Disclaimer: Grey's Anatomy and its characters belong to Shonda Rhimes/ABC.

A/N: Really, really long. Hopefully it makes up for the two week wait :)

Chapter Twenty-Five

"I'm ready to go. I feel fine. You don't need to check me. I'm good. Just let me go see her," Addison told Nancy two mornings after the birth of her daughter. She was beyond anxious and had barely slept the night before.

"Good morning to you, too, Addie," Nancy teased as she strode toward her. "Now don't move. You aren't going anywhere until Karev comes back with the results of your labs. If everything checks out, you can go see her after you eat something because I know you aren't going to want to leave her for a second once you get in there."

Addison groaned as Nancy began to examine her. "Fine. Mark went to go get me one of those huge chocolate muffins anyway."

"And Mark is back," he announced as he walked into the room carrying Addison's breakfast. "Goooood morning, Nancy."

Nancy's face took on a confused expression. "You certainly are in a good mood today."

"Why not? I have my beautiful fiancée right here," he kissed Addison's cheek, causing her to blush, "and I have my beautiful daughter doing well in the hallway over. It has also finally stopped raining in this damn city, and I only have one surgery today," he said as he sat down on Addison's bed and pulled her against him. "Life is good, Nancy-Pants. Life is good."

"Good to know, Loser," she smiled. "Now, Addie, do you promise that you feel okay? Because the incision looks like it's healing nicely, and your temp and BP are normal."

"I'm great. I swear," Addison insisted. "No severe pain or cramping, no strange pressure anywhere, no dizziness, no nausea, no shortness of breath, no nothing. Nothing abnormal. I'm fine. Fine, fine, fine."

"Okay, okay, okay," Nancy laughed. "I just had to be sure. You know that. All I need now are your labs, and you're good to go."

Addison looked up at Mark and grinned. "I'm good to go."

"You are," he agreed, leaning down to kiss her. "You finally get to meet our perfect little baby girl."

"How is she this morning?" Addison asked, looking hopefully at Nancy. "Any closer to getting off the vent?"

"Well there's good news and bad news," Nancy told them. "The good news is that yes, she is off the vent. I switched her to the CPAP a little over an hour ago, and she's breathing fine on her own with it. Her lungs are actually progressing very well. Better than I expected."

"But the bad news?" Mark asked nervously.

"Her DA still isn't closed," Nancy responded regretfully, unsure of what else to say. "So…"

Addison bit her lip. She knew that was a possibility but had still hoped otherwise. "Okay."

"Can't you give her more of that stuff to help close it?" Mark asked.

"We can only give her very small amounts of indomethacin every twelve hours or else it will compromise other organ systems. I did give her another dosage this morning, but if it doesn't look any better by day five, we're going to have to start thinking about going in to surgically close it."

Addison squeezed Mark's hand; she knew he was going to panic.

"Surgery?!" He exclaimed, jolting forward as Addison tried to keep him sitting behind her. "She's not even three days old! She's not even supposed to be here yet as it is!"

"Look, I know it sounds scary, but it's a routine procedure, and we probably won't even—"

"It's heart surgery, Nancy!" He nearly knocked Addison out of the bed as he stood up and began to pace, nervously running a hand through his hair. "You're talking heart surgery on my daughter. My eleven weeks premature, barely two-pound daughter. Surgery."

Nancy opened her mouth as if to say something but then looked down at Addison for help.

"Honey, we have a few days before we even need to consider it, and if she needs it, Preston is the best. He and Nancy will do it, and she will be better off than she is now once it's over," Addison assured him. "They can stop giving her dopamine for her blood pressure, she will be able to breathe more easily, she will be at a considerably smaller risk for intracranial hemorrhage—"

Mark shook his head in disbelief. "How can you both just talk about this like it's no big deal? Addison, now you're talking about possible bleeding in our daughter's brain like it's just some simple thing!"

"It's not a simple thing!" She snapped. "It is a big deal! For god's sake, Mark! I'm scared out of my mind, too! These last couple days have been no picnic for me, but because I know more about what she's going through than you do, I'm trying to be the calm one, okay? So quit jumping down my throat. Same with Nancy. She's trying to help. She is looking out for our daughter. You aren't the only one who is afraid, and you sure as hell aren't the only one who cares!"

