Four more to go!
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Special thanks to elbafo! You are some kind of super hero for reviewing all of that, and I know you'll catch up in time to see this!
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the OC's
Exhaustion. It was the only thing left for Nina to feel as she laid in the biobed of the medical tent they had prepped in her parents' house. She had been in labor for seven hours; skin flushed an off shade of pink while her hair stuck in slick strands to her sweating forehead. She had already gone through squeezing Jim's hand too tightly, prompting Bones to pause in his assistance to her to help Jim while she suffered through her contractions that were now two minutes apart. Lykel had come to her side, and remained with her for support which was a relief because her dense bones allowed for Nina to squeeze as hard as she wanted.
She kept a fragile smile on her face, her emotions in a whirl while everyone was anticipating the birth. Her mother continued to supply her with ice chips as fast as she could procure them from the kitchen, running herself ragged through the house while Nina's father attempted to calm her down. Her visit had worn her mother down, like a sharp pencil turned to a nub from various strokes. The lines around her mouth were more prominent, as were the crow's-feet on the corners of her eyes. She had foregone makeup, her face a starchy white, and her hair was tied away from her face. Nina couldn't recall a time her mother had been in such disarray, but knowing that she was frazzled because she was about to become a grandmother was rather heartening. She might have shed a tear if she wasn't already hours deep into the pain of labor.
"Alright Nina, I'm going to have you push again on three." Bones instructed behind his medical mask, face kept in a place she wouldn't have imagined her friend to ever be. They were way past the point of modesty however, that having vanished when her water had broken on the stairs of her family home when he had been walking behind her.
"I'm ready." She reassured in a small voice, too tired to hold much more of a conversation.
It was only the three of them in the room, Lykel acting as both assistant nurse and birthing coach as they focused on bringing the fourth person into the room. Nina's hands were white knuckling as she gritted her teeth, pushing once again while Bones coaxed her along. The doctor with the legendary hands, she trusted him over anyone to help her through that momentous occasion. Tears sprang at the corners of her eyes, thoughts of the past year coming back to her all at once while she was in a haze from all of the hormones exploding through her system. Through the fog of her mind she could hear Bones encouraging her, feel Lykel's hand through her slippery one as she pushed. An immense pressure was building in her. It kept collecting energy until she was certain she would burst, and everything around her gradually became dark in confusion.
Nina could hear a ringing in her ears while she was floating between being awake and unconscious. Her vision was a mist of color, arrays of all hues dancing before her closed lids. Her mind was muddled, but she could make out voices talking, fragments of sentences penetrating her clouded psyche.
"Nina . . . can you hear me?"
"She hasn't been taking her injections . . . she was worried for the baby,"
"Dammit . . . her vitals are crashing . . . we're losing her,"
"The vial . . . blood . . . in her nightstand,"
"Uhura . . . her room . . . nightstand!"
The shouting voices were frantic around her, but she could not make sense of any of it. She was prisoner to her own body, her muscles like lead weights that she could not bring to lift. Her stiff limbs were aware of something hovering over her, a black cloud, darker than the haze she was trapped under. As the shrouded presence grew closer, she could see it was a cloaked figure, unyielding from its loom beside her. Her voice cracked with static as she tried to communicate with it to no effect, a persistent beeping in the background the only sound she could hear. The veil on the figure was lifted back, and something warm passed through her fingers. Another hand was clasped in hers, transferring comfort, willing for her to return to the light. The first name she called to that passed from her lips was Khan. She repeated it insistently over and over in her mind, heart quivering for him to fill the dull ache that had formed, since his absence.
"Nina . . . come back . . . please,"
"Khan?" Her throat croaked as her dry lips parted. They were scratchy and split like shredded paper, her tongue and throat also feeling like they were covered in a film of dust and sand, a desert parched of water.
"Oh thank you lord," The voice mumble incoherently in relief. "She awakens with her memory intact."
