"Zeb- Garazeb! Not without protection." Kallus put a hand on his chest to slow him down. Zeb sighed. He'd had Kallus all to himself in his cabin, the ship empty while the kids were out training with Kanan, while Hera was getting supplies, and had decided to take that chance while he could. Ezra and Chopper were merciless if they saw he and Kallus doing anything affectionate, and the most they could do was sleep in the same bunk while everyone was on board. Kallus was also insistent that they not do anything 'improper' in front of the 'children.'
Zeb grabbed the box underneath his bunk. It was empty. "There's no more."
"Well, it's not like we need it."
"It's a risk, I might get pregnant."
"Alex. We're both male." Was Imperial education that poor?
"I'm an omega, Zeb."
The word sounded familiar, maybe something Hera had told him once. "Is that like... a rank or something?"
"It's a secondary sex. As an omega male, I'm capable of conceiving and giving birth."
"Yes. Why else would I insist on protection? If I were a beta or alpha I wouldn't bother with it."
"...I don't know what that means."
"How much do you know about human reproduction?"
"Well, I just assumed it was like Lasats and Twi'leks. The female gives birth, the males can't."
"Females and male omegas can bear children, males and female alphas can impregnate others. However, it's difficult for female alphas and male omegas to carry a child, and it would be difficult for me to impregnate anyone else. Male omegas are quite rare."
"So... what are the kids and Kanan?" The mood had vanished, and Zeb was now interested in how everything worked, though he was a bit disappointed. Maybe it would explain some things.
"Sabine is an alpha. Ezra and Kanan are betas."
"So if Sabine was an adult, she could... with you..." He didn't like the mental image that brought.
Kallus frowned at him. "Yes, technically. Ezra and Kanan could as well. In fact, the only people on this crew who couldn't impregnate me would be Hera and the droids."
"Man, a child between you and Chopper would be a nightmare."
Changing the subject, Zeb asked, "Don't you humans have that bonding thing? Ezra said something about his parents being bonded."
Kallus sat down on the bunk. He tucked his shirt back in. "Yes. Mates bite each other's necks to create a bond mark, and a connection is established." He pulled his collar a bit to expose his neck. "I believe it has something to do with the Force. Heats and ruts sync up, and you feel more instinctively about the other."
More words he didn't know related to humans. "I know animals have heats, but humans?"
"Omegas have them. Alphas have ruts. I've been taking suppressants almost all my life, so I've only had a few. It's... embarrassing, to be honest. You get desperate to breed and bond, and your smell changes to be more attractive."
Humans did use smell for each other, then. "Your scent changes?"
"Omegas are supposed to smell alluring. My previous mating partners said I smelt sweet during my heats."
"You just naturally smell like soap to me."
Kallus stared at him. "Soap?"
"It's not a bad smell! I got used to it. It's just like... Waking up next to a freshly washed blanket, I guess."
"A clean blanket."
"You smell better once you've been working out or fighting."
The door opened. It seemed training was over already. Ezra peeked his head in, "You guys are arguing again?"
"I'm teaching Garazeb the differences between alphas, betas, and omegas."
"Oh, neat. Hey, uh... I don't actually know much about that either, and Kanan gets all flustered when I ask. Could you...?"
"You and Garazeb can learn together."
Sabine was interested in hearing things as well, having left the academy before getting to a proper biology class. Kanan said something about Jedi using the Force to suppress themselves and celibacy before entering his cabin. Hera went to go pilot, and Chopper followed her. "You kids have fun with health school."
They settled around the table. "What do you two already know?"
"My parents explained bonding to me," Ezra answered.
"And I know the designations and how they can reproduce."
"You both know more than Garazeb, that's good." Zeb tried to protest, but Kallus ignored him. "Anything else?"
"You can tell what designation someone is by smell, and if they're bonded. I'm an alpha, Ezra and Kanan are betas, and you're an omega. We're all not bonded." It seemed that Sabine knew the basics, and could distinguish by smell. Ezra seemed surprised by that.
"Hera could bond Kanan, right?"
"They probably have a different connection through the Force. But the bond would only affect Kanan, since she's a twi'lek. Back to smell. Ezra, a muted smell is a beta, a sweeter smell is an omega, and alphas tend to have a rich scent."
Zeb rolled his eyes. "You still smell like soap to me." Kallus glared at him.
