Kate wrinkled her nose, thinking that it smelled a bit more like a forest fire than it should.
She opened her eyes and looked around.
“Yes?” He sounded peeved.
Anthony had gotten up early with Edmund, who had insisted that he needed to go potty “right now!” They had mercifully let Kate go back to sleep, but it appeared that they hadn’t rejoined her.
“Is something burning?
“Yes, the fucking bacon.”
“Swear jar!” She could hear Hyacinth and Gregory giggling from their tent.
“Papa, look!” Edmund sounded delighted.
“Yes, it’s smoke.”
Kate sighed, sitting up. She tugged on her boots, tied up her hair, and made her way out of the tent.
Anthony looked up when he heard the crunch of her boots, and he stared just a moment too long.
He was doing this a lot lately, seemed to drink her in without trying.
What is he seeing?
She had asked once, and he had seemed embarrassed, slightly flustered.
Daphne had also noticed it, had apparently asked him as well.
He just can’t believe he got so lucky, Daphne had shared.
Truth be told, Kate couldn’t believe she had either.
Married life wasn’t anything like Kate had expected. She supposed she had movies, television, books to thank for the idea that life would eventually boil down to chores and resenting each other for things like socks on the floor or toilet seats left up. And their life wasn’t without those things, but she and Anthony had always been as vocal as they were particular. Resentments didn’t last – they spoke freely, battled each other. And they always made up, always seemed to return to the fact that they couldn’t live without each other.
Before getting together, Kate had been so used to hating Anthony, so used to looking at him with disdain. That seemed like a long time ago. She still often wanted to kill him, and as she had guessed, he drove her crazy much of the time. But now, even years into their marriage, she got butterflies in her stomach when she looked at him, and her heart skipped a beat when he smiled at her.
Maybe it was that she had never felt so seen, so accepted, so thoroughly wanted as she was. There was still a nakedness in Anthony's eyes when he looked at her, even when they fought, even on their more challenging days.
She had also started catching herself staring at him more. She noticed the slight curl of his hair, the twinkle in his eye, the dimple between his brows that she teased made him look thoughtful. Once reserved only for her, his smile seemed to flash more and more at other people.
It was delightful to see the warmth Anthony had for their son, the joy he seemed to feel at seeing Edmund learn, grow. He liked to say that Edmund was fearless like her, adventurous like her, loving like her. She liked seeing the ways Edmund mimicked his father, the way he sometimes furrowed his brow in just the way his father did, the way he put his foot down and wouldn’t budge in a way that was utterly familiar.
They were incredible, her two boys. Difficult, yes. Obstinate, yes. But loving, caring, steadfast. They were unbearably precious to her.
It also delighted Kate to see the friendship that had sprung up between Newton and Edmund. They were the best of friends, and it amused Kate to no end that Anthony seemed strangely, unexpectedly jealous.
“You didn’t even like Newton the first year we lived together,” she had pointed out.
“I still don’t like him.”
“So you’re just annoyed he gets so much time with your son?”
“Yes. What else would it be?”
“You aren’t disappointed that your napping buddy has made a new friend?”
“No?” She grinned.
“Fine. Yes. But I also would like more time with my son.”
“So go play with them.”
“Edmund said they were busy.”
Kate wondered if the glee she felt was visible on her face.
“I’m glad you’re amused.”
I guess it is.
“There’s bacon, everyone!” Anthony plunked a paper plate of slightly charred bacon onto the picnic table.
“Smells like burned bacon, brother dearest!” Benedict shouted from the tent.
“Edmund, go throw this into your uncle’s tent.” Anthony held up a piece of what appeared to be charcoal.
“Give it to Newton, love.”
Edmund looked up at her, and then he took the burned piece of bacon, feeding it to Newton.
“He doesn’t always get that you’re joking.”
“I wasn’t joking,” Anthony huffed.
Kate picked Edmund up, giving him a hearty hug and loud kiss on the cheek. He tried to push her away, but she could still see the grin on her son’s face.
“Ignore Papa. He’s just being silly. And he’s in a mood.”
“You know how Papa is.”
