Chapter One: Alexander Nigel Bailey
Nigel Bailey had many experiences with standing in a hospital corridor, thought none of them quite matched up to this one. He'd been five years old, running up and down the halls of the hospital near his hometown when his elder brother had broken his arm – an incredibly boring trip with lots of sitting around and waiting with his father while his mother sat in with Preston. He'd been seven years old, sitting in the emergency room with his mother because he'd fallen in the playground and broken his wrist. He'd been eleven years old, the year of The Accident, and they had been taken out of the car, into the hospital, checked while they asked again and again for their parents, and then asked to wait. They waited until their grandfather came to collect them, and that was the first time he really learnt that not everyone came home from the hospital, and that sometimes doctors couldn't fix things which were already too broken. Afterwards there had been a lull in the trip frequencies, just annual health checks and visits to the school nurse – until he'd come to Sydney's classroom for the first time and spent countless hours having concussions monitored and stitches sewn and sprains wrapped.
One thing he remembered very clearly was that things always moved quickly in hospitals, even when nothing was happening. Doctors rushed, nurses hurried, and the only thing that really stood still was the patients and the visitors. He'd come up with a theory that they moved faster depending how confused and concerned you were. Those with a helpless expression would frown at the hurrying blue scrubs and try to work out why everything was rushed, but it was obvious. Lives were at stake. Babies were being born. Lives ending, lives beginning, and they were responsible for them all. He'd be running around like a headless chicken if he were responsible for a dying patient or a mother in labour. He'd experienced pressure before, but that kind of pressure?
He felt a little helpless now. It was a lot like the visit for The Accident. He knew that something had happened when he had been sat down next to Preston in a side room on their own, and Preston, at fourteen, had looked considerably sadder than he had at eleven. Preston, he understood later, had known instantly what them being put aside meant. He knew from the moment Nigel joined him instead of a parent that they had not survived the crash that had miraculously spared the two younger Bailey's but not those they depended on.
Just like The Accident, Nigel now felt like something catastrophic had happened, and that something was going to change – a lot of things would change – but he wasn't sure what that next step should be, or the step after that, and especially not the one after that. Part of him was still waiting for the responsible adult to come in and hold his hand, telling him what was going to happen and that he didn't need to worry.
Snap out of it, Nigel, you're thirty-one years old.
He took a deep breath as he walked down a now-familiar corridor. He'd passed through it so many times in the past few months, but in the last three days he'd been here so many times it felt like a new home. He was starting to recognise the same people visiting, and able to pick out the newcomers. He'd formed his own attachment to the coffee machine just down the hall, though it was full of resentment that it wasn't nearly as good as the coffee he made for himself at the university, and their tea was considerably worse.
The clock was just past two o'clock when he walked into the nursery in the middle of the long hall. Two o'clock was feeding time for the babies in the nursery, and they had already been removed from what looked like a display room and taken to their mothers for feeding in the wards along the hall. There were only seven babies in the nursery at the moment, three less than the day before – five boys and two girls. In the far corner, one plastic crib remained in place, one child not taken to his mother for an afternoon feed. One child not welcomed into his mothers arms for that special connection. And that was why he was here. He was drawn to that lonely crib by a magnetism in his chest and had barely been staring down at its contents for a second before one of the nurses appeared at his side.
"Ready to feed him, Mr. Bailey?"
Him. His son. Nigel Bailey's tiny newborn son. His tiny newborn son that required feeding. His child was the child not welcomed by his mother. Unwelcome. Abandoned. Left behind. Unwanted. The last word stung at his tongue even though he'd not spoken it aloud. He nodded numbly, finding that he fell into the armchair in the corner of the room with much more ease than he had done during his last visit that morning. He supposed it was the few hours sleep that had refreshed him, but he waited anxiously for them to lift the bundle out of the bassinet and bring it to him. The tiny swaddled babe was laid in his arms, and he allowed him to squirm into a comfortable position for a moment.
"He's a bit fussy this afternoon," she warned him. "He seems better now though, I think he must have missed you! Kathy said you went home for the morning?"
Kathy was the nurse who had been on shift at the crack of dawn, the nurse who had told him that he was more exhausted than the mothers in labour and should probably get some sleep, considering the circumstances. "Just to shower and eat," he told her.
"I'm not surprised he missed you," she decided. "You've been here since he was born. Watching over him like a guardian angel."
He smiled and humoured the nurse, but he knew that it wasn't himself that the baby was missing. A child only suffered separation from one person at this age, and it wasn't himself. For all this child knew, he was just a stranger who had spent the most time with him. He mentioned this to Kathy yesterday, but she told him he was being foolish. A child knows their father, she said to him. They always know.
