Amanda walked around the kitchen, locking windows and doors as she did every night. She walked into the dining room jumping and holding her chest as she saw Lee sitting having a drink at the table.
"Lee, what are you doing? I thought you went to take a shower."
"Hey, come here, I didn't mean to scare you. I did take my shower I didn't see you when I got out and I came down here to see if you needed any help. Where were you?" Pulling her to his lap and rubbing her large belly.
"I was reading the Christmas story to the boys in their room. It is the one kid tradition that they don't roll their eyes at anymore. I know they don't believe in Santa Claus anymore, but they still let me have the dream, if you will."
"Well, next year, they can help us share the dream for this little one. Are you sorry we didn't find out what we are having?" Lee pulled her hair to the side placing kisses on her neck as he talked.
Closing her eyes to the sensations he was evoking, Amanda just murmured, "Mm um."
"Um, no, well I think we should go upstairs, get in bed, and see if we can pull off some Christmas romance with your family in every nook and granny of this house." He wiggled his eyes at her making her laugh and blush slightly.
Standing up Amanda turned, took Lee by his hands, as she lead him up the stairs to her room. Shutting the door and locking it she faced him pulling his white tee shirt over his head. Slipping her fingers in the waistband of his sleep pants, Amanda slid his pants down leaving Lee completely exposed to her.
"Now this doesn't seem exactly fair. Here I am in nothing and you are completely covered up." Lee said as he led her to the edge of the bed. Reaching his destination, Lee stopped her and lifted her arms above her head as he removed her nightgown. Looking at her, he couldn't believe that so many things had changed in his life in just one year.
"You know that day in my apartment when I carried you to my room?"
Smiling she said, "I think I recall that day. Why?" Amanda leaned up to place a kiss on his neck.
"Why did you let it happen? If you would have said no I would have understood. I would have hated it and more than likely pouted some, but you didn't."
Laying down on the bed and facing each other, Amanda said the one word Lee didn't expect, "Love."
"Love, Amanda? Are you telling me it was love even then?"
Taking a deep breath as she looked him in the eyes she whispered, "I wish I could say it was at first sight but it wasn't. I saw how handsome, strong, and smart you were, but you Lee Stetson are like a very expensive wine, an acquired taste."
"Gee, do I say thanks now or on our honeymoon?" Lee said while laughing at her analogy.
Kissing his lips she huskily whispered, "Please take it as the compliment it was intended, my love. I have to admit that as soon as I acquired you, I couldn't get enough of you. Hence the reason, that I could be in this delicate condition; now how about we stop all this talk and work on that Christmas cheer. I love you, Lee Stetson."
"I love you, Amanda King, Merry Christmas."
The rest of the night was a dance of slow, tender lovemaking as if it were their first time. Each taking their time touching and exploring the other as if they hadn't already memorized every part of the other, until falling into a sound sleep wrapped in each other's arms.
Christmas day was filled with laughter, cheer, and nothing like Lee could ever remember. He had tried so hard the last few weeks leading up to the holidays to remember any part of a Christmas with his parents. His only memory was the smell of cookies, cakes, and peppermint oil. His father used to joke that the peppermint oil was the only reason that his mother was as sweet as she was. That would earn him a few hours of silence from his mother, but Lee never remembered her staying mad at him. She was like Amanda or Amanda was like his mother, he wasn't sure about that one.
"Lee, are you okay?" Jamie asked.
"Sure, just thinking about a few things, what did you need?"
"I was just telling you that my dad is here now. Were you and Mom telling him about your engagement?" Jamie continued to keep his voice down.
Laughing slightly Lee answered, "Yes, Jamie, we are planning on announcing it before dinner after everyone gets here. This has got to be the hardest secret your mother has ever had to have. She isn't very good at secrets, is she?"
"I'm not good at what, Scarecrow?" Amanda smiled at her future husband as her ex came up behind her.
"Scarecrow, what kind of nickname is that?" Joe asked.
"Well, Joe, let's just say he has the perfect nickname because heaven knows he doesn't always use his brain."
"I know." She turned to go set the table but with Joe being so close to her she had a little trouble navigating around him.
"Sweetheart, are you sure you two are only having one and not twins? I do not remember you being this big with the boys." Joe commented as he stepped out of her way to let her pass.
"I think it has to mainly be water weight because the doctor says I haven't really gained a lot of weight."
"So, Lee, have you two found out what you are having so you could pick names?" Joe asked.
"No, we didn't want to know, but we have picked out the names. If it is a boy we will name him Matthew Hamilton, and if it is a girl Victoria Lee."
"Those aren't your normal names are they?" Lillian asked as she came in to refill her glass of egg nog.
"No, but they have meaning for us, so I guess that is all that matters. I am going to see if Amanda needs help." Lee left and as he went into the kitchen he saw Amanda holding her stomach and a terrifying look of pain on her face.
Running to her side he asked her if she was okay.
"No. Something isn't right."
