White Rabbit

by Domenika Marzione

14/May 2007

"I know you've got friends who are telekinetic, but I don't think that blanket's going to get itself down from the closet by you staring at it."

Rear Admiral Daniel Beck had arrived two days ago, having orchestrated his leave around the scheduled birth of his first grandchild. Lily thought the man was entirely too cheerful. Of course, he wasn't the one with swollen feet and someone tap-dancing on his bladder.

"Thanks, Dad," she muttered, making a face at her father as she stepped back so that he could get the blanket off of the top shelf of the linen closet and shoo Felix, who loved to climb up on top of the clean sheets, away. "I don't think people were really thinking about the details when they put things away."

The move, six weeks previous, had been relatively effortless - with many of the X-types helping out, Lily had done nothing more strenuous than pack dishes - but it had been emotionally wrenching. She was moving out of the place where she had lived with Alex. True, they had bought the new apartment together, talked about furniture placement and repainting options, but the old apartment had his warmth, even if it was all in her head. This one was cold, even with the formerly white walls painted over with rich colors. Putting Alex's things away in the new apartment, hanging the items in his closet, stacking his books on their shelves...Lily was glad that she had never been left alone that day. And, with the imminent arrival of their child, Lily was very grateful for her father's presence.

"Well, it'll all be within reach in a week or so," he offered as he carried the blanket back towards the foldaway bed he had opened up. The spring weather had turned sharply colder the previous night.

"Yeah," Lily agreed unenthusiastically, following behind and sitting on the chair. "I still have to find a few things and re-arrange. I didn't want to make everyone crazy by being too particular about where they put things that weren't large pieces of furniture. I figure that's how I'll work my way back from the pregnancy weight." All fourteen pounds of it - Dana, who had delivered a baby boy named Nathan (Lily had kept her amusement about Alex's exhortation to stay away from naming children after Summerses to herself) three weeks ago, had been rather jealous. The doctor said it was perfectly fine and was a reflection of the extremely healthy diet she had been following.

"Well, I like the place," Daniel replied as he unfolded the blanket. "It looks like someone lives here. 'Nothing dorm-like or temporary about it,' says the man who has had his share of nights sleeping in the engine room."

"No, just a little empty," Lily said quietly. She looked up to see her father watching her carefully. "I know, I know, there will be pattering little feet around here that don't belong to my obese cat and it won't seem so bad..."

"Oh, Tigerlily," he said and Lily smiled at the childhood name, "Nobody expects you to not be thinking of Alex right now. This is going to be his child, too."

"At least we had the names picked out. More or less," Lily added wistfully.

"Do I get a sneak preview?" Daniel asked, moving back to sit on the edge of the bed.

"Nope." Lily didn't dare tell her father that she and Alex had narrowed down the choices for a boy's name to Daniel (his choice) and Jacob (hers) and that if it was a boy, she was probably going to go with Alex's choice. If it was a girl, then they had agreed on Emily. If - when --  Alex came back, he would at least have that much familiarity with the child he named.

As if on cue, the baby starting moving around and Lily had to squirm right along with it. "Kid's going to be a soccer player," she muttered. "It's ten o'clock, junior, go to sleep."

"You were feisty in the womb, too," her father told her, smiling fondly, presumably at the memories and not at her present discomfort. "Your mother was not surprised when you became a swimmer."

"Yeah, well," Lily said, waving her hand vaguely. She didn't want to talk about her mother right now. Not so soon after she had had words with her father about why she didn't want Star to be present when she gave birth. Her father had not deemed Lily's fear of the baby being fed soymilk and herbal-based formula a good enough excuse, which was fair enough because it wasn't even the truth. She had not tried to explain anything to her mother and Star hadn't asked, although Lily was sure that her parents had spoken about things.

"I have to admit," Daniel said as he stood up again. "I'm a little uneasy with the whole routine for when you go into labor. Teleportation, telepathy...Maybe I'm just an old seaman."

Lily laughed. "You're not old, just a seaman. I'm a little weirded out by it, too," she admitted. "But it's safe and it's probably the best way to go."

The plan, such as it was, involved getting teleported to Westchester. While Lily had her own Ob-Gyn, Doctor Friedenthal had agreed that with the likelihood of the baby being a mutant and the shortage of beds in the hospitals that had already been converted to deal with mutant births, if she had alternate treatment available then it would be best that she go with it.

"Do I get to be teleported, too?" Daniel asked curiously as he looked around for where he had hidden his pajamas.

"I expect so," Lily replied wryly, attempting to lift herself out of the chair with her arms and failing. She knew better than to have sat down in the deep-seated chair in the first place. "Stop laughing and help me up," she groused as she realized her father was watching her.

He did, but Lily's smile turned into a wince as a sharp pain in her back struck. "Ow," she muttered, closing her eyes and riding out the pain. Pregnancy had been a wealth of new experiences, but the amazing array of aches and pains was not one of the more interesting points.

"That wasn't the baby, was it?"

"No, that was my back," Lily answered, breathing deeply and letting go as she realized she was gripping her father's arms tightly. "I think all this walking around tilted funny is starting to get to it."

"Or it could be the start of labor," Daniel pointed out. "It's not always the uterus."

Lily pondered a moment on how... weird it was to be hearing her father talk about her uterus, then shook her head. Then she remembered that the books had said so, too. "Great. Kid's gotta be different starting before birth."

"Well, it's a fine family tradition," Daniel replied sagely, reveling in his daughter's frown. "Just let me know if you get another one, okay?"

"Deal," she said, sighing as her father put down his pajamas. "Not hedging any bets?"

"I don't want to make my initial teleportational voyage in my skivvies."

"Well, if this is it, it's not going to be right away," Lily said, heading in to the kitchen. "I have time to make tea."

