It's time for chapter 2 of this joyous romp through babyfic. Trust me, even if you think you're ready for this chapter, you're not. c:
Luckily, the roaming around the house naked fiasco had ended relatively quickly, but Panne still insisted on being in her beast form if she had to leave the house, which lead to a lot of confusion and only a little bit of citizen panic.
It was obvious that her insistence was so nobody could see her bulging belly, but the fact that she insisted on doing it in the house was starting to grate on Virion's nerves. When he confronted her about it sternly, she ended up putting him through a table, so he thought it was time for a more gentle approach.
Hopefully this one wouldn't end in bloodshed again.
Instead of calling her out to dinner, he brought two plates into her room and roused her from a nap by sitting at the end of her bed. "I made food," he offered.
"Why did you bring it to me?" Panne asked.
"I didn't want to make you feel you had to transform," Virion explained. "I thought you would be more comfortable if we ate in here." Panne was confused, but wouldn't argue against his logic. When their food was almost finished, Virion cleared his throat. He tripped over his words as he spoke, inwardly debating how flowery his language should get. "I must say, you look...er, you look nice."
Panne raised an eyebrow. "Explain."
Who was Virion to leave her hanging? "Right, er, my retainer trained in being a healer, and as such, I have met many a pregnant woman in need of her assistance. That said, I don't recall a single one looking as radiant despite their condition as you do. Your fiery personality hasn't been extinguished one bit, and you don't look at all worse for wear."
Taken aback by the compliment, Panne couldn't fight the smile creeping onto her face. "Thanks."
It was as curt as she could manage, but he could feel the genuine emotion beneath it. He sighed and prepared himself for his next move. He knew it could very well end in his ass getting thrown through another piece of furniture, but despite the danger, he reached out with his hand timidly. When she didn't actively stop him, he gingerly placed it on her stomach. She gasped and glared daggers at him, but otherwise didn't move. Their faces heated up as they stared at each other, completely motionless. The room was so quiet, Virion almost thought he could hear Panne's heartbeat without the help of special ears. Finally, she took a deep breath and asked, "what are you doing?"
Virion cleared his throat and started to move his hand from her stomach, but something stopped him in his tracks. When it happened, his eyes widened and Panne shifted uncomfortably. "D-did...?"
"Please stop touching me," Panne said quickly.
He quickly removed his hand and nodded. "Right. Sorry. I just wanted to let you know that you are no less beautiful or strong than you were."
Panne rolled her eyes. "I didn't need to be told that. I know full well." After a moment, she arched an eyebrow and asked, "are...are you crying?"
Virion was shocked to realize that a single tear had started rolling down his cheek. "Oh, of course not!" He dismissed Panne's question with a nervous chuckle. "I'll be leaving you alone now." He rushed to leave the room, and halfway into his own, he was stopped by her voice calling after him somewhat desperately. After turning around, he stepped into her room again to see her with wide eyes.
She cleared her throat when he came into view again. "You...you forgot the plates."
"Ah, of course," Virion nodded. He quickly grabbed the dishes and ran back out, apologizing the whole time. While he took care of those, he couldn't stop thinking about what he had felt. His hand still tingled from the unexpected sensation, and it made everything all the more real to him.
He was going to be a father.
When she was alone again, Panne slumped back on her bed, tears forming in her eyes. She, of course, had felt what Virion had, but that was the first time that had happened, and the reality of the situation was finally dawning on her with certainty.
This was actually happening. There was life inside her, and now it was moving.
A few nights later, she slipped into Virion's room late at night again, this time wearing clothes, and climbed into bed with him. He was slightly more awake this time, judging from him merely moving aside instead of softly gasping. She merely said, "don't get used to this," and fell asleep almost immediately. This time, her lack of sleep had been due to the conflicting feelings and terrible thoughts plaguing her mind. How was she supposed to raise a child all by herself? Money wasn't even the least of her concerns, so even if that was taken care of, there were so many other roadblocks and obstacles to tackle that the sheer weight of it put her on edge just to think about. For some reason, though, Virion's presence next to her in bed soothed those fears. It was stupid, because his pompous presence wasn't helping anything, and he couldn't help raise a child, but she couldn't complain about finally getting some sleep.
The next night, those fears returned in full force, so she didn't even hesitate in joining Virion in bed once more, again warning him not to get too comfy.
The night after that, it happened again, and she gave the warning one more time.
