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So Goddamn Beautiful

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 1.

 

“My pee is blue.” Marko sounded odd. Hopeful. Sheepish. Awed.

 

“I said you should go easy on those hard candies. Don’t eat shit that’s older than you.”

 

“No. Alana. My pee.”

 

She looked up. He was framed by the bathroom light, making him look holy, like a figure out of the church storybooks she read as a kid. That’s how she knew it was big news. He wouldn’t leave a light on for that long otherwise, it could be a possible tell to the surveillance networks.

 

“What is it, baby? What does that mean?”

 

Marko smiled. Told her he was pregnant.

 

Years later, Alana would still regret that she’d never asked to see him pee blue. Turns out the effect only lasted for a day.

 

2.

 

The first time they fucked, it was astounding. It was even better than Alana’s dirty dreams of sex between fictional characters. She’d long since divided sex into the ideal (in books) and the far less spectacular reality. This was sex like A Night Time Smoke had promised her. Still, she hadn’t counted on her ideology and her orgasm being quite so magnificently co-dependent.

 

But it was the second time that made her sure about marrying him. They’d been eating fast food while sitting on overturned brico-trilnite canisters at midnight. Most of the day they’d been riding in the back of a cargo train like eager hobos, although they had quickly discovered that the screeching noise that the ancient gyros made on the rails meant that they couldn’t do much more than hold their hands over each other’s ears and smile ruefully.

 

But now they had this entire abandoned depot to themselves.

 

“Babe, I think it’s a garbage dump,” Alana told Marko, who was peeling the wrapper off his soya burger.

 

“Probably,” he replied. “Fuck yeah, real cheese. I think those empty hydro vats are the same make as some ones I’ve seen at home, which means we can camp in one tonight. Those things are laser-proof, and pretty warm.”

 

“You’ve spent the night in a hydro vat?”

 

“Yeaf.” Marko said with a mouthful of fries. He swallowed, and continued. “Wilderness training when I was a kid.”

 

Alana tried to picture him as a child. She went to have another bite of her burger, which she was fairly sure was made from at least 35% insect matter and remained delicious, proof that she was totally in love. Food literally tasted better around Marko.

 

She looked at him, and instead of saying that, she asked the question. “Are you one of the kinds who can get pregnant?”

 

Marko, who had been sucking grease off his fingers, looked up and smiled at her.

 

“You bet. I’m fully accessorized.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Does it bother you?”

 

She made herself smile fully. “No, I mean, of course not. I think it’s cool.”

 

He’d crawled over to her then and slowly pushed her knees apart. Laughing, she leaned back as far as she could – horns took up a lot of space no matter how ‘womanly’ your hips were – and finished her burger as Marko ate her out.

 

There were more firsts to try out; Alana wanted to feel Marko’s cock in her ass, her throat, her armpit, between her feet and hands and have him taste her everywhere. But it was fun to fuck without fearing for your life the whole time.

 

She thrust forward onto Marko’s face while her shoulders sagged in sheer joy, letting her hips rise and fall as they wanted.

 

“I want to do this every day. Baby! Baby!” Alana yelled it up to the skies.

 

When she’d come, Marko tipped his face up. Resting his chin lightly on her mound (a beard would suit him, she thought) his face glistened in the moonlight like an oily burger wrapper. “Alana, we can. We’re free now.”

 

 3. 

 

Alana had half-assumed they would be biologically incapable, even though she knew Marco had been fitted out with one of those implanted-womb arrangements. Her textbooks had said that many Wreath males suffered from genetic disorders that made male pregnancy possible and heavily hinted that it was related to inbreeding. The rumors that went around Landfall playgrounds and barracks gossip generally attributed it to some weird Wreath magic spell backfiring spectacularly against some horned wizard prick who suddenly found himself in the family way.

 

Marko had cleared it up for her. “They run us through a bunch of aptitude tests, from when you’re thirteen to sixteen – math, hand-eye co-ordination, color blindness,”

 

“Spell casting?”

