I got Baby Bouchtat feels after the finale. This isn’t my best work, but I thought it was high time I contributed back to the mad fat fandom, so here we are! Some Rinn feels as well.
Before Baby Bouchtat comes into the world, Rae thinks of her as nothing but a parasite, leeching off of her mom’s affections, encroaching on her room and space, and getting bigger and bigger every month until she budges Rae out of the family and into the street. After all, her mum is too old to be hobbling about with swollen feet and morning sickness; at her age she really ought to be going through the change, drying up like a shallow creek under a summer sun. And a sixteen year age gap between siblings is just odd. Now, she wouldn’t be known just as the mad, fat girl stomping about Stamford; she’d be the mad fat girl who somehow got knocked up and was dragging around a round-faced illegitimate brat.
But then Rae sees her, little Lina, tiny and pink and vulnerable and squirming around in her small incubator in the NICU, and something inside of her breaks. She’s never known she could love something so fiercely so suddenly. It hits her like a tidal wave, and she feels an overwhelming need to protect her baby sister at all costs. Rae had stumbled through the world alone and almost escorted herself out after the constant bumps and bruises had become too much to bear. But she can guide Lina, can show her where the ground suddenly sinks without warning or how to skip over the puddles. She can be the best big sister ever, someone Lina could be proud of, someone Rae herself would have wanted in her life.
“You are perfect,” Rae whispers to her baby sister. Lina opens her eyes- (they’re large and black, like an oil spill, reflecting colors that Rae never knew existed)- and grabs Rae’s finger, her tiny hand circling it and holding on with impressive strength. “You are perfect, and I will always love you.”
The pub and the gang see precious little of Rae after her mother goes off maternity leave and returns to the hospital. Seven months before, Rae would have been repulsed by the idea of being Baby Bouchtat’s live-in nanny, but now she relishes the job, half-volunteered for it, really. At six and a half months old, Lina is all tubby rolls and gummy smiles and thick, dark curls. She’s starting to babble, and sits around all day saying, “mamamamama,” which makes her mum tear up even though Rae’s almost certain Lina doesn’t know what she’s yabbering on about yet. There couldn’t be an easier baby in the world, her Mum says, Lina isn’t the least bit fussy and laughs easily, probably making up for her overdramatic entrance to the world. She has just figured out how to scoot around on her stomach, and Rae lays out a blanket on the living room floor and watches Lina chug along on her tummy, her face scrunched up in concentration.
“Scooching about like a little Worm, you are,” Rae says affectionately, bopping baby Lina on the nose, which makes her break out into hysterical giggles.
Naturally, because Rae’s become a shut-in, so has Finn. He’s come back to college, saying something about wanting to have “options,” but Rae’s pretty sure he did it for her, so that she wouldn’t feel isolated and alone there again. It works out perfectly though- at college, they hold hands and occasionally sneak into the disabled toilet between classes for a quick, nostalgic snog and her marks have never been higher because for the first time in years she’s not thinking constantly about how she’s going to survive the day without running into losers and knobheads. She’s got the gang to protect her, Chloe constantly by her side, and an internal shield telling her that she’s perfect, she’s beautiful, she has to be strong so she can teach Lina to be strong. After college, Finn and Rae drive to Stamford’s Daycare, where they pick up Lina from Harriet, her warm caretaker, then back to Rae’s house. The polka-dotted car seat is a permanent fixture in Finn’s car now, which invites lots of interesting questions from his classmates every now and again, but he decides to keep it there just to mess with them.
“Worm, worm, worm,” Rae is singing to Lina in between huffs of laughter. Lina is so delighted with her new nickname that she’s shrieking hysterically and slamming her little palms on the floor.
“Rae, don’t tire her out now,” Finn admonishes, scooping Lina up into his arms. Rae tries not to swoon at the sight, but Finn holding a baby is enough to put anyone’s ovaries in overdrive.
“She needs a nap anyway,” Rae counters, shuffling next to Finn and brushing a lock of Lina’s hair out of her eyes.
