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After finishing up with some of the details about exactly why I'd decided to not take the shot, the hour was over and Teren was pulling back into the drive. My sister couldn't hear the light hum of his car or my children excitedly exclaiming that they wanted Auntie Ash. With her hands folded over her lap, she absorbed everything that I'd told her about Starla's fate. As her head tilted to the side, her eyes unfocused while she thought. Mine could pick out the flecks of gold in her irises, like someone had sprinkled fairy dust in her eyes. It was remarkably beautiful.

Shaking her head, she refocused and looked over at me. "Poor Starla, I'm glad you could help her."

I smiled at my sister's warm heart. Starla had never really been overly friendly to either of us. Not rude or anything, but definitely not welcoming. Mostly she always seemed put out when she came around, like she'd rather be sunbathing at some resort where hot, oiled men brought you fresh blood with umbrella straws in them. "Yeah, she's...different, but I couldn't just let her die."

Twisting her lips at me, she laughed once, humorously. "So you offer to kill yourself." She raised an eyebrow. "Kind of dramatic of you."

I laughed and slung my arms around her, squeezing her tight to me. She shivered against my chilly flesh so I eased off a bit, but then she rested her head on mine and I relaxed as I held her. Hearing Teren unbuckling my kids, telling them over and over that they'd see Ashley in just a second, I quietly said, "We're just sitting in the living room, bring them on in."

Ashley lifted her head, giving me a bewildered expression that I knew I'd used on Teren a time or two. I started to explain that Teren was here, but the door swung open and I didn't need to. Ashley's eyes flicked over to the squeaking contraption right as two tiny beings dashed through it.

"Auntie Ash!" they both exclaimed in unison.

Ashley grinned and held her arms out as the twins dashed into them. She placed warm kisses on their giggling heads while Teren wrapped his arms around me. Leaning back into the loving safety of his arms, I watched my sister ask Nika and Julian all about their stay with grandma. As they excitedly told her everything that they'd already told us, I heard Teren whisper, "Did I give you enough time?" His voice was soft, his breath in my ear barely audible on a human level.

Hearing him just fine, I nodded against his chest. "Yeah...we talked."

He sighed and squeezed me, placing a soft kiss on my cheek. "And? How did she take it?"

Peeking up at him, I shrugged. "Like she handles everything." I looked back at the disfigured woman tickling our toddlers. "With a strength I hope to have some day."

I felt him chuckle against my body and twisted my head around to look at him again. Smirking, he raised an eyebrow. "I think you underestimate yourself." Watching my face, he smiled. As my sister amused herself by making Julian laugh by blowing raspberries on Nika's stomach, Teren tilted his head at me, his brows furrowing. "How are you? Getting hungry?"

I shook my head, but the second I focused on it, I could feel the dull ache in my stomach, the slight dryness in my throat. He raised an eyebrow and I shrugged. "Maybe, a little."

Nodding, he seemed well aware of how I really felt, and I suppose he was aware, since he'd gone through this already. "It gets better after the first couple of days. Then you'll only need to eat once or twice a day."

I leaned into him, feeling a little tired. "Back to the ranch then?"

Sighing, he kissed my head. "Yeah, it's just the best place for you to be right now, while you adjust."

Disengaging the kids from Ashley, I stood her up and gave her a final hug. Her hand brushed over my face, feeling my chill, and she shook her head. "I wouldn't have pictured your life turning out this way," she softly said.

Smiling sadly, I ran a finger across some of her scars; they were rough to my sensitive touch. "You either," I whispered.

Her eyes filled with an emotion that seemed more like joy than regret as her lips curved into a small smile. Shrugging, she cheerily said, "Well, at least we're both happy."

I nodded, grabbing Nika's hand as Teren grabbed Julian's. "No, Mommy, we don't wanna go." Nika's small eyes filled with huge tears at the thought of leaving my sister. Staring down at the tiny version of myself, I could clearly see the exhaustion in her features. Julian voiced his agreement and tried to squirm away from Teren, who scooped him up and slung him over his shoulder.

