For the most part, nothing ever happened to awaken Emil in the middle of the night, but this night was different. Emil focused his empathy on everyone in the household, one at a time, starting with his own immediate family, trying to pinpoint just what had woken him up. Everyone appeared to be fine, sleeping as peacefully as they could be expected to, and nothing was out of the ordinary, or so Emil thought at first. He frowned, confused, until he realized that he had been woken up not by one of the existing family members, but by a new presence within their ranks.
He blinked twice and extended his powers in an attempt to confirm what he thought he'd just figured out. Once he confirmed it, he smiled into the darkness, rolled over and closed his eyes again, making sure to include the new presence in his mind's eye. It had been three years since this kind of thing had happened, and he knew everyone would be elated when they found out.
"Shelby, maybe we should ask Remy to take us to New York, so Dr. McCoy can examine you or somethin'..." Questa Devereaux said as he held his wife's hair behind her head so it wouldn't get in the way. Shelby Devereaux shook her head slightly and vomitted again.
"I'm fine." She gasped, and coughed, gagging.
"She's been sick every day dis week an' yet she says she's fine." Questa remarked to the ceiling only half-tolerantly. To Shelby he said, "An' if you got de flu or somethin', maybe dere's somethin' de doc can do for you."
"I don't have the flu, Questa. I don't know what's wrong but I do not have the flu."
"Well maybe we can go to de drugstore an' get you some medicine to help, if you don' wan' go to de doctor." Questa suggested. He was worried though, and made a mental note to ask Emil if he'd had any visions about Shelby's illness.
"Yeah maybe that's a good idea...I wish I was feeling better..." Shelby admitted.
It was five days after the night Emil had been awakened in the middle of the night, but he had kept his mouth firmly shut regarding the whole thing. But as he passed by the bathroom and heard Shelby being sick, again, he realized that it might not be such a good idea to keep them in the dark. He couldn't risk Shelby taking some medicine she shouldn't be taking in her condition. He knocked on the door.
"When you guys are done, can I talk to you?"
"We'll be out in a minute, Emil. Meet us in our room." Questa replied.
Five minutes later, Questa and a very pale and tired-looking Shelby joined Emil.
"Have you figured out what's wrong with you yet, Shel?" Emil asked, helping Questa aid Shelby climb back into their bed and then sitting back down on the desk chair, while Questa sat on the bed beside his wife.
"No...I don't know what the problem is. I was fine a few days ago." Shelby said. "Questa thinks maybe it's the flu, but it doesn't feel like the flu..."
Emil really didn't want to ask the question regarding something as personal as her cycle, so he didn't. Instead he told them about what happened five nights before.
"Five nights ago, somethin' woke me up in de middle of de night." Emil began, his blue eyes twinkling at them. "Once I figured out everyone was fine, it occurred to me dat it was somethin' diff'rent. I realized I'd felt dis particular t'ing only twice...well, three times, actually...b'fore. An' it's dis particular t'ing dat's makin' you sick, Shel."
"What are you talkin' 'bout, Emil?" Questa demanded. He was very perplexed, but Shelby looked as if she'd suddenly made the connection. If a lightbulb could have appeared above her head, it would have.
"Oh...oh my God...I'm...oh..." She gasped.
"You're what?" Questa asked, looking from Shelby to Emil and back in a state of confusion.
"I never even thought..." Shelby laughed. "Emil...are you sure?"
"Oui, very sure."
"Sure of what? Would one of you please tell me what's goin' on?" Questa practically whined. They both looked at him and laughed.
"I'm sorry, mon amour..." Shelby said, growing serious. "Last week, I realized I was late...an' you know how I'm never late...it never occurred to me that there could be a reason...What Emil came here to tell us is this. Questa, I'm pregnant."
Questa froze, his dark blue eyes wide in shock and amazement. As the words sunk in, he realized what it meant, and he suddenly had no idea what to think or say or do. He was also very, very scared.
"I t'ink I'll leave you two 'lone so you can talk 'bout dis..." Emil said.
"Emil?" Shelby said as he got up to leave. He paused and looked at her. "Do you know the baby's sex yet?"
Emil smiled. "I'm almost positive, oui. But for once I'd like it to be a surprise. You're gon' have to wait, 'cause you ain' gon' find out from me. Not wit'out serious bribes."
Once Emil left, Shelby turned to her husband, worry in her dark hazel eyes. "Questa...? Say something. Please."
"For de longest time...de scariest moments of my life were centered on my past. You helped me get over all dat an' move on, an' I'm still amazed dat you stuck by me t'rough everythin'." Questa said softly, holding her hand. "Den, I t'ought de scariest moment of my new life was when I asked you to marry me, but if I t'ought dat was scary, it was nothin' compared to de actual weddin' itself. Now..."
"You're scared of becomin' a father..." Shelby finished. "Oh Questa...!"
"Not so much scared of bein' a father as I am scared of turnin' into my own." Questa admitted, unable to look Shelby in the eye.