Just as Addison finished, Alex appeared in the doorway.

"Um… Obviously, this is a bad time. I… um… sorry," he said awkwardly. "Uh… Montgomery, your labs are clear, so… I'm just… going to go. Yeah…"

Alex handed Addison's results to Nancy and quickly left.

"I think I'm going to go for a little while, too," Mark mumbled after several tense seconds of silence. "At least until I figure some things out."

As he started out the door, Nancy grabbed his arm and whispered sternly, "You aren't going anywhere. This is going to be one of the most memorable and emotional days of her life, and you need to support her through it no matter what you are feeling right now towards her or the situation. I am not going to let you ruin this day for yourself or for Addie because you will regret it. You have come too far to screw this up. I will leave. You will stay. You will both apologize to each other. You will make sure she eats something, and I expect to have you both in your daughter's room within the hour."

Before Mark could even begin to argue, Nancy stepped past him into the hallway, pushed him back into the room, and shut the door behind her, leaving him alone with Addison. Neither knew what to say to the other; they were both hurting. Mark stared out the window, leaning against the door with his arms crossed over his chest. Addison lay curled up on her side with a hand over her stomach and her eyes closed.

"I'm not used to being afraid," Mark said after a while.

"I'm afraid, too, Mark. I'm not used to being the mother of a patient," she told him. "I am used to being a doctor, though, so all I can do to make myself feel better is to think like a doctor. So if I sound cold and uncaring, that's the doctor in me trying desperately to make sense of things for the mother in me. I'm sorry."

"I shouldn't have yelled." His tone wasn't particularly remorseful, but he walked over and sat at the foot of her bed anyway.

"You can't help it. Do you think you're the first father to freak out on me over something like this? Because you aren't."

"I should be able to handle this better, though. I mean… I'm a doctor. I'm a surgeon."

"But you are also a father, and as her father, you have every right and reason to worry."

"But this is beyond worrying, Addison," he told her, frustrated. "I'm having trouble actually keeping myself together and not just… I don't even know. I don't know what to do. Everything is so out of my control, and I can't deal with it. I want to fix her, but there's nothing I can do. I'm sorry I'm overreacting. I'm only making things worse. I should be able to hold myself together for both of us—for all three of us now—but I can't. I'm not."

"Mark, you don't need to keep yourself together around me," Addison murmured softly as she sat up and took notice of his distant stare out the window and his slumped posture. "That's just it. You don't need to act like the tough guy all the time because it's not up to just you to hold us together. That's how relationships work—we take care of each other. It's mutual. It isn't supposed to be all on you. You did an amazing job getting me through this pregnancy, and now it's my turn to help you. It's okay to be afraid and to be vulnerable around me because I love you. I love you, and I love our daughter, and as a family, we will all get through this."

Addison watched Mark close his eyes as he exhaled and nodded slowly. She crawled over and sat behind him, resting her cheek on the back of his shoulder. His body tensed at the contact but soon relaxed when Addison reached around and offered him her hand. He took it, and they sat together quietly for few minutes.

"Listen, this is only her third day of life. There's still time. The course of treatment they have her on has a very high success rate for babies her age. The vast majority end up not needing the surgery, and most of those who do have some other condition that she doesn't have. She has all of today, tomorrow, and the day after that to make progress, and I really think that once she has both of us sitting in there with her regularly, she will get better. It may seem hard to believe, but a familiar presence and voice can do so much for a preterm infant's physiology. I know you feel like there's nothing you can do for her, but I promise that just holding her hand and talking helps."

"I just love her so much, Addie. I don't want her to need surgery. I don't want her to be in pain."

"I know," she said, comfortingly rubbing his back with her free hand. "But I don't think we're going to have to worry about that."

"And I know that now, but… I just didn't expect to hear that this morning. You all keep telling me, 'Oh, yeah. She's doing great,' and then suddenly Nancy goes and starts talking about heart surgery without mentioning the minor detail that she probably won't need it. So that's why I freaked out," he explained before turning to take her into his arms. "And I'm really sorry, Addie. This is supposed to be a special day for us, and I screwed it up."

"Honey, it's fine. I promise. I wasn't very nice to you either," she admitted, hugging him as tightly as she could without causing any pain at her incision. "Let's just pretend like none of it even happened, okay?"

"Okay."

