When Violet was born, Bertrand felt like he couldn’t breathe.
Beatrice hadn’t been able to make it to the hospital, so they stayed in their house; it was a simple place on the countryside, so it’d taken a while for the doctors to arrive, and by that point, Bertrand was close to breaking down with worry. It didn’t help at all when they told him to wait outside. He could still hear Beatrice from downstairs, and the idea of her in that much pain without him being allowed to help… he’d had some medical training, why couldn’t he be in there? He’d moved to the front porch, bouncing his leg and cleaning his glasses over and over and glancing back to the door to see if he could go.
“This your first?” Bertrand jumped, turning to see the woman who’d driven the doctors over… shit, what was her name? He’d seen her in training. He had no idea she’d been interested in medicine, or vehicles, she seemed much more into plants. Hell, she might not be, she might’ve just been the only volunteer available.
“Yeah.” he nodded. “We thought she’d be born on an island, actually, but that… didn’t work out. Guess it’s for the best, there wasn’t much in the way of medical care there, but we just… I’m rambling.”
“No, it’s alright. My husband did the same thing with my first.” she shrugged, and then looked a bit sad. “Actually, you know, my second was born a few months ago. He… well, he doesn’t know.”
Bertrand bit his lip. Their job could be dangerous, and losing contact with people who’d you once been inseparable from was inevitable. He hadn’t been able to talk to his guardians for years, as much as he’d tried to track them down, and Beatrice…
“Well…” Bertrand said sadly. “Neither does my kid’s… well, you know.”
The driver sadly nodded in understanding, and she went to sit beside him. “What happened, if I can ask?”
“Can I ask you?”
“Just… difference of opinion.” she said. “You know. Manatee accident.”
Manatee accident. That was a code. Schism.
“Don’t be. It was… bound to happen. It just surprised me because I wanted to believe… well, there are lots of things you want to believe about people. You want to believe they won’t go down that path, you want to believe they’ll stay for your child, you want… I’m sorry.” She wiped her face with her sleeve. “I’m sorry, this is…”
“You want to believe,” Bertrand said quietly, “That they wouldn’t take part in a murder.”
She looked up at him in surprise. “Is that what-”
“No.” he said.
No. That was just what he’d believed of them.
“He’s on the lam.” Bertrand said.
“Oh. And then you and your wife…?”
Bertrand considered a moment. “Let’s… let’s just say we both miss him a lot.”
She nodded, understanding. Then, quietly, she said, “You know, they’re right about it being hard.”
“Parenting. Especially if you’re… doing it without someone you thought would be with you. But… but I think you’ll pull through.” she smiled slightly. “You’re Bertrand Markson, right?”
Her eyes widened. “Oh! Oh, that’s Beatrice-”
“Did they not tell you who you were helping with?”
“Come on, do they ever tell us anything?” they laughed a little, and then she said, “What are you planning? For names?”
“Well, we were going to use… but it turns out he’s alive right now. So we’re not sure for a boy. Maybe Dashiell. Or Klaus. If it’s a girl… Violet.”
She smiled. “Violet. That’s pretty.”
Bertrand nodded, and then he asked, quietly, “How… how painful is it?”
She flinched. “A lot. You shouldn’t worry, though, we’ve been doing this whole ‘labor’ thing for millennia.”
“Yes, but I looked up fatality rates during childbirth-”
“Oh, don’t do that. Just makes you paranoid. I remember going into the birth of my oldest with a cuecard in case I needed some dramatic last words.”
“Surprised Bea didn’t make one.”
“She’ll be fine. I don’t think it’s possible for Beatrice to go, she’d just tackle death itself and throw it out the window.”
Bertrand beamed. “Yeah. She would.”
“When did it start?”
Bertrand thought back. “This morning.”
“Well, if there’s no complications, she should be done soon.”
Bertrand jumped. “Which complications?”
“You’re just going to worry yourself to death.”
“Okay, but I want to know. They won’t let me in.”
The driver glanced up, and then said, “Think they had a change of heart.”
Bertrand turned, surprised to see one of the doctors come running towards them. “There you are!” she said. “We’ve, uh…”
“Decided he can be there for his firstborn?” the driver raised an eyebrow.
