One Kit and an (Anomalous) Baby - The Penultimate Chapter
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Kit hummed 'Close to You' as he started to prepare a bottle of milk before Matilda had a nap. He had started to notice that, when she was getting tired, her eyelids would become heavy and she would clutch whichever rabbit toy she had close against her. When she was in the box (as she was now, playing its role as a makeshift highchair) it would rock very gently when she was sleepy, but not yet napping. Kit had to be honest and say he appreciated the help.

As he put the water on to boil, he stretched slightly before turning around to face the counter he had left the box and baby on. Out of the blue, Peaches – the cat that didn't really exist in any realm; it was a long story – decided to come out of hiding. The appearance of Matilda had probably put her a bit on-edge, even if the baby (just like everyone else) couldn't see Peaches. Gracefully, the little ginger kitten leapt onto the counter, chirping softly at Kit, who resisted the urge to copy the noise as he normally did.

She started sniffing around the box, finding a myriad of smells awaiting her there. As she came close, Matilda suddenly squealed excitedly, and let go of one of the bunny's ears in order to reach a hand out to the cat, who didn't seem the least bit surprised she was seen by the child, and gently sniffed the hand before licking it. She patiently let her head be awkwardly petted, then chirped and jumped off the counter to go explore – or disappear – somewhere else. Kit watched the entire thing with his mouth slightly agape, before going over to Matilda, bottle forgotten for the moment.

"You could see her?" Obviously, it was dumb to actually ask the baby, but he still had to say it, because he was honestly surprised. He knew the baby was different, but he thought it was simply the force protecting her, rather than Matilda herself. The baby blinked up at him then whimpered as she saw the lack of bottle, the cat providing only a momentarily distraction. Behind him, he heard the plastic bottle rattling, as if someone (or something) was shaking it to draw his attention.

"Right, right. I haven't forgotten. Sorry, Munchkin." He pressed a kiss to her forehead before going back to his task. He produced the bottle when it was full and cool enough, bringing it over to the baby and cradling her in his arms as he fed her, reflexively rocking her and humming that same song again.

Once she was satisfied, he placed her in the box for a moment and dumped the bottle to be washed up. "Naptime!" He couldn't hide the happiness in his own voice. If she was asleep, he could sleep, too. He lifted her out of the box and carried her into the bedroom, pausing to change her nappy with growing ease, and then wrapping her in the blanket cocoon, first letting her yawn and stretch her arms out with what little muscle control she had.

Once she was safely encased, he placed her in the drawer and kissed her forehead. Her eyes were already drooping, so he didn't disturb her by singing to her this time. He waited on his knees until she was fast asleep, her breathing a soft little noise, her eyelashes resting on her pale cheeks. He paused to take this image in, then slowly, quietly, got up and moved to climb into his own bed.

He was asleep in a second. And it felt like he was awoken a second later, though he did feel a tad more refreshed. Matilda was whimpering and struggling to get free of her cocoon, fed-up of sleeping. That was fair enough, but Kit was glad he had only promised a story and nothing more active.

Eventually, he would have to bring her outside of this flat, let her get some fresh air, maybe feed the ducks in the local park where he normally smoked weed – well, he guessed that was out of the window, for now. Definitely the weed, and even the trips outside, until he had a pram.

"Coming, Munchkin!" Him just calling seemed to calm her, and she struggled to turn her head to face him, grinning, chewing on the fingers of a freed hand. Kit found himself smiling too as he reached her side and carefully unbundled her. She was still dry, but probably getting a little bit hungry now.

A short while later, and they were set up on the sofa. Matilda was sat up in Kit's arms, and he was holding her bottle, rocking and humming quietly. When the bottle was mostly empty and she displayed no more interest, he cleared his throat. "A story, a story…" No picture books or fairy tales had appeared anywhere he had briefly looked, so he guessed he had to make up his own, as the stories he had been told in his childhood were sparse, and he had forgotten the most important parts of them.

"Once upon a time, there was a little boy called… Jude. Jude was a weird boy, he was like us, except he couldn't make things appear when he wanted them; he just saw things. That meant Jude didn't have many friends, 'cos a lot of the other kids teased him. So, one day, Jude was playing near the graveyard, alone. Truth be told, he was hiding from a… monster that lived in his house."

Matilda appeared to be listening, or at least soothed by Kit's voice rumbling in his chest, close to her where she rested her head. She was chewing a rusk that had appeared from no-where, but Kit had no concerns about the safety of the food. The entity protecting the baby had done nothing to hurt her so far, and seemed only to exist to make Matilda happy – much like Kit's role at that moment.

