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Crash and Burn / Re: Talking About It
« Last post by Steve Rogers on March 28, 2020, 04:39:43 PM »
"No, I'd never abandon her, but we have children of our own," Steve said. "She's better off with Nat. Alyona altered her memories so that she believes Colin is her father and I'm her uncle. I am the closest thing Nat has to a brother, after all," he explained with another shrug. "The real question is what do we tell everyone else?"

"I know, Steve." Lucy reached out, linking her fingers with his. "And I don't know what we tell everyone else. It isn't up to me. It's up to you, and Nat, and Colin, to make that decision. You're the only ones who can."

"It's not really up to me. It's up to Nat and Colin, I think," Steve said. He'd given up all rights to making any decisions for Lara when he'd told Nat to raise her. "You want to hear something crazy?" he said, a half-smile on his face, more sad than amused.

"Tell me." She raised their linked hands, pressing a soft kiss to his knuckles. No matter what they went through, they would face it together. That, at least, she was certain of.

"Alyona," he said, giving her a hint of what he'd been thinking. "She could alter everyone's memories, so that we believe Lara's been Nat and Colin's daughter all along." It was a crazy idea, and one he wasn't sure he was willing to subject himself to. It was almost too easy.

Lucy frowned thoughtfully. "Steve, we ... we can't all give consent to that," she said carefully. "I'm the one people come to in our family for medical concerns; I couldn't agree to having my memories altered, in case I treated her for something in the wrong way. And the children can't give consent - they wouldn't understand why. Yes, it would make things easier, but life isn't easy."

"Like I said, crazy idea," he said, with a half-smile. He'd dismissed the idea almost as soon as it had come to mind, but he couldn't help but suggest it to Lucy, just in case it wasn't as crazy as it seemed.

"Not a crazy idea," she assured him. "A good idea, in other circumstances." She kissed his cheek affectionately. "Thank you for talking to me. I've been worrying over how you're coping with this since we talked yesterday."

"I'm okay, Luce," he assured her again, smiling at the easy show of affection. "We're gonna be okay. So long as I have you and the kids, everything is gonna be okay." He leaned in to kiss her properly, a warm press of his lips to hers. "I worry about you, too, you know."

"I know," she murmured, but she was smiling as she answered his kiss with her own. "We're well matched in that regard." She let out a soft sigh, easing closer to rest her head on his shoulder. "We'll get the story straight with Nat and Colin tomorrow, and we can tell the kids afterward. I think they need tonight just to settle things between them."

"They're excited to meet her," Steve said of their children and Lara. His smile widened at the thought of their children meeting their newest "cousin". Despite everything, he knew he was a lucky man; maybe the luckiest man in the multiverse. He'd always hoped to be married with kids someday, and now that he was, he couldn't be happier.

She snorted with laughter. "Ridiculously so," she agreed. "I think Lianne might have emptied her art box making pictures for Lara and Alia so they have something for their bedroom."

Steve chuckled, his eyes warm with pride whenever he talked about their children. "We have some pretty great kids," he said, though she knew that already. He made no distinction between their adopted children and those who shared their bloodline. He loved them all the same.

"We did good," she said, laughing softly. "Jamie still wants a dragon, by the way. He might be planning on leveraging Lara's arrival to get an agreement out of you."

Steve chuckled, rolling his eyes at that idea. "I'm not sure Humphrey will allow another dragon to live at Maple Grove. Lir is getting too big as it is. What if we got him a lizard instead?" he suggested, though it wasn't quite the same thing.

"There are little dragons we could get," she mused. "I'm not sure how we train a little dragon not to set fire to everything around itself, though."

"It's not something we have to decide today," he said, drawing her into his arms and brushing his nose against the side of her neck. "What do you say we take this somewhere more comfortable?" he asked, now that she seemed satisfied with his state of mind.

"Mmm, that sounds like a lovely idea," she murmured, smiling as she nestled into his embrace. "Think we can make it there without anyone trying to stop us?"

"We can if they're sleeping," he said, though it was hard to tell from here if that was the case. Steve tipped his head upwards, not hearing any movement above them, but small children had a way of being quiet and sneaky sometimes. "Want to chance it?"

"I'm game if you are." Lucy giggled, pushing herself to stand up and set the cups in the sink. "They're supposed to be sleeping, anyway. Maybe we'll get lucky and there won't be any wandering tonight."

