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The Shanachie Theater / Re: Backstage - The OOC Thread
« Last post by Anthony De Luca on Today at 01:23:23 PM »
Just a quick note that the theater will reopen for business in February. We are currently compiling a list of performances for the season, so if anyone has any special requests, send them to me via PM ASAP. I can't guarantee that we'll be able to include them, but we will consider your requests.

Also, just a couple of minor changes on this year's Roll Call:

 - For the ballet, Christian Benoit has been moved from principal to guest performer, as he has taken on the task of Assistant Director

- Josh Stuart has departed the theater company, due to other obligations, and is being replaced by Arandir, who is returning as a guest performer.

Keep an eye on this thread for our first performance of 2020, which should be posted next weekend. That's all for now. Thanks for reading! :)
2
Of Gall And Grangers / Re: A Fluffy Surprise
« Last post by Miranda Bennett on January 21, 2020, 07:40:09 PM »
"Ah, but mine is more of a claymore, I hope," he countered cheerfully, letting her go so they could separate. A few minutes later, they reconvened at the table with pizza, sides, and drinks, and despite his minor objections to this kind of meal, Rufus was certainly not shy about ramming half a slice into his mouth at the first opportunity.

She sputtered laughter at his remark. He certainly was full of himself, but she loved him for it. She had broken out a bottle of wine to go with the pizza, in hopes it would help them both relax. There were no children to deal with tonight, and cats were fairly self-sufficient creatures, so long as they had food and water.

No one was going to go hungry or thirsty in a house run by Miranda Bennett, that was for certain. There was a fair amount of complaining from the cats when the humans decamped to the living room, until Rufus got up and carried the basket in from the kitchen, allowing the pair to enjoy the warmth from the fire as well as the comfort rolling off their humans.

Snuggled up against Rufus, the warmth of the fire and her full tummy making her drowsy, Miranda felt as content as the kitten in the basket. She didn't much care about anything at that moment, but the fact that she was happy living this simple life with Rufus.

"Did you ever think you'd be happy settling down?" she asked him, her head resting comfortably against his shoulder.

"I knew my life as a Watcher would not be indefinite," he mused, his cheek resting against her hair as he watched the flame flickering in the fireplace. "Without you in my life, I had no hope of a happy life. I am glad we found each other again."

"I was always right there, waiting for you," she told him softly. Sure, she'd taken a few lovers over the years - someone to soothe the pain of loneliness, but she'd never loved anyone the way she'd loved him. There had really never been anyone else.

"And now we are here, with our family, and each other," he murmured, his smile audible to her as he stroked her hair. "The greatest blessing I could ever have hoped for."

"You deserve it, Rufus. You deserve to be happy. We both do," she told him, shifting so that she could face him, so that she could kiss him, before they both fell asleep on the couch.

Wrapped up in each other, they might regret it later when they woke up in such awkward positions, but for now, Rufus was more than content to fall asleep with Miranda in his arms. Tragedy might have been what had brought them back together, but he was determined that there would be nothing but peace from now on.
3
Of Gall And Grangers / Re: A Fluffy Surprise
« Last post by Miranda Bennett on January 21, 2020, 07:39:53 PM »
"It would be strange if she didn't," Rufus pointed out. "Darling, if you would like another cat, we can get another cat. I just want you to be happy."

"I am happy, Rufus," she assured him, moving to her feet, so that she could face him. "Very happy. I just want her to be happy, too. And you. And Rowan," she added, walking her fingers up his chest.

"Oh, believe me, I am very happy," he promised her, rolling his eyes at her flirtatious behavior, but nonetheless curling his arms about her waist affectionately. "I am always at my happiest when my angel is with me, you know that."

"Are you asking me to quit my job?" she asked, a teasing gleam in her eyes. She was actually considering making a few adjustments to her work schedule, but she had yet to suggest it to Mataya.

He laughed. "I would never be so selfish as to expect you to stop doing something you love so much," he assured her. "I am fairly sure you wouldn't be happy to spend as much time in a library as I do, either."

"No," she said, smoothing a hand across his shirt, though it didn't really need smoothing. "But I'd like to spend more time with Ro and the twins. I'm not getting any younger, Rufus. It's time for us to think about what we want to do in retirement."

"I am always going to have books around, Miri," he pointed out. "I enjoy research. But you should give some thought to what you wish to do. I will follow you to the ends of the multiverse."

"I'm not sure," Miranda replied with a thoughtful frown. "I like working at the theater, but I want to spend more time with you and the children. I'm not getting any younger," she admitted and neither was he. Though they still had a lot of good years left, she didn't want to waste a single minute.

"Perhaps you should restrict yourself to simply designing for the theater, and let your department take care of bringing it all into being," he suggested, squeezing her for a moment.

"I am designing for the ..." Miranda trailed off with a muttered, "Oh." She couldn't deny that she had bitten off a little more than she could chew. Instead of just designing costumes, she'd somehow become head of the entire costume department, overseeing everything from repairs to alterations to costume creation from scratch.

"I think, angel, you need to reorganize that department of yours and appoint at least one deputy," Rufus suggested fondly. "I know you like to have your fingers in every pie, but it is a lot of work."

