It had been months since Achilles left. Seven months to be exact. I stood at the docks, waiting for the ship to arrive. Leo and Jason stood at my sides, excited and ready to see their father again. Jason reached up and touched my stomach, now very rounded with our third child. I smiled and looked down at my son. He dark curls framed his face perfectly and his eyes were full of anticipation.
"Just a little longer and you'll see the boat," I explained.
We were all ready to have him home. I was, especially since he had just learned that I was with child. It all happened so quickly that I barely had time to react. Achilles and the army left three nights after he told me that they were going to war again. In those three nights, we made love multiple times. Over the next few weeks, I noticed that I had stopped bleeding many months in a row. Realizing that I was with child again, I was immediately afraid to lose another child, so I slowed down and began to rest more. When the baby kicked, I knew it was alive and well. I sent word as soon as I felt the child kick to Achilles that I was with child and that all was well. I received word that the war was over two months later and that he was coming home.
Finally, we saw the black sails on the horizon. Leo and Jason began to jump up and down excitedly. My heart sped up as I could not wait to be held again and to have my husband home. The ship docked and Achilles came down first. Our sons ran to him and he picked them up in his arms. They hugged his neck and he kissed their cheeks. He walked over to me and kissed my lips first and then put the boys down and kissed my belly. Putting his hands on my stomach, he felt the baby kick several times and he looked into my eyes and smiled. When he stood back up, he pulled me close and kissed my lips again. I pressed my forehead to his and sighed.
"I have missed you." I said.
"And I missed you and our boys," he replied.
We came back to our palace and put the boys down for a nap so that Achilles and I could have some alone time. Once they were sleeping, we slipped off to our room. Achilles shut the door and immediately began kissing me. I knew he had missed this as much as I had. He deepend the kiss, wrapping his arms around me. I only broke away because the baby kicked me rather hard in my ribs. My hand immediately went to my belly. Achilles put his hand on top of mine.
"I can hardly believe this is real sometimes," I said. "I feel like at any moment I am going to wake up and not have this child inside of me and you'll still be gone."
"Well, it is real and we are going to have this child. I'm home and this is all happening."
"For that, I am so happy."
Achilles smiled. "It seems like everytime I leave, I come home to a new child. Maybe I should leave more often."
I slapped his arm. "No, you most certainly will not! I could barely stand the last few months alone."
"I could not stand it either. Leaving you and our sons was the hardest thing I've ever had to do."
"But you came back, just as you promised you would and I am happy you are finally home again."
"I'm happy to be home." He hugged me close again.
Without warning, he swept me off my feet and brought me to our bed. He put me down and came and laid down beside me. For a while, we laid there and talked together about everything that had happened over the last few months. He wanted to know how my health was and how the baby was doing. He traced a pattern across my stomach, causing the baby to flutter about and kick. I laughed and he kissed my belly. I was content to have him next to me again. Eventually the excitement of the day caught up with me and exhaustion set in. I fell asleep with my husband right next to me. Things were set right again and life was good.
Having Achilles home proved to be a great help as I came within a few weeks of giving birth to our third child. He kept the boys busy during the day while I rested and prepared for the new baby. Throughout the day, he would bring Leo and Jason to come see me. They would give me kisses and kiss my belly. Leo knew that I was having another baby for he was four-years-old, but Jason did not understand and it was hard to explain to him as he was not yet two-years-old. He only knew that my belly was getting bigger and something was moving inside. Everytime he felt the baby move, his eyes grew wide with curiousity. Achilles would then take the boys to the nursery so that the nurses could watch after them for a little while. He would then come back to our room to spend time with me.
One afternoon, I was sitting on our couch on the balcony, reading some scrolls and enjoying the afternoon sunlight. I stood up and felt a huge gush of water come out of me and hit the floor. A wave of pain hit my lower abdomen and I hunched over, clutching my belly. I slowly walked into our bedroom and over to our bed. I laid down, still holding my stomach. I waited for a few minutes to catch my breath before I tried to get anyone's attention. Once I got enough energy, I tried calling out.
"Achilles!" I yelled.
