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War at Heart – Epilogue

Here it is peeps, the very final chapter, the Epilogue of War at Heart! It’s been a hell of a run and saying thank you for all the support and encouragement and whatnot over the past year and half has been utterly fantastic and amazing. I hope that one day if I start using this writing obsession for my ‘own’ stuff, the support will half as great! Enjoy & as always, love to hear what you think!

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Sookie:

“There?”

“Hmm a little higher I think.”

“Here?”

“Perfect.” I nodded as the decorator was putting the final touches to our living room, our new much more comfortable and liveable living room, that did not look so much like a museum as before and more like a home. A home that held a family or would soon hold a family. The renovations had taken months, the paperwork for the boys, had taken months, and well, something else was taking a few more months to be done too, but that I would get to later.

The first few days we spent with the boys were wonderful, after the initial awkwardness, we grew to be a little team of sorts but literally as Eric decided he wanted to play all sports known to man with the brothers, to figuratively as we got to know each other. Then we saw them, once a week for a month, and each time it got harder and harder to bring them back to that place, to watch them disappear behind those big old doors to a place where no one loved them.

We loved them.

All it took was a few days, and tentative like and curiosity turned to love, just like that. I worried for them, about them, I wanted them to be clean and fed and taken care of, just like that. I surprised even myself with just how quickly it happened too. Eric did not need those few days, I think he loved them from the minute he talked to them, not that Jack said much to him, but Henry had taken to Eric like a duck to water, they got along famously, and not one part of me didn’t think it was the most adorable thing ever, either.

“Sookie, come see this! Come see this!” Eric came in from the grounds covered in mud, wearing his riding boots and looking like he had just ran a race, but the great big smile on his face told me worry wasn’t what I should be feeling. Instead, I let him take me by the hand and all but run us outside, to the side of the larger gardens, through the trees, to the big oak that sat in the middle.

“You didn’t…”

He smiled at my disbelief.

“All boys should have a tree house, it’s only right.”

All the noise and the disappearing act, he and Joe, the carpenter that was adding some things to the house, had been out of my hair all day every day for a week, then I saw why.

“You built them a tree house? Eric…”

“I know, I know, nothing’s final yet, I know. But you’re just as bad.”

“It’s a bedroom, and beds, all of which we had already I haven’t been building things!” I waved my hand at the giant tree house starting about six feet up the giant and ageless tree.

“It’s amazing, you want to come see?”

The climb seemed a bit much for how I was feeling, how I had been feeling for a couple of weeks. I declined, but admired it from afar anyway.

“We’re collecting them at ten on Saturday, this is the weekend they get to sleep over, remember?” I said knowing that he did, of course, he did we hadn’t stopped talking about it since we were allowed the pervious Saturday.

“I know, I think we should get them to make the boys something nice, simple, less… fancy. Kids don’t really like fancy food, kids who spend most of their time in an orphanage even less so I would imagine.”

I nodded.

“Sook?” He asked, concerned as he cupped my face in his hands. “You still feeling unwell?”

“A little… I can’t shake this bug. I blame all the sports you have been making me play. I’m not built for sports.”

“A little tennis never killed anyone.” He smiled.

“No, but the tennis, the cricket, and the ‘let’s show them the grounds’ hike almost did, in the one day.” I sighed, not angry at all, but pretending to be, he just grinned at me like a fool.

“They had a good time though, I think… maybe we should slow things down though, maybe it’s too much?”

I took his hand then, as we made our way back to the house.

“No, you’re excited and it’s great, I love seeing it, unless they don’t want to, I say keep on keeping on, I just … I just hate it.”
“It?”

“Sending them back there, to that place every time.”

He nodded then as we stopped at the bench under another tree, one facing the rest of the land.

“I know, but soon the process will be over and they’ll get to stay here always and we can finally relax… it won’t be so long I don’t think.”

We sat in silence then, and I started to feel tired, so tired, I had been feeling this way on and off for a few weeks. I blamed it on the new stress, I blamed the new germs from the boys and the orphanage, I blamed what I ate, I blamed just about everything except for that one thing I wouldn’t allow myself to blame.

