Grace & Ardan 2

Chapter One

Grace danced around the house in her panties and tank top, listening to her iPod as she cleaned. Kimbra’s Good Intent blocked out all other sounds. She didn’t hear the man as he stepped out of the portal and into the living room. It was the vibrations from his footsteps that alerted her. She spun around, pulling her earbuds out and grabbing the poker sitting next the fireplace. “Who the fuck are you?” She asked. he didn’t say anything, just took a step closer to her. She swung at him and he caught the poker, wrenching from her grasp and snapping it in half. “Tell me who you are.” She demanded angrily.

“I am a demon and I was paid to retrieve you.”

“A demon and paid by who?”

“An interested party.”

“Interested in what?”

“Your relationship with the reaper Ardan McNassa. Now come with me quietly or I will take you by force.”

She rolled her eyes. “How about no and you leave here with all you parts intact. No one walks in here without Ardan knowing.”

As if on cue Ardan appeared in the room, his back leaning against the living room wall. “How nice of you to break into my home Peter and scare my fiancé. I knew it was only a matter of time before the old man sent you here to bother me. What does he want?”

“He wants to meet this human you have tied yourself to.”

“Tell him if he wants back in my life to not cowardly send the man I respect more than him. Now, kindly leave or I will send you back myself.” Peter sighed and stepped back through the portal. Ardan turned his attention to her, quickly pulling her into his arms. “Did he hurt you?”

“No, but he broke our poker. Who was that?”

“My old nanny I guess you could say and my father’s bodyguard.”

“Father? You never told me about your father.”

“He’s a retired reaper and an asshole. Looks like he’s curious about our relationship which is just great. Now I get to hear him tell me why you’re not good enough, that I should have married a demon or angel or flying spaghetti monster. He’s irritating and domineering and I would rather not deal with him when we’re getting married at the end of the week and on top of that you’re pregnant.”

“I’m just a couple of weeks along and don’t you think your father deserves to know he’s going to be a grandpa?”

“No, I think he needs to mind his own business.”

“Come on, we could spend the week with him. I could get to know him.” He grumbled and she giggled. “Come on, he can’t be that bad.”

“Fine, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“May I ask why you respect Peter so much?”

“Because he practically raised me. He’s more of a father than my father.”

“I’m sorry, he seemed so mean though just now.”

“He’s not really, he was doing what he was told. He’s a good guy buy always does what he’s ordered to do by my father”

“Why don’t I stop cleaning, we eat somthing then go see your father?”

“Can’t we do it tomorrow so I have time to prepare myself…you don’t understand how much I dislike him and how horrible he can be”

“If you need until tomorrow we can wait until tomorow” Arden kissed Grace “I love you so much”

“I love you too’ Arden lifted her and carried her upstairs “cuddle time before any eating is done”

“sounds good” They laid in bed for awhile, Arden not wanting to get up an do anything now that his mood was dampened so much by the prospect of dealing with his father. He didn’t want him to try and make Grace feel bad and he knew he wouldn’t be able to tolerate a single bad word about her. This trip would most likely just result in a fight and be a complete disaster but if Grace wanted to go he would go. It was just disheartening to know hisfather was no different since Peter was comanded to take Grace by force if he had to. That’s just the kind of dick thing Ardens dad was known for. What he wants he gets and fuck everyone else.

“I need to feed myself and the baby sweetie.” Grace finally said and Ardan sighed, not wanting to let her go. “Come on, we can cuddle some more after dinner.”

“Alright.” They got up and went into the kitchen. Ardan leaned against the counter while she cooked meat for tacos. She sang softly to herself a song he had not heard before. It was very soothing and he enjoyed how sweet the words were.

“What is the name of that song?” He asked.

“Oh it’s called Je T’ aime, it’s by Kelly Sweet. I sing it to the baby sometimes. Do you like it?”

“It’s beautiful, you should sing more often.” She smiled as she mixed the taco seasoning and a little bit of water with the meat then turned the burner to low to keep it warm while she chopped the condiments. “Let me do that, you might cut yourself.”

She giggled. “Ardan, I’m pregnant, not paralyzed. I can do things for myself.”

“Please, I’m just on edge right now and I want to do it.”

“Oh alright, if it’ll put you at ease.” She handed him the knife and went to sit in the living room. Just as her butt hit the couch Roddy, Jonas, and Maynard appeared in the living room.

“Ah, put some pants on.” Roddy and Jonas said at the same time, covering their eyes.

“Oh grow up you two, it’s just panties.” Maynard said, rolling his eyes.

“Sorry guys, give me just a second.” Grace went and grabbed a pair of shorts and tugged them on then went back out into the living room. “Alright drama queens it’s safe.” She said and they dropped their hands. “You three are just in time for dinner.”

“See I told you.” Roddy said to his two brothers.

“Maynard, did Ariadne not want to come? I was hoping to see her today.”

“She had some with stuff to deal with. Something about pixies messing with her garden. I offered to help, but she just shooed me away.” Grace smiled at big tough Maynard’s affection for the immortal White Witch. He had grown quite attached after their rather shocking meeting where he had been rendered unconcious. He cleared his throat. “Did dad come to see Ardan?”

“No, he sent Peter to take Grace by force. Didn’t bother to ask kindly or anything but that’s dad. Can’t come himself and can’t even attempt not to just force his own way”

“are you two going to see him?”

“Yeah tomorrow” Grace chimed in. Maynard decided to change the subject with how angry his brother seemed. “So Grace, how are you feeling with the baby?”

