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The Red String of Fate

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~January~
I went to sleep early the night before my 18th birthday. Parents were yelling, dogs barking, and again my 44 year old brother was passed out drunk in the backroom. There would be no celebration, like always, so I would spend my birthday working to save up money to go to college. I might celebrate later with Jimmy Jr, but his dad has been worse since Jimmy Jr. got accepted to a community college an hour away. They hadn’t even graduated, yet their lives had changed so much. He, on the other hand, still had about 3 more years of saving before he could go to college.

He’d been saving up since his freshman year in high school so that he could go to culinary school. He was still over $25,000 away from paying for his culinary arts certificate, but he would get there. He had been working random jobs for the past couple of years, but he knew it was all worth it. The only way to get out of his situation was through education, and now he understood that.

Zeke went to sleep that night wishing to own his own business. The dream first started out as him standing in front of a blurred storefront, but somehow he knew the building in front of him was his restaurant. Then, he felt someone grab his hand and interlace their fingers with his. He felt warm all over, and he could feel a smile spread across his face. The presence felt calming, full of love, and oddly familiar. He tried to turn his head to see who it was, but his head would not move. He instead glanced with his peripheral vision and saw long black hair. The hair obstructed his view of the person’s face, but Zeke noted the person was shorter than him. His eyes returned back to the restaurant, and now the storefront looked familiar. It had changed, it wasn’t the storefront he originally saw. The restaurant in front of him now was painted green. It had large windows on the bottom floor that looked into a restaurant with a sign hanging above that read “Bob’s Burgers.”

Zeke could now turn his head, and tried to look at the person beside him, but they were gone. He turned around in a circle to see where the person had gone, but found them nowhere in sight. The street was suddenly dark and only lit by the streetlights. He moved towards the lamplight, but was suddenly blinded by a bright red light. He covered his eyes with his arm until the bright light dimmed away to only a soft glow. He removed his arm and looked down at his left hand to see a red string tied to his ring finger. He turned his hand around to examine the odd red string attached to his finger.

He’d heard people would get dreams or visions of the infamous red string that tied you to your soulmate, but he never heard of people being transported to where their soulmate was in their dreams. Normally you would have to go and find them in your dream and that could take anywhere from a couple of days, to a couple of years. The string would lead you in the right direction, but it was up to you to ultimately find who it was. If your soulmate was not 18 yet, then the string would disappear as it got close to your soulmate. There were many theories as to why the string disappears, but most say it's because your soulmate is not of age yet to have access to the string of fate that ties you together.

He tugged on the string and felt it pull back before snapping out of his hand. His soulmate must be close then. He followed the string around the corner of the building and thought the string would start to slacken, but the string just seemed to shorten and grow tighter as he grew closer. As he walked down the alley the red string lit his way. He didn’t have to walk far before he saw the string snake up the emergency ladder and disappear into the window. The ladder was pulled all the way to the top so he couldn’t reach it, but if he stood back he could see slightly into the room. The light was on and besides the ceiling he couldn’t see much else. He decided to climb on the dumpster and reach for the ladder. Once he was on top, he pulled the ladder down and climbed up. He pulled himself onto the fire escape landing and slowly walked towards the window. He looked down at the red string and saw it disappear just inside the window. He brought his gaze up and saw the face of Tina.

Tina had grown tall in the past couple of years. She had evened out and honestly looked really adult-like. She was still the awkward nerd that everyone both loved and hated, but she had a pure heart and loved her friends very much. She grew to like him more once she got over her crush on Jimmy Jr, but she had never hinted of a crush on him. He, on the other hand, had let his crush on her develop more and more over the years. It started off with some slight handed comments. He remembered he had jokingly said that he would marry her one day, but now he knew he meant those words. Or when he kept pooping all over the school just so Tina could have her moment in the spotlight. He actually admitted to her once that he liked her, but that was during a water balloon competition, so she probably thought he was lying. Though, his crush really grew when she kissed him in the hallway after she thought aliens were about to invade the planet. He was still patiently waiting for another alien invasion.

But, now it seems he doesn’t have to wait until his next alien invasion to be with Tina. Clearly she wasn’t 18 yet, but she would be soon. Then, they could be together or at least try to be. Zeke knew Tina wasn’t super fond of him and wasn’t going to push her into a relationship she didn’t want. Especially if she was possibly still hung up on his best friend. Though, if she did accept him, Zeke would make her the happiest nerd alive. He’d even read her erotic friend fiction.

~∞•∞~∞•∞~∞•∞~∞•∞~∞•∞~∞•∞~∞•∞~

~July~

Tina was trying to find out what books she needed to order for her classes for community college classes. She was going to go and get a general education degree. She didn’t know what she wanted to be yet, but she would figure it out. Since graduation, she hadn’t really seen any of her friends. Most of them like Tammy, Jocelyn, and Jimmy Jr. were either off on vacation somewhere or had already moved to their college dorm room. She wished Jimmy Jr. didn’t already leave, but he was tired of being around his dad and she knew he needed to get out. There was still a little hope that maybe he would be her soulmate, but she also didn’t want him to be her soulmate. He had only grown more indecisive in what he wanted and he had a habit of playing with her feelings when he was going through a hard time. But most of the time he was a great friend and still had a rocking butt.

Suddenly, the bedroom door busted open and Louise popped into her room, “Sup, T. I need to ask you a question.”
Tina stopped scrolling on her laptop and turned towards her sister. Louise had grown significantly since she was little. She was taller than Tina, skinner, and now had long hair. She still wore the bunny ears, though a new pair was desperately needed. Her attitude had gotten fiercer, she was ever more protective of her family, and still had a spot of vengeance. She was confident, spoke her mind, and had both many friends and many enemies.

“What's up?”

“Do you know who your soulmate is yet?” She sat down on Tina’s bed with a thump. She wouldn’t look at Tina.

“No, I’ll find out soon though. Why?”

“How do you know someone is your soulmate?” Louise played with her fingers nervously.

“Well, when you turn 18 you’ll see a red string that connects yo-” Tina paused and knew this was not how her sister normally acted. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Louise said defensively as she crossed her arms. She mumbled something that sounded like “I’m going to miss you.”

“I’ll miss you too,” Tina said with a smile.

Louise huffed, “I said that I want your room when you move out. I didn’t say I was going to miss you. Pfff emotions are for the weak.”

“You know what else is for the weak?” Gene said as he walked by Tina’s door without pants on. “Pants!”

Later that night Tina woke up in cold sweat. She’d had her soulmate dream. She didn’t know who it was exactly, but she knew it wasn’t Jimmy Jr. She felt both sad and relieved that she wasn’t meant to be his, but there was someone out there she was supposed to be with. She couldn’t wait until morning to go and find him, she’d been waiting since she was 13, and she wouldn’t waste a moment.

She climbed out of bed and slipped on some shoes before opening her door. She was about to step out when she was confronted by her whole family.

“So, who is it!” Her mom’s voice said excitedly about the rest.

“Happy Birthday Tina!” Her dad said with a smile on his face.

“Who is it! Who is it!” Gene and Louise chanted.
“I don’t know. But I have to go,” Tina looked down at her left hand and saw the red string attached to her hand. She stared at it. The glowing red string mesmerized her and she wanted to get lost in the red glow.

“You’re not going out in your pjs Tina.” Her father said in a voice that left no room for argument. “Get dressed and I’ll drive you around.”

Tina perked up and looked at her father with hope and love, “Thank you!” She hugged her father and then her mother before rushing to open her cabinets to find something to wear. While Tina picked out an outfit, Louise made her way into the room to supervise, Linda went to get her camera to capture the moment, Gene went to grab a midnight snack, and Bob went to get his keys.

“Uhhhhhhhhh! I don’t know what to wear!” Tina groaned as she sat down on a pile of clothing she had thrown out of her drawers.

 

“Calm down T! Think, what would Tammy choose.” Louise tapped her head signaling Tina needed to use her brain.

“Okay. Okay. I can do this.” Tina thought she would be able to do it, but then she started having a mental breakdown because she was coming up with all these crazy scenarios in her head. Louise ended up choosing her outfit a blue t-shirt and dark blue jeans. Her sister started to panic again and Louise slapped her back into reality.

“T! Don’t think. Just go! Put these clothes on and go find your man!” Louise thrust the clothes towards her sister and gave her a reassuring and confident look.

 

~∞•∞~∞•∞~∞•∞~∞•∞~∞•∞~∞•∞~∞•∞~

“Uhhhhhhhhhhhh….” Tina kept groaning anxiously and even though Bob had offered to drive her around she was getting on his nerves. It was too early to be driving around half asleep with a daughter having a mental breakdown in the passenger seat. He wanted to comfort her, but he knew that the process of finding your soulmate was both amazing but anxiety filling.

“Tina. Can you take a breather for a second?” Tina then yelled for him to take a left and he took a sharp left. Tina stopped groaning and looked at him, her palms were clutched her seatbelt and she was sweating profusely. “I know you’re anxious right now. But I assure you that finding your soulmate is one of the best things that will happen to you. You’re a great daughter and I’m glad that you’ll find someone who's worthy of you. I don’t care who it is, as long as you’re happy. That’s all that matters to me and your mom.” Bob took another sharp turn as he finished his speech.

