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Declarations of Love, In No Particular Order

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Armie frowned at the plate that had been returned to him untouched.

“What’s wrong, pumpkin? I thought you said you wanted a PJ sandwich for breakfast.”

“I did,” sulked his young daughter, pouting as she wrapped a finger around her blonde curls and ignored his gaze stubbornly. She was not happy and she would make damn well sure that her father knew.

“Why haven’t you eaten it then?” Armie prodded as he took a seat next to her, getting ready to dig into his oatmeal. “Were you waiting for us to eat together? You want to race me? I’m warning you, though, Daddy’s starving-“

“I don’t want it,” interrupted the four year old and if possible, she sulked even harder than before.

Armie put down his spoon and studied his daughter’s serious, little face.

“You don’t want it? What’s wrong with it?”

“It’s not how Da-da usually makes it.”

Armie cocked an eyebrow at that.

“What do you mean it’s not how Da-da usually makes it? It’s a PJ sandwich. It has three ingredients and I’m pretty sure I remembered them all.”

He thought he was being funny, but she was clearly not impressed.

“Da-da always cuts the crust for me,” she informed him, unamused. “Why can’t Da-da make me bweakfast?”

“I told you, pumpkin, Da-da is still in bed. He needs a break. I am perfectly qualified to make your breakfast, though.”

“Can we wake Da-da up? I want him to eat with us.”

“No, baby. He’s tired. And he doesn’t have much of an appetite at the moment.”

“Why not?”

“You know how he’s been throwing up in the mornings for the past few weeks? It’s called morning sickness. It means the baby is making him nauseous, so you see, it’s important that we let him rest.”

Those pouty little lips of hers didn’t seem to appreciate the answer.

“The baby is being mean to him,” she decided moodily, continuing to ignore her plate even as Armie pushed it closer towards her.

“It’s not the baby’s fault, sweetheart. Besides, you were once inside his tummy, too. You used to make him feel sick, just like your baby brother is making him feel sick right now.”

“Babies are stupid,” sounded the answer simply. “Why can’t the baby live in someone else’s tummy? I want Da-da to make me breakfast.”

Armie rolled his eyes with exhaustion. Sometimes he forgot what a little monster he and Timmy had created.

“Look, I can cut the crust for you. You won’t be able to tell any difference,” Armie assured her as he got up to fetch a knife from the drawer.

“Da-da doesn’t cut it like that,” complained the little girl when, suddenly, it seemed that Armie had cut off too much of the bread. “It looks wrong.”

“It’s not wrong. This is a perfectly delicious sandwich. Look.” Armie took a bite from it and began to rub his stomach convincingly. “It’s so yummy. Don’t you want to try it?”

“I want Da-da,” replied the blonde, little girl simply. This time, it sounded like she was on the verge of tears.

Armie let out a small sigh. He could deal with her being difficult and acting like a spoiled brat for no good reason, but the crying – the crying he definitely couldn’t ignore.

“Okay,” he uttered gently, moving across the table in order to pick her up in his arms, letting her rest her small head against his broad, muscly shoulder. “We can go upstairs and spend a little time with Da-da, I suppose. Just to check on him. But if he’s asleep, you can’t wake him up. Do you understand? Promise me you’ll be good with him.”

His daughter nodded in agreement as she began to wipe at her small, watery eyes. She had Timmy’s eyes; gorgeous and green, with a hint of hazel surrounding her pupils. She had his thick, dark eyelashes as well, and just like her Da-da, she knew how to stare up at Armie with a face that ever so easily reached that soft spot deep inside him; a spot reserved entirely for Timmy and her, and soon enough, for Baby Brother as well.

Armie carried her up the stairs and opened the bedroom door quietly, popping his head in before letting the little girl run loose. His younger husband was tangled up in the bedsheets, fast asleep, having curled himself into a fetal position. He had been having trouble sleeping recently, not just because of the nausea, but because of the way that his back was already aching and cramping up under the weight of his growing belly. Armie thought that it was much too early for him to be feeling such discomfort; with another three months to go, Timmy’s stomach was only going to grow much heavier. His baby bump wasn’t even that big yet and wouldn’t even have been poking out so obviously if the rest of him hadn’t been so stick-thin. When he had lifted up his shirt a couple of weeks ago to show their baby girl what it looked like when her brother was kicking him from inside, her eyes had widened quietly in disbelief. If it hadn’t been for the small movements under his skin, she would had thought that perhaps Da-da was carrying a basketball in his tummy instead of a baby boy, with the bump being so round and all.

She didn’t like the idea of her unborn brother hurting Da-da in any way. She didn’t like how the baby made him feel ill and sore. How it made him stay in bed all morning when he could have been spending his time with her.

Armie let her down on the foot of the mattress, but before she could crawl over to Timmy, he wrapped a hand around her middle and held her in place.

“Remember what I told you about not waking him up,” whispered the blonde man softly, though he knew that as soon as he was to let her go, she would try to crawl straight into Timmy’s arms and only be satisfied when he had made room for her there.

“Okay, Daddy,” replied the girl eagerly, making very little effort to lower her voice. “I won’t.”

Armie watched the unstirring brunette one last time before releasing the four-year-old tornado that was Mathilde. Timmy’s cheeks were slightly flushed, making him look hot and fevered and yet, his smooth, perfect skin remained pale. Armie took in his pink, slightly parted lips, the curls that nuzzled against his forehead, making him look impossibly young, like he was nothing but a sleeping boy, exhausted by a common cold and not by pregnancy. He got lost in his face, his slender, delicate neck, those lean legs of his that were pressed against his belly as he curled up again, as if actively protecting his bump by sheltering it, wrapping himself around it.

Timmy was the perfect mother hen. Straight from holding Mathilde in his arms for the first time, it had come to him by instinct. He would have laid down his life for their baby girl and he almost had, giving birth to her and losing such vast amounts of blood just to avoid getting a C-section that could have put her at risk, but would have spared his own body a lot of pain. No wonder the toddler was now so attached, so devoted to her Da-da that she couldn’t even get through her breakfast without having him by her side.

“Mathilde, easy,” Armie reprimanded, though to no avail.

The little girl was already climbing across Timmy’s legs, bumping into him as she lost her balance and rested her full weight on him. Though she thought herself agile like a cat, she was clumsy and her footing reckless. She clearly assumed not to have disturbed him at all, but Armie knew that Timmy had been jerked awake by her hand that was pressed against his ribs while she nestled her head underneath his chin, burrowing into him with determination. The brunette’s response was everything that Mathilde had hoped for. He simply wrapped his arm around her and brought her closer to his chest, and without even uttering a sound, he went back to sleep, accepting his daughter’s company despite his fatigue.

‘We have to have a word about how spoiled she’s getting,’ Armie thought to himself, though he couldn’t keep from smiling as he dug out his phone and snapped a quick picture of his family cuddled up in bed before him.

“Da-da?” Whispered Mathilde as she wrapped her hand in Timmy’s darker curls. “Can you make me bweakfast?”

“No, Mathilde,” Armie shushed her as he lowered himself onto the mattress and began to spoon Timmy from behind. “I told you – we are not bothering Da-da. Right now, we’re being quiet. We are only here to rest, do you understand?”

He waited for her to object, but instead, the little rascal seemed to calm down. Finally, she held her tongue and decided to be good as she let her Da-da go back to sleep without as much as kicking him with her impatient, little feet.

 

*

 

“I’m sorry, love. I genuinely thought you were getting better,” sighed Armie who had been brushing back the curls from Timmy’s forehead while he’d clung to the toilet seat and emptied his stomach through multiple rounds of retching. “I wouldn’t have let her in the bed if I’d known-“

“It’s okay,” uttered Timmy as he rinsed his mouth with water and searched for his toothbrush. “You couldn’t have known. And it wasn’t her – she was being perfectly still. I don’t know why my stomach keeps acting up. I just didn’t want her to see…”

“She’s still in bed. She didn’t see any of it.”

“But she must have heard.”

“She’ll be fine. She’s just worried about you, is all.”

“She shouldn’t have to worry about me. I’ll go check up on her.”

“Timmy…”

“I’m fine, love. I promise.”

And of course, Timmy managed to walk out of the bathroom with a smile on his face, as if he hadn’t just fallen to his knees looking so feeble and pale that Armie had rushed to his side thinking he was going to pass out on him.

“Da-da!” Exclaimed Mathilde as he returned. Rather than showing her concern, she sounded ready to blame him for disappearing on her again. “Are you still sick?”

“No, darling, not anymore. Can’t you see I’m all better?”

The brunette slumped down on the bed next to her and she was quick to place herself in his lap.

“Does that mean you’re going to stop sleeping?”

“I’m wide awake,” responded Timmy whose heart melted as Mathilde wrapped her arms around his neck. She was getting so cuddly, so clingy, and though he and Armie had expected her to grow too old for it, they were both suckers for her affection.

“Can you make me bweakfast, Da-da?”

“I thought Daddy made you breakfast.”

“Yeah, but I want you to do it.”

Armie appeared in the door, having heard every word.

“Da-da has had a rough morning, baby. What do you say we make him breakfast in bed and spoil him for a change? You can bring your sandwich and eat it here if you want to keep him company,” suggested the blonde man who took one look at his husband and realised that he need a moment longer to recover.

Timmy looked over at him and mouthed a silent ‘thank you.’

“Okay,” cheered their young daughter finally. “I will make you bweakfast, Da-da. We will take good care of you while you’re ill. Do you pwomise you’ll get out of bed afterwards?”

Timmy couldn’t contain his laughter.

“I’ll try my best. Merci, ma chérie.”

In the end, Mathilde got tired of helping out in the kitchen, though she did finally eat her sandwich without further complaints. Armie brought the breakfast tray to Timmy’s bedside, poured the orange juice for him and fluffed the pillow supporting his back. Perched on Daddy’s knee, the little girl watched her parents smile and exchange meaningful looks with one another. Daddy began to hold the plate for Da-da and bring the fork to his lips in order to feed him, making sure that he didn’t have to get up which was sometimes a struggle for him now that his belly continued to swell and get in the way. Though she liked to see Da-da so happy, and to see Daddy devoting himself to making him feel better, she decided that she had grown bored of watching them and asked if she could put on the TV.

“I thought you wanted to spend time with us, angel,” remarked Armie teasingly, though when he pressed a kiss to Timmy’s face, their young daughter simply grimaced and turned her back on them.

When Mathilde busied herself watching cartoons, Timmy took the opportunity to nuzzle closer into Armie, who wrapped his arm around him protectively.

“You will not believe how difficult she’s been this morning,” whispered the blonde man, making sure she couldn’t hear him. “For ages, she refused to eat her sandwich just because you didn’t make it. She claims I made it wrong. That I didn’t cut the crust the way she likes it.”

Timmy grinned at him tiredly before resting his head against his shoulder.

“I stopped cutting her crust months ago,” he whispered back, draping Armie’s strong arm around him like a blanket. “She must be trying to manipulate you.”

 

*

 

That night, Timmy tried hard to make up for lost time. He sat down to watch a movie of Mathilde’s choice, with her bouncing happily in his lap, holding his hand as though worried that he would ditch her. He made all the effort in the world to pay close attention and to laugh when she wanted him to laugh, but as the minutes dragged on, he felt himself growing sleepy and unfocused. His back had been killing him all day, and as he leaned back against the cushions whilst pressing a hand to his stomach, he wished for more than anything in the world to be comfortable.

“Can we watch another?” Pleaded his baby girl as the TV screen switched to black and the credits began to roll. “Pwease?”

“It’s getting late, sweetie. We’re getting close to your bed time and you haven’t had your bath yet.”

“But you pwomised.”

“Promised what?”

“That you would spend time with me.”

“Don’t give me that look,” smirked the brunette, refusing to fall for his daughter’s pouting, “I took you to the playground this afternoon, didn’t I? And we listened to music together in the kitchen when you helped me cook dinner. Remember all the dancing we did? And then we watched Lilo and Stitch.”

“But Da-da…”

“Come on, baby. You need to get in the bathtub. We can bring your rubber ducks if you want. It will be fun.”

Timmy drew the bath and added more than enough of the soapy bubbles upon request. Mathilde was already amusing herself in the water when Armie popped his head in.

“I’m going to help her wash, then I’ll tuck her in,” uttered the brunette whilst trying to stifle his yawning. “Have you seen the yellow rubber ducks? I can’t find them anywhere.”

He was trying to bend over in order to search the bottom cupboards, but his bump didn’t exactly make it easy for him.

“You should go lie down,” Armie interrupted him upon sensing how worn out the younger man was. “I’ll take over from here.”

“But I was just-“

“Baby, you look drained. Seriously, you should have a rest. Let me help you.”

Armie walked up to the brunette and cupped his face as he pulled him in for a soft kiss. Only then did Timmy let out the breath that he’d been holding, too embarrassed to admit how shattered he was feeling.

“Da-da!” Called Mathilde, interrupting them. “Do you want to watch me make a beard out of bubbles?”

“I’ll watch you, honey,” Armie announced quickly as he gestured for Timmy to exit the room so that he could take a break. “Da-da needs to lie down again, but I’ll stay here with you.”

At the way that her smile fell, Timmy’s guts were churning with guilt.

“Have fun with Daddy. I’ll read you a bedtime story when you’re done with your bath,” he promised instead, bowing down to press a kiss to her blonde curls.

He would be fast asleep long before he could keep that promise.

 

*

 

“Da-da doesn’t have time for me anymore. The stupid baby is wuining evewything.”

When Mathilde had found Timmy asleep on the sofa, she had nearly whacked him over the head with her big book of bedtime stories just to wake him up, but thankfully, Armie had stopped her just in time.

“No, Mathilde, you cannot hit Da-da with your book, do you hear me?” For the first time that day, Armie’s tone was harsh and he could see his daughter visibly backing away from him. “I’m sorry, sweetheart, but that’s not okay. It is never okay to hit someone. Your Da-da is sleeping because the baby is making him tired. You have to be nice to him. Do you understand?”

The young girl said nothing. Instead she crossed her arms, miffed. She clearly wasn’t going to apologise.

“Mathilde, I’m serious,” Armie scolded her further when she wasn’t responding. “Promise me you’ll never try to hit Da-da or anyone again. You can’t always have things your way. You must be old enough to understand that-“

He stopped when his daughter suddenly ran out on him. He could hear her little feet on the stairs. She had probably decided to go hide in her room like she always did when she couldn’t face the reality of being held accountable for something she’d done, or in this case, almost done.

Armie sighed quietly. Then he scooped his unaware husband into his arms and carried him off the furniture in order to take him to bed. Timmy stirred only once; from the looks of it, nothing in the world could have brought him out of his slumber. He was still as feather-light and skinny as he’d been the day Armie met him. Even with the baby growing in his belly and with the extra pounds that came with that, Armie couldn’t get over how small, how brittle he felt in his arms. Though he realised that there was no way that Mathilde could have physically hurt him, Armie couldn’t help but feeling protective. Their daughter had no idea how badly he had suffered during his first pregnancy and how nervous it was making him and Armie both to realise that, most likely, the second one wasn’t going to be any easier. In the beginning, the doctors had been particularly concerned with Timmy’s weight, with his skinniness. It had been such a struggle for the brunette to change his habits; no matter how diligent he had been with his diet, the morning sickness had stood in the way of his eating. It had taken him weeks before gaining any weight whatsoever, but Timmy had of course been ten times more stubborn than his nausea.

Armie proudly remembered how fierce he had been. It was thanks to Timmy’s strength and endurance that Mathilde had turned out so healthy, so perfect in every single way. And now he was going to perform the miracle all over again by bringing their baby boy into the world, only this time, Armie was going to make it easier for him to take care of himself in the meantime.

“Love you,” whispered the blonde upon lowering his husband onto the bed and covering his slim body with the duvet. “I’ll be in Mathilde’s room if you need anything,” he added, though Timmy couldn’t hear him. He kissed his forehead lovingly and dimmed the lights before closing the door on his way out.

Mathilde had crawled into bed and pulled the covers up to hide her face. When Armie sat down next to her and tried to persuade her to come out so they could talk, he detected her quiet sniffles and realised that she had been crying.

“Mathilde, baby, what’s wrong? Talk to me.”

“You and Da-da alweady like the baby more than you like me,” sounded the reply miserably, which only resulted in the little girl sobbing even harder. “When the baby comes, Da-da will spend all his time with him.”

“Darling, you know that’s not true. Come on. Look at me.”

“I don’t want a baby bwother. Do we have to keep him?”

“Yes, Mathilde, we have to keep him. But guess what? You and your baby brother are going to love each other.”

“No, we’re not.”

“Yes, you are. When your brother is born, you will be so busy playing and having fun with him, you will barely have any time left for Da-da and me.”

“But… I will still be you and Da-da’s favouwite. Wight?”

“Our favourite?”

“Yes. You will still like me the most, won’t you?”

“Darling, we are going to love you and your brother equally.”

“Equally?”

“That means the same amount.”

“But that’s not fair. I was here first.”

Armie sensed that things had taken a wrong turn and decided to defuse the situation by steering the conversation in another direction.

“Come here, sweetie. I know you wanted a bedtime story. Do you want to sit on Daddy’s knee?”

Mathilde, still offended, stayed put.

“Okay. Suit yourself,” replied the blue-eyed man smilingly. “Now, have I ever told you about the time when you were still a baby growing inside Da-da’s stomach?”

She shook her head slowly, trying to mask any display of interest.

“Have I not? Well, it’s about time.”

His daughter tilted her head slightly and seemed to study her father’s face quietly.

“Why?” Her tone was slightly challenging.

“Why, you ask? Well, because…” Armie held his breath as he smirked down at her. “Because I have never seen your Da-da more happy, or more excited about anything. When he was pregnant with you, he would walk around the house, petting his stomach while smiling. He couldn’t wait for you to be born, you know.”

“Why?” Repeated Mathilde simply, as if she was trying to test his patience.

“Why? Because he couldn’t wait to meet you. And to hold you in his arms. And to kiss you on the forehead.”

The girl wrinkled her little face, taking his words in.

“How long did Da-da have to wait?”

“You lived inside his stomach for nine months before you were ready to come out,” replied Armie eloquently. “It was such a long wait, it was driving Da-da and me crazy. You see, Da-da was so impatient to see you that every time we came to the doctors, he would ask them to scan his stomach. That way, we could get a small picture of you up on the screen in the doctor’s office.”

She looked utterly perplexed by this.

“Why was I on a scween?”

“That was the only way that we could see a picture of you while you were still inside Da-da’s stomach. The picture was very dark and we couldn’t really see your face, but we could see your legs,” Armie paused to shake her little calf, “and we could see your hand,” he added, after which he demonstrated by grabbing her fingers, “and we could see your feet.”

When he started to tickle her toes, Mathilde giggled and writhed.

“And your Da-da kept asking the doctor hundreds of questions just to make sure that you were doing alright in there. ‘Is she getting enough food? Is she growing steadily? How much weight has she gained?’” Armie imitated Timmy’s voice and once again, Mathilde broke out laughing. “He loved you so much, even before you were born. So did I, of course. But Da-da used to talk to you all the time even though you couldn’t even hear him.”

“But how could he talk to me if I wasn’t there?” Asked the girl, baffled.

“He would go like this,” explained Armie as he placed both hands on his abdomen and looked down at his stomach in order to mimic a pregnant Timmy. “’Hello, baby Mathilde. Are you comfortable in there? You are going to be born in sixty-two days, I hope you’re ready.’”

His daughter cackled as she shook her head.

“But I couldn’t answer him,” she sniggered. “Da-da is so silly.”

“Maybe it’s not as silly as you think,” beamed Armie who was now able to wrap an arm around the young girl’s shoulders without her protesting, “Da-da wanted you to know his voice before you were born. Mine, too. Sometimes Da-da made me sing to you. And then you would kick from inside his stomach just to get me to stop.”

“Why?”

“Because Daddy’s singing is that bad.”

“Did I weally kick Da-da? I would never do that.”

“Of course you did. All babies kick. But you had such powerful legs. And once you started kicking, there was no stopping you. You were like a little football player.”

“Was I bad?”

“No, baby, you weren’t bad,” he chuckled as he reassured her by brushing her hair back softly. “There was nothing you could have possibly done to upset Da-da. Even when you kicked him so hard that it kept him up all night, he swore that you were going to be the sweetest, most well-behaved little girl in the world.”

Mathilde slumped against her father and nestled herself under his arm. She suddenly seemed more satisfied than before. When Armie wrapped the duvet around them both, she made herself comfortable, looked up at him, blinked her green, mischievous eyes with an expression that read, ‘tell me more stories about how much you and Da-da adore me.’

And so, Armie did. He knew that the stories were as heartfelt as they were countless and they all poured from his sentimental heart shortly after – small tales and declarations of love, issued in no particular order.

Chapter Text

The automatic doors to the hospital reception opened and closed. There was a faint sound of sirens coming from the parking lot outside, though Timmy tried to block those noises out, instead focusing on the clock hanging on the white wall in front of him, listening to each tick – to the seconds passing him by ever so steadily. Armie’s finger lingered before the button on the coffee machine, feigning hesitance, though he and Timmy both knew that, had it not been for the woman selecting the Macchiato just before him, he wouldn’t have been revisiting his options like he was trying to take the whole hospital by surprise.

Timmy checked the time for the thousandth time and bit his bottom lip.

”Okay, I’m just going to say it. You always think you’re going to try something different, you always go back and forth between trying the Americano and the Ristretto, but in the end, you always go for the Cappuccino because that’s your favourite. You don’t have to prove yourself adventurous to anyone, it’s just coffee. Just press the button.”

Armie looked at his pregnant lover with surprise. Timmy’s tone certainly hadn’t been snappy, but as the blonde man looked into those green eyes, they were refusing to meet his own. Timmy was agitated. The younger man was looking over his shoulder with a hint of impatience. He hated being here.

“You okay?” The older man’s fingers withdrew from the machine and he focused solely on Timmy. “I mean – I don’t have to have a coffee if it’s bothering you. I know it’s not exactly fair to do this in front of you when you can’t have any-“

“It’s not about the coffee,” sighed Timmy with a slight shake of his head. He began to tense up even worse, wrapping those thin arms around himself nervously, and so, Armie forgot about the money that he’d already put into the machine and abandoned his plastic cup. “I just don’t want to be late, okay? I don’t want to do anything wrong. Dr Lawson already hates me enough as it is and I can’t-”

“Woah, there, slow down one moment.” Armie seized Timmy’s shoulders and looked into his eyes seriously. “Dr Lawson doesn’t hate you. You’re his patient, he’s here to help you. Where’s this even coming from?”

“You know where it’s coming from,” sounded the reply sullenly. Armie’s gaze intensified, but Timmy remained stubborn. “Have you not seen the way he looks at me? Have you not seen the look on his face every time I’m on the scale? He thinks it’s disgusting that I’m even pregnant.”

“Timmy…”

“No, I’m serious. He probably doesn’t think it should be possible for boys to get pregnant at all. Or maybe he just doesn’t think I’m man enough to carry a child…”

“Baby, stop. Enough with that. You’re upsetting yourself.” Armie saw the tears glistening in his lover’s eyes and pulled him into his embrace immediately. “You being pregnant is nobody else’s business. No one is judging you, that’s all in your head. Don’t you know that you’ve never looked more beautiful than you do right now?”

“Armie, don’t…”

“I’m serious. I’m so proud of you. Look at you – you’re glowing. You’re so strong. I couldn’t do what you’ve been doing for the past seven months-“

“Yeah, well, according to Dr Lawson, I’m not doing it all that well,” sniffled the brunette, fighting the tears. “He seems to think that I’m weak.”

“He said you were underweight. Not weak. And anyway, that was weeks ago. You have probably gained weight since then.”

“Of course I have, but only because of her. She’s growing so much faster than I am.”

“So that means she’s healthy. That’s good.”

“But he doesn’t think I’m doing my job right. I can tell. I don’t want him to look at me that way again. Like he’s just waiting for me to die in childbirth so he can be all ‘I told you the baby was going to rip you apart, kiddo…’”

Armie’s jaw dropped slightly. Never before had Timmy acted so glum. Never before had anyone, including their asshole doctor, said anything to suggest that such unimaginable horror could be imminent. He knew that his younger lover was still battling the moodswings that came with the hormones, but it had never occurred to him that Timmy was keeping such dark thoughts to himself.

“Baby, if he’s really putting thoughts like that into your head, I think it’s time we started seeing someone else. I don’t want anyone to give you the impression that something terrible is going to happen to you just because you’re skinny. It’s bullshit.”

“Armie, he was the best doctor available. Everyone recommended him. I’m due in two months. This is not the time to search for someone else who’ll take us on.”

“If he’s making you think like this, Timmy, then he’s clearly not the best.”

“I was just being moody. Forget what I said. We need to get going if we don’t want to be late.”

“I’m serious, love. You’re young and healthy. You’re going to be just fine. Don’t let him convince you otherwise. I’ll make damn well sure that nothing bad happens to you, or her.”

Timmy wiped at his eyes and forced a smile as he stood on his tiptoes in order to reach the taller man.

“Thanks. I know you will, Arms.” He kissed him briefly but as he pulled away, Armie’s hands cupped his cheeks gently, willing him closer once again. “I love… that you’re… making me feel better,” exhaled the brunette in between quick, frantic, warm kisses, “but we really need… to get a move on.”

“Fine,” murmured the blond man without releasing his lover’s mouth. He continued to speak against Timmy’s soft, red lips: “Let’s get it over with, then. You’ll be fine. I won’t let him put you down in any way.”

 

*

 

Mathilde yawned and kicked her feet lazily, nearly sending her duvet flying off the bed for a second time.

“Oh I’m sorry, pumpkin, am I boring you?”

“Daddy, when are you going to get to the good part?”

“What do you mean ‘the good part’? Are you bored because you’re not in the story yet? I’ll have you know, you were very much the talking point, even before you were born-”

“You’re making the stowy weally long,” sounded the complaint mischievously. Armie knew that he ought to teach her to a thing or two about patience, but as he held down her feet and prevented her from any continuous kicking, he found himself chuckling.

“You’re right. It’s past your bedtime. You’re probably too sleepy anyway. We’ll continue this another night-“

“Daddy, no! I’m not tired, I pwomise!”

“Sweetie, you were yawning.”

“I’m not sleepy. I don’t want to go to bed yet. Pwease, Daddy…”

“Then stop kicking your duvet. I’ve already picked it up for you once. If I find it back on the floor, I’m going to have to tickle your toes and I won’t stop until the story is over.”

“But I’m not ticklish!”

“Oh, is that so? I think we’ve already established that, just like your Da-da, your weakest spot is right under… here!” Armie held her foot tightly as he let his fingers brush the undersides of her middle toes. He was well prepared for the wail that followed; he grinned widely as his baby girl jolted once before surrendering instantly.

“Stop! I didn’t mean it! Daddy, stop!”

The sound of her laughter filled the room, and his heart.

 

*

 

“Right. That’s the last time I’ve set foot in that prick’s office,” remarked Armie, cursing under his breath as he slammed the car door, helped Timmy fastening his seatbelt, started the engine and set off.

Upon leaving the hospital premises, he noticed that the younger man was still not speaking.

“Tim? You okay?”

The brunette was quietly slumped in the passenger seat, his face turned the other way in order to hopelessly stare out the window.

“He’s making me feel like I can’t do this,” sounded the reply miserably.

Armie realised that he had been trying to put on a brave face. A face that was very much showing its cracks by this point.

“Love, he had no right trying to shame you. Needless to say, we’re never seeing him again. You don’t have to worry about him anymore, I promise.” The blond man glanced at his lover, but Timmy hadn’t managed to compose himself yet. “I grabbed a leaflet on our way out and as soon as we get home, I’ll call up every other doctor listed in there. Someone will take us on and you’ll never have to speak to that bastard Dr Lawson again.”

Armie cringed as he recalled the way that the old quack had wrapped his hand around Timmy’s wrist and insisted on taking his measurements, commenting rudely on the boniness of his limbs, suggesting that this was another reason for concern. It had been everything that Armie had hoped to avoid and the last thing that Timmy had needed on his mind. The boy was already much too hard on himself and Armie firmly believed that the doctor’s criticism was unjustified. Timmy’s countless efforts to eat and to keep his physical strength up were evident to see and yet, Dr Lawson continued to treat him like an irresponsible kid who should have never put himself at risk by getting knocked up in the first place.

“Your hips aren’t as wide as the average woman’s,” the old jerk had told Timmy harshly, confirming his old-fashioned views. “There is no way that you should consider the option giving birth naturally. If you ask me, childbirth should be a woman’s job only. Male bodies just aren’t built for it. Yours certainly isn’t.”

It had nearly left the young man in tears, but Armie admired his partner deeply for having been able to keep a straight face, allowing them to see their appointment through to the end.

“Listen, baby. What he told you in there…” Armie hesitated, feeling increasingly anxious about Timmy’s silence.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” whispered Timmy moodily as he cradled his baby bump without meeting Armie’s gaze. “Please don’t remind me what he said.”

“I know. I just-“ The blond man kept his eyes on the road, though his hand reached out to gently clutch his husband’s knee. “I want you to know that it’s all rubbish. There’s nothing wrong with your hips, or with your size-“

He stopped again when Timmy shifted in his seat uncomfortably.

“I just want to go to bed. I can’t deal with this right now,” sniffled the brunette, causing Armie’s heart to break on his behalf. “Our baby is due in two months and I need to know that I can give birth to her without her getting stuck between my stupid, narrow hips.”

“Timmy…”

“I know, I know. I’m sorry I keep snapping, but I feel so exhausted. I just want to sleep.”

The young man, however, didn’t have it his way. The first thing he noticed as Armie eventually pulled up into their driveway and opened the door for him was the black SUV parked further down the street.

“That looks like my Mom’s car.”

