As soon as she woke up, a wave of panic and fear washed over her as she felt something missing. Instinctively, her hands pressed against her stomach only to find that it wasn’t protruding anymore as she had become accustomed to.
When she felt nothing but a slight curve over her stomach, Anastasia’ eyes shot open and she pressed her hands further into her stomach, desperately trying to feel something. Anything.
From all the questions that were currently running through her mind, there was one that prevailed and stood out the most.
Why wasn’t she pregnant anymore?
“Ana, calm down, babe.” A chuckle sounded from the left and when she turned her head to follow the voice, she found Raphael to be bent over the bassinet, making faces. When he noticed what she had done as soon as she woke up, he rose to full height and laughed as he made his way over to her. “There’s nothing to worry about. You’ve already given birth.”
As his words washed over her, she willed her body to relax and chuckled quietly, now amused by her own reaction.
She chuckled quietly and pressed a hand against her forehead, rubbing away the few beads of sweats that had arose from momentary fear.
“I couldn’t feel my stomach and I got scared.” Anastasia admitted with a slight chuckle as she remained laid down on the bed, her nether regions still very much and sore from when she had given birth only a few hours ago.
“I don’t blame you, babe.” Raphael carefully dropped himself down on the bed next to her, reaching over to fluff her pillow and help her into a sitting position.
“Is Alistair asleep?” She asked quietly, shuffling over slightly to rest her head on his shoulder, a content sigh passing her lips.
“Yeah.” Raphael murmured back, unconsciously glancing over at the sleeping baby in his bassinet, currently sucking on a pacifier.
“Where’s Justas?” She asked, lifting her head from his shoulder to glance around the room. When she found for the rest of it to be empty, she returned it to rest on his shoulder and leaned further into her best friend.
“In all the haste, we didn’t bring anything with us so he’s just popped home to get the car seat and a few other things.”
Anastasia hummed lightly and they both fell into a comfortable silence, but with how tense Raphael’s body was next to her, she knew something wasn’t quite right.
“Do you want to talk about it?” She asked quietly, reaching down to grab his hand and lace their fingers together, sensing that her friend needed the company and reassurance right now.
“Talk about what?” Raphael feigned innocence and confusion as he turned his head to look away from her.
“Don’t pretend like you don’t know.” She snorted and rolled her eyes playfully. “I know there’s something wrong with you so don’t bother trying to hide it.”
Raphael sighed and dropped his body back to lean against the headboard, pulling her back along with him.
“He doesn’t look like me.” He murmured quietly, his eyes downcast and the lump in his throat heavy as he was moved with emotion.
He merely nodded his head in confirmation, still not meeting her eyes.
Anastasia sighed breathily and gave his hand a reassuring squeeze, her lips pulling down slightly at the corners as she watched him; her heart hurting for him.
“He’s only a few hours old. There’s no way that you can know that he doesn’t look like you.” She murmured back, turning her body slightly so she was facing him, but winced when she moved too quick.
Anastasia understood why Raphael was melancholy, just as she understood that it was normal for him to feel like this. Unlike the conventional male-female relationship where the baby received DNA from both parents, Raphael and Justas had picked out donor eggs from a specialist werewolf clinic and the both of them had provided samples. It was common knowledge that one of their samples could be picked to fertilise the egg, though they had chosen to keep that anonymous.
However, now that baby Alistair was born, it was evident whose sample had been effective.
While Raphael was blonde with soft features and an ivory skin tone, Justas was the opposite of his mate with a dark mop of hair on his head, dark, harsh features; much more rugged than his mate. While baby Alistair was still a baby, he definitely looked like his dad with the dark wisps of hair on his head and his darker complexion, not at all resembling Raphael in any way.
Raphael sighed and finally turned his head to glance at her, a pointed look on her face.
“I think it’s pretty obvious that Justas is Alistair’s biological father.” He deadpanned, a forlorn expression on his face. “I know it shouldn’t bother me, so why does it? I’m so excited to be a father and I already love that kid to bits, so why am I so focused on the fact that he looks like Justas and not me?”
“I completely understand why you feel this way and just know, it’s completely normal. You’re not a bad dad for feeling this way, so don’t allow yourself to feel like that, okay?” Giving his hand another squeeze, Anastasia offered him a small smile. “Just because he may not biologically be your son, doesn’t mean that he’s not your son, you know? He’s Justas’ and yours baby and you need to remember that. He’s not going to love you any less and you’re not going to be any less of a dad just because he doesn’t look like you or share your DNA.”
Raphael sighed deeply and glanced at her with a soft expression on his face, his thankfulness evident as he leaned over to pull his best friend into a hug, careful not to hug her as she was still sore everywhere from labour.
