Jade Imperium - Convocation, Pt. 1

Gatac 2013-09-16 16:01:36
"So," Hugh begins, "since it looks like we're here for the long haul, we should settle in. I'll head over to the PX and grab some stuff. Angel, perhaps you can look at the paperwork if that's not 100% sorted yet - and Zaef, maybe you can go look for a bed for Garrett? I don't know in how much of a hurry Naloni is, but my mom was in labor with Cora for the better part of two days, so...might be best if he has a place to rest before he meets his daughter."
Gatac 2013-09-17 15:26:54
Hugh returns an hour later with a bigass brown paper bag in one hand and a dangerously full styrofoam tray with paper coffee cups in the other, with a milky plastic bag swinging below that.

"Okay," he says, passing stuff off. "So I walked into Sonic and asked for breakfast burritos and long story short, they've got five different kinds, so I got three of each and some roast - I figure it's still better than hospital coffee. It's all on me, but you have to promise not to mention my name in court after you wake up from your heart attacks." He keeps the plastic bag with him. "Toiletries," he explains. "Figured some of us might want to clean up."

As they sit there waiting for word, Hugh's thoughts go to his family. Sure, he recorded a vox message for them on his way back here to let them know everyone's fine and that Ngawai's having her kid now, but he feels compelled to make some conversation, and family's a good thematic fit, so he just lets loose with his thoughts.

"It's weird being a dad, you know," he begins. "Because suddenly, you're responsible - really responsible - for someone other than yourself. You're a parent. You used to be a kid, then adolescent, then young adult, drifted through your twenties and maybe thirties, and it was always me, me, me, but - suddenly you've got more to worry about than yourself. Your kids are more important than you. I think it's that simple, from the day you become a father, you're always gonna play second fiddle even in your own mind. You're gonna be cold, hungry and miserable before you let it hit your kids. And the things you'd do for your kids...you know how people say they'd do anything to protect their kids? I get that now. You look at us...'anything' becomes a little scary."

Hugh smiles. "But no matter how tough it is - and I know that I've got it easy, considering - and no matter how much you worry, how much it takes out of you in every way - there's nothing in this world like a pair of little eyes looking up at you, saying Daddy and meaning Superman. Nothing. Just...nothing. And I guess what I'm saying is, Garrett's gonna find that out for himself. And that moment, there's gonna be nobody in the universe happier than him. But he's gonna need us. As uncles and aunts, as babysitters, as gofers, as a sounding board. I know I'd get nowhere if I didn't have Sijet and Piugash and Hiigra to bounce thoughts off every day. It's so hard to keep perspective, you know? And you just need somebody to anchor you, someone who gets what it means."

"So, that's my dad rant. Sorry, everyone. I'll shut up now."
threadbare 2013-09-20 02:26:14
Hunter smiles.

"It's amazing, the way that switches on, that instinct of having brought something adorable, helpless, and unbelievably precious into the world. It's even more amazing when you start to see little minds forming behind those eyes, growing languages and manners and beliefs about the world, first among them that you'll protect them from everything. You can't of course, and that's the point. At some point, they'll realize that you're just human beings, and if you're lucky, they'll forgive for it. My kids, I think they're just about getting to that point. Divorce is a hell of a thing to put a family through, but at least in our case there was not one second they didn't know we both loved them dearly and would do anything we could for them. What I'm saying is, sometimes life is going to punch you square in the mouth, and having people you love and protect makes it hurt a lot more. But it's still worth it." Hunter pauses for a second, pulling himself back on track.

"Hugh's right, though. A lot of us have family relations that are small, or not on good terms, or somewhere far away. But family is wherever you can find it, and a loving extended families is one of the greatest gifts a child can receive. That's especially important in our line of work, where you never quite know if you're going to come back next time. These kids aren't going to have a 'normal' childhood, whatever that means, but it's up to all of us to ensure it's going to be nurturing and caring."
CrazyIvan 2013-09-23 21:44:41
Angel takes the small stack of paperwork that bringing a new child into the world involves with a nod, retreating to a far corner of the waiting room to look it over, make sure all the i's are dotted and the t's crossed. For the most part they are, though Angel makes a few marks here and there - nothing serious, and nothing live altering, but Garrett and Ngawai had left some of the trivialities unmarked in what had clearly been sorted into a "deal with this bullshit later" pile.

