“How has your tummy not exploded?”
Lor felt like banging his head on the table, but he had a plate of food in front of him and he wasn’t planning to start the day off with mushrooms in his hair.
“Skin is really stretchy, so when it needs to expand it can. It’s the same when you grow taller – you don’t see people walking around with torn… you know what, this isn’t a conversation for the dinner table.”
“But it’s not dinner, it’s breakfast.”
Lor was saved from replying by the sound of footsteps approaching the door.
“Ellie, whatever you do, don’t ask your dad those questions. He’s feeling a bit self-conscious right now.”
“I won’t. He’s smaller than you anyway.”
“Good morning, everyone.” Malik said, walking into the room. He kissed his fiance on the cheek and smiled at their daughter.
“Hi, dad. You look nice today.”
“Awwww~” Malik bent down and ruffled her hair. “You’re so sweet. Isn’t she, Lor?”
“Incredibly” he said, trying to keep a stern face. She was a menace. An adorable one, but still.
Ellie looked over at him and giggled, before busying herself with her pancakes again.
“Are you sure you should be operating me whilst so heavily pregnant?”
“I trust you, Steve. Now, we need the laser over there next.”
A voice crackled over the speaker, causing Lor to almost drop the flask he was holding.
“Will Dr Centauri please come to the receptions desk? Dr Centauri to the reception desk, please.”
He sighed. He’d been so close to a breakthrough, he just knew it. He carefully set down his equipment and went to see what was going on.
“Hi. Where’s Elisa?”
“She went home sick, so I’m covering for her this afternoon. Now, the reason I called you over.”
Lor waited. “…yes?”
“Steve told me to.”
“Steve did. Really?”
“Yep. He said you were messing around with chemicals that could be dangerous for the baby. Or babies, looking at you. You’re bigger this time.”
“You sound just like my daughter. Is this ‘Make Fun of Lor’s Weight’ day or something? And I wasn’t messing around.”
Margarita raised an eyebrow at him.
“I wasn’t! I made notes and everything. If you write it down, it’s science.”
She grinned up at him. “Alright, I believe you. And I wasn’t making fun of your weight – I was just thinking out loud. Do you know how many you’re having this time around?”
“No. The least it can be is two, though.”
“Lor? Not to question your biology skills, but I’m pretty certain it’s possible to have one child at a time.”
“Well, yeah. One baby each.”
She stared at him. “You’re both pregnant?”
“Never a dull moment at your house, is there?”
“Papa, dad’s tummy is glowing. Maybe the baby’s growing again!”
“It’s rude to point, Ellie.”
“It’s fine, Lor. I’m just going to go and take a nap. Who knew that pregnancy was so tiring?”
They watched as he left the room, and Ellie’s smile fell.
“Did I say something wrong?”
“It’s ok, he’s just a bit worn out from work. He’ll be fine after his nap.”
“Are you sure?”
Lor nodded. He’d noticed the hitch in Malik’s voice, but he’d look into that himself. There was no need to worry her. She still looked concerned, so he put on a big smile.
“How about you make him a picture? You know he loves your drawings.”
She clapped her hands, distress forgotten at the thought. “With glitter?”
“Glitter is always a good thing. Never forget that.”
He was about to enter their bedroom when he heard a soft sob from the other side of the door. He knocked quietly.
“Mal? Can I come in?”
He didn’t hear a reply, so he opened the door a few centimetres and peeked through the gap.
Lor sighed and walked into the room, closing the door behind him. Malik was lying down, his head buried in the pillows. Lor sat down on the bed.
“You’re not fine. Come here.” Lor said, opening his arms.
“No. I don’t want you to see me. What if your arms don’t fit around me anymore?”
“Mal, love? Do you remember what you said to me the first time I was pregnant?”
“That I had terrible fashion sense.”
Lor laughed. “No, not that. You said that the baby bump was a good thing, because it meant that the baby was healthy.”
“Yeah, but it suited you.”
“It suits you, too.”
He looked up, eyes red-rimmed. “You’re lying.”
“No, I’m not. You’ve never looked more beautiful, Mal. Now, will you come up here and hug me or do I need to come to you?”
Malik rubbed his eyes, feeling like an idiot. He’d cried for almost an entire hour, and Lor’s lab coat was soaked.
“I’m sorry. I was being ridiculous. I mean, I’m not normally this vain.”
“No need to apologise – I was the same, remember?”
“There’s some Blue Dwarf reruns on the comedy channel this evening. Want to make fun of the terrible special effects with me? I’ll make popcorn, you bring the blanket?”