About Nine Months
The short life of Kevin Madden-Beckett.
Chapter 1 – The News
"We were so arrogant."
"What?" asked Lili O'Day Beckett. She glanced at a wall chronometer. It was maybe a minute before 0300 hours.
"Nothing. Go back to sleep," Doug replied softly, wearily.
"You said something."
"It was nothing. Go back to sleep, or you'll wake up Empy and Dec."
Lili turned over and tried to rest. She stared a little at the chronometer, which showed the date – October 28th of 2176. "It'll be our anniversary soon."
"Huh? That's not until February."
"Not our wedding, but of when we met. Nineteen years ago, tomorrow," she said. "Remember?"
"Yeah, that's true."
"You don't sound so happy, Doug."
He rolled over and pressed against her back, engulfing her in his arms. "I am always happy with you."
"You know what I mean. It's not that you aren't, I suppose, content. It's that something is troubling you. Something or other, whatever it is, you and I have been together long enough, Douglas Jay Hayes Beckett. Can't you tell me whatever it is that's bothering you so much?"
"I, uh," his voice trailed off and he leaned in closer, holding her close.
She turned around in his embrace. Even in the dim lighting of their bedroom, as dawn was approaching on Lafa II, a dawn that would include four suns of various colors and dimensions, she could still see him bite his lower lip. "Whatever it is, I can help."
"No, you can't. Nobody can, not even Miva."
She tensed. "My OB-GYN. Melissa's, too. Something's wrong with Melissa," Lili concluded, referring to Doug's paramour in their open marriage.
"No, uh, Melissa is fine. She's, she's pregnant again."
"Oh, my. Well, it's been a few years, eh? Neil's close to fifteen. That's a helluva long time between kids. You'll have to do the diaper dance all over again. I guess we all will, and you in your seventies already."
"That's, uh, that's not it. Please, don't ask anymore. I'll tell her, though, that we need to start, well," he sighed, "we need to start telling all of you."
"Telling us what?"
"Just, just, let me do this my way," he snapped a little.
"Sorry." She rolled over. The complexities of an open marriage with lovers and children with three sets of parentages were a little much for the nonce.
Neither of them got any more sleep that night.
In the morning, Doug was already on a communicator call when Lili got up. "Yeah, and bring everyone here. We'll see about getting Reed on the line, too, and Joss at Cornell. Everybody needs to hear this at the same time. Right, yeah, see you soon. You know I love you." He'd apparently hung up, so he turned to her. "They'll all be here, kind of a late breakfast. Hope that's okay. You don't have to do anything."
"Of course I do. But Doug, this is a work day."
"No, it's not," Doug told her. "I already called Treve. I'm sorry; I know I went over your head and I'm completely outta bounds doing that. But Melissa, she, uh, you're right, and we need to start talking. Getting this meeting together is the only way to do that. I'll put on the coffee. But otherwise don't go nuts. No pancakes, no elaborate brioches or omelets or whatever. Really, it's okay."
"Very well," Lili allowed. "There are muffins and bagels and the fixings for them. How many people are we expecting?"
"Just Melissa and Norri, with Neil and Tommy. I'll set the table while you shower." Lili just nodded and left. Doug flipped the communicator open again. "Yeah, I wanna talk to Malcolm Reed on the USS Zefram Cochrane. It's a family matter."
By the time Lili had emerged from the shower and gotten dressed, the two kids living with them, Marie Patrice and Declan were up, too. Norri – Melissa's lesbian lover, Leonora Digiorno – let herself and the others in. Malcolm and Joss were in communications' Malcolm was audio only. Doug turned to the family. "I'll, um, I'll go first." The family looked at him expectantly. "I, uh, this was completely unplanned. Not just this morning, but, uh," he sighed and looked at Melissa. "You want I should tell them, or do you wanna?"
She shook her head. "I can't."
Lili was sitting next to Norri and put a comforting arm around her. Norri looked confused. Doug spoke again. "It was, uh, we were on the last hunting trip, you all remember? And the two of us, we had a major fight. I can't even remember what it was about anymore. But we just, it was not pretty. Got our perrazin and came home and I guess we just decided we forgave each other. And, um, and we made up."
"Yeah," Norri smiled wryly, "we all cleared out of here, even Lili."
"You broke your commandment then, as I recall," Lili commented.
"Yeah," Doug bit his lower lip, "the old one about no one allowed in our bed except for you and me. I'm sorry about that."
She waved him off. "It's fine; it's done. But that's not why we're here, now, is it?"
Norri shot a quick look. "What the hell is going on?"
Melissa's brown eyes were even larger than usual, pleading with Doug, who took the hint. "Melissa's pregnant again."
From Cornell, Joss commented, "You don't look happy, Ma Melissa."
"I, I'm okay with it," Melissa replied cautiously.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Norri asked.
"I, um, it's complicated," her partner replied.
"How complicated can it possibly be?" Norri asked. "We've done this before. We're all older, sure, but it's not impossible. Age forty-two is not impossible, Mellie."
