James wakes before his alarm, with his head on Michael's chest. This is odd: not his positioning, as he spends most of his time at Michael's apartment, and his boyfriend is more than willing to lend his body as a pillow; no, what's strange is James having woken up unaided. When he isn't working, he sleeps like the dead, and it takes an alarm of almost klaxon-proportions to draw him out of his slumbers. He thinks it's his body's way of making up for when he is working, and has to be up and down at ever-changing hours, confusing his natural sleep patterns.
So to wake up now, for apparently no reason, is a puzzle to James. He sits up to glance at the time- still another half an hour 'til the alarm- and then lies back where he was, careful not to stir Michael. An unpleasant feeling roils in James' stomach, a foreign nausea he hasn't experienced before. He pauses, waiting for it to pass; then leans very swiftly away from Michael, and vomits neatly over the side of the bed.
All of a sudden, Michael is wide awake, and holding James steadily while he chokes and coughs. James gulps air into his lungs, shaking his head in confusion and surprise. Michael pats him firmly on the back, and then makes to get up, on the other side of the bed, safely away from what was once inside James' stomach.
"I'll clean this up," he says, with only a bit of a grimace, "You get to the bathroom in case you feel like puking your guts up again."
"Sorry," James splutters, one hand laid flat on his belly, ambling across the bedroom to the en suite bathroom.
"It's alright, I've seen worse," Michael chuckles, "Just how much did you drink last night, James?"
"Barely anything," James calls indignantly from the bathroom, where he's sitting on the floor by the toilet, "I only had a pint!"
"What of, whiskey?" Michael teases, mopping up the sick from the floor.
"Y'wanker-" James begins, before being sick again. He gags and splutters, and when his poor stomach seems to have heaved up all it can, he flushes. He brushes his teeth to get rid of the taste and then seats himself on the side of the bath. He almost has to laugh at himself: here he is, in his thirties but chucking up like a University student after a night of partying.
He looks up as Michael comes in, washes his hands and then sits down next to James, slipping his hand over his back and rubbing soothingly between his shoulder blades.
"You okay?" he asks gently. James realises that the feeling in his stomach is gone, replaced by a new one: that of ravenous hunger.
"Um, yeah, I'm fine. Starving, actually. I want fried tomatoes. Michael, fry me some tomatoes."
Michael looks at him incredulously.
"You are impossible."
"Please," James smiles, putting his face very close to Michael's.
"Do you promise not to throw up said fried tomatoes?"
Michael kisses him briefly, sighs theatrically, and is dragged to the kitchen.
Two weeks ago
What, thinks James, are the point of birthdays if you aren't going to go out and get hammered beyond belief until you are no longer identifiable as a human being? He's not quite ready to relinquish his hold on his youth yet, so he and Michael head out for drinks with some friends, and make a deal that Michael is only allowed to get a little drunk, but James is allowed to come home looking like a tramp, whimpering like a baby whilst simultaneously convinced he's Sean Connery. It is his birthday, after all.
Things, however, don't go exactly to plan. Michael's first mistake is for the first (and, it turns out, only) bar they go to be one with chairs that swivel around. James can't help having a good spin, and manages to fall off his, hitting his head hard on the corner of a wooden step that leads up to a higher level, cutting his forehead open. Michael frogmarches him to the mens' toilets, mumbling about "mental age of a five year old" and "should've learned from the golf cart, can't take you anywhere". As he's hauled off, James calls out quickly the rest of the party,
"Watch our drinks!"
Michael can't stay even slightly agitated for long. Once dabbing James' cut with some scrunched, dampened tissue-paper, he finds himself quite enamoured with James' lips, and James' hands, and they don't emerge for quite some time. When they do return, to shouts and cheers for the birthday boy from his friends, James throws himself back into his seat ("Jesus christ, James McAvoy, what is wrong with you, we just came back from the infirmary, do you mind not getting anymore wounds tonight?") and takes a gulp of his drink.
He's fine for a few minutes, it seems, until Michael realises that James is gazing at him blearily, squinting as though Michael is shining too brightly to behold. James reaches out a hand and strokes Michael's cheek. Michael grabs hold of his fingers.
"You're not pissed already are you, James? You've had two drinks."
"Not pissed," James mumbles, "Just... feel strange."
"Gonna puke kind of strange?" Michael says warily, "You're so classy. C'mon, toilets."
James gets shakily to his feet. He suddenly grabs at Michael urgently, and Michael thinks that James is being unnecessarily dramatic and deliberately making himself harder to support: until he realises the colour of James' face, and suddenly James' eyes have rolled back into his head, his knees have buckled beneath him, and the last thing he hears is Michael yelling his name.
When James awakes, he doesn't know where he is. This bed doesn't feel like his own, nor Michael's. It's narrow, and uncomfortable, and the covers are tucked under the mattress, which he hates. He wriggles violently to free them, before he's even bothered to open his eyes.
"Whoa, whoa," someone's voice says, "Take it easy. James, James, it's alright."
