Author Topic: A Life Less Ordinary  (Read 983 times)

Rhys Bristol

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A Life Less Ordinary
« on: November 17, 2019, 02:25:47 PM »
"Hey, Amy! Where you at, pumpkin?"

Joey's voice echoed around the Sparrowhawk home as he hunted for his youngest sister, pretty sure she was going to want to hear what he had to tell. Laura and Oliver were at their separate after-school clubs, and his mother was doing laundry. At seventeen, though, he didn't often need permission to spirit any of his siblings away to the Bristols' house across the street.

At five years old, Amy Sparrowhawk had become pretty adept at hiding. Hide and Seek was her favorite game, after all, and she'd gotten pretty good at it, except for the fact that her giggle always gave her away. Today, she was hiding under a pile of clothes in her older brother's closet, confident he'd never find her there, if only she could keep her giggles to herself.

Climbing the stairs up to the third floor, Joey paused, grinning to himself as he listened for those telltale giggles. He didn't actually remember agreeing to play Hide and Seek, but he was an absolute pushover for his adopted siblings. Amy did have a special place in her biggest big brother's heart, though.

"I wonder where she could be," he said aloud, walking with heavy steps along the landing. "Is she in Mom and Dad's room?"

He hadn't actually agreed to play Hide and Seek, but that had never stopped her before. As far as Amy was concerned, she liked playing this particular game with Joey best, but that was probably because he never got annoyed with her. She heard him getting closer, but not close enough, and slapped a hand over her mouth so that he wouldn't hear her giggling. Shifting slightly in the cramped closet, she accidentally thumped the door with her foot and gasped in surprise, hopeful he hadn't heard.

Hearing that little thump, Joey let out an exaggerated gasp, turning away from his parents' bedroom toward his own. "What was that?" he declared, thumping in that direction. "There isn't a monster in here, is there? There'd better not be - I have to protect my little sister. Come out, come out, scary monster!"

This time, Amy couldn't help but audibly giggle, as much as she was trying not to.

"Not a monster!" she called, not even bothering to disguise her voice.

"Oh no!" Joey's acting was almost as bad as Gina's, but it was enthusiastic, at least. "The monster ate Amy! I'll save you, Amy!" He started to - carefully - toss about his own belongings, getting closer to the closet as he went.

There was a scrambling sound from inside the closet before the door flew open and Amy staggered out, blond hair mussed and falling into her face, as she lunged for Joey.

"Here I is, Doey!" she declared, unable to quite pronounce her J's properly yet. She threw her arms around his waist, looking up at him through her messy blond hair. "You saved me!"

"Are you sure you're really Amy?" he asked the disheveled little miss clinging to his waist. "Maybe I should check. You know what monsters really hate? Tickles!" Hoisting her up into the air, he let his little sister drop on the bed and attacked her sides with wriggling fingers.

"No, Doey! No tickles! Not a monster!" she insisted between gasps for air and spurts of laughter. She tried in vain to push him away so that he wouldn't tickle her anymore, but part of her was enjoying the attention.

"Okay, I think you are Amy," he relented, laughing as he dropped down onto the bed beside his little sister. "Just as well, because I was coming to find you anyway."

"You think?" she echoed, pouting at him. She sat up suddenly to face him with hands on her hips, looking slightly indignant. "It's me, Doey! Me, Amy! See?" she asked, crossing her eyes as she leaned close enough to touch her nose to his.

"Hmm, maybe I should look closer," he teased, squishing his nose gently to hers as his own eyes crossed.

Gina had been utterly amazed by how well Joey had taken to having siblings; who would have thought that a boy who had been an only child for fourteen years would enjoy being a big brother so much?

She stared into his eyes a moment, before blinking and pushing him away. "You is silly!" she told him, with another giggle before collapsing on the bed next to him. "Why was you lookin' for me?"

"Because," he declared, lying on his back beside her still grinning, "Ana's back. And I know you wanted to see her new baby brother before anyone else does."

"Ana's back?" she echoed, hopping onto her knees beside him, and bouncing excitedly on the bed. "Can we go see him now?" she asked, a hopefully expression on her face.

"Well, yeah," Joey told her, pushing himself to sit up. "Gotta find your shoes and coat, though, it's chilly out there! I don't want to deliver a cold Amy!"

"Okay, Doey!" Amy explained agreeably as she bounced off the bed to go in search of her socks - because she couldn't wear shoes without socks. She trusted him to find her coat.

Chuckling to himself, Joey got up off the bed a little more slowly, heading down the stairs toward the closet where the coats were kept. He did pause in the laundry room to let his mom know he was taking Amy over the street to see Ana and the new baby, though.

It wasn't long before she had her socks and her shoes on and was thumping down the stairs to find Joey so that they could go meet the new baby. "Ready!" she declared as she went in search of her biggest brother.

"No, you're not, you're Amy!" he declared, already in his own warm jacket to set a good example for his little sister. He was holding her bright pink winter coat, ready for her to slip her arms into.

She giggled at his joke, turning so she could slip her arms into the sleeves of her coat, one at a time, with his help. "You is bein' silly again," she told him, and would have poked him in the side, if she wasn't busy trying to wrestle the coat on.

Settling the coat onto her shoulders, Joey went down on one knee to help her do up the zipper and buttons. "You like me when I'm silly," he pointed out to his little sister affectionately. "I'm more fun."

She frowned at him, looking a little puzzled by his statement. "I like you all the time," she assured him, as if he needed reassuring.  "You are the bestest biggest brother ever!"

He laughed, gently tweaking her nose. "Don't let Ollie hear you say that!" he warned, rising onto his feet. "Give Mom a yell goodbye before we go."

"I said biggest!" she reminded him with a huff of breath. Ollie was her big brother, too, but Joey was the eldest. Everyone, it seemed, was older than her, except for Ana's little brothers. "Bye, Mom!" she called to Gina, wherever she was, as she slipped a gloved hand into her brother's.

"Have fun, sweetheart!" Gina called back, sticking her head out of the kitchen to wave at them as Joey opened the front door to lead his little sister out onto the porch.

The first thing Amy did was look up into the sky, as if she was checking the weather. "When's it gonna snow?" she asked, feeling the cold breeze, but no snowflakes on her face.

"Dad thinks it's gonna snow next week," he told her, walking slowly down the porch steps at her pace and onto the sidewalk. "Remember the rules for crossing the road?"

"Mmhmm," she murmured. "Look both ways a'fore you cross da street," she told him from rote, swiveling her head to look right and then left, her hand still in his.

"And if the street's clear, we walk!" Joey finished, gently squeezing her hand to signal that they could do just that. Ahead of them, the lights were on in the Bristol house, proof positive that the little family had returned from their brief visit to Avalon to allow Nat some magical recovery from giving birth.

Amy hopped along as her big brother's side as they crossed the street, coming to a halt before they reached her friend's house.

"Doey?" she asked, looking up at him with large doe-like eyes. "Mama and Dada would never leave us, would they?" she asked, worried she might lose them like she'd lost her birth parents.

Joey turned back to her, going down on one knee right there on the street to look her in the eye. "No, pumpkin, Mom and Dad aren't going anywhere," he promised her faithfully. "And you know what? Even if something happens that takes them away, we've got Uncle Rhys and Auntie Nat, and Aurelia and Ian, and they'll take care of us and make sure we all stay together. Okay?"

Amy very solemnly met Joey's gaze, trusting him completely, a small, worried frown on her face. "You won't leave us neither, will you?" she asked, in a hushed voice. Most five-year-olds were afraid of the dark, but what frightened Amy most was losing the people she loved and being left all alone.

"Not a chance," Joey promised firmly, kissing the tip of her nose. "You're stuck with me for years and years, and anytime you get worried about it, you can come talk to me, okay?"

The frown faded from her face and she nodded her head emphatically. "Okay. You're a good big brother, Doey," she said, lunging forward to fling her arms around his neck in a hug.

"Nah, I got lucky with the best baby sister ever," he told her, hugging her close with a smile. Then, still holding her, he stood up and swung her about, setting her down on the top step of the Bristols' porch before jogging up beside her. "You wanna ring the bell?"
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay.

"Dream On" - Aerosmith

Rhys Bristol

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Re: A Life Less Ordinary
« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2019, 02:26:11 PM »
She held on tightly as he spun her around, giggling in delight. He really was the bestest biggest brother ever. She loved her other brother, too, but Joey had a special place in her heart. She nodded again in answer to his question and stood up on her tiptoes to press a finger to the doorbell.

"Wow, good job! You're getting so tall!" Grinning down at his baby sister, Joey hugged her into his side to keep the chill off while they waited for someone to answer the door.

Amy beamed a proud grin at her brother and tried to stand a little bit taller, as slip her hand into his.

"I'm aw'most as tall as Ollie!" she declared, though it was unlikely she'd ever catch up.

"You really are," he agreed, though there was still a long way to go before any of them caught up to him, and Adam was just a giant.

Amy grinned back at her brother, prouder still that he thought she was so tall. She might have said something more, but just then, the door opened, and they were greeted by Ana's father, looking a little more rumpled and sleepy than usual.

"Sorry, I was just finishing up changing the baby," he told the pair, pulling the door open to let them inside. "Come on in. Ana's around here somewhere."

"Dude, you look wrung out," was Joey's greeting to Rhys as he ushered Amy inside, catching her to get her coat off before she went hurtling headlong through the house to find Ana.

"Nah, I'm okay. Just a little tired. The doctor thinks Dylan is a little colicky," Rhys informed him, though that word could mean a lot of things these days.

"He's only a week old, how does he have colic already?" Joey, it had to be said, knew very little about babies, but was willing to learn just about anything. A squeal from the living room suggested the girls had found each other, making him laugh.

Rhys shrugged. "Beats the hell ... heck out of me," he said, quick to correct himself. He was obviously tired, but newborn babies would do that to a person. Despite that, he chuckled at the squeal coming from the other room. "You'd think they hadn't seen each other in years."

"Amy's missed Ana a lot," Joey told him cheerfully, hanging up his jacket and Amy's coat. "Dad had to promise her she'd be the first one to come over here when you got back to make her stop moping." He turned back to Rhys, tilting his head curiously. "Anything you need doing while I'm here, man?"

"Yeah, quit calling me man," Rhys teased the teen. "Whatever happened to Uncle Rhys?" he asked, wondering how Joey had grown up so quickly.

"Boy howdy, Uncle Rhys, you sure are grumpy today," the teenager shot back, affecting a wide-eyed, Boy Scout style enthusiasm that was just a little grating.

Rhys cringed. "You would be, too, if you just changed the diaper I did!" he complained, though it didn't really bother him all that much. "You wanna take a peek at the little stinker?" he asked, a familiar smirk returning to his face.

"Sure!" Ever since Ana had been born, Joey had been involved in the lives of Rhys' children, albeit with fewer complaints now he was older about doing the smelly stuff as well. He was as interested as anyone to meet the newest Bristol. "How's Nat doing?"

"Good," Rhys replied. "Tired, but good. She's with the baby," he explained as he started toward the nursery before changing his mind. "Ana! Do you wanna show Amy your new brother?" he called toward the girls.

