"You stupid, fucking piece of expired vegetation! You silly bugger of a bee-begotten bastard and a cross between glued wood chips and a doornail!" Neroon swore, limped to the next chair and slumped down on it. Carefully he pealed the trouser leg from his smarting shin to assess the damage. He wrinkled his nose when he saw the blood flowing freely from a long gash. Ugly, that would require a physician. "Stumbling oaf of an imbecile," he muttered, cursing himself and his lacking prowess to navigate the unlit, yet familiar bedroom.
A physician. Maybe his unconscious had wanted to tell him something. He should have seen a healer... weeks ago? Had it already been three weeks? It seemed his procrastinating was even more successful than intended.
He had forgotten, well, forgotten on purpose. And of course, he had avoided thinking about it, had put it into the back of his mind every time it had reared the tentative suggestion, had ignored it and most of the time had managed to successfully suppress any worrying thoughts. But now, because of a stupid accident, he had to go to the healer. Now he would have to do what he had put off for quite a time.
He would gain certainty.
* * *
The healer smiled indulgently while he fastened the adhesive bandage over the closed wound. "There you are, Neroon. Otherwise, you know the drill: keep the leg elevated and the wound dry for the next 48 hours. Then meet me again and we'll take a look at it. It should be fine by then."
"Thank you, Marah." Neroon sat up on the med bed but made no move to leave. He was almost certain that his healer wasn't finished with him yet. With forcefully steadied hands he gingerly smoothed the trouser leg down over the bandage, waiting.
"You are welcome. - Do you have one more moment for me? I'd like to discuss something else with you."
"Of course." His heart was fluttering in his chest and he looked down in trepidation. He wasn't sure how to feel once he really heard the confirming - or refuting - words.
"Don't worry, Shlect." Marah placed a reassuring hand on his arm. "It is good news I have for you, Neroon. Are you aware that you are pregnant?" His physician practically glowed with pride at being the bearer of such wonderful news. He probably was more elated about this than Neroon felt himself.
He was with child!
Slowly, tingling happiness infused him and he felt a slight smile curve his lips. "I was aware of the possibility. But since I didn't experience any symptoms so far, I wasn't sure that I had conceived."
"It's still quite early to experience any effects. You are only in the...
"...third week, I know…"
"… second week?" Marah quickly interjected with an inquiring note.
Of course, Marah knew; knew very well that Neroon had gotten pregnant before the marriage and Marah just had offered a possibility to give the appearance as if Neroon had been lucky to get pregnant quite soon after the marriage.
Neroon inclined his head in acceptance of the small adjustment of the truth, "Of course, second week."
"To be borne one week `early' won't make any difference for the child; but for the fathers... I guess this wasn't planned?"
Duh, who's been given me the contraception? Neroon refrained from the childish behaviour to stick out his tongue. "No. And I'd rather have it later than right now. But since it is a child of love, I'm quite content. And Marcus will be... unbearable in his happiness."
"Shall I inform the clan of the fortunate news?"
"You will do no such thing!" Neroon was horrified at the idea and scowled at the family physician.
There was too much at stake and he had to plan carefully until he revealed the fact. He had at least time until he showed, which would be in about two months. Merely two months to settle everything. And even then, he would be reprimanded that he hadn't gone into seclusion at once.
And he had to make sure that the true date of conception wouldn't come to the fore or he would be the scandal of the year and be on the tabloids for weeks, months! It would be all over the galaxy. The horror, the disgrace, the humility! He shuddered. He didn't want to become a second Delenn!
"My mate deserves to be the first to know of my condition. And we will inform the clan ourselves." Well, that was at least a small attempt at being diplomatic towards Marah, even if it came out with a barely concealed sigh.
"Of course, Neroon. But you don't seem to be too happy with the news?"
"Would you with this squabbling among the Warrior Caste? I don't even want to imagine what will happen if I'm gone for about half a year."
"I can see your concern. But don't worry too much. It's neither good for you nor for your child. And you might want to drink some Vikra tea to level the hormonal changes."
Right. It was totally easy, not to worry about Minbar's future. Neroon mentally snorted. And he hated Vikra tea. If he hadn't experienced morning sickness so far, he sure would be sick after this... brew.
"Any questions so far?"
