Adeline showed Dan how to heat the tiny bottle. He lifted Halia into his arms and seated himself in a rocker right beside Fionna’s head.
Adeline lowered the lights in the room. “You can hold her or she can sleep in the crib. If you want her in the nursery so you can sleep a little, that’s perfectly fine. Don’t be afraid to tell us that you need some time. You have to heal and the energy and hormone level drop for the next twenty-four hours will be dramatic.” She warned them. “Relax and take it a little at a time. Medios will be in to cast you every couple of hours. That will keep your energy stable and contract your uterus back to its original shape. It will be a little painful,” she admitted then moved on quickly. “We gave Halia a couple of shots while we were working on you, but in a few minutes they’ll be in to give you a potassium shot so your energy levels recover.”
Dan tried to listen to everything Adeline was saying, but Halia’s sweet suckling, grunts as she inhaled the bottle held most of his attention. He hadn’t been aware that his baby girl was given shots. It was all a blur.
“Feed her every two and half hours, and we’ll need to check the first few diapers,” Adeline continued. “You’ll be sore for a week or so. Like I said, take it easy. Let Dan take care of you and Halia.”
“Yes ma’am,” Fionna smiled through her exhaustion.
“All right, I’m going to leave you for a little while. Spend some time together then we’ll bring Aida in, or you can take Halia out to meet her friends and family.”
Dan and Fionna nodded their understanding. Adeline turned to Dan turning her back on Fionna. “She’s exhausted. The normal energy pulses that come after birth aren’t as strong as they normally would be because she lost so much blood. Try to get her to sleep if she can.”
“I don’t want her to go to the nursery. I want her here with us,” Fionna fussed as soon as Adeline closed the door.
“Okay, I’ll take care of her as long as you sleep,” he negotiated.
“Don’t forget to burp her,” Fionna reminded him frantically.
“I will, sweetheart,” Dan assured her. He lifted Halia up onto his shoulder and patted her back gently. To Dan’s knowledge, she didn’t burp but it seemed to soothe his wife.
Exhausted from helping her birth their child, Dan laced his hand in Fionna’s and pushed as much calm into her as he was able. A minute later, Fionna couldn’t fight it any longer. Her eyes closed as her neck went slack, and she was out.
Working with a great deal of finesse, Dan kept Halia cradled on his shoulder and moved to his bag. He extracted the box of protein bars with one hand and managed to unwrap one with his teeth. He needed to eat if he was going to cast Fionna through the pain of medios forcing her body to heal rapidly.
Halia began to wiggle as he reseated himself in the rocker. She was so tiny and vulnerable it terrified him. Her eyes opened blinking several times showing off her long eyelashes.
“Hey there, baby girl,” Dan whispered. She stuck her tongue out several times seeming to taste the air around her. He heated his hand slightly and edged the blankets off of her chest. He concentrated and could pick up on the tiny burgeoning energy of his newborn daughter. She grunted. She could feel his as well, and it seemed to delight her. “I’ll always keep you safe sweetheart. I promise you. I’ll never let you down, I love you so much,” he vowed adamantly.
With a few more heavy blinks, Halia fell asleep soundly in his arms. She looked so much like Fionna when she slept it took his breath away. Her skin was suddenly only a slight shade or two lighter than Fi’s and her tiny nose was the precise shape of her mother’s.
Her eyes were the color of her mother’s, but they were shaped like Dan’s along with the delicate angles of her face. He could never possibly deserve something so precious. He knew he should place her in the cradle, but he couldn’t let her go. He just wanted to hold her, to know she was safe in his arms, protected from the world.
He dozed off as he rocked her.
“Dan,” Fionna’s voice was frantic though distant. He shook himself awake then panicked. His heart leapt to his throat until he was certain Halia was still safely asleep in his arms. “I have to go to the bathroom,” Fionna confessed with more tonality to her voice this time.
Before he could stand she shuddered, and her face contorted in pain.
“Fi,” Dan panicked as he laid Halia as tenderly as he was able in the cradle and raced to his wife. She was drenched with sweat and there were pools of blood on the sheets between her legs.
“I’m getting Adeline,” he assured her as he sprinted out into the corridor.
The hopeful faces of their friends and family wouldn’t come into focus as he grabbed a nurse. “Something’s wrong,” he roared. “Where’s Adeline?”
“Let’s see what’s going on,” the nurse offered patiently.
Fionna was pale and drawn. Her eyes were still bloodshot from pushing. The nurse pulled the bloody sheets away from her.
“We just need to set another healing cast. Heal up the bruising and get your body a little closer to the way it was before you conceived. Lack of bladder control is completely normal along with night sweats for the first few days. We’ll work on those muscles for a while. There’s nothing wrong Mr. Vindico.”
Adeline rushed into the room. “What’s wrong?”
Fionna was horrified. She appeared to try and melt into the bed. Her face colored rapidly as she squeezed her eyes shut.
Since Dan had been watching liquids come out of his wife for the last twelve hours or so, she certainly had nothing to be embarrassed about. He was in absolute awe of what she’d done, the pain she’d endured, and how her body had somehow birthed his baby girl.