 

He laughed. “We got drilled on that separately. Though it definitely adds to your score. Beyond being able to walk and breathe at once, which is enough to get you into the corps, if you pass a certain level you get deemed the right genetic stuff and they, uh…”

 

“Upgrade you to baby-baker?”

 

“Basically.”

 

“Damn.”

 

His shoulders hunched up in a shrug. Alana had been biting them to redness a few minutes ago. Marko had this capacity, this metaphysical absorbency, to take in all her sharpness and anger and turn it into something beautiful.

 

That didn’t mean she intended to knock him up. Far from it. In her mind, the surplus womb was just another Wreathian oddity that she didn’t have to understand, as long as Marko had a handle on it.

 

“Do you get periods?”

 

Marko laughed. “Nope.”

 

She thumped him on the arm. “So fucking spoiled.”

 

“Well, it wouldn’t do to have half your forces on their petal time in battle, would it?”

 

Alana stared at him for a second. Then she let rip. “What the fuck did you just call it? Petal fucking time? Any idea how many missions I flew when I was on the rag?”

 

Marko held up his hands. “Woah woah woah now! I can guess. I mean, my mother is one of the scariest warriors I know.”

 

Alana made a mighty wish then: that she’d never have to meet Marko’s mother.

 

 4.

 

“How the hell did you get pregnant with us doing it like this?”  Alana was screaming, which some small part of her brain told her was unwise.

 

Marko just kept on smiling. And now he tried to hug her. “Alana, we’re compatible, do you know what that means? What this baby represents?”

 

Fuck representation, she thought. Just fuck it. Wasn’t his cock in her cunt enough meaning and representation? Weren’t all the orgasms they burned through proof enough? She loved him, this stupid, happy, horned vegetarian pacifist big-dicked nutcase. He loved her back. They’d done the rings and confetti and cake thing.

 

Marko was holding her now, and Alana was pissed off to discover she’d started crying in lieu of screaming. He said, “Baby, it will be alright. Our child will be beautiful. We made them, after all. Anything that’s 50% you will be unbelievably beautiful.”

 

5.

 

Warehouse #E312 held Cleave’s second biggest non-military wholesaler’s surplus stock of Ethra-Dop, a flour substitute made from by-products of the artificial hoof industry. Every surface was gritty with granules of it, including Alana and Marko’s bodies as they were hammering away towards some quite stupendous orgasms. For newlyweds, they hadn’t actually been getting busy all that much, but it had been an exhausting day.

 

They say the first year of marriage is the hardest. The first ten days had turned out to be an utter bitch, and Alana knew from utter bitches.

 

In the fifth biggest city in Cleave, so significant an area that it didn’t even have a proper name but went by CL-Outpost-4*8, was a three-layered shopping center. The locals called it Rank and File. It stank of acetone. There were more manicure, pedicure, and claw-maintenance joints in Rank and File per capita than anywhere else in the known universe, as well as a few escort agencies, illegal casinos, and black market outposts. Marko and Alana had come to find the latter, although Alana wasn’t averse to having her nails done at the same time.

 

Marko had wanted to sell his plasma. An argument had ensued about it en route to Rank and File, where he’d offered a compromise – he could sell his semen instead.

 

“No. Fucking, no, just, no. No.”

 

“Babe, it’s not about me, it’s about us.”

 

“And your semen is our mutual concern. I am not leasing out your balls.”

 

When grains of Ethra-Dop meet sweat, they swell up and soften. Pinkish dots of the stuff spread over Alana’s back like a star map. They were sprinkled over her breasts and Marko rubbed her nipples in hard circles, making her bite her tongue and barely notice the pain over the sweetness.

 

They’d come back from the market worn out and no richer. Alana had picked a fight about something stupid involving a Wreath superstition “that one of your charlatan wizard woo-woo gurus made up.”

 

Marko did this thing to her when they argued. Took her wrists so quickly that for a second she was reminded that he’d been a helluva fighter before this hippy peacenik stuff started, and stroked them so gently. It should have enraged her. Instead it went right to her clit.

