Back in the underground cavern of Mistress Wise
Caine, Jupiter and the rest of the pack sit on the floor of the miniature forest at the Mistress's feet as she tells them what she didn't have the heart to explain before.
"When I found out what he was doing, I had to stop him. When he came back from the war, he was an entirely different person calling himself Deep Echo. My student was dead to me. His splicing turned to cruel experiments. Caine wasn't the first he tried unusual genome sequencing with. But he was the only survivor because I intervened. I splashed Echo's experiment on him and quickly corrected the genome sequence so Caine would be healthy.
When Caine was kidnapped, we knew who did it - but had no way of tracking him. I am sorry that my former student made yer life pure hell so many times. I also had hoped the litter I placed ye with would accept ye." Tears trickle down her cheek and Caine humbly stands, putting a hand on hers, kissing her arthritic knuckles to comfort her as she struggles through the rest. "It was so hard to watch as they instinctively knew ye were from a different batch. But if I would have ever said anything, they would've killed ye."
"You were always there to stick up for me, to show me how to defend myself and survive. Her Majesty told me once that healing doesn't mean that the bad didn't happen, but that it doesn't control us anymore." He gives her hand a squeeze.
Dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief, she smiles to let him know she's going to be alright. "To see how far ye've come. Married to a royal. A son on the way. And look at this fine pack ye command. No other pack is so rich in diversity and so flexible in culture. My home is always open to all of ye - especially in time of need."
Chymera scoots up next to her feet, "And the same goes for you Mistress. You're an honorary part of the pack now."
She ruffles his hair good naturedly, "Thank ye, young one. Thank ye all."
Before they leave, the pack asks if the Mistress would like for them to locate any of her other splices to encourage them to come home. She'll seriously consider it.
Chouli's palace, the night before the wedding
"Dear Jupiter, I know you're concerned even though you haven't said a word. But know that this is the last century of my life. I'd always wanted to run off and do a few wild things just because I'd had to be so proper. Marrying Titus is part of my rebellion. He's devilishly handsome and it's in our prenuptials that he'll tell me everyday how he's madly in love with me."
"He should be after all! But how did you get him to agree to anything?" Jupiter laughs at her friend's audacity.
"I dangled the deed to a galaxy in front of me while I stood naked in his room. It was a bit chilly, but ever so worth it."
Two months later Jupiter is officially adopted by Chouli and installed as the Second Primary in the House of Risa - coming into her inheritance of half of Chouli's holdings including the palace on Orus, three galaxies, six planets, a spice mining colony and the deeds to several splicers' work.
The pack continues to grow by leaps and bounds, and protects Jupiter and Caine from several assassination attempts. Jupiter and her brand of equality politics are becoming far too powerful in the eyes of some. Giving a splice, husband or not, a planet of his own is viewed by some as complete sacrilege.
The media has an odd fixation for her simple country folk like family turned elite. Vladie seems to make the news most often of them all with wild antics. Jupiter's mother chooses to stay out of the spotlight as much as possible. She's had several gentlemen attempt to court her, but she turns them all down - remembering the short joy she had with her dear Max.
Jupiter's waves are spreading in the 'verse. It's even become vogue among some of the entitled to try a few chores here and there just for character building. She just hopes the changes are enough to make a better life for the ones she loves.
A little less than 5 months later 3 am
"Caine? Caine wake up!"
"Ugnnn. What is it Jupe?" he grumpily rubs his eyes.
"I think my water just broke and the contractions aren't just every hour or so. They're every little bit now. It's time!" Jupiter pants through the current spasm.
Bolting awake, Caine is shaking with adrenaline as he clumsily tries to throw on his trousers. Fumbling for the tag at the back of is neck, he activates thought sharing. 'Damn zipper.' Even his thoughts are shaky as he addresses the pack, 'Her Majesty says it's time. Freyl contact Dr. Mezzari and come down here to help Jupiter.'
'Calm down and finish getting your pants on, pup. Those thoughts are leaking through and that's not something we don't need to know,' Chymera teases poor Caine.
