Spoilers: Brief references to EOTW and ARCC.
Disclaimer: I hereby do solemnly disavow any ownership of the entity known as "Roswell".
Dedication: g/\9 bac. Bbi zHaume warum.
Feedback: I live for your comments. Please give me feedback.
Thanks, as always, to Bennie for her encouragement and assistance. And thanks to Melt for her feedback as to what 1-year-olds can and cannot do, lol.
"Iz, it's me. Liz just paged me -- she's on her way to the hospital."
"Oh my god, Max! For real?"
"I … I think so. I called over there right away, and Maria answered. She told me in no uncertain terms that I had better get my butt over to the hospital pronto if I know what's good for me."
Isabel laughed. "That sounds like Maria, all right. She driving Liz over?"
"Yeah, she and Michael are both with her." Max's voice started spiraling up with anxiety.
"Max, calm down. Everything will be fine. Look, you want me and Tess to take you? You don't sound like you're in any shape to be driving."
The relief in Max's voice was instantaneous. "Would you, Iz? I … I know it's stupid, but I'm so nervous and excited I don't know what I'm doing. And it would mean a lot for us to have the whole gang there."
"Not a problem. I'll call Alex, too. Have you called Kyle?"
"Yep. He'll be there as soon as he finishes with his current patient. Of all the Saturdays, he had to work this one."
Isabel chuckled again. "At least he can just walk over. Sit tight -- we'll be at your place in 10 minutes."
"OK. Thanks, Iz."
"Hey, I wouldn't miss the birth of my niece or nephew for anything."
One year earlier…
Max breathed a sigh of relief as his last client closed the door behind her. He tidied up his office and treatment room, then locked the door and trudged up the stairs to the main floor of the house. Starting his own business had been a risk, but ultimately a successful one -- he now had almost more massage therapy clients than he knew what to do with. Well, he wasn't complaining. Not much anyway. Success had its price too -- he was beat.
He felt much better when he came up the stairs and saw that Kyle had gotten home already.
"Hey," he said, brightening.
"Hey." Kyle looked dispiritedly up from his beer.
"What's the matter? Lose the game?" Max leaned over and gave Kyle a kiss before pulling out his own chair and dropping bonelessly into it.
"Nah. Those kids are great. We pounded the PeeWee Panthers." Kyle coached the local kids' teams after work. Baseball, basketball… whatever was in season. Right now it was football.
"So what's the matter, then?"
Kyle turned his blue gaze on Max. "This'll sound kind of stupid but… just seeing all those great kids running off to celebrate with their parents… I wish we had kids."
Kyle snorted wryly. "Who would've thought it? Me, Valenti, the campus badass, getting all depressed because he doesn't have any runny-nosed rugrats to take care of."
"Well, I can't say it seemed likely when I first met you…." Max cracked, but then he sobered. "You know, we've talked about it before, casually, but maybe it's time we started thinking about kids more seriously."
"Oh, sure. I'll just chuck my Pills and we'll get right to it!"
"I know, I know… it's not that easy." Max looked thoughtful. "We could always adopt."
"I know how you feel about adoption, Evans, and it's a great system, I'm sure. But wouldn't you like to have your own kids? I've heard you complain enough times that you wish you'd known your *real* parents. So wouldn't you like your kids to know their real parents -- you?"
"Kyle, you know I can't have kids -- I can't risk passing my DNA on to a child. Too dangerous. I can't."
"So, what are you suggesting, Kyle?" Max paled a little and looked at Kyle with a pained expression. "Are you leaving me so you can have a child?"
"No!" Kyle leapt up from the kitchen table and started pacing around the room. "I don't know what I'm suggesting, Max. But I'm not like you. I can't just sit and wait for things to happen. I see a problem, I want to tackle it head on, you know?"
Max remained in his seat, watching silently as Kyle vented his frustration. He'd been pretty sure Kyle wouldn't really leave him, not after all they'd been through together already, but it was reassuring to hear it once in a while. He'd have been a good match for Michael, they're both men of action, said an amused voice in the back of his head. Yeah, he answered himself, except for the fact that Michael's straight and unquestionably devoted to Maria. And anyway, they probably would have killed each other with their stubborn, head-on approaches. One impulsive personality per household is enough.
