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Hold me spoon me and I'll pretend
In your arms that I am pregnant
With your baby, yeah your baby
Your two babies softly sleeping

- Blue Moon Motel, Nicole Dollanganger

---

You bought a star in the sky tonight

Because your life is dark and it needs some light
You named it after me, but I'm not yours to keep
Because you'll never see, that the stars are free

Oh, we don't own our heavens now

We only own our hell
And if you don't know that by now
Then you don't know me that well

- Buy the Stars, Marina


As Damien promised, we're up with the sun the next day and ready to leave in an impressively short amount of time; I in another childish gown of mint green and Damien in black, as always.

Lucifer isn't awake when we head downstairs and I'm sure Damien breathes a sigh of relief the same as i do, the car brought around and our bags tucked away. Soon we've climbed into the backseat and we're off, the sun having barely broken the horizon as we're borne along the winding road. We leave the estate behind with its vast fields of grapes; barely speaking. We're both trapped in a grim silence, a stasis of sorts.

I'm unspeakably tired and nauseated as I look out the window, nearly removed from myself after the events of the previous day. Damien is unusually subdued, almost like he's holding his breath, and he won't meet my eyes when we happen to glance at each other. He exudes unease and an air of embarrassment, which i suppose is to be expected, given what i know now....

His mother and father, siblings after all. I can't possibly ask him about what he told me, and I certainly won't ridicule him for their indiscretions. Their sins aren't his, after all. We can't be punished for the trespasses of our parents... then humanity would always live under a cloud of shame; generation to generation. At some point, we either have to forgive, forget, or move on -

It's not as if my parents were perfect by any means, my father especially. I'm in no position to judge.

"I expect you to keep my family's secrets," he says quietly when we're very close to the mansion. "Not because I'm ashamed, of course, but still, it would be unseemly to talk about in mixed company. Or at all."

I nod, not looking at him. "They aren't my secrets to tell."

He coughs softly, then, "Thank you."

I glance at him, detached. "I imagine you'd punish me if I spoke out of turn, anyway."

Looking very young suddenly, Damien gazes out the window, past me. "I don't know what I'd do, actually. I don't really want to think about it, either."

We don't talk for a while after that, both of us nursing our thoughts, I guess. Seeing Lucifer was as awful as I knew it would be, and my mind is a horror show of silent omegas with dead eyes and that cage littered with pillows. I can feel Lucifer's hot breath on the back of my neck, can hear him all but promising my death or slavery to him -

Back in the room, Damien removes his coat and lapses into his routine: sleeves rolled up, his top buttons undone to expose his throat. He sits on the couch in front of the cold fireplace and looks at the sonogram pictures, eyes roving. He doesn't smile but there's a tenderness about him that strikes me as obscene. I watch, wanting to touch my stomach but avoiding it; afraid, suddenly, of the contact.

In actuality, my terror is growing slowly in me; the sensation of being trapped in this room, my body, with Damien. I'm trapped in so many ways, and they just keep morphing and tangling together to create a more intricate web; no matter how I move, even when I stay perfectly still, it tightens around me.

I see Damien softly stroke one of the pictures and my disgust overwhelms me.

"You do realize you've put something inside of me that could kill me," I say lowly. "You may be holding pictures of my impending death, so if you could stop being so sentimental I'd appreciate it."

He doesn't look up. "The doctor said everything looks fine so far. Better than fine - good."

"So far," I repeat tremulously. "Things were fine with Mark too, weren't they? At first. Until they weren't, and you couldn't handle it."

"That was different," he mutters.

"No, it wasn't. Don't try to tell yourself that now. Don't lie."

He looks up, eyes snapping, coming back to themselves; probably because he's away from his father. His strength is returning. "I didn't love him."

"You can't just destroy everything you don't love," I reply, sickened by his logic. "And there you go lying again; you don't love me. You don't love anything."

"I know how I feel," he says. "I stopped last night, didn't I? When you asked me to?"

I can't help but laugh, the bile already rising and sour in my throat. "I can't...I don't even know what to say to that. What can I say? If that's your threshold for expressing love... you might as well put me out of my misery now before this inevitably fails." I gesture to my stomach. "I have no reason to believe this will end well, and neither do you."

Hanging his head, Damien goes back to studying the pictures. "I can hope, can't I?"

I don't know what to do with myself after this exchange, being unable to settle into reading or writing. I want to pick up one of the vases filled with dying roses and launch it at the wall. My stomach is jumpy and I have to run to the bathroom after a while, dry heaving but unable to bring anything up; the nausea just sits in my throat, exhausting me.

Eventually, Damien sighs and speaks, still not looking at me. "About what the doctor said."

I wait, pacing and worrying my hands; I'm coming out of my skin.

"He said you need sunshine and fresh air," he goes on, resigned. "I need to make sure you're calm, that I'm properly taking care of you, right?"

I cover my face. "Damien, please get to the point."

"I'll let you go out to the garden for a short while, with supervision, of course, if you can promise me you won't try anything foolish."

My heart feels like it's skittering and sort of skipping in my chest, and it's making my fear worse; the beat a thrum, like I've overdosed on something. I look at him, the sleek fall of his hair; his white nape. "What can I even try? There's a gate, a fence... guards, most likely. I wouldn't be surprised if you had guard dogs at this point."

"Kyle."

I go to him and grab the back of the couch. "Yes, yes, I want to go outside. Please. Just for a while...I need to get out of here. The walls are closing in."

Glancing over his shoulder, he considers me and I don't hide my mounting hysteria. It's too big, and it's growing along with the creature I'm holding. I'm being eaten up, I can feel it.

"Not for very long," he says.

He walks me outside after I wrap a cloak around myself, and I'm giddy to be back outside. Yes, I know I just returned from going out, but this is different. I look toward the faraway gates and I'm breathless until I realize that Craig won't be walking by; those days are behind us. I can leave roses for him but he won't find them.

"Visit the roses," Damien says. "I'll fetch you shortly... just know you're being watched even when you don't think you are. Behave."

I don't respond, moving away instead. The air is cool but it feels like spring, the grass a tender, soft green. The sun pours over me like syrup. I keep my hood down as I go to the roses, slow and then I'm running. I want to run until I collapse, until I'm so exhausted I can drop into bed and sleep for hours.

I want to escape not only this place but myself.

It's a struggle to catch my breath by the time I'm back in the garden, and the roses surround me. They shine, fluttering, and I reach to touch them. It's like visiting old friends and I'm just so grateful to be out of the room. I want to cry but i stop myself, aware that I've been crying since the beginning and it hasn't changed a thing.

