1230, AS: Lion: Waxing Crescent

Daughter of the most esteemed Elder and her full-blood, Umbra wife, Jihl frowned at her naked reflection and turned for the sideview in the mirror. Her stomach bulged, rounded out to protrude. She grabbed one in a hand to check the current size and saggage. Jihl released her uncomfortably inflated breast and ran a hand over her enlarged stomach instead.

It wasn't bad yet, and she'd always find Jihl gorgeous, Lightning assured her regularly. But Jihl didn't like being fat.

The bathroom door opened behind her and Jihl glanced back to see her fiancée in question. "Jihl," Lightning addressed, coming in quickly, "You're even not dressed? And your hair's sopping wet."

"My boobs are sagging." Jihl complained.

"You're almost seven months pregnant with twins; that's going to happen." Lightning grabbed a towel from the rack and brought it over to Jihl, seeming to walk so easily in her blue, satin dress, stomach rounder than Jihl's, even being almost a month behind her. Jihl couldn't imagine how she could be so relaxed with triplets in that growing belly that already looked full enough to give birth. She had a hard enough time with two, let alone Lightning's litter.

"They look bad."

"They do not," Lightning chastised, taking her wet hair in the towel to give it a fast-friction rub. "You look beautiful, Jihl." Jihl sighed as Lightning dried her hair with the towel. "Jihl," Lightning touched her arm. "Jihl, what's wrong?" She turned Jihl around to face her. Jihl's eyes flitted up to Lightning's pretty blues, which matched her dress. She lowered her eyes again. "Hey," Lightning lifted her chin with soft fingers to meet those clear eyes again. "What's going on?"

Jihl averted her eyes, feeling foolish and inadequate all at once. Lightning carried her trips with such ease and grace, Jihl envied it sometimes. She didn't seem to have these repeated problems Jihl bore with her own. "I want to hug you," Jihl finally admitted, sad and troubled with it all. She took half a step to Lightning before their large bellies bumped gently, blocking them. "I haven't been able to hold you for a month."

"Jihl… we can hug. We just have to be careful." Lightning's pink brows drew together before Jihl couldn't hold those eyes for a second longer. "Here," Lightning said, turning around abruptly. She reached back for Jihl's arms and gently tugged until Jihl's large stomach and breasts lay directly against her curved back. She gently tugged Jihl's arms as far as they'd go around her sides, which barely reached the bulge to Lightning's stomach. Her back arched a bit like she was lying down so that Jihl fit against her right.

How did Lightning do this so easily? Every turn, every curve, every walking step so smooth. She still even navigated sex for Jihl like it wasn't a problem, whereas Jihl had gotten awkward and clumsy with their bulging stomachs. She found Lightning just as gorgeous with her grace and ease in all of it, but couldn't replicate it for anything, no matter how hard she tried. Lightning felt like a growing mother filling her role; Jihl just felt fat and awkward all the time. Look," Lightning said once she'd stopped moving them to have Jihl positioned in hugging her from behind. She rested her head on Jihl's shoulder, sweet. "You're holding me."

And before she even knew it or could think right of it, tears started streaming from Jihl's eyes. "It's unfair," Jihl cried, alarming Lightning enough to turn to look at her.

"Jihl— "

Jihl could barely hear her anymore. "You're beautiful and graceful and will make a great mom. Pregnancy fits you like a glove. But I just keep getting fatter and uglier. My boobs sag, my nipples are dark, I get these hot flashes all the time, and I eat like a pig! I can't even marry you 'till I get pretty again! If I get pretty again."

"Jihl!"

Jihl moaned, overcome in a swirling pool of self-depreciation. She felt worse even yet. "I can't even control these awful hormones," Jihl cried, a small fit of anger rising with the torment of all this. Lightning gripped her cheek and, in another moment, her mouth. Jihl's anguish stirred in her, becoming passion for their kiss, which she extended in trying to conquer Lightning's mouth. When Lightning finally fought away for a breath of air, the fire went out like that. Jihl realized she had her against a wall and didn't even remember how they got there. She buried her face in Lightning's shoulder to hide the quiet sobs. Jihl struggled to get ahold of herself. She whimpered, eyes shut.

