"It's been nearly two hours." Duo looked at the door to the waiting room. "Why don't they tell us anything?"
"I know." Heero put an arm around his shoulder. "Come on, sit down. You're about to fall over."
Duo reluctantly allowed himself to be led over to a leather seat. The room was crowded, with himself and Heero, Wufei, Denea, and Luke. There were, however, two glaring omissions.
Wufei hit the end button on his phone, cursing.
"Still no luck?"
"No. No one at Minos has seen them all evening." He said tightly.
Jazz had frantically called his parents from the hospital, only saying that the baby was coming early and that something was wrong. They had been able to obtain no more information than that, other than the fact that Linra was in surgery and Jazz was in with her. Wufei had gone to wake Shan to tell him what was going on, only to find that his son was missing. Gage, predictably, was nowhere to be found either.
"I'm sure they're fine." Denea tried to calm him down.
"You are? Wonderful. Because I'm not." Her mate growled. "What is taking them so long?" He, like Duo, stared at the door.
Come on, little girl, he thought. You're a Maxwell. Show it. Fight for your right to live. Show Death who's the boss.
They had been waiting, but when the door opened, they all jumped.
Jazz was standing the doorway, and he looked horrible. His hair was wet and stringy, and his eyes were blood-shot, his cheeks wet. But he was smiling, and in his arms was something very tiny, wrapped in pink.
"Jazz?" Duo asked, and the question lingered in the air.
"Linra's asleep. They're both gonna be fine." Jazz's voice was breaking. "Do you want to meet your granddaughter?"
He approached his parents, and they held their breath. Heero was shaking, and Jazz gently peeled back the edge of the blanket. "She's kind of weak, because she was so early. She can't cry very loud, but she's not sick or anything. The, um... the placenta thingy. It separated from the wall of the womb. They said that happens sometimes. She was far enough along to make it. If it had happened last month, we might have lost her."
They stared in wonder at the tiny, red face, crowned by a mess of thick, black curly hair. Duo swallowed and reached out, rubbing his finger against one warm cheek.
The little girl turned toward his touch, her mouth moving, and her eyes opened wide. And like her father's, they held their true color immediately. She had Maxwell eyes. She also looked tired and confused by all the attention, and Duo could swear that the gaze she was giving him was irritated. He took her from Jazz, marveling at her perfection.
And suddenly, he remembered. The time he had nearly died. The walk in the woods, the little girl with the black hair and Wufei's manners.
"Nadia..." He whispered.
"What?" Jazz asked.
"I said I had no idea she'd be so small." It wasn't his place to name the child, but in his heart, he knew who she was. Welcome, little one. Duo didn't try and fight the tears. It looks like we both made it here.
"Ojisan, would you like to hold her?"
Before Heero could answer, Duo had placed the infant into his arms. "This is Grandpa Heero. That's Grandpa Duo right there, the one who held you first." Jazz explained to the child. "And you know what else?"
He took the baby back from Heero and walked over to Wufei, who was definitely trying to keep from crying. "Most little girls only get two grandfathers, and that's enough, but you are so special that we went out and got you a third one. He's always been like another dad to me, and I'm hoping that he won't mind being an honorary grandpa as well."
Wufei accepted the child as if she was made of delicate glass, and she gave him a long, appraising stare, and then snuggled against him, closing her eyes in contentment.
"Yeye." Jazz whispered. "That's the right for it, isn't it? For a paternal grandfather?"
Wufei nodded. "Yeye. This is an honor I never expected..."
"It's one you deserve." Jazz hugged him, the baby between them. He brought the baby to Denea next. "She doesn't have any grandmothers. How do you feel about stepping in?"
"Where do I sign?" She kissed the sleeping infant gently. Sheld's granddaughter. It was almost more than she could take.
"This is my baby brother, your Uncle Luke. One day you'll probably have a little brother too. I hope he's as cool as mine is."
