Thursday, July 20, 2000

In/Exhale - February 1, 2001 - Part III

February 1, 2001 - Part III

Martin arranged himself on the couch. He’d put on his coat in addition to the blankets, and he was still cold. He just couldn’t get warm today. Kai had swallowed down almost the entire bottle of juice in one slug, evidently thirsty, and was now staring into the bag of chips Martin had brought him, looking green.
“Sorry, that’s the only flavor we have right now.”
Kai looked like he was barely keeping himself from throwing up, but he managed a faint smile. “No, this is fine. Thank you.”
“Are you . . . mad at me?”
Kai’s head snapped up. “What? Why would I be mad at you?”
Martin shrugged, but then he realized Kai may not have been able to see it with all the blankets. “My mom’s always telling me I don’t know when to leave people alone. I’ve always been like that, ever since I was a kid. I know you didn’t have to come see me that first time, and you definitely didn’t need to come over again and again every week. I know you’ve got your own life and I’m just a stupid kid--”
“--but it’s just that I’ve never had anyone--”
“Martin,” Kai said more firmly.
Martin shut his mouth, realizing he was running it.
“Look--and I can’t believe I’m admitting this to you--I have a lot of problems. But they’re my own, and it’s not fair of me to foist them onto you. I would have killed to have had someone like me to talk to about all of this when I was your age, and that’s why I’m here. OK?” Kai took in a deep breath, as if he were about to jump off a high platform into a pool. “So ask your three questions, and I’ll try my best to answer them for you.”
Kai looked sick. Pale, sweating, and though he was eating the chips, it was clear he wasn’t enjoying them at all. Forcing himself, even, swallowing carefully, as if he were going to hurl at any moment. Was Martin being selfish? Maybe he should have just told Kai to go. But the truth was, he’d been home alone all day, doing nothing but sleep--or try to; it was hard to sleep when he was so cold. He liked Kai’s company, even if the man had turned out to be very different than Martin had expected initially. Still, Martin was a little curious what Kai meant when he talked about having “a lot of problems.” Low blood pressure was evidently one of them, though Martin suspected that wasn’t entirely what Kai was referring to.
“Martin, I’m a patient man, but even I have limits.”
Martin inhaled deeply through his nose to get an extra dose of oxygen. “So I can ask you anything, and you’ll answer me?”
“Related to my transplant, yes, as long as you limit yourself to three questions.” Kai took another long swig of the juice. But Martin saw Kai’s stomach jerk, like he was about to throw up, and Kai had to hold a hand over his mouth and close his eyes for a minute.
“If you’re not up to this now, we can just watch the movie--”
“Question one, go ahead,” Kai said abruptly, opening his eyes. Kai had an unparalleled way of masking his emotions, but his eyes sometimes betrayed him. Right now they did, looking grayer than normal, stormy, almost. Martin couldn’t read them, but he knew there were emotions there he’d never even imagined, let alone experienced.
“OK. How long was your surgery? Were you scared?”
“That’s two questions, but I’ll let you get away with counting them as one,” Kai said. He seemed tired. He pinched his nose. “A normal double-lung transplant surgery is apparently about eight to twelve hours. Mine was twenty, according to Jon.”
“Twenty?? Why?” Martin asked. “Shit, I should have made a qualification for follow-up questions.”
Kai chuckled. He set the bag aside and placed his palms on either side of his legs to push up and shift his weight. “Fair enough, as long as you don’t get carried away.” Kai drew on his chest with his thumb. “Usually, they cut you here and here,” Kai indicated an imaginary line under his pecs. “But Jon found a surgeon who did things a little differently, so he also split my sternum. The hope was that he could reconnect the nerves so I’d feel more . . . normal and have more normal lung function.”
“And do you?”
Kai laughed again. He seemed to be feeling better. “I’ll never be ‘normal,’ whatever that is, but . . . yeah.” He circled his chest with his index finger. “I feel almost normal.”
“So that’s why it took so long?”
Kai nodded. “Essentially.”
“Were you scared?”
“They told me I’d be under for as long as twenty-four hours, on a bypass machine for most of that time. There was a really good chance I’d never make it through surgery, that I’d die from blood loss or a clot from the bypass machine, or hyperacute rejection, or a hundred other things that could have happened.”
