Journey: 1st version

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Chapter 12

“I heard you talking about Stuvock this afternoon.” Ezekiel said softly. The two were lying in bed, Cole sleeping soundly between them after another bout of nightmares. He leaned his head back against the headboard, “I didn’t mean to eaves drop, we were walking back from the office.”

Raine shrugged, “It’s okay. I’m just glad I’m done with that mess.” She sighed.

Ezekiel nodded, “I kind of feel like seeing him again was...” He furrowed his eyebrows in thought, “Anti-climactic? I don’t know... But I never expected to see him again, let alone see him and let him run away. Gabriel was pretty shaken up too.”

“He was?” Raine looked at him in confusion, “Why was he shaken up?”

Ezekiel tilted his head towards her, “It brought back those memories from the war.”

Raine winced, “Oh, that’s right. I’m sorry, babe, I’m not thinking straight right now. It was a long day.” She closed her eyes.

“It’s okay,” Ezekiel kissed her on the forehead and laid back down, “You know...” He looked up at the ceiling, his cheeks flushing slightly, “You did help me a lot.”

Raine opened her eyes, “You heard the whole conversation, didn’t you?” She smirked in amusement, turning over onto her side to face him.

“I heard the whole thing,” He admitted, “It was hard not to. We were just in the other room talking.” He chuckled nervously.

“I think I should be the one feeling embarrassed here.” Raine laughed softly.

Ezekiel shrugged, “I don’t mind you telling Isabelle things. I already know you two talk. But I was a little surprised to hear that you had liked me for so long.” He ran a hand over his face, his cheeks flushing again.

“Oh,” Raine felt herself blush. She gently brushed Cole’s bangs from his face, “Well... You are cute.” She smiled, looking up at Ezekiel.

Ezekiel snorted looking away, “Right.”

Raine stroked his ear, “Do you remember when we first met?”

He looked at her for a moment then shook his head, “No...”

“It was one of Izzy’s birthday parties. Gabe had forced you to come and you seemed really uncomfortable about it.”

Ezekiel leaned back, “Oh yeah,” He said remembering the party she was talking about, “Gabe was worried that I was becoming a hermit or something,” He rolled his eyes, his ears lowering slightly. He sat up and carefully picked up Cole, cradling him to his chest, grunting he added, “He wasn’t far off from being right.”

Raine followed him out of their room to Cole’s room, “Was that before he found you...?” She asked softly, watching Ezekiel lay Cole down in his own bed and tucked him in. He crept out of the bedroom and slowly closed the door a little.

“Yeah, not long before that incident,” He said as they walked back to their room, “I do remember meeting you at that party and being glad I did go.”

Pausing outside their room, Raine smiled up at him, “Really?”

Ezekiel nodded making her smile more and laugh softly under her breath, “I was in the living room having a panic attack when you came in.”

“I don’t know if I remember that.” Ezekiel frowned, leaning back slightly.

Raine rubbed her arms, “I’m not sure I said anything about it. You came in and leaned against the wall scowling. Then said, ‘Are you hiding too?’ and my panic attack stopped,” She moved into their room and climbed into bed smiling at him, “I was too stunned to say anything and I think it made you nervous, because then you left.”

Ezekiel chuckled, “I had assumed you didn’t want to talk to me,” He flopped down next to her and wrapped an arm around her waist, “You proved that wrong to me later that day.”

Raine snuggled closer to him, her fingers running through his hair, “How?”

Leaning into her hand, Ezekiel smirked, “Don’t you remember?” Raine shook her head and he kissed her arm, “I bumped into you, spilled something on you and you said, ‘we can’t be friends now.’ before leaving to clean yourself up. I was really embarrassed about it, and ended up leaving. Hindsight, you were joking when you said it.”

Raine’s jaw dropped open, “I remember that! Is that why you made that comment at the wedding? About not many Lycan’s wanting to be friends with you?”

“Yes and no,” Ezekiel closed his eyes, “I was basically just being an ass and self-centered. Thinking about it, I wasn’t very nice to you. Then you were there when I needed someone.” He opened his eyes looking at her sadly.

“Being reserved isn’t being an ass.” She gently touched his face.
Ezekiel leaned into her hand, kissing her palm, “Let me kill him for treating you like he did.” He purred closing his eyes.

Raine smiled sadly, “No, love. I need you to be here for our babies. Let him look over his shoulder in fear.” She kissed his forehead, then his lips.

“As you wish.” He whispered, kissing her back, “You thought of names for the twins?”

“Kind of,” Raine sighed, rolling over onto her back, her hands resting on her stomach, “Jax and Phoenix for boy names, but I can’t think of a girl name if the other’s a girl.”

Ezekiel put his hand on her belly, “I like Jax, not sure about Phoenix though... My last name’s Nyx, might be weird.”

“Oh yeah,” Raine bit her lower lip softly, “What about middle names?”

Ezekiel shrugged, “Neither Cole nor I have a middle name.”

“Really?” Raine’s eyes widened, “Would you be against them having a middle name?”

“No,” Ezekiel shook his head, “I don’t mind. What about Evie for a girl?” He smiled feeling one of the babies kick his hand.
Raine nodded, “I like that. Evie May?”

“I like it.” Ezekiel moved his head closer to her belly and closing his eyes.

“Jax Alexander for our boy? Maybe Devon James if our other one is a boy, then Evie May if it’s a girl?” She ran her hand through Ezekiel’s hair.

Ezekiel nodded, “Mhm, sounds good.” He said sleepily, “I need to talk to Belle about Cole’s nightmares.” He yawned, opening his eyes halfway, “He recognized Stuvock too.”

Raine rolled onto her side as Ezekiel scooted back up onto his pillow, “He seemed a little jittery before bed. I hope this is something we can ease his mind about somehow.”

“Maybe I should just talk to him about it, tell him the truth.” Ezekiel sighed, “I don’t want to scare him more though.”

Raine snuggled into him, “That might be a good idea. It could help him let go of it.” She closed her eyes, “We can think it over in the morning. Is his appointment in the afternoon?”