"Any news on...?" she trailed off, hesitating as if it weren't her place to ask, but he shook his head sadly. "Oh. Well, never you mind, sweetie. You'll be just fine. I promise you that."
He suspected otherwise, but she reminded him so much of his late grandmother that he just nodded along with her words, trying and failing to draw comfort from them. When she passed the perfectly warmed bottle of formula into his hand, though, he forgot all about his insecurities and focused on the baby in his arms. His baby. His son. His day old, still brand new son. His nameless son who was swaddled in just a diaper and a blue knitted blanket that he had bought only a week ago, his tiny head nestled into the crook of his arm. Feeding him had been scary yesterday when he had been so overwhelmed with everything, but now it was slightly less scary. It was comfortable to be sat with this warm child securely against him, as if he fit perfectly.
The nurses had told him the first time that the baby settled so easily into his arms because of the security that he would feel from them, but he hadn't believed them at the time as he'd been so frantic and panicked upon being presented with this wriggling dependence that he couldn't quite understand how there could be any security in his arms, but today he could understand it. He felt a strange confidence when he looked down at his child and an urge to protect that had never struck him before.
Once his son was fed and happier, he wanted to stay this way for as long as he could. They still had the room to themselves with the exception of the nurse replacing the bassinet liners and adding clean blankets to them, and he knew that he would not be ushered away for quite some time – the families loved to hold their children for as long as possible, many of them only sending their child to the nursery to sleep. He decided to lose himself in his son's eyes as they were open and looking around. He'd not seen much of them since the first time he'd been placed in his arms at seven thirty-two yesterday morning as he was more focused on screwing them closed to scream to high heaven, but now Nigel could see them clearly. His eyes were still a heavy dark blue, like a sky he'd once seen after a sunset in Thailand with Sydney. Beautiful and full of wonder, he considered whether they would fade to match his own or not. As their eyes met, he couldn't hold back his smile and he placed his hand on top of the blanket, holding him as securely as he could.
He felt pulled towards this child in a way that he'd only ever heard people talk about before. Completely helpless still, yet he couldn't describe it any other way than that he was so very much in love with his child. Part of him was still harbouring devastation and betrayal, but this tiny wonder in his arms dispelled all those emotions and he couldn't feel anything but amazed that he could have contributed to such a beautiful creation.
He looked up from the baby, feeling the drag in his eyes against the movement, but smiled even more when he saw his best friend and mentor standing in the doorway of the nursery. Sydney Fox, glamorous as ever, stood against the door, the only person so far he'd seen without some ridiculous gift. She was still dressed for the hunt, but was clean and showered and had clearly been home for some time – and at this he could not hold his surprise.
"Syd, what are you doing here?" he spluttered. "You should be halfway down the White Nile..."
"Blue Nile, actually," she corrected him. "Last minute change of plan, and then another one, of course. Karen got a message to me at the hotel just before we left that Cate had gone into labour – did you really think I wouldn't be here as soon as I could?" she asked him, playfully scolding him for doubting it. As she came into the room, she took a seat on the arm of his chair, flinging her arm around his shoulder casually. "I would have been here sooner, I wanted to be, but I got caught on the connection and then Karen told me that I'd missed the birth and that you had the most gorgeous baby boy ever-"
"You're here now," he smiled. "I wasn't expecting you to be here for days, and really, having you here now is lovely."
She smiled back at him, and in a bold moment of friendship she kissed his cheek. "Congratulations, Nigel."
She leaned against him a little and rested her face against the side of his so that they were both looking down at the baby. He tilted his arms so that she could see the wondrous piece of life he'd helped create. It was a very touching moment and were they focused on one another it would be highly intimate, but instead they were focused on the baby. "Oh, Nigel," she gasped.
"Perfect, isn't it?" he smiled proudly. "Here, hold him."
She didn't second guess the request as he had done when the child was first held out to him. He relinquished his spot in the centre of the chair and gave it to her, then passed the child into her arms. He didn't fell any hesitation in passing his baby to her, knowing that he was probably safer in Sydney's arms than his anyway. She stared at this baby he'd passed to her – his baby – and an overwhelming emotion came over her face. He'd never seen the look in her eyes before and it startled him.
"Did you ever see anything so precious?" she asked him.
The only time he'd seen a look similar, and heard such a tone in her voice, was when she found a relic she was particularly passionate about – something that she'd been searching for without interference of other hunters, something she was the first person to lay eyes on for hundreds, sometimes for thousands of years. "Considering the precious things you've seen, I'll take that as a compliment to my genetics."
"Seriously, Nigel, he's so beautiful! You made this!" she gushed.
"Six pounds, eleven ounces," he said. "Smaller than they thought he would be but perfectly healthy, they assure me. Ten fingers, ten toes, two very powerful lungs and a small birthmark on his right shoulder blade that matches mine."
