Author's Note: Was requested to give you a little bit of Wash and Taylor dealing with a baby Gracie. Given my recent and current experience with baby minding, I plan to have a bit of fun with this. But this part is a lot of soft and fluffy.
Disclaimer is as usual – no profit, not mine, just borrowing.
"Are you sure you're ready to go home?" Nathaniel stands in front of her, looking worried.
Alicia leaves off gazing at a sleeping Gracie, nestled carefully in her arms, to give Nathaniel a funny look. "Of course! Nathaniel, we've been here four days. Elisabeth will be five minutes away if we need her. I want to go home. Now, where is my baby sling?" She refers to the cloth contraption that she loves but that baffles Nathaniel.
He puts the long black wrap on the bed, and she hands him their sleeping daughter. As puzzled as he is by a lot of the "baby gear" that has shown up at their home, he is not at all puzzled by Gracie herself. He claims that he spent little time with Lucas as an infant, but you wouldn't know it by watching him with her.
She has to blink back tears at the sight of their tiny baby looking even tinier as he holds her. It still doesn't quite feel real to her, and it's not a sight she ever expected to see. He must notice her tearing up, because he gets a concerned look on his face. "Alicia?"
She waves her hand and gets up slowly, minding her incision, to put the baby sling on. "I'm fine. I keep waiting for the hormonal crying thing to stop. I need to ask Elisabeth how long it's going to last."
"Quite some time, I'm afraid." They both turn to the door as Elisabeth enters. "It's probably going to be a while before you can pull off your stoic face again."
Alicia rolls her eyes. "Great, because God knows how much I love being openly emotional."
Elisabeth and Nathaniel both laugh at that. "How are you feeling today, Alicia?"
"Good. Still a little sore, but nothing I can't handle." If Elisabeth tries to keep her here, she's going to fight it. She's ready for some relative quiet. Since Elisabeth started allowing visitors two days ago, there has been a parade of well-wishers through her room here in the infirmary.
Elisabeth nods. "Well, I had to cut you open. I'd be surprised if you weren't sore. One more scan, please. I want to check the laser cut from the ligation."
Alicia stops messing with the sling and carefully sits on the bed and reclines back. While Elisabeth is checking the site of the small laser incision she had to make to get to Alicia's one remaining fallopian tube, the other lost to her injuries from Somalia, Alicia lets her mind wander. After the trauma and complications with Gracie's birth, they realized that they aren't willing to risk another pregnancy.
It wasn't an easy decision for her, but she knows that Gracie is her miracle. To push for another seems far too much like playing chicken with fate. So they asked Elisabeth to do a tubal ligation on Alicia, eliminating the possibility of any more accidental pregnancies.
"Both the surgical and laser incisions are healing well. You can sit back up, Alicia."
Alicia blinks, and she sits up, again carefully. "So I'm OK to go home?"
Elisabeth hesitates, but then she sighs. "Yes. I have no reason to keep you here any longer."
Alicia furrows her brow at Elisabeth's choice of words. "Elisabeth, we'll be fine. I'll be fine."
The doctor nods. "I know you will. I just feel guilty after what happened, even though I know there's nothing we could've done to prevent it."
Alicia glances at Nathaniel, who takes the cue. "I'm going to wander around a bit with my girl." He slips out without waiting for a reply.
"Subtle." Elisabeth winces. "I know I need to stop second-guessing and overthinking, Alicia. I just can't seem to turn it off."
"Elisabeth," Alicia puts her hands on Elisabeth's upper arms, "You said it yourself. There's nothing that would have prevented it. It was the sort of complication we anticipated that I might have. But even though it was scary when it was happening, the fact that it waited until thirty-six weeks is all that matters to me. I survived it, and Gracie is perfect. There is nothing to feel guilty about." She pauses. "And need I point out that I'm the one who insisted that I didn't need to be here on bed rest anymore, that I'm the one who pushed to go home?"
"Alicia, it didn't make any difference. Carter got you here so fast that whatever increase in risk there might have been was miniscule."
"I know. But I fought Nathaniel on always making sure someone was with me. What if I'd been there alone, Elisabeth? I like to think I can manage anything, but the pain was so sharp that there's no way I would've made it here on my own. I could barely stand." Alicia shakes her head. "I refuse to feel guilty about it, though. The worst didn't happen. I've decided that I don't have time to dwell on how badly it could have gone."