"Just get this stupid blanket off," James grumbles, opening his eyes, blinking in the sudden light. Michael is pulling back the covers, and gazing at James concernedly.
"Hey." he says softly.
"Hi," James replies, rubbing his eyes, "I... what...what happened?"
"We're not really sure. Your drink got spiked, and you passed out."
James remembers with almost-clarity the previous evening, having cut this head, being lead off the toilets, and his call of, "Watch the drinks!". He groans.
"I have shit friends," he says plainly, leaning against the headboard of the hospital bed. Michael just smiles at that, reaching out and stroking James' hair.
"I'm glad you're okay." he says.
"So what was it? What was put in my drink?"
"That's the thing," Michael tells him, a slight frown settling on his features, "They don't know. Don't panic-" he adds quickly, as James shows signs of doing so, "You seem fine. In fact, you seem probably better than you were yesterday. Do you feel alright?"
"Uh," James pauses to consider, "Yeah, actually. Not so much as a headache."
"They've run most of the tests, they just want to keep you in today for observation. Just to check you don't start chucking up rainbows or growing an extra head."
"I'll try and keep my gay vomit to a minimum," James grins, leaning in for a kiss.
Two weeks and six days following James being discharged from hospital, all joking about being sick has ceased. For nearly a week, James has taken to being spectacularly sick every morning at almost precisely six-thirty, been wrestled back into bed by a concerned Michael, but then felt fine and dandy by lunch time. He staggers groggily into the bathroom now, kneeling in front of the toilet as his insides start to complain. Michael holds James' hair out of his face, as bile and saliva dribble lamely into the toilet bowl. His stomach's empty, so there's nothing to bring up, making the retching even worse for him, his throat feeling like it's on fire and his eyes watering.
"Bleurgh." He says simply as he stands up, wiping his mouth and eyes and flushing the sick away. He pads back into the bedroom, Michael following him.
"Don't make me stay in bed," James says warningly, pointing a finger at Michael, "I can't do it. It's just a pointless waste of my morning, you know I'll be fine in an hour or so."
"So you're not going back to bed?" Michael asks, a little dryly.
"I might as well stay up now, in case I throw up again," James says with a shrug.
"I'll go and make tea," Michael says, glancing at James briefly before quitting the room.
James pulls a shirt and a pair of jeans out of the wardrobe, putting on the former with no problem at all, but looking at the jeans warily, like they're mocking him.
"Come on, come on..." He mutters, pulling them on, dismayed to find that they, not the first pair recently, won't do up around his middle. He breathes in and manages to yank the zip closed, but the waistband cuts painfully into his stomach. He wriggles out of them dejectedly and looks in the wardrobe for something not as tight.
He eventually opts to steal a pair of Michael's sweats, although he has the roll the legs up as they're too long, but the shirt doesn't match, so he finds a loose-fitting t-shirt that he thinks he retired to nightwear a while ago, but will do for now.
"What is wrong with me..." He mutters quietly to himself, looking at himself side on in the full length mirror that covers one of the wardrobe doors, pulling the t-shirt tight to his body. It isn't so much that it's really noticeable, but his stomach definitely has a very slight curve to it.
James starts, instinctively yanking on the t-shirt so it hangs looser on him, looking at Michael, who is standing in the doorway holding two mugs of steaming tea.
"Tea," he says gently, walking over, a smile softening his features, crinkling around his eyes.
"Is there sugar-" James begins, then wants to bite his tongue out. The last thing James thinks he needs now is sugar.
"Of course," Michael replies softly, with a fond click of his tongue, holding out one mug, "Two sugars, as you like it."
"Thank you." James mumbles, taking it and then looking down into it. His eyes are watering and he doesn't know why, and decides to blame it on the steam from the tea. Michael sighs gently, then puts down his mug on the chest of drawers to put his arms around James.
"I love you," he tells him, kissing his forehead, "We're going to find out what's happening to you. And it'll all be fine, I promise. I promise."
"Leave me alone. Please leave me alone."
James is in the bathroom, sitting on the floor, resting his head on his knees. Michael is outside of the locked door, asking then begging then demanding to be let in.
"James, we need to talk about this-"
"There's nothing to talk about. Nothing's happened, there's nothing wrong with me. I'm just a bit ill. It'll pass. It's going to pass." His voice is barely more than a whisper, and it's himself he's repeating this to rather than Michael.
"James!" Michael's accent is thick with concern, but he can't think of anything else to say. James stands up and crosses to the door, pressing his face against the wood, his hand hovering over the bolt.
"I'm not pregnant," He murmurs through the crack, "I'm not."
"James, the doctor-"
"Fuck the doctor!" James chokes, slamming his hand against the door, "I'm not! It's not- it's not possible!"
"Your drink. What your drink was spiked with- James, you heard what she said. The drug pollutes the sex hormones, and the levels of oestrogen in your- look I don't understand it either, James. Just fucking talk to me."
James swiftly flicks the latch off and pulls the door open, and grabs at Michael.
"Don't say this. You're the last person- the last person who's staying sane about all this." His face is centimetres from Michael's, his shallow breath warm on his face, "I can't hear you saying these things. Not tonight. Tonight I want to believe nothing's wrong."
