A/N: Stephenie Meyer owns the Twilight Sage and its characters. The only characters I own are the ones that obviously don't belong to her (Sage, and Michael…though he hasn't been around for many chapters).
This story is rated M for adult situations, language, themes, and lemons. 18+ only.
A link to Sage's ring is on my profile.
Thank yous at the end this time.
We didn't waste much time. As soon as Jasper proposed, I knew exactly where I wanted to get married: Galveston. On the beach.
True, San Francisco was where it all started, but Galveston was where our first real memories of each other were. I wanted to go back there, to see it one more time, because I knew we'd probably never go back.
Jasper had agreed wholeheartedly, and we'd started making plans almost immediately.
We didn't tell anyone at first, simply let them figure it out on their own when they noticed the ring while we were standing in the middle of La Guardia airport.
Rose, Charlotte, and Bella had descended upon me immediately, ogling and cheering and chattering nearly nonstop as we left baggage claim and headed toward the line of cabs at the curb.
Emmett had congratulated me, hugged me, and told me he was proud of me.
I think that was the single best moment he and I ever shared, probably because we were both crying when it happened. I hadn't seen Emmett cry since Mom died.
We got married on July 13—a Wednesday—because we didn't want a big crowd on the beach with us, and it was such a small ceremony that we could swing it.
We spent three weeks honeymooning in Fiji, enjoying the cool season (which was still an average of seventy-two degrees), hopping from the capital, Suva, to Kadavu and Labassa. We learned to SCUBA dive, went snorkeling most days, and saw a few sharks among the reefs. I thought that was awesome, but Jasper was a little freaked out.
When we got back to the states, Peter was waiting for us at the airport to take us home. Unfortunately, it wasn't to Emmett and Rose's house on the Bay, where we'd planned on staying until we could find a place of our own.
Instead, he drove us up to Napa and pulled in to the ranch. My Beetle and Jasper's truck were already parked in front of the house.
"What are we doing here, Pete?" Jasper asked as I leaned over the middle console to look at him.
Peter cleared his throat and reached into the glove compartment, extracting a thick envelope and handing it to Jasper.
"We… uh… we're tired. Char and I… it's a lot, to run both properties and Charlotte likes the vineyard. And… we want ya'll close."
Jasper frowned and opened the envelope, pulling out a stack of papers. He scanned them quickly, frowning, before looking up at Peter in surprise. "The deed to the ranch?" Peter nodded. "Seriously?" he nodded again.
"Say huh?" I asked, looking back and forth between them.
"Peter and Charlotte… have signed over the ranch to us."
"Belated wedding gift." Pete grunted.
I felt my eyes go wide. "Seriously?"
"Yes, woman! Seriously! Seriously!"
I hugged Peter from behind and kissed his cheek. "Thanks, Pete."
He hugged me back, smiling. "You're welcome. Figure now you guys can have a real relationship with your horses… can ride whenever you want…" he nodded toward the dormitory. "The guys have agreed to stay on, and all the borders are aware of the change of hands. We went ahead and set up an account, we just need to go to the bank and get your names on it and take mine and Char's off."
Jasper nodded, flipping through the papers. "All we have to do is sign… and book a moving truck."
We quirked our eyebrows at him and exchanged looks of confusion.
"Your stuff… we sorta… invaded your storage unit and… it's already here."
I snorted a laugh and shook my head. "Hell, where do I sign? I'm definitely game now that I don't have to help load shit onto a truck again!"
We got settled fairly quickly, throwing ourselves into painting the different rooms and setting up an office and guestroom, and getting to know the ranch hands.
Things were going well until August, just before Jasper was set to start his job teaching American History at one of the local high schools. I'd taken a job with a webzine, which would allow me to work from home so that I could be around to supervise the ranch and take care of issues, so I'd decided to get up early and fix a big breakfast for Jasper's first day of work.
The phone rang just as I was putting the dishes in the dishwasher and I grabbed for it.
"Hello, may I please speak to Misses Whitlock?"
I grinned at that. I still wasn't quite used to being called that, but I loved hearing it.
"This is she."
"Misses Whitlock, this in Jeanie from Doctor Matthias' office."
My doctors had never called before when I'd had my scans done. They usually just sent a letter stating a clean bill of health and that they'd see me next year.
I shook myself out of my shock and said, "Yes. Hi."
"Misses Whitlock, Doctor Matthias wanted me to call and discuss the results of your scans." I decided then and there that I didn't like the nasally sound of her voice. "It appears that you have a mass on your right ovary, and he would like you to come in and have a consultation with him and one of our Oncologists."
