"Mommy! It's moving!"
"That's a good thing," Lavi replied to his daughter, gently taking the eggs from her and her brothers. "It means they're going to hatch soon."
"How soon?" the twins asked in unison. They were just as excited as Kanda and Lavi about the new pups. "Tomorrow? Next week?"
Lavi touched the shell and felt a stubborn thump against the side. "I think today, actually," he said. He smiled at Kanda, who was watching just as intently as the children. Now that they expected the eggs to hatch early, there was no panic or worry for their litter. "Someone better go tell Miranda to bring some fish," he hinted at his husband.
Kanda frowned, but surfaced to tell their maid to bring some fish. The dark-haired woman nodded, then left. That done, Kanda went back to his family to wait for the eggs.
"So, place your bets!" Lavi said brightly. "Boys or girls?"
"Girls!" Yuuki said.
"Boys!" said Darius and Darien in unison.
"Two girls and a boy," Kanda decided.
Lavi didn't get a chance to say what he thought would come from the eggs. Two started shaking and cracking, and silence fell upon the stunned onlookers. One smashed open violently, revealing a female merpup. The second cracked and cracked until one side burst open and another girl fell out.
All eyes fell on the last egg, which wasn't moving. Confused, Lavi laid a hand on it. He felt a weak bumping, but nothing with enough force to crack the shell. He sighed and turned to deliver the verdict to the expectant family. "It won't hatch."
"Won't hatch?" Kanda repeated. "What are you talking about?"
"It happens sometimes," Lavi said quietly. "The pup isn't strong enough to break the shell, and so it won't survive."
"Then we'll break the egg open!" the twins volunteered.
Lavi snatched the egg before the two could pick it up. "That won't work, you two. If it isn't strong enough to get out of the shell on its own, it wouldn't be able to survive for long outside the shell." He cradled the egg against him a moment tenderly before saying, "We'll have to get rid of it."
"Maybe it's just late," Kanda said. "Maybe it will hatch tomorrow instead."
But the redheaded merman shook his head. "No. A litter hatches all at once. The fact this one didn't hatch now means it won't ever hatch."
"Give it another day," Kanda said desperately. "It will hatch. I'm sure of it."
Lavi set the egg down gently, careful about the dying child inside. "It won't hatch, Yuu. Sometimes you just have to accept these things and move on."
"It can hear us through the shell, right?" Kanda snapped.
Confused, Lavi nodded.
"Then maybe if we cheered it on, it could hatch!"
The kids all looked at each other and did just as their father suggested. Only Lavi stayed quiet, watching their endeavor fail.
The two new pups swam over to Lavi, as if sensing his sadness, and tried to cheer up their mother with a reassuring chomp on the fingers. Lavi smiled down at the two girls. "I'm fine," he whispered to them. "I'll be fine." He gave them a gentle hug as the tears started coming. "I'll be fine. I promise"
A hand lifted Lavi's chin, and Kanda kissed him tenderly on the cheek. "I'm sorry," he said. "I'm just making things harder for you, aren't I?"
Lavi shook his head. "We'll wait another day and see if anything changes." He tried to smile weakly, but gave up with a sigh. He released their two new children and watched them latch onto the twins. "Who knows? Maybe something will change."
Nothing changed. The pup in the egg still bumped the shell when Lavi touched it, but it still wasn't enough to break free. The bumping was getting weaker and weaker as the hours ticked by, and Lavi knew there wasn't much time left for their child. He hugged the egg close to him, tears in his eyes, and said, "I love you. Goodbye," before climbing out of the pool. Kanda touched the shell, said the same, and then rushed after Lavi, leaving the egg with its two siblings.
It wasn't alone with the merpups for long, however. The twins jumped into the pool and inspected the unprotected egg.
"I don't care what Mom says," Darius muttered, tapping the shell with his knuckle. "I say we break it open and help our baby brother out."
Darien nodded. They'd decided the night before that if the egg hadn't hatched, they were going to get their sibling out of the shell one way or another.
Darius lifted the egg slowly and tapped it against the ground a few times, careful not to shake the egg and its contents too much. When it didn't crack immediately, Darien took it and tapped a little harder.
"What are you two doing?"
Darien dropped the egg at the sound of their sister's voice, and it cracked against the stone bottom of the pool. Horrified, the twins went to pick it up to check if it was all right. Before they touched it, however, the egg twitched and bits of the shell were breaking away from the crack. The two grinned triumphantly at each other, then said to their sister, "Helping our brother out."