"Bones," She realized aloud while the land of the living welcomed her back with a bright fluorescent in her face. She coughed in a fit, wheezing to breathe before a cup of cold water was presented to her lips. She drank greedily through the straw, gulping back copious swallows until the water was removed from her reach. She made a sound of protest, but she knew she couldn't force her body to take in too much fluid at once. She settled back into her pillows, the eggshell walls of the room and the translucent tent giving her a head ache until she returned her attention to her friend. "What happened to me?"
"We almost lost you on the table. A long labor is strenuous enough on a healthy woman, let alone one whose body was shutting down," His gaze was stern, immediately causing her to feel guilt. "Nina, you know you need the injections to keep your condition in remission. You could have died today if it wasn't for Lykel's quick thinking."
He indicated to the IV in her arm, hooked up to a glass flask of red fluid. Her eyes burned with tears, the last memento she had of Khan was now spent, his blood coursing through her system to repair the damage she had done. "I'm sorry Bones. I just wanted to have a clean pregnancy . . . the chance to be normal. The pitied looks I constantly get are exhausting, and I thought I could go without the injections, at least for a little while."
He nodded in understanding, his face showing the signs of exhaustion that had accumulated over the hours spent in delivery with her. "I know Nina, and I understand this change has asked a lot of you, but I won't take no for an answer anymore. When I see the slightest change in your condition, I'm giving you an injection," He rubbed a hand down his face, his other palm loosening from hers as he swiveled in his chair to loom over his tricorder. "As much as I want to comment on the strangeness of keeping that vial, Khans blood did prove useful. It served its purpose to save your life, as well to stabilize the baby. She's fully augmented, but because of your condition, she didn't get all of the nutrients required during her developing stages. Khans blood was able to fill out any of the gaps, so even though he's not here, he still played a vital role in the arrival of his daughter."
Nina was numbed by the knowledge as well as the encouraging tone he used. Of course Bones knew why she had kept the blood as he had even gone out of his way to provide her with the self-cooling vial it was kept in. The sensitive subject was rarely brought up though, but ignorance of the topic didn't mean she would eventually forget him. In fact it only made her think about him all the more. "Where is she?"
"With Scotty and Lykel," He replied with a small grin. "Figured she shouldn't meet everyone else until you've had a chance to hold her. Your parents were frantic by the way, especially your mother."
She swallowed a dry lump, forgetting for a moment about her other family. "Can I . . . can I see her?"
Bones stood from his chair, a rare wide smile on his usually sour face. "Of course. She is yours after all."
He left through the flap of the tent, not going far before he called two people over from the back room of the house. A moment later, Bones popped back in with Scotty and Lykel following him. A little bundled of white blankets was in Scotty's arms, swaddled snuggly while he gave a boyish beam. Lykel appeared unsure behind him, standing a step away with Bones as they watched Scotty hand over the baby.
"She's tiny." He said softly.
Nina pushed herself upright in the biobed, her breath hitching as Scotty carefully displaced her child into her arms. A knitted little cap was placed on her head, the rest of her petite frame covered in blankets as little puffs of breath escaped through her nose. Her eyelids were closed tight, and her skin was still red and blotchy in some places as a newborn always looked. From the outside she was a normal little girl, weighing in at about 7 and a half pounds if Nina had to judge by the feel of the weight rested in her arms. She cradled her head carefully, the feeling of holding a baby unnatural to her. Her only experience came from her career in the medical field, and none of those experiences had ever been personal enough for her to memorize the action. This was her little girl; life she had created with Khan, and though it was still too early for her to resemble either of her parents, Nina could feel the piece of him that was a part of her.
A sob broke through the room, one that had clearly been intended to be held in by the offender. All eyes turned to Lykel, her eyes red as she breathed heavily, eyes looking everywhere but at Nina and the baby. "I'm sorry." She said before excusing herself in a hurry.
"Oiy, better go after her doc." Scotty commented as he nudged his head towards the room outside.
Bones grumbled through a furious blush as he turned to Nina. "You'll be alright here?"
