Chapter - The Fiancé
She kicked me out..
I can understand why.
She came in to find me completely en-femme.
With all the shape-wear, time and effort I’d put into dressing up tonight it’s not boasting to say I looked better than she did in her travel clothes.
Who wouldn’t react badly to coming home two days early from a work conference to find that their fiancé is dressed as a woman, out of nowhere?
Caroline has never been very open minded about this sort of thing.
That’s why I never told her about it honestly.
I always figured that when we got married I’d either tell her or stop.
When she proposed I chickened out from telling her yet again.
When she asked my opinions on her bridesmaid’s dresses I still had to hold back from showing too much interest.
I’ve been lying to her for ages now.
I’ve been lying to myself just as long really.
Now she knows.
My chest hurts just thinking about the look of utter betrayal on her face..
She kicked me out.
That’s why I’m walking the streets randomly, in the late-evening light, wearing my favourite airy summer dress over some yoga-pants and my pink sneakers.
That’s why my hand is clutched so desperately around her engagement ring.
The same ring she threw in my face while I lay, slightly stunned, on the paving slabs outside our front door less than two hours ago.
“My life’s over..”
My breath hitched in my chest a little.
She’s going to tell everyone!
I’ll be fired from work.
My friends are going to hate me.
My brother will disown me.
“I fucked up so bad..”
My breathing eased out a little.
It’s surprisingly how much admitting that fact made me feel better.
This is all my fault.
If I’d had the guts to tell her from the start then none of this would have happened.
If I’d had the self-control to just stop!
My feet padded across the pavement easily.
I’m glad I wore my sneakers.
I planned to be adventurous tonight.
I was going to go to a shop and buy dinner while dressed.
If I hadn’t been planning to go out, I dread to think the outfit I’d have ended up walking around in.
It seems kind of silly how proud of myself I was for my ‘bravery’ in going to the shops like this now..
I’ve spent the last two hours dazedly walking around downtown completely dressed.
It’s not like I can go home like this.
I can’t just turn up on my parents doorstep like ‘Hey Mum, guess what I’ve been up to?’
I’d be lucky if all they did was disown me!
I was so out of it at first I didn’t even register that I should be feeling embarrassed.
By the time I did come back to myself again.. it didn’t seem that important.
What does it matter if a load of strangers see me now?
She kicked me out.. she’s going to tell everyone..
A cool breeze kicked up and ruffled the skirt of my dress.
I paused to enjoy the feeling.
I’ve never been outside while dressed before.
The breeze is a novel experience.
I’m glad I chickened out about going to the shops in just the dress now.
With the yoga-pants on I can let the dress fly a little and really enjoy the feeling..
My eyes scanned the area to make sure no-one had noticed me acting weird.
I know it doesn’t matter anymore but I would still hate to ruin my first time out like this by making a fool of myself.
This might be my last chance to enjoy it..
The road was surprisingly loud.
Traffic is pretty regular here, the cars zoom past a surprising speed considering there’s a blind corner just up the road.
Across the street from me is the local cinema.
A queue of people are lined up, eagerly chatting away and completely ignoring me.
I like that.
It’s nice to see families going on without noticing me.
I don’t deserve their attention.
I ruined everything..
My eyes listlessly scanned the queue and settled on a few people that really stood out.
They were dressed up in costumes.
Some of them looked really authentic too.
They must all be here for the new marvel movie preview.
I pre-ordered tickets for the movie in two days-time, so Caroline and I could go see it when she got home.
Even if she was supposed to be home today I probably wouldn’t have bought preview tickets.
I like the movies and I’ll admit I read the comics a lot as a kid, but money is money after all..
My eyes carried on scanning the crowd listlessly and tried to not focus too much on the road in front of me.
If I wait until they go in, for the children’s sake, this roads perfect.
The blind corner works to my advantage.
The driver won’t see me coming.
It will be quick.
I’ll not have to face the look in my parent’s eyes when they find out I’m such a freak..
My eyes drifted to the front of the cue and settled on one pair.
Their costumes were perfect.
The man, obviously the father, had a full suit of Ironman armor.
Even from here I could see it gleam in the dwindling sunlight, it looks like real metal.
It must have cost a fortune..
His hair was carelessly brushed back and he even had Robert Downy Jr’s little goatee.
For all that it mattered he might as well BE Ironman.
The little girl excitedly skipping from foot to foot next to him was, in a word, adorable.
They’d obviously been watching the trailers carefully.
Either that or they had some information the general public didn’t.
She was a perfect mini-scarlet witch, from what I’ve seen in the new promo-footage at least.
Her long dark hair was lose going down her back in thick waves.
She had a flowing black dress on that may be slightly longer than the new character designs one but that’s understandable with her age.
Her little red leather bolero jacket works well with the black arm and leg warmers she has on.
She even had some thick dock martin boots on, although they looked a little big for her.
She seemed so excited and kept shooting wild interested looks around her before focusing back on her dad.
I almost felt jealous of her.
Why couldn’t I have had that kind of childhood?
My dad hates comic books.
He’d never have taken me to see movies like that as a kid.
Especially if I’d been a girl.
He’s got very strict views on the roles of men and woman.
I received enough lectures on it all growing up to know that!
My eyes drifted back down to the road for a moment.
It would be so easy.
Just a single step.
..I can’t do that yet though.
Not with her watching.
I looked back up at her and struggled to not smile again.
She really was adorable.
A little girl that cute shouldn’t have to see something like this.. not for my sake..
..Who am I kidding?.. I’ll just chicken out again!
That’s all I ever do.
She’s just an excuse.
When she goes in I’ll find another reason to not do it and keep plodding along.
Some footsteps to my left made me twitch my eyes back to this side of the road.
Another couple were walking towards me.
Judging by the little Captain America holding their hands and swinging happily between them they were coming to see the movie too.
It all happened so fast.
A girl’s happy squeal made my eyes fly back over to the cinema.
The little Wanda-lookalike had noticed the little Captain America.
With a happy flick her hand slipped lose from her dads grasp and she sprinted out to see him.
Abstractly I realised that she must know the little Captain America somehow..
Abstractly I realised that she was already too far away for her father to catch her..
Abstractly I caught the SUV coming around the blind corner at speed..
I didn’t think, I didn’t need to.
My legs were already moving before I’d realised what I was doing.
I’m so glad I wore my sneakers today.
I’d never have been able to get enough traction in heels!
She reached the midway point of the road before dawning realisation crossed her face.
The world seemed so slow as I sprinted towards her.
Her little eyes dilated in fear and she twisted painfully slowly to face the large vehicle barrelling down on her.
I hit the edge of the pavement and kicked off hard from the edge.
I’m not going to make it.
I’m not going to make it..
..I’m not going to make it!
I forced my legs to move harder.
Her little legs trembled in fear.
I could see her gasp out and stare wide eyed as the SUV got closer and closer.
With one final desperate leap I threw myself in front of the oncoming slab of metal and shoved her backwards with so much force she literally flew off her feet.
My body carried on skidding across the roads rough surface, I could feel the burn of road rash across my stomach and arms.
For just a moment I could see her stunned eyes watching me with a worrying glaze of shock.
Better me then her.. she’s safe..
That’s what matters.
The Iron-dad managed to reach her.
Before anything else could register to my senses the world sped back up to normal.
I heard the squeal of tires and my world exploded in pain.
So much for this being the easy option!
Lancing pain shot up my spine from my legs.
With a proud smile I let myself slip away.
At least I did something right before I went..
Chapter - The Patient
The nurse didn’t speak to me as she went about her work.
I don’t blame her.
Between my depressive mood and the awkwardness of me being brought in while dressed en-femme they probably have a warning up on the message board to not bother with me.
I wouldn’t.. I can’t even die right..
My eyes started to tear up again.
It feels like all I’ve done since I woke up is cry..
The doctors say I was lucky.
There was an off-duty paramedic in the crowd outside the cinema.
If it wasn’t for them I would have bled out far too quickly to be saved.
My eyes rolled down to the bed covers and focused on end of the bedding that lay disgustingly flat.
I managed to skid pretty far across the tarmac, I must have built up a LOT of momentum running after the girl.
By the time the SUV reached me only my legs were in the line with its tires.
The sheer weight of the SUV practically separated my legs clean off my body..
Under those covers are horrible, misshapen stumps.
I’ve got my knee’s still!
The doctors seemed so proud of that fact..
They had to do a ‘Transtibial’ amputation.
It may just be the morphine talking but I found the fact that the operation to cut me off below the knee on both legs had ‘trans’ in its name somewhat funny.
Kind of ironic, considering how I was dressed when they brought me in..
Someone knocked on my door.
I don’t know HOW I earned a private room.
I couldn’t afford it, I doubt Caroline would pay for it either.
Even my parents are pretty much a write off at this point.
Caroline wouldn’t have waited this long before telling them about me..
The person at the door knocked once more and then let himself in.
For a moment we both paused awkwardly.
He seemed really uncomfortable standing in the doorway, his eyes scanned around the room so he didn’t have to look at me.
I couldn’t take my eyes off of him though.
He looked a lot different outside the armor.
While he may have the suave face and features of Robert Downey Jr, he had the body of a much less impressive man.
He’s tall at least, probably a few inch’s taller than me.
Well.. I guess now he will be even taller than that..
My eyes moved away from him and focused down on my covered stumps again.
I could feel the tears threatening to make another appearance but I sniffed them back.
