• “Hey, Naro.”

    Naro hummed as he gave the pan that held the morning’s breakfast a small shake in order to let Taymen know he had heard her. A tingling smell of yeast and sausage hovered in the air, creating a pleasant breakfast sort of aroma. The sun was able to find enough room to shine amidst all the clouds in order to light the room without candles. Dew still gathered on the glass window. Though Naro wasn’t in the least bit groggy, all other things sung of morning time.


    He paused a moment. Naro noticed a small change in the voice that addressed him. It was more urgent than usual, and there was something unsure about it as well. Something afraid. He tilted his head in order to glance at what he might have called his wife and tried to read her expressions, but it wasn’t enough. He set the pan down on an unlit surface before turning to face Taymen.

    “What is it?” It wasn’t angry; it wasn’t demanding, but it was concerned and pressing. At this point he could read the majority of Taymen’s emotions, but this was something somewhat new to him. He knew her frustration, he knew her sadness, he knew when she was happy, and he most definitely knew when she was angry, but this he did not know.

    “I,” Her eyes looked off to the side. She trailed off.

    She never trailed off.

    He waited.

    She sighed angrily, pulled at the sides of her shirt, and bit the inside of her lip - once again something completely new to him.

    “Oh damn it. This is ********, stupid, just stupid. Fine, fine. Whatever.”

    He was confused, but he still didn’t say anything. He only watched her.

    “I’m pregnant.”

    Naro took a few moments to let the words sink in, considered it, and then asked, “are you sure?”

    Taymen sent him a scathing glare. “Of course I am, stupid! Why else would I say so? You men seem to know nothing about anything that doesn’t have to do with you! Of course-”

    “I’m just making sure. How long?”

    “How long?” She seemed to be the confused one now. He tried again. “How long have you been not-”

    “Oh. OH. One... about one and a half months. I’m pretty sure. Pretty damn sure. Damn it. I just didn’t say so earlier because I didn’t want to be wrong.”

    “You don’t want to have a child?” The question was so blunt that it seemed to have shocked Taymen, but Naro wasn’t one who enjoyed dancing around a topic when he didn’t need to. He was completely honest about it. He knew how Taymen was, and he never held any fascination that they would have a cheerful little family. Something in his stomach, though, seemed to tighten, and he had an urge to look down.

    “I… I don’t know. I mean… I dunno if I,”

    He glanced to the side quickly, glanced up, glanced at Taymen, let his eyes fall, and sighed.

    “I…” It was him that was trailing off this time. “I can arrange for a doctor to meet with you. The surgical procedure is highly dangerous… and some… have died, but it’s possible.”

    A small group of birds flew by the window giving a small distraction. They chattered noisily enough to let the two pretend that it was enough to pause, but still not loud enough so both knew they really didn’t need to. When Naro looked back at Taymen, he realized that her hair was still a mess, she still had a rash on her elbow from the poisonous oak she had rubbed up against on accident, and her eyes were beginning to water.

    “I’ll do it.”

    He nodded, his lips a firm line. He understood. He more than understood. But there was something in him that yearned for that small fantasy to see what he and the girl he chose - well, no, he and the girl that chose him would make.

    “I’ll leave after breakfast then.” He turned back to what he had been cooking before Taymen had walked in.

    “Wait- wait no. I mean… I’ll do it. I’ll have the baby. I think… I think I want to have the baby.”

    The room was silent as Naro turned around to face Taymen again, except this time, after catching her eyes, he grabbed the back of her neck and kissed her. He felt the wetness on her cheeks, and ran his hand through her tangled mess of hair.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    “The doctor said it will be about seven to eight months, depending,” Taymen announced as she closed the door. Naro looked up from the letters he had been writing in the front room on a small desk. It was situated so that he could see clearly out the window, but was angled in a way to hide the space from view of any casual passer-by. Of course, if the person decided to go up to the window to look in they would be able to see the room without any difficulty, but still, Naro never got over his imbedded paranoia deepened by years of being a double-agent.

    “Did he say anything else?”

    “No, not really. Just some stuff.” He could hear just how carefully she treaded over those words and could tell just what subject she was trying to avoid.

    “Stuff?” He gave her one of those looks. Those I-know-what-your-answer-is-but-I’m-making-you-say-it-anyways-just-so-that-you-know-you-can’t-hide-it looks. Taymen gave an annoyed groan in reply.

