The Second Season

Parental Advisory Rating: L, AC, N

Break out those V-Chips, everyone!


Created, Produced, Directed and Written:

Fanatic and TNovan


Episode Five: Fat Tuesday

The sound of the saw dies down. There is a wonderful cracking and smashing sound, followed by a little cutting with scissors and I am free. Free at last, free at last, thank God, I'm free at last. My arm almost floats up in the air, it's so light now.

"Yes!" I rub my sore wrist for the first time in eight weeks. "Hello, my friend, it's good to have you back." I rub the skin, which is going to require gallons of moisturizer to look healthy again. It's still sore, but, in many ways, it is a truly delightful pain. I hear Harper chuckle and look across the room. "Something funny, Tabloid?" I give her a mock glare as the doctor examines my wrist, turning it gently.

"You're funny."

"Keep it up," I threaten, narrowing my eyes. "I'm a well woman now."

She shakes her head in amusement. "That's always been up for debate."

"How's it feel, Kelsey?" the doctor asks, interrupting our banter.

"It's sore, but it's very happy."

"Well, that's good to hear. I'm going to give you some cream for the skin and a list of exercises to do to strengthen the muscles." He takes a deep breath before pulling a small, light brace out of a drawer and tossing it to Tabloid. "She may need this if it starts hurting, but there's no way I'm gonna try to put it on her now."

"Smart move, doc." I stand up, jumping off the exam table. It's only the residual ache in my knee that keeps me from continuing to jump around the room. "Now, let me get out of here. Tabloid, over there, owes me a big lunch and some shopping."

"Okay, Kelsey. You're free to go. My nurse will give you the exercise list on the way out." He laughs as he leaves the room. "Good luck, Harper."


* * *


I don't think I've ever seen Kels so happy to write a check in her life as when we left the doctor's office. She then proceeded to spread her happiness all through the Riverwalk. More than a hundred and thirty stores and I've been dragged into most of them. Oh where, oh where, is Rene when I need her most?

We're now sitting in a tiny café drinking coffee - well, I'm drinking coffee, Kels is drinking her favorite cup of tea. There is a pile of bags in the third chair at the table. Apparently my roles today have been that of pack mule and opinion giver. If I have to answer the question - "honey, how does this look on me?" - one more time I might scream. Truth be told, she looks fabulous in anything, or nothing, as the case may be. She attempted, once, to get me to try on clothes but when I insisted she join me in the dressing room …

Kels quickly understood I was not in the mood to shop for clothing.

So did the dressing room attendant.

We left the store pretty quickly and came here to cool down. By drinking hot beverages, go figure.

"You nervous?" I ask, figuring we might as well talk about the pink elephant at the table. It's been lumbering along with us since we found out that all my brothers have gone and made a deposit at the bank on our behalf. And since Kels blithely informed me that her last period was eleven days ago, making this prime time for baby making.

She glances up from her mug, her fingertip tracing its edges. "A little. You?"

Truth or reassurance? "Oh yeah. It's all big and scary. Being an aunt is easy. When I take one of them out, the only requirement is I bring them back alive. Being a parent … wow."

Kelsey nods and sips. "Would you rather not go through with it?"

It takes me a moment to register what she's just said. Great, Harper. You idiot. Make her feel insecure for no good reason. I reach across the table and take her hand in mine. "Chér, that's not what I meant at all. Anything I've ever done that's been worth a damn has scared the bejesus out of me."

"Oh yeah?"

I nod vigorously. "Yeah. I don't know if you saw that piece I did on the actor, Tyler Sagemore, where I talked him into giving me his gun. I thought I might pass out at the time, but it got me to KNBC and you. And then there was the whole Omaha incident, but I got to kiss you there. Let's not forget New Year's Eve and potential anthrax exposure. Hmm, I got to kiss you there, as well."

"I'm seeing a pattern."

I am quite pleased with myself. Kels no longer seems sad. "So, whenever it's time for us to go in for the IUI, you have to let me kiss you."

"So you won't be frightened?" she teases.


"Do I need to remind you that you won't be the one in the stirrups with a tube sticking up your …"

I press my hand over her lips. "Thank you for that lovely image."

Kelsey kisses the palm of my hand, sending pleasurable little jolts all the way through my body.

"You ready for tomorrow?" I ask. It'll be Kels' first Mardi Gras in New Orleans. I can't wait to show her what it's like.

"As ready as I'll ever be. Do we really have to wear masks all day?"

"Mais oui. Believe me, darlin', we'll be having so much fun, you won't want people to know who you are."

She narrows her eyes at me. "I expect you to behave yourself."

"Ooo la la, you obviously don't understand the whole point of the day."

* * *


"Time to get up, Little Roo," a soft voice whispers in my ear. "Come on, we need to get moving."

"It's too early. Wanna sleep," I mutter and roll on my side, clutching a pillow to my chest. What is the point of a day of debauchery if I can't even sleep in? Makes no sense to me whatsoever.

"Come on, we're meeting Christian soon."

And why are we taking the kids with us?

"Kels, sweetheart, the parade will start soon. Mama has breakfast waiting for us downstairs."

Great, debauchery on a full stomach. I groan. Suddenly, my lips are otherwise occupied as Harper leans over and gives me a hard kiss.