I’m not going to cry in front of Iron-dad!
The thought of trying to save face in front of the ‘real’ Ironman made me snigger out a little laugh.
I blame the morphine, I’m not normally this goofy..
“I wanted to thank you for saving my daughter”
Apparently my little laughing fit emboldened him to finally talk to me.
I lifted my eyes up to him and gave him a weak smile.
“Don’t worry about it.”
His face scrunched up.
It looks like he didn’t understand me somehow.
His eyebrows were perked up curiously.
“What you did was amazing, you can’t just brush it off like that?”
I fixed him with a mild glare.
I did it for my own reasons.
While a lot of that was an instinctive need to save the adorable little girl, I probably wouldn’t have done it if I wasn’t already considering throwing myself in front of a car on that road.
“You’re a hero.”
My glare went up another notch.
Heroes don’t lie to their loved ones.
Heroes don’t try to commit suicide.
Heroes don’t have stumps for legs!
I’m NOT a hero.
He flinched a little and tried to backpedal.
His hands came up defensively as if to show he didn’t mean any harm but I’d had enough.
Why won’t he just LEAVE!
I don’t want his thanks.
I don’t want his-
I don’t want HIM here.
My hand grabbed the nearest thing in reach, which turned out to be a vase of flowers on my side table, and threw them at him.
He staggered back from the vase as it shattered on the wall near him.
Without another word he fled the room at last.
I watched the doorway with tight eyes in case he came back but after almost a full minute he hadn’t returned.
My arms shook a little and I sunk down slightly on my bed.
My eyes hazily focused on the remnants of the vase spread out on the floor with a set of white and yellow flowers in a slowly spreading puddle.
I don’t even know where the flowers came from.
I just got so angry!
He wouldn’t shut up.
He wouldn’t just leave me ALONE!
With a wince I shifted my hips slightly away from the door and rolled my chest over slightly so I was facing away from the broken vase.
I managed to stay like that for almost ten minutes before a nurse came in to check on things.
She seemed pretty shocked by the vase’s remains but, credit to her, she soldiered on and got some supplies to clean up the mess.
Eventually she came back in, putting the flowers on my bedside table again in a new vase.
She gave me an awkward smile and offered out a little piece of card to me.
I almost snapped at her over it but she really did seem to be trying to help.
My hand came up and took the little card.
The front had a lot of flowers on it with a typed ‘Get well soon’.
When I flipped it over my stomach dropped a little.
‘To my new hero, you’re so cool! Sophie xx’
I slid over to lay flat on my back and swallowed hard.
The flowers were from her..
The flowers were from his daughter.. and I threw them at him like that..
“I’m such an ass”
The nurse had the decency to not agree with me.
She offered me one last awkward smile and made her way quickly out of the room.
I sighed and rested my palm over my eyes.
“I’m such an ass..”
Chapter - The Charity case
My head perked up from fiddling with my nasty hospital lunch.
Sophie gave me her favourite big, goofy smile and I did my best to match it.
She ran over to my bed and jumped into my arms for an awkward hug.
I squeezed her back and laughed a little.
She’s just a little ball of sunshine.
The nurses adore her, I hate to admit but I do to.
“Where’s your dad?”
She pouted dramatically and rested her little fists on her hips.
“He’s outside, he got a phone-call.”
I let my smile fade a little and patted her arm in consolation.
It turns out that Iron-dad is a pretty funny title for him.
Anthony Elias, is a big shot in business just like the real Ironman.
Even his NAME is Tony.
I’ve not really seen what kind of business he’s in, I just know it annoys Sophie that he’s always working.
He gets phone calls at the worst possible times too.
It’s been a few weeks since I had my first vase-throwing blowout at him.
Things weren’t exactly smooth sailing.
He came to visit me the day after.
I apologised for snapping at him and he apologised for coming on too strong.
He seemed to make it his mission to come in to see me every day from then on.
It took a lot of patience from him to get me to open up a bit.
He seemed to be really interested in my life for some reason.
I hate to say it but I think he found the fact that I wasn’t a woman fascinating in some way too.
We had our second blowout when he wouldn’t stop pushing for information.
He seemed to be searching for something but I didn’t know what to tell him.
I think he’s convinced himself that I’m transgendered.
I don’t think I am.
I like dressing up sure, but from what I’ve read online, transgender people tend to have this gnawing need to be the gender opposite to the one they were born with.
A lot of them claim to have known about it all from early childhood too.
I’m willing to admit that I’m not completely sure of myself but at the moment I’m pretty convinced that I’m not like that.
The first time I properly met Sophie came a few days after that second blowout.
I think Tony brought her with him as a peace offering or some kind of shield.
I don’t want to give him the credit that comes with admitting that it worked.
Sophie came into my dark little hospital room, full of awkwardly silent nurses and my self-pity, like a shining whirlwind.
Tony didn’t tell her that I wasn’t really a woman.
She thinks Sam is short for Samantha.
Apparently she thinks it’s a really pretty name, much better then Sophie.
She told me that on her third visit, while Tony was out on a phone-call.
Currently she’s enjoying herself telling me everything there is to know about her week.
As you can imagine, being seven years old, everything gossip-worthy that happens in school is of earth shattering importance to her.
I noticed Tony slip into the room while she was engrossed in telling me about Becky Henderson and her devastatingly embarrassing mix-up on the monkey-bars that ended with her skirt flipping up in front of everyone.
I don’t know that pain from personal experience but I did feel sympathy for little Becky.
That kind of situation can give someone a complex in later life..
“Soph, do you want some ice-cream?”
Sophie perked up and grinned widely.
Ice-cream is something of a religion to Sophie.
Honestly though, what seven year old doesn’t like ice-cream?
One of the nurses was standing by the door with a smile.
This isn’t the first time Tony’s bribed a nurse to take Sophie out of the room for a bit.
The nurses don’t seem to mind.
As I said, they love Sophie.
I guess they might also have some experience with this kind of thing, we can’t be the first people who need a child to be kept out of a patient’s room while we talk about adult business.
We waved and smiled at Sophie while she left holding the nurses hand.
She waved back with her adorable little smile.
That kid’s going to be lethal when she’s older.
I almost feel sorry for all the little boy’s hearts she’s going to break already.
“She’s perky today, you didn’t give her sugar sandwiches again did you?”
Tony flinched and offered me a weak glare.
“That was ONE time, I wish she’d stop telling people about it.”
I shrugged but couldn’t hide my smile.
What type of parent even TRY’s to give their kid sugar sandwiches?
..The Tony type apparently.
I don’t think he quite knows what he’s doing with Sophie at times.
“Are they letting you out today?”
My smile became a bit warmer.
He’s asked that same question at some point every time he’s dropped in for the last two weeks.
“No, I’ve got a meeting with the occupational therapist tomorrow though”
His eyebrows scrunched up in confusion.
I don’t blame him, I had to ask what an occupational therapist is for too.
Apparently they're here to talk with me about any things I need added to make my ‘home environment’ more accessible.
..It’s going to be awkward explaining to them that I don’t HAVE a home environment anymore.
Tony’s eyes cleared and he seemed a bit nervous.
“About that, I checked your file..”
I frowned at him hard.
At this point I’m not surprised by him doing something like that.
Tony is a wealthy man, he’s used to getting what he wants.
“You know that’s invasion of privacy, and illegal right?”
He shrugged and tried to give me his charming smile.
It came across more like a naughty school-boy trying to get out of trouble.
I think he forgets sometimes that I won’t fall down at his feet from just his good looks alone.
His smile slipped into a more serious look when he realised it wasn’t working.
“When were you going to mention that you have no registered next of kin or home, either personal or provided by welfare?”
I blushed and shifted a little tighter into my bed uncomfortably.
He snorted and fixed me with an annoyed look.
“Sophie is my world, I may not be the best at showing it but she is, and you saved her.. when is it going to register in your head that I’m not letting you disappear into the gutter when this is all done with?”
My face turned several shades redder in annoyance.
“You can tell your occupational therapist to drop round my house for their evaluation. When they discharge you, you’re staying with us”
I glared at him again in response.
“I don’t need your charity..”
I don’t know why I’m even trying, he never listens.
I don’t know why he’s so set on this sort of thing!
Can’t he see that he’s wasting his time?
I just ruin everything.
“You’re not getting my charity, you’re getting a much needed reward.”
We glared at each other with equally tense looks of disapproval.
“I don’t need a reward”
Tony threw his hands up in frustration and paced the room a little.
“You need SOMETHING, I-”
He paused long enough to shake his head.
“-WE need you.”
My eyebrow rose in surprise.
“I’m not going to win Dad of the year. Sophie’s mum was the real parent, since she died I’ve been playing catch-up but I KNOW I still mess up a lot.”
His eyes fixed on mine and he gave me a deep meaningful look.
“I’ve never seen Sophie happier then when she’s here talking with you. She glows.. you’re all she talks about with her friends.”
We both paused for a moment.
I was stunned silent.
Do I really have that much of an effect on Sophie?
“I’m not trying to give you pity, or charity, or anything like that..”
He took in a deep breath and straightened himself upright.
Nervously he twitched his tie and seemed to have to build himself up for his next sentence.
“What I’m trying to give you is a job.”
My other eyebrow crept up to join its mate.
..Is he really serious?..
“Since Cam died, I’ve tried to get Sophie live-in nannies and babysitters. She needs someone who can give her the attention I can’t but none of them work out, she doesn’t trust people easily despite how she acts.”
