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Rosebud

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            My fingers tightly gripped the coffee mug in my hands. I could see my knuckles turning white. There was no reason at all to be nervous—Kazuto and I had been in a relationship well before I started my transition; we’d discussed so many, many awkward things. We were both full grown adults, with jobs, a home, bills. Our intimacy went well beyond cuddles and kisses. Honestly, what hadn’t we tried? We knew each other in and out, and yet, here I was.

            Hesitating.

            Kazuto, oblivious to my inner conflict, opened up the fridge, selected a plastic container of food, and tossed it onto the counter. Normally, I’d make a comment about him possibly making a mess, but my eyes locked in on the contents of the container. My stomach dropped. If he opened that, it was all over.

            “I think I’m going to go lay down,” I said.

            He gave me a funny look, snatched up the container, and ripped the top off.

            “Oh, right, plate,” he muttered.

            It was too late. The intense scent of fish hit my nostrils. My reaction was too quick for him to properly register what happened. With one hand, I clutched my stomach, and with the other, I covered my mouth. I bolted to the bathroom to vomit.

            “E-Eugeo?”

            I couldn’t answer him. Frankly, I didn’t want to. It was embarrassing. I’d discovered the aversion to the fish smell on Wednesday; it was Saturday. One of my coworkers had brought in fish for lunch and I’d dashed to the bathroom to empty my stomach. Someone noticed and made a quip that told me this wasn’t just a random bug.

            Wiping my mouth off, I glanced over at the doorway to see Kazuto frowning at me. He was, to my dismay, holding the fish, now stuck between two pieces of bread, and was eating it as he frowned at me.

            “Would you please keep that away?” I begged.

            He glanced at his fish sandwich and blinked.

            “What, this?” he asked.

            I nodded.

            “The smell is just awful,” I complained.

            His funny look got even funnier.

            “But…you ate this fish Monday night,” he said. “What’s wrong with it today? It’s not expired. It didn’t go bad. Are you sick?”

            Groaning, I placed my head in my hands and leaned back over the toilet bowl. This was such a pointless conversation. I had to tell him. But I hadn’t wanted to tell him leaning over the toilet puking because he didn’t get the picture of why his fish sandwich smelled so awful.

            Truthfully, none of this went as planned.

 

Half a year prior…

            “That’s a big decision, Mister Kirigaya,” the doctor said. “And frankly, I’m worried that your dysphoria will become a big problem again. But you’re telling me you’re fairly certain you want to pause HRT and discuss having a baby naturally with your husband. Right?”

            I nodded.

            “Well, the topic of becoming parents has come up recently, so if possible, I’d like to let him know I’d be willing to do it naturally,” I said. “After all, he’s been so supportive of me as a trans man that I’ll be able to handle the dysphoria with him at my side.”

            The doctor smiled.

            “The way you talk about your husband, it makes me very happy for you,” she said.

            I returned her smile.

            “Kazuto’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” I said. “I wouldn’t be where I am now without him.”

            She nodded, likely remembering all too well that it was Kazuto who came with me to open the discussion to start my medical transition so long ago. He encouraged me and supported me through it all. My doctor had been so excited to hear that we’d gotten married, and the look on her face now told me she was glad to watch us try to take this next step in our lives.

            “Alright,” she said. “It might take a couple of cycles for you to be at the right place to try. And if you change your mind, I won’t hesitate to restart your HRT. Whatever you decide, I hope that you’re happy and healthy.”

            I went home that day, trying to think of a way to start that conversation with Kazuto. But something came up. Over. And over. And over again.

 

Two weeks prior…

            Thinking back, all I could do was chide myself on not telling him. It should have been obvious. It’s not like I could just magically hide feminine care products. He was just that oblivious to them being there, I suppose. Why had it been so hard to open the conversation about stopping my HRT with him?

            Every time I’d made an attempt, we’d somehow derail and discuss something else. I think my best effort had been asking him what he thought about having kids. That somehow took a rabbit trail off towards fiddling with Yui’s programing.

            “Earth to Eugeo.”

            I almost fell out of my chair. Alice was tapping a pen on my nose. When did she get there?

            “You okay? You seem off today,” she said. “Did you get bad news at your doctor’s appointment?”

            Frowning, I thought about whether or not I should share anything with her. She was my best friend from childhood, but was this something to discuss with her before Kazuto? Alice might have some advice, though. I stood up, glanced around the office, noticed several people in the vicinity, and then decided we’d have to go elsewhere.

            “We should talk,” I said.

            I grasped her wrist and pulled her all the way out of the building and across the street so that we could lock ourselves in a private café booth. Alice was clearly bewildered by her sudden removal from the office, but even more so, she seemed concerned. We both quickly ordered something from the menu.

            “What is so sensitive that you needed to isolate us?” Alice asked.

            Taking a deep breath, I stared down at my lap and told myself I had to just come out with it. I couldn’t bring myself to look at her. Not when I’d been too afraid to tell Kazuto anything. I clasped my fingers together.

            “Alice…”

            “What’s wrong?” she asked. “Your voice just got quieter.”

            I covered my face with my hands.

            “…I’m pregnant.”

            Silence.

            It was that uncomfortable sort of silence where you can’t even hear the other person breathing. I could only hear myself. Alice didn’t know I’d stopped HRT anymore than Kazuto did. To her, that must have sounded crazy. I’d never even openly expressed it as a possibility or desire. I didn’t want to look at her. I knew that I had to. I lifted my head and moved my fingers just enough to peer through them at her.

            Alice looked as if she’d just been slapped. The shock was so severe on her face I thought I might have to slap her to snap her out of it. A waitress opened the booth, set down our orders, and left after I gave her a mumbled thanks. Alice couldn’t even get out that. I stood up, leaned over the table, and reached over to tap her shoulder.

            “Hey, don’t zone out on me!” I pleaded.

            “You’re what?” she finally said.

            Sighing, I slipped back into my seat and took a sip of my drink.

            “I’m sorry, are you messing with me?” Alice asked. “Because you’ve been on HRT for, like, seven years. You shouldn’t be able to just conceive a baby. Your cycle stopped, didn’t it?”

            I nodded.

            “Until I stopped the HRT, yes,” I said.

            She dropped her spoon.

            “That’s not the point,” I said.

            “I think it certainly is a point, Eugeo, why did you stop—?”

            “My point is that Kazuto doesn’t know I stopped and I was going to tell him,” I said. “But I kept not telling him and putting it off. I don’t even know why, it just didn’t feel important at the time. I was supposed to tell him that I wanted to stop to try for a baby, but then I stopped and didn’t say anything and didn’t think anything of it until I started getting sick—”

            “Whoa, whoa, you’re clearly stressed out,” Alice said. “Which…I guess I get that, but what’s so hard about telling Kazuto? Do you think he’s going to be mad?”

            “Well…”

            What did I think Kazuto’s reaction would be? This wasn’t just something small, after all. This was something that should have been discussed. And I’d kept putting it off, not even considering the fact that without planning I could still get pregnant.

            “Either way, you’re going to have to tell him,” Alice said. “Unless you’re not wanting this and are planning an abortion.”

            I instinctively placed my hands over my belly and shook my head.

            “No!” I said. “I wanted…I wanted this. I just don’t know…”

            “If Kazuto does,” she finished for me.

            I sighed, leaned back into the chair, and slipped the straw of my drink into my mouth.

            “Three weeks,” Alice said.

            “Hm?”

            “I’m giving you a timer,” she said. “You tell Kazuto within the next three weeks, or I’m telling the entire friend group in a group text.”

            I practically threw myself forward.

            “D-don’t do that!” I exclaimed.

            “Oh, I will,” she said. “Because you have to tell him. Otherwise what are you going to do when it starts becoming obvious? Just pretend like nothing’s different? He’s going to notice. You have to tell him before he notices. Within three weeks. Otherwise, everyone will know. Asuna. Shino. Keiko. Rika. Agil. Suguha. Tiese. Ronye. Klein.

            “Please, please, do not include Klein if you have to!” I said. “His response will be the loudest because I know you’re going to send it with me in the message.”

            She smirked at me triumphantly.

            “Then you’d better tell your husband he’s a father,” she said.

            I groaned.

            “Fine.”

 

Present day…

            In the end, I had to force Kazuto to eat his fish in the living area while I made my own lunch. Before I finished up, the doorbell rang. I told Kazuto he’d better not move if he still had fish and ran to get the door. I brushed some crumbs off of my clothing. When I opened up the door, Asuna was smiling up at me.

            “I brought over my tablet!” she said. “Kazuto said he’d look at it and see what was wrong with it. Where is he?”

            I opened my mouth to answer, but he appeared behind me, wrapping his arms around my waist and propping his head on my shoulder. Normally, I’d have no issue at all with this sort of behavior, but his breath still smelled like the fish. I covered my mouth and nose and tried not to make a face in front of Asuna.

            “I got banished to the couch for eating fish,” he said dramatically. “I can get that fixed for you by tomorrow, how’s that sound?”

            “Is Eugeo okay?” she asked.

            Kazuto looked at me and instantly covered his mouth.

            “If ih boferin you dat baf?”

            Both Asuna and I gave him a look. He removed his hand.

            “The smell of the fish,” he said. “Is it really bothering that bad that you can smell it on my breath?”

            I nodded. He gently patted my belly, giving me an apologetic look.

            “If you’re sick you should go lie down,” he suggested. “I’ll make sure to brush my teeth before I come snuggle.”

            “Hey! Fix my tablet!” Asuna complained.

            I slipped out of his arms and headed upstairs to go lay down.

            “Sorry, cuddling my husband takes priority,” he was saying. “But, I will…”

            I didn’t hear the rest of that. I closed the bedroom door, changed into a tank top and some underwear, and curled up under the covers. I grabbed his pillow instead of mine. Unlike the current Kazuto, his pillow smelled like his hair instead of fish. I clutched it tightly and buried my face in it. As I held onto his pillow, I managed to doze off.

            Some time later, I woke up to pressure against my back. Kazuto had slipped in at some point and was curled around me. His arm was tucked beneath mine and pressed against my chest. He smelled more like himself than fish now, to my pleasure. I rolled over and kissed his lips. He opened his eyes and smiled at me.

            “Feeling better?” he asked.

            Those alluring, dark eyes smiled just as much as his lips. I reached up and pressed my palm to his cheek. I pushed my lips into his again. My leg wrapped around his. He laughed a little. I kissed him deeper.

            I had to tell him.

            “I’ll take that as a yes,” he said.

            Opening my eyes, I brushed some of his hair out of his face.

            “I need to tell you something important,” I said.

            He raised his eyebrows.

            “Oh?”

            I nodded. It was now or suffer the consequences of not telling him.

            “Six months ago, I stopped my HRT.”

            Kazuto immediately sat upright. I picked myself up and frowned at him. He wasn’t even looking at me. He was staring at some point on the wall. I waved my hand in front of his face. Blinking, he turned his attention back to me.

            “Why did you do that?” he asked. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

            I drew in a deep breath.

            “Remember when we discussed that we maybe wanted kids?” I asked.

            I couldn’t tell if he wanted to laugh or cry.

            “Eugeo, I didn’t mean you had to stop your HRT for that!” he said. “We could have talked about it. I wouldn’t make you stop your treatments just to have a kid naturally. I mean, do you even want to have a kid naturally? I’m fine with adopting, I don’t want to force you.”

            He grasped my right hand.

            “Trust me, I’d never force you to carry a baby for me. I’m honored that you’d skip half a year of your treatments just to start a family with me. You don’t know how much that means, but, Eugeo, I don’t want you to be uncomfortable. Wouldn’t that mess with your dysphoria?”

            My stomach felt as if it had butterflies in it.

            “Kazuto, that’s not everything,” I said.

            He shook his head.

            “Look, don’t worry about trying. If you think we’re ready, we can discuss adoption. You don’t need to forgo your treatments if you don’t want to.”

            “Kazuto.”

            “I mean, if you do want to try naturally, I’m okay with that, too, I just want to know what you’re comfortable with, that’s all.”

            “Kazuto.

            “It’s okay, Eugeo. We have time to talk it out.”

            I shook my head.

            “Are you listening?”

            “Yes, I’m listening.”

            Reaching over, I placed a hand on his shoulder. Now that I’d gotten his attention, I finally had space to tell him. He wasn’t still talking. He waited patiently for me to speak. I drew in a deep breath. Then I exhaled.

            “Kazuto, I’m pregnant.”

            His eyes got so wide I thought they might fall out. I could see the pieces slowly fitting together. He held up one finger, then dropped his hand down to the bed. His eyes dropped, staring at my belly. There was obviously nothing to see. But he was now aware of something existing there that he hadn’t known about before.

            “The fish…” he muttered.

            I laughed a little.

            “Yes, the fish,” I said.

            I pressed a hand to my belly.

            “I’m sorry I didn’t say anything before,” I said. “I didn’t know what you’d say. I thought you might be mad about the HRT…”

            Kazuto grasped me by the shoulders. I swallowed. His face was unreadable. I opened my mouth to apologize again, but he gently pulled me into a snug embrace. He clutched my shirt in his hands. I thought I could hear him sniffling.

            “A-are you crying?” I stammered.

            “We’re really gonna be dads?” he asked.

            His voice sounded even more of a mess than I’d presumed from the sniffling. It cracked and gave away that he was getting emotional. I couldn’t help but start to tear up, too. I returned his embrace by squeezing him tightly. I gave him a nod.

            “Yeah. We’re gonna be dads.”

            “When?!”

            This time, I really did laugh. He sounded so eager. I ruffled his hair.

            “Close to your birthday,” I said. “Happy early birthday, papa.”

            As we sat there clinging to one another, neither of us gave much thought to how we’d tackle this new stage in our life. But one thing was as clear as day to me—no matter what I was about to go through, Kazuto would be right there, holding my hand and supporting me.

Chapter Text

            Rain poured down outside, beating against the windows of the train mercilessly. I was glad to finally be inside of the train where it was dry and off of the damp, windy platform, but the train itself was rather crowded. There were no seats open. I instinctively positioned myself to hold onto one of the handles when a woman stood up and patted my shoulder.

            “Do you need to sit?” she asked.

            I bit my lip and nodded.

            “Th-thank you,” I said.

            We traded spots and I sat down, feeling a bit embarrassed. A man next to her gave me a funny look and turned around. The train started to move. My stomach didn’t like the sudden motion. I rested my hand on my belly and took a deep breath. The last thing I needed to do was throw up on a train.

            The woman moved over, motioned for the man next to me to stand up and let her have the seat, and then sat down beside me. She reached down into her purse and pulled out a bag of ginger candies. She opened it and offered it to me. I waved my hand to politely decline her offer, but she insisted.

            “Trust me, it’ll help with the nausea,” she said.

            Frowning, I took one, thanked her, and slipped it into my mouth.

            “These helped me both times,” she said. “Is this your first time?”

            For a moment, I was thrown off by what she said. It still wasn’t obvious—I probably just looked like a regular guy taking the train. It struck me, then, that it was actually painfully obvious. I had a rather blatant marker on my bag that alerted fellow commuters to my condition. I’d originally protested wearing it, but my doctor had insisted.

            “Yeah,” I said. “It’s our first.”

            She smiled at me.

