Starlight Glimmer hates hospitals. The smell of antiseptic. The uncomfortable chairs. The harsh, glaring lights hanging from the ceiling. The other sick ponies waiting besides her. In fact, she doesn’t know a single pony that likes hospitals, maybe there is a pony somewhere in Equestria that adores the atmosphere of sickness and anxiety hanging in the waiting room, but Starlight isn’t one of them. And she hopes she never meets them.
Above all, she hates the waiting. Granted, it’s in the name of this particular area of the hospital, so its expected, but still…
Starlight sighs and sinks lower in to her chair, which groans and creaks loudly as she does, catching the attention of the other patients waiting for their turn. She ignores them by grabbing an out of date magazine and covering her face with it.
Despite it all, Sunburst still insisted that she go to the doctor for proper check-up and testing.
“It could be a false positive.” He said, and she agreed with a nonchalant nod, though inside she was reeling.
A false positive. A false positive! How could three pregnancy tests come back with a false positive!? She fumed about it to Phyllis in her office while she was watering her pot, the only living thing—besides her and Sunburst—that knew about her pregnancy. Once she was done Starlight felt better and one look at Phyllis’s shiny green leaves made her see the reason in her boyfriend’s words (and made her feel just a little hungry). Because she knows he’s right—he’s rarely wrong about anything to begin with—she would have to see a doctor sooner or later, to make sure that she and the baby were fine.
She been sitting on this information for too long by the time she gathered the courage to even buy the tests. What if Sunburst was right? What if there was no baby after all? What if it was something else? What if there was a baby but it was now—?
Starlight jumps, the chair squeaking so loudly that all heads turn to see her. The magazine she been using as a shield slips form her hooves and falls to the floor, the cheerful, pregnant mare in the cover grinning at her almost mockingly while she cradles her pregnant stomach. Feeling the heat rise to her face, she tosses the outdated issue of The Lump to the table and follows the nurse through the door.
The nurse walks quickly and Starlight stumbles slightly as she follows. She rarely gets sick, so she’s unsure what the procedure is here, but luckily the nurse just points her to next door where the doctor was waiting. Taking a deep breath of sterile hospital air Starlight opens the door and peeks inside.
“Hello there, you must be Miss Glimmer, I’m Doctor Healing Touch, please come in.”
Sitting behind a desk was a graying pegasus mare. She’s older than Starlight, judging by the wrinkles on her eyes and the laughter lines around her mouth, she has a kind smile when she stretches her hoof in greeting and tells her to sit on one of the free chairs opposite hers. There’s another chair next to Starlight and it makes her feel a little guilty she didn’t drag Sunburst along, or tell him she was coming in the first place.
“So, what seems to be the problem?”
The doctor’s chair is infinitely more comfortable than those in the waiting room, but the Headmare squirms in her seat as she gathers the courage to speak to the kindly doctor.
“I think I might be pregnant,” she says and lowers her eyes, just enough so she doesn’t have to see the doctor’s face. “I, huh, took a pregnancy test at home and it came back positive.”
The doctor nods and scribbles something in a piece of paper. The rest of the check-up is surprisingly dull, the pegasus face don’t show any emotion except for cool professionalism, she nods along to Starlight’s description of her symptoms, even if she rambled for a bit in some areas. The doctor asks her a couple of questions (some of which are a little embarrassing, like when was the last time she had sex and if she kept track of her estrus cycle, but she could see why they were necessary) and has her stand on a scale, she takes her measurements and weight before she asks her to sit on the examination bench.
“Home pregnancy tests are very accurate these days, but there’s always a margin of error and they don’t tell us the whole story. I’m going to need to take a blood sample for testing, not only to confirm the pregnancy, but to make sure that the fetus is healthy.”
Starlight nods and grimaces when the doctor pull out from the drawers the other reason she hates hospitals: needles. Her foreleg trembles ever so slightly when the doctor wraps the rubber band around her leg, dabs a cotton ball soaked with alcohol on a patch of skin and flinches when the needle breaks her skin and does its thing.
And this is only the beginning, Starlight groans to herself as the medic puts a little band aid on her foreleg.
“Well, that would be all Miss Glimmer,” says the doctor. “Your results will be ready in a week.”
“A week!?” Starlight says before she can stop the words, gawking at the kindly medic. “That’s too long!”
“I’m very sorry, usually it would take less than three days, but the lab is really back up lately.” Sighs the pegasus as she collects Starlight’s sample to put it in the proper folder. “We have to outsource to other labs near Ponyville, just to keep up with demand.”
“Isn’t there a way to know sooner?” She asks without thinking and is surprised when she gets an answer.
“Sure, there is,” says the old mare and rummages through the drawers of the examination room. “It’s an old-fashioned method, but it’s one hundred percent accurate!”
Starlight sits a little straighter, the plastic cushion of the examination table squeaking with the pressure, her ears perking with interest at first before they drop with confusion. Doctor Healing Touch turns around holding a long, plastic glove the length of her foreleg in one hoof and a bottle of clear liquid in the other.
“It’s called a transrectal palpation, basically I examine your rectum for signs of pregnancy.”
Starlight stares at the things in the nurse’s hoof and is almost too afraid to ask, but she does so anyway. “With what?”
“With my hoof of course.”
“…You know what I’ll just wait for the results.”
The doctor shrugs and puts the things away. “Suit yourself.”
Before the doctor finishes those words, Starlight is already out the door, her tail tucked tightly between her legs.
“A week?” Sunburst says, his voice filled with incredulity. “Blood tests don’t take more than three days!”
“That’s what I said.”
“Wasn’t there a way to know sooner?”
“No there wasn’t.” She says quickly and her tone leaves no room for him to argue.
There’s a feeling of irony that one of the most lifechanging moments in her life had come in such a boring piece of paper. Neither Sunburst or Starlight dare to open it, instead they stare at it like it might explode if they touch it. The envelope is simple enough, just plain white paper with her name and address written in typewriter, with the hospitals address and logo printed on the side. It’s very thin, which feeds more in to her anxiety. She wasn’t expecting a whole report, but shouldn’t lab test results be thicker?
Starlight sighs impatiently and hands him the envelope. “Let’s just get this over with.”
Sunburst takes it with his magic, along with his trusty letter opener, and slices it cleanly open with ease, but he hesitates before pulling the paper out.
“No matter what, I’m still here, alright?”
She looks up and meets Sunburst’s gaze. He’s scared, just like she is, but there’s a determination there that puts her on ease. She nods and a small smile stretches awkwardly on her face, but it’s there and it’s more than she expected given the circumstances.
He pulls the paper out and his eyes scan the paper, she knows he’s done reading it in less than five seconds, but when those seconds stretch to ten her anxiety makes her want to snatch the paper from him, but she stops herself.
