This is my entry for the New Life Contest. It was originally going to be a stand alone, but I ended up stretching it into a three shot. This first bit is slightly humorous. Strong T rating I suppose since there are mentions to methods of birth control that don't necessarily work. So keep that in mind- don't try this at home (super disclaimer that fan fiction is not a substitute for sex ed class- and if that offeneded anyone this was meant to be a joke )
Special thanks to sugarapplesweet for holding my hand through this whole ordeal- as I wasn't sure if this was worth publishing or not. You guys can thank her for pushing me to get this done by deadline time. ( you can also thank her for the slightly humorous ending ;) )
I don't own Harvest Moon
I relaxed against the mattress, pulling the down comforter up over my legs and tossing some of it on my wife as she reached over to her side, switching off the bedside lamp. The room was suddenly consumed by darkness, and I felt Claire turn to me, her lips pecking my cheek quickly before she rolled over with her back to me. I frowned some, tucking one arm under my pillow and resting the other on my chest. I decided to let it go. I was damn tired from work today, and I wasn't in the mood to play twenty questions with the woman. When whatever was on her mind bothered her enough she would tell me what was wrong. Five years of marriage tended to make you gain some type of patience with your partner, even if you didn't have that much to begin with.
I inwardly groaned, realizing that despite me leaving the issue alone, she obviously was going to talk with me about it tonight. I grunted in response, letting her know I was still conscious, and I could feel her shift towards me. She remained silent for a few minutes, which didn't bother me all that much since I would probably drift off to sleep if she didn't speak up soon, and I began to yawn.
"I want to have a baby."
I felt my eyes jolt open I began to cough, choking on the yawn that had been escaping me and bolting up some. My hand reached over her and I found the lamp switch, cutting it on and wincing at the sudden light that filled the room.
"W-What?!" I managed out, my chest heaving as I looked down at my wife, her form curled up in the bed next to me. She didn't seem annoyed by my reaction, and she closed her eyes tightly and repeated herself, the words barely a whisper.
"I want to have a baby," her small hand came up to her face in a poor attempt to hide her flushing face. I blinked down at her, my mouth opening and shutting several times before I shook my head in an attempt to gain back some composure and stop looking like a damn fish.
"What brought this on all of a sudden?" I muttered out, scratching the back of my hatless head and suddenly wishing I had it to cover my own reddening face.
"Nothing really…I just…want one. Don't you?" she murmured out, her eyes meeting mine and I felt myself scowl.
"Not right now," I muttered, and that evidently was the closest thing to the wrong answer I could have given her. She shot me a stern glare before she pushed away from me, rolled over and turned the light off, literally giving me the cold shoulder. I rolled my eyes and reached back over, flipping the light back on. "I didn't mean it that way," I muttered out, pinching the bridge of my nose in frustration.
"Then exactly how did you mean it?"
"I just meant…that why all of a sudden? I mean, aren't you happy with the way we are right now?" I began to try to explain my case, and could see by the look on her face that I was putting my foot deeper and deeper
"Don't you want more? To start a family?" Maybe it was sleep deprivation or maybe the deep sinking feeling I suddenly got in my gut, but I suddenly snapped on her.
"No I don't. I just fine with the way things are now. What the hell would you want to screw them up?" I snapped out, the small part of my brain that was supposed to filter my thoughts from escaping my mouth evidently out to lunch at this time. I felt that sinking feeling in my gut tighten as my wife's face showed the shock and then the hurt from my outburst.
"Just…just go to bed. I'm sorry I brought it up," she snapped back, reaching over and turning the light back out. I could feel her move over to the edge of our bed, unwilling even be near my body heat at this time. I sighed and pushed my hair back in frustration, knowing that no amount of apologizing or lobbying on my behalf would get me back into her good graces tonight.
I threw the covers angrily off from me and rolled out of bed, grabbing my pants and shirt from the chair next to the bed. I'd gotten dressed enough early in the morning before Claire awoke that I could do it in the dark with no problems. I yanked my boots on angrily over my sockless feet and left the house without another word.
