I was pretty sure I was pouting but it didn't do any good. Ezra had to meet with some of his clients and he had to do it in Seattle. I couldn't pick up and leave just then so he was going without me. And that just felt wrong. But it had to be endured since we weren't glued at the hips. So I drove him to the airport and watched him disappear through the big glass doors.
Vin and Josiah came over that night to have dinner. The nicest thing about old friends is the way you don't have to pretend with them. They could see I was down and missing Ezra so they did their best to cheer me up. Josiah had Vin and me laughing hysterically with his stories about some of his students malapropisms.
I told him he had to keep track of some of the best ones and tell Ezra about them when he came home. He promised to do so and I was already looking forward to watching my lover enjoy the silly mistakes of careless students. When they left, I was relaxed but the damn bed sure was big with only me in it. I showered quickly and crawled into it, eyeing the phone and wishing it would ring.
When it did, I just knew it was my psychic lover. "Hello?"
"The room is adequate but they didn't stock any tea bags with the coffee maker." His disgruntled voice made me smile.
"You took your favorite tea with you, Ezra."
"That's not the point. It's the principal of the thing." His voice was gradually sounding more relaxed and I was too. "Now, how was dinner?"
I talked for a while before asking him for more story and he chuckled but agreed.
Lord Standish watched over his lover with a sharp eye but so did everyone else on the estate. When he got restless, someone was always there to walk with him or help him back when he over-spent his energy. Chris hadn't thought he could get any bigger but the babies kept growing and he felt like an over-ripe watermelon. He just knew he was waddling but again, no one would admit it.
Mistress Vodan listened to his fears and admitted the birth would be hard and painful. But she also reminded him of his strength and ability to bring his children into the light of day. A water birth would be easier for him and once he was a little further along, they'd make that decision. She promised him she would be there every moment of the labor as would his lord and all his friends. Chris knew it was so but still he worried.
Two days after the beginning of his seventh month, his back began to ache but he thought nothing of it. He waddled out to the orchard to satisfy his craving for a peach and then had to sit down to rest while he ate it. A little muscle rippled at his side and he pressed his hand against it, willing it away.
"Master Chris? Is everything all right?" Buck's voice came from the lavender knot-garden where he'd been picking blossoms to dry. He crossed over and knelt by his side.
"Just a little muscle spasm, Buck, it's already going away." Chris assured him and stopped rubbing.
"Now, you know I'd of brought you in some peaches, Master Chris." Buck gently admonished him. "I've been thinking of making some peach cobbler. You'd like that, wouldn't you?"
Chris smiled at him. "I like all the desserts you make, Buck. The babies like them, too. Our kitten kicked me for almost an hour last night after the chocolate mousse."
Buck chuckled. "Well, when they decide to come out, I'll make some just for him. But right now why don't I walk you inside so you can have some nice cold peach nectar."
Chris knew what he was doing but he was hot and the nectar sounded good so he let Buck help him up and give him an arm to steady him. Josiah was polishing the silver at the kitchen table and he got up to help the pregnant man to a seat. They talked about dinner and about the comfortable tunic Chris was wearing. It was like the robe he'd worn when the cat lord first took him. It was all he could manage now he'd grown so large in front.
"Oh, there's that silly twinge again." Chris rubbed the spot. "Ah, now it's over here, too."
Josiah's eyes widened and he rose slowly. "I think I'll just check on Vin in the laundry. I'll be right back."
And he hurried to find Mistress Vodan to tell her of the 'twinges'. A few moments later they returned to find Buck rubbing Chris' back while the pregnant man assured him it was just a little achy. The healer-mage smiled and stroked back the blond hair from the slightly perspiring face.
"Ah, the little ones are impatient, Chris-to-pher. Today is the day we bring them out into the sunshine." Her rich accents flowed over him like the finest brandy.
Chris started and looked at her wide-eyed. "Today, Mistress? It's not too soon? We must tell Ezra at once."
"I'll find him." Josiah volunteered and hastily departed.