            “Congratulations,” she said. “I wish you and your husband good luck. The first time, I was so scared for those first few months.”

            I knew what she meant. My doctor had filled me in on important things to know and what I should expect. She’d told me not to panic, but to be careful since the first fourteen weeks were at a greater risk for miscarriage. I stared down at my belly and pressed my hand against it more. We were so close to that mark.

            “Here, you keep these,” she said, setting the bag of candies in my hand. “You’ll get past that feeling in no time.”

            The train came to a stop. This must have been her stop. She stood up, gave me a bow, and then hurried off of the train, holding up an umbrella to shelter herself. I looked down and saw that she’d accidentally left her purse. I snatched it up and pushed my way off of the train.

            “M-ma’am!” I shouted. “Ma’am, you left your purse!”

            She turned around, surprised to see me dashing over to her. I bowed and held out her purse to her. Flustered, she thanked me and bowed several times. While she spoke, the train pulled out of the station behind me. I’d have to wait for the next one.

            “Where were you headed to?” the woman asked. “I’ve been travelling around and came to get my car. If it’s not too far, I could drive you there.”

            “O-oh, I was just headed home in Saitama,” I said. “We’ve only got one car, so I had to take the train to get to my appointment.”

            She urged me to follow her.

            “Give me the address, I’ll take you home!”

            This woman was oddly friendly. Perhaps this was just her way of thanking me for making sure she still had her purse. She led me out to her car and insisted I sit in the passenger seat beside her. I gave her our address and she inputted it into her GPS system. She told me if I needed to stop to throw up it was okay, and she’d pull over for me.

            “Do you know what you’re having?” she asked.

            “I…uh…”
            “I’m sorry if this is too personal,” she said hurriedly. “You don’t have to answer. I’m at the age where I could be having grandchildren, you see. My son still hasn’t married yet and my daughter can’t have children.”

            I smiled at her.

            “Oh, you’re not bothering me,” I said. “I just wasn’t prepared. We don’t know what we’re having yet. I don’t know if I want to spoil the surprise, but my husband’s very eager to know. I told him I’d think about letting him know.”

            The woman laughed.

            “I suppose that makes sense,” she said. “I wouldn’t have known if you hadn’t had the badge on your camera bag. I should have guessed you aren’t far enough along to know that yet. It’s good to know he’s excited, though. My husband didn’t want children until he had them.”

            “I thought he’d be mad,” I admitted. “It wasn’t planned.”

            She pulled up in our driveway and turned to look at me.

            “Sometimes the best things aren’t what you’ve planned,” she said. “They’re the surprises and unforeseen events.”

            “Thank you for the ride,” I said.

            I picked up my camera bag and stepped out of the car. I closed the door and waved. She started to back out onto the street, but paused and rolled down the window.

            “Thank you, young man, for being honest and returning my purse,” she said. “I wish you and your husband the best of luck in parenthood. Do remember to keep those candies on you! They really do help!”

            Laughing, I gave her another bow and waved as she drove away. I shook my head. She certainly had been an interesting woman. I had to admit, though, that the ginger candy trick had worked. Glancing back at her disappearing vehicle, I drew in a deep breath as I entered the house. The smell of fried egg hit my nose.

            “I’m home,” I said.

            Kazuto scrambled over to the hallway and poked his head in it just enough to grin at me, say hello, and then dash back to the kitchen. I slipped my shoes off, trading them for my slippers, and followed him. I set my camera bag down on the table.

            “Did you want something to eat?” he asked.

            I opened up the fridge and hummed. I reached in for the milk carton, then went to the freezer and pulled out a container of ice cream. Kazuto watched me, practically frozen in place, as I put the two in a blender, paused, threw in some chocolate chips, and then liquified the mixture. Frowning, I dumped some more chocolate in it and blended it some more.

            “Easy on the chocolate,” Kazuto commented.

            Ignoring him, I transferred the makeshift milkshake into a large glass, cleaned up my mess, and then proceeded to rummage around for something to put on top of it. When nothing struck my fancy, I pulled out one of the ginger candies, dipped it in the shake, and popped it into my mouth, trying to think of what I was missing.

            “Was that…you know what, I’m not gonna ask,” Kazuto said, picking up his plate of eggs and turning around to face me.

            He scooped his eggs up and kept his eyes glued on me as I kept dipping ginger into the milkshake and eating it.

            “Something just isn’t…” I muttered. “It needs salt.”

            “It’s a milkshake,” Kazuto said.

            I yanked the fridge back open and did another scan for the contents. There was some leftover unagi in a container. I pulled that out, resulting in a weird noise from Kazuto. Picking it out with my fingers, I put it in my mouth and then took a sip of the milkshake. I thought about it for a moment and then nodded.

            “That works,” I said, surprised.

            Satisfied, I looked over at Kazuto. He was just staring at me as if there was something on my face. Maybe there was. I wiped at my cheek. Nothing came off. I frowned, picked up some more unagi, and placed it in my mouth as I took another swig of my drink. Kazuto’s face scrunched up a little.

            “What are you doing?” he asked.

            “It just needed…something else,” I said.

            I finished up the last of the unagi, picked up my milkshake, and started drinking it faster than I probably should have. I stopped myself before managing to give myself a brain freeze, sat the drink down, poured myself a glass of water, and then took both drinks with me to the couch. Kazuto came and sat down beside me. I quickly finished up the milkshake and leaned up against him.

            “Are you okay?” he asked.

            “Mm, yeah, I’m fine,” I said. “Why?”

            “You just put eel and chocolate in your mouth at the same time,” he said. “Am I supposed to think that’s normal Eugeo behavior? Is this a secret you’ve never told me about?”

            I frowned and took a sip of my water.

            “It just felt like I needed it right then,” I said. “Don’t you have work to do?”

            He shook his head.

            “I stayed up kind of late last night working on the program I was building, so I’m way ahead of schedule and they don’t have anything for me to do. On a different topic, did you want to go out or something for your birthday?”

            I hadn’t put much thought into that. I’d had other things on my mind between work and doctors’ appointments. Fortunately, I worked at a photography studio, so most of my job consisted of on-site, on-call appointments. I had quite a bit of flexibility, just like Kazuto did as a freelance programmer.

            “Like a date night?” I asked.

            He wrapped his arm around my shoulders.

            “Well, we might as well have them while we’ve got the time,” he said. “We’ll be busy once the little rosebud arrives.”

            “Rosebud?” I repeated.

            I gave him a look, but I was unable to hide my smile. He blushed a little and averted his gaze.

            “W-well,” he stammered. “Roses are your favorite. So, I just…”

            Leaning over, I kissed him on the cheek.

            “Rosebud is cute,” I said.

            His blush intensified. I set my water down and climbed into his lap, facing forward and straddling his legs. Wrapping my arms around his neck, I pressed my lips into his. He eagerly accepted the kiss.

            “You didn’t answer my question,” he said.

            Humming, I rested my head on his shoulder and shrugged.

            “I’ll think about it,” I said.


 

            A week later, I woke up when light was just starting to peek through the blinds. Kazuto was snoring with his arm draped over me and his face in the back of my neck. I had to be careful when I slipped out of his grasp to go to the bathroom. By the time I got to the toilet to empty my stomach, he’d woken up and appeared beside me, gently rubbing my back. When I finished throwing up, I leaned against him.

            “Feeling a little better?” he asked.

            He yawned.

            “A little…” I mumbled. “My doctor said the nausea should die down soon.”

            Kazuto pressed one hand against my belly. I smiled and put my hand on top of his. He kissed the top of my head and held me against his chest with his other hand. I wanted to go back to sleep right here, in his arms. But we couldn’t stay on the bathroom floor. We stood up. I walked over to the sink to wash my face and clean out my mouth.

            “I’m gonna make some coffee,” he said. “Do you want some?”

            I gave him a nod. He yawned again and walked off towards the kitchen. I stared at myself in the mirror and sighed. Grabbing the towel, I dried off my face. I turned to put it back on the rack and froze. Blinking, I set the towel down. I turned to my side, my eyes still glued to the mirror. Lifting the edges of my shirt, I pulled it up to my ribcage.

            “Hey, Kazuto!”

            Silence. Followed by footsteps. I turned my head to the doorway just in time to see him poke his head in. He still seemed not-quite-awake. I waved for him to come closer. Frowning, he did so.

            “What’s wrong?” he asked.

            “Look.”

            I pointed down at my belly. His eyes dropped down to my stomach. He knelt down and looked at me from the front, and then moved to look at me from the side. With his right hand, he ran his fingers from my ribcage down to the waistband of my underwear. Suddenly, he didn’t seem so half-awake.

            “You’ve got a little bump!” he said excitedly.

            Kazuto grasped me by the hips, turned me to face him, and then promptly kissed my belly. I laughed.

            “That tickles!” I said.

            He stood up and kept his hands on my hips.

            “Oh, and don’t think I forgot,” he said.

            I lifted one eyebrow. He gave me a kiss on the lips now that my face was clean.

            “Happy birthday, you,” he said, flashing me a toothy grin.

            We shared another kiss. I grasped his head, slipping my fingers into his silky hair. His hands moved down from my hips to my backside. Our lips parted for a breath and then locked together again. When they parted again, I cupped his face with my right hand and gazed into his dark eyes. His smile was so warm. But there was a hint of mischief glinting there.

            “What are you thinking?” I asked.

            Smirking, Kazuto suddenly picked me up in his arms bridal style and whisked me away into the kitchen. He stopped by the counter, gave me a quick kiss, and then sat me down on the countertop. Turning on his heel, he snatched up the coffee pot, poured the drink into two mugs, set it back down, and then twirled back around to hand me my mug without spilling a drop.

            “You’re more awake than you let on,” I said, laughing.

            He held out a breakfast sandwich to me. I thanked him and took it, taking a bite.

            “Is there anything weird I wouldn’t think to put on that that you want?” Kazuto asked. “Although I might have to tell you no to the whipped cream. We aren’t doing that again. Then again, this is less appalling than pickles.”

            I shook my head.

            “No, no whipped cream,” I said. “Maybe some hot sauce?”

            Kazuto handed me the bottle and took a long sip of his coffee.

            “So, we’re meeting Alice at the train station, right?” he asked.

            I nodded.

            “Yeah, we’ll meet her there and then everyone else at the restaurant. Well, in all likelihood, since Alice and I work together, we’ll meet you at the train station after work. We should be finished up with our shoot by four, I think.”

            “Sounds like a plan.”

            He leaned over and pressed his forehead and nose against mine. Smiling, he touched his fingers to my stomach and gently rubbed it.

            “I gotta run to meet a client,” he said. “But I will see you after work.”

            “You still have to get dressed.”

            Frowning, he looked down at himself. He was wearing nothing except for a t-shirt and his boxers.

            “Fair point.”

            He kissed my cheek.

            “I’ll put some pants on and then I’ll go meet the client.”

            He dashed off.

            “You do that, babe.”

            I dumped some of the hot sauce on my sandwich and took a bite. Yeah, that was what I wanted. I dumped a little more on it and then paused.

            “I don’t even like spicy food…”

            Kazuto flew back into the room, car keys in hand. He stopped, gave me another kiss, and then dashed out of the door, shouting that he loved me and would see me later. I laughed and shoved more of the sandwich in my mouth.

            I slipped down off of the counter, stretched, and yawned. First things first—a scheduled photoshoot with a client. After that, a relaxing rest of the day with friends. I smiled and finished up my sandwich. Satisfied for the moment, I held my stomach with my hand as I drank my coffee.

            “Today will be a good day,” I mumbled.

            The front door flew open and I could have sworn a breeze blew past me.

            “SHOES!”

            Chuckling, I rolled my eyes.

            “No, it’s already a great day.”

Chapter Text

            At the office, Alice was gathering up our supplies and packing them in the car when I arrived. She’d been away from work for a while because she’d been sent on an assignment in Kyoto; I really wanted to see what kinds of photos she got to take, but that would have to wait. When she saw me, she hurriedly dumped the equipment in the trunk and dashed over to hug me.

            “I haven’t seen you in weeks!” she exclaimed. “How are you?”

            “Good, how are you?” I asked.

            She let go of me and smiled.

            “I’m dying to show you the shots I got of the old architecture in Kyoto. But I don’t mean how are you in general, you know.”

            I raised my eyebrows.

            “You never really said anything after you told me you told Kazuto,” she said. “I’ve been a little worried that maybe…”

            I waved my hands.

            “Oh! No!” I said quickly. “The baby’s doing just fine! It’s definitely still hard to tell, especially because of the baggy shirt.”

            For emphasis, I pressed my shirt down against my belly.

            “C-could I maybe ask you to drive?” I asked. “I’ve been getting really motion sick. A lady told me to chew on ginger candies when I’m in the car or on the train or bus. I probably shouldn’t be reaching for candy while I drive.”

            “Sure thing!”

            Our client today was doing a family photoshoot with their newborn. We met up with the parents and their two children in a scenic park. I’d picked the location, since the family had left it up to the photographer’s discretion. They complimented us on our selection. Alice gave them a run-down of how the session would go while I set up the equipment.

            The shoot lasted an hour. I’d pose them in correlation to their background, situate myself to get the best angle and lighting, and then run the pictures I took past the family. They were very impressed with my shots. After collecting several, I gave them the details of how to select their favorites, so I could have Alice edit them and print them. I handed the laptop to Alice.

            “Could you take over for a minute?” I asked.

            She gave me a curious look. I discretely touched my stomach. Her eyebrows raised in realization.

            “Well, go!” she said.

            I hurried off to the bathroom and splashed some water on my face. I wasn’t sure if I would puke or not, but my stomach was turning flips. As I hovered over the sink to let the water drip off of my face, I clutched my belly and took a deep breath.

            “All I ate was some of those candies…” I muttered.

            In stating it, I realized the problem. I was probably just hungry. Sighing, I took another breath and headed back out to find Alice happily chatting away with the clients. I slipped back beside her. She glanced at me and frowned, reaching over to rub my back.

            “You okay?” she asked.

            I nodded.

            “Yeah, I just need to grab lunch soon,” I said.

            “Miss, are you a mommy, too?”

            Alice and I glanced behind us to see the client’s four-year-old holding up my badge. She’d overturned my camera bag and apparently pulled it out. I wasn’t sure what to say in that moment. It was clear Alice wasn’t sure, either; on one hand, she probably wanted to clarify that she wasn’t the one pregnant, but then she would be announcing that I was to the client. Fortunately, neither of us had to speak up.

            “Ayame, don’t rummage through Mr. Kirigaya’s things!” the woman said.

            She picked up the camera bag and returned some of the items to their proper places. She turned to me and gave me a bow.

            “I’m so sorry, I’m sure you didn’t want her messing with that,” she said.

            Ayame tilted her head, glanced at the badge, and then blinked up at me.

            “It’s his, mommy?” she asked.

            The woman gave me an apologetic look.

            “Yes, sweetie, please put it back,” she said.

            “Are you a mommy?”

            That question again. This time directed at me. If it had been an adult or older child, I think I might have been frustrated or humiliated. But she wasn’t passing any sort of judgement on me; she was just curious. I gave her a smile.

            “Not yet,” I said.

            Alice relaxed a bit.

            “No, don’t say that,” she said. “You’ve been a parent ever since you found out.”

