Adeline returned to the room as Carla checked Fionna’s monitors, making certain everything was stable. “The Vindicos just arrived with Aida. She’d really like to see you. Let me check you again, and if it’s okay, I’ll bring her in. Rainer and Emily are here as well. Along with most of the Angels. Garrett’s about to beat the door down, and Mrs. Haydenshire… oh and your parents,” Adeline enumerated the sheer number of people all wanting to wish Fionna well. “Would you like some ice chips?”
“Is that all I can have?” Fionna asked. She didn’t seem hungry just curious.
“While you’re under anesthesia,” Adeline nodded. “Okay, you’re at a seven now. So, if you’re going to let people visit for a few minutes, it probably needs to be within the next hour. You’re seventy percent effaced so everything is getting ready.”
“Can I just see Aida for a few minutes first?” Fionna requested.
“Of course. Dan, why don’t you go get her. You making an appearance might ease everyone’s mind.”
“That okay?” Dan studied Fionna closely.
“I’ll stay right here with her, Dad,” Carla assured him.
“I’ll be fine.” She clearly wanted Aida badly enough to let Dan go for a few minutes.
“I’ll be right back.” He kissed her cheek.
Greeted with smiling, albeit sleepy, faces Dan chuckled as he greeted everyone.
“Daddy!” Aida raced to him.
“You wanna go see mommy for a minute, baby girl?”
“Everything the way it’s supposed to be Daniel?” his father quizzed.
“Yeah, she’s doing great. I’ll come back and let everyone visit for a few minutes after we’re done.” He gestured his head to Aida discreetly. “She was a special request.”
Understanding chuckles spread throughout the crowd. As he carried Aida back to Fionna’s room, he encountered the Barge’s yet again. Linda was dressed in a hospital gown, pushing an IV pole, and yelling at Bob as he followed her up and down the corridors.
“Tell them I do not want to walk anymore. Tell them to make Aakerman Robert come out now,” she demanded of her bewildered husband.
“You’re supposed to breathe, Linda. They said walking might help you do that thing they said.”
Shaking his head slightly, Dan was unable to believe that Linda Barge had gone into labor the same day as Fionna.
“Hi, Mommy.” Aida leaned out towards Fionna as soon as Dan entered the room.
“Hey, baby girl,” Fionna looked as if Dan had just laid the entire world at her feet as he handed Aida off to her mother, letting her cuddle in beside her in the bed. He supposed he had.
“When will baby Halia come out?” Aida studied all of the monitors hidden under the blankets on top of Fionna.
“I don’t know exactly, but not too much longer I don’t think,” Fionna tried to explain.
“And you will be all right?”
“Mommy’s going to be fine, sweetheart. I’ll be in here the whole time right beside her,” Dan promised. This seemed to bring Aida some peace as she nodded and then nuzzled her head against Fionna’s neck.
Suddenly, huge tears, that she tried to fight, leaked from Aida’s eyes.
“What’s wrong?” Fionna held her as tightly as she could manage.
Dan leaned down in effort to lift Aida into his arms, but she clung fiercely to Fionna.
“What if you like Halia too much more than me, and you want me to go back to the orphanage?” she finally managed through her terror-ridden tears.
“Aida, we love you just like we love Halia. You’re never going back…” Fionna tried, but her chin trembled. Then the two women that meant more to Dan than anything or anyone in the world were both sobbing.
Not certain he’d be able to withstand much more, he tried not to wonder what it would be like if Halia was in the mix with salty tears pouring down her sweet face.
“Aida, listen to Daddy,” Dan guided her softly. Fionna attempted to wipe away the downpour from Aida’s eyes as she tried to quell her own. “You are our little girl. Just like Halia is our little girl, and nothing will ever change that. You are never, ever going back to the orphanage, or going anywhere except with me and with mommy. Because you are ours and we love you and Halia the very same, okay?”
“And Tutu will love me and Halia, and Aunt Malani will still be my Aunt Malani, too?”
A smile formed through Fionna’s tears. “Yes! They both love you so much, along with everyone on the farm, and all of your friends that you met when you help Tutu run the store.