It turned out that she had time to make tea, eat her cookie, and head into the study (which was now what should have been the dining room; the kitchen was still large enough to do double-duty) to mark some more exams before the pain became too much. The flashes of agony were still too far apart to cause any sort of panic, but Lily was sort of awed by how calmly she was taking all of this. It was almost like it was someone else who was having the baby - at least when the pain wasn't making her whimper.

Finally, at eleven-thirty, Lily called Jean. No sooner had she hung up the phone than she heard a cry of surprise from the living room. Before her father and Sulven could draw weapons on each other, Lily got out there as quickly as she could.

"Hi, Sulven," she called out as soon as she was close enough. The tiny Askani (dressed in pajamas) and her father were staring at each other menacingly. "Sulven, this is my father. Dad, this is Sulven."

Both parties relaxed noticeably and Lily shook her head. "Let me get my bag and we can go, okay?"

Sulven nodded and Lily went to retrieve her duffel bag, idly wondering why on earth Sulven had pajamas with cats on them.

Once she had returned, she handed the bag to her father and went into the kitchen to loosen the tap in the sink. "I just want to make sure the cat has food and water."

"Your cat doesn't need any food," Sulven muttered. Lily was very disappointed that her father laughed. True as it was, Lily had gotten very defensive about Felix. Only she and Alex were allowed to make fat jokes.

Lily had been teleported twice before, although she was only really paying attention the time Sulven had taken her to one of the secret bases of Cable's network a few months before Akkaba. Contrary to what happened in the movies, teleportation didn't feel like anything, which was part of the weirdness. In one breath you were one place and you were somewhere else the next. That she had been going from one indoor location to another had probably made it less startling - going from, say Alaska to Hawaii, now that would be interesting. Although Lily really didn't think Sulven would have the same appreciation for it. Maybe Nathan...

And so it was that a moment after closing her eyes in her apartment, Lily, her father, and Sulven were in the living room in Westchester. Logan sat on the couch with Zara dozing in his lap and Jean and Scott walked in before they could even say hello.

"Dad, this is Scott and Jean," Lily said as Scott approached, hand extended. What might have been an awkward first meeting between Cyclops and Rear Admiral Beck was cut short by a contraction that was much more intense than the previous ones have been and had her pitching forward with a half-dozen hands reaching out to catch her. "And I think they're going to be meeting their niece or nephew a little sooner than I'd thought. Oww."

Greetings were exchanged as they went through the house down to the med lab. With three-week-old Nate Guthrie being the fourth child born at the mansion, the X-Men had long gotten used to setting up a makeshift maternity room. The med lab had always had a room for non-critical patients, a cheerfully appointed room that had real furniture (apart from the hospital bed) and painted walls and enough light to almost make up for the fact that it had no windows. This was where Lily was guided and where Cecilia and Hank were waiting.

"The guest of honor hath arrived!" Hank cried out cheerfully as handed Lily a giant t-shirt. "It's a little sexier than a hospital gown," he told her when she shook it out dubiously and he shrugged artlessly when she held it up by the Avengers logo.

Looking around at the crowd who was gathering, Lily frowned. Cecilia nodded knowingly and cleared her throat. "All right people, the show doesn't start for another few hours. Get your asses out of here."

Lily smiled as her father was reluctantly herded out by Scott and then turned to face Cecilia and Hank. "Okay, so do I get to turn into a quivering mass of terror before or after I get into the t-shirt?"

"Oh, come now Professor Summers," Hank said with a smile. "You have been a model of dignity and strength thus far..."

"Thus far has only been the slow eclipse of my feet by my belly," Lily retorted as she pulled her t-shirt over her head and replaced it with the bigger one in a smooth motion. While she honestly didn't care one way or the other, she noticed that Hank turned his head. The respect for her modesty was heartening, if unnecessary. There were going to be no secrets by the time this was over. There was also going to be a baby... "Oh, wow. I think the magnitude of what's happening just hit me," she marveled, leaning back to rest her hand on the table nearest her.

Cecilia made a show of checking her watch. "Not bad, chica," she said dryly. "You split the difference between Dana and Sulven. I'd put you a little ahead of Domino, but that's mostly because she spent most of the time cursing Nathan out and it was hard to tell whether it was cursing as a form of affection or just the usual aggression."

"Young Clare is going to have quite the talent for invective," Hank agreed sagely as he waited for Lily to drop her sweatpants and drawers and re-arrange the dress-like t-shirt before gently picking her up and placing her on the bed. Cecilia pulled up the blanket and held something to her belly, then muttered something about fetal heart rate.

Cecilia and Hank explained each test and each needle and each poke and prod, but that only appeased Lily's intellect and that part of her didn't need much appeasing. Even if Lily didn't have complete faith in both Cecilia as a doctor (and a doctor who had done a successful mutant birth three weeks previous) and Hank as her overqualified assistant, Dana was around to catch any emergencies. It was ironic, Lily thought, that Dana's own delivery was considered riskier than her own. Although Dana's life in general was somewhat ironic - a natural healer married to an immortal and she couldn't use her powers on herself to extend her own life.

But none of the rationalizing and intellectual cognizance of the safety of her situation eased the growing trepidation. She was scared for herself and scared for her baby. What if something still happened to her? Who would take care of the baby? She supposed she should have come up with some sort of written instructions to go with the updated will... "Oh, my," she hissed, trying to breathe through the next contraction, accidentally kicking Hank, who was adjusting the stirrups and was thus near a temporarily-freed foot.

"No apologies necessary," Hank said after she tried to offer one, patting her hand clenched tightly around the bed railing. "My timing was less than impeccable and I have only myself to blame."

