I'd like to dedicate this story to babyphd- with thanks for the messages sent throughout the writing process. They came every time I was really close to scrapping the whole thing because I couldn't articulate the thoughts in my head or I was unsure that I'd be able to tie everything together in a cogent manner. It's truly something when can support each other in an environment like this ❤︎
CJ and Danny's Kitchen
August 19th 7am local time
"Do that, and you'll find out how hard it is to pick your teeth from the ground with your arms broken," Orlagh said without turning around from the kitchen sink. "And I don't care how sick you've been or how long you've been on a plane."
"Busted!" Erin whispered to her brother. "I don't know why you're still trying this after 40-odd years of failing to sneak up on her."
"Hi mom .."
Orlagh turned from the sink.
"Hello, my love."
She looked him up and down before taking his face in her hands and kissing him on the forehead.
"He knows, doesn't he?" she asked Erin over his shoulder as she hugged him. "I can feel it bubbling in him."
Erin threw her hands up in the air and rolled her eyes.
"Grandma appeared to him a dream .."
Orlagh looked at her son.
"What else did you get from grandma, I wonder .."
"Do you know?" he asked.
"Excuse me, when did we become a family of doubting Thomases? Yes, I know, and I'm not saying unless Claudia tells me she wants to know."
"Is she awake?"
Orlagh shook her head.
"We had a bit of a rough night. You'll know when she's awake."
"You're using a baby monitor?" Erin asked incredulously as she looked in the direction her mother was pointing.
"She calls when she needs me. Otherwise I'd be hovering .. and that's no way to cultivate a relationship with your son's significant other."
She patted Danny's cheek and winked at him.
"Thanks for coming to stay with her, mom."
"I knew you'd want me here. Call and thank your dad though? Managing the kids on his own during the day has been a little .. traumatic."
Erin guffawed in the background.
"Before I forget," Orlagh continued. "Carol and Margaret were here last night. Carol said to tell you that one piece is behind the armchair, the other piece is in the jacket pocket of your black suit in the closet, and the other thing is in your nightstand drawer. And that you would understand what all of that meant."
"Good then. Would you like some coffee?"
She had just handed him a mug when a noise from the monitor made them all turn their heads in its direction.
"You're up," Orlagh said gleefully to Danny as she plucked the coffee from his hands and patted him on the arm.
"She's calling you mom? " he asked incredulously from the doorway.
"What can I say? We bonded. Be off with ya .."
"Remember what I told you about the bed," Erin called after him. "And no matter what she says, don't laugh. Resist! "
CJ and Danny's bedroom
CJ fought the nausea long enough to make it to the bathroom; feeling ridiculously proud of herself for being able to spare Orlagh the unpleasant task of cleaning out yet another plastic tub.
Stomach heaving, she just about made it to the toilet. Strands of hair slipped from her rudimentary ponytail and got in the way, but she didn't have the energy to move them.
She became aware of her hair being pulled back from her face, but "thanks" came out as a mumble when another bout of bile rose in her throat.
The hand rubbing gentle circles on her back felt comforting as she rested her head on her hands and waited for the next wave - but it occurred to her pretty quickly that something about the pressure was different.
Familiar and soothing in ways that spoke to her heart.
"What's goin' on?"
He shifted position so that she could feel secure as she fell apart against him.
The sound of her sobs seemed to bounce off every surface in the bathroom and sounded impossibly loud and hysterical to her ears.
She gasped for breath - and gagged.
"It's okay .." Danny said as he kissed the top of her head and angled her back towards the toilet.
She fell back against him, exhausted, after a few moments, and he had to bury the impulse to rock her.
"You know, don't you?" she asked in a quiet voice.
"I wanted you to hear it from me," she said tearfully.
He wanted to laugh, tell her how he'd found out and that that he was over the moon, but Erin's cautionary "resist" echoed in his head.
"I know .." he said instead as he started to rub her back again.
"I think I'm done for now," she said after a few minutes - and started to cry again when she couldn't stand, unassisted.
"This is ridiculous," she said through her sobs.
"It's okay .."
"Want to know how ridiculous I've become?"
Was this a trap?
"I cry about everything."
"That's hard to imagine."
Maybe he could salvage things.
"Are you mocking me?"
"I've been told to underestimate pregnancy hormones at my peril," he said carefully.
"I was too sick to eat, I cried. I spilled some of my water on the bed, I cried. I watched an episode of Love it or List it, and I cried when they decided to list. I cried because I sneezed and it took all the energy I had left. Kristin Scott Thomas died in the film and I cried for an hour."
"I cried for an hour, too, when Kristin Scott Thomas died," Danny interjected. "Just .. you know .. sayin'."
"Margaret asked me the other day if I wanted overnight diapers, and I cried."
It was really hard not to laugh at that one.
"What else has been making you cry?"
"If I can't remember anything, I cry. There were no bananas left, I cried. Carol swapped The English Patient out with The Penguins of Madagascar and I had a meltdown. Your mother was harmonizing with Johnny Denver's Country Roads yesterday, I ugly cried. You gotta know, it's like crazy town in my head .."
"Will you cry if I kiss you?"
"I don't think you want to kiss me."
