And then he reached into the double bassinet she hadn’t seen beside the bed, and carefully lifted up a tiny little bundle. It sported a wrinkled pink face and a shock of dark hair peeking out from beneath a little white beanie.
“I present to you our first born,” Ares said, something rich and awed in his voice. “He is perfect in every way. I inspected him myself.”
Pia accepted her baby, a rush of something so intense and primitive slamming into her as she took him that she was happy—fiercely so—she was already in a bed. Because she feared it would have knocked her over. She gazed down at the tiny bundle in her arms, making sounds she hadn’t heard herself make before. She saw him scrunch up his nose, and his perfect little mouth, and she understood that she would never be the same again.
“And his brother,” Ares said, and placed the other baby in her other arm. As if he knew that she needed to touch them both. “He is equally perfect in every way. I can verify this personally.”
And that same wave took her over again. Harder, deeper.
She bent her head to one, then the other. She checked to make sure each one was breathing. And as she did, each tiny boy began to make tiny little noises, as if they understood exactly who she was and were offering their own form of greeting.
She could already tell they were that smart. That beautiful. That absolutely perfect.
“You were there?” she asked.
“They came out of you, directly into my hands,” Ares said, and it sounded like another vow. Like an impossible intimacy.
And when she met his gaze, her chest ached.
“I want to feed them,” she whispered.
Or, having missed their birth, maybe she needed to.
And Ares was there beside her, so she didn’t have to worry over all the various things she’d read about how best to get each one of them where they needed to go. He helped her. He set a pillow over her abdomen, which stuck out significantly less than it had when she’d last seen it.
He opened up her gown, and he helped her guide one greedy mouth to her swollen, aching breast. Then the next, placing each little body beneath one of her arms, snug against her sides, so she could hold them in place like American footballs.
And she had read a thousand articles about how difficult breastfeeding was, and had read endless forums about how to manage it with hungry twins. She’d expected a battle. But there was no battle to mount, because it was happening. She felt one twin latch on, then the other. And they both began to pull at her.
Pia looked up at Ares while each of the perfect creatures they’d made together fed from her breasts, and she understood what family was on a primitive level she’d never imagined existed before.
She had known love. She had loved. She was still in love with the maddening man who stood beside her.
This was something else, this communion between the four of them. This needed a new word. This was like a new sun, bright and hot inside of her, taking her over, burning her up, terrifying and magical—and it was theirs.
They had done this. They had made this happen.
Nothing would ever be the same. But at the same time, everything was finally...beautiful.
And when the babies were fed and she and Ares had held each of them against their bare skin a while, a nurse came in to check them again, then whisked them off for more tests. Pia tried to move in her bed, winced at the pain from her abdomen, and realized that she still didn’t know what had happened to her.
“I can tell you this story using all kinds of medical terminology,” Ares said. “But what really matters is that I nearly lost you. And Pia. No matter how I let you down today, trust me when I tell you that losing you is unacceptable to me. It is unthinkable.”
She stared back at him, and he told her quickly and matter-of-factly about the rush to get her to the hospital. Her hemorrhage, the emergency cesarean section. How close she’d come to dying, and how terrified he had been.
“You told me you loved me,” he said, as he stood there next to her bed, stiff and tense, as if that was an insult.
And Pia didn’t want to remember this part. Not when she was still filled with that perfect sense of overwhelming, impossible, helpless love. She didn’t want to remember their wedding ceremony. That helicopter. All the cameras.
“It doesn’t matter,” she said now. “We’re parents, Ares, to two perfect little boys in desperate need of names. Let’s just concentrate on—”
“You told me you loved me, Pia,” Ares thundered at her. “And no one has told me that before, not unless they’d given birth to me themselves. That isn’t the kind of thing you can just say to a man.”