What's she saying?
Is she expecting a response?
"Uh…" I swallowed the lump that had formed in my throat. "O-okay."
"Are you available to come in at eleven this morning?"
"Sure. I'll be there." My voice was so small now, Jasper immediately tensed, staring at me with questioning eyes. I hung up and leaned against the counter, bracing my elbows on the ledge. I took a deep breath as he continued to stare at me, and then I closed my eyes. "That was Doctor Matthias' office. They want me to come in."
Jasper was silent so long, I opened my eyes just to make sure he was still there. Finally, he opened his mouth, closed it again, thought, and finally said, "Why?"
"They found a mass… on my right ovary." His eyes slid shut and he took a deep breath as I continued, "They want me to go in at eleven."
He nodded and motioned for me to hand him the phone. "I'll call and let the school know to find a Sub."
"It's your first day, Jazz! You can't miss—"
"They will be fine. They will deal." He cut across me. "Now hand me the phone."
The principle was understanding, and told Jasper to take care of his and to let him know when to expect him to work. Once he got off the phone, he immediately picked it up again and called Peter to ask if he could come manage the ranch for the day.
As soon as Peter arrived, Jasper and I left.
The consultation was simple and direct. They wanted to do a biopsy—a Frozen Section Biopsy—meaning they'd open me up and perform the tests right there, so that they'd know if they needed to go ahead and take my ovaries.
What really sucked was that I had to wait a week for the biopsy, but they walked me right down to the Oncology wing of the hospital to show me around and explain what would happen in the event the mass (because it was still just a mass, not a tumor) was cancer.
They explained that if the biopsy was positive, the Oncology Surgeon would cut into my right arm and install a Chemotherapy Port by threading a catheter through my veins to my heart and installing a subcutaneous implant into the skin of my arm, so that they could simply stick a needle into the port, instead of having to stick me each time I came for Chemo. They told me it was ideal, because it meant less needle pricks, and less pain down the road.
Unfortunately, they also explained what kind of side effects I should expect, in the event I required Chemo: nausea, fatigue, hair loss, diarrhea (oh fucking joy!), and cataracts were just a few.
The worst part, by far, was that I didn't even have an actual diagnosis yet, but everyone knew why I was there. Not just the staff, but the other patients in the wing, and they were all giving me those pitying looks.
You know the looks… the ones that say 'Oh, so sad… she's so young…'
Kiss my possibly cancer-ridden ass.
I didn't want pity, and I sure as hell didn't need it. I was bound and fucking determined that I would fight. Hard. And I kept telling myself that unlike my mom, if it was cancer, it was caught early. When they finally found my mom's, it was already Stage Three. My scans last year had been clear, and even though Ovarian Cancer is aggressive, there was a chance I wasn't nearly as far gone.
Jasper and I had asked for a few minutes alone while we waited for the Oncologist, because with all the research we'd both done over the years, we knew I was likely to get a gonadotoxic cocktail, and it would be idiotic to save my ovaries and still be sterile.
When the Oncologist, Doctor Choudhry, came back, I said the only thing I could think of: "I don't want to be infertile."
He nodded sagely and assured me that if I needed Chemo, I would receive vinblastine—a therapy with a very low rate of gonadotoxicty. They would also, in the event the biopsy did not go well, harvest some of my eggs for preservation.
They gave us pamphlets to look over, for everything from what to expect from Chemo and Surgical Recovery, to At-Home Care, Hospice Care, and the different chemicals used in Chemotherapy.
"They sure do prepare you for the worst from the start." I mumbled as I flipped through the Hospice Care booklet. Jasper simply wrapped his arm around me and kissed my hair.
When we got home that evening, I called Emmett to tell him what was going on. I told him not to worry, that we'd keep him and Rose updated, and he'd seemed OK with that. I was wrong.
Three hours later, they were on the doorstep, bags in hand, Amelia holding onto a Ziggy horse we'd found for her third birthday. They all looked like they'd seen a ghost—pale, drawn, worry lines.
And now I actually feel like I oughta be sick…
They did their best not to treat me that way though. I could tell they were all worried and I knew when Rose asked Jasper to show her the horses and the barn, it wasn't as much for Emmett and I to have a moment as it was that she knew Jasper probably needed to vent without the risk of upsetting me as well. He'd been so very quiet for most of the day, and I knew he was worried he'd scare me more than I already was.
