Because she called Emma and not me, Emma goes to pick up Eschieve. In an attempt to keep my mind from running rampant, I take up the task of making sure the guest room is ready for her. I change the sheets, the towels in the bathroom, but it all takes just a little short. To great displeasure of our new family addition, now named Lancelot, I whip out the vacuum. 
"Oh, don't be whiny." I smirk as he growls at the machine. "You've got a far bigger problem coming in not too long." 
Just when the guest room is as immaculate as it's ever going to get, Emma texts to let me know they'll be home in about ten minutes. It gives me just enough time to prepare Eschieve’s favourite drink: hot chocolate per our mother's recipe, with a good shot of amaretto. Just as I pour the three cups on a specialised heating plate to keep it warm, the door must open - both Frank and Lance launch themselves down the hallway with screams of excitement. Immediately, Eschieve calls my name.
"Lucien Remí du Castellon!" I freeze upon hearing my second and my last name. "How dare you not tell me you got a puppy?! Where are you, you nasty -" She finds me in the kitchen before she can finish the sentence, which is probably better for all of us. She's carrying Lance, who's doing a wonderful task of cleaning any French filth that may have been on her cheek. Eschieve looks somewhere between delighted and pissed. I grin at her apologetically.
"We wanted to enjoy some private time with the baby." I say, helping her take off her coat without putting Lancelot down. I carelessly toss it on one of the kitchen stools. "Also, we might have forgotten to announce his arrival in our group chat."
"Don't drag me into this!" Emma comes in with Frank in her arms. "He's your dog."
"Well, yeah, but -"
"You're both at fault!" Eschieve chimes in. "Now, introduce me to him."

After an elaborate introduction between my sister and my dog, and my sister settling into the guest room and changing into warmer clothes, we finally settle down on the couch with the hot chocolates I made. Eschieve lets out a groan of pleasure after the first sip.
"Seriously man, you need to move back to France just so you can make this for me every night."
I smirk at her. "You could make it yourself."
"Nope. Nu-uh, not the same." She settles more into her spot, wrapped in a blanket and a content cat on her lap. "I need you to do it."
"Maybe next break after exams. I'll make an iced version." 
Eschieve takes a moment with her drink and the cat, and I glance at Emma, whose face betrays exactly nothing. It does little to quell my worries about why Eschieve would suddenly pop up. Emma meets my eye, and makes a gesture - just ask her. I hesitate. While me and my sister have gotten close over the years, we are both in possession of the leading family trait: we don't talk feelings. We certainly don't talk feelings with each other. Emma's encouraging look quickly turns more demanding. She must have tried herself in the car, maybe without getting anywhere, or maybe she just wants me to try because I'm her brother. 
"Es," I say finally, keeping my voice gentle. "Why are you here?" 
She looks up from a staring contest with Frank. Her face is closed entirely. "Just what I told Emma. I wanted to surprise you."
I look at Emma again, who is now looking somewhat worried. "It's the middle of the quarter." She says. "The middle of the week, even." 
"I had some time off!" Eschieve replies just a little too quickly. She must see that neither Emma nor I are convinced by that, so she elaborates with a sigh. "The swim team still isn't back on, all of my friends are too busy with school and I've been spending my days alone in the Manor and I'm slowly going insane, especially after spending two weeks with you guys and Beth over the holidays." Her brow furrows, and her next words come out with hesitation. "Also… father is supposed to come home tomorrow and I wasn't quite ready for that."
"That is… fair." I say, unable to help feeling like she isn't telling us the full truth. I remind myself that she's a grown woman, entitled to any secrets she might like to keep. 
"You're always welcome to stay here, Eschieve." Emma smiles. "As long as you're willing to live around the mundane lives of me and Lucien."
"Knowing you two, it's not going to stay mundane for long." 
"Don't jinx it!" Emma and I nearly shout in unison, starling all of Lance, Frank and Eschieve.
"We'd like to keep our current momentum going." Emma says with a stern look. 
"Our biggest points of stress are going to be exam weeks, and getting Lance to stop napping on the towels." I add, chuckling. "So if you've participated in some kind of crime, don't tell us."
Eschieve laughs, and with it the lingering tension shatters. "I haven't, I promise. Besides, I'd want you in on the master plan, not just to save my ass." Her shoulders slump as she lets out a long sigh. "Thank you guys for letting me stay here without giving some kind of warning." 
"Of course!" Emma puts down her empty mug, smiling brightly at my sister. "I'd rather you'd come here than some shady friends. At least here we can take advantage of the extra pair of hands in the house."
"Excuse me, I expect to be treated like the princess I am!"
"So… not." I chime, grinning as Eschieve glares absolute daggers at me. 
"I'm going to steal your dog."
Emma snorts. "Good luck with that. That dog gets to spend more time with Lucien than I do."
"You cannot be jealous of something that you gave me!"
"I didn't think Lance would be replacing me!"
"May I remind you that you got Frank for the sole reason of replacing me!"
"Excuse me, that was entirely -"
"Alright, alright!" Eschieve interrupts us laughing. "Mommy and daddy are not allowed to fight when the children are in the room. How about we play a board game instead? You can murder each other over that."

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