The infant opened one eye, glanced at Luke, and went back to sleep. She did not look especially impressed. The boy grinned. "Uh huh. Well, you're short too, so don't get airs with me."
The baby stuck out her tongue, and they all laughed.
"Definitely a Maxwell." Wufei confirmed.
"Where are Gage and Shan?" Jazz looked around.
Wufei's smile vanished. "Your guess is as good as mine. Shan is grounded but he snuck out anyway. The club hasn't seen them. No one has seen them. I've called the house, but no one answers. No one answers at Heero's house. They're probably off in a jail cell somewhere!" he fumed.
"Now, Wu." Jazz was staring at Luke over Wufei's shoulder. "Calm down. There's no need to start raving, you'll wake the baby up."
Luke nodded very slightly, and silent communication flashed between the brothers.
"I have an idea where they might be." Luke said casually. "I'll go check it out. Be back in ten."
"Where are you going?" Duo demanded. "Where are they?"
"Just with some friends." Luke said vaguely. "See you soon." He took off before they could question him any more.
"Mr. Maxwell?" A nurse appeared. "I'm sorry to interrupt. Your maclen won't wake up until morning, but she's doing very well. I need to take the baby down to the nursery. They want to run a few more tests on her."
Jazz looked startled. "They said she was fine."
"She is. It's nothing to worry about. Perfectly routine; we just like to be extra careful with preemies."
Jazz very reluctantly handed his daughter over to the nurse. "Bye, sweetheart. I'll see you real soon." He waved.
Duo put an arm around his shoulders and hugged him tightly. "You did good, Jazzy. You handled this like a pro."
"I learned from pros." The young man replied, hugging his father back. "Isn't she beautiful, Pops?"
"She's a knock-out."
Just wait until you see how cute she is in about eight years, Duo thought. You're going to have your hands full with that girl. But you don't have to do it alone.
"So what are you calling her?" Wufei wanted to know.
"Not sure yet. I thought I'd know the minute I saw her what her name ought to be, but now I don't have a clue."
Duo only smiled.
Luke scanned the dancers at the rave, running a hand through his hair and standing on his tiptoes to see over bobbing heads. He had never liked this place; he had come here enough when he was younger, but it had never appealed to him. He didn't like the smell, or the undercurrent of sexual tension in the air. He always felt claustrophobic in crowds; he attributed that to have been raised on a farm, with wide-open spaces, and solitude always available for the taking if he wanted it. He also didn't like the hard, flat look in some of these people's eyes. Former classmates, some of them. They had no direction, no goal, no plans above the here and now.
That kind of life left a bad taste in his mouth.
He finally spotted his prey. They were slow-dancing in the middle of the floor, wrapped around each other and locked at the lip as they ground their hips together. Luke sighed.
He marched over and tapped Gage on the shoulder.
"No you can't cut in." Gage growled without looking around. "Take a hike."
"Well, I AM cutting in." Luke shot back.
"Luke?" Shan asked in confusion. "What are you doing here?"
"Looking for you, chump. You both need to come with me."
"You didn't find us." Gage turned back to Shan. "We've never seen you before in our lives."
"You selfish jerk! It's not about you! Linra went into premature labor tonight. We almost lost her and the baby."
"What?" Shan gasped.
"They're both okay." Luke held up a hand. "But they almost weren't, and no one could find you guys anywhere. I didn't know until Jazz dropped me a hint. I told them that you might be with some friends. Now come on!"
They followed the angry boy back toward the transporter.
"I am toast." Shan muttered.
"Trade me shirts." Gage said suddenly, ripping his own off and thrusting it into Shan's hands.
"Your shirt is see-through. They'll see the tattoo. If they see one on me, they'll just think I've always had it."
"TATTOOS?" Luke sputtered. "Oh for the love of pancakes!"
The boys finished redressing. "Keep your mouth shut, Luke. No one likes a rat." Gage warned.
Luke rolled his eyes. "Oh, I won't say a word. But I swear you're both asking for it."
And, Shan thought glumly, I'm definitely going to get it.