He doesn’t say anything. Instead he flips the paper and, printed in bold letters under a bunch of medical nonsense she doesn’t care to examine, it read: Positive.
Morning sickness, she read somewhere in one of the many books Sunburst bought for her, is the body’s attempt at detoxifying the expectant mare’s body for optimal infant development. Vaguely, as she chokes on water and stomach juices all nicely mixed up together, Starlight wonders is she’s going to start vomiting blood.
She wouldn’t be surprise at this point. Starlight can’t barely keep a bite of food down for more than a few hours, and the things she used to enjoy she can’t look at without gagging. It makes her wonder if her previous diet was just that bad, or it was her body’s way of telling her that this was a horrible mistake and she’s going to pay dearly for it.
Why, she wonders dazedly between heaves, did she think this was a good idea again? It’ll hurt. It’s hurting. It’s been hurting.
And parenthood. Oh, merciful Celestia, parenthood. Should she take after her mom, and forget about the poor thing every once in a while, to go out and play? Only entertain it when it’s vaguely amusing and suits her interests? Or use her dad as a role-model, and smother the kid with so much affection, to make up for the time she isn’t there, until they can’t stand her anymore? (Maybe she’ll stick with the Cakes tactics then? Just wing it? The twins turned out alright enough…)
She hadn’t thought of her mother in ages, and vaguely wonders what became of her between gasps of air. Maybe her dad would know. Maybe she did find what she was looking for, the bright future her cutie mark had promised. Maybe she didn’t. Maybe she shouldn’t care for her at all. Why should Starlight start now? Her mother never did.
In her darkest hours, (like right now, with half of her face in the toilet bowl and feeling feverish,) she would wonder is she was even cut out for parenthood. Considering her checkered past, all the ponies she hurt, all the mistakes she made. Was this baby just another tally in her long list of blunders? She chokes back a sob, but if it’s from feeling powerless or the pain of throwing her guts out, she couldn’t tell.
She rests her head on the cool porcelain of the toilet and closes her eyes. The room is still spinning and her stomach, though mostly empty, hasn’t settle yet. She hears the sound of Sunburst’s hooves approaching and a glass of water is offer along with a sympathetic smile, but Starlight pushes it aside in favor of grasping the toilet bowl and dry heaving into it.
There’s always adoption. It’s stupid, because it’s not like they aren’t financially stable, and they’re not a pair of stupid teenagers with nowhere to go, but what they are in lack of is time. All of her time is devoted to the school, to her students and her staff, what little free time she has is spent travelling to Canterlot or other cities, promoting the school, gathering material for future lessons. She’s Headmare, he’s her vice-headmare and a researcher. Sunburst is often called for his expertise in magical artifacts and the like, meaning he is away most of the time too. They’re always busy, there is always something to do, something that needs their attention.
To have this baby meant sacrificing something else in return, things she worked so hard to achieve. Things she isn’t sure she’s ready to give up. Things she can’t bring herself to tell Sunburst to give up too, even though he’s already starting to do so without her prompting.
He doesn’t tell her, but she knows that he’s rejected several invitations to give speeches and lectures at several respectable magic schools, even cancelling a few he already had programmed, though technically his schedule is perfectly clear to attend those events. She knows very well why he rejects them, and she’s touched by his commitment to her—more than she could ever say out loud—because she needs him now more than ever. However, she also feels horribly guilty that she’s holding him back.
Sunburst is a genius. He can run circles around Twilight any day when it comes to magic, he’s done it to Starlight ever since they were little. She’s incredibly happy and proud that his intellect is finally being recognized, he deserves it after all this time. And yet there he was, holding her messy hair back instead of holding some trophy or priceless artifact. He’s a genius, but he also has a big heart. If he were a little less kind or a little smarter, Sunburst would realize he’s under no obligation to stay with her, he would cut his losses and move on.
And if Starlight were a little more selfless, she would have told him to do so a long time ago. Nonetheless she is very, very selfish and she doesn’t voice these thoughts, just clings to him like a lifeline and is grateful that he is who he is. She wouldn’t change him for the world.
Starlight Glimmer abhors failure more than anything else, it was almost comparable to the level of loathing she had for cutie marks, way back in the day. The mere idea of abandoning this baby to the social services system, or give them up like her mother had given up on her, leaves a horrible taste in her mouth that has nothing to do with morning sickness. But she can’t see how this is going to end well. She just can’t. Whether through neglect or simple bad choices, it seems like whatever solution Starlight comes up with still dooms the baby to a less than perfect future. She can’t suppress the shudder that rattles her frame as her mind tries to wrap itself around the notion of a predetermined failure.
Sunburst, on the other hoof, mistakes her shudder for disgust at the contents of the toilet, and tries his best to make things better as he holds back her mane and rubs her back.
Sunburst’s about ready to start throwing the well-wishers out the window when the doorbell rings again. He drops the box he was holding with a frustrated sigh, wondering who could it be this time. The neighbors already came, so did the florist, and the pony that fixes the school’s furniture from time to time, Trixie just left so…
So, he’s not really all that surprise to find Twilight Sparkle, the newly crowned Princess of Equestria, standing on their doorstep and looking somewhat awkwardly down at him. At this rate, Firelight would be showing up soon with half of Sire’s Hollow behind him. (And that’s a visit he’s not looking forward too, but one they would have to do, eventually.) But he is caught off guard by how tall she’s gotten. The last time he saw her was at her coronation, and only at a distance, and she hadn’t been so tall. She’s almost as tall as her brother now and would likely surpass him in no time.
Starlight, two steps behind him, peeks over his shoulder at the growing alicorn and immediately brightens. They haven’t seen the new princess in months, so it’s understandable. But honestly! Does every pony and their mother have a pregnancy radar?
Gah. His mother. If Stellar Flare shows up next, he doesn’t know what he’ll do.
“Twilight! What’re you doing here? Come on, come in!” Starlight is not showing yet, and their doctor told them she wouldn’t be until another three months, so she easily slips pass him and latches onto the alicorn to pull her inside. Twilight doesn’t put up a fight and lets herself to be dragged in. Though he doubts she could wiggle out of Starlight’s embrace if she wanted. He knows from experience that his girlfriend is a very determined hugger.
“Well, I just came by to see how the school was doing, and Ponyville in general.” Twilight says as she follows them inside, mindful of where she’s stepping. “And I must say, I love what you done to the place.”
“Thanks!” Starlight nods distractedly, and guides her to the living room of their home.
It was a three-bedroom house, certainly not as grand as the castle Starlight and her mentor used to live in. When Twilight moved to Canterlot, Starlight moved out of the castle as well, telling him it just didn’t feel right to live in it all by herself. Their home was cozy and a little bit of a mess right now, he’s clearing one of the rooms to turn it into the nursery, it’s a slow process even with Starlight helping.