 

They staggered around for some time, embracing and de-robing and not able to verbalise whether they were going to aim for the bed or not.

 

With an “Oof,” and an “Oh, fuck it” Alana knelt down on the warehouse floor. Ethra-Dop had spilled all over and it was rough on her knees, but then Marko was behind her and pushing her underwear down just enough to fit his cock in. He was panting loudly, but not talking, which meant he was going to take it slowly.

 

“Come the hell on. Fuck me with that gorgeous dick already,” Alana liked to try and speed him up when he was on his slow jam kick. He didn’t reply, just grabbed a big handful of her ass and squeezed it deliberately. She stuck one of her hands between her legs and ground her clit. Then Marko’s hand was on hers, his fingers reaching in to open her and oh. Oh, slow was good, slow was great. Her wings twitched with pleasure.

 

Marko whispered, “I won’t ever get enough of you.”

 

“Baby.” She breathed it out as he was deep in her. The last of her anxiety snapped and gave and she could feel them fit together from her throat through her belly to the base of her spine.

 

In a mirror-shiny machinery shaft their reflections pounded it out. Both of them were transfixed by the way their skin, their hair, their horns, their wings, combined. Alana had yet to work out if Marko had any weak points, any joint issues; they both made everything fit so smoothly.

 

They were two broke fugitives stuck on Cleave bringing dishonour to their families, sure, but they looked damn fine doing it.

 

Alana wasn’t even coming yet, and she was gushing, dripping on the dirty floor. Marko pulled his fingers out of her to lick them, and then licked her neck, shifting angles. She crouched back and growled, too far out of it to recognise the ache in her back and fever-heat and those other tell-tale signs that her hormones were primed for fertility.

 

“Harder, Marko, more!”

 

Marko sped up, but she was already coming. With Alana shaking under him it was all he could do to keep his balance. She was talking more now, a looping list of commands: “Marko please, come in me, shoot it in my twat, come hard, I want to feel you, I’m so hot, look at us, baby…”

 

That was the moment Alana impregnated her husband.

 

6.

 

She’d imagined it. As soon as he’d confirmed that he had one of those homme-wombs, the pictures had started appearing in her head. His hard abs, softened with the bloom of pregnancy, and oh god, she never knew she had that kind of a feeling inside her.

 

There were all these parts of her that she had never discovered before. After the bombs fell from her ship’s hold, Alana had felt empty. Could it be that this, this stuff crawling up from her belly to her throat via her heart, was there all along?

 

Watching Marko start to take shape turned out to be really cool. She’d never had a thing for pot bellies until she could scoop both her hands around his.

 

Feeling it fit into the curve of her back as she kneeled in front of him, Marko sitting back against the bed head for spinal support, his horns scraping against the wall and his thumbs gripping her hipbones. Alana found herself slapping her neck and chest as a reminder to keep breathing.

 

“Like that baby, sit that perfect ass down on me,” Marko said.

 

“I, uh, huh, am, hah, sitting, on your fantastic, oh, thick, wonderful, cock.”

 

She was a bit tipsy on the champagne she’d decided was appropriate for celebrating the six-month mark. Marko had toasted her back with fennel tea. The pregnancy clichés were right on the money about some things. He was glowing.

 

She had her legs squashed on either side of his, her feet curling up behind him, and she just let her body sink down around him. Marko was trying to urge her to move quicker, but to hell with that. This was Alana’s slow jam. With hooded eyes she gazed up to the ceiling. Mindlessly, her hands rubbed over her breasts and then fitted over Marko’s fingers. His hands were so big, she thought through the champagne buzz, and so was his beautiful belly.

 

“You’re carrying life.” Alana was awestruck.

 

Marko said something back, but Alana was caught up in her own drunken epiphany. He was literally growing a new person back there. She wriggled into the belly’s comforting firmness. He had the baby all safe in here, and she was all safe here, and she wouldn’t be getting any extra stretch marks. Contentedly, she bounced on his cock. Squeezed him tight. Wondered if she could convince him to give breast-feeding a go. That would be hot.

