~The Binding~

Chapter 23

Hanging up the phone, she turned and shrugged her shoulders. "Wrong number," Bron mumbled to Suzie.

"Yeah sure it is but you had better tell Kevin about it." Suzie ventured where she thought she shouldn't but Bron would ignore it.

"I will," she answered as the phone rang again. "Hello, Merry Christmas."

Suzie snickered, Bron was being perky, it just wasn't her style. She watched Bron talk and walk to the window. The men were running for the tree line. Nick rolled in the snow and hid behind a tree. Bron was laughing, he should have picked a tree that was fatter than the sapling he was trying to hide behind. "Yes MeeMaw, I know that you are coming over today and that it is tradition. I know you wanted to do Christmas dinner but Kevin wanted it here with us." Bron rolled her eyes and pointed to the window.

Moving from her chair, Suzie joined her at the counter. They quietly laughed as the adult men became superheroes. Kevin and Nick were really into it. Shaking her head, Bron turned away as they disappeared into the trees. "Yes, I'll see you then." Disconnecting the call, it rang again before she had a chance to place the telephone back on the charger. "Hello."

Suzie watched Bron's face cloud over sadly. She wasn't talking just listening. Suzie reached the phone only to have Bron turn her back and cover the microphone with her hand. "Kaylin, your grandpa is on the phone!" Bron shouted and waited by the doorway for Kaylin to race in, which she did. Grabbing the telephone, she stood in front of her mother.

"Why do you still let them get to you?" Suzie whispered.

"I don't really have a choice, they are her grandparents." Bron listened while she worked at getting the dinner ready. The conversation was geared towards a seven year old. Bounce rattled off the list of gifts that Santa had brought her and Bron's face soured as she eavesdropped. "And Andrew got a gun."

"Whoa," Bron grabbed the telephone and listened to the man yell at her.

"It's paint gun!" Bron shouted back into the telephone. "Nothing real. C.W's are locked up until he is old enough to handle them properly."

Suzie studied Bron's reaction and waited for the inevitable slam that these people still managed to give Bron. Predictably, Bron's mood changed rapidly and then the flash of anger followed by a profound darkness seemed to take over her confidant. "It's in the papers, wonderful. Yes I'm coming home, you know I have too. Yes, he is coming with me, he's my husband. I really don't care if you like him or not." Bron slammed the phone down and looked at Bounce. "GO PLAY!" Bron yelled at her.

Kaylin took it in stride as she watched her mother become upset. "It's okay Mom, if they don't like Dad, they're just being jerks." Kaylin marched off in a huff.

"Oh shit, I shouldn't have yelled at her or had that conversation in front of her."

"They really didn't give you an option nor do they ever." Suzie followed Kaylin to have a talk with her since Bron was obviously not up to it.

Kaylin played with the monstrous dollhouse that was twice the size of her. Chatting away with Barbie, Suzie listened. "It's okay Barbie, they're jerks. Dad is great and I love him. He told me that he would always be my Dad no matter what people say."

Suzie smiled and walked away. Going back into the kitchen, she watched Bron chop vegetables with a vengeance. She would keep what she had heard to herself and maybe talk to Kevin about it later. Cooper moved in his infant seat in the middle of the kitchen table. The mood of Christmas day had been lost and Suzie hoped it was temporary.

The telephone rang again and Bron stared at it. "Let the machine get it. I don't feel like talking to anyone."

"You do know that they don't have to accept or like Kevin. You married him. Kaylin is happy and Andrew is happy." Turning she looked at Cooper who was starting to drift off to sleep. "Cooper looks very happy."

"Yeah, we're all happy," The caustic remark flew out of her mouth before she could stop it. "I'm sorry, you didn't deserve that. They upset me every time. Even long distance."

"Let it go," Suzie grabbed a paring knife and began to chop carrots. "Your daughter is very smart. I just heard her tell Barbie that her Dad is great and she loves him."

A small smile dared to cross Bron's lips. "She adores him. For a while I didn't think it was going to work out, but it has, hasn't it?"

"It has, now don't let people who have no bearing on your life interfere. Besides you have to be in a good mood when they come back."

"I do?" Bron questioned as she quirked an eyebrow at her friend.

"Yes, it's Christmas and you are a sentimental suck." Suzie laughed.

"I am not," Bron smiled. Suzie had her pegged. "Let's put him down for a nap. While this is cooking, I think we should go load up the new software." An evil grin replaced the smile she was wearing.

"You are going to get in so much trouble with that."

"I know! I can't wait!" Bron picked Cooper up, let out a low whistle and the dogs charged to her.

Suzie groaned, "Here comes the spit brigade."

"Stop, you love them." Bron laughed.

"Like hell I do," Suzie groaned as Justin looked at her with a huge string of spit running from his mouth to the floor. "Ecck," she rolled her eyes.

Walking to the living room, Kaylin was happily playing. Bron muttered something and Justin bounded down into the pit. Crawling up on the couch, he laid down with his head on his paws. Wrinkles showing and big brown eyes shone back at her. Bron laughed, "If Kevin comes, get off the couch. Besides, he feeds you from the table and he isn't supposed to." Justin thumped his tail and let out a low woof.

Suzie's head went back and forth. Justin had just been put on guard duty with Kaylin. This was a first, Bron was really nervous.

"Come on Brit, time to go to work." Bron carried Cooper up the stairs. Suzie watched as Bron was followed by a dog that weighed almost two hundred pounds and it's head was even with her waist as they walked. Bron's hand dropped down and she rubbed the dog's head. "You're a good girl." They rounded the corner at the top of the landing.

"Justin don't eat Barbie." Kaylin grabbed the doll that the dog had managed to steal from the table.

