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A Shiver of Light (Merry Gentry #9)(3)

By:Laurell K. Hamilton

I sat there surrounded by some of the most beautiful men in all of faerie, feeling like a small, less than beautiful jewel in their midst, but it’s hard to feel glamorous when you’re eight months pregnant with triplets. I hadn’t seen my feet in weeks. My back ached as if someone were trying to saw me in half about a third of the way up. It was the worst my back had hurt, as if now that my body knew it was carrying triplets it didn’t have to pretend to be brave anymore.
“How could all the tests and ultrasounds have missed a third baby?” Galen asked.
Dr. Heelis, tall, with white hair cut short, smiled his best professional smile at us. He had to be sixty, but he looked about a decade younger with his handsome square-jawed face and clear gray eyes behind their silver-framed glasses.
“I won’t make excuses, except that two large babies in a small space just hid the third. It happens sometimes when you have more than twins.”
“Is that why there was that echo with the heartbeats a few weeks ago?” I asked. I shifted in my chair, but there was no true way to be comfortable. If my back had just hurt a little less, or the pressure had let up, I’d have felt better. 
“It would seem so,” he said.
“So all those tests that Merry and the babies had to go through were because you couldn’t figure out there was a third baby?” Galen asked.
“We thought there was a heart issue with the twins, and it is possible that what we were picking up was the third baby’s heartbeat.”
“How did you miss this?” I asked, finally. Heelis had built up months of confidence, and now I doubted it all. Or maybe it was just the pain? I shut my eyes for a moment; it felt like someone was sawing my back in half and trying to push the pieces apart at the same time.
“Are you all right, Princess?” asked Dr. Lee, the only woman on the team.
I nodded. “My back hurts from all the weight. I’m tired of being pregnant.”
“It’s normal,” she said, smiling. Her face was square and always pleasant somehow. Heelis exuded confidence, but Lee was calm, like the eye of the storm. I liked her for it, but then probably all her patients did.
“Multiple births are always a physical challenge, but for someone as petite as you, Princess Meredith, it can be more uncomfortable. We will do everything to make you as comfortable as possible.”
“How about if Dr. Kelly just tells us why he’s here?” My voice rose a little as if I were fighting not to yell at someone, and maybe I was. I just hurt, and I was just so tired of it all. One of the babies moved, rolling in their sleep, or maybe playing, I didn’t know, but it was still an odd sensation for something to move inside me that wasn’t me. It wasn’t a bad feeling, but it was … odd.
Dr. Kelly was having trouble concentrating because he could see that Mistral’s eyes were streaming with storm clouds, and a slight movement of wind, as if his irises were a tiny television set forever to the Weather Channel.
“Would Dr. Kelly be able to concentrate on his job if Mistral put his sunglasses on?” Galen asked.
Dr. Kelly startled, and said, “I’m so sorry, I was staring, I … I just … I’m terribly sorry.”
Doyle said one word in his deep, thick voice: “Mistral.”
Mistral fished a pair of expensive sunglasses out of his pocket and slid them on. They were silver, metal frames with mirrored lenses that reflected everything like a silver mirror. They looked incredibly sexy on him, but for right now, more importantly they hid his distracting eyes.
“Better?” Mistral asked.
“I do apologize, Prince … Lord … Duke Mistral, I just … I’m new to the team and …”
Mistral had surprised me by having a title of duke in his own right. We’d been told to trot out our titles for humans, so we had, but it threw the Americans who weren’t used to titles.
“It’s okay, Kelly,” Dr. Heelis said, “it took all of us a few visits to adjust to the … view.”
“Not to be rude, but why do we need yet another doctor?” Doyle asked.
Dr. Heelis folded his arms on the table, his hands very still; I’d come to recognize it as part of his “it will be all right, I’m here to reassure you” pose. It usually meant something was wrong, or might be wrong. So far the pregnancy had been remarkably problem free for twins, but we’d had several meetings where Heelis had reassured us as things happened that could have been scary but turned out not to be. Some potential problems that he’d wanted us to know about had fixed themselves with a combination of modern medicine and luck, or maybe it had something to do with me being descended from five different fertility deities. It meant I’d been able to carry twins with much less difficulty than most women, but it was also probably the reason we were now looking at triplets. That was really a little more fertility than I’d wanted.“When I informed the other members of our team that Princess Meredith was having triplets, they all agreed that Dr. Kelly would be a good addition to our pool of knowledge.”