"Is he all not stinky now?" Ana asked from the living room. Joey bit his lip, glancing around as he realized he hadn't heard a peep out of Micah yet, wherever the boy was.

"Yes, he is not all stinky now," Rhys mimicked his daughter with a smirk. "C'mon. But you have to be quiet so you don't wake him," he warned, pressing a finger against his lips for good measure.

"You wanna come see my Dylan?" the little girl then asked her best friend, beaming hopefully.

"So how long am I gonna be second fiddle to a baby this time?" Joey murmured to Rhys. Ana's delight in Micah had worn off within a few days of his birth, but this was the first time Joey had walked into the house and not been tackled by the wild child of the family.

"Relax, Romeo," Rhys murmured back. He elbowed the teen, unable to resist teasing him a little, an amused smirk on his face. "Give her a chance to play Show and Tell with her bestie. She'll get to you."

Joey snorted with laughter, rolling his eyes. "Pretty sure she loves me a whole lot more than I love her," he assured Rhys. "Besides, I'm not a cradle-snatcher. Gotta wait for her to be at least my age before I make any moves on your daughter."

Rhys furrowed his brows a moment at something Joey had said, even though he knew the teen was just kidding. "Better not let her hear you say that," he murmured, knowing how much Joey meant to his Ana. "Anyway, she's not going on her first date for at least another decade."

"I went on my first date at fourteen," Joey pointed out with a grin. "Double standards, dude."

He stepped sideways as Ana and Amy appeared from the living room, whispering loudly to each other about being quiet as they climbed the stairs toward the nursery.

"I went on my first date at ..." Rhys started in an attempt to one-up the teen - which he wouldn't have had any problem doing - when he realized he'd only been contradicting himself. "What about you?" he asked, changing the subject as the two girls headed toward the stairs. "Wanna see the new addition?"

"I thought I was," the teenager answered, patting Rhys on the back only slightly patronizingly. "C'mon, grumpy, before the girls smother Nat and the baby in whispers."

Rhys narrowed his eyes at the kid, knowing he was being a bit of a smart ass, but recognizing a little of himself in the boy, even though he wasn't his father. "Careful, Joey. I might not be able to take you over my knee anymore, but I can tell your father to withhold the car keys."

"Like Adam ever does what you tell him to," Joey chuckled. "You can't complain about the attitude, you've been my consistent male role model all my life. So this is your fault."

Rhys rolled his eyes and chuckled. "Well, in that case, I won't hold it against you." He grinned at the young man who he thought of as at least a nephew, if not more, and threw an arm around his shoulders. "Come along then, Junior."

Laughing, Joey let himself be lead up the stairs and into Rhys and Nat's bedroom, where the snug had been converted yet again into a transitional nursery. Nat was in the rocking chair, Micah wrapped up in a blanket on her lap as she rocked, offering up a smile as Joey and Rhys entered. Ana and Amy were virtually glued to the Moses basket, staring at Dylan in adoration.

Micah was asleep, lulled by his mother's warmth and the slow back and forth motion of the rocking chair. The little boy had had a difficult couple of days trying to get used to not being the baby anymore.

Rhys frowned as he moved closer. "Do you want me to lay him down for a nap?" he whispered to Nat.

She shook her head with a warm look in her eyes. "Nyet," she said softly, stroking Micah's hair. "He needed a good cry and a cuddle, and he just dozed off. He will feel better if he's still here when he wakes up."

Rhys' frown deepened in concern, but he knew they'd made sure little Micah didn't feel left out. "Poor little guy," he said, letting his fingers drift through Micah's curls a moment, before exhaling a sigh. He remembered how jealous Ana was when they first brought Micah home, and now they were like two peas in a pod. He hoped the same would prove true for Micah and Dylan.

"At least he knows he can talk to us about it," Nat murmured. She was glad both their talkative children trusted them enough to share whatever was on their minds; she could only hope it continued into their teens.

Rhys would have given his right arm for a brother, but then he'd eventually had Adam. "You think he's gonna be okay?" he asked, with obvious concern.

"I think so. I think he just was not expecting to have to share us so soon." She smiled tiredly once again. "He will be fine, milaya. It will just take a little time, just as it did with Ana."

"He's a good boy. He'll be a good big brother," Rhys said, with a fond smile for their eldest son. "How are you doing? Want to lie down for a while?" he asked. "I can handle things here for a few hours." They'd learned the hard way that it was best to take tours and spell each other through the first few weeks, but it wasn't always easy juggling three children.

She laughed gently. "I am actually pretty good," she admitted. "I'm getting a rest here, that is for sure." There was no way she was moving before Micah woke up, after all, and Rhys knew that if the boy wasn't sleeping on his mother's lap, she would be trying to do everything.

Rhys glanced over at the trio near the bassinet. "Well, at least he seems content for now," he said of the newborn. All their children seemed content for the moment, but he knew that could change at a moment's notice. His gaze drifted to Joey, wondering if the boy felt out of place among a couple of five-year-olds.
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay.

"Dream On" - Aerosmith

Rhys Bristol

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Re: A Life Less Ordinary
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2019, 02:26:28 PM »
To be fair, it didn't seem like it. Joey did have control over the girls and their little fingers that wanted to poke and make Dylan do something more interesting. He'd actually moved them both out of reach, Amy in one arm and Ana in the other, the three of them whispering to each other about babies.

Nat bit her lip with a grin. "The sooner that boy gets a girlfriend, the better."

"Looks to me like he already has his hands full," Rhys remarked, watching how Joey interacted with the girls - one who was his adopted sister and the other more like a cousin, but neither related by blood. Both girls seemed to adore him, but they were far too young to even think about dating.

Nat snorted with laughter. "I was thinking more along the lines of someone his own age, Rhys," she pointed out.

Joey glanced over his shoulder at them. "You do know I can hear every word you're saying, right?"

Rhys was trying to keep his voice down, but he wasn't overly surprised that Joey overheard. "You could at least pretend that you don't," he replied with a grin of his own. He had a feeling Joey would never have a problem finding female companionship. He just wasn't too sure what Amy and Ana might think about that.

"Where's the fun in that?" Joey countered easily. Yes, he was very at home with his baby sister and Ana, but he was definitely at the age when a girlfriend could come along anytime.

Rhys rolled his eyes again. "I wonder if I was that irritating at his age," he murmured to Nat, just loud enough for Joey to overhear him.

She laughed quietly. "Dusha moya, I would venture to suggest you were worse," she informed her husband fondly. "But you turned out all right in the end."

"How would you know?" he asked, forgetting she'd had a few peeks at his past. "I didn't know you then," he told her, sticking his tongue out at her - the epitome of maturity.

"Be glad you did not," was her reply - a little ominous, but then, she had been under the influence of her father and her twin sister when she was seventeen.

"Papa, is Micah gonna be okay?" Ana asked suddenly, drawing their attention to where she had drawn herself away from her baby brother to look at her little brother instead.

Rhys furrowed his brows, on the brink of some comeback or other when Ana interrupted. "Yes, of course, he is, sweetling. Why wouldn't he be?" he asked, crouching down to touch her cheek and look at her on her own level.

"'Cos he's sleeping on Mama in the middle of the day?" she suggested. "Did he get sick?"

Nat smiled at their eldest, glad that Ana had enough attention to split between her two brothers, at the very least.

"No, he's just a little out of sorts. I'm sure he'll be fine, but you know what?" Rhys said, drawing his daughter closer, a warm smile on his face. "You can help him feel better by giving him lots of attention in the next few weeks, while he gets used to having a baby brother. We all can."

"Mm'kay," she agreed, more than happy to claim her own cuddle from Rhys as he pulled her in. "Is it 'cos he's not the baby no more? 'Cos I know how that works."

"Something like that," Rhys told her. "We just have to make sure he understands that we don't love him any less, just 'cause he's not the baby anymore," he tried to explain.

"Okay, Papa, I can do that," Ana promised faithfully, twisting a bit to look at her friend. "Amy can help, too, can't you? We can make Micah all lovely."

Rhys chuckled, glancing over at the other girl. "I don't mean for you to dress him up like a doll, you know," he told the pair. "Just don't forget about him, okay?"

"I won't, Papa," Ana promised once again, squeezing him for a moment. "Can I show Amy my pitt-churs from Avalom? And how we maded them?"

Amy said nothing, pretending to admire Ana's little brother while she talked to her father, though from the expression on her face, she heard every word. She was just as fond of Micah as she was of her own siblings, and she hoped she never made him feel left out.

"Yes, you may," Rhys told his daughter. "Just try to keep it down, while your brothers are napping, okay?"

"Yes, Papa!" This was offered in a loud, enthusiastic whisper, followed by a kiss to his cheek before Ana eased away to take Amy's hand and lead her out of the room. The playroom was, at least, on the next floor up, and already set up for arts and crafts.

Joey smirked as he rose onto his feet once again. "They're too damned cute."

"They adore you," Rhys said, though he figured the teen knew that already. "So, how are you doing, now that you're the oldest of five?" he asked, as he, too, moved to his feet, before taking a lean against the bed. "The truth. No bulls***." Now that the girls had skittered off, Rhys thought maybe he'd get a straight answer out of the kid.

Joey chuckled, tucking his hands into his pockets as he leaned against the wall. "Including your own kids in that, huh? Makes me the oldest of seven, actually." He let the grin fade, though. "I'm ... getting used to it. It was weird for a while there, having these little people all over the house. But it got better, you know? Especially after Adam got that lock for my door."

"Did I say five? I meant four," Rhys said with a momentarily smirk that disappeared as soon as Joey turned serious. "Yeah, I can imagine. Do you get along well with them, though? I mean, obviously Amy adores you, but what about Laura and Oliver?"

"Laura's still a little wary around me," Joey admitted with a worried frown. "I don't know how to change that. Ollie's just nuts." This, he said with a warm smile. "It's kinda cool having a little brother, you know? Scaring the crap out of the kids who think they can bully him just by looming was fun."

Rhys chuckled, wondering if that was how Adam had felt when they'd been kids. As tough as Rhys seemed now, there had been a time when he'd been innocent and vulnerable. "Yeah, your dad was my bodyguard when I was Ollie's age. Saved my ass on more than one occasion." He didn't need to explain that he meant Adam, not Joey's birth father, who, in Rhys' estimation, was a piece of s*** he hoped rotted in jail. "As for Laura, just give her some time. She'll come around."

"I figured she's still getting used to not being the oldest anymore," Joey said with a shrug. It had only been eighteen months since the three of them had become part of the Sparrowhawk family, after all. "I don't wanna force my company on her if she doesn't want it."

"Well, she's still the oldest girl," Rhys pointed out. "And she's probably still learning to trust," he said, knowing Joey's adopted siblings had been taken from their parents after some abuse issues.

Joey nodded. "She doesn't flinch when people talk to her anymore," he offered, proud of his older little sister for that. "She'll get there, Mom says."

"Younger kids are more resilient, I think. They forget," Rhys said, though he hadn't forgotten much of his own childhood. Then again, most of his memories before the age of nine were happy ones.

"Mom told me it was Laura who took most of the s***, so that Ollie and Amy didn't," the teen said, and there was a dark glower on his face for the people who had hurt his siblings in their former life. "I guess she's going to be a little bit afraid of anyone who is bigger and stronger than her for a long time."

