Red Dragon Inn
Dreamweaver's Lair => From the Dragon's Mouth => Of Gall And Grangers => Topic started by: Rick Connors on June 05, 2020, 08:02:29 PM
Though according to the calendar it was still spring in Rhy'Din, summer was definitely in the air, especially at King's Cove, where the warm weather was perfect for surfing. Orders were pouring in at Custom Kings in anticipation of surf season, and if that wasn't enough to keep everyone busy, today was the day Rick and Nali were supposed to be moving into the new beach house they had built at the Cove.
There were no end of helping hands to facilitate the move, between Nali's family and Rick's. Not that the pair had much in the way of possessions or furniture to move - they had been living out of Nali's tiny apartment in the city for the last year. But there was furniture to put together, and rooms to arrange, and by the end of the day, the house finally looked like a home.
Rick collapsed on the couch to relax for a minute and survey the results of the day's work. There were still boxes that needed unpacking and pictures to be hung on the walls, but for the most part, they were settled. He couldn't help but smile as he looked around the room. At last, there was some place he and Nali could truly call home.
The door closed, signaling that his wife had finally managed to send her family off on their way home, and Nali came into view. Her sunny smile was a little tired, but warm, delighted that they had a home of their own at last. She thumped down onto the couch beside him, letting out a long, deep sigh of relief and contentment.
"I thought they were never going to leave."
Rick smiled as he slid an arm around her shoulders to draw her close. They were both sweaty and tired, but it was the good kind of tired that came from a hard day's work.
"They were a lot of help," he said, appreciative of her family's continued willingness to help in whatever way they could.
She laughed, nestling into his side with happy affection. "They were," she agreed. "I thought Merilee was going to collapse under that last box, though." She snorted with laughter at the memory of her tiefling sister trying to carry the box of pots and pans all on her own.
Rick chuckled at that. "You can't blame her for trying," he said. There was no doubt he was fond of Nali's family, especially her siblings. "It's amazing she didn't end up on the floor." Along with all the pots and pans.
"Pretty sure Isaac was doing some finger wiggling so she didn't," she said with a grin. "Bethan totally wants to steal Noelle and take her home, you know."
Rick chuckled. "I think Jack and Jaz might have something to say about that," he said, though his brother and sister-in-law might be open to the idea of sleepovers.
"Maybe a little." Nali grinned, tilting her head back to look up at him. "Did you hear Mom's constant comment's about how the third bedroom would make a great nursery?"
"She's not very subtle, is she?" Rick replied with another chuckle. What mother wasn't eager to become a grandmother? "Think things will turn out the way we saw them?" he asked, recollecting the sneak peek they'd been given of their future.
Nali smiled, settling her head on his shoulder once again as her eyes turned up toward the ceiling. "Oh, I'm pretty sure they will," she said confidently. "Not long now."
He arched a brow upwards as he eyed her beside him. "Meaning?" he asked curiously. That sneak peek at their future had included a daughter, but it was hard to tell when exactly that daughter would be born, much less conceived.
Her grin deepened. "I don't have an exact date yet," she conceded. "My best guess is sometime around the beginning of November." Her green eyes flickered toward him with teasing tenderness.
"What?" he exclaimed, blinking in surprise. "You mean you're ... you're pregnant? Now?" He was obviously not expecting her to give him that bit of news just yet. "Are you sure?"
She chuckled at his reaction, glad she hadn't given into the impulse to make a big song and dance out of telling him this news. "As sure as I can be," she assured him, meeting his gaze. "You're gonna be a dad."
Somehow, he had a feeling she wouldn't have told him if she'd had any doubts. "I-I don't know what to say," he said, for once at a loss for words.
"In a happy way, I hope?" she asked, twisting where she sat to face him more fully, her legs now draped across his lap. "It wasn't intentional; I didn't do this to trap you. It just ... happened."
"Trap me?" Rick echoed, a confused expression on his face. "Nali, I don't feel trapped. I never have, where you're concerned, and I never will. I just didn't think it would happen so soon, but I'm happy, Nali. You make me happy," he said, leaning close to brush his lips against hers.
She smiled, leaning in to answer that kiss with her own. "Just checking," she murmured, nuzzling close for a long moment. "You know what they say ... new house, new baby. We really should get that dog soon, too." Her smile widened to a teasing grin as she said this, knowing perfectly well that the dog in question was almost bigger than she was.
"No one told me which one would come first," he murmured with a grin. Even with that sneak peek at the future, no one had told them exactly what to expect or when. That sneak peek had been enough to prove to them both that this was where he was meant to be. "Congratulations, Nali. You're gonna be a mom."
"Oh gods, we're gonna be parents," she said, as though it had only just hit her full force now she had told him. "I gotta find a proper job!"
Rick chuckled at Nali's reaction. "I thought you had a proper job," he told her, though he wasn't sure if she was referring to her knack for finding lost people or helping her parents in the pub.
"I can't really be serving drinks until midnight with a kid," she pointed out. "I refuse to be that mom. The info broker stuff ... I could probably continue with that. I get to pick and choose my jobs with that one."
"Why don't you let me worry about supporting us?" he asked, though he had yet to find a steady job, other than helping out at the pub. What does an ex-DEA man do in a place like Rhy'Din, after all?
"But you wanted to go to catering school," she reminded him. "I don't want you to have to give up on that just because my birth control decided to take a night off."
"I'd probably learn more on the job than I would in school," he told her. "Besides, I'm a little old for school, don't you think?" he asked, a teasing gleam in his eyes. "I'll find a regular job, Nali. Don't worry about it."
She laughed at his tease, kissing the tip of his nose affectionately. "You don't have to be the only one bringing in the dough, honey," she reminded him. "But thank you."
"I'm not baking bread for a living, Nali," he teased back, turning serious as another thought came to mind. "Is money a problem?" he asked, uncertainly.
She shook her head. "Not really," she admitted. "We have a pretty sizable nest egg. But I think we both need to be doing something, too."