See, this is a much better reason to wake up, the real breakfast of champions. I grab hold of her, disappointed to feel the fabric of her jeans under my hands. No fair denying access like that, Tabloid.

We kiss for what seems like forever. Every nerve, every cell of my body is awake and beating on drums. Snare drums, conga drums, bass drums, bongos … all of them are loudly going off in my brain.

Just as suddenly as it began, the kiss ends.

I open my eyes to see a very self-satisfied Harper hovering over me. "You're awake now. Let's get going." She slaps my rear and hops off the bed, out of reach.

But not out of range. I nail her with the pillow.

"That might be your last kiss of the day, Tabloid," I threaten. We both know it's a lie.


* * *


A little later, I find myself showered, dressed and sitting at the table, eating an omelet and drinking a bloody Mary. I wouldn’t normally have one. In fact, I don't care all that much for tomato juice, but Mama informs me it's traditional.

So I drink.

The rest of the family is meeting us at the parade route. A good thing. If I see Lucien just yet, I might have to hurt him. I don't think I'll soon forget the image of Harper crying.

No one has told Mama what happened either. A good thing, I think. I don't even want to imagine her reaction to the Rachel information, Lucien's blurting out of it at a poker game, and Harper's request of her brothers. While Mama may know everything, Mama doesn't know everything.

Including that we're going to try for a baby. Harper has sworn her brothers to secrecy.

Mama will have a fit when she finds out. So I'm going to make good and sure she knows it was Harper's idea to keep it from her.


* * *


We're somewhere in New Orleans. I have no idea where. I'm so turned around, at this point. We drove as far as we could and have now walked the last few blocks. It's not even eight in the morning, but you couldn't tell because the streets are so crowded. It's like it's Mardi Gras or something.

I chuckle at my own thought. Harper, who is leading me by the hand, glances down at me, the question in her eyes. "Nothing," I reply, giving her hand a squeeze.

"We're almost there," she informs me, glancing over the tops of the heads in front of us.

"Tell me again what we're doing now, Tabloid?"

"We're gonna go watch the Indians."

"Uh huh." That helped a lot, Harper. "Why are there Indians in Mardi Gras?"

"Well, they're not really Indians, babe. Just dressed up like them. For a long time, people of color weren't allowed in the parade krewes. So, they made up their own traditions. One of them was to honor Native Americans in their parade. During the time of slavery, Native Americans were among the few who would accept runaway or freed slaves into their society as equals."

"I didn't know that."

"Yup. So, they dress up as Indians to honor that past. The fun thing about the Indians is most people never know where the parade is going to start."

"Why not?"

"They don't bother with permits. In New Orleans, a parade permit specifies all sorts of things, including the route, police escorts, beginning and ending times, even the number of bands you must have. Again, this comes from the past when they couldn't get a permit, so they just marched. They keep that up today. If you don't know someone in the krewe, you don't know when and where to be. You have to get lucky and find them."

"Let me guess, you know someone on the krewe?"

Harper laughs. "Nope, but Papa does. In fact, one year, Papa and Mama were second-liners. A huge honor, by the way."

"What's a second-liner?" My God, this really is another culture down here. I need to check my map and make sure New Orleans is still located within the fifty states.

"People who accompany the Indians on their parade. They dance, sing and play drums and tambourines as they go along. The Indians have songs composed for their parades. In fact, Jelly Roll Morton wrote one once."

I try to picture Mama beating on a tambourine. Something isn't computing.

"The cool thing about the parade is the competition they have with other Indian krewes," Harper continues. "When they meet, the two Big Chiefs strut around each other, checking out his rival's costume, and whooping and hollering. It's all harmless now, but, in the past, there was a lot of violence associated with these parades. People would use the costumes and the mood of the city to get away with murder. Literally."

I immediately think of my precious nephew. "The kids will be all right, won't they?"

"Oh sure. It's better now. None of that nonsense. In fact, most of the costumes cost thousands of dollars to create. No one wants to fight and damage them." She releases my hand for a moment to wave at her brothers and their families who are all gathered together at the side of the road. "Come on, it looks like it's about to begin."

We join the rest of the family, exchanging hugs and greetings. I am pleased that Christian hops in my arms without hesitation. I lift him up so he can see better. He puts both hands on my cheeks to get my full attention. "Aunt Kels?"

"Yes, Christian?"

"I wanna dub-lun."

I frown. "A what?"

Rene answers for him. "A doubloon. It's one of the items the second-liners throw to the crowd, along with beads and medallions."

"We still on, Harper?" Robie asks, handing Clark over to his wife.

"Oh yeah, we are."

"On what?" I ask. I feel like a big question mark today.

Rene rolls her eyes. "Those two have a standing bet each year. The doubloons that are thrown are of five different colors - silver, gold, red, green and purple. It's hard to get a full set, unless you know someone in the parade. These two compete to get all of them. Of course, it's too hard to get five colors from one parade, so these two try to get all the colors from any of the parades throughout the day. The winner gets five hundred dollars."

"Who won last year?"

"I did." Harper pokes her brother's arm. "Who won the year before? Hmm … me. And before that …?"