“And the castle is coming along nicely, I don’t think it will be much longer until we can reopen it again.” After the two mares and their dragon friend left, the castle just sat there, abandoned. But lately there’s been talks of converting it into a dormitory to accommodate the influx of students enrolling to the school, and the castle seems to agree, since every time he looks at it there’s something new added to the structure, seemingly overnight. It freaks him out, honestly.
“I hope so,” Starlight sighs as she sits on the dark green couch. “It always makes me sad to see it close.”
Twilight nods and sits awkwardly in a couch that, a few months ago, fitted her perfectly, but now she struggles to sit comfortably. Her body is growing faster than Twilight can register, and her clumsiness is at a new time high. In the end she has to switch from the love seat to the biggest one they had, forcing Sunburst to scoot over to give her room.
“Ugh, I swear, every day I grow another inch,” Twilight moans as she carefully settles herself on the cushions. “I’m very sorry about this, maybe I should leave before I break something…”
“Hey, it’s alright! Please stay! We haven’t seen you in forever!” Starlight pleads and stands up, making her way to the kitchen. “I’ll make some tea, in the meantime tell us how are things in Canterlot?”
“Ah, you know, lots of crises averted thanks to Spike’s organization skills.”
Starlight grins and turns to the stove in their kitchenette. That’s probably when the alicorn notices, Sunburst decides. From the front, it’s easy to miss the growing lump. But from the side, one could tell that Starlight’s body was changing.
“Ah, Starlight. You seemed a little…different?”
“Mmhmm, I’m pregnant.” Starlight says simply, tactless as ever.
“EEEEH! P-Pregnant!” Her wings ruffle at her sides, and Sunburst ducks before they spring open and they smacked the couch instead of his face. “Oh my gosh! Really?! How far along are you? When did you find out?”
“About three months ago, Sunburst and I were very surprise, to say the least.”
At that, the princess eyes turn to meet his and her grin is so wide it threatens to split her face. Then her wings spread again and grab him and Starlight into a feathery embrace, the princess squealing all the while and his girlfriend laughing along. He laughs too, but mostly he’s content in seeing Starlight so happy for the first time in months, and the feathers tickling his nose is a small price to pay for that sight.
With a final squeeze the alicorn releases them. Then she pauses, looking at Starlight with slight apprehension and asks her former student sheepishly.
“Can I touch your stomach?”
“Sure! Although I haven’t felt any movement yet, and the doctor says I shouldn’t expect any, but maybe you’ll be lucky?” Twilight nods at her words, her face practically glowing with sisterly pride. The princess smile is contagious, and Sunburst finds himself smiling along.
Carefully, as if one wrong move would hurt her former student, Twilight’s hoof comes to rest on Starlight’s firm stomach. “Um…hello there. My name is Twilight. It’s very nice to meet you, little one.” Huh, now why didn’t he think of that? Sourly, Sunburst realizes that he hasn’t introduced himself to the baby. He just figured that he’d do it when the baby arrives and all.
Starlight was sure she going to hurt her eyes, trying to keep track of their parents reactions, or at the very least permanently cross-eyed.
She fidgets, sitting on the uncomfortable modern chairs of Stellar Flare’s dining room, as she witnesses two completely opposite reactions. She doesn’t have time to even glance at Sunburst, who’s sitting next to her, but she hears him groan and mumble something like “Tactless as ever.”
Across from her Stellar Flare’s eyes go wide, then they crinkle on the edges as she smiles, and disappear almost entirely as her smile grows larger still, staring at Starlight with barely contained excitement. Her hooves go to her face, shaking slightly as they press to the side of her face and Starlight hears a whine—thinking for a moment that it’s a pot of tea whistling on the stove—but it grows louder and realizes that it’s coming from Stellar when she shouts:
“I’M GOING TO BE A GRANDMARE!”
Stellar Flare’s hooves hit the wooden table with a bang, rattling the silverware and almost crushing her plate in her excitement. She uses the momentum to jump from her seat and she’s dancing in her dining room, uncaring of her audience while she sings “I’m-going-to-be-a-grandmare” over and over.
“Mom, please stop, you’re hurting me,” Sunburst says, his voice muffled from behind his hooves where his face is hidden.
Though Stellar Flare’s dancing is…distracting, to say the least, Starlight lets her gaze fall on her father, who hasn’t moved an inch since she told the news. “Hmm, dad?”
Firelight’s brown eyes are wide but unfocused, staring at a point in the distance that she can’t see, his mouth is set in a thin line and it doesn’t look like he’s breathing. He’s sitting like a perfect statue until Stellar Flare hugs him from behind, shaking him out of his stupor.
“This is great! Isn’t this great Firelight? Of course, this is great! I’m so happy—huh, I mean, we’re happy, for the both you! It reminds when we used to joke about you two getting married and Firelight getting all huffy about it, but low and behold, I was right!”
It was then she notices the eerie silence that fills the room, too obvious and heavy to ignore. She blinks at the young couple with confusion, who are too busy staring at Firelight with expressions of dread to pay her attention, before turning to look at her long-time friend, who has been eerily quiet the whole time and asks him what’s wrong.
Firelight doesn’t answer. Instead, he goes limp and faceplants into his half-eaten plate of mashed potatoes and peas.
After making sure that her father was fine, Starlight ushers Stellar Flare and Sunburst from the living room, assuring them that she could handle him once he woke up. It had been quite some time since her father had fainted like that, but she guessed the shock of the news had no doubt exalted him and triggered a fainting spell.
Then again, maybe it wouldn’t have been as shocking if Starlight hadn’t blurted out the news in mid-conversation like she was Pinkie Pie with a secret.
But what’s done is done, so she quietly waits for her dad to wake up, sitting beside him while she organizes her thoughts and thinks on what to say. But what is there to defend? She’s having this baby and there’s nothing he could do about it, but she feels a sting of regret at the thought of being forced to cut her father out of her life, especially after just reconnecting so recently. She just wanted for him to be happy for her, to be part of the baby’s life as the loving grandparent that she knew he could be.
Besides, she found it a tad ridiculous that, considering all the things she’s done, getting pregnant would be what finally drove her father away.
She hears him stir on the couch and she glances at him, just in time for him to blink his eyes as he stares uncomprehendingly at the ceiling of Stellar Flare’s living room. He looks at her and smiles. “Oh sweetie, you wouldn’t believe the crazy dream I just had!” He laughs before continuing. “You told me you were pregnant!”
“…That wasn’t a dream dad.”
His flimsy smile drops “Oh.”