“She needs to have dinner first.” His stomach grumbles. “/We have to have dinner first.”
Lina gets a place in her high chair, her “I’m a dinosaur!” bib tied around her neck. Finn heats up her baby food- she’s finally started moving on to solids- while Rae sifts through leftovers in the fridge.
Sometimes, Rae likes to pretend that this is what it’d be like to have a family with Finn. Just him, her, and their beautiful, babbling baby, having dinner together after a long day at work. She meets Finn’s eye over the fridge door and smiles when he sidles over to her, taking the cold, half-full casserole dish from her hands and setting it on the kitchen counter. His eyes are full of intention, and she watches him hesitantly come in for a kiss, one of his hands cradling her face. She wants to burst from the bliss that she’s feeling, it’s too much at once, but instead she presses closer, gently sucks his top lip between the two of hers.
This is what she wants. Not now, not for years, but she wants this moment again, she wants their baby and her Finn and all that would come with it.
“Wa ba ba!” Lina exclaims indignantly, banging her fists against her tray. Finn and Rae pull apart, their foreheads touching for a moment before he ambles back to the baby, tweaking her nose.
“Hungry, hungry baby,” Finn coos. “Alright then, you impatient little thing, it’s comin’.”
When Karim gets back from work, he’s greeted with the sight of Finn, Rae and Baby Lina all staring up at him, covered in mushed peas and peach.
“Wa ba!” Lina asserts loudly, raising her spoon like a battle axe, and they all break into giggles.
Nobody is surprised what Lina’s first word is. Linda is puttering around the living room, searching for the remote, when she calls Rae down to ask for it. It takes two repetitions of “Rae! Get down here!” before the seventeen year old even acknowledges she’s being summoned, and the grumble that follows echoes through the small house.
Lina is sitting down on the floor in her nappies when Rae finally comes clambering down the stairs.
“What?” She spits, annoyed.
Lina decides that this is her time to take the spotlight. She sways to her feet, then runs at Rae as fast her chubby little legs can take her. Arms stretched toward her favorite person, Lina gives her big sister a wide, heart-melting smile before exclaiming, “Wae!” in a loud, high-pitched squeal.
The frown immediately drops from Rae’s face, and Linda shuffles right over, mouth forming an ecstatic ‘o,’ as Rae picks Lina up in her arms, stunned into awed silence.
“Did she just- I could’ve sworn…”
Linda fans her hands in excitement. “Oh! Oh my goodness!” Her face crumples in that way that says she’s about to burst into tears, and she coos back at her baby, ecstatic. Lina swings her arms and says it again, obviously pleased by the reaction she’s managed to elicit.
“Silly worm,” Rae says in a choked voice, bopping Lina’s nose affectionately. Lina garbles and then bops her back.
The day Rae leaves for Uni, Lina is beside herself with tantrums. Nobody is quite sure whether she knows what was going on- she’d been such a jolly toddler even during sad times in the Bouchtat household- but all day Lina screams and throws toys and yanks at Karim’s hair so hard that she comes back with a few strands in her hands. She keeps hobbling in the way of hazards, nearly tripping Finn up when he’s helping Rae take a box out to the car, and plopping herself down on the stairs and shrieking when they try to move her. Linda, exasperated, takes her to her room and out of the way until everything is moved, but by the time Rae’s done, she’s not sure she wants to go.
“She sounds real out of it,” Rae says, staring mournfully down the hall, where Lina’s emphatic shouts are muffled by the door. “Maybe I can miss the first day. S'just orientation.”
“No,” Karim says, shaking his head. “You must go. Lina is too…spoiled. You can’t give…all she wants.” He pats Rae’s shoulder in understanding.
“He’s right,” Finn says. He looks a bit put out himself; he can’t meet her eyes and doesn’t seem to know what to do with his hands. Rae imagines he wants to go into that room with Lina and scream with her. She hopes he doesn’t; she really won’t be able to leave then. And not just because Finn is her ride.
