Leo was less than comfortable with the idea of my giving birth. I tried to talk him through it, sort of; he should have known that I’d done this several times before, and I wasn’t the least bit concerned for myself or the baby. Everything would be completely fine. But he didn’t really believe me, so I stuck it out in the delivery room alone. Not that this was an unusual situation for me to be in; I’d never had a father coaching me through the delivery.
At least, this time, there was an expectant someone waiting outside.
The labor was quick and easy; far easier than any of my previous. I mean, considering Apollo’s labor took 14 hours and my second labor was twins, that wasn’t a difficult bar to meet. Nevertheless, I felt lucky.
I also felt lucky that my new baby daddy was conveniently named; I could name my new baby boy in the same vein as my other boys, while still naming him after his father.
Leolin, lion heart. Strong and fierce and brave. He would be all these things, I knew.
He was a handsome baby. Not quite alien, just a quarter—Leo himself was only half, he just chose to wear the form of his alien kin over his mortal disguise—but somehow he looked just like Leo. I dare say he was more handsome even then Apollo as a baby, and when Apollo had been born I was convinced that wasn’t possible (Hari, truth be told, was kind of an ugly baby. A handsome boy, but as a baby he was just… red. And squishy).
You kids were not nearly so enamored with Leolin, at least not when he was first born. I could barely get you to look at him, much less interact or play with him.
Leo, on the other hand, is quite enamored with the baby. I could tell, that’s the main reason he came around. He doted on little Leolin, the way only a devoted father can. But he tried not to ignore me for the sake of the baby; I think he was concerned that I’d feel neglected, if he only came around to spend time with Leolin. I didn’t think that, not at all—he was a daddy, and I was a mom, and all I really wanted to do with my time was cuddle Leolin against my chest and sniff his hair. And woohoo, but that could be done quickly. Mostly I wanted to cuddle my baby.
At the insistence of Leo, however, every time he came by to see Leolin, he did something with me. Sometimes we just had dinner with the rest of you kids, and he stuck around to put Leolin to sleep. Sometimes he watched all of you and let me get out of the house. Most of the time, however, he convinced me to go somewhere with him: a park, a museum, a club.
It was, unsurprisingly, fun. I was not difficult to convince.
Our chemistry had not diminished following the birth of Leolin. Even though I had maintained some of my baby weight—which I was slowly but steadily trying to work off—Leo seemed no less attracted to me. Whenever we were together, we were magnetic. Electric. On fire.
But we could do other things together too. With most everyone else I’d ever been with, there’d been nothing between us but that electricity. Leo and I, though—we could do anything together. We went to spas. We took classes. We had picnics. We talked about my kids and his aspirations for the future and our family lives.
It was something as close to perfection as I had ever imagined.
The one thing that we could not talk about, however, were the dates I went on. Despite the fact that Leo had declared himself open to an open relationship, he sure didn’t seem that accepting. He liked to stay with the kids whenever I went out—he wanted someone responsible there with him, he said, no matter how much I promised that Apollo was plenty responsible—so there was no avoiding the matter. He knew that I went out with other people, and I knew he knew, and it was the only source of tension between us. It was the only thing that could shut down a conversation. I didn’t like it. Not at all.
But I did it anyway.
It was too fun to not.
I didn’t let the fun distract me from Leo’s conditions: before I went out with anyone, I made sure that they were okay that I was involved with other people, and that commitment was not and would never be in our future. Most people were okay with it. Some people weren’t. But I considered that their loss—I had plenty of alternatives.
Plus, now that I was being open about everything, there were some people who were interested in engaging in the open aspect of the relationship along with me.
Kole liked to watch.
Taryn liked to be watched.
It worked well for all of us.
I didn’t let Leo know about that part. I excused it to myself—I wasn’t lying to him, and I was abiding by his conditions. Everyone was consenting to the openness and non-commitment. Everyone was happy.
I figured that as long as Leo and I didn’t discuss it, it would all just become a non-issue. Or it would blow up in our faces (honestly, I more expected that), but either way, I couldn’t stop it. What would come would come.
I was ready when it did.