“Bypass machine?”
“Some people who undergo double-lung transplantation are fine on their own. They do one lung at a time, so you have one lung to breathe for you while they work on the other. But I . . .” Kai pushed his fingers through his hair, looking a lot like his brother when he did that. “I was so weak, and my lungs were in such bad shape. . . . The two of them barely worked well enough to keep me alive. I would never have survived surgery on my own, so they put me on a heart/lung machine to keep my blood oxygenated.”
“You had to be scared.” Martin’s stomach was nervous just imagining himself in Kai’s place. Even if he knew the surgery would save his life and things would be better after.
Kai hesitated, and then he shifted his gaze to Martin, his face surprisingly open. He looked . . . sad. Worried. It was more complex than that, but Martin couldn’t properly explain it. Troubled, perhaps, was a better word. “You have to promise me that what we talk about, the two of us, it’s sacred. I won’t tell anyone what you tell me and you have to promise me you won’t tell anyone what I tell you.” Kai’s eyes were desperate, almost pleading. Right now, Martin could almost forget Kai was seven years older than him. In this moment, more than any, Martin felt close to someone like he hadn’t before in his life. Someone he could relate to and confide in, who knew what he was going through.
Martin nodded enthusiastically. “I’ll take your secrets to my grave.” Martin smirked, though he tried to stay serious.
Kai’s own smile burst through, changing his face. “I never thought I’d meet someone with darker humor than my own. You’re all right, kid.” Kai took a few slow, deep breaths. Martin envied him for that. Kai breathed so easily now. “I was terrified. Fucking terrified.” Kai closed his eyes, as if he were picturing things as he continued. “Jon walked me to the OR, and he got permission to stay with me while I was induced. He stood over me, his hands on my face, trying to encourage and reassure me, but . . .” Kai squeezed his eyes tighter, and Martin could see his jaw shift as he clenched it. “Jon had been so good the entire time I was sick, being optimistic, encouraging me that ‘today could be the day’ a match would come up for me, that I would get through it. But right before they put me under I saw his eyes. He was just as terrified as I was. Maybe even more. It was the first time he’d let me see his fear. And the thing is, I don’t think he even realized he was showing it. I think he was that scared.”
“So you went into anaesthesia scared?”
Kai dipped his head and covered his eyes. Nodded subtly.
“Did . . . did you wake up scared?”
Kai laughed and opened his eyes, which surprised Martin. “I don’t really remember. I was so stoned after surgery. I was under so long it took me a while to come back. That’s one good thing about it. At least for a few days, the drugs they give you are great.”
“So . . . it hurt?”
“Is that your second question? I can’t give out anymore freebies.” Kai was partially joking, but his eyes were distant, as if his thoughts were far away. He snagged his blood pressure cuff and strapped it on again, but it seemed like it was a diversion for his hands and mind.
“Yeah, I guess that is my second question.”
Martin heard the cuff inflate slowly, and though Kai kept his eyes focused on it, on keeping his arm in the optimum position for the best reading, arm folded on his chest and resting on his heart, he talked over it. “They put in an epidural before they rolled me out of the OR.”
“Isn’t that what pregnant women get?”
Kai chuckled. The cuff released the air with a hiss, then beeped. Kai muttered a curse under his breath when he saw the reading, stripping it off angrily, though his words were neutral in tone. “It’s basically a cath that goes into your spine so they can deliver the drugs directly. It’s the best type of pain control, because you filter it at the source. Where they put the needle depends on where the pain is they’re trying to block.” He used his hands to shift his body slightly so his back was to Martin. Then he dipped his head forward, yanking his shirt collar down with one hand while he pointed to his neck with his other. “You might still see the scar if you look close enough.”
Martin leaned forward, and, sure enough, there was the faintest discoloration of Kai’s skin at the base of his neck; the kind of thing no one would probably ever notice if Kai didn’t point it out to them.
“So my first few days post surgery, they pumped me full of all kinds of wonderful drugs, straight into my spine.”
“I sense a ‘but’ here.”
Kai nodded, snagged the bag of chips again and forced himself to eat a few before he continued. “The plan was, epidural for two or three days, then they’d wean me off it and onto IV pain meds. But . . .” Kai waved his hand. “I had some complications, so . . .” Kai stopped abruptly. “Look, Martin, I know you want the truth here, unvarnished, and I get that, but there’s a fine line between ‘knowledge is power’ and ‘ignorance is bliss.’”
