Part 14: The Briar Queen
Brennan woke slowly the next morning, nose filled with the only vaguely familiar scents of primroses, feminine soaps and wild, untamed magic.
Overlaying it all was Piper’s scent, cinnamon and sweat and magic, and he rumbled contently into the pillow, lifting an arm to locate the woman and tug her back against his side.
When he felt around, however, it was clear that Piper had not remained in bed. A fact that had Brennan scowling and opening tired blue eyes, concerned that she wasn’t even in the room.
Taking in as much energy as she had the night before should have left her incredibly winded, especially with the activities they’d undergone to help her get it back under control.
Yet the redhead was nowhere to be seen, and her side of the bed was cool, as though she had vacated it’s warmth long ago.
That worried him more than anything else, wondering if - despite her reassurances and passion the night before - they had gone too far, to fast, and she was regretting it.
Wincing at a slight stinging sensation on his chest - right in the middle of the tattoos there, actually - Brennan glanced down and blanched for a moment, startled.
Then he chuckled - a rougher sound then he’d have liked, considering his current state - and threw back the covers, knowing that moping in bed would do him no good.
The scent hit him as soon as he hit the hallway, nose lifting to the air and worry diminishing much quicker then he’d expected when he realized Piper hadn’t run anywhere.
Scratching absently at the new marking he sported, Brennan strode quietly down the hallway and stepped into the kitchen, eyes immediately on the redhead working at the stove.
Her hair was a mess, thrown into a hap-hazard bun that fought even now to come undone. She wore his thieved night shirt, yet again, and had her bottom lip caught between her teeth, eyes locked on whatever she was cooking.
Brennan couldn’t resist; he crossed the room in three long strides and wrapped his arms around her waist, bending to rest his chin on her shoulder and nuzzle into her neck, “G’morning.”
“G-good morning!” Piper stumbled over the words, jolting in surprise when he touched her and quickly setting the frying pan she’d knocked back in its place, “Don’t surprise me like that, Brennan, God...”
“Ye weren’t in bed.” he mumbled, letting his worry show through his words, “Ah feared ah’d chased ye off already.”
“No! No no no. I just... I thought...” she was rambling and making motions with her hands before just giving up and letting her head loll back, blush bright on her cheeks, “I just... wanted to make you breakfast.”
That made him suck in a breath, from the underlying domesticity of the words and the actions. That... definitely made a difference in their relationship, if this was her instinct after spending the night together.
“Do ye’ave any... marks on ye?” he asked breathlessly, caught between kissing her throat and dragging her back to bed.
“Felt any stingin’?”
He felt more then saw Piper frown as she tried to crane her head to look at him, “On my... right thigh, actually, figured it’s just a rash...”
“Lessee...” Brennan turned her around and lifted her by the waist before she could protest, seating her on the counter beside the stove and kissing the pouty-face away.
Then he lifted her right leg to stretch it straight out - making sure to trail his fingers over the smooth skin, delighting in the shivers he was eliciting in her - and gently peeled the end of the night shirt back, smirking when he revealed the mark he’d thought would be there.
“Bloody hell.” he mumbled, mostly to himself, “They do still happen.”
“What still happens?” Piper bent slightly to examine the mark, eyes going wide at the sight of it, “Wait, is that... ? What is...?”
“It’s a soul mark.” Brennan ran his fingers over the lifted words gently, letters spelling out his name, Brennan, running horizontally across her upper thigh, “Most people don’t get’em these days. Rare, even fer people w’Fae blood.”
“A soul mark? What is it, though?”
“Means we’re soul mates, Piper,” Brennan looked up at her and smiled, then, “Ah’d almost stopped believin’ in’em, but’ere we are.”
“Do... do you...” Piper paused, licking her lips, “Uh... have... my name...?”
“Ah do.” he took her head and guided it to the patch of thorns right above his heart, where the vines now curled around a new marking, Piper written in flowing script that matched perfectly, “Right’ere, on m’heart.”
Piper curled her leg around his hip then, pulling him tight between her legs as she lifted her hand to pull his head down as well, whispering against his lips, “Can you wait for breakfast?”
She’s not wearing panties. Brennan discovered when the shirt hiked up, smirking against her, “Definitely.”
