Achilles woke to find the other side of the bed empty. Worried, he glanced around the room quickly. He found Briseis standing on the balcony, looking over the beach. Breathing a sigh of relief, he walked out to be with her. He wrapped his arms around her and rested his hands on her well-rounded stomach. Their first child was only a few weeks away and neither of them could wait. Without saying a word, she leaned her head back onto his shoulder. For once, all in her world was right.
"You're an even earlier riser than I am," he said, laughing.
"It's not me," she replied, "it's your child that wakes me up."
"Well, we know who the baby takes after in that," he chuckled.
Briseis smiled. She was glad that the baby had some attributes of its father. She hoped the baby had his eyes and her hair. It wouldn't be too long before they would both know their child, the child that had for many nights kept Briseis awake by kicking and moving about.
"You should rest," he said, sweeping his wife up into his arms and carrying her back to the safety of their bed.
"I'll be fine," she said. "You know me. I like to be up and about, seeing my family and talking."
"Yes, I know. Talking is one of your many favorite things to do," he teased.
"Oh, you are just…" she began, but was cut off by Achilles pressing his lips to hers.
When she was able to break the kiss she said, "I hate it when you do that. I can't say anything."
"Exactly," he retorted.
Briseis simply rolled her eyes. She got off the bed and walked over to the closet that held all her clothes. A few seconds later, she had picked out a flowing scarlet dress with gold hems. It was one of her favorite dresses because it not only was colorful; it showed just the right amount of cleavage to make Achilles go insane. When she had become a priestess of Apollo, she was only allowed to wear white and be completely covered, as she was a virgin. Now, all colors and designs were available to her because she was a married woman with child. This particular dress hid her pregnancy well though. Achilles playfully scoffed and walked over to his wife.
"Why do you constantly want to hide your stomach?" he asked, taking her in his arms in a loving embrace.
"I'm not comfortable with other people touching my stomach like I am with you. Hiding it gives them less of an urge to want to touch me," she explained.
"That can't be the only reason," he said knowingly.
"All right," she conceded, knowing her husband would not give in until she told him exactly what was bothering her. "All my life, I have been small. Now, suddenly I feel like a cow and I didn't think you would look at me like I was attractive anymore."
"That's not true at all," he said. "I love you and only you. You will always be beautiful to me, no matter what. You're even more beautiful now because you're carrying our child inside you."
"Really?" she asked, tears forming in her chocolate eyes.
"Yes," he replied, kissing her forehead to reassure her of his love.
"How could you love someone who has been so moody lately?" she inquired, smiling.
"Because I know that you are not normally like that. Besides, I would be moody too if I had a child inside of me, kicking constantly and making me exhausted," he explained.
"You always know how to make me feel so much better," she said, kissing him on the lips. "I am going to go visit Helen and Andromache today. I need to get out of this room and see people."
"All right, but promise me that you'll be careful," Achilles said.
"I promise," Briseis replied.
Briseis kissed her husband one more time before wandering out into the halls of the palace. She passed many servants who bowed respectfully before her. As she walked, she gazed at the magnificent tapestries that grazed the walls. Many she recognized as her cousin's, Cassandra. Cassandra was not often talked about in the palace, nor talked to, as most thought she was crazy. She claimed she saw visions from Apollo. No one believed her. So, when she was very young, Cassandra was locked away in one of the towers of the palace with only a loom to keep her company. Since that time, she had weaved some of the most splendid tapestries that anyone had ever seen. Briseis had always admired her cousin's work, but never got the chance to bestow her compliments on Cassandra herself. Now she wondered if Cassandra was even still in the palace. She continued down the hall to Andromache's room. The door was open, so Briseis walked in to find Andromache playing with her son on the floor. She looked up for a moment and smiled at Briseis.
"Good morning," Andromache said cheerfully. "How are you feeling?"
"My back is sore," Briseis replied. "This little one is kicking me all over."
Andromache laughed. "Astyanax was the same way. He is very much like his father, never still for a moment."
