A Welcome Home Present by H-Man

Nial, my love! yelled Alair joyfully as her husband stepped off the spaceship onto thick glass panels that constituted the ground on Dahlia.

The queen ran in short steps over to her husband and threw her arms around him, showering his face and neck with kisses; it was her personal ritual with him every time he returned from a trip to the Alisa III without her. After receiving her loving display of affection, Nial held her chin tenderly and brought her lips up to his and joined them together for several seconds.

Welcome home, my king, Alair said, laying her head on his white metallic breastplate. I missed you as always.

Nial ran his fingers through her wavy harlequin hair, taking a tress of it up to his nose and smelling its unique fragrance. I missed you too, my dear. You'll be happy to know that I received word from Aron and the others while I was in Divisia.

Alair pulled her head back and looked up at her husband with an enthusiastic smile. That's great to hear! How is our son?

He seems to be doing fine. He was taking two weeks' rest at Father's castle when the messenger was sent from Landen. It seems that Laya has joined his party.

Alair rested her chin on Nial's bosom and looked up at him. May Laya be praised for protecting our son and niece.

I'm confident that Aron will figure out what happened with regards to that other spaceship. Besides, that sort of thing is his specialty.

Honey, said Alair coyly. I dismissed all of the nobles and counselors for the rest of the day. I wanted to have some time alone with you. It's been almost two months since I've last seen you.

Nial shifted his eyes and twiddled his thumbs. Indeed. Shall we retire to our room, then?

Alair nodded and yanked his arm, taking the lead as she dragged her husband across the rich mixture of medieval brickwork and space-age aesthetic that was Dahlia to their quarters. When she was sure that the door was closed, she wrapped her arms around Nial's neck, allowing him to place his hands on her waist. Looking deep into his eyes, she spoke.

I have some news for you, Nial, my love.

Oh? Nial cocked an eyebrow out of curiosity.

Alair calmly lowered one of her hands and, taking hold of one of Nial's, guided it gently from her waist to to her belly. I'm pregnant.

A look of surprise appeared on his face, followed by a huge grin. Honey, that's wonderful! Nial gave Alair a little peck on the lips before kneeling and bathing her still-covered belly with kisses.

Speaking to Alair's belly, he said, Hey there, you. This is me, Nial. I'm your Daddy. Any questions? Well, if you do and Daddy isn't around, you can always ask the beautiful harlequinhaired girl in whose tummy you currently reside. Standing up again and looking at Alair, he asked, How many months?

Three. Maybe four. Considering how active you and I have been between your trips these past few months, I'm not totally sure when I conceived. Giving Nial a wink and a seductive smile, she added, Call it woman's intuition, but I do think it was that one night you got back from Landen.

Nial blushed. Ah, yes. He spoke with a dry tone. The night we learned the second use for fanbi.

So, you're pleased, my lord? Alair asked with a little bit of uncertainty.

Of course, my dear Alair. I didn't tell you this before, but Aron talked to me shortly before leaving the Alisa III, telling me that he'd been considering taking Kara to Landen after their wedding—evidently he thinks that people of Landen will accept his rule more than the people of Dahlia. So, the pitter patter of little feet will do a lot of good to us up here.

Alair simply smiled. Her first fear, that of Nial's reaction, had been dispelled.

So, Nial commented. Do you want to hear about my trip to Elysium?

Alair bit her lower lip with a grin. She slowly began to remove the voluminous lacy layers of her sky blue gown, one after the other. As she revealed her soft, ivory skin, Nial could see the little bump in her belly where their new child lay. He knelt down and pressed his lips up against it, and then rose up slowly, leaving a trail of kisses in his wake as he moved up to Alair's chest, where he stopped, his head cradled in his wife's arms.

My dear, I think Elysium can wait for later.

Nial, his head still resting up against her breasts, looked up at his wife and made a quick, subtle kissy face at her. And South Divisia?

Alair giggled and stroked her husband's hair. I think we can do that.


Dear Diary,

I know it's been a while since I've written in you, and I have a lot of things to write about tonight.

It's been seven months since Aron has left. I'm not sure exactly how he's doing these days. A messenger from Agoe in Aquatica arrived in Dahlia two weeks ago informing us that Aron and his party had visited Aquatica and said that they were on their way to Terminus. I've heard a lot of stories about that supposedly hellish dome, so the mere thought of Aron, Kara, and the others going there is very frightening. I hope that they find whatever they need there and come back as soon as possible. Something just tells me, however, that there's more to the story than simply one ship destroying another.

