“I really don’t know why I’m being sentenced to baby-mama prison,” I said. “I’d rather just stay at home until I pop this little shit out.”
“The doctor said you had one of those what’s-it–’high risk pregnancies,’” Bas said. “I don’t want anything bad happening to either you or our kid, Gal.”
“You do know my dad totally paid off my obstetrician, right?”
“That’s illegal. There’s doctor-patient confidentiality–”
“You don’t know my dad.” Not well enough, anyway. How had he even found out? Bas’s dad was probably the leak, since Dad would kill his minion if he gathered intel on me and didn’t bring it back to the demon king.
“…He wouldn’t really do that, would he?”
“You’re so freaking cute–and naive. Now let’s see if we can de-sanitize my stupid new maternity suite and make the baby come shooting out early.”
We headed through a set of double doors, hand in hand. “…You sure this is a maternity suite?” Bas asked.
It sure was a thing, all right.
If it weren’t for the giant freaky painting, the sheer number of lights and cameras would’ve set off alarm bells instead. And Dad would’ve never forced that color scheme on his little “butterfly princess.”
I laughed. “I don’t know what the fuck it is, but it’s definitely not for me.” Hopefully mine was just as opulent but a lot less vampire queen. If I had to be locked up for the duration of my pregnancy, it had better be in luxury.
Luckily, there was only one other set of doors in the hall, so it wasn’t like we could get lost. “This place better have a toilet,” I said as I pushed open a door. “Your giant son keeps pushing on my bladder and I have to piss all the–”
What. The. Fuck.
“Seriously?” I said. “Could my mom and grandma maybe not make out in my prison cell?”
“So it’s true,” Vilhelmina said. “You’re my first grandchild to breed.”
“Not on purpose.”
“That never seems to matter, when the howling little beast claws its way out of you,” she said. “I thought you were the smartest of the three–I would’ve put my money on Rhys being first and siring a bevy of bastards.”
“She’s suffering enough, Villie,” Mom said. Villie? “Motherhood doesn’t come naturally to us.”
“Don’t remind me,” I muttered. “Have you seen Dad lurking around yet?”
“We worked out visiting hours,” Mom said. That was a first–them working out anything. “He won’t trouble you while I’m here.”
Vilhelmina snorted. “This nonsense is so very Graham–so much fuss over a baby.”
I followed both of them to a couch, while Bas sort of hung back by the door, tongue-tied. I probably should’ve pointed out his existence, but it wasn’t like I needed to introduce him when he’d met them both when I was a kid. My family wasn’t all warm and friendly like his.
“Galatea,” Mom said, “why is your former babysitter standing around staring at us like a human experiencing stage fright?”
“He’s kind of the father of my child,” I said.
Bas waved awkwardly. “Hi. And, uh, I prefer ex-bodyguard.”
Mom sighed. “I hope the baby inherits your intelligence,” she said to me–in a stage whisper, which meant Bas and anyone in the first twenty rows of a theater could hear too.
Luckily my mom and grandma didn’t stick around for long. They were too busy with important things, and it wasn’t like I was giving birth that day. Still, I was glad both of them stayed long enough to insult my boyfriend and act surprised that my pregnancy wasn’t farther along. Genuinely glad, because at least they cared.
“You okay?” I asked Bas when they were gone. “Hey, you survived.”
“Somehow they’re scarier now that we’re together,” he admitted, “even if they haven’t changed at all from back then.”
“Thanks for being here,” I said.
“You couldn’t keep me away–”
“My turquoise-winged butterfly,” Dad’s voice interrupted. “Is your suite fit for a princess?”
“I think I’m going to blend into the fucking walls,” I said.
“I wanted something that would complement my daughter’s exquisite beauty, not drown it out. Shall I have the painters executed?”
“Not a king anymore, Dad.” Demon king, maybe. “Sorry,” I said to Bas. “Ignore him long enough and he’ll go away.”
