Happy Birthday (Invite Only)
Aidan's text had come shortly after 3 in the morning. Lily and Iov had ridden with them in the car to the hospital, offering to help Nikhila, but of course Aidan would have none of it. So they simply followed, Lily's little hand tucked into Iov's, and dutifully took their places in the waiting room.
And waiting was exactly what they did. For over three hours. Lily thought she might have to pry Iov's fingernails out of his leg. Outwardly he seemed calm enough but she knew him well enough to understand just what was going on inside. They weren't the only Kadzait there, but Iov was the one she was focused on. It was every day they became grandparents together. Funny, she didn't feel old enough to be a grandmother.
Just after the sun peeked over the horizon and began spilling in through the windows of the room, a tired but ecstatic-looking Aidan peered around the corner. Every ear in the waiting room seemed to perk up.
Their son just walked up to them, his face not entirely having lost that smug, excited pride. It seemed to fall off, though, when he cleared his throat and made a squeaking pathetic noise. Aidan tried again.
"So. You're grandparents now," he said. "Nikhila and I would love it if you'd come say hello to your grandson Noah. Noah Iov Stafford-Hammerthynn. Kind of a mouthful, yeah? But he'll grow into it."
The response in the room was staggering. Not only were there family there but several of the Pack who were Aidan and Nikhila's friends. A few of Nikhila's co-workers and no small number of the Illamar Aidan had befriended as well. He was nearly buried in a chorus of congratulations and well-wishes.
Lily squeezed Iov's hand and released it, bouncing up from her seat to throw her arms around her son's neck and kiss him joyfully on the cheek. "We'd love to say hello to him," she said, smiling, unashamed of the happy tears that coursed down her cheeks.
Hammer spent the next twenty years raising the heir as his own son, never knowing that Lily's sweet little mismatched eyed boy was really his.
Xeph, long since a grown man, came out and gave the good news. Noah Iov Stafford-Hammerthynn. Lily jumped up into their son's arms excitedly, leaving Hammer sitting on the chair, looking up at them. Hammer felt the gentle touch of his cousin on his shoulder, pulling at him to stand.
"Congratulations, Hams," Brig whispered quietly. "You're a grandfather."
Hammer stood shakily to his feet and tried really hard not to throw up on Brig's shoes.
Out in the waiting room he was hardly embarrassed to have squeaked his first word; he figured as a first-time father he was allowed a little bit of sentimentality. His mother, of course, bounced up to hug him happily. Behind her Hammer stood, looking kind of shell-shocked if Xeph had to guess. He kept his arm around his mother, shaking hands with his friends and family as he turned to face his father.
"So, grandpa. Want to come meet Noah?"
He didn't know what his own father was thinking. Good? Bad? Xeph found himself unconsciously seeking approval. He may have kept his own name the same to avoid confusion among the Pack but little Noah need not suffer the same trouble. He was a Stafford and a Hammerthynn and Xeph and Nikhila had given him a name to reflect that.
"Noah, is it?" Hammer whispered as he pulled away. "Of course - let's go meet my grandson, then."
There were mazol tovs and hoots and cheers, but Brig stood silently as he watched his cousin and best friend escort his only son and future wife beyond the doors to see the new grandson. Brig felt the tears in his eyes and it surprised him.
"Vigo will be sorry he missed this, but he'll be looking forward to seeing the last son."
Brig looked down to his right as Viv moved to stand quietly beside him, keeping her distance but whispering softly.
"I've never known my uncle to react to a birth...any birth. Jameson or Hammerthynn."
Viv shrugged, "He might with this one."
Brig wanted to put his arm around Viv and hug her, but the Pipers were still nearby, screaming their heads off, making the nurses rush in to silence them. Instead, he looked down at her and winked.
"I want like eight kids, you know."
"You tell that to your sixth wife, thank you," Viv replied with a snort.
Labor wasn't a picnic, but then again neither was shifting, labor just took longer. And it didn't matter much now. That she wouldn't remember, it had been a means to an end. Perhaps she had lost her temper a little at one point. One could only be told to push so many times after all. She'd finally growled at the doctor "I -am- pushing."Â?
Aidan, of course, hadn't left her side the whole time, doing whatever he could do to help, keeping her focused and in general being calm, cool, collective and supportive. She'd held his hand most of the time, gripping it so hard that in retrospect she wondered that she hadn't broken, pinched, bruised or otherwise injured him.
Finally though, finally, she felt their son make his way into the world and heard him cry for the first time. She managed not to tear up. Everything else was forgotten for now, nothing mattered but their son she held out her arms and the tiny (relatively) little boy was placed in her arms and she did tear up. He was beautiful, she looked from him to his father and back, almost afraid to touch him finally feathering a touch through the mop of dark hair, along the soft round little cheek, holding the tiny hand. Joy absolute joy.