"And we will do the whole kiss-and-make-up thing," she smirked and pulled away to see his reaction.

"God, I love you, Addison," he grinned, taking her face in his hands and kissing her soundly on the mouth. "How was that?"

"I suppose it will have to do for now," she sighed sarcastically. "Now hand me that muffin, stat. I need to eat in a hurry; we have a very important patient to see."

Fifteen minutes later, Mark was helping Addison into a wheelchair. Her life was about to change in ways she knew she couldn't even begin to comprehend, and that feeling was overwhelming and surreal, a mixture of excitement, nervousness, and happiness. After everything that had happened, it was finally time for her to meet her daughter.

"You ready?" Mark asked, staring down at Addison, who gave him a soft smile and pulled him down for a tender kiss.

"Yeah."

As Mark pushed her down the hall, Addison felt tears beginning to form in her eyes and a tightness developing in her throat. She had never been so overcome by emotion in her life, and with each step Mark took, the feeling intensified. Eventually, she could see Alex through the window of her daughter's room, and then at last they stopped at the door. Mark knocked and pushed the door open, wheeling Addison inside.

"We're here," he announced in a sing-song voice.

Alex looked up from his chair by the incubator. In the two days since the little girl's birth, he had hardly left her side despite the fact that her case wasn't surgical. "She's all yours, Montgomery," he told her happily, getting up from his seat and walking toward them. "I'll be back in a half hour to check on you guys. Congratulations," he said, giving Addison a light squeeze on the shoulder.

She smiled appreciatively, her eyes teary, "Thanks, Karev. Really."

He gave her his trademark half-smile in response and then left the new little family of three to themselves.

"Okay. That's it, Mark. I'm going to cry," Addison choked out seconds later as tears began to spill down her cheeks.

"That's okay, baby. Just close your eyes," he told her gently. "Take a deep breath, and when you open them again, you'll be right in front of her, okay?"

She nodded and closed her eyes, inhaling deeply as he pushed her over to the incubator and then sat down in the chair beside her. He grasped her hand tightly, and whispered, "Open your eyes, and say hello to our baby girl."

Addison slowly opened her eyes and gasped in awe at the sight of her sleeping daughter. The baby lay on her stomach wearing a diaper that was a bit too big for her. Her little mouth was slightly open and the CPAP tube rested underneath her nose. On her head was a pink knit cap, and Addison could see a tiny bit of dark red hair sticking out from underneath it. This tiny little baby had grown inside of her for twenty-eight weeks. Although she knew the science inside and out, she suddenly found it all almost too hard to believe. This was the same baby whose heartbeat had brought her to tears, whose image she had seen through ultrasounds. This was the same baby who fluttered and kicked and knew her mother's voice. This was the child she and Mark had loved and waited for, and now she was finally looking at her.

Carefully, Addison reached inside and took hold of her daughter's tiny hand.

"Hi there, Avery Katherine Sloan," she said softly while beginning to trace delicate circles on the baby's palm with her thumb. "It's Mommy. I missed you so much, sweetie, and I'm so happy to finally see you. Daddy and I love you lots and lots, and we're so proud of you for holding on in there. Aunt Nancy says you are making good progress."

"But we need your little heart to get better, Peanut," Mark spoke up. "You aren't supposed to have a broken heart." He paused. "Hey, Add? Is it okay that they have her sleeping on her stomach? I thought you weren't supposed to let them sleep like that."

"Usually, you aren't, but because we're monitoring her, we can tell if something goes wrong. The alarm on the machine will sound. For now, though, it's good to have her sleeping on her tummy. It actually helps her with breathing now that she's off the ventilator. We'll turn her over in a little while, but for the time being, this is good."

"So it's safe then?"

"It's very safe," she confirmed.

Addison leaned in closer to get a better look at the baby's face and smiled proudly. Two perfect little eyes, one perfect little nose, and one perfect little mouth. It was nothing short of amazing. "Can you believe that she's actually ours? That we actually made her?" She asked, turning to Mark.

"My job was done months ago. You did this, Addie. After all you've been through and worried about, you did it, babe," he said in admiration as he cupped her cheek and wiped away the remaining tears. "And I love you for it."