"I suppose you're right," she murmured with a sigh. "I'll have to give it some thought," she said, regarding an assistant or a replacement. That still didn't answer the question of what he'd like to do in his so-called "Golden Years" though. "What about you?" she asked. He was retired from being a Watcher, but she knew he still kept himself informed about what was going on in the supernatural world.

He offered a rueful smile. "I have actually started compiling my notes," he admitted. "The archivist at the library said there would probably be a market for a compendium of beasts and monsters; what kills them, what their components can be used for, that sort of thing."

Miranda winced, her thoughts immediately going to whether or not that would make him any enemies among said monsters. "Can you publish it anonymously?" she asked, worriedly.

"Of course," he assured her. "I would not want to put my name to it. I, ah ... I was considering publishing it in Lei's name, putting whatever royalties come from it into a fund for Rowan. What do you think of that?"

"So long as no one finds out that Rowan is Lei's daughter," Miranda replied. She wasn't trying to be paranoid, but she knew how dangerous the Slayer's enemies could be. She had spent twenty years looking over her shoulder and hoping Rufus' enemies didn't find her - or their daughter.

"Miri ... trust me." Rufus laid his hands on her shoulders, holding her gaze for a long moment. "I would never willingly bring danger to our family. If you would rather I did not do this, simply say the word."

"I do trust you, Rufus. I have always trusted you," she assured him meeting his gaze. "There is no one I trust more than you. Just make sure they cannot make the connection, and you have my blessing."

He kissed her forehead reassuringly. "I promise you, no one will connect the book to us or anyone we love," he said firmly, putting aside the thought of using Lei's name in favor of keeping his wife on an even keel.

"You can still put the money you earn from the book in a trust fund without putting Lei's name on the cover," she suggested, as he kissed her forehead reassuringly. She didn't want him to give up something he'd worked so hard on and that meant so much to him, just because of her fears, but there was no real reason to point any fingers unnecessarily in their direction either.

"I know, love." He hugged her close for a long moment; every memory of Lei stung his heart, but he was getting better at dealing with those pangs. "But you have no objection to my doing this?"

She knew how much Lei had meant to him, but she wasn't willing to risk Rowan's safety simply for the sake of notoriety. She wrapped her arms around him, knowing even mentioning Lei's name was painful, but at least, they had Rowan to keep her memory alive in their hearts. "I have no objection, love. I know how much this means to you." Not to mention how hard he'd been working on it.

"It is still going to be a couple of years of work to put it all together," he confessed. "But there is no rush to it. I will always have time for my angel."

"Maybe we should be like normal people and take up golfing," she suggested with a smirk that showed she didn't really mean it. She wasn't even aware of any golf courses on RhyDin.

He snorted with laughter. "Not a chance," he told her. "Fencing, perhaps. You would be rather good with a rapier, I think." He grinned down at her just as the doorbell rang. "And there is dinner."

"Oh, really?" she asked, arching a brow in surprised amusement. "But you're the one with the sword," she reminded him, waggling her brows suggestively, as the doorbell rang. "I'll get the drinks," she said, touching a kiss to his lips before turning to set the table.

4
Of Gall And Grangers / Re: A Fluffy Surprise
« Last post by Miranda Bennett on January 21, 2020, 07:39:36 PM »
"I'm sorry," she said, frowning up at him as he joined her. "I promise I'll make it up to you," she said, regarding the pizza. "I'm just too tired to bother with dinner tonight."

He chuckled. "There is nothing to apologize for, angel," he told her firmly. "You are tired, you have had a very long day, and you have these two to take up your time. I promise you, there is nothing to make up to me."

"But I will make it up to you," she promised, despite his reassurances. "When you least expect it," she added with a grin. There was no telling what she might do to keep her promise, but he could be certain she'd keep it, one way or another.

"Darling, that is possibly the most ominous promise you have ever made me," he laughed in answer, moving further into the kitchen to sit down beside her once again. "I see little and large are getting along well enough to share a snack. Bodes well, doesn't it?"

"I suppose it does," Miranda replied, frowning as she stroked her fingers through Andy's long fur. "You know, he's almost as old as Bethany. We got him when she was still little. She'd been pestering me for a little brother, and Andy was the best I could do," she confessed, a little sadly.

"He's lived a long life," Rufus agreed gently. "A life filled with love. It's more than most people ever get. He has had a good life with you, angel. And he'll be able to go knowing that he helped to choose someone to look after you when he's gone."

"I know," she admitted with a faint smile. She did know these things, and they did bring her comfort, but she was still going to miss him. "Thank you, Rufus," she said, looking up at her husband with love and gratitude in her eyes.

He wrapped an arm about her, drawing her close to kiss her temple. "You won't be alone in this, Miri," he promised her. "You will never be alone again."

She knew no one lived forever, certainly not her beloved cat, but there were a few people she couldn't bear the thought of losing and one of them was Rufus. She turned to snuggle into him, hands pressed against his chest, a serious expression on her face for once. "You have better mean that, Rufus Bennett. I will never forgive me if you leave me again."

"I am not going anywhere, Miri," he swore to her. "I'm by your side for as long as you want me here." He cupped her cheek in his hand, stroking his thumb over her skin tenderly as he spoke.

