“I haven’t heard from Malcolm in six days,” Lili sighed as the transport swayed and rocked and Marie Patrice was fussing more than nursing and Joss was jumping up and down and wondering if they were there yet and Doug was engrossed in his PADD.
“Huh?” her husband finally asked.
“I said; I haven’t heard from Malcolm in nearly a week. I’m getting a little worried.”
“Mackum!” Joss exclaimed. “Are we there yet?”
“No, not quite,” Lili said, “we have another few hours to go.”
“Lemme see your PADD a sec,” Doug said, “Maybe some setting’s off and you’re not getting messages.” She gave him a look. “Just humor me, okay? We’ll rule it out as a possibility.”
“Okay,” she said, balancing the baby and fishing around in her purse for her PADD. “Here. Okay, now, Marie Patrice, let’s see if you’re done.” She tried one more time to get her almost four month old daughter to nurse, but the infant was having none of it.
“Big ship,” said Joss. He was only a little under a year and a half old, but was a lot closer in development to a three-year-old. It was the Mirror Universe genes, from Doug.
“Yes,” Lili said for the umpteenth time, “It’s a really big ship.”
Doug looked over her PADD. “I don’t know why you’re complaining. You’ve got a note from him every single day.”
“You didn’t open them.”
“Of course not,” he said, “that’s private, between you and Reed. I don’t expect you to open any notes Melissa and I write to each other, either, yanno.”
“Missa!” Joss exclaimed.
“Yes, Melissa,” Doug said, articulating, “We are going to see her and Norri. Melissa is going to have your little brother, Tommy, uh, soon.”
“Doug,” Lili said, “Those notes aren’t real notes.”
“He has it rigged so that I get a fake note any day when he can’t write. It just says,” she read off, “If you are receiving this, it means I cannot write today. But rest assured I am thinking of you.”
“Oh. And you’ve gotten six of those in a row?” Doug asked. He started drumming his fingers on the armrest of his seat, getting almost as antsy as their son.
“Yeah,” Lili said, “and I haven’t gotten a visual message for even longer.”
“Well, the Romulan War’s going on, Lili. You can’t expect him to be able to get on a viewer. Plus the communications buoys might be out.”
“What if he’s hurt, or worse?” she asked, getting a little teary. The baby, picking up on the stress, began to howl.
“’Ommy sad?” Joss asked.
“Yes, so give me a big, big hug, okay?”
He complied and then walked around a little, looking at other children on the transport. There was a Tandaran girl of maybe six who was reading out loud from some story on a PADD. A Tellarite boy was playing with an armrest, picking at it, seeing if he could do some damage. A pair of Vulcan girls was engaging in meditation. Joss came back after the rounds. “Are we there yet?”
“Almost,” Doug said, “Come here and look out the window.” He hoisted Joss onto his lap and the toddler peered out. “See that? That’s Saturn. And see that big moon over there, Titan? That’s where Mommy grew up.”
“Yes, Mommy.” A few more minutes passed. “Okay, you see this big planet here? This is Jupiter. And that moon over there, that’s Ganymede. That’s where I grew up.”
“No,” he said, “that isn’t Grammy Belinda. And, uh, you might not want to say that to her when you meet her.”
Lili looked up, eyes a little swollen. “Sorry,” she said, “I want to be supportive and I know this is big but I can’t help being worried.”
“It’s okay,” Doug said, “I know if there was something wrong with Melissa, that you’d be there for me. So I’m gonna be there for you, I swear.” They kissed.
“Eww!” Joss exclaimed as the baby, finally, quieted down.
When they finally landed on Ceres, it was late and everyone was tired. Leonora Digiorno was there to greet them. “Where’s Melissa?” Doug asked.
“She’s at the Med Center. Labor started early.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Doug was a bit peeved.
“What were you gonna do about it?” Norri asked, “Now, c’mon, it’s still pretty early. Her folks are there. Mine are coming, too. Man, oh man, it is gonna be one crowded delivery room, not to mention the labor room. But I suppose this is what we get with our arrangement.”
Norri drove as the rest of them sat there. As before, Doug was antsy, and this time he drummed his fingers on the dashboard as he occasionally exhorted Norri to drive faster.
As Norri had predicted, the labor room was crowded. Introductions were made as quickly as possible. Lili didn’t really know what to do with herself. Dino, Norri’s father, finally got her a chair. “Can I get you some water?” he asked.
“Uh, sure, thank you,” she said, adjusting Marie Patrice in her arms.
He came back with a plastic cup. “Here, can I hold her?”
“If you don’t mind, thanks.” They traded the cup for Marie Patrice.
