Sequel: In Unexpected Places

Against the Odds

Chapter Ninety

A/N: This chapter went an entirely different way than I ever intended. I intended to write from Harry and Emma’s point of view in Rio, but I found myself veering off in a different direction that I couldn’t ignore. I hope that’s okay with you guys. Please, let me know what you think!


“You know, when you asked me to ‘help’ you decorate the nursery, I assumed you would be an active participant as well.”

Alex grinned up at Matt from where she sat on the floor of the in progress nursery, watching as he carefully ran a rolled brush covered in light blue paint up and down the wall. “You really should have known better.”

He rolled his eyes before turning his attention back to the wall in front of him. “I really should have. Especially since you did the same thing with Emma’s nursery.”

Alex giggled as crossed her legs under herself and her hands smoothed over her belly as she leaned back again the one wall that remained unpainted. “Well...maybe you shouldn’t be such a sucker, Matthew.” Matt’s deep chuckle followed her words and she saw his head shake back and forth slightly. “Because I know that Charlotte made you do the same thing for Cooper’s nursery.”

“Ha! Of course she did,” Matt replied as he leaned down and rolled more paint onto the brush. “She told me what she wanted and I made it happen. As usual.”

“As usual,” Alex snorted. “And you love it.”

“I mean, what’s not to love?” Matt grinned and shrugged his shoulders. “Besides, it’s not like Harry doesn’t do the same for you. Whatever you want, he’s gonna make it happen. He’s just as big of a sucker for his wife as I am for mine.”

“Well, that’s true,” Alex sighed and her her smile stretched her cheeks wider. “He really is.”

“I’m actually surprised he went for the idea of doing the nursery when he wasn’t here.”

“He’s not really much of a do-it-your-selfer,” Alex replied with a shrug. “He loves the idea of the nursery and he’ll love the finished product, but actually putting it together...not entirely his thing. Though he would have done it without complaint if I asked. But...since you are a do-it-your-selfer and I knew we’d have this time when our significant others are gone, it worked out well. Besides, I kind of love that we did this for Emma’s nursery and now we’re doing this for the boys. Even if you kind of had to help me the first time.”

Matt carefully rolled the brush down the last bit of the wall he was working on and then turned, sliding the brush into the paint pan before standing and stretching his arms above him as he regarded his sister thoughtfully.

“Had too?” he finally asked, a touch of surprise evident in his voice.

“Because...well, because John was gone,” Alex replied, her voice growing a bit softer.

“Yeah...the mood is a bit different this time around, isn’t it?” Matt said as he joined his sister on the floor, leaning back on the unpainted wall and stretching his legs out beside hers. “Not just the nursery...but the entire pregnancy.”

“Completely different. That entire time is really blurry to me, honestly.”

“Really?” Matt turned to her, his eyes wide with surprise.

“Mhmmm,” she nodded, her mind drifting back nearly ten years into the past. “It was so hard. Trying to move on without John while facing the idea of having a single parent. Not that I didn’t love my baby with every piece of my soul before I ever laid eyes on her, because I did. But I was so young, Matt...twenty years old. So many days I just got up and went through the motions...just trying not to become a sobbing mess at how unfair it all was. I wasn’t very successful most of the time.”

“God, I hated so much that you were all alone over here when you found out. Mom said the way you sounded when you called to tell them was the most heartbreaking thing she’d ever heard.”

“I don’t even remember that conversation,” Alex said, leaning her head back against the wall as she took a deep breath. “I remember calling but I couldn’t tell you what was said or how I even told them. That’s about when the blur started for me.”

“Not when you found out?”

“No,” Alex murmured, shaking her head as that particular memory washed over her, in more detail than it had in a long time. “I’ll never forget that. It was the absolute worst moment of my life.”


10 Years Earlier

She was so tired. Though it wasn’t like that particular feeling was new to her -- not since she’d found out she was pregnant a few weeks before -- it still took her by surprise every single time that wave of exhaustion hit her. It was all she could do to keep her eyes open until she could find the first mildly comfortable surface and collapse into it.

