A/N Just a little clippet. It's set in TIC during Book Three.
There's only one empty seat at the table, the seat between Billy Black and Jacob Black, and they're all waiting for Embry to take it. Embry Call has never felt so out of place in his entire life.
If you had asked him yesterday, you would have known that Embry had actually been excited about today, about the first time that he was going to sit down with his family, his true honest to goodness family, and have dinner. It was a common understanding that on Sunday afternoons no one bothered the Black family, because Sunday afternoons was for them and them alone. Even when Sarah Black had died, and later when Rachel and Rebecca had fled the reservation, fled the empty space that their mother had once filled, no one bothered Billy and Jacob Black on Sunday afternoons. It belonged to them, the Blacks, and them alone, and the whole reservation knew it. Which was why it was such a big damn deal that Billy had wheeled over to Embry at the last tribal meeting and asked him in front of the whole tribe if he was coming to dinner. Sunday dinner. With the Blacks.
Funny, but in all the times Embry had imagined his father publically acknowledging him, it had never involved pot roast.
So here he is in the Black family kitchen on a Sunday afternoon with his mother's macaroni and cheese casserole in his arms, because it's the only thing he knows how to cook without giving his family, his father, food poisoning. Embry's unfathomably, unreasonably embarrassed by his casserole, and is convinced that a better, more impressive bastard son would have least brought something with gravy. If it was just Billy (who was giving him an unreadable look) and Jake (who was giving him a sympathetic glance), then Embry would have been okay, but the twins are here and they are looking at him with matching expressions of doubt. One has driven from her home in Oregon and the other has flown from her home in Hawaii just for this, because Billy had said they needed to. For him. For their brother. No, not Jake. Their brother, Embry Call.
Embry Call looks nothing like his father and is not the son of their own dead mother and that makes him an outsider. An outsider to their little group, their little world. The eldest son and their new little brother and someone who had no right to be sitting where Jake had always sat, next to their father. But if they think it, they don't say it.
Embry contemplates throwing up and wonders if he could maybe just run away.
"Sit the hell down, Emb, and say grace 'cause I'm fucking hungry," Jake tells him, pulling out the chair and pointing at it, not bothering to hide the fact that it is an order. So Embry sits, his macaroni and cheese casserole dish clutched like a shield in front of his chest, and he forgets that it's supposed to be hot in his bare hands. He doesn't set it down because there's no room, and this is Sunday dinner at the Blacks and intruders don't just sit their peace offerings down wherever they feel like it. There's a protocol to these things, not that Embry knows what they are, his Sunday dinners were spent at Quil's house because Embry's mom was too broke for weekends off, and later she didn't really want to be around him anyways.
There's a rumor that says the day Sarah Black found out about Billy Black's multiple marital affairs was the day she wrecked her car from driving so distraught. The truth is that a semi-truck with a sleepy driver can destroy an economy car any day of the week, and Sarah had known years ago what Billy had done. If Embry had been coming to family dinners the last seven years, he would have understood the only Black incapable of forgiveness is Billy himself, even if this is awkward as hell for everyone.
Rebecca rolls her eyes and holds out her hands. "Here, Embry, give me that," she says, looking a little annoyed, and Embry tries not to cringe before the annoyance of a sister, not when another one is staring him down.
Rebecca waggles her hands at him, and Jake snickers when Embry doesn't move fast enough and Rebecca reaches over the pot roast and takes the casserole from him. Since there's no longer a food product to hide behind, Embry sinks a little lower in his chair, absolutely hating the fact that he is between his Alpha and their…their father. They are all looking at him, even Rebecca as she scoops half of the macaroni and cheese into a smaller bowl that will fit on the table, and when Rebecca sits back down and stares at him too, Embry realizes that he's supposed to say something.
"I forgot the salt," Embry blurts out, because really, if they are braving his cooking, they should know such things.
Jake snickers and Rachel snorts, and Embry tries to disappear under the table, but Billy gives them all a disapproving look. "As the eldest son, you say grace, Embry," Billy says calmly in his gravelly voice, and Embry stares at them all in horror. He has prayed many times, hell he's prayed for this very day to happen a hundred times, but never once when anyone could hear him.
"Nineteen years and my ass had to say grace every Sunday," Jake grins at him unapologetically. "Your turn, now, big bro."
Big bro. That felt distressingly wrong when all Embry wanted to do was phase wolf and hide under his Alpha's chair.
"Stop teasing him, brat," Rachel finally says, the first thing he's heard out of her since she opened the door to let him into their territory. She hadn't looked happy then and she didn't look happy now, but at least her less than pleased expression is turned Jake's way. "Have some manners, and don't say 'ass' at the table."
"Says the girl that just said ass at the table," Jake snickers, flicking a pea at Rachel's face and it hits her square in the nose. She goes three shades of red, kind of like Paul used to when they were younger, and she opens her mouth to tell him off. The Alpha obviously knows this is coming and has a second pea ready and waiting and it nails her in the back of the throat as she inhales to speak.