"Questa, do you remember a long time ago, when you said you didn't think you could ever be like your father, because you didn't think your father knew what love was?" Shelby suddenly asked.
"But nothing. I love you with all my heart and soul, and I know you love me too. This baby...our baby...is a product of that love. You have nothing to be scared of. I've seen you with both Cheryl and Gage since the moments they were born and you are going to be a wonderful Papa to dis baby." Shelby confirmed, reminding Questa that he had quickly developed a knack for taking care of his young godchildren.
Questa smiled. "I wonder if it's a boy or a girl..."
"We might have to bribe Emil sometime to find out." Shelby giggled. "But not before we tell everyone else. I just have one question though. Are you happy about this?"
Questa hugged her tight. "Yeah. Jus' took a minute to get rid of de shock, is all. I love you."
"I love you too." Shelby hugged him back. "Now...I think I'm stable enough to get up again without racing for the bathroom, so why don't we go down to breakfast and break the news to the rest of our family?"
"Sounds like a plan, chere."
"Anybody who don' know de meanin' of de word chaos should come here an' watch dis some mornin'." Questa joked, making their presence known to everybody else. "However, if we could have your attention...Shelby an' I have an announcement to make."
Slowly but surely all the grown-ups in the room did their best to give Shelby and Questa their attention, trying to hastily quieten their rather noisy brood of children. When the loudness level became bearable enough, Shelby smiled at them all.
"Well we really hope you guys don't object, but we figured it was high time we added to this chaos we call life a little more." She laughed. "I'm thinking mid-to-late January of next year, if that's a good time for you."
Mercy was the first one to do the math in her head and realize what Shelby was saying. Her green eyes were positively glowing but she said nothing. She didn't want to ruin the announcement.
"It looks like Mercy's figured it out, but we'll say it anyway." Questa said, his voice filled with pride. "Shelby's pregnant."
Jasmine was the first to react. "Another baby?" She said. "Cool! Babies are so cute!"
"An' dis one will be too, if it looks like it's Mama." Questa joked.
"Questa...!" Every woman in the room complained in unison.
Questa held his hands up in defense. "I was jus' kiddin'! Relax, would ya?"
"You figure mid-to-late January?" Zoe questioned.
"Yeah. It could be a little later or a little earlier, I'm really not sure." Shelby said. "We'll know more once we go see Dr. McCoy."
"Which you should prob'ly do relatively soon. Like within de next few days." Theoren recommended. "Jus' to make sure everythin's okay an' t'ings like dat." He turned to his young empathic cousin, Emil. "I s'pose you knew b'fore anyone else..."
Emil nodded while attempting to remove his daughter's hair from his son's fist. "Et, let go b'fore she screams, please." He said, before fully answering Theoren's comment. "De baby's presence woke me up a few days 'go. I didn' say anythin' until today, t'ough. An' de only reason I didn' let dem figure it out on deir own was I was scared dat Shelby would take some medication for bein' sick dat could harm de little one."
Singer tilted her head thoughtfully, lifting her son up onto her lap to prevent him from running off into another part of the house. "Hey...you knew dat Gage was a boy almost from de second you realized I was pregnant wit' him. Do you know what dis baby is?"
"Oh for cryin' out loud!" Emil exclaimed. "De answer is yes, an' no I'm not tellin' anyone! Bella Donna don' even t'ink 'bout probin' my mind wit' your telepathy." He warned.
"Why don' you wan' tell us?" Genard asked.
"C'mon guys." He gestured towards the five youngsters around the room. "Ever since we started dis new generation, we've all known what each of deir sexes were, well b'fore dey were born. Jus' once I'd like to see everybody be surprised. Well, okay except me an' Dr. McCoy, an' prob'ly Jean if she's still connected to everyone here, but still. Everybody else."
"But how can we decorate de nursury properly if we don' know de sex of de baby?" Claude wanted to know. He was a talented wood-carver and artist and already had plans forming in his mind for creating a beautiful room for the new arrival. He had done the same for all the previous babies, with the help of Gris-Gris and Theoren. The nursury for this new baby was going to get the same careful treatment. Claude wanted to make sure of it.
"Green. Yellow. Purple. Red. White. Dere you go. Use your imagination." Emil retorted defiantly.
Bella Donna handed her cousin the cordless phone. "Theoren's right. De sooner you go see Dr. McCoy de better."
The next day, the Guild Patriarch, Remy LeBeau, along with his teammate Ororo Munroe, better known as Storm, left from the Westchester, NY home of the X-Men, the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, in the team's high-tech jet, the Blackbird, on their way to New Orleans to pick up Questa and Shelby, who had arranged for an appointment with another of Gambit and Storm's teammates and the only doctor the Guild trusted, Dr. Henry "Beast" McCoy.
