10-20-2011, 05:26 PM
A full moon hung over Serenity that night. Criss lay in bed, sound asleep, a rare occurance as he usually lay awake over planning his next demonstration or worrying about performing it without hurting or killing himself. It had been a trying day, what with the ducklings and all. Hammie, his cat, lay curled up beside him on the pillow as was his habit, the stalking incident forgotten for the time being.
The ducklings slept huddled together in their makeshift nest of soiled t-shirt and cardboard shoebox over a glowing sixty-watt bulb (recommended by Dean Waring, the cameraman who aided Criss in the egg recovery) to keep them warm, well away from Hammie's reach. Their down had dried out, leaving them fluffy and soft to the touch. They did not need food as their yolk sacs had fed them while they were still in the eggs. Safe and warm in their t-shirt-shoebox nest, they passed the night in peace and contentment.
With the dawn, however, came chaos.
Criss woke up to the sound of persistant peeping. He turned over and tried to shut out the noise with his pillow, groaning, "Shut up, you guys, I'm trying to sleep!" But the six ducklings would not comply. The peeping went on without cease. Irate, Criss flung the bedclothes aside and wrenched himself out of bed. "Okay! Okay!" he growled. "I'm up!"
He pulled on his bathrobe and walked over to the nest, rubbing the sleep from his stubbled face. "What the hell do you want?" he snapped.
The ducklings quieted immediatly and looked up at Criss. "You guys hungry or something?" he asked them. "You want breakfast? Huh? Is that what you want?"
The ducklings simply stared at him with their tiny beadlike eyes. "I don't know what you guys eat, but I think I can find you some breadcrumbs or something in the kitchen," he said. "Hold on a minute, I'll be right back."
He turned away from the nest. The frantic peeping started up again. Frustrated, Criss picked up the shoebox. "Okay, okay!" he said. "I'll take you with me! Happy now?"
The peeping stopped. Criss carried the shoebox out of the bedroom. "Geez!" he said, "I turn around for two seconds and you think I abandoned you!"
Normally, the spacious, well-equipped kitchen was the domain of his personal chef, Ed Bible; Criss' culinary expertise was limited to ordering from a menu, so he left it to the more talented Chef Ed to prepare his meals. Ed wasn't available at that particular point in time to help him feed his new charges, so Criss was left to his own devices. Feeling completely lost in the kitchen of his own home, he searched desperately for a box of breadcrumbs or whatever he thought his ducks would like to eat. "There's gotta be something here," he muttered as he opened and closed cupboard after cupboard. "There's gotta be something--"
Finally, he located the walk-in pantry, stocked floor to ceiling with boxes and cans of food. "Yeah, here we are," he said. "I'm sure he's got something here I can use."
He stepped into the pantry. Outside, the peeping echoed loudly off the tiled walls. "All right! All right!" Criss called out to them. "I'm coming, I'm coming! Keep your feathers on, willya?"
He found a box of salad croutons, but they were much too large for the tiny ducklings to swallow. There was a container of garlic-flavored breadcrumbs, but Criss felt it would be too spicy for them to handle. Finally, he found a box of cornmeal, just the right consistancy for the newborns. "Okay!" he exclaimed in triumph. "Breakfast is served!"
He poured some cornmeal into a shallow bowl and set it into the middle of the nest. Not a good idea, he thought, as he noticed it left very little room for the ducklings to move around, let alone eat. Besides, they probably needed some water as well. He removed the bowl and set it on the floor, filled another shallow bowl with water, set it beside the cornmeal, then took the nest off the counter and set each duckling, one by one, beside the bowls. "There," he said. "Now you can eat."
He sat down on the floor beside them and watched as the ducklings wobbled on unsteady legs, trying to gain a sense of balance. Criss realized this was their first attempt at walking since they had hatched yesterday. "Come on, little guys," he prodded, "you can make it."
Gradually, the little ducklings gained control over their spindly legs and waddled toward the bowls. "That's it," Criss encouraged them. "Come and get it."
The ducklings stuck their tiny beaks into the bowls of cornmeal and water, curious as to what was in it. Criss sat on the floor, watching them with almost paternal pride. "You guys eat your breakfast," he told them. "I gotta get ready for work."
He got up from the floor and walked out of the kitchen. So did the ducklings. They followed him out of the kitchen and toward the stairs in a neat line, nearly running to keep up with him. Criss did not notice this until he was on the first step of the stairway. He looked down and saw his little brood around his feet, looking up expectantly at him. "Hey," he said, puzzled. "What are you guys doing here? You should be back in the kitchen." He waved them away. "Go on, shoo!"
The ducklings did not budge. "I gotta go to work, okay, guys?" he said. "I can't have you underfoot when I'm working. Now, go on, go finish your breakfast."
He stepped up another step on the stairs. The ducklings crowded around the first step as if trying to climb up. Irritated, Criss stepped down and squatted in front of the ducklings. "Look, guys," he said, trying to be reasonable. "I got a job to do, and I can't take you with me, understand? Now, let's go back into the kitchen and finish our breakfast, okay? C'mon, let's go."
He rose and walked back to the kitchen. The ducklings instinctively followed him, trotting as fast as they could to keep up. Criss bent down and tapped the bowl of cornmeal. "C'mon, guys," he said. "Eat your breakfast."
The ducklings huddled around the bowls. "Now you stay there while I get ready for work, okay, guys?" he ordered them. "You wanna swim? The pool's out back."
Again he walked out of the kitchen, and again the ducklings followed. Criss whirled around, exasperated. "Will you stop following me around?!" he exploded. "What the hell's wrong with you guys, anyway?"
"There's nothing wrong with them, Criss," he heard a voice speak up.
Criss turned around and saw his brother, JD, leaning on the stair rail, grinning. "They're just following their instincts," he continued. "You're their mom, remember? Where you go, they go. There's nothing you can do about it."
"But I gotta be at the Luxor by nine AM," Criss told him. "I can't take them with me. They'll get lost, or get stepped on or something."