5 years later
The sun crept in through the window, it’s warmth stirring Ben from his slumber. He groaned and stretched, rolling towards the center of the bed. He slowly opened his eyes to the morning’s light, and a dark mop of curly hair peeking out from a pile of blankets greeted him, a soft snore coming from beneath the covers.
“Scoundrel,” Ben groaned through the sleep laying heavy on his voice, but a smile turned his mouth all the same.
Looking past the snoring mound, Ben’s eyes fell on his wife. She was still soundly asleep, one arm wrapping about the curly haired bundle between them, the other laying across her round belly.
It was mornings like this when he would pinch himself to ensure he was not dreaming.
Part of him marveled in disbelief that in the five years since they wed, they’d not had a babe a year, as it certainly was not for lack of trying. The midwife attributed it to the fact that Rey, as Ben had predicted, had insisted on defying all tradition and nursed their son herself, thus delaying the conception of more children.
Ben was silently glad of that fact. He had been so swept up in the romantic sentiment of creating a child with the woman he loved and the idea of a large and loving family, that he’d nearly forgotten how dangerous the process of bringing another life into this world was. The earth had swallowed up a brother and two sisters of his own before it was deemed his own mother could bear no more. Ben had demanded to be in the room to welcome their child and, though Rey had endured the labor pains and the birth of their boy with a grace that shouldn’t be possible in an act that contained that much blood and agony, he’d never known such fear nor such helplessness.
But once the gore had been cleaned from the sheets and the sweat mopped from Rey’s brow, their son bathed and swaddled and contentedly nursing at her breast, Ben was able to marvel at the woman he’d married and the amazing little life she’d nurtured and brought forth. Once the threat of childbed fever was long past and their son began to gain a round little belly and a double chin, he could at last breathe with ease again.
They’d enjoyed their life as a little family of three. Theodore—or Teddy, as all called him—was a happy boy, spoiled by the King and Queen as they doted on the grandchild they’d long desired to have. And they truly were happy, as life of the aristocracy was so rarely allowed. Of course, life wasn’t exactly as they had played at it as children. Their little secluded cottage of their make-believe became the stone of the palace of Alderaan. Royal duties filled their days.
And their large family they’d imagined having did not grow as they expected. Teddy was near three before Rey fell pregnant again, and unfortunately only carried the babe a few moons. The kingdom mourned with the couple, but then rejoiced when only a few months later, Rey again began to swell with the little one who was currently turning in her belly.
A hand coming up to rub her stomach let Ben know his wife was awake. She hushed the child within her before kissing their son’s head and raising her sleep-laden hazel eyes to his.
“How is my daughter this morning?” Ben whispered, placing his hand lovingly on Rey’s stomach and receiving a strong kick of a morning greeting.
“Awake and dancing about.” Rey’s hand met his, and they marveled for a moment as a limb seemed to pass beneath their hands, almost as if the baby was reaching out their fingertips to link their hands. “She is running out of room. If she wishes to continue her routine, I feel as though I may burst.”
“Hush,” Ben said as he leaned over their sleeping boy to kiss Rey on the top of the head. “You are a vision. Albeit a very round and glorious one.”
Rey shook her head. “You flatter.”
“Not at all. I love you like this.” Ben lowered his voice and placed his hand carefully over their son’s ear. “Makes me want to kick this rascal out of the bed and show you what you full with my babe does to me.”
“I know full well,” Rey scolded gently. “How do you think I ended up like this to begin with?”
“On your back as I held your wrists above your head and practically broke the headboard,” Ben purred out with a devil’s glint in his eye. “Or perhaps it happened when I took you on the balcony from behind, fully clothed and having to bite your fist to not scream—”
“Ben! Teddy is—“
“—Is asleep. And wouldn’t understand our meaning anyway.” Ben’s fingers found the laces of Rey’s nightgown and playfully tugged at the knot. “Or maybe we made her when you rode me in front of the fire—”
Rey quickly batted Ben’s hand away. “Wicked, wicked man.” Her hands smoothed out the fabric over her belly, rubbing slow circles that had become an almost subconscious action since the moment she knew she was carrying. “You are so sure this one is a girl? It may be another gigantic boy, like your son.”
He shook his head, his hand again covering the gentle curve of her abdomen. “This is my little princess. I know it.”
“Another feeling, like before?” she asked.
“No. I’ve dreamt of her. Well, about us.” Ben’s eyes stayed on the swell beneath his hands, as if he were recounting the dream to his unborn babe. “Of a summer’s day and us down by the lake. I was playing with Teddy, teaching him to swing a stick like a sword and you were watching us, holding a tiny bundle wrapped in a blanket edged in lace and pink ribbon.” Ben’s gaze lifted to find Rey’s again. “A vision from the gods. To ease my nerves that all shall be well, and I’ll have a healthy wife and daughter when this is through.”
“I shall be fine, Ben,” she reassured him softly.
“Nevertheless, I’m not leaving your side. The midwife can try to kick me out again if she wishes, but I will be there to watch her draw her first breath.”
