A/N: So remember when I said this would be the last bit of the fic? That's not totally true. But it is the last installment I will add as a chapter to this story: I am planning a smutty oneshot, and if I have an idea for more I'm not going to hesitate to write it, but those will be posted as separate stories. If you're interested, I recommend adding me to your author alerts! Same goes for my next multichapter Amy/Eleven fic, which I hope to start in the fall. Additionally, since a few people have expressed interest in this, you're welcome to write fics of your own in this universe, provided you come talk to me (via my inbox) about it first. There's a lot this epilogue doesn't cover and I don't mind people filling in the blanks!
And one last tremendous thank you for sticking with the longest solo story I've written to date.
Some serious time skips in this chapter, so prepare yourself.
"Are you doing it?"
"Is it going okay?"
"Well, I peed on the stick, so yeah, I think it's going fine." Something thumps the other side of the bathroom door, probably Jamie's head. She slips the test back into the packaging, flushes, washes her hands. In the mirror she looks pale.
When she reenters the bedroom, Jamie is lying flat on the bed, and she smiles, raising the box. "Deux minutes." After a year in Paris she can at least read the instructions on a pregnancy test, though when her work as a foreign correspondent requires translating, she often ends up asking Jamie's assistance.
She falls on the bed beside him and his arm loops instinctively around her shoulders. "Isn't it so funny," he observes, sounding far-off. "That so much can happen in two minutes. And the universe is still expanding from an explosion that happened nearly fourteen billion years ago."
Amy groans into his chest. "Are you going to be this obtuse the whole time I'm pregnant?"
"No," he mutters. His eyes keep flickering across the ceiling. Nerves.
"You know, whatever happens, it's good, right?" She pats his stomach and he flinches, withdrawn from his worrying. "If I am, then it only took us a month, and if I'm not, then we can do this when we're back in the States, and we won't have to move home while I'm pregnant." It was hell getting everything to Paris without an unborn child; in a couple of months, when Jamie's fellowship at the university ends, they'll have to go back to New York, regardless of whether or not she's in any state for it.
He pouts at her. "I really want it."
Funny that he thinks he has to say this. She'd first broached the subject a couple of months before, on a visit to New York for the holidays. They had dinner with Sophie and Craig and the one-month old Alfie, and the look on Jamie's face with a baby in his arms was unreal. He's a cheerful person, she knows, he never relishes sadness, but the joy that day had stood out—maybe because it was a little sad, too. He's been waiting a long time for this, longer than he waited to fall in love. And that night when they got home, it occurred to Amy he'd also been waiting for her to raise the topic: she said the word kids and he sighed like he'd been holding his breath for two years. "I know you want it," she says, brushing the hair from his forehead. "This is our first—" Scare isn't the word. "It's the first sign we've got that anything might've happened, and you know it could take longer."
"I know," he says, in a bit of a whine.
She has to bite back a laugh. "Well." And here is her unabashed attempt to lighten the mood. "I think I'll be pretty happy either way. Either I get a baby, or I get to keep having tons of great, unprotected sex with my boyfriend. Actually," She pokes his cheek, where a grin has appeared. "That better not stop once I'm knocked up." Jamie has half her sex drive at best, but the month they've spent trying has been a marked improvement.
He presses a kiss to the top of her head. "Never." She knows this is a lie, at least to some degree, but it's a nice thought.
The two minutes are up. She'd held Alfie too, she remembers. At Jamie's insistence, of course—he wants her to want it as much as him, a daunting prospect considering she'd barely thought about children until a year ago. But the little boy's solid weight felt warm in her arms, and his head smelled amazing, for whatever reason. She'd had to tell Jamie to stop staring at them; he was a little obvious about the whole thing.
"Are you ready to look at it?" she offers quietly.
They sit up together, Amy holding the box between them. She starts to drag the stick out. "Hey, one more thing. Just a little, tiny thing." His eyes widen, the pause further unnerving him. "I love you," she says, and he exhales sharply, trying to laugh.
"I love you too."
She giggles at him, and removes the test.
After a beat, Jamie declares, "I don't think we waited long enough."
"It's been two minutes," she says gently.
But they sit there for another quarter of an hour anyway. Eventually Amy gets up and changes into her nightgown, while he continues to stare at the negative test. She climbs into her side of the bed, and pokes him with a foot beneath the covers.
