Part two of the Heated series. Paul used to spend his nights running rounds through the Olympic peninsula with his packmates, howling like the wolves they were. Now, the only howling in their lives comes from the throats of angry, angry toddlers...
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“I don’t like it,” I said grumpily, sitting on the table beside Kent in his bouncy seat. Thanksgiving had never been my favorite holiday. Too much seeing people I didn’t actually like. Kent was making gurgling noises and I stared down at him. It was hard to believe in just a few months he would be a year old. And he was still bald.
Emme huffed, pulling a spiral sliced ham out of the oven. “I don’t know why you complain so much, Paul,” she said. “It’s not like you’re actually doing anything, and your grandma isn’t even coming down from the Makah rez.” She smiled at me, a blot of flour on her nose from cooking all day. After being around Emily for a while, Emme had picked up on the fine culinary arts quickly. “Nothing crazy’s going to happen this year, I promise.”
I closed my eyes remembering the year before, when Emme had been monstrously pregnant with Kent, and the Neah Bay Mayhem. It went down something like this; my grandma is senile. She forgot about Thanksgiving until the day of, so she bought dressing from a nice little mam and pap store there in Neah Bay and brought it down to us in La Push. It was… off, to say the least. And since I’ve inscribed the word ‘mayhem’ in the event’s title, it pretty much explains itself. It was disaster, and I don’t like thinking about it.
I jumped off the table, “No Neah Bay Mayhem?” I asked curiously, wrapping an arm around Emme’s waist and pulling her to me.
Emme laughed, throwing her head back. “None.”
“Good,” I muttered, bending a little more than slightly to give her a quick kiss while no one was looking. She pushed me away, giggling though, and I pouted. Foiled again.
“Not right now, Balto,” she said in the same tone she would tell Lain he couldn’t have cookies for breakfast. She was strict about what the kid ate. He was going to grow up into one of those dweebs who thought it was ‘rebellious’ to eat a sandwich with more than two slices of bologna. I shook my head and Emme slapped at my chest playfully. “Don’t be such a sissy,” she accused lightly, returning her attention to the freshly cooked ham balanced on the edge of the counter. Our kitchen really was too small for how much food Emme felt like she needed to make.
“Fine,” I said huffily, going along with her act, “Kent and I were just leaving anyway, weren’t we, Kent?” I said, picking up the bouncy seat with the baby in it instead of just the baby.
“Where were you going with that grandbaby, Paul?” mom said, letting herself in through the back door. Whose idea was it to give her a key again? I don’t think I’ll claim it as my idea. Nope.
“Nowhere, mom,” I said politely, putting the baby and the bouncy seat back on the table sheepishly. Nothing in the world was scarier than my kids’ grandmothers. Especially Emme’s mom, but I only had to see her every few Christmases, and even then I avoided contact completely by disappearing into the realm of universal manhood and watching SportsCenter with Emme’s male relatives. They were all pretty nice, when they weren’t making jokes about me, asking if I could paint with all the colors of the wind or something like that.
“Hello, Emme,” my mother said flatly, not really looking at my wife as she bee lined to her grandbaby, scooping Kent up and cradling him, cooing at him some nonsense about his adorableness. Emme grunted acknowledgement that mom was present.
I guess it’s true; if you can’t stand her mother, and she can’t stand yours, you’re destined to get married.
Jumping slightly, I sat down on the counter. “Have you talked to Jared, mom?” I asked. “Last time I talked to him he didn’t know if he was going to be here or with Kimmy’s family.”
“He’s going to be here,” Emme replied before mom could open her mouth. She grinned at me. “Kim called last night, remember?”
Oh. Right. “Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked, refusing to admit I’d forgotten something.
Emme made a sound of disbelief at me. “Are you serious? You were in the room when I was talking to her,” Emme said, “and I know you and your werewolf ears heard the whole conversation.” She grabbed patted my ear for emphasis, laughing.
I swatted her away. “I wouldn’t need good hearing anyway. Now that I think about it, Hunter called me a little bit after that and asked me what all the yelling was for.” I cackled as Emme glared at me, her face a pale shade of pink. Crowley never really had accepted the fact Emme was mine, and not his. Foo.
“Shut up, Paul,” Emme said darkly, turning her back to me. I tried real hard to stifle my laugh. It didn’t work. I didn’t care.
“Where’s Lain?” mom asked, Kent gurgling happily as she bounced him on her knee. She smiled evilly. “I brought him some M&Ms in my purse.”