“Hm?”

“Is my Mom here? Armie?”

The blond man’s eyes widened as he suddenly remembered.

“Oh, fuck. I forgot that was today.”

“What is today? Armie, what’s going on?”

“I’m so sorry, T. I would have warned you, but it slipped my mind completely.”

Timmy reached for his hand and Armie helped him get up from his seat.

“Seriously, what’s happening? I don’t understand.”

“Just follow me. Now, when we walk in the front door, remember to smile. Act surprised.”

“Wait! Are you fucking kiddi-“

Armie turned the door handle and walked the brunette inside first by pushing against his back slightly. The lights were suddenly switched on, after which a small crowd of people jumped out from where they’d been hiding, staggering Timmy with a big, collective:

“SURPRISE!”

He saw balloons, ribbons and banners. Before he could catch his breath, he had his arms full of both his Mom and Pauline who seemed to be behind all of this. Behind them, he spotted Saoirse, pointing her camera at him, obviously having filmed his reaction, and she was nearly doubling over with laughter as she replayed the recording.

“Oh my God, baby, look at you all speechless. You really didn’t know?” Nicole hugged her son tightly, or as tightly as she could without crushing his stomach.

“I guess Arms is good at keeping his secrets after all,” remarked Pauline, smirking at her brother-in-law.

Armie grinned as he ruffled Timmy’s curls and placed a kiss to his forehead. “Did you expect me to fuck it all up and miss the priceless expression on his face? No chance.”

Timmy gave his husband an accusing look.

Traitor.

 

*

 

“Daddy, why did everyone give Da-da a shower?”

“Not just any shower, sweetheart. A baby shower. Do you know what that means?”

Mathilde shook her head no.

“It means we had a big party, just for you and Da-da. To celebrate the fact that you were almost ready to be born.”

His daughter’s face lit up. Once again, she was squirming with hyperactively for which Armie realised that he was solely to blame.

“Who was at my party?” She cooed.

“Everyone, of course. Grandma Nicole, Auntie Pauline. Your good friend Saoirse was there. She pretty much spent the whole day taking pictures of Da-da. And your other good friend, Elizabeth-“

“Who?”

“You know Liz. She’s married to Daddy’s friend, Nick. Anyway, she brought the most amazing cake for the party. From her own bakery. Specially made for you, might I add.”

“Did it have my name on it?”

“Well, she tried, but we hadn’t actually named you yet. Not before the party at least.”

“Why didn’t you know my name yet?”

Armie smiled as he wrapped the duvet around her small body one more time, urging her to settle down.

“We almost did. Apparently we just needed a little help from your Auntie Pauline…”

 

*

 

Timmy had seemed a little tense while the element of surprise was still fresh; the spotlight had been on him entirely as everyone gathered around him and brought him his presents, watching him unwrap every last one, still with Saoirse’s camera pointed in his face. Armie had brought out a chair for him as the brunette was beginning to feel the weight of the baby bump every time he had to get up. People went the extra mile to ensure that he stayed seated while Nicole, Pauline and Armie in particular took turns carrying the presents to him, one by one.

From Pauline, he’d had a grey, hooded baby towel with elephant ears. He had fallen in love with it instantly and soon enough, his excitement came to replace the dread that had sprung from his appointment with Dr Lawson.

“Thanks, sis. I love it.”

“You better send me a picture every time she wears it, bro,” smiled Pauline as she gave him a hug. “She’s going to look so fucking cute.”

“Pauline – language!” Nicole scolded.

“It’s okay, Mom. She’s going to learn all the swear words from Armie, anyway,” Timmy said jokingly. He thought he caught a disapproving look from Dru; Armie’s mother had stayed fairly quiet the whole time. Rather than mingling with the other guests, she had been talking to Elizabeth only, as if actively avoiding getting to know any more of Timmy’s friends and relatives.

“What are you talking about? I never swear,” grinned Armie who wrapped his arm around his sister-in-law, taking a moment to admire the present. “Thanks, Pauline. I can’t wait for her to wear this.”

“So we’re still calling her her, are we? She doesn’t have a name yet?” Pauline looked at them both curiously.

“Well…” Timmy locked eyes with Armie. “We probably need a little more time.”

“Timmy has this idea that her name should be French,” added Armie with a chuckle. “I think he’s secretly searching for something I can’t pronounce.”

“Oh, honey,” gasped Nicole as she wrapped her arms around her son, “your father is going to be so excited when he hears this.”

“Yeah, but nothing is final yet, remember,” Timmy reminded her, though she continued to squeeze him. “You see, Armie automatically assumes that French names are too complicated for him.”

“You want to go Irish instead?” Suggested Saoirse sassily, causing Armie to roll his eyes at her. “Oh come on, you can pronounce my name. How hard can French names be?”

“You Europeans are trying to kill me,” exaggerated the blonde. He was about to bring Timmy his next present when suddenly, his mother stood up and brought everyone’s attention to herself.

“I think what my son is trying to say,” announced Dru, who looked like she deliberately wanted to escalate things, “is why don’t you go for a strong, solid American name? It would suit her last name better, anyway.”

Armie had spun around to face her so quick, he had almost bumped his shoulder into Saoirse and knocked the camera out of her hands.

“Mom,” he interrupted her urgently, “I was joking. Let’s not-“

“I’m just saying,” continued Dru, much to Armie’s dread, “a French name wouldn’t go well with Hammer. She’s taking your name, isn’t she? I mean, you’re the father, my dear.”

“So is Timothée,” remarked Pauline sharply, though she was quickly silenced by her mother.

“Hammer is a beautiful family name. I understand why you would want Armie to pass it on,” offered Nicole in an attempt to appease the other woman. It had been awkward enough at their sons’ wedding when Dru had realised that Timmy wasn’t going to take Armie’s surname. Nicole recalled how upset the Hammers had seemed and she was more than ready to prevent that episode from repeating itself.

“So is Chalamet,” insisted Armie as he gave his mother a strict look. “Look, it’s like Timmy said – we haven’t made any decisions yet. But I love the idea of giving her a French name.”

“But honey, you’re not French,” chuckled Dru, acting as though the entire idea was laughable. “People are going to think that she’s not even related to you.”

“What does it matter what people think?” Armie bit back. “People who matter to me will know she’s my daughter.”

“And what if she takes after him rather than you?” His mother seemed to be gesturing towards Timmy. “What if she gets his curly, dark hair and his – smaller figure?”

“Mom…” Armie’s tone was harsh, but she completely ignored the warning.

“I’m sorry, Timothée dear, but we both know you look nothing like my son…”

“Mom, can you not-“

“Is it so bad that I just want my grandchild to be one of us? If she doesn’t look like you, at least I should be able to recognise her by name.“

“Why are you so worried about being able to call her your own? She’s going to be my daughter, Mom, of course you’ll be able to recognise her! But she will also be Timmy’s daughter, so you better come to terms with the fact that her name might be French and that her hair might be curly and that I’m going to love her even more for it!”

Pauline was looking rather satisfied with Armie’s defending her brother, but Timmy, on the other hand, was growing increasingly nervous. He couldn’t deal with the shouting and so, he rose to his feet, urging his husband to calm down.

“Armie, it’s okay – I know she didn’t mean it like that…”

“No, Timmy, it’s not okay! This is your baby shower and I won’t tolerate her disrespectful behav-“

Armie stopped when the brunette suddenly slumped against him. At first, he thought the younger man had simply tripped, but once he took a second look at him, he noticed the pale expression and he caught the green eyes rolling back in his head for a brief moment only. He caught Timmy in his arms before he was able to fall and as soon as he wrapped his arms around him, Timmy’s eyes snapped back open, regaining consciousness as quickly as he’d lost it.

“Timothée! Timmy – are you alright? Are you with me?”

“Oh my God,” exclaimed Nicole who moved the chair across the floor and pushed it towards Armie, “quick, help him sit down!”

Like most of the other guests, Pauline and Saoirse were both glaring at Dru, silently blaming her for what had happened. Elizabeth, who looked ready to distance herself from Armie’s mother, ran to Timmy’s side while Nick announced that he would go get him a glass of water.

“What’s wrong with him?” Dru shouted from across the room, not bothering to leave her seat. No one acknowledged her.

“Timmy,” Armie repeated gently as he guided him back in the chair and cupped his face ever so gently, “Timmy, you’re okay. You’re okay, just take a deep breath. Look at me.”

Armie released the breath that he’d been holding and smiled with relief when the younger man blinked a couple of times before managing to focus his eyes on him.

“Wh-what happened?”

Timmy was staring at the many faces before him. All he remembered at that point was feeling stressed and worried.

“Baby, you almost fainted,” uttered Nicole as she ran her hand through his hair protectively. “You must have stood up from your seat too quickly.”

Timmy grimaced with embarrassment.

“I’m sorry. I – I get these dizzy spells sometimes…”

“You poor thing,” sighed Elizabeth, full of sympathy as she took a hold of his hand. “It hasn’t been an easy pregnancy so far, has it?”

“You know,” croaked Armie’s mother from somewhere behind them, “Elizabeth never used to faint when she was pregnant. Especially not from simply getting out of the chair.”

Armie shot her an angry stare like he was ready to renounce his own family name.

 

*

 

Everyone had agreed that Timmy should open the rest of his presents later and that he would be better off getting something to eat. Nicole had paid for a catering service to arrive and it seemed that in no time, the kitchen was brimming with insulated food boxes and containers. She and Pauline both helped Timmy as he walked from the living room to the tables that had been set out in the garden. Though he insisted that he was fine, Nicole didn’t let go of his arm until he’d been sat down comfortably. Armie, too, seemed to fuss over him as he took the brunette’s plate and filled it up from the buffet, making sure he didn’t have to get up. Nick had already brought him his water and continued to fill up his glass whenever he took a sip. Saoirse was stood over him, gently massaging his shoulders as if trying to rid him of any tensions.

“You guys really don’t have to do all this. I’m fine,” smiled the young man gratefully.

“Of course you are,” agreed Armie gently as he brought him his food and kissed his forehead. “Still, you should take it easy.”

“Eat as much as you can, honey,” encouraged his mother, remaining right by his side. “You’re still looking a bit pale.”

“I’m sorry. I feel like a walking disaster sometimes.”

“You’re not a disaster. You’re so beautiful, my love. You’re doing so well and I am so proud of you.”

Nicole began to brush her son’s hair with her hands, and Timmy and Pauline both grimaced, sharing each other’s second-hand embarrassment.

“Mom, please…”

“It’s true!” Cried Nicole stubbornly. “You may not believe me, but we’re all so proud of you. Look at you all grown up and strong. My little baby boy is going to be a father, I almost can’t believe it. It feels like only yesterday, you were still playing football with your friends and doing karate-“

“Wait, you did karate?”

Timmy caught both Saoirse and Armie smirking and he rolled his eyes at them.

“He sure did,” said Nicole, suddenly pulling something out of her handbag. “I brought my photo album with me…”

“Mom, please tell me you’re joking.”

“Of course I’m not joking. This is your baby shower. And these are your baby pictures.”

She was already handing out one photo after another, telling all the guests to pass them around, and at the comments Timmy received about how cute and chubby he used to be, he found himself hiding his face in his hands while he glanced down at his baby bump, silently promising his unborn daughter never to put her through this much misery.

“Mom, put them away. You’ve made him lose his appetite.” Pauline eventually came to his aid, though Timmy suspected that she was secretly worried that some of her old pictures were included in the album.

“You’re right, my love. Timmy, it’s important that you eat.”

“Seems to me that you had quite a big head when you were born,” remarked Dru suddenly after one of the photos had reached the far end of the table. “Aren’t you worried that you’re going to pass that onto your daughter?”

Timmy had already stuffed his mouth with bread and was left unable to reply. Armie simply wrapped his arm around him and shot his mother another warning look.

“Mom, don’t be ridiculous.”

“I’m just saying,” added Dru whilst sipping her wine, “I hope he knows what to expect. Big babies run in our family. Armie, darling, you were nine pounds when I had you. I just hope he’s ready for the pain. I hope he can take it.”

Armie had almost stood up from his seat, but Timmy was quick to tug at his arm.

“Ignore her. I think she’s just drunk.”

“That doesn’t give her the right to imply that you-“

“I know. But let’s not make a scene.”

The party had continued smoothly after that, apart from Nicole trying to convince Timmy to finish his plate long after he was full. Saoirse and Pauline took a series of pictures of Elizabeth bringing out her cake for everyone to admire. They wanted Timmy to pose next to Armie while they cut the first piece together, just like they had done at their wedding, but when the brunette first cast his eyes on the pink frosting and the red letters spelling out ‘Baby Girl Hammer-Chalamet,’ he broke his pose in order to wrap his arms around Elizabeth.

“Thank you, Liz. It’s absolutely beautiful. I don’t even know what to say.”

“Aw, love, don’t cry,” laughed Elizabeth who saw the glistening in his eyes. “You don’t want Saoirse to catch this on her camera.”

“I can’t help it,” smiled Timmy, still sniffling when Armie joined them and pulled him into a hug. “I’m sorry. I get emotional way too easy.”

“I get it. I was crazy hormonal when I was expecting. I wish I had looked half as gorgeous as you do right now. I spent my pregnancy feeling bloated and gross, but you look so stunning.”

“What are you talking about? I’m literally crying snot,” protested Timmy as he wiped his nose with the back of his hand. “I’m such a mess.”

“You’re not a mess,” insisted Elizabeth. “You look so pretty with that cute, rounded belly of yours. Am I right, Arms? Does he not look pretty?”

“Yes, he does,” smiled the blonde, pressing a kiss to those precious, soft curls of Timmy’s. “Thank you, Liz. If I’m not the biggest customer in your bakery already, I definitely will be after today.”

“Get together all three of you,” interrupted Nicole who had borrowed Saoirse’s camera. “Let me get a picture of you all in front of the cake.”

Armie immediately went in the middle and wrapped his arm around Timmy and Elizabeth both.

“Oh, how lovely,” gushed Nicole, capturing more than a few images. “Big smiles, everyone.”

Armie’s smile faltered when his mother entered his peripheral vision by getting out of her chair.

“You know, son, you and Elizabeth look so handsome next to one another. You would suit each other as man and wife. Makes you wonder what could have been if you had married her instead, doesn’t it?”

This time, Timmy wasn’t able to stop Armie before he crossed the grass and stood up tall in front of the smaller woman. When his mother failed to act on her very final warning and opened up her mouth to speak again, the blonde man snatched the wine glass out of her hand furiously and drowned out her protests by ordering her to leave their property instantly, asking her not to return unless sober and ready to make an apology.

 

*

 

“Daddy, who is that?”

Mathilde was pointing at one of the photographs in the family album that Nicole had given them as a present shortly after the baby shower, and to which she had added countless more pictures after the birth of her granddaughter. Armie had taken down the album from one of the bookshelves above Mathilde’s bed, assuming that she would be interested in visualizing some of the highlights from her first party.

Her little finger had landed on a group picture taken of the guests watching a flustered and heavily pregnant (beautiful, Armie thought) Timothée trying to unwrap his presents without his baby bump getting in the way. Armie stiffened slightly as he glanced down at his mother’s unsmiling face in the corner of the photo that his daughter was pointing to.

“That’s your grandma Dru, sweetheart. She doesn’t visit very often. You probably just forgot what she looks like.”

 

*

 

Pauline had been watching over Timmy ever since Armie had sent his own mother away from the party, and she was beginning to worry that, with him having almost fainted and with all the drama taking place, perhaps his big day had been ruined.

“Arms, I need your help cheering him up,” she whispered, taking her brother-in-law aside. “I know that look. He’s feeling self-conscious. We need to make him forget about the things that were said.”

Armie had tried to once again apologise for his mother’s insolence, but Pauline had cut him off with a simple shake of her head.

“You have nothing to apologise for. I’m sorry you’ve been put in this situation. How are you feeling?”

“Like I should have told her to sober up and act like a decent human being a long time ago,” Armie had uttered, sighing. “Timmy was already feeling down about himself before all this shit. The appointment with Dr Lawson didn’t go down well.”

“He’ll be fine. All he needs is a distraction.” Pauline had offered him a small smile. “I think I know how to make him feel better, but I’m going to need your help first.”

“Anything. Just tell me what to do.”

“I need a list of baby names that you guys have already given serious consideration. After that, I want you to help me gather everyone around in the back of the garden. And finally, I’m going to need more balloons. And a dart if possible.”

Half an hour later, Timmy returned from the bathroom to see that everyone had abandoned the tables in order to group up in front of a tall, balloon-covered cardboard wall. He found Armie waiting by the steps and when the brunette eyed him questioningly, he was met by smiley, blue eyes as Armie gestured for him to take his hand.

“What’s happening now?”

“You’ll see.”

Armie and Saoirse had convinced him to wear a blindfold, even as he was guided through the circle of people getting ready to watch him, until placed before the impressive cardboard target. He was told where to put his feet, after which he was handed a dart. Armie helped him close his fingers around it securely, further instructing him to throw it at the target in front of him.

“What’s in the balloons?”

“You’ll soon find out,” he heard Pauline laughing from somewhere behind him. “Come on. Stop stalling.”

Everyone seemed more than eager for him to throw the first dart, but as he was getting ready to take his position, he heard his mom cheering.

“Good luck, baby! You can do it.”

Do what?

“Remember,” whispered Armie into his ear as he held his shoulders and breathed against his skin, causing Timmy to shiver ever so subtly, “you get as many vetoes as you like.”

“Vetoes?”

“Come on, Arms, you can’t give him all the vetoes he likes, that’s cheating!” Objected Pauline strictly. “Come on, bro, throw your dart!”

Timmy had jerked with surprise upon hearing the pop from the first balloon that burst as the dart pierced its way through the rubber.

“That was perfect, darling,” exclaimed Nicole a little too close to his ear. Timmy jolted again as her hands closed around his arm without warning. “Go on, have a look. You need to check the inside of the balloon. Oh my god, I can’t wait.”

Timmy’s fingers struggled with the knot, so Armie loosened the blindfold for him. Timmy blinked against the sun as he looked down and discovered a small name tag in between the broken rubber pieces on the ground. As he squatted down to pick it up, he felt the entire crowd going silent as they waited for him to read the name out loud.

He glanced down at the paper tag and recognised one of the first names that he and Armie had come up with together after toying with the idea of keeping their options French. He felt his lips twitching into a smile.

“Louise,” he read to everyone before him, after which he locked eyes with Armie in order to observe his reaction. “It says ‘Louise.’”

His mom and Pauline were quietly beaming, but Timmy was somewhat reluctant. The look in Armie’s eyes hadn’t changed, leading him to believe that he, too, lacked the excitement that would have followed had they been ready to make the decision.

“What do you think, love?” Armie seemed to be holding his breath.

Timmy shook his head gently, biting his lip.

“Veto?”

“Are you asking or telling me?”

“Both?” Timmy shrugged his shoulders lightly as he remembered the number of eyes watching him in anticipation. “I don’t know, what do you think?”

“I think,” smiled Armie, “the decision should be yours. Go on.”

Timmy ended up retrieving the dart as he got ready for a second attempt.

Once again, his mom made too big of a deal out of applauding him and yet again, he twitched at the sound of the balloon popping.

He removed the blindfold by himself this time, impatient to search for the name tag that landed in the grass.

“Josephine,” he uttered, using the French pronunciation rather than the English. It was a name that he had pictured himself and Armie falling in love with and yet, as he pressed his fingers across his swollen abdomen, he felt the name didn’t quite belong to the little ray of sunshine growing inside him. “It’s a beautiful name,” he added after a moment’s thought, “but…”

“But?” Pauline gave him a quizzing look, waiting for him to continue.

“But it’s not her. It doesn’t fit… her. Do you know what I mean?”

Armie walked up to him and put his arm around him.

“I would trust you to know better than anyone, my love.”

The blond man picked up the dart from the ground and handed it back to his younger lover, sensing that he wanted to go again.

“Remember, T, you only get so many vetoes,” taunted Pauline as she crossed her arms, feigning impatience.

“Ignore her,” grinned Armie, rolling his eyes at his sister-in-law. “There’s no pressure, baby.”

As he couldn’t be bothered wearing the blindfold for a third time, he let Armie’s large, rough hands cover his eyes as he stood before the cardboard target once more, aiming the dart slightly higher this time.

“You’re acting like you know what you’re aiming for,” remarked his husband with a chuckle, even as his hands kept him from peeking.

“Like I could possibly know,” responded Timmy, throwing the dart without wasting any time.

This time, as he went to bend down, he stopped mid-air, feeling a slight pain in his lower back threatening to cramp up. Immediately, his daughter started kicking against his lower ribs. Timmy straightened his back with a groan, abandoning the idea of leaning over.

“I’ll get it for you, love,” offered Elizabeth with sympathy as she caught him wincing. “Stay right there.”

“Is she kicking again?” Nicole pressed both her hands to his stomach, eager to communicate with her unborn granddaughter. “Oh my God. Pauline, feel this. Hold your hand right here, darling.”

“Oh my God,” gasped Pauling smilingly. “She’s so strong. Damn, Timmy, how has she not broken your ribs yet?”

“Wait, I want to feel it as well!” Interrupted Saoirse, placing her fingers in between Nicole and Pauline’s. “I haven’t had the pleasure yet.”

“Guys, please, do you mind?” Timmy was eager to get everyone’s hands off him. He glanced at Elizabeth who was now holding the name tag, reading it to herself. “What does it say?”

Elizabeth smiled and showed the little paper slip to Armie before telling anyone anything. Armie grinned, his ears looking warm and red.

“I like this one,” muttered the blonde man, agitating Timmy further.

“Tell me,” begged the brunette who was still batting everyone’s hands off him. “What does it say?”

“I’ll show you, love. You’ll need to teach me how to pronounce this the French way, anyway.”

Armie held the name tag in front of his eyes and Timmy impatiently grasped at the larger man’s hand, steadying it. He was already smiling, already forgetting about the invasion of hands still touching his belly.

“Mathilde,” he whispered, feeling his heartrate quickening. When Armie gave him a slightly helpless look, Timmy grinned happily and broke down the pronunciation for him. “You pronounce it Ma-teeld. It means ‘mighty in battle.’ I looked it up.”

“This one is mighty alright,” remarked Pauline and in that instance, there was another series of kicking somewhere underneath her palm.

Timmy, despite his discomfort, couldn’t stop beaming.

“Oh my God,” he whispered. “It’s a sign. Look, she’s responding to the name. Armie, call her by her name.”

Armie hesitated slightly. He didn’t want to make fun of the younger man, nor did he want to make him feel silly, so he pressed his fingers to Timmy’s ribs and tested his pronunciation:

“Ma-teeld. Mathilde. Is that your name, baby girl?”

He felt the kicking. She truly did respond to it.

“Mathilde,” uttered Timmy then, laughing as the tears began to spill from his eyes, “c’est toi, ma petite?”

“Oh, this is beautiful,” sniffled Nicole. Armie realised where Timmy had his sensitivity from as he looked up to see his mother-in-law wiping at her eyes, struggling to hide her emotion. “I wish your father was here to see this.”

“Mom, please,” Pauline said mockingly, “you’re acting like he’s dead. So this is official, right? She’s a Mathilde now?”

Timmy nodded fiercely and Armie put his hand on his shoulder as a gesture of his consent.

“Yes,” chuckled the young man as he continued to cry with joy. “Yes, I think she’s a Mathilde now. It feels – it feels just right.”

 

*

 

Mathilde had been trying to muffle her yawning, but Armie knew that he had kept her up for much too long when her head sagged against her pillow and she struggled to keep her eyes open.

“So Da-da liked having a baby shower?”

“You bet, my love. He was so excited.”

“And my name was hidden inside a balloon?”

“Yes, and when your Da-da burst the balloon, you started kicking in his belly. That’s how he knew that you had to be a Mathilde.”

“What colour was the balloon?”

“You know what, angel, I don’t think I remember. You can ask Da-da tomorrow, he might know.”

“Can I not ask him now?”

“No, Mathilde, you know he’s resting. And you should have already been asleep an hour ago.”

Armie kissed her little head and tucked her in one final time. He switched off the lights in her room and left the door ajar, allowing the light from the hallway to find its way in, however, as he lingered in the doorway, her little head was raised one more time.

“Daddy?”

“Yes, baby? It’s getting late, what is it?”

“Do you think Da-da would like a baby shower for baby bwother?”

Armie found himself taken by surprise. He gripped the doorknob and eyed his daughter slightly disbelievingly.

“Are you suggesting that we throw him one? I thought you said that you weren’t excited about having a baby brother?”

“I know.”

“But you still want to have a celebration for him?”

“I just want to make Da-da happy. Does he know baby bwother’s name yet?”

“No, sweetie, he doesn’t. That’s why we call him baby brother, remember?”

“Maybe we can hide his name inside a balloon again. And then Da-da can find it and maybe the baby will kick if it’s the right name.”

Armie’s lips were twitching at that, though he broke his smile as he walked back to her bed. He couldn’t keep from kissing her little forehead a second time. To think that he and Timmy had raised such a considerate, kindhearted little being who only wanted to bring her worn out Da-da some joy through means of a party.

“Sounds like a good idea, baby. Maybe we should get in touch with Auntie Pauline tomorrow. I’m sure she would love to help us plan the party for Da-da.”

 

*

 

The following morning, Timmy woke up feeling well rested and nausea-free. He was wrapped in Armie’s embrace, and had it not been for the pressure that the baby was constantly putting on his bladder, he would have happily stayed, snug and warm in his husband’s arms. He had thought Armie to still be asleep when he rolled apart from him and lifted himself off the mattress. However, he waddled across the room to use the bathroom, have his morning shower, only to eventually return to find the bedroom empty. Armie had woken up and disappeared without a word.

Timmy got dressed and sat himself down before the mirror, drying his hair in his towel. A few moments later, he heard a door opening in the hallway, after which there was a subtle knocking on his door. Knowing fully well that Armie would have had no problem walking in on him, Timmy raised his head, anticipating his baby girl whom he called for without hesitation.

“It’s open, my love. Come on in.”

In a heartbeat, Mathilde appeared with a megawatt smile on her face.

“Da-da!”

The little girl came sprinting and Timmy opened his arms wide for her, allowing her to run straight into his embrace.

“Good morning, darling. Did you sleep well?” He said, kissing her face affectionately.

Mathilde jumped suggestively, so Timmy lifted her off the ground and gathered her in his lap. At first, she seemed to be competing with his belly that continued to take up more space each day, but she finally settled and wrapped her strong, little arms tightly around his neck.

“Missed you, Da-da,” uttered his daughter sweetly, pressing her cheek against his shoulder.

Timmy’s heart broke as he recalled the way that he had fallen asleep the night before, despite having promised her a bedtime story.

“Missed you, too, sweetheart. I’m sorry I was so tired yesterday. Your brother must have really needed the rest, he’s all calmed down now. Did Daddy tuck you in last night?”

“Uh-huh,” nodded the blonde girl, wrapping her fingers in her Da-da’s darker curls.

“And did he read you a story?”

At that, Mathilde started giggling mischievously. Timmy frowned with suspicion.

“What’s so funny?”

His daughter withdrew her head from his shoulder and offered him a cheeky grin.

“Me and Daddy have a secwet. And we’re keeping it fwom you.”

“A secret?” Timmy cocked his eyebrow, giving her a challenging look. “Since when do you keep secrets from me, darling?”

“Da-da, can you make me bweakfast? I’m hungwy.”

“Are you trying to change the topic?” The brunette tickled her little tummy gently, causing Mathilde to whine and giggle even louder. “Am I supposed to ignore the fact that you and Daddy are hiding something from me, huh?”

Mathilde cackled and squirmed in his lap, though he gave her a break as he needed all his strength to get out of the chair with her still in his arms.

“Should we go downstairs and ask your Daddy what all this secrecy is about?”

“Daddy won’t tell you what the secwet is. We both pwomised each other.”

“You did, huh? What is Daddy up to, anyway?”

“He’s on the phone.”

“On the phone? With who?”

“Auntie Pauline.”

“Pauline? Are you telling me that my own sister is in on the secret, too?” Timmy pulled a face as his daughter laughed at him again. “Right, let’s go have a word with Daddy about this.”

 

*

 

Armie looked up as the kitchen door opened and Timmy walked in, carrying Mathilde on his hip. From the way that the younger man was already eyeing the phone in his hands, Armie could tell that he was on to him. Biting his lip as to not give away his smiling, the older man lowered the phone, mouthing a subtle ‘hey.’

“Who are you talking to?” Timmy asked bluntly, putting down Mathilde who went to take a seat at the dining table. The young man moved over to the counter, took out the bread and got ready to make Mathilde her breakfast sandwich, however, Armie caught him looking over his shoulder, carried away by his curiosity.

“He just walked in. Let me call you back later.” As the blond man hung up the phone, Timmy spun around to face him.

“Why did you hang up? Who was it?”

“And good morning to you, too, my love,” Armie smirked jokingly, dodging his question. “You look great this morning. Did your nausea finally go away?”

Timmy took out the jam from the fridge and narrowed his eyes as he glanced at Armie.

“Don’t sweet talk me, mister. Why did you hang up the phone when I walked in? Who was it?”

“As I’m sure Mathilde has already told you,” responded Armie easily, reaching out his hand to give their daughter a quick, little pet, “I was on the phone with my dear sister-in-law. She says hi, by the way.”

“And what were you and Pauline talking about?” Prodded Timmy, buttering Mathilde’s bread absent-mindedly.

“I can’t say. I’m afraid that’s a secret.”

“Since when do you guys all have secrets together?”

Armie got up from his chair, laughing with amusement.

“Relax. It’s nothing for you to worry about, beautiful.”

“Excuse me?”