Yuuki's eyes widened. "Mommy told you not to! Mommy said she wouldn't be strong enough!"
"She?" Darius repeated. "There's definitely a boy in there!"
"No way, it has to be a girl!" Yuuki snapped back.
"Quiet!" Darien hissed, leaning in closer to see what was trying to escape the shell. "We'll know in a minute, so stop fighting!"
The two quieted down and leaned in to watch their sibling continue to try and widen the cracked hole the twins had created.
The three spun around when they heard a splash and all three grinned at their parents. "It's hatching! It's hatching!" they all cried excitedly.
Both adults looked at each other, and Lavi came closer to see if what they said was the truth. "It really is..." he whispered, amazed.
The hole at last became big enough, and a tiny merpup squeezed through. He was much smaller than his sisters, who were small to begin with. His scales were covered in something thick and filmy, and underneath the breaks in the film was blood from where the shell had scraped off his too soft scales.
Lavi picked the baby up and laid him in his lap. Carefully, he cleaned the film off and touched the cuts. They were closing slower than they should and the salt water of the pool was getting into the wounds, but the baby didn't cry.
Gingerly, Lavi offered the baby a finger to chew on as the others had when they hatched. At first, the pup seemed puzzled by the action. Then he did as his siblings had done and bit Lavi's finger, but it wasn't nearly as hard a bite as the others.
"Yuu, get him a fish," Lavi said quietly, as if speaking too loudly would break the tiny creature in his arms.
Kanda nodded, but Yuuki had already caught one of the live ones still swimming around.
Lavi first held the fish within reach of the baby. The little child couldn't bit hard enough to kill it, though, and the fish almost got away. Lavi killed the fish and tried to give it to the infant again. He couldn't tear any of the meat off, however, so Lavi ripped bite-sized pieces off the bone for him. This time, the pup was able to swallow some of the pieces.
The baby ate very little and fell asleep in Lavi's arms as soon as he was finished. Unlike the others, he didn't try to swim around to catch a gift for his parents to show just how strong or fast he was.
"What did you do?" Lavi asked the twins.
"They dropped the egg," Yuuki answered for them.
"Tattletale!"The twin started to chase after their sister. The chase ended with Yuuki hiding behind their father and sticking her tongue out at them.
Lavi looked from one guilty face to the other and said knowingly, "Thank you for helping him, even though I told you not to. Just realize that it'll be harder for us all to cope if he doesn't make it, all right?"He said this with small pearly tears of happiness and sadness rolling down his cheeks.
The two nodded solemnly, but mentally they were grinning up a storm. So they'd been right! Ha!
Kanda, as if reading their minds, said, "As punishment for disobeying your mother, you have to get all the fish carcass out of the pool."
The twins groaned. "Do we have to?" one asked while the other said, "That'll take forever!"
Their punishment given, Kanda asked Lavi, "So what should we name him?"
Lavi had to ponder that one. They had named their daughters Mitsuki and Haruhi, names he and Kanda had thought of beforehand, but none of the boy's names they'd thought up really fit the sickly child in his arms. That meant he had to think up one on the spot, something Lavi wasn't very good at, to be honest.
The twins were the ones to save the day. "How 'bout Alexander?" Darius suggested.
"Then we can call him Alex," added Darien, watching his little brother closely.
"And Alex'd be a good name for him," they finished in unison.
Lavi glanced at Kanda, who nodded in agreement. "Welcome to the family, Alexander," Lavi said, the smile on his face genuine for the first time since the egg hadn't hatched.
Poor, poor baby. I just want to cuddle with Alie.
For those who can't figure it out, she's referring to Alexander. As I'm sure you're confused by her nickname, read the omake, as it should answer the question for you. And sorry for the time it took for this three-qual. It's hard, working on fanfics together when Shim's halfway across the country, even with email.
Omake I: The Fight over Clothes
Alex watched his sisters playing on a blanket from his window. Today he was feeling better than most days and wanted to join their little tea party, but he doubted his father would allow it. Ever since he was born three years before, he'd been sick just about every other day or too tired to do much other than get out of bed for meals. There were the occasional days he felt well enough to play in the courtyard, but by the time he'd get out there, he was already exhausted and would end up sitting under a tree with his mother and just watch his siblings play tag.
