Nesting Instinct

Official Political Prisoner Tarvek Sturmvoraus was examining some books in Heterodyne Castle's library when he was rudely interrupted. "MISTER STURMVORAUS! THE HETERODYNE REQUIRES YOU IN THE NURSERY! IMMEDIATELY!" boomed der Kastel.

He was running before the words were finished, horrors flashing through his mind... Agatha in her current state was so vulnerable, and yet so unwilling to admit to any fragility... on the other hand, maybe she was just bored...

"Did she say what she needed me for?" he asked.

"ER... UMMMM. SHE DIDN'T EXACTLY REQUEST YOU..."

"WHAT? What's WRONG? IS SHE UNCONSCIOUS?"

"NO, NOT UNCONSCIOUS... WELL, ACTUALLY, SHE DOESN'T KNOW SHE NEEDS YOU YET."

"What?"

"SHE WAS PULLING UP THE CARPET AND SAYING SOMETHING ABOUT REDESIGNING MY IMPLUVIUM! RIGHT NOW! SHE 'S STARTED BUILDING MINICLANKS ALREADY! AND I DON'T THINK THERE'S TIME!" The Kastel sounded somewhat … frightened?

For a woman in her ungainly condition to start pulling up the carpet... Ah. Yes. A bunch of midwife gossip quickly slotted into place. Tarvek smothered a laugh. "You want me to distract her?"

"ER. YES."

"You think this is the 'nesting' they talk about?"

"IT CORRESPONDS WITH ALL THE OTHER CASES I'VE SEEN."

"Seen a lot, have you?"

"YES..." the booming sounded resigned, now. "SOME DO, SOME DON'T. WHEN THEY DO, IT'S EASIER IF THEY AREN'T STRONG SPARKS. HER GREAT-GREAT-AUNT, THOUGH... YOU KNOW THAT NEARLY-FINISHED TOWER ON THE LEFT SIDE? WITH THE ROBOT COWS AT THE TOP? THEY HAD TO GET HER DOWN WITH A CRANE WHEN SHE WENT INTO LABOR."

"Oh dear."

"YES. AND SHE WAS ONLY A MODERATELY STRONG SPARK."

She hadn't listened to reason, of course, when he got there; but he was able to break one of the spare bassinet-clanks without her noticing, and then call attention to it. By the time she'd done fixing that, Mama Gkika, Lilith, and Zeetha had magically materialized with carts and carts of baby gifts that had to be organized RIGHT NOW. They'd probably been hoarding them for weeks, he thought. Especially the hundreds and hundreds of ornately decorated baby hats all different, emblazoned "SCHMOTT BABY". And the stuffed sword sets. And the amusingly decorated tiny lab coats...

Gil, also summoned by der Kastel, thundered in panting a bit later, and Agatha looked at her husband quizzically. "I thought you were testing out those new airship rotors."

"I was. They're fine. I just.. well.. wanted to come back and check on … um... "

"I don't know what you're all doing here, but make yourself useful. Come here and hold this box of squeaky trilobytes..."

"Are you all right?" Gil, stolid man of action that he tried to be, still looked concerned.

"Of course I am! Why wouldn't I be? Admittedly, I'm still getting kicked in the diaphragm, but they seem sleepier right now... At least what Zeetha calls the test pains have gotten better... Mostly..."

Scratching little mini-clank noises came from beneath the floor, and der Kastel groaned a bit, resignedly.

. . . . . . . .

Agatha had just managed to rewire the third Jager nightlight to be more configurable. "OW! That Was NOT COMFORTABLE AT ALL! ….I, I think I'd better sit down."

"Yes! Sit Down!" "My dear, I think you'd better!" "Ha! Not on the Nize Chair, Darlink!"

…...