“In other words, there’s a fine line between knowing what you’re in for and being scared shitless because you know what’s coming.”
Kai shrugged. “Plus, your experience will probably be so much better than mine.”
Martin caught that Kai said “will,” as if it would happen. It made a wave of sadness sweep over him. “My guess here is that it hurt a lot, then.”
Kai sighed. “I’m no stranger to pain because of my muscle disease, but . . . yeah. It’s the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. But a lot of that had to do with my unique situation, which delayed my recovery. It’s not usually that bad, I don’t think.”
“How long did it take you to recover?”
Kai sighed. “Keep in mind I was really, really sick and had been for a long time before my transplant. I’m about--well, I've lost a lot of weight recently, but I’m about 175 pounds, plus or minus, now. Before my surgery I was maybe . . . 125? Basically eighty pounds less than what I weighed a couple months ago, at my ‘peak.’ So a lot of getting better after my transplant was more than recovering from the surgery. It was getting healthy. Plus, with my other issues, it made things more complicated.” Kai ticked off on his hand as he spoke. “Respiratory therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, cognitive therapy, therapy-therapy (the committee makes you see a shrink after). Basically, if you can stick ‘therapy’ after it, I probably went through it. I was in ICU for nearly two months after surgery because of my complications, then in the long-term-care ward for about four more. But I’m just lucky. I know a lot of lung transplant patients are home within a month after surgery.” Kai shrugged. He pushed the chips away, looking sick again.
Silence descended between them for awhile. Kai seemed to be staring into air, as if he looked hard enough, he could find the meaning of life there. The longest Martin had ever spent in the hospital was three months. He couldn’t imagine spending months or even a year, of being so sick you had to essentially ‘start over’ again. Because wasn’t that what all that therapy Kai treated as a joke really about? Kai was enormous. A foot taller than Martin, with a much broader build. Martin couldn’t even imagine what Kai must have looked like when he weighed only twenty pounds more than Martin did now. Martin did some quick math. If Kai considered about 205 pounds his “peak,” and he’d weighed 125 at his worst, that meant that was 60% of his “optimum” weight. If Martin weighed only 60% of what he did now (not like he was at his “optimum” weight, but still), he’d be less than 70 pounds.
“You still have one more question,” Kai said tiredly, finally breaking the silence between them.
Martin thought a long while about whether or not he should even ask his third question, which was really his first, but he’d put it off. Kai didn’t want to talk about any of this. Evidently, he didn’t talk about it, ever. But he was doing for Martin what he wished someone had done to him. “Do you regret it?” Martin asked in a quiet voice.
Kai turned his head so he was staring straight at Martin, his eyes unreadable except for pain. Whether it was from Kai’s own memories of his experiences, or not wanting to tell Martin, or something else, it was impossible to say. Kai said nothing for a long, long moment in which Martin debated changing his mind. Finally, Kai spoke, his voice low. “Yes.”
“So you wish you hadn’t gotten a transplant?” Martin knew the answer to that question, and it made him a little angry to know that Kai, who had been lucky enough to be given a chance to live, wished he could have thrown it all away. “Why?”
Kai looked so forlorn for a moment before he cleared it away. It was creepy that Kai could do that. Could just make himself “not feel.” But that couldn’t be true. Kai was probably still hurting inside, he was just trying to keep it to himself. Damn. “Have you ever had a trache before?”
“When I was a baby. My mom told me I was premature and wasn’t breathing on my own. It took me a couple years before I could.”
Kai nodded. “I was the same, according to Jon. I don’t remember, of course. So what’s the longest you were ever intubated, not counting as a baby?”
Martin thought for a while. Except when he was an infant, he’d been intubated in essentially two situations. Either he was brought into the ER because he’d stopped breathing, and that meant he often had the tube out before he woke up, or shortly after. Or he got pneumonia and he couldn’t breathe well enough on his own. That usually meant he was put into a medically induced coma, typically for weeks. When he was brought out of it, he usually had a few days before the tube came out, but he was kept pretty stoned, which was good, because having that tube in your mouth sucked. And being suctioned sucked even worse. Ha. “Suctioning sucks,” Martin said out loud, laughing.