“Come here.” Timmy dropped the butter knife when Armie pulled him into his arms and held him close against his bigger body, smelling his hair as he buried his face in his neck. “I didn’t get to kiss you this morning.”

“Well… You left the bed without telling me,” breathed Timmy, trembling slightly as Armie swapped their positions and pulled Timmy in front of him, keeping him out of Mathilde’s vision field in order to reach down his hand for a grope. Timmy gasped slightly, tensing as Armie’s hand cupped his butt cheek. “Wait,” he whispered, slightly out of breath, “not in front of…”

Armie silenced him with a deep and languid kiss, parting Timmy’s lips gently with his tongue as he breathed hotly against his mouth. By pure habit, Timmy’s arms wrapped themselves around Armie’s neck as he gave in to his touch, his embrace. Suddenly, he could barely remember what they had been talking about just a second ago.

“Da-da? Are you still making my sandwich?”

The brunette jerked slightly at the sound of his daughter’s voice, so Armie pulled out of his mouth carefully, allowing him to recover.

“Just a moment, sweetie. Have a banana if you can’t wait,” responded Timmy, all scatter-brained. He reached to the tip of his toes in an attempt to catch Armie’s lips again, however, the taller man pulled back, grinning as he observed his husband’s needy, desperate expression.

“Come on,” Armie beamed, gesturing towards the dining table. “Now that your appetite is back, we should all eat together.”

Chapter Text

Pauline rang the doorbell and immediately heard shouting from inside:

“Daddy! Someone’s at the door!”

She smiled to herself and put down her shopping bags, readying herself as she heard the key turning in the lock. Armie poked his head out, opening the door for her with a big grin on his face. He was wearing a stained apron, balancing a mixing bowl in his arms as he held the door for her and continued to whisk the content in the bowl.

“Pauline – I’m so happy you could make it. Get in, I could do with an extra hand before everyone else arrives in, like, an hour.”

“Gee, Arms, is that the way to welcome a guest who’s just come off a ten-hour flight?”

The two of them both laughed as Armie finally put down the mixing bowl in order to pull her in for a hug.

“Sorry. It’s great to see you, honestly. Timmy is going to be so excited that you’re here.”

“Thanks, man, I’m so glad you guys called me. I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. Now – where is my favourite niece? Is she hiding from me?”

Before Pauline had time to blink, Mathilde came running from the other room.

“Auntie Pauline!” She cried, waiving her arms high above her little head. “Auntie Pauline, here I am!”

“Oh my gosh!” Pauline gasped slightly as she squatted down and allowed the blonde girl to run into her arms. “My precious, little Tilly! You’re so big now!”

“Tilly?” Armie pulled a face with amusement. “I didn’t know she had a nickname.”

“Of course she does,” insisted Pauline as she hugged Mathilde even tighter and placed a kiss to her hair. “She’s Auntie’s little Tilly-Billy – isn’t that right?”

Mathilde laughed approvingly.

“My god, you look so much like your Da-da when you laugh. Did you know that?”

“She has Timmy’s face alright,” agreed Armie who began to carry Pauline’s shopping bags inside. “What are you so happy about, my love? Did you miss your Auntie Pauline?”

“Yes,” nodded Mathilde affirmatively, causing Pauline to kiss her face all over.

“I missed you, too, my little Chamallow. So much.”

“Chamallow?” Armie furrowed his brows questioningly.

“It’s a marshmallow. Tell me, Tilly, does your Daddy know any French at all?”

“Not weally,” replied Mathilde, sticking a finger in her mouth as she kept her arm wrapped around her Auntie’s neck.

She and Pauline both shared another round of chuckling, and as they entertained themselves at Armie’s expense, the blonde man rolled his eyes and returned to the food that had yet to be prepared before the rest of the party arrived.

 

*

 

Pauline had first thought that Mathilde resembled a marshmallow – soft, rounded and perfectly pink – the day when she had been introduced to the newborn in the hospital. During Mathilde’s birth, she had stayed in the waiting room with her dad for hours and hours. Throughout the birth, Marc had tried to keep calm and appear nonchalant as he had flicked through one newspaper after another without reading a single word, desperate to pretend he couldn’t hear his son screaming and crying in pain further down the hallway. Pauline, on the other hand, had only been able to regain her breath when Armie finally stepped out from the delivery room, carrying his baby daughter in his arms. Seeing her baby niece for the first time, healthy and peaceful in her father’s big arms, and hearing that Timmy was going to pull through, Pauline had wept with gratitude.

She and Marc had not been allowed back at Timmy’s bedside straight away. Pauline knew that her brother had struggled during the labour and that the birth itself had been brutal, and that the nurses had probably needed to bathe him in order to get rid of all the blood before they were able to stitch him back up. She couldn’t even imagine how thoroughly the birth had wrecked his body, and as she watched Mathilde’s soft, little face and listened to her innocent whimpers, nor did she want to. By the time they were allowed to see him, Nicole was sat by his bedside, pressing a wet towel to his forehead. She had stayed in the room with him the whole time, holding his hand without letting go even as he had thrashed and vomited during his contractions. Timmy now looked colourless and weak, delirious from blood loss. Pauline had detected the worry in her mother’s eyes and if Armie hadn’t repeated the doctor’s words back to her and assured her that he was going to recover just fine, she would have chosen that moment to kneel by his bedside in prayer. And yet, as Timmy had looked up to see her standing before him, cradling Mathilde against her chest, the smile had reappeared on his lips.

“Timmy…” Pauline had failed to contain her own sobbing. “Look what you’ve made. You’ve made… her. It’s a miracle. She’s so – she’s so… beautiful.”

Now, four years later as Pauline brushed Mathilde’s hair and tied the bow on her little dress in order to get her ready for the party, she remembered how Timmy had simply closed his eyes and let his head fall back against the pillow, too exhausted to reply.

“Daddy, look! Do you want to see me do a spin?”

Mathilde stroke a pose and lifted up her skirt in order to show off her outfit.

“Sure, my love. Spin away,” replied Armie who was still busy in the kitchen.

Pauline smiled as she watched her niece rotate in front of her Daddy, making the hem of her dress dance and sway with each movement.

“Gosh,” she remarked, inhaling through her nose. “What smells so good?”

“We’re baking a chocolate cake for Da-da,” grinned Mathilde as she jumped up and down a couple of times, utterly restless.

“Did you say we?” Remarked Armie amusedly. “I don’t recall you getting your hands dirty, princess.”

Mathilde poked her tongue out naughtily and continued her dancing. Pauline followed her every step, feeling reminded of Timmy as a kid; tireless and hopelessly dorky.

“Did your Da-da teach you to dance like that, Tilly?”

“Who else?” Interrupted Armie, rolling his eyes at her. “She doesn’t get it from me, that’s for sure.”

“Daddy’s too clumsy to dance,” said the little girl cheekily as she twisted her hips, mirroring Timmy’s agility. “Da-da and I dance together all the time.”

“Excuse me, little rascal, who are you calling clumsy?” Armie picked Mathilde up and threw her over his shoulder. She screeched and guffawed, even when her Daddy pretended to nearly drop her. “If I was clumsy, would I be able to throw you up in the air like this?”

Armie demonstrated a few times and Mathilde screamed delightedly.

“Bro, I just styled her hair,” scolded Pauline. When Armie put Mathilde back down, she went to make sure that her little curls were smoothed back behind her ears. “By the way, where is Timmy? How did you get rid of him while you’re doing the preparations?”

“Your mom took him for brunch this morning. I know he’s not supposed to spoil his appetite before the shower, but I’m just glad he’s eating well again.”

“Auntie Pauline?” Interrupted Mathilde who seemed to have noticed the fact that she had brought stuff with her. “What’s in the bags? Are they pwesents?”

“Yes, darling, they are presents for your baby brother. It’s his shower, remember?”

“Are there any pwesents for me?”

“No, Mathilde,” responded Armie gently, “you had your presents when we threw a shower for you back in the day. Now it’s baby brother’s turn. You’re old enough to understand that.”

Twenty minutes later, as the guests started to arrive, Mathilde still felt cheated.

“Grand-papa!” She ran into Marc’s arms as soon as he appeared in the door. As he chuckled with joy and held her close, she wrapped her arms around his neck. “Grand-papa? Did you bwing me any pwesents?”

“Darling, no. Don’t be rude!” Armie used his disciplinary tone with her, offering Marc an apologetic look. “Let your Granddad get his coat off. Look, there’s Elizabeth and Nick. Go say hi to them.”

“Elizabeth!” Called the little girl as she eyed the shopping bags in her and Nick’s hands. “Did you bwing me any pwesents?”

Elizabeth and Nick exchanged a panicked look as neither of them wished to let the young girl down. Pauline decided to defuse the situation quickly. She leaned in and whispered in Mathilde’s ear, making sure that Armie couldn’t hear:

“If you stop asking people for presents, I will take you to the toy store tomorrow and buy anything you want. I promise, Chamallow.”

And that was how Mathilde managed to be on her best behaviour, even as she got bored waiting around for her Da-da and grandmother to arrive. The food was long ready, the house nicely decorated, and the presents had all been gathered in the living room, still within Mathilde’s reach. When she kept nearing them intentionally, Pauline and Marc agreed to distract her. They both took a hold of her hand, walked her through the crowd of people, keeping her busy as they showed her off. Luckily, she loved the attention just enough to get over the fact that everyone seemed to be a lot nicer to her unborn brother, just because he happened to be in Da-da’s belly still. Clutching both her Grand-papa and Auntie’s hands, she looked up at her guests. There were family members, both Hammers and Chalamets. There were some of Daddy’s colleagues, some of Da-da’s friends and old school mates. Mathilde vaguely recognised Stéphane, Ansel and Will, though it was Da-da’s friend Saoirse that she ran to when she spotted her long, green, flowery dress.

“Saoirse! Saoirse, look! I’ve got flowers on my dwess, too!”

Saoirse put down her wine glass and greeted Mathilde with a big smile.

“So you do! Come here, darling, give me a hug. You look so adorable! Your Da-da is going to be so impressed when he sees you!”

As if on cue, Elizabeth chose that moment to peek out the window, just in time to see Nicole’s car pulling up the driveway.

“They’re here! Everyone, gather around.”

Armie rushed to join Pauline and Saoirse as he took Mathilde into his arms and reminded her what to do:

“As soon as Da-da walks in, we all shout ‘surprise’ – as loud as you can.”

“Okay, Daddy. Can I tell Da-da this was my idea?”

Armie never answered her question. He heard the keys in the door and gestured for everyone to be quiet. Mathilde pressed her little hand to her mouth, looking like she could barely contain herself. The excitement and anticipation was all too much, so when the front door opened and Timmy appeared with Grandma Nicole, jumping at the loud ‘SURPRISE’ that followed, Mathilde grinned and squirmed her way out of Armie’s arms.

“Oh my god,” uttered Timmy, breathless as he took a look around in the room. “I can’t believe you did this! Mom! Did you know?”

“Of course I knew, darling,” laughed Nicole, pulling her son in for a hug. “I can’t take credit for the idea, though.”

In that moment, Mathilde ran across the floor.

“Da-da! Da-da, it was my idea,” shouted the little girl cheeringly, throwing her arms around Timmy’s leg. “It was my idea to give you a shower! Aren’t you happy?”

Timmy’s face lit up and his fingers began to brush through his daughter’s gorgeous curls. As she smiled up at him and snuggled closer against his leg, he felt the tears prickling in his eyes.

“The surprise was your idea? Oh my god, I can’t believe how lucky I am to have the sweetest, most thoughtful little angel in the world.” The soreness in his back prevented him from picking Mathilde up, however, he wrapped his arm around her and cupped her little face. “Thank you so much, darling. You look absolutely beautiful – who did your hair?”

“Auntie Pauline,” Mathilde told him proudly. “And look, I’ve got flowers on my dwess just like Saoirse!”

Timmy looked up to see his sister and Saoirse smiling at him.

“Oh my god,” he emitted with bafflement. “You’re both here! I can’t believe you’ve come all this way!”

With Mathilde clinging to his leg, Timmy remained immobilized, so Pauline and Saoirse both came to him. “It’s so good to see you,” he sniffled as the girls took turns hugging him. “Pauline, when did you get back from Paris?”

“This morning,” smiled his sister, winking down at Mathilde who still wouldn’t let go of her Da-da. “My favourite niece in the world was kind enough to involve me in her plans.”

“So – that’s why you were being so secretive.” Timmy locked eyes with Armie from across the room. With his daughter, his sister and Saoirse all enclosing him, the brunette was positively nailed to the spot, so Armie made his way over.

“Had to be – I know how meddlesome you get when you’re suspicious of me,” teased the blonde man.

“Come here,” responded Timmy, pulling his husband in for a kiss. “Thank you for doing this. Both of you.”

“Don’t mention it, love.”

Armie held his face and kissed him back, causing Mathilde to frown.

“Ew, stop it,” she complained, pushing against Armie’s legs as if trying to break her daddies apart. “That’s gwoss.”

“You’re right, that is really gross,” joked Pauline as she ruffled the girl’s hair. “We should get the party started, am I right? You’ve waited long enough.”

“Yes!” Chirped Mathilde, pushing out her bottom lip. “We waited on Da-da for ages…”

“I’m sorry, mon ange, you’re right. I’m ready to party all day long,” beamed Timmy as he took a hold of his daughter’s hands. “I have to celebrate that my baby girl is throwing me a shower. I’m so proud!”

Timmy and Mathilde began to do one of their many, little dances together. Armie was, as always, lost for words as he watched them.

“See. I told you she doesn’t get her dorkiness from me,” he muttered to Pauline who stood next to him.

“Yeah,” agreed the younger woman, cringing as she watched her mom join in. “Looks like it runs in our part of the family alright.”

 

*

 

Mathilde had been thrilled to see her Da-da laughing and having a good time. She had loved it when he and everyone else had complimented the cake; even if she had needed her Daddy’s help baking it, she was more than ready to take full credit. Time, however, dragged on and people focused less on praising her and more on boring, adult conversation. She grew restless and went from sitting in Grandma Nicole’s lap, to Grand-papa Marc’s, to Pauline’s, to Elizabeth’s, all the way back to Daddy’s, testing whoever had better time for her. (Da-da certainly was too busy with people congratulating him and feeling his tummy. Mathilde struggled to mask her jealousy.)

“Daddy? Can I have some more cake?”

“Not right now, baby, you’ve already had two pieces. If there’s any left, you can have some later.”

Armie kissed her head absent-mindedly while he continued his talk with Nick and Elizabeth, however, Mathilde wasn’t satisfied with his answer.

“But, Daddy – what if there won’t be any left?”

“Mathilde, you’ll get a tummy ache if you eat any more.”

“But that’s not fair. It’s my cake. I made it.”

Armie emitted a small sigh as he eyed her seriously.

“Listen to what I’m telling you, Mathilde. You can have some later.”

She was already pouting indignantly. If it hadn’t been for Nick taking pity on her and offering her a couple of strawberries off his plate, she definitely would have kept harassing her Daddy until he caved. This, however, was all forgotten by the time she realised Da-da had been given his first present to open. She removed herself from Armie’s knee and ran to Timmy’s side.

“Da-da, I can help you unwap!”

She knew that there wouldn’t be any presents for her, however, she still wanted to take part. She attempted to climb into her Da-da’s lap, but the there wasn’t enough space, so she took her stand in front of him and began to pull at the bow in order to offer her help.

“Merci beaucoup, bébé, j'apprécie ton aide,” cooed Timmy who seemed to pick up more of his French whenever Marc was around.

“Elle est si forte,” uttered Marc with pride, admiring his grand-daughter’s strength as she tore at the wrapping paper. Mathilde kept tearing at the packaging until its contents were revealed. It turned out to be a green, baby-sized football t-shirt with matching shorts and socks, which she wasn’t impressed with. She had hoped that Baby Brother would receive some cool toys instead that she could borrow.

Da-da, on the other hand, seemed delighted.

“I figured he’s going to be a Saint-Etienne supporter just like his Da-da,” smiled Marc as he placed his hand on Timmy’s stomach.

‘His Da-da?’ No, Mathilde decided, Timmy was her Da-da. Silly Grand-papa.

“Oh wow – Marc, this looks fantastic!” Gushed Armie who joined Timmy and his father-in-law in order to admire the present. “What do you think, love? Is our boy going to be a footballer?”

“Could very well be,” smiled Timmy, wrapping his arms around his dad. “Merci, Papa. C’est trop cool.”

“Next pwesent!” Interrupted Mathilde impatiently, hoping there wouldn’t be any more boring baby outfits.

“Let your Da-da open the next one by himself, sweetheart,” suggested Nicole who handed her granddaughter something wrapped in pink paper. “I had a feeling you would feel left out, so I got you something. Hope you like it.”

The little girl gasped, eyes wide open and her jaw dropping with excitement.

“I got a pwesent! My wery own pwesent!”

“What do you say to your Grandma Nicole, Mathilde?” Smiled Armie who urged her to be polite.

“Fank you!”

She was tearing the wrapping paper aside, vaguely aware of her Grandma taking pictures in order to catch her reaction, however, when Mathilde pulled out a shirt from the packaging, her face fell visibly. Really? Her only present was a shirt? Grandma Nicole knew how much she adored teddy bears and colourful toys. Clothes, on the other hand, she detested.

Mathilde let go of her present and let it fall to the floor.

“Mathilde!” Uttered Armie with blame. “Pick it up. You didn’t even look at your new shirt.”

“Look, darling,” offered Nicole, picking up the shirt for her. “It says ‘big sister’ on the chest. Isn’t it cute? That’s what we are going to be calling you soon.”

Mathilde frowned even harder.

“It’s perfect, Mom,” laughed Timmy behind them. “She’s not a big fan of soft presents, but I’m sure she’ll love it when she starts wearing it.”

Mathilde turned around and glared at her Da-da. Easy for him to say when he had just unwrapped a much cooler present for Baby Brother; a little plastic phone playing songs when you dialed a number, and a toy giraffe with big, brown eyes and curly eyelashes. Mathilde was aching with jealousy. This wasn’t fair. He wasn’t even born yet and Baby Brother was already getting all the good stuff.

Things didn’t improve when Mathilde insisted they should play a party game to help Timmy choose a name for Baby Brother. She was eager to recreate the story that she had been told from her own baby shower, however, Armie had taken her aside and told her that throwing darts and popping balloons indoors would be a bad idea. Instead, they would simply fill a plastic bowl with little name tags and ask Timmy to wear a blindfold as he picked one. Simple, but safe – just the way Armie liked it.

“And then the baby will kick, wight?” Enquired Mathilde while Armie wrote down all the names from his and Timmy’s list.

“What do you mean, love?”

“The baby will kick when it’s the wight name. Just like I did. Wight?”

Armie just patted her little head affectionately.

“Well, let’s hope he has your sense of timing.”

Timmy had been relieved not to throw any darts this time around; with his daughter clinging to him, he shuddered to think what could happen. Instead, he was sat on a pillow on the floor with the entire party surrounding him in a circle. The blindfold seemed unnecessary, but Mathilde had had a lot of fun tightening it at the back of his head.

“Okay, Da-da, you can pick a name,” advised his baby girl when everyone had settled on the floor, paying full attention. “I will check if Baby Bwother is kicking or not.”

Her little hands rested on Timmy’s belly stubbornly.

“Oh, I see how it is. Daddy’s told you the story of how you got your name, hasn’t he?” Timmy smoothed his hand through Mathilde’s hair, after which he turned to Armie. “He hasn’t kicked all day,” he whispered, lifting up his blind to stare at his husband. “This is not going to work.”

“I know, I’m sorry, baby,” whispered Armie back, shrugging helplessly. “Is it possible to fake a kick?”

Timmy refused to dignify that with an answer. Mathilde pulled at his arm.

“Come on, Da-da. You have to cover your eyes.”

The party game was a failure. Timmy kept picking one name from the bowl after another, and as they were read out loud, Baby Brother consistently refused to give them a sign. Mathilde had pressed her hands even harder against her Da-da’s belly just to make sure that she was able to feel the baby’s movements, however, he remained perfectly still. In the end, Timmy had winced and eased her hands off him.

“Look, sweetie, I think your brother is resting right now. Maybe we should try again later,” suggested the brunette softly.

“No,” moaned Mathilde persistently. “There are still names left. We need to twy them all.”

And so, the game continued unsuccessfully. Armie began to read the names out loud on behalf of Timmy who couldn’t be bothered to constantly remove the blindfold. They discussed the names that they particularly favoured, from Sébastien, to Forest, to Marcus – in dedication to Marc. However, Mathilde reminded them that the choice had to be communicated through Baby Brother’s kicking.

“Phillip,” read Armie, picking the last name tag remaining.

“Philippe,” Timmy corrected him, smiling. “Like, Phi-leep. That’s how you say it.”

“Oh yeah. I like this one,” smirked the blonde, testing the pronunciation. “It’s definitely one of my favourites.”

“Mine, too,” announced Mathilde. She had once watched a French cartoon with a dog named Philippe and he had been the cutest thing she’d ever seen. “I really hope this name is the wight one!”

Her hands returned to Da-da’s baby bump, but there was nothing. No reaction whatsoever.

“Wake up, Baby Bwother,” she called, rubbing Timmy’s stomach gently. “Pwease kick if you like the name Philippe.”

“Well, I like it,” offered Timmy encouragingly. “Maybe we don’t need him to kick if we can decide amongst ourselves.”

“No, Da-da,” whimpered the girl as she pressed her ear to his navel, listening closely. “That’s not how the game works. He’s wuining the game. He didn’t kick for any of the names.”

“Honey, your baby brother isn’t trying to ruin anything,” spoke Nicole in an effort to cheer her up. “Your Da-da is right, he is probably just taking a nap. We’ll try again later.”

“No,” pouted Mathilde like a little nuisance, “we have to wait for him to kick. It’s part of the wules.”

She didn’t get it her way. Soon enough, Timmy, with Armie’s help, had to get up from the floor as he was no longer comfortable. After that, everyone else began to shift and talk between themselves. The game was over and they hadn’t decided on a name. It didn’t matter how many times Mathilde asked everyone to sit back down; no one listened to her.

“Sweetheart, what’s wrong?” Asked Pauline as she came over to check up on her. Her niece had turned away from the party and was looking like she was on the verge of tears.

“W-we didn’t find a name,” sobbed the broken-hearted girl, wiping at her eyes as the tears fell. “The game is wuined.”

“No it’s not,” Pauline assured her, “we’re just pausing it for now. Come here, love. Can I get you a soda?”

“Da-da doesn’t even care that I’m cwying,” whined her baby niece as she looked across the room and saw Timmy laughing and talking with Stéphane, Ansel and Will. “Everything is about Baby Bwother now. I’m not important to him anymore.”

“Mathilde, that’s not true. He is just enjoying his party. The party that you gave him to make him happy, remember.” Pauline tried to wrap her arms around her, but Mathilde made it clear that it wasn’t her comfort that she wanted.

“The party is wuined because of stupid Baby Bwother!”

Before Pauline could intervene, the little girl turned her back on her and ran away, heading straight for the stairs.

“What happened? Is she okay?”

Armie appeared, his eyes filling with concern as he watched his daughter running up the stairs, crying.

“No, don’t,” protested Pauline when he motioned to follow her. “Let me talk to her.”

 

*

 

She found her hiding in Timmy and Armie’s bedroom. When Pauline walked in the door, careful not to invade her personal space, Mathilde raised her head from the pillow, hoping to see her Da-da. She seemed more than annoyed to realise that Auntie Pauline had come alone.

“Tilly? Can I sit down for a moment?”

“Does Da-da still not know that I’m cwying?” Sounded the muffled response.

“I haven’t told him yet,” confessed Pauline, settling down on the edge of the bed. “I thought you and I could have a girls talk, just the two of us.”

“A girls talk?”

Mathilde looked up again, revealing her tear-streaked, reddened cheeks.

“Yeah,” smiled her Auntie as she wiped at her wet face. “You see – I know what you’re going through, darling.”

“You do?”

“Yeah. I was the oldest sibling, too. Before your Da-da was born, it was just me and your Grandma and Grand-papa. I didn’t want a younger brother, not at first. I just wanted my parents to myself.”

“You didn’t want Da-da to be born?”

“Well… I didn’t want to share the attention with him. When Timmy – I mean, when your Da-da was born, he was all people would talk about. People thought he was the cutest baby boy there ever was. And he was. Don’t get me wrong. I just felt so jealous. I hated how adorable he was.”

“Adowable?”

“Yeah, adorable. I mean, he was just as beautiful as you are, Chamallow,” chuckled Pauline, teasing her niece as she poked her sides until Mathilde cracked and gave her a little laugh. “See – there it is. You have your Da-da’s smile.”

Mathilde grinned again, until she remembered that she was supposed to be hurt. Offended.

“It doesn’t matter. Daddy and Da-da will pwobably love Baby Bwother more than they love me,” she sniffled, relapsing back into self-pity.

“Honey, no. They are going to love you both the same. Just like my parents love me and your Da-da the same. And guess what-“

“What?”

“Even though I didn’t like it when he was born, I quickly realised how sweet my little brother was. And how much I love him. And how the world would be a lot more boring without him. You are going to love your baby brother, too. And he is going to love you more than anything because you are his big sister and his hero.”

“His hewo?”

“Yes, that’s right. You are going to teach him so many things. You’ll be such a great sister. I know it.”

Mathilde seemed slightly happier, but when another knock sounded at the door and Timmy appeared, she went straight back to whimpering in order to get his attention.

“Da-da!”

“What’s wrong, sweetie? Daddy told me you ran upst-“

Before he could even finish his sentence, Mathilde ran to him.

“Da-da! Why didn’t you come find me? I was cwying!”

Timmy’s face contorted with guilt. Pauline was rather amused to see how easily her niece manipulated him.

“I’m sorry, baby, you know it takes Da-da forever to walk up the stairs now that my belly is so big. Why are you crying?”

“Because no one bought me any nice pwesents, only Baby Bwother had nice things!”

“Mathilde…”

“And then Daddy wouldn’t let me have cake! And then the game was wuined because Baby Bwother bwoke the wules. I wanted him to kick so he could pick the name I like, but he didn’t. Now he’s not going to be named Philippe. It was my favouwite name…”

She sobbed dramatically and she didn’t give up until she had dragged Timmy back to the bed and crawled into his lap. Her head found his shoulder naturally. She clung to him, all needy, her small fingers clutching at his shirt, attaching herself to him further.

“Sweetie, listen to me,” said Timmy, calming her down. “It was such a nice shower you gave me. It’s been such a lovely day. Why don’t you dry your eyes and then we can go back downstairs together? Your Grandma and Grand-papa would like to spend some more time with you.”

“No!” Blubbered Mathilde. “I’m sick of the stupid party. I thought it would be really fun, but it wasn’t…”

“Don’t say that,” Timmy uttered, giving Pauline a helpless look. “I’ve really enjoyed it. And it’s not too late for Baby Brother to choose a name. Maybe he just needed a bit more time to think.”

Mathilde refused to listen to reason and only calmed down after falling asleep in Timmy’s arms, drooling all over his shirt.

“She must have been overly excited,” whispered the brunette, trying not to wake her up. “She gets cranky when she’s tired.”

“Maybe a nap is not a bad idea,” agreed Pauline who helped Timmy put her down on the bed. “You know, you didn’t have to stay in here with her. You’re missing your shower.”

“It’s okay,” smiled the young man, pulling the duvet over his daughter’s shoulders. “I needed a little break myself. My back is absolutely killing me.”

“You do realise that she had stopped crying before you came, right? She only started bawling again because she saw you and wanted your attention.”

Timmy frowned at that.

“Do you think I’m too much of a mother hen?”

“She adores you and Armie. That’s not a bad thing,” responded Pauline truthfully. “However, she might struggle when the baby is born and you guys have your hands full. She needs to get used to the fact that she can’t have you all to herself anymore.”

“But I – I still want to be there for her. I don’t want her to feel less important.”

“Trust me, you will always be there for her. You can’t help it,” grinned his sister, poking him with her elbow. “I remember when you were still bedridden and recovering from the birth.”

“Pauline, don’t…”

“No, I’m serious. Whenever she cried at night, you were the first to jump to your feet, even when Armie had to force you to lie back down. You could have ripped open your stitches and bled to death, but for some reason, Mathilde’s crying always seemed like a bigger matter to you.”

Timmy tried to force a smile, though her words tugged cruelly at his heart. He remembered how crippled he’d felt after the birth. He prayed that Baby Brother would be brought into the world a lot safer. He didn’t wish for Mathilde to ever see him that way again, even if she had no recollection of how weak, how incapacitated her Da-da had been the first few weeks of her life. He had refused his painkillers because he had worried that he wouldn’t be allowed to nurse her, however, looking back, he wasn’t sure that he would survive making the same choice again.

“Tim? You okay?”

“Sorry, I’m feeling a bit hot.” The brunette rubbed at his face, glancing down at his sleeping daughter one more time. “I could do with some water. Let’s go back to the party.”

Pauline wrapped her arm around his shoulders and helped him out of the bed.

 

*

 

Mathilde woke up in time to see the party come to an end. She had politely said goodbye to all the guests and even taken a few selfies with Saoirse who insisted that they looked like sisters with their blonde hair and matching, flowery dresses. She had felt sad to see her Grandma and Grand-papa leave, though she was happy to learn that her Auntie was staying behind to help with the tidying up. Pauline and Timmy did the dishes in the kitchen together while Armie cleaned up the living room. Mathilde had promised to take down the balloons and ribbons, however, when no one was looking, she found Baby Brother’s new toy giraffe which had been left unguarded with all the other presents. She picked up the giraffe and began to cuddle it, forgetting all about her chores.

“Daddy, look! I fink the giraffe is a girl. She’s really cute. Can I call her Jennifer?”