Malcolm spoke up. "Is it that there are … issues?"
"Yes," Melissa squeaked out.
"Down's syndrome isn't bad these days," Joss said, "In school, we're learning about it in Intro to Genetics. There's a lot more that can be done than fifty or a hundred and fifty years ago."
"It's not Down's," Doug explained, "The disorder is called Cri du Chat."
"Cry of the cat," Lili murmured. "Is it, is it like Down's, where the mother being older is a risk factor?"
Doug shook his head. "This isn't Melissa's fault at all. It's mine, all mine."
"Wait," Norri said, "I don't understand. Faults and syndromes and risks – what the hell is this Cri du Chat? What does it all entail?"
"It's called Monosomy Five, Ma Norri," Joss explained. He shook his head.
"I went to Linwev, and he explained it. About eighty percent of the time, this defect comes from the father," Doug added.
"You went to Doctor Linwev and didn't tell me?" asked Lili, more out of surprise than anger.
"How long have you been keeping this from us?" Norri's tone was more demanding.
"We know I conceived on the second," Melissa replied, "and I didn't feel much different at all, just, kinda off. Doug suggested that I take a stick and take a test. I did, and it came up blue."
"And you didn't think to tell me then?" Norri demanded.
"I just, I had a bad feeling," Melissa looked like she was about ready to cry, "And I just got to Miva. That was, um, I think it was the fourth."
"Yeah," Doug confirmed.
"So you knew about this for over three weeks, Doug?" Lili asked, starting to become as irritated as Norri was.
"Uh, I know. It's," he sighed, "Miva immediately knew, once she knew Melissa was pregnant again. She was the one, who called Linwev in, and I got genetically tested – we both did. The two doctors did research and they figured it out together. I, I told you that my military unit was drilling all day. I'm sorry for lying about that."
"I don't know what to say," Lili was a little in shock.
"Perhaps," Malcolm ventured from aboard the Cochrane, "we should concentrate less on the circumstances of learning and, and telling, and more on the issues at hand. What are they?"
Doug pinched the bridge of his nose. "It's early to know the full extent of things. But kids born this way – if they live long enough to be born, that is, they, they're all screwed up inside." He started to weep, and so did Melissa, and they were incoherent.
Joss had his PADD out, all the way in upstate New York, on Earth. He read off it. "Mental disabilities, digestive and circulatory disabilities, eyes are too far apart. And, uh, the name of the syndrome is because the infants' cries, they don't sound human. They sound a little like cats."
"What is their life expectancy?" asked Malcolm.
"It says here," Joss skimmed and read some more, "that it depends on the extent of the problems."
"Miva won't be able to tell for several more months, and then it'll be too late," Melissa sobbed.
"Well, what about, I dunno, now?" asked Marie Patrice, who had been quiet until then.
Doug looked at his daughter with crimson eyes. "What did you just say?"
"I'm just, Dad," the young girl backpedaled a little, "I mean, this is, uh, is it a lost cause? I mean, if it's only going to be, to be suffering and early death, why, uh, why continue?"
"This is your little brother we are talking about!" Doug yelled as Melissa cringed.
"Dad, I'm not trying to be mean!" Marie Patrice yelled back. Lili walked over to where her daughter was sitting and put a hand on the young girl's arm.
"It's an option," Lili declared. "I know how you feel. But don't discount it. Empy doesn't mean to upset you. But this is all a horribly upsetting fact, right?"
"You said brother," Neil said.
"Yeah," Doug confirmed, "the genetic test confirmed that, too."
"Kevin," Melissa whispered, holding her belly, which was still mostly flat.
Doug walked over to where she was sitting and put a hand on her shoulder. "Kevin Madden-Beckett."
"A new last name, Dad?" asked Tommy. "But why? Wouldn't Ma Norri adopt him, too? He'd be Digiorno-Madden like the rest of us."
"I would," Norri said.
"No," Doug put his foot down, although his voice was soft. "I want this. I want everyone in this universe, and in the other one to know, that Kevin is my child. He is my responsibility." There were, perhaps, two unspoken words that would have come afterwards – my fault.
There were nods and murmurs of approval all around and on the two calls, which soon ended. Empy and her brothers headed to school, late. It was just Doug with Lili, Melissa, and Norri. Melissa spoke. "I, I need Doug with me. Please."
"Sure, go over there tonight," Lili allowed.
"No, I mean all through this," Melissa clarified. "I, I wouldn't ask if I didn't really, really need him."
Norri looked up, peeved. "What are you saying?"
"I, I gotta have Doug with me," Melissa pleaded. "I just, I do. I can't explain why. But I need him near me. I need him to take me to my appointments and hold my hand and all of that."
"I have done that for you twice, Mellie," Norri's tone was a sharp one, "and I am prepared to do it again. I'm not in love with this. Empy's right; there are options here and you don't seem to be entertaining them at all."