"I want you here forever," she told him softly, though what she really meant was for the rest of her life. No one lived forever - not mere humans, anyway. "Want to become vampires together?" she teased, her fingers tracing the strong line of his jaw. Now that would be something, considering Rufus' background as a Watcher.

The look he gave her was answer enough, so there was no need for the scathing reply that wanted to make itself known. Instead, he grinned, leaning close to tease her back. "I see myself more as a lich king," he said mischievously. "Care to be my undead queen?"

"I would rather just be your wife," she told him, leaning closer, her forehead coming to rest against his. "But I meant what I said before ... Thank you, Rufus. I love you."

"Forever, Miri," he promised her, letting her lean into him for as long as she needed to, stroking his hand up and down her back with soothing tenderness. "I will love you forever."

"Forever is a very long time, Rufus," she whispered back, her words ghosting against his lips before offering a tender kiss. "What do you say we ask Beth to keep Ro overnight?" she suggested, an impish smile on her face.

"You say that as though I haven't already texted her exactly that," he countered laughingly, gently goosing her even as his phone buzzed with an answer. "Here, you confuse our daughter; I'll put the money by the door for when the food arrives."

"How am I going to confuse her?" she asked, giggling at his reply. At least, it seemed they were going to have one evening to themselves for a change - except for the cats who had finished with their cream and were not licking themselves clean. She took the phone from him to read the text Bethany had sent her father.

The text was in typical Beth style - I'm never giving her back. Don't do anything I wouldn't do! xxx Apparently she had made a relatively accurate guess as to what her parents were going to be up to while she and Jason added a fourth child to their roster for the evening.

Miranda laughed at her daughter's text, seeing no reason to respond. She knew Rowan would be perfectly safe and happy with Bethany and her family for the night, and yet, she couldn't help but text back: At least I won't be getting pregnant, with a laughing emoji at the end.

Beth's answer was swift. Dad, have you been getting into Mom's secret wine stash again?

On the table, little Mimi lifted her head, stretched ... and rolled over, asleep almost before she hit the wood. Andy licked his chops and heaved himself painfully over to her, settling down with his chin on her tummy.

Miranda chuckled at her daughter's message and texted back: This isn't Dad, and left it at that. She turned to find the pair of cats drifting off to take a catnap, and sighed, not wanting to leave them on the table, where, the kitten at least, might not be able to get down. "The table is no place for a nap, you two," she scolded gently, taking up the kitten first and bending to place her in a basket on the floor, complete with pillows and blanket.

The little scrap of fur wriggled a bit as she was moved, but didn't object once she was in the nest of blankets and pillows. Andy looked a little grumpy, pulling himself up onto his feet to approach the edge of the table and look down expectantly.

The old cat didn't have to wait very long though, as Miranda very carefully scooped him up too and settled him beside his new friend. "Did you think I'd forget about you?" she asked him, stroking his fur. "I'll never forget you," she assured him quietly, no matter how many cats came after him.

As she lifted him up, Andy butted his head into her chin and neck, nuzzling in affectionately as he purred. Set down, he curled up around Mimi protectively, still tilting his head into Miranda's hand happily. "Bed time, hmm?" Rufus said curiously as he came back into the kitchen, checking the teapot for warmth.

"Cat nap," Miranda explained, pausing a moment to give both cat's their due, but giving the elder cat more affection than the younger one, who seemed content to curl up beside the other. "What if she gets used to him being around?" Miranda said, worried the kitten might get lonely once Andy was gone.
5
Of Gall And Grangers / Re: A Fluffy Surprise
« Last post by Miranda Bennett on January 21, 2020, 07:39:17 PM »
He attempted to look innocent, but didn't bother trying to hold it. "I could have been planning it ever since you had a small breakdown over Andy's age before Christmas?"

Miranda frowned, sighing softly as she recalled that event. She looked over at the older cat a little sadly. "I have thought about giving him a little of Sol's youth potion," she admitted, but she hadn't because she wasn't sure what kind of effect it would have on a feline.

Rufus' hand gently wrapped about her own. "You can't hold back death for everyone, Miri," he told her gently. "Andy is older than Humphrey by now, and his arthritis will not get better. Extending his life means extending his pain."

"I know," Miranda said, frowning sadly, her eyes shining with tears as she regarded her furry friend. "Just promise me we'll be there with him when he goes," she said softly, afraid that if she spoke any louder the catch in her voice would betray her sadness.

"We will." It was a promise easy to make and easy to keep, but Rufus had also been expecting it. He was fairly sure Andy wasn't going to last another year; that had been his reasoning behind finding another ragdoll for Miranda to love before that happened.

Miranda nodded, sniffling back her tears, as she scritched her old friend beneath the chin, even as the kitten nudged her hand. "It'll be good for him to have a little friend in his last days," she said, hoping that was true.

"That's why I thought he should be involved in finding her," Rufus murmured, watching her with her beloved cat. The kitten rolled awkwardly across the table, bumping up against Andy, who lowered his head to lick her nose before returning his chin to Miranda's hand.

"He likes her," Miranda said, smiling softly as the older cat acknowledged the younger one affectionately. "I always thought he'd be jealous of another cat," she murmured to herself.