That, and despite Ngawai's alacrity with the language, her "9"s still looked like "4"s with ambition.

Working on the paperwork, and a grab-bag burrito, lets him be a little apart from Hugh and Hunter's speeches on the nature of fatherhood - close enough to hear, but at that magical line where not participating in the conversation isn't as much a condemnation of its content as much as being in another part of the room. He doesn't disagree, doesn't begrudge them the sentiment...he's just not sure it applies to him. It's not fair to imagine Tora in the other room, surrounded with machines and attentive nurses - the rapidity of their relationship, however genuine their feelings may have been, meant he didn't really know her feelings on children.

He just wasn't sure it applied to him, a club within which he did not quite belong.

Is that a 1 or a 7?
e of pi 2013-09-24 14:12:14
It takes Luis about forty minutes before he makes it to the Narsai’i side of the Gate and his vox code lights up Arketta’s. He’s slightly frantic when she picks up. “Is everything okay? Took me another half hour to park the ship, and by the time I got to the medicae, they said you’d all crossed to Narsai.”

"Ngawai demanded Naloni be born Narsai'i, so here we are," Arketta replies. "She is brave, but crazy."

“Brave, crazy, but otherwise fine, right?” Luis asks.

"Yes, she is fine," Arketta says. He recognizes a thoughtful and distant tone in her voice. "We are in the medicae lab in the research part of Mesas Negras."

Luis pauses in trying to find his way to the new Gate motor pool. “What’s on your mind?”

"You and me, having children," Arketta admits, and sighs. "I want a child. But...it's complicated."

Luis nods. “Okay, that sounds like a conversation to have, but not by vox. I’ll be there in a few minutes once I can find a lift, then we can talk.”

"Okay," Arketta says, and disconnects.

When Luis arrives at the medicae, it takes him a few minutes to get oriented--the combination of sterile, institutional lab corridors and Imperium tech is enough to get him turned around. Certainly it’s not that he’s distracted and in a rush. Still, after a quick stop to ask an orderly (lab tech?) for instructions, he finds his way to Ngawai’s ward. “How’s it going?” he asks.

"Ngawai is fine, and things are going well," Swims replies from his meditations.

Arketta steps quickly over to Luis and gives him a hug. "How are you?" she asks.

“Fine,” he says. “You couldn’t have held the Gate? It took fifteen minutes to talk them into opening another one.” He grins, but the nerves he’s trying to hide show in the shakiness of it and the joke.

Arketta smiles. "Ngawai could only threaten them into doing one thing at a time." The smile goes away, and she takes Luis to a seat somewhat away from the rest of the group. "So...I have thought about what I said, and...I think that we don't have to talk about it if you don't want to." Her mouth starts to run away from her. "It's just that Ngawai is having her child, and everyone is thinking about kids at the moment, and, I mean, you already agreed to have kids, so I don't even know why I'm brought it up..." Arketta takes a breath, and gives Luis a peck on the cheek. "I don't know why I brought it up. I'm sorry."

“You brought it up because it’s on everybody’s mind, and because it’s important to you,” Luis says. "It’s not like we’re going anywhere soon, so let’s talk.”

Arketta blushes through her dark skin. "...okay." She takes another breath. "I want to try to have children soon. In the next year."

“I thought we’d agreed on that,” Luis says. “Or something like that?” Arketta starts to laugh, a big deep laugh that bends her over as she supports herself on Luis' shoulder. Luis chuckles and smiles up at her. “What? Didn’t we?”

Arketta recovers enough to sit back upright and lean on Luis. "I thought we had just agreed to have kids at some point. I was...I was so worried about telling you I want to have them soon, I was pacing the floor and almost pulling my hair out, and you thought...that that was what we had already agreed to." She rests her head on his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Luis."

“What’s to be sorry for?” Luis says. “It’s fine. Simple misunderstanding.”