Kai’s eyebrows quirked up.
“Sorry. Thinking out loud. I think six weeks. But I was out for most of that time. Mom said they thought about doing a trache but Dr. Taylor was worried I had too much mucus and the tube would get clogged and kill me.”
Kai nodded. “Yeah, that’s pretty much my story until before my transplant. At that point, I was using a biPAP at night and during the day for a few hours at a time to try to give my muscles a rest and to make sure I didn’t stop breathing, but it was getting to be that wasn’t enough. I needed long-term mechanical ventilation and an ETT just wasn’t practical, even if a trache had risks.”
“How long did you have the trache?”
Kai pinched his eyes shut, shook his head. “Don’t make me answer that, Martin.”
“Oh, fuck. Over a year. That’s why you don’t want to say.”
Kai kept his head inclined, but he raised his eyes. They were so deep blue. Soulful. Sad. They spoke volumes.
“That’s why you regret it.”
“So I’m right. Maybe it’s good that I don’t have a choice, then?”
Kai pushed himself up, seemed to be dizzy, but shook his head as if to cast it off. “Martin--”
“I’m a minor. Even if I don’t want to be resuscitated or intubated, it’s not my choice. It’s my mom’s.”
“Is that what you want? A DNR?” Kai asked, his voice quiet. A “DNR” was a “do not resuscitate” order. It meant if you stopped breathing, the doctors didn’t intubate or try to revive you.
“Right now?” Martin sighed. “No. I mean, I know it’s stupid and silly, and it’s not going to happen, but there’s still some hope I could get a transplant, right? If I manage not to get sick and if the medicine keeps that fungal shit I have from flaring up. . . . But I need to know. Tell me what it was like being on that trache and why you regret it.”
Kai sighed heavily, resignedly. “If you haven’t had a trache, then you have no idea what it’s like. I don’t say that to sound like an asshole, I’m just saying even I had no idea what I was signing up for. But I did it for Jon. And for me, too, I guess. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I was afraid of dying. Which I would have, if I hadn’t gotten the trache.” Kai was looking ill again, and Martin watched him strap on the blood pressure cuff. “Once I was on the machine full time, I had to move to the long-term-care ward. I was just too sick to care for myself with the machine and multiple suctionings and everything else. . . . LTC, fuck, it was awful. If I never, ever, have to go back there I’ll count myself lucky. It felt like hell. That’s not hyperbole. I laid in that bed, day after day, convinced that if hell were real it couldn’t possibly be worse than that. Especially toward the end when I believed I would die there, and dreamed that maybe I really hadn’t gotten the trache and LTC was a dream. That losing my sense of smell and taste, the ability to eat and speak, that it was just a horrible nightmare. But it wasn’t. It was real. That room was my fucking tomb, and as much as I wanted to die, I was so, so fucking afraid I would.”
Martin barely had time to let the nightmare Kai painted to sink in when the cuff beeped.
Kai frowned, pressing a few buttons on it. “Dammit. Martin, Q&A is over, but if you really want to know more about life with a trache, I’ll tell you. I can even talk to your mom about it if you decide you want her to consider respecting your wishes about a DNR if you . . . if you decide that’s what you want. But right now--” Kai covered his mouth, and Martin heard him barely suppress throwing up. Kai lowered his head between his knees again. “Damn, Inez won’t forgive me if I hurl on her carpet,” Kai muttered to himself.
Martin climbed off the couch and hurried to the kitchen, where he snagged a large bowl. He was panting by the time he returned, and Kai was trying even harder not to throw up. “Here,” Martin said, pushing the bowl into Kai’s hands. Martin was gasping, stars floating across his vision. He stumbled into the couch, leaning forward and focusing on breathing through his nose to recover.
He heard Kai hurl, and the splash of vomit as it hit the bowl. Then again. And again.
“Should I call 911?”
Kai’s only answer was more vomiting. “Fine. Just sick,” Kai muttered. He set the bowl aside, managing to push himself up. Martin watched him carefully, pretty sure Kai was about to pass out.
“Not dead yet,” Kai muttered. “Just feel like it. I’ll be fine. Just need a few minutes to let everything settle.”
