The Latest Expansion (invite only)
Xeph heaved a sigh of contentment as he and Nikhila lounged on their comfortable couch in the great room of the house they had built in the Long Run. He would have put his arm around her but, alas, they both had their hands full.
Xeph held a sleeping Noah in his arms, the little boy snugly swaddled in fleece and tucked into his father's safe embrace. Nikhila leaned against Xeph but she, too, had her arms full of new baby Avery. They were watching the Grinch, the good version with Boris Karloff, but the babies were asleep so it was just the grown-ups indulging in the Christmas special.
Xeph had insisted they put up a Christmas tree already, and so they had. It was huge, decorated in strings of popcorn, garlands of red and silver and gold, and ornaments of spun glass. It sparkled merrily with lights.
It hadn't snowed yet but the air was heavy with the scent. It would in the next few days, and it would be wonderful. It was going to be a wonderful Christmas.
Xeph laughed to himself. "Last year we thought we were going to have Christmas with one baby." He grinned. "Surprise."
Baby Avery had been born only a few days ago, the first little girl in a very very long line of Hammerthynn boys. Xeph hoped she was all right with a lot of older, very protective, cousins. Since Noah had been given his father's name as a middle name, it only made sense to name the new child Avery Lily. Xeph's only complaint was that 'Alsh' wasn't as cool a nickname as 'Nish' but Nikhila had dismissed his complaint as irrelevant. Mother's prerogative, he supposed.
Both of the babies were asleep. Noah was getting to be a handful. He was fast on all fours, a skill that would undoubtedly serve him well once he was gifted and had just started to stand and taking the occasional 'step' while holding on to something, be it sofa or bed or what ever proved handy. It had been a bit of a challenge to keep up with him the last month. But now that she no longer had to contend with the gigantic belly that was Avery it would be better.
Avery, Avery Lily; really she hadn't expected a girl. Aidan had convinced her that their first child would be a boy and she had convinced herself the second would be too. Of course, she was thrilled with the little girl she now held in her arms. Avery stirred a bit in her sleep and Nikhila cuddled her closer reassuring their daughter who relaxed again.
She was happy, so happy she didn't even think to give Aidan a hard time about having a tree up so early. Besides, it was so pretty and she loved how the lights sparkled and the glow the added to the room.
Laughing at his comment she shook her head.
"It was a surprise this spring."
She still remembered how shocked she'd been when Aidan had told her she was pregnant again. But here was the proof.
"I suppose this means that we've never really had an only child."
Neither one of the children would remember a time without the other. Having come from a large family, no matter how... difficult it had be come, that was important to her.
"We had an only child," he replied. "Well, one and a half. One and an embryo. I'm pretty sure you're only supposed to count the ones that are born, so Noah had a little time in the spotlight."
Poor Nikhila. Xeph wasn't entirely to blame for the fact that they might have gone a little overboard on Valentine's day... weekend... month. Nikhila, however, had been the one who had to play host for nine months only two months after giving birth the first time. His poor mate was going to go crazy for not being able to shift.
She could now, though, and Xeph was glad for it. No more kids... yet. They had agreed they weren't done, but Nikhila needed a break and Xeph agreed with her. It was funny; he had been an only child but the idea of having a big family seemed natural to him. It was probably all that growing up with Jamesons and Hammerthynns and their extended families that had impressed that notion upon him.
"I think it's great our first Christmas will be together as a family. Both Noah and Avery there... I hope they spend every Christmas together."
Hopefully growing up so close in age would give these two kids a special bond. Xeph would prefer it that way, instead of some kind of sibling rivalry. He supposed either one could happen. While they had only just met Avery, though, Noah was already a pretty easy-going baby more apt to smile than cry. It made Xeph hopeful that he would be a great big brother.
"And when he gets irritated with his siblings and says he wishes he was an only child you can explain that to him. I'm sure he'll feel better about it."
Having run her family when she was a teenager this was, in some ways, something Nikhila had never expected to have. It was very real though, and for as passive as she could be it was also something she would fight to protect. No, her children would not have the same kind of childhood or family she had. They would have two parents and grand parents and cousins and a whole pack and no one would take that from them.
Looking at the tree and listening to her mate's humming made her smile. She was doing that a lot since getting home. It was a wonderful thought and she couldn't help but be happy with how much time she'd been able to spend with Aidan since coming to Nachton. He had a whole pack to look out for all over the world and he did it quite well, in her opinion, but she didn't take things like a holiday together for granted.
"It would be nice if we all could do that. I'm sure they'll make the effort though."
Family was important to both she and Aidan, it was very likely that would communicate it self to both Noah and Avery. They just had to remember not to take it for granted.