As I considered slumping her over my shoulder like the potato sack Teren had just turned Julian into, Ashley stepped down in front of her. Kneeling carefully, her joints stiffer than most people's, she cupped Nika's cheeks. "We'll hang out real soon, baby girl." Leaning into her, she brushed her nose together with Nika's; Julian giggled. "Miss you, love you."

Nika kissed her nose. "Love you too, Auntie Ash." Her lip twisted into a perfect pout. "I wanna stay."

Her lip quavered a little on the end, then her mood completely reversed and she started giggling near uncontrollably. Both Ash and I blinked at her reaction. Then we looked over to Teren and Julian. Teren had slipped him down him down his back and was now holding him by his ankles. Julian was grinning ear to ear as all the blood rushed to his little face. Teren chuckled and gently swayed him back and forth.

Between giggles, Nika got out, "Julie likes that, Daddy."

I shook my head at the father and son, and Teren's natural ability to avert potential meltdowns with a little fun. Laughing herself, my sister walked over to Julian and blew more raspberries on his exposed belly. Both the kids were howling after that and we managed to get them out of the house and into the car with smiles instead of tears.

Heading back to the ranch, I again pondered not being around my family. It seemed a little unfathomable to me. Especially with Ash. I hated to leave her alone. Not that she was truly alone here. She had Mom and friends from work and school, but still, she was my baby sister and I adored her and felt the need to protect her for the rest of her naturally appropriate life.

Lost in thought, I was slowly brought out of them by Teren softly laughing to himself. Curious, I looked over at him. He had one hand on the wheel, one casually draped over my thigh. His head was slightly tilted as he absently stared at the road with a soft smile on his lips. He seemed absorbed in his own thoughts and they seemed much more pleasant than mine.

Lacing our fingers together got his attention. When he smiled wider as he peeked over at me, I raised an eyebrow. "What are you laughing about over there?"

He bit his lip and shook his head, seeming a little embarrassed that I'd caught his amusement. Even more curious, I leaned over to look at him closer. "What?" I asked, smiling wider as he laughed again.

Flicking a glance at our children falling asleep in the back seat, he looked over at me again, a familiar gleam in his eye. "I was just remembering the last time the two of us drove along this road."

He bit his lip again as his eyes raked over my body. Taking in the heat of his expression, I quickly glanced at the stretch of road we were on. Shaking my head, I murmured, "I don't..."

Somewhere through my hazy memory of the last couple of days, I recalled being on this abandoned stretch of highway in the middle of the night, drunk, and feeling a little promiscuous. Biting my lip, I glanced back at him. He laughed huskily at seeing that I remembered. "That was definitely a moment I'll be thinking about on this road for while."

Smiling as I waited for my cheeks to heat, which they didn't, I leaned back in my seat. I suppose us experiencing each other while driving was a better memory for this road than us stopping to help our abductor with kidnapping us. I was a little happy to push that memory back a notch as well. Sucking on my lip, I stared out the window. "I suppose that's the last time I'll ever be drunk?"

His thumb brushed over my skin and I looked back at him. He sighed and shook his head. "Yeah, unfortunately."

From the backseat I heard a sleepy Nika ask, "What's drunk mean, Mommy?"

Peeking back at the child I'd thought was conked out along with her brother, I shook my head at her. "Something I hope you never are, sweetheart."

Teren laughed softly over that one for while.

Both kids were soundly asleep by the time we got back to the ranch. Teren and I whisked them away upstairs, smoothly putting them into their bed. Placing a kiss on each slumbering forehead, I smiled over how much they enjoyed being with my family. If we moved them, they'd lose a large part of that.

I sighed once we closed their bedroom door, and Teren looked back at me. "You alright? Want me to get you some food?"

Listening to the light breaths on the other side of it, I shook my head. "I'm fine, but yeah, a little hungry."

