In spite of his claims that the two of you are going hunting for marriage bands, Davesprite won’t leave the nest for days after the two of you “christen” it. When you question him about it, he just shrugs and mutters some stuff about just feeling like he should stay put. It concerns you, and makes you wonder if it’s your fault somehow. Were you too rough? Did you hurt him? Is he still just too ashamed of himself? Or is it simply more “crow hormone shit” giving him grief?
He’s there for so long that you actually begin to worry about his health. Truthfully, you aren’t sure if he needs to eat or sleep now that he’s a sprite (you’ve seen him do both, but you aren’t sure he needs to). Nevertheless, you bring him things and remind him to rest. He seems grateful, whether your actions are actually necessary or not. As a matter of fact, he gets oddly lovey-dovey with you when you do stuff for him, like bringing him food. He likes you to feed him, you discover; he’ll take nibbles of this or that straight from your hand, and kiss your fingers in between bites. He also enjoys it when you pet his hair, and his wings too; he’ll shiver and squirm when you do the latter, so of course you do it whenever you can get away with it. Sometimes he’ll blush, like he knows how demonstrative he’s being, but can’t help himself. Through it all, you hold your tongue and try not to grin, because you definitely like this affectionate side of him, and you don’t want to ruin it by making him all embarrassed.
It’s two weeks since the two of you had mind-blowing sex, and you’re currently snuggled up with Davesprite in his nest, with your arm slung over his waist and his tail wound loosely around your leg. It’s late, and you’re half-asleep, nearly all asleep, when all at once his tail tightens almost painfully around you, and his nails dig hard into your chest. You jerk fully awake, shock rushing into your veins hard enough to make you dizzy, and find yourself staring into a pair of equally startled orange-gold eyes. “Dave? What’s the matter?”
“I….” He blinks, a bewildered expression settling on his face. “I dunno, I just—hgk!” He doubles up so hard that it has you scrambling to sit up and help him, though how you’re supposed to help, you have no idea. Davesprite’s eyes are wide and just barely starting to gleam with panic; his body slowly relaxes—only to scrunch up again as another wave of pain hits him. “FUCK!”
“What’s wrong, where does it hurt!?” you demand. You’re flipping out and completely failing to hide it, and you know it’s only going to make things worse, but you can’t help it. Davesprite is twisting around in agony, and you don’t know what to do.
The sprite is panting now, and in an effort to find the cause of his suffering, you start running your hands over his body as carefully as possible. It’s only when you reach his stomach that you discover the possible culprit. The flesh here should yield under your touch, but instead it’s hard as rock. You press gently, and Davesprite gasps, one of his hands latching onto your wrist. Fuck, okay, that’s definitely where it hurts. You don’t want to cause him further pain, but you still don’t know what’s wrong, so you continue exploring with light pressure, murmuring apologies as the other boy whimpers in protest.
There’s some kind of obstruction there, something hard and somewhat rounded, kind of like—
“Oh my god,” you exclaim, meeting Davesprite’s eyes with nothing short of astonishment. “Is that….”
He groans, the sound half pain and half despair. “I didn’t want to believe it. I could feel them growing, but I told myself I was getting fat or something so I wouldn’t freak.”
He is bigger, actually, and you kick yourself mentally for not making the connection. You also thought he was just getting a little chubby, from lazing around in his nest letting you feed him things for two weeks. Not that he was actually eating all that much—which, come to think of it, should have been your first clue that his expanding girth wasn’t due to caloric intake.
The sprite spasms, gritting his teeth around a cry, but unable to completely silence it. “The little bastards want out,” he says hoarsely. He’s so pale; he’d be white as a sheet if he had a normal person’s skin color. There’s fear in his eyes when he looks at you. “John, I don’t know how to—”
“Shh, shhh, it’s okay,” you rush to assure him. “I’ve got you, man, it’s gonna be fine.”