In a sudden rush, he launches himself from the bed and into the bathroom, slamming the door. Amy shuts her eyes. Ironic that they want a baby when she's already got one child to contend with.
He emerges a few minutes later in his pajamas and, looking a little sheepish, joins her in bed. She sets her book aside and gives him the kind of stare demanding an explanation.
"Sorry," he murmurs, fiddling with the bedspread.
Her annoyance softens at the apology, and god, she's a sucker for him. "Just, you know. You could try to have a little patience. My womb is not a dartboard."
Jamie replies, very seriously, "What if my darts aren't sharp enough?" Amy snorts.
"Okay, this is a weird metaphor and we're going to stop it." He manages a little laugh. "The equipment," she says pointedly, "is fine. It takes people years to get pregnant." All of which he knows, all of which they both know, all of which she shouldn't have to be saying but she does anyway because Jamie, for all his playing at carefree, is the most neurotic person she's ever met.
"You know, there are things we can do to increase our chances." Yes, she gathered this from the literature that's been piling up on their coffee table over the past few weeks. She hasn't read any of the pamphlets, but their titles hint at exactly how much more there is to getting pregnant than swearing off contraception.
And she doesn't care. "I don't want a chart baby, Jamie." She's seen too many sitcoms make jokes about ovulation and optimal positions. He frowns at her. "I just mean, I don't want our sex life to become the fertilization hour. I don't want to call you at work so we can both run back here and knock one out while my eggs are all receptive. I feel like if we go to that place, we're never coming back." She'll be sad when his interest returns to its natural, gentle place, and she's got a feeling that giving every fuck a definitive purpose will only worsen her detox when the goal is met.
He shifts toward her, brow furrowed. "That is not going to happen, Amelia."
"Really? Because you've got the worst case of baby-daddy syndrome I've ever seen." Jamie's head plunks to her shoulder and he groans.
"I'll be normal!"
"You're already not normal."
"I'll be my version of normal."
"You've already started doing it." He looks up at her, surprised. "Yeah, don't think I haven't noticed the lothario behavior, okay?" Jamie blushes. They're up to five or six nights a week, not counting multiple goes. It'd be a dream come true if his intentions weren't so transparent. "Or did you think that 'James McCrimmon, sex fiend' was a plausible cover?"
He settles back against the headboard, frown deepening. "You know I like sleeping with you."
"Yes, I know you like sleeping with me." Never mind the fact that she loves sleeping with him. He doesn't seem to pick up on this nuance. "I'm just saying that it's a slippery slope and I want to put off obligatory, scheduled, dollar-in-the-jar middle-aged sex for as long as possible, okay? And the planning and the worrying about chances of conception, that's where it all starts, so." This expulsion leaves her a little breathless. Fuck, she's going to be so old soon. Forty is only seven years out.
Jamie contemplates this for a long moment, and leans in for a kiss. "I have an idea," he says against her lips, and then withdraws to start sifting through the drawer of his nightstand. She feels vaguely concerned that he'll return with something terrible. Like a Bible, or a dildo.
"Here," he says, and he's holding up a condom.
Astonishment wipes the grin from her face. "I thought we—" But Jamie cuts her off with another kiss, harder this time, and Amy goes hot all over. "You are full of surprises," she manages, laughing, as he slides his hands beneath her nightie.
"But this is his son. Who is biologically related to him. And unless you want to let a four-year-old in there alone with his unconscious father—"
"He'll be done with the post-op and awake very soon, ma'am," says the nurse, who has been blocking Amy from getting into Jamie's hospital room for over half an hour now. "Once he's awake he can approve visitors." Yeah, he's going to approve something, all right.
"And how long from now is very soon?"
Amy lets out a very, very dramatic groan. Nat tugs on her hand.
"I'm hungry." Shit. She'd been on her way to pick up lunch when she heard.
"River," she calls. River glances up from her seat in the waiting area, and Amy waves her over. "Would you mind taking Nat to get something from the vending machine?" Having a second pair of hands has been a godsend for the past few hours, even if it had to be her boyfriend's ex-wife.
"Of course, dear." River extends a hand to Nat, who watches her carefully for second before taking it.
Amy kisses the little boy's cheek. "I'll see you in a few minutes, okay?"
Nat nods. "I want some chips," he informs River. "Bye, Mommy."