“Just make me stop doing that please,” she begged still unable to open her eyes.
“Fi, baby,” Dan tried, but she shook her head and covered her face with her hands.
“Dan, why don’t you take Halia down to the waiting room and let her meet Aida? I’m going to cast her for a while. We’ll see if we can’t get rid of the bruises, and we’ll do the first round on her uterus. Then we’ll restore her bladder control, but she probably won’t get a lot of warning. We can assign a nurse to stay with her if you’d like,” Adeline explained.
“I can take her to the bathroom,” Dan assured the women staring up at him. He was trying not to see the bruises covering his wife’s vulva, as they made him rather queasy.
“I’ll restore as much as I’m able until you want me to stop ok,” Adeline negotiated with Fionna nodded. Dan knew that she would let Adeline work long past the point of pain.
“Fi you don’t have to be back to normal today, baby. We can’t even leave until she weighs a little more so just take it easy.”
“Take Halia down and let everyone see her while they get started. Then bring her back and you can cast me,” Fionna urged.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. I want Aida to see her, but then I want to hold her. I haven’t gotten to hold her much.”
“I think you upset Aida when you ran out of here. She could really use some reassurance,” Adeline reminded him gently.
Feeling guilt wash through him in heavy doses, Dan shuddered slightly.
“Go, but not for too long,” Fionna urged. “And tell her once they’re done, she can come back.”
“Okay.” Dan kissed her head before moving back to the cradle where Halia was sleeping soundly.
“She’ll sleep like that for several weeks because she’s a preemie. You’ll probably be waking her up to eat instead of the other way around,” Adeline explained as she helped change the linens on Fionna’s bed and then made her comfortable before she began the casting.
“I’ll be right back,” Dan assured as he carried his tiny baby girl out to meet the people who loved and adored her.
“I want Mommy! She needs me,” Aida demanded. She was sobbing on Garrett’s shoulder with Emily trying to comfort her.
“Mommy’s ok sweetheart,” Dan vowed.
“Aida, look,” Emily soothed. Garrett turned Aida in his lap so she could see her little sister.
Shuddering breaths escaped her lungs as she stared down at Halia.
“Mommy’s just fine. Adeline’s getting her all fixed up, and then you can go see her okay?” Dan continued to calm his children.
She nodded and timidly touched Halia’s tiny hand.
“Hi, baby Halia,” she whispered in awe. “I’m Aida, and I’m your big sister,” she informed her sweetly. Everyone moved closer to see the girls together.
Governor Haydenshire slapped Dan on the back as he handed Garrett a hanker-chief to wipe away Aida’s tears.
“Is Mommy okay?” Aida pled again suddenly.
“She’s perfect, baby. She wants to see you,” Dan promised her.
Halia’s eyes opened hesitantly delighting Aida.
“Hi,” she offered again with a broad grin.
“You have a beautiful family, Daniel,” Governor Haydenshire vowed.
“Thank you,” Dan choked, still unable to believe he’d gotten where he was.
“Nice work, man,” Garrett nodded his agreement.
“Yeah, well, believe me, Fi did all the hard stuff.”
“I want to hold her,” Aida begged.
Garrett raised his eyebrows in question. Dan nodded and stood moving Halia back to his shoulder. Garrett arranged Aida in the chair as she bit her lip swinging her legs in excitement.
Dan knelt down again and keeping Halia in his arms let Aida cradle her tenderly.
“I’m holding her,” she gasped to Emily who beamed at them both.
“She looks like you,” Governor Vindico chided as he watched the girls.
Dan chuckled, “Poor kid.”
“Could we get some pictures out of that? I’m so freaking tired of people asking me if she’s mine.” Garrett rolled his eyes.
“No pictures for a while, but I’ll see what we can do to assure the Realm that Fionna’s baby was, in fact, mine,” Dan huffed.
“You think that’s bad,” Governor Haydenshire edged away from Aida. “They keep asking me if I’ll love and accept Fionna Styler’s baby. Now tell me, how exactly am I supposed to answer that?” he spat. “I mean, of course I love and accept her. She’s yours,” he gestured from Halia to Dan. “But she isn’t my granddaughter if that’s what they’re getting at.”
“Sorry, sir,” Dan was too exhausted to come up with a plan for the press.
Rainer shook his head. “They’re already out there. Someone from the hospital called when you checked Fi in last night. I’d keep them both in the room if I were you.”
Dan nodded. “I need to get back in there. They’re doing an intense cast on Fi trying to heal everything.”
“I want to keep her with me,” Aida announced.
“Let me take her back to Mommy for a little while, then you can come and stay with us. We’ll let everyone else see Mommy, too,” he negotiated.
Aida nodded her begrudged agreement as Dan stood lifting Halia back up in the crook of his arms.
“How much did she weigh? She’s so tiny,” Kara moved in to see her newest niece.
“Uh, four pounds eleven ounces,” Dan recalled as he began bouncing Halia gently.
