It was now seven months since the battle for Meridian. It had been a long and arduous journey since their arrival in the Heleus cluster. Even though the fight had ended in success, and a new home for their people, it still left much to be done, and no rest for the Pathfinder or her crew. That was until nearly one month ago Tann had finally decided to grant them some mercy.
Ryder had remembered that day fondly. Every time she graced Operations on the Nexus with her presence she would check in with the info boards to see her current status, only to be disappointed by the announcement that she wouldn’t be eligible for paid vacation time for 587 days. Her disappointment grew with every visit knowing that the number of days until she would be eligible never seemed to change despite how much time had passed since her last visit. Everything changed that one fateful day a month ago, when it had instead announced for her to report directly to Tann, where he, in turn, announced that they were on shore leave effective immediately.
For the most part the crew had decided to stay together on the Tempest except for that first week when Tann had insisted that it be docked for inspection and repairs. As soon as everything was complete, Tann had graciously allowed them to use it at their leisure, since the other Pathfinders didn’t have teams to run excursions with, and were otherwise busy with their ongoing tasks anyway.
It had all seemed extremely uncharacteristically nice for Tann, but they certainly weren’t going to fight him on it, or give him enough time to reconsider. They had all gladly taken the ship to travel around Heleus, checking in on their hard work and finally getting a chance to appreciate the beauty that the cluster had to offer.
They had finally just docked back on the Nexus the night before, as their vacation would be ending in a few days. It technically wasn’t necessary quite yet, but Sara had wanted to make sure they were fully stocked and ready for when they would be required to leave again. If anything, she had felt more compelled to do it now knowing that Jaal had already been requested to attend one of the Moshae’s ambassador meetings today. Lexi had also wanted to attend a medical conference to help all of the medical professionals, both angaran, and Milky Way to learn about each others physiology, in the hopes that it would bond them even more. Vetra had her sister to catch up with, and everyone else would easily find something to do with their time aboard the Nexus.
It was somewhat early in the morning when Jaal was finally awakened by groaning in the bed beside him. This was far from their typical way of waking each other up with gentle kisses, and soft caresses. He was immediately filled with concern, and moved to rub Sara’s shoulder to check if she was alright.
She groaned again, before answering his prodding. “Sorry, did I wake you?”
“You did, but that is beside the point, Taoshay. Is something the matter?”
“It’s nothing. I think my procreation blockers might finally be wearing off. I kept waking up with cramps all night.”
“Ah. I am sorry to hear that. Is it normal that they would be keeping you up all night?”
“Not usually. Maybe it’s just worse because it’s been so long.”
“Maybe you should ask Lexi.”
“She left for her conference when we docked last night. I’m sure I’ll be fine. Cramps are hardly an emergency, I’ll just talk to her when she gets back.”
“If you are certain.”
“I am. Don’t worry. I’m surprised you even want to be talking about this. Isn’t illness supposed to be taboo for you?”
“Normally it is, yes, but when it is your Taoshay who is ill, then worry tends to win out over embarrassment. Are you sure that you will be alright?”
“I’ll be fine, Jaal. Thanks though. You should really go to your meeting,” she said while turning back on to her side and curling up into a ball of pain.
Jaal just looked at her with worry. Sara could feel his intent gaze even through the wave of pain.
“I mean it, Jaal. I’ll be fine. I’m mostly just upset that this is eating away the end of our vacation. I know how much Moshae Sjefa needs you today. You should go. Please try not to worry.”
“I will try.”
“Good. Now go get out of here already.”
“Alright, darling one. I think the ship is empty, so you should have some peace and quiet to try to sleep it off if you can.”
Sara just hummed at the thought, hoping that she would be able to do just that. She vaguely heard him get dressed, and whisper a goodbye in her ear before she heard the door open and close behind him. She had barely realised it through the pain but being up constantly all night had made her exhausted to the point that she was able to fall asleep again almost immediately after Jaal had left.
She didn’t have a clue as to how much time had passed when she had finally woken up, but at least for the moment she seemed to be okay.
She turned over to see that Jaal had left her a tray of food on her bedside table, and wondered how she ended up being so astronomically lucky, to find someone that loved her and cared about her so much despite being born more than 600 years and a galaxy apart.
She wasn’t particularly hungry, but after seeing that it had been four hours since Jaal had left, she thought it best to at least try to eat something. She sat up and ventured a look at the food. Cinnamon and brown sugar oatmeal with raisins in it. It wasn’t what she would have called her favourite breakfast, but probably her favourite that was easily accessible on a starship, and certainly one of her staples. Jaal had learned how to make it early in their relationship, which was now slightly more than a year ago.
She bent down to take a spoonful of what was now cold and mushy oatmeal, as another wave of pain seemed to come back with a vengeance. It did nothing for her appetite, as she recoiled in pain to the point that it made her become nauseated. She sat on the bed for half a second before she realised she was more than just nauseous. She was about to be sick.
Sara ran from her bed, and thanked every goddess and spirit that the bathroom was right outside of her room, as she barely made it to the toilet in time before projecting her stomach contents (or lack thereof), into the bowl. It was all acid and bile from not having eaten anything since the night before.
Something was definitely starting to feel off about this whole situation. So many people had gotten off of the blockers in the last year, that she was sure she would have heard more about the symptoms if they had been this bad.
Whatever was going on, was clearly not normal. She couldn’t even remember the last time that she had vomited, and she couldn’t help but feel particularly useless at the moment, with her lack of ability to handle whatever seemed to be going on right now. Especially seeing as how in the last year alone, she had been through far worse than some period cramps.
She flushed her vomit away, deciding to check on the progress or lack thereof, of what she thought was her impending period. She had had some spotting in the middle of the night when she had started to feel the cramps. It had been surprisingly little, and a bit thicker than she had expected, but these were all new circumstances for her, and she just thought it was all part of mother nature coming back to life after a 600 year hibernation. Things were bound to be a little off… right? She was surprised to see that with how bad the cramping was, there was still surprisingly little evidence of a period at all. Still just some mild spotting after almost half a day at this point.
She was almost regretting letting Jaal leave so easily. Mostly because she was starting to be a little scared and just wanted to bury herself in his arms, but she wouldn’t deny that some of his electrical pulses might feel good right about now too. It wouldn’t have been the first time that they had used it to relieve some of her pain. One of the many benefits to having an angaran boyfriend.
She finally made it out of the toilet stall after another wave of pain, and made her way to the sink to wash her hands and splash some cold water on her face.
“Aww, did someone have a little too much to drink last night?” someone piped up from the doorway.
Ryder usually liked Peebee’s exuberantly, cheery nature, but she was having a hard time wanting to deal with anything at all right now, much less her exhausting personality. She decided that a short glare in her direction should suffice.
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
Sara groaned in pain as she braced herself against the sink while screwing her eyes shut. “I’m not hungover,” she grit out.
Peebee just looked at her in worried confusion for a second, waiting to hear if there was more to Sara’s answer.
Ryder took in a long breath through her nose before continuing. “I think the procreation blockers are wearing off or something. I’ve got really bad cramps.”
“Hmm… Sucks to be human,” Peebee grinned. “That must be why you’ve been looking so bloated lately.”
Sara stood up properly to look at herself in the mirror. She had definitely noticed that she had put on a bit more weight than she would have expected from a vacation, mostly by the fact that all of her pants were struggling to fit over the last few weeks. She had been wearing her hoodie trying to ignore it and enjoy her free time, keeping in mind to be more strict about her diet while she wasn’t being as active.
Her room lacked its own mirror, so she hadn’t gotten a good look at herself in a while. Peebee was right though. She did look really bloated, or so she hoped. She didn’t like the alternative possibility of just being fat. She could still see the outline of her abs closer up to her rib cage, so hopefully it was as simple as that. Even so, it wasn’t anything so bad that a couple months back on the job wouldn’t fix for her.
“What are you even doing here? I thought everyone left to enjoy their last few days of freedom.”
“Yeah, except all of my remtech is here. This is my vacation spot.”
