This story is only a couple of weeks off 1 year old! And we're almost done! Penultimate chapter, my dudes.
Lillian smiled as she watched them, Valka appearing to smile over at her pregnant daughter.
"How are you feeling?"
"Heavy. You sure you don't mind?"
"It's no trouble."
She reached to take the sleeping one year old from Lillian's arms, Livy not even stirring. Morgan was Mala and Valka's eighteen month old son, six months older than Astrid, Lillian and Hiccup's second child Livy. And Lillian was pregnant with their third, and final child.
"How is Hiccup doing?"
"He's fine. Sore, but you know, it's quicker and easier for him to get a vasectomy than for me and Astrid to get operated on, and he was sweet enough to offer so we didn't have to spend forever on birth control once this little one comes along. Three is enough."
Valka laughed lightly, smiling as she ran her not-holding-Livy hand over Lillian's hair.
"Go on, Mala will be home any minute, and it's only for a couple of hours. I can manage."
"Of course my love. I adore spending time with my grandbabies, becoming a mother again didn't change that."
Aura - a little over four years old and starting school in september, a dizzying prospect - charged over to get goodbye kisses from Lillian, giving her extra ones to take back to Hiccup and Astrid.
"I promise to give them kisses, yes."
Beaming, Aura turned and went back to play with Morgan. Pecking a kiss on a still-sleeping Livy's soft blonde hair, Lillian got a goodbye kiss and hug from Valka before she tore herself away. Then she climbed back into the car and drove home; Hiccup and Astrid both tried to talk her out of it, but Lillian already couldn't work while pregnant because labs and chemicals, she was damn well capable of dropping off the kids for a couple of hours.
They were both visibly relieved to see her back in one piece, which she rolled her eyes at but dutifully went and transferred Aura's kisses to their cheeks.
"Those are from Aura. Livy was still fast asleep."
"Sounds about right. Sleeps like the dead."
Both placed hands on her stomach, then kissed each of her cheeks. Lillian couldn't help smiling.
"So, how are preperations going?"
"It's a first birthday party, not a Royal visit."
Hiccup was still walking a little delicately, but he'd be fine in a few days according to the doctor who performed his vasectomy, and with any luck he'd be firing blanks before Lillian gave birth (Astrid's words, not hers).
"Still, after this we only get one more. Mala already said they are not having more kids, so its Livy and this one" Lillian patted her belly "and thats it. So go on, shoo. Prepare."
"Yeah, which is kind of a relief. Becoming a big brother when you're a married father is weird. I love Morgan though, obviously."
"How do you think Valka feels? I mean, she became a grandmother before she had her second child."
"Yeah... our family is weird. I love it."
They finished putting up decorations and laying out food; it sort of felt strange not having a get together at aunt Gothi's place, where they celebrated so often through the year already. But if they had every family members birthday celebration there, Gothi would never have a moments peace. They did have a group birthday thing (where the twins had first met the majority of their now-family) and the occasional barbecue over at Hiccup's grandfathers old farmland, but for kids birthdays, it was usually at the parents of said childs home.
There was time for people to start arriving before Valka and Mala came back with the kids, which also meant there was time Lillian could sit down and complain her back was hurting, with Astrid nuzzling her belly and offering her back rubs.
"I love you Lils."
"I love you too Astrid, but I am so very relieved I won't be doing this again. Hiccup, come snuggle."
Their adorable husband obeyed, sitting mindfully before he cuddled up with them.
"I promise you all the bubble bath and massages you want tonight."
"You don't have to take care of me, thats what I have Astrid for."
"Don't hey me, he's not long let someone poke him with sharp things so we never need birth control again. You can run me a bath."
Astrid stuck her tongue out, but then resumed cuddling Lillian and agreed as she rubbed her sisters belly.
"You know I would do it anyway."
They reluctantly ceased snuggling when the door knocked, the first arrivals for Livy's party. Valka called to check everything was good before they came back, Livy grumpy about her nap being disturbed when she arrived but perking up when she saw her parents again.
Their kids could tell Astrid and Lillian apart, but they didn't really seem to mind which was which. Both were their mother, so the only real difference was who could produce milk for them. Livy reached for Lillian, obviously hungry and not yet completely weaned.
"I'm gonna go feed her, then we'll take her through. Let Aura and Morgan go charm everyone first."
She'd nursed her child in front of others before, but it was a nice excuse to take a few more quiet minutes.