Jade, you think, Jade’s a girl; she’d know what to do when something’s being born, wouldn’t she? No, wait, that’s sexist. But, god, she has to! There’s no way you can do this on your own. “Dave, hold on, okay? I need to get help, but I’ll be right back—”
“No!” He grabs onto your shirt, sheer terror taking over his face. “Don’t go, don’t you fucking leave me!”
“Dave, I promise, I’ll be back in two seconds, but I have to get Jade!”
You resist the urge to scream in frustration, and instead gather up your best friend who is also a bird, and lift him out of the nest. He’s really heavy for something part ghost, and any other time you’d be making wisecracks (“damn, Dave, put the fork down.”), but right now you need to haul ass to where Jade is. Being the Heir of Breath is all kinds of handy in situations like this; you put on the turbo, so to speak, and minutes later Jade is letting out a startled yelp as you burst into her room with your feathery buddy bundled in your arms.
“John, you can’t just—”
“Shut up and help me!” you blurt, losing your patience altogether. Jesus, can’t she see you’ve got a guy in labor here!?
To her credit, she takes notice of that particular detail almost exactly as you’re yelling at her. “Davesprite! John, what’s wrong with him?”
“He’s got eggs,” you explain, and her eyes go wide. “He has to lay them, but he doesn’t know how and we need your help!”
“Put him on the bed,” she instructs, going into what you’ve dubbed “Army General Mode.” You obey, laying the sprite on his side. Jade rolls up the sleeves of her God Tier hoodie, and yanks some latex gloves out of her sylladex. She tosses a pair at you too, and you put them on, not bothering (for now) to wonder why she has those.
“Oh my god,” Davesprite mumbles, “it’s like a bad episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Or just an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Someone get me like a billion ccs of morphine, stat—” He cuts himself off with a loud gasp, and his tail thrashes atop the star-patterned comforter. “Shit, shit, nnngh….”
Jade feels around blindly for a moment until, with reddening cheeks, you direct her hand to what Davesprite told you was his “cloaca.” It’s not a bird vagina, he’d insisted. Dude birds have them too. Except that dude birds don’t lay eggs, so his argument is officially invalid.
Jade shoots you a look as you help her locate the opening, like she knows exactly why you know where that is and what it’s for, but lucky for you, she doesn’t call you on anything. She’ll probably save that for later, when the situation isn’t so dire. “Okay, Davesprite,” she instructs, “just relax. You don’t have to do anything else right now, so just breathe, okay?”
You glance anxiously between her and the sprite. “Doesn’t he have to push or whatever?”
Jade rolls her eyes. “He’s not dilated at all yet. If he pushes now, he’ll tear something.”
Davesprite looks absolutely horrified at that, and you’re pretty sure you look the same. “Oh….”
Another spasm sets the winged boy to writhing again; it hurts to watch, so you can only imagine how it must feel. You try to comfort him a little, rubbing his belly gently and murmuring words of encouragement. Jade keeps an eye on his progress downstairs, every now and then checking her laptop for the time. After a long, long while of waiting, her eyebrows draw together in concern.
“Still nothing,” she mutters. “I’m almost positive it should have started by now.”
She prods the nearly-invisible slit gently, and Davesprite flinches. “Whoa, Harley,” he manages, his voice strained, “at least buy me dinner before you start poking around under my skirt.”
Jade’s eyes narrow. “Davesprite,” she says sternly, “are you deliberately holding that shut?” His eyes dart away, and the girl throws her hands up in exasperation. “You are! Stop it right now, do you hear me!?”
A hint of color leaches back into his face. “Well, shit, you’re both staring at me! How am I supposed to get going like this?”
“You quit clenching right now, mister,” Jade growls, her white dog ears laying back irritably. “Those eggs are gonna get stuck if you don’t let this happen like it’s supposed to, and then we’ll have an even bigger problem on our hands!”
“It’s fucking embarrassing! How’d you like to have a kid while people are eyeballing your junk!?”
“That’s kind of what happens every time someone has a baby,” Jade retorts. “At least, if they have any kind of help. Look, just think of me as the doctor, and John as the expectant dad, okay?”