Tina didn’t know what else to say besides thanks. They sat in comfortable silence for most of the trip unless Tina yelled a direction. The trip lasted a solid 20 minutes before she told her dad quietly to stop. She took a shaky breath in and looked over at where the red string led to. It lead to the inside of a car repair shop.

“Dad,” Tina clutched her seat belt tighter to her. “What if I can’t do this?”

“You can. Trust me.” Her dad looked at her with comforting eyes and a smile that said you got this.

“Yeah T! You got this!” Louise popped up from the backseat.

“Louise! What are you doing here?” Tina blinked, she didn’t know her siblings were there.

“Oh God. Guys! What are you doing here! You have school tomorrow!” Bob was turned around and he looked both relieved and angry.

“But we couldn’t wait! We wanted to see who Tina’s soulmate is!” Gene popped up from behind Tina’s seat. “I even put on pants!”

Bob sighed, “I love you, but you’re all terrible.” The kids all awed and laughed, they were used to their dad saying this.

Tina turned back towards the repair shop door and tried to see inside. She could only see someone at the counter who was asleep on a stool. Tina’s shaking hand reached for the door handle and paused. She turned towards her family, “Thank you, guys.” Then, before she lost her confidence, she opened the door and got out. She could hear her family cheering her on from inside the car.

----------------------------
With Linda:

Linda looked inside her kid's bedrooms and noticed they were all empty, “Where the hell are my kids!” Then she looked inside the kitchen and saw Louise had scribbled a note on a napkin saying they were going with Tina. She laughed and then smiled as she pulled the wine out of the fridge and shut it with her hip. She loved her kids.

“Now it's just me and you.” Linda poured herself a glass of wine and reminisced on how she first met Bob.

-------------------------------

Tina pushed open the door and heard the bell chime. She looked at her hand and followed the string past the guy who was asleep at the counter. She was relieved it wasn’t him because, in Tina’s opinion, he didn’t look too cute. She followed the string and it led into the repair area. She paused, took a deep breath, and pushed open the door. What Tina didn’t realize was, was that the door was a swinging door and was able to be opened easily. The door slammed against the wall and she cringed.

“Damn Jerry, your girl break up wit you again?” Tina froze, she knew that voice. It was Zeke. She walked forward slowly, her heartbeat pounding in her ear. She walked past shelves of supplies, cans smelling of oil and other substances, and tires. She walked into the car area and saw Zeke bent over the hood of a car. He wore a jumpsuit that was smeared with oil and other substances. He was sweaty, causing his hair to stick to his forehead. He wiped his brow with his sleeve. Something stirred in her stomach as she looked at his hands which were smeared with something black. He lifted up his left hand to grab a tool and the world seemed to slow as she saw the other end of the red string attached to his hand.

Tina closed her eyes and clenched her hands beside her, she was trying not to freak out. I am a smart, strong, sensual young woman. And even though my heart just pooped its pants, I can do this.

Tina went to walk closer to Zeke and was almost there but tripped on a toolbox that was conveniently placed there. She fell forward grabbing out for something or someone to grab onto. She felt hands wrap around her arms and was pulled towards someone's chest. Her arms wrapped around their back and they both fell. They landed with a thud and Tina felt Zeke tense under her.

“Damn Tina, what you doin' here?” Zeke said as he looked up at her.

“Zeke.” Tina’s mind was stuck on his name. Zeke.

Zeke placed his hands on her waist. “Are you alright T-bird?” Tina repeated Zeke's name. “I think you mighta hit ya head. Let me help ya up.” Tina got off of Zeke and Zeke reached to help her up. As Zeke pulled Tina up they both looked at the red string between them that glowed brighter. “Tina I-”

Tina shushed him by pulling him down for a kiss. Zeke didn’t protest and instead met her halfway. Tina wasn’t the sloppy kisser she had been when she was 13, she’d had practice since then and the practice seemed to have paid off. Zeke moaned and pushed them closer together. It felt nothing like her sloppy kisses with Jimmy Jr. this was perfect. It felt right. It felt amazing.

Zeke pushed her against the car softly and wrapped his arms firmly around her waist. Tina slipped her tongue inside his mouth and pulled back a little. He kissed her lips softly, then her cheek, then slowly moved down to her chin and then her neck. She gasped and felt her legs give out a little at the sense of pleasure that rolled through her. Zeke reluctantly pulled away. They both spent the next minute catching their breath with their foreheads pressed together.

“I didn think the next alien invasion would be so soon!” Zeke smiled and looked directly into Tina’s eyes.

Tina laughed and then she felt awkward. “That was…. Wow.”

“So…” Zeke cleared his throat and backed away slightly. “Guess you found out we’re soulmates.”

“Yeah,” Tina already missed his touch.

There was a long moment of silence between them with each getting more nervous by the minute. Zeke looked like he wanted to say something, but something was holding him back. After a couple of seconds, he straightened up.

“T-Bird, I need you ta be honest with me. Are you over J-Ju?”

Tina paused to think before she answered. Her first instinct was to say yes, completely. But was that really the case? But then she stopped herself, Jimmy Jr. never really cared for her. He never really instigated date nights, be broke up with her more often than he brought her on dates, and she wasn’t his soulmate. She was Zeke’s soulmate and, though she never thought of him as anything more than a friend over the years, she now reflected on his past behavior and saw all the signs.

He admitted to her more than once he was interested. He confessed he would have a story to tell on their wedding day and that he would have her one day. He confessed to her during the water balloon fight and even told her that Jimmy Jr. took her for granted. He even described what type of date he would bring her on with details- he must have thought of bringing her on dates before. He would always interject in Tina’s one-sided conversations with Jimmy Jr. and try to get her attention. He even continued to be the Mad Pooper so that she could have her time in the spotlight. He also told her he “couldn’t wait for the next apoco-lips, get it?”

She took a breath in, “I’m getting over him. I’m not completely there yet considering I’ve liked him for so long, but I’m ready to move on. If you don’t mind waiting and taking things slow, that is.”

Zeke smiled softly, “Of course T-Bird. I couldn’t ask for anythin’ more. Maybe another kiss, but not now when I’m all dirty and sweaty.”

Tina and Zeke heard a commotion from the front room and looked at each other warily. “Hey! You guys can’t go back there!”
“Oh yeah, watch me!” Louise yelled and soon the door busted open and in poured Louise, Gene, the guy named Jerry, and her reluctant and tired father.

“Yo T. Where ya at?” Gene yelled.

Tina took hold of Zeke's hand and tugged him toward her family- their family. When they turned the corner Louise laughed maniacally, “You owe my $100 Gene. In your FACE!”

Her dad perked up at seeing Zeke’s face and then softened when he saw their hands linked together. “Hey, Zeke.”

“Hey Mr. B. Funny meetin’ you here.”

After they all had a brief talk and were politely kicked out by the “so-called manager,” Zeke made a promise to Tina to come over to her dad’s restaurant and have a talk about where they were at, future plans, and do an introduction to her family formerly. Even though they all knew Zeke, he felt it was the right thing to do. Tina offered to meet his family, but he insisted against it. “You an’ your family too good to me” he had said with a smile on his face. Family seemed to be a touchy subject, and Tina respected that.

Before she left, Zeke pulled her aside and kissed her cheek, “Until later T-Bird. Love ya girl, and don’t worry. Imma getcha one day, but this time all to myself.”

Chapter Text

Gene adjusted the collar of his button up and rang the doorbell. He tapped his foot to a beat in his head while he waited for the door to open. When the door finally opened, his long time girlfriend and best friend Courtney opened the door. She smiled at him as she pulled him in for a hug. She smelled amazing- like flowers on a crisp spring morning. Her long blond hair tickled his nose and he had a sudden urge to style her hair.

As they released their hug, they admired each other's outfits. Courtney was dressed in a purple dress that cut off just below her midthigh. It swayed as she moved about and the sparkles in the dress shone in the fading sunlight of sunset. The dress had a u-cut that showed off a little cleavage but was tastefully done. Her father wouldn’t expect anything else.

Gene was in a dark green button-up with tan pants. He wore a bow tie that clipped on because tying a bow tie was confusing. He had brushed his hair to look more controlled, though if you knew Gene you knew his hair was hard to control.

“Hello, sunshine!” Gene smiled and took hold of her hand to lead her outside.

She pulled him to a stop, “Put one right here.” She smiled as she pointed to her cheek. Gene, instead of kissing her cheek, kissed her lips. Her lips were soft, yet small. Perfect. Courtney smiled and leaned in closer to deepen the kiss.

“Have fun kids!” Courtney’s dad yelled from somewhere in the house. “Have her home at a decent hour! I want to discuss a melody I’ve been working on when yo-” Courtney shut the door, not wanting to hear any more of her fathering ramblings. She loved him, but every time Gene showed up at the door, it was like her dad was more excited than she was.

“Where are we going tonight my love?” Courtney asked as Gene opened the car door for her. She was wearing light purple flats that clicked against the sidewalk and Gene thought her steps seemed like they were tapping a beat.

“Marshmallow's Piano Bar and Club. Tonight is karaoke, you’re favorite!” Gene then shut the car door and walked to the other side of the car. He got in, started the car, and once he was on the road, he grasped Courtney’s hand and kissed it.

