Luke has never seen Elliot so upset. He half expects his already-brilliant hair to go up in flames.
“YOU GOT ME PREGNANT!” Elliot shouts at him.
Luke backs up, hands out like he’s protecting himself. “Elliot, I already told you, I can’t do that!”
“WELL, SOMEONE DID!”
Luke freezes. “What?”
Elliot goes pale. “No, I didn’t mean it like that, I swear I didn’t cheat on you! Please believe me!”
Luke shakes his head. “I don’t--I mean, of course I believe you, but--Elliot, don’t you know how babies are made?”
Elliot crosses his arms and glares. “Yes, loser, I knew long before you probably did. There’s a thing called sex education where I come from, and--”
“Then why do you think you’re pregnant?” Luke interrupts.
Elliot’s demeanor changes once again and he looks down at the ground, shoulders hunched like he’s scared.
“Because I went to the medic Commander Woodsinger recommended, and she did all these tests and asked very personal questions and probed a lot of places, and....that’s what she told me.”
Luke sits down on the ground.
“But…” He tries to think, grasping at logic that seems to be waving cheerfully as it dances out of reach. “Elliot, we...we’ve always been safe.”
By that he means that male harpies can’t impregnate anyone but females, a category to which Elliot does not belong. Besides, Elliot had written him an entire essay on the dangers of STIs and insisted that they use slightly uncomfortable devices called “condos” every time they had the opportunity. Luke still didn’t quite understand how they worked, but he had been reasonably sure they worked.
Elliot looks like he wants to sink down onto the ground, too, but remains standing.
“Er, well...Remember how the girls at border camp used to take silphium?”
“Well, erm...Turns out it has the opposite effect on men.”
Luke blinks, processes what Elliot is trying to tell him, and promptly buries his face in his hands.
“Oh my god, tell me it didn’t. Tell me you didn’t!”
“I’d hardly be in this predicament if I hadn’t!” Elliot shouts at him. “I was trying to be helpful, Luke! I know you didn’t love using condoms!”
Luke drops his hands from his face and looks up at Elliot. “Well...what do you want to do? There are other herbs, you know. Louise or Mum could probably help you find them.”
Elliot shrinks in on himself, arms wrapped around his middle. “I...I guess. Would they work on me?”
Luke sighs. “I don’t see why not.”
Elliot looks so lost that Luke gets up and pulls him close.
“Look, it’s up to you. But whatever you want to do, I’m not going to run away.”
Luke hides a smile in Elliot’s hair. “Or fly.”
After a very private discussion with Louise, in which she has some choice words for both of them about being reckless with herbs, she informs them that to the best of her knowledge, all the usual remedies wouldn’t do much for Elliot besides make him sick and possibly prove fatal.
“So that’s that,” Elliot says faintly while they’re gathered around a traditional Sunborn bonfire later that evening. “We’re going to be twenty-year-old parents.”
“Only if you want to be,” Luke says, remembering how Elliot’s own parents never wanted him. He wouldn’t wish that on any child, especially not his own.
Elliot looks at him, and Luke sees surprise before realization hits.
“I do,” Elliot says firmly. “As long as you want to be. Because if you don’t, speak now or forever hold your peace.”
“Nothing, just...I mean it. If you don’t want to be a dad, tell me now. Don’t spare my feelings.”
Luke looks over at his parents and sister, who are laughing and reminiscing together, and back at Elliot.
This is his family. And he’s always thought one day he might bring more Sunborns into it. Granted, this wasn’t what he had in mind and he’d almost given up on that dream, but...there was no accounting for anything when it came to Elliot Schafer.
He stands up and announces “Elliot and I are having a baby,” loud enough for them all to hear.
All in all, his family could not have taken it better.
His mother can’t stop hugging Elliot and recommending every type of salve and potion she used to combat discomfort during her pregnancies. His father looks a bit awkward about the whole thing, but he claps Luke on the shoulder and tells him he’s looking forward to being a grandfather. Louise gives him a huge hug and a sympathetic smile, but says she can’t wait to see a Sunborn baby with red hair.
That image haunts him, and suddenly he’s dreaming about a hundred chattering red-headed children all calling him “Loser.”
Serene, for her part, is delighted (if slightly mystified.) She says this is just the thing that will bring out Elliot’s “dormant paternal nature.” Elliot asks her to be the godmother, an arrangement which she takes to mean acting as the baby’s bodyguard and accepts with enthusiasm. No one sees any need to correct her.
