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Announcing Your Pregnancy in Vanity Fair? Not Yet? Well, Read On...

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“I drag my hand through my hair, and in as even a tone as I can manage I ask, ‘Are you hungry?’” Skye says, her voice husky and sure.  She clears her throat.  “‘Not for food,’ she teases.”

“Stop,” Christian says, his face in his hands.  “Just stop.”

Skye stares at him.  She turns the page.  “Whoa. She might as well be addressing my groin.”

Grant and Thomas roar with laughter.  Thomas actually manages to fall out of his seat, which just makes Grant laugh harder.

“This is a travesty,” Christian says.  “A disgrace.”

“I think this is a pretty accurate biography,” Skye says.  “She’s really got you pegged, Christian.”

“I think Anna’s the one that has Christian pegged,” Grant says.

“Oh my God,” Thomas says, from the floor.  “Disgusting.  Terrible.  I’m suing you for that.”

“I’m suing the author,” Christian says.  “I’m suing the publisher.  I’m suing everyone who bought that book.”

Skye flips through the pages.  “Her sharp intake of breath is music to my dick.”

“I really love Christian’s sentient penis,” Grant says.

“Stop,” Christian repeats.  “Alright?  He has my name and Anna has my wife’s name and it’s all very funny-”

“It’s more than just funny,” Skye says.  “It’s fucking hilarious.”

“Is your dick sentient, Christian?” Thomas asks.  “Does that scare Anna at all?”

“My di-” Christian clears his throat.  He’s bright red, and has been for about thirty minutes.  “It is not.”

“I think you’re lying,” Skye says.  “I think this book is 100% about you.”

“My first name isn’t even Christian,” he says.

“Holy shit,” Grant says.  “He’s so desperate he’s playing the Maynard Card.”

“Truly, we’re watching history in the making,” Thomas remarks.

“Everyone is horrible,” Christian says.  “And if my opponents start using that book in smear ads, I’m moving to the moon.”

Skye nods in understanding.  “She looks radiant. My cock agrees and stiffens in greeting.”

“That’s terrifying,” Grant says.  “Calm it down, Christian.”

“And like,” Thomas adds.  “Aren’t they just going out to dinner? You don’t just pop a boner whenever you want.  Chill, man.”

“Stop looking at me,” Christian says.  “Stop looking at me and addressing these statements like they are about me.”

“And your penis,” Skye says.

 

 

“You know,” Christian says.  “I don’t talk about your private parts.”

“You don’t need to,” Skye says.  She puts the book down next to her.  Sticks her stomach out.  “Everyone knows what I did with them.”

“Yes they do!” Grant says, immediately and fondly rubbing her tiny baby bump.  “Everyone knows we made a baby!”

“Grant,” Christian says.  “Honestly.”

Skye gives Christian a look.  “Don’t even.”

Grant pats her bump.  “You look so good Skye,” he says.  “You’re so pregnant!”

“I’m at twelve weeks, babe,” Skye says.  “It’s not very noticeable.”

“Yes it is!” Grant insists.  “It’s perfect.  You’re perfect.”

“Well, I do like eating a lot,” Skye says.  “And then using the pregnancy excuse.”

“So what was your excuse before, then?” Christian asks.

Skye throws the book at him.

“Don’t pelt me with things!” Christian says, blocking his head with his arm.  “God.”

“So are we doing barbecue again,” Skye asks.  “Or like, are your parents importing an ice sculpture or-”

“I mean, kind of,” Thomas says.  “The fourth is when they bring out the raw bar.”

Skye wrinkles her nose.  “The what?”

“Like, oysters and shrimp cocktail and lobster,” Thomas says.  “Raw shellfish.”

“Oh crap,” Grant says.  “Oh I didn’t even- There’s nothing for Skye to eat!”

“I can’t have lobster?” Skye says.  “Am I not fancy enough?”

“No,” Christian says.  “You can’t eat raw fish when you’re pregnant.”

