good,” he said.
“Yum, and no carrots,” she said.
“I will get you to like carrots one day, missy,” he said.
“Nope, not ever,” Daisy said. “Mummy come try our food.”
Michelle went over and kissed Sean’s jaw first and then ate some. “Yum,” she agreed.
“The yum for the food or the man?” a woman called out in the crowd.
“Both,” Michelle called back and Sean pulled her in for a hard kiss and he heard Harry whistle.
Roxy clapped her hands. “Now then, Sean will be happy to talk to people and sign books. The books for the guests have been purchased by the Mathe pack so feel to grab one, we just ask that if you can, make a donation to this community centre that was so generous in allowing us to use their space for this book launch.”
“Is that how we’re selling my book, buy it yourselves?” Sean joked.
“Oh I think it will sell,” Roxy said. She gestured to the side where there was a signing table set up and Sean went over and sat and the whole pack stood behind him, and squeezed his shoulder or hugged him. Daisy pulled up a chair and sat next to him.
“Hi,” she said.
Sean kissed her head. “Hi.”
“We did good.”
“Honey, it is Sean’s book,” Michelle said.
Sean shook his head. “Nah, she’s right. We did good.” He grabbed a pen and started to sign and was pleased as punch when more than one person asked Daisy to sign as well. He beamed when he noticed someone in the line. “Daniel,” he said and stood up to hug his son.
“This is brilliant, Da,” Daniel said. “Really incredible.”
“Oi get out of line and stand with this lot, talk suits with Harry. There was a rumour of a bit of a party after this and I want you there,” Sean said earnestly.
“I don’t want to bother your family time,” Daniel replied and Sean pulled him in tight.
“I have these morons, and my gorgeous Daisy and Michelle,” Sean said, “but that doesn’t mean I don’t want you here with me, with all my heart.”
“Even if I have company?” Daniel asked. He knew they were holding up the line. “Dad, this is Edward and his son Oscar.”
“Hi, Mr. McKnight,” Edward said. “The book looks great.” He pulled one off the pile and held it out. “Already done a few things on the blog, look forward to doing more with Oscar.”
“Damn you are beautiful,” Sean blurted out.
“Hey, I’m the handsome one in the family,” Harry protested and looked at Edward. “Though, wow.” The whole pack was in agreement. “We need to talk about that shirt though.”
“Oh lord,” Daniel groaned.
Sean signed the book. “You three join them. Chat about clothes.”
“I can keep Oscar company,” Daisy offered. “Oscar are you good at video games?”
“I like Minecraft,” the boy said.
“I like it too. Okay bye Sean,” Daisy popped up from the table and her and Oscar started chatting while Daniel tried to talk to the pack.
It was almost two more hours before the event was done and Sean was exhausted and energized and knew that Roxy had planned a couple other things for the week. But for now they were going back to the flats. Everyone drove over and when they got to the one flat, Tequila was there with the toddlers, and several boxes of pizza and a fridge full of fizzy drinks and beer. Hamish and Jesse were putting the finish touches on dessert.
“Did it go well?” Hamish asked.
“Brilliantly,” Roxy crowed and did her happy dance. “I am the queen of this shit.”
Sean hugged her. “Honestly, it was the most fun I’ve ever had at a public appearance thing.” Her scent was so pleased and a little smug.
Merlin put some music on and everyone milled about and ate and Sean wished his daughter was there, but he had Daniel and maybe one day she would come around. He was making sure to send her a copy of the book, for the future with her child. Daisy ran at him and he picked her up. “Proud of me?” he asked her.
She gave him a loud smacking kiss. “Yup.” She handed him a lolly. “You did good. And got a second lolly if you ask Mummy to bond with you. Been over a year and you promised we’d be peoples.”
“I can’t do it in front of all these people.”
“Do what?” Tilde asked.
“Nothing,” Sean replied.
“No, that is something face,” Tilde said. “Sean has a secret!” she called out.
“Who am I killing?” Harry asked.
“I can make audits happen,” Percival offered.
Merlin was changing Max’s butt and growled a little. “I’ll sic the whole government on them and crash their internet connection.”
“Darling, what’s wrong?” Michelle hurried over to him.
“Nothing wrong,” he said.
“He’s scared to ask you to bond,” Daisy said and Sean glared at her. “Well you are and I don’t know why. So there now you’ve asked her.”
