One Kit and an (Anomalous) Baby Pt. 1
rating: +15+x

When the knock on the door came, Kit had just put the finishing touches on his Christmas tree. It wasn't a typical Christmas tree – instead, it had been carefully painted on the wall of his living room, with the cream paint already purchased to banish the festive item come New Year's. The star on top, the final piece, gently trailed glitter, and Kit rubbed a weary, paint-smeared hand across his face, which promptly became a splattered mask of greens, reds, and gold.

He stretched out, grunting in satisfaction as his back cracked. He wasn't expecting anyone and Kit wasn't exactly swimming in visitors these days, so he decided it was probably a mistake, especially this late in the afternoon. So, he took a leisurely walk to the front door, opening it to find -

Nobody.

Huh.

He was about to turn back and close the door when his eyes fixed on the floor. A cardboard box, and inside – a baby.

He quickly looked up and around himself to see if this was some sort of prank. The baby in the box gurgled and stared at him. It wasn't teeny-tiny like the kind he had seen held in slings by parents who cooed and rocked them, but it wasn't so big that it had teeth yet – not that Kit could see, and he wasn't about to stick a finger in there to check. Its face was still chubby and much more baby than toddler, with a head of short, dark hair that seem mismatched against its ocean-coloured eyes.

Finding no-one in sight, the hallway quiet, he bent down to find a scrap of paper safety-pinned onto the baby's purple sleep suit. He freed the note, careful not to hurt the baby, who was contentedly watching this new human with a look of distant amusement. Kit smoothed out the paper, then studied it carefully.

The note, in neat, festive red and green script, read -

'You don't know me, but I know you. Don't ask You see things other people don't see, but you're still here. They haven't caught you yet. They may be I think you can deal with this situation better than I can right now. I trust in you to look after her, over everyone and everything else I know. Her name is Matilda. She likes being sung to and cuddly toy rabbits.

Merry Christmas.'

Carefully, Kit juggled the box into his hands and shut the door behind them. Someone had meant this baby to come to him, for some reason he couldn't imagine beyond what the piece of paper told him. He couldn't just leave it – her, he corrected – out in the hallway, no matter what else happened. He took the box, holding its precious cargo close to his chest, and carried her into the kitchen, aware of the paint fumes in the living room, because he had been breathing them in all day. Still, he didn't think this was an inhalation-based hallucination. Probably.

He set the box, with the baby, on the counter, and looked at it blankly. The baby stared back with big eyes, somewhere between blue and green in their colouring. "Um…I'm Kit." He was one step away from sticking out his hand to shake, like he had learnt to do at the parties Gabriel used to force him to go to. The baby kept staring, and then squealed, moving her arms just for the sheer delight of, well, moving her arms.

"…And you're Matilda." He concluded, awkwardly. His experience with babies was minimal, at best. He thought he remembered maybe holding someone's baby a few years ago, but he couldn't remember whose baby it was or why he was considered safe enough to hold it. Then again, years ago, he had been a Normal Person.

Some lucid part of his mind instantly thought the sentence he was always terrified of - 'Phone the police.' But the police, Kit had always found, were more a hindrance than a help, and it scared him what they may do with her. Someone had entrusted this baby to him because he was no longer a Normal Person, and there had to be a reason behind that. Did Matilda see things too? How could you even tell with such a small human that seemed to have no significant vocal capacities as of yet? What about the anonymous note-writer? Did they see things too, and were those things putting Matilda in danger? He had certainly seen a stall at the Meat Market called 'Pied Piper's Preemie Pies' that more than hinted that at least one person would want a baby for more nefarious purposes.

It was then that Kit decided he would take care of this child - a split second, impulsive decision, but the best ones always happened that way, in his experience. He would bring her up right. He would be there for her. He would make sure she wanted for nothing. He would -

His thoughts were interrupted by the loudest screaming that he had ever heard. And probably the loudest his neighbours had ever heard, too.