Lily was tempted to say that she had only Alex to blame, but didn't. Because she really, really didn't want to think about him not being here right now. Or in the future with their child, the one he was so eager to have... She knew he hadn't been upset with her wanting to wait - she knew he had wanted to wait as well. But she had known all along that Alex wanted kids. As many as she would agree to. And now, even if it was by accident and not planning, she was here about to bring their child into the world and he wasn't with her... "Aughh," she whimpered, almost thankful that the contraction had come to distract her. "I think I've had enough of this pregnancy thing. Stop the ride, I want to get off."

"Hang on, Lily," Cecilia told her, her voice absent of the clipped tone that went with her professional manner. "You've held on for nine months and it's almost over. The baby's looking fine, everything's normal for both of you, and it won't be too long now."

"You are giving birth to a Summers and they are always prompt. There are certain perquisites to that," Hank added.

"It's only after the baby's born that you've got a problem," Scott said from the doorway, holding up a hand in defense as Cecilia wheeled to face him. "I was sent as the emissary to see if everything's all right. I'm not sure if they picked me because I'm expendable or because they were counting on you two not harming me out of some vague respect for the chain of command."

"The former," Cecilia told him as she went back to checking a monitor. "You might as well let them come in if it's all right with Lily."

"I can use the distraction," Lily admitted, brushing her bangs back. "But I want everyone aware that I am not giving birth with an audience." She had heard about the festive party-like atmosphere that had surrounded Dana's delivery of Nathan three weeks ago and had been... if not necessarily horrified, then at least disturbed. This was not something she wanted to do in public. It was going to be weird enough with her father present.

"Deal," Scott assured her. "Jean'll use telepathic and telekinetic force if necessary."

Mindful of Lily's wishes - suspiciously mindful, which made her wonder just what Scott had told people - Lily's visitors kept themselves few in number and mild in attitude. At some point Piotr arrived and jokingly offered his steel arm for her to use as a stress reliever before presenting her with a plushie penguin toy that he said could be put to the same use. He stayed with her and her father and Jean and Scott, leaning against the wall in order to stay out of Cecilia's way until Hank announced that perhaps it was time to summon Dana as Lily's cervix was "pleasantly dilated." It wasn't until after Piotr had kissed her forehead and muttered something in Russian that sounded like a prayer before taking his leave that Lily noticed that the plushie penguin was wearing a crucifix obviously meant for her. It was silver and it looked old and Lily, baptized and confirmed a Catholic once upon a time, fingered it and tried to remember as much of the Pater Noster as she could before another contraction hit.

Scott, typically reserved, squeezed her hand and told her in no uncertain terms that she'd be fine, that Alex - wherever he was - would be proud of her for her strength. He squeezed Jean's shoulder meaningfully on his way out, but if anything else was said Lily didn't know as she had stopped paying attention as the pain peaked. The contractions felt like her body was fighting itself, pushing her to expel all of her internal organs at once, and Lily tried to assure herself that this was all natural and nothing wrong was happening to the baby.

"Just us and the docs," Her father said from his stool after Lily could breathe again. Hank had parked him on a tall stool at the head of Lily's bed so that she didn't have to turn too much to see him. Realizing he was right, she smiled weakly at him and then turned as Dana, dressed in what passed for (in the Shi'ar fabricator) as medical scrubs, entered. Conscious of the fact that she was the official backup plan, the last resort, and especially sympathetic to Lily's nerves and plight, she hung back, sitting down on the stool at the far end of the room.

As another contraction began, Cecilia said something to Jean and then all of a sudden, the pain stopped even as Lily could feel her uterus spasm. Her cry of anguish turned into one of surprise.

"Sorry," Jean explained as she came to her side. "I didn't mean to do that unannounced. I couldn't block off your pain receptors until you got to a certain point in your labor. This is much more effective than an epidural and much safer for you and the baby. It'll hold until the baby's born, but I'm going to have to release it right after so Hank and Cecilia can make sure everything's all right. You'll get a break from the worst of the pain, though."

Gasping for air that suddenly was much more available and much cooler, Lily nodded.

"Perks of being related to a telepath," Daniel mused thoughtfully. "Makes anesthesiology a whole new ballfield."

"All right, Lily," Cecilia said. "Now you get to push. Just don't try to pop the baby out at once."

Lily did anyway. It felt weird and uncomfortable in a way that had nothing to do with the nonexistent pain (although the absence itself made it all the more strange) and everything to do with the very real idea that she was putting a watermelon through a keyhole.

Free to think clearly again - it was very strange to feel the motions of contractions without the accompanying pain - Lily had her wits about her again in enough time to catch the smothered snort of laughter that Cecilia had done her best to hide.

"What the hell could be so funny about my cervix?" she asked.

"Doctor Reyes and I had wondered about what the baby would present first," Hank explained in a smooth voice. Deceptively smooth. "The head has presented, all as it should be."

"You two had a bet about whether my child would breech?" Lily asked, outrage warring with surprise. She nonetheless followed Cecilia's silent exhortation for her to push again as the contraction began.

"Not a wager and nothing so indecorous," Hank assured her, standing up so that Lily could better see him and his sincere expression. "In our admittedly small sampling of mutant births, we have noticed that positioning has been less than ideal. We thought it odd, both in terms of the general population and in terms of the fact that all of the children so far have been psionically gifted and perhaps might have sensed the proper positioning. Push, please? ...But, admittedly out of perversity, we had both suggested to the other prior to your arrival that you and your child would be different - and you have proven us correct. It is a good thing, Lily. A very good thing... Push, that's a girl!"

Cecilia was going to catch the baby, so she moved into position as Hank stripped off a layer of plastic gloves and double-checked the warming bed and the bulb syringe and other tools for the baby. Lily watched him intently, not wanting to pay too much attention to Cecilia after she heard the word 'episiotomy.' Her father was holding her left hand in his and brushing her hair back with his right, not saying anything but offering his presence.

Exhortations to push and hold back were answered as best Lily could, but even without the pain it was becoming harder to follow directions. After so many hours, her body was tired and wanted to do one thing and Cecilia was demanding that she do another and her mind was having a hard time convincing her body that it really should listen to the good doctor.