Lightning cradled her face. Their stomachs pressed. Lightning kissed her forehead, then rested theirs together for a long breath. "I love you, Jihl." Jihl breathed in, almost injured by the words she knew Lightning meant. "I know you're struggling," Lightning brushed back a tear from her cheek. "We just have a few more months."

"Maybe a few months," Jihl corrected, shuddering in horror at the impossible length of normal Umbra pregnancy. "Or we'll be like this for fifteen months." Jihl's heart pattered fast. "I can't do this for nine more months."

"Hey," Lightning stroked her cheek, so warm and comforting and at ease with herself. "It won't be nine months. You heard what Thalia said; we're developing much more along Yun standards, not Umbra."

"She thinks," Jihl added, despairing of heart. "For all she knows, I'm only this big already because I'm having twins, and you've got trips. We'll grow double this size and a half at least yet." Lightning brushed away a fresh tear from her eye. When Jihl finally opened hers, she found herself staring into the warm, concerned gaze of the woman who had her heart clutched so strong. She felt shamed by Lightning's eyes. "I don't…" Jihl tried to get out her full fear over it, but she couldn't hold Lightning's eyes to say it. "I don't want to resent my babies, Claire."

"Jihl," Lightning puffed out with a breath. "You won't."

Jihl wasn't so sure. She tried to find it in Lightning's eyes and did, but she couldn't feel that confidence over herself. "How do you know that? I already feel like they're burdening me sometimes. They're destroying my body, making intimacy an exhausting task of maneuvering around. I can't even look at you before I orgasm half the time for all this weight I've put on. And it's only now onward that my stomach's going to start to drop and hang. Do you know how much bigger I'm supposed to get even now?" Jihl touched her enlarged stomach with a deflated gaze on her belly, so huge. "They don't even kick for me," Jihl looked at Lightning with sad eyes. "Yours kick all the time."

"That's not always a blessing. Do you know how hard an Umbra-Yun kicks in there? I swear, they gobble every meat product I eat like steroids." Lightning tried to get her to smile, but it didn't work because Jihl didn't know how hard her little babies could kick. When she saw she didn't feel better, Lightning cradled her face and brushed back the tears from her eyes. "Pregnancy's not as easy thing, Jihl. It's not horrible if you're having a hard time with it."

"You don't have a hard time with it," Jihl pointed out. "Our babies have the same father, only you have one more, but you still breeze through this like it's a walk in the park."

"Sometimes, it's easier on a person," Lightning tried to coax.

"Yeah, like when the babies know you're going to make a great mom." Jihl stubbornly said, "Mine know I won't."

"Jihl, that's stupid." Jihl looked up sharply with a severe frown.

"Now I'm stupid in addition to fat and saggy? Great. What else will go wrong?"

"You're acting stupid," Lightning deepened her frown. "Because you're beautiful, fat or not, and lack of kicking is not your babies' indication as to whether they love you or not."

"You're acting stupid," Lightning deepened her frown. "Because you're beautiful, fat or not, and lack of kicking is not your babies' indication as to whether they love you or not." Jihl stubbornly kept her head down. "And you're going to make a great mom," Lightning insisted, dropping her fingers down to Jihl's bare neck over a scar where teeth had been long ago. "I'm not the only one who thinks so. Remember, Fang chose you as her mate all those months ago."

"Pfft!" Jihl scoffed, giving Lightning an incredulous look. "We don't know why Fang bit us and it won't heal. That's just speculation."

"Speculation that Ragnarok thought you would make the best mother for her children out of everyone in the world?" Lightning tempted with silly exaggeration.

"You were 'chosen' too," Jihl tossed back with a minor glare, not buying into Lightning's silly little ploy.