“Jesus, I don’t know how I would have survived if I would have had afternoon classes,” she muttered to herself as she climbed the steps in the apartment building to her floor. She shook her head and then proceeded to fight off a massive yawn as she unlocked her door and nearly stumbled inside. She dropped her bag on the floor by the door, pulled her phone from the front pocket, kicked off her shoes, and then shuffled straight towards the bedroom. She flopped onto the deep, plush mattress, and blissfully into it, savoring the feeling. After a moment, she turned on her back, pulled up her down comforter around her, and stretched her body out under it, groaning just slightly at how good it felt to do that; to be off her feet and relaxing on her bed.

“You are kicking Mommy’s ass already, little bit.” She pressed her hands up under her shirt as she murmured the words, moving over her still flat stomach. Of course she couldn’t feel anything yet, and knew she wouldn’t be able to for quite awhile. But she still liked to press her hands over the place where the baby was growing inside of her; to connect with her and John’s unborn child in this way. It was like having a piece of him there with her, instead of thousands and thousands of miles away.

With a sigh and a soft smile at the thought of her husband, she reached for her phone on the bed beside her. She hit the button for her voicemail and turned to her side, curling up into a ball as she pulled the phone to her ear. Her eyes moved to the framed picture on her nightstand, her absolutely favorite from their wedding day just a few months ago. John’s mother, Molly, had snapped the pic as they’d sat in a small restaurant that evening along with a few friends to celebrate their surprise nuptials. Alex was still wearing her simple white dress and John was still in that brown suit of his that she wasn’t so fond of. But it was his only suit and buying another one hadn’t really been a priority at that point in time. The photo showed them sitting in a booth, with Alex relaxed into his side and John’s arm loosely draped over her shoulder. Their heads were tilted together, highlighting their nearly identical shades of blonde hair -- with his being only just slightly darker than hers. It was taken during an impromptu speech from one of John’s friends, and it always made Alex giggle bit at the way their expressions mirrored exactly how they both felt at that moment; so happy but almost slightly surprised, as if they both couldn’t believe they’d actually done it -- jumped into a young marriage feet first.

“You have one saved message,” her voicemail said in her ear, pulling her back from the memories that picture always brought forth. “Received today at 10:37 AM.”

“Alex….it’s me…” His voice crackled through the line and Alex couldn’t help the giddy smile that spread across her face. She was still a newlywed; a newlywed whose husband was thousands of miles away and still would be for another few months. “I know you’re probably in class and I’m sorry I couldn’t call at a better time, but it’s the first chance I’ve had. And...I miss you, It’s been too long since I’ve heard your voice and your laugh and...I really can’t wait to hear you tell me all about what you’ve been up to and how things are going. Anyway, I’ll try you again tonight after we get back from our mission. Please be there? Pretty please? With a cherry on top?” He chuckled through the line and Alex couldn’t help but giggle along as the message came to an end. “I love you, darling. Talk to you soon.”

Alex sighed, listening to the message one more time before closing her phone and setting it back on the nightstand. She laid back on the bed and curled up under her blanket, his voice still fresh in her mind.

She hated that she had missed the call that she had been waiting on for days and days, wanting desperately to tell him the news. But she wasn't going to miss the next one. Hopefully, it would be that very phone call that woke her from the nap that was sneaking up fast on her.

Her eyes slid closed, a smile tilting her full lips as she thought of it, imagined how the conversation would go -- how happy he would be. And she drifted of to sleep with those words on her mind, the words she couldn't wait to say to him.

“You're going to be a father.”


It was the harsh sound of the security buzzer that finally woke her, not the sound of her ringing fun like she'd expected. It took her a few long moments to come to, the buzzer sounding out loudly through her apartment several times before she was able to pull her eyes open, to realize the sound wasn't part of the deep dream she was having.

“What in the…” She groaned, groggily blinking her eyes open into the quiet, dark room. She shook her head, trying once more to clear her fuzzy mind before she glanced at her alarm clock. Her eyes fought for focus and she started when she realized that the time did in fact read out 9:08pm. She’d slept the entire afternoon and evening away.

The offensive buzzer sounded out twice more in quick succession and she huffed as she sat up, more than a little irritated at the persistence of whoever was at the door.

“Jesus. Alright, alright,” she grumbled, pushing her hair out of her face and righting her shirt and pants as she stepped from the bed and then shuffled quickly down the hallway to the foyer.