The next day, Eric all but ordered me to see the doctor in town. I obliged and even drove myself, his disbelieve in my driving skills aside, but I thought I was a great driver. We bickered about it constantly but it was the kind of bickering I knew we both secretly enjoyed.

Bloods were taken, chats were had, and I was to go back in a week and see what it was all about. I was still convinced it was a bug. I had the boys distracting me, the house was in chaos top to bottom, and everything was in a spin, but it was the best kind of crazy that I could remember having.

“Sookie?” Jack began when I found him in the stables with the horses, having left the three of us in the garden a half hour before, we let him have his space – we weren’t there to smother the boy – or to force him into feeling relaxed with us. With Henry it was a little easier, he was younger and it didn’t take much to get him on side, Jack was another ball game entirely though, and that was okay.

“There you are, we’ve been wondering where you got to. Dinner’s ready, if you’re hungry, then we have to get you boys back before they get annoyed at us.” This was how it was, for weeks, every weekend they had to be left back and I hated it, they hated it, but it had to be done.

For the time being.

“It’s chicken and stuffing.” I added and his face lit up. “And roast potatoes and gravy, Henry said it was your favourite.”

Yeah, we were sneaky.

He nodded enthusiastically and even took my hand on the way back inside, it made my heart swell, and it made Eric smile when he saw us enter the dining room in such a manner. We left them back washed and dressed in new clothes we’d taken them shopping for that afternoon, and well fed. It was almost enough to keep us content for another week as we promised we’d call at the same time as usual.

Almost.

 “Mrs Northman, good to see you again.” My doctor greeted me as I walked in and sat down almost a week later, the results of my bloods were in and it was time to find out exactly what I was dealing with.

I wasn’t prepared at all for what came out of his mouth.

“Sookie, you’re pregnant.”

I blinked and I swore I could hear my blood in my ears. I felt dizzy and a little sick.

“No.”

“I’m sorry?”

“No… that’s not what it is, it’s something else.”

“It’s really not, Sookie. You are pre-“

“No I’m not! You know how I know? Because they told me it was slim to none even with the operations and I still held on to hope, and it didn’t happen and we tried for a year… Doctor I’m not pregnant. I’m just… sick or something. It’s a bug.”

“It is a little bug that will go away in about seven months give or take.” He smiled at his joke.

Seven months?!

“What?”

“Sookie you’re about seven weeks pregnant, give or take.”

I blinked and I inhaled, I still did not buy it.

“No.”

“Yes.”

“Doctor… no.”

“Sookie, yes. See here? Your bloods clearly indicate it and if you would like I can examine you again, I knew on our last visit but I wanted to make completely sure before telling you. I know your history…”

“So then you know, all the pain and the operation and the trying and the waiting and nothing and now just when I’d fully let go for the idea of having my own baby… this… this…” I was having a panic attack, I was sure of it. I had to calm myself down.

They gave me some water and opened the window where I sat, and for twenty minutes, I just sat there trying to take in my news, tried to allow myself to believe it was real. After that, I had another appointment booked for two weeks’ time, and I was to go home and celebrate. The drive home, on the all but empty road, with views of the lakes and the mountains, trees and nature, the ultimate claim hid my internal anxiety. Why now? Why after all this time of worry and waiting? Why now when I had forced myself to let go of the idea of a biological child… was fate just cruel or was she on another schedule to us entirely? I walked into the house in somewhat of a daze, no one was around and I had no idea where Eric was. Therefore, I went to some familiar faces, finding Amelia and Lafayette in the kitchen alone was a godsend.

“Well Mrs Northman you sure are looking….sullen and pale today.” Lafayette began with sass but ended in concern. “What’s wrong? Did the doctors not go well?”

“W-where is everyone else?” I was in a true daze.

“Oh, Mr Northman decided they got the morning off since no one was going to be home and he’s at that meeting and you were in town, so they’re all scattered to the winds until lunch.”

