“In family life, love is the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds closer together, and the music that brings harmony.”–Friedrich Nietzsche
Windenburg Isle Hayes Estate
After the big meal, everyone had their bellies full beyond recognition with dessert and coffee, all the adults were standing around the table talking, while the kids were burning off the energy outside and the toddlers were napping upstairs, even Sophie didn’t jump right away to start cleaning up as she usually would, but clinked a spoon to her coffee mug instead.
“Everyone, now that we are all round and full, I think the chances for the expected backlash are slimmer than normal, so here goes: I quit my job at the restaurant, and am gonna do the stay-at-home mom thing for a while, and also: Stryker and I are pregnant again.”
“WHAT?! Already?!” Esmée exclaimed, then nearly choked on the sip of coffee she had been drinking.
“Another oopsie or on purpose?” Ewan wondered.
“Nah, on purpose. My tour schedule is crazy, so we thought it usually takes a while, no time as the present, but between Sophie being very fertile and my swimmers being very competitive, it happened almost right away.” Stryker shrugged.
“Goodness gracious! I love my grandkids, I do, but my daughter is not a breeding mare! Give her body some time to recover! Keanu is barely a few months old now!” Abby ranted.
“MOM! I wanted this. I talked Stryker into it. Don’t blame him, blame me.” Sophie said.
“What do you mean YOU wanted this? Who’s blaming anyone?” Jay shot confused looks at his daughter and at Stryker.
“No, we BOTH wanted it! She just was a little more anxious than I was and didn’t want to wait till touring calmed down. We already looked at a calendar and I should be home around the time she’s getting close to giving birth again. If not, I will drop everything and postpone. I will be there.”
“Yeah, you better! And after this one, PLEASE kids, take a break! These kids won’t stay handy-dandy babies forever. Three is a lot – here’s to hoping it’s only gonna be three, you KNOW multiples are a possibility, for everyone, but you more so than most people!”
“Yes, Mom.” Sophie’s tone was somewhere between resigned and annoyed.
“Don’t ‘yes mom’ me, sweetheart! I have been there. With five teens at the same time! Talk about herding cats! You were all good kids, but I would not recommend that to anyone.” Abby told her, while gesturing around the table at the five now grown children she raised after becoming a mother to triplets, followed by a set of twins, at a very young age.
Emmy and Connell exchanged knowing glances.
“Yes, YOU two made us want to bang our heads into walls more than any of the others have!” Jay had noticed and called them out. It had taken him many years to accept a Vampire as his precious Emmy’s mate of choice, but now he really liked Connell. When Connell and Emmy were expecting the first of their three children, it had been Jay who had taught his son-in-law how mortal parenting worked, since Connell had been raised in Forgotten Hollow at Castello Vatore with very little exposure to the world of mortals until meeting Emmy when she had barely turned 16.
“Well, dad, it all worked out in the end. You and mom learned Vampires aren’t all that scary after all and it wasn’t just a teenage affair but real love, just like we kept telling you. My sweet Conny and I are still super-happy and got that parenting thing down!” Emmy told Jay.
“CONNY! BWAHAHAHAH!” Michael burst into laughter, till a cookie hit his head, accompanied by death glares from Connell, while Michael complained.
“Ow, you fanged dingbat! Some of us have a pulse and feel shit! And we eat too – what a waste of a perfectly good cookie! I wanna knock them fangs down to your butthole for this!” he roared at Connell. Not only did these two ALWAYS bicker, but Michael’s still ferocious appetite was legend. If it was chewable and not toxic, he’d eat it.
“MICHAEL and CONNELL! This is a civilized family dinner! We do not throw food, especially not at family members! I feel like I have to tell you both that every time, you two are worse than tired, teething toddlers!” Abby grumbled, looking back and forth between her daughters’ mates.
“He’s not a family member! He’s a plus one at best! Isn’t that right, MIKEY!?” Connell argued.
“HEY! Stay in your lane, Connell!” Ezzy glared at him, but it was too late. Ezzy’s dad Jay picked up on the subject right away. Again.
“Yeah, what about that? You have been living together for years, you raise kids together, why not make it official, it would be easier legally if you two were actual stepparents to each other’s kids.” Jay brought up a sore subject to Ezzy, who still was very uninclined to ever get married. Matching wolf tattoos on their arms was as permanent as she would commit to Michael.
“Okay, how did we go from Sophie popping out babies left and right to you typecasting me as suburban housewife? Michael and I happen to like our arrangement as is. He and I aren’t together so I can have his last name or he mine and so we can be official parents to each other’s kids, but because we care about each other and enjoy our company.”
“Aka fuck-buddies. Speaking of, how’s that coming for you Silas?” Ewan smirked.
“EWAN CAMERON! I am gonna wash that pottymouth out with soap for real one day! This is still a dinner table and there are children nearby! What if one wanders in and hears you?!” Abby roared.
“He’s got a point though, I wanna know that too. Why didn’t you bring your little girlfriend, Mr. Mayor? MUAH MUAH MUAH MUAH MUAH!” Esmée made kissing sounds at her little brother, mostly to deflect from her and Michael being the topic of discussion by redirecting the attention and interest onto someone else. A classic Ezzy move.
“I wish I had taped this after-dinner-convo up until this point, so I could play it back for you all which would answer that question. I am not sure I can expose her to this yet. She’d dump me in a heartbeat. You will all meet her in due time when she and I are ready for it. But yes, Olivia and I are officially a couple now.” he countered.