“Um,” Skye says, grabbing her iced tea.  “Okay.”

Christian draws his lips into a line.  “You know Anna and I read about this a lot, right?” he says.  “Just in case.”

“Oh,” Skye says.  “I’m sorry.”
“I-” Grant rubs Skye’s bump once.  “I’m sorry Christian I didn’t-”

“It’s fine,” Christian says.  “We should figure out what Skye’s going to have for dinner.”

“Could we go to a Burger King?” Skye says.  “Like right now? I would kill for like, two cheeseburgers and a large fries.”

“I don’t think that’s happening,” Mother Ward says.

“Did anyone hear her come in?” Thomas says.  “Because I didn’t.”

 

 

“Mother,” Grant says, rising from his seat.  “We were just figuring out what Skye could eat.  Since raw fish-”

“You’re showing,” Mother says.  Mostly to Skye.  A little bit at her, but she’s gotten almost 20% better about that.

“Yeah,” Skye says, slouching forward.  “I’m uh, at 12 weeks so-”

“She has to change,” Mother says.  This time to Grant.  “We haven’t told the papers yet.”

Skye brings an arm over her stomach.  “Oh.”

“Not like it’ll be much of a surprise,” Mother Ward continues.  “She can’t drink, she can’t eat at the raw bar-”

“Leave her alone,” Christian says.  “She’s fine.”

Mother raises an eyebrow.  “Something you want to tell me, Christian?”

Skye’s literally getting a chill.  She wonders how Grant and Thomas stay immune.

“If you’re implying that Skye is pregnant with my child, Mother,” Christian says.  “After everything-”

“I’m merely stating that it’s unlike you to be so foolish,” Mother says.  “If Skye’s little situation comes to light before the right moment, it could-”

“You’re being ridiculous,” Thomas says.  “Grant’s not running for office.  This doesn’t reflect on Christian or Father, and-”

“Thomas,” Mother says.  “This doesn’t concern you.”

“Oh, you always give him a pass,” Christian says.  “You’d never rub Thomas’ lack of children in his face, would you, Mother?”

“I would never do that to you either, Christian,” Mother says.  “You’re being oversensitive.  And after you came to me when Anna-

“Oversensitive!” Christian says.  It’s almost a raised voice, but not quite.  “You really have some nerve-”

“Mother,” Grant says.  “I think you should go check on the caterer.  Skye’s fine.”

“I’m not budging on this, Grant Douglas,” Mother says.  “I don’t know why you’ve all decided to rally around this, but-”

“It’s fine,” Skye says, rising from her seat.  “Just give me one of Rose’s dresses.  Or let me talk to Rose or touch her hair or something relaxing like that.  Okay?  I’ll change.”

Another silence.  The boys are staring.  Mother Ward is staring.

“Well,” Mother says.  “At least someone’s thinking clearly.  Come along, Skye.”

“I’ll come with you,” Grant says, taking Skye’s hand.

“Christian,” Mother says, and Skye doesn’t think she’s ever heard her so icy.  She’s always cold, but that tone is... another level.  “Go check on the bar.”

Christian’s balled his fists at his sides.  “Of course,” he says.  His tone matches his Mother’s.  “My pleasure.”

“I’m just gonna go get some more iced tea,” Thomas says.  “You guys.  Do your thing.”

Skye has no idea what the thing is.  But she really doesn’t want to do it.

 

 

At least she has Rose.  Sweet, perfect Rosie, who happily exclaims, “Skye!” and wraps Skye into a hug.

“Hi baby,” Skye says.  She strokes her hand through Rosie’s golden hair.  “We missed you on the patio.”

“I was painting,” Rose says.  “I like to paint before parties.”

“It helps her relax,” Grant says, softly in Skye’s ear.  “Parties make her anxious.”

“Can I see what you were painting, Rose?” Skye asks.

“‘Course!” Rosie says, leading Skye to her easel.  The girl never wants for art supplies.  Skye will give the Wards that.  They keep Rose’s hobby well-stocked.  “Here!” she announces.  “It’s mom!”