"Bye, baby." The sight of Nat bouncing away (one of his shoes is untied, damn) sends a little pang to her chest. She turns back to the nurse and is about to start in about how ridiculous this situation is—not being able to see the father of her child in the hospital, what a fucking joke—when the woman perks up.
"Mr. McCrimmon is awake now, ma'am, and has agreed to allow visitors."
Amy gapes at her. "Are you kidding me right now?" She's just promised Nat she'll see him soon. Well; at least she gets to chew Jamie out in private.
The nurse apparently doesn't understand Amy's frustration, and offers her a clipboard. "Just fill this out and you can go back to see him."
"Yeah, okay," Amy snaps, and rips the cap off the pen.
She scribbles in her information and a couple of minutes later she's standing in the doorway to a tiny hospital room, where Jamie sits upright in bed and does a bad job of eating blue jello with his right hand. A thick white cast covers his left forearm.
"Amy," he says cheerfully.
"Who the fuck gets hit by a bike?"
"It was a very fast bike!" Amy closes the space between them with a forward march. "It's only a fractured ulna and a small-to-moderate concussion—" The hug she gives him drowns out the rest of this sentence, as he tries to reciprocate with only one functioning arm.
"You will never cross the street again," she says into his shoulder. He smells of hospital, a terrible piney stench. She hasn't cried through this whole ordeal—three hours going on three years, it feels—but she can sense her eyes welling now.
"I can try," he laughs, his chest shaking slightly. "Where's Nat?"
"With River." Amy pulls away to find him looking slightly horrified, which is about right. "Someone's emergency contact info is six years out of date, so guess who they called when your unconscious body was hauled off in an ambulance?"
"I did not," he says, somehow addressing himself with indignation. "I changed it. That is not possible."
She gives his arm a little squeeze—the one not bound in plaster. Blood has pooled into purple bruises beneath the skin of his neck, and her fingers ghost across the half-bloomed marks. A bike. "Thankfully your ex-wife isn't a terrible person and decided to let me know."
"Thankfully," he says, kissing her.
Amy steps back into the waiting area to get their son, who's perkier after a snack. She considers inviting River back to the room, but the other woman's heels click away the moment Amy takes Nat's hand.
She has to remind Nat not to climbing all over his father like usual, though Jamie smiles through the obvious pain of having a 35-pound child stand on his lap. After the boy lands a couple of kicks to Jamie's stomach, Amy drags him away and they declare a "nice touching only policy," until Daddy is feeling better.
Only a week later does she realize the significance of Jamie's accident, and why it's left her jumping at shadows. Nat's down for the night and they're sitting in the living room, reading.
She shuts her novel, and inhales deeply. "I think we should get married."
Jamie gapes at her over a stack of exams. "You what?"
Amy bites her lips. There's a nonchalant approach to this, and a more honest explanation. "They wouldn't let me in to see you at the hospital." A small realization crosses Jamie's face. At least she won't have to be too blunt. "If something happens, I need to be able to get to you."
It's a bit of an awkward stretch for him to reach for her hand—they're sitting on opposite ends of the couch, with their knees mingled between them—but he manages it. "Nothing is going to happen." This is clearly meant to be his grown-up voice, but she smiles.
"Something could happen, Jamie."
"It won't." Now he just sounds ridiculous.
"I understand you might not want to because of the whole—like, the past—"
"I thought you didn't want to because of your past," he says, looking at her curiously. This is news; she'd never said as much to Jamie, but then again, Jamie had never said as much to her. They agreed they wouldn't marry, she's sure of it, but she can't recall when or how and has only a vague recollection of why.
"My past." Rory hadn't exactly left her in any rush to get hitched, it's true. "I don't know. We're basically—I mean, we should at least get a domestic partnership, or a civil union. Something."
"Something," he echoes, and tilts his head back contemplatively. She's fairly confident their not-being-married won't cause Nat stigma at school, what with the divorce rate nowadays, and she spent more time dreaming of world travel than weddings as a girl. "I never really had a proper wedding the first time. No party. If we got married we could have a big party," Jamie suggests. His enthusiasm comes out of nowhere. "You could wear one of those giant fluffy dresses. Nat could be my best man." Amy's dissolved into laughter. "I could get to smear cake all—all over you."
"It sounds fun," she admits. A wedding without the fear of an unknown married life must be the best kind of wedding there is, but she can't help feeling a smidge cautious about Jamie's interest. "Are you sure? It's just an idea, really. It can wait. It's waited six years. I just think, you know. For the future."