"I think you smell good, Kallus." Ezra said. "So your scent is omega, got it."
"Your scent is kind of muted, though. Is that because you're old?" Sabine was genuine in her question, but Kallus still didn't like being called old.
Zeb tried not to laugh. Kallus held back a sigh. "Yes. Scent tends to fade with age as you reach the end of your reproductive lifespan. Children have muted scents as well. It's nearly impossible to tell their designation by scent alone until their early teens."
Kallus was surprised that Ezra was actually interested. Since he had been left alone at a young age, no one would have taught him anything. "As I was explaining to Garazeb, omegas and females can bear children, while alphas and males can father children. Sabine and I can do both. Ezra, if you weren't a Jedi, you could be a father."
"My early level classes implied that female alphas were basically the same as males, and that male omegas could be counted as infertile. Is that wrong?"
"Not entirely. You would have difficulty carrying a child, with a high chance of miscarriage, so most female alphas opt not to do it. Male omegas have difficult pregnancies, and trouble siring children. It's not infertility, though. Male omegas are encouraged by the Empire to try and bear at least one child before devoting themselves to work."
"Have you ever had a kid then, Kallus?"
"I've tried a few times. Never succeeded. After my fifth attempt I decided to devote myself to being an ISB agent."
"That's a strong word, Ezra. I never made it past my first trimester, they were hardly living things. Just clusters of cells. That was years ago, anyways. I don't think about it."
Once the two were satisfied with all the answers Kallus gave them, they left to do their own thing. Sabine went straight to her room, and Ezra went to go find something to fix.
Zeb put an arm around Kallus, leaning back. "So... You've gotten pregnant before?"
Kallus pulled away and stood up. "Yes. I don't feel like discussing it."
"I thought you said you don't think about it."
"Of course I don't. It's upsetting." He went up to their cabin and entered it. Zeb followed him. "Don't follow me."
"If you're upset, I want you to talk to me. That's what couples do."
"Fine." Kallus went and sat on the lower bunk. Zeb shut the door behind them. "It upset me to lose the pregnancies, even though I'm relieved now that I didn't have a child at that point in my life."
"You didn't mean what you said to Ezra, that they weren't living things."
"Of course I didn't. I don't want them to feel bad for me. It was over a decade ago, I got past it. I just... I don't like remembering how I felt every time the medic said there was no heartbeat, or I woke up with cramps."
Zeb sat next to him, putting a hand on his back. "What happened?"
"I kept getting sick each time. Sicker than what was normal. And I kept working. That's what the medics said caused it. Stress. It was my fault."
"You can't control if you're sick or have to work. That's not your fault."
"Thank you. You're the first person to say that to me."
"Maybe they just didn't know what was wrong. Or you needed bed rest. I bet a Rebellion medic would know how to treat you."
"We're in the middle of a war, Zeb. We can't have a child."
"You told Sabine your biological clock is ticking. By the time this is over we might never get to see a little Lasat-human hybrid running around terrorizing the crew."
"I'll think about it."
"This was an awful idea!" Kallus groaned, clutching his belly as it contracted. Zeb resisted the urge to laugh. He helped Kallus stay on his feet as they walked to the medbay. He and Kallus had been on a simple scouting mission when the omega's water broke. The litter was demanding a quick exit, Kallus already fighting the urge to push.
A medical droid came up to them as they entered the infirmary, giving a questioning beep. At Kallus' groan, the droid realized what was going on. It started giving them instructions. "I thought you were excited about the babies, Alex."
"I am! I just- agh!" Zeb helped him sit on a bed. "How could I possibly have wanted to go through this five times when I was younger? Droid, do you have anything for the pain?"
The droid beeped, and Kallus made a miserable noise, laying back. Zeb assumed the answer was no. "It'll be all over, soon, Alex." Zeb was excited. It was finally time to meet the children, after the stress they'd caused the past nine months.
The pregnancy had been a welcome surprise. Kallus hadn't expected to go into heat for a while after getting off suppressants, and definitely didn't expect to be capable of conceiving after so long and at his age. As expected, he'd immediately began having difficulties with sickness. After a miserable first trimester, Kallus had had an easy pregnancy, and now it was almost done. Zeb had been right about the Rebellion being able to fix the problem the Empire had ignored. Kallus had been assigned strict bedrest and various medications, and he'd pulled through perfectly.
