She grinned to herself, then turned off the lamp and wandered through the hallway to the bedroom, where she could see light under the door. Slowly, she opened it, revealing several lit candles around the room and her husband, in his black tee and jeans, barefoot, sitting in the armchair.
"Hey, beautiful," he greeted her, and motioned for her to join him.
She kicked off her shoes and slowly made her way to the armchair. He grinned before reaching for the clip in her hair and unfastening it. "How are you today?"
"Good," she told him. "Very, very good."
He chuckled, low, and pulled her closer on his lap so that she was straddling his legs, then reached over to the end table. "I brought you something. Want to see?"
"Sure." He opened the box and revealed several pecan pralines, her favorite. "Aha," she giggled, "You're seriously trying to romance me."
He was smiling as he unwrapped one and broke the corner off. "Open up, baby." She opened her mouth and he slid the praline onto her tongue. She closed her mouth and her eyes at the same time, letting the candy melt and the flavor take over her taste buds.
"So good," she said softly.
Now he chuckled. "Yeah. In a little bit, you'll be saying that again." His eyes permeated hers, deep and dark, and he kissed her, still staring at her. "Over and over again, Beth..."
He leaned forward to kiss her, taking his time to enjoy the softness of her mouth and the taste of pralines on her tongue. His hands ran down her back slowly, then up to her shoulders, before pulling her closer and indulging in a long, sensual kiss.
She knew he had listened to her. He was incredibly thoughtful and took his time, hands and mouth and body working in sync to excite her. She thought they were ready, but he pulled away from her grip and teased her some more, the way he had done early in their marriage, over and over, until she could think of nothing other than the blissful relief that would come with intercourse. She wrapped her body around his, whispering commands, then directives, then soft requests until he finally acquiesced to her.
As amazing as the anticipation was, nothing was as good as being pressed against him, covered by his body, moving in rhythm with him. He was right, and she told him so, moaning, "So good, so good, Bobby..." until he was groaning softly with her in agreement and they clutched each other in passionate pleasure.
After, when he gently moved off of her, she kept one hand wrapped around his neck, ensuring he wouldn't go very far. She pulled him back, close to her, and whispered, "You know you don't have to move so fast..."
He nipped her ear. "I thought you liked it when I moved so fast..."
"You're hilarious. You know what I mean."
He pushed her sweaty hair out of her face. "I'm a hundred pounds heavier than you...I'd hate to squish you into nothing."
"Heh. I'll let you know if I start to go numb."
He was smiling and leaned to kiss her on the mouth, then kiss her again. "Three more nights of this," he whispered. "Did you feel goal oriented?"
"Yes, but it was a different goal."
"Good." His hands were wandering over her again. "You remember what I told you...the contractions help the semen move into the uterus..."
She snorted. "Or I could stand on my head."
She shook her head. "Why don't you put that sassy tongue to better use?"
"If you insist..." He winked at her. "Remember, we don't have to have a goal in mind..."
"Yeah," she sighed, "I got it."
She sat on the toilet, staring at the stick, trying to contain her disappointment. Granted, it was their first time around, but she had been so sure they'd get pregnant right away. For sure, they were super active. God knows if there had been any possibility of her ovulating and his swimmers reaching a fertile egg, they would have done it. And that thought just worried her more.
She heard him knock softly on the door. "It's been three minutes..." There was a pause before he said, "It's okay if it's negative...we should have expected that...it's just the first time."
She turned the door handle, opening it, and he came in. She handed the stick to him and sighed. "I guess I was more goal-oriented than I thought."
He sank down against the wall, sitting across from her. "You said yourself it could take awhile for you to start ovulating regularly."
"Yeah, but I didn't mean it."
"So now what?"
He shrugged. "We mark the calendar and repeat the process, right?"
"I guess. Something like that." She took the stick back from him and tossed it in the trash. "Anything that's going to give me such bad news shouldn't be so expensive."
"I told you to let me get the multipack."
"I thought it would be positive." She rested her chin in her hands, elbows on her knees.
He reached over and rubbed her calf. "I know you did...and it will be, eventually. Try to think of all the fun we'll have making this happen."
"Right. Somehow I'm not so horny right now."
"That's okay...you've got about two and a half weeks to get there again."
She snorted, then stood up. "I guess I need to add tampons to the list for the store after all."
"Wine or no?" David held the bottle over Vanessa's glass. She held up a hand.
