She entered the common room, pulled the cape off her shoulders, folded it, and placed it on a stool.
“Look. Mom’s back!”
“Sorry, girls,” Kira said as she slipped back into the pool.
“No problem. We were gossiping, but I provided most of the conversation because Terra is feeling shy today.”
Kira snorted and settled beside Nebula in the pool. “I can take her. I know she’s a bit heavy.” She reached for Terra’s face and caressed her cheek. “My chubby little girl.”
“I can handle her, but it’s true that she’s getting heavy. The guys will never agree, though. They still occasionally ask where the rest of her is. Rokan won’t stop asking about her neck.”
Kira shook her head and laid back so the water line covered her ears. As she stared at the ceiling, she replayed her moments with Vrox.
His hand reaching for his shoulder, ripping his sacred cape off his, tossing it over her, and dragging her away. His breath against her ear, feeling as warmth as the last time he suckled on her clit.
Sudden dizziness made her sit up. Water splashed everywhere, creating a torrent of disaster that matched her mind. She spent eight years getting her PhD, developed software and devices that awed NASA. Yet here she was, at a loss because of a male.
“You okay?” Nebula asked.
Kira rubbed her temples, trying to ease away her dizziness.
“Yeah. I just have a case of ILWAA.”
“In love with an alien. Don’t catch it. It’s deadly.”
Nebula chuckled. “I think it’s too late for that.”
“What? So you and Akdronis…”
“No!” Nebula scrambled. “I meant Terra!”
Kira laughed and then melted when she saw that Terra was smiling. Her big, black-and-gold eyes were open, and her chubby cheeks stuffed with happiness.
“Can I please keep her?” Nebula requested, rocking Terra in her embrace.
“No way. Get your own. You have like seventy aliens to choose from. They’re often walking around naked, so you can peek outside right now and see which one you’d like to inject some–”
“Shh!” Nebula interjected. “When did you become so lewd?”
“It wasn’t just my stomach that got destroyed after having Terra. I think my manners took a hit too.”
“Will you stop that?”
“Being so hard on yourself. You just had a baby, so of course your belly won’t look the same for a while.”
With a sigh, Kira rubbed her stomach. “You’re right. I have to do better before I dive into depression.”
“That’s the spirit. If the extra weight bothers you so much, why don’t you exercise? You could do some daily sit ups.”
“No problem. Now take Terra. She’s starting to harass my boobs, thinking they have milk.”
Kira chuckled and took her baby.
That night, Vrox didn’t come to bed. She and Terra slept with the protection of Draekon as he guarded the entrance. Kira couldn’t say that she was surprised. It was common for Vrox to get caught up in work until late in the morning.
Terra woke up only once through the night. Come morning, Kira changed her diaper and met up with Nebula in the common room. Nebula was more than glad to entertain the infant as Kira stretched and exercised. She did thirty sit-ups and seven push-ups before taking her break.
“Watch out, Terra, I’m coming for your Miss Universe title.” She was panting and slightly dizzy, proving just how out of shape she was.
Nebula lifted Terra’s arm. “Go mommy!”
Kira blew the girls a kiss and then resumed her work-out. An hour later, she called it quits and began messing around with her experiments.
“Hi, Vrox,” Nebula greeted.
She nearly dropped the shard of glass she was holding.
“Hello, is everything alright?”
He stood by the entrance with Wo’ton and a few men close behind.
“Yep. We’re chilling as usual.”
Vrox’s eyes zeroed in on the bassinet. He took a step inside, only to stop and look in Kira’s direction. She dropped her gaze and fussed with her screwdriver to feign distraction.
Vrox b-lined for the bassinet and peered inside. “Hello, my heart.” He reached inside and caressed the baby. “I have missed you. I will see you tonight, yes?”
Kira felt pressure in her stomach, but she couldn’t tell if her muscles were tense from her workout or the memory of being tossed over Vrox’s shoulder.
Even after he walked out of the room, the strain in her stomach remained. She didn’t see him again until the night. Just as he promised, he showed up to kiss Terra goodnight. He greeted Kira as well, but she didn’t receive any goodnight kisses. She was an idiot for feeling disappointed, because Vrox was only giving what she asked for. It was best if she got used to it.
Throughout that week, she continued her work-out. She sometimes jogged around the field as Nebula sat on the stairs and babysat Terra.
“I think she needs a change of diaper. She’s getting smelly.”
Kira tossed her notes aside and walked to the bassinet. “Hi stinky,” she grinned. When she untied her diaper, a wave of stench smacked her so hard in the face that she gagged. “Good grief, Terra.” She stepped away when vomit surged. “What the hell did you eat? Ugh, baby. You smell so bad.”