"Good thing her name isn't Britney," Suzie giggled as she went up to the offices. Bron would join her as soon as Cooper was put down and Brit was put on guard duty. Admitting that she was a little shocked, she had never seen Bron more or less post the dogs on guard duty but she could see how it would be useful and more comfortable for everyone. Not many people would want to approach a child when they had to go through two hundred pounds of fur and snarling teeth. Suzie's mind whipped back to Stevie, the dogs hated him. "Smart dogs, they knew before us."

"What?" Bron charged into the reception area of the offices to hear Suzie talking to herself.

"Nothing," Suzie ambled behind Bron as Bron sat at her computer.

They installed the software, played with it a little, read the manual, played some more. The nice interlude was broken when Kevin's voice boomed over the intercom. "Where's dinner?"

Bron looked at her watch, "Shit!"

Suzie was right behind her as they ran down the stairs. They froze in the kitchen. "What the hell?" were the first words to come out of Bron's mouth.

"Oh my God!" Suzie stood glued to her spot. "We have to catch a plane."

Andrew was laughing, Keith was laughing, Kevin was trying not to laugh. When his wife turned her eyes on him, he quickly closed his mouth and placed his hands in the air. She was ready to let him have it and he knew it.

Bron's mouth fell open and she reached to slap Kevin who had his hands in the air. "How dare you! Do you know how dangerous that was? Look at him! He has to go to Boston to be with her family! Did you even think about how you could have hurt him?"

Kevin's eyes tripled in size as it hit him like a brick. Bron was yelling at him as loud as she could. The guys were laughing, Suzie even started to grin. Swallowing, he dared to answer her, "He's not ours, he's a big boy, you can get out of the Mommy mode now."

A whack on the head stunned him as he grabbed her arm and glared at Bron. "Don't hit me! I'll hit you back!"

"You are an idiot; that was dangerous and stupid!" Bron was getting louder and louder.

"How do you know it was me? Why is it every time Little Man gets hurt, I get blamed for it?"

Bron fumed while she looked back and forth between the two.

It took a minute for what was going on to sink in Nick's head. Once it did he replied quietly, "He almost took my eye out," but hid the smirk.

Kevin's face contorted through ten faces of anger before his hand shot out and he grabbed Nick by the shoulder. "You close it right now!"

Nick laughed.

"Come on Nicky, let's see if we can try and get some of that off!" Bron slapped Kevin's hand way. "Bully!"

Nick laughed again until Kevin's eyes landed on him, then it became a quiet snicker. Kevin was now in the doghouse with Bron and he was the cause.

Suzie couldn't make up her mind, whether she was pissed off that her boyfriend had a blue paint stain in the center of his forehead and now resembled Papa Smurf or laugh because Bron was playing mother hen.

"I wanna eat!" Kevin barked as Bron led Nick out of the room by his hand.

"Well too bad! You should've been more responsible. Shooting at people, you're sick." Bron's stomach turned, all she could think about was C.W. and she was sure that Kevin hadn't or he wouldn't have pulled such a stupid stunt.

"It didn't hurt much just sort of jolt but it really stung. I wanted to cry!" Nick tossed in some comments and winked at Kevin. Kevin's chair scrapped across the slate tile. Nick ducked thinking Kevin was going to come after him.

Walking up to her bedroom, she stopped in the laundry room and then proceeded to her bedroom. "Kevin is an idiot."

Nick saw the hurt that Kevin had missed. "Aww, we were just playin'. Don't bust his nuts for that."

"Nick, it's wrong, screwing around with guns, paint or otherwise gets people hurt." Grabbing the bottle that she had brought from the laundry she dabbed some on a tissue and then sprinkled water from the faucet on the tissue as well. Reaching up to Nick's face she couldn't reach. "Stoop down here. You damn people are all too tall."

She dabbed the tissue on his forehead where it was obvious that Kevin had taken careful aim. Bron didn't say anything and could only imagine what horseplay had gone on. Now she would confiscate the so called toys. "There you go."

"Damn that stings, what is that?" Nick looked in the mirror and sighed as the blue mark disappeared as he dabbed at it with the tissue.

"A fifty-fifty blend of bleach and water. Sometimes at work I get stuff that is impossible to get off. I use this."

"Now let's go eat. I'm sure my husband has managed to work himself up enough to blast both of us. Me for playing Mommy and you for sucking up the attention." Bron smiled and squeezed his hand. "I'm glad you came. She was missing you and seemed very lonely even though we're all here."

"I'm glad I came too," Nick smiled. "I could use a hug every day."

Bron groaned as they walked down the stairs as Nick borrowed some of Kevin's old lines.

Walking into the dining room, the table setting had been finished. All of the food had been moved to the table. Kevin was silent as she sat down at the table. Grabbing her hand impatiently, he squeezed it. "I'm sorry, I forgot about… about everything…"

"It's okay, just don't do it again. Shoot lower," Bron's anger had waned away thanks to Nick's antics and boyish charm.

"I don't think so," a voice spoke from the other end. "Kevin needs his vocal chords and head. The group needs the stunning good looks since he is the cutest one. I need the lower end." Suzie began to smirk.

"What for Aunt Suzie?" Kaylin leaned on the table.

Kevin snorted, Nick blushed, Keith shook his head along with Andrew. Bron just laughed, "Let's eat."

"I thought Uncle Nick was trying to be Uncle A.J. with all the blue stuff."

"No Kaylin, your Dad was an idiot. He did something stupid, without thinking but he'll never do it again." Kevin humbled himself in front of all of them.

"That's okay Dad, I still love you." She leaned over and kissed his cheek from her chair on the left side of him.

Kevin's smile was bright and his face reddened as he waited for the usually ribbing he would get from Keith and Nick. It didn't come, the only thing was a series of 'aww-s' from all of them.






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