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A Small Boat on the Ocean

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“Pet, what are you doing?”

 

I about jumped out of my skin and almost knocked over the stack of tiny baby clothes, blankets, sheets, and swaddles I was folding. “N-nothing.”

 

Spike was lounging in the doorway to the vampire-cave, his long black lounging pants low on his hips, his torso bare. “Doesn’t look like nothing what with the telly on mute. Are you watching an infomercial? What’s a Bacon Cup?”

 

I gestured at the TV from where I sat on the sofa. “It’s the only thing on at three in the morning. And I didn’t want to wake you. So, mute.”

 

“Doesn’t matter about the sound. You not sleeping again?”

 

“No.” I shook my head, my eyes welling with tears. I was so exhausted. Between the heartburn, the constant congestion that didn’t seem to want to drain from my sinuses, and fun new daily diarrhea, I couldn’t sleep. I hadn’t slept well in days, and I thought the sleeplessness from the steroid prior to the IVF egg retrieval was bad. Plus, I was so hot, and I thought I was hot in Texas springtime. It was nothing compared with the New Orleans summer heat, which had somehow gotten even hotter in the weeks since the shower.

 

He crossed the room to sit next to me, putting his arm gently around my shoulders. He picked up a bright red onesie with a smiling crab on the front of it. “What’s this?”

 

I sniffed. Great. More congestion. Just what I needed. “Laundry. I read somewhere that you should wash all the newborn stuff before the birth. Baby skin is sensitive skin.”

 

He lifted both eyebrows and regarded me. “Are you nesting, pet?”

 

“No!” I gave him a playful shove. “I don’t even think it’s a thing. I have no feelings about building a nest of any sort. I just can’t sleep for all the reasons you can probably tell with your,” I wiggled my fingers in his face, “enhanced vampire senses.” My hand molded into a pointer finger close to his nose. “And don’t even tell me that the lack of sleep is good practice for when the baby is born.”

 

He raised both hands with his palms facing me, a hint of amusement pulling up the corner of his mouth. “I’m not saying a word.”

 

“Good.” I picked up the crab onesie and refolded it. I wasn’t about to tell him how I’d set up the nursery, putting up the mobile and arranging toys and books on a wooden bookcase next to the toy chest Xander made. “I love the little clothes.”

 

Spike wandered over to the other side of the pile of unfolded laundry. He resituated himself and began helping me fold. “Me, too.” He held up the bib he’d picked out at Babies “R” Us. “I still like this.”

 

I softened at the amazed expression on his face. “I know.” No one had bought it from the registry, so I’d made a special trip to the store to pick it up for him. I’d even bought a backup in case something happened to that one.

 

“You know, love, I’m going to help. It’s not like you’re going to be up all night alone. And well, I’m happy to take a shift with the little guy, so you can rest.”

 

I reached over and squeezed his knee. “I’m sorry. I’m just so. . . this is going to sound really bad. But I’m tired of being pregnant.”

 

He chuckled. “Over it, eh?”

 

“So over it. Ready for the little guy to come out already.” I finished folding a swaddle and added it to the blankets pile. “Did I tell you that I’m wiping my bum with baby wipes? Baby wipes!” My nurse had suggested the wipes. “Tmi, but I’m so uncomfortable.”

 

“What’d the doc say about that?” Spike had worked that evening, so I hadn’t had a chance to fill him in.

 

I lifted one shoulder. “Apparently, it’s normal. The body’s way of preparing for the birth. Cleaning everything out. I dunno. That’s what Dr. Google said.”

 

“What’d the actual doc say about the swelling? Blood pressure okay?” He sounded casual, but he asked every time he couldn’t go, and he was concerned.

 

“Blood pressure’s still good. I’m dilated four centimeters, and she made me do another NST. It was just as uncomfortable as the last one, but baby’s moving well, his vitals are good, and I had the occasional contraction.” At Spike’s alarmed expression, I rushed to add, “But they were rare, and I’m definitely not in labor. She suggested rest because of the swelling. Not that I feel like doing any of the things they suggested for starting labor. Not lots of walking, not spicy foods with this nuclear level heartburn, and definitely a ‘no’ on the sex.” Now, I was worried. The third trimester had not been conducive to intimate relations.

 

He ran the back of his fingers gently over my upper arm. “Do you remember what I said about that?”

 

I met his gaze briefly. “That you love me for more than just sex?”

 

“God, yes, pet. I love you for all of you.” He was gazing at me with such love in his eyes that I couldn’t deny it, and I never wanted to look away from him the way I used to.

 

“I love you for more than just that, too.” He really was my everything.

 

“Even when you’re a cranky nesting pregnant lady.” He was highly focused on the onesie he was folding with precision.