Mathilde appeared next to Armie who was down on all fours, cleaning the stained carpet. He had caught one of Timmy’s friends spilling their drink earlier, but hadn’t wanted to say anything at the time.

“That’s nice, honey, I’m sure Baby Brother won’t mind you naming her,” he said smilingly, though when his daughter began to jump his back, using him as a climbing wall, he turned around and caught her in his arms. “Daddy is busy cleaning this mess right now. You and Jennifer should go help Da-da and Auntie Pauline in the kitchen.”

Mathilde took his suggestion, though rather than offering her help, she began to run in between her Da-da and Auntie’s legs, laughing as she kept them distracted. With the toy giraffe clutched in her hands, she went behind Pauline’s back, smacked her bum and ducked before her Auntie could turn around and face her. She escaped and ran to Timmy next, using the toy the smack him on the bum, too.

“Mathilde! That’s not very nice.”

“It wasn’t me, Da-da, it was Jennifer!”

“Who’s Jennifer?”

“She’s a giraffe! Daddy said I could name her.”

Before Timmy could utter another word, he felt a kick to his lower ribs so strong that he had to grasp the edge of the kitchen counter.

“You okay?” Pauline put down the plate she’d been drying and watched her brother closely. “Tim?”

The brunette nodded slowly as he steadied himself.

“I’m fine,” he muttered, turning himself around slowly. “I think Baby Brother has woken up.”

He felt the kicking intensifying. It seemed obvious what he had to do.

“Mathilde, sweetie – come here for a second,” he offered, waiving his daughter over. “Do you remember how Baby Brother needed a little more time to consider his name?”

“Uh-huh,” nodded the little girl curiously.

“I think it’s time you ask him again. You said your favourite name was Philippe, right?”

“Yes.”

“Well, go ahead. Ask your brother if he wants to be a Philippe.”

Mathilde dropped Jennifer with excitement and pressed her little fingers against her Da-da’s belly.

“Baby Bwother, do you want to be named Phil-“

The baby kicked before she could even finish. Mathilde jerked with surprise at first. She let go of the belly and looked slightly weirded out. Then she started cheering.

“He chose my name!” She cried, jumping up and down. “He chose my favouwite name!”

“Well done, Tilly,” cooed Pauline, clapping her hands. “You helped him decide a name.”

“You’re such a sweet girl helping your brother,” beamed Timmy as he fussed over her. “Go get your Daddy, will you? Let’s get him in here so you can tell him the big news.”

“Yaay!” Mathilde ran off, shouting from the top of her lungs: “Daddy! DADDY! I just gave Baby Bwother his name-“

Timmy let out a small giggle, but was cut off when another kick caused him to lose his breath.

Pauline didn’t hear him gasping.

“You do realise that your children are going to be called Tilly and Philly, don’t you?” When there was no immediate response, she turned to her brother and caught him wincing in pain. “Timmy? What’s happening?”

The kicking had increased yet again and felt almost frantic. Something was upsetting the baby who wouldn’t stop aiming for Timmy’s ribs.

“It – hurts,” wheezed the brunette, doubling over as he wrapped his arms around his bump protectively. “H-he won’t stop kicking. I think s-something’s wrong.”

“Oh my god! Are you serious?“

“Pauline, I – I can’t breathe…”

Pauline started shouting for Armie, however, by the time the bigger man responded to her calling, Timmy was already limp on the floor. Pauline had failed to catch him as he had collapsed so suddenly, she hadn’t had time to react.

“Pauline! What happened?”

Armie’s eyes widened in terror as he walked in on his sister-in-law kneeling next to Timmy’s unmoving body. Though he ran to his side, he realised that he had come too late when he spotted the blood stains on the floor from where his younger lover had hit his head. Armie took Timmy into his arms and cradled him. Before he could ask Pauline to call their doctor, he shuddered at the sound of loud, panicked screaming. No one had managed to stop Mathilde from walking in the door to see her Da-da on the floor, all lifeless and pale with his beautiful curls darkened by blood.

Chapter Text

Timmy briefly regains consciousness inside the ambulance. As he wakes to the sound of sirens, he panics and begins to writhe before he is pinned down by a much larger paramedic who seizes him by his shoulders and orders him to keep still. Bewildered and scared, Timmy misreads the situation and starts to struggle even harder.

‘Get off me, I’m pregnant,’ he nearly shouts, until suddenly, Armie’s face appears next to the stranger, hovering above him protectively.

“Armie…”

“Timmy – hey, baby, I’m here. I’m right here. How are you feeling?”

That familiar large hand reaches down to cup his cheek and Timmy is so grateful to see his husband, he nearly breaks down crying. The paramedic, however, is still holding him and it’s a touch that’s unknown and frightening to the brunette who doesn’t understand why he’s being told not to move.

“Armie – what’s hap-“ The words get caught in his throat and his breathing hitches. He gets himself worked up even worse, and his panics shows through the quick rising of his chest.

“Shh, take it easy, love. Deep breaths, do you hear me? I really need you to calm down.”

Before Timmy is able to brace himself, a bright light is flashed into his eyes as the paramedic closes in on him.

“Alright, I need you to focus, son. Can you follow the light for me? Keep your eyes on the light. Got it?”

But Timmy doesn’t have time to focus on the stupid light. He’s blinded and terrified since he can no longer see Armie.

“The baby,” he wheezes, clenching his eyes shut as he tries to escape the pain boring into his skull. “Is the baby okay?”

The paramedic seems annoyed at his lack of response, however, Armie knows what he needs to hear.

“He’s fine – Philippe is doing just fine.” Armie’s fingers nuzzle against Timmy’s cold cheek soothingly. “Our boy is strong, just like you.”

“Philippe,” repeats Timmy faintly. “Mathilde told you?”

“Yeah, she told me,” grins the blonde man who’s relieved to find that the accident has had no impact on the younger man’s memory.

“What do you think?” Enquires Timmy, seemingly nervous.

“It’s a great name. I love it. However, let’s talk about that later. Right now we need to make sure you’re okay-”

“Where’s – where’s Mathilde? Is she here?” Timmy winces audibly, keeping his eyes closed as he tries to ignore his dizziness.

“They only allowed one of us in the ambulance so Pauline is taking her in a taxi. They’ll be on their way soon, I promise.”

“He’s stopped kicking. He was going crazy, but now I – I can’t feel him anymore. Is that normal?”

“Listen, son, you need to be looked over by your doctor. But right now, I need you to stay focused,” reprimands the paramedic who appears to push Armie out of the way in order to get Timmy’s attention. “Follow the light for me, please? And repeat your full name back to me slowly.”

Timmy gasps as he is blinded yet again, only this time, the pain is so much worse. It triggers another dizzy spell and the young man feels everything dancing and blurring before his eyes.

“Armie,” he pleads fretfully. “Tell him to stop. I can’t-“

“Son, look at me. I need you to keep your eyes open, do you understand? You have to stay awake. You could have a serious concussion…”

The brunette blinks lightheadedly, feeling his skull throbbing with pain.

“Timmy, please,” Armie joins in, however, Timmy can no longer track him down. “Try to keep your eyes open. It’s important that you don’t fall asleep.”

“Make sure – nothing happens to Philippe…” Timmy’s voice breaks and he can feel himself drifting away. He feels feather-light. He feels like he’s floating, slowly lulled back to sleep.

“Keep talking to him,” he hears from afar, though the words are slowly dying out. “Keep him responsive if you can.”

“Timmy. Timothée – can you hear me? Stay with me…”

The eyes roll back in the younger man’s head. He hates to let Armie down and yet, he’s blissfully peaceful as he disobeys.

 

*

 

Next time he awoke was in a large hospital bed, with Armie still loyally by his side. It had taken him a world of effort to open his eyes without moaning loudly at the brightness of the room, though as soon as he laid eyes on the older man by his bedside, he steadied his breath and whispered:

“H-hey…”

Armie jumped up from his chair immediately and inched closer, leaning in to stare down at the younger man.

“Timmy – fuck, you scared me. I mean, I was so worried! How are you feeling?”

“I – I don’t know…”

The brunette’s mouth was so dry, he could barely speak. When Armie brought his face closer to his, Timmy found himself staring into his eyes helplessly, wanting to cling to his husband for security, though he felt too tired to move.

“What is it, baby? Are you in pain?” Armie noticed Timmy grimacing and brushed the hair away from his forehead carefully. “Let me call for a nurse-“

“W-wait – no! Don’t leave…” Timmy quickly regained his voice as Armie pulled away from him. “Tell me…”

“Tell you what? Love, what is it?” Armie spotted the tears forming in the brunette’s eyes, so he sat down beside him and pulled him into his arms gently. “Hey, come here. Tell me what’s wrong.”

“I… I…” Timmy sniffled into Armie’s shoulder, trying to keep from sobbing as he spoke. “It’s Philippe. I – I put him in danger…”

At that, he burst into tears and hid his face, not wanting Armie to look at him. He felt both mortified and angry with himself. At the thought that perhaps Armie, too, was disgusted with his carelessness as a parent, Timmy wanted nothing more than to pull the covers over his face and live in eternal shame.

Armie sensed his shying away and cupped Timmy’s chin, tilting his head back gently in order to make him look at him.

“Love, what are you on about? You did not put him in danger. None of this was your fault-“

“But I – I could have lost him,” whimpered Timmy, weeping continuously into Armie’s shoulder, wetting his shirt. “I could have miscarried…”

“But you didn’t,” Armie assured him, wishing he could shake the smaller man by his shoulders and talk some sense into him, if only just to make Timmy realise that no one was blaming him for the incident. “Baby, I’m telling you, Philippe is doing great. He’s fine – he wasn’t harmed in any way. You landed on your back.”

“But if I hadn’t,” whined Timmy dramatically before Armie cut him off again.

“But you did. You did land on your back. You took the hit for him, don’t you see? In fact, you took quite a serious hit. You smacked your head against the floor quite hard. In the ambulance – I – I was terrified when they couldn’t wake you up. They thought you had fractured your skull. I was losing my mind with concern.”

Armie paused at the lack of response. He caught Timmy pressing a hand to his bump silently, prodding his belly thoroughly as if testing for any aches or signs of injury.

“Baby, did you hear me? I said you hit your head. Nothing happened to him.”

“I want to feel him moving,” insisted the brunette, sniffling miserably. “I want to make sure he’s okay…”

“And what about yourself?” Armie placed his hand on top of Timmy’s, urging him to keep still. “Are you not in pain? Do you have a headache?”

“I can deal with the headache,” muttered the other, like it didn’t matter to him. “I just want to feel him. He was kicking so hard when I passed out. I know it sounds stupid, but – I think he was scared.”

“Scared?”

“Yeah. Like – he wouldn’t calm down. He wouldn’t stop kicking. Are you sure he’s okay?”

“They examined you carefully when you were brought in, love. He’s doing great. Please believe me when I say you don’t need to worry about him.”

“But how can I not?” Timmy’s voice sounded strained with exhaustion. “If anything happened to him, it would be my fault. I could never live with myself if he was harmed because of my clumsiness. I – I should have never fallen over…”

“Timmy, for heaven’s sake, you weren’t being clumsy. You couldn’t help it. You fell ill, and we’re still waiting to hear back from Dr Shelton. Don’t you understand? I’m not worried about our little boy, I’m worried about you. We still don’t know why you passed out in the first place. Did you feel dizzy?”

“I – I don’t really remember…”

“I’m getting the nurses to page Dr Shelton. She needs to speak to you now that you’re awake.”

“But, wait… Armie…”

“What? Timmy, I need to make sure that you’re okay. I don’t want you to black out on me again.”

“Where’s Mathilde? Is she okay?”

Armie released a small sigh as he cupped the younger man’s face gingerly and looked into those terrified, emerald eyes. Timmy was worrying about everyone else but himself.

“Pauline is with her in the waiting room. She was upset when she couldn’t see you, but she’ll survive. At the moment, it’s more important that we take proper care of you first.”

“But I’m fi-“

“In case you hadn’t noticed, love, your head is covered in bandages. You have a serious concussion, so no – you’re not fine.”

Timmy grew slightly sulky when the blonde man left his bedside to notify the nursing staff that he was awake. He didn’t want to be on his own even for a second. He was convinced that the doctors had yet to give him a proper scan in order to monitor his baby boy’s heartbeats and make sure he was healthy. Without seeing the evidence for himself, he didn’t take anyone’s word for it. He still couldn’t feel any movements from beneath his tender ribs.

Armie appeared with Dr Shelton a few minutes later, though it had felt like a lifetime to Timmy who hadn’t managed to stop his crying. He didn’t care about the bandages around his head or the dried blood still caked in his hair. He didn’t care if he was groggy, or bruised from his landing on the kitchen floor. It didn’t matter to him if he was slightly banged up. It didn’t matter to him if he could have hurt his head much worse. He just wanted to be there for his children. He wanted to hold Mathilde in his arms while watching Philippe’s little shadow on the ultrasound screen, just to see that he was resting safely inside his belly.

Dr Shelton began to look him over for the second time while she asked him all the questions she hadn’t had been able when they brought him in. She checked if he felt dizzy, or nauseous. She tested his memory, his eyes and his reflexes, wanting to make sure that the young man didn’t feel confused or disorientated. The whole time, Timmy tried to steer the questions away from himself, wanting the doctor to focus on the baby instead.

“He has never kicked that hard before. It felt like he was panicking.” When Armie gave him a look, Timmy rolled his eyes at him. “I’m serious. I’m surprised he didn’t break my rib. He was going crazy…”

“And you say the baby was kicking when you started to feel faint?”

“Yes, but – I didn’t feel faint because of his kicking. I mean, it hurt, but I’m so used to it now. I – I remember not being able to breathe very well.”

“Did you have any chest pains?” Enquired the doctor, but Timmy shook his head.

“No. I just – I just lost my breath. I don’t know how to describe it.”

“Were you alone at the time?”

“No, I was with my sister.”

Dr Shelton turned around to look at Armie.

“Can we get her in here, please? I would like to hear what she remembers.”

Pauline soon walked in the door, holding Mathilde’s hand, though the little girl let go when she saw her Da-da in the bed. She didn’t run to him like she normally would. Rather, she burst into tears, looking both frightened and worried to see him bandaged and bedbound.

“Da-da,” she wept, freezing on the spot, intimidated by the female doctor standing tall in front of her. She did not want to interact with any more doctors or nurses. Hospitals terrified her out of her mind, and the hours that she and Auntie Pauline had spent waiting for news in that white, foreign-smelling hallway had left her unnerved and distressed. She just wanted to go home and she wanted to bring both her daddies with her.

“No, no, darling, everything is fine. Don’t cry,” cooed Timmy gently when she wailed with fear. “Everything is okay, I promise.” When he couldn’t stand to see her looking all lost and bewildered, he gestured for Armie to pick her up and place her in the bed.

“Are you sure?” Hesitated the blonde, picking up his daughter regardless. Mathilde stretched out her arms and reached for Timmy stubbornly, making it very clear where she wanted to go.

“Come here, my love,” smiled the brunette, accepting the girl into his arms as Armie brought her to him. “This is way past your bedtime. You must be so tired. You are so sweet to stay up and make sure that your baby brother and I are okay.”

Timmy cuddled her and allowed her to sob against his chest, not unlike Armie had done with him. Pauline, too, stepped closer and approached his bed as she wanted to see how he was doing.

“Bro, you scared the shit out of me,” she whispered, sounding like she was still in shock. “Sorry, that just came out of my mouth. Cover Tilly’s ears.”

“It’s alright,” insisted Timmy, kissing Mathilde’s forehead while he stroked her hair comfortingly. “This is not the first time she hears a swearword. How are you doing?”

“How am I doing?” Pauline snorted. “I’m more worried about you, you tosser. How are you feeling? Does your head hurt?”

“I’m okay, honestly,” responded the brunette, knowing fully well what both his sister and Mathilde needed to hear. “I’m not even sure how it all happened. I was feeling fine – then, out of nowhere, the baby – I mean, Philippe – started to grow restless. I could feel him moving about inside my stomach. And for some reason, I felt all wobbly.”

“Stupid Philippe,” sniveled Mathilde, her voice muffled against Timmy’s shirt. “This is all his fault…”

Before Timmy could argue with her, Pauline cleared her voice and remarked:

“Well – correct me if I’m wrong, but you didn’t seem completely fine to me. You know, prior to the accident.”

Timmy knitted his brows, pretending not to know what she was talking about.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“Timmy, you – you kept complaining that you were exhausted. That your back was killing you. That you were feeling hot. Basically, you seemed uncomfortable.”

Pauline was eyeing him stubbornly, however, the brunette occupied himself cradling his baby girl, acting like he had more important things on his mind than his own well-being.

“Timothée,” intervened Armie with worry. “Why wouldn’t you tell me if you were feeling rough?”

At that, the younger man scowled slightly.

“I’m more belly than person, Armie – this entire pregnancy has been rough. If I made a big deal out of every time I felt nauseous, or sore, or tired, I would have spent the past seven months chewing everyone’s ear off-“

“But baby, this is important. You need to look after yourself,” spoke Armie pleadingly, nearing the bed as he tried to make eye-contact with him. “You need to tell me when it’s all getting too much for you. You need to tell me when you need a break.”

“Armie, please – I’m sick of feeling fragile. You’re making me feel like I have special needs or something…”

It didn’t take much for those green eyes to fill with anxiety and strain. Pauline observed her brother closely and detected that deep down, something had left Timmy hopelessly afraid to feel like a failure.

“Timmy, look – we were talking about Tilly’s birth when you started to act flustered. Clearly, the topic made you tense up. Was I making you feel nervous by talking about it?”

Pauline and Armie both kept giving him those concerned, saddened stares, kept stealing glances from each other as if silently agreeing between themselves what seemed to be the problem. But Timmy didn’t want there to be a problem. He didn’t want to be helped. He didn’t want to feel like he was at fault.

Of course Dr Shelton, too, joined the debate.

“Have you been feeling particularly anxious lately? Do you feel scared at the prospect of giving birth again?”

The questions kept coming. In the end, Dr Shelton put his reason for fainting down to stress and worse yet, high blood pressure. Even if Timmy wouldn’t like to admit it, he had panicked slightly when Pauline had brought up the memories of Mathilde’s birth. It had been the happiest day of his life and yet, he shuddered to think that, as he was getting closer to his due date with Philippe, he would have to survive the pain and the bleeding all over again.

He didn’t want to risk his life giving birth for a second time. He didn’t want complications. He didn’t want his baby boy’s safety to be compromised by his bodily weaknesses. He didn’t want Armie to be a single parent if, God forbid, something went wrong. He didn’t want Mathilde to grow up without her Da-da, slowly forgetting the sound of his voice and the warmth of his embrace.

He suddenly broke down crying just thinking about it. Armie was there by his side immediately, pulling him and Mathilde both into his embrace.

“Da-da – what’s wong?”

Timmy couldn’t even reply to his daughter’s question. He just buried his face into Armie’s shoulder and wept.

“It’s perfectly natural to feel overwhelmed, especially when you are approaching the labour so fast,” spoke Dr Shelton diplomatically. “However, we need to find a way for you to tackle your anxiety. We will also need to monitor your blood pressure. It’s dangerous for the baby, so we don’t want it to stay elevated.”

As a result, Timmy was put on bed rest for a full week. Not just to recover from his concussion, but for the sake of him slowing down and dealing with his reoccurring panic, and for the sake of lowering his blood pressure by avoiding stress, too. Dr Shelton had told him that, presumably, it was his anxiety that triggered Philippe’s kicking in the first place. His baby boy was able to feel every tension in his body and Timmy ached to think that the kicking had been a display of distress. He was supposed to house little Philippe safely in his belly. He was supposed to keep him protected. Instead, he had caused him alarm and made the little one panic even worse than himself.

“I’m so sorry, baby,” whispered Timmy when he was alone in his hospital bed that night. He had been told that he needed to stay overnight, though Armie and Mathilde were going to return in the morning to have him checked out. Now, the brunette had finally detected Philippe moving under his skin again and he let out a sigh of relief, grateful for this sign of life. He pressed both hands to his ribs, trying to track down the subtle shifting inside him. “I’m sorry I made you freak out. I didn’t mean to scare you. You are going to be just fine, my love. I’m not going to let anything happen to you. I promise.”

In return, he felt another kick from inside, delivered ever so softly against his palm. Finally, it appeared the two of them had calmed each other down.

 

*

 

“Da-da? Can I watch cartoons in your woom?”

Timmy blinked his eyes open and saw Mathilde standing in the doorway, watching him with a finger in her mouth and a guilty look on her face. He knew perfectly well that Armie had already told her not to disturb him, yet here she was. Pretending not to know any better.

“Sweetie, I’m not really supposed to have the TV on,” Timmy reminded her gently. “The light – it’s not good for my head right now.”

“Does your head still hurt?” Enquired his daughter softly, with a tinge of fear.

“It’s not so bad,” smiled the brunette, though he remained immobile and delicate. “But the doctor said that the only way for my head to get better is for me to rest as much as I can.”

He hated turning his little girl down. He hated not being there for her. However, as quickly as Mathilde pretended to accept defeat and leave him be, she soon enough returned to his room, trying her luck yet again.

“Da-da? Are you hungwy? I can make you a sandwich.”

Though he knew that she was only going to ask Armie to prepare it, Timmy smiled at the fluttering feeling in his chest. He was proud to see her acting so considerate and caring towards him.

“Thank you, baby, but I don’t think I can eat right now. I need to go back to sleep.”

When he woke up from his nap some time later, it was to the sound of the bedroom door opening. He looked up to see Armie standing in the door, frowning with disapproval. Only then did Timmy discover Mathilde who had snuck her way back inside the room and nestled herself in between his ankles, hiding under the covers. She had put on the TV and muted it, afraid that the noise would wake him up.

“Mathilde,” scolded Armie. “I told you to stay out of the bedroom. Da-da needs his rest.”

“But I didn’t wake him up,” argued the blonde girl. To her credit, Timmy admitted she was right. He had had no idea that she was in the bed with him, however, now that the TV was on, the brightness of all the colours assaulted his eyes, making his entire head throb until he felt sick.

Armie saw him paling and decided to put his foot down.

“Alright, that’s it. Mathilde, turn the TV off right now. We need to have a serious talk about you giving Da-da some space.”

Pauline had decided to extend her stay since Timmy’s accident and in the end, she stepped up and offered to look after Mathilde while her brother recovered. It was getting clear to both her and Armie that, as long as Mathilde stayed in the house with him all day, she wasn’t going to allow him the peace and quiet that he needed, and evidently, Timmy was too soft with her to turn her away.

“I’m going to take her to the zoo tomorrow,” Pauline told Timmy and Armie that night while the three of them were gathered in the bedroom. Armie was sat by the bedside, carefully changing the bandages around Timmy’s head while the younger man ate from the bowl of soup that he had been served in bed. “She likes animals, doesn’t she? I’m sure we’ll make a fun day out of it.”

“Sounds pretty perfect to me. Pauline, you’re the man,” uttered Armie, expressing his gratitude keenly. He hated the idea of being the sort of parent who didn’t have time for his own daughter, however, he knew that he and Timmy desperately needed someone to keep her out of their hair, even just for a few hours. “We’ll pay for your tickets, of course. Mathilde is going to be so excited.”

“You have to make sure you visit the penguins. She loves the penguins,” remarked Timmy, after which his smile waned slightly. “I wish I could go. I hate missing out like this.”

“Bro, I’ll be dragging around a four-year-old with endless energy, who will most definitely be shouting for an ice cream the entire time since the weather forecast says it will be thirty degrees. I will be the one on bedrest after this,” joked Pauline as she sat down on the opposite side of the mattress. “Don’t worry. You’ll have plenty opportunity to take her to the zoo when you’re feeling better. Soon you’ll be taking both her and baby Philippe.”

Timmy grinned at that, grateful to have his sister in town for a while longer.

“You could ask Mum and Dad to come if you want,” he suggested, feeling slightly guilty as he knew that she would have her hands full.

“I better not. I haven’t told them what happened after the party and if they knew that I’m taking Mathilde to the zoo all by myself, they would be wondering why you’re not going.”

“Oh… Right.” Timmy hadn’t even thought about their parents, but he realised instantly that Pauline had done him a massive favour by not telling them about his trip to the hospital. “Thanks, by the way – for not saying anything, I mean. I would hate for them to worry.”

“Yeah, I know. I think Mum would be all over you if she knew what happened, and you don’t need that right now.”

The brunette couldn’t agree more.

 

*

 

When Pauline and Mathilde left for the zoo the next morning, Armie had thought that this would be the perfect opportunity for the younger man to catch up on his sleep. Timmy, however, was acting restless. It was too hot to stay under the covers. He had already spent so much time in bed, he immediately grew bored and fidgety, finding it almost impossible to keep still.

“Stop squirming around like that,” chided Armie who walked in, wearing only a towel around his waist. He had just come out of the shower and Timmy could smell the coconut shampoo, the steam, the warmth of his dripping wet skin. “You need to settle. Dr Shelton said moving about can make you dizzy, remember?”

“It’s the heat,” moaned Timmy, shifting and turning yet again, kicking the duvet aside. “I’m going out of my mind staying in this room.”

“Look, I can open the window if you want some fresh air, but I’m keeping the blinds shut. It’s really sunny out there and the sunlight is not good for y-“ Armie spun around to see the younger man pushing himself into a seated position. “Love, what are you doing? Lie back down. Come on.”

Timmy rolled his eyes at that, giving him a bratty look.

“No – I told you, I can’t stay like this. I’m tired of feeling like a – like a vegetable. Have you ever tried lying perfectly still for days at a time? Do you know how mind-numbingly boring it is? I can’t put the TV on. I can’t read a book. I can’t look at my phone. I can barely even put the radio on-“

“Baby, I know it sucks. Okay? I’m really sorry that these past few days have been so rough,” Armie moved over to the bed and leaned in to put his hand on the brunette’s bony shoulder. “However, you and I both know that you are not going to get better unless you follow Dr Shelton’s orders. And that means bed rest for at least another four days.”

Timmy remained seated, giving Armie a stubborn look.

“You know, I don’t think I’m as bad as Dr Shelton says. I’m not lying down right now and I feel fine.”

“Timmy…”

“What? Just for five fucking minutes, Armie.”

“Timmy,” repeated the bigger man, giving him one of his earnest, deep stares, letting him know that he was serious. “If you are not going to look after yourself, then I will…”

“What?” Snorted the boy, testing his husband deliberately. His eyes scanned over Armie’s naked chest and torso and he bit his lip, smirking. “You’re going to make me lie down? You’re going to force me?”

“You don’t think I’m serious?” Responded Armie, placing himself on his knees in the middle of the bed. “You think I’m going to cave, is that it? Lie – back – down.”

“Make me,” grinned the brunette, chuckling cheekily when the strong hand on his shoulder returned. “Go on. What are you waiting for? Make me.”

Suddenly, Armie was on top of him, flattening him back against the mattress, putting just enough weight on top of him to keep him from thrashing. Timmy didn’t hesitate before wrapping his arms around his neck, bringing Armie’s lips down to meet his own. He kissed him eagerly as he rubbed against him with need, and though Armie responded by letting his tongue brush against Timmy’s bottom lip, kissing him back with determination, the blonde man seized the smaller hand that started to tug at the towel around his waist.

“Don’t get too excited,” smiled Armie, breathing softly against Timmy’s lips as he held his wrist firmly. “This is not the definition of bed rest. You need to take it easy…”

“I don’t want to take it easy. I’m sick of taking it easy,” grunted the brunette, using his other hand to rip the towel off Armie’s naked hips. “It’s been a while since we’ve… You know. And the heat is doing things to me. And you’re here, looking like – well, you. And you smell so nice and clean… Armie, please. I want you.”

“Tim, we can’t. Even if I want to, it’s not safe for you at the moment. You banged your head really bad, we’re lucky they even allowed you to leave the hospital. I just want to look after you.”

“Then look after me. Stay. Make me feel better. Touch me.”

“I don’t want to get in the way of your recovery, baby.”

“Armie, I’m losing my mind here. This is the only thing that will make me feel better. I – I really need you right now.”

“You need peace and quiet. And this is not how you’re going to achieve it,” persisted the bigger man as he suddenly gripped both Timmy’s wrists and pinned his hands above his head. “Come on, love. Let’s be smart about this.”

“Do you not find me attractive anymore? Is it my belly? Or is it because my nipples have started to leak? I can cover them – Armie, please…”

“Hey, hey, hey – what are you on about? You are absolutely gorgeous. Do you know how hard it is for me to keep my hands off you?”

“Yeah right. I’m sure my milky tits are a right turn-on,” pouted the smaller man who seemed to grow instantly self-conscious. “Next thing you’re going to tell me is that my fat belly is sexy, too. I bet you can hardly get on top of me now that I’m so massive. It must feel like climbing a mountain.”

Timmy tried to turn away from him, however, Armie kept him pinned underneath him.

“Timothée – look at me. Is that truly what you think? Or are you trying to manipulate me?”

“Let go of me, Armie,” huffed the brunette, struggling against the grip on his hands. “Let me cover myself up… I – I should have known you wouldn’t want me. Not like this.”

Armie sighed.

That little brat.

“Fine. Let me show you how fucking hungry for you I am,” smirked the blonde as he dove back in, taking Timmy by surprise with a kiss that was even deeper, even needier than the first. Armie released his wrists in order to cup his cheeks and hold him close, however, Timmy responded by pushing against his shoulders, making a half-hearted attempt to throw him off. “What’s the matter? Do I need to convince you?”

“Mph!” Protested Timmy weakly when Armie’s tongue roamed inside his mouth again. “Sto – stop. Armie… I don’t need a pity fuck, do you hear me?”