"Me," Robie protests.

"I don't think so."

"Liar." He pokes her back.

I give Christian a kiss on the forehead. "I'll do my best to help you out, sweetie. Maybe we'll beat your daddy and Aunt Harper, too."

"Yeah, right," the siblings snort at the same time.

Oh, Tabloid, tactical error there. I smile sweetly and exchange a meaningful look with Rene. Oh yeah.

A war cry startles me and I nearly drop Christian.

I look up and in the middle of the street now stands the most amazing looking person I've ever seen, dressed in an elaborate costume of beads, rhinestones and feathers. His headdress is nearly three foot high and cascades down his back. The beads of his costume form patterns of the buffalo, the phoenix, the elk and other animals. The dominant color is red, but splashes of white and blue and green are mixed in. Contrasting with his costume is the dark ebony skin of the wearer.

"Is that the Big Chief?"

Harper shakes her head. "Nope, that's the Spy Boy. He walks at the front of the parade on the lookout for other Indian krewes. You have to earn the right to be a Spy Boy. Behind him," she gestures to another Indian who has just emerged onto the street, "is Flag Boy."

Flag Boy is almost as impressive as Spy Boy, but is dressed in yellow and is carrying a large staff decorated with feathers.

"The staff identifies their krewe and it also serves as a communication device. When Spy Boy sees another Indian krewe, he whoops and dances around. Flag Boy sends a signal to the Big Chief. Flag Boy then tells Spy Boy what the Big Chief wants to do."

"Wow. It's sounds complicated."

"It is. But it's fun."

Spy Boy begins moving out, his march cocky and assured. I've seen that swagger before. So that's where she gets it. I reach out and pat the butt in question, earning myself a roguish grin in reply.

The second-liners begin following, singing and throwing trinkets at us. We all strain to catch the beads. It's funny, really; cheap, plastic beads and all of us are dying to get our hands on them.

I drape a strand around Christian's neck.

We watch as Flag Boy passes as well, about a block behind Spy Boy. Then a whole crowd of Indians follow. There is one surrounded in the middle by several others. "Is that the Big Chief?"

"That he is."

"What does he have bodyguards?"

"Status, for one thing. But, also because of cigarettes. Their costumes are highly flammable. Sometimes people try to get too close. There have been a few really bad accidents in the past." Suddenly, Harper lunges to the right. "Yes!" she crows, pumping her arm. Triumphantly, she shows off the doubloon she just caught.

"Thanks, Aunt Harper," Christian says, snagging it from her hand.

The look on her face is priceless.

I like Mardi Gras.


* * *


High noon finds us in the French Quarter, on the balcony of a beautiful building, looking down on the wildest costume contest I've ever seen. I've very glad we're up here, out of the crowd. My claustrophobia is really getting a workout here on Bourbon Street, where everyone is pressing a bit too close for my comfort level. Of course, right now I'm pressed in Harper's arms, leaning against her as we watch the display below, and I don't mind a bit.

"Look at that guy!" I exclaim and point. One of the contestants is wearing a replica of the Taj Mahal on his head. It's not a little one either. The building is at least four feet high and six feet wide. "That's gotta hurt his neck."

"Yup, I bet it does," Harper agrees, nuzzling mine.

It's nice to be out in public and be out in public. No one is paying the slightest bit of attention to us, and, even if they were, the majority of the audience here is gay. I've never felt much of a bond with the community, but I do right now.

"One year, a guy had a tiger with him."

"You're kidding me."

"Nope, swear to God, he had a tiger. He, of course, won the contest. Now he's one of the judges."

"I would think so." I point to another entrant. "Look at him."

This one is dressed as a carousel, complete with a pony and organ music playing around him.

"I like that guy," Harper indicates one dressed as an archangel, his wingspan over eight feet wide.

"Don't women enter the contest?"

She shrugs. "A few do, but the men always look better."

"Well, they don't have hips to worry about." God, what will she think of me when I'm pregnant and as big as the Goodyear blimp?

I feel her large hands slide over my belly and she pulls me even closer against her tall frame. "But, they have nothing on the glow of a pregnant woman."

I place my hands on top of hers and tilt my head to look at her. "You a mind reader now, Tabloid?"

She strokes my tummy, hitching her thumb inside my jeans. "I can't wait to see you pregnant with our child, sweetheart. You're going to be the most beautiful woman around."

I press up on my tiptoes and give her a brief kiss. "I think I might keep you."


* * *


We come crashing into the house, being far too noisy. We're not drunk, though we've had a couple beers in the Quarter. It's more we're happy, playing. I love New Orleans and I love being a part of this family.

At the Awards, we caught a bunch more beads, which are now draped around our necks. Harper explained that there is a value system to the beads as well. Apparently, the longer and heavier the strand, the more valuable they are. We saw two idiots get into a fist fight over a particularly good strand of beads. People amaze me.

Harper also caught eight more doubloons, but only of two colors. Three more to go. I wonder how Robie is doing so far.

I confiscated the extra doubloons for my little man, Christian.

"How were the Awards?" Papa calls from his seat in the living room. He's reading the Wall Street Journal and smoking a cigar. I'm surprised Mama allows that.