And it is.  It’s Mother Ward, in an austere portrait that must be painted from memory.  Skye can’t imagine that the woman would ever sit for a portrait.  Maybe one done by a professional.  But not one done by Rose.

Weirdly enough, Mother Ward looks softer than Skye’s ever seen her.  Which is funny, since she’s standing right behind them.  There’s a kindness in the painting’s gaze.  Skye wonders if Rose made it up.  Though that doesn’t seem like something she’d do.

Grant wraps his arm around Skye’s waist.  Rests his chin on Skye’s shoulder. “It’s beautiful, Rosie.”

“I look...” Mother Ward starts.  “Sharp.”

“You are sharp,” Rose says, nodding astutely.  She draws her fingers along her cheekbones.  “Here.”  One finger down her nose.  “Here.”  Up her jaw.  “And here! Like Grant and Christian!”

“Are you gonna paint everyone?” Skye asks.

“Yep!” Rose says. “But I wanted to do mom first.”

“Well that’s lovely, Rose,” Mother says.  “We’ll get them framed and put them up when you’re done.”

Rose beams.  “I’m gonna do dad next.”

“He’ll be flattered,” Mother says.  And if she likes the painting so much, she could certainly stand closer to her only daughter.  Skye feels like she’s part of a wall.  “But right now, I was hoping you could lend Skye another dress, since the party’s starting soon.”

Rose tilts her head.  “But I like Skye’s clothes.”

A beat.

“I want to match you,” Skye says.  Which is true.  She wants it to be true, so it is.  “We could look like sisters!”

“We are sisters, silly,” Rose says.  She gestures to Skye’s bump.  “You’re Grant’s forever, so you’re my sister!”

Skye doesn’t really know if that means she belongs to Grant, or that she’s Grant’s forever girl.  It’s a really cute sentiment, so she doesn’t really care.  “Well then where’s my dress?” Skye says.  “If we’re already sisters!”

Rose laughs.  “What color dress?” she asks.  “We have to match!”

“Well, you’re wearing white,” Skye says. “So why don’t I wear blue or red?  For the holiday.”

Rose puts a finger on her lips and nods.  “Okay,” she says.  “I think I know.”

“Oh, Rose,” Mother says, and now she walks past the barrier.  Now.  “Let me help you pick.”

“Okay!” she says.

Mother follows Rose into her enormous closet.

She’ll never want for clothes, either.  That’s something Rose has a lot of: dresses and art supplies.  Skye feels like it’s compensating for something.

 

 

Grant kisses her neck.

Scandalous, given that Skye is horny literally all the time nowadays.  “Graaant,” she whines.  “You’re gonna make me-”

“I’m sorry,” he whispers, and she knows he’s not talking about that.  “I’m so sorry. We should’ve skipped this and gone to the beach, she’s being unbearable, she’s a bitch and-”

“Hey,” Skye says, wrapping her hand around his wrist.  He’s been holding his arm over her stomach.  Like he’s shielding their tiny baby from harm.  “Hey.  It’s fine.  It’s a big deal.  I can get why she’s pissed off.”

“She’s always pissed off about something,” Grant says. “I’m just sorry you’re on the end of it.”

“Actually,” Skye says.  “I think Christian was.”

A sigh.  “Yeah,” Grant says.  “He does that.”

“I don’t think-” Skye pauses.  “I don’t think she meant it the way he took it.”

“Who knows with the two of them?” Grant says.  “They’re too alike.  It’s how she raised him.”

“To hate her?” Skye asks.

“No,” Grant says.  “That occurs naturally.”

“I don’t hate her,” Skye says. “I mean, she’s a control freak, and I don’t think she has feelings, but-”

“Found a dress,” Mother says, emerging from the closet with something blue.  Rests it on the boudoir chair.  “It might be tight in the bust, but it’ll work.”

“Thanks,” Skye says.  “I’m sure it’s fine.”