After a straight week of those fears cropping up, she stopped bothering to give him the warning, or even trying to sleep in her room. After all the talk about him not getting used to it, she herself had grown to rely on his presence to soothe her fears.
However, what went away at night came back with a vengeance during the day, and Panne found herself growing anxious and stressed out when left alone for even a moment. After several days of deflecting questions and insisting everything was alright, she finally relented, and did something she didn't think Virion would ever get her to do. She talked it out.
One night, she planned to bring it up over dinner, but nerves got the better of her, and every time she'd try to speak, the words wouldn't come. After the longest dinner of her life, Virion excused himself to clean the dishes and she remained motionless. When he came back and saw that she hadn't moved, he took a seat again and looked at her curiously. "Is something the matter?"
Every instinct Panne had told her to say no, absolutely nothing was wrong, and command him to stop bothering her, but common sense won out, sort of. She banged her fist on the table, nearly putting a hole through it and causing Virion to jump. "Yes! Yes, something is very wrong."
"Oh gods, what's happening? Is the child coming?" The worry in his voice and his increased heart rate were genuine.
Panne shook her head. "No, not quite. I need to talk to you, though." Virion nodded sagely, silently encouraging her to continue. "You see, I..." After trying to word it several different ways and failing, she let out an uncharacteristic sob. "I can't do this."
Sensing her struggle, Virion said, "now now, not everyone can be as delicate with words as I. Take your time. I'm listening."
Those final two words helped the situation immensely. When she spoke, the words came a lot easier without the pressure of wording it in a way that would convey the message. "Virion, I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and I realized...I don't just need your money, or your house. I need your help." She paused to wait for a response, but when none came, she continued, keeping her gaze fixed on the wood of the table. "I'm a warrior. I was not raised nor taught to be a mother. My family died, so I have no examples to go off of. I...I cannot raise a child. Not on my own."
Virion nodded again. He waited for Panne to have anything else to say, but when she looked at him expectantly, he got the message. "Well then, it seems that it's a good thing that I offered to help raise it then, hm?"
Panne's eyes widened. "You meant that? I thought you merely said that to cover your ass."
Virion shook his head with a smile. "My dear, Virion never makes a promise he doesn't intend to keep. When that child is born, I will do everything in my power to help you raise it to the best of our abilities."
Feeling tears come to her eyes, Panne finally looked up and made eye contact. "Thank you," she said. He nodded and assured her it was no problem, and her face suddenly fell again. "But this doesn't mean anything. We still aren't in any sort of relationship."
Virion laughed. "Of course, I understand. It is possible to raise a child without being in a relationship, after all."
"Good," Panne spat. "Because even if it wasn't, I still would not get with you." After Virion repeated his assurance that he understood, the two parted ways until the time to sleep came. While she sat alone in what could barely even be called her room at this point, Panne took a moment to think about the exchange. Learning that his promises were all genuine lifted an immense weight from her shoulders. For the first time since the kicks, she felt that maybe this wasn't a hopeless endeavor after all. In fact, she was eager to meet her child for the first time since her discovery.
But how was Virion so insistent on helping her despite her constant yelling at him? After so long of being dismissed and treated the way he was, he was unflinching in his generosity. Nobody else would have put up her that long. Why was that? It was a mystery that she didn't really care to solve, but it ate at her for whatever reason. Whatever the answer was, her biggest worries were pushed away, so she could go back to sleeping by herself.
Except she didn't really want to.
Several days later, Panne slept in, completely undisturbed by Virion getting out of bed and continuing to sleep well into the day. When she finally woke up, Virion was leaning against the doorframe. "I see you've decided to join the living!" Panne rolled her eyes and moved to get out of bed, causing him to hold his hands up quickly. "Hey, may I make you breakfast in bed?"
"Er, no," Panne said, sitting up. "I have spent entirely too much time in bed already today, so why would I want to waste more time here?"
"Because I have a surprise for you that isn't quite ready yet," Virion explained. "But if you wait here just a bit longer, I can show it to you in its completed state." She was wary, but moving to get up pained her, so she reluctantly remained in bed for the next hour or so while Virion shuffled around the house frantically. Finally, he came back into the room and helped her to her feet, excited to show her whatever he had been working so hard on. "I have spared no expense in what I'm about to show you, and I do hope you like it."