"Well, Jack said this place gets pretty busy during surf season. What if we opened a cafe or something?" he suggested, though they'd need someone willing to invest in the business.
She blinked, surprised by the question, but that surprise was quickly overtaken by a broad smile. "You, honey, are a genius," she informed him, taking his face between her hands to kiss him with more enthusiasm than accuracy on the lips. "We could totally do that. You cook, I'll serve. It'd be like a little family cafe on the beach!"
"We can make our own hours, and hire a few people to help out," he suggested, chuckling as she kissed him with more enthusiasm than he'd kissed her. "It's just an idea, Nali, but I like cooking."
"I think it's a wonderful idea," she told him with a bright smile. "I suppose we should talk to Tommy and Jack about it before we start making any big plans, though."
"That's probably a good idea. The Cove belongs to them, after all," Rick replied in agreement. "It would be seasonal work, but if we make enough during the season, we could take fall and winter off."
She nodded, her mind already turning over the various hurdles ahead of them. "We wouldn't be ready to open until this time next year," she mused. "But we can support ourselves easily enough until we open, and it'd mean we wouldn't be trying to support a business as well as a newborn."
"Exactly. We'd have time to get used to being parents before the business opens," he said, following up on her train of thought. "What do you think? Do you like the idea?"
"Oh, was the kiss not obvious enough?" she countered laughingly, throwing her arms around his neck and planting another kiss on his lips. "I - " Kiss. "Love -" Kiss. "It." More kisses.
He chuckled into her kisses, winding his arms around her waist before returning the favor. "And I -" Kiss. "Love -" Kiss. "You -" Another kiss, deeper and longer than the others.
She giggled into his last kiss, only too happy to be pulled fully onto his lap and trade those kisses back and forth between them. "I guess Mom's going to get that nursery she wanted, huh?"
"I guess so," he replied, grinning back at her. "Maybe we should have just asked Future You and Future Me what we're supposed to do," he said, though that would have been cheating, and it seemed they'd cheated enough as it was.
She snorted with laughter. "You really think we would have told us?" Given the sheer amount that their future selves had managed to get arranged in the space of a single day, she didn't think they would have been easily convinced to share secrets.
He shrugged. "You never know. Maybe we sent ourselves a message only to be delivered and read on a specific date," he said, though that hardly seemed likely.
"If flowers show up at the hospital on the day our daughter is born, from her, I will vomit," she threatened in amusement. "That's just a little too weird, even for me."
Rick laughed again. "How do you think I feel? All of this is a little too weird for me, but without the weirdness, we might not be together, so who am I to argue?"
"Well, weird is a way of life around here, you're not wrong," she agreed with a low giggle, brushing the tip of her nose to his. "Part of me wishes we could have told your Mom we were expecting, though."
"I'm sure she knows," he said, with the faintest hint of a frown. He wasn't sure if she believed in an afterlife, but whether it could be proven or not, he didn't want to consider the alternative that there was nothing.
"I know," she agreed, her eyes crinkling in a wide grin. "Just would have been nice to see her tackle you into the sand twice in one day, that's all."
"Tackle me into the sand?" he echoed with a chuckle at the image that put in his head. "Do you want to pop back again to tell her?" he asked, though he had a feeling she would decline.
"We could," she mused, "but we'd be risking a lot to do it." Nali shrugged. "It's your choice, honey, not mine."
"We risked a lot to take Jack back, but he needed it," Rick said, knowing the risk was mostly to himself, as he was the one who'd cheated Death to come to Rhy'Din.
"He did," Nali agreed. "Perhaps we could bring her here for a visit? Send Lena or Jaz to get her, maybe? I don't think they would cause any ripples, and you'd be safe."
Rick furrowed his brows at Nali's suggestion, which opened another whole can of worms, as far as he was concerned. "If we bring her here, I'm not so sure I'd want her to go back."
"If she didn't go back, you would remember being abandoned by your mother, the way Jack was," she pointed out. "And would she want to stay, knowing she has a little boy to raise?"
"How far back are we talking about going?" he asked, that puzzled expression still on his face. If they went that far back, it might not be necessary to bring her to Rhy'Din at all.
"Well, Jack visited just after you were born," she said thoughtfully. "That doesn't seem to have had any after-effects. You don't remember it happening, after all."
"I don't know, Nali. I can't say I wouldn't be tempted to warn her. To tell her about the cancer. To ... change things," he confessed honestly. Who wouldn't be tempted to change things if they knew there was a chance they could save someone they loved from death?
"You know her, though," she pointed out. "Would she change anything, even knowing what was coming? I know that, if I was in her position, I wouldn't want to risk the future my boys had found."
"Maybe there's a way we could do both," he said, the wheels in his head turning on that. Maybe. "You hungry?" he asked, changing the subject for a moment. As for himself, he was starving.
"Mmm, yeah, I am." She nodded. "I think we have food in the fridge. Lemme check." With a last kiss to his nose, she heaved herself up off his lap, stretching out her aching back after the day's heavy lifting before padding over to the kitchen to explore.
He followed her to his feet and into the kitchen. He was the one who usually did the cooking, after all, but he'd had something else in mind tonight. "How about takeout?" he asked, considering how hard they'd both worked.
"What kind?" she countered, glancing over her shoulder at him as she opened the fridge. Her mother had made sure they had all the basics they needed, but if they wanted a meal, it would require some work on their part tonight.
"Chinese?" he asked, knowing there were almost as many varieties of takeout here on Rhy'Din as there were back home.
She hadn't introduced him to some of the more fantasy-based foods yet, for which he was probably thankful. There are only so many times you can watch an orc eating a bowl full of living tripe before you decide not to eat ever again.
"Chinese sounds good," she said with a smile.
"Trust me to order for you?" he asked, as he rifled through a pile of takeout menus for the one he was looking for. They even delivered via the portal so it wouldn't arrive cold.
