A/N: I know that this is my third chapter in 24 hours; I'm not trying to rush them, but the story is just flowing really well right now. I already have the next chapter planned out, so it should be up sometime tomorrow.
"Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear Danny and Katie, Happy Birthday to you!" the Camden family sang.
"Okay, now blow out your candles," instructed Ruthie. The two children blew their candles out and then grinned up at her after they both got all four of them on their first try. "Good job," Ruthie praised. She pulled the candles out of their cupcakes and then told them to start eating. Ben, Matt, and Simon, who had been standing protectively over the other cupcakes under the excuse that they were guarding them from the other kids, took that as their signal to immediately grab their own cupcakes, causing Ruthie to laugh.
Peter stood back and watched his wife, smiling. Between Ruthie's outburst on Thursday and Simon's talk with her yesterday, it seemed that Ruthie was finally starting to heal. She had told him about her talk with Simon when she'd apologized to him last night. They still had a long way to go, but he was relieved that Ruthie finally seemed happy again. They had also contacted Chandler about going to counseling with him, and their first session was scheduled for tomorrow after church.
"She looks happy again," Annie remarked as she walked up to stand next to Peter. "I've not seen her laugh since Sarah Joyce was born."
Peter nodded, "Yeah, I think she's finally ready to start moving on and to stop feeling guilty about something she had no control over." He started to say more but was interrupted when Ruthie called him over to help her take pictures.
Captain Ryan Stevens walked up to Annie as Peter walked away. They had been dating for eight months now, but this was the first family function that he had attended. "I'm glad you invited me. Your family may be loud and crazy, but they definitely throw great parties," he laughed.
Annie smiled. "Good, I'm glad that you're enjoying yourself." She had been nervous about how today would go as the family was still getting used to them dating, but it had gone remarkably well so far. Ryan had helped Matt and Simon grill the hamburgers and hotdogs while the other guys played with the kids in Ruthie and Peter's backyard and she and the girls had gotten the food ready. She had peeked outside occasionally to check on them, wondering how Matt and Simon would get along with him, and every time they were laughing together and seemed to be having fun. "I hope that this is just the first of many family events that you get to experience."
Ryan smiled and wrapped his arms around Annie from behind. "I hope so, too. I enjoy being a part of your family. I think they're starting to get used to having me around."
"Good," Annie replied happily, "because I know that I like having you around." She started to say more, but was interrupted by Ben.
"Excuse me, everyone, but can I get your attention? Lucy and I have something that we'd like to share with everyone," Ben announced. Once all of the adults had made their way over to the patio where Lucy was sitting and he was standing beside her, Ben continued, "We're pregnant!"
Everyone cheered loudly. "It's about time you said something," Annie laughed. "Half of us had already figured it out a couple of weeks ago."
Lucy grinned, "Yeah, this pregnancy is a little harder to hide than the last ones. I guess I waited a little too long to tell everyone."
"When are you due?" Ruthie asked.
"The beginning of September," Lucy responded. "I'm a little over three months along. And before anyone asks, there's only one baby in there," she joked.
Matt spoke up next, "Well, I guess since everyone's here, Sarah and I will go ahead and make an announcement, too. We're pregnant, as well!"
"What?" Lucy exclaimed. She got up and hugged Sarah. "Congratulations! I'm so glad that we're going to be pregnant together."
Sarah hugged her back. "I'm due at the end of September, so just a little bit after Lucy," she announced.
Carlos looked at Mary, who nodded, and then cleared his throat. "Everyone? Mary and I are pregnant, too! She's six weeks along, due the middle of October."
Annie clapped her hands in joy. "Three new grandchildren all in a span of just two months? I think I'm going to need to find a bigger place to live," she joked, making everyone laugh.
"Don't worry, Mom, we won't send all the grandkids over at once," Mary reassured her.
Rose spoke up, "Actually, make that four new grandchildren. I'm due at the end of October," she shared. Simon looked at her, surprised that she had announced it after they had agreed to wait. "I just figured since everyone else was announcing pregnancies, we might as well join in," she told him, giggling.
Lucy stole a glance at Ruthie, wondering how she was taking the news of all the pregnancies. Ruthie caught her looking and snuck over to her. "Don't worry," she reassured her. "I'm happy for all of you. I really am."
"Good, I'm glad," Lucy stated. "I wasn't how you would take the news. That's part of the reason why I didn't say anything sooner. I didn't want to make it harder for you."
Ruthie gave her a hug. "I know, and I appreciate it, Lucy. Thank you."
As the party started to wind down, Ryan made his way over to where Lucy was standing. "Do you think I could talk to you and your siblings alone for a minute?" he asked.