            The little girl held the badge up to me and gave me a wide grin.

            “Yeah, mommy said this is a special mommy badge!” she said. “She said I have to put this back.”

            I took the badge from her and laughed.

            “It’s okay, I’ll put it back for you.”

            “Right, so, back on topic, I think they’ve decided on—whoa, why are you crying?”

            “Don’t cry, Mr. Kigaya!”

            I hadn’t even noticed I was crying until they’d pointed it out. Hurriedly, I wiped off my face, apologized, and then did my best to keep myself composed for the rest of the session. I told them we’d have the photos ready by the end of the week. We wrapped everything up and parted ways, ending with Alice driving me to grab some takoyaki. (She told me it was “out of the way,” but soon gave up the fight.)

            We went back to the office for a while to work on the photos. Afterwards, we hopped on the train and Alice let everyone know we were in route to the restaurant we were all meeting at for dinner. We showed up at the restaurant before I finished up my takoyaki, which got me a few odd glances from the group. Kazuto showed up last, distracting them from focusing on my snacking. They all made a comment when we shared a kiss.

            We’d reserved a private table for the group and ordered our dinners while discussing our days. I couldn’t decide between two dishes, so Kazuto and I ordered one of each and split the plates half and half. I ended up ordering seconds because I decided I wanted something else about halfway through, which certainly made some of our friends raise their eyebrows. The worst offense was dessert, though, when I picked up a churro and dipped it in some of the marinara sauce left on Kazuto’s plate.

            “Eugeo, are you good?” Rika asked. “That’s…incredibly gross.”

            “No, try it!” I insisted, forgetting almost instantly that I was likely only finding it edible because of hormones. “It’s weird, but they really do go together.”

            She shook her head.

            “Nah, man, I’m good.”

            Shino rolled her eyes and poured everyone a glass of plum wine. She passed them out to everyone. I politely refused.

            “Oh, are you sure?” Shino asked. “It’s your birthday, after all. And you’re taking the train home.”

            My face felt hot.

            “No, I’m…I’m fine,” I insisted.

            Kazuto nodded and slipped my glass over in front of himself. He dumped my portion into his and wrapped an arm around me, as if to let me know it wasn’t too weird to refuse alcohol. It didn’t matter to me, though; I knew it wasn’t weird. I was sound in my reasoning. It was the rest of the group who sat in confusion.

            “Are you feeling okay?” Asuna asked. “You don’t normally refuse. I mean, not that I’m trying to be pushy, but, it’s abnormal.”

            Alice tried to divert for me.

            “M-maybe his stomach is a little upset,” she offered.

            “Then don’t eat churros with marinara on them,” Suguha said, pointing at me as I nibbled on a churro. “Seriously. I love you. As your sister-in-law, though, I need to tell you that that’s really gross.”

            I lowered the churro and looked at Kazuto.

            “Should we…?” I said.

            He raised an eyebrow. We hadn’t really discussed telling everyone, but I didn’t seen any harm in letting them know. Kazuto, however, didn’t seem to catch my drift. He cocked his head to the side and hummed.

            “Should we what?”

            I waved my hands a little.

            “Should we tell them?”

            “OH! Um, only if you want to.”

            Asuna and Shino shared a weird look. They leaned over, placing their chins in their hands as they impatiently awaited an explanation for our vague conversation. I gave Kazuto a nod. He immediately took a quick swig of his wine. Suguha picked up her drink to take a sip as well.

            “I’m refraining from drinking until a little while after the baby’s born,” I said.

            Suguha choked on her drink and slammed the glass down, blinking at me. Everyone else’s faces displayed similar shock. All of them cast an expectant glance towards my belly. Kazuto chuckled, shook his head, and then set his drink down.

            “Sorry, I’m the only one with exclusive rights to see the bump,” he said. “No topless Eugeo for the rest of you.”

            “K-Kazuto!” I stammered. “Why would I pull my shirt off in here?”

            “What ‘bump’ hold up, how far along are you?” Suguha asked.

            Kazuto laughed and poked my cheek.

            “Oh, he’s blushing, don’t pester him!” Keiko said.

            “Fourteen weeks,” I said, staring down at my hands. “It’s not very much of a bump, you’d only notice if you were looking for it.”

            I pressed a hand against my belly. It wasn’t very much at all, but it was certainly enough that I was aware of it. I could feel the curve of my abdomen and knew that it meant my baby was growing and healthy. Kazuto placed his hand on top of mine. I looked up at him. He was smiling. He leaned over and kissed me.

            “That explains the churros,” Tsuboi muttered.

            “You know what that means,” Rika said.

            She looked at Suguha and smirked.

            “Someone’s an aunty,” she said.

            “That’s right!” Alice chimed in. “Suguha, you’re going to have a little niece or nephew soon! How exciting!”

            Suguha appeared as though she might faint due to the unexpected news. It took her the remainder of the dinner to process it. I ended up ordering more dessert, which made a few people giggle. We left after a few more rounds of drinks. Everyone gave me a last happy birthday wish accompanied by an added “congrats” for the baby. Suguha was the last one standing with us, and frankly, Kazuto was a little too imbibed to engage.

            “So…you guys really are having a baby, huh?” she said, staring down at my bag and the badge attached to it.

            I gave her a nod.

            “Yeah, it probably sounds kinda crazy, doesn’t it?” I said.

            “Just a little,” she said. “Is he, uh, too heavy for you?”

            I frowned.

            “Maybe.”

            “Eugeooo, I’m fiiiiiine,” Kazuto said.

            He put even more of his weight on me and wrapped his arms around me. He stuck his head under my chin and on my shoulder. Sighing, I gently kissed his forehead. Kazuto smiled and tried to give me a kiss in return. I gently pushed him back.

            “You’re drunk, silly,” I said.

            Kazuto laughed.

            “Who? Me?” he giggled.

            “Do you want me to help you carry him back home?” she asked. “I don’t mind. And you really shouldn’t be supporting his full weight right now.”

            I nodded.

            “That would be helpful.”

            We managed to get Kazuto onto the train. He continued to lean up against me while we rode, attempting to cuddle me the whole time. When he finally realized Suguha was there, he turned and gave her a tight hug, too, babbling on to her about this, that, and the other. He pointed over at me and in the loudest “whisper” I’ve ever heard, he told her I was the most handsome guy on the train.

            At our stop, Suguha managed to pull him off of the train and walk him back to our house. We promptly put him to bed. I asked her if she wanted some coffee or water. She opted for coffee, since it was late, and she still would have to go home. I told her if she wanted to, she could stay with us for the night. Since I was persistent about her safety, she agreed to stay. I got myself a little late-night snack and joined her in the living area.

            She watched me slip chips into my mouth and took a long sip of her coffee. Her eyes wandered down to my stomach. I subconsciously ended up putting my hand to my belly.

            “Is it weird?” I asked.

            For a moment, she kept staring, but then she gave a faint nod.

            “A little,” she admitted. “I guess deep down I knew it was possible for you two to have a baby naturally, but I wasn’t really expecting it. And I guess it’s also that you’ve been pregnant since, what, January? Last week of December? And I’ve spoken to you and interacted with you and had no idea…”

            I laughed.

            “Well, it’s not exactly obvious,” I said, gently rubbing my stomach.

            “Actually, with you sitting down and holding your shirt against you, I can kind of see it,” she said. “But if I wasn’t looking for it, like before, I probably would have just presumed you put on a little weight.”

            She took another sip of her coffee.

            “Do you know if I’m having a nephew or a niece?” she asked.

            Chuckling, I glanced in the direction of the bedroom and put a finger to my lips.

            “I haven’t told him yet,” I said. “Mostly because he’s adorably persistent. I’ll probably tell him soon enough. We’re having a boy.”

            Suguha smiled.

            “Do tell me what his reaction is,” she said. “Do you mind if I feel?”

            I laughed, moved my hand, and shook my head.

            “There’s not much to feel at the moment, but sure,” I said. “I can’t feel him moving yet.”

            She pressed her fingers against my abdomen. It was the first time I’d really let someone other than Kazuto do that, so it felt a little awkward. She sighed and shook her head. I gave her a curious glance.

            “That’s my little nephew,” she said quietly.

            To my surprise, she leaned over and gave me a very gentle hug.

            “He’s gonna be so spoiled,” she said, laughing. “And don’t you tell me not to!”

            She pulled back and flashed me a grin.

            “Aunty Sugu is here to dote on him as much as possible!”

            I returned her smile and sighed.

            “I’m going to have to keep a close eye on you, aren’t I?”

            She gave me a curt nod.

            “Now, you go get some rest,” she said. “I’ll be fine out here. You got a drunk, cuddly husband to go snuggle with and you need some sleep because you’re working hard.”

            Rolling my eyes, I stood up and told her good night. I shut myself in the bedroom and gazed over at Kazuto. He was passed out and snoring loudly on his back. I chuckled, went into the bathroom to get ready for bed, and came back out to see he’d only shifted a little bit. I climbed into bed, planted a kiss on his exposed cheek, and curled up against his side.

Chapter Text

            It was pitch black when I opened up my eyes, rolled over to look at the clock, and realized it was only two hours into the first day of May. Groaning, I laid on my back and stared up at the ceiling.

            “Why am I awake?” I muttered.

            My stomach growled loudly in response. Sighing, I sat up and considered taking a trip to the kitchen when it occurred to me that I wanted something specific that wasn’t in the house. I didn’t want to bother Kazuto, though. I crawled out of bed and tiptoed to the kitchen. I yanked open the fridge and scanned over the items within. Nothing caught my attention that would replace the craving gnawing at my gut.

            Giving in, I went back to the bedroom and gently shook Kazuto’s shoulder. He at first pressed his face into the pillow, resisting waking up. I shook him a bit more forcefully this time. He opened his eyes and looked up at me, clearly half out of it. He slowly sat up and rubbed his eyes.

            “What’s wrong?” he asked, yawning.

            “Can we go get some fries?” I asked.

            It took him a minute to register what I’d asked him. He blinked at me. I clutched my belly for emphasis.

            “Right now?” he grumbled.

            I nodded. He glanced at the clock and scrunched up his nose.

            “It’s a little past two in the morning, Eugeo, can’t it wait?” he asked.

            I shook my head.

            “Please,” I said. “I feel miserable and nothing we have in the fridge is going to cut it. Just a quick run to get some fries. And maybe a burger. And a milkshake…fries in a milkshake sounds good right now, doesn’t it?”

            He laughed a little.

            “You and the milkshakes,” he said.

            He dragged himself out of the bed and stretched.

            “Okay,” he said. “Grab some pants and some shoes. I’ll drive you to get some fast food. Any particular place little rosebud wants to eat?”

            You wouldn’t have believed I’d been asleep ten minutes ago with the speed at which I got ready to go. Kazuto slipped on some lazy clothing and grabbed the car keys. He drove us over to the closest McDonald’s, since I hadn’t expressed a preference beyond “there must be fries.” He told me to order anything and everything I wanted, so I didn’t hold back.

            The waitress who brought us the order told us to enjoy our meals, to which Kazuto sleepily noted aloud that it was all for me. She gave him a funny look and scurried back into the kitchen. I thanked him for bringing me out to get food and hurriedly started shoving food in my mouth. He chuckled and leaned up against me. One of his arms slipped around my shoulders and the opposite hand ended up rubbing my belly.

            “You’re like a bottomless pit, aren’t you?” he mumbled. “Lil’ man sure makes you eat a lot.”

            I offered him a fry. He shook his head.

            “Unlike you, I’m not hungry in the slightest bit,” he said, yawning.

            His phone started ringing. He pulled it out of his pocket, frowned at it, and answered an incoming videocall from his sister. She didn’t appear to have done it on purpose.

            “Sugu, it’s like, three in the morning,” he grumbled.

            Her face became visible in the screen suddenly, surprised to see her accidental dial was answered at this hour.

            “Big brother where are you?” she asked. “I’m shocked you’re awake.”

            Kazuto moved the camera so that I was visible in it as I shoved more food in my mouth. I gave him a look. Suguha started giggling.

            “Your nephew wanted some greasy fast food,” he joked. “He’s demolished several things of fries, a few burgers, and a couple milkshakes.”

            “Oh my,” she said. “Where are you putting all that, Eugeo?”

            I leaned back enough for her to see and patted my stomach.

            “Oh my gosh, it really is all going to your gut,” she joked. “It’s only been a couple weeks since I saw you for your birthday, right? It’s looking a little more obvious.”

            Shrugging, I sat back all the way in the chair and slipped some more fries in my mouth.

            “Honestly, I just look like I put on quite a bit of weight,” I said.

            Kazuto snickered.

            “You should see his ass,” he said, playfully kissing me on the cheek.

            “Be nice, big brother!” she said. “Think about how Eugeo feels!”

            “Honestly, bloated.”

            Kazuto snorted at my response.

            “Well, I’m going to get back to working on this assignment,” she said. “You guys get some good rest, okay? And make sure you get some healthy food in Eugeo, if he only eats fries that won’t turn out good. Night.”

            “Night, Sugu,” Kazuto said.

            He ended the call and resumed cuddling up to me. He actually fell asleep after a few minutes. I waited until I’d cleared the tray to wake him up and tell him we could go back home. He helped me clean up the table and we drove back home. It was closer to five when we crawled back into the bed. I didn’t see any point to going back to sleep at this point, so I propped up a pillow so that I could sit upright and play on my phone.

            Kazuto, who was already more than tired from our impromptu outing, lightly dozed next to me while I scrolled through social media. Nothing super interesting was happening. I set the phone down on my nightstand and stared across the room at the door. I folded my hands one on top of the other on my belly. I felt tired, but I knew sleep wasn’t going to come.

            “Maybe I should still try…” I mumbled.

            I sat up to fix my pillow and jumped. Kazuto rolled over and frowned. I pressed one hand to my belly and stared down at it. I looked over at him. He blinked a few times and yawned.

            “You…okay?” he asked.

            “I just…thought…” I mumbled.

            I shook my head.

            “Probably nothing,” I said.

            “Mmkay.”

            Sighing, I adjusted myself to lay down and then jumped a little again. Kazuto patted my leg.

            “You sure you’re okay?”

            “He moved.”

            “Hm?”

            “That’s what that was!” I said. “I felt him move!”

            Kazuto smiled at me sleepily and reached up to pull me down with him. When he was sure I was laying down all the way on my side, he pushed my shirt up to expose my bare skin, cupped my belly in his hand, and proceeded to plant a kiss on it. I could feel little flutters at the same time. I ran my fingers through Kazuto’s hair.

            “I think he likes you being close,” I whispered.

            “Mm. I hope our little rosebud knows we love him.”

            I smiled, stroking his hair. His eyes drooped closed again.

            “I’m sure he does.”

            I don’t remember falling asleep. But it was a good sleep nonetheless.

            The next day, Kazuto ran out to take care of some errands before his mother showed up at the house for a visit. Naturally, he took an incredibly long time doing those errands, so when his mother showed up, I had to hurry out of the bathroom, still zipping my pants up, in order to greet her at the door. She gave me a funny look when I opened it panting.

            “I’m so sorry, I was in the bathroom,” I said, waving for her to come inside. “You’re early. I assume your train ride went okay?”
            She nodded.

            “Yes, everything went just fine, dear,” she said, smiling. “Are you doing okay? You’ve put on a little weight.”

