Most folk in Halcrest put breakfast along the sideboard, where everyone could serve themselves and then join the table. But somehow that never worked out in the Parr household. Heaping bowls of scrambled eggs and berries inevitably migrated to the table, along with pitchers and extra utensils. Shane didn’t mind; he had long since grown accustomed to the chaos that ensued from a crowded table.
He ended up with Katie back on his lap; she had no interest in sitting with anyone else. That meant he had the questionable pleasure of feeding her. Fortunately she ate everything the adults did.
Emma smiled indulgently as she emerged from the kitchen with two fresh loaves of bread. “Looks like Katie has a new beau.”
“Enjoy it while it lasts,” Brock advised. “She’s known to be fickle.”
“Oh, I think I’ll survive her change of heart,” Shane retorted, taking a strawberry from the bowl in the center of the table. These must be from the first batch of the season; they were just coming out. He cut it in half to share with his bundle.
“Shane and I are going to tackle his flat today, Brock, if that suits,” Devon called out from his spot. He was squashed between Nance and Alice.
“It’s fine, but, ah, I’ll need Shane to come with me first to the Registry. We can get his pass sorted while we’re there.”
“Why does he need a pass?” Ian reached for the pitcher of goat’s milk.
“Because he’s a slave now, idiot,” Cane mumbled, elbowing him and nearly causing him to drop the pitcher.
“Boys!” Emma reprimanded. “Why are you sitting together? Cane, other side of the table. At once. By Tammy.”
Devon shrugged at Brock, ignoring both the asides and the change in seating arrangements. “I’ll come with you two.”
Brock raised his eyebrows at Shane, questioning.
Shane swallowed the strawberry in his mouth. That was the last place he wanted Devon. “That’s not necessary. I’ll meet you back here when we’re finished.”
Devon narrowed his eyes at him, looking vaguely insulted. But before he could issue a complaint, Alice cut in.
“When you go back to your flat today, Uncle Shane, will you remember your other regimentals?”
He smiled, grateful for the change in subject. “I will. I promise.”
Brock shook his head. “Both my girls—well, both my older girls—with their own regimentals? You two are getting spoiled. I hope you know what those colors are for.”
Nance made a face at him. “We know, Da.” She hugged her own coat tighter to her. “Black with ivory facing. Black is for Obsidian, and for justice—”
“And ivory is for mercy,” Alice cut in.
“Very good.” Shane shifted Katie to his other knee. “Now, who else in Halcrest wears the black and the ivory?”
“Who else apart from the Watch?” Devon asked, momentarily distracted from his desire to accompany them to the Registry. “No one in the Navy, and I can’t think of any Army regiment off hand.”
“No regiment in the Army does,” Ian said. He was the family expert on all things military. “Not that I can think of either.”
“That means it don’t exist.” Cane gave his brother a look of grudging admiration.
“He didn’t say it was military,” Brock said.
“But he asked who else wears the black and the ivory.” Nance frowned. “That has to mean regimentals.”
Brock winked at his daughter. “Does it?”
“Oh!” Emma’s face lit up as she finally stopped serving and took her place at the table. “I know! It’s a trick question, children.”
Shane grinned. “With due respect, Emma, it’s not. The colors are just as important to the group I’m thinking of—they wear them for the same reason we do. By the way,” he added, scooping some of the scrambled eggs onto his plate, “would you cut my hair before we leave for the Registry?”
“Of course,” she said. “Straight after breakfast.”
“Or I could order you to tie it back in a club, like a decent human being,” Brock mumbled through a mouthful of bread.
Shane favored him with a mock glare. “If you do that, I will take vengeance.”
“That’s no way to talk to your new Master.”
“Oh, I can think of a few more inappropriate ways. Would you care for some examples—”
“Ah, I’d have Shane’s back on this one, Brock,” Devon put in.
“Me too!” Cane said. “Clubs are old-fashioned, Da. You should cut yours off.”
Nance made another face. “I still want to know who else wears—oh! The priests.”
“Very good.” Shane wasn’t surprised that Nancy was the first of the children to come up with the correct answer. “Their robes are black and ivory.”
Devon rolled his eyes. “Of course! Good girl, Nance. I feel like an idiot now.”
“You’ve been out of the city too long.” Brock pushed his chair back and stood up. “Everyone finish up and help clear the table—we’ve all got a long day ahead of us.”