"Are you sure?" Arketta asks. "About having children, I mean. Now. With me." She grimaces. "Fuck, I am making a mess of this. I mean, are you sure you want to do this so soon?" There's a pause, and Luis recognizes the return of Arketta's darker doubts in her expression. "...or at all?"

“Yes,” Luis says. “Yes, I am. I’m sure, now more than ever. I want to make something better come into this world.”

Arketta puts herself nose-to-nose with Luis. "Something better than me. I want that, Luis."

“Not better than you,” Luis says. “As good as you. Better than this stuff we’ve been going through, but not better than you."

Arketta smirks sardonically. "Maybe we should aim higher. Like you."

“Don’t give me that,” Luis says. “You are amazing. If you weren’t I wouldn’t be marrying you, and I wouldn’t want to raise kids with you. And I am. I know what you think you’ve done, and I still think that. So...don’t give me that. Trust me on this.”

Arketta sniffles and squeezes Luis tight. "Okay." She pauses. "Better than both of us, then."

“Yes,” Luis says.
punkey 2013-09-24 22:42:19
Hugh might not turn out to be right about the birth of Naloni Holoni taking as long as his sister, but it certainly doesn't seem like it's going to be quick, either. Hours start to go by, and the rest of the world starts to slowly intrude. Hugh, Hunter, Angel, Zaef, Arketta and Luis all excuse themselves down the hallway at various times to conduct business via vox connection, with the occasional brief trip outside for more in-depth matters. Luis and Arketta continue their hushed conversation about children off to the side - and at one point vanish for a half-hour or so - returning shortly before Arlana and Ody make their way to the medicae lab. Kitty and Dietrich show up as well; Dietrich says hi and passes his well-wishes off to a medicae assistant before excusing himself back to his lab, while Kitty stays behind sitting next to Zaef, her hand resting on his as he tries to stay awake. Pizza from the nearby town is brought in and dinner is served, but Garrett doesn't show his face the entire time: according to the assistants, he hasn't moved from Ngawai's side the whole time, sometimes talking with her, sometimes they're watching holos, but for all but a few moments, he's by her side, holding her hand.

Until about 2100 Mesas local time, nearly 20 hours after the whole tiring saga started. Garrett suddenly appears in the hallway leading away from the waiting area towards the patient rooms, looking tired, haggard, but still manages to put on a big smile as he looks over the assembled crowd of his friends and teammates.
"Thank you all for waiting so long," he hoarsely croaks, his eyes red with exhaustion and tears. "First, Ngawai and Naloni are both looking healthy and strong. I'm sure it's been an ordeal waiting out here like it's been inside, but you won't have to wait much longer. Medicae Vala just gave the order to move Ngawai to the birthing assistant, and it shouldn't be much longer after that." Garrett looks over the group again and stifles a happy sob before continuing. "You'll all get to meet my daughter before you know it, but Ngawai has a request. Swims-the-Black, Angel?" Garrett looks at them both in turn. "She wants you both in the room with us, if you don't mind."

Swims-the-Black, who had spent nearly all of the twenty hours of waiting seated, meditating yet awake, had opened his eyes when Garrett came out. Once Garrett relays that Ngawai wants him in the delivery room, the reason for Swims' meditation become obvious: he instantly turns a dark blue and bright yellow, so nervous that it's the work of enormous effort for him to just stand up. Still, a few breaths later, he waves off Garrett's startled approach to help his best friend and walks over to the hallway.
Angel looks faintly surprised, but nods, standing. Once they’re decidedly out of earshot, he grins slightly. “You two didn’t get yourselves arrested again while you were in there, did you?”
Swims huffs and turns green, but the bright blue and yellow refuse to be crowded out.
“No, not yet,” Garrett replies with a tired smile. “Thanks, both of you.”
”It is an honor to be asked to be present,” Swims replies.
Angel nods alongside Swims. “It is, though I’m not sure one little girl needs quite this much firepower. Though she is Ngawai’s daughter…”
Another huff of laughter from Swims. ”Should I be nervous?” he asks tentatively as the three males arrive at the door. ”I don’t know much about human birth.”
“It’s not clean,” Garrett replies dryly. “But we wash off, right?”
“That’s a good summation of it,” Angel adds. “Wildly impractical, a fair bit of screaming, and then everyone’s happy, she’s tired, and there’s a 50/50 chance we’re picking Garrett off the floor.”
Swims nods as the blue deepens in his fur, but Garrett puts a hand on his shoulder. ”You’ll be fine,” Garrett grunts, and lets Swims take a deep breath before opening the door.