“Well… it will be a bit complicated but, well… your wife made it very clear she wants you in there.”
Bertrand laughed a little. “I’m sure she did.” He stood up. “Thank you.”
“No problem. Good luck.” she said. “Doctor, I’ll be waiting in the truck. Do you want me to report in?”
The doctor shook her head, saying something about waiting until the birth. Bertrand felt a bit uncomfortable at that, but he shrugged it off and followed the doctor upstairs.
And, a few hours later, when he held his daughter in his arms, he felt completely overloaded.
She hadn’t let any of the doctors hold her, and only calmed down when she’d been handed over to her mother. Both parents had been incredibly worried when, after the doctors stepped out, they decided to try to hand her over to him. To let him hold her for the first time. He’d been scared she’d cry again.
But she just curled up against him, trying to fall asleep. She let out a tiny sigh, looking just as relaxed as she had been when Beatrice was holding her.
Beatrice looked exhausted, completely worn out. But she also just looked so happy, staring down at her baby in her husband’s arms, that Bertrand couldn’t help but think she’d never been more beautiful.
“Hello.” he said quietly, looking down at the baby. “Hello, Violet.”
She rolled over slightly, and he was worried he’d startled her, but, no, she’d just reached out a tiny fist to grab his shirt. She was so small.
“That’s your Father.” Beatrice said, smiling a little. “Say Hi, Violet.”
She didn’t say anything, but he didn’t need her to.
“Bea, I think something’s wrong.” he said. “I can’t breathe.”
Beatrice laughed. “Neither can I.”
Something was going wrong. Something was wrong and everything was wrong.
The baby wasn’t supposed to come for a long time. They had months to go. They hadn’t even finished the nursery yet, some of Violet’s stuff was still in there. But just that afternoon- or yesterday, was it midnight yet?- Beatrice had abruptly sat up in the library, where she’d been reading aloud to Violet. She’d run to the bathroom, barely explaining to their daughter where she was going, which was worrying enough. And then when she returned, Bertrand had looked up from the tower he’d been helping Violet stack to see her look absolutely terrified.
“Bertrand?” she’d said, and he’d never, in all the years he’d known her, heard such terror in her voice. “Bertrand, my water just broke.”
He’d stared at her. “But… not today?”
“We have to-” she shut her eyes. “Who’s closest? Kit? Can Kit watch Violet?”
“Aunt Kit?” Violet asked. She’d only just started speaking, but she had some favorite words already- bubbles, book, build, mama, papa, and, a little strangely, wrench. She’d also just learned the word no, which she was, worryingly, using a lot.
“I-I’ll call her.” Bertrand said, jumping to his feet. “We can- let’s take you to the hospital.”
“I can do a home birth again-”
“Beatrice, if you’re this early-”
It had taken a while to get her to agree, and by that time, Bertrand had already called Kit, who arrived to watch Violet while Jacques gave them a ride to the hospital. And, once again, Bertrand found himself locked out. But this time, he was even more worried. This hadn’t happened with Violet. She’d been born right on time, she’d had no problems, Beatrice’s labor had gone well…
When, after several hours of pacing and fidgeting and struggling to pay attention to the book he’d grabbed on the way out- one that Kit’s brother had suggested to him once, about a dark and stormy night, one that was not soothing his nerves- a doctor came out and nervously told him that he was needed, Bertrand didn’t feel as relieved as he had when the doctors told him that for Violet.
Because when he arrived, Beatrice was screaming.
“No! Give him back! Bring him back here!”
Bertrand, once again, felt like he couldn’t breathe.
“Ma’am,” said a frustrated nurse, “He needs medical attention-”
Several doctors had to be used to hold Beatrice back. “I don’t care! I want my baby! Give him back!”
“Bea!” Bertrand called, running forwards.
Beatrice turned to him, desperate. “Bertrand, they took him, they- I didn’t even hold him-”
“Bea, Bea, it’s okay.” Bertrand said, running forwards and grabbing her hand. “Bea, he just needs medical attention, you heard them-”
She was sobbing now. “I want my baby! Bertrand, they took-”
He knew what she was worried about, even if many of these doctors didn’t. “Bea, I promise, nothing will happen to him. He needs help, he was born early-”
“Bertrand, we can’t lose him! We can’t-”
“We won’t, we won’t. I promise, please, just… just calm down a moment.”
