Just the Right Size
By Amaranth Adanae
Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction, not intended for profit; I do not own Ergo Proxy.
The labor had lasted hours; Re-l had screamed curses and insults at Vince even while she clutched his hand, and demanded more painkillers. Then all had gone quiet, except for the soft cries of the tiny little bundle that had seemed much too small to be causing all the fuss. Mercifully, the dark haired baby whose peculiar no-colored eyes hadn't decided yet whether to be blue, or grey, or green, seemed to be more Vincent's child than Re-l's—he was quiet and uncomplaining, even when being handed around and cooed over by the motley collection of survivors from Romdeau.
But Pino had vague memories of another inoffensive bundle, which had unintentionally wrecked her entire world. Mother's cool voice, saying reasonably that a domestic unit that could serve as housekeeper and child minder would be much more useful than a tiny companion autoreiv, who was really rather redundant, now that their circumstances had changed…
Pino didn't want things to change. She was happy; the Vince that they had recovered from the wreckage of Romdeau was still Vince, though he was taller, his voice was deeper, and he wore Other Vince's deep red cloak in the place of his red coverall. Other Vince was rather closer to the surface than he used to be, but really they were the same person, and Vince didn't seem so desperately lost anymore. He still liked to play with her, and he stood up to Re-l a little more than he used to, just a little.
It made Pino happy to see that he was brave enough to tease the dark girl a bit. They bickered without any heat, in a way that made them seem like a family, much more so than the polite strangers Mother and Papa had always been. Re-l called him hopeless and a troublemaker, and sighed with exasperation over his quirks, but she didn't shove him off the deck for fun anymore, and when she thought no one was watching, she looked at him with a softer expression than Pino had ever seen on her face. Her heart rate would speed up a little when she looked at him, sometimes, and her body temperature would increase. They shared the bunk in the cabin, now, Vince lying on his back with Re-l curled against his side, her face tucked against his chest. Re-l set the alarm every night, and every morning Vince's hand shot out, faster than even Pino's eyes could follow, and shut off the alarm before it could sound. Re-l would wake a few hours later and fuss, and Vincent would just smile and shrug.
Pino and Re-l had reached an understanding; Re-l no longer called her "the autoreiv" or pestered her to do things that Pino had no interest in but Re-l though an autoreiv ought to do. Kristeva helped; she had taken over the food preparation, though Re-l continued to have Vince comb and style her hair. Having properly prepared food and a third person to steer the Rabbit did wonders for Re-l's temperament; she sometimes even joined in when Pino and Vince played. More often, she just watched, her chin cupped in her hand and a slight smile tugging almost invisibly at the corners of her mouth. If you didn't know Re-l, you'd think that she looked bored, but Pino knew that in her own way, she was enjoying herself.
There were fights, sometimes; the people from far away would come, in their ships, or in suits to protect them from the atmosphere, and they would fire their weapons at the Romdeau survivors. They generally went away again pretty quickly (the ones who got away from Vince). Vince's eyes would gleam silver, and he would smile Other Vince's devilish smile. He seemed to enjoy the fights; maybe Re-l was right, a little—he was a troublemaker. Re-l enjoyed the fights, too. It gave her an enemy on whom to vent her frustrations, which was fine with Pino—better the far away people than the crew of the Rabbit. Re-l couldn't hurt Vince, and wouldn't hurt Pino, but it would be annoying for Vince to have to repair Kristeva.
Life had reached a balance on the Rabbit, a comfortable pattern had been established, and now Pino was afraid that this small invader would upset things, as the other one had. That there wouldn't be any room left for Pino.
Vince went out of his way to make time for Pino, during Re-l's pregnancy. He would pause next to her on deck, and rest his hand on top of her head. Sometimes, they would leave the ship behind and go off to play, just the two of them—though Pino wasn't sure he wasn't using it as an escape from Re-l's unpredictable mood swings. Kristeva's unemotional visage would always look put-upon, and her eyes would follow them wistfully, when they escaped the ship, leaving her alone with Re-l.
But that might change, now that the baby was actually here. Especially since it was a boy. Mother had always said that she hoped they were granted a little boy, because then Papa would take more of an interest in it. Men, she said, always favored sons.
Her thoughts were interrupted by Vince's hand coming to rest on the top of her head. She glanced up sharply; she hadn't heard him come up on deck. He had the baby tucked into the crook of his other arm. The baby was quiet, making no more noise than an occasional soft gurgle.
"Re-l is resting," he said softly. Pino mentally translated that as "exhausted and drugged out of her mind," which was probably just as well.
"Do you want to hold him?" offered Vincent.
Pino hesitated. "Are you sure? Pino isn't too small?"
Vince smiled. "It's fine. He's tiny, after all."
The infant was light, and much warmer than Pino expected. He blinked his funny, no-colored eyes at her, and, yawning, settled back to sleep.
"Pino is sorry she's not a domestic auto-reiv, who could help with the baby," blurted the little companion.
Vince settled on the deck next to her, and though the corners of his eyes crinkled, answered seriously, "Don't be. Pino is Pino. We'd miss you, if you were any different than you are."
"Besides," he continued, "the Rabbit is a small ship. You are just the right size; we would be crowded if you were any bigger. And besides, who would I have to play with? He's too small to be much fun right now. It will be better when he's older, you will be able to teach him all sorts of games."
Pino smiled, reassured. Vince was right; everything was just the right size to fit, now. And she had a lot to teach the baby—how to read Re-l's moods, and when to avoid her; how to cheer up Vince, when he was thinking too much; the best places on the ship to hide from Kristeva, when she had chores to be done. She would teach him how to draw, and maybe even let him play her harmonica.
He was family, after all.