Lucy nodded, smiling. She was pretty sure she knew what he was up to. She and Ben had spent a lot of time with Annie and Ryan because of how close Ben and Ryan were, and she'd watched their relationship grow into something special. "Sure, let me go round everyone up," she told him. "Go ahead and wait in Peter and Ruthie's living room. I'll send them all in there."
Five minutes later Lucy walked into the living room with Simon. Everyone else was already waiting for them in there with Ryan. "Sorry," Simon apologized, "I was helping Rose get Kaitlyn cleaned up enough that she wouldn't get icing all over her car seat." Everyone laughed. Kaitlyn and Daniel had somehow gotten more icing on each other than they had in their mouths.
Ryan cleared his throat nervously. "I wanted to thank you all for welcoming me into your family so graciously," he began. "I know that it wasn't easy for all of you to see your mother start to date again, but you're all been nothing but kind and welcoming to me since we started dating. You've all made me feel welcome, and I've enjoyed getting to know all of you." He paused for a second, trying to think of how to word what he wanted to say next. "I want you all to know that I love your mother very much. In fact, I'd like to ask her to marry me, but only if all of you are okay with it." He looked around nervously, waiting for everyone to respond.
Lucy was the first to speak up. "You already know my answer," she said. "I've seen how happy you make Mom. I would love for you two to get married. I even volunteer to do the wedding," she joked.
"Lucy's right. Mom's face lights up when she's around you in a way that it hasn't since Dad died. I'll admit that I wasn't sure what I thought about her starting to date again, but you've shown how much you care about her in how you've been there for her since David died," Sam stated. "You definitely have my approval." Matt and Simon nodded in approval.
"When Dad died, I didn't think that Mom would ever start seeing someone again," Ruthie stated, "but when Lucy and I went over to her house to help her get ready for your first date, I saw how ready she was to have someone to love her again. You've been good for her, and, like Sam said, if you hadn't of been there to help her get through David's death, it would have been a lot harder on her."
Mary agreed, "You've not only been there for her; you've been there for all of us, as well. You've never treated any of us or our families like intrusions despite how crazy it can get sometimes. You've treated our children like they're your own grandkids. You're a perfect fit for our family. I wholeheartedly say yes!"
"Thank you for today, Carlos," Mary told Carlos after they'd put the boys to bed. "I know that it wasn't easy today acting like everything was normal, but it really means a lot to me."
"This situation is already hard enough," Carlos replied gently, "no need to make it any harder by clueing your family in to anything."
Mary had told Carlos everything last night, including telling him that she originally wasn't sure who the father of the baby was. He hadn't been all that surprised; he'd grabbed her phone by accident one morning and had stumbled across some of the texts that Wilson had sent her. Carlos hadn't said anything as he'd been waiting to see whether she was going to tell him. Mary was thankful that it wasn't a complete surprise to Carlos, as it had made the situation a little easier. They had talked late into the night about how to fix their marriage. It was going to take a lot of hard work, but they were determined to make it work.
Mary smiled, rubbing the small bump that was already starting to show. "I'll call Lucy tomorrow and schedule our first counseling session. I'll also schedule the next doctor's appointment with Matt so that we can both get it on the schedule at school." Mary was about to continue when her phone rang. "Hello?" she answered.
"Hey, Mary, it's Lucy."
"Hey, Lucy. I was just talking about you," Mary laughed.
Lucy laughed. "I was hoping to get a chance to talk to you today, but it was crazy that I never got the chance. Matt told me everything yesterday."
Carlos motioned to Mary that he was heading upstairs. "I'll let you talk to your sister alone," he whispered.
Mary nodded. "Hey, Luce? Any chance you want to meet over at the church? I could really use a talk with my sister right now?"
"Sure," Lucy responded, sounding surprised. "Give me ten minutes and I'll see you there."
"Hey, Matt, it's Ruthie. Can you call me when you get this? I was hoping we could talk." Ruthie sighed as she hung up the phone. She had hoped to get a chance to speak to Matt alone at the party today but she had been so busy that she never had a chance and now he wasn't answering his phone. Chances were that he'd been called into the hospital for a delivery and she wouldn't hear from him until tomorrow, but she left her ringer on just in case he got a chance to call back.
"Daniel was out like a light as soon as I put him to bed," Peter informed her as he walked into the living room where Ruthie was sitting.
Ruthie smiled. "I knew he would be. All the excitement today wore him out. I don't think all the sugar he consumed even had an effect on him with all the energy he burned playing with his cousins." She patted the cushion next to where she sat on the couch, inviting Peter to come sit beside her. Peter complied, putting his arm around her as he sat down.