Despite my fears for my Aron's safety, I try to stay happy and relaxed, if only for my baby's sake. At 38, I know that I can't allow myself to get too worried, so I simply pray to Laya asking her to watch over Aron and Kara and the others, and then try to leave things in her hands. I trust that she'll protect them. Nial assures me that Aron is both good at fencing and resourceful enough to find a way out of any possible danger, so that comforts me a little, too.

Nial has been fantastic, as usual. He's a lot more understanding of my mood swings and occasional lack of interest in physical intimacy than he was when I was pregnant with Aron— back then, I'd start yelling at him for something so simple as him forgetting some Layan custom he hadn't gotten used to yet and he'd get all sulky and I'd have to remind him seventeen times that it was normal for a pregnant woman to do that. Now he takes it all in stride. Chalk that up to experience and maturity, I guess.

He takes a lot of my responsibilities upon himself so that I may rest or not get worked up too much, for which I'm grateful. I try to make it up to him whenever I'm not too tired, either by personally cooking him his favorite meal or by making love to him. It's not as often as he'd probably like to be, but at least he's patient and understanding and it makes the experience just that much more satisfying.

It was funny: The other day he was pleasuring me and I mused, You just married me because you knew you would be able to do more things with me than with my competition. He just laughed and responded, Nah. I believe it was because I had a fetish for green hair and you had a nicer chest than her. My response was, Ah ha! You're one of those men! So that's why you got me pregnant! We both laughed at that; several years ago he would've taken offense and given me an hour's worth of silent treatment.

The baby (whom I'll call "Moon Beam" from here on out) is doing excellent. It's kicking all the time now. Heh...sometimes Nial likes to place his head on my stomach just to feel it kicking against his head. Moon Beam is far livelier than Aron was, that's for sure. I bet it'll make sure that Nial and I don't get too lazy in our middle age, making us try to catch up with it. I don't know why, but Moon Beam has left me with something of a craving for more Orakian cuisine, so Nial brought in one of the royal chefs from Divisia to satisfy that desire on my part. He says that everybody wins, since he occasionally gets homesick and eating Orakian food every day helps keep that in check.

I enjoy the idea of being a mother again. I'm not sure why Nial and I waited so long. Well, it's not like we expected it in the first place, but there you go. I hope it's a girl; I always wanted to have a "couple" with regards to children. What really matters in the end is that Moon Beam is healthy, happy, intelligent, and good-natured.

Anyways, it looks like Nial is done writing in his journal. I think I'll continue writing in you later. There's a lot for me to talk about still.

Love,

Alair


Dear Diary,

It's been almost four weeks since I've last written in you. A lot has happened, and with regards to Moon Beam, it should be here within the next week. I'm running through the whole gamut of emotions, ranging from fear to anxiety to joy and whatever, sometimes all within the span of a couple of minutes.

I'm so extremely happy to report that Aron was successful in his mission, whatever it was. A messenger sent from Frigidia informed us that he and the others were staying in Mystoke for a few days for rest and recuperation, but would be returning to Dahlia in about two weeks or so. I should already have had my child by the time he arrives. He's going to be so surprised to see that he has a new brother or sister.

My in-laws, Rhys and Lena, are here on Dahlia now. I now feel like an invalid, since there are now four people—Nial, my brother Lune, Rhys, and Lena—doting on me and treating me like *ahem* royalty. Nial jokes around with me and says that my occupation is no longer being a queen, but being Dahlia's official model for royal maternity clothing. Well, Nial not so much now, but I'll get to that in a moment. Lena will be present when I go into labor and will help supervise all of the domestic duties while I'm recuperating. She's such a special woman. She's already in her mid-50s and she hasn't lost a beat. She's aged quite well; she has a few extra lines on her face and a couple of a white hairs mixed in with her long brown hair now, but otherwise she doesn't look a day past 45. Rhys is still Rhys, dutiful and respectful, but leaves most everything in Lena's hands.

A week-and-a-half ago, Dahlia and, as I understand it, all of the Alisa III suffered some extreme "turbulence" that shook the satellite uncontrollably and damaged its superstructure quite extensively. We found out later from the pilots at Aerone that the Alisa III had been through a black hole, but that all was well now. When this was happening, Nial and I were in our bedroom. Part of the ceiling fell apart and Nial had to shove me aside. Some of the rubble struck him on the shoulder, cracking his right collarbone.

So now he's all bandaged up, even though he still continues working around the clock to help the people of Dahlia repair the damages caused by the black hole. He still serves me breakfast in bed, even though he has to make several trips in order to bring it to me because he can only carry one plate at a time with his left hand. Oh, Nial, my hero. I'd show him my thanks, but these days I'm so tired and swollen and whatnot that I'll have to wait until after the child arrives to pick up where we left off. Maybe we can test what shu can do when used in an alternate manner.

