So, a number of people begged so sweetly, I had to do this one. For those of you who haven't read the Granby stories, they're also known as my "knitting books", and the stories revolve around a small alpaca/sheep farm and fiber mill, based off a real one in Granby, Colorado.
Jeremy and Aiden from How to Raise an Honest Rabbit and Blackbird Knitting in a Bunny's Lair were possibly everybody's favorite couple from that series--and people want to check in on Jeremy every now and then, just to make sure he's okay.
He is. Really really. Come see.
* * *
"And here's her pull-ups, and here's her little potty, and here's her best blanket. Her clothes are in the bag with the pull-ups and--"
"Ari, honey," Rory said gently, "it's time to go."
Ariadne's eyes filled with tears. "But we're going to be gone for five days," she said, lower lip wobbly. "I hate to leave her--"
"We'll take care of her, Miss Ariadne," Jeremy reassured. He tried to keep his voice even and happy and upbeat, even though his heart was beating super fast like a terrified bird.
"We'll be fine," Aiden said, sounding much more confident. "Ari, go. Rory's going to crap his pants, and you have to get over the mountain and through Denver traffic. We'll be fine. See you in five days. Remember, we've got Craw and Ben, and Ben seems mostly civilized. If all else fails, we've got my mom, and she hasn't lost a kid yet."
Ariadne gave him a flat-eyed stare, and her sharp featured face made that "mom" look a thing of deadly beauty. "You are not funny, Aiden Rhodes," she said.
"I am a goddamned delight," Aiden replied, deadpan. "And you be nice to me, or I'm going to leave your adorable daughter out with the rabbits at night."
"He will not!" Jeremy's voice cracked in panic and he shielded Persephone from the idea even in jest. He was pretty sure it was in jest. Jeremy's boy had a streak of hard in him, but mean and cruel were not in his makeup.
"Oh, I know he won't," Ariadne snapped. "He's just trying to piss me off so I'll leave."
"Is it working?" Ari's giant blond husband asked plaintively. "We don't have so many chances to go on vacation, Ari!"
And that seemed to work. Rory had been making good commissions lately-- tourists were coming to Granby to buy his paintings, and, oddly enough, Craw's yarn. It had been Craw who'd told Ariadne she was bitchy as hell and needed five days with just her husband to chill her out, and he hadn't been far wrong--Ariadne was worried.
Persephone had been born with a cleft palate, and that was a lot of operations between birth and three-and-a-half years old. Her little ears had tubes in them, and the tubes had gotten infected more times than anybody could count. Jeremy and Aiden, Craw and Ben--even Johnny and Stanley in Boulder--all knew the drill. Warm oil, compresses, and only call the doctor when her fever spiked over 100. Hurting ears were rough on a toddler, and hence rough on everybody around the toddler, and Ariadne and Rory were ragged. The little girl had another surgery in a month, and if Ariadne wanted to keep her sanity for another trip to the hospital with her little one, she needed a break now.
But of course Jeremy and Aiden were happy to do it.
Aiden had been raised around children--he was a natural at them-- but Persephone was Jeremy's only experience with a small person who kept growing, and Persy was his world.
The two of them had watched the little girl a lot in the past three-and-a-half years, from days when Ariadne was in the yarn shop doing books and Jeremy took her to feed stock with him, or the occasional evening when Ariadne and Rory had a rare date. She'd stayed in their guest bedroom before in her little porta-crib, and they had a routine with her.
"Okay," Ariadne said finally. "Bye baby--you be good."
"Bye, mama," Persephone said tranquilly from Jeremy's arms. "Thee you wader!"
Her lisp would be worked with after her final surgery--but Jeremy could see how now, the imperfect words were probably ripping Ariadne's heart right out of her chest.
"Bye sweetheart," Rory said, dropping a kiss on his daughter's forehead. "Guys, call us if you need anything." He said the words out loud, but they both saw him shake his head forebodingly, and they got it. If Ariadne didn't have a little bit of space, she was going to crack--this trip was for everybody.
Finally they were gone, their little Hyundai jouncing down the road, and Persephone struggled in Jeremy's arms.
"Bunnies!" she pleaded, and he set her down and let her go. Aiden had put in paving stones in the beginning of spring, leading from the driveway to the entrance of the house, and from the house to the back, where the critter cages were. Jeremy and Aiden kept an increasing number of rabbits and chinchillas bred for their fur, and feeding, watering, and brushing the gentle creatures took Jeremy about an hour a day. On this day, he was going to get some help.