“Good. Because I think we need to explore these marks some more.”
“As ye wish.” Brennan rumbled back, scooping her up and - pausing first to turn off the stove because hey, they were still responsible adults - carried her back to her room, intending to thoroughly explore the marks... and each other.
The Trax was packed and ready to go, the house locked up tight and anything perishable had either been moved to Brennan’s house or tossed out.
Now, as Piper stood in her soul mates embrace, it was just a matter of making herself go.
“It’s just for a couple of weeks.” she mumbled into his chest, eyes dropping from the feeling of safety he gave off, “I have to get things straightened out back... with dad. I left in a bit of a rush, I need to make my intentions clear and see how much damage Aaron did.”
“Ah know.” Brennan’s voice was a gust against her head when he dropped a kiss there, making her stomach flutter as it always seemed to when he touched her, “But ah still don’t like it.”
“I don’t either, but it’s better I go back and do it now instead of putting it off and never getting it done.” Piper tightened her grip on him, “I’ll be back for Christmas, I promise. And it’s not like I won’t be texting or calling you, y’know.”
“Ah promise ah’ll look out fer Grace while yer gone,” he chuckled knowingly, since the younger woman had to remain in school and couldn’t return with her sister, “Jus’... don’t take longer than necessary, alright?”
“I won’t.” Piper pulled back then, going on her toes and tilting her head back in a hint, sighing happily when he understood and bent to kiss her, “Don’t get into any trouble while I’m gone.”
That only earned her a snort and another kiss, Brennan squeezing her tightly before stepping back and letting her go.
He walked her to the car and helped her in, stealing another kiss before she did her seatbelt up and pulled the door closed, starting it up before she could hesitate again.
Trying to smile reassuringly, she lifted a hand to wave and backed carefully out of the drive way, Brennan watching with a hand lifted as she drove away.
He stayed there until she turned the corner and was out of sight, then turned to head into The Briars with a heavy heart, promises ringing in his ears.
She’s coming back. Just wait until Christmas, Brennan. Piper will be back.
“Piper, there’s someone here to see you.”
“Oh?” Piper looked up from where she’d been finalising some paperwork in the office, eyebrows up, “Who is it?”
“She said her names Cat, and that you’d know her?” the greeted fidgeted with her lapel, “She’s, uh, quite demanding, I must say, Ms. Connors.”
The staff only defaulted to her last name when they were edgy, so Piper’s hackles raised automatically at hearing it, energy beginning to tingle under her skin at the perceived threat.
“Tell her I’ll be right out, Amber.”
Amber nodded gratefully and scurried away, Piper hurrying to finish the last signatures she’d been working on and stacking the papers neatly on the edge of the desk for her father when he returned.
It was December 17th, barely a week before Christmas, and finally Piper had gotten everything finished and put together, straightened out and explained.
Well... mostly explained. Her father wasn’t quite believing the ‘magic’ bits, but he understood that Aaron had been using them both and was on her side in regards to the man. Whatever claim Aaron had had to the restaurant chain was now null and void, and her father was understanding - if not exactly happy - with her decision to remain in Maynooth, once everything legal had been taken care of.
Aaron himself would never be a threat again - multiple charges had been laid on him once he’d been in police custody, half of them from before she’d even met him, and he would be in jail for a long, long time. Even if he wasn’t, when Piper had drained him of his magic, she had also - unintentionally - drained most of his will power from him as well, leaving him a husk of the man he had been.
Serves the bastard right.
Now, however, Piper was insanely curious as to why Cat was visiting her. At the restaurant, no less, which raised the question of how did she know where I was?
She definitely remembered the redheaded vampire, noting how her green eyes lit up when Piper came around the corner and met her at the greeters stand.
She also noted that the other woman was no longer pregnant, her form lithe and skinnier then Piper herself.
“Hello, Cat. It’s been a while,” Piper held her hand out to shake, lips quirking, “Though I’ll admit, I’m not sure how you knew I’d be here?”
“We actually live in Oshawa ourselves, it’s funny. Strange things just seem to amass here,” Cat was grinning widely, shaking her hand eagerly, “And I may have asked Serah. I wanted to congratulate you, for one thing. And have a chat.”