“Thank you, Ana. I really needed to hear that.” He sighed into her hair. “How do you do it?”
“Do what?” She asked as they pulled away from the hug.
“How are you so okay with having to give up Alistair?”
“The only reason that I’m able to give him up, it’s because it doesn’t feel like I’m giving him up.” Anastasia took in a deep breath before continuing, aware that she wasn’t making much sense right now. “Just know that I would never be able to be a surrogate for anyone but you guys. The fact that I’m so close with the both of you and you’ve made me Godmother just makes things easier because even though he’s not going to live with me, I know that I can come over and see him any time.”
A moment of silence passed as Raphael watched his friend closely, unable to take his eyes off her; completely and absolutely in awe of her.
“You’re so strong.” He sighed with an appreciative glint in his eyes, completely in awe of his best friend. “I don’t think I could have ever done what you did.” He admitted honestly. “I’m struggling with the fact that Alistair is not biologically mine, but at least he gets to live with me.”
“Are you trying to make me jealous?” She chuckled, joking.
“No, I’m just in awe of how strong you are.”
“You know I want nothing more than to see you happy, Raph, and I’m so glad that I could do this for you both.” She squeezed his hand reassuringly, struggling to hold back the tears with all the pregnancy hormones that were still in her body. “While the idea of not taking Alistair home with me is a little hard, I knew that from the very beginning and I know that over time, it’s going to get easier. Just so you know, I have absolutely no regrets and I can only imagine that it’s hard for you now but over time, it’ll get easier and I promise you that.”
“You’re the best, Ana.” Was all Raphael could manage between the tears, going in for another hug.
“And don’t you ever forget it.”
“Sometimes I feel like the third wheel between you two.” Justas chuckled as he chose that moment to walk into the room, baby seat and a change of clothes in hand.
Anastasia laughed softly while Justas got up to embrace his mate, needing the comfort and reassurance right now.
“Well, maybe that’s because you are.” She cocked a teasing brow from she was still sat on the hospital bed, chuckling as Justas narrowed his eyes at her from over his mate’s shoulder, but struggled to keep his lips from twitching at the corners into a slow grin.
After the doctor had checked her over one last time confirmed that everything seemed to be in order, both Anastasia and the baby were discharged from the hospital.
Justas and Raphael had insisted that she go back with them to their cottage however, Anastasia insistently denied their gracious offer. While she was extremely appreciative of the offer and kind gesture, she wanted them to have some time alone with their family, especially since she knew just how much they both wanted a baby. Also, with the way that Raphael was feeling, Anastasia just knew that he needed some time with his mate and their baby.
Just because she knew she was welcome every time didn’t mean that she was looking to permanently impose on their family situation.
That, and because she had a situation of her own that she needed to resolve.
The sooner she found her big bad Alpha mate who had been lying and conning her this whole time, she would put him in his place, but perhaps it was best if that was delayed by a few days as Anastasia doubted that she had the energy to go back home right now.
There was no way that she would be able to stay at the pack house after having put the Alpha wolf in his spot; mate or not.
“I’ll see you in the morning, guys.” Anastasia gave them both a kiss on the cheek as well giving baby Alistair a peck on the head before she turned around, let herself into the pack house and made a beeline for the kitchen.
Giving birth worked up quite an appetite and hospital food was just not it. Thankfully, Mary was still in the kitchen, working with some of the other wolves to clean up the kitchen. As soon as she spotted Anastasia, Mary brandished a warm plate of chicken pie from the oven which she accompanied with a tall glass of water and took back to her room due to the simple fact that she was tired and didn’t have the energy to uphold a conversation.
It probably wasn’t the best practice, but not even ten minutes after she had finished off her meal, only managing to eat half of it despite how hungry she had previously been, Anastasia was snuggled underneath the covers, out cold.
However, she didn’t remain like that for long.
Even though it was dark and her vision was still clouded with sleep, Anastasia knew that she wasn’t alone.
“You need to stop sneaking into my room like this.” She groaned and pressed her face further into the pillow as she closed her eyes, needing a few more hours of sleep before she was anywhere near ready for the conversation that they both needed to have.
“You say that as if you don’t enjoy it.”
“Look, I can’t deal with you right now. Come back in the morning.” Anastasia snorted, not even bothering to glance at him, her eyes still closed; her words and tone dismissive.
When she heard slight shuffling sound from the room and then the door close, she knew that she had left and just as she hoped, it wasn’t long before she drifted back to sleep.
Despite knowing that when she awoke in the morning, there would be a very uncomfortable conversation that she would have to suffer through – no doubt a very difficult one too as she knew that Marcellus wouldn’t just take what she had to say sitting down – Anastasia slept like a baby.
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