"Dotty, Lillian, Joe, get in here!" Lee yelled.
The three came running in the kitchen as Lee was spouting orders to them. "Dotty something is wrong, call an ambulance. Joe, don't let the boys see her like this, it will scare them. Lillian, I need you to make sure everything is turned off and locked up when you guys come up to the hospital."
"Lee, is mom okay?" Philip asked as he had heard the way Lee called for the adults.
Looking at him about to answer, Joe did it for him and he was grateful. He needed to concentrate on his future wife and child.
"Your mom is not feeling well, Grandma is calling an ambulance so she can go get checked."
"Is she going to lose the baby?" Tears formed in his eyes as he looked to his father for guidance.
"That is why Lee is going to have her checked to make sure she and the baby are okay."
A few minutes later Lee told everyone to meet them at Parker General. He took his place in the ambulance with Amanda. He couldn't touch her while the paramedics started her an IV and asked her questions.
Lee sat and prayed as they asked their annoying but important questions. He needed to hold her hand; she needed to know he was there. She needed to know she wasn't alone.
They arrived at the hospital, Amanda was rushed in and before Lee had a chance to say anything he was ushered to the waiting room. What felt like hours were only mere minutes as a nurse came back and grabbed Lee by the arm and said, "Scrub up, Daddy."
Lee was speechless as he was guided to the operating room where he saw Amanda on the table with a gown on and her feet in stirrups, legs spread apart.
"What in the hell is going on here?" Lee asked as he stood next to Amanda's head, taking her hand in his.
"We seem to be having a baby."
"The baby isn't due for two months. Isn't this OW! Amanda, I need that hand I am left handed."
"Then you have the baby shoot out of your body, Damnit!"
"Okay, Amanda, your water broke right after getting here, now let's get this baby out in the world and get it taken care of. I need you to start pushing."
"Already, are you sure Doctor?"
"Uh, Amanda, push for me, you can argue the point later." He said and Lee noticed it was the first time he hadn't sounded like a teacher reading a fairy tale to her. Lee could feel his blood pressure rising with every squeeze of his hand.
The next thing Lee remembered was the doctor announcing the arrival of the baby and then as soon as they got the baby settled in the NICU, Lee and Amanda would be allowed to visit. Lee was about to ask if everything looked ok as the monitors began to go insane and then the Doctor let out a line of swear words that Lee didn't think even he knew.
Lee looked at Amanda who looked as she was asleep when he heard the doctor say, "Get him out of here now!"
Lee was then escorted from the room and ushered back to the waiting area, where he was greeted by everyone. He was bombarded with questions, but he didn't even have answers except one, "Jamie, you got your sister." At what cost, he thought silently.
"Lee, how is mom?"
"I don't know, they took Victoria up to the NICU and said as soon as we were allowed to visit they would take us to her. The next thing I know I am being thrown out and not being told anything."
Twenty minutes of silence left the group to their own thoughts as the doctor suddenly appeared in the doorway, removing his cap, covered in blood.
"Oh, God! Doctor, how is my daughter?" Dotty asked.
"Dotty, Amanda is fine now. I can't tell you why she went into pre mature labor; it happens with the best of pregnancies, but what shocked me the most was when she began to hemorrhage. She lost a lot of blood but we were able to save her. She is going to have a hard time for a while. This takes a while to bounce back from. We had to give her a lot of blood."
"Can we see her and Victoria?" Jamie asked.
"Yes, I will allow it, but I can only allow two people in the room at a time and for only about five minutes. I will allow a little longer with the baby, but not much longer. Lee you will be allowed to stay with Amanda all night and you can visit the baby anytime. We just have to get you a matching bracelet."
"Well, who do you want to visit first?"
Lee looked up and as much as every bone in his body was telling him to go to Amanda to balance his world back out, he knew the place he needed to be was with his child.
"I want to see Victoria. Doctor, will she ever have another baby?"
The doctor looked to the floor before saying, "No, even if she could I wouldn't recommend it. Victoria is her last child."
Lee just nodded as the doctor took the others to Amanda's room as he headed for the NICU area. He showed his bracelet to a tiny redhead, her nametag read Jennie.
"Let me introduce you to your daughter. Here is a list of the rules of everything you have to do when entering and leaving the unit. I understand she has a grandmother and two brothers here as well?"
"Yes, they are with Amanda right now."
"Okay, they have to follow the same rules. Now let me explain what you are going to see. You daughter is very strong, but she is only two pounds and fourteen ounces. She will have gauze over her eyes, she is in an incubation bed, and you will see all the monitor wires attached. Just know that as she gets stronger the more wires she loses. You will have to wear gloves to touch her and you won't be able to hold her right now."
"Please, I understand, I just need to see her." He was beginning to feel that panic again, he needed to see his daughter, touch her, to know that she was here and that she would be okay."
