Thursday, March 1, 2012

"Jeff is an ugly name anyways."

When Osiris and Isis dismissed us, I didn't have any reason, let alone the energy to be upset by the dismissal. I was kinda stunned they even let us in. I mean, yeah we made it through (most of) the desert, but we were still foreigners and we were still not-gods and we still just kinda showed up asking for a favor. Well, Gunnar did.

Anyway, they said they'd come get us in a while, a few hours. That they still had to work on her, that her body and soul and memories were all fine but that her mind needed to be taken care of. Or something.
And until then, we were on our own.
Left all by ourselves in the big palace of the Egyptian Death God in the underworld Duat. One word occurred to me: vacation.
"So," I grinned at Gunnar, then looked around us. "We've got nowhere we have to be, and nothing we really have to go do..."
This was my super-subtle attempt at talking my husband into bed. I was going to tell him that I had a great idea how to pass the time, and it involved him not wearing any pants.
I didn't get that far, though.
Funny thing about talking my super smart husband into bed, it didn't actually require all that much talking.

I woke up feeling awesome. I'd gotten fed, I'd gotten sleep, I'd gotten laid. But better than food and sex and the first sleep I'd had in like, forty days was the fact that I no longer had the sword of Glapion hanging over my head.
I cannot stress enough how amazing it feels to have a weight you've been carrying for almost a year finally lifted off your shoulders, and to know you have earned the reprieve.
Osiris and Isis still hadn't come to get us, and it had been... a while. I don't know how long. I still haven't replaced any of my watches since the combined efforts of Ixion and Kairos rendered me more or less possession-less. After a while Gunnar wanted to go looking for them to find out what was up, and I pretty much just wanted to be around him now that we weren't under constant threat of pain and death and doom. So I was trailing after him like a little puppy when we ran into Isis.
She told us to chill the fuck out if we wanted to talk to anything more than a dribbling idget.
Well, not those words exactly. I paraphrased.

It was while we were walking the halls that I felt something... change.
It's a subtle change like going from being warm to hot, kind of. It's also like a shifting, or a gurgling... but not really. Something changed.
It's hard to explain. I'd felt it before and I knew what it meant and had no reason to freak out about it or be nervous. Especially since I was as sure as I've ever been about anything that Gunnar wouldn't mind. I wanted to reach out and grab his hand, lace our fingers together, but since we were kind of in the middle of something I settled for grinning like a fool while I nearly skipped through the hallways of Sekhet Hetepet.

Then we got back to our room and once the door was closed I turned to Gunnar with a smile on my face and wound my arms around him, clasping them together at the small of his back. I hugged him tight, resting my head on his shoulder and I whispered very quietly, "Um, so... We're gonna have another baby. A girl this time."
And you know... normally I'm really not the kind to kiss and tell, but it's worth mentioning that here in Duat was the third time ever Gunnar and I have ever actually had the time and the privacy to sleep together.
The first time was in New Orleans, after Caleb almost killed us and neither of us wanted a kid just then so, you know, we were careful.
The second time we slept together was our wedding night, and we were less careful because I should have had it handled. I would have had it handled, but for the intervention of Aphrodite Prissypants.
After that we became crazy busy preparing for all of the various adventures which had led up to getting us here, in the palace of Isis and Osiris. There simply hasn't been time for us to even sleep much, let alone for us to... um, yeah.
Honestly, I have no idea how Zeus manages to knock boots with and knock up so many women. I mean, Gunnar and I are together almost all the time and in nearly a year, we have slept together exactly thrice.
Priorities, I guess. Anyway.

Faster than I expected Gunnar had put his own arms around me, hugging me tight and holding me to him before pulling back to give me that grin of his. Looking up at him, it occurred to me that we haven't really had a serious and complete conversation about how many kids we plan on having.

I think maybe I said something about it while I was babbling and trying to get around to telling him I was pregnant with the twins, and if I didn't then I meant to, and either way we never came to any sort of conclusion other than, "Holy fuck we need to make sure Scary Mary doesn't try to steal our babies, let's go swimming."

Yeah, Gunnar's pretty easygoing, about everything, and our relationship is so stable that the Noble fucking gases are jealous. But even if our relationship is awesome and full of love and unabated badassery, I still wanted to be completely sure that, if -
Who the fuck am I kidding? When I got pregnant again that it would never be an unpleasant or unwelcome surprise. It's hard to envision, and I really can't imagine Gunnar being that guy, but still.

