Apparently - or so the doctor told them - this type of thing was becoming more and more common nowadays; most likely as a result of all the chemical gunk that was making its way into the water supply, the pee of Pill-popping women and the run-off from farms where animals grazed not on grass but on fertility hormones and the ground-down remains of their predecessors. Pity the poor fish, turning from male to female even as they swam through the muck; they should be grateful, at least, that human beings were not quite so susceptible to the effects of the poisons they themselves had created. Really, it was enough to drive one to become an eco-warrior. On a more practical level, there were a number of support groups they were welcome to attend if they felt that talking to others in the same situation would help - all strictly confidential, of course...
Elijah listened politely, his hands clasped over his knees. When he asked whether this meant that he should give up smoking, Dom leapt from his chair and hurtled down the corridor. As he knelt retching over the toilet bowl, the irony that this was exactly what Elijah had been doing every morning for the past few weeks was inescapable.
"I'm sorry," said Dom as they walked back through the car park, "I wasn't particularly helpful in there."
Elijah patted his arm affectionately. "S'okay. You've had a shock."
Despite himself, Dom had to laugh. "I've had a shock?"
Elijah shrugged. "I kind of guessed, I think. What with the puking and everything. I'm relieved, in a way. At least it's nothing serious."
Dom was left standing open-mouthed as Elijah walked on; he had to run to catch up with him. "Elijah," he said breathlessly, as they reached the car. "Are you sure you're okay to drive?"
Elijah glared at him. "I'm pregnant, Dom. Not fucking incapable."
On the way out, Elijah reversed over a flowerbed, leaving two deep tyre-tracks through the petunias. "You know," he said conversationally, as they turned onto the highway, "you smell of vomit."
"That's okay," said Dom. He shut his eyes as Elijah careened into the fast lane, horn blaring. "I'm getting used to it."
"Are you sure you wanna go through with this?" Elijah paused as he emptied another ashtray into the trashcan. "You mean," he said carefully, fixing Dom with his best blue glare, "you're not sure if you wanna go through with this."
"I never said that. I just..." Dom squirmed in his chair. The idea that he was in no small part responsible for the current state of affairs was taking some getting used to. For the first couple of days he'd managed to convince himself that Elijah had somehow managed to spontaneously reproduce without third-party intervention, like an aphid. A distinctly unimpressed Elijah had hurled the remote at his head, leaving quite a nasty bruise (hormones, Dom told himself). Then he'd queried whether the pregnancy might not be an Act of God. But Elijah had merely snorted at this theory and said that if it was the Second Coming, then the Angel Gabriel needed to blow his trumpet a bit fucking louder in future.
Even if Dom was the father - and this, he had to admit, was looking more and more likely by the day - there were still other factors to consider. What if it ("she," corrected Elijah, with conviction) was, you know, Not Quite Right? Unbeknownst to Elijah, Dom had furtively surfed medical websites detailing congenital birth defects, gazing with horror and pity at pictures of mono-eyed monsters with smashed-egg skulls. But the doctor had assured them there was really nothing to be worried about - other than the fact that the baby would have to be delivered by Caesarian section ("Thank fuck," noted Elijah, wryly). They followed up an email address he gave them and duly received a supportive reply from Eduardo and José in Mexico City, with a photo attachment of two weary-looking men clutching an incongruously blonde toddler. "You see?" said Elijah. "She'll be fine."
"Dom." Elijah's voice broke into his thoughts. "Get over it. I'm pregnant, man. You're going to be a father. And I'm going to be a - a -" He faltered.
"Yeah." He nodded decisively. "A parent." He patted his pockets, looking for his lighter. "This is definitely gonna be my last cigarette. C'mon, let's celebrate."
Elijah sprawled naked on the bed, slathering his belly with sweet-smelling lotion from a white bottle.
"What's that you've got there, you little tart?" Dom snatched the bottle from his grasp and sniffed at it curiously.
"Cocoa butter," said Elijah, primly. "I'd quite like to resume my career sometime, you know. And preferably without the crew sniggering at my stretchmarks." He wriggled his toes and folded his arms behind his head. "You can put some on me, if you like."
"Hmmpff," grunted Dom, but as he knelt on the bed and drizzled the lotion on Elijah's stomach, making him squeal, he could feel the familiar tightening in his groin. Elijah looked radiant, all creamy skin and gleaming blue eyes - blooming, his mind supplied helpfully. He tried to push that particular adjective and all its connotations away as Elijah cooed under his palms. "That's nice," he said happily.
"Yeah. I can tell." Dom chuckled and lent forward to tongue Elijah's navel. As he did so, he was struck by the sudden, unwelcome thought that somewhere in there, under all the layers of skin and fat and muscle, way down deep in in some dark secret space, a prawny nugget of flesh was beginning to grow.
Nausea washed through him; his erection wilted as quickly as if someone had poured a pail of cold water into his lap. He sat back on his heels.
"I'm sorry, Elijah," he said. "I can't."
Furious, Elijah snatched back the bottle of lotion and squirted cocoa butter into his palm. "Jesus Christ, Dom," he spat. "I'm horny as all hell here. Are you telling me I'm gonna have to jerk off for the next six months?"