'Yeah, a monster,' the voice in his head teased Kit. 'Is it easier to pretend he's fictional? He's in you too, you know. You were just a baby, just like Matilda, and the monster is in you too – you could turn on her any time…' Kit swallowed hard and banished the voice, like he had done many times before.

Matilda blinked at him, then held up the well-sucked rusk, as if offering it. He smiled at this little gesture (intended or not) and instead guided it back to her mouth. "It's yours, Munchkin. I'm sure your… friend would share with me if it wanted to." That distant laughter happened again, and Kit was suddenly aware he may have another listener to his story.

"So, he was playing there because it was quiet, and he liked reading the names on the graves and drawing the lives the people may have had. He wasn't good at drawing, but it made him happy. And then, he heard crying coming from behind one grave. He crept over to it, not wanting to scare whoever was upset. When he got close, he saw the… person who was crying didn't have a body like we have. He didn't have flesh; he had something weird shimmering around him. It was like looking at a reflection in a gently moving stream."

He shifted Matilda, who had finished her rusk, so she was sitting up a little more. That giant rabbit which smelt like peaches had come to be snuggled up against her, and her sticky little hands were holding the ears with a quiet fondness. When Kit fell silent, just watching her, Matilda – who had been looking across the room at nothing that Kit could see – looked up and babbled at him, as if complaining about his silence. She may not have understood the story, but something about the flow of words was curious and calming to her in the same breath.

"Okay, okay. Sorry Munchkin. I was just thinking." He jiggled her a little on his knee, making her giggle and cuddle her bunny closer. "Where were we…" He mused, as if he had been looking at a book and had lost his place.

"Oh, yeah. Okay, so, he didn't have skin. He was just sort of an idea of a person, the shape of a person with an uneven form. He was about as big as Jude was at the time. Jude should have been scared really, 'cos he had never seen such a thing, but he was more sad that the other boy was sad. Eventually, he reached out, and his hand landed on the shimmery arm as if it was there, but it was so, so cold."

Matilda grasped at her bunny, leaving an ear free. Absently, Kit took it, the soft feeling under his fingers unfamiliar. He wondered if ever had toys like this growing up – did he have an over-large teddy bear watching over him in his own drawer-crib? Maybe his own upbringing would have been different if he had a childish force providing the soft comfort of cuddly toys and banishing the empty feeling of hunger he remembered from, well, his earliest memory.

"The person, Jude thought maybe it was a boy like him, turned to him. He had these eyes that looked so sad, but stared at Jude because he was surprised Jude could see him. But Jude had always been able to see weird things, and that was okay. The shimmery boy asked why he was here, and Jude told him about the monster at home. How it had paws like a lion, a face like a rat's, and teeth as sharp as daggers."

'Yes,' his brain hissed, dangerously low. 'Dehumanise him. That will make everything he did go away. How long have you been calling him a monster, now? Almost as long as you've seen real monsters, but they never did what he did, did they? Who are you trying to fool; humans are the true monsters.'

Kit held the rabbit ear tighter, and found himself speaking faster, wanting to finish the story, feed the baby, and get them both to bed. The voice in his head spoke of nightmares, but he had someone else to care about now, so maybe it would be kind and leave him restless, but dream-free.

"Jude asked why the other boy was so sad. The boy said he had died, and no-one loved him. That's very sad when that happens, huh Munchkin?"

Matilda blinked naively up at him, then reached up with a wavering hand and touched Kit's cheek. He was suddenly aware of the tear rolling down his cheek, and her hand connected with it, smearing it away. On the belly of the large rabbit toy, a handkerchief suddenly appeared, with his initials in dark purple thread in one corner, as if it belonged to him. Kit smiled sadly at the small gesture, and wiped away his tear, rocking Matilda a little to reassure her everything was okay.

"So, Jude thought and thought, and he remembered what made him feel loved. He moved closer to the ghost of the boy, and wrapped his arms around him, even though he was as cold as ice. He felt arms wrap around him, too. And Ki- Jude realised, just then, that love is fantastic, and love is what makes the world go around, and love is what everyone needs. Maybe the other boy thought that too, but Jude didn’t get a chance to ask. When he pulled away, the boy was gone, and the graveyard was quiet again. Jude found himself a lot less sad, and, when he went home, seeing the monster wasn't so bad – he was brave and stood up to it, and the monster shrank in size against the force of love."