“Meet us downstairs after you’ve changed,” Mother says.  “Rose will zip you up.”

“Oh,” Grant says.  “You want me to go downstairs with you?”

“Yes, Grant,” Mother says.  “Is that a problem?”

Grant tightens his grip around Skye.  “I’d prefer-”

“Nope,” Skye says.  “It’s fine.”

He pauses.  “Are you sure?” he asks.

“Duh,” Skye says.  “I need some girl time with Rose, anyway.  Before the guests arrive.”

“Girl time,” Rose says.  “Shoo, Grant.”

Skye can practically taste how edgy he is.  But he leaves her side anyway.  “Okay, okay,” Grant says.  “I’m leaving.”

“I love you,” Skye says.

He pauses in the doorway.  “I love you, too,” he says.

“Close the door behind you,” Skye says.

He stares at her as he does.  She has no idea what his expression is trying to say.

 

 

“We don’t have a lot of time,” Skye says, pulling her top off over her head.  “So just a quick girl talk, okay?”

Rose nods.  “Yep!”

“Do you love your mother, Rosie?” Skye asks.  There goes her skirt.

Rose gives Skye a curious look.  “Of course!” she says. “She’s my mom.”

Skye swallows.  She takes the dress and tugs it over her head.  “But why do you love her?”

Rose makes an amused sort of noise.  “Because she’s my mom!” she says.  “She loves me.”

“You feel loved?” Skye asks.

“Always,” Rose says.  “Even when she’s mad.  But she doesn’t really get mad at me.”

Skye turns her back to Rose.  “Can you zip me?” She feels slender, fragile fingers on her back.  “Does she get mad a lot?  Mother?”

“Not really,” Rose says.  “She’s sad, though.”

“Why?” Skye asks.

“I dunno,” Rose says, zipping up the dress.  Mother Ward had been right; Skye feels like she’s spilling out of it.  But it’s got a flow-y bottom part that starts an inch under the bust, so the bump’s successfully concealed.  “She just is.”

“Oh,” Skye says.  “She’s lucky to have you.”

“That’s what she says,” Rose says.  “Sometimes.  Not a lot.”

“Well I’m saying it now,” Skye says.  Spins around.  “We’re all lucky to have you around, Rosie.”

“I love you, Skye,” Rose says.  “A whole lot.  Not like Grant does but-”

Skye wraps her into her arms.  Kisses Rose’s forehead.  “I love you, too.”

 

 

They rejoin the boys in the patio; Mother Ward has disappeared somewhere and thankfully, Anna’s arrived.  Which makes Christian happier, probably also because she’s practically sitting in his lap.

“So,” Skye says, figuring it better to not address the situation.  She finds the book where she threw it.  Ignores the way Christian’s eyes widen in terror.

“Rose is here!” he hisses at her.

Anna runs her fingers through his hair.  Skye watches Christian’s eyes flutter.  Which is funny, because Skye really thought that was just a Grant thing.  “Relax,” Anna says.  “It’s all in good fun.”

He grumbles.  “It’s hardly appropriate.”

“She’s seventeen,” Anna says.  “Come on.”

“I’ll skip the weirder parts,” Skye says, skipping to a random page.  She tilts her head.  “Like this part.  I will skip this part.”

“God,” Christian says.  “What a nightmare of a book.”

“Shush,” Skye says, plopping down on Grant’s lap.  “I’m reading.  Everyone ready?” 

“Ready!” Rose says.  “What are you reading?”

“Something terrible, Rosie,” Christian says.  “Don’t listen to her.”

“It’s fine,” Thomas says.  He takes the spot next to Rose on her chair, slinging his arm around her shoulders.  “It’s funny!”

“I like funny!” Rose says.

“Then you will love this,” Skye says.  She clears her throat.  Deepens her tone.  “‘But you’ve not had dessert.  And it’s apple cobbler.’ Hmmm….tempting.”

Rose giggles.

