1230, AS: Tiger: Third Quarter
9 Nights Later
"How's that?" Fang asked, presenting to her the meat-and-vegy rabbit stew she'd been preparing with Farron, who had her own tray of meat and cheesy bread cooking in the oven, too. Jihl groaned, hang still over her stomach with her head down. "Still got a stomach ache?"
"They're kicking for food, I'm sure." Jihl moaned, lifting her head to the bowl. "Do you know how powerful Yun babies are?"
"Enough to hurt, it seems." Fang watched her as Jihl spooned for a bite with a big bite of rabbit meat from the bowl. "Thalia should be by soon," Fang promised. "To check up on you."
"I hope she brings some painkiller." Jihl winced. "They're so rowdy today. Every half hour, I swear. Ugh." Feeling bad for her and a little more worried than Jihl seemed to be, Fang rubbed her back and shoulder. "Fang?" Jihl munched, mouth half full, "Can you throw in more rabbit chunks? These little bastards want meat so bad, it's unnatural. My god, they eat so much."
"I'll get you more rabbit," Fang promised. She reached for Jihl's bow, but Jihl made a face at her and pulled it closer in. "...In a new bowl." Fang turned to fetch one.
Farron chuckled in front of her stove. "You know, Raina used to eat like you, too, Jihl. It took a long time to get her to come over to the carnivorous side. Serah's pregnancy really helped that, though."
"If you're saying this is permanent," Jihl said between chews. "I'm going to throw this empty bowl at Fang's head."
"Hey, I'm getting your rabbit!" Fang protested.
"After I get my new bowl." Jihl pushed her startlingly-empty one ahead on the table, then laid down her head with another groan. "Ohh, Fang."
"What's wrong?" Fang hurried back over. Jihl didn't sit upright straightaway, flustering Fang. "Jihl!"
"I'm done," Jihl finally said with a flop back heavily against the back of her chair. "I can't do this anymore. I'm-ohhhln," Jihl moaned, hands dropping down over her stomach to hug and hold.
Fang had had enough of watching her pained moods. "We're taking her to Thalia, Farron." Fang announced, reaching an arm behind Jihl's back and another under her knees, which felt… damp, the immediate reason appearing as a huge stain of water on the chair where she'd been sitting a moment ago. Fang's eyes popped. She almost dropped Jihl. "Farron, what is that!"
"I'm leaking." Jihl murmured.
"Whoa!" Farron yelped when she saw the chair, eyes growing as big as Fang's felt. "Her water! Her water broke!"
Jihl buried her face in Fang's shoulder in pain. "Make them stop kicking, Fang."
Fang could just stare at the damp wood with the girl in her arms. "I don't think that's them kicking, Jihl…"
"What is i- " Jihl suddenly startled so bad and suddenly, Fang had trouble holding onto her. "My- my water broke? What does that mean, Fang?" Jihl grabbed her by the shirt and shook her. "Am I ready to go? Am I- ohh, God!" Jihl's arms wrapped around Fang's head where she pulled her face to her chest, blinding Fang in another wrack of pain. "My babies are leaving me?" Jihl suddenly panted through the pain of it. "Go, babies, go! I'm pushing!"
"Don't push yet!" Farron squeaked from somewhere in front of Fang. "You're having contractions. They're not ready to come out!"
"Babies, please!" Jihl begged, still holding Fang's head hostage in her overwhelming chest. "Go!"
"Fang, control her!" Farron eiped, rushing over to pull Jihl down from her face. Jihl groaned again and hip-thrust the air violently.
"Get out, you little scamps!"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Farron tried to settle. "Jihl!"
"Jihl, calm down," Fang begged.
"They're ready," Jihl growled. "Time for them to leave momma." She thrust into the air again.
"Umbra!" Farron cursed. "We've got to get her lying down. You'll hurt yourself, Jihl!"
"As long as they leave, it's worth it." Jihl strained taut and groaned, probably trying to push again, then collapsed a moment later in puffing exhaustion. Fang immediately started for the stairs to take her up.
"No, no, no!" Farron protested, "Ground floor, ground floor! Trust me, Fang. Bring her into my room with Raina. I'll find Thalia!"
"Don't go," Fang whimpered a second before Farron disappeared.
"Please settle down," Fang begged, heart racing a mile a minute as she started for Raina's room.
"Fang," Jihl whimpered. "Stay with me. Help me push."
Fang took her fingers and squeezed them. "I'm not going anywhere, Jihl."
8 Hours Later
"Get back from her!" Thalia barked, jerking Lightning back in her tracks. She looked from Thalia to Jihl helplessly.
Farron touched the back of her shoulder to comfort Lightning, who wasn't allowed to get close to her girlfriend. "Handholding's a sweet gesture, Claire, but I'm sure Jihl prefers not to break your fingers in the birth. Trust me," Farron rubbed her shoulder. "I learned it the hard way."
