This outtake was written for the Fandom4Storms relief effort. I love and appreciate the girls who put the fundraiser together. Living in Alabama, I witnessed some of the devastating destruction firsthand and know how much these people needed the help. Thanks to those of you that contributed to the cause.

Thanks to EllisBell725 for prereading and EmDempster for her beta skills. Feeb01 also created an adorable banner for me. Link is on my profile.

You know it isn't mine.


thistle (n): any of various prickly composite plants with often showy heads of mostly tubular flowers; also: any of various other prickly plants


Thistle

Alice's POV

Huge. That was the best word that described my belly at the moment.

I was sprawled out on the couch, my shirt pulled up and tucked under my bra, watching my skin stretch and move with life of its own. It was almost like watching an alien horror movie just before a slimy foreign creature bursts through the victim's abdomen.

I shook my head, trying to rid it of those kinds of thoughts. I had promised Dad and Bella that I was okay. "No, Dad. I'm fine. I swear. I won't flake out and give birth in the back of a dark alley and throw the baby in a dumpster. I promise." Those words had actually come out of my mouth. He never accused me of being willing to do such a thing, but I could see the underlying worry in his face.

Bella's too, for that matter.

But my baby sister, the quiet, loving soul that she is, had been nothing but supportive since I broke down and told her that I was pregnant. She held my hand as I weighed my options and helped me begin to mend my strained relationship with my father when I decided to keep the baby. He offered me a place to live after he found out about the baby, for which I was grateful. I had left Jasper when I found him dealing again after he had agreed to stop. Staying at a friend's apartment just wasn't working out for me or them, so I jumped at Dad's offer.

Of course, there were conditions.

I could only see Jasper at our house and only when Dad was present. Which really didn't matter; I hadn't seen Jasper in six months and had only talked to him twice.

He also made me understand that I would have to continue to work. I had gotten a job helping part-time at a local car dealership. I answer phones and file all day long. It's the worst job ever and nowadays, my feet were swollen and killing me by the time I got home.

Cleaning the house was my responsibility and so was the cooking. Well, he initially implemented that rule, but quickly retracted it after his fifth burned meal in a row. We were lucky to have Bella home for the summer to cook, but now that she had gone back to school in Seattle, we only benefitted from her superior culinary skills on the weekends. Most nights Dad would pick up something on his way home or cook himself and he wasn't half bad in the kitchen. Not that it would matter to me, I was hungry all the time and would probably eat the bark of the tree, as long as it had ketchup on it.

Ketchup. That was my pregnancy craving. I had to have it on everything. Hamburgers, fries, hot dogs, eggs… I was half tempted to ask the doctor if there was a chance this kid would come out with skin as red as a tomato.

I glanced back down as I felt another shift in my belly. There's really no way that kid could have much room to move. My skin was ridiculously tight as it was. I was genuinely afraid that if it stretched any further, it would burst open. Just like the aforementioned horror movie.

Bella came stomping down the stairs, rounded the corner and came to plop down on the floor beside me. I had never seen anyone so fascinated by another person's body. When she was home on the weekends, she would stare at my belly for hours if I let her. Initially, she was afraid to touch it, but now she had no problems splaying her hands across the wide expanse, waiting to feel movements or kicks or, lately, hiccups.

"He's slowed down today," she commented quietly.

I nodded and bounced my eyes back and forth between her starry eyed face and her hands on my belly.

"He couldn't possibly have anywhere to go," I groaned. "He's outgrown his area, I think."

"Do you hear that, little man," she cooed. "You've outstayed your welcome in there. Why don't you come on out so Aunt Bella can love on you? You would make a wonderful birthday present."

I rolled my eyes at her. He wouldn't listen to my begging and pleading, and I was the one incubating him for the past forty weeks and two days. I doubted he would listen to her.

Her eyes shifted over to me. "You feeling okay today?"

I nodded and pulled my shirt down when she removed her hands and started to rise. "Yeah. My back hurts, but I'm sure that's because I'm carrying an extra thirty-five pounds right now," I grumbled.

"I'm going to start dinner."

"If I felt like it, I'd cook for you. Sorry you have to cook your own birthday dinner. I didn't even get you a present." I was the shittiest big sister ever.

"God, Alice, it's not that big of a deal. Just another day, except I can drink legally now." She winked as she started toward the kitchen. "How does spaghetti sound?"

"Make mine with a side of ketchup," I teased as I sat up. I heaved myself off the couch and headed to the stairs. Damn that bathroom for being upstairs. But I had to pee…again. Because that was all I did lately. Pee. And eat. And file.

I had almost made it to the first step when I felt something funny down there and a gush of water. I was momentarily horrified that I peed myself before I realized that my water had broken.