"Shit! Shit, why are you making that noise?!" His first reaction was to put his hands over his ears in a pathetic attempt to protect them against a noise that most humans recognised as a sound of intense need from a creature that had no other way of communicating. He stared down at the baby, then realised the cardboard box she lay in was very gently rocking back and forth. After a short time, the crying turned to hiccupping sobs and Kit was able to hear himself think to puzzle out what the thing wanted. The rocking? He would deal with that later – if it needed to be dealt with.

Kit came close and very cautiously picked up the baby. He was pleasantly surprised to realise the handling came back to him, and that this baby was much more firm than the child he held so long ago. She could support some of her own weight, it seemed, including her head, which she turned to nuzzle at Kit's chest, seeking something, seeking - as Kit figured it out, he found himself, unusually but furiously, blushing.

"I don't have… I mean, I can't…"

Well, that was one puzzle figured out. Matilda was hungry. But Kit wasn't exactly built to provide food on the go, and he doubted that she would want – or should have, really – the stock of Halloween sweets and Christmas chocolate in his cabinets. Feeling hopeless because he already knew what was in his cupboards, but feeling just as anxious and desperate, Kit carried the child over to the cabinet and freed one hand to open it.

To his surprise, next to a tub of candy floss, there was a well-known brand of banana porridge for babies around the age he had guessed Matilda to be. Balanced on top was a small plastic bowl (green) and a tiny plastic spoon (blue) with a plastic, teated bottle (purple) next to that. Digging around, behind his spare advent calendar, Kit found a tin of branded formulae.

"Now, I know I didn't go that crazy that I got baby food and I don't remember," Kit mumbled to himself. Or, more accurately, he mumbled at Matilda, which went a long way towards him already feeling less crazy, just like when he spoke to Peaches in that absent-minded way that really only hid he would otherwise be talking to himself.

"Did you…?" He looked down at the baby, who looked up at him quietly, chewing on her fingers with a chin covered in drool. She was the face of innocence, and she offered no answers. Regardless, all that mattered was there was food he could give the baby.

He settled her back in the box, grabbing a cushion to sit her up more, so he could keep an eye on her whilst following the hard-to-read instructions on the back of each tin. The milk proved the most complicated to make, with a series of steps, including how to avoid the baby getting burnt by the resulting mixture of boiling water and powder. Well, no-one said this was going to be easy, right?

Distracted momentarily from the baby, he was surprised when he turned back that she was holding what he remembered to be some odd contraption called a teething ring. He was sure nothing else had been in the box – a note, and a baby, in her purple jumpsuit. Nothing more than that. "…Okay." He just mumbled to himself. At least she was quiet and seemed content. He did what the instructions said and tried the temperature of the milk on his wrist, finding it didn’t burn him, so it probably wouldn't burn her. Hopefully.

He presented the baby with a bottle and she blinked at him. "Here. Take it." Kit instructed. The baby scrunched up her face, tears suddenly threatening. "Shit, don't make that godawful noise again. Okay, so you can't… uh, hold this. Okay. I guess I…" It was a struggle, but he managed to hold both the baby – Matilda, he was going to have to get used to that name business – and the bottle, which she latched on to happily as Kit's mind raced.

It was cold in here. Kit had grown used to that, not being able to afford the heating in any past winters, and this was no different. But he was pretty sure babies shouldn't get cold. And what about nappies? He didn’t have any of them just around, that would be super weird. What went in had to come out somehow, and somewhere. Shit. …Literally.

Once the baby had finished, Kit gently put her in the box before hefting it up again and headed towards his bedroom, brushing past the radiator, which was… on? Wait.

Still carrying the box, he went over to the thermostat, finding that it was off. Something was making sure this baby was okay with him. Something he couldn’t possibly understand. Something hinted to in the note. But not understanding was okay. Matilda wouldn't get cold, and that was all that mattered.