Jennie led Lee to the area where his daughter lay. Even with all the wires, gauze, and tape Lee could see she had her mother's nose. That made him smile. Putting sanitizer on and then the gloves, Lee slipped his hand through the glass that separated him from his daughter. He ran his finger over her and began to speak, "Welcome to the world, Ms. Victoria Lee Stetson. I need to ask, why you were in such a hurry to get here. Jamie is over the moon to know that you were the sister he asked for, thank you for keeping me out of the dog house on that one. Mommy is a little sick right now, like you, but I know how strong both of you are and I know you both will be coming home soon. Just don't act like your Daddy and fight the nurses and doctors at every turn. They are only trying to get you to get home as soon as possible. I love you and have from the moment Mommy told me about you. I don't ever want you to think I never wanted you. I do, I want you and Mommy both. Fight to come home little girl, you fight in there and Mommy and me will fight out here to get you home with us. I want to hold you and give you sweet kisses. Daddy loves you."
Lee sat with her for almost an hour until the nurse said that the others were there to visit her. He slowly and reluctantly stood and left his daughter as Dotty and Philip came in. Ten minutes later they came out looking at Jamie.
"Jamie, are you sure you want to see her? She won't look like a normal baby to you." Philip asked. He knew how much Jamie was looking forward to having a sister he didn't want his brother to be hurt because she was so tiny.
"Lee explained what she looks like right now and yes I want to see her."
"Philip, I know what you are trying to do, but he needs to see her as much as you did. She is just tiny; it isn't like she has two heads. Joe would you or Lillian take Jamie in? I really need to go check on Amanda."
"Sure, oh Lee, welcome to the parenthood club. You couldn't have a better partner for the game."
"I know, thanks Joe."
Lee walked into the darkened room to take a seat next to Amanda, while he took her hand in his, he whispered, "She is tiny, but she is perfect, don't leave us, Amanda King, do you understand that?"
Lee sat with Amanda while taking turns with Dotty while he went to check on Victoria. It was almost a full 24 hours when Lee walked into Amanda's room after leaving the baby, to see her sitting up and taking a few sips of water as her mother held the cup for her.
"Well, look who is awake finally." Lee ran his hand across his forehead, bringing a smile to her lips.
Rubbing her belly, Amanda said, "I seem to be missing something. Did I lose the baby?"
Lee gave a curious look to Dotty and said, "You didn't tell her?"
"I didn't think it was my place to say anything. I told her to wait for you."
Sitting on the side of the bed and taking her hands in his Lee smiled and said, "Victoria, is small, but she is like her mother, she is a fighter. Would you like to go meet her?"
Tears fell from her eyes as Lee told her that their daughter was doing well. Lee found a nurse and asked that she get a wheelchair so Amanda could go see the baby. On the way to the NICU Lee did his best to prepare Amanda for how tiny Victoria was, but Amanda just needed to see her and touch her.
The nurse was surprised when Lee came in. "I didn't expect to see you for a few hours, you just left. I thought Dotty would be coming back."
"That was true until I found out her mother was finally awake. Amanda would love to see our daughter."
"Well, I don't usually say this, Mrs. King, but you have the prettiest little preemie in the entire unit at the moment."
"Kelly, she is the only baby in the unit at the moment." Lee said.
Lee pushed Amanda up to the tiny girl with bandages over her eyes, tubes all over and all Amanda could think was if it hadn't been for Lee her life wouldn't be as perfect as it was.
Two days later Amanda was cleared to go home. Neither she nor Lee wanted to leave the hospital without the baby. They knew she had to be bigger and stronger be able to come home. Amanda walked in the house to find the presents from Christmas still wrapped and waiting.
"Mother, why didn't you and Joe have the boys open their presents?"
"They didn't want to without you here. They did open the ones from their father and the ones from Lillian and me, but they wanted to open yours and Lee's together. They are over at Tommy's house and will be back before dinner, we can do it then."
Four weeks later, to the surprise to everyone, Victoria was able to come home without any special instructions. She was still a bit on the small side but she was healthy and that is all that Lee and Amanda cared about. Her brothers' were ecstatic to have her home and didn't even fight with each other for almost two weeks.
Valentines rolled around and Lee and Amanda decided that was as good as any time to get married. They took her mother and the boys with them to the courthouse, Lee had invited the Colonel but he wasn't able to attend. Dotty watched Victoria and the boys for a long weekend so Lee and Amanda could have a small honeymoon, with promises to Dotty that as soon as they could they would take a longer honeymoon.
Victoria turned one much sooner than Lee thought she would. It was Christmas in the King/Stetson household again. Lee was playing a game of chess with Jamie while Vitoria tried to take the pieces from her father and brother. Phillip was in the backyard with his dad throwing the football around and catching up. Amanda and Dotty were just finishing placing dinner on the table.
Lee looked at the people gathered around the table and as he did he felt overwhelmed at the love he never knew he was capable of or that he ever thought he would have in his life. He held his daughter in his arms as she fell asleep and kissed his wife.