Liam and Jareth have been married for eight years and realize they want a child. Things do not go very well when they try to adopt through agencies, with terrible accusations thrown at Jareth. After taking time to recover, they proceed with a private adoption, bringing home a beautiful little girl, Carinae. Then things get really ugly, endangering not only Liam's life, but Carinae's.
Dr Liam Manning paced as he and his husband Jareth Manning bided their time in the hospital waiting room. Jamie Manning's wife, Patty, was in labor with their first child, and she was a month early. When Jamie had called with the news of Patty's pregnancy, Liam had made a point to learn everything he could about the pregnancy of a human female. The risks he'd learned about were terrifying. Pre-eclampsia. Placental abruption. Gestational diabetes. Strokes from blood clots. Weight gain and high blood pressure. Broken bones from falls caused by loss of balance due to the terribly distended abdomen. Sterilization caused by miscarriage. Difficulty in getting pregnant again due to scarring caused by miscarriage. Why did women allow this to happen to themselves?
Jareth got up from the hard plastic chair he'd been sitting in and grabbed Liam, pulling him into a comforting hug. "Patty will be fine, baby." Jareth ran his hand up and down Liam's spine.
"But the baby is five weeks early, Jareth. What if the baby's lungs aren't developed enough? What if Patty hemorrhages? Women die in childbirth, what will Jamie do? What about--" Liam blinked when Jareth gently but firmly covered his mouth, silencing him.
"Honey, you have to think positive. Yes, all those things are risks, but this is a good hospital and it has one of the best neo-natal units in the world. Yes, the baby is too early, but they can take care of him. Patty will be fine, little Jacob will be fine. You have to believe that, Liam," Jareth said softly, before leaning down to give him a soft kiss.
Liam nodded after they drew back, then laid his head against Jareth's chest, listening to his heartbeat. They stayed that way until they heard a sound and turned to look. Jamie stood there in the door.
"I'm a father!" he said breathlessly, looking unkempt, scared, and elated all at the same time.
Jareth and Liam let go of each other and moved to Jamie, who grabbed onto them as they reached out to hug him. Jamie cried as they held him, and Liam found himself in tears as well.
Jareth murmured softly, then pulled back. "Patty? The baby?"
"Babies," Jamie corrected, laughing. "Twins! A boy and a girl! Patty's fine, tired, but fine. She's asleep already, 'cause they had to do a C-section. C'mon, you gotta come see my babies."
Liam and Jareth hugged and congratulated Jamie, and Liam found himself breathing more easily but very confused. "How did you not know that you were having twins?"
Jamie laughed as they followed him out and to the nursery ward. "The doctor thinks she was hiding behind her brother..." He shook his head. "She says it happens sometimes. The babies are small, and they'll need to be here for at least a week, but she says they should be fine."
"But what about their lungs?" Liam asked as they stopped to look through the window into the nursery. There were a few rows of warming baskets, but only three babies, none of whom looked like Jamie or Patty. "Where are they?"
"They have them in the preemie ward, this way," Jamie answered, moving on to another door and entering it. Liam looked around closely, seeing all the latest equipment for caring for premature infants. Nurses bustled back and forth, murmuring softly to babies as they cared for them or taking notes. A nurse came forward, handing them masks, which they all hurriedly put on.
"Mr Manning, your twins are over here."
"They are together, right?" Liam asked. "Because I've read that twins in natal units do best when kept together, especially when their health may be compromised."
The nurse smiled at them. "You must be Dr Manning, the brother-in-law. You're right, research and experience does indicate that unless one has a communicable disease, it's best to try to keep twins and other multiple births together as much as possible. Jacob and Janet are right over here."
Liam flushed, and to his surprise, the nurse touched his arm gently. "Don't be embarrassed, it's good that you're aware of what they may need."
Liam smiled back as Jareth draped an arm around his shoulders and kissed the top of his head. Jamie grinned. The nurse led them over to a larger incubator, and Liam could see two tiny babies, very red and wrinkly looking. They both appeared to have some kind of waxy substance on their skin, and he remembered that was normal, that it protected their fragile skin from the amniotic fluid before birth. They were tiny, tinier than he would have expected, even for being premature. He watched as the nurse directed Jamie to put his now gloved hands into the incubator to touch them gently. When did Jamie get gloves?
"Aren't they beautiful?" Jamie asked softly, staring at his children as he touched them, tracing his fingers over their faces as they slept. Both had little tubes that ran into their noses.
"Yes they are," someone else answered. Liam looked to see a tall man come forward. "I'm Dr Hearst, the obstetric pediatrician."
Jamie looked at him but didn't withdraw his hands. "How are they?"
"Well, other than their lungs being a little undeveloped, they are in perfect health. A little underweight, but again, that's because they're early. A little time and TLC, they'll be just fine. They will need to be monitored, of course, and I will recommend a specialist for that before they leave the hospital. They'll be able to go home just as soon as their lungs catch up," the doctor answered as he stopped on the other side of the incubator.
Liam watched, listening as Jamie asked more questions and the doctor or nurse answered, then Jamie gestured toward Liam and Jareth both. "C'mon, you can touch them."
The nurse held out a box of gloves to them. Liam looked up at Jareth, terrified. They were so tiny. Surely, they shouldn't be handled too much?
Jareth smiled. "It's okay, baby. You won't hurt them."
"I've never touched a baby before," Liam answered nervously. He took a pair of gloves and put them on, looking nervously at Jamie, who smiled.
"Sure you have, Liam," Jamie answered. "You took care of Empress when she was a kitten. You've handled Princess and the other kittens just fine. It's the same idea, brother."
Warmth went through Liam, as it always did when Jamie called him brother. Jareth's family had wholeheartedly accepted Liam into their ranks, never making him feel unimportant or lacking. They never tried to make him feel like Loren had been a better husband to Jareth than Liam, either. In the years he and Jareth had been married, Liam had finally learned what true family was like.
Tentatively, he stepped up to the incubator, put his hands inside, and touched Jacob's foot. He assumed it was Jacob because the baby had a blue cap on his head, while the other had a pink one. The baby's foot felt incredibly fragile as he touched it, then he reached to trace over the baby's leg and gently grasped his little hand, smiling when the baby's fingers curled around his. Carefully, he reached to touch Janet, grinning when her fingers curled around his just as her brother's had done. A few minutes later, Jareth traded places with him, and he watched his husband's face light up with tenderness as he admired the twins. Suddenly, he wondered about that.
"Jareth, do you want children?" he asked, without considering that maybe they should talk about this privately.
Jareth looked at him and didn't even blink, just smiled. Liam could tell by the way Jareth's eyes crinkled at the sides. "It's something to talk about later."