Month: May 2016

Interlude: Baby Steps

Mari tried her best to stifle a yawn as she headed up the long staircase. It was barely four in the afternoon, and she already felt like she was ready for bed.

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Things had been so crazy lately, both at work and at home. Her piano students were busy preparing for their upcoming concert, there was a new production starting down at the theater, Clara’s dance recital was in less than a week, Colette was getting ready to go back to work, Jonas was up for a big promotion, Stefan was scrambling to find a job, and Tobi was still making headlines for helping the national team quailfy for the World Cup for the first time in years.

Mari’s head was spinning just thinking about it. Not to mention the new baby… And having Josh here…

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An unpleasant sensation crept into her stomach at the thought. With every visit, she kept hoping that things would get easier. But they never did.

Mari did her best to chase the unpleasant thought from her mind as she headed toward Tobi and Colette’s bedroom. Her daughter-in-law had been working on lesson plans when Mari arrived home from rehearsal just a few minutes before. “Would you mind peeking in on Gus for me?” She’d asked. “I think his nap’s just about over.”

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She was more than happy to, of course. Her new grandson’s sweet little face was exactly the thing she needed after the day she’d had. Hell, after the MONTH I’ve had. Mari almost laughed as she opened the bedroom door.

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Fuck.

Mari knew that Tobi and Stefan were having Josh over that afternoon, but she’d assumed he was still out back making snowmen with the kids.

She quickly forced a smile, as she always did when she was forced to interact with her sons’ biological father. “Sorry.” Mari said kindly. “I didn’t realize you were in here… I was just checking in on Augg— Gus.” Her eyes darted toward her gurgling grandson for a moment. “But it looks like you’ve got it covered.”

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The woman backed toward the door as she spoke, eager to make her escape. Oh God, this is the first time we’ve been alone together since… Mari did not want to think about the last time. It was too unpleasant. Too painful. Too embarrassing to remember that night at the hotel all those months ago.

Josh glanced over his shoulder. “Mari, wait.” He returned the baby to his crib and turned to face her. “We can’t keep going like this. You and I – we need to talk.”

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Oh God, why is he doing this?! Her smile faltered slightly. “W-what’s there to talk about?” She stammered. “And you’re staying for dinner anyway, aren’t you?” Her voice was almost hopeful. “We can talk then.” Mari knew full-well that he was not referring to their usual uncomfortable small-talk. But she had to try. Can’t this guy take a fucking hint?

“I was a jackass – a royal asshat.” He crossed the room, coming closer to her. “I never was able to apologize to you personally for what happened. I know Jonas passed my apology on to you, but I did want the chance to actually say I’m sorry to you.”

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Asshat’?! For a moment, Mari almost laughed. That’s a new one… She hesitated before replying. “Thanks.” She said at last. “But, to be fair, you were absolutely right. I was being a bitch.” Mari shrugged slightly, and found herself no longer able to meet his gaze. “And I’m the one who’s sorry.”

Her cheeks grew warm as the words passed her lips. God, why was that so fucking hard to say? Mari stared at the floor as she waited anxiously for Josh’s reply, wishing she were standing in that room with anyone but him.

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Josh snorted softly and smiled crookedly. “Why don’t we just split the difference and call us both sorry?”

Mari lifted her gaze at the sound of his laugh. Is he seriously SMILING right now? She shook her head slowly. “Why are you being like this?” Mari fought not to raise her voice in frustration. “I mean, you make it sound like everything’s okay now. Like it’s that easy to fix this fucking mess.” A small sigh escaped her lips. “But it’s not. Look, I’m glad we both apologized, okay? I really am. But can we stop pretending things will ever be normal? Because I’m sorry, Josh. But they won’t be. They can’t.”

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He sighed softly. “But why? Why does it have to be hard, Mari? Why can’t we try to get along? Not be civil and make awkward small talk – actually get along. Like regular people.”

“Because I’m not a regular person, Josh!” This time, Mari was not quite as successful in controlling her volume. She closed her eyes for a moment, and took a deep breath before continuing. “I have been fighting for years to be one. And for a long time, I thought I finally was. Regular. Normal. Happy.” She let out a short, bitter laugh. “But from the moment you walked into my sons’ lives, you’ve been reminding me that I’m not.” She paused. “And I know now that it’s not your fault, okay? It’s mine.”