Neroon shook his head. As long as he wasn't feeling any ill effects, he would just ignore his state and he would conduct business as before. He had no time to indulge in unnecessary worries of a mere pregnancy! The internal peace of Minbar was still at stake. He had time to be pregnant later.
Valen! He really didn't need this child exactly right now. Despite wanting it just as much as Marcus.
Fate really could conduct the most unfortunate timings.
"Fine. I'll see you in two days and we'll have a more detailed talk. Maybe even together with your husband?"
"I'm sure Marcus wants to come." There was no chance he would be able to keep Marcus away.
* * *
He caught himself fiddling with the napkin again and tossed it out of reach in annoyance. It already looked crumpled enough without further harassment.
He felt queasy. And he was quite adamant that it hadn't anything to do with the child growing inside him but with his still ambivalent feelings.
And he was nervous of telling Marcus.
`What's taking you so long? You said you'd be here by 2000 for dinner and now it's... 2005.' Five minutes late! Didn't his husband know that every second waiting was torture? Three hundred seconds of torture! Did Marcus know what he was doing to him? And the child! Maybe he should drink some of this... brew Marah had suggested. His nerves were surely frayed and the child would benefit from it. And he was already feeling sick anyway. No more harm possible.
"Ferell!" he hollered. And instantly flinched at his tone.
He took a deep breath and rubbed his temple. Tension headache. Just another inconvenience he didn't need. Maybe the tea would help with that, too?
"Shai Alyt, what can I do for you?" Icy politeness; not that his unwarranted kind of summoning had earned anything else.
"Ferell," he sighed apologetically, "Would you bring me some…" he had to swallow hard, "Vikra tea?"
"Vikra tea?" Neroon didn't need to see Ferrell’s face, he could explicitly hear the frown. She was long enough with him to know he didn't favour this tea blend. He wasn't even sure if she had some on hand.
"Of course. Are you well, Shai Alyt?" Of course, she just had to ask, Neroon thought exasperated.
"Doctor's orders. To quiet my mind and improve my `sunny disposition'. I think I just have proven his point." Somehow, he wished to tell her. A smile stole across his lips as he thought about her reaction to the news. But Marcus still deserved to be the first to know.
"I see." This woman's voice was far too telling, there was a smirk this time. "Just one moment."
And it really took only a moment for Ferell to return with a pot of the… beverage. He briefly wondered if Ferell had just made the pot for herself since there hadn't been enough time to have prepared a fresh one.
Usually the smell alone made his stomach roil. Well, it didn't make him sick when Ferell poured him some of the pale green liquid in one of the translucent tea bowls.
When he sipped carefully, he was surprised at the tolerable taste. No added sickness. In contrary, the warm liquid settled pleasantly in his stomach.
"I allowed myself to add some Senk'ai juice. I hope it is to your satisfaction."
"Yes, surprisingly so. Thank you." He kept the delicate cup in his hands, cherishing the heat emanating from the porcelain.
The door chime sounded.
Ferell made no move to open the door.
In his dithery anticipation, he almost jumped from the chair to rush and open the door himself.
"This will be Anla… Marcus, I heard is flyer arrive," Ferell commented at Neroon's questing frown.
"He's got a key card, for heaven's sake!"
"He keeps forgetting."
"Then why don't you open him the door!" Neroon demanded, getting up himself and hobbling over to the entrance.
"He'll remember when nobody opens."
And true to her word, he heard the door, followed by steps and…
"Honey, I'm home!"
And, yes, unmistakeably Marcus' annoying `Honey, I'm home.'
"You are limping," was Marcus first remark when Neroon stepped into the entrance hall.
"You are late," he countered.
"Violent but short love affair with the chest in our bedroom."
"Was it any good? You should have told me you like it rough. - Come here." And Marcus drew him in for a kiss. Their lips first met tentatively, always careful searching after a long time of absence. Marcus lips were smooth and warm and his soft beard tickled slightly. Willingly he opened his mouth, when a teasing tongue quested for entrance and soon Neroon felt some of his tenseness leave and he consciously relaxed even more against Marcus' firm frame. Marcus' presence already calmed his nerves considerably.
"Good to be home."
Marcus kept him in a tight embrace, broadly stroking his back. Maybe Marcus had felt the tightness in his back and tried to sooth it away. Or not. But it definitely had a welcome effect.