He took them to the third, as of yet unused room in the house, and slowly opened the door. The inside was a completely different room than it was when they had moved into the house. The walls were painted bright colors, there were stuffed animals piled up in one corner and a bunch of other various baby toys strewn about. In the middle sat a crib, complete with a mobile depicting various wildlife hanging above it. "Oh my gods," Panne said, unable to form any other words.
"It is wonderful, no?" He said, gesturing around the room. "I dare say our own prince did not get to experience such a fantastic nursery. You no doubt have already noticed, but I also took the liberty of bringing in a cot for those long nights with a fussy baby." He motioned to the corner and the small bed that sat there, true to his word.
"How long have you been working at this?" Panne asked. "These walls are definitely not newly painted."
Virion nodded confirmation. "I started the paint job the first opportunity I had, and I've been working on it on and off for...a couple months now? I finally finished it about a week ago, and started secretly buying all these other supplies in the days since. I just received the crib today, so I spent the day putting that together and putting the finishing touches on the room."
Something he had said had stuck with Panne throughout the rest of his sentence. "You...you've been doing this for that long? Even while I hated you and yelled at you and..."
"Say no more," he said quickly. "I added just a bit more at every moment of free time I had, even if you were displeased with me at the time."
One again, she asked herself why he was so willing to help while receiving nothing but disgust and anger, but the thought was quickly swatted away. What mattered right then was the fact that he did what he did, and the how and why could come later. "I love it," she said, wincing as if the words hurt to say. "Thank you."
"It truly was no problem at all," he assured her.
Panne shook her head. "No. I have been nothing but a burden on you, and I apologize for yelling at you as much as I did. I don't deserve all the help you have been giving me."
"That is quite enough of that." Her face fell and she tried to act indignant, but he cut her off by saying, "this is surely a trying time in your life, and if you had no other form of stress relief, the only one who would suffer from it is the baby, so I'm more than okay with taking the force of your anger if it means a healthy offspring." As an aside, he added, "though some of those words did sting a bit..."
Panne couldn't help but chuckle at the way his voice cracked under those words. "Thanks again. For everything," she said.
Over the course of her life, two major events had caused Panne's entire world to crumble around her. The first, most obvious one, was the eradication of her people and their way of life. That left her completely alone with feelings of anger, trauma, confusion and pain. Why would anybody do that? It wasn't fair. If she could give her own life to ensure the survival of her people, she would have in a second.
The second event was the realization that she was pregnant. Though it wasn't quite as traumatic, it still rocked her to her core. How could she do that? The fear, shame and embarrassment weren't easily forgotten. After those passed, the feeling of helplessness had settled around her, only being chased away by Virion and his willingness to help out.
She had no idea that a third such event was patiently waiting in the wings, ready to tear her life to shreds once more.
Near the end of her pregnancy, she had completely let her feelings of malice against Virion go, leading to a much more pleasant life at the house that was finally becoming home. One day, Virion brought this up to her in the form of a question: "Panne, what are we?" Such a strangely forward question was strange, so when asked for elaboration, he said, "what is our relationship? I know we're not romantically involved to any capacity, but surely this past month or so has helped you warm up to me a little bit?"
"I'm glad you have no delusions about the romance aspect," she answered. "Anyway, I have been thinking about that as well."
"And what conclusion have you arrived to?" Virion leaned forward in his chair, causing Panne to laugh.
"I would consider you my friend. Is that a suitable answer?"
Virion breathed a sigh and gave her a smile. "Yeah, that will do."
Later that day, Panne noticed him looking over an official looking paper with a concerned expression. "What is that?"
He looked up as if he weren't expecting to see her. "Oh, it's merely a missive from my home country...er, continent, I suppose. My former retainer has taken it on herself to send me status reports about the political unrest and her progress in putting what pieces remain of my realm back together."
"I see," Panne said. "Any good news?"
Virion shook his head. "Not necessarily. It still is not safe to go back, and the so-called conqueror has made that abundantly clear."
Panne had lost interest in the conversation. "Unfortunate," she said, turning to go back to her own business.
When he was alone, Virion put the letter down and sighed. "Sorry Cherche. I would love to help, but my services are required elsewhere."
Days later, everything the past several months had been building up to started to fall into place. It all started when the immense pain racking Panne's body caused her to fall herself. Having prepared himself extensively for this very moment, Virion did his best to make Panne feel comfortable...right before darting out of the house, leaving her very confused and in a lot of pain. Several moments of panic and nearly unbearable pain later, Virion returned with a guest. "What is she doing here?" Panne demanded.