“Isn’t she a Vampire? You’d think they are tougher than that.”
“She is not. Her mother and a brother are. She’s mortal, as is her dad and two other siblings.” Silas corrected.
“Thank God, last thing we need is more Fangs at the table. Q-Tip over there is plenty!” Michael smiled challenging at Connell who gave him the one-finger salute.
“CONNELL! Will you behave already?! I don’t care if you are a Vamp or not, you will behave or I will spank you, I swear it! You two are supposed to be grown men, act like it!” Abby was only in her mid-50s, her still mostly youthful appearance, especially from a distance where you couldn’t see the fine lines life had started to chisel into her face and the fact that the reason her formerly natural light golden blonde hair now had an increasingly silvery cast giving it a deliberate-looking platinum blonde tone, made the fact that she was a multiple grandmother and mother to 31-year-old triplets and 26-year-old twins feel strange.
“Mom – Michael keeps instigating! Yell at him, not just my poor hubby!” complained Emmy, who was sweet and kind, but always defended her loved ones. Like her mother an ageless beauty, her roundish face and naturally light hair gave her the same misleadingly youthful appearance, even though she was 31 like the other two triplets, she still looked like a teen, often feeding rumors her husband had secretly turned her, which both vehemently denied.
“Good point. Michael – same goes for you! Behave yourself!” Abby wagged her index finger at the former Werewolf Michael.
“Want me to get you a rolled-up newspaper to teach doggie some manners in a way he’ll understand and remember? Just like Ezzy had to potty-train him and to quit him from humping every visitor’s legs?” Vampire Connell instigated, this time he received the raised middle finger from Michael.
“Wow – can we stop the circus and get back to the real news here?! Hello?! I am pregnant! Yes, Stryker and I are FULLY aware it is quick, but that is what we wanted. On purpose. Young parents to siblings close in age. So what?! We can afford a dozen more kids and I think we have proven over and over that we can handle it! So, instead of going all “Real Housewives of Windenburg” here, how about some ‘Yay Sophie – congratulations! We are so happy for you and hope this time it will be a little girl. Fingers crossed.’. Then I could be like ‘Oh, why thank you everyone, me too! So excited, and I am so glad you all are soooooo happy for us, just like we are.’ But no. NOOOOOOO! I fed you all a nice multi-course dinner and you still make everything about yourselves after shitting on my news because I got pregnant again so soon. Shame on me. Blah blah blah. Also: spoiler alert, we don’t know the gender yet, but can confirm it is only one baby again.” Sophie ranted.
“Sorry Soph, you’re right. Congratulation! To both of you. We are all excited and happy, Spencer and Keanu are super-cute. We’re just … surprised.” Emmy told her sister.
Everyone now rushed over to Stryker and Sophie to hug and congratulate the expecting parents.
Once everyone had left and the last dishes were being put away, Stryker winked at Sophie who was still digesting the drama.
“Well, that went well, huh?”
“Yeah, I kinda expected something like that. I admit, machine-gun style baby making would irk me too in any of my siblings, but … oh well. They’ll get over it.” she said.
“Well, I expected backlash too, which is why I begged you not to invite the other Camerons or my mother. If she had been here, we’d still be out there discussing this to death, if it hadn’t started a major fight. Too late to change it now anyway …” said Stryker.
He grabbed her and started kissing on her cheeks, forehead, but before he could get to the lips, someone was at the door.
With a sigh, he let go of Sophie.
“Wanna place a bet on who forgot what?” he chuckled.
“With my nuttier-than-squirrel-turds family, anything is possible. Maybe it’s mom and dad to give us the birds and bees talk again, just in case. Can you get it? I am people’ed out for now.” Sophie grimaced.
“Yeah, I’ll use my natural charm and try to get rid of whomever that is now ASAP and if that doesn’t work, they’ll meet the full-on asshole Stryker. Not feeling company tonight either. Just hoping it’s not my goddamn mother. I really can’t deal with her tonight. We only saw her yesterday, and I still can only handle her BS in bitesize portions.”
Stryker went after the second doorbell ring, and swung the door open to reveal two strangers. He frowned, annoyed, thinking the young man and old woman were fans.
“Afternoon. If this is a pilgrimage for a photo op and autograph I gotta tell ya, pretty lame idea and annoying as fuck.”
“Umm, no. We’re here to talk to you about something.” the young man said, while the old woman just stared at Stryker.
Sophie appeared next to him, so Stryker bridled his increasing annoyance slightly.
“Yeah? Well, save your breath, we’re good on religion, cookies and housewares. So, whatever you two peddling, we already have one or don’t want one. You have 30 seconds before I personally chase you off our property!” Stryker roared.
“Okay, I can make it very fast. I am Peyton DiLaurentis and this is my grandmother Marnie. Or, better put: our grandmother. I am your half-brother, Stryker, Marco DiLaurentis is my father too, I am from marriage number one, and grandma is his mother. Grandma is not going to be around much longer, stage 4 colon cancer that has metastasized, her dying wish is to meet the grandson she never met, she has always been close with her other grandkids, and while we understand your mother didn’t wish contact, and have respected it until now, grandma’s request trumps that for me. So, I found you for her. Can you at least say something nice to her before you kick us off your property? And before you go there, no, we are not here because you are famous or rich, we are that ourselves. I am father’s heir to his empire, and grandma raised me, long story why, but she is where his wealth comes from. We are here to meet you, that’s all.”
That rendered both Stryker and Sophie completely speechless.