My voice cracked, but I was sure that he heard me. Minutes later he came running in and saw me lying on the bed holding my belly. Immediately he knew what was happening and had the guard send for Thetis. He came to my side and held my hand. He kissed my forehead and reminded me to breathe. I felt each wave of pain come through my abdomen and I tightened my grip on his hand. He stayed by me and let me grip his hand as hard as I wanted to. A while later, Thetis arrived and assisted Achilles in making me comfortable with pillows behind my back and cool cloths for my forehead. However, my comfort did not last long as I needed to push just a few minutes after she arrived.
Thetis looked and immediately grabbed a towel from nearby that one of the servants brought in. "Briseis, push down hard."
I grabbed Achilles's hand and began pushing. Within a few pushes, I felt the baby leave my body. I looked down to see Thetis holding something soft, pink, and bloody. The baby squealed and I breathed a sight of relief. I watched as Thetis cleaned my child off and presented it to Achilles, who brought it over for me to see. I looked to find a pair of big brown eyes peering at me in the blankets. I took the baby and held it close, looking back at my husband for a moment.
"It's another son," he beamed.
I looked at the child in my arms. He was a perfect mixture of myself and Achilles. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief that he was here and in my arms. For the first time in months, I was relaxed and at ease. The baby had been born and he was safe.
"Aleksander," I finally said. "Can we call him Aleksander after my father?"
"Of course. What about a second name?"
I looked at my newborn son and thought for a moment. "What about Aleksander Peleus, after your father as well?"
"I like that name. It suits him." Achilles leaned down and kissed my forehead.
"Welcome home, Alek."
Thetis stayed and helped me bathe. The water soothed my tired and sore body. Birthing my third child had been a lot easier than the first two, which I thanked the gods for. After bathing, I put on a clean nightgown and went back to our bed, which now had clean sheets on it. Thetis then left, but promised to be back later on to check on me. As I got comfortable in the bed, I saw Achilles out on the balcony with Alek in his arms. Though this was our third child, it never ceased to amaze me how tiny they were in comparison to their father. He held him so gently. It was a moment of perfection for me. I knew that Achilles was proud to have a third son. In truth, I would have never imagined giving birth to three children, much less three healthy sons. I watched my husband on the balcony with our newest son and felt blessed for all that I had been given by the gods.
A few minutes later, Achilles came back inside our room and brought the baby to me. I looked at my son and kissed his forehead softly. He looked at me with his big brown eyes and knew who I was by the sound of my heartbeat. As I held him, he began to whimper softly. I rocked him back and forth for a little bit until his eyes were falling as he drifted into sleep. There was nothing more perfect than a newborn child and Alek was my little miracle, just as his brothers had been when I brought them into this world. Achilles took our sleeping son from my arms and put him in his cradle at the foot of our bed. He returned to my side and I laid down, facing him.
"Alek is perfect," I murmured.
"He is," Achilles agreed. "It never gets any less astounding to see something so small come from you and I."
"He may be small, but he is definitely your son." I laughed. "Every kick he gave me felt like a warrior trying to come out of my womb."
He laughed softly and caressed my cheek. "That is true, but he has powerful lungs like you to shout."
"You say that about all of our sons," I reminded him. "And all babies have powerful cries."
"However true that may be, Leo and Jason still have their mother's sharp tongue at early ages," he teased. "So, Alek will join his brothers when he begins talking."
"Do you enjoy provoking me?" I whispered and smiled.
"Yes, I do," he paused and kissed me. "It makes life more interesting."
"Oh you..." he cut me off with another kiss.
After that, I was too tired to continue our playful banter, so I layed my head on his shoulder and found comfort. Though I was exhausted from birthing Alek, I was happy. My family was safe and growing. I knew that I had the gods to thank that Achilles came home safe and was able to be here for the birth of our third child. I was thankful to the gods that he had not missed a single birth of any of our children. He had been present for all three. I was fortunate to have him for a husband and still very much in love with him as I was when we first met on the beaches of Troy. With the thought of how fortunate I was in mind, I drifted to sleep knowing that in a few hours time, Alek would be awake and hungry. So, I enjoyed the peace and quiet while I could.