I smiled at him. Well, I was still smiling. I kept smiling and kept my arms around him. I don't think I stopped smiling until after we were out of the Nile, actually.
"Um... I didn't plan this," I started a little hesitantly. I don't know why that mattered, but for some reason it did. "Well, I mean, besides deciding that I wanted a girl." My smile turned a little uncertain. I hoped he wanted a girl, but even if I'd asked I had to make the decision before he'd have been able to give me an answer. I hoped it was okay because it was too late now.
"This just kinda... happened," I explained with a small shrug.
Before we slept together, I know I could have just decided for us, "babies, yes!" but it's not like I was actively trying to get pregnant. I could make that decision, but I didn't want to just decide that for us without talking to him about it, first. I wasn't trying not to either, though. It just... happened. The way life does.
I laughed a little bit. I felt so light, and good, and better than I have felt in almost a decade.
"But it makes me wonder," I kept going while I had his attention. "Uh... how many kids do you want? I mean you were awesome about having a house full of teenagers, and me adopting Gair, and then the boys..." I paused, and my mind wandered to the time I'd just gotten to spend with our incredible and adorable and hilarious sons. I shook my head and told myself now was not the time for ADD Laurel to go running off with my attention span. I was going to be focused. I had babies to talk about. Well, hypothetical babies.
"Anyway, this is the kind of thing people usually talk about, right? Well, the smart ones. Normal married couples kinda... plan this stuff?" I shrugged my shoulders again kind of dismissively.
I don't really give a quantifiable damn about what normal people do. But the planning part, that part sounded good, and while I hadn't been planning exactly, I had been doing a little bit of thinking.
"I know my half to that answer is... Lots." I nodded. It was the kind of nod with authority behind it. It was the kind of nod that looked a little silly, coming from me, probably.
"Lots and lots of babies. I've always wanted a huge family. I just used to think," I laughed, "back when I was a mere mortal, that huge was like... eight. But since meeting so many other scions... and especially actually trying to count all of my relatives, I've uh... readjusted that expectation." I was referring mostly to Zeus. I have so many aunts, and uncles and cousins that I don't actually know if I could count them all before the number changed because Zeus still does not keep it in his pants.
Which reminded me.
"And, speaking of scions... when we get there, I'd much rather you get yours from me." Behind the smile of mine, I think there was probably an "or else" hanging out somewhere.
I am selfish, and I am really fucking possessive. When it comes to the affection and attention of my husband, I have no intention of sharing with another woman.
Or another man.
Or anything else that might decide it wants to sleep with my husband. He is mine, and dammit, even I hardly get to sleep with him.

Anyway, I like the idea of having lots of babies. Lots being more like... Well, more than eight. Double digits, at least and that was about as far as I'd thought about it. Anyway.
"So I'll give you as many babies as you want," I fidgeted happily with my arms around him. I guess you would describe it as snuggling against him.
Gunnar turned all intellectual about the question, which was, for some reason I can't really explain, not what I expected. "Well, considering that we both plan on living forever in the glory of eternal youth and godhood, I think we'd have to know how long forever is before giving a finite number of babies."
I felt my eyebrows lift almost up to the ceiling. That's one of those phrases that you just don't hear all that often. Or ever, unless you're me, talking to Gunnar about family planning.
He talks like this all the time now, for the record. He just keeps getting smarter, and it's absolutely fascinating to listen to him speaking. I just... I never really know what's going to come out of his mouth next.
"However," he continued thoughtfully, "I figure no more than one birth per calendar year might be a pragmatic limitation." There went my eyebrows again; his idea of a huge family was for me to give birth to one kid a year until the end of forever. Okay, yeah, not really a problem.
"You know," he continued in a very matter-of-fact tone, "just so we don't have to find quite so many baby-sitters. Besides which, we might not really have time to make them any more often than that if things keep going the way they do. And, yeah, I didn't intend to get my scions from anyone else, trust me. I'm neither inconsiderate nor suicidal enough for that."
I do trust him. I just... I am selfish and I am possessive and it's stupid and more than any of that... Sometimes, even if you are a monumental badass on her way to becoming a goddess and living forever in eternal hotness, sometimes even then you like to hear that the guy you love with all your heart loves you back with all of his. It should be good enough (it is good enough) that I see it all the time, that he proves it every day just by sticking around and making my life easier. But I am the mouse and Gunnar is my cookie and sometimes I want to hear it, too.