            “Oh, don’t worry,” I said. “My doctor says I’m gaining enough and it shouldn’t be a problem.”

            Kirigaya Midori gave me a funny look and slipped into her designated pair of slippers.

            “Did you want something to drink?” I asked.

            “Are you…trying to gain weight?” she asked, ignoring my question.

            I gave her an equally funny look.

            “I wouldn’t say it’s a matter of trying,” I said. “I guess I have to keep my weight at a certain margin for a safe delivery, but most of it isn’t trying to gain weight.”

            She dropped her purse and stared at me in shock.

            “I…I beg your pardon?”

            I frowned.

            “Is something the matter, Ms. Kirigaya?” I asked.

            “What do you mean…by ‘safe delivery’?”

            “Did…did Kazuto not tell you?” I asked.

            She blinked at me.

            “Tell me…what?”

            I smoothed down my shirt to draw attention to my midsection. Her eyes got even wider.

            “We’re expecting.”

            “But…you’re…but…are you…?”

            Apparently, I needed to have a talk with Kazuto later. For now, his mother just fainted by the front door. I brought her some water when she came to and helped her to the family room, so she could sit down somewhere comfortably. We sat in awkward silence for a bit, but once she gathered herself, she was the first to speak.

            “I apologize, I didn’t mean to be rude,” she said. “I just didn’t know you were transgender. I didn’t think it was possible for you two to have a baby. So, imagine my shock when I’m hearing you talk about delivering one!”

            I nodded, laughing a little.

            “It makes sense,” I said. “But yes. I’m surprised Kazuto never told you. Especially since we’ve talked about how we wanted to have children for a few years now.”

            She smiled warmly.

            “And you decided to have one naturally, then?”

            I laughed again.

            “Eh…he was actually a surprise,” I admitted.

            “He? It’s a boy?”

            “Yeah,” I said. “I was going to open the discussion up with Kazuto about whether or not we wanted to try for a baby naturally or just adopt, but he went ahead and made the decision for us. Not that either of us is upset. We just weren’t expecting it.”

            For the sake of keeping it less awkward, I decided not to include the finer details. Midori reached over and gently touched my belly with her fingertips. She looked like she was on the verge of tears.

            “When will I get to meet my grandson?” she asked.

            “Around Kazuto’s birthday,” I told her. “He’s due that week.”

            “You’re further along than you look!” she noted.

            I wasn’t sure if that was a normal thing for people to say. Was she expecting me to look bigger?

            “That’s kinda funny since last night Suguha noted he’s had a growth spurt,” I said. “She accidentally video called us at around three in the morning during a fast food run.”

            “Did the little one want fries?” she asked, chuckling.

            “Yeah…a lot of fries,” I said.

            We heard the door open and close, followed by Kazuto announcing he was home. The both of us shared a look, nodded, and then went to greet him at the door with our arms crossed over our chests. He greeted his mother before coming over to me to give me a kiss.

            “Why do you both look so grumpy?” he asked.

            “Weren’t there a few things you needed to tell your mom, dear?” I asked, raising my eyebrows pointedly.

            He glanced over at Midori.

            “Really, Kazuto,” she said. “I didn’t even know you two could get pregnant.”

            “I knew there was something I forgot to do…” he said, laughing.

Chapter Text

            As I stared at the photos I was editing, it was difficult to keep my eyes open. I reached out with my left hand and felt around for my coffee cup. My fingers came in contact with it and grasped it, pulling it quickly to my mouth and depositing coffee that was actually mostly milk and sugar into my mouth. The man sitting to my right leaned back in his chair and frowned at me.

            “Y’know, Kirigaya, if something’s bothering you, you should maybe see a therapist,” he noted.

            I glanced over at him and gave him a polite smile. Kazuto had informed me that being told that in Japan wasn’t exactly out of concern for someone’s well-being, but I wasn’t in the mood to get into an argument and decided to play dumb American.

            “Oh? Any you’d personally suggest?” I said.

            Maybe the reply was a bit sharp for dumb American. His facial expression cued me in on that pretty quickly.

            “I’m serious, Kirigaya,” he said. “You’ve put on some weight. Not to be rude, but…you’re starting to look a little fat.”

            I took another swig of coffee and smiled over at him.

            “Oh, good,” I said.

            He sat up straighter, clearly bothered by me taking that as a compliment.

            “I have plenty of handsome and beautiful friends with bigger bodies,” I said. “So, if you’re suggesting I look like them in body shape, that’s quite the generous compliment.”

            “Kirigaya, Mr. Nakamura is ready to speak with you,” a lady called from across the room.

            Smiling at the man next to me, I stood up, pushed in my chair, and calmly walked away from him. I’d set up a time to discuss an unpleasant topic with our boss. Kazuto told me that either way, the people in the office would eventually realize I was pregnant. Asking the boss for maternity leave was going to have to happen, so I’d have to kill two birds with one stone.

            I knocked on the door to his office. He told me I could come in. I slipped inside. He asked me to close the door and then sit down. Not wanting to be too awkward, I quickly did as he asked and sat down. He tapped a pen on his desk and frowned.

            “I’ll have to admit, Kirigaya,” he said. “I’m a little surprised by your request for maternity leave. You do understand that giving the husband or father time off for the birth of a child isn’t really normal, right?”

            I drew in a deep breath.

            “That’s why I requested to talk in person,” I said. “I haven’t been very upfront about myself on this issue in hopes of avoiding workplace discrimination. The request isn’t for me to support an expectant partner at home, Mr. Nakamura. My husband can’t carry children; it goes against his biology.”

            The pen dropped out of his hand.

            “Are you implying…?” he trailed off.

            I nodded.

            “Yes,” I said. “I’m transgender. The request is for me personally.”

            His eyes widened.

            “I…I had no…idea…”

            “That’s kind of the point, sir,” I said. “I would have never told you I was born female if this situation hadn’t come up. But I am in this situation now and it needed to be made clear to you that I will be unable to work for a while starting in late September or early October.”

            He worked his mouth for a moment, unable to formulate a response.

            “October?” he finally said. “You’re about halfway through your pregnancy and we’ve had no clue.”

            I bit my lip. That was an unnecessary comment.

            “Well, uh…Miss Kirigaya, then—”

            “Miss?” I repeated.

            Mr. Nakamura tensed up.

            “I’m….I’m the same employee who’s been working for you for five years,” I said, trying not to show any emotion in my voice as I spoke. “I’d rather you not change the way you refer to me. I’m still a male employee.”

            I saw his forehead crease, as if he wanted to argue with me but couldn’t find the right words that would keep me here. He liked my work and often showed it off proudly, but if he chose to incorrectly identify me, he’d lose me in a flash. At least, I needed him to think that. I couldn’t just give up a source of income that easily with a baby on the way. I hoped that my statement would stop the issue there, but—

            “I’m confused, didn’t you just admit you were a woman pretending to be a man?”

            His question made me want to scream and cry. It had been a while since anyone had questioned my I kept my cool and shook my head.

            “No, sir, I did not say that,” I said. “I said I’m transgender. I’m not pretending to be a man. I’m a man. Plain and simple. If you’ll excuse me, sir, I have an assignment that’s due tomorrow that I’d like to get done today.”

            As I got out of my chair and headed to the door, he delivered his final blow.

            “You just expect me to call you sir even though you’re pregnant?”

            My hand gripped the door handle so tightly it hurt.

            “Yes, sir,” I said. “Yes, sir, I do expect that. Please excuse me.”

            At the risk of being rude to my superior, I quickly left, pulling the door shut behind me and hurrying back to my desk. I slumped down into my chair and took a deep breath. The baby must have liked how I was sitting, because he took the opportunity to move around. I rubbed my belly and snatched up my coffee to take another sip.

            “You okay?” the guy next to me asked.

            “Uh, yeah,” I lied.

            I patted my stomach.

            “Just had a little too much for breakfast so my stomach’s protesting,” I said.

            That sounded like something Kazuto might say. When the guy rolled his eyes and turned back to his work, I quietly bopped myself on the forehead. I set back to my work, choosing to focus on it than my coworkers and boss for the remainder of the day. I made a hasty escape home as soon as I could.

            Kazuto had beat me home, which lifted my spirits a little. I didn’t want to be alone. I hurried in the house, forgetting to announce that I was home, and beelined straight to his work desk. He turned around, surprised to see me already in that room when he hadn’t heard me come in the front door, and went to greet me. Before he could do that, I was already climbing up into his lap and burying my face in his neck.

            “Hey, what’s wrong?” he asked.

            Not at all put off by my need to be in his lap, he pushed the chair a little further away from his desk and wrapped his arms around me. Finally free of the stress of holding everything in, I burst into tears and sobbed. Kazuto rubbed my back the whole time, letting me get it all out while he held onto me. When I stopped crying, he wiped my face off with a tissue and let me readjust myself to better curl up in his lap.

            “Did something happen?” he asked, placing his arms around me again. “Or are the hormones getting to you?”

            “Boss called me ‘miss,’” I mumbled.

            “You want me to go punch him?”

            I shook my head.

            “Oh, alright.”

            He sounded slightly dejected about that. I managed to laugh.

            “I haven’t felt dysphoria this bad in so long,” I said. “Even being this pregnant, I hadn’t felt any major dysphoria over it. It didn’t hit me until the boss started saying things and asking me why he couldn’t refer to me as a woman.”

            Kazuto placed his hand on my belly and looked down at me, expression serious.

            “Is this going to be too much for you?” he asked.

            I placed one hand on top of his.

            “I’ll be fine,” I said. “The joy of waiting for our little rosebud outweighs anything he could say to me. I just needed to come home and be held.”

            I snuggled into his chest.

            “See? I feel better already.”

            He hummed, cueing me in that he wasn’t convinced. I stroked the back of his hand with my thumb and shifted my weight. As per usual when I was comfortably pressed up against Kazuto, the baby excitedly started kicking. Kazuto jumped a little.

            “What’s wrong?” I mumbled.

            “I felt that.”

            “Hmm?”

            “I can feel that,” he said, correcting himself.

            I smiled and lifted my head just enough to kiss under his jaw. I could feel him radiating happiness as he rubbed my belly. I took my hand off of his and reached up to slip my fingers into his hair. I rested my head against his neck and sighed.

            “He always gets excited when he’s close to his other papa,” I said.

            “Is that so?” Kazuto asked.

            “Mm, yep. It’s only fair. I get excited when I’m close to you, too.”

            Kazuto laughed.

            “I thought I was comforting you,” he said. “But you just sound horny.”

            I gently nibbled his neck beneath his ear.

            “Hey, let me finish work!” he said, chuckling.

            “Mmm…how about no?” I said. “I’m too distressed. I need attention.”

            “Look here yooooooou!”

            Kazuto slipped his arms beneath me and swooped me up in his arms as he sprang out of his chair. He dashed over to our bedroom and plopped me down on the bed. Smiling, he crawled over me and leaned down to steal a kiss. I leaned forward into him, wrapping my arms around his neck to pull him closer. When he pulled back, he kept his face close to mine, with his nose against mine. Our eyes met. His were smiling so brightly I felt butterflies in my stomach. He reached up and brushed some of my hair behind my ear.

            “You have the most beautiful eyes,” he whispered.

            I played with his hair and shook my head.

            “Kazuto, you sound like a lovestruck teenager,” I said, laughing.

            His smile seemed to get sweeter.

            “Maybe I still am, deep down,” he said. “I grow more in love with you every single day. I’m so lucky to be married to you. I couldn’t ask for a better guy—one doesn’t exist.”

            He gave me another kiss—this one much longer and far more eager than the first. I thought he might never go up for air; I didn’t want him to. But he did, sitting up and giving me that look of his where his dark eyes sparkled like the night sky. He bent forward and cupped my belly in one hand, then pressed his lips against it.

            “I’m happy I finally got to feel you kick, little rosebud,” he said.

            His eyes focused back on me.

            “I’ll finish up as quickly as I can,” he promised, giving me one last kiss. “Then I’m all yours.”

            “Hurry back,” I teased, giving his fingers a tight squeeze.

Chapter Text

            I frowned down at my phone and read the message Kazuto had sent me. Apparently, he needed me to pick up some shampoo on my way back from the airport. I’d taken the car, since my goal was to pick people up, and he was too lazy to peel himself away from his programming project for twenty minutes to head to the shop and grab a bottle. I rolled my eyes, texted back that I’d be sure to make a pit stop for him, and then dropped my phone down into my lap.

            For a little backstory, my mother and sister were coming to Japan. They’d be staying from now, the end of May, until the end of October. My sister, Sulinea, and I arranged this so she could be around when the baby came and get to hold her grandson. The catch? It’s all a surprise to her. She was told that she’d be spending this long vacation in Japan with us for a surprise early birthday present; her birthday was pretty close to Kazuto’s. I got asked once over the phone “what kind of surprise was so big that I needed a little over five months to show it to her,” but I just told her it would make sense when she saw it.

            Frankly, I felt butterflies in my belly alongside the little kicks and flips already occurring. My mother was always supportive of me as a trans guy. She even knew, to a point, that I wanted to someday have children and hadn’t been sure the last time I’d brought it up to her whether I wanted to do it naturally or adopt. So, the butterflies weren’t for the weirdness of being a pregnant trans guy around my mother. They were out of the excitement of finally getting to tell her and see her reaction when she noticed the apparent bulge.

            “Not that she’ll miss it, even from a distance,” I chuckled to myself.

            I stared down at my belly and reached down to pick my phone back up. Nothing yet. Sulinea would text me when they landed. I ran a hand over my belly and wondered how my mom would react when she saw me. A man who looked to be about in his sixties sat down beside me. I stared down at my phone and opened my text messaging app, hurriedly texting Kazuto to look busy.

            “Did you feed the cat?”

            Almost immediately:

            “Shit! I thought you fed him!”

            I covered my face with my hand and sighed.

            “I’m the one who’s supposed to be having pregnancy brain here, Kazuto, not you!” I grumbled.

            Moments later, I received a selfie of Kazuto in front of the cat food bowl. He’d filled it up and Pickles (he named him after the cat in Neko Astume) was chowing down happily on his meal. Kazuto had a goofy smirk on his face. I laughed and sent him a heart. I set my phone back on my lap and picked up a bag of chips I had next to me. Slipping a few in my mouth, I crunched on them absent-mindedly and waited for my phone to buzz again.

            “Where’s your husband at, miss?”

            It took me several seconds to realize the old man on my right was talking to me. I blinked over at him and frowned.

            “Uh, at home.”

            He frowned and shook his head.

            “He shouldn’t be leaving you here to pick up someone alone in your condition.”

            His reply irritated me, but he was spared any commentary when my phone buzzed. I hurriedly excused myself, snatched up my phone and my chips, and walked away, whether it was the fated text from Sulinea or not. Luckly for me, I glanced down and saw it was, indeed, from my sister.

            Off the plane and headed your way, little bro! I’m excited! Can’t wait to see the look on mom’s face!

            I dumped the rest of my chips in my mouth, tossed the bag in a trashcan, and made my way to the waiting area. I shot Kazuto a quick message telling him that my mom and sister had landed, and I’d be heading back with them as soon as possible (and wouldn’t forget his shampoo). I slipped my phone into my pocket and picked a spot to stand. The baby started moving around. I pressed my hand to my middle.