Once they were out the door, I set Amelia up with a Veggie Tales movie and sat back down on the couch with Emmett. He was staring straight at the TV, but his eyes were far away. As I watched him, his eyes filled and a tear spilled down his cheek.
"Are you scared?" he whispered hoarsely.
"To death." I sighed. He shot me a contemptuous look and I shrugged. "Of course I'm scared, Em. What else is there to say? I've been married for all of five weeks, and I find out I might make Jasper a widower at the ripe old age of twenty-eight."
Emmett gave a harsh laugh and shook his head, but continued speaking lowly so as not to draw Amelia's attention. "It figures you'd be more worried about him than about yourself."
"Emmett, don't start." I warned.
"I'm not slipping into old habits, Sage. It's the truth. You need to focus on you first, because if it turns out it's cancer, you've got a long, hard road ahead and Jasper will be there for you. You know he will, and I know he will… but you're always so concerned about him, and it's OK to be a little selfish sometimes."
"Well, we don't know if I have cancer yet, so let me focus on him until they say otherwise." I whispered. Instead of responding, Emmett wrapped his arm around my shoulders and hugged me. I smiled and hugged him back, resting my head on his shoulder.
"You're the strongest person I know, Sage Anne. If anyone could beat it, you could."
"Thanks… but let's just hope it doesn't come to that."
"Agreed." He sighed. "I love you, Baby Sister."
"Love you too, Big Brother."
Jasper didn't go into work, even when I told him to, even when Peter, Char, Emmett, and Rose all offered to stay with me. He wasn't having any of it. He wanted to be with me, and I had a feeling he wouldn't have been able to concentrate if he had gone to work.
I felt bad though. He'd been so excited to start teaching. He'd worked on his lesson plans for weeks, running ideas for how to make History more interesting by me constantly… and now it was all going to waste.
Emmett, Rose, and Amelia stayed at the house on the day of my surgery, agreeing that it would be better to come up when I was out of surgery.
I was scared—that much was a given. I mean… anyone would be, right? I kept thinking that my mom was only seven years older than me when she was diagnosed… how she was eleven years older than me when she died. I think I was fairly safe in my cowardice. No one would blame me.
Jasper was a wreck. He'd barely slept the whole week since our meeting with the Oncologist. He'd barely let me out of his sight, except when I needed to use the bathroom and required privacy. He'd barely eaten, though I wasn't sure if he'd lost his appetite due to the stress, or if he just felt bad that I had lost my appetite, and he felt he shouldn't eat.
Either way, he was in a right state by the time they started the IV in my left hand and had me sign the pre-surgery paperwork.
"Jas," I whispered and his eyes settled on mine. "If something happens—"
"Don't you dare. Don't do this now." He growled.
I rolled my eyes and shook my head. "Jasper, I'm about to have surgery. I'm aware of the risks, and of the likelihood that something will go wrong… but that doesn't mean that I don't want to be prepared. People have adverse reactions to anesthesia, they nick arteries…" He nodded slightly and I took a deep breath. "If something happens, if something goes wrong and I don't wake up, I don't want to be kept alive by artificial means. I don't want to be a turnip, and I don't want to have to live in the vegetable patch."
He gave me a weak smile at that, but I think it was mostly because in my doped up, exhausted state, I thought myself funny.
After a moment of unbearable silence, he whispered, "OK."
The Anesthesiologist came in and injected something into my IV and I grinned and waved, sighing as Jasper gave me a quick peck on the lips. "I'll see you when you wake up."
"Mmm…kay…" I muttered, already half out of it.
I barely noticed the fluorescent lights on the ceiling passing by, I barely noticed being wheeled into the OR, and I'm pretty sure I was out before they even gave me the gas. I was gone.
My eyes fluttered open and I blinked, blinded by the annoyingly bright light in the recovery room. There was a weight on my lap and I glanced down, smiling at the déjà vu of seeing Jasper's head resting in my lap, his hands clasping mine.
"Jasper?" I murmured.
He shot up, his eyes finding mine, and he smiled, leaning forward to kiss my forehead, but careful not to put any weight on my abdomen.
"No evidence of disease." He whispered.
OK… I'm maybe a little groggy if I can't understand the King's English.
He grinned, indulging my slight stupidity. "No evidence of disease. It was a benign tumor." I breathed a sigh of relief and he continued, "They were able to remove it without causing any damage to the ovary."
"No Chemo. They want you to rest for the day, and we'll know more in the morning."