"I know," he admitted. "That was why I thought I'd involve him in the entire process. He terrified a couple of the kittens with one hiss, but Mimi seems to appeal to his hidden soft side."

"He's a little like Humphrey, I guess," she remarked with a chuckle. "His hiss is worse than his bite," she said, replacing bark with hiss, since cats did not bark.

Rufus chuckled, glad that Miranda wasn't annoyed with him for going out and finding her another cat without her input. He sipped his tea, watching as Andy pressed Mimi down onto the table to calm her down.

Nothing could have been more perfect than for Andy to have picked his replacement and for Rufus to have cared enough to think of it. "You are the most amazing man, you know that?" she said, turning her attention from that of the cats to that of her husband, her fingers tracing his jaw before leaning in for a kiss to reward his unselfish thoughtfulness. She knew he wasn't overly fond of cats, but he had done it for her.

He smiled into the kiss. "I'm not that amazing, but I have a truly magnificent wife," he said fondly. "Whom I would do anything for."

"Anything?" she asked, resting her cheek against her palm as she brushed her nose against his, that dreamy "I'm in love" look in her eyes, just like she'd had when she'd first laid eyes on him all those years ago in the university library, his nose stuck in a book.

Stroking his fingers down her back, he kissed her once again. "Well, almost anything," he admitted. "There are a couple of things you have banned me from doing."

He'd proven more than once that he loved her, and that was good enough for her, but she just couldn't help teasing him sometimes. "Do you love me enough to order in?" she asked, batting her lashes at him. Unless he was planning on cooking. She was just too tired from the theater.

"That really does depend on what you fancy, darling," he assured her. He did like to cook, but there were a few things he couldn't master. Those were the things he often agreed to order in.

"Hmm, I don't know," Miranda mused, as her fingers teased his jaw. "Maybe pizza with the works?" she suggested. Most everything else she suggested, he'd just insist on cooking.

"You Rhy'Dinians and your pizza," he teased in return, kissing the tip of her nose. "All right, love. Look after little and large here while I order." He rose with a grin, moving to locate the phone.

"What, would you prefer fish and chips?" she asked, a teasing smirk on her face. It wasn't that she was opposed to fish and chips exactly, but that she was just in the mood for pizza. The sound of slurping alerted her to the fact that the kitten was up to mischief, and she turned to find her stealing sips of her tea.

"No, no, you silly girl. That's not for you," she scolded the kitten gently, before moving the teacup aside. "Wait right here, and I'll get you both a nice bowl of cream," she told them both, trusting Andy to keep an eye on the kitten.

"The cat cream is in the fridge," Rufus called from the hallway. He'd had a highly informative conversation at the shelter and had retained all of it, which meant Miranda might well be barraged with good cat owner facts over the next few days.

"Thank you, darling!" she called back, though it seemed obvious enough to her that there was no other place for cream but in the fridge. She knew it wasn't good to give cats too much cream, but she didn't think it would hurt to spoil them just a little. Humming happily to herself, she went about pouring a little cream into a bowl and setting it in front of the cats so that they could share.

"There you go. So much better than tea, isn't it?"

Perhaps surprisingly, the kitten sat back as Andy investigated the bowl, watching him lower his head to begin drinking the cream before inching closer to join him. The old cat just gave his new friend a side-eye for drinking with him, which was practically unheard of.

Miranda smiled to see the two cats getting along. Either Andy was turning into an old softie, or he was just too old and tired to bother putting up a fight. "Good boy," she praised the elderly cat, stroking her fingers through the fur against his back. "You've been a good friend to me all these years, Andy. I will never forget you," she whispered softly for his ears only.

From the doorway, Rufus took a picture of the three of them together, saving it to his cell phone even as he made the familiar order to the nearest pizza place. It didn't take long to do; as he set down the phone, he moved to kiss Miranda's temple fondly. "Dinner is on the way, darling."

6
Of Gall And Grangers / A Fluffy Surprise
« Last post by Miranda Bennett on January 21, 2020, 07:39:02 PM »
It was just another ordinary day in the busy life of Miranda Granger. She'd spent the better part of the day at the theater inventorying costumes after a long year of shows. With the companies on a short hiatus, it was a good time to take stock of what costumes they had on hand and what needed to be replaced before the show season started up again in February. She'd dropped Rowan off at Beth's to spend time with the twins and had returned home exhausted and looking forward to relaxing with her favorite fella. She let herself in through the front door, kicking off her shoes and wiggling her toes before calling to see what that fella was up to.

"Rufus! I'm home!"

"I'm in the kitchen!" he called back to her. For a moment, it sounded as though he was talking quietly to someone else before he raised his voice again. "Come and have a cup of tea, angel."

"A cup of tea sounds lovely," she said, as she shrugged her coat off and tossed it on the couch. She'd put it away later. Right now, all she wanted was a hot cup of tea and a kiss from her knight in shining armor. "We're going to have to hire another seamstress to get us up to speed this year. I don't know what they do to those costumes, but they're a mess! Maybe I should just ask Sol to come in and wiggle his nose or whatever he does to get things done," she remarked as she wandered through the house toward the kitchen, stretching her back as she went. If he'd been talking to someone else, she hadn't noticed.

