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Anniversary Accident

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The first time the band had gone to America, specifically Florida, the four of them had been amazed by the weather. The persistent sunshine, the pleasant breezes, the warm evenings… all were foreign to native Britons. Ringo had expressed it best in an interview once they returned to London: 

            ‘The sun, you know, I didn’t know what it meant until I went over there.’ 

And while the sun didn’t follow them back to the UK, their love of sun-related hobbies certainly did. When the weather turned warm in the summer, time was spent on a veranda somewhere, often at the band’s home just outside of London. 

On such days, reminiscent of their time in sunnier climates across the globe, George delved into gardening, cultivating small worlds in terracotta pots. Ringo seemed content to simply sit in the sun, and it was surprising how tan he became despite his blue-eyed ancestry. Paul engaged in his creative pursuits, leaning over the outdoor dining table to scribble lyrics on scraps of notebook paper. John was the deviant among them all. 

To him, the sun was useless on its own. To just sit, frying his freckles even darker, was pointless. No, if there was sun, John would be in water. Saltwater especially attracted him like a magnet. He had taught himself how to swim and his strokes certainly weren’t of Olympic class, but they moved him through the water so naturally and effortlessly that it didn’t really matter. 

Something about being in water made him feel more alive, calm and easy and happy in its cool feeling. He’d swim round in circles, never laps, or lie on his back and stare up at the sky. More than once he’d uttered mildly profound realizations or pleasant statements of contentment for whoever was there to hear. 

When John and Paul had decided to start a family and buy a house for the two of them and their future children, a pool was a non-negotiable aspect. Paul had silently wondered how much it would be used with just John as the main swimmer, but Kenwood fit the bill for all other requirements, and thus the deal was closed. 

Paul’s curiosity about pool usage was squared away, too; soon after Julian was born, John was in the pool with him. John began teaching him to swim just two years later, and while he wasn’t strong enough to do it on his own yet, he was more than happy to splash around in the company of his parents. So, when the weather allowed for swimming on John and Paul’s unofficial anniversary in early July, the family found themselves by the pool.

“Daddy, catch me!” 

“I will, I’m ready, Jules!”

With that, Julian launched himself off the edge of the pool for what must have been the 20th time that day, landing partially in John’s arms and partially in the water. The resulting splash sent waves to the even shallower section of the pool, where Paul was keeping Heather steady with her water wings and pool noodle.   “Dada, did you see me?” Julian called eagerly, popping his head over John’s shoulder and revealing a blinding grin and shining freckles.

“I did see you! You’re getting so good at that!” Paul cheered. “Soon you’ll be a swimmer like Daddy.”

"Yeah, we’ll have you swimming like a fish!” John added. He, too, was beaming, and the sight made Paul’s own smile even wider. 

John had been so good with both the kids as babies, adjusted to parenting toddlers, and was now growing perfectly into the role of fathering a school-aged child. Both kids adored him, too. Heather loved the different tones and inflections of John’s voice, following every word he spoke or sang with rapt attention. Julian could often be found at John’s side, watching what he did and joining in whenever possible. And, as tactile as John was — thus perfectly willing to serve as a child sofa — both kids delighted in sitting on his shoulders or falling asleep in his lap. Paul couldn’t have been a happier husband. 

“Do you wanna go again baby?” John asked.

“Yeah! Again!” Julian urged. Jumping from the pool edge and into John had been his favorite pastime of the recent sunny days, and he didn’t look like he was tiring from it. 

“Alright, up up up!” John lifted Julian toward the side of the pool, standing ready in case he fell as he scrambled out. Within seconds, Julian was firmly on the stone pool deck, ready to once again spring into John’s outstretched embrace. 

“Can I go?” Julian was practically bouncing on his heels, still as excited as the first time he jumped in.

“Go on!” 

Julian propelled himself into the air, landing in the same place and causing the same waves. He squealed with the same measure of joy, wrapping his arms around John’s neck and blending their freckles together in a chlorine-scented hug. 

“That’s my little man!” John laughed, nuzzling a few kisses into Julian’s matching hair. “You’re turning into a jumper and a swimmer!”