Michael swallows, then takes James' face in his hands, rubbing small circles on his cheeks with with his thumbs, and kisses him.
The sex is what James needs. He can become so blinded with desire that he couldn't think about anything else even if he wanted to. Michael's lustful kisses and movements and touches make James feel wanted, and more attractive than he's felt in a long while. The sex is good. That's not the problem. Only, afterwards, when they're lying together, exhausted and sweating, Michael lays his hands on James' stomach. It wouldn't be a problem if it had seemed like Michael's arm had just fallen in that position, or as if the touch signified he found it attractive. It was just the way he was almost cradling the small bump as if it were something sentient. As if it needed love and protection. As if it were a baby.
Michael bangs his head on the bedpost as James swings around and punches him in the face. He looms over him, hand still held raised,
"Is this what you want, Fassbender?! You want a little cottage in the country and lots of kids, and I can wear an apron and be your pretty little housewife?!" James points at his stomach, "This mutant thing conceived by a drug is not going to get you that!"
"That thing, James, is our baby!" Michael yells, wiping his bleeding nose.
"No it isn't!" James moans, "It was made without my consent, this is because what was in my drink, not because of sleeping with you!"
"That's not right!" Michael hollers, "God, James, can't you see? The drug just gave you the ability to carry a child! It was my making love to you that conceived it!"
James leaps onto Michael with an snarl, knocking them both onto the floor. They're locked in a wrestle, Michael gripping James' wrists to stop his hands clawing his face. Michael flips James onto his back, pinning him down and kissing him fiercely, but James twists his leg to knee Michael in the groin, and he falls back with a grunt. James kneels over Michael, breathing heavily, when a sharp pain rips through his abdomen. He sobs and doubles up, clutching at his tummy. Michael pulls himself up and then takes James by the shoulders, gasping for breath and trying to see into his face.
"James? James, what’s wrong?"
James looks up, his eyes wide and shining.
"We can't- we can't hurt our... our baby, can we, Michael?" he whispers, before collapsing onto Michael's shoulder.
James moves into Michael's apartment, because both of them know that James can't really live alone right now, because he can't be his own company. The morning sickness- for that's what it is, they know now- continues for a while, much to James' incredible annoyance and discomfort. His food cravings intensify and vary greatly, then seem to settle into a pattern of spoonfuls of mustard, caramel snack-a-jacks and grapefruit. He sulks a lot and can sometimes spend a whole morning crying, for which Michael can't blame him. He knows that James is having to adjust to something huge, confusing and terrifying. Michael's surprised himself with how well he's taken it: it goes against all his logic and judgement, and if he hadn't seen the blurred image of the tiny foetus on the ultrasound screen, he would have assumed that the doctor was completely insane and attempted to have her reported. As it stands, the very kind Doctor Lesley Ashton has sworn herself to secrecy until James and Michael have decided what to do, at which point she will perform the abortion herself or, should they choose to keep it, will confidentially contact an expert on what they call "anomalistic pregnancies". James had thought that he would be taken away and locked up to be experimented on. But she is human, and she knows that James is human too, and she respects his rights and his life that has suddenly had this horribly strange situation mixed up in it. The way she sees it, if it's a phenomenon that's likely to change the course of the human race, it will happen again, and she can wait until then to find out more about it. For now, James, Michael and their life together matters more to her.
Michael would like James to make his decision soon. He knows that it is just a horrible choice for James to make, especially as he is at one of the lowest points in his physical fitness and wellness right now. Michael has promised to agree with whatever decision James makes, because it's James' body, it's him who will feel the impact most keenly. Michael only has to look at James, sitting on their sofa with his legs over the arm, reading X-Men graphic novels, before Michael's mind is flooded with God I love him so much and I could marry this man. Michael would happily have this baby with James. He'd raise a whole litter with him it he had to. But he'd also forget all it had ever happened, if James asked him to. He'd continue as they were, two young actors living together, privately and blissfully in love. However, the longer James leaves it, the more his belly starts to stick out, the more Michael is thinking about the life they could have with this baby, and the harder it's going to be to let those thoughts go.
"Michael," James says suddenly one afternoon, bringing Michael back from a daydream about a tiny child with James' massive blue eyes. James fixes those same eyes on Michael now, raising an eyebrow, "Do you wanna do this?"
"Do what?" Michael asks dumbly. James is holding one of the graphic novels and for some reason Michael's brain thinks for a moment that he's talking about doing the sequel.
"This. Have this baby." James' accent makes it sound as if he is saying "bibby", and it melts Michael's heart.
"I want whatever you want, my love," Michael tells him earnestly, although inside his mind he's shouting, Yes, yes, of course that's what I want! "Is that what you want?"
James is nibbling on his own lip, stroking his stomach distractedly.
"I just... I know that I couldn't do it without you. Michael." Michael takes James by the shoulders and stares into his face.
"You won't have to, James."
"I need you to promise me that you'll stick with me. No matter how argumentative and horrible and... big I get."