"They were amazing. I've never seen such intricate costumes before. People must spend all year working on them."

He nods. "They do. Oh, Harper, your brother called. He says to tell you 'three'."


I chuckle. "It'll be all right, sweetie."

"I wanna win," she protests. "Well, Papa, we're going to go take a nap before we get ready to go out tonight," Harper tells her father as she wraps her arms around me, holding me close.

This is so nice today. I love all the snuggling and cuddling we're doing. It's helping in healing parts of me I didn't know were still hurting from earlier this year.

"We're a little tired from the parade and the festivities. And, a certain someone doesn't like getting up very early."

I give her a little poke in the ribs with my elbow.

"So, we're off to nap now."

"Is that what you kids call it these days?" he asks, causing me to flush bright red. He turns the page of his newspaper. "I'll have to see if your Mama wants to take a nap with me later."

"Ewwww, Papa, that was more than I needed to know," Harper whines. I feel her head drop behind me. "I'm going to have extensive therapy bills," she whispers in my ear.

I can't help but laugh, taking her hand to get her out of there before her father can damage her any further.

"Have a nice 'nap,'" he calls after us as we head up the stairs.


* * *


"Oh," I groan, throwing myself down on the bed. "It's going to take me days, weeks, years to get that image out of my mind."

Kelsey calls to me from the bathroom. "Oh, get a grip, Tabloid. They're a loving couple. Of course they have sex."

"Kelsey! Don't say that!" I pull a pillow over my head, trying to block out the images. I move it long enough to inform her, "My parents had sex exactly five times."

I hear her laugh at me, but I don't care. Yuck.

I feel a tugging on my boots. I move the pillow again. She's removing my boots, giving me a very patronizing grin.

"What?" I growl, throwing the pillow at her.

She catches it easily, placing it on the end of the bed. "For someone who has had as much sex as you have…"

I cut her off. "It's different when it's your parents, Kels. Parents don't have sex."

"Right, sweetheart. So how do they become parents, eh?" She kicks her own shoes off and climbs up on the bed with me. She lays beside me, resting her head on my chest, just above my heart. My hand immediately travels to the base of her neck. I love the feel of her hair there. "Do you think that's what our kids will think?"

Kids. Not kid. Hmm, that's new. "No doubt."

"But we'll scandalize them like your father just did you, right?" Her left hand tugs my shirt out of my jeans and then slides against my skin.

That feels nice. "Oh yeah, every chance we get." I kiss her hair, which somehow still manages to smell like apples and kiwi in the middle of the day. "So have you figured out how to use that little gizmo of yours?"

"What? You mean the ovulation tester?"


She laughs at me, giving my ribs a little tickle. "That little gizmo? Jesus, Harper, you sound like such a guy. I gotta get you to stop hanging around your brothers so much. Next thing I know, you'll be scratching yourself in inappropriate places."

I scratch her neck, in a very appropriate manner, I think. "All right," I sigh. "Are you learning the proper way to utilize the ovulation tester?"

"Brat!" She slaps my stomach this time. I can't win here. "I think so. If I read it right, it says I'm ready now."

"Now?" I croak. I clear my throat, having sounded like Robie during puberty.

"Well, now as in today or tomorrow. That's what Dr. Solomon said, there's a window of a day or two."

"So, we should call the clinic Dr. Solomon recommended and get an appointment for tomorrow then." Wow. Tomorrow Kels might get pregnant.



Plural. Not kid, singular. She wants kids.

I mean, I can understand that. I can't even conceive - no pun intended - of being an only child. I'd miss my brothers too badly. Well, maybe not Lucien. But, the others I would.

But how many does she mean? Two? Or more? God, what if she wants five? What would we do with all of them? Where would we put them?

"Hey? You there?" Kels' voice reaches me.


"You drifted off there. You feel okay?"

I nod. "Fine." Just a momentary panic attack. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. "So, should we call the clinic?"

"Yeah." Her reply is muffled a bit by a big yawn. "When we get up." She snuggles close to me, wrapping her arm around my waist.

I guess we are going to take a nap. How ironic.


* * *


The Bourbon Pub is the hottest gay bar in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Located, as the name suggests, on Bourbon Street, we are in the heart of the madness. Fortunately, Robie and Harper know their way around and are very protective of Rene and me, getting us safely through the pressing and groping crowd.

The scene on the street is beyond belief. Despite the fact the cops said they were going to crack down on public nudity this year, I see women doing things for beads that would send my mother into a coma at the mere mention of.

Don't these women realize they can walk into any of the stores along Bourbon Street and buy their own damn beads and keep their clothing on?

We stand out on the balcony for a long time, throwing beads down to the people below. Neither Robie nor Harper will part with their doubloons though. They're tied now at four. Both need a green one.

After catching the siblings staring at one bare breast too many, Rene and I suggested we move inside, after conferring briefly. Things are a little less risqué there. Just barely.

We've commandeered a table in the corner and are drinking beer. Robie is being an absolute goof tonight, cracking one joke after another. At one point I was laughing so hard, I had tears streaming down my cheeks. Thank God I decided to do this little gig without makeup. What's the point? No one can see my face behind the mask for the party anyhow.

