“The battery is dead again,” Iduna complained as she held out a data-pad to TJ. She somehow managed to hold all three of the triplets in one arm without dropping any of them. It probably helped that she had turned the artificial gravity down to an almost dangerous level, but TJ still worried that one of the babies might get dropped and hurt. Then again, she was a demigoddess of Life and Fertility. If one of them busted their head, she could heal them instantly. That’s probably why she was so reckless with the babies. TJ, on the other hand, was terrified to touch them.
“It wasn’t me,” TJ said. “My powers only kill living things, not batteries.” He took the tablet from her.
“Of course, it wasn’t you. It was one of the babies. I just can’t figure out which one because, as you may have noticed, there are three of them!” It had been two weeks since they were born, and she was still trying to guilt him into helping her take care of them. Sure, he helped make them, but the last thing a demigod of Death should do is touch a baby, even his own.
“I’ll go charge this,” TJ said. “I’ve got like a hundred spares. The crew of Death’s Chariot left all their stuff behind when they “mysteriously died.” I’ll scrounge a few up.”
“How long is this going to keep up?” Iduna demanded.
“How long is what going to keep up?”
“You,” Iduna yelled, slapping the tablet out of his hand, “avoiding your babies!”
“You’re a demigoddess of Life and Fertility,” TJ said. “And you literally excrete Life-giving substance from your breasts. It’s better if you handle them.”
“It wouldn’t matter if I were Durga Mahishasura-Mardini with her eight arms! No one can handle three newborn demigods without help! I carried these babies for nine months. It’s your turn now. I’m taking a nap.” Iduna stretched her arms out so TJ could take the triplets, but he backed away quickly, eager to get distance between himself and his children.
“I can’t touch them, Iduna. They’ll die! Can’t Dr. Jameson take them again?”
“Dr. Jameson is not their father, you are. Quit being a baby and hold yours. They’ll be fine.”
“You said the same thing about Helen,” TJ reminded her.
Helen was Iduna’s daughter from another man, a mortal man. She survived TJ’s attempt to change her diaper thanks to Iduna’s Life restoring power, but TJ never went near her again. It was awkward being stepdad to a kid you couldn’t touch.
“So, I was wrong about Helen. She’s only a quarter goddess and that’s too mortal for your Death touch. These kids are different. They’re the offspring of two demigods. That makes them as divine as we are.”
TJ wasn’t convinced. He continued to back away, while Iduna kept stalking towards him.
“Just try touching one,” she insisted. If I’m wrong, I can save them before they die. The Death touch isn’t instantaneous.”
TJ looked into Iduna’s eyes, those bloodshot, desperate eyes. She was right. This was too much for her and it showed on her face.
He looked into the faces of his children. He never thought he could have any, but now he had three. Which one’s life was he willing to risk? There was the oldest, Syf. She had short hair which was golden, just like her distantly related namesake. She was too beautiful for TJ to bring himself to touch her. Nine minutes younger was Thanatos the third, or T3 for short. He looked too much like TJ. It couldn’t be him either. That just left the youngest, little Usir. He had been named after an Egyptian god who had once been kind to TJ when he most needed it. His namesake had died once and then been brought back to life. It was a lame reason to choose him and it made TJ feel guilty as Hel, but he had to choose one. The look in Iduna’s eyes would not let him avoid this any longer.
He slowly stretched out his hand and tentatively brushed Usir’s cheek. The baby reflexively turned his head and latched onto TJ’s finger. TJ waited, but he did not grow pale or show any sign that Death would take him. TJ snatched his baby from Iduna’s arms and hugged him close. For the first time in his life, he knew what it felt like to hold a baby. He marveled at the softness of the baby’s skin, the smell of his hair, and the sheer tininess of his hand. He found himself kissing Usir repeatedly. He could touch his baby!
Iduna began to cry. TJ wasn’t sure if it was because she was touched by the display of affection, or because she was relieved that she could finally get some sleep. Whatever it was, she pushed the other two babies into TJ’s arms.
“Don’t wake me for anything,” she said. “If they need to eat, uncover me and hold them against my chest, but try to do it without waking me up.”
As Iduna walked out of the room, all three babies cried. TJ didn’t blame them. In their whole short lives, they had barely been separated from their mother. They would have to get used to it. Now that TJ knew he could hold them, he planned on doing so as often as he could.