“After the fit you threw when I was bringing Teddy into this world, I don’t believe anyone would try to make you leave the room again.”
A small little groan came from the mound of covers before a pair of dark eyes popped out from the rich red coverlet.
“I sleep in the big bed!” little Teddy boosted with a lopsided grin.
“Yes, you did, my darling,” Rey said as Teddy popped up to sit up on his knees.
“And just how did you escape your quarters, you wee little devil?” Ben growled playfully as he picked the boy up and held him over his head as he lay back on the bed, making Teddy giggle and squeal before bringing him down on his chest.
“Shhhh!” Teddy said with a big smile, placing his finger to his lips and bringing his voice down to a whisper of a roar. “Tally is sleeping.”
Ben turned to Rey. “We really should take on a different nursemaid, let that poor girl rest.”
“I know,” Rey sighed. “She’s further gone than I am, yet she insists. I’ve offered her rest many a time. But she’s been with Teddy since the day he was born. I don’t think she’ll be ready to leave him until her time comes.”
A knock on the door made Teddy dive under the pillows.
Ben laughed as he shouted for the servant to enter, grabbing for the child to stop him from burrowing all the way to the end of the bed beneath the covers.
Mitaka entered, nodding his head respectively at the royal couple. “My wife sent me to fetch the youngest majesty, as well as to convey her deepest apologies.”
“No apology needed,” Rey insisted. “I don’t think it would be a true morning without this little rascal’s face to greet us. And Tally should be resting.”
“Now listen here, you wild thing,” Ben spoke with a playfully scolding tone. “You behave yourself. Follow ‘Taka and listen to Tally. I want you dressed and working on your studies by the time I find you next.” He kissed the boy on the head and sent him off, watching him climb to the end of the bed and shimmy down the poster to the floor.
“His studies?” Rey laughed. “Colors and numbers and building towers are hardly studies.”
“Yes, but learning them in four languages is,” Ben responded.
“And Tally makes it a game, does she not?” Mitaka added, picking the young prince up before he could run away.
“Shoulder ride, ‘Taka! Shoulder ride!” Teddy chanted.
“Aye, as thy majesty commands.” The servant laughed, hoisting the boy up before nodding to the couple and heading down the hall. Teddy’s giggles and laughter echoed as they made their way back to the nursery.
Ben fell back into the bed, placing his arms behind his head as he relaxed against the pillows. “Dopheld will make a good father.”
Rey nodded as she nestled into the nook at Ben’s side. “I still thank the gods they found each other. I thought Tally would never recover after we discovered what had happened to her first lover.”
“I hated bringing the news to that poor girl,” Ben sighed. “But they are proof that love can heal. Force, Mitaka was smitten with her from the moment he saw her at court, and it made him bold in a way I’ve never seen. And look at them now. Happy, preparing for the arrival of their firstborn.”
Rey smiled. “Perhaps they have a little girl and years down the road, her and Teddy shall fall in love like you and I?”
“Or a son, for our daughter.” Ben placed his hand at Rey’s belly, letting his fingers follow the curve their child within her created.
“Watch,” Rey groaned as she adjusted herself to lay back against the pillows, trying to find a position that was comfortable. “It shall be all boys, and they will wreak havoc on the kingdom in their own little clan.”
“They’ll strike terror in the hearts of our enemies! But I told you, love.” He bent and placed a tender kiss at the rounded swell of Rey’s stomach. “We are having a girl.” After a brief pause, he added, “And she is my child. She will still wreak havoc on the kingdom.”
She laughed heartily. Her fingers carded though his hair as his head lay against her belly, as if listening to their child. “And she shall know she will be able to marry whoever she chooses, be it Dopheld and Tally’s son, or king of a foreign land or a stable boy.”
“You know,” he said, his fingers caressing a small kick from within. “I should like to see a stable boy in line to the throne.”
“If an illegitimate girl can marry the Prince and become next to be Queen, why not a stable boy?”
“We are a family with a tradition of humble beginnings, my love. But our line—my grandfather, my father, you, our son—they are proof that those humble beginnings mean little in what a man—or woman—can achieve.”
“Nobodies and slaves raising themselves up to be kings and queens.” She cocked her eyebrow at him, before smiling and raising herself up on her elbows. “Tis like a fairy tale.”
“Albeit with more…” Ben paused as his hand crept beneath the sheets, fisting in her nightgown and beginning to pull it up her legs, “erotic passages than you find in children’s books.”
“Ben!” Rey burst into a fit of laughter, squirming to bat his hand away before he reached a point of no return, where she knew she was but lost to his charms. “We shall be late to attend the council.”
“Let them wait. Let the world wait. My world is within these four walls. Here.” His lips pressed to her belly before snaking their way up her body. He tugged the laces of her nightgown open with his teeth and then followed the line of her neck up to her lips. “And here.” He pressed his mouth firmly to hers, his hand lavishing the swells and curves of her side. “My world. My love. My life.”