"You were chosen first." Lightning answered back with a tempting smile, "And twice! Fang chose you doubly so." Jihl tried not to, but Lightning's nonsensical argument and stupid smile was growing infectious. "Bearer of the worlddd's generations," Lightning tempted, spreading her smile.

"Oh, shut up." Jihl finally pushed off, gently, glaring at Lightning in a smiling fit. "Like hell am I going to let that fertility stick squirt into me again after this."

Lightning smiled, stood on her tip-toes, and leaned in to kiss Jihl's head. "Do you feel better now?" Jihl muttered darkly. Lightning took her hand. "Belly or not, you've still got the most beautiful body I've ever laid eyes on."

"You're damn weird," Jihl cursingly said, though she did feel a bit more on the up side now. Not that that wouldn't change in ten minutes, bloody hormones all fucked up in a mess.

"And I'm pretty sure Fang finds you more attractive than ever," Lightning pointed out, peering through the maternity dresses for her.

"She would." Jihl growled, "Probably happy to see me suffer with a big belly of hers. Probably tried to give me the trips."

Lightning grinned and pulled out a dress. "White?"

"If I lactate in that, it'll make a big mess again and Rhea will jump me to examine my breasts."

"A few months ago, I'm afraid you might've encouraged that."

"A few months ago, I didn't have grandma's breasts. I want something dark." Lightning glanced back at her with a little smile. "Please," Jihl added to make it less demanding.

Lightning shook her head as she pulled out a dark green, lightweight silk instead. "Your breasts look fine, Jihl. Have you even seen mine?"

"You have trips," Jihl contested.

"And you're over-sensitive," Lightning insisted, going to their dresser to pick out Jihl's panties. "But if it discourages you from public nudity, I suppose I should stop complaining."

"I miss being nude," Jihl sighed with real regret. "I had a real body, you know. Something to be proud of."

"You have a real body," Lightning handed her her panties to slip into, "And you'll have your original again in a few months."

"With stretch marks," Jihl disputed. "And my boobs better go back to normal after this. I'll kill Fang if they don't." A noise came from the door like someone clearing their throat. Jihl glanced over and saw her politely looking away. "Hi Fang."

"Evening…" Fang greeted, and that was one good thing about her. No matter how attracted she was becoming to them with their growing pregnancies, Fang turned up the modesty when it came to their nudity. As she should. Jihl didn't want her seeing proof of her distorted body like that, no matter how much the silly Yun liked it.

"We'll be out in a moment so you can stroke our bellies and swoon." Jihl alerted.

"Okay," Fang simply agreed. Jihl would say she was used to the routine, but Fang's eyes lit up every time she got to, so she and Lightning had made it a common thing for Fang. "How are you tonight? I thought… are you okay, Jihl?"

"Why are you asking me?" Jihl asked suspiciously with an eye cast to Lightning. She skipped the bra, usually something she always wore like this, but they'd be going to bed soon, and Jihl's breasts still ached a little from yesterday yet.

"I smelled salt," Fang unassumingly explained.

"You smelled…" Jihl startled when she realized what. "You smelled my tears?"

Fang shrugged. "I like— "

"You like salt, we know," Jihl finished with her, shaking her head. Lightning lifted to her tip-toes again to fit the dress over her head. "Crazy, Fang."

Lightning smiled as she fit Jihl in.

"So?" Fang asked kindly.

"You can look now," Jihl assured her, which had Fang lifting her head again to offer them both a neutral, gentle look.

"I meant you," Fang corrected, "Are you okay?"

"Oh," Fang's sweetness still managed to surprise her on occasion. They were friends, but Fang really took an extra step every now and then, showing a sweet side of how much she cared. "I'm okay, Fang. You know how these mood swings just get me sometimes."

"Okay."

"You can come in, Fang," Jihl allowed, "We're all decent now; your girls are waiting." She glanced down and touched the belly that bulged and extended out, all rounded. She hiked up her dress over the swollen belly for Fang. "Daddy wants to talk, girls."

Fang gave her an appreciative smile as she came in. She held out her hand to Jihl, which held a bag of dried jerky bits. "Light said you'd be hungry."