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“I understand that,” he replied earnestly. “But I’ve heard a lot about you, Mari. From Jonas and Tobi and Stefan. And from what I’ve heard, you really sound like someone I’d like to be friends with. I understand that I’m a complication in your life, and a reminder of things you’d rather forget. I just think that you’re someone I’d like to actually know.”

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Mari did not speak for a long time as she took in his words. How can he say that? Why the Hell would anyone ever WANT to know me? She wondered, incredulous. Doesn’t he know what I’m like? Doesn’t he know I’m –

She closed her eyes, and took three slow, deep breaths. No. She told herself firmly. Stop.

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At last, she found her voice. “Look.” Mari’s voice was soft. “You’re a nice guy.  I didn’t want to let myself see that before. I was too busy convincing myself you were trying to swoop in and fuck up my family or something.” She shook her head. “But I know you aren’t. And I really appreciate how kind you’ve been to my boys… My whole family, really. But this is still so damn hard for me. I don’t think you’ll ever understand how much this whole thing just… kills me.” Her eyes stung sharply for a moment. Mari did her best to blink her tears away before continuing.

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“I know how much it would mean to the boys if we could be friends. And who knows? Maybe someday…” Mari shrugged, leaving the thought unfinished. Yeah right. She thought secretly. “But not now.”

Josh nodded slowly. “Yeah, I get that. Baby steps, right?” He smiled a little and offered his hand to her. “If we can’t be friends, maybe friend-adjacent.”

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He’s really trying. Mari realized, staring down at his outstretched hand. Maybe he really is serious about this ‘getting along’ thing… But what about her?

Am I ready? She asked herself uncertainly. Can I really do this?

His hand was rough and warm in hers.

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Thank you to JoieWilder for writing all of Josh’s dialogue and actions in this chapter.

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3.41: Believe It or Not

Okay, as happy as I am to be an Onkel again… I never realized how much I did not miss the sound of a crying baby, or the smell of a dirty diaper.

At least it’s only one this time. And little Augustin is pretty damn adorable.

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That name’s such a damn mouthful though. Colette named him after her grandfather, and no one seems to be able to decide on a good nickname for the poor little guy.

Jocelyne suggested “Gus”. Tobi, Colette, and my grandparents love it. Personally I think it’s kinda boring.

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Clara and Lucas voted for “Auggy”. Tobi and Colette say no friggin’ way… But me, Mama, and Jonas think it’s pretty damn hysterical.

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Anyway, we’re all really excited about the new baby around here, and I know Josh is excited to finally get to meet little Auggy for himself. His flight’s supposed to come in tomorrow afternoon.

Tobi’s really looking forward to having him see the baby, and I am too, but… Well, believe it or not, I think he might be more excited about it than I am.

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Now don’t get me wrong. I love seeing Josh. It feels like ages since the last time we saw him. And the rest of the family has really been warming up to him… Especially the kids. Hell, it’s starting to feel like they’re more excited than me and Tobi combined whenever Josh is in town.

And at least I don’t have Mama to worry about… Not anymore. I mean, she’s still been avoiding Josh as much as she can whenever he comes to visit. But when she does see him, she’s been nothing but polite to him, just like she promised all those months ago.

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And in return, well… Tobi and I have been trying our best not to push things. We know we fucked up the first time… And we promised we’d never do it again. No more springing visits on her last-minute. No inviting Josh over without asking. No trying to bring Clara along unless we check with her first.

We’ve been doing our best to keep up our end of the bargain… And I think it’s helping. I mean, she let Josh take Clara to the zoo with us last time he was here. It’s something, right?

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I dunno. I should be happy things are finally calming down. I should be happy to be seeing my Vater again. I guess it just feels like no matter what I do, nothing will ever be easy. Nothing will ever be normal. And I’ll never be –

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I don’t know. It’s probably the stress talking.

I mean between the new baby, job interviews (that one last week totally fell through. Fuck.), and Christmas coming up… It’s a lot going on.

I’m sure I’ll feel better once all this crap blows over…

Right?