Finally she let Aidan hold him and her happiness only increased. This was so right, watching him hold their tiny new born son. Tender words of love, pride, the beauty of their son were exchanged as well as soft and loving kisses. Finally she was cleaned up a bit and moved to an actual room. While she made sure that Aidan went to tell his parents.
She was settled into the room holding Noah, still exhausted but not caring, watching the early morning sun creep across his perfect little features and, thanks to werewolf hearing, listening to the shouting of what could only be the Pipers and just smiling softly. When Aidan came back into the room with Lilly and Hammer the perfection of that moment only increased.
"You have a grandson and I think he might be perfect."Â?
Nikhila transferred her smile from Noah to the grandparents. Wanting, needing to share the happiness with someone and still wondering in what they had done; a whole new life, a new pack member, a son, a grandson, a baby. They had done it.
"Congratulations," she said softly, turning her attention to the little bundle in Nikhila's arms. Noah stirred and turned a wrinkly, sleepy face to them, blinking blue-grey eyes once or twice before settling back down.
"Of course he's perfect," she agreed. "You both did a wonderful job, I'm told."
Lily smiled up at Aidan who was leaning against the bed near Nikhila's head, his arm draped gently over her shoulders. Then she glanced at Iov. "There's definitely a family resemblance."
It was said with a little twinkle in her eyes; she found it highly amusing to compare Noah, who didn't resemble anything but an infant, to his grandfather, who was not wrinkly at all and certainly not nearly so tiny.
Within a year he was a father and a grandfather - a family of his own with a future ahead of him. Procreating was expected of Hammerthynns, but the role of father was completely foreign to Hammer. Xeph, as a boy, had been his charge. Very much his Robin to his Batman, as he seemed to recall Xeph labeling it later in life. He had been a father to Xeph without having to deal with the emotional pressure of it. Now looking at Xeph look at his own son, Hammer realized that maybe the confusion that came along with caring for the scraps, in addition to help cause them, was fatherhood without realizing it.
He felt himself chuckle softly at Lily's comment as he took a step forward toward his grandson. Reaching up, he touched his lips and asked quietly, "May I...hold him?"
Xeph immediately reached down tenderly to his mate and took their son from her arms. Hammer's eyes went wide as he brought the baby directly to Hammer and moved to transfer him gently.
"Oh...wait," Hammer stammered. Holding babies had never been his forte, in fact, he was fairly certain he hadn't held any babies this small or...ever. Xeph had not needed Hammer until he was a toddler, even though Hammer had been his shadow. Nervously, Hammer held his arms out awkwardly as Xeph placed the baby in his arms.
"He's so tiny," was the first thing Hammer said in shock as he held what felt like nothing in his arms. Hammer remembered to support the baby's head as he cradled the tiny bundle in his huge arms. He looked at Lily who watched with a myriad of emotion and finally he pulled the bit of blanket back and looked at the baby's face.
Hammer swallowed as his grandson peered up at him, suddenly sad that maybe his eye might upset the boy, but instead he let out a rather large yawn for such a little boy and nestled into the warmth of Hammer's arms.
"Noah," Hammer said softly. Hammer went over in his mind all the things he'd teach him as the Alpha heir: hand to hand combat, how to shoot an assault rifle, how to tap into whatever abilities he'll have as a wolf.... Hammer paled at the thought of Noah's gifting and decided, right then, that his grandson would not suffer the pain that he had at 10. None of his grandsons would feel the pain of loss, coupled with the silent burden of what they were, all alone. Hammer would die first before that happened.
Hammer smiled at his grandson; a huge, toothy grin his face was unaccustomed to having, but felt as easy as breathing as he looked at Noah. First born, the last son.
Hammer held his large hand over his grandson's chest and made an oath that his own father had failed to keep for Hammer.
"You will want for nothing. You will need for nothing. You are loved, my little Hammer." Hammer felt the tears in his eyes run down his cheek, and as foreign as it was, he felt just fine.
"Don't let Nikhila hear you say that," Xeph said with a grin when Hammer commented on Noah's size, knowing full well she could hear them. Noah had been slightly larger than the average baby at nine pounds and change. Thank goodness for werewolf strength and stamina.
Hammer's next words made Xeph's heart swell. It was difficult sometimes to believe that his father was alive after all, standing here in this room with them. Hearing Hammer speak those words to little Noah, however, made his throat tighten. Not hard to believe at all, suddenly. He tried to lean casually against Nikhila's bed again, slipping his hand into hers. He wasn't going to say anything else at the moment. He'd just sound weepy.