"Always." She flashed him a grin. "Just nothing shrimpy. I'm not allowed shellfish for a few months." She winked at him impishly, closing the fridge door to turn and instead begin breaking in the coffee pot.
"No shrimp. Got it," he said, picking up his phone to text his order in, along with directions for delivery and payment. He'd proved a quick learner as far as technology was concerned, but he was still having some issues with magic.
Magi-tech was going to take a while to get used to, as well, but thankfully, Rhy'Din was generally equipped to deal with people of all technological backgrounds. As he placed their order, Nali leaned comfortably against the counter. "So are we taking Tommy up on those surfing lessons?"
"Hell, yes," he was quick to reply. "I'd like to anyway," he added, frowning a little as he looked over at her. "What about you? Now that you're pregnant, I mean."
"Well, women have been doing all kinds of things while pregnant for millennia," she pointed out with a smile. "I won't overdo it, how about that?"
"I'm never going to stop worrying about you," Rick confessed with a sigh as he moved over to pull her into his arms. Especially now that she was carrying his child.
"You wouldn't be you if you stopped," she answered, wrapping her arms about his waist as he pulled her close. "Besides, it's a two-way street, you know? I worry about you, too."
"I think that's part of the deal," he told her, smiling as he brushed a kiss against her nose. "You saved my life, Nali. If it wasn't for you ..." He broke off, leaving the rest unsaid. He only wished he could do the same for his mother.
"I remember you being pretty pissed about the way I did that," she teased gently, stroking her hands against his back. After all, her method had ended up with her in a hospital bed thanks to a gunshot wound.
"I would have preferred you hadn't put herself in harm's way, but - how's the saying go? All's well that ends well?" he said, unable to hide the smile from his face. Had she died, he would have demanded to portal back and change things, but fortunately, that hadn't been necessary. "You did for me what Lena did for Tommy. You were just a little more dramatic about it."
"I didn't think I was going to get shot too!" she protested laughingly. "Look at me, I'm tiny and sweet and totally non-threatening!"
"You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said, though if she hadn't been, they might not be having this conversation. "I have to confess that time travel confuses me," he said, and that was putting it lightly.
"It confuses most people," she assured him. "Hell, it still confuses me on occasion, and I have a temporal portal stone - and you've seen what happens when I let my mind wander while I'm using it."
"There has to be a way, Nali," he said, frowning again. Then again, maybe it was better to leave things as they were. Jack had his answers; he'd said his goodbye. No one lived forever.
"Not without causing bigger problems," she said quietly. "I'm sorry, baby, but ... the timeline is more important than we are. It sucks, but it's true."
"And yet, here I am," he murmured with another sigh. He knew better than to push his luck though, letting the subject drop, at least for now.
She rose up onto her toes, kissing his chin affectionately. "I love that you're here," she murmured. "I love that we're building a home and a family together. I love you. And in a couple of days, we're going to get a big ass dog for us to love, too."
He couldn't help but chuckle at that, forgetting his grief about his mother's death at least for a while. "And what makes you think we're supposed to get this big ass dog before or after the baby is born?" After all, their future counterparts hadn't really given them too many instructions.
"Mainly because I'd rather teach a dog about a baby than teach a toddler about a dog?" she suggested with a grin. "Seems easier to do it that way around."
"Fair enough," he said. If it was meant to be, it was meant to be. They'd find out soon enough, he supposed. "Do you think the future is changeable?" he asked curiously.
"I don't think anything is set in stone," she said, with confidence that came from the fact that they had already changed his future together. "But I see no problem with following a path we know leads to a good place."
"Then, we're going to have a daughter," he said, his voice uncharacteristically quiet. A little blond imp of a girl they'd caught a glimpse of during their peek at the future.
"And another baby," she said, her voice softer now as she recalled the sight of the bundled up baby that had been sitting on his future self's lap in the park. "We're going to have a family together."
He smiled at the memory of that. "We're going to have a life together," he told her, brushing a kiss against her lips as he held her close. Though the future wasn't set in stone, he was determined to make that peek at the future reality.
"Maybe I should start wearing, like, platform heels," she suggested with a low laugh, up as high as she could get on her toes and he still had to stoop to kiss her.
"Don't change a thing. I love you just the way you are," he told her, even as he smiled in amusement at her suggestion. "Think we should make the bed, Mrs. Connors? Because I plan on christening our new house by making love to my wife tonight."
She giggled. "We probably should," she agreed. "Because after the food arrives, I don't think we're going to do anything but christen the new house. Several times. In many earnest, kinky ways."
"Kinky, huh?" he echoed with another chuckle. "Care to tell me what you consider kinky?" he asked, eyes bright with amusement and curiosity.
Nali snorted with laughter. "All right, let's go with adventurous instead," she suggested in amusement. "But we need food first, and before that, we need a bed to finish up in later."
"Come on, Mrs. Connors. We'll make it together," he told her, touching another kiss to her lips before pulling away to take her hand and lead her to the bedroom. "Do you remember where we put the sheets?"
"In the airing cupboard," she answered easily, happy to wander through their house at his side. "Dad was really insistent that I make sure all the linen was unpacked so it didn't get crumpled or damp."
"And where's that?" he asked, vaguely aware of what she was referring to, though they'd never had such a thing back home in Texas, where his mother had hung the laundry on a line outside, or put it in the dryer when it was damp.
"Next to the master bath," she said, giving his hand a gentle tug to pull him up the stairs toward the master suite. Their children were going to be sleeping downstairs, unless they did a little rearranging. "I still can't quite believe we have a house!"
"It's a lot nicer than either of our apartments," Rick remarked as he took yet another look around at their spacious new house. "A lot roomier, too."
"I didn't realize three bedrooms would be so big," she agreed in amusement, opening up the cupboard door to pull out sheets for the bed. "It doesn't feel that big in Jack's house!" But, of course, Jack had two children and a dog.