Ngawai's agonized groan erupts through the door as Garrett triggers the panel, and he rushes forward towards one of the damndest things Angel has ever seen: Ngawai, her hospital gown draped over her knees and floating in midair inside of a large metal-and-white-plastic outline of a box, like a hyper-futuristic four-poster bed. A holoprojector on an arm is mounted to the top rail, which Medicae Vala slides around to keep in front of her as she repositions to Ngawai's feet. For her part, Ngawai clenches Garrett's offered hand and pushes, but against what, Angel can't see. From what he can guess, probably some kind of gravity impeller-generated force, the same force that's keeping her suspended in midair. The force must not be crushing or confining, as Ngawai's free hand is obviously not locked in position as she alternately clenches it to her chest and presses out against the impellers, but it's still a damn strange sight to see.

Swims-the-Black freezes in place, and Angel quirks his head slightly to one side. “Well, this is a new one for me too big guy.” He turns, trying to reassure Swims. “Normally they don’t float like that. This looks...expensive.”
Vala looks away momentarily towards Angel and Swims as the door slides shut behind them. "The birthing suspension allows the mother to position herself where she is most comfortable while keeping her in an ideal position," she explains. "It scans and positions her birth canal to minimize complications." Ngawai cries out one last time, then relaxes. "It doesn't help with the pain, though," Vala adds.
"I can take it," Ngawai mutters, then turns and smiles to Angel and Swims-the-Black. "Come on over and give me a hug," she says as she wipes the sweat from her brow.
Swims walks cautiously over and wraps his arms gently around Ngawai, the impeller fields making his fur dance. "You are very brave," Swims rumbles.
"I don't have much choice," Ngawai jokes back. "This baby is coming out one way or another." Garrett chuckles with his wife as he sits on the other side of the bed and dabs her with a towel.

Angel looks faintly puzzled as the impeller fields play havoc with the sleeves of his polo shirt for a moment before he moves closer to Ngawai, hugging her gently after Swims steps out of the way. “How are you holding up?”
"I'm doing all right, considering," Ngawai replies. "How's everyone doing out there?"
“Anxious. Excited. A little worried. Pizza was decent.” Angel smiles reassuringly. “They’re all fine, and we’re all here for you.”
Ngawai smiles back as she looks between Angel and Swims. "Thanks. Garrett thanks you too, but I think that he's taking this even worse than I am." She looks over at her husband - Garrett looks so frazzled it's a wonder he's even conscious. "How much longer?" Ngawai asks Vala.
"You've been fully dilated for fifteen minutes, so, perhaps this next push should do it," Vala replies cautiously.
"Good," Ngawai nods, "then you two are here just in time. Garrett, time to wake up, lahna," she half-coos, half-orders as she shakes his head. Garrett's eyes light up and he nods once she lets him go and looks back to Swims and Angel.

"This whole team is going to be Naloni's family, aunts and uncles - but I want you two to be her Daoda'i - her 'godfathers', in Narsai'i," Ngawai says. "You are our best friends, and the two people we trust more in the galaxy to take care of our daughter...in case something happens to us." She takes Angel's and Swims' hands in her own. "Will you do this for us?" Ngawai asks.
Garrett solemnly nods from the other side of the "bed". "I can't think of anyone else I want Naloni looking up to than you two."
Angel looks at the two of them for the moment, his expression serious, and then nods. “Of course, as long as I get to spoil her on occasion.”
"I reserve the right to be the fun uncle as well," Swims adds.
Ngawai and Garrett both laugh. "Deal," Ngawai says. She motions to a couple folding chairs up against the wall. "Now, sit down. It'll be a few minutes before we can try again, and you both look tired."
Angel smiles slightly, leaning back into the impeller field to give her a kiss on the forehead. “You’ll do great.” With that, he joins Swims, perched awkwardly on one of the folding chairs to wait.
"I fucking hope so, because I don't have much of a choice," Ngawai grouses.