“What’s wrong with you?” Martin was worried. Kai said he was fine, but he so very clearly wasn’t.
Kai let out a sharp sound that could have been a laugh. “That’s a good question, kid.” Kai covered his eyes with his hand. Did the light bother him? “They haven’t figured out why my BP tanks sometimes. Like I said. I have a lot of problems.” He smiled faintly. His breathing had shifted: faster, more ragged, like he couldn’t get enough air. That freaked Martin out. “I’m fine. Just gonna rest my eyes. Don’t panic unless I stop breathing. ‘K, kid?” Kai’s body seemed to go limp except for the rapid movement of his chest.
Telling Martin there was a possibility Kai would stop breathing was a sure way to make him panic. He crouched on the sofa near Kai, his eyes fixed on Kai’s chest, his own heart leaping at his throat. If Kai wasn’t worried, it couldn’t be so bad, could it? But then Kai had made Martin swear not to tell anyone how afraid he’d been before his transplant. So it was possible Kai was notorious for downplaying his fears. Maybe his blood pressure situation was much more serious than Kai was letting on. Maybe Martin should call 911. But Kai was willing to support him with Inez if Martin decided he wanted a DNR. Shouldn’t Martin respect Kai equally? After all, Kai had to know the limits of his own body better than Martin did.
Kai had survived a year in hell--he’d admitted as much in his own words. Even though Kai’s admission of his fears should have made him seem more human, it only made him larger than life. Even right now, seeing how Kai was very clearly not OK and yet was acting cool about it--maybe to try to keep Martin from the very same freaking out he was doing right now--meant Kai was way stronger than Martin could ever dream of being. If Martin caved in and called for help, Kai would never see Martin as anything but a fifteen-year-old pussy who’d never been kissed and probably would die a virgin.
“Kid, I can hear your thoughts. Chill. If I were dying, you’d know.” Kai spoke without opening his eyes, without even moving except for his breathing. His voice was so matter-of-fact, like this happened all the time. Like throwing up multiple times within a few hours was perfectly normal. “I have a lot of problems,” Kai had said, after all. And Martin had noticed the tiny red dots beneath Kai’s eyes--burst capillaries--when he’d first arrived. Martin knew from personal experience that happened when he coughed really hard, though with his darker skin they weren’t nearly as visible as on Kai’s milky white complexion. Kai had shown no signs of coughing, but he had thrown up. Since the marks were there before he’d hurled, that meant Kai must have thrown up earlier in the day. Maybe this was perfectly normal for Kai, as horrific as that was.
Martin forced himself to take a few deep breaths through his nose. His chest was a little tighter than normal today, but he pushed past it, trying to relax. Kai would be fine. Kai was always fine. Kai had survived 20 hours on a heart/lung machine without dying. Kai could survive a little drop in BP.


Kai fell back on his bed, relieved to be off his feet, and cursing himself for being in such a rush to get to Martin’s that he’d left his chair at home, by his bed, instead of in his car. The dizziness had subsided, but the nausea was still full force, and he wondered if part of it was fueled by regret. He’d told Martin things he barely even thought about, let alone talked about. Admitted how afraid he was, how disgusting he felt, and to top it all off, he’d thrown up in front of the kid. So much for being Martin’s hero, right?
Kai snorted, bent forward slowly to pull off his shoes, struggling not to hurl. His stomach was completely empty again, but that had never stopped it before when it got this pissed off. He took a few deep breaths and then focused on the tasks of stripping off his jeans and braces, trying to work quickly but not so jarringly as to make the queasiness worse. He really wished he could take the cocktail of drugs he’d brought home with him yesterday, but he didn’t want to risk a repeat of that kind of freak out, especially if he was alone with no one to bring him out of it.
That made a surge of anger flare up, and Kai was tempted to throw his now removed braces across the room. The support bars were titanium, so they wouldn’t bend or break, but he managed to control himself and set them aside instead. He stripped off his brace socks, balling them up and tossing them in the hamper like he was making a shot in basketball, sinking them both one after the other. He checked his right thigh. The bruise from his fall from the car Saturday had faded to a pale yellow green, though it was still sore to the touch. A few scabs lingered on his legs, though most of them were fading to pink, and some would probably become new scars. He picked at one large one on his left, this one particularly irritated because it fell right where one of his support straps on his brace was. Almost as soon as he peeled the scab away in one long piece, the wound began to bleed again, and ache, and Kai found himself transfixed for a moment by the blood.