Of course that kid would listen to Bella. It was all that damn cooing she did to my belly.

"Bella," I called out, trying not to panic. I didn't feel any pains yet, but the anticipation of what was to come settled heavily on my shoulders and sent my mind reeling.

"What is it?" She hurried around the corner and stopped when she saw my soaked shorts.

"Oh my God," she exclaimed with wide eyes. I almost laughed at her. But then a pain hit and I doubled over. I was vaguely aware of her scrambling up the stairs and flying back down them with a bag and the car keys. She ushered me out the door and into the car.

We were flying across town, hazard lights flashing, when another pain hit. That one was worse than the initial contraction. I couldn't breathe or think. Bella was dialing numbers on her cell phone constantly, calling the doctor, Dad and who the hell knows who else.

She whipped into the emergency entrance at the hospital and jumped out to help me through the doors. Just as I was seated in a wheelchair, the third and most powerful contraction yet made me double over and cry out. The nurse quickly whisked me up to the maternity ward and by the time Bella arrived to my room, I was in a gown and hooked up to what seemed like a thousand machines.

I was terrified.

It had been almost eight years since my mom had died and in that time, I had never missed her presence as much as I did right then. She wouldn't be by my side when I gave birth to my first child, whispering her encouraging words and telling me everything would be okay. My mother had always been my rock and biggest cheerleader growing up and now, when I needed her most, she wasn't here. But, despite those hateful words I had spewed at my dad a few years ago, I had no one to blame but myself.

I pushed back the tears, guilt and regret and tried to focus on the task at hand. There was currently a little human being trying to escape from my body and it felt like he had no problem ripping himself out if he needed to. Visions of that pesky slimy alien creature bursting through my protruding belly button start to dance around my brain.

Bella walked in as a nurse with a smile permanently affixed to her heavily made-up face was checking me. "Wow," she said as her hand was stuck up my nether regions. "You're already at a six and you're about seventy percent effaced. Have you made your decision on pain management? Do you want an epidural?"

"Hell yes, I do."

Perky Nurse and Bella both laughed, but I found nothing funny about the situation. As soon as the nurse walked out the door, another contraction ripped through me and I swore that my body was ripping in two.

The anesthesiologist took his precious time getting back to me. Bella said it had only been twenty minutes, but in my opinion that was nineteen minutes and fifty-nine seconds too long. Everyone had told me the needle would scare me and that I would have to focus on not moving an inch while he administered the medicine. But when the time came I was too paralyzed with contraction pain to worry about moving or the slight sting caused by the massive needle. Within moments, the feeling of sweet relief flooded through my body. My legs slowly became heavy and it was odd not being able to feel below my waist, but ohmygod, I could finally breathe again.

Bella sat beside me the entire time, rubbing my back and whispering words of encouragement. I dozed on and off, awaking once to see my father sitting in the chair at the foot of the bed. He looked downright scared.

"You okay?" he asked timidly.

"I'm great now. The anesthesiologist is my best friend. Never, ever give that man a ticket. I'll get his name for you."

Dad chuckled and seemed to relax a bit. Though it was still very apparent that he was uncomfortable hanging out in a room in which his first grandchild was soon to make his debut.

"I think I'm just going to walk down and get a cup of coffee. Bella, you want anything?"

She looked at him and grinned, shaking her head.

"No way. It'd be my luck that I'd miss out on something important. Thanks, though." She waved him off.

Dad nodded and mumbled something incoherent as he ducked out of the room. Bella and I looked at each other before bursting out into giggles.

As my laughter quieted down, I started having the strangest urge to push. Luckily, the nurse walked in to check me again and confirmed that I was in fact fully dilated and ready to push. She rang the nurse's desk and within minutes, there was a flurry of activity in my room. The bed was broken down, stirrups were brought up from their hiding spot under the table and a clear bassinet appeared in the corner of the room.

It was really happening. I was about to become a mother.

Dr. Cagle appeared and greeted me with her usual calm demeanor, a complete contrast to my inner panic.

"Ok, Alice, we're ready to start pushing now. I want you to grab the back of your thighs." She placed my hands where she wanted them. "When I say 'go', I want you to push as hard as you can until the count of ten. Are you ready?" Hell no. I nodded.

"Ok, here we go. Push, Alice! Push, push, push!" I bore down, the numb feeling making it kind of hard to determine whether or not I was really pushing, but the pressure in me made it natural and easy. Bella, Dr. Cagle and Perky Nurse counted in unison. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

"Good, Alice, good. Relax now and take a breath. He's coming down very nicely. For a first timer, you've had a very easy labor."

Bitch. She wasn't around before I got my epidural. What does she know?