After his quick summary of his son, they sat in silence. He sat on the arm of the chair and leaned over as she had done with him moments before, and the baby stared up at them contently. Eventually, the baby turned his head ever so slightly towards Sydney and settled into sleep within moments. Sydney made some strange noise that he'd often heard woman make over babies in this nursery. "I know I've said it already," she whispered, "but he's so beautiful! His little nose, and his eyes, and those tiny little lips and his ears...Nigel, you must be so proud."
"I am," he smiled, but she didn't look away from the baby to see the smile fade. "I just wish that..."
She put one hand on his arm. "I'm sorry about Cate. Karen told me."
"I'm not sorry," he said stiffly. "She didn't want this, Syd. I should have seen that before now. She didn't want..."
He sighed heavily and she leaned against him. She couldn't put her arms around him on account of holding the baby so this would have to do. Her head fell on his shoulder just as his arm fell onto hers. "It'll be ok, Nigel," she said softly.
"How could she not want him, Syd?" he asked, the devastation returning to his tone. "How could she take one look at him and not fall in love with him? She didn't hold him, she barely looked at him...she didn't even come and see him before she left this morning."
Sydney leaned her head right against his shoulder, so that they were now positioned like a perfect family, though this was far from either of their minds – Sydney cradling the baby in the middle of them, with Nigel holding his arm around her, holding them both to him in an image of protection. Anyone who looked into the nursery would surely see a brand new family with their child.
Karen had filled her in over the phone as to Cate's actions, and the cab driver had been shocked at the expletives Sydney had used. It had all started last October, when after a one night stand with Nigel, something that would always be a moment of weakness for him, Cate had fallen pregnant. They hadn't been thrilled about the circumstance and Cate hadn't been planning on keeping the baby, but when she'd been to tell Nigel about it he had been excited about being a father, and promised that he would be there for her and the baby even though they agreed that having a relationship as well wasn't the best idea for them. He'd gone with her to every doctors appointment and with her due date coinciding with Sydney's latest adventure to Egypt he had opted to stay behind, and luckily so.
But once the baby was born, Cate had changed her mind. While Nigel was being shown how to cut the umbilical cord, she had been deciding to leave the hospital without either of them. When they tried to pass her the baby, she insisted that Nigel hold his son first. When Nigel showed her the tiny miracle they'd made, she felt nothing but guilt and resentment. When she had let the nurses take the baby up to the nursery, she told Nigel that she had changed her mind, that she couldn't give up her job to care for a baby, that she had no desire in her to be a mother, and that she was planning to give full parental custody to Nigel.
Just like that, his life had been turned upside down. His ex-lover and the mother of his child no longer wanted the baby she had carried for nine months – his baby. Was there any higher rejection? Cate had been discharged that morning and had left the hospital without her baby. Nigel had remained in the nursery after hours of pleading with her which had been futile. She'd made up her mind. She said that she'd looked into it and that they wouldn't legally let her make that decision until the child (she'd said it with such professionalism that he almost hated her for that alone) was at least forty-eight hours old, and so she would contact him then. Until then, he was waiting for her to come back and change her mind again.
So when he was not even six hours old, the baby had already lost a mother and his father had realised that nothing would change his mothers mind. Nigel had stayed at the nursery until sleep was finally claiming him in those uncomfortable chairs, waiting for Cate to reappear, convinced that she could not leave a child they had created together with such ease. But now, a day later, he was doubting that, and at seven thirty-two tomorrow morning Cate's decision could be made official. He could only sit and wait to hear, and that was heartbreaking. The hope was fading every time he looked at his son. His baby. His, and his only.
Well, wasn't that a terrifying thought?
"She's a fool, Nigel," Sydney assured him. "But some people just aren't cut out for parenting. There could have been any reason for it."
"But he's so..." he trailed off, looking at his son. "I didn't like leaving him for five hours this morning to go home and shower, but she just left altogether..."
"It'll be ok," she repeated. "He still has you."
"But he doesn't have a mother, Sydney," he expressed.
"He'll have the greatest dad in the world," she continued. "Because no one can ever appreciate this miracle like you can, no one in the world will ever love him the way that you do, and he'll have Auntie Sydney and Auntie Karen to spoil him rotten," she cooed the last part at the sleeping baby. "This little guy is going to be the new university heart-throb, I expect."
"I've been replaced by my own son," he realised.
"Women love nothing more than a man holding a cute baby," she told him. "It makes them weak in the knees on account of ovaries exploding with broodiness."
He glanced down at her. "Is that what makes that combination of 'aww' and 'please impregnate me immediately' when you hold a baby?"
"It's biological," she defended. "But regardless, he's perfect and you are going to be a wonderful father."
"I'll have to be, I suppose."
