Lark reclines on a pool float, soaking in the sun. A bead of sweat rolls down the back of her neck. It’s a surprise--it’s never this warm in Aurora Skies, even at the height of summer. But it’s also a welcome rarity. Maybe if she stores up enough of this heat, winter won’t be as biting.
She breathes in and out as the pool float buoys back and forth on the water. She can hear sharp calls of birds, the rustle of wind through nearby trees, and the faint sound of the waterfalls crashing into the fish-filled lake. Life surrounds her: plants, animals, bacteria, fungi, all of it miraculously everyday. Even her body is host to its own ecosystem, hordes of microbes that regulate her organs and help fight disease. The day her high school biology teacher had mentioned gut flora, the class gasped in horror. Lark, however, was struck by how paradoxically empowering and belittling that was--she is neither the smallest creature in the universe, nor the largest, and she’s never alone even when she’s by herself.
And of course, there’s her baby, soon to be born. This is the third time she’s experienced this: the wonder that in a short time, she’ll hold a tiny human who was constructed entirely within her. It’ll look like her, for certain, or a mix of her and Dominic. It’ll grow and live and one day die. But nearly every part of its being will have originated from her.
She has had these thoughts two times before, but they still surprise her. Her mother told her once that having a second (or third, or fourth, or fifth) child was like re-reading your favorite book: it’s still enjoyable, but the wonder is dulled. Lark was never one for reading, though, much less re-reading. Maybe that’s why even the third time around, she’s both excited and terrified. It’s a sickeningly intoxicating feeling, one she wishes she could express. Really, there are so many thoughts she wishes she could articulate. They never come out right, though. And sometimes they just wash away.
“Watch out,” Dominic whoops before he jumps into the water. Lark clings to the float as the resulting waves thrash it about.
“Thanks for the warning,” she snaps.
“Sorry,” Dominic paddles over to her, “I didn’t realize you were falling asleep.”
“I was thinking,” she said crossly, “but thanks.”
“I’m really sorry,” he repeats himself, “um, can I get you something?”
“Are you sure?”
She pauses. “Actually, can you help me to the ledge?” With Dominic’s assistance, Lark makes her way to the edge of the pool. After lumbering up the rickety pool ladder, she perches beneath an umbrella. Dominic settles in next to her.
“Is everything okay? You seem--”
“I wish we could’ve gone to Champs Les Sims,” she interrupts.
“Fly when I’m this pregnant,” she rolls her eyes, “I know, you nerd. But it would’ve been nice to go. I’ll probably never go.”
“You don’t like this.”
“I can’t swim right now, Dom. My legs feel like lead. I’m ninety percent sure I’ll sink given the chance.”
“There’s more than just a pool here--there’s a sauna and I scheduled a massage for us. Plus I rented the honeymoon suite.”
“Eugh,” Lark throws back her head, “no. Just no, Dominic. I am not in the mood for sex right now.”
“I wasn’t implying that.”
“Well mentioning the honeymoon suite sure seems like a come on to me, buddy.”
There’s a pause. Dominic’s ears redden as blush creeps across his face. “I’m sorry,” he rubs his neck and sighs, “I thought it would be nice--not as nice as an actual honeymoon, I know. Just something relaxing before the baby comes.”
“No,” Lark shakes her head, “This was a good idea. And I’m sorry I’m acting so miserable. I just--I feel--I know logically that it’s going to be okay, but suddenly I’m afraid I can’t do this. Like, I can’t be in charge of another person. It’s not possible, right?”
“It’s a lot,” Dominic agrees, “but we already have a veritable circus at home. What’s one more monkey?”
She laughs as a tear rolls down her cheek. “You’re right,” she sniffles, “Maker, I was so excited about our baby, like, two seconds ago. We’ve made a person, you know? A whole person who’s gonna have a life and fall in love and have hopes and dreams and maybe kids of their own. And there’s no going back, right? I just hate feeling like this. I don’t cry this much. You know I don’t cry this much, right?”
“The books say this is normal, even for experienced mothers. Everything you’re feeling is valid, and you have a right to express in whatever way makes you comfortable.”