“You said I was a fish, though,” Julian pointed out.

“I don’t see why you can’t be all three. Or, maybe,” John paused for a moment, “maybe you’re a flying fish!” 

“Daddy, fish can’t fly!” 

“They can, too! Your Dada and I saw them when we were in Florida, in America.”

“Really, Dada?” Julian turned to find Paul, who was still in the shallowest end with Heather. 

“Really,” Paul affirmed, chuckling inwardly that Julian was already catching on to John’s tendency for telling tall tales. “We’ve seen them in other places, too.”

“Do they fly like birds?” Julian was now fully focused on the concept of avian fish. 

“Not exactly,” Paul explained. “They don’t have wings, but their fins act—” 

“Shark!” Heather cut in. Her open palms smacked the surface of the pool sending water droplets in myriad directions. "Sharks have fins!"

“Yes they do, sweetheart!” Paul approved, lowering himself in the water to give her a celebratory kiss before continuing on. “Flying fish have fins kind of like small wings. The fish jump out of the water and the wings help them glide along for a little while, just like the gliders in that airplane book Aunt Jackie gave you.” 

“Do we have a book on flying fish, too, Dada?” Julian asked earnestly. 

“No, but would you like to get one?” 

“Yes, please! Daddy can make the pictures, right?” 

Paul and John had long ago decided that their son’s occasional lack of understanding was one of the most adorable things about him. John had been drawing pictures for both children since they were born, but when Julian became a bit more conscious of the world around him, John had produced a plethora of animal illustrations. Sometimes it still confused Julian to learn that not all drawings of animals, including those in published books by professional artists, were done by his father. 

“I can draw some pictures of flying fish just for you and then we can go to the bookshop in town and let you pick out a book on them, too,” John promised. “Does that sound okay?” 

Julian nodded. Going out with his parents wasn’t a frequent occurrence, and doing so in large crowds made him nervous, but he liked the local bookshop. Sometimes John would take him and let him sit in the small children’s armchair for hours, reading books and studying their illustrations. He was turning into a prolific reader for a child his age, and John had taken to buying him books in the six-year-old range. It could be easy to forget he was really only four. 

“What do you say to trying a little bit of swimming now, Jules? Then you’ll really be a flying fish.” John smiled encouragingly. 

“You’ll help me?”

“Of course, just like we’ve practiced. You work on kicking and using your arms and I’ll get you around your stomach. Be careful though, I might tickle you!” John moved one of his hands to Julian’s side, dancing his fingers just enough to make Julian shriek. 

“Daddy no! No, don’t!” Julian couldn’t help the giggles that escaped him. He thrashed around in John’s arms, churning the water into bubbles. 

“If you’re a flying fish, maybe I’m an octopus!” John slowed the gentle tickling and began to pull Julian through the water. 

“Like in Uncle Ringo’s song!” Julian loved that melody. It was so happy to him, and the lyrics of everyone being warm and safe were particularly pleasing. 

“Just like that!” John towed Julian through the water, keeping his head up and supporting his middle. “What do you think Heather should be?”

Julian’s small voice, not easily heard above the cacophony of his strokes, pronounced that Heather should be a seahorse, and at John’s prompting, it was decided Paul was a jellyfish. It wasn’t a walrus, but Paul supposed it would do. He wasn’t picky with the roles he was assigned in dress up or more spontaneous pretend moments like this one. Just being able to play with his kids was enough for him. So much so that the thought of Julian starting nursery school in autumn made Paul a little melancholy. 

He and John had grown accustomed to spending practically each of their children’s waking minutes with them. The only exceptions were press and band events, and even then, the kids had been with members of the family: Mimi, Mike, John’s sisters, etc. Julian’s schooling was going to be a big change for everyone, even Heather. As free spirited as she could be, she adored Julian, following his lead and imitating his every move. But in about a month and a half, she’d be in an older sibling role of her own, which would likely help her with the transition. 