"I decided I cannot deliver a baby myself, no matter how much I wanted to help," Virion explained. "So I found the nearest healer to help."
The blonde woman pursed her lips at Panne's predicament. "I must say, I did not picture you being the kind of woman to bear children," she said calmly. "And am I right to assume Virion is the father? That's even more unexpected. ...And a little sickening, if I'm honest."
"Shut up and help me!" Panne screamed as another wave of pain slammed into her. The obnoxious woman sighed and rolled up her sleeves, taking a brief moment to complain about not being prepared to deliver a child today before getting right to it. Those infuriating ringlets in her painfully bright hair were the last sight Panne wanted to see in between her legs, but once the magic staff was brought out and the pain subsided a bit, she mentally thanked Virion for having the foresight to bring a healer. She still would rather that healer be the kinder one, though.
Virion did everything he could to help, which meant switching between being Panne's hand to put in a vicegrip and helping Maribelle fetch whatever it was she needed for this job. Unfortunately, the pain and agony lasted well into the night, and much of the following morning. At last, the physical pain finally subsided when Maribelle scurried out of the room to clean the quiet, newborn child, leaving an exhausted mother and almost gleeful father. "On the bright side, at least it isn't crying," Virion said, hand sore from Panne's iron grip.
Panne wanted to agree, but she couldn't help but feel a pit in her stomach. Something seemed wrong with the way that Maribelle was so quick to make herself scarce. She couldn't shake the terrible feeling that the physical anguish would be replaced with emotional turmoil.
That feeling did not go away when Maribelle came back with an apologetic face and a mass of towels cradled in her arms. "What is it?" Panne demanded, starting to grow frantic. "Where is my baby?"
After heaving a sigh, Maribelle showed the others the bundle in her arms. The child's face was calm and peaceful, but cold and lifeless. "I...don't know what happened," Maribelle said quietly. As she spoke, Virion's face fell from a warm smile to a pale look of dread. "I did everything I could, but he just...doesn't have a pulse."
"You have magic, do something!" Panne yelled, the only thing stopping her from getting in Maribelle's face being the pain still tormenting her body.
"I can heal wounds," Maribelle corrected. "Whatever went wrong here is...is something I can't fix." She moved across the room, gingerly setting the child down in Panne's arms. The last thing she said before leaving the house was a small, "I'm sorry."
There was no denying it. No amount of yelling, screaming, or physical violence would change what had just happened, so she didn't attempt it. Until the pain passed, she sat there, staring at the ever unmoving face that should have been looking back at her. Virion too knew nothing could possibly make the impact lesser, so he stood as still as a statue, and even quieter. As she stared silently, Panne could feel her world falling apart around her. There was no point in fighting tears, so she let them flow freely. This third horrendous event was a terrible mix of some of the emotions from its predecessors. There was fear, trauma, confusion, pain, and shame. Each and every emotion felt like a ton of bricks piled onto her chest, and no amount of heaving sobs could lift that weight. She held her child close, touched its furry little forehead to hers, and did the only thing she could think to do.
She cried until there were no more tears to be shed.
It lasted hours, and she wasn't sure if she ever cried herself to sleep or not. At long last, when her eyes had been exhausted, she stood up and said, "I'm going to bury him," curtly.
Outside, she withstood another bout of crying, and even with the elements around her, she had no idea how much time passed.
When the child was laid to rest and the dirt was put back in its place, she came back inside to see that Virion was gone.
That was fine. She understood that he needed time to be alone as well. He was just as invested, if not more so, in the child who never got to live, so it was only fair that he have some time alone as well. Perhaps they could cry together when he came back.
But he didn't come back that night. It was a sleepless, tearful night, and each second was longer than the previous one.
The next morning, Virion had still not come home. His absence dragged on, and after a week had passed, the reality that he wasn't coming had dawned on Panne. How could he just leave like that? He didn't even bother to say goodbye! The fact that he was so excited to raise a child, but ducked out the moment that was revealed to not be happening only told Panne that he didn't care about her, only the mistake she made with him.
This revelation was followed immediately by trashing most of the house she could get her hands on. It was the only outlet for her anger, so she destroyed whatever was unfortunate enough to get in her way. Her rampage worked through the house, and finally, she reached the still-unused nursery. When she went inside, she froze in her tracks. The sight of the crib collecting dust in the center of the room caused all of her anger to melt away the instant she saw it. The overwhelming, soul-crushing sadness that replaced it brought her to her knees and made her forget all ill intent she had toward this room.