Jazz was staying at the hospital with Linra, but the rest of the family had gone back to the farmhouse. Heero had found some champagne they'd been saving for the party, and they all toasted the newest family member, in between predictions for her future. Duo, to their surprise, refused to join in. "She'll be who she is." He shrugged. "Just as long as she's ours."
The transporter beeped and opened, and Luke walked out, with two very sheepish looking boys behind him. "We went to the hospital but they said you'd gone home. Told you I could find them."
Shan slowly raised his head to meet the furious glares of his mother and father. "I heard it's a girl." He said brightly. "Well, we knew it was a girl, but I heard it's okay. What does she look like?"
"Well, you could have seen her for yourself if we'd known where to find you!" Wufei snarled. "Where were you? And don't tell me Minos because I called there!"
"Just out... we met some friends, we hung out, played cards. Talked about life in general." Gage cut in. "Nothing normal, clean-cut teenage boys don't do on a night out. I'm sure that Shan will agree with me that we did not intend to worry or alarm anyone."
"I was NOT speaking to you." Wufei returned harshly.
"Don't talk to him like that!" Shan said angrily, and Gage laid a hand on his shoulder. "It's okay. This is bad, let's not make it worse."
"Gage, no one grounded you." Heero sighed. "So you're not in trouble for being out. But did you know that Shan was grounded?"
"He may have mentioned that in passing." Gage waved a hand.
"Then you should not have let him come with you."
"Rather boring to come alone, don't you think?" Gage smiled sweetly. Luke turned red, and Shan coughed into his hand. Luckily no one else got it.
"That might be, but you broke the rules. And you lied to us about where you were going. You're grounded until the night of our anniversary party."
"That goes for you as well." Denea pointed at her son. "And that includes phone calls and email. If you can't be responsible together, we've got no choice but to separate you."
"You can't do that!" Shan protested.
"The punishment hardly fits the crime!" Gage agreed. A month without Shan? Impossible.
"We work together for Jazz. Surely we're allowed to keep doing that?" Shan asked suddenly.
The adults looked at each other.
"They can't get into trouble working in the field." Denea reasoned.
Wufei nodded, not looking entirely convinced of that. "You may continue to work in the fields, and see each other there. But that is the only exception unless one of us is with you." He looked at Heero and Duo. "Is this acceptable?"
Shan breathed a sigh of relief. They could still talk to each other.
He glanced over at Gage and the boy gave him a meaningful look back. Gage had no intentions of obeying them, and Shan felt a rush of excitement. Even if they had to sneak around, they'd still be together.
"I don't like this." Shan grumbled to his parents.
"Its called punishment. If you liked it, it wouldn't be punishment!" Heero snapped.
"I don't know about that. I knew this young woman who had a great fondness for..."
"Well, he wasn't entirely correct, I just wanted..."
"Not another word."
"Sir, you can silence the truth, but you cannot make it untrue by doing so." Gage raised a hand in the air. "I will put my life and safety at risk to set stories straight. THE PRESS SHALL BE FREE! REMEMBER THE ALAMO! ALL SALES FINAL! THIS PLASTIC BAG IS NOT A TOY!"
"You are going to bed." Duo took the boy by his arm and started pulling him down the hall.
"Oh, now we see the violence inherent in the system!" Gage stumbled along behind him. "Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help! Help! I'm being repressed!"
Shan was doubled over in laughter, and Denea turned on him. "You, young man, have nothing to laugh about right now!"
"And why was he wearing your shirt?" Wufei demanded.
"I got cold. He said he was hot. So we traded. Am I going to be punished for that as well?" He added sardonically.
"You are going home and going to bed!" Wufei hissed. "Maybe time away from that boy will purge whatever demon has gotten into you lately."
Shan shook his head. "No, Baba. No demons have gotten into me. Maybe I've just decided to let them out. Give Linra and Jazz my love, and tell them I said congratulations."
He stepped into the transporter, and punched the code for home.