I managed not to be too distracted by getting exactly what I wanted, focusing on the peculiarities of what Gunnar had just said. And it was really fucking peculiar, even if you're used to talking to Super Gunnar.
"Wow. Um..." I blinked and nodded at the end of all of that, finally drawing back to scratch my head kind of amusedly. "I should know better than to ask you a question with an implied numeric answer and expect an answer like, 'More,' or, 'Lots.'"

I didn't mean to make it sound like that was how I wanted him to answer and I hope I didn't. I mean, I hope I didn't make it sound like he gave the wrong answer. Or like I didn't like his answer. It's not like there is a wrong answer, not with this kind of question, unless you give one that's dishonest. That's what I was thinking, and then I thought, oh, look, there's that rambling thing he makes me do again, except this time it's in my head. Shit, I'm kinda glad he can't hear my thoughts.
And then I thought, yeah, I should clear this up. It was probably going to sound a little silly.
"Y'know, Gunnar... sometimes, I think with all the crazy shit we get put through, it occasionally manages to slip my mind just..." I shook my head, chuckling a little because it sounded even more ridiculous than it had in my head. You shouldn't be able to forget you love someone, but tell that to the tenth gate of Duat.
"Just how much I love you. And then you say something like, 'finite number of babies,' and you reference the 'pragmatic limitations' of me having a kid a year... And then it all comes rushing back to me."
And yeah, I'm actually surprisingly okay with the fact that my husband pretty much just outlined a plan that would keep me pregnant nine months out of every year until the end of forever.
And then I thought, well, shit, I'm getting all mushy over here and I can't even blame the fact that I'm pregnant yet.
And then I actually thought about what I had just said. I don't usually wax romantic, and there's a reason why: because I am bad at it.

That... totally came out wrong. I was trying to tell him that I absolutely adore the way he speaks. That no one else quite matches it, and his answers always surprise me - in the best way possible. That's what I wanted to say. But no, what came out was, "Sometimes I forget I love you."
I wanted to hit myself as soon as I realized what I'd said, even though Gunnar didn't really seem to mind.
Very romantic, Laurel. Tell the man who spent a month in a desert hell with you - for you, the man whose baby you're carrying, that sometimes you forget you love him. It's a wonder he can resist your charm and wiles.
Okay, so, I seriously suck at the whole romance thing. I suck at saying nice, sweet things like, "I love you," and "I miss you when you're not around," and "You make my life so much easier," and “Thank you.” I've tried saying those things to him and I pretty consistently fuck it up.
I'm good at the true things, the things that usually hurt: "You have cancer and will probably die and it's going to hurt," and "I have to break this again so I can set it properly. It's going to hurt," and "Ixion is probably going to rip our faces off and it's going to hurt."
But the other true things, the soft things that make all the hard true things bearable... Well, I have been bad at this since the first time I told Gunnar I loved him, which came out a whole lot more like, "Don't leave me."
But hey, maybe something good came out of our encounter with the Well. Maybe I got lucky and he forgot about that, too.
And the thank you, well I tried that when I thought I was going to Duat by myself, and it came out more like “I love you,” except without the “I” or the “you” or the “love” parts.

So, given my painfully awkward inability to clearly state affection, or gratitude, or really to express anything besides a desire to chop something in half, and given Gunnar's impressive penchant for doing everything better than I do, it shouldn't have been all that surprising that Gunnar can show me up at this whole, "verbal communication" thing, too.
Which he did. Expediently.

He grinned at my unique version of waxing romantic and said, apparently without the need for much thought, "The boundaries of my love for you draw ever further from my sight, as the horizon viewed from a rising balloon."

I... um... Shit Laurel, close your mouth. You're going to catch bugs that way.
He definitely shut me the hell up with that.
One, I didn’t wanna mess this up by opening my mouth and promptly inserting my foot and two, he's still completely and totally capable of doing that thing that I don't fucking understand at all, that thing where he effects my ability to form coherent speech, except this time instead of rambling I just couldn't... think... of anything. There was nothing.
Nothing to say.
Nothing to do but stand there with my heart all aflutter, stunned into silence, staring at the man who loves me - my husband, my friend, my confidant.
Nothing to do but marvel over just how perfect life is.

