Part 33: link


    They move August 22. The house was ready that Wednesday, but they officially moved in on Saturday. Gwen wanted to start bringing things over little by little, but Arthur put his foot down.
    “Guinevere, that’s why we’re hirin’ movers. Plus, you’re about ready to pop. You’ve been complainin’ for weeks that your hips hurt all the time. And what if somethin’ happens while you’re bein’ stubborn and carryin’ things?”
    “Then I’ll go to the hospital and have them call you,” she answers mildly, just as stubborn as he is.
    “Please. Wait until Saturday. It’s only a few days,” he says, taking her hands in his. His expression is so filled with concern and love that she bends.
    “All right,” she says softly. “I’ll behave myself.”
    Arthur visibly relaxes.
    “I hate this, though.”
    “Noted,” he answers.
    So on Saturday, Gwen’s job was to sit in a chair in the foyer and tell people where to put things. She was good at it, too. The movers were eating out of her hands within an hour, pausing for her instructions each time they came through, no matter how heavy the item they were carrying was.
    The fact that Gwen and Alice made a bunch of fried chicken the day before to feed everyone on Saturday was certainly helpful in winning over the movers’ loyalty as well.
    By the end of the day, not only was everything in, most things were in place and a good portion of the boxes have been unpacked. Gwen spent most of her time in the nursery, making sure everything was perfect.
    The walls are painted a soft yellow, with yellow and orange bedding. An upholstered rocking chair sits in one corner with a small lamp beside on a low dresser that doubles as a changing table. A cheerful Noah’s Ark-themed mobile hangs over the crib, the little pairs of animals swaying gently. The blue blanket from Thea is draped over the rail of the crib, a bright contrast to the yellows and oranges dominating the rest of the room. The cradle from Elyan is on the floor beside the crib, Toya’s blanket folded neatly inside. Waiting.
    “Everything’s ready for you, little one,” Gwen says softly, rubbing her hand over her stomach.
    “Guinevere, are you hungry? What are you doing?” Arthur asks, walking quietly into the room to see Gwen staring down at the cradle.
    “Hmm? I’m just trying to decide if I should put this in our room instead,” she says, nudging the cradle with her toe, making it rock on its curved rails. “You know, so I can keep him close.”
    Arthur smiles a small smile. “Will you sleep if he is right there?” Arthur asks. They unconsciously started referring to the baby as he after Miss Thea gave them the blue blanket.
    “I don’t know. I guess I can find out,” she sighs. Arthur pulls her into his arms, her round belly pressing into him.
    “Whatever you want, darlin’. Your rest is just as important as Baby’s will be, you know. If you’re exhausted, then…”
    “Yes, I know, Dr. Brockton told me the same thing. I need to remember to take care o’ myself as well as the baby,” she says, leaning up to kiss him. “Now what was that you were sayin’ about food?”
    “Are you hungry? It’s nearly seven.”
    “That late already? I am hungry.”
    “Let’s go get some supper, then.”
    “I really had hoped to cook somethin’ the first night in our new home, but… tomorrow,” she decides. “It’s too late and I’m too lazy right now.”
    “That’s why I was thinkin’ we’d just go down to the George Webb’s and get a burger,” Arthur suggests, descending the stairs, Gwen holding his arm.
    “Sounds good. I think I want breakfast, though.”
    “If you want breakfast for dinner, then breakfast for dinner you shall have, my lady,” Arthur declares. “And then we can come home and break in that new king-sized bed, if you’re up for it.” He grins at her. He’s been mildly distracted by it ever since it was delivered and set up this afternoon, pulling Alice in to “help” him make the bed. Really it was Alice making the bed while Arthur was only successful in putting the pillowcases on the pillows.
    “I’ll take it under advisement,” she teases, climbing into the car, parked inside their attached three-car garage.