“I haven’t?” Sean pointed out. “This is not asking.” The whole room was staring at him. “And now I’m asking so none of you murder me.”
Michelle kissed his jaw. “It’s fine love.”
“No it isn’t, because I do want to ask you, and just…I don’t even know what,” he said. “Old fears, silly fears, and we are a group that is fearless right?”
“I dislike spiders,” Merlin offered.
“Thanks,” Sean said. He took a deep breath and thought of the most romantic way he could phrase the proposal in this room full of interfering idiots. He had to show them up. “It would be swell if you would be my forever peoples,” was what came out of his mouth. Harry snickered. “Fuck, let me try that again.”
“No,” Michelle said. “It was perfect, and I very much want to be your forever peoples.”
“The ring is back home,” Sean said.
“That’s fine.” Her smile and scent filled the room with joy. “Everything is fine.”
“We’re gonna be peoples!” Daisy shouted and Sean kissed Michelle as the whole room clapped.
“I get to plan the bonding ceremony. Dibs!” Harry shouted out.
“Lord save us all,” Sean said. He heard a bottle of champagne open but couldn’t stop staring at Michelle. “It’s going to be insane.”
“Best insanity ever,” she said.
“I can’t wait,” Sean said and held her and Daisy tight.
"I'm confused," Sean said. "Why are you the ones with me?" He was at the tailors in London and it was Roxy and Percival helping him with his fitting for his bonding ceremony suit. Christopher was standing there, refusing to let the tailor touch him. Roxy growled at Christopher and he glared at her.
"Don't think you are going to pull that alpha-a shit with me," Christopher growled right back at her. "I'm plenty strong pup."
She bared her neck and then let her eyes fill. "I'm sorry, I just know how important it is for Michelle that this bonding ceremony be perfect, after what her past was like. Rushed for the first one, and we don't talk about the second. I just want a fairy tale for her and Sean." She sniffled a little and Christopher crumpled.
"Just nothing like that long legged wanker, just a simple black suit," Christopher said.
Roxy's eyes immediately dried. "Of course," she said. "Now then, to the pants please."
"She played me," Christopher said to Sean.
"Of course she did," Sean replied. "And I was willing to let her string you up, if it got you looking good for Michelle."
"Like she'll even be looking at me," Christopher replied. "But still, you were right? Why isn't it the other one?"
"Because we know suits, but Harry also knows dresses and is helping Michelle and Daisy," Percival replied.
"Couldn't Tilde help with that?" Sean asked. He thought about it. "Actually Harry has a better fashion sense than Tilde. Tilde wears a lot of wine cardigans."
"Once she didn't have to be a princess anymore, she decided to not give a crap about fashion," Roxy said. "And I think she would look amazing even in a paper bag."
"Melanie's the same," Christopher agreed. "And suppose she'd like to see me in clothes that don't have to have pig shit scraped off them. Let's do this."
"Excellent," Percival said. "I am very traditional in my suits, and Roxy has some of Harry's flare so we should suit you well." Percival smiled a bit, pleased with the pun. He phone beeped and he looked at the message. "Sean blue blue, blue green, teal, aqua, or -"
"I don't know," he replied. "Why would I know? Blue blue?"
"Very good," Percival said and put his phone away.
Across town, Harry nodded. "Great we've established an alibi," he said and put his phone away.
"I feel like this might be a mistake?" Michelle said. "Also, we should actually get me a dress?"
Harry sipped his cocktail and waved a hand. "I bought your bonding ceremony dress six months ago, you just need a final fitting."
"Six months ago?" Michelle stared at him. "That sure of us."
"Yes," Harry said. "A man in love in an eternal love can recognize it on others."
Michelle hugged him and Merlin kept reading the menu, moving it back and forth. "Dear god, I think I might need bifocals," he said. He looked at them. "Kill me before time ravages me any more. Take over the pack until Roxy is ready to lead. Raise my children as if they were your own."
"Or get laser eye surgery," Harry suggests. "I did."
"Then why do you still wear the glasses?" Michelle asked.
"I look good," he replied. "Percival likes them."
Michelle wondered why she even had to ask. "Oh lord, here they come," she said and offered a quick prayer to whatever god looked after morons like them. She hid behind the menu for a second and then put it down, determined to be brave. Harry squeezed her leg under the table and then nuzzled her pack bite to calm her down.
"Well, isn't that a sight," Robyn sneered. "Sean isn't bothered by all that?"