"That's probably why your mom felt so strongly about adopting them," Rhys said, unsure how much Joey knew about his birth father, but assuming he at least knew the man was in jail. He was lucky Rhys or Adam hadn't put him six feet under for all the crap he'd put Gina through.

"Well, yeah," Joey agreed. "After everything the sperm donor did to her, and then to me as well? Damn straight she wanted to get them into a stable home where they'd be loved and cared for properly. How many other people would have taken all three of them together?"

"Sadly, probably not many. They're lucky to have you guys, and I'm sure Laura knows that. Just give her some time," Rhys said. There had been a time when he'd felt like an outsider, too, but Adam and Gina had made sure he was never too alone.

"You helped me to feel like part of your family," Nat said suddenly, meeting Joey's gaze with a smile. "I am sure you can do that for Laura, as well." The teenager shrugged, shaking his head. "I just don't want her to be scared of me, that's all."

"You just be yourself, and it'll be fine," Rhys assured the boy, confident Laura would warm up to him eventually. "Maybe you could, I dunno, take her shopping or something. Go out to lunch," he suggested with a shrug of his own.

"You think that would work?" The boy perked up at that suggestion. "Maybe I could help her with Christmas. I mean, I pay my way, but I could help her carrying stuff maybe."

"Hmm," Rhys murmured, the wheels in his head turning again. "What if we asked her to come over and help with the kids while we're busy with the baby?" he asked. "That way she could earn a little money of her own, and it might help her gain confidence, too. She could even help out around the house. Do a few easy chores."
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay.

"Dream On" - Aerosmith

Rhys Bristol

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Re: A Life Less Ordinary
« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2019, 02:38:51 PM »
"I bet she'd love that," Joey enthused with a nod. "D'you think Ian and Aurelia might let her babysit for them, too? Because they take even less time off than you do, dude."

"Good idea!" Rhys said, though he didn't want to bog Laura down with so many chores she didn't have time for homework and friends. "I'm sure they'd be happy to help."

"I'll ask them," Joey said thoughtfully. "She's twelve, she can do babysitting for little people in a safe house with family close by, right?"

"As long as she wants to, sure," Rhys said, looking over at Nat to see if she was in agreement.

"I think it is a very good idea," Nat agreed, still gently rocking with Micah asleep on her lap. "And yes, for now, she should only be babysitting on this street, with family near in case she needs help. But in a few years, she might decide to branch out a little."

"Or she might decide she hates it," Rhys added with a chuckle, but he didn't think so. From what he'd seen of Laura so far, she seemed like a sweet girl, albeit a bit on the quiet side.

"Also true," Nat agreed with a smile. "But it is a little independence, and she is of the right age to appreciate that. Maybe you should suggest it to her, Joey, before you start lining up work for her."

Joey looked a little embarrassed not to have thought of this himself. "Yeah, I guess you're right."

"She'll probably jump at the chance to make a little money for herself, but she might be a little skittish about babysitting," Rhys said, though he didn't know much about tweenage girls. "Nothing's set in stone. If it turns out she doesn't like it, she doesn't have to stick with it."

Joey shrugged. "She might want to get some practice in before ...." He trailed off, looking extremely guilty, and immediately turned his attention to Dylan in the basket. "Can I hold him?"

Rhys chuckled at the boy's abrupt request. "I thought you'd never ask," he said, moving to his feet again. "You remember how?" he asked as he moved over to the bassinet where little Dylan was sleeping peacefully.

"Support the head, tuck him in close, right?" Joey asked, following Rhys to let the proud daddy uncover his new son and lift him up first.

"That's about it," Rhys confirmed as he reached into the basket to very carefully uncover his newest son and draw him into his arms. "Oh, and if he poops, you get to change him," he told Joey with a smirk as he carefully handed the newborn over.

"Tough luck, old man, you just finished doing that," Joey pointed out cheerfully, though he was extremely careful as he took the newborn into his arms, tucking the warm little body close against his chest. "Wow, look at you, kiddo. You weigh a half ton already!"

Rhys hovered a moment, as if to make sure the teen didn't change his mind before returning to his perch on the bottom of the bed. He tossed a wink and a smile over at Nat, glad to see Joey so taken with their son. "Don't be fooled. He gets heavy after a while," he warned him.

"Have you felt how heavy my school bag is recently?" Joey asked, awkwardly rocking a little because he'd read somewhere that babies liked that. "And Dad says it'll get worse in college."

Rhys shrugged. He'd never been to college, so what would he know? "I guess. Are you planning on going away or staying local?" he asked. Joey was seventeen already, after all. He'd be making that decision soon, if he hadn't already.

"I'm staying close," Joey told him, not even considering any other option. "I don't care how great the experience might be, I'm not going hundreds of miles away just to go to college. I'm going to Brooklyn."

"I'm sure your parents will be happy about that," Rhys said, not to mention Joey's siblings. "You wanna sit down?" he asked, sliding over to make some space. "What are you planning on studying?"

Easing down onto the bed with Dylan steady in the crook of his arm, Joey grinned at Rhys and Nat. "History and Mythology, with a minor in Engineering," he informed them with almost smug pride. "I figure I could make a living securing museums and dig sites against thieves like you guys."

Nat snorted with laughter, fighting not to laugh too hard and wake up the little boy in her arms.

"And what makes you think Avalon won't recruit you someday?" Rhys countered, eying the teen. "Isn't that a bit of a conflict of interest?" he asked, unsure if Joey was serious or just kidding.

He shrugged one shoulder. "They might, who knows?" he said. "And besides, if I'm the one designing the systems, then you have an in to get through those systems without having to hang on a rope from a skylight, right?"

"We'd never put you at risk like that," Rhys was quick to point out. Even if they were charged with stealing from some place Joey had engineered against theft, they wouldn't ask him for help in infiltrating it and risk him going to jail. "Is that what you really want to do?" he asked again.

"Honestly? I don't know what I want to do," Joey admitted with a smile. "But I like history and mythology, and I like doing stuff with my hands. I'm pretty sure Mom would never let me get an apprenticeship to a woodworker, so this is what I've got."

"I'm sure you'll figure it out," Rhys assured him. "Have you talked to Ian at all?" he asked, seeing how Ian was a university professor with a specialty in Arthurian mythology.

"Little bit. He said I should do a couple of semesters on an overview of classical mythology before deciding where I want to focus on," Joey said, a little bemused by this. "Aurelia said I should go pro with the sword fighting, but Ian was laughing too hard for us to go any further with that."

"Go pro?" Rhys echoed, brows arching upwards. "Was she suggesting you audition for one of those Medieval Times places?" he asked. "Or was she suggesting you become a ..." He trailed off at the thought. He had no idea if Joey was interested in becoming a Knight of Avalon or how he'd go about doing that, if he was.

"I dunno," the boy admitted. "I thought maybe she meant a stuntman, you know? I like the weapons and stuff, but I don't know if you can make a career out of it. And, no offense, but I am not becoming a hunter or a Fed."

Rhys laughed. "Thank God for that!" he said, looking relieved. He didn't wish the hunting life on any of his children, or his friend's either, for that matter. "But I'm not really a hunter anymore," he pointed out.

"No, you're King Arthur reincarnated, or whatever," Joey teased him. In his arms, Dylan fussed a little, drawing his attention to the baby boy. He caught one of the flailing hands with a finger, and found himself laughing as that finger was promptly inserted into the newborn's mouth.

Rhys chuckled. "Not exactly," he said, though he didn't elaborate further. He might wield Caliburnus, but he knew he was no King Arthur. "Just how much has your father told you about me ... about us?" he asked the teen, of both himself and Nat.

"Not much," the boy admitted. "Just that you're kinda big on Avalon, and you get jobs from the Lady every now and then. I mean, I'm not technically in on the big secret, so there's not much I'm supposed to know, right?"

"Technically," Rhys confirmed. "But you're at an age when you have to make choices." He glanced over at Nat, knowing you didn't really choose Avalon; Avalon chose you. "I guess what you need to decide is whether you want to be part of our world, or if you think you'd be happier living a more mundane life."

Joey was silent for a long moment. "That's a big decision," he pointed out. "John was part of your world, and look what happened to him. Mom would totally freak if I made a decision like that without really thinking about it."

Rhys frowned. No one had mentioned that name in a long time, and Rhys didn't want to think about John, much less talk about him. He knew Joey wasn't accusing him of anything, but he felt guilty just the same.

"Point taken," he murmured, his mood deflating as the wound was unintentionally reopened. They'd lost a lot of good people, starting with his father, but it had been the demons to blame, not them. "For what it's worth, the world is a safer place now."

"I know. And that's because of you," Joey reminded him. "But if I have the choice to be connected with Avalon, then I gotta talk to Mom about it. I mean, she probably will still want me to go to college, so I can earn a living."

Rhys pushed aside his own grief and guilt and laid a hand against Joey's shoulder, a faint smile on his face. "You do whatever it is you want to do. Whatever you think would make you happy. Your father ... Adam and I never had many choices, but you do. If you want to be an engineer, then you be the best damned engineer you can be. Just be happy, Joey. That's all we want for you."

Joey's smile was relieved. "Might take me a while to work it out," he warned. "But thanks, Rhys. I guess I should start properly thinking about what I want to do, huh?"

"It's okay if you don't figure it out right away, you know. How are you supposed to know what you want to do with the rest of your life when you're just getting started?" Rhys said, his smile warming. "You'll figure it out ... eventually. Meanwhile, have fun."

"That's pretty good advice there, Uncle Rhys," the teen commented, grateful for it even if he was a bit annoying at times. "You think I should ask Mom about maybe getting an apprenticeship, then?"
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay.

"Dream On" - Aerosmith

Rhys Bristol

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Re: A Life Less Ordinary
« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2019, 02:39:13 PM »
"An apprenticeship?" Rhys echoed. "To a woodworker?" he asked, remembering what the teen had said a few minutes ago. He wasn't sure how many woodworkers there were in New York, but there was only one way to find out. He shrugged. "The only way you're going to find out if that's what you wanna do is to give it a try."

"Yeah." Joey seemed almost shy of sharing this. "Adam taught me how to whittle, you know? And I think I'm pretty good at it, but I want to make bigger stuff. I'd love to make Mom a big rocking chair like the one you guys have, that she can fill with cushions and still have one of the kids in that thing with her."

"You haven't mentioned this to your parents?" Rhys asked, a little surprised by that, but then maybe Joey had a reason for that.

"Well ... not yet. I mean, they're all academic and always talking about college and studying, and I don't want to let them down, you know?"

Nat raised her head. "You can't let them down by doing something you enjoy," she said quietly. "And you can always go to college later, as your mother did."

"You have your whole life ahead of you, Joey. Nothing is set in stone," Rhys added to what Nat had said. "What harm is there in giving apprenticing a try? You're either going to love it or hate it, right? Only one way to find out."

"Yeah, you're right." The boy nodded, seeming to have made up his mind. "I'll talk to Mom and Dad about it."

"Good!" Rhys said, giving the teen's shoulder a squeeze and smiling broadly, glad to have been of some help. "Now that that's decided, are you and Amy staying for dinner?"