“First you try to take every chance you can to escape us, and now we can’t get rid of you,” she said more grumpily than she meant to.
“So moody. You must be right. I forgot what it was like to be around a bunch of hormonally imbalanced people before. This is going to be fun,” Peebee said sarcastically.
“I’m sorry, Peebee. This is so much worse than I was expecting. I’m not really sure what’s going on,” she said as she buckled over again leaning on the sink.
This one seemed to be worse than any of the others and was lasting a bit longer. She had only vaguely realised that Peebee had been talking to her, as she felt a hand on her shoulder.
“What did you say?”
“I said, that doesn’t look normal to me, Ryder. You aren’t even able to talk through it. Do you want to go lie down in the medbay, while I look for something for the pain?”
Sara nodded her head thinking that was a very good idea at this point, as she started following Peebee to the medbay. She had to stop once again at the end of the hallway, not being able to walk through the pain. She crawled into the nearest bed, and collapsed onto her side.
“So what is it that you take for pain? Tylenol?”
“I don’t think that’s going to cut it,” she grit out.
“Well, I don’t want to kill you, Ryder. I’m not exactly qualified to be choosing anything stronger than that.”
Ryder just let out an audible groan that ended in a bit of a whimper before Peebee noticed Suvi coming back on board from the medbay windows.
Peebee ran to the door just as Suvi had passed it, likely heading up to her workstation. “Paging Dr. Anwar. Dr. Anwar to the medbay please,” Peebee joked.
Suvi turned around with a smile. “Never thought I’d hear that. What do you need, Peebee?”
“Something’s wrong with Ryder, I could use some help.”
Suvi walked into the medbay, noticing immediately how bad Sara was.
“You know I’m not that kind of Doctor, right? I study rocks,” she said as she moved to Sara’s side and wiped back the hair stuck to her face from sweat. She may not have thought she’d be able to do much for Sara, but she wasn’t going to leave her alone when she was looking this bad.
“You’re still a human. I have no idea what I’m doing. I was looking for pain meds, and she said Tylenol wouldn’t be enough.”
“Well, let’s start with Tylenol, maybe it will at least take the edge off? I don’t want to give her anything more than that until we figure out what’s going on.”
“She thinks her procreation blockers are wearing off. She said she’s been having cramps all day.”
“That can’t be right. The blockers weren’t designed to simply ‘wear off.’”
Sara was barely listening to the conversation, but she had managed to hear that loud and clear. “What?! Then what’s wrong with me?”
Suvi didn’t waste a minute, before going into action. They needed to have a plan because something was clearly wrong. “Peebee, call Lexi, tell her it’s urgent,” she barked out, trying not to scare Sara. “Have you been having any other symptoms?” she asked as she turned back to face Ryder.
“It’s mostly just the pain. I’ve had some spotting ever since it started.”
“She also threw up earlier,” Peebee said as she was trying to get through to Lexi.
Suvi hummed for a moment. She may not be a doctor of medicine, but she knew some basic things to worry about and look for. Vomiting was rarely ever a good sign, and combined with severe abdominal pain set off alarm bells in her head. It almost sounded like appendicitis to her, minus the spotting. Spotting could be caused by a lot of things though, and she was more worried about life threatening possibilities at the moment.
“Sara? I know I’m not a doctor, but can I check something?”
Sara nodded her head eagerly, just wanting some answers at this point. If Suvi even had the faintest idea at what this might be caused by, who was she to complain about who was able to diagnose her.
“Okay. I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to get you to lie on your back. Can I lift your shirt?”
Sara nodded again. “Just do what you have to do.”
Suvi had noticed the bloating immediately, and was now concerned that something much worse might be happening that was entirely beyond her scope, but she wasn’t willing to rule out appendicitis just yet. She gently prodded at the lower right side of Sara’s abdomen.
“Is there any tenderness here?” she asked, while trying to gauge Sara’s reaction.
“No, it’s literally just like period cramps, just a thousand times worse.”
“Lexi’s not answering. There was some message about her performing a talk at that conference thing. I don’t think she’s going to pick up,” Peebee said almost looking worried at this point.
Suvi prodded around a bit more, before feeling Sara’s abdomen go rigid, and noticing that this must have been when the pain was the worst, as Sara fisted the railings on the bed so hard her knuckles were going white. That definitely set off more alarm bells in Suvi’s head… but it couldn’t be. Could it?
“Hmm?” Sara breathed out as the pain subsided again.
“There’s no easy way to ask this...”
“I’m beyond embarrassment at this point, Suvi. If you have something to ask, please just do it. There’s no such thing as a stupid question right now,” she grit out.
“Is there any chance you might be pregnant?”
Peebee gasped almost in delight, as though she was witnessing a soap opera in front of her eyes.
“Okay, I take that back. That’s ridiculous. You even said it yourself, the procreation blockers weren’t designed to just wear off, and I didn’t have them reversed. Everyone knows I’m with Jaal. It’s just not possible.”
Suvi paused for a moment before continuing. “What if I said, it might be possible?”
“What?!” both Peebee and Sara blurted out.
“Um, yes. Well, possibly. I spent my morning catching up with some of the other scientists. Professor Herik and his biological team have been studying the potential ever since you discovered the angaran’s origin on Khi Tasira. It was all quite fascinating really, but most of it just went over my head, I’m afraid.”
Sara and Peebee just looked at her in disbelief.
“That still doesn’t explain the blockers,” Sara said as she screwed her eyes shut with another wave of pain. “If I’m pregnant, then why does it hurt this much? That can’t be a good thing,” she said, her tone suddenly moving more to panic rather than frustration.
“Yes, well about that. As I was examining you just now, I think I noticed the signs that you’re having contractions. I think you might be in labour.”
“What?! You cannot be serious.”
“I’m no expert, Sara, but all of the signs are there.”
“I know I’ve gained a little bit of weight, but I’m nowhere near big enough to be in labour. None of this sounds like a good thing, Suvi.”
Peebee’s look of amusement suddenly turned into shock. This was no soap opera. Shit was about to get real, and she suddenly wished that she was anywhere but here.
“Try not to worry. I’m going to run a scan to see if I’m right before we jump to any conclusions,” she said as she moved to the terminal attached to the bed, setting it up to run the scan for her.
As the scanner ran over her abdomen, Sara just stared blankly at the ceiling wondering how she could have possibly ended up here. In a way this was the most wonderful news she could have ever heard. Jaal had spoken often about wanting a family, and she had felt insurmountable guilt over the matter. She had had a few sleepless nights over the course of their relationship wondering if she was being selfish staying with him, knowing that it was something she could never provide for him. She had always rationalized the thought away by knowing how many mixed species relationships there were in the Milky Way that had just opted to adopt, or use donors and surrogates to get around the issues. She realised that there was no reason that they couldn’t figure something out when they were ready.
None of this changed the fact that she was still young by human standards. She was admittedly not too young to have known that as long as Jaal were on board, she already knew that he was the one she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. But she was terrified at the thought of starting a family so out of the blue. Especially seeing as how her career was not exactly conducive with a side job of child rearing. The cluster relied on her. Would they think her selfish for abandoning the livelihood of the many for the life of one? This was all way too much for her to be thinking about at the moment as another wave of pain hit her.
“Would you look at that?” Suvi gasped in shock, as she pointed to the terminal screen, where a very clear display of a tiny living being was being broadcast to the trio in the room. She had suspected as much, but seeing what looked like a mostly fully formed fetus on the screen was enough for her to be totally taken aback.
“How could this have happened?” Sara questioned.
“Has anyone asked SAM?” Suvi asked.
Everyone just stared blankly at each other signalling for Suvi to prompt the AI. “SAM?”
