So some of you have heard rumblings of a massive mystery fic that I've been working on for months and today I finally start to bring it to you. And (shocker), it's NOT a Megs/Roxanne shipper fic! In fact, it stars one of the most under-explored characters in this movie…. the warden.
Title : Fathers and Sons, Chapter 1
Rating : I'm gonna rate the story PG-13 (aka T) overall for some swearing in later chapters, but this one is pretty PG (K+).
Summary : Relationships between parents and children are never easy. And when an exceptional blue baby falls from the sky into his lap, the warden needs to decide what to do with the little boy.
And none of this would be possible without my amazing beta, sharelle. All hugs and puppies I receive are shared with you m'dear.
James Woodridge hadn't become Warden of Metro City Prison for the Criminally Gifted at age 35 by being a man overcome by sentimentality. No, prison management was simply not a field that encouraged fanciful starry-eyed dreamers. Which was why part of him simply could not believe what he found himself facing at 11:30pm on a Thursday night.
Being at work that late on a weekday wasn't that unusual. In fact, nowadays he usually slept on the sofa in his office. No, what was unusual was the amount of noise coming from his office and in particular, the source of those noises.
They were coming from a squalling blue infant he held in his arms.
He walked in circles in his large office, holding the child on his shoulder and continuing to rub his back in slow gentle circles. But the blue boy just would not stop crying. His wails filled the room. Hell, they probably filled the whole prison.
The warden was at his wit's end. The child wailed if he was held, but cried even harder if he was put down. He would throw his binky every time the warden tried to put it into his screaming mouth, and had already gone through two diaper changes even though he wasn't wet. He refused formula and had no interest in his toys. He just seemed to want to cry.
It had been hours. The baby had been fussy all day, but as soon as he said the word 'bedtime' the boy had moved into full-on crying. The warden had hoped the boy would cry himself into exhaustion but that was not happening.
He sighed. The warden had no idea what to do, and no idea what he was doing here with this child in the first place.
When that strange pod had bounced into his prison yard two weeks ago his first impulse was to call the police or possibly NASA. But when he looked inside and saw a frightened blue infant with startling green eyes, he had made the mistake of listening to some hidden instincts and picking the small child up. Once the boy was nestled in his arms, he had promptly started rubbing his eyes with his tiny fists and had fallen asleep before the Warden had even gotten him up into his office.
So he sat on the leather sofa in his office and looked the baby over. He was blue. Really blue. Overall he looked human, though he had no hair on his head. That was fine, lots of babies were bald. The child had long dark eyelashes that rested softly against his cheeks as he slept. But the Warden was pretty sure that the pod had come from the sky.
He had to accept the possibility that he held an alien child here in his lap. And he had no idea what to do with that information.
The warden stared at the baby. What if he called someone and they hurt him? You heard things these days, about space aliens and people with unusual powers. In fact, this prison housed more than a few criminals who seemed to style themselves after comic book villains. And he had heard of more than a few encounters with shadowy government agencies that monitored and handled such things.
He wasn't a stupid man, he knew that if this child was truly an alien that someone would want to analyze its little body. Poke him, prod him, take tissue samples. Make sure he wasn't dangerous or just justify it in the name of science. But this was a baby. He had already come from somewhere across space and he was defenseless. And alone.
Much like the Warden himself these days. He had come home one day to find his wife in bed with one of her co-workers. Her reasoning was the same as every fight they had since he received this promotion - he was never home anymore. He was more married to the job than to her. In the end she had left him – or, more specifically, kicked him out.
It had been almost a year but the Warden still acutely felt the loneliness like a hollow little place in his heart every minute of every day. Except for right now. He flirted with the idea of keeping the child, and then handily dismissed it. What did he know about raising a child, much less a blue one from another planet? How would he keep the baby safe if someone came looking for it? And he worked way too many long hours to have a kid at home.
But then, this was the first time in almost a year that he didn't feel that bite of loneliness. And hey, this child didn't have anyone either. Maybe that was a good thing?