Later, we were still waiting for Isis and Osiris, which was still okay by me. Soon, we'd have to get out of here and back into Midgar and back to work. Until then, though, I was happy to dance around our little room in Sekhet Hetepet, eating fruit and drinking cool, sweet water, and sleeping occasionally like I vaguely remember doing once upon a time. Sleep is fun, beds are fun. I miss having a bed to sprawl in, a little bit.
Anyway, I was passing the time by dancing around like an overexuberant idiot and in mid-sashay I noticed Gunnar with one of his more think-ier thinking faces.
He's always got a thinking face of some sort on, but this one was more... intense than usual. I put both feet back on the ground and meandered over to hear what the deal was.
If he wanted to share, he would, and he did. "So... I've been thinking." I pressed my lips together in a smile to keep from saying, Well duh, dear. That is what you do. "You remember what we found out that girl's name was? The one who came back from the future along with Alexander and Erik who was definitely related to them?"

I remembered, kinda. I mean, I remember him telling me about the girl, and how she definitely looked related to Alex and Erik, and I remember him asking future Gair about her name. I never saw her, though Never said she was pretty, like me.

"Maybe this is her," Gunnar said. "Maybe this is... Atropos." He said the name with a weight to it that I didn't understand at first, and he said it with a look that was... it was weird. It's not a look I'm used to seeing on his face, not even in the small degree I recognized it this time. He was intimidated. Only a little, but still.
I didn't get it at first, but then I usually don't. Gunnar usually gets it and goes about eight steps past it and then looks back to make sure I'm keeping up and has to come get me and then that's when I get it. I made a face that said I didn't get it.
"But you said Atropos was..." I gestured vaguely in the direction of the city, where he had caused a significant disturbance. He had told me how he got here, which involved using the spindle he'd gotten from Tesla. Turns out the threads on it are the lifelines of the fates. Turns out that when you make a wish on the spindle, you sever one of the threads. He had severed the lifeline of Atropos, the Fate.
And we were going to name our daughter after her, and now... Well, shit. Now I got it. Now I understood why. My eyes widened as I caught up, as I got it. I put both hands over my stomach and felt my mouth drop open. It was a more exaggerated version of the sentiment on Gunnar's face.
I blinked once, and I blinked twice, and I blinked some more. I think my legs declared mutiny because when I stopped blinking I was sitting on the floor. Feet tucked under me, arms crisscrossed over my tummy and hands hugging my sides.

Then I realized I was sitting on the floor, and didn't really remember getting there. But I wasn't scared, it wasn't like the shock of terror I felt when I had realized I was pregnant with Alex and Erik and that I hadn't done jack or shit about appeasing Erzulie.
It was pure, ponderous amazement.
I was stricken by awe of such a speed and magnitude and gravity that had temporarily rendered my knees fucking useless. Awe felt pretty good. Awe felt a lot better than terror, which is a lot of what I remember from being pregnant with Alex and Erik. I had high hopes for this pregnancy; that it would actually last nine months instead of three, that my baby would stay a baby so I could hold her for more than twenty seconds...
And we'd just have to see about all that.
I let out a long breath and buried my hands in my hair, clearing it away from my face. "I wonder," I mused, "if I'll ever have a normal pregnancy."
Probably not, which made me laugh. With kids named after Alexander the Great, Erik the Red, and Atropos the Fate... mundane and mediocre were definitely not going to be options for the Esparza brood.
"So," I looked at Gunnar, hoping he would realize I was completely okay, I was just experiencing a moment of mind-bending reverence and astonishment and wonder. That was all. Everything was as right as it possibly could have been.
"Our sons are named after conquerors and badasses. Our daughter's going to be... at least named after... one of the Fates. Apparently," I grinned at my husband, "we are going to be a family of high standards and great expectations." Again, that was kind of obvious. I figure no parent looks at their kid and thinks, Yeah, a ditch digger will do. But with us... I dunno.
Our kids will just kinda have to be epic by default.
"I think this eliminates the possibility that we can ever just name a kid like... Jeff."
Gunnar scoffed. "Well I certainly never intended to have low expectations. I mean, I don't intend to be one of those snooty gods who won't visit a scion unless they've already bested four people in mortal combat or some such nonsense, but I certainly intend to encourage my kids not to be slackers too. 'I don't care too much what awesome shit you intend to do,'" he said in a voice that was vaguely self-mocking, “'but you better do something. It's about standards.'" Gunnar grinned for just a moment, then made a face and said "Jeff is an ugly name anyways."
I broke into a smile and laughter, nodding.

Yeah, I wasn’t crazy about “Jeff,” either. In fact, I didn’t like most names and I couldn’t just name every son to come after his father, or grandfathers. That would just get confusing after about the fifth Apollo, or Gunnar or Heimdall. So I told Gunnar to get some idea what names weren’t ugly. Next time is his turn anyway.

You know, some women consult those baby name books. I’ll probably just consult a historian.

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