"I think so," She was going to have to be because she'd been alone in a few months, but she pushed the negative thought aside. "Go on McCoy, another augment woman needs you right now."
He mumbled unintelligibly. "I'll let the others know how you're doing."
Nina smiled before her eyes returned to her child. Her little lips continue to open and close, sucking for air while small sighs and whimpers escaped her. Scotty took the empty seat beside the bed, watching her pleasantly with a question on his lips. "What color do you think her eyes will be?"
Nina hummed. "Well, it's common for most infants to be born with blue eyes. Not enough melanin has been deposited into the iris yet, but by around six months we'll know what color they'll remain to be."
Scotty nodded. "Any names yet?"
"Well," Nina felt like she was hit with a sudden spurt of fatigue, entranced by the little vision in her arms. "I think I have a few in mind. On her birth certificate, she'll have the last name Scott though."
"Oh boy." Scotty said with a laugh.
"Did Lykel get to hold her?" Nina inquired, worried over her friends abrupt tearful reaction.
"No. She said you should be the first woman to hold her," Scotty informed as he leaned back in the chair. "Er—while we're on the subject, when the time comes, could you maybe not tell him that I was the first to hold her? It's just; I'm rather fond of breathing, and being alive."
She appreciated that Scotty tried to diffuse the tension with his humor, but the continuous mentioning of a future where she would be with Khan again was starting to wear her down, and her patience with them growing thin. "I guess." She said vaguely.
"Nina!" A squeal at the flap of the tent caused both her and Scotty to wince, and she smile wryly as her mother padded her way into the room, arms up in the air as she leaned down to embrace Nina over her shoulders, being mindful not to disturb the baby. "Your father and I were so worried."
"I'm alright mom." Nina murmured into her shoulder before she pulled away. By now her parents were informed of her condition, even if they didn't completely understand the science behind it. She still hadn't told them of Khan though. She wasn't sure why, but every time she came close to broaching the subject, her mind would close up and she would immediately switch to discussing something else. It put a large strain in her relationship with them, but they seemed to suspect that whoever the individual was, he was no longer with them. Perhaps she just wanted to keep him private to herself a little while longer before she would have to accept the inevitable.
"Oh she's so small," The waterworks started as her mother clasped her hands together in delight, ushering her father over who was now standing at the flap of the tent along with a cluster of her shipmates. "Darling come here, and meet your granddaughter!"
Her father walked in with a bit more reserve than her mother had been able to muster, and she was thankful for it. He placed a kiss on Nina's forehead, brushing back her grungy locks of hair with a warm smile under his salt and pepper beard. "You both look lovely."
"Thanks dad." She said with a heartening smile.
Her parents each took their turn at holding their grandchild. Nina laughed silently to herself that suddenly her mother cared little about the indiscretions of her being a single mother now that she got to hold her granddaughter. It was a pleasant thing to watch her parents with her baby, but she could not help but feel a longing in her heart to hold her again. The life she had created was so new, but already she was attached and wished for the little one to be back in her arms. While she hadn't the slightest idea on how to embrace motherhood, she at least had her instincts to follow, and her first step was to keep her daughter close.
"Oh thank goodness," Her mother cried in relief, and Nina turned her attention back to her to see she was peeking under the knitted cap on her child's head. "She has dark hair Nina, did you see?"
"Mother, I already told you it couldn't be Jim's." She said flatly, knowing full well her mother would have been mortified to find even one lock of soft downy blonde. The news that she had dark hair was new to Nina though, having not snuck a look under the cap herself. So she had had his dark hair. Nina couldn't help but smile softly at the knowledge.
Her baby was handed back to her after her dad's first chance to hold her. By now the rest of her friends had made their way into the room with her, save for Bones and Lykel who hadn't returned since she ran out as an emotional wreck. No one brought any attention to the fact because no one thought any less of her for it. In the time they had gotten to know more about her those past months, they had discovered that Lykel was the augment least likely to succumb to her powerful emotions, so one moment of weakness had not caused anyone to bat an eye. She was a friend to them and a family member to their strange crew, when she wasn't preoccupied by her duties as ambassador.