“Mhm,” Ezekiel closed his eyes, “At one.” As soon as the words left his mouth, he drifted off to sleep, Raine following suit.

Not even an hour later, Raine jolted awake. She hazily looked at the clock and groaned. Ezekiel had rolled over onto his other side and was snoring softly. She yawned, climbing out of the bed, pausing when Ezekiel stirred. Once she was sure he wasn’t waking up, she made her way to the bathroom. She had just finished up going when she suddenly felt nauseous. A cold sweat was starting its way down her neck, sitting in her shoulders. She leaned against the bathroom counter, her hands suddenly shaking.

“There’s no reason for this.” She grumbled, sitting down on the floor. She pulled her knees up, resting her head on them as she tried to steady herself.

“Are you okay?”

She startled at the husky tired voice coming from above her, “Y-Yeah, I’m okay.” She lied, her hands clutching her shirt tightly. She felt like she could fall off the earth at any moment. It made her eyes water.

Ezekiel sat down next to her, “Just chilling out on the floor?”

“Mhm,” Raine nodded, rubbing the tears from her eyes,

“Maybe having a little bit of an anxiety attack,” Her voice hitched, “Just a small one,” She put her head on her knees again, “And baby stuff…” She waved her hand in the air nonchalantly.

Ezekiel wrapped his arm around her, “Can I get you anything?”

She leaned against him shaking her head ‘no’, “We’re just a mess, aren’t we?” She half laughed, half cried, “Both of us with our anxiety or panic attacks, and poor Cole with his nightmares,” She sighed, “I don’t want to make things worse.”

Ezekiel brushed the hair from her face, “You’re not making things worse. All this means is that we can all sympathize with each other. I know what you’re going through, and you know what I’m going through, we get to be there for each other.”

Raine looked up at him, her body still trembling, and smiled sadly, “Can you get me a glass of water, please?” She moved to stand up, Ezekiel helping her to her feet.

He nodded and kissed her on the top of the head, “I’ll be right back.” He said disappearing out the door. Raine waited a moment before heading back to their bedroom. She laid down on her side breathing in deeply, nausea hitting her in waves. Ezekiel came back with a glass and waited for her to sit up before handing it to her.

“It smells minty.” Raine scrunched up her face before taking a sip.

Ezekiel sat down on the edge of the bed, “I put some peppermint in it. It’s supposed to help with nausea.”

Raine lowered the glass from her mouth, “How’d you know I was nauseous?”

“I didn’t,” Ezekiel laid down on his side of the bed, scooting close to her, “But you said ‘baby stuff’ and also that’s how I feel during most of my anxiety attacks. I didn’t think it’d hurt to add it.”

Raine finished up her water, sat it down on the nightstand, and laid down, “Sorry I woke you up.” She whispered, rolling onto her side to face him. Ezekiel kissed her on the forehead, wrapping his arm around her. Raine sighed leaning into him, the residual anxiety finally leaving her, allowing her to sleep.

~*~

Everyone seemed to be dragging the next morning. Ezekiel stood by the kitchen table holding two plates of ham and cheese omelets. He raised an eyebrow finding both Cole and Raine sleeping with their heads down on the table.

He cleared his throat and Cole sat straight up, his eyes still half closed, “Hm?” He murmured sleepily, before putting his head back down.

“It’s really not that early you two.” Ezekiel nudged Raine with his foot.

Raine sat up yawning, “Oh, you made breakfast!” She smiled, resting her chin on her hand. Ezekiel set her plate down in front of her and put Cole’s down in front of him. He put his hand on Cole’s shoulder, startling the boy awake.

“Sorry,” He chuckled as Cole rubbed the sleep from his eyes, “Breakfast is ready.”

Cole looked over the omelet in front of him, “Ham and cheese?”

Ezekiel nodded, grabbing his plate from the counter, “Yep.” He said sitting down in between Cole and Raine. Cole smiled shoveling a forkful into his mouth. He hummed happily quickly taking another bite.

“Thanks, babe,” Raine said cutting into her omelet, “I can’t seem to wake up this morning.”

“I see that,” Ezekiel stood up going to the fridge and grabbed a carton of orange juice, “Maybe a nap later will help?” He brought the juice and a couple cups over to the table and set them down.

Raine leaned back into her chair chewing, “That sounds so nice,” She sighed poking her fork into the eggs, “Maybe after going to Izzy’s.”

Ezekiel pushed a cup of juice in front of her, “You don’t have to come if you don’t want too.”

“Are you kidding?” Raine shook her head, “I’m going to go swimming, ’cause that sounds awesome right now.”

“Really?” Ezekiel raised an eyebrow, handing Cole a cup of juice.

Raine shrugged, “Why not?” She stirred the eggs on her plate, “I just want to do a few laps. It’s supposed to help with pregnancy... Or maybe I dreamed that.”

Cole stood up with his plate, taking it to the sink, “Joseph and Ira are going to go over to Trevor’s later too. Can we stay after my appointment for a little bit so I can play games with them?”

Ezekiel nodded, “I don’t see why not. It’ll give you more time to swim.” He said to Raine, who smiled happily.

“I bet Izzy will join me too.” She sighed, stretching her arms up over her head. Cole sat back down at the table and put his head down. Ezekiel and Raine exchanged worried looks.

“Are you feeling okay, kiddo?” Raine asked standing up. She moved over to Cole and felt his forehead with the back of her hand.

Cole nodded, “I’m just sleepy.” He looked up at her tiredly.

“Nightmares?” Ezekiel began clearing off the table.

“Yeah,” Cole looked between Raine and Ezekiel worriedly, his eyes landing on Raine, “That wolf that was here last night... I’ve seen him in my nightmares.”

Raine sat down in the chair next to Cole. She looked over her shoulder at Ezekiel, then back to Cole, “He won’t be around here anymore,” She said softly, “You don’t have to worry about him.”

Cole shook his head, “Was he the same wolf from my nightmares? Are they not really nightmares?” He looked at
Ezekiel seriously, “Dad?”

Ezekiel bowed his head, “They’re my memories.” He lifted his head looking at Cole guiltily, “Your nightmares are from my memories of the war.” He walked over to the table, squatting down next to Cole, “I lost focus when I had you and you were given a few of my memories in the process.”

