Dick, age 26.
You asked for it.
"So, the clerk was positive on his description?" Can asked.
"He's with the sketch artist now," I said, my feet up on my desk, juggling Can's stress balls as we conducted our brainstorming session, otherwise known as Can checking up to make sure we're all doing our job. "But he's not wavered in the description."
She readjusted her position as she sat on the back of her desk regarding us. "That's good at least."
I nodded, leaning back on my chair, my eyes watching the balls. "New gang cropping up. Calling themselves 'The Hoodies'."
Hackle rolled his eyes. "So original."
"Because of those black hoodies they wear, I bet," Taylor mentioned, chewing on his pen, a bad habit he's been developing.
"Do they have much presence?" Can asked, giving me one of 'those' looks. As in, does Nightwing have any intel?
I half smiled at her. "Not yet. And I doubt they will. They seem to lack formal leadership. Just kids running amok. Average age seems to be fifteen. They just need to be scared straight and not drawn into a bigger gang."
"Matter for juvey, then," Taylor said.
"It would be," I said. "If one of their ringleaders hadn't decided to up the ante and go for murder one. Judging by the description the clerk has given us, I don't think the ringleader will be too difficult to track down. Once the sketch is done, I'll put out a BOLO for him. Maybe we can get the rest of the kids back on track if we arrest the ringleaders."
Can nodded, then looked at Hackle. "Paperwork on the Burns case?"
"Just about done," he reported. "Still waiting on a few witness signatures. I'll chase them up."
Can looked at me next. "Jefferson?"
"Waiting on Judge sign off on the warrant to search his premises. I was promised it in an hour. I'll follow up after this."
Can turned her eyes to Taylor. "And the—"
My phone rang as Can was talking, and since she wasn't talking to me I leant over to grab it, switching so I was juggling one handed, expecting it to be a court clerk regarding my warrant. "Grayson."
My eyes widened and all three balls plopped to the ground as I surged to my feet. Gretchen.
"— her water has broken."
She's early. Five weeks early. "Contractions?"
Behind me, Can dropped into silence, turning her head toward me.
"Currently two minutes apart," Gretchen said.
What? How did it get so advanced? "I'm on my way," I blurted, already snatching my gear from my desk. I thunked the phone down and grabbed my backpack from under my desk. "Gotta go."
"Kory?" Can asked.
Keys, keys, where the fuck are my keys? Oh. Pocket… Right. "Yeah. Water broke."
Hackle's grinning at me. "Good luck, dude."
"Yeah," Taylor echoed with a broad smile.
"Give her our best," Can said. "I'll inform the Captain that your leave's starting early."
I was flustered. "Thanks. Ahh… the warrant—"
"We'll take care of it," Can said and shooed me with her hands. "Go."
I threw the backpack on my back, kissed Can's cheek and bolted for the stairs, the elevator too slow. I'm not sure how I made it through to the Nightwatch without killing myself, speeding on my bike as I was, the fifteen minute trip taking me eight minutes. The teleporter activated within moments of me parking my bike and I flashed a smile at the camera.
"Star! Starfire!" I bellowed as I raced into our nefarious basement, taking the stairs two at a time. When I reached the top of the stairs and burst into the living room, Silkie launched himself at me, warbling frantically and then perched on my shoulder.
A groan of pain from upstairs. "Diiiiick!"
I was up there and in the bathroom before she even finished my name.
She was white as she could possibly get. She was bending over the bathroom vanity so her torso was almost parallel to the floor, her legs apart and her head hanging. She was naked, like she'd just had a shower, which she'd been having a lot of because they soothed aching muscles and the baby liked water. The inside of her legs were wet, where as the rest of her was not.
Silkie leapt from my shoulder to the vanity, put several of his legs on Starfire's arm and emitted a concerned warble.
She gave me a trembling smile underneath her arm. "My waters did the breaking."
My stomach dropped to my toes. "But… it's too early, isn't it?"
"I do not know. Human?"
Right on time for a human baby. I hesitantly approached her and put my hand on her back. "Contractions?"
She nodded and breathed out slowly. "They are coming very quickly."
I rubbed her lower back, little circles with the palm of my hand. "Why didn't you call me earlier?"
She groaned, leaning back into my hand, her head dropping down. She breathed, deep, controlled breaths in and out for at least thirty seconds then lifted her head again. "Dick, they arrived very fast. I did not expect it to advance so quickly."
My mind was completely blank. "Oh… oh… okay… um…"
"Sound the alert," Starfire suggested.
"Yes. Yes. Okay. Right." I headed for the door, leant out to call, "Gretchen, stork alert please," I glanced at the bag packed beside the door, then headed back to my fiancée.
Who was naked… I darted into our bedroom and headed for the closet, grabbing one of her maternity dresses, purple, simple spaghetti strap dress buttoned up at the front, and raced to the bathroom again.