Rick chuckled. "Jack's house is a little more crowded than ours," he said, though if their peek at the future was anything to go by, it wouldn't be long before they'd catch up.
"Maybe we should make the most of the space while we have it," she said cheerfully, tossing him a set of pillowcases. "We have a lot of rooms to christen, after all."
"A lot of empty rooms," he added with a smirk as he guessed what she had in mind, wondering if she was planning on doing it on the floor or against a wall.
"Does the attic count?" she asked teasingly, taking her armful of bed sheets into the master bedroom. There were a few boxes in here still to be unpacked, but thankfully the collective effort had at least constructed the bed and furniture, and put the mattress in place.
He'd caught the pillow in his arms and followed her into the bedroom to help her make the bed. "You want to christen the attic?" he asked, brows arching upwards.
"I'm just trying to work out how many rounds it would take to do the whole house." Nali laughed, pulling out the fitted sheet from her pile to begin making the bed with him.
"How many rooms are there?" he asked, with a smirk. He set the pillow down with the rest of the bedding and moved to the other side of the bed to help her with the sheets.
"Hmm, let's see ..." She grinned as they set about making their bed together. "There's the living room and kitchen, the downstairs bathroom, the two bedrooms downstairs ... the master bedroom, the master bath, possibly the attic. At least seven rooms."
"I hope you're not planning on christening them all in the same night!" Rick exclaimed with a chuckle. It seemed pregnancy had done nothing to slow her down or diminish her sex drive. At least, not yet.
"Maybe one a day," she suggested impishly. "A week-long housewarming, as it were." She wiggled her brows with outrageous mischief, disappearing briefly from view as they shook out the next sheet.
Rick laughed at his wife's suggestion. "Sounds like a tempting offer," he said, with a twinkle of amusement in his blue eyes. He waited for the sheet to drive back to the bed before taking the other side and arranging it on the bed.
"Of course," she added, diligently keeping her eyes on her hands as she tucked and folded, "that isn't to say I'm not going to ambush and ravish you in a room of my own choosing on a daily basis after that."
Rick laughed again. "Oh, really? I'll consider myself warned. Poor me," he said, as he ducked down to help her tuck and fold. Whatever had upset him earlier seemed to have been forgotten, at least for now.
The prospect of food and sex generally had an uplifting effect on the moods of both halves of this equation. It had been a long, busy day, but they had a good plan for the night ahead. "I know, you're so put upon," Nali teased. "Under my thighs, all the time."
"I really am. Moving in, making the bed, ordering out, having sex. When do I get a break?" he asked, obviously teasing. The truth was he was wasn't really missing his life back home much at all. Everything he needed and wanted was right here.
"In about eight months, but then you're gonna be under the baby's thumb," she informed him sweetly, letting out a low laugh of her own as they smoothed down the last of the sheets just in time to hear the knock on the door downstairs. "Are we racing to the door for the food?"
"Our daughter," Rick corrected, a smile on his face at the memory of the adorable child they'd been given a peek of. He blinked out of his reverie at the sound of the knock. "Oh! I'll get it!" he volunteered, turning for the stairs and taking them two at a time. "Coming!" he called to whoever was at the door.
"Our daughter," she repeated, a soft smile on her own face as Rick left the room at speed to rush down the stairs. "Your daddy's gonna be all lit up when he meets you, kiddo," she informed her mid-section, still flat, making her way downstairs more slowly. "It's gonna be adorable."
Of course, Rick was unaware of the conversation between mother and unborn daughter, but it hardly mattered. He was still feeling a little overwhelmed by it all, even now that the pieces of their lives were falling into place. She arrived downstairs in time to hear him thanking the delivery person before closing the door, a bag that smelled suspiciously of Chinese food in his hand.
"Kitchen?" he asked, as she joined him.
"Or couch, your choice," she told him, quite content to sit on the floor and eat, but that was mostly because her own family had to sit on the floor to accommodate the entire brood at one meal.
"Couch it is, then," Rick said, waiting for Nali to lead the way. Thankfully, there was a coffee table where they could lay out the various boxes of food stuffs. "I hope you like egg rolls."
"Mmm, absolutely." She swiped the mess off the coffee table for him to put the boxes down, perching on the edge of the couch eagerly. "You know, I don't think I've ever had a day where I feel like I've earned my dinner so much."
"Really?" he asked, as he set the boxes down and pulled two pairs of chopsticks out of the bag, along with napkins, a box of egg rolls, and of course, the all-important fortune cookies. "Why do you think that is?"
"You might have noticed, I'm not really a heavy lifting kind of girl," she said cheerfully, waiting impatiently for the food to be made available for nibbling. "Today was kind of physical."
Rick frowned at her confession, as he handed her a box of chow mein and pair of chopsticks. "Are you okay?" he asked, obviously concerned. If he'd known she was pregnant, he probably wouldn't have let her lift a finger to help, which might have been why she hadn't told him yet.
She chuckled. "I'm tired, honey, that's all," she assured him. "It's totally normal, apparently. But hey, my boobs look amazing, so there's pros and cons."
"As if your boobs didn't look amazing before you got pregnant," he murmured, a smirk on his face. "Do you know how to use these, or should I get forks?" he asked of the chopsticks.
"I know how," she assured him, popping hers apart and tucking one finger between them. She clacked them playfully toward him. "Do you need lessons, Mr. Connors?"
"Are we talking about chopsticks or something else, Mrs. Connors?" Rick teased in return, as he broke the plastic open and showed her that he, too, was adept at using the wooden utensils - or mostly adept.
"Did you get mustard?" she asked, lifting an eggroll up to her mouth hopefully. It was such a domestic scene, and one they had played out several times before, but for some reason it felt more real now they were sitting in their house, surrounded by unopened boxes.
"There should be some in the bag," he told her, grabbing the bag to pour out the contents, which included various sauces, onto the table. "I could get used to this, you know," he told her. He wasn't referring to the takeout so much as the domestic bliss.