“Oh.” I said taking a seat at their table, Ames handed me a cup of tea without so much as asking. I took it without a word.

“You okay?” She began.

“No I’m fine, why didn’t you both take the morning off?”

“Well…” she said. “Sam and Sam are at home, with flu so they’re staying in their flu bubble without me for as long as possible. And besides, I had work to do here, even if as a Lady’s maid I’ve been less and less use to you lately.” She rolled her eyes playfully.

“Best thing about the new fashions, we can dress ourselves now and not take a day to do it.” I muttered before sipping my tea. “I um, I have to talk to Eric, he said he’d be back around now, right?”

“Yes Ma’am, said if we were still here that he’d like something small around twelve, we have soup and sandwiches, for you too if you’re hungry?”

I could not face food, not right then.

“No, thank you. He’ll love that though, I…” I was distracted and confused so I was sure I wasn’t the best company to be in that morning. “I’m going to go upstairs, I have a few letters to write, one to Pam that’s beyond overdue…” I figured if I wrote down what I was, it would make it more real, if I told Pam, by the time she got the letter Eric would know and maybe then I would feel like it was a reality. As it stood then, it still felt like dream.

I hadn’t been sick, morning sickness at least, I felt like I had gained weight but that was a fact I chalked up to all the huge meals and sweet stuffs Lafayette was experimenting with on us. Maybe they were right, at the hospital, maybe all it took was time. In our case a whole lot of time.

I heard Eric then, shuffling up the stairs and into his library, I got to him before he managed to close the door. He looked surprised.

“Hello you. You are home early; I thought you were going into town after… Sookie are you okay? You seem …pale. God, it wasn’t bad news was it?” He took my hands and led me inside, we sat on his leather couch that took pride of place across from his desk, where he would sleep off his hangovers before I started working at the Estate, he would tell me.

“I … no it … it was good news… great news actually I’m just having a hard time accepting it because hey, it’s us and let’s be honest we don’t really get great news all that often… do we? So really, I think I’m just panicking because I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop and the boom to lower and for us to realise that this is terrible and awful and something bad is going to –“

“Sookie, Sookie! Hey!” He said, cupping my face in his hands, making me face him. “You’re rambling and you’re scaring me. What did the doctor say, Sweetheart?”

I looked at him then, and squeezed his hands as I told him our news, only to watch his eyes light up and the rest of his face to follow. It was beyond beautiful.

“Seriously?!”

“No I would make this up, of course seriously!” I said getting a little excited then, he stood us up before squeezing the life out of me in a giant Eric sized hug where my feet were lifted off the ground. I could do nothing but laugh, and his laugh followed.

“We’re seriously having a baby?!”

“Seven weeks and counting.” I said after he set me down, both of us still grinning like fools.

“My God Sookie… what are the odds?!”

“Slim to none, very slim… we knew that… we knew that’s why we agreed to adopt.”

“The boys… God… does this even happen? How do we tell them? When do we tell them?”

“Not yet…”

“But …”

“We have to; I know that, but not yet. They’ve had a bad history with being wanted then unwanted when the woman got pregnant, remember?”

“Of course, but we would never do that, we’re their parents now…. We just need to make it official, they know that.”

“They do, but I want it to be further along, on both counts, with this little one,” I said touching my stomach, for the first time since finding out, it was as if I was scared to before. “And with the adoption process. Please?”

He nodded and embraced me in a hug once more, pulling back to look at me as we embraced together, both of us grinning still.

“I can’t believe it…,” he said shaking his head.

“Me either, my god, me either.” I was only now starting to let it sink in, the shock of it all subsiding somewhat.

“Do you think it was all the fresh air and country living that did it?” he said with a grin and a glint in his eyes.

“No, I think it was all our fucking in the fresh air and countryside that did it, but we won’t tell people that little detail.” He kissed me then, powerful and passionate as always, this one almost making me see stars.

“I can’t believe we’re going to have three children in less than a year…” he laughed. “The ultimate of be careful what you wish for I suppose?”

“I suppose so.” I beamed.