Rufus was chuckling as she entered the kitchen, reaching out to hug her warmly. "You will get them back to order in no time," he assured her, absolutely certain she could do anything she set her mind to. Of course, she might not have noticed what he said, because on the table was Andy, her geriatric cat, sat comfortably beside a ragdoll kitten that had certainly not been in the house when she had left.

"Hmm, we'll see about that," she murmured, happily welcoming Rufus' embrace. "I missed you," she murmured against his chest, breathing in the familiar scent of him. It was right about then that she noticed something out of the corner of her eye. "Andy, what are you doing on the ..." She trailed off as she realized he wasn't alone. "... table."

Andy looked up at the sound of his name, purring automatically at the sound of Miranda speaking to him, absently placing one paw on the kitten's head as it butted at him. Rufus slipped around behind Miranda, arms about her waist, chin on her shoulder. "Andy and I went looking for a new friend."

Miranda gasped in surprise. "Oh my goodness!" she exclaimed, as she caught sight of the kitten - not to mention the sight of Andy looking so properly friendly. "What's this? Oh my goodness, she's adorable!" she gushed as she moved over to brush her fingers over the kitten's fluffy fur. She had to resist the urge to scoop him or her right up into her arms, for fear of making Andy jealous. "She? He?" she asked, uncertainly.

"She," Rufus told her, letting her go to get to know the newest member of her household. "I thought to take Andy to the shelter and let him pick out the best match for you. She's the one he chose."

"What? How?" Miranda asked, blinking in confused curiosity. She reached over to rub the elderly cat beneath his chin, making him purr all the louder. She'd had him a long time and knew he was nearing the end of his life, but she hadn't had the heart yet to consider replacing him - until now.

"Essentially, the staff at the shelter just let me put him in with the litters they're trying to home, and we watched him for an hour," Rufus admitted, pouring boiling water into the teapot to steep the tea. "She's one of the runts, but she's fearless."

"She's adorable!" Miranda said, pulling up a chair so she could get to know the new kitten without snubbing the older one. "How did he do with her?" she asked, though it seemed from what she was seeing Andy had already taken to the little one.

"Tolerated her investigating him, but when she curled up to sleep, he curled up next to her," her husband said thoughtfully. "The staff thought he seemed to have adopted her. He certainly fought me hard enough not to put her in a separate carrier." He showed her his hand, covered in scratches.

"Oh, sweetheart," Miranda said, frowning at the scratches Rufus had endured to make her happy. "Poor man. I hope you and Andy have made friends again," she said, reaching for his hand and brushing a kiss to the scratches, as if to make them better.

He chuckled. "We both know I've had worse," he pointed out. "But he seems to have forgiven me. Although apparently the nice bed I got for her just isn't good enough and she'll be sleeping with him, thank you very much." As he spoke, the kitten took a couple of steps toward Miranda's hand, pausing to look back at Andy. The old cat gave her a slow blink of encouragement, and a moment later, the kitten had butted her head up against Miranda's fingers.

"Well, hello there," Miranda said, as the kitten came to greet her, her fingers stroking the kitten's soft, fluffy fur. "Aren't you the pretty one. What's your name, little one, or don't you have one yet?" she asked, leaning down to bump her forehead against the kitten's.

"No name yet." Rufus came to the table with the tea fixings, sitting himself down next to Miranda. He absently offered his hand to Andy, who looked at it disdainfully and finally deigned to let himself be petted by his human's male. "We thought you would prefer to name her yourself."

She resisted the urge to name the kitten Ann to go along with Andy, thinking she should have an identity of her own. "Hmm, I don't know," she murmured, considering a moment. "What do you think about Mimi?" she asked, either of the kitten or Rufus or both.

On the table, the kitten thumped down onto her side and "captured" Miranda's hand, playfully gnawing on her thumb. Rufus chuckled, adding milk and sugar to his wife's cup before sliding it toward her. "She certainly has the personality to be a Mimi."

"You think so?" Miranda asked, smiling at the kitten nibbled on her thumb. Though Rufus and Andy had never quite become best friends, they had learned to tolerate each other well enough. She'd always thought he'd want a dog someday, and yet, here he was bringing her another kitten to raise. "Does Ro know?"

He shook his head, smiling gently. "No, she doesn't," he said. "I thought that trying to get a four year old to keep a secret was pushing things a little far."

"True. You must have just picked her up today then," she deduced. There was no way he'd have been able to keep a kitten a secret from either her or Rowan otherwise. "Just how long have you been planning this?" she asked him suspiciously.

7
Of Gall And Grangers / Re: A New Baby Sister
« Last post by Jack Granger on January 21, 2020, 07:04:13 PM »

Noelle & Amy Granger
8
Of Gall And Grangers / Re: A New Baby Sister
« Last post by Jack Granger on January 21, 2020, 07:02:05 PM »
"You're so good to me," she teased fondly, tucking a light blanket over Amy's tummy. She pressed a soft kiss to the newborn's forehead before joining him at the fridge. "Hmm ... maybe we could have one of these sides rather than mashing potatoes, though."