"Mmm, lurve me some mustard," she declared, opening it up to dip her eggroll. She smiled at him, knowing exactly how he was feeling. "You will," she promised. "So will I."
"Should I put some on various body parts later so you can lick it off?" he teased, smirking around his own egg roll, which he preferred to eat just as it was.
She snorted around her mouthful, taking a moment to chew and swallow before answering. "What, you don't think you taste pretty damn good to me too?"
"It's just I've never met a woman who was so obsessed with ... mustard," he said, snickering. "Now, if it were my choice, I'd pick something sweet. Honey, jam, chocolate. Something like that," he said, indicating her body with a wave of his eggroll.
"Baby, are you asking me to paint myself in chocolate someday?" she asked impishly. "That could get messy real fast, you know." But in the back of her mind, she was already filing that away for future use.
"Just parts of yourself," he said, his gaze drifting to aforementioned "boobs" and trying not to indulge that fantasy just yet - not at least, until they were done eating.
She followed his gaze, her grin growing wider for a long moment. "Down boy," she told him. "After dinner, and not too soon after dinner, or you'll get cramp."
"I'm not going swimming, Nali." Rick chuckled. Though he might be willing to go "diving" somewhere else that he was too polite to mention.
She snorted with laughter, giggling as she swallowed once again. "Sure you won't need a snorkel?"
"I can hold my breath pretty well," he said, sticking his tongue out at her. He didn't think either of them was talking about conventional swimming, though they lived at the beach.
"Oooh, baby, tease me more," she moaned, just as teasing herself as she reached out to catch his tongue between her chopsticks. "Wiggle it just right and see what note I hit."
He tried to say something but it was unintelligible with his tongue trapped between her chopsticks. He was tempted to give her raspberries, but withheld that temptation, reaching over to steal a hunk of pork from her chow mein instead.
"Hey!" She released his chopsticks to hug her chow mein protectively, but too late - he already had his prize. That was something she was still learning to do; to let him share her food. Growing up in her family has resulted in Nali practically inhaling every meal, just in case someone finished before her and started eating off her plate.
He chuckled at her reaction. He'd never had to fight for his food like she had and found her reaction hysterical, especially since he had no intention of stealing her chow mein. "Trade?" he asked, offering her a bite of his sesame chicken.
She playfully considered for a moment. "Okay, you're forgiven," she said finally, opening her mouth for him to feed her. She knew she was lucky he didn't take offense to her occasional backsliding into big sister territory.
On the contrary, he found her behavior amusing, and in some ways, he even envied her. After all, she had grown up in a large family, and though he'd had three half-brothers, he had grown up an only child. "I'm so relieved," he replied, with a hint of sarcasm.
"You should be," she said with her mouth full. "I once went a whole week not talking to Colt after he stole my popsicle." She grinned, winking at him.
"Oh, the horror!" Rick said, trying to keep a straight face. "You couldn't stop talking to me for five minutes, much less a week," he taunted, as he gobbled up another blob of chicken mixture.
"I'm not going to say you're right," she informed him, grabbing another eggroll. "Because that is a line our relationship has not crossed yet." Apparently meaning that if he ever stole her frozen treat, there would be hell to pay.
"Whatever happened to 'What's mine is yours and yours is mine'?" he asked, the gleam in his eyes hinting at the fact that he was still teasing and obviously amused by the turn of conversation. "Are you going to be one of those wives who has a secret chocolate stash?"
She laughed. "Chocolate is your thing," she reminded him fondly. "I can't really hide a freezer anywhere, or I would definitely have a secret stash of popsicles."
"Sweetheart, I promise, you can have all the popsicles you want," he told her, and might have even laid a hand against his heart if he wasn't so busy trying to eat.
"And that's why I love my husband," she said with warm mischief, leaning over to kiss his cheek. "Have I told you how much I like the new look, by the way?"
"Hmm?" he murmured through a mouthful of sesame chicken. He'd recently ditched the retro 90's look and gotten his hair cut and his beard trimmed. It was a different look for him, with his hair combed back from his face, his beard trimmed closer to his face, and his wardrobe updated. "You approve? Do I look too much like Jack?"
"You look amazing," she promised him. "And no, you don't look too much like Jack. You look like you, like you're comfortable in your own skin. And it's gorgeous."
There were obvious differences between Rick and his older (but now younger) brother. Jack was clean-shaven for one thing, and his hair was blonder and shorter than Rick's. Jack was also quiet and shy compared to his more outgoing brother. Rick shrugged, as if it was nothing, though he was glad Nali approved of the new look. "I'm not undercover anymore."
"Never need to hide who you are around me, honey," she agreed fondly, setting down her carton with a happy sigh. "That was a gorgeous meal, thank you." Inhaling her food like it was going out of fashion was still her thing, it seemed.
He shrugged in answer to the compliment. "No need to thank me. I just ordered it," he said, unlike most nights when he did the cooking. He picked up the fortune cookies and held them out to her on the palm of his hand. "Pick one."
"But I like exercising my manners," she protested playfully. She considered the cookies on his palm before selecting one. "These things are usually hilarious for me."
"I think they're supposed to be," he said, closing his hand around the cookie that was left. "You first," he said, watching her in amusement. These things were usually pretty cryptic in meaning, and he was curious whether that was still true on Rhy'Din.
Grinning, Nali curled up on the couch beside him, cracking open her cookie to read the little slip of paper inside. She snorted with laughter, still giggling as she read out, "Don't worry, half the people you know are below average."
Rick chuckled, slinging an arm around her to draw her close and peeking over her shoulder at her fortune. "I hope I'm not one of them!" he said, reaching around her to break open his own fortune cookie and pull out the slip of paper hidden inside. He wrinkled his brows at what was written there. "You are cautious in showing your true self to others."
She tilted her head to look up at him. "You keeping secrets there, Mr. Connors?" she asked, her tone tender. She knew he was a little guarded with most people, after all.