“Not bad atall. Ardan fusses over me a lot. I’m apparently the most fragile thing in the universe now” The brothers smiled and Jonas said ‘i’m excited to meet the little guy or girl.”

“Lets hope your father is excited Grace said” Ardan sighed and grace regretted her words. She wished he wasn’t so wound up adn upset. What she wished most of all is that they woudl go there and his father would surprise him with being kind. She doubted that though since even his brothers seemed uncomfortable. Ardna finished cooking dinner and then they all started eating together. “We’re coming too’ Maynard said then Jonas added ‘yeah, we have your back” Ardan gave a small, thank you smile then went back to eating. After dinner he invited his brothers to stay the night and they all accepted.

Grace decided instead of fighting with her stressed fiance she would let him get them situated while she went up to their room. “it’s going to be ok” Maynard encouraged.

“it’s dad” Ardan said back. “Just calm down. If you’re stressed you may stress her and that’s not good for the baby”

“I didn’t think about that. I’ll try”

“Hey, we all have our problems with dad. It’s terrible he sent Peter. That man is as loyal as a dog.” Jonas said.

“Yeah he never says no. Dad saved his life and now he’s the most loyal bodyguard and child rearer anyone could ask for.” Ardan replied then sighed. “Anyway, I’ll see you three in the morning.”

“Goodnight.” They said at the same time. Ardan went into his room, smiling when he saw Grace talking to the baby. She looked up at him and gave him her sweetest smile.

“Come on, come say goodnight to our child.” She said and he quickly pulled his clothes off then crawled up next to her. He kissed her abdomen, making goosbumps rise on her skin. He pressed his palm where he had kissed and opened himself up to the life force of his ever growing baby. It amazed him that he was part of creating a life since he was the God of the Dead.

“Goodnight little one, thank you for being so good to your mother.” He said softly and he could feel the baby respond. Even as something so little, it recognize its father. He smiled, kissing her abdomen once more before laying down and pulling her into his embrace. “I love you so much Grace and I am so excited about being a father.”

“I’m glad, I wonder how much he or she will take after you.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know with the reaper business.”

He tipped her head back to look her in the eye. “I think our child will be a bringer of life and light, not of death and destruction.”

“Ardan, you are such a kind soul. You have so much compassion and even if our little bean takes your place when you are finally ready to retire he or she will be just as amazing as you are. You are a a guide for the dead, a wrangler of lost souls, you ease them into the next world with your warm heartedness. So stop thinking you are some kind of monster because you are the Angel of Death.”

“I’m sorry, the visit with my father has me thinking negative thoughts. Thank you for keeping my head clear. You are so wonderful.”

“You’re even more so. We can handle whatever hapens at your dads house together. Your brothers will even be there and will have your back.”

“Yeah, we’re far closer than we have ever been”

“I know”

“It’s because of you” She smiled “lets sleep” Ardans loving arms slowly relaxed Grace into sleep. Ardan wanted to slepe but was having trouble. He didn’t want his father to be a jerk to his love or to try and rip them apart. He had been fool enough to let his brothers do it once and it would not happen a second time. He wondered if Grace knew the guilt he still carried at times and how much he somtimes felt he didn’t deserve her because of that. You don’t abandon the ones you love no matter what and that’s what he did. He had her watched to make sure she was ok but it didn’t lessen what he had done.

It proved a nearly impossible task but Ardan eventually closed his eyes and drifted off. The next morning Grace woke him with a kiss and he smiled. His eyes opened and she could tell he had barely gotten any sleep “Ardan” knowing precisely why she said his name that way he responded ‘sorry”

“everything will be ok today”

“i know, lets go have breakfast”

“I want us to cook together”

“sounds good to me” They dressed then walked downstairs to the kitchen. They were in there barely a moment when Roddy came in. Grace laughed and he just smiled innocently. The smell of biscuits, eggs and sausage filled the house waking Maynard and Jonas. They dressed and came down much more slowly than the forever starving Roddy. Maynard just shook his head when he entered. Roddy gave the same innocent smile as he waited for breakfast to be ready.

“Roddy, go sit at the table.” Maynard ordered.

“Why? Grace doesn’t care, right Grace?”

She just smiled, amused by their arguing. When everything was finished cooking she made sure Roddy got his plate first. He took it happily to the dining room table as everyone else filled their plates and joined the already eating Roddy. Ardan wished he could make breakfast go slower so he wouldn’t have to see his father, but Grace’s excitement about going somewhere and meeting the grandfather of their child helped calm him. He would do his best not to disappoint her.

“Are you going to bring Ariadne?” Grace asked.

“Do you think that would be a good idea?” Maynard replied.

“Ariadne can take care of herself, she’s very powerful.”

“Maybe I should go ask, I need to pack anyway. I’ll be back in half an hour.” He was there one minute and gone the next as if he had never been.

“What about you two?” She asked.

“We still have clothes at dad’s house so we’ll just annoy you until Maynard gets back.” Jonas answered with a big smile.

“You two could never annoy me, you’re both far to sweet.” Roddy laughed and Jonas blushed. “I guess I should get to packing too.”

Ardan hugged her from behind. “I can do that, you just entertain these two.”

“You’ve done enough baby, I can at least pack and besides you don’t want to go and you’ll purposely take your time and probably forget something so you have an excuse to come home.”

“How did you know?”

She smiled. “I’m a woman, I know everything.”