With a playful twist of his lips, he scooped me into his arms. Laughing softly, I nuzzled my head into his warm neck. One perk of moving or not moving - Teren would be with me either way.

Jack was downstairs with Alanna once Teren walked me over the kitchen threshold. They both looked up at us and smiled, Jack looking down with a soft grin on his face. He looked back up when Teren set me down. "Want to help me today, son?"

Teren's face brightened as he leaned against the counter while Alanna automatically started prepping a glass of blood, having heard that I was thirsty. "Sure, Dad. We fixing that fence by the road?"

Jack nodded, sipping on a mug that held some very strong coffee by the smell of it. The aroma turned my stomach a little bit, which was an odd sensation for me; before dying, I'd adored coffee. While some things hadn't changed at all, some were completely different.

When Alanna was finished with the brew that didn't tightened my stomach in disgust, I leaned back against the counter with Teren. Thanking Alanna, I shifted my gaze to Teren's father. "Jack?"

His warm eyes pulled away from watching his wife to look over at me. The kindness in the depths of them always brought a smile to my lips. Teren may have learned a lot about being a good man from the strong, vampiric women in his household, but he'd learned a lot from the man before me too. "Yes, Emma?"

Clearing my throat, I looked at Teren and took a quick sip of blood. "Well, it's no secret around here that Teren and I are unsure what to do...about the move." My eyes came back to Jack's, a thoughtfulness in his expression. I shrugged. "Teren would like to stay with all of you, as would I...but, I'm having a hard time with the idea of leaving my family. Was it hard for you, to let everyone you knew go?"

Jack sighed and looked down. Alanna's arms immediately went around his waist and his arm immediately slipped around her shoulders. After a moment of silent deliberation, he looked up at me. "I won't lie, Emma, it was difficult." His thumb stroked his wife's shoulder as he gazed down at her. "Worth it, but difficult."

I sighed and leaned into Teren's side; he put his arm around me much like his father had with his wife. Jack looked between the two of us and smiled at our connection. "My situation was different than yours though, Emma. My family never knew what Alanna and the girls were."

I blinked, wondering how they'd managed to hide that from them for so long. Smiling at my face, he shrugged. "I was an only child, and my parents weren't the type to ask questions. We successfully hid the truth, and when we left to start our ranch," he glanced at Teren, "and our family, Halina wiped their memories."

I looked down, considering Halina doing the same to my family. "So, they never missed you, because they didn't remember you..."

Jack separated from Alanna and walked up to me. I stared into my blood, feeling my eyes start to sting. Even though Teren had assured me that my family could remember, I wondered if it really could be left like that. At the bare minimum, what I was would probably be taken from their minds. It left me with a dull ache of loneliness that they wouldn't really know me anymore. I suddenly had a newfound appreciation for Teren's desire to leave a memory of someone.

"Of course they remembered me, Emma." Lifting my chin with his course fingers, he encouraged me to look up at him. Smiling softly, his aged face was deeply sympathetic. "She wouldn't make them forget you...just the situation, just what you and Teren are."

I swallowed and nodded, blinking back the tears stinging. Glancing at Alanna's equally sympathetic face, I asked, "So they never remembered that you married, that you had a child."

Dropping his hand from my face, Jack looked up at his son. "They remembered Teren. He grew and aged at a normal pace, so there was no reason to keep him from them." Swinging his gaze back to Alanna, his smile dropped. "For my wife..." he sighed and shook his head, "they were only left with a vague memory of her after every visit."

Alanna smiled sadly as he continued, his eyes coming back to mine. "Right up until their death a few years ago, they believed the cover story, that Teren's mother died and I remarried a younger woman. As soon as Alanna's never-ending youth became apparent, Halina took away anything about us that might have made them suspicious, and they were fed the lie from then on."

He let out a soft laugh, shaking his head. "They even met Alanna again when I got "remarried." They had no idea that they'd already met her, multiple times. And when we left, the details of Alanna left with us. Even though Alanna and I have been remarried several times, on their death beds they wouldn't have been able to pick her out of a crowd."