xXx

    By the following Wednesday, Arthur is so anxious that he’s about ready to go in after the baby. Gwen is ready to smack him, but she knows he’s just excited. The weather is hot and sticky, and she has been mostly staying inside, thanking the Lord every day that they had central air conditioning installed when the house was built.
    Every day Arthur wakes up and looks expectantly at Gwen, wondering Is today the day? Every day he comes home from work to find that Gwen is still as he left her that morning, just more tired.
    Shortly before noon on Friday, Gaius is ready to send Arthur home because he’s completely useless and getting on everyone’s nerves.
    Then the call comes.
    “Pendragon Law, this is Elena, may I help you?”
    “Elena, this is Gwen,” Gwen says. Her voice sounds a little shaky.
    “Gwen? Is everything all right?” Elena says, immediately on high alert.
    “Would you tell Arthur to come home, please? I think I need to go to the hospital.”
    “Oh! Okay,” Elena says quickly. “Hold tight; he’ll be there soon.”
    “Thank you,” Gwen says and hangs up.
    The office is a fifteen-minute drive from home. Arthur makes it home in eight minutes, peeling noisily into the driveway. He leaves the car running, jogs inside to find Gwen waiting for him with a small bag, and escorts her back out to the car.
    “Did you call the hospital?” he asks inside the car, speeding back out again.
    “Yes,” she says.
    “How… how do you know it’s time?”
    “My water broke. I was talkin’ to Alice when it happened.”
    “So she knows. That’s good. Did it… did it make a mess?”
    “Did what make a mess?” Gwen squirms a little and rubs her hand over her belly.
    “Your water breaking,” Arthur says, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel impatiently while they are forced to wait at a red light.
    “It wasn’t a massive gush o’ water, Baby. I wasn’t standin’ in a puddle or anything,” she says patiently.
    “You’re… you’re really calm…” he says.
    She holds up her hand to show him that it’s trembling slightly. “I’m holdin’ it together, for now.”
    “Does it hurt?”
    “Not really. I imagine it will soon. Mostly it just feels like he’s movin’ around a lot. Dr. Brockton said I would know if I was havin’ a contraction. I don’t think he was right. I might have just had one, though, back at that stoplight.”
    Arthur pulls into the hospital parking lot, pulling up under a canopy to drop her off.
    “Just park the car, Baby. I don’t want them to take me away without you there,” she says, reaching for his hand. He immediately drives back out and into the closest spot he can find.
    They walk in, Arthur gives them Gwen’s name, and in moments Gwen is placed in a wheelchair and Arthur is following with her bag, feeling a bit like a bellhop. A nurse takes Gwen’s bag from him and hands him a clipboard with some forms on it, telling him to sit and wait in the expectant fathers’ waiting room and fill out the forms.
    Arthur plops down in an uncomfortable chair and pouts, staring at the forms like they have just called him a nasty name.
    “Well, since I have nothing else to do…” he mumbles, lifting his pen. “They probably just throw these away. Just give them to the fathers so they have something to do besides bother the nurses.”
    The time stretches. Arthur filled out his paperwork and gave it to the nurse at the desk. He calls Gaius to report that there is nothing to report, hearing Morgana yelling for details in the background all the while until Gaius finally just gives her the phone.
    “Well? Well?”
    “Nothin’ yet. It’s takin’ forever,” he laments.
    “Well, you better call when she’s born. Even if it’s two a.m.”
    Arthur smirks. Morgana has been stubbornly calling the baby “she” the entire time. “I will, I promise. I should call Auntie and let her know we still don’t know anything.”
    “Okay. Call the second you can.”
    “I will, jeez. Bye.” Arthur hangs up and dials Alice.
    “Arthur?” Alice answers the phone, on the first ring, as if she was waiting by the phone and knew it was him. “Is the baby here yet?”
    “What would you have done if it wasn’t me?” Arthur asks. “And no, not yet. I was just callin’ because it’s been three hours and I know y’all are anxious.”
    “Thank you. So, no news?”
    “None. I’m about to lose my mind with boredom and anxiety over here. There’s another guy here who’s obviously on his second or third kid. He’s been calmly playin’ solitaire for two hours now. I’m about ready to toss his deck o’ cards out the window.”
    “Arthur, honey, settle down. I’m sure Gwen is fine. If something was wrong, you would have been told. No news is good news.”
    “I guess.”
    “Have you called Elyan?”
    “Oh, shit, no! Sorry,” he apologizes to the nurse sitting nearby, who looks over the tops of her glasses at him.
    “I’ll call him for you,” Alice says.
    “Wait till after five; he’s probably workin’. And Toya works, too, so best to wait. Go ahead and interrupt their supper if you have to.”