The trip, in total, took about an hour, and the arrived back at the Institute just after lunch. Remy was undoubtedly happy for the parents-to-be, commenting when he found out that it was a good way to cement the fact that since 2002, Questa and Shelby had been working very hard to put both their pasts behind them and make their future a bright one.
"Shelby! Questa! Welcome back to my humble MedLab." Hank McCoy said with a sweeping bow when they entered. "It would appear that a celebration is in order, given the news of the pending arrival of your little bundle of joy, but I seem to have misplaced my balloons and noisemakers, so please accept my humble apologies. Oh, and congratulations!"
Questa laughed as Shelby sat up on one of the MedLab beds. "Y'know...dat was one long, confusin' sentence, but I actually understood it. Go figure."
"That happens sometimes, but not very often." Hank said. "Now, Shelby, why don't you lay down here and we'll take a look and see what's going on. You just found out yesterday?"
"Yeah." Shelby said, obediently lying down. "I've been sick every day for about a week now...including this morning...and yesterday Emil told us that he felt the baby's presence with his empathy five days ago...well six now."
"Okay, that's fine. Emil seems to be quite the baby-radar, doesn't he?" Hank chuckled. "That empathy of his comes in handy. How is he doing with it, anyway?"
"He's okay. Says he has a lot of headaches, 'specially if he lets more people dan jus' de Guild in. But he's still okay." Questa explained. "He an' Jackie have deir hands full wit' de twins, too."
"One would imagine so, yes." Hank agreed. "So, let's see here...Shelby when did you last have a menstrual cycle?"
"I was supposed to have one last week...it was supposed to start on Wednesday. But it didn't. And silly me, I didn't even figure that it could be because of a baby. I just figured I was stressed or something." Shelby replied.
"So the last one would have been around March 30, correct? And how long is your cycle, usually?"
"Yeah. And my cycle is twenty-eight days."
"What does all dat have to do wit' anythin'?" Questa wanted to know.
Shelby laughed. "You want to know when de baby's due, don' you? Knowin' when my last period was an' how long my cycle is will help Dr. McCoy here determine roughly when we can expect to meet our new son or daughter."
"Well if I'm doing the mathematics correctly," Hank said. "You'll be meeting your new son or daughter sometime during the first week of the new year. I'll get a better handle on when the exact date is as time goes by. At the moment, Shelby, you're only about three weeks along, so there's still plenty of time for everything."
"Wow. I was thinking later in January, but I'll take earlier for sure!" Shelby giggled. "Does everything seem to be in order, Dr. McCoy?"
"Yes, my dear, it certainly does. I will need to see you once a month for the next few months. I kept a close eye on all the little ones down there in your family and this one will not be any different. But as you're healthy and fit, Shelby, I can't forsee any difficulties or problems. Do either of you have any questions? I'm sure the other parents in the Guild will be able to help you if something arises, but do you have any concerns that you'd like to mention to me while you're here?"
"When is this crazy morning sickness going to end and is there anything I can take to ease it somewhat?" Shelby asked immediately.
Hank laughed. "I'm afraid, Shelby, that morning sickness is different for every woman. It could last all the way until the end of the second trimester, or it could only last a couple of weeks. I've even heard of a few cases where it only lasted a day or two. However, once the first trimester is over, it's usually out of the way. As for taking something for it...gravol would be about the only really safe thing, if you can keep it down."
"Okay." Shelby nodded, praying that her morning sickness was over sooner rather than later.
"Uhm..." Questa hesitated and turned red to the roots of his dark hair.
"Yes, Questa?" Hank asked.
"Well...uh...can we still...um...y'know...?"
"Oh of course! But it isn't recommended once Shelby's into the third trimester, as it could cause false labour, or even worse, it could cause the baby to come early. And we don't want that. But you needn't be afraid of being intimate...heaven's no. The baby was conceived out of love, and there is nothing wrong with letting it feel that love. I just wouldn't do it everyday, or anything overly kinky. Just keep it slow and simple and everything will be fine." Hank assured them. "Is there anything else?"
"I don't think so..." Shelby said. "Nothing that the others can't answer, anyway."
"When will you be able to tell de sex of de baby?" Questa questioned.
"Well, like I said, I want to see Shelby once a month for the next few months.We'll schedule the first three appointments before you leave today, and on the third appointment, I'll do an ultrasound as well. I should be able to get a pretty good idea at that time. But doesn't Emil know? He seems to be able to figure out the gender of Guild babies just from the emotional signal they send him, even a couple of weeks into the pregnancy."
"Emil says he's pretty sure he knows the gender, but he's refusing to tell us." Shelby explained. "He says he wants one baby to be a surprise to everyone...well everyone except for you and him. But...well..."
"We wanna know!" the two expectant parents said in unison.
Hank laughed again. "Well I suggest you either figure out a way to bribe Monsieur Lapin into telling you now, or you're going to have to wait a few months before I find out...and even then I might side with him and not tell you. Because quite frankly, I like the idea of one of the Guild babies being a surprise."