They fall silent and, despite her earlier bravado, Starlight’s stomach knots in a way that has nothing to do with morning sickness. She presses her hooves around her barely noticeable lump without thinking, the small action draws his attention before he looks up at his daughter’s face, his heartbreaking by the downtrodden expression on her face.
“So, you aren’t happy for me?” Starlight says, and she hates how small her voice sounds.
Firelight hears his daughter’s vulnerability and spring’s into action, sitting fully on the couch and reaching over to hug her. Starlight doesn’t fight the affection and she wrap her own hooves around him, she feels like she’s five again when he pets her head and fights the tears welling in her eyes.
“Oh honey, I’m very happy for you,” Firelight says. “It’s just, well, I guess part of me still sees you like a little filly, so when you turned around and said that…well, I was unprepared, to say the least.”
Starlight sniffles but she smiles. “Hmm, yeah, Sunburst always tells me I have as much tact as a Yak in a china shop.”
“Is Sunburst the…”
“Yes dad, who else would it be?”
“Alright, alright,” her dad says apologetically. “Just making sure I know who I have to kill if things go south.”
She hears Firelight chuckle and they fall silent, but the silence this time is comforting. Starlight feels light, the heavy burden of uncertainty lifting from her shoulders, happy and comfortable for the first time since she got there, happy that she has another pony on her side in what would be the most eventful year of her life. She had a feeling she would need all the support she could get for the upcoming months.
Her father sniffles and hugs her closer. “I can’t believe it! My baby is having a baby!”
“Dad!” She reprimands without her usual bite, and they both laugh.
Starlight’s sitting on the couch again when he comes home.
And again, it wouldn’t be all that weird, except this time she’s staring at him like he’s sprouted a third horn. But he’s only been gone for a few minutes, just enough to tote the trash down the steps and out to the public bin, and she had been sleeping so soundly on the couch when he left, so it can’t be anything life-changing, right? Right.
“What is it?”
She motions for him to come closer, and he does. Taking his hoof in hers, she tugs him down until he's sitting next to her and Starlight places them on the bulge of her stomach and lets them rest. Nothing happens. Though, if she wanted him to grope her so badly, all she had to do was ask. He starts moving his hoof downwards, but her hooves grasp his and pull them back up to her stomach once more. So much for that idea.
Then he feels it.
“Luna’s stars…!” He looks at her with wide eyes and she smiles, her hoof curling tighter around his. “That was…I mean…”
Starlight nods with a grin almost impossibly wide for her face. “He’s kicking.” He doesn’t ask about the pronoun, there would be time for that later, but just turns his attention back to her stomach and the fact that by Starswirls beard there’s a living, kicking pony in there. Suddenly, parenthood feels all the more real.
He realizes then that they’re in the halfway point now. Five more months left of just the two of them (not that they’d been doing too many “just the two of them” activities lately…) Five months left of hassle-less trips, foal sitter free budgets, five months left of sleep. A small, tiny part of him mourns for that, the rest of him can't wait for the baby to arrive.
“Ah! He did it again. Did you feel it?”
He nods, since his voice suddenly doesn’t work, despite of all the words he wants to say and yet, he knows there aren't enough words in the dictionary to express how he feels. His throat’s too tight, his hooves are shaking too much, and holy crap it’s kicking! That’s their baby in there. It’s…It’s…
“S-Strong little thing, isn’t he?” He chokes, his voice refusing to come out normally. How come Starlight is so calm!
“Mmhmm. Takes after his papa.” And isn’t that just the sweetest, most parental, lovey-dovey comment she’s ever uttered to his face. Must be a mood swing. But when she doesn’t pull a 180 on him, Sunburst allows his smile to widen, if possible. Maybe, he ponders, it’s just one of those parent things.
“Really? And here I was going to say that it makes him like his mother.” There’s another kick while Starlight is busy laughing, and he laughs along with her. He can’t help it, it’s contagious. The chuckle rises from the pit of his stomach and is a full-blown laugh by the time it reaches his mouth. Because there’s a baby under her skin. His. Hers. Theirs. A new life.
“I love you. So much.”
Her smile only brightens.
“I mean, I understand making changes because of the nature of the charm, but the whole point of charms is to focus on what object does and not on what the object is, you know?”
Sunburst ends his rant, but keeps lightly petting Starlight’s mane. By now he’s probably just warming her head, too distracted by all the problems he still can’t let go from an old book he read on magic to focus on petting her mane. He looks down at his lap where Starlight’s head rests, her legs stretched out to the other end of the couch, and guesses it probably doesn’t matter how lacking his touches are right now because Starlight’s sound asleep.
Ever since the baby started kicking, her sleeping schedule has increased exponentially. Now she takes naps after work and stays in bed with him until it was time to get ready to face the day. Not that he’s complaining by any means. But Starlight is, she says the baby is more active at night and likes to wake her up by kicking her guts when she’s about to fall asleep. He feels selfish, enjoying this part of her pregnancy that she mostly finds inconvenient. However, he lets himself enjoy it because he can’t help but think about how much she’ll miss this, how much they’ll both miss getting to sleep through the night with only Starlight’s trips to the bathroom to disturb them.
He closes the book he hadn’t been reading and puts it on the lamp table, gently placing a hoof on her shoulder. He needs to wake her up, she wont sleep well on the couch—sometimes it’s hard for her to get comfortable even on a surface that’s wider than her belly—her eyes move under their lids and she’s making noises that sound like words trying to escape the back of her throat.
He’s pushing her bangs from her face, delaying the inevitable, when her hoof suddenly waves around until it makes contact with his foreleg, and she finally mumbles out the words she’s been trying to say in her half-sleep state.
“Tell your son to go to sleep.”
He smiles and places a hoof on her stomach, tapping gently on her taught skin. “You heard that champ? Time to settle down.”
As soon as he finishes the sentence, he feels a defiant kick under his hoof.
Starlight doesn’t open her eyes, but he can see her annoyance in the knitting of her eyebrows. His smile widens.
“He’s going to be a trouble maker, I can already tell.”
He can’t tell how serious she is right now. Half of the time she gives heartfelt, spontaneous speeches while she’s completely unconscious and the other half is randomly strung together words that only resemble sentences.
“How can you be so sure?” It takes a minute for her to respond, so he starts stroking her hair and asks again.
“I’m the mom,” she moves a hoof to the top of her bump. “I’m the mom and I know he’s going to drive us absolutely crazy.”
But he doesn’t argue with that, just nudges her head to the side just enough to slip from underneath her, ignoring the tingle of his legs as he bends closer to kiss right below where her hoof rests and says “Time for bed” to both the future and current restless sleepers in his life. She wakes up just enough for him to lead her up the stairs and under the covers, where her eyes shut tight again.
A son. He wonders if Starlight is right, if his energy will follow him the rest of his life, if his kid is going to come out dancing. And for a brief moment he’s jealous—jealous that Starlight gets to experience and know things about their baby that he never will.