"Not that I'm aware of," he replied, brows still furrowed. At least, not with her, but perhaps he was with others, even if he didn't realize it.
"It's just a fortune cookie, Rick," she reminded him with a fond smile. "It isn't a deep analysis of you personally - most people keep their very truest self guarded from everyone. They only show everything they have to the people they love."
"Yeah, I guess," he said, realizing she was right, though the fortune seemed to hold a speck of truth. "Do you think-do you think Jack is okay with us living here?" he asked, revealing the fact that he still worried about Jack's acceptance.
Her smile softened at his query. "Well, seeing as Jack's the one who chose the spot to put the house, and insisted on seeing the blueprints before all the foundations were put in," she said, carefully reminding him that his brother had been almost more active than they had been in the building of their home, "yeah, I think he is. I think he's very happy to have his own family nearby."
"Yeah, I guess you're right. I'm just being a worry wart," Rick admitted, smiling as he pressed a kiss to her cheek. "I'm happy here with you, Nali. Content," he told her, as if she needed to know or he just needed to say it.
"You and Jack could win a worrying contest if you entered as a team," she teased fondly, cuddling into his side. "I know we moved fast, but ... I've never been happier than I am with you, Rick."
"Sometimes you just know," he told her, placing a hand on the flat of her belly where their child was growing inside her. "I love you, Nali," he told her, his voice turning quiet with emotion.
She laid her hand over his, the gesture tenderly protective of both their child and her husband. "I love you back," she whispered, just as solemn in sharing those heartfelt words.
"I'm so grateful to you for bringing me here, Nali," he told her quietly. "For saving me and for loving me." It didn't say these things very often, but when he did, his words were from the heart.
"I'll never be able to repay Lena for hiring me," she agreed. "She didn't know it at the time, but she brought us together. I know it was a lot for you to take in; you took a lot on faith those first weeks. But I'm glad you trusted me."
"There's an old saying that the proof is in the pudding," he said, linking his fingers with hers atop her belly. He couldn't deny that it had been a lot to take in at first, but he also couldn't deny where that leap of faith had led him. "Unless this is all a dream," he said, though he didn't think so.
"If it is, then it's a good dream," she told him, smiling. "We're gonna have such a good life together, Rick. I promise."
"I don't need to see into the future to know that, Nali," he told her, wrapping his arms around her waist as he held her close, a soft smile on his face.
She beamed, nestling into his arms with absolute contentment. "If someone had told you a year ago that you'd be married and expecting a baby by now, what would you have said?"
"I probably would have laughed," he admitted. He hadn't even been dating at that time, partly because he hadn't had the time and partly because there was no one he'd been interested in. Nali had not only saved his life, but she had given him a new one - one that was far better than the one he'd chosen for himself on Earth three decades ago.
"Me too," she confessed with a faint laugh of her own. "Funny how life makes its own decisions for us, isn't it? I never would have thought I'd find the love of my life while I was working on reuniting a family."
"I was just as surprised as you were, believe me," he confessed in return. "If anyone would have told me that any of this was possible, I would have thought they were nuts."
She chuckled. "I'm pretty happy with this level of crazy, though," she admitted. "I like that we knew so fast. Mom always said when you know, you know, and I didn't believe her. I do now."
"My mother would have loved you," he said, with just a hint of sadness. "I wish you could have met her." Or vice versa. It was another tempting thought, but a dangerous one.
"Why don't you tell me about her?" she suggested, reaching up to stroke his cheek. "Tell me about the woman who managed to turn you into the perfect specimen of manhood."
He chuckled a little at her description of him. "I'm not so sure about perfect," he told her, knowing he was nothing of the sort, though he was glad she thought so. He turned serious at her question though, unsure how to answer. "There was always something a little sad about her. I didn't know what it was when I was a boy, but I think she always felt guilty about leaving my brothers behind."
"She had good reasons for leaving them," Nali murmured. "But I can't imagine what it must have cost her. I'm so glad she got to reunite with Jack at least once."
"Jack's father ..." Rick said, shaking his head with a frown. "He must have died a lonely man." Despite everything, it seemed Jack's father had never even tried to change.
"From what we know of him, he deserved to," was her response. "He practically destroyed his own family. Jack's lucky he got out when he did, or we might never have known him."
"Is it bad that I feel sorry for him?" Rick asked, regarding Jack's father. Perhaps if he'd actually known the man, he'd have felt differently, but all he could manage to feel was sorry for the man.
"Having compassion is never a bad thing," she told him firmly. "He just wouldn't have known what to do with it. People like that, they think kindness and compassion are weakness."
"I sometimes feel guilty that I had a good childhood and my brothers didn't," he confessed, not for the first time. But there was nothing that could be done about it now, not without risk.
"You can't fix everything, and guilt over something that you are absolutely blameless for does nothing," she said softly. "And you can see that Jack, at least, came out of it whole and well, and he is raising his children the way he was taught not to do it. His dad sounds like a piece of s***, but his example means that Noelle and Amy are going to have such an amazing father."
"I know you're right," Rick said. "But I can't help it sometimes." Still, if Jack's father had been a better husband and father, there was a chance Rick might have never been born.
"I know. Because you're a good man with a big ... heart." She flashed him a cheeky smile as she said that. "You're gonna be such an amazing dad, you know."
He smirked at the comment she'd almost made alluding to another body part. Even when he was feeling his worst, somehow she always seemed to know how to make him laugh. "I'm gonna do my best," he assured her. "What do you say I clean up the mess and we go to bed? It's been a long day."
She blinked, though she shouldn't have been surprised that he had noticed that she was much more fatigued than she was letting on. "That sounds like a great idea," she agreed. "Morning sex is more fun after a good night's sleep."
He hadn't really said anything about what they were going to do in bed - sleep or not sleep - but he knew better than to argue with her. If she wanted to do more than sleep, all she had to do was say so. He brushed a kiss to her cheek, a soft smile on his face. "But before I can clean this mess up, you have to get off my lap, babe."