He sang softly as he brushed out his second favorite critter--a chinchilla that Stanley and Johnny had bought him three-and-a-half years ago, when Jeremy had still been in the hospital from saving Stanley's life. Ariadne had been there too, on bedrest, and the hospital had let them room together, because Jeremy had been a mess and they'd both been lonely. Persephone stood on tiptoe and studied one of the older bunnies through his enclosure. This one was sort of a badass bunny, but he regarded her curiously, munching through a carrot Jeremy had given him as a bribe to be nice.
"Jemy?" Persephone turned to him and put her finger delicately on her upper lip. "Wook." She wrinkled her lips and her nose, and Jeremy smiled as he realized she was doing a bunny wiggle.
"Yeah, princess--is that what bunnies do?"
"Am I a bunny?"
Jeremy frowned. "No, you're an angel."
She tapped her scarred upper lip again, and Jeremy had an epiphany. A cleft palate used to be called a "hare lip" for just that reason. Because it split the upper lip like... well, a bunny.
"Yeah, princess. You've got that split in your lip for now. It'll get closed up as you get older."
She looked sad then, and Jeremy put the chinchilla back in its cage before picking her up.
"What's wrong, princess?"
"Wan look like bunny!" she protested, and Jeremy laughed softly.
"Well, you will look like Persephone even after it gets fi... uh, changed," he said. "It will help you talk, and you'll still have a little scar there, so you can remember when you were a bunny."
She brightened, and brushed Jeremy's face gently with her fingertips. "Thcarth?"
It took Jeremy a minute, and then he remembered--he had scars too. "Yeah, but your scars will make you pretty," he said. His scars sort of made him the opposite of that. The beating he'd taken keeping Stanley's whereabouts from a rabid mobster had taken away the con-man's prettiness he'd relied on his entire life. He'd been devastated at first, but Aiden kept looking at him like he was pretty, and he'd just... forgotten, over the last few years. Sometimes he mourned his perfect nose and the dimples in smooth cheeks, but most days, he worked too hard by Aiden's side to think too much on what he'd lost.
He had his boy, he had his family with Ari and Craw and Ben--and even Johnny and Stanley. He had his bunnies and his chinchillas, and the sheep and alpacas at Craw's farm.
He had his work and his dog, Bluebell. And he had Persephone, who made his days brighter with just a smile.
"Your thcarth make oo pretty," she said carefully, and Jeremy grinned at her.
"You think so? I'll have to tell Aiden that."
She gave an exaggerated scowl then. "Aithen wook wike mean!"
Jeremy laughed. "That's just for show. He's got a heart softer than bunny fur. You know that!"
That night, Jeremy cooked chicken pot pies for them, a new recipe that Aiden liked and that Persephone could eat easily, because chewing was difficult sometimes. They sang songs and then sat in the quiet while she played with the toys her mother had brought, and finally, she fell asleep on Aiden's lap as he read to her from a magazine about tending stock.
"That about put me to sleep too," Jeremy admitted softly after Aiden laid her down.
"Well, next time we'll try one of those action books of yours," Aiden muttered. "Bluebell, down."
Bluebell, their Volkswagen sized dog, knew exactly what that meant as they entered their room--and so did Jeremy.
"Bluebell down?" Jeremy said, and Bluebell--who was stretched across the felted rug Ariadne had given them for Aiden's birthday two years before--gave him a puzzled look. She was down, right?
"Yes, Jeremy. You heard what I said." Aiden was stripping off his clothes and heading for the shower, and he looked behind him impatiently. "Coming?"
Jeremy stripped off his clothes too, feeling a little naughty. They usually didn't do things like shower together when Persephone was staying with them. "I... I uh... you know."
Aiden caught his hand as he came into the bathroom to put his clothes in the hamper. "I did not agree to go without sex for a week, Jeremy. You need to put that out of your head."
Jeremy felt his smile blossom from somewhere around his toes. In the past three-and-a-half years, his body had gotten stronger. He'd still have frailties--his arm had been badly broken, and his hip would always pain him in the cold. But he'd been active and happy most every day.