"We can do that," Jack said, as he reached for a package of chicken tucked into the back of the fridge, along with a carton of mushrooms, preferring the fresh variety, rather than canned or frozen. "Why don't you relax while I do the cooking?'

"Are you looking after me again, Jack Granger?" she asked with warm amusement, tucking her arms about his waist from behind to kiss his cheek.

"That's my job," he replied, a grin mirroring her amusement as he turned his head to just barely meet her gaze. "Do you love me?" he asked in a quiet voice, though he already knew the answer to that question.

"Desperately," she promised, nuzzling to his cheek. "Do you love me?" She drew her head back to meet his gaze, also knowing the answer but always liking to hear it.

"With all my heart," he assured her, as he set the chicken and mushrooms on the counter and turned to face her. "You make me happy, Jasmin," he told her in the soft tone of voice he always used when he was being sincere.

She smiled, resting her forehead to his. "I don't know where I would be without you," she murmured in answer. "You make me happy, but more than that. I feel safe with you, Jack. I always have."

He smiled, pleased and even proud he made her feel that way. He had a caring heart and a gentle nature, but it seemed no one had ever really recognized that in him until he'd met Jasmin. Or maybe it had been Lena first, who had then introduced him to Jasmin.

"When I first saw you, I thought there was no way this gorgeous creature was ever going to notice me, but I'm glad you did. I'm glad you gave me a chance, Jasmin. If it wasn't for you ..." He trailed off a moment, leaving the rest unsaid.

"We don't need to think about the ifs," she said affectionately. "We've got each other. We've got a beautiful home. We have two wonderful daughters. And you're about to become a honorary uncle to royalty. I'd say we did good together."

No, in truth, he didn't really want to think about the ifs. If Lena hadn't come back for Tommy; if they hadn't taken Jack with them; if she hadn't introduced him to Jasmin. Lena had come back in time through the portal to change Tommy's fate and in doing so, had changed Jack's, too. He'd be forever grateful to her for that.

"I've got everything I need right here," he told her, pulling her close for a slow, tender kiss.

It was in the middle of that kiss that he realized what she'd just told him. "Wait, what?" he asked, pulling away and blinking his eyes in shock.

Jaz snorted with laughter at his reaction. "Did you not read Dru's letter?" she asked in amusement. "She's due in a few weeks, I think. She wanted to let you know."

"Due in a few weeks?" Jack exclaimed, jaw dropping open. Had it been that long since they'd had a visit from their little royal. "Why didn't she just call?" he asked, though he assumed she and Josh were busy now that they were properly settled in Tirisano.

"She explains it all in the letter, Jack," Jaz assured him gently. "It's a little different for royalty. I'm sure she wanted to tell you sooner, but she has a lot of constraints on her."

Jack frowned, his feelings hurt a little, but he knew Dru had a lot of responsibilities to deal with in Tirisano and she didn't have time to coddle Jack. "I must have missed it somehow," he admitted. How he'd missed a letter from Dru he wasn't sure, but he must have somehow.

She stroked his cheek affectionately. "We've been a little distracted," she reminded him. "I'm certain she didn't mean to hurt your feelings, baby."

"I'm sure she didn't," Jack said, a little embarrassed by his mistake. "I'll have to call her later," he said, so long as they both had the time for it. It was no secret that Jack thought of Dru as the little sister he'd never had, but like him, she had her own life to live. Besides, they had news of their own to share.

She hugged him tightly, kissing his cheek. "She'll be delighted to hear from you, I'm sure," she said confidently. "And besides, you have to tell her all about Amy."

"Yeah," Jack admitted, somewhat mollified by Jasmin's reassurance. "How does time fly so fast, Jaz?" he asked, not expecting any real answer to that.

"Because life is good, baby," she told him gently. "Time flies when you're not stressed or worried. It can be hard to keep up sometimes."

"Maybe when Amy gets a little older, we could visit there sometime," Jack suggested, though he didn't know what the rules were concerning visits with royalty. He supposed Lena would know though, as Dru was her little sister.

"That sounds like a brilliant idea," Jaz agreed. "We'll work something out, baby." She kissed his cheek, nuzzling close for a long moment. "I am kinda hungry, though."

Jack smiled at the reminder - and the kiss - getting the hint. "This shouldn't take long," he promised, brushing a kiss to her lips before pulling away so that he could gather the items he'd need to fix dinner.

For a moment there, he'd almost faltered, the old feelings of loneliness creeping back up, but it had only taken a little reassurance from Jasmin for him to realize he really did have everything he needed. Not only did he have a loving wife and two beautiful daughters, but he had an even wider circle of friends and family who cared for him, too. He had lost very little in coming to Rhy'Din and gained everything a man could ever need.

So what if there were a few bumps along the way? With a foundation this strong, a man could handle anything that came his way.
9
Of Gall And Grangers / Re: A New Baby Sister
« Last post by Jack Granger on January 21, 2020, 07:01:50 PM »
"You can explain to Rufus, if she gives me a hickey," Miranda teased, as she handed the baby off and went to the sink to scrub her hands clean of baby germs.

Jaz snorted with laughter. "I'm sure he would more than enjoy giving you a few more to mark his territory over the claim of a three day old baby."