She looked to be in the middle of a contraction, head down, shoulders hunched, her hips rotating in circles. My mind said it had been about a minute since the last one. "What do you want me to do?" I asked.
I stood behind her, placing both my hands on her lower back and rubbed in little circles, matching the motion of her hips.
She groaned, panted. Trying to be helpful, I grabbed her hairbrush while she recovered, ran it through her hair a few times, then braided it to the best of my ability, so it would be out of the way.
"So, this is it."
"Yes," she replied.
"I'm excited," I told her, kissing her shoulder, my fingers braiding.
"Little bit of work ahead first."
With a sigh, she nodded. "That was not unexpected."
"It will be over before you know it," I said, trying to sound confident.
When I was done braiding her hair, and we'd endured another contraction, she straightened and I lifted up her dress and she put both arms through the straps to pull it on.
"Can you make it to the teleporter?" I asked, pulling her dress down.
She sighed. "I will try."
"Do you want me to carry you?"
"No, that will be most uncomfortable." She staggered toward the door. "Do not forget the bag."
"I got it," I said, hovering around her nervously.
She only made it as far as the door to our room before her hand shot out and she gripped the frame. "G'tuk de X'hal, mina'a'eta dos fyrareck." An actual god curse from my Star, in detail… she must be in a bit of pain.
"Are you okay?" I asked, shouldering the bag before I rubbed her back.
"They are very close together."
"How'd this advance so fast?"
She gasped. "I have… all day… and…" She stopped talking and just panted and I waited out the contraction with her. She groaned and released the door. "I have had mild pains all day, but there was no regularity. I had a shower to try and ease, but my waters broke and then they started coming very fast."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I did not think it was anything."
"Float. I'll pull you."
She shook her head. "Energy flow cut."
She'd warned me that would happen, it was so their strength didn't damage their children during birth. "Damn… okay…"
She waddled for the stairs. "Let us get down there between contractions."
We paused at the top to soldier through a contraction, then Starfire scrambled down the stairs as fast as she could before the next. Which wasn't that fast.
She groaned and turned, her feet at the base of the stairs and her hands against the fourth stair. I slipped around behind her to rub her back again. "Breathe, Star, you need to remember to breathe through them."
She nodded, her head hanging and I heard her control her breathing. I bent over, watching her face, desperately wishing there was a way I could take this pain away from her.
"Can you move?" I asked as her shoulders relaxed.
Starfire shook her head. She braced her legs apart, bending her knees a little.
Unnerved, I raised my head. "Gretchen, open the teleporter. Beep Doctor Mid-Nite and Argent. We're going to need some help." I lifted my hands from Starfire's back, meaning to go and open the gym door so they could get through but Starfire wailed. "Need contact."
My hands went straight back on her. "Okay."
She groaned, just a little sound, and sank down on her knees, bracing against the stairwell with her forearms. I dropped down with her. Starfire sighed. "So quick."
I rubbed her back in long strokes with one hand, the other concentrating around the small. "It's okay. Quick is good."
"I know, beautiful."
She took a deep breath, then held it and I felt her stiffen. Her breath became gaspy and uncoordinated.
"Breathe," I murmured, leaning into her, trying to give her what support I could. "Remember your exercises.
"Nightwing?" I heard Argent call.
I lifted away from Starfire. "Up here!" I bellowed. "Base of the stairs!"
Argent was up with us within moments, dumping a bag on the floor as her hands on Starfire's belly to judge the strength of the contraction. "How close?"
"Regular at sixty seconds," I answered because Starfire couldn't.
"About the same."
"Starfire, do you have the urge to push?"
She shook her head.
"Star, when this contraction's over, I'm going to have a look and possibly a feel. Okay?"
Starfire nodded again.
"Nightwing, you'll need to move. Try getting in between her and the stairs so she can lean on you."
"Okay," I said, glad for some sort of instruction. I was at a complete loss of what to do.
We waited until the contraction was over. Starfire lifted away from the stairs long enough for me to slip in there and then draped herself against me while I hugged her, my knees on either side of her hips for support. I looked over her shoulder to view Argent hiking Starfire's dress up a little.
Returning my attention to my girl, I kissed her cheek, then her lips. "You're doing great."
She moaned and sighed at the same time, her eyes closed. She rested her forehead against my neck and gripped my upper arms. As much as she said her powers were nullified by labour, I really hoped it was true or I'd end up with broken arms next contraction. Starfire stiffened and shuddered.
"Sorry, Star," Argent murmured.
"Hello?" a voice called.
"Doctor Mid-Nite," Argent called and moved away. "I'll be right back," she said to us.
"You okay?" I asked Starfire.
The staircase was pressed into my back, she was leaning on me heavily. "I'm fine. Don't you worry about me."
