November 12, 18--
The moment Chester started nursing, Victor took the opportunity to lie back beside his wife and son and close his eyes, enjoying the blessed sound of silence. This first week hadn’t been easy. The crying, the diapers, the sleepless nights, the forgoing of his own comfort to ensure Chester and Alice’s. The house was in disarray and he couldn’t remember the last time Lightning had had a proper walk instead of a quick trip outside to do his business.
Ding-dong! “Arf! Arf! Arf!”
Victor started and looked over at Alice and Chester, but luckily the corgi’s yapping had only woken the infant enough to start nursing again. “You’d better get that,” said Alice.
Nodding, he stood up and stretched, then headed for the front door. “Lightning, quiet now! Down, boy! Heel!” He caught the dog in mid-leap and turned the doorknob. “Oh! Hello, Lisa. Adam. What brings you here?”
Dr. Lisa, Touched-half-alien veterinarian, and her boyfriend Adam Steel, Regular-fully-human-self-defense teacher, were standing on his front stoop holding containers of amazing-smelling food.
“We brought you dinner,” said Lisa. “We were out at the Roofless and thought, with the baby and all, that you probably haven’t had a proper meal.”
Victor’s stomach growled and he gave an embarrassed chuckle. “It’s very much appreciated. Come in.” He blushed a little. “Er, sorry about the state of the house. We’re still trying to get into some kind of a routine.”
He let them in, putting Lightning down as soon as the door was closed, showed them where they could hang their coats, and then led them to the kitchen. The containers held pasta, meatballs, and salad with sauce and dressing on the side to be added to taste. It was enough for dinner tonight and any leftovers could be stored in the refrigerated icebox Doc had made for them.
Adam and Lisa took in the general disorder of the house. There were dirty dishes in the sink, clothes strewn about on the furniture, and a thin layer of dust over everything. They exchanged a look and Lightning barked his opinion.
“Shh!” Victor hushed the dog, who whined in response.
Lisa frowned. “What’s going on?”
Their host sighed, running his hand through his hair. “Chester has been giving us a lot of sleepless nights. When he’s does sleep, I’m afraid any noise will wake him and cause more screaming. You know Lightning barks at the door and how hyperactive he is. We haven’t been able to give him a proper walking since the baby was born and you’ve seen the state of the house.”
“I’m able to slip out when Alice is feeding Chester to quickly clean his stable, but he hasn’t had a proper exercising, either.”
Again Lisa and Adam looked at each other and Victor recognized the sign that they were communicating with each other through their special link. After a moment, Adam said, “Why don’t you eat, get Alice some food, and rest. I’ll clean up here and Lisa will take Lightning and Ferdinand out for some exercise.”
“Oh!” Victor exclaimed, “I couldn’t ask you to do that. It’s getting dark and late and – ” His stomach growled again, which Lightning matched nearly pitch-perfect. “Um…maybe just for an hour?”
“Take as long as you need,” said Lisa, smiling. “Lightning, go get your leash.”
The corgi rocketed away in search of the requested item while Victor, wincing a little at the dog’s nails clacking on the floor, dished out food for himself and his wife. “Oh, Lisa,” he said, “before you go, would you bring this to Ferdinand?” He handed her a fake flower full of sugar water. “And let him know I’m sorry about all this.”
“No problem,” she replied, taking the flower. Lightning brought his leash back in record time; Lisa hooked him up, grabbed her coat, and the moment the two had left the house Lightning started rapid-fire barking.
“Well,” said Victor, “at least he sounds happy.”
“I am NOT happy!” Lightning barked. “The tiny human is taking over EVERYTHING!”
“Babies do that, though,” said Lisa as they walked the short distance between the house and Ferdinand’s stable. “And he has a name.”
“He’s always yelling at Master Victor and Mistress Alice,” the dog continued his rant, “ordering them around. I’m a dog! I have sensitive ears!”
“It’s his only way of communicating right now.”
“And, on top of that, I’M not allowed to make any noise or run around while the tiny human can scream at the top of his lungs and have the Master running around like a headless chicken!”
The emotion that ran through the little corgi was so powerful Lisa’s vision nearly took on a green aura. “Lightning!” She stopped in her tracks so the dog had to look at her. “You’re jealous of Chester!”
