For Better or For Worse

by FoolAmongTheStars

Eighth Month

She wakes up to something pressing on her ribs.

Her first thought is that she’d probably be less annoyed about waking up this way, if the thing making her this uncomfortable was her own overactive foal, but the baby is quiet tonight for a change, unlike it’s father who she can feel is thrashing around behind her. Right now, exhausted in the dark of night, she tries to ignore her annoyance and just go back to sleep.

But when Sunburst starts mumbling, she turns over to look at him, concerned. In all the time they’ve shared a bed, she can recount each individual incidence of him sleeping fitfully enough for her to notice. And now, as he mumbles out nonsense phrases like “cherry tuition” while his face tightens and his eyebrows knit together, she's willing to bet her kite collection that she knows the reason he’s waking her up.

He raises his hoof in front of him again, moving similar to when his words are coming out faster than he wants them to. She slips her foreleg gently into the one raised in the air in front of her and pulls it around her waist. He seems to calm down a bit, pulling her closer and tickling her face with a heavy sigh. A few minutes go by in peace before she feels his breath on her face. He’s talking again, and not coherently enough to understand the actual words, but she still understands their meaning. She pushes her hoof over the back of his neck, feels the sweat and the heat and tries to bring him gently back to consciousness.

"Sunburst, it's okay," she whispers, nuzzling his face as she speaks. "Sunburst, wake up, Sunburst."

His whole body jerks when he finally wakes up, the foreleg on her waist squeezing her tightly.

“It’s just a dream,” she says softly.

“Sorry.” He blinks his eyes a few times and when they finally focus on her there’s regret and something like guilt in his eyes. “Sorry, sorry,” he repeats before he kisses her forehead and shakes his head a little.

She feels relief when she asks if he wants to talk to her about it and he says no. And maybe she’d press him more for answers, try to find a way to make him feel more settled, if growing a baby took less of her energy. Instead she rolls onto her back, tugs on his hoof a few times until she forces him to snuggle close to her. His face settles into the curve of her neck, she pulls the blanket up a little as she rubs his back so the sweat will dry while his hoof settles wide and warm on the roundness of her stomach.

Starlight eyes are heavy and Sunburst's touch is warm and comforting on her skin, but she fights the temptation of sleep for as long as she can, because she can feel her boyfriend wide awake besides her, and she wants to help him. She closes her eyes for a minute, she tells herself, just for a bit while Sunburst makes up his mind. She hopes he speaks up quickly, because she's about to fall asleep any minute now...

“They hated me.” She’s almost asleep when his words come out against her collarbone, but she peels her eyes open again.

“Who did?”

“The baby. Except there was more than one, six, maybe seven. They cried every time I picked them up and you kept trying to hold them all at once but it was too much and I couldn't help you.”

“Sunburst, you’re just...”

“And then they were older, 16 or 17 and they were asking me about college and buying them clothes and how could I not have saved enough for all of them? And I didn’t know what to say, I just kept punching numbers into this old printing calculator. But it ran out of ink, so I had to calculate with an abacus, but the pencil I was using kept breaking and...”

“Sunburst!” She pulls on his hair until he looks her in the eye, smiles gently up at him. She looks at him for a moment, cupping his face and mustering enough energy in her voice so he knows she’s serious. “You’re going to be a great dad.”

“Maybe, but that’s not...”

“You will be. You already are.”

He presses his lips together and closes his eyes as he lets all the air out of his lungs in one long exhale. Starlight pets his messy mane, wishing she could do more for him, but there's only so much she can do right now, the rest would have to be up to him. She knows most of the time his default is to worry. To borrow trouble and jump to conclusions before anything has even happened. But she’s never doubted his ability to succeed, especially at something he’s wanted for a long time, at something they’re doing as a team. He likes to plan and tries to extrapolate the future. But Starlight knows that once it all becomes too much, once he’s become more worried about the landing than excited about the free fall, that’s when she needs to squeeze his hoof a little tighter, to remind him that they’re jumping together.

She can’t tell if he’s accepted her reassurances completely and knows this won’t be the last conversation like this. But she feels some of his tension drain when he presses his lips to hers, hard, like the small connection releases some valve and relieves the pressure. He relaxes enough that she can pull him back down on top of her, his weight pressing comfortably into her side.

“Besides, if I thought you were going to be less than amazing at this, do you think I’d let you put this baby in me in the first place?”

He laughs, presses his lips to her shoulder and the hinge of her jaw, whispers his love in her ear and finally, she feels him squeeze her hoof in return.