Cole leaned back in his chair, “It all really happened?” He whispered.

Ezekiel hesitantly nodded, “The ones you’ve told me about, yes.” He glanced nervously at Raine, “The wolf that you saw last night, was the same wolf from your nightmare. The boy wasn’t Ira though, it was Gabriel.”

Cole let out a long breath, “Then... Then all the people dying...” He frowned, shaking his head, “Can we go to Isabelle’s now?”

Ezekiel nodded sadly, “Yeah bud, we can head out now if you’d like?”

Cole stood up, then as if on a second thought, turned and hugged Ezekiel, “I love you, dad.” He said softly, letting go and walked out the sliding glass door.

Raine stood up watching Cole disappear around the side of the house before speaking, “I hope that helps him...”

“I guess we’ll find out.” Ezekiel stood up, “I hope I didn’t just make a huge mistake.”

~*~

“My dad told me,” Cole said, his face suddenly looking older, “That my nightmares are his memories.” He kicked his feet against the edge of the couch a couple times before continuing, “I’m not sure what it means. I think I do, but... I don’t know. I don’t know who I am anymore.”

Isabelle blinked in astonishment at how deeply Cole was thinking things through. She leaned back in her chair, her hand going up to her mouth, “What do you mean?”

Cole’s face scrunched up in thought, “I was in a co...coma?”
Isabelle nodded and he continued, “Coma... After attacking my dad with an attack I don’t remember doing. Ira told me that he overheard his dad say it was my grandpa’s attack. Now my dad is telling me that my nightmares are his memories,” His face sank, “They’re so bad, Isabelle,” He sank down into the couch, “Which memories are mine, which aren’t? And which aren’t even real?”

Isabelle frowned slightly, “That’s something we can definitely figure out. We can have your dad help us sort your memories out, if you’d like?”

Cole shrugged, “I don’t know,” He said softly, “Maybe... I don’t want him to be upset,” He kicked his feet again, “Why’s this happening to me? Why can’t I just be normal?”

“Cole, you are normal,” Isabelle moved over next to him on the couch, “Everyone has something that makes them a little different. You have memories passed down. Right now it seems like a bad thing, but I can see that they make you a compassionate young man.”

Cole raised an eyebrow, “What’s that mean?”

Isabelle smiled, “It means you care about other people. You are careful with their feelings,” She wrapped her arm around his shoulders and hugged him, “It’s why you’re more worried about upsetting your dad than getting your own answers.”

Cole sighed, “He gets shaky when I talk about them,” He leaned to the side looking up at her, “Is it okay not to know if my memories are real or not?”

Isabelle tilted her head to the side, “You don’t want to know the answers?”

“No,” Cole shook his head, “Not if it’s going to hurt my dad.”

“Hon,” Isabelle hugged him again, “It’s not going to hurt your dad. He’s a strong guy.”

Cole shook his head again, “I know, but I’m okay without knowing. Do you think the nightmares will stop now?”

Isabelle frowned in thought, “I don’t know. But if they don’t, you can still talk to me about them.”

Cole smiled warily, “Okay,” He stood up, “I want to see my mom and dad.”

~*~

“All we can do is keep an eye on him.” Ezekiel watched the setting sun, his mind wandering back to the conversation he had had with Isabelle regarding Cole. It felt like he was stuck on repeat, there was nothing that could be done for his son. Only waiting.

Cole stirred next to him, readjusting himself before settling back down into his meditation. Since Cole’s talk with Isabelle several days earlier, Ezekiel had decided to put the boy on a tighter meditation schedule. His theory was that with more training and concentration, Cole would be able to train his mind to let go of the implanted memories. In the past three days, he had had one night of restful sleep without any nightmares.

Raine joined them out on the deck, the stars starting to speckle the sky. She sat down quietly next to Ezekiel, her head tilting back to admire the view. Her tail flopped onto Ezekiel’s hand and rested there.

Cole relaxed, leaning back onto his hands, “Dad?” He opened his eyes, “Can I go play for a little bit before bed?” Ezekiel nodded and Cole hopped to his feet, running off into the yard.

“You seem troubled.” Raine said watching Cole practicing katas.

Ezekiel leaned his chin on his hand, “A little,” He grunted, lifting his head to change hands, “It seems like Cole has withdrawn quite a bit since I told him about his nightmares being my memories.”

Raine glanced at Ezekiel before returning to watch Cole, “A little. I think he’s trying to protect you,” She worried her bottom lip, “He seems to be more determined lately to impress you as well.”

Ezekiel nodded, “I’ve noticed that too. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do.”

Raine nudged him, “Go, spend time with him.” She nudged him again.

“Wasn’t I just doing that?” Ezekiel moved to a crouching position.

Raine chuckled, “Yes. I mean outside of training. Go play.”

“Isn’t it late?” Ezekiel stood up, his eyes wide with uncertainty.

“Take a flashlight.” Raine smirked, pulling her knees up to her chest the best she could with her pregnant belly.

Ezekiel snorted and turned away, “Right.” He grunted walking away towards Cole. Raine watched as Cole stopped and faced Ezekiel. The two talked quietly for a moment before Cole burst out into laughter and took off running. Ezekiel hesitated for a split second before taking off after him. Raine smiled happily watching the two chase each other around the yard. Cole jumped into the air and hovered for a moment, before falling back to the ground. He hit the ground hard with a grunt.

“Are you okay?” Ezekiel called out, sliding to a stop next to the boy.

Cole pushed himself up onto his knees, “Did you see that?!” He pointed, his eyes widening with confusion. Ezekiel and Raine both looked to where he was pointing at, a patch of empty sky.

Ezekiel looked back at him, “No, what was it?”

“I don’t know! It was bright!” Cole jumped to his feet and hovered, trying to see if he could spot what he had just seen, “It was falling from the sky.” Ezekiel looked up again as a shooting star shot across the sky, “There!” Cole gasped, “Did you see that?”

“That’s a shooting star.” Ezekiel smiled; glad to see a bit of innocence back in his son’s face.