Gene and Courtney have been dating officially since they both found out they were soulmates. Gene was excited because the last time they had gone out, work got in the way, but he really did want their relationship to work. They instead were friends for years but harbored secret crushes on each other. When they found out they were soulmates, Courtney jumped him in the middle of the hallway in tears. She was happy, to say the least, and Gene couldn’t have asked for anyone better. Their relationship was steady, healthy, and supportive now that they were older and had more life experience.

Tonight would be a special night for Courtney, though she didn’t know it yet. Gene had been planning this for some time. It had already been 2 years since they had connected and started their journey as soulmates, and Gene hoped after this they could start their journey as engaged soulmates. Gene had picked out the ring with the other most fashionable person he knew- Mr. Fischoeder. He was now in his late 70’s, but he still wore suits every day and was never without some type of fashionable flare. He would’ve asked Marshmallow, but she was on vacation.

Her ring was a silver band, simple, with two purple diamonds on each side of a white diamond. He had to incorporate his love’s favorite color, plus Mr. Fischoeder paid for some of it because he insisted “belchers could never pay for diamonds.” Though the comment was offhanded and Gene suspected he was secretly happy to help the Belcher children once again.

He also instructed Gene where the perfect places to propose were, which all happened to be places he owned and were crazy expensive, but Gene didn’t say anything. Mr. Fischoeder was older in age now and his lack of morals was evident, but you couldn’t help love the man. Especially since he had a water balloon fight at his house and let them buy a bumper car for a couple of bucks so they could race it. Good times.

Courtney played with the radio until she found a song she liked and then sang along to it. She didn’t have the best singing voice, but to Gene’s ears, it was like a superstar was singing to him-like Katy Perry or Madonna. Gene eventually joined along too, since he could never resist the temptation to sing. They had stopped doing morning announcements together once they were in high school, but occasionally they would get together and come up with interesting and fun ways to relay the news to their friends.

Once they got to Marshmallow’s Piano Bar and Club, Gene led Courtney inside. He held open the door for her and she smiled. She took his hand in hers and confidently led them forward. She had changed slightly from her awkward self from middle school. Now that they are 22 she is more confident in herself. She knows she is beautiful, amazing, and a shining star. And though she doesn’t need Gene’s confirmation of how beautiful she is, he makes sure to tell her every day. She really grew into herself and became confident in her quirky and awkward ways. But she would never outdo his sister in quirky and awkward ways because, let's be honest, Tina is her own special breed.

The ambiance inside the restaurant was perfect. Romantic mood lighting, the soft sounds of the piano delighting his ears, and the decadent smells of food wafting through the room. The stripper poles were decorated to not look like stripper poles but merely poles with decorations on them. After midnight, if you couldn’t tell, this place turned into a club. Gene had never stayed after midnight, but he assumed it was very entertaining. He wanted to get up on the stage and swing around the pole for fun. (He didn’t actually want to seduce people, he just really wanted to know what it felt like to twirl around a pole. He’d done it once, but it wasn’t as satisfying since it was a pillar in the middle of a store.)

They sat down at a table near the piano, just as he requested, and smiled to himself. This date was going to be perfect! He pushed in Courtney's chair as she sat down and then took his own.

“How has school been?” Gene said after the waiter came and went with their drink order.

“Right now we are working on teaching classes with actual students. So we are teacher assistants or we substitute. It’s going really well!” She took a sip of her drink when the waiter placed it beside her. She was working to become a teacher and was focusing on teaching middle school and high school kids in English and Math.

“So, how’s work been?” Courtney smiled as she picked up the menu. She tucked a piece of her hair behind her head.

“Work has been going great! I just sold another song, but this time to a band in Chicago. Sadly not THE band Chicago, but what can you do.” Gene picked up his menu and pretended to look through it. He already knew what he wanted since they’d been here multiple times. His palette could take nothing less than perfection and his dad’s burgers.

Gene was a music producer/songwriter. He did jingles, wrote songs for commercials, bands, and did background music for ads. He was also in the middle of completing his degree in music so that he could do bigger projects and hopefully do songwriting. He made a decent amount of money, but he was going what he loved and to him, that's all that mattered. His dad taught him that doing what you love is better than doing something you hate and being rich. He’d experienced so many different things just because his dad was doing what he loved, and it inspired him to do the same.

Courtney congratulated him on another success. “Gosh, this just reminds me of when we were in middle school and we wrote the jingles and tunes together.”

Gene smiled at the fond memories. “We were great! Really spiced up the morning. I kinda miss doing that with you.”

“I don’t,” Courtney said as she closed her menu and rested her head in her hand.

Gene looked at her curiously, “Why not?”

“Because at that time we weren’t together. We missed out on doing things together as a couple because our work got in the way. We both liked each other and had to push our feelings aside in order to continue working and being together.” She started playing with her heart necklace nervously. “The more I look back on it, the more I think it was unfair to you and to us, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy every minute of it. Because I enjoyed spending time with you. You were funny, sweet, and perfect and I took you for granted. But now, we know we are meant to be and you loved me this whole time and I won’t take you for granted again.”

Gene wanted to kiss her. His heart pounded faster and his heart filled with love and affection for her. The man got up off the piano and people clapped. Gene figured now would be the perfect time to propose.

He got up and kissed Courtney on the cheek. “I have a surprise for you, my love.” Courtney’s eyes sparkled with excitement.

Gene walked onto the stage and sat down at the piano. He tapped the microphone and smiled as he spoke out to the crowd, “Hello ladies and gentlemen. Tonight I am here to perform a mini song I wrote for my girlfriend Courtney. Hope you all enjoy it.” He looked down at Courtney and she nodded at him to start. One hand played with her necklace and the other she had in her lap messing with her dress. She stared at her boyfriend with wide expectant eyes.

He started with a soft and slow melody, the hours spent practicing this song paid off. His fingers flew effortlessly over the keys and he closed his eyes as he got lost in the melody.

“I never thought” he paused, “ that such a day would come. When my whole world would shift from fart jokes and noises to melodies-” His fingers drifted over the keys, his excitement and anxiety building up, “about you. I never thought-” He took a breath, “that my heart would be taken by someone who friend-zoned me in school. This beautiful girl with the heart necklace around her neck had my heart all along.”

Gene smiled, “Look where we are now. I have the love of my life standing by my side. No one could tell me otherwise that she’s the one for me. That red string that bonds us glows brighter every day.”

He stood up and stopped playing the piano, but took the mic with him. He hopped off the stage and in front of Courtney. “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been and I don't want it to change. So, my dear Courtney, will you marry me?” He took the ring out of his pocket and got down on one knee.

Tears sprang to her eyes as she nodded furiously, “Yes, yes! Of course!” She attacked him with a hug. Her comforting embrace brought tears to his eyes. He slipped the ring on her finger and they basked in the noise of people congratulating them. With tears in their eyes, they kissed each other. The red string between them glowed a bright red as it pulsed with their heartbeat.

 

~∆∆•∆∆~∆∆•∆∆~∆∆•∆∆~∆∆•∆∆~∆∆•∆∆~∆∆•∆∆~∆∆•∆∆~

 

It was 7’o o'clock at night and Tina and Zeke were cuddling on the couch watching their favorite show. It was cold inside their small apartment and so they were huddled together under a blanket. Tina sat curled up in Zeke’s side with his arm around her. He was playing with her hair while she nuzzled into his side. Lately, Tina had raging hormones and was craving a lot of different and odd foods. This was normal for Tina because around her period she always had cravings and mood swings. Zeke graciously and patiently dealt with her moods and food cravings. The only thing he asked in return was to cuddle and get some appreciative kisses.

Now though, Tina was craving one of her dad’s burgers. They had just eaten dinner, a cobb salad with steak but Tina was now hungry all over again. Though her symptoms this time around were 10x more extreme than they normally were and Tina had her suspicions. Today marked 3 days of these random, frequent, and powerful cravings, and Tina’s overactive mind immediately assumed she was pregnant. She hadn’t told Zeke yet because she knew he would try and bring her to the hospital even though nothing was wrong. Zeke was loving and protective like that.

During the commercial break, Tina kissed Zeke’s cheek and nuzzled her head in his neck breathing in his cologne- manly yet sweet, just like her husband. “Hey babe, I’m hungry again.”

“Damn T-Bird. It’s like you’re eating for two,” Zeke laughed but she could tell he was confused.

“It’s just hormones. I’m eating for my uterus that’s telling me that even though I ate your delicious cooking I need more food. Specifically my dad's burgers.” Tina tried to brush it off and it seemed to work. She could tell Zeke was still suspicious, but that seemed to quench most of his curiosity.

Zeke wrapped Tina in his arms and pulled her closer. He pressed a soft kiss to her lips and smiled. “Okay. I’ll be back.” Before he got up she pulled him closer for another kiss, she was suddenly horny but wanted food more. He moaned and pulled away, “You want food or sex because I’m getting mixed signals here girl?” Tina laughed and pointedly said food. He grabbed his keys and wallet and walked out the door with a huge smile on his face.