I let out a frustrated growl as I excited out property, taking a sharp right and kicking any innocent stones in the path out of it as I shoved my hands in my pants pockets. Even though it was nearly 10 at night the heat from the earlier summer day was near sweltering, and the humidity was horrible, making my skin feel clammy and my body feel like I should take yet another shower.
"What the hell has gotten into that woman?" I muttered to myself as I passed by the Poultry Farm, hearing the domestic quarrel between Rick and his wife. I snorted as I kept walking, trying hard not to chuckle as Karen demanded to know exactly why she shouldn't be able to have a few glasses of wine when she was six months pregnant.
And somewhere between Ricks screaming that it wasn't healthy for the baby and coming upon Yodel Ranch I stopped as a sudden realization hit me. Claire was the only woman in Mineral Town not expecting or already raising a child. We were the only married couple to not have a baby. I went to pull my hat down, only to realize I had forgotten it and muttered under my breath as I continued walking.
"Goddamn it," I began, opting to run my long fingers through my red hair and yank on it instead. "She just needs to understand that we don't have to be like everyone else. Just because they all have kids…" I trailed off there as I realized I had come to an all too familiar place. Deciding that it was just fate, I pulled the doors to the inn open and saw the regular drinkers present, minus one very pregnant Karen. Seeing Kai perched on a bar stool staring down at his mug of beer, I couldn't help but to trudge over and plop down next to him.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, cutting his eyes lazily over to me and sipping on his frothy beer. I shrugged and jerked my thumb to Kai's mug when Doug came up to take my order. I opted to stay silent till I got my own mug of beer, then took a big gulp before answering.
"Me and Claire had a row," I offered, my eyes shutting as I felt the beer hit my stomach. It wasn't wise to drink on an empty stomach, but I didn't plan on getting wasted. Just a beer or two then I would go home. Claire would be asleep by then and I could slip back into bed and sleep for a bit before work. Then when I came home we could talk about this baby issue civilly.
"Join the club," Kai snorted out, taking a small sip of his beer and smirking at me. "We've got awesome purple jackets and little patches. They read 'In the dog house.'"
"Sounds like a club I don't particularly wish to join," came a low quiet voice as Tim set down on the opposite side of Kai, ordering a glass of wine and a dinner.
"What brings you here then?" I asked, taking a big swig of my own beer, and beginning to welcome a familiar warming sensation through my body as I realized the whole mug was now gone. I didn't have to much time to mourn as Doug set another mug in front of me.
"Elli is in bed," he replied simply, drumming his fingers over the counter lazily as he grinned stupidly at nothing in particular. "Sonya finally started sleeping through the night, so I was granted this outing." I blinked at the doctor and then felt my eyebrows furrow as I thought it over.
"Did Claire come by to see Elli today?" I asked, somewhat irritably.
"I believe so, why?" Tim replied, evidently sensing my brief moment of hostility. I remained silent and stared at my beer for a moment before shaking my head and grabbing it, chugging the whole thing.
It was just so out of the blue for Claire to bring this up. A few seasons back- before Mineral Town had been crawling with babies everything was just fine. I was happy, and so was Claire. But now all of a sudden the way we were living our lives- child free- wasn't enough for my dear wife. It wasn't that…I didn't want kids. But…well it was just so sudden. When we had first got married, Claire and I had discussed it briefly, deciding that with me still in training it would be difficult to raise a child. Plus Claire was busy on the farm all the time- she didn't have to time to dote on a helpless infant. Maybe things had changed since then. A few years back I had for the most part taken over the forge- and Claire had managed to find more time to spend by herself or at her leisure than before. But…we had just never brought the topic up again. And I was perfectly fine with the way things were now.