After all the effort Virion put into this room, why did he leave?
No answer came, but what did come was an act of kindness that Panne treasured. About a week after her rampage, she heard a loud knocking on the house's front door. She had no intention of answering it, of course, so she listened to the noise without moving to do something about it.
Moments later, the knocks sounded again. She figured that when this got no answer, whoever was on the other side would figure that nobody was home and leave. Just when it seemed that was the case, the knocks came again, accompanied by some sort of high-pitched sound. There was no use lying to herself, she could hear exactly what that high-pitched sound was, but why would that person be visiting her? Either way, the voice had said that they knew Panne was home, so she had no choice but to slowly open the door for her visitor, only cracking it enough to peek through. "What do you want," she asked flatly.
The blonde pigtails bouncing around a determined expression would have been enough to make Panne laugh if she weren't in the middle of an emotional crisis. "Panne, Maribelle told me everything, and I want to help."
Panne heaved an exhausted sigh and slumped her shoulders. "That insufferable woman cannot keep her mouth shut, can she? How long until the entirety of Ylisse knows what happened to me?"
Lissa shook her head, again causing her pigtails to whip around hilariously. "No no. We promised each other that we would never tell a soul. Your secret is safe with us, I swear." A skeptical Panne responded by simply slamming the door shut, causing her visitor to bark an indignant, "hey!" A few seconds of frantic knocking later, Panne swung the door open with an annoyed look (and aching ears.) "Look, Panne, I...I want to help."
"There is no way for you to help," Panne told her.
"Please just let me in so I can explain myself," Lissa pleaded. Reluctantly, Panne let the princess in, and moments later found them sitting at the (somehow) intact dining room table with cups of tea in front of them. "Do you remember what you did the night after Emmeryn died?" Of course she did, so Lissa continued, "you see, it meant so much to me that you came to try and comfort me, so I decided it would only be fair if I returned the favor."
"Really?" Panne asked quietly. "But I didn't help you at all."
Lissa took a sip of tea and said, "you helped me more than you think. The fact that you were considerate and let your guard down around me enough to do that told me just how kind you can be. And, well, others are so intimidated by you that they don't approach you, so I thought, what if she needed someone to keep her company in her times of need?"
Panne managed a weak smile, the first one in weeks. "Thank you."
Lissa returned the smile in her own cheery way. "You bet! Now, do you want to talk about it?"
The answer was no, she didn't want to, but it probably would have been for the best to talk it out, so she did.
The entire time, Lissa nodded along solemnly, only respectfully interrupting once or twice. Once she had been caught up (and sworn to secrecy once more), she sighed and leaned back in her chair. "And Virion still hasn't come back?"
Panne shook her head. "I've no clue where he possibly could have gone."
After a moment of thought, Lissa shrugged. "Nope, no idea. What a scumbag! What kind of lowlife just leaves a woman to grieve about this kind of thing alone? Ugh, I'm not even involved in this but I'm so angry!"
Panne couldn't help but smile at the sight of the young girl showing an emotion that wasn't obnoxious cheer. "You are very intimidating," she said sarcastically.
Lissa paused, looking at Panne confused. "Wait, really?"
"No." When Lissa's face fell, Panne barked a laugh. "I have never told a joke in my life, but that one was the first."
Despite the sass, Lissa laughed along with Panne. "Well, I'm glad I could cheer you up at least a little bit."
"Oh, don't worry," Panne assured her. "It will pass." Those words brought the mood down significantly, and now the sadness was palpable again.
"Right," Lissa sighed.
Feeling bad about chasing away the happy note so soon, Panne continued, "but I appreciate what you have done today. It means a lot to me."
Lissa smiled once again. "Anytime! If you ever need to talk things out again, you know where to find me. Trust me, my brother's far too busy to worry about who his sister's hanging out with."
"Thanks for the offer."
Lissa went home soon after, skipping home surrounded by the orange of the setting sun. Moments after she left, Panne succumbed to crying again, taking to her bed to try and sleep instead of thinking about what she had to go through. She had taken to sleeping in her own bed again, because even if it wasn't torn to shreds, Virion's bed would have reminded her too much of the warmth he provided her. The fact that he was no longer around to provide it during an even more difficult time than the last continued to anger her, and she swore that if he ever showed his face to her again, she'd tear his head from his shoulders.