The next couple of days are a blur of feeding babies, changing clothes, changing diapers, changing clothes, sponge baths, changing clothes, taking naps when possible and changing clothes. Nighttime is spent walking the halls as everyone takes turns trying to calm the screaming twins. Dr. Hodson can only shrug and suggest that they have a touch of colic. On the third morning after the babies are born, Maggie wakes to two big surprises and not very comfortable ones at that.
"Will you look at them?" Maggie asks despondently for what seems to be the twentieth time.
"I am," Abe answers, ogling.
"They're…they're…," Maggie stutters, not able to say it.
"Huge, dear, just say it," Susan says with an exacerbated sigh.
"They're uneven," Maggie cries, truly distraught.
"Actually, that's perfectly normal for one to be a bit bigger than the other," Hodson puts in. "As your milk becomes more regulated, than they'll even out a bit. Until then, just wear the sleeping bra until things settle down and don't forget the nursing pads. After that we can get you some decent nursing bras."
"Are they supposed to hurt?" Maggie whimpers.
"Engorgement is normal when your milk first comes in," Hodson assures her. "Again, in a of couple days, things should start to become a bit more normal. You might want to hand express some of the milk out of the fuller breast before you latch one of the babies on to it. Otherwise the milk will come out so fast that it'll choke the baby. Why don't you go take a shower and do that now? Before they wake up."
"What about the breast pump Liz got me?" Maggie asks.
"Let's try hand expressing first and if that doesn't work, then we'll try the pump," Hodson answers. "We don't want your body to think that there's a bigger demand for milk than there is. That could cause even more problems."
"What's going on?" Peg asks as she pops her head into the bedroom.
"Maggie's milk came in," Susan answers.
"I feel lopsided," Maggie grumbles as she struggles her way out from under all the bed covers.
"I know what you mean," Peg tells her kindly. "When my milk came in with Selma and Steven I woke up to a watermelon on one side a cantaloupe on the other. Eventually they sort of evened out, but finding bras that fit after that was a nightmare."
Maggie makes a strangled groan as she disappears into the bathroom. Abe follows her and starts the shower as she strips. Without her clothes on to hide them, the change in her breasts becomes even more evident. Susan is right; they are huge; uneven, but huge. He reaches out to caress one of them and gets his hand slapped. As a bonus he's rewarded with a look that could scorch steel.
"Don't even think about it, buster," she snarls.
He stands there blinking the nictitating membranes in surprise as she stalks past him and gets into the shower, shutting the door firmly behind her. He starts to follow her until she grants him another glare.
"Abe," Hodson calls from the door and he turns towards her. "Why don't you go make Maggie something to eat? I'm sure she'd like that."
"As you wish," he replies as he heads for the door, depressed that his wife doesn't want him touching her.
"Don't be upset with her," Hodson quietly tells him as he passes her. "Her breasts are very sensitive right now and she's in pain. It may be a while before she'll let you touch them, so be careful when you two start having intercourse again."
"You think we'll ever do that again?" he asks, sounding a little desperate.
"I'm sure you two will," she reassures him with a smile. "It's just a matter of time."
"I wonder if there will ever be a time again," he quietly responds as he heads for the bedroom door.
"Give her time, Abe," she tells him. "She gave birth to twins a few days ago, her milk just came in and her hormones are on the rampage. As things settle down and probably after the bleeding stops, she'll become interested in sex again. Just be patient."
"Yes, doctor," he mumbles sadly as he leaves the room.
Some time later Abe returns with Maggie's breakfast on a tray. He finds that she's finished her shower, dressed, and is now, with the help of Hodson, nursing the twins. The babies seem very happy as they make little grunting noises and one of them is nursing so loud that a slurping sound fills the room.
"How are they doing?" he asks.
"Well, Dylan had a rough time at first with the milk coming out too fast, but he's good now," Hodson answers. "They're latching on very well now."
"Hoover vacuum cleaners don't have this kind of suction," Maggie sarcastically states and then her attitude changes when she sees what Abe's brought. "Ooh, breakfast. Wonderful. Thank you, love. Now all I have to do is figure out how to eat it with no hands."
"You could just ask for help, you know," he chuckles as he puts the tray down on the nightstand, picks up one of the bagel halves and holds it up to her mouth.
"Now what would be the fun in that?" she teases just before she sinks her teeth into her food.
He chuckles even more as he carefully settles down on the bed next to her and continues to feed her. Hodson, seeing that everything is well in hand goes off in search of her own breakfast. A little while later, Peg sticks her head in the room to see how things are going and hears the slurping sounds echoing off of the walls.
"Who's the slurper?" Peg asks.