Elliot, in the meantime, is dealing with morning (more like half-the-day) sickness and complaining about missing “indoor plumbing,” an amenity which the Sunborn home sadly lacks.
“I hate this,” Elliot moans as he heaves into a clay pot that Rachel has given him. “You’re rinsing this out when I’m done.”
Luke nods, tries not to look too closely at the contents, and rubs Elliot’s back in a soothing manner.
“Don’t touch me, loser, this is all your fault.”
Elliot is reduced to tears when his clothes don’t fit anymore, and he compensates by trying to make Luke’s (that he’s sharing at this point) look more like the ones he’s used to. Luke finds an alarming amount of sleeves strewn around the floor of his room one day, which Elliot defends as his attempt to create “t-shirts.” Tailoring attempts on his trousers are less successful, and Elliot grudgingly agrees that roomier trousers are more comfortable than jeans.
At least there’s no more vomiting into pots, and instead Elliot is obsessed with learning as much as he can about child-rearing. He can usually be found reading outside, or in the kitchen while eating some combination of jams that make Luke stare at him in horror.
“What?” Elliot says, calmly shoving another spoonful into his mouth. “Your spawn wants it. And it’s delicious. Want some?”
Luke ducks the proffered utensil and peeks over Elliot’s shoulder at the book.
“Ways to predict the sex,” he reads out loud. Elliot scoffs and turns the page.
“They’re all ridiculous. Anyway, it’s not like there are any ultrasound machines here.”
“What’s an ultra sound machine? Is it like a radio?”
Elliot gets the same look on his face as when Luke first called a musical device an “eye-pod.”
“No. It’s a machine that can show us the baby. But it’s electric and one wouldn’t work here.”
“What machine could do that?” Luke asks, bewildered at even the notion. “Are you sure it’s not magical?”
Elliot laughs, nicely, and closes the book.
“No, but I wish it was. They put gel on your stomach and they have a wand to see inside, and hold on a minute, that does sound kind of like magic. But it’s really not.”
Luke has no idea what he’s talking about, but Elliot’s shirt is riding up slightly and he can see the bump better. Some instinct rears up in him and his entire brain goes, Mine.
Luke blinks, realizing that he’s touching Elliot’s stomach without asking, which Elliot has expressly told everyone not to do because bodily autonomy and consent are still important to him.
“Sorry,” he says, but his hands don’t move. “I guess it’s a harpy thing?”
“Just as well you don’t have talons,” Elliot says, a bit shakily.
With great effort, Luke removes his hands. “I know you don’t like being touched there, I--”
“Hey.” Elliot gently takes his hands, putting them right back where they were. “It’s fine. You’re the only one who doesn’t have to ask.”
“I love this lake,” Elliot says, eyes closed in bliss as they float on the surface on the hottest day of the year. “Let’s never leave. Let’s just live here until we adapt and grow gills.”
Luke laughs, even though it’s a tempting idea. He swims closer and kisses Elliot, who responds hungrily. He’s been wanting sex more lately, because of “hormones,” something else Luke’s never heard of but that his mother explained in detail to the point where he wanted to run screaming into the forest. What Luke does allow himself to remember is that it should be enjoyed while it lasts.
Elliot breaks off the kiss with a gasp, and Luke’s eyes open.
“What’s wrong? Are you cold?”
Elliot shakes his head, grabbing Luke’s hand and pressing it against his stomach. “Feel that?”
Luke concentrates and sure enough, he can feel a tiny movement inside.
“That’s amazing,” he breathes. “Is that the first time you’ve felt it?”
“I thought I felt something earlier this morning, but it was hard to tell,” Elliot explains, draping his arms around Luke’s neck. “I wanted to be sure. He’s swimming around in there, just like we are.”
Luke stares. “He?”
Elliot shrugs. “Or she. I don’t know.”
Something in his voice makes Luke suspicious. “Yes, you do. Or you think you do, don’t you?”
Elliot rolls his eyes. “Fine, I think it’s a boy. But we can’t tell anyone because your parents will talk about how he’ll be just like you, and Serene will want us to teach him embroidery, and I don’t want to deal with other people’s gender expectations just yet.”
Luke kisses him again, heart pounding.