"The future." He deflates. "Yes. Well. I guess I'll think about it."
"Okay," she says, with a big smile and a pat to his knee.
Jamie is scheduled to get his cast off a couple of months later, and they plan a Saturday to themselves that weekend, which starts with her taking Nat to Stamford for a playdate and sleepover with Alfie. Jamie's useless arm means she's been consistently on top for weeks now, and she's more than ready to break the streak.
But he's not interested in lazy afternoon sex, she discovers; he wants to go to the Met. "I haven't been in ages," he tells her, and she has to oblige, since he's the one who managed to get hit by a stupid bike, or whatever. And they don't get to do much adult stuff out in the world, since Nat's interests come first. Lot of Disney on Ice.
So it's not that bad, to wander hand-in-hand, sometimes arm-in-arm, through a museum. They giggle at the tourists and feel younger than they have in a long time. Jamie keeps sneaking touches to her hair with his newly unshackled appendage, enjoying the freedom.
"I wonder if that helmet thing from last time is still here," she says, as they move into a new gallery.
"What helmet thing?"
Amy tosses him a look. "Don't you remember? It had some weird spikes coming out the top." He shrugs, and her eyes narrow. "I asked if it was art, and you said, 'Maybe if I wore it.'"
"I did not—I meant the general 'you,' Pond." He's cute when he's pretending not to adore her. "As in, as in, is a play still a play if it's unperformed? Can a helmet really be art if it's just—sitting—" Probably due to her giggles, he gives up the fight, and points over her shoulder. "It's right behind you, anyway."
She turns and sure enough it's there, unchanged, though it's been—it's been a long time. They stand looking at the display together, her arm wound snugly around his.
"You had such a crush on me," she whispers. In those days she tried to keep at least a foot of space between them at all times, and now after however many years (she doesn't know when to say they began) they share a bed and a bank account and the occasional Chinese takeout, and they've made the most beautiful baby boy, who each morning ruins her anew for everything else on the planet.
Jamie is smiling. "A little more than a crush." She sighs, letting her head fall against him. "I have something for you," he announces suddenly. "But we need to go to the Van Gogh collection."
"What?" is all she can ask before he's dragging her away, through the gallery-going throngs. The museum is huge and Jamie, as per usual, refuses to use a map, so she's winded by the time they reach the Van Goghs. And puzzled, too—her birthday isn't for another two months. Christmas is in a few weeks, but Jamie loves the sanctity of presents on Christmas morning. An anniversary she's forgotten?
"Good," Jamie is saying to himself. "This is good. This'll do."
"What's going on?" she demands.
He faces her finally, shiny-eyed and beaming. "I wanted to answer your proposal."
"My proposal?" Her proposal. The conversation they had about marriage stumbles to the front of her mind, but was it a proposal? More of a suggestion. A conversation. But she had left it up to him, and he's fumbling in his pocket now, and yes, that does appear to be a ring box in his hand. She feels like she's asleep. Like she must be asleep. It's been fifteen years since the last time this happened.
"I'm going to do the knee thing now, or do you not want that?" he asks, as if inquiring how she takes her coffee.
"That would be okay." She sounds like a robot. She's forgotten how to intone.
He lowers himself to the ground and in an instant every eye in the gallery is on them. Amy is either pale or blushing hotly or somehow both; perhaps she's developed spots. He pops open the box and there between velvet cheeks is a little red stone, a ruby, set in a simple, handsome gold band.
"Yes, Amy Pond, I will marry you," he says, grinning. "If that's all right."
She nods perfunctorily. "It's all right."
As it turns out, more decisions go into planning a large wedding than Amy could ever have fathomed when she agreed to tie the knot. She knew about booking venues weeks in advance, about hiring a band, about picking a dress—but she's never heard of half the food their caterer wants to serve and for some reason the color of the napkins is very important. Jamie, being the avid reader he is, brings home stacks and stacks of wedding magazines, and there are blogs devoted to theme weddings and chic weddings and rustic weddings and destination weddings. Why are there so many kinds of bouquets? What is a Bridal Luncheon? One afternoon several months after the engagement they're sitting in the living room, surrounded by color swatches and pictures of cakes while Nat draws, and Amy screams into a throw pillow.
Jamie pats her. "It's a lot, I know."