Tina waited for a couple of seconds before she sprang into their bedroom. She put on some shoes and sock, grabbed her purse, and locked the apartment door. She did all of this while trying to chug some water. She didn’t have to pee, but for these tests, she knew she would need to. She waited until she saw Zeke’s truck pull away before she briskly walked to the convenience store across the street. The sliding glass doors slid open as she walked near them, and the cool feeling of air conditioning hit her as she walked inside.

She made her way nervously to the hygiene section, past the pads and tampons, and found the pregnancy tests. She picked up one and, just to be safe, picked up 2 more. She made her way to the counter, paid for them, and wanted to throw up from all the anxiety she was having. She was trying not to get her hopes up. She may not be pregnant, but something inside of her was telling her that she might be. If she was honest with herself, she really wanted to be pregnant. Having a child with Zeke would bring them pure joy. She could already imagine Zeke being the best dad.

She made her way into the apartment building, finished the water bottle, and locked herself in the bathroom. She waited a couple of minutes before she took her first pregnancy test. Then she took the second and third just to be safe.

She felt jittery, excited, nervous, and like she was going to throw up. She was trying to wait and not look at it, but she wanted her results now. She messed with the wedding ring on her finger anxiously. All that was going through her head was, what if she really was pregnant? How would she tell Zeke? Her family? How could they afford it? They’d been saving up some money, but that was supposed to be used for paying off Zeke’s college debt and to save up for a rainy day. Would they need to move? Would she make a good mom? But they could make it work. They had to.

But then, all those worries seemed to dissipate as her mind then turned to all the good memories they would have as a family: Zeke singing offkey lullabies to their child to lull it asleep. Zeke tucking in the little boy or girl and soothing them when they had nightmares. Zeke and their child cooking in the kitchen. The good times they would have started to outweigh the troubles, and now she realized she wanted children. She now understood why, even though her parents were always on the verge of losing their restaurant, they were happy. She wanted that same family bond with her children. She wanted to drink wine and yelled “Alriiiight!” She wanted Zeke to be able to say, “Oh my god” whenever they did something stupid. She wanted this and she knew Zeke did too.

“T-Bird? Where you at?” Tina’s head shot up as soon as she heard Zeke’s name. Her eyes instinctively going toward the pregnancy tests sitting on the counter.

She stood up and stumbled, her legs numb from sitting on the cold bathroom floor, and stood up. Her legs were cold from when she had discarded her pants. She felt this was a pantsless operation. She grabbed hold of the first test and tried not to faint.

Two lines.

What do two lines mean?

Tina grabbed the box and read the instructions. After the pregnancy test is taken, wait 10-20 minutes for the test results. If there is one line you are not pregnant. If there are two lines, you are pregnant.

“I’m pregnant.” Tina dropped the box and it bumped against the ground.

“Du what? I can’t hear you. T-Bird, you alright? Can you open the door?” Zeke knocked on the door softly but firmly. Worry laced through his voice.

Tina reached one hand towards the door and one hand towards the other tests. As Zeke slowly opened the door she stared dumbfounded at the tests. As soon as Zeke stepped in he took in the scene: his wife’s pants left abandoned by the toilet, three boxes laid on the ground, and his wife staring dumbstruck at something in her hand.
“Ze!” Tina said suddenly with excitement. Her eyes lit up like fireworks.

“T-Bird, what’s wrong?” Zeke stepped closer to her and looked down at what she held in her hands. Once he realized what they were, Zeke wrapped his arms around her and turned her softly towards him. “Tina, are those pregnancy tests?”

Tina responded by showing him the three positive tests. He took the tests in his hand and stared. Tina was pregnant and he was going to be a dad.

Zeke burst with excitement, he pulled his wife closer and kissed her. “Imma be a dad! We’re gonna be parents!” He picked Tina up and spun her around in the small bathroom. He set her down gently and kissed her all over. Her lips, her cheeks, her forehead, and then he bent down and kissed her belly. Tears started to run down his cheeks, “I can’t wait to meet you little bird.”

“Little bird?” Tina watched as Zeke put his hands on her stomach. She wiped away his tears with her thumbs.

“You’re T-Bird, and now we’re having a little bird of our own.” Zeke kissed her stomach and she felt a rush of love.

“How are we going to pay for it all?” Tina asked the one question that had been on her mind the most.

“We’ll figure it out. I’ll start savin’ and workin’ as much as I can. My white ass is broke, but it won’t be for long.” Zeke stood up and cupped his wife’s face. “But I promise you to be the best father a child could ever have. To be the father for my child that I didn’t have. If I can’t do anything else, I promise to do that. Just bare wit me girl.”

“Ze, you don’t have to bear this burden alone. I’ll find a job somewhere and we’ll tell our parents and figure out a game plan. We do this together.” Tina pressed her forehead to her husband’s and they stayed like that for a while. She took her husband's hands and kissed his calloused knuckle.

 

Tina munched on the burger Zeke had gotten from her dad’s restaurant while he started doing research on children. What to get newborns, infants, what type of care they need, the supplies needed. He had a notepad and a pen in his hand and was creating calculations on how much they would need to save and work to be able to pay for the rent, college debt, their baby supplies, and living costs. Zeke was currently working for a construction company and handled the warehouse supplies. He was the manager of the warehouse, which took a couple of years to achieve, and this had prepared him for all the research he needed to do.

After Tina finished her burger, she realized it was late and they needed to go to bed. “Babe, it's late. Let’s go to bed.” She gently rested her hand on Zeke's shoulder and he rubbed his eyes.

“I won’t be able to go to sleep unless I figure this out.” Zeke was already stressing about money, she could tell.

She turned his face towards her, “Ze. If my parents did it with 3 kids, then we can do it. We will figure this out but, for today, let's enjoy this moment. This is something we’ve talked about before, and now it's kinda unexpected but very much welcomed. We can do this!”

“Yeah, but I just want to do my best for ‘em T-Bird.”

“You already are. Now let's go to bed. Tomorrow we’re both off and we can discuss all this. Trust me, little bird knows you’re doing your best and wants you to go to bed with mommy and get some sleep.” Zeke smiled at Tina’s statement and put aside his research. He shut off his phone and got ready for bed.

In bed, Zeke cuddled Tina closer and more gently than normal. Her head rested comfortably by his, and his arm was draped over her side. She played with his other hand as they lay in silence. Zeke leaned closer and kissed her forehead while he rubbed up and down her back. She looked at her husband and smiled. He returned the gesture and leaned in to kiss her. She caught his lips halfway and leaned in closer. She moaned as he grabbed her butt and rolled over on top of her. He was careful not to put too much weight on her stomach. She opened her mouth and he took the chance to sweep his tongue in. He groaned as she pushed against him. He started to leave a hickey when Tina moved to take off his pants (he slept shirtless). He pulled away and kissed his wife one more time.

“I think I’m the luckiest man alive.”

Tina smiled, “And why is that?”

“Because I’ve got the prettiest girl ever in my bed. She’s not only carryin’ our child, but she’s married to me.” Zeke looked at her with adoring eyes.

“And I’m lucky to have the sweetest and most romantic guy in my bed. Who has a rockin' ass and soul full of sass.”

“Damn right.” They both laughed. Zeke rolled off her as she yawned. Zeke collected her hair and put it aside so that it didn’t hurt her when he laid down. He slid his fingers through her hair slowly while with the other he took off her glasses. He set her glasses on the nightstand and kissed her closed eyelids.

“Goodnight T-Bird.”

“Goodnight Ze.”

“Goodnight little bird.”

 

~∆∆•∆∆~∆∆•∆∆~∆∆•∆∆~∆∆•∆∆~∆∆•∆∆~∆∆•∆∆~∆∆•∆∆~

 

“Louise! You’ve got a letter from the training academy!” Rudy yelled as he walked into their small apartment. He shut the door and put the keys on the counter.

Louise came running out of the bedroom half-dressed in a skirt and a pajama shirt. She kissed Rudy on the cheek before she grabbed the letter and ripped it open.

“Dear Louise Belcher,

We are writing to congratulate you on your acceptance into our police training academy!”

Louise yelled in excitement. She picked up Rudy, who was taller than her, and spun him around. She set him down and they jumped up and down with excitement. “I did it Ru! I did it!” She pulled him in for a kiss. Rudy wrapped his arms around her and smiled.

“I’m so proud of you Louise! You did it!” Rudy said as he looked down at his small but kiss-ass girlfriend.

“I did it!” She yelled again as she spun around. Her skirt twirled with her movements. Rudy stood there watching his beautiful girlfriend do a happy dance. Though she was more feminine than she was as a child, that didn’t mean she wouldn’t kick your ass. Especially in a skirt.

“Rudy! Do you know what this means?” Louise grabbed a hold of Rudy’s shoulders and shook him a little.

“No…?”

“I can become a police officer and kick some ASS!” Louise laughed maniacally. Rudy laughed softly, he could feel another asthma attack coming on.

He reached into his pocket and shook his inhaler before taking a puff. Louise waited until he was done to come and hug him softly.

“I love you Ru,” Louise said softly. Even though she knew Rudy would be fine, it still worried her sometimes. Though, she would only let her worry seep through when it was just her and her Ru. He wasn’t so regular-sized now, though her family and friends still called him that.