"How bad is your leg?"
"Let me phrase it like this: there will be a quite unnecessary and ridiculous addition in my collection of scars."
"Ouch. When did this happen? It must be recent."
"Just this morning."
"And you should sit down again because of the skin graft," Ferell intervened and shooed them towards the dining room.
Valen! She was already mothering him and didn't even know he was pregnant. Neroon wasn't sure if he would be able to bear two insufferable people at the same time. With a roll of his eyes he let himself be lead into the private dining room.
And although he hardly needed the support, Marcus' arm felt good around his waist. Protecting, caring. He had never felt like this about Marcus' touch. Desire, contentment, yes, but feeling protected?
"Ooh, Vikra tea! I thought you don't drink it?" Marcus poured himself a cup.
"Usually I don't."
Still standing, Marcus cradled the cup in his hands and took a sip. And grimaced. "Ugh! You mangled the taste with… whatever."
"Senk'ai juice. It takes away some of the gallic taste."
"You mean the exquisite tart flavour."
"Please, Marcus, take a seat." Having Marcus standing around made Neroon nervous again. And he certainly couldn't approach the topic of his pregnancy like this!
"Sure, I was just quite thirsty." Marcus slumped into the other chair, cup still in hand. He took another swallow from the tea, then caught Neroon's hand with a wide smile.
"I have expected you to arrive earlier." Small talk, small talk was a good way to get started.
"Sorry, the traffic."
"There usually isn't much traffic on the way here from the headquarters."
"Not on Minbar. The jumpgate! We were already two hours behind schedule because some Drasi merchant decided Minbar's main gate was a good opportunity to test his insurance and blew up his engines. They had to redirect all traffic through the other gate. You can imagine the resulting traffic chaos. Didn't you hear?"
"I don't habitually listen to the traffic news when at home."
"Is something the matter? You are a little tight-lipped." Marcus brow was furrowed and he had tilted his head this tiny little bit like when he was concerned. "And then there is the tea…?"
Marcus' thumb brushed soothingly, encouragingly over the back of his hand.
Maybe if he applied the typical Marcus Method by just blurting it out?
"I'm with child."
Say something, Marcus?
"You mean, like when we… before the wedding? You are pregnant? Really pregnant?" The pleading hope in Marcus' eyes was heart wrenching and made Neroon's eyes burn inappropriately and he had to blink. He nodded in answer to Marcus' question.
"I'm so happy!... I'm sorry… You make me sooo happy. And I know it is my fault… but I'm still happy, you can't imagine how happy you make me. Am'sheal, my heart… forgive me? Thank you for this. Oh, my… I would marry you all over again." Marcus stammered between kisses applied to his hands, grinning like mad, all gleaming eyes and mouth and flushed skin.
Alone that vision would be worth everything. Sickness, swollen ankles, irate clan elders and sleepless nights included.
"Breathe, Marcus," Neroon laughed and tugged at the hands of his husband to get him closer. "And don't apologize. I'm quite content to bear your child... our child."
"Our child… I still can't believe it." Marcus leaned down and slung his arms around Neroon's neck, squeezing him gently, and Neroon returned the embrace, a little less restrained.
* * *
Marcus mumbled something into his beard but Neroon could only make out `Delenn'. "Did you have to say something?"
"Delenn didn't go into seclusion!" Petulant and challenging. The Pout and puppy eyes. Marcus was resorting to unfair methods now that their discussion of the pregnancy had progressed from being insanely happy to mundane logistics.
"Delenn is Delenn. She started a war, became half Human, broke the Grey Council and is Entzil'zha. Usual rules don't apply to her." And showing off her pregnancy like this!
"You survived Denn'sha and the Starfire. I don't think normal rules apply to you either."
He sighed heavily. Marcus was right. He had already circumvented so many rules that one more wouldn't matter. Everybody was expecting the unexpected from him.
"Marcus..." Neroon started forcefully, only to falter after addressing his mate. "I'm... Did it occur to you that I might be a tad insecure? This is my first child, my first pregnancy. I'm hesitant to sport it proudly in public. I'm not like Delenn," he said testily in his own insecurity. "I'm ashamed of..."
Marcus had narrowed his eyes and was opening his mouth, when Neroon realized what he had said and had not wanted to imply.