"Maybe I need to do a better job of wearing them out," Steve remarked with a grin. He moved to his feet, stretching his back as he did. "I'll let the dogs out and meet you upstairs," he told her, volunteering to let Thor and Kiki out for their last romp in the yard.

"I'll be waiting." Lucy blew him a kiss, chuckling as she rinsed out the cups ready for the dishwasher load in the morning. She felt lighter now they had talked about this. It would still take time to get used to the situation, but Lara came first. They would all make it work.

"I won't be long," Steve promised as he started toward the back door, calling the pair of dogs - one old and one young - to follow. True to his word, he was only gone a few minutes before he was climbing the stairs to their bedroom, as quietly as he could.

The house was, thankfully, quiet, punctuated with the sound of soft breathing and the skitter of paws making their way into their favored bedrooms for the night. Lucy was waiting, as promised, brushing the tangles out of her short hair to pass the time before Steve joined her.

"All's quiet," he whispered as he stepped into their room, closing the door quietly behind him. As far as he could tell, the children were sleeping - or at least, not making any noise.

"Mmm, lucky us." She grinned, moving to slide her hands up his chest and over his shoulders, drawing him down into a slow kiss. Their sex life was just as healthy as it had always been, even with six children and two dogs.

Steve smiled into her kiss, strong arms winding around her waist to pull her into his embrace. He had no complaints regarding their sex life, as evidenced by the four children Lucy had birthed. It had been a couple of stressful days, and though he hadn't slept yet, he had plenty of energy left for his wife.

And yet it wasn't about the sex, though that was always a welcome distraction from anything else in their lives. It was about the reconnection, the assurance to one another that nothing had changed. That they were still in this together, no matter what.

They'd been through stranger things than this - things that might have broken other couples - but they weren't just any other couple. They were Steve and Lucy Rogers, and there was nothing they couldn't face, so long as they faced it together.
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Crash and Burn / Talking About It
« Last post by Steve Rogers on March 28, 2020, 04:38:53 PM »
Finding time to talk with a house full of children and animals was no small feat. The conversation looming over Steve and Lucy had to wait until late at night, when the rest of their house was asleep, the children bedded down and peaceful. Lucy put the kettle on, taking her time to brew the tea before bringing the cups to where Steve was waiting. She handed him one, easing down into a seat close by.

"So ... where do we start?"

Steve had been quiet all day, but not so quiet that the children noticed any difference in their father. He'd been just as attentive, just as caring and loving as always. It was likely only Lucy had noticed the difference in him, the quiet thoughtfulness as if he had something important on his mind. Despite his exceptional endurance, he was starting to show signs of weariness, though it was hard to say if that was due to a physical or emotional toll.

"Hmm?" he murmured absently, as Lucy's voice drew him out of his thoughts. "Oh, thanks," he said, gratefully taking a sip from the cup of tea she'd just handed him.

She watched him for a moment, her own expression grave. "We need to talk about this, Steve," she said quietly. "I just ... don't know where to begin."

"Neither do I," Steve said, with an uncertain frown on his face. "Bottom line, Lara needs her mother, and Nat is the closest thing she has to that." That was a very simplistic synopsis of what had happened, but it was also the truth.

"I think you made the right decision," Lucy told him gently. "But I also know that it cost an awful lot to make it. You don't have to put on a brave face for me, Steve."

"I'm fine, Luce," Steve assured her, and he was, for the most part anyway. "I'm more worried about Lara and how she'll adjust more than anything else." That much was true, too, but it was a little more complicated than that.

"And a little resentful that Colin will be the one she calls father?" she suggested as gently as she could. "I have no doubt that she will settle in and be loved, be a part of our family as a whole without problems. It's you I'm worried about, Steve. Talk to me."

"But I'm not her father, Luce. Not really. I mean ... Nat and I ... We're not, you know. How is it any different from Martin and Lianne? They're not our kids biologically, but they're still part of our family. The same could be said for Lara. She's not really my daughter. She's the daughter of some other Steve and some other Nat. I'll always be part of her life, but Colin is her father now, and that's okay," Steve said, but was he trying to convince Lucy or himself?