    “If anything happens before then, call me so I can relay the message,” she says. “Do you know his number?”
    “Um, yeah,” Arthur says, and gives her the number. “Call Pop, too?”
    “I’m sure Gaius has done so already, but I will make sure,” Alice says.
    “Thanks, Auntie. I owe you,” Arthur says.
    “You owe me nothing, Arthur. It’s what we do for family, silly.”
    “Thanks. Someone needs the phone, so I gotta go.”
    “Goodbye, dear. Hang in there, Gwen will be fine,” Alice reassures him.
    At nearly 8:30, a nurse walks into the waiting area. “Mr. Pendragon?”
    Arthur’s head snaps up and he abandons the game of Gin Rummy he was playing with the previously-solitaire-playing man. “You win,” he mutters, standing. “Yes?”
    “Come with me, please,” the nurse says. Arthur obediently follows.
    “Is everything all right?” he asks quietly.
    “Yes, everything is fine. There’s just someone who wants to meet you,” she says, smiling at him when his face splits into a broad grin.
    She opens the door to Gwen’s room and he hurries inside, rushing over to where his wife is sitting up in the bed, looking quite tired, a small blue bundle in her arms.
    Blue! Miss Thea was right!
    “Guinevere,” he breathes her name, leaning over her and kissing her forehead, her cheek, and her lips.
    “Miss Thea was right,” Gwen says. “We have a baby boy, Arthur.”
    “I know,” he whispers, staring down at the little sleeping face surrounded by the soft blanket, and Gwen realizes that he is crying. “He’s got a little hat,” he says dumbly.
    Gwen laughs, tears pricking her own eyes now, touched by Arthur’s unembarrassed display of emotion. “It’s to keep his head warm,” she answers. “You can hold him.”
    “What? Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Arthur asks, eyes wide as saucers.
    “Of course it is. I carried him around for nine months; it’s only fair that you get a turn,” she points out, handing the baby to him.
    Arthur sits, taking the baby in his arms, adjusting them both until the tiny man stops squirming and settles in.
    “He’s so little,” Arthur says softly, stroking his son’s cheek. He looks down at him. He can’t really make out too many of his features just yet, but he can see his dusky skin, a shade between Arthur and Gwen’s, and a little fist that has broken free of the swaddle to press against his neck. Arthur lifts the small stocking hat to see wisps of dark curls in random disarray on the boy’s head. “Hello, Thomas,” he smiles, putting the hat back. He looks up at Gwen.
    “They haven’t come in yet for the paperwork. So officially he doesn’t have a name yet, if you’ve changed your mind,” Gwen says.
    “I haven’t. Have you?”
    “No. Thomas Uther it is,” Gwen says. “Did you call your father?”
    “Alice called Pop and Elyan a bit after five,” Arthur says. He reaches down and kisses Thomas on the cheek. “He’s so soft.”
    “He’s skinny as a rail; you should see his legs,” Gwen giggles.
    “I thought babies were chubby,” Arthur says.
    “After a month or so, usually. Newborns are mostly skinny with slightly pointy heads.”
    “What?” Arthur takes Thomas’ hat completely off and looks. “Oh. That’s… weird.”
    “Not really, if you think about it a minute,” she says, shifting on the bed, wincing as she does so.
    “Ah. Right. I suppose not,” Arthur says, chuckling. “How are you?” he asks, suddenly remembering that he should ask about her as well.
    “I’m good; just a little sore. And tired. It’s normal.”
    Thomas starts to squirm a bit more than Arthur is comfortable with right now, so he stands and hands him back to Gwen. “I think he wants his mama,” Arthur says.
    “I think Daddy just doesn’t know what to do yet,” Gwen says, taking her son in her arms again. Arthur perches on the bed next to her, watching in amazement as his son settles down. It’s like he knows he’s back with her.
    “Yeah,” he admits. He leans down and kisses her again, tilting her chin up with his finger so he can kiss her lips. “I love you so much,” he says, kissing her once more.
    “I love you, too, Baby.”
    “You look so beautiful with him in your arms.”
    “I look like hell, but thank you for thinking otherwise,” Gwen smirks at him. Her hair is back in a braid, but several tendrils have broken free, and her eyes are heavy with fatigue.
    They stare down at their son for a few moments, neither one of them believing he’s actually here and he’s actually theirs.
    “Do you know what today is?” Arthur asks quietly.
    “Apart from the obvious, I assume?” Gwen asks, indicating the baby.
    “Well, yes.”
    “August 28…” Gwen says, then, “Oh!”
    Arthur smiles. “The day we met, one year ago today. After Dr. King’s speech.”
    “You knocked me on my backside and walked away with my heart,” she says, smiling at him.
    “Who would have thought one year later we’d be married and holdin’ a newborn baby?” he asks, moving more onto the bed beside her. He shoves his shoes off and swings his feet up onto the bed, wrapping his arm around her.
    She leans into him, her head resting on his shoulder. “Certainly not my brother,” she says, laughing.