“I couldn’t wish for anything better though, truly. It will be manic and crazy but…I think we can deal with manic and crazy.”

I think if anyone could, we could.

EPOV:

She was pregnant; I could not really wrap my head around it as I was sure she couldn’t. We were in a daze  for a few days after the news, but we soon got used to the idea, and Sookie began realising her slight weight gain hadn’t been down to Lafayette and his over-use of butter in just about everything he cooked. Nope, there was a baby, and it was on its way for us – the boys and us.

It took us another three weeks of weekend visits with the boys before we were deemed safe enough that they could come live with us, while the paperwork was being finalised and everything was viewed as above board. We had the most fun picking out paint for their new bedroom, bed linen they might have liked, and even more clothes, hell; even Pam sent things over with a note saying she herself would be there soon to follow. I knew that made Sookie as pleased as it made me, Pam was a fantastic friend and an even better guest to have around, and I knew the boys would love her oddball sense of humour.

Henry and I quickly became two peas in a pod, while Jack, the older boy, seemed to take much more quickly to Sookie. Where Henry liked to play outside with all manner of toys and wooden swords and seemed to love to climb and be around nature and the animals, Jack was the more silent one who liked to watch those around him, or read. I understood Jack more than I understood Henry, our personalities were more similar, but we did not connect instantly as Henry and I had. I knew it was something that weighed on Sookie as the months passed, and soon there was no denying she was with child, as she grew round and swollen and wonderful – even if she thought she looked horrific, I thought she looked beautiful and full of life. We were overly careful the first couple of months after we got her news, she dared not get on the horses, she rarely walked further than the grounds allowed, carrying heavy items was entirely out of the question as far as I was concerned, and basically she was all but wrapped in cotton wool by my standards. And our sex life went from exciting to very safe, just in case we got too rough or too… us. At least for the first few months, then there was less stress as she grew, and we realised she liked sex a lot more while pregnant, even if she felt ‘ugly as sin’.

 The boys took the news well, Sookie and I sat them down, just as she was starting to really show and explained to them what was going on. We saw the fear in Jack’s eyes in those moments, and it broke my heart and made me more protective over him, and his brother, more than ever before. She explained away their fears though, there was cake and tea, and cuddles and they seemed more at ease afterward for which I was thankful. Sookie was big on cuddles, even when they protested, they got at least one a day. I knew Henry at least secretly loved having a mother that cuddled, having been in care for so long as a very young boy.

“Boys?!” Came Sookie’s voice from the side of the house, we had taken over the grass to the left of the house for our activities, Jack was reading under a tree not far from us, Henry was covered in mud from his ankles to his knees.

Sookie pursed her lips when she saw the state of him; she folded her arms just about her prominent six month along bump before she spoke.

“Eric, really?”

“Nothing a little soap and water won’t fix.” I defended making him laugh. Jack looked to Sookie from his book, and then looked back to his reading.

“Dinner will be ready in about a half hour, I was going to suggest you come in and clean up, now I think I must demand it.”

“I have to walk Thor.”

“Good, that’s good. Jack can go with you, that sound good, Jack?” She offered but I could see Jack really didn’t want to.

“Sook… if he doesn’t want to he doesn’t –“

“I think you both need a little walk…” her tone was firm as the boy approached her. I pretended I couldn’t hear and that I was merely collecting the junk we’d spread over the grass in our playtime. But he was nervous around me, still.

“Sookie… I don’t think I can, not… now. Maybe… Henry would like to go instead.” He whispered to her and I felt a pang of what felt like guilt in my chest, but I did not know why I felt guilty really. I had tried to get the boy to warm to me, but I was not going to force him.

“Henry needs to come inside and get washed up for dinner, and I think you and Eric could do with a little time alone, to talk…”

“About what?” he asked almost in a panic.

Sookie shrugged.

“Whatever you feel like talking about. He won’t bite, I promise. He’s just a big tall kid underneath that scowl.” She nudged him toward me, and I wanted to protest at her description of me, but then that would have given my listening away.

I whistled for Thor and off the three of us went, in silence for the first ten or so minutes, before I bit the bullet and spoke.

