A Piratical Legacy Chapter 33 Part 1 - Love & Bureaucrats
Chapter 33 – Love & Bureaucrats Part 1A Piratical LegacyChapter 33: Love and Bureaucrats - Part 1
It is a time of endings... If I die again, I trust that my family will resurrect me. I reached my18 September lifetime want yesterday, and they have more than enough money, in that case. As well, Ellen is a college graduate. It may take her a fewDear Diary, weeks, but I am confident she could acquire a bone phone.The potion from my son Crassus beckons to me on a daily basis. One Finally, as a scientist myself I have tested Crassus formulasip, and I could have my mortality and my humanity restored. But extensively. I believe there to be no danger.Crassus has asked me to wait until he returns from university beforeI test it. He says that if there are any adverse effects he would If I should die... but I wont.hopefully be able to mitigate them if he is in attendance. -- SejanusI do not wish to wait.
Closing the tattered old journal, Sejanus slid it back on the bookcase. Then, reaching between volumes A and C of his encyclopedia set, hecarefully pressed a button. A brilliantly glowing blue vial slowly slid out.He weighed the potion carefully in one hand.Then, with a low, moaning sigh, he tilted his head back and downed the draught in one long swallow.
If he still had a tongue, he would have screamed. It was as though needles were being driven into every inch of his flesh. A cloud of rotting vapouroozed from his pores and surrounded him.And then... an end.
He was alive again.Sejanus heard a creaking noise and a hiss behind him. Checking his watch, he realized that it was moments til seven--Ellen must be waking up.With a smile, he struck a pose and waited patiently.He had a lot of practice being patient.
Ellen hopped out of her crypt once the last rays had dropped below the horizon. Catching sight of her husband, she shrieked."Sejanus! Whats happened?"And, in a halting voice, Sejanus told her. Not only had he been cured of his undeath... he had been given back his voice.
The very next evening, they decided to celebrate their return to mortality... by growing older. Oh, they could have spent a considerable length oftime enjoying their renewed youth, but Ellen and Sejanus elected not to mess with the course of nature any longer. Ellen was still a vampire, butshe had the cure in her pocket. She would wait until after her birthday before taking it so the fear of being cured wouldnt affect her longevity.So their family and friends gathered to celebrate with them. Crassus was a little put out with Sejanus for not heeding his instructions, but in light ofthe result decided not to make an issue of it.Finally, the moment came. Ellen took a deep breath, filling lungs that didnt need air, and leaned forward.
"Happy birthday, my love!" Sejanus croaked. "You look beautiful as ever--like an ice queen.""Flatterer," Ellen chuckled. "Im just a slightly older-looking corpse. Go ahead and blow out your candles so I can take my cure."
So he did.And they lived happily ever after.***For now, though, it is time to move on to a story of beginnings.
It was the dawn of a crisp and beautiful fall day on Pirate Island. The Buccaneer family were very excited on this particular morning, and for anumber of reasons. One of them was because they had just finished moving in to a beautiful new home.This beautiful house is the Architects Northwest home by Orikes/orikes360.
And the other reason was even more joyous and exciting than the prospect of a new house to explore. Ching Shih, the sixth generation heiress ofthe Buccaneer family, had moved back home after graduating university. In just a few short hours, she would be marrying her love, Twikkii Islandnative Jim Reeves."Is this magnificent home really yours?" Jim asked, disbelieve in his voice as the young lovers cuddled in bed. "I feel as though I might breaksomething every time I turn around. My home on Twikkii Island was lovely, but it feels like a hovel in comparison to this.""Yes, this home is really ours," Shih smiled, emphasizing the word. "Ours to grow old together in and raise a family with--" she stopped talking asher voice caught in her throat. "Sorry," she said a moment later. "I just cant believe our wedding day is finally here.""I have been counting the moments since I first laid eyes on you at our reacquaintance four years ago," Jim agreed.
Some time later, the lovers made their way downstairs just in time for "Most people usually get dressed before breakfast, too," Gertiea breakfast of grilled cheese sandwiches. snorted with a sly look at Jim. "Is this a sign of things to come, young man? Breakfast in your skivvies?""Ive never had food like this for breakfast before," Jim observed,sniffing cautiously before taking a bite. Jim laughed. "These are my pajamas, Miss Buccaneer.""Most of us prefer pancakes for breakfast," Grace said, shooting a "Oh, lordy... dont call me that," Gertie blinked. "You make mepointed look at her younger sister. "But Gertie got to the stove first sound like an old schoolteacher or something. Call me Gertie, orthis morning." Aunt Gertie if you prefer.""Its really good," Shih grinned, taking a bite. "Thanks, Aunt Gertie," Jim smiled.