“Is the dessert tempting?” Thomas asks.  “Or is it-”

“Who knows with Christian,” Grant says.  “He loves apple cobbler.”

“I hate cobblers, actually,” Christian says.

“See!” Thomas says, pointing an accusing finger at his brother.  “You’re doing it by yourself!”

“You’re all encouraging it!” Christian protests.

“Read another!” Rose says.  “It’s funny!”

Skye grins.  “‘Please pass me my sweatpants,’ she orders, pointing to them. Wow. Miss Steele can be a bossy little thing.”

“Getting bossy,” Anna says, and Skye notes the way her hand creeps along the back of Christian’s neck.  “Cute.”

“Oh,” Rose says.  “Is this that book with the weird guy and the girl that have a lot of sex?”

Christian pales.  “Who told Rose about this series?”

Rose wrinkles her nose.  “It’s all over the internet!” she protests.  “Silly.”

“They’ve ruined my baby sister,” Christian says.  “The internet has killed the last pure, sweet thing on this horrible earth.”

“I’m fiiiiine,” Rose says.  “I didn’t like it, anyway.”

“Good,” Skye says.  “It’s terrible.”

Rose laughs.  “Plus, she stole Christian’s name!”

“She did!” Christian says.  “She did steal it, Rose.”

“Christian’s not that weird in real life,” Rose says.  “He’s nice!”

“He is,” Anna says, planting a kiss on Christian’s temple.  She leaves a lipstick print, which Skye thinks was completely intentional.  “He’s just a big softie.  If anything, you could say I’m Mr. Grey and Christian is Ana.”

“Grooooooosss,” Thomas says.  “I’m but a small child.”

“You’re twenty-four,” Christian says.  “And you haven’t been a virgin since-”

Thomas puts his hands over Rose’s ears.  “Christian!” he says.  “Please.  I’ve got an image to protect.”

 

 

Rose giggles, and pushes Thomas’ hands off.

“Was this image before or after you posed half-nude for the tabloids?” Grant says.

Thomas shrugs.  “I wouldn’t call it posing.  Those were candids.”

“You were looking at the camera!” Christian says.

“Candids,” Thomas says.  “Well lit-candids.”

“Right,” Grant says.  “My bad.”

“Wait,” Skye says.  “I remember those! I know the guy who put those online!”

A pause.

“Skye,” Thomas says.  “What do you do for a living?”

“You know,” Skye says.  “Stuff.”

Grant reassuringly rubs her bump.  “Skye’s a very busy woman.”

“Apparently,” Thomas says.  “Trying to jumpstart my modeling career, and whatnot.”

“Oh, Mother will love that,” Grant says.  “Drop out of law school and be a model.”

“She’s letting me be a painter!” Rose says.  “I bet she’d let Thomas be a model.”

“Oh sweetie,” Christian says.  “Mother wants you to be a painter because you’re talented.  No one wants to see Thomas model.”

“Screw you,” Thomas teases.  “I’ve been in Vanity Fair.”

“We’ve all been in Vanity Fair,” Anna says.

“I haven’t,” Skye says.

“You will be,” Christian says.  “That’s probably what Mother’s waiting for.  To put the baby announcement and photos in Vanity Fair.”

Skye blanches.  “Oh.”

“It’s really not that big a deal,” Anna says.  “Trust me.  It’s not as scary as you think.”

“I don’t think I’m Vanity Fair material, really,” Skye says.  “I really lack the, um... whiteness.”

Anna gestures to herself.

“Yeah,” Skye says.  “But you were born rich.”

A shrug.  “Fair enough,” Anna says.

“And the other thing is like,” Skye says, rubbing Grant’s arm.  “And don’t take this the way it sounds, but.  I don’t really want to pimp out my baby like that.  I don’t want to be in the spotlight like you guys are.”

Grant pulls her closer to his chest.  “Oh, princess-”

“You may not have a lot of choice,” Christian says.  “It’s just... not something that can be avoided.”