 

I threw a burp cloth at his head, which he grabbed out of the air with ease. Stupid vampire reflexes. Then, he leaned over and nipped at the lower lip I didn’t realize was sticking out before replacing blunt teeth with soft lips.

 

“I’ll stay up with you, but there has to be something on besides this sodding Bacon Cup thing. Don’t even know if I want to unmute it.” He hunted around for the remote until I located it under the pile of sheets and mattress covers. I slapped the plastic into his upturned palm.

 

“Knock yourself out.”

 

I continued to fold as he surfed leisurely through the channels. A few minutes later, he flicked off the television in defeat. “You’re right. There’s not a sodding thing on that’s worth watching.”

 

“Told you.” I arranged the folded laundry from biggest to smallest, and I blinked bleary eyes at him. “Should we put on a movie?”

 

“Sure.” He ambled over to the stack of movies, which had grown and now included a Sesame Street compilation, a Baby Einstein DVD, and the Happiest Baby on the Block, which Spike had already watched and scoffed at. Crystal said the tips were lifesavers. We’d see once the baby was born. Squatting, Spike ran a finger over the titles of our collection. “How ‘bout ‘The Avengers’? Didn’t know we had it.”

 

“Dawn brought it over from George’s.”

 

She’d been spending a lot more time with George since the shower. He’d apparently not taken well to her flirtation with Shane, and he’d made a more formal move to ask her out. Dawn had happily taken him up on it. Spike hadn’t said a word about it, which I supposed was better than how he’d reacted to her dating Thomas and her teasingly asking about his cousin.

 

“All right then. ‘Avengers’ it is.” He removed the disc from the case and slipped it in the Blu Ray player. As the movie booted up, he faced me with his hands on his hips. “Snacks?”

 

I shook my head. My stomach rolled at the thought of me putting anything into it. “No. Not for me. Maybe some water?”

 

He passed me on the way to the kitchen and bent to kiss my forehead. “Gonna heat up some blood. I’ll grab you a water. Iced, right?”

 

“Please.” If I was lucky, he’d even rub a cube on my neck. It really did wonders for the heat. . . for pregnant ladies and Slayers.

 

As soon as he was rattling around in the kitchen, I heaved myself off the sofa and immediately felt a gush of liquid down my legs. Uh oh.

 

“Spike!”

 

Hearing the panic in my voice, he was back in a flash. “Yeah, pet? Oh.” He must have smelled it before I could say anything. “Your water broke.”

 

I gave him a sheepish grin. “Looks like. Good thing we didn’t buy that rug yet.” The floors were a beautiful wood. Did amniotic fluid damage hardwood? I had no idea.

 

Spike went into panic mode. “Where’s the bag?”

 

At the recommendation of the nurse on our hospital tour, I’d packed two bags, one for labor and one for after. “Bags. They’re on top of the washing machine.” The laundry room was right next to the garage.

 

“Okay. Perfect.” He frowned. “Where did I put the bloody keys? And my phone?” He darted off in the direction of the kitchen. Moments later, I heard, “Bloody hell!” And, “Fuck!” He poked his head back into the room, his face chagrined. “You okay, love? Can I do anything?”

 

I shook my head. “I’m fine. Find the keys. And your phone.”

 

“I’ll hurry.” He dashed off again.

 

“I’m just gonna go change,” I said more to myself than Spike.

 

Snagging a dress out of the closet, I hurried into the bathroom and calmly changed clothes, leaving the wet leggings in the bathtub. I brushed my hair and tugged it into a low bun. Pulling flip-flops – the only shoes that fit – over my swollen feet, I scooped up my phone, charger, and wallet as well as some over-the-counter meds and toiletries I used daily. I threw them into an empty cross-body bag. I could hear Spike rushing around and met him in the kitchen where he was trying to stuff his phone into the nonexistent pocket of his lounging pants – the ones that were always in a heap on the floor when he climbed into bed.

 

“Um.”

 

He glanced up to see me standing there in fresh clothes with my cross-body bag halfway over my head.

 

I gave his pants a pointed look.

 

He glanced down. “Oh. Yeah.” Then, he hurried to the bedroom to change.

 

While he was gone, I remembered Dawn, who was spending the night at Emily’s place. Fumbling with my bag, I pulled out the phone and zinged off a text. “Baby on the way. Meet us at the hospital after you get sleep. Love you.”

 

In less than a minute, he was back in the kitchen with me, keys in hand. “You ready, love?”

 

It was really happening. We were having a baby. Anxiety shot through my chest, mingling with the heartburn. “I think so.”

 

He picked up my shaking hand. “You got this, pet. I’ll be with you every step of the way.” Then, he held up said hand and slapped a bag of almonds and a fruity granola bar on my palm. “And you’re going to eat a snack in the car.”

 

I kissed his cheek. “Thanks. I forgot about the no-eating-during-labor thing.”