Nesting

Chapter 5

The brilliant white walls, which seem to glow and the heavy smell of antiseptic hanging in the air scream hospital. The kind that all hospitals seem to share. John's at St. Bartholomew's Hospital in a room in the winged-antenatal care ward. The room is small, cube-like, but it is kitted out for welcoming a winged-baby into the world. A kind of cot, a hatching-nest is housing John's egg. It's made of robust clear plastic, all smooth curves, rounded into an oblong shape. John had brought along the jumpers that made up most of the nest, they were placed into the hatching-nest his egg nestled amongst them. The room is at the perfect temperature, humidity and almost sound-proof. During hatching peacefulness is a must, also the right humidity is important during this time of the hatching. It's at this time the bonding will strengthen to the point of shatter-proof. Once the bond is complete it'll remain as strong as the day it was formed until the winged-child reaches the time of parting, when they are firmly in adulthood and no longer in need of their carer/carers.

The beginnings of the bond have already taken hold, but if things are not done just so the bond could break before it even really began.

There are medical machines hooked up to the wall behind the hatching-nest ready for when the hatchling arrives. Equipped to ensure the young life is fine or if something goes horridly wrong to save a life.

John is seated in a hard plastic chair right next to the hatching-nest his eyes glued to the egg. The shell is now looking like a roadmap with it's many cracks. John's unhatched baby is chirping on and off now. The rocking quite forceful. Whenever John speaks the chirping has a rhythm to it. Sounding like a songbird welcoming the dawn. The winged-folk native tongue sounds like birdsong. Due to winged-folk's avian roots. They have loads in common with birds. In fact winged-folk are somewhere inbetween bird and mammal genetically. A missing-link if you will.

The nurses, midwifes and doctors here are all human. Mike Stamford being the exception, the only winged-human in the whole hospital. The numbers of winged-humans are very low in the greater population. So it's no surprise Mike's the only one at St Bart's. He's the only winged-human John has ever met.

In other departments both human and winged-folk work together but due to winged-folk natural unease interacting with infants of their own kind or human in fact they don't take up jobs to do with children. Mike inherited his warm manner towards children from his human half. His mother. Not all winged-humans are this way with children, it's a 50/50 chance of them following in the footsteps of their winged-folk heritage or human. Normally they have characteristics of both in one form or another.

Mike slips into the room as silent as a whisper.

"John?" Mike says gently laying a hand on John's shoulder startling him in the process.

"Jesus! Give a bloke a warning would ya?!" John breathes clutching a hand to his racing heart.

"Sorry John. I didn't want to make too much noise."

John nods in understanding, his eyes zooming back onto his egg. Ensuring the sudden noise didn't disturb the hatching.

"Come to check-up on the little-one?" John asks.

"Yeah. Although I'm here as your friend also. Not. Just your winged-baby's doctor John. Anyone you want me to call for you?"

"No. Thanks Mike."

"Are you sure?"

John nods.

"Not even Harry?"

Harry. That's all John needs. He wants to keep his alcoholic sister as far away from the little-one for as long as possible. Although knowing Harry she'll pop up sooner or later, most likely sooner drunk to boot. Nope. Not at this speacial time. She needs to stay away. If he could trust her to keep off the drink, then things would be different. John shots Mike a dark look. Loaded with all the answers the hybrid needs.

"Alright John," Mike says reluctantly turning to the hatching-nest.

John watches with eager eyes as Mike runs his hands over the cracked egg shell with a feather light touch. His fingertips the only point of contact with the weaken surface. John feels an unrealistic fear crawling up his spine as Mike does his job. He knows Mike wont harm the little-one, but his rantional mind has vacated his skull. His protective side is notched up to the max. This stage of hatching anything could go wrong and happen fast!

"All's well John. You can stop fretting now," Mike tells John with a gentle smile as he steps back from the hatching-nest.

"I wasn't fretting," grumbles John.

"Okay."

Hours which have felt like days to John have whizzed passed. The sounds of shell breaking is echoing throughout the hosiptal room. A midwife is standing off to the side monitoring the hatching. Ready to take action if needed. John is standing before his egg uttering words of encouragement. His voice helping the winged-baby through the final moments of hatching. The more John speaks the more his baby weakens the shell encasing the small being. Chipping away at the shell from within and pushing at it with it's limbs.

All winged-babies have an egg-tooth which will fall off soon after hatching. This tool allows them to escape the confines of their egg. It's the reason why the shells cracks in the first place. Once the shell is weakened enough the winged-baby will also push against the shell walls. In the final moments of hatching the winged-baby will be exhausted. It takes hours to hatch. The shell's strength which once protected the winged-baby becomes a hinderance.

John's winged-baby is at a critical stage. Nearing the end of hatching much energy has been used up to break free. Whatever was left of the yoke sack would be depletted now. No more energy stores to pull from. A weak winged-baby could die even before the hatching is complete.

The first shards of egg-shell of John's egg are being pushed from within but still stubbornly holding tight to the egg.

"Come on little-one you can do it," John says as he watches the movements of the shell.

In reply the still unhatched winged-baby chirps.

"Push! Go on. Push that shell away."

A few moments pass then the unhatched winged-baby gives on almighty push at the shell and a chunk slips off. John's eyes soak in the first real glimpse of his winged-baby. What he can see is clearly the baby's back. Part of one of the wings is visable. Like all winged-babies the wing is covered in a yellow fluffy down similar to most ducklings. The colouring of these young feathers have no insight what colour the wings will be once fully grown. Winged-folk wings will change colour many times thoughout childhood. Flight feathers wont start to appear until around the age of twelve years. Then and only then will the adult plumage be known.