She blushed and covered his hand with her own. She may have carried their daughter, but he helped nearly every step of the way. He begged her for the chance to show her he could change, and he did. Mark changed more than she or anyone thought possible, and now she had a future with him and their daughter that was better than she could have ever imagined.

"I couldn't have done it without you. I wouldn't be nearly this happy. All of this could have been so different, but you have been wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. And just having her now," she sighed and looked back at their daughter, "it just… I don't know…"

"Feels right?" He suggested with a smile.

"Yeah. That's exactly it. I mean, I still wish I could have carried her longer, but now to be able to see her and touch her, to know that she's going to be okay, and to just be here together for the first time as family… It's incredible."

"It certainly is," he agreed. "I have my two beautiful girls. My Addie and my Avery."

Mark wrapped an arm around her shoulders and kissed her temple before they lapsed into a content silence, watching their daughter take consistent breaths on her own. Addison adjusted the cap on the baby's head and lovingly stroked her soft little cheek as Mark marveled at the five tiny toes on each tiny little foot.

After about fifteen minutes, Addison reached for the chart sitting on the table next to the incubator and pulled out her glasses to read. "I feel like I should be working," she laughed, flipping over to the first page. "Ugh. I can't stop my inner workaholic. It's terrible. I feel like I need to be actively doing something for her or for someone. At least you have your big surgery later today. I'm jealous."

Mark was implanting tissue expanders in the conjoined Lewis twins. It was the first surgical step in separating the girls, and since Addison was supervising the project, she had planned to observe the procedure. Now, though, she would have to rely on reports from Mark and Richard. It disappointed her somewhat, but she knew everything would run smoothly without her. At least that day. She didn't even want to think about how she was going to manage the next two months before the separation between her duties as the mother of a preterm baby and co-head of this huge surgery. Balancing professional and personal responsibilities was already proving to be more difficult than she thought, though there was no question that her daughter would come first.

"About that…" he began, "You think Nancy would be able to spare Karev for a few hours? I was thinking of asking him if he would like to scrub in."

Addison looked up from the chart and arched an eyebrow, allowing her glasses to slip slightly down her nose.

"What?" He asked. "He saved our baby. Why I can't reward him with a cool surgery?"

"You can, but just don't keep favoring him. Then he might decide he wants to go back to the Dark Side with you and take up Plastics again," she laughed. "Really… I don't want to lose him from my department. Especially now when I can't be working. Karev has a gift. He's only been on my service for about five months, and already, he's capable of doing more things than some of my residents. I need him."

"Add, come on. I'm not going to steal your precious intern prodigy, relax. It's just this one surgery. I promise."

"Okay," she conceded. "You can ask him."

A loud whisper came from the doorway behind them. "YES! SCORE!"

Alex couldn't contain himself. He had been standing there for that whole exchange between his superiors, and now he was feeling quite pleased. Not only did he get a great surgery, but he also got a significant ego boost.

Mark cleared his throat, and he and Addison turned their heads to look. "So how long have you been eavesdropping, Karev?"

"Long enough to hear that I'm awesome," he smirked.

Addison rolled her eyes and groaned. "Oh god, now the massive ego is back."

"You love dudes with egos. Look at him," Alex teased, nodding toward Mark. "Anyway, how's the kid?"

She turned her head back to look at her daughter and smiled softly. "Perfect. Absolutely perfect. And very well-behaved. She's been very calm and stable the whole time. No problems at all."

As Alex approached the isolette, the baby began to stir. Her fists clenched, and her arms and legs stretched. "Looks like she's waking up," he observed. Slowly the little girl's deep blue eyes opened, and after blinking sleepily a few times, she stared out at her mother.

Addison giggled and leaned forward, reaching her hand inside and allowing the baby to grasp her index finger. "Good morning there, baby girl. Did you have a nice nap?"

She squeezed Addison's finger and yawned.

"I think that means yes, Mommy," Mark grinned as their daughter continued to study Addison's face.

"You want to hold her, Montgomery?"

"C-can I?" she responded, caught off-guard by what Alex had asked. Addison had been so caught up in just watching her daughter that she completely forgot about the possibility of being able to hold her.

"Shepherd told me to give you the go-ahead if she stayed stable the whole time I was gone, so you're good to go," he told her as he prepared to open the incubator. "She wants you to kangaroo her, though."

Mark laughed. "Kangaroo?"