"It tastes awful in my mouth. I haven't had the energy to take a shower in a few days. My hair's manky .."
"Okay .. so I know you've been bonding with my mom, and that's great, but the word manky cannot become part of your vocabulary."
"But it's a perfect word .."
Erin hadn't been exaggerating, he thought as her eyes filled with tears again.
"How about I help you shower?"
"Okay. But I need to bring a tub into the shower with me. Just in case .."
"Hey, I see they even put a seat in there for you," he said as he helped her up from the ground.
"That was Margaret's idea."
"Here's another idea," he said as he helped her undress. "Erin says we can put some drops of peppermint oil on a washcloth and the steam from the shower will diffuse it if we leave it on the ground."
"It's by the nightstand."
"Okay. You'll be okay sitting in the shower while I get it?"
"I'll get you some fresh clothes, too, yeah?"
Danny stepped into the bedroom and made quick work of locating everything he needed.
He also retrieved the things he needed for his surprise and put them under the pillow on the bed.
"How's she doing?" Orlagh said from the doorway.
"I'm going to help her take a shower. Doing okay in there, CJ ?" he called.
"Her voice sounds stronger already," Orlagh noted. "I'll change the bed sheets while you're doing that."
"Thanks. Can you leave the room dark?" he asked as he headed back into the bathroom.
He let the unspoken question hang in the air.
"Call me when you're ready."
"Mmmm .." CJ said a few minutes later as he lathered and scrubbed her scalp. "That feels so nice. Oh my God, I'm going to cry again .."
"I have a question," Danny asked a few moments later as he rinsed her off. "Do you want to know the baby's sex?"
"The doctor recommended diagnostic testing based on my age. He said we could find out the sex of the baby. I think he said it could be done at the fifteen to twenty week mark?
"What if we could find out a lot sooner than that?"
"My mother hasn't told you about her very particular skill set yet."
"Has she ever been wrong?"
"Nope. Six grandchildren, several nieces and nephews and their babies, children of friends. And a couple of neighbours. Her track record is pretty solid."
"Do you want to know?"
"It's been part of our family tradition for as long as I can remember. I'd like to keep that going."
"She already knows, doesn't she?"
"She does, but she won't say without your consent. She won't even tell me."
He towelled her off, dried her hair, helped her brush her teeth and get into fresh clothes before asking, "feeling steady enough to walk on your own?"
"I think so."
"Hang on .." he said when they got to the bed. "Erin says I have to sit on the bed before you."
"They changed the sheets," she said in wonder as she slid between them.
"Ready?" he asked when they were situated.
"Mom .." Danny called, knowing she'd hear him through the monitor.
Orlagh appeared in the doorway.
CJ wanted to answer, but found the emotion so paralyzing that she could only nod.
Orlagh looked between them and then addressed her son.
"I think you know, too. Put your hand on Claudia's belly and focus," she added when he looked unconvinced. "Humour me."
CJ felt an intense rush of warmth as Danny placed his hand on her - and saw something on his face that she was sure nobody had seen before.
Something which would be uniquely theirs.
"Is it a girl?" he asked his mother in wonder.
"It is .."
She patted Danny on the knee and smiled at CJ and turned to leave.
"Erin is chomping at the bit," she said from the doorway. "Is it okay if I tell her?"
Orlagh tapped her fingers once on the door and closed it behind her, plunging the room into almost complete darkness.
Danny pulled CJ closer to him and kissed away her tears.
"You're very proud of yourself, aren't you?" she asked after a while. "You're practically vibrating."
"I am proud. Am I also making you nauseous?"
"No. But .."
"You will remember I'm here, too, right?"
"Resist!" Erin screamed in his head as he wiped away a fresh batch of tears.
"I have it on good authority that you'll get your mojo back in the second trimester. And that we'll have to get creative in the third."
She didn't sound convinced.
"Until then, let me just remind you that kissing can be more intimate than sex."
"Remind me .."
"Okay, but first I need you to close your eyes," he said as he reached under the pillow.
He felt her tense for a moment and then suck in a breath as familiar music filled the room.
"Oh my God .."
A projection of the Milky Way illuminated the ceiling, whisking her right back to their night under the stars, with all the inherent emotion intact.
"Still think I'm going to forget you?" he asked as he tangled his fingers in her hair and brought her mouth slowly to his.
When she was crying too hard to function, he pulled her head onto his shoulder and stroked her hair as he waited for her to settle.
After a while she took his hand and splayed it across her belly; relishing in the feeling of warmth seeping through her again.
"Would you like to call her Imogen?"
Danny dropped a kiss to her head.
"I'd like that. I'd like that very much."
The Sega Homestar Planetarium had a disc which could project the Milky Way in 2008. I always wanted one, so now these guys got to have one!
Also, all the touchy feely empath stuff for Danny's family and CJ's symptoms and words are right out of my own life in this one. I typically tend not to write stuff I haven't experienced because otherwise I'd spend too much time second guessing myself, and nothing would ever get posted.
I feel like I've been writing this for months (instead of the two weeks, or whatever, that it's actually been) and it's really surreal to see how far we are from Skye and her particular set of challenges in the beginning of the story.
If you've stuck around this far .. THANK YOU!