Finally, Cecilia announced that the crown was through and Lily cried out in relief. It took a long moment for the shoulder to come through - Cecilia muttering in half-Spanish about last minute indecision - and then came the most unpleasant feeling of voiding followed by intense relief and cries of exultation from the other side of the drape.

"Congratulations, Mrs. Summers, it's a little scientist," Hank crowed delightedly as he clamped the cord. "It's a boy, Lily! And I have to say, if it weren't obvious that Alex was the father, it would be obvious that Alex was the father."

Lily's relief turned into a mass of conflicted emotions - the arrival of her son - her son -- and the acute pain of missing his father... She was crying helplessly before she knew it. Her father was hovering over her head, kissing her forehead and whispering words that really didn't need to be heard to be understood and she was too lost to clearly hear Hank until she felt pressure on her abdomen and remembered that she had one push left and that Jean had to remove the blocks and an intense wave of pain washed over her as the third stage of labor was completed. It was as it should have been - her brain suddenly being made aware that her body had just been through hours of hell.

But any concern she had for herself faded when she heard Cecilia curse in Spanish. "Oh, my stars and garters," Hank murmured in awe.

"What?" Lily cried out even as she heard her son - Daniel - cry out his first breaths. "What's the matter?!? Let me see him! What is it?"
 
"It's all right, Lily," Jean said and Lily turned to her, having completely forgotten that she was in the room.

"Then why can't I see him?" Anguish and fear raced through her - what had she done wrong that her baby was having problems? What if she lost Alex's son... "What's going on?"

"Junior here set off my force field the moment we cleared his airways," Cecilia said with a preternatural calm that gave off just the hint of strain as if she was preoccupied. "And it's taking us a little longer than it should to check him out. But he's healthy as a horse, Lily. Really and truly. Ten fingers and ten toes and blue eyes and a tiny bit of blond hair. He's also a fidget and we can't lay him down on the warming table just yet... Dana, there should be a rubber-backed foam pad in the top drawer of the table you're sitting next to. Bring it here, please?"

"Let me help," Jean suggested, walking around Lily to where Cecilia was holding the baby. "I've got a little experience with hard-to-hold babies."

Even as she struggled to sit up, Lily couldn't see anything and her anxiety was increasing with each moment. Finally, the baby was carefully lifted telekinetically out of Cecilia's hands and wrapped immediately in the blanket Hank was holding. The little blue cap was placed snugly on and the entire ensemble was floated slowly over to Lily, who fairly grabbed him out of the air. She cradled him in her left arm and took a good look.

"Oh, Alex," she whispered, coughing out a sob as she wiped away tears from her eyes with her free hand. He should be here. He should be with her looking down at their baby who looked just like him. Daniel. She ran a finger down his still-damp cheek and he turned towards it, tiny mouth slightly open. She ran her thumb across his tiny palms, checking the fingers for herself. "Heya, kiddo," she said to him. "Welcome to life on the outside."

"Lily?"

She started when she felt a hand on her shoulder. It was her father, looking awed and full of love. Lily blinked, having honestly lost track of the fact that there were other people around.

"Now that you've got a hold on him," Hank said quietly as he approached. "And I'd really like to know how that's possible, but that will wait. I need to drop in the silver nitrate now. Can you hold his head still for me?"

Lily did and he did and little Daniel didn't seem too thrilled with the process, but it was over quickly and Lily looked up at Hank and Cecilia. "What's wrong with him?"

"He manifested," Cecilia said simply as she held out a stethoscope to check first Daniel's and then Lily's heartbeat, her force field glowing slightly at the contact. "He's some sort of energy producer. It feels like an electrical shock, but that could just be the effect he had on my force field. Although I don't know why he's not doing anything in your arms - or how you can even hold him. Maybe the familial link goes further than we suspected? I don't know and this isn't the time to think about it."

"Lily?" Dana asked from the side, a smile on her face. "Does Junior have a name?"

Lily smiled. "Everyone, this is Daniel Bae Summers. Daniel, this is everyone. Or some of everyone."

"Daniel?" her father squawked, standing up from where he had been hunched over his grandson, holding one tiny hand between his fingers. "But... But... No. Why did you name him after me?"

"It wasn't me," Lily explained calmly, holding Daniel a little closer. "It was Alex's choice. I had a different name in mind, but I liked this one. If he turns out like you, then I'll be happy and I'm sure Alex will be, too."

Daniel (the elder) was torn between embarrassment and continued protest and extreme humility and he just shook his head and wiped away a tear.

"Okay, the warming table is set up," Dana announced, breaking up the mood with the timing that only an empath could have.

"Then let's put him down for a few minutes," Cecilia said. It was a suggestion, but it was one that wasn't going to be refused. "He needs to get settled and we have a few more tests we're going to have to figure out how to run if the electricity comes back on and you have a few more tests to take as well."

With one last kiss for her baby boy, Lily let Jean telekinetically take him away to his warming bed. Now that the excitement was over and she knew Daniel was safe, Lily let the exhaustion take over. She leaned back in bed and let Hank and Cecilia do as they would, idly watching her father and Jean and Dana watch the baby in his bed. She felt sore and trampled and drained, utterly drained, and more tired than she could ever imagine. Eventually, she just closed her eyes and listened. Daniel had stopped crying and presumably gone to sleep and the last thing she heard before falling asleep herself was the piercing alarm of one of the medical monitors still attached to her arm.


"Lily?"

Lily muttered something about letting someone who had just delivered a baby sleep for a while when a tiny cry woke her up completely, reminding her without words that someone else had had a rough night, too.

"I'm up," she muttered, opening her eyes and blinking away the brightness of the lights.