He fixed me with a serious look.
“She adores you, she loves being with you. I’ve watched you two talk before, you hang on her every word and she LOVES it.”
He huffed to himself self-consciously.
“..So this isn’t a father wanting to help the woman who saved his daughter speaking, this is a man who desperately needs your skills. I want you to be my live-in nanny for Sophie.. if you can accept that?”
I didn’t react for a long time.
We both just stayed there staring at each other.
“You know I’m a man, right?”
Tony didn’t seem to react.
I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.
“Sophie thinks you’re a woman. If you take the job you will have to present as such, luckily we know you can already pull it off VERY well”
He smiled at me mischievously and I couldn’t help the slight tug upwards of my lips in response.
Serious matters first, then we can go on to playful banter and false flattery.
I waved my hand down to my legs.
Tony offered me an awkward, slightly guilty smile.
“Did I mention the job comes with an excellent private health plan?”
We both smiled a little wider.
His smile went full blast at that one.
“If they invent a way to make you the bionic woman with super-powered legs of steel then there would be enough left over in your plan’s budget to have them gold-plated with your choice of diamonds encrusted into them”
I laughed openly this time.
He grinned to himself as if proud of getting that reaction out of me.
“Seriously though, me being in a wheelchair isn’t going to get in the way? As far as I know looking after kids is a very active job..”
His smile turned a little warmer and he shook his head.
“Sophie’s an easy going kid. If it really becomes a problem I can get you an assistant to do the run around stuff for you.. pun intended”
I didn’t hide that I found that one amusing.
“You know most people wouldn’t make such an offensive joke to someone so recently disabled?”
He rolled his eyes and chuckled.
“You know most recently disabled people don’t have your sense of humor?”
We both laughed a little and settled into a comfortable silence.
After a minute or two of consideration I nodded to myself in agreement.
“Fine, I can tell you desperately NEED my expert help.. I hope you’re not going to regret this Tony..”
He smiled at me warmly and shifted from one foot to the other.
We smiled at each other again.
Tony moved into the chair in the corner and pulled out his phone.
Sophie would probably be another few minutes at least with her ice-cream.
She tends to spend a lot of time licking the spoon when it’s finished.
That’s only under the assumption that the poor nurse doesn’t fall for her kicked-puppy look and buy her another ice-cream.
Tony had to pay the reluctant nurse back for the extra two bowls she ended up getting last time.
I guess that’s that.. I’m going to be a nanny then?
Chapter - The walking wounded
“You can do it Sam”
I glared at him.
If my arms weren’t busy holding me upright I’d be flipping him off with both fingers.
“Shove it up your ass Tony”
He didn’t even bat an eyelash at my words.
This is my third fitting for my prosthetics.
They are going to be those blade types, like you see the Paralympic runners wear.
Apparently they're called ‘Flex-foot Cheetah’ prosthetics, who knew?
All I know is that they're hard to walk in.
It doesn’t help that my legs have lost a lot of muscle in the last few months.
We tried to keep them relatively strong with physiotherapy but that can only do so much.
I tried the normal ‘foot’ prosthetics at first but they make me shudder a little, they just look wrong to me.
Apparently blades aren’t normally recommended for daily use but Tony’s health care plan is really good, he managed to track down some cutting edge ones for me that feel almost weightless with a thinner back to them.
They're still hard as hell to move in but that’s more a lack of practice for me then a design problem.
“Just a few more steps Sam, you can do it”
I took another lurching step and almost caught the edge of the prosthetic on the floor.
“Shove it VERY far up your ass Tony!”
He grinned, not even trying to pretend that he was sorry for encouraging me.
I won’t let him know it but his encouragement, as annoying as it is, does help.
“Just think, some point soon you’re going to be running around faster than I can on these things.”
I snorted and with one more huge effort managed to take the last step.
Tony let out a yelp of joy and scooped me up in an excited hug.
I barely remembered to let go of the bars before we were spinning around with glee.
“Put me DOWN you goof!”
He laughed and gave me another spin.
I laughed despite myself.
Eventually Tony must have gotten bored of spinning me to get a reaction.
Carefully he eased me back into my wheelchair.
I couldn’t help smiling proudly.
Things are working out well with me being Sophie’s nanny.
It turns out that my fears about my handicap holding me back were unfounded.
Sophie’s really mature for her age.
She understands that I can’t go running after her and she tends to stick close to me if we leave the house, unless we’re at the play-park at least.
I think she has a bit of fear for roads honestly.
She tends to hold onto one of the handles at the back of my wheelchair if we go near one.
As much as I can’t WAIT to have these new prosthetics I think I’m going to miss my wheelchair.
It’s an expensive one.
Tony won’t tell me how much it cost but it has a power-assist motor in the wheels that gives me an extra boost in speed uphill and saves me from tiring my arms out while pushing on the hand-rims to move about all day.
These prosthetics are going to give me a lot more freedom hopefully but things have worked out really well for us.
Even dressing as a woman is working out well.
I’d expected someone to clock me by now and make a scene but no-one has.
That may be because of the realistic breast-forms Tony got to help me out.
My wardrobe may also be helping, Tony brought a stylist in to help pick out my work clothes for me and they really DID know how to make the most of what I have.
Sometimes I feel a little guilty for accepting all of this from him but he’s such a nice guy and he really just wants to help me.
At first I was bitter over that help, it felt like giving in and that I would owe him for it all.
As times gone on though it’s become obvious that Tony doesn’t see it that way, he just genuinely likes how well I get on with Sophie and wants to keep me happy as well.
I think he figures that if I was willing to dive in front of a car for her when she was just a stranger, who could be better qualified for him to trust his daughter with?
I know his logic is a bit flawed and he doesn’t know the whole story but I’m not really willing to break his illusion on that one at the moment.
I’m content with things as they are.
Not really happy about it, a lot of my life at the moment is more hassle then even I’d like to admit but I’m definitely content.
At least that’s something, right?
Chapter - The Nanny
“Go on Sam, pleaaasee”
Sophie gave me her puppy-dog eye look.
It’s lost a bit of its effect since she had her growth spurt.
At the age of ten she’s not exactly tall still but the certain ‘vulnerable, instinctively cute’ factor that she abused so well before has become a lot easier to ignore.
“We’ll ask your father when he gets home. I’m not going to make a fool of myself alone”
She let out a yelp of joy as if I’d outright agreed to her silly idea and ran to the window to keep an eye out for Tony coming home.
I sighed to myself and ambled off to the kitchen to start dinner.
I’m used to walking steadily on my prosthetics by now.
I still can’t stay standing for too long.
My stumps tend to ache if I push myself too much.
We still kept my wheelchair, so if I’m sore or I’m just feeling lazy for the day I can take it for a spin.
It’s nice to not have it as a limitation now but an option instead.
I spooned a generous helping of salt into the sauce, stirring a few times for good measure and bit my lip nervously.
Tony better not agree to this.
Sophie loves playing dress-up.
According to Tony she always has.
Playing dress-up and Superheroes.
Those are Sophie’s two biggest hobbies lately.
It’s Halloween in a few weeks and she wants to go trick or treating with me and Tony.
Naturally I agreed to it in principle but left Tony’s involvement up to him.
You never know if he’s going to be busy or not.
We survived almost two days of calm before Sophie came up with her grand idea to get me and Tony into costumes too.
Apparently you can’t go trick or treating without them, no exceptions, even for adults.
I worry about her priorities sometimes..
She’s a bright kid, I know SHE knows that’s not automatically how Halloween works.
Honestly.. I think we may be spoiling her a little bit.
She doesn’t really go without in most things.
Between Tony over-compensating for his guilt at working so much and me being a soft-touch for a little girl in need, she tends to have us both wrapped around her finger at times.
It’s only when we team up that we can stop some of her wilder ideas from coming to fruition.
Tony and I make a pretty good team surprisingly.
A car roared loudly up the street.
That’s got to be Tony.
I think he roars the engine on purpose so Sophie knows he’s home.
I just hope he can talk her out of this whole costume for adults thing..
Chapter - The character-actress
I cut my eyes around the hallway to make sure little ears weren’t listening and leaned in closer towards him.
“Shove it up your ass Tony”
He cracked up laughing.
I huffed and folded my arms under my chest.
The chest which is on perfect display at the moment.
Why does HE get to be Ironman again and I have to be Pepper Potts?
Sophie even talked me into getting my hair dyed red with annoying extensions!
Naturally Tony went along with it and I reluctantly caved after a bit of effort from her.
That girl is far too persuasive for my own good..
I can already tell tonight is NOT going to be fun, for me at least.
I caught a few of the neighbourhood men giving me second looks when I got out of the car, and even got a few second looks from random men on my walk from the salon to my car.
“I love your legs”
He gave me a cheeky ‘Tony Stark’ smile and winked.
I dipped my eyes down and considered my legs too.
What kind of Pepper Potts would I be without her trademark long legs after all?
Sophie really impressed me with them honestly.
Obviously Tony had a hand in them too but I kind of wish he’d thought of them earlier.
I’m also a bit baffled that I didn’t considered it as an option before either actually?
I’ve still got blades in place but she got me some thick skin-tone stockings to cover over them.
Under the stockings someone added some spongy padding that’s stuck to the blades to give me a rough shin and heel shape.