She whined like a child, laughing at her own ridiculous reaction. "Fine," she conceded, sliding her legs off his lap to stand up and stretch. "I am expecting at least one really good kiss before lights out, just so you know."
Blue eyes twinkled as he smirked up at her, before moving to his feet and sliding his arms around her waist again. "I think I can manage that," he said, brushing a soft but brief kiss against her lips, as if to entice her.
His lips found her smile, warm and soft as her own arms wrapped about him in response, trading that kiss for a kiss of her own before her hands began to smooth down along his arms. "Don't be too long cleaning up."
"I won't be," he promised, reluctantly letting her go, so that he could clean up the mess before joining her in the bedroom. He didn't want to wake up in the morning to spoiled leftover Chinese food, after all.
"All right." She smiled as she stepped back. "I'm gonna take a quick shower before bed. Won't be long!" With a wink and a surprising skip to her step, she slipped away, her footsteps on the stairs betraying that she was incapable of just walking when she was so excited about having a home.
He knew he should probably do the same and maybe if he hurried, he'd catch her before she was finished. He chuckled when he heard her skipping up the stairs before turning to gather up the cartons and packages from the coffee table and carry it all into the kitchen to be disposed of. There was still a lot of work to be done around the house, but it could wait until morning.
The worst of the heavy lifting and construction had been done by their families over the course of the day, and unpacking boxes would not take them long once they committed to it. Tonight, they could ignore the boxes and just enjoy the fact that they had a home that was all their own, and the prospect of many good years ahead of them.
It wasn't more than a few minutes before he was finished, taking the stairs two at a time as he followed her to the second floor, listening to hear if she was still in the shower or if she'd gone to bed.
The water was still running, the door left open and a trail of clothing leading the way to the shower which was, indeed, still occupied. Nali did like a good shower, after all.
He smiled to know he'd made it in time, quietly tugging off his shirt and climbing out of his pants leaving a trail of discarded clothes to join hers on the floor. He quietly tiptoed into the bathroom, not so that he could startle her, but surprise her. He slid the shower door aside as quietly as he could before stepping into the shower and sliding his arms around her waist, his lips brushing the back of her neck in greeting.
She squeaked, surprised but already laughing at her reaction even as she leaned back into his embrace. "Fancy seeing you here."
"Did you think I'd go to bed without you?" he asked, glad he'd caught her in time. "We both need a shower, so might as well save water." That was his excuse anyway.
"Mmm, tough decision," she teased, turning about in his arms. "You all slippery and wet, or you laid out in bed, waiting for me. You're gonna spoil me."
"You can have both, you know," he told her, that smile still on his face, as the shower soaked them both, his hands moving over her waist and hips.
"See? Totally spoiling me," she informed him, rising up onto her toes to kiss him fondly. "You know, if it was possible, I would spend hours in the shower with you."
"We'd need a bigger hot water tank," he teased, giving her a kiss before reaching for the bar of soap so that he could wash the dirt and sweat from both their bodies. "We could get a hot tub," he suggested.
"Mmm, that is tempting," she agreed, swiping her hair back out of her face. "But where would we put it?" She grinned into his kiss, quite happy for him to wash her back so long as she was allowed to wash his.
"I'm sure we could squeeze it in somewhere," he said, though he wasn't too worried about it. He was thorough but gentle as he scrubbed her back clean, but it wasn't her back he was longing to touch, as evidenced by the way his hands quickly wandered to other more tempting parts of her body.
She giggled softly as his hands began to wander, her own fingers tracing their own designs across the warmth of his wet skin. "Maybe we should hurry this up so we can go to bed," she murmured impishly.
"Oh?" he asked, that smirk on his face again. "Is this the same woman who just said she'd like to spend hours with me in the shower?" he teased, as he dropped onto his knees as if in worship of her, his mouth trailing kisses down her body as his hands cupped her breasts.
"I ..." She interrupted herself with a soft moan, arching into his touch without any thought of reserve. "I maintain the right to change my mind on occasion."
"Mmhmm," he murmured, no longer able or willing to reply as his mouth was busy with more pleasurable things than talking - not only for her pleasure but for his. There was nothing he enjoyed more than making her happy, after all.
He certainly stole the words from her mouth, leaving her writhing in delight under his tender care. He knew her so well, so intimately, that even her added sensitivity was easily incorporated until she was crying out in pleasure, arched beneath the fall of the water.
Even though they hadn't known each other long, he was no inexperienced lover. He had quickly learned how to make her sigh and moan with pleasure and gloried in his ability to do just that. He didn't stop until she was putty in his hands, until he knew he had brought her to the pinnacle of pleasure, allowing her body to relax completely under his ministrations.
She was tired - relaxing her completely would probably result in her passing out right there in his arms. But Nali knew herself well enough not to give in totally, reaching to draw him back into her arms as she smiled breathlessly. "You're amazing."
"You didn't let me finish," he said, looking a little confused, a hint of disappointment on his face. How amazing could he be if she didn't want him to finish what he'd started?
"Because I don't want to fall asleep without you getting involved as well," she pointed out, hugging him about the waist. "I'm all about equality, baby."
"I don't mind, Nali," he told her, but relented, moving back to his feet to kiss her lips. "I can wait," he told her, though he was touched to know she cared as much for him as he did for her.
"I mind," she objected, kissing him back. "Let's dry off and go to bed, hmm?" She punctuated this with a teasing trail of her fingertips down the line of his stomach.
His body reacted to her touch, as it always did, and he groaned aloud at her teasing, but instead of agreeing to her offer, he took her by the hips and pushed her gently against the wall of the shower. "Are you sure that's what you want?" he asked, his fingers finding that place between her legs again to light the fire inside her.
She gasped, both at the cold tile against her back and the warm hand teasing her all over again. "Gods, you're bad for my decision making," she moaned, pulling him down into a hungry kiss.