“I love you too Louise.” Rudy lightly hugged her back, his hands shaking from the medicine taking affect. Rudy stroked his hand through Louise’s long hair. “Do you remember when you told me you wanted to become a police officer?”

Louise looked up at her boyfriend, “Yeah. It was when I kicked Logan’s ass for picking on you.”

“It was also when we found out we were soulmates.” Rudy said with a smile on his face. Louise helped him to the couch and he sat down. She joined him and laid her head on his lap. He rested his arm over her and pulled her closer. “Tell me again how we found out. It’s my favorite.”

Louise turned her head to look and her boyfriend who had his eyes closed and was resting his head against his hand. She relaxed as she watched the medicine work and Rudy’s breath grew even and stronger. If they were with anyone else, she would’ve declined to share this story, it was too personal and mussy to share. But for Ru, she would do anything.

 

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” 18-year-old Louise yelled as her mom took her temperature.

“Sorry Louise, you’re sick! You can’t go to school today.” Her mom said as she looked disappointedly at the thermometer. Now Linda would have to wait to find out who her daughter's soulmate was. There were bets on who it would be, and Linda wanted to win!

“But mom!” Louise said as she tried to move past her, but her mom stopped her. Louise swayed her balance and head off.

“Nah-huh missy. Get back in bed. You can barely stand up as it is!” Linda admonished her. She put her daughter back in bed and shut off the lights. “Get some sleep baby. If you need anything, just yell.”

Louise groaned. I can’t believe this. The day I’m supposed to meet my soulmate and I get sick! She looked down at her finger that had the red string attached to it and sighed. Before she knew it she was asleep and drifted off into dreams about Kuchi Kopi knighting her in his kingdom. Kuchi Kopi even gave her the ability to marry its son. Regular-Sized Kuchi Kopi Rudy. Louise was in her armor and Rudy in his suit about to be married when she suddenly felt like all the air had been sucked out of her lungs.

She awoke with a startle and was clutching her chest which hurt. She could breathe, but her lungs felt like they were on fire. Suddenly the pain went away and Louise was left a sweating, confused mess. What the hell just happened? After she convinced herself it was nothing, she fell back asleep only to be woken up a couple of hours later with that same burning pain in her lungs.

“That's it! Since I’m not going to get to sleep I’m going to find my soulmate. And mother can’t stop me!” Louise thew on a sweatshirt and pants with her signature bunny ears and ran out of the house before her mother could set down her wine glass.

She looked at her ring finger and saw it lead left, she ran down the sidewalk avoiding people and roller skaters. She felt hot and sweaty but also cold at the same time. Stupid colds, stupid interrupted sleep, stupid everything!

She already felt tired and worn out, and she hadn’t even been running for long. Her brows were slick with sweat and momentarily she wanted to give up, but she didn’t. She couldn’t give up or she would regret it for the rest of her life- probably.

“Hello Belcher child, running away from the law today are we?” Mr. Fischoeder rolled up beside a panting Louise in a golf cart. Even though he could hardly walk now, he always went around in style.

“Hey Mr. Fischoeder.” Louise took a deep breath, “Could you give me a ride?”

“For a fee of course.”

“I don’t have my wallet with me.” Louise was now starting to get her breath back.

“I just want to know where you are off to little one.”

“I turned 18 this morning, but I’m sick and my mom won’t let me out to find my soulmate.”

“Ahhh, I remember when I turned 18. I wasn’t able to find my soulmate until I was 30 and traveling the world. She turned out to be a Russian spy who almost killed me. Great times!” He scooted over and gave room for Louise to sit. “Where are we off to?”

“To wherever this string leads me.”

“Well, how about I drive you for 10 minutes and if we don’t find them by then, then you get off.”

“Deal.”

Louise talked to Mr. Fischoeder about random things while they drove around following the path of Louise’s string. When they finally reached their 10-minute limit, Mr. Fiscoeder let Louise off and said bye. Louise was by the high school and coincidentally her string led her inside.
She walked around the empty halls and stopped at a clock to realize school had let out 15 minutes ago. But, her soulmate was around here somewhere. She followed it outside to the track and field and looked around. All she saw was disgustingly sweaty football players. She followed it around the track and into the bleacher area. That’s when Louise heard some voices.

“Just give it up. You can’t do anything, your stupid asmtha will kill you before we do.” A voice said snarkily

“Not that we’re gonna kill him, right? A hesitant voice said.

“No, I’m just saying it’s stupid to fight back twerp. You can’t even fight your own battles, you get your girlfriend to do them all for you.” The first one retorted.

“She’s not my girlfriend! She’s my best friend!” Rudy retorted angrily. Oh crap, Rudy!

“Dude, everyone knows you are practically a couple. The way you guys flirt is disgusting. Look, we don’t have to continue arguing. Just give me some money so I can take my girlfriend out to dinner and we can call it a day.” What the hell? Who does Rudy flirt with? He never hangs out with other girl- wait a minute. Oh. Oh crap.

“Hell no! I earned this money through hard work and just because you’re lazy doesn’t mean I should give my money to you!” Rudy yelled angrily.

The angry sophomore grabbed Rudy by the collar and Rudy wheezed. Oh hell no.

Louise stealthily ran and kicked the bullies buddy in the back and sent him toppling over. “Take that you punk!” Louise yelled angrily as she stood above his bruised form. The other bully dropped Rudy.

“Oh look, your girlfriends here to save the day.”

“Oh no she isn’t.” And the moment went in slow motion as Rudy raised his fist and punched the guy in the face as hard as he could.

He stumbled back and put his hands to his face, “What the fuck!” Rudy was clutching his pounding hand. He probably broke something.

Louise cracked her knuckles and sent the bully a devious glare. “You come after Rudy again, and I won’t be the one to kick your ass. He will and I’ll be standing by with a camera to catch your epic defeat.”

The two bullies ran away and left Louise and Rudy standing under the bleachers.

“Rudy that was awesome!” Louise yelled in excitement. She stopped celebrating when she realized Rudy was clutching his throat. He fell down and Louise caught him and slowly eased him to the ground.

“Louise,” Rudy wheezed. “Inhaler.” He pointed to a spot near her and she quickly grabbed it, shook it up, put it in his mouth, and pressed down to release the medicine. She could feel his heart pounding throughout his body and when she pulled away the inhaler he was relaxing, but clutching his hand.

“Are you okay Ru?” Louise asked gently as she brushed hair away from his eye. He looked up at her and nodded. “You kicked ass, Rudy. I’m proud of you.”

“Thanks,” Rudy said breathlessly. He coughed and clutched his hand.

“Did you break your hand?” Louise asked as she gently grabbed his wrist to look at it.

Rudy leaned against her more, but Louise didn’t mind. “I don’t think so. It just really hurts.”

“Well yeah, you showed those bullies who not to mess with. Have they bullied you before?”

“No, this is the first time I’ve ever talked to them.” Rudy’s breath was now even.

“Good.” Louise now felt awkward as Rudy still laid against her chest. “I wish I could do more to prevent stuff like this. Maybe if I become a police officer I can change the world for good. Or an FBI agent. That would be cool too.” She didn’t dare look down at her red string for she already knew the answer.

“You’d make a good police officer or FBI agent. You are much better at that stuff than normal people.” Rudy looked up at her with kind, hopeful eyes.

“Thanks.”

“Louise.”

“Yeah?”

“We’re soulmates, right?” Rudy asked as he sat up. He turned her face towards his and saw her blushing face. She quickly pulled down the bunny ears on her bunny ear hat and hid her face as much as she could.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Louise mumbled from under the ears.

Rudy kissed her hands softly and slowly pushed them hands away from her face. “Let’s go on a date real soon. We don’t have to tell anyone yet. But just so you know, I’m really happy. I’m glad it’s you.”

Louise pulled him closer towards her and leaned her head on his shoulder. “I’m glad too.” Rudy wrapped his arms around Louise to hold her close and soon she was comfortably asleep in the arms of her soulmate around her.

 

“Louise? You asleep?” Rudy whispered softly as he stroked her head. She didn’t stir and so he took that as a yes. He slowly and awkwardly picked her up and brought her out from under the bleachers. He walked to his car, put her inside, and drove her home to her parents where he explained she passed out at school. They were thankful for his help after he carried her inside and put her to bed. When her parents left the room he kissed her forehead and whispered, “I love you, Louise.”

Chapter Text

The Belcher children were all in a state of shock and happiness: Gene and Courtney were engaged to be married, Tina and Zeke were pregnant, and Louise got accepted into the police academy. They each called their mother the next day to call a family meeting with important news and, needless to say, Linda was ecstatic.

“Oh my God! Bobby!” Linda yelled excitedly as she made her way into the kitchen. “I just got a call from Rudy and he said Louise had something to tell the family. That is the third call like that today! What is going on?” Linda sat down in her chair beside her husband and looked out at the empty chairs that once occupied her children.

“I think they might have all gone out drinking and done something stupid and just don’t want to tell you over the phone.” Bob turned the page of the newspaper he was reading. He normally didn’t read the newspaper, but today’s edition had a section on “Different Stuffings For The Perfect Turkey” and he had to read it.

“No Bobbie! Rudy can’t drink because of his asthma and Zeke always has to wake up early for the construction job. They wouldn’t have drank like animals, but that doesn’t mean I won’t!”