::I have had extremely limited functions interacting with the Pathfinder ever since our link was re-established after the battle for Meridian. I am currently under the impression that with the combination of Sara’s brief death caused by my being disconnected, as well as my reconnection to her after the fact, it had the unforeseen complications of restarting all of her biological functions at the time, including restarting normal fertility. With my limited functionality, I have not been able to accurately monitor her vitals or blood chemistry until more research is done on what constitutes a safe connection. This has all led me to have been unable to detect any changes within the Pathfinder. I am sorry, Sara.::
“It’s okay, SAM. It’s not your fault,” she said. She fully believed that SAM felt remorseful over this. Her relationship had changed slightly with him ever since they were reconnected, and not only by the limited functionality. Any time they talked, she could have sworn that he had an underlying tone of guilt. She was almost sure that he blamed himself for her Death on Khi Tasira. It was different than when he had stopped her heart because then he had full faith in his abilities to bring her back. Her third death however, was a direct result of his actions of taking over too many of her functions, and he wasn’t able to do anything to help her other than risking Scott’s life in place of hers. It was far from a desirable situation to say the least, but they had all learned from it in the end. Although, it seemed like they still had some learning to do from the whole situation if this was one of the repercussions.
Suvi started to panic slightly realising that this was definitely labour. “I’m going to go get Professor Herick.”
“No! Don’t you dare leave me!” Peebee screamed.
“I am woefully unprepared for this situation, Peebee! He’s the closest one to the Tempest. ”
“You’ve been doing fine! See,” she said pointing to the screen. “You’re the one who found that!”
“Yes, and I have no idea what to do with it! I’ll be back in 10 minutes!” she yelled as she ran as fast as she could to leave the ship in search of the scientist.
Peebee just scanned the room trying to avoid eye contact with Ryder, not having a clue how to handle the situation. After Sara let out a whimper, Peebee pitied her enough to try to start a conversation to distract her. “So… how’re you doin’?”
“Oh you know… pretty good. How about you?” she said trying to keep things light despite her internal panic.
“I could be better honestly,” Peebee said with a light laugh. “Can I do anything for you?”
“Call Jaal!” She demanded as another contraction hit her.
“Oh, duh. Why didn’t anyone think of that before,” she said as she brought her omni-tool up. The call connected almost immediately.
“Hello Peebee, what is it?”
“Yeah, so uh, are you busy?”
“I just finished my meeting with the Moshae. Why?”
“You should probably make your way back to the Tempest , big guy. I think Ryder needs you.”
“I’m already on my way back. I knew I should not have left her this morning. Is she there? Is she alright?”
“I’m here, Jaal. Just please hurry,” she whined out.
“I am only a few minutes away, Darling one. I will be there as fast as I can,” he said, as they hung up.
“So… what do you think he’s going to have to say about all this?”
“Not exactly my first concern right now,” She grit out. The contractions had definitely been getting stronger, and closer together. This one was bad enough that Ryder had to try to sit up and move to deal with the pain. As she sat up, she felt a slight popping sensation and a wet warmth spread over her thighs. The immediate sensation following was a brief second of relief, before another contraction hit that suddenly felt 10 times worse than the ones she had already been having.
“Is that what I think it is?”
“Well I’m pretty sure I didn’t just wet myself!” Ryder said with a fury that neither of them were used to from her. Peebee just took it in stride, knowing full well that this was an extremely tense situation.
“I’m sorry, Peebee. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
“I do. You’re about to push out some weird human, angaran hybrid and you’re probably in the worst pain of your life. You’re bound to not be acting quite like yourself at the moment.”
“Thanks for understanding,” she said sounding exhausted now. “Can you help me?”
“With what?” she asked reluctantly.
“I need these to come off, she said, as she started gripping the waistband of her sweatpants.”
“Oh, nuh-uh! Listen. There was a time and place that I wanted to be acquainted with your business end, but this is hardly it.”
“Peebee,” she said almost pleadingly now.
“Ugh! Fine. Just hang on,” she said as she was looking around the room for some things.
Just then Jaal came bursting into the medbay.
“Oh thank god! Now you can deal with it,” Peebee said in Jaal’s direction, as she moved back over to Sara with a towel, wiping up some of the excess fluid that she was now sitting in, and signalling for her to scooch over so she could lay down some absorbent pads under her.
Jaal had been nothing but thoroughly confused until he saw the large wet spot on Sara’s pants as Peebee was helping her clean up. He went to her side noticing how much more pale and sickly she looked compared to this morning. She was covered with a sheen of sweat, and clearly more distressed than she was when he had left her.
“Sara?” he said with concern. “Is the pain so bad that you were not able to excuse yourself to the restroom?” he asked while moving the hair out of her face lovingly.
“I didn’t have a fucking accident, Jaal!” she shouted at him, before grunting in pain.
The look of hurt on his face was immediate and heartbreaking. Sara had never planned on treating him with so much disdain in her life, and she hated that she was acting like this, especially because he still had no idea what was going on.
“Oh my god. I’m so sorry, Jaal,” she said before grabbing his hand tightly, trying to show him how sorry she was, and that she needed him there.
“Just ignore her outbursts for now, Jaal. Help me get her out of these,” Peebee ordered.
Jaal lifted her up lightly as Peebee managed to pull off her pants and underwear.
Just then, they could hear Scott from down the hall calling out. “Hey Sara? I talked to Jaal this morning. He said you were feeling under the weather-.” He said as he was bounding around the corner into the medbay and abruptly cut himself off, dropping his bag of soup and spilling it all over the floor, not expecting the view that he was met with.
“Augh! Jesus fucking Christ, Jaal! I didn’t realise you meant those kinds of issues,” He said while immediately shooting his hand over his eyes. “I could have gladly gone my whole life never having seen that,” he said as he was trying to slowly back away from the room while not looking.
“No, wait!” Peebee shouted after him, as she laid a sheet over Sara’s legs. “Before you go, make yourself useful and go find Lexi.”
He took his hand down cautiously for that. “Why? Is it that serious?”
“Yes. She’s at that medical conference and she’s not answering her omni-tool.”
Scott’s disgusted and flustered face had quickly turned to one of worry. “Uh, yeah, okay. I’ll be back as fast as I can.”
That look of worry easily translated to Jaal as well. He knew it sounded urgent on the call with Peebee, but he hadn’t realised it was bad enough to warrant Lexi’s attendance. Sara had assured him just this morning that a doctor wouldn’t be necessary. Something clearly must have changed, and he was beginning to feel a sense of dread, as he looked back towards Sara who was clearly straining.
Just then, Suvi had come running back in with Professor Herick.
“Oh thank god,” Peebee said. “Does this mean I can go?”
“Yes, that’s fine, Peebee.”
She took one last look at Sara. “Not that I don’t appreciate the thought that you’d want to include me or anything, but I have a feeling I’ll just be getting in the way.”
“Yeah, sure,” Sara huffed out.
“Good luck. I’ll come check on you… you know… after,” she said as she left.
Jaal just silently sat beside Ryder’s head in confusion, not wanting to get in anyone’s way while they were trying to help his Taoshay, hoping that someone would clue him in eventually.
Herick examined the area, noticing Ryder’s discarded pants.
“Ah, has your water broken?”
Sara just nodded through another wave of pain.
“No going back now, then. You’re clearly in the active phase. I’m sure it won’t be much longer,” he said, trying to comfort the Pathfinder. He turned back to Suvi now. “Can you show me the scans please?”
Suvi brought up the image on the terminal, but both of the scientists were blocking Jaal’s view, so he still had no inkling as to what was going on. Sara was clearly in no state to be talking at the moment, as she was tightly clinging to Jaal’s arm, in a whimpering mess.
Sara could barely concentrate on anything being said, but managed to pick out a few choice scary words from their exchange, such as ‘preterm,’ and ‘anterior placenta,’ nothing of which was helping put her mind at ease.
This is when it was enough to worry Jaal to the breaking point, as he finally demanded to know what was going on.
Suvi and Herick turned towards him, both looking at each other, before looking back at Jaal.
“I’m sorry, Jaal. I just assumed that they had brought you up to speed. Sara’s pregnant, but not for much longer.”