As Nikhila was of the opinion that Noah did look a bit like his father, as much as a baby could, and of course Aidan looked a bit like his father so Lily was right. There were considerably worse things in this world than a third generation of such men.
Nikhlia half watched Hammer, he'd not said much about having a grandson, not at all and she wasn't quite sure what his reaction would be. So she was a little surprised he'd ask to hold the baby. She smiled and nodded as Aidan lifted the little bundle from her arms and gave him to his grandfather. With a bit of effort she managed to refrain from smiling as Hammer almost changed his mind about the whole holding thing.
She pinched Aidan's leg for his flip remark before seeking his hand and assuring Hammer that Noah was a big boy and would only get bigger.
Aidan and Hammer were of a similar size, but somehow the baby looked smaller in Hammer's arms, she didn't know why. Maybe because it was a sight she hadn't been able to imagine. It was easy enough to picture Aidan or Lily with the baby but not nearly so simple to visualize his grandfather holding him. It was so un-Hammer-like and yet everything from the way he held Noah, to the smile to the tears was exactly right and seemed perfectly natural, just as it should be.
It was impossible not to recognize the truth in those few words. Nikhila had sworn she wasn't going to cry -again- but failed on that point. She tried to be discreet about wiping the tears away from her eyes though, not wanting to call attention. She was just happy. Their pup had a family. A strong, devoted, loving family, he'd always be taken care of, there was no doubt.
She sighed a little, more than satisfied, more than happy, and tucked her head against Aidan's shoulder for now as the morning sung continued to brighten the room. Although it could do nothing to warm it further, there was already far too much love in the room for sunlight to warm it any more.
It all seemed to fade away a bit now, though, seeing little Noah in Iov's enormous arms. She moved closer and wrapped her arms around Iov's waist, touched by his words, glad he was the first person to hold Noah aside from his own parents. It was fitting that the man who never got to hold his son should take up his grandson in his arms from the day he was born.
"He's so calm," she said softly. Of course he was worn out from his own birth but Lily had seen newborn infants fuss from the start. Noah showed no signs of stress whatsoever, apparently content in any set of arms for the time being.
"Here," he said turning toward Lily as he did his best to transfer Noah from his arms to hers. "Thank god you're beautiful and he looks more like your side instead of mine." Hammer smiled at Lily as she took him, letting his fingers trail down her arm as Noah yawned softly again.
Turning to Nikhila, he nodded politely at her. "Thank you," he said, feeling the lump in his throat.
"So, you're saying my mother's family all look like garden gnomes, is what I'm getting out of that."
He kind of thought it was too early to say who, if anyone, Noah took after. He'd seen enough infants to know you could never tell on the first day what they'd look like in a year, or five years, or even how big they'd get. Noah's size was above average sure, but Xeph had been a normal baby himself and look at him now.
In just a few minutes Lily handed Noah back to Xeph and he took his son carefully into his arms, smiling down at him. "So, whelp," he said softly, "You've met gran and gramps. How about the rest of your Pack? Feeling up to that?"
Noah just regarded him with a very solemn infant expression. Xeh didn't want to take their son away from Nikhila for a moment, really, but their friends and family had all come out here to be supportive and to meet their Alpha's son. No harm would come to him in the waiting room of the hospital and Xeph was pretty much obligated to show off the new wolf-to-be.
He glanced at Nikhila and she nodded her understanding. "Want to come with?" he asked his parents. "We won't be long."
He made sure Noah was comfortably swaddled up and properly supported on his arm. And then he walked out to the waiting room, holding his finger to his lips as he let the Kadzait take their first look at their wrinkly new potential Alpha.
"Red, settle down, boy," she said without looking as she caught Red walking back and forth impatiently. LT stood against the wall, arms crossed with a somber look on his face. Viv might have believed he was waiting patiently if he hadn't been picking at the cuticles of his fingers nervously.
"They're hogging the baby," Red said in a decidedly put out voice.
"Shhh," Viv said almost unconsciously. Brig had settled next to her on the couch and was clasping and unclasping his hands. He'd turn to say something to her and then change his mind - and when he finally did it for the fourth time, Viv looked directly at him.
"What, Brig? What? Just say it."
"They are hogging the baby," he said, agreeing with Red to which Viv rolled her eyes and chuckled. Just then the Alpha came back out, holding his brand new son with Hammer and Lily behind him. All the Pipers, including Brig, all jumped up from their perches and ran toward the Alpha and were about to burst at the seams when the new father silenced them with a silent shoosh.
Viv remained in her seat and watched as the Pipers cheered silently, all trying to see the heir-apparent. Lily looked very much the happy grandmother, radiant in her beauty, not near old enough to even look like she had a child old enough to procreate. Brig put his arm around Hammer's shoulders and squeezed him happily, smiling down at his new cousin. Hammer...his expression was curious.