“Sookie is great you know, she’s really relaxed about a lot of things, but my God when that woman gets a bee in her bonnet about something, no one escapes.”

He laughed looking at the ground as we walked but still didn’t make eye contact.

“You know it’s okay if you don’t want to talk, Sookie is big on talking, and before I met her I wasn’t so big on talking. I used to actually spend a lot of my time alone, sort of locked up in my office, just reading or… mostly reading.” The boy didn’t need to know about my debilitating drinking habit. “But she’s American, so I give her a pass.”

He smiled again. Progress.

I knew why he was weary; we had gotten their backstory from the manager of the orphanage. Their home life had not been the easiest of times, their father was a soldier but he was messed up after the war as so many of them were, and he took it out on his wife and his boy. Henry escaped the brunt of it because it was just a baby, but we all knew that Jack was the one that remembered. Their mother died, and they were left with him for a year before he drank himself to death, then they were shipped here to Scotland from London to live with their grandmother, only for her to pass not six months later. To say they had it rough was an understatement, and to say that Jack feared men, was another.

“She’s a nice lady, she’s kind and funny…and her cakes are …well they’re great like her.”

I agreed with him.

“You know she’ll be needing your help, when the new baby comes, we’ve never really got a chance to be around babies, so we might not know what to do.” I offered. “But you have, right?”

He nodded.

“I was only wee when Henry came but I remember some things. They cry a lot, babies.”

“That they do.”

“And pee… they pee just about everywhere… its funny.”

I suppose it was. The clean up probably less so.

“But I think any baby Sookie has might be a nice baby… your … your baby too… I mean you’re nice… you’re both nice not that she is and you’re not.” He was nervous, poor thing. I stopped walking then and halted Thor, and took a seat in the grass.

“Its’ okay you know? If you don’t like me as much as her? She amazing so I get it, I really do. But just know okay? That I’m here for you both as well, and I would never let anything bad happen to you, either of you.”

He nodded and I hoped he understood that I never meant him any harm.

“She’s also insisting on a tutor to come for you both, a few hours a day, so that when time comes to start school you’ll be all caught up, it won’t be so bad, we’ll get someone nice.”

He nodded.

“That’s okay, the school at the orphanage was easy, they didn’t teach us much, but ‘cause I knew how to read I taught Henry early, our Grandmother insisted we knew at least that much, said no one gets on in life without it.”

“She was right.”

“Sookie said her parents died, and she went to live with her grandmother, just like us, that’s funny isn’t it. Funny strange, not funny ha-ha.” He blushed.

“It is funny strange, but that just means she knows what it’s like to be scared like that.”

“I’m not scared!”

“No I just mean… I just mean of all the change. Change is a scary thing sometimes, going from place to place, then to the orphanage …then to here. It can’t be easy, just know you have all the time in the world to get used to it, and to us… to me.”

“Is it true that Sookie was your maid?” He asked curiously, and I knew she had told him.

“She wasn’t my maid, she was the house maid… but yes. That’s how we met.”

“So she was poor, like us?”

I nodded. It wasn’t something Sookie was ashamed of, not any more.

“And she had no one and you had no one even though you lived here with Lord Niall?”

I nodded again.

“And she helped you…”

“Helped me?”

He nodded then.

“Miss Amelia said… she said Sookie helped you come back to life. Where you dying, Eric?”

I smiled then, Amelia wasn’t half wrong in her assessment of Sookie and but I could see why the boy was confused.

“I was very sad, for a long time, and I wasn’t much for company… much like you now, I sort of … well I liked to keep myself to myself as much as I could.”

“I like the quiet.” He admitted. “Sometimes with Henry there’s so much noise and so many questions and at the orphanage, there’s never silence. I like it here, here has silence when I want it to.”

I understood that completely.

“Well, hey, any time you think you might need,” I looked out on to the vast but silent mountains in front of us, the lake below us, and the fields around us and sighed. “Any silent time, now or when the baby comes, you let me know… I’d be more than happy to come out here and be silent with you.” I smiled making him smile.