Embry is supposed to say grace but instead he knocks over the pot roast as he jumps up and darts around the table, because one of his sisters, his sisters, is choking. Jake will maintain for the rest of his life that right or wrong, it was one hell of a shot. In the meantime Jake curses and jumps up too, and Rebecca starts screaming at them both as they try to help Rachel, Jake slapping her hard on the back until Embry shoves him over and does his best to give Rachel the Heimlich maneuver without crushing half of her ribs. Jake calls him a suck up, and Embry's not exactly sure what he did wrong, but when Rebecca finally coughs up the pea and it lands right in the middle of the mashed potatoes, Rebecca calls them both assholes and runs out of the room and into the back.
Billy hands his now breathing daughter a glass of water, and after waiting to make sure that Rachel is in fact okay, he wheels back to retrieve Rebecca, who has been crying in the bathroom. Her eyeliner is running and she is glaring at all of them, but Rachel is only glaring at Jake, and Billy seems calm as can be as if this is entirely normal. Embry's starting to figure out why no one's allowed at the Black home around Sunday dinner time.
"Embry, say grace, please," Billy says again, and Embry swallows uncomfortably.
"Chicken," Jake mutters under his breath and Embry gives him an annoyed look.
"Sister killer," Embry murmurs back, and two people kick him under the table with matching sized feet. Wolf or not, heels into shins hurt, and Embry yelps at the dual attack.
Rachel gives him an apologetic smile. "Sorry, wrong leg," she says, and then Jake curses as Rachel kicks again.
Billy Black clears his throat. "Embry."
And Embry is suddenly praying for all he's worth, because his father is giving him the same look that Jake's been getting for years, and the Alpha seems to be enjoying Embry's stuttering far more than Jake should be allowed to enjoy it. Embry gives thanks for his dojo, and his truck, and his home, because those are the things he's too broke to get another one if he loses them. He gives thanks for his friends, and his tribe, and his girlfriend, because he doesn't know what he'll do if he ever lost any of them. And then he gives thanks for his family, all of them, because he always has, whether they had wanted him or not.
The prayer drifts off, and Embry mumbles "Rubadubdub, thanks for the grub." It's not the best ending of a grace, but it's the best he can do.
No one says anything, and when Embry looks up, he sees pain on Jake's face. Embry's prayed a lot, if never in front of anyone, and maybe the part where he prayed for his family rolled off his tongue a little too easily. Cut a little too close to home. Rebecca doesn't look at the mashed potatoes when she starts spooning them out on everyone's plates and she ends up giving Jake the pea of suffocation. Embry finds this poetic in its justice.
"So, Embry," Rachel asks as she passes the pot roast plate to everyone but Jake. "What do you do now?"
"Kicks some ass and takes some names," Jake supplies around a mouthful of food, and Embry normally eats as fast, but Billy is watching him and Embry feels like he should say something better, something worthy of making Billy proud.
Embry opens his mouth, but Rachel glares at Jake. "Sheesh, let him talk, brat."
"What?" Jake asks innocently, his words muffled. "How am I the brat? Rebecca called him an asshole and you tried to die. He's scared to talk to both of you now, and he hasn't even seen you two without makeup yet." The Alpha shot Embry a smirk and swallowed. "Now that's scary, dude."
"Jacob Black, I did not fly for eight hours yesterday for you to be an annoying little pric-"
"Rebecca," Billy rumbles, raising his coffee cup to his lips, and she immediately looks chastised.
"Sorry dad," she mutters, glaring at Jake, who grins toothily back. And then she kicks him, but misses and ends up kicking Embry, who is tempted to kick her back. Instead he eats some peas and cringes because he may have forgotten salt in his casserole, but Rachel has done something to these peas that is just unfathomable.
Embry tries to cover the burning in his mouth by drinking his glass of water, and then when the real pain sets in, he whimpers as softly as he can. Billy suddenly shoots him a grin that mirrors Embry's Alpha's smile and claps him on the back. "Be a man, boy, and let it out."
"That's…that's really hot!" Embry mumbles, flushing and hopping to his feet, hurrying over to the sink with his glass.
"Don't worry, enough meals with us and it won't bother you anymore," Jake assures him. "Rach thinks hot sauce is ketchup, and habanero chilies are tomatoes. I stopped being able to taste anything years ago."
"Which explains a lot more than you'd think," Embry decides, now slugging his fourth glass of water. Rachel snorts and shares a grin with Rebecca.
"It's not that bad, Embry. Stop being a pussy," Rachel snickers, and Billy gives her a look. "Sorry dad," she adds, not half as contritely as Rebecca had been.
"Yeah, Embry, stop being a pussy," Jake teases, and Billy smiles slightly at his son's words.