"Thank you," she heard her father muttering and looked at him. He was looking up at the ceiling as if in prayer. Piotr was standing next to him, leaning against the wall casually but looking concerned. Jean and Scott were there as well, all of them out of the way of Hank and Cecilia, both of whom were practically hovering. Even groggy, Lily could feel the tension and knew that it was centered around her - and thankfully not the baby.

"How long was I out for?" She asked, moving carefully to sit up and finding that it was easy. Suspiciously easy considering how much pain she'd been in earlier and she felt panic rise up. She moved to sit up further and she felt a hand on her shoulder pulling her back down. "What's going on?"

"There was a complication," Cecilia said simply, stepping back as Jean telekinetically brought the crying Daniel over from where he had been lying, the others standing back even as they craned to take a look. His face was screwed up in distress and he was bright red for his efforts. "You hemorrhaged."

"I did?" Lily felt a little like Snow White catching up after her nap. Especially as she noticed that she was not wearing the same t-shirt she had fallen asleep in. Instead, she was in a baseball-style pajama shirt with buttons down the front and she could feel underwear and what were probably the matching bottoms. She looked down at Daniel, relieved that he still looked like a newborn, that she hadn't been unconscious long enough to miss anything.

Daniel, who was safe in her arms and apparently quite hungry. She put the tip of her little finger by his mouth and he turned and stopped crying as he tried to suck on it... Oh. "Umm. I get a lesson in this, right?"

There was an amused chuckled by the group surrounding her, one that was laced still with some unease.

"I think this is where we bow out gracefully, guys," Scott said from where he was standing. Piotr and Daniel (the elder) muttering agreement. "We'll see you after someone's had breakfast," he told her. Lily noticed that he was still in the clothes that he had worn the night before and was unshaven, that all three men were similarly unkempt.

"I'll see you in a bit, Dane," Daniel said, reaching out to touch the now-dry blond hair. Lily could see the spark pass, but her father didn't flinch. The concern over Daniel's having manifested returned with a rush, erasing whatever curiosity she had about why nobody else had gotten any sleep.

"Dane?" She asked instead, choosing to put that fear out of her mind for now. He was safe in her arms and he was hungry. They would worry about everything else later. "You're that unhappy with him being named after you that you decided to change it while I was sleeping?"

"It was getting confusing," Daniel protested, looking both exhausted and petulant. "And I refuse to answer to 'Big Dan'. And I refuse on his behalf to answer to 'Little Dan'. You and Alex should have considered this complication."

"We'll talk about this later," Lily sighed as Daniel - Dane? - realized that the fingertip was a decoy and started expressing his hunger again. Loudly. "He doesn't come with a volume control, does he?"

Another round of laughter, this time less ill-at-ease, before Hank followed the three men out, his loudly popping neck lending credence to his pleading a need to see sunshine, and Lily was left alone with Jean and Cecilia. In theory, she already knew how to do this - Doctor Friedenthal had gone over breast-feeding when Lily had expressed a preference for that over formula. (Her mother had been a little too relieved at that announcement, Lily thought.) It was just... she wanted to make sure she got it right.

She did. "Wow, this is weird," she mused. But despite the strange sensation for her, Daniel seemed happy - ravenous, actually, and Lily worried that she had slept too long and let him get too hungry. Starving her baby right off the bat...

"You really didn't have too much of a choice, chica," Cecilia told her after she asked. "And he's not technically starving. Just hungry."

Lily switched sides, Daniel moving reluctantly and the switch between arms not yet coming smoothly.

"What happened?" Lily asked, not looking up from Daniel. "My father doesn't normally remember that he's got a cross around his neck."

Cecilia sighed and Lily finally looked up and noticed that Cecilia looked exhausted, far more so than from just having been up all night delivering the baby. The hemorrhage must have been...

"As I said, you hemorrhaged," she said slowly and in the voice that sounded more Dr. Reyes and less Cece. "It was sudden and substantial and if Dana hadn't been around, we might have lost you."

Lily let out a deep breath she didn't realize she had been holding. It was obviously the short version of the story.

"But instead, you're fine," Jean broke in emphatically. "And further along in your healing than Dana herself is, actually. When she healed you, she sort of had to take care of everything. You'll be a little sore and a lot tired, but physiologically, you're weeks from having just had a baby instead of hours."

Lily shook her head, not wanting to dwell on what nearly had been. Daniel, apparently unable to be touched by anyone but her without a reaction, would have been orphaned until Alex's return...It wasn't going to happen, at least not from this, and that was the important part. "Is Dana all right?"

"She nearly passed out from the strain," Cecilia admitted, putting her hand to her head and suddenly realizing that she was still wearing her medical cap. Taking it off, she shook out her hair. "She's upstairs sleeping it off with Sam and the baby. She'll be fine."

"That's good," Lily said, unsure of what else to say. 'Dane' might be a very good nickname for Daniel considering that Dana had saved the lives of both of his parents. Of course, then Lorna was going to get all suspicious... "So now all I have to worry about is how to let someone else hold Daniel without getting a shock."

Cecilia indicated that she should stop Daniel from feeding any more and she did, watching his mouth move as the reflex was still active. Now that he was a few hours older and looking a little less wrinkled, Daniel was looking more and more like the baby pictures Lily had seen of Alex. A different nose, though, and Lily assumed that it was probably hers, then.

"A quick meeting of the minds," Jean began with a sarcastic snort, "came up with the preliminary conclusion that Dane - Daniel - is possibly electrokinetic. It stands to reason, I suppose - his father and uncle are energy producers as well... You're unaffected, which sort of makes sense considering that Scott and Alex can't do anything to each other...I don't know how much greater or lesser a more distant family connection works, though. Nathan's still in Alaska and I didn't want to pry into your father's mind. He didn't complain, but it is his first grandchild and I don't think that a couple of volts is going to dissuade him."

Lily snorted. "That would be Dad."