Interlude: Clear the Air

The house was completely silent, save the soft tapping of the keyboard beneath Jonas’ fingers. Normally he loved these sort of quiet mornings – when the rest of the family was off at work or school or running errands, and he was free to sit at home and get some work done in peace.

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But he could not shake the feeling that today would be anything but peaceful…

The man’s worried thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the chiming of the doorbell echoing throughout the empty house. The sound almost made him jump.

Jonas did his best to force a smile as he rose to his feet. He hadn’t expected Josh to arrive so early. Alright. He told himself. Don’t fuck this up.

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Jonas knew how risky it had been to invite Josh to come – especially without telling the boys. But he would be heading back to the U.S. in just two days, and Jonas couldn’t bear to let the other man go without speaking to him first – just the two of them.

“Good Morning.” Jonas widened his smile as he opened the door for the other man. “Thank you for coming.”

Josh stepped into the house, smiling but looking wary. “Morning. I’m glad you invited me over, actually.”
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Jonas nodded. “I had a feeling you would be. The boys told me you wanted to speak with my wife, and…” He shrugged. “Well, I hope you don’t mind if we speak instead.”

“That’s probably a good idea.” He paused for a moment. “Look, Jonas, I really want to apologize. I let my temper get the better of me.”

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One look at the other man’s face told Jonas he was sincere. It’s okay, he almost replied. Jonas had to bite back the knee-jerk reaction. No matter how difficult Mari had been or how sorry Josh was, it was certainly not ‘okay’.

“Thank you. I appreciate it.” He said at last. “And I understand. Let’s just say we know a thing or two about tempers in this family…” Despite everything, Jonas almost laughed. “Would you like to sit down?” He gestured toward the living room doorway in the distance.

Josh nodded, and followed Jonas down the hall.

Ah, here comes the fun part… Jonas was still not exactly sure what he intended to say, but one thing was certain – he had to say something.

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He took a seat beside the older man, clearing his throat softly. “I’m really glad I have this chance to talk to you. I know things haven’t exactly been easy for any of us and… It didn’t feel right for you to leave without having the chance to…” Jonas paused, furrowing his brow. Scheiße. How the Hell do you say it in English? “Ah… reinen Tisch machen… Clear the table?” He looked at Josh hopefully.

Josh laughed in a quiet burst. “Clear the air? Yeah, that sounds like a good plan.”

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Jonas could not suppress his own chuckle of amusement. “Yes, clear the air.” He nodded, smiling sheepishly. “Sorry. All those years learning English, and I guess some things still escape me…” The man gave a small shrug, then fell into silence for a few moments.

Verdammt. This was so much easier in my head… He thought helplessly. Especially when I didn’t have to translate…

Jonas took a deep breath. “By now, I’m sure you’ve probably figured out that… this really hasn’t been easy for my family.” He began uncertainly. “Especially my wife.”

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Josh smiled wryly. “I’ve gathered that, yes.”

“Look, I know what you probably think of her. You made that very clear the other night.” For a moment, Jonas’ tone hardened. Though he had forgiven Josh for the outburst, the memory still stung. He quickly chased the feeling away. “And I understand why you do. I promise you, I do. She’s being so damn difficult, and it’s not fair to you. I know it isn’t. And I’m sure you won’t believe me when I tell you this… But she knows it too.”

“Mari is…” Jonas paused, trying to collect his thoughts. “I guess you could say she… Damn. This is hard. I can’t really find the words… Not even in German.” For a fleeting moment, his lips curled into a small smile that was gone as quickly as it had come. “It was a long time ago, before I knew her. But… Back when you, um… ‘met’ her…” Jonas stumbled over the words a bit, trying to hide his discomfort.

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“I think that was when she was at her worst. Her lowest. I don’t know all the details, but… I know enough. She was depressed. She… hated herself.” Jonas shook his head. “From what I’ve heard, it was pretty damn scary. Her parents didn’t know what to do…” He paused, breathing deeply. Though he’d been fortunate enough to have never witnessed it for himself, the stories alone were enough to break his heart.