"How about we start with family dinners involving solid food first though. You know dinner were you eat your greens to set a good example."
She teased him. That would just have to be her good example to set.
It was true; Noah wasn't prone to the usual childish tantrums. Granted that may change but so far he'd made his new parents' lives pretty easy. Xeph hoped Avery would be the same but that might be a little too much to ask.
"We'll teach them," Xeph said, unconcerned. Kids grew up paying attention to the influences around them. With such a family, he knew for sure his children had the best.
He did not like the suggestion, however, that he should set an example by eating green stuff. Xeph could eat it, yes, but the results might be... messy. Just thinking about it, he felt his face pale. He swallowed down an unhappy little 'urp' and gave Nikhila a pleading glance.
"I'll be in charge of other examples, how about," he suggested.
That was about the only time Noah got fussy, even more so when he was hungry than tired. He had a healthy appetite. It had been a bit of an adventure letting him try solid foods. Solid-ish. To her amusement he seemed to like peas and carrots best so far.
Watching Aidan feed their son was highly entertaining. The occasional bottle was simply sweet, the solid food, on occasion Nikhila had to force herself not to laugh. There would be a spoon, some carrots, funny faces and little growls and yips of encouragement. At least neither Noah or Avery would grow up afraid of what they were, not when it was invited into every day life.
Puppy dog eyes, they did not work on Nikhila and considering they now had two pups it was probably a good thing. The slightly pale, green around the gills look, however, had a bit more power.
"We can save you and greens as an occasional and powerful example... -if- we can come up with other good examples for you to set."
It was an idle threat. Everyone had bad habits and no one was perfect but she knew he'd set more good examples than bad.
Xeph smiled weakly at Nikhila and managed not to puke on anyone. It was quite an accomplishment, he thought. He could only handle so much discussion of veggies and greens. He tried to distract himself with thoughts of game. Red meat. Rich and yummy and juicy.
Leaning his head back on the couch Xeph laughed softly, so as not to wake either baby. "Gosh, where are we going to find a good example?"
He wasn't shy. Xeph handled a lot of responsibility and he handled it well. He'd made some huge waves in the Pack but he'd stuck to his guns and done what he thought was right, integrating humans into his Pack. If nothing else he could teach his children the value of standing up for what you believe in, and the virtues of equality and rights.
Not small potatoes, in his opinion.
As she tended to crave red meat, and the rarer the better, when pregnant Nikhila was rather looking forward get some greens. But as she and Aidan tended to differ on this point, Nikhila didn't push. The next time she got out, and that would be a while, she'd find a nice thick steak and not cook it for dinner.
She answered as sincerely and innocently as possible. It was the kind of banter that would ordinarily lead to... well why they had two children in less than a year. But that was hard to do when they each had an infant in their arms.
Noah opened his eyes. It wasn't quite bedtime for him yet so Xeph was surprised he'd actually fallen asleep. Their son had never given them any trouble about sleeping through the night so far though so he wasn't too concerned. Avery appeared to be somewhat different but still not the nightmare they'd feared newborns could be. Instead of sleeping through the night she tended to wake up fussing around 3 am or so, but was quickly soothed back to sleep.
Xeph took care of that pretty regularly as he rarely slept more than a few hours at a time himself. Dreams kept him awake; they always did. So when he heard their new little girl shifting around he was immediately over to the crib, pulling her out and snuggling her. Generally he took her for a little walk while Noah and Nikhila slept on. He never really had to go far; Avery was usually asleep again by the time he went over to the Den and back. If she was feeling particularly noisy he went down into the woods instead.
Since Noah was awake Xeph turned him so he was facing the TV. The little boy burbled happily at the Whos in Whoville and waved his chubby little hands at them. Xeph smiled; this was a Christmas classic. He was glad Noah seemed to like it.
His least favorite part, though, came very soon. As the Grinch stole all the fun things Xeph made a 'yuck' face. "Who would roast a perfectly good beast?" he asked. "I think they should have let the Grinch keep it."
"You are quite welcome dad."
Noah stirred and seemed to become immediately engaged in the Grinch. It was something of a relief he didn't wake up cranky. She offered him one of her hands as he waved his about. Noah grasped it and jabbered some more. Once in a while it almost sounded like a word, although he did have 'mama' and 'dada' down fairly well. Of course given the imaginative words in most Seuss books Noah's babble fit in.
Nikhila let him pull her hand this way and that until he got bored with it and let go. She shook her head at Aidan's take on the Christmas special and his aversion to roast beast.