He would suck it up. He’d take his meds, make some ginger tea, and fight through the nausea so he could do his schoolwork. It wouldn’t be easy, but he was way behind, and if he stayed up reading, it meant he wouldn’t be sleeping. And Kai was afraid after the revelations of this afternoon what nightmares would haunt him when he finally gave in and closed his eyes.


Vicky was curled up on the couch in her living room, the TV on even though she wasn’t really watching it. Her eyes kept going to the recliner that she and Jon had given Kai for Christmas, part of her olive branch. She had no idea how unstable Kai still was, and while part of her was honestly afraid of him, the rest was just sad. Jon would never abandon his brother if Kai needed him. Not even for her, not even for his son. No matter what Jon or Kai said out loud to the contrary, Vicky felt it deep in her gut.
Baby seemed to, too, as she felt the flutters of her son kicking. She cradled her belly and tried not to cry. She wasn’t sure what would be worse: losing her precious cargo, her second child before he even had a chance at life, or bearing a healthy boy and having to raise him on her own. Completely alone, because her family wouldn’t want anything to do with her if she was a single, unwed mother.
Vicky choked back a sob. The hormones were soaring today in particular and making her blubbery. She reached for her phone, her finger hovering over the speed dial for Jon’s number and finally hitting her sister’s instead.
It took a few rings, but Roni finally picked up. “Hey. How’d the ultrasound go?”
Vicky took a breath. “I’m having a boy.” A few tears leaked out, and she grabbed some nearby tissues to wipe her eyes.
“That’s wonderful, Vic. I’m so happy for you.” Roni hesitated, maybe hearing Vicky’s blubbering. “He’ll be OK. You’ll both be OK.”
Vicky sniffled. Even though Roni had only been a kid during Vicky’s last pregnancy and marriage, they were close, and Roni had experienced two of her own pregnancies, so she knew what Vicky’s headspace was like. “That’s what Jon says.”
“But you don’t believe him? Isn’t he like some doctor genius or something?” Roni was teasing, trying to cheer Vicky up. “Come on, you’ve been wanting this--your own family, a real family--for years. You should be happy, not spending this time worrying.”
Vicky knew her sister was right, and on a certain level, she was ecstatic. She cradled her belly protectively and burst into fresh tears.
“Have you thought of any names?”
Vicky sniffled. “Not really. Jon wants to name him after his father and brother, but I don’t know.” Vicky honestly hadn’t wanted to look at baby stuff or really think much about names because she was worried about jinxing herself, about getting attached to this baby and losing him, but she knew she couldn’t behave that way forever.
“Well, as long as it’s not a ‘V’ name, I’m on board,” Roni teased. There were eight Gregory siblings, and all of them had names that started with “V.” One reason Roni went by that nickname, since her real name was Veronica.
“Jon wants me to tell our parents about the baby when we have dinner with them on Saturday.”
“He’s right,” Roni said. “The longer you wait to tell them, the worse it’ll be.”
“It’ll be bad anyway.”
“I can find a sitter, or dump the kids at Viv’s, if you want me and Patrick to be there. You know, for solidarity.”
Vicky laughed faintly and dabbed at her eyes again. “Thank you, but no. I need to do this by myself. Even though there’s no way in hell they’ll be on board with it. I can already hear the angry name calling.” A sob stole out of Vicky’s throat, and she struggled to talk. “You don’t really think Andrew is in hell, do you?” Vicky had lost most of her faith after what happened to her first baby, but the thought that her unbaptized son might be punished for her sin still haunted her.
“Vic, shh, of course he isn’t. Shh.” Roni’s voice suggested that she’d be pulling her big sister into a hug right now if she could. “I refuse to believe in a God who would punish an innocent baby like that. And it wasn’t your fault, OK?”
Vicky took a deep breath, cleared her throat, fighting through the tears. She wanted to believe what her sister was saying more than anything.
“Hey, you could always keep the pregnancy a secret until the baby’s born, then just bring him to the next family gathering and throw him in with the rest of the kids. You know Ma stopped remembering all their names after the sixth grandbaby, and by the twelfth they all started to look the same to her.” With seven siblings, all of them with multiple children, the number of grandkids was well into the double digits.