Starfire groaned, her grip on me tightening. I held onto her, giving her what comfort I could. I stroked her back, murmuring encouragement, reminding her to breathe.
Argent was back. "Nightwing, she's almost completely dilated. We're not going to be able to move her."
I stared at her. "Um…"
"Doctor Mid-Nite's gone back to the Watchtower to get J'onn to set up a few things, and then he'll be back. In the meantime, I'm going to set up some blankets to put under Star, then we'll turn her around so I can check baby positioning, okay?"
I nodded. "Okay."
Argent fussed around while we waited for that contraction to finish, before I lifted Starfire up so Argent could slip some protective blankets underneath her. Together, we helped Starfire turn, dropping us both down until she was squatting at the base of the stairs and I was sitting up behind her so she could lean back into me. I put my arms under hers, interwove our fingers so she could grip.
Argent pressed on Starfire's stomach, moving her hands around so she could check positioning. "Everything looks good," she said, getting out a stethoscope to check the baby's heartbeat. "You're doing great. Baby sounds good."
Starfire made a relieved sort of noise.
"Nervous, Daddy?" she asked, smiling at me.
"She'll be fine. You're both doing great."
"It's very quick."
Argent shrugged. "It happens," she soothed. "It's quick, yes, but it often is after the water breaks. Fluid's clear, so that's great." She pressed her hands to Starfire's belly again. "You tell me if you feel the need to push."
Starfire nodded, then dropped her head back on my shoulder.
"How are we doing?" Doctor Mid-Nite asked as he dropped to crouch down beside Argent.
Argent rattled off a series of medical terms, to low for me to hear properly, but then I wasn't really listening.
I lowered my head so I could press my cheek to Starfire's, just waiting for the next contraction.
When it came, it seemed so much stronger than the previous ones. Starfire's entire body went taut, rigid. She stopped breathing, her teeth clenching. Her grip on my hands was stranglehold and I felt my bones move but I didn't care. She rose up a little, as though she could move away from the pain. As she rode out the last of the contraction, a groan, originating somewhere deep inside Starfire's body, so deep it didn't even sound like her, poured from her lips.
"It changed," she murmured when it was over.
"That's good," I said, flicking my eyes to Argent. "That's good, right?"
Argent nodded, bending down to have a look again. "It's good. Star, are you comfortable?"
"If you feel the need to push, let me know. You'll need to lift up a little."
We endured several more of those intense, blue fingers and rigid body contractions while Dr Mid-Nite set up a stretcher on the floor. The strength of the contractions seemed to drain Starfire, she leant against me heavily when they were over, sweat beading at her temples.
When the next one came, instead of rearing away, she gripped my hands tight and curled forward. She was completely stiff, every muscle in her body working at once.
Argent dropped so she was lying on her side, her hands between Starfire's legs.
"That's it," Argent crooned. "Big push."
My eyes widened. I so wasn't ready for this. It felt like we'd only just started. "Keep it up, Star," I whispered in her ear. "You're doing great. I love you so much."
No groaning this time, but as the contraction finished, Starfire gave a higher yell, not a scream but definitely a cry of pain. She sobbed and panted as she leant back against me, whimpering a little while I crooned in her ear.
We went through two more of those before Argent smiled at us. "Star, can I have one of your hands?"
I lifted an eyebrow as Starfire pried her fingers away from mine and Argent directed it downward.
"Oh!" Starfire said, her eyes snapping open and she shifted, tilting her head down.
"What?" I asked.
"Crowning," Argent said, smiling at me.
I jolted, caught between wanting to go see our baby, and supporting Starfire, especially since I was effectively trapped behind her.
"I have a mirror," Doctor Mid-Nite mentioned.
"Um. No," I said as Starfire leant back into me, taking my hand again. "It's fine."
"Oh," Starfire mumbled. "Did you—"
"No, m'lovely. I'm fine." I kissed her neck.
"Big pushes, Star," Argent said as the next contraction came.
She grunted, leaning forward again as she gripped my hands. I whispered words of encouragement in her ear while Argent paid close attention to what was happening between her legs.
"Oh!" Starfire murmured, dropping back into me.
"We have a head," Argent called and there was a flurry of movement from her.
Okay, that was it, I had to look. Keeping one hand on the middle of Starfire's back, I bent over, leaning around her.
A tiny little face blinked back at me, those magnificent green eyes of Starfire's set in a miniature, black fuzz covered head. My entire body went numb. I didn't know what I felt, or could feel, I couldn't see anything else other than that little face. My child. "Oh."
"Okay, Nightwing, undo the front of Starfire's dress. Next contraction, and the baby'll be out, and it'll be up on Star's chest."
I blinked at Argent, the moment broken. "Oh. Right." I straightened, pulled Starfire back so she was resting on me again and undid the top buttons of her dress. "Oh Star, they looked at me. Eyes are open and they're looking around. They're your eyes Star. Oh god, our baby is beautiful."