“Lin, it's too early for wine. And I thought the doctor told you to cut back on it.” Bob looked up from the article and gave his wife a pointed look.

“You’re such a party pooper. I was going to have grape juice, that cranberry stuff is nasty! Plus, I’ll have my glass of wine when the kids come over.” She was already preparing to host the perfect get together party for all her children and their soulmates. She would have to go to the store and buy the expensive toilet paper.

“Sounds goods,” Bob finished the article and set the newspaper down. They said you could use cajun spices to spice up the turkey, so he might try that this year. “Lin, I miss them.” Bob looked across the table where his kids used to sit to eat every day.

“They’ll all be home in a couple of days, Bobby. At least we have each other.” She grasped her husband's hand and squeezed it.

“I love you, Lin,” Bob kissed his wife’s hand and gave her a smile.

“Love you too.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“Lin, do we really need all this?” Bob asked as he stood in his restaurant and sorted through all the things Linda had bought for the kids' return. The good toilet paper, good smelling soaps, air fresheners, new towels, and a sign that said, “Bless This Mess!” This also didn’t include the new plates she got- and fabric napkins. “Why do we need fabric napkins? Paper napkins are just as nice and we have them in great supply.” Bob grabbed a napkin from the napkin holder pointedly.

“Well, I thought I’d go online and figure out how to fold it into cool shapes. It will be fun!” Linda put the things back in the paper bag she got from the store and smiled as the first customers of the day walked in.

“Hey, Mort! Hey, Teddy! Where are your other halves today?” Linda beamed as her favorite customers walked in.

“Hey, Linda!” Teddy sat down in his normal seat and smiled. He had lost some weight recently. He says it’s because he’s actually drinking water, but they all knew it was because he was happier. Teddy, after years of seeing a therapist, finally got over his ex-wife and previous soulmate. He grew a lot and became happier with himself and suddenly one day a red string appeared on his finger again and he ran off to find his second-chance soulmate.

Second-chance soulmates are for people who, for some reason, lost their original soulmate. The connection to the second soulmate is established once both people are in a sound place and are happy with themselves. It took a while for Teddy, but he finally found the one for him.
“Hey, Linda! Bob! Guess what!” Mort slowly sat down in his seat beside Teddy.

“What’s up, Mort?” Bob came around from the back of the restaurant.

“Me and Theresa are getting married!” Mort exclaimed. A series of yells, congratulations, and hugs was dealt out in celebration of Mort.

Finally, all their friends were just as happy as they were. They deserved it.

“The wedding is in March. I hope you all, and your children can make it!” Mort pulled invitations out from his jacket and handed them out.

“We will definitely be there!” Linda grasped the invitation with delight. A wedding! So fancy!

“Speaking of children, when are they coming back?” Mort picked up the menu and looked through it, though he already knew what he wanted.

“The kids are coming home tonight!” Bob poked his head through the window-like opening in the wall.

“That’s great! How long are they staying?” Teddy looked at Bob and Linda with excitement.

“They’ll be staying for a couple of days with their soulmates! We haven’t had a sleepover like this in forever!” Linda wiped down the countertop where a customer just left.

“Why did they all suddenly decide to come?” Mort asked as he gave Linda his menu.

“They all said they had something to tell the family.” Bob came from the back with the two burgers as he responded.

“I can’t wait to find out!” Linda sang and danced with excitement.

 

------------------------------------

 

“Welcome home!” Linda sang as she opened the door to find Louise and Rudy standing outside.

“Mom!” Louise practically jumped into a hug with her mother.

Linda grunted from the impact, “Bob! One of our babies is here!”

Bob peaked over the railing and smiled as he saw his youngest daughter come up the stairs. Rudy was behind her, but was being attacked by her mother in hugs and questions.
Louise came up next to her father and smiled slightly, “Hello Father.”

“Hello, Louise.”

They both stared at each other for a second before Bob opened his arms for a hug and Louise immediately went into them. Louise smiled and hugged him tight for a couple of seconds before they let go.

“I missed you dad.”

“I missed you too.”

“Hello, Mr. Belcher.” Rudy came up behind Louise, though now he towered over her, and offered his hand.

Bob shook his hand, “Nice to see you, Rudy.”

“You too! It’s so nice to be back!” Rudy smiled as he looked around the small apartment. It looked smaller than Louise remembered.

The doorbell rang again and Linda quickly went back to the door to answer it. This time it was Tina and Zeke. Linda hugged her baby close while Zeke stood there awkwardly. You could tell he wasn’t used to the whole hugging family thing.

“Bob! It’s Tina and Zeke!” Linda yelled as she pulled her daughter inside and kissed her cheek. Once she was done showering her daughter with affection she turned to Zeke and pulled him in for a small hug. Linda and Zeke would work up to hugs and pampering, but he at least let her hug him.

“Zeke. Tina, it’s so good to see you!” Bob peered over the railing and smiled down at his son-in-law.

“Hey Mr. B! Long time no see!” Zeke stared up at Bob before helping his wife up the stairs.

“Good to see you too dad.” Tina hugged her dad tight. “I missed you guys so much.”

“Aww, is my baby homesick?” Linda asked as she passed Tina.

“A little.” Tina mumbled. He dad patted her back, “We’re glad you’re home. Louise and Rudy are in the kitchen.

Tina walked towards the kitchen with her husband behind her. She noticed he stopped walking and was looking at a baby picture of Tina.

“Wow! I can’t believe she still has those up!” Tina said as she came to stand by Zeke.

“Wow T-Bird, your face looks so squished! And you got that same pair of glasses!” Zeke admired the picture of his wife as a baby. Damn did she look cute. “I hope our babies look like you cause I wouldn’t stop cuddlin’ them. They’ll be so cute even the Johnson & Johnson baby will be jealous.”

Tina hushed Zeke and his loud mouth, “We have to keep this a secret until later!”

Zeke shrugged, “Just sayin babe.”

“Tina!” Louise yelled in excitement as she rushed down the hall. Tina yelled in surprise as Louise caught her in a big hug and spun her around.

“Louise! It’s so good to see you!” Tina said as she hugged her sister. Louise had grown tall, shorter than Tina, but still tall. She was still the stubborn, danger loving, crazy girl who never took no for an answer. Rudy was surprisingly taller than Louise, but his meek personality quickly made him into a “gentle giant.”

“Hey Tina. Zeke.” Rudy waved from behind Louise. Zeke carried on a conversation with Rudy while Louise and Tina talked.

Louise pulled away from her sister, already done with the affection, and smirked, “So Tina, what news do you have to tell the family?”

 

“Wait, how did you know?” Tina asked as her face got suddenly pale. “Damn it Louise how did you find out!”

“Mom told me that we all called saying we had news to tell the family. But now I’m curious as to what you’re hiding.” Louise looked at her sister up and down suspiciously.

Tina laughed awkwardly, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I have to go pee, bye.” Tina turned around and walked the other way down the hall. Louise was on to her secret already!

Tina opened the bathroom and yelled in surprise at seeing her little brother already on the toilet. “Damn it Gene! Why didn’t you turn the lights on!” Tina flicked on the light and then went to shut the door. But she really did need to pee.

“Hey Tina! Nice to see you too! You might want to bring an air freshener when you use the bathroom.” Gene pointedly said. Man was he not toilet shy at all.

“Good to see you too Gene.” Tina shut the bathroom door and laughed to herself. It was just like the good old days in her childhood.

“Tina! Hey!” Courtney smiled.

“Courtney! How are you?” Tina hugged her and smiled.

“I’m doing great! How about you?”

“Fantastic.” Courtney looked around and Tina smiled knowingly, “He’s in the bathroom.”

Courtney sighed, “I told him to at least greet everyone before he went to the bathroom.” Courtney walked down the hall and knocked on the door.

Tina went back to the living room where almost everyone was seated and chatting. Linda and Bob were seated on the couch, which was different from the one they had as children (the only reason they got a new couch was because business was doing great and the couch broke beyond fixing). Zeke was sitting on the floor next to the window. Rudy was also on the couch squeezed next to Linda who was chatting Zeke and Rudy’s ears off about something. Louise was sitting next to her dad on the cramped couch and they were talking about the latest Hawk and Chick movie. Tina slowly sat down on the floor next to Zeke and pulled her sweatshirt over her stomach more. Don’t want to spoil the surprise.

“I have made my deposit and am ready to rock’n roll!” Gene announced as he walked into the room hand in hand with Courtney.

Zeke cheered and the rest of the family laughed. Gene and Courtney sat down at the small brown table in front of the couch and rested against each other.

“Zeke, do you want to help me make dinner?” Bob got up from the couch and looked Zeke’s way.

Zeke nodded, “Of course Mr. B! What we making?” Tina smiled at her husband’s enthusiastic attitude towards cooking. He was always excited to cook.

 

Once everyone had dinner, which consisted of grilled chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, and carrots, everyone sat down in the dining room with a glass of wine (except Tina and Louise). Everyone was laughing and talking and Rudy only had to use his inhaler once because he was laughing so hard he had a lung cramp (whatever that is).