Buck and Mistress Vodan helped him up and down the hall to the exam room. A few moments later Lord Standish arrived and shortly after that, Nathan appeared to help his grandmother. The others waited anxiously outside the door while little grunts and an occasional moan came through the door.
Lord Standish came out in a rush. "Boil water, Chris wants a cup of tea and I could use one, too. She's going to let him deliver in the spa."
"That's great!" Buck blinked and smiled. "What kind of tea?"
"Mistress Vodan asks for something soothing. It will help when the labor pains grow." Their lord looked a little shaky and Buck decided to put a little something extra in his cup when it was ready. "For now, we wait for the babies to decide when to come."
They all nodded and Lord Standish went back into the room. It was just four in the afternoon and who knew how long it would be before Chris would have them. They scattered to finish chores but none left for very long. After an hour, Lord Standish and Chris appeared to walk about the main floor. Occasionally the pregnant man would rub a sore spot or his mate would caress a certain spot on his huge belly.
When they found Josiah kissing Vin in the great hall, Chris smiled at them wistfully. "Ezra, after the babies are born, I want to make love with you in every single room of the manor."
His lord chuckled and kissed his hand. "Your wish is my command, my love. We will start at the top and love all the way down to the springs."
"Do you know how much I fantasized about this table after we became lovers, Ezra?" Chris blushed a little then gasped and clutched his stomach. "I think they may be getting a little closer together."
"We'll go back to Mistress Vodan if you wish, my Chris." But when Chris shook his head, his lord helped him sit down in one of the high-backed chairs.
"Josiah, would you like Vin to carry a child for you?" Chris asked the butler who was smiling at them while holding his lover in an affectionate embrace, the wine steward's back to his front.
"I've thought of it, Master Chris." Josiah admitted and caressed his lover's stomach. "It would be wonderful to have a miniature Vin to bring up."
Vin's eyes widened and he twisted a little to look up into his lover's blue eyes. "You really would, 'Siah? I thought I was the only one who wished that."
They stared into each other's eyes and Chris could see the magic of the place swirl around them like multi-colored ribbons of rainbow lights. He smiled through another cramp, holding a little harder onto Ezra's hand and panting a little. Their kiss was beautiful to see and he had a sudden urge to watch them make love.
"Shall we ask Mistress Vodan if the magic would stretch to us?" Josiah asked with bated breath.
"Yes, please, I'd like that." Vin glowed and Chris thought with satisfaction that his children would one day have playmates close to their own age. "Even if it hurts and is uncomfortable, I'd like to carry your child, Josiah. He or she would have the most beautiful blue eyes like yours."
"Or like yours, my love." Josiah kissed him again and ran his big hands down his back to the temptingly pert buttocks of his lover. "We could practice now until it's time for the babies to be born."
Chris and Ezra laughed out loud but shooed them away to find a quiet spot. Ezra helped his lover out of the chair and decided to walk him back to the exam room for an update on their ordeal. Nathan was waiting for them. When Chris relaxed on the slanted table with his feet in the stirrups, the healer checked the birth channel with his warm fingers.
"It's getting bigger slowly, Master Chris. How are the contractions coming?" He asked in his gentle voice.
"They're . . ." Chris panted through another hard one. "They're getting closer together and the babies are kicking more."
"Ah, they know they're going to get to come out and see their mama and papa." Nathan's white teeth gleamed in a broad smile. "The more you move around, the less the pain will be. And if you need to groan and make some noise then you just go right ahead and let loose. None of us is goin' to mind one little bit."
Chris blushed but nodded. "Nathan, would you ask your grandmother if the magic of this place would let any of the rest of us get pregnant? Josiah and Vin would like to have a child, too."
Lord Standish spied a blush on Nathan's dark cheek and he raised an eyebrow. "Perhaps the land has already decided to do so?"
Nathan's smile was tiny but heartfelt. "JD is pregnant with Buck's and my children, one each. Grandmother noticed it this morning but we haven't had time to sit down with him yet. She thinks he wished to give us our heart's desire and the land listened."
I gasped and Ezra chuckled on the other end of the line. "I told you this story was different, my own."