'That isn't true,' his brain teased. 'You went home to your own monster, love in your heart, and tried to tell him. Your monster called you a weirdo and a queer, and he clawed your face so hard that you were off school two days to hide the marks. But give her your soppy fairy-tale ending if you want. We both know the truth.'

"So," Kit concluded, speaking louder, as if he could block out the mocking voice. "Jude realised that it was all okay as long as you had love. And, Munchkin, you have my love, so you'll be able to face any monsters in your life, and I'll face them with you. Sound good?" He asked the baby, managing a smile that wasn't forced, because Matilda was watching him with such rapt attention, chewing on her fingers and clutching the bunny.

He scooped the baby closer, then stood, holding her up in the air again, letting her experience that feeling of flying whilst safe in someone's arms. Matilda giggled and kicked her little legs out, the bunny hanging down from one hand – safe in her own grip. "Right, Munchkin. A little dinner for you, then bedtime. And my bedtime too, I think." He brought the baby down from her little flying trip and carried her into the kitchen.

In the cupboard, a little jar of some sort of casserole meal had appeared. Kit silently thanked whoever was looking after Matilda, because he didn’t think a second serving of that gross porridge would be very nice. He read the instructions and heated the food, then brought it over to the baby, who was sat up in her box, chewing on a new teething ring. Kit really had to get to the library (amongst everywhere else he needed to go) to get a book about babies, as he guessed he knew nothing about what happened when teeth started to appear.

He fed her without incident, the baby seeming to enjoy the food. Kit wondered if the spirit had always been with Matilda, and if it knew she had favourites. As before, when the baby was full, Kit tried a spoonful of the food. It wasn’t as bad, but Matilda was watching him, anticipating a reaction, and he obediently pulled a face, causing her to giggle and clap her hands.

"Munchkin, you have me wrapped around your little finger," he told the baby, as he lifted her from the box. She giggled again, and started that terrible tugging of his hair again, which he bared without swearing until he was able to put her down on the bed and free her hands. "Hm, we're going to have to get you out of that habit, because I refuse to cut my hair." He murmured, absently.

Before they had both had a nap, he had thrown her onesie in the washer/dryer, and he dashed from the bedroom and back into the kitchen to retrieve the dry article of clothing, which smelt of lavender – Kit was someone who trusted in essential oils to impact his mood, and lavender was very calming. He came back into the bedroom to find that the force had moved a pillow from the head of his bed to being propped up next to Matilda, providing a barrier between her and a potential fall from the bed.

"Oops," he murmured, not able to help but to grin. "Uh, thanks." This time, he thought he heard disappointed tutting rather than laughter. He moved the pillow back so he could kneel in front of Matilda and change her nappy, getting in a bit of a flap at some point and waving his hand around with the clean nappy attached to him, making Matilda laugh. It was accidental, but it was always pleasant to hear her make that sound.

Eventually he managed to get the nappy on, then tried to get her dressed in the little purple onesie, dismissing the makeshift clothing that he had put on her after the bath. Matilda enjoyed wiggling and trying to get her limbs free, chuckling at the game they ended up playing, and tiring herself out, too. Kit gently wrestled the clothing on her, making sure she was all done up and warm.

Matilda yawned, making Kit yawn too as he scooped her up. "I had a nice day with you, Munchkin." He murmured, finding himself honestly happy. "Tomorrow, I promise to try and find a way to take you outside. There's some ducks in the park that I think would love to be fed by you." He already had a half-formed idea for a makeshift sling until he could get hold of a pram of some description. They both needed some fresh air and some entertainment outside of these four walls.

He gently lay her in the drawer, stroking a hand across her forehead as he wrapped her up securely. She looked drowsy, but not yet falling asleep, so Kit quietly sang to her, the alphabet song that he found himself divided by – loving it and hating it at the same time; absently nostalgic for it. Her eyes slowly closed, and Kit pressed a kiss to her forehead. He knew she would be awake in a scant couple of hours for her milk, but he was prepared, and that made it some much more manageable.

As he stood, Peaches appeared from no-where, and jumped into the drawer, curling up near Matilda's feet, protectively, purring very softly. "Good girl," Kit absently praised, stretching so his back clicked satisfyingly.

He threw on some clean clothes from his locker, and then crawled into bed, thoughts going around his head about what he needed, and how much this would all cost. But Matilda was worth it – in a short time they had bonded and he felt like he could do this for as long as she needed, that he wanted to do this. As he was dropping off to sleep, he was absently promising himself that she would never go wanting for anything, and would have a childhood far removed from his own.


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