She was just about to punch the intercom button on the panel by the door when a knock sounded out, making her jump and stare at the door in confusion.

“Who is it?” She called through, her voice still hoarse from sleep.

“Captain Mills and Captain Stratford, ma’am. British Army.”

In truth, she knew before she looked through the peephole and saw the uniforms, confirming that they were in fact with the Army. Before she even opened the door, before she saw the grim looks on their faces, she knew. In the deepest, darkest part of her soul.

But it didn't stop her from feeling the physical punch from the news, from the low, murmured words that literally knocked her to the floor and turned her entire life upside down in a second.

“Ma’am, we regret to inform you that there was an accident…”



“I don't know how you did it,” Matt's voice was soft as he turned to look at his sister. “I really don't know how you did it. I don't...I don't think I could have done what you did.”

“Yes, you could have,” Alex replied, nudging Matt with her shoulder. “We’re molded from the same cloth, you and I.”

“Nah,” Matt shook his head. “You're far stronger than I am. You always have been. Stronger and miles more stubborn.”

“That's ridiculous!” Alex protested with a laugh. “Maybe more stubborn, but stronger? No.”

“Absolutely,” Matt countered. “Just look at When Cooper was born and Charlotte had to go into emergency surgery, I nearly lost my mind at the possibility of having to do it all without her.”

“If you recall, I was a fucking disaster when he died...when you and Mom and Dad first came out here.”

“Watch your mouth in front of those babies,” Matt said, grinning and shooting a sideways glance at Alex.

“Bite me,” Alex grinned back.

“You sound like my wife,” Matt laughed. “She's rubbing off on you.”

“Not a bad thing. She's one of my favorite people.”

“Mine too,” he sighed, tipping his head back against the wall. Silence fell between them for a long moment and Alex felt Matt take a deep breath beside her. “She wants to have another baby.”

Alex's eyes flashed wide and she sat up straight, turning to face her brother. “Really?! Cooper’s only a year old.”

“Not right this minute,” Matt clarified. “But sometime next year, she wants to start trying to get pregnant again.”

“ don't want that?” Alex asked carefully, her eyes curious as she watched some kind of internal struggle flash across his face.

“Of course I do,” he chuckled, but his eyes cast down to the floor and he shifted nervously where he sat. “I'd love to have more children.”


“I won't have her risk her life to have another baby.”

Alex lifted her eyebrows slowly. “I cannot imagine that Charlotte would want to get pregnant again if it were a risk to her life to do so.”

“Well…” Matt took a deep breath. “Her doctor said that they would do a c-section this time and it would cut the risk down a lot.”

“How much?”

“He says not much more than a normal c-section,” he admitted. “But a risk is a risk. It's just not…”

“If you say it's not worth it, I'm going to smack you,” Alex interrupted, narrowing her eyes at him. “You know that's not true.”

Matt shook his head and avoided meeting her eyes. “It scares the shit out of me, Alex. That’s why you are so much stronger than I am. I didn’t lose her when Cooper was born. I have my wife and the mother of my child but I can’t bring myself to be okay with taking that risk again. And look at lost John and went through this fucking nightmare and you didn’t hesitate to do it all again with Harry.”

Alex regarded him thoughtfully for a moment, tilting her head to the side as she gathered her thoughts.

“There was over six years between losing John and meeting Harry,” she said softly, drawing his gaze over to hers. “I had a long time to come to terms with it; a long time where I didn’t take any risks. And for what it’s worth...I did hesitate. When he got deployed early on in our relationship, I ended it because I didn’t want to take the risk.”

Matt’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “I had no idea.”

“It lasted about a week,” Alex said. “And I was beyond miserable. When he finally came to me, I decided…” She shrugged and blinked at the unexpected tears that rose in her eyes. “I just decided that I had to choose between risks or regret.”

“Ahhh...and you chose to take the risk.”

“Yeah,” Alex sighed. “Because I was desperately in love with him. And also, when he showed up at my door that night he was wearing this pair of jeans that made me just...ugghhh…”

“Jesus Alex,” Matt laughed as he grabbed a rag that was on the floor next to him and tossed it at his sister. She caught it with a grin and tossed it back in his direction.