“Kill me now—SHIT, getyourfingersoutofthere!”
The green-eyed girl gives an annoyed huff, and without warning, seizes your hand and places it where her own was a moment ago. “John, help him, since he doesn’t want me touching him like that.”
Your face is on fire, but it’s for Davesprite’s own good, and you really don’t think he wants those eggs getting stuck in him.
You press lightly, and the sprite jerks and gasps as your fingers slip inside. “Easy,” you soothe. “Easy, Dave, just relax.”
“I hate you,” he moans, clutching at the bedspread as you gradually work him open. “I hate you, I hate Jade, I hate this stupid battleship, I hate this stupid, fucking UNIVERSE—ohfuck, stop, stop, I—”
He convulses, and the sound he makes is only half agony this time. You jump in surprise as hot, bright-yellow fluid gushes over your gloved hand. Did—did you just make him cum? From the way he’s shaking and covering his face with both hands in humiliation, it would seem you did. “Uh…oops?”
“Oh, god,” Davesprite whimpers. “Why is this happening? Just kill me.”
Jade is blushing something fierce now too, but she tries to maintain her composure all the same. “Um, that’s perfectly okay, you know? I mean, it happens. I think. Anyway, I can actually see what’s going on now that you’re not all clamped shut. You look like you’re starting to dilate nicely, so it shouldn’t be too long before we can get this show on the road for real.”
He glares at her as evilly as he can when he’s trembling and cloudy-eyed with pain. You discreetly wipe your messy hand on the bed (sorry, Jade), and go back to rubbing calming circles on Davesprite’s tummy. “It could be worse,” you tell him. “Rose could be here too. And she’d probably be taking notes.”
A malevolent, orange-gold eye fixes on you. “I’m going to choke you with your own windsock hood.” Then another contraction hits him, and he goes from threatening your life to clinging to you desperately. “Shit, it hurts,” he chokes out. “I don’t think I can do this.”
“You can. You can do it, Dave, it’ll be okay, I promise.”
He spasms again; so soon, the pains are coming faster now. “Don’t leave,” he pleads, and you don’t even care that Jade is watching anymore; you lean down and kiss his forehead.
It’s another fifteen minutes before Jade decides it’s all right to proceed. “Listen, it’s time to start now. Take a deep breath, and when you let it out, I want you to push, okay?”
Davesprite nods weakly, and you’ve seen enough childbirth in movies that the way he’s gripping your hand worries you a bit. You’d rather not get broken fingers out of this ordeal. Not that you’re going to make him let go; if he needs this, you’re giving it to him, broken digits or not.
“Deep breath,” Jade encourages. “Good. Now exhale and push.”
He obeys—and cries out in anguish. He quits pushing immediately and tries to curl up in a ball; Jade just barely manages to stop him by wrapping her arms around his tail. “Davesprite, don’t, you have to keep going!”
“No, no, fuck, I can’t—” He’s practically sobbing, and you can feel your eyes stinging in response. You’ve never seen him in this much pain. You’ve never seen anyone in this much pain.
“You have to,” Jade insists, and there’s a glimmer of wetness in her eyes too, alongside determination. “Listen to me, I know it hurts, but there’s no other way.”
“Jade,” you butt in hopefully, “can’t you just make the eggs smaller? They’d hurt a lot less coming out that way, wouldn’t they?”
She rejects your idea with a stiff shake of her head. “If I do that, the shells won’t be strong enough to stand up to the contractions. He’ll crush them.”
You pale at that image. “Well, could you maybe, I dunno, teleport the eggs out, or something?”
“No, John, I can’t teleport the eggs because I can’t see what’s in there! What if I accidentally take out his organs!? Now you, be quiet, and Davesprite, I’m so sorry, but you have to try again. Are you ready?”
He sniffs, takes in a few gaspy little breaths, and finally manages a faint, “Y-yeah.”
“Good. Deep breath. And push.”