Viv narrowed her eyes and watched her pseudo adoptive brother beam with pride. Hammer never looked more like Vigo at that moment - seeing the human side of a Hammerthynn a definitely unique occurrence. She was fairly certain a star was going super nova into a black hole a trillion miles away, right at that moment. Viv held back though, letting the family absorb the happiness that only a new baby could induce. Smiling, she looked at Brig who was now looking at her, a soft expression on his face.
"What did you name him?" Brig asked.
"They named him Noah Iov Stafford-Hammerthynn," Hammer replied softly.
"That is a serious mouthful." Brig was surprised that the Alpha had chosen to give him Hammerthynn as his last name. It made sense, of course, but it showed how much class the Alpha had, recognizing his parentage and forcing everyone to acknowledge it, probably much to Hammer's dismay. He knew his cousin - Hammer would be fretting inside about the name, but he'd never say anything about it. The guilt crept back into his stomach as he realized that he almost missed this moment with Hammer.
They had settled their differences and had moved on amicably, much as if the incident had never happened. It wasn't even a topic of discussion, beyond that dinner at VIvienne's. There wasn't much else to be said. He had not spoken to Lily since his unbelievably rude outburst and it was not something he should let go any longer. Lily did what she had to do, Brig realized that, and he saw what holding back on that type of love did to them both. He had not been in her place, enduring the old Alpha's abuse. Releasing Hammer, Brig turned to Lily and spoke softly to her.
"Ma'am...may I speak with you a moment?"
She stepped away from the group with the huge man, feeling nothing like the comfort she felt in Iov's presence. While Lily didn't think Brig had anything terribly bad to say, she still didn't necessarily want to hear it. The last thing he'd said to her had been spiteful and cruel; she'd rather forget that. Not dredge it back up again, no matter what the reason.
"I just wanted to apologize for," Brig swallowed, trying to articulate sincerity in what must've sounded like a forced apology for the sake of his cousin. A formal apologetic speech just didn't seem enough.
"I was wrong. I think those of us close to Liam...knew...how he was with you. We knew and did nothing. You had Hammer and he loved you, still loves you. You were lucky to have him and you were everything to him. So...I was wrong and hopefully, some day, you'll forgive me."
Her eyes fell on Aidan and Hammer, standing there with Noah and surrounded by their friends and family. "It doesn't matter now," she said, her lips curving into a slight smile as she glanced up at Iov's cousin. "It's in the past like everything else."
Lily really didn't want to bring it back up. Brig's apology was welcome; forgetting the entire matter and carrying on like they had before his unfortunate outburst was more important to her. She suspected there was some element of truth in what he'd said, at least from his point of view. But just because he'd said the wrong thing in the wrong way at he wrong time was no reason to hold a grudge against him forever.
Lily appeared to want to just forget what happened and Brig was more than happy to oblige her.
"Well, if you two need anything...Hammer knows he can ask me anything at all, but I want you to know that I'd be happy to be useful." Brig reached out and gently touched Lily's shoulder, forgoing a hug. "Congratulations again on your grandson. The Pipers and I look forward to assisting him with anything he might need."
Brig put his hands behind his back and gave her a soft smile.
"I'm glad he'll grow up with his family. His real family." She looked at the little bundle in Aidan's arms and then to the faces around him. Who would he resemble? Would he take after one side of the family or the other? Or would he be a mix of both?
Shooting another, more genuine smile, at Brig, Lily glided slowly back over to Iov and slid her arm through his once more. She didn't look back; with physical distance from Brig came emotional distance once more and it was easier to accept his apology. In a day or two the remembered hurt would vanish and she would be fine, but until then she didn't want to risk letting it show at all. It served no useful purpose.
Did Brig want children? Did he want children with her? Did she want children? They were so small and...smelly. Looking back up at Brig, Viv watched the Alpha's mother move away from him to rejoin Hammer. The expression on Brig's face was borderline crestfallen, guilt-ridden, and relieved. He was finally making amends, which was a good thing, but she might not have been as receptive to his apology as he would have liked. At least, that's what his expression was telling her. He flicked his blue eyes up at her and gave her a wink.
"AH, HANDS," LT said in a slightly higher than normal voice at the Pipers getting too close. "Time to go, move along." Viv watched with a smile as they paid their respects again, wished Nikhila a fast recovery, and quietly exited out of the waiting room.
Viv cracked her neck and stood. She considered paying her respects as well, but thought maybe it was best it was family only. Viv gave Brig a short smile and then turned to leave.
She turned back and looked at Brig with wide eyes.
"Did you want to see the baby?"
Curses, she thought to herself. She didn't bother to look at Hammer's expression, Viv knew he wouldn't be pleased with his cousin's question.