“Do you want me to change her?” Nebula offered.
“It’s fine,” Kira replied. She inhaled to calm her tumbling stomach. “I guess my breastmilk expired or something. Whew, I created a little monster.”
As she cleaned Terra up, she heard male chatter approach.
Kira looked up and found Ni’ev waving a nervous Terson inside. “She will not say no. Come.”
“Who won’t say no?”
“Terson has been wanting to see the tiny one, but he is too timid to ask,” Ni’ev chuckled. “He has no problems teasing us and sparring with Vrox, but he is a weakling when it comes to females.”
Terson cleared his throat, keeping his eyes on his feet. “I wish no disrespect.”
Kira waved him off. “You’re welcome in here, just don’t start kneeling or I’ll run for the hills.”
Terson hesitated, his hand reaching for his burned face. “I will… scare her. I will make her cry.” The man swallowed hard before turning around. “I should go.”
Kira’s heart shrunk with pity. “Don’t be silly. Come.”
Slowly, Terson approached. He peered into the bassinet and smiled when he saw Terra. His smile was jerky due to his burned cheek, but his eyes offered genuine awe.
“She is beautiful. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Don’t be a stranger. You live here now.”
With a respectful nod, he followed Ni’ev out.
“Poor guy,” Nebula whispered.
“I know, right?” She looked down at Terra and found her grunting. “Are you pooping again? Come on, girl. I just changed your diaper!”
“Do you want to hop into the pool later?” Nebula offered. “It’s getting kinda hot.”
“No way. Terra will probably shit in there too.”
Their day continued as normal. Kira spent hours updating her notes. The morphine was still unsuccessful, and her lightbulb still had a long way to go. When Vrox visited a few hours later, he found Kira napping on the floor.
He tossed Nebula a questionable look, and she shrugged.
“She’s been exercising. Honestly, I think I’ll start to join her. I’m out of shape, too.”
“Yeah. She’s trying to lose some weight.”
Vrox walked to her side and bent down. She fell asleep on top of a sheet of paper, so the ink pressed onto her cheek. Although he knew it was risky, he slid his hands under her and picked her up. She mumbled something incoherent and nuzzled her inked cheek against his chest.
His heart throbbed.
With his eyes still on Nebula, he asked, “can you…”
“Carry Terra? Sure. I’ll be right behind you.”
Vrox carried Kira to their room and hesitated to let her go. He knew it would be awhile before he got to touch her again.
– • –
“Kira, let’s go inside!” Nebula yelled.
“One more lap!” Kira tossed back.
She was a sweaty, panting mess, but she remained loyal to her workout for two weeks.
She stopped jogging and headed for the staircase. “Damn, it’s hot.” She swiped her forehead. When she lowered her arm and saw Vrox approaching, her thirst tripled.
“I think Terra is hungry,” Nebula said.
Kira sighed. She had been binding down her breasts whenever she went jogging, so they were more sensitive than usual. Feeding Terra became a painful experience.
“Alright, let’s go upstairs.” She picked up Terra and smiled down at her. “Hi, honey.”
Nebula raised the leafy umbrella, so it covered the baby. Then, the two climbed the stairs. They were halfway up when a sudden dizziness tilted Kira’s world.
“Take her,” she blurted, pushing Terra into Nebula’s arms. “I–I don’t feel so...”
Nebula shrieked when she lost her footing and stumbled backward. Kira braced for impact, but a mattress of muscle saved her from a cruel trip. Clutching her tight, Vrox rambled, “What is wrong? What happened?”
“Hot…” she slurred. “Too much heat.”
Vrox swept swept her into his arms and carried her upstairs. The next thing she knew, she was on his lap. One of his hands found her stomach. “You are pushing yourself too hard. I do not care about this. It makes no difference. If you wish to lose this weight, there is no need to rush,” he ranted.
“Here,” Nebula offered a container of water. Vrox took it and helped Kira take small sips. She was on her fifth gulp when it all came rushing back.
“Mothers,” Vrox all but growled. He supported her as she threw up.
“Oh… oh no,” Nebula dawned.
“What?” Kira coughed. “What is it?”
“It’s been two weeks, and your stomach is only bigger,” Nebula pointed out.
“Don’t remind me,” Kira replied as she clung to Vrox and rested her cheek on his powerful chest.
“You’ve been napping throughout the day, you’ve been complaining about your breasts hurting, and you’ve been getting dizzy,” Nebula continued.
“Yeah, the exercising…”
“No, Kira! It’s not the exercise. You’re still pregnant. That’s why you can’t lose the weight. That’s not fat, that’s a baby.”
Kira erupted with another coughing fit.