Looking down, Daniel was almost back to sleep. "Oh, good. Food coma's setting in," she murmured, stifling a yawn. "At least one of us is getting some rest."

"Are there any Danger Room sessions with Havok and Cable?" Cecilia asked as she continued putting away the medical equipment. The room was basically clean - that there had been an intense and apparently complicated labor in here only hours before could not be readily seen. Coupled with the fact that she was relatively pain-free, Lily had only Daniel dozing in her arms to convince her that it all hadn't been a very vivid dream.

"I honestly don't think so," Jean said, narrowing her eyes in concentration. Lily started a bit when the buttons of her pajama top fastened by themselves and Daniel stirred, opening his eyes, and then half-closing them again.

A moment later, the door swished open and Bobby came in. He was obviously freshly showered and had that faint blush that Lily had learned was the 'haven't quite recovered from a Danger Room session' look. "I just came by to check on everyone. I figured everything was okay..." He stopped behind Cecilia and put his hands on her shoulders and squeezed. Cecilia fairly squeaked as Bobby tried to give a gentle massage.

"Get away from me Drake," Cecilia growled without any real heat as she tried weakly to duck away from his hands. "I am unfit for close human contact."

Bobby held fast, though, and murmured something that made Cecilia blush faintly and Jean snicker, but Lily didn't especially care. She could watch her son sleep for hours. Actually, she hoped he did sleep for hours because she was starting to remember how tired she was.

"I think they're done setting up your room," Jean said and Lily reluctantly looked up. "They had to insulate the crib. It's got metal wheels."

Lily nodded. When she was less exhausted, she was going to have to make up a list of the changes she'd have to make at home so that Daniel would be comfortable and nobody else would be affected. "We should figure out how many volts he's carrying," she said, trying not to think on the absurdity of the similarities between her son and a battery.

"So can I get a peek at the newest member of the clan?" Bobby asked, finally letting go of Cecilia so she could go back to printing out records.

Lily shifted the drowsing baby so that his face wasn't pressed up against her chest. Daniel was almost asleep and didn't seem to care.

"It's a little Alex," Bobby exclaimed in a whisper as he leaned over and tilted his head to get a good angle. "Heya, Sparky!"

"Don't call him that," Cecilia hissed, hitting him in the arm.

"Ow! I didn't mean it in a bad way," he protested. He looked dramatically persecuted for a moment and then concerned. "The little tyke is almost a nephew to me. You're not mad at me, Lily, are you?"

"Only if you do it again," Lily said, trying to frown and not quite managing it. It was hard to get mad at him and even harder to stay mad. Also, she knew he missed Alex very much and occasionally inappropriate humor was how Bobby expressed most of his more sincere emotions. "I don't want that catching on. It looks like I'm getting stuck with 'Dane' and that's bad enough."

"Deal," Bobby agreed with a nod. "All right. I'll have plenty of time to see everyone later. I'm going to get out of here before I get into any more trouble." With that, he nodded to Lily and Jean and walked towards the door. He stopped to put his arm around Cecilia from behind and kiss the side of her neck, causing her to make a noise of surprise and then try to elbow him in the ribs. She missed because he was already well past.

Lily's smile turned wistful as it did whenever she saw friends being affectionate with their significant others. But at least she had concrete proof of Alex's love, nestled in the crook of her arm. She just wished desperately that Alex were there to see them. And with that, the tears came back. Whatever Dana had done to heal her hadn't done a thing for her pregnancy hormones.

"You can get up and go shower and change if you want," Cecilia said as she put down her pen. "Or else you can just go back to sleep... Basically, you're free to do what you'd like. El bébé is going to stay down here today and maybe tonight, just so we can make sure his immune system gets cranking up to speed. It'll give everyone a little time to set up your room so that there are no electrical incidents."

"Can I stay with him?" Lily asked, not wanting Daniel to be alone in the med lab.

"If you'd like," Cecilia said, shrugging. "But he's going to be sleeping most of the day and we're monitoring him, so don't worry about him being left unattended. He won't be."

"I'm keeping an eye on him," Jean told her, tapping her temple to indicate telepathy.

In the end, Lily just went across the hall to the locker room attached to the Danger Room and showered before returning to the room and going back to sleep. She was awakened a few hours later by Daniel crying. Jean came down and Lily had an audience for her first diaper change as a mother, after which Rogue appeared and said that she was the baby's bodyguard and Lily was being ordered upstairs into the sunlight for a few hours.


"Lily?"

She looked up from her book (one of the countless tomes on motherhood and post-partum life that were around the mansion) and saw her father. "Hey."

"You feeling better?" he asked as he entered and sat down on the edge of the bed.

After a night in the med lab, both Lily and Daniel had been moved upstairs to what had once been Alex's room. The night had been long - as exhausted as Lily had been, she hadn't been able to sleep and, in hindsight, had been completely unprepared for what the hours of stillness would do to her. The post-partum blues had hit hard - the strain of the past few months coupled with thoughts of how little Daniel would have so many special needs and limitations until he was old enough to learn how to control his mutation and it all came wrapped up in a desperate, suffocating, palpable agony of missing Alex.

Jean had come down in the middle of the night - apparently Lily's anguish had set the four child psis into fits. And when Jean, and later Scott and Daniel, had been unable to staunch the flow of tears, Jean had simply sat there and created a psionic shield so that Lily could cry herself to sleep.

"I'm no longer acting like Linda Blair in 'The Exorcist'," she replied dryly and Daniel smiled uneasily, as if he were apologetic for finding the remark either funny or apt.

She had woken up this morning in the med lab bed, alone except for a fussing Daniel whom she was able to feed without panic or incident. Hank had come around early, bearing breakfast for both he and Lily. They had eaten quietly, Hank saying little except to inform Lily that she had unofficially lost the war to have Daniel called anything but Dane. And then Hank had given both mother and child a check-up and announced that they were free to leave. Lily had been up in her room with the baby ever since. Curiously, although Lily privately thought that nothing around here happened curiously, there had been no visitors.