Jaal gasped, looking down at Sara, and had a confusing mixture of elation and worry on his face at Suvi’s wording. What did that mean? They hadn’t known that Sara was pregnant. Was something wrong? Did this mean that she was losing the baby? He just looked up to Suvi with an overwhelming look of worry.
Suvi realised that she may have been more confusing than she had meant to be. “Sorry,” she said as she moved the terminal into view, showing Jaal a view of his baby. “Everything’s fine. I just meant that Sara’s in labour.”
“What!? How could this be?!” Jaal said in a booming voice that was all excitement.
Sara may not have been listening to much of what was going on but she easily picked up on the fact that he was happy, and was glad for that to at least be one less thing for her to worry about right now.
“I can go into the details about all of that later, but for right now, I think this is starting to get urgent. Has anyone checked her progression?”
“No. As soon as I found out what was going on, I ran to get you. The Tempest’s doctor wasn’t on duty today and she hasn’t been reachable.”
“Okay. I’m sorry Ryder, but in the absence of your doctor, and how far you’ve progressed, I’m going to need to check you, is that okay?”
“Just do it!” she barked out.
He pulled up the sheet and arranged her legs so that they were spread out, but had the bottoms of her feet touching each other, allowing her to open up wide enough to check her easily in the most comfortable way possible.
“The head has lowered significantly, to the point that I can’t even feel the dilation. Ryder, have you been feeling the urge to push?”
“Is that what that is? I’ve been trying to ignore it. It hasn’t exactly been working.”
“I wouldn’t advise ignoring it,” he said while adjusting the bed so Ryder could be in more of a sitting position, allowing gravity to help her more. “Still high up in the birthing canal, but I would suspect less than 30 minutes worth of active pushing will be necessary. Okay, Ryder, with the next contraction, I want you to push as hard as you can.”
Suvi moved to sit beside her friend with one arm behind Sara’s back, and the other one helping hold Sara’s foot. Jaal quickly moved to mirror Suvi’s actions, as he was entirely out of his element.
As the next contraction hit, she bore down as hard as she could, as the professor examined how much progress she made. Pushing was so unimaginably painful that she hadn’t even realised that she was screaming along with it. It was almost funny how conflicting it was, because it was also the biggest relief she’d felt since the contractions had started in the middle of the night. Pushing was something to focus all of her pain and efforts into. A goal to push towards, both literally and figuratively.
“That was very good. This may go by faster than I had expected if you can keep that up,” he said encouragingly, as Lexi had just been escorted into the room with Scott.
“Alright, why did you all feel the need to desecrate my medbay, and what was so important that I had to miss the speech at my conference for?” she asked, clearly perturbed before looking up to see four sets of guilty eyes surrounding one of her beds looking like they were deer caught in headlights.
Scott was concerned enough to wait and see if Sara was at least going to be okay, but he was clearly averting his gaze, darting his eyes around the ceiling. It was bad enough when he had walked in on her naked from the waist down before, but now she was spread eagle for the world to see with nothing but a slender salarian in the way, hardly doing enough to block the view. Scott contemplated how it was an obvious design flaw that the beds faced out towards the door, allowing just anyone walking by a glimpse at whatever happened to be going on in there, and suddenly felt like vomiting.
If the monitor displaying what looked to be a mostly fully formed fetus, and Ryder’s laboured panting weren’t clues enough for Lexi to realise what was going on, Sara’s sudden guttural shriek of pain certainly was.
“By the goddess,” Lexi gasped, “The implications,” she said, not even finishing the thought, as she moved to immediately take Professor Herick’s place, as she guided him out of the way. “Sorry. May I?” she asked, making sure to always mind her manners, though it was all for show, as she had clearly already started taking command of her domain.
“By all means, doctor. This is your medbay after all, and I am only a biologist. I think you are much better suited for this than I am.”
“How-,” Lexi cut herself off not even knowing what to ask.
“What is it? Is she going to be okay?” Scott asked, worriedly.
::The Pathfinder has a 99.9% chance at a full recovery, Scott. With the advancements to modern medicine, people rarely die in childbirth anymore,:: SAM cut in.
“Childbirth?” Scott said with a pitch that he hadn’t heard since he was a pubescent boy, as he backed towards the wall just in time to pass out against it.
“Oh dear god. Is anyone else on board?” Lexi asked.
“Peebee,” Suvi said.
“Can you page her to take care of Scott, please?”
Suvi left for a second to page Peebee down for help before returning to her spot beside Sara.
Lexi frantically started looking around the room. She had never planned on delivering any babies aboard the Tempest , but she must have had the resources to deal with it all the same.
“Okay, professor Herick, could you please look in that drawer. I have an apparatus that can act as a fetal heart rate monitor in there. And when you’re done can you prepare that incubator with some clean towels, and that heat lamp. I’ll also need a bulb syringe, some clips and a pair of sterilized scissors.”
He quickly handed her the heart rate monitor, and got to work with her other orders, feeling much more comfortable helping out in this capacity.
Peebee walked in, looking around for Scott. “Don’t mind me,” she said as she started to drag him out of the room. “We’ll be back sometime after the screaming stops… or you know, is replaced by something else screaming.”
“Thank you, Peebee,” Lexi said as she moved the monitor around Sara’s abdomen, looking for a heartbeat, making sure that the baby wasn’t in distress. It took her a moment, but suddenly the room was filled with a quick whooshing noise, as she made sure to secure it in that spot for continued monitoring.
Jaal and Sara just stared at each other for a moment totally in awe. It hadn’t sunk in yet that they were about to become parents. Sara had just been so focused on surviving this pain, and fearing how her future had changed without her knowing it. She hadn’t actually thought as much about the fact that there was about to be this entirely new being that would be a part of herself and the man that she loved, that was about to be thrust into her crazy Andromeda family whether it liked it or not. That whooshing heartbeat was a product of their love, and a symbol of their commitment to each other, and they were in awe.
That moment didn’t last long as another contraction washed over her emitting another scream as she pushed away the pain.
“You’re doing beautifully, Sara. I’m not picking up any distress in the heart rate even through the contraction. That’s good. You’re crowning already. It won’t be long now. You’ll probably start to feel something referred to as ‘the ring of fire,’ shortly. I’ve been told that you’ll know exactly when that happens as it’s named quite accurately.
Sara was dreading to find out what she could have even possibly meant by that.
“Crowning? What is that?” Jaal asked. Even through everything, Sara felt bad for Jaal being so lost at such an important time.
“It means I can see the baby’s head even after Sara stops pushing.”
Jaal stood up to look, as Sara groaned. Jaal’s curiosity was normally an endearing quality, but she couldn’t help but feel nothing but contempt for it right now.
Jaal gasped in excited shock. “Sara! This is amazing. It has hair!” he laughed out in his booming voice. His expression suddenly went from one of elation to one of disappointment as something seemed to dawn on him. “Sara! We’re about to be parents and my mother doesn’t even know! I must call her!”
Sara screamed through another contraction as Jaal put in her contact information, totally ignorant to the nasty looks that both Suvi and Lexi were giving him.
Sahuna answered immediately as when matters where her children were involved, she never wanted to leave them waiting. She heard the tail end of Sara’s scream, and Jaal could clearly see a look of confusion and worry on her face, though she could clearly see that her son seemed to be more than thrilled with the situation, only making her more confused.
“Jaal? Was that Sara? Is everything alright?”
“Yes, mother! Everything is wonderful! Sara is giving birth to my child. I’m about to become a father!”
Sahuna let out a small, joyful scream. “Ah! I knew it! I had a feeling that you two would be compatible! I knew you were my favourite for a reason!”
“Alright, Sara, one more push and the head will be out,” Lexi said, as Ryder was definitely now feeling the ring of fire that Lexi had mentioned.
“Oh, mother, you have to see this. It’s incredible!” he said as he directed the viewport to look down between Ryder’s legs.
“Jaal, you have got to be fucking kidding me,” Ryder said as she took the foot that Jaal was supposed to be holding, and kicked his version of an omni-tool as hard as she could, turning off the call, but not before hearing an ‘I’m coming to the Nexus imme-’, before getting cut off.