            “Grandma came all the way over here to meet you, little rosebud,” I murmured. “She just doesn’t know it yet.”

            There was probably a stupid grin plastered to my face. It would take them just a few more minutes to get through customs and into this area. I hadn’t seen either of them in person for quite a while. The baby must have picked up on my excitement to see my family and wouldn’t calm down. I rubbed my belly and had to fight myself to keep from laughing. I kept my eyes on the crowd coming out of customs and finally caught a glimpse of my sister’s hair. I held my other hand up and waved it around.

            “There he is!” she called.

            She grabbed my mother and pulled her into view. I smiled and kept waving. My mom was already all smiles. They waded through the crowd over to me, excusing themselves ever so politely as they pushed through people. When they finally ended up in front of me, mom put her hands over her mouth.

            “Oh…my gosh…”

            “Hi, mom,” I said, laughing a little.

            She stepped forward and gazed down at my belly for a moment and then looked back up at me, tearing up.

            “Did you guess what your surprise was, mom?” Sulinea asked, chuckling.

            “I’m a grandma?” she said, choking up.

            I pulled her into a tight hug. She wrapped her arms around me and squeezed back.

            “Yeah, mom,” I told her. “You’re a grandma.”

            She pulled away and looked down at my belly again, this time keeping her hands on my arms. Her face said it all: she was so overcome with emotion she was smiling and crying. Sulinea gently patted her back while she tried to process it.

            “What do you say, mom?” I said. “For your birthday, you get to hold your grandson?”

            Unable to put her emotions into words, she nodded and pulled me into another big hug. She pulled back and we walked a little way to get out of the crowd.

            “You’re pregnant, I’m just…” she said, stopping to wipe tears off of her face. “I’m having a grandson! I can’t believe this. Look at you!”

            Mom touched a hand to my belly. Fortunately for her, he was still plenty energetic and kicking around. She smiled even wider.

            “He knows family came to see him,” I joked.

            “I came over here to tease the heck out of my baby brother,” Sulinea said, giving me a grin. “Starting with: you look like you swallowed a small melon!”

            “Don’t be rude to your brother!” mom said.

            I made a face back at her.

            “I perish the thought of what you’re going to say closer to my due date,” I said, rolling my eyes.

            “You’re due around October, then?” mom asked.

            I nodded.

            “Yeah, late September early October. Kazuto’s really pulling for him to be born on his birthday. I don’t know if I want to wait that long. That’s a few days overdue. He’s already heavy and it’s only May.”

            Mom laughed and pulled me into a sideways hug. I guess she had a right to laugh—I was her fourth kid. She’d done this four times. She said if I was feeling too heavy, we’d better get to the car so I could sit down. I told her we needed to stop at a drugstore for a moment to grab Kazuto some shampoo. The excursion didn’t take too long, and we were back at the house in no time.

            I held the door open for my mom and let her in. Sulinea wasn’t having me hold the door for her, teasing that I went first because of the baby bump. I rolled my eyes but let her do it. When I stepped inside, I flicked the lights on.

            “Kazuto, mom and Sulinea are here!”

            Something upstairs fell over. I sighed. He rushed down the stairs and gave my mom a big, friendly smile. She wrapped her arms around him and laughed.

            “There’s my Kazuto!” she said. “How are you? You guys didn’t tell me you were going to be dads!”

            “All in the surprise!” Kazuto said, chuckling. “Sulinea’s idea, by the way. She thought you’d love an extended stay to be here when the baby came.”

            Mom gave him a bemused look and shook her head.

            “Well, I will say it’s the most wonderful surprise,” she said. “I’m more than grateful to get to be here when my grandson is born.”

            Kazuto nodded.

            “Do we have any umeboshi?” I asked.

            He blinked over at me.

            “What are you going to scare me with this time?” he asked.

            Mom gave him a funny look.

            “What do you mean?”

            “He keeps eating weird stuff,” Kazuto said. “I caught him pouring broth in his cereal the other day. And he just shrugs and tells me ‘It seemed like a good idea and doesn’t taste too bad.’ He’s grossing me out!”

            Mom laughed.

            “That makes sense, to a point,” she said. “When I was pregnant with Eugeo, I remember I kept requesting mustard mixed into my macaroni.”

            “Ewww, mom…” Sulinea groaned.

            I pulled out a container of umeboshi and a jar of peanut butter and reentered the room. Kazuto and Sulinea both made a face at me. I frowned and nodded for them to follow me into the living area. Mom and Sulinea picked seats opposite of me and Kazuto. I started spooning peanut butter onto the umeboshi and eating it, much to everyone’s displeasure.

            “Why are you like this?” Kazuto chuckled, reaching over to rub my belly teasingly.

            I hummed and shrugged.

            “When did you two get a kitty!!!”

            Sulinea was reaching down to pet Pickles.

            “Okay, so about three weeks ago, we walked past a pet shop and Eugeo totally had a romance movie-like moment with the cat in the window,” Kazuto said. “And I knew it was a lost battle because mister hormonal was not going anywhere without the sad-looking kitty.”

            “Hey!” I said. “You agreed he needed love, too! And you named him!”

            “What’s his name?” mom asked.

            Kazuto and I both looked at her and answered in unison.

            “Pickles.”

            Both mom and Sulinea started giggling at the name.

            “He’s very happy-looking now,” mom said, smiling and petting him as well. “But there’s another name I’m curious about.”

            I blinked and stared down at my belly. Kazuto was still rubbing it. He gazed at it as well.

            “So far, we’ve just been calling him our little rosebud…” I murmured. “I do want to pick something neutral. What if the kid eventually comes out as transgender or nonbinary? I want to at least try to alleviate any deadname stress.”

            My mom nodded, remembering all too well the stress my birthname had caused me when I was coming out to her and my other family members. Picking a neutral name wouldn’t guarantee anything, but it at least might help ease dysphoria in the off-chance that someone in the family reacted poorly.

            “Well, you’ve got some time,” she said, smiling. “It’s only May.”

            Thank goodness for that.


 

            After just resting and chatting, Kazuto helped my mom and sister get their things into the guest bedroom. We opted for dinner at home since they were pretty jet-lagged. We did a quick video home to my dad and brothers, who happened to be in on mom’s surprise. My dad told me he’d come over to meet the baby later. After the video, we played a few rounds of a card game Kazuto really sucked at and then went our separate ways for bed.

            I was sitting up in bed reading a book when Kazuto finished up getting ready and plopped down into the bed beside me. He laid his head down in what was available of my lap, humming. I reached down and started playing with his hair.

            “Something wrong, dear?” I asked, still mostly focused on the book.

            “I still can’t figure out how Sulinea won that last round,” he mumbled. “I was so sure I had her. But boom! It was all over the moment she revealed her hand.”

            I chuckled.

            “I’m just glad she gave me all of the chocolates she won,” I said.

            “Of course, you are,” Kazuto laughed.

            He poked my belly.

            “Let me guess, they’re all long gone.”

            I dropped a piece of chocolate onto his nose. He made a cute little face of surprise, not even bothered that I’d just dropped candy on his face. Eagerly, he picked it up and unwrapped it to pop it into his mouth.

            “Ah! You left me my favorite!”

            He sat up and wrapped himself around me, clinging like a small child to his father. I set the book down, which apparently gave him permission to pull me down into the blankets and pillows with him. He smelled faintly tropical. It must have been that new shampoo I’d picked up for him. I pressed up against him, soaking up his warmth.

            “You smell good…” I mumbled.

            I slipped my leg over top of his and curled up into him.

            “Are you comfy like that?” he asked.

            I just grunted. He laughed and held me close, gently rubbing my back with one hand. His breathing was calm, and his body was relaxed. I smiled. I could feel how content he was. I slipped an arm around his waist.

            “Hey, Eugeo?”

            “Mm?”

            “You remember when we were kids, a little while after your family came to stay in Japan for work, and we all had that conversation about would we grow up and fall in love and have kids and whatnot?”

            It was such a specific memory I wasn’t sure that I remembered it the same way he did, but I nodded. I remembered at least something of the sort.

            “Yeah, and Shino said you’d make a terrible parent because you were an idiot.”

            Kazuto laughed.

            “Well, she was wrong. You’re going to be such a good dad.”

            He moved one of his hands and rested it on the side of my belly.

            “You will be, too.”

            I felt him rub his thumb back and forth against my abdomen. The baby excitedly started moving around. I groaned and pressed my face into the crook of Kazuto’s neck. He massaged the back of my neck. My eyes slipped closed.

            “Calm down little guy,” he said. “Your dad needs some sleep. He’s working really hard to help you grow.”

            “Kazuto?” I mumbled.

            “Hmm?”

            “I love you…”

            He chuckled and kissed my head.

            “I love you, too. Get some good rest, papa. You deserve it.”

            “Mm…”

            Moments later, I drifted off, feeling quite secure and loved in his embrace.

Chapter Text

            To my dismay, my eyes snapped back open at two-something in the morning. The reason was immediately apparent—it felt like the baby was doing somersaults on my bladder. I slipped out of Kazuto’s arms as he continued to snore and dragged myself into the bathroom.

            Even after relieving myself, the baby continued to twist and turn, apparently quite pleased with the little bit of extra space he’d just gained. Knowing I wouldn’t be heading back to bed anytime soon, I quietly left the room, grabbed a glass of water from the kitchen, and went to pace around the living room. To my shock, my mom was sitting on the couch, leaned over on the armrest under the lamp on the side table reading a book. She glanced up at me and smiled.

            “Can’t sleep?”

            I shook my head. She set her book down and repositioned herself. Her legs had been tucked up under her, but now she set her feet down on the floor. She waved for me to come over to her. I made a face.

            “My baby’s never too big to sit in my lap, come here,” she insisted.

            Sighing, I came over to her and sat down in her lap, curling up like a small kid. She wrapped her arms around me like she did when I was a child. I did my best to pull my knees up without sitting too awkwardly. Mom rubbed my arm and hummed.

            “I remember when you’d get nightmares when you were little,” she said. “You’d come and curl up in my lap. I’d hold you just like this until you finally dozed off. But I don’t think a nightmare kept you up, did it sweetie?”

            I shook my head and rested one hand atop my belly.

            “He won’t calm down,” I said quietly.

            She let go with one hand and pressed it against my belly. She giggled a little.

            “Oh, my goodness, someone’s energetic!” she said. “It’s driving you nuts right now, I’m sure, but in a few months you’re going to miss feeling that.”

            Well, she was certainly right about it driving me nuts at the moment. There were times, I had to admit, where I’d just sit and enjoy the feeling of him moving around. In the middle of the day, when I was stressed at work or watching TV or making dinner with Kazuto, it was a welcome sensation. Right now? I just wanted to sleep.

            “I’m glad you finally get to be a dad,” she said. “I know you’d been thinking about it for a while. I thought you’d given up on the discussion with Kazuto.”

            A chuckle escaped from my lips.

            “Little rosebud wasn’t planned,” I told her.

            “Oh?”

            “Mm. Not that Kazuto has a problem. He’s extremely happy. He cried a lot when I told him. Happy tears, of course. The smile on his face makes all of the dysphoria worth it.”

            “Is that so?”

            I thought about the time just after Kazuto found out. He’d taken a little time to get used to the reality that I was carrying a baby. A few days after I’d told him, he absentmindedly offered me a beer from the fridge, which I politely declined. He gave me a questioning look for a moment but had a guilty expression the moment I patted my stomach.

            “Can’t drink for a while,” I said.

            “S-sorry,” he stammered. “It’s still not clicking in my head. I mean. I can’t even tell. I can’t tell at all.”

            He even seemed extra-cautious at times. The first time I’d tried to engage sex, he’d chickened out, muttering something about “what about the baby!” as he rolled over and pretended to go to sleep. Basically, I’d had to get a signed note from my doctor as proof that sex was okay before he’d do it.

            But despite the initial awkwardness, he always smiled in such a pure and fascinating way that I knew things would smooth over in the end. Whenever the topic came up that, yes, I was, in fact, pregnant, his eyes would light up and he’d give me the warmest smile. It was easy to tell that he was excited to be a dad. I smiled just thinking about that smile and snuggled up to my mom with a sigh.

            “He’s gonna be a good dad, mom,” I whispered.

            She gently rubbed my belly and nodded, wrapping her arms back around me.

            “You both will be good dads.”

            Before I knew it, I was back to sleep.


 

            The next day, I got a call from Tiese reminding me that we were having an outing that day. It had completely slipped my mind. Tiese and Ronye only came around every so many months. They lived up in Hokkaido and were working on a farm they’d bought—Ronye insisted it was the lesbian dream or something. I hurriedly picked up the phone and put it to my ear.

            “Tiese! I’m so sorry! I woke up a little late!”

            “It’s okay!” she said. “I wanted to know where to meet you. Did you want to do lunch or go out to a theme park or something?”

            I frowned down at my belly and entertained the thought of doing something like going to a theme park just to laugh. Lunch was likely the best option, considering. They didn’t know, though, so I wondered if just saying I’d meet them for lunch was weird.

            “Lunch sounds great,” I said. “I’m starving.”

            She laughed.

            “Have you not eaten breakfast yet, Eugeo?” she asked, still giggling.

            My tone must have been weird. I leaned back against the counter behind me and patted my stomach.

            “Of course! It’s just all gone already…” I sighed. “Wherever you fancy is good, so long it’s in a decent price range. I’m probably going to order quite a bit.”

            She hummed.

            “Okay, Ronye will text you the address,” she said. “We can’t wait to see you!”

            “See you in a little bit!” I said.

            Kazuto snickered as I ended the phone call and poked me in the belly. I brushed his hand away and rubbed the spot he’d poked.

            “You haven’t told them?” he guessed.

            I shook my head.

            “Frankly, I apologize for you not telling your mom,” I said. “It’s been weird telling people. Like…do Tiese and Ronye even know I’m trans? I don’t think I explicitly told them. It’s going to be obvious now.”

            He chuckled.

            “Or they’ll just think you put on a lot of weight,” he said with a smirk.

            I spread my fingers out over my belly. I was skeptical at this point to think anyone could mistake this for just a random weight gain. I’d gained about ten pounds all to the front. Kazuto removed my hand, pulled my shirt up to my ribs, and then shook his head.

            “Okay, they’ll likely guess,” he admitted.

            My phone buzzed. Ronye, as promised, had sent the address for the restaurant we were to meet at. I held up the phone for Kazuto to see and smiled.

            “Feel like driving a lazy pregnant husband to get some lunch?” I asked.

            “You aren’t lazy, but of course,” he said, leaning over to slip his lips into mine.

            “I’ll go get some shoes, then,” I said, returning his kiss with a playful peck on the cheek.

            We both slipped out shoes on, left a note for my mom and sister, and he quickly drove me over to the restaurant. He said to just let him know when we were wrapping up and he’d come pick me up. We shared another kiss before he drove off to go make sure mom was doing okay with her jet lag. I turned towards the restaurant and took a deep breath.

            “Here we go again,” I mumbled.

            Tiese and Ronye had already secured a seat, so I told the host that I was with them. They were chatting about something I couldn’t hear when I walked up and greeted them.

            “Tiese, Ronye, it’s been a while,” I said, giving them an awkward wave.