“We’re having a boy,” he says, unable to believe it. “Elliot, we’re having a son.”
Elliot rests his forehead against Luke’s and smiles. “That’s what I just said.”
Trigon is as much fun as it always is, but Luke gets a special thrill looking up at the benches and seeing Serene next to Elliot, who is resolutely reading because some things will never change.
“Excellently played,” Serene says afterwards, as they’re walking back home. She’s insisted on carrying Elliot’s book for him, even though he protests that it’s not as heavy as it looks.
“Thanks,” Luke says with a grin. “Elliot? Thoughts?”
“I think I’d like to be carried home,” Elliot gripes. “My ankles are very swollen after all that sitting, and walking is not the jolly romp it used to be. If one of you doesn’t pick me up right now--”
Serene does precisely that before Luke has a chance, and they all laugh.
“Thank you,” Elliot says gratefully. “Much better.”
“It’s odd to think I might one day be in a similar condition,” Serene muses. “Golden wants to wait at least another year or so, which I understand, but I must commend you two for starting your family so young.”
Elliot and Luke exchange a glance.
“Well...actually,” Elliot hedges. “We didn’t mean to start one this early.”
Serene raises an eyebrow. “So a betrothal is not forthcoming?”
“Betrothal?” Both of them squawk at the same time, Luke’s sounding more like an actual startled bird cry than Elliot’s.
“No, no, of course not!” Elliot cries, gesturing so much that Serene puts him down. “People don’t just get married because they have a baby! In fact, that’s the worst reason to get married!”
She doesn’t seem to understand. “You love each other, though.”
“And you’re having a child together, created from that love.”
Elliot blushes and Luke’s pretty sure he’s doing the same.
“Well, um….yes,” Elliot mumbles.
“And you still find each other tolerable, even after a long courtship?”
“He’s all right,” Luke quips.
“I can stand him most days,” Elliot replies.
Serene’s mouth thins slightly. “Then I do not understand. What exactly is preventing you from pledging your troth, at the very least?”
Elliot opens his mouth and, for once, nothing comes out. Luke is equally at a loss. They look at each other. Serene, sensing a delicate topic, walks on ahead to let them “express their feelings” alone.
They stand on the path for a few awkward moments, looking everywhere but at each other.
“So,” Luke starts. “Do you, uh...want to get married?”
Elliot stares at him. “Are you proposing? Is this your idea of the perfect moment to ask me?”
“No! No, I...just want to know if you’d like to marry me. One day.”
Elliot scuffs the ground with his foot. “I don’t know. I mean, yes, I would. One day. But I’m not in a hurry. Are you?”
“No,” Luke says at once. “I’m not in a hurry either.”
More awkward silence.
“Oh, for God’s sake,” Elliot bursts out. “Luke, will you marry me?”
Luke’s mouth drops open. “What?”
“Luke. Sunborn. Better. Known. As. Loser.” Elliot says, over-enunciating each word, “Will. You. Marry. Me?”
Luke isn’t sure if this is a joke or not, but Elliot isn’t smirking in his customary “I’m hilarious, why aren’t you laughing?” kind of way. He actually seems serious, and Luke’s heart pounds as he realizes that he needs to give an honest answer.
Elliot seems taken aback. “Really? You’re not just saying that?”
Luke steps forward, sweeps him into his arms, and kisses him.
“Yes, I’ll marry you, Elliot Jerome Schafer,” he says. “Wherever you like, whenever you want, even if it involves mermaids and trolls and harpies all coming to the wedding.”
Elliot looks delighted. “You promise? I’ll hold you to that, Sunborn.”
“I promise. And you’ll be a Sunborn too. I mean, if you want to change your name.”
Elliot laughs. “I think I can manage to make the name Sunborn sound cool. Now let’s go tell Serene we’re betrothed.”
Luke starts running, and before he knows it, they’re airborne, because his wings have sprung from his back from sheer elation. It’s the happiest moment of his life, soaring through the air with the person he loves most in the world clasped in his arms.
“Don’t worry, I see her. She’s waving to us.”
“No, Luke, the baby doesn’t like flying, put me down!”
Luke lands as hastily as he deems safe, and once Elliot’s done dry-heaving, they walk over to Serene to tell her the news.
“I despise you.”