Beatrice stared at him for a long while, and then she shrugged off the doctors holding her and slumped against the bed, burying her head in her hands.
Carefully, Bertrand sat beside her, putting his arm around her shoulders. He could feel her crying, and he wondered if she wanted him to pretend he didn’t notice.
“What’s going on?” he asked a nervous-looking nurse, who kept glancing to Beatrice, as if she might suddenly leap up and tackle him to the ground.
They explained for what felt like far too long that their baby had trouble breathing, and that he needed a respirator for a while, and that even after he was taken off, he’d be at a greater risk of infection than their previous child, so they’d have to be very careful, and he’d even have to stay at the hospital for a few weeks- something that neither of them really liked hearing.
And neither of them were very happy to hear that it might be a while before they could even hold him.
Sure, they’d be able to touch him in the care unit, so long as they wore special gloves, and if he was healthy enough, Beatrice would be able to pick him up and feed him, but that all depended on how well he was doing.
Him and Beatrice had sat and worried for a long while.
“What if he dies in there, and we never even got to hold him?” she asked, staring up at the ceiling in an attempt to keep herself from crying even more. “What if someone goes in there and takes him, Bertrand? What if-?”
“It won’t happen.” he assured her, trying not to sound terrified himself. “It won’t happen.”
“How can you know that?”
“Because…” he held her closer. “Because he’s your son, Bea. He’s a fighter.”
Eventually, he’d had to step out and call Kit, explain what was going on, that Beatrice was going to be fine but it might be a while. He thanked her when she still said she’d watch Violet, said she’d call Josephine to help her out. She also offered to call the Quagmires- they’d had their triplets prematurely, too, they might be able to offer advice. He thanked her again for that, and asked her to make sure Violet went to bed on time, and to make sure that she knew everything was fine but her baby brother might take a little bit of time to come home, and of course Mother and Father still loved her and would see her soon and her favorite book to read at night was the one about visiting the moon, and around that point Kit told him that she would be fine and to go back to Beatrice.
It was twenty-six hours before they let Beatrice hold him. When she was able to walk down to the care unit, they let her hold him and feed him, but it was a few days of panicked switching out with Kit and Josephine and Jacques and the Quagmires and assuring Violet that everything was fine and checking up on Beatrice and the baby in the hospital before they told them that he could go home.
“He’s been doing remarkably well.” the nurse told both parents. “We’re surprised, especially due to his size. But he’s healthy now.”
Bertrand squeezed his wife’s hand as she breathed a sigh of relief. “See, Bea? I told you. He’s a little fighter.”
And when they took their son out of the care unit, they met up with Kit and Violet in the waiting room; Kit was reading a book about a girl that shared her name being accused of witchcraft, while Violet busied herself with the Bead Maze in the corner, occasionally pushing at another toddler who was trying to get into her space.
“Oh!” Kit jumped up upon seeing them enter. “Oh, Vi, they’re here!”
Violet glanced around, and her eyes immediately fell on her father, who was carrying her new baby brother. She toddled over, looking curiously up and narrowing her eyes. She paused briefly to hug her mother, and then she said, “Baby.”
“Yes, this is your baby brother.” Beatrice said. “Do you want to meet him?”
“You don’t have a choice on this, Vi.”
Kit stepped back a little to give the family some space, and Bertrand knelt down, still holding the baby, who’d fallen asleep in his arms just a few moments ago. Violet peered at him. “Baby.”
“Yes. This is your brother.” Bertrand said.
“Baby.” Violet reached forwards, and Beatrice quickly took her hand.
“No, no,” Beatrice said, “Maybe don’t poke him right now.”
“He’ll wake up.”
“Because he’s very tired. He’s been working very hard to get healthy.”
Violet paused a little, and then smiled. “Baby.” she said again, much softer.
“Yes.” Bertrand nodded, trying very hard not to cry, in case that startled her. “Yes, he is a baby. His name is Klaus.”
“Klaus.” Violet sounded out, thinking hard. Then she shook her head. “No.”