But then she lets out a soft grunt and rubs her hoof over her belly again and he’s thankful and grateful that she’s doing this for them instead.
“So,” Sunburst began casually. “What do you think is going to be?”
“I know that.” He mutters. “I wasn’t asking about gender…though I’m still betting on a girl.”
They weren’t betting anything substantial, except the right to brag about it in the future. They had missed their window to find out via ultrasound, but Starlight didn’t really care. This baby had been a total surprise to begin with, why not add the gender to the list?
“Hmm, really?” She turns back to the book, a smile still on her face, and flips a page; feeling not so much ignorant as happily tormenting.
Her boyfriend frowns and plops next to her on the couch, she doesn’t look up from her book as she tilts sideways to use his shoulder as pillow, curling to his side with ease.
“C’mon, not even a hint?” He tries again, slugging a foreleg over her shoulder and pulling her close, nuzzling her cheek in a way that usually makes her melt and give in to whatever he wants.
Then he does something even more underhanded. He presents her with a plate of garlic mushrooms, dipped in custard with a side of horseradish. Her eyes zero in at the steaming plate of food, her hunger and cravings coming in with a vengeance, the book forgotten on top of her growing stomach.
“Not even for this?”
She glances at his face, and he wiggles his eyebrows suggestively, pushing the plate closer to her nose. Oh, he’s devious when he wants to be, and she wonders if he learned it from her or is it a skill he always been capable of, hidden under the layers of his good nature. But she’s stubborn, and much better at being deceitful than he is (even if she uses her talents for good now) and doesn’t give in to his persuasion.
Instead she smiles sweetly and sighs, Sunburst perks up and his guard drops as he eagerly listens. One minute he’s looking at his girlfriend’s gentle expression and the next he’s dropped, upside down, on the recliner chair. The momentum springs the chair open and hits him on the back of the head, sending his glasses askew.
“And spoil the surprise?” She chirps, giving him a wink and takes a bite of the delicious food. “No way, nice try though and thanks for the food.”
She can see him pouting from where he’s lying on the couch and her smile widens.
He wants to know if there’s a unicorn, a pegasus, or an earth pony growing beneath her skin. All three were equally possible, considering how diverse both their family trees are: for example, her grandmother had been an earth pony and one of Sunburst’s aunts is a pegasus. She’s sure if she asks her dad, he would come up with a detailed family tree of both their families and find more than just unicorns in their branches.
But as for her own child, she knows the answer; she can feel the gradual lump of magic forming within her. Which would explain her tiredness as of late, the little one had to get its magic from somewhere. She just hasn’t told him. She’s wondering if she should.
The thing about giving birth to a unicorn is that infants don’t have control over their magic. Once, Rarity had spoken of her younger sister, who would have random bursts of magic even when she was in the womb, causing her poor mother a bunch of medical problems she suffers to this day.
But either race had its ordeals she supposed. Like Scootaloo’s wing deformation —for example— was caused by being born three months premature, usually a pegasi gestation was longer than the other two races, considering the extra pair of limbs they had to grow. Or the fact that Apple Bloom’s mother, who had been having a home birth—as was the tradition in the Apple family—had to be rushed to the emergency room, when the umbilical cord had wrapped around the baby’s throat and slowly started suffocating her from the inside.
They were the kinds of stories that she knows Sunburst will go insane with worry over, because it makes her worry too. Reading all these maternity books, speaking to other mothers and their experiences with birth, sent her imagination into overdrive. A lot could go wrong, even with all the magic and medical advances at their disposal, there was always a chance—a slim chance, but a chance—that things could go south. Giving birth is a dangerous ordeal and she doesn’t want to think about it, so she doesn’t. She does what she does best and ignores those fears, because they’re unfounded.
The doctor tells her that the baby is healthy and Starlight feels fine, so there’s nothing to worry about.
Even though Sunburst been pretty cute with all the fawning over her pregnant-ness (because “pregnancy” sounds too old, and she’s not that old), it gets annoying. It’s not worth it to tell him. Bad enough that he’s trying to get her on maternity leave when she was still perfectly mobile, her stomach just barely beginning to show. If she tells him, he might find a way to keep her from going shopping, or maybe from moving at all.
Which is silly, and the rational part of her admits that no, he wouldn’t try to be that controlling. It sounds more like something out of a romance novel than real life, though that might have something to do with all the flimsy paperbacks with titles like What it Means to Love that she’s been reading lately.
Totally only because they’re so bad they’re good, so she can pass her time between chores and relax, because sometimes she wants to read something stupid and corny, and no she doesn’t actually enjoy reading these cheesy romance scenes and she certainly doesn’t imagine Sunburst doing any of that crap for her because she’s not an angsty teenager anymore dammit!
So yeah. No telling Sunburst. For now. He’ll figure it out himself…eventually. Probably. Maybe.
“I still can’t believe that you’re going to be a mommy soon!”
While it’s great that Trixie and Maud decided to invite her for lunch to her favorite restaurant (which is not saying much, since this is the only restaurant in Ponyville), Starlight is still debating the logic of actually telling the two about her pregnancy. Not that she could’ve hidden it for long, but between the altogether terrifying look in Trixie’s eyes when she started rambling about baby clothes to Maud’s insistence on throwing her a baby shower to celebrate, Starlight wished there had been a way to put off the announcement until…never.
“Yeah, I heard you the first time.”
“But it’s so…so…” Trixie trails off, words failing her as she can’t quite think of the right one to describe the situation. It makes her feel old, Starlight would have liked to add, but all that would earn her is some chuckling about how she’s already an old mare with a baby on the way, so she lets it be.
When the words don’t come to Trixie soon enough, Maud steps in with a more direct approach. She puts a colorful box in front of her and slides it over. “Here, a gift for your bundle of joy.”
Starlight pulls the ribbon and pops the lid open, looking inside. “That’s a lot of rocks.” Of course. Starlight had expected nothing less.
“My sisters and I used to play with these all the time. Besides these are the best stones that the rock farm has to offer, playing with them will help your son to build character.”
“I’ll make sure he plays with it every day.” She’s never quite sure if Maud is just that ignorant of sarcasm, or if she can see through it and just chooses not to care.
Either way, the earth pony cracks a tiny smile and says: “I was joking, push the rocks aside for the real gift.”
Starlight does so, and is immediately blown away by the size of the crystal she pulls out from the box. She has no idea what kind of crystal it is, but it’s white and cut in such a way that reminds her of a tower, the kind of stone used to decorate the tips of wands. It catches the light of the restaurant’s lamps and reflects them back into colorful rainbows, it even came with a stand made out of silver. She doesn’t feel any magic on it when she holds it, it's merely a decorative rock, but she loves it and knows it will look beautiful in the nursery.