“Pity fuck? Really? You call this pity?” Groaned the bigger man, holding his face captive as he kissed him hard and forcefully in between wheezy breaths. He silenced Timmy’s objections greedily, dominating his entire mouth with his own. He caught his lover’s bottom lip in between his teeth as if to taste him, take him all in. “If I wasn’t so worried about hurting you,” whispered Armie with a hint of torment, and perhaps, defeat, “if I wasn’t so worried about losing all self-control when I’m near you, I would – I would…”

When he couldn’t find the words to describe what he truly desired, he simply tilted the smaller man’s head to the side, controlling Timmy gently and easily with his fingers. He was, however, a lot less gentle when he sank his teeth into that protruding collarbone that he adored so much and started to ravish the young man’s neck fiercely. The first bite had Timmy gasping and yelping with pain. The second bite – aimed softly below his Adam’s apple – had him sedated as he suddenly gave up fighting and resisting. Timmy inhaled sharply when Armie’s teeth were replaced by tender lips as the bites turned into kisses – passionate, little gestures of worship that had Armie licking his skin with dedication and care. His warm mouth ghosted over his jaw, his chest before returning to his throat, tickling him with his hot breath as if his pecks and caresses didn’t have Timmy trembling already.

The brunette released a shaky breath and raised his head, staring at Armie with eyes that were brimming with vulnerability.

“Do you – do you promise that you still find me attractive? You’re not just saying it to make me feel better?”

When the blonde man caught him biting his lip, looking hopelessly innocent and anxious, he had to fight the urge to smother him in his embrace.

“Let me show you, darling,” Armie responded, feeling guilty to have caused Timmy to doubt him in the first place. “Let me show you just how much I’ve longed for you. All those nights I have found you fast asleep in Mathilde’s room after reading her a story – all those nights I’ve had to carry you to bed without having had you to myself for even a moment. You have no idea how much I’ve missed you,” rambled Armie amorously as he looked deeply into the boy’s eyes while he started to remove his t-shirt. “You have no idea how much I’ve missed kissing your neck,” he said, trailing a fresh series of kisses from Timmy’s ear all the way down to his shoulder, “your chest,” he added, moving his mouth further down, pausing in between his lover’s now exposed nipples, “your beautiful stomach…”

Timmy held his breath as Armie placed his palm on top of his belly protectively, bowing down to press a kiss to his navel.

“What… what else have you missed?” Uttered the younger man breathlessly, curling up his toes in anticipation.

At that, Armie smiled wickedly.

 

*

 

By the time Armie had him arching his back and clawing at the bedsheets, losing his breath as his body shook with bliss, Timmy knew he couldn’t contain himself any longer.

“H-hold on… Wait – I need…”

He forced himself to come down from his high before it was too late, before his body convulsed and collapsed from over-stimulation. He wasn’t ready for Armie to bring him to climax so soon. Stubborn as ever, Timmy gestured for the bigger man to pull back and allow him breathe.

“What?” Grinned Armie, releasing him from his mouth. “What do you need, love?”

Timmy suddenly jerked forward and gathered himself in Armie’s lap, eager as he kissed him and let his hands roam across that hard, muscular abdomen that was so easy to fall against with lust. He then let his forehead fall against the much wider chest, feeling clingy as a child as he listened to Armie’s quickened heartbeats.

“I want… you. All of you,” he pleaded, rejoicing when the blonde man wrapped his arms around him and pulled him closer. “I need you to fuck me.”

Armie cupped his jaw and made him look up. Exhaling through his nose, he locked his lips with Timmy’s, letting the kiss grow slow and languid.

“Don’t you think I’m desperate to fuck you?” He moaned finally, breaking apart from him again. “I just – I want you to be comfortable.”

“Screw comfortable,” whispered Timmy, acting like a tease as he somehow managed to bow down and suck the tip of Armie’s dick without letting his stomach get in the way. When he let him slide in further between his lips, he felt Armie growing bigger inside his mouth. “I want to ride you,” he added then, spitting the bigger man’s erection back out.

Armie felt like he couldn’t breathe.

“Baby – you’re supposed to rest.”

“I’m supposed to get better. This is how I get better.”

Reluctantly, Armie leaned back against the pillows and let Timmy straddle his thighs. He held the younger man’s bony hips carefully in between his large hands, worried that the steady-growing belly should make him lose his balance. Silently, he admired his lover’s body, the softness of his skin, his smooth, hairless chest and the perfect shape of his long, thin legs. Timmy had no idea just how beautiful he was. The smaller man winced and paced himself at first, struggling to take Armie’s full girth, feeling out of practice and yet, dedicated as ever, he began to grind in Armie’s lap, rocking himself back and forth, tireless like a Duracell rabbit.

“Fuck… I don’t know how you twist your hips like that,” groaned Armie, moving his hands back to squeeze that perky, little ass pumping his cock so expertly. “Feels so good…”

Timmy threw his head back with ecstasy, hissing and moaning deliciously as he took Armie’s length deeper and deeper. Armie pushed himself into an upright position, wanting to bring them face to face. Wrapping his arms around Timmy’s back, keeping him from falling off him, Armie felt himself thrusting further into the smaller body. Timmy’s face was relaxed and angelic, softened by his obvious pleasure. He looked impossibly young as he kept his eyes closed and his mouth slightly agape, parting those gorgeous red lips of his. Armie felt completely hypnotized as he leaned in and pulled him closer against his chest in order to steal another kiss, drowning out Timmy’s weak whimpers with his mouth.

Timmy tried to press his chest flush against Armie’s, but felt his swollen stomach getting in the way.

“This… used to be… easier,” panted the brunette, raking his fingernails down Armie’s back, “when I was… slim and flexible… and not pregnant. Do you remember… our honeymoon?”

“You’re still more elegant than anyone I know,” Armie praised him earnestly. “God, you’re stunning. I love watching you move.”

Timmy suddenly let his head fall against Armie’s shoulder, acting like he could barely keep his strength up.

“My – my head is spinning…”

“Shit. Do you feel dizzy?”

Armie didn’t wait to hear his answer. He immediately lifted his young lover off his lap and swapped their positions, guiding Timmy down on his back.

“We’re – we’re not finished,” complained the other faintly, motioning to get back on top. “Armie! Please don’t leave me hanging…”

“I’ll take care of you alright,” promised the blonde, reaching for the discarded t-shirt on the floor. “However, we’re doing it my way. This time, I’m keeping you right where I want you.”

With it being Armie’s turn to self-indulge, he put his skills into good use as he tied the brunette’s wrists to the headboard securely, making sure to strap him down for his own safety. He was happy to prevent Timmy from moving about and exerting himself any further, plus it just so happened that the smaller man looked god damn sexy bound and put in his place. And of course, Timmy knew just how to make his cock twitch all over again with his begging…

“Armie – I need you… Please. Pleasepleaseplease, let me feel you…”

“Tell me what you need, baby,” teased the bigger man as he moved on top of him, pinning him down even harder if possible. As much as he enjoyed having the boy grinding in his lap, he loved being in control. “Go on. Tell me.”

“Please,” rasped Timmy, his voice almost breaking. “Please fuck me. I need you to wreck me. Armie, please, I want you so b-“

The words caught in his throat as his legs were spread wide open by rough hands, allowing Armie to penetrate him hard and swift. As the large man drove into him with brutal force, pushing in until he was balls-deep, his body began to slap against the much slighter figure underneath him. He pounded him cruelly, creating bruises, marking him, making him take every inch until he had buried himself inside him fully, causing Timmy’s insides to throb and clench around him with pure bliss. Surrendering himself instantly, Timmy threw one leg over Armie’s shoulder and wrapped the other around those strong, ruthless hips fucking into his body ceaselessly.

This time, finally – without their daughter in the house – Timmy was able to cry and scream and swear to all the gods above that Armie’s size was splitting him in half.

“You’re so fucking huge! Oh my god – you’re going to kill me! Yes – Armie! Please – don’t stop…”

His orgasm had been mind-blowing and powerful and had ripped through Timmy’s small body so vigorously, it had almost left him tearful by the time Armie rolled off him and untied his wrists. Though he had spent the past half hour begging for it, he hadn’t even fully realised just how badly he had needed the release.

“Fucking hell,” he uttered with amazement, feeling limp as a ragdoll when Armie pulled him into his arms and held him tight, letting their sweaty limbs mingle and entwine under the covers. “I still act like a mouthy teenager when you fuck me, don’t I? I have a daughter. I shouldn’t be shouting such… explicit things.”

Armie laughed with amusement and re-fastened the bandages around the younger man’s head, secretly scolding himself for having been so rough with his other half.

“You’re almost eight months pregnant. I – I shouldn’t have come down on you like that. Jesus Christ, I don’t know my own strength. Your hips are covered in my fingerprints.”

Timmy looked up at him smilingly, wearing the bruises with pride.

“I’ve missed those. Been a while since you’ve left your marks on me,” he teased him simply.

“I – I didn’t hurt you, did I? Are you in pain?”

When Armie’s expression grew slightly concerned, the brunette pressed his lips to his naked shoulder and kissed his skin lovingly in order to reassure him.

“Baby, in case you haven’t noticed, this is the most comfortable I have felt in a very long time.”

 

*

 

When Pauline and Mathilde returned to the house late in the afternoon, Armie was upstairs changing the sweat-soaked bedsheets while Timmy, for a change, was found fast asleep on the sofa. The lights and the TV were left switched off for him, so when Pauline entered the living room carrying Mathilde on her arm, she was careful not to make any noise to wake him up.

“Why is Da-da downstairs?” Pondered Mathilde, stifling a small yawn. She had spent so much time in the sun, tracking down all her favourite animals that she felt utterly fatigued and wanted nothing more than to snuggle up next to him in the cushions and join him for a sleep. “Why did he leave his bed?”

“I don’t know, darling,” mused Pauline, putting her bags down containing some leftover sandwiches and a large toy animal she had bought her niece at the zoo. After all, she had promised her any present she wanted, and it just so happened that Mathilde had wanted a life sized penguin. The perfect playmate for Jennifer the giraffe whom she continued to borrow off her baby brother. “I think I can hear your Daddy upstairs. Let’s go ask him.”

“Can I leave Henwy with Da-da?”

“Henry?”

“Yes. My penguin,” clarified the little girl, believing that her new toy should stay downstairs to keep her Da-da company. “Henwy can look after him while we go upstairs.”

“Alright, sweetie, that’s a good idea,” Pauline said, humouring her as she took the penguin out of her shopping bag and placed it next to Timmy’s sleeping frame. “There you go. Let’s find your Daddy. You can show him all the cool pictures we took of the animals.”

“Yes,” cheered the four-year-old, “I want to show Daddy the picture of the yawning lion first. That’s the best one.”

Before Pauline exited the living room, Mathilde looked at her Da-da’s sleeping face one more time.

“I think Da-da likes Henwy,” she remarked, causing Pauline to turn around.

“What’s that, honey?”

“Look. Da-da is smiling in his sleep,” grinned her niece, pointing her finger. “Why do you think he’s smiling?”

Pauline glanced at Timmy with amusement, acting clueless.

“Hard to say, Chamallow. He must be really happy about something, I guess,” she offered innocently, though she had a feeling she knew exactly what her brother was smirking for. After all, it wasn’t often that he and Armie spent an entire afternoon unsupervised.

Chapter Text

Timmy was fond of taking his naps downstairs. From the sofa, he could watch his baby girl play with her stuffed animals. He could hear her laughter, her singing, and the silly voices that she and Pauline put on for Jennifer the giraffe and Henry the penguin. He wanted nothing more than to take part and evidently, Mathilde, too, was dying for him to regain his strength. She still hadn’t managed to wrap her head around the fact that she was no longer allowed to crawl into his lap without asking first, or put any pressure on his stomach, or make any sudden, loud noises if she could help it. It appeared that her Da-da had grown too pregnant, too delicate to pick her up and carry her in his arms and for that, Mathilde felt greatly cheated.

She was gentle and kind with him, though, or at least, she tried to be.

“How is your head feeling today, Da-da? Is the TV too loud? Do you want to watch me build a house with my Legos? I’m building it for Jennifer.”

Though Timmy agreed to almost anything she wanted, though he would kiss her face and smile at her as he curled himself up under the blankets wearing a tired look on his face, she could tell that he was quietly feeling ill at ease. Auntie Pauline had explained to her that the last stages of a pregnancy were usually uncomfortable for the body. Mathilde had this image in her head of baby Philippe growing bigger and bigger inside of Da-da’s belly. She could see that it was getting increasingly difficult for Da-da to lift himself off the sofa, walk up the stairs, or bend over to clean up her mess on the floor.

Luckily, Daddy was there to look after him and help him with all those things. Daddy had been so attentive lately, so helpful and caring. Mathilde had watched him offer Da-da one foot-rub after another, with Da-da accepting every single one with gratitude. She had watched Daddy bringing him food and water, fluffing his pillows, tucking his feet under the blanket to make sure he wouldn’t get cold. Not only did he change Da-da’s bandages and help him wash his hair without Da-da tiring himself; Daddy was also there for him in every other way. He spent an awful lot of time just petting Da-da’s belly, talking to it, kissing it, resting his head carefully on top of it. It appeared to Mathilde that her dads, even after all this time, kept growing closer to each other. Da-da never looked happier than when he’d fallen asleep in Daddy’s lap; the safest place in the world.

While Mathilde was still building Jennifer her new house of Legos, Armie appeared and joined Timmy on the sofa.

“Give me your foot, baby,” whispered the blonde, grinning as the younger man sank deeper into the pillows and obeyed without hesitation. “Are your ankles still swollen and sore?”

Timmy, keeping his eyes closed, emitted a small sigh.

“My whole body is swollen and sore,” he uttered, though as soon as Armie placed his heel on top of his knee and removed the purple sock, preparing his dainty, little foot for a massage, he grew instantly more relaxed. “Seriously – I don’t know what I would do without you…”

“Seriously,” Armie responded, bowing down to gently kiss the top of his foot with adoration, “I’m not doing any of the work that you are. You’re eight months pregnant. You’re carrying a six-pound footballer inside you who keeps practicing against your ribs. You’re amazing. I would have told that little rascal to vacate a long time ago had it been my body.”

Chuckling lightly, Timmy’s breath hitched as Armie’s fingers began to do their magic, finding all the right pressure points along the sole of his foot.

“Yeah, for some reason I have a feeling that wouldn’t work on this one,” he smirked, jerking slightly under his husband’s skillful touch. “Oh my god, that feels so good – please don’t stop…”

Armie couldn’t help but laugh. Timmy was melting like butter in between his hands and in a rather selfish way, he loved watching the brunette twist and squirm as he continued to alleviate the tensions in his body. He loved the idea of pleasing him, spoiling him, treating him like a queen.

“God, you’re cute when you do that,” muttered Armie, lowering his voice as to prevent Mathilde from hearing him creeping on her Da-da. “I love it when your face scrunches up like that.”

“Perv,” smiled Timmy in return, attempting to arch his back. His rounded belly seemed to be weighing him down. “Christ – I love the size of your hands. You have no idea what it’s doing to me.”

“Da-da, what are you and Daddy talking about?” Mathilde looked up from her Lego building, seemingly annoyed that they were no longer watching her work.

“Nothing, sweetie, Daddy is just giving me a foot-rub,” sighed the brunette, biting into his bottom lip as Armie’s fingers found the spot just beneath his middle toe.

“A foot-wub?”

“Yes, he is rubbing my feet. I will come and have a look at Jennifer’s house in a moment.”

“Does your feet hurt?”

“It’s not so bad,” Timmy assured her. “Da-da’s body is just sore from carrying all this baby weight.”

Suddenly, Mathilde abandoned her building project in order to tend to him.

“Do you want me to wub your feet as well?”

Timmy couldn’t help but pull her in for a hug.

“It’s okay, my love, Daddy is taking good care of me. Look how big and strong his hands are. He’ll make my foot better in no time.”

“Yeah. For a price he will,” joked the blonde, though he continued to work on him gently.

“Then who is going to wub Daddy’s foot?” Mused Mathilde innocently.

“Sweetie, I don’t need my feet rubbed,” chuckled Armie with a shake of his head. “I’m not having a baby. My feet are fine.”

“That’s lucky. Your feet are so big. I fink it would be too much work for Da-da.”

Armie exchanged a look with Timmy who burst out laughing. Slowly, he put down the younger man’s foot and rose dangerously.

“Okay, that’s it,” he announced, feigning menace. “Are you making fun of my big feet? You’re in a world of trouble, young lady.”

He grabbed a hold of the little girl and picked her up before she could run away from him. Mathilde screamed and laughed at the same time, waving and flapping her arms about as Armie threw her up in the air and caught her, only to flip her upside down, spinning her around a couple of times like a big pizza dough.

“Daddy! Stop – I’m sorry,” she giggled, failing to sound regretful at all. “I didn’t mean it…”

“You didn’t mean what?” Armie teased her. “Are you saying I have nice feet, then? Let me hear you say it…”

He caught her in a tight, one-armed hold, after which he used his other hand to tickle her tummy gingerly. Mathilde squealed hysterically. Watching his husband and daughter with amusement, Timmy stifled a yawn, jerking slightly when he felt his baby boy shifting and moving somewhere below his ribs. He rested a hand on top of his swollen stomach, pretending that little Philippe was able to feel his touches from the other side of the womb.

“Soon you’ll be part of this, darling,” he cooed quietly, his words drowned out by Mathilde’s wailing. “I can’t wait for you to be with us.”

 

*

 

He awoke for the fifth time that night, wheezing and groaning as his back cramped up again, causing him to writhe in a desperate attempt to get his muscles to relax. While he was squirming, feeling deeply uncomfortable, he accidentally kicked Armie’s shin. When the older man woke up, startled, Timmy was grinding his teeth so hard, he could barely speak.

“Tim, you okay?” Armie turned on the lamp by the nightstand. He saw the brunette twisting miserably, struggling to turn himself over as his stomach kept getting in the way. “Timmy – what’s happening?”

The brunette responded with a little sob. He kept huffing and puffing, trying once again to breathe through his cramps, though he couldn’t find a more soothing position.

“He keeps kicking me – I can’t sleep,” moaned the younger man, suddenly pulling his pillow over his head in order to hide his tears. “My back keeps cramping and I can’t get it to stop,” he added then and before he knew it, he was full-on crying. “It really hurts. And I’m so tired. I just – I want it to stop! I don’t want to be pregnant anymore!”

Armie was quick to remove the pillow from his face and gather him into his lap, making sure that they were back-to-chest.

“Deep breaths, love,” he instructed him, frowning with concern as Timmy continued to weep helplessly. “Come on, try your best to relax. You’re tensing.”

“I can’t help it!” Snapped the brunette, fidgety as he felt those large, willful hands clutching his shoulders. “I’m telling you, I can’t do this anymore. I’m so tired of being in pain…”

He sniffled and choked as he continued to blubber miserably. Armie began to rub his shoulders dutifully, trying to help him loosen up, however, Timmy resisted stubbornly.

“Hey – come on now, take it easy,” Armie shushed him softly, trying to encourage him by kissing his neck with affection. “You’re doing so well. You’ve got this. Do you hear me, baby? You can do it. Just for a little while longer…”

Apparently, that wasn’t the right thing to tell him.

“What do you mean just a little while longer?” Barked the younger man, practically growling at him. “I am going to be enduring this for another month! Do you even realise how much time that is? Do you even realise how many nights I have yet to spend in pure agony because YOUR offspring won’t stop tormenting me? You did this to me, Armie! YOU!”

Flabbergasted and slightly alarmed, Armie just kept rubbing him, kept caressing him gently and holding him close.

“I love you so much,” whispered the older man faithfully, grateful that Timmy had his back on him so he couldn’t see his tired eyes trying to close on him. “And I’m going to be here for you all the way. If you’re up, then I’m up. If you’re uncomfortable, I will do anything it takes to make you feel bet-“

“It’s so easy for you, isn’t it? You don’t even know what I’m dealing with,” snarled Timmy accusingly, cutting Armie off while he winced at the pain flaring up in his back again. “You don’t know what it’s like to be kicked all night long like some sort of punching bag, meanwhile, I’ve still got a concussion to deal with, and I keep having to pee every five minutes, only it takes me ten minutes to gather the strength to haul myself out of bed because guess what, I’m like, the size of a whale now and I’m heavy, and if I fall over, I won’t get up again-“

His rant was interrupted by a spasm causing him to double over breathlessly.

“Shit!”

“Timmy,” Armie uttered sternly, “you’re making this worse for yourself. Please, love, stop tensing – just… Let me help you. You need to get your breathing under control.”

Timmy felt himself sagging against the bigger man, falling weak as he let Armie massage and knead the stiffness out of his strained muscles. He wanted to protest, but he was too drained to even speak another word. He longed for sleep so desperately, and yet, the baby started kicking him all over again, rendering him restless and beaten.

“Deep breaths,” the blonde reminded him, brushing the curls away from those green, watery eyes. “It’s okay. I’m going to help you through this.”

“There – there is nothing you can do to stop it,” moaned Timmy brokenly. “He’s just going to keep kicking me all night long, and th-then,” he stammered, wiping at his eyes furiously, “it’s going to be early morning, and even if I’ve managed to fall asleep by then, Mathilde is going to call for me as soon as she wakes up. Let’s face it – I’m never going to get any rest.”

“Not with that attitude you’re not,” Armie teased him, offering him a small smile. Timmy pouted, unimpressed. “Come on, baby – I’m going to make sure she’s occupied in the morning. I’m not going to let her wake you up. It’s going to be okay. Let me make you comfortable, that’s what I’m here for.”

“Armie, just stop it,” griped the smaller man, “everything hurts. I’m never going to be comf-“

“Shh,” pleaded the blonde. “Trust me. Here – rest your back against the pillows. That’s it.”

He let go of him, leaning Timmy up against the headboard. He was still acting grumpy and he knew he wasn’t making things easier for the other man. Though Armie was merely trying to help, he couldn’t help but finding himself wanting to take his discomfort out on him.

“I’m telling you, I’m so done with this pregnancy,” he grumbled one more time, rubbing his eyes with exhaustion. “There’s nothing you can possibly do to make this better. There’s nothing-“

Armie silenced him with his mouth, swallowing up the brunette’s complaints as he kissed him deeply and insistently. At first, Timmy let the surprise of it throw him off and he pressed his palm against the bigger man’s chest, looming over his own. The kiss wasn’t unpleasant – far from it – however, he was still in agony and Armie had to do a lot better than that in order to make him forget. When he pushed against him one more time, Armie backed off with a strange smirk on his face.

“Fine – let me continue my magic elsewhere,” he teased him, wasting no time before kneeling down on all fours, hovering above Timmy’s frame. “Trust me. I know what I’m doing.”

He trailed his kisses down the brunette’s neck, chest and abdomen, catching the sound of his partner’s breath hitching in his throat. Armie let his mouth travel down to the belly that was bulging with his unborn son. It looked so swollen and sore, yet he was more busy admiring its beauty, worshipping its miracle. Timmy was so fucking strong for carrying his child for a second time, sheltering him ever so safely beneath his frail ribs; Armie would never dream of blaming him for letting the pressure get to him, especially after his accident. He just wanted him to feel good, and to know that he was proud of him – grateful for doing what he could never do himself. Armie kissed his belly softly, careful as he remembered how sensitive his skin was.

Timmy hissed subtly and gripped the headboard tightly. Philippe was still turning in his belly, moving about playfully. Armie felt the movements with his very lips and backed off for a moment before pressing his mouth gently against the navel, as a gesture of affection. Timmy’s breath continued to sound laboured, though when Armie looked up at him and met his gaze, the younger man was watching him with a look of anticipation. He was biting his lip, trying hard to submit to the pleasure Armie was offering him. He didn’t want him to stop.

Armie smiled as he moved further down his body and took him into his mouth. At first, Timmy convulsed dramatically, seemingly overwhelmed by the sensation of Armie’s warm lips closing around him. By the time the older man put his tongue into use, the pleasure intensified and the brunette had started writhing in the sheets for an entirely different reason, begging him, repeating his name in a mantra of emotion.

When he finally came, the relief of it, it appeared, had him crying all over again. He grew clingy and sensitive, however, Armie much preferred it this way. His pain seemed to be forgotten. His accusation was replaced by gratitude and indebtedness.

“I’m sorry – I was being such a bitch…” Snivelled the younger man, letting Armie pull him into his arms as they lied down side by side. “I can’t help it. It’s the hormones. They make me act all crazy.”

“Shh, baby, I know. You don’t have to explain it to me,” whispered the blonde, pressing gentle kisses to his forehead. “I’m just glad you’re feeling better.”

“I am, but – I’m too exhausted to return the favour. Armie, I’m really sorry-“

“Hey – come here. Will you please stop telling me that you’re sorry?” Armie offered him a small grin. He wiped at Timmy’s eyes. “You have nothing to apologise for. This is about you. I’m here to service you and make you feel good. You’ve been such a warrior lately and I’m so proud of you. Don’t worry about me.”

Timmy’s eyes began to close. His breathing had evened out quietly. The heat of Armie’s naked skin made him feel safe. Drowsy.

“I didn’t mean it, you know…” He muttered, his voice faint and rough.

“What?” Prodded Armie softly, kissing his hair.

“I’m not done with my pregnancy. I mean – I love him. I love him so much already. He can stay in my belly for as long as he likes. I want him to come out all big and strong, like Mathilde.”

Armie chuckled at that and wrapped his arm around his waist, wanting to cradle and shelter Philippe in between both their bodies. Armie couldn’t wait to meet his little boy and sleep side by side whilst looking at him, or feeling him wrap his little hand around his bigger finger. He was so ready to expand their perfect, little love nest, their family.

“You’re so cute. And you’re the most awesome parent in the world – did you know that?” Praised Armie, pausing to wait for the younger man’s response.

Timmy was already snoring lightly.

 

*

 

The next morning, Timmy awoke in an empty bed, only then remembering that Armie had promised to take care of Mathilde.

The brunette decided he wanted to show his gratitude. He had put him through such an epic drama while the baby had kept him awake, he couldn’t help but to feel guilty. Suddenly, he couldn’t wait to find Armie and thank him. He pulled a troubled face as he managed to roll over and lift himself off the bed, though it took him a lot more effort than he cared to admit. He also succeeded in using the bathroom and brushing his teeth all by himself. The bandages, however, he needed help changing – this would have to wait until later.

Slowly, Timmy motioned down the stairs. His head was no longer pounding. This was good. Moving about was making him feel better. He made a bee-line for the kitchen, spotting the light under the door. He had expected to find Armie. Instead, he walked in to see Pauline and Mathilde at the table, entertaining themselves by making piles of sandwiches. Everything had been taken out of the fridge. Peanut butter, jam, meats, cheeses, tomatoes, lettuce, olives, even the ketchup, which made Timmy immediately suspicious.

“Da-da!” Exclaimed his little girl, abandoning her peanut butter-cladded knife. She was about to jump out of her chair and run to him, however, Timmy beat her to it and pulled her in for a hug. “Da-da, we made evewyone bweakfast! Look!”

“Wow, that’s a lot of sandwiches,” responded the brunette laughingly, stroking her blonde curls as he sat down next to them. “Did you and Auntie Pauline make these all by yourselves?”

His eyes scanned the number of glasses on the table. There was a third one. Armie had definitely been in here.

“Sure we did,” said Pauline, who turned to her niece. “We make the best sandwiches, don’t we, Tilly? Here. Give me five.”

The girls high-fived each other, making Timmy smile. He gave Pauline a teasing look, as if to silently tell her what a dork she was being, however, this was perfect. This was everything he wanted his little family to be. Pauline rolled her eyes at him and, when Mathilde wasn’t looking, poked her tongue out, too.

“I think your Da-da should try one of these,” she suggested, pointing to one of the sandwiches from Mathilde’s plate. “You made this especially for him, didn’t you, Tilly? I’m sure he’ll love it.”

“Here you go, Da-da,” uttered Mathilde with pride as she picked up the sandwich for him, ready to hand it over. “Wait. Da-da needs a plate, too.”

“Here. Use mine,” suggested Pauline, fetching it from the far end of the table. “You can put the sandwich down here, love.”

Timmy swallowed quietly when the plate was pushed towards him. Mathilde looked at him with genuine anticipation. Pauline, on the other hand, had to bite her tongue just to keep from laughing.

“Thank you, darling. That’s very considerate. What’s in it?” Enquired Timmy, separating the slices of bread hesitantly in order to have a look. “Wow – peanut butter AND salami together. And what’s this? Pickles! I think you’ve invented a brand new sandwich, baby.”

Mathilde beamed, taking this as a compliment.

“I know you like pickles, Da-da.”

“Aren’t you going to try it?” Pauline smirked as he gave her a deadpan look.

“Yes, Da-da – twy it. Philippe is pwobably hungwy.”

“Of course I’m going to try it,” Timmy assured his daughter, though he didn’t yet pick it up. “I was just – I was going to wait for your Daddy to join us. Where is he?”

“Daddy alweady ate,” said Mathilde simply.

“He went shopping,” added Pauline, “there’s no need to wait. I’m sure you’re starving, bro.”

Timmy ignored her teasing.

“Why did he go shopping this early? I thought he might need a rest first.”

“Well – he saw that we’ve run out of the orange juice you really like. He said he would pick up some more for you. He insisted it couldn’t wait.”

“He – he went to the shops just to get me some orange juice?” Timmy was overcome with astonishment. He was blushing, hard. Mathilde was busy licking the blunt knife she had used for the peanut butter, however, Pauline continued to stare at him and she saw. “I can’t believe he did that,” uttered Timmy in addition, his lips stretching into a small smile.

“Yeah, well – he told me about last night. About the baby keeping you up,” elaborated his sister. “It sounds like you’ve had it rough. I think he’s just worried about you. I guess he thought the orange juice would do you good.”

Timmy bit his lip, trying hard to ignore his burning hot cheeks.

