First Impressions

by Niko


Surge didn't even know her name yet but he'd seen her right breast. Not all of it, thank god, and just the right by itself, but a breast all the same, one third of a woman's supposedly private areas not to be viewed except by doctors and family. He was neither, just the busboy the restaurant had hired the day before, a perfect stranger to everyone, and yet apparently familiar enough for the young woman to undo her shirt in front of him and pop open her bra.

He'd been so surprised he hadn't even thought to look away. After the first several buttons of her shirt he'd figured she was just hot and trying to cool down. Once the bra came out it became more or a stunned sort of stare. Women just didn't do that, at least none of the ones he had known did. The bassinet on the chair beside her and the baby inside it should have been a clue as to what would come next but the idea of breast feeding in public was too alien for him to come to on his own. From the bra popped the breast, though, and into the arms went the baby just as Surge's eyes raced for the far wall where he could see his panicked face reflected back at him through the glossy surface of the soda machine.

What was he supposed to do? Pretend it wasn't happening and eat the rest of his muffin? Was he supposed to pretend he didn't see it? They were the only two-- well, three --in the break room so it wasn't like he could follow someone else's lead. He was stuck in the most awkward of situations imaginable with a cute girl, her baby and her right breast. He wasn't even sure he would have known how to deal with just the first two by themselves.

He tried to think of it as natural, as something beautiful and representative of life and the nurturing nature of women. It didn't work so well. It still felt like something private he was somehow intruding upon even though he'd been in the room before she started. Guiltless as he was, he still felt guilty about seeing as much as he had. Would it have been the right thing to do to have excused himself from the room once she entered to give her privacy so she didn't have to unveil herself in front of a stranger? Was he making her as uncomfortable as she was making him? Was this covered in the employee handbook?

He looked over at her, keeping his eyes level with her face, willing himself not to look down any further than her chin. She didn't look uncomfortable. She was smiling, looking down on her baby, watching him suckle with a sort of glow about her, oblivious to Surge's existence by all signs. That at least made him feel a little better. His eyes followed hers, though, down to the head at her chest with its light dusting of blond hair. It was a tiny baby, not even a year old by the looks of it. Who brought an infant that young to work with them?

"Day cares won't accept babies until they're almost two."

Surge blinked, pulling his eyes away from the child's head back to the mother's face. She still wasn't looking at him but it was hardly directed at the baby. "Oh... do you want me to go so you can... in private?"

She shook her head, still smiling. "I don't mind you being here. I just kind of get to thinking about him being hungry and it doesn't even occur to me to be modest or embarrassed about it. Sorry if I made you uncomfortable. I'm Cross by the way and this is Sem."

"Teyen." Surge took a bite from his nearly forgotten muffin and looked away again. He felt a little better about the whole situation knowing their names. They were odd names but he didn't really feel he had much room to comment.

"Maternity leave ended a couple months ago and I don't really know anyone well enough to trust them with Sem while I'm gone. Mom doesn't live all that close either. She'd watch him if I asked her to, but she'd take every opportunity available to nag at me about not being married and about Sem's father. So I save us all the trouble and just bring him with me. Means I get to spend more time with him anyway."

Surge smiled a little, a growing fondness towards the two warming his heart. "You're a good mom."

"Thank you. It's my first time. I'm trying." She raised her head, looking at Surge for the first time. "Don't suppose I could talk you into giving me a hand, could I?"

Though part of him was wary to discover what he could possibly do to help her breastfeed, he found himself nodding. A few minutes later there was a towel thrown over his shoulder and a baby propped up against it, a tiny, warm, mewing human-being being gently patted by Surge's own hand. He turned in his seat so Cross could still see her son but so he did not have to find out what the plastic pump was for after being accidentally introduced to her left breast as well.

Even though he knew he was probably going to be spat up on, it still felt indescribably nice to hold Sem. He was heavier than he looked but not disagreeably so, his diaper covered bottom fitting in one hand while the other fell across his entire back. He was vulnerable, at the mercy of who ever held him, frail and delicate and peaceful. Surge could feel him hiccup against his chest and his heart fluttered, first in fear that he had done something wrong then in a much happier emotion that made him feel warm all over, wiping away in that moment the three months of hell that had so recently been his life.

Having lived in pain and sorrow for so long, melancholy was practically chipper in comparison. Since his escape things had been much quieter, calmer, more predictable but not joyous or entertaining. There was no enjoyment in life, just a willfulness that said he had to keep living. Life was about survival and work. In that moment though, with Sem's tiny hands grasping his shirt, Surge was happy. He was responsible for someone else, not just himself. Someone depended on him to be strong and gentle and a woman he didn't really know trusted him to be those things with her child. He wasn't a runaway pet, not with Sem in his arms. He was human again, if only in that moment.

Surge rested his cheek against Sem's head, feeling the soft, fine hairs as they brushed against his skin.

"You're pretty good with him. He's usually not so quiet if he knows I'm nearby." She placed her hand next to his on Sem's back, feeling his even breaths as he rested there half asleep. "They say babies have a sort of sixth sense about people. Guess he can tell you're a good person."

Surge nodded but felt a little silly agreeing to someone calling him a good person. He wasn't bad but he was far from exemplary. "He's beautiful." he said, to try and keep the subject off himself. He hadn't really looked at Sem's face yet but there was no way something so precious could be anything but beautiful.

"Well, since you two are getting along so well, think you could look in on him in here from time to time?"

He agreed without even thinking.