Raine joined them in the yard, watching the sky as another star fell, “Looks like there’s a meteor shower tonight,” She leaned against Ezekiel, “Do you guys want to camp outside tonight?”

“And you too?” Cole asked, his feet touching back on the ground, “Don’t you want to watch the stars too?”

Ezekiel kissed Raine’s temple, “You up to that?”

“Yeah, I think I can do that.” Raine winked at Ezekiel and Cole cheered.

“Yes! I’ll go get some blankets and pillows!” He called out running into the house.

Ezekiel laughed softly, “I better go help him,” He smiled at Raine, “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Raine kissed him on the cheek, then leaned back, “What did you do?”

Ezekiel’s eyes widened in shock, “What? I didn’t do anything!” He blinked in confusion as Raine erupted into laughter.

“I’m teasing you,” She giggled, “Go help Cole. I’ll make some hot chocolate.” She kissed him on the cheek and walked towards the house, leaving him still standing in shock. After a moment, Ezekiel snorted and walked to the house smiling in amusement to himself. Cole was already back in the kitchen, pulling an armful of blankets and pillows to the sliding glass door with him.

“Whoa, whoa,” Ezekiel stopped him, helping him pick up the blankets, “I think we have some sleeping bags in the closet,” He laughed, turning Cole around, “Let’s put these back.”

“We do?” Cole stumbled, tripping on a falling blanket, “Can we go real camping some day?”

“Real camping?” Ezekiel said walking out of the room with Cole, leaving Raine alone in the kitchen. She giggled listening in on their conversation as she rummaged around for a couple thermoses. She found two, and was just filling them up with hot water when Cole ran in with a pillow.

“We’re ready!” He said looking over his shoulder at Ezekiel carrying in two rolled up sleeping bags.

Raine emptied a packet of hot coco mix into a thermos, “You guys can go ahead and go out, I’ll be there in a minute.”

“There was only two; I hope you don’t mind sharing.” Ezekiel winked, pausing in the doorway after Cole left.

Raine smiled nodding towards the thermoses, “I only found two of these. We can trade?” She laughed as Ezekiel rolled his eyes.

“You can have the sleeping bag for the first half of the night, and I’ll take the hot chocolate. Then you can switch me?” He grinned.

Raine giggled, “Oh yeah, sure. That sounds great. The hot chocolate will keep me warm.” She screwed on the lids and walked over to Ezekiel.

Ezekiel nodded, “I’ll even warm it up a little more for you.” He closed the door behind them.

“Oh! You do love me!” Raine grinned at him over her shoulder as they walked to where Cole was laying on the ground.

“It’s so cool!” Cole said standing up, “They’re so bright and fast!” He took his sleeping bag from his dad and rolled it out, then put his pillow on top and laid down on it.

Ezekiel rolled his and Raine’s sleeping bag out, “Climb into it, bud.” He said unzipping the sides of both bags.

“Oh!” Cole wiggled into his bag, propping his head up with his pillow, “This is nice, I can see forever now!”

Raine handed him the smaller of the two thermoses, “Do you see the galaxy?” She sat down next to Ezekiel in their bag.

Cole squinted, “What’s that?” He set his thermos down next to himself, snuggling deeper into his blanket.

Ezekiel climbed into his sleeping bag and laid down, propping his head up on his arms, “Can you see where it looks like the sky is starting to rip apart?”

“The sky is ripping apart?” Cole’s voice raised in alarm.

“No, no, no,” Raine said quickly, shooting Ezekiel a look and getting an amused grin in return, “It’s called a galaxy, it’s where our solar system is located. It’s lots and lots of stars and planets up there.”

Cole stared at the sky in awe, his mouth opening and closing but no words coming out. A star flickered across the sky, so close they could hear it crackling in the atmosphere.
“Wow.” Cole breathed, his eyelids getting heavy.

Raine crawled into the sleeping bag and laid down, resting her head on Ezekiel’s chest. The three of them silently watching the stars. Ezekiel ran his fingers through Raine’s hair, brushing back her bangs from her face.

“Cole’s out.” Raine whispered, her lips lifting in a small smile. The boy’s soft snores could barely be heard above the sounds of the crickets around them.

“Mhm,” Ezekiel kissed the top of Raine’s head, “Raine?”

Raine sat up slightly to zip shut their sleeping bag, “Yeah?” She laid back down, snuggling into the crook of Ezekiel’s arm.

Ezekiel hugged her, “Marry me?”

“Zeke?” Raine sat up, “Did you-?”

He smiled, “Please?”

Raine blinked back tears, “Yes,” She leaned down kissing him before burying her face into his chest, hugging him tightly, “I have one request though.” She said into his shirt, her voice muffled.

Ezekiel hugged her, “Anything.” He whispered.

“Small wedding,” Raine lifted her head, “Maybe just Izzy and Gabriel and their families?”

Ezekiel chuckled, “Sounds good to me. Daniel too?”

Raine nodded, “Oh yeah, Daniel too,” She smiled sitting up,

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” He leaned forward, kissing her on the lips, “I want to share my life with you, and would love if you’d give me the honor of sharing yours with me.”

Raine kissed him again, “I’d love too.” They laid down together, watching the stars in comfortable silence.

~*~

It was raining cats and dogs, drenching everyone caught in its wrath. Guests were walking into Isabelle’s house soaking wet, hanging up rain coats and sweatshirts anywhere there was space. Hot coco and cider was being handed out, along with various different fall themed snacks. The boys were in and out of the kitchen with hands full of food. Giggling they’d run off back to Trevor’s room to play video games.

Raine was instructed to sit on the couch and not move unless she absolutely needed to. She was nearing the end of her pregnancy, her stomach stretched out further than she had ever imagined it could. Ezekiel stood behind her, leaning against the back of the couch deep in conversation with Gabriel.

Isabelle passed by them, handing them both a slip of paper and a pencil, “We’re about to play baby games, come sit down boys.”

Raine smiled as Ezekiel sat down next to her then laughed as Valery hopped onto the couch on her other side.