I take up the shears and snip a scarlet rose, lifting it to my face.

"Craig," I almost sigh. We hadn't had roses at the beach, but we'd had the stars, and they'd opened up over us at night like white flowers. We'd laid in the sand and he'd told me stories about the constellations while pointing at the sky. He'd even taken my hand to help me trace the pictures; trembling points of light.

We'd waded in the water up to our knees... I'd tasted the salt on his lips when he'd kissed me. It had all been so much like a dream, and after everything's that's happened I have to wonder if I'm remembering things as they actually were, or if I'm sweetening the memories to make the present more bearable.

"Kyle?"

Opening my eyes, I turn to see Pip there, and it's like time has reversed. He's watching me, his own hood drawn down, but there's something different about him. He won't look at me straight on, his face slightly turned away. He keeps his distance as well, mouth taut.

"I don't know what to say," he says. "I knew you were back, but i didn't think he'd let you out."

"His hand was forced," I reply, wanting to ask why he won't look at me, but I don't. "There's been a change and now... everything's different, Pip."

He nods, his expression stiff. "I heard about what he did to you, that party he threw with all the Alphas."

I shrug helplessly. "He wanted to punish me for running away."

"You had another Heat, didn't you?"

I look away, snipping another rose. "I'm pregnant." I say this so quietly I almost can't hear my own voice.

I hear his footsteps in the grass and then I'm being grabbed and turned, and I look to see him completely; heart constricting at the sight of wounds raked across his right cheek and over his eye. They've scarred, becoming pink and shiny.

"Oh, Pip," I whisper. "Oh -"

"He wanted to punish me, too," he says tightly. "For not stopping you."

My throat burns. "I'm so sorry."

"How could you let yourself get caught?" He asks, his tone making it seem like he'd enjoy slapping me. I can't blame him. "You were free... you got what you wanted, and you couldn't hold onto it. And now you're back and -" He breaks off, looking at my middle with gritted teeth.

"I don't want it." As soon as the words leave my lips I know they're the wrong thing to say, especially to him. "I mean -"

He turns away, lifting his hood and covering his scars. After a moment, his shoulders start to shake and I hear him crying quietly, stifling the sounds with his hand.

I collapse inside, knowing I must appear so cruel and spoiled, but that isn't the case. Still,  how can I make him understand? I can't, not when he wants what I have - trying to make him see my side will only make me look worse, like I'm rubbing it in; being callous.

"Can I," I start, at a loss even before I've really said a word. "Can I hug you? Please? Can I do anything?"

His face is red when he regards me, eyes furiously bright. The scars on his face are so stark, so cruel. Wordlessly, he reaches for me and I open my arms, holding onto him tightly. I bite my mouth to stop from saying anything, but I can't help it.

"It'll kill me," I whisper. "I'm sure it will, and if it doesn't Damien will... as soon as it doesn't go the way he wants. I'll be buried next to Mark and then, well. It won't matter anymore, will it?"

He shakes his head, holding onto me harder. I can feel the frantic hum of his heart, his frailty. "How can you say that so easily? Do you really think that's what i want, Kyle?"

"I don't know," I say honestly. "I wouldn't blame you if you did, I guess."

"Fine, so I was almost relieved when Mark," he stops, gulping. He's trembling now. "But I regretted it, okay? I wanted to be him so badly, and now I want to be you, but I don't want you to end up the way he did. I don't want that for any of us."

"It's a very real possibility."

His voice is wet and he sniffles. "I know. I won't lie and tell you it isn't, I just hope it doesn't turn out like that. But at the same time it's so hard for me to accept what's coming... you'll get bigger and rounder every day and I'll be reminded of what I can't give him. I'll hate you but I'll still care about you, and it'll tear me apart."

Pulling away, I look into his eyes, and I'm gutted to see that his scars extend across his eyebrow too. "I wouldn't want this for you, Pip. I want you to have more...I want you to have love. It exists, I've felt it."

His pupils dilate. "Is that why you ran?"

I nod. "I'm in love with Craig Tucker... he took me away, and if it were up to me I'd still be with him. I would be having his child, not Damien's, and it would've been my choice."

"I had a feeling, the way you looked at him," he says somberly. "Really, the way he looked at you from behind the gate, too. There were times when I was out here alone and he'd walk by... he'd look over and his face would change when he saw it was just me, i think."

Still holding his hood up, he frowns. "But you two barely spoke... how did you manage to fall in love?"

"We spoke more than you saw," I admit, still holding him. It feels like he's lost weight which worries me; he'd already been thin. "And I don't know...I would smell his scent, look in his eyes and I'd feel something I couldn't explain. It was enough."

"Don't give me that love at first sight garbage, please," he says, pulling away. He tightens his hold on his hood, turning just so to hide his scars. "You fell in love with his kindness and then I suppose you fell in love with the rest of him. Maybe. Do you even really know him?"

Stung, I begin snipping more roses. "I know that I care for him far more than Damien."

"That leads me to believe that you care for Damien somewhat," he says shrewdly. I freeze, understanding how he could interpret my words that way, and that truly scares me.

"I pity him to some degree," I mutter. "It isn't the same thing."

"What's there to pity? Didn't he get what he wanted?" Now he's bitter again, and I'm beginning to feel dizzy at how this conversation is unwinding; emotions upon emotions upon emotions, and I'm already tired.

"It's more than that," I say carefully, thinking of Lilith; Damien's childhood. He was nurtured in poisonous soil and obviously mistreated; it isn't an excuse but it's a reason for his behavior, which i can't overlook on good conscience. I can't tell him that, though; I can't really say anything so the knowledge just rots inside of me. "He wants what he wants for the wrong reason, and even if i end up having this child i still don't think Damien will be satisfied. He'll never be truly happy so he spreads his misery around. That's what I pity."

I catch a finger on a thorn then, groaning softly. A bead of blood oozes up, feeding my nausea, but I lick it away anyway; closing my eyes at the metallic flavor. I suddenly want very tender meat, rare; it's not the first time I've thought of it longingly. Mostly I have more aversions to food than active cravings.

"Do you feel different already? You have to, right? Did you know immediately?" Pip asks, and now he's bitter and slightly wistful.

"I'm tired and I'm always nauseated," I sigh, still sucking on my finger, drawing out the blood. I think again of being eaten up from the inside. "Even when I don't eat i feel sick. It's always there. And yes, I guess I knew very quickly...I mean, I didn't realize i knew necessarily, but I didn't feel like myself and I was very aware of it." I shake my head. "I'm not making sense, I know. It was like there was a presence in me I couldn't explain, like I was never alone. I suppose I'm not, though. Not anymore."