"It's been a lot, honey," Daniel said with a shrug. "And that's not an excuse. But the point of fact is that you've basically dealt with everything that's happened from the moment you found out Alex disappeared until now by pushing it off to the side. Deferment only works for so long. Trust me, I know this from experience."

Lily looked up at him sharply. She had always liked to think that she was close to her father, as close as could be managed considering that he had spent most of her life on a boat. But there were moments when she realized that there was more to the story than she would like to assume. Part of her knew that she was close to her father mostly because she spent so much time running from her mother. And then it dawned on her that maybe she wasn't the only one who had been running. A few years ago, after she had gotten engaged, her father had sat her down for a long talk about how marriage was an endless effort, that love was necessary, but not sufficient. And he hadn't had to say that that was what had ended his own marriage.

"You've been plowing through life for the last six months," he went on, looking down at his hands and up at her at varying intervals. "As if there was some work quota you could fulfill and Alex would come back to you. Or you'd magically stop hurting..."

"I believe they call that the 'bargaining' stage of grief, Dad," Lily commented evenly.

"You've got the baby now," Daniel said. "And he's going to take so much of your time and almost all of your energy and I want you to promise me that you're going to take time for yourself. To heal."

"How do I heal from this?" Lily asked bitterly, putting the book down with a thump. "How do I fix the hole in my heart? He's not dead, he's not alive, he's not anywhere anyone can find him. How do I move on when I know he could come back to me - to us - at any moment? What if I move on and he can't find me?"

Daniel rubbed his hands over his face and sighed. "Don't you think that Alex, wherever he is, is wondering the same thing? Don't you think that he's wondering what happens if he ever gets back here and he's so different that you don't know him anymore? That you won't love him anymore?"

Lily just stared, both at the words and at the vehemence with which they were spoken. They had the air of being well-worn, of having been tossed around in someone's thoughts for decades. And they probably had been. Her father had enlisted on his eighteenth birthday and had seen action at the tail end of Vietnam as his welcome to military life before taking a break for college and a commission. For all of the everyday reminders that her father was a career military man, Lily still, in her mind's eye, just thought of the Navy as a job. She had never been forced to recognize that her father had had to reconcile the same sorts of conflicts that Alex and the rest of the superheroes had to, that being a soldier - for the X-Men or for the US Government - changed you in soul-deep ways.

"Whenever he comes home, Lily, both of you are going to be different people," Daniel cautioned once she looked at him again. "If he had come home a day after he disappeared, you two would still be different people. This changes you. And it's up to you to decide how you change, not if you change. Because it's not an 'if.' It's about how well you adapt once you're together again.

"I saw this when I got home from Vietnam. I was a kid and I didn't understand any of it back then, but I do now. Or at least I'd like to think that I do. I saw the wives of the POWs, I watched them try to cope. Some of them just froze time - they wouldn't even get new clothes. And some of them just assumed the worst and made like they were widows... Nothing can stop the pain, Lily. There's no mutant power that can make your heart stop hurting like Jean made your labor pains stop."

"So what should I do?" It came out as a whisper.

"Learn to live," Daniel replied with a shrug, accepting that they were simple words just as he was accepting them as simple truth. "Decide who you want to be and work towards it. Alex thinks you are a special person. He trusts you enough to raise his children. So all you have to do is be true to yourself and you don't have to worry about what Alex is going to think because he's going to approve."

"That's it?" Lily asked with a humorless chuckle. It was such a fantastic thought. Like Peter Pan - 'I think I can fly'.

"As far as I can reckon it, yeah," Daniel replied with a self-effacing shrug. "Of course, knowing and doing aren't one and the same."

There was silence then and, as if waiting for the opportunity, baby Daniel started to work his way up from a whimper to a cry.

"Great," Lily said to the baby with no real rancor as she stood up. He had been changed recently and shouldn't be hungry, so she suspected he was just bored. And then she wondered if you could be bored at not-quite two days old. "You have to put your two cents in just like your namesake."

He was looking fairly alert, so she picked him up and brought him back to the bed. He went straight for her breast and she frowned. "Is this a reflex or have you inherited your father's endless appetite?"

Obviously Daniel - Dane - didn't answer her. But she knew that he was going to be constantly looking to feed for the next while. Her milk hadn't come in yet, but she had already been supplied with all sorts of implements for when it did. They looked like a cross between torture devices and sex toys.
  
"Do you want me to..."

"Dad," Lily sighed as she reached for the towel and awkwardly draped it over her left shoulder. "We are going to have very short conversations for the next few months if you start fleeing every time the baby's hungry. I'll get the under-the-towel routine down sooner than later."

This time, however, Daniel helped her arrange the towel so that she could still see what she was doing and baby Dane ('might as well,' Lily sighed to herself) nursed quietly. He didn't seem interested in switching sides, so Lily was able to awkwardly button up with her free hand. Being left-handed and holding the baby on her left side - she wanted to bear Dane on her stronger arm - had its complications. "How bad is the shock if you hold him?" she asked as she struggled with the top button.

"Hold him? I don't know," Daniel admitted. "Touching him in your arms is only a little shock, like static electricity. It was stronger when he was down in his crib, so I assume it would be like that...Of course, there's a lot less electricity being sent around up here than down in the medical area... Should I try?"

He held out his arms and, after pondering on how fast Dana could get here if she accidentally electrocuted her father, Lily handed over Dane.

"Well, I definitely feel it," Daniel said with a wry smile that melted into a genuine one as he looked down at his grandson. "But it's not like standing on the deck of a destroyer - it's just a little hum. I can take it."