"No, why would he be?" Michelle stood up and went and hugged Daniel. "Hello, sweetie."
"Hey, Michelle," he said and hugged her tight. "How's it going? Plans coming along?"
"They are," she said. She sat back down. "That's actually what I want to talk to you about. The bonding is in three weeks, at the farm."
"So?" Robyn said. She sat when Daniel gave her a look. Reb sat too, a bit unsure.
"Sean would very much like it if his children were there," Michelle said. "We sent out the invitations a week ago, and there is still time to respond, but I thought maybe the personal touch was warranted."
"I don't see what that has to do with me," Robyn protested.
"I'll be there," Daniel said swiftly. "I'm looking forward to showing Oscar the farm."
"You'd take him to the place that Da chose over us?" Reb made a face. "How can you do that?"
"Reb, I've told you, Da isn't the devil," Daniel said.
"He abandoned us," she looked at Michelle. "He'll get bored being a parent to yours as well and just leave you high and dry, like he did us."
Merlin looked at Robyn and his scent was pretty high, the tables around them were feeling it. "I give ye one chance to fix this."
"He left," Robyn said.
"And you had nothing to do with that?" Harry replied. "I'm extending the one chance he gave you. Take it."
Robyn smiled at the waiter and ordered a martini. She smiled at them. "Sean admits he screwed up."
"You gaslight him, you bitch," Michelle snarled and Merlin wrapped a hand over her pack bite and she quieted.
"Harry," Merlin said calmly.
Harry pulled a file out of his briefcase and handed it to Reb. "Here is a list of every proven instance that your mother cheated on Sean with Jason." He smiled when Robyn paled. "Every statement that shows every cheque your father sent your mother. Witness signed testimony of times they heard Sean call and asked if maybe you kids were ready to see him, if he could come to your recitals." Harry's scent was pleased. "Several old coworkers talk about how much he talked about you and Daniel at the restaurant and I can provide a receipt that shows he had purchased an apron for you and your brother, for the day he reopened the butcher shop, hoping that maybe you would accept the invitation he had sent."
Reb's hands were shaking. "He didn't send an invite. Mummy had bought me a new dress to go, and then said he called to say he didn't want us there."
"You were that cruel?" Michelle asked. "I knew you were horrid, but that bad?"
Robyn's scent went sad and she let her eyes fill. "The divorce was so rough, you know what separating from a mate is like. And he never spent time with the kids and -"
Merlin's growl was low and deep and it froze everyone in a few metres around them. "Enough, no one manipulates like my pack. Fake tears? Please. I am tired of this and Sean is not of my pack but he is under my protection. You will tell your children the full truth about their relationship to their father and why it fell apart. And how much your hand was in it."
"It doesn't matter at this point, those years can't be gained back."
"No but we can have the ones moving forward," Daniel said. "Mum, I love you, but you kind of suck if people disappoint you. You didn't talk to me for two months when I refused to go to law school, and you barely acknowledge Edward and Oscar."
"An old omega who has a kid? You are just copying your father to defy me."
"Or I'm a man in my mid-twenties, living my life," Daniel said.
Harry looked at her. "Robyn, do you have any idea how dangerous we are?"
"I'm a partner in the best law firm in the city," she said. "Go ahead, threaten me, and I'll sue you."
"Yeah, good luck with that," Michelle muttered.
"Mum, haven't you googled them?" Daniel said.
"So they have a company and some money, the rest of what Michelle had said was made up."
"It wasn't," Daniel replied. "They have a princess of Sweden in their pack. She's renounced her position in line for the throne but before she did she was fourth in line. Fourth. Harry here is technically a baron?"
"Since my father passed, yes," Harry said. "My cousin has most of the family titles and is in the House of Lords. My mother is good friends with Princess Anne."
"They have a stupid amount of money and influence and well there are missing years in your wikipedia pages?" Daniel looked at them. "Also, you have wikipedia pages."
"One serves their country when called to it," Merlin replied.
"You don't have to come to the bonding ceremony," Michelle told Reb who looked shaken to her core. "He would love you there, but I also understand that it would be too much for you. Consider though, a letter to him?" Michelle looked at Robyn. "Consider yourself lucky I don't light you on fire."
"We have the means to destroy you," Merlin said. "I've killed people who hurt those I care about."
"I've killed more," Harry added helpfully. "I'm much better at hiding bodies, Merlin likes to make a show of it."