"When can I go home?"
"Probably the day after tomorrow, but we'll know more once the doctors check you out tomorrow." He pulled my hands to his lips and kissed my knuckles. "I love you."
I smiled, resting back against the pillows. "I love you too."
It was four weeks before I was allowed to do more than lift a cereal box. It was another two weeks before I was allowed to have sex… I often wondered who was more frustrated, Jasper or me.
By the time I came due for my next Depo shot, Jasper and I had come to a mutual decision: I was done with the shot.
We weren't trying to get pregnant, but we decided we weren't doing anything to prevent it either.
"Life is short."
That's what we agreed.
By our second anniversary, we still weren't pregnant, but we also weren't concerned.
Until I got light-headed and threw up.
Jasper was at work, so I ran out and bought a test, which turned up positive. I called my OB and scheduled an appointment for that afternoon, silently thankful they were able to fit me in.
Because of all of my medical history, because of the biopsy, they rushed the blood work through, and I got the confirmation call just before Jasper walked in the door at five.
We were both excited, and when he was done twirling me around like a lunatic, we called everyone to tell them.
It was a hard pregnancy. I was sick through most of my third trimester. By month seven, I was having trouble getting around with any semblance of ease, and after a scary fall down the stairs that ended up with both of us being OK, Jasper temporarily relocated us to the guest room for sleeping. I was no longer allowed to go up or down the stairs without someone with me.
That got old… really fast.
Jasper thought I was nuts because I was positive we were having a girl, even before the fetal survey, but I could only grin and say "Told you so" as the ultrasound tech confirmed what I already knew.
He had to paint the office light cream and Charlotte stenciled and painted pink and white cherry blossoms and branches along the walls to go with the bedding set and the dark cherry furniture I'd picked.
By the time my forty week appointment arrived—on my due date—I was showing no signs of going into labor or even moving in that direction. I was sore, I couldn't walk without assistance, and I cried from the pain.
Jasper had been driving me to my appointments since week twenty, because I was simply too big to fit behind the wheel.
He demanded they do something, because I couldn't take care of my own basic necessities. I couldn't go to the bathroom without help walking. I couldn't make myself a snack. If the house caught fire while Jasper was at work, I was shit out of luck.
Doctor Wilson nodded and checked me, frowning.
She was head-down, all systems a go, but with no progression toward labor, and she hadn't dropped. He was suddenly concerned, because based on my measurements, he wasn't positive I could deliver naturally, and he offered to do a C-Section two days later.
I agreed in a heartbeat, though Jasper was worried, considering it was surgery, and significantly more major than the biopsy had been, but in the end, he agreed that it was for the best.
Two days later, we got me admitted into the hospital, got through pre-op, and I promptly doubled over in what I can only describe as the worst pain imaginable multiplied by about a million. It felt like every fucking thing between my shoulders and my legs was on fire!
As I gasped and tried to breathe through the contraction, barely able to understand what the nurse was telling me, I looked right at Jasper and grunted, "You are so never touching me again."
We laughed about that later, seeing how as soon as I got the epidural, I was great.
At ten thirty-one AM on March first, our beautiful daughter, Shiloh Charleigh Whitlock, was born. She had a smattering of blond fuzz and dark blue eyes that obviously needed time to settle. She had my nose and my round eyes, but there was definitely Jasper in those chubby cheeks and the fact that she was over eight pounds.
I was completely in awe as Jasper held her up for me to see while they began stitching me up, and I smiled when she cried.
Definitely worth the pain.
"Daddy, why is the sky blue?"
I grinned and shook my head, glancing down at my Mini-Sage. For a five year-old, Shi was the smartest kid I knew, and since I'd know her mother as a kid, that was saying something.
"Because it reflects the water."
"Then why is the water blue?"
Wow. Déjà vu.
"Because it reflects the sky." I chuckled.
Shi pursed her lips and screwed up her face. "Daddy, you don't make any sense."
"I hear that a lot." I replied, turning Rebel off the trail and back toward the barn. Shi imitated the maneuver with her light brown Sandalwood Pony, Bug.
"Will Mommy be able to ride with us soon?"
"Why? Don't you like riding with me?"
"I do… but Mommy was going to teach me how to jump and you won't teach me."
I rolled my eyes at that. According to Shi, I was refusing to teach her. The fact of the matter was that Sage was used to giving instructions and teaching. I wasn't willing to risk screwing up when it was Shiloh in the saddle.