The man cleared his throat softly before continuing. “She was in therapy for almost ten years after the boys were born.” Jonas explained. “And she’s come so far, even from when I first met her. But she’s still… broken. I’ve tried so hard to fix her, but I don’t think anything will ever be enough take the pain away. Not completely. And having you come back into her life – into the boys’ lives – after all these years…” He shrugged helplessly.

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“Josh, please understand. Those boys were everything to her for so long. I think they were the only good thing in her life… Until she met me, of course.” He allowed himself a smile yet again. “She just… doesn’t know how to deal with this, I guess. And I know that’s no excuse for how horrible she’s been to you. But… I just wanted you to maybe understand why. She’s trying. And I’m trying too.” Jonas hoped the other man knew how sincere he really was. “Give her time, and she’ll come around. I promise. And, until then… I’m sorry. I really am.”

Josh remained silent for a long time, taking in everything Jonas had told him. Jonas felt his heart rate quicken as he waited for Josh to finally speak, terrified of what his response may be.

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“I do understand.” Josh said at last. “Like I said, I let my temper get the better of me before. It’s just been very frustrating because I want to explain to her that I don’t want to steal the boys from her – or you. I’ve actually been wanting an opportunity to speak to you since I got here. You’re their father. Stefan… I know he doesn’t seem to appreciate that, but I do.” He sighed softly. “But about Mari. I sympathize with her a lot. I’m not proud of the man I was when I ‘met’ her either.”

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“Thank you for understanding.” Jonas replied. “Seriously. And… for what it’s worth, I’ve never felt like you were trying to ‘steal’ them. I know that’s not why you’re here. But I won’t lie. Seeing them with you… It hurts a little.” He confessed, shifting uncomfortably in his seat. “Especially Stefan. Things with him have always been pretty complicated… I guess you picked up on that, huh?”

“Yeah. He’s tried not to be too obvious about it, I think, I just kind of got it from some things he’s said and the way he talks about you. The biggest clue was that he calls you by name.”

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Jonas nodded, and tried his best to hide the pain in his voice. “Yeah… I don’t think I’ll ever be anything but ‘Jonas’ to him.” He forced a smile. “And that’s okay. It’s his decision. It doesn’t change the way I feel about him. He’s my son.” His voice was suddenly thick as he spoke. Great, now you look fucking ridiculous. Jonas cursed himself as he fought back the wave of emotion that threatened to overtake him. “And I know he cares. He’s a good kid.”

Josh leaned forward, bracing his arms on his legs. “He is a good kid,” He agreed. “You’re a stronger man than me; it would drive me crazy if a kid I’d raised pretty much his whole life had the same attitude towards me as Stefan does you.”

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“Oh, it drives me pretty damn crazy.” Jonas laughed. “But there’s nothing I can do about it. I learned that a long time ago. I mean, I used to think that maybe he’d come around, but…” He stopped himself abruptly. “Hey, who am I to complain? I mean, think how many kids out there hate their step-parents. I got lucky with those boys. Even Stefan.” Jonas’ smile widened. “And… I guess I should be thanking you. Without you, I wouldn’t have my sons. Hell, I might not even have my wife and daughter either.”

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“Both the boys are pretty great. You and Mari did a damn good job.” Josh grinned. “And that Clara seems like a real firecracker. I wish you the best of luck with that one. My Cora is giving me all kinds of grey hairs.”

A loud burst of laughter escaped Jonas’ lips. “Yeah, ‘firecracker’ is certainly one way to put it… She’s her mother’s daughter, that’s for sure.” He shook his head slowly. “Sounds like you’ve got your hands full with yours too… You said she’s twelve, right? God, does that mean it doesn’t get any better from here?” His terror was only half-feigned.

Josh laughed and shook his head. “Oh, you poor bastard. It’s only going to get worse once she discovers boys.”

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“Fuck.” Jonas slumped back against the couch cushions, hiding his face in his hands for a moment. “Know of any good convents back in Willow Creek?”

The older man snorted. “Not off the top of my head. This is the land of castles. Maybe there’s a nice tower you can put her in somewhere?”

“Are you serious?” Jonas struggled to keep a straight face.  “A beautiful girl all alone in a tower? We know how that one ends…”

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“Jonas?” A deep voice called from the hallway. “Josh?!”