 

“Alana, I’m not equipped to breastfeed.”

 

“Shh, sweetie, I’m almost there.”

 

“Ah. OK, I’ll breast feed. My tits will be so big, and wet.”

 

Alana closed her eyes and replied, “So wet. So lush. All for me.” She leaned forward, more confident of her balance now, resting her hands on Marko’s shins as she moved in little circles, Marko’s hands stroking down her back, his stomach pressed close to her.

 

“I’ll do anything for you.”

 

Alana grunted and came ferociously. She could feel the slickness spread between where Marko and her were wedged together. Bones softened, she flopped down with her forehead between Marko’s knees, letting him slip out of her.

 

Marko jiggled a leg under her. “Alana? Honey? If it’s OK I’d like to come over your ass?”

 

She waved a hand back at him. “Be my guest.”

 

The sticky heat criss-crossed over her skin. It was nice, though she’d had a plan to suck him off. Maybe in the morning.

 

The leg jiggled again. “Sorry to keep you awake, but your pregnant partner would like you to move off of his balls now.”

 

“Fussy.”

 

“And get us a towel.”

 

“Demanding.”

 

On wobbly legs, she managed to get up and headed towards the bathroom for a towel. Calling back to the bed, she asked, “You want another cup of that nasty-ass tea?”

 

“You are the best wife ever.”

 

“Hell yes I am.”

 

7.

 

“We need to get one of your charlatan woo-woo wizards, Marko! I can’t deliver a child!”

 

“Baby, Alana, yes you can. You can. I’ll talk you through it.”

 

They’d talked through it a hundred times. Marko had received emergency birthing training as part of basic field medicine, which had initially made Alana sceptical.  “Marko, how many goddamn babies does Wreath expect to be born on battlefields?”

 

“My best friend was born in a refugee camp that was under fire at the time.”

 

“Well. Shit. But does that include presiding over your own birth?”

 

Marko remained calm. “We did a half-day on it. I feel prepped.”

 

Alana wasn’t exactly sure how good Marko was at magic. She suspected “very”, and that made her proud, but she had no capacity for understanding just how competent she’d be in a magic-casting event.

 

But now it was happening, one hundred per cent for real and with no take-backs. They were in the garage, and Alana had immediately looked to secure the perimeter while Marko had hitched himself up on to a trolley-thing. For a moment his face fell, the sheer effort of moving taking its toll. Alana indulged in another freak-out. She was being a lousy protector.

 

She stuffed an extra cushion under his back. Marko took her hand. “I believe in you, Alana. Remember the moment you shot my chain to pieces?”

 

Alana stopped her voice from shaking. “That thing had a laser.”

 

“We’re definitely not using a laser. Remember the order of the implements?”

 

Somehow she did. And just like they’d practiced, she got them ready for Marko’s spell.

 

 8. 

 

It took Marko getting a bun in his oven for Alana to start using her strategy training more effectively. They’d previously been getting by on powered eggs, the mud-tasting brew that Cleave had instead of good, honest coffee, and each other’s genitalia. But now one of them was eating for two and Alana was going to make sure that he got all his nutrients. While she would look after the booze intake.

 

Cleave wasn’t a five-star restaurant kinda joint. But the hypermarts that existed mainly got their supplies from the usual inter-planet delivery routes. Alana got herself all the necessary star maps and worked out when the ship with the best produce would land. Using a fabricator at a seedy printing shop that didn’t ask any questions, she worked up some fake I.D. and presented herself to the selected delivery ships as the new hygiene inspector. Top-quality, organic produce would only ever be shipped to a shitbucket planet like Cleave if it was a front for some black market substance, and it turned out that the pilots of the ships were more than happy to pay Alana off in unmarked bills to avoid inspection. As she left the flight deck she’d casually remark that the kale looked good, and the loser pilot (usually stoned to the gills on whatever stuff was being secretly stored in the holds) would tell her to take as much of it as she liked.