Starfire's eyelids flickered open, her eyes glazed as she looked at me. I kissed her fingers, excited and anxious all in one.
Her eyes clenched shut again, her body stiffening and I held my breath with Starfire.
There was a thin wail, Argent fussing for a moment before there was a tiny, gunk-covered baby resting on Starfire's chest.
"Oh!" Starfire cried, her voice and face filled with awe and I stared in wonder. Starfire released my hands, both hands cradling the tiny mewing newborn to her. We sort of folded backward, my back hitting the stairs before we slumped at the base of them.
I couldn't stop staring. The baby was bloody, covered in goo, and making pitiful mews and cries, and yet they was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Tiny unfocussed emerald eyes, this little squashed up nose, a mop of black hair, pink lips.
Starfire tilted her head back to rest it on my shoulder. "A girl," she breathed, her eyes shining.
I couldn't tear my eyes away from that little form.
I'm a Dad. A father…
That tiny bundle of perfection nestled in Starfire's arms, is mine.
There are no words for this.
Together, we checked out the ten tiny toes, ten fingers, the mop of black hair. My hair. Starfire's eyes. Two ears. Everything in the right place. Nothing abnormal about my daughter, she was perfect. The best of both of us.
Argent placed something in my hands. "Nightwing, you need to cut the cord."
"Huh?" I asked, peering at the surgical scissors that had magically appeared in my hands.
Argent's smile was knowing, smug and tender all at the same time as she showed me what to do with the cord. I cut it and then went straight back to staring at my little daughter.
Her tiny little fingers curled around Starfire's index finger. She blinked slowly, yawned and Starfire crooned at her. "Is she not adorable?"
"Hello, little one," Starfire cooed. "Hello, my lovely little one."
I rested my hand on our daughter's head. "Oh, Star, she's gorgeous."
Argent was back between Starfire's legs, working and checking things, but her movements didn't break the enthrallment of the tiny little baby. Starfire gave a little grunt, wrinkled her nose.
"Just the placenta," Argent murmured. "Well done, Star."
I kissed Starfire's neck, her cheek, her temple. "Star, you were amazing. Look what you did."
"Our little Mar'i." She turned her head. "Yes?"
I nodded. "Yes."
Mar'i snuggled her cheek against Starfire's bare breast, making murmuring noises, her little fingers flexing, then curling. Starfire wiped at her face, gentle little motions, just to clean her off a little.
There was a hesitant warble from above us, Silkie watching with big eyes, and I smiled at him. "C'mon, buddy, come see what Momma did."
I was aware of Argent getting up off the ground, leaning over to check our daughter, before she gave us a little space as Silkie cautiously crept down the stairs. He put his little legs up on my shoulder and peered over, sniffing. He lifted his head, looked at me, looked at Starfire, then peered down at Mar'i again.
I patted his head. "It's okay, buddy, she'll be a good playmate for you when she's older. You get to watch out and protect her too."
"Smile," Argent called.
Starfire and I looked up at her and smiled, just in time for the camera to click, without a flash.
"Baby's first photo," she said as she lowered the camera. "We'll be just over there, we'll give you a few minutes before we move you, okay?"
"Thank you, Argent," Starfire murmured, looking back down at our daughter.
I rubbed Starfire's shoulder, just content to have her leaning against me. "Well… that was quick."
She giggled, dropping her head back. "Yes, very."
I rubbed my hands along the outside of her arms, just watching them both.
"Richard?" Starfire asked.
I swallowed, the use of my name, the sight of them both affecting me more than I thought it would. "Yes, beautiful?"
Her eyes were shining with unshed tears. "Would you like a cuddle?"
My breathing turned shallow, my hand itching to take my daughter, but I didn't want to interfere with Starfire's bonding moment. All that work, it didn't seem right to take the baby from her so quickly. But I wanted that cuddle, that moment to greet her. "Can I?"
Starfire's smile was beautiful, serene. "Of course you can."
She sat up so I could slip out from behind her to kneel at her side. Argent placed a blanket in my arms so we could wrap Mar'i and then the little bundle of joy was in my arms, her head resting in the crock of my elbow.
"Hello, Mar'i," I murmured and kissed her gunk covered forehead. "I'm your daddy."
Mar'i's emerald eyes blinked at me and she made a little noise.
Starfire's fingers fluttered around the blankets around our daughter and I had to look up at her. "Thank you," I whispered, completely overwhelmed. "Oh Starfire, thank you."
She pressed her hand to my cheek and drew me forward so we could kiss. She sighed as she moved back, grimacing.
Concerned, I asked, "You okay?"
She nodded, frowned and shook her head. "I feel strange."
Worried now, I looked up and down her, then flicked my head over to Argent who was talking quietly with Doctor Mid-Nite about moving Starfire. "Um… Argent?"
