"This whole thing is just so ***ing insane."

"Where the hell is my mom?" Julia groans, checking her phone screen for the time. "I'm starving and she's 20 minutes late."

"Text her?" Melissa suggests, glancing around the busy food court. "Maybe she's here somewhere in this madness. Tell me again why we thought the mall on a Saturday was a good idea?"

"Because we wanted food we didn't have to cook ourselves and we were bored." Julia leans her shoulder against Melissa's and sighs heavily, trying and failing to ignore her grumbling stomach. "Okay, I'm texting her," she decides, unlocking her phone and pulling up her messages. Her mother is at the very top of her screen but she barely gets a text typed out before Melissa is hitting her thigh with the back of her hand repeatedly.

"Oh my God, look! Way over there, that's her talking to-..."

Julia's head snaps up with the way that sentence abruptly ends and she leans forward to look around her friend to see what she's talking about. It takes her a second before she finds her mother on the other side of the food court and she's standing face to face with- "What the fuck!"

"Who's that with him?" Melissa asks, noticing the pretty blonde standing awkwardly over to the side, a few feet away from where Angela is talking to Tom.

She's tiny with the exception of her perfectly round super pregnant belly and Julia is sure that must be Gina, the one she was going to be meeting the night she was supposed to go to that game, so she says as much and that's confirmed only a few seconds later when her husband, Tom and Mike's teammate John, comes up behind her and hands over one of the two ice cream cones he's holding. He leans in to say something into her ear and then she shakes her head while he chuckles and affectonately rubs one hand over her belly. Julia frowns at them, feels overwhelmingly jealous for both herself and her baby as she subconsciously runs her hand over her own stomach. She unlocks her phone once again and quickly finds her mother in her recent calls list, tapping on the name and putting the phone to ear before she looks back over at where she's standing to watch her dig it out of her purse.

"Hey baby, I was just-"

"Yeah, I know, I can see you. What the hell, Mom?!"

"Where are you?" Angela asks, automatically checking her surroundings to look for her daughter.

"Doesn't matter, can you just walk away now?"

"Julia-" she starts, and the look that crosses Tom's face when he hears her name makes her heart drop. Julia already feels too emotional from the wave of whatever the fuck it was that just hit her when she saw the happy expecting couple, but that look is what does her in. The tears spring up in her eyes before she can even process it and she swallows hard, looking away from them.

"Mom, please."

"Okay, baby. Of course," she says immediately, and just gestures at Tom that she needs to leave before walking away from him, leaving him looking confused and perhaps even a little worried. "Where do you want to meet for lunch?" she asks once she's enough distance from him.

"I don't care," she mumbles. "I'm not hungry anymore."

"Julia Rose, you need to eat something. It's not just about you," her mother scolds while Melissa nudges her in the ribs before pointing over to the Panera.

"Panera then," she sighs and then hangs up the phone, standing to slide it into the back pocket of her jeans. Melissa grabs her by the elbow and hauls her toward that general direction but when she glances back over to where he was just a few moments ago, she expects him to have moved on with his day like nothing even happened; instead, he's still standing there rooted to the spot, though his friends have come up to stand with him, and he's scanning the food court area like he's searching for something.

That is, until his gaze meets hers. His eyes widen in surprise, like he didn't expect to actually find her, and suddenly her chests hurts with every shaky breath she takes so she quickly looks away from him and hurries her step, forcing Melissa to keep up and not slowing until they finally reach Angela on the other side in front of the Panera. "Baby," Angela says apologetically, reaching up to brush Julia's long hair off her shoulder.

"Let's not talk about him."

"Sure," her mother agrees, wrapping her arm around Julia's back and pulling her forward up to the counter to order, a sure signal that she is going to be eating something whether she wants to or not. "Now what are you having?"


As if not thinking about him before wasn't hard enough. Now that she's seen him again, it's practically all she can think about. She can hardly focus on her lesson plans to the point that one day, she actually ends up letting her class watch The Great Gatsby on the projector so that she doesn't have to teach. She hasn't slept well since either, despite the fact that she feels tired near constantly even though the books say that shit's supposed to stop once the second trimester begins. Melissa continues to drag her to pilates class, which does help even if only slightly, and her mother texts her nearly every day to make sure that she's eating well, which...okay, she's trying but it's hard when she's hungry all the time and having really strong cravings for the cool ranch doritos in the vending machines at school.

She has a meeting with the headmistress Mrs. Buckley to give her the news and she can tell that even though she's not saying it, the older woman is judging her super hard because she's not married, not even in any kind of relationship to speak of. It makes things super awkward every time she sees Mrs. Buckley after that meeting, but luckily, when the news makes the rounds among the other teachers and staff, most of them don't seem to care and some even come to congratulate her. None of her students know yet, but she's sure that when she starts showing they're going to question her about it, especially the always fearlessly nosy Paige DuPont. She completely dreads that particular class.