“Oh, yes. I’m sorry, Sara. I’m meant to be supporting you, aren’t I?”
“That is typically the father’s job, yes,” Lexi berated.
Jaal looked guilty for a split second, as he moved back into position before Suvi comforted him, knowing that this has thrown everyone for a loop, much less the parents-to-be. This was obviously much harder on Sara, but she couldn’t help but feel bad for Jaal being so unprepared for this as well. In the grand scheme of things, he was handling it pretty well, and was excited to boot. In a situation like this, you couldn’t really ask for much more than that.
“Alright, the head’s out. One more push, and this will all be over,” Lexi stated as she was clearly preparing for the baby’s imminent arrival.
Sara leaned her head back against Jaal’s shoulder in exhaustion for what would likely be the last moment of peace for either of them for the next 18 years. Before their lives were about to change forever. Of course, Jaal couldn’t help but take a peek at their child. She couldn’t tell if he was oblivious to those facts, or if he was just too excited and happy to care. It really didn’t matter, as his enthusiasm fed her enough strength to push as hard as she could with the next contraction, feeling the baby being expelled from her body.
It was uncanny, how quickly the pain subsided, and Ryder started to feel like herself again, once the baby was out. She had only had to take a few breaths to calm herself down and feel almost back to normal minus the intense soreness between her legs. That was nothing compared to labour though, so that feeling was entirely welcome at this point. She was still exhausted, however and slumped bonelessly against Jaal again, who had now moved to sit behind Sara, cradling her whole body with his own.
“That was amazing, Sara,” Suvi said as she caressed Sara’s arm and wiped away a tear of her own. “I never thought I’d see anything like that. Thanks for letting me be a part of it.”
“I’m pretty sure I’m the one that should be thanking you. If it weren’t for you, I’d probably be alone with Peebee right now.”
“Aye, well that’s a terrifying thought, now isn’t it,” she said with a chuckle, as she moved back down between Sara’s legs, waiting for the placenta, as Lexi and the professor were busy with more important things at the moment. It didn’t take long to pass, and Suvi gathered it for Lexi to inspect later, before politely excusing herself to give everyone some privacy.
Jaal’s gaze never left their child as Lexi had taken it over to the opened incubator immediately after birth to inspect it and clear its airway. He didn’t expect anything bad to have happened, as the heart rate monitor never seemed to have shown any signs of distress, but he couldn’t help but feel uneasy about the whole situation. He didn’t like that they weren’t able to get a good look at the baby before it was swept away, though he understood the need for it.
Sara had even had enough time to adjust to realising that she had done it. She had successfully given birth, when she had not even known that she was pregnant a couple of hours ago. She was also now painfully aware of how much time was passing, while still not holding her child, and she was beginning to worry.
“Shouldn’t it be crying? Why isn’t it crying?”
“Don’t worry, Sara, not all babies cry at birth. He’s responsive, and alert, and seems to be doing just fine. I promise you can hold him as soon as we clean him up and check him.”
“It’s a boy?” Jaal asked.
“Yes, and totally healthy judging by first glance,” Lexi said as she smiled at the new parents.
Sara started crying then. Something about hearing that made it real. There was suddenly a whole new person in the room that wasn’t there a few minutes ago, and it would be entirely reliant on her and Jaal. The thought of that somehow wasn’t as overwhelming as she had imagined it would be, as she just felt an intense need to hold him and get to know him.
“Please, Lexi, can I hold him? I need to hold him,” she said while still crying.
“We’ll only be a few more minutes. We’re just giving him a thorough once-over to make sure he’s okay since you had no prenatal care, as well as him being the first of his kind. We just want to make sure he really is okay,” she said, with no judgement.
Lexi knew that if Sara had even had any inkling that she might be pregnant, she would have done anything within her power to maintain a healthy pregnancy. As luck would have it, at least this happened to the Pathfinder, who happened to already live a relatively healthy lifestyle, which at least gave the baby as many benefits as possible without knowing that he was there.
Sara just nodded, wiping away the tears. That overwhelming need to hold him didn’t go away, but she understood the importance of what they were doing, and also wanted to make sure that he was okay first.
It wasn’t long before Lexi was walking over with him bundled in her arms. “Skin to skin has proven to be valuable to newborns. I would suggest taking off your shirt at this time and keeping him on your chest until he’s ready for a feeding. I’ll get you a blanket to put over the both of you.”
Sara quickly took her top off with Jaal’s help, as Lexi passed her the baby gently, making sure to support his neck, and showing Sara how to hold him, before placing the blanket over them. She then let them have a moment alone together as she talked with the professor, looking over the scan, trying to figure out how this had happened, before walking back over to Sara after she had learned enough about the circumstances to be able to provide an explanation.
“He’s beautiful, Ryder. You did amazingly well under the circumstances,” Lexi said.
She smiled at Lexi in thanks, as she adjusted to get more comfortable with the new and added weight.
“He might pee on you. We don’t have any diapers at the moment.”
“That’s okay. I’m already a mess as it is for now. I just want to hold him.”
Lexi smiled at how much Sara already cared for their child. “I can send Suvi out to find something, though I don’t know what kind of resources there’d be on the Nexus yet. I don’t think anyone’s been reversing the blockers here,” she said as she sat down beside the new family. She would normally opt to provide them with private time were this under normal circumstances, but this was anything but, and she knew that there would likely be lots of questions incoming.
Sara nodded, understanding that they might have to get creative for a while. She finally had the chance to glance down at her son, and got to admire what she and Jaal had created together. He was small. Sara hadn’t seen many newborns before, but knew that they always tended to be smaller than you would expect. This was on a whole other scale though.
“He’s so tiny. Are you sure he’s alright?”
“Three pounds, ten ounces. He is on the smaller side, but that could just be because he’s a hybrid. There’s still a lot that we don’t know about him yet, but with how alert he is, I think he’s well within his normality.”
Sara nodded, accepting the explanation for now. He was predominantly human in appearance, with a slightly more subdued nose and ears. His last three fingers were fused in the same way Jaal’s were. He was already opening his eyes and looking at the world around him. His irises were all Angaran, light blue and intense just like Jaal’s. His skin colour was almost the same as Sara’s with just the slightest hue of purple coming through. His chest was more prominent, like the Angaran’s was, though nowhere near as intense. Every other feature seemed to be mostly human. Most notably, especially to Jaal, was his hair.
Jaal clearly wanted to hold him too, but he was more than willing to give he and Sara this time together. He didn’t mind getting to be the one to hold Sara, for now at least, but the one thing he could do was play with his sons hair in fascination.
“It’s so soft. I thought your hair was soft, Sara, but it doesn’t even compare. You have to feel it,” he said.
She gently caressed the top of his head to feel the downy full head of hair. It really was soft, she thought, as she gave his misshapen head a gentle kiss.
“How did this happen? How could I have not known that he was there?” Sara asked in disbelief, her gaze never leaving their son.
“Well, I haven’t had too much time to go over everything, but from my initial understanding, you had the astronomical combination of factors to have made it extremely easy to miss. First and foremost being that no one had realised that your fertility had returned back to normal after your SAM link had been re-established. Second, no one even would have guessed that you two would have been compatible to begin with, which I’m extremely interested to hear how that was even possible,” she said while glancing over at Professor Herick, receiving a nod of acknowledgement. He seemed to be excitedly awaiting his turn for explanations.
“Add those on top of the fact that the timing of your physicals had been scheduled at what must have been precisely the right times to have not picked anything up during routine testing. Your last physical was just after Meridian, and you either wouldn’t have been pregnant yet, or would have just conceived so nothing would have come up during that one, and I didn’t have you scheduled for another one until right after reporting for duty again after this vacation.”
“Plus there was the fact that you had an anterior placenta, meaning that it was in the front, which would have made it extremely difficult to feel any movements from him. It was your first pregnancy, and your abdominal muscles were in incredible shape before the pregnancy, meaning that they held everything in pretty well, to the point that you weren’t showing very much. He was also preterm which means that he’s on the smaller side, as we have already discussed.”
