Outtake: Conceive

"So if today is Fenen, Nemaar, what's tomorrow?" Ehail asked.

"Luuuuuunen," groaned Nemaar. "I know my days, Mommy, I wanna do something else."

"Okay, do you know what year it is?" she suggested.

"Eleven-twenty-five-eight," Nemaar said.

"Mo-o-om," Rithka complained. "He was looking at my poem. I put a date on it."

"Did not, I knew it," Nemaar snapped back at his sister.

"Be that as it may," Ehail said, "it's 11258, yes, but usually we can just say 'fifty-eight', since most often we aren't talking about things from a hundred years ago."

"Okay. I know my years. I wanna do something else," Nemaar said. "I wanna go dig in my hole or go play with Min or something else."

"Say it in Munine," Ehail coaxed, switching to her clutchmates' family's language herself.

Nemaar scowled, but repeated his demand for an end to his lessons in the other language, and then threw in the Martisen and the Gingha for good measure. "I know words too," he said, crossing his arms. "I wanna go."

"Okay, go ahead," sighed Ehail, and Nemaar scrambled up, almost tripping over Cenem on his way out.

"He didn't do Barashi days and years," Cenem pointed out when the door had clacked shut behind Nemaar.

"He'll do those tomorrow," Ehail said.

Rithka made a show of doing her sums in exactingly tidy handwriting and showing all of her work for the next two degrees, but by then was back to fidgeting. "Can I work outside, on the swing-bench?" she asked, looking up at Ehail with huge eyes.

"Yes, if you actually work there," Ehail agreed.

Ehail and Cenem sat together quietly in the living room, Cenem with her book of Espaalan plants and Ehail with the tax forms she was trying to pick through. Gyre had done most of the work on the taxes, but Ehail had to certify that she understood and agreed with the financial decisions aforementioned, and her packet would be flagged if she just wrote her name without reading it.

Cenem's egg parents came to pick her up for a trip to a sledding place up in the hills, just before Mallyn teleported home from school. He walked in with squirrely Rithka around his neck; her big brother was ever more fascinating than sums.

Ehail got up to hug Mallyn, who towered over her; according to the trained-light who checked in on him occasionally to look for long-term effects of his childhood, he'd gotten onto decent nutrition just early enough not to stunt his growth. Much. Ehail could only imagine how tall he'd be if he'd had enough to eat from day one; Rhysel had come in to nudge their doorways a little higher two years prior.

"Hi, Mom," Mallyn said, squeezing her; when he let go he patted Cenem on the head. "How's everything going?"

"Everything's fine, sweetheart," Ehail said. "How's school?"

Mallyn listed minor exploits he and and his friends had experienced in their various classes, grabbed a zucchini muffin, and excused himself to meet his girlfriend, shooing Rithka off his neck to do so. She complained, turned human, and demanded a hug, which her brother gave her before teleporting away.

Rithka was halfway up the stairs when Ehail said, "Rithka?"

"What, Mom?"

"Your assignments?"

"Oh." Rithka sighed, opened a window, and turned into a sparrow to go back out to where she'd left her work.

"Do you think it's about time to have another baby?" Ehail asked Gyre, that evening.

"I was thinking of asking you the same thing," Gyre laughed. "What do you think - another moon-baby?"

"Why not?" Ehail smiled. "Mallyn can watch Nemaar and the girls if we give him a little warning. We can take a little trip up to the moon."

"Boy or a girl?" Gyre asked.

"I think a girl this time," Ehail said, searching Gyre's face for agreement or disagreement.

He nodded. "A girl it is. Names?"

They batted syllables back and forth, long ridiculous strings of them, until they were more trying to make each other laugh than name a daughter-to-be. They tabled the question until later.

"You're going to the moon?" Rithka asked. "But Mom, you're a grownup lady, going to the moon will make you pregnant. Don't you know that?"