"Okay, so whats the plan for today?" Ching Shih asked, putting down her sandwich. "Has somebody gone outside and started setting up the chairs?Do I still need to confirm stuff with the caterer? Have the flowers shown up? I dont trust that florist. She looked shifty. If shes gone and taken ourmoney without delivering... Im a pirate, you know.""We know," Grace chuckled. "Dont worry, Shih. Everything has been taken care of. And there are even flowers. Now, why dont we go upstairsand get you into your wedding dress? Jim, your suit is in the boys room--your bedroom is off limits until after the wedding. Its bad luck for thegroom to see the bride in her dress before the ceremony!"
"Yes, mother," Jim said obediently."I like the sound of that," Grace said fondly. "Now, scat! Borusa and Spandrell are taking care of everything outside, but you should get dressedand join them. The guests will be here soon, too. Ill take care of your blushing bride.""As you wish," Jim laughed. Gathering his and Shihs dishes, he took them into the kitchen, laughing the whole while.
"How do I look?" Ching Shih asked once shed slipped into her wedding gown."Like a dream," Grace breathed. "That dress is so lovely, my dear. You look like a billion tax-free simoleons.""Do you think Jim will like it?""Hed have to be blind not to."
"Now," Grace added, moving closer and picking an imaginary piece of lint off of Shihs shoulder. "Its one oclock. We should go downstairs--youdont want to be late to your own wedding!""I guess that would be one heck of a faux pas," Shih giggled nervously. She took a deep breath. "Okay, I can do this. Twenty minutes, and Ill bemarried to Jim.""Thats the spirit," Grace said encouragingly. She took her daughters hand and led her downstairs. "Now, just wait until Ive found my seat. Thatllget everyone else sitting down and then you can make your big entrance. Ready?""As Ill ever be!"
The wedding was a small one, all things considered. Only the very closest friends and family of the bridal couple were in attendance: Borusa,Spandrell, Gertie and Andrew, the parents of the bride, Coxinga and Shere Khan, and the brides cousins. Jack and Meadow Thayer had also beeninvited, as representatives of the greater extended family.At the front of the altar, Jim paced. He wasnt nervous about marriage or commitment, but he was anxious. He couldnt wait for the opportunity toclaim Ching Shih as his bride before everyone. The most beautiful woman in the world, to his eyes, and she was all his.
And then she was there. As he caught sight of Ching Shih in her bridal finery, Jims breath caught in his throat.
"You are a goddess," he said in his dulcet voice, taking Shihs hands in his and drawing her to him beneath the bridal arch. "How did I ever provemyself worthy of your love?""Dont get all mushy on me," Shih whispered, squeezing back. "If you do, I swear Ill start crying, and then Ill have to kill you for making mymascara run.""You should have worn waterproof mascara, then," Jim chuckled. "Come--I dont think I can wait any longer.""Me neither."
As the two stepped under the arch completely and prepared to start their vows, however, a sudden commotion at the far end of the lawn caughttheir eyes... and ears."Stop the wedding!"
All eyes turned to face the back and shocked silence reigned."I said, stop the wedding," Officer Ramin Centowski said in a slightly quieter voice."What?!?" A chorus of voices broke out in protest.
"Theres a problem," Centowski continued as he, Demi Love, and Dorian Kauker walked down the aisle, crushing rose petals beneath their feet."Yeah," Kauker said. He flipped hastily through a book, presumably a legal code of some sort. "Ah, here it is. Immigration regulation number 135-stroke alpha-subsection niner. It is illegal for residents of Twikkii Island to get married on Pirate Island, or vice versa. Sorry bout that."
"Wh-what?" Ching Shih choked, her face going pale."What do you mean?" Jim asked angrily. "Illegal? But we looked in to that!""Nobody ever reads the fine print," Centowski shrugged. "Im afraid youre going to have to come with us, Mr. Reeves. Well double check whenwe get you back to the station, but Im pretty sure youre going to be on the next plane off the island, sir.""No!" Ching Shih cried. "Thats not fair!""Life aint fair, missie," Centowski shrugged. "I dont make the laws. I just enforce em."
At this, Jack Thayer stood up from his seat, the first of the stunned onlookers to react.
