They Bring Me To You
She runs her fingers through his hair with a smile, watching him kiss her skin with reverence. They are lying in bed, her nightgown hoisted up over her bump so he can touch her bare belly, glowing in the aftermath of a particularly enjoyable round of pregnancy sex. She’s positively ardent these days, and Charles is more than happy to oblige her. It’s a little awkward, finding a position that isn’t hindered by her size, but so worth it. And it’s not as though they’re likely to have to struggle with it again in the future, even if her belly does complicate the experience somewhat in the heat of the moment.
It’s big now, a testament to the life that continues to grow inside her. As always happens when they settle for the night, the kicking starts, and it takes a long time to stop, and Charles loves nothing more than to rub her belly and speak to their baby, calming it with funny tales of ‘cars’ and ‘planes’ and buildings that seem too high to be real. She grins at him as he finishes a story – a story as much for her as for their child – and fluffs his hair some more. His chest is bare against her legs, only wearing his shorts to bed while he can. The nights are getting colder, but huddled together under the blankets it’s still warm enough to get away with it.
He looks up at her with a look on his face, kissing her stomach again and framing her hips with his hands, resting his chin on her bump. She cocks her head in question.
“I think it was a New Years baby” he whispers conspiratorially, grinning at her. Their first New Years together had certainly been… conducive… to conceiving a child.
“Really?” she hums at him, smirking.
“Well, I did the math. Doc predicts end of September, which would mean, forty weeks back, very beginning of January”
She chuckles at him, rolling her eyes. He’s probably right. Christmas had been a wonderful affair, with Walt and his whole clan coming over for lunch, which turned into dinner - lounging in front of the fire, cooking puddings and exchanging gifts. Kissing under the mistletoe. They had laughed until their sides were sore, the children playing in the kitchen, and then Mary and Walt’s two young girls had all choreographed a dance together and performed it for them all. It was such a little pageant.
New Year’s had been much the same. The town had hosted its annual carnival picnic well into the evening, and set off a display of fireworks and music that had everyone dancing and laughing until the early hours of the morning. The children had run up and down the street banging pots and pans, and everyone had got a little tipsy on wine. Charles’ friendship in the town had been cemented that night, over friendly card games with the men and the throw of a horseshoe. Nobody had forgotten that he was the man who saved everyone from the park explosion way back in March – that was his identifier, of course. They had danced well into the night, and in the end had stayed at the hotel in town rather than brave the road home in the pitch black. On the back of all the revelry they could hardly keep their hands off each other.
So it was not an unreasonable idea to think that their miracle was conceived somewhere around that time.
“That was a good night… a good few nights” he says, smirking wickedly. She blushes a little, more in agreement than embarrassment. They had been absolutely amorous over the holiday season. She should have known they would end up in this state. It serves her right for not thinking of the possibility, with the way they were behaving.
“Once I am able, we will revisit a few of those positions” she says instead, cocking one brow. She likes shocking him with her boldness, and never fails at it; he blinks in surprise, and his grin turns practically feral.
“Count on it” he growls, and that makes her laugh, her hand over her mouth so as not to wake their housemates. Her giggles seem to calm him a little; when she looks back down at him his gaze is soft once more and his hand caresses what she thinks might be a foot. Little one was woken by her shaking, and kicked right at Charles’ hand, and his soothing ministrations always calm the movement within her. She is dreading the last few months when there will be no reprieve from every little twitch and motion; dreading it and anticipating it. The chances of this happening again are very slim, and they are both determined to make the most of it. For Charles especially – his first pregnancy.
“Do you have any names you like?” he asks, kissing her stomach again. He can’t get enough of touching her. Now that the pregnancy has progressed this far – now that they’ve felt their child kick against their palms and heard it’s heartbeat in the stethoscope – they are at ease. Charles can’t stop watching her and holding her, noting the changes in her shape. More than once she’s caught him sketching her, and it’s rather embarrassing, but she knows he does it just for himself and keeps them in a locked draw, so she leaves him be. He gives her no reason to be ashamed of her figure, what with the way he looks at her just like that. She is trying to take pride in it too; to see it for the miracle it is, rather than a burden to be hidden behind closed doors. Perhaps one day she will fish out those sketches and be glad he made them, if only for the memories.