He hadn't intended to keep him indefinitely, in fact the warden hadn't planned on much of anything. However one thing was clear that afternoon – he was NOT going to be calling the authorities anytime soon.
The child was better off here with him. So he had tentatively stroked the baby on the head as it slept, while two burly guards entered with the pod and its contents. The Warden whispered for them to put their delivery down on his office floor and tried to set the baby down on the leather sofa. But as soon as he tried, the boy awoke and began to fuss. The warden picked him up again and he instantly fell back asleep, so he held the child while he examined the contents of the pod one-handed.
There was a small fish inside a small glass ball, whose eyes seemed to dart frightenedly between himself and the boy. Was it a pet? A toy? A snack? The warden tried turning the ball around but every time the fish righted itself to stare at him and at the baby. Well that was downright unsettling. He set the fish back in the pod, but it did not seem to like that. Now it was straining to look up at him over the lip of the door.
He tried to ignore it as he explored the contents further. There was a tiny seat, almost like a car seat, but with no seatbelts. And several screens and buttons covered in strange symbols. He thought better of touching any of them.
Then he noticed something small on the floor of the craft. A small blue glowing something that upon further examination almost looked like a binky. He touched it experimentally to the sleeping child's lips and the boy instantly latched onto it and began sucking. The warden felt oddly relieved. At least there was something about all this that made sense to him.
Just for good measure he took the boy down to prison doctor. Dr. Patari wasn't a pediatrician by any stretch of the imagination but it didn't take much physical examination to determine that the child was a boy and he was not human. The blue skin was obvious as was the unusual head shape, which lacked the cone shape or soft spot that one would expect on a newborn human child.
Less obvious was a prematurely-developed ability to track objects with his eyes and to respond to stimuli in ways that most humans could not until several months after birth. Though he could only make babbly baby noises himself, he seemed to understand a fair amount of human speech. And his cranial measurements were closer to that of a two year old, though he was clearly a newborn. He had a clear interest in everything in the medical wing and kept reaching for bandaids and cotton balls as though they were toys. The warden was glad that the doctor kept the surgical tools under lock and key.
Neither the warden nor Dr. Patari had a clue what the baby should eat, but the doctor thought it would be safe to try giving him some formula. He was confident that the suckling motions the baby was making on the binky mimicked the feeding patterns of human babies. So one of the guards was dispatched to the nearest store and came back with a can of formula and a bottle. They heated it up in the staff microwave and the doctor handed the warden the bottle, clearly expecting him to do the honors.
So he sat in the medical bay and pressed the nipple of the bottle in the infant's mouth. After a moment of confusion the baby attempted to suck. His lips seemed to fumble around the tip but he was getting the liquid into his mouth and swallowing most of it. The warden stared down at the child as he learned to eat his first meal on earth, drooling a bit out of the left side. He wished he had something to use to wipe his face.
And in the end, the doctor had no idea what to do with the baby either, but agreed with the warden that the child was likely to be seen as a scientific marvel. That made the warden nervous. He didn't want to give the child over to a pack of government scientists that would keep him in some freaky lab.
He returned to his office with the baby and sat him on the couch. The boy looked around, truly taking in his surroundings for the first time and seeming somewhat nervous. So the warden went into the pod, removed the equally nervous looking fish, and handed it to the boy. Instantly the boy wrapped his arms around the ball. And the fish curled itself against the glass, as though trying to press itself against the boy. They both looked happy. Then the boy shrieked and let the glass ball go.
Before the warden could catch it, the ball rolled off the sofa and crashed towards the floor… where it simply bounced and rolled across the office. The boy waved his arms in excitement and the fish looked no worse for wear.
Suddenly realizing his toy was out of reach he began to stretch his arms and fuss. He looked up at the warden, as though he expected him to bring the toy back to him. But instead the warden set the boy on the floor and rolled the ball towards him. The child shrieked with happiness again as the fish in the ball bumped into his leg. He batted at it, sending it rolling across the room the other way as he smiled and gurgled. He looked at the warden expectantly, clearly wanting him to fetch the ball again.