"It's not different from Martin and Lianne on paper, not at all," she said. "But it is different to us. Because ... because she is your daughter, biologically. And she's Nat's daughter, too. And that is ... uncomfortable, for me."

Steve's frown deepened. This was exactly what he'd been worried about. What was he supposed to say or do to make her feel better about the situation? It was what it was. "Do you think we made the wrong choice in bringing her here?" he asked, though he'd already discussed this with her before that decision had been made, albeit over the phone.

She shook her head, her smile obviously regretting having said anything in the first place. "No, I don't," she assured him. "And I will get over it, Steve. What matters is Lara; her safety, and her happiness, and I think you've done exactly what was needed. But don't keep it all locked up inside, please. I need to know how you feel about it all."

Steve furrowed his brows, as if he was trying to read between the lines of what she was telling him. It seemed she was more upset by all this than she'd let on, too.

"The same goes for you, Luce. I need to know how you feel about it, too. I mean, as far as everyone else is concerned, no one needs to know the truth. You, me, Nat, Colin, Tony, Alyona, and Sam. That's it. Those are the only people who have to know. I don't know what Nat wants to tell people, but Lara looks just like her. She's only three years old, Luce. She's too young to understand what's happened. She hasn't just lost her parents, but her whole world. We're all she has left."

"I would have taken her on in a heartbeat," Lucy said quietly. "But you're right. She looks like Nat, she needs Nat. We'll still be close. This isn't going to change the way our family works, Steve." She hesitated, but continued on anyway. "I've always been a little jealous of your friendship with Nat. You understand each other so well. It's galling to know that if we had never met, you would probably have married her."

Steve's brows shot upwards, surprised to hear his admit her jealousy for a woman he thought of as a sister. "Married Nat?" he echoed, looking stunned at such a suggestion. "Lucy, Nat is like a sister to me. Sleeping with her would be like you sleeping with ..." He trailed off, the rest of that thought unsaid. She had slept with Johnny, after all. "Like you sleeping with Tony," he said, correcting himself.

"I know what you were going to say," she said. "And you're right. I have no right to think that, or to feel this way. Knowing that doesn't stop me from feeling it. But I am an adult, and a rational one at that. I know there's nothing in it. Steve, we're supposed to be talking about you, how you feel about all this. Don't make me drag it out of you piecemeal."

Steve studied her face while she spoke - her lovely face - and the dark eyes that never lied. He hadn't fallen in love with her the first moment he'd met her. It had taken a little time, but in all truth, it was the fact that he'd loved Peggy first that had made all the difference. She didn't look like Peggy exactly, but she was strong and smart and beautiful and caring, just like her great-aunt had been, and he'd fallen in love with her without even knowing they were related. He set his cup of tea aside to free his hands, one hand reaching to brush his fingers against her cheek.

"You know how much I love you," he said, as if to assure her further that she had nothing and no one to be jealous of. "I only ever felt that way about one other woman and she loved you, too." That didn't really answer her question, but he was getting to it.

He drew a slow breath before continuing. "The truth is I'm not sure how I feel. It's a bit of a shock, even to me. I thought I'd seen it all, but I guess not. All I know is that she's just a little girl, and she's innocent in all this. She's lost her parents, and we're all she has left. Do I wish we could raise her?" He shrugged. "Maybe, but we have six kids of our own already, and Nat is lucky to have had one. She belongs with her mother, and that's that. Alyona fixed it so that ..." He trailed off a moment as another thought came to mind, but one that was so absurd he almost immediately dismissed it.

"That's the problem, isn't it?" Lucy guessed softly. "Knowing you share blood with her, and that she will never know that, for her own sake. You haven't abandoned your child, Steve. You've given her what she needs."
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Kings & Courts / Re: OOC Setting - Carantania
« Last post by George Frederick on March 28, 2020, 04:21:43 PM »
RELIGION

Adheres to the Church of the Goddess, and is far removed from any incursion by the New Church.


CUISINE


As with other lands, though coastal regions enjoy fresh fish more regularly for obvious reasons. Cocoa is cheap to the populace, so it is drunk and eaten more regularly than is perhaps good for the nobility, particularly their waistlines.
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Kings & Courts / Re: OOC Setting - Carantania
« Last post by George Frederick on March 28, 2020, 04:21:04 PM »
LIST OF PERTINENT PLACES


Carantan


The capital city of Carantania, and the main port. Most nobles hold houses in the upper city; the lower city is home to merchants and the lower classes.