"But I am, in a way. This is alienating because I don't want it to happen," I say softly. "I think that's the part that's scaring me the most right now... knowing I don't want this but it's happening anyway. Every moment it's happening and it's inside me all the time. I can't get away from it."

"Kyle," Pip says but his voice fades away. He makes a small sound and he suddenly seems afraid. I turn to see Damien striding across the lawn toward us. Pip is shrinking into himself and he reaches for me.

"Here," I murmur, pulling him close. He turns his face again, hiding in the shadows of his hood.

"Are you alright? You're flushed," Damien says, not taking his eyes from my face, barely sparing a glance for Pip. "You've gotten too much sun, you aren't used to it."

"I'm fine," I reply curtly. I squeeze Pip to reassure him. "Pip and I have been catching up," I add, giving Damien a look loaded with scorn.

Damien's eyes slide to Pip without turning his head but he doesn't really seem to be processing what he's seeing. His detachment is obvious and it only feeds my disgust for him. Pip isn't looking at him, his eyes on the ground; teeth digging into his bottom lip.

"Hello," Damien says like he's throwing the word out without thought. "Are you enjoying yourself?"

Pip just nods, not melting at the attention; aloof, almost, but he's trembling lightly. I can tell he's trying not to cry again.

I want to leave marks on Damien's face the way he'd done to Pip but I don't move, glaring at him; blood on my tongue and holding the other omega tightly but not enough to hurt. He's been hurt enough.

I'm quiet after I'm brought back to the room; reviled, sad. I had gathered the roses I'd cut into a basket, denying Damien when he offered to carry them. I also reject him when he tries to assist with replacing the old roses with the new, fresh ones. I set some aside to press the petals into books, wanting to preserve them, aware that Damien is watching even though he's pretending to read.

I keep seeing the scars on Pip's face, remembering the way he'd clung to me, and I could feel his fear when Damien approached. It creates a current of anger and remorse in me that simmers for the whole afternoon. I keep it inside, though, knowing if I try to speak I'll probably start crying and I'm so tired of crying.

I'm so tired of everything and this has barely begun.

-----

The rage is in the background of everything as the days pass, mixing with my sorrow until I'm so lethargic i can barely think. I'm not getting better but I didn't think I would; still nauseated and tired and so irritable. My sleep is fretful, my appetite is abysmal, and I don't know what to do with myself.

Mostly I tend to wander, rearranging the roses in their delicate vases; unable to settle. I look out the window and pace, pulling on my hair and chewing my nails. Damien watches with a worried, narrowed expression but doesn't intervene - at first.

After a particularly hard night, one spent tossing and turning; waking from dreams with sweat saturating my gown, I finally get up in the hours before dawn to try and rest in front of the toilet, cool and shivering on the white tiles. I'm dressed in something frail and my skin is hot and pink, stomach lurching. I ache and there's a bad taste in the back of my mouth; sour and strangely metallic.

I almost want to vomit so the feeling will go away, but I can't. My body is keeping me in a constant limbo of wanting to be sick but it refuses to pull the trigger. There's no relief and it's clawing at me. I sigh softly to feel a burning pain behind my sternum, a new development that began a few days ago.

Eaten alive, my mind whispers.

Shaking from lack of sleep, I sit on the toilet to empty my bladder, heavy-eyed and almost wanting to lie on the floor on my stomach until I finally drift off when I'm done. I rise to flush when I notice pink in the water, mixed with the urine like rosy ribbons. Immediately, i begin to breathe faster, clutching at my heart as it starts thumping harder.

I'm terrified, broken from the daze I've been walking in, and I sink down. My skin hurts, nerves burning, and I can't help the whine that begins; unaware of it until it's filling the empty, silent room.

"Kyle?" Damien's sleepy voice calls to me and it's all I can do not to hide. I'm still staring at the pink blood in the bowl, faint, but it came from me... and the pain, the clawing, strange pain inside of me. I don't understand anything that's happening.

Damien comes to the door then, usually pale face flushed from interrupted sleep. His eyes are a dull red but they widen when they see me crying quietly, leaning next to the toilet; hand jammed against my mouth.

"What is it? What's wrong?" he asks, coming to me. He looks into the toilet and stills, his breaths becoming shallow.

"I didn't," I start, my mouth thick with saliva. "It just started...I haven't seen blood before. That's blood, right?"

He nods slowly, crouching down. The color is gone from his cheeks. "Are you in pain? I mean, in... down there," he growls, reaching to touch my belly. "Here, do you hurt here?"

"No, the pain is up here," I say, moving his hand up to my breastbone. "Like something's gnawing at me all the time. It's sharp if i breathe too deeply but usually it's dull."

His eyes brighten. "Why didn't you tell me? How long has this been going on?"

Dully, I shrug. "A few days. I didn't want to talk about it because it scares me... it makes all of this feel so real."

"Kyle, it is real," he snaps, rising. "Get that through your head - this is happening and you have to deal with it." He viciously swipes the hair from his eyes. "I'm calling the doctor. Stay put."

I do, drifting and almost feeling like i temporarily don't exist; stepping out of myself like I can watch from above, a casual observer. I still avoid touching my stomach but I can feel the heat of Damien's hand on my skin, working itself into me. I shut my eyes and silently look at the darkness, squeezing my eyelids until electric lights dance and pop.

Damien comes back soon, voice calm when he speaks but there's tension all through him, pouring from him. He has the phone pressed to his ear and I stare at it, having only seen it a few times. Typically Damien doesn't bring it to the room but I'm not sure why it would matter anyway - I don't know any phone numbers.

"Yeah, it's pink," he's saying, looking into the bowl. "No, there's not a lot... mostly urine. No, no clots." He looks at me, eyebrows knitted. "You didn't see any blood clots, right?"

I shake my head, my temples throbbing.

"No," he says. "No, he said his sternum hurts but not his stomach..." kneeling, Damien listens before reaching to place a hand on my forehead. I hold my breath, a drop of sweat drifting down my chest. "No, he doesn't have a fever. Chills?"

He looks at me and I shake my head again. I'm beginning to come down from the initial shock and now I'm so tired; exhausted all the way to my bones.

"No, no chills. Does it hurt when you pee, Kyle?"

"A little. It burns."