Lena and Rhys brought a Mieu-type android with them, complete with bio-scanners and other medical capabilities. She did a check-up on me and confirmed that the baby is in good health and that the labor should go by quite quickly, really. She even discovered the sex of the baby, although I asked her to not tell me; I want to be surprised when it arrives.

Nial and I have been talking a lot about names lately, more so than in previous months. I had my brother get me some books from the Dahlian library to see if we could find some interesting possibilities. Nial said he liked the name "Sean," if it's a boy; and "Alis," if it's a girl. I came across the name "Nei" for a girl, which I kind of like. But then, "Shilka" and "Anna Marie" were also quite attractive. If it's a boy, I kind of like "Lohengrin," although there's something about "Rudolf" that really gets my attention.

I don't think I've ever had any doubts about being a mother again during these past nine months or so. Of course, it wasn't exactly planned, but then, it doesn't matter. The child will be loved all the same and I know that I have the full support of Nial, his family, my family, and all of Dahlia and Landen—Rhys and Lena told their people that they'd be welcoming a second grandchild and everybody practically partied in the streets. The people of Landen seemed to take the marriage of their prince with a Layan girl a lot better than the people of Dahlia did—that's probably why Aron and Kara had considered assuming the throne in Rhys and Lena's place.

Well, I should get going now. I'll write in you after the baby arrives.

Love,

Alair


The neon green-haired Dahlian prince helped Kara, his fiancée, battle companion, cousin, and most of all, best friend, step down from the jet, which had just landed on Dahlia. He took her now calloused hand and held it tenderly as she stepped down the stairs onto the glass floor of the satellite, being careful not to get her cream-colored winter dress—she had recently been in Frigidia after all—caught on the staircase. He showed the same courtesy to his other travel companion, Laya, and to his female android friend, Mieu. He let Wren get off on his own, though.

To Aron's surprise, he was greeted not only by his parents, but by his grandparents, too. Grandpa Rhys and Grandma Lena were standing next to his parents, wearing those proud grins that grandparents wear whenever their grandchild does anything worth noting. Those two were examples of the love and respect that exist harmoniously between a couple after years of marriage, hardship, and, ultimately, triumph. That said, Aron couldn't believe that news of his team's triumph had reached Landen so quickly.

However, the surprise at seeing his grandparents was nothing compared to his surprise when he took a good look at his mother, Alair. She was the same beautiful woman he had known for the past seventeen years, the same dignified figure of royalty who had kissed him goodbye eight months earlier. She wore her usual baby blue dress and her green hair shined as much as it ever did. She did look a little tired, but that really wasn't what had caught Aron's attention.

No, what engendered so much surprise in the heart of the young prince was that she was carrying something. Something wrapped in finely-woven pink blankets. A baby, perhaps? Whose, then?

Mother! Father! he yelled, running over to greet them.

Aron and Nial shook hands firmly, before giving way to strong father-son embrace.

My son, Aron. We're all so proud of you for saving us all. May Orakio and Laya be praised for having given us such a wonderful child. Nial was on the verge of tears.

Aron soon felt the hands of his grandparents patting his back. He saw Kara hugging her father, who was just as overcome with emotion at their return as Nial was. Turning to his mother, he felt a warm feeling as she gave him her usual serene smile. He could now see that she was indeed carrying a child. Whose was it, though?

Mother! Aron cried, sticking his head out and kissing Alair on the cheek.

Dear Aron. I'm so happy that you're back and safe.

Laya be thanked for watching over our party. And who is this little one? Aron could now see that the baby his mother held was a girl. Her face looked suspiciously like his grandmother's and her hair was brown, the same shade of brown that Nial had, but with little harlequin streaks running through it, and a little blue bow to top it off.

Aron, I want you to say hello to your sister, Alair replied affectionately.

Oh my...you mean...that's my...Kara! Laya! Mieu! Wren! Come here quick! I have a sister! I have a sister! Aron was so excited he practically stammered everything he said.

Kara and the others surrounded the little baby, giving it the usual "oohs" and "ahs" associated with looking at a newborn baby. Even Wren reached out and ticked the baby's chin with his monstrously large finger.

So, mother, what's her name? Aron asked, letting his sister wrap her tiny hand around his finger.

Well, we decided to go with the name your grandfather and grandmother would've picked for Nial, had he been a girl, Alair giggled. Her name is Sari.