"Maybe we'll get Uncle Peter to teach you."
"Why can't Mommy teach me?"
I sighed, exhausted by this conversation. "Because she can't, Shi. You know she can't. Mommy can't get out of bed."
Between caring for my bed-ridden wife and caring for my five year-old Einstein, I was not faring well. Granted, we knew this was coming. We knew it would get to this point. It didn't make it any easier.
When we reached the barn, I helped Shi dismount and we proceeded to wash and sweat-scrape Rebel and Bug before brushing them out and putting them up for the night. One of the ranch hands would come through in an hour to refill food and water troughs for all the horses.
Diablo was standing at the door to his stall, his head over the ledge, waiting expectantly for me, as he did every night. I grabbed a carrot from the tack room and Shi grabbed an apple from the barrel outside and brought it to me.
"Hey, D." I sighed. "No Sage today." I opened my palm to give him the carrot and he chomped on it gratefully, giving a snort of approval. "I'll run you proper tomorrow. I know you hate it when Peter rides you. You and I, we'll take one of the longer trails while Shi's in school. What'dya think?" He grunted and shifted, arching his neck in an attempt to grab the apple from me, so I held it up on my flat palm for him to take. "It'll be over soon." I promised him.
Shi and I walked up the trail to the house in relative silence. She was so like Sage in the way she could be a flurry of action and questions one moment, only to turn around and be completely silent the next. Sometimes it was downright scary.
I grabbed a piece of straw out of her braid and tossed it aside before scooping her up and running the rest of the way to the house, eliciting a squeal of surprise from her.
"Daddy!" she chastised me when I plopped her down at the kitchen table.
"What's for dinner tonight, Baby Girl?"
She made a big show of thinking about it, screwing up her face and tapping the index finger of her right hand to her chin. "Hmmm… Chicken nuggets and French fries!"
"I'll see your French fries, but I raise you to broccoli." I challenged. Shi was on a chicken nuggets and French fries kick, and would usually request it every night. I didn't always give in, and I always made sure she had a vegetable, but I couldn't deny the convenience some days.
I was still teaching at the high school, and Char was kind enough to come stay with Sage during the day while Shi was at school, but things were stressful all around, and I was doing my best.
"OK." She grumbled. Last week, she loved broccoli. Apparently this week, it was on her shit list. "Maybe Uncle Peter can make barbeque tomorrow night?"
I grinned at that, knowing Peter would love any reason to smoke a few racks of baby backs. "I'll give him a call and we'll see." I replied, sliding the baking sheet with nuggets and fries into the oven and then turning to grab a bag of frozen broccoli from the freezer.
"Set the timer, Daddy." She reminded me with a roll of her sea foam eyes.
"I always forget that." I didn't really. She just liked reminding me, so I feigned forgetfulness. I set the timer on the stove and popped the steamer bag of veg into the microwave and set the timer, but didn't start it just yet. "Shi, why don't you go get your homework. We'll work on that while we wait."
"OK!" she took off down the hall and came back carrying her vinyl turquoise backpack with a purple drum on it. Our kid had a thing for the Fresh Beat Band… it was the only thing that quieted her down as a toddler, even though it was a show for older kids, and she still loved them. Sage had bought it for her the previous Christmas because it represented Shi's favorite character… some redhead by the name of Marina.
Now here it was, nearly summer, and it was in pristine condition. I was surprised, considering it belonged to a kid who took it everywhere.
Shi pulled out a worksheet with several pictures on it and began writing out the words they represented. She paused halfway through and furrowed her brow. "Daddy, does house have a U or a W?"
"You tell me."
This was Sage's game, and Shi hated it. Sage maintained that you learned more by trying to find the answer yourself and being corrected, rather than simply having the answer handed to you.
She huffed and shot me a glare. "I think it has a U."
"Correct." I kissed the top of her head and lightly tugged on her braid before turning to start the broccoli.
"Daddy, can we do my hair in piggy tails tomorrow?"
I'd just finally managed to learn how to braid her hair without it looking all jacked up and wonky… now she wanted me to double the effort? I'd have to talk to Char.
"We can try." I hedged, knowing that if it ended up looking bad, Sage would send Char after my bad-braiding ass.
The timers went off at exactly the same time and I pulled out the baking sheet and divided up the fries and nuggets between two plates before adding broccoli.
"Uncle Peter's sauce."
I rolled my eyes. Peter had begun making his own barbeque sauce and Shi would try to put it on anything… even ice cream. That one didn't go over so hot.