"My wife…seems to have contracted a case of baby fever," I finally offered, happily taking the fresh mug of beer offered to me and nursing it as if it would help my conscious feel any better. It wasn't like Claire was being unreasonable with wanting a kid. I mean that is what women did- nurtured and that crap. I heard Kai give out a bitter chuckle and he grabbed my shoulder, polishing off his own beer and slamming the mug down hard on the counter.
"Let me give you some advice Gray. Pull out," he muttered, causing Tim to shoot him a disproving glare. I didn't say anything right away, and Kai took that as his queue to continue. "Now I love my son, I really do. But that kid hates me with a passion. Every time he sees me lay a hand on Popuri he throws a tantrum and screams till I leave the room," He began, propping his elbows up on the counter and holding his head up lazily. "When Kevin was born our whole relationship changed. We fought more, she spent less time with me, and sex completely stopped- as if the six months after she felt she was to big to do anything weren't bad enough," he cut his eyes at me, looking for the most part like what I presumed was a starving man. "and then to top that off for the first four months after Kevin was born she was just too tired."
I blinked at the man, nursing his beer and seemingly happy to polish off another before returning to his ranting. But already the idea of a kid being in the picture and taking my wife away from me was a deal breaker. I was a selfish guy by nature, and I didn't see Claire often enough now as it was.
"You have no idea how incredibly selfish you sound right now, do you?" Tim interjected, opting to pick up a fork full of his pasta based dish and chew on it thoughtfully. Kai stiffened at this comment and jerked his head towards Tim as if he was offended.
"It's not just that," he protested, but couldn't seem to think of anything else to say at the moment, his mental processing sluggish due to the effects of the alcohol.
"I think you are forgetting the more important parts of parenthood- the most important part of being a father- and a husband," Tim deadpanned after swallowing his food. He turned some so he could look at Kai and me, a disproving glance in my direction before he cleared his throat.
"When you get married," he began, his eyes on me the entire time he spoke. "You agree that you and your wife are now a new family. That it is your duty to be there for one another- in sickness and in health. You agree that you will do your best to make her happy, and she will do the same for you. Most of the time that usually follows up with the news of pregnancy, which with the exception of you, seems to be the normal occurrence here in Mineral Town." He took a deep breath as he continued, holding my gaze.
"Nothing in this world compares to the feeling of pride you feel when you watch your wife grow with your child in her. I never felt as happy as I did when I felt Sonya kick for the first time, and when I heard her heart beat during the sonogram. And I didn't think I ever could feel happier until she was born and I was able to hold her for the first time." He shifted his stern gaze over to Kai and narrowed his eyes, causing the tan man to fidget on his bar stool.
"When your family expands, the responsibility of raising a child is not laid directly on the mother. If your wife feels this way, then she takes it out on you since she feels you are not doing your share to help her care for the life you helped bring into this world. It doesn't help her feelings of irritability or resentment if her husband can only think of his selfish needs," he offered as he stirred his food with his fork. He hummed as he thought something over, a small smirk playing on his lips. "You would probably work wonders for your marriage if you would offer to watch your son for a day and give your wife some time to herself."
"Way to tell him Dr. Phil," a high pitched giggle chimed in. I looked over Tim's shoulder and saw Ann standing there, her hand resting on the counter as she leaned lazily to the side, a large bright smile on her face. She pushed some of her red hair over her shoulder and gave us both a pitiful look. "You two don't deserve your wives. You," she began, her long finger pointing at Kai as she glared at him. "are to self centered to have become a father. And you," her finger shifted to me as her glare faltered some "are so oblivious to your wife's feelings that it's amazing you even managed to get married in the first place."
"Now Ann, that isn't true. I'll have you know that I love being a father. Even if…Kevin loves Popuri more than me," Kai muttered bitterly, rubbing his temple.
"Are you jealous of your son or your wife?" Tim asked, one eyebrow rose curiously at the tan man.
"Neither…I just…Kevin said his first word today. And…and my mom told me that most kids say dada first. And…And he said mama," Kai took a deep breath and buried his head in his hands. "He really does hate me you know. He screams every time Popuri hands him to me. It's not that I don't want to help…" he began, slightly panicked as he looked at Tim and Ann, trying to explain.