Jihl took it with a returned smile back. "Thanks, Fang." She held the dress up below her breasts and reached for some of the treats, informing, "Daddy brought this, Sweeties." She savored the first bite of it and offered Lightning some, who declined, just finishing tying her up in the back. Fang knelt before her swollen stomach as if in reverence; she especially liked greeting them like this, and after a night all out hunting with Lightning and family, she suspected she'd want to again. She munched her jerky bits, unperturbed by Fang's cute actions she might've once found unsettling, but not so for a long time now.

"Hey, girls," Fang adoringly greeted, reaching out her hands to touch Jihl's belly warmly. "Your mother said you just washed. Did you have a long night this evening?"

"They played drawing with Rhea at the hot springs," Jihl informed, drawing Fang's eyes up her body. "Well, Rhea played anyway. They just sat there while she drew smiling faces over the lumps."

"Sounds like fun," Fang stroked her fingers across the side of her stomach, the gentle brush like that of a lover's tender care. "I hope you got enough to eat while out, babies."

Jihl nodded, though Fang's eyes were on her belly, gaze trained and adoring. "They gobbled up all of Rhea and Serah's bread of yesterday, and made mommy eat two meat pies on the venture. Mommy hates meat pies."

"Oh, babies," Fang said, stroking her stomach for a kick that refused to come. "Eating is good, but. You can let up on Mom a bit, yeah? She's doing her best for you." Fang leaned in and kissed her belly chastely, which tickled some. "I know your reading time's coming up. I'm gonna leave you girls to that, okay? Be good for Mom." She stood with a, "Thanks."

"Not going to join us for bedtime stories, Fang?"

"Not tonight," Fang shook her head. All of them knew what that meant. Jihl reluctantly lowered her dress. In attempt to sway that depressing news because Fang never liked to expand on it, Jihl tried to lighten Fang's burden for her.

"Rhea and I were talking names again, Fang." She shot a sideways glance at Lightning. "Maybe Claire and I can go over some more with you tomorrow."

"If you want," Fang glanced at Lightning too. "I'd like that."

"Good," Jihl was happy to hear that, much better than Fang's original protests a few months ago for that much involvement. Jihl knew the kids made her happy, and Fang deserved as much happiness as she'd allow herself.

Fang nodded. "Serah and Rhea are downstairs. They should probably sleep with you tonight. Raina and Farron won't be back until tomorrow, either."

"Okay."

"Sleep tight," Fang bid because she wouldn't see them for another while.

"Try to get some rest yourself too," Lightning added, probably having had a similar occurrence with Fang and her children a little earlier today. Lightning stepped in and kissed Fang's cheek softly. Jihl followed after. Fang's smile was small, but genuine.

"Good dawning," Fang said, the traditional Umbra bid for rest just before one was about to sleep off the night.

"Dawning, Fang." She left, and Jihl grabbed Lightning's hand again tight for her support in this. "I wish we could do something. Run away with her or… something." Jihl squeezed, knowing the impossibility of her wishes.

"I know, Jihl." Lightning squeezed back, just as helpless. "Me too."

XXX

The eight-foot Umbra Elder startled, nearly dropping her glass of water as Fang showed up in the doorway. "Fang," Jeanne put the cup down quickly and glanced in the direction of the bathroom where her wife was before hurrying to the door. "Are you alright? What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong," Fang assured. "I thought we had an appointment tonight."

Jeanne's white brows drew together, furrowed. "Did Cereza say that?"

"No. But I thought it'd make sense that we would. Raina and Farron aren't here, and the girls are with Jihl and Lightning tonight."

"Fang…" Jeanne echoed in complete concern. It was true, Jeanne and Cereza hadn't suggested this tonight, which probably went a long ways to taking Jeanne off guard, but Fang knew the logic of this more than anyone.

"I have to get you pregnant."