 

Marko went through his pregnancy eating a lot of kale frittatas.

 

9.

 

“Did you ever want to be pregnant?” Alana asked him in bed. She’d been rubbing some cocoa butter she’d bought at Rank and File into his belly skin. The point had been to stop him from getting stretch marks, though mostly she kept doing it because it turned her on.

 

Marko frowned and didn’t answer immediately. Suddenly Alana was scared. Then his brow unknit, and he turned to her. “I was thinking about how much I’d never understood about my Dad having me. He always made it sound like it was the best experience of his life. I didn’t get it. Then I met you. Secret Bookclub, chapter four: that was when I wanted to have your babies.”

 

Alana wound the lid back on to the cocoa butter jar. “That is one way to get yourself a blowjob, Papa.”

 

10.

 

“Get the knife ready.”

 

Marko was sweat-soaked and panting, he looked like he’d swallowed a bowling ball, and he still appeared more calm than Alana felt. At firstshe’d been kind of relieved that the baby would be delivered Caesarean-style. (“How did you think we had them?” “There are like a ton of bad Landfall jokes about it.”)

 

She wasn’t angry right then. That was what Alana would remember. Shit-scared, frazzled, her senses on alert like she was in a firestorm – but the fury she was so used to was gone. There had been no place for it there. She didn’t have any rage in her heart when she met her daughter.

 

Her husband was here, and he needed her. That had been enough for her to get the knife out of the sterilizer. Marko had promised her his magic was enough for pain relief and safety: “It’s the best, most important spell in Wreath. We’ll be good.”

 

This particular knife had been essential to the spell. It was one of the most alien things Alana had ever seen up close. Made of something’s bone, it had blue threads running through it that seemed to flicker. Sitting in her hand it felt like it was throbbing, though that could have been Alana’s heartbeat. The edge had felt dull when she’d dared to touch it earlier, but now Marko was saying the words and she could feel the knife activate somehow, sharpening before her eyes.

 

Marko’s spell ended. He looked at her with a small nod. This was her part.

 

Alana let her heart shudder to a stop and cut into him.

  

 11.

 

Running her hands over the tight drum of Marko’s belly, Alana pressed her thighs together. She’d woken up like this, wanting, already turned on in her sleep. They slept even closer to each other now. Her fingers trailed up to the sensitive peaks of his chest. His flesh wasn’t much softer here, but his nipples had grown wider and darker.

 

“Mmmfmmm, Alana.” And he was awake. She twisted each nipple slowly, letting her nails dig in. Marko pushed and pulled in her arms like a bucking horse.

 

She wrapped his hips in her legs, letting him feel how wet she was. Stroking herself, she took her slicked fingers and drew lines up his inner thighs. Rubbed her face against the furrows of his horn and whispered in his ear, “Anything you want?”

 

His face creased in a smile. “Your hands. You – in me.”

 

It wasn’t quite enough for Alana. She said, “Say it my way.”

 

Marko inhaled. “Fuck me with your fingers, I’m a total slut for you.”

 

“That’s better, baby.” She bit his ear and stuck her fingers deep inside her. “Leg up.”

 

Marko murmured and pulled his knee up as far as he could get around his stomach. She slid her thumb along his taint and then circled one wet finger around his hole. The furl of muscle was tentative, but Marko made pleading noises and she pressed in softly. It tickled her every time. How open he was even when half-asleep. How vulnerable in her hands. She kissed him wetly where her fingers were poised, all rubbing and getting him wetter to ease the traction.

 

She pressed her finger in up to the second knuckle. Got her mouth down there again, dribbling as she massaged him with her whole hand. Had the other hand rubbing herself, but she was getting too close, and moved it around to stroke Marko’s cock with the firm grip and little swipe at the top he liked.

 

He was making all kinds of sounds into his pillow now. Alana would have liked to see his face, but she was busy. A pregnant Marko was a whole lot of Marko, and she had to guide him as carefully as she used to get missiles in line.