She peers down at him and smiles, running her hand through his hair, humming. “Not really”
“Any you’d like to consider?” he prods.
“Is this a big part of the process?” she asks with a smile. “Picking a name in advance?”
“It’s not here?”
“Well, for some, I suppose. Family names, or perhaps parents and grandparents”
“How did you pick Mary’s name?”
“It’s not exactly one to think over” she says with a shrug, giving a look. “I liked the sound of it, and thought it proper. Will liked it too. We just decided the day after she was born”
He makes a face of recognition but doesn’t comment. From the limited experience he had of babies in his time, picking a name was a long and arduous process, involving lists and months of research, going through all of the terrible nicknames and finding a middle name to match. Names alone always seemed like a headache. Here, the process seems far more simple; if the child is not to be named for his father, or her grandmother, then any common saint will do, or perhaps a flower. Some names stand the test of time, but others do not; the variations, though, are not nearly as globalised as in the future. It’s almost a blessing, just to narrow down the possibilities.
“Might be nice to have some options” he says with a shrug.
She grins at him and shuffles up on her pillows enough to be comfortably reclined against the headboard. She pushes her nightgown down again, almost in place. “Alright then. Let’s hear them”
He just chuckles at her and moves up next to her, wrapping one arm around her shoulders and the other resting on her belly.
“I haven’t got any yet”
She hums again, a thoughtful sound, and then asks him in a soft voice, “Is there anyone you left behind that you might like to consider as a namesake?”
He takes in a deep breath. He hadn’t thought of that, but now it has his mind spinning. Of course he wouldn’t want to name his child after his now ex-wife; that doesn’t feel right at all, any more than naming it William for Laura’s first husband. But there is another person he considers – someone who might have been named godfather of his children in another life.
“My friend Al” he says quietly.
“The one who dropped you to the station the day you came back?” she asks, already knowing the answer.
“Yeah” he sighs. He has never once regretted coming here, only that there was no way to get a message home to his loved ones that he was happy and safe. For all he knows the timeline is changed altogether and they don’t even remember him; who is he to say what the rules of the universe demand. “He was a good friend. A pain in my ass some days, but a really good friend to me”
“Would you consider his name?” she asks, her fingers on his. “What is Al short for?”
“Alan” he says, rubbing her upper arm with the hand that’s around her. “I’ll tell you what” he starts, pulling himself from his momentary reverie. “Why don’t we keep that in mind for a middle name?”
“Alan is a perfectly respectable middle name, yes” she says with a definitive nod and a light smile. He smiles at her took, and pecks her lips lightly.
“What about you? Would you want to name a boy for your father?”
She lets out an indecisive little noise, tossing her head from side to side, thinking it over. “My father has been gone for many years. You didn’t even meet him” she says.
“You never met Al” he points out. “Doesn’t mean little one can’t hear stories, if they’re good people to talk about”
Honestly, beyond the occasional mention of her childhood, Charles doesn’t know if her stories are happy ones or not. He gets the impression that she had a content upbringing, if a difficult one with no brother to help with the small farm. But he can’t imagine the feisty women of the Clarke household would have been under a nasty thumb for very long.
“My father’s name was George Frances Clarke” she says, offering it for his consideration.
“The same as your brother” he says very quietly, taking note of that information, reverent. She nods slowly.
He mulls it over. “George. George Alan Lattimer” he mutters, rolling it in his mouth to see if it works. It’s not awful, but then he mentally takes away the middle name, thinks over nicknames, initials. Laura doesn’t seem sold on it either, and scrunches her nose.
“Perhaps another option for a middle name?” she suggests.
He grunts in agreement. “Or the kid can have two middle names. No law against that”
She chuckles at him and nods. “So we have something Alan George Lattimer” she repeats.