"I'll pass this time, but thanks anyway." David nodded and refilled Bobby's glass, then Ava's. Vanessa sipped her water, then turned to Ava. "So how did you get Justin to sleep so early?"
Ava smiled knowingly. "Early to rise and a super short nap makes for a tired preschooler." She picked up her wine glass, then said, "He's easy to go down, always has been, though, so he was out by seven."
David smiled wryly as he took a bite of his chicken. "Ava knows all the tricks." He chewed and swallowed, then said, "I hear you two have decided to start a family."
Bobby and Vanessa glanced at each other, then Vanessa shot Ava and nasty look. Ava held up her hands. "He's my husband...surely you didn't expect me to keep secrets from him."
"Actually, yes, we have." Bobby nodded in assent and smiled. "We're looking forward to getting that positive test, aren't we?"
Vanessa felt sicker than she had when David had first mentioned it. "Yeah..."
Ava shook her head. "You're too impatient, honey. It takes time. God, David, how long did it take us with Justin? A year or so?"
David put his fork down and nodded. "Something like that...talk about killing the romance..."
Ava chuckled, putting her glass back down. "Yes, that became the whole focus of every moment alone during that year, didn't it? Totally focused on the goal at hand." She looked at Bobby. "I know that's hard to believe."
Bobby didn't answer her. He kept eating his dinner.
"And then, once Justin came, all our time was invested in him. No more time alone. It's not like we got to rebuild the romance we had lost." David shook his head.
"Hmm." Ava was chewing on a roll now. "It's amazing we still have sex."
"God!" Vanessa exclaimed. "I'm trying to eat here."
Ava shook a finger at her. "You need to know what you're getting into. It's not any kind of picnic...once you're pregnant you'll be sick all the time and gain weight. Your boobs will hang down to your stomach, which, by the way, will never look the same again. And don't think you'll get off easy," she said, turning to Bobby. "She'll be hot all the time and won't be able to sleep. One week she won't be able to get enough of you and the next week she'll act like you have the plague. Then when the baby comes, you'll be replaced. He'll be attached to her boob. You'll be changing diapers and feeding and rocking and dressing and bathing. And by the time he's able to do any of that for himself, you'll get knocked up again." She drained her wine glass as Bobby and Vanessa stared at her. "Welcome to parenthood."
"I-I think we're only planning to have one," Bobby stuttered slowly.
"Ha," Ava returned, "I've heard that before."
Just then Tristan began to cry, and David stood up. "I'll get him." He left the dining room.
Vanessa turned to Ava. "Why are you drinking if you're nursing?"
Ava shook her head. "I'm not. Call me selfish, but I couldn't do it a second time past the first couple months. It's too fucking demanding. It's like you're an on-call restaurant, 24/7. It's awful. It's uncomfortable. He cries, and I lactate. It's gross. I've finally dried up," she noted, motioning toward her breasts. Suddenly she elbowed Bobby. "You better get over it," she told him. "I hear your partner's pregnant and due any time. She'll be leaking all over the place."
Bobby refused to look up, a deep crimson coloring his cheeks. "Eames will take care of it," he mumbled. Ava and Vanessa looked at each other and grinned.
David reappeared with Tristan and a bottle. He tilted him into the crook of his arm and began to feed him, then tried to continue to eat his dinner.
Suddenly Bobby turned to David. "I'm done eating...I can feed him while you finish."
"Sure?" David passed Tristan to Bobby. "Just stick him in your arm, at the bend, and stick the bottle in his mouth...he'll do the rest."
Bobby followed David's directions and Tristan quickly settled down, making soft sucking sounds. Vanessa watched the two of them and couldn't help but smile. She noticed Bobby was smiling too, watching Tristan eating. Ava elbowed her suddenly.
"That's why," she nodded toward Bobby and Tristan. "That's why you go through all of it...because when you look at them and they're so sweet like that, you feel all warm and gushy inside. Hey Bobby, you're a natural...you can come feed my baby anytime."
"Thanks, Ava." His voice had just a touch of sarcasm to it, but was overwhelmed with gentleness. The baby was beautiful and continued to take his bottle easily for several minutes. They all quietly watched him until he finished.
"Here," Ava said, taking him from Bobby. "I'll burp him. Trust me, you don't want that part...you look and smell too nice." She tossed a rag over her shoulder and lay Tristan on it, patting him firmly.