"What do you say?" I intoned.
I nodded and grabbed the sauce from the refrigerator, sitting it in the middle of the table and placing her plate in front of her.
"Thank you." I grinned at her smug expression.
I added a bit of sauce (because I'm no idiot… anymore… the kid is not allowed to have control of the bottle or I'd be scrubbing down the kitchen), and then placed my plate on the table and filled her a glass of milk. I handed it to Shi and then grabbed a beer from the fridge for myself.
"Is that all your homework, or do you have Math too?"
"Auntie Charlotte helped me with my Math when we got home."
I grinned. As long as Math was out of the way, Char felt she had free reign to spoil her Goddaughter silly… which she often did… within limits, after I made her come over and babysit one day when she'd given Shi too much candy.
"Did you do OK with it?"
"Yesh. It wash jufft patternsh and countig."
"Don't talk with your mouth full."
She swallowed and repeated, "Yes. It was just patterns and counting."
I nodded. "Thank you."
And she's as big of a smart ass as her mother…
"Did you thank Auntie Charlotte for her help?"
"Yes, she did." I grinned and looked over my shoulder to find Charlotte in all her four months pregnant glory leaning in the doorway.
After Allison had come Jeffrey, and now they were expecting Damon. Peter was thrilled to finally outnumber the girls at home.
"Thanks for helping out again today." I sighed, standing to give her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "I really do appreciate it."
"I know, Sug. And you know I'd do it, even if you didn't need me to. She's my best friend, of course I want to help take care of her."
"How is she?"
"Tired. She's resting now. She's been in too much pain to be gettin' much sleep."
I nodded, suddenly even more exhausted just thinking about Sage's exhaustion. "Don't I know it." I gave her a weak smile and continued, "You should get home to Pete and the kids. They may be tearing the place apart."
She smirked at that and rolled her eyes. "I hope so. I need an excuse to gut that house."
"Shi would like to do barbeque tomorrow night."
"Pete would like that. The kids have been itching to come over and ride for a while, but they've always got stuff that needs doing at home. I'm sure we can make it work." She hugged me again and moved to kiss the top of Shi's head. "Don't give your daddy too much trouble, Shi-Girl. I'll see you tomorrow." Shi simply nodded around a mouthful of chicken and waved, and Char turned back to me. "I'll tell Peter to give you a call later."
"Thanks." I kissed her cheek again and waved her off before sitting back down and inhaling my meal.
When we were done, Shi helped me load the dishwasher and then I sent her off to the living room to watch cartoons. I wasn't even all the way down the hall when I heard the familiar theme song of Yo Gabba Gabba, and I cringed. I hated that show, but Shi loved it.
Sage said the main character looked like a skinny, fuzzy orange condom. I kind of agreed.
I made my way down the hall and walked into the guest bedroom, turning on the table lamp on the dresser and smiling as I watched Sage's chest rise and fall slowly. She was paler than usual, but then again, being stuck in a bed nearly twenty-four-seven for eight weeks will do that to you. Charlotte had obviously helped her shower at some point because her hair was still slightly damp, and braided in a tight fishbone plait over her shoulder.
My head jerked up to find her watching me, a weak smile on her face. "Hi." I replied, returning her smile. "How're you feeling?"
She gave a half-hearted shrug and sighed. "Tired of being in bed."
"Well, yeah." I chuckled.
"You gonna stand there, or are you gonna come lay with me for a while?"
I grinned and climbed into bed, kissing her softly before placing my hand on her swollen belly.
"Three more days." I sighed.
"Thank God." She groaned. "I feel like a beached whale."
I laughed at that and kissed her brow. "You don't look like one."
"Yeah, right. Most days, I could be Godzilla and you'd be thrilled, so long as you're getting sex."
"I'm not getting sex right now." I murmured, rubbing the spot where I knew one baby's rump was. "How are they today?"
"Active. I'm getting the crap kicked out of my diaphragm." And as if on cue, someone gave my hand a sharp kick. "Where's Shi?"
"Watching Yo Gabba Gabba in the living room."
"Mmm… did you go riding?"
"Yeah… she wants to learn to jump. I told her I'd talk to Pete."
Sage nodded, closing her eyes for a brief moment. "That's probably a good idea. I don't think I'll be jumping anytime soon."
I grinned at that comment, remembering six years ago when I came home on our anniversary and asked if she wanted to go jump a few hurdles and give the horses a workout before we went out to dinner. She'd sat on my lap, straddled my thighs the way she had the night I proposed, and put my hand on her belly, telling me that she couldn't go riding for a while.