"It's basically just skin-to-skin contact," Addison explained, going into doctor-mode. "They call it 'kangaroo care' because it's similar to how mother kangaroos keep their babies close to them. It's highly beneficial for preterm infants. The studies that have been done have all had amazing results."

"It's been proven to help them stabilize their breathing, heart rate, and body temperature," Alex continued as he checked the baby over. "Aves could use help with all of that right now. It will also help her sleep better, cry less, gain weight more quickly, and… um… well, pretty much anything that she missed out on by being born early, this will help with it. Brain development is another thing. It's crazy how much this helps."

"It will also help us feel closer to her and more like her parents, and for me, it helps with milk production." Mark and Alex both coughed and looked away awkwardly. "Oh please. It's good for her. Deal with it. Mark, I need to sit over in that rocking chair in the corner for this, so help me get up."

Mark stood up and took hold of one of Addison's hands. As he slowly pulled her up with one arm, the other reached around to her lower back to help her stand against him. "You good?" He asked with her pressed against him.

"Considering I had a massive gaping hole in my abdomen sutured shut a few days ago, I'm okay. That wasn't too bad."

He helped her walk across the room, taking small steps until they reached the chair. She looked up and nodded for him to help lower her back down.

"There we go," Mark said, kissing her lightly.

"You want to pick her up and hand her over, Sloan?" Alex asked in reference to the baby. "I can show you how. It's not hard."

"I don't want to break her or upset her or anything," he said nervously, walking back toward the isolette. Addison smiled at his concern.

"You won't. She knows she can trust her dad," Alex assured him. "It's just like picking up any other baby. You just have to watch out so you don't get anything tangled up. Just lean over and slide your hands underneath her. She's small enough that you'll be able to lift her up to your chest easily. Okay? Just watch out for the equipment, and remember to hold her head up for her."

Mark looked back at Addison for reassurance, and she gave him an encouraging nod. He turned back and looked down at his tiny daughter. "You are definitely living up to your nickname," he said softly as he began to slide a hand underneath her. "You really are a peanut. I can't believe how little you are." He took a deep breath and began to lift her. As he brought her closer to his chest, she began to whimper at her sudden change in position. "Shhh… Daddy's got you, baby girl. We're just going to see Mommy. Don't worry. You're safe."

Addison grinned and felt tears returning to her eyes as Mark turned towards her holding their daughter who looked so small in contrast to her nearly six-foot-one father. The baby fussed in his arms as he walked, causing her little hat to fall to the floor, but Mark instinctively cupped the back of her head and whispered to her soothingly until they reached Addison.

"Here's Mommy," he said to the baby, placing a loving kiss on top of her head before helping to slip her inside of Addison's partially unbuttoned shirt.

"Hey there, Aves," Addison cooed as her daughter settled against her chest. The baby's skin was warm and incredibly soft and just feeling her so close made Addison's heart melt. She could feel her body relax against her, and it made her so happy knowing that she could make her little girl feel safe and comfortable. "You are just the sweetest little thing, you know that?" She looked up at Mark who was grinning proudly at them. She blushed and then peered back down at the baby who was now watching her intently. "Such a perfect, pretty baby. Yes, you are."

Alex's pager went off from the other side of the room. He held it up so Addison and Mark could see it was his and then silently left, dimming the lights behind him so the baby could fall asleep.

"You know, Add," Mark said as he carried a chair over to sit next to his girls, "I'm glad I got you pregnant."

Addison shook her head and laughed at him. "Me too," she replied, smoothing down the baby's thin layer of fuzzy hair. "I think the end result made everything more than worth it."

"Yeah," he agreed before pressing a kiss to her lips and sitting down. "We definitely made a good one."

"We did," she sighed contentedly.

"I'm happy, Addie. Like… really, really happy."

"Good, because Avery and I are, too."

They continued to watch their daughter quietly. Every blink, movement, breath, and sound was awe-inspiring. After a while, the baby pressed her forehead into her mother's chest and yawned.

"Have a nice nap, sleepyhead," Mark whispered, the grin on his face seemingly permanent.

"We love you, sweetheart," Addison said gently, cuddling the little girl closer and kissing the top of her head.

Together, they watched their daughter's eyelids slowly drift shut. Everything around them ceased to exist. This was it. This was perfect.