Riftfell Castle


The main royal residence is set on a small promontory in the bay, just out from the city of Carantan itself. Accessible by a causeway that is only clear twice a day, it is often chosen as the place for meetings of a highly political nature, thanks to the privacy it affords.


Rombuie

The secondary royal estate. Known in recent decades as the Queen's palace - the place where the queen held residence, often apart from her husband.


Ansburg

The busiest sea port in Carantania, and the center of trade in coffee and cocoa beans from across the sea. It is ruled over by Duke Bastien Von Ansburg (though more practically by his daughter, Lady Esmerelda).

The Ducal Manor of Ansburg

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Kings & Courts / Re: OOC Setting - Carantania
« Last post by George Frederick on March 28, 2020, 04:12:36 PM »
REGIONS


Tania
The political and commercial heart of Carantania - here is where the famous Rombuie market can be found on Solstice days, a market that exclusively sells the chocolates and candies that Carantania guards the secret of jealously.

Sol
The farming center of the country, ruled over by Duke Alfred Omberto, the king's cousin. Carantania is self-sustaining - all its grown and raised foods come from Aranie.

Aranie
The speciality center of the kingdom, areas of Aranie are heavily guarded. This is where the cocoa beans are grown and harvested, where the secret of making chocolate was first discovered in Meringia, and the source of Carantania's wealth. It is ruled over by Duke Ranulf Von Ansburg, the current head of only two hereditary dukedoms on the continent.
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Kings & Courts / Re: OOC Setting - Carantania
« Last post by George Frederick on March 28, 2020, 04:09:51 PM »

The Coat of Arms of the Carantan Royal House of Hasperan

The royal house of Carantania has remained unbroken since the inception of the country itself. It began, however, as royal house standing alone - the royal house of Chouenbourg. Through intermarriage, it has become a cadet branch of the house of Hasperan.

The current king is George Frederick Raphael, nephew of King Benedict of Cicilia, and distant cousin of High King Philippe of Pomerania. His late wife was Queen Elena, a former princess of Alanic. He is currently married to Queen Serafina, formerly Serafina de Chalagne. They have one child, a daughter, the Princess Charlotte.
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Kings & Courts / OOC Setting - Carantania
« Last post by George Frederick on March 28, 2020, 03:59:51 PM »

Carantania

The smallest of the countries who have chosen to ally themselves to Pomerania as vassal states, Carantania has a history of walking a very thin line between alliance and hostility. On two separate occasions, the country has been invaded and leveled by hostile armies in the last five hundred years, but for the most part, Carantania has managed to balance the power of all those who are interested in her.

She is also the youngest of the countries involved in Pomerania's vassal states, having only been added to the list twenty years ago.
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The Shanachie Theater / Letters to the Shanachie Management
« Last post by Mairead Harker on March 28, 2020, 03:43:35 PM »
To the Management of the Shanachie Theater,

In the past, the Shanachie's management, acting and ballet troupes have generously given their time to be a part of Rhydin's Children's Day celebration. I am hoping that tradition can continue, now and in the future. I would like permission to record the final performance of Matilda. Several of the city's hospitals, including Riverview and Dockside Medical Center, have a broadcast feed. I thought it would be fun to share this show with the kids that are confined and will not be able to attend any of the live performances. Since the show ends before Children's Day, recording it seems to be the best option.

Sincerely,

Mairead E. Harker

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Crash and Burn / Re: Going Home
« Last post by Steve Rogers on March 23, 2020, 03:30:10 PM »
"I don't know where to start," she admitted quietly. "It just seems unreal, you know? I couldn't imagine any situation where I would abandon my children to the hope of a better life in another universe, but that's exactly what the other version of me did."

"Kind of like Superman," Colin murmured, just for comparison. Of course, as far as he knew Superman was just a fictional character in a comic book, though who knew here on Rhy'Din.

"Who?" She frowned curiously; that wasn't a name she had ever come across before. "Is he a friend of yours or something?"

Colin chuckled softly. "No, he's a comic book character I used to read about when I was a boy." He supposed she'd never had much time for that sort of thing. "Long story short, his world was at war and was on the brink of destruction, so when he was a baby, his parents sent him to Earth in a spaceship to save him. The ship lands on a farm, and the people who find him adopt him and raise him as their own." Okay, so the story wasn't exactly like Lara's, but he hoped she'd understand the similarities.

