"Bye Sweetie," I sighed as Rayne left my office. She was the fifth family member to visit me that day, and not one of them had been happy.
Rachel was concerned that with winter coming quickly, the silo would be too cold for her baby, who was due in February. Rob was already adding extra insulation in their quarters and the common areas, but Rachel had still come to me about it. Jess said it was a mother's protective instinct. I was as thrilled as anyone about the new addition to the clan, but the extra responsibility of caring for a baby was weighing on me. An infant could cry at any time, possibly putting our entire band of rebels in danger with the noise. Not to mention, babies needed diapers. Bottles. Warmth. Tons of clothes to keep up with their rapidly growing bodies. And baby-proofing a missile silo was impossible. Already I'd gone toe-to-toe with Dawn, who had insisted on me buying or stealing all types of prenatal care equipment, including an ultrasound machine, which had been no small task. The big event was four months away, but Rachel, Dawn, Rob, and even Jess were beyond anxious to give the baby a proper home, and the sooner the better. Just thinking about it was exasperating me.
Next had been Johnny and Davy, two men who frightened me in no small measure. They had both been angry at Rob, who had been on their bad side ever since Rob had made it clear that Rachel was off-limits the night they'd all met. Even these two muscular, lumberjack rednecks were wary of Rob and his intense protectiveness of Rachel, which had only increased after their marriage and the announcement of the little one on the way. Apparently Rob's working hours did not coincide with the twins sleeping hours, and since they were only one floor apart in the apartment silo, noise travelled too well for the twins comfort. They left only slightly appeased when I told them I would ask Rob to keep the noise to a minimum.
Right on the twins heels had been Eric who was concerned about the winter food situation. He, Sean, and Nate had researched how to keep our little family self-sufficient, just in case something ever happened to me, but their idea for a Tilapia pond with duckweed and a garden irrigation system was far beyond anything I'd ever imagined we'd need to do and I knew that hauling a few hundred live, foreign fish into a tiny town in Colorado would leave me in no small amount of trouble with observant people like Andrew around. He had not been pleased when I told him I didn't have time to smuggle those types of supplies in and had left in a huff.
So it was with a grumpy sigh that I called for yet another interruption to come on in. At the sight of my daughter I instantly relaxed and broke into a smile. Rayne could cheer me up anytime, even after pregnancy hormones, the terrible twos, and Mr. Bait and Tackle. Unfortunately, my smile was short lived as she immediately pulled her face into a pout and began to relate a dramatic story of half-truths, ending in her dolls being mauled and manhandled by Nate who was trying to go Chucky on the rest of the family for Halloween. She then demanded new dolls for her upcoming birthday, and for once she sounded like the eight-year-old she was. At my stern look she apologized and amended her story, sheepishly admitting that the prank had been her idea and she had been excited about it until Nate took a Sharpie to Misty, Sunny, and Stormy. I ordered her to find her Grandpa Sarge for punishment—I knew he would get her back in line quickly and I didn't want my small irritation with her to cause me to take an entire mornings frustrations out on her.
The last year, and especially in the past month since my marriage, I had determined that it was easy being a Soul when everyone around you was also a Soul, but being the only Soul in a compound of paranoid, cooped up, short-tempered humans required more patience than even I had. I hid my frustration well, but it was there beneath the surface all the same. With the most important farm work done for the season my local Soul acquaintances were under the impression that I had moved back to Boulder to resume my grounds keeping job at CU for the winter, when really I had just gone underground with the rest of the family. I "visited" Deer Trail often to keep my farm in order and prepare for spring, but as far as they knew, I was sleeping 150 miles away, which allowed me to live with my family rather than above them. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but now my only reprieve came from Jess and our apartment with a bedroom door that locked. In there I was simply a husband and she simply a wife. The compound was beginning to feel like a prison, but my Jess was still and would always be the Healer of my heart. Like no one else, she put me at ease and made me forget the trials of the life I had chosen. It was all worth it for her and Rayne.
