Crius watched nervously as Nesoi swam into the deeper water, his heart twisting in his chest as he watched for sharks or aggressive seals. She was searching for shells for a project she was working on and he had insisted on accompanying her. She dipped low and picked up another then turned and made her way back to him. “Can we go back now?” He asked as his eyes moved to her slightly rounded belly.
“Yes, of course.” She said and they surfaced. They swam back to shore, him staying close even when they shifted back to their human legs and walked through the shallows.
“How are you feeling?” He asked.
She giggled. “Fine silly, I didn’t get hurt.” She cradled the blue shells with one arm and reach up with her hand to cup his cheek. “I’m alright, you shouldn’t worry so much.”
His hand slid over hers. “I can’t help it.” He wanted her home. “May I carry you once we’re dressed?”
She smiled. “I’d like that very much.”
“So what are you doing with those?”
“It’s for the baby. It’s tradition to make something.”
“Should I help?”
“You don’t have to.”
“Are you sure?”
Nesoi was amazed at how stressed he was about her pregnancy. She had never seen him like this. “Crius, maybe we should take a little trip so you can relax. You’ve been nothing but worried lately.”
He frowned. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, it just means you love us, but I don’t want you making yourself sick. I know it scares you to see me out swimming in the ocean when I’m showing, but my mother did it and my grandmother.”
“I know, I just…if I lost you or the baby, it would kill me.”
She smiled as she pressed a kiss to his lips. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
“Maybe a trip really would be good though, somewhere peaceful. Once we have the baby it will be harder to travel, at least for awhile. This is our last shot as just a couple.”
“You’d be happy with somewhere peaceful?”
“Yes, I mostly want you to relax. It’s not healthy to stress so much, even if you aren’t pregnant. I need you around forever Crius. We could even make it a family outing and involve your sister. I always enjoy spending time with her, but I’m happy either way. Just us or a family affair?”
“It couldn’t hurt to have someone else around and my sister is always fun, scary at times, but fun.”
Nesoi laughed, “I love her spirit.”
Theia was sitting on her front porch when they returned, playing with her fat cat. She smiled when she saw them coming and got up, waving at them. “Well you look like you’ve been traumatized.” She teased and Crius sighed.
“I definitely have.”
“Awe, you’re so sweet, but you know she spent most of her life in the water.”
“I know.” He lowered Nesoi’s feet to the ground.
“It’s just first time parent jitters.” Nesoi said with a loving smile. Then to Theia, “We’re planning on going on a trip, want to come?”
“I’d love to, I’ve been dying to go somewhere.”
“It has to be somewhere peaceful for the baby.” Crius said.
“And for you, Crius, you need relaxation.” Nesoi added.
“Oh yeah, relaxation.” Theia said with a wink and laughed when they both blushed. “You two are adorable, I mean you made a baby.”
“Theia.” Crius groaned.
“Well you did and I’m excited about it. I finally get to be an aunt and of a mermaid baby.”
Nesoi smiled as she asked, “Do you have any ideas on where to go?”
“Well Crius, did you find any place new that looked peaceful on your way back home from the war?”
He seemed to think for a few seconds before saying, “Yeah, come to think of it I know a really good place.”
“Then let’s get ready so we can leave tomorrow. I mean, dinner is in only two hours so unless you want her to camp unnecessarily while pregnant.”
“Yeah, if we take some horses she wont have to camp until we’re there if we wait and leave at dawn.”
“Let me go rent some horses then, you two pack and relax.”
“Yeah, I’ve just been lazing about with my cat today. I probably should do something productive. I know he probably wants you off your feet and he knows you wont be unless he’s there fussing over you.”
Crius took Nesoi’s hand and guided her into their home as his sister left. He let her set her shells down on the coffee table and then lifted her, carrying her up to their room. “You relax here, let me pack.” He said as he sat her down on their bed.
“I can help.”
“Crius, you need to stop stressing.”
He sighed. “I’m sorry. Between this being our first child and my medical training…I know I’m being ridiculous, but I can’t lose either of you.”
“I know baby, but please try to breathe. Everything’s going to be fine.” She pulled him down, pressing a kiss to his lips. “I’ll stay here for you, but if you can’t find something let me know.”
“I will, I promise.” He bent down and kiss her belly. “And you go easy on your mother okay, I love you little one.”