“I can’t wait to see these lil guys!” Valery cooed, putting her hand on Raine’s belly, “They’re going to be adorable!”

Raine put her hand next to Valery’s, “Me too! It’s not going to be too much longer. I hope anyway. They’re kicking my ass right now.” She flinched as one of the babies kicked her hard.

“Oh! I felt that one!” Valery laughed, “I’m surprised you’re not bruised.” She winked.

Raine groaned, “Me too.” She chuckled, leaning back into the couch.

Isabelle moved to the front of the room, “Okay everyone!” She called out, the room growing silent as everyone’s attention turned to her. She smiled big and held up her pen and paper, “Does everyone have something to write with and a piece of paper?”

Raine looked around as a chorus of yes’s echoed around her. There were a lot of people there, some she didn’t even recognize. She frowned slightly, wondering where Xadel was.

“Did you ever get ahold of Xadel?” She whispered to Valery, who checked her phone and shook her head.

Valery sighed, “I’ll try again in a little bit, it’s not like her... I’m kind of worried.”

Raine nodded, turning her attention to Isabelle talking at the front of the room. Isabelle loved to throw a big party, and this baby shower was a great excuse for her to do so. Raine wasn’t complaining though, she glanced over at the gift table and shook her head in disbelief. The table was overflowing with gifts and diapers. She looked at Ezekiel and smiled, they wouldn’t have to worry about diapers or anything for a while. It was a reassuring feeling.

“First game we’re going to play,” Isabelle looked down at her clipboard, “Is a guessing game. Write down how much you think both babies are going to weigh, how long they both will be, and what you think baby B’s gender is. We’ll see whose guesses are the closest when the babies are born.”

“Do I get to guess?” Raine grinned at Isabelle impishly.

Isabelle pointed at her, “No!” She said loudly, then handed her a pen and paper, “I guess.”

“Oh, thanks.” Raine laughed as Isabelle stuck her tongue out at her. She wrote down something on the paper, folded it in half and wrote her name on the top.

Valery nudged her, “What’d you write?”

“My guess,” Raine nudged her back, “And no, you can’t see it.” She winked at her, giggling when Valery pouted.

Once everyone was finished with their guesses and put them in the shoe box, Isabelle moved onto other games. They played some really weird games, including one with melted candy bars in diapers, and some more guessing games. Isabelle had cake brought out to everyone after the last game. She put a chair out next to the presents and urged Raine to sit down in it.

“Gift time!” She sang, doing a small dance.

Raine sat in the chair, suddenly feeling incredibly shy and awkward. As she opened the gifts, Ezekiel wrote down who gave them what for thank you cards. At the end they had a pile of gender neutral and a couple boy specific clothes, along with a ton of baby necessities. Raine felt speechless looking at everything they had. She thanked everyone as they gathered their things to leave, and by the time everyone had gone, she felt exhausted.

Carefully easing herself onto the couch, she let out a long breath, “Wow!” She exclaimed looking over the baby stuff piled neatly on the table across the room.

“Isabelle, Valery, I don’t know how I’m going to thank you guys enough for all of this.”

Isabelle hugged her and kissed her on the cheek, “All we ask for is your soul.”

“And cookies.” Valery added, sipping on a bottle of root beer.

Raine laughed, “Well, good luck finding any of that,” She smirked stretching her arms above her head, “Did Xadel ever get back to you, Val?” Concern ran across her face as both Valery and Isabelle shook their heads no, “Really? I hope she’s okay. I wonder what’s going on?”

“I’ll go check on her later, might just be busy and can’t get free.” Valery reassured her.

“I’m sure she’s fine,” Isabelle patted her leg, “Now that everyone’s gone, let’s do this one.” Isabelle took a ring off her hand and tied it to a string, “If it spins in a circle, it’s a boy. If it’s swings side to side it’s a girl.” She held the ring over Raine’s belly. The ring barely swayed at the end of the string. After a few moments it began to swing in a small circle.

Raine raised her eyebrows, “Boy?” As she said it the ring immediately stopped and began to swing side to side, “Okay... Girl?” She laughed, “That’s silly.”

“It could be right! You are having a boy for sure!” Isabelle stopped the ring and untied it, “So it’s guessing girl!”

Raine smirked, “Wasn’t it supposed to be my ring, or something belonging to me? Maybe it’s saying girl for you.”

Valery laughed, “Yeah, she’s right! Isabelle, is there something you’re not telling us?” She dodged Isabelle’s playful punch and giggled more, disappearing into the other room for another drink.

“No! Speaking of rings,” Isabelle lowered her eyes, “Did you two set a date yet?”

Raine shrugged, “Rings are in the mail, we picked them out the other day.”

“Shut up!” Valery shouted walking out, “You guys bought your rings finally?” She sat down next to Raine, handing her a water bottle, “What do they look like?”

“Silver tungsten for us both. Just plain bands.” Raine yawned, scooting over to the arm of the couch and laid down.

Isabelle moved over to her, taking her water bottle, “You take a nap. We’ll help the boys pack up your gifts.” She patted Raine on the top of the head making her giggle.

Valery pulled off a throw blanket and covered Raine with it, “You sleep good.” She kissed Raine on the forehead like one would a small child.

Raine hummed happily, snuggling into the soft blanket, “Thank you.” She said closing her eyes. She must have fallen asleep quickly, because the next thing she knew she was waking up to the sudden feeling of being wet. She sat up looking down at herself.

“Uhm,” She looked around, the gift table was empty and the room was dark, “You guys?” She called out.

Ezekiel walked out from a connected room, “I was waiting for you to wake up-” He noticed the panic on Raine’s face and moved over to her, “What’s wrong?”

Raine looked down at herself again, “I either peed myself, or my water broke.”

“Not on my couch!” Isabelle shouted from the other room before emerging quickly, Valery not far behind her, “I mean, not that that’s a big deal, I kind of wanted a new one anyway. But, did you really just break your water on my couch?!” She walked around to Raine, “Oh wow. You either really peed a lot, or...”

Raine stood up, “Ew, I’m pretty sure it’s my water, more came out when I stood,” She scrunched up her face, “I’m so sorry, this is really gross.”