"I bet that feels much better, eh? You do like a full tummy."
Livy gurgled, flashing her gummy smile; she was a little slow on teething, but hitting all her other milestones fine. Standing with Livy content to laze against her mothers chest, Lillian carried her out to where the family awaited to celebrate her first year of life.
"Happy Beltane Livy!"
"Birthday, Aura, not Beltane. It's almost Beltane, but not yet."
Hiccup corrected her gently, Aura frowning before she nodded.
"That too. Can we eat now?"
Oh, Lillian could really see Astrid in Aura. As calm and sleepy as Livy was, Aura was energetic and messy, loved nothing more than playing in the dirt or doing her best to copy Astrid whenever she was working out at home. Hiccup occasionally joked Aura could do more push ups than him.
"Yes, Aura, you can eat now. Don't overdo it, remember the Yule tummy ache?"
"It was my birthday!"
Aura pouted, then turned and climbed up on the nearest chair to get to the spread on the table. She had been their Yuletide surprise, and so her birthday was always a full family affair, and she loved the solstice treats and log burning that came along with the day itself.
Morgan was only eighteen months old, but clearly learning manners from Mala and the little blond boy ate considerably more tidily than Aura did, despite only being a third of her age. He did also like going to roll in the mud with Aura though.
Livy toddled from person to person, enjoying being the centre of attention but only for so long before she got fussy, placated eventually by cuddles from Astrid and Aura tottering over, sharing her banana in messy handfuls. Hiccup came to the rescue with a cloth to clean up sticky fingers and faces, tickling Aura until she squealed as he picked her up for a cuddle.
Hiccup pouted, Aura copying him until they both started giggling.
"Your daddy is a bit mad Livy, you'll get used to him."
Hiccup stuck his tongue out at Astrid, who did the same back. Lillian watched them with a smile, hands immediately moving to her belly when she felt movement.
"Is baby kicking?"
"Feels like it!"
Aura wriggled, determined to get over and feel it. She'd been transfixed when Lillian was pregnant with Livy too, as they'd done their best to involve her so there was less chance of jealousy over the new baby when they were born. Her belly jumped again, Aura laughing happily as she felt it and both Hiccup and Astrid looking over Lillian and Aura with pure joy on their faces.
"When do they get here?"
"Not for a few months yet, but they'll get here."
Aura sulked for about three seconds, then seemed to remember there were cupcakes and off she vanished to stuff her face again. She'd never even heard of picky eating, and wolfed down just about everything Hiccup had ever put in front of her, giving her all that boundless energy she had. Lillian could do with some, already imagining the end of the party so she could lie down.
Livy yawned and looked quizzical from her fathers arms as they presented her with her birthday cake, though when presented with her own child-size slice she was quite happy to smush it all over her face, her hair, Hiccup's t-shirt and then finally got some in her mouth. They'd definitely have a new stack of choices to add to their photo albums, though they were probably going to need a new one by the time their third child joined the family.
"Well, I'm gonna get us cleaned up, then how about presents?"
Not really sure what presents were yet, Livy didn't seem to mind either way, caring more that she was, as usual, being carried around because she was lazy and spoiled rotten for constant cuddles. Returning in a fresh t-shirt with a clean child, Hiccup handed Livy over to Astrid for present-opening and pulled Aura up onto his lap so she wouldn't get bored and wander off to cause trouble.
Gifts were often more practical than pretty, which was appreciated as none of them really liked little plastic gadgets kids would be bored of in a week. There were simple books for story time, hand carved wooden blocks from Stoick that had letters, numbers and runes carved into them, sturdy clothes (they were low on hand-me-downs because of how absolutely destructive Aura had been on hers) and, because Mala was just like that, the exact same pair of boots in four different sizes, for Livy to grow in to. Personalised feeding things for weaning, and a nice chunk of stuff like nappies. Much more useful than store-bought toys, and there was still sweetness and care and thought there - like how Valka had made them baby-friendly soap, the same thing she used to use on a sensitive-baby-Hiccup.
"I think this little one is ready for a nap, say night-night Livy."
There were coos and kisses until Livy got tired of that, and then Astrid headed off to put Livy down for her nap, returning a few minutes later with the baby monitor in hand as she flopped down to sit between Lillian and Hiccup.
"She go down easy?"
"Yeah, she was pooped!"
"I can relate."
Astrid laughed, squeezing Lillian's hand.