Michael smiled, cupping James' face in his hands and pressing their foreheads together, his eyes shining.
"Never, James. I'll never leave you. I want to spend my life with you, if you'll have me. I love you, so much, and I will love whatever it is that we've made together."
"Wait a second," James says, pulling away, "What do you mean by that? Whatever it is? It will be... human, right?!"
"Oh James, shut up and accept my convoluted proposal."
"Gladly," James murmurs, kissing Michael hard.
Michael is out grocery shopping, a basket full of grapefruits, when he sees it. A photo of James and himself on the cover of a magazine, holding hands, heads bent against the flash of the paparazzi’s bulbs. He realises it must have been taken the previous weekend, when he took James out to the theatre, a last time before he has to start considering laying low. James’ shirt is hugging the swell of his belly tightly, whilst he’s in the process of buttoning his coat over it. Michael groans quietly. They needn’t worry about any magazine making the leap that James is pregnant: they’re merely seizing on an opportunity to criticise James’ body. Michael picks up a copy and flicks through, to find more pictures of that evening, and one of James at the First Class premiere, for a comparison. The headline, “Professor XL” makes him cringe, and the article itself is even worse. It completely discredits his relationship with James as some kind of phase or stunt, despite printing a picture of them kissing, and says that James has allegedly been romantically linked to Keira Knightley and Anne Hathaway. Clearly, Michael thinks, he and James’ relationship has confused the reporter’s understanding of fiction. It uses the same bland, base writing to attack James’ slight weight gain, and goes on to claim that "sources close to the couple" say that Michael has stated he will leave him if he should gain anymore. Michael puts it back, but hides all the copies behind different magazines, fuming at those trash-writing hacks.
He halves a grapefruit then takes it over to James, who is sitting at the dining table, reading an e-mail on his laptop. Michael feeds the grapefruit to James, a little sloppily as James isn’t giving the food his full attention. This is surprising. James is mad about grapefruit right now.
“What’s up?” Michael asks, “What’s so fascinating on your laptop?”
“So Patrick Stewart’s e-mailed me,” James begins, quirking an eyebrow.
“Who’s done what now?” Michael says, having heard perfectly but rather surprised.
“He wants to talk to me, apparently. Probably scared I won’t do Charles' progression into baldness justice.”
“On that note, have you heard back from Matthew?” Michael asks. James pulls a face.
"Yeah, but he isn't best pleased. He doesn't want to put the sequel back any more than a year from now, so hopefully we'll be able to work it out. He said he'd put in a make out scene for us if that'd make me stick the original filming dates."
"But if we don't stick to the original filming dates, we get a make out scene every day," Michael grins, kissing James swiftly. James kisses back, then pulls away to look at the laptop screen again.
"Patrick Stewart. Sir Patrick Stewart. Why would he wanna talk to me? And how? I can hardly meet up with him," he says, patting his stomach.
"I dunno, maybe you can still pass it off as a beer belly," Michael teases.
"That is even less desirable. Me with a gut and him all svelte in his seventies. I'll ask him if he wants to call me."
"Maybe he's interested," Michael says, with a wink and a gentle nudge into into James' side.
"Aw, Sir Ian will be disappointed," James replies.
"Let's set them up!"
"... shut up, Michael." James says, picking up the remains of the half grapefruit and sucking the juice from it.
James e-mails Patrick with his number and tells him to call whenever. It's highly unlikely that James will be out: it's getting too hard to hide the bump now, and his back and feet are starting to give him trouble, making too much walking around painful and a hinderance to any errands that Michael has to run, not that Michael would ever say this. James has piles of DVDs and books, and the fridge is full of foods he likes, which is great especially now his morning sicknesses has subsided, and he's perfectly happy to become a bit of a hermit for the remaining five months.
The phone rings one evening, a few days after James sends the e-mail.
"Ah, hello, James," Patrick's voice says, "I hope I haven't interrupted your evening. Are you available to talk right now?"
"Uh, yes, now's fine," James says, a little bit caught off guard and flustered, "Go- go ahead."
“I heard you’re thinking of dropping out of the sequel. Don’t get cold feet now, James.”
“It isn’t that, Sir.”
“Oh, don’t call me Sir, it’s ridiculous. You’re my friend, aren’t you?”
James nearly drops the phone. Friends with Sir Patrick Stewart?! He would have settled quite happily with as much as acquaintances.
“Is it that hard a decision? Bless your heart, James. Look, I want to see you. I want to talk about this. Is it an objection to the script? Or do you not want to shave off that lovely head of hair you have?”
James nearly laughs, rubbing his temple with his free hand.
“It’s a very, very long and complicated story.”
“I have time, and hopefully the mental capacity. Are you free on Saturday?”
James pauses. He catches his reflection in the oven door, runs a hand over his swollen stomach.
"I don't know Patrick. I- there's something going on with me right now, something crazy, and I'm not sure if you really wanna get involved."
"That sounds ominous," Patrick says gravely, sounding concerned, "Are you alright? You're not ill, are you?"