Isabelle shook her head, “It’s life, don’t worry about it, let’s go check you though. Are you in any pain?”

“No,” Raine shook her head then paused, “Yes. Oh… Yes, that... Ow!” She put her hand against her belly and took a deep breath, “Okay, that wasn’t fun.” Ezekiel moved to her side, wrapping his arm around her to help her walk.

“Oh, yay!” Valery clapped, before running back into the other room, “Raine’s going to have her babies!”

Raine looked up at Ezekiel in alarm, “Isn’t this too early?”

“Calm down,” Isabelle said softly, “Everything’s going to be okay,” She took Raine’s other arm and put it around her shoulders, “You’re in good hands.”

“Should I call for the doctors?” Vince called out from the living room as they walked down the hall.

Isabelle looked over her shoulder, “That would be smart!” She yelled back, giggling at the snort and grumble she could hear from Vince as he wandered away to make the phone call, “He loves me.” She smiled to herself as they reached an elevator. She pressed the button then looked down at Raine, “Are you having another contraction?” She asked gently touching her stomach.

Raine snorted, “No,” She ground out, stopping, “Maybe... Yes... Yes! Whyyyy?” She held onto Ezekiel taking deep breaths as the contraction passed. The elevator doors slid open and the group stepped in, Raine leaning heavily on Ezekiel.

“This might be the real deal.” Isabelle said to Ezekiel, the man looking at her with a mixture of panic and concern, “I really don’t want to have to offer you drugs too.”

Raine laughed, “Izzy, shut up.” She groaned. The elevator halted, the doors sticking for a moment, opening and closing revealing they were not quite at the next floor.

“Not this again.” Isabelle growled hitting the next floor button repeatedly.

Raine breathed a sigh of relief as the contraction left her, “I was dreaming I had to use the bathroom. Do you think I was contracting in my sleep?” She rubbed her stomach, trying to ease some of the ache coming and going.

Isabelle stuck out her bottom lip in thought, “Yeah, it’s a possibility.” She clapped her hands as the elevator unstuck itself and moved fully to the next floor, “Yay!” She turned to Raine helping her walk out into the hall, “There’s an examination room on the other side of the guest rooms. We can clean you up and do a quick check, before heading to the hospital.”

Raine nodded, slowly coming to a stop, “I can’t... Can’t walk...” She took a couple forced deep breaths, “Is it... Is it supposed to be sudden like this? I feel like I have to push.”

Isabelle’s eyes widened, “Like really bad?”

“I’m going to push.”

“Not in the hallway!” Isabelle exclaimed, “Carry her!” She ordered Ezekiel and ran ahead to a door, throwing it open,
“This will have to do.” She pulled out her cellphone. Ezekiel did as he was told, carrying Raine into the room. The room was a small guest room with a single bed against the far wall.

Ezekiel laid Raine down on the bed, and stepped back, unsure of what to do with himself, “What now?”

Isabelle washed her hands in the bathroom and ran in, her cellphone pressed to her ear with her shoulder, “Okay Raine,” She pulled off Raine’s underwear and threw them to the side, “Oh boy. Yeah, hurry up, these babies are coming now!” She dropped the phone and turned to Ezekiel, “I need you to get all the towels from the bathroom.” Ezekiel ran to the bathroom and returned with a stack of towels as Raine cried out in pain.

“Zeke! I need you here!” She cried reaching out for his hand. He took her hand and moved close to her.

Isabelle grabbed a towel, “I didn’t think you’d go this fast!” She said, “But I see a head, go ahead and give a good push on your next contraction.” Raine squeezed Ezekiel’s hand as she pushed.

Isabelle glanced up at Ezekiel and noticed him suddenly get pale, “Hey buddy,” She snapped her fingers at him, “I need you to be here, not on the ground. You okay?”

Ezekiel shook the dizziness from his head then nodded, “Yeah, I’m okay.” He brushed stray hairs from Raine’s face as she pushed again.

There was a knock at the door, “Come in!” Isabelle yelled without taking her eyes off Raine.

Vince and Valery walked in carrying containers stacked with various items.

“Oh wow.” Valery backed up slightly. Vince wrinkled his nose and set his container down on the bathroom counter before leaving the room.

Valery moved over to Isabelle with her stuff, “I brought up some things you might need. Nose sucker, blankets, sterilized scissors...” She paused looking around the room and set the container down on the night stand, “Doctor Flitz is on the way, he got stuck in traffic.”

Isabelle nodded, “Can you hold her other leg for me please?” She said pointing to the other side of Raine. Valery moved quickly to Raine’s other side, doing as she was instructed.

“Okay,” Isabelle made eye contact with Raine as she worked at catching her breath, “Give me two more really good pushes and he should be out.” Raine nodded.

Ezekiel thought he was going to pass out. The room was starting to swim around him when suddenly Isabelle shoved something onto Raine’s chest. He blinked a few times as reality set in.

“Oh, oh baby!” Raine cried pulling the baby boy up higher onto her chest. Isabelle covered them with a towel, carefully helping wipe him clean as he let out his first cry.

Valery held her hand up to her mouth, “Oh Raine!” She cried, suddenly feeling emotional at the scene before her.

Raine kissed him gently on the top of the head before looking to Ezekiel, “Jax Alexander.” She smiled, her eyes filled with tears. Ezekiel gently touched the boy’s face. He was dark green like him, and had his ears, but sticking out from under the towel was a black matted tail. He carefully lifted Jax, wrapping him in the towel, and cradled him to his chest.

Isabelle handed him another towel, a blanket, and a nose sucker, “Mind cleaning him up a bit, daddy?” She winked before turning back to Raine, “Ready for round number two?”

“Oh yeah.” Raine breathed in deeply, letting it go slowly.
Isabelle felt for the baby through her stomach, “She’s in a good place. We’re so lucky, this could have gone so bad.”

“Don’t jinx us,” Valery chided, “Let’s breathe after he’s out.”

Raine tensed up, “I gotta push.” She cried out hanging onto the bed tightly. Ezekiel moved to her side, trying to help sooth her by rubbing her back while holding the baby in his other arm.