There was still time before all that, though, and days like this were to be enjoyed, not used as a cause for worry. So Paul let his anxiety go, playing quietly with Heather and watching John guide Julian across the shallow end. It always amazed him how much energy children had, and it was well into the afternoon before Julian and Heather started to slow down a bit.

“Getting tired, baby?” John eased Julian into a floating position and took him a bit more into his arms. 

“No, I wanna keep swimming,” Julian protested, but a yawn began to sneak out. He closed his mouth in an attempt to hide it. “Can I jump again?”

“I think it might be nap time,” Paul said. “Heather’s a bit sleepy, too.”

“But I don’t need naps anymore,” Julian insisted. 

“You don’t need them as often, baby,” John affirmed, “but we all need them now and again. I still like to nap. It’s good for us.”

“Will you nap with me?” Julian asked. His arms were wrapped around John’s neck again, and his head slumped against John’s shoulder. 

“I can’t today, but Dada and I will be here when you wake up,” John promised. 

“Mhmm,” Julian mumbled. He was getting more tired by the minute, and the rapidity of it surprised Paul. Julian hadn’t been falling asleep very quickly the past few weeks.  

All the same, Paul chuckled as he picked up Heather and waded out of the pool. “If he falls asleep now, you’re gonna have a soggy time putting him to bed.”

“Just wrap him in a towel, stick him under the covers, I don’t see the problem,” John laughed. 

“Father of the year award right here.” 

“Alright now Macca, who tried to dry off Heather’s shoes by the fire at the farm and ended up melting them instead?” John challenged with a playful eyebrow. 

“Thank God they weren’t her rain boots. Julian would have had a breakdown, too.” Paul shuddered at the thought. That had been a poor evening for all involved, but Julian would have been heartbroken if his birthday present to Heather, those yellow rain boots just like his, had melted instead of her small tennis shoes.

“Well, there’s still time for a double meltdown today, if you try hard enough.”  

“Can’t think why I’d ever avoid that,” Paul said over his shoulder, where John was stepping out of the pool. 

He had a sleepy Julian against his chest, freckled arms holding their son close. John’s swim trunks fit him well, not overly taught nor baggy. His arms were more than slightly muscular and spattered in freckles, just like his shoulders and back. Water droplets fell from the tips of his hair and slid in a path down his legs. It was an extraordinarily attractive sight, and Paul had to force himself to stop staring. 

Looking at John had always been a little intoxicating, each glance like a hint of a half of whiskey that seemed too strong and yet went down with surprising smoothness once you took the chance to drink it in one swig. 

That’s what had happened, exactly 14 years ago. Paul had been taken with John, in some form or another, as soon as they met. The Lennon whiskey had been drunk in one motion and Paul found his friend to be most amiable. He was surprised, however, that few others thought of John as wonderfully as he did. 

Over time it had made more sense. His father for a while, George at first, patrons at the same bars… they’d all tried to take John down in sips. It was rough and burning and unpleasant that way. It affronted the nose and assaulted the tastebuds and stung at the eyes. That way made it impossible to understand how a drink with such qualities could be so enjoyed by anyone, especially Paul, so proper and well-raised. 

But those around the two of them had come to see what Paul saw in John, and what the strength of their bond meant. Their friendship had lasted 14 years, after all. Half of Paul’s life. And it was something more now anyway.

“You have a good swim, Paulie?” John nudged him. 

“Didn’t swim near as much as Jules did,” Paul laughed. He set Heather down on the reclining pool chairs and began to gently pat her dry. Martha, lying in the chair’s shade, looked up with interest. “He’s taking after you in that way especially.” 

“We’ll have to go to the ocean sometime soon. This fish would love it. Here, Jules, stand up for me, please.” John set Julian down, seemingly half asleep on his feet, and wrapped a towel around him. “And Heather would like the sand, I reckon.” 

“Not to mention you’d enjoy it,” Paul teased. 

“Of course. Why’d you think I suggested it?” John deadpanned, scooping Julian back up.

“Ah, I forgot that you are solely motivated for personal gain, sir.” Paul followed suit with Heather and the couple began to make their way up the small set of steps to the house. 

“Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to share my enthusiasm,” John grinned. 