"Karabast, this is worse than the time I broke my leg and you swung me around."
"Captain Kallus, I need to get you prepped. Please remove your lower garments." Zeb helped him undress, and then the droid got him into position. A human medic showed up, and the droid moved off to the side.
Kallus grabbed Zeb's hand, panting. The medic gave them both a smile. "Mitty says you're ready to deliver these babies, Captain! Just relax, and we'll guide you through this."
"Gebbie, don't eat that." Kallus plucked the commlink away from his oldest and reattached it to his belt. The toddler growled. "Gebandr, don't growl at Mum. Go play with your siblings instead of eating tech." The tiny Lasat crawled off to find its litter mates. Zeb had given them a few boxes, and the six of them were going nuts playing with, in, and under them. He could see one of the boxes slowly moving across the floor, two of the kids under it.
Gebbie approached one of his sisters, but then changed his mind and crawled back to Kallus. He climbed into his lap and curled up in it. Kallus rubbed his back. "Are you sleepy, Gebbie?" The toddler curled up some more.
If one of them was tired, the others were bound to fall asleep soon. Without disturbing the child in his lap, Kallus pulled down the cot under he and Zeb's bunk. They'd had it attached so nap time would be easier, and Kallus didn't have to move each child into the crib. Once the cot clicked into place, Kallus pulled down some pillows and a blanket. He arranged them on the cot, and then carefully moved Gebbie onto it. He pulled the blanket onto the boy, and rubbed his head until he fell asleep.
The other children gradually came up to him, wanting to be held before their naps. Soon, the six of them were lined up on the cot, all huddled together. Kallus made sure they were tucked in before getting up and stretching. Sitting on the floor hunched over a datapad for so long hurt his back.
He quietly cleaned up the room, setting the boxes to the side. Although it would be nice to go out and do some more work with the rest of the base, he knew better than to leave six tiny children alone. The litter hated walking up by themselves, and would quickly escape to find their parents or friends. By themselves, they could get hurt. Of course, kids seemed to fall down or do risky things no matter how close a guardian was, but being watched over meant he could snatch up the kids if something was about to go wrong.
Plus, he'd be too worried about them to get anything done. Kallus laid down on the cot with them, deciding he might as well get some rest while they were all napping. He got under the blanket and was careful not to lie on any of them. Gradually, they shifted to be close to him and his body heat. He adjusted their blankets. Finally, he closed his eyes.
"Alex." Something nudged him. Kallus opened his eyes and could see Zeb staring down at him, crouched down. "Napping with the kids?"
While he'd dozed off, the six of them had crawled on top of him, and fallen back asleep. "You're done with the debriefing?"
"Mhmm. How were the little ones while I was gone?"
"They played all day and then when Gebandr fell asleep in my lap, they decided that they all needed to do that before being laid down." Zeb rubbed one of the kids' backs. She was sucking on her thumb, curled up on his chest. "I suppose I'm stuck here now until they wake up."
"They have a perfectly good crib they never use, you know."
Kallus could see the beginning of a smirk starting to form on Zeb's face. "...They prefer to sleep down here."
"No, you prefer to sleep with all of them on you. These guys will fall asleep wherever you put them."
It was true, though he didn't want to admit it. He just felt more relaxed if he had all of the kids with him while he slept, safer. When they were babies he'd insisted on letting them sleep between them, always worried about them and wanting to watch over them. The protective feeling hadn't gone away.
Zeb sat down next to him. He took Gebbie and moved him onto his lap. The toddler shifted, but stayed asleep. "You don't need to worry about them so much. They're tough. They survive with Ezra, don't they?"
Kallus eyed him. "Bridger has never looked after the kids by himself." He didn't trust Ezra to be capable of looking after himself, much less six kids. Hera had even said he wasn't that responsible, yet.
Zeb realized his mistake. "Well-"
"We rarely have to let Syndulla babysit. When has Bridger ever needed to?"
"Sometimes when I'm left with them I have to do something so I just leave them with him. They've never gotten hurt or anything. They like him!"
"Does he even know how to take care of them?"
"I told him how often to feed them. They're always hyper when I get them back, so I guess I should tell him to lay off on giving them only sweets."
"That's not healthy."