“Keep going, keep going!” Isabelle encouraged, “And we have a...” She looked up at Valery as she pulled the baby to her, “Did you say boy?”

“Is it a boy!?” Both Valery and Raine shouted.

Isabelle laid the baby on Raine’s chest, the child letting out a loud cry, “Girl,” She grinned, “Congrats you two, one of each!”

“A girl?” Ezekiel blinked, looking over the small baby Raine was soothing against her chest. She too had his dark green skin, long ears, and just like Jax, a wolf tail. Except hers was mottled with white, and almost lavender looking spots. Raine soothed the baby on her chest, gently wiping clear her face.
Ezekiel’s breath caught in his throat as Isabelle took Jax from him and Raine handed him the baby girl.

“Evie May?” She gently touched the baby’s face as Ezekiel knelt down with her.

Ezekiel nodded, “Yeah,” He whispered, feeling speechless as he looked at both his newborn children, “Evie and Jax.”

“They’re beautiful, you guys.” Valery whispered, taking Jax from Isabelle and gently rocked him, “I can babysit any time you need.”

Raine chuckled, “I’d more than appreciate the help if you two want to come by this week.”
Isabelle handed her Jax, “You couldn’t pay us to leave.”

~*~

The cooing and giggling of babies filled the house. Ezekiel lay on his stomach next to Jax and Evie doing tummy time on a large purple and blue quilt. Cole lay on the other side of them making a stuffed bear dance in front of them. Evie rocked on her hands and knees trying to reach out for the bear shakily, cooed and rolled to her side.

“Almost, Evie,” Cole tickled her side, “You almost had it!” Evie giggled, wiggling about on the blanket, almost rolling over onto Jax. Jax grunted putting his ears back, and shoved his fist in his mouth. He chewed on it a few times, drooling all over himself.

“Oh, Jaxie,” Cole poked his side, “You want to play too?” Jax rolled over onto his back and kicked his feet out babbling.

Ezekiel snorted, “Hey you,” He tickled Jax’s belly, “Whatchya think you’re doing?” Jax giggled. Evie grabbed onto Ezekiel’s arm, trying to put his sleeve into her mouth. Raine walked into the room carrying a couple clean diapers and a package of wipes. She knelt down next to the group, rubbing Ezekiel’s back before tickling both Evie and Jax.

“How’re my babies?” She tickled under their chins, then turned to Cole, “And my big kid?” She tickled his side, making him squeal out in laughter and roll away.

“Mom!” He giggled, rolling up onto his knees.

Ezekiel chuckled taking a diaper and pulled the closest baby to him, “They’re in a really good mood today.” He smiled, sitting up onto his knees to change Evie’s diaper.

“That’s because they know their aunties are coming over so mommy and daddy can go out.” Raine said in a baby voice, giving Jax a raspberry on his belly.

The twins were nearly eight months old, and Raine was beginning to get cabin fever. She hadn’t been able to travel very much with the two, aside for running errands, and Ezekiel usually helped with that. When Isabelle and Valery offered to watch the two for a few hours, Raine jumped at the chance. She was dying to have an adult dinner, that didn’t consist of macaroni and cheese, and do whatever they wanted for a couple hours. Ezekiel even set up reservations for them at a nice restaurant in the small village nearby.

Cole giggled, “Are Ira and Joey coming too?” He put his finger in Jax’s hand.

“Yep! I think Trevor too. You guys can play in the yard, or help out with the twins if you want.” Raine picked Jax up and bounced him gently on her lap.

Ezekiel laughed, “You think those two will let them anywhere near the babies? They’re baby hogs.” He picked Evie up and put her against his shoulder, patting her back.

“Especially now.” Raine winked at him.

Ezekiel’s eyebrows shot up, “Oh?” He cradled Evie in the crook of his arm and smiled down at her, “What’s that mean?” He made a face at Evie making her giggle.

Raine grinned mischievously, “Isabelle found out this morning that she’s pregnant.”

“What?!” Ezekiel’s jaw dropped.

Raine laughed, “Yeah, she’s like eight or nine weeks along too.” She handed Jax to Cole, the boy grinning happily bouncing his little brother.

“What!?” Ezekiel said again, “How is that even... How did she just now find out!?”

Raine took Evie from him, kissing her cheeks, “She was in denial.” She said while making faces at Evie, making the baby laugh, “I finally convinced her to take a test this morning. She blames me.”

Ezekiel laughed, “You did keep telling her she was next.”

“I know, it’s awesome.” Raine kissed Evie’s cheek again, enjoying listening to the baby giggle.

Ezekiel stood up, stretching out his back and sides. He stepped back looking over his little family. If someone told him two years ago he’d have a fiancé and a few kids, he would’ve thought they were the crazy one. Thinking about it, it had been awhile since he had had an extreme anxiety attack. It was the first time in years he felt he could say that he had his PTSD mostly under control. He felt like he had someone who understood him, and between Raine and him, they balanced each other out. Raine looked up at him, holding Evie up on her hip as she stood.

“What’re you thinking about?” She nudged him and looked down at Cole and Jax.

Ezekiel wrapped his arm around her waist, pulled her close to him and kissed the top of her head, “Just how lucky I am.”

Smiling up at him, Raine scrunched up her face, “You are,” She winked, kissing his cheek, “But so are we.” She added, walking away hearing the front door open.

Ezekiel watched her leave the room, then turned to Cole, “Your friends are here.” He said taking Jax from his oldest.

“Can we play outside?” Cole asked, following Ezekiel out into the living room where everyone had gathered.

“Go ahead.” Ezekiel nodded, watching with amusement as the boys greeted each other while racing out the back door. He blinked as Valery took Jax from him, immediately bouncing him and talking to him in a baby voice. That’s when he noticed Isabelle had Evie, and was doing the same, both ignoring the adults in the room.

“Congrats, Izzy.” He smirked, watching Isabelle’s eyes widen momentarily before she turned to him.

She secured Evie to her hip, “Thanks,” She laughed softly, “A little unexpected.”