“Okay.” He said quietly petting Thor who had come to sit at his feet.

“Okay then. Should we go back? I don’t know about you but I’m starving, and I hear there’s ice-cream for afters!”

That got a smile from him, thankfully, and from there, we started to build something and we would keep on building it every rain free day we had, Sookie sent Jack with me on our walks, and we got to know each other better over the days, one day after the next. She was a sneaky one, my wife and she knew that is how we got to know each other, and got away from it all at the start. We would walk and talk and ultimately we fell in love. With Jack all we were aiming for was a little trust, the love would come when it came, and for me that was more than enough for the time being, and I knew for him to the building blocks of our relationship literally started with a single step.

Speaking of single steps, by the time Sookie’s due date arrived that was about all she could make, a few single steps, and then a lay down was necessary. She blew up, big as a house she said, but I was not there to judge as long as they were both healthy and happy, we knew the baby was happy, it refused to come out, so comfortable inside all nice and warm and peaceful. On the outside though, that was a whole other ball game, Sookie at nine and a half months pregnant, with two boys, and Pam running around her feet, well, she was irritable at best, downright demonic at worst. But the sleepless nights and getting kicked out of bed for ‘breathing too loud’ were all worth it when she came, Evelyn Elizabeth arrived, took her two weeks and eighteen hours over due to finally feel like she was ready to meet us, but when she did we were all there to see her. Pam was with Sookie through most of the birth, at her request and against the norm, I was also allowed in while it was all happening too, much to the annoyance of the doctors. The boys were at home for most of it but we brought them over near the end, wanting everyone to meet her almost at the same time, so no one felt left out.

 I brought them into the room where Sookie laid, all cleaned up, smiling, but tired, understandably so. They gingerly entered, both of them almost afraid to rush.

“Hello you two, have you been terribly bored out there? We wanted to leave it as long as we could before bringing you over, I don’t know about you but I hate hospitals.” She said looking from them to the baby in her arms. “There’s someone we want you to meet, come here.”

Both boys looked from her to me and I nodded, lifting Henry, then Jack up onto the big old hospital bed so they could see her.

“This is Evelyn, or Evie as Pam has already dubbed her.” Sookie rolled her eyes playfully at that, not an hour old and already she had a nickname. “She’d like to meet her brothers, if that’s okay with you.”

Jack let out a sigh of relief I was not even sure he was aware of, and he smiled finally. After almost days of worry on his face, he was relieved. I still hated that the boys had been through so much disappointment at such a young age, but we were working on fixing that, bit by bit. Sookie handed over the baby to Jack first, and he took her as if she were made of the most delicate glass.

“She’s pretty.” He said to her as softly as he could where as his little brother had other ideas.

“She’s all mushy.” Henry commented petting her little hands.

“Well, she’s been cooped up for a long time, she’ll stretch out soon.” Sookie said with a laugh.

“Oh, that’s okay then.” He nodded as if now he was okay with the fact she was still a little red and new.

“You think we can handle her?” She asked them and me as I took a seat beside her, on the now very crowded bed.

“I think we can.” Jack said confidently. “She needs us, look how tiny she is. She needs all of us to take care of her.”

With that, Sookie looked to me with a relived smile. I knew she was worried they would reject her or not like the idea of a new baby, being such a new stitched together family ourselves, but now it seemed it was all worry for nothing.

                                                            ****

“Children are sticky creatures, so sticky.” Pam said exasperated as she took a seat on the couch beside Sookie who was nursing Evie.

“How so?”

“Those boys… they are into everything. Did you know the pond has frogs? Well there are frogs, one of which was then put down my back as I was sitting in the garden. I fail to see the humour in this.” She said shuddering.  “They ran away giggling… remind me again why I like them?”

“Because.” I spoke up. “You’d do the exact same if you could get away with it.”

She smirked.

“That is true. How is the little one, besides enjoying Sookie’s amazing breasts on a bi-hourly basis today.”