"It is so much," she moans.
"Mommy," Nat squeals. "I drew you!" He shoves the picture toward her; it is a circle with a shock of orange hair and a big frowny face. Amy feels as though she has stepped into a dirty puddle of emotion, and overcome by everything, she bursts into tears.
"Oh, oh, oh," Jamie mutters, attempting to drag Nat away from her. "That's a very nice drawing, sir, let's put it away now."
"Why is Mommy crying?" Nat screams, and he starts to cry too, so Jamie tries to hug them both at the same time and starts singing the Itsy Bitsy spider, like that's going to do something.
It's a nightmarish moment, and a couple of days later she realizes what's going on. With her. In her. Standing in the bathroom, staring at herself in the mirror, she thinks that maybe she shouldn't tell Jamie, not right away—but the stress is like a dumbbell on her chest, she needs someone to take the weight off.
Amy finds him in the kitchen, starting their supper, humming.
"Where's Nat?" she asks. Parenthood has lent her a sixth sense, a hyperattentiveness to the location of her child at every waking moment. She doesn't need to be there, she just needs to know.
"In the den. I put on Nova," he chirps. Her future husband makes their child watch Nova. She'd laugh if she didn't want to crawl out of her own skin a bit.
Jamie drops a zucchini and doesn't move to pick it up. "What?" She shrugs. She isn't sad or disappointed, she's just—exhausted. The hormones have been killing her. "Seriously?"
"Seriously," she says. Jamie struggles to keep a straight face.
"Do you think—do you think you'd like to keep it?"
She sighs: the thought has occurred to her. It's not that she doesn't want another baby, a baby is an ocean-sized love, and she knows Jamie does. While a string of inconveniences has delayed their second attempt to get pregnant, kid #2 has always been in the picture. Nothing, however, is quite as inconvenient as a pregnant wedding. "I don't know, Jamie." She leans against the kitchen island, head swimming, and he puts a steadying hand to her elbow. "If I get an…" God, she can't even say it. Abortions are for teenagers and prostitutes. They want a baby. They've wanted a baby. "It's already a miracle that I'm pregnant at this age without trying. I think it might be now or never."
He scratches his chin, runs a hand through his hair, torn between his desire for another child and his need to be the world's most supportive partner. She knows what she's going to do, she's almost sure of it, but she sort of enjoys his dilemma. She likes not being the only one in turmoil. "Whatever you want," he manages.
Amy gives him a little smile. "I'm going to keep it." Jamie's relief is so obvious it looks to have hit him like a wave. "But I want you to know that being pregnant and getting married are the two most stressful things ever and if anyone, anyone calls me a bridezilla or a crazy pregnant lady I reserve the right to stomp on their face." Jamie has started hugging her, laughing.
"I am one-hundred percent in support of any and all face-stomping, Amy Pond."
The worst of it is the dress. She nearly cries again, trying to explain her situation to the woman at the shop. There's no way to know if she'll be showing by the wedding, since it's three months out, so there's no way to know if she needs a maternity gown or a regular gown or some half-breed creation, and the likelihood is that no matter what she ends up with it'll need alterations days—hours?—before she walks down the aisle. She's never been so thankful for Jamie's money, because she can't imagine having to work right now on top of everything. The pregnancy hits her like fever: she either can't wake up or can't sleep, the morning sickness persists, her bras feel like manacles. It's exponentially worse than the first few weeks with Nat, and she can't figure out if it's the wedding or something else.
"Just tell her," Jamie insists, as they're sitting in the OB-GYN exam room, awaiting the first ultrasound. "Just make sure everything's okay."
"I'm sure it's just stress." She traces the faint remainder of a stretch mark on her bare belly.
"Amy." He squeezes her hand, concern carving lines in his brow. "Please. It'll only take a second."
"Are you worried about me or the baby?" she snaps, and Jamie's jaw clenches. Damn, she's sour. Casually accusing him of reducing her to an incubator. "Sorry," she mutters.
"It's fine, I don't care as long as you say something."
"Fine," Amy grunts.
The door opens and in comes Dr. Winer, who is grey-haired and soft-voiced, greeting them sweetly. Dr. Winer squirts a bit of the jelly stuff on Amy's stomach and starts circling with the grey wand, and the three of them watch the black-and-grey image on the monitor shivering erratically. Jamie still holds her hand.