“No?” Beatrice let out a laugh. “No? What’s his name, then?”
Violet looked at her like she’d lost her mind. “Baby.”
Neither Beatrice, Bertrand or Kit had ever laughed that hard in their lives. And Violet, who had correctly identified the creature her father was holding, had never been more offended.
Sunny was somehow a less stressful delivery than Klaus, even though she was, like Klaus, born early (though only by a few days this time, thankfully). Of course, Bertrand supposed that the fact this was their third child, several qualified doctors were present and let Bertrand stay, and there was no longer a fear of their child being taken away by a mysterious organization helped exponentially.
He opened the door to the study, carefully peering in. Violet and Klaus were sitting at the table, and Klaus was asleep, his glasses smushed on top of a large book about the french revolution and the parisian sewer system. Violet, meanwhile, was sitting drearily at the table with a cup of tea and a small fan she’d taken apart. She looked up as she heard the door open, and she beamed.
“Father!” she shouted, and then she shoved Klaus. “Klaus, they’re back!”
“Now, wait-” Bertrand began.
Klaus sat up, rubbing his eyes. “Whazzit?”
“They’re back!” Violet said, hauling him to his feet and dragging him over to the door, hugging her father tight. “You were gone so long! What happened? Wh-” she trailed off, glancing towards the hallway. “Where’s Mother? Where’s the baby?”
Klaus’s eyes widened in horror, and then he started crying. “Oh no, they died!”
“No, no, they’re fine!” Bertrand said, kneeling down slightly so he could get eye-level with his children. “They’re fine, I promise.”
“Where are they?” Violet asked.
“They’re still at the hospital, they’re resting.” Bertrand said. “We’re going to go get some food, and then go visit.”
“Why can’t they be home?” Violet asked.
“Well,” Bertrand said, “Delivering a baby is very hard, and I’m sure being born is very hard, too. But you’ll be pleased to know that your sister has already tried to bite everyone, including me and your mother.”
“Sister? It’s a girl?” Klaus asked. Bertrand nodded, and he said, “What were you going to name her again? Sunny?”
“Yes, her name is Sunny.” Bertrand confirmed.
Klaus narrowed his eyes. “How loud is she?”
“Are you scared she’s gonna keep you from your dumb books?” Violet asked, elbowing him playfully.
“I don’t want her to keep me up all night!”
“You just don’t want to lose the youngest kid attention. It’s too late, you’re the middle child now.”
“How about,” Bertrand interrupted, “We go out? You can pick the restaurant, and then we’ll go see Mother. It might be a day or so before she can leave, but you can meet your sister.”
“Can we hold her?” Violet asked.
“Probably not yet.”
“Did you hold her?” Klaus asked.
“How come you can hold her and we can’t?” Violet said.
Bertrand sighed. “Because I’m less likely to drop her.”
“Why?” Klaus asked.
“How about that new pancake place?” Bertrand said. “You guys liked that.”
“Yeah!” they cheered, and Klaus ran to grab his book and Violet raced off to find her ribbon.
Bertrand took them out to eat, and then he even took them to Klaus’s favorite bookstore, and they each picked out something they liked, as well as a picture book they’d like for Sunny. Then they went into the hospital, and after a bit longer than Bertrand would’ve preferred checking in, they slid open the door to Beatrice’s hospital room, and Violet and Klaus peered in, concerned, their faces quickly lighting up upon seeing their mother.
Violet ran forwards, but Beatrice sushed her, gesturing to the tiny child in her arms. “She’s asleep.” she whispered.
Violet nodded, and then she carefully moved to sit on the end of the bed. Klaus moved forward a bit, too, looking over the baby as if it was some insect he’d been asked to study.
“This is her?” Klaus asked, as if it could be anyone else.
Beatrice nodded. “This is Sunny.”
“She’s real small.” Violet said, as Klaus sat beside her and Bertrand moved over to Beatrice’s side. “I’ve never seen a baby that small.”
“Is she gonna bite us?” Klaus asked. “Father said she’s bit everyone.”
Beatrice laughed a little. “It’s likely, but if you’re careful-”
“Can I hold her?” Violet asked.