"Perhaps I might render my assistance," he said. "Mr. Reeves, it would behoove you to depart with the officers. I will contact my cadre of legal andextralegal advisors and endeavor to resolve this unfortunate series of events.""I guess I should," Jim said helplessly. He drew Ching Shih into his arms. "Dont cry, darlingest. Im sure it is only a misunderstanding. I will beback before nightfall.""Youd better be," Ching Shih choked, accepting her fiancés kiss. "If not, Ill keelhaul you!""Ill, ah, hold you to that," Jim said.
With one last kiss, Jim allowed himself to be led away by the officers.He couldnt help but look back, though. And his heart broke when he saw his beloveds face.
Once Jim was out of earshot, Ching Shih dropped her brave face and started sobbing uncontrollably. Grace immediately rushed to comfort herdaughter while the remaining guests stared at one another awkwardly, unsure of what they should do."I will repair to the domicile and make arrangements," Jack said smoothly. "Rest assured, dear niece, you shall not sleep alone tonight."
With a sigh, Lee stood up and addressed the rest of the guests."Err, I dont know what to say," he said slowly. "I guess the weddings a bit postponed. Um, I hate to ask you all to leave, considering how muchwe spent on the buffet, but under the circumstances..."Under his breath, he muttered "Now, where can I find a monster-sized fridge?"
"Its okay, dad," Zing said slowly. "We understand. Take care of my little sister, okay? Well be waiting by the phone--as soon as you hearanything, you let us know.""Of course," Lee said. "Im sure this is just a momentary difficulty. Probably well be calling you all tonight asking you to come over and help uscelebrate a wedding. But..." his voice trailed off, and for the first time Zing thought his father looked very old."Just let us know if theres anything we can do," Zing said at last. "Er, as long as its not too expensive.""Caek is a lie," sniffled Shere Khan sadly.
And with that a very dejected group of wedding guests stood up and left.
While Grace and Lee sat upstairs with their daughter in her bedroom after Mr. Reeves has been deported."and comforted her as best they could, Jack made good on his promiseand started placing calls. Spandrell, who had been sent by his parents to find out what news there was, slumped. "Okay," he said unhappily. "Ill go tell them.The news was not good. Thank you, Mr. Thayer. If youd like to stay...""I must dolorously concede that the officers of the law are, in fact, "I suspect my involvement in this endeavor will be more fruitfulcorrect on this particular point of immigration code," he said sadly. "I from my own place of residence," Jack said. "I will remain inbelieve that there is a possibility we can have the decision communication should I ascertain any additional pertinentoverturned, but it is unlikely we will be able to effect a reversal until information."
It was raining when he left, and as he watched the wind caught and tore one of the streamers from the wedding arch, leaving it lying on the ground,sodden and forlorn.
Ching Shih awoke the next morning to the sound of her cell phone been deported. I am calling from one of those extremely expensiveringing. Shed cried herself to sleep and her eyes were red and sore, phones on the airplane."her voice hoarse, but she answered the phone anyway. "What?" Shih swallowed convulsively. "Y-youre joking, right?""Ching Shih, my beautiful princess," Jims voice was scratchy butrecognisable, and for a moment Shihs heart soared. "I wish I was," and Shih realized that Jim was crying ."Im sorry, my love. Even your uncles law-ninjas couldnt change the judges mind."Whats the word?" she asked quickly. The hearing was in the middle of the night. They wouldnt even let me phone you!""I am afraid that it is too late," Jim said, his voice breaking. "I have
Ching Shih wanted to scream, to curse, to cry. But instead she took a deep breath and calmed herself."Oh, Jim," she said at last. "Please... be strong with me. Well fix things, and well be together. I trust Uncle Jack and his law-ninjas. Well find away... a way for us to be together. Im the future Chief of Pirate Island. Ill do everything I can. This is only temporary.""I know," Jim said, sniffling slightly. He cleared his throat. "I will also be strong, my love. Until we find a solution.""Ill call you and email you every day until then," Shih promised, strangling a sob."I will hold you to it."
Ching Shih threw herself into researching the immigration laws of Pirate Island, but she also forced herself to actually live her life. To those whodidnt know her very well, she seemed to suffer little for her forced separation from Jim. But those who lived with her saw how much she struggledjust to get out of bed in the mornings and their hearts bled for her.Shih found the easiest way to keep from sinking into terminal depression was to throw herself into family living. She declared herself the primarycooker-of-breakfast, and was up at the crack of dawn each morning to cook pancakes or omelettes for the rest of the household.