“It’s not so bad,” Thomas says.  “And besides.  Look at us.  We’re fine!”

Skye raises her eyebrows.

“Okay,” Thomas says.  “But you’re going to be a much better mother than ours is.”

“You’ll be an amazing mom,” Grant says.  “Because you’re a protector and a nurturer and you’re amazing, Skye.”

“Well you’re gonna be a great dad,” Skye says  “I couldn’t do this without you.”

“Aw,” Thomas says.  “Ew.”

“You’re the worst,” Skye says.

“Imagine when Thomas finally starts bringing someone to events,” Christian says. 

“I’d never put someone through that,” Thomas says.  “I actually care about the people I have sex with.”

“You’re such an ass, Thomas,” Grant says.  He’s laughing.  He’s warm.  Skye snuggles toward him, where it’s safest.

“I know,” Thomas says.  “It’s part of my charm.”

“On that note,” Christian says.  “We really should go outside.  Party’s starting.”

A round of sighs.

“Is there at least a salad bar?” Skye says.  “If I could fill up on croutons and dressing, I’d be fine.”

Christian gives her a look.  “A salad bar?” he asks.

“Why do you always make that face?” Skye says, getting out of her chair.  Grant takes her hand.  “I don’t know what fancy parties are like.”

“Well,” Grant says.  “They’re a lot more fun with you around.”

“Aw,” Skye says.  “You sap.”

He kisses the back of her head.  “You make me sappy.”

She giggles.  They weave their way out of the patio, through the dining room, into the kitchen.

 

 

There’s a singular cheeseburger on the kitchen island, all set up on a plate.

“Um,” Skye says.  “Am I seeing things or is that a cheeseburger?”

“Nope,” Grant says.  “I see it.”

“Okay,” Skye says.  “Everyone else?”

“Well,” Christian says, partially to himself.  “I’ll be damned.”

“What?” Skye says.  “Why?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Christian says.  “Mother and I had- Just eat the burger, Skye.”

“Did you fight your mom so I could get a cheeseburger?” Skye asks.

“What?” Christian asks, scandalized.  “No.  Of course not.”

“Look at you,” Anna says, fussing with Christian’s tie.  “Standing up for everyone.”

Christian’s cheeks turn a faint pink.  “It was nothing.”

“I think I need help with my dress,” Anna says, decidedly.  “Christian, could you take me to the nearest bathroom?”

He blinks. “Right now?” he says.

“Right now,” Anna says.  “You seem tense.”

Christian gulps.  “I, um-”

“Just go,” Thomas says, waving them off.  “Obviously Anna’s turned on by you standing up to Mother.”

“Thomas!” Christian says.  “Inappropriate.”

Anna whispers something in Christian’s ear.

Christian goes from faint pink to red.  “But I really should help my wife with her dress.  Right now.  I’ll see you all outside.”

“I’m going to inhale that cheeseburger,” Skye says.  “Since we all know what happened the last time Grant and I snuck off to do it.”

Christian shoots her a well-intentioned glare as Anna drags him off.  Skye very maturely sticks out her tongue.

“What a bunch of weirdos,” Skye says, picking up the burger.  “You guys can go ahead.  I’m just gonna wolf this down.”

“Thomas,” Grant says.  “Take Rosie outside.  I’ll wait with Skye.”

“Ugh,” Thomas says.  “Couples stuff.”

“Aw, Thomas,” Rosie says.  “Everyone is happy!”

“I know, sweetie,” Thomas says, leading Rose out of the kitchen.  “That’s why it’s gross.”

 

 

Skye settles at the kitchen island.  Sinks her teeth into her meal without even stopping for air.

“Oh my God,” Skye says.  “This is so good.”

“I didn’t know Christian spoke to Mother,” Grant says.  “I’m sorry, I should’ve said something but-”

“Babe,” Skye says.  “Don’t worry about it.”  She takes another heaping bite.

“It’s just that Mother and I don’t really...” He gestures.  “Argue.  We disagree, and then we don’t speak about it, and I do my own thing while she disapproves from afar.”