She smiled faintly. "I get it," she murmured. "I guess it is kind of like that. At least Lara's young enough that in a few months all of this will be a bad dream."

"We'll give her good memories to replace the bad ones," Colin assured her. "And we'll make sure Steve is an important part of her life, too." That was the part of the equation that was worrying him the most really.

"He will be," Nat agreed quietly. "He's putting on a brave face, but it cost him a lot to make the decision and let Alyona adjust Lara's memories. No matter what is best for her, he's still going to feel a little as though he abandoned her for a while."

"Well, you know, there's nothing wrong with having two fathers. Lots of people do it," Colin pointed out. It wasn't him he was concerned about so much as it was Steve. Plenty of people had birth fathers and adoptive fathers and step fathers. "He should be part of her life, too, and I don't mind sharing."

"Part of it is not wanting to confuse things too much for the other kids," Nat pointed out. "But if you're okay with it, I think we should encourage her to have a close relationship with her Uncle Steve."

"Make him her godfather," Colin suggested. Though neither of them was particularly religious, the same could not be said of Steve. "And I don't mean like in the movie," he teased.

She laughed, nuzzling into his shoulder as his humor broke her rising tension once more. "That's a good idea," she agreed. "I just hope he's talking to Lucy about all this. Who knows how she's taking it herself."

"I'm sure he is," Colin said. "Besides, you didn't actually sleep with Steve. The other Nat did. They took a risk in sending Lara here, but it was a calculated risk. They had to have already known how you both would react, even if you weren't a couple."

"I know. It's a weird situation, that's all." She sighed softly, touching a gentle kiss to his jaw as she rested her head closer to his. "This is gonna take some time for all of us to come to terms with it, I think."

"It will be okay, Nat," he assured her, arms wrapped around her to hold her close. "We're safe here in Rhy'Din. Our children are safe. And we're going to make sure it stays that way."

"Damn straight, we are," she agreed firmly. "I will not let anything bad happen to any of you, I promise. Not on my watch, not ever."

He chuckled a little, knowing she'd kill for them if she had to. He had no illusions where that was concerned. "Said like a true badass," he teased her, blue eyes bright with amusement.

"I thought you liked my ass?" Her lips curved into a smile he likely felt against his neck. "I don't think you've ever called it bad before."

"Take it as a compliment, love," he told her. "Why don't you get some rest while you can? I'm not going anywhere," he assured her, knowing she probably needed it.

"Mmm, I think I will," she murmured, letting her eyes close. "Wake me if you need me, okay?" She trusted him with everything she had, but she knew Lara might be a little Mom-clingy for a few days.

"Will do," he promised her, pressing a protective kiss to her brow. "Love you, Nat. Don't worry now, and just get some rest," he whispered in that calming voice of his.

"Love you too, baby." She let out a long sigh, as though expelling the last of her worry, and fully relaxed against him, embracing the absolute safety of being in the arms of the man who loved her.

She could be sure he'd be right there when she woke, watching over her while she slept, the one constant in her life. Going forward, things might get a little hairy, but for now, at least, there was peace.
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Crash and Burn / Re: Going Home
« Last post by Steve Rogers on March 23, 2020, 03:29:53 PM »
"I don't think she's the only one." Nat nodded to Lara, who had definitely slowed down in her chewing as she nodded in her own chair. "C'mere, you." Lifting the older toddler onto her own lap, she helped Lara drink from her cup before letting the little girl slump against her. "We can do this, right?"

"If Steve and Lucy can manage six, I think we can handle two," Colin assured her. It wasn't all that long ago that he'd have answered that question differently. He'd never expected to have met someone like her or to have fallen so hard and so fast, but sometimes life surprised you like that.

"Oh, I know you can," she said, rising to her feet with Lara clinging limply to her neck. "Not so sure about me, but I'm stubborn enough to fake it."

"You never give yourself enough credit," Colin said, moving to his feet with the toddler tucked against his shoulder. "Just look at yourself, Nat. You're a natural," he assured her.

"If I ever sound confident about anything but fighting, you'll know I'm not myself," she pointed out in amusement, gently rocking Lara as the little girl relaxed on her shoulder.