“Why?” Sholto asked, and he seldom spoke in these meetings.
They all turned and looked at him, and then most looked away, except for Heelis, who managed to hold the weight of everyone’s gaze without flinching; there was more than one reason he was in charge.
“King Sholto.”
Sholto gave a nod to acknowledge his title, and as a sign for Heelis to proceed, which he did.
“First, I know that you were all hoping for a vaginal birth, and we were willing to try with twins, but triplets means it’s a cesarean birth.”
I must have looked unhappy, because Heelis looked at me. “I am sorry, I know you felt quite strongly about avoiding surgery, but with triplets we just can’t risk it, Princess; I am sorry.”
“I figured as much when we saw the third baby,” I said. I leaned forward in my chair trying to find a more comfortable position, but there really wasn’t one. Doyle changed hands so he could still hold my hand and also rub my back. Frost mirrored him and they rubbed my back as if they were hands from the same man instead of two different ones. They’d been best friends and battle buddies for hundreds of years; it meant they seemed aware of each other physically without having to look. It meant they could rub my aching back without bumping into each other’s hands, and when the doctors lifted the moratorium on sex, they’d be able to prove that they mirrored each other there, too, again. The last insult had been the “no sex” rule starting a few months ago.
I held on to their hands tighter; it helped distract me from how uncomfortable I was. I wasn’t sure why the idea of a cesarean birth bothered me, but it did.
“You do understand that too much could go wrong as the babies all crowd toward the birth canal,” Heelis said.
I nodded.
“Whatever will keep Merry and the babies from harm is what we want,” Frost said.
The doctor smiled at him. He liked Frost and Galen best for long eye contact, probably because their eyes were the closest to human-normal, gray and green.
“Of course, that’s what everyone here wants.” He did that reassuring smile that he must have practiced in the mirror, because it was a good one. It filled his own eyes with warmth, and just seemed to exude calm.
“But my question remains unanswered,” Doyle said. “Why is Dr. Kelly here?”
“He has the most experience with birth delay of multiples.”
“What is birth delay?” I asked.
“With a cesarean birth we might have the option of delivering the first two babies but leaving the third, smaller one in utero for a week or two. It’s not a given, but often smaller size means certain systems might not be as developed, and this would give more time for the baby to grow in the perfect self-sustaining environment of the womb.” 
I just blinked at him for a few seconds. “Are you actually telling me that the triplets might have different birthdays by weeks?”
He nodded, still smiling.
“And if we can’t delay the third baby’s birth, what then?”
“Then we’ll deal with whatever issues may arise.”
“You mean we’ll deal with whatever is wrong with the babies, especially the smaller … triplet.”
“We don’t like the word wrong, Princess, you know that.”
I started to cry. I don’t know why, but for some reason the thought of having two babies delivered and leaving the third inside me to cook a little bit longer just seemed wrong, and … I wanted it over with; I just wanted our babies to be all right and to be on the outside of me. I was tired of being pregnant. I couldn’t see my feet. I couldn’t tie my own shoes. I couldn’t fit behind the wheel of a car to drive myself anywhere. I felt helpless and bloated like a tiny beached whale, and I just wanted it over. Even though nothing had actually gone wrong, the doctors had still warned us about every awful possibility, so that my life had become a list of nightmares that never happened while the babies grew inside me. I was beginning to think I’d had too many good doctors and too much high tech, because there were always more tests, even though in the end all the tests told us was what wasn’t wrong. Or maybe they’d missed something and it was all going to go wrong. They’d missed a whole third baby; how could I trust any of them anymore? All the months of confidence building and trust in my doctors was in ruins. I was having triplets. The nursery was done, but we had only two cribs, two of everything. We weren’t ready for triplets. I wasn’t ready.