“I’m going to be a grandfather…”
“Like hell you are,” I said. “I’m getting a restraining order as soon as the baby’s born–he doesn’t need any bad influences until he’s an adult.”
“C’mon, Gal,” Bas said. “The kid should know all four of his grandparents…”
“How are your parents?” Dad asked. “I told my good friend Saul that I stole his firstborn son in retaliation for his stealing my favorite butler, and he barely had any reaction at all.”
“Dad.” He wouldn’t have–couldn’t have–gone that far, right? There was no way he could’ve known Bas and I would ever get together.
Still, it weirded the shit out of me and I kicked him out after that. …But maybe I was glad he dropped by too, and arranged this ridiculous maternity suite for me. Better than a normal hospital room, anyway.
“Okay,” I said with a sigh, “now we can have this damn place to ourselves–”
“Hey,” Bas’s freaky little roommate said. …What the hell was she wearing?
My hot uncle was with her too for some reason. Did my mom know?
“Galatea, my only niece,” he said, walking toward me. “You look like my sister.”
I stood and got a better look at him. “Bullshit. You do, though.” I wasn’t sure what to say to him. “Good morning or whatever the hell. You miss out on any good TV while you were gone? Definitely wouldn’t recommend Blood and Bishops.”
“I’m catching up on everything with Dru,” he said. “She likes martial arts movies.” Of course she would. He walked over toward the empty crib in the corner of the room. “Another fae born into the world of humans…”
So Bas was right about our kid being fae, unless my hot uncle was full of shit. Hopefully our son wouldn’t get into too much trouble–and if he did, Bas could play disciplinarian.
“I’ll teach your kid how to punch and be manly,” Dru said.
“Thanks,” I said. “Maybe if you punch my belly now, it’ll come out early.”
Bas let out a nervous laugh. “She’s kidding. …Right, Gal?”
Dru showed off more manly punching moves while my hot uncle–Sunflower, like some weird-ass hippie–talked to Bas. And then finally, finally we had some peace and quiet.
Which wasn’t meant to be, apparently.
“Hiiiii,” Daisy said. “Ooooh, I’m so glad the cats fit through the door!”
“You know I’m not having triplets, right?”
“You could–you never know!”
“I do, actually. I saw the sonogram.”
“There are medical mistakes every day! Leo reads about them on the internet and then tells me what to be careful of.” She gestured enthusiastically at the three giant cats I’d have Bas stuff in a closet when we got home. “I tried to find a naked version, but I couldn’t.”
She spent the next hour squealing over the maternity suite and telling Bas how she just knew this day would come the moment she met me. Luckily I had to pee a lot and got to miss some of it.
“Is this a never-ending fucking parade?” I asked when she left.
“I, uh, wanted to ask you something,” Bas said. “Now that we’re alone.”
Holy fucking shit. Now Rhys was here?
I stomped over to the door and scowled at him. “What the hell are you doing here?”
He instinctively backed away–as he should. “I was already elsewhere in the hospital, and heard that you would be here for the foreseeable future…”
“I wanted to congratulate my little sister on my impending niece or nephew. I brought a gift…” He held out a small stuffed lion. When I didn’t take it, he shimmied around me to put it on the bed. Great, another fucking cat.
“As you can see”–I pointed at the three giant cats behind me–”I’m kind of full up on gifts right now.” The stupid thing was kind of cute, though–and a decent size for a baby.
“Ah, I also wanted to ask you if you–after the birth, of course–might consider attending family therapy with Finn and me? I’d like to get our parents to join us as well, but the three of us should be a good start…”
Now that was something I wasn’t expecting, especially from him. “Family therapy? Seriously?”
I almost said no right away. Almost. If I was going to be a mom–and a not-shitty one–I’d probably have to work on all the fucked up family shit I had bottled up. I sat down on the bed (my swollen ankles were killing me) and thought about it. “Fine, whatever.”