“Well, that’s – that’s really nice of him. I’ll have to thank him when he gets back. And you,” continued the brunette, pulling the knife out of Mathilde’s hands in order to stop her from licking it. “You made me breakfast. You and Daddy are both taking such good care of me, did you know that?”

Pauline coughed suggestively.

“And you,” he added with a hint of sarcasm. “I’m sure you’ve put a lot of effort into helping with the breakfast.”

In the end, Timmy had wolfed down the sandwich as quickly as he could, not only to please his daughter, but in the hope that this way, perhaps he would taste it less. After swallowing every last bit of it, biting back the bile rising in his throat, Mathilde had cheered, thrilled at the idea of making her Da-da something he liked. When she left the kitchen in order to search for her toy animals, however, Timmy took the opportunity to dash to the nearest bathroom.

Pauline felt guilty about the vomiting. She really did. It had left Timmy feeling queasy and lethargic all over again. Trying to keep Mathilde from finding out, he had brushed his teeth for a second time and washed his face, getting rid of all the evidence. By the time Pauline had helped him settle down in the sofa, Armie returned from his errand. As he walked in the room, causing Timmy’s head to turn instantly, it didn’t take long for Armie to detect that something had happened.

“He – he was sick again,” explained Pauline with a hint of shame. “Just ten minutes ago.”

“I’m fine, though,” added Timmy, lowering his voice. “Don’t tell Mathilde. It’s nothing.”

“You poor thing,” cooed Armie, frowning with worry. “I bought you some orange juice. Would that make you feel better?”

“Yes, please.” He caught himself almost reaching out his arms for Armie, though when he realised how clingy he was being, he simply hid underneath his blanket. “Thanks for doing this. Seriously. You didn’t have to.”

“Don’t mention it. Anything you need, Timothée. I mean it.”

“I’ll go get a glass,” offered Pauline, giving her brother the privacy to thank Armie without her watching them, however, Armie stole the first kiss before she had even finished her sentence.

 

*

 

“You look awfully happy considering I just made you puke,” remarked Pauline who studied her younger brother suspiciously. “Seriously, what’s with that smile?”

“What smile?” Scoffed Timmy, feigning innocence. “I’m not smiling.”

“Yes you are. I don’t get it. I thought you’d be pissy with me. I made you sick as part of some stupid joke. I should have never… I mean – I had no idea that pickles made you nauseous.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Timmy shrugged his shoulders easily. “I mean, how could you know? I guess it’s just this weird pregnancy thing. I normally eat them. Not with peanut butter and salami of course, but hey.”

“Timmy. I’m – I’m really sorry. I feel like such a jerk. I would never make you throw up on purpose. Why aren’t you yelling at me? I feel like you should be yelling at me.”

“Hm?”

“Are you even listening to me? Again – what’s with the smiling? Oh. Wait, I see. You can’t be bothered to yell at me because you’re too busy thinking about your dreamy husband. Am I right?”

“What? No! I’m not thinking about Armie.”

“No? Then why are you blushing?”

“I’m not!”

“It’s okay, you know. You’re allowed to daydream when you’re married to freaking Prince Charming.”

Timmy tried to keep a straight face. He really did.

“I’m not daydreaming, I’m just… Thankful. Stop tormenting me.”

“I’m not tormenting you. Honestly, I love seeing you smile like that. You look so happy.”

“Well, I am. Not about the vomiting, but…” He paused briefly. “Okay, fine. I admit it. My husband is dreamy. I sometimes can’t stop thinking about him. There, I said it.”

“God. I can’t believe how smitten you are. You’ve been married to him for, like, five years and you still act like you’re having your first crush.”

Timmy jokingly threw a pillow in her direction. Pauline caught it mid-air.

“Well, he’s… He’s been such an amazing support. I just feel so lucky to have him. And he’s, like, the greatest dad there is.”

“Yeah,” giggled Pauline, “and also, you think he’s yummy.”

“Pauline!”

“What? I’ve seen you look at him like you want to take him on a second honeymoon. I heard being pregnant makes you feel… things. I hope Armie takes care of all your needs, if you know what I mean.”

“I’m so not having this conversation with you,” tutted the brunette, threatening to pull the covers all the way over his head. “Go away.”

 

*

 

Timmy managed to get a moment alone with Armie when Mathilde was due for a bath and decided that she wanted her Auntie Pauline to accompany her. Though Timmy helped them pour the water, Pauline was the one who took out the rubber ducks and put on her funny voices as she started her little play in order to entertain her niece. The ducks all had different names and character traits already, mostly given by Timmy and Armie, however, Mathilde seemed interested in her Auntie’s version.

“Pauline is putting on the voice for Douglas Duck,” grinned Timmy as he snuck his way back, finding Armie in the kitchen. “I’d say we have at least another fifteen minutes.”

“Fifteen minutes for what?”

Timmy pulled him by the arm and forced the bigger man to abandon the dishes. He guided him back towards the living room and once Armie was seated, he crawled into his lap, gripping the back of the sofa for support as he kept losing his balance. Armie made a sound like his belly was squishing him and as he laughed, Timmy simply cupped both his cheeks and held him as he kissed him slowly and deeply.

Armie began to hum immediately.

“Hey – what’s this for?” Smiled the blonde, letting both his large hands travel up and down the smaller man’s spine, feeling him, urging him closer. “I like where this is going.”

“You know what it’s for,” whispered the brunette with a small sigh, bringing their lips together again and again. “I couldn’t return the favour last night, however, I haven’t forgotten the way you helped me out…”

“Timmy,” interrupted Armie then, “you don’t need to return any favours, love. I would do it over and over and over again.”

“I know, but-“

“Look. Being pregnant hasn’t been easy for you and I admire everything you’ve done so much. You’re so wonderful. Even with a concussion and a baby pulverizing your ribs every night, you still manage to care about everyone else. You take care of me. You take care of our daughter. You take care of him.” Armie placed his palm on top of his stomach, petting him softly, after which he added: “You ate Mathilde’s disgusting sandwich even though it made you sick, just because you didn’t want her to feel bad. I mean – wow.”

Timmy emitted a snort as he smirked and shook his head at what Armie was telling him.

“No. No, this is not – I mean, I wanted to thank you. I wanted to tell you how great you are, not the other way around.” Timmy wrapped his arms around the other’s neck and looked into his eyes sincerely. “Armie, you – you know I couldn’t have done any of this without you. You are always there for me. You put up with me when I’m all whiny and hormonal – I know it’s not been easy for you, either.”

“Baby, enough with that. Everything I’ve done, I did it because you’re doing a job that’s ten times harder-“

“Okay, stop,” chuckled the younger man, pressing their bodies closer together. “We don’t have time for this. Can’t we just agree that – I don’t know – we’ve both done well. And that we both need to, uh – thank one another?”

Armie smiled widely, baring his pearly whites.

“Yes, I think we can both agree to that. Come here.”

Timmy was pressed down against the cushions. Rolling onto his back, he pulled Armie on top of him, eager to feel his bigger body. Armie’s hips were grinding down against his, causing their crotches to rub together. Timmy let out a small moan when those rough, strong hands pulled up his shirt in order to access his chest. Suddenly, Armie was playing with him, pinching him, fondling those small, hardened nipples of his, budding, pointy and ready to provide milk. He shivered, overcome with sensitivity. If possible, his nipples hardened even further under Armie’s hands and as he trembled again, he arched his back slightly and spread his legs, letting the blonde take up all the space he wanted. With his fingers still pinching and teasing, Armie bowed down to kiss him again. He kissed him until he found himself groaning deeply down his throat, until Timmy could no longer breathe. Eventually, Armie withdrew his tongue and moved his lips down to suck at his neck. When he bit into his skin, Timmy hissed wildly and gripped Armie’s ass, hard, as if spur him on. In response, Armie began to grind his hips harder, as if ready to pound – to thrust.

Timmy’s eyes had long closed. Spellbound and touch-starved, he threw his head back, wheezing with want.

“Armie…” He moaned gently, letting his hands roam freely until he was hugging the broad shoulders above him. “Armie, I’m-“

Pauline’s feet were suddenly heard thundering down the stairs. Timmy jerked with surprise and Armie tore himself away from him, leaving the young man a desperate, shivering mess with his shirt still pulled all the way up to his shoulders, exposing not only the swell of his baby bump, but also two reddened, abused nipples. Armie rose to stand on his feet, looking awkward and tense as a deer caught in the lights when Pauline then poked her head in, unaware that she had nearly caught her brother-in-law with his trousers down. Armie didn’t know what to do with himself so he began to scratch at his neck, hoping to appear nonchalant.

Timmy yanked down his shirt, but he knew she’d already seen.

“I, uh – I can’t find Tilly’s favourite towel.” Pauline paused with dread, suddenly avoiding all eye contact. “But, er, I can probably – I mean I don’t want to interrupt anything…”

“No, it’s okay,” Armie emitted all too quickly, failing to keep it cool. “I – I know where it is. I’ll get it.”

He wasted no time fleeing the room. Timmy let out a small, disappointed grunt.

“Looks like I was right,” remarked Pauline from where she lingered in the doorway. “Being pregnant makes you all horny, huh?”

“Will you stop it! I’m not-“ The brunette raised his head to glare at his sister accusingly. “You know what, I’m not even going to dignify this with an answer.”

“Uh – Tim?”

“What?” Snapped the younger man.

“I think – I think you’re leaking.”

“Haha, very funny, I’m not-“

He looked down at himself. His shirt was slowly staining from two wet spots forming and colouring the fabric surrounding both his nipples. Timmy’s mouth fell open. He let out a small gasp as he covered himself up using both his hands. Underneath his palms, the milk continued to leak and warm his skin as it dripped freely, continuing to spill all the way down his abdomen.

He could only blame Armie for doing this to him.

 

*

 

“Da-da?” Timmy jerked with surprise at the sound of his daughter’s voice. Mathilde had been busy watching her cartoons and he had been busy reminiscing about his and Armie’s honeymoon. “Da-da, how come your hair is curly? And my hair is curly. But Auntie Pauline has stwaight hair.”

His daughter yanked at his curls to get his attention. Though it didn’t hurt, it appeared she had forgotten all about his recent head injury. Timmy didn’t stop her.

“I don’t know, baby. Your Grand-papa has straight hair as well. Grandma, too. Auntie Pauline probably gets it from them.”

“Do you fink Philippe will have curly hair? Or stwaight?”

“I don’t know,” Timmy smiled at her. “What do you think?”

At that, Mathilde rolled her eyes at him.

“I don’t know, Da-da. You’re the one making him.”

Pauline burst out laughing. Timmy picked up the little girl and held her against his chest.

“You know, darling, even though I’m growing your baby brother in my stomach, I don’t get to decide what he’s going to look like.”

“You don’t?”

“No, it will all be a surprise.”

“Da-da?”

“Oui, mon chou?”

“When you and Daddy decided to make me, did you want to give me curly hair, or stwaight?”

Timmy exchanged another smile with Pauline who looked like she was positively gushing over her niece’s obsession with family genetics.

“Well… When me and Daddy decided to make you,” Timmy humoured her, “we agreed that it didn’t matter what you would look like. No matter what, we knew that you would be gorgeous and that we would love you for you.”

“You knew that before I was born?”

“Yes, love, of course we did.”

Timmy rested his head against the back of the sofa. He thought of Armie’s tearful smile the morning he’d told him he was pregnant. He thought of Armie assembling the cradle all by himself as they had waited for their little girl to arrive. He also thought of Armie pressing him up against the wall and wrapping his legs around his hips. He thought of Armie folding him in half until his knees pressed against his chest, allowing himself to come down on him and batter his way into his body repeatedly. Timmy thought of his own skinny limbs crawling all over his husband, bending himself over Armie’s knee, presenting himself to him, holding onto him, worshipping Armie’s muffled ‘I love you’s’ even as his bigger hands wrapped around his throat, silencing Timmy’s attempt to say it back.

On days like these, he was dying to relive his honeymoon with Armie. Pauline hadn’t been wrong about that.

It had been a beautiful honeymoon, spent acting like a sucker for Armie’s cock. Not only had he found himself taking it inside his body every chance he got; he had publically worn his visible love marks completely without shame. He wanted the world to know that he could not only take Armie’s size, but also his bites, his hickeys, the bruises of his strong fingers gripping his arms and hips, pinning him down. Though he had done his part in letting everyone know who he belonged to, there had been an episode with a male receptionist eyeing Timmy a little too closely, a little too suggestively, causing Armie to get all protective and possessive in response. Timmy had tried his best to avoid the stranger, a young man who looked the same age as him, and with his dark hair and rounded, brown puppy dog eyes, in all fairness, seemed kind of cute, or rather, harmless. Committed as he was to ignoring his existence, he and Armie learned one night that he had gained access to their room and slipped a piece of paper with his phone number underneath Timmy’s pillow, asking him for a date. Armie, of course, had lost it and decided to confront him immediately. With his arm wrapped around Timmy, he had approached the reception counter and taken out his wallet, waiting to get served by the little creep himself. Naturally, the young man’s eyes had widened with panic when he saw the look on Armie’s face, however, Armie – non-violent as he was – had simply slammed down a few dollar bills in front of him and deadpanned:

“Listen, buddy, I’m gonna need the largest pack of condoms you have. You see, I’ll be fucking my husband here all night long so I’d like to be covered. Also, I’d like to order room service to our room in the morning. He’s not going to be able to walk very well, if you know what I mean, so he could do with a little breakfast in bed. I’m sure I don’t have to repeat our room number to you?”

The poor guy had tried to compose himself. His jaw dropped and he stammered in response:

“W-we can offer you our exquisite European b-brunch at half price…”

“Nah, buddy,” Armie had interrupted cruelly, arching his back in order to make himself appear even taller in comparison. “I’m pretty sure that brunch will be on the house. Unless you’d like your manager to hear what you’re using the spare keys for when no one’s watching. The condoms, though, I’m happy to pay for.”

The dark-haired bloke, muscular and well-built, yet small next to Armie, paled visibly and nodded finally, seemingly lost for words. He handed over a twin pack of condoms, believing this would be the end of his humiliation, however, Armie wasn’t done with him yet.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I think you misunderstood me when I asked for the largest pack you have. See, I was referring to my size. Regular sized condoms are too small to fit me,” Armie announced, speaking loud enough for everyone to hear him. “We’re going to need to go a few sizes up.”

Armie had then added salt to injury by grabbing a hold of Timmy’s face, kissing him deeply, making sure to claim him so thoroughly that his competition had no choice but to step down and admit defeat.

“You son of a bitch. These shouldn’t even fit you. They look like they were made for salamis. How on earth are you this big?”

Back in their room, Timmy hadn’t believed his own eyes when Armie put on the condom, demonstrating how well he filled out the entire thing.

“Say more things like that,” Armie had hummed, letting Timmy’s amazement stroke his own ego as he wrapped his hands around the back of the brunette’s neck, drawing him closer. “It’s working. I need to fuck you so bad right now.”

“You were acting like you wanted to fuck me right in the middle of the reception, you know,” smirked Timmy in response, letting himself be guided by Armie’s hands. “I think you would have liked for the other man to watch. You’re such an alpha male sometimes.”

“Nah. That pervert would have enjoyed the show a little too much for my liking,” snorted the blonde, pushing the younger man down on the bed. “I want you all to myself.”

In the end, despite Armie’s best efforts to split him in half with each thrust, Timmy had been forced to snap out of his pleasure haze when he felt the condom threatening to slide off. He didn’t want it to get stuck inside himself, so he pressed his palm to Armie’s chest, gesturing for him to pull out.

“Now will you admit that upgrading to XXL was a step too far?” He smiled at him teasingly. “Come on, just wear a normal one. This is not staying on.”

“What if I didn’t wear one at all?”

“Haha, I’m not getting pregnant just because you won’t admit that you’re not an XXL. Nobody’s an XXL for crying out loud.”

“Timmy, I’m serious. I love you. I could put a baby in your belly right here, right now. Come on, it would be so hot…”

“Armie!”

Timmy had pushed against him again, forcing Armie to pull out of him, and though the young man had gasped at the stretching sensation that followed, he was too stunned by what he had just heard to care.

“I’m not just saying it because I need you right now,” Armie blathered, his pupils dilated with want. “I – I really want to have a baby with you. I… I want to plant my seed in you. There’s no one else for me. You are my life. You’re my husband now, finally, after all this time.”

He dove back in to kiss the brunette, however, Timmy continued to pull away from him.

“We – we’ve never talked about having kids before… I mean, I knew you wanted them, but you never told me you wanted us to get pregnant so soon. Do you really mean it?”

“Of course I mean it!” Swore the blonde, chuckling as he couldn’t hold back his smile. “Timmy, I can’t wait to start my life with you. I want us to be a family.”

“So – if I woke up pregnant a week from now, you wouldn’t freak out?”

“No! No, I would – I would be so happy that my heart might just burst in my chest. You’re the love of my life, you’re-“ Armie ignored the tears in his eyes, but pushed himself down on top of his lover, gripping Timmy’s wrists as he kissed him insistently.

Timmy felt like he couldn’t breathe, and yet this was everything he needed. He imagined for the first time what it would be like to carry Armie’s child inside him, to let the other man impregnate him. Part of him felt too young, too ignorant, but part of him also felt ready and completely calm at the thought of fathering a child with the man he loved more than anything.

“Armie, I – I might need a little more time. Shit, I need you back inside me so bad, but I just can’t think straight right now.”

“I didn’t mean to overwhelm you. Come here, baby.” Armie sat himself upright and pulled Timmy into his lap, arranging them face to face, allowing him to kiss his lips again and again. “I just can’t get enough of you. I – I get completely carried away when I’m around you. You’re my dream come true,” declared the older man, cupping Timmy’s face gently as he let his tongue lick its way across those perfect, red lips grinning at him.

“You didn’t overwhelm me. I love everything you just told me. I love you and I wouldn’t want to carry anyone’s child, but yours,” responded Timmy as he sighed with bliss, breathing in Armie as he surrendered himself. “I just… I just don’t know how to be a dad. I don’t know how to handle a pregnancy. I don’t know anything about children.”

“Timothée. You are the kindest and most loving person I know. You would give our child so much love. And that would make you the best baby daddy in the world by default,” Armie took his hand and squeezed it. “And all the rest, it would come to you naturally. I know so.”

Timmy had rested his forehead against Armie’s shoulder and sighed against his skin.

“Can we – just for tonight… Can we go back to being newlyweds and just, I don’t know, fuck each other’s brains out?” As the brunette pulled back and caught Armie winking at him, he added a small smirk. “I just don’t want us to conceive on the night that I compared your dick to a salami. I don’t know, I feel like we can do better than that.”

At this, Armie burst out laughing, the sound of it emitting nothing but pure joy.

“Okay, love, I can accept that. If I’m getting you pregnant, I promise I will make it the most romantic night of your life. No mention of my size. You deserve as much.”

That night, however, as Armie came inside him, it was the first time that he had held his hand to Timmy’s flat stomach and kissed him just above the navel, fantasizing about growing their future son or daughter in there.

 

*

 

“God… What’s with all the energy tonight? I thought you’d be too tired,” uttered Armie in between wheezes, hopelessly unable to obscure his joy as Timmy rode him tirelessly, so full of determination even as he lost his balance and had to rely on the blonde to catch him over and over again.

Timmy, entwining his fingers with Armie’s in order to use him for support, let out a shaky moan and threw his head back.

“I’ve been thinking about this all day… You. Us. Your dick inside me…” The brunette let himself be impaled fully as he bobbed up and down in the larger man’s lap, offering Armie a world of pleasure in the process. “I need to… feel you. All of you.”

“Hey, slow down a bit,” Armie encouraged him gently. “You’re going to bruise yourself if you go too rough. I don’t want to hurt you, you’ll be giving birth soon.”

“You’re not. This is – this is good,” panted the younger man, striving to keep up his pace. He was soon convulsing and trembling all over; over-stimulated, sensitive and yet restricted by his baby bump. “Am I crushing you?”

“God, no,” sighed Armie, seizing those narrow, delicate hips on top of his own. “You feel small as ever when I hold you against me. So… brittle. Makes me want to protect you.”

“I’m anything but small these days,” groaned Timmy bluntly. “He’s growing so fast now. He’s getting so heavy. Gravity’s a bitch.”

“Come here,” smiled the other, pushing himself upright while keeping the brunette in his lap. He wrapped his arms around his back, taking a moment to feel his smooth, soft skin as he drew him close against his chest. “Put your weight on me.”

Timmy would have tried had it not been for his belly getting in the way. Getting as close to Armie as physically possible, he reached for his face with his dainty, grabby hands and drew him in. They kissed each other slowly, Timmy’s face hovering above Armie’s as the bigger man started to thrust his hips upwards, sending the brunette bouncing helplessly.

“I love watching your face when you’re just about to come,” grinned the blonde, fucking him harder and more urgently. Timmy cried and shivered again, feeling Armie ramming himself further inside him. “Fuck – you don’t know how gorgeous you are with your curls springing free like that.”

Armie kissed him again and this time, Timmy felt his mind go blank with pleasure. He never even felt the sudden wetness dripping down his chest.

“Baby… Baby, you’re lactating again. Tim.”

“Huh?”

Timmy looked down at himself, cringing as he caught the milk leaking slightly from his hardened nipples, spilling all over his abdomen.

“Shit… I – I don’t know why this keeps happening to me. I’ll get a towel.”

“No. Don’t move. I’ve got you,” decided Armie as he wrapped his arms around him again, not wanting to break apart. He reached out his tongue and began to lick the younger man’s chest clean, laughing as he felt Timmy squirming in response.

“Fuck… Armie…”

“Sensitive much?” Armie teased him, drawing his tongue across his chest, tasting the small droplets of milk without feeling weirded out in the slightest. The taste was sweet. Precious. And yet, his husband appeared to grow self-conscious.

“I – I feel so gross wetting myself like this. Maybe I’m producing more milk this time around.”

“I’m glad. Philippe will grow big in no time. I can relieve you a bit if you want.”

“Relieve me? Oh. Wait, no, that would be too weird.”

“Come on. I had a taste when you were pregnant with Mathilde. I remember liking it.”

Timmy gasped when the other’s tongue flicked his nipple tauntingly, awaiting his response.

“God. Fine! Just – be gentle. They’re really… tender. And don’t tell anyone. Ever. I’m serious, Armie, this stays between us.”

“Relax. I won’t even judge you for enjoying it.”

Without further warning, Armie’s warm mouth closed around Timmy’s tiny nipple, unwavering lips nibbling, biting and sucking playfully, causing the brunette to jerk and screw his eyes shut, overwhelmed by the sensation of his husband drawing milk from him like this. Gathering just a small mouthful, Armie swallowed silently, not wanting to embarrass the younger man by making any obvious gulping noises. He released him gently before moving on to the other nipple in order to prevent more milk from seeping. He sucked at the small, abused nipple once, twice, three times before Timmy suddenly moaned and collapsed, falling off his lap dramatically.

“Tim!” Armie gasped, almost spilling the remains of the milk down his chin.

But the younger man knew what he was doing. Rolling himself on to his back, he reached for the blonde and pulled him on top of him quickly.

“Please… Fuck me. I feel like I’m about to burst,” he pleaded with a small, hissing sound, gesturing for Armie to top him. It seemed Armie’s oral skills had finally pushed him over the edge.

He entered him in one swift movement and buried himself inside him. Timmy felt his legs being forced further apart as Armie’s hips slapped against him, opening him up as he pounded him fiercely and urgently, pushing his body deeper into the mattress. When his head threatened to slam against the headboard, Timmy gripped the wooden railing with both hands, holding on for dear life, even as his knuckles turned white with effort. He moaned and mewled, utterly unable to stop himself. He loved it when Armie manhandled him. He loved the power, the ferocity of each thrust – feeling Armie’s stronger body keeping him in place, giving it to him without mercy, compelling Timmy to feel every inch moving in and out of him, making him feel dizzy and drunk with sensation.

Armie took a hold of his face, his large palms covering both Timmy’s cheeks and his jaw. He held him steady in order to kiss him deeply and silence the eager, breathless cries. As he pulled back slightly and rammed his full length back inside him, ready to muffle his whining with his mouth, the force of his thrust suddenly sent the bed knocking into the wall. The noise didn’t stop him from powering through as he continued to fuck the younger man senseless. Not even Timmy seemed to register the banging, or the fact that Armie’s strength was causing the king sized bed to shift and move across the floor.

Suddenly, the doorknob was turning. Timmy froze at the sound of Mathilde’s voice sounding from the other side.

“Da-da? Daddy? I can’t sleep…”

The door was already opening. Timmy gasped and pushed Armie off of him, scrambling desperately to cover himself up under the duvet. Though the bedroom was only dimly lit, Mathilde stood before them, looking like she had seen everything.

“Daddy? What were you doing to Da-da?”

“Sweetie,” Armie panted, flabbergasted as he turned around to face her, “what are you doing out of bed? Honey, it’s late…”

“I heard a noise. Why was the bed cweaking?”

“Baby, there’s no creaking, it was probably just a dream,” Timmy told her lamely, earning himself a tentative look from Armie. “Daddy and I are fine. You can go back to bed now.”

“But what were you guys doing?”

“Nothing, honey, we were just-“

Armie was interrupted by Pauline who showed up at the doorstep, wearing nothing but a robe. It appeared that she, too, had been stirred awake by their noisiness.

“Da-da and Daddy were just fooling around, Tilly. Adults can be silly sometimes. Come on, I’ll help you back to bed.”

“But what were they doing, Auntie Pauline?”

Pauline reached for her little hand and practically dragged her out of the room.

“Your Daddy was just trying to give Da-da another massage.”

“But Da-da sounded like he was in pain.”

“Daddy’s probably not very good at massages, I think. Come on, love. Let’s not disturb them.”

She picked Mathilde up from the floor and carried her back outside, slamming the door shut behind them. Grateful for his sister’s help, Timmy hid his face behind his hands and let himself fall into Armie’s open arms.

“I’m mortified,” sighed the brunette, whispering quietly despite them being alone again. “Fuck. Let me hide in shame for a moment.”

Armie merely laughed as he held the younger man close.

“She’s not going to remember when she’s old enough to realise what we were doing.”

“God, I hope not. But fuck – Pauline knows. My own sister heard us having sex. Shit!”

“Speaking of – I’m not done pleasuring you. I want to hear you moan again.”

Armie rolled back on top of him and started to kiss his neck, but he only managed to make Timmy uncomfortable as the additional weight was squeezing the baby against his bladder.

“Ow – Armie, wait. I think you’ll make him start kicking again,” groaned the brunette, feeling like Philippe was practically rotating inside him.

“Yes, but in a moment you’re going to be so full of dick, you won’t notice.”

Armie cupped both Timmy’s nipples with his large hands and bowed down to kiss him. Slowly, he pressed his tip against his lover’s entrance, stalling himself as he waited for permission. When he felt his husband’s huge size twitching desperately against him, Timmy couldn’t help but to smile with want.

“Okay. But this time, try not to pound me into the headboard,” whispered the brunette, catching Armie’s soft, pink lips with his own.

As soon as Armie thrusted into him, stretching him open once again, Timmy clasped a hand against his own mouth in order to keep himself from sobbing. He was feeling even more sensitive than before and this time, he could feel Armie’s every movement, every inch, every vein, as his glorious, monstrous cock slid further inside him. It was times like these when, a more wicked side of Timmy, began to wonder if Armie was huge enough to pierce through his womb. He hoped not. Their doctor had assured them that they could have sex without putting the baby at risk in any way, in fact she had encouraged them to do so whenever Tim felt comfortable, however, it was still overwhelming to realise just how deep inside him Armie could reach.

Timmy’s chest began to heave with every strangled breath as he let his head fall back, trying once again to keep from crying.

“I think I know what you need, baby,” whispered the blonde, grinning as he lowered his mouth back to that tiny nipple, sucking gently.

Timmy whimpered desperately, his body responding with a series of spasms, one after another as Armie continued to suck him dry. He suddenly moved his hand to Armie’s back and let his fingernails rake all the way down his spine, threatening to break his skin in the process. Armie shuddered with surprise, though he welcomed the sweet sting. In response, he sank his teeth into the smaller man’s nipple, biting him playfully, enjoying the small scream Timmy had let out before he could stop himself. Armie took advantage of his distraction and pulled his hips back in order to suddenly slam into him, hard and brutal, using his hand to caress Timmy’s thigh while he forced those skinny legs further open in order to fuck him at full pace.

Timmy, suddenly wondering if Armie’s strong hips would be the death of him, closed his eyes and rejoiced; this was going to be the best night of his life.

 

*

 

The worst day of his life, it felt, he saw only nine hours later.

It had been a nice morning. Pauline had bought everyone bagels. Mathilde was running around the house dancing and singing, happy as a clown. Timmy had been doing the dishes when he stopped and winced, earning himself a cheeky snigger from Armie who stood watching behind him.

“Someone still sore from last night?”

“Shut up,” Timmy turned away from him so that he couldn’t detect his smile. “I can barely walk, you bastard.”

“I’m sorry. Come here.”

Their kiss had been cut short by a knocking on the front door. Timmy let out a small groan with disappointment, but Armie merely stroke his cheek and promised him to continue this later.

Mathilde could be heard outside the kitchen, shouting:

“Da-da! Daddy! We have wisitors!”

“I’ll get it, sweetie,” called Armie, already approaching her in the hallway. “Do you want to help me see who it is? Let’s have a look together, shall we?”

Mathilde laughed – from the sounds of it, she was having great fun helping her Daddy with the lock. Armie, patient as ever, let her take her time, letting her do most of the work pushing the door open. Timmy listened to their interaction with amusement. He loved how excited their daughter got; how little it took for her to jump up and down with eagerness.