Joey shook his head with a smile. "Nah, we told Mom we'd be back in a bit," he said easily. "Dad should be back any time now with the others - they've been doing afterschool stuff. Ollie's in this weird science thing that seems to be all about blowing stuff up, and Laura's doing ice-skating."

"Sounds like they're settling in pretty well," Rhys said, though they'd already touched on that. "This year is prom, isn't it?" he asked, with a sparkle in his eyes. "How would you like to borrow the Chevelle?" Because his car was way cooler than Adam's.

"What, not the Mustang or the Jaguar?" Joey asked wth a cheeky grin.

Nat cracked open one eye. "Point of order," she said. "The Jaguar is mine."

Joey snorted, looking innocently at Rhys.

Rhys shook his head marginally, dropping a hint not to ask about the Jag, which was Nat's baby. Not even Rhys was allowed to drive the Jag without asking. "Or the Mustang," he admitted with a shrug. Either car was guaranteed to impress the girls.

Joey chuckled at Rhys' silent warning not to push his luck with Nat's car, briefly wondering if Ana would be the one to eventually get behind the wheel of the beautifully kept vehicle. "How about we wait and see if I actually go?" he suggested to his uncle. "Seeing as apparently all girls are incapable of asking a guy out, and there's no one I'm interested in enough to spend a whole night watching trying to stand upright in heels."

"No one?" Rhys asked, wide-eyed. He had a hard time believing that. Joey was a good looking kid, who had the personality to boot. He was sure the girls had noticed him. There had to be at least one he wouldn't mind asking out.

Joey tilted his head toward Rhys. "Have you seen girls my age at my school?" he asked. "Most of them are practically made of plastic and make up these days." He hesitated, then added, "I mean, maybe there's one I might ask. Maybe."

"Um, no ..." Rhys replied with a snort. "If I went around noticing girls your age, I'd probably get arrested," he told him, half-joking. "Well, it's only November. You have plenty of time."

"Anyway, isn't prom supposed to be about celebrating the end of school?" Joey added. "It's not like I'm not ballsy enough to go on my own. I'm telling you, girls are more trouble than they are worth." He had a point - he had almost been knifed over a girl last year.

Rhys chuckled. "Not for me, it wasn't," he muttered, but didn't bother to elaborate on that any further. He laid a hand against Joey's shoulder again, more brotherly than fatherly. "Sometimes they are, but sometimes you end up with something like that," he said, nodding his head at the bundle in Joey's arms. "Not when you're 17, I mean!" he added with another chuckle, not wanting the kid to rush into anything.

The boy chuckled, rolling his eyes at Rhys. "Mom's going to hit you when I tell her you just suggested I find the right girl and make a baby," he threatened cheerfully.

"That's not what I meant, and you know it. What I mean is, it's a big world out there. Way bigger than high school, and there are lots of fish in the sea. You'll meet the right girl someday, and when you do, you'll know it," Rhys told him, speaking from experience. Of course, he'd met a lot of girls in his life, but there had only been one Nat.

"Yeah, yeah." Joey smiled, looking back down at the baby as Dylan released his finger finally, smacking his lips loudly as he drifted off to sleep again. "Gotta say, you guys make really cute babies."

Rhys grinned proudly and shrugged as if it was nothing. "We've got good genes," he boasted, without the teensiest bit of modesty. No one could really deny that, even if he did sound a bit egotistical in saying it.

"So modest, milaya," Nat murmured, glancing down herself as Micah stirred against her.

Joey smirked, glancing at the clock. "I guess I should give him back and take Amy home for dinner," he said reluctantly.

Rhys seemed to hear the reluctance in Joey's voice and gave his shoulder a squeeze. "You're welcome here anytime, you know. You're family," he reminded the teen.

"I know," Joey agreed. "But you have a new baby, so this is pretty precious time for you guys. Amy's going to be able to lord it over Laura and Ollie and Mom about seeing Dylan first, that was the main reason for coming over."

Rhys arched a brow. "The main reason for coming over was to bring Amy to visit?" he asked, as if he needed clarification. "Jesus, Joey. I've known you since ... well, since you were born. I know I stayed away a lot when you were little, but that was to keep you safe, and well, I was busy, you know, hunting and stuff. The point is you're family. You're always gonna be family. That means you're always welcome here. Got it?"

"I got it, Rhys." Joey's smile was grateful, even if he wasn't going to admit aloud that he'd also wanted to come over himself. "Thanks."

"Okay, good," Rhys said, just as awkward at the teen at admitting his feelings. He didn't really think he'd have to remind the kid that he was family, but he had. He wasn't Joey's dad - that honor had gone to Adam, even if he wasn't the boy's birth father - but he didn't care about him any less. "You better get Amy home before your mother comes looking for her."

"You want this back before I go?" the boy asked, gesturing with the newborn asleep in his arms with a teasing grin.

"Unless you want to take care of him for a few hours," Rhys remarked with a smirk, assuming Joey would probably prefer to hand him back.

"Nope, I can do without that for a few more months, thanks." Joey laughed, rising to his feet to gently ease Dylan back into Rhys' arms. "Besides, it's hard to pry Amy away from Ana with only one arm free."

"Or a few more years," Rhys murmured, more realistically. He was in no hurry for Joey to start a family, nor did he think the teen should be. He was too young for that yet. "Hopefully, you won't have to drag her home kicking and screaming," he added with a smirk as he took the newborn back into his arms.

"Talk to Mom about that deadline sometime," Joey told Rhys, bending to kiss Nat's cheek as she murmured a goodnight to him. "So ... playroom, right?"

"Just follow the giggles," Rhys replied with a smirk. Living in a development meant that most of the houses had a similar floor plan, so the Bristol house wasn't set up much differently than the Sparrowhawk's.

"All right, then." Chuckling, Joey left the bedroom, taking the stairs up two at a time to seek out the giggling pair of little girls who had become almost inseparable these days.

If Joey followed Rhys' advice, the sound of the giggling would take him to the playroom, where Amy and Ana were having tea, along with a pair of stuffed animals. Or at least, playing at having tea.

He leaned in the doorway, watching the girls for a moment before raising his hand to the door itself. "Knock, knock?"

Ana looked up, grinning at the sight of him. "Hullo, Jo-jo!"

Amy frowned, knowing it was probably time to go home. It wasn't that she didn't want to go home; it was just that they'd been having so much fun, she wasn't ready to leave yet. "I don't wanna go home yet," she pouted.

Everybody's got their dues in life to pay.

"Dream On" - Aerosmith

Rhys Bristol

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Re: A Life Less Ordinary
« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2019, 02:43:11 PM »
"We can come back tomorrow, pumpkin," Joey told his little sister. "But we gotta go home or we don't get dinner." He wiggled a finger in Ana's direction as the little girl opened her mouth. "And we can't have dinner here, not tonight. Mom's expecting us."

Somehow, Amy knew better than to ask if Ana could sleep over. That was something Joey didn't have the authority to allow without checking with their parents on both sides first.

"Okay," she agreed, grudgingly. But at least, she'd been able to meet the littlest Bristol before anyone else had, so that was a plus. She reluctantly slid out of her chair to give Ana a hug. "See you t'morrow, Ana," she promised her bestie.

Ana squeezed her tightly. "We can make the thingy Mama got me and do plays and stuff," she promised her friend. "And get Mama to help with the sticky stuff, because Papa's baaaad at that."

Joey chuckled at this assessment, knowing better than to rush the goodbye.

That got a smile from Amy. "Okay! And Micah can play the boys' parts," she suggested because she had a kind heart and didn't like leaving Ana's little brother out, even when they were playing girls' games.

Ana nodded enthusiastically. "Yup! And he's good at stickin' things, too," she added. "Better'n me." Skipping for a moment, she hopped over to hug Joey around the waist. "Thank you for bringin' Amy over, Jo-jo."

"Munchkin, it's Joey," he reminded her fondly. "And anytime. You ready to go, Amy?"

Meanwhile, Amy had skittered over to grab her coat, where she'd left it on the playroom floor and now handed it expectantly to Joey to help her get it back on. "Ready!" she echoed, or would be once she had her coat on, patiently waiting until her friend was finished hugging her biggest brother.

"Maybe tomorrow we can bake," Ana then suggested as Joey, helped Amy get her arms into her coat and do it up warmly. "That's something we can do with Micah, too. And everyone likes cookies!"

That was a lot of plans for one day, but Amy wasn't worried about it. One way or another, she and Ana always managed to have fun together, no matter what they were doing. "An' maybe you can come to my house after that," she said hopefully, as Joey helped her on with her coat.

"Ooooh, yes please!" Ana clapped her hands hopefully. Still chuckling, Joey rolled his eyes. "You guys should talk to parents about all these plans, you know," he told them, popping the last button closed over Amy's zipper.

Amy rolled her eyes at her brother. "Well, duh!" she exclaimed, as if what he'd suggested kind of went without saying. Sometimes boys - no matter their age - were so dense.

"You're so lucky I love you, pumpkin," he warned his little sister with a grin, tweaking her nose. "Finish up your goodbyes; I have to grab my jacket. See you by the door."

Amy scrunched her nose as he tweaked it, batting playfully at his hand and giggling. "I'm gonna get your nose!" she warned, taking a swipe in that direction, but too short to reach.

"The day you do, I'll make you pizza," he promised with a laugh, ducking out of the way and through the door to jog all the way down to the ground floor to retrieve his own jacket. He could see Adam's car in the drive across the street - the rest of the Sparrowhawk family were home.

That was followed by another chorus of giggles as Amy and Ana laughed over that, whispering to each other about Joey while he went in search of his jacket. While he glanced out the window, he might have noticed a shimmering of sorts, not unlike the way Aurelia caused the air to shimmer around her when she traveled from place to place, but it only lasted for a moment or two.

If he noticed it, it wasn't anything unusual for this street, though it was unusual for Aurelia to shimmer in plain sight. Usually she restricted herself to doing it only when strangers could not see her. Magic was a part of the big secret, after all. Shrugging into his coat, he called quietly up the stairs. "C'mon, Amy, time to go!"

"Coming!" Amy called back, momentarily forgetting about the baby. Remembering, she tiptoed her way down the stairs one step at a time, rather than the usual thumping sound, like a stampede of elephants. She was smart enough to know she could only delay so long before Joey got annoyed, and so, she finally arrived at his side, beaming a smile up at him and taking his hand. "Ready!"

"Well, howdy there, little lady," he said, wrapping his hand around hers with a smile. "Let's go and find out how Ollie and Laura did at their clubs, shall we?" As he spoke, he was leading the way to the door, reaching to open it with his free hand.

"Okay, Doey," she said, agreeably enough as he led the way home. She'd had fun with Ana and she'd met the new baby. It had been a good day, and she had no complaints.

"You're adorable, you know that?" he informed her, pulling the door open so they could slip out and leave the obviously tired Bristols to their evening.

"I know," Amy replied, beaming a cheesy grin up at her big brother. Maybe she had been spending too much time around the Bristols lately; it seemed Rhys' lack of modesty was catching. "Oh!" she exclaimed, blinking in surprise as they just about bumped into a tall, blond-haired stranger standing just outside the Bristols' door, a startled look on her face.