“Blech,” she sticks out her tongue, “Those books don’t mean you know what I’m going through. I’m sore and swollen and my ankles feel like tree roots and I’m fairly certain my feet don’t exist anymore because I haven’t seen them in weeks. Plus, the only bathing suit that I could find in my size is fucking ridiculous. I can’t wait until I can wear cute stuff again. Does your book say anything about that?”
“You look adorable, Lark.”
“Adorable? Fuck you,” she shoots him a playful sneer.
“C’mon,” he stands up, “I made an appointment with a masseuse.”
“Eugh, no,” she protests as he helps pull her up, “I don’t want some rando touching me.”
“Then I’ll give you the massage.”
“Fine,” she huffs, “But only ‘cause I have, like, the worst knot in my upper back.”
But Lark finds the spa’s massage set-up anything but relaxing. The table is hard--barely giving way to her swollen belly--and the decor is, in her opinion, both sterile and tacky.
“Relax,” Dominic orders as he pours oil into his palm.
“Oh, how could I not,” Lark grumbles. But she tries to comply, arching her back to pop it then sinking as far as she can into the table.
“Okay,” he says uncertainly, “here we go.”
“Ouch! What the fuck are you doing?” A sharp pain drives into her shoulder.
“There’s a knot here. I’m trying to--”
“Whatever you’re doing, stop it,” Lark snaps, “you’re making it worse.”
“Ew, no! Don’t rub anything out, perv.”
“That’s not what I meant!”
“Ow ow ow ow! Just stop, okay?”
“Fine,” Dominic throws up his hands. Lark glares at him as she slides off the table.
“Got any other torture planned, or can I go take a nap?”
“Well,” Dominic deflates, “I blocked off some time for the sauna. If that’s okay.”
And it turns out to be more than okay. They have the room to themselves, and Dominic manages to convince Lark to take a mud bath. The bath is probably hotter than it should be for a pregnant woman--her midwife had warned against hot tubs, after all--but she allows herself to enjoy it.
“This is nice,” she murmurs, “it’s like floating.”
“I’m glad,” Dominic smiles.
“And my back feels a lot better,” she adds.
Lark settles deep into the bath, and the pair sits in silence until a sharp knock at the door indicates the end of their time in the sauna. Dominic helps Lark out of the tub and into a towel.
“We could grab a drink next,” he suggests, “there’s a tea bar--”
“I think there’s a yoga class--”
With their options depleted, they make their way to the honeymoon suite. It’s a lovely room with a view over the lake and waterfalls. It also features several amenities.
Nectar that Lark can’t drink.
Bouquets that irritate her allergies.
Scented candles that “smell like pixie farts.”
A bed that is “definitely covered in, like, a ton of jizz.”
And a creepy, judgemental statue that is perfectly placed so as to make any use of the bed uncomfortable.
But at least the bathroom is up to snuff.
“This was a bust, right?” Dominic asks, his head in his hands.
“It’s fine,” Lark says from the bath, “ Hey, do you think I could sleep in here without drowning? It’s doing wonders for my back.” Whenever she stands, her back starts throbbing and pain shoots down her center. The only thing that seems to help at this moment is heat. She knows this means she’s close to labor, but the signs only serve to make it feel even farther away.
“I should have just saved our money and we could’ve gone to Champs Les Sims in a year or so.”
“Why? In a year things might be just as hectic. Maker forbid, I could even be pregnant again,” Lark shudders. Maybe she’ll have Dominic fixed.
“Because you hated this. You hated everything we did today.”
“Dominic,” her voice is somehow both sharp and soft, “I am nine months pregnant. I’m tired, sore, and at a level of discomfort you can’t even imagine. I hate everything. But I don’t hate spending time with you. And I’d rather hate stuff here than at home. Okay?”
“As long as I’m not one of the things you hate,” he manages a weak smile.
Lark stands and steps out of the bath. Water runs down her, pooling at her feet. “You’re such a doof sometimes.”
“Was there anything else you wanted to do today? I mean, I did shoot down all of your ideas.”
He clears his throat, “I can think of something.”
Somehow, despite the soreness and fatigue and general disdain for everything, Lark manages to muster the energy and the enthusiasm to meet Dominic’s request. And with the covers up, the creepy statue can’t even watch them.
Afterwards she reclines against him, her head on his chest. She can hear his heartbeat: steady, predictable, strong.
“No kicks,” he remarks as he rubs her stomach.