Luke nods resignedly. The days of summer and Elliot’s high sex drive are long behind them, and Elliot’s done nothing but complain about swollen calves, feet, hands, ankles, and everything else lately. They’re cooped up inside during a snowstorm and don’t have much to do besides polish weaponry, do a lot of baking, or--mostly in Elliot’s case--read books. And it seems he’s read them all a dozen times so, out of boredom, he’s decided to harass Luke.
“I’m a whale and it’s all your fault,” Elliot moans from their bed. “Nothing fits, but I can’t walk around the house naked with your parents here. The baby’s been kicking my ribs, which hurts so much that I’m pretty sure they’re broken, and these blankets have a smell.”
Luke glances up from polishing his sword by the fireplace. “No, they don’t. We laundered them yesterday.”
“I have a very sensitive nose right now,” Elliot replies, glowering at him. “Everything has a smell.”
Luke puts down the sword and crosses to the bed, taking one of Elliot’s feet in his hands. He applies pressure at a certain spot that makes Elliot moan for an entirely different reason, and he flops back against the pillows.
“Do that again,” he murmurs. “Please.”
Luke’s happy to oblige.
“Still hate you,” Elliot says after a moment.
“Luke, total strangers are going to cut into me with swords!”
He knows Elliot’s exaggerating, but his wings are out and he’s shoved Elliot behind them before he can even think.
“It’s a simple Cesarean,” Rachel says patiently, not even reacting to the wings. “You’ll be given plenty of sleeping potion so you won’t feel a thing, and the medics are excellent at their job. Really, Elliot, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
“What--” Elliot shoves aside a wing and steps forward, despite Luke’s arm holding him back. “What if I don’t want an operation performed without general anesthesia and potentially unsterilized tools? What if I’d rather do it the natural way?”
Rachel cocks an eyebrow. “And what way would that be, in your particular case?”
Elliot considers, looks scared, and puts a hand meekly on his belly. “Never mind.”
Luke retracts his wings, but the idea of anyone doing surgery on Elliot is still unsettling.
“Are you sure he’ll be all right?” he asks his mother. She smiles and pats his cheek.
“Of course, darling. I wouldn’t have recommended it if I didn’t think so. Anyway, it’s how I had you. And look how well you turned out!”
It isn’t until later that evening that reality seems to set in for Elliot.
“Oh, God,” he groans, face in his hands. “I’m giving birth.”
Luke bolts up in bed. “Now?!”
“No, not now! But soon!” Elliot says with panic in his voice. “I don’t know how to do it! No one ever told me I’d have to! Even the books don’t help, they just talk about breathing and pushing and I’m not even able to do that, and--”
Luke raises his wings and envelopes them both, taking Elliot’s face in his hands.
“Look at me,” he says quietly. “Breathe. In for four, out for seven. You can do it.”
It takes Elliot a minute, but he settles into the rhythm and relaxes, resting his head on Luke’s shoulder.
“You’ve been reading the books,” he says. “I’ve never loved you more.”
They stay like that until Elliot is nearly asleep, and then Luke remembers something.
“We haven’t decided on a name yet, and we only have a few weeks.”
Elliot groans, slumping backward onto the mattress.
“Do we have to give him a name? He won’t even be able to answer to it until he’s at least...what, five? Can’t we just address him as ‘Hey, you’ until then?”
Luke chuckles, retracting his wings and pulling the blankets back over them both.
“It would help if he had something other people could call him,” he points out. “I know Dad would love another Michael in the family. Or Gregory.”
“No Gregs,” Elliot vetoes immediately. “No child needs to sound like a fifty-year-old man.”
“Uncle Gregory’s forty-eight!”
“Not the point.”
“Okay, what about Serene’s list that she sent you? Any on there you liked?”
“Unless you want our child to be bullied for being named Crimson Locks Bright as Fire, no.”
Luke nearly falls out of bed laughing.
“It’s not funny!” Elliot snaps irritably. “It’s a cheap shot! I didn’t ask to be born a ginger, you know. Although I suppose I could’ve done worse. I could’ve been a blond.”
Luke tries to get himself back under control, knowing that Elliot’s only lashing out because his pride’s been hurt.
“I hope all our children have red hair,” Luke says soothingly.
“Careful what you wish for,” Elliot replies. “With ginger hair comes great social prejudice, and a tendency to be abrasive and short-tempered. And what do you mean, all our children?!”