Bertrand sighed, and Beatrice said, “Maybe when we get home. She’s very fussy right now.”
“Which means she’ll bite you.” Klaus translated.
“When can she walk?” Violet asked. “When can she talk? When can we give her chocolate and cake? When can we throw her up and catch her like Father used to do? When can-?”
“Violet, sweetie,” Beatrice said, “You are asking a lot of questions, and Mother is very tired.”
“When can you guys come home?” Klaus asked.
Beatrice thought. “The doctor said maybe two to four days.”
“Really?” Violet said.
“Are we gonna live here until you can come home?” Klaus asked.
“No, you’ll go back with your father. And I’ll be home soon.”
Violet looked over to her father. “Who’ll stay with Mother?”
“I’ll be visiting her a lot.” Bertrand said, “So you’ll have to watch Klaus.”
“I don’t need watched.” Klaus huffed.
“Yeah, he’s boring.” Violet agreed.
“Shh!” Beatrice said, as Sunny started to rock a bit. “Shh, sleeping sister!”
Violet immediately slapped a hand over Klaus’s mouth, and in response, he attempted to push her off the bed.
“I think it’s time we go home now.” Bertrand said.
“No! I wanna stay with Mother!” Klaus said. Violet nodded in agreement.
“Why don’t we let Mother and Sunny sleep?” Bertrand said, “And you should get some sleep yourselves, too. And when they come home, you can show them the books you got Sunny.”
“I guess.” Klaus sighed.
“Come home soon!” Violet said, and then she whispered to the baby, “Hi, Sunny! I’m your big sister! I’m Violet! That’s Klaus, he’s a grump right now!”
“No, I’m not!”
Bertrand smiled a little, and then muttered, “No. Baby.”
Beatrice burst into laughter. Violet and Klaus didn’t get it.
She was so small.
Klaus was holding Kit’s baby while Violet built the crib, her hair pulled back into a tight ponytail. Sunny stood beside her, toddling around to pick up tools for her. Violet had remembered everything from when she’d helped build Sunny’s crib, only about two years ago. So much had happened in two years.
And now they had a child to care for.
“Klaus, you may want to take her outside.” Violet said, glancing over. “We just got her to sleep, and this might get loud.”
“Very loud.” Sunny nodded.
Klaus nodded a little. “Just come get me when you’re done?”
“Yeah, and then you could give someone else a chance to hold her.” Violet joked.
“Um, no, then she’ll sleep in the crib.” Klaus said.
“What? We can’t hold her?”
“I wanna hold!” Sunny said.
“Okay, no,” Klaus said, “You’re too small to hold her.”
“No! I’ll hold her!”
“We’ll discuss this while Klaus takes her outside. How’s that?” Violet said, shooting Klaus a look that meant she was on his side. “Speaking of which, get me the drill.”
“Fine.” Sunny groaned, running off.
Klaus gave Violet a smile and then walked outside the small tree they’d made their home. It wasn’t much, but it was better than many places they’d been before.
He hoped to God that this little girl wouldn’t have to deal with what they had.
He walked for a little, and then sat on the beach, watching the water lap against the sand. He had a sudden urge to skip rocks, but he didn’t know if that’d make him feel better or worse. He’d been feeling horrible recently, really. But… when he was holding her, he couldn’t help but feel… hopeful. Like there was something good in the world to look forward to after all.
He jumped as he heard a small sniffle, and he looked down to see the baby roll over in his arms, blinking open her eyes. He’d read somewhere that she still couldn’t focus her sight well at this stage, but he liked to think she was looking at the sea. He thought that might be a good thing for a baby to see in her first few days. It was a beautiful way to start the world.
“Hey.” Klaus said quietly. “You have a good nap?”
And then she looked up at him, and she reached up a tiny hand to try and touch his face.
Klaus felt his heart pound in his chest. She was so small, so sweet…
She let out another sigh, reaching up higher, and he brought his face lower, wondering if she wanted to play with his glasses. But instead, she just touched his cheek.
“Hey, Beatrice.” he said, his voice choked up.
He thought he saw her smile.
And there, sitting on the beach, holding his adopted daughter, Klaus felt like he couldn’t breathe.