But he frowned when the hallway went suddenly quiet. Whoever was stood in their door, it had to be someone unknown to Mathilde, otherwise she would have shouted their name already. So why was Armie not talking? There was an odd silence, which continued for another moment or so until, finally:

“Mom?”

Timmy dropped the plate out of his hands and it disappeared back into the soapy water. No. Surely not. This couldn’t be-

“Armand, dear. You sound so shocked to see me. Did you forget you had a mother? Is that why you haven’t called me in over a year?”

Flustered and worried, Timmy dried his hands in the kitchen towel and tried his hardest to brave up. He knew he couldn’t hide from his mother-in-law, besides Armie could probably do with some backup. As he left the kitchen tentatively, he heard his husband’s harsh response:

“Mom, what are you doing here? Right now is not a good time. We’re pretty busy-“

Dru Hammer emitted one of her infamous sarcastic laughs, causing Timmy to shiver.

“Is that all you have to say to me after all this time? After I’ve come all this way to see my own son? You’re busy? Busy with what? Having another child behind my back? When were you going to tell your own mother that she’s going to have another grandchild? You didn’t think this was any of my business?”

When Timmy appeared behind them, all pale and nervous, Mathilde turned around and hid behind his legs.

“Da-da, qui est-ce? Je ne l’aime pas…” (Da-da, who is this? I don’t like her.)

Timmy gave Mrs Hammer an awkward look, terrified that she’d understood her own granddaughter’s insult. When Armie’s mother noticed his appearance, though, she didn’t care to meet his gaze. Instead, she seemed to narrow in on his rounded belly, eyeing it carefully, looking more suspicious than pleased.

Armie’s frosty tone attracted her attention once again.

“Frankly, no. No, Mom. I’m not really sure if this is any of your business. Since you haven’t been to visit your first grandchild in years, I didn’t think you would care about the second one, either.”

Dru gave her son an angry stare.

“Armie,” Timmy objected, gesturing towards Mathilde to remind him that she could hear every word. “Don’t talk like that. Please.”

He regretted his interference immediately, as soon as Dru’s hateful eyes landed on him.

“You,” she uttered coolly, putting down a heavy suitcase which Timmy hadn’t realised she was holding until now, forcing him to wonder with dread why she’d even brought stuff with her. “You are the reason my son hates me, aren’t you? Well, my dear, I am not going to stand for it. I refuse to be pushed out of the family like this. I bet you thought you’d seen the last of me, but guess what – I’m here to stay! I’m going to be part of my grand-children’s lives, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.”

As if reacting to the bad news, Philippe started to conveniently kick up a fuss inside his stomach, jolting around and kicking Timmy’s ribs as if looking for an escape route. Enduring his baby boy’s small protests from inside the womb, Timmy bit his lip silently, clueless as to what they were going to do.

He felt just about ready to vomit when Dru pushed her way past Armie and entered their house, completely uninvited.

Chapter Text

At the dinner table that night, Dru sat down next to her granddaughter, who squirmed and inched closer towards her Daddy in response. Armie’s mind was too scattered to notice Mathilde’s despair. He was too busy scowling at his mother as he quietly withdrew from the conversation. Timmy was sat at the far end of the table, next to Pauline, too nervous to even touch his food. Armie regretfully acknowledged that the younger man was too delicate to be dragged through this epic fakery.

“You’re, like, nine months pregnant,” Armie had fretted upon catching him hard at work in the kitchen. “I can’t believe you’re cooking dinner for this woman. You should be lying down.”

“I had to cook for her. You refused to,” Timmy had retorted, despite not meaning it as an accusation. “She’s had a long trip and she probably hasn’t eaten all day.”

“So what if she’s hungry? She didn’t have to come here. She wasn’t even invited, for crying out loud!”

Timmy had looked at him, all soft and innocent, and it had only reminded Armie of his good heart, and how much he loved him, even if he didn’t understand his selflessness. He knew that Timothée wanted to treat his mother-in-law like any other guest, simply because he believed it was the right thing to do. And yet, watching Dru scrunching up her face and cutting away good meat that she found too dry to eat, Armie realised that his husband’s gesture of kindness had been received with next to no gratitude.

“The food is great, baby,” he spoke deliberately, breaking his silence in order to make a point of her poor behaviour. “Best I’ve ever had.”

Dru looked up from her plate. Armie’s face remained stern and confrontational.

“Oh. Thank you,” muttered Timmy, well aware that Armie was trying to stir things up. “Help yourselves to some more.”

“Da-da? Can I have some more Mac and cheese, pwease?”

Mathilde lifted up her plate, having finished her first portion. Timmy smiled at her.

“Of course, sweetie. Let me go get you some more-“

“No way, mister. You’re a little too pregnant to service others,” remarked Pauline as she stood up and reached for her niece’s plate. “I’ll fill you up, Tilly, it’s okay.”

Pauline had barely left the table before Dru put down her knife and fork and looked at her granddaughter curiously.

“Mathilde, darling. Can I hear you say please?”

Armie and Timmy both caught Mathilde’s perplexed expression. She looked up at the woman sat next to her, her eyes filling with wonder.

“But I alweady said it.”

“No, darling. You said ‘pwease.’ ‘Pwease’ is not a word.” Dru smiled down at her, however, Mathilde began to visibly lean further away from her, closer towards Armie. “Try it again. It’s pronounced please.”

“Pwease…”

“No, darling. Listen to Grandma. It’s ‘please.’ Now, try it again.”

Armie suddenly slammed his palm against the surface of the table; not hard enough to scare his baby girl, but certainly hard enough to warn the older woman.

“Let her have her dinner in peace, for Christ’s sake. She asked politely for her food, you have no right correcting her like this…”

Upon sensing the tension between her Daddy and her estranged grandmother, Mathilde finally jumped out of her chair and ran to Timmy’s side. Timmy, blushing awkwardly, wrapped his arm around her shoulder, much too pregnant to pick her up.

Watching the little girl running away from her, Mrs Hammer scoffed.

“Listen, all I’m saying is, she’s five. She needs to learn how to speak properly-“

“She’s four,” Armie cut her off, frowning even worse than before. “She struggles with her l’s and r’s sometimes, it’s completely normal for someone her age. You don’t even know the first thing about her, do you, Mom?”

“I know she’s too old to run off like that,” snapped the older woman, gesturing at the way that Mathilde was now hiding her face at Timmy’s shoulder. “And I know that she’s too old to be eating macaroni and cheese when the rest of us are having a roast dinner!”

“God, you’re so delusional to actually think that you get to teach anyone about parenting!” Armie exclaimed, raising his voice at her. “Kids don’t always like what adults eat. She can have macaroni and cheese if she wants, it’s none of your business!”

Pauline returned from the kitchen, having missed what the sudden fighting was about. As soon as she offered the topped up plate to her niece, Mathilde merely burst into tears and fled the room. She wasn’t used to having strangers criticizing her like this; certainly not anyone claiming to be her Grandma.

“There you go!” Scolded Armie, looking over his shoulder to catch Mathilde slamming the door on her way out. “Did you fucking have to hurt her feelings like that? Is that why you’re here? To make your own granddaughter feel bad about herself?”

“If I had known that you were raising your daughter to be such a crybaby, I would have interfered a long time ago!” Dru bit back harshly. “Maybe that’s what happens when a child is forced to grow up without a mother…”

“Oh, here we go again,” Armie laughed with manic sarcasm, standing up from the table somewhat aggressively. “You think we fucked her up because we’re two men giving her all the love in the world? You think she’s traumatized from having two daddies and zero moms? Is that it? Well, tell you what, mother – if I could have had two of Dad and zero of you growing up, I would have been the happiest kid in the-“

“Armie!” Timmy gasped, trying desperately to prevent the situation from escalating further. “Armie, please, just stop. Can you go check on her? She’s upset.”

“You’re right,” panted Armie, rubbing his forehead. He tried to keep himself from screaming, from throwing things against the wall. “You’re right, she’s upset, and she’s a lot more important to me than any of your bullshit,” he chuckled darkly, pointing his finger at his mother. “Consider this a warning. If you make my daughter cry like this again, we’re done, you’re out. Do you understand?”

He didn’t await her answer. As he motioned to leave the room, Dru snorted at him scornfully.

“She’s doing this to get your attention! Armand, you’re too soft with her!”

He slammed the door, hard.

“He’s left,” remarked Pauline sternly, crossing her arms as she gave Mrs Hammer a condemning look. “You can lower your voice now.”

“Pauline!” Hissed Timmy, eyeing his sister pleadingly. “Arrête! (Stop it!) Can you – can you go make Mrs Hammer some coffee? I think we’ve finished eating.”

“Coffee? I’m not making her coffee!” Pauline huffed, putting Mathilde’s plate down. “She made my niece cry! Armie’s right. This is bullshit!”

“Pauline, please. Je t’en prie… (I’m begging you.)”

“No. I don’t want to be part of this,” decided the brunette stubbornly, picking up her glass of red wine. “I’ll be upstairs if you need me, bro, but I won’t play waitress for her unless she apologises for what she said.”

At that, Pauline grabbed the entire bottle of wine as well. As she ditched them both and rushed up the stairs, Timmy shifted in his seat, clearing his throat with embarrassment.

“Mrs Hammer, I’m sorry-“

“Save it, dear, there’s no need.” Dru downed the rest of her wine and pushed her dinner plate aside. “I know what it’s like to be surrounded by ungrateful family members.”

“With all due respect, I don’t think-“

“It doesn’t matter,” she sighed, interrupting the young man by holding up her hand, asking him to stop. “It’s been a long day. Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll have that coffee.”

“Uhm – yeah, of course.” Timmy gripped the edge of the table for support, rising to his feet with effort. “Just give me a moment to-“

“No – heavens no, boy, I’ll make it myself,” emitted the older woman, tutting at the size of his belly. “You look like you barely have enough strength to stand on your feet. You’re must be just about ready to pop.”

In the kitchen, Dru commented on his skinniness, claiming he had lost even more weight since his first pregnancy. When she seemed to hint at his recklessness, and the health of the baby, Timmy couldn’t help but take offense.

“I can assure you, I eat enough for the both of us. I’m not starving him.”

“Him?” Dru suddenly put down the kettle and spun around to stare at him. “It’s a boy? I’m – I’m having a grandson?”

“You… You didn’t know?” Timmy detected the genuine surprise in her voice. Armie hadn’t told her anything about the pregnancy at all. “Uh… Why don’t we go sit down together?” He offered then, forcing a small smile. “I’ll tell you more about him, if you want.”

 

*

 

Armie followed the sound of miserable sobbing and found Mathilde hiding in the bathroom. Though she had closed the door for privacy, Armie could hear her all way from the hallway, from where he stood listening to her dejection with great grief. He remembered himself as a little boy after being scolded by his parents. No one ever came to find him when he had been crying in the bathroom, except for the maid, Tracy, if he was lucky. He didn’t want his daughter to ever go through that. He didn’t want her to be alone, like he had been.

“Honey? Mathilde?” He approached the bathroom door, knocking lightly. “Can I come in?”

Mathilde stopped sobbing for a moment. She was too choked-up to answer him, so Armie pushed down the handle. Luckily, she still didn’t know how to work the lock.

“Sweetie, what are you doing in here? Come here – let’s get you off the dirty floor,” uttered Armie softly, hating the way that Mathilde had slumped herself down on the tiles, hugging her knees to her chest, looking all panic-stricken and heartbroken. “Here, baby. Let’s hug it out.”

He squatted down in front of her, reaching out his open arms. Though she was still breathless from crying, Mathilde couldn’t help but to look up at her Daddy. He looked so big, so strong. He was everyone’s rock. Hers. Da-da’s. He made everything and everyone feel safe, even when the rest of the world seemed awful. There was nothing that Daddy couldn’t fix, or make better. Sniffling hard, she straightened her little body and reached out her arms, too.

“There you go. Come here, baby,” Armie whispered gently, picking her up from the floor. He let her bury her face against his chest, not caring if his shirt filled with snot and tears. “That’s a good girl. Now, take a deep breath. Everything’s going to be okay. You’re okay.”

He raised himself to his feet and held her close, keeping quiet as he gave her a moment to get her breathing under control. His hold on her was tight. He began to rock his body back and forth a little bit, knowing that she would find this soothing. He’d seen Timmy do this with her a million times. It worked wonders. Slowly, Mathilde simply hiccupped and sighed, taking in a deep breath, no longer choking and blubbering.

He kissed her head tenderly, figuring she was ready to talk.

“That’s better, isn’t it? Deep breaths now, love. Everything’s fine.” Armie paused. Mathilde hiccupped again. “Tell Daddy what’s wrong. Was it your Grandma Dru?”

Her name triggered another round of desperate crying. Armie winced and silently cursed his mother.

“Wh-why is she being so mean?” Wheezed Mathilde, struggling to get her words out. “I – don’t – like – her.”

Armie set his jaw and held her even closer if possible.

“I know, honey. She was wrong to say what she said. She doesn’t know you. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Please believe me when I say that you didn’t do anything wrong. You were being polite and well-behaved like always.”

He kissed her head again. Mathilde whimpered in response:

“How come she doesn’t like me?”

“She does like you, sweetie. She loves you. She just… She just doesn’t know how to behave around you. You see, she hasn’t been visiting a lot. She lives far away. Sometimes it feels like she’s a stranger, even though she’s family. She doesn’t realise that she’s being rude.”

“But she is WUDE,” responded Mathilde, for the first time emitting a bit of anger, which Armie didn’t mind. “She’s not vewy nice.”

Armie couldn’t help but to smile.

“You’re right. She’s not very nice.” He tried to keep from giggling, but he couldn’t. “You know, you’re a lot nicer than she is. She could really learn from you, don’t you think?”

Mathilde looked up at him, wiping her eyes.

“Daddy? Do you fink we can teach her to be more nice?”

“I don’t know, sweetheart. Maybe. That’s a good idea. We could try.”

“But how long does she have to stay? I kinda want her to go…”

“Yeah, me too,” confessed Armie, chuckling tiredly. “But she’s your grandmother. She wants to get to know you better. We have to let her stay, but only as long as she’s nice. I promise, if she’s nasty again, I will send her home.”

“Weally? You would do that?”

“Of course. She needs to appreciate what a good girl you are. I’m not going to let her say anything mean about you. You know how much I love you, don’t you?”

Armie hadn’t expected it, but suddenly, he felt a tightening in his chest. He really did love his daughter, more than life itself. Though he’d told her so often, he sometimes worried it wasn’t enough. A child needed to know how much they were cherished. A child needed that kind of affection, needed to know that they were good enough, that they were loved for who they were and that this kind of love was completely unconditional.

Armie remembered being four or five years old, breaking his arm whilst playing around with the family dog out in the garden. He’d tripped over a rock and taken a bad fall and it had been his first time experiencing not only blinding agony, but also fear. Unaware that his arm had been broken, he’d started wailing, calling his mother for help when he couldn’t move it. He’d had large bruises on both his knees. He’d been bleeding down his legs. Alas, his parents had had visitors that day. Armie had been crying so loudly, all the neighbours had heard him, and Dad’s colleague, Mr Price, had mocked him, telling everyone that he cried like a little girl. His mother had been embarrassed of him, refusing to even help him off the ground.

“There, there. A few broken bones is something every boy has to go through in his lifetime,” his Dad had tried to comfort him while they waited for the doctor to arrive. “You just need to put on a brave face.”

Dru had been less understanding. She’d been angry with Armie for ruining a good party. She’d told him that he was too old to act like a baby, that he was being pathetic. She had reminded him that boys don’t cry, that it was time for him to man up. If their guests hadn’t been watching, she might have hugged and kissed him, but she didn’t. This was her idea of public behaviour, of reputation, and of discipline.

“Daddy?” Mathilde’s voice caused Armie to suddenly snap out of it. “Daddy, what’s wong?”

Armie’s mouth had gone completely dry. He hadn’t even noticed the way that he’d been clinging to his daughter. Perhaps he was the one who had needed the embrace all along.

“Nothing, honey, it’s just – your grandmother used to say a lot of mean things to me as well. When I was a kid.”

Mathilde’s eyes were sweet and sorrowful, reminding him of Timothée. She looked at him earnestly as she reached out her little hand and petted him on the head.

 

*

 

Timmy tried to keep still when Dru put her hands on his stomach, hoping to feel a jolt from her grandson inside.

“He’s usually calmer this time of night,” Timmy lied, hoping she would give up and retract her hands.

His mother-in-law kept quiet and leaned back in the sofa, keeping her eyes focused on his rounded belly, acting like she had been gifted with an x-ray vision allowing her to observe the little boy in there. Timmy, feeling uncomfortable with this attention, cleared his throat and reached for the baby scan photos next to him.

“So these scans were taken only a few weeks ago, but as you can imagine, he’s already gained, like, a pound since then,” he told her proudly, handing her the photos. “He’s growing so fast now. My due date is only three weeks away.”

Dru didn’t seem interested in knowing the baby’s measurements, but glanced at the scans, looking like she had expected to see more.

“How exciting,” she commented, muttering the words under her breath, “I can’t believe I’m going to have a grandson in three weeks. And Armand was going to let me miss every moment of it.”

Timmy looked down at his own hands, feeling slightly awkward.

“I’m sorry, Mrs Hammer. I honestly thought he’d told you.”

It was all made worse by the fact that Armie’s brother Viktor had been at the baby shower. There had been so many family members and friends, so many pictures posted on social media. None of it had felt secretive. Timmy hadn’t once had the feeling that Armie had been trying to keep his parents from finding out.

Dru eyed him disbelievingly.

“You honestly think I wouldn’t have visited sooner if I knew that I was having a grandson? Did it ever occur to you that I would have been part of this if I could?” She let out a bitter laughter. “God, son. How little do you think of me? I guess you assumed I didn’t care. I guess you think of me as some sort of heartless bitch.”

“No! Mrs Hammer, that’s not…”

“Maybe you convinced Armand not to tell me anything? Is that it? You didn’t want me to be part of this!”

At that, Timmy snapped. He snatched the baby scans out of her hands, as if worried that she would corrupt them with her hateful, erratic insolence.

“Look!” He exclaimed at her, forgetting for a moment how terrified he was of her. “I know that you would prefer to think of me as some sort of horrible, evil witch who – who hexed your son and turned him gay against his will and forced him to have kids with me instead of some beautiful, well-respected woman like, I don’t know, Elizabeth. And yes, I agree, she’s amazing, but that’s not the point! The truth is – if Armie decided not to tell you about our second child, the decision came from him and him alone. I haven’t been brainwashing him. I haven’t been trying to turn him against you – you did that yourself!”

Dru’s mouth fell open and she glared at him, full of abhorrence.

“How dare you! My Armie would never have treated me like this before – before you! Ever since you clawed your way into his life, he’s been acting like a completely different person-“

“Because he finally has the courage to be himself!” Timmy objected. “He’s happier than ever – why can’t you be happy for him?”

“Because this is not what a real family should look like! Armie could have done so well for himself, but you ruined it all, didn’t you?”

“He HAS done well for himself!” Timmy spat at her, furious in his defense. “I for one could not be more proud of him! And how DARE you suggest what a real family should look like? I love Armie and he loves our family and what we have together, and if you are not part of it, you only have yourself to blame! You’ve treated him horribly! You’ve been so judgmental, so critical, so…”

He stopped himself when he saw the expression on her face. He felt ever so ready to fight her, to drag her through the mud if he had to, just because he could, however, he hadn’t expected the look of defeat in her eyes. Not this soon.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell-“

Mrs Hammer held up her hand as if asking for mercy.

“Your daughter,” she whispered, her voice threatening to break. “If you found out in twenty-five years’ time that she was having a baby, and hadn’t told you about it. How would you feel?”

Timmy furrowed his brows. This would never be him and Mathilde. He had always loved his baby girl for who she was and he couldn’t wait to watch her grow up and become an individual of independence and freedom, couldn’t wait to watch her make her own decisions in life, couldn’t wait to hold her hand through all of it. No matter what, he and Armie would always be supportive of her, even through failure and mistakes. And that was a sacrifice that Dru had never been willing to make.

“If Mathilde ever decided to exclude me from her life like that,” Timmy humoured her, thinking the impossible scenario over earnestly. “I would do whatever it took for us to work things out. I would listen to what she had to say, and I would do whatever she asked of me in order for her to let me back into her life.”

Dru shook her head slightly.

“So you would let her have all the power, would you?” She snorted lightly, looking even more broken than before. “You would let her make all the demands and ask nothing in return?”

“Frankly, yes.” Timmy shrugged his shoulders, wondering if he was the one being too naïve, too young to see things from her point of view. “I mean – she’s my daughter. I would do anything.”

Dru pressed her lips together tightly.

“You really think this is my own doing, don’t you? You think I pushed Armie away from me.”

“With all due respect, you… You stopped visiting after we had Mathilde. You didn’t make the effort. You haven’t seemed interested in her, and you haven’t been supportive of Armie, either. Do you ever stop to think how this makes him feel?”

“How would I know how he feels when he doesn’t talk to me?” She crossed her arms defensively. “I only found out about my future grandson through Viktor’s wife. She let it slip – she forgot I wasn’t supposed to know. Even my youngest son agreed to hide this from me. I feel… humiliated.”

“Well, I’m… I’m sorry to hear that. Really.”

“You’re not.”

“I am! And just so you know, it’s not too late for you to be part of this,” Timmy heard himself saying, feeling compelled to offer some sort of silver lining. “If you’re serious about getting closer with your grandchildren, you need to talk to Armie. You need to work things out with him.”

Dru remained silent for a moment.

“So what are you naming him?”

“Sorry?”

“You said I haven’t seemed interested, so now I’m showing my interest. What are you naming my grandson?”

“Oh. Right. I forgot to mention. We’re – we’re naming him Philippe. Actually, Mathilde kinda chose it-“

“Philippe?” Dru repeated the name back to him, pulling a face. “Philippe – like Phillip, but in French?”

Timmy’s looked at her, unamused.

“Mathilde loves the name, and so do we,” he told her resolutely. “It’s been decided.” Then, just when Dru gave him another dirty look, he heard Armie’s voice in the hallway. “Excuse me for a moment.”

He lifted himself off the sofa and almost buckled under all the baby weight before fleeing the living room as fast he could. He caught Armie and Mathilde by the stairs. As soon as Mathilde saw him, she reached for him with her one free hand, the other still holding Armie’s.

“Da-da!”

“Hey, baby. There you are. Are you feeling okay?”

She nodded valiantly, though her eyes remained slightly puffy. Timmy bowed down to kiss her cheek. Meanwhile, Mathilde’s little hand gripped a hold of his fingers.

“Daddy and I have decided that Gwanma Dwu can only stay if she’s nice,” she told him seriously, after which she looked up at Armie. “Isn’t that wight, Daddy?”

Timmy watched Armie’s face. His eyes were calm, yet burdened.

“Y-yes, honey. That’s what we’ve decided.” The blonde man forced a smile, letting go of her hand. “Listen, you should go check up on Auntie Pauline for me. She’s in her room. I’ll join you in a moment.”

“Okay, Daddy.”

They watched her make her way up the stairs. Once they were alone in the hallway, Timmy simply wrapped his arms around the bigger man, pulling him in for a hug. He smiled when he felt Armie encircling his arms around his waist and burrowing his head into his shoulder.

“I’m sorry your mother keeps doing this to you.”

Armie held him tighter, letting the hug grow more urgent.

“I love you,” whispered the blonde. Before Timmy could say it back, he added: “Am I being stupid? For giving her another chance, I mean?”

The brunette gently cupped his cheek, urging him to look at him and when he did, Timmy stretched his neck so that he could kiss him. Armie returned the kiss softly, his hand settling in those dark, glossy curls.

“You’re not stupid. You’re much kinder than she deserves.”

“B-but is it right? I mean, you’re only weeks away from giving birth. I want to do what’s best for you.“

Timmy put his hand on top of Armie’s, stroking his fingers gently.

“Look… She’s your mother. And she’s trying. She’s really trying to do better this time. And if you want to give her a second chance, I’ll support your decision.”

Armie swallowed drily.

“She’ll have to take the guest room next to Pauline’s,” he pointed out hesitantly. “Neither of them will be happy.”

“Don’t worry about Pauline,” Timmy assured him, though he secretly wondered if their decision would make his sister jump on the next flight back to Paris. “We’ll make it work.”

 

*

 

The pregnancy was quickly getting too much for Timmy, who could hardly manage to leave the bed with his suffering back. Now that he was about thirty-six weeks pregnant, he was experiencing higher levels of discomfort in the lower parts of his body. The baby had dropped lower in his abdomen, getting ready to be born, but with his hips being so narrow, he had to endure an almost constant pressure against his pelvis, making it impossible for him to relax his body.

Armie was sat by his bedside, gently massaging his shoulders. Timmy had been scheduled for a pelvic exam by Dr Shelton who wanted to ensure that his body was getting ready for the birth, however, it had been too much of a struggle for him to make it into the clinic. Instead, Dr Shelton had offered to come to their house in order to check up on his progress. As she entered the bedroom, having been shown upstairs by Pauline, Armie gave Timmy’s shoulders one final squeeze before letting go.

“Dr Shelton, thanks so much for coming. He’s all yours.”

“I see he’s been looked after well,” remarked the doctor, greeting Timmy with a smile. “How’s the back pain? Have you been sleeping better recently?”

Armie left them to it and followed Pauline back downstairs, wanting to give Timmy a bit of privacy. They found Dru making herself a cup of coffee in the kitchen. Still refusing to speak to the older woman, Pauline grabbed her handbag and told Armie she’d go see a friend for a few hours. When she left, Armie lingered by the door awkwardly, stalling, though he knew he couldn’t keep hiding from his mom.

“I see you’ve unpacked upstairs. Er… I hope the guest room is big enough for you,” he chitchatted as he entered the kitchen in order to make himself a sandwich. He couldn’t think of anything else to say to her, not without letting his resentment show.

“Sit down, love. I can make you some coffee,” offered Dru who seemed eager to spend some time alone with her son. “So – Timothée tells me you’re naming him Philippe.” She pronounced it Phil-ee-pay. “That’s interesting.”

At the prospect of having to talk to her about their choice of name, Armie took a big bite out of his sandwich, needing an excuse to ignore her.

“Yeah, uhm. It’s pronounced Phil-eep, Mom,” Armie corrected her, talking with his mouth full. “And yeah. Cute name, right?”

“It’s certainly interesting,” she said again, and he knew that she hated it. “I’m just saying – Timothée already decided a French name for your daughter. Don’t you think it’s your turn to pick a more American name for your son?”

“Mom. I want to name him Philippe,” Armie uttered with determination, unwilling to argue with her. “It’s been decided. It’s final.”

“Sounds to me like he makes all the calls, darling,” she remarked, hinting at her disapproval. "I mean, why should both your children have French names? Surely you can stand up to him.”

Suddenly, he heard the ending music from Mathilde’s Disney film blasting from the living room. She’d been watching it on her own, feeling too clingy to leave the house when Da-da remained upstairs, however, she grew bored without entertainment. Now that her film had ended, Armie knew that she would probably want to watch another.

“I better go check on her,” Armie uttered, picking up his coffee to take it with him.

“Are you trying to dodge our conversation? I’ve barely had a chance to talk to you since I came.”

“Me checking up on my daughter isn’t the same as avoiding you, Mom. If anything, you should be spending time with her instead of me. That’s what you came for, isn’t it? And yet, you’ve made no effort to talk to her.”

“Oh, don’t be ridiculous,” snorted Dru. “She’s four. What can I possibly say to start a conversation with a four-year-old?”

“You could say something nice to her. Give her a compliment.”

“Armand, I think you’re trying to test me.”

“I’m not trying to test you, Mom. I just don’t understand why you’re not spending any time with her. Perhaps you only came for your future grandson? Perhaps Mathilde matters less to you because she’s a girl. Is that it?”

Dru scowled at him, but Armie could tell that he had hit a nerve.

“Can you stop trying to make me look like such a monster?”

“Join me, then? For a Disney film?” He challenged her, watching her closely. “You want to make her happy, don’t you?”

Obviously, she had had no choice. Dru sulked all the way through watching the Little Mermaid with them, and though Mathilde wanted to sit in her Daddy’s lap in order to avoid sitting next to her grandmother, Armie couldn’t help but feeling amused by the whole situation. Here they were, three generations spending some rare quality time together. Dru, of course, was bored, but finally, she was actually trying.

“Mathilde, darling… I like your dress. It’s very pretty.”

Armie caught himself smiling at the look of confusion on his daughter’s face. It was the briefest of interactions, but it was a start. Perhaps Timmy had been right. Perhaps she really did want to do better.

 

*

 

Saoirse happened to be in town and came to see Timmy a few days later. She’d been calling him regularly, wanting to know when to prepare for Philippe’s arrival, and she had heard all about his discomfort. Together with Pauline, she began to look for ways to make him feel better and to relieve that tenderness in his suffering body. The girls must have been planning their surprise in secret, because when Saoirse finally showed up at the door with a handful of yoga mats, Armie felt his jaw dropping.

“We are going to do exercises with him,” announced Saoirse grinningly, amused by Armie’s astonishment. “Pauline and I have been doing our research, and yes, even at nine months pregnant, apparently a little bit of yoga is good for you.”

“Wow,” uttered Armie, finding himself laughing slightly. “That’s – awesome. He’s going to be so…”

“Pissed?”

“No! He’s going to love it,” he assured her, after which he called his daughter. “Mathilde – honey – come see who it is!”

Mathilde came running instantly.

“Saoirse!”

“Heey, little sunflower,” exclaimed Saoirse gleefully, squatting down to give the little girl a proper bear-hug. “It’s so good to see you!”

“Are you here to visit me?” Beamed Mathilde, already playing with Saoirse’s soft, blonde hair. Though it wasn’t curly like hers, it was still very pretty.