"No, no, I'm fine... Agh, I've got no idea how to explain this. Just wait a minute, please."
James puts the phone done on the counter and rests his head in his hands. He feels a little like crying, because they haven't told anyone at all. If he can't even tell his own parents, how is he going to tell someone like Sir Patrick fucking Stewart? He wipes his eyes with the back of his hand and then picks up the phone again.
"Patrick. Not to sound flippant, but how do you feel about mutants?"
"I think it's best I saw you, James." Patrick says gently. James swallows.
"Saturday is fine."
Come Saturday, and it's far from fine. James is panicking all of the night before, working himself up into such a state that he can't sleep for hours, and needs Michael to soothe and comfort him in the early morning. Michael isn't sure why James is doing this, torturing himself in this way. It isn't like Patrick needs to know. Nobody needs to know. James can't even consider getting in touch with his dad about this, and his mother is still easily fobbed off with lies about how busy he is. He doesn't know about Michael's parents. He didn't want to ask. He knows that Michael had a hard time coming out to them, so James is sure that this, this massive, complicated, completely mental thing, would be infinitely more difficult.
James knows why he wants to tell Patrick. He wants Patrick to understand and accept it. Just to have someone outside of this, someone normal, to tell him that this is alright. He has this crazy hope that Patrick knows what it's like. To be ostracised, to be, essentially, a mutant. In simple terms, James doesn't so much want to talk to Patrick as he wants to talk to Professor Charles Francis Xavier, and he hates himself for it.
In the hours before Patrick is due to arrive, James is up and down like God knows what, and can't eat, no matter how much Michael clucks and tuts about the baby being hungry even if James isn't. James eventually lies down on the sofa and swears repeatedly and loudly at the ceiling.
"Bloody hell," Michael eventually snaps, " If you didn't want him to come around, then why didn't you just tell him so?"
"Yeah, why don't you try telling Ian McKellen to piss off if he showed concern for you," James hisses, "I'm just so sick and tired of being stuck in here on my own."
"Thanks. Thanks a lot." Michael says flatly.
"For fuck's sake, I don't mean that!" James yells, standing up, "But just try it, Michael! You try spending nearly four months in the same place with only one person to talk to- don't look like that, I love you, you know I do, but I need- I need outside contact. All I have is an inbox full of people expressing concern for me and the media talking shit about me. And yes, of course I know. I have an internet connection, for Christ's sake." James buries his face in his hands for a minute, breathing heavily. He looks up at Michael, who is standing slightly hesitantly, not knowing if he wants to hug James or throttle him. "Michael... I just want him to accept me. I think I want proof that anyone can. I know he's a weird place to start, but... but..." James' voice stutters and breaks, and Michael puts his arms around him and rocks him gently.
When James calms down, Michael tells him to go up to their bedroom until after Patrick has arrived; Michael will do his best to explain gently to Patrick what is going on, and then if Patrick still wishes to see James, he can come up to the bedroom.
No sooner has James ascended that there comes a sure and confident knock on the door, no feeble tapping but two firm raps of the knocker. Michael quickly goes to the open the door, pausing for a second by the mirror in the hall to check that he looks respectable, then puts his hand to the latch, twisting and pulling the door open.
"Hello Patrick," Michael smiles, holding the door open for the other man to step into the house, "Come in."
"Good afternoon, Michael," Patrick replies pleasantly, removing his hat, "Thank you. Not to cast judgement on who, er, wears the breeches in this lovely relationship, but where is the Lady of the manor?"
"James wants to make his entrance a little later," Michael explains, "I know it's him that you're here to see, but he's a bit concerned about something, and I need to explain it to you before you can see him. is that alright?"
"Of course, of course," Patrick says, "He is alright, isn't he?"
"He's fine, I promise," Michael assures him, before gesturing to the sofa, "Would you like to sit down?" Patrick obliges, thanking Michael with a nod and sitting down. "Can I get you a drink?" Michael offers.
"No, thank you... do sit down, Michael, and tell me how James is. I wasn't at all surprised the day I saw you two lip locked on the cover of my paper at nine in the morning. Professor X and Magneto are so frustrating that sometimes I just feel like jumping Ian myself. I'm glad you two found each other." Michael blinks, and has to compose himself for a moment to stop himself stumbling over the words.
"Thank you... James is alright." He lowers himself into an armchair opposite Patrick, "Only, something's happened to him. It's affected his general health and his confidence, and it does mean that neither of us can do the sequel for a while. But it'll be worth it, we're hoping."
"But you say he isn't ill?"
"No, he's not, he really isn't. Listen, Patrick..." Michael can't help but laugh, "This will be the most ridiculous thing you've ever heard."
"Don't be so certain," Patrick comments, raising an eyebrow.
"It... it sounds so silly, but it's quite serious."
"Take your time, Michael... you don't have to tell me, if it's... personal."
Michael smiles gratefully.
"It's alright, James wants you to know. Er... well, you said that you found out about James and I in the paper... have you been following all the articles about us?"
"Of course. They don't seem to be able to get enough of working out ways in which your relationship is a hoax, do they?"