"Morgan," Maggie answers after she swallows a piece of melon that Abe just fed her.
"Figures," Peg smiles. "Your mother was a slurper too."
She leaves and a short time later Morgan finishes eating.
"Would you burp her please?" Maggie requests.
"Do I have to?" he moans.
"Well, someone has to and I'm a bit busy right now," she replies a bit heatedly. "Why don't you want to burp your daughter?"
"Because every time I pick her up she leaks on me," he whines.
"We've all had the babies leak on us," she points out.
"No, Dylan has leaked on everyone, but Morgan seems to reserve the spit up and leaky diapers just for me," he mutters unhappily.
"Will you please just take her?" she demands.
"In just a moment," he replies.
He disappears into the bathroom and returns a moment later with a couple of oversized bath towels draped over each shoulder. The majority of the material hangs down his front, covering him from shoulder to knee. She tries unsuccessfully to contain the snickers as he quietly takes Morgan, holds her to him and starts to pat her on the back.
After finally getting the gas out of his daughter, he watches her as she lets out a huge yawn and starts to fall asleep. He pulls the towels off, drops them on the end of the bed, heads for the changing table and that's when Morgan decides to spit up all down his front. He turns towards his wife with an air of self righteous indignation and sees that she's laughing so hard that Dylan is bouncing on her shoulder where she has him for his burping.
Sulking, he grabs one of the discarded towels and wipes himself off as best he can. After changing Morgan's diaper and clothes, he puts her in the crib and then stalks off to the bathroom to wash off. When he finally reemerges, he finds the bedroom empty. He has a brief moment of panic until he puts a bare hand on the wall and discovers everyone is down in the parlor. A minute later and he's nearing the parlor door where he can hear Maggie retelling what happened after Morgan's feeding this morning. He can see his skin turning a darker shade of blue as he moves closer to the door.
"Come to think of it, I don't think Morgan has ever spit up on me," Susan muses.
"I know she hasn't nailed me yet," Peg notes.
"Or me," Hodson adds.
"You know, I've been spit up on so many times in the last few days that I don't remember whether or not she's gotten me," Maggie admits.
"She hasn't," Abe tells her from the door. "I've kept track. I'm the only one she's, as Peg put it, 'nailed.'"
"It just means she loves you best," Peg tells him to which he snorts. "I've noticed that you're the one she responds to the best. When she's crying, you're usually the one who can get her to calm down the quickest and she seems to fall asleep only for you."
Abe thinks about this for several moments before he has to reluctantly nod his agreement with Peg. He goes over to the bassinette that the twins are sleeping in and looks down on the two precious bundles. He gently caresses their little heads that feel like they're covered with peach fuzz and idly notes that as he strokes Morgan's head she gives out a sigh of contentment. It's at that moment that he realizes that she's got Daddy firmly wrapped around her little finger and he doesn't mind one little bit.
Thanks to Maggie's milk coming in, the late night scream fests stop and the babies start sleeping for longer stretches at night. After having nearly no sleep for three days, the four hour stretches seem like a luxury.
Several days later, the dried up remains of the twin's umbilical cords finally fall off and Hodson deems it's time to give the twins a real bath. So Abe fills the tub to about half way with warm water and gets in still fully dressed. Maggie hands him Dylan while she lowers Morgan into the liquid. What happens next nearly causes Maggie to scream in surprise and leaves Abe speechless.
The color on both of the twins darkens to the point that there's no human skin tone left, they're gills fully flare out from their necks and their eyes deepen in color and the irises expand until there is no white left showing. Both Abe and Maggie sit there stunned while the twins start squirming like they want to be let loose in the shallow water. They're not sure how long they just sit there staring before Hodson comes in to check on them.
"Hey, guys, how's it going?" she asks as she walks into the bathroom.
When they don't respond, she comes over and sees what has them so occupied.
"Oh, wow," she whispers. "Well, this is unexpected. Take them out and see if they change back."
Abe lifts Dylan out and about a minute later, the little boy's skin color and eyes return to normal and his gills lay flat against his neck. Abe puts Dylan back in the water and once again the transformation occurs.
"Are they breathing with their lungs or gills right now?" Hodson questions.
"Both," Abe finally manages to answer.
"Interesting," Hodson muses. "Well, let's not find out the hard way whether or not their gills can supply them with sufficient amounts of oxygen. You might want to finish giving them their baths before the water gets too cold. While their normal body temperature seems to be lower than a human's, they are definitely warmer than you, Abe, so I doubt they can handle the cold as well as you can."