“Which has worked fine for you!” Skye says.  “It’s how I ended up here, technically.”

“But now that you are here,” Grant says.  “I should be standing up for you more forcefully.”

Skye shakes her head.  “It’s different,” she says.  “Your relationship with your mother is... complicated.”

“She’s complicated,” Grant says.  “But at least she put Christian through therapy.”

“That is something,” Skye says.  “I think she knows she’s messed up.  I just don’t think she can fix it.”

“I worry about him,” Grant says.  “Christian.”

“We all do,” Mother Ward says, and Skye practically falls out of her seat.

 

 

 

Grant, bless his sweet, gentle heart, is unsurprised.  “Mother,” he says, not facing her.  “Have you been standing there long?”

“Not particularly,” she says.  “I wanted to see if Skye had eaten.”

“Thank you for the food,” Skye says.  “It means a lot.”

Mother gives her a look.  And Skye wonders, even now, how Rose was able to put softness in that woman’s eyes.  She can’t find a trace of it.  “It was no issue.  Christian... made a good point to me, earlier.  Even if we haven’t told Vanity Fair yet-”

“Told you,” Grant says.

Mother glares at him.  “There’s no reason I should’ve withheld food from you.  That was unreasonably cruel.”

“Mother,” Grant says.  “That’s almost an apology.”

“Watch your tone, Grant Douglas,” she says.

Grant opens his mouth.  He’s sneering, ready to strike-

Skye puts her hand on his bicep.  “Hey,” Skye says.  “Hey.  It’s fine.  We’re all happy.  It’s a holiday.  Let’s chill.”

Mother raises an eyebrow.

“Within reason,” Skye adds.  “Let’s talk about, I don’t know.  Something else.  Rose.  Or Christian.  Or you, Mrs. Ward, ma’am.”

“Me,” she says.  “You want to talk about me.”

“I mean, we don’t have to,” Skye says.  “But you said you were worried about Christian, and since we all care about him, I thought-”

“It’s not your concern,” Mother says.  “I misspoke.  That was my mistake.”

“Did you, though?” Skye says.  She leans forward on the counter.  “You know, I’ve gotten most of the other Wards to open up.”

Grant rubs her shoulders.  “Babe-”

Skye shakes her head.  “You don’t have to say anything.  But if you wanted to talk, we’d listen.”  She turns to look at Grant.  “Right?”

He sighs.  “Yeah,” Grant says.  “Fire away, Mother.”

Mother Ward drums her fingers against the counter.  “He’s very sensitive, lately.  More than usual.”

“Well,” Skye says.  “Why do you think that is?”

Mother draws her lips into a line.  “I have no idea.”

“Mother,” Grant says.  “Come on.  Meet us halfway.”

“He thinks I’m disappointed in him,” Mother says.  “Since Skye is having the first grandchild.  And I’ve told him a dozen times that it doesn’t matter, that it’s fine but-”

“He doesn’t think he should be a father,” Skye says. 

Mother says nothing.

“I’m sorry,” Grant says.  “Am I missing something?”

“Christian’s weird,” Skye says.  “He’s got this way of thinking like, if something happens or doesn’t happen, it’s out of his hands, ultimately.  Like, with Anna.  Or with the baby situation.  He thinks since they haven’t had a baby yet, that it must be the universe’s way of telling him he doesn’t deserve one.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Grant says.  “We’re not a religious family.”

“It’s not religion,” Skye says.  “It’s just what he learned.”  She gives Mother Ward a shrug.  “No offense.”

“He practically raised Rose,” Mother says.  “I don’t know why he thinks he’s an unfit father.”

“Have you ever told him that?” Skye asks.

Mother bristles.  “Of course not,” she says.

Skye dabs at the corners of her mouth.  She inhaled that burger, and she feels about 300 times better than she did just five minutes prior.  “Maybe you should,” Skye says.  “For the record,” she continues.  “And I wouldn’t say this about just anything, because trust me, I’ve seen a lot of shitty families.  But...” She bites her lip.  “I’d rather have had you for a Mother than what I had.”