"Well they do at least share it with him. Although I don't understand roasting it the night before, it would be cold the next day and you'd just dry it out if you tried to cook it again.."
In a round about way she did agree they should have left the beast raw, at least until the following day.
"I'm not sure that the beast's prep is what we're meant to be focusing on though..."
Having her back, permanently, was the best thing ever. Xeph was busy, running the Pack, being a doctor, being a vet, being a father now. But he did try to make time for Nikhila and continue to show her how much he was grateful to have her with him. He had tried dating here and there while she'd been off on her own, but no one had ever felt like the person who should be the mother of his children. Not like Nikhila.
"Of course they share with him. They're Whos. From Whoville. They kick ass."
He continued to wrinkle his nose at the idea that they would cook their beast at all. Maybe when the kids were Gifted they would inherit that trait of their parents' and also enjoy eating their meat raw. That would be a great Christmas dinner. Xeph had a brief picture of himself lugging a haunch of venison into the house from out in the Long Run and hefting it onto the table with a nice solid 'thwock' while the family dug in. The idea made him chuckle softly to himself.
Out loud he said, "I am focusing on the story... that was just a little detour. I was being observant."
"I do hope you mean that figuratively. They look rather mild mannered to me."
There had never been any ass kicking in any of the Dr. Seuss books she'd read. Although, she had to admit, until now she'd not read many of them. Undoubtedly there was more that she had to learn, but this was a good start. Perhaps Rudolph and the Bernstein Bears would be next. She doubted they kicked any ass either.
"If you want action children's books we may have to write them ourselves."
Actually, this we an intriguing idea. She might just have to try this. While she'd written more papers than one could shake a stick at something like this was so far outside her realm of experience it was laughable. It was an idea to keep on the back burner though. She had children and a school and a mate to take care of right now.
A detour sounded good. She hadn't wandered in some time, it would be nice. But at the same time she couldn't imagine leaving now. They were long lived, wandering would wait.
"You were being distracted. Are you hungry?"
Well, maybe in his world. These Whos, however, were happily singing songs and dancing around regardless of what happened to their beast, roast or otherwise. This really was his favorite Christmas story but he'd seen it so many times he sort of felt like he was allowed to make fun of it a little. he found the idea of rampaging, menacing Whos hilarious. And Nikhila wasn't helping by giving him ideas.
"So... I could parody the Grinch and write my own children's story about a Pack of ravenous Whos who are pushed beyond their limits, thrust into 'do or die' mode by an evil puppet master."
He stopped to consider. "Okay, that might not inspire sweet dreams but it sounds cool."
When his mate asked if he was hungry it crossed his mind to offer her a lewd answer but she'd just given birth to his daughter, so he felt that might not be in the best taste as, no matter how much she might want to, Nikhila was probably not up for a roll in the hay. Instead Xeph just shook his head.
"I'm not hungry. But I might be later. I can feed myself."
Nikhila was in super-mom mode these days, which meant she was trying to feed everyone within a ten mile radius. It was adorable.
Nikhila asked in wide-eyed innocence with just a touch of new mom worry. Which raised the question when did she stop being a new mom, it was hard to tell with the two children one right after the other. But she didn't worry about it right now she just wanted to be here with both the kids and her mate, as he played.
She couldn't help it she laughed. The idea of Aidan as a Grinch and rampaging and... it was just so absurd she couldn't not laugh. Avery squirmed at bit and yawned as she did so and Nikhila hushed the little girl almost absently but she never stopped smiling at the idea. Although, she did roll her eyes at the idea of sweet dreams. Since when did any one in this family, other than perhaps the children, have sweet dreams?
"Are you sure, there should be something... I think.â€
She wasn't sure though Nikhila couldn't remember exactly when she'd gone shopping before and she certainly hadn't had a chance since. Deciding not to obsess Nikhila sighed happily and with a bit of twisting managed to kiss Aidan on the cheek.
He never had, however, so he didn't think they would. Nikhila had come a little later in life to the whole wolf thing, yet even his pacifistic mate understood the workings of her inner wolf. Noah and Avery would be just fine.
When Nikhila stretched to kiss him he turned his cheek and gave her a soft smack on the lips instead. "Yes, there's something," he said, "and when I'm actually hungry I will get up and get it, and get some for you too, and fix something for Noah."
He smiled into Nikhila's dark hair. "I can handle it. Watch the show."
Xeph was busy. He knew Nikhila fretted about not being useful but he wondered if she truly understood how important it was to him to have this time, with his family, with Nikhila, not being anything but 'husband and dad.' Her role in the Pack was imperative; she kept him sane.