Max’s thoughts wandered to the rest of the people in their group. Even though the constant assault from Feds, Skins, and other assorted threats had ebbed somewhat in recent years, they all had agreed it was safer to stay within earshot of each other. Safety in numbers and all that. They had gone to various colleges and technical schools within a 2-hour radius of San Francisco, and now lived even closer together in the Oakland and Berkeley suburbs. Michael was considered a hot new talent in the art world and Maria served as his publicist, in between singing gigs. Alex, who sometimes accompanied Maria on his guitar, worked for a dot-com. Tess had found her niche in advertising. She always was good at making people see what they wanted to see, Max noted with a smile. Still, she was awfully good for Isabel, there was no denying that. Isabel's own devotion to children had led her to a career as a juvenile social worker, and she often came home in tears over the miserable conditions she had witnessed. Tess was a better queen for Isabel than she had ever been for Max -- she was always supportive, soothing Isabel's woes with a gentle touch. Meanwhile, Liz had, with single-minded determination, achieved her dream job: molecular biologist. And Kyle had turned his lifelong devotion to athletics into a career as a physical therapist at a sports medicine clinic.
Max himself had toyed with a medical career, but had recognized early on that he could not resist the urge to use his healing powers wherever he saw undue suffering. Look what had happened that night in the children's ward, back when he was still in high school. It had practically killed him. In the end he had stayed away from the medical fields, compromising by becoming a massage therapist. It was healing, but not in a way that tempted him to save lives at a cost of his own.
"Earth to Evans, if you'll excuse the expression."
Max jumped to realize that Kyle had stopped pacing and was now staring at him curiously.
"Where'd you go? You were staring off into … well, I hesitate to use the word 'space', but you definitely were somewhere else."
"Oh, I'm sorry, Kyle." Max's ears turned red as they always did when he was embarrassed. "I just got sidetracked. What were you saying?"
Kyle dropped back down into his chair. "Actually, nothing specific. I was mostly just rambling and wondering if there's any possible way to get what I want."
Max touched his hand. "What *we* want, Kyle."
Kyle smiled weakly. "Thanks." Then he got a wicked look in his face. "Hey, I know! We'll ask one of the girls to have a baby for us!" His evil grin faded when he saw the thoughtful look on Max's face return. "Hey, I was only kidding! It wasn't *that* bad a joke -- don't go zoning out on me again, Spaceboy." He gave Max a jab in the arm.
"Ow! I wasn't spacing out on you. I was thinking -- that might not be such a bad idea, you know?"
Kyle gaped. "Have you been drinking? Must be the beer fumes -- you never did get any tolerance for the stuff."
"I'm fine, Kyle. And I was serious when I said that about the girls. But you know what? I'm tired and you're wound up. Maybe we should talk about this later, when we're both calmer."
Kyle scowled and then sighed. "I hate it when you're right, Evans."
"It's not *that* bad, Kyle. Besides"--he looked Kyle up and down appreciatively--"I can think of some things we can do for … relaxation. Well, it involves a bed, at least."
Kyle decided he didn’t need any further persuading.
"I'd like it to be Liz."
"Are you sure? You don't think that would be a little awkward, considering your history and all?"
"Well, it can't be Isabel or Tess, obviously."
"Obviously. What about Maria?"
"I don't think Michael would really go for that. Besides, you know Maria -- any baby she has will probably come out addicted to the smell of cypress oil or something."
Laughter. "True. Well, we're back to Liz, then. Either that or we ask Isabel if she knows of a surrogacy social agency."
"No, no strangers. It needs to be someone we can trust."
"Normally I'd call you paranoid, but in this case I agree." A sigh. "I gotta wonder, though -- Do you think Liz will be willing?"
"Well, there's only one way to find out."
The sound of tapping brought Maria's nose out of her book. Alex is awfully early for practice, she thought as she rose to answer the door.