If it were possible for dogs to shed tears, she was sure Lightning would be doing so now. He sat down heavily, head low. “Before he came along,” he whined, “they thought my announcing the doorbell and running around was cute. And now I get yelled at when I act…well, like me.”
“Aw, boy…” she said softly, sitting next to him and taking him into her arms. “Victor and Alice still love you, but babies need a lot of attention when they’re first born just like puppies do, and while puppies are able to do a lot of things on their own by the time they’re a couple of months old, young humans can’t do that until they’re much older.” Lightning nuzzled into her arms and she scratched behind his ears. “Did you even get properly introduced to Chester like you did to Ferdy?”
The little dog canted his head to the side in a canine shrug. “This whole week’s been like a blur with everyone cooing and fussing over the tiny human…and I thought it was ME who moved fast…it’s just…I feel like this…‘baby’ is the boss.”
“All right, boy. Once we’re done out here, let’s go back and straighten this whole thing out.”
“Can I run around a little first?”
“Of course. As long as you promise not to run off, I’ll let you off the leash while I tend to Ferdy.”
Lisa and Lightning approached the building that was Ferdinand’s stable. “Ferdy!” she called out, “hey, Ferdy, you awake?”
Happy clicking answered her and she heard the giant butterfly bouncing around inside. She opened the door and was greeted by a long proboscis licking her all over.
“Ferdy!” she giggled. “That tickles! Stop, please!”
“What are you doing here?” the large Lepidoptera wanted to know. “And did you bring any nectar?”
“As a matter of fact, I did,” she said, holding out the fake flower for him. “And I’m doing Victor a favor. Speaking of…” She bent down and unhooked Lightning’s leash. “Stay where I can see you, okay?”
“Sure!” he barked and took off like a shot, doing laps around the yard.
“Is Master Victor okay?” Ferdinand whined, his canine “accent” coming through. “I know he’s been busy with little Chester but it’s been a while since I saw him.”
“Yeah, that’s about right,” said Lisa as she let the giant butterfly out of his stable to stretch his wings. “He says he’s sorry about the baby taking over things, but once they get into a routine things should be better. Where does Victor keep the stuff to clean up in here?”
“Behind that door in the corner.” Ferdinand gestured with one of his legs. “And the used bedding goes in the heap outside. What’s with Lightning?”
“Yappy dogs and fussy babies don’t exactly match up,” she explained as she cleaned his stall, shoveling up the wet bedding and loading it into a wheelbarrow. “He needed to run around and get out some of his energy.” She stopped shoveling and leaned against the door. “Tell me, Ferdy, what do you think of Chester?”
“The little one?” He waggled his feelers. “Well, we haven’t met properly since he’s still so small, but I know he’s made the Master and Mistress very happy and as he grows things should get better.” Beat. “Shouldn’t it?”
Lisa nodded. “Of course. Babies need a lot of time and attention especially when they’re first born. As Chester gets older and bigger and stronger, and Victor and Alice get used to having him around and get into a routine, things should settle down. That’s what I tried to explain to Lightning.” She sighed. “You probably need some exercise, too. Why don’t you do a lap or two around the yard while I finish here?”
The giant butterfly didn’t need to be told twice. He flapped his wings and took to the sky, circling the yard and trying to keep up with Lightning on the ground. Lisa finished cleaning the stall, put down fresh bedding, and refilled his water reserve. After she put the equipment away and disposed of the used bedding, she stood outside and watched the two pets race each other on land and in air. She probably would’ve joined Ferdinand if the height didn’t make her so nervous, so she just waited until they’d ran themselves tired.
“Whoo!” Lightning exulted as he skidded to a stop in front of her and Ferdinand landed beside them. “What a rush!”
“I know!” Ferdinand agreed. “That was the most exercise than I’ve gotten in a week.” He touched Lisa with his feelers. “Are you sure you can’t stay longer?”
She patted the appendages. “I might come back if Victor needs help with you two while they get used to Chester. In you go, Ferdy.”
The giant butterfly gave her one last “kiss” on the cheek before settling into his stable. “See you soon?” he asked hopefully.