“Preterm. I heard someone say that. How can he be preterm and healthy?”
“Preterm, Sara. Not premature. There’s a big difference. You must have only been about six and a half to seven months pregnant. Angaran pregnancies are typically six months long, but Humans are almost ten. I would have expected somewhere around eight months to be full term. Preterm basically just means that he was born early, but fully developed. That’s a good thing. It means he doesn’t need any outside medical intervention. He can thrive on his own. It just means he’s on the smaller side.”
Sara laughed at how unlikely this all sounded. She couldn’t believe that this had been possible, and yet she was staring at the evidence.
“Anything else?” Sara laughed out, almost expecting there to be even more of an explanation.
“Not really. Did you not have any symptoms the entire time?”
Sara sat there for a moment in consideration. “Come to think of it, I did have some nausea and excessive tiredness around what I’m guessing would have been the beginning then. But that was also so recent after Meridian, I had just thought that it was residual side effects from pushing too hard without SAM.”
“Hmm, yes. Unfortunately a lot of the symptoms of pregnancy are easily explained by other things as well. I don’t blame you for not picking up on that, as I’m sure you never even got a period before falling pregnant.”
“You would be right about that too, doc.”
Lexi nodded, not surprised to have her suspicions confirmed.
“Well that explains how you never noticed, but I’m just as interested to hear how this was even possible in the first place,” she said as they all moved their gaze back towards Professor Herick now.
“Ah, yes well that is quite fascinating if I do say so myself. Ever since you made your discovery about the origins of the angara, my biological team has been studying everything we could about them, and I mean everything. First and foremost, Jaal, I don’t mean to sound insensitive about anything I say here. I don't want to make it seem like we only see you as test subjects, so forgive me if that is the case. It certainly is not my intention to offend you or any of the angara for that matter.”
“That is quite alright, my friend. Believe me, I am thrilled for this, but I am looking for an explanation just as much as they are. With knowledge, comes understanding, so please don’t worry about offending me.”
“Right, well, to start from the beginning, after building enough trust after our first contact with your people, we had traded documents with your doctors and scientists to learn about basic angaran physiology. Everything had originally seemed to be very similar to our own Milky Way species. Your basic biological functions were typical. Sperm cell meets egg cell, creates zygote.
“But then, from the moment that we discovered that your race was engineered, we couldn’t imagine what the implications of that could be, or what potential you could hold. We had never seen anything like this before. It was fascinating, and it changed the way that we looked at everything about you. Every part about who you are was made with a purpose behind it. Then we began to think that propagation of a lineage is paramount to organic life. We questioned, ‘what if the jardaan had built in some sort of safety net to ensure that that would happen?’”
“It wasn’t even so much as a hunch at first. It was really just curiosity getting the better of us, but we wondered if you could have been designed to be adaptable, somewhat similar to the Asari of our people, so we got some willing Angaran participants to get us some samples and used that with our own DNA banks. We’re still in early testing, but as of right now, it has had amazing results, not to mention the one you’re holding in your arms.”
They both looked down at their son who was now sleeping peacefully on his mother’s chest before continuing to listen to the professor.
“Through the same process that we would perform in vitro fertilisation, we have successfully created hybrid zygotes from all Milky Way species that have live births. Even the dextro amino acid species. That means that if your child is to be any indication, angarans are compatible not only with humans, but also with turians, quarians, drell, elcore and volus. There has been no success with egg laying species, such as the krogan, salarians or hanar, however, which isn’t so surprising.”
Lexi gasped. This was the kind of thing she lived for, being a specialist of all species, she was excited to hear that her career was likely about to get a lot more exciting.
“We still aren’t sure about the ‘how’ you are this way yet, and that’s likely a question we won’t be able to answer in my lifetime, but we’re slowly learning about what your full potentials are. We haven’t published our findings yet, as we’re waiting for more test results. Though seeing as how this has already resulted in at least one unplanned pregnancy, I suspect holding off on the data wasn’t exactly the right call.”
“To make things even more interesting, however, with initial in-depth DNA tests, we have discovered that most outward physical attributes are taken by the mother's species. We hypothesise that this must be to ensure easier survival through birth and infancy, as this allows for compatible physiology to fit through the birthing canal, as well as feeding needs while young. What this means is that for say, a human, angaran couple where the mother was angaran, their child would look very different from yours, as it would have inherited more obviously angaran features.”
“It’s really quite fascinating. We suspect that this was never discovered before was because the only other species you’ve met before us were the Kett, and they certainly weren’t interested in reproducing by conventional means.”
“That is fascinating,” Lexi agreed. “If you’re not opposed to it, I’d love to see your research, and be kept up to date.”
“Of course. I suspect we’ll be needing to send this to all of the doctor’s shortly. You may have been the first angaran mixed race relationship, but you’re hardly the last.”
“Wait! Herick, please, you have to keep this confidential. At least for now, until we know how to properly deal with how to release the news.”
“Oh, of course, Ryder. I would never knowingly jeopardize you or your family. I won’t mention anything about a live birth except to whoever you decide to bring in to deal with the PR of it. But we should be putting out warnings about the potential for it, so people will know what to expect.”
Sara nodded, finding that entirely reasonable. “Ugh… this really is Addison’s department, isn’t it. Aside from Tann, she’s really the last one I want knowing about this.”
“Yes, I would normally agree, but we have his safety to worry about now. I still remember the birth of the first human baby on Voeld. I don’t want anything like that to happen to him, Sara,” Jaal said.
“You’re right. Maybe we can just enjoy him for today before we try to deal with everything?” Sara asked.
“Of course, Taoshay,” he said while nuzzling his face next to hers, while they both looked down at their son lovingly.
Herick walked over to them, to get one last good look at the baby. “He really is a treasure. Congratulations to you both. If nothing else, you can at least think of this as a parting gift from the jardaan.”
Jaal laughed at that. His feelings on the jardaan had suddenly become very conflicted. Not to say that they weren’t already before. Sara had helped him see that being designed by them didn’t change that he was here and alive right now, and who he was as a person hadn’t changed with the newfound knowledge. But he was still angry about the fact that his destiny may have at least tried to have been predetermined. To know that they were engineered somehow seemed like a betrayal of life. But how could he feel that way now when he was looking down at such a gift.
“Anyway, I’ll let you all get some rest, but before I go, I would like to say, that he is the first of his kind, and therefore there are still a lot of unknowns. I’m not trying to say this to scare you, or force you into making him a test subject, but if there is ever anything that concerns you, please don’t hesitate to include us in his care. And I’ll also say that I have taken some scans of my own, and from what I’ve seen initially is that he should be perfectly capable of thriving on his own. I’ll send the results to Lexi too so that she can be prepared for anything.”
Jaal and Sara both nodded. They were hesitant knowing that he was a scientist first and foremost, and even if his intentions may have been good, who was to say that his entire team would feel that way. He had sounded genuine though, and Sara had nothing but good experiences with him. She had no reason not to trust him.
“Thank you, Professor Herick. You’ve been good to me. I don’t know if we could have done this without you. And I know you’ve kept more than a few secrets for me before, so I wouldn’t expect anything less now.”
He nodded to show his thanks and appreciation before sending Lexi all of his files and saying his goodbye’s.
Lexi took that time to give Sara a last examination, and help clean her off. Just as she was finishing, Suvi had managed to come back with a few premie size reusable diapers, and a postpartum package for Sara, featuring ridiculous mesh undies and the biggest sanitary pad you’ve ever seen from the hospital. The doctor’s had scoffed at her wondering who on the station could possibly need it. She simply said that they were precautionary, and glared at them as intimidatingly as she was capable of until they handed the supplies over.
After Lexi had showed Sara some techniques to get a proper latch for feeding, and she had seen that the baby was eating well, she sent them back to their room where she figured they would be more comfortable. Lexi would be right down the hall if there were any issues anyway, so why not let them relax in peace.