When it’s finally time to leave, Rae knocks on the door of her mother’s bedroom. Linda is bouncing Lina on her knee, trying to coax her out of her hysterics, and Lina is breathing heavily and hiccupping like she has just run out of the energy to squall. She turns and sees Rae and begins to blubber feebly, and Rae’s pretty sure she hasn’t seen a sadder sight. Her eyes are puffy and red, barely open, and her mouth is curved downward in an almost comically exaggerated frown.
“Don’t go, Wae,” Lina manages in between gasps. She lets herself down from Linda’s lap and hobbles up to Rae, arms already outstretched demandingly. Even though she shouldn’t- Lina’s going through the Carry-me-everywhere phase and the entire family has been instructed to ignore her when she does this- Rae bends over and hoists her baby sister onto her hip.
“I’ll be back,” Rae says reassuringly.
“No!” Lina shrieks. She hits Rae, hard, on the shoulder.
“Oh Lina, no hitting!” Linda says exasperatedly. She wags her head, exhausted. “What possessed me to have another?” She mutters under her breath, all the while looking adoringly at her daughters.
“I will though! I’ll be back, and when I do come back, I’m gonna need you to show me all the pretty pictures you’ve colored, and how far you can count, right?”
Lina takes the bait. “One. Twoooo. Three…uh….”
“That’s right, darling. So when I get back, you’ll be able to get all the way up to ten!”
“Ten!” Lina shouts, raising her arms high. Rae gives her big wet kiss on the cheek, and then passes her back to their Mum. The look in Linda’s eyes is indiscernible. She clears her throat, glances away.
“I’m so proud of you, baby,” she says, voice choked. “A couple years ago, I’d never even have thought…but now you’re off to Uni, and…you’ve grown into such an amazin’ young woman, Rae.” The heat is rising in Rae’s cheeks; she’s recalling the way she and her mum used to fight, the things Rae used to say when she felt frustrated and useless.
Linda sets Lina back down and drags Rae into a tight hug that seems to last forever, that seems to say everything that they haven’t quite managed to say to each other over the years. Karim joins them a second later, and Rae thinks about how she never thought she’d ever have a family like this, ever have people she would care about this much.
Finn is waiting by the door when she reemerges. She takes his hand as they walk out through the door. She waves goodbye to Mandela, then to Ms. Dewhurst, who is of course staring out of her window. And then, though they’ll be spending the next three hours together for the drive, she presses Finn into the car door and kisses him long and deep.
The flat Finn and Rae share is tiny and smells faintly of mothballs. A paint job done two years ago has covered up the more questionable stains on the walls, but it’s still a little dingy- the taps need a bit of elbow grease to turn off all the way, and there’s no A/C. But it’s also home, and with Finn and Jarvis, the dopey pit bull they adopted last year, there’s nowhere else she’d like to go after a hard day at work.
Finn works mostly from home, only going into studio a few times a week to work out kinks in his lyrics with his boss. The wall of his office is papered with song lyrics and compositions, the room outfitted with a turntable and one of those new laptop things, which Finn totes a little too proudly in and out of the coffee shops he frequents.
When Rae comes through the door, she’s greeted first by Jarvis, who nearly falls over himself skidding across the hardwood to welcome her home. He’s still technically a puppy, but he nearly bowls her over when he leaps for her anyway. Finn comes slinking out of his office, hoping to catch her off guard, but she catches him out of the corner of her eye and wrinkles her nose at him.
“How was your day, girl?"
Once upon a time, Rae would respond with, "Fine,” and move on, but she’s found that Finn actually wants to know what her day was like, so she prattles on about how the kids have been practicing their parts well and sound quite good in the choir, how Mamatha, the shyest girl of the bunch, had actually auditioned for the solo and sounded rather lovely, really, but she was bone tired because Anthony and Christopher are right little buggers who always try their hardest to drive her up the wall and yes, they’re only twelve years old but-
“What?” Rae finally says, because Finn’s been staring at her with the same distant look on his face for the last three minutes.