Imagine that. I'm in a gay bar, having a good time. Funny, how things can change. It's a damn good feeling, though, to finally know where I belong and to finally feel free enough to enjoy it. Okay, being masked and in a city filled with strangers certainly helps too.

I glance over to Harper and give her smile as I take her in again. God, she is gorgeous tonight. Hell, she gorgeous all the time, but this black thing she's got going at the moment is the sexiest fucking thing I've seen in a long time. She's in black from head to toe: starting with her basic, black mask, very Zorro like, the tightest black T-shirt I've ever seen, tailored black slacks, and motorcycle boots.

Yup, she's getting laid tonight. She knows it, I know it, and the crowd around us knows it.

But not before Rene and I have some fun and a little payback for the balcony distractions. Oh, Tabloid, while you can look but not touch … sometimes it's better to not even look. Paybacks are a proverbial bitch.

I watch as Robie comes back from the bar with another round of drinks. He looks great, too. He has on a tight, black, muscle shirt, jeans and boots. His own basic black mask is settled on top of his head at the moment. Walking in them can be a tad hazardous, even with the little ones. Since he's balancing the drinks, I don't blame him. In fact, I appreciate not getting drenched with beer.

He places our drinks down and settles into his seat with a huge grin on his face.

"What's so funny?" I call to him, a necessary evil in order to get my question through the noise of the bar.

He leans over to me, then points to a hunky, blond man at the end of the bar. "You see that guy over there?"

I nod.

"He patted me on the ass as I walked by."

"Slut!" Rene slaps her husband playfully on the arm.

"What can I say? I'm attractive to everyone."

"Nah." Harper sips her drink. "I saw that guy come in. He brought his seeing eye dog, checked it with his coat."

"Bitch," Robie grumbles from behind his glass.

This sends us into another chorus of laughter. Rene gets a truly evil smile on her face, giving me a wink. Showtime. We are truly bad. It's probably a good thing we don't live in New Orleans, Harper and Robie wouldn't survive it.

Rene leans over to Harper and places one hand on a broad shoulder. Harper turns her head so they are nose to nose. "I got an idea, Harper." Rene runs a fingernail down Harper's cheek, causing her to flinch.

I snort and give Robie a nudge so he can enjoy this too. He was checking out the blond guy at the bar again. He better be careful. A lot of guys don't deal well with rejection. And I don't think Rene wants to be going home alone tonight.

"Wh…What?" Harper manages to stammer.

"Well, you know, if you and Kels are serious about this baby thing, the best way to do it is really the old fashioned way. We could swap partners for a night."

"Huh?" Harper is totally thrown by the suggestion. She looks at me with big, blue eyes, terrified. I almost feel bad. Almost. My mind's eye recalls her tossing a strand of beads to a pretty, topless gal from the balcony. Like I said, almost.

"Sure. Robie and Kels can go have some fun." She traces a fingernail down the side of Harper's neck. "And you and I can have even more fun."

"What? I don't think …" Harper looks directly at me, pleading with her eyes for me to save her. I grin and I lean into Robie, who has apparently decided to play along because he wraps an arm around me.

"Whaddya think, Harper?" Rene lifts her brows a couple of times with a mischievous grin.

"I think all three of you should go straight to hell," Harper growls, realizing she being played with.

I get up and move over to her, cupping her face in my hands and giving her a soft kiss. "Good girl. Love you."

"Do not," she grumbles again.

"Uh huh." I let my tongue travel lightly over her lips. That's all the invitation she needs to pull me into a long, deep kiss. When we part, I wink. "See, I do too. And if you're really good…" I whisper in her ear exactly where she can expect me to put my tongue later. Harper groans.

Suddenly, Rene perks up a bit, cocking her head slightly. I can tell she's listening to the music. "Come on, lover, dance with me," she says to her husband.

Robie frowns. "I dunno, baby." He holds up his beer, as if it might disappear should he get up and dance. Men.

I tug on Harper's hand to get her to dance with me and show her brother how to behave.

"I'll keep Robie company," she says ending her chance of receiving the Lesbian of the Year Award anytime soon.

"Okay, we can do it this way, too," Rene says and takes my hand and leads me from the table. "They don't learn, do they?" she mutters.

"No, they don't. Sad, really."

As we make our way to the dance floor, I glance back. Harper and Robie have moved their chairs so they can watch us. They're both pigs. They won't dance with us, but want to watch.

Well, enjoy the show.

As we hit the dance floor, I lean in and ask. "Want to take bets on how long it'll take for us to get them out here?"

She laughs and begins moving to the beat of "Smooth" by Santana. "Oh, let's torture them a bit first. Otherwise, it'll be too easy."


So it begins.

We quite purposely turn toward the table. Rene is behind me with her hands very lightly perched on my hips. She's so close to me I can feel her body heat as we begin moving together in rhythm with the music and each other.

The opening words to the song are so appropriate for what we are about to do to these two.

Man it's a hot one

Like seven inches from the midday sun

The Kingsley contingent at the table looks very amused at the moment. Both of them are doing their level best to look totally disinterested, sitting back with their legs stretched out as much as possible, arms crossed against their chests. They could be twins.