He looked surprised–and then happy. “Thank you, Galatea. I look forward to our future sessions with Dr. Puck.”
At least he knew better than to stick around.
“Sweet, sweet solitude,” I said to Bas. Maybe he’d give me a foot massage.
“Gal,” he said, “I can’t wait anymore–not if somebody else comes striding on in here. So, uh…” And then the unthinkable happened, and he got down on one knee. “Galatea Straud, will you–”
I smacked the ring out of his hands. “What the fuck, Bas, no. Are you insane?”
“But–I was just gonna ask you to marry me…”
I stared down at him. “Fuck no.” Seriously, what part of no didn’t he understand?
He looked like he wanted to try again, so I just walked away.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t pregnant and like 600 pounds, and he got up fast enough to corner me at the door.
“Sure, block in a helpless pregnant woman,” I said. “Real fucking chivalrous.”
“You’re fae,” he said. “You could get away if you wanted. Just…just tell me why, Gal. Please?”
“If I weren’t pregnant,” I said slowly, “would you seriously be proposing to me today?”
He tried to touch my face, but I wasn’t having it. “Well, uh, maybe not today, but I like to think eventually–”
“I don’t want you marrying me out of obligation,” I spat. “And that’s all marriage is–an obligation to stay with someone for sex or money or a fucking baby. It’s just a piece of paper you can tear up whenever you’ve had enough. It’s worthless.”
“It’s not out of obligation, Gal.”
“You just said you wouldn’t be proposing to me today if it weren’t for this stupid little shit-potato. And I can tell you with one hundred percent certainty that there’s no fucking way we’d work out. You know that kids whose parents are divorced are way more likely to get divorces too? And I’m a ‘child of divorce’ ten times over.”
He tried to smile, but it was more like a mouth tremor. “I’d never leave you. Or our kid.”
“Easy for you to say now–tell me that again in ten years, or twenty.” I shrugged. “If you want to stay with me, prove it. And just…stay. Then maybe I’ll believe you.”
He smiled more easily this time, even though I could tell he wasn’t happy. “Then I will. You’ll see.”
He was pretty quiet after that. I almost wished someone else would visit to break up the silence and the weird mood, but at least he didn’t let me go.
I turned my head toward him. “Do you regret meeting me yet?”
He stroked my cheek. “Never.”
“You will. Especially when our kid turns out to be a total shithead.”
“You let me worry about that, okay?”
So I did.
He didn’t leave the maternity suite except to bring me stuff, and he helped me more and more the closer I got to my due date.
“I’m pregnant,” I said. “I should be exempt from exercising.”
“It’s good for you,” he said, “and our kid. Keep moving–don’t want any blood clots.”
Bossy. But I kind of liked it, him taking care of me.
“Get this fucker out,” I said. “Or I’ll yank the little bastard out myself.”
“Soon, Gal,” he said, keeping his voice light even though I knew he hated the word bastard. “Any day now.”
Sure enough, that day came, along with a baby-shaped football that came flying out between my thighs. (Not literally, despite the fae-ness, since the wings hadn’t sprouted yet.)
It actually wasn’t so bad–Mom said fae childbirth generally isn’t as ugly or painful as the human variety–except for the unearthly howling from the suite next door. Werewolf going into labor, maybe?
“Silas Strider,” I said. “Guess we should take you home soon.” I liked having nurses deal with all his (literal and figurative) shit though, while I was pampered.
“He’s gonna be a handsome devil.”
“Not too handsome, I hope. It’s your job to make him learn to use a damn condom the second he hits puberty.”
He screamed his tiny lungs out when he was left alone in his crib–definitely my kid.
I’d used my own fae magic to put a glamour on him and make him look like a human kid until he could manage his own. It was pretty funny, seeing Bas freak out and think the baby was dead because it was blue…to me, anyway.
Welcome to the world, Silas fucking Strider.