The day of Elliot’s operation is surreal. Luke feels about the same way he does before a battle--tense, expectant, on edge, but oddly calm. The entire Sunborn family give them hugs and well wishes, and Luke and Elliot get a few minutes alone before the medic comes back with the potion for Elliot to take.
Luke puts a hand on Elliot’s belly, marveling at how in just a few hours, he’ll be able to touch and hold the baby. His son. Their son.
“He’s ready,” Elliot says, putting his hand over Luke’s. “I know he wants to meet us.”
Luke leans over and kisses him, feeling Elliot’s shaking hand curl around his neck. Luke wishes he could take all of Elliot’s fear away right now.
“I thought of a name,” Luke says when they pull apart. “Damien Sunborn.”
“Damien?” Elliot wrinkles his nose. “No, no, that’s a very bad name. It actually has Satanic connotations in my world. What about Daniel?”
Luke considers it. “Daniel Sunborn. I like it.”
“Think he’ll like me?” Elliot says, cupping his belly. “I’m not a paternal person, no matter how much Serene insists otherwise. I still don’t like kids. But I don’t want to be like my mother, or my father.”
Luke sees a different kind of fear in his face now, and his heart breaks.
“If he’s anything like you, he will,” he says. “And if he’s anything like me, he’ll love you.”
Elliot’s eyes go soft.
“That’s the cheesiest thing you’ve ever said,” he says sweetly. “And that includes comparing my hair to the sun set on fire. Which the sun already is, so--”
The medic comes back in with the sleeping potion, for which Luke is almost glad. Elliot raises the cup in a little toast before downing it, and Luke adjusts the pillow behind his head as Elliot’s eyes drift closed.
“See you soon,” he mumbles.
It’s only about two hours later, but it feels like years until the medic tells Luke he can go in and see Elliot and the baby. Luke bursts into the room to find Elliot, looking sleepy and a little dazed, holding a blanket-wrapped bundle in his arms.
“Hey,” he says. “Come look at this.”
Luke is trembling all over, and as soon as he gets a good look at his child’s face, he forgets everything else exists.
“Wow,” he says, kneeling down by the side of the bed. “Hello, there.”
“I was right, by the way,” Elliot says, sounding smug. “It’s a boy. And…” He moves part of the blanket away from their son’s head, and Luke bursts out laughing when he sees vivid red fuzz.
“Louise will be thrilled,” Luke says when he catches his breath. The baby opens his eyes, and Luke falls completely in love when he sees that they’re deep blue, like all the Sunborn babies.
“He’s not as gross as I thought he’d be,” Elliot says contemplatively. “Hardly even squidgy. I think he takes after you. I bet you were never wrinkly and old-looking as a baby.”
Luke is only registering half the ridiculous things Elliot’s saying--and despite them all, he can tell Elliot is smitten with their son, too--because all he wants to do is hold the baby.
“Sure.” Elliot transfers him very gently to Luke’s arms, and Luke fumbles a tiny bit before being sure he’s got a secure hold.
“Hi, Daniel,” he says. Daniel blinks up at him and yawns. Luke kisses him lightly on the head.
“I’m your Dad,” he whispers. “And this is…” He glances uncertainly at Elliot. “What should he call you?”
Elliot thinks about it. “Elliot?”
“But that’s your name.”
“I know,” Elliot says with exaggerated patience. “And I never called my dad anything, really. Why can’t Daniel just call me by my name?”
Luke’s too happy to argue, and it hardly seems to matter anyway. “Fine. This is Elliot, your other dad. And we love you.”
The sound of a harassed medic and at least six eager Sunborn family members reaches his ears, and he looks up to see his parents, sister, brothers and Serene all bearing down on them.
“And here’s everybody else,” he adds. “Don’t worry, they’ll love you, too.”
“While I am not always comfortable around small children,” Serene comments while holding Daniel, “This one is quite pleasant. And I will guard him with my very life so that no harm may ever befall him.”
Elliot nudges Luke. “Told you she’d be a good godmother.”
Serene hands him back to Elliot. “What was childbirth like? I am eager to know all I can for the future.”
Elliot hesitates. “Well, I don’t really know. I was asleep the entire time, for the surgery. It wasn’t, um, the same as what you might go through.”
Serene looks thoughtful. “Perhaps that way is best, since men’s bodies are not at all equipped for the rigors and pain of the process.”
Luke and Elliot shrug in tandem.