Ehail restrained a laugh and made a mental note to amend Rithka's curriculum. "Are you saying you don't want a new little sister?" she asked.

"Oh, a sister. Okay, that's fine," Rithka said, shrugging. "What language are you gonna name her in?"

"It could be any language, as long as it reduces to a nickname Leraal speakers can pronounce," Ehail said.

"But what about Uncle Izaln, and Aunt Tialinh, and all our Barashi family?" Rithka asked.

"Family will make an effort to pronounce her name no matter what sounds we put in. Neighbors won't. You might have noticed," Ehail said mildly.

Rithka frowned and nodded. "I keep trying, but nobody knows how to end a word with an ah. Molindaar can kinda do it but I think that's cause she's known me since she was three."

"But Uncle Tekaal can manage it just fine, and Leraal's his first language," Ehail said, "right?"

"Okay," Rithka said. "And it's supposed to be long so she has lots of syllables?"

"Right," Ehail said.

"Arelythara?" Rithka said after a moment.

"An Eashiri name?" Ehail asked.

"It's pretty. Aunt Rhysel'll know what it means. And the baby's going to be silver, even if she's a thudia like Nemaar," Rithka said. "And we can call her Arel. It sounds like a girl name, even."

"Arel," tried Ehail. "All right, then, if your father likes it too, that'll be it. You'll be good for Mallyn while we're gone, won't you?"

"I will," Rithka said darkly, with a look in the direction of Nemaar's room.

"I'm sure Nemaar will behave himself too," Ehail said. "Make sure -"

"I woooon't get him in trouble by provoking him till he hits me," Rithka said, rolling her eyes.

"Make sure you help keep an eye on him," Ehail said. "Cenem's not hard to look after, but Nemaar can be, and Mallyn's most likely going to be distracted with schoolwork or something."

"I bet he invites his giiiirlfriend over," Rithka said.

"Well, she's welcome here, as long as she doesn't distract him to the point of him being unable to babysit," Ehail said. The door opened. "That'll be your father. Be good, sweetheart."

"Okay," sighed Rithka.

Ehail spent much less time informing Cenem and Nemaar about the moon trip, and then charged Mallyn with his tasks for the evening.

"If Nemaar acts up, am I allowed to do anything about it besides tell him I'll tell you and Dad when you get home?" Mallyn asked, drawing his eyebrows together.

"You don't want to know about what happens if Rithka acts up, or Cenem?" Ehail asked, as Gyre came up behind her to wrap his arms around her waist.

Mallyn just looked at her.

"All right, I'll grant you Cenem," Ehail sighed. "But Rithka's not always -"

"I can just threaten not to talk to her," Mallyn said. "She'll be good if she thinks I'll ignore her if she's bad, even for two degrees. Nemaar would love it if I didn't pay attention to him, though."

"All right, you're entitled to revoke his dessert privileges for tomorrow," Ehail said. "If you need to. Don't overreact to something little. He's only six - less in Barashin years."

"He set the curtains on fire last week," Mallyn pointed out.

Gyre peered down at Ehail. "He what? I didn't hear about that."

"It was nothing - I fixed it in a tick, basic household spell, they were barely singed - controlling firebreathing takes practice," Ehail said, fluttering her hands. "I don't think he meant to - it wasn't worth bothering you about, Gyre -"

"I see," Gyre frowned.

"Cenem never sets things on fire," Mallyn pointed out. "She doesn't have much practice."

"Cenem's had two and a half decades with an accessible dragon form to learn to play with fire," Ehail defended. "Nemaar hasn't even been alive that long."

"Anyway," Gyre said. "I think we have an appointment up that way, dear heart." He pointed to the ceiling.

Mallyn made a face. "I'll keep an eye on everybody. Just go and don't tell me about it at all, okay?"

Ehail laughed weakly, took Gyre's hand, and went downstairs to pick up the picnic basket before she teleported up to their spot on the moon.