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Water Babies (IC)

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Summer 2021 


It was an innocuous enough sound in one of the many bathrooms in Midnight Manor; the sound of running water. Erin had heard water running at odd times before, usually when Aquaria had snuck her way in from the backyard to get more water. But Aquaria was back in her apartment with Jessie and even Trevor was out of the house right now, leaving just woman and cat to deal with the mysterious sound. As she approached the door, she could hear loud, boisterous splashing from inside the bathroom, as if something had filled the tub and was having one heck of a good time in there. 

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Erin hefted her bat in one hand as she approached the door, watching it with narrowed eyes. There had been floods and burst pipes in the Manor before; even the best plumbing didn't last forever against Freedom City's punishing weather and frequent supernatural events, but this didn't sound quite right for that. She couldn't entirely rule out the possibility that Aquaria had left some kind of enormous fish in one of the unused bathtubs for later, but the Deep One was usually more considerate than that. Besides that... she was kind of out of ideas. But an intruder in the house was never, ever a good thing.


The fish idea was sort of bolstered by Charlie's presence, actually. The cat was usually more than smart enough to keep himself out of trouble, but here he was, coiling effortlessly around her legs with just enough adroitness not to trip her. "What do you want?" she demanded in a whisper. He gave her a look out of huge yellow eyes, but didn't deign to say anything. Erin shook her head, then gave the door one sharp kick to blast it open.

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With a kick the door flew wide open, Erin knowing her own strength enough to keep from breaking her house. By now, anyway. 


The loud noise prompted a surprised yelp from the jacuzzi bathtub where a familiar dark-haired small boy of kindergarten age was currently sitting, the jets noisily buzzing. The water rose up around high around Richard Amir Lucas and blasted at Erin, missing her but certainly leaving her damp and flooding the bathroom, as Charlie gave a startled yowl and scrabbled up the wooden sink fixtures away from the sudden tide of water. 

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Only the fact that Erin had been expecting some sort of immediate attack allowed her to dodge the water blast, launching herself into the air and hanging by her fingers from the decorative crown molding around the ceiling fixtures. Her bare feet splashed into an inch of water that was going to be an absolute pain in the ass to mop up before it warped the flooring, but she ignored that part for the moment. "Richard Amir Lucas, you knock that the hell off right now!" she demanded in her firmest "bossing the scientists" voice. "You know better!"

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Richie looked at her, eyes wide, and suddenly burst into tears. The child of a demigod and a monarch, Ritchie did not encounter a lot of raised voices in his palace home and did not like them very much. Just when she thought the boy was going to sob loudly enough to wake up Redbird, a familiar cat scrabbled down onto the floor, padded his way past the water on the floor, and hopped up on the edge of the jacuzzi tub. Richie fell silent, staring, as Oliver started licking his face, then laughed. "Ha-ha! That tickles!" He reached out and petted the kitty, then looked nervously at Erin. "I have a 'very sad day'," he added, quoting his father. "I sorry I made a mess." 

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"You know you can't come here without asking someone first," Erin reminded him, her voice gentling. "You scared me, and you scared Charlie. You could have hurt him with that water blast." She went to put her bat in its holster, realized she was wearing blue jeans, and set it on the edge of the sink instead. "Can you clean up the mess while you tell me what happened?" she suggested, sitting down on the toilet lid.

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"Okay," said Ritchie. "Can you give me a towel?" Wrapping the latter around his midsection, the little boy did his level best to pet the kitty with one hand while gathering up the water with the other. Luckily he didn't actually need to get out of the tub to do that, waving and gesturing with one hand like a conductor leading an orchestra. As he did so, water rose up from all angles and began going neatly down the drain. 


"Mummy has two babies in her tummy," Ritchie said, disgust in his small voice. "I not supposed to tell," he added softly. "Daddy is very busy making a new room for the babies." Oliver was now nuzzling the boy's small hand, licking drops of water off it. "I said that was too many babies and Mummy said I would help with the babies so I jumped in my potty and came here," he added. 

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"Two babies, huh?" Erin asked, her voice a little fainter than before. "That... is definitely a lot of babies. But it does mean you'll get to be a big brother, and that's a pretty cool thing. You'll protect them, and they'll look up to you and think you're cool." She pushed the old, familiar ache down and away, focusing on the little boy in front of her. "Plus, with new babies around, you'll never be the littlest one again. You'll always get to do new things first, because you're older." She leaned a hip on the counter to let him think about that. 

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Erin's words took a moment to sink into the little boy's mind, but when they did, they seemed to be the right ones. "I could be the boss of them!" said Ritchie, thinking about that as he stroked Charlie. "When they bigger. Babies don't do much," he added with a kindergartener's confidence. By now he had cleaned up most of the water on the bathroom floor. "Mummy was the littlest one in her family, and she is the boss, but she is special." Mark, of course, had been an only child of Rick Lucas, which in retrospect was probably for the best. "Maybe one of them will be a kitty!" he added, giving Oliver a particularly firm pet as he sucked up the last of the water from the floor. 