"I'm assuming you've read a few articles covering the fact... James has put on a bit of weight?"
“Naturally,” Patrick says, with a disparaging shake of the head, “If given a pound, they say its a stone. But it happens to the best of us. Is it related to something medical?”
Michael struggles for the words.
"James was drugged on his birthday. An unnamed, new drug was slipped into his drink and it... it had a strange side effect on him. It's altered his biology... he has the ability to do something that he, er, couldn't before."
Both of Patrick's eyebrows are raised now.
"Are you trying to say that James is, in effect, a mutant?"
"You could say that," Michael sighs, having no clue as to where he can go from here.
"I assume that it isn't telepathy."
"Nope. Alas. He'd probably prefer that." Michael takes a deep breath, "James developed something that works in the same way as a woman's womb. It's filled with egg-like cells, that imitate his DNA. If any one one of these cells meets with an egg cell or a sperm cell, it is fertilised and -” Michael is on a roll now, the words flying and he can't seem to slow down or stop, “And a baby starts to develop. James is carrying our baby. And we don't want to get rid of it, so he's carrying it to term. It's been four months now." The silence that follows sends Michael's heart plummeting, petrified that Patrick's reaction will be negative, as Michael searches his infuriatingly neutral face for any sign of a response. Patrick leans forward, his hands on his lap.
"I'm sorry, Michael," he says calmly, but sounding deeply unimpressed, "But if you're trying to be funny, you're being unsuccessful. Please tell me what is really wrong with James, or admit you're trying to waste my time and I shall leave."
"No, please, Patrick. I'm telling the truth."
Patrick opens his mouth to speak, when there's the noise of someone making their way quite ungracefully down the stairs. Michael and Patrick both look up, equally in shock, as James comes into view, holding out his arms, slightly out of breath. Patrick's eyes are drawn immediately to the burgeoning bump at James' middle.
"Hello," James pants, "I'm really sorry I brought you here. You don't ever have to talk to me again. Just please, please don't go to the press. We can give you money. I'm so sorry. I'm a freak. This was the worst idea in the world. I can only apologise, Sir, I-" Patrick holds out a hand to quieten him, getting to his feet. James falls silent, Michael standing back, not knowing what to do.
"What... is it?" Patrick asks slowly, in confusion more than anything. James' face darkens.
"It? It is a miniature human being. Someone who'll have a name and a personality and a life. It's my little baby, thanks very much."
"James," Patrick says evenly, eventually tearing his eyes from James' stomach to look into his face, "I don't understand why it is you're trusting me with this. I'm- I'm privileged, if a little stunned... but, why me?"
"I thought-" James chokes, "I don't know. I guess I thought that you might understand. Or that you could accept it. I don't know. It's stupid. I'm sorry-" he sniffs, and suddenly he's crying, and Michael steps to his side quickly to hold him. Patrick shifts a little, looking at them. When they look up, and Michael steps back, Patrick holds out a hand questioning. James blinks, and then nods. Patrick puts his hand on James' stomach, running his hand over the curve.
"This is amazing," he breathes, "Simply amazing."
James meets Michael's eye. Perhaps it will alright after all.
James is pottering around the bedroom before getting into bed. Michael’s eyes rove over James’ body. This past month or so has given him some new curves, besides the ever-growing bump. He has hips now, and curses every time he accidentally bangs into a doorframe or the edge of a table. His face is rounder, with just the tiniest sliver of flesh beneath his chin. Michael thinks he looks adorable when he settles down to sleep, his face calm and slightly chubby. James is positively plump, constantly hungry for food, sex and pink lemonade (his latest, and probably last, new craving), and Michael cannot get enough of him.
James cuddles up against Michael’s chest with a sigh. Michael pushes his fiancé’s loose t-shirt up a little and wraps one hand around James’ pale, soft hip, surprised at how pleasantly warm his boyfriend’s body is. He rubs his hand up James’ side, squeezing with the slightest of force.
“Yuck.” James murmurs, his voice muffled by the fact he is burying his face in Michael’s torso.
“What’s yuck?” Michael asks indignantly, “If you’ve a problem, you’ve got a perfectly functioning pillow right there, darling.”
“No, not you,” James says, lifting his head so his speech is properly intelligible, “Me. I’m yuck. I’m fat.” He draws out the vowel childishly, but somehow it’s hard to believe he’s joking.
“No, you aren’t,” Michael tells him sternly, “You’re pregnant. That’s our baby in there.”
“Yeah, but there isn’t a baby in my hips, or my thighs, or my chin- ugh, Jesus- chins. Plural.”
“Hush,” Michael scolds, “Your chin is fine. There’s nothing wrong with any of your body.”
“It’s unhealthy,” James retorts, wriggling away from Michael and into a sitting position, leaning a little forward to make himself more comfortable, and stroking the bump absently.
“It isn’t. You aren’t doing anything that is unrecommended. You’re staying as active as you can. You’re eating fruit and veg and taking your vitamins. You’re alright, James.”