"Fair enough. I need to do the same. And you're right. Gracie is perfect." Elisabeth gives her a small smile. "Is the breastfeeding going all right?"
Alicia nods. "It was hard at first, but the nurse who's an expert helped a lot. And I have the pump. It's hilarious to me that we have them, though."
This time Elisabeth's smile is fuller. "We have a crate of them, and we've figured out how to sterilize the parts, so we can re-use them. You have the reusable containers, too, correct?"
"Definitely. Nathaniel wants to be able to take a turn feeding her now and then."
"He's good with her, at ease."
Alicia smiles and nods. "He really is. So much so that it actually surprises me. It shouldn't, though, given how much he loves kids. But you should've seen him try to understand how the sling works."
"None." Alicia grins.
"I'll have Jim show him. He was an expert." Elisabeth grins back, her earlier melancholy lifting.
There's a light knock at the door, and Nathaniel comes in, arms empty. Alicia lifts an eyebrow until he's followed into the room by Jim, Mark, Zoe, and, bringing up the rear, Carter carrying Gracie. Once again, the former Sixer and apparent adopted older brother for Alicia, has surprised her. His adoration of Gracie is clear.
Alicia is quite certain that if anyone tries to hurt Gracie, Carter will rip their head off with his bare hands. He'd have to get in line behind Nathaniel and herself, of course, but Alicia is fine with overprotective uncles. Given their hovering the last few days, Alicia would guess that Guz, Mark and Jim are on the same page with Carter.
Looking at the group, Alicia raises an eyebrow. "Boys, the attention is nice, but who's minding the store?"
Jim grins. "Guz. He drew the short straw."
"Alicia," Elisabeth interrupts, and Alicia turns back to her. "You're clear to go. I'm giving you a bottle of pain meds. They won't hurt Gracie through feeding her, and you need to not be a hero. Also, take it easy at first, focus on taking care of Gracie and yourself. Maddy is at home making casseroles and things even he," she indicates Nathaniel with her head, "Can just warm up. And for another week, no lifting anything heavier than ten pounds. The last thing you want is to tear your wound seal."
Alicia wants to argue, but she knows it won't do her any good, so she just nods. "When do you want us back for a check-in?"
"Three days, unless something makes you think you need to come in sooner. And you can comm me any time."
Nodding again, Alicia finally finishes getting the baby sling ready. She holds her hands out to Carter for the baby. He looks disappointed, but he hands her over. As she arranges Gracie close to her body, she says, "You can come over and hold her again later, Carter."
He brightens noticeably, and she just shakes her head. She looks around the room. There are flowers and cards everywhere. "Well, since you're all here, you get to help take all this stuff to our house."
There's a large stuffed bear in the corner, and Zoe runs over and grabs it. "I'll carry this!"
Alicia swallows a smile and says seriously, "Thank you, Zoe." She beams in reply.
The others laugh, and Carter, Jim and Mark go to gather up the flowers and cards. Nathaniel grabs her bag and the bag with the breast pump in it, tucking the meds from Elisabeth into Alicia's duffel. As all of this is going on, Alicia leans against the biobed, watching Gracie as she sleeps snuggled up against her body. She just can't take her eyes off of her.
Elisabeth walks over to her, making Alicia look up in surprise and blush lightly at being caught staring. "I was that way with all three of mine. I alternated between being exultant over how perfect they were, terrified about how fragile they seemed and overwhelmed by the very idea that I could love something so completely and so instantly."
Alicia murmurs, "It's definitely overwhelming."
Elisabeth gives her a one armed hug, careful not to squish Gracie between them. Elisabeth whispers in her ear, "You're going to do great. You and Taylor both are. And if you need help, please ask."
"I will. Thanks, Elisabeth." Alicia gives her a small smile. "You know that means I might call you at, say, 3 am at some point, right?"
Elisabeth snorts. "I know."
Alicia laughs and turns to the others. "OK, let's get this show on the road, people." She heads for the door. She already had a fight with Elisabeth (and won) over walking home. Elisabeth wanted her in a wheelchair. Alicia flatly refused. She feels fine, and she knows the walk will be OK after wandering around the infirmary for two days now, on her feet much of the time. She's not used to this much inactivity. She hasn't been so sedentary since just after Somalia.