I glanced at Emme. “That’s a good question. Where is Lain?”
Emme sighed, exasperated. “Try his bed. I put him down for a nap about an hour ago.”
“Well that makes perfect sense.”
“He was in a bad mood,” Emme explained. “He was biting people.”
“Your side of the family,” I joked, exiting the room walking backwards to better dodge projectile objects aimed at my head like I was expecting. Divine fatherly duty in all, it was my job to deliver the boy unto the purse to devour the M&Ms.
McLain was obviously not awake or just waking up as I opened the door, because he wasn’t screaming as if someone had just torn off his right arm yet. I concluded it was the latter as his head popped up over the crib bars as he pulled himself up, smiling. That’s right, little buddy, freedom.
“You smell funny,” I told him as I picked him up, holding him at arm’s length. He stared at me and raised an eyebrow slightly. Just slightly. I smirked. Emme would be so proud, her son speaking eyebrow. I shifted him so that I was carrying him like a football and grabbed a clean diaper and some wipes. Mom wanted to see Lain? Sure. She could see him dirty diaper and all. And then she could change it herself.
“Let’s go, smelly one,” I said, bouncing him up a little where he was slipping. He laughed at the motion and I sighed. Kids are so easily entertained.
There was screaming as I reached the kitchen again, and it was clearly not Kent’s. I knew what Kent sounded like. I knew what his cry for hungry was, for tired, for attention. And that was not Kent. I shuddered as I realized Jared and Kim must have arrived with Caleb, my only nephew who had no setting between off and high.
I shuddered again, involuntary. McLain had been really whiny for a long time, non-stop ear infections and stuff, but after we got tubes in his ears he was perfectly happy, just really clingy. Kent only cried if there was something really, really wrong, and didn’t even want you to rock him to sleep. He just wanted you to give him a bottle and put him down somewhere, he’d take care of the rest. That’d made Emme pretty upset at the time, but I had been ecstatic. We’d produced the perfect child as far as I was concerned.
Caleb was different, though. You could breathe wrong and he’d burst into tears. Pansy.
“Good afternoon, Paul,” Kim said brightly, smiling at me apologetically while trying to get Caleb quiet by rocking him. Good luck. Might I suggest a tranquilizer dart, rhino strength?
I nodded and put Lain down, and watched as he teetered off straight to his grandma’s purse. He knew where the candy was kept. I pulled a chair out from the table and placed the diaper and wipes down, sliding them bartender style to mom. “He smells funny,” I announced.
“Lazy bastard,” Emme muttered, beginning to move food from the kitchen to the table in the dining room. I proved her wrong by immediately jumping up to help her, but really I was just scouting the array over for the dreaded Neah Bay packaging. I wasn’t going to take Emme’s word for it on this one. This needed to be investigated thoroughly.
Jared got up to help, too, but I suspect it was more out of hunger for him. “Still not changing diapers, eh?” he asked when we were in the kitchen alone while Emme took the bouncy seat back to Kent’s room.
I grinned at him. “Nope. Still.”
“You’re a god,” Jared mocked, bowing slightly. He was always impressed how I weaseled my way out of doing much actually work when it came to taking care of Lain and Kent. I didn’t do diapers, and I didn’t do bath time unless I absolutely had to.
I rolled my eyes as Jared continued to pretend to worship me and smacked him lightly. “Quit it,” I said lowly.
“Yes, Exalted One,” Jared said with a final bow. I moved so fast I surprised myself, grabbing the long dish towel off the oven door and popping Jared’s leg.
“Ouch!” he roared, turning around and attempting to duke me one good time and succeeding. There was a slight ‘oof’ as the air left my chest in surprise.
“Stop fighting!” mom yelled from the dining room, one wall over from the kitchen. While Jared wasn’t looking, I rubbed the soreness out of my cheek. That had actually really hurt. Bad. Normally that would be a huge upset, but then it was something of a glimmer of hope. I had been trying unsuccessfully to quit phasing since before Lain was born, my temper making the process just a little bit harder than it really should have. The fact that it hurt when Jared punched me just meant I was turning back, albeit slowly, into the normal person I was before phasing into a mythical beast of legend.
“Well, you heard her,” Jared said, picking up a bowl of field peas from Emme’s last trip south she had defrosted just for today. I grinned again, not willing to be out done and let my brother get the last hit in, I waited for him to be half way across the room before tearing after him and laying him out. Field peas flew everywhere, and I roared triumphantly. I hated field peas.