Laying in the box, the baby's face went red, and she grunted, and a godawful smell flooded the air. Kit reflexively put his free hand over his nose, other arm cradling the box. "…Shit." He muttered. "…Literally."

He took the baby through into the bedroom, placing her on the bed, before heading over to the locker he used to store his clothes. He must have some sort of old t-shirt that he could use as a makeshift nappy until he could get out and buy some. To his surprise, however, there was a packet of nappies towards the back of the locker. "Thanks," he found himself speaking to whatever entity was providing all this. "Mind changing her, too?" He thought maybe he heard a distant laugh.

He found an old t-shirt to lay out under the baby, and a roll of bin liners to dispose of the terrible smelling used nappy. He lifted the baby out of the box, less surprised this time to find her holding a bright pink rabbit against her chest, and lay her down on the t-shirt. "Now, how do we…"

Stripping the baby was hard – she wiggled. Removing the old nappy with as little mess as possible was hard – she wiggled more. Putting the new nappy on, even following the instructions on the back of the packaging was hard – she really seemed to be presenting him a challenging in the wiggling stakes. The little sticky tabs got stuck to his fingers, her skin (which he gently peeled free) and, finally, each other. The nappy eventually got put on, if a little loosely, and Kit sighed. This shit, in every sense of the word, was damn hard.

He redressed the baby, reminding himself to be extra gentle with her limbs, even if she fought him every step of the way and whimpered when he had to temporarily remove the bunny toy. When that was done, he had lost nearly half an hour of his life and was, frankly, exhausted. Evening was coming now, with the sky outside dark, and he was relatively aware that babies were meant to be put to sleep early on in the night.

He already had an idea where to put Matilda in lieu of a crib – she couldn't stay in the box forever, after all. But he remembered his own childhood, his parents in desperate poverty, and, if it was good enough for him, it was good enough for her. He opened a drawer and took out an armful of socks and pants, but left some as a sort of mattress. Grabbing a spare fleece blanket from the bed, he very gently wrapped the baby like she was a burrito, so she wouldn't injure herself somehow and so she couldn't get cold. He carefully placed her in the drawer, fluffing up one end of the 'mattress' to make a cushion for her head.

"Now, get some sleep." He said, very softly, gently kissing her forehead and pausing as there was this amazing, overwhelming scent that could only be described as 'baby'. Something soft, like talcum powder, and something new, like fresh leaves. It was amazing. He stood, and turned on a soft lamp, preparing to leave the room when there was a sad whimper from the makeshift crib. He turned back to the baby, finding her holding a cream rabbit toy almost as big as her, but her eyes were upset for reasons that he, as an adult, couldn't understand.

"What's wrong? Don't worry, I'm not going far. Oh, I know what will make you feel better! You like being sung to, right?"

Kit did pause, waiting for an answer, which he no longer considered impossible with all that had happened in that day.

"I remember one song my mum used to sing to me and my brother…"

He felt oddly self-conscious, with the baby staring at him, tears already pooling at the corner of her eyes and threatening to become a very loud thing if he didn't provide entertainment quickly.

"…A, you're adorable, B, you're so beautiful, C, you're a cutie full of charms…"

The baby instantly perked up at the song and her covered feet wiggled happily. As the song continued on, she yawned, and her eyes fluttered closed.

"…U, made my life completed, V, means you're very sweet, W, X, Y, Z – It's fun to wander through the alphabet with you, to tell you what you mean to me…"

Kit sung through the song twice before Matilda drifted off into sleep. He had never normally remembered what came after 'C', but something that evening pushed all the lyrics to the forefront of his mind. Gently, he tucked the folded blanket tighter around the baby, making sure she couldn't roll around too much in her sleep.

And that was how they ended their first day. Kit, exhausted, fell onto his bed, stared at the ceiling for a nanosecond, then was out like a light. But it turned out he had a lot more to learn about babies (anomalous or not) than just their daytime needs…

Hub

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