“She’s great actually, bit appetite, great for her, bad for the comfort.” Sookie winced. I could not imagine what that felt like, but I gathered it could not have been pleasant. Evelyn was already a month old, and growing like a weed, she was going to be tall that’s for sure, something I was rather proud of since she’d clearly get it from my side of things. She had Sookie’s nose and her ears, but she had long narrow fingers like mine and she was a long baby, even from birth. She was a great mix of both of us, and for many a night after we took her home we would just lay in bed with her, almost marvelling at her and how she was really here, safe and sound.

Life was good, and I felt complete in way I never felt before, never even knew I was incomplete. Funny old thing, life isn’t it?

SPOV:

There we were, suiting the boys out for their uniforms with Evie on my hip, and Eric choosing their shirts, and I still heard the whisperings. It was the one thing I missed about New York; it did not have that small town mentality that was so evident where we lived. Of course, I was used to the stares and the whispers by then, I had been married to Eric long enough now that it did not bother me like it once had. However, the boys, the whisperings about them is what I hated most now. I would hear them, the ladies, the gents, the street sweeper even.

“There she goes the maid that fucked her way into a title…with her bastard children she snatched from an orphanage of all places.”

“I wonder if that baby is even really hers! Or did she buy it too with his money!”

“You’d think if you were to marry the maid it would be only because you got her pregnant I wonder what took them so long!”

I heard it all and more, and now they were being dragged into it too.

I held my head high and I ignored it. Nevertheless, Eric sensed there was something wrong and by the time we got back to the house, sent the boys to try on their clothes, and sent Evie with her Nanny to have her nap, I was all but dragged into the living room to tell him what was bothering me.

“Nothing, it’s nothing.”

“That face is not nothing. Tell me, love.”

I all but pouted and I was not very proud of my childish reaction, but damnit, how dare they!

“It’s just this town and these people and their narrow minds when it comes to certain things; you know they still don’t speak to Lafayette? And they talk about me like I’m the topic of every conversation, even when I go into town with Amelia or even Pam, all they do is point and whisper… now its worse. It is worse because I don’t care what they say about me, I never have, not really. But the boys…” My voice broke without my permission then.

“I see…”

“It’s unfair to them, they have nothing to do with our past or mine or whatever it is that’s causing the gossip. We did a good thing, we’re good people, and I just hate it.”

“Those boys are resilient, and we’re here to back them up.”

“What if it starts at school?”

No doubt, it would, it was a private boarding school not far from where we lived, and they would school there but board here. There was no way we were subjecting them to another institution, even if this one was a small fortune in fees.

“Then we deal with it. We deal with it like we have everything else, head on.” He stroked my cheek then. “Breathe, okay?”

With that I did finally date a deep breath I had not realised I was holding.

“It’ll be okay, everything will be okay, and if it’s not… we’ve got it.” He smiled before planting a soft kiss on my forehead. “Just as we can handle everything else the world throws at us.”

“We’ve come so far you and I.” I said looking around my living room, mine, and ours, that in itself was a small miracle. The boys were another, Evie was one too, none of which would have been possible without the ‘he and I’ part of the story. I forgot that, sometimes. I forgot how far we’d come. It suddenly steeled my resolve.

“We’ve come far, but we’ve got miles to go still.”

“I can’t think of a person I’d rather travel those miles with, other than you.” He said with such earnest sweetness that it still took me by surprise even after all this time. I loved that man and I loved how he loved me, and how it all, just made me want to be a stronger woman. The support, the encouragement, the acceptance, from day one, from the day I met him it was there. I only hoped… no I knew I was able to do the same for him now. I saw it in him every day, I saw it with our boys, our daughter, I saw the life in his eyes there always now, where before I only got to see it in flashes.

It made me proud, proud of how far we had come.

I nudged us then, against the living room door, shutting it quietly. Knowing the staff were busy, knowing the boys were with Pam, knowing Evvie was probably drifting off the land of nod. Knowing I had that room and that man all to myself, knowing I could have him and I would have him. Suddenly the voices of the people in town did not matter, not when his was so much stronger and louder and much more truthful.