“And Halia will love me?” Deep concern etched her tone.
“Halia will love you so much,” Dan pledged. “You’ll be her big sister, so she’ll need you to show her how to do things. You get to take care of her and keep her out of trouble.”
“Like you did with Aunt Kara, and Aunt Meredith, and Aunt Lindley?”
“I tried.” Dan was certain he hadn’t always done a great job of taking care of his little sisters.
Aida still clung to Fionna. “I want to stay in here with you and Daddy. I will help Halia be born. Because I’m her big sister.”
Fionna cringed. “I think that Daddy is going to stay in here with me while Halia is born. And once they take her out of Mommy, and get her all cleaned up, then Daddy will come and get you and you can come in and hold her okay?”
“How did she make a mess on herself inside your tummy?” Aida seemed both concerned and intrigued.
Chuckling, Fionna kissed the top of her head. “She didn’t really make a mess, but she’s been inside of Mommy. They’ll have to clean her up before we can play with her.”
Aida nodded, but it was clear she wanted to ask more questions. She just wasn’t certain she should. Dan decided that was probably enough information for a seven-year-old so he tried to change the subject.
“You want to come back to the waiting room with me and maybe let Aubelita and Gramps come back in and see Mommy?”
“Okay,” Aida agreed as she sat up off of Fionna. “Will you be okay while Daddy and I are gone?” She kissed Fionna’s shoulder as it was closest to her mouth.
Clara came back to check Fionna again.
“I think Clara will probably check on me and on Halia while you’re gone,” Fionna assured her.
“Well, hello there. My name is Clara,” she announced in a very proper greeting as she extended her hand to Aida.
“Hi, my name is Aida and I’m their little girl too, and Halia,” Aida vowed.
Clara nodded her understanding. “Of course you are, Miss Aida,” she assured her. “You know there is something very, very special about big sisters.” She leaned down, making Aida feel that she was being let in on a very big secret. Delight lit Aida’s features. “But you must never tell the secret to baby Halia. Because it is only a secret only for big sisters.”
“I won’t tell her.” Aida was enthralled.
Dan and Fionna shared a grin.
Clara nodded. “Okay, here is secret. Are you listening?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Aida scooted closer to the medio.
“Even though your Mummy and your Daddy will love you and your baby sister the very same, there is something that you have that baby Halia doesn’t have.”
“What?” Aida’s eyes were the size of plates.
“No matter what, my sweet little Aida, your Mummy and Daddy will always have loved you the longest. Because you will always be their very first little girl.”
Aida seemed astonished as she thought that through.
“Do you know how I know this? Clara baited. Aida shook her head. “Because I am also a big sister, and I think we are very special indeed.”
“I think so, too,” Aida whispered. With that she extended her hands up to give Clara a hug.
“Thank you,” Fionna whispered. Relief wiped the tears from her eyes and eased the tense lines on her face.
“Want to go see if a few people might want to come see Mommy for a few minutes?” Dan urged again.
With a broad grin Aida wiggled off of the bed. “I want Uncle Garrett, please.”
“I want Uncle Garrett, too,” Fionna assured her.
“I live to serve,” Dan vowed.
Clara studied the monitors closely. “It won’t be long Dad. I’d hurry.”
Swallowing the boulder in this throat, Dan tried to ready himself for something that couldn’t be prepared for. He reached for Aida’s hand and felt a slight spark when their hands connected. She was trying with all of her little might to soothe him. Though she couldn’t access her energy, she wanted desperately to reassure her father. Unable to help himself, Dan lifted her up into his arms and squeezed her tightly as they made their way down the corridor.
“Do the things on Mommy’s tummy tell Clara when baby Halia is all finished and ready to come out?”
Dan tried not to chuckle at the thought that the fetal monitors were a kind of oven timer. “Kind of. When Mommy’s body is ready for Halia to come out Clara and Adeline will know.”
As soon as they made it back to the waiting room, Aida was reaching her hands out to Garrett. With a delighted smile, Garrett hoisted her up into his arms.
“I want you to stay with me while Daddy stays with Mommy,” she explained in a fervent whisper.