At my ‘feet’ she added some impressive hollow shoe-like shell’s that looked from the outside to be very tall high-heels, but actually let my blades sit on the floor normally and rested slightly above them.
The ‘heel’ of them covers for the fact that my ‘feet’ bend a little too far backwards to be normal.
I’ll admit, after she presented me with them this morning and got Tony’s housekeeper Sally to help me get them on, I spent almost an hour constantly checking myself out in the mirror.
The blocky heel at the back makes walking normally, for me at least, a little awkward but if anything I actually LIKE that part too.
It feels like I’m really walking in heels.
Like a normal person..
Sure, it’s not perfect.
I’ll not be able to run properly either, but when do I run that much in normal life?
It tends to make my stumps hurt more than its worth.
“They ARE nice aren’t they?”
I twisted my knee and smiled a little when, at a glance, it seemed like I had feet again for a moment.
Reluctantly my eyes came up from the costume legs and settled back on Tony.
His smile was oddly warm, not that he doesn’t usually have a warm smile but he seemed really..
..I don’t know..
Happy?.. I guess, content maybe.
“We gotta go! Becky’s mum is organising the meet-up points.”
Sophie shot past us towards the front door and snagged an arm each as she went.
We shared an amused smile but let her pull us out the door.
With my free hand I brushed my dyed hair back a little and straightened my ‘StarkTech’ staff badge.
I have a feeling a lot of people aren’t going to get my costume without it.
Tony gets to walk around in his big clunky metal monstrosity while I’m basically in a very tight skirt-suit.
Thank god I went on a diet last year.
This waist-clincher would be a nightmare if I was still a size 14!
Chapter - The Mother
Sophie’s friends descended on my cookies like a rabid pack of wolves.
Why does it feel like I’m going to be baking more of them pretty soon?
Luckily I planned for such an eventuality, I’ve already got my second tray in the oven and another one ready to go in.
They all disbursed back towards Sophie’s room as a mass of pre-teen giggles.
I couldn’t resist smiling to myself while turning back to the oven to check on the cookies.
I won’t pretend that I didn’t feel a bit lost when Sophie started making so many friends in school but I’m glad she’s got them now.
She seems really happy to have her first ever big sleepover.
I slipped on my oven-mitts and opened the oven door.
They look about done.
I reached in and got a good hold on the tray.
The giggly voices started to move upstairs on mass and I could hear Sophie’s voice a bit better.
She seemed to be sending them all up and talking with her best friend Becky from the bottom of the stairs.
I feel pretty proud of Becky today too.
She had a rough start to school but Sophie bonded with her in their second year and they’ve been inseparable ever since.
I’ve looked after Becky a few times for her mum Helen, she’s such a shy little thing but today she’s really come out of her shell.
“You’re mum is so awesome”
I almost dropped the tray in my hands.
With a frantic movement I managed to get it stable and on the table-top before it slipped completely.
“Yeah, she is.”
My hands came up to cup over my mouth.
“Lets go before they eat it all”
I could hear their feet hammer up the stairs to her room but I didn’t dare move.
My hands were shaking and tears poured from my eyes.
She said yes.
Becky called me her mum and she said yes.
At a wobbling pace that I’ve not had on my blades since my first few months wearing them, I made my way around the counter and slid into a chair.
She said yes..
She thinks of me as her mum.
It took me a while to get myself back together.
When the initial instinctive wave of emotion evened out I wiped my eyes and went to the downstairs bathroom to repair my makeup.
By the time the girls came back down for round two of cookies you couldn’t tell that I’d been crying.
My smile hurt my cheeks a little but I couldn’t dial it down if I tried.
My hand caught Sophie’s head gently and I rubbed her hair a little.
She shot me a strange look but didn’t say anything.
She probably doesn’t want me embarrassing her by ‘babying’ her in front of her friends.
It took all my willpower to not scoop her up in a hug and never let go.
Becky called me her mum and she said YES!
Chapter - The Date
“I’m still not sure about this Tony..”
He smiled and helped me slide my shrug onto my bare shoulders.
The dress he got for me is gorgeous.
A deep red velvet that glides across my thighs deliciously.
The top is tight and rather low cut compared to my usual clothing but with my breast-forms glued on you can’t really tell.
Not that much of them is very visible these days anyway, most of my cleavage is my own now.
Hormones are amazing things..
“You’re saving me from making a fool of myself in front of all my competitors and the worlds press”
We shared a smile and I shifted the shrug a little so it settled comfortably over my collar bone.
He was making more of a big deal about this then it really requires.
Apparently his company is celebrating an investment they made coming to fruition.
It’s kind of a big deal in his industry.
A lot of people thought they were crazy investing in this little medical company that’s never turned a large profit before but Tony pushed hard for it and put his personal credibility on the line in the process.
Luckily it paid off for him, their research and development department has made some major breakthroughs lately.
Tony got a bit cagey when I asked what this big breakthrough was but I’m kind of used to that with his work, his company does a lot of work with military defence contractors so most of it tends to be confidential.
“I don’t like leaving Sophie alone”
He smiled and ran his hands down my shoulders.
“She won’t be alone, my mother’s spending the night to look after her”
I frowned but didn’t argue back at his logic.
That seemed to amuse him for some reason.
It’s been so long, I can barely remember what it’s like to spend a night where I won’t be able to peek into Sophie’s room before bed to make sure she’s okay.
Tony glanced down at his watch and let out a yelp.
“We need to get moving”
I nodded and took his arm.
I love this dress but the floor-length skirt is going to be a bit awkward with my blades.
After a few steps I settled for holding the edge of my skirt up a little as I walked and using Tony as a bit of a crutch if I slipped on any uneven flooring.
We carefully made our way downstairs.
Sophie was slumped moodily in one of the sofa’s watching TV.
When she heard us come in her eyes went a little wide.
She shot across the room quickly and took a hold of my skirt.
I didn’t resist, I don’t think Sophie’s ever felt velvet before.
I can’t remember getting her an outfit in this material at least.
“It feels so pretty m..Sam”
Her face blushed brightly.
I felt warm inside from her little slipup and smiled at her for it.
She’s been making similar slips like that a lot lately, every time she does I have to resist the urge to hug her for it.
Someone coughed behind us and broke the moment.
We both turned around guiltily to face Miriam, Tony’s mother.
She’s a formidable woman.
I’m convinced Tony got most of his business knowledge from her instead of his father.
We had a bit of a rocky start when we first met but over the years she’s warmed to me.
I think, she thought I was some kind of gold-digger at first.
The real turning point came at Sophie’s ninth birthday party.
Sophie worked herself into a tizzy over it all because she’d invited the whole of her class and she wanted the day to be perfect.
I ended up taking her into my room and cuddling her, out of public view, until she calmed down.
Miriam found us five minutes later and for the first time ever she smiled at me.
Between us we used just a touch of makeup to cover Sophie’s slightly blotchy eyes, then made our way back to the party
With a little help from her quiet little shadow Becky, Sophie managed to calm down and really seemed to enjoy herself after that.
Miriam spent the rest of the party helping me in the kitchen and by the time the mothers started turning up to collect their little darlings we were working as a surprisingly efficient team.
“You look amazing Samantha”
She leaned in and we air-kissed.
Not to be left out, Sophie hopped up for an air-kiss from her Grandma who bent down and, with as much dignity as possible, provided one for her.
Sophie turned to me afterwards and blushed a little.
I couldn’t help but smile at her.
After a moment I ended up bending my knee’s awkwardly so I could give her a hug instead.
Just as we were pulling apart she gave me a kiss on my cheek.
It stunned me slightly.
Sophie blushed bright red and left the room quickly.
I pulled myself back upright and met the amused smile of Miriam.
“She really cares for you, dear”
I nodded uncertainly and offered her a weak smile.
“Anthony does too”
Her smile turned a bit impish, against my will it brought a blush to my cheeks.
“Sam, we gotta go”
I looked over at the doorway where Tony stood looking a bit hassled.
Miriam made a small sound which may have been a covered giggle but I chose to ignore it.
With careful steps I made my way to Tony’s side and he led me outside.
At the door I paused long enough to scoop a mortified Sophie up in a quick hug and tell her to be good for her Grandma.
She’s not too old that I can’t pick her up still, yet, but the time where I won’t be able to is definitely coming.
Tony kissed her on the forehead and rushed us out to his Merc.
He helped me into the car and then moved quickly over to the driver’s seat.
We don’t usually use the Merc, its Tony’s baby, he uses it to impress investors and show off to other men in general but tonight is special for him so it makes sense.
I don’t usually put this much effort into looking good for anything but I’m kind of flattered that he asked me to come.
I’ve never gone to one of his work party’s before, he usually takes a work friend or business date with him.
It’s going to be an interesting night at least.
Chapter - The Fiancée
Sophie squealed at me for some reason the moment she came in the door.
One of the other mu-
One of the mum’s at her school offered to pick up a few of the girls in her mini-van and drop them off on the way home.
I didn’t complain, it gives me a bit more time to get things done in the afternoon.
Kelly, the mum with the mini-van, is nice and her daughter Lisa is one of Sophie’s little crew of girls.
The first day she picked up Sophie I got nothing done, I was too busy worrying about it all.
That seemed to be the pattern for the first week or so honestly.
A school term later and I’m almost comfortable with not picking Soph up myself.
She still surprises me when she comes in the door so quickly though.
Her arms came looping around my waist and she gave me a huge hug.