“can I help?”

“No, just be a good host to your brothers”

“Yeah, stop smothering her and sit with us” Jonas said. Ardan sat while Grace left the room to pack. Grace grabbed their large, black suitcase out of the closet then carried it over to the bed where she unzipped it then got busy packing. She packed their clothes then what they would need in the bathroom. She also grabbed the book Ardan was currently reading incase he needed to o somthing to relax himself at night there. She checked over everything in their bag then thought hard about anything else they could possibly need.

When she couldn’t think of anything more to pack she zipped up the suitcase and left it on the bed. She was more than capable of bringing it down there but didn’t want Ardan having a heart attack. Grace went staright into his arms and hugged him “I left the bag on the bed.” He kissed her “thank you, I’ll go bring it down” When he was out of the room Jonas said “I hope i don’t act that ridiculous if I’m ever with a woman and get her pregnant” Grace smiled “you probably will be. If you are in love anyway”

“I know I will because if I don’t then she’ll never make food for me.” Roddy joked, making them both laugh. Ardan brought their suitcase down and sat it next to the door. He then flopped back down on the couch and pulled Grace into his lap. A few minutes later Maynard stepped through a portal with a smiling Ariadne. Grace jumped up and hugged the witch. She had missed her.

Chapter Two

“How are you dear?” Ariadne asked.

“I’m great, thank you for coming.” Grace answered.

“And how is the baby? May I feel?”

“Of course.” Ariadne placed her hand on Grace’s abdomen and smiled.

“Oh yes, very healthy. I can tell she’s destined for greatness.”

“She?” Ardan asked, unsure if he had heard correctly.

“Yes, there is a very feminine feel to your child. I bet she’s going to be beautiful.” Grace jumped excitely onto Ardan’s lap and kissed his cheek.

“Now we can start buying clothes.” When he didn’t say anything she turned his face toward her. “Are you okay?”

“Yes and no, is it wrong to hope any man who comes near her winds up one of the souls I have to shepherd?” Everyone started laughing and Grace gave his a soft kiss.

“It’s not wrong at all, you’re already such a good father. Now we can tell your dad he’ll be having a granddaughter so he’ll know what to get us.”

Ardan smiled as best he could since he knew they had to leave for his fathers home. “Lets get going” He said and they all vanished then appeared in front of their fathers front door. Ardan took a deep inhale then exhale before knocking. Peter answered “good, your father was about to send me again. I’m glad you came of your own free will. I’m happy to see you all too.” They walked in and followed Peter into their fathers large living room. “he’s in the bath but I’ll go get him” Peter said then walked out of the room. “This is an amazing house” Ariadne said as she looked around.

‘yeah it is” Grace agreed. “well, lets sit I guess” ardan said and everyone sat down. Grace took his hand for support and kissed it. Ariadne also took Maynards making him blush only briefly. He didn’t want his father to see him blushing. Grace smiled at them. She had seen the blush and coudln’t get over how much Ariadne melted him.

A few minutes later Peter came back followed by Ardan’s father, Efim McNassa. He had a cigaretted in his mouth and Ardan just about had a heart attack. “Dad, Grace is…”

“Oh yes, sorry, old habit.” He put his cigarette out. “Peter open a window and get rid of this smoke would you.”

“Yes sir.” He lifted one of the living room windows open then used the wind to blow the smoke outside before closing the window again. “Now, where were we? Oh yes.” He held out his hand to Grace and she stood, smiling at him as she slid her hand into his. “It’s nice to finally meet you. It seems my boy has been hiding you away.”

“Can you really blame him, you did send a demon after me?”

He chuckled. “Peter told me you threatened him with a fire poker.”

“Well he was being all intimmidating.”

“It’s not like he would have hurt you.” He gave another chuckle. “And look at your eyes. He really tied himself to you, soul to soul. You be careful now, you have half of my boy living in you so don’t go getting killed or he’ll lose half himself. We all no half a man is no man.”

“I will do my best. Oh and I have to tell you, you’ll be having a granddaughter so be prepared.”

“Amazing, just absolutely amazing. Anyway, Ardan aren’t you going to at least say hello?”

Ardan crossed his arms and mumbled a quiet hi, not even looking at his dad. Grace kept her smile on, but inside she was frowning. She could feel that their relationship was strained. Efim let her sit back down and turned his attention to Ariadne. “Well, well my boys have brought a witch into my home. It’s been awhile since I have seen one of your kind.” Ariadne stood and Maynard followed suit, letting go of her hand so she could shake his father’s.

“You’re one of those old school reapers aren’t you, all dark cloak and using magic to change your face into a skelton. I’m sure you scared the piss out of many a soul in your day.”

“Another spirited woman. Where do you boys find women who can actually keep up with you?”

“we’re just lucky” Maynard answered. Grace thought Ardans father seemed kind and friendly. All boys seemed uncomfortable, atleast compared to normal so she knew it truly did have to be bad and hard at times growing up but right now he just seemed like a wonderful, carefree guy like the rest of them. “do you need food?” Efim asked Roddy “yeah, let me go grab a snack” Roddy got up and walked into the kitchen. “he just ate maybe an hour ago” Jonas said with a humoring smile. Efim laughed deeply “I’d be worried if he had gone much longer than that without eating. I’ve yet to meet a man who could eat like him”

“so, what’s going on with your wedding? I’d like to be invited son” Efim said to Ardan. Ardan didn’t respond and Grace actually felt a little frustrated with him. She responded “You are welcome to come. I’m sure you already know the details. I’m sorry your son didn’t invite you.” Efim looked at Ardan instead of Grace. “Don’t be sorry, I haven’t always been the father I should have been”

“Don’t you mean you’ve never been the father you were supposed to be? Peter took care of us, you were just a face and a name until you needed someone to take your place.” Ardan shot back. “What’s this visit about anyway? Did something happen?”