Chris let Ezra help him down from the table and re-button his robe. Then he gave Nathan a sideways hug. "We'll help all we can, you know that. He can ask me any questions he needs to. It will be so nice to have lots of children on the estate. Ezra, do you think Buck has any of that peach cobbler made yet?"
Lord Standish chuckled and kissed him sweetly. "Let's go and see. Maybe we can talk him into making some ice cream to go with it."
His mate licked his lips and smiled. "Peach cobbler and peach ice cream, that sounds quite delicious."
Nathan joined them in their walk to the kitchen where Buck was just taking out a pan from the wood stove. He laughed at their expectant looks and set it aside to cool a little. Nathan took him into his arms and told him about JD and their babies to be. His mouth fell open and he gasped before asking how. His lover raised an eyebrow and bumped his hips against his groin.
Buck blushed then began to smile that wide-open, beautiful smile of his. "We're going to be Daddies, Nate. Hey, maybe that's why JD didn't eat much breakfast this morning. You'll have to make up some of that herbal infusion for him. And we need to buy some more milk cows for when the babies grow up a little."
The four of them sat at the table and ate peach cobbler with whipped cream, planning what needed to be done for the next pregnancies in the castle. The little pains were coming almost continuously when Chris gave a big groan and held onto the table edge with both hands.
"Oh . . . it feels . . . like there's . . . pressure . . . low . . . between my legs." He panted out and made another face. "Different . . . this feels . . . different."
Nathan pulled out Chris' chair and raised the robe to check between his legs. "Oh, they are in a hurry. I'm thinkin' it's time to go down to the springs."
He swept Master Chris up into his big arms while Lord Standish hurried to the door to the lower levels and held it open. Everyone crowded down the steps while Buck hurried off to gather the missing members of the staff. Mistress Vodan was already in the water and she welcomed her patient in with a big smile. Her hands cast spells all over Chris' body and they could see the bright gold light already head down low in his belly.
"She's an impatient one to be sure." Mistress Vodan chuckled. "The water needs to be a little warmer, Nathan. Chris-to-pher, I'd like you to hold on to Lord Ezra. Let his strength help you when it comes time to push. Ah, dilation is quickening."
Chris panted through the almost never-ending contractions while Ezra held him close. Nathan chanted a low spell in his native tongue and the water began to warm. The others silently crept in to watch and wait. Master Chris panted and groaned while it felt like something too big to fit moved lower and lower. Ezra spread his legs between Chris' at a low command from Mistress Vodan and just about split his lover in two.
"It's time, Master Chris. She's ready to come out. Push . . . push hard . . . now." The hypnotic voice reached inside of him and seemed to help him obey.
Hard . . . harder . . . hardest, Chris writhed in pain and need. Pain the likes of which he'd never known wracked him. Until with a wail, he pushed his daughter free of his body. Falling forward into Ezra's arms, he tried to catch his breath between the sobs of pain.
"My love, my own, my beloved," Ezra scattered kisses over the face in front of him.
"A beautiful little girl, Chris-to-pher," hands came before them holding a small baby with a fine layer of blond hair on the scrunched up head.
Chris thought her the most beautiful baby in the world. His finger trembled when he reached out to hesitantly touch her cheek. "Amelia Elizabeth Standish, welcome to the world."
"Goodness, she has your beautiful hair, Chris." Ezra joined him in stroking her cheek. "Josiah, would you hold her for now? The contractions are starting again."
Chris' face was already in a grimace and fifteen minutes later, Adam Henry Standish was born. Buck got to hold the dark haired sprite when the contractions started over once again. Chris was getting more and more tired. It felt like he'd been straining forever and he was growing exhausted. But with a whispered spell, Nathan loaned him some of his strength.
Rebecca Maude Standish, another little blond beauty was born almost an hour after her big brother. Vin and JD took turns holding her while they all watched with worried eyes as Chris visibly weakened under the deep pains wracking his body. Ezra constantly murmured his love and caring to his lover.
"Last one, Chris-to-pher, your sweet kitten is waiting to be born. But he's tired too, little one." Mistress Vodan crooned softly while her hands stroked Chris' back with a soothing stroke. "We need your strength, gentlemen."