Argent turned her head and looked at me inquiringly.
"Is there supposed to be that much blood?"
Argent frowned as she dropped down to her knees in front of Starfire, whose eyes were glazed. Her frown deepened, then she looked over at Doctor Mid-Nite. "Doctor?"
Doctor Mid-Nite was straight over, an expression of concentration on the lower part of his masked face as he looked Starfire over and checked her vitals. "We need to move her," he said after a moment.
"What's wrong?" I blurted.
"Can't say," Argent murmured. "Just need to get her to the Watchtower. Starfire, I'm going to lift you, just lie back and try to relax. Nightwing and the baby will be right behind us."
I scrambled to my feet, Silkie still on my shoulder as I clutched my daughter, getting out of Argent's way. "Should I page Raven?" I asked as Argent fashioned a stretcher beneath Starfire with her powers and lifted her onto the real one. Since Raven'd had a baby only a few weeks ago, we all sort of agreed that she didn't need to be present for the birth, just contacted if there was an emergency. And Argent and Doctor Mid-Nite had been doing all the pre-birth care (and post-birth) on both of them anyway.
I watched as Starfire was draped on the stretcher, then Argent lifted it with her powers. She chewed her lip. "Um…"
"I'm paging Raven," I said, deciding for her. "Even if there's nothing she can do, she'll have my head if I don't."
Argent nodded. "We need to move."
"Dick?" Starfire called as they wheeled her toward the teleporter.
"Right here," I replied, grabbing the previously discarded bag by the stair. "Gretchen, enable teleport to Watchtower please. General alert to immediate family members, priority alert to Raven please."
"At once," Gretchen replied.
"House on lockdown as we go. I have Silkie."
I hurried down the stairs after Starfire, Argent and Doctor Mid-Nite, reaching the bottom of the stairs just as they pushed Starfire through. Starfire cast me a panicked sort of look, but I was pretty sure that was because she didn't want to be far away from Mar'i. Not that I blamed her.
They were already racing away as we exited the teleporter.
So many faces. Everyone was around, so many Justice League members. What, had they all just been standing there waiting for us to arrive? Did none of them have work to do?
Some of them clapped, some of them watched Argent and Starfire with concern and a lot of the women were looking at me with hungry faces. I caught a glimpse of my girl through the crowd of people as Argent hurried her to the medical bay. Starfire looked like she'd fainted.
I barely got to take two steps into the Watchtower before people were accosting me for information. Boy or girl, what was wrong with Starfire, why were they running so fast, can I hold the baby.
Silkie snarled on my shoulder, his whole body shuddering. He'd been overprotective for months, I was half afraid he'd mutate again. Which would be good, because I needed to get through to go after Starfire. Mar'i needed to be checked too.
Hands and reaching, cooey women wanting to touch. I cursed and curled my body around my daughter. "Get out of my way!"
"The next person who attempts to touch my g'tookabunglorf will feel the sharp end of my soral!" Galfore bellowed over the top of all the talking around me. "If you are not family, be gone!"
Rather pleasing to watch them scatter. Everyone retreated except for Galfore and Flash, who was eyeing off Galfore, making sure he wasn't about to be attacked.
Galfore hunkered down in front of me on one knee as he regarded the bundle in my arms. Silkie hissed at him.
"Be still, little protector," Galfore said and held up his hands. "I only wish to observe."
I managed to muster up a smile and angled my precious bundle toward him so he could see. "It's a girl."
Galfore's expression softened and he smiled. "A girl. Glorious." He reached forward a big hand, tucking the blanket around Mar'i more securely. Mar'i blinked at him. "She has Koriand'r's eyes."
I looked down at my daughter, still unable to believe it. "We've called her Mar'i."
Flash peered around Galfore's bulk. "Congrats dude," he said, grinning, before it faded. "What's wrong with Star?"
I panicked a little. "Not sure."
Galfore took my bag from me as he stood. "We must go, then," he said. "Koriand'r would not want to be too far from her daughter."
We hurried to the medical bay, everyone giving us a wide birth now, nervous looks to Galfore all around. Which was good, I didn't feel like dealing with people.
Argent met us at the door, looking grave. "She's haemorrhaged," she murmured. "Doctor Mid-Nite's dealing with it, Raven's on her way. Flash, we need her blood from the storage area please."
Flash nodded and vanished.
My heart thumped in my chest. "Blood?"
"Just a precaution." Argent looked down at my precious child. "I also need to check over Mar'i."
I shifted my grip on her and licked my lips.
"With you right there, of course," Argent said and gestured a door off to the left. "It's just the K injection, cord check and basic scoring. Five minutes and you can dress her."
"Argent!" Raven called, sweeping up the corridor behind us. Galfore stepped aside to let her pass. Raven swooped up to me, her hand resting on my shoulder. "What happened?" she asked Argent, her finger tips touching the blankets around Mar'i as she had a look.