She watched the monitor beside the bed for a moment before focusing back on me. "Looks like you're getting another one already. You ready to push again?"

I nodded and breathed, "Yeah." We repeated the same pattern as last time. I pushed, they cheered. We went on with this for what seemed like forever until I finally heard some real words of encouragement.

"Ok, Alice. Give me one more round of hard pushing and we'll have this little guy out. You ready?" She didn't even wait for me to nod before yelling, "Go!"

Eight seconds later, at 10:43 pm, I heard a cry and breathed a sigh of relief. Dr. Cagle held him up so I could see my son for the first time. I barely caught a glimpse of his scrunched up face and messy body before he was whisked away to an examination table.

"Oh, Alice, he's so gorgeous!" Bella gushed. Did she see the same thing I did? Somehow I didn't think that question would go over well with her, so I didn't ask it out loud.

Instead, I closed my eyes from shear exhaustion and rested peacefully while the doctor took care of things down there. My eyes popped back open when I heard another wail.

"Is he ok?" I asked.

"He's perfectly fine," a nurse said as she walked up beside me with a blue bundle in her arms. "Perfect in every way. Congratulations, Mommy!" She placed him on my chest and stepped away.

He was cleaner now. I studied his features in awe, captivated by how tiny they were. He had a striped hat on his head, but I could see dark hair sticking out from under it. I reached up stroked his tiny nose and traced his rosy lips.

"Hi, buddy," Bella cooed from beside me. "Happy birthday to you…and to me," she exclaimed with glee. It occurred to me in the back of my mind that she was more enthusiastic about his arrival than I had been.

Maybe it was the drugs.

~ T ~

The next afternoon, I stared warily at the clear bassinet as it rested beside my hospital bed. The blue card in the clear slot stood out at me, bearing all the vital information about the occupant.

Baby Swan

Date of Arrival: September 13

Time of Arrival: 10:43 pm

6 lbs. 13 oz., 20 inches

I looked up when the door to my room opened. In walked the last person I ever expected to see.

"Hi," he said shyly, his blue eyes twinkling.

I was exhausted and in pain, so needless to say, seeing the father of my child, the one who missed the birth of his son because he was off getting high or whatever, standing in the middle of my room was not the highlight of my day.

"Jasper, what are you doing here?"

"Now is that any way to treat your son's father, darlin'?" That accent was what made me fall for him seven years ago. He knew it.

"Oh, you want to claim to be his father now? Where were you last night, Jasper? When he was born," I asked angrily.

"Now hold on, Alice. Don't get upset. I'm sure it wouldn't help your condition right now."

I fumed silently as he strode over to where Brandon slept peacefully in his bassinet.

"Hi there, little guy," he spoke quietly. He reached in and softly stroked his exposed hand as he asked, "What's his name?"

"Brandon Charles," I replied evenly.

He laughed. "Trying to get in good with Daddy, aren't ya?" He continued to stand over Brandon, his eyes roaming over the entire little bundle. "Brandon Charles Whitlock. I like it."

"Swan."

He stilled and looked back at me. "Excuse me?"

"His name is Brandon Charles Swan," I said.

"Why would you do that, Alice? Can you even do that? You have to list a father, don't you? Won't they automatically given him my last name?" Each sentence was said with that inquisitive smile I knew so well. It always came out when he was trying to convince you that whatever you've just said was wrong.

"No, I listed the father as 'unknown'. You weren't here," I shrugged.

I watched as he walked over to me and stood beside my bed. There was a flash in his eyes and I noticed how bloodshot they were. It shouldn't have surprised me that he was probably drunk or high or both.

"You can try to act like I don't exist anymore, but mark my words, Alice. We'll be a family. You know you can't stay away for much longer. I've got the good stuff. Everything you want," he said seductively.

Those cravings and urges I had tucked away for the last nine months reared their heads at the sound of his voice. My body knew what it wanted, what it needed. It hadn't been long enough for me to forget what it felt like to be careless and free.

But I had to stay strong. My life didn't only belong to me now.

"No, Jasper. I'm done with all of that. I'm not going back." I may have been more convincing if my voice had not been shaking while the words came out.

"You'll need the help, sweetheart. The late nights? The endless diapers? What'll get you through all of it? Who will help you? You'll be back. I know it and you know it. Hell, the kid probably knows it." At his words, Brandon woke up with a high-pitched wail.

He chuckled a bit and picked up my hand, placing a kiss on the top of it. "I'll see you soon, baby."

With that, he planted a kick peck on my forehead and walked out the door, leaving me battling exhaustion and my own tears along with those of a hungry baby.

That's when I knew he was right.


What do you think of Alice and Jasper now? Thanks for reading.