“Ardan.” Grace scolded.

“What, you’re taking his side? Great dad, you’ve already turned her against me.” He got up and stormed out, slamming the front door behind him and standing on the porch.

“I’m so sorry Efim.” Grace said.

“Don’t be, he’s right. It was probably hardest on him, especially when his mother left. He was her little boys, stayed glued to her side. I chose reaping over spending time with my family and getting to know my boys. He has every right to be angry.”

“I’ll talk to him and see if I can get him to calm down.”

“You’re a real angel dear.”

Grace went outside and frowned when she saw Ardan standing on the porch just staring angrily into space. She could only imagine what he could be thinking. “Ardan, talk to me. I’m on your side you know, but acting that way is ridiculous.”

“Ridiculous? Ridiculous? Do want to know what’s ridiculous? Seeing your mother cry all the time because her husband doesn’t care enough to let her know she’s important or how about being constantly ignored by a man who cares more about souls than his own sons. That’s ridiculous. My brothers feel the same way, they just won’s say anything. I haven’t seen my mom since after Jonas turned eighteen. That man chased her out of our lives. He’s ridiculous, him and this whole visit.”

“Maybe your brothers realize your father made mistakes and that he’s trying to make up for it. Didn’t you throw me away because I was interfering with your work?”

“Do not compare me to him, ever.” He snapped as he turned to her. “I got you back, I begged for forgiveness. So don’t make me feel like him.”

“I want our child to know him so please, for me just try getting along. Oh and I don’t appreciate being yelled at. I didn’t yell at you.”

“you compared me to my father when you know how much i hate him. I think I can yell” Grace shook her head and sighed angrily “You’re being an asshole when I didn’t even do anything to you. You just need to get off your high horse because if I hadn’t started stripping to lure you out because I was in trouble then you would have never come back for me. You didn’t give a damn about me until you got jealous because other men were looking at me. If you want to keep acting like a toddler fine, we’ll see you later inside” She hadn’t yelled but her message hit hard as she walked inside angrily. He hadn’t truly made her angry like that in a long time and a part of him knew how childish he was being.

“I’m sorry Grace…” Efim said with a small frown “don’t be sorry”

“I am, you two were so happy and look what I’ve caused”

“He’s being a child. You’re trying to be nice and he just wants to hold on to the past and be an ass to me because he’s angry” Efim felt like it was entirely his fault no matter what she said. If he had been a better father and husband in the past Ardan wouldn’t be so angry now. If he hadn’t butted into Ardans life again he wouldstill be happy with his fiance and baby on the way.

“Listen Efim, I don’t care what you did before. You did it, it’s over, and now you’re trying to fix things. If he can’t grow up he can sleep on the couch tonight. Now, how about I make us lunch.”

“You’re pregnant, I can cook.”

“Oh lord so that’s where he gets it from.” She laughed. “I know he hates being compared to you, but that was all Ardan. Ariadne would you like to help me cook before Efim gets Peter to make me sit?”

“Sure sweetie, the boys can chat with their fathers while we make something delicious.”

“Hey that makes us sound like a gay couple.” Efim said.

Ariadne laughed. “I must apologize, I didn’t mean anything by it. Peter why so quiet?” She turned her attention to the demon and his eyes jumped to her face.

“I’ve always been the quiet type. I’m more for observing ma’am and Ardan kind of made me feel bad. I owe a lot to Efim, but I’ve taken the loyalty of his child.”

“Don’t worry old friend, I am truly glad you were here.” Efim said and squeezed his bodyguard’s shoulder. “Anyway, if you want to cook you should get in the kitchen because I’m about ready to make you stay put.” Grace and Ariadne laughed and walked into the kitchen together while Efim and Peter sat down with Maynard, Roddy, and Jonas. Ardan sighed, feeling angry and sad. Losing his temper with Grace had been wrong. She meant well and had spoken the truth. He was acting like a brat when he was far too old to be doing that. He took a deeo breath and walked back inside.

“Ardan, glad you’re back.” Roddy said with a smile.

“Where is Grace?”

“Cooking lunch with Ariadne. I tried to make her stay put, but she refused.” Efim answered.

“Okay, thank you.” He needed to apologize to her.

He walked into the kitchen and both girls glanced at him “I’m so sorry Grace. I shouldn’t have yelled…I wasn’t as bad as my father when I sent you away but I did do somthing similar. You were speaking the truth and I didn’t want to hear it so I acted like a child. Please forgive me”

“You’re forgiven, please go try and talk to your father” Grace responded then Ardan said ‘ok” he didn’t want to but he would do it for Grace. His heart hung heavy with sadness as he sat down. One glance at his father turned most of that sadness into anger but he was polite anyway “I’m sorry I stormed out dad.”

“it’s ok”

“What’ve you been up to?”

“Nothing really, as you are more than aware of I devoted my life to work so now without it I have nothing. I hope to have a relationship with you boys. i really do, I’m hoping to only get a chance for you to see the kind of dad I can be.”

