Lowering their stunners, Will and Helen carefully walked up to the fire salamanders, heart rates slowing as they approached the abnormals. Their flame covered bodies were glowing embers as they lay unconscious, and Helen was glad she’d brought the larger van. “Will?”
“I’m on it,” he replied, jogging back to the van to grab two, large, wire crates. He carried them back like two massive hay bales, one under each arm, a sight that brought a smile to Helen’s face. Quickly, and with an ease that came from years of working together, they got Sal and Manda (as Will christened them) into the crates and into the van. “Huh, there’s a little diner in town. Let’s grab some food to go?” Will offered, showing the map on his phone.
Helen nodded. “That sounds like a wonderful idea. I’m feeling slightly more peckish than usual this morning.”
The feeling did not last long. Bacon and egg sandwiches in boxes, tea for her, coffee for him, they’d been on the road about ten minutes when Will jumped out of his skin. Helen had slammed her hand on the dashboard. “Stop the van.” He didn’t think twice, just pulled over and stopped. In the moments it took him to manoeuvre, Helen had unbuckled herself and jumped out, leaning on the van as she threw up. Groaning, she glared at her stomach contents, now a steaming pile on the edge of a Nowhere Road, America.
“Magn– woah!” Will opened the passenger side door, fished out some tissues and water, and handed them over. “Are you ok?”
She stayed quiet for a moment, swishing water around her mouth, discreetly spitting it away. “I think so.” Smiling, she added, “Just a stomach bug, probably. Nothing to worry about.” As she drank the remnants of the water, she held out her hand.
“You sure you’re ok to drive?” he asked, holding himself back a touch.
“I won’t feel so sick,” she finally explained.
She wasn’t ill the rest of the day. She blamed the sickness on the plane on turbulence. Will simply nodded, ideas formulating in his mind that he wouldn’t breathe to anyone.
Finally home, the salamanders added to the database and in their new habitat, Helen got on with some reports piled on her desk. A cup of tea graced her presence a few hours later, garnering a glance to see who felt the need to keep her in Lady Grey.
“Ah good, now that I have your undivided attention,” Nikola leant over on the desk, close to her ear, “welcome back.” He kissed her cheek. She rolled her eyes, drinking her tea with a smile. “Good trip?”
She nodded as he sat down across from her. “Everything went well. The salamanders are warming up to their new habitat as we speak. And what have you been up to?”
He twirled his hand airily, “Oh, a little of this, a little of– Helen?”
Shaking her head, she dashed out from behind her desk, hand over her mouth, looking decidedly pale. Nikola was half a step behind when she slammed the bathroom door in his face. He didn’t need his vampire senses to hear her vomiting.
“Damn, I thought I’d shaken the bug,” she muttered, opening the door.
She shook her head, waving away his concern. “I’ve just had a bit of gastroenteritis the last few days. It’ll go away soon enough.”
“You’re never ill, Helen,” he remarked as they walked sedately back to her office. “Even before the Source Blood, if what I remember is correct. Are you sure it’s a stomach virus?”
“What else could it be?” she asked, as if his answer would be as simple as the one she had.
“I have an idea, or two,” he said. Guiding her to the sofa, he sat next to her. “And I’ll tell you, but you’re not going to like them.”
“Ok, now I’m worried.” She looked deep into his worried eyes. “Whatever your ideas are, they can’t be that bad.”
He smiled, and hugged her close, kissing her head. “Either you have food poisoning or…”
“Or?” A clock ticked quietly on a shelf, filling the silence as she waited.
“We get to be parents.”
Helen shot up at that quiet pronouncement, trying not to laugh. “I can’t be pregnant.” Nikola arched his eyebrow, and Helen tilted her head. “I don’t think I am.”
“Do I need to find a biology textbook to list your symptoms?”
She shook her head, standing up. “I’m not pregnant, it’s gastroenteritis, and it’ll clear up soon. Now, I’m going to finish my tea, finish these reports then find some lunch. Shall I see you then?”
He rolled his eyes then smiled. “Of course you shall. You know how much I love our lunch dates.” He waggled his eyebrows at the last, making Helen laugh heartily.
Days passed. The vomiting stuck around.
“Helen?” Nikola called one morning from their bed.
“In here,” she called from the en suite, misery drenching her words. “Give me a minute.”
Nikola rearranged the pillows as he waited, fiddling with his Farnsworth once he was sat up. Helen soon rejoined him, the dark blue satin of her pyjamas making her look even paler in the artificial morning light. “You look like death,” he told her plainly, pulling back the covers.
“Thank you, Nikola,” she groused, sighing as he hugged her close.
“No, I just felt like sitting by the toilet for five minutes making the appropriate noises to fake a vomiting session.”
He kissed her forehead. “Sarcasm becomes you in the morning, moja ljubav.” Stroking her hair, he added, “Maybe we should do a blood test, to rule out any viruses?”
“And measure any possible hCG at the same time?” she whispered.
“Is it such a bad thing?”
She sighed. “No? More… Unexpected?” Nuzzling his shoulder, she hugged him closer. “I’m not sure, but the longer I leave it…” She shrugged. “I’ll run a blood test.” Patting his heart, she added, “Breakfast first.”
Hours later, she broke the news.