"He said it burns," Damien says, biting his lip as he listens. He nods and I want to tell him the doctor can't see him but I stay quiet. I curl up against the wall, feeling stale and sticky from sweat. I smell acrid and I know that's my lingering fear.

"Okay, yeah," Damien goes on, covering his eyes with his hand. "Fine. Thank you."

He disconnects the call and just stands for a moment, eyes still obscured until he drops his hand. We stare at each for a while, the sounds of the house settling coming to us; the running of water in faraway pipes. Damien moves to flush the toilet, closing the lid softly.

"The doctor doesn't seem concerned," he murmurs. "Based on your symptoms he believes you may have an infection... he wants you to drink more water and rest. I have to monitor your temperature and he'll prescribe antibiotics just to be on the safe side."

Sighing, he leans against the wall and slides down to sit on the floor as well. We're quiet for a long time, breaths mingling and absorbed into the silence, the tension.

I press a hand to my chest, trying to ignore the feeling of phantom fingernails scraping underneath my bone, inside my skin. I'm shaking and cold now, but my cheeks are hot.

"You have to talk to me," he finally says. "You can't just stay quiet about how you're feeling. How can I help you if you won't tell me anything?"

"If something really goes wrong what can you do?" I ask dimly. "What can anyone do if my body decides it's done with all of this?"

"We can't think like that," he replies. "What good will it do? It'll just make you more stressed. In fact, the doctor says the pain in your sternum might be from anxiety, at least partially."

"Big surprise," I mutter, bracing myself against the wall. "I could drop dead any second or something could just die inside of me...I guess anxiety makes sense, huh?"

"You were crying," he replies quietly, looking at the tiles. "Were you... was it just for yourself or because you thought. I don't know. I know you don't want this to be real, that on some level you're still denying it, but would you be sad if -"

"I don't have the energy for this," I say, angry that I'd allowed him to have a glimpse of my vulnerability. "What do you want to hear, huh? That i don't like the idea of something dying when it can't even fight? Of course that would bother me, but I'd feel that way about anything. It isn't because this is mine, or ours. It may be inside of me but I don't feel like it belongs to me. Okay?"

He doesn't reply, standing slowly like he hurts too. I don't know what he thought he was going to hear but I'm sure he hadn't wanted the answer I'd given him.

"You smell sick," he says, going to the tub and starting the water. "Take off your clothes and I'll bathe you. Then you're going back to bed."

The hot water makes me droop, a thread of real, true tiredness finally pulling me down into a place of complacent fatigue. I don't resist when Damien washes me, and his touch is unusually careful as he wipes the sweat from my skin. He lingers when he washes my hair, kissing my nape as I stare at the rippling water; clear, my hands clenched on my thighs.

Soon I'm dressed in fresh night clothes and I'm tucked into bed, propped on pillows and drowsy from hot tea and a sleeping pill. The window is faintly rosy with dawn light and i ask him to draw the curtains.

"Sometimes I can't stand the sun," I admit, turning my head on the cool pillow. I feel hazy and unreal, trying not to remember the blood I'd seen in the water. Lying this way, the pain seems to break and I'm limp from the relief. "It makes it harder to hide."

Sitting beside me, Damien takes my hand and lays it on his lap. "I didn't realize you wanted to hide."

Fatigue makes my tongue loose, my thoughts slipping through my head like raindrops off the eaves of a house. "I do. I'm always hiding. I'm always scared." I sigh, shifting my head because the pillow is moist from my hair, sticking to me. I study him, the shadows under his eyes. He's still so disheveled. "You shouldn't have punished Pip the way you did. He had no control over me running off... none at all."

"He didn't tell me he'd seen you until I forced the information from him," he says softly, his anger already waking. It never takes long. "If he'd told me you had gone out the window sooner I would've probably been able to stop you. Then you wouldn't have -" He stops, hand tightening on mine. "Well, we both know what it could've prevented. Besides, his loyalty should be to me, his Alpha, not you."

"I think he wanted to tell you but he was trying to be kind," I say, glancing toward Lilith's portrait over the fire. Her green eyes seem to cut into me and I look quickly away. "At any rate, I was the one at fault. Not him. You're cruel to him when all he wants is for you to think of him." I giggle, punchy from the pill and coming down from being so frightened. "But that's your thing, isn't it? Being cruel. You can't be any other way, can you?"

He looks at me and I know he's considering slapping me, it's there in his expression, the pull of his mouth. He doesn't, but the threat of it is all over him. "I'll be easier with him if that would please you. Or I could send him away so you don't have to look at him and be reminded of my cruelty."

I sit up but he gently pushes me back down. "I didn't mean it, Kyle. At least I don't think I did."

"You can't just say things like that. Isn't it enough that you have final say over everything... do you have to lord your power over us constantly? How am I ever supposed to love you if you always act like I'm beneath you? Do you even care?"

He gives me a look of almost feline calculation, eyes narrowed. "Do you have it in yourself to love me, Kyle? Everything you've said so far has been to the contrary."

I close my eyes, the nausea rising but i think if I'm still enough I might be able to avoid it. Maybe if I try to work with it we can reach a tenuous compromise. "Well, if that's what you want, you're going about getting it in the worst way.... you're making it impossible."

"But, no. I probably can't love you, not after everything you've done. But Pip could, I think, if you'd let him."

He pushes my hand away. "You need to sleep. We aren't even really talking about anything... you're tired and resentful because you cried. You hate that i saw you, because you can't take it back."

"Fine," I say thickly. "If that's what you want to believe. I don't care."

I'm confined to bed for several days after this incident but I don't fight it. I'm sad and listless, even more so than usual, after seeing the blood; after crying, because, yes, I'd been terrified not just for myself, but for something that's a complete mystery to me.

It had caused a new fear to come to life when really I hadn't needed any more. Fear rules my life, that and anger, and now I have to wonder constantly if something is going to happen out of nowhere - will there be more blood? Will it be the sign that the end is beginning?

What will the end be? And when?

The worry leeches the energy from me, coupled with the sickness, until I'm sleeping as much as possible. I only get up to use the bathroom which creates more terror because I'm always waiting to see the blood. I can anticipate it pouring from me but it won't end until everything's gone. I become paranoid, refusing to get up unless I absolutely have to.

Damien tolerates this even though I can tell he's annoyed and concerned; monitoring my scant food intake and my refusal to truly engage. I avoid talking to him as much as possible, reading or giving one word answers. I hide in bed and try to be still, wanting to be forgotten; wanting to forget myself.