On her command, Davesprite strains hard, tears rolling down his face and practically every muscle standing out in stark relief. He has to stop after only a little while to catch his breath, and it’s so erratic that it’s almost like he’s forgotten how to breathe. You try to help him, taking deep, even breaths so he can follow your rhythm, and it seems to work a little. Jade nods approvingly at you, and reaches in to check the winged boy’s progress. This time he doesn’t even protest, although he does jerk and tremble as she searches with careful fingers.
“Give me another push, Dave,” she tells him. He does, and her eyebrows go up. “There! I can feel the first one. Again, push.”
He makes an almighty effort, but it’s still not enough. “Goddamnit,” he snarls, “get out, you little shit!”
“That’s the spirit,” Jade encourages, taking her hand back to make room for the egg when it emerges. “You tell that shell-bound brat who’s boss. Come on, one more time!”
Davesprite strains again, and now you can just see something beginning to open him up from the inside. The egg wall is smooth and slimy with fluid, and it’s hard to differentiate when everything is this or that shade of orange, but you think that might be his blood in there along with whatever else is making a mess on Jade’s bedspread. Childbirth, you’ve determined, is the most awful thing ever.
Another push, and another, and the ordeal seems to drag on forever. Finally, with a last shove and a harsh scream from Davesprite, the first egg arrives with a slick “pop.” Jade collects it and cleans it off with some wet wipes from her sylladex (that girl is always prepared, it seems), while the sprite goes limp and simply pants, exhausted. He’s sweaty and tear-streaked and still quivering faintly from the effort, and you think you might finally understand what your troll friends mean when they go on about pity. He is pitiful like this, and it’s giving you all kinds of warm, protective feelings. You already figured out that you like him a lot, but this is something entirely different. This ventures clear out of “I have nice feelings for you and I think you’re hot” territory and into a whole new universe of emotion. You think you love him. From the way he smiles weakly when you touch his cheek, you think he might feel the same way about you.
“Here,” Jade says, laying the egg carefully next to the sprite. “Baby number one, all clean. You did great.”
“Yeah,” he replies, nearly breathless with relief. “Thank you.” He wraps an arm around the pale-orange ovoid, tucking it against his side. “I think it’s over for now. I don’t know how long it’ll be ‘til the next round, though.”
“I’m not sure how long it takes birds to lay,” Jade admits. “It could be anywhere from hours to days before they’re all out.”
“Days!?” you squeak. “Jade, he can’t go on like this for days, that’d be too much!”
Davesprite reaches over to pat your thigh comfortingly. “S’okay, man. At least now I know what to expect. I’ll be fine.”
Despite Davesprite’s reassurances, the second egg—which doesn’t come until the next morning—is just as hard on him as the first. His throat is raw from screaming by the time the egg is out, clean, and nestled in beside its twin, and you wish it was the last time you had to watch him suffer. Unfortunately, Jade estimates there are at least two more eggs, and if the pattern holds, it’s going to be about that many days before they all arrive.
By the third day, you’re almost as much of a wreck as the egg-layer himself. “Almost” being the operative word. Davesprite is a pale imitation of his former self, drained and sick and losing feathers all over the place. He won’t eat, can’t sleep because of the lesser contractions he experiences between laying sessions; it’s killing you to see him this way, more so with each hour that passes.
He’s so tired by the time the third egg is ready to come out that he can barely push at all, and no amount of coaching from you or Jade seems to make a difference. The pain isn’t a thing that’s stopped happening either, but he’s too worn out to do more than groan softly.
“If I live through this,” he rasps at you, “I’m never gonna make another mean joke about girls again as long as I live. My days of talking shit are over. I’m a changed man, for serious.”
“Your ecto-sis is going to love that,” you tease. “Dave ‘Birdman’ Strider, mending his terrible, woman-hating ways at last; she’ll probably declare a national holiday.”
“I never hated women,” Davesprite argues, his voice breaking as he attempts another weary push. “I just thought they were made of snarky horseshit. Turns out they were made of super-elastic vaginas and toughassery. Shit, I’m gonna cry again. Don’t look at me.”