“We’ll see,” she answered with a smile. “Good night.”
Almost two hours had passed before Lisa and Lightning headed back to the house. When they came back in, she saw the house had been dusted and the scattered clothes sorted. Adam was finishing the dishes and Victor was rocking a fussy Chester in his arms. Please don’t cry, please don’t cry… he was silently begging his son.
“Is everything all right?” Lisa asked as she hung up her coat.
“Alice fed and burped him, I changed him,” said Victor, “but now he’s fussing again.” He glanced over at her, an almost desperate look in his eyes. “Is there any way you can tell what’s wrong?”
“I was going to ask you the same thing,” Lightning woofed softly.
Her wings twitched and she walked closer to Victor and Chester. The infant looked remarkably like a miniature version of his father, with pale skin and dark hair. “Babies don’t think in words,” she explained, gently stroking the wisps on the child’s head. “I haven’t been around enough human babies to read them as well as I do adults, you know?” She held out her arms. “May I?”
Victor hesitated for a moment but gently passed Chester over. “Just support his head and b-be careful.”
“Of course,” she said, gazing down at the infant. As if sensing that he was no longer in his father’s arms, he opened his eyes revealing to her that he’d inherited the green irises of his mother. “Hi, Chester,” she said quietly. “My name is Lisa and I’m a friend of your mom and dad.” The baby’s eyes roved all over and focused on the soft golden glow of her wings, little hands reaching out.
“He can see your wings?” Victor asked, astonished. Her wings were currently transparent to him, which meant that she had them cloaked in invisibility.
“Small kids and animals will always see them,” said Adam, coming over after drying his hands on a towel. “Well, animals will always see them; kids if they’re under five, right?”
Lisa nodded. “I just have to be careful when they start talking.” She chuckled, fluttering her wings within Chester’s vision. “You like those, Chester?” The baby blinked and drooled and she wiped his face with a cloth Victor passed to her. “I think you just needed a change of scenery this time, didn’t you?”
You look good with a baby, Adam quipped silently.
The best part is when they’re someone else’s, she shot back. “Victor,” she said aloud, “I don’t know if you were aware of this, but Lightning’s a bit jealous of Chester.”
“What?” Victor glanced down at his dog. “Jealous? Why?”
“Well, think about how much attention babies need and how little attention not only the house but Lightning has gotten. Plus you keep yelling at him to not make noise because you’re so afraid of making Chester cry. If he doesn’t get used to those sounds, he’ll never sleep through any random noises that go on around the house.”
“I – I – ” Victor stammered, then stopped and thought a moment. “Oh, you’re right. Oh, Lightning, I’m so sorry.” He knelt down and picked the corgi up in his arms, cuddling him. “I’m sure Lisa explained to you how much care and attention babies need?”
Lisa nodded while Lightning softly barked an affirmative.
“Once we get things down into a routine I’m sure we’ll be better, and I promise we’ll try not to neglect you so much. Oh, dear! What about Ferdy?”
“He’s a little more open to it,” said Lisa. “Probably because he doesn’t share a space with the baby. I don’t think he’s ever barked at the door, has he?”
Victor shook his head. “No, though now that you mention it, I’m curious…what is Lightning saying when he does that?”
She snickered. “You want the literal translation? ‘Door! Door! Door!’ ”
That got a laugh out of everyone. Victor sighed, hugging Lightning. “Maybe, Lisa, could you perhaps stop by occasionally to give him a proper walk until we’re ready to take Chester outside? And give Ferdinand some exercise, too?”
“Of course, and I’m sure the others will help, too. Now, Ferdy’ll have to wait ’til you can take Chester outside, but do you want to give the other proper introduction here?”
Victor was confused a moment, then smiled. “Lightning, I’d like you to meet Chester Van Dort, your new baby brother.” He held the dog just close enough so that he could give the baby a gentle sniff.
In Lisa’s arms, Chester squirmed around to try to see what this new thing was. His tiny fingers touched Lightning’s cold nose and he let out a squeal – and this time it was a pleasant one.
“Huh,” he yipped softly, gently licking the infant’s fingers. “Maybe Chester’s not so bad after all.”
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