Shower of Stones
This story is set in early 1999.
"You're having the next one!" Tina yelled.
"Yes, ma'am," squeaked How, tails low and ears flattened, "whatever you say. Just don't break my arm."
"I'm not squeezing you that hard," gasped Tina, as the contraction eased.
"You're doing fine," said Lisa. "I want you to push again on the next contraction."
Tina nodded, bracing herself as she felt it start.
She was on Lisa's custom-designed and -manufactured birthing table. This contraption was able to tilt completely vertical, and in addition to the traditional stirrups had adjustable supports under the arms. Just now Tina was about 50 degrees from flat on her back, which provided considerable support while holding her in a semi-squatting position to allow gravity to help with the delivery. She was also well off the floor, which allowed Lisa to sit on a low stool between her feet.
"Here it comes!" cried Tina, as the contraction began.
"Beautiful! I can see the crown! Push, push, push... Okay, relax."
"How much longer?" panted Tina.
"The head should come out next contraction. With luck, the rest of the baby should follow with the one after that," said Lisa. "By the way, the baby has a full head of white hair."
"White?" said How, looking puzzled.
The next contraction did, indeed, produce the baby's head.
"Beautiful pair of foxy ears," said Lisa, smiling. "Okay, I want a serious push on the next one; let's try to get the baby the rest of the way out."
Again, Lisa proved correct. With a hard, long effort, Tina completed the process of birthing her and How's daughter. As Tina caught her breath, she heard a couple of tiny, baby coughs, then crying.
"Beautiful," said Lisa. "Though she has more tails than we were expecting."
"How many," asked How, grinning.
"Uhm, looks like... eight."
If Lisa noticed the stunned silence which followed, she didn't react to it. With How's help she clamped and cut the cord, and wrapped the baby in sterile cloth.
"Hold her for a moment, would you?" asked Lisa, casually.
How hesitantly took little Gillian in his arms, beaming down at her, while Lisa and Tina dealt with the afterbirth process. That done, Lisa rotated the table back to nearly horizontal and raised the upper portion so Tina could semi-recline, while How showed the baby to her mother.
"Isn't she adorable?" asked How. "We make 'em good!"
"Okay, daddy, we need to get the weight, length and footprints," said Lisa.
The still-crying baby went on the scales.
"Uhm, just under 3.2 kilos," mused Lisa, reaching for the tape measure. "A bit smaller than I was expecting, given Tina's size, but nothing to worry about. And the length is... 55 centimeters. Long and lean, like her mother. Okay, give her to Tina. She needs feeding."
In moments the baby was suckling enthusiastically, while mother and father smiled down at her. Lisa finished cleaning the room and left the family of three alone for a while. She had paperwork to do and, besides, they needed the time.
About twenty minutes later, as How wrestled with baby and diaper, there was a knock on the door. Lisa entered, followed eagerly by Mariah.
"Oh, she's adorable!" gushed the housekeeper. "She has her mother's nose and eyes, and her daddy's ears... but what's with all those tails?"
"I wanted to ask about that, too," said Lisa. "The ultrasound showed just one."
"Well, it would," How replied, finally managing to get the diaper fastened. "One tail is a real, physical tail. The others are indications of her power level and rank. They're not really real; they just seem that way. They're actually a fairly modern convention."
"Okay," said Mariah, slowly, "knowing all the things you can do with four, what will she be like with eight?"
"Don't worry," said How, holding the sleepy baby up and grinning at her. "A lot of that comes from skill. She won't be able to do much until she's had some training."
* * *
How opened the door and stared for a moment in surprise.
"Ethel! Come in, come in..."
"Thanks! I brought you a..."
The woman's voice trailed off as she stepped into the apartment and saw who - and what - was already there.
"Go ahead, get comfortable," said How, grinning as he took the gift. "We're all weird, here."
"Ain't that the truth," said Ethel, shifting to her elfin trueform. "Wow. I've never seen so many supernatural types before, total, let alone in one place!"
The tall, slender elf stepped further into the room, smiling at Lord Teleomier - who was at least familiar to her - before gingerly seating herself on the couch beside a female werewolf in midform. Across from them Tina sat in the young couple's lounger, holding and rocking the baby, making small talk with various of the guests. When she saw the newcomer, though, she smiled broadly.
"Ethynyl! I didn't know you were coming!"
"I decided to surprise you and How," the sidhe replied, smiling back. She looked around the apartment. "My, this is quite a crowd."