“Look, in the end this is between you and Charlotte,” Alex said, falling back to serious for a moment. “All I’m saying is to think about it a little more before you say no to her. She loves her life with you and Cooper more than she thought she could ever love anything; she just wants more of that life. And she’s such a great Mom.”

“Damn, she really is,” Matt sighed and then his smile pulled wide. “I think it surprised her at first, how much she enjoys being a Mom.”

“Did it surprise you?”

“Nah,” Matt grinned and shook his head. “Not at all. She was madly in love with our son from the moment the little plus sign came up on the stick.”

“I know the feeling,” Alex said softly, cupping her arms around her swollen belly.

“I know you do,” he replied with a warm smile before taking a deep breath and then clapping his hands together. “Okay, little sister. We’ve got to get back to work. Coop will be up from his nap soon and as you know, my time will then be occupied by chasing him around and making sure he doesn’t get his grubby little hands on some priceless royal vase and proceed to slobber all over it.”

“Ugh, Alright,” Alex giggled as she held out her hand. “Help me up then.”

Matt stood and then took her hand, helping to pull her to her feet. He let her stretch out her back and then reached for a paint brush. He was just about to hand it to her when her phone rang out from her pocket.

“Saved by the bell!” She announced, smirking as Matt groaned and rolled his eyes. “It’s Harry,” she said as she pulled the phone from her pocket and saw the screen. “They must be about to start their day. Sorry, Matthew!”

“No you’re not!” he called out after her as she sailed from the room, pausing only to smirk back at him, making him laugh despite himself.

“Well, hello Captain Wales,” she said softly as she pulled her phone to her ear.

“Good morning, darling.” She could almost hear his smirky, charming smile in his deep, warm voice. “Or more like afternoon for you…”

“It is afternoon,” Alex sighed, moving into their bedroom and shutting the door so she could have a little bit of private time with her husband, even if it was just over the phone. “Matt and I were working on the nursery.”

“You mean Matt was working on the nursery?” he chuckled.

She gasped in false outrage, but couldn’t help the giggle that escaped afterward. “Pretty much, yeah. It’s coming along though.”

“I can’t wait to see it,” Harry murmured, making Alex smile wide as she laid back on their bed, stretching her legs out in front of her.

“Me either,” she replied. “Now tell me, what is on the schedule for you and Emma today?”

“Well...we’re doing the interview with the Today show in about an hour. We’re about to eat breakfast and then the car will pick us up to take us down there.”

“Oh man, I can’t wait to watch,” Alex said with a sigh. “Is Emma nervous?”

“Not really,” he laughed. “I think I’m more nervous than she is.”

“Just be your usual charming self, you’ll be fine,” Alex drawled, making him laugh. “And after the interview?”

“We’re going to go watch some of the swimming events today. Emma can’t wait -- we’re going to be sitting with the Danes again.”

“Oh yes,” Alex laughed softly. “I saw the pictures of you two yesterday watching football with Frederick and Christian and Isabella. The press is loving that little hang out.”

“I saw,” Harry chuckled. “Or really, Charlotte saw and showed me. Apparently there is a rather flattering hashtag accompanying some of the posts…”

“Hashtag Hot Royal Daddies,” Alex snorted. “I love it. The Daily Mail was speculating that Frederick was giving you advice on how to survive parenting twins.”

“HA!” Harry laughed loudly. “Maybe that’s the one time they’ve gotten it right.”

“Was he really?” Alex giggled.

“More like what to expect,” Harry replied. “But

also how amazing it is. He said all of his children have different personalities to be sure, but it’s fun to watch two different little personalities develop at the same time.”

“I can’t wait, Harry,” she murmured, everything about her softening with his words. “I absolutely cannot wait.”

“Just a couple more months, love,” he said softly. “I miss you so much, Alexandra Mae. I can’t deny that I’m loving my time with Emma, but I do miss you.”

“I miss you too,” she sighed. “And I miss our daughter. So much.”

“She misses you too,” Harry replied. “In fact, she just walked in and judging by the way she's trying to grab the phone from me, I think she really wants to talk to you.”

Alex giggled, picturing the scene in her head. “I'd love to talk to her too.”

“Alright, I'll get back on after you guys talk,” Harry laughed.

“Hi Mum!” Emma’s sweet voice came through the line, lifting Alex’s heart even more.