"Claire," Jihl whimpered through tears, arms wrapped tightly around a pillow for support so she wouldn't hurt anything else with reaching elsewhere. Her body wracked with sobs, tears streaming non-stop for the past two hours of laboring birth. "Make it stop."
"Jihl," Lightning's heart was breaking with every passing second of this. With everyone being so protective of her and her babies, she couldn't even draw near. "Jihl, I'm still here. You're going to get through this, Jihl."
"No, I'm not," Jihl sobbed, then screamed, stretching taut and bracing against her restraints- which included Cereza and Fang, one to each arm to keep her from flailing. "Help me," Jihl cried out. "Help me, PLEASE!"
Lightning's heart crumbled in watching her.
"You're doing great, baby," Cereza whispered from above her. She stroked a hand through Jihl's sweat-drenched hair on her forehead. "Don't give up. You're so close to being there."
"Why aren't they coming?" Jihl sobbed, trembling in pain and fear. "Why can't I-ohhhl!" Jihl choked on her own words, going taut again with another contraction, harsh ones that came every few seconds now.
"Shh, baby, shh," Cereza tried to soothe.
"She's dilating," Thalia announced, at the apex between Jihl's spread legs with Jeanne. "I need more towels!"
"I'll get them," Raina volunteered again, rushing out from Jihl's side where she stopped her from kicking when able.
"Is it enough, yet, Thalia?"
"Almost," Thalia promised, "She needs to be ten centimeters or there will be tearing."
"Mum," Jihl wept, uncontrolled. "Mummy, I need to push!"
"Oh-No, no! Not yet, Jihl. Baby, just a moment longer. Just a little longer, Jihl."
"No-oh!" Jihl went taut again, then started thrashing, almost throwing Cereza off her arm until Fang leaned in one from her own restraint to help her.
"Jihl," Fang whispered from above her, "You're stronger than this, okay? You are."
"MUM, I HAVE TO PUSH!" Jihl screamed into the air, then broke down into sobs. "Please, let me push them out. Please." Jihl went limp, crying in despair.
"It's going to hurt more if she rips on the way out, Cereza. Raina!- "
"I'm back! I'm back!" Raina hurried forward with the tools and hot water. Thalia moved the towel under her as if to catch.
"Hold that there," she asked Jeanne, then proceeded to help Jihl otherwise in some way Lightning couldn't really concentrate on.
"Jihl." Lightning didn't even know if she could hear her. "Jihl, I love you," Lightning tried to tell her. "I love you so much. We're all here for you and we know you can make it through this. You're my strength, Jihl, my rock. I know you can sustain this." Lightning tried to speak comforting words, but her heart jumped with every jerk of Jihl's pain. She was beginning to feel lightheaded, too. Lightning didn't know how much longer she could watch Jihl in so much pain and not do anything about it. By far, this seemed like the worst torture Jihl had ever endured before- and she was no stranger to torture before this world.
"She's dilated enough!" Thalia announced after what seemed like ages. "You can start to push, Jihl!"
And thus started up Jihl's next round of torture. Lightning really couldn't tell which was worse. Jihl screamed with every breath she had that wasn't held in for the pushing act. Lightning could barely stand it and wasn't even allowed to help. She withered just watching and started to cry, too, silent tears dripping down her cheeks as Jihl moaned and screamed. Farron hugged her from behind, unable to help either for Jih's greater strength than hers. "She's going to be okay," Farron whispered to her, as if she were the one that needed to complain in massive pain. "She's doing great, Claire."
"Claaaaiiire," Jihl moaned out, completely exhausted. "Help. Help me."
Lightning could do nothing but assure her from afar. It was the first time Lightning cursed her babies for not letting her be there for Jihl.
"That's the head," Thalia informed them after a much longer time in labor.
"Jihl!" Jeanne's eyes sparked. "We see the head! Push again, baby, one more giant heave. Push… push!"
Jihl pushed so hard, she screamed bloody murder, and then, suddenly, hers wasn't the only scream. Lightning's eyes left her fiance to see Thalia helping Jeanne as she cradled and extracted the blood-and-sticky covered child from her mother's belly.
"I need the kitchen knife," Thalia said, sounding faint to Lightning, whose whole attention now rest solely on the small, squirming child in Jeanne's arms that Raina cleaned with a cloth. Everything seemed to quiet. Even Jihl stopped screaming to quietly pant and struggled to brace herself up to see her baby. The whole, singular moment froze in time as Lightning took in that baby.
"Cordelia," Jihl whispered upon seeing her.