Nesoi smiled, her heart feeling that familiar warmth he caused in so many ways. Crius was such a sweet man and she couldn’t wait to see him as a father. She knew he would be incredible no matter the gender. If they had a boy hopefully he turned out precisely like his dad and if they had a girl she knew he would make sure she was always safe. Crius managed to pack the bag without needing her assistance, but he did double check with her everything in it. “That sounds perfect honey.”
“Good, I guess since my sister isn’t back yet I’ll start on dinner by myself. Do you feel like tacos?”
“Sure, let me make salsa so we can have chips with them too. I’ve already rested a good amount.”
“Only if you let me finish when your feet start hurting.”
“If they do I’ll tell you.”
Theia came back while Nesoi was chopping vegetables for salsa and knocked as she pushed the front door open. “That was annoying.” She said as she stepped in.
“What happened?” Nesoi asked.
“Well I got the horses and then that boy at the stable thought he should talk to me and it took forever for me to get out of there.”
Crius chuckled. “What you mean, is that you were so flustered you couldn’t get a single word in.”
“I was not.”
“Your face says otherwise.”
“Oh shut up.” Theia blushed.
“So does that mean I get to tease you now?”
“Don’t make me beat you up.”
Nesoi laughed with Crius. “Maybe you should ask him on a date.”
“He’s really cute.” she blushed harder and her brother asked “And?”
“I don’t know.”
“She’s worried about being turned down.” Nesoi answered and he said, “Dont let fear keep you from pursuing someone. I was scared to ask Nesoi and I don’t even want to think of life if I had let her pass me by”
“Maybe when we get back.”
“Maybe invite him along.” Nesoi suggested.
“Come with us…um…well he’s working.”
“Obviously he’s working or he wouldn’t have talked to me today.”
“Other people work there too you know.”
“I’m aware, but he can’t just drop work. How ridiculous would that be?”
“Either you ask him or I ask him for you.” Crius said.
“You’re impossible, you know that?”
“Are you scared?”
“No,” she crossed her arms, “absolutely not, I’ll ask him after we eat.”
Crius grinned. “Good, I’ll hold you to it.”
Nesoi couldn’t help but laugh at them and Crius brushed a kiss to her cheek. “What was that for?”
“For being so beautiful and perfect.”
“You’re so cheesy, Crius,” Theia said as she sat down at the kitchen table.
After they had their meal Crius nudged his sister out the door and she reluctantly went. She wanted to spend time with him, but if he rejected her she would still have to see him every time they wanted a horse and she wasn’t prepared for that kind of embarrassment. She wasn’t looking for him long at the stables before he showed up, that same ridiculously handsome smile on his face.
“What’re you doing back so soon?”
“I wanted to ask you something.”
“What is it Theia?” She already felt like she was drowning in his gorgeous blue eyes, but she fought through her nerves.
“I’m going on a trip with my brother and his wife and they said it was okay if you wanted to come too, but I mean, you probably have to work so.”
“I’d like to go, let me go talk to my employer. If I can I’m coming.”
“Really?” she hated how surprised she sounded and he smiled.
“I have a question for you too.”
“You really don’t notice I flirt with you all the time do you? Your nerves right now tell me it’s just as I thought, you don’t see that I think you’re a beautiful, absolutely amazing woman Theia.”
Her face became bright red and she swallowed. “Um s…so you’ll be coming then?”
He chuckled. “If you really want me too.”
“Come on Val.” She looked down at her feet in embarrassment.
“Do you want me to go?” He reached out and gently took her hand.
“Yes.” She said softly.
“Hmm? Could you look at me, I can’t hear you.”
She raised her head, giving him a little glare that had him smiling. “I said yes, now go ask.”
When he returned it was with good news. “I’m free as long as I need to be. He said there are plenty other people here.”
“Great, um, so I guess we could go to your place to pack then we can either meet in the morning because we’re planning to leave crazy early or you could come sleep on my couch.”
“Aw, why not in bed with you?”
“Be careful or I’ll uninvite you.”
He chuckled, “I was messing around. I’ll be happy to sleep on your couch if that’s really okay.”
“It is….have you really been flirting with me all this time?”