"Alex, don't you ever check your--" She broke off abruptly when she saw who her real visitor was. "Liz! Girl, I haven't seen you in ages!"
"I know Maria, I'm sorry. The lab keeps me really busy and…" Liz took a deep breath. "I know I've been a little negligent lately, but I really need someone to talk to. Do you have a minute?"
"Sure, of course. You know I'll always make time for you." Maria stepped back to let Liz in.
Liz looked around. "Um ... This is kind of private. Is Michael here?"
"Michael? Oh -- no, he's always down at the studio at this time of afternoon. Likes to work while it's still light out, you know?"
Liz nodded silently. She sat awkwardly on the couch and watched as Maria went to the kitchen to make tea. It might have been a long time since their last chat, but protocol was protocol. To Maria, it just wouldn't have been right without the special herb tea they always drank during their long talks. She handed Liz a steaming mug. "Ok, Girl. Spill it. I haven't seen you this uptight in ages."
"Um … this is going to sound kinda weird, so don't freak out, ok?"
"Weirder than 'there are aliens among us'? Please. Nothing could shock me now." Maria rolled her eyes as she took a sip from her own mug.
"Max and Kyle want me to have a baby for them."
Maria spat out her tea in shock. "They what?!"
"You said you wouldn't freak out!"
"I lied." Maria swiped a dishtowel from the kitchen and hurriedly blotted the tea off her shirt and the coffee table. "I'm fine now. Really. This sounds good -- keep talking!" She resumed her place on the sofa.
"Maria, this is serious. Seems like they really want kids and they don't want to adopt one. They want me to have one for them."
"By yourself? That'll be a neat trick."
"No, with Kyle. Well, not *with* Kyle. We wouldn't sleep together or anything. But they don't want to use Max's … uh … genes because of -- you know…."
"Because they don't want a baby with green skin. I understand. Go on."
"Well, that's pretty much it. But now I don't know what I should do."
Maria thought a moment. "Well, didn't Grandma Claudia tell you to follow your heart?"
"Yes, but it's not that simple. I'd have to be pregnant, and go through all those changes and doctor visits and stuff, and then give the baby up in the end."
"Would they let you be involved at all?"
"Sure, I guess. I mean, we already do almost everything together anyway, you know? But it would still be *their* baby. I'd just be Aunt Liz or something like that."
"Yeah, but 'Aunt Liz' can be a cool thing to be -- you'd get to spoil the baby and teach it things that men never think of -- like how not to wipe your mouth on your sleeve."
Liz took another sip of tea and smiled, sensing Maria had personal experience with a certain man who engaged in similar behavior.
"And when the baby gets cranky or needs a clean diaper or something," Maria went on, "you get to hand it over to them and go on your merry way."
"True…" Liz said slowly. “But it's still an awfully big decision. Millions of things can go wrong in pregnancy, Maria, both to the mother and the baby. I'd feel horrible if something happened."
"And I'm sure they'd feel horrible if something happened to *you*, Liz. They care for you an awful lot, you know. They wouldn't have asked you if they didn't."
"I know. Besides, I thought of something else. Locked up in the lab as much as I am, I don't really get a chance to meet many guys. At least, not many guys who aren't walking around with pocket protectors. Who knows how long it'll be before I meet someone and have my own family? I might never get another chance to experience pregnancy."
"Liz, don't sell yourself short. There's a perfect guy out there for you, one that's not gay, alien, or dweeby. You'll find him soon, I'm sure of it."
"Yeah, and if I'm pregnant, they'll just be knocking down my door to date me." Liz rolled her eyes.
"So it's a minor delay. But we're getting off-topic here, my dear. Can I assume from your remarks that you've made a decision?"
Liz sobered. "Oh, Maria, I don't know. I want to … but then I get scared. What if I can't do it -- give the baby up?"