And a few minutes later, that thesis is put to the test. With much grunting, groaning, crying and shouting (on both the part of the husband and the wife), the final stretch is entered when Vala announces that Naloni's head has emerged. Ngawai shouts for Angel and Swims to hold her left hand, and both are very glad that they didn't offer up their trigger fingers for her to grasp as it feels like she might break both of their hands with the effort. All three males whisper encouragement and support as Ngawai groans and pushes, and ten minutes later, with one final shout, Vala shouts that the baby is out. Instantaneously, the birthing suspension scans the crying infant for vital signs as Garrett and Ngawai hold their breath - and when the device reveals that their daughter is in perfect health, they both break down sobbing with joy.

Vala quickly wraps the crying baby in a small blanket and walks over between Garrett and Ngawai. "May I present to you, Miss Naloni Holoni," she says, and hands the squirming baby, her dark brown face topped with a wisp of black hair, to her crying and beaming parents. Garrett and Ngawai pull themselves next to each other and hold their daughter close. She quiets down and fusses as both parents look from each other into their daughter's hazel eyes.
punkey 2013-09-25 00:04:33
The last half-hour since Garrett came out have seen the tension ratchet back up in the room, a tension that turned completely around from worry and concern to anticipation after a medicae assistant hurried out and let everyone know that mother and baby - and father - were all fine and would be out shortly. Vox connections were hurriedly made, and friends both near and far arrived either virtually or in person for the big arrival.

Ten minutes after that, a wheelchair rounds the corner, and the waiting area bursts into applause as the little baby is carried out in the arms of her very tired-looking mother, both of them pushed along by the equally tired but proud and beaming father, with Angel Kesh and Swims-the-Black flanking them on either side.
Garrett motions for everyone to quiet down as the baby starts to fuss, and a bit of laughter replaces the applause before everyone falls silent. "Everyone," he says as Ngawai's attention is fixed solidly on the squinting eyes of her fussing infant daughter she's holding close to her chest, "I'd like you to meet our beautiful daughter, Naloni Holoni."
Ngawai doesn't look up, still transfixed by the gaze of her infant daughter as she bends over and looks into her eyes.
Garrett waits a second, then bends over next to his wife's ear. "I think they want to see our daughter, lahna."
"Uh-huh," Ngawai says softly. Garrett stays bent over, his face next to Ngawai's as they both fall silent, Naloni's little eyes looking back and forth between her parents.
"Oh my gosh," Kitty gushes as she stands next to Zaef. Arlana simply dabs her eyes as she leans onto Ody's shoulder, and Arketta does the same as she wraps her arms around Luis from behind.

Swims-the-Black clears his throat, and bumps Garrett from behind.
Garrett starts upright, and Ngawai finally manages to look away from her daughter's gaze. "Right!" Garrett says. "Everyone, meet Naloni Holoni." He wheels Ngawai and Naloni into the middle of the room and takes a knee next to the chair. "Come on, she doesn't bite."
"Yet," Swims barks.
punkey 2013-09-26 13:12:12
Luis grins dopily at Swims' joke as he steps forward--partly from relief at everything turning out so smoothly, and partly from simple exhaustion. As it turns out, hospital waiting rooms make lousy places to sleep, and what time he has spent in a bed since arriving was many things but not particularly restful. Still, he's got enough energy to step up, and delicately accept the swaddled Naloni from Ngawai.

Arketta joins Luis in cooing over the baby, whose hazel eyes flick around under her puff of dark hair slightly dazedly, taking in everything without focusing on anything. Luis manages to break his attention on the baby long enough to share a grinning gaze with Arketta before turning back to the proud parents. "She's beautiful," he says. This mass of arms and legs, looking around at the world, is a person Ngawai and Davis cooked up and then Ngawai shoved out of her body. And he an Arketta are going to do the same thing. At the same time as Naloni’s gaze and weight brings the distant image of abstract “raising a kid” crashing down in a shower of immediacy, he can’t help looking up at Arketta and grinning in excitement at the thought of having a kid with Arketta - a real one, not some imaginary notion of having a child, but holding a squirming baby that looks a little like Arketta and a little like Luis in his arms someday very soon. Let’s do this.