Pipers eyebrows only lifted again, “Serah is such a gossip, but thank you. And come on in, you’ve got good timing; I just finished my paperwork.”
Cat only smiled and followed Piper into the floor of the restaurant, slipping into the indicated booth without a question. Piper signalled one of the waiters and ordered them both coffee before turning curious eyes on her companion.
“Okay, I am insanely curious now. What’s with the visit?”
“Well, it’s partly because I have like no friends and thought you’d be a good choice.” Cat was smirking, long fingers drumming on the table, “But I also wanted to see how things were... progressing between you and Brennan, I guess. Serah mentioned you’re not a fan of kids.”
“Oh, Gods,” Piper groaned, though it was mostly in jest, “She sent you to convince me that I do want kids, didn’t she?”
“Not exactly, but she did ask me to show you the pics of my brood.” Cat was sliding her phone across the table then, opened on a picture of two baby boys, wrapped up and sleeping, “My newest, the twins.”
“Cute.” Piper mumbled, flipping through the photos until she hit pictures of different children, significantly older, “Your triplets?”
Cat nodded proudly, “The redhead is Aylin, black hair is Nadia, and the boy is Riker.”
“They’re gorgeous, Cat, but honestly, Serah didn’t have to send you to convince me.”
Cat’s eyes widened slightly, grin widening, “Ohhh?”
Piper fidgeted under the intense gaze, staring down at her coffee when it was placed in front of her, “Brennan explained it to me - how his line only ever has one boy, no matter what, to carry on the Guardianship. And, well... the thought of kids doesn’t scare me as much anymore. I kind of, uh, already stopped taking birth control, after we got together...”
“Are you pregnant?”
“Nope. I mean, it’s not like we really... y’know... I had to come back here for a while, to look after some legal stuff, paperwork. And Brennan mentioned it takes a while for his family to conceive usually, to, so... yeah.”
“If you ever have any questions, feel free to ask.” Cat winked, sipping at her coffee, “I am the queen of strange pregnancies, I’m sure Brennan’s told you.”
“That you’re a vampire and your husband is a werewolf- er, Lycan, right? How did that even happen?”
“Anything’s possible when you’re soul mates.” Cat murmured affectionately, and Piper could only nod in response, unconsciously letting her fingers drift over the word hidden beneath her pants.
“So... does this render your visit pointless?”
Cat snorted, “Please, like I said, I need friends. Or so Ace says. I don’t know, personally I think looking after five kids is more than enough of a time killer, but c’est la vie. When are you returning to Maynooth?”
“Tomorrow, if I have any say in it. I have all the legalities taken care of, regarding my shares of the restaurants, and the paperwork’s finished. I’ve also been able to switch my mailing address, thankfully, so that Dad won’t be getting all my letters anymore.”
“Good.” Cat’s smile was kind, but her eyes were mischievous, “Say, what kind of cake d’you have in this place? Gods know I’ve been craving chocolate all morning...”
Piper laughed and swivelled the dessert menu around to the vampire, shaking her head, “Take your pick.” She watched the woman devour the menu with a grin, but her mind was far, far away, in a summer house surrounded by Briars and strange, familiar creatures...
It was snowing when she turned onto the familiar Trail and pulled into the long driveway, wipers making faint swishing sounds as they cleared the windshield.
Even through the dusting she could make out the figures waiting for her in front of the house, heart leaping happily even though she’d known they would be there.
Imp and Snow circled her with happy chirps and trills as she slid from the Trax, wanting pets and attention and kisses.
Her Hound went up on its hind legs to lick her face briefly, rumbling as he, to, circled her once, twice, then backed off, sensing her urgency.
Piper hadn’t realized she was running until Brennan caught her mid-leap, arms warm and tight around her as he spun her in a circle, only lowering her feet to the ground when she shrieked happily and yanked him down for a kiss.
They stood there for several moments afterwards, just grinning stupidly at each other, before the snow and the cold got to be too much and they retreated into the house, the animals hot on their heels.
Piper was happy to report nothing had changed; Brennan’s every touch still lit her on fire and made her heart pound, his kisses a drug she could never regret being addicted to.
Unsurprisingly, the night was spent in bed.
Christmas Day was spent at Serah’s with the family and Grace, happy and carefree and fun.