“Good Lord, Johnny.” Paul rolled his eyes. 

“Maybe even this afternoon… ”   

“John!” Paul shushed his husband in a whisper. “You know how busy we’re about to be. You haven’t even begun to look through those booklets.” 

“But Paulie,” John pretended to whine as they crossed the threshold into the house, Martha on their heels, “it’s our unofficial anniversary!” 

“And tomorrow is Ringo’s party and we’ll be up there for a few days.” Paul closed the door behind them. “We can’t keep putting this off, love. Once August comes, we’ll be much too busy getting ready for Trio to make a good decision about school.”

“Coming up quick, isn’t it? We haven’t even thought of names yet.” 

“Well, it’s your turn to pick the first name, y’know, since I chose Julian and we decided together about Heather. Any ideas?” 

“You mean we’re not just going to keep calling them Trio?” John joked. 

“And I suppose we’ll name the fourth one Quartette?” 

“That’s the middle name. The first name will be Barbershop.” 

Paul let out a laugh. John’s humor never failed to amuse him. “Well, they certainly won’t have to worry about having any other kids in their classes with that name. If it’s a girl, we can call her Barb, even.” 

“And if it’s a boy?” John challenged, enjoying that Paul was playing along. 

“Uh, maybe say Barb with a heavy accent so everyone thinks we’re saying Bob?”

“Alright, I’m sold. When can we start planning for the fourth one?” 

“After we get these two down for their nap and read through those booklets.”

“Spoil sport.” 

Upstairs in the nursery, Paul changed Heather out of her bathing suit and into a soft cotton romper, tucking her into her new toddler bed and under the throw blanket that usually rested on the rocking chair. It was hard to believe Heather would only be in the room for a few more weeks before moving into one a few doors over. Then there’d be a new little one in the nursery.

In Julian’s room, John managed to get Julian out of his trunks and into some shorts and a loose shirt before he fell fully asleep, which was helpful for all involved: he was as loose as an eel once he first dozed off. Martha joined the spirit of the room by curling up on the rug. 

“He looks so much like you, darling,” Paul murmured, coming into Julian’s room and wrapping his arms around his husband’s bare middle. Together they looked at their sleeping son with reverend fondness. “He’s getting so many freckles this summer, too. And Heather.” 

“Mmm,” John hummed. He leaned back into Paul’s embrace. “Their hair is getting a bit lighter, too. Jules is already lighter than mine ever was. Reckon he’ll be a proper ginger at some point?”

“Nah, but he’s shaping up to be right auburn. Not as much brown as you have.”

“Think you would have gone for me if I was a ginger?” 

“It would have clashed with that orange button-up you were wearing, but I just might have. You got me hooked from more than just your looks, y’know.” 

“Can’t believe you still remember what I wore,” John chuckled. 

“I know you remember what I was wearing,” Paul returned, kissing the back of John’s neck. 

“White sports coat, red carnation, one curl in the front of your hair.” John sounded pleased with himself that he remembered, but his voice was also content. 

That day was such a happy memory for the two of them. If something had changed, if things hadn’t worked out, it could have been a most unpleasant recollection. But as it stood, the day was a perfect and even hallowed moment in time. So many wonderful things had grown from it. Including the child in front of them and the one next door. 

“Let’s let him sleep, Johnny. He’s had a long day in the sun.” 

“To the booklets then?” John asked with resignation.

“To the booklets,” Paul confirmed, sealing the fate of John’s afternoon. 

The booklets in question covered nearby nursery schools, one of which would hopefully provide Julian’s next few years of education. He was just as bright as John had been at that age, and with his quiet but friendly disposition, he would benefit greatly from interacting with other kids. His parents could see him thriving at practically any well-run school, but choosing one came with two rather pressing problems. 

The first was that Julian was a moderately famous child. Even if the public didn’t know Paul was his second parent, they knew John was his biological father. Fame had made it hard enough for the band to live somewhat normal lives as young adults. Julian had to deal with it from the moment he was born. Choosing a school that allowed his peers to gawk at him or gave him excessively different treatment would give him an unhealthy skew of the world. 