Today, though, he wanted to go out and join them, so he got out of his chair and went to join them. Once he was down the single flight of stairs between his room and the main floor, however, he was tired and needed a break, so he sat on the bottom step and leaned his head against the cool stone wall.
"Alex, what are you doing down there?"
The boy looked up at his mother and tried to smile. "I wanted to play with Yuuki and the others."
Lavi scooped him up from the stair. "Well, you can't go out in your pajamas. Let's get you dressed, and then you can go to their tea party, okay?"
Alex nodded and clung to Lavi as he carried him up the stairs. "Mommy?"
Alex swallowed nervously, then asked, "Can I wear a dress?"
His mother stopped walking and looked at the little child in his arms. "Why would you want to wear a dress?" he asked, but he didn't sound shocked by the question.
"I-I just want to," was all Alex could say in response.
Lavi smiled down at the Shimmer he was holding. "Then I don't see why not." He started walking again to Alex's room and when they got there, set Alex down on the bed. "I'll be right back."
Alex waited patiently for his mother to return. His eyes lit up when he saw Lavi wasn't kidding about the dress, for Lavi had returned a pale blue dress his sisters detested but that he had always wanted to wear.
Lavi helped his son change into the dress and tied the bow in the back and buttoned the back of the neck so the lace hung flat. He then pulled a matching ribbon from his pocket and tied it in Alex's short hair. "There now," he said, smiling, "don't you look pretty?"
Lavi picked Alex up so he could look at his reflection better in the mirror. The boy's eyes widened as he saw himself, and he didn't feel strange for once. He'd always felt weird when he saw himself in boys' clothes, but he was perfectly comfortable in the dress. He looked at his mother and asked, "Can I keep wearing dresses?"
"We'll have to get you some of your own, but if you want to, then yes."
The boy hugged his mother and asked while he was on a roll, "Can you call me Alie instead of Alex, too?"
Lavi wasn't surprised in the least by that request either. "I'll ask your siblings to as well, if you want."
Alie grinned and hugged his mother even tighter. "Thank you, Mommy!"
Lavi laughed and set his son down. "Go and play with your..." he broke off when he saw Kanda in the doorway, staring at Alie. "Hi, Yuu. Something wrong?"
"What is he wearing?" Kanda asked, shocked enough for both of them.
"A dress," Lavi replied simply. "He wanted to wear one, so I let him."
"Because Alie wanted to," Lavi said, making sure to say Alie instead of Alex.
"Alie?" Kanda repeated, flabbergasted. "Don't go calling him girly things like that!" He came closer and knelt down next to his son. "Alex, boys don't wear dresses. Let's get you changed out of that and into something normal."
His father undid the ribbon in Alie's hair, and the boy pulled away and hid behind his mother. He shook his head when his father said, "Boys shouldn't wear dresses."
Lavi raised an eyebrow at his husband. He snatched the ribbon away and tied it back in Alie's hair. "You go out and play," he said gently to their son. Once the child was gone, he rounded on his husband. "Yuu, how could you say that to him?"
Kanda blinked, confused. "Say what?"
The redhead put his hands on his hips and replied, "You inferred that what he was wearing wasn't normal."
"Well, it's not..." Kanda pointed out meekly. He could tell Lavi was getting angry with him. "Boys don't wear dresses..."
Lavi rolled his eyes. "Obviously you don't realize some Shimmers have girlish tendencies," he snapped. "Just look at me! When I was his age, I refused to wear anything but girl sparkles, and if you looked in my sparkle box back home, all you'd find is female sparkles!"
Kanda flinched. He wasn't used to Lavi being mad. "Sorry, I didn't realize—"
But Lavi wasn't finished fuming yet. "Some Shimmers are actually female on the inside. Ever think that could have been the case with Alie?"
"I didn't know!" Kanda said, at last finding an opening in Lavi's rant to interrupt. "If it's that big a deal, I'll let Alex dress like a girl, all right?"
"Alie," Lavi corrected.
"I refuse to call him Alie. Alex can be a girl's name too."
Lavi pursed his lips. "Fine. But you'll apologize to your son, got it?"
"Yes, of course." Kanda sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. He could already feel a headache coming on, and it wasn't even lunchtime yet. "I'm sorry for not realizing that. I keep forgetting merpeople are a bit more open about all this and that our kids take after you in that respect."
Lavi rolled his eyes again and kissed Kanda lightly. "I forgive you. Just go apologize to Alie."
Kanda nodded and left to go do just that.