"It was good to see you happy today," he said gently. "I've not seen you smile or laugh that much since Sarah Joyce…" Peter trailed off, unsure of whether it was a safe topic to discuss.
Ruthie finished the sentence for him. "Since Sarah Joyce died? I know. The talk with Simon yesterday really helped. I had been unfair to you and Matt. I knew it wasn't your fault or Matt's fault; you both just did what needed to be done. I think I was blaming you two because of the guilt that I was feeling," Ruthie explained. "I couldn't handle the guilt of knowing it was my own body's fault that Sarah Joyce had to be born early, so I turned that guilt into anger and directed it at you and Matt instead." She rested her head on Peter's shoulder. "I really am sorry for the things that I said to you the other day; I was wrong for saying any of that."
Peter rested his head on top of Ruthie's. "I know you didn't mean them, honey. You were hurting. I understand; I miss her, too."
They sat there in silence for a few minutes and then Ruthie's phone started to ring. She looked at the caller ID. "It's Matt," she told Peter.
"Go ahead and answer it," Peter instructed, giving her a kiss on the cheek. "I'm going to head to bed."
Ruthie nodded and answered her phone. "Hey, Matt."
"Hi, Ruthie," Matt replied. "I got your message. What did you need?"
"It depends. Are you busy?"
"No, I just finished helping Sarah get the girls to bed."
"Okay, good," Ruthie replied, relieved that he wasn't with a patient. "I wanted to apologize to you for how I've been acting and the way that I treated you. I was wrong for blaming you for Sarah Joyce's death. You saved my life by delivering her when you did, and I should be grateful for that, but instead I've been treating you like crap."
"It's fine, Ruthie. You were hurting; I understood," Matt reassured her. "It was good to see you happy today," he added.
"Simon and I had a nice chat yesterday; he talked some sense into me," Ruthie explained. "It felt good to be happy again."
Matt smiled. Simon and Ruthie had always had a special relationship. He always seemed to be able to get through to her even when no one else could. "I hope that all of the pregnancy announcements today didn't put a damper on that happiness."
"No, it was fine. I'm happy for all of you." She laughed, "I never thought that everyone would be pregnant all at once, though. Family gatherings are going to be interesting for a while."
Matt chuckled. She was right. With four hormonal pregnant women among them, all within a couple months each other, family gatherings were bound to be full of drama and entertainment. "That's for sure."
"Can I ask you something?"
"Sure, what is it?"
"How long do you usually recommend for someone to wait until they try to have another baby?" Ruthie asked hesitantly. She had been thinking for a couple of weeks that she wanted to have another child, but she hadn't discussed it with anyone yet, not even Peter. She had wanted to make sure that she really did want another baby and that it wasn't just in response to Sarah Joyce's death.
"Well, there's really no set time," Matt informed her. "It's more of a personal thing; it's about whether the couple is ready for another baby, as well as why they want a baby. Some people want a baby just to replace the one that they lost, while other genuinely want another child."
"I haven't even talked to Peter about it yet because I wanted to make sure that I really do want another child and that I'm not trying to replace Sarah Joyce, but I've been thinking about wanting another one for a couple of weeks now," Ruthie explained. "I just wasn't sure if it was too soon to think about trying again."
"So this isn't because of all the pregnancies announced today?" asked Matt, only partially joking.
"No, I was thinking about it before I even knew anyone but Lucy was pregnant," Ruthie replied. She added, jokingly, "But I wouldn't want to miss out on all the fun of being pregnant with the others!"
Ruthie and Matt talked for a while longer before hanging up. Ruthie smiled as she headed down the hall to her and Peter's bedroom. She was glad that she was able to make things right between her and Matt. With him being the oldest and her being the youngest, they'd always had a close relationship and Ruthie hated arguing with him.
"Peter, are you still awake?" Ruthie asked as she climbed into bed.
"Yeah, honey, I'm awake," Peter replied, rolling over to face her. "Did you have a good talk with Matt?"
Ruthie nodded, "Yes, it was good. I was able to apologize to him for the way I acted. He was also able to answer some questions that I had."
"Questions about Sarah Joyce?" Peter asked.
"No," Ruthie replied. "I asked him about getting pregnant again."
"Really?" Peter was surprised. He hadn't even suspect that Ruthie would already be thinking about getting pregnant again. "What did he say?"
"He said that there's no real time frame for waiting; it's up to each couple to decide when they're ready," Ruthie answered. "I also asked him about the toxemia and the chances of it reoccurring. He was pretty confident that I won't have any issues with another pregnancy; evidently it's rare for there to be a repeat of it."
Peter was quiet for a moment while he thought about what Ruthie said. "So, does that mean you're ready to try for another baby?" he asked.
Ruthie shook her head. "No, not just yet, but soon."