The moment snapped with Jihl's next scream as her second child vied for attention, breaking all three ladies back to delivering business. Thalia cut Cordelia's umbilical cord with a sterilized knife as Raina quickly finished her rushed job of cleaning. Holding out a clean towel for her, Jeanne wrapped the offered cloth around Cordelia and kissed the little one's forehead briefly.
"Lightning." Lightning snapped to attention as Jeanne hurried her way and Jihl started screaming like a banshee. "Hold her?" Jeanne asked, worried eyes flickering back to her daughter, who writhed and screamed. Lightning didn't know if Jeanne purposefully came to her because she was Jihl's partner or just because she and Farron were the only ones not doing anything, but quicker than she knew it, the small, warm-wrapped little child was in her arms and still crying, probably still hurt by the adventure she'd just had coming out of her mommy.
"Cordelia," Lightning whispered, breath completely taken away in holding Jihl's baby. Lightning's eyes lifted to the screaming mother giving her second birthing, but found something else, too, when she looked, and it was Fang.
Arms still holding down a screaming Jihl, Fang's eyes had lifted and locked on something else completely. Lightning immediately knew it was the baby. And the look in Fang's face as she stared and gazed upon her… damn. Lightning's breath left her a second time in that moment.
Fang had seen a miracle with those green eyes. Though she'd impregnated many women before, Lightning knew she hadn't been to any of their birthings. Jihl's was her very first child that she'd witnessed coming into the world. Lightning didn't blame her for being captivated. Instead, she tilted Cordelia a little in Fang's direction so she could see more clearly.
"She's beautiful," Farron breathed, not the only one with a lack of air in this. Another sharp and deathly scream brought Lightning's attention straight back to her fiance. Jihl arched in agony.
"More, Jihl! Push!"
She was crying, but not audibly over the screams and panting. As blown away as Lightning was with all this stimuli, she just wanted to rush forward and hug her Jihl in so much pain.
"She's coming!" Thalia called out. "Jihl, she's coming! Push!"
Another scream broke the air that had Lightning's blood chilling. She ached to help. "Jihl- "
Farron held her by the shoulders, keeping her from moving to her. "Wait, Claire. It'll be over soon."
Jihl bucked again and screamed.
"Just a little more. One deep breath, Jihl, then push her!"
"I AM PUSHING!" Red faced, tears streaming and sweating enough to be drenched in her own fluids, Jihl heaved in a breath and moaned with the immense effort that ended in another banshee scream.
"That's it, that's it," Jihl was encouraged. "Just a little more and- "
A second baby's scream broke the air, joining Jihl's and Cordelia's. As soon as the shoulders fitted out, Jeanne and Thalia helped extract the rest of the baby. Jihl collapsed in a gasping, whimpering heap, and Lightning rushed for her, unable to stop herself after waiting so long without being able to do anything. "Jihl!"
Jihl lay there, eyes closed, seeming pale and flushed at the same time, but she was breathing. Her chest rose and fell quickly with her exhaustion as her heart struggled to settle from the marathon of pain she'd just been through.
"Jihl, it's over." Lightning sat on the bed and moved to lay in beside Jihl while balancing the baby. She was immediately assisted by both Farron and Fang, who helped Lightning lie in beside her, still separated by a belly full of baby and the one in her arms, but finally close and safe enough to extend a hand to her lover's cheek and touch her. "Jihl," Lightning whispered, wanting desperately to see those beautiful eyes again. In her arms, without all the ruckus and screaming, Cordelia started to quiet and stopped flailing so terribly. "Love."
Lightning ached for her to see. She stroked her sweaty cheek and could hear Jihl's heart beating away in her chest so fast. Somewhere from the other side, Cereza combed her fingers through Jihl's sweaty hair and Lightning readjusted the baby held snug against her boobs and giant belly. "You did so well," Lightning whispered to her, heart and stomach churning. "You were so brave, Jihl. I'm proud of you."
Finally, after what seemed a century, Jihl's beautiful, deeply green eyes opened upon Lightning. "Claire," Jihl croaked and exhaled what had to be a giant sigh of relief. "Is it over?" Jihl asked on the breath of relief. "Are they- " She spotted the small towel bundle held to Lightning's chest then, eyes growing wide on that. "Is that…."
Lightning smiled warmly and tilted the baby resting upon her so Jihl could see. "It's Cordelia." Jihl stared at the little baby. Lightning offered her up. "Do you want to hold her?"
Cordelia in Lightning's arms cracked her eyes only partially, revealing a deep, imbued green behind half-open lids of the baby. Jihl gulped in looking at her, then turned her eyes to Lightning. "I…"
"You had her," Lightning nodded gently. "We're home, Jihl," Lightning gently reminded. "You can take her."
