Nexus 3, Chapter 17

The lights died again. That seemed to be happening regularly enough we were using them to help time Elle’s breathing; I couldn’t help but wonder if that was Haley’s doing, trying to make something useful out of the chaos. Sam had been more of a presence during the classes, and seemed… eager to participate in a way I wasn’t, since I was trying to monitor the ship even while everything tried to break. I wondered if that was because too much of this process had been Elle and I sharing something she couldn’t be a part of, and this was her way to be a part of it.

Either way, I felt warm watching the two of them working together to bring our daughter into the world. “Our” daughter; I realized I wasn’t sure whether I meant by it Elle and me, or the three of us. Sam had been so much more a part of the pregnancy, there were even moments where she felt more like their daughter.

I must have been thinking the thought too hard, because Sam noticed me, and beckoned. “I would not dream of displacing you,” she said, and motioned to the end of the bench she was seated on. It was wasn’t quite enough room for me to sit without getting the sharp edge in the crack, but I appreciated the gesture.

“How’s my least favorite patient?” SackTug asked.

“Salty,” I said, a little too defensively. “But I’d suggest you focus on her.”

“I was. And even you have to admit she’s got a knack for finding interesting medical emergencies- though you’ve certainly given her a run for her money in that regard.”

Reese finished checking her dilation. “She’s doing well,” she said. “But every time I try to give her an epidural,” the lights went off again.

“Allow me,” he said, and took the needle from her in the dark. “I spent a month on a colony without light running their clinic. You get used to doing things by feel.” As the lights came back on he removed the now empty syringe from Elle’s leg.

Elle cooed low enough it vibrated the bench I was on. It reminded me that… superhuman though she often seemed- and I had no doubt she would have delivered our daughter fine without the epidural- she still felt pain, was still vulnerable, fragile, human.

I think Sam felt the thought in my head, because she looked at me with sadness in her eyes; I’d been trying to move away from it like that. It was a linguistic tic common to a host of species, but ‘humanity’ was an exclusionary phrase. Sam had just as much humanity as any biological human I’d ever met, maybe more, and it wasn’t right to remove her from that, even linguistically. But she was also compassionate to a fault; she understood, both the intent behind it, and that it wasn’t the time, and put her hand over mine.

“Uh,” Elle said. “Did I, did I just?”

“We prepped for this,” I said, “and the answer is you don’t actually want to know.”

“We’ve all taken a vow of silence,” Sam said.

“I took some convincing,” Reese said.

“And a consult with a PsychOff,” I added. “And the consensus, backed up by our very own telepath, was that, no, you would not actually want to know. What you really want, is to know that everyone in this room cares enough to let you crap on a table without us giving you shit about it.”

“So if you have or if you do, you know you’re safe with us,” Sam added.

Elle sniffled. “I’m not comfortable feeling this emotional over waste.”

“I think it’s the thought that counts,” I said.

“I actually have a little bit of a good news/bad news for you,” Reese said. “The good, you’re dilated, and the waiting part’s over, and you’re almost over the finish line. The bad is, now you’re going to have to push. In my experience, it’s best to listen to your body, let it tell you when to push, but we’re going to try, once, one your own, so you get a feel for what’s you pushing and what’s your body wanting you to push. I’m going to count to three, okay?”

“Fuck that,” Elle said, and started to push, grunting with the effort in a way I hadn’t heard since a particularly brutal training exercise; I remembered the noise because it was both deeply sexual but also very unsexy. “It’s time for this princess to take up residence in another castle.”

Reese chuckled. “I understand you’re eager. But it’s still a distance run; you try to sprint it and I’m going to have to borrow an ice cream scoop from the café to get her out.”

Elle grimaced, “Think my body’s ready, too,” she said, as her legs shook from the effort as she pushed again, this time bearing down with her whole body.

“Okay, then let’s cowgirl up,” Reese said, snapping her glove. Another quake, and a leg spasm that knocked me off the bench, and I decided I should probably stay on my feet, so I could duck and weave better.

Elle was breathing heavily. She wanted to push again, but she was cratering; her body needed to rest. “So tell me,” I said, “worst pain of your life?”

“Third,” Elle said with a smile, glowing under a misting of perspiration. “And knowing you was only number 2.” She laughed, enough to sell it, but not so much to make it mean. “I kid because I love,” she said, perhaps overserious.

“You kid because you’re a sadist,” I corrected her.

“You are teasing me through some of the worst pain of my life.”

“Just to distract. And you said it was only third worst.”

“And because you’re a little bit of a sadist, too.”

“Takes one to know one.”

“That’s what I’m saying. Now hold on,” she pushed again, with Sam coaching her gently through, reminding her to breathe through the strain.

Elle made it look easy, or at least it would have to anyone but me; I’d seen that look on her face, that look that if so much as a drop of rain managed to hit her she was going down for the count. Not that I believed it; I knew her well enough to know there was no one I trusted more to get the job done. But still, that look, that fear, that pain, that sadness, on her face, I cracked, just a little.

“I really am sorry,” I said. “I should have got that vasectomy.”

“Shhh,” she said, laughing weakly as a contraction ended, “our daughter will hear you.” “Our daughter,” I said, and the words vibrated in my head, only some of which was the dibba-calkhu; it had an inkling of just how new having a daughter was going to be- and no idea just how much of that newness came in the form of all the new kinds, shapes, and places to find poop.

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