Brennan pulled her aside during the gift exchange and silently slipped a ring onto her finger, a rose-gold band with an amber stone glinting in the light.
Piper only grabbed his face and kissed away his fears, telling him yes, yes, yes without ever speaking a word.
Their wedding was small and intimate, held at The Primrose with only their close friends and family in attendance.
Nothing fancy, as Piper was not a fancy person, but she still felt like a Goddess in her wedding gown - vaguely Fae inspired and definitely not at all like the monstrosity she’d have worn to her original wedding - when Brennan’s eyes caught sight of her and lit up like the sky, almost drowning in the tenderness showing there.
The Reception was at the Event Hall, going long into the night and well into the morning. Cat and Ace even came, though they’d left the children with their grandparents, the vampire hugging Piper and wishing her happiness in the coming days.
Later that night, long after the partygoers had gone home and Piper and Brennan had retreated home, he led her into The Briars with a smug grin, leading her deeper than before.
The beautiful Fae from before were there - the ones Piper had only glimpsed, curtsying awkwardly when Brennan revealed they were his grandparents, the original Fae of his line.
We welcome you, the female one spoke in her mind, smiling gently, Briar Queen.
Piper took over the role of head-chef at the Primrose when Tanner decided he wanted to travel, making he and Eric promise to look after themselves before they left on their journeys.
Grace and Flint she was happy to see become an official couple, her sister often at the Primrose to see her boyfriend rather than her sister.
Piper didn’t mind; her own time was spent either working or with Brennan, at home with the strange pets they’d collected.
It was midway through March when she pulled him aside and put his hand to her abdomen, announcing that they would be having an addition to the family soon and needed to prepare.
Brennan was shocked, lips pulling up in a ridiculous grin as he grabbed her and spun her around, kissing her senseless.
Serah’s scream when she found out nearly deafened them both.
While looking through baby-name websites, Piper tried to stick to the Irish and Scottish sections, wanting to honor the heritage their son would be carrying.
It happened that every time she hit back, it automatically filtered girls names back into the mix, and she would sigh and set about fixing it.
She happened on the name quite by accident, though it wouldn’t leave her mind again afterwards.
“Tayla” was a pretty name, but it was definitely not a boy’s name, and so she shoved it to the back of her mind, intending to suggest it should any of her friends ever have baby girls.
Just as school was beginning, Piper gave birth to a healthy baby boy with his father’s blue eyes and his mothers wild red hair, staring up at them in startled awe as they crowded close and marveled over the little miracle.
Devin King was adored from the second he was born, showered with gifts and love from his family.
Piper grudgingly took the full year off to look after him, though she popped by the Primrose on good days when they both needed out of the house.
Kristy was more than willing to play babysitter when Piper would help with the meals, playing ‘dutiful Aunt’ to a tea.
Devin was smart, and he grew and learned quickly, sometimes wearing his parents patience incredibly thin when he would get into things he shouldn’t.
He loved The Hound, and Imp made a point of sleeping at the end of his cradle in order to keep an eye on him.
Piper and Brennan were, for the lack of a better word, happy.
They had somehow managed to find not only each other, but peace, and a place of belonging in this strange world.
They couldn’t have asked for more, and indeed didn’t. If Devin was to be their only child, he was a ray of sunshine and they loved him.
It was shortly after Devin’s second birthday that Piper started to feel off, sick in the mornings and far more tired than she should have been from chasing after a toddler.
She ignored it until Brennan began to notice, sending her fretfully to the doctor.
What she learned there was a shock. How was it possible? Brennan had said... but no, the results were absolute, and it was the truth.
“What’s wrong?” Brennan questioned immediately when she returned, dropping her purse and coat rather uncaringly in the front foyer and stepping into the kitchen in a sort of dreamy haze.
“Nothing’s wrong.” Piper breathed, a strange sort of joy rising in her as she considered how to tell him, “Everything is very, very right.”
Brennan only paused in feeding Devin to step over to her, concern obvious in the harsh drawn of his brows, “Piper. Wha’is it?”
“Brennan.” she mumbled, taking his hands and playing with his fingers for a moment, enjoying how long they were compared to hers. The name Tayla flitted through her mind again, and now she understood her obsession with it.
“We’re having a baby girl.”
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