He nods, thinking as he touches his lips to her hair. “I like the idea of giving the kid something original” he says. “A name all his own”
She smiles at the thought. Of course he does. “So do I”
They stay silent for a little while longer, thinking, before he decides to leave that be for the moment. They’ve done well in finding the second names, at least, and it didn’t take nearly as much research as he thought it would. Barely any time at all. “Now, what about girl’s names?” he asks. “I know you’re set on having a boy, but unless you’ve got an ultrasound wand hiding under the bed, we won’t know until baby is here in our arms”
“Firstly, I have no idea what you just said”
She chuckles at him, and he grins, winking at her playfully. Always one to find the humour, they often rib each other for the things they don’t know – him for the seemingly simple everyday tasks that he never learned for all the automation in the future, and her for the machines that they will probably never see. The best way to deal with their differences is to embrace them, they find, or else allow them to consume their marriage until they have nothing left in common.
He pecks the tip of her nose.
“And second” she says. “I never said I would mind-”
“No, but I know you well enough to know you’re thinking that you’d like a boy”
He gives her a look, not malicious, but certainly understanding. She sighs imperceptibly, and then nods her head once to the side. “Perhaps” she mutters, rubbing her hand over her bump. “I guess I just like the idea of one of each – it’s silly really”
She waves herself off, knowing he knows what she’s saying. Having a preference doesn’t mean she would love a girl any less, of course it doesn’t. But she watched her brother pass as a young boy, and never got to meet her first two babies, and he understands that for this last chance it might be nice to raise a son, too. It’s not like parents in his first time didn’t think about these exact same things.
“I know” he says lightly.
“Do you have a preference?” she asks. She isn’t being whiny, only wanting to know.
“I honestly don’t, Laura” he says, shaking his head. “Only that it’s healthy and happy. The only difficultly with a boy, of course, is that I won’t be able to teach him the proper ways of this time, but I have you and your mother for that”
She snorts indelicately in the back of her nose, and then lets out a peel of quiet giggles, looking at him as another round overcomes her, and then grins when she finally settles. His look conveys exactly how he feels about her laughing at him.
“You’re concerned for his etiquette already?”
He points a finger at her, and glares for good measure. She mimes zipping her lips closed and shakes her head, her eyes still shining with amusement. “I’m not laughing, I promise”
He sighs while she gives one last chuckle, and then gently rocks her into him, the greatest punishment she will receive for her reaction. “Then again, I suppose it might be nice not to be so vastly outnumbered in my own house”
She grins up at him, tucked close into his side so that her head rests near his neck. “You have Walt” she says. It is a valiant effort to keep in another round of giggles, though she manages quite well.
“Walt sides with you in everything and you know it” he grouses.
She hums in affirmation, a high little sound, and nods, patting his chest in false platitude. He pretends to grumble, gently poking her ribs in reprimand. She squeaks, but doesn’t move, just taps the back of his fingers and settles his hand flat on her stomach.
“So, come on, girl names” he prompts, his hand rubbing gently seemingly without thought.
Laura scoffs, and then rolls her eyes, and then takes a second to think. “It can’t start with L” she says finally, definitively.
“Why not? Your name does”
“Yes, and Laura Lattimer is enough alliteration for one household”
He chuckles at her – the name had been her biggest gripe about their marriage, though he has to say, he’s happy it was practically the only one. He still finds it cute, even though he knows it irritates her. She complains that she sounds like a children’s book character, but he likes that she took his name. It’s possessive of him, he knows, and might fly in the face of his otherwise progressive feminist ways, but he likes people to know she married him. He’ll help her make things equal in this town in any other way, but for this one thing he’s ashamed to say, he makes an exception; his name is like a badge of honour she carries around with her. Were it proper he might have taken hers instead, but it would not do for them to both revert to her maiden name in marriage. They are outsiders and non-traditionalists as it is, and their children will have to be raised here too. And so in this one thing Laura had understood, and had willingly relented. And if she’s honest, she likes wearing his name too, even if it does sound silly.
“Okay, so no Louise’s or Lorraine’s” says Charles, humour in his voice.
“And nothing that will be immediately shortened to Liz or Lee” she adds.
They banter for a while, each suggestion more ridiculous than the last. And of course, for Charles, some of the old-fashioned names he knows are still in vogue or belong to friends of Mrs Brown, which makes Laura laugh to hear; Phyllis, and Margery, and even a Gladys. He had tried to keep the horror off his face, with little success. But it had got him thinking, and while he’d kept up the game with one part of his mind, another was ruminating on a possibility.
“Hey, Laura?” he prompts, light but slightly more serious. She hums in askance.
