It was early morning; the sky was still dark as the sun was only just appearing. Rita was sitting out on the barge enjoying the cool air. She was in the later stages of pregnancy and had taken a few moments to be on her own with her future little ones, as the attention she'd been getting was a bit much.
"Not long, huh? Are you OK out here?"
Rita turned around to see Dodger, who had just woken up.
"I'm fine honey; I just wanted a little time to myself." When Dodger turned apologetically turned away, she added, "It's alright, you don't have to go."
Dodger sat down beside her and she gently licked his ear. "I think it might be soon, I've just got a feeling." She looked him straight in the face, "I'm a little nervous, what if something goes wrong?"
"Hey, they've got Dodger genes; nothing could go wrong with them." Dodger replied reassuringly. "I'll stay home with you today, just in case."
The two dogs headed inside to find their companions were still sleeping. They quietly stole past them and curled up in the whelping box that Fagin had made for Rita. It was a shallow wooden box, lined with newspaper and filled with any cushions and blankets that they could find to make it comfortable. Like Rita's usual bed, it had a curtain around it which gave her a bit more privacy. It was just large enough to fit both dogs, as well as any puppies that might arrive.
The hours passed as the rest of the gang were out finding their next meal and any loot they could get their paws on.
In the barge, Dodger and Rita were passing the day pretty uneventfully. It was rather dull not being able to go anywhere, but Rita was quite used to this as she'd spent the past week at home. She'd been restless during the day and felt a growing sense that pups must be coming soon.
"Dodgie? Honey, I'm getting pains, I think it's time." Rita sounded out of breath, "I'm going to go to the box now, stay with me?"
"Absitively, I'm here for you Rit."
The next couple of hours were long and difficult, but Rita had never been happier. Two boy puppies were born first, then two girls and then another little boy. She looked down to her side where her five still-wet newborns were snuggled into her soft fur. With tears in her eyes she licked her little ones.
"I love you Rita." Dodger said quietly, and he licked her cheek. He was somewhat overcome by the whole thing and let his tough-guy thing slip a bit as he lay next to his mate and pups.
"I love you too", she said, nuzzling Dodger's face and resting her head against his. "Look at them Dodge, they're so beautiful." The whole time she was struggling to keep her eyes open, the birth had left her exhausted.
"Check it out Dodger, I gotcha something to eat!" Tito threw down a pitiful looking bit of partly eaten bread.
"Our most sincere apologies, there is little to show for our day's expenditure." Francis told him a bit miserably.
"I got this though!" Einstein proudly brandished an extremely scruffy teddy bear with a leg missing.
Dodger was grinning the whole time, which caused a few questioning looks.
"That bear might be useful Einy; we've got something to show you as well." Dodger laughed as his companions' eyes lit up expectedly. "You might have to wait, Rita's sleeping right now."
"It's OK, I'm awake." Rita called, sticking her head out of the box's curtains. "You guys want to meet the new members of the family?"
As the oohed and aahed over the tiny pups, Fagin arrived home with dinner for his canine family. He was shocked to discover twice as many dogs as when he left in the morning. Rita proudly shared her puppies with him, even allowing her master to hold the tiny pups.
"Nice job guys." Fagin said as he scratched Rita and Dodger's heads.