He passes Naloni into Arketta’s arms, and the Amazonian Turai starts to melt the instant the baby looks up at her. “Awww,” she coos, and gently rocks her for a moment. “...hello,” she manages to stutter as her eyes moisten.
Naloni stares mutely back at Arketta for a moment, cradled in her muscular arms. After a moment, she yawns and starts to fuss.
“Okay, okay,” Arketta whispers, and passes Naloni back to Garrett before wiping her eyes. “We’re going to have one of those,” she whispers to Luis, a big smile on her face. “You and me.”
Gatac 2013-09-29 02:46:22
Hugh patiently waits his turn, letting the others get their meet & greet with the newest member of 815 before he finally steps up. By now, it’s clear that the new family is coming down from the excitement high of the birth. The nearly two days of nonsleep are catching up to Ngawai and Garrett fast, while Naloni is already asleep in her mother’s arms and won’t be getting passed around to anyone anymore. Hugh leaves it at a visual inspection, smiling as he looks over the tiny girl almost disappearing into the blankets she’s swaddled in. He favors Ngawai with one of those “Trying not to mist up” smiles and a soft hand on the shoulder before straightening up and turning to Garrett.

“So,” he says, “is it too late to call dibs on buying Naloni her first bicycle?”
“You’ll have to take it up with her Daoda’i here,” Garrett replies softly, looking at Angel and Swims-the-Black. “I think they already want to be the ones to spoil her.”
“Children can’t have enough honorary uncles willing to spoil them, especially girls,” Hugh says. “I think I read something in People Magazine to that effect.”
“Which is why we’ll be sticking to Bashakra’i role models for the most part,” Garrett replies with a somewhat darker look on his face.
“Alright,” Hugh says. “Well, I have my own family to catch up with. You guys go get your rest, you’ve more than earned it. Goodnight, Ngawai, Garrett...Naloni.”
“Good night, Hugh,” Garrett replies.
“Good night,” Ngawai whispers, not diverting her attention from the face of her sleeping daughter.

Hugh gives one more round of nods, then shuffles off down the hallway. His watch gives a subtle beep, alarming him that the scheduled gateway transfer to Whiirr has started, and so he grabs for his vox and dials out to Rhea.

Hello, bondmate,” he says when she picks up. “The baby’s here now, everything went well, they’re resting now. I’ll head over to the gateport, should be home with the next transfer. How are you doing?
"Well," Rhea replies. "I am washing up from dinner, there are extras in boxes on the counter when you get here."
”Good, thank you,” Hugh says. ”Is Torega still up? I thought I could come home, we’ll put her to bed and then we can talk.”
Rhea nods. "Sure," she grunts. "Love you, bondmate."
”I love you, too, bondmate.” Hugh says. ”See you in a bit.”
skullandscythe 2013-09-29 13:04:27
Zaef emerges into the bright late-afternoon sun as that familiar “walking into an annealing oven” feeling slaps him in the face. The Ray-Bans are doing shit to help him on the light front on top of that, and trying to shade his eyes with his hand only helps a little. He mutters a curse and silently vows to find his quarters as soon as possible and sleep for a fucking week.
Kitty walks up next to him. “Are you heading back to your quarters?” she asks.
“I think Naloni was cute, don’t you?” Kitty asks. She sounds nervous.
Zaef chuckles. “It won’t last. With Ngawai and Davis taking care of her, she’s going to grow up to raise some serious hell.”
Kitty chuckles nervously as she takes Zaef’s hand. “Very likely.” She stands there, holding his hand for a moment, before she quickly leans in and gives Zaef a peck on the cheek.
He blinks, straightens up, turns to look over at Kitty in surprise. She’s pointedly not looking straight at him, and her face is bright red. He doesn’t say anything, for a while, though he opens his mouth once and promptly shuts it. Eventually, he takes a step forward, still looking at her, still holding her hand, and gives it a squeeze. “C’mon, I’ll walk you home, Kitty.” There’s a hint of a smile on his face.
A big smile bursts across Kitty’s face, and as they walk off, hand-in-hand, she leans against Zaef’s, her head resting on his strong shoulder.
punkey 2013-09-29 13:25:24
Hugh’s departure seems to be the sign that the party’s over - not long after, Luis and Arketta head off to wait for their own Gateway back to Atea, Zaef heads off with Kitty at his side shortly followed by Hunter, Brinai, Bello, Onas, Barnes, and all the others present via vox connection have long-since disconnected, and after one last shared moment with their new niece, Angel and Swims-the-Black head off as well, leaving Garrett to wheel Ngawai and Naloni back to the medicae room where the three will sleep for the next few days. One last touching moment was had as Naloni had her first meal while Garrett prepared the hospital bed for his wife, before Naloni was safely put in the crib Medicae Vala had set up, now having gone to pass out in the bunks herself. Once Naloni passed the threshold of the crib, the diagnostics lit up, the sides displayed vitals and biochemistry functions in a softly glowing light and relayed them to the ward’s cogitator. Naloni fussed a little, but she was tired after a long day of being brought into the galaxy, and quickly fell asleep.