"How are you feeling?" Uhura asked, her spirited eyes lingering on the blood through the IV after having been the one to bring the vial to McCoy.
Scared to be alone, or that was the thought that continued to plague her anyway, but she didn't let that fact be known to her friends, and so she settled for a brief reply. "Tired."
"Bones says you did well," Jim commented, avoiding the scathing look he was getting from her mother as he spoke. "Despite the fact that you broke every bone in my hand, I would have to agree."
"Sorry about that Jim." She said sheepishly, unable to keep her eyes towards her friends for too long because she was so transfixed with the baby.
"Don't worry about it." Jim dismissed. Bones had already set everything back in place, majority of the damage healed. It wasn't like she had known Jim to have never been injured before in the past, and with his foolhardy ways, he would likely sustain more damage to himself once the Enterprise was back out in the field. It brought the painful reminded that she was grounded on Earth for another five years, and she pushed the dreaded thought back for another time.
"Is Lykel alright?" She asked softly.
"Last I saw, McCoy was with her," Sulu informed. "So she's probably fine."
Jim and the others shared a snicker, all except for Uhura and Spock who stood impervious to their juvenile behavior. While none could say for certain what the nature of Bones' and Lykel's relationship was, it was something they relentlessly continued to tease the doctor about. Nina wasn't so much one for teasing either, and perhaps it was because she was hoping for her friend's happiness.
As Nina grew sleepy, her mother started to usher her friends out one by one with promises of another home cooked meal. They're week was almost up in Wyoming, and they would be heading back to San Francisco soon, three months left before they would be headed out for the five year mission. Bones finally returned into the room with Lykel following. Her face was void of the previous despair she had reflected, though her eyes were still a little swollen and red from the tears. She gave Nina and the baby a convincing smile as she sat down in the chair while Bones returned to his duty.
"I think it might be the right time to try breastfeeding." He said casually.
Nina couldn't help the drowsy smile that came to her face. "Well, that's not something you hear every day from one of your male friends, is it?"
He sent her a flat look, amusement present in his eyes while Lykel also smirked from the comment. "Using humor as a defense mechanism?"
"Sorry if I'm not in an immediate rush to whip it out in front of everyone," Nina said with a laugh as she adjusted herself higher in the bed, trying not to disturb the baby.
Lykel came around the biobed to help her with her gown, taking a moment so she could get the baby into a good position to latch on to her engorged breast. Everything hurt while she was pregnant, and the after effects were no different, though the discomfort had dulled considerably. At the start she had a difficult time getting the offspring to latch on, but she found her rhythm and she was suckling away for nutrients. She had made sure Bones had ran tests on the injection, needing to know if anything harmless was in the breast milk before it was confirmed she could nurse. It came as a relief to her once she had been given the okay. Nursing like this created a bonding experience between mother and child, and Nina could feel the calming results of that kick in.
"I'm sorry," Lykel murmured quietly, catching Nina's attention as she hugged her baby close to her bosom. "I realize my reaction from before was less than satisfactory."
"Don't be silly, there was no harm done," Nina reassured with a smile. "Though I would like to hear your thoughts, if it doesn't bother you."
"I'll give you two a minute." Bones interjected, his head down in his PADD as he left through the flap.
Lykel turned back to Nina, a forced look of serenity in her face as she leaned forward. "She's going to look like him."
"Yeah, probably." Nina agreed.
"I feel guilty. I don't know why, and I know that I shouldn't, but maybe he would be here if I hadn't intervened as much as I did."
"Or maybe a deal would have never been reached, and all of you would have been put back into cryo in a warehouse on some deserted planet," Nina argued lightly. "You shouldn't think like that Lykel. Your people are alive and in peace, and you were a large part of that."
"I guess I just miss my family," Lykel said quietly. "My friend."