The nausea and the pain in my chest make me moan when I'm alone, crying under the covers. I cry as much as I can when Damien isn't around to see it. The hormones are messing with my head, making me weepy over even small things; the roses dying and having to be thrown away, finishing a book I'd really enjoyed because I wanted it to keep going; when the sun is too bright and I'm hoping for rain.

I feel like I'm losing my mind, and I'm probably well and truly on my way until Damien decides he's had enough; bringing in a stack of books one day and setting them on my nightstand.

"Books about pregnancy," he says, tapping the top one. "I want you to read them. I think they'll make you feel better because you'll have a more thorough understanding of what's going on."

I stare at them, my eyes swollen from having sobbed my way through throwing up my breakfast; a pitiful glass of juice and dry toast. I curl deeper into the blanket, still avoiding touching my middle. I feel bloated, though.

"I checked," he adds, lifting one of the books and flipping it open. "Seeing a little blood is totally normal as long as it isn't profuse or bright red...especially if you're not having pain. Doesn't that make you feel better?"

Pulling back the blanket, I peer up at him, my voice muffled when I speak. "You read them?"

"Of course I did," he says, raising an eyebrow. "You're having my child and nearly catatonic, clearly because you're scared... what else am I going to do, especially since you basically refuse to talk to me."

"Yeah, and you're not allowed to use force to get me to open up," I snap, annoyed and confused that I'm actually touched by his gesture. I scowl. "I wonder how long you'll be able to hold onto that kind of restraint."

He slaps the book against his hand and I flinch. "I took the doctor's words to heart, Kyle. I want this to work."

"Why wouldn't you? You couldn't possibly imagine not getting your way, could you?" Picking up one of the books, i study the cover; a heavily pregnant omega cupping their stomach tenderly. "I can't believe I might end up looking like that. Can you imagine it?"

"It's hard right now," he admits, sitting beside me. He looks at my face, thoughtful before he moves to touch my cheek. I try to back away but he shakes his head slightly. "Don't, I'm not going to hurt you. I just haven't really gotten to... I've been trying to give you space because you're so miserable."

Pulse accelerating, I reluctantly allow him to stroke my face, fingers tracing down to settle over my clavicle; across my nipple. I bite back a moan.

"I'm so sensitive and it aches, not just here," I say, touching my sternum. I flush, indicating my chest, my nipples. They're bigger and darker, making me wince when my nightgowns brush them. They always seem to be hard, too. "I think I'm getting bigger...I don't like it."

He considers this. "The books talk about that, too. Lactation."

"I don't want to do that," I say, flushing deeper. "Breastfeeding. I don't want anything that close...I don't think I could handle it. It's too much."

"You won't know until you try, right?" He strokes a fingertip over my nipple again before squeezing it lightly. I groan, arching before I can help it. His eyes flash, turning from merlot to crimson.

"I'm too sensitive," I say softly, embarrassed. "Like I'm one raw nerve."

"You've lost weight," he replies, pulling away from my chest to focus on my ribs. "It worries me. I know it's still early, but. I'll ask the doctor about it when we see him next."

Damien's hand is getting perilously close to my stomach, making me antsy. He hasn't touched it since that night in the bathroom, and I'm fighting the urge to snap at him if he gets too close.

It's just too intimate, even more so then touching my chest. It doesn't help that his casual attention to my nipples has made me slightly hard, trying to hide this fact by piling my blanket on my lap.

I also can't deny that I'm developing a protective streak, but I tell myself it's because I want to avoid potential discomfort. If something disturbs that part of me the result could be catastrophic.

"It's hard to put on weight when everything just comes back up," I say, shifting so his hand ends up on my hip. He frowns.

"What are you doing? I'm not being rough."

"I don't care, I don't want you to touch me here." I gesture to my stomach.

His frown deepens, turning dangerous. "This is my child, too. Don't forget that."

"Yeah, well it's inside of me," I retort, pulling up the blanket, making him take his hand away. "That counts for a lot, including who gets to touch me there."

He growls and I growl back, my smell becoming sharp. His is aggressive, and he reaches to touch me anyway, recoiling when I bite at him.
"I said no!" I yell, nearly managing to get away before he's grabbing my arms and pinning me down, hovering above me as his eyes blaze. I struggle and he squeezes harder, making me slacken before I start fighting again.

"How dare you?" he grits out between clenched teeth. "You can't be the gatekeeper when it comes to this - I won't let you."

Wanting to give myself over to hysteria, I take deep breaths. I'm very hard now, my cock and nipples alike, and my bladder is full; heavy and aching. I'm conflicted and angry, but I'm filled with sudden adrenaline. I breathe in his smell and almost shudder, not completely rejecting its feral, possessive undertones.

Damien seems to take note of this and becomes excited, nuzzling at me; nipping my glands and kissing my jaw. I groan deep in my throat, my senses on overdrive and everything aching at once. He bends to kiss my mouth and i allow this for a moment, tasting his desire, before I bite at him again, catching his lip.

"Fuck!" he yells, letting go just enough to give me the edge i need, and I scramble away. I pant, standing at the bedside and fixing my nightgown, the transparent silk clinging to my belly in an almost suggestive way. I'm so hard, my cock feeling heavy, but I ignore it - mostly.

Damien's mouth is bleeding when he looks at me, the blood matching the almost unhinged ferocity of his eyes. He doesn't wipe it away, just letting it fall. "Come here."

"No."

"Kyle."

"I thought you said you actually listened to what the doctor said," I say,  preoccupied by the glossy blood rolling over his chin. "You said you wanted to make this work."

Finally, he rubs the blood away, smearing it. "I do."

"You can't just grab me if I tell you no. That isn't making anything work... that's doing exactly what you want."

"Why won't you let me touch you there? You can't keep me from what belongs to me. This is just like," he bares his teeth, wiping furiously at the blood again.

I stare at him, disturbed because I have a feeling about what he's alluding to. "It is just like that. You don't have a right to my body just because you decided you did. You can't just fuck me when you want and you can't touch me whenever you feel like it!"

"You are the most infuriating person I've ever met!" He shouts, startling me. "You can't make anything easy; everything's a fight!"

"I could say the exact same thing about you!" I yell back, pulling my nightgown from my nipples. My body is haywire right now, complete chaos. My mouth is filling with saliva and I can taste orange juice in my throat, rising from my stomach.

"Jesus," I moan, turning to run for the bathroom. I'm violently ill, vomiting until I'm completely empty. After, I stay in the bathroom for a long time, trying to compose myself.