"Fang, we don't have to do that straight away. The council will wait until I get pregnant again before they have to take you again." Fang could tell she was making Jeanne's gracious heart bleed over this, but she'd been thinking on it a good while, and listening. Fang had ears to hear conversations that weren't meant for her, and she knew the extreme pressure Jeanne had been receiving over having a child with Fang. If the council didn't see Jeanne fit to lead, someone else would take her place and Jeanne would be demoted with the sympathizers or worse, evicted. Fang couldn't let that happen.

"I know they've been pressuring you." Fang said and didn't let Jeanne interrupt. "They're not going to let you protect me for years like the last time. Roma's been boasting of her two and been talking about what a shame it is how unfertile you seem."

"Roma's spoken to you?" Jeanne asked in high alarm. A prime violator of Fang, worse than any of the others, and Second to Jeanne in the Umbra Council, Roma was still under watchful eye and banned from unnecessary contact with Fang. Jeanne had a good heart; as one of those people stuck in a tough situation, the prospect of Roma contacting her really scared the good mother.

Fang shook her head. "I hear things. Roma's not the only one. I'm not gonna let you get usurped because you're giving me a break, Jeanne. I really appreciate the months you've given me free of sex, but I think it's time we start again. If Roma delivers her baby before I can get you pregnant, you're in real danger of the power struggle."

Fang's insistence on her own victimization wasn't purely for Jeanne's goodwill. Though she knew and valued the woman as much as she could, given the situation, Jeanne's fragile hold on her Elder title was also the one thing that kept Fang from chains. Not all the Umbra shared Jeanne's sympathy for her, and more than half weren't willing to give her up yet; if any of those overthrew Jeanne in her Elder position, Fang was in real trouble. And Fang didn't doubt it; as soon as Roma had her baby and the pregnancy went through, she would challenge Jeanne for that position the first chance she could on any excuse, and she might win.

Fang wasn't going to let that happen anymore than Jeanne had protected her these last fourteen years. It wasn't a favorable one, but their circumstantial relationship went both ways, and for what Jeanne had done for her all these years, Fang would protect the mother in similar kind. She wished she had another way to go about it, but facts spoke hard.

"Fang…" she was breaking Jeanne's tender heart again and knew it, but Fang wouldn't back down. "I haven't lost all hold on them," Jeanne tried to insist, "We don't have to start so soon. I'm going to petition for another break period for you— "

"You know you can't do that until I get you pregnant," Fang vied. She wasn't much for politics, but fourteen years with the Umbra had taught her a thing or two about delicate power struggles. "If you do before, they'll all correctly assume we haven't been doing anything and Roma's next grasp for your power will have even stronger hold in discrediting you. The only way to keep you safe there is for you to conceive before Roma's is born. So she can't even contest you. It'll give you a year and a half at least for the pregnancy alone." According to Umbra law, positions couldn't be challenged or vied for if the position-holder was pregnant. Thus, Jeanne would be completely safe for fifteen long months, long enough for things to possibly change by the end of that.

Jeanne looked at her with hurt eyes that longed so bad to be mothering. It wasn't right. Her own daughter held Fang's child now, and her wife had bore that burden eight years ago. It was worse now, especially with Jihl and the attraction everyone in their 'family' knew Fang had for her and Lightning, but without the option to run, die, or disappear any other way, this was all they had in options. "You don't have to baby me," Fang assured the Umbra Elder. This hurt Jeanne just as bad as her. Worse, probably. Especially now. "Turn on the effect, and I'll be quick." Fang promised, indicating the 'Umbra effect' that gave her almost an instant boner when it wasn't restricted by Raina's crafty spell.