"You seem the sort, to leak all sorts of details about Sean to unsavoury press, especially as his book is doing very well and he has had a few telly appearances again. Don't," Merlin ordered. "Or we will unleash all of us on you. And the Mathe pack focused on a person, it is the greatest gift or the most unimaginable hell. Ye are better off in your life if we never think of ye again." Merlin finished his drink. "I want a big mac. I want to bring the toy back for Eggsy."
"A happy meal sounds delightful," Harry agreed and put some cash on the table. "Daniel, a suit is being delivered for you."
Daniel snorted a bit. "Of course it is."
Reb looked at Michelle. "Does he ever talk about me?"
"He does," she promised. Reb just nodded and looked at the file Harry gave her.
"I despise all of you," Robyn said.
"The feeling is entirely mutual," Harry assured her. "Ta!" The Mathe pack left and went to Mcdonalds and didn't mention the visit to any of the rest.
A week later Sean was beaming at dinner as he told them all about the letter Reb had sent opening the door between them. Merlin, Harry, and Michelle exchanged a private smile.
There was a knock on the door and Sean figured it had to be Christopher. "Not locked," he called out and Daisy came in. "Oh, look at you," he said.
"I have a princess dress," she said. "And wellies, because it rained and the ground is muddy. Hawwy is glawing at it to dwy it up." Daisy made a face.
"Excited or nervous?" he asked her and held open his arms. Daisy stomped over and let him hug her. "Can you try again for me?"
"Harry is glaring at the ground to dry it up. Eggsy and Daniel are helping Uncle Chris put down sheets of wood. Is the day ruined because it got rainy last night?"
"Not even a little. "Anyone who plans an outdoor bonding ceremony in September has to take what they can get," Sean said. "And wellies and a princess dress? That looks perfectly perfect to me."
Daisy lifted up the poofy skirt to show the wellies off. "They are red."
"Red is a great wellie colour," Sean agreed.
"Yup," she said.
They watched each other and waited. "I don't have a lolly to bribe you," she said finally. "I just was hoping you would agree."
"Well that all depends. You can't steal a pig."
"I know that."
"And you can't come on our honeymoon, you have school."
"I know," she huffed. "Eggsy will look after me."
"I'm not sure I can bring you back your weight in gelato," he said.
"Yeah, that would be tough." Daisy played with the ribbon at the waist of her dress. "I get to call you Daddy now right? And you don't mind?"
Sean reached into his pocket and pulled out a bracelet. "Had this made for you." It was a gold chain, delicate but not too thin, noticeable links, ones that charms could be added to. It had a lolly, a chef's hat, and a book already on it. "This? Any charm that goes on it, is because of our relationship, just yours and mine. It can go next to your Mathe bracelet there."
Daisy held out her arm and Sean put it on her. "Thank you, Daddy," she said.
"You are welcome, my heart. Now then, I bet people are missing you and I have to go stand on a piece of wood."
"See you out there," Daisy said and hurried out of the room. Sean went out to garden and sure enough there were sheets of wood to stand on.
"You were a fucking moron, we could have rented a hall. No no, had to be where you asked Michelle out for the first time," Christopher shouted. "And might I remind you, you cocked that up!" He dropped another piece of wood and it splashed water on his suit. "Great, just great. Now Melanie won't want to shag me. This suit had to cost a couple hundred pounds."
"800," Harry said as he delicately put down a piece and not a drop of water or mud was on his grey pinstripes.
"What the hell is wrong with you that you spent that on my suit?" Christopher asked.
"Well, the suit I would have preferred, would have been 1200, Percival suggested you would have found that excessive."
"Uh yeah?" Christopher replied. "Fancy mother fuckers."
"I made punch, drink a cup, you'll feel better," Harry said.
"Don't drink his punch until after the ceremony," Sean warned. "I want everyone sober."
"Too late," Daniel said. "I had one cup. I think I can feel the blood moving through my body." His cheeks were a little ruddy. Sean went over and straightened his tie.
"Never drink what the posh folks drink, you'll die." He smiled. "Edward, you look well. And that is a handsome suit, Oscar."
"My wellies are blue," Oscar said.
"They look fantastic," Sean promised. "Just wait until after the boring ceremony and you and Daisy can stomp in as many puddles as you want."
"Sweeeeet," Oscar said. He started eyeing up the best ones.