"So has Emil broken down and told you the sex of the baby yet?" Hank asked, a twinkle in his blue eyes. Questa and Shelby were in Westchester for Shelby's monthly checkup. It was their fourth visit since finding out Shelby was expecting their first child.
Both Shelby and Questa thought how odd and cool it was that the color of the doctor's eyes and the color of the fur that covered his body were the same shade of blue.
"No...he refuses to." Shelby admitted. "Does that mean you're not going to tell us?"
Hank smiled. "I had contemplated it. But I also know how much you want to know. Think you can keep it a secret from Emil and everyone else if I tell you?"
"Yes!" Questa answered for them both.
"Even for the next four and a half months?" Hank pressed. He wanted to draw out the suspense, plus he wanted to make sure they could willingly keep it a secret. He didn't want Emil to get mad at him for having told them.
"Dr. McCoy...please!" Shelby begged.
"Oh alright." Hank said. "But tell me something first. There are five children in the Guild right now, correct? Three boys and two girls?"
"Yeah..." Questa said. "Cheryl, J.P., Etienne, Jody and Gage. Why?"
Hank nodded. "That's what I thought. I wonder what Miss Cheryl and Miss Josephine will think when they learn the odds are even again?"
It took less than two seconds for both Questa and Shelby to realize what Hank had just said. Shelby managed to speak first, her eyes huge and her voice shaky.
"We're having a girl?"
"Yes. Emil has known that from the beginning, and my tests have proven that he is correct." Hank smiled. "I hope you are not disappointed."
"Strange as it might sound, Doc...I've always wanted a daughter." Questa said quietly.
"And to be honest, I don't really have much of a preference, as long as the baby is healthy." Shelby said. "But I'm really, really happy we're having a girl."
"Sounds to me like this little baby girl is going to be welcomed quite lovingly by her parents." Hank said. "And, I would imagine, by the whole Guild family as well."
"Dey're so excited...'specially Jasmine, who can' wait to have a baby in de house 'gain. She's quite good at lookin' after dem an' stuff, now dat she's old enough to babysit." Questa said. "Did Gris ever tell you she's studyin' all of Tante Mattie's books, wit' his help, tryin' to learn how to b'come a healer like Tante was?"
"No, he never mentioned it. I think that's wonderful. I always admired Mattie, and was glad you had her there for times when it was impossible to get up here to me." Hank said. "It would be good if you had another healer in the family. Please tell Gris that if there's anything he needs my assistance on in her teaching, he should not hesitate to call me."
"We'll tell him. I'm sure he'd appreciate it, since he's not a healer by any means, and only knows basic things. There's a lot in the books though, but there might be quite a bit Jasmine doesn't understand and if he can't explain it, your advice might come in handy." Shelby mused.
"Is everythin' still goin' okay?" Mercy asked.
"Yeah, it's fine. Dr. McCoy says the baby's growing nicely and doing just fine so far. Plus, my blood-pressure's not acting up and that's a good thing."
"Dat is a good t'ing. I know dat was somethin' we were concerned 'bout when CJ was pregnant." Genard commented. "Dere were lots of other t'ings too, like cancer treatments, but her blood-pressure was somethin' he kept a close eye on as well."
"Why is it such a big deal?" Jasmine wanted to know.
"If you're pregnant an' your blood-pressure goes up, 'specially in de last trimester, it's extremely dangerous for both de baby an' you." Singer explained. "Dat's why it's important to keep it monitored. Remember on dat show we watched las' week, how de woman had to undergo emergency surgery a couple of weeks b'fore she was due? Dat was b'cause her blood-pressure was risin' an' dey wanted to make sure nothin' happened to her or de baby."
"Oh yeah I remember that!" Jasmine said. "What about if your blood-pressure is low?"
"Uh..." Singer drew a blank and looked at the others. "I really don' know."
"I don' t'ink it's as dangerous," Jackie filled in. "I'm not sure, but I t'ink if you were given a choice, it would be better to have low blood-pressure. Of course, normal is best, but I ain' never seen a woman yet who was perfectly normal when she was pregnant."
"Jacks, de only women you've ever seen pregnant are yourself, me, CJ, Jean an' now Shelby." Singer laughed. "An' you can' possibly say dat any of us has ever been normal."
"Well now dat's true." Jackie admitted.
"So did Dr. McCoy tell you anythin' else?" Emil asked. He had sensed an underlying excitement within both Shelby and Questa, even though he also picked up the fact that they were trying very hard to hide it.
"No...but we made de next two appointments b'fore we left." Questa said, not looking Emil in the eye.
Emil raised an eyebrow, but didn't call them on it. He knew if Hank had told them the sex of the baby, he would have made them promise not to tell anyone, and he didn't want them to have to go back on their word to their doctor.
"My god, would you look at me? I look like a freaking blimp!" Shelby complained as she eyed her form in the mirror in the hallway of the safehouse. It was one of the only full-length mirrors in the house and she used it to study the changes her body was making through her pregnancy.