Lily frowned, getting off of the bed to see what the undersides were made of. It was a wooden bed frame and she could see no metal screws at the bottoms of the legs. Of course, her father had one foot on the floor. "I don't want to fry your nerves, though," she said as she got back up on the bed and indicated that he lift his leg. "He's probably pushing a few milliamps."

He did with a wry smile. "Hell, I've been electrocuted enough times in thirty years at sea."

"I'm going to have to attach the little voltmeter we have in the toolbox to his onesie once we get home," Lily said with a shake of her head. Attaching a voltmeter to her son. "See how much he carries at particular points during the day. I can't imagine him bearing enough volts to short things out on his own; although I suppose that there will be problems with items that are already plugged in and on. I'll start checking up on the going rates of the surge protectors we use at the labs at school. They can't be too bad if we let the undergrads play with them. Either way, it's not going to be much of an issue for a while."

"You're taking him back to the apartment?" Daniel asked, surprised.

Lily looked at him strangely. "Why wouldn't I? It's our home. I have finals to finish grading and a cat to feed and a life to live. Getting the baby's room adjusted for his mutation won't be that hard. And it's not like he's going to be wandering around on his own for a few months. Why?"

"I thought you were going to hang around here for a while," Daniel replied a little uneasily. "Until something gets figured out..."

"Nothing is going to get figured out until Dane is old enough to learn how to control his absorption and releasing of electrical energy. That's going to be years - just like how the psionic kids don't learn off the bat how to deal with their mutations. I'm not going to live here until then."

"And what if there's more to his mutation than just being a battery?"

"Well, then we'll deal with whatever comes," Lily replied crossly. She was starting to get the idea that certain people had spent a lot of time talking to her father about certain ideas and she really, really didn't like that. "I'm on leave next semester. It's May now and I'm going to have until the end of January with nothing but my own research to think about and my son to take care of. And I can certainly combine the two if I have to. My baby is not going to become a prisoner of his mutation."

"But..."

"Dad, stop. Just stop," Lily growled, holding out her hands to take Dane back and gesturing to her father that it was because his own hair was starting to stand on end and not out of pique. "I don't care what everyone told you. I am not moving up here and I am not going to start separating Dane out from the rest of the world. He's a normal baby in every respect but one. And you know what? You said I could be true to Alex by being true to myself? Well Alex would hate the idea of me keeping him here allegedly for his own good. Absolutely hate it."

Daniel put up his hands in surrender as Lily put Dane back in his crib.

The silence was still tense as there was a knock on the open door. "Bad time?" Kurt asked as he peered in.

"Not at all," Lily replied easily, then making a face as she saw what was in Kurt's hand. "But that better be for the baby and not me," she warned, gesturing with her finger at the camera Kurt was holding.

"Indeed it is," Kurt agreed, nodding sagely as he stepped inside the room. "I have been bidden by Ororo to take a picture of young Dane to send down to the New Lands. Although you are looking, as always, quite fetching and I do not think a photograph of you would be a bad thing."

"Well, you're in luck," Lily told him, leaning over to look in the crib. Dane's eyes were half-lidded. "He's still vaguely conscious."

Kurt went over to the crib. "I won't startle him, will I?"

"It's too bright in here to need a flash," she replied, looking around. "And he can't see more than a foot right now, so other than that, no."

"Guten abend, Dane," Kurt sang as he looked through the camera's picture viewer. "Can you say 'Guten abend'? We shall endeavor to teach you a civilized tongue once you are a little older. Piotr can have his coterie of Russian psi's. We shall form our own Bavarian clique, yes? Your father speaks excellent German and has good taste in beer, so I think it is a natural fit. I shall take your silence as tacit approbation and flaunt it in front of my esteemed former colleague."

Lily snorted her laughter and watched as Kurt took a few pictures. "You do know that you are taking pictures of him next to the toy that Piotr got him, don't you?"

Kurt looked at the penguin - Lily was wearing the crucifix - and made a sour face. "Ah. Well, I shall have to raise the stakes a little."

"Oh, Kurt, I wasn't implying that there was an auction going on," Lily protested. "Dane's going to love you no matter what."

"This I know," Kurt agreed, nodding sagely. "I am kind and generous and will teach him good style tips such as how best to accessorize the hard-to-coordinate dinner bib and how important it is to tip the bottle server well. That, and I am a rather intriguing shade of indigo and small children do seem to go for colors."

Daniel laughed outright at the mournful tone Kurt finished on and Kurt turned and smiled at him. In all of the fuss surrounding the birth, Lily had forgotten that this was her father's crash-course in the X-Men. While he had dealt with them in the course of his career in the Navy and they were all higher-profile with the Cairo Accords to be signed next month giving rise to the XSE, he was now meeting them all strictly as people - people who were concerned about his daughter and grandson.

A slight commotion from outside in the hallway interrupted her thoughts and she could make out the shouts of Nicholas and Zara as they tore through the house.

"And this is what I have to look forward to," she said as the loud screeching, now in the distance - probably downstairs, was suddenly cut off.

Kurt and her father just smiled.


"Oops. I thought I put a surge protector there. Ah, well. We just won't tell the nice guy at the Apple store that you're electrokinetic, okay? I'm sure their products just spontaneously blow like that all the time. Although we're really going to have to work on your poker face. You're as bad as your father - even when you're innocent you look guilty... Although at the moment I am getting the distinct impression that that particular beatific grin means something else entirely. Like, say, a new diaper."

*

"All right. Now unless you've added teleportation or telekinesis to your repertoire, there's really no good reason that you should be over here instead of over there. Did you figure out how to roll over when I wasn't looking? Do you want to do it again so that I can pretend that I saw it the first time and I can call everyone up and gush at how brilliant you are?"

*

"I have to tell you kiddo, you're awfully easily amused. Although maybe you're on to something with this toe-sucking thing. Me? I'm still just getting used to seeing my toes again... Just don't spoil your appetite, okay?"




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