“ok, I can try”

“Thank you son” Ardan couldn’t think of much more to sat to his father. The tornado and sadness swirling inside of him made it hard to think atall. Efim couldn’t think of much more to say either. He barely knew his children aside from some things Peter had told him. Efim was glad he had Grace to help him mend the relationship with ardan.

Grace called everyone to the table when they had the food set out. Roddy was first to the dining room and quickly sat down. “Wait for everyone else.” Grace told him and he pouted, but waited. Everyone else sat down, Ardan taking his place next to Grace. Everyone dug in and ate happily. They all asked if Grace and Ardan had thought of any baby names and when they said they had not everyone started listing ones for them. Grace giggled and Ardan actually smiled.

“I really like Maya or Nika.” Ardan added.

“Those are wonderful names.” Efim said.  “What do you think Grace?”

“Nika sounds exotic, I really love it.” She agreed.

They finished dinner and decided to watch a movie. Roddy and Jonas sat cross legged on the floor with Peter while Ardan and Maynard sat on the couch. Ardan pulled Grace into his lap while Ariadne sat in Maynard’s, making him blush. “What would you like to watch?” Efim asked. “I have just about everything.”

“Do you have Fright Night?” Ariadne asked.

“Yes ma’am.” He had all of his movies in alphabetical order s quickly found it and popped it into the DVD player. He then took a seat next to Maynard and skipped ahead to the main menu. Everyone sat silently staring at the TV, Roddy and Jonas laughing the hardest at the funny parts. Ardan had to admit to himself that it felt nice to have the whole family together, well almost. He started thinking about his mother again and had to bury his face in Grace’s shoulder to hide his sad expression. He wished he knew where she was or if she was okay. He wanted her to meet Grace and let her know she was going to be a grandmother.

Efim noticed Ardans mood grow sad and felt horrible. He was trying to hide it but Efim still knew and wished he could hear what was going on in his sons head. When the movie was over everyone decided to go bed. Ardan, much to everyones shock made himself hug his father before going to his old bedroom with Grace. It was the first hug Efim and Ardan shared in many years. Maynard asked Ariadne “do you want a guest room or to join me in my old room since you dont know this place?” The blush once again tinting his cheeks. She smiled “I’ll sleep with you.” She loved how shy he could be. It wasn’t what you’d expect from the god of war.

Chapter Three

Once in their room Grace asked ‘baby, why do you look so sad?”

“Just thinking of my mother. I miss her”

“Why don’t we hunt for her then?”

“I don’t even know where to begin”

“Mayve your father knows”

“I dont want to ask him”

“Why not?”

“If he cared anything about finding her he would have already. He didn’t care when she left and he doesnt care now” Grace sighed “I’m sure he cared and hurt deeply when she left”

“How can you miss someone you never see?”

“To him he probably didn’t feel he didn’t see her as much as he actually didn’t”

“Maybe, I just don’t want to ask”

“I’ll ask for you tomorrow. Maybe he has her watched as you had someone watch me”

“I don’t think he ever cared that much”

“we’ll see tomorrow morning after breakfast” They crawled into his old bed then wrapped up in eachother. “I still feel terrible for yelling at you”

“You said you’re sorry so it’s all over now.”

“I wish I could take back my stupid choice back then”

“well you can’t so don’t let it haunt you”

Grace fell asleep quickly, but Ardan stayed awake with his troubled thoughts. He was emotionally conflicted and didn’t know what to do about it. He held Grace a little tighter, wishing he could be as understanding as she was. He finally forced himself to sleep. knowing Grace would be worried if he looked too exhausted. The next morning he woke before Grace. His head had been troubled even in his sleep. He got up and went downstairs and almost turned back around when he saw his father sitting on the couch reading the paper, but decided childishly retreating was not the way to work toward repairing their relationship.

“There’s coffee if you want some Ardan.” Efim said without looking up.

“How did you know it was me?”

“You skipped the third step. You’re the only who remembers it creaks.” He turned the page of his paper and continued reading.

“Just force of habit.”

“Remember when you snuck out when you were sixteen? That was the only reason you made it down the block.”

Ardan couldn’t help but give a little laugh at that and it made his father smile. He went into the kitche and made himself a cup of coffee then went and sat on the opposite end of the couch as his father. He didn’t how to make small talk with the man he had hated for so long so he just silently sipped at his coffee. “So after you’re done with your coffee do you want to help me make breakfast for everyone? We can make your favorite, French toast with pumpkin sice instead of just cinnamon and sugar right.” Efim said.

“Sure.” He was surprised his dad had actually paid enough attention to learn what his favorite breakfast was. He had thought his dad’s mind had only been preoccupied with work. “I would really like that dad.”

Efim smiled again. When Ardan was done they walked inot the kitchen and began making breakfast. They had barely started when the smell woke Roddy. he got up, changed his clothes then went straight down “morning” They both smiled “morning”

“need help?”

“no we’re good” Efim answered. Ardan was finally doing somthing with him and he wanted to enjoy it. His other boys had come around awhile ago though they still weren’t as comfortable around him as he would like. He hoped one day he could have a normal relationship with all three. Slowly everybody came down and soon everybody was served and happily eating Roddy ate more than everybody else combined but that was nothing new. You would think he had a spare stomach laying around somewhere to contain all the food he consumed.