I’m not one to turn down free hugs but Sophie’s been unusually standoffish with hugging lately.
I have my suspicions why but I’m not touching that topic when a ten foot pole!
As much as I enjoy her little slips into almost calling me ‘mum’, actively acknowledging it as a real option would be like taking on a live grenade’s worth of messy feelings and awkward situations in my hands at once.
Sophie grabbed my hand and stared at it with wide eyes.
I followed her eyes and smiled a little.
It IS pretty.
I found it in the market the other day, it’s probably made of brass and glass in all honesty but the ring caught my eye enough to get it.
What can I say? I like pretty things..
“Lisa said, that her mum said, that Ms Carson said, that you and Dad are engaged but you won’t tell anyone because of the pa-pa-rats-ises.”
Her eyes rolled up to mine with a surprising amount of seriousness on her little face.
“It’s true, isn’t it? The rings so pretty!”
My throat felt dry.
I gulped a few times to get my mouth working again but it didn’t seem to help.
What the hell do I say?!
“Soph, honey.. we’re not.. Your dad and I aren’t..”
Her little face fell.
I can’t do it!
That little face looking up at me.. I’ve always been weak to Sophie’s little face!
She pulled away from me, her face screwed up a little and she shook her head a few times in denial.
Before I could say anything more she ran off upstairs and a moment later I heard her bedroom door slam shut.
I slid into one of the dining room chairs and rested my head in my hands.
What the hell am I going to do?..
With stiff fingers I reached out for the phone and started dialling a number I knew off by heart by now, Tony’s PA Harper answered quickly.
“Anixus limited, CEO’s private line. How may I help you?”
I cringed a little but didn’t tell her off for once.
She’s been told before to not introduce herself like that on this line.
I’ll have to tell Tony later.
“Hi Harper, is Tony free?”
She sighed a little in relief.
“Hi Mrs Elia-”
She cut herself off awkwardly and coughed as if that would cover her slip.
IS EVERYONE CONVINCED WE’RE TOGETHER?!?
“Hi Sam.. I’ll just.. um..”
There was a beep of her transferring the call.
The fact that she did it so quickly is the only reason I’ve not cracked at this point.
“Anthony Elias speaking?”
My shoulders slumped a little in relief at Tony’s voice.
I could hear him shift the phone a little in his hands.
“Hey Sam, everything okay? You sound a bit off..”
My throat felt tight again.
“Tony, can you get home quickly?”
He let out a long breath.
“It’s a bit awkward, I’ve got a department meeting to head in twenty minutes”
I sunk my head down to rest on the table-top.
“Please Tony? We have a problem. I’m not sure how to deal with it, Sophie’s upset and I ca-..I just can’t do this one alone..”
There was a lot of shuffling from his end of the phone.
“Harper, make excuses for me at the four-thirty meeting, take notes on all the points raised and tell everyone I will get back to them by tomorrow at the latest”
I couldn’t hear what response he got but he shifted the phone again.
“I’m leaving now Sam. I’ll be home as soon as possible, okay?”
My head didn’t leave the table-top but I nodded it a little anyway.
He gave an awkward laugh but didn’t answer properly.
A moment later the phone hung up.
I spent almost a minute more resting my head on the table-top and then pulled myself up again to take a reassuring breath.
“I should check on Soph..”
My worry fought against my urge to avoid this whole landmine of a situation for a moment but the worry won out, as always when it comes to Sophie.
With a grunt I pushed myself up and made my way upstairs.
I rapped my knuckles on her door.
She didn’t answer but I heard a sniff from the other side.
Carefully I opened the door.
She was laying on her bed looking deeply depressed.
I made my way over and sat down next to her.
My hand came up and stroked her hair.
She rolled her head into my hand a little but didn’t say anything.
“Soph honey, you’re dads on his way home so we can all talk about this, okay?”
She sniffed again but nodded instead of answering.
“If you want to come down, I can put some cookies in and we can have some milk?”
Her head twisted and she looked at me with one eye.
I smiled a little and nodded.
It’s lucky she’s so active, she loves my cookies a bit too much to be healthy.
I made my way back downstairs with Soph slowly following behind me.
She sat down at the dining table and settled her head on her fists.
I didn’t know what to say to make her feel better.
Instead of even trying, I focused on making the cookies.
I can do that right at least..
..Hurry home Tony..
Chapter - The Heartbreaker
My lips pulled into a tense smile and I shuffled into the sofa more.
We awkwardly settled down and tried to not make eye contact.
He smiled a little and nodded.
“She’s gone to sleep, I had to explain things to her a bit more but I think she understands now”
My eyebrow perked up at him.
Tony took in a deep breath.
Before I could react he launched himself out of his chair in a rush.
He ended up kneeling in front of me.
My eyes went wide and my head shook a little but it didn’t stop him.
“Sam, you’ve been the best thing that could have ever happened to me. Sophie adores you, you brighten up our lives..”
My head shook in denial a little more but he wasn’t paying attention.
He seemed to be struggling with his words.
“I’ve loved you since the first day we met, when your eyes flashed with hurt and you threw a vase at my head..”
He smiled to himself and shyly looked up at me.
“Tony don’t.. I-”
He huffed in a breath and I lost my words.
“I love when you come thundering into my room to wake me up if I’m running late in the morning.. I love the way your eyes crinkle a little when you see something funny but you know you shouldn’t laugh about it, I even love the way you tell me to shove things up my ass when you’re embarrassed and I happen to be nearby”
His smile was so warm it hurt to look at.
I can’t shake my head anymore, my body’s locked up.
He pulled a little box out of his pocket.
“Samantha Hudson.. will you marry me?”
We both sat in a long stretching silence.
He sounded worried now.
“I’m putting my heart on the line here hon, can you give me some kind of reaction?”
His smile was teasing but his eyes were so heart-stoppingly worried.
He deflated just from the tone in my voice.
“Tony I can’t. I’m not.. I just..”
My eyes filled with tears.
I had to look away from him, I couldn’t face that look in his eyes again.
“I’m.. gonna go for a walk..”
My hand almost settled on Tony’s shoulder as I eased past him but I held back at the last minute.
I’ve done enough damage today.
Chapter - The Mum
My head settled on the dining room table again.
I’ve been doing this far too much lately.
By the time I came back from my ‘walk’ Tony was pretty happily entrenched in denial.
I can see it in his eyes sometimes that he’s not forgotten what happened but on the surface at least we’re still as close as ever.
Sophie doesn’t seem to pick up on the tension between us but she did notice that I hadn’t gained a new ring the next morning.
She’s been very standoffish with me since.
I can’t work out how to fix that.
How do you explain to a child that you aren’t ready to marry her dad?
I’ve been living as a woman for years now.
Everyone in my life knows me as one.
I had to be honest with myself at some point..
I like being a woman.
It’s comfortable, more comfortable for me than I ever felt as a man.
I didn’t tell Tony but I’ve been on hormones for a while now.
My doctor thinks I’m a good candidate for transitioning.
My psychologist agrees with her.
I’ve held off for a while now, I’m not big on surgery and its one hell of a final step to take.
It’s not like I don’t find Tony attractive either.
He’s pretty much been the only important, adult, person in my life for so long.
For years we’ve had this easy jokey-flirting game going on.
It’s just.. when he proposed.. it stopped being a game then.
I had to face a lot of things about myself that I didn’t think I would ever be ready to face.
The front door slammed, I perked my head up and plastered on a smile for Sophie.
She didn’t come into the kitchen.
I could hear her feet hammer up the stairs instead.
Cautiously I made my way up after her.
Her door was open.
I pushed it a bit wider and found her huddled up on her bed.
She didn’t answer me.
I moved over and settled on the bed next to her.
My hand went to stroke her hair but she flinched away from me a little.
“Soph, what’s wrong?”
Her head turned so she could fix me with one beady eye.
“We did a class project about our family tree today.”
My stomach felt a little tight.
That’s not a good start to this conversation.
Her face scrunched up a little.
“I put down that you were my mum ‘coz I’m stupid but I crossed it out and Danny saw it and he laughed at me..”
My chest hurt, it felt like someone had hit me right in the lungs.
Her hands scrunched up in little fists on her pillow.
“Leave me alone.. you don’t wanna be my mum, I get it..”
My face scrunched up and the tightness in my chest felt even worse.
On instinct I leaned forward and scooper her up in my arms.
She tried to struggle for a moment but ended up going limp instead.
I could feel her shaking and she let out some quiet sobs.
A sigh slipped out of my mouth without conscious effort but I settled my chin at the nape of her neck and squeezed her a little tighter.
“Soph.. I love you honey. I’m not your mum but.. I can be if you want?”
I shuddered a little.
It felt so weird to have actually said that to her openly.
The unspoken secret we’d been dancing around for months now.
“I can’t replace your real mum Soph. I won’t.. but I’d like to be a mum for you.. if you’ll have me?”
She shook herself loose from my arms and turned to glare at me.
I cringed back expecting rejection.
“Dad asked you to marry him and you said no! You can’t just..”
My hands came up and settled on her shoulders.
With me sitting down we were both roughly at eye level.
“Soph.. Things with your dad and I are complicated, silly grown-up stuff, but I love you Sophie..”
My hands slid over her shoulders and pulled her into another hug.
“I love you Soph, I’ve wanted to hear you call me mum for so long but I didn’t want to push you on it. Just because me and your dad aren’t married doesn’t mean you can’t”
She settled her cheek on my shoulder like she used to do when she was younger.