"I'm sure he would," Miranda readily agreed, as she dried her hands off. She frowned a little as she glanced at the clock. "I should probably get going," she admitted, though she was enjoying her visit with her younger cousin.

"I guess so." And there was real reluctance to end the little visit; Jaz truly enjoyed Miranda's company. "You have at least two little people to feed and entertain this evening." She smiled faintly, moving to hug her cousin one-armed. "Thank you so much for coming by."

"And one big people," Miranda said, including Rufus in that equation. She turned, an almost sad frown on her face as she regarded Jasmin and the baby. "You must promise to visit more often ... or else I'm just going to have to bring you more care packages."

"I promise." Jaz squeezed her gently, kissing her cousin's cheek. "Let me just wake Jack up so he can say goodbye to Nolly." She passed Amy into Miranda's arms, and slipped out of the kitchen to gently rouse her husband.

Miranda hugged her back before releasing her so that she could take little Amy back into her arms. "You are a very lucky little girl, you know," she told the baby as she cradled her in his arms. "You have the best parents ever and they love you very much," she said, lifting the baby closer so that she could brush a kiss against her little forehead.

It didn't take long to wake Jack and corral the girls, with Nolly proudly wearing her pink backpack and hugging Stumpy as she bid her parents goodbye. Jaz hugged her arm about Jack as they walked the little group to the door. "Be good for Miri, okay?"

Nolly nodded excitedly. "I will, I will!"

"Call and say goodnight later!" Jack called to their daughter as she and Rowan headed out hand in hand. Jack sighed, frowning a little. "I miss her already," he said, though he knew she was in good hands with Miranda and Rufus.

"We need this, though," Jaz murmured. "And so does she, really. One night isn't going to make her forget how much she adores her Daddy."

"Or her Mommy," Jack interjected. He waved a hand as Miranda pulled away from the house and onto the road that would take her and the girls back to Maple Grove. "Did you have a nice visit?" he asked, as he closed the door.

"Yeah, it was pretty relaxing," she admitted. "She's still trying to get us to move back to the Grove, but I held out. Oh, and she's going to send a healer to see me tomorrow. Apparently healers can also do the whole post-birth thing."

"Oh?" Jack murmured in response to Jasmin's remark about a healer. He wasn't a Rhy'Din native and was some things still surprised him from time to time. "If she is sure it will work." There was no harm in trying, after all. "Do you want to move to the Grove?" he asked, brows furrowed. It didn't much matter to Jack where they lived, so long as they were together, but he had lived his whole life not far from the sea, and he couldn't really see himself anywhere else.

"No." The answer was instant and certain, offered with a rueful smile. "But we could probably visit the Grove a little more often. Miri doesn't mean to be pushy, but she worries about everyone who doesn't live within walking distance of her."

"She worries about everyone, period," Jack pointed out. "So, it's just us until morning. Are you tired? Hungry?" he asked, thinking of her first. He'd just woke from a nap and wasn't feeling very sleepy yet.

"Actually, I'm pretty awake for once," she admitted with a smile. "How about I make dinner? We have boxes of cheat food for when we're really tired, but I feel like I can do the cooking thing today."

"Okay, what do you feel like?" he asked, able and willing to help, either with dinner or the baby or both. He'd learned how to cook a long time ago and wasn't afraid to help in the kitchen or with housework.

"Mmm ... you know what I really fancy?" She grinned at him, knowing his mind might well go somewhere else, and continued. "That chicken and mushroom bake you made a while back. I'll make the mash!"

Jack smiled, eager to please his pretty wife in any way he could. "So long as we have the ingredients," he replied, the most important ingredient being chicken.

"I'm pretty sure we do," she mused, turning to hug him tight. "I love you, you know. Best thing that ever happened to me, getting set up with you."

"We have Tommy and Lena to thank for that," Jack remarked, though it was mostly Lena who deserved credit for so-called "setting them up". He tickled his baby daughter's cheek before moving over to the fridge to look for chicken.

Amy cooed happily, apparently content to be awake and nothing else as Jaz absently jiggled her on the way to the kitchen. "I'm going to have to put you down, little miss, or there won't be any potatoes for us to eat with our bake," she mentioned to the baby, who obviously didn't care.

"I can't believe she's still awake!" Jack remarked with a chuckle as Jasmin joined him in the kitchen. He opened the fridge to find it packed with all kinds of stuff that hadn't been there a few hours earlier. "What the heck ... Did Miranda bring all this?"

"Uh, yeah." Jaz laughed softly, lifting the baby seat up onto the kitchen table to lower Amy down into it safely. "I mean ... we could just eat some of that? It's up to you, baby, I'm just here for the ride."

As it happened, she got to the baby seat before he did, but she didn't seem to mind. "No, if you want chicken and mushroom bake, chicken and mushroom bake is what you're going to get," Jack insisted. "If I can find the chicken and the mushrooms!" he added with a snicker.
10
Of Gall And Grangers / Re: A New Baby Sister
« Last post by Jack Granger on January 21, 2020, 07:01:33 PM »
"Does that mean I'm forgiven?" Miranda asked, a hopeful smile on her face as her gaze drifted to the little one on Jasmin's shoulder. She'd only had one child by birth, the other adopted when she was still an infant. It was no secret that Miranda adored babies, the younger the better.