Governor Vindico grinned. “Well, you’ve got that down,” he gestured to Dan’s swaying form. “We’re so proud for you, son, and we do want to see Fionna.”
“Let me go get them settled.”
Over the next two hours Dan casted Fionna through a dramatic healing process, learned to change a diaper, which ended up with him having to change clothes as well, learned about diaper rash cream, how to rub alcohol on Halia’s umbilical cord stump, watched Fionna give their little girl a second bottle, then changed another diaper. But by the time that was over, Fionna looked dramatically better. Dan laid Halia in her mother’s arms after helping Fionna pull on a large sweatshirt and sweatpants along with socks. She declared that Kara was not only brilliant but was also a lifesaver. Fionna’s rhythms were still wavering dramatically, and she was having a difficult time regulating her own temperature.
Dan raced out to the waiting room to find Aida. She was in a fort constructed of chairs and couch cushions along with Garrett, Rainer, Logan, and Governor Vindico. Dan laughed heartily as he took this all in.
“You were gone a long time.” Aida looked thoroughly put out as she climbed out of her fort.
“I’m sorry, baby girl.” Time did seem oddly variable. He couldn’t seem to keep up.
Aida sat on the bed with Fionna and Halia while a steady stream of people moved through their room. All of the grandparents held Halia. Dan’s mother fed her a bottle, and Fionna’s stepmother burped her and rocked her back to sleep. Rainer and Logan brought Dan copious amounts of food. They didn’t seem too comfortable being in the room with Fionna so soon after giving birth.
“Okay, why is Rainer afraid of me?” Fionna asked Emily after Rainer made another escape. Emily giggled hysterically.
“Oh, you know, because he knows what part of you Halia just came out of, and it freaks him out. He and Logan have the combined maturity of a five-year-old.”
Tuttle and Lindley made an appearance near dinner time. They brought a present for Halia much to Dan’s surprise. His impressed hopefulness quickly abated as Fionna lifted two pink onesies from the gift bag.
“My God, Lindley. Are you serious?” Dan growled. The first onesie had “Daddy told Mommy he loved her,” on the front and “that’s how I got made.” On the back. Shaking her head Fionna moved on to the second that declared “If you’re cute, I’ll let you change my diaper.” Infuriated wrath poured from Dan as he jerked the outfits out of Fionna’s hand.
“This is offensive,” Dan spat effectively startling Halia and making her cry.
Dan scooped her out of Garrett’s arms where she’d been sleeping soundly. Fionna looked exhausted and Dan had, had enough.
Kara stepped in. “Aida would you like to come spend the night with Uncle Zach and me?” She knew Dan was on the brink of throwing everyone out of the room anyway.
“We’re going to go,” Mrs. Haydenshire decreed as she and the Governor kissed Fionna good-bye.
“Halia gets to stay here with Mommy,” Aida fussed. “I want to stay too please.”
Governor Vindico stepped in. “How about this, my sweet girl,” he soothed, “Why don’t you and me and Grandma go back to your house and we’ll stay with you there. Then tomorrow morning we could go out and get some breakfast, and I think we should go to the book store. You could get some new books and a few that you could read to Halia. Then we’ll come back up here, and you can show her what you picked out,” he baited knowing Aida’s love for books might convince her to go back home.
“Okay,” Aida agreed, looking very pleased with the plan.
“Thanks, Dad,” Dan whispered.
“And I can bring Sophie to meet Halia,” Aida strategized.
“Of course,” Governor Vindico urged.
Dan walked Aida out to his parents Land Rover and promised to take care of Fionna for her. He had to sprint back into Georgetown as the press circled like vultures.
By the time he made it back to Fionna’s room, Halia was screaming, and Fionna was easing herself from the bed. She was holding Halia and trying to reach the bottles to heat them.
“Baby,” Dan leapt as he fixed the bottle and took Halia in one quick move.
“Adeline said I need to walk around. Everything inside of me feels like Jell-o,” she fussed.
“Okay,” Dan shushed Halia as he began feeding her again. “Let me get her fed, and then we can walk around a little.”
“I want to feel normal. I want to take her home and be there with Aida and just not be here,” Fionna huffed.
He brushed a kiss on her forehead. “A few hours ago you gave birth to our beautiful little girl, so, for me, because it made me tired just watching what you went through doing that, please rest for a couple of days. Let’s let Halia get used to the world outside of you and maybe try to get a little sleep okay?”
“I had a lot of help with the whole process, Mr. Vindico,” she reminded him.
“You were absolutely amazing,” Dan vowed. He’d done nothing by his own estimations.
Adeline poked her head in. “How about if Halia and I go to the nursery for a few minutes and let the pediatrician give her a check up? I won’t let her out of my sight. And you and Dan can take a very slow walking tour of the maternity ward. Then if you still want me to cast you again before you go to sleep, I will,” she offered Fionna.
“I do. I want to feel normal again,” Fionna pled.
“That’s going to take several weeks. Don’t push it or it will be longer,” Adeline warned.
“Keep telling her that,” Dan urged.