"Oops!" Gently drawing Amy back and automatically putting himself between his baby sister and the stranger on Rhys' doorstep, Joey looked at the unexpected girl in front of him. "Hi."

Upon first glance, the girl looked young - not more than a teenager herself - with long blond hair and blue-gray eyes. She was dressed oddly, at least by modern standards, in a gray wool coat, brown pants and leather boots that came almost up to her knees. Her hair was loose, except for a few small braids arranged to hold the rest of her hair away from her face. She blinked again in surprise to find herself facing an unexpected stranger, but certainly an attractive one. She looked a little confused at his greeting, as though it was unfamiliar.

"Hullo," she greeted him instead, blinking again before pulling her gaze away to take a look around. She was certain she had the right house, but they all looked the same. "I'm sorry. I'm looking for ..." She hesitated a moment before turning back. She knew better than to ask for the Champion. "For the Bristols," she told him.

Joey tore his eyes away from the unexpectedly pretty face to take in the rest of her appearance and made an intuitive leap. "You're lookin' for Rhys," he said confidently. Glancing down at Amy, he winked at his baby sister. "Hey, pumpkin, mind running up and telling Uncle Rhys he's got a visitor from the special place?"

"Okay, Doey!" Amy replied obediently, tearing her eyes away from the pretty, blond stranger to dart back inside, calling at the top of her lungs as she thumped back up the stairs, "Unca Rhys! You gots a vis'tor!" If the baby wasn't awake by now, he soon would be.

Joey winced at his little sister's loud declaration, unsurprised to hear a sudden wail from the newborn napping upstairs. He offered the stranger a faint grin. "You wanna come in? I'm Joey, I live across the street."

Meanwhile, the blond girl cleared her throat and shifted uncomfortably, relieved she'd at least got the right house. They all looked the same to her. She nodded, looking equally relieved to be invited inside where she wouldn't stand out like a sore thumb. "Yes, thank you," she told him. "You are of the Sparrowhawks clan?"

"Uh, yeah." He closed the door behind her, gesturing for her to come through to the kitchen. "Rhys'll be down once he's quieted the baby, I reckon. And we don't call them clans here on Earth, we're just a family."

"Family, of course," she said, as she followed him through the house, looking curiously around her - as curiously as one might who found themselves in the twenty-first century for the first time in their life. Though they had never met, she had obviously at least heard of his family. "I come with a message for the Champion," she explained, presuming Joey could be trusted, as he was a Sparrowhawk.

"Figured you did," he told her, stepping back so he didn't feel too dwarfed by this pretty girl in front of him. He was a bit of a late bloomer, height-wise, and she was definitely taller than anyone else his age. "That's not bad, as disguises go."

"Disguise?" she echoed, blinking again in confusion before realizing he was talking about the way she was dressed. "Oh! This is not a disguise," she assured him. "But I do not have clothes like yours," she asked, wondering just how those pants of his stayed on without any visible ties to hold them up.

"Oh, uh, you should get Nat to take you shopping," Joey suggested, inwardly cringing. He was terrible at talking to girls. "She loves that stuff. I mean, I'd offer to let you borrow some of mine, but ..." He blushed, shaking his head. "Never mind."

"Borrow some of your clothes?" she asked, brows arching upwards in curiosity. She'd noticed his blush, but wasn't sure what the cause of it was. It couldn't possibly be her, could it? Perhaps he was just warm; it was warm inside this house, after all. "Why would I do that?" she asked, as if there was nothing wrong with what she was wearing.

"I ... have no idea." He rubbed a hand through his hair, wondering where Amy had got to. "You got a name? Or am I just supposed to call you Avalon girl?"
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay.

"Dream On" - Aerosmith

Rhys Bristol

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Re: A Life Less Ordinary
« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2019, 02:43:29 PM »

The girl tilted her head slightly at him, wondering why he seemed nervous. She was the one who was a stranger in a strange world, not him. "I have a name," she confirmed, pausing a moment as if deciding whether or not to give it to him. "I am called Diantha," she told him at last.

"Can I call you Diantha, or do you have, like, a rank?" Joey asked awkwardly. "I know some people prefer reminding everyone they're a captain, or a whatever. Not that I think you're like that, you're just really pretty and most pretty girls are up their own asses. Not that you're up your own ass, but ..." He sighed, and raised his voice. "Amy!"

"I do not understand," she murmured, trying to follow him as he rambled. "You may call me Diantha. It is my name," she told him, as though that seemed logical enough. She didn't bother to mention any rank, but looked a little confused at the compliment. He'd told her she was pretty, but then seemed to follow that up with an insult. "I do not own an ass," she murmured, confused, brightening at another thought. "But I do have a horse!"

There came a telltale sputter from somewhere nearby, but no one else made themselves known yet.

"Aw, man ..." Rubbing that nervous hand through his hair once again, Joey sighed, glaring toward the stairs at the sound of the splutter. "I'm sure your horse is ... delightful," he managed. "D'you ... d'you want a drink, or something? While you're waiting?"

She smiled at last at something he'd said. "I will tell her you said so," she said, seemingly referring to his compliment regarding her horse. "A drink would be ... delightful. Thank you," she said, pausing to take another look around. "Is this the kitchen? It's very ... white."

"I guess it's very different to what you're used to," Joey mused, grateful to have something to do that meant he wasn't trying not to stare at Diantha. "Avalon's pretty basic, isn't it? I've only been there once, when Rhys and Nat got married."

"Would you like to visit again?" she asked, as she turned her attention back to the nervous young man. Though she was too shy to tell him, she secretly thought he was rather handsome, in an awkward sort of way.

"Uh ... yeah," he admitted, setting the kettle to boil as he hunted out the tea Nat had brought here from Avalon. When in doubt, go for something your guest will find familiar, as his mother had told him. "I guess I'd appreciate it better now. What do you do there?"

Relaxing a little bit now that she knew she was in safe company, she dared move a little bit closer, curious about how these modern conveniences worked. She shrugged at his question, as if the answer should be obvious.

"I am a squire in the Lady’s Guard," she told him. "Is that a stove?"

"Yeah, that's a stove," he told her. "Gas-burning, not wood, so mind your fingers." Her answer to his question made him frown in curiosity. "What does a squire do?"

She had just reached out to touch the smooth porcelain surface when she quickly drew back a hand at his warning, turning a puzzled look at him at his question. "A squire trains to be a knight," she told him, as though he should know this already.

"Oh, is that how you get to be a knight?" he asked, his curiosity piqued. "How do you become a squire?"

She tilted her head slightly again, looking at him as though she was surprised at his questions. These were things everyone in Avalon knew already, but then he was not from Avalon. "The Lady chooses," she explained without really explaining. "What are you training to do?" she asked of him.

"I, uh ... I don't know yet." Joey looked awkward once again. "See, here, you don't really start training to do something until you're eighteen, and I've only got about a month before I have to start applying to the college where I want to train. Only without knowing what I want to do, that's kinda hard."

"What is college?" she asked, not quite understanding everything he was telling her. Eighteen seemed a little old to be just starting to train for whatever it was you were going to do with your life.

"Oh." He was momentarily nonplussed before coming up with an explanation. "A college is where you go to train for what you want to do," he told her. "So knowing what you want to do is kind of critical."

"It's a school," she said, with sudden understanding. "There are schools of learning in Avalon, mostly for scholars. I have been training to be a knight since I was a child."

"Yeah, but is it what you want to do, or is it just what you've always been told you'll do?" Joey asked, tilting his head toward her curiously.

She blinked at the question, as if no one had ever thought to ask it of her, including herself. "It is an honor," she replied, a little defensively.

"I'm not saying it's not," he said, shrugging as he poured the water into the cup to let the tea steep. "But just because it's an honor, just because it's something everyone else expects you to do, that doesn't mean you have to do it. Unless it's what you want to do." He probably shouldn't be saying things like this - Avalon hadn't really had much in the way of social revolution in the last five thousand years.

"But what else would I do?" she asked curiously, as the sound of a distinctively-male voice cleared his throat behind them, just before Rhys joined them in the kitchen.

"Ahem, am I interrupting something?" he asked, with a pointed look at Joey.

"Hey, Rhys." Joey didn't look abashed in the slightest, though there was a faint red tinge to his ears. He knew Rhys had been listening to everything. "This is Diantha. That's the Champion of Avalon, Di," he told her with a grin. "Marvel in wonder at his spit up covered shirt."

Rhys furrowed his brows. Yes, he'd heard everything, including the fact that Joey was suddenly trying to appear smooth, but was it for Rhys' benefit or the girl's? "Guilty as charged," he murmured. "Weren't you on your way home?" he asked. Though Amy was yet to join them, from the sound of the giggles, she wasn't too far away.

"My lord Champion," Diantha said, turning to offer Rhys a short bow. "I have a message from the Lady."

"Uh, yeah, I was," the boy admitted. "Amy doesn't seem to have come back with you, though." He glanced at Diantha awkwardly. "I should let you guys do the official talking thing." He inched back toward the stairs, moderating his voice to call for his sister without disturbing the baby. "C'mon, Amy!"

Rhys glanced between the pair, the teensiest smirk on his face. "No rush. Why don't you two finish your tea, while I run Amy home? I won't be long," he volunteered.

Diantha glanced from one to the other, looking a little confused.

"It's okay," Rhys assured her, seeing the look on her face. "I'm sure whatever message the Lady has for me can wait a few minutes more."

The look Joey shot him was half-grateful, half-horrified. "You are not subtle, dude," he informed his mother's best friend, but went back to the counter. After all, when Rhys got that look in his eye, it was usually best just to play along for now.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Rhys said, moving from the room to fetch Amy, leaving the pair of teens alone once again.

Diantha looked again between the younger and older male, but she wasn't so slow as to not realize what was going on, as evidenced by the flush to her cheeks. "I wouldn't mind having some tea," she admitted quietly.

Joey offered her an awkward smile. "Sorry about him," he said, jerking his head toward the retreating Rhys as he fetched down cups for the tea. "He thinks he's smooth."

"Smooth?" she echoed, shaking her head in confusion, obviously unfamiliar with modern slang. As far as Rhys was concerned, he thought it was Joey who was trying to be smooth, but he kept that to himself for now.

With his blush now creeping down onto his face, Joey gave the tea his full attention as he poured. "Matchmaking and thinking we don't know he is," he muttered in explanation.

"Matchmaking?" Diantha echoed, wide-eyed. Looking around and finding only the two of them, she had to assume the proposed match was between herself and Joey. "Between us?" she asked, gesturing toward him and then herself.

"Uh, yeah." Even he could tell that his laugh was strained, cutting it off sharply to clear his throat. "He's not gonna, you know, write up a prenup or anything."

"A prenup?" she echoed again, shaking her head. "You talk strangely," she told him, stepping forward to slid onto a stool near the counter, relaxing a fraction in his presence.

"I guess to you, I probably do," he agreed, his chuckle far more relaxed than the former laugh had been. He slid a cup over to her, the honey alongside to sweeten it however she liked. "A pre-nup is a pre-nuptial agreement. Some people here sign contracts before they get married about who gets what if their marriage ends before one of them dies."