Ngawai and Garrett stand over her for a long time, arm-in-arm and staring lovingly at their newborn daughter.
“I can’t believe we fucking did this,” Ngawai whispers as she rubs Garrett’s back.
“People have babies by accident all the time,” Garrett jokes back, and winces as Ngawai’s rub turns into a quick jab. “Kidding, kidding.” He gives Ngawai a peck on the cheek. “She looks so much like you already.”
“Garrett Davis, is that a joke about my conditioning?” Ngawai asks playfully.
“Never,” Garrett whispers back.
“She looks a lot like you, too. I think she’s going to have your eyes,” Ngawai says. “But I mean a family. We’re a family now, Garrett. You, and me, and her.”
Garrett sighs. “Yeah.” There’s a pause as they both continue staring at their sleeping daughter. “I knew guys in the Army and CIA that talked about their kids, and how they knew what they were fighting for because they had kids back home. I thought I understood what they meant, that it was like how I felt, but for something else...but I was wrong.” He squeezes Ngawai and leans his head against hers. “I had no idea what it feels like to fight for something like that until now.”
Ngawai nods. “I…” She sniffles. “I just can’t believe I was so selfish before,” she blubbers, and buries her face in Garrett’s shoulder as he quickly guides her towards the bed. She quickly composes herself halfway before speaking again. “I look at her, and...I can’t imagine life without her. I can’t imagine leaving her or abandoning her or missing a single moment with my baby girl, and I think about what I was planning on doing…” She barely holds back another burst of crying. “And I hate myself for even thinking those things.”
Garrett squeezes Ngawai close, and slowly lays them both down on the bed. He holds her, and gently runs a hand through her hair. “I think we both can agree that we’ve had a big paradigm shift in the last twenty-four hours,” he whispers. “And it is not your fault that you had problems - problems that you and I are committed to working through together, both of our problems. I’m not perfect, either, lahna. I meant what I said. What matters is what you do right now. And right now, you and I - and our beautiful daughter - are going to go to sleep, together, as a family, and we will wake up and move forward together.” Garrett puts his forehead against Ngawai’s. “You are the strongest, bravest, most intelligent and confounding woman I have ever met. And I think that’s what will make you the best mother ever.”
Ngawai nods as she sniffles one more time. “And I can say the same about you, lahna.” She steals one last look over at Naloni. “We’re going to raise a wild akwhela for a child, aren’t we.”
“Oh, yes,” Garrett says as he waves off the room light and Ngawai pulls the covers up.
Gatac 2013-09-29 13:37:05
Getting home proves easy, but getting Torega into bed? Now there’s a tough nut to crack. Torega is relentless in her pursuit of what can only be ominously titled “all the hugs”, and between climbing all over Hugh and asking a thousand questions about everything, it seems like she won’t settle down for sleep in this lifetime. It’s only when Hugh promises to tell her the tale of how his friends and him stole a Needleship from the Imperium that she agrees to lie down and go to sleep afterwards. And so Hugh begins his story, shifting a few facts, glossing over some boring parts and inserting some just-so hijinx to turn an after-action report into a fairytale - it helps a lot that nobody was killed, so there’s not a lot he has to step around. And finally…