"You know, you dont have to do that," Borusa said, taking a bite of his toaster pastry. He gestured towards it. "See? I can cook!""That is not breakfast," Shih scolded her younger brother, whisking the plate away and depositing a plate of pancakes in its stead. "This isbreakfast.""I was eating that!" Borusa complained."Well, you can finish it l--" Shih stopped and gulped. "You can--"
"Hey, do you want me to grab some orange juice too?" Spandrell called from the kitchen.Shih turned as green as her brothers.
Clapping one hand over her mouth, she bolted down the hallway in the direction of the bathroom.
"No, no, no!" she cried when shed finally finished being sick. "This is not fair! I dont want to do this on my own! Jim, why arent you here withme?"Some women might be in denial, but Shih knew the truth of it. She was pregnant.
A pregnancy test the next morning confirmed it, and Ching Shih sat child will never know me.down at the computer to email the news to her lover. Every day I hope and pray that you or Mr. Thayer will have goodThere was a response almost before she hit the send button. news for me. And every day, when the answer is no, I sink that much further into despair.My darling queen, I miss you, and now I have our child to miss as well. Keep yourselfIs it possible for a man to be both deliriously happy and healthy and safe. I will phone you tonight. Wait up for me.excruciatingly sad at the same time? For that is how I greet this newsyouve given me. Im going to be a father! And yet I fear that our --Your Jim
"So, youve got two grandchildren on the way," Gertie mused over a game of "Dont Wake the Llama" a few mornings later. "I bet youre happyabout that!""Happy and sad at the same time," Grace sighed, studying the llama carefully before placing her straw. "Happy about the babies, of course, butevery time I see Ching Shih with that look in her eyes, my heart breaks."
"Im sure Jack will come through," Gertie said stoically, placing her own straw carefully. "Hes always done so for the family in the past. And if hecant find a solution, then Shih will find one herself. That girl is the most brilliant family member weve had in generations. She makes Morganlook like a dunce.""My girl is a smart one," Grace agreed fondly. "I know theyll figure something out. I just wish we could make it happen faster!""Were dealing with government beaurocracy, though," Gertie shrugged. "To be honest, I wouldnt be surprised if it took a year or two to sort thiswhole mess out.""Thats what Im afraid of," Grace said. "I hope Ching Shih and her young man can hold out that long."
Time flew by both quickly and slowly. One bright morning Shih was astonished to realize that her wedding was supposed to have taken place overthree months earlier.She was forcibly reminded of the fact when she felt the babys first kick.
Reluctantly, she trudged upstairs and dug out maternity clothes--her regular clothing all fit so poorly she would likely be arrested for publicindecency if she went out in it."But its just another reminder that Jim isnt here with me," she sighed to herself.
Heaving her pregnant bulk down the stairs, she found herself studying the portraits of her ancestors."What would you have done in my situation?" she found herself asking them. She looked at Captain Jacks painting and laughed. "Probablybounced on the couch and wrecked another bottle of rum. But thats out for me, at least until the baby is born."Just then, the phone rang.
"What news?" Shih asked Jack about half an hour later."I have not uncovered a means for you to be reunited with your husband-apparent," Jack said quickly. "However, I have discovered how the law inquestion came to be enacted.""Im all ears," Shih said."It seems that my beloved sister Ivy was, in fact, remiss in her duties as Chief of Pirate Island," Jack said slowly and reluctantly. "In her ownpreoccupation with harem management, she neglected the islands ruling council, and the political situation evolved from a hereditary dictatorshipinto a constitutional monarchy. In my nephew Roches day the system became even more firmly entrenched, due to a certain unpleasant familialobligation which we do not discuss these days."
"And what does that have to do with my situation?" Shih asked. on that list. Twikkii Island is not.""It appears that, thirty-seven and three quarter years ago, a decree "But how could I have missed that?" Shih protested. "I researched thewas passed stating that the sole avenue of immigration to Pirate immigration laws very carefully."Island is via matrimonial ties to a citizen," Jack said. "This statute was hidden in a series of codes pertaining to import"And we would have done that," Shih pointed out. restrictions upon Gossypium species," Jack said. If Shih didnt know better, she could swear the man blushed. "I, ah, acquired a"That, alas, is not the entirety of the law," Jack said. "Furthermore, controlling interest in the crop which has subsequentlyonly citizens of a very eclectic list of countries may marry into proven...unmarketable. Hence the clauses concealment in the finecitizenship. Singapore, where your cousin Hugos wife hails from, is print."