“Yep, I think you were just too nervous to notice.” They soon were at his house which was interesting to see. She had occasionally wondered what his place was like and now she wondered if he had thought of the same. “I’m ready.” Those two words broke her thoughts and she blushed again, drawing another laugh out of him.
“You’re as mean as my brother.”
“I’m just happy, I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine, we should get going.”
“Do I make you nervous?”
“No, just my brother might worry, you know if I don’t come back.”
He chuckled. “How cute.”
Crius laid next to Nesoi in bed, letting his fingers run through her beautiful pink hair as he just admired her. “God you’re beautiful.” He finally said and her smile made his heart skip a beat.
“Oh yes, it’s shocking how breathtaking you are.” He pressed a kiss to her lips.
“You’re so sweet, Crius. I’m really happy.”
“Me too.” His lips were against hers again, this time more passionate than before. He moved her onto her back, his hand sliding under her shirt to get at more of her.
He smiled briefly against her lips when he felt goosebumps start to form. He hoped his touch would always elicit such reactions so easily from her. He began to strip her, doing it slow and teasingly before tugging off his own clothes. He didn’t want anything holding them back from getting lost in one another, especially since they probably wouldn’t be able to have sex on their vacation. As they made love he couldn’t resist stopping every now and then to reign kisses all over her body. Kissing her never got old and he hoped it made her feel as loved and treasured as she was. They only made love until they both came since he didn’t want to wear her out for the morning. It was blissful just to hold her anyway and soon they were both sound asleep.
The next morning, they jumped in the shower and Crius couldn’t help but hold her for a few minutes, just basking in her warmth and beauty. It was hard not to take his time with her, but he managed to let her go so they could wash and get out before Theia came over. “I’ll cook us all a quick breakfast.” Nesoi said when they were out and dressed.
“I can do it.”
Nesoi giggled. “Crius, I can stand for more than minutes at a time.”
He sighed. “I know, sorry. I’m being annoying aren’t I?”
“Of course not, I love how sweet you are.” She kissed his cheek. “Go get your sister and ask her if…um”
“Yeah, ask her if Val is coming.”
“As long as you’re sure.”
“I am, go.”
He gave her a quick kiss and left her. He hurried over to his sister’s house and knocked on the door, surprised when Val answered. “Oh, hello.” Crius said.
“Don’t just answer the door, you don’t even…live…here…oh god.” Theia’s face turned bright red. “Don’t start.”
“Start what?” Crius asked with a laugh and Theia glared. “I was told to see if you two wanted breakfast.”
“Y…y…yeah, we’ll be over in a second.” Crius chuckled as he walked away and Theia was absolutely mortified.
“I guess typical big brother stuff?”
“Yeah, he’s been teasing me about you.”
She blushed. “Just finish getting ready.” He listened instead of teasing her more. He was simply happy she obviously returned his feelings. All this time he didn’t know if she was truly missing how he felt or if she was just trying to brush him off kindly instead of out right rejecting him. With how her brother reacted and the teasing he felt confident now that he had a chance with her, she just had to get over her own nerves and let him love her. He could be as patient as he needed to be for that and he expected this trip to be incredibly fun.
“Are they coming?” Nesoi asked when Crius returned.
“Mmhm.” Crius wrapped his arms around her as she cooked and pressed a kiss to her temple. “And guess what?”
“He stayed over there last night.”
Nesoi smiled. “Now be good, Crius.”
“Awe come on, I have to tease her a bit, I mean she does it to me all the time.” He kissed her neck, causing her to laugh.
“Alright, but only a little.”
He let his hand move over her belly. “And how are you feeling? Tired or sick or anything?”
“I’m perfect, but if you want to help you could make some coffee for me.”
“Of course, who knows, my sister might be tired from her night with him.” Nesoi laughed and he smiled. She knew she was going to hear that joke directed at his sister as soon as they got there. Theia and Val soon arrived and Crius wasted no time. She was blood red all through breakfast and Val just kept laughing.
“I thought I would like hanging out with you.” He noted to Crius who said “So in reality though did she make you sleep on the floor or the couch?”
Crius smirked. “Well, I’m glad you decided to come.”
“I’m looking forward to having some real time with her. Where are we going?”
“A place I found on my way home from the war.”
“Yeah, you were a medic right?”
“Did you like being a medic?”