When I come out, Damien's reading one of the pregnancy books, his face a storm cloud. "I'm trying to look up a reason for why you're acting this way, but I'm pretty sure it's just in your nature."

"It's not like I've ever tried to hide it," I snap, stopping when a dizzy wave hits me. I slink over to the bed and sink down, clutching my head. "You have no idea how awful this feels, so why are you making it harder?"

"Unless you failed to notice, I was trying to help," he retorts, shaking the book in my direction.

Grunting, I glance at the books, swallowing residual bile before going to lift one. That same big-bellied, happy omega smiles back at me vacantly, and I have to figure anyone that seemingly happy had to have been forcibly Bonded.

I open it, studying the table of contents, unfamiliar words like "trimester" and "round ligament pain" jumping out at me.

"Come sit next to me and we'll just read for a while," Damien says, not looking at me. "I won't touch you."

"Are you sure?"

"Not unless you want me to," he replies flippantly. "You seemed to like some of it, at any rate. Don't think I didn't notice."

I grimace. "I'm basically a pile of hormones. Any response on my part is completely involuntary."

"Uh huh."

"Keep going and I'll throw your "help" right at the back of your head," I say, considering the book's heft.

"Try it and see what happens, Kyle."

Pulling on a long sweater, I carry the books over, sitting as far from him as possible on the couch. He doesn't look at me, and there's still blood in the corner of his mouth. As promised, he doesn't try to touch me and we spend the afternoon reading quietly; a whole world opening up that frightens me, but I feel better because some of the mystery is lifting.

I still don't thank him for the books, though; that's a step I'm not ready to take yet.

-----

It isn't long before I've made my way through half of the books, obsessively reading them every chance I get, which isn't difficult considering how much time I still spend in bed. They help me to relax, putting in perspective the things that are happening to me, even if my symptoms only continue to worsen.

Damien keeps his distance even though he still controls everything down to the smallest details: my schedule, my food, my clothes. I retaliate by withholding physical contact and staying aloof, making it obvious I'll snap and fight if he gets too close.

I also think he's very concerned about losing control if he starts something I won't let him finish.

As such, there's even more tension between us than normal, but we manage to co-habitate without too much upheaval. It also helps that I'm allowed to go to the garden on days when I feel strong enough. I spend time with Pip who looks at me with shadows in his eyes, but our outings are typically peaceful.

He even, surprisingly, offers to show me how to crochet, something we'd started at one point but abandoned after life intervened - not to mention the fact that I'm very slow to learn, my hands not nearly as skilled as his.

We sit in the grass, the sunshine cascading over us, while the spring winds flutter through our hair. Butters even joins us, shy after our time apart, but soon he's his bubbly, friendly self again. He works on a long afghan he's been knitting for a while it would seem, while Pip laboriously walks me through the steps of learning to crochet a granny square.

"See, you can just make one large square and turn it into a blanket, or you can make several and then sew them together," he explains, watching as I clumsily loop and wrap yellow yarn around my hook. He keeps his face in shadow, the weather too warm now for us to wear cloaks; obviously ashamed of his scars.

"They're fading," I say, glancing at him; afraid I'm overstepping his boundaries.

He touches his cheek self-consciously. "I don't really want to talk about it, okay?"

"Sure, of course," I say quickly, dropping my stitches and almost screaming from frustration. Out of the corner of my eye, I can feel Butters staring at me. I turn to smile at him uneasily.

"What's it feel like?" he asks, glancing at my stomach; still mostly flat except for some slight bloating at the bottom; a new, unusual curve developing. I still refuse to touch it.

I consider this, realizing it's a hard question to answer even though it shouldn't be. After all, it's happening inside of me, but how can I explain something he can't feel? It's like trying to describe the flavor of milk to someone who's never had it.

"I feel full," I say carefully. I glance at Pip to see him watching me intently. He's working on a more complicated crochet project; a sweater for Damien that he seems too sad to talk about. "Heavy, if that makes sense. I can't suck in my stomach as much now."

"Do your gowns still fit for the most part?" Pip asks, rapidly crocheting; looping several stitches in the amount of time it takes me to do just a few.

"Yes, but I can't tie the sashes as tight. I don't really want anything touching me around the waist, anyway."

"Do you have cravings?" Butters asks. "My mother told me she always wanted waffles when she was pregnant with me."

"Not really. Well, okay, I crave the idea of rare meat, but eating it is another story," I say, swallowing. "Mostly everything just makes me feel sick."

"I'm sorry," he says and I can tell he really means it. He brightens. "But I bet the master is over the moon, huh?"

Pip and I exchange a glance. "Naturally," I say coolly.

"I just hope you'll be okay," he goes on, worrying his hands now; a difficult task when holding knitting needles. "I mean, after, well."

The three of us look at each other then, and a damper falls over the moment because we're all thinking about Mark. I wonder if Butters realizes it wasn't a miscarriage that killed him, but I don't ask. I have reason to believe Pip knows the truth, especially now.

"His sister visits his grave every Sunday," Pip says, pouring lemonade that's been set out for the occasion; pink and cold in a glass jug. There's tea cookies and sandwiches too, at Damien's insistence. "She leaves flowers. Not just on his plot, actually."

"You've gone back?" I ask, surprised.

"I had to," he murmurs, touching his face again; quick, and I'm not sure he even realizes he's doing it. "It felt wrong not to, after...I wanted to apologize."

"For what?" Butters asks, accepting a glass when Pip offers it to him. A wind passes through and ruffles the satin ribbons on the sleeves of his white muslin dress, and for a moment he looks like a sweet little doll, gazing at Pip with his wide, innocent eyes.

Pip and I exchange another glance but it isn't derisive. He sighs and actually smiles fondly at Butters. "You know, if I could be you for one day, I think I'd be really happy. It seems so peaceful."

-----

The weeks slowly pass and I manage to finish all the pregnancy books, actually going back to underline passages I want to reread in order to gain a better understanding. I study the diagrams of the fetus as it grows, the way it changes the omega's shape, and while I don't feel connected to the images in a way that I can apply to my own situation, I'm hungry to learn as much as I can.

It still doesn't really feel like it's actually happening to me, though. I'm aware of my body, but I don't really feel like it's mine; like it belongs to someone else. I embrace this notion as much as I can; it makes my discomfort and fear less immobilizing if i pretend it's happening to a stranger.

It certainly can't be happening to me, at least that's what I keep telling myself.

But there's no denying that there's a fullness in my belly now, low, just like I'd told Butters. There's a heaviness inside of me that won't let me forget it. It's as bad as the nausea and growing aches; the cloudiness of my brain, and the overwhelming fatigue. I carry it everywhere like a boulder chained to my ankle, this deep, pervasive weight.

