Darren rested his head on her hip. Issey scratched the backs of her knuckles along the stubble at his jaw, brushed her thumb over his sideburns, lost her fingers in his curls. It was getting close to time for him to leave and neither wanted to say goodbye again.
"You're doing a great job at taking care of me and making sure I'm calm but aren't you even a little freaked out?" She asked quietly.
His eyes were closed, he looked completely at peace. "About it being twins?"
"Not just that, all of it. Being a parent, having a family with someone you've only known a few months, buying a house...you're life has changed a ton in the past year and now it's changing again in a really permanent way. "
He didn't bother to open his eyes. "In a really groovy way. I'll admit I didn't expect all of this at this point but its here and I'm glad. I would have loved more time for us to be together just the two of us but it is what it is."
She was hesitant but persisted, "I don't want you to feel trapped."
Now his eyes opened and he lifted his head to look in her eyes. "Don't. Never, ever question how much I want this. I want us, I want our children, I want this life with you."
"You're so young, your future is so open, I don't want us to ever hold you back and I'm afraid that as much as I want you to succeed I may need you too much."
He growled his frustration at not being able to hug her to him and settled for taking her hand. He did the long slow blink that always signaled a thoughtful response, "I've lived a lot in the time I've been on this planet, and neither of us are signing death certificates here, this is a new adventure not the end of anything. I'm young, okay, but the only thing that scares me is will I be a good enough father? Will I be able to support you the way you need me to, will I be able to make the right decisions and career choices for us, for our kids? I don't doubt for a second my desire to, just whether I'm capable."
"You are." She spoke around the lump in her throat. "You're thoughtful and brilliant and I have complete confidence in your parenting skills. I don't know if I'm going to be able to do what I want to do. How will I have the energy? Everything I've read about women having babies after something like this, they talk about being exhausted, about having difficulty holding the baby, diapering, doing the smallest things. Now we find I'm going to need to do them times two and I don't want to fail our kids and I especially don't want the burden of my being a useless mother to fall on you."
"A useless mother is the last thing you'll be. First, those women were talking about having the baby shortly after surgery, or during radiation or chemo. You have lots of recovery time so if you don't need the other stuff I bet you're able to function fine. We'll both be tired, that's a given, any parents of twins are going to be tired but you will be such a wonderful mother. You consider other people's feelings, you know how to make everyone feel special, you know how to discipline with an iron fist and still assure that person that it comes from love. Our kids are so lucky to have you." He caressed her hands, her arms, playing his fingers on her skin like piano keys. "Those are the important things. We'll have help. We'll have Joey around if you want and get a nanny to lend a hand with the everyday tasks but the important stuff, the real Mommy stuff is where you'll shine."
"Sit beside me?" He did his best to get next to dodge the lines attached to her and settle next to her on the bed. She rested against his chest, closing her eyes and listening to his heartbeat. She nearly fell asleep but didn't want to waste the time they had left. "You never said what your parent's reaction was to your being a father."
"They want to meet you of course. They're supportive but concerned. It helped to have Chuck meet you and tell them how happy we seemed and how much he liked you but naturally this isn't what they had in mind for their first grandchild." He kissed her head. "They'll feel better when they meet you; they're going to love you."
"I hope so. I don't want to be public enemy number one with them." She yawned and winced. The pain was starting to take over.
"You need pain meds. Where's the call button?"
"I'm fine, it's really just like pinching under my arms. I don't want to take anything more than I have to, it's not good for the baby. Babies. Wow."
"So are we telling people this?"
"Not yet, let's just keep it for us for a little while."
"I like that." He smiled.
"Knock, knock, sorry to be a pest but we have a few more deliveries." No cart this time but three more vases of flowers were brought in.
Issey asked if she would mind bringing the cards over to her, she wasn't willing to give up her comfy spot on Darren to let him move. The first card was from a recording studio she used frequently in L.A., the second was from Darren's parents. It read: Isabelle, We cannot wait to meet you. Our prayers are with you for a speedy recovery. Love, Charles and Cerina.
She removed the third card from the envelope, read it, read it again and passed it to Darren, amazed.
Issey: Best of luck with everything. We hope you have a speedy recovery and that you and the baby are healthy and happy soon. Thank you for making Darren so happy. Love, Darren's Dreamgirls (a fan group)
"So sweet of them." She sniffled.
He turned the card in his nimble fingers, "They are amazing. Hey, are you crying?"
She nodded and raised her arm carefully to wipe at her face. "I really thought they all hated me, it's kind of amazing that any of them would bother to do this, that'd they cared enough ."
"Does it really bother you that some of them will always vilify you? Because that kind of comes with the situation."
"Normally? No. I mean, no one likes to be hated for no reason, but I get what it is, on a day like today though just getting a little love from somewhere you expect to find nothing but negativity is especially touching. Can you tweet about this? Tweet a thank you, with a picture of the arrangement? Tell them how much it meant to us?"
He snapped a picture and wrote the tweet without leaving the bed. She would read the responses later, when he was gone.
"We haven't talked about names yet. What have you been thinking?" he set his phone on the nightstand and held her hand.
"I have a few names I've always loved but then I hear something and think, oooh, maybe that. What about you?"
"Okay, don't laugh because you're going to want to laugh."
"Oh God, what is it?"
"Bellatrix…hear me out. Orion has always been my favorite constellation and Bellatrix is Latin for female warrior, which I think is a pretty good name for a baby girl whose mother went through breast cancer while carrying her."