She asked incredulously. Could you Gift a who? Oh dear lord she was running short on sleep to be considering this, that or Aidan had finally infected her with his insanity. Possibly both. With a wry grin Nikhila figured there were worse things and didn't worry about it.
The sweet chaste kiss was welcome, although she wanted more it was probably best to wait a day or two yet. Regeneration or not giving birth took a bit to recover from. But when she was ready...
For now though she nestled against him a little closer and a little more comfortably and didn't obsess further about taking care of every one and trusted Aidan's ability to fend for all of them. She even managed to laugh at herself. She was getting a little better at that, she hoped.
"Do you think the Grinch's heart will grow more than three sizes this time?"
"Teach him to steal Christmas presents."
Nikhila's next question was met with a little snort. "I think it's the same story every year, dear," he said with a hint of humorous sarcasm. "As far as I know, they aren't planning to remake this one."
Not the cartoon version. They'd already done the live action remake, and Xeph had thought it wasn't terrible, but the classic was perfect. He'd take this version over Jim Carrey's any day. You just couldn't beat Boris Karloff.
While a commercial came on Xeph flipped through the channel guide to look for something to watch after this short Christmas show. He turned to Discovery and SciFi, two favorites of theirs, but didn't see much. He idly channel surfed, keeping an eye on the channel up in the corner of the TV that showed their current selection.
"See anything you want to watch?"
Evenings like this didn't come along all the time. Xeph was going to milk this one for all it was worth.
Nikhila's logical side took over, and combining that with her limited Dr. Seuss knowledge that seemed like a very likely conclusion. If you couldn't bite them you couldn't Gift them. Simple as that. Although, the idea of tiny wolves rampaging after the Grinch was rather entertaining.
Ordinarily she would have elbowed him or something similar for that comment but with Noah being held by his father and she holding Avery, that wasn't a great idea.
"You never know, a little creative editing with a computer and the next thing you know the whole message changes."
It was amazing what you could do with technology these days. Not that a handy crafted remake would make it on TV but you never knew.
Not overly interested in what else was on she was more alert to Avery squirming just a bit. It wasn't quite time for her to eat and it wasn't a wake up squirm. But it also didn't last very long. It seemed like their little girl might be a bit of a restless sleeper.
"Other than that documentary on string theory?"
That was a joke. It really was. It was a fascinating concept but it wasn't for her tonight. This was a rare quiet night just being a family. Now that she was able to shift again, she'd probably bite anyone who came in on business.
"Something old and black and white..."
There had to be something on that fit that description.
He flipped through the channels until he found something appropriately yawn-worthy and gave Nikhila the remote. She might just opt to watch something else. Xeph hadn't really even paid attention to what the movie was.
"There you go. Wish granted. Old and black and white. Oh, and it has Native Americans in it. They look totally real."
Xeph looked at the screen with raised eyebrows for a few seconds. Old American movies... gotta love them. Instead of using actual Native Americans they used white guys with face paint. How authentic.
"You sure this is what you want to watch?"
Xeph was pretty sure this hadn't been exactly what Nikhila had in mind, but he wasn't about to change the channel again. Besides, she had the power now. She could look for something else if she wanted. Xeph didn't care, he was pretty sure he could make fun of anything she turned on.
"Did you want something animated, with explosions, in color or all of the above?
She replied absently nuzzled her mate's neck. She might not be quite ready but that didn't mean she didn't want.
She'd only given the movie a cursory glance. Nikhila was a bit of a movie buff, not to the point of obsession she couldn't tell you what year and who directed and name all the actors but she enjoyed movies and found merit in just about any film. So if he wanted to continue with the Christmas theme and watch Die Hard, that would be fine with her. The kids were too young to understand and they could always put them to bed early.
Flicking her eyes to the screen and grinning at the old western she answered.
"Mmmmm you prefer it when they cast Italians?"
With just a little bit of a look she switched over to an old Sam Spade movie. At the very least she figured she would get a decent Bogart impression out of the choice.
"I don't think it matters, I'm just happy we're all here together."
He glanced down at his snuggly mate and lifted one hand to stroke her silky black hair. Not a strand of gray in sight; her hair was a gorgeous midnight black curtain. It was impossible yet to tell if either baby would take after her; Noah's eyes were gray but his hair was still dark and Avery was too young to say yet. Maybe she'd be dark haired like her mother. That would be nice.
"I prefer Indians," he said, grinning. "The pretty kind who snuggle up to me and let me make fun of their movies."
He tilted his head up, musing at the ceiling. "I wonder where I could find one of those?"
Hugging her close Xeph nodded against Nikhila's hair. "I'm glad we're together too. This is the perfect night, right here."