Sara fell asleep quickly, as the events of the day had finally caught up with her. Jaal gladly used this time to get acquainted with his son, trying skin to skin for himself. He was attempting to sing to him, but was having a hard time trying to remember the lullabies of his youth. After taking a few tries at singing the songs quietly before he got them right, he managed to get through a few of them. The baby did nothing but sleep through the whole thing, but that was fine. It is what babies did best despite being known for their crying.
It was only 2 and a half hours later that the baby woke up screaming and desperate for food again. Jaal didn’t want to wake Sara. She had been so exhausted, but alas, this was something that he just wasn’t capable of doing, much to his displeasure. He went to Lexi quickly first for a lesson on how to change diapers, and they were both happy to see that it was wet, meaning that he had managed to take in some food. She warned him that as good as getting a poop from him would be, she was sure they wouldn’t be as thrilled having to deal with those ones.
Jaal, had walked out of the room, screaming baby in tow, as the entire crew minus Peebee, Scott and Suvi had assembled around the medbay wondering what was going on.
Liam was the one to speak up first. “Alright, who smuggled a baby in here?” he said with a laugh, expecting a story about some crazy covert rescue mission of an infant, or more likely a visitor on the Tempest that they weren’t aware of.
“Nobody smuggled anything in here. This is my son!” Jaal said in his booming voice, with nothing but pride. He was a man on a mission though, and didn’t have time to take questions or address their confused glares.
The entire crew just stared blankly each other.
“Heh, I thought something smelled like afterbirth,” Drack said with an amused grunt, before walking towards the kitchen, clearly happy, but treating it like it were any other normal day.
The rest of the group stared at him as he went on his merry way before staring back at each other again.
“Lexi?!” Cora shouted, as she started walking towards the medbay in search of answers. Everyone quickly flooded in after her, needing to know what was going on.
Lexi just let out a huff towards the group, wondering how she was going to explain this without breaching doctor-patient confidentiality.
Meanwhile, Jaal was back with Sara sitting next to her as she fed their child. Sara wasn’t able to stop looking at him. She was completely in awe at this amazing, new, tiny person in her arms. He was the most adorable thing she had ever laid her eyes on, though she thought that was likely just her biological imperative talking. The rational part of her thought there was a good chance he was a bit ugly like every baby was, but she wasn’t able to see it.
She was enthralled by his intense and curious stare. Lexi had informed her that right after birth, babies depth of field is about exactly the same distance shared between her and her son now, and she wanted him to know what she looked like just as much as she needed to study every one of his amazing, tiny features.
Nursing was so comforting to him that it kept putting him to sleep though, and Jaal’s favourite newfound job was tickling the baby’s feet to keep him awake long enough to get a full belly. Every time he was tickled awake, he latched on again with new fervor. It was strange, and amazing, and the last thing in the galaxy that she had expected to be doing today, but now that it was happening, she couldn’t imagine things being any different.
“You have taken to him amazingly well,” Jaal said, while caressing Sara’s shoulder.
“I think I could say the same about you,” she said with a chuckle. “How could I not? He’s a part of both of us. A result of the love that we have for each other. He really is a gift, isn’t he?”
“He certainly is. Sara, I feel that I cannot accurately portray how happy you have made me. Even before today, I have never felt more passionately about anyone. But today you have completed me. You have made us a family. There is nothing I could ever do to show you my full appreciation.”
“That’s okay, Jaal. Those were all things I wanted too. This isn’t something that you have to make up for.”
“No. Of course not, but I needed to let you know how grateful I am.”
Sara offered him a kind smile and a nod.
“I think I can do one thing to at least show you how much I love you. Sara Ryder, you have made me the happiest man in Andromeda. Even before today. I love you with all of my being, and don’t want to spend another day of our lives apart.”
“Jaal?” Ryder looked at him with a gasp.
“Will you Marry me, Sara?”
“Jaal,” she said while wiping away some tears with her free hand. “Of course I will,” she said, still crying. “You’re not just asking this now because of the baby, are you?” she said with a watery laugh.
“Ha. No. If I had done it when I wanted to, we likely would have been married for six months now. Liam, however, advised me against it, saying that humans tend to like to have an eternity to mull these things over. He said I shouldn’t rush it, or I might scare you off.”
Sara laughed. “Of course he did. Just for the record, we’re not all like that. I’m not sure if I would have said yes that early, but you never would have scared me off with that question. I know without a doubt that that’s what I want now, though. I’ve known it for a while.”
“Then I am sorry I waited so long,” he said with a smile before leaning forward to catch her lips with his own.
Suvi had chosen the most inopportune time to walk in with a plate of food and a datapad.
“I’m so sorry,” she said covering her face with the datapad. “Already working on number two, I see,” Suvi said teasingly.
Ryder shuddered at the thought as a jolt of pain between her legs made her wonder when she’d ever even want to consider getting close to Jaal again. Plenty of families had more than one child. Surely her sex life wasn’t over. Right? Sara shuddered as much at that thought as her previous one, before snapping out of it.
“It’s alright, Suvi. You can come in,” she said as she eyed the food hungrily. She still hadn’t eaten since the night before, and now that she had had a chance to sleep she had realised that she was famished. She was extremely thankful to have friends as good as hers to have been there for her through the entire experience.
Suvi walked over and placed the tray of food on Sara’s bedside table as she sat down next to her tentatively, watching her feed the baby.
“Please feel free to kick me out if I’m intruding,” she said as she realised Ryder may not have wanted her there.
“It’s alright, Suvi. I don’t think there’s much more of me you could see at this point. Any shred of dignity that I may have had left flew out the window as soon as you handed me those postpartum underwear.”
Suvi laughed as she admired the baby. This was the first time that she was able to get a good look, as she had graciously given them privacy the very minute that she was no longer required.
“He’s gorgeous, Sara,” she said in awe.
“Well I certainly think so, but I think my assessment of him will always be biased,” she said with a laugh as Suvi smiled at the sentiment. “I think he’s done. Would you like to hold him?”
“Really?” Suvi gasped out.
“Of course. Plus, it’ll give me a chance to eat finally.”
“I’m sure there’s someone else who would like to take all the cuddles they can,” Suvi said, looking over to Jaal.
“Though that is true, I will gladly grant you this time with him,” Jaal said
“Okay. Well in that case, I’d love to.”
“You helped get him here. The least we could do is let you hold him,” Sara said, as she gently handed him over to Suvi. “I swear, if you’re anything less than this kid's godmother, we would have done him a major disservice.”
“Do you mean it?” she gasped.
Ryder took a quick glance to Jaal, realising this probably should have been a decision involving the both of them. She wasn’t even sure if Jaal knew what a godparent was, but apparently the translation must have gone through, as Jaal gave her an affirmative nod with a smile.
“Of course, Suvi. That is, if you want the title.”
“I would be honoured,” she said with tears in her eyes looking both to Sara and Jaal to show them her thanks.
Suvi gently laid the baby in the crook of her thighs, with one hand gently supporting his head, and the other gently prodding his tiny hand with her finger, enticing the baby to wrap his fist around it with more strength than she had expected.
“Oh, before I forget, Lexi sent that datapad with me,” she said pointing at where she had left it, forgotten on the bed. “She realised that with this being unplanned you’re probably going to be wanting plenty of information about newborns and the like, so she prepared some reading materials for the both of you.”
“Oh thank goodness. I love him so much already, but I’d be lying if I said that I had a clue what I was doing,” she said while shoveling the peanut butter toast and dried fruits into her mouth.
“Well, you’re not alone. You’ve got us too. Lexi was too busy checking your brother over to come in here, but she made sure to tell me to let you know that if you ever feel in over your head to just call her, whether it’s for baby help, or just for someone to talk to. I may not be a professional, but the same goes for me too.”
“Oh, and you should probably know that the entire crew knows about him already.” Suvi continued. “His lungs have proven to be quite powerful, a wee bit ago, and there was no mistaking that there was a baby aboard.”