"There's nothing to forgive, Miri," Jaz assured her, gently easing Amy into Miranda's arms with an affectionate smile. "Knock yourself out."

"Thank you," Miranda said, though whether it was because of Jasmin's assertion that Miranda needed no forgiveness or because she was setting the baby in her arms was uncertain. "Well, now, let's see what we have here," she cooed, as she cradled the little one in her arms and looked her over.

By all rights, Amy should have been at least sleepy after her feed, but she seemed bright and awake, blinking up at Miranda with unfocused blue eyes, waking her tiny hands about as she got comfortable.

Jaz grinned, moving to finish drying the plates and cutlery and put them away. "She's a gurgler."

"She's wide awake," Miranda observed with a hint of amused surprise in her voice. "You are wearing your parents out, little one, but you are wide awake," she cooed to the infant. "Let's hope she sleeps later."

"She's actually not that bad a sleeper," Jaz offered, wiping the dishes dry carefully. "Averaging about five hours at a time. So much better than Nolly was - that little mischief was three hours and up for three months."

"You have to take turns," Miranda suggested, though it was likely Jasmin already knew that. Like all elders, she was only trying to help, not realizing she was stating the obvious. "And you, little lady, have to be good for your parents and let them get some rest," she scolded the little one gently, while tickling her chin, though she knew there was no point.

Amy wriggled contentedly, burbling  random sounds up at Miranda. Jaz chuckled. "Actually, it's keeping up with Nolly that's tiring us out!"

"Well, you won't have to worry about that tonight," Miranda said, with a soft smile for her cousin. "If there's anything I can do ... anything the family can do to help, just say the word," she said, speaking for the entire Granger family.

"We will," Jaz promised, putting the last of the plates away. "Honestly, though, really do pass on our thanks for everything. Not having to cook is going to make things so much easier for a few days."

"We do what we can," Miranda told her cousin, happy to have been of help, even if she was a busy body, at times. "She is adorable, Jasmin. Such a little angel," she said, giggling she caught a whiff of a familiar odor. "A very stinky little angel. I think she needs her diaper changed."

Jaz's grin could have been considered evil. "Well, the station is right there," she said, gesturing toward the changing table set up by the wall. "I know you know what to do. Have fun!"

"How very kind of you," Miranda said, sticking her tongue out at her cousin, before  making her way over to the changing table. "I do remember how to change a diaper, you know," she said, sniffing as if she was insulted, though she wasn't.

"Oh, I know you do," Jaz answered. She knew Miranda was a safe pair of hands for her baby girl, after all. She did take the opportunity to unload the dishwasher, glad to have the freedom to do it without being pestered for once.

"Let's see what you look like, shall we?" Miranda said to the wee one, though she was not expecting a response, except for perhaps some irritation at being so rudely undressed. She carefully started peeling away the layers of the baby's clothes until she got to t-shirt and diaper, wrinkling her nose as the odor got stronger. "Peeyoo! You sure do stink for such a cute, little thing!"

"She's a stink bomb, that is true," Jaz agreed, the reason for her amusement getting more obvious as Amy's little present was unwrapped across the kitchen from her. The newborn herself only wriggled a little as she was uncovered; the house was warm enough for the removal of layers not to bother her too much.

"You would be, too, if you wore a diaper," Miranda remarked. "Wouldn't she, Amykins?" she asked, tickling the baby's belly with her fingers with she peeled away the diaper with her other hand. "Ewww," she chuckled at the "present" the infant had left for her there.

"At least it's just milk poop right now," Jaz pointed out with a laugh. "Just you wait until she's starting to wean - it'll get interesting then!"

"You can change her diapers then," Miranda remarked. "Of course, if you lived closer, I might be able to change them more often for you," she added with a shrug of her shoulders. Let it not be said that the woman gave up the fight easily.

"Nice try." Jaz threw her a grin, still putting the last of the cutlery away, but having an empty dishwasher was amazingly relieving after having it full to the brim for three days.

"You can't blame a girl for trying," Miranda remarked as she folded the diaper and dumped it in the diaper pail before taking up a few wipes to clean the mess off the baby's bottom. "So, shall I call the healer tonight and arrange for her to come by tomorrow?"

"That would be amazing if you could," Jaz agreed hopefully. "It would be so good not to feel as though something's going to fall out every time I go to the toilet."

"Not so amazing really, but consider it done. I'll text you later and let you know what time to expect her. And don't worry - she's very good and very discreet," Miranda assured her cousin, as she deftly re-diapered and re-dressed the little one. "There, all better," she said, taking the little up back up into her arms.

With the barest grumble, Amy settled back into her cuddle, apparently a little weirded out by having to warm her backside up again, but not upset by it. She then attached her mouth to Miranda's neck, licking her skin as babies are wont to do.

Miranda giggled, moving over to Jasmin. "I think your daughter is hungry. It's either that or she's a baby vampire," she told her. "Can you take her for a minute? I need to wash my hands."

"She just ate, she probably thinks you smell divine," Jaz teased her, reaching out to take Amy from her cousin. "Stop trying to eat the family, little miss. Not everyone produces milk wherever you suck."
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