"So what do Jim and I do?" "And the third option?""There are three viable options," Jack said. "None pleasant, I regret.Mr. Reeves could become a citizen of one of the three nations "Find someone else to marry."signatory to our immigration treaty: France, Canada, or Singapore.However, this would take a minimum of six years. And he would "Er, no."have to live in Canada." "Understandable. I shall continue to peruse the legislation for"Perish the thought." technicalities. At this point, however, it seems doubtful that a convenient loophole will present itself. Extralegal measures may"The second option is that you could petition to have the law prove necessary, but in that eventuality your own ingenuity will havechanged," Jack said. "However, parliament has just been dissolved to suffice. My organizations law-ninjas are of somewhat lowerfor an election, which means the chance of getting anything passed in caliber than those employed by major broadcasters."the next year or two is virtually nil."
"So what did Uncle Jack have to say last night?" the boys asked over breakfast the next morning. Shih had prepared omelettes--ever since her boutwith morning sickness shed been unable to look a pancake in the eye."No news, really," Shih sighed. "And no quick solution. Hes going to keep plugging away at it... and so am I. I hope I can get Jim back before thebaby is born.""Its pretty cool youre having a baby, though," Spandrell pointed out. "I think Im going to be the best uncle ever! I can teach the kid to burp, andplay video games...""Just think, we get to be uncles twice over!" Borusa crowed in agreement. "Zings kid should be born any day now, not that anybody knows forsure. Not many guys get pregnant unless they get abducted."
The boys had a lot more on their minds than just their impending unclehood, though. They were seniors at the Pirate Island private high school, andtheir social lives were very important to their adolescent selves.While Borusa and Spandrell were best friends and spent a lot of their free time together, they very definitely had their own interests.
While Spandrell was outgoing and sociable, he also enjoyed the world of online networking and found himself surfing popular social networkingsites for hours at a time. He was always down on the latest gossip within Pirate Islands small group of teenagers.
As for Borusa, he still had girls on the brain.And when he ran out of local girls to date, he moved on to alternate means of meeting new people.
Every other day he was out in front of the wishing well, dropping in a penny and hoping he didnt get attacked by Mrs. Crumplebottom.It seemed he timed his requests well, because he never did.
He also gave online dating a trial venture, but decided it wasnt for him."Hey B, do you really have to do that in here?" Spandrell asked in exasperation one cold but sunny afternoon."Its the only computer in the house, bro," Borusa protested. Then, taking in the scene before him, understanding dawned. "Oh. Sorry, dude. Didntmean to be a third wheel. Ill be leaving now.""Thanks," Spandrell said, flashing his most charming grin at Hades Deity. "So, Hades, do you like Spacebook?"***
"You can has cheezburger." "You mean if you ever figure out what causes one partner to get pregnant instead of the other?""Thanks, hon," Zing said, sinking his teeth into supper with relish."Im starving. Man, I thought I pregnancy would be easier than this "Yah. Iz stumpd."for some reason. My dad made it look easy when he had Borusa andSpandrell." "Ah, dont worry about it," Zing shrugged. "I dont mind being pregnant, not really. Plus Im working from home AND collecting"Sowwy," Shere Khan said, his face falling a little. "Next time, I can maternity pay. Working the system for the win!"haz kittehs maybe." "Dat mi line. U stoled it."
But Shere Khan agreed. "Um... iz legal, yah?""What?" Zing blinked. "Of course it is. Im not going to risk having our assets seized. Or the car dealership taken away. I dont want to lose the cardealership.""Ooh... is it can be used car salesman tiem nao plz?" Shere Khans eyes glittered."Not tonight," Zing sighed, rubbing his stomach. "Too tired. Too hungry. Too small of bladder."
Shere Khan didnt really mind, though. He was so excited about the impending arrival of the baby, he could put up with reduced/different intimacyin the later months of Zings pregnancy."O hai, kitteh! Is can be birfday soon! You can has cousin, too! But you is da biggur one.""Is our kid going to be bilingual?" Zing joked."Mebbe."
"Well, I think youre going to be a great parent," Zing grinned."Tanks," Shere Khan purred. "Iz can be backrubs tiem, if u wants.""Just a minute," Zing said. "Potty break."
But when he got into the washroom, Zing soon realized that he didnt exactly have to go to the washroom. It was time for something much more."Help!" he shrieked. "We havent figured out where it comes out yet!"
Shere Khan was in the kitchen grabbing a quick drink of milk when he heard his husbands yelps."Wait! Is not can be kitteh tiem! Not ready!"
But he didnt have a choice, and a few very tense moments later, Zing was handing him their baby daughter, Sterling."Iz not fuzzy. But still cutest itteh bitteh kitteh in da wurld," Shere Khan glowed.