“Yeah, it was a very fulfilling job, I got to help a lot of people, but it could be mentally and physically taxing at times.”
“I can only imagine. I mean I’ve worked in that stable since I was a teenager.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Sorry if I brought up any bad memories.”
“It’s fine, really, I expect questions and I’m fine with answering them. I saw a lot of messed up stuff while I was there, but I also saved lives, not just of our troops, but also some of the enemy troops.”
“Why did you join?”
“Because I have a gift and I thought it could be put to good use on the battlefield.” He reached over and took Nesoi’s hand and brought it to his lips. “Now I can make sure Nesoi and the baby stay healthy.”
“Is everything going well with your pregnancy so far Nesoi?” Val asked, now looking at her and she answered, “Yeah, Crius has been babying me and it’s really sweet. If I seem fatigued at all he’s fussing over me.”
“Even when she doesn’t seem fatigued.” Theia added.
They finished their breakfast then set out for the stables so they could collect the horses Theia rented. Val got them set up despite the fact there were other workers there and soon they were following Crius’s lead. It worried him to have Nesoi on her own horse but she looked so happy and he knew if she needed to lean on him for support later she could get on his and they could just have her horse follow.
“How far are we going?” Val asked as they rode along the beach.
“A couple of days, but it’s worth it. There’s a lot of beautiful country between here and there.”
“Are we going to be camping?”
“No, I don’t want Nesoi sleeping on the ground. She can sleep in front of me when it gets dark.”
“I don’t mind us stopping if we have to.” Nesoi said.
“I know baby and I promise to let the horses rest if they need to, but I want to get there as quickly as possible.”
“As long as you’re sure.”
“I am, I just want you comfortable.”
“The same goes for you, Theia.” Val said. “If you get tired, you can sit in front of me and I’ll hold you.”
Her cheeks tinted, “Okay, thank you.” Her brother smirked and she tried not to notice his silent teasing.
The sea truly was gorgeous as always. It was such a beautiful color and the seagulls flew so gracefully over it. The air was amazing as well and it seemed even the horses enjoyed walking across the soft, warm sands. They passed other animals as they went along and stopped a couple times so Crius could gather any particularly beautiful shells Nesoi spotted for her project. She was putting them in a small bag she had brought specifically for this. “Whatever you’re making the baby is going to be gorgeous.” Theia said and Nesoi answered, “I can’t wait, I hope I see a few more on this beach before we move on.”
“I’m sure we will. I’ll help you look.”
They only stopped when Nesoi expressed hunger and Crius lead them away from the beach. He slid from the back of his horse then went and helped Nesoi down from hers. “Theia, would you come and help me, there are a few fruit trees near here.”
“Val, are you okay with watching over Nesoi?”
“Of course, I’ll make sure she doesn’t push herself too hard.”
“Alright, thank you.” Crius pressed a kiss to Nesoi’s lips. “We won’t be gone long.’
“I’ll be fine baby.”
Crius left with Theia, who started to tease once they were out of earshot and Val helped Nesoi sit down in the soft grass. “Is there anything you need?” Val asked.
“I’m fine, thank you. I’m really glad you came with us, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Theia show interest in anyone.”
He smiled, “She’s a hard woman to charm, but I was determined. I’ve grown to care about her quite a bit.”
“Well you seem like a good guy. Her brother feels that way too. If he didn’t like you he wouldn’t be teasing he’d be trying to get you to go away.”
“And he definitely wouldn’t have left me alone with you I don’t think.”
She smiled, “No, he wouldn’t have.” They continued talking until Crius and Theia returned with all the fruit they could carry. The skin of it was a beautiful mixture of orange and red and the inside was all white. It was delicious and they happily consumed it together as the spoke to each other about the trip so far.
The rest of the trip was uneventful and both women slept soundly in front of Crius and Val, though Theia’s heart was ready to pound out of her chest when she first took her place in front of Val. Crius turned away from the sea on the evening of their second day and lead them across a field to a wooded area. There was a path leading inside and Crius took the reigns of Nesoi’s horse as they headed in single file. “Are we close?” Nesoi asked, starting to feel a little saddle sore.
“Just a few more minutes baby then you can rest.” Crius said.
“It’s not that I’m tired, but my legs and butt are sore and the bouncing is making me have to pee.” She said with a little laugh. “I’m really excited to see where we’ll be staying.”