They spent the rest of the night playing with a wide-awake Tristan, snuggling him and rocking him and making him giggle. Even Ava laughed at their enthusiasm over her son.
When they left, David walked them to the door. "Hey," he said, low, more to Bobby than to Vanessa, "don't let her scare you off. Having kids has been great. Ava's a great mother." His eyes met Vanessa's briefly, then he turned back to Bobby. "It's all good, man. Once you get used to it, anyway."
"Thanks for dinner." Bobby shook David's hand and they left the house, neither saying anything.
"He's beautiful, Eames." Goren was sitting next to her hospital bed. Her family had finally left the room, going to gather in the newborn nursery and spend some time with the baby and his parents.
He held her hand. It was impossible to say why he felt the need to do that. Since he and Vanessa began seeing one another, he had been extremely careful to avoid any unnecessary touching of his partner. He avoided it for both of their benefits; it hadn't been such a big deal for people to gossip about their close relationship when they were both single, but he didn't want either Eames or Rayden to get hurt because he carelessly touched Eames' shoulder or held her hand. But now...it was something in her face, in her smile. He had seen the same look on his wife before, the brave smile that delicately covered the pain underneath.
Eames let out a shaky breath. "Yeah, he's perfect. Ten fingers, ten toes...Liz and Tony are really happy. Did you see them? He does look like them. It's funny how he could have come out of me looking like them." She was rambling. He let her, figuring it kept her focused on the part she could manage.
"Liz looked really happy."
Eames nodded. He kept holding her hand. "Did you see his hair? A full head, already. I guess that's typical for Tony's family. That's where he would have gotten all that dark hair. It sure didn't come from us." She forced a light chuckle. "It really wasn't that bad. You'll have to tell Vanessa...she needs to make sure to ask for drugs. I told them they could give me anything that made it easier, as long as it didn't hurt him. Five hours and it was over...it really wasn't bad at all." She tugged at the sheet covering her small body. "They said I should be home tomorrow."
He cleared his throat. "Vanessa said to tell you she'll be by when you get home. I think she didn't want..." He was going to say that she didn't want to take any time away from Alex and Nathan being together but caught himself. "Well, she was worried you might be tired."
"It's not too bad...what time is it, seven or eight? Home is a good time to visit too...but I'm glad you came by...I really wanted you to see him." The smile on her face cracked just a tad. "He's what I left you for, anyway."
He was still holding her hand. "It's nine. I guess they'll be by to check on you soon."
"Yeah. Meds and all that..." Her hand absently ran over her belly, now deflated. "But tell Vanessa it's a piece of cake. You guys will do great as soon as it's time."
He smiled at her, hoping she couldn't read the pity he was holding back. If there was one thing she couldn't stand it was people feeling sorry for her. He heard the clicking of heels behind him, and turned to see Eames' sister Liz standing behind him, beaming.
"You doing okay?" she asked her sister, then turned to Bobby. "I'm so glad you could come by. Alex tells me you and your wife are considering starting a family."
He wanted the floor to swallow him up, to take him and Liz's comment far, far away, to spare Eames the pain of having to think about what he might share with Rayden, what Eames would never have with Joe. But Eames continued to beam at him as though this were Christmas, and so he nodded at Liz. "Yes, we are." He patted Eames' hand once as he let it go, then stood. "I guess I'll leave you to rest. But congratulations." He smiled at Liz, then back at Eames, whose eyes were now brimming with the tears she had been holding back, and he knew if he tried to stay to comfort her she'd kill him. So he just told her, "He's beautiful....we'll see you soon."
He tried to imagine giving up a child. He thought of the woman he had dated overseas so many years ago, the one he had considered marrying, and tried to imagine how he would have felt if he had learned she had become pregnant and given their child up for adoption. But he knew he couldn't grasp it. He couldn't begin to imagine the gift Eames had given her sister, nor the sacrifice she had made.
The hesitation he had felt at fathering a child now seemed a million years ago. He knew Vanessa's biological clock was ticking, and he felt the pressure too. He must have done the math a million times, figuring out how old he would be when this kid graduated high school, or college, or got married, or had a child. He was forty-five. He wanted to be fair to their child. He didn't want to be confused with being the kid's grandfather.
Maybe this month they'd get lucky. If they did, he'd have to figure out a gentle way to break it to Eames. He couldn't stand the thought of hurting her. He'd never figured he'd have something so special in his life that Eames might be jealous of it. Of course, he'd never figured he'd have his wife.