A laugh burst out of Vicky’s mouth, and for a minute or so, she chuckled, feeling a little better about everything.
“No matter what you decide or what happens, I will always be here for you. Regardless of what anyone else in the family says about you, or what they do. You two are in love, and you’re having a baby together. That’s what’s important here.” Suddenly, a loud crash and a cry broke out. “Ugh. I gotta go. Chris pushed Jaime down and now there’s hysterics,” Roni explained, talking about her two young sons. “Call me after the dinner if you need to. Talk to you soon. Love you, sis.” Then a click, and Vicky was alone again.


Vicky got herself together after the call and managed to eat something and take her vitamins before curling up on the couch again. She was channel surfing, trying not to worry or stress and not doing a very good job of it, when she heard the distant rumble of the garage and then the laundry room open.
“Vic? It’s Jon. You still awake?”
Vicky beamed, so relieved to hear his voice. She pushed to her feet and rushed up to greet him. “I wasn’t expecting you.”
He still smelled like the hospital and the cold winter air as he kissed her briefly before stripping off his briefcase and coat. He smiled at her, although he seemed even more tired than usual, and she knew he was sleeping even less than normal. “I figured you wouldn’t want to be alone tonight.” He laid a palm on her belly. “You’re so beautiful.” Then he leaned in and kissed her, deep and loving in a way that made her toes curl and a pleasant tingle course through her. He worked his fingers into her hair, trailing the kiss from her mouth to her chin to her neck, nestling his nose there as if cherishing her scent. “I love you so much.”
When Jon held her and kissed her and whispered to her like this, everything felt so right and she could momentarily forget about her worries and just be with him. “I love you too.”
He was hard against her, she could feel him, but he continued to support her and kiss her gently, like he was trying to drink her up. He wanted her, but he was also telling her that he was OK not having sex tonight if she just needed this instead.
Vicky pushed him away just enough she could find his eyes. She loved his eyes. They were slightly almond shaped, like his brother’s, outlined with pale lashes, the irises normally a medium gray-blue, though they sometimes would shift along the scale from pale blue to charcoal, depending on his mood. Jon didn’t realize this, but his eyes were like a mood ring, revealing what he was really feeling. Now, they were dark, hooded, and full of both love and lust, something Vicky had never seen before in a man until Jon. But then she’d never been with someone who wanted her, all of her, and who was protective without being possessive. She kissed the side of his mouth, then took his hand and led him to her bedroom.
Once there, she began tearing at his tie and buttons, wanting him naked, struggling to kiss him as she did. He growled, smiling, stealing a few kisses before finally stepping away enough to pull off his clothes. She did the same, and they drew close again, bare bodies pressing against each other as they kissed and hands roamed over skin.
Vicky nuzzled from Jon’s neck along his shoulder, tracing her hands over his body. Jon had been making an effort to get in shape, doing some situps and pushups at home and occasionally swimming with his brother. Jon would always be thin, but he’d already developed some muscle, especially in his upper body, and he felt harder to the touch and not so soft and bony, which was a huge turn on.
“Like what you feel?” Jon said with a bit of a self-depreciating laugh.
“Uh huh,” Vicky said, kissing where her fingers had just been, making him shiver.
Jon gently pushed her back toward the bed, encouraging her to lie down. He kneeled over her, drinking in her body, a hand occasionally cupping a breast or tickling, his eyes nearly black, already breathing faster, his dick full and leaking. “You look so sexy like this,” Jon said, laying a protective hand on her belly. “I can hardly work with you without needing to go jack off in the bathroom, or shove you against the wall in your office.”
That made a jolt of electricity shoot up her spine. As much as she teased him, Jon found her sexy, even like this in the early stages of pregnancy where her body hadn’t quite decided yet if it were committed to the whole thing, her belly and breasts slightly swollen. She knew that even later, when she was feeling like a beached whale, that Jon would look at her with those lust-filled eyes mixed with love, and it made butterflies dance inside her. She wasn’t a beautiful woman, not like some of her sisters. Too tall, too plain, but Jon never looked at her like she was anything less than Helen of Troy. And best of all, she made the normally prim and proper doctor talk dirty, and she loved that.