"We already have one child, Nat," Colin said, his voice warm and soft and reassuring. "What's one more?" he asked, moving closer to touch a kiss to her lips, the two sleepyheads the only thing coming between them. "What do you say we all take a well-deserved nap?"

"That sounds ... amazing," she agreed. "I missed you last night." Just a year ago, she would never have said that aloud. Colin's influence on his fierce little wife went a lot further than simply getting a ring on her finger.

"All right then," Colin said. "Our room or theirs?" he asked, unsure if she wanted to be alone with him or share their bed with the girls.

"Them in theirs, us in ours," she said. "Start as we mean to go on, right? They need to get used to each other, and she needs to realize sooner rather than later that we're always nearby, even if she can't see us."

"Good point. Shall we?" he asked, gesturing for her to lead the way, intending to be right behind her. He wasn't especially tired really, but he knew the same couldn't be said for her and the girls.

Chuckling at the gentlemanly way he allowed the ladies to go first, Nat lead the way up the stairs and to the girls' bedroom, pausing for just a few moments to appreciate how much had been done in less than 24 hours. Where there had been just one crib and a lot of floor space, now there was another bed and chest of drawers, filled and ready for use.

She glanced over her shoulder at Colin with a smile. "You have been busy."

"Well, I can't take all the credit. I had a lot of help," Colin said quietly, so as not to wake the girls. He had already given Liv credit for most of it, but even she'd had help. He'd just been there to supervise, so to speak.

"That doesn't mean you don't get some of the credit, baby," she pointed out warmly, making her way over to the bed to go down on one knee as she slipped Lara under the covers, little shoes tucked away as the toddler sighed in her sleep. She even automatically hugged her arms around the soft plushie polar bear set next to her pillow as she drifted off.

"I've heard about how efficient Liv can be, but I'd never seen her in action before," Colin said, once again giving Liv all the credit. It was just a bed and dresser and some clothes, but it had come together pretty quickly. He gently laid Alia in her crib, tucking her under a blanket, along with her own plushie in the form of a penguin.

"Sleep sweet, munchkin," Nat murmured to Lara, kissing her brow softly before standing up and moving to do the same for Alia. The girls would be up again in less than two hours, but that little bit of peace was looking like heaven right now.

Confident both girls were sleeping peacefully, he slid an arm around Nat and kissed her on the cheek. "You're a good mother, Nat. They're proof of that," he whispered.

"Never would have happened without you," she whispered back, wrapping her arms about his waist. And yes, she included Lara in that. She would never have taken the girl on if she had still been alone; that she had come to that decision almost without thinking about it said more about Colin than it did about her.

Had he known how she felt, he might have disagreed, but it hardly mattered. The two little girls sleeping contently were proof enough that they both were good parents. Even if Lara had only just arrived, the fact that they cared about her well-being was enough to prove that point.

"Come along, love. Time to tuck you in next," he told her, his whisper of breath soft against her cheek.

"Only if you tuck you in with me," she murmured, only too happy to be drawn out of the room with him. Her sleep the night before had not been particularly restful with Lara in the bed with her. A nap would be very welcome at this point.

"That's the plan," he assured her, as he drew her toward the door, leaving it cracked open behind them so that they could hear if either child needed them. The dishes could wait until later. Nat seemed to need him and she was far more important than a clean kitchen.

As she slowly relaxed for the first time since Steve had told her Tony wanted to see them the day before, Nat began to shake, the shock and trauma of learning everything she had learned in the last 24 hours finally sinking in now she was safe and everything had been seen to. She didn't cry, or bemoan what had happened. She simply crawled into bed with Colin and held on tightly until her whirlwind of feelings died away once again.

Infinitely patient, Colin held her for as long as she needed, murmuring soothingly every now and then, as one might to someone who'd just woken from a nightmare - which was, in a way, just what she'd done. His fingers gently stroked her hair and her back, his body warm and comforting beside hers, his arms strong and capable.

"Sorry," she apologized eventually, relaxing her grip to look up at him, her cheek resting on the pillow. "It's been a hell of a day and night."

"No need to apologize," he reassured her. "Do you want to talk about it?" he asked, offering to listen to whatever she might want to tell him. He knew the events of the last day or so had been a shock for both of them, but more so for her than for him.
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