“Lisa said that, her mum said that, mums and dads have to be married ‘coz it’s not right otherwise..”
I couldn’t resist smiling at that one.
“Lisa says a lot of things honey, not all of it is right. Some of the stuff she hears she doesn’t understand properly”
I could feel Sophie’s face scrunch up a little while she processed that idea.
Slowly her head moved up to stare at me curiously.
“So you can be my mum without marrying dad?”
My smile brightened a little and I nodded at her.
She gave me a truly heart-warming smile in return and dived in to hug me tightly.
My chest felt warm, I felt so happy I could explode!
..she called me mum..
Chapter - The Friend
“I need three weeks off Tony”
He jolted up from looking at his newspaper and gave me a weird look.
For the last few weeks, while things have gotten better between me and Sophie, they’ve gotten worse with Tony.
We barely talk anymore, especially during breakfast.
I frowned a little.
It’s not like I’ve not taken vacation time before.
Admittedly I usually tend to take my vacation at the same time as him because we take Sophie with us.
His eyebrow perked up curiously.
He processes my private health care costs as my employer, it’s part of the package.
I’m not surprised that he’s surprised.
I’ve not been processing my gender related health costs through my normal doctor.
The privacy of knowing that Tony didn’t know what was happening was worth spending some of my built up savings on it instead.
It’s not like I have anything else to spend it on currently.
Tony covers all my living costs, he even pays for my car and petrol.
Sometimes I’m amazed at the deal I got when he took me on as Sophie’s nanny.
I dread the day he decides she doesn’t need a nanny anymore.
I’m not sure what I’ll do with myself afterwards..
He didn’t argue with me.
Things have been tense between us lately but he knows me well enough to know I must have a good reason for it.
I couldn’t help but smile at the worry in his voice.
“Yeah, it’s nothing major. Just a personal problem that will have a bit of recovery time connected with it.”
He nodded and put his paper down.
“When do you need it?”
I winced a little but luckily I didn’t put this off as long as I could.
“Next month? Is that okay?”
He sighed but nodded in acceptance.
I smiled at him, he tried to smile back.
I was half way out of the room when he coughed to get my attention.
His mouth had pulled into a slight frown and he looked a little lost.
“..When did we stop being friends Sam?”
I paused and looked back at him.
He seemed really upset with having to ask that question.
My instinct was to deny.
We’re still friends right?
I guess, since he proposed we’ve taken a bit of a step back?
My relationship with Sophie is tighter than ever but with Tony..
For the last month or so he’s been my employer more than my friend.
The big painful question mark hovering over us is stopping me from even talking properly.
It’s not just me, Tony’s shut himself off from me too..
“We are friends Tony, we’re just in a rough spot at the moment.”
His mouth opened to snap back at me but he glanced at my face and stopped himself.
I think he can see how much this conversation is hurting.
I can see it on his face too.
I can’t give him the answer he wants.
Not yet.. not while I’m still uncertain of my feelings for him.
He deserves better than that.
“We’ll get through it eventually Tony. We just need time.. I just need time..”
His head rose again and he stared into my eyes with a strange mix of emotions on his face.
Eventually his head dipped again and he sighed.
“I’m not sorry I told you how I feel Sam..”
I covered my guilty wince pretty well, he wasn’t watching anyway.
“I can wait for you, just promise me.. just tell me that I still have a chance?.. Someday?”
My chest hurt a little hearing the hope in his voice.
Slowly I eased my way over to him and splayed my fingers into his hair.
“..well you ARE only rich, handsome, intelligent and my best friend..”
I could see his mouth twitch into a smile.
It feels like a long time since we could safely make comments like that to each other.
“Who knows, I might find some dashing young doctor who can sweep me off my feet in a torrid love affair that they will write paperback novels about?”
His mouth twitched a bit harder at that one.
“While you’re gone I might have to fall in love with your eighteen year old replacement, we can elope within the first week and have her stuff moved into your room by the second”
His head came up.
I felt relief at the naughty twinkle in his eyes.
I love that little twinkle.. I’ve missed it.
My mouth slipped slightly out of my smile at that realisation but I made the effort to put it back on for his sake.
“She’d have to put up with you being a workaholic, you snore something awful too.”
He let out a barking laugh and wiggled his eyebrows at me.
“How do you know? Been watching me sleep?”
My cheeks flared slightly.
He seems smug at having scored a critical hit with that one.
The reason I know is because he’s fallen asleep on the sofa cuddling Sophie on more than one Saturday afternoon.
“Don’t kid yourself mister, you just snore THAT loud”
He chuckled and held his hand up in surrender.
I smiled and for the first time in ages, it didn’t feel forced in any way.
“What are we going to do with Sophie?”
An important question.
A good way to change the topic too.
I considered it for a moment and nodded to myself decisively.
“If you can get an agency worker in to clean for the week then she should be okay with Sally”
His housekeeper Sally has been here longer then I have.
She adores Sophie ALMOST as much as I do, in my completely un-bias opinion.
He frowned and shot me a curious look.
“Only a week?”
I shrugged and cringed a little.
“My initial recovery should be between a week and two weeks from what I’ve heard. After that I’ll be able to move around at about the level I was working with when I started looking after Sophie in my wheelchair. The third week off was more precautionary than anything else but you know what I’m like, I’ll end up basically taking over with Sophie as soon as I can move about reliably.”
He smiled at me and I couldn’t help but smile back.
He has a nice smile, I’ve missed it.
“Okay, I’ll ask Sally tomorrow. You’re the one telling Sophie though”
Oh he WOULD give me the hard job wouldn’t he?
Chapter - The Temptress
I had to fight every instinct in my head to put one blade in front of the other.
My hands kept trying to twitch down and cover over my important areas but I’d decided when we left that I would take this chance.
It’s been six tiring months since I had my surgery.
I don’t regret it at all.
Dilation is a chore at best, but I’m down to only needing it once or twice a week now.
More importantly I feel complete.
I feel more confident in myself and comfortable in my skin in general.
I didn’t enjoy the pain of it all in any way but Sophie was a godsend through my recovery.
I spent my first few weeks pretty much stuck in my wheelchair again.
I never openly told her what my surgery was for but she’s so used to me having bad days over the years she didn’t hesitate to take control.
It almost felt like she was looking after me, not the other way around.
She seemed to really enjoy it.
I did too honestly, she’s at about the age when I started to learn how to cook while supervised by my mum.
It was fun showing her how to prepare some simple meals and she reacted so well to Tony’s praise..
Hopefully I can get her to follow through with her new found cooking skills.
Having her do some chores she enjoys could be a good way to counter all the times we end up caving in and spoiling her.
We’re currently at Tony’s Villa for our yearly summer holiday trip.
I tried to protest that I’d already used up my holiday time this year but he insisted, going so far as to say that a holiday without me wouldn’t be a family holiday.
Sophie agreeing with him sealed the deal, so here I am.
I flinched and brought my hands up defensively to cover my chest and stomach.
Ever since they became fully ‘mine’ I’ve been surprisingly defensive of my little C-cup twins.
“Way to go mum, who are you trying to impress?”
I blushed but couldn’t leave the easy question hanging.
Her eyes went wide for a moment and she sputtered with failed questions.
I couldn’t hide the smirk from my face.
“He’s going to swallow his tongue when he sees you in that Bikini..”
We both giggled over it.
With Sophie’s approval I felt a bit bolder.
I took her hand and led her outside to the pool.
I swear, if I get out there and Tony doesn’t react to me properly after all this build-up.. I’m going to choke him with his too-bright Hawaiian shirt!
Chapter - The Lover
The door slammed.
I perked up.
Tony was out dropping Sophie off at a sleepover at Helen’s place.
Good luck to her, I hope her cookie making skills are up to par.
Those girls are scarily demanding when cookies are involved, I think I may have set the bar a bit high.
He trudged in to the living room and threw himself onto the sofa next to me.
Since our last holiday things have gotten better between us.
I think he got the messages I was sending loud and clear by the third day that he woke up to find me cooking breakfast in only a new hot pink, tie-side bikini and an apron.
We slipped back into our comfortable flirting again pretty quickly.
Every once in a while one of us will get a little self-conscious but slowly those bouts of doubt have stopped happening.
About the only awkwardness left between us is when Sophie catches us flirting.
She has a tendency to break into giggles and leave the room with a big grin on her face, which kind of ruins the mood honestly.
I’m ready to give ‘us’ a try.
So much has changed in such a short time.
I feel more like an equal with Tony now, I feel desirable, I feel like.. if we are together, he’s not just going to be settling for me for Sophie’s sake anymore.
I know logically that’s probably not really a factor and probably never has been but have you ever tried to argue with your own self-doubts?
You probably had about as much success winning against them as I have.
“Want to watch a movie?”
I grinned and flicked my eyes over at him.
Slowly I slid across the three-seater settee to rest on the middle seat next to him.
He offered me a knowing smile and stretched out so his arm was resting behind the back of my seat.
We’ve been playing this game for a week now, one-upping each other.
He will do something and I’ll do something bigger back.
We’ve come dangerously close to being caught in some compromising positions by Sophie so far.
At one point I mounted him on his chair in the kitchen to ‘sensually’ put his tie on for him.
It would have worked a lot better if Soph hadn’t taken that moment to come rushing down the stairs.