"Chica, I can't answer that for you. But I can tell you this -- in all the time I've known you, I've never seen you shrink away from doing something when it was asked of you and it was for a good cause. Even if it caused you some pain in the beginning. It's like you're incapable of refusing to help. Look what you did when you were still sort of dating Max back in high school -- you risked destroying your friendship forever to save the world. I know you, Girl. You would risk your life to save either of them, to save anyone you love. And I know you love them -- not romantically like you used to, of course, but you love them all the same, as friends. You see what happened? The pain you felt when you hurt Max then, or when you hurt Kyle before that has healed and become something better and stronger than anything you or I could have imagined at the time. You three are true friends, almost better than you and I are." Maria held up her hand to forestall Liz's protests. "That's not a criticism. It's just a different kind of friendship. The point is, Liz, that all the painful periods in your life have ended up bringing you the most happiness in the end.
Now, answer me this. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream, chocolate or vanilla?"
"Maria, what does this have to do with--"
"Just answer the question, Liz, trust me. Chocolate or vanilla?"
"Vanilla. But you knew--"
"Which is better, books or movies?"
"Truthfulness or tact?"
"Will you have a baby for them, yes or no?"
Liz flipped through the tattered magazine without seeing the articles, and then put it back down. She straightened the magazine so it lay neatly on the pile, then adjusted it again.
Liz turned to look at Kyle. "Not really, why?"
Kyle grinned. "Because I've never seen you so jumpy. Not even when you were getting ready to defend your thesis."
Liz smiled ruefully. "Ok, maybe a little. I just don't like doctors’ offices. Not that I'm not still willing to do this -- I am, I am," she went on hurriedly. "It's just… unknown territory, you know? I'm glad you came with me."
"Hey, I'm the one that asked you to do this for us. It's the least I can do to come along for the actual procedure. Besides, you should have seen me when I had to come and … uh … cough up my genetic material. More pressure to perform than any all-star football game!" They both laughed, easing some of the tension.
Kyle added, more seriously, "I'm just sorry that the in vitro doesn't have a very high initial success rate. You might have to do this more than once, you know."
"I know. I'll be all right. I’ve already been here several times while they tried to figure out the timing of my cycle."
They sat in a companionable silence for a few minutes, then Liz turned to Kyle again. "You know, you and I have got to have the strangest friendship ever," Liz said with a smile. "We dated, we broke up, we pretended to sleep together but we never actually did it. And now, without sleeping together, I'm going to have your baby!"
"Ah, the wonders of modern science," Kyle cracked. "But seriously, Liz, we can't thank you enough. I know the three of us have had some weird times in the past--"
"Yes, Kyle," Liz interrupted. "In the past. All that matters to me now is that we're still friends. And I *want* to do this for you, really. I want you guys to be happy."
Just then the office door opened. "Elizabeth Parker!" barked the nurse.
"I'll see you when it's over," Kyle told Liz's retreating back.
"Merry Christmas! Come on in, everyone." Isabel threw the door open wide enough that Santa and his sleigh could have followed in the group's wake.
"Hey, great decorating job as always, guys," Alex said, looking around.
"Tell that to Isabel, not me. I'm just here to hold up the ornament charts while she decorates," Tess said with a laugh. The rest of them joined in, and Isabel had the grace not to take offense.
“So, when are you guys going back to visit the parents?” Alex asked, changing the subject.
“Day after tomorrow,” Isabel answered. The four of us” she pointed at herself, Tess, Max and Kyle, “are flying together. Makes the most sense since there’s only two households involved to come pick us up at the airport. What about you?”
Maria piped up, “We’re leaving tomorrow night. But I got the impression that we’ll be seeing you four there quite a bit since my mom has all but moved in with Kyle’s dad.”
Kyle rolled his eyes. “I know. Mush galore.” He sighed. “You know, I was a lot happier when I believed I’d been brought by the stork and my parents never engaged in that sort of behavior.”
Maria laughed. “Tell me about it.”
“What about you, Liz?” Isabel asked.
“Oh, well, Alex and I decided to combine forces too. Our parents are coming here, and we’re going up to the mountains for a few days.”
“So, guys,” Tess interrupted, “are we gonna stand around and talk all evening, or shall we actually eat all this food I slaved over?”
After Tess’s wonderful meal they sat in the tinsel-bedecked living room to open presents.