He hated knowing she was in pain, but they were so close she may as well recover when they arrived. Rushing water soon caught Nesoi’s ears and it excited her. What she saw next when they turned into a more open area of the wood made her forget about being saddle sore all together. The trees in this opening were either covered in yellow leaves or leaves that almost looked blue. The grass had different size circles of pure white. It wasn’t snow that covered them either, it seems the grass in those spots was simple white for one reason or another. The rushing water turned out to be a small waterfall and a gorgeous river that she couldn’t wait to investigate further.
Crius helped her off her horse as Theia and Val hopped down from theirs. “I could gut punch you for not bringing us here sooner Crius.” His sister said and he answered, “I may have, but when I got home you had such a beautiful stranger there. She kind of consumed my thoughts.”
“Absolutely not, I’m surprised I didn’t forget my own name she was so beautiful.” Nesoi blushed and he pressed a kiss to her forehead. “It’s the truth my love.”
“Why don’t you take her to use the bathroom and we’ll get everything set up.” Val said. “Are there fish in the river?”
“There should be plenty this time of year.”
“Alright, you two go on then, we can handle everything else.”
Theia turned to him as her brother and Nesoi walked away. “You’ve been very sweet and helpful.”
“Of course, it’s your brother and Nesoi is pregnant. I want him to be able to just focus on her and relaxing and besides, it gives me an excuse to spend more time with you.”
His words caused her heart to flutter again as she responded, “So, would you consider this trip our first date then?”
“I’m hoping so, honestly I’d rather skip the whole we’re just going on dates thing and be your boyfriend.”
She didn’t know what to say but he didn’t seem to require her to say anything in response. Val simply took her hand, holding it firmly in his as they walked over to the river. He had this interesting way of coming on strong but somehow not at the same time. Then again she knew she had a tendency to think too much. It was probably why she missed that her feelings were reciprocated so she forced herself to speak, no more thinking, no more being shy. “I would like you to be my boyfriend too.” He dropped the fish he had just caught and chuckled, going over to her and giving Theia a gentle kiss on the lips before going back to catching food for them.
Once Nesoi had relieved herself, Crius brought her back and helped her sit down in the soft grass. He dropped down at her feet, pulling them into his lap and removing her boots. He started to massage them and she made a little sound of relief. He then helped her turn around and started on her back. “Feeling better?”
“Yeah, thank you.” Once he was finished he lifted her and sat her on his lap, making her smile. “This place is so beautiful.”
“A beautiful location for a beautiful woman.”
She giggled. “You’re so sweet.”
He brushed his fingers through her hair, reveling in the softness. “It’s easy when it’s you my love, everything about you is so perfect.” He pressed a kiss to her lips, feeling warmth spread through him.
“You two are far too adorable.” Val said as he walked over with a fish in each hand. Theia had two as well and they sat them down in the grass. They were already cleaned and ready to cook.
“How did you catch those.” Nesoi asked.
“With his hands, he’s such a show off.” Theia said and blushed when Val grinned at her.
“You were impressed, admit it and we didn’t bring a fishing pole.”
“Thanks for taking care of that. You’ll have to show me sometime so I never have to bring a pole.”
“I wanted to be useful and now that I’m actually your sisters boyfriend I want to be invited more often.”
“Boyfriend?” Her brother asked with a playful smile, his eyes already on his sister.
She blushed. “I’m not afraid to hit you in front of him.”
Nesoi laughed along with Crius and Val. When Crius spoke he said, “Don’t worry, she threatens far more than she actually does it.”
Val chuckled again. “I figured, she’s sweet, she just doesn’t like to admit it.” He looked over at her so affectionately it was hard for Theia to keep his gaze but she did. It made her nervous but it felt amazing to be looked at like that.
It felt nice just being able to relax and Crius told himself to trust his medical training. He knew if anything happened to Nesoi or the baby, he could keep them alive and safe until they made it home. Val got a fire started and Crius cuddled Nesoi as they waited for dinner, his hand rubbing her belly which made their little one kick at him. Nesoi rested her head on his shoulder, just enjoying the beauty and the peace of the night. Once dinner was ready, they ate, washed up and then found comfortable spots on either side of the fire.