I had just sat down for the 5th time that day when the office door opened without so much as a knock. I looked up, prepared to spear the invader with evil eyes, but I quickly abandoned that move when I saw Jess sashaying toward me, a vision in pink. I tore my eyes away from her nicely accentuated curves and looked at her face. She was smiling serenely and my former frustrations were all forgotten as she settled herself in my lap.
"Why the pretty dress?" I asked, leaving a lingering kiss on her lips.
She smiled into my eyes and rubbed her soft hand over my stubble. "I just felt like it." I just nodded. Rob had warned me that women thought differently than men, and whatever propelled her to dress for the prom was beyond me but I wasn't complaining.
"How has your day been?" I asked as I caressed the soft satin that was her cheek.
"Better than yours I'm guessing. I just talked to Rachel. And Rob. And the twins. And Sarge." As my mouth formed a frown she leaned down to kiss it away, but I pulled back in puzzlement, "Sarge? What was his problem? I just sent Rayne to him for punishment."
"Dawn." She sighed.
Oh. No explanation needed. Ever since Dawn had saved Sarge's life, the two of them argued about everything. Sarge was no longer able to outrun or outfight the younger men in the family, and he blamed Dawn's healing skills rather than his increasing age and stupidity in getting shot. Dawn was not the type to step down, though, and she constantly irritated Sarge, not only reminding him that she had saved his life, but also that he was an old, grumpy man. I avoided any room where the two of them were together.
"He's just going to have to accept that he's not the young man he used to be." I sighed, breathing in her floral scent. "But you are a very nice surprise. To what or whom do I owe the pleasure?"
Jess produced a very out-of-character coy smile and leaned in close, "Does a wife need a reason to visit her husband?"
She interrupted my answer with a kiss, and for a moment I forgot about everything except the wonderful woman in my arms. When she got up and led me out of the room, I followed without question, simply wanting to be in her presence. She led me out of the office and down the tunnel toward Rayne's playplace. With her in front of me, my eyes were on the way her hips swayed as she walked rather than what was around me, so when the shout of "Surprise" came up from my family, I jumped in shock. Surprise for what? I searched the room and found a hand-drawn banner that was covered in Rayne's careful lettering.
My confusion was interrupted by Nate coming toward me and giving me a huge bear hug.
"Dude," he proclaimed, "we made it a whole year. And it's all thanks to you."
My mind traced back over the last year and I realized that he was right. One year ago today I had smuggled Nate to my house. One year ago today I had decided to help the humans. One year ago today my life had changed forever. I was speechless by their grand show of appreciation, and even more so when Eric yelled "Come and get it!" from the cafeteria.
A meal that put my human memories of Thanksgiving to shame was laid out on a large table buffet style. The whole room was decorated in gaudy crepe paper and balloons, clearly the work of the twins, Rayne, and Nate. A handmade card signed by each of them was pushed into my hands, the artwork on the front was without a doubt done by my wife and said "Our Soul to keep."
I was overwhelmed. Such a show of affection affected me greatly and I found myself wiping tears from my eyes. Even Eric was smiling.
Jess leaned toward me and smiled, "The whole morning we've been trying to distract you so we could get this all set up."
"You guys need to learn how to distract me better. Couldn't you have sent me to town or something?" I groaned, now seeing all the petty complaints for the playacting it was.
"Oh no, this was much more fun." Nate declared, "I was watching from the surveillance room the whole time, you were about to explode." He laughed, clearly pleased with himself for getting under my skin. "Now let's get this party started!" He exclaimed, grabbing Rayne and leading them both in a funny little jig. "I call dibs on a corner piece of the cake!"
I didn't know how to express my gratitude, my love, to these people. Seeing a glass of cider in front of me I grabbed it and picked it up.
"To family and freedom." I said, raising it above my head.
"To family and freedom." They all echoed. A warm feeling filled my heart as I looked around. We were a motley group of misfits who rarely all got along, but I would give my life for any of them, and I knew without a doubt that they would do the same for me.
We were family.
End: Part 3