“So, who wants to start first!” Linda asked as she set down her wine glass.
Louise volunteered first and stood up, “My dear, dear family. You are looking at the newest recruit of the New Jersey police academy!”

Linda yelled in excitement and Bob hugged his kickass daughter. “You’ll be just like Chick! Kicking ass and taking names.”

“Of course!” Louise said excitedly.

Zeke congratulated his sister in law with a high five and a promise to wrestle around with her to practice her defense skills. Gene promised to create a song for her to rock out to while she was away at training. Tina promised to have a Kuchi Kopi related surprise for Louise when she got back from training.

“Louise we are so proud of you! My little baby’s gonna serve some cold hard justice just like my wine!” Linda laughed.

“Cold hard justice, just like Dad in the winter.” Gene joked.

“Gene!” Bob yelled loudly as everyone laughed.

“Okay, okay. Who's next?” Louise asked as she looked at Tina. Tina turned her head away and draped her arm over her stomach as she leaned into Zeke. Her freaking spy of a sister was onto her.

“Actually, is it okay if we go next?” Courtney asked quietly.

“Of course!” Linda picked up her wine and took a sip.

“Courtney and I are… drum roll please…” Gene started drumming on the table. Everyone soon followed suit.

Right before Gene could respond Linda yelled, “OH MY GAWD! You’re pregnant!”

“We’re engaged!” yelled Courtney and Gene in sync.

Linda screamed even louder, “OH MY GAWD!”

Everyone crowded around Gene and Courtney as they looked at her engagement ring, purple and white diamonds. Simple, yet unique. Perfect.

“Wow Courtney! That ring is beautiful!” Tina commented as she took Courtney’s hand and inspected the ring.

“Gene, how did you pick that out?” Louise asked.

“How did you afford that?” Bob asked curiously.

Tina felt a little nauseous and sat down on the couch. Zeke was too busy hearing how Gene afforded the ring to notice, but that didn’t mean her sister didn’t.

Louise crouched down beside her sister, “T, are you good?”

Tina nodded but felt the bile start to rush up her throat. She stepped over Louise and rushed into the bathroom. She threw up in the sink, avoiding the toilet since Gene just pooped in it, and was soon held up by Zeke as her legs lost strength. His strong arms held her up as he whispered calming, soothing things into her ear.

Her family was behind Zeke all crowded into the bathroom.

“T are you okay?” Louise asked along with the rest of her family. Rudy was in the back trying not to throw up himself. He hated when people threw up, it made him want to as well..

Tina washed her mouth off and stood up with Zeke’s help. Now she was hungry again. “Dad can I have one of your burgers?” Tina ignored her family and walked back to the couch with Zeke’s help. They all looked at her oddly and followed her back to the living room.

“Tina what’s going on?” Bob asked. He was more than happy to make her a burger, but she literally just threw up.

“I’m pregnant.” Tina put her hand on top of her stomach and smiled.

Louise was the first to react with an extremely loud scream, “OH MY GOD!”

Linda soon joined with a yell of her own, “MY BABY’S HAVIN’ A BABY!”

“I’m gonna be a grandfather!” Bob yelled excitedly as he ran his fingers through the little hair he had on his head.

Gene cheered, “I’m gonna be an uncle and a husband! Two more things checked off my bucket list!”

Courtney squealed and jumped up and down. Rudy was still in the hallway trying not to throw up.

After the screaming ended there was a loud knock on the door. Bob went downstairs with a smile on his face and opened the door to see Jimmy Pesto Sr.

“What the hell is going on over here? Did you finally murder your family?” Bob laughed and hugged Jimmy Pesto, he wouldn’t let his bad attitude bring down the moment. Pesto pushed him away and looked at him with disgust.

The Belcher family gathered behind Bob as Pesto yelled at him to keep it down. Jimmy Pesto stopped yelling when he saw Bob’s family all huddled together behind him. They were all smiling, all laughing, some had tears streaming down their face (aka Linda). They were happy.

“Just keep it down or I’m calling the police!” He yelled as he gave Bob the finger and crossed the street.

Before Bob shut the door Jimmy Jr. walked out of his dad’s restaurant and started yelling at his dad for randomly leaving the restaurant. His dad yelled at him back and then Jimmy Jr. called his dad a “senile old man.”

Once his father stormed inside Jimmy Jr looked across the street and saw Tina through the window above the restaurant. She was holding her stomach and when she turned he could see a small baby bump. She was pregnant. He smiled as he watched his best friend come up behind Tina and hold her close. He watched as the girl he let go smiled and kissed Zeke. He watched from the sidelines as she was happy, and he was thankful.

Thankful that he let her go. Thankful that he let her go to someone who would care for her, love her, and treat her as an equal. He didn’t deserve Tina, but somewhere in his heart he still cared for her.

The Belcher family celebrated through the night all of the accomplishments and surprises. They reminisced about their childhood, smiled about the new memories, and waited for the future. They were more than content- they were happy.

Chapter Text

“Bobby!” yelled Linda as she pushed around the shopping cart.

“Yeah?” Bob responded from a few isles down.

“I need your help grabbing something!” A lady gave Linda a look as she passed her and Linda ignored her.

“Just a minute. Looking at Turkeys for dinner next week,” there was a pause before he finally said, “Coming!”

Her Bobby acted just like an OCD kid sometimes. Making inanimate objects talk to him and milling for hours over the perfect turkey, though that's what she loved about him. Sometimes it was like taking care of a fourth child who also just happened to help her parent.

Bob came around the corner cradling a turkey in his arms. He couldn’t take his eyes off it and he seemed ecstatic. “The right one spoke to me Lin. This is the perfect turkey. I mean, its not a Pembrook Farms turkey, but it's pretty good.”

Linda smiled and admired her husband and his neuroses, “I’m glad it spoke to you Bob.” She pointed at a reasonably priced changing table at the bottom that was too heavy for Linda to pick up on her own. “But, I’m going to need you to put the turkey down for a minute so we can pick up this and put it in the cart.”

Bob gave a distressed look down at his turkey and then back up at his wife. He was ready to argue when he saw the look on his wife’s face and decided it would be better to not incur her wrath. He gently set the turkey down in the basket towards the back, so it didn’t get squished, and helped haul the changing table box into the bottom rack of the cart.

“Alright! On to the next item.” Linda pushed the cart and Bob hurried to stand beside it. He wanted to hold his Turkey but he knew Linda would need his help again. So, he would just hold the turkey on the way home.

“Why are we buying all this stuff again?” Bob groaned as they walked down another baby aisle. This aisle was filled with clothes and shoes for infants.

“Mr. Fischoeder wanted to congratulate Tina for having a baby and gave her money as a gift. Since she’s on bedrest and Zeke is working, she gave it to us to go and get baby stuff.” Linda was already plotting in her mind to get her granddaughter or grandson a bunch of clothes that said ‘My Grandmother is the best,’ ‘My Grandmother spoils me with Grandpa’s money,’ and ‘Be careful what you say to me because my Grandma’s crazy and I’m not afraid to tell on you.’

“Oh good. I was about to say that we didn’t have enough to pay for all this.” Bob looked at a onesie that said “Diaper loading” and proceeded to laugh. “Does Tina know if she’s having a boy or a girl?”

“We don’t know yet, but she plans to tell the family over Christmas. I don’t care what she has, I know it’ll fat and cute and I’ll just love it.”

“We’ll love it.” Bob corrected as he picked up a tiny pair of shoes. “This reminds me of when we went shopping for the kids when they were babies.”

Linda gasped, “I know! I remember my little baby Tina chewing on the couch and being potty shy. And Gene! Oh! I remember when he threw up on me for the first time.”

“Definitely not the last time that will happen.” Bob interjected.

“Oh and Louise! She was just the cutest! Loved you from day 1 Bobby!” Linda was reminiscing hard and now the thought of her own daughter having children brought tears to her eyes.

“What the hell is this?” Bob picked up a banana shaped toothbrush and looked at it confusingly.

Linda laughed and wiped the tears from her eyes. Now her baby was having a baby and Linda felt proud that her family was happy and growing.

 

Rudy watched as his girlfriend paced the floor in thought. She was trying to choose the perfect gift to give Tina and was determined to figure it out without his help. She was never the best gift giver, but she tried.

Currently she was mulling over which baby toy to give to Tina’s baby. Louise had bought 3, just in case she changed her mind last minute or found out the baby’s gender before anyone. Tina was cautious this time around and didn’t even put the baby’s gender in her diary. Yes, Tina still kept a diary and yes everyone still looked through it.

Louise looked at each of the items she had chosen and started to mull over them again. One was a baby blanket with a bear on it holding three balloons. One balloon was red, another was blue, and the last was yellow. It had flowers and pink on it but Louise wasn’t sure if it would be the perfect gift. The second item was a binkie that had a monkey on it holding a banana. Binkies were always good, but Louise didn’t feel like it was right either. The last item was a stuffed animal. It was a dog with patches of different materials sewn together. A couple of patches had green, the face was pink, the eyes, nose and smile was stitched in black. It had little patches on the bottom of the feet to look like the bottom of a paw and a cute little tail.

Rudy walked up to his beautiful girlfriend and hugged her from behind and kissed the top of her head, “We’re going to be late. Why don’t you just bring all of them?”