"Fang," Jeanne said again, knowing all she'd said was right. She reached out and touched Fang's arm, something Fang wouldn't have been comfortable with several months ago, but she knew Jeanne's intentions and her pure heart. She'd really given Fang more than she should've with these past seven months of freedom. "I'm sorry," Jeanne apologized, more injured by Fang's impending rape than Fang was. "I'm so sorry." She gave Fang a hug, which would've been a big no-no if Raina hadn't come in, saving the day with her altered spell. It made Fang a lot more comfortable with her 'parent' figures than she'd ever been, but Fang knew, after tonight, Jeanne's wound would re-open again. Unlike Raina, Fang hadn't been able to open herself to Jeanne or Cereza as fully much as she loved and trusted Lightning's mom. Jihl's parents had history with her and, no matter how unwilling on all sides or how unaffected Fang was at being raped by now, she'd never be able to unseal that much of herself to Jihl's parents like she'd done to Lightning and their daughter in kind. Their situation would never allow it.

When Cereza finally came back and listened, she offered similar protests to Fang's denials. Eventually, they ended up in bed with their pants off. Jeanne was sweating, so unused to the polarizing effects that equally aroused each other the same, that she came more than Fang did at first. Fang placed no blame in her severe humiliation over it; Jeanne hadn't had her for months. Lightning and Jihl had reacted the same way when Fang took her first, accidental raping by them. Jeanne could barely even adjust to the girth of Fang, so Fang took it slower, but came just as much. A few hours later, Jeanne made to get up and help Fang with the stubborn shower knob. She tried not to, but stumbled, weak on legs Fang had overworked in pumping. Fang caught her awkwardly to keep from falling.

"I'm sorry," Jeanne apologized so fast and mortified.

It was this reason Fang hated these most. Getting raped had gradually waned off effect, but getting raped by Jeanne felt like victimization. And not of herself.

"Don't be," Fang said and meant it, trying to get that through to Jeanne. She had blamed the woman only months ago; more recent perspective had utterly changed that. Fang considered Jeanne and Cereza's rapings to be as blameless as Jihl and Lightning's. She helped Jeanne back up to her feet as Cereza rushed over too. "Really," Fang said to Jeanne, meeting her eyes to cut through the older woman's guilt and hate of this. "I appreciate what you've done for me. Now, I have to do this for you. Let me."

The guilt didn't vanish, but Jeanne was a smart woman, a smart woman much passed Fang's years and own experience. She let go of Fang's arm and with that understanding, grief, and conviction, said. "Thank you." She encompassed a world with it.

Fang felt immensely better instantly with her saying it and, without returning nightmares, she went to bed.

XXX

"—to clear this dis…" Lightning paused on the lengthy word with its lettering. She forgot what two of the following symbols meant, making it hard to read on the page, but Lightning was no novice to the spoken language. She could infer the rest. "This discrepancy from all the rest."

"She cheated," Jihl alerted, tattling on her as she glanced over Serah's shoulder at the book she held in the middle of both of them. "She didn't actually read that. She inferred."

"Inferring the context of a sentence is learning to read it. It's how we get through difficult words we don't immediately know: by using the rest of the sentence's context."

"See, I'm learning." Lightning gave her fiancée a smug look. Personally, she'd thought it was a cheat too.

Jihl stuck her tongue out in kind, all mature around this bed. Rhea giggled from her spot. "Even I can read that one."

"Shh, you." Jihl ordered the little one. "We're learning here, you scamp." She glanced over to Serah's side. "Skip to the part it tells me how long 'till I get my body back."

Serah checked to both sides of her where risen bellies hid Rhea from view on the other side of Jihl. "You probably don't want to know," Serah informed, "There's pictures on that page."

"Pictures?!" Jihl snatched up the book to flip pages and see. Serah glanced at Lightning, but she just shook her head.

"Let her horrify herself if she wants." Lightning rubbed her giant belly, fully content as she was. Already the full size of a normal, pregnant woman with one, she expected her belly would grow much more in the next four months. At least she'd been the one hit up with triplets; Jihl had enough discontent with two as it was.

"Are you hungry, Claire?" Serah asked sweetly, seeing her running a hand over her stomach.

"I'm always hungry," Lightning said with a faint smile.

Serah started to get up. "I'll get— " but Lightning eased her down again with a hand.

"I'm okay for now, Serah."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes," Lightning assured, "But thank you." She ran gentle fingers over herself again; it was almost like she could feel them cradling off to sleepy land. Serah watched her with inquisitive eyes.