Stefan appeared in the doorway, raising an eyebrow curiously at both men as they continued laughing together on the couch.

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“Schön, dass du schon wieder da bist…” Jonas caught himself, his eyes flicking toward Josh with an apologetic shrug. “I’m glad to see you back so soon.” He repeated in English. “Josh decided to stop by a little early, so I was just keeping him entertained for you until you got back.”

Stefan looked uncertainly at his stepfather. “Entertained, huh?”

Then Jonas watched as his lips stretched into a warm smile.

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It was such a simple gesture, but so happy, so genuine, that Jonas felt his heart practically burst at the sight. It did not happen often, but Jonas lived for the moments when he caught Stefan looking at him the way he was now. It was the way Tobi looked at him every day – the way a child looks at his father.

The moment was gone all too quickly as Stefan turned his attention to Josh, his smile widening even more. For one fleeting moment, Jonas felt a burst of anger course through his veins. How many years had he been bending over backwards to get one lousy glimmer of that warmth, that affection? And what the Hell has this guy done to deserve it? He thought bitterly. Pass a fucking DNA test?!

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And just as quickly as it had come, the feeling was gone. Christ, I sound like Mari. Jonas almost laughed at the thought. This is what the boys have always wanted. I should be happy for them… I AM happy for them. Josh is a great guy. He reminded himself as he moved aside for his stepson to sit between them. He went through a lot to be here…

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And Stefan went through a lot to find him.

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Thank you to JoieWilder for writing all of Josh’s dialogue and actions in this chapter.

Interlude: Disaster

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“Dinner was wonderful, Mrs. Rosebrook.” Josh smiled kindly at Jade from across the table. “Thank you.”

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“You’re very welcome.” She replied, returning his smile.

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Stefan had to suppress a chuckle as Tobi’s sigh of annoyance reached his ears. He peeked around Josh and watched as Jocelyne tugged sharply at her father’s sleeve, gazing up at him hopefully.

“Er hat gesagt, das Abendessen war sehr gut.” Tobi whispered to the little girl.

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She promptly passed the message along to her brother, who in turn muttered it across the table to Clara.

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Tobi had been acting as an interpreter for the kids the entire evening – every single word out of Josh’s mouth, the trio of six-year-olds had insisted on knowing. At first it was very cute, then a bit annoying, and now it was just plain funny.

Or at least, it was to Stefan. He was fairly certain his brother had never passed the “annoying” phase.

“All done?” Mari asked softly, appearing at Stefan’s side. Without waiting for a response, she leaned forward and reached across him, lifting the empty plate from the table.

Stefan nodded. “Thanks, Mama.” He muttered.

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Josh pushed back from the table, picking up his plate. “Can I help, Mari?”

“No, you can’t.” She reached forward and grabbed the plate from Josh’s hands with a bit more force than necessary. “Thanks.” Mari added, sounding anything but grateful.

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Josh’s brows furrowed into a slight frown as he lowered himself back into his chair. He looked back and forth between the twins helplessly. Tobi gave a small shrug of apology.

Stefan stared down at the table.

Overall, the dinner had gone much more smoothly than he’d been expecting. Of course, there was some initial awkwardness, at first – especially between Josh and Jonas. But everyone seemed to move past it fairly quickly.

Everyone except Mari.

She’d barely spoken the entire meal, and Stefan was fairly certain she hadn’t made eye contact with Josh, even once. He’d been waiting the entire meal, hoping and hoping that things would get better. But they never did.

“So, Josh…” Jonas’ voice broke through the uncomfortable silence as his wife continued to clear the table. “I hear the baseball season is over now?”

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Josh nodded and looked at the other man. He appeared almost grateful for the distraction. “It is.”

“Do you have anything special planned with your family now that you have more free time?” Jonas continued, smiling. “I know Tobi loves to take advantage of the off-season.” He gave a little nod in his son’s direction as he spoke.

Josh smiled. “I do, actually. My wife and I are planning to take the kids camping in Granite Falls after I get home. We went with Sofia, Owen, and Cora a few years ago, but Liana hasn’t been yet.”

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While Tobi whispered a quick translation for the children, Stefan watched with interest as an almost wistful look came to his grandfather’s face.