Merlin came out of the house. "Right, toddlers will stay clean for about two minutes, let's get this thing going." The small crowd moved to the chairs that had sunk slightly into the grass and sat down. At least the sun was shining now. Merlin moved to the front where a Fred jr was waiting. Christopher and Daniel moved beside him.
"Ready?" Christopher asked. "Time to run away."
"No," Sean said. "I could never run from her." He watched at the door as Tequila tried to get Zoe, Izzy, and Hunter to behave.
"PULLES!" Hunter shouted and ran and jumped in the biggest one he could find. Harry groaned and went to collect him.
"Huh, he beat my two minute guess, well played," Merlin said with an impressed nod. The three toddlers were all picked up by a parent and carried down the small aisle, Hunter at arms length from Harry. Hunter waved at Sean.
"Goo Pulles," he said.
"They are good puddles," Sean agreed. He looked over and Daisy came walking with a small bouquet of flowers and looking perfect. "Oh my heart," he said. He smiled as she resisted the lure of a puddle, so very grown up.
He looked to the door and saw Eggsy, with Max in a sling, looking quite attractive in his suit. Michelle must be beside him only they weren't moving.
"Oi," Eggsy shouted. "Mum is in heels that will get stuck in the mud and I'm carrying a baby, so someone want to help a damsel in distress here? Like the guy who wants to bond with her?"
Everyone laughed and Sean hurried over. He saw Michelle and was stunned and tripped on the edge of some of the wood and landed on his knees in the wet grass.
Michelle didn't think, just kicked off her heels and ran to him in her stockings. She helped him up. "Mutual rescue," she said.
"Story of us, isn't it?" Sean said. He looked at his knees which were sodden and stained. "I can change."
"You look perfect." Michelle kissed his jaw. "Wet grass and stockings feels gross."
Sean picked her up and carried her forward. "Think we're ready to go here," he said and put her down carefully.
Eggsy came and sat beside Merlin and Zoe. "You want your shoes, Mum?" he asked.
"I'm good," she said.
"I like the blue blue," Sean replied, looking at her flower crown and dress. "Blue blue is great."
"You are great."
"So are you."
"Oh, come on, save it for the honeymoon," Christopher said. "It's gross this much sappy on people your age. You there, get them bonded so we can all get drunk on the fumes of that giant bowl of punch over there."
Fred jr, began the bonding ceremony and it was perfect. When Sean lifted his hands to cup Michelle's face to kiss her, Merlin let out a pleased growl at seeing the Mathe bracelet on Sean's wrist.
Children could not be contained any longer and puddles were jumped in. Food was eaten and people danced on the sheets of wood. Sean never let go of Michelle. Hamish had made a beautiful cake, and the fairy lights twinkled as the sun went down. Eventually Merlin and Christopher had to push Michelle and Sean to their car to get them headed out to their hotel.
"Why can't we enjoy our own party?" Sean protested.
"Because you are old and will want to shag your new wife still tonight," Christopher said. "Now go, have fun in Italy."
"Fine fine," Sean said. Michelle laughed and gave Daisy a last kiss as the girl came running over in a filthy princess dress. They drove to the hotel and realized they were exhausted. When they fell asleep in each other's arms, Sean whispered, "My brother can never know I was too tired to shag you tonight."
"I'll take the secret to my grave," she promised
When they were in Italy he more than made up for that night. Several times over. They were having dinner on their last night of the trip when he laughed to himself. "I guess all my stuff has been moved into the estate now how?"
Michelle looked at him confused. "Why would it be?"
"Well bonded now, moving me all the way in right?"
She smiled at him. "They promised you."
"Promised me what?"
"No more breaking in," she explained. "They won't have moved you in, because they won't break into your house. And sure we'll move some more things, but Sean, it will stay the same. Friday and Saturday nights are for the three of us at your cottage."
Sean realized in that second how much he loved Michelle, and just how much she loved him. "That is the best wedding gift ever," he said.
"Oh, shame, been saving a little something for tonight," she said with a wink.
He signaled for the cheque.
"Sean you need anything packed?" Michelle asked looking at her watch. Clothes moved so much between the estate and the cottage it was hard to remember where the clean underwear was. "Sean?"
"Comfy," Sean said. Usually Daisy and Michelle came to the cottage after school and work on Fridays but this had been a nasty January, weather wise, and a storm had rolled in and school had been cancelled and most of the shops stayed closed. No one had moved from the estate. "There'd be ice. Cozy," he said. Max was on his lap. He had been fussing recently, teething early and it seemed Grandpa had the magic touch. "No go," he said.
