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A Rose By Any Other Name

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"Who loves Uncle Laurie? I know who," Laurie cooed. "His name starts with a T and I get him all to myself today!" He scooped up his nephew and swung the giggling boy around.

"Now, don't get into any trouble," Jo warned.

"I won't let them, I solemnly swear," Amy said.

"Thank you for doing this, you two. It means so much."

"Of course, Jo," Amy hugged her sister. She wasn't sure why it was so hard for Jo to ask for help. Friedrich had to convince his wife to follow through with this plan, and Amy was glad he did. "I consider it... paying it forward. Aunt March took me in to keep me away from scarlet fever, so the least I can do now is take Teddy away from chickenpox. How is poor Rob doing?"

"Better. Fritz and I have our hands full between him and Jack and Tommy... we've tried to send away as many of the others as possible but some of their parents- if they have them- don't want them back..." Jo trailed off, looking even sadder for a moment.

"Well, we'll take good care of this one," Laurie brought the subject back to Teddy. Jo's babies cheered her up immensely, for she loved them both dearly. "It'll be good practice for us," Laurie added with a wink.

Jo gasped. "Really?"

Amy nodded, equal parts excited and anxious. "I didn't want to tell anyone until I felt something. The baby first kicked last week. You're the third to know, after Marmee and Father. I'd like to tell Meg and John myself."

"Of course, I won't breathe a word about it- Oh, Amy! I'm so excited for you!"

"Heart's dearest?" Fritz called from the doorway. "I hate to cut your goodbyes short, but Jack will not settle. He wants Mother Bhaer."

Jo sighed, pinning her hair back in place. "I hope they all get better soon. They've been so miserable... goodbye Teddy, have fun with Uncle Laurie and Aunt Amy, okay?" She kissed his chubby cheek, and petted his curls one more time.

"Otay Mama," Teddy waved a tiny hand. Laurie thought he could see Jo's lips tremble for a moment before she said goodbye one more time and ran up the steps. She refused to let herself look back or she may take her baby back. She hated being apart from him, even when she knew it was best.

"He took it well?" Fritz asked, a worried crease between his eyebrows.

"Yes. You got his little suitcase in the carriage, right?"

"Yes, before I even said goodbye."

"He thinks it's only for the day. What if he gets homesick?" Jo looked up at her husband.

"Dearest, I'm sure Laurie will make the visit so fun that we will have to drag him home." Fritz stroked his wife's cheek, pressing a kiss to her temple. "They will keep him safe."

Jo took a deep breath, then nodded. "I know. Now, which one of the boys needed me?"

With that, the pair were back to fighting off chickenpox, trying to soothe the three miserable boys.

While the state of Plumfield was chaotic, things were going blessedly smoothly at the Laurence mansion. Laurie knew just how to cure Teddy of his restlessness, and Amy always distracted him from asking many questions about his mother and father coming to get him.

"I'd say I have experience when it comes to entertaining poor young castaways," Laurie joked. "Who have been sent away to houses that are old and scary and boring."

Amy rolled her eyes. "Will you ever let me live that down?"

"Someday, my lady."

On the seventh day, Teddy was more restless than usual, checking out the window periodically. "Mama," he started saying. "I wan Mama."

"Maybe tomorrow," Laurie said, trying to deflect, "Do you want to go outside?"

"Go see Mama?"

"Not today."

Teddy scrunched up his funny little thinking face. "See Papa? I wan Papa."

"He'll come to get you when your mama does. Soon."

That answer wasn't good enough for Teddy, it seemed. He stuck his little lip out and pouted. Laurie, sensing trouble, scooped him up. "Um... your Mama and Papa are on a little trip." He didn't want to worry Teddy by mentioning all the sickness. "And when they get back, they'll bring you home. Until then, we have to pass the time here, deal?"

"I wan Mama," Teddy wailed.

"Oh..." Laurie started panicking. "Um, oh... what would Jo do? What would Jo do?"

Teddy looked up. "Doe?"

"Jo," Laurie repeated. His nephew stared back at him blankly. "Your mother?"

"Who Doe?"

"I- your Mama. What's your Mama's name?"


Laurie tried a different example first. "What's your Papa's name? What does Mama call Papa?"

"Fizz." Teddy tried his hardest, but couldn't pronounce all the letters.

"Yeah, that's right, Fritz is his name. Now, what is Mama's name? What does Fritz call her?"

Teddy grinned and said, "Has Deest!"


Two weeks.

Jo had never been away from any of her children for so long. All three of the infected boys had finally recovered, and the rooms they had resided in scrubbed clean. The others who had to stay were finally brought out of their quarantine and could interact with the three they had all missed. Meg came over with Daisy and Demi. She and Jo watched the reunion with relief.

"I'm so glad it's over," Jo sighed. "I hope it stays that way. I get so anxious when they're sick. Then Fritz has to calm my nerves while he helps everyone else."

"I get it, I get the same way when my kids are ill."

"It just reminds me of Beth. When they don't open their eyes..."

"They're better now," Meg took her sister's hand. "Look at them." She pointed to Franz, who had Rob sitting upon his shoulders. Rob had missed his cousin while he was recovering. He thought of him like an older brother.

"You're right. And Laurie is supposed to bring Teddy back home today."

"Speak of the devil and he shall appear!" Laurie came around the corner, a fidgety Teddy in his arms. Jo ran to them when she saw Teddy had his arms outstretched towards her. She took her baby back and peppered kisses all over his little face.

"Teddy!" one of the boys shouted. It was Emil, who ran to his little cousin first. Franz headed to the house to get Fritz.

"Teddy's back!" Soon most of the boys were crowded around, and Teddy was passed around for hugs and pats on the head from everyone. Eventually, he was placed back into his father's arms, where he laid his head on his shoulder contentedly.

"Did you have fun at Laurie and Amy's, Little Bhaer?" Jo asked. Teddy nodded.

"He missed you all, but we still managed to have some fun," Laurie said. "Also, I found something out."

"What is that?" Fritz asked.

"Listen. Teddy?" Laurie smiled at his nephew. "Can you tell me again, what is Mama's name?"

"Hars Deerst!" Teddy answered with complete confidence, making his father turn red. Uncle Laurie had been working with him on the letter R. Jo gasped.

Meg started laughing. "Did you teach him that?"

"No, I promise," Laurie said, "That's what he thinks, that's what he said when I asked him."

He paused when he saw Jo blinking back tears. "I am the luckiest woman in the world," she exclaimed. "To have a husband so sweet to me that someone thinks my name is heart's dearest!" She laughed, petting Teddy's hair.

"It's no less than a woman such as thee deserves," Fritz said, drawing his wife close with one arm and pressing a kiss to the top of her head.

"That's silly," Rob chimed in. "I know Mama's first name."

"Really? What is it?" Laurie asked.

"It's Jo-my-love, and you all call her Jo for short," the five-year-old answered with full confidence, only to look dismayed when his uncle and Aunt Meg started to laugh. "What's so funny?" he demanded to know. "What's so funny?!"