"Kevin can probably pick up on your frustration, and that makes him more nervous to be around you. Be more confident in yourself you idiot," Ann muttered, shaking her head and crossing her arms over her chest. "Cliff had the same problem with Johnny. Johnny would scream every time Cliff held him because he could tell Cliff was nervous. Babies pick up on those things."
"You…you really think so?" Kai mumbled, looking up at Ann with what appeared to be a glimmer of hope. Ann nodded and Kai returned the gesture, standing up wobbly on his feet and balancing with the counter. "Well…if…if you'll all excuse me, it seems…I have someplace else I'm needed tonight," he muttered, stumbling towards and out the door.
"Someone should have taken parenting classes in the city," Tim commented as he finally finished his dinner, now turning his attention on me. I blinked and looked back between him and Ann, suddenly feeling very nervous.
"You ever hear of a biological clock Gray?" Ann asked thoughtfully, taking Kai's seat and pinning me under her stern glare. I gave a stiff nod and she continued. "Well when a woman gets to be Claire's age- and all her friends are having kids, she tends to hear her own start ticking. And with every day the ticks get father away from the tocks."
"Claire and I have plenty of time to have kids. She's only 28," I replied, opting to nurse my beer than try to out glare Ann.
"At age 30 only 75 percent of women trying to conceive will do so within a year. At age 35 that drops to 66 percent," Tim offered, propping his head up lazily as he also seemed to examine me.
"We still have plenty of time," I insisted as I went to take another sip of my beer, only to have a small hand shove the mug roughly back to the counter and then that same hand grip my chin and pull me roughly back in the direction of a seemingly irate redhead.
"Are you aware that your wife believes that she is incapable of having children?" Ann muttered out lowly. I let the words sink in for a moment before my eyes widened in understanding.
"It could just as easily be him you know?" Tim chimed in, once again drumming his fingers on the counter. "He could have abnormally shaped sperm or a low sperm count. That would explain why they haven't been able to conceive."
"I do not! Nothing is wrong with my stuff!" I insisted, feeling as if someone might have well had taken a swing at my goods. Nothing was wrong with me.
"Nothing is wrong with either one of them. Unfortunately as Claire's best friend I know more about Gray's sex life than I would ever like to know. About 90 percent of the time he just pulls out," I felt my face flush bright red and stood up, clearly ticked off and embarrassed.
"You just…mind your own business."
"I would if you could mind to yours. But seeing as how your wife was in tears in here earlier today, I have to give you something to work with," Ann said, as if I was the one irritating her.
"C-Claire was…crying?" I mumbled out, feeling an all too familiar sensation fill me as it did every time I heard those words. Ann nodded and closed her eyes as she thought about it.
"She was. She…she thought there was a chance that she was pregnant, and when she found out she wasn't…" she trailed off there, a frown tugging at the corners of her lips. "I mean I told her it was probably for the best, and that she needed to discuss it with you. But obviously that didn't go over the way it was supposed to."
"But….but I don't think I'm ready to be a father," I sighed out, my shoulders slumping as I closed my own eyes. "I barely make a passable husband. I can barely make Claire happy, let alone another human being. I've no idea what kind of father I'll make…"
"And you won't know until you give yourself the chance. There is no amount of self searching that can answer that for you until you have a child of your own," Tim interrupted, standing up and laying some money on the counter. "For what it's worth I believe you would be a wonderful father, because you are the type of person who gives his all to something. And that is all anyone can ask from you Gray. Claire realizes that, and I'm sure she will be happy when you do as well." I blinked at the man, his words replaying in my head long after he had walked off, leaving me alone with Ann. After some time I returned my attention to my half full beer, seeing my reflection in the now froth less brew. I shook my head and pushed the mug away, standing up.
"I'm going home," I stated firmly, the room spinning slightly before steadying. I took a deep breath and made my way out of the inn and back into the less sweltering but still extremely humid night air.