Liz held hers back until the end. “Merry Christmas, guys,” she said, handing Max and Kyle a small box and a card.
Max opened the card and started reading aloud, while Kyle tackled the elaborate ribbon bow.
“Merry Christmas…” Max’s voice trailed off and he looked at Liz. She nodded. He tried again, his voice cracking a little. “Merry Christmas, Daddy,” he read, as Kyle pulled a pair of baby booties out of the box. They both stared at Liz in amazement.
“It … it worked? On the first try?”
“Yep.” Liz smiled, pleased. “I have to admit, though – I … um … ‘helped’ a little.”
“Helped? Helped how?” Max looked confused.
“Well, I remembered those exercises you and Tess taught me a long time ago, about concentrating my energies and all that. You know, after I found out that you ‘changed’ me. So, anyway, when they did the procedure, I focused hard on that part of my body, making it more likely that everything ‘took.’”
Tess smiled. “Well, that’s a use of powers I hadn’t anticipated when I taught you. But, like you said, it seems to have worked!” She turned to face the two fathers-to-be. “Congratulations!”
They beamed, then turned back to Liz. “Thank you again, Liz, so much,” Max stammered. “This is the best Christmas present, ever. How long have you known?”
“About three weeks. You’ve got until August 17 to get ready,” Liz grinned. “And don’t thank me yet – you may be sorry you asked me to do this when I start whining to you about morning sickness or aching backs and swollen ankles!”
Everyone laughed. “I’ll take care of any aching backs, Liz,” Max replied. “As for the rest … well, complain away. That’s what friends are for – to take care of each other.”
“Speak for yourself, Maxwell,” Michael joked. “I’d just as soon not have Liz barfing in my apartment.”
Maria elbowed him sharply. “Please excuse my Neanderthal here. Liz, you are welcome with us no matter *what* the circumstances. Besides … a baby! Ooooh… I can’t wait!” She turned to Isabel and Tess. “We should get started right away, planning a baby shower for these guys.”
Kyle rolled his eyes. “I think we’ve got some time. August is a long ways off.”
Kyle paced outside Liz’s room. “How’d it get to be August already? I’m not ready. What was I thinking? I don’t know anything about being a dad!”
“Kyle, calm down,” Max said from where he stood leaning against the corridor wall. “I’ve heard that everyone feels this way at first. We’ll learn. And my mom said she’d come to help out, too.”
Kyle looked at him. “How can you be so calm? You’re driving me crazy!”
“I’m not calm, Kyle. You should have seen me when I first got Liz’s page – I was a total wreck! But it doesn’t do any good to have us *both* be wrecks, so I’m taking my turn at calming *you* down.” Max smiled wryly. “Then I’ll be free to go back to being a wreck myself.”
Kyle’s retort was cut off when Isabel poked her head back out into the hallway. “They’ve finished placing her epidural, guys. You can come back in if you want.”
Max heaved a sigh of relief. “Thank heavens.” He lowered his voice. “It was killing me to see her in pain when I couldn’t do anything to ‘help’ her.”
The two men filed back into the room. After a minute, Isabel stuck her head out again and looked at Michael and Alex, who were still standing outside. “What’s keeping you guys? Naked nurses walking by or something?”
Alex looked a little uncomfortable. “Um … well, it’s all well and good for Max and Kyle to be in there, since they’re the fathers and all, but umm…”
“Computer boy here isn’t too keen on blood,” Michael interrupted. “So I thought I’d keep him company out here. Besides, he’s got a point – there’s some things about Liz I think I’d rather not know, you know?”
“You sure? ‘Cause Liz was asking where you’d gone.”
“Yeah. Tell Liz I’m sorry, but I think I’d only ruin the ‘miracle of birth’ if I puked all over the floor during junior’s arrival.”
“Point taken. Ok, well, we’ll keep you posted.” Isabel ducked back inside.
The hours ticked by slowly. Michael bought a deck of cards at the gift shop and he and Alex played a few rounds of gin in the waiting-room alcove down the hall. Then, finally, at 5:03 in the morning, they heard running footsteps.