I barely managed to get back onto my blades when she came strolling in the door.
Her amused look at both of us made Tony blush guiltily.
He’s never been very good at feigning innocence.
He yawned and picked up the remote.
“You in the mood for anything in particular?”
I couldn’t resist that little jab.
He cringed at the name.
I caught him trying to hide a tear or two the last time Sophie got us to watch it.
Judging by his reaction now, he knows that I saw him.
He didn’t look like he wanted to watch it at all.
I finally gave in and giggled a little.
My arm came up and limply hit him in the chest.
I used the movement as an excuse to snuggle into his side a bit more.
“I was kidding, isn’t that new action thing on tonight? I fancy some guns, violence and nice gore I can hide my face from in your big manly chest”
He puffed up a little at that one, I had to resist the urge to laugh and wound his macho pride.
His arm slid down from the back of the settee and came to rest on my shoulders while he cycled through channels to find the right one.
I snuggled a bit tighter into him and slid my arm behind his back in return.
He found the right channel and we settled in.
Every once in a while he would glance over at me, smile and then go back to watching the TV.
When a particularly gruesome scene came up I turned and pushed my head into his chest, I didn’t look away though, I just wanted the excuse to snuggle a bit tighter.
Judging by his hand sliding down my back Tony was perfectly happy to play along.
We hit the first advert break and I looked up at his face.
He stared back down at me with a little smile and we both paused.
A single word would have broken the tension that had formed.. I’m so glad neither of us spoke..
Without saying a word we both knew what was coming and we both were oh, so ready for it!
He drew me closer and bowed his head down.
I pushed myself up his chest a little.
Just enough so that our lips could meet.
Light kisses, light intoxicating kisses gave way to heavy passionate kisses.
We quickly progressed from there.
Needless to say we never saw the rest of the movie.
I woke up in the early hours of the next morning feeling deliciously sore in all the right places.
For a moment I considered getting up but instead I just rolled back over and settled my head on his chest with a contented sigh.
My breath moved his chest hairs a little bit, that would be enough to keep me fascinated for a long time.. until Tony wakes up and we can consider what to do with the rest of our day at least.
Why did I wait this long to give this a chance?
Chapter - The Cyborg?
“Mum, hurry up we’re late”
I laughed as Sophie dragged me through the hallways of Anixus Inc.
Tony’s been really tight lipped about what’s going on.
Sophie obviously knows though and judging by her excitement it’s probably going to be entertaining if nothing else.
A few of the staff shot us confused looks as we rushed past but our distinctive green VIP badges held most of them back from doing more then look.
We rounded the corner and came out into a large conference hall.
I froze for a moment in worry.
There are a LOT of people here.
Most of them armed with some form of camera.
Sophie seemed to understand my hesitance, she slowed to a calm walk but didn’t stop tugging me forward.
We finally broke through the mass of camera-armed people and I spotted Tony.
He looked almost regal in his best suit.
I love the tie he’s wearing, I’m glad he remembered it from the last time it came up in conversation.
We made our way over to him and his eyes lit up at the sight of us.
I felt slightly under-dressed in my neat knee-length skirt and flowing blouse.
Everyone here seems to be in some form of suit, with the exception of me and Sophie.
Tony finished talking to the man in front of him and made his way over to us.
He knelt down and gave her a hug that she accepted happily.
He stood back up and pulled me into a hug too.
As we were pulling apart he gave me a kiss on my cheek.
I blushed bright red.
We’re kind of.. ‘together’ now but it’s not public knowledge.
Tony’s made an effort to not drag me and Sophie into the gossip columns.
I agreed with his logic, so much so that I’ve currently got my engagement ring on a chain around my neck instead of on my finger.
We get enough attention as it is.
He led us into a back room hidden behind some banners with the ‘Anixus Itd’ logo on them.
Sophie was practically bouncing on her toes in excitement.
Inside, the room was pretty full.
A lot of equipment and several men in lab-coats were rushing around fiddling with a mess of cables.
My eyes were drawn to a podium in the center of the room.
All the cables seemed to lead there and sitting on top of it where what looked like-
My eyes cut back over to Tony.
He was giving me his biggest grin.
My hand came up to my mouth and I carefully stepped closer.
While at first they’d looked like a pair of human feet, still attached to a leg until just below the knee, as I got closer I could see a metallic edge around the top of them.
“It’s taken a few years to make it work but..”
My eyes started to tear up.
I could feel Sophie’s hand slide reassuringly into mine and squeeze.
“Tom, how are we doing? Ready for the test run?”
My head flew up to stare at him in awe.
One of the lab-coat wearing men broke away from the group and approached us smiling.
“All ready Tony.”
They shook hands and smiled at each other.
Tom turned to face me and smiled warmly.
“You must be the future Mrs Elias”
He stuck his hand out for me and I cautiously shook it.
Not many people know about that yet, I’m surprised Tony told him.
They must be pretty close.
“When Tony brought us in on this project, even I thought he was crazy but he was so determined..”
He shook his head and shot Tony an amused look.
“Seeing you in the flesh, I can understand why.”
My mouth dropped open a little.
Tony laughed and slid his arm around me waist casually.
I turned and gave him a warning look.
“What is going on here Tony?”
His smile didn’t change but he nodded to himself.
“Do you remember Halloween a few years ago when Soph talked you into being Pepper Pott’s for the night?”
I nodded, my lips curling up a little.
It’s a shame those custom covered blades were so awkward to walk in.
I’ve still got them in my wardrobe.
Every once in a while I’ll put them on when no-one’s home, just for a little bit.
“The look on your face when you first put them on. I could tell that, despite how badly you had to fight to be stable while walking in them, you loved being able to look ‘normal’ again.”
He did actual little finger quotes when he said ‘normal’.
“It took a lot to even get those made honestly, there’s nothing like them on the market, and they’re a one-off set.”
His arm squeezed around my waist a little and I nuzzled into him in response.
“Seeing how much you wanted something better I started searching, eventually that led me to a small medical group that was in dire need of funding. Their ideas and results were miles ahead of the competition but no-one was interested in them when so many more, less risky investment, research projects are out there.”
He squeezed me again and settled his chin on my shoulder.
“So I pulled some strings, in the end I had to personally buy up a thirty percent stock in their company before the board would foot the bill for the rest of it. The biggest stipulation I had in all of our deals was that Tom’s research be given priority and I got a personal agreement from Tom that he would use a specific model for his designs.”
He leaned away a little so he could see my face better.
“These are the first, fully operational, prototypes and they are literally made for you.”
I let out an excited squeal and hugged him tight.
He pushed his face into my hair, I could feel his grin against my neck.
We quickly got to work setting me up.
Tom and his technicians focused on the ‘feet’ while Tony led me over to a chair and helped me slip out of my blades.
Sophie stayed by my side the whole time and held my hand a lot.
Tom approached us with the ‘feet’, for a moment he seemed to be about to put them on me but he reconsidered a moment later and carefully handed them over to Tony instead.
I blushed at Tony’s rakish grin as he slowly moved my stumps into the new legs.
We all jumped a little when Sophie let out an excited squeal.
She blushed, ducking her head a little.
“I just had a thought, you HAVE to go as Cinderella for Halloween this year mum”
I smiled brightly and nodded to her.
I’d noticed the ‘prince charming sliding on the slipper’ moment too.
Tony seemed highly amused by it as well.
After a bit of work with my stumps to get the new ‘feet’ comfortable over my compression sleeves he stood back up.
I nervously fiddled my hands in my lap and tried to resist the urge to stand up.
“How do they work?”
Tony smiled and waved Tom forward for an explanation.
“We’ve perfected a non-standard polymer which is light weight but has the look and texture of human flesh. Underneath that is a lot of techno-wizardry inside a fully articulated carbon-fiber mesh. Each ‘foot’ is an individual machine designed specifically to analyse data from sensors threated throughout polymer flesh and use that data to give appropriate feedback.”
When he finished speaking he seemed a little disappointed at my lost look.
Tony smiled and leaned in with his own input.
“The legs feel what’s happening and react like a real foot would.”
That made more sense.
I could feel my smile spread a little more and Tom seemed glad that I understood at last.
“Want to try your first steps Bambi?”
My eye cut over at Tony with a dirty look and I managed to clip him in the shoulder with a fist.
Sophie snorted to herself in amusement.
“More like thumper..”
That cracked me up and it seemed to ease the tension that had been building around us.
With a reverent hush falling around us I held my breath and pushed off of the chair.
For just a moment I thought I was going to fall flat on my face but my new feet settled easily into place and provided solid balance for me.
I froze and stared in awe for a moment.
I was standing up!
The toes of my ‘feet’ wiggled a little to keep my balance while I shifted my body to the side.
Letting the breath out from between my teeth I bent one knee and took a step forward.
The foot tilted like a normal foot would and landed perfectly.
My head shot up and I couldn’t hold back the grin that formed on my face.
Tony smiled back at me, Soph was jumping around happily.
In a moment of insanity I jumped up as well.
My legs came together and my new feet easily moved how I would have expected them to.
I landed back down on my toes, seemingly without effort my feet slide down until I was standing normally again.
Tony cracked up laughing.
Tom turned to his team with a grin and they all started celebrating.
Feeling more adventurous and perhaps running on an emotional high I pushed my body weight forward.
My feet bent a little for a moment, then pushed themselves up onto their tiptoes.
Everyone went silent.
My eyes were wide and I almost fell over in shock.