“Hey bugger,” Alex grinned. “You sound like you're having an amazing time.”

“Oh my gosh, Mum! We really are! Did Daddy tell you that we got to hang out with Christian and Isabella yesterday? And that we get to again this afternoon? They're soooooo fun.”

Alex smiled at her daughter's excitement. “He did tell me. It's awesome that you're getting to make friends with them. Tell me, what sports events have you liked best so far.”

“Mhmmmmmm…” Emma thought for a moment. “I think the swimming. And I can't wait to watch Aunt Zara in a couple days. But…” Her voice tipped a bit shy as she trailed off. “I'm soooooooo excited about gymnastics tomorrow. I hope I get to meet some of the gymnasts.”

“I’m sure you will,” Alex replied. “I’ll bet they’ll be just as excited to meet you.”

“Me?! Why?”

“Well…” Alex searched for the right words and then finally just laughed and said, “Because you’re Princess Emma.”

“Well, that’s fairly silly,” Emma protested primly, but it was half-hearted and Alex knew it.

“It can be,” Alex agreed with a laugh. “But as long as you don’t ever stop thinking it’s fairly silly, it’s okay.”

They chatted for a few more minutes, covering the rest of the flurry of activity that Harry and Emma had in front of them before Emma had to go, wanting to let her Aunt Charlotte put her hair in a french braid like she’d promised before they had to leave to the interview. After telling her mother that she loved her and missed her and couldn’t wait to see her, Emma handed the phone back to Harry, who pulled the phone back to his ear with a grin.

“She’s a bundle of energy, isn’t she?”

“She really is,” Alex agreed. “Much like you.”

“Mhmm,” Harry murmured his agreement before taking a deep breath. “Alright my love, I’ve got to go. Charlotte is making rude hand gestures at me that I think mean that I need to get ready to leave here shortly.”

“Alright,” Alex said with a giggle and a sigh. “Be safe, okay? I’ve seen that there’s been a couple of athletes who’ve gotten robbed out in Rio.”

“We pretty much stay in the official areas,” Harry said, his voice as reassuring as could possibly be. “We are going out to dinner tonight with Zara and Mike, but the PPOs checked it out and have no concerns.”

“Just take care of yourself and my baby,” Alex sighed. “There’s three of us waiting here for you to come back.”

“We’re taking every caution, love. I promise,” Harry replied, his deep voice calming her sudden onset of nerves. “All right, I’ve got to go, darling. I love you.

“Oh Henry, I love you too.”

“Talk you soon, baby…”


She’d only been asleep for a couple of hours when her eyes blinked open heavily into the dark room. She turned her blurry gaze onto the clock on her nightstand, groaning when she saw that it was just past one in the morning. Her first thought was that it was the need to use the restroom that pulled her from the contentment of her slumber; it usually was. But just as she was sitting up and pulling the covers off of her a loud, heavy banging noise disturbed the quiet air around her, sending her heart jumping into her throat.

“What the hell…” she gasped, her senses suddenly on high alert as the pounding that seemed to be coming from her front door picked up speed and intensity.

It was the most peculiar feeling; knowing that she had to answer that door, but having everything in her soul screaming at her that whatever was on the other side wasn’t anything she wanted to face. She lived in Kensington Palace -- unless it was someone who lived within the palace gates themselves, people simply couldn’t just drop by. And in the thirty seconds it took her to get to her feet, throw on a robe, and rush downstairs, that knowledge throbbed through her entire being; she knew that it wasn’t someone she wanted to see at one in the morning banging on her door.

She halted at the front door, her hands already shaking as she pressed a button on the security panel. The screen on the panel flashed to life, the feed from the security camera poised over the front door showing her exactly who stood on the step.

The blood drained from her face and she clutched the doorframe as dizziness washed over her. The sight of the two uniformed men standing there, their shoulders tense as they waited for her to answer was too familiar; the absolute worst instance of deja vu she’d ever had in her life.

In truth, she knew before she opened the door what they would say. She knew who they were there about; she felt it in every bone in her body. But it didn't stop her from feeling the physical punch from the news, from the low, murmured words that literally knocked her to the floor.

“Ma’am, we regret to inform you that there was an accident in Brazil…”

And her entire world cracked apart beneath her.