“Granite Falls…” Alex’s lips stretched into a smile. “Now that takes me back.” He laughed. “That place was always really special to my family. Jade and I even took Mari and her sisters there once. How old were you, honey?” He asked his daughter as she headed back toward the table. “Sixteen? Seventeen?”

Mari shrugged. “I think seventeen?” She replied weakly. “It was a long time ago.”

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“You never told us you went to Granite Falls, Mama.” Tobi said, surprised. “I would have loved to go when I was a kid… I’m sure Liana will love it, Josh.”

“I’m sure she will. Granite Falls played a part in your book, right, Mr. Rosebrook?” He smiled with chagrin. “Admittedly, I haven’t read it. I’m not much of a reader. But I’ve seen the movie, and Nora has talked my ear off about it enough.”

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“Oh God…” Alex laughed heartily. “Don’t get me started on that movie… My poor grandfather would be rolling in his grave if he ever saw that thing…”

Stefan could not help but notice the way his mother’s eyes narrowed when she sat back down beside her husband.

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As Alex continued his rant about the flaws in Dust to Dust’s film adaptation, a bit further down the table, word seemed to have reached Clara about Granite Falls.

“Granite Falls?!” The little girl’s cry caught the attention of everyone at the table. “I wanna go!”

Stefan heard Tobi mutter softly to Josh, resuming his role as interpreter.

“Maybe someday, Clara.” Mari smiled gently at her daughter.

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The little girl rose to her feet. “I betcha Josh would take me!” She looked down the table at the slightly bewildered man. “This is NO fair! I wish you were MY new Papa too.”

“Clara Elisabeth Klein!” In an instant, Mari was on her feet as well.

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Stefan felt his heart sink. Poor Clara… She doesn’t know what she’s saying. He just wished his mother could understand that too. “Mama…” He said softly.

Mari ignored her son. “What did you just say?” She asked Clara with narrowed eyes.

Jonas pushed his chair back from the table. “I think maybe it’s time to get ready for bed.” He said softly.

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Alex nodded as he rose from his chair, beckoning for his wife to do the same. “Whoever makes it up the stairs the quickest gets to pick the bedtime story!” He promised.

None of the children moved. “But we don’t wanna go to bed yet.” Lucas whined softly.

Beside him, his twin nodded eagerly. “We wanna stay and talk to Mr. Yuen!” Jocelyne agreed.

Across the table, Mari’s scowl darkened.

Stefan watched as Colette and Tobi exchanged a significant glance. “It’s getting late.” The young woman said gently. “And you have school tomorrow. Come on, let’s go upstairs.”

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“But maman…”

“Say goodnight to Mr. Yuen. I’m sure you’ll see him again before he heads back home.”

The twins sighed in resignation. “Goodnight, Mr. Yuen.” They each said in turn, pronouncing the English very carefully.

“Let’s go, Clara. You too.” Jonas said gently. He bent down and pressed his lips gently against the top of her head.

This time, the little girl did not argue. Sniffling softly, she wiped away a few of her tears and choked out a tiny “goodnight” of her own before joining Jocelyne and Lucas in the hallway. Colette, Alex, and Jade followed close behind.

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“Don’t worry about it, honey.” Jonas said gently, breaking the silence as he reached out a hand for his wife’s shoulder. “We both know she didn’t mean it.”

“Do we?” Mari countered sharply. “Because she’s been pretty damn obsessed about this guy ever since he got here…” Her eyes flicked toward Josh as she spoke.

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Jesus, Mama. He’s sitting right here… Not that he has any idea what’s going on. Stefan shook his head slightly. “Sorry.” He muttered softly to Josh as his mother and Jonas continued speaking in hushed tones. “Clara said she wished you were her new dad,” He explained. “And I guess Mama took it the wrong way…”

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Josh glanced over at Mari before looking back at Stefan and said in a hushed voice, “Well, shit, she’s only six. Your mother can’t seriously expect her to understand what’s going on, can she?”

“I know. This is just really hard for Mama, and I don’t think she’s –”

“Y’know, I do speak English, in case you’ve forgotten.” Mari’s harsh voice cut off her son’s words.