Zing headed off to the bedroom to sleep--giving birth was exhausting-- and Shere Khan found himself alone with the little girl."O hai," he said softly, cradling her to his chest. "Sleepy kitteh is sleepy? You can has bed."And, more gently than anyone who knew him would have thought possible, he laid Sterling into her crib."Night night," he murmured, trailing one finger along her silken cheek. "Sleep tight. An when you is bigger, you can has experimenting. Mebbekitteh fur for you later? U decides."
Over the next few months, Zing and Shere Khan and their daughter found themselves in a family routine. While both Zing and Shere Khanworked, which meant they had to hire a nanny, they also made it a priority to cuddle their daughter as much as possible.
"Yep, its a baby," Doc Vetinari (Vetinary Dualegacy) nodded when Zing led her upstairs to show off Sterling one day after work. "Definitely ababy."
But it seemed like Sterling was hardly a baby for long. In the blink of an eye, Zing and Shere Khan found themselves in the midst of partypreparations. The entire family was invited, of course."Aw, how come you get to do the toddler toss?" Zing complained."I makeded da caek," Shere Khan grinned.Grumbling, Zing stepped back and let his husband and daughter have a little room.
In fact, as far as this deity can tell, shes the spitting image of hergreat-grandfather, Ben/Blite (Ten Caesars Legacy). "Snuggle?""Arent you a sweetie," Grace sighed happily, cuddling the little girl "Well, I should really put you in your crib... its late," Grace said.close. "And just a few months older than your cousin. I bet the two of "But I guess you can have just one more snuggle."you will be best friends!" Truth be told, Grace had to be torn away from her precious"Fends?" granddaughter when the party ended."Thats right," Grace smiled. ***
"Grandbabies everywhere," Susanna sighed, giving her longtime loverGavin a quick hug before settling in to massage the aches out of his aging "Ophelia," Gavin nodded. "A little lower, if you dont mind. I like Ophelia. Ibones. "It makes me feel old." think she and Toby might even end up settling down one day.""You may feel old, but I am old," Gavin said with a shrug. "Ooh, thats "Not yet, though?"nice." "I dont think either of them are ready for that yet," Gavin said."So Tobys gone and knocked up not one, but two girls?" "Do you wish wed settled down?""Seems that way," Gavin grunted. "Hes a surprisingly good father, too.Being a single parent isnt easy. I at least had you visiting and spending the "I cant say I would have minded it. Ive loved a lot of women, but Ive onlynight almost daily. But Persephones mother wants nothing to do with her." Loved you.""At least hes taking the responsibility," Anna said proudly. "And what "I love you too."about the other woman?"
"I love you, Persephone," Toby smiled, cradling his infant daughter to his chest for a moment before laying her in her crib.The little blue-skinned girl didnt really respond, apart from attempting to get a death-grip on her fathers nose, but she did coo happily.
To his surprise, Toby found he really enjoyed being a father, even the less pleasant aspects of the job. And he was good at it, he thought. He spentplenty of time with Persephone, he changed all her diapers, he got up with her in the middle of the night."I am a great dad," he thought proudly as he expertly changed yet another diaper. By this point, he didnt even flinch from that particular task,though hed learned to be quick about it. Persephone had a knack for reacting as many babies do when their diapers are removed. Its somethingabout the cold air. Many times Toby was thankful that Persephone was a girl and not a boy.
For all that he doted on Persephone, Toby was equally excited about the first time I saw you back in university five years ago."the imminent birth of his child with Ophelia. He couldnt stop by herplace as often as he would before Persephones arrival, but he made "Its just that ... every time were together its about the baby this, thesure that he at least phoned Opie on a daily basis. baby that, or about your other kid," Ophelia said sourly."Are you keeping me around just because of the thing inside me?" "I like being a father," Toby said. "But that doesnt mean Im notOphelia asked a trifle bitterly when Toby ignored her in favor of crazy about you. Its just... my life isnt just about me anymore, andtalking to her stomach one afternoon. our relationship isnt just about us anymore.""What?" Toby blinked. "Why would you even say that, Opie? I cant "But you still sleep with other women."imagine you not being in my life and I havent been able to ever since
"Actually," Toby shrugged, "youre the only one Ive seen sincePersephone was born." "I know," Toby said, his voice turning serious for a moment. "And I want to make sure theyre met. Always. Opie... I have something for"Really?" Opie blinked. Somehow she hadnt been expecting that you. Its... well, its money."answer. "Money? Are you trying to buy me off? Pay for getting me"Figured it was only fair," Toby shrugged. "You havent been in the pregnant?"mood since getting pregnant. It felt... wrong... to be fooling aroundwhen you couldnt or wouldnt." "No," Toby said hurriedly. "I just cant bear the thought of you struggling alone in that house of yours. Take it, please. For you. And"Thats kind of weird," Ophelia said. "But I guess I kind of like the the baby."idea of having you all to myself. Even if I havent felt up to havingyou. Which is so weird. Ill be glad when juniors evicted. I want my Opie looked at Toby for a long moment.body back, frammit! I have needs!"