The weekend rolls around again and Julia is inclined to stay home after what happened last week at the mall but Melissa talks her into at least going out for lunch. They don't venture far, only a few blocks to their favorite cafe, and Julia keeps a careful watch the entire time just in case. She knows there's really no reason for either of the guys to be in her neighborhood but there was that time that Tom was at her local bar so there's always a possibility. She's sure that they're probably actively avoiding Georgetown at this point but, whatever, she might be a little paranoid.

As soon as they get back home, they change into some comfy clothes to lounge around in and plant themselves in their respective spots with their fuzzy blankets, Melissa on one end of the sofa and Julia in the chair next to her. Julia has some tests to grade while Melissa watches The Avengers for the sixteen millionth time and she has to try hard to ignore her roommate's random musings throughout ("You should totally name the kid Thor!") in order to focus on her students' essays. After that, she still has to write out her lesson plans for the upcoming week, re-read a couple of chapters of material, paint her toenails, wash a load of laundry, and then return a missed call from her mother, who wants to ask her opinion on some more wedding details.

She decides to make fettuccine alfredo for dinner because she suddenly gets insanely hungry and nothing sounds better in that moment than her favorite pasta dish. Melissa is pretty good about going with the flow of her cravings though, actually finds them funny most of the time, and she gets right into the kitchen to help wth the cooking. Their neighbors probably hate them for the volume with which Melissa starts playing Florida Georgia Line from the old stereo on top of the bookshelf in the office nook, but they have a good time dancing and singing along anyway.

They overstuff themselves with pasta and leave the dishes to soak in the sink instead of going ahead and washing them then settle themselves back into their spots to watch some more tv, too full to do anything else that would require much movement on their part. Melissa, the winner of a three-round game of rock paper scissors, gets to choose what they watch and Julia is sure she's going to pick yet another Marvel movie but instead she goes for their dvd box set of The Office, which is what Julia herself would have chosen so it's a win all around. They pick up where they left off the last time with the first episode of season 5 and then proceed to sit through four straight epsiodes in a row.

There's a sudden, firm knock at the front door a few minutes into the fifth but neither of them is really very interested in seeing who it is; Julia is a little drowsy from not moving in so long and Melissa is way too interested in the episode they're watching. Still, she gets up to answer it when Julia just glances over at her briefly and lets her eyes slide back shut. Melissa casually thumps her on the forehead as she passes and Julia swats at her hands, laughing. "Hey, is fro-yo delivery a thing?" she asks, yawning as she checks the time on her phone screen. "I'd kill for some fro-yo right now."

"No, it's definitely not a thing. Get your fat ass up and go walk the half a block to get some," Melissa yells back as she reaches to open the door.

"Fuck you, I'm not even fat yet!" Melissa doesn't bother responding so Julia considers it a win, sitting up fully in her chair and stretching her arms above her head. "Hey, what time is it? Can we go to bed?"

"Uhh, Julia?" her roommate says from right behind her, and she's pretty sure Melissa is going to make fun of her for being such a lame ass for wanting to go to bed at barely 8:30.

"What? I know it's early," she grumbles. "Growing a human is hard!"

Melissa says her name again, this time more forcefully and Julia groans as she turns to look over her shoulder at her roommate but instead of Melissa's annoyed face, she's met with something infinitely more worrisome. Melissa's standing there looking shocked to the core with two much taller nearly strangers behind her. "I'll be in my room," she says a moment after clearing her throat awkwardly and then she disappears down the hallway, leaving Julia to fend for herself.

"Um, come in. Sit," Julia finally says, and pulls her feet up into her chair, crossing her legs under her as Mike and Tom silently walk around to sit down on the sofa. The next thirty seconds pass by slowly and it honestly would have been unbearable if she weren't busy trying to wrap her mind around the fact that they're actually sitting there in her living room. Looking at her expectantly. Right.

"Sorry it took us so long to come," Mike starts, and it's obvious he feels awkward about the situation but at least he seems better than Tom, who still looks like he might be ready to jump up and run at any moment.

"Oh," she replies automatically, surprised. "Well, to be honest, I wasn't really expecting to....ever....see you guys again so....."

"We would've come sooner but, ya know....playoffs."

"Oh right. How's that going?"

"We're out now," Mike shrugs, but he looks pretty sad about it and Tom does too. "Got knocked out by New York."

"Shit, I'm sorry."

The boys are both quiet for a few moments but Mike luckily changes the subject before it becomes too much more awkward and gets down to the actual reason they're here. ", are you? How's the-...." He stops before he says the word, like he can't actually bring himself to, which she totally gets because it took her some time to get used to the idea herself; she could imagine how much stranger it must be for the two of them.

"Good," she nods, self-consciously adjusting the blanket in her lap to cover herself up more. "Everything's good so far."

"Good," he replies, and Tom still hasn't said a word since he's been here so she chances a glance over at him but he's just sitting there with his eyes on the stack of magazines on the coffee table in front of him. Julia thinks he must not want to be here, that maybe Mike forced him to come, and that's almost worse than if she just never saw him again.