            Both of them stood up but kept their eyes fixated on my belly. It was to be expected. The last time they’d seen me, I’d had a flat stomach; it had been before I’d even told Alice I was expecting.

            “You’re…” Tiese said, trailing off.

            She pointed one finger at my belly. I laughed and cupped the side of it with one hand.

            “Yeah,” I said, laughing nervously. “I wasn’t really sure what to say. I don’t think I ever mentioned at school that I was trans…”

            “How far along are you?” Ronye asked. “We saw you back in January and now it’s May, so you can’t be that pregnant.”

            “This would be week twenty,” I said.

            Her eyes bugged a little bit.

            “You were pregnant the last time we saw you!” she exclaimed.

            I nodded.

            “That’s right,” I said. “Do you mind if we sit down?”

            “Oh! Yes! Of course!” Tiese said. “Please, sit. Don’t exhaust yourself too much by standing up there.”

            We all took our seats. I was grateful to sit down. Recently my feet had been hurting a little more from the extra weight. A waiter came over and asked for drinks and if we knew if we wanted anything yet. Tiese and Ronye said they needed a few more minutes, but I went ahead and ordered an appetizer to snack on. I skimmed the menu for an entrée and found myself stuck between two, so when the waiter came back, I just ordered them both, getting an amused look from both of the girls and a questionable one from the waiter.

            “Would you prefer to split your orders in half?” he asked.

            I shook my head.

            “No, two full orders is fine,” I said.

            He gave in and wrote down the orders, telling us that he’d be by with the appetizer soon. I could see Tiese covering her mouth and trying very hard not to giggle. I raised an eyebrow at her.

            “What?”

            “It’s just…two orders…eating for two…” she said.

            She shook her head.

            “Nothing, nothing,” she said, trying to compose herself.

            I rested a hand atop my belly and hummed.

            “Honestly, you’re not wrong,” I mumbled. “I feel like a bottomless pit half of the time.”

            Ronye shifted awkwardly in her seat and then cleared her throat.

            “Um…um do you mind if…” she stammered.

            She glanced at my belly and bit her lip.

            “Did you want to feel him kick?” I asked, laughing.

            She nodded.

            “I don’t mind at all,” I said. “You’re both welcome to feel if you like.”

            Ronye quietly thanked me and reached over to touch my belly. She waited patiently for him to move. Tiese, apparently not wanting to be left out, also moved around to put her hand next to her wife’s. I shifted how I was sitting, hoping to encourage him to move. Fortunately, that worked, and both girls excitedly giggled as he kicked around. The waiter quickly dropped off the appetizer. Tiese pushed it closer to me. I picked up a piece and popped it into my mouth.

            “So, it’s a boy?” Ronye asked.

            I nodded.

            “No name picked out yet, though,” I sighed. “We’ve bounced a few around, but so far the only thing that’s sticking is the nickname ‘rosebud’ that Kazuto gave him. Do you want some of these?”

            Both of them shook their heads.

            “No, no, you go ahead and eat up,” Tiese said, laughing. “And you’ve got some time. You’ll think of something.”

            I hummed.

            “Yeah, we’ll think of something,” I said.

            Our food was served shortly after I finished up the appetizer. Tiese and Ronye caught me up on all of the exciting perks of starting a farm with money lent to them by their parents. They were raising cows for dairy. Ronye eagerly showed me a picture of the newest calf, who she was always running outside to give kisses to, according to Tiese.

            “Look! He’s so precious!” she said, flipping through pictures of him.

            “His head’s so big!” I said, laughing. “And he’s got a heart-shaped spot on his side!”

            After I downed two entrees in front of them, I was stopped from ordering a dessert when they told me they’d brought down some homemade ice cream in a cooler from their farm that they wanted me to try. They quickly finished up their meals, quipping that they didn’t want me to suffer having to wait for more food because of them.

            So, we finished up, paid, and then walked around the park as we ate the treat they’d brought down, to my surprise still frozen and in perfect serving condition after the ride down from Hokkaido. They said they’d tell me the secret to long-distance freezer tech only when Kazuto and I picked out a name for our son.

            “You and Kazuto should come visit sometime,” Tiese said. “We’d love to show you around the farm. Of course, I expect you to come after the little one arrives and is old enough to enjoy meeting the cows!”

            I laughed to myself.

            “I can already imagine Kazuto excitedly introducing him to each individual cow,” I said. “I’ll see if we can arrange something sooner.”

            Tiese laughed and rubbed my belly.

            “Don’t rush it,” she said. “It might be a long ride with mini-Eugeo.”

            I chuckled.

            “Tiese, he’s not that fragile,” Ronye said, giggling.

            “I don’t think he wants to have his son born far from home, though,” she said. “They’re going to want to be at home and to themselves when he arrives. It would be very uncomfortable to have the baby so far away.”

            “You make it sound like just by coming up there I’m going to go into labor,” I said.

            Ronye gave Tiese a funny look.

            “I think she’s just roundabout saying that we’re going to be a little busy these next few months, so it might be better to plan for after he arrives,” she said. “Plus, I’m sure you have work until you go on maternity leave. Er…paternity…leave?”

            I shrugged.

            “Leave to deliver a baby or whatnot,” I said.

            “Right!” Ronye said. “But definitely keep us posted!”

            Tiese nodded enthusiastically.

            “Yes, please do!” she said. “I want to see a picture of him as soon as possible!”

            “And as his lesbian aunts, we must spoil him, too!” Ronye chipped in.

            I pulled them both into a hug and shook my head.

            “I’m going to have to start policing all of these aunts spoiling my little rosebud,” I said. “But I can at least say that I’m grateful that he will be very loved.”

            At the end of the sidewalk, we turned and headed back towards the train station. We shared some parting hugs, discussed that we’d be in touch about a time when Kazuto and I could come up to their farm, and then said goodbye as they boarded their train. Kazuto came and picked me up to take me back to the house. I ended up napping on the ride back. When I woke back up, Kazuto was sitting on the bed with me curled up against him.

            “Evening, sleepyhead,” he said, greeting me with a kiss. “You have a good nap?”

            I hummed and readjusted myself, snuggling up to him.

            “Hey, now, who’s going to make dinner if he can’t move from this spot?” he joked.

            “Order pizza…” I mumbled.

            I started to close my eyes to doze back off while I could, but then my eyes snapped back open when I felt something akin to a cramp in my lower abdomen. I pressed my hand against my underbelly and frowned.

            “Is something wrong?” Kazuto asked. “Your face is all scrunched up.”

            “It feels…kinda like…menstrual cramps,” I said quietly. “And everything’s tensed up.”

            He cast me a worried glance and pressed a hand against my belly.

            “Yeah, your muscles are all flexed or something,” he noted.

            I could practically feel him panicking.

            “I-it’s too early for that!” he said.

            Forcing a smile, I wrapped my other arm around him and pulled his head over to me so that I could press my cheek against his. I gently played with his hair.

            “Eugeo, I’m serious!”

            I nodded.

            “I know, babe,” I said. “But it’s okay. It’s just a little false alarm. Those are going to happen infrequently, but it’s okay. He’s fine. I’ll tell you if I think it’s time, okay?”

            Kazuto relaxed a little.

            “There’s nothing to worry about.”

            I patted his head gently and then crawled out of the bed. Walking around would probably relieve the little contractions. I turned to him and gave him a confident smile. His smile, in return, was trusting and warm.

            “Oh, and when he arrives, we’re going to take him to meet Tiese and Ronye’s cows.”

            Kazuto’s eyes lit up instantly.

            “Yes! A cow trip to the Moo Moo Kingdom!”

            I laughed.

            “And to see our good friends.”

            “Right. Friends. And cows.”

            “Now, come on!” I said. “We need to get on ordering that pizza!”

            Kazuto shook his head.

            “Who approved of ordering pizza?”

            I snatched up my cellphone and laughed.

            “Too late.”

            I hurried out of the room, dialing the number for the pizza place as quickly as I could before Kazuto could catch up to me. In the end, I got my pizza—as well as being “captured” for some hugs and kisses while Kazuto relayed his own pizza order desires and asked my mom and sister for theirs.

Chapter Text

            I reached up as far as I could to try and grab flour out of the cabinet, but my body was not having it. Kazuto reached up behind me, grabbed it with ease, and then set it down on the counter with the other ingredients. He wrapped his arms around my waist, kissed me on the cheek, and then peered at the recipe book over my shoulder.

            “Babe, I’m going to need to move to make cake,” I said, laughing.

            He pouted a little bit.

            “But you fit so nicely in my arms!” he said dramatically.

            “Yeah, right,” I grumbled, reaching for a bowl.

            I started measuring out ingredients to put into the bowl. He remained where he was, since I didn’t make any moves to force him off of me. As I combined ingredients, he started to smooth out the wrinkles of my apron. I laughed.

            “Does it bother you that much?” I asked.

            He hummed.

            “When you flatten it out like that, it makes me look huge,” I said.

            Kazuto chuckled and patted the sides of my belly.

            “My dearest husband, you don’t merely look huge,” he said.

            I picked the spoon up out of the bowl and very gently whapped his nose with it.

            “Hey!”

            “Did you just call me huge?” I asked.

            He wiped the batter off of his nose and promptly slipped it into his mouth. A satisfied humming came from him instead of a defense. He then reached down, snatched the spoon away from me, and then promptly held the end of it up to my mouth. Rolling my eyes, I took a taste of the batter myself.

            “Good, huh?” he said.

            “We can’t just eat the batter…” I said.

            “Then stop licking it off the spoon!” he said, laughing.

            He handed me a clean spoon. I grabbed it out of his hands just as I felt Pickles start to rub against my legs. I looked down, frowned because I couldn’t see the cat through my belly, and then tilted my head to the side and smile. He had squished himself between me and Kazuto to greet us both at the same time.

            “Could you grab the baking tin?” I asked.

            Kazuto reluctantly let go of me and grabbed a cupcake tin. He placed it next to me and started to place wrappers in the cups. I let him take care of the baking spray. I kept stirring. I put one hand on my back. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, the front weight was starting to bother me. I finished up stirring and waited for Kazuto to finish up with the baking cups.

            He did the honor of pouring the batter. I took the previously dirty spoon, which still had some batter on it, and started cleaning it off—and by that I mean eating the batter directly off of the spoon. By the time Kazuto had finished pouring all of the batter into cups, he turned to me giggled.

            “What?” I said.

            “Oh, you got a little chocolate right…” he said.

            Leaning forward, he slipped his lips into mine. I numbly set the spoon down and accepted the kiss. He caressed my cheek and eagerly pressed himself against me. I grasped his arm. I could taste the hint of chocolate from the batter. When he pulled back, I kissed him again. He pulled back again, laughing.

            “You’d think I hadn’t kissed you in forever,” he said.

            “Mm…kiss me again,” I said, pulling him to me by grabbing his shirt collar.

            Our lips joined again. We clung to each other so desperately you might think that we were never going to see one another again. The only thing that tore us apart was the sudden beeping of the oven, alerting us that it was done preheating. I jumped at the sound. Kazuto laughed and pressed his forehead against mine.

            “Do I need to protect you from the scary oven?” he teased.

            I touched my nose to his and hummed.

            “My hero,” I said.

            I let go of him, stepped around him, and slipped the cupcake tin into the oven. I turned back towards him and ended up tripping over the cat. I ended up falling forward into Kazuto’s arms. He helped me get back upright.

            “Careful,” he said.

            He glared down at Pickles, who was staring up at us almost expectantly.

            “Don’t trip my husband, he is carrying precious cargo!” Kazuto said.

            Pickles meowed.

            “You heard me!” he said.

            I laughed when he put his hand on my belly and shook his head at Pickles.

            “Your little brother’s in here!” he said. “He’s very small and fragile!”

            Another meow.

            “What are you two doing in here?”

            We glanced over across the counter and saw Sulinea staring at us, trying to hold back a giggle. Kazuto pointed a thumb at the oven.

            “Making cupcakes, what does it look like?” he said.

            I took the opportunity to pick up the bowl. I ran one of my fingers along the inside of it and then stuck it in my mouth. My sister laughed and shook her head. Kazuto rubbed my belly. I took some more batter on my finger and held it out to him. He promptly leaned forward and gently “chomped” down on my finger.

            “Moooom!” Sulinea exclaimed. “Eugeo’s in here making innuendos!”

            Kazuto and I ended up laughing so hard we stepped away from each other. I set the bowl down and leaned back against the counter. I clutched my belly, held my other hand to my mouth, and tried my best not to hyperventilate from laughter.

            “Don’t laugh too hard,” Kazuto said.

            I wiped my eyes.

            “Excuse me, I have to pee,” I said, still laughing.

            I pulled the apron off and hurried into a bathroom before I embarrassed myself. When I returned, Kazuto and Sulinea had moved into the living area near the TV. Kazuto looked up, smiled at me, and then tossed something in my direction. It landed at my feet. I frowned down at the floor and then gave him an unamused glare.

            “You come pick this up,” I said, pointing at it.

            “Play Mariokart with us, Eugeo!” he said.

            “Only if you come pick this up!” I said. “I’m not bending over to get that!”

            Kazuto came over, picked up the remote he’d tossed on the floor, and then offered it to me with a cheesy grin. I took it, still giving him a look.

            “I can’t believe you almost made him bend down,” Sulinea said.

            He gave me a quick peck on the cheek and patted my belly.

            “I’m sorry,” he said.

            He dragged me over to the couch to sit beside him. Sulinea sat on my other side and smiled at me. She’d been sleeping in, so I hadn’t seen her all morning. She gave me a sideways hug while Kazuto set up the game.

            “How are you feeling?” she asked.

            “Oh, I’m fine,” I said. “My back’s a little sore.”

            She giggled.

            “Is my nephew starting to get heavy?” she asked.

            “Starting to?” I huffed.

            Kazuto turned to me and frowned.

            “Is there anything I can do to help?”

            I chuckled and leaned over to him, resting my head on his shoulder. He said that like he could somehow help lighten the load.

            “You’re so silly.”

            He gave me a kiss on the top of my head and started to navigate the game menus. We played with our options for a little bit, and then we let Kazuto pick out the rules. I slumped down a bit on the couch and rested my hands on my belly while I waited. My remote sat near my hands, but as soon as the baby kicked, it fell off. All three of us glanced at the remote and then at my stomach.

            “My bad,” I said. “I forgot that was a bad idea.”

            Completely ignoring my comment, Kazuto and Sulinea both reached over to feel my belly, probably just eager to feel a kick. Kazuto smiled like an idiot when the baby moved. I sighed and placed my hand atop his.

            “I just want to hold him,” he said, pouting a little.

            “Patience, dear,” I said, chuckling. “Eighteen more weeks.”

            “That’s so loooong,” he lamented.

            “Imagine how I feel about that,” I said, picking the remote back up. “You’re just waiting. I’m doing all the hard work.”

            Kazuto frowned.

            “I did some of the work,” he said.

            Sulinea covered her ears.

            “Nope!” she said. “I am definitely not listening to you talk about fucking my little brother!”

            I reached over and smacked her arm.

            “You can’t just ignore the proof that I’ve had sex,” I said. “It’s literally right in front of you. How am I supposed to make you an aunt if I never had sex?”