It takes him a moment to respond. Instead, he steps toward her and pushes a lock of hair behind her ear, a small smile quirking up the corners of his mouth. Rae softens; Finn always makes sure to remind her how much he loves her, even when he doesn’t say it aloud. It had taken years for her to fully accept that the look of bewildered wonder he sometimes got on his face was directed at her and only her.
“Rae,” he says slowly, “Do ya…do ya ever think about havin’ a kid some day? I mean, would you want to have one? With me?”
He looks a little embarrassed, his cheeks are tinged with pink, but he doesn’t look away.
Rae nearly laughs. She’s been thinking about it since she was seventeen.
“Yeah,” she says, “not right now, mind you,” she interjects, just in case he’s getting any ideas, “but sometime soon? Maybe when we’re settled down.”
“Ain’t we settled down now?” Finn asks teasingly. “You’ve got the place, the dog, and your live-in right here. All you’ve got to do is propose to me and we’ll be right as rain.”
He laughs, but Rae’s heart hammers in her chest. They’ve talked about getting married, of course they have, they’ve been dating for six years and back home in Stamford most everyone just thinks of them as a matched set, but…
“Shouldn’t I be askin’ you to propose, Finnley?” She says back. “Or have you always dreamed of me doin’ it?” Mockingly, she gets down on one knee. Jarvis takes this to mean that she’s come down to give him better access to her face and drapes himself over her leg and licking her face enthusiastically.
“Ah, Jarvy, you daft-”
The phone rings, distracting Jarvis long enough for Rae to get to her feet. But Finn already has the phone, one of those new-fangled wireless ones, and he hands it to her.
“It’s your mum,” he announces, a smirk on his lips. He leans forward and presses his lips to her hairline, his hands spelling out the letters T-B-C on her arm even as she stammers out a hello to her mother.
Linda is concerned. Something’s the matter with Lina. She used to love going to primary school, but lately she’s been making a big fuss about going, pretending she’s sick every day before they leave the house. She cries and squalls on the way there, and the teachers report that her marks are slipping.
A stone catches in Rae’s throat. She’d been hoping that Lina would have an easier time of it in school, because Lina was the kind who shared her gushers at the lunch table, who was sweet and talkative and adorable, and at the daycare she’d always been a favorite with the other children.
She asks for Lina to get on the line.
It’s almost bizarre having a conversation with her sister. Most of Rae’s memories with Lina are of her small and mute, communicating with cries and hilarious facial expressions rather than speech. And she’s learned artifice now, as all people do, and so Rae can’t just ask her what she’s feeling and get a straight answer.
“Hiya,” a small voice says.
“Hey there, Worm,” Rae says, “how are you doing?"
Finn sits and watches her from his study, sipping on a cup of coffee. She can feel his eyes on her, the pressure of his last question- a baby a kid with Finn a little boy with squashy cheeks and my mouth and nose and his caterpillar brows- still present on the back of her head. She almost misses the in Lina gives her, when she describes one of the boys in her class as 'mean,’ but when Rae backpedals and catches it, she digs further. After fifteen minutes, Rae asks to speak to their mum again.
"There’s a boy in her class named Barry Whithead who’s been telling her she’s stupid and stealing her class work when the teacher isn’t looking,” Rae reports.
Something hot brews in the back of her throat. Children can be so cruel, but Lina wasn’t supposed to be privy that cruelty. She listens as her mum sputters indignantly about just what she’s going to tell Lina’s teacher when she gets up to the school, but deep down Rae feels an unsettling level of despair.
It’s a reminder that she isn’t everywhere, that she can’t be everywhere, and that Lina is going to have face the world alone sometimes. That when…if she and Finn have a kid, their child will be alone too.
Rae isn’t sure if she can accept that.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter whether or not she can.