You're my reason for reason

Step in my groove

Robie breaks first, leaning forward first to take a huge drink from his glass when Rene's left arm snakes around my waist, coming to rest directly under my right breast, pulling our bodies closer together.

Damn, she is good.

And if you said

This life ain't good enough

I'd give my world to lift you up

I'd change my life to better suit your mood

Because you're so smooth

As we continue to sway and move to the music, her hand begins moving in circles on my stomach. It keeps straying, like it's just about to visit more northern territory, but always stops at the last moment.

Oooo … Harper actually twitched and pulled her legs in. She's about to go for her drink too.

"Look at Harper," Rene whispers. "Too funny. I've never seen her like this before."

That's nice to hear. I reach down and bring Rene's other arm around my waist as well. Now we're firmly fixed against each other. Our bodies are moving completely in sync with the Latin rhythm of the music.

I think it is the slow grind and the little nuzzle to my ear Rene gives me that causes Tabloid to go for her drink, nearly knocking it over before she can get her hand around the glass. She's not shaking and she's not out here yet.

Our work here is not done.

"We're getting closer," I say, turning to face my dance partner. We smile at each other with the most seductive bedroom eyes we can manage. We manage pretty well, to be honest. I have to admit to being a bit turned on. Rene's a beautiful woman and I don't generally rub my body against someone like this unless I mean business.

Come on, Tabloid. Get out here before I need to take a cold shower and move away from your brother's wife.

Rene turns us so she can see the table. I feel her hand run up my back, causing not altogether unpleasant sensations to run up and down my spine. Her hand comes to rest on the back of my neck and she guides me to tilt it slightly to my right.

Oh shit! I can only imagine what Harper and Robie must be feeling at this moment as they watch her lick my neck. I know what I'm feeling.

Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all.

"You can see them sweating from here," she whispers.

"Good," I croak. I am sweating here.

She pulls back a bit and smiles at me. "You okay?" Funny enough, Rene doesn't seem worked up in the least. I don't know whether to be relieved or insulted.

"They have more fortitude than expected," I manage. This was such a good plan, it came back and bit me right in the ass.

She laughs. "The Kingsleys are a stubborn bunch, but they aren't dead." Rene reaches up and unbuttons her blouse to reveal a light silk tank top underneath, ostensibly because she's hot.

Robie's head drops to the table face-first. Harper licks her lips and takes another drink from her glass. She's got the little shake going now.

"I think that did it," I whisper, glancing over my shoulder. I close my eyes and wait for my rescue.

"That's more than enough, you two," Harper mutters, pulling us apart, handing Rene over to her brother.

I open my eyes to find Tabloid staring at me with eyes that clearly communicate her arousal. She's taking deep, even breaths. She's clenching her hands opened and closed. Her heart must be trying to pound its way out of her body.

The tempo of the music changes as "Genie In A Bottle" by Christina Aguilera starts up.

I feel like I've been locked up tight

For a century of lonely nights

Waiting for someone…to release me

Harper has a truly evil leer on her face. I could be in big trouble here. Good thing I like her brand of trouble. "Did you have fun, Little Roo?" she asks. "Did you get what you wanted?"

I nod, biting my lower lip.

"Now that I'm out here, we're going to dance my way."

You're licking you lips

And blowing kisses my way

But that don't mean I'm gonna give it away

Baby, baby, baby

My body's saying let's go

But my heart is saying no

She takes my hand and pulls me to her. Keeping a firm hold on my hips with her hands, she begins her own slow grind against me. Our eyes meet and I can see everything she's thinking there.

Right now she's having one lewd thought after another.

And I wholeheartedly approve of them.

I feel her tremble through the sleeves of her shirt as I run my hands up and down her biceps, admiring how strong she is. I rub my body against hers like a cat, arching my back and barely containing a purr.

If you wanna be with me

Baby, there's a price to pay

I'm a genie in a bottle

You gotta rub me the right way

Harper's hand travels to my back, sliding under my blouse. Her hand isn't warm on my back, it's hot. Very hot. I feel instant heat spread and settle through my entire body, centering mainly between my legs, which are now threatening to give out on me. She smiles at me and slowly shakes her head as her thigh finds its way between my legs.

Oh God!

If you wanna be with me

I can make you wish come true

You gotta make a big impression

I gotta like what you do

I have gone from teaser to teased in one great, big, old, rush of hormones. Her hands are everywhere on my body as we move with the music. She refuses to move her thigh or let me move from it. Every time I try, she pulls me back and increases the pressure against my center.

It occurs to me that this is the first time I've had sex in public.

Mardi Gras truly is another state of mind.

If she keeps it up, I'm gonna climax right here. She knows it too. The look on her face is quite clear: that is exactly what she intends to do to me. I'm helpless at this point to stop it, even if I wanted to. Which I emphatically don't. My body simply has to be connected with hers in any way it can.

I'm a genie in a bottle, baby

You gotta rub me the right way, honey

I'm a genie in a bottle, baby

Come, come, come on and let me out

Her hand runs up the front of my shirt, pausing long enough to firmly stroke my breast and give my nipple a little pinch. She continues up to my neck, where she clasps it, drawing me to her. Harper lowers her head, planting her lips to my neck. Her breath is hot. Her tongue, warm and silky, her teeth and lips nipping gently. We're still moving in sync to the music, but I can barely hear it over the pounding of my heart in my ears.