As they step out into the light and noise of the area near the infirmary, Gracie snuffles and shifts against her. She's not swaddled in a blanket like many newborns would be because she's hated it since the first time the tried it. She generally wants to have her hands free. They are now, and Alicia feels her little hands clutch clumsily at her shirt, not really grabbing, which she can't do yet, more like rooting around instinctively, probably in reaction to the noise.
She brings a protective arm up around the baby, quietly shushing her. Unconsciously, she sways slightly, and Nathaniel is at her side in an instant. "Are you OK?"
She looks up in surprise. "I'm fine. Why?"
"You were swaying."
"I was what?"
"Oh." She's momentarily confused, then she realizes what she was doing. She gives him a sheepish smile. "OK, so it would seem that the whole moving to calm the baby thing is kind of automatic. Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you."
He chuckles but turns serious. "Is she OK? I can have Reynolds, Carter and Shannon make sure folks stay back."
"I think she's all right. The noise and light are more than she's used to. I think it just startled her." She starts to walk again, this time keeping her arm around Gracie in the sling. A moment later, her heart melts when she hears a soft little yawn and then a sigh from the sling.
Next to her, Nathaniel grins. "Was that her?"
She looks up at Nathaniel, smiling back. "Yes. The little yawns are my favorite. Though the little sneezes are a close second."
"And you once called me a softie."
She laughs and doesn't argue with that. She hates to admit it, but the last nine months plus the last four days have changed her a little, softened her. The changes, especially when she gets back to work, will have to be something she covers. She doesn't need the younger troops pushing back because they think they can get somewhere. She may have softened about certain things, but about others, there really won't be a difference.
They get to their house, and once inside, Alicia first notices that Maddy is there, stocking the refrigerator and freezer. Alicia walks over to it, and she blinks when she sees the contents. The freezer is nearly packed solid with small containers, each enough to have food for two. The refrigerator is full of fresh fruit, water and what looks like a large container of some sort of soup.
"Maddy," the young woman jumps, clearly having been engrossed in what she was doing. She looks up at Alicia in surprise. "Exactly how much food did you make?"
"Ma'am! Welcome home! I made a lot, because I know the commander can't really cook. Mom said you'd be really tired, and since you did what you did for us when the Phoenix Group was here, dying for us and all, I thought I'd do something nice for you," she pauses, her eyes widening, "Not that cooking for you is the same as you dying for us, not at all, but I thought it would be nice and anyway I made the soup in the fridge, and that may last at least a couple of days, and there's bread in the bread box on the counter, and there are about three weeks' worth of dinners in the freezer, and there are cookies and brownies in the cupboard, and..."
"Maddy!" Alicia interrupts, "Breathe!" She immediately stops talking and a light blush rises on her cheeks. Alicia smiles at her, hoping to put her at ease. "Thank you."
At that, she perks back up. "You're welcome! Is that Gracie? Can I hold her?"
Alicia nods, carefully extracting Gracie from the sling. She passes her to Maddy, who cradles her carefully, minding her head. "She's really beautiful, Lieutenant. May I go sit on the sofa with her?"
"Of course." Alicia smiles at her again, and she watches as Mark follows Maddy to the sofa, sitting with her and taking the baby from her. She looks over at Jim, and she has to choke back a laugh at the slightly ill look on his face as he observes his teenage daughter and her boyfriend with a baby.
"What's funny?" She hears Nathaniel's voice in her ear as he wraps his arms around her from behind, high on her stomach to avoid her incision, and perches his chin on her shoulder.
She feels Nathaniel turn his head a little to look at Jim, and then she hears him snort softly. "Poor man."
She turns her head to look at him, and he looks almost as ill as Jim. Alicia drops a kiss on his cheek. "You have a long time before that," she indicates Maddy and Mark on the sofa with a nod of her head, "Is an issue."
"If I have my way, it'll be about thirty years."
Alicia laughs, going to drop another kiss on his cheek. He sees her coming and turns his head at the last moment, catching her lips with his. After a moment, they pull apart when Carter calls, "Get a room!" from the dining room.
She rolls her eyes, and seeing that all the flowers are now covering the table, she calls back, "Or you could just leave!" And then, in what she knows is a rather stunning display of immaturity, she sticks her tongue out at him.
He just laughs, and so does Jim. Jim still seems to be slightly disapproving of Carter, but since Carter saved her from Lucas and subsequently carried her to the infirmary, he appears to be thawing towards the former Sixer.