"He does favor Hector very much," Briseis complimented.
Little Astyanax sat blissfully on the floor with his wooden toys around him. His favorite was obviously the wooden lion that Hector had carved for him on the way home from Sparta, before the war had begun. Briseis noticed that his hair had begun to darken and curl at the ends, just like Hector's did. She loved him very much and hoped that her child would be a playmate to Astyanax, just as she had been to Paris and Hector when they were growing up. She rubbed her stomach gently as she watched Andromache play with her son. It was a scene that she hoped to live in herself in a few months when her child would be old enough to play. She waved goodbye to Andromache silently and walked out to find Helen.
A while later, she found Helen and Paris walked outside in the gardens. Both of them greeted her warmly with hugs. Then the three of them walked out among the perennial flowers on the edge of the vast gardens that surrounded the palace of Troy. All the flowers were in bloom and Briseis loved it. As they walked around, they shared a light, friendly conversation.
"Are you and Achilles ready to welcome this little one into the world?" Helen asked.
"Some days I think I am and others I know that I'm nowhere near ready to be a mother," Briseis answered.
"I think all mothers go through that at some point before their first child is born," Helen reassured her.
"Hector would tell me that Andromache was so scared and he had no clue how to calm her down before she had Astyanax," Paris offered.
"I feel bad for Achilles," Briseis said. "He has never been around a child in his life. Do you think that his fatherly instincts will come naturally once our baby is born?"
"I'm sure they will," Paris said. "Hector had not been around children either when he became a father. He assumed the role right as his son was born. Remember the night Astyanax was born? He was beaming with pride as he carried his son around."
"What if I have a girl?" Briseis asked.
"It will be no different. Achilles loves you so much that it doesn't matter if you give him a son or a daughter. Just the fact that you gave him a child will make him proud," Helen said.
"You're right," Briseis said. "I can't wait…"
Briseis barely got a few words out before a sharp pain ripped through her entire abdomen. She gasped and grabbed her stomach in agony. Paris and Helen immediately stopped walking and turned to Briseis just in time to grab her before she fell. Paris took his cousin in his arms and began running back to Briseis's room to find Achilles. As he neared her room, he began yelling.
"ACHILLES!" he called out, desperate to find him. "ACHILLES!!"
Achilles came running out of the room and looked at his wife in Paris's arms with panic written across his face. He gently took her in his own arms and brought her into their room. Quickly, but softly he laid her on the bed and turned to Paris.
"Paris, what happened?" Achilles asked.
"We were just walking out in the garden, talking and she cried out in pain. When I turned around, she almost fell to the ground," Paris explained. "I think she's in labor."
"In labor?!" Achilles exclaimed. "It's not time yet!"
"Sometimes this happens," Helen said. "Andromache was early with Astyanax and he was fine. We just need to find the midwife and get her here as soon as possible."
"Please, go find her quickly!" Achilles said.
Paris and Helen rushed off to find the midwife, while Achilles stayed by his wife's side. She began to stir a few moments later. Her eyes opened and fluttered for a moment before focusing on Achilles. Pain was written all over her eyes and he knew she wouldn't say anything to him.
"Where am I?" she asked softly.
"You're in our room. Paris and Helen brought you back here. You've gone into labor," he tenderly explained.
"It's too soon," she said, tears welling up in her eyes.
"Everything is going to be fine. They are going to get the midwife right now. Things will turn out alright, you'll see," he reassured her.
Briseis silently nodded. As they waited for the midwife, she kept her hand securely in her husbands, squeezing it as each contraction wracked her body with pain. A while later, the midwife came bursting into the room with several attendants behind her. Paris and Helen stood at the doorway, filled with concern and worry. The midwife immediately went to Briseis's bedside to assess the situation.
"My dear," she said, "you are definitely in labor. There is no stopping it, so we're just going to have to deliver the baby. Everything is going to be all right. Just do as I say and things will be fine."