Her thanks were a little nonverbal. But Toby got the gist of it.
A few days later, it was time for Persephones birthday."Hi Lyndsay," Ophelia said politely."Nice to see you again," Lyndsay said, moving to stand a little closer to Toby. "Youre looking... large.""And youre looking creepy," Ophelia nodded, all pretense at niceness dropped. "Stop stalking my boyfriend, okay? Its weird.""Ladies, ladies," Toby said in a smooth voice. "Err... yeah. This is for Persephone, so stop bickering."They complied, but shot daggers at each other the rest of the night.
Persephone, Toby declared, was the most beautiful girl on the face of the planet.It certainly cant be denied that she was gorgeous."Here, can you keep an eye on her for a moment?" Toby asked Ophelia."Me?" Ophelia blinked."Yeah," Toby said. "I think youll be a good mom. Might as well get some practice in.""Im not going to be her mom," Ophelia muttered. But she made sure Toby couldnt hear her. "Sure, Ill watch her for a minute."
Once Toby was gone, Ophelia turned to the delicate blue toddler sitting on the floor."What am I going to do with you?" she sighed. "A part of me hates you, but the rest of me thinks its not really your fault that you exist."
Persephone slowly blinked her big blue eyes at Ophelia."Tan I have a bottle, Opelia?"Ophelia felt herself melt, but only a little.
Awkwardly, she crouched down to Persephones height and pattedthe little girl on the head. "Haff-deity. Th good bits.""Your dads gone to get one," she said. Critically, she inspected "Ill keep that in mind."Persephones hair. "Hmm, hes not bad at braiding little girls hair,either." "Zotz!""Daddy made me pwetty," Persephone giggled. "Id prefer if you didnt," Ophelia said, standing up. She shivered. She wasnt exactly sure how she felt towards Persephone, but she knew"I dont think toddlers your age are supposed to talk that well," the girl kind of gave her the creeps.Ophelia said, staring at the girl. "Just a hint."
Not two days later, Toby was at Ophelias house for a very important event."Just breathe, Opie," he advised, though he would have done well to take his advice himself. "Itll be over soon!"
"I know that!" Ophelia hissed. "Dammit, Toby Biggs, why did I ever sleep with you?""Because Im irresistible?""I dont need to hear that right noooooooooooowwww!""Youre doing great," Toby said, wisely changing tacks. "Not much longer. You can do it!""Toby, if you dont shut up Im going to--"
But Toby never did find out what Opie was going to do to himbecause matters very rapidly came to a head shortly thereafter. "Can I suggest something?" Toby asked."Is--is that it?" Ophelia said faintly, holding the squirming infant and "Go for it, Biggs. You always do."swaying slightly. "Laertes.""Thats it," Toby promised. Very, very gently he took the baby fromOphelias arms and steered her to a chair so she could rest. "What are "Hmm," Ophelia pondered that even as her eyes struggled to remainwe going to name him?" open. "Laertes. I like it."Ophelia blinked. "I... I hadnt even thought that far ahead." And with that, she was asleep.
Very quietly, so as not to wake Ophelia, Toby fed Laertes and then carried him into the newly renovated nursery. He was proud that hed been ableto provide this for his son, too. Laertes deserved to have all the same things that Persephone had."Goodnight, my sweet son," he murmured, laying the boy down in his crib. "Im going to take care of your mama now, but if you need anythingjust cry, okay? Im good at hearing baby cries. Ive got lots of practice."
Toby visited Ophelia and Laertes as often as he could in the days, weeks, and months that followed, but it wasnt as often as any of them wouldhave liked. He felt guilty whenever he was away from Persephone, and it was rare that Ophelia could persuade him to spend the night.Usually he slept on the couch, but one evening some time after Laertes was born, Ophelia invited Toby into the bedroom.Of course, one thing led to another and before long they were thoroughly reacquainted.
"Ophelia?" Toby murmured as they drifted off to sleep."Hmm?" Ophelia yawned."Move in with me.""What?""I mean it," Toby said, reaching back to take Ophelias arm and wrap it around himself. "Move in with me and Persephone. We need you, andLaertes needs me."