The music's playing and

The lights down low

There's one more lesson

And then we're good to go

Waiting for someone…who needs me

Now her mouth is by my ear. She's whispering to me. I feel the moan in my throat and I know I released it, but I don't know if she heard it. Oh God. Those are the same things she says to me when we make love, the things she knows drive me over the edge every damn time.

I can feel my entire body starting to tingle.

Hormones racing at the speed of light

But that don't mean it's got to be tonight

Baby, baby, baby

My body's saying let's go

But my heart is saying no

I have to close my eyes. Just feel and let this happen. There is no turning back. I feel her against me. Holding me, touching me, enfolding me. Caressing me with her hands, her words, her love.

Our movements are in perfect rhythm with each other and the fading music. I can't really hear it anymore. I only hear her, inviting me over, offering me release. Giving me everything I need to have it.

Biting my lip and holding firmly to her back, I go. Willingly. So very willingly. The tremors are small, but forceful as my body finally sinks into hers, sated. She holds me close, keeping me from collapsing to the floor as I recover, whispering that she loves me.

Taking a deep breath, I finally look up. I hate that cocky smirk. But, God, I love the woman attached to it.

If you wanna be with me

Baby, there's a price to pay

I'm a genie in a bottle

You gotta rub me the right way


* * *



I don't know what to do with my hands. Should they be in my pockets, out of my pockets, or behind my back? Jesus, why does this have to be so hard? I finally tuck my thumbs in the front pockets of my jeans. There. That's better.

I look down at Kels. At least, she's nervous too. She's got a little bounce going in her right knee and she doing a scratch her neck as she clears her throat thing.

"Ms. Stanton?" The nurse smiles, her eyes darting back and forth between us. "Are you two ready?"

"Of course." Kels stands, offering me her hand. There we go, that's what I should be doing with my hands. I grasp it firmly as we make our way into the exam room.

The nurse follows us in, closing the door behind us. Yup it's a room where … oh Lord. What am I doing here? I'm gonna be sick.

"Okay, Kelsey. Take everything off from the waist down. Lay down on the table and we'll get you settled."

I watch as she Kelsey obeys. She gives me a reassuring smile, kicking her shoes off her feet. The nurse gets out one of those little, blue, paper blankets and drapes it over the table.

I glance over to the metal tray attached to the table mainly to keep my mind off what's happening around me. I don't know why I'm so nervous and embarrassed by all of this. It's not like I haven't been there, done that myself. Well, not quite, but I've certainly had my yearly exams. And, I've definitely seen Kels naked a number of times.

I clasp my hands behind my back, now that I'm once again deprived of Kels' hand, and lean over for a closer look at the tray. There's a long flexible tube, a syringe filled with sperm, couple pairs of gloves and what looks like barbecue tongs. I don't even wanna know what those might be used for.

Okay, a Kingsley husband has never failed to get his wife pregnant on their first try. At least, that's what they've all bragged. Let's hope the record holds.

I know for us the chances are really slim that Kels will get pregnant the first time out, or even the fourth time for that matter, but I can still hope. I look at this time as test run, a practice spin. To get us both used to the idea that we're trying for a kid, and let Kelsey feel like we're moving toward her desire.

I'm scared witless. I know this procedure is safe, but I worry nonetheless. And I'm terrified we might be successful today. What in the world will I do then? And what will I do if we don't succeed? I don't want to see the look of disappointment on my Little Roo's face either.

I'm distracted from my own thoughts when I feel Kels tug on the back of my shirt. She's settled on the table, in the stirrups, covered with the blue, paper blanket. "Hey, Tabloid. If you're having seconds thoughts, now is the time to say so."

Second thoughts? No. I want a family. And the only woman I've ever wanted one with is Kels. "Oh, baby, no!" I pull a stool over and sit down next to her. My right arm comes to rest above her head while the other comes to rest on her tummy, making small circles. "I'm here for you. We're going to do this. We're going to make a baby." I chuckle and kiss her temple. "Well, you're going to make a baby. I'm going to offer my support." I wish we could make a baby.

She covers my hand on her stomach. "We are making a baby, Harper. In every way that counts."

I nod, closing my eyes. She draws me down and we share a sweet kiss.

"Should I come back later?" the doctor's voice interrupts us.

I straighten up, wiping my lips of Kels' lipstick. "Ah, no, doc, we're done here." I wink at Kels and am rewarded with a smile. "For the moment, at least."

Doctor Stern came highly recommended by Doctor Solomon. She's a partner in the Infertility Institute here in New Orleans. We thought it would be easier to do the treatments here where the samples were given. Also, no one cares about us and who we are in New Orleans. In New York, we might be seen by someone we don't want to see us.

We spoke with Dr. Stern by phone a couple times. Enough for me to ascertain she was married and had kids, making me feel better. Also long enough for Kels to feel comfortable with her credentials. I like both of our doctors. They've both been very good to us and very supportive.

The doc takes her seat at the business end of the table and puts a set of gloves on. "Are we ready to make a baby?"