Briseis nodded in understanding. Though she was terrified, she knew that she could trust the midwife who had not only delivered Astyanax, but also Paris and many of the other palace children over the years.
"You're going to have to wait outside," the midwife instructed at Achilles.
"I'm not leaving my wife," he sternly replied.
"This is no place for a husband to be," she said before pulling him aside to speak with him privately. "There is much pain involved in childbirth. It is better that no men be present when she gives birth. If women are around, we can calm her easier because most of us have lived through what she is going through and is about to go through. Please, just make this easier on yourself and your wife by waiting outside. We'll bring you inside when the child is born."
Achilles walked back over to Briseis and kissed her forehead softly. "I promise I will be back in here the moment they allow me back in."
"I love you," she said weakly.
"I love you too," he replied, kissing her one more time before leaving the room.
Many hours later, Achilles paced the floor outside the room. He was a warrior, a man of strength, and the greatest of all the Greeks, yet he winced every time he heard Briseis cry out in pain. Paris, Helen, Priam, Hecuba, and Andromache all waited with him. Briseis's labor drug on for many hours, long into the night and the next morning. Everyone knew that the longer the labor, the chances that the baby, Briseis, or both would die grew higher. As much as everyone tried to hide their worry from Achilles, he could see it written on their faces. Early in the morning, a desperate scream came from the room, a moment of silence, and finally the cry of a baby. Sighs of relief were spread through everyone waiting in the hallway.
Achilles readied himself to be let back into the room to meet his child and see his wife. Just as he walked to the door, he heard Briseis scream again in agony. Terror filled his heart, as he did not know what was going on in the room. Frantically, he knocked on the door to be let in, but no one would answer him. It was so silent in the hallway; he could hear his heartbeat in his ears. A while later, he heard the latch on the door loosen and the door open. The midwife beckoned him in slowly, but no one else was allowed in. When he entered, the room was dimly lit with the morning light. Briseis was lying on the bed, pale as death, but breathing. Achilles rushed to her side, but was quickly beckoned to the midwife to speak.
"Your wife is very exhausted," she explained. "Her labor was much longer than expected for a new mother."
"Is she going to be all right?" he asked.
"She will be fine after a few days of recovery," she answered.
Achilles breathed a sigh of relief. "What about the baby?" he inquired.
The midwife looked toward a small cradle in the corner of the room and nodded that he go look. Achilles crept silently over to the cradle and peeked inside. A pink bundle lay inside. Achilles gazed at his daughter for the first time in awe. She had her mother's dark curls and his ears. Gently, he picked her up from the cradle and held her for the first time. She stirred for a moment and began to cry, but soon fell back to sleep in her father's arms. Achilles felt love abound in his heart for her. The midwife's gentle smile at the sight of father and daughter faded into a solemn look as she approached him once again. Achilles, sensing something was wrong, placed the baby back in the cradle to sleep and walked over to the midwife.
"There is something else you should know," she said.
"What is it?" he asked.
"The second scream you heard outside," she began.
"Yes," he said.
"There was another child in your wife's womb, a twin," she said. "The twin is very small. It is another girl. I'm afraid that she will not make it because she is so small compared to your first daughter."
"Another child," he repeated, stunned.
The midwife nodded and led him over to a small cot where another pink bundle, much smaller than the first, was placed. She gently picked it up and handed him his second daughter. Achilles gazed into the eyes of his tiny daughter. She had much lighter hair and her mother's nose. Every breath was a struggle for her. As he watched his daughter struggle to live, he felt an overpowering notion that if he were to lose her, he would be devastated, as would Briseis. Achilles sat down on the edge of the bed with her in his arms, not wanting to let go of her. If she were to die, he did not want her to die alone. He rocked her back and forth as his fingers graced her tiny cheeks.
A/N: Wow…I actually updated in less than a month…impressive. I hope you're enjoying my story. Let me know what the names of the twins should be. I have a few in mind, but I'm not sure what I want yet.