 

She slid her second finger in. He was so hot inside. So twitchy with it, too.

 

“Don’t kick yourself in the face, hon.”

 

Grrrrghn.” Marko replied with a mouthful of pillow.

 

She held his cock as he bucked his hips while she worked her own magic, not giving him any more than he could take.

 

When she felt that he was on the precipice, she moved to straddle his lower leg, grinding down on to his firm thigh. Marko gasped, coming all over the underside of his belly. Alana wrestled her hand out from under him, leaving the other hand still a little inside him, and pressed her thumb on her clit in rough swipes. She let herself lose control for a few white-hot seconds.

When she came back to herself Marko was trying to roll over onto his back. She scooted over and let him. He opened his eyes wide. “Whew.”

 

“Good morning to you too.”

 

 12.

 

The day after Marko’s pee turned blue, Alana woke up first. This was unheard of – Marko was the morning person, Alana was generally non-verbal until midday – but her husband was zonked out. Probably the rush of emotions, she figured, taking her time to stare at him as he slept. And the artificial hormones that had lain dormant and had somehow been activated around the time they got busy on a concrete floor in Cleave.

 

She sat on an upturned crate and leaned her elbows on the jerry-rigged desk Marko had made for her to read on. He always did that, wherever they went, made her a spot for reading.

 

Last night he’d explained some more of it to her. “They don’t tell us much about the science of male pregnancy. Just that it’s far less likely to happen. It’s intended that our internal birth control will prevent it until medical intervention.”

 

Alana raised her hand. “Like how? You leave the military and shack up with some perfect horned homemaker and take a pill then, whammo? Fresh stock?”

 

“More or less. But there’re stories of guys getting knocked up in the service. When they’ve bonded really closely with someone genetically suitable, their bodies sort of override the system. It’s rare. Incredibly so.”

 

“Marko, I still don’t get it.”

 

He took her hand. “Baby, we’re built for each other. Our bodies know it. We know it. That’s how this baby came to be.”

 

The words came to her slower and harder than usual: Dear Marko. I can’t do this.

 

She gripped the pen in her fist. It wouldn’t be the first goodbye letter she’d ever written.

 

The only paper she had to hand was the receipt for the manicure she’d got at Rank and File. Marko had been off swapping her contraband radio for a fake set of credit swappers. She’d just got a simple shape and polish from a manicurist from Demimonde who had served her and two other customers at once, while using her last set of legs to calculate and print off receipts. The Demimondian had been nice to her, even while multitasking. Alana found that it was easy enough to work out what set of eyes to look into while they chatted about nothing. Both of them ignored the subtext of their conversation, which was: How does a smart woman like you end up in a place like this?

 

Midway through her left hand, the Demimondian tapped Alana’s wedding ring. “You’re hitched? Get a nice one?”

 

Alana smiled, and felt some of the tension ebb out of her shoulders. She didn’t like having Marko out of her sight for long. The world was too cruel.

 

“He’s a great one. I got ridiculously lucky. And unlucky, at the same time.”

 

The manicurist clucked her long tongue in sympathy. “I don’t know exactly what you mean, but I totally, totally get you.”

 

“You have someone?”

“Sort of. A twin sister, actually. She’s a freelancer. Can you believe it? All these years, I was the bad girl in the family, then we grow up and I become almost respectable and she – I don’t know. How does it happen, that a good kid goes bad?”

 

Alana was still thinking about what the manicurist said when she’d woken up and looked at Marko. She thought about it sitting at his dinky desk, considering for the first time if she should leave him. If their baby could end up turning bad, because of her. Fifty percent her. Those weren’t odds she’d wish on her worst enemy.

 

A noise came from the bed as Marko stretched out his arms for her in his sleep. She watched as he didn’t find her, snuffled into a pillow, and folded into a half-moon, protecting their baby. A beat passed, and she felt so much love and fear all at once that her hands started to shake. Marko farted and slept on.

 

Alana threw the receipt away.