"I'm sorry," repeated Dom, lamely, but Elijah rolled over onto his side and began to stroke himself with angry movements, hard enough to make the bed shake. "Get out," he said.
"My boyfriend," Dom told the mirror as he shaved, "is five months pregnant."
The mirror was obviously a difficult beast to impress, or else it had heard far more outlandish claims in its time, for it made no comment. Dom sighed and rinsed his face. Elijah was downstairs, sitting cross-legged on the sofa playing video games, carefully balancing the console and a family-sized pack of corn chips on his bulging stomach. He'd thrown all the windows wide open, ostensibly to "give the baby some air", but Dom knew that there would be an ashtray hidden away somewhere; he'd never quite managed to quit smoking after all, although Dom had long since given up nagging him about it. On those increasingly rare occasions when Elijah shifted from the sofa he moved around the house gingerly, as if he was preparing to lower himself into a cold bath. But pregnant or no, he still looked utterly toothsome, irresistible; Dom was relieved that libido had eventually won this particular battle with logic. The sulking had driven him crazy.
Dom stared at his dripping reflection. Green eyes would surely override blue, he mused, which was a shame. Trying to guess what their daughter might look like was like trying to shake oil and water together in a jam-jar. Hours spent going slowly cross-eyed over piles of photographs had been hours spent in vain. As soon as Dom managed to envisage his and Elijah's features blended into some plausible, pleasing whole the image separated again, leaving their two faces floating distinct and indissolvable in his mind.
"Die, you fuckers, DIE!!" Elijah yelped from the living-room. "AAARGHH!!!"
Dom yanked at the plug, and the dirty water swirled burping down the drain. "Please God," he prayed aloud, "His eyes. His skin. His ears. But my brain."
Dom paused in the doorway. Elijah was sitting at the kitchen table, eating a bunch of blue grapes, methodically twisting the fruits from the stem and popping them into his mouth one by one. Dom watched as he spat the pips into his fist and ranged them around the rim of the plate, the fingers of his left hand splayed protectively over his belly. Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy, thought Dom. Or was that cherry stones? Whatever. No daughter of his would ever marry an actor. He'd make sure of that.
Michael Stipe whined nasally from the stereo. Elijah looked distant, preoccupied, unaware of Dom's presence and unconcerned by the twin patches of damp seeping through the front of his t-shirt. Early on, they'd enjoyed a running joke about Elijah hoiking up his shirt over dinner and presenting a dry nipple to the baffled, squalling babe, in front of their mortified friends. This had lasted until the morning Dom had found Elijah grim-faced in the laundry room, washing powder spilling from his shaking hands. Now, he changed his t-shirts several times a day. When Dom ventured to suggest that some kind of absorbent device might be in order, Elijah snapped that he wished to be left alone to leak in peace, with what little dignity he still had left. Breast pads, he told Dom icily, were not an option.
That same tsunami of final-trimester hormones had also washed away Elijah's stubble and blunted the sharp edges of his jaw, beaching him exactly halfway between male and female. With his shaven head and pale, downcast eyes, he looked like the herald angel of some new, superior third sex, beautiful and alien. Dom shivered. This, surely, was the same fear the dinosaurs had felt, upon waking sluggish to the first frost and the chatter of those sneaky mammalian bastards plotting under the trees: the fear of the soon-to-be-superseded, the almost-obsolete. He turned away.
"Hey," said Elijah.
Dom stopped and looked back over his shoulder. "Hey yourself," he said.
"Wanna grape?" Elijah pushed the plate across the table.
Dom leant against the doorframe, folding his arms. "It's okay. How you feeling?"
"Not long now."
"No." Elijah stroked his belly thoughtfully. "Not long. Oh -" He picked up the remote and turned up the stereo, then stretched out a hand. "Wanna dance?"
"Are you sure that's a good idea?"
Elijah rolled his eyes. "C'mon, asshole, I'm not gonna burst just yet. And there's a breadknife in the dresser, if the ambulance doesn't make it in time." He grinned wolfishly.
"Ugh." Dom shuddered, but he walked over to Elijah and helped him to his feet.
Suddenly, Elijah pulled a face and clutched at his stomach. "It's okay," he said hastily, seeing the alarm in Dom's eyes, "the little bitch is just kick-boxing with my kidneys. Again."
That's great, it starts with an earthquake
Birds and snakes, an aeroplane...
Elijah wrapped his arms around Dom's neck and they shuffled awkwardly across the floor. Dom caught glimpses of their reflections in the window as they revolved, Elijah with his huge belly bumping heavy as a zeppelin against his own, him with his arse stuck out so that Elijah could lean forward and rest his weight upon his shoulders; they looked pathetically, painfully absurd.
It's the end of the world as we know it,
It's the end of the world as we know it...
Elijah sighed, rubbing his chin along Dom's collarbone. His breath felt very warm. "This is my favourite track on the album," he said. His voice buzzed close and confidential against Dom's ear.
It's the end of the world as we know it,
And I feel fine.
"Yeah," said Dom. He knotted his fingers together in the small of Elijah's back. "I know."