The second problem – which, in an ideal world, would not have been an issue at all – was that Julian didn’t yet understand the rarity of his parents’ union, nor that it was secret, nor that it would likely be heavily frowned upon if the public found out. An older child may have been able to understand the nuances of the situation, if it were explained to them, but Julian wasn’t at that level of cognitive abilities. Besides, neither of his parents wanted to taint his innocence too soon. He wasn’t likely to take the news that his parents’ love was only recently legal (and that a large number of the public despised that type of affection) well. 

Thus John and Paul were left with the very real possibility that at some point in Julian’s early education, he would tell his peers or teachers about his “Dada and Daddy” and the family they had together. And how would John explain that to the board of directors? 

‘My four-year-old calls my former bandmate Dada because it’s easier, not because he’s really my husband and my child’s other parent.’ Such an explanation would be heavily doubted at best. Whichever school they selected had to be willing to turn a blind eye and keep the secret all at once. 

It was a tall order, one that had them nearly convinced they should homeschool Julian, but the importance of socializing him and giving him as regular an upbringing as possible won out, and the search for a school was upon them in earnest.

“So how far away are we looking?” John asked as he surveyed the library table, covered in pamphlets and brochures. 

“Well, you’ll be the one picking him up and such.” Paul picked up a booklet. “How far away are you willing to drive?” 

“… Macca.” 

“Hmm?” Paul didn’t look up from the leaflet on ‘St. George’s Early Primary School.’ 

“Macca,” John said again. 

“Yes darling?” 

“That question you just asked.”

“What about it?”

“I can’t.” 

“Can’t what?” Paul finally raised his eyes. 

“I can’t drive.” 

“I know that, love.”

 “I know that you know, it’s just that, what I meant was that I can’t drive. I mean, I can’t pick Jules up. Or drop him off.”

Paul cocked his head. “What…?” Then it hit him. He slumped back in his chair. “Right. How on Earth… Why didn’t I…” 

John nodded in commiseration. “I didn’t think of it either until just now.”

“Is there any way I could do it? Drop him off without it being suspicious?” 

“Maybe once in a while. He could take the bus, too, I guess.”

“John love, you see how nervous he gets when you have to take him in public or when he meets new people. I doubt he’ll fare well on a school bus with no one he knows.”  

“Maybe he’d get over it?” John ventured cautiously. 

“Maybe,” Paul sighed. “I suppose you could go with him on the bus for the first few days and just catch the city line back home. That might get him used to it.” 

“I guess we could try it.”

“That’s assuming the school has bus services. Not all of them do, especially the ones that only do nursery education.” 

John had no reply to this. There was no evident solution, no quick fix for everyone involved. They’d barely started the school process and already it was falling to bits. It reminded Paul of a tricky spot in their songwriting, one that they struggled to make headway on until one of them thought up an ingenious solution – a bridge, a new chorus, a riff. Only this time, it wasn’t their album’s success on the line. It was their son’s wellbeing. 

They both sat in silence, looking out the library windows and onto the main lawn, a view that didn’t afford them a look at the pool and veranda. It was a nice piece of property, in addition to the house itself. Tall hedges and a thick cluster of trees ringed the lot lines, and the foliage was lovely year-round. The oak and chestnut leaves were varying shades of green in summer, casting shade on flower beds and small topiaries, most of which had been planted or gifted by George. Paul was more of a farmer than a flower gardener, and John became somewhat bored after a certain amount of weeding and digging. 

Julian was the one who enjoyed gardening the most, happily following George around Friar Park and learning the names of new flowers or shrubs. Heather, too, was taking a shine to the process, perhaps encouraged by her name. Looking at flowers, even from a distance, reminded John and Paul of both their children, and the lengths they would go to protect them. How could they resolve this issue of schooling and still keep Julian safe from the world’s bigotry?

“Maybe we should move and change our names,” Paul finally said in a joking manner. “Wear wigs or–”

“Wait.” John was suddenly sitting up, eyes set. 

“What–” Paul started but he was again cut off. 