Mike's little chuckle to himself is what draws her attention back to him but he just shakes his head and smiles at her. "This whole thing is just so fucking insane."

"It is," she agrees. "I still have trouble wrapping my head around it some days."

"So....where do we go from here?"

He looks up at her like he's actually very lost and is looking for some guidance from her but she honestly has none to give. This is all very new and weird to her too. "I have no fucking idea," she finally sighs. "I never expected you would even entertain the thought of-.....I mean, my plan going forward was me doing it alone so I don't-...."

"Well to start, you can throw that plan out," he says matter of factly. "Because we're here now."

She can feel her heart thumping wildly in her chest and her throat is dry because Mike keeps saying "we" but Tom still hasn't even so much as looked up at her once since he got there. She can't help thinking he doesn't seem the least bit invested in this because Mike is the one asking the questions, the only one showing any interest whatsoever in being there.

"Both of you?" she aks quietly as her gaze shifts over to Tom and so does Mike's but when Tom finally looks up, it's right past his friend and directly into her eyes, which is overwhelming all in itself even outside the current situation.

"Both of us," he confirms, and his voice is strong and sure in exact opposition to his face, which still looks worried and nervous.

She's not sure if the myriad of emotions she's feeling is evident on her face like it is on his, but there's not much time for her to think about it too much because as soon as Mike claps his friend on the shoulder reassuringly, he looks back to her. "So since none of us has any idea what the fuck we're doing, I guess we should just start with the basics?"

"Basics," she repeats, nodding, "Okay, yeah. Well, um-.....I'm about sixteen weeks now. I had another appointment around twelve and-" she pauses while she gets up from her seat, dropping her blanket behind her in the chair and going over to grab the ultrasound photo from where Melissa had put it on the front of the refrigerator before returning to the living room and handing it over to Mike. "According to my doctor, everything's perfect so far."

Their eyes had been glued to her since she rose from her chair but as soon as that photo is in front of them, it becomes the center of their focus, the only thing they can look at. She knows that feeling; she'd spent quite a bit of time staring at it too. It looks more like a baby this time, even though there was only a three week time lapse between the first ultrasound and this one; it's like seeing it progressing and growing little by little just makes it that much more real. Julia doesn't even try to keep the conversation going, knowing they're not really going to hear her very well with how hard they're both staring at the little black and white photo in Mike's hand.

"Wow," Tom says quietly after a long stretch of silence, and she smiles because that sentiment is completely familiar to her too.

"Sixteen weeks, that's-....almost halfway?"

She nods at Mike even though he's still not looking at her. "Almost, yeah. And I'll have another appointment at eighteen. If all goes as planned and everyone cooperates, they'll be able to tell the sex."

Tom immediately tears his gaze away from the photo and looks up, eyes wide. "Can we come?"

Surprised by his eagerness, Juia glances over to see Mike's reaction but he's looking at her hopefully too. "That's...something you'd be interested in?"

"Uh, hell fuckin' yeah?" Mike exclaims.

"Oh," she says, smiling a little. "Okay. I'll get you the info."

They both seem relieved like they thought she might actually say no but there's no way she'd want to do anything to discourage them being involved when they're actively showing that they do want to be involved. "Okay, awesome," Mike says, checking his watch before dropping his hands to his thighs and pushing himself up to stand. "We should probably go, you need your rest."

"Right," she laughs as she gets up from her chair, knowing they heard her suggestion of going to bed when Melissa let them into the apartment. "Growing a human is hard."

"Wouldn't wanna trade places with you," he agrees, gently grabbing the back of her neck and pulling her in so he can press a kiss to her temple. "You still have our numbers?"

She's momentarily stunned by how casual he's being now but nods her head anyway after she registers what he said.

"Good. Use 'em."

Mike heads for the door, leaving her alone with Tom and she's suddenly nervous again but then he's standing in front of her and she'd forgotten how big he is. "It's good to see you," he says quietly, and when she looks all the way up at him, he's chewing on his bottom lip and he's just beyond irresistibly cute.

"Hey look, I'm sorry for whatever my mom might've said to you the other day."

"Oh. No, she was-....she was right." He smiles a little and she's not at all sure what to make of that. There's really no telling what her mother could have said and honestly she's probably better off not knowing. "Thank you for seeing us tonight."

His eyes are serious and watching her carefully but he's still got that hint of a smile on his face; she smiles too. "Well, thank you for coming back."

His smile widens and he nods once, looking down from her eyes like he's suddenly bashful. "We'll see you soon, okay?"

"Sure," she agrees, and she watches his back as he makes his way over to the door that Mike left open, assuming Tom was following directly behind him.

"By the way," he starts, turning back to her just before he reaches the open doorway. "Fro-yo delivery is a thing. Just for future reference."

She can't help laughing at that. "Thanks for the tip."
♠ ♠ ♠
Julia's outfits one and two.