"Haemorrhage," Argent said. "Placenta wall tore."
I shifted. "Is she okay?"
"I'll deal with it," Raven said, still looking at Mar'i. "She's beautiful, Dick. Congratulations." Raven kissed my cheek and then headed into the medical bay doors.
I glanced over my shoulder to see Beast Boy, with baby Joshua in arms and Cyborg and Sarah coming up the hallway. I waited for them, seeing their nervous faces, caught between excitement and worry as they looked from me to the swinging medical bay door behind me.
"Dick?" Cyborg called.
"A girl," I answered.
Relief and happiness for a moment, Beast Boy and Cyborg shared a high five while Sarah bounced up and down on the spot, clapping her hands.
"Nightwing?" Argent reminded me.
"Oh. Right. I'll be right back," I told the others.
I followed Argent into the small room, really not much, a medical bed against the wall, a cabinet full of medical gear. She'd already placed a newborn diaper on a bench and blankets to transfer Mar'i into.
"Not going to bath her," Argent said. "Just a little clean and a check. Put her down, if that's okay."
I gently laid her out, she squirmed and cried out as I did, my heart catching a little.
"That's good," Argent said and touched my arm. "She's okay, she's just fussing 'cause she likes snuggles."
I gave her a sheepish grin. "Sorry, I don't know what I'm doing."
She grinned at me. "Well, lucky for you, I do. Being the paediatrician and all."
Mar'i squirmed and kicked her little legs as Argent drew back the blankets. "Good girl," Argent crooned. "Aren't you just the darlin'est little thing?" Mar'i let out a wail, high pitched and calling and although I jolted, Argent just smiled. "That's it. Give those lungs a workout."
Argent did a lot of checks on Mar'i, most of it going right over my head, but she knew what she was doing and I trusted her. Argent picked Mar'i up, crooning to her as she placed her on the scales.
"Good size, Nightwing," she said as she took her readings. "Seven pounds, one ounce."
"Is she cold?" I fussed, worried.
"No," Argent replied. "Just wants her daddy." Another long moment of Mar'i's wails before Argent placed her back in the blankets and stepped back. "Okay, everything's perfect, you can dress her now. I'll head back into Starfire. We'll let you know as soon as possible."
"Is Star going to be okay?"
Argent patted my arm. "We'll do everything we can. Try not to panic yourself and snuggle your bubby."
I stared down at Mar'i for a moment. "Um…"
"Gently does it, Daddy," Argent said with a smile. "But sink or swim time. Just don't pull the cord out, it'll fall out when it's ready."
I took a deep breath and took Silkie off my shoulder to place him on the bed. "Okay, Dick, you can take on criminals with one hand tied behind your back, you can put a diaper on your daughter." I grinned. "I have a daughter."
I wrestled with the diaper, trying to be as gentle with Mar'i as I could while Silkie watched me wide eyed. She mewed at me a couple of times, blinking with those big eyes of hers, but eventually I managed to get the diaper on.
"Okay there, man?" Cyborg asked from the door.
I glanced over my shoulder at him. "I have no idea what I'm doing."
"Ahh," Cyborg turned his head. "B, this is a job for you."
Beast Boy poked his head in. "New dad nerves?" he asked, before slipping into the room, passing Joshua to Sarah. "What's up?"
"Not like you're much better," I grumbled, standing aside so Beast Boy could get in.
"Mine's three weeks. I'm a pro… Hello there, cutie. Oh, look, Cy, she's got Star's eyes."
"Gorgeous," Cyborg said, his hand on my shoulder. "We're so proud."
Beast Boy chuckled. "Dick… the diaper's on backwards."
"How can you tell?" I asked.
"The tags stick to the front… it's got a picture on the front. Even I could work that out."
"Worried about Starfire?" Cyborg asked.
"This here," Beast Boy said, gesturing Mar'i. "Best first daddy moment you can have. Try again."
I gave it another try, with Beast Boy's coaching, and managed to do it right. He talked me through putting the shirt on, and by then, I was remembering the things I'd been shown before when we'd gone to classes and I was able to wrap Mar'i up securely.
"Good job," Beast Boy said as I picked Mar'i up again, Silkie leaping from the bed to my shoulder again. "Got a good watchworm there."
I chuckled. "Yeah."
Sarah poked her head through the door. "Batman's here."
It wasn't just Batman. It was the entire Batfamily. Robin, Batgirl, Oracle, Selina and Alfred as well. I could see Superman and Superboy down the end of the hallway. Flash too. Galfore leant against a wall, one foot propped up as he regarded us. All watching and waiting.