“Shh.” John held up his hand and turned his head just slightly. He was listening for something. 

Paul did as asked, listening too. But for what? He hadn’t heard whatever John thought he heard. Had it come from outside? Inside? Upstairs or downstairs? Seconds ticked by. Nothing. John’s shoulders loosened. 

“Sorry,” he said. “I thought I heard something.”

Paul opened his mouth to ask what the imagined sound had been, but then they both heard something. A deep, guttural sound that was urgent in its intensity. A bark. Then another. Martha. 

Their eyes connected over the pile of leaflets. Martha. She’d followed them into the house, then up to the bedrooms. Julian’s. She’d fallen asleep in his room. She wouldn’t have left unless…

“Julian.” Paul said it in a whisper. John, in a waver. 

They moved simultaneously. 

John, closest to the library door, bolted up from his seat and out of the room. The chair toppled over behind him, the carved back smacking against the wooden floorboards. Paul was only a split second behind him, their bare feet making a terrified rhythm as they pounded into the sunroom. The pool was mere seconds away. Paul just hoped they were in time. 

Julian’s rapid journey to sleep flashed into John’s mind as he all but broke the sunroom door open. Had Julian been faking it, trying to fool him and Paul? Had he been so tired that a short “power” nap was all he needed? Whatever the reason, the result was clear: when John and Paul burst out onto the veranda steps, Julian was in plain view, struggling to stay afloat in the middle of the pool. 

“Julian!” John took the stairs three at a time, nearly tripping himself up on the final jump to the pool deck. He didn’t pause to remove any articles of clothing before diving straight into the churning chlorine concoction. 

The moment froze before Paul’s eyes. His husband half in and half out of the pool. Their son trying desperately to keep his head above water, coughing up water as he continued to inadvertently drink more of it. Martha, barking with what must have been impressive volume but Paul realized he couldn’t hear anything. Not the splashing in the pool, not Julian’s coughing. Nothing. Everything was frozen. 

Paul’s breath caught in his throat, and he wanted to cry out for Julian but he couldn’t. He felt like he was drowning himself, choking on air. He desperately wanted to follow John into the water, to help immediately, but something in his stagnant brain told him not to. That would only heighten an already chaotic situation. Instead, he found himself kneeling by the edge, watching as John lifted their son from below. 

Everything remained silent until all at once Julian was within reach and then the coughing and the gurgling and the splashing flooded back in. It was overwhelming and it was all Paul could do to keep himself steady.

“It’s alright baby, Daddy’s got you,” Paul soothed, hearing the cracks in his own voice. “Stay calm for him, it’s alright, you’re gonna be alright.” Paul tried to push down the realization that he needed the reassurances as much as Julian did. 

With a few one-armed strokes, John was at the edge of the pool, hoisting Julian up and out, just as he had done this morning. Only this time, Paul was there to grab Julian, immediately turning him round and clapping him on the back, forcing the water out of his throat.  

“Stay calm, baby,” Paul practically implored. “You’re alright, we’re right here.” 

Julian continued coughing as John hauled himself out of water. The sound was grating, and John could practically feel the sensation himself. Water burning the back of his throat, threatening to bring up the rest of his stomach, that tide of fear when for split seconds at a time, you realize you can’t breathe.

Martha had ceased barking, but she was nervously pacing next to Paul, whining desperately. John found himself regretting every silent irritation he’d ever expressed toward her. Without her, Julian would have… No. No, he couldn’t think about that now. Not when the situation was still unfolding before their eyes. 

“You’re alright, yeah?” Paul helped Julian turn around to face him. Both pairs of eyes were red and both sets of cheeks flushed pink. “Is it more normal now? Can you breathe?”

Julian nodded meekly, automatically beginning to breathe in time with the way John rubbed his back. 

“That’s it, deep breaths now, baby,” John encouraged. 

“Did Heather come out with you?” Paul asked, leaning down a bit more to meet Julian’s eyes. 

He dropped his small gaze to the ground and shook his head. John looked back into the pool, just to be safe, but it was empty. Heather was still asleep. Both parents shared a sigh of relief. 