Everyone else in the room was very quiet.
"You sure?" Michelle asked into the silence.
"Go bad, here good," Sean said. He yawned. "Here means less moving."
"It does," Michelle said and settled back into the couch. Daisy snuggled into her. Everyone acted like it was no big deal. This was just one week, they'd be back to the cottage next weekend.
By March, Sean had put it up for sale.
He didn't cry when he was shown to a room on the third floor, down a hall no one went down normally and was shown an office where he could work on the blog and the new cook book he had started notes for. Harry had installed a lock that needed his personal palm scan to open. It was a perfect space. Just for him.
Daisy regularly did her homework in there with him.
"Oi, what's this then about being a guest judge on a telly show?" Sean asked storming into the bathroom.
Roxy kept showering. "What's the big deal?"
"Maybe I should have been consulted?" he asked.
"It's a kid's cooking challenge, ones who use the community centre we did your book launch at," she said and washed her hair.
"You bitch," he said, he couldn't resist something like that.
"Hey good publicity and you get to watch kids cook and help them a little? How does anyone lose out?" She rinsed her hair. She looked at him. "Sean, you want to think where you are?"
Sean looked around and realized he was staring at Roxy's tits. "Fuck, how am I in here?"
"Welcome to being infected."
"Kiss my arse," he said. "Not infected." He quickly left the bathroom though. This pack was sneaky like that. They asked him before they did anything crazy, as though they wouldn't do it anyways. And his Not an Idiot mug was a prized position. He wasn't giving it up like how Eggsy had to turn in his Idiot Tamer mug for one that said Idiot Tamer and Minor Idiot. He wasn't falling.
He went up to the shop. Carving up some ribs would soothe him.
The whole family room was quite. Zoe pointed at the telly. "Grandpa won."
"Is it bwoken?" Hunter asked.
"Nae," Merlin said. They stared at Mario Kart in confusion. "Nae, Sean won."
"That can't be right," Sean said. He stared at the controller in his hand and then the screen. "Babe?"
Michelle was cradling Max in her arms. "No babe, you won."
"Daddy you won! You won your first ever Mario Kart!" Daisy held out her hand for a fist bump and then Sean was surrounded. The whole pack was losing his shit, hugging him, shouting at him, like he had won an olympic medal, or cured cancer, not won Mario Kart for the first time ever with them. Three years he had been playing Mario Kart with them, and tonight he won.
And they were all sincerely, astoundingly happy, about such a stupid thing.
"Merlin?" Sean said staring at the man, at the alpha who took stupid good care of him, even though Sean wasn't pack. Who was in his way a goddamn amazing alpha, and who did nothing but love all of them.
"Aye?" Merlin replied. He was taking a screenshot of Sean's win and not paying attention.
"I declare you my pack alpha, my actions will only bring you honour and pride, your will is my will, your wish is my wish," Sean said formally.
"Holy fucking shit," Eggsy said and his mouth dropped open.
"Wow, lotsa bad words," Zoe said. "Daddy said naughties."
Michelle eased Max off his lap and went over. She grabbed Sean's hand. "Babe?"
"This is right," Sean said. "Can't explain why it is this, and now, but yeah. Let's do this."
"Do it before he loses the high of winning Mario Kart," Harry said.
Daisy came over and hugged Sean tight. "Daddy, you are one of us?"
"He already was," Merlin told her. "Now just adds a little extra layer of one of us."
"One of us, one of us," Roxy chanted.
"Now you are making it creepy," Sean complained and turned his head to yell at her and all of a sudden Merlin was biting him and then licking it clean. Sean thought he'd feel something. Different. But it just felt like all of them. With a sting. "Ow."
"Don't be a baby," Merlin said. He hugged Sean tight. "I'll nae welcome ye to the pack because you were already ours."
"Thanks," Sean replied. He looked at Michelle. "Sorry I didn't consult first? It just sort of popped out."
"Winning Mario Kart, changes a man," she said solemnly. "It looks good."
"Matches you," he said. He pulled Michelle in for a kiss and the room cheered.
"Now, let's see if I can win again," Sean said.
He came in last and didn't care.
He had won everything he could have dreamed of years ago, when Michelle went on that first date with him.