"Um… hi," I said, looking toward the medical bay doors, hoping Raven would sweep through and rescue me from this. I felt terrible, Starfire and I should be introducing our daughter together, it wasn't right for me to take this away from her. Not with them all looking at us, eyes fixed on my daughter, all expecting to get introduced and have cuddles and…
It wasn't right. I couldn't do this without Starfire.
"I'm… ahh… just going to be in here," I said, stepping back into the small room I'd just come from and closed the door, locking it behind me. I took a deep breath and went to the bed, hoping up on it and lying down on my side so I could curl Mar'i against my chest. Silkie crawled onto the bed, curling up by my head and just watched us.
Of course, a locked door never stopped Flash, he just vibrated through the wall.
"Dude? Are you okay?"
"It's not right," I murmured as Mar'i curled her little hand around my finger. "I can't introduce her to them without Starfire."
"You know, a locked door won't keep the family at bay."
"Judging by the fact you're here, I guessed that."
"Your Dad's pissed."
"He'll get over it."
Flash walked over, pushed my legs aside so he could sit up on the bed too. "Star'll be okay."
I nodded. "Yeah. I just… this is important. Introducing Mar'i to family is something we have to do together. Wal, Star's only had one cuddle. A little cuddle. I don't want to pass our daughter around until Star's had her time."
"So, you're going to hoard her?"
"Yup. She's mine."
Flash leant over. "She's a cutie."
"You're not dating her."
"I have Jinx. Things are going well, but I'll check back in eighteen years."
I kicked his back.
Flash laughed. "Dude, I'm going to be the cool uncle, don't worry. I just think it's funny, she's barely twenty minutes old and you're already overprotective."
Flash grinned at me. "Yup. You are." He hopped off the bed. "I'll go soothe the gathered horde. They can just deal."
I glanced over at the door, seeing Cyborg peering through the square window in it. "Thanks."
Mar'i yawned at me, her mouth opening and closing a few times, her little hand clutching my finger. "Yeah, Momma's coming, beautiful," I murmured, dropping my face down so it was right next to hers. "She'll be here soon."
I didn't fall asleep, but I lost myself in Mar'i's movements, her coos and sounds, the way she held my finger, the way she wriggled and blinked in the light. Watched as she closed her eyes, falling asleep within moments. So fascinating just to watch her, even as she slept. But it wasn't long before Raven was warping through the door.
I jerked my head up. "Starfire?"
"She's fine," Raven said, smiling at me.
Raven sighed. "Throwback to the Psions, I think. Since the implantation was done so quickly, I think the placenta embedded too deep in the uterine wall, tore when it was coming out. Could be a hybrid thing too, I don't know. But she's fine and she's awake and wants her daughter."
"Mar'i wants her mom too," I said, sitting up and cradling Mar'i.
"Why are you hiding out?"
"I couldn't introduce Mar'i without Star. It wasn't right."
Raven nodded. "I'll warp you through to Starfire then, because you're going to get pounced on."
I smiled. "Thanks. C'mon Silkie."
Silkie clambered up on my shoulders again and I stood. Raven placed her hand on my chest and the world swirled.
"Dick," Starfire breathed.
I grinned, relieved to see her sitting up, even if she looked pale and weak. She sat in one of the beds, a blanket across her legs and a drip connected to her wrist. "Hey, are you okay?"
She smiled and held out her arms, I hurried to transfer our daughter to her. "I am now," she said, shuffling sideways to make room for me.
"Seven pounds, one ounce," I murmured, kissing Starfire's temple as I half sat on the bed beside her. Silkie crept down my arm again, licked Starfire and went to a corner down by her foot.
"We'll leave you alone for a while," Raven said, her hand on my shoulder and Starfire's leg. "I'll come back in periodically to check on you, but let us know when you're ready, there's a bunch of people waiting."
Starfire blinked. "Oh?" she asked and looked at me. "You did not tell them?"
"Well… sorta… I told Galfore, so the rest of them probably know by now, but only Beast Boy and Cyborg really saw her. And that was only 'cause Beast Boy had to help me with the diaper."
"'Cause I failed at diapers."
She giggled. "Poor Dick. Why did you not show her off like the proud father I know you are?"
I smiled. "I wanted to do that with you."
She cupped my cheek with one hand. "Thank you."
I leant in and kissed her. "No, m'lovely, thank you. You've made me so happy."
"She's so tiny," Starfire whispered, lightly touching Mar'i's sleeping face.
"She's perfect," I whispered.
Mar'i made this mewing noise, her eyes blinking open as she wiggled.
"Hello there," Starfire crooned, then gasped.
"What?" I asked startled.
Starfire carefully removed her hands only minutely away from the bundle. "She is happy."
My jaw dropped. Mari' was floating, only for a moment before Starfire cuddled her again. "Oh, she's going to be a handful."
We sat there for a while, just watching her. Starfire tried nursing, Mar'i nuzzled for a while, gave it a good go before she fell asleep. Not that there would have been much there yet, Tamaranians get Colostrum as well, the first super enriched milk that babies get to drink and they don't need a lot.