    “Stuff. You know. Like… eating. And stuff.”

    “What about eating?”

    “He said I should have a better diet so that the baby is healthy and stuff.”

    “And what was the other stuff?”

    “The eating?”

    “As I recall, you said ‘eating. And stuff.‘“

    She rolled her eyes and frowned in a way that made it seem almost like a pout. “He said I shouldn’t, you know, be working like I do. Which is stupid. It’s not like I’m weak or something. I can handle stuff myself. Just ‘cause I’m pregnant doesn’t mean-”

    “He’s saying that because you’re a woman, and typically women don’t work like you do anyways, but also because it’s more than just you who feels the strain of the work now.”

    “Whatever,” she said, and she dumped the newly chopped wood in the fireplace. Naro sighed.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    “You don’t know how to sew or knit, or make clothes, do you?” Naro asked as they ate. They had potatoes and soup; Taymen had made it, it being her turn to cook. Taymen complained and seemed much less concerned about being cautious, but he knew that she cared as well, and only felt that her masculinity was threatened with the pregnancy.

    This question, apparently, also threatened her masculinity. She sputtered. “Well, no. What do you think? It’s not like I was a complete recluse when I lived on my own. I still made my way to some place to buy clothing often enough to not run out.”

    “You know that I’m talking about the baby.” He blew on his soup before taking a gulp. For some reason the food always seemed hotter when Taymen made it, which probably explained why the meat was a little crispier whenever she cooked. Then again, she didn’t seem to notice it. She was either used to it, or she just did that on purpose some days.

    “I know,” she admitted, “but I just, well, I don’t know. I mean, I’m sure we could always just buy some new clothes. And I already got the plans for the bed sketched out, I just hafta chop the wood and put it togeth-”

    I have to chop the wood and put it together.”

    “Screw you. Whatever. And we have blankets and stuff and we can probably buy other stuff too that we need and… yeah.”

    Naro sipped his soup this time, not wanting his mouth to be burnt again. “I was thinking, you know, maybe we could ask that woman that Jeks goes to sometimes,”

    Her? Why her? I mean, you wouldn’t think she’d want to with her being… her and us being us an’ all, you know. Plus, isn’t that a lot to ask?”

    Naro shrugged. “Just thinking.”

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    “Are you okay?” He gave Taymen a concerned gaze. She gave a small hiss, pressing her hand to the small of her back as she straightened herself out.

    “Yeah, fine. Just a little pain.” She leaned against the wall.

    “It hasn’t been that long, It probably shouldn’t-”

    “I’m fine.” But she was still leaning. Naro took her arm.

    “Just sit down for a bit.”

    “I’m fine. It’s fine. Don’t worry.” Her voice was cold and almost threatening, but Naro had never been afraid of that before, and he wasn’t about to start now.


    And that was certainly new. Taymen sighed.


    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    “What do you think?” he finished, standing in the doorway still in his uniform. Naro had his arms crossed, but in a casual way. He leaned against the siding of the door, watching Taymen with a hopeful stare.

    “Huh? ‘Bout what?” She took off her goggles from around her neck and sat them on her dresser. She still wore them constantly, but they saw less and less use as time went on. It was only the second month, and she barely had any trace of a bump, but Naro still did his best to make sure that Taymen didn’t sneak off to do any of her work. She had snapped at him more than a few times already. Naro, though, wasn’t about to let things slip.

    He sighed. “A name, Taymen. I’ve been talking to you for the past five minutes about a name. If it turned out to be a girl I think Ea might be a good name.”

    She gave it some thought before frowning. “I think Chaeli would be better if it were a girl. Nian if it turns up to be a boy.”

    “Hm. I’m not sure about Chaeli, but…”

    Taymen smiled. “Then let’s just hope it turns out to be a boy.”

    Naro returned the gesture. “Let’s hope.”

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    “Stop that.”

    He blinked. “Huh?”

    “I said,” Taymen repeated, her voice a little more threatening this time, “stop that.” She had her hands on her hip, and Naro took the time to notice that for some reason she still wore her belt full of weapons despite his constant nagging to simply let herself be.

    “Stop what?”