Everybody's got their dues in life to pay.

"Dream On" - Aerosmith

Rhys Bristol

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Re: A Life Less Ordinary
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2019, 02:43:48 PM »
"Oh, I see," she said, brows furrowed as she still didn't quite understand. Who gets what of what, she wondered. She considered her tea a moment, before adding a dollop of honey and taking up a spoon to stir the mixture together. "Your world is very different from mine," she said before taking a sip.

"Different isn't always so bad, is it?" He barely noticed the slight hopeful tone in his voice as he sat down at the bar with her, careful to stay on the opposite side so he didn't get too close.

"No, I suppose not," she admitted, though she wasn't too sure, seeing how this was the first time she'd been away from home. "Thank you for the tea. It's very good," she told him, a bit awkwardly.

"It's from Avalon," he told her, rubbing his neck as he looked down into his cup. "Nat's obsessed with it. That's, uh, she's the ... Priestess? I think?"

Diantha nodded enthusiastically. "The Priestess, yes. She and the Champion are favored by the Lady," she said, suddenly talkative, though she didn't know everything about the pair in question. "Have you ever considered offering your service to Avalon?" she asked, hopefully, trying to keep her gaze focused on the tea in her cup.

"I'm not a squire," he pointed out. "I mean, I do medieval swordplay, but that's only been for, like, two years. I wouldn't even know where to start to get permission for something like that, even if my Mom did agree to it."

She wasn't too sure about the word "medieval", but she understood swordplay. Her face brightened, hopeful he wasn't as unqualified as he seemed to think. "You know how to wield a sword?" she asked, hopefully.

"Not very well," he admitted. "I kind of know the basics of sword and shield, you know? Took me about a year not to get so tired in the first ten minutes that all I could do was hold up the shield and try not to cry."

Not everyone in Avalon knew how to wield a sword, though if they were called upon the defend their homeland, they would gladly take up arms in her defense. Diantha nodded and smiled at what he was telling her. "The first time I tried to lift a sword, it was so heavy I dropped it!"

"Do you enjoy it?" he asked, trying not to stare as her smile transformed an already pretty face into something breathtaking. "The sword stuff, I mean?"

She shrugged. "I enjoy the bow better," she admitted, taking another sip of her tea, which was doing wonders to warm and relax her, inside and out.

That was reassuring, at the very least. He hated the thought of anyone being forced into something they didn't at least enjoy doing. "I enjoy the sword stuff, but I'm not sure I'd want to make a lifetime out of it," he admitted. "I like making things with my hands, but there's not much support here for that kind of stuff unless you know the right people. Everyone's really focused on academic stuff."

"What sort of things do you like making?" she asked with interest before drawing another sip of tea from her cup. Both hands wrapped around the mug as she lifted it to her lips, savoring the warmth and the flavor of it.

"I like working with wood," he admitted. "My dad, Adam, he taught me to whittle a couple of years ago, and I carve stuff whenever I can. I wanna make my mom a rocking chair, but I don't know where to start."

"If you were in Avalon, you could study with someone as an apprentice," Diantha told him. "Do you not have apprenticeships here?" she asked, not knowing much of modern-day Earth, but what little she'd seen since her arrival on the Bristols' doorstep.

"Apparently they do?" he said, though he didn't sound certain. "But I'd have to find a woodcarver in New York City, which is just ... huge, and they'd have to be a part of a program that takes on apprentices. If I could, I'd try to find one on Avalon, but I'm not a part of the secret. I'm lucky I'm trusted enough not to blab as it is."

She smiled at something he'd said. "If you are known about Avalon, then you are part of the secret," she said, contradicting him. There were only a handful of people on Earth who knew of the secret and even fewer who'd actually been there, but the secret was not shared with just anyone. If you knew of it, there was a chance you might be called upon at some point to serve.

"Well, maybe, but I found out when I was, like, twelve," he pointed out. "And Aurelia said that they can wipe your memory, so it could be that they're waiting for me to hit eighteen and then I get all those memories taken away."

She frowned, unsure about that. She supposed there had been times when that had been so; when it had been deemed that it was too risky to trust someone with their secret. And there was something else, too. "Wouldn't you miss your family?" she asked. "If you went to Avalon, I mean."

Joey frowned, looking at her in surprise. "You mean ... you mean if I went there, I wouldn't ever be allowed to come back?" he asked, horrified by that thought. "Hell, no! I'm not going to abandon my family just to have a job I like!"

"No!" she was quick to point out, alarmed at his reaction to her question. "But if you were apprenticing there, you would not be here as much as you are now," she tried to explain, flushing with embarrassment that he misunderstood her. She wasn't even sure why she was asking him this when she hardly knew him.

"Oh." His face flushed dark as he realized his reaction had probably been a little too forceful. "Sorry, I ..." He sighed, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. "A lot of people move to a different state, or even a different country, to go to college, but they come back home for holidays. I mean ... it'd probably need some negotiating, right? But I could work out a way to be home on weekends, maybe."

"I suppose," she said uncertainly, lowering her gaze to the dregs of tea in her cup. "But it is not my place to speak of such things or to invite you to Avalon," she said, worried now that she might get into trouble for doing so. She had been sent here to pass along a message and that was all.

His momentary enthusiasm was dashed by her reaction. "Yeah," he agreed, hope fading. "I guess it's a lot to ask. I'll work something out over here, one way or another. You don't need to worry about me."

"I am sorry, Joseph," she said with downcast eyes, using his full name, rather than his nickname. "I could tell the Lady of your interest in woodworking and ask if she would consider you for an apprenticeship," she offered. It was the least she could do, but she couldn't make any promises.

"I don't want you to risk your place as a squire just to help me out," he told her, offering up a rueful smile. "It's okay. I, uh, I'll work something out."

"And what are we discussing here?"

Nat appeared in the doorway, Dylan resting against her shoulder. From upstairs came the sound of Ana and Micah engaged in play together, much brighter than they had been earlier.

Diantha blinked, her face turning pink, as they were abruptly and unexpectedly joined by the Priestess of Avalon. Then again, it was her house.

"My Lady," Diantha stammered, bowing awkwardly with the mug of tea in her hands. "I was sent with a message for the Champion, but he ..." She trailed off, glancing toward the door and wondering what was taking him so long and realizing she'd lost all track of time.

Nat chuckled gently. "Calm down," she told their visitor. "There is no need to stand on ceremony in this house. Finish your tea."

She glanced at Joey, one brow raised curiously. He shrugged.

"He took Amy back home and told me to keep Diantha company."

"I-I am finished, my Lady," Diantha admitted, blushing again, as there was really no reason for her to remain except to deliver her message. She set the cup on the counter, wringing her hands at her waist. She might have offered to give Nat the message, but her instructions were explicit.

"Then hold this for a moment, would you?" Without any warning, Natalya Bristol, Priestess of the Isle of Avalon, plonked her newborn son into the nervous girl's arms, and winked at Joey. "Time for me to test my lungs, I think."

She left the kitchen, and they heard her moving to the front door. Joey bit down on a laugh, pretty sure Diantha would not be happy if he openly showed how funny the look on her face was.

"Hold this? Oh!" Diantha muttered, blinking in terror, all the color draining from her face as the Priestess dropped a newborn baby in her arms. "Wh-what do I do?" she asked, looking to Joey for help. She knew how to wield a sword and a bow, but she had learned very little about babies.

"Put him against your chest with his head on your shoulder," Joey told her, gesturing to show her the positioning of her hands.

In her arms, Dylan burbled, a very happily awake newborn who had no problem at all being handed to a girl he'd not met before.

"But how do I do that?" she asked, unsure how to manipulate the baby in her arms without dropping him or causing him harm. She really had never handled anything so precious and fragile before.

"Here" Unable to hide his smile now, Joey gently positioned the baby boy upright against her chest, tucking one of her hands under the scrunchy, diaper-covered bottom, and the other against Dylan's back. "He's not going to explode on you."
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay.

"Dream On" - Aerosmith

Rhys Bristol

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Re: A Life Less Ordinary
« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2019, 02:44:06 PM »
From the front door, they heard Nat opening up her lungs to yell across the street for Rhys.

"Explode?" Diantha echoed, that look of terror on her face again. What did he mean by that? Should she take him literally? As far as she knew, babies didn't explode. "What if I drop him?" she asked, terrified, as he positioned the newborn against her shoulder. "You should take him."

"Oh, no, Nat gave him to you," Joey said, backing away with his hands held up. That grin could not have been bigger. It was nice to see that the warrior girl from Avalon did have a weakness or two. "Babies get dropped," he added. "I dropped Ana so many times, and she's fine."

"You dropped the Champion's daughter?" she asked, looking appalled and holding the newborn in her arms even tighter. She did not want to be known as the girl who had dropped the Champion's son.

"Oh, yeah, couple of times," he assured her. "Don't hold him too tight or he'll throw up on you."

"Throw up?" she said, that look of horror on her face again. She was obviously terrified of babies, for some reason. "You take him! He can throw up on you!" she said, though she had no idea how to hand the newborn back without risking dropping him.

"Diantha." Joey waited until she was looking him in the eye. "Relax. He's perfectly happy where he is. You're not doing anything wrong."

She met his gaze, forcing herself to relax a little, before looking to the small bundle in her arms. "He's so small," she murmured in wonder. Of course, she knew what babies were, but she had never spent much time around them.

"Well, he came early," Joey explained, glad to see her taking a little advice and calming down. "Usually they're a little bit bigger than that when they come out." On her shoulder, Dylan was relaxing, too, burbling random sounds as his head wobbled.

"I have never held a baby before," she explained further, in a quiet voice while she observed the wobbling head that was resting against her shoulder. It was a curiously comforting sensation to hold him there, once she was over her fright.

"You're not the only person who hasn't," he promised her. "Nat hadn't ever held a baby until Ana was born. Pretty sure Rhys' sister hadn't before her son, either."

Diantha's face brightened at the mention of Rachel. "I know of the Champion's sister. She is friendly and kind," she said. Though she did not know her well, most of the residents of Avalon were at least aware of each other, even if they weren't personally acquainted.

Joey didn't realize he was smiling at the brighter look on Diantha's face, charmed by the sight of her pretty face lit up in comfortable recognition of the subject of their conversation. "I don't really know her that well," he admitted. "I only really see her when she comes here for family dinners and stuff."

"She is quiet and a little bit shy, I think," Diantha remarked, laughing a little as she realized something. "Very different from the Champion." She made a startled sound as the baby on her shoulder let go of a burp that sounded too big for such a tiny body. "Oh, my!" She giggled again. "It seems he is just like his father."

Joey snorted with laughter at Dylan's interruption, glancing up as Nat came back into the kitchen.

"Like father, like son," the woman said cheerfully, moving to pour herself a cup from the teapot before offering to rescue Diantha from the baby.

"What's that about fathers and sons?" Rhys was heard to remark as he followed Nat inside. Apparently, Amy had gotten home safely and Nat had been successful in summoning her husband home.

"Taking joy in the expelling of wind, dusha moya," Nat said with a smile, settling Dylan against her shoulder in one arm and lifting her tea cup to her lips once again. She glanced between the two teens with a secretive smile. "Perhaps now is the time you go home, Joey."