Finally, we let people in to visit. Batman, of course, was first. He swooped in, bearing down on us much like he does to criminals in alleyways and stopped at my side, pushing back his cowl as he looked down at my daughter.
Starfire beamed at him, and lifted Mar'i up.
I have never seen my father acting so gentle. Every moment, careful, controlled, his face awash with wonder as he had his first cuddle. Mar'i waved her little fists at him as Bruce tucked the blankets around her.
I put my arm around Starfire and smiled. "Thank her Mom for that."
"Galfore said her name was Mar'i?"
Starfire nodded. "After Dick's mother."
Bruce echoed her nod, still staring. Selina crept up, peering around Bruce's arms at the little bundle and smiled at us. "Congratulations."
There was a click, Robin grinning at us as he took a couple of photos. "Never seen him smile so much," he said to me with a wink.
More people crowding around now, Cyborg, Beast Boy and Sarah, Raven sat at the end of the bed with Joshua. Oracle smiled at me, Batgirl seemed indifferent and slightly confused. Flash leant against the wall at the door. Galfore filled a corner as he calmly waited to greet our daughter. Alfred stood quietly too, letting everyone gush and coo around Bruce as he held Mar'i and I watched Alfred's restrained longing.
With a smile and a kiss for Starfire, I got to my feet and carefully extracted Mar'I from a pouting Bruce's arms. I walked across the room and handed her to Alfred.
The butler's jaw dropped, his eyes overly wide, his usual stoic mask completely gone as his arms closed around the bundle protectively. "Oh…" he said, his voice shaking. "Oh… Dick…"
I smiled, placing my hand on Alfred's shoulder. "I've always thought of you as a grandfather," I said quietly, seeing tears well in the old man's eyes. "Greet your great granddaughter."
After everyone was gone, after everyone had greeted Mar'i and crooned over how cute she was we snuggled, the three of us and Silkie too, our new little family and I was still unable to believe it was real. It had to be some sort of fantastical dream I was experiencing. It had to be some sort of crime to feel this happy.
But we were. Happy. Just the Graysons.
Best. Day. Ever.
There you go. I did it.
Ugg, you Americans… Diapers… wow. It's called a 'nappy'. Geez.
The reason I didn't want to do this is because it is rather a private moment. Plus… well… giving birth is essentially selfish. I have no clue what my husband experienced when he had to help me through. I spent most of my time with my eyes clenched shut, concentrating on my breathing and breaking his hand. And that was when I wasn't trying to get up and go home to run from the pain (yes, Kry totally pulled a 'Screw you guys, I'm going home' and had to be forced to stay in the room).
I soooo was not going to do it from Starfire's point of view.
Birth and Labour can totally happen that quickly too. My first was over twenty four hours long from the time I felt the first contraction and recognised that I was in labour. My last? Two hours from the get go. Fucking breeze, no painkillers, woosh, waters broke, instant contractions! Baby. My sister-of-my-heart, her first birth was twenty minutes. She gave birth in the parking lot. Another friend gave birth in the laundry. Another one, their shower.
Yes. Starfire would have haemorrhaged no matter what. You were warned.
Colostrum is the clear substance women secrete after giving birth (sometimes before), because its a few days before the milk comes in. It's very rich in nutriants and babies only need a little. Midwives (in Australia) recommend, even if you don't plan on breastfeeding, to at least give the baby the colostrum because it's that rich in nutriants and antibodies.
Oh… Where Starfire said "It changed." She's going through transition. It's the moment where the contractions stop going across your stomach and start going down. You transition from 'active' to 'pushing'. It is the most painful thing you have ever experienced. This is the point you scream. Serious. You can be having the most mundane labour and you'll still scream at this point. Grunt and groan, you have to make some sort of noise. It's hardwired into you. And want to kick your doctor in the face for telling you to keep it down. Fortunately, it usually only lasts a couple of contractions before you can start pushing (most of the time). And when you start pushing, you don't concentrate on the pain anymore. Transition, you just have to endure.
Also… Argent having Dick unbutton Star's dress. In Australia, it's customary to get the baby shoved at you. You deliver, the midwife helps with the shoulders and plops baby straight on your chest. They don't clean it, they don't do anything (as far as I'm aware), and it's just straight up. Skin to skin, it's one of the best things for baby (and for mum), helps breathing and circulation and all sorts of things. I don't know if it happens in America, it's one of those things that you usually only know about if you're a midwife or doctor or given birth. Unless there is a serious problem, the baby is never taken away until much later and mum is always the first to get a cuddle. The first Apgar test is done in mum's arms. Most of the time you're not even aware they've happened.
Again. Aussie. It may be different in America, but this is how I chose to write it.
So. Anyway. That's it. No more Outtakes.