"Want me to put you down for a nap too?"
Lillian held out until people began to filter away, left eventually with just Valka, Mala and Morgan, and Stoick and Hanna. Aura had finally tuckered herself out too, both she and Morgan curled up napping on one of the chairs together, tucked under one of the blankets Valka had made them.
"We have some news."
Everyone looked over at Stoick, and given how soon Beltane was, Lillian had her suspicions. She was surprised though.
"Are you going to tell us, or is this a guessing game?"
"Come now Astrid, surely you have noticed?"
Astrid blinked at Mala, shaking her head before her eyes moved over to Hanna, and Lillian looked too.
"Oh! Alcohol free. Are you pregnant?"
Hanna was in her early forties, and they'd never really mentioned planning on kids. And she wasn't a petite woman, so there was no visible bump showing just yet.
"I am. Four months! It wasn't planned, or expected, but here we are!"
Hiccup beamed, then turned back to Lillian with a smug expression.
"And you said we weren't gonna get another first birthday party!"
Lillian was a freaking hero, Astrid decided. And adorable, especially just then. Livy wasn't yet two and that was when Lils wanted to wean her fully, but their young son Henrik (Hiccup rolled his eyes, but they wanted to name their kid after him and he wouldn't agree to Henry Jr) was also in need of feeding, so her sister was up all hours through the night feeding a four month old baby, and kept up with nursing Livy on top of that in the day.
Aura had weaned herself, refusing to nurse after ten months of life, so really, Astrid had gotten off lightly in comparison.
Lils was napping on the sofa, Henrik tucked under one arm and Livy fast asleep on Aura's lap. Hiccup was at the hospital, waiting for his youngest sibling to come into the world. They'd seen Stoick and Hanna tie the knot a few months earlier, and nobody had congratulated them more than Valka.
It was a hectic few weeks - Aura started school in a weeks time, and they were all certain they'd bawl like babies when they dropped her off, and preparing for such a thing had been a bit of a whirlwind. They had a bet on how long before somebody would ask about the identical twin moms.
Astrid had already been forbidden from snarking at people who were intrusive.
Her phone buzzed on the side, a picture attached to the message Hiccup sent. She opened it up, seeing him grinning and holding a hefty swaddled bundle of blankets with a chubby cheeked face.
"Meet Sigmund Haddock. Me and Hanna are winding dad up debating if thats a weirder name than Stoick, but Hanna did pick it. And also threatened to kill dad a lot, cus he's almost twelve pounds!"
Astrid laughed to herself, knowing Hiccup wouldn't answer her reply as he'd have to turn his phone back off. She wasn't too surprised Stoick's child was a big baby, especially without the mixing of Valka's slight build that Hiccup had inherited, but definitely sympathised with the womans suffering in labour. There was no concern that such a thing would befall Astrid or Lillian again - Hiccup had his sperm count checked again last month, and he was still hitting a solid zero.
Hiccup came home with a few more photos later that day, greeted happily by wives and kids as he regaled them with the amusement of hospital staff comparing usual newborn clothes to Sigmund's beefy build.
"Luckily, they knew they were big from last months ultrasound so they had bigger baby gear. Still funny."
Only a few more days of juggling work and children and those precious few hours of sleep later, they were all on the edge of tears as they dressed Aura up for school in her new jumper and trousers, brushing through her short, thick red-brown hair until it laid mostly-flat.
"Ready to go?"
There was no shyness from their adventurous little Aura, who grinned as she shouldered her little backpack and proudly put on her own shoes, comforting Livy who was very upset about seeing her go.
"I'll be back later Livy, I promise!"
Sniffling, Livy hugged her sister goodbye even though they still had to go get in the car and take Aura to school. Strapped in to various booster seats, Aura, Livy and Henrik were ready for travel.
It was busy, dozens of parents there also bidding teary-eyed farewells to their children on their first day and children in various stages of emotional turmoil or avid excitement about the event themselves.
"Hey look! They're identical like us!"
The three parents looked at each other; none of them had bet on identical twin children being the first to comment on them.
"They're my mommies!"
Aura announced proudly, which drew surprised looks from everyone in earshot. Astrid braced herself with a polite smile.
Here we go again.
Just imagine all the swear words children might have learned that day if wise folk like Lillian and Hiccup hadn't banned Astrid from getting too sassy on the playground in advance...
Who else is completely unprepared to say goodbye to this lot?