Rachel's eyes widen and her voice raises an octave as she rounds on their, their, father. "What the hell, dad? Jake can say shit but we can't? When did that become a rule?"
"Aww, didn't you know, Rach? You and Rebs are just too pretty and delicate and feminine," Jake teases mercilessly, stuffing peas into his own mouth despite instantly watering eyes. "How are we ever gonna marry you off like Rebs if you curse like a sailor? You'll be a babyless spinster forever."
Rebecca starts laughing, but Rachel shrieks and throws her fork at Jake, which he ducks casually as Billy sighs and mutters, "Here we go again."
"When, you bratty little shit," Rachel snarls, standing up and brandishing her fork. "Did a woman's worth become entirely dependent on her ability to get married to some asshole and become a broodmare? Huh?"
"You don't see Rebecca complaining," Jake chuckles, and Embry watches in shock as Rachel punches his Alpha as hard as she can. Instead of letting her break her hand, Jake barks out a laugh and ducks, wrapping one large arm around her waist and hauling her over, hugging her tightly even as Rachel pulls at his hair vindictively.
"Do you know why Oregon is cool, Jake?" Rachel snaps, clawing her way free. "Because you're not there."
"Of course I am, Rach," Jake declares cheerfully. "You just never see me. I spy on you all the time, you and your little boyfriend too. By the way, hairy Italian guys? Kinda gross, sis. But I guess it's better than hairless surfer boys, like Rebs prefers. Kinda weird, a girl wanting a guy with less body hair than her…"
At which point all hell breaks loose, and Billy pretends to be both blind and deaf as he too chokes down his peas and then starts in on Embry's macaroni and cheese casserole. Embry isn't sure who is louder or higher pitched, but Jake seems to be happy as a clam in between the yelling females, and every once in a while Jake gives the older wolf a wink.
Embry has been taught to always clean his plate, so after ducking a flailing elbow he sits back down next to his father, takes a bite of peas, and then manages to swallow these down with minimal whimpering. Rachel is telling Jake that he has no clue how much bikini waxes hurt, and Rebecca is crying because she'd actually found a hair, one single little hair, on her ass the other day and she thinks it means that she's now the nasty hairy woman from La Push. She hasn't worn a bathing suit since. Rachel thinks Jake is an asshole for making Rebecca cry, and Jake thinks Rachel is an asshole for making Rebecca cry first, and really Rebs, as long as a girl didn't have a completely hairy ass, it was okay. Right Embry?
And once again, they were all looking at him, staring at him, waiting for him to say something. Waiting for Embry to say something. Waiting…
Embry isn't good with words, not around people that mean a lot to him, a family he's never gotten the chance to know. Hell, his girl is the only one he's ever been able to successfully explain how he felt to, and he was sure that in this case, there was no way he could do the same. Embry didn't think a woman had to be married to be worthwhile, that was bullshit. Embry liked strong women, always had, always will. He didn't think that anyone should curse at the dinner table, especially not on a Sunday. He was kinda of freaked out by a hairy butted girl, but no one was perfect, and if it was only one hair then he was pretty sure that Rebecca's husband wouldn't care. Pluck the sucker and move on.
None of these things were easy to say. So Embry did the only thing he could.
Jake ends up looking pretty astonished when his chair gets kicked out from under him, and his remaining pot roast hits his lap, but Rachel is laughing and Rebecca stops crying and starts laughing instead and Billy mixes peas in with macaroni and cheese casserole to see if the two evened each other out. The Alpha finishes his meal on the floor, and then promptly tries to toss Embry out in the back yard and beat him to a brotherly pulp. It was kind of fun, especially since Embry was a black belt and knew a good amount of jiujutsu and Jake was taking an ass whooping to make his…no their sisters laugh anyways.
Jake calls uncles and after Embry stops pretending not to hear him, they go inside where Billy is watching a football game. Rachel and Jake end up fighting again, but Rebecca doesn't care about football, and she's tired from jet lag, and she falls asleep against Embry's shoulder. They still don't know what to think about him, but they are trying, and as Billy snores in his reclining chair, Embry decides that it's more than he had ever believed he would get. Embry's team loses, but he holds very still so not to disrupt his sleeping sister, and for a guy who's never had a family besides a bitter lonely mother who didn't like him that much anyways, it was…more than he had hoped for. His father wakes up and asks Embry to change the channel and calls Embry 'son' as he does so, and in the middle of the Doritos commercial it's just too much.
No one says anything when Embry starts crying, even though they are silent tears and he wipes them away as fast as he can. He's a man after all, and he's allowed body hair and cursing, but not tears. He goes home that night for the first time smelling of family, not just Pack, and his girl gently teases him about smelling like perfume too. As they hold each other tight, she asks how it went, and he smiles against her skin.
They ate all of Embry's macaroni and cheese casserole. Even without the salt.