    She threw her arms up. “All of this! You’ve been doing nearly all of the work around here and you’ve been going back and forth between here and the palace just to make sure some dimwit doesn’t screw things over after all the work we’ve done to screw things over ourselves, and I’m getting freakin’ tired of it! I can do some work too, you know! Just ‘cause I’m pregnant doesn’t mean I’m disabled.”

    A small smile twitched at the corners of his mouth, and Naro was sure Taymen could see. “Well, you could always do… you know, the cooking and the cleaning - Hey!” He dodged a suddenly airborne book. One of his books that had been previously sitting on the desk that Taymen was standing next to. He regarded her with a chiding tone. “Now that was uncalled for.”

    “‘Uncalled for?’ If anything was ‘uncalled for’ it was what you just said! I am not about to turn into some docile house-wife just because we decided to screw and it got me pregnant.”

    Naro shrugged. “Then I guess you’ll just have to deal.”

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    “I’m going to be leaving for a while. I’ve been sent out on a diplomatic mission since, well, some other kingdoms aren’t too happy with the recent change in government we’ve had.” One hand was in his pocket, the other was grasping the arm of his pack that rested on his shoulders. The sun was shining behind him, creating a halo of light around his head that contrasted with his dark hair. It was early in the morning. They hadn’t even eaten breakfast yet.

    Taymen nodded; he hadn’t really expected much else of a reply. She was still in her nightshirt, barefoot, and he expected she was upset at him for waking her so early. He wondered if he should have left a note instead.

    Naro turned to walk away. The only thing that betrayed her front was her small farewell:


    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    “I should have been back to the house by now,” Naro said in the most annoyed tone he could muster. He narrowed his eyes and frowned enough so that the messenger he was talking to would understand just how pissed off he was about this. The meetings were supposed to have only lasted five days. It had been a week and a half so far, and they weren’t even done yet. He was beginning to feel anxious, and somewhat worried. He didn’t trust Taymen to get much help from other people when it came to housework. In fact, he wouldn’t have been surprised if she was using this time to delve back into her alchemical research.

    “The king sends his apologies, sir, but is hopeful you will stay for the rest of the week to smooth things out. There are certain things he wants to make sure of before agreeing to keep the alliance with our kingdom and your own. I’m sure you understand.”

    “Yes, yes, I understand, however I-”

    “Thank you, sir. I shall tell the king that you are willing to stay with us until the end of the week. He will be greatly pleased.” The messenger gave a quick bow and left before Naro had the chance to call him back and correct him.

    Naro groaned and massaged his forehead.

    Of course he understood the whole politics of it all. He just didn’t understand why he had to be there. He had been a double-agent, a spy, and a military adviser. There were plenty of other people who had much more if not equal experience in these sorts of things. He wondered briefly if he should have told them about Taymen so that they would have sent someone else instead,

    “She would kill me.”

    He knew her well enough to understand that by now.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


    The house was silent. Light filtered into the dark entrance, showing just how much dust had gathered in his absence. He felt his stomach twist. His heartbeat increased dramatically. His eyes searched the area, looking for any sign of familiar blonde hair.

    There was none.

    “Taymen!” His voice was frantic. It was nearly desperate, even. Flashes of scenes he didn’t want to think about ran through his head, and as if the gods were for once answering him, there was a cry from the bedroom. He was there in a heartbeat, which had sped up even more.

    “Augh..!” was Taymen’s greeting as he fell to her side, wrapping an arm around her shoulders.

    “What’s wrong? What happened?” If it wasn’t for his voice he might not have noticed that he was suddenly short of breath. Taymen looked just as she had when she first admitted to being pregnant, except ten times worse. Her hair was a knotted mess, her eyes were bloodshot, there were angry rashes where she had wiped the tears away countless times, her lips seemed bruised from her own bite marks, and…

    “Look, at the blood on the floor and figure it out for yourself,” she snapped, her breathing in much worse shape than his own.

    Naro’s eyes widened. “Did you-”

    “What - do you think I would actually do something like that?!” The hurt in her voice was obvious, and Naro realized just how cutting his accusation had been. His eyes dropped, and the initial panic started to turn into a gut-wrenching reality.

    His throat clenched up as his vision began to blur.

    Taymen collapsed into him, her body shaking from what could have been exhaustion or sorrow.