“Stop saying that!” Anthony glared.
“Did you see if Nana and Grammy were awake?”
“They said ten minutes.”
“Ah. Still sleeping?”
“Just getting dressed.” Mary shouted from the tent she was sharing with Violet.
Augie ran over, bouncing excitedly on his feet as he snuck a piece of bacon.
“Aunt Kate,” Anthony corrected.
Kate shot Anthony a look. “You can call me whatever you like, Aug.”
“Aunt Katie. Can Edmund play? I set up the hammocks.”
“What do you say, kiddo?”
Edmund furrowed his brow, clearly weighing his options. “Am I getting pancakes?”
“Of course. We’ll let you know as soon as Papa is done making them.”
“I’m pretty sure I enlisted someone to help me.”
“Your son who is a child and wants to play?”
Kate put Edmund down, quickly fixing his messy curls. “Go on, love.”
Edmund grinned and ran after Augie in the direction of a couple of mesh hammocks.
“Is your wife an acceptable substitute sous chef?”
“How are you with pancake batter?”
“I’m an excellent observer.”
“Thought so.” He pulled Kate toward him, kissing her slowly. “I love you.”
“I love you, too. How can I help?”
“Just have some coffee and see which of my brothers and sisters you can convince to help me.”
“It’s a lost battle, love.”
“I’ll help!” Edwina said cheerfully as she and Tom strolled up.
“Perfect!” Kate smiled.
“Where’s my favorite nephew?”
Kate nodded toward Edmund and Augie, who were straddling their hammocks, excitedly swinging side to side. Violet and Mary appeared to have joined them, and they stood by cheering the boys on.
“I believe he is riding a horse.”
“Ah. I wonder who is winning the race.”
Daphne came up, pouring herself some coffee. “I told Augie to let Edmund win once in a while.”
“How do they decide who wins?” Edwina watched the boys fondly as she picked up a bag full of pancake mix.
“Unclear, but they both seem able to tell.”
Benedict and Friedrich sauntered over, hand in hand. “Who’s ready for mimosas?”
Benedict held up a cooler.
Anthony sighed, “You brought champagne.”
“And orange juice.”
“Of course you did.”
“Of course we did!” Benedict smiled.
Anthony couldn’t believe the gall of his family. Or he could. But it surprised him just how thoroughly they had managed to thwart him and Kate.
They had planned to do a small camping trip, just him, Kate, Edmund, and Newton. It would be Edmund’s first trip, and their son vibrated with excitement when he learned he would be going with his parents.
But naturally, word had spread like wildfire, and before Anthony knew it, his entire family (and Kate's!) had managed to reserve campsites around theirs.
We might as well have reserved the whole fucking forest.
It annoyed him, how thoroughly their plans had changed, how much more preparation was required, but he couldn’t ignore how thrilled Edmund looked to have his cousin to play with, to have both his grandmothers available for cuddles at a moment’s notice.
Plus, they would have plenty of time to come again, just the four of them (or, if he was really lucky, Newton might even stay home). And they would go backpacking together someday. He couldn't wait.
Kate and Edwina were giggling with each other about something, and he realized he was staring.
He kept catching himself watching Kate, had been teased about it by his siblings.
It annoyed him, the teasing, but he couldn’t fault himself for the tendency to gaze at his wife. Kate was utterly mesmerizing. Tall, beautiful, with a mischievous glint in her eye. That would have been enough. But it was her heart that took his breath away. He saw it in little things that she did, the ways she took care of people, the verve with which she attacked life. It would never make sense to him that someone so incredible had given him a second look.
He had been more nervous on their wedding day than he had in the entirety of his life.
Benedict and Colin had to keep reminding him to stop pacing, to stop fidgeting with his cuffs, to stop checking to see if his hair looked alright. He had never been so concerned with his looks, but it terrified him that Kate would walk into the chapel and see anything she didn’t want in him.
Fortunately, once he saw her, he couldn’t think of anything else.
His nerves disappeared entirely as she walked in. Kate’s hair was down, and her dress was sinfully low cut, simple and elegant in a way that was so perfectly her.