"There's a heartbeat," says the doctor, and Jamie makes a little delighted noise. A living creature, inside of her. A strange expression crosses Dr. Winer's face, and Amy feels the color drain from her cheeks.
"What is it?"
The doctor does a bit of searching with the wand, and smiles. "There are two heartbeats."
"Two hearts?" Jamie repeats, anxious. "Is that—is that some kind of birth defect?"
"No," says Amy, realizing.
Dr. Winer shakes her head. "It's twins."
"Twins?" says Jamie, though it's more of a shout, and it's right in Amy's ear. She can't even process the disruption, not right now. Twins. Two babies.
"Would you like to know if they're fraternal or identical?"
Neither of them is in any state to answer this question, as Dr. Winer discerns after a moment.
"Well," says the doctor gently. She tells them in a grandmotherly tone about the nuances of multiple babies, and how they ought to consider scheduling a cesarean in advance to reduce the risk of birthing complications. She offers them some pamphlets and recommends a book called The Parent's Guide to Raising Twins. Mostly Amy and Jamie just sit there, attempting to listen, not even attempting after a while. His hand is tight around hers. Two babies.
And then Dr. Winer asks if they have any other questions. Amy sucks in a breath.
"Does this… does this explain why I've been feeling so much worse than the first time?"
"Feeling worse how?"
"Tired." Like now. "Nauseous." Like now. "My boobs hurt a lot." She gave up on her bra this morning.
Dr. Winer smiles sympathetically. "It's normal. A little miserable, but normal. I'll prescribe something for your stomach," she says, pulling out pen and pad.
They leave the office and walk quietly to the subway, where he helps her sit and she rests her head on his shoulder. Oddly, her stomach feels fuller than it did an hour ago.
After a minute Jamie's breath tickles her ear. "I think three is a good number."
Amy's suitcase sits packed in the foyer, he saw it there, but Jamie is putting off her departure; the minute he goes downstairs she'll say her goodbyes and he'll be thrown into two and a half weeks of single parenthood.
So he settled in the nursery twenty minutes ago with the babies, and they're now on their second picturebook, about a raccoon, with plenty of finger puppets for him to voice. Some blocks distracted Rosie a while back, but Nora remains in his lap, trying to catch the wriggling puppets before he pulls his hand away.
Amy stands in the door, looking exasperated. Nat wriggles by her into the room, coming to sit with Rosie and prodding the baby curiously.
"Hi," Jamie manages. Nora gets hold of one of his fingers and bites down, hard. He yelps.
"I've got to go to the airport, my flight's in two hours." Does the paper really have no one else available to go to DC? Someone without three kids and a husband, someone with two weeks to spare.
"Okay," he says, trying to sound cheery. He presses a kiss to Nora's fine brown curls; Rosie is the only one who got Amy's ginger, but he doesn't mind that much.
"Jamie," she reproves, and he sighs, clamoring to his feet.
"Everyone say goodbye to Mommy." And she gives each of the kids numerous kisses, Nat pretending to wipe the saliva from his cheek. She kisses Jamie, too, with Nora between them grabbing at her hair.
"Everything's going to be fine," Amy announces, hands on his shoulders. "And I told Sophie to be ready in case you called needing help. And you know where all the emergency numbers are."
"I wish you'd let me hire a nanny." It's not that they aren't capable parents, or that their children aren't angels, or that they work too much to do the raising themselves. In a house with two babies there are more sleepless nights than restful ones, more tears than smiles. The past year, since the twins were born, has been the most emotionally and physically exhausting time in his life since his mother passed and his first marriage ended within six months of each other. And now Amy is leaving him to do it alone.
"No nannies," Amy insists. "We've got a sitter, you can call her too if you need something." The first time they had this argument, she told him nannies were harmful to parent-child bonding, and when he responded that he had a nanny until he was ten, it only proved her point.
Jamie's subsequent groan earns him another kiss. Amy strokes Nora's head, sighing.
"Don't forget to call me the second she talks." Rosie's first word had come a couple weeks earlier: geddy, meaning spaghetti. "Or if either of them walks. And there better be video. Phone ready at all times, McCrimmon," she commands, a finger in his face.
He grins. "Yes, ma'am."
"And don't ma'am me." Amy takes a last look at the room and the people in it. "Okay. Airport. I'll call when I get in. Love you."