He looked down at the baby. “I don’t know how you and I relate to one another, or if we even do. The whole thing is surreal to me.”
“Me, too,” Lili said, “what do you call the child of your spouse’s lover? What does he call me?”
“I don’t know,” Dino said, “and what am I called? Am I Grandpapa? Or Dino? Or just hey you?”
“I don’t think you’re just hey you,” Lili said.
Joss came over. “’Ommy? Where’s Tommy?”
“He isn’t born yet,” Lili said, “Do you want to say hi to Mister Digiorno here?”
“Hi,” Joss said quietly, suddenly shy.
“My boy,” Dino said, “I understand you came over on a very big transport today.”
“Big, big ship.”
“Yes, and did you see a lot of stars as you traveled?”
“What is that?” Dino asked Lili.
“I think he means Saturn.”
“Ah,” Dino said, “and it is very pretty, isn’t it?” He gave Marie Patrice back to Lili. “I have no grandchildren, you see.”
“Well, isn’t Tommy going to be your grandson?”
“I suppose.” Dino replied. “Belinda wants to be everyone’s grandmother. Me, I’m not so sure about the roles and all of that.”
“I think you can be who you want to be,” Lili said, “And maybe the names and all the official things are ultimately a little silly.”
“I don’t know,” he replied. Who was really related to whom? The baby, Tommy, was, biologically, Doug and Melissa’s. His daughter, Leonora, wasn’t involved at all, yet he was somehow expected to be a grandfather. And this little baby girl was wholly unrelated to him, but was Tommy’s half-sister, the child of Lili and Doug. Dino felt he needed a scorecard to keep it all straight.
They waited. And waited. And waited some more.
It was way past midnight, into May the sixth. Lili had set up shop on a few chairs, for diaper changes and the like. Joss slept, on and off, sometimes with his stuffed dinosaur toy on a chair and sometimes on Dino’s lap. Everybody else kept filing in and out of the labor room.
Finally, Belinda Digiorno came out. “This is it. But she only wants Norri and Doug in there,” she explained. The Maddens – Melissa’s parents – came out but they were so exhausted they just melted into chairs and didn’t say anything.
The delivery, fortunately, was fairly quick. Doug came out to fetch all of them. “We have Tommy. And he has Melissa’s hair.” He smiled; eyes crinkly at the edges. He helped Lili to collect all of the diaper bag’s contents and then escorted everyone into the recovery room.
Melissa was sitting up, sweaty brown hair a bit plastered to her head, but with a huge smile on her face. Tommy was quiet, big eyes taking it all in. “Now,” Melissa said, “Look at all of these people! There’s your grandparents – all four of them. And there’s your Daddy. And your Mama Norri. And, and Lili, what do you want to be called?”
“I don’t know.”
“’Ommy,” Joss said.
“Maybe not that,” Lili said quickly, “Maybe just my first name.”
“You’ve got more status than that,” Doug said, coming close to his wife. “How about if he calls you Mom Lili or Mommy Lili or something like that?”
“Too long,” Lili said, “Ma Lili?”
“It makes him sound Appalachian,” Norri said, “And would you,” she bent over to speak to Joss, “call me Ma Norri and call Melissa Ma Melissa?”
“That’s close enough,” Melissa said.
“How long will you stay?” Belinda asked Doug.
“How long?” he asked Lili.
“I know if it were up to you, you’d just stay and stay,” she said, “but I’ve gotta end maternity leave some time and go back to Lafa II and the restaurant. A month, maybe?”
“We can put you up,” Dino said, “You’re, uh, you’re family. I think.”
Lili was about to say something about not wanting to impose when her PADD dinged. She looked at it, juggling Marie Patrice again. Norri ended up taking the baby off her hands.
“Is that another one of those automated messages?” Doug asked.
“No, it’s a visual. Oh, God, it’s just a generic address.” She sat down abruptly.
Doug came over and held her hand. “We’re all in this together,” he said. Everybody else looked over, concerned.
She cautiously opened the recorded message, and a familiar British-accented voice said, “I’ve missed you. I was able to get to the Columbia for messages and a wash. The Enterprise is in for repairs, and then we’ll be back out for the fighting. I suppose Thomas has arrived by now. Please give everyone my best. I love you.”
“What do you call him?” Dino asked.
“Mackum!” Joss exclaimed.
“I suppose that works,” Melissa said, “Hear that, Tommy? Everyone got to be here, somehow.”
“Bright, shiny new people with bright, shiny new relationships,” Lili said.
“Not so new,” Dino said, “I guess we can just call this family.”