“I’ve never known anyone put on this much weight when they’re pregnant,” James mumbles. Michael kisses James’ cheek, putting a hand on his tummy.
“I am sure it isn’t unheard of. Besides, James, all the examples you can reference are women. You’re a man. Maybe your body is making up for the fat stores and curves it didn’t already have.”
James looks at him steadily.
“Why are you being so lovely about it?” he says, almost suspiciously, “I look fucking awful.”
“You look tired, James. Sometimes you look a bit too exhausted for my liking. But most of the time, I think you look amazing. Corny as it is, you glow. To me, you look healthy and beautiful. I love how your body’s… softened. You’re perfect.” As though to illustrate his point, Michael tugs up James’ t-shirt, not without a fight: and then traces the pink stretch marks that spread along his hips, the dark pigment line that runs down from his navel, then kisses the rise of the bump gently. “Truth be told, I like you like this,” Michael confesses, looking up and into James’ eyes, “I think you look pretty damn sexy. Something about you just smells so good. I love your hair when it's all ruffled from your naps, your face flushed and your cheeks and lips pink. And your skin’s so smooth and soft and so hot, all the time. I just wanna-“
“Alright, stop talking,” James commands, lunging to kiss Michael forcefully. Michael’s hands encircle the curves of James’ hips, and then they’re pulling off one another’s clothes, James’ warm, bare belly curving against Michael’s flat own. James moans into Michael’s mouth, and Michael kisses James’ until they can hardly breathe.
“Psst, Michael. Wake up.” James whispers.
James takes one of Michael’s hands and guides it across the bump.
“Feel that. The wee baby’s kicking.”
Michael feels the quick tapping against his palm and beams, speechless.
It's a complete waste of time telling Jennifer, slowly and carefully, as James is wont to: because she already bloody well knew. Somehow, insanely, through the smattering of magazine articles, the sudden reclusiveness of James and the altered filming dates of the sequel- Jennifer had worked it out. She hadn't said anything, of course, because it's total nonsense, even to her, and she dreaded how incredibly offended poor James would have been if she'd been wrong. So when James tells her, she laughs and laughs and says,
"I know, baby, I always knew. When can I see you? I'm not letting you get through the whole pregnancy without me getting to coo over you and rub your belly!"
"You promised me you'd never read my mind," James quotes with an astonished and relieved smile.
"I don't have to," Jennifer grins down the phone, "God, I love you and your impossible man babies. Tell me Michael's gonna put a ring on it?"
All in all, telling Jennifer is incredibly successful. Two people down, just a few dozen more to go. James thinks that they have to tell most of the cast, because they got so close to one another during filming, and he loves them like family. Jennifer is a sister to him, and he just hopes that he's a better brother to her than Charles ever was to Raven. And he can't put her under the pressure of her knowing and not being able to talk about it, when they finally are able to start filming the sequel. Michael asks if he can tell Kevin, and James says yes. He knows that Michael and Kevin got on well on set, and developed a sort of father and son relationship: and if Michael can't tell his own dad, James has to allow him at least this.
James gets an e-mail from Patrick, dramatically headed, "I am a traitor". It reads, "Dear James, I am so sorry. I told Ian. He forced it out of me, and I love him so that I couldn't not tell. I feel quite terrible about it. If it's any consolation, he is thrilled for you and fascinated. I await a slap on the hand for this. Yours, Patrick Stewart."
James is laughing too much to remember to be angry. He shows Michael, who also finds it hilarious.
"Ten quid says that Patrick and Ian get together within a year," he bets James.
"No way. They've been dancing around one another for years, it's not going to happen."
"Ten quid," Michael repeats, grinning widely. James accepts with a handshake.
Jennifer takes to spending a lot of time at Michael and James' apartment, which allows Michael a bit of a break, and James delights in having new company. She wasn't exaggerating: she is constantly rubbing James' tummy and making noises at it, calling herself "Auntie Jenny" and pulling faces, no matter how many times James reminds her amusedly that the baby can't actually see her. This particular afternoon, they're sitting together on the sofa, channel hopping.
"Wait!" James shouts, bobbing excitedly, "Jane Eyre trailer, Jane Eyre trailer! Go back to channel you were on!" Jennifer obliges, and watches quietly with James, who is biting his lip and smiling, wriggling in his seat. "He's so gorgeous," he sighs, when the trailer ends.
"Haven't you gotten bored of him yet?" Jennifer jokes with a smirk, turning the telly off, "Do you never wake up next to him in the morning and think, 'Meh. Michael Fassbender. Such is life.'?"
"I will never get bored of him," James moans, curling up into a ball- or, as much as the bump allows- and letting himself topple to one side.
"Pssh, you're just permanently turned on and glad to be able to grab him and snog him whenever you want," she scoffs, "You and your silly hormones, McAvoy."
James says nothing, giggling.
"Cup of tea?" Jennifer offers, smiling at him fondly.
"I'll get us both a cup," James says, but then struggles to get up. Jennifer's heart has been melting ever since she found out about the baby, but this is the final straw. She helps him up, and he's quickly turning bright pink, embarrassed. She throws her arms around him and just clings, so happy and unable to think of someone who deserves a baby more than James.