xXx

    Several days later, Arthur brings Gwen and Thomas home, welcomed by Alice, Gaius, and Morgana. Alice has been cooking up a storm, stocking their fridge and freezer with casseroles that just need to be put in the oven, all labeled with instructions that “even Arthur can understand.”
    Alice coos over little Thomas as if he were her own grandson, scooping him up immediately, the only one completely at ease with handling a baby. She helps Gwen get him settled, fussing and folding all his laundry (that she washed while Gwen was in the hospital), hovering like a natural-born grandmother.
    Morgana hovers in the background, not sure what to do. She can’t help but feel a pang of jealousy, but she pushes it aside.
    “Morgana, would you like to hold him?” Gwen asks. “He’s wearing one of the rompers you bought, did you see?”
    “I did,” Morgana says, smiling now. Alice places Thomas in Morgana’s arms, and she holds him a little awkwardly, having had very limited experience with babies.
    “Try the rocker, dear,” Alice recommends, and Morgana nods and sits.
    Thomas settles in with a tiny squeak.
    “Hi, buddy,” Morgana says. “You look like your mommy.”
    “You think?” Gwen says. “We haven’t really been able to tell much. He won’t open his eyes long enough,” she laughs.
    “Newborns sleep most of the time,” Alice says. “Or at least it seems that way. Eat, sleep, poop, repeat. That’s your first month.”
    Gwen chuckles, then something occurs to her. “Can I ask…? How old was Morgana when you adopted her?”
    “I’m adopted?” Morgana asks in mock horror, eyes wide.
    “Hush,” Alice says, waving her hand at her and laughing.
    Obviously this is a family joke, Gwen realizes, though she was momentarily thrown by Morgana’s outburst.
    “She was just a few days old,” Alice says. “Her mother was very young. Sixteen, I think. The father was older, I guess, and washed his hands of her when he found out she was pregnant.”
    “How awful,” Gwen says.
    “Gaius and I were in the right place at the right time, and we were able to bring her home from the hospital after she was born.”
    “And I’m thankful every day for that,” Morgana says quietly, her finger now wrapped in Thomas’ tiny fist.
    Gwen smiles a wistful smile. It’s unusual for Morgana to be so sentimental. I wonder if she is feeling maternal instincts kicking in. She is older than Arthur, after all.
    Thomas squirms in Morgana’s arms, grunts, and his face turns bright red.
    “Gwen, um, something’s happening…”
    Gwen comes over and looks, and she and Alice both start laughing.
    “What? Why are you laughing?”
    “He’s poopin’. Here,” Gwen says. Thomas relaxes and Gwen lifts him out of Morgana’s arms and takes him to the changing table.
    Alice hovers again, making sure that Gwen knows what she’s doing. I’m sure the nurses showed her how, but…
    “What’s goin’ on in here?” Arthur asks, striding in, followed by Gaius. “Whoa!” he exclaims, wrinkling his nose.
    “Your son just pooped in my arms,” Morgana declares, somewhat unhappy about the event.
    Arthur just laughs, finding the whole thing terribly amusing.
    “Shut up,” she says. “I’m sure you’ll get pooped on, and worse.”
    “He already peed on me,” Arthur says, leaning over Gwen’s shoulder to smile down at his baby boy.
    Gwen finishes him up and Arthur picks him up from the table. “Come here, you.” He cuddles Thomas briefly before Gaius swoops in and takes him. “Hey!”
    “I haven’t had a turn,” Gaius declares, swaying gently with the tiny boy in his arms. “Oh, and it looks like my turn is going to be short. Gwen, he looks like he’s—”
    Gaius’ words are cut off by a shrill cry as Thomas proclaims his hunger.
    “—hungry.”
    Gwen takes him from Gaius and goes to the rocker. Morgana stands so Gwen can sit; Gaius mumbles something and leaves the room so Gwen can nurse her son.

xXx

    Two years later and to Morgana’s delight, they welcome a baby daughter to the family. They name her Grainne Vanora, after Arthur’s mother Ygraine and Gwen’s mother Vanora.
    The nurse was very confused by the name Grainne.
    “G-R-A-I-N-N-E,” Gwen spells.
    “How do you say that?” the nurse asks.
    “GRAH-nya. It’s Irish.”
    The nurse looks at her, a bit puzzled. “I’m not Irish, of course.” She sighs. “My husband’s mother was named Ygraine, but we thought it was too old-fashioned. My husband’s best friend is from Ireland, and he suggested Grainne as a variation. I do realize she’s going to have to explain how to spell and say it for the rest of her life, yes.”
    “Well, it’s your child to call what you will,” the nurse says. “Grainne. It is kind of pretty, once you get used to it,” she allows.
    “Yes, I went through the same process,” Gwen admits.
    Grainne has Gwen’s curls, but they are lighter, and she turns out resembling Arthur more, even somehow getting his blue eyes. While Thomas favors his mother, with her unique, exotic eyes and broader nose, Grainne has Arthur’s straight, narrow nose and crooked smile, but her mother’s full lips.
    Six years after Grainne is born, little Elliot Merlin surprises them all. He has the darkest hair of the three, but strangely, also the straightest, and he has Arthur’s eyes but in brown with Gwen’s smile on Arthur’s lips.
    Thomas and Grainne have a brother-sister meeting after Arthur and Gwen bring Elliot home. They inform their parents that they can “just take that baby back to the hospital where you got him.”
    In time, they reluctantly grow to love their little brother with the sweet temperament and an imagination that often has them all shaking their heads.

Part 35: link