Abe begins to wash Dylan but after he's about half way through he notices that Maggie is still staring at Morgan. A gentle mental nudge snaps her out of it and she finally starts to do her job. When they finally finish, they go back downstairs to find Peg and Susan returning from the store each carrying several bags.
"Wait 'til you see the new book we got you," Peg happily tells them.
She heads for the kitchen with them following out of curiosity. After dumping her load onto the counter, she starts to rummage through the bags until she finds what she's looking for. She pulls out a book and a bottle of oil and hands it to them.
"'Baby Massage: The Calming Power of Touch," Maggie reads out loud.
"Grape seed oil?" Abe questions as he looks at the bottle in his hand.
"I have some almond oil in here as well, somewhere," Peg tells him as she continues to sift through the items in the bags until she locates said item. "Aha! The book recommends using one of those two oils. You stated that you were looking for a way to keep their skin moist, so I thought that maybe this could help."
"It's a wonderful idea, thank you," Maggie replies as she starts to flip through the book.
Abe takes the second bottle into his long fingered hand and then starts to read over his wife's shoulder. When she doesn't read fast enough, he puts the bottles down and takes the book from her.
"Hey!" she cries out indignantly.
"You read too slow," he mumbles as he wanders off with the book and Dylan. "Grab the bottles please."
She grabs the bottles and follows him into the living room where someone has left on CNN. After reading for a few minutes he instructs her to put a drop of oil on the inside of one wrist on each child to test for an allergic reaction. She does this while he continues to read. She gets tired very quickly of listening about people dying so she turns off the TV and then curls up in the recliner with Morgan and takes a nap.
Over the course of time, life sort of develops into a pattern of feedings, changing diapers, changing clothes and giving baths and baby massages. After a few days, Abe and Maggie become pros at massages and the twins' skin practically glow from their efforts. To keep his own skin healthy, Abe takes a swim in the ocean between a couple of the early morning feedings every day. Maggie also discovers that there are challenges to breastfeeding twins, but it also has its rewards.
Cracked nipples and plugged ducts are annoying and painful, but survivable. She still needs help getting them latched on, but as they nurse a sense of near euphoria comes over her. Hodson tells her it's because of certain hormones that are released when she nurses that help calm her and the babies.
One day, when the babies are nearly two weeks old, the weather changes. After weeks of cold gloomy weather they suddenly have a warm sunny day. Hodson suggests taking the babies outside for a while to get them some fresh air. So they bundle the little ones up and take them for a little walk down to the beach with a picnic lunch. The plan is suddenly changed when just before they get there Abe announces that people are trespassing on the private beach.
After some discussion, they decide that it would be best to let the police take care of the trespassers and head back towards the house. They walk with the sun in their faces and Maggie goes to shield Dylan's face from the bright light. When she looks down she gasps in surprise at what she sees.
The others come over to see what the matter is, noticing that Dylan's blue tint is completely gone and there are only faint traces of his stripes. His gills have nearly disappeared into his neck and after a little investigation they discover that the webbing is nearly gone between his fingers as well. They check and the same is true for Morgan.
"Well, well, well," Hodson muses. "It seems these two are full of surprises. I wonder what else they'll have in store for us as they grow older."
With that, she turns and heads back to the house with the others following. Maggie hangs back for a few moments, staring at her child before she follows the rest. Fear settles at the base of her spine and takes root there as she walks towards the house
They eat lunch on the family room floor as the twins sit in their little activity gyms and stare at the bright shiny objects hanging above them. Maggie eats very little and is silent the whole time though the others don't seem to notice as they discuss the children's new found abilities. In due course, the twins become hungry again and Abe and Maggie retire upstairs to their room. After the twins are latched on it's Abe that breaks the silence.
"You're afraid," he observes. "Why?"
"Manning's going to turn them into agents," she whispers on the verge of tears. "He's going to send them out on missions that they may not come back from."
"We knew that any children we have eventually would become agents," he points out. "We've discussed this before. Why are you getting upset about it now?"
"Because it really just hit me that I could lose them," she cries as tears start to spill down her face. "My babies could die."
"I go out on those missions all the time," he reminds her.
His comment doesn't help as she starts to cry harder. The fear of losing her children and her husband feeds on her insecurities and she becomes more despondent. Realizing that talking isn't going to do any good, he pulls the pillow that was between her back and the headboard out and then manages to wedge himself in its place. He wraps his arms around her and holds her as she leans back into him.
After the babies are fed, changed and put down for a nap, he pulls her back to the bed and lies down with her. He holds her, gently stroking her hair and running his nails up and down her back as she pours out her fears to him. Eventually she falls into an exhausted sleep and he stays with her, never leaving her side. Only time will tell what challenges lay ahead for them.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to Hoover vacuum cleaners.