Questa came out of their room and wrapped his arms around her from behind. "You do not look like a blimp. You're beautiful. An' none of de blimps I've ever seen can claim to even be first cousins twice removed of beautiful."
"You're just saying that." Shelby pouted.
"Non I'm not. But jus' t'ink...in six weeks..."
Shelby's pout turned into a grin. "In six weeks, we're going to have a nameless daughter, because we haven't even begun to think of names, for fear of Emil catching us."
"So...let's forget 'bout what you do or don' look like, go back in here, close de door an' start thinkin' of some." Questa suggested. "'Member, Emil is an empath, not a telepath. Las' time I checked, dat meant he doesn' have de ability to read minds."
"Okay." Shelby agreed, following her husband into their room. Once the door was firmly shut behind them, she gave him a curious look. "Hey...you say you've always wanted a daughter. Did you ever think of any names for that daughter, in case something like this happened and you actually had one?"
"Jus' Celeste after my mother." Questa admitted. "But dat would be de middle name, not de first name. I don' t'ink I could handle it if it was her first name."
"We could still do that..." Shelby said. "I like the name. And it can't be that hard to find a first name that would go well with it."
"Well...your middle name is Elizabeth...dat don' really work. What was your mother's name?"
"Rachel Margaret." Shelby grimaced. "She hated her name, and so do I. Well, Rachel's not so bad, but..."
"Oui, I see what you mean." Questa nodded. "Do you have any favorite names?"
"I've always liked the name Madison."
"Dat might work...an' it would be almost like a tribute to Tante Mattie...no one has done dat yet. Not like dat anyway." Questa said. "Might have to 'member dat one. Madison Celeste don' sound bad either."
"True, but we can't have just one name picked out. What if she doesn't look like a Madison?"
"Hmm...you're right. What's another name you like?"
"I can't be picking them all..." Shelby objected.
"Hey if her middle name is after my mother, de least I can do is let you pick de first name."
"Well...as long as you agree. Can't go giving our daughter a name you hate."
"Yeah...dat would kinda suck." Questa laughed. "At least for me. So...?"
"Well I also like de names Sierra and Riley." Shelby said. "I know they're not French or Cajun, but..."
"Neither are you, what are you worried 'bout? I like dose names. An' dey both sound okay wit' Celeste too. Sierra Celeste might have too much of de s-sound, but it's still fine wit' me."
"That didn't take long...to go from having no names picked to having three. How do we choose?"
"How 'bout we let our daughter choose for us? We wait 'til she's born, an' look at her an' see which of de names she looks like most. An' if she doesn' look like any of dem, we go back to de drawin' board."
It was wonderful having little ones in the Guild household again, and none of the grown-ups in the family thought otherwise. They all got immense pleasure out of watching the small children open their presents and leave a trail of wrapping paper and colored ribbons and bows from one end of the main floor to the other. However, Emil noticed before anyone else that something wasn't quite right.
"Shelby, are you okay?" He asked, the concern in his voice coming through in spite of his amusement at his daughter, who decided to stick all the bows onto her brother's head. When he said the words, all the other adults in the room looked at her.
"I feel weird, Emil. Really tired and drained. Warm too." Shelby said. "I mean de baby's due on January 5...I'm sure dis is normal."
"You're supposed to go see Dr. McCoy on de twenty-ninth, right?" Bella Donna asked.
"Yeah. Last appointment before the big day. I can' b'lieve it's comin' so quickly...an' I can' wait. I'm really anxious to meet dis little one."
Questa looked worried. "Maybe we should call him. He said he was stayin' at de Institute for de holidays an' dat we could call if somethin' came up. Better to be safe dan sorry."
"I agree wit' dat. You've done everythin' you're s'posed to do and taken very good care of yourself an' de baby since you found out you were pregnant, Shelby, you don' wan' screw it up now." Theoren said.
"Okay yeah. You're right." Shelby agreed. She looked at Claude, who was closest to the phone. "Could you hand me de phone, Claude? I may as well do dis myself."
"Sure." Claude nodded and took the phone over to her. She hit the first speed-dial button and waited. It didn't take long before Hank answered the phone, as the call was a direct link to the MedLab.
"Xavier Institute, Dr. McCoy speaking. How may I help you?"
Shelby smiled into the phone. Always the professional. "Hi Dr. McCoy. This is Shelby."
"Merry Christmas, Shelby! I suppose the safehouse is a disaster with wrapping paper and ribbons?"
"Very much so. And Jody seems to think the bows belong on Etienne's head. Needless to say, he's not impressed. Things are quiet up there, I assume?"
"Oh yes. Very few of us actually stayed here for the holidays this year. I would have gone home myself, but I had some research to do, plus I wanted to stay closer by, in case something happened with you. And speaking of that, I assume something is going on, or you wouldn't have called me."