Alicia hears a small cry from the sofa, and she heads over. Mark looks worried, but Maddy is just rocking and shushing Gracie. When Alicia gets there, Maddy passes the baby to her. Almost immediately, she quiets. She also starts rooting again, this time clearly hungry.
She turns to Carter and Jim. "I'm about to change her diaper and then feed her. Breast feed her. Just a heads up."
The two men look at each other, and in unison, they say, "Good bye."
Mark offers, "Wash, we're going to go too. I'm sure you and the commander are ready for some peace and quiet. And, I'll be honest. I really don't want to see your boobs."
Alicia cracks up at that. "Chicken."
"Yes, ma'am." Mark grins.
Taking Maddy's hand, he bolts for the door, her trailing behind him. "Call if you need any more food, Lieutenant!"
Carter and Jim exchange a glance. Jim says, "We're going to go too, Wash, Taylor."
Nathaniel lifts an eyebrow at him. "Shannon, didn't you come here with two daughters?"
Jim blinks. "Where's Zoe?"
Alicia's eyes sweep the room. The large bear is nowhere to be found. She turns, still holding Gracie, who's now snuffling quietly as she roots around, and she heads for the baby's room, the three men following her. She has to smile at the sight that greets her when they get there. The big bear is on the floor with the other dozen or so stuffed animals they've been given for Gracie, most of them animals from future Earth.
Zoe is curled up among the animals, and she's asleep. She has one arm wrapped around the stuffed animal she gave them for Gracie, a brachiosaurus. Jim grins, and he steps forward and carefully extracts the dinosaur. He then, despite the fact that she's getting awfully big for it, picks her up.
He nods to Nathaniel and Alicia, and he leaves quietly, Carter behind him after giving them a wave. As they hear the front door open and close, they both visibly relax. She smiles at Nathaniel, fatigue starting to seep into her after the walk and being on her feet too long. "You know, I'm grateful for our friends, but I'm really ready for us to be alone for a while."
"I know what you mean." He holds his hands out for Gracie, probably noticing how tired she feels. "I'll change her, you go get settled in the rocker."
She passes him the baby and leans up to press a kiss to his cheek. "Thanks."
Heading back to the living room, she settles into the large, comfy rocker one of the colonists made for them. It has wide arms, and she grabs the nursing pillow Elisabeth got for her. By the time she's settled, he comes in with Gracie, freshly changed. Alicia opens her top and bra, and she takes Gracie, positioning her at her breast. It only takes a moment for her to latch on, her little hands kneading as she emits little cooing sounds.
He settles on the sofa, watching them. "She was hungry."
Alicia nods. "Yeah, and she's definitely getting the hang of this." She looks up, catching Nathaniel's eye. He's gazing at them with unfettered adoration in his eyes.
"I can't believe she'll be Zoe-sized one day. And then Maddy-sized. It doesn't seem possible when you see her this size, you know?" He leans his elbow on the armrest of the sofa, perching his chin on his hand.
"I know. I wonder what she'll be like?" She smiles over at him. "I hope she's outgoing like you."
"And I hope she's confident and, I admit it, sarcastic like you."
"Really? You're going to regret hoping for that when she's thirteen. You know that, right?" She smirks at him.
"Maybe so. I can live with it." He grins back.
A wave of trepidation suddenly sweeps over her as she looks back down at Gracie. She can't help but feel intimidated by the idea that she and Nathaniel are wholly responsible for this tiny, vulnerable creature. Her voice is quiet when she speaks again. "We can do this, right? We can keep her safe and not screw her up completely, right?"
She doesn't move her eyes from Gracie, and Nathaniel is there a moment later, his hand on her face. She looks up at him. He leans down and kisses her softly. "We can do this, Alicia."
She blows out a breath. "OK."
Instead of going back to the sofa, he pulls a chair from the kitchen table over, and he sits right next to them. As the baby eats, he brushes his hand gently through Alicia's hair, a rare quiet moment, one of the sort that Alicia knows will be fewer and farther between in the coming years. She does know, somewhere deep down, that they can do this.
Suddenly, she chuckles. He gives her a questioning look. She grins. "I figure, too, if we start screwing up, there won't be a shortage of folks willing to tell us exactly what we're doing wrong and what we should be doing instead." He laughs at that, probably knowing that she's exactly right.