Joey blinked, ripping his staring gaze away from Diantha, and nodded, albeit reluctantly. "Yeah, Mom'll probably send Dad over to get me if I'm not back soon."

"Oh, yeah ... Like father, like son," Rhys declared, with a proud smile, as if the expelling of wind was something to be proud of. Then again, it wasn't healthy to keep it all inside, was it?

A frown flickered briefly on Diantha's face as Nat reminded Joey that he was wanted at home. "It was nice to meet you, Joseph," she told him, wondering if she'd ever see him again.

"Yeah." Joey smiled at Diantha, glad to have met her even if he never met her again. "It was great to meet you, Di," he said, deliberately shortening her name because she kept using his full name. "Shoot a bullseye for me next time you're practicing."

"I will try," Diantha promised. She wasn't sure what the custom was here, and she didn't know Joey well enough to give him a hug, so she remained where she was, a strained smile on her face. There was no time for romance in Avalon, and even if there was, she hadn't met anyone who might interest her in that way ... until today.

Equally awkward, Joey finally offered her his hand to shake, steeling himself to touch her without a baby in the middle.

"Maybe I'll make you something for Christmas," he said with a lopsided grin.

Behind them, Nat caught Rhys' eye, desperate to share something but completely unable to in front of either of the teens.

"Make me something?" the other teen echoed, blond brows arching upwards in curiosity, a smile slowing curving her lips as she understood what he meant, even if she had no idea what it was he might make for her. "I'd like that," she told him, as she clasped his arm, rather than take his hand. "Perhaps I will make something for you, too," she told him, though she had no way of knowing if she'd ever see him again.

Rhys caught Nat's gaze, his eyes lighting up behind a small smirk, the slightest of nods her way, as if they were sharing a thought that would have to remain unspoken for the time being.

"That'd be cool." Joey nodded to Diantha, a little weirded out by the arm clasp but enjoying it all the same. It took a moment for him to reclaim his hand, tucking both into his pockets a little awkwardly. "So, uh ... I'll see you round." He nodded to her again, and headed for the door, dazed enough by this unexpected encounter that he completely forgot to say goodbye to Rhys and Nat.

Diantha's smile wavered as Joey withdrew his hand and stuck them both in his pockets, as if to ensure she wouldn't touch him again. Her gaze followed his retreat as he found his way to the door, not so much dazed by the encounter as she was saddened that it was likely to never be repeated.

"Good-bye," she muttered, mostly to herself.

Nat chuckled gently, reaching out to pat Diantha's shoulder. "That was not what it looked like," she told the girl in an understanding tone. "Boys are bad at expressing themselves."

"Hang on a second! I'll be right back!" Rhys exclaimed, ducking away to catch up with Joey, leaving the two women behind.

Diantha blinked at the Champion's retreat. She had come here to deliver a message and had yet to do so. She shrugged as she looked back at Nat. "I do not know many boys."

"They are idiots, for the most part, but some are worth giving a little extra time to," Nat told her as Rhys rushed from the room. "As you can see, mine is still an idiot."

Diantha's eyes grew large as the Priestess referred to her husband as an idiot. "But ... he is the Champion," she pointed out as if this made a difference.

"He is still a man," Nat said cheerfully. "And I would not have him any different. The Champion is a title - it is not who he is at his core. I did not marry the Champion, I married Rhys."

"Are all men idiots, then?" Diantha asked curiously. She did not have much experience with males, being kept mostly cloistered as she had been most of her young life.

"Da, yes," was the answer, offered with a small laugh. "But then, most women are idiots as well, are we not? The best matches are idiots who complement each other."

There was that shocked look on the girl's face again. "You are not an idiot, My Lady," she told her, shocked the woman could have even suggested such a thing.

"Oh, malyutka, every woman has her stupid moments," Nat told her, her smile fond and gentle. "Believe me, if you cannot laugh at yourself, then life becomes very sterile. You will understand as you grow. When I was your age, I was very serious."

Diantha looked very serious, almost as if to prove Nat's statement, pausing a long moment before daring to ask, "Perhaps you could teach me about boys," she suggested, in a hushed tone of voice as if what she was asking was forbidden.

Nat's smile softened at this. "I do not think you need to be taught," she said gently. "But I can give you some advice. Be honest and open, and he will be the same with you. Joey has a good heart. I think yours would be safe with him."

Everybody's got their dues in life to pay.

"Dream On" - Aerosmith

Rhys Bristol

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Re: A Life Less Ordinary
« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2019, 02:44:24 PM »
Diantha's face flushed with warmth, her cheeks turning a rosy shade of pink. "I do not think it likely that I will ever see him again," she said, frowning. Or any young man, for that matter. She was promised to the Lady and she took pride in her place of honor, but she did not think that life allowed for romance.

"I think you should not close the door on that possibility," Nat said, absently rubbing Dylan's back as he gummed on the side of her neck. "The powers that we serve know far more than we do about our lives to come."

"Why would the Lady choose me if I were not meant to serve her?" Diantha asked, curiously. It made no sense to her. If the Lady could see her future, why would she choose her to train for the Lady's Guard, if she was not meant for that position?

"I was chosen to be a templar," Natalya pointed out. "Yet here I am, the Priestess of Avalon. I never looked for it, but the Lady maintains that it was the role I was intended for."

"Only the Lady knows what kind of life we are meant for," Diantha said quietly. She was just starting to realize she might have some choices to make, though she had always assumed the path of her life had already been chosen.

"Indeed. And the Lady does not want you to struggle with the path you are walking, Diantha," Nat told her. "If you need to know what is in your future, ask her. Even if she refuses to tell you, the advice she gives will help you to make the right decisions for yourself."

"Yes, my lady," Diantha responded obediently, though she did not think it was her place to question the Lady of Avalon in any way, even to ask of her own future.

"Young one, the Lady is not a distant figure to worship from afar," Natalya said quietly. "She is a living, loving woman who delights in the people she chooses to surround herself with. She chose you. I do not believe she will ever deny you her presence."

"Yes, my lady," the girl responded again. It was not her place to question either the Priestess or the Lady, but she would give what the woman was telling her some thought.

"Diantha, my name is Natalya, or Nat," she was told, just as gently as before. "I would not be offended if you used it."

"Yes, my lady ... er, Natalya," she said, awkwardly correcting herself. Nearly everyone, it seemed, was her superior, except for those her own age.

"All I can tell you is not to close your mind to any possibility before you," Nat said finally. "Some of the greatest gifts come from the most unexpected places."

"I will try," the girl said, making no promises either way. Until today, she had never questioned her life's path, never thought she'd had any choice. How was it that a brief meeting with one shy, awkward boy could change everything?

Outside, a similar conversation was taking place between that boy and the so-called Champion of Avalon.

"Just ask her," Rhys insisted. "I know that look. She's not gonna say no."

"Oh, yeah," Joey said with dubious sarcasm. "Just ask a girl who doesn't know anything about Earth to go to prom with me in six months' time. I'm probably never going to see her again, Rhys, that's ridiculous."

"Yeah? A couple of years ago, I'd have said this whole thing was ridiculous. Me, Champion of Avalon? Married and with three kids? I'm telling you, Joey ... I know the look. That girl is sweet on you," Rhys insisted, crossing his arms as he argued with the boy. As far as Rhys was concerned, nothing was ridiculous or impossible where Avalon was concerned. "Why do you think she was sent here?"

"Because she's got a message for you!" Joey pointed out, his shoulders rising defensively. "She can't even give it to Nat, she's waiting for you, dude."

"Uh huh," Rhys said, a smug smile on his face. He had a feeling the message wasn't all that important, or it would have been sent other ways. "Anyone could have delivered a message. Why her?"

"I don't know," the boy responded irritably. "You're the one with all the big medieval contacts and all. That was pretty crappy, by the way, just abandoning her in your kitchen with a stranger."

"She's not with a stranger. She's with Nat ... the Priestess of Avalon, remember?" Rhys argued, before he realized what Joey meant and laughed. "Oh! You mean when I left her with you? Would you rather I hadn't?" he asked, with a grin.

For a moment, Joey's expression was definitely rebellious, but he obviously thought better of snapping at Rhys over this one. "Shut up," he muttered, acutely aware that his ears were turning red again.

"Don't blame me. I have a feeling the Lady is playing matchmaker," Rhys said, with a knowing smirk. It was the only explanation that made any sense really.

Joey snorted, rolling his eyes. "You're such a sap these days," he muttered, but there was the suggestion of a pleased smile in his eyes. "Say, uh ... if Mom okayed it, would you ... could you find out if I could apprentice in Avalon? To, like, a woodworker?"

Rhys considered that a moment. Despite the fact that he thought the Lady was matchmaking for Joey, there was still the matter of Gina, who was expecting her son to go the college route.

"I think you should visit again. See what it's like. You haven't been there since you were a kid. Meet with a woodworker and see what you think. Then, if you're still interested, we can ask the Lady for permission for you to apprentice." He'd still have to ask for permission for Joey to visit, but he didn't think it would be a problem, especially if the Lady was trying to matchmake. Hopefully, he wasn't wrong.

"I gotta talk to Mom and Dad about it first, but, uh ... thanks." Joey's expression relaxed now the conversation had moved safely away from Diantha. He'd never had quite that flummoxed a reaction to a girl before; he wanted some time to consider it before he decided if it was worth doing anything about.

"Joey, no pressure, but ... everything happens for a reason. Just remember that, okay?" Rhys asked, not wanting the kid to make a rash decision either way, but not wanting him to dismiss what had just happened either.

"All right." Joey sighed, shrugging one shoulder as he offered up a rueful smile. "You should go and get your message and let her go home. She's not very comfortable here."

"Yeah, tell your parents not to worry. There's no safer place to be than Avalon," Rhys said, shoving his hands in his pockets as he turned to go back inside the house, leaving Joey to head home. The kid was probably already late for dinner.

"Play nice!" Joey called back to him, glancing both ways before sprinting across the street and letting himself into his own home.

The front door could be heard closing as Rhys made his way back inside, pausing a moment to listen for Ana and Micah upstairs before heading for the kitchen. "Sorry about that," he said, apologizing to both women.

Natalya smiled at her husband fondly. "Let Diantha give you her message, milaya, and I will send her home," she said. "Earth is a strange place for those born on Avalon."

"It is strange, but full of wonders," Diantha said, taking another look around at the modern surroundings. She didn't bother to mention that one of those wonders just might be a certain seventeen year old boy. She reached into the confines of her cloak and pulled out a piece of neatly-folded and wax-sealed parchment, handing it to Rhys. "For you, from the Lady."

"As is Avalon, for those born here," Nat agreed with Diantha, giving Rhys time to browse the parchment. "But there is peace on Avalon that cannot be found on Earth. It is a very special place."

"Yes, it is peaceful," Diantha agreed. For one born on Avalon, it didn't seem as interesting as the modern world, but Diantha couldn't argue that it was, for the most part, peaceful, albeit a little bit lonely.

Rhys broke the wax seal and unfolded the parchment, a smile turning up the corners of his mouth as his eyes scanned the message. "Ha, I knew it!" he muttered, as he handed the message to Nat.