“You got it, baby girl. I’ll stay with you the whole time, I promise.” He offered up his pinky finger. Dan watched Aida link her fingers with Garrett’s and grin. “We might even have time to build a fort in the waiting room out of the chairs.”
“Can we help?” Rainer gestured to himself and Logan. “We build pretty awesome forts.”
Dan could never have asked for better friends. Aida was a Receiver, and she was frightened and unsure about what was going to happen. She wanted a shield, and though Dan knew he would have been her first choice, she sought out Uncle Garrett, an extremely powerful shield himself. Rainer’s offer was a guarantee to her that she would not only have Garrett’s shield but his and Logan’s as well. The offer visibly reassured his little girl.
“Take me to see Mommy,” Garrett urged.
“She’s this way.” Aida was excited to show everyone the way to Fionna.
Chloe and Emily stayed longer than anyone else, which both thrilled and distracted Fionna from her fears, so Dan was happy for them to keep her laughing.
Adeline explained that she needed to check Fionna’s progress, which had everyone blowing her kisses and waving their good-byes as they made quick exits. Garrett lifted Aida into his arms when her lip trembled once again. Dan saw a powerful green orb surround his baby girl in the arms of his best friend.
“They’re at two minutes,” a nurse informed Adeline. She nodded her understanding and pulled on another pair of gloves. Fionna was trembling and holding onto Dan’s hand with all of her might.
“I’m right here,” he reassured as he kissed her forehead letting her draw from him in steadying streams.
“Okay, Fionna you’re at a ten, and you’re almost fully effaced.” Adeline soothed, but Fionna began to panic. “We’re going to wait another few minutes and let you work through the transition while I get everything ready. Then we’re going to push, okay?”
“No.” Fionna shook her head. Panic played cruelly in her eyes as they locked on Dan’s in terror.
“Baby, you are going to be perfect. You’re so amazing, and I could just never love anything more. I’ll be right here. I’ll pull as much of it off of you as I possibly can,” he promised.
Adeline pushed what looked like a rolling dresser with three drawers that had a clear plastic structure on top that contained a small mattress. There were several baby blankets, tiny diapers, extra cloths, and a nasal syringe. Behind her was a nurse rolling in a metal cart that contained numerous instruments for either Fionna or Halia. A baby scale was pushed in as well along with a cart big enough to lay Halia on and work on her if need be.
Dan’s heart thundered as he watched the methodical precision of the delivery nurses and Adeline. He tried desperately to remain calm. Fionna could read his every emotion, but he wasn’t able to relax.
“All right Fionna,” Adeline urged, after she checked Fionna once more. “I’m going to have Clara slowly lower her cast on your spine. Then when you feel the contractions, Dan will try to pull some of the pain away as you push with everything you’ve got, okay? Your body knows what to do.”
Tears leaked steadily down Fionna’s beautiful face as she nodded.
“Dan,” Adeline warned, “You can take as much away as your able. I know how powerful you are, but she must be able to feel the contractions coming so she can push through the pain. That’s how we do this.”
It was like she’d asked him to peel off his own skin. He had to let her hurt? He wasn’t certain he could do that. He was her shield. Keeping her from pain of any kind was who he was.
Clara began lowering her cast, and Fionna convulsed in pain suddenly. Focusing solely on her, Dan casted her, pulling the pain into his shield and taking it on himself. He spread it throughout his ample muscle structure, spreading it as far as he was able so he could take on more. He cringed in agony. It was horrifying to think that she was experiencing this as well.
“Push, Fionna. Hard, right where you feel my hand,” Adeline commanded. Fionna’s body curved in as she squeezed Dan’s hand and pushed with all of her might.
“Good. now breathe,” Adeline ordered as Fionna fell back against the pillows and sobbed. A nurse handed Dan a cool cloth and directed him to Fionna’s face that was covered in sweat.
His hand shook as he tried to wipe her off and comfort her. His muscles twitched from the force of the strain he’d pushed into them. Fionna convulsed again. She shook her head back and forth as another contraction consumed her. “No, please stop. It hurts.”
Dan’s own tears fall in her hair.