“Oh boy, how are we going to deal with that?” Sara sighed out.
“I wouldn’t be too worried about it. Everyone seemed to be mostly excited, albeit, extremely confused. I think they’re all just concerned about how everyone’s doing.”
“Well that’s good. Just add that to the endless list of things that now need to be figured out and dealt with,” she said with a laugh. “How was Scott? Did you see him?”
“Yes. He seemed to be doing much better, though he was still quite out of sorts. He seemed to have hit his head a bit harder than anyone realised, but he’ll be fine. He kept repeating ‘I can’t believe I’m an uncle’, while excitedly telling everyone how much he can’t wait to see his nephew.”
“Well I’m glad this managed to be more than just a traumatic event for him. Maybe when you go out, can you send him in if he’s okay?”
“Sure thing, Sara. I just want one more minute with this wee guy if I could.”
Sara just nodded, not wanting to shoo her away unnecessarily.
“So, do you have a name picked out for him yet?”
“Oh right. We have to be the ones to do that, don’t we?” Sara asked looking over to Jaal. “I honestly haven’t even had a second to consider that.”
“I actually had thought on the matter while you slept,” Jaal said while looking towards Sara, as she silently awaited his response. “I was thinking Toivos. It means hope. A symbol of what he will represent for all of Heleus.”
“I thought Angaran’s didn’t name your children after things.”
“That is true, however it doesn’t usually apply to abstract ideas as much as specific things such as ‘warrior’. And even if we shared the same sentiment to something like ‘Toivos’, in this case he has already fulfilled the namesake for me, so it isn’t cruel to name him as such. He has shown me how solidified our futures can be now. Not yours and mine. Our future has been solidified for nearly as long as I have known you. Hope is not required for me to know what lies ahead for us as individuals. But he has shown me that there is potential for everlasting peace between our people. He is proof that you are not like the kett, because we have created something beautiful. They do nothing but take things away.”
“That’s beautiful, Jaal.” She looked down at her son to make sure it was fitting before agreeing. “Toivos Ama Darav.”
“Toivos Ryder Ama Darav. Liam also explained that many human women choose to take their husband’s name. Whether you take my name or not, he must never forget his roots. He will always carry a piece of his lineage in his name.”
“I love it, Jaal. It’s perfect.”
“It’s absolutely beautiful, you two. It suits him,” Suvi said while gently handing the baby over to Jaal, allowing Ryder to finish her food.
“There really is no rush, Suvi.”
“That’s quite alright. You should be getting as much rest as possible. Let me know if you need anything else.”
They cooed over the baby for a few more minutes before Scott very politely knocked before entering, not wanting any repeats from earlier in the day.
“It’s safe to come in, Scott.”
He walked in slowly, apprehensively looking around the room to make sure he really was in the clear to come in with no surprises. He walked over to Sara’s side of the bed, making sure to sit down gently, not knowing how much pain she might be in.
“So… Lexi gave me quite the rundown. How are you doing, sis?” he asked as he looked towards the baby in Jaal’s arms.
“Sore. Exhausted. Terrified,” she said looking over to her son. “But also happier than I ever thought possible. How about you?” she asked looking back at her brother with a smile.
“Oh, you know… about the same.”
“Good. I’m glad I didn’t traumatize you.”
“Well don’t be putting words in my mouth now. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you.”
Sara laughed at that. “You were, Scott. Getting Lexi was important. I can honestly say that I wasn’t disappointed that you were unconscious for the rest of it though.”
He nodded silently glad that he was at least able to be of help in some capacity.
“So, I take it this little guy is my nephew?” he asked, looking back at the bundle in Jaal’s arms.
“Yes, he is,” Jaal said, standing up and walking over to where Scott was sitting, gently thrusting the newborn into Scott’s arms.
“Oh, whoa… I’ve never held a baby before,” he said nervously.
“You will do fine, brother. Just make sure that his head is supported,” he said, as he showed Scott how to do just that, the way that he himself only learned a few hours ago. “Scott, this is Toivos.”
Scott held the baby awkwardly, and close to his body to make sure that he wouldn’t drop it.
“Hi, Toivos,” he said enthusiastically. “He’s so small. Is he supposed to be that small?”
“We’re honestly not sure. Jaal has assured me that angaran babies are typically about half the size of human babies at birth, but he isn’t exactly either of those things, so there’s no reference point. But he is healthy, and doing fine, so you don’t have to worry.”
“Well, okay then,” he said as he relaxed himself a bit more, holding the baby more naturally now, admiring how alert he was being. “So… I’m your uncle Scotty. Nice to meet you. I’m sure I’ll cause your mother to go grey far earlier than she should because of how much trouble we’re gonna find together-.”
“Okay, I’ll take him back now.”
“What?! No. I’m trying to introduce myself, Sara.”
She just laughed, as she let him continue.
“See, we’re already getting along great, bugging your mom. Don’t worry though, I love her, and you will too. I’ll always be there for you, just like your parents will be,” he said. He was talking to Toivos, but Scott knew as well as Sara that he was also talking to her, as Sara was struggling to hold back her tears. “There’s a whole mess of people waiting to meet you, you know. You’re one popular guy,” he joked.
He looked over to Sara, starting to tear up himself. “I hope you know that Mom and Dad would have been so proud of you, Sara.”
“I know. But thank you for saying so,” she said through a quiet sob.
Scott made sure he had a good hold on the baby before grabbing Sara into an awkward hug. He was proud of her too. Not just because of the baby, but for everything she had managed to do and live through since waking up in Andromeda. “Maybe mom will even get a chance to meet him someday.” That just made Sara grasp onto him tighter. That was something she hadn’t even had a chance to consider until now.
“What do you say, we invite everyone else in to celebrate?” Jaal said, while watching the exchange.
Scott and Sara withdrew from their hug, as Sara wiped away her tears while nodding. They would have to explain it sooner or later, so why not sooner so they could join in on the celebration.
Jaal called everyone into their room, and the new parents had never felt more loved than in this moment, as they all cooed over the baby and made sure that Sara and Jaal had everything that they could possibly need. Lexi had asked for permission to share the details on how Toivos came to be, and everyone was in shock.
Vetra was already running logistics trying to find supplies from her contacts, and Drack was spouting off unsolicited parenting advice. Cora was stating how concerned she was that Sara was still performing her duties for much of her pregnancy and was having a hard time believing that everything could possibly okay. Every piece of worry and knowledge was welcome, as they knew it all came from a place of love. Love that had already transcended past the bond that they had created personally, to be attached to their child now as well, entirely unconditionally.
The angara generally seemed to pity most of her crew, knowing how small their families tended to be, but Sara couldn’t help but think that family didn’t have to mean blood. It was what you made it. This was her family, and she felt privileged to be a part of it.
Sara couldn’t help but think about the future. It was mostly filled with hope and prosperity, but she was also filled with dread. The Kett had been mostly eliminated for the time being, but she knew that the Archon was only one of many. They may have won the battle, but she knew that the war was far from over.
And then there were the Roekaar. What would they think of this? How would they keep their child safe? The first human baby born in Andromeda came into this galaxy surrounded by turmoil, and she couldn’t help but feel that the turmoil about to be surrounding her own was completely unfathomable.
Then there was her job. There was no way she could imagine maintaining her role as Pathfinder anymore. She didn’t want to leave her child orphaned as her father had. She appreciated everything that Alec had done for them, especially as she had come to understand him more as a person through his memories, but she didn’t even want to think about doing that to her son. Especially not while he was so young. Maybe Cora would get her chance after all. She deserved it, more than Cora herself was probably willing to admit.
Before her thoughts could completely overwhelm her, she reminded herself that she was not alone. She had a lot of people looking out for her, as she could clearly see from her friends celebrating in front of her. She pushed away any lingering foreboding thoughts, deciding that they were tomorrow Sara’s problem. There would be time enough to figure everything out, and for now she just wanted to enjoy her last few days of freedom with her family.