Though the birthing was a first time experience for both of them, Lightning recognized and understood the shock Jihl was probably in now that it was mostly over. In another world in a horrible place, they had once vowed against this very thing -having female children- for the awful deed they would have had to commit after the birth of their babies to spare them full lives of rape and misery. Now, Jihl had two of her own and they were here, safe and free, unpressured to hurt their own children without the overwhelming notion that their girls would be better off dead than living. That alone was enough to take someone's breath away.
"What about Rosalind?" Jihl asked, struggling to sit up suddenly in half a panicked state. "Is she- "
"Shh," Lightning hushed, alarmed, and not the only one pressing on Jihl's shoulders to get her back down and resting. Cereza and Fang helped, too, though Lightning was probably the one who understood her sudden panic the most.
"Jihl, she's here," Jeanne's voice floated over her as Jihl struggled to look down her body and see. Jeanne held up the child where Thalia busily cut away her cord as well from the foot of the bed. Jihl looked down her body to them, then finally rested her head back upon the pillow.
"Okay," she breathed, closing her eyes again for another moment. "Okay." She opened them again on Cordelia, eyes filling with wonder. "I… she came out of me." It was more a statement of wonder than a question, but Lightning nodded anyway.
"She did. You birthed her, Jihl." Lightning gently soothed her thumb over Jihl's cheek, longing for and missing that kind of intimacy. "How do you feel?"
"I have tentacles sticking out of me and a flabby belly of jelly." Jihl picked up a stretched flab of skin to emphasize and let it fall. "I feel like a sea creature."
Lightning smiled faintly. "You're beautiful, Jihl."
Jihl snorted. "Don't be like Fang now." The mention of her must've reminded Jihl, because then she asked. "Where is Fang?"
"I'm here," Fang echoed softly from behind her head. Jihl tilted her head back, but couldn't see her.
"Ah, my restrainer." Jihl tapped the bed beside her. "Come here. Cuddle with me, Daddy." Fang tentatively came over to the spot and sat there as Jihl ordered her to, eyes in such conflict between looking at Jihl or Lightning and Cordelia. Jihl noticed it, too. "Claire, I think Fang needs some baby time."
"What?" Fang blanched.
"I think so, too," Lightning agreed, then struggled to adjust to lift her arms with the baby. Jihl tried to help her, but was a bit weak at the moment to assist very much.
"Fang," Jihl barked when they clearly struggled to hand her over. "Quit gaping and help grab your baby from Lightning, would you?"
Fang started to react and help, reaching for the child, but even then had trouble computing or accepting that. "But- "
"Oh, shush," Jihl chided, fully making the exchange over to Fang's arms now that she was helping. "I didn't spend the last ten hours shoving out your babies so you could gape at them."
Even in her arms, Fang couldn't stop staring, eyes big, face full of awe and disbelief on her child in her arms.
"She needs a minute, I think," Jihl laid a hand over Lightning's and brought it back to her cheek. "Does birthing earn me a kiss?"
"A birthing like that earns you damn near anything," Lightning responded softly with a smile, already facing her on her side, but needed to lean in to reach Jihl. Their lips met warmly and Jihl's fingers soothed over her hand, savoring Lightning's every gentle touching. Lightning stayed there long and slow, the kiss creating such a craving in her for Jihl's slower lovemaking, it was almost embarrassing how far her mind went with their touching.
"Jihl," Fang finally managed after some indeterminable time, forcing Jihl to regretfully, finally break free, the damage already done to Lightning.
"Ready to speak again, baby?"
"I…" Tears clouded Fang's eyes. "I'm…"
"Not ready yet, I guess." Jihl smiled a very little. and Lightning found her the most beautiful sea creature she'd ever laid eyes on before. It was her first real smile since labor. "Fang, come here," Jihl summoned with a finger towards herself. "Down here, closer to me."
Fang leaned in, still a little too frozen to speak or do anything else. When she leaned close enough, Jihl wrapped an arm around Fang's neck and lifted herself a little to kiss Fang on the cheek, their lovechild held between them. "We love you, too, Fang."
Fang misted eyes grew wide again. Jihl smiled as she pulled away, leaving Fang with big eyes and a lost expression, eyes that turned back on the baby in her arms. "You better believe I'll be needing your help with this, Fang."
Lightning particularly mushed at that expression on her face, so full of awe and disbelief, Fang was still having trouble taking this in. "We're going to be parents, Fang," Lightning offered. "We'd like your help."
A silent, confused and awed tear slipped from Fang's right eye. She cradled Cordelia in her arms and swallowed thickly. Cordelia had stopped crying and squirming altogether with Fang. "I think she likes you." Jihl looked down her body again, which made her flinch, making a face, but it was to address her mothers. "Mum, can I have Rosalind? Having two might jump-start Fang."
Lightning smiled faintly as Fang's head lifted, startled, and Cereza brought over Jihl's second baby. She delivered her to Jihl, in the midst of both Lightning and Fang. "Welcome to parenthood, girls."