Arthur Blackthorn never left his office, not since the madness came. Still, this one day, he managed to hobble through the doorway and stumble down the stairs, ignoring the stubble spotting his face like pointillism.
He ignored the surprised stares from most of the children who were seated around a table in the kitchen. Andr- Julian, the eldest, was bent over the stove, focused entirely on the waffle batter that might have once splattered the walls, but now were cooked expertly. Arthur wondered when that had happened.
Of course, Arthur was a genius, but it didn't take a genius to understand Julian's role in the Blackthorn-Carstairs family. It wasn't enough that he looked like Andrew, he had to become him too. Arthur wanted to appreciate it, really, he did. But, it was difficult when Julian was forcing himself to become the parent. Cooking, cleaning, taking care of his younger siblings. Arthur was fairly sure that that was his job. Apparently not.
Emma watched over Julian's shoulder, tapping something into the boy's arm repeatedly. Not Morse code. Arthur would know if it was.
Arthur would never believe that Emma was one of them. At least, not until Eros came and revealed to the clearly unintelligent girl that she was- what was he thinking again? Emma was Julian's parabatai, Arthur recalled. He wondered if that made her think she was one of them. She wasn't. She wasn't Andrew, Nerissa- she wasn't really a part of the family. Arthur would never let her believe that. He couldn't. Why? C. A. R. S. T. A. I. R. S. Not Blackthorn.
Tiberius, as always, had his earplugs in and was fiddling with some pointless toy whilst he waited for his waffles.
Arthur had always dismissed Tiberius as odd, peculiar, out of place. Really, he just wanted to deny that he saw himself in Tiberius, even if it was only slightly. They would both be considered psychotic and unusual by the Clave. Looking at Tiberius was like looking at a mirror, except not really because the 13 year old wouldn't even meet his eyes so he could see his own reflection. And so, as always, Arthur denied the existence of Tiberius.
Livia was talking to her twin brother about becoming parabatai, but he clearly didn't agree. Arthur pitied her.
Arthur inferred that Livia wanted to become parabatai with Tiberius because she couldn't bear the idea of being apart from him. He supposed that was sweet of her, but naïve. Everybody dies one day, and everybody leaves one day. Just like Andrew. Arthur wanted to knock some sense into Livia, tell her that the whole concept of parabatai was cruel. One day, you would be apart. She just didn't want to believe it.
Drusilla kept glancing longingly at the corridor to her bedroom, but she entertained her baby brother dutifully.
Drusilla was developing quickly for her age of 11. Arthur decided that she got that from the maternal side. He also decided that about most of Drusilla, other than her colouring. She was scarily interested in horror and gore, as though death and torture were something humourous. Arthur thought it was disgusting. If he had been anybody else, he might have destroyed her weird tastes, especially since she was so often playing with her little brother.
Octavian was banging his (expensive) silver cutlery against the table, whilst Drusilla failed to snatch the knife and fork away from him.
Arthur had never really acknowledged the youngest Blackthorn. He was a gurgling baby when they were united, and had never truly been worth Arthur's time, in his opinion. He did know, however, that Octavian had learnt to speak too late, read too early, and was awake frequently with night terrors. Oh, the consequences of having too much older siblings and losing your parents young. Arthur wished he could make himself care.
At last, the waffles were cooked, and everybody was silent due to Arthur's unexpected appearance. Julian, having swallowed a mouthful of his food, finally looked up at Arthur. The boy opened his mouth to speak, but didn't say anything. So Arthur did.
"This is a nice breakfast... Well done." Any signs of affection were so rare that Julian looked rather ungratefully startled. "Thank you." He managed.
Arthur moved his gaze around the table, assessing all of his nieces, nephews and Emma once more. Suddenly, a blob of syrup and butter flew at his face.
Octavian erupted into giggles. Arthur tried not to look at the space on the child's waffles where there had once been toppings. "You idiot!" Drusilla complained. Clearly, some of the toppings had been spilt on her pajamas. She scrubbed at them furiously.
"Do I have to feed you?" Emma said, looking carefully at her parabatai, who looked exasperated. Octavian clamped his mouth shut, and Emma grinned victoriously.
Tiberius lifted his eyes from his plate, though they did not stay focused on one thing. "I hope that you did not get any syrup on my book, Octavian." He warned, glancing at the copy of Sherlock Holmes that was lying on the table. Livia, looking at Tiberius for consent, picked up the book carefully. She studied it. "It's fine, Ty." She promised.
And so, breakfast continued on, and the Blackthorns (and Emma) ate quickly.
Arthur wished that he could love them. They deserved his affection. Maybe, one day, he would find space in his heart for it.