After a short break, which the winged-baby breathes speedily, it pushes at the shell once more yet again a chunk of egg shell slips off. John can now see the skin of his winged-baby. It's a pale cream, unlike human newborns hatchlings don't have that baby pink colour if they are caucasian, that is.

3am on the 6th of January will forever be sketched onto John's soul. As if some unseen artist had traced out the very scene before his eyes.

John's winged-baby has just this minute hatched.

A new life has entered the world. An unique being. A treasure to be cherished. John is certain his heart has just stopped. Looking upon his newly hatched winged-child for the first time is one of those momentus moments, that will never be forgotten and will forever change him. From this moment on he'll be a different person. The John H Watson before is no more. He has been reborn at the sight of this beautiful creature. Love at first sight. A love of a father for their child.

The hatchling is a boy. A mop of thick jet black curly hair is gracing his head. As winged-folk wings are often similar in colour to their hair. It's a good chance his wings will turn out to be a shade of black when fully grown. He's lying on his back, shards of egg shell lay surrounding the small form. The small creature is covered in a clear mucus and is squealing chirps like crazy calling out to John at the top of his lungs. His arms and legs which are longer than human newborns are moving sluggishly. Stretching out after being scrunched up in a ball for so very long. Learning of the new found freedom of being in the outside world. His large baby blues are blinking up at John. Locking onto his face. Inprinting.

"Hey, little-one," John whispers as he scoopes up the tiny bungle of joy with a towel the midwife had handed him at some point, John can't clearly pinpoint when.

The new life squirms a little as John wraps the towel expertly round the form pressing the small body to his chest. Those large unblinking eyes never leaving John's face. The near deafening chirps subside. Silence descends like a cosy blanket on a winter's night.

"Hi," John says as he wipes away some of the mucus from the hatchling's face.

"I'm your daddy. It's so nice to meet you at last."

John runs a finger over a tiny clenched fist that's clutching the towel. He is awed by this new life he's crandling in his arms. The hatchling curls his fingers round that questing finger. John's heartstrings are tugged. He feels tethered to this new being and he welcomes it.

"I will always keep you safe. Nothing or no-one will ever hurt you. My sweet little-one," John promises as he begins to rock his bungle.

The unexcpectantly soft chirp from the hatchling makes John's heart swell to bursting point. It's as if the hatchling is acknowledging John's promise. John smiles so bright. Looking at this new life that means more to him than life itself. John has fallen in love before but never thought there could be a love on a different level. A level that transcends everything. It's indisputable, indubitable, unquestionable...perfection.

"Dr Watson, a minute has passed. The imprinting is compete. I must do my checks now," the midwife voices, hovering nearby.

A minute? Felt like eons to John. As a doctor John knows the checks are vastly important to ensure the health of his little-one, but as a new father he doesn't want to relinquish his hatchling. He feels as if the only safe place is within his arms. Anywhere else is near disaster. Reluctantly John passes his hatchling to the midwife. The moment he's no longer holding the hatchling, he wails. His tiny long limbs fraying.

John has to halt himself not to rush over to his little-one.

The midwife places the crying hatchling on scales, notes his weight, then the other checks are run and noted. His heart rate, respiration, muscle tone, reflex response, and skin tone. The midwife feels round the inside of the hatchling's mouth, counts his fingers and toes. Lifts him up, then runs her fingers over his stubby wings. The checks aren't that much different to human newborns. Once the midwife looks happy with the check she places identification bands round his right wrist and ankle. Wrapping him into a baby-blue blanket and passing him back into John's eager arms.

"He's in perfect health Dr Watson."

"Of course he is. He's perfect," John tells the midwife but his eyes are glued to his little-one.

The hatchling stops wailing once he hears John's voice and opens squinched up eyes. Eyes that seem to look into John's soul.

"You're perfect little-one. Utter perfection."

John gently rotates the band round the tiny wrist and reads: Watson/Holmes. Warmth pools in the pit of John's stomach. Proof that this life is tied to him. Twenty-three years all of a sudden doesen't seem long enough. A life-time. John would give a life-time to this remarkable soul. He would follow him into the mouth of Hell, go to the ends of the Earth and back. Anything. For the first time since getting shot John prays.

Please let me keep him. I'll do anything to have him in my life until my dying day. I can't ever give him up. Be without him. Please! We belong in each others lives. I feel it in my bones.

John is thankful when the midwife hands him a feeding tub. Freeing himself from the U-turn his thoughts had taken him. Winged-babies eat mushed up food. The first feeding after hatching is important. All that energy used up to hatch needs replacing at the double. John takes a seat and begins to slowly feed the hatchling a protein rich paste. It's made from whey protein mostly with fat and other goodies to enrich the small body.

The hatchling works his jaw round the strange feeling of food entering his mouth then swallows. Looking as if this is most wonderous.

"Nice?" John asks his little-one.

A happy chirp is his answer.

"Have you thought of a name Dr Watson? He is such a delightfully beautiful winged-child."

John peers up at the midwife for the first time in hours.

"Yeah. It's a bit long winded I'm afraid," John answers with his boyish grin.

John had taken his sweet time on thinking up both a girl and a boy name. Wanting to give his little-one the perfect name. Whatever gender the winged-baby ended up to be.

Looking back down at the hatchling in his arms John says "His name is William Sherlock Scott Holmes."

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