"We are very ready to give it a shot," Kels teases, winking at me. I can't help but roll my eyes at the bad joke.

"Well, let's take a look here." For the next few minutes, the doc pokes and prods around there gently. "You're definitely ovulating, Kels."

"Whew, I was hoping I read that meter right."

The doc's head bobs. "It is hard to read the first couple times."

"How can you tell, doc? I know you can't see the little eggs floating around, right?" I ask, curiosity now winning over.

She motions me around to the end of the table. Holding up a penlight, she illuminates Kels' cervix. "See the discharge there? It's nice and thin. That's a sign of ovulation. It means that the barrier to the cervix has lessened and the sperm have a better chance of gaining entry and fertilizing the egg."

I nod, fascinated by this Discovery Channel tour of Kelsey. Normally, I go with the Playboy Channel tour.

"What I'm going to do next is insert this tube up into Kelsey's cervix and get it as close to the fallopian tubes as possible. Fortunately, Kels' cervix is nicely positioned so we don't have to bring it closer."

"Huh? You have to do that sometimes?"

The doc nods toward the metal tongs on the tray. "I use those if that's the case. Some women have a cervix that tilts during ovulation and we have to move it back into place."

I look up at Kels whose green eyes are wide at the thought. "You're lucky, babe."

"All right, Kelsey," Dr. Stern says soothingly, "I'm going to insert the tube now. I want you to relax and take a deep breath and let it out slowly. You might feel a little bit of discomfort, but not much, I promise. You ready?" The doc has positioned the tube for insertion and does so as Kelsey takes a deep breath.

I wheel around and offer my hand to Kels, which she clutches on to for dear life. I bring her hand up to my mouth and place a kiss on her knuckles. "You're doing great, baby."

She smiles her thanks to me.

Dr. Stern picks up the syringe with the sperm and inserts it into the end of the tubing. "Harper, you ready?"

"Who me? Yeah, I'm fine. Not like I can do anything."

"Actually, you can. Do you want to push the plunger?"

Kels releases my hands immediately. "Yes, she does. We're making this baby together." She gives me a little push. "Go on, Harper."

I rub my hands together to warm them up. What am I doing? It's not like I'm actually touching Kels, or that the syringe gives a shit. I look at the small amount of liquid in the syringe. "That's it? That's all of it?"

Dr. Stern nods. "A half cc contains about twenty-five to thirty million sperm on average. This one contained over forty-eight million. You chose your donors well," she compliments.

I won't tell my brothers this little fact. No need to inflate their egos any more than necessary. I am tempted to make sure she did not include Lucien's contribution in the rotation, but it's not really the right moment. I'm sure she did as I asked.

Dr. Stern hands me the tube and syringe. I hold it carefully, lest anything go wrong. I raise my eyes to meet Kels' gaze and I try to convey everything I'm feeling with my smile. Gently, I press the plunger, releasing the sperm into her, wishing the little guys the best of luck.

Without looking away from Kels, I hand the implements back to Dr. Stern and return to Kels' side. God, I know this isn't the way most babies are made, but I'm feeling a lot of emotion right now. In fact, it's the same exact feeling I get every time we make love. I have never felt more connected to her than at this moment. I want to tell her this, but I'm having trouble getting anything past the knot in my throat.

"I love you," Kels says softly.

"I love you too." I lean over and place a little kiss to her tummy. Please, God, let this work. "Love you, too."

I feel her laugh softly, her hands coming to rest in my hair.

"We're all finished. Kelsey, I want you to lie here for the next half hour, then you can get dressed. I recommend you go home and lay down for a couple more hours. You might feel a little cramping over the next day, and you might spot. Both are normal and no cause for concern."

"Thank you so much, Dr. Stern."

I've turned my head so I can listen to her stomach noises and watch her. I don't want to move from this position. I hope Kels is comfortable.

Dr. Stern lowers the stirrups and allows her to rest more naturally on the table. "You're welcome. Good luck, you two. Make sure you let us know how it turns out, okay?"

"Absolutely," Kels agrees, her fingers now combing through my hair.

God, it's nice to be home.


* * *


"I think two will be sufficient, Tabloid." I pull the third pillow out from under my butt and toss it back against the headboard. "The doctor didn't say we needed to do this, by the way. She just said I needed to lay down."

"Well, gravity helps," she mutters.

"I don't think it can spill out, Harper. I mean, the female body is designed to hold on to that stuff." She tries to stuff another pillow under me. "Hey! You keep that up and I'm going to be on my head."

"That's not a bad idea, Kels." She takes my ankles in her hands and starts to raise them.

"Forget it! I am not a human pretzel." I give a little kick, getting her to release me.

"True," she snickers. "I forgot about the night I nearly broke you."

"In your dreams, Tabloid. Now come up here and lie down with me." I pat the bed.

She does as I request. Plopping down next to me, she rests her head in the palm of her hand while the other one rubs circles on my stomach.

"Are you glad we went through with it?" I don't know why I'm asking now. It's a little late if she's not.

"You bet. A little, bitty Kingsley of our very own."

"I'd like to take a moment to remind you that he or she will be half Stanton, too."

Harper leans over and kisses me, pulling back to caress my face. "Chér, that's the most important part."


<fade out>


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