Grant squeezes Skye’s arm.  And Mother still doesn’t reply.

“Sorry,” Skye says.  “Out of line.  Sorry.”

“Come on,” Grant says.  “We should go outside.”

Skye knows he’s waiting.  For Mother Ward to say something terrible.  For this to be for nothing.

But she just gives Skye a glance, and then nods.  “You should,” she says.  “Go join the party.”

“Are you coming, Mother?” Grant asks.

She gives a tight-lipped grin.  “Of course I am,” she says.  “I’m hosting.”

Skye almost understands.

 

--

Thomas slugs down an oyster, which is perhaps the weirdest thing Skye’s ever seen him do.  And weirder still is that everyone is doing it like it’s not messy or gross.  Rich people are frickin bizarre.

“So she just,” Thomas says.  Smacks his lips.  “Confessed that she fucked up Christian to you guys?”

“Sort of,” Grant says, quietly.  “She seemed upset.”

“Rose said something to me,” Skye says.  “About you mom.”

Grant and Thomas wait for her to continue.

“Rose said your mom is sad a lot.  I don’t really know what that means, but-”

“She’s not wrong,” Thomas says.  “But it’s her own doing.”

“Well, what are her parents like?” Skye says.

“No clue,” Grant says.  “They’re long dead.”

“So that’s something!” Skye says.  “Right? It must be related.”

“I don’t know,” Thomas says.  “That woman needs more help that we can offer.”

“And even if we did offer,” Grant says.  “She wouldn’t take it.”

Skye stares at the tower of oysters.  “Oh.”

“But I appreciate it!” Grant says, wrapping her into a hug.  “You have no idea how good you’ve been for this family.”

“That’s true,” Thomas says.  “You’re a miracle worker.  But some things don’t need miracles, you know?”

Skye shrugs.  “Yeah,” she says.  “I guess.”

“And you’ve been best for me,” Grant says.  “I can’t imagine my life without you.  You’re family, Skye.  You know that, right?”

“Who’s family?” Christian asks, appearing behind his brother.  He takes an oyster.

“Your tie’s crooked,” Thomas says.

“No it isn’t,” Christian says.  “Anna checked.”

“I was saying that Skye’s family,” Grant says.

“Of course she is,” Christian says, knocking back his oyster.  He blanches.  Skye wonders if anyone actually enjoys eating oysters, or if they just eat them because they’re expensive.

“She had a talk with Mother,” Grant says.

“That’s horrible,” Christian says.  “I’m sorry.”

“No, no,” Skye says.  “It was... fine.”

Christian blinks.  “Why are you staring at me?”

“No reason,” Skye says.

“Don’t worry about it,” Grant adds.

“You’re gonna be a great uncle, Christian,” Skye says.

“Maybe even a Godfather,” Grant says.

“Oh thank God,” Thomas says.  “I was terrified you guys were going to ask me.”

“What did you talk to Mother about?” Christian asks.  “Not that I would say no, I’m flattered, but-”

“Group hug!” Skye declares, before Christian can figure anything out.

Apparently, a group hug means Grant and Thomas attempt to tackle Christian to the ground.

“Get off of me!” Christian says.  “You’ll wrinkle my suit! And on the fourth! Honestly!”

“Oh, shut up,” Grant says, deciding to just wrap his brother into a hug.  “You tight-ass.”

“We love you, stupid,” Thomas says.  “Even if you do have a weirdly sentient dick.”

Skye joins the hug.  “We love you, Christian’s sentient penis,” she says.

“You can all go to hell,” Christian says.  “I mean that.”

“Sure you do,” Grant says.

“I think that’s family,” Skye says.

Grant laughs.  Moves to kiss her forehead.  And the funny thing is, Skye knows she’s right.  But that doesn’t make her love this family any less.