Ardan started to eat slower when he was almost done. He was nervous about asking his father of his mother. Grace noticed but didn’t blame him for  being apprehensive. She just silently ate her food and waited. Roddy and Ariadne offered to do the dishes so they got to work while everybody else went into the living room again. “Did you all sleep well?” Efim asked and everyone assured him they did. Efim hoped they would stay awhile so was glad they slept fine in their old home.

“Dad…” Ardan said then stopped. He was worried about being disappointed.

“What’s wrong Ardan?” Efim asked.

“Dad, do you know where mom is? Have you seen her since she left?” He looked at his plate and heard Efim put his fork down. “If you don’t it’s okay.”

“She’s in Egypt working as a museum curator.” Ardan looked, hope restored.

“You kept tabs on her, that’s fantastic.”

“Of course I did, besides we’re still married and I have been trying to figure out how to get her back.”

Everyone stopped eating. “Jonas is almost thirty, why haven’t you talked to her?” Maynard asked.

“Would you believe that I’m scared?” The boys shook their heads and he chuckled. “Well it’s true, even your old man can be shaken.”

“Dad you need to talk to her, Ardan is going to be getting married soon and Grace is pregnant. She should at least be here for the wedding and birth of her granddaughter.” Roddy chimed in.

“Why don’t we all go, Grace has never been to Egypt.” Jonas added.

“Boys, even if I did talk to her she probably still hates me. She’d probably shut me down before I opened my mouth.”

“Oh stop being such a chicken.” Peter finally said, much to everyone’s surprise. “You have been watching her for years and you still haven’t grown a pair. She was upset when she left Efim, which means she didn’t want to go so lets all go and see her or does the ex Grim Reaper have no courage left?”

Efim chuckled. “Challenge accepted old friend.”

everyone got up to pack aside from Grace and Ardan who were already packed. Efims heart pounded. He had missed her so deeply. He somtimes would even cry after watching her. He had wanted to get her back from the second she walked out that door but back then he realized he could never make her happy and now that he could he had been terrified. The pain was going to be overwhelming if he actually asked for her back and she had nothing but angry words for him. He would deserve every one but each syllable would be a knife in the chest.

When all were downstairs they vanished and reappeared in Egypt. “how close is this to mom?” Jonas asked excitedly. “we aren’t far atall. Lets get rooms and then find her. ” They quickly found an Inn then purchased rooms. Maynard was glad when Ariadne wanted a room with him. They set their stuff down then met in the lobby. Everyone was nervous but none more so than the normally intimidating ex reaper.

Grace marveled at how beautiful Egypt was as they walked down the street. She had seen pictures, but none measured up to the real thing. She wanted to go exploring, but she knew how important finding Ardan’s mother was. So even though it was hard with all the delicious smells and intriguing pieces of jewelry and art, she contained herself. “She works at The Egyptian Museum of Antiquities. It is the largest in Egypt.” Efim said with a hint of pride. “She’s really made quite a name for herself.”

“She always did love history.” Ardan replied.

Grace’s eyes widened when they made it to the large building. It was very beautifully constructed. They couldn’t get in fast enough, especially Ardan who wanted to see his mother the most. Efim paid for their tickets and then waved down a security guard. “Excuse me, I was wondering if you could tell me where Vara McNassa is. I’m her husband and our boys wanted to see her.”

“She’s in the Tut’ ankhamun section taking care overseeing the reorganization. Please be respectful of the staff while they work and you can go see her.”

“Thank you very much.”

They walked as quickly as they could without actually running. The first thing they heard was the sound of Vara’s voice. She was talking politely to the staff as she told them where she wanted everything. Efim’s heart slammed against his chest when they rounded the corner and saw her. She was standing in the middle of the room, pointing and smiling as she gently directed the people around her. She looked absolutely gorgeus, her eyes twinkling with happiness.

“Mom.” Ardan called and Vara turned around, her eyes filling with tears at the sight of her children.

She ran to them even though it wasn’t allowed in the museum. She couldn’t help herself. She hugged Ardan first then kissed his cheek. She did the same with all the boys then asked “who are these beautiful ladies?” Ardan grabbed Grace’s hand and said “this is my fiance. We’re getting married at the end of the week an we really want you to come. She’s also pregnant with a little girl. we really want you in our lives mom” Vara teared up again and hugged Grace “I’m so happy for you two. I’d love to come to the wedding.” Ariadne being as bold as she was just stepped forward herself “I’m Maynards girlfriend. My name’s Ariadne” Maynard could barely believe his ears. it was a wonderful thing to hear but he wasn’t aware atall they were dating. He didn’t want to look like an idiot here though so he decided to talk to her about it in the room tonight.

“nice to meet you. Thank you for coming aswell. I’m glad two of my boys are happy with seemingly wonderful women.” Vara hadn’t really awkowledge Efim yet. She truly didn’t know what to say to him or how to act. She was glad to see his face again but at the same time she was still deeply hurt and didn’t think he cared enough to even desire a hug from her. Efim cleared his throat “Hey, it’s nice to see you Vara” She gave him a smile “How’s retirement?”

“Quiet, far to quiet. I read the paper.” She didn’t want to laugh, but she did. He had always been good at that when he had the time. No matter how upset she was or how angry he could always make her laugh.

“Everyone take a break, we’re almost finished anyway.” She said to her coworkers then turned back to her family. “Come on, I’ll give you all a tour.”