"It's not a lost cause," Melissa moaned, but it seemed as if the statement were a bit rehearsed, as if she had expected objections like Norri's.
"I never said it was a lost cause."
"But you meant it," Melissa pressed. "I, I gotta have Doug with me. He, he believes in Kevin."
Lili thought for a moment. "I wanna talk to you," she looked at Doug. "I, I, you both have to go. I'm sorry. But this is going to turn our lives upside-down no matter what happens. So, so let me be alone with my husband so I can figure out," she sighed, "what the immediate future looks like."
"Of course," Norri said. She came closer and whispered to Lili. "You're not the only one who's been blindsided here."
Lili just nodded. Melissa approached her to make her goodbye and asked, "Please?" Lili just stood there stoically until they had departed and the door had shut.
"What the hell?" Lili found herself yelling at Doug.
"C'mon, it's not like anyone meant anything by it!"
"Doug," she said, "you need to understand! Our lives are set. Joss is going to be in school for years – undergraduate and then veterinary school! Empy wants to go a fashion college on Andoria. And then there's Tommy – he wants to go to Starfleet Academy. And Neil is going to go to a business school somewhere. The only one we have real financial help with is Declan – and he'll be at some art school or another, right? Even if tuition and all of that is taken care of, we're still paying for communications, and for travel, and everything that goes along with all of this. You are seventy-four in less than six weeks. Don't you ever want to retire? And beyond the economics of it all, it's heavy work, or have you forgotten? All of this is for children who are all set, who are going places. If he lives, it will be a ton of work and money and heartache. If he doesn't then it'll be the same but it'll all happen faster."
"How can you say that? Are you upset because this is her we're talking about, and not you?"
"No, no, I'm not jealous that she can still have kids. That's not what this is about at all. I am sixty-seven and believe me, I am well past all of that, and not just physically. I would – and will – gladly help care for my grandchildren but you know this is different. Don't deny it, Doug."
Her mood softened. "No, it is not that." She sat down in one of their living room chairs. "I'm just, look at you, look at both of you. You're tired and upset. I doubt that either of you are thinking straight, plus she's a hormonal cocktail right now." Lili sighed again. "What does Doctor Miva say? And I mean really?"
Doug sat down on their sofa.. "She says that there can be some surgery in the womb but it's far from guaranteed. Even if it worked, he wouldn't necessarily survive birth or even the third trimester or anything like that. She can't really tell the extent of his issues yet, and she won't be able to until, yeah, it'll be too late."
"So you have been thinking of that."
"Yeah," he bit his lower lip. "I have. But I don't dare suggest it. Melissa won't hear of it. It's a wonder we were able to have the family meeting today at all."
"You mean she was just going to go along, get a baby bump and pretend she was eating too much olowa, or something, Doug?"
"I dunno," he admitted, "and you're right, the hormones are probably doing a number on her right now. I, I don't love this," he took her hand, "but I love both of you and all I want is for everyone to be happy and healthy. If I can't have one, then I'll have the other, right? But in this case, I don't – nobody does – get either. I guess this is my fallback position. Maybe I'm just going along to get along; I dunno."
"Maybe you are. I can't fault you for trying, though. All of the signposts point to big-time heartache here."
"You're right; of course, you're right. But we've gotta walk that path anyway. Melissa does, at least, and I'll go along for that ride."
"Whether you want to or not, eh? Whether you think it's best or not, right?" Lili thought for a few minutes. "I will do two things for you."
She nodded. "The first one is that I will agree to you going to her. While I don't know it for sure, I bet she means for it to just be the two of you. So we'll open up the Reed house and Norri and Tommy and Neil will live there for a while. But there's a limit to this. This is one year and no more, regardless of when he's born, whether he's born, and all of that. Once that year is up, then you come back home. I don't care what the conditions are. You do what you need to – appointments and whatnot. But you do them from here, from your home. You come back to me, and you and I are together again like we are now."
"You're, you are very generous." His thumb rubbed her fingers. "You do not have to do the second thing, whatever it is. This is already way more than enough."
"But I do, Doug." She took a breath. "There's room outside by the garden. The likelihood is exceptionally high that you will be burying Kevin, right?" He nodded, so she continued. "Then we'll ask the Calafan authorities in order to be absolutely certain. There is no cemetery for humans yet. So by the garden; we'll bury him out back, by the garden."
As she sat there in one of their living room chairs, he got out of the sofa and onto his slightly creaky knees, and he hugged her legs for a few minutes. "Nineteen years, nineteen years," he murmured. "Tomorrow it'll be nineteen years. I love her; I do. It is different and this is the life we have chosen and the one we are living. It's a good, good life. I love her, Lili, but you are the one. You have always been the one."
Her knees creaked and cracked more than his did, but she got onto the floor, too. "Not exactly how I intended to spend our anniversary." He smiled a tiny bit at that; it was the first hint of a smile he had given up since he had told her, early that morning. "You and Malcolm, you both bring this out in me. If I am the one, it is only that you have made me so."