I had to focus on that, and I would.

Our kisses were second nature now, we had a dance that we knew the steps to like the back of our own hands, and soon the room was silent only for the sounds of our kisses and the rustling of our clothes. His shirt, my dress, his jacket, my underwear, followed by his – all of it pushed aside or yanked away to get where we wanted to go, to do what we needed and wanted to do. And it seemed what he needed to then and there was drop to his knees and bury his head between my thighs and cause me to grip one hand onto the door handle, and another in his soft dirty blonde hair.

God that man knew what he was doing, I thought, as I always did when we did this, like this, just like this. Gently lapping followed by his fingers, followed by his kisses all of it aimed right at my pleasure core, all of it succeeding epically in giving me that pleasure. My toes curled as he knew they would, my grip tightened, all just as he delved deeper, wrapping one of my legs on his shoulder to go as deep as he could.

I panted, trying so hard to keep my voice low for the fear of the staff, or the boys hearing us.

Eric!” I cried softly as I could, wanting to scream it out but knew we weren’t alone now, we were never truly alone now, so I reined myself in as best as I could. I just heard him smirk as he slowly rose to his feet, the smirk still evident on his face, though, then again, so was I. Before I knew what was really happening, we were on the ground, and he was inside me and we were stripped to our basic selves once more. It was how it always was when we caught each other off guard like this, not knowing if anyone would walk in, or round a corner. It was frenzied and tense, but in the best possible way. Everyone knew married couples had sex, but it was clean sex, sex reserved for dark bedrooms underneath the covers, quiet and polite.

There was nothing quiet and polite about how Eric and I made love, ever. We weren’t about to start for their sakes.

“I want you, I always want you.” He would murmur into my neck, into my hair where he would bury his face as we fucked. It was all we could do to get each other off before we were caught, I think the birth of our relationship began in such ways that we searched for those thrills even now, and in a house full of people they weren’t difficult scenarios to create. We all but dissolved into giggles when we finished, with happy sighs and messy hair, we set ourselves to rights with silly grins on our faces. He fixed my dress, and tucked my hair behind my ears, and I buttoned his shirt and gave him back his wayward belt.

With a giggle we heard footsteps coming from the hallway, we knew it was Pam.

She waltzed into the room with her usual air of flair, and instantly knew when she looked at us, dishevelled as we were.

“My Christ… have you two been fucking in here again?!”

Causeing both Eric and I to catch eye contact and burst out laughing.

“Are you annoyed that we’re doing it, Pam, or just doing it without inviting you?” I winked as I moved to make my way out of the room, it caused Pam to smile as she took her seat and I watched Eric until I reached the hallway. I had to check on our daughter.

“Orgasms still make your wife as feisty as ever I see.” Pam quipped in the distance to my amused husband and it was then I realised what a messed up relationship we all had to each other. We had all had each other, literally, and yet the love we all shared was so different and unique for each of us to the other.

 “Yes, yes they do and I wouldn’t have anything about her or us any other way.” I heard Eric say in a laugh as I reached the middle of the staircase; it made me smile to myself just then. He was right; none of us would have it any other way, because this was where our road led us. Wrong and right and messy and ill timed, but all it somehow leading to the here and now where we were happy and free. Free to live, and play with each other in our own ways, and with our children in their ways, to sit in the garden with my two boys, my only daughter. To watch her take her first steps toward her oldest brother who she’d have the closest bond with, to watch her other brother climb his trees and scrape his knees, and to watch her father be there daily to greet them all and love them with all his heart.

There would be worries of course there would be, life was not life without them, there would be struggles too and heartache, but that’s what life was, and that’s what we lived to carry on and simply be. I sat and looked around me, one summer’s afternoon as I watched my boys spin my three year old daughter around in the garden, all three of them singing a rhyme of sorts to make her laugh, and I knew whatever life threw at us, as it had before, if I had them, I would be fine.

I reached for Eric’s hand, as his other slipped a clumsily made daisy chain on my wrist and I smiled.

Yes, as long as I had them, the war at heart was over.

 

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