“Let’s get you dried off,” Paul said, taking Julian’s hand and straightening up. 

But Julian didn’t budge. His feet stayed fixed on the stone tiles and his eyes remained fixed on his feet. 

“Jules, it’s alright.” Paul squatted down again. “We just need to get you cleaned up, yeah?”

Julian shook his head. 

“Can you talk to us, baby?” John tried, realizing he’d barely said anything since getting Julian out of the pool. 

Again, Julian shook his head. 

“Hey, what’s going on? Dada and I are right here. We’ve got you.” 

This time, though no words passed Julian’s lips, another sound became audible. It sounded as though he might need to blow his nose, and John figured that made sense – maybe some water had gotten up it – but then the noise stuttered. Seconds later, it returned, but this time in greater volume. Crying. Julian was crying. 

“Oh Jules, it’s alright, you’re alright. That must have been scary for you, huh?” John used his own memories of accidentally taking a mouthful of water and returned his hand to Julian’s back. “I’m sorry it was scary baby. But it’s fine now. Everything’s alright.” 

Julian’s tears continued to fall, and his small sobs only grew in volume. He yanked his hand out of Paul’s grasp and instead wrapped both arms around Paul’s leg. It was soaked within seconds. John and Paul exchanged glances. 

You want me to carry him up, Macca?

Yeah, I’ll meet you in his room. 

Grab a towel if you will.

Won’t take a moment. 

“Come on Jules, up you go.” John stooped and gently pried Julian’s fingers from Paul’s leg. Then, despite the loud sobbing, John picked Julian up and held him close against his chest. “It’s okay baby, I’ve got you.” 

Thoughts ran through both John and Paul’s minds as they ascended the stairs back to the house. Had Julian really fallen asleep that quickly? Had he faked it? How long had he been in the pool on his own? Did them treating him as a slightly older child make him think he could more than he was safely capable of? How should they reprimand him, if at all? It was enough to make their heads spin even more. 

But then, as they stepped into the house and John turned toward the inner stairwell and Paul toward to the downstairs linen closet, they paused. Julian was still crying in John’s arms, and both of them were dripping wet, but they took a moment to lean together, foreheads touching. It would be alright. 

 

 

____________________________________________________

 

 

Bedtime that night was a nontraditional affair. Julian had remained rather quiet for the rest of the day, and when Paul tried to tuck him in after John read him and Heather a chapter of “Treasure Island”, he became teary eyed and nervous. He wasn’t about to feel comfortable anywhere without his parents. 

So when John came in to kiss Julian goodnight, it was decided. Paul scooped Julian out of his bed, John did the same with Heather, and the four of them retired to the master bedroom. 

It was a large room, with bookcases and two armchairs facing each other over a low coffee table. A window seat framed the large window, which faced southeast and let in the morning sun through Tudor-style panes. The ceiling was vaulted, giving the room an illusion that it was a little bigger than its actual footprint. 

The bed itself was a four-poster creation. Each post had been hand-carved, allowing for slight differences in the patterns and shapes. Drapes were pulled back and fastened at the headboard, rarely used to close off the bed from the surrounding room. They’d stay open tonight, too, so John and Paul could watch the moon rise. 

They lay Julian and Heather in the middle of the bed, then climbed up on either side, cocooning them in the middle. Julian, already drowsy from being in Paul’s arms, curled up against him. Heather, who had been asleep after the second paragraph of the chapter, reached out in her sleep and closed her small hand around John’s thumb. 

“Can’t believe she’s gonna be a big sister soon,” John murmured, getting comfortable before placing her onto his chest. Utterly relaxed, she began to drool onto his sternum, but John didn’t seem to mind. Instead, he ran his free hand through her hair, untangling the ends. 

“Mmm,” Paul agreed from the other side of the bed. He lay facing John and Heather, one arm draped across Julian. “And Jules is gonna be old enough to remember this time, maybe.”

John hummed. “Reckon Heather will?” 

“Probably until she’s four or so. Then it’ll go away, probably.”

“That what the parenting books say?” 