Louise sighed. Rudy was right, but she just didn’t feel they were perfect enough for her sister or her soon to be niece or nephew.

“They don’t have to be perfect. As long as you tried, Tina will love it.” Rudy backed away and picked up the bag that the gift were going to go in. He held it out to Louise who took it and smiled.
“I’m driving by the way.” Louise said as they left their apartment and outside. Rudy cautiously handed her the keys and she smirked.

“Don’t kill me.” Rudy commented under his breath.

“I wouldn’t kill you Rudy. I’m just going to torture you with my driving skills for 10 minutes.” Louise laughed and pulled open the car door. Rudy rolled his eyes but a smile was plastered on his face. He was glad they had good car insurance.

As Louise drove down to her parents place, and her old home, she felt better about her gift choices for Tina. Her big sister was pregnant and it was honestly hard to believe. Tina just started showing and Louise would start to believe it more once it started to kick around in Tina’s stomach. Louise wanted to put her hands on her sister’s stomach and feel that baby kick and punch and be the best little badass ever!

Louise looked over at Rudy and then down at her stomach as she stopped at a red light. Maybe one day they would, but she wasn’t ready and wanted to kick some ass before her baby kicked hers. Plus, this was just her body being a hormonal mess. She had been hanging out with Tina a lot since she was bed rested most of the time. Maybe it was just Tina’s hormones messing with hers.

“Louise?” Rudy’s voice was quiet against the pumping of the music from the radio.

“Yeah, Ru?” Louise glanced over at her boyfriend to see him staring at her contently.

He grasped her hand that was resting on the arm rest and squeezed it. “I love you, Louise.”

Louise cleared her throat and looked back to the road to see that the light had turned green. A smile crept across her face and her eyes were now bright. She didn’t know she needed to hear that, but that was Rudy. Always giving her the thing she didn’t know she needed.

“Love you too, Ru.”

 

“Who's ready to party? I brought the fun and the tequila!” Gene yelled as he barged through the door with a bottle in his hand and party hats hanging around his arms. Courtney came in behind him with a gift bag in her hand. A party hat sat lopsided on the top of her bond hair and she wore a huge smile on her face.

“Gene! My baby!” Linda came running around the corner with her arms stretched out. They embraced each other in a hug and rocked back and forth. “Ooo! Did you bring any wine?”

Courtney perked up beside her fiance and smiled as she brought a bottle of wine from behind her back. “We knew you’d like this. It’s wine from a vineyard in Spain, my boss gave it to me as a congratulations present for getting engaged.”

“Aww, sweetie!” Linda brought Courtney in for a hug and kissed her cheeks.

Tina rested on the couch and desperately wanted to get up to greet her brother, but she was told to rest as much as she could. Plus, she was kinda feeling tired and her ankles were swollen. Her husband and soulmate sat on the couch rubbing her swollen ankles and talking to her father about restaurant business.

“My brother from another mother! Come here!” Gene waltzed into the living zoom with pazzas and his arms out wide waiting for Zeke to give him a hug.

Zeke carefully got up and rested his wifes feet on the cushion, “Gene!” Zeke embraced his brother-in-law and then proceeded to put him in a headlock and give him a nuggie. Gene and him laughed as they wrestled around and played with each other.

Courtney came by and gave Tina a hug before handing her the gift. “Tina, I’m so happy for you and Zeke. You look really happy.”

Tina smiled up at Courtney and rested her hands on her stomach, “I really am. How’s it going with you and Gene? Life of the party like always?”

Courtney smiled and sat down on the ground by Tina. She sighed dreamily, “I never knew I could love someone so silly and so loving. But, I do have a question.” Tina raised an eyebrow as Courtney leaned in closer, “How did you deal with the stink after he went to the bathroom? It’s almost unbearable!”

They laughed as Zeke sat down beside Tina again and started rubbing her feet. Bob needed Gene and Courtney’s help with something so they left the room and Linda had to go make sure her gift was wrapped. It was just Tina and Zeke in the living room and suddenly Tina wanted cuddles.

“Ze? Come here.” Tina took her feet off Zeke and laid them on the coffee table. He scooted closer and draped his arm around her.

Zeke pulled her closer and whispered, “Everythin’ all right, T-Bird?”

Tina leaned in closer and kissed his lips, “I really need to pee.”

Zeke laughed and kissed her lips again before helping her stand up. Tina was wobbly on her feet and her swollen ankles made it hard to stand, but she was just glad to have help. He walked her to the bathroom and shut the door after he helped her sit down on the toilet. While she did her business he looked at himself in the mirror and noted he needed a haircut. It grew hot in the kitchens at the culinary school and it would be a huge health code violation if sweat dripped on the food.

Tina finished what she was doing and slowly stood up. Zeke made way for her to wash her hands and while she did he snaked his arms around her and rested his hands on her stomach. He laid his head on her shoulder and kissed her neck.

“You glow brighter than the neon lights on the Wharf, T-Bird.”

Tina wrapped her arms around his and stood closer to her husband, “Must be that pregnancy glow people talk about.”

“People were also right about yur boobs growin’ bigger,” Zeke smiled into her neck.

“You were always a boobs man.” Tina joked as she kissed her husband's head.

“Still am,” he looked up at her and pulled her into a kiss. Since being pregnant, Zeke had been super affectionate and loving. He was so excited to be a father, but he was also excited for when they could have sex again. Apparently she looked beautiful pregnant and he quote “wanted to praise her like the hot mama she is.”

“I love you, T-Bird. And I can’t wait to meet our lil’ bird.” Zeke cupped his hands around his wife's stomach and looked at it lovingly. Tina felt a kick, and Zeke must have felt it kick too because he turned his wife around quickly and knelt down in the tiny bathroom.

“Babe, did she just kick? Did you feel that?” Zeke stared at his wife happily and kissed her stomach in joy.

“Omg, that was the weirdest feeling I’ve ever had. And it was weirder than the first time I got my period.” Tina felt her stomach and waited for a kick to happen again but it didn’t come.

“God girl, I love you so much. I can’t wait to welcome our lil’ one in the worl’ an’ show ‘em how to kick ass.” Zeke put his forehead against hers and she could smell his cologne. Like sandalwood and pine. She loved that smell. It reminded her of the love of her life-- her soulmate.

The red string that attached them grew brighter and seemed to glow with warmth. She felt safe, warm, and comforted. She felt like a warm bubble of comfort consumed her as she laid in the comforting arms of her soulmate. Who knew love could be this fulfilling.

“Tina, baby, are you okay?” Linda’s concerned voice asked from the other side of the door.
“Yeah. I just really had to pee” Tina smiled and looked at the door. She loved her family.

“Oh my God! I know! Isn’t it ridiculous how much you have to pee! Well come out when you’re ready, Louise and Rudy just got here and dinner is ready!”

“I can’t wait to tell your family!” Zeke let her go after he kissed her forehead.

“Our family.” Tina corrected.

Zeke smiled and opened the door, “Our family.”

 

“Tina! Get your butt in here. I want to shower you with gifts!” Gene yelled from the kitchen.

“Gene, don’t rush Tina. She’s got the bladder of an 80 year old and the speed of one too.” Louise commented. “But we love her anyway.”

 

“So? What’s the baby? Girl? Boy?” Bob asked as they all sat down in the living room.

Tina looked at her husband and smiled. Zeke exclaimed, “Drum roll please.” Everyone did a normal drum roll except Gene who decided to give a little guitar noise.

“We are having a….” Tina paused for dramatic effect. “A girl!”

Linda and Louise screamed in unison while Rudy beamed and congratulated Tina and Zeke. Courtney pulled out poppers and popped them. The confetti flying through the air and landing on top of them all. Bob wiped tears from his face and hugged his oldest daughter tightly. He started sobbing loudly and everyone soon got into a group hug.

Bob soon opened the window and pulled out a loudspeaker from nowhere. He turned it on and yelled, “Hey everyone! My daughter is having a daughter! I’m going to be a grandfather!” Lights turned on all across the street and soon people opened their windows and yelled back.

“Congratulations Bob!”

“Omg! Tina’s pregnant!”

“Go, Bob!”

“Congratulations burger man!”

The light from Jimmy Pesto’s turned on and soon Jimmy Pesto came running out along with his son. “Shove it Bob! I don’t want to hear about your stupid family!”

“Well, my stupid family is growing bigger Pesto. And guess what, soon I’m going to have grandchildren. Suck on that!” Bob yelled through the megaphone in excitement.

“Yeah Pesto, suck it!” Linda yelled through the window. She didn’t need the megaphone.

“Congratulations Tina!” Jimmy Jr. yelled across the street.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Months Later~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Oh my God! She’s beautiful.” A baby wailed as it breathed in its first breath of fresh air. Zeke cried as he clutched Tina’s hand and watched as he saw his beautiful baby girl for the first time.

Tina had sweat plastered all over her face and was ready to pass out, but held on so she could hold her baby girl. “I love you, sweetheart.”

“Look at my girls. All snuggled up in one place. The loves of my life altogether.” Zeke sobbed as he kissed his wife’s lips and then his daughter’s forehead. She had blood and other stuff on her, but man was she the prettiest girl Zeke ever saw (except Tina).

“I love you.”

“I love you too.”