Raine turned to Valery, “Oh yeah, by the way, you owe me $10.”

“Damn it,” Valery sighed, a mischievous grin pulling at her mouth, “My purse is on the table.”

Isabelle narrowed her eyes on the two, “Wait... Did you two make a bet on me!?”

Raine turned to her with feigned shock, “Us? Make a bet on you? How could you ever think we’d do something like that?” She smirked, “I just figured it was my turn this time around.”
Isabelle stuck her tongue out at her, making Raine giggle as she fished through Valery’s purse grabbing her wallet.

“You love us.” Valery reminded Isabelle jokingly, as she took her wallet from Raine and handed her a ten.

Isabelle shrugged, “Meh, maybe,” She smiled, then suddenly looked away, “Oh,” She picked up a baby toy from the couch and handed it to Evie, “I had a lead about Xadel.” Valery and Raine froze, their eyes wide with curiosity.

“Well?” Ezekiel cut in, folding his arms across his chest, “Is she okay?”

Shaking her head slowly, Isabelle sat down on the couch, “I don’t know. What we know is that apartment was cleaned out a couple days after Raine had the babies. Ezekiel, you found that Skyler had even disappeared, and we thought maybe they left together somewhere,” She bounced Evie on her knee, “I found out the other day… Skyler is dead.”

Raine looked to Ezekiel, taking in his reaction. His ears pinned back, his face remaining blank at the news.

Taking a deep breath, Isabelle continued, “I’m afraid Xadel may have had the same fate. Something... Something huge is going on, and I think it’s what Vince had been afraid of before.
He said it’s definitely been put into motion, that Skyler and Xadel’s disappearances are actually two of many that have popped up lately.” She shuddered, her free hand going to her stomach, “There are people trying to stop it at least.”

“Yeah,” Ezekiel ruffled Jax’s hair, “Are you ready to go, Raine?” He looked up at Raine, who looked at a loss for words at the news she had heard from Isabelle. She nodded silently, kissing both her kids on the forehead.

“Thanks for watching them, you guys,” She said quietly, exchanging looks of sadness with her two close friends over the news of Xadel, “We’re going to say goodbye to Cole, then head out.”

Valery smiled at her, “Have fun you two, don’t worry about anything, we have it covered.” She waved Jax’s hand at the two, making the little boy giggle happily.

“You know where everything is, help yourselves.” Ezekiel said heading out the back door.

Raine waved back, following Ezekiel out into the yard. The boys were in the middle of some elaborate game of hide and go seek. Ezekiel called out for Cole, spotting the boy hiding up in a tree with a water gun.

“We’re leaving, we’ll be back later tonight,” He raised an eyebrow, “And be careful up there.”

Cole shushed him, “I’m hiding!”

“Love you!” Raine called up to him, grinning at the exasperated look she received in return.

“Love you too, now go away!” He hissed back at them, climbing up further into the branches, trying to hide in the leaves.

Raine snickered, looping her arm in Ezekiel’s as they went around front to the car and climbed in. Ezekiel buckled up and started the car, checking his surroundings before heading off down the road. Raine looked him over, noticing the tension he held in his shoulders.

“Are you okay?” She asked quietly, turning the radio down.

Ezekiel nodded, his ears flicking to the side, “Yeah. Skyler was a bitch,” He didn’t miss the flash of an amused smile that crossed Raine’s face, “But her dying is...” His words faded off at a loss of what to call it, “I hope Xadel is okay.”

Raine pressed her lips together, glancing out the window, “Me too. Maybe we should leave the island.” She half joked, grabbing his hand and lacing her fingers through his.

“Every island has their own political mess going on right now,” Ezekiel reminded her, giving her hand a small squeeze, “We’re better off riding this out.”

Feeling slightly alarmed, Raine picked at her tail with her other hand, “You don’t think it’ll get that bad… do you?”

Ezekiel shook his head, “Nah,” He looked at her out of the side of his eye, noticing she wasn’t buying it, “I hope not, but staying out of the city is probably the safest idea right now.”

Leaning into his arm, Raine sighed heavily, “Probably...” She leaned her head against him, “We should plane Cole’s birthday party.”

“Is Izzy actually letting you plan something?” Ezekiel joked, grinning at her in amusement.

“Shocking, right?” Raine giggled, straightening up in her seat,
“She does want to help out though. We’re mostly getting ideas from Cole, and going to run with that. I just need to figure out food and cake.”

Ezekiel shrugged, “Pizza?”

Raine nodded, “That’s what I was thinking too. Maybe sandwiches, or chicken too, and snacks.”

“Do we need all that?” He cracked open his window, “I know Cole eats a lot, but...”

Raine scrunched up her face, “Dude,” She rolled down her window making Ezekiel grin, “I’m just thinking options. The twins can’t exactly eat pizza right now, but could have different snacks.”

“I guess... Why not just get them something different?” Ezekiel rolled his eyes at the pout he got in return for the suggestion, “Okay, pizza and snacks. We don’t need anything else, other than the cake.”

Smiling, Raine nodded, “Sounds good. I’ll let Izzy know, she knows the best pizza places. We should pick up his presents while we’re out.”

Ezekiel pulled her hand to his mouth kissing her gently, “I love you.” He smiled at her.

Raine eyed him happily for a moment, “What’s so funny?”

“We get a night to ourselves, and you want to go shopping for Cole,” He stopped at a light, looking at her, “I’m just impressed.”

“Impressed?” Raine raised an eyebrow in confusion.

Ezekiel shrugged, turning into the restaurant parking lot, “I don’t know if that’s that right word...” He parked the car, blushing slightly in embarrassment, “But, I’m just... I don’t know, I guess I’m just amazed by you. You’re always keeping our kids first, even when you don’t need to.”

Raine kissed him, “Thank you,” She leaned her forehead against his, “I love you all, I can’t help but thinking about what would make you happy.”

Leaning back and kissing her forehead, Ezekiel smiled, “You too, babe,” He locked eyes with her then grinned, “I heard this place has really good mac and cheese.”

Raine leaned back laughing, “Stop your mouth.” She giggled, climbing out of the car.

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