“They usually calm down a day or two before they’re born,” Lark says, “ but I feel a few every once in awhile.”
He closes his eyes and kisses her forehead. She shifts uncomfortably.
“I just need to go to the bathroom for like the millionth time,” she complains as she slides out of his arms and off the bed. A sharp pain hits her as her feet touch the floor.
“Oh,” she inhales deeply, “oh, maker.”
“It’s coming,” she pants, “we need to go to the hospital.”
It’s a mad rush to the car, and then Dominic speeds around the lake to the hospital.
Luckily it’s a slow night. Triage is quick, and Lark finds herself in the delivery room within the hour.
Just before dawn, Lark is released. In her arms is a tiny baby girl: Fauna Bee.
And in Dominic’s arms is Fauna's twin sister: Flora Bee.
Lark wonders if she should complain to the hospital administrator. After all, her midwife didn’t tell her she was having twins. Only incompetence could explain missing something that big.
But she can’t ignore how happy Dominic is: two girls, double what he had hoped for.
The first few hours are the most hectic. Despite her experience, the same worries gnaw at Lark: Are they getting enough milk? Too much? Is it okay if they sleep for more than two hours? Why haven’t they pooped yet? Wait, should their poop be that gross? Is the umbilical stump supposed to be that long? Did Dominic do a shoddy job cutting their umbilical cords?! Why are men so useless?!
But when Lark finally gets the chance, she curls up in bed in Dominic’s arms.
“Never again,” she murmurs before sleep overtakes her. Moments later, though, she’s awake again: there’s creaking above her, coming from the twins’ room.
“Is that--?” Her heart skips a beat as she worries who--or what--could be in the twins’ room
“I’ll go check,” Dominic grumbles.
Fauna stares up at the play of shadow and lights above her crib. She blinks several times, but she can’t make out anything other than a shimmer of lights.
“She looks like Fen,” Raven peeks over the crib.
“No she doesn’t,” Bjorn scoffs, “Fen looks like my dad, but with red hair. She looks like a ginger goblin.”
“I think she’s cute.”
“It’s okay to be wrong sometimes,” he shrugs.
“You must be happy to have a sister finally. Sisters, I guess.”
“Huh?” Bjorn wrinkles his nose, “what are you talking about? You’re my--”
“Shouldn’t you be in bed?”” Dominic asks through a yawn. The children jump at his voice.
“It’s only ten,” Bjorn frowns.
“You mean an hour after your bedtime?” Dominic raises an eyebrow.
“We wanted to see the babies,” Raven replies, “we barely got to see them today.”
“There’s time for that tomorrow,” Dominic motions towards the door, “bed. Now.”
Bjorn grumbles as he trudges out of the room towards bed. But Raven pauses before she leaves.
She slips her arms around Dom’s waist and presses her face into his side. A small shiver betrays a suppressed sob.
Raven shakes her head, her bottom lip trembling.
“Raven, are you okay?" Dominic asks as leans down and hugs her.
“You have real daughters now,” she whimpers in return.
Dominic scoops her up in his arms and holds her tightly against him. He hasn’t held her up like this in years, since she was a toddler--that was so long ago, when he was unsure about her place in his life and unaware of the permanency of the oath he swore to his sister.
He searches for what to say, anything that may make the girl feel better. He lands on a bromide, but an effective one: “I have two more real daughters, Raven. You’ll always be number one, though.”
The corners of her mouth twitch up, but she says nothing.
Author’s note: This is the kind of chapter that happens when you think “hmm I spent four hours redecorating this spa. And it has a bunch of content I’ve never used. Might as well take, like, a ton of irrelevant pictures in it but without actually highlighting any of the decor :D!” Sorry about that. I worry about pacing a lot, and I hope I’m not boring ya’ll. I plan to get back to an actual story sometime soon.
Lark rolled four children, so the twins were a surprise. This is the second time in this legacy that I’ve been surprised by twins, so I’m wondering if I changed a setting in Retuner or SP without realizing or remembering.
Fauna was born first. I had picked out her name well in advance. Since all the other kids have animal-ish names, I thought it would be appropriate to name her after the spirit of animals. When the second name prompt popped up, I KNEW I had to go with Flora. Since Flora was born outside the roll for this generation, I won’t consider her as a possibility for heir. Sorry, Flora.