            “You guys are adopting!” she teased.

            She reached over and poked me in the side.

            “I still did some of the work here,” Kazuto said, ignoring her comments. “I mean, come on, without me, there wouldn’t be a little rosebud growing in your belly.”
            I groaned.

            “Kazuto, all you did was—”

            He cut me off by yanking up my shirt and leaning over to tickle me. Sulinea jumped off of the couch, probably expecting me to flail my arms. I tried to get out of his grasp, but he kept tickling my bare sides as fiercely as he could.

            “K-Kazuto…s-stop…I’m…I’m gonna—!”

            He stopped tickling me and leaned over top of me to give me a kiss. I wrapped one leg around his. I pushed myself up into the kiss. Kazuto held my head in his hands and smiled at me. I smiled back up at him.

            “I love you,” I said.

            The timer for the cupcakes started going off.

            “Let me guess,” Kazuto said, laughing. “I gotta go get that.”

            I flashed him my best puppy dog eyes. He rolled his eyes, gave me another quick kiss, and then dashed off to the kitchen. I awkwardly pulled myself back up into a sitting position. Frowning down at my shirt, I pulled it back down to cover my belly. Sulinea sat back down next to me, shaking her head.

            “You suck-up,” she said, giggling.

            “I know,” I said. “But he went so willingly.”

            Sorry, Kazuto.

Chapter Text

            Three A.M., a cat curled up against my side as I lay on the couch ever so slightly propped up, a bowl of ramen sitting awkwardly on my chest, and a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips resting on my belly. I frowned and dumped some of the chocolate chips into the bowl of hot soup and stirred it around with my chopsticks. Pickles got up and started to rub himself against the side of my belly. I started to eat the ramen with the chopsticks, but then gave up and started just slurping it out of the bowl.

            I finished the bowl too fast. I set it down on the side table, grabbed the bag of chocolate chips, and just started pouring them in my mouth. Pickles took the opportunity to climb up on top of my belly and make himself comfortable up there. I groaned. I already felt enough weight on my bladder without him adding to it. I set the chocolate chips down, sat up enough to pick him up, and laid back down, cuddling him in my arms.

            He seemed okay with it. He readjusted so that his fuzzy little head was right under my chin. I smiled as he started to purr. My eyes slipped closed partly. I felt pressure on my leg. I opened my eyes and saw Kazuto smiling at me.

            “You okay?” he asked.

            I nodded.

            “I was just getting a late-night snack,” I said.

            “Could I coax you back into bed?” Kazuto asked. “Remember the doctor said you shouldn’t be sleeping on your back anymore.”

            Sighing, I held out my hand to him. He helped me get into an upright position. Pickles hopped off of me but continued to rub against me. I rubbed him, laughing.

            “He’s really clingy,” I noted.

            “Yeah, he’s trying to protect you because you’re expecting I bet,” Kazuto said. “Alright, you. Up we go.”

            “Kazuto, what are you—”

            He scooped me up in his arms. I wrapped my arms around his neck and gave him a look. He just grinned at me. I rested my head against him and sighed. He carried me up to the bedroom and laid me down on the bed. He helped me situate a pillow between my legs and one for under my belly before he got back into the bed and gave me a kiss on the nose.

            “Get some good rest,” he said. “Because I’m pampering you tomorrow.”

            “Is that so?” I mumbled.

            He hummed and nodded, and then he promptly fell asleep. My snoring husband must have only gotten up because he’d noticed I wasn’t in the bed anymore. I chuckled and played with his hair until I, too, finally fell asleep.

            The next day, Kazuto insisted he was going to pamper me. He started off by making me breakfast. I asked him what this was all about, but he just smiled at me and handed me a rather large omelet. I practically inhaled it, it was so good. I thanked him for my breakfast. He said he wasn’t done yet.

            Cue the strangest, but sweetest, stunt I’d ever seen him pull off. He’d rigged up a way for me to comfortably lay on my front so that he could give me a much-needed back massage. He managed to convince my mom and sister to go take a tour of Tokyo with Alice as their guide, so while they were out, he was free to have me strip down for said massage, making it much easer for him to find knots.

            “Is something up?” I asked him.

            He kept massaging my lower back and hummed.

            “No, why?” he asked.

            “Well, not that you aren’t usually a sweet, doting husband,” I said, “but this seems a bit out of the blue. There’s nothing special going on today. Our anniversary is in August. My birthday’s in April. It’s not a holiday.”

            He stopped massaging for a moment and plopped himself down in front of me. He was so close that our noses touched. I couldn’t help but giggle at him. Kazuto smiled. He gave me a quick kiss and resumed staring at me while our noses touched.

            “Does something special have to happen for me to express how much I love you?” he asked.

            I blinked at him.

            “You just seemed a little uncomfy and tired yesterday,” he said. “So, I thought I’d try and make you feel better.”

            I closed my eyes when he slipped his fingers into my hair. I rested my cheek against his palm and sighed. How was he so perfect? I opened my eyes again and gave him a smile in return. He chuckled.

            “Now, do you want more back massaging, or do you want to switch to feet?” he asked.

            Humming, I thought about it briefly and then shifted my weight a little.

            “Feet sounds nice,” I mumbled.

            “Alright, let’s get you resituated, then!” he said.

            He helped me sit back up, put my shirt back on, and get into a comfortable position to prep for a foot massage. It wasn’t really a foot massage, though—he had a hot water bath to soak them (which felt amazing) and then he took care of basic things I didn’t want to bend over and do, like clip my toenails or apply lotion. He applied the lotion as he massaged my sore feet.

            “I hope this is helping some,” he said.

            I nodded.

            “I don’t want to imagine how much worse it’s going to get before this is over,” I sighed. “Fifteen more weeks seems like such a long time. Then again, thinking about the fact that it’s been twenty-five weeks is pretty weird.”

            Laughing, I stared down at my belly. A year ago, I’d merely contemplated having a kid. That was now a reality. Our baby would be here before we knew it. He was presently doing all sorts of acrobatics. I pressed my hand against my belly and absentmindedly stroked it with my thumb. My mother had been right—I was very happy to feel him moving around.

            “What are you smiling about?” Kazuto teased.

            I hummed.

            “He’s very active right now,” I said.

            Kazuto paused with my left foot in his hand. I laughed and waved for him to come sit next to me. He put my foot down, wiped some of the lotion off of his hands, and sat down on my right. He placed his palm on my belly and contentedly smiled as well.

            “Hey, little rosebud,” he said. “Can he hear me yet?”

            I nodded.

            “Yeah, just get closer,” I said.

            I didn’t know if that made a difference, but it was worth saying that to see Kazuto bend over to put his face closer to my belly and talk. I took my free hand and stroked his hair. My mom, Alice, and Sulinea walked back in while he was leaning over to talk to the baby. I put a finger to my lips and they giggled and hurried off to the bedroom to put things down.

            “I’m making sure your other dad is nice and comfy so that you’re happy and healthy in there!” Kazuto was saying. “Try to get only the healthy stuff he eats, because lately he’s had a huge chocolate problem. I love you.”

            “Hey, Kazuto?”

            He picked his head back up and looked at me. I gave him a small smile and then stared down at the bulge in my midsection. I rested my hand atop my belly and sighed. I wasn’t sure what he’d think of this, but it had been on my mind for a little while.

            “What do you think…of Tsubomi?” I asked. “With the kanji for ‘bud.’”

            “Tsubomi…well, it’s good for a boy or a girl,” he said. “Plus, we’re already been calling him rosebud.”

            Blushing, I nodded. I’d heard him call the baby “rosebud” so much that I’d gotten used to hearing the word. In my head, it seemed too perfect that “Tsubomi” meant bud. The nickname could stick even after he was born. I glanced back up at Kazuto. He took the opportunity to lean in and steal a kiss. He rubbed my belly. The baby moved around even more excitedly than before, it felt like.

            “I like it,” he said.

            He leaned back over.

            “What do you think, Tsubomi-chan?” he asked. “Do you like the name your dad picked out?”

            As if responding, the baby gave a particularly strong kick. I laughed.

            “See? He likes it!” Kazuto said.

            “Likes what?”

            We looked up and saw my mom, Alice, and my sister entering the room. Sulinea sat down on a chair and dramatically sighed, likely happy to be settled down after a morning of touring the city. Alice plopped down next to her, keeping a safe distance. My mom sat down in the chair directly next to me, waiting for an answer to her question. Kazuto excitedly filled her in.

            “His name!” he said.

            She raised her eyebrows. Sulinea perked back up. Alice leaned forward and grasped her knees.

            “Did you two pick out a name?!” Alice asked.

            I nodded.

            “Well, go on, out with it!” mom said.

            “His name is Tsubomi,” I said.

            Alice instantly picked up on the relation to the already in-place nickname and giggled. We had to explain it to my mom and sister, who didn’t speak much Japanese. My mom noted that it was a very lovely name. She asked what else we had planned for the day. I told her I had a doctor’s appointment and that Kazuto would be coming along because he wanted to see the baby moving around on the ultrasound.

            We ate our lunch, I made sure to use the bathroom before we left, and then made our way to my appointment. This was my first time going by car, so it was nice to not have to deal with the train. We headed in, I signed in, and we waited together holding hands. When I got called back, I told the nurse that I was giving my husband permission to come back with me. She smiled sweetly and greeted Kazuto as well.

            Kazuto was a total sweet dork the whole time the nurse was checking up on simple things like my blood pressure and weight. He held my hand every moment he got the chance to and made a goofy comment when the nurse remarked that I’d gained another three pounds. I reminded him, while she prepped for the ultrasound, that it was normal for me to have gained eighteen pounds because I was growing a baby.

            “Eighteen pounds,” Kazuto said.

            He whistled.

            “No wonder your back hurts,” he said. “Little man’s so heavy!”

            I rolled my eyes. The nurse giggled.

            “Mister Kirigaya, the baby himself isn’t eighteen pounds,” she said. “At this point, he’s just under two pounds. A lot of that weight is water weight and fat layers that grow around the uterus to protect it.”

            Kazuto smirked at me. I swatted his arm.

            “Shall we take a look, then?” she asked.

            She had me pull my shirt up to the base of my ribcage. Kazuto asked funny questions, like why she was spreading a weird gel on my stomach. She happily explained the technical side of an ultrasound to him, which he seemed to really enjoy. She pressed the machine up against me and pointed at the screen for Kazuto to watch.

            “He’s really moving in there, isn’t he?” she said.

            I laughed.

            “Yeah, I feel like he’s doing flips,” I said.

            I looked over at Kazuto. He had his hand over his mouth. His eyes betrayed the smile he was covering up. I went to ask him what he thought, but then he started inexplicably crying. The nurse laughed good-naturedly.

            “That’s our baby,” he said.

            “Yeah, that’s our little Tsubomi,” I said, gasping his hand a little tighter. “It looks like he’s waving at you!”

            Kazuto sheepishly wiped his eyes and then waved back at the screen as if Tsubomi could see him. Once again, the nurse and I laughed. He turned to me and gave me a kiss out of the blue.

            “B-babe, we’re in front of the nurse,” I said.

            “Y-you’re doing such…such a good job!” he cried.

            He wrapped his arms around my neck and hugged me tightly. He looked back over at the screen with such a pure, joyful expression that I felt a warm, fuzzy feeling in my chest. I gently patted him and smiled. Goodness, if he was this emotional over an ultrasound, I can’t imagine what a mess he’ll be in the delivery room.

            I guess in fifteen weeks I’ll have that answer.

Chapter Text

            The second week in July, Kazuto and Asuna decided they wanted to have a big game night. They’d both lamented that we hadn’t done that sort of thing since college, and since we all had a free night, everyone would come to our house to join us in some lighthearted fun. Kazuto was busy setting out some snacks. He came back into the kitchen to catch me dipping marshmallows in hot sauce. He promptly took the bag away from me and handed me a bowl of carrot sticks.

            “Put something healthy in your stomach,” he insisted. “And do NOT put hot sauce on those carrots.”

            I grumbled, but started munching on the carrots nevertheless. I finished off the bowl, frowned, and glanced at the counter. A bag of chips was sitting open. I reached into it and started munching on those. I set the empty bowl down, leaned back against the counter, and contentedly snacked on chips until Kazuto returned.

            “Good grief,” he said, chuckling. “Your little junk food cravings are probably why your stomach’s been acting up.”

            He walked over to me and patted my belly.

            “I don’t know what you’re referring to,” I said, giving him a sharp glare.

            “Don’t even,” he said. “It’s been causing some major gas issues.”

            I practically wilted on the spot.

            “It has not!” I whined.

            He rubbed my belly and then grabbed me by the waist to kiss me. It was a quick kiss. He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me into a hug.

            “Ah, my poor Eugeo!” he said rather dramatically. “You’ve gotten so big it’s getting harder to hug you properly!”

            “Kazutooo…”

            He kissed the top of my head.

            “You’re still the most handsome man in the world,” he said.

            He let go of me, snatched up another bowl of food, winked at me, and then hurried off to the next room to set it with the others. We were almost done setting everything up. The doorbell rang. I saw Pickles dash through the hall, likely startled by the sound amidst a nap.

            “I got it!” I said.

            I hurried over to open the door. The first to greet me was Alice. She wrapped her arms around me in a big hug. I told her that I see her every day at work, so she needed to share me with everyone else. The others filed in, each taking care to slip their shoes off and greet me.

            “Oh my gosh, look at you!” Asuna said. “You look so good! It’s been a while, look how big the baby’s getting!”

            I laughed.

            “Yeah, he’s getting heavy, too,” I said.

            “It’s a boy?” Keiko asked.

            I nodded.

            “You got a name picked out yet?” Rika asked.

            Kazuto popped up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist from behind.

            “Tsubomi-chan!” he said.

            The girls let out a chorus of awes at the mention of his name. Kazuto let go of me and made sure to greet everyone. He gave Asuna a big hug and started to ask her about work while I tried to coral everyone into the house. I did manage to get everyone seated. I encouraged them to eat, saying that I’d end up eating in a short moment anyways. They started passing around food. I went to grab more things from the kitchen, but Kazuto insisted I sit down and stay with our friends.

            “Awe, he’s so sweet,” Alice giggled.

            Shino rolled her eyes.

            “He might have his moments, but sometimes he can be a real pain in the ass,” she said. “Watch your chips, he’ll steal them.”

            “I heard that!” Kazuto shouted from the kitchen.

            Suguha let out a snort and pointed in my direction.

            “Sinon, Eugeo’s already stolen one of your chips.”

            Shino whirled around to see me slip a chip into my mouth. The whole table broke out into laughter. I felt my face flush with heat. Rolling her eyes, Shino passed me the chips. I dumped some out on my plate and then started to dump queso on my plate. Shino eyeballed me suspiciously. She gave me a smirk as she pushed her plate closer to Rika. Alice reached over and patted my back.

            “I’m sorry, I got hungry…” I mumbled.

            “It’s okay!” Asuna reassured me. “Shinonon isn’t upset!”

            Shino laughed and gave me an awkward sideways hug.

            “Hey, hey, I claimed that one!” Kazuto said, plopping down next to me and pulling me out of Shino’s grasp.

            He took my left hand and showed it to her. I rolled my eyes.

            “See? He’s my boy,” he said.