“Oh, Maud,” Starlight says with awe. “It’s beautiful!” She smiles widely and takes the grey mare into a hug, which Maud accepts in her own way, by going limp and letting Starlight have her fill of affection.
“Alright, alright!” Trixie says and playfully pushes them apart. “Now let me show you how the Great and Powerful Trixie blows your little rock out of the water!”
“Guys…you shouldn’t have.”
“But we wanted too,” Trixie said as she digs into her bag for the present. “What kind of aunts we would be if we didn’t spoil this kid?”
She pulls a colorful parcel from under the table and hands it over. It’s infinitely lighter than Maud’s, wrapped in colorful silver paper and she immediately knows that it’s clothes. Still, she coos when she pulls out the ensemble: a little wizard hat and cape combo, with the same color and star pattern like the ones Trixie wears for her performances.
“So…” Trixie says and smiles slyly. “…when’s the wedding?”
“Yeah! Yours and Sunburst’s! There’ll be lots of food, right?”
“I want to help with the bachelorette party.”
“Who said anything about a wedding?”
“You’re not getting married?”
“Er, no. Why?”
“Oh, I don’t know, I mean, you’re only pregnant with his kid and all. Nothing much.”
“Well, we were planning on doing that…just…later.”
Maud raises an eyebrow. “Later?”
“We’ve only been dating for two years. I thought we had plenty of time before committing.”
“Starlight, honey. You know they invented contraceptive spells for a reason…”
“It was just once!”
“The sex?” Maud quips dryly and Trixie snorts into her drink.
“…we just got caught in the moment, you know.”
Being captured by a creature that feeds on love, who also happened to hate her guts, held prisoner for a number of days, watching the world almost end and then saved in a matter of minutes left her pretty high strung, to say the least. And when she finally had a moment of quiet with Sunburst—who was also going through his own emotional roller coaster—caution had been thrown to the floor like Sunburst’s cape that night.
“Hard to believe that Sunburst of all ponies would let you get away with that. He’s worse than Twilight when it comes to the rules.” Trixie said with a roll of her eyes. “Hah, what, you did him in your office or something?”
Starlight fell silent, her lips pressed in a thin line to keep from smiling like an idiot as a pleasant blush appeared on her cheeks, looking down at the table while her hormonal imagination took Trixie’s suggestion and ran, berating herself for not thinking of that sooner. Trixie’s idea sounded amazingly hot. The low light, his husky voice in her ear, the way he was moving, and that moan…
“EW! THAT’S DISGUSTING! TRIXIE SAT IN THAT OFFICE ON MULTIPLE OCCASIONS! YOU SICKO!”
“Keep your voice down.” Maud says. But it’s no use. Every pony in the restaurant is looking at their table. Trixie is in full rant mode, and nothing short of a disaster would stop her now. Ugh, just what she needed.
Starlight sighs and draws her drink closer with her magic, sinking low in her seat, or as low as her stomach would allow her. She takes a sip and wishes it was something stronger than just juice, still, it doesn’t take long for her to find her friends banter funny. Though it would be funnier if alcohol were involved.
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.
“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.
She’s frustrated and cranky, her back hurts and her hooves are swollen, but otherwise she’s perfect. And she doesn’t want to complain, not about being pregnant when it feels like just yesterday, she was talking about being immune to stress, considering all the crazy stunts she’s pulled in the past. She ran a village all by herself, fought the Princess of Friendship to a standstill, traveled through time, saved the world a couple of times. Really, being pregnant should be small potatoes compared to all of that. She thinks about how lucky she is a lot of the time—being in the position she’s in, getting to be with the pony she loves, getting to have kids at all.
But she’s just so tired lately, and it doesn’t help that she can’t sleep on her stomach anymore or that her doctor warned her about possibly going on bed-rest in a few weeks, at the height of midterm season when her students and staff need her the most. The fact that she can’t stand on her rear legs comfortably, or use her magic without getting a raging headache, or that the professional clothes she bought for work don’t fit her anymore, or touch up her hooves without spilling some of the bottle of hoof polish on the bathroom floor aren’t helping either.
So yeah, actually, she really wants to complain. Especially because now, on top of everything else, she has to find some way to get this purple stain out of the bathroom's rug before she’s forced to buy a new one to replace it. She’s searching under the sink for stain remover when Sunburst finally appears in the bathroom doorway.
“I’m just trying to find stain remover,” if there weren't so many different cleaning products in such a small space this would be a lot easier, “who bought all of these?”
“Uh, you did?” He says it like a question, even though it’s the truth, like he’s not sure that’s the answer she wants to hear right now.
He places his hoof on her shoulder and pushes slightly, as if there’s room enough for both of them to look. As if she even wants his help. She’s too flustered to remember the lid to the nail polish she’s gripping in her magic isn’t screwed all the way down when she jerks her shoulder away from his touch and suddenly there’s a purple streak across Sunburst’s blue robe too.
They both stare slack-jawed for a few moments. She doesn’t know if she wants to cry or yell or both until she finally lands on, “Sunburst!”
He looks at her wide-eyed, like a deer trapped between deciding to run backward or forward across the road.
“I told you not to help me!”
“Two seconds ago! Argh! Never mind just,” she nudges him backward a bit to start rubbing with nail polish remover, “just let me finish this, then I’ll fix your robe.”
She doesn’t look up, keeps rubbing and pouring and rubbing and feels all her anger drain to a pit in her stomach and a lump in her throat. She hears Sunburst screw the lid of the bottle and place it on the counter before he leaves the bathroom without a word. When she knows he’s out of ear shot, she sniffles a little and tries to breathe enough to force back her tears, though one escapes and she brushes it away angrily. She hates getting mad for no real reason, especially at Sunburst, something that's increasingly common these days on account of her hormones. The image of his startled face that turned to soft understanding catalyzes her frustration enough to let a few tears drop, before she wipes them away with the back of her hoof.
By the time he returns, her face is dry but her eyes are slightly puffy, but she raises her gaze enough to see him kneeling in front of her with a spray bottle and a clean rag, his cape missing. When he starts rubbing the spot and says nothing, she gets back up as smoothly as she can, and goes to lie down on their bed and lean her head against the headboard while she closes her eyes. Her eyes are still closed when he sits next to her a few minutes later. He still doesn’t say anything, just puts his foreleg around her shoulder and rearranges them until she’s between his legs, the back of her head resting on his bare collarbone, his hoof playing with the ends of her mane, which she has tied up in a pony tail to keep it away from her face.
“I’m sorry," she says, her voice thick with emotion. "I didn’t mean to...”
“Shh,” he cuts her off. “Let’s not talk for a minute, okay?”