Ophelia blinked. "I...""You dont have to answer right now," Toby said, bringing Ophelias fingers to his lips and kissing them softly, one by one. "Just think about it.Promise?""Promise."And with that they both drifted off to sleep--the best sleep either of them had had in months.
Time passed, and neither of them brought up the subject of moving in together again. But its a safe bet that the idea wasnt far from their thoughts,either.However, there were more imminent concerns. Such as Laertes birthday.Toby was there, of course, as were some of Ophelias coworkers.
"I think he looks like his mom," Toby said fondly. "Hes adorable.""Hm, you could be right," Ophelia agreed.
"Daddeeeeee! Wheres my daddy! I want daddy! Daddddddeeeeeeeee!"
"Im here, Im here!" Toby yelped, running into the nursery and rushing over to the crib."Where you were?" Persephone demanded as Toby scooped her up.
"I was visiting your brother and his mom," Toby explained as he dressed his daughter expertly. "Laertes and Ophelia.""Don like Opelia," Persephone scowled. "You always there, and I miss you.""Of course you like Ophelia," Toby corrected her. "Shes nice, and she sends you presents.""No," Persephone said, scowling. "Dose from you.""Theyre from both of us," Toby said. "She and I pick them out together. Except for your bear. She picked that out herself, and your brother has onejust like it.""I like da bear," Persephone said reluctantly. Then a brilliant smile shone over her features. "I guess I like Opelia. If she gave da bear."
"She also taught me a song that I want to teach you," Toby said, sitting down on the floor and settling Persephone across from him. "Laertes reallylikes it.""Is it a boy song?" Persephone demanded."No, its a kid song," Toby replied."Well... otay."
After a while, Toby headed upstairs to get Persephones bottle and the little girl toddled over to her teddy bear."So you from Opelia, huh?" she mused, chewing on the stuffed toys ear.
Then she picked up the bear and slammed it into the floor as hard as she could."Meh," she said. "I guess I like you. And I guess I like Opelia."
Toby wasnt the only one who doted on Persephone. The elder generation were eager to babysit whenever Toby went to see Ophelia and Laertes,and they generally managed to distract the girl enough with all their attention that she wasnt too angry at her dad for not being home.
Whenever she was left to her own devices, Persephone tended to either beat the stuffing out of her favorite bear (which shed named Ophelia, notthat she told anyone this), or draw pictures.
As far as Toby was concerned, Persephone was a budding da Vinci, though the predominance of monsters with giant teeth did disturb him a little.
"Okay, Persephone," Gavin said, scooping her up and changing her Gavin blinked. "She, ah, could shower more often," he saidinto her pajamas. "Its bed time." cautiously."Bu daddys not home," Persephone protested. "Where he went? Is "An she stalks daddy. I zotz her. Daddy doesnt like her. He just likeshe at Opelias again?" me, an Opelia," and here she scowled, "an Laertes. When I see Laertes?""Hes staying the night," Gavin nodded. "So its just you and me andUncle Don and Uncle Tycho and Auntie Lyndsay tonight." "Soon, I think," Gavin said. He wasnt entirely sure how to respond to his granddaughters bizarre conversations.""Auntie Lyndsay smells bad." "Good."
The next morning, Toby was home when Persephone woke up. To her disgust, though, Laertes wasnt with him. The little girl had decided that,more than anything, she wanted to meet her little brother. And she wasnt going to let a little thing like mere geography stop her.
She was nearly halfway to Ophelias house when a nice policeman found her and brought her back home."Phooey."
Toby was so distracted by the turn of events that he nearly burned the house down.
And Lyndsay managed to stink up the place even more than usual.
That night, Ophelia stopped by on her way home from work."Wont the nanny wonder why youre late?" Toby asked. "Not that Im not happy to see you. Its just that I dont really trust her with Laertes.""Shes a great babysitter," Ophelia said tiredly. "I just wanted to spend some one-on-one time with you without the kids, Toby. I dont like all thisresponsibility. Im tired of it.""The kids arent going away," Toby said.
"But maybe, just for a minute, we can pretend they arent here," Ophelia said, sweeping Toby up into her arms. "Toby... make me feel like you didwhen we were in college again.""Mmph!""Ill take that as a yes."
"She makes daddy happy. I guess I like her nuff not to zotz her. Too much. But I still gonna slam da bear."She giggled impishly and toddled back inside, from whence nobody had noticed shed gone.To be continued...