"AGH!" Jihl startled in horror, "Look at her stomach, Light!" she held out the book, showing a woman after pregnancy with a gushy, mashed gut left over.

"I saw them," Lightning told, relatively unswayed by Jihl's horror.

"How are you not petrified?" Jihl asked, flipping pages to blind herself more.

"Are you scared?" Serah seconded the question.

"A little bit, of course." Lightning looked to her sister and smiled faintly. "I haven't done this before, you know."

"Coulda fooled us," Jihl muttered.

"Oh!" Rhea squealed, "What is that giant hole between her legs? Why are they propping her up like that? Is that her vag— "

"That's enough reading for tonight," Serah admonished, giving Jihl a reprimanding stare.

"What?" Jihl asked, innocent. "I'm as horrified as she is."

Serah rolled her eyes and handed it over to Lightning, who took the book and countered it. "Can I touch your tummy, Claire?"

"Feels like they're going to sleep," Lightning warned, "But I don't mind. Whenever you like, Serah." Her little sister's hand moved over her bulging belly. She leaned in close against it to listen, but carefully didn't press her weight. Lightning felt all warm inside when Serah finally turned her head up to her.

"They're sleeping?"

"I think so."

"What are yours doing, Jihl?" Rhea asked innocently enough. Lightning checked her fiancée, who touched at her own belly to pet. If it was anything like Lightning's, that stroking urge came automatic.

"Thinking about chicken soup." Jihl finally answered, and Lightning was relieved to see another sad spell not taking her again yet. Jihl needed her rest today. "They're always thinking about food. Making mommy sleepy too."

"Do you want more stock?" Rhea asked, glancing over to the bread and tried meat they perpetually kept somewhere in the room.

"No, no," Jihl waved off, "They ate all of Fang's jerky. That's all they're gonna get for another hour or two." Jihl added, "Mums want you to stay here tonight."

"As long as you don't crush me with your belly." Rhea grinned. Jihl cupped her stomach and made growly noises, threatening in Rhea's direction. "Hey!" Rhea laughed, burrowing under the covers to hide. Jihl reached out and gave her lump a playful noogy. Hopefully to her head. Rhea squeaked and burrowed further under. Jihl laid back her head.

"You should get some rest, Jihl." Lightning said, seeing her tired. With all her traditional, Umbra piercings removed for the pregnancy and heels long gone, she'd resembled her girlish self again without the extra dressing, just a stomachful instead. Lightning liked her both ways, but she knew Jihl was anxious to have her babies out.

"You too," Jihl yawningly agreed. "You haven't even told me how the outing with Fang went yet. Bet she didn't let you near any beasts."

"You know Fang," Lightning agreed, happy to have simply been allowed at a distance. She wouldn't have suspected even that with her stomach so big. "We'll talk about it tomorrow night," Lightning promised. With no small effort, she pushed upright on her arms.

"I'm going to the bathroom," Serah remarked and disappeared under the blankets too before she exited the other side of the bed in a flash. Lightning gratefully scooted a few feet over where she'd been sitting and put a gentle arm atop Jihl, just under her breasts. She gave her the best hug from the side that she could manage with a belly that threatened the distance between them and pressed to Jihl's in her lean. Lightning kissed her temple.

"I love you."

Jihl cracked tired eyes on her and mute appreciation and tried to return the gesture as she could. Their stomachs rubbed as she leaned over on Lightning's far side to kiss her too, and only half landed it to her head. Lightning could tell she was frustrated with it. They hadn't even been able to share a romantic kiss since their bellies had grown. "I love you too, Claire."

Lightning tried to encourage her with a smile and took Jihl's hand at her side, entwining their fingers. It was something, in Jihl's mind, pregnancy hadn't 'robbed' from them yet. "Dawning, Jihl."

"Wake up with me tomorrow day for snack?"

"Promise." Lightning vowed, knowing the hunger would wake them both in just a few hours. Jihl stayed as close to her as she could that night.