Alanna walked up to him, slinging her arms around his and resting her head on his shoulder. Thinking over how misinformed his parents had been, I shook my head. "Wow, that's kind of...sad." I peeked up at Teren behind me. "I don't know if I want my mom forgetting you... " I blinked as I considered how my situation was a little different from Jack's; I didn't age either. "What about me? If she doesn't know and I never age, I'll never be able to visit again."

Teren squeezed me tight. "No, no that's not true. Of course you will." He sighed into my hair. "But Halina would have to make some...adjustments after every visit."

I slumped a little, sighing. "Oh."

Twisting me in his arms, Teren smiled warmly. "My grandparents were a different situation, Emma. It wouldn't have to be like that with her. She already knows and she's already accepted us. As long as she continues to stay silent, she could keep her memory of what we are."

He kissed my forehead as Jack patted my back. "It was just the easiest way with my parents, Emma. They...wouldn't have understood the real situation."

I nodded and looked back at him. "But, all of my friends?"

Sighing, he glanced at Alanna and then back to me. "Unfortunately, yes, they would all forget the specifics of you and Teren. Otherwise, it's just too many loose ends. Once we move on, we prefer most people's memories of us to be hazy at best." He shrugged, looking very apologetic. "It's the best precaution we have."

Nodding, I conformed myself to Teren's body. He stroked my hair and rubbed my back. "I know what you're feeling, Emma. I don't want to give them up either."

I peeked up at him. He'd sort of made a mess for his family by repeatedly trying to keep ties with other people, first with Carrie, then with Hot Ben. Come to think of it, he hadn't batted an eye over telling Ashley the truth either. Of all of them, Teren enjoyed hiding the least. He wanted to be normal. He wanted to be accepted. He wanted to be a part of society, not staying in the fringes of it. With what we'd gone through, he understood more why they had to hide, but it was hard for him. He completely understood my dilemma because he was constantly experiencing it too.

Every day I understood just a bit more about him, and every day I loved him a little more.

Cupping my cheek, he stroked my skin with his thumb. "We have time, Emma. We don't have to decide anything today." Kissing my head, we both sighed simultaneously.

I called Tracey early the next morning to let her know that I wasn't coming in for the rest of the week. I had an idea all thought out as I lay next to Teren, snug under our covers. I was going to convince her that I'd caught that swine flu bug thing that was going around. Surely the entire office would insist I stayed away after that.

Practicing my raspy voice, I heard her pick up the line. "Neilson, Sampson and Peterson. This is Tracey, how can I help you?"

"Hey, Trace, it's me." I coughed a couple times into my cell phone, smiling while I did it.

"Emma! Happy Birthday!" She immediately began singing the birthday song to me. It caught me a little off guard; so much had happened recently, I'd nearly forgotten that my birthday was today. I tried to interrupt her a few times, but she ignored me until she was done. Teren started chuckling into his pillows. "Are you coming back today?" she asked merrily, post-song.

Sighing dramatically, I coughed again. "Actually, that's why I called. I'm still pretty sick. The doctors think I got that new virus going around."

Tracey's voice was instantly sympathetic. "Oh, that sucks, Emma. And on your birthday too." There was a pause in the line while I exaggeratedly coughed and sniffled. "Wait, didn't you get the vaccine? We all got that company flyer about it."

My mind replayed back to laughing with her about the seriously written HR memo urging all employees to protect themselves against the epidemic that would surely wipe out all of mankind. "Uh, well...I hate needles, so, no."

Teren started laughing in earnest, covering his head with the pillow so Tracey wouldn't hear him. I bit my lip to not laugh with him. Me afraid of needles? Not anymore, not after injecting myself daily for years.

Tracey, not knowing about that part of my life, sighed. "Well, I bet you'll think twice about waiting next time."

I let myself laugh a little. "Yeah, definitely."


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