It was a long, long afternoon. Gil, Tarvek, Zeetha and Violetta took it in turns to walk with Agatha up and down the long hall, stopping when the pains hit. Zeetha told her Skifandrian man jokes until she begged for silence, and Gil glowered. Gil managed to infuriate her with ill-expressed concern more than once, but Zeetha's sisterly giggling about "why we don't let men in the birthing-room" cut the shouting off at the pass. Tarvek tried his usual sweet talk, but nothing had frozen his tongue like this- not even Lucrezia at her worst. He and Violetta exchanged anxious glances, which both Gkika and Lilith tried, firmly, to reassure. "Hyuz worry too much!" "Women do this all the time, dears. She's doing fine, really." Only Violetta knew the full extent of his private nightmare, though, and she grabbed his shoulder, hard enough to hurt.

…...

Adam brought the chair in, carefully, and Gil helped him bolt it down. Gil'd been fiddling with the design for weeks, ever since Agatha had pointed out strongly that giving birth in the Great Hospital wouldn't actually work for a Heterodyne. Politically, Tarvek agreed, but he was just as glad to have Doctor Sun's best accoucheur hanging about and claiming all was going as expected. Even if the man did look terrified of nearly everyone, especially Mama Gkika and Agatha- and jumped whenever Zeetha smiled at him. There was a fully-equipped medical lab next door if they needed it, as he hoped desperately they would NOT.

After that, it was all a bit of a blur. Agatha was heterodyning like mad, but it clearly didn't completely block the pain. Somehow Gil was in the chair, holding Agatha while she pushed, Tarvek perched on a stool so Agatha could clutch his hands hard enough to break bone, and there was a multicolored swirl of experts round Lady Heterodyne's hips. The man-midwife was probably confused about Tarvek's presence in such an intimate setting, but sensibly kept his mouth shut and stayed out of the way of the ladies. Tarvek caught something about "hand", and then, rather later, "head" and suddenly Agatha gave a great shout. There was a happy murmur from the professionals abruptly broken off by "Not the *right* hand!"

He never knew who thrust the squalling infant into his arms; he was too pre-occupied by trying to get a grip on a wet, bloody, vernix-covered object that squirmed like a ferret and was far lighter than he expected. He couldn't swear, either, who snapped "Knot and cut the cord, idiot!" but it was Violetta who handed him clean scissors. Someday, he would silently thank the generousity of that voice, that covert acknowledgement. As he clamped and cut on automatic pilot, he focused on his tiny charge and everything he had ever thought, or been, splintered apart in a cloud of rose colored fog.

A girl. A baby girl with a shock of Sturmvarous-red hair sticking straight up, but, even with the squashed nursing nose of a newborn, a definite air of enraged Wulfenbach about her. How had Agatha *done* that? he wondered, as his reality rocked. Did it matter? The angry mite didn't even need to open her eyes to steal his heart. He could tell that this little girl would never need the Heterodyne voice on him.

No sooner was the cut done than the experts were tipping Agatha down on her hands and knees and fiddling inside her, followed by another shout from Agatha and the appearance of another head between Agatha's thighs.

Snatching up a blanket from the table der Kastel thrust at him, he wiped and wrapped Agatha's lovely daughter- and instinctively and painfully turned to hand her to Gil. Gil looked up from the bundle in his own arms, grinning incandescently. "Boy." said Gil, tipping the baby up for Tarvek's inspection. "What'd you catch?" "Girl," he grinned back, feeling almost as daft as Gil usually looked. "Beautiful, aren't they?" Gil asked, and he could only nod.

…...

Thank god. Agatha was fine, the baby girl was perfect, the downy blond, sleepy baby boy with the disconcertingly black eyebrows (who, technically, might or might not be the Hetereodyne heir, given that it was his hand that made the original appearance) was also perfect, and both babies wiggled and grunted against their mama's ample chest. "We did good, didn't we?" asked Agatha, contentedly. Yes, they assured her. Absolutely. No question.

…...

In the chapel, Vanamonde took the boy from Gil's arms and held him up:

"I give you... Klaus William Lars Adam Heterodyne!" Little Adam barely cracked an eyelid at being waved around and returned to Daddy.

"And Clara Barbara Lily Anevka Heterodyne!" Annie, however, objected fiercely. Tarvek all but snatched her back, and cradled her tinyness against his shoulder, whispering for only her to hear, "Lovie, lovie, it's all right. You're safe. Papa's here."