Benedict cleared his throat discreetly. “Breathe, Ant.”
Kate often made it hard for him to think, but the fact that this woman wanted him, openly, apparently permanently, stopped his mind from turning.
Do not fucking cry, idiot.
It was Kate’s smile that did it. She seemed to see his feelings in his eyes, and her own eyes were surprisingly glassy.
He hadn’t ever wanted anyone or anything more.
It still surprised (and annoyed) Anthony that he could be so sappy, that Kate somehow turned him into a sentimental fool. But it seemed that it was an unavoidable part of being with her, of being married to her.
He couldn’t help but smile fondly as she jumped up and down and cheered as the two boys raced their hammock “horses.”
Benedict elbowed him. “You two are disgusting.”
“No worse than you and Fred.”
Friedrich rolled his eyes. “Friedrich.”
“Did you want this?”
Anthony stared at the tin cup in Benedict’s hand, looked down at his own cup.
“I have one.”
“I’m happy to drink it. Just wanted to offer you first dibs.”
“Whose is it?”
“She didn’t want it?”
“I offered, and she said, ‘I can’t.’”
“She what?” Anthony almost dropped his cup.
“Maybe she just isn’t feeling well?” Benedict’s eyes twinkled.
Benedict kept talking, but Anthony didn’t hear any more of what he said.
He didn’t want to get his hopes up, not yet.
And she’d tell me, wouldn’t she?
He gaped at his wife, wanting very much for a sinkhole to swallow up the rest of his family.
Anthony tried to get a moment alone with Kate, but his family seemed bent on stealing her from him for one thing or another.
“Hmmm?” He looked up at Daphne.
“You seem extra disgruntled.”
“Because I would like to have two seconds alone with my wife.”
“That’s all you need? Sad.”
“Ha. I’ve given up on that.”
“We’re sharing a sleeping bag with our son.”
“This campsite has showers…” Daphne grinned.
“Now you’ll just have to lure her away.”
“Like the rest of you will let me.”
Still, it wasn’t a bad idea.
“We like her, Ant. We love her, even.”
“So much so that you hog her all the time.”
“Life is full of these trials, Ant.”
Kate was surprised it had taken this long for Anthony to corner her, and she had been startled to find herself being physically yanked away from the campsite.
“Where are we going?”
“Anywhere else. I need a minute.”
“To manhandle me?”
“Trust me. I’d love to.”
“Kate, I swear-”
She almost laughed.
“Anthony, why did you pull me away from our son?”
“You aren’t drinking.”
“You didn’t want a mimosa?”
“But you didn’t take one.”
“Are you asking me something?”
“You are so fucking difficult.”
“You knew that when you married me.”
She could see a flicker of disappointment in his eyes.
For once, she took pity on him.
“Anthony. We’ve been trying.”
“Yeah, but with Edmund…”
That would still always hurt, was still a trial that made this time that much more of a miracle.
She had been about to say it when a voice rang out from their campsite.
“Kate, you didn’t drink your mimosa??”
“No, I didn’t want one.”
She could hear quieter, indistinct talking.
“What do you mean you ‘can’t’?”
“Kate??” Mary’s voice sounded thrilled.
“Could we have one fucking moment alone?” Anthony palmed his forehead.
“Swear jar!” Hyacinth and Gregory shouted.
“Wait, is Kate pregnant?” As usual, Eloise cut through the bullshit.
Anthony’s eyes shot back to Kate’s.
“You are?? Really?
Anthony stared for a moment, and then he picked her up, spinning her around. He put her down, cupping her face and kissing her hard.
Kate knew she was beaming as she pulled back.
She could hear Edwina squealing, could hear footsteps as everyone appeared to be rushing toward them.
Arms wrapped around her from behind – who could say whose they were? And she could vaguely hear chattering and cheering around them, even Newton’s barking. But she only had eyes for her husband, for her son who had run over to catch up with everyone else.
She picked up Edmund, leaning into Anthony as he kissed her again.
“I love you so much.”
“I love you, too.”
They both looked down.
“How would you like a little brother or sister?”
“Do I have to?”
Kate grinned. “Yes.”