“Come on, come on. Why won’t you go to sleep?”
The baby’s only response was a particularly grumpy wail. Jason shushed him, and continued pacing the main room, gently rocking the baby in his arms. Pythagoras’ bed creaked, and Jason winced. None of them had got more than a couple of hours sleep since they had found the child, but Pythagoras had only just got back to sleep after taking the previous shift with the baby.
“We really need to give you a name,” Jason mused out loud. “I can’t just keep calling you ‘the baby’.”
He wondered what the child’s mother had called him. If she had even chosen a name before she gave him up. Why would she have abandoned him? Jason couldn’t understand it at all. He knew Atlantis had some strange customs, things that, to him, seemed callous and barbaric. But even so, leaving a baby to die surely went against all instincts and basic human nature?
Despite his friends’ protests, Jason knew, knew, they had done the right thing in bringing the child back with them. But he was beginning to wonder what exactly they were supposed to do with him now. Medusa was right; what did any of them know about caring for a baby? For all their good intentions, not one of them had any experience (although Jason had to admit that of all of them, Hercules seemed to have a knack with the baby that the rest of them lacked, and wasn’t that a surprise?). The truth was they were winging it, and all the useful advice so far had come from Medusa.
The child needed a mother, not three well-meaning but completely inept men. What would happen the next time they got dragged into a crazy adventure? They couldn’t just up and leave, they would have to find someone to take care of the child while they were gone, and couldn’t necessarily rely on Medusa all the time. And nurseries weren’t exactly a feature of ancient Greek society.
Even if they did find some way to keep him, what about when he got older? When he started talking, started saying, “Dada,” how would they explain to the boy that not one of them was his real father? Or why he didn’t have a mother?
And there was the sticking point. No child should have to grow up without knowing his mother. Jason knew that more than anyone. He had loved his father, of course he had, but he had always felt there was something missing. All the times at primary school that other children had talked about their mums helping them with things, or the times the class had made Mothers’ Day cards, and Jason had just sat there drawing pictures instead, trying to ignore the pitying gaze of the teacher.
A child needed a proper family.
Jason wondered if there were any childless couples in Atlantis who might want to adopt the baby. He would ask Pythagoras. In spite of his young age, Pythagoras had a reputation in the city as a skilled healer, and through that he knew a lot of people. If anyone knew of a suitable couple, Pythagoras would.
“Would you like that?” Jason murmured. The baby finally seemed to have settled and was quiet for the first time in the last hour. “Would you like a mummy and daddy? A proper family? Someone who won’t leave you before you can even remember their face?”
The baby yawned and peered up at Jason, his little fist grasping Jason’s tunic.
“That’s what you should have. If we can’t find your real parents, we’ll find you someone who will care for you properly.” Jason smiled. “Maybe we can stay in touch. We could be honorary uncles or something. That would be nice.”
The baby closed his eyes and seemed to be finally drifting off to sleep. Maybe Hercules wasn’t the only one with the magic touch after all. About time, too. Jason was practically asleep on his feet. He waited until he was absolutely sure the child was sleeping, and then he carefully placed him in the basket.
Then he collapsed onto his blankets on the floor and was asleep within minutes.
Jason dreamt of his family; of the people who he trusted, and who had cared for him most in his life. He wasn’t dreaming about his parents.