Jon grinned, knowing the effect his words had on her, and he leaned down to kiss and lick along her neck, down between her breasts, and finally her nipples, tonguing each in turn. Then he moved lower, kissing along the rise of her belly, more tender, pausing there for a moment. When he looked up at her, his lips just above her navel, she saw that depth of love that she’d never seen before him. Jon’s heart was so enormous, and he’d filled it with her, and it still amazed her every time she realized he really did love her. Not just because she was carrying his son. She worked her fingers into his hair, caressing and also subtly encouraging him to go lower.
“You smell so good,” Jon said as he kissed his way toward her clit, making her shiver and spread her legs in anticipation. “I’m going to make you scream,” Jon said, his voice low and raspy with desire. He laved her clit, just a few times, just enough for her to feel that hot wet ecstasy, then pulled back enough to add, “Then I’m going to shove inside you and make you scream again.” He slipped two fingers in her, curving, searching for her spot, and she was so turned on by his dirty talk, by the simple way he looked at her that she was worried she’d come too soon. She wanted to push him away, tell him to stop, to make it last, but then he bent over her clit again, sucking and licking while his fingers moved inside her, and it was only a few seconds before she was crying out, her head thrown back as pleasure surged through her.
He teased her a few seconds longer, drawing it out until she grew too sensitive and pushed him away. He licked his lips, arousal like fire in his eyes, and without another word, he climbed on top of her, aligning himself and teasing at her entrance. She’d had plenty of sex in her life, even after her marriage dissolved, but never sex like what she had with Jon, where her body ached for him even after she came, like she needed him inside her, needed to feel the heat of his orgasm. It was something deep and primal, like Jon’s fierce attraction to her pregnant body, and yet something else that told her that what they had was special.
Vicky wrapped her legs around his back, trying to pull him toward her. He laughed, then grunted as he shoved inside her hard, making her gasp. Tendrils of pleasure echoed through every nerve in her body as he drew up one knee to alter the angle, to get in just the right spot, and she screamed when he finally did, like a key locking into place. And then he leaned closer, wrapping his arms around her, and rocked oh-so-slowly. How he could have such control when she would have fucked raw and fast, she didn’t know, but it drew out her second orgasm to a delightful peak that they both rode together. Slow and tender, then fast and harder, then slower again, until finally they were both frantic, covered in sweat, and his brow had furrowed in concentration.
“I can’t . . . I can’t last much . . . longer,” he struggled to say.
She knew she could have a second explosive orgasm, that she was close, too, so she nodded since words escaped her and tightened her hold on him, working with him to help bring them both there.
He speared her hard once, twice, a third time, and then his body went rigid and she felt that surge of warmth inside her, which he rode out, trying to bring her to orgasm before he grew soft. He tweaked her nipple to help her, and the switch went off, triggering a deeper, different, but still intense O than her first, that content feeling of post-sex bliss wrapping around her as he pulled out.
The cool air was chilling the sweat on their skin, and she shivered. So Jon curled up with her, pulling her into his arms in a spoon, wrapping a leg around her to bring her some of his body warmth. They knew they needed to move, to slip under the covers, but right now, they were both too spent, too content in each others’ arms to bother.
“I love you,” Jon whispered, kissing her neck. “I love that we’re having a son together.” And Jon placed one large hand on her belly, and for a moment, however fleeting, everything was right in the world.



  1. Kai is such an adorable hero. Facing so many health issues but still trying his best to stay positive, not to make other people around him worry.
    "He would suck it up. He’d take his meds, make some ginger tea, and fight through the nausea so he could do his schoolwork."
    "Not dead yet,” Kai muttered. “Just feel like it. I’ll be fine."
    "I have a lot of problems.” He smiled faintly."
    To smile while referring to his problems - these were just some examples of his incredible courage - wish I had some of it in me as well!! :)
    I wish you similar courage facing your daily challenges and thank you for sharing your story - we, readers, appreciate it more than we let it know!

  2. A very moving chapter, on all parts. I loved it all!

  3. "Kai’s own smile burst through, changing his face. “I never thought I’d meet someone with darker humor than my own." One of my favourite lines. Magic, and exquisitely done, as ever, Chie.