She wants to, but she listens and waits because this usually works—feeling his chest press and release against her back, his breath on her ear, his heartbeat under her spine. She counts the full sixty seconds in her mind before she apologizes again. This time he lets her. Let’s her rant for a while, because once she gets going it’s hard to stop. When she’s done, he reminds her that he’s there for her, that he’s as much a part of her team on this as during the crystalling, the shadow pony, running the friendship school.
Later, after he’s pulled her back legs from his lap and he’s finished painting her hooves, she lets him take off the rubber band of her ponytail and her mane comes loose, he guides her to the edge of the bed so that he can rub the sore muscle in her back loose. His touch is heavenly and she sighs, all but melting under his touch. He kisses up her spine, across her shoulder, lets his hooves smooth over the curve of her stomach and lower. And she remembers some of the immediate advantages to letting Sunburst take control for a little while.
Starlight hung the last picture on the wall, and with that the nursery was complete.
She turns around and feels a draft coming through the window, the white curtains that Rarity made waving in the summer breeze. At first, she hadn’t been sure about the color that Fluttershy suggested, but the more she looked at it the more she grew fond of the pale green walls, and with the midmorning light pouring through the window, the room felt cozy and peaceful.
Starlight hummed to herself as she inspected her handiwork. Ever since she’s been put in maternity leave, there hadn’t been much for her to do besides fuss over the nursery. Starlight had never been the kind of pony that like to stay put for too long, she always had to be doing something she felt was productive, that’s why she put off maternity leave for as long as she could in the first place, the idea of just sitting around and doing nothing was enough to drive her up the wall. But it was a loosing battle in the end and she had to reluctantly leave the school in the hooves of her boyfriend and her best friend.
So, with nothing else to do, she tackled the half-finished nursery with vigor, but much to her frustration, she realized quickly that there wasn’t much she could do on her own in her condition. She couldn’t paint the walls due to the fumes of the paint making her nauseous, or move the heavy furniture on her own, since her magic power had declined as her pregnancy progressed. Starlight could use magic, but nothing more complicated than levitating simple and light objects, like books and teacups, anything heavier or more complex than that gave her a headache.
Thankfully, Starlight wasn’t alone, she had a group of friends all eager to help her, but no one did so quite like Sunburst. Despite all the extra work he had with running the school, he always helped her with whatever she asked, she tried not to abuse that privilege too much, but her condition had limited her in ways she never would have expected.
She used her magic to pick up a ragdoll from the top of the toy chest, a gift from Applejack, and even doing that required more concentration than usual. Starlight hugged the little plush to her chest and sighed. Yeah—it sucked not being able to use her magic like she used too, but it was worth it, it would be worth in a few weeks when she held her little one like this, and she smiled softly at the thought.
Every piece of furniture needed was there: a beautiful bookshelf sent by Twilight, filled with books carefully selected by Sunburst, a crib that her father had help set up a few days ago, toys that she bought with the help of Trixie, and various other things given to her by the ponies closest to her which, she realized with a warm feeling that melted her heart, were a lot.
All that was missing was the baby that would live in this space.
“Well, we’re all set,” she says to her growing stomach, putting the ragdoll in the crib. “Now, we just have to wait for your signal, little one.”
The baby under skin doesn’t answer, doesn’t even kick in response, and Starlight pouts before shrugging. “I see you like to leave me hanging, just like your father, maybe we should call you junior…”
Starlight’s hoof froze in midair, her eyes wide with realization, before she settled it down with another thoughtful hum, grasping she had forgotten an important detail that comes with having a child.
Well, at least she had her new project.
“Tch. No. Besides, I’m pretty sure that name is trademarked by now.”
“Stop with the anagrams already!”
Pouting, Starlight returns to the baby-name book propped up on her large stomach. Obviously, her own brand of creativity isn’t appreciated. At least she had thought of some! All Sunburst had done was write some lines on his new research paper and shoot down each and every name she proposed. Honestly, stallions…
“What do you want to name him then? Book? Or how about Food? Or Magic?”
“Those suck too.”
“I was being sarcastic!”
“Oh.” He pauses. “You suck at that too.”
“Argh! Honestly! You could at least try to help, Sunburst! If you had your way, we’d end up calling him ‘baby’ his whole life!”
“You named your plant after its scientific name and it’s doing just fine.”
The baby name book makes a highly satisfying thunk as it connects with Sunburst’s head. There hasn’t been much else to do around here lately but work on her aim and struggle through knitting one of those baby blankets that she found in one of the magazines Trixie gave her.
There isn’t a shortage of lovely names, or books with list upon lists of names with their meanings, there had even been a few that almost convinced her, but she always changed her mind in the end. Too put it simply, none of the names she came up with felt right.
This is important, and Sunburst knows that. Its…not ownership, though it’s dangerously close it. There’s not much else they’ll have control over in this new life that’s due in another four weeks. It’s something the baby will carry for the rest of their lives, or at least until they’re old enough to change it, which hopefully won’t happen if they pick a good one. But what’s a good name really? What else can they change about this? Not much. Starlight wonders at what point she lost that simple sense of control over the new life that would be coming in to the world.
He relents at least, and puts his research to the side and rubs his sore head with a sigh.
“Morning Star?” Sunburst tries again, picking a name at random from a list she’d thrown at him over an hour ago. “Sunshine? Astor?” Then he pauses. Glances up at her in disbelief, then returns his gaze to the paper. “Tomato…?”
“Look,” Starlight defends all too quickly, “it’s not my fault that some pony forgot to pick up a certain fruit for a certain special pony on the way home.”
“Hello! How—” Sunburst is usually a patient pony, very quiet and not confrontational, but not today. He doesn’t bother letting the receptionist finish.
“Is Dr. Healing Touch here!?”
The receptionist is taken aback by the force of Sunburst’s exclamation, but she takes one look at his frazzle appearance and the heavily pregnant mare close behind him, and she connects the dots. “I’ll check, but do you have an appointment?”
“An appointment!? My girlfriend is in labor! Her water broke—!”
Starlight shoves him aside before he rambles any further.
“Hi, we have an appointment with Dr. Healing Touch for a c-section on the twenty-first, but it seems my water broke ahead of schedule.” Starlight said with surprising calm for a mare in labor. “She told us to come here if that were to happen, especially since the baby is not in the right position.”
“Oh, alright, just a moment please,” the receptionist says and turns away.
Sunburst looks at her with skepticism. Starlight just grins back.
“How can you be so calm?”
“Being the student of a neurotic alicorn teaches you a thing or two. This isn’t the first time I dealt with a crisis, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last.” Sunburst is inclined to agree.