"Yes. I know the baby isn't due until the fifth, and I'm sure this is probably nothing, but the others suggested I at least call you about this, just in case. I'm not quite feeling like myself today...I'm really tired and drained, and I think I have a fever."
"Hmm...I hate to cut your Christmas short, but I would feel better if you and Questa came up here this afternoon if you can manage it. I'd like to run some tests, and keep an eye on you. It could be nothing, like you said, but I'd like to determine that for myself, as your doctor."
"Sure, Dr. McCoy, we'll see what we can pull off."
"If you can't get a flight out of New Orleans today, call me back and I'll ask Storm if she'll take a run down in the Blackbird to pick you up...and drop Remy off as well, since he's been putting off going down there for some reason I can't fathom."
Shelby laughed. "I think he's avoiding the mistletoe, Dr. McCoy. Bella Donna and Zoe went crazy with it this year, and we warned him the last time we were up there."
"Ah, I see. Well in that case, maybe he is doing right in staying away." Hank laughed. "But yes, if you can't get a flight, let me know."
"Okay Dr. McCoy. Thanks." Shelby said and hung up the phone.
"Well? What'd he say?" Questa demanded.
"He wants us to go up there. Says he wants to run some tests and keep an eye on me, just to make sure everything's still okay." Shelby explained. "Also says if we can't get a flight to call him back and he'll send someone down with the Blackbird to pick us up."
Bella Donna took the phone. "I'll call de airport, see what we can do for you...you guys go pack a few t'ings. You might be up dere awhile, never know."
"T'anks Bel." Questa said as he helped Shelby to her feet and escorted her out of the living room and up to the second floor of the safehouse.
Hank met them outside the front doors of the mansion as they pulled up in a cab. They had been lucky enough to get cheap tickets flying standby and but they had to wait awhile for a flight to New York that could take both of them. The longest part had been the flight itself, however, but that was mainly due to Shelby's fever going up and her condition deteriorating quickly. It was clear to Questa on the way there that his wife was very ill and he had asked the taxi driver to drive very, very fast and gave him a $250 tip as incentive. It had worked. As it was, they arrived at the Institute late in the evening.
"How is she?" Hank asked, helping Questa get Shelby out of the cab.
Questa shook his head, worry written all over his face. "Not good. She's burnin' up, keeps alternatin' b'tween sayin' she wants to go to sleep an' sayin' she's in a lot of pain."
"Help me get her to the MedLab and we'll see what we can do for her." Hank said. "I think perhaps we should have bypassed getting an actual flight and just had Storm take the Blackbird down to get you...it wouldn't have taken nearly as long, and we might have been able to prevent this from happening."
"She didn' seem too bad earlier t'ough...she started gettin' worse while we were waitin' for a flight an' she got even more worse on de way here." Questa explained as they walked down the hall. Hank was carrying Shelby, since it was easier than trying to get her to walk on her own.
"Ohhhhhh...Dr. McCoy..." Shelby complained. "It hurts..."
"We're almost at the MedLab, Shelby. Can you tell me where it hurts?"
Shelby moaned again and pointed at her belly. "There. Is the baby okay?"
"I don't know yet, my dear, but here we are, so we'll find out soon, okay? I just want you to stay awake for me, can you do that?"
"Uh-huh...Questa said I wasn't allowed to go to sleep until you told me I could. But I want to...and I want to make the pain go away. It hurts so bad...and I'm so hot..."
"I know, Shelby, I know." Hank set her down on one of the beds and Questa sat down on one side of her while Hank started running tests and trying to figure out what the problem was.
"Well, your blood-pressure is up quite a bit, which might explain the fever." Hank said a few minutes later, after looking at the test results.
"Dat's dangerous..." Questa whispered.
"Yes it is, which is why it's a good thing she's here and not still at home in New Orleans. Now, as for the pains in your belly, Shelby, from the looks of things, it would appear that your little girl is very, very smart and is trying to get out."
"I'm in labor?" Shelby gasped. "But my water didn't break or anything..."
"No, it didn't. And that makes this a very difficult procedure. I've put you on medication to lower your blood-pressure, but I still need to get that baby out of you before she ends up hurting herself. I can't rely on her coming out in time on her own, even if we help."
With that, Shelby laughed at them and shook her head. "Uh...Dr. McCoy? Can we move me to another bed? I think my water just broke. Feels like the time Emil's puppy peed on me."
"Oh my stars and garters, she really does want out badly doesn't she." Hank said. "I know it's probably uncomfortable, but I'm not going to move you, simply because I don't want to ruin more than one set of sheets. It costs a lot to get them cleaned you know."
Shelby cried out in pain and all Questa could do was sit by her, stroke her hair and allow his other hand to be squeezed to death. He felt completely and utterly helpless and scared.
"Dr. McCoy? What's going to happen?" He asked.