“Yes, indeed. And your Da-da as well. Aunty Pauline and I are going to help him do yoga. Do you know what yoga is, sweetie?”

Mathilde nodded eagerly, but Armie suspected his daughter was merely going with the flow, trying to be one of the cool kids.

“Awesome,” Saoirse humoured her, “maybe you can help us?”

“Yes! I’m good at it!” Bragged Mathilde, over the moon with excitement. She loved it when Da-da had his friends over.

“Wow, honey, that’s so generous of you,” chuckled Armie, exchanging a look with Saoirse behind her back. “Better let Saoirse and Pauline get started first, though. They can teach Da-da how to do it, and then you can join when they are ready. Okay?”

“Thanks, Armie,” smiled the blonde woman, picking up the yoga mats. “Is he upstairs?”

“Yup, go ahead. Can I help you carry anything?”

“Nah, I’m good. Girl power, you know. Isn’t that right, Tilly?”

“Yeah!”

Armie took a hold of Mathilde’s hand when she tried to follow Saoirse up the stairs, reminding her that they needed to get everything ready. He heard the door to the living room creaking as it opened. Shortly after, his mother appeared behind him.

“Was that the midwife?”

“No, Mom, just Timmy’s friend. She’s here to do a few exercises with him apparently.”

“Oh. What for?”

“Oh, you know – carrying a seven-pound baby is pretty straining for the body. She’s trying to make him more comfortable.”

Dru was silent for a moment, but couldn’t help herself after all:

“He seems to be struggling an awful lot, don’t you think? I mean, look at Elizabeth. Even when she was pregnant, she never spent a full day in bed.”

Armie rolled his eyes at what he’d heard. Not this again.

“Mom, where are you going with this?”

“I’m just saying – most pregnant women seem to be a lot stronger than him.”

Mathilde put her finger in her mouth as she glanced at her grandmother, looking like she was trying to understand what she was saying about her Da-da. Armie decided that nothing good could come of this conversation, so he took his daughter into his arms and left Dru’s comment hanging.

“Come, sweetie. Let’s go upstairs and get you changed, so you can show the girls how to do yoga.”

 

*

 

Armie knocked on the door to the bedroom and took a hold of Mathilde’s hand. She was now wearing her little, pink tutu together with tights and satin ballet shoes, confirming his every suspicion that she didn’t know what yoga was.

“Coming in,” he announced, just as Mathilde tore at the door handle with excitement.

He walked in to see his husband on his hands and knees, trying to raise one leg up in the air in order to stretch his body. Pauline was stood behind him, holding his hips to keep him balanced, meanwhile Saoirse had placed herself on a yoga mat in front of him, demonstrating the exercise elegantly while she encouraged him to relax his body.

“I AM relaxing my body,” he heard Timmy croaking with effort. “You don’t understand – my belly can’t defy gravity like yours!”

“You need to focus, Pony,” Saoirse scolded him slightly, after which she once again demonstrated how to keep her leg raised in the air long enough to reach her arm behind her back so she could wrap her hand around her ankle and hold it upright. “You’re so impatient.”

Timmy was wearing a pair of old shorts and one of Armie’s t-shirts. It was large on him, hanging loose around his arms and shoulders, yet hugging his rounded stomach very tightly. His curls were messy, now long enough to get in his eyes every time he looked down, causing him to scrunch up his face every time his hair tickled his skin. He looked stunning. He was so beautiful. Armie couldn’t take his eyes off him, couldn’t stop watching the shape of his long, lean legs in those shorts. His lovely, smooth skin was exposed and Armie instantly yearned to touch it, to touch him.

His perky, little butt was elevated, inviting Armie to admire the shape of his skinny curves. Saoirse was a genius. Yoga was a brilliant idea.

“Da-da!” Mathilde exclaimed, dashing into the room with zero patience. “Da-da, I’m gonna help you do yoga, too!”

Pauline let go of Timmy’s hips and Timmy dropped his leg immediately, looking up at his daughter. She was already prancing about, showing off her tutu proudly, hoping that, in some way, perhaps yoga involved some of her favourite dance moves.

“Oh my god, Tilly! You look so cute!” Cried Pauline, searching manically for her phone. “Can you do a spin for us? Let me get a picture!”

Mathilde did as she wished, spinning around and posing until Pauline’s phone was almost drained of battery. She was so much better at yoga than baby brother, and she adored the attention it was getting her.

“That was wonderful, my love,” praised Timmy, sitting himself upright. “Are you ready to help me do yoga? I’m not very good at it.”

“Sure, Da-da. I’ll show you.” Mathilde went to him and seated herself in between his legs. “Okay, Saoirse, you can start now.”

Saoirse and Pauline both gushed over her, causing Armie to grin.

“Is Daddy joining us?” Suggested Timmy, smiling up at Armie. He held a hand to his swollen stomach and arched his back. “I could use someone big and steady – for balance, I mean.”

“Now, I don’t really do yoga,” replied Armie, though when they all tutted at him, he chuckled: “But I guess I can let you lean against me or something. Like a human pillow.”

“My human pillow,” giggled Timmy as he made room for him.

“Let’s try again,” encouraged Saoirse when Armie sat down on the floor, holding Timmy’s back from behind. “Deep breaths, everyone. This is about mindfulness. Relaxation.”

She began to spread her legs and do a new stretch. Mathilde was quick to copy her. Stretching both her arms above her head, the little girl swayed her body agilely, looking up at her Da-da who continued to struggle.

“No, Da-da. Like this.” Mathilde gripped his calf gently and tried to help him stretch it further out. “Look at me and Saoirse. You can do it,” she said confidently.

Timmy puffed, feeling out of breath. Armie held his waist, keeping him from doubling over while he spread his legs further apart and raised his arms above his head. Sadly, his back was already cramping.

“Thanks, sweetie. You’re so good at it,” smirked the brunette, ruffling Mathilde’s hair. “I guess I’m just too big and bloated to move.”

“Well, you are basically nine-months pregnant,” Pauline reminded him. “Don’t be so hard on yourself, Timo.”

“You’re doing just fine,” added Saoirse kindly. “Anyway, the point is to make you feel better. Is it making any difference?”

“Well – I guess,” Timmy shrugged. “It feels good to be out of bed, at least.”

“Da-da? Gwandma Dwu said you are not vewy stwong,” remarked Mathilde suddenly. “Is that twue?”

“Oh. Uhm…”

Timmy’s expression grew slightly blank. Armie caught Pauline muttering something in French; whatever it was that she was calling his mother, he could only hope that Mathilde was too young to pick up those words.

“Of course it’s not true, Mathilde,” Armie said purposefully, rubbing Timmy’s shoulders with affection. “Da-da is the strongest person I know.”

“Yes, he is,” agreed Pauline, eyeing her brother sincerely.

Timmy looked down at his hands without saying anything. Armie couldn’t stand the thought of him letting someone walk all over him like that. It wasn’t fair. Timmy had been handling everything so well.

“I have an idea,” uttered Saoirse, looking to make the brunette smile again. “Tilly, will you help me style your Da-da’s hair? Let’s show him how beautiful he is.”

The girls combed and braided Timmy’s curls in front of the big mirror, fussing over him as he perched himself on the ottoman, giving them plenty of space to work with.

“Guys, I’m fine. You really don’t have to-“

Saoirse interrupted his objections.

“Being pregnant really suits you, Pony. You look so cute with your belly all big and your skin glowing like that. You’re so angelic.”

Timmy snorted. “Saoirse, please. I look awful. My clothes don’t fit me anymore. I wobble when I walk…”

“I wish I had your hair,” admitted Pauline as she helped Mathilde do another braid behind his ear. “It’s so lustrous and soft. Isn’t it pretty, Tilly-billy?”

“Yes,” smiled Mathilde. “He’s vewy pwetty with his curls like that.”

“And his eyes,” added Saoirse, refusing to stop. “His eyes are so stunning. I want to put make-up on his beautiful lashes.”

“Armie,” sighed Timmy, trying to keep himself from laughing. “Can you tell them not to patronise me? I’m pregnant. Not a child.”

Armie merely came up behind him and planted a big smacker on his cheek.

“He’s the loveliest thing I’ve ever seen,” continued the blonde amorously, pretending not to have heard him. “My perfect, little hubby.”

 

*

 

Nicole began to visit almost daily and most often, she dragged Marc along with her, too, needing him to carry whatever stuff she’d bought for either her grandson, or her now heavily pregnant boy. She was buying a lot of toys and baby clothes which seemed kind of unnecessary, but she also liked to bring drinks, cakes and sandwiches for her son, hoping that she would catch him hungry. She knew that it was getting close to the due date and she obviously wished for Timmy to have a little more meat on the bones before then, though she never said anything to pressure him into eating.

“Save it for later, darling,” she suggested smilingly when Timmy turned down a buttered bagel. “Surely you can drink your smoothie, though. It’s the mango one you like. I figured the vitamins would be good for you.”

“Thanks, Mom. I might not drink it all, though. I’m already peeing once every hour,” replied the brunette who sighed and rested his head back against the pillows. “It sucks being this big.”

“I think it suits you,” smirked Marc who couldn’t keep from petting his baby bump, hoping to feel his grandson move. “I’m only sorry that it pains you so.”

Timmy was too tired to leave the bedroom, so when Armie offered everyone a cup of coffee, Nicole and Marc drank theirs by his bedside. Pauline eventually joined them together with Mathilde – her niece crawled into her lap joyously, enjoying all the hugs and kisses from her grandparents who, unlike Dru, were always so nice to her, always offering her treats, especially now that Da-da didn’t want his. Even when Daddy said she’d had enough, Grandma Nicole always found a way to keep spoiling her.

“Armie, dear, I would hate for your mother to think that we’re hiding from her up here. I would have loved to catch up with her. I think it’s so great that she’s visiting,” remarked Nicole as she handed Mathilde one of her favourite chocolate chip cookies. “Mathilde, love, you must be so thrilled to have Grandma Dru staying with you?”

“No!” Chirped Mathilde naughtily, stuffing her face with cookie. “I don’t like having her here. She’s not nice. She’s a bit of a bitch.”

Timmy clutched at his chest dramatically – he couldn’t believe what his daughter had just said.

“Mathilde!” He gasped, horrified. “You can’t talk that way about your grandmother! Where did you even learn that word?”

“I heard you and Daddy say it when you had a bath. You said Gwanda Dwu was cwiticizing you for not cleaning the house better, and then Daddy said she was a bitch.”

Timmy gasped when she said it again. Armie hid his eyes in his palm, wanting to kick himself for not being more careful. When he looked around the room, he caught Nicole and Marc eyeing each other nervously.

Then Pauline burst out laughing. And she kept laughing, louder and louder until she had Mathilde in stitches, too, making her niece believe that she’d said something witty.

“Pauline!” Scolded Nicole lightly, but to no avail. The laughter was too infectious, even Armie couldn’t keep a straight face.

 

*

 

In the middle of the night, Timmy began to moan and squirm in his sleep. He dreamt that he was in the car with Armie behind the wheel, going faster and faster in order to make Mathilde and baby Philippe laugh from the backseat. Armie kept going, wanting to amuse the kids, but Timmy felt his pulse picking up. Anxiously, he asked him to slow down, but was overruled when they both heard Mathilde’s squeaking – ‘faster, Daddy, faster!’ Feeling out of control and scared, Timmy began to shout. When he turned to look over his shoulder, neither of his children were wearing their seatbelts.

“Armie!” He cried, kicking in his sleep. The older man kept spooning him from behind without waking up. “Armie – stop. We’re gonna crash. We’re…”

In his dream, he tried to unfasten his seatbelt so he could turn around and secure his daughter and son. The seatbelt wouldn’t budge. He was trapped. He thrashed manically, only feeling the strap tightening around his body, restraining him. He couldn’t move, couldn’t get to his children, couldn’t get Armie to listen, couldn’t ensure anyone’s safety before-

They crashed into a tree at full speed, causing Timmy to startle awake, screaming.

“NO! HELP THEM! OH MY GOD, HELP…”

He thought he could still feel the seatbelt squeezing around his middle, holding him back, but it turned out to be Armie’s arms.

“Hey! Timmy – what the fuck? What’s happening?”

His arms finally released him, allowing Timmy to breathe, which he did. He panted like he was dying. Then reality hit him. They were okay. He and Armie were still alive, Mathilde was safe, and Philippe was still protected inside his stomach, having yet to be born.

“Sorry,” wheezed the younger man, feeling himself shaking. “I – I don’t know. I guess it was just one of those nightmares.”

“Shit!” Armie groaned, pushing himself into a sitting position. “Oh god, for a moment I thought something was wrong with the baby. You sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine. Philippe is fine,” Timmy assured him, though he couldn’t keep from double checking his stomach, searching for any signs of emergency. “Fuck. It felt so real…”

“What?” Armie wrapped his arm around his shoulders gently. “What did you dream?”

“Nothing. It’s silly. I – I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Man…” Armie emitted a nervous laughter as he pulled Timmy closer to him. “I was mentally preparing myself for having to rush you to the hospital in the middle of the night. I assumed you were in labour.”

Timmy let his head fall against the bigger man’s shoulder.

“Nah,” he rasped, feeling an odd stinging in his throat. “He’s not due for another two weeks. I’m holding on to him as long as I can. It’s a scary world out there.”

 

*

 

Late Friday afternoon, Timmy had taken Mathilde for a short walk around the neighbourhood, having needed to get out of the house and stretch his legs. After all, Dr Shelton did encourage him to break his bedrest whenever he felt capable. He needed to keep his body strong in order to ready himself for the birth, and it seemed that Mathilde, too, was keen to take him out.

“I’m feeling peckish,” smiled the brunette as he took the little girl’s hand and walked her down the street. “Should we go get an ice cream? There’s that place we like just a few blocks away.”

Mathilde had jumped up and down, pulling at his arm as she dragged him along. It had been a beautiful day, chilly, but sunny. They got an ice cream cone each, Timmy picked pistachio while Mathilde preferred strawberry. They practiced walking and eating at the same time, wanting to go through the park in order to look for the ducks by the pond. In the end, they came by a small playground. When Mathilde saw the swings, she wolfed her ice cream down so she could have a go at them while she waited for Da-da to finish his.

As he watched Mathilde by the swings, Timmy had started talking to another mom who turned out to be five months pregnant. When she’d heard how far along he was, she’d seemed sympathetic. It was her third time around and she always hated the last stages of her pregnancy, referring to them as ‘pure agony.’ When she had asked him how he found the energy to go outside, Timmy had joked that his mother-in-law had temporarily moved in and turned the house upside-down.

The slightly older woman had started laughing and after that, he’d felt strangely guilty for speaking his mind.

About half an hour later, he had taken Mathilde’s hand, gesturing for them to head back. His girl had been all bubbly and happy, however, he had a strange feeling in his stomach that he had made a mistake leaving Armie alone with Dru for such a significant amount of time. Worried that something had happened while they were out, he texted his husband to let him know that they were on their way. Armie didn’t reply. Calling him didn’t work, either.

He had his suspicions confirmed as soon as they made it back to the house.

“Mrs Hammer? Are you okay?”

Dru was stood outside with her suitcase clutched in her hands, her expression wild and infuriated. She was wearing her coat, some of the buttons left open. Her hair was slightly disheveled, making Timmy realise that she must have gathered her belongings and left in haste.

“No,” she snapped at him when he and Mathilde approached her, “of course I’m not okay! My own son has been treating me cruelly, calling me all sorts of names – I’ve never felt so disrespected in my entire life. This house is toxic! Do you hear me, son? Toxic!”

Timmy tucked his hair behind his ears and shuddered, feeling a sudden chill. He let go of Mathilde’s hand and gently urged her to go back inside.

“Mrs Hammer, why are you stood out here? Come on. I can make you some coffee, and we can talk this through with Armie…”

“I am done with Armie,” she bit back, making Timmy retreat slightly. “I am not speaking to him unless he apologises for what he’s said. I can’t believe he would treat his own mother this way. You really must have poisoned his mind, dear. Well done. Congratulations, you win. He’s all yours now. Are you happy?”

Timmy gave her a deadpan look. No, obviously this didn’t feel like a victory for him.

“I’ll talk to him,” he sighed, “don’t go anywhere. I’m sure we can work something out.”

He found Armie in the kitchen, sweeping up little shards of glass from what looked like a broken vase. As soon as he saw Timmy coming, he got up from the floor and held his hands out in front of him defensively.

“Before you say anything, I didn’t throw anything at her. She threw the vase against the wall. She completely lost her shit. Obviously we can’t let her stay anymore. She’s a lunatic.”

“Oh, fuck. I can’t believe it. Where’s Mathilde?” Timmy grew suddenly anxious. The last thing he wanted was for her to witness any domestic disputes.

“I told her to go to Pauline’s room while I cleaned this up,” exhaled Armie, shaking his head at the mess on the floor. “I’m serious, Tim. I’m not letting that woman near my daughter. Not like this. She’s out of her mind.”

“I’m sorry,” whispered the younger man, observing Armie with worry. “Are you okay? What did you guys fight about?”

“I’m fine. Just the usual bullshit. She wants her grandson to be a mini version of me. She wants him to have my name and she wants him to be raised with her fucked-up, traditional values. She thinks you and your family will get in the way of that. She thinks you’re too liberal. She doesn’t want a grandchild, she wants a fucking heir. I told her the truth. She doesn’t care about Mathilde. She’s only interested in Philippe because he’s a boy.”

Armie’s lip was quivering, but when Timmy motioned to hug him, he whispered: “Don’t.”

“Armie… I don’t blame you for kicking her out, but where is she going to go? She’s just stood out there, looking all lost.”

“She’ll be fine. She’s checking into a hotel for tonight, tomorrow she’ll get on a plane home. She’s called a taxi. She’s not our problem anymore.”

Timmy didn’t know what to say. Part of him didn’t think that Armie really meant it and yet, he didn’t feel right to challenge him, either.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

Armie huffed quietly as he returned to sweeping up the broken glass.

“She broke your favourite vase, Tim. She can fuck off for all I care.”

 

*

 

One hour later, Timmy was watching Dru from the window. She was still stood there, holding her suitcase, grasping it like she was going to get mugged if she put it down. It had started to rain. It was getting dark. The taxi still didn’t show.

He heard the door behind him opening, but he couldn’t tear himself away from the window.

“Armie, I think we should-“

“Not Armie,” sounded Pauline’s voice as she walked up behind her brother to take a look outside. “Armie’s watching TV with Tilly. I don’t think he’s in the mood to talk.”

Timmy spun around to face her.

“Pauline, I can’t leave her on her own like that. She doesn’t know the city. I don’t think the taxi is coming to pick her up.”

“I know it’s not. I kinda gave her the wrong address when she called them, as a prank. But she’s so daft, she didn’t even realise.”

Timmy glared at her incredulously.

“Are you serious? That’s not funny! Please tell me you’re kidding-“

“I’m not kidding!” Pauline said stubbornly. “And I’m not sorry. That woman was horrible to Armie, and to you, and to Mathilde. She can help herself.”

“Pauline, how could you do this?” Timmy bellowed, all panicky. “It’s dark and wet out there! She’s waiting for someone who will never show.”

“Fine,” sighed the young woman, rolling her eyes at him. “I’ll call the company now. I’ll give them the right address this time.”

“She’s soaking wet already, we can’t let her wait another twenty minutes. Pauline, you have to take her. I know we’ve all agreed to hate her, but she’s Armie’s mother.”

“What?” Cried his sister. “I’m not taking her! She can move her ass and walk to the Plaza herself, or the Four Seasons, or wherever she’s staying! We don’t owe that stupid snob anything.”

Pauline turned away from him and slammed the door on her way out. When he heard her feet on the stairs, Timmy realised that he had no one around to rely on. If Armie and Pauline didn’t give a flying fuck about leaving her out in the rain, he would have to take matter into own hands.

 

*

 

“Mrs Hammer! Get in the car – quick!”

Timmy put on Armie’s raincoat as he rushed outside to unlock the car doors. When Dru remained stood there, pretending not to want his help, he groaned and stole the suitcase out of her hands.

“What on earth do you think you’re doing-“

“There was a mix-up with the taxi,” he told her simply, lifting the suitcase into the boot of the car. “I’ll give you a ride to your hotel. Come on, please just – get in.”

 

*

 

Traffic was dreadful.

He kept hitting all the red lights, getting caught in one traffic jam after another. It was taking forever. He was struggling to get the directions up on the GPS, meanwhile, Dru wasn’t being very helpful at all.

“I bet you think you have it all, son. I bet you think you’ve got the whole world figured out, but just you wait. One day you’ll grow old, and your kids will hate you, and throw all the love you’ve given them back in your face.”

She sounded like she was about to cry. She’d been moaning the whole way, and though Timmy tried not to encourage her display of self-pity, he couldn’t help but to comment.

“Maybe people throw that love back in your face,” he told her coldly, glancing back at her in the rearview mirror, “because you say you’ll be there for your grandkids, but all you do is start fights, criticize, throw vases at people…”

Dru ran a hand through her wet hair, letting it drip all over the backseat.

“Oh please! Like you’re so perfect with your lazy parenting, and with your spoiled, sugar-coated daughter who has the emotional maturity of a two-year-old. That girls cries at anything, and you just sit back and let her.”

“She’s four years old!” Cried the brunette. “God, were you this horrible to Armie when he was that age? No wonder he grew up thinking you didn’t love him!”

Things escalated immediately from there.

“Don’t you dare say anything about my love for Armie! I’ve always loved my son, even after everything he’s put me through! I was a good mother – I am not going to let you dispute that.”

“You started it by talking about my daughter!” Timmy snapped back at her. “You know what, I’m NOT sorry that Armie kicked you out and I’m NOT sorry that you-“

The words got stuck in his throat when a sudden pain ripped through his back and abdomen, causing him to choke. He swallowed a small sob as he held his breath and forced himself to keep his eyes on the road. He came to another red light, offering him just enough time to take a deep breath and bite back any reaction to his sudden agony.

“What?” Dru snarled at him, inviting him to continue. “Oh, I see. Have you run out of things to say to abuse me?”

Timmy fluttered his eyes closed for a brief moment. As unexpected as it had struck him, the pain was gone. He focused on steadying his breath, on watching the lights turn green…

“You know what,” he uttered hoarsely as he started driving again, “let’s not do this. Maybe it’s best if we don’t say another word to one another. I’ll drop you off at your hotel, you’ll make your plane tomorrow, and we won’t have to suffer through each other’s company anymore.”

“Huh,” retorted Dru. “Fine. Give me the silence treatment, then. I guess you’re just happy to get rid of me. Never mind if I came all this way to try and reconnect with my family…”

“Oh, please!” Timmy protested. “You did not come here to reconnect with-”

He gasped loudly this time when the pain in his back returned, only to intensify as it spread to his stomach. He gripped the wheel tightly, panting with fear as he felt the sweat break out across his forehead. He clenched his teeth together, hard, forcing himself to breathe through it.

Dru heard.

“What’s the matter now?” She probed without sympathy. “You’re not going to crash the car, I hope.”

Timmy bit his lip violently, not caring if he tore through his skin. Slowly, the pain subsided again.

“I’m fine,” he hissed with effort. “Thanks for caring.”

“Do you need to pull over?”

“No. We’re not making any stops.” He sped up slightly as he tried to avoid another red light. He wasn’t fast enough. “God! What’s with the traffic tonight?” He cursed out loud, growing increasingly desperate. “Why the fuck couldn’t you have picked a hotel closer by?”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you wanted me far away from your family.”

“You know what – let’s go back to not talking,” he griped, trying his hardest to calm his nerves. “I can’t deal with this.”

To her credit, Dru was pretty good at driving him crazy even without talking. She breathed heavily, huffing and puffing as a way of bringing attention to her dissatisfaction. Distracted and pressured, Timmy took a wrong turn and had to turn the car around, getting caught in a new queue. By the time another ache tore through his back and abdomen, he felt about ready to dissolve in tears.

“How can you keep getting the directions wrong?” Growled Dru from behind him. “You have a navigator, don’t you?”

Timmy ignored her when he felt his phone buzzing in his pocket. He knew it was probably Armie calling him. By now he must have realised that he was gone and that he had taken the car with him. Timmy imagined that he was probably worried sick, but the last thing he needed was more distraction.

When he hit another red light, he caught a text message coming in from him: ‘Where are you? Tim please don’t scare me like this. Call me.’ He put the phone down. He would call Armie back as soon as he’d dropped off Dru. He made it back onto the main road. The rain had almost stopped, making it easier for him to see. He spotted the hotel sign further ahead and sighed with relief. Then-

“Argh!!”

He cried as he clutched at his stomach. He had tried to prepare himself, but it had snuck up on him, anyway, almost forcing him to double over with impact. Despite not wanting to face the fact, he felt the pain building up in his body. It was only going to get worse from here. He wasn’t sure how much time he had before then.

“Are you… Are you alright?”

Timmy ignored her, pulling the car over immediately.

“Get your stuff! Hotel is just down the road. You can see… the sign… from h- argh!”

He let out a whimpering sound and grimaced, feeling the tears stinging in his eyes. No. No, this could not be happening. Not now. They were so close. She was just about to walk away. Everything would be fine, as long as he never had to deal with her again.

“Timothée. You look...”

“I’m fine. Just… Get your things. Get out!”

She didn’t move, but stayed put.

“Timothée…”

“No, please. Please, just go,” he begged, grinding his teeth as he struggled to talk. “It’s nothing. G-get your suitcase.”

“Timothée, wait. Are you having contractions? You’re – you’re in pain.”

“What? No!” He shook his head stubbornly. “No, I’m not due for another two weeks. It’s nothing. Seriously, just – go. I’ll be fine…”

Slowly, Dru opened the car door, but didn’t get out.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake!” The brunette turned off the engine and removed his seatbelt. If she wasn’t picking up her luggage, he would have to do it for her.

“Timothée, I don’t think you ought to…”

He groaned at the strain it took for him to haul himself out of the vehicle. He had never felt so pitiful in his life.

“Look – Mrs Hammer, I hate doing this,” he rambled frantically as he waddled to the boot of the car. “But you need to go! Your being here is stressing Armie out, and – and you broke my vase! You haven’t even apologised. It was a wedding present from my grandmother! You’ve been, like, the worst house guest we’ve ever had!”

Dru finally exited the car, looking like she was on the warpath again.

“So that’s how desperate you are to get rid of me? You’re willing to put yourself and the baby at risk?”

“What are you talking about?” Timmy reached for her stupidly heavy suitcase, pulling it out of the boot. “I’m most certainly not putting anyone at- ARGH!”

He cried out in pain and dropped the suitcase onto the ground as he collapsed against the vehicle. He couldn’t stand up straight, couldn’t talk through the agony, couldn’t breathe until the burning sensation released him once again.

“Okay, that’s it!” He heard Dru’s slightly panicked exhale. “I’m calling Armie.”

“No! No, it’s nothing. I’m better n-“

He stopped when he felt something wet trickle down his legs. His mouth fell open, horrified.

“M-my water broke…”

Dru gave him a fierce look. She rushed to his side and picked up the suitcase from the ground, but when Timmy thought she was going to abandon him in the middle of the road, she merely threw her stuff back into the boot and turned to him.

“You need to go to the hospital,” she said, trying to sound calm as she placed her hands on both his shoulders. “Get in the back. I’ll take you.”

“No. No way,” he sniveled, frightened as he shook his head again. “No, it’s too early. I haven’t packed my overnight bag. We’re in the middle of nowhere. I’m – I’m not ready!”

“The baby is coming,” Dru reminded him strictly, pulling at his arm when he remained frozen. “Let’s go. We need to call Armie. We need to get you there. Now, Timothée.”

“I – I’ll go myself. It’s fine. I – I don’t need you…”

“You’re in no condition to drive, young man,” his mother-in-law scolded him. “There’s no way I’m leaving you on your own. You’d end up giving birth to my grandson by the roadside!”

With the tears rolling down both his cheeks, Timmy shivered, admitting defeat. He was no longer in control. He felt weak and vulnerable, completely at her mercy. The baby was coming. He was miles away from home, away from Armie, stuck alone with horrible, nasty Dru who hated him and didn’t make him feel secure in the slightest.

But he had no choice.

“Come here,” she ushered him gently, realising that the young man needed someone to guide him and tell him what to do. “Walk with me. Let’s get you in the car.”

Timmy held his stomach powerlessly as she wrapped her arm behind his back and gave him a push, urging him to move.

“I – I can’t give birth. Not now. Not without Armie,” he choked, welling up with fear. “I need Armie! I – I should have never left the house. I should never have taken you here. I’m such an idiot…”

Dru didn’t comment, but held his hand firmly to support him as he lowered himself into the backseat. Fastening the seatbelt for him, she closed the car door and got in the front seat. The car keys were still in. She started the car and switched on the GPS.

“We’ll have to find the nearest hospital,” she remarked, sounding surprisingly level-headed. “And then you have to call Armie and tell him where to meet us. Timothée, are you listening? I need you to cooperate.”

The brunette was full-on crying, failing to piece a single thought together.

“H-he’s not supposed to come early,” he sobbed, holding his belly like it was a ticking time bomb. “Wh-what if he’s not ready to be born? What if something goes wrong? I don’t want to lose him…”

“You are not going to lose him,” Dru reprimanded him austerely. “Stop panicking. I need you to focus, son.”

“I can’t do this without Armie!” He blathered incoherently, wiping his eyes and nose in his sleeve, not caring how big of a mess he was. “I’m not giving birth without him! I – I will die. I will die if he’s not there with m-“

He cut himself off with a screaming sound. He threw his head back and screwed both his eyes shut, tensing his body. The pain was back, worse than before. He didn’t notice when the car started moving. He couldn’t hear anything Dru was telling him. He just kept crying as he writhed excruciatingly and prayed that Armie would come rescue him.