And then Mark appeared with a noise like the popping of a soap bubble, his blond hair spiked up from what was obviously lack of sleep, his artist's clothes mussed, dirty, and a little damp. He looked at his son and put his hands on his hips. "Richard Amir Lucas!" he said. "What do you think you're doing?" 

"Petting Aunt Erin's kitty," said Ritchie with an ingenous smile for his father. 


Mark smiled too, easily distracted from his paternal unhappiness. "I guess you are, buddy...I mean, Richie, you scared us!" 


"I sowwy, Daddy," said Ritchie, who Erin knew perfectly well had his all-powerful father wrapped around his finger, and had since he was a tiny baby. "Aunt Erin was helping me find my happy thought." 


"Is everything okay?" Mark asked Erin. "I'm so sorry about this, I didn't think this would happen." 



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"Well, you may need to work on your plumbing when you get home, since it sounds like he flushed himself down the toilet, but we're okay on this end," Erin told him dryly. "I found him taking a soak in the jacuzzi. Sounds like things may be less quiet on your end?" She didn't come right out and admit that Richie had blabbed, but suspected that even Mark would be able to put the conversational pieces together. At Erin's feet, Charlie deftly put a bit of distance between himself and the young visitor, twining himself around Erin's ankles in such a way as to keep her between them. 

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The Mark Erin had known in high school would have stumbled over the hints she'd dropped, but Mark was a world-famous hero and Prince Consort of a sovereign nation. He could pick up a hint, most of the time. "Quieter than they're going to be at the end of next spring," he said with a rueful smile. "One thing about living in a palace, once you've got them all cleared, you've got good doctors on call 24/7." He put his hands on his hips and said with a slightly embarrassed shrug, "We'd been talking about stopping at three, and I guess we got lucky in ways we didn't expect." 


Ritchie had by now clambered out of the tub, cheerfully wearing nothing but a towel, and had taken his father's hand with a confident smile. "Thank you for your help Aunt Erin," he added with a big smile, carefully pronouncing what were obviously familiar words. "You the best aunt." 


"Yes she is, isn't she!" said Mark brightly. "You can tell Trevor," he said, knowing she probably would anyway but not wanting to make things awkward. "And you guys are welcome to stop by and see what we've done with the place." Ritchie was reaching over to wave at the kitty, but Charlie was keeping a sensible distance and Ritchie didn't seem to be able to escape when his father was hanging on. He wasn't trying very hard anyway. "I have a feeling it's going to be a boy and a girl," 


"and a kitty!" piped up Ritchie. 


"uh, probably not that, kiddo," said Mark with a smile, "but...we were going to ask if we could name them after you two." (Richard Amir Lucas al-Darsah, of course, carried the name of his mother's father and his father's father) "Wander is Tajawl in Arabic, and Midnight...well, maybe we'll stick with Trevor for that." 

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Erin blinked at Mark dumbly, not an unusual reaction to his pronouncements, even after all these years. "Um, wow," she finally managed to get out. Hearing that he wasn't planning on bringing yet another Erin into the world was a bit of a relief; there were quite enough of those running around already even when one only counted her duplicates. "I'm honored," she added, "that's a really beautiful and generous thought. If you want to name the kids after us, that's really nice," she continued, hoping she wasn't stumbling over her own thoughts too badly. "But you like... you don't have to if you want to name them something else? We'll still, I mean, of course we'll love them, we love Richie to pieces, we'll feel the same way about all your kids, you know?" She stumbled to a mental halt, knowing she was probably red with embarrassment. Sometimes it was easy to understand why Trevor usually found it best not to say anything at all. "But I mean yes, sure, it's fine with me at least." 

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"You've been our friends for years, stood with us at our wedding, and we saved the multiverse together. There's nobody else we care about as much." Mark considered telling her that he hoped that part about loving all his kids was true, because he was reasonably sure that in most possible futures at least one of his children with Nina would marry one of Erin's kids with Trevor, but he discarded that idea - after all, some things didn't need to be said out loud when everyone understood them. "We'll see how things turn out after the ultrasound." He and Erin talked a little more about news from home and news from Socotra, but by now Ritchie's patience was starting to get thin and Nina was probably worrying about them. With a smile and wave from father and son, Mark and Ritchie disappeared from the bathroom with a faint, audible pop. 


Everything was quiet now, except for Oliver, who first entangled himself around Erin's feet in sinuous catty fashion, and then began scratching at the bathroom closet door with great concern. Or possibly hunger, it was hard to tell. 

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