“Do you think your mother would mind if… well, if we used her name for a middle name?”
She goes quiet and he risks a look at her. She is still and serious, and looking at him fiercely, sizing him up, her eyes flickering between his in rapid motions, trying to detect any insincerity.
“Do you mean that?” she whispers. He can see he’s surprised her, maybe even overwhelmed her. That was not his intention, but it must mean a great deal and so he’s glad he asked. “Of course” he says softly, nodding once, the arm around her tightening just a fraction.
Before he can react her lips are on his, and she is kissing him deeply and passionately, not so much to arouse, but as her only outlet for intense emotion. Everything is heightened in her during these months, and sometimes, when her words fail her, she shows him how she feels. He smiles against her lips and lifts his hand from her belly to her cheek, returning her kiss.
Mrs Clarke is an important figure in this household, and despite their differences she is a strong influence on Laura; a grounding presence. And she is definitive in the running of the house and its history, and in raising Mary alongside them. It only feels right that her memory should live on.
They pull away, their eyes closed, and Charles gives her a moment to compose herself. If he rushed her she’ll only cry, and she hates crying over little things.
“So we have something Abigail Lattimer” she says, her voice husky but strong. He risks opening his eyes, and she does too, and they smile at each other before settling against the headboard once again.
“What about Ruth? Or perhaps Ruby?” he says. He doesn’t tell her that he got on that train of thought because of baseball; what she doesn’t know…
“I love it” she says. “Ruby. I love that name”
“Like a fine gemstone” he quips in a salesman’s accent.
“Ruby Abigail Lattimer” she repeats softly.
“There you go, we have named our girl” he mutters. She nods against him. It’s a good name, should they need it. A strong name. Perhaps not the most common for these parts, but not unusual either; it won’t be out of place. She rubs her belly and looks down at it, and tries to imagine a little girl with her wild auburn hair and Charles’ bright blue eyes. It’s a lovely mental image. Charles plants a kiss in her hair.
“Come on then, Mister Lattimer, on that thought we should turn in for the night”
He sighs dramatically and slides down the sheets, shuffling onto his side and leaving a space against him for her. She smiles at the automatic gesture, and quickly turns out the lamp on the bedside table, and then gladly joins him. In the dark they ease into each other, his arm over her hip to rest against the lower side of her belly, his other arm under her neck as a pillow.
Their breathing slows and the night starts to take them, but a sudden thought hits him, and he jerks his head a little, the movement enough to catch her attention before sleep does.
“I got it” he whispers into her hair. “Laura, I’ve got a name”
“What?” she mumbles.
She stays quiet for a moment, taking it in, registering it against their earlier conversation. “Henry?”
“Do you like it?”
She places it with the other names they came up with, thinking it through, imagining herself calling that name across the yard. Suddenly her vision of a bright-eyed little girl is replaced with a son, dark brunette hair and eyes that threaten to turn her shade of green with each passing day, nestled against his father on the bed at story time. Riding Turnip as a toddler, Mary by his side. She smiles, just a quirk of her lip, and nods against his arm. “You know, I actually really do. I like it. Henry Alan George Lattimer” The name falls easily off her tongue. “It sounds like a wonderful name”
Charles plants a kiss in her hair, pulling her back in close against him, and she turns her head slightly and kisses his bicep, her eyes closing.
Their child has a name, whoever they may be. It’s thrilling and terrifying in equal measure; so far to go, and yet so close to meeting this little person. This real little person, who might have her nose and his hands, who will play with Mary and be doted on like no other child could be; learn to fish in the creek out the back, and horse ride in the yard. A flutter against her rib – just a murmur, like a hiccup or a dream twitch – almost makes her cry. Fear still sits in her heart – it will until the babe is in her arms – until it’s fully grown and out in the world, and even then, she will still worry. She is a mother, she can’t help it. But she will get to meet this child, and they will be christened with a name chosen carefully by its parents, named for wonderful people. Strong people, in either case.
She smiles again, and finally lets sleep take her, Charles’ breath against the back of her neck a great comfort. Everything has led to this very moment, and this moment will lead to a thousand more, and before long they will meet their child, and that will be the most thrilling moment of all.