            “I don’t want him!” Shino exclaimed. “I’m a lesbian!”

            “That’s my wife, Kirito!” Rika exclaimed.

            I grabbed a few chips, dipped them in the queso, and then shoved them in my mouth. For a few minutes, Kazuto quipped back and forth with Rika. I mostly tuned it out in favor of claiming a whole pizza for myself. No one else was going to take it, after all—I’d mixed a bunch of odd ingredients together that others were turning their noses up at.

            Suguha watched me down a couple pieces of pizza, all the while crinkling up her nose. I could tell she was having little flashbacks to the marinara and churro incident back on my birthday. Sighing, I grabbed a third piece of pizza and took a bite of it.

            “Eugeo, where the hell are you putting all of that?” Rika piped up.

            I raised an eyebrow at her.

            “Where do you think?” I asked.

            “It’s all going straight to his—hhggmmmfff!” Kazuto started.

            Without missing a beat, I clamped my hand over his mouth. Keiko started giggling. It was clear a few people caught on to what he was going to say without hearing, it, though, because they were making awkward faces. I gave Kazuto a pointed glare. He just smiled at me like an idiot and pulled my hand off of his mouth.

            “You don’t look a pound over one-thirty,” he said facetiously, still grinning.

            I narrowed my eyes even more. He propped his chin in his hands and then leaned his elbows on the table. Regrettably, he looked cute enough for me to ignore the almost-comment about where I was gaining weight. I pointed out his plate. He smiled down at it.

            “Hmm?”

            “You. Eat.”

            “Is he losing weight again?” Shino grumbled.

            Asuna shook her head.

            “Kirito, I’m sure we’ve all talked to you about taking work breaks to eat,” she said.

            “He just gets into the zone and I have to come make sure he ate something,” I grumbled. “I can’t eat for you, dear.”

            Kazuto rolled his eyes and took a bite of pizza. He stopped and dropped the pizza.

            “THAT ONE’S EUGEO’S!” he exclaimed.

            Several people immediately expressed disgust, but giggled nonetheless.

            “Hey! My pizza’s good!” I defended.

            He patted my shoulder.

            “Babe, I love you,” he said. “And I am excited and happy to be a dad. But I will be extremely glad when you’re not pregnant. Your taste buds have gone absolutely crazy.”

            Kazuto pulled me into a sideways hug and planted a kiss on my cheek. A few of our friends awed at the display of affection. Others teasingly picked on us for being gross at the table. We all finished up our food and migrated into the living area to play cards. Mostly, everyone sat on the floor. Keiko chose to sit up on a chair with Pickles, though.

            I leaned my back against the couch and a pillow while we played. I had Kazuto pass me cards from the draw pile and such, since I didn’t feel like bending over to get them. At some point during the game, he started flicking them at me like he actually knew how to throw cards professionally. One landed a little way in front of me. I frowned, clutched my belly, and leaned over to pick it up.

            “Aw, Kirito, don’t be mean!” Asuna said. “Here, Eugeo, let me grab that…”

            She scooped up the card and handed it to me. I thanked her and moved to sit back, but I froze and set all of my cards down. Kazuto looked over at me, looking worried. I covered my mouth with one hand.

            “E-excuse me…” I stammered.
            I awkwardly picked myself up off of the floor and made a dash for the bathroom. I didn’t even bother to close the door behind me. I just opened the toilet and promptly threw up. In the living room, I heard Kazuto jump up. He ran into the bathroom to check on me. I apologized and threw up again.

            “Hey, don’t apologize,” he said.

            He plopped down next to me. He started to rub my back.

            “You okay?” he asked.

            “I don’t know,” I whined. “I’m too far along for it to be morning sickness, right?”

            He shrugged.

            “Maybe that pizza didn’t agree with your belly,” he said.

            He was probably right. I leaned against him and started impulsively crying. I didn’t even know what I was crying for. Kazuto wrapped his arms around me. We sat there on the floor of the bathroom until I finally stopped crying. He grabbed a washcloth and started cleaning up my face. He set it down and kissed me on the cheek.

            “Think you’re gonna throw up again?” he asked.

            I shook my head. He smiled, and then patted my belly.

            “Just a little longer,” he said.

            Laughing, I rested my head on his shoulder. I didn’t want to get back up. He just sat there, rubbing my belly and holding me, not at all bothered that we weren’t entertaining the rest of our friends.  I sighed.

            “Yeah…if by a little longer you mean three more months,” I said, chuckling.

            He laughed.

            “Comparatively, it’s not that much,” he said. “Tsubomi-chan’s been in there for six whole months. That’s a pretty long time, if you ask me.”

            I stared down at my belly and pressed a hand to it. Half a year. I hadn’t really thought about that much, but he was right. I’d spent most of the year pregnant. It was a weird thought. Tsubomi moved around. I smiled and snuggled up to Kazuto.

            “You think we should get off of the bathroom floor and rejoin our friends?” I asked.

            Kazuto frowned a little.

            “Maybe in a little bit,” he said. “I’m surprisingly comfy.”

            I chuckled and wrapped my arms around his torso. I guess we can sit here for a little while longer.

Chapter Text

            I was working on my second official breakfast of the morning (a breakfast sandwich I’d picked up in route to work, which received a much nicer text comment from my husband than him watching me accidentally pour soup broth into cereal and then immediately cry and eat it) when Alice ambled over to my desk and plopped herself down between me and the guy in the seat to my left. She smiled at me and handed me a flash drive.

            “Here’s some of the finished images for the Iwami family,” she said. “Are you sure you’re good to do an outing today?”

            I nodded and took a bite from my sandwich, then reached out and accepted the flash drive with my free hand.

            “Are you positive?” she asked.

            I swallowed and shifted my weight in the chair.

            “I can’t just stop working because I gained a few pounds,” I muttered.

            She raised an eyebrow at me.

            “Eugeo…twenty-one pounds is not a few,” she said, laughing and reaching over to pet my belly. “Good morning, Tsubomi-chan! How are you today?”

            She giggled, probably because she could feel him start to kick when she rested her palm on my stomach. I found myself shifting again. His movement was starting to get a bit stronger. I finished up my sandwich and leaned back a little. I rested one hand atop my belly and rubbed my eyes.

            “You okay, buddy?” Alice asked.

            I sighed.

            “Yeah, just…”

            She chuckled.

            “Just pregnant.”

            I nodded. There wasn’t much else to say. I’d had a terrible time sleeping last night, but my doctor was telling me to keep my caffeine intake to a minimum. I glanced over at the clock and let out an unintended groan. Alice hopped up, patiently waiting for me to come along with her to the photoshoot. I instinctively held onto my belly as I stood up and gave her a nod when I was comfortably on my feet.

            “Don’t forget your bag, silly,” Alice said.

            My eyes widened. I’d tried to leave my desk without anything. She dropped down under the desk and snatched up my camera bag. She grabbed a few other things off of my desk and handed them to me, giving me a polite smile. As we walked out to the car, she patted my back.

            “I can’t believe I was really going to walk out with nothing…” I sighed.

            “It’s okay,” she said. “Even you aren’t immune to pregnancy brain. You want me to drive?”

            I nodded.

            “Please. I’m half-awake as it is.”

            We climbed into the car and I eased myself back into the seat, dramatically sighing with relief. Alice chuckled, probably knowing I did that on purpose. I buckled myself up and then just rested my hands on my belly. She set up the GPS for our meetup location with the client. I felt a ticklish sort of twitching in my belly. I couldn’t stop myself from laughing.

            “What?” she asked.

            Smiling, I started rubbing my stomach.

            “I think he’s hiccupping,” I said, still laughing a little. “It kinda tickles.”

            “You think I can feel it?” she asked.

            I shook my head.

            “It’s very faint,” I said.

            She pouted a little about it, but she turned her attention to driving. I smiled down at my belly and continued to gently rub it. I probably looked like an idiot, but feeling his little hiccups made me feel warm and fuzzy. Alice stole a glance at me and started giggling again.

            “What are you over there smiling about?” she asked.

            “I love my little Tsubomi,” I said.

            Alice let out a full laugh this time. God, I did sound a little idiotic. I just couldn’t help it. I was so happy. This was my baby I was feeling. His little movements meant he was alive and healthy. I held the lower half of my belly in my hand and started to trace circles on the top with my other hand. My eyes widened when I saw (and definitely felt) him push up against the spot where my hand was. My cheeks were flush with heat.

            “Look at that, he knows where your hand is,” Alice joked. “He’s trying to hold your hand, maybe.”

            She was unprepared for me to burst into tears. For the remainder of the car ride.


 

            Work was more difficult than I wanted to admit. It was definitely at the point where it was harder for me to get down on the ground for some shots. The clients got plenty worried at one point and I embarrassed myself by standing in an unbalanced way and toppling over in the grass. Falling over wasn’t the embarrassing part, really; it was the fact that I felt a bit like a turtle and required help to get back up. I told Alice to not say a word to Kazuto.

            I took the train back home. I fell asleep and missed my stop. I dragged myself off of the train a few stations later and groggily reoriented myself. I was about two stops from home. In tears, I picked up my phone and called Kazuto, begging him to come get me. He said he was sending Asuna, since she was heading to the house from that direction, if that was okay. I didn’t want to say it was okay—I wanted his attention to myself at the moment—but I just agreed to it and plopped down on a bench outside of the station after grabbing a snack from a vending machine.

            Asuna arrived to find me laying sideways on the bench and popping candies in my mouth. She walked over to me, tilted her head so that it was at the same angle as mine, and frowned. I felt myself tearing up again.

            “Whatcha doing there, Eugeo?” she asked.

            “I’m stuck.”

            She blinked at me.

            “I thought it might be comfier to lay down like this, but I can’t right myself…” I admitted. “I think it’s how my left leg is sitting.”

            Sighing, Asuna reached over, grasped my hand, and pulled me upright. I thanked her with as much of a bow as I could manage and then offered her some of the candy. She hesitated, but then she stuck her hand in a pulled a few out. I finally smiled and heaved myself up off of the bench. Her car wasn’t parked too far away, so the walk wasn’t so bad.

            “I’m so sorry about this,” I said, awkwardly trying to get comfortable in the passenger seat. “I really didn’t mean to miss my stop.”

            She gave me a sweet smile.

            “It’s alright,” she said. “You’re probably very tired and your body’s sending you mixed signals.”

            I dumped more of the candies into my mouth and groaned.

            “I have to ask.”

            I lowered the bag of candy and gave her a sideways look. She wasn’t looking at me, since she was driving, but she had a funny look on her face. Asuna was definitely more of Kazuto’s friend than mine. You could say she was his Alice. They were extremely close. I think she felt awkward when she was alone with me for some reason.

            “How did you know?”

            I blinked, not sure I was following. I glanced down at my belly.

            “Well, I was throwing up a lot…” I said, humming.

            “What? No…no, not that!” she said. “How did you know you weren’t a girl?”

            I almost choked on a piece of candy.

            “Why are you asking that?” I asked.

            She sighed.

            “I don’t know,” she admitted. “You’re the only transgender friend I have, at least that has told me he’s transgender. I wasn’t sure what kind of a conversation to start, so that popped into my head. You don’t have to answer if it makes you uncomfortable.”

            My response was just a hum, mostly because my mouth was full of the remaining candy pieces. I kind of mumbled that I didn’t like to be asked that sort of a question, not because I didn’t have an answer, but because of the way the question was worded. It reminded me that people still thought of the me before I came out as a girl. But I’d always been a boy. She seemed satisfied with that response.

            When we arrived at the house, Kazuto came outside to greet us and promptly pulled me into a tight hug while I sobbed for the fourth time that day. He told us he’d prepared some dinner and would like for us to come inside and wash up; he’d be done in just a few minutes. My mother flew out of the living room when I came out of the bathroom and immediately started fussing over me.

            “You missed your train stop?!” she exclaimed.

            I nodded.

            “Yeah, I was a bit upset, but nothing serious happened,” I said.

            “Are you sure?” she asked. “You seem a bit distressed.”

            I hugged her and shook my head.

            “No, I’m just…I don’t know. I’ve been on and off today.”

            She relaxed a bit and gave me a knowing smile.

            “Your hormones are probably messing with you,” she said. “You might want to get some water in your system if you’ve been crying a lot, though. It’s important that you stay good and hydrated, even if you have to keep running to the bathroom.”

            We sat down at the table. Sulinea and Asuna were chatting it up quite well. Kazuto set the last thing on the table and came and sat down on my right. He leaned over and gave me a quick kiss before we all said thanks for the food and dug in. My mom actually ran into the kitchen and brought me a second glass of water.

            “I’m serious, Eugeo, drink up,” she insisted.

            Kazuto chuckled.

            “Is he dehydrated?” he asked.

            She shook her head.

            “No, but take it from me, I wasn’t properly drinking enough water with his oldest brother and Sulinea and they came earlier than his other brother and he did. My doctor did confirm that proper hydration means the baby’s less likely to come early.”

            Kazuto took a sip of his drink and glanced at me.

            “Well, we certainly don’t want an undercooked bun, do we?” he deadpanned.

            I almost choked on my water.

            “I haven’t felt anything beyond hicks,” I mumbled.

            “Plus,” my mom continued, “You need to keep your energy up anyways. That baby’s about to have a huge growth spurt. You’re hitting the last stretch—he’s got to get up to six or so pounds before he makes an exit.”

            While I didn’t say anything, I caught myself grimacing slightly at the thought of gaining another six pounds. I got up out of my seat without explaining myself, went into the kitchen, pulled something from the fridge and the utensil drawer, and then came and sat back down.

            “Trust me, it’ll be a miracle if he stops eating,” Kazuto was saying.

            “He was just munching on candy when I drove him back,” Asuna noted. “Um. What is that?”

            Kazuto looked over at me, apparently just now realizing I’d come and sat back down. His eyes widened when he saw what I was spreading on my steak.

            “EUGEO!”

            My mother started laughing uncontrollably. She still found it quite humorous that Kazuto hadn’t adapted to my weird cravings. He was practically wilting next to me, but the others were just laughing at his expense. I finished up spreading it and stuck the spoon in my mouth. I hummed. Yeah, this would work.

            “Eugeo…is that grape jelly?” Sulinea asked.

            I glanced at the jar and nodded.

            “Yeah,” I admitted. “You want some?”

            She shook her head.

            “No, no, no, little brother,” she said. “But maybe you should ask Kazuto. He looks like he’s really digging this latest bullet on the list.”

            I offered the jar to him. He looked so upset.

            “What?” I asked.

            “Are you sure an early baby is a bad thing?” he whimpered.

            Mom and Sulinea laughed even harder.

            “Just for that, I’m gonna try extra hard to keep him in here until I’m full term,” I said.

            For effect, I slipped a piece of jelly-covered steak into my mouth and chased it down with a huge gulp of water. Kazuto looked adequately defeated. I laughed and pulled him into an awkward side-hug.

            “Just a few months more, papa,” I told him.

            He sniffled.

            “P-please eat a salad…”

            “Right after I finish my steak.”

            He buried his face in my shoulder and let out a pathetic cry. I patted his head and happily continued my progress on the steak. My poor husband seemed to be at his wit’s end. Here’s hoping he’s less freaked out by taking care of a baby than he is by my appetite for weird combos while pregnant.