Only before he reached it, the ball moved of his own accord. The fish appeared to be swimming forward and steering the ball right back to the excited child. And they played that game over and over again, the boy shoving the ball away and the fish rolling it right back while the baby made excited happy sounds. At one point the boy pushed the ball to the warden and the warden smiled and rolled it back.
He was happy here. So there was no reason to call anyone, at least not now. Maybe tomorrow. Or the day after that.
And the next day he went out and bought a package of diapers, a case of formula, and a soft green blanket with little frogs on it.
The warden muttered obscenities under his breath as he tried once more to shove the glowing blue binky into the wailing child's mouth. But the screaming baby was having none of it. He began kicking and shoving his hands in the warden's face as he flailed unhappily, and the binky went flying across the room. The warden let out a heavy sigh. He was running out of ideas and the boy wasn't the only one who was overtired.
It made him susceptible to the little voice in the back of his mind that whispered perhaps this wasn't such a good idea. It was selfish of him to try. He wasn't this boy's father and he never would be. What did he know about caring for a newborn? The child was obviously miserable and he had no idea how to fix it.
He bent down, child still struggling in his arms, and picked up the binky and slid it into his pocket.
He had one more idea and he walked behind his desk. From a drawer that used to keep personnel files he pulled out the soft green frog blanket. He tried covering the child's head with it. Maybe that would trick him into calming down.
No such luck as the child's fervent screaming got even louder and he started whipping his head frantically to get the blanket off. The warden winced and shifted the child to his other side as he reached up to remove it. And in that moment the child bucked and his large hard cranium smashed into the warden's nose. Pain blossomed across his face and he choked back an obscenity. That was it.
He set the child down on the sofa where he wailed and flailed further, reaching a fever pitch of frustration and sound. The warden walked across the room and tried to take several calming breaths amid the din. He crossed his arms angrily and glared at the source of noise and stress in his life. He was officially out of ideas. And his nose hurt from where the little bugger had cracked into it with his oversized cranium. It seemed like every time he looked at the boy his head was bigger.
The moment of realization was almost instantaneous.
He looked at the child; his face was tear-stained and flushed a deep purple from crying so hard. He swiftly picked the boy up and put one hand on the back of his head and tried to remember holding him for the first time two weeks ago.
'I'll be dammed,' the man muttered to himself.
His head was bigger. No wonder he was so unhappy. He didn't know much about babies but he knew that growing pains hurt and made them cry. This poor little guy must be nursing one hell of a headache right now between the growing, the intensifying frustration, and the plain discomfort that came with crying.
He experimentally stroked the boy's head firmly and amazingly the infant began to soothe. He pressed as hard as he felt comfortable, wanting to massage the sore muscles but not wanting to hurt the child he had come to think of as his little boy.
"I'm sorry Blue," the warden said in low soft tones as the infant gasped out a few more teary cries. "I should have figured it out sooner. Shhhhh. It's ok now. It's all going to be ok. Shhhhh."
The warden swore that the child understood his apology. The tears slowed and, after a few more pathetic hiccups, the baby appeared to visibly relax all over.
Finally the man was able to sit down and move the infant to his lap and give his tired arms a rest. The boy fussed as the man repositioned, but quieted quickly once the warden resumed pressure on the child's skull. He used the edge of the blanket to wipe the tears from the infant's face. The boy didn't look happy, but he slowly looked less miserable.
Finally, the warden fished in his pocket for the rejected binky and tried again to place it near the baby's lips. The boy instantly glommed onto it and began to suckle. As he did so, his tiny eyelids began to droop. Oh he would flicker them open quickly and watch the man, but he couldn't fight sleep and soon he was out cold.
The warden gave a sigh of relief. Finally.
He took off his tie and moved himself to lay out on the brown leather sofa, then kicked off his shoes. He shifted his weight so the baby rested on his left side, curled up against his heart. He adjusted the green blanket to cover the child on his shoulder and listened to the sound of the child's breath. Soon the soft rhythm lured him into sleep as well.
If someone wanted the boy then they could come and just try to take him from him.