Without ever really talking about it, Rae and Finn get careless about protection. Rae skips her pills every now and again, and they run out of condoms and stare at each other for a moment and come together anyway so many times that Rae starts to lose count. At some point she realizes she’s behaving like she’s actually mad (babies are kind of a big fucking deal) because she wouldn’t actually mind getting knocked up. She’s got a decent job and so does Finn, and though she’d prefer to be married to him first, she also knows that she and Finn are forever, and so what is marriage now versus a year from now?
And so when three weeks pass without a sign of a period, she picks up a pregnancy test on the way back from work.
“Finnley,” Rae murmurs that same evening, bracing against the doorway of his study.
“Yeah, Rae Rae?” He’s got his reading glasses on, thick-rimmed like Archie’s, and he’s crouched over a set of papers, chewing on the end of a pen.
Rae holds up the test and gives a deep, understated shrug. She can see the exact moment that Finn gets it– his jaw drops open ever so slightly and he tries to speak but only a dumbfounded grunt comes out.
“I thought your cycle was off, b-but I just assumed it was 'cause you’d been messin’ about with the pills,” he finally rambles. His eyes are bright, and his body stone stiff, as if he’s afraid it’ll betray him. She can see him struggling to put a cap on his excitement. “You…you sure?”
Rae rolls her eyes. “'Course not, dickhead, that’s what the test is for.”
He stands up and walks to her, looking at her earnestly. Rae puts her hands on her hips, fighting to keep the smile from her face as he cradles her face in his hands, stepping in so close that his eyes start to cross.
“You okay?” he murmurs, searching her face for some idea of how she feels about this.
“Yeah,” she says, placing her hand over his and leaning into his touch. “More than okay.”
The smile that breaks across his face is like sunlight bursting through clouds.
“Let’s go find out, then.”
Lina is beside herself with joy when she hears the news.
“Rae,” she says, pressing her hands gently against Rae’s belly, “Does this mean I’m gonna be an aunt? Cassie Marks says I’m going to be an aunt.”
“Yes, Worm, you’ll be an aunt.” Rae says.
“Aren’t I too little to be an aunt?” Lina asks. “Auntie Sarrah is like forty whole years old! And I’m just seven.” She looks up at Rae with large, reflective eyes. “I want to be a proper aunt. Like a good one. But I can’t be if I’m too little, right?”
Normally, Rae would pull Lina into her lap and bop her nose, but her stomach is currently the size of a blimp and she isn’t sure there’s room for her now not-so-tiny sister, so she ruffles her hair instead. She’s blown away by how quickly Lina’s growing, especially now that Rae only sees her about once a month. Lina is really a lovely child; her hair is Karim’s- thick, long, wavy and loose, she has Linda’s nose and eye shape, and she’s slim in a way that Rae never was, even at this age. Even though she knows being lovely isn’t necessarily enough to make anyone feel good about themselves, she’s glad Lina won’t have other people tell her she’s fat, or that she’s ugly. It’s one less thing she’ll have to battle.
Her child, though? Finn has enough good looks for the both of them, but what if the baby takes after her? What if their beautiful child is only beautiful in her eyes?
“You’re so pretty,” Lina mutters against her stomach, and Rae freezes for a moment, wondering if she’d spoken aloud. But Lina is still looking up at her earnestly, and she keeps going, “Mum says that being pregnant has made you prettier. But I don’t think so. I think you look the same."
Rae closes her eyes. "I’m glad you think so, Worm.”
“Me too,” Lina says simply, nuzzling her stomach.
Rae’d always thought she’d have to be the one looking out for Lina, but with time, she discovers that it’s a two way street. Lina is looking out for her as well.
And when Baby Ella finally breaks into the world – (she has Rae’s big hazel eyes and Finn’s straight nose and she’s healthy and loud and so beautiful that tears stream down Rae’s face when she holds her for the first time)– Lina stays by her crib, whispering small words to her for hours at a time-
This feels like that part of a dream where you’re like “Wait, am I dreaming? I have to be dreaming. This feels weird.” And then one more wild thing happens and you’re like “Ok, yes, definitely dreaming then. Polka-dot cows don’t drive cars typically.”
One Direction is basically a polka-dotted cow driving a car at this point.