“The grass is so soft, Crius, it’s like lying on a feather bed.” Nesoi said as she snuggled into him. “I never thought a place this beautiful existed. I want to bring the baby here when it’s old enough.”
“We can come as much as you like.”
“Do you think we could build a little house here?”
“I’m sure that could be arranged.”
“I could come and help you, I’m sure my boss would let me borrow his cart and a couple of horses to haul materials.” Val said.
Soon all they could talk about was plans for a house out here. They wanted it to be big so they could have plenty of room for all the children they wanted and room for any guests wanting to stay. They conversed about the colors of each room and what sort of furniture they would want. They even discussed the most minute details like what sort of handles would be on the drawers. It made the rest of that evening truly relaxing, just as they intended this trip to be. The next day when Crius had his sister alone he teasingly said, “Maybe if things get serious with Val you two could build your home here.”
Her face was blood red as he chuckled. “He’s a nice guy, stop fighting it. The way he’s been fawning over you I bet he’d build a house with you today if you wanted it.”
“You’re broken brother, you should be shooing men away.”
“You’re too strong of a woman to need that from me.”
They spent the next couple of days exploring, both Crius and Val scouting out the best places to put a house. They thought that tucking it back in the woods a little bit would be better since it would give them even more privacy. Nesoi enjoyed the area, but her favorite spot was the river and waterfall and she played the longest there in the water. The baby seemed to sense its mother’s joy and kicked and tumbled excitedly. Nesoi and Crius enjoyed watching the love between Val and Theia grow with each passing day and Crius periodically teased Theia. When the time came for them to leave, Nesoi found herself getting a little emotional and Crius had to hide his smile as he comforted her.
“Sorry, it’s just hormones.” She said as he wiped the tears away.
“We’ll be back baby, Val and I are going to build you a beautiful house that we can come to any time you want. He or she will be able to play and explore and fall just as in love with this place as us.”
“You’re so sweet, Crius, I really love you.”
“I love you too.”
Upon arriving home from their trip Val took the horses back to the stables and Nesoi could no longer wait to start her project for the baby. Crius helped her, throwing in a few ideas of his own for the piece of art that would hang just behind the babies crib. At first it just looked like a mess of pretty shells but slowly something gorgeous was forming, he could tell this had been something her family had been doing a long time because she had seemed confident in how it would turn out from the start. It consumed the remainder of that day but in the evening there it was and Nesoi wanted Theia to see. “I’ll see if she’s up. You just wait here beautiful.” Crius said, kissing her head then going to grab his shoes. He tugged them on and ran all the way over, grinning from ear to ear when she answered the door and he could see Val sitting at her table with a cup of coffee. “Oh, I see your busy.”
“What is it?”
“We finished Nesoi’s project. She wants you to see, Val’s welcome too.”
Val got up and soon they were back at his home. She held it up proudly and Theia gasped, “That’s so pretty.”
“Your brother helped a lot.”
“Wow, where are you putting that?”
“We decided behind the crib.”
“The baby’s going to love looking at it.”
“Mhm, I’m hoping so.”
“Let me hang it for you guys.” Val offered.
“Thank you.” Nesoi said as she gently handed it over. Crius grabbed him a hammer and nail and they all went to watch him put it up. Once it was on the wall, they all stood back and once again admired the starfish pattern made up of different colored shells. It was beautiful and they knew the baby would love it. They spent the rest of the day together and both Nesoi and Crius couldn’t contain the grins on their faces when Theia shyly insisted Val stay over so he wouldn’t have to walk home in the dark.
Crius carried Nesoi upstairs where he cuddled with her under the covers, allowing his fingers to run gently through her hair. “I’m really happy for Theia.” She said.
“Me too, she seems happy and Val’s a good guy, I know I don’t have to worry about him. It’s also amusing seeing her so flustered.”
“Crius, don’t be bad.”
“Sorry.” He said with a chuckle then kissed her forehead. “I love you, you know that? I’m so lucky to have someone as sweet and as beautiful as you and I can’t wait to help you bring our baby into the world. You’re going to be such an amazing mother.”
“You’re going to make me cry.”
“Please don’t baby, I only want you to understand how truly loved you are.”
“I feel the same about you. I love you so much Crius, thank you for being so wonderful.”
He held her a little tighter and pressed another kiss to her forehead. “You honestly make it easy love.”