I walked slowly on the trip back to the house, the pros and cons of what I had been told weighing on my mind. But there was more to it than that. I hadn't exactly had the best role model for a father growing up. Gramps had raised me since I was about nine, so he was the closest thing to a father I had. And Goddess that scared the hell out of me. Because even though the man was family and I loved him, I still thought he was a miserable human being and at times- especially when I was younger loathed the thought of being around him. The idea of my offspring thinking that about me was enough to make me not want to reproduce. If the people…the family I loved couldn't love me back …
"Damn it," I muttered under my breath when I found the house door locked. I pulled my keys out of my pocket, fumbling through the three that were all the same damn color under the moonlight. I stopped on the longer of the three, a ghost of a smile making its way to my face. Maybe tomorrow I should call Mary, and ask her opinion. But I already knew the bulk of her answer would be to use this key and go into the library and look in the section of books that pertained to parenthood. It was times like this that I really missed the woman.
I finally managed to get into my house and felt my smile drop at the vision of my wife huddled alone in the middle of the large bed, clinging to the pillow that belonged to me in her sleep. I knew her well enough to know she had probably spent a decent amount of time punching my pillow before she clung it to her and fell asleep like she was now. I also knew that after that small burst of anger diminished that there were more than likely enough tears to fall that made me feel like I should spend the next season making up to her.
I fumbled with my belt buckle and let my pants drop to the ground, nearly tripping on them as I stepped out of them. I quietly made my way to the bed, easing in on the side that belonged to Claire and softly stroking her hair. She stirred some, and after a moment her body shifted and turned towards me.
"I'm sorry," I whispered out, laying in the bed and dropping a light kiss on her cheek. She didn't say anything, and I didn't know if she was awake or not yet, but I continued on anyway. "It's not that I don't want to you know? It's more…hell I don't know Claire. What if the kid hates me? What if I turn into my grandfather?" I murmured out, my eyes becoming distant.
"It's hard work…and time consuming. Kids take up a lot of time, especially yours. I barely get to be with you as it is, and…" I trailed off, allowing my arm to slip over her body and my hand to rest in the middle of her back. I pulled her more to me and let out a sigh.
"You know…if it helps you, you can think of it as… if I have a baby- a part of you is always with me. That way…we're never apart." I blinked down at what I presumed was Claire's face, tucking her head under my chin and feeling her breath splaying at the base of my neck and smiling some.
"It's confusing really. I want you to be happy, and…I would love to watch you have our baby. But at the same time…I just can't be happy. Knowing that right now I'm doing my best and being a husband and barely passing. I don't want to come home to two disappointed faces…"
"You've been drinking," she commented dryly, but at the same time made no attempt to push away from me. "You're never this talkative without alcohol in your system," she muttered more to herself than to me, her small hand resting on the back of my neck and massaging the muscles soothingly. I closed my eyes, humming in response to her statement.
"Gray…I love you," she murmured out, pressing her lips against my neck and nuzzling me. I sighed in response, the alcohol and the neck rub making me drowsy. "I know you try your best, and I know that everything you do is for us, for our family. I think…that if we had a child that you would be a wonderful father. You would be strong and protect us, support us. You would be encouraging to our child, because it was something that you rarely got. You would do your best- to not do the things that hurt you growing up. Because you are a good man."
I groggily opened my eyes, my grip on the woman tightening more as I buried my face in her hair, chuckling some at her words. Maybe she was delusional- but maybe she was right. Even if we couldn't have kids…
"Nothing is wrong with you, you know? And nothing is wrong with my stuff either," I muttered the last part out darkly, feeling my temper flare slightly despite the fact that I was nearing unconsciousness. "I'll prove it to that guy too. Tomorrow…" I added through a yawn, snuggling more comfortably into the bed. I smiled when I heard Claire's response, confusion lacing her voice as I felt her head move back and forth slightly against me before she stilled.
"I don't think I even want to know what you're talking about."