“They’re coming fast. It won’t be much longer. Push now,” Adeline commanded.
Dan pulled the harrowing energy from her again as she bared down and forced her body’s will over her mind’s. This went on for the next ten minutes with Dan biting back shouting demands that Adeline do something to make this stop hurting his wife and to get his little girl out.
Fionna fell back once more gasping for breath and begging Dan to make it stop, nearly killing him as he tried to console her.
Suddenly, Adeline nodded. “I see her head. Give me a big push in five, four, three, two...one,” she urged as the contractions continued hard and fast.
Fionna leaned forward with Dan helping raise her and bared down again. Adeline’s eyes goggled in horror as she glanced nervously at the nurse beside her.
A horrifying guttural moan split from Fionna she paled dramatically. Panic seared through Dan’s veins as her eyes began to spin.
“What’s wrong?” Dan demanded furiously.
“She’s bleeding. Badly. It’s the gunshot wound, and the baby just crowned. We’ve got to get her out so I can heal Fionna’s uterus. Dan, she can do this, but you have to stop pulling the pain away. You’ve got to give her energy not take it away. Push your strength into her now,” Adeline demanded.
“What?” Fionna could no longer sit up.
“Dan! Right now!”
He sat her up and forced his raw power through Fionna as she writhed in abject horrifying pain.
“Again,” Adeline demanded.
“No,” Fionna begged.
“Maylea,” Dan stared into her eyes. “Look at me. You can do this. Now push, baby, just push.”
Drawing all of her resolve from Dan, Fionna’s face contorted and she screamed through the pain. He forced his strength through her and suddenly he heard a tiny wail.
Adeline quickly handed Halia to the nurse and began working on Fionna. Dan couldn’t make sense of all he was seeing. Several blue orbs moved over Fionna’s abdomen. Nurses were healing her birth canal and delivering the placenta while Adeline re-healed the wound in her uterus.
Fionna seemed unable to remain conscious.
“Fi,” Dan shouted, as his heart stuttered in his chest.
“She’s going to be all right. Give me a minute,” Adeline assured him.
The minutes seemed like hours and suddenly Adeline gave Dan a soothing smile. Fionna came to looking confused and frightened.
“It’s all right, baby,” Dan tried to console her though he was inconsolable.
A nurse moved beside them, holding their tiny precious baby girl. She had dark brown hair just like her mothers and Fionna’s adorable nose, Dan noted as the nurse laid her in his arms.
He held her in front of Fionna. Halia’s little eyes blinked several times her forehead furrowed in confusion.
“Hey there, sweetheart,” Dan soothed through his sobs as he tried to hold her safely and wipe away his tears.
“I want to hold her,” Fionna begged. Dan gently laid her in her mother’s arms.
She soothed as soon as she felt Fionna’s energy. Her tiny hand shot out and Dan placed his index finger in her grip. She began to yawn as she laid against her mother’s chest.
“She’s four pounds eleven ounces, and eighteen and half inches long and… she’s perfect,” Adeline assured them. “You need to try to relax, Fionna. You gave me quite a scare. And I think this time I’m going to say let’s not have another one for a long while and really let your uterus heal.” Dan and Fionna nodded their agreement as they swallowed back tears unable to look away from Halia. “I can’t let her go home until she’s over five pounds. So, we need to get her eating. She’ll need to be on enhanced formula or breast milk. If you don’t want to nurse, would it be all right if her Dan gave her the first bottle? It would really be best if you could rest. After that, if you’re feeling up to it, you can let people see her.”
“Okay,” Fionna agreed somewhat begrudgingly.
“You are just absolutely amazing,” Dan vowed, still unable to speak without crying.
“She’s really here.” Fionna managed a weak smile.
Halia’s mouth formed in a wide yawn as she snuggled in her mother’s embrace. Dan ran his fingers tenderly over her tiny beautiful face.
Her back arched towards her father’s hand. She felt his energy, and it soothed her.
“I told you she was gonna be a Daddy’s girl,” Fionna choked back tears as she gazed down at their precious baby.
Dan was unable to believe he’d somehow managed to gain himself all of the astounding women that were in his care, but he knew he would never let them down.