She ignored his bitterness, and paid her attention to the arm that he slung across her shoulders. With the arm that wasn't cradling the baby she reached up and entwined her fingers through his. This time he couldn't ignore the intimacy – it was entwined fingers, not clasped hands, and yet he found himself clinging to her slender digits. "You're not alone, Nigel. I know it must feel like it, but you're not alone."
"My son no longer has a mother, Syd," he said, choking out the words. "When I think about my mother, for however short a time I had her, I can't imagine not having that time with her. He'll never know that love...and I haven't got any furniture for him in my home, let alone a room! It was decided that he would live with Cate, I was just going to get travel bits for my house for when he stayed...he has nothing to come home to. At this point he doesn't even have a home. I have nothing for him there. He was supposed to live with Cate."
"Then you'll buy him what he needs," she told him.
"And leave him here?"
Sydney understood his reluctance to leave the baby, especially after what Cate did. She stood from the chair, unwinding their fingers and placing the baby back in his arms. The baby stirred and reached a tiny hand out of the blankets with a gurgle. The gurgle soon turned into a cry and Nigel began to pace the floor with the grizzling baby. His cries were still weak and feeble, but no doubt this boy would have a healthy scream on him. It was quiet enough that they could speak over his cries.
"I'll sort the room," Sydney offered.
Nigel looked up sharply at her. "Syd, I can't ask you-"
"You're not asking, I'm offering," she cut him off. "You don't want to be apart from him right now, and you're right about staying here – you should be here in case Cate comes back. And if she doesn't come back, then you need to be here at the forty-eight hour mark to make whatever decisions are necessary. I'll make sure at that point you have a room to bring your baby home to. Karen can help me, I'm sure she'll love the shopping."
"Thank you," he said quietly. "Really, Syd, that would be a tremendous help. I won't expect you to pay for it, you can take my credit card."
"I intend to," she smiled. "But Karen and I want to buy a gift each anyway, so it's the perfect opportunity to do so. Before I hit the shops, though, I need to know what this gorgeous boys name is."
That stumped him. A name. He had yet to name the boy. He was convinced that he needed to wait for Cate to name him.
"Ah," he mumbled.
"You didn't decide on a name for him before...?"
"No," he shook his head. "We had a deal. I would name her if she was a girl, and Cate would name him if it was a boy."
Sydney smiled. "What did you chose?"
"Elizabeth," he said immediately. "My mother's name."
"Yes, but not quite fitting for a boy," he smiled slightly.
"Well, what about your father's name?" she asked. "What was he called?"
"Bailey's have a tradition, apparently, of naming their first born after themselves," he explained. "My father's name was Preston Bailey, so I don't quite fancy that. Although I'm one for tradition, I don't want to name him Nigel either."
She smiled at the thought. "His name should have a wonderful meaning, something of significance."
"Yes," he agreed.
There was a silence, as every name they discovered came up with a counter – a man who'd betrayed them, a man who had ratted them out...and then as his son stopped bawling and he found himself holding him out before him so that he could look at his face, the name came to him.
"Alexander," he whispered.
Sydney looked at them, at how tenderly he held and gazed upon his child. "Alexander?" she questioned.
"Many great men have been named Alexander," he justified. "Alexander the Great, Alexander, Alexander Polyhistor, Alexander Fleming, Alexander Graham Bell, Alexander Pope..."
She smiled, and rose to stand beside him. "And now, Alexander Nigel Bailey."
"Nigel?" he questioned, frowning.
"You have to keep some tradition," she shrugged. "Now, give the gorgeous boy to me so we can test out the name." Without waiting, she relieved him of the boy and cradled him against her shoulder. "Alexander Nigel Bailey," she whispered. "Alex." He gurgled against her and she grinned at him. "See, he likes it! Name decided." Nigel smiled back at her, pleased that he had got the first part of parenthood right, and he continued to smile as Sydney rocked his child and whispered to him in that broody voice that was so unlike her, yet so amusing to watch. "You're going to be so spoiled, Alex. So very spoiled. I'm addicted to you already and I never liked babies before, so that automatically makes you my favourite baby ever. And don't tell your father but I think you might be my favourite Bailey too-"
"Hey!" Nigel protested. "I worked hard to earn the title of favourite, and he takes it from me within ten minutes of you meeting him?"
She shrugged. "Sorry, Nige, but he's just so adorable. I just want to hold him and never let him go, he's so perfect."
"Each step of evolution is greater than the one before. At least I've created a more superior Bailey."
But Sydney had gone back to fussing over the baby. "..and you're going to be so very smart, just like your father, because he'll read you all these amazing books and tell you wonderful stories and he'll take you to the most beautiful places in the world..."
We, he was correcting in his head. We will read you amazing books. We will tell you wonderful stories. And We will take you to the most beautiful places.