I hadn't understood at first, worried that she had another tumor, or that maybe she simply wasn't feeling well, until she'd pressed my other palm into her stomach and gave me the best news I'd ever heard.
This time around, she'd simply told me we'd have to get rid of the guest room and possibly build a guest house. I caught on a lot faster that time… and I'd promptly found a contractor and architect to build a small guest house a few acres from the main house.
"I can't wait until you paint this room." She sighed, turning her head to kiss my cheek. "I feel like I haven't gotten to nest properly."
I grinned and nuzzled her cheek. Sage was convinced the twins were both boys, but neither would cooperate during the fetal survey, so there was no confirmation. With her having been confined to bed rest in what was to be their nursery for the past eight weeks, I wasn't able to paint and prep like normal. Currently, all the supplies were in the shed, including two cribs, and the rest of the furniture.
We'd simply bought another of the same crib that we'd used for Shi, and planned on reusing it and all the furniture, but obviously, the same theme wouldn't work. Sage had decided on a cowboy theme for the twins, including pony pictures and Ziggy replicas. When I pointed out that at least one of the babies could actually be a girl, she refused to hear any of it.
"It'll happen." I murmured. "When we bring you three home, we'll get you situated and Pete, Emmett, and I will get to work while Char and Rose help you out and let you rest." I kissed her again.
"Can't wait." She sighed. "You gonna read? They always settle when you read to them."
"Of course." I grabbed the copy of Doctor Seuss' The Sneetches and Other Stories off the nightstand. Baby B—the baby currently taking up residence high on the right side—was partial to Doctor Seuss… a fact that had Sage convinced the kid was going to be a full-on genius. I always read to him (or her?) first, because the stories were much shorter.
Baby A—the baby currently upside-down and prone to punching Sage's kidneys—preferred that I read historical documentation written by Shelby Foote. Sage was convinced that meant he (or she?) would be as brilliant in History as I was.
I read through the Seuss tale once, smiling as Sage relaxed slightly as Baby B began to settle. About halfway through, Shiloh had decided to join us, climbing into bed on Sage's other side and resting her head on Sage's shoulder.
Next, I read a few pages about the Battle of Shiloh, because that was Shi's favorite. She knew she was named for her ancestor. She smiled at me and began to doze off slightly, but her eyes popped open as soon as I stopped speaking.
"It's bedtime, Baby Girl."
"Five more minutes." She mumbled.
Shi sighed happily as Sage kissed her hair and rubbed her back, but she suddenly sprang up and asked, "What if I don't wanna be a big sister?" her eyes had gone wide and she looked like she might panic.
Ah. Here we go.
We'd been waiting for this conversation.
"Well…" I drawled. "It's kinda a bit late for that now, Shi."
She glared at me. "But you won't love me as much."
"Of course we will." Sage murmured, hugging her gently. "We'll love you even more." Shi shot her an incredulous look and I smiled, wondering how Sage was going to explain the math on that one. "Not only will you be our Baby Girl, but you'll also be a big sister. That's a whole new kind of love."
Shi seemed slightly mollified, but looked to me for confirmation. "She's right. Mommy's always right." I nodded.
Three days later, Char showed up to take Shiloh to school while I packed up the back of the VW Touraeg we'd replaced Sage's Beetle with. After a week of hauling an infant car seat in and out of the Beetle, Sage had thrown in the towel and demanded a bigger vehicle. I had a feeling I'd have to buy a minivan next, but Sage was vehemently opposed to vans.
"You'll call us when you get settled?" Char asked as she strapped Shi into the back of her Toyota Highlander.
"Of course." I replied, closing up the back.
She shot me a grin and said, "You know, if she's right, you'll never live it down."
I smirked and rolled my eyes. "I know. Believe me, I know."
She climbed into the driver's seat and drove off just as Emmett and Rosalie helped Sage waddle down the front porch steps.
"And you'll call when you're settled?" Emmett asked.
"And you'll take lots of pictures?"
"And you'll get lots of rest? Remember, the nurses are there to help."
"Emmett, I know." Sage groaned. "I have done this before."
"Em, don't stress her out." Rosalie chastised as he made to add another thing to the ever-growing To-Do list.
He quickly closed his mouth and shot her a look before turning to me. "Jasper, make sure she takes the Percocet. She was miserable last time after the surgery."