"Don't Marcus! I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like this. Showing pregnancy openly, is like walking nude into a board meeting. It's unthinkable."
Marcus groaned and rolled his eyes. "Great, I have to be married to a Minbari who is even more of a blushing maiden than myself. Maybe we should spend a month on Earth where you will daily see pregnant women `sporting their bellies'. It's a very natural condition, nothing to be ashamed of. I'm not ashamed of you. I'm proud. Proud of you, proud of being a father. We are going to be fathers!" The delight and happiness in Marcus' face was infectious and when Marcus even hugged him tightly and probably would have swung him around if he weren't too heavy, Neroon felt his own delight about his condition return. Which also had something to do with the fact to have escaped the indignity to be whirled around. Marcus could do that with their child all he wanted. He preferred to get dizzy through different methods.
"I really don't understand why. It's not an abominable, disfiguring illness that needs to be concealed. It is a joyous event to be celebrated. To be cherished. You don't become an invalid only because your belly is growing. And as far as I have informed myself about male Minbari pregnancies, there are no more inhibitions than for females. Which means you can still work if you feel like it. I don't see the need to handle somebody who's pregnant like they suddenly had become brainless and as fragile as glass."
"Have you suddenly become the expert on pregnancy?" As if Marcus would ever know what it was like to be pregnant. The impudence!
"No. But I have dealt with enough pregnant women in my life to know that they might be inhibited in certain physical activities but otherwise they function just fine. Well, if you ignore the occasional emotional outbreak."
"What are you implying?" Neroon snarled.
"See, it already started. Usually you don't get annoyed but just shoot back as good as you get."
"Marcus, my patience has been running thin all day and your conduct isn't really helping the matter!"
"Just admit it, you are irritable."
"I'm NOT irritable. I'm merely… disagreeable?"
Marcus grinned broadly and Neroon couldn't help but huff a laugh.
"Come here for a hug."
Usually Neroon wouldn't have felt the need to dive into Marcus' outstretched arms but now he accepted the warm embrace with relief. Hormones. Definitely hormones.
"How are you feeling now?"
Neroon scowled. "Fine. Just... normal." More or less.
"Normal, huh?" Marcus grinned. But in his gaze Neroon detected fondness instead of a teasing glint.
"I'm pregnant, as you just pointed out, not ill. I feel fine and at the moment my body has not yet informed me about the unpleasantries of being with child," Neroon insisted stubbornly, not admitting that there definitely was some effect to be felt already.
"One wouldn't be able to tell that you are with child," Marcus suddenly stated out of no-where, stroking a finger down Neroon's cheek.
"It's only been three weeks, Marcus. What do you expect? That I would already be smarting under a belly the size of Minbar's smaller moon? Get realistic, husband of mine. You'll experience the amenities of having a pregnant mate soon enough."
"Negligible. We are fathers! We'll have a baby!"
Marcus again embraced him tightly, holding Neroon in a warm and secure embrace, kissing him tenderly.
When they parted, Neroon saw the deep and jumbled emotions in Marcus' eyes, saw a tear glistening on his beloved's cheek, again saw the broad smile.
Decorum be damned! He had always wanted a child, there was the opportunity and he certainly wasn't getting any younger. So there.
Neroon released a deep breath, rubbed his nose along Marcus' and closed his eyes. Only one thought was in his mind: alright.
It was a feeling he could trust. He had felt the same certainty a few times in his life already, and each one had turned out true according to his convictions.
* * *
"Where did you put the hydrospanner"
"I wasn't the last one to use it. You had it yesterday."
"I put it on the table in the hall. But it isn't there! You must have had it after me."
"I did not."
"Boys! Could you stop quarrelling across two storeys. I'm trying to greet your father with a passionate kiss and your shouting is quite distracting," Marcus called in the direction of the disembodied voices. But there was no anger behind his words only helpless amusement. After all, they were used to the commotion of their two teenage sons by now.
Just as mirthful, two voices answered Marcus' request with a, "Sure, dad," followed by noisy stomping on the stairs and then by the muffled continuation of another and probably equally pointless argument.
No longer able to suppress his own laughter Neroon joined in his mala's merriment and together they silently laughed. To imagine he once had been more than worried about having even one child!