"Well..." Hank replied as he examined Shelby. "I know it sounds far-fetched, but I think Shelby's been in labor since the pains first started, even though her water didn't break, as she pointed out. She's already nine centimeters dialated, which is amazing. Normally in a situation like this, a cesarean section would be recommended because it's so dangerous for a woman to give birth naturally with high blood-pressure, but in this case, the baby is already in the position and on her way down. It's also dangerous to stop the natural birthing process once it's begun, and could cause serious problems for the little one. I'm not going to mince words with this. It could kill her. But letting things continue as they are could kill you."
"So what do we do?" Shelby asked. "I don't want to die, and I don't want our baby to die...but...how soon will the medication start to bring down my blood-pressure?"
Hank checked the monitors. "Oh it's already working, my dear, but you haven't begun to push yet. That's when the real problems will occur."
"De little one is comin' so quickly t'ough...maybe she won' have to push much? Does dat ever happen?" Questa wanted to know.
"Very rarely, that I know of." Hank replied. "I know that's not what you wanted to hear for an answer, I'm sorry."
"What 'bout if you up de medication to counteract de risin' of her blood-pressure while she's pushin'?"
"That might work, as long as we're careful not to give her too much. Don't want to overdose her." Hank said. "Shelby, what do you think?"
"I don't think we should interrupt the process if it's so far along...go for it. Give me the medication. I'd rather risk dying myself than risk killing her."
Questa's jaw dropped upon hearing what she said. "Shelby...!"
Shelby smiled at him and reached up to touch his face. "A long time ago, you asked me to trust you with a certain thing. Remember that?"
"Oui...mais..." Questa was doubtful.
"Now I'm asking you to trust me. Nothing's going to happen to either one of us. I know it. Please trust me."
"Okay." He whispered. "I love you."
"I love you too."
When Hank gave her the okay, Shelby started pushing, the way she'd be taught by Singer and Jackie. Hank adjusted the blood-pressure medication accordingly and within an hour, he told Shelby news she really wanted to hear.
"Shelby, you're doing just fine...and Questa's medication idea is working. Just one more good push and we should have the head out and after that it's a piece of cake."
"Chocolate cake?" Shelby grinned in spite of herself. She loved chocolate cake.
"Sure. In fact, I'll get you a piece when all this is over. Questa too. Just give me one more big push okay?"
"I'm tired...but yeah. Okay." Shelby agreed and bore down to push one more big push. When the push was over, Shelby felt weird and said so. "Dr. McCoy...I don't feel well."
"De monitor's goin' wonky, too..." Questa said. "De medication ain' workin' like it should."
"That would be because that was the biggest push and the head and shoulders are out, if you'd care to come see, Questa." Hank said. "The medication should start to work again in a moment, once she relaxes. But in the meantime..." With one quick movement as Shelby gave one more little push and Questa moved around to look at his new daughter, Hank pulled the baby out completely and cleaned out her mouth and nose.
"You already knew this, but I'll say it anyway. Congratulations, it's a girl." Hank said. He looked at Questa. "You want to cut the cord, or should I?"
Questa, in awe and shock, hardly believed what he was doing as he nodded and took the scissors Hank handed him. He cut the umbilical cord right where Hank told him to, and watched in amazement as Hank whisked the baby away to another part of the MedLab to clean her off and get her wrapped up in a blanket.
Shelby looked up at her husband, exhausted. "Questa..."
"She's beautiful, Shel." Questa smiled at her. "Absolutely perfect."
Hank came back with a white-blanket-wrapped bundle in his furry blue arms. "She weighs six pounds, eleven ounces. Her eyes are blue, her hair is dark and she's got ten fingers and ten toes and she just told me she wants to meet her mommy and daddy, so without further ado..." He handed the baby to her mother and moved around to clean her up.
"Awww...hello there little one! Questa she really is perfect..." Shelby breathed.
"I know." Questa said. He had returned to his seat beside the bed and leaned over to kiss his wife and then his new daughter. "Bonjour petite. Welcome to our crazy world."
"You hold her, Questa. She's your daughter too."
Questa reached over and gently lifted the little girl into his arms and held her like a pro. "I guess lookin' after Cheryl and Gage gave me some experience, huh?" He chuckled. "I already know how to hold her properly."
Shelby watched as Questa looked at the baby in his arms and smiled. His face changed...softened in a way it never had before. He was completely enraptured with his daughter...and it showed in his whole face.
"Have you decided on a name yet?" Hank asked as he finished cleaning Shelby up.
"We have three different names chosen, but we wanted to see what she looked like..." Shelby said. "The middle name is the same for all three names. Celeste, after Questa's mother. The first names we have picked are Madison, Sierra and Riley."
"Those are all beautiful names." Hank agreed. "You have good taste in names. I'm sure she'll tell you which name suits her best. And as I'm just about finished her...would you like me to phone the safehouse and let them know she's arrived? I'm sure Emil already knows, but I bet they would like to hear it from one of us."
"Dat'd be great, Dr. McCoy, t'anks." Questa said, handing the baby back to her mother.