“Mhmm.” Paul sounded tired, and a smile played its way onto John’s face. 

“You been reading them again?”

“A little,” Paul admitted. “Been a while since we had a little one.” 

“Heather’s not even three yet, darling,” John reminded. “Besides, it’s just like riding a bicycle.”

“What, taking care of newborns?” Paul had to chuckle at that.  

“Sure. Just figure out the gears for each one, but the process itself is pretty similar, isn’t it?”

“I suppose so.” Paul smiled. “I wonder if Trio will be more like Jules or Heather was as a baby.” 

“Hopefully she’ll sleep like Heather, at least.”

“… She?” Paul raised his head, taking care not to disturb Julian. 

“Yeah,” John said softly, continuing to stroke Heather’s hair. It had the same texture as his, and it was so odd and wonderful to think that the tiny person on his chest had come from him. Something he had made. Something so beautiful. “I had a dream, the last night we were at the farm, that Trio’s gonna be a girl.” 

“What else happened in the dream? Did I grow wings and fly up the chimney?” Paul cocked an eyebrow in the dark, rather amused.

John shook his head, rustling against the pillow. “No, it was a quiet dream. It started out on Christmas, when you surprised me with the ultrasound. And then, in the dream, I knew it was gonna be a girl. And it went through the whole year up to now, the dream did. Except I could see Trio with us the whole time. Like she was a magic spirit. She came along when we went places or watched television or read to the kids. And the whole dream I kept knowing she was a girl.” 

“Johnny… That’s lovely. Why didn’t you tell me?” Normally they told each other their dreams. At least the ones they clearly remembered. 

“Well at first I thought it was just an ordinary dream and didn’t mean much. But since then, I’ve kept feeling it. Like it was real. Like Trio really is gonna be a girl.”

“I bet she is,” Paul murmured. “Gonna have another little baby girl, Johnny.” 

John detached his hand from Heather’s hair and reached across Julian to cup Paul’s cheek. “I think I have a name, too.”

“Oh?” Paul leaned into the touch, kissing John’s palm. 

John nodded in the dark. “If it is a girl… I, I want to name her Mary.”

“A-after me mum?” Paul felt his eyes sting. 

“Yeah. After your mum.” John stroked Paul’s cheek. “I know I never met her, but she must have been wonderful from how you’ve always talked about her, and to have raised a son like you. And I think Trio’s gonna be from you, too, so I figure it’ll be nice that way. A baby Macca or something. She’ll be a proper little McCartney.” 

“A Lennon-McCartney,” Paul managed, whispering past his tears. “I love you so much.” 

“I love you, too, darling.” John shifted Heather onto the bed, next to Julian, and leaned across them to kiss his husband. “I can’t wait to meet her. You’re gonna be such a good dad to her, too.”

“You are, too, Johnny.” Paul wiped his eyes. They leaned their foreheads together for a moment, like they had that afternoon, Julian crying against John’s shoulder. Quite a contrast to now, with Julian slumbering between them, only the quiet intake and expelling of breath. Paul broke the silence with a question. “What if Trio’s a boy, though?” 

“I knew you’d ask that,” John grinned. “I was thinking we could name him Paul, but–”

“Absolutely not,” Paul cut him off. He was weirdly adamant that none of their children be named after him. 

“I knew you’d say that, too,” John chuckled to himself. “Instead, I was thinking, uh, James, if that’s alright.” 

“For Dad? For Jim?” Paul again felt his eyes water. 

“A bit for you, but yeah, it’s really for Jim. It wasn’t always easy for you and us with him, but you always said he tried his best. And he’s come round all the way. He loves the kids, too.”

“Yeah.” Paul swallowed his overflowing joy, not wanting to wake Julian and Heather. “You’re so wonderful. I’m so grateful for 14 years ago today, and every moment since then.” 

“So am I, darling.” John leaned in for another kiss. “And I’d gladly take 14 more.”

“What about 15?” Paul asked as they settled back on the mattress, children between them and the moon beginning to cast its light on the quilt. 

“For you, my love? I’ll take them all.”