"It's a beautiful name, but you know she'd be compared with Bellatrix Lestrange always."
"I don't think so. Every generation has their huge movie series, or book or whatever, Harry Potter was mine but it won't be hers. By the time she's old enough to be in school and have kids look for things to make fun of it won't be as pervasive."
"And if it's a boy do you want Betelgeuse?"
"Obviously not, but maybe Sirus."
She barked a laugh then swallowed hard, her throat still sore from the tube. "Why not Voldemort?"
"Severus. Dear God, if it's twin boys lets name them Severus and Voldemort." He was as animated as she'd seen him since she'd come out of surgery, truly enjoying himself.
"And the girls? Belletrix and Nymphadora?"
"You're kidding but I actually love both of those. Nymphadora. It's perfect."
"Gets me thinking about Bewitched reruns, We could do Endora and Serena."
He shook his head, "That's my mother's name."
"Oh, right, okay, Endora and Tabitha."
"I like Tabitha. Tabby Criss. It's cute."
"Hmm. It IS cute."
"Not that, I mean, I'm saying Criss but if you want to talk about their last name, whether you wanted them to be Mooney or Criss hyphen Mooney, Mooney hyphen Criss…"
"Crooney! No, they'll have your last name"
"Good, okay. So we like Tabitha. Any other serious contenders?"
"Actually, I'm not ruling out Bellatrix. Trixie and Tabby Criss. I mean, c'mon."
"They sound like cats."
"Yeah. Or strippers."
She adjusted slightly to look at him, "Okay, I have a boy's name that I really love, if you don't like it right away promise me you'll give it some time to see if it grows on you."
"As in Joseph Haydn, the father of the symphony and the string quartet? I would never have thought of that, that's a great name! It can be a girl's name too, like Hayden Pennettiere."
"For some reason I think it's the cutest name ever for a boy but I detest it for a girl. Plus she spells it with an e after the d which, no."
"So Haydn Criss. I could totally be down with that. Do we have a middle name we like with it?"
"No. Actually, my grandfather's name was Alexander, that would be a pretty middle name. Haydn Alexander Criss."
"It's okay. We can work on it. Any other boy names?"
"My other grandfather was named Marshall. I've always loved that."
"Marshall Criss. What does that sound like? It sounds like something."
"Bad 60's cowboy show."
"Pretty much. What about something Irish? I like Kieran."
"Oooh, Kieran, I like that very much. Haydn and Kieran, those sound cute together."
"Should you be in the bed like that?" Her mother surprised them.
"He's fine Mom, did you get some rest?" Issey linked her fingers with Darren's to hold him there in case he got any ideas about moving in deference to her mother.
"I reorganized your cabinets and vacuumed your rug. When was the last time you vacuumed the place?"
"I did it the night before I left." Darren said sheepishly. "And I reorganized the kitchen cabinets."
"You had everything down low, there's plenty of space up on the top shelves, why are you cramming everything down low?" She sat in the chair against the wall.
"Um, Because I can't reach up for a while? He moved it to where I can reach it while I'm recovering."
"Well if you need something I'll reach it for you. I couldn't find anything in all that clutter."
Issey squeezed Darren's hand to keep from saying anything more.
"My God it looks like a funeral parlor in here, and there's more at your house, flowers everywhere. You're having an operation not being buried."
"The ones from you are lovely, they're over there." Darren pointed out the flowers she had sent.
"Well, they're really from her father because he's not here." She'd be bested but she wasn't about to admit it. "Have you eaten anything? Has the doctor been in?"
"Yes, and yes. Everything is fine. Did you talk to Daddy?"
"I called him, he wants to talk to you when you feel up to it."
"I'll give him a ring in a little bit." She yawned again.
"I hate to say it Babe." Darren started to move.
"Nooooooooooooo." She pouted but sat up so he could stand.
"'Fraid so. Back to the trenches." He thumbed her cheekbones softly and whispered, "I love you." He leaned closer in breathed in her ear, "All three of you." He took her bottom lip between his, tracing it with his tongue. She quivered and opened her mouth to him.
"Why is it you kids think you have to swallow each other's tongues to say goodbye?"
Issey smiled into the kiss but wouldn't let Darren back away. She kissed him deeper and then held him close, "Have fun. You'll never have a first time tour like this again. Enjoy every second of it. The scary stuff is done now here. We're fine, we're going to sleep and rest and redecorate our new house. Promise me you'll hang out with your friends and have a great time."
"As good as I can have without my girl there with me, but you promise that if you start to feel crappy you will call me right away. I can't have fun if I can't trust that you'll tell me if you need me to come home."
He drew a deep breath. "Don't forget to check the bag I packed for you. I'll call you when I land. Love you."
"Love you too."
He started for the door and turned back to give her one more kiss.
"Oh go already. You kids are so dramatic. Your father didn't even get out of bed when I left, he said, "Tell her I love her." And rolled over to go back to snoring.
They both laughed and Darren disappeared down the hall.
(A/N: As I've said before, this is a trilogy. The final story will begin soon under the title Giving All You've Got. In the meantime keep an eye on Issey's Tumblr under the name Issey's Road. She's obsessively redesigning every room of the new house and maybe dropping information about how the tour is going without her there and possibly more. As always I want to thank everyone for reading this story and a heartfelt virtual hug to those who have taken the time to review. Your words mean more to me than you will ever, ever know. )