I refuse to look at my reflection or my body when I dress, still wearing the garments Damien chooses for me, but I won't let him get close enough to clothe or bathe me. I won't let him see me naked, a development that elicited quiet rage on his part, terse words, but his hands seem to be tied right now.

He doesn't want to create stress and he also doesn't want to fall prey to his compulsions if he gives into them. He watches, though, always, with a longing and desire that frightens me. Sometimes I feel like his want is enough to hurt me, just with its power, but I can't let that influence me. I want to be an island he can't touch, that no one can reach unless I let them. I'm insulated and removed from the world for now.

I fall into a routine of attending to the garden, spending time with the others (mostly Pip, who still doesn't want to talk about his feelings towards Damien; staying quiet about the changes in me, too), reading, and trying to outrun myself; scared of my thoughts. Terrified of my own body.

In a lot of ways my life is like it was before I ran away, especially after Bebe is allowed to start coming into the room more often, tending the fire and to me when I'll let her (which isn't often), but it's also been irrevocably changed. I can't go back to being the person I'd been, the person who'd run to Craig and Tricia; who'd dreamed of finding his brother safe and sound.

I don't recognize that person anymore, not really. They seem so naive and idealistic to me now, a young, little fool.

A child.

I'm not allowed to be a child anymore, not while I sit here and crochet and pretend I'm not making a blanket for my unborn baby; pregnancy books stacked next to me and the pain always in my chest; the nausea in my throat.

"That thing is getting pretty big," Damien says from his end of the couch. He doesn't look up from his book. "I didn't think you'd keep up with it this long."

"It's distracting," I reply. "Gives my hands something to do."

"Are you going to keep it for yourself?" he asks nonchalantly, but I know what he really means. "It'd look nice on our bed, don't you think?"

He emphasizes the word "our", as if to remind me that even though I've shut him out that doesn't change the reality of my situation. I sigh. Our conversations are never simple because we're always saying more than just the words leaving our mouths.

"Maybe I'll give it to Pip," I say idly, dropping a stitch and wanting to throw the whole mess into the fire. "You know, as a way of saying thank you for teaching me."

"I'm sure he'd appreciate the gesture." If he's annoyed, he doesn't let it show in his tone. "You two have certainly gotten closer, haven't you?"

I look at him a moment, elegant and relaxed in his dark shirt with the collar unbuttoned; venomously beautiful even in repose. He doesn't seem to care, though; accepting his own handsomeness the way he does most things that don't necessarily make him happy; detached and bored with the idea.

I want to tell him my closeness with Pip is predicated on our shared destruction at his hands, but I don't feel like engaging enough to create an argument; not that kind, at least. I want to annoy him, though.

"I think I'll teach him to read," I say, focusing on my blanket again. "He needs a distraction, too."

I hear a page turn and wait, pulse picking up just a little. "Do you think he'd be receptive?"

"Yes, actually. I've noticed he enjoys learning."

Damien clears his throat. "You're putting him in danger, you know."

"I'll tell him to do it in private, but I'm sure he'll know that already. Besides, he can keep a secret."

Damien closes his book, quiet for a time. I look over to see him gazing at me and his eyes are infernos. My pulse quickens more. "I know he can, trust me. Fine, you may teach him, but I get the impression you weren't asking for permission."

I lower my blanket and just look at him, hoping my eyes are conveying that he's right in his assumption.

The next morning, Damien drops a surprise in my lap as I'm trying to figure out how to spend my day. He comes from the bathroom freshly washed and shirtless, pale in the sunlight. I don't mean to stare but my eyes stray to his chest anyway, finding the scar I'd left there from the broken bottle. I have to cover my mouth when I almost smile.

"Be ready to leave shortly," he says, slipping on a shirt, not buttoning it for a moment as he looks at me.

I blink, already wary. "We're going somewhere?"

"Yes, the doctor," he replies simply, hands straying to his buttons. "It's already time for your next check-up. My, how time flies."

The car ride is quiet and I occupy myself by crocheting, having to stop when my nausea rises again. We sit far apart, each at our own window, but Damien's hand is tensed in his lap; garnet ring catching the light on occasion.

I'm smooth as an undisturbed pool of water on the surface, but inside I'm complete entropy. I'm sure springing this outing on me is a small act of malice on Damien's part, not giving me a chance to adequately prepare, so now I'm floundering. I'm also devastated that I won't be able to give Karen or Dr McCormick a letter for my loved ones, but I'm elated at the prospect of seeing them again; kind faces to break up the monotony of the unknowns and quiet fears.

I'm calm when we arrive this time, exiting the car and pointedly ignoring Damien's hand when he offers assistance. We're not long in the waiting room, thankfully, the sharp, medicinal smell of the office always putting me on edge. I'm grateful that things are moving quickly.

Karen is as sweet and patient with me as always while getting my vitals, frowning softly when she gets my weight. Damien is watchful but quieter this time, almost fading into the background while all of this unfolds.

Thankfully, I don't have to undress for this visit, lying back on the table and lifting my dress when the doctor arrives; Karen laying a blanket over my legs.

"Very lovely to see you both again," Dr McCormick smiles when he sees us, eyes alit with their usual warm glow. He rubs his hands before pulling on a pair of gloves. "How's everything been?"

Damien doesn't immediately reply, letting the quiet build in the room for a moment. "Fine, for the most part."

"For the most part," the doctor repeats. He glances at me, forehead furrowed. "Have you seen more blood?"

I shake my head quickly. "No, just that one time."

"Well, that's good," he says, coming closer. "It's completely normal in the beginning to see a little pink in your urine, Kyle. Even later on it isn't necessarily cause for concern."

"I know, as long as there aren't clots or pain, too," I say. "I read that in one of my books... they've really helped put my mind at ease."

He stops. "You've been reading?" He flicks his eyes to Damien, and I can tell he's confused. After all, he knows that I can read, no doubt because of the letter I'd given to Karen, but he doesn't know I've told Damien.

"It's okay," Damien speaks up. "Kyle and I have an understanding. I gave him the books so he wouldn't be so afraid of what's happening."

The doctor nods and I can tell he's trying to politely convey his amazement. "Very good. Honestly, I've always believed that omegas should be allowed to educate themselves, especially in this regard, but, hey, I don't make the laws, right? I just have to follow them."