Freyl and Lyle had warned Caine that Jupiter would be very cranky though the pain. But it was still terribly shocking to see his normally patient and disarming mate become something completely different - almost scary, even.
She grouched at him to hold her hand and count. When he got distracted by the doctor's words and stopped counting to ten, she actually yelled at him, "Damn it, Caine! Count!" And he never thought she'd be strong enough to crush his hand as he held hers through the contractions. She even swore at him several times telling him this was all his fault.
Freyl has to take him aside and assure him this is normal and all would be back to normal after the baby arrives. She just needs the anger to help push. It's all perfectly natural and quite subdued compared to most lycantant births. To convince him of this, Freyl confesses to having punched Lyle across the room during Kayda's birth.
So Caine sucks it up and simply takes the blame, replying, "Yes Your Majesty," every time Jupiter fusses. His feelings are such a jumbled range of being afraid for Jupiter and the baby to overwhelming pride. Those words he'd said a million times before are all he can manage and a comfort for them both.
Six hours later... Hearing the first whimper and snuffle, his attention is now glued to the small, squirmy, wet slime covered, little bawling being in Dr. Mezzari's hands, then transferred to Jupiter's chest where the little one begins to suckle greedily.
Offering the cord to Caine, Dr. Mezzari asks, "Would you like to do the honors?"
Jupiter interrupts as Caine hesitantly opens his mouth and lifts the soft tissue, "I don't care if it's pack tradition. If you ever want to kiss me again, Caine - you won't bite through that cord."
Freyl snorts trying to hold back her laugh and Dr. Mezzari in his unflappable manner hands Caine a pair of surgical scissors.
After the baby is cleaned up and Jupiter is taken care of, Freyl suggests that Caine lay beside Jupiter on the bed as she sets the little bundle in between the royal couple for their first good look at their son. Caine and Jupiter both take in the wonder of this new life and his beautiful round face with Jupiter's dark eyes - still blue but so dark they'll turn brown, and Caine's strong jawline and white blonde fuzz on his head and ears. Jupiter strokes the peach fuzz soft hair and smiles at Caine. To her, Caine's stupid happy grin in return was worth all the pains of the birth struggle.
With a full tummy, snuggled in between his parents in warmed blankets the baby's little eyes close and he gives a huge wild sounding yawn for such a tiny guy.
Upon the birth of their son, Jaise (a mix of Jupiter and Caine's first and last names) Polaris (representing that the couple has their internal compass correct now) Jones-Wise, Jupiter commissions royal portraits of the prince with all his pack members. The size of the group almost sends the chronicler into a conniption fit. But the pack is quite well behaved after a few stern looks from Caine. Only one image has fingers up in bunny ears and moose horns behind Jupiter and Caine's heads.
Mistress Wise makes a historic trip from her home to visit her honorary grandson. She hasn't left her home since Caine was born.
After several attempts, Jupiter has to pull in every favor she was ever owed to help the planet of Windraven become a full member in the Commonwealth. But the Ravenite joy and gratefulness is more than thanks to her. She and the Royal family join the month long celebration.
Windraven officially adopts Earth as it's sister planet. (Before it had been in word only because both planets were under Jupiter's care.) In only a few decades, the Ravenites are able to speed along Earth's technology and governing system. It won't be long until Earth can defend itself from possible attacks. Humans and the Ravenites establish the first joint colony on Mars and begin terraforming the desolate planet.
Jupiter and Caine eventually resettle on a small planet in an empty galaxy with their large family and very extended pack - since it takes that much space for their continually expanding following. The pack is the largest in recorded history and Jupiter's adversaries fear with her popularity that she may run for President of the 'Verse. She doesn't speak her mind on the matter, just to keep them on their toes. But she won't, she's got more than she can handle as it is and is training her replacement in the senate. She and Caine want to step down from the public eye. They've served the good of the 'verse for most of their lives now. It's time for them to pick their own destiny.