"I can tell Nick, and Rose, and January," she offers, when they're both sitting at the kitchen table, nursing their mugs of piping hot tea, "If you'd like me to. If that makes it any easier, I know you want them all to know, Michael told me. He also told me that Patrick and Ian know and are, like, big fans of the whole thing! That's impressive, James, I have to say."
"Patrick is amazing. And I think that Ian McKellen is just the most accepting man in the universe. I bet if this becomes a thing, if we're evolving- he'll be right up there, marching for the rights for men to be biological mothers. He is a living legend."
"Should I tell the others? I can tell Nick when I get home tonight. He is starting to wonder why I spend so much time around here, he wants to know why you can't come to ours for once."
"How are you two?"
"We're good, thanks, we're lovely. Stop dodging the question, James. Do you want me to tell them or don't you?"
"Um. Yes. Yes please." James says, noticeably less enthusiastic and happy than he'd appeared in the lounge a few minutes earlier, "If it's alright, would you be able to, sort of, allude to the situation without mentioning me? To test the water, I suppose, and then tell them. I know and love Nick, and Jan, and Rosie, but I suppose you can never tell how people are going to respond to something like this. I never thought that you'd burst out laughing and tell me you already knew!"
"Of course. It'll be fine. We love you, James." she says, as she kisses the top of his head.
"James" the woman sat opposite him leans forward to grasp one of his hands, "James, if I do this, the papers will not relent. They'll twist it each and every way that they can, they'll have selective hearing every time we repeat again and again that we left one another amicably, that this was a decision we made together with Michael: they'll build up this reputation of James McAvoy, the man who got his wife pregnant and then left her for another man, and then stole that baby from her. It will be difficult, James. It will be very difficult."
He looks steadily at her.
"But in comparison to what will happen if they find out the truth... I can live with that reputation."
She throws her arms around him.
"Okay," she murmurs into his shoulder, "Oh, James. This- that you're doing this- it's so beautiful."
The following week, the magazines are plastered with it; the photos of Anne-Marie sporting a baby bump, and the headlines of JAMES MCAVOY'S EX-WIFE TO BECOME SURROGATE MOTHER. James has never been more grateful for her, but wishes that he didn't have to pretend. Jennifer tells Nicholas, who sends his love. She tells January, who comes over to fawn over the bump (something that James is finding more and more irritating if anyone other than Michael does it), and to help them turn the spare room into a nursery. She tells Rose. Rose doesn't answer James' calls anymore. But she doesn't go to the press, and James silently respects her for that.
One morning, James wakes up before Michael. He goes into the kitchen, and is boiling the kettle when he bursts into tears. Sobbing, he picks up his phone and calls his mother.
"Mam," he sniffs, "I need you."
Through his tears, he tells her everything. His breath hitches in his throat when he finally stops speaking, waiting in terror for her response.
"James," she says softly, "What were you so scared of? You're my son, and I love you. I will always love you, no matter what. Oh, darling. Please don't cry. Don't cry."
James sits down at the dining table and lets his mother comfort him. Michael appears, bleary-eyed and unshaven, and sits next to him silently, putting his head on his shoulder.
Michael has taken to talking to the bump, much like Jennifer, but it's different with him: Michael tells it stories, tells it how loved it is, how long it is now until it can see its Daddy and Papa. They're sitting together on the bed one night, Michael reading, James making some notes in the pregnancy diary he's been keeping, when James says,
"Sing to it."
"Sorry?" Michael says, looking up.
"Sing to the baby." James requests, "I'd like you to."
Michael places a hand either side of the bump, lowers his mouth to it, and begins to sing softly.
"Is a Bhríd Óg Ní Mháille, 'S tú d'fhág mo chroí cráite, 'S chuir tú arraingeacha, An bháis fríd cheartlár mo chroí, Tá na céadta fear i ngrá, Le d'éadan ciúin náireach. Is go dtug tú barr breáchtacht', Ar Thír Oirghiall más fíor.
Níl ní ar bith is áille, Ná'n ghealach os cionn a' tsáile r, Ná bláth bán na n-airne, Bíos ag fás ar an draighean, Ó siúd mar bíos mo ghrá-sa, Níos trilsí le breáchtacht, Béilín meala na háilleacht', Nach ndearna riamh claon.
Is buachaill deas óg mé, 'Tá triall chun mo phósta, 'S ní buan i bhfad beo mé, Mura bhfaighidh mé mo mhian, A chuisle is a stóirín, Déan réidh agus bí romhamsa, Cionn deireanach den Domhnach, Ar Bhóithrín Dhroim Sliabh."
"That was beautiful," James breathes, "What was it?"
"It's Bhríd Óg Ní Mháille; it's an old Irish song, about Bridget O'Malley, a girl so beautiful that every boy in Ireland falls in love with her." He places stress on the "her", tapping the bump gently.
"What if it's a boy?" James asks. Michael looks up at James, smiling.
"If he's anything like you, all the boys in Ireland will fall for him anyway."