Setting her cup down, Nat took the parchment, smiling faintly at the familiar cursive hand of the Lady before she skimmed what the words actually said. Her smile deepened even as she shook her head.

"Thank you for bringing this, Diantha," she said to the girl, her eyes warning Rhys not to say a word in front of the messenger. "You may tell the Lady that we are working on it."

Rhys looked like he was ready to burst, and the sooner the girl left was probably the better before he spilled the beans right in front of her.

"Yes, Natalya," the girl replied, knowing it was time for her to depart, now that she had delivered her message. She felt a strange pang of regret, as she took another look around, yearning for home, but almost wishing she didn't have to leave so soon.

"Don't worry, Diantha," Rhys assured her with a smile. "I promise we'll see you again," he told her, without saying too much.
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay.

"Dream On" - Aerosmith

Rhys Bristol

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Re: A Life Less Ordinary
« Reply #10 on: November 17, 2019, 02:44:43 PM »
"We will," Nat agreed, raising her fingertips to the amulet at her throat. Years of practice had made her command of the mists as absolute as it could get, and Diantha was gently enfolded and returned to Avalon within a moment or two. Then Nat let her grin show forth, turning her eyes onto Rhys. "I think you are a bad influence on Elaine."

Rhys watched at the girl disappeared back into the mists, snorting at his wife's remark. "Are you sure that's not the other way around?" he asked. "Besides, do you really think she didn't foresee us meeting when she went you after the sword?" he pointed out.

"Oh, I am sure she was hoping we might make a connection with one another," Nat replied, still chuckling softly. "We should talk to Gina and Adam, though. This is as much Joey's future as Diantha's that is being maneuvered into place here."

"It's a meeting, Nat," Rhys pointed out, as he went to pour himself a cup of coffee. He'd never really become very fond of tea. "They're not getting married tomorrow."

She tilted her head to one side, watching him for a moment before realizing he didn't know some of what she did. "Milaya ... do you remember my visions?" she asked him through a mischievous smile. "My seeing a Christmas to come, with you and our little ones, and Rachel and Zachariel and their children, and Gina and Adam, and all of their children?"

"Uh, yeah ... but that was your vision, not mine," he pointed out. He'd seen a few visions of his own, but he wasn't sure how that was relevant ... Unless she'd seen a glimpse into Joey's future that she hadn't mentioned before.

"Do you remember my telling you that Gina and Adam arrived with what seemed to be six children?" she asked sweetly. "Diantha was one of them. I am now more certain than ever that my visions came from the Lady, and that Joey is destined to be a closer part of Avalon than we thought."

"But ... they only have four," Rhys said, doing the math. Even if Diantha was one of the six, that meant there was one more to come. He paused a moment to think and sip his coffee, before going on. "Do you think Elaine saw it and shared her vision, or do you think she's ... maneuvering events to prove her visions right?" he asked, almost regretting having to ask it.

"Oh, you missed Joey's slip earlier?" Nat's grin widened - it wasn't like Rhys to miss something like that. "And I think that Elaine is laying the groundwork so that they can make those decisions for themselves without too much interference."

"What slip?" Rhys asked, clearly either having missed something or just not having realized it yet. "God only knows why the kid wants to be a carpenter, but who am I to question that?"

"I would be willing to bet that Gina is pregnant," Nat told him confidently. "He seems very confident that he will have hands on a baby in a few months' time."

"Gina is ... what?!" Rhys exclaimed, nearly dropping his cup of coffee, his eyes round as saucers. If it was true, this was the first he was hearing about it. Either that, or he was dense, which was quite possible.

His wife stared at his reaction, letting out a low laugh at his incredulity. "If it is so, they have not yet announced it, so do not go and congratulate her before she tells you herself," she told him in amusement. "It is just a feeling I have."

"Your feelings are usually pretty spot on," he said and would have put air quotes around the word "feelings" if he wasn't holding onto a cup of coffee. "Well, it's about damned time," he said, with a grin, wishing nothing but good things for their friends.

"They are finally in a good place for it," she agreed, smiling. "Adam and Joey integrated with one another, and it has been a little over a year since the others became a part of their family. No, it is good timing."

"When are they going to tell us?" he asked, itching to tell the world - or at least, to tell their friends congratulations. "Do you want me to take him?" he asked, of the newborn on her shoulder, knowing how heavy they could get after a while, even if they seemed light.

She didn't really need to answer that one, happy to pass Dylan over to his father and wipe her neck dry. "They will probably tell us soon," she predicted. "It is a very special thing for them. They are likely waiting until the second trimester."

"I guess," he said, setting his cup down so he could settle his son against his shoulder. "Do you remember if it was a girl or a boy?" he asked curiously. Maybe he was pushing his luck in asking her that, but he couldn't help himself.

She chuckled. "Nyet, I do not remember that," she admitted. "I do remember that Rachel and Zach had two boys and a third child on the way, though."

"Hmm," Rhys murmured thoughtfully. One third of that prediction had come to be so far, anyway. "What about us?" he asked, just as curiously.

"Dylan was rising two," she told him with a smile. "I think that Christmas will be next year's, milaya. I am very much looking forward to it."

"And you're sure it was Diantha in your vision?" he asked, wondering if that vision really had come from the Lady. "Gina won't like it, you know. She's convinced Joey should go to college," he said, lifting his cup for a sip of coffee, even with baby Dylan balanced against his shoulder.

"I am sure of it." Nat picked up her teacup to sip the contents once again. as Cody came padding into the kitchen. She reached down to pet him affectionately as she went on. "Gina wants him to be happy," she said thoughtfully. "And he can always go to college later in life if he so chooses. She knows that, intimately."

"He likes her," Rhys said, pretty sure of that. "He asked me to find out if he can apprentice in Avalon," he told her, regarding the conversation he'd only just had with Joey a few minutes earlier.

"She likes him. But she does not seem to know if she is allowed to like someone in such a way." Nat shrugged. "I tried my best to encourage her, and to have her talk to Elaine if she wants answers."

"Well, considering Elaine's message, I don't think we need to ask her permission for Joey to visit," he pointed out. "It's up to Gina and Adam now. Do you think we should tell them?" he wondered, regarding said message.

"I think that, when they inevitably come to talk to us about Joey showing an interest in Avalon, we should tell them, da," she said with a confident nod. "But not bring it up straightaway."

"Okay," Rhys agreed. "You're the boss," he told her with a grin. "What do you say we order out tonight?" he asked, abruptly. It had been a busy day, after all, and neither of them seemed to feel much like cooking. "Junior here is gonna wanna eat soon, and the troops are getting restless upstairs," he said, hearing the thumping of children's feet above their heads.

"Oh, I think that is a good idea," Nat agreed with a faint chuckle. "I am not feeling particularly enthusiastic about cooking, anyway." The footsteps were starting down the stairs, bringing with them the chatter of brother and sister. She reached for the various menus. "Pizza?"

"You're a mind reader," he told her, grinning again. "Kids!" he called, upon hearing the small stampede of children thumping down the stairs. "Pepperoni or sausage?"

"Your choice, milaya, you have earned it today," Nat told him, listening to the thumping get closer. There was a squeal from Ana as the pair reached the bottom of the stairs, and Sasha came bounding into the kitchen, bouncing up to dance her paws on Rhys' chest. And Dylan's backside, coincidentally.

Rhys laughed. "I love you, too, but down, girl," he told the dog, holding fast to Dylan, who seemed miraculously unfazed by all the chaos around him. He wasn't sure what he'd done to deserve the choice of pizza toppings, but he wasn't about to argue. "How about sausage and pepperoni?" he suggested, waggling his brows at the children.

Ana let out a delighted gasp. "Is we havin' pizza?" she asked, her eyes wide with utter delight.

Nat rolled her own eyes, absently making a mental note of various sides that would be coming with the pizzas.

"Pisa-pisa-pisa!" Micah chanted enthusiastically, while he jumped up and down in place excitedly, like he'd never had pizza in his whole life before.

Rhys laughed at his children's reaction to dinner. "Yes, we is havin' pizza. Is that okay with both of you?"

"Yes!" Ana was now dancing excitedly alongside Micah, waving her hands in the air.

Nat grinned. "I don't know, milaya, they don't seem very sure," she teased.

"No, they don't, do they?" He heaved an exaggerated sigh. "Well, I guess it's meatloaf then," he teased, giving Nat a sly wink.

"Nooooo!" Ana ran around the table and threw her arms about Nat's hips. "We really, really want pizza, Mama! Don't we, Micah?"

Micah followed his sister's lead, as he did in most things, and joined his sister in throwing his arms around his mother's hips. "P'ease, Mama. C'n we has pisa?" he asked, looking up at her with round, pleading eyes.
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay.

"Dream On" - Aerosmith

Rhys Bristol

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Re: A Life Less Ordinary
« Reply #11 on: November 17, 2019, 02:45:18 PM »
Captured on both sides and fully aware that they were pinning all their hopes for dinner on her, Nat chuckled, gently stroking each little head affectionately. "Of course we can have pizza, moi milyye," she assured them. "Is the playroom tidy?"

Ana blinked her big eyes for a moment, looking guiltily at Micah. "I can tidy up, Mama," she promised.

"Me, too, Mama!" Micah promised, looking as solemn as a two-year-old could.

"Well, you'd best get to it then!" Rhys told his children. "Before she changes her mind!"

"Oh, well done," Nat laughed, as the children scurried back up the stairs. "You have made me both the hero and the villain. Very clever, milaya."

"Isn't that what mothers are?" Rhys countered, pausing a moment as a particularly unpleasant odor reached his nostrils, and it had nothing to do with Nat's cooking. "Eww, dude, did you just drop a load .... again?" he asked, turning his head toward the newborn on his shoulder, as if awaiting an answer. He sighed. "How about you order the pizza while I clean up pooping wonder boy here?"

"I love my husband," was her fond answer. She reached up to stroke Dylan's head as she kissed Rhys's lips with a smile. "I will order," she agreed. "And I think we all deserve a picnic in the living room tonight. No table manners required."

"The kids will enjoy that," he told her, smiling into her kiss. "You can feed him while I get the kids washed up for dinner and set the living room up for a picnic," he added.

"Mmm, you're spoiling me tonight," she teased lovingly, turning to reach for the phone. "We should get started, then."

And not a moment too soon - Dylan seemed to have noticed that his backside was not as clean as it had been a few minutes ago.

"Don't I always?" he asked, brushing a second kiss against her lips before she reached for the phone and the little man on his shoulder decided to make his displeasure known. "Okay, okay!" Rhys chided him, as he left the kitchen and headed toward the nursery and the changing table. "Patience is a virtue, yanno!"

And it was a virtue that was in short supply on a night where pizza was promised. But that lack was balanced out with an abundance of affection from the little people that filled their home. It was nothing short of a joy to know that they lived in the moment of their reward every single day, watched over by friends far and near. And though they might be the Champion and the Priestess of Avalon, in their hearts they were still Rhys and Natalya, two people who had found each other in extraordinary circumstances. Some people wished for a life less ordinary; theirs was all they had ever wanted.

Dylan Patrick Bristol - DOB 11/1/19
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay.

"Dream On" - Aerosmith