"Take from us what you need, Mistress." Josiah spoke for all of them.
Her voice soared over them in the ancient tongue of her people and suddenly they felt tired while Chris flushed all over and began panting with vigor again. Ezra gripped him tightly and whispered sweet words into his ear. "My love, you can do this. I love you so much and you're so very brave. I'm amazed and humbled at your willingness to carry our children. They're such beautiful babies, Chris, tiny and perfect in every way." He scattered kisses over the sweating face before him. "Although, I am afraid our kitten is going to be quite upset at you getting his fur wet."
Chris choked on his laughter and pushed out hard with all his strength. Mistress Vodan crowed with joy and crooned at the sound of a squalling cry. "A fine kitten, my friends, he will be such a handful."
"Sebastian Ezekiel Standish," Ezra held Chris tightly while he turned to accept his son from her hands. He was so small, his little hands scrunched up under his chin and his head covered with a layer of dark fur. Chris found himself smiling and crying at the same time, his eyes moving from baby to baby.
"Time to get out of the water before we all turn into prunes," Mistress Vodan laughed. "Healing spells need dry land and Master Chris needs healing."
It was quite confused for a moment but eventually they all left the spas for the exam room. Each baby was weighed and measured before being carefully cleaned and dressed in soft flannel robes. Mistress Vodan chanted continuously over Chris' nicely deflated body. He actually fell asleep on the examination table and they tiptoed around him while getting everyone ready for an early night.
An hour later, Chris was carefully tucked into their bed with the babies by his side. At ten, Ezra changed into the cat lord and jumped onto the bed to sniff all five of them. He very gently sniffed each small form then licked each downy head before moving to his mate, settling by his side and nuzzling his throat with a contented purr.
"We're a family, Ezra, beautiful girls and boys with a little bit of each of us inside of them." Chris kissed the fur between the bright green eyes and chuckled tiredly when Ezra licked his cheek. "I am going to sleep for a week, my love. Watch over us, Ezra. All too soon they'll be awake and looking for their first meal."
A soft mrow echoed in the still room and Chris fell asleep with his hand tangled in the dark fur.
I sighed happily and curled up a little tighter. "That was good, Ez', even if you did put me through hell first. When are you coming home?"
"Tomorrow, I miss you, Chris. This trip would have been much better if you'd come along. These men are seriously into coffee and tall tales about their sexual exploits." Ezra sighed.
"They can't be any taller than our bedtime tales." I said with satisfaction.
"Ah, that is correct, sir. Our bed is the stuff of legend, my love." He sighed and I knew he was running his fingers through his hair. "I'll be coming in on flight 237 at 20:05. Will you be there or should I give Josiah a call?"
"You bet I'll be there, lover." I said quickly. "I can hardly wait to get you home. I'm planning a night of passion and pampering like you've never experienced before."
His chuckle was music to my ears. "Lovely, Chris, I think that's a wonderful idea. Could we be Roman Senators after a hard day at the Forum?"
I chuckled. "Yes, you can. I'll be your faithful body slave, making sure the white curtains are on the bed and the olive oil is ready for your massage. I'm thinking the silk toga for you and that little loin cloth for me. Then some finger food I can feed you by hand before satisfying *all* your other needs."
"I'm feeling better all ready, my dear Chris." Ezra's voice had his lilt back. "Now, I must let you get some sleep, you're going to be busy tomorrow and so will I."
"Love you, Lord Standish." I told him.
"I love you too, Christopher Larabee." He yawned. "See you tomorrow."
"Night, love, I'll see you tomorrow." I told him and heard his sleepy goodnight. Hanging up, I stretched out and buried my head in his pillow. If I couldn't have him, at least I'd have his scent to keep me company.
Yawning myself, I idly wondered if we'd ever re-visit the castle and its inhabitants. I hoped so. Watching those kids grow up would be fun. Plus, I'd love to watch JD and Vin go through what I just had. Chuckling a little, I took a deep breath and fell asleep.
The end of Beauty and the Beast