05-09-16_7-50-48 PM

Oh shit. “We know, but Mama…” He shrugged slightly. “Josh doesn’t speak German. Did you forget that?”

To his surprise, his mother’s face softened for a moment. “You’re right.” She agreed, almost reluctantly. “Sorry.” Mari muttered, turning her eyes to Josh at last. “I was just telling my husband that our daughter’s been going on and on about you, ever since you arrived.” Her tone was curt, and almost formal.

“I’m sorry I’m such a disturbance,” Josh said sincerely. He smiled, trying to alleviate the tension. “My youngest doesn’t really understand either; Liana thinks she has two moms now.”

05-09-16_7-52-08 PM

“Cute.” Mari almost sounded like she meant it. “Funny how some people don’t understand… One of each parent is all you need.” Her eyes narrowed as she spoke.

“Well, my lesbian aunt might disagree, but I got your point,” Josh said, a bite in his tone.

Both Tobi and Stefan looked helplessly at one another for a moment. He’s getting mad too… This isn’t gonna end well… Stefan felt his heart sink.

05-09-16_7-52-21 PM

It was like Jonas could read his mind. “Y’know, it’s getting pretty late, and Mari and I should really help put Clara to bed… Maybe it’s time for you two to take Josh back to his hotel.” He gave his stepsons a significant look.

Stefan didn’t need telling twice. He rose to his feet immediately, and beside him, Tobi and Josh did the same.

“Jonas is right.” Mari agreed. “I think it’s time for you to go.” It sounded almost like a threat.

05-09-16_7-55-53 PM

Josh narrowed his eyes at her. “Perhaps you’re right. I wouldn’t want to overstay my welcome, would I? You’ll have to thank your parents again for having me. Jonas, it was good to talk to you. I’d like to say the same of you, Mari, but I can’t.”

Stefan winced inwardly at Josh’s words. God, can’t they just leave this alone?

05-09-16_8-00-09 PM

“Wow.” Mari’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “Is that how all guests in America speak to their hosts?” She let out a short, bitter laugh.

“Oh, no.” Josh corrected her. “Just any host that acts like a raging bitch.” He snapped.

05-09-16_8-04-46 PM05-09-16_8-21-18 PM 05-09-16_8-16-14 PM 05-09-16_8-14-52 PM

Stefan had never heard a silence so absolute in his entire life. He felt like he was going to be sick. Did he SERIOUSLY just call my Mama a…?

Fuck.” Immediately, Josh’s expression turned horrified. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.”

05-09-16_8-38-51 PM

Mari shook her head slowly. It almost looked like someone had slapped her. “Yes, you did.” She managed to choke out. “Now get the fuck out of my house.”

05-09-16_8-45-06 PM

Color leeching out of his face, Josh backed towards the hall. “I really am sorry.”

“Please.” Jonas narrowed his eyes at the other man. “Just go.”

05-09-16_8-45-44 PM05-09-16_8-48-03 PM05-09-16_9-01-35 PM05-09-16_9-08-47 PM

They had barely made it over the threshold before the sound of Mari’s sobs reached their ears.

“Jesus, Josh.” Tobi hissed. “That’s our mother.”

05-09-16_9-10-18 PM

“Christ, I know.” Josh rubbed his face. “I’d deck anyone who called my mother a bitch. Feel free to take a swing at me.”

For one wild moment, Tobi almost looked tempted. But instead he simply walked toward the front door and out into the cool night air, Stefan and Josh following close behind.

None of them spoke the entire way to the hotel.

05-09-16_10-03-43 PM

It wasn’t until afterwards, on the long drive home, that Stefan finally found his voice.

“I’m sorry.” He said weakly. “This is all my fault. This whole dinner thing was a terrible idea… and I should never have talked everyone into it.”

Tobi did not immediately reply. “Maybe you shouldn’t have.” He said at last. “But you can’t blame yourself for this one…” The young man shook his head, tightening his grip on the steering wheel. “God, this is such a fucking mess.”

Stefan just sighed, dropping his face into his hands. “Tell me about it.”

05-09-16_10-07-52 PM

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All of Josh’s actions and dialogue were written by JoieWilder