He knew the hot water wouldn't last forever, but he didn't intend on taking too long. Both their bodies were already primed, her kisses only driving his desire deeper. He deepened the kiss, as his hand found her center to guide himself inside her. They were quickly reaching the point of no return; he only hoped the hot water held out.
His kisses swallowed her moan as they came together, her hands gripping his shoulders to hold herself up as their shower became a whole lot less about getting clean. She really was primed and ready, fighting to hold herself back until he was ready to crest that peak with her.
It didn't matter so much to him if they reaching that crest together or not, though he had little control over the process, his body taking over, driven by pure instinct and primal need. He was no inconsiderate lover though, taking cues from her body's reaction to his.
Right from the start, they had done almost everything together, and this was no exception. Tangled limbs beneath steaming water contracted, shared breath releasing tender sounds of ecstasy in almost the same moment. And in the soft quiet that followed, her voice drowsily saying, "One down, six to go."
It took him a moment to come down from his own ecstasy and regain control of his senses enough to reply to her statement. "Hmm? Six of what?" he asked, pressing another kiss to her lips.
She smiled into his kiss, dragging her fingers through his hair. "Rooms," she murmured impishly. "Seven rooms to christen, remember?"
"Oh, right," he replied with a chuckle. "Do you want to make it two, or wait until morning?" he asked, as he gently pulled away from her so that he could turn the water off and grab a couple of towels.
"Let's wait until morning," she managed, stifling a yawn. "I gotta give it my best. Pretty sure you wouldn't enjoy it if I fell asleep with my mouth full." She grinned, taking a towel from his hands to dry herself off as she stepped out of the shower.
"Oh, is that what would happen?" he asked, chuckling again, as he toweled himself dry, while he waited for her to step out of the shower.
"Tonight? Oh, hell yes." She laughed, rubbing the water from her skin before reaching up to let her hair down from the twist it had been in while in the shower. Stepping out of the bathroom, she bent to pick up his discarded t-shirt, pulling it on over her head as a kind of nightgown.
"That is not quite what I meant," he said, not referring to her falling asleep so much as the hint at what she might be doing when she did. He laughed as she donned his discarded t-shirt. "You do realize that thing is sweaty, right?"
"It smells of you, and I happen to like that smell," she pointed out in amusement. "Besides, I'll just take it off again when we get into bed. I don't like walking around with my bits flopping out."
"It smells like sweat," he pointed out with another chuckle. "Honey, there's no one here to see your bits but me," he reminded her, admiring the view as he followed her into the bedroom, the towel wrapped around his waist for modesty, though it was hardly needed.
"Your sweat," she corrected, bending to rummage for her brush in one of the boxes. "Besides, you're one to talk - you're all covered up modestly, too." She stuck her tongue out at him cheerfully, raising the brush to start detangling her damp hair.
"It feels weird walking around the house stark naked," he said, though he wasn't sure why. Was it because they hadn't been together that long or was it the new house?
Nali smiled over at him, perched on the edge of the bed as she brushed the tangles out of her damp hair and began to braid it loosely for the night ahead. "I'm teasing you, baby," she said affectionately. "Happens I kinda like the view."
"You don't think anyone can see in the windows, do you?" Rick asked, walking right over to the window to take a peek outside. Their only neighbors were family and friends, but that didn't mean he wanted them watching.
"I hope not!" she laughed, watching him walk across the room. His view offered him little in the way of a view into either of the other houses on the Cove, so thankfully they couldn't see into his house, either.
He didn't think they'd watch them, even if they could see into the house, but for some reason, he found himself tugging the blinds down anyway. That done, he looked over to find she had already finished braiding her hair. "Left or right side?" he asked of the bed, though they'd been sharing one for a while now.
"I think I'm a rightie," she answered impishly. "But I'm easy on either side, so long as I get to cuddle up with you." Something he knew for a fact; they'd spent enough nights sleeping on the floor of her parents' living room not to be too attached to one side or the other.
"I'm not particular. If you want the right side, you can have it," he told her, knowing some people were picky about which side of the bed they slept on. He went over to dresser to find a pair of boxers, glad he'd found time to do at least a little unpacking.
She chuckled, shucking off the t-shirt to wriggle under the covers comfortably. "I claim the right side, then," she declared. "If you want it, come and get it."
He smirked. "I'd rather come and get you," he said, forgetting the boxers. If she could sleep naked, so could he. He tugged the towel away from his midriff and tossed it aside, revealing that he was already ready for Round Two, before stalking toward the bed.
Rolling onto her side to watch him approach, Nali offered up an innocent grin. "If you can helicopter, I'll make you breakfast in the morning."
"I'll helicopter when you twirl a pair of tassels," he countered, climbing into the bed beside her without indulging her request. He reached over to turn the light off before snuggling up close, sliding his arms around her waist.
She giggled, only too happy to slide into his arms as her own curled about his shoulders. "I think I do actually have a pair of tassels somewhere," she mused teasingly, brushing a kiss to his chin.
"Mmm, another night maybe," he said, feeling far too content at the moment to move an inch, even for that. "Are you happy, Mrs. Connors?" he asked, even though he already knew the answer to that.
She smiled, nuzzling into him in the warm darkness. "I'm very happy, Mr. Connors," she promised affectionately. "Are you?"
"Happiest I've ever been," he replied, though again, he didn't really have to. There was only one thing that would make him happier, but she'd already made clear how impossible that was. "Tired?" he asked, unsure if she truly was up to a second round, despite her warning in the shower.
Tucking herself in as close to him as she possibly could, Nali sighed softly. "Mmmhmm," she admitted. "Mind if I make it up to you in the morning, instead?"
"Nah, maybe I'll even helicopter for you," he teased, touching a tender kiss to her lips.
It had been a long, full day, and they had ended it the best way they could - in each other's arms. Always in each other's arms, he vowed, until the end of his days. Now that was a life sentence they could both live with.