"Yeah, well, be glad we had the shower with How's and my relatives and mundane friends before the birth," laughed Tina. "Not only would it be even more crowded with them here, too, but we'd have a hard time keeping someone from letting something slip. This way, our more unusual friends can let their inner selves out comfortably.
"Anyway," Tina continued, holding the baby up, "this is Gillian, named after my maternal grandmother."
"Oh, she's adorable!" cooed Ethel. "Does she open her eyes yet?"
"Only when we do something she doesn't like," said Tina, grinning at her daughter. "I'm surprised she's taking all this ruckus so well. Guess she likes attention."
"And who is this delightful creature?" asked a male voice from beside Ethel, making her jump a bit.
"Oh, Ethel, this is Professor Finlay," said Tina, completing the introductions.
"Charmed," said Finlay, taking her hand and lightly kissing it. "How and Tina know such interesting people."
"If it weren't still daylight outside, I'd think that was a vampire," whispered Ethel, after Finlay left.
"Well, only one vampire knows who How and I are, and he sent a gift with a note apologizing for not being here, saying it was a bad time for him," said Tina. She grimaced briefly. "I'm not sorry. He's not a bad fellow, but... well, he's creepy. Anyway, Professor Finlay is a Sloughy."
"Oh! I'd wondered what one of them looked like..." said Ethel, looking at the man. "But that's not his trueform, is it?"
"No. That wouldn't fit in the room," said Tina. "Even without all the other people here."
"Oh," said Ethel, faintly.
"Okay, people, some folks have to leave early, so let's go ahead and open the presents!" said How, rubbing his hands eagerly together.
Bracket and Leyola had chipped in together to buy an expensive DVD player. The fact that it was a mundane gift, and not something conjured, was impressive. Lord Teleomier had conjured something, but it was a long-term chimera, a baby-watcher which would go tell How or Tina if anything happened to Gillian. Lisa gave them a pot and a blanket.
"The pot is from an Acoma uncle of mine who sells this stuff commercially," she explained. "He's a fair artist, though his style is pretty traditional, instead of realistic. But I think the images of the husband and wife pretty closely resemble you two, even without ears and tails for How. The baby, of course, is generic human, since this had to be started a few weeks before the birth.
"The blanket is from a Navajo cousin. Notice there's a slight flaw, here. That's deliberate; Navajo believe it's presumptuous for humans to try and make anything perfect."
Ethel gave them a box of homemade cookies, and a gift certificate.
"I figure you two know what you want or need better than I do," she explained, blushing a bit.
"Whoah!" exclaimed How. "Are those chocolate chip? Lemme at 'em!"
"Well, you can't go wrong with How if you give treats," laughed Mariah.
Professor Finlay presented them with a fancy photo album, with some pictures already in it, mostly taken by Lisa.
Other gifts included the usual toaster, sheets, diapers and baby clothes. Finally, Bent-Tail and Joyce presented them with a large box containing video tapes.
"Since you and How are fans, we dubbed my personal collection of Joyce's appearances as Carni Vore," said Bent-Tail. He gave How a mock-stern look. "Don't drool over my wife too much."
"This is great," sighed Tina, tears in here eyes. "Thank you, all of you. It's wonderful to have such friends."
"Post-partum mood swings, again?" asked Lisa, grinning. "Oh, I'm just kidding. You're quite welcome."
That was echoed by all present. And, unfortunately, the mood was now broken as some had to leave.
"So, you gonna hold How to that promise?" asked Mariah, plopping down next to Ethel as the female werewolf who had been there stood, shifted to human and headed for the door.
"Which one?" asked Tina, distracted by saying goodbye.
"That he has the next baby," snickered Mariah.
"What's that?" asked Ethel, startled.
Tina laughed and explained.
"Anyway, we agreed to compromise. Instead of having the next one, he's helping feed this one."
"So?" asked Ethel, frowning. "All good fathers do this."
"I think she means he's helping nurse this one," said Mariah, starting to giggle at the mental image this produced.
Ethel, after a moment of surprise, also started giggling, which started Tina. In moments the three women were laughing helplessly.
"What's the joke?" asked How, sitting on the arm of the chair beside Tina.
"How, she's getting fussy. Would you take her into the kitchen and feed her?"
"Sure," said the kitsune, gently taking his daughter and rising.
The women watched him leave... then all three laughed so hard they cried.
This work is Copyright 2000 Rodford Edmiston Smith. It may not be reprinted or reposted without permission of the author, who can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.