Hank went into his office and picked up the phone. He dialed the safehouse phone number and wasn't surprised when the call was answered after half a ring by a very anxious-sounding Bella Donna. He could hear the others shushing each other in the background. In spite of the late hour, they were all still up, except for the children.
"Hello Bella Donna." Hank smiled into the phone.
"Is everything okay?"
"Everything is just fine. The problem was high blood pressure and premature labor, but we came up with a game plan and I am calling on behalf of the new parents to give you some details."
"First off, has Emil told you all the sex of the baby yet?" Hank asked.
Bella Donna laughed. "No. He's kept everything locked in his head. Won't tell us anything. He's annoying."
Hank chuckled. "Well, the newest addition to your family is a little girl."
"It's a girl!" Bella Donna quietly screamed. She didn't want to wake the children but she was very excited and had to tell the others. Hank heard the others cheering and then Emil saying,
"See? Isn' dis better dan' knowin' ahead of time? It's more fun!"
"What else can you tell us, Dr. McCoy?" Bel asked.
"Well, she doesn't have a name yet, and she was born at 11:06 p.m. Eastern time. You guys have yourselves a Christmas baby. She weighed six pounds, eleven ounces." Hank said. "She has blue eyes and dark hair. And as can only be expected, her parents are completely in love with her."
"Can we come up to see dem? How long will dey be stayin' dere?" Bel wanted to know after relaying the information to the rest of the family.
"You certainly may come up, although I don't recommend bringing the entire family. And they will be here probably until the twenty-seventh. I want to run some tests and make sure everything is normal, plus I want to keep an eye on Shelby for a couple of days, make sure her blood-pressure returns to normal."
"Okay. Well how 'bout if jus' de Assassin side of de fam'ly come?"
"That would be fine, and I'm sure they'd love to see you. Can we expect you tomorrow?"
"Oui, mos' likely." Bel agreed.
"Alright then. We'll see you tomorrow."
Bella Donna, Gris-Gris, Fifolet and Singer waited rather impatiently outside the airport in New York City the next afternoon. It was very cold, there was too much snow, both in the air and on the ground, and they didn't like it. They just wanted to get a cab and go to the Institute. But they were getting a crash course in the NYC airport taxi experience. They didn't like that either. Finally, after being pushed around and ignored and cursed at, Gris-Gris decided he'd had enough.
They managed to get a cab to stop for them, when a man in a blue suit and talking on cell phones tried to push his way to the cab ahead of the Assassins. Gris-Gris tapped him on the shoulder and then crossed his arms and put on his best glare as the turned around...looked up..and promptly dropped his cell phone into the snow.
At six-foot-five, Gris-Gris was one of the biggest people the business man had ever seen. The man was only five-foot-ten, so Gris-Gris towered over him the way he towered over most people. He was big and intimidating.
"Uh..." The man stammered. He had been going to give Gris-Gris a piece of his mind but discovered when he saw who he was dealing with that he couldn't get the words out.
"We hailed dis cab. If you want one...get your own. Dis one's ours. Any questions?" Gris asked, his voice dangerous.
"Nnnnno..." Came the still-stammered reply. The man hastily picked up his cell phone and his briefcase and got out of the way. He watched, stunned, as the Assassins got into the cab, and headed away from the airport, towards their destination.
They all knew the way around the mansion fairly well. They had called Hank before they left New Orleans and he had told them to let themselves in when they arrived. They followed his instructions and shortly after they arrived at the Institute, they were in the MedLab, smiling at Questa, Shelby and Guild Patriarch Remy, who was wisely staying out of the way. But more than that, they were demanding to see the baby.
"Where is she?" Singer asked after hugging them both. She hadn't seen the crib-like bed beside Shelby's bed. Neither had any of the others.
"Right here." Shelby laughed. She leaned over and picked up her sleeping daughter. The little one yawned sleepily and opened her big dark blue eyes.
"Ohhhhhh..." Singer melted as the other Assassins circled around the bed to look at the baby. "She's beautiful! Can I hold her?"
"Sure." Shelby consented, handing her the baby.
Singer cradled the baby in her arms and allowed herself to be crowded from all sides by the others. "Have you chosen a name for her yet?"
"Actually yeah." Questa said. "We had no idea which of the names we'd picked out would work, so we slept on it. When we woke up this morning, we both knew. It's like she told us in our sleep or something. Her name is Riley Celeste Devereaux."
"Does de name mean anythin' in particular? I mean I know you picked Celeste after your mother, Questa, but I'm jus' curious. What does it mean?" Fifolet asked.
"The name means a small stream from the heavens." Questa replied. He laughed as Riley grabbed hold of one of Gris-Gris' fingers with her tiny fist and wouldn't let go. "At least dat's what it says on de baby names website we looked at."
"It fits her pretty good, too." Bel nodded. She looked down at Riley and said "Welcome to de fam'ly, petite. We're a crazy bunch but I t'ink you'll fit in jus' fine."