"Don't worry, Emmett." I assured him. "She'll take 'em, even if I have to spike her drink." I grinned.
Sage's and Emmett's relationship had grown into that of very close siblings (and dare I say, friends?) over the past several years. He still worried constantly, but now he worried about different things.
They got her to the passenger side and I opened the door so Emmett and I could boost Sage into the seat. She hugged Emmett and then Rose, patting Rose's eight month belly and scowling at her high heels.
"There are days where I hate you, Rose. You make me feel like a weakling."
Rose laughed and hugged her. "If I wear flats, it throws my balance off." She rubbed Sage's belly and said, "We can't wait to meet you two!" before leaning in and whispering just loud enough for me to hear, "Make Jasper do all the diaper changes. He's earned it after giving you two buns to bake."
"Hey now!" I cried, offended. "It's not my fault she either popped two eggs or one egg split into two. It's all her fault."
Sage smirked, a rare sign of humor in the past few months, and replied, "I should've stuck to that you're never touching me again thing."
Emmett rolled his eyes and hugged her again. "Be safe. Call us when you can. I love you."
"Love you guys too." She replied before I closed the door.
"We'll see you in a few days." They nodded. "Or… I dunno… a day or two… I don't know. It depends on if she's up for visitors."
"We know. Don't push her if she's not up for it." Rose responded. "We'll take Shi Shifts with Peter and Char, and whoever is on shift when you're ready for Shi to come up will bring her… even if it is just her going in." she hugged me fiercely and whispered, "I am so proud of you, Baby Brother. I love you."
"I love you too." I kissed her cheek and clapped Emmett on the back before climbing into the car and pulling out down the drive.
Three hours later, I was humbled yet again by the wonder of what Sage and I were able to make together.
She'd been right. Again. She really was always right.
Maybe I should just stop trying to be right.
I smiled, watching Baby A (now named Johnathan Peter, after my dad and his Godfather, and to be nicknamed JP) and Baby B (now Nathaniel Emmett, after my middle name and his uncle, nicknamed Nate) lay side by side on Sage's chest, all three of them fast asleep after their first feeding.
JP seemed to be aptly named, as his blond hair was slightly darker than Nate's. I was wondering whose eyes they would have, but surmised they'd probably be green no matter what, unless Emmett's blue eyes came through somehow. They definitely weren't identical, which left me relieved, as I'd been worried about possibly mixing them up.
In my life, I'd only seen Sage be as beautiful as she was now one other time… the day she gave me Shi. I was in awe of her all over again, but then, I was always in awe. That would never change.
End Notes: Tell me what ya'll thought! This is the END. It's OVER. I will be posting a few more outtakes though, which can be found on my Author Profile under Control: The Outtakes.
RemyKilday: If it wasn't for you, Sage and Jasper never would have made it past chapter 10. Your praise, patience, and ego strokes helped to see this story through to completion, and I hope you know how much that means to me. I love you, bb!
AbbyMickey24: I know it took me FOREVER to convince you to read it, and I hope you don't regret it. The fact that you've become such a supporter of my writing means so much to me, hun. You are the best!
Caggie: I'm pretty sure there's a review from you for every chapter lol. Every time I woke up in the morning and saw you'd reviewed, it started my day off with a smile. Your support has meant so much. Thank you!
Heavyinfinity: I never expected an author I fangirl over to be interested in this story, and I think the first time you reviewed, I almost fainted (I was screaming). Thanks for your support and for the recommendation you posted in one of your chaps.
SneakySnarkySubs (Siobhan2006 and LadyBlueKnight): Thank you so much for that very first recommendation! You guys have both been so awesome to me and I'm humbled to call you friends.
Secretly Addicted, VSPS, and Angelindeskyes: Ya'll have been with me pretty much from the beginning, sticking by me, reviewing pretty much every chapter, and I can't tell you how priceless your support has been. Thank you all.
The Wordy Bitches: Thanks for the rec (JaspersBella)! I was so flattered to make the cut for a blog I fangirl over.
HammerHips: You're last, but certainly not least, because I figured most people would zone out by now… but not you. That's kind of the point isn't it? The point of a Schwoogie-Muffin? When you and I started this little mind trip together, I was a nervous wreck since I've fangirled over you for so long. I was flattered and floored that you saw potential in this story, and your unwavering support has been the biggest factor in getting this story completed. I can't tell you how much this means to me, and I actually feel that you deserve more credit than just a plain old Schwoogie-Muffin for it. Thank you hun, for everything.