We share a look then, and I turn my head until I can compose myself. That's when he pulls my dress from my belly a little more, and I tense up painfully; whining and trying to turn away.

"Kyle," Damien says, unable to keep his obvious annoyance out of his voice. "Don't be difficult. This is hardly the time or place."

"I just need to check you out," Dr McCormick says gently. "I'll be quick." He moves to touch me again and I can't hold back the growl that filters up my throat. He pulls away when I show him my teeth.

Damien comes over then, no longer content at being a casual observer it would seem. "He's been acting this way for a while now. Even if I act like I'm going to touch him this is how he responds."

The doctor nods, looking at my stomach even if I refuse to, seeming to consider this. "Understandable. This is very common, too; especially early on."

Our eyes meet again and his soften even more. "You're just trying to protect yourself, aren't you?"

I nod, glad that he hadn't asked if I'm trying to protect what's inside of me. Especially with Damien listening. Besides, I wouldn't have been sure how to answer; I don't even understand why I'm acting this way, but the mere thought of having hands there terrifies me on a level I can't articulate. It's a feeling more than anything else, this need to shield myself.

"Okay, I get it, and I won't pressure you," the doctor says, surprising me. He thinks a moment. "Is it okay if I touch you with the doppler?"

"Doppler?" I ask, sucking my bottom lip between my teeth. I'd read about this, knowing it was used to hear the baby's heartbeat.

It's almost too much to consider. I've heard the heartbeat before, yes, but that had been weeks and weeks ago. Now I don't know if i can handle it, but if I can pretend it isn't really inside of me... that it's being heard from another room, from another person entirely....

My eyes are already burning as my walls are threatened, light glaring through the chinks because the real world is knocking at the door. I shrug helplessly and nod, mind shutting down because I've been working so hard to fight all of this in the only way i know how; withdrawing and denial.

"Here," the doctor says, picking up the little device and showing it to me. He gestures to my stomach. "May I?"

I don't say anything, looking toward the ceiling; trying to lose myself. After a long moment, I feel something cold press against my stomach and I swallow a gasp, frantic inside as I tell myself it isn't someone's hands, it isn't Damien trying to hurt me; threatening. 

I begin to shake like I'm chilled, hands clenching in the blanket. I want to bite, I want to jump from the table and run. I want to disappear...anything but this.

I feel the wand slide over my belly, and a crackling sound fills the room along with the smell of my nervous terror. The sound drives into my brain with the gentility of a blade, but I don't hear a heartbeat.

Dr McCormick makes a sound in his throat and i look at him. His expression is concerned and a cold sweat breaks out on my skin. Damien comes into my line of sight and he looks the way he always does when he's fighting his own fear; young, disarmed. Our eyes catch and I can see pain in his, abject, unconcealed; cutting.

The doctor continues to search for the heart, moving the wand around low on my stomach. I moan because of the pressure, slight as it is, and still that crackling noise continues; swelling, becoming larger than the room because as loud as it is, it's so terribly empty.

"Doctor," I manage to say, and there's a sob in my voice i can't hold back. I just want that noise to go away because it's pulling the fear from me that I've been denying for weeks -

This fear of emptiness; being full but also being devoid. It's so frightening, the prospect of harboring death inside of you and not even knowing it.

Damien looks like he's ready to leap out of his skin when the doctor shifts the wand again, and suddenly, suddenly -

"There it is," the doctor says softly, smiling again.

The rapid thump of a foreign little heart floods the air, drenching me, and I suddenly realize I'd been holding my breath. It's painful when it leaves me, and I can't stop myself when I begin to sob in earnest; also realizing that I'd been deluged in a terror I've never confronted before -

What if there hadn't been a heartbeat? What if?

I'm frozen, raw without my denial to sustain me. I would've cared if there had only been silence inside of me -

I would've been sad, I realize; immobilized with the knowledge. No, heartbroken. How can this be? I'm only in this position because I was violated, so how can I possibly care this much? Am I sick? Am I insane? I have to be.

"Oh, Kyle," Damien says, reaching for my hand and taking it. It's the first time I've let him touch me in weeks.

Dazed, I allow this as I return little by little, listening to that strong, steady thump until I become aware of the warmth of him; the strength of his fingers wrapping my own. I pull away, breaking the moment; growling.

He lets his hurt at being rejected - again - register for a moment before it fades back into his usual mask of aggression.

"Very healthy," the doctor murmurs, clearly talking about the heartbeat and not the exchange between Damien and I.

Later, after we're all finished up, Karen hugs me close; covertly slipping something into my hand as she draws away. I slide it into my pocket as carefully as I can, reading her expression and knowing its a letter from my loved ones far away.

In the car afterward, I'm more far away than I've ever been, the salt of my tears still on my cheeks, my lips. I place a hand on my pocket and imagine the letter there, waiting to be read. I try to think of Craig writing it, aching to know that I have something he's touched... wanting to touch him instead, so much. I close my eyes and think of the stars we sat under together, groping for his voice in my head; the way he'd patiently named them for me, one by one. 

What if I pretend it's his baby, a little voice whispers in my mind. It sounds like the sea, hushed and hypnotic. It's okay to accept this if it's Craig's child I'm growing and not Damien's, right?

I decide I like this idea very, very much, and I take it further; fantasizing that Craig had helped me through my heat, had made love to me when I begged for it; soft and gentle, murmuring words of adoration in my ear when he filled me so beautifully.

Maybe it'll have his eyes, those clear, grey eyes, the sea voice murmurs again. His eyes and my hair... his strong hands and my freckles. Wouldn't that be lovely?

We'd raise it by the sea, in a little white cottage filled with light and love. Maybe we could manage to grow roses, too; every color. Ike would be there and so would Tricia, a real family; my family. 

I slowly move my hand until it rests on my stomach, and I almost cry again to feel how it's already changed; still small but now there's a slight rounded curve that's never been there before; none that I've ever felt, anyway. I think of the heart in the darkness, pumping away; safe for now, and strong.

"Please," Damien suddenly says, breaking me from my reverie. I glance over to see him gazing at me, bright eyes on my stomach; my hand there. I've never seen him appear so desperate. "Just let me touch you there for a moment... I'll be gentle. I won't hurt you, I promise."

A small part of myself, nearly nonexistent, almost gives in because of the raw longing in his voice, but I shake my head. I turn away from him, wanting to give into my secret dreams again. I'm still an island as far as he's concerned, but I'm not alone on it, not with the heartbeat i carry within. And if Craig happened to find me lost in the sea, his boat approaching my shores, I'd let him stay; the three of us together always.