He wasn't embarrassed to be naked in front of Aiden anymore. Aiden hadn't let him be.
The shower was short, but Aiden was ruthless about letting Jeremy know what would be expected of him when they got out. By the time Aiden backed him up to the bed and possessed Jeremy's body expertly, with the ease of a lot of practice, Jeremy would have died if he'd been denied any of those expectations.
Their sex was hard and fast--and quiet, because neither of them were in the mood to put clothes on and run into the other room to quiet down their houseguest. Jeremy's climax same so quick, so gracefully, he tilted his head back with a little cry, and was transported to the clouds while his body did all the heavy lifting downstairs.
Aiden's climax was a little harder, and as he thrust in a final time, he took Jeremy's mouth, his groan reverberating down in Jeremy's toes. He collapsed on top of Jeremy, and Jeremy smiled dreamily as the kiss faded. Aiden rolled to the side and covered them both with the blanket because even in the summer, Granby got a little chilly after dark.
"God," Aiden said, rubbing his fingertips along Jeremy's lips. "You are so pretty."
Jeremy rolled his eyes. "Am not."
"Don't be an ass, Jeremy. You are too."
And Jeremy felt the wounding to his heart. "You know very well I haven't been pretty since... since you know. Since my face got busted up."
Aiden sat up in bed and scowled. "I know that's bullshit, and I didn't know you still thought that."
Jeremy swallowed, hard, rolling to his side. "Look, just drop it, okay?"
Jeremy scowled at him. "What are you going to do? Compliment me to death?"
"No--I just want you to admit you're still a fine looking man, Jeremy No-Last-Name."
Jeremy raised a corner of his mouth, a long buried hurt surfacing. Aiden had brought it up three years ago--but their lives had been so busy then. They'd been good lives--better than Jeremy had ever imagined having--but they'd been busy, and it had been forgotten between them.
"I must not be that good looking," Jeremy retorted, "Or I'd have a last name, wouldn't I?"
Aiden sucked in a breath, and let it out on an "Aha..."
"What?" Jeremy didn't look at him.
"God, I'm dumb."
"You are not." Jeremy hated it when Aiden said things like that. Aiden was perfect--Jeremy knew it in his bones.
"I must be if I haven't married you yet."
Jeremy peeked at him. "You did say something about it once," he mumbled, remembering that night before the benefit they'd thrown to help Ariadne and Rory with Persephone's medical expenses. It had been a beautiful, fairy-tale sunset, and Aiden had put it out there, and Jeremy had hoped.
"Can I help it if I'm so happy I feel married already?" Aiden asked mildly, kissing his shoulder. "Would you let me call you pretty if you wore my ring and had my last name?"
"It would be a lie," Jeremy said sullenly.
"It would not." Aiden tugged gently on his shoulder until Jeremy sighed and turned around and into him. "I would be proud to have such a man with my name."
Jeremy couldn't help it. He smiled into Aiden's chest. "Persephone said my scars were pretty," he said, remembering the stupid pride he'd felt at that.
"That's because she loves you best," Aiden told him, his big hand stroking Jeremy's hair. "But not more than I do, Jeremy. Marry me. Then you'll know I think you're the prettiest one."
Jeremy kissed him. "Sure. And everyone will know I'm your man."
And Aiden's clear-eyed expression lapsed into his habitual scowl. "And you can finally stop calling me boy."
Jeremy grinned. "Nope. Not even when we're a hundred."
Aiden's throaty laughter rang in his ears.
The next morning, when Ariadne called, sounding sleepy and happy and so much more relaxed, Jeremy told her he and Aiden were getting married sometime in the fall.
"It's about fucking time," she murmured. "Now tell me what Craw says after you go to the store."
Craw said exactly the same thing. It was like they were best friends or something. It was Ben who called Stanley and started the planning.
And Aiden who shopped for the rings.
Jeremy was too busy chasing his princess around the store and the stables, keeping her out of trouble. He told her that was the price you paid when you were beautiful--other people just fell over themselves trying to be nice to you.
She giggled like understood the joke, and he giggled because he knew it was one.
He was pretty sure that other people fell over themselves trying to be nice to Jeremy for the same reason Jeremy's entire life stopped so he could take care of his princes angel bunny. Of all the changes in his life since he'd first come to Granby, the biggest, most important one of all was that he knew for a fact that he was very very well loved.