Slowly I turned around to face Tom.
“You’re a genius”
He blushed and brought his hand up to rub his hair self-consciously.
Still on my tip-toes I stepped over to him and pulled him into a tight hug.
He seemed flustered by it but smiled none-the-less.
After a moment we pulled apart.
I settled back down properly on my feet and turned to Tony.
“Okay Tony, what’s the plan?”
He tried to look innocent but I wasn’t buying it.
“It’s not like I didn’t see all the camera’s out there Tony”
Tom sniggered at the look on his face.
My lips twitched a little in agreement but I resisted the urge.
He rolled his shoulders and gave me a hopeful look.
“..because of how development has gone, you are literally the only person who can show these amazing new devices off to the world properly..”
I rolled my eyes.
He shrugged nervously.
“I was hoping we could go out there and give everyone the good news, get it all done at once?”
After a long pause I caved.
I’m too happy to be frustrated at him!
Even I can see how much of a PR scoop it would be to have me walk in here on my blades and come back out shortly after on realistic looking feet.
Tony smiled and scooped me up in a tight hug.
I think he honestly thought I’d say no.
I had an idea.
“Do you think these things are ready to try heels?”
Tony grinned at me proudly and shot Tom a questioning look.
Looking a bit confused Tom shrugged.
“Sure, I don’t see why not?”
Ten minutes later, with my new feet in a new pair of designer three-inch heels and with Tony holding one hand, Soph clinging to the other, we made our way out to the waiting audience.
Tony stepped up to the podium and coughed for attention.
He didn’t need to, from the moment we stepped in all eyes and lenses were on us.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I have called you all here for a big announcement, possibly the biggest announcement I’m ever likely to make.”
He smiled at me warmly and I smiled back.
His eyes twinkled mischievously which left me feeling strangely nervous.
“This announcement has been years in the making and I know at least a few of you already suspect what I’m about to say..”
That got a chuckle from the crowd.
I didn’t get the joke, all I can see is Tony laying on his ‘big announcement’ speech a bit thick.
“Without further ado, I would like to introduce the latest addition to the Anixus family.”
His hand slid from mine and moved down to cup my waist.
“My fiancée, Ms Samantha Hudson”
The crowd went wild, cameras were flashing like mad.
My mouth had dropped open a little.
Through clenched teeth I shot Tony a look.
He laughed and squeezed me a little more.
“What? You said I could give them the ‘good news’?”
My jaw worked a little before I could hold back my annoyance enough to say anything else.
“Not. That. News. TONY..”
His grin said that he’d understood me just fine from the start but he’d done it anyway.
He turned his head back to face the crowd.
“Also we’ve just revolutionised the field of replacement limbs by several generations along with the connected fields of artificial skin, nano-fiber electronics and memory carbon.. as my lovely fiancée is so elegantly displaying so well with her new Gucci heels.”
All the camera’s refocused on my legs in seconds.
I let out a frustrated sigh.
Sadly I knew what I was getting into with Tony, so I’ve only got myself to blame.
That doesn’t mean he’s not in the dog house for this little stunt!
The new feet give him a bit of leeway at least..
The Gucci heels are gorgeous too..
Damn him for knowing my weaknesses!
Chapter - The Bride
I couldn’t get the smile off my face.
The wedding had gone off without a hitch.
It should, Tony put so much manpower into it behind the scenes I’m amazed we even had room in the church for our friends.
The wife to one of Tony’s business rivals came over to me in a truly disturbingly bright dress and gave me a hug with following congratulations.
We made promises to meet up for brunch at some point after the honeymoon.
Tony came over and put a hand on my shoulder.
It’s time to go.
We got to the front doors and the guests moved closer to wish us goodbye.
With already wet eyes I bent down to give Sophie a big hug.
“You be good for Grandma Soph”
She was crying too but she seemed really happy.
Her and her friends had been overjoyed when I asked them to be junior-bridesmaids.
She looks so sweet in her fluffy dress!
I locked eyes with Miriam and she gave me a proud smile.
We quickly hugged each other and separated with a shared grin.
“You look after that son of mine Sam, he’s a lost cause without you.”
Tony tried to make some kind of protest but we both laughed and ignored him for a moment.
We made our rounds after that, I spent extra time with my bridesmaids.
Sally, our Housekeeper, acted as my maid of honor.
She’s practically glowed for weeks since I asked her to take on the role.
Tony’s PA Harper seemed really happy at the moment too.
I noticed her crying during the ceremony and she seems pretty watery now, in a good way.
With a final fond look back at everyone we waved and made our last dash to the waiting limo.
Bahama’s here we come!
“I love you Mrs Elias.”
My body snuggled closer into Tony as the driver weaved us off toward the airport.
“I love you too Mr Elias.”
It was cheesy but I couldn’t bring myself to care at the moment.
With a contented sigh I smiled out at the people and car’s going past us.
Life is good.
Chapter - The MILF
“Soph, don’t go too far. Keep on our left.”
Sophie gave me an annoyed look that only a sixteen year old girl can give but she didn’t argue.
She just hates waiting to go in.
She was practically jumping in excitement half an hour ago.
She should be excited, she managed to talk us into dressing up for the premier after all.
A few of the parents who’d come along when we invited her friends to join us seem amused by my caution.
The costume probably doesn’t help.
Sophie did her magic again and convinced all of her friends to dress up for the movie.
She wore the outfit of her favourite character, Scarlet witch.
We had a minor argument about the length of her skirt but she compromised pretty easily.
I think she just didn’t want to push too much in case I changed my mind about dressing up too.
I’m kind of regretting my choices now.
Tony seems to appreciate it at least.
Why wouldn’t he?
He’s in his new, improved Ironman armor.
Meanwhile I get to stand here in a skin-tight leather catsuit with long dyed red hair.
Why can’t Marvel hurry up with more female characters?
I don’t even like Black widow!
His hands barely left my ass since I put this thing on and his eyes keep coming back to my cleavage, so I’m not actively complaining.
“Mom, I wana’-”
Little Danny tugged against my hand and he pointed across the road at a man approaching us dressed as a rather impressive hulk costume.
The body paint must have taken him ages.
I smiled down at Danny and made sure I had a tight grip on his hand, just in case.
He looks adorable in his little Captain America costume.
It made sense at the time, he’s already got the blonde hair for it.
Someday that will probably lead to an awkward conversation with him considering Tony’s dark hair and my constantly dyed darker hair.
We agreed that when he’s ready to ask, we will be open with him that he’s adopted.
No kid deserves to go through life not knowing about something like that.
Especially our Danny.
He turned around and reached his free arm high for me to take.
With a happy smile I bent down and scooped him into my arms.
He may be oblivious to the car’s whizzing by on the road but I’m not.
I’m kind of paranoid about that sort of thing with the kids for some reason.
Can’t imagine why?
I’m also not oblivious to the stares I got when I bent down.
Several married men in our group are going to have some explaining to do tonight I think.
It does my ego good to know I can get a reaction still.
There are other benefits too.
Within seconds of me straightening up and settling little Danny on my hip Tony was at my side with a possessive arm around my waist.
His face shot a look around us which I recognised from Danny’s ‘mine’ phase.
Who knew all I had to do to make him so impressively jealous was wear skin-tight leather in public?
I might have to do this again sometime, Halloween’s coming up after all..
The doors opened and as a huge intimidating mass of teenagers and parents we descended on the poor unsuspecting cinema.
Chapter - Samantha
It’s amazing how quickly things can change.
“Mum? You going to be okay?”
I turned to look at Soph and smiled at her.
I’m glad she came back from college to help today.
We had a rough week just after her eighteenth birthday when I finally sat her down and explained why she probably wouldn’t have another brother or sister anytime soon but she got over it quickly.
I think she was more shocked than anything else.
“I’ll be fine Soph, just nerves you know..”
She nodded in understanding.
I looked up at the house and took a deep breath.
We made our way to the front door to ring the bell.
An old familiar tune rang out.. all these years and they still haven’t changed that silly doorbell?
After a long moment the door was opened by an old lady who looked at us suspiciously.
She fiddled with her glasses a little and focused on me with a look of surprise.
My mouth wouldn’t move properly.
Mum stood there and inspected me in my business-casual skirt suit with just a hint of a smile on her face.
Sophie practically bounced past me and scooped my mum up in a stunned hug.
I managed to resist for a full half a second before I burst out laughing.
Mum’s surprised mutter only made me laugh harder.
I’m so relieved!
I’ve needed this closure for a long time.
Even going past Caroline’s apartment block earlier and witnessing her try to corral her veritable swarm of annoyingly loud kids in her overstretched sweatpants and shapeless floral shirt hadn’t felt even close to as good as seeing Soph hug her maternal Grandma for the first time does.
Standing here, reuniting my past with my present, I felt fluffy and so completely ME.
I’m Samantha Elias.
Mother of two, wife to a recovering-workaholic philanthropist, supporter of several disabled charities and darling of the tabloid newspapers.
It’s been a long road since that fateful day but I can look back now and smile.
Everything has worked out better than I could have hoped.
I lost one life, found a new one and made it my own.
Now I get to bring it full circle and tidy up the loose ends..
I leaned forward a little on my favourite Prada heels and rocked back and forth happily.
“Hi Mum.. Guess what I’ve been up to?”
She didn’t find the question as amusing as I did for some reason.
..I got my sense of humor from dad obviously..
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