"I miss him too. You're not alone." Nina replied, her voice shaky.
"And nor are you. Your hurt runs deeper than mine Nina, I can't deny that." Her eyes darted down to the baby again, who had finished her feeding and was now dosing in soft sighs between her parted little lips.
"Would you like to hold her now?" Nina asked her gently.
"Oh I don't know," She said hesitantly. "I'm not sure how. I-I've never been around children before."
"I'm no expert either," Nina added with a laugh. "Here, I'll show you."
Lykel went to stand by the bed, Nina showing her how to position her arms so she could cradle the head with support. The weight was hardly anything to handle for their strength, and she had complete trust in Lykel despite the woman's own protests. She sat down in the chair by the biobed, the baby in her arms as she studied her carefully with a critical eye. Nina could see Lykel's inexperience around children was obvious, and perhaps she lacked a certain maternal quality, but she smiled with grace at the child all the same. The first augmented child created from nature.
"She's so small."
"Yes, but she'll be strong." Nina said with a grin.
"Oh yes," Lykel retorted with a sly glint in her. "I'll train her myself if I have to. She'll be a real powerhouse."
Nina joined in laughter with her, their friendship breaking the silence of the room. A disgruntled little cry broke through the air, Lykel looking down at the bundle in arms in surprise as she fussed. "Oh grumpy like her father when roused from sleep."
Nina's smile faltered a fraction as her heart gave a surge of agony. Khan wouldn't know his daughters strength, regardless of the hope the others continued to speak of. Perhaps she was blinded by her grief, but she could no longer see a future with him in it, and in her mind she had already begun to let him go, even if her heart was too stubborn to follow. Their love had been short-lived and full of destruction, but she couldn't imagine ever finding that brand of emotion again.
Lykel handed her back the baby, the dimple on her little chin more prominent as she scrunched her face, letting out a wail of distress. Nina worked on getting her back to sleep, cooing softly as she rocked her. Sensing the unrest in the room, Lykel took her leave with one last encouraging look to Nina before she left to join the others. The baby did eventually settle from loud sobs to gentle whimpers, Nina humming a little song as she held her daughter to her chest.
"I suppose you'll need a name, won't you?" Nina spoke aloud softly. She glanced down at her daughter, surprised to see two wide eyes looking back at her with unabashed wonder. The irises were blue, as she had been expecting, but clearer, like crystals.
"Crazy little diamonds." She murmured affectionately, "Just like your father." The baby looked up at her as if she understood, her round cheeks puffed with air while her lips made little smacking sounds. Her skin was still that fresh baby pink color, flushed and warm which Nina could feel through the bundle of blankets she was swaddled in. She placed a kiss on her forehead, inhaling her daughters new scent that caused her heart to flicker with pride.
"I know we've only just met each other, but I can already say that I love you very much. And if your father was here . . . I know he would too," Her vision fogged with the mist of her tears, one running down the slope of her cheek and falling into the material of the cap on her daughters forehead where it was absorbed instantly, like a raindrop to the earth. Nina continued to sing softly until her child sighed with sleep, complete trust in her as she held her in her arms, never letting go. "I love you Maggie."
Baby chapter! I went with the name Maggie/Megan. I thought Lena would have been a little obvious, whereas Maggie is kind of a modernized version of the name. Plus you know, at the moment she's 'Maggie Scott' because of Scotty's last name and it sounds adorable. Baby stuff is not something I am used to writing for any fic, but this is the way I have to write it now for the sake of the direction I chose. Not long to go before it's all over, and we shall be seeing where Khan is at next chapter as the last efforts of Kirk's and the Enterprises' plan begins to be put into effect. Thanks for those of you who have stuck loyal through this difficult story. I will finish it despite other things going on in my life right now. It's been a good fic for me and I'm glad as many of you have followed it as you have, because I was not expecting this to have any amount of success.
Chapter song inspiration: Shine on you crazy diamond, by Pink Floyd