His usual brocade coat had given way to loose robes. Somehow, he managed to even make even maternity wear elegant. Ungirded, unguarded, the layers of white gilded cloth flowed over him in waves. He came into every room looking like he was ready for a ballroom. Khura'in had already accepted Nahyuta as some 'gift of the Holy Mother' but the rest of the world wasn't quite so welcoming.
"Come on, rest for a bit. You've got to be exhausted. I've been reading maternity blogs and books to figure out what symptoms I'm supposed to be faking, and they sound brutal."
Nahyuta made no protest, and climbed under the blanket. The bed was queen sized, but he required so much space trying to get comfortable, Ema had daydreams of upgrading to a king. The covers were filled with down, weighed down and heavy. But climbing under them with Nahyuta beat back the cold.
Ga'ran had kept Khura'in behind in many ways: technologically, and most of all the heating infrastructure was supremely lacking.
But from her window, she could see the white-capped mountains, and under the covers was the love of her life, pregnant with her child. Ema could take a little chilliness and poor wifi for this.
Ema poked her fake pregnant belly. "A shame it doesn't have a pocket inside. This would be great for hiding snacks in."
Nahyuta smiled. "You always think with your stomach."
Ema puffed out her cheeks. "I'm just saying, it would be handy, is all!"
Still, she was glad to undo the buttons of her shirt. Her usual favorite green, more form-fitting ones had given to loose blouses that were dark enough to mask any incongruities in her fake pregnant belly. She rubbed her back as the facade was finally set away. It ached enough just carrying that around. Ema could only imagine how much it would hurt to carry the actual extra weight of a growing fetus.
She pulled on a old comfortable light green t-shirt, faded from wash that said Scientists Do It Repeatedly. The sleeves drooped, from her habit of constantly tugging them down.
She closed the view of mountains with thick thermal drapes, dark with faint butterflies across them. It turned her room to shadows. Hid away her laptop, the desk at the corner, her bookcase--half mysteries, half textbooks she couldn't bring herself to throw away after finally passing. Now they came in handy to teach the new recruits.
She settled down near Nahyuta. She slowly undid the laces at the front of Nahyuta's robes and let them fall free. Binding had grown uncomfortable. Before, his breasts had been small and pert, and easily hidden behind the smooth lines of his coat. But now, they'd grown a full cup size.
His robes parted at his prominent stomach.
Ema only knew of pregnancy from textbooks. Even more, the scope of pregnancy was so often only regulated to cisgender people--and heterosexual ones at that. It was only a few articles from LGBT (and other letters--she always forgot them, as several new ones had been added since she came out) organizations. Even then, those families didn't resemble them. She and Nahyuta defied any semblance of labels. Depending on the day, and how Nahyuta identified--shifted--they could be seen as lesbian, straight, or something else entirely that had no name or form. The closest she'd found was queer.
They were a new frontier. Ema woke up every day wanting to write paper after paper. There was so much raw data to compile. But all her figures were hidden away. Not while he was Prince Regent. Not while the country relied on him.
Maybe one day she could publish it anonymously.
Lana had been understanding; some other people she had worked with had not been. But Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth had stood up for her, and for all their rules and regulations, Khura'in scriptures were surprisingly progressive in many ways. Ema was still unwaveringly atheist, or at least agnostic and waiting for actual proof of such claims, but she was glad to live in a world where she had one less thing to worry about.
(And Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth's support was no coincidence. On a trip back, she found a rainbow flag on his desk, and many tales about his engagement to the defense lawyer. So much for never marrying. She was still waiting for the day when that invitation would come in the mail. She was sure Phoenix wouldn't forget her and Apollo.)
"It isn't too hard on you, is it? No dysphoria?" The word felt sour in her mouth. Even the thought brought up painful memories.
"Both masculine and feminine reside within me. Which one presents itself is a mystery--a gift from the Holy Mother."
She rested her palm against his stomach. Her mind mentally relegated stats. She'd gotten a white board and marked up each week. The baby is the size of a bean now. Now they're the size of an orange.
She'd never get to have a child of her own. The fake pregnant belly and charade would be the closest she'd ever know. She bit down the bittersweet feeling, and traced her index finger around his stomach.
"You're due for another sonogram soon. But you didn't want to see the results of the last one. Is this some religious thing?" Ema said.
"Technology is not verbatim. As the Holy Mother said, 'As discovery comes, let it be open to the light,'" Nahyuta said.
"You didn't want to see it, though," Ema said.
"I looked at the picture."
"Then what?" Ema said.
"Sometimes the queen has a premonition. She thought I would be a set of twins. One male, one female; she was half right. But other than premonitions, we accept whatever we are gifted by the Holy Mother. What happens will happen."
"Ah, so that's it," Ema said. She nestled a little closer. His silvery braid tickled her cheek.
"People keep saying 'when the name present itself, it will be blessed.' Does Khura'in have different naming conventions or something?" Ema said.
"The Khura'inese wait until three months have passed. Then, the child will show memories of their past lives. It will point to a hint of their name."
"So that's the middle names I keep seeing?"
"Those are reserved for women, for they bear the lineage and hopes of the Holy Mother. My sister reached for the lotus stitched upon my mother's robe, so she became 'Padma.' Should the first hint of naming be insufficient, the true name is shown years later, when they are capable of speech."
"So what, do we just call them 'baby' until then?" Ema said.
"No, we call them--" He repeated a Khura'inese word she knew all too well.
"Wait, that's what you call me," Ema said.
"It also has the meaning of 'my precious one.' It's not uncommon to use that term between lovers," he said.
Good to know that calling someone baby was the same even across the ocean.
"Then, as she grew, she earned the name Rayfa because she was full of fire."
"Yeah, she's quite a firebrand," Ema said.
"A firebrand? No, she did not brand anyone. That was Ga'ran," Nahyuta said.
"You know, feisty. Full of pep. Spirited."
"She is only just learning to be spirited. Once her training is complete, then she will be spirited. For now, all she can manage is the rites of the seance," Nahyuta said.
Half the communication issues between them were just translating idioms so neither one of them looked like idiots.
"I mean she has a temper," Ema said evenly. No need to lose her temper over a few lapses in translation. Not this time, at least.
"Is that what you were trying to say? English is strange," Nahyuta said.
"Yeah, it's a crazy quilt of a language, with borrowed words and tenses from a dozen dead languages. I forget how hard it is sometimes because I'm used to it."
She rested in the crook of his arm, and splayed her palm across his stomach. It was a far cry from mapping out a baby's life and picking their name for them.
"How'd you get your name?" she said.
"I spoke complete sentences at a very young age. Even as a child, I had a unquenchable thirst for knowledge. When I learned of numbers, I counted up for hours, just to find the end. So I was given names that reflected this: Nahyuta, a very large number. Referring to that truth I sought even then."
"Wait, you said your first naming or whatever it's called was Nahyuta. Does this mean you don't have a true name?"
Nahyuta smiled. "Sometimes the first name becomes the true name, if time shows it to be true."
"God, your name even means Nerdy McNerdson. I don't think it's possible to be anymore of a nerd than you," Ema said.
Nahyuta's brow furrowed. "That would be a very casual translation," Nahyuta said.
"No, it just means you're perfect for a nerd like me," Ema said. She shifted just enough to kiss Nahyuta's cheek. Curled up together, the cold was a distant memory. Plans and daydreams of this life they were building together--raising together--filled her.
They both had a lot to learn, a lot of cultural differences to bridge. But with a lot of patience and love, they could do it. From the moment she'd seen him smile, any distance or hardship was nothing compared to the bliss of being near him. After all, life was more interesting with a few turns and detours in the end.