"Love you too," he manages. A final kiss and she's gone.
Everything's going to be fine. The power goes out on the fourth day. Massive outage; city wide, and the island too.
The dark apartment scares Nat and he cries while Jamie tries to get all the baby formula from the fridge and into a cooler packed with ice, praying that the weeping will not prove contagious as usual, but it does and suddenly he has three hysterical children on his hands. He gives them each a bit of ice cream—it's all melting anyway—and it soothes the tension—until Nat's sugar rush kicks in, that is. The girls are down for the night and he trips while sprinting around the living room, prompting another crying fit, waking Nora and Rosie anew.
It's half an hour before Jamie can breathe, let alone sit, settling in the library across from the babies' room because the monitor isn't working. He offers to read to Nat, who has calmed down.
The little boy pouts, his whole face contorting. "I've read all the books."
"Every single book in the world?" Jamie gasps.
"All the kid books." Nat hops up, starting for the bookshelf, and Jamie follows behind. He can only ever really feel his age when he has to stand up in a hurry. "I want to read a grown-up book." Nat pulls a thick volume from one of the lower shelves.
"Oh, that's a photo album." Jamie takes it gingerly from his son, who frowns.
"A picture book?"
"No, it's got pictures of your mom and me." He'd recognized it immediately, even in the dim light.
"Am I in them?" Ah, yes, the self-interest of youth. Jamie laughs.
"No, this is before you were born." Nat tugs the album away and returns to the sofa, flipping the book open. Most of the pictures haven't seen the light of day in five years, and some go back further. Jamie joins him, bringing one of the candles closer to improve their view.
Nat gestures to a photo. "What's this?"
"That's the Eiffel Tower, which is in a faraway place called France, where we used to live." He taps his and Amy's figures, dwarfed by the landmark. "There we are, see?"
"What's an Eiffel Tower?" Nat asks, unimpressed.
"Ah, well, you see," says Jamie, instantly a teacher. "A hundred years ago they used to have these big—basically science fairs, like the big kids have at school—called World's Fairs, and they built this tower to celebrate that. People could go up on the tower and see the city. And you would walk underneath it to get in."
"Why are you kissing in front of it?"
"Because that one is very famous."
"Why?" his son demands, and his incredulity does make a bit of sense. A famous metal trellis; there's something odd about it, even if it takes a five-year-old's logic for him to realize.
He weighs his answer for a moment. "Because… it's in a very special city that's important to your mom and I and a lot of people. And when people see the tower, they think of this great city."
"Not New York." Nat's spent his whole life in New York, at least as far back as he can remember. It's the only city he knows, so far.
"Not New York. Paris."
"Paris. You'll go there someday." He musses the boy's hair. The promise does not seem to interest Nat, but it interests Jamie—a family vacation. Visiting all their old haunts. The Musée d'Orsay.
The boy points out an older, very different picture. "You look different."
"That's because—" Oh, he really does look different. And Amy too. "That's because we were twenty when that was taken. We were at a party, we were just getting to know each other." He feels a twinge of belated embarrassment, looking at himself all pink-cheeked and clueless, with an arm draped affectionately around Amy's shoulder.
"Twenty is old," declares Nat, shaking his head.
"To you maybe." Jamie lowers his voice. "You want to know how old I am now?"
"Thirty-eight. And a half." Nat gurgles delightedly.
"Very old, indeed."
Jamie's still staring at the photograph, remembering what he can from that night. Hadn't she kissed him, and he'd refused? Something like that. He wishes he had known, or that she had known, or that all their friends who now claim to have seen it all along might've said something. But he has an inkling, the tiniest of certainties, that they wouldn't have listened. And they got a story out of the journey, anyway; we're all just stories in the end. They'd made it a good one.
"I'm bored," says the boy, and he shoves the album away, hopping off the sofa and back to the bookshelf. Jamie holds it in his lap. He really ought to frame some of these, they're precious. "Daddy," Nat says, waving his arms, needing attention. Jamie smiles and sets the book aside.
Amy's return a couple of weeks later is a noisy production, all shouts and hugs and most of them from Jamie. He wraps her in his arms as if it's been a million years since they last touched, and doesn't let go for a full minute, prompting her to ask, "What's the matter with you?"
Nothing's the matter. This is usual, this is the plainest version of himself. "I missed you," he says, pressing a kiss to her forehead. "Welcome home."