- and all the glyphs and holos were red, the gateway just in front of us - and Angel says ‘Oh, no, I don’t know if we can make it!’ And Swims says ‘We have to!’

Torega giggles at that. Hugh’s not sure what Angel would think of being cast as the scaredy cat of this tale, but Torega knows her Uncle Angel well enough to know Hugh’s just making this up, which makes it funny and a better story.

And just when the Imperial commander screams at us so loud, and the ship feels like it wants to snap in half, and we’re all holding onto each other - there is the flash, and the dark, and then…

Hugh leaves that hanging for a few seconds, then puts his hands curled into fists over his mouth and flashes them outward with a whooshing sound, showing a big grin behind them.

”...and then we’re out, and on our way home! And that’s how daddy and his friends stole a biiiig ship right from under the nose of the Imperium!”
”Good!” Torega barks. ”Tell it again!”
Hugh’s smile gains a few degrees of soft sternness. ”Now, Torega, remember what we said. I told you the story and now it’s time to sleep.”
”Don’t wanna,” Torega whines.
”I know,” Hugh coos. ”Sometimes I don’t want to sleep either. But then I think, if I don’t go to sleep now, I won’t be up early enough to have breakfast with you and Rhea. And if I don’t get my sleep, I’ll be in a bad mood all day and that won’t be any good at all. So, I go to sleep, even when I don’t want to. Okay?”
Torega considers that, then yawns a little ”Okay” of her own.
Hugh gently grabs her blanket and pulls it up over her, tucking her in at the sides. Then, he bows down and grooms the side of her head. ”Sleep now, Torega.”
”Okay,” Torega purrs in between grooming him back. ”I love you, father.”
”I love you, daughter,” Hugh whispers back, grooming her until he’s sure she’s asleep.


Hugh’s well and truly tired by the time he makes it upstairs; Rhea’s already in bed, so Hugh just strips off his clothes and climbs in to join her, drawing the blanket over both of them as he gives her a quick grooming.

”Hey,” he says. ”Sorry I kept you up. Torega didn’t want to go to sleep.”
"It is all right," Rhea replies as she rubs her muzzle against Hugh. "I was working on figuring out the vox. You said you wanted to talk?"
”Yes,” Hugh says. After a moment’s thought, he begins. ”Rhea, you said you wanted to have cubs again. Is that still true?”
Hugh might not be able to see her colors all that well in the dark, but he feels her fur ruffle and stand on end. "...yes," she tentatively replies. "Why?"
”I was thinking,” Hugh begins, then falters again. What was he thinking? In-vitro fertilization with donor sperm sounded so much easier to bring up before he was talking to his bondmate. ”I was thinking that, even if we would need...if we would need…help for that, well, I just want you to know that I will be with you all the way no matter if you want to go that way or not, and you know that no matter what, we would raise them as our own...yes?”
Rhea looks at Hugh for a good while, her brown eyes looking at Hugh's, before she closes in and gently grooms Hugh for a good long while. "Of course," Rhea replies. "But while I want cubs...we already have one, and she is more than enough trouble right now. When - if that happens? We will decide who will be the male together. Okay?"
”Okay,” Hugh says. ”I...I mean, have you considered it? Do you have someone in mind?”
"Do you mean who I would consider a good male to produce strong cubs, or simply who I would like to fuck?" Rhea teases.
Hugh grins. ”Well, I was going to say that for the good of our cubs, he needs to be at least as handsome as I am, but I realize how tough that would be…”
Rhea starts to tease Hugh in other ways. "Relax, bondmate. You are plenty for me right now."
”...and just like that, I am no longer sleepy.”