Getting Starlight squeezed into one of the tiny waiting room chairs is a lost cause, because he’s pretty sure that she’ll get stuck in it. Not that he’s going to voice that opinion out loud. He rather live long enough to see his child, thank-you-very-much. Instead, he grabs a wheelchair when the nurses aren’t looking, and only whistles innocently when the other patients look their way. The thing is wide enough for a heavily pregnant mare, plus when the nurses finally call them over, Starlight didn’t have to move a muscle.
Doctor Healing Touch meets them halfway to the examination room, clipboard in one wing, and a breakfast sandwich in the other—so much for hospital sanitation—the pegasus takes a bite of her sandwich before speaking.
“The contractions are…?”
“We left home when she started having them, and her water broke on the way here. They come every hour and five minutes, more or less.”
“And the foal is in breech position.” The graying pegasus sighs as she sets down the papers that she’d been holding. “We’ll have to perform an emergency c-section I’m afraid. Ah, don’t give me that look, mister!” And indeed, Sunburst realizes, he’d started glaring as soon as the doctor had said ‘emergency’. So he settles for frowning heavily instead.
“Don’t worry. Miss Glimmer isn’t in any danger at the moment. Just a term we use when the operation is out of schedule. Early labor is not uncommon for a first-time mother. But if you would, Mr. Sunburst, there are a few extra forms we need you to fill out while we prepare Miss Glimmer for surgery.”
Surgery. He shudders. He knows that this is just routine, and she’d been scheduled for one anyway, but still. There’s something infinitely more worrying about knowing that it’s been labeled an emergency.
Maybe he starts glaring again, or maybe he’s just so hideously nervous that the doctor takes pity on him. Either way, the end result is the same. “Though…We already have the essential information on file. You may accompany Miss Glimmer during the preparation if you wish.”
Sunburst is pretty sure he hasn’t agreed to anything so quickly in his life.
“Breath Starlight. C’mon.” She does so, steadily in and out. Everything’s a little hazy and it feels almost like a dream, but that’s probably the anesthesia. Sunburst looks funny with a hairnet; she realizes in a corner of her mind. The face mask doesn’t help either. She tries not to look at him, since she’s afraid she might start laughing or something, and the doctors working behind the tent probably wouldn’t appreciate that.
But still, she clings to his hoof like a lifeline, choosing to focus on its warm embrace over the slight stench of burning skin and the fuzzy feeling of numbness where her lower regions are supposed to be. The trick is to forget that there are ponies digging their hooves in her innards. Or at least tried to. When that strategy fails, she only grips her boyfriend’s hoof even tighter. Blood is nothing. She’s seen blood before. She’s never been sliced open before. But she never thought she would do it willingly.
“If you please, Mr. Sunburst, we’re about to drop the tent.” Ah, showtime.
“Hey, c’mon Starlight. He’s finally coming out.” He squeezes her hoof, it’s easy to tell that he’s not feeling nearly as confident as he sounds, and she returns the gesture. Eleven months for this one moment. Just breathe, she reminds herself, remember to breathe. What’s she supposed to be feeling? Curiosity? Fear? Joy? A combination of all of the above? Hell, she doesn’t know what she’s really feeling anyway.
The green curtain separating Starlight from her stomach drops.
There’s a lot of padding, so she can’t see any blood or even some stray innards. There’s only a pair of gloved hooves, reaching down into a cavity that she can’t see, pulling on something she can’t feel, and then coming up with an infant in their grasp.
That’s her baby. Right there. That one, crying out from within the doctor’s hooves. That one, limbs stretching for the first time. That one, slick with her blood. It’s proof that it’s her baby. She’s the mother. No one else. It’s hers. Hers. Crap, is she crying? Are these tears? She’s totally crying. Oh well. She’s allowed to cry, right? Because that’s her baby. Flesh and blood and grown for eleven long months inside her.
Sunburst squeezes her hoof again and she can hear him gulp. “Good job, Starlight.” His voice is trembling (with relief? Joy?) and Starlight half expects to see tears running down his cheeks. So much for staying calm throughout the operation.
“You’re amazing.” His voice is still shaking.
She grins sluggishly. “I know.”
He’s first let into the recovery room when Starlight finally wakes up. There’s no baby yet, they’re still checking her over. Yes, her. He’s won their little bet. But he doesn’t care about that right now, he’s busy making sure his girlfriend is alright. Is she supposed to be flushed? Does she need a drink? Still tired? When the questions run dry, he returns to bodily contact to assure himself that she’s fine. Hoof holding leads to soft caresses, which leads to kissing, which leads to a royal beating when his hoof accidentally strays towards her side out of habit, and that hurts like Tartarus. If the nurse notices the dent in Sunburst’s head when she brings in the baby, she doesn’t comment on it.
Starlight gets to hold the bundle first. The female bundle. The female bundle that Starlight had been so sure to be male. Boy is he glad that all the baby stuff is gender-neutral.
Sunburst’s amazed. With everything. The wisps of hair on the foal’s head, too few and new to boast either parent’s color. The little stubby horn on her forehead. The small snout, barely as big as the tip of his hoof. Her little legs, one hoof fisted tightly and the other spread out, her foreleg impossibly tiny. She cries, few and far between at the moment as she prefers to nap, but still there, as if reminding him that yeah, she’s alive and well and wants all of the attention.
Although, at the moment, their baby looks like a raisin. And that dark pink coloring isn’t helping.
Somewhere along the line, he realizes that he really wants to hold his daughter. But…he wants Starlight as well. Decisions, decisions. Then again…why not have both?
It’s a tight fit for them all in the hospital bed, it’s hard to avoid tangling himself in the IV tube hanging down, and Starlight’s still mighty sore from being cut open. But Sunburst is content when he finally shifts into place, back against the bed board, one foreleg draped over his girlfriend’s shoulder and the other supporting their newborn’s head.
And Starlight is content as well, head leaning on her boyfriend’s chest, her hoof covering his from behind their baby’s skull, the second hoof wrapped around the lower part of the blanket where chubby legs are wrapped up snug as a bug.
He doesn’t know how much time passes with them laying like that, just reveling in the other’s company, but at some point, he speaks.
“Starlight?” She makes a soft noise to indicate that she’s listening.
“I think…I think we’ll be okay after all.” The words are barely audible, because admissions like that are definitely not his style and are highly cliché, and sound like something out of a really, really bad romance novel.
“You had doubts?” No answer on his part. He cringes in anticipation for the scolding of a lifetime.
But…apparently, it’s for nothing. It takes a second for him to realize that the giggles he’s hearing are coming from her. “I guess we both did,” she admits, “but I’m glad we agree.” He steels himself for another round of sappiness. (Regardless, he’s still grinning ear to ear when she opens her mouth.)
“We’ll be fine.”
Though, it only takes two sleepless weeks for them to eat those words. Because, seriously. Who would’ve thought that the grace period was the pregnancy?