“You guys!” Maria burst in like a whirlwind. “He’s here, he’s here! Six pounds, 15 ounces and he’s the cutest thing you’ve ever seen! Come on!”
“He? It’s a boy?” Alex asked.
“Yes, it’s a boy, chowderhead. What part of ‘he’ didn’t you understand? They’re going to call him James Philip after the grandfathers.”
Michael turned to Alex. “Pay up. I told you it was a boy.”
Alex sighed as he pulled out his wallet. “Are you sure you didn’t cheat, do some sort of mindmeld with the baby or something?”
“No, I did not. I’ll have you know I’m just very intuitive,” Michael said as he stuffed the money into his pocket.
Maria rolled her eyes. “Guys, do we really have to do this now? Come on, come on, let’s get moving!”
As they followed her down the hall, Michael muttered, “Hell hath no fury like a woman kept from going all googly over a baby…” but he cut off his tirade when he saw the scene before him.
Max and Kyle had pulled up chairs next to Liz’s bed. Max held the blanket-wrapped bundle gingerly in his muscular arms as Kyle and Liz leaned over him protectively. Tess, Isabel and Maria stood on Liz’s other side and were making small waving gestures and cooing noises in the baby’s direction.
Michael found himself hard-pressed not to go all ‘googly’ himself. He hadn’t been around many babies, but he had to admit that Maria could very well be correct. James Philip Valenti was possibly the cutest baby Michael had ever seen, with his button nose, pink cheeks, and shock of dark hair.
“Hey, Jamie,” Max was murmuring to his son. “Look who’s here. It’s your family.”
“Well, except for me,” Alex spoke up. “I’m more like the ‘family friend’”
“No, Alex, you too.” Max pried his eyes away from the little cocoon to look at Alex before turning his gaze on the rest of the room’s occupants. “After everything we’ve been through over the years, we’re all family.”
“I agree,” Kyle said, as he reached out a finger to stroke the baby’s cheek. “I admit it, Jamie, it’s a pretty weird family,” he winked at the group, “unbelievably weird in some ways, but it’s a good one. Just ignore the fact that some of your aunts, an uncle, and your other dad have been known to cook a hot dinner without using the stove!”
One year later….
“Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday dear Jamieeeee
Happy birthday to you.”
“You look like a monkey—ow!” Michael grunted as Maria poked him in the ribs again. “Hey, what good is it being an uncle if you can’t teach the kid a few stupid songs?”
“Go on, Jamie, blow out the candle,” Isabel urged. Max and Kyle leaned over and helped their son extinguish the flame. Jamie shrieked in glee and immediately grabbed some cake with a small fist. Before long, icing and cake crumbs were everywhere.
“Come here, sweetheart,” Liz said, kneeling down by his high chair. “Let Aunt Liz clean you off.” Jamie squirmed beneath the damp cloth, and as soon as she was done, Liz let him down. He was off in an instant, crawling straight for the pile of brightly wrapped presents. The baby had taken his first tentative steps a few weeks earlier, but for speed he still preferred all fours.
Jim Valenti intercepted his grandson and scooped him up. “Hey, Tiger, not so fast. I’ll have to write you up for speeding if you’re not careful.” He was rewarded with a big, innocent smile.
“That’s ok, Dad” Kyle told him. “We might as well let him open the presents now and get all the mess over with at once.”
Jamie grabbed a flat package and started banging it on the ground. Max reached down and gently pried it out of the birthday boy's chubby fingers before any damage could be done to the contents.
“Actually,” Diane Evans told her son, “that’s more for you than for him, anyway. I thought you might like it in his room.”
Max pulled his son onto his lap and undid the wrappings. It was an enlarged picture that had been taken when Jamie was just a few weeks old. There they were, all together: Max, Kyle and Jamie, surrounded by Tess and Isabel, Maria and Michael, Alex, Liz, and all the grandparents. Max held the picture higher to see what had been etched into the decorative wood frame:
|DC Slash||Harry Potter||Ros. Hetero||Ros. Slash||Ros. Other|