They walked through the museum and she explained what everything was and who was in charge of that particular section of the museum. She worked with three other curators in the Tut exhibit and got along with all of them. They were all happy that she was enjoying her life in Egypt and for a moment Efim wondered if maybe she was better off without him. He certainly didn’t deserve her even though he needed her in his life. The whole tour Grace just stared open mouthed. She had never been to a museum with so many amazing artifacts. Roddy and Jonas talked nonstop to Vara and she just smiled and answered their questions.

“Okay everyone, I need to get back to work, but if you like we can all go out for dinner tonight so I can get to know Grace and Ariadne better.”

“We would love that mom.” Ardan said happily and gave her a tight hug.

“Good, be here at six thirty. I know an amazing place with the most delicious food.” She sighed. “It’s so good to see everyone.” Her sons gave her a group hug then she hugged Grace, Ariadne, and even Peter. Efim just gave her a small smile and she hugged him too. “Alright, I’ll see everyone later.” They told her bye, deciding to explore then have lunch.
That hug had only made him miss his wife more. She had never asked for a divorce and he somtimes wondered if that meant she did want to fix things between them. That maybe when she left that day she wanted to be chased. Efim sighed, thinking of everything she had accomplished and how happy she was without him. He would never be the work absorbed ass he was before but he didn’t know if it was selfish to want her to come back with him. While everyone took in the sights he was lost in his waring head of what to do. He knew he did have to ask since he had accepted Peters challenge but he couldn’t decide what to say.

They decided on kibda, fried liver, and aish, pita bread for lunch so found a food cart and ordered some of the delicious smelling food. They explored the very active market place where many different vendors had stalls set up. Ardan bought grace a bead necklace with the head of anubis on it and Maynard bougt Ariadne a blue shawl he thought went well with her hair and eyes. Both women smiled and Efim couldn’t help but smile at his sons. They were like he was the day he met Vara, falling all over themselves and willing to do anything to see a smile.

“I’m really thirsty.” Grace said, playing with the anubis head.

“I know something you and the baby will like.” Efim replied as they walked down the street to a diner. They found a seat and a waitress came by holding menus. “No need for those. I would like Mowz bil-Laban for everyone please.” She smiled and quickly wrote down how many would have to be made.

“What is Mowz bil-Laban?” Grace asked.

“It’s something really delicious.” Ardan answered, with a smile.

“So what are you going to say to mom?” Roddy asked.

“And when are you going to say it?” Maynard chimed in.

“I don’t know and I guess after dinner. I’ll talk to her alone if she’ll let me.” Efim answered.

Grace reached across the table and grabbed his hand. “You’ll do just fine, just be honest and open. Even if it sounds lame to you, just say it.” He gave her a small smile. Their drinks came and Grace picked hers up and looked at it.

“Just take a drink.” Efim said with a chuckle.

Grace took a drink. “Banana.”

“Banana and milk. Good right?”

“Delicious, thank you.”

They drank to their hearts content then began to look around again. Efim decided while they were still having lunch that he would just enjoy his children and the women they loved and not obsess over tonight. He had to make up his past self to his three boys too so they deserved more than him being in his head while he worried. Ardan, Maynard, Jonas and Roddy were pleasantly surprised with how much fun their dad was being. This was the dad they always dreamed of as children and were glad to finally have him. Even Ardan who had harbored the most anger was relaxed and happy.

When six rolled around they decided to make their way back to Vara. None of them wanted to be late, especially not Efim. They arrived back at six twenty seven and just waited for her to come out. She wore a beamingly warm smile when she walked out and saw them “wow, right on time. You all ready to eat with me?’ They all excitedly told her yes then she began guiding them. Efim walked close to Vara and stole glances out the corner of his eye. She noticed every one but didn’t say anything about it. One of the times Efim was actually paying attention to where they were going he thought this way looked familiar.

He smiled and felt a warm, tingling sensation when Vara brought them to a place he had taken her when they were in Egypt together. For whatever reason it made him deeply happy she still came here. They walked in and were soon seated at a table near the back of the restaurant. Efim took one side of Vara while Ardan took the other. Vara spoke ‘so girls, after we order drinks i want to play twenty questions so I can learn about the loves of my sons”

They decided on rasberry mint Cairo coolers when the waitress came since it had been a warm day. They reassured Grace that it was a non-alcoholic beverage when she thought it was something like a wine cooler. “So, time to be an overly curious mother?” Vara said with a warm smile. “How did you two meet my boys?”

“I got hit by a car and instead of taking me he gave my soul back. It tied our souls together. We did hit a rough patch, but we got through it and here we are.” Grace answered first.

“That’s good, I’m glad you’re still together. How about you Ariadne?”

“Grace and Ardan sent him to watch over me because of this organization that wanted people like Grace and I. He just appeared in my living room and I hit him with one of my potions. It knocked him right out. After that he just kind of started spending more time with me and I kind of grew attached to him.” Maynard blushed. He had told no one about that little incident and the only reason Grace and Ardan knew was because Ariadne had told Grace.

Vara asked them more questions and smiled at every answer. Their dranks came ad they ordered their food, both Efim and Vara recommended certain things. “May I ask you something Vara?” Grace asked.

“Of course dear.”

“What are you exactly? You have four grown sons, the youngest who is almost thirty, but you don’t look a day younger than twenty-five.”

“Oh well thank you and to answer your question, I am a Lillend. I came from another plane of existence, wounded. Efim found me laying naked in a park and took me home. I’m glad he happened by or I would have been stuck in a hospital. I had a terrible fever, but he nursed me back to health.”

“What is a Lillend?”