You shush him and stroke his damp, stringy hair, and he hiccups quietly, a few stray tears trailing down his cheeks. Positioned near the lower half of his straining body, Jade bites her lip uneasily and waits to play receiver. It’s been too long, and all of you know it. “Dave,” she ventures (she stopped calling him “Davesprite” sometime between the first egg-laying day and now), “if you can’t push the egg out, I’m going to have to go in after it. Are you going to be okay with that?”
“Can’t see as I have many options at this point,” he admits, though he looks anything but okay with it. “I’m giving it everything I’ve got left, and it’s not doing jack shit.”
She nods stiffly, and goes in with a gloved hand to check the situation. He squirms unhappily; he’s hypersensitive after all the abuse to his nether regions, and the invasion is probably ten kinds of uncomfortable. “I can just barely feel it,” she proclaims. “If you can get it a little closer to me, I might be able to get a grip on it.”
The sprite nods, and after taking a deep, bracing breath, shoves with all his remaining might. Jade curses as her fingers slip once, twice—and finally catch hold. It’s horribly slow going, but with steady pulling and a little muscle action from the sprite, the egg finally comes out. This one too is cleaned and placed with its siblings, and Davesprite lets out a sigh like a dying man.
“Fuck,” he murmurs, “there’s one more in there. But I don’t have any strength left. How the hell am I supposed to do this again tomorrow?”
“Try to sleep,” you suggest. “That’s probably the best thing you can do right now.”
He’s completely done in, so this time he actually manages to sleep for a couple of hours before those little waves of pain rouse him again. If anything, he looks even worse for getting that period of rest, only to have it end so soon. But he deals with it, and you hang around and talk with him while Jade goes and finds food on the off-chance he’ll eat it.
“Hey, Dave?” you whisper as you lay next to him. “I think I’m in lesbians with you.”
He snorts quietly at that, the best he can do at the moment. “Really, Egbert? I’m so flattered by that, you have no idea.”
You smile, and he smiles faintly back. “I mean it, though,” you tell him. “I love you.”
“Oh,” he says. “I…yeah. Thank you. I mean, me too.”
“It’s okay to come out and say it, you know.”
He exhales slowly, his eyebrows scrunching together a little. “Love you too, John,” he answers finally, the words almost too soft to hear.
You hug him close, and eventually, he falls asleep again. He gets about thirty minutes before waking up, at which point he tries unsuccessfully to eat a few bites of the food that Jade brings, and spends the rest of the day curled around his eggs, drifting in and out of consciousness.
The next day, around noon, it’s time to get the fourth and final egg moving. He’s barely even coherent at this point, responding to Jade’s commands to push like he’s on autopilot. His eyes keep drifting shut, and when they’re open they stare into nothing. You fight to get him to focus, but it’s like he’s not even there. When it becomes clear that his instinctive efforts aren’t going to be enough, Jade goes in after the egg again manually.
“I can’t keep hold of this one,” the girl frets. “It’s still too far in.”
“Jade,” you plead, “just make the last one smaller. It might be able to survive long enough for you to get it out, but Dave can’t take anymore.”
She stares at the winged boy helplessly for a moment. Then, with great reluctance, she nods. “I might be able to grab it and pull it out quick enough to keep it from getting crushed. It’ll be rough on him, though.”
“Do it, please.”
You don’t quite see what she does down there, but the result is that Davesprite’s slightly-rounded stomach appears to deflate, and then she’s swearing and pulling her arm back as quickly as she can without causing any damage. “Ugh, he’s too tight—there! Got it!” She holds up her hand, and you let out a supremely relieved sigh when you see the small, orange egg cradled in her fist.
Jade wipes down the egg and returns it to its normal size, and lays it with the others. You help Davesprite coil himself loosely back around them, and he makes a soft, happy noise before passing out. It’s over. Thank god.
“We are the best midwives,” Jade declares. “It’s us.”
“Yup,” you agree. The two of you give each other slightly off-kilter grins…and promptly join Davesprite in slumber.