(Resurfacing to reality, A significant error, An invader in his own home, and A tearful introduction)
Peter hadn’t focussed very much on what people outside his new construction lab were saying to him. Not until Rabbit and the boys started whooping it up about babies. A highly distracting mixture of cheering and panic at maximum volume.
And Mrs Cambridge literally dragged him away from his latest assembly.
“I said,” she growled, still dragging him away from his work. “You can go up and see them, now.”
It took him a few moments to process this bulletin. “It’s over? How many survivors?”
“All three are resting comfortably,” soothed Mrs Cambridge. “Mind you don’t wake any of them up. Your Iris has been through a marathon and those babies need sleep to grow.”
Babies? Wait. “Nobody informed me that my daughter had been born.”
Mrs Cambridge winced audibly as she pulled him to the elevator. “Wait. Nobody said you have two sons? O my lord, what a mess…”
Something had gone fundamentally wrong with the universe. “Er,” said Peter. “It doesn’t work that way. Twins are always a boy and a girl.”
“No. That’s rarer than the stories suggest, sir,” she said. Mrs Cambridge sounded entirely weary of the world as she propelled him into the elevator. “In fact, you’re more likely to get two girls or two boys than one of each.”
“Really?” He shook his head, almost bumping his nose off as Tom shut the cage doors. “Then it’s very wrong of all those novel writers to suggest that it is. Skewed perceptions can lead to a multitude of errors.” The realisation of what he’d done struck like the dawn after too much revelry. “Case in point, it seems.”
Mrs Cambridge watched him go up. “Just make it a funny story. Everyone will work around it.”
The elevator seemed to take forever. He could see some of his automatons racing up the steps. Three would beat them all up to the summit, and then slide down the bannister so he would be with them again to race anew. And then it was his turn, facing the guards outside the sheet that marked off the hallway between the rest of the world and Women’s Business.
He dawdled, of course. Making sure each automaton understood that quiet was essential to proceeding past the barrier. And then the ladies decided to let them in one at a time.
Peter went first. He’d grown up in these halls. He’d lived his life immune to their opulence. They were as much a part of him as his skin and hair. But now, past a single sheet hung hurriedly across the hallway, he felt like an intruder.
The air did not smell like a battlefield hospital, rank with blood and other bodily excretions. It smelled… cleaner than that. As if every surface had been scrubbed down with vinegar and rubbed over with salt. The carpets of his youth had gone, presumably rolled up somewhere for safekeeping. The bare wooden floors added to the eeriness of the scene.
And there, curled up in her bed, was Miss Iris. Someone had done her hair up in braids, like a little girl. An irony, considering how very womanly she had been for a majority of twenty-four hours. She slept the sleep of exhaustion, and no wonder. One baby was work enough to lay a mother up in bed for the better part of a week. Two had to be doubly trying.
His sons lay in the same crib. Tiny. Wrapped up in white swaddling. Well. Nearly wrapped up in white swaddling. One pink fist was making a bid for freedom.
Peter gently put his finger inside that little hand, feeling his son’s reflexes. Tears blurred his vision.
“That’s Peter Alexander Walter the third,” whispered Mrs Cambridge. “Iris says you are not to call him Tertius, nor are you to call his brother Secundus.”
He began to blubber. But very quietly, so as not to wake anyone up. “...i promise,” he squeaked. “...we’ll work something out together… Rabbit and the boys and Miss Iris and I.”
The priest was also there. Father Kerning. His blur murmured, “Their grandfather is eager to see their parents married.”
No doubt he was. “The Admiral will have to wait,” Peter croaked, voice thick with emotion. “Miss Iris must be able to participate. And I expect all of you to prevent him from pre-dating the paperwork.”
Mrs Cambridge smirked. Or at least, he hoped that was a smirk he could barely discern through his veil of tears. “We might have to tie him down.”