“I’m sure Ariadne knows, but I’ll show you some time when we’re not in the middle of a resaurant.” Their food came and they all ate and chatted happily, listening to Vara tell stories of her time in Egypt.

They were all enraptured by her every story. It made Grace want to travel more. Since getting back with Ardanthey stayed in his home most the time. She had been getting cabin fever really bad but didn’t want to pull him away from his work. Mentally she knew he would never leave her again but it was harder to tell her heart that somtimes. It’s why she just stayed home for the most part. Her heart somtimes guided her away from wanting to leave so he wouldn’t have a reason to just throw her away again. Hearing all these amazing stories was enough to make her ignore that and see if as a honey moon he would travel with her for just a little while. She couldn’t wait to talk to him about it while Efim talked to Vara.

They stayed until closing, shocked when they realized the time. “I got so carried away. I’m sorry” Vara said and they all insisted that they loved the stories and were glad she talked about them. Ardan wanted to make sure his father talked to his mother so he got up “Mom, dad has somthing important to talk to you about. we are all going to our hotel and you two are going to have a discussion” She looked at Efim ‘about what?” he rubbed the back of his head nervously and looked away from her “about us..what i did..all that”

‘oh” Her face going from relaxed to uncomfortable and sad. Everybody walked outside together but left Efim and Vara standing in front of the restaurant.  “good going Ardan” Maynard said patting his back. Roddy chimed in “Yeah, I was afraid he’d chicken out” peter said nothing and followed. he was so quiet it was easy to forget he was even there with them. In Ardan and Grace’s room they took off their shoes and decided to shower together since they were covered in desert sand. After their hair was washed Grace asked “can we travel as our honeymoon. Just a little bit, I wont keep you away long and it will be hard to travel once we have the baby. I’ll just be home all the time for atleast four years I’m sure. Please” he gave her a look as if she had said somthing ridiculous “of course we can and we will if that will make you happy.” Grace hugged him excitedly then started talking about where she wanted to go until the water started to run cold.

In Maynard and Ariadne’s room maynard asked ‘we’re truly dating?’

“yes silly. I’ve thought so for a long time. I mean if thats not what you want it’s fine but I have honestly been thinking of you as my boyfriend. It’s why i sit in your lap and hold you hand. Do you see me doing that with other men?’

‘No” he said with a smile. “Here i thought you were just shy. I didn’t know you didn’t think we were in a relationship”

“I just thought maybe you wanted to be really good friends. I haven’t had a real relationship in a long time so I guess I just didn’t notice. I’m so happy.” He gave her a very gentle kiss.

“My God of War is so sweet and gentle. Who would have thought such a thing.”

He chuckled. “Just you wait beautiful.”

Efim walked nervously down the sidewalk next to Vara. He really didn’t know how to start. “Efim, just tell me. This wondering what you might say is agnozing.” Vara said.

“How do you think I feel? I’m actually scared.” She stopped and grabbed his arm.

“Tell me. Why did you come here?”

“To tell you that I am sorry, that I love you, and that without  you my life has become boring and meaningless. I miss your laugh, your smile, even the way you would sometimes chastise me. I feel alone without you. I’m sorry I drove you away, please forgive me and come home. I really need you.” He felt himself choking up, but didn’t want to cry in front of her. He tried his best to hold his tears back, but one slipped out and ran down his cheek.

“It took you long enough.” She replied softly and hugged him. His heart slammed against his chest and he wrapped his arms tightly around her. “I had almost given up on you.”

“What do you mean?”

“I knew you were watching me, for nearly twelve years I waited hoping you would show up and tell me how sorry you were. I wanted to know I was needed and it took you twelve years to tell me.”

He let himself cry then, holding tightly to her. “I love you so much.” He finally managed to say and she kissed his cheek. “I’ll do anything to make you happy, absolutely anything.”

She pulled back and wiped the tears off his face. “Quit smoking in the house. I don’t care if you do it outside, but not in the house.”

He laughed and kissed her a little to hard in his excitement. “Sorry, I promise no more cigarettes ever. We’re going to be grandparents and I don’t want to smell like smoke around the baby. So I quit, here and now.” He pulled out his cigaretted pack and walked over to a waste bin on the corner. He crushed them and threw them away. “There, besides it’s not like I need them. They just used to make me look intimmidating to evil spirits.”

She giggled. “A smoking skull, sounds like you should have been on the cover of a rock album.”

Efim kissed her again, this time his mouth coming in gently instead of slamming and pressing hard into her face. “Are you coming back to the Inn with me?”

“Shouldn’t I go to where i live now and pack things so I can return home” Efims lip quivered and he nearly cried again. “Yeah, I’ll help you. We can probably get it all packed and moved tonight while our children sleep” Theydidn’t stop until everything she owned was at their house. They finally went to sleep at the Inn so they would be where their children were in the morning. Efim slept like he had never remembered sleeping before. His soul was finally whole again and he would never allow himself to ever stop appreciating his wife like he did before. The next morning everybody was jubilant about them being together again and Efim seemed to glow with happiness. They packed their bags and went back home since the wedding was coming up the day after tomorrow. When the big day came it was a beautiful ceremony. It couldn’t have been more perfect since his mother was actually there. Ardan felt truly blessed to be at apoint in his life where he got along with his brothers, had his mother and the woman he loved more than anything was becoming his for eternity. Ardan vowed to never let his work make him neglect her as his father allowed his work to do. He would do his best to always make sure Grace knew she was his world.

~ The End ~

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