And Baby Makes Three


colette_icon.gif nicole_icon.gif

Scene Title And Baby Makes Three
Synopsis Nicole welcomes her child into the world, and Colette is still offering suggestions for names.
Date February 24, 2012

A Ferry Safehouse in Canada

It started out as an aching back that lasted for two days with no relief to be found. A feeling of pressure in her gut. Finally, the contractions. Twenty-two hours of them. The miracle of birth is a terrifying one, as far as Nicole is concerned. Without the drugs of a professional hospital, labor was hard and exhausting. But there was Colette to hold her hand and mop her brow while she cried, screamed some exceptionally creative obscenities to and about the absent Benjamin Ryans, and pushed.

Nicole’s daughter came screaming into the world at 4:35 in the morning on February 21, 2012. At first, all she could do was lay helpless, relieved that the worst was over. Wasn’t she supposed to be sitting upright and gasping back tears of joy, asking to hold her new baby? That’s what the movies always show.

Life, as she well knows, is rarely like the movies.

Cleaning the baby up was the first priority. Then, it was cleaning her up. It was truly the most mortifying experience of her life, and she told her sister so. Thank God Ben wasn’t there.

But then, once in a fresh nightgown and on fresh sheets, that’s when she held her baby for the first time and started to cry.

“Welcome to the world, Annie.” The new aunt greets the newborn.

“No.” Nicole looked down at her impossibly tiny child - was that what all the fuss and the pain was about? Something so very small? - and shook her head. Tears rolled down her cheeks, and she knew. This isn’t Ryanne - Annie - she held in her arms. “Phillipa.” Her voice hoarse, raw from all the shouting and crying, but so full of mirth then. “Phillipa Allyn.”

Three Days Later…

Nicole lies in bed with her infant nestled against her chest. She didn’t read a lot of parenting manuals when she became pregnant, first on account of denial and then on account of being too busy hiding from the darn government, however, she does recall something about skin-to-skin contact being extremely important. So, here she is with her baby asleep against her bare sternum and collar, an oversized button-down is fastened by one button around both mother and child to preserve some illusion that she might have any modesty left after giving birth.

The door to Nicole’s room opens with the smallest brush of voices, small and reassuring ones and a softly-stated, “Love you both,” followed by politely hushed responses and the soft click of the door closing. Colette emerges from the short hall, hair unkempt and down past her shoulders now. She drags long bangs out of her face and ambles up to the bed on slippered feet, pulling up a stool she'd dragged in days ago.

“They won't stop teasing me about being an Aunt,” Colette notes as she climbs up on the stool, threading a lock of Nicole’s hair behind one of her ears and watching her cradle her niece. She still hasn't gotten over the fact that it's really happened, and every time she looks at Nicole and her niece her eyes get glassy and she picks at the hem of her sleeves.

It doesn’t always feel real to Nicole, either. She half-expects to wake up back in her bed at Solstice Condominiums and find that the last several months have been a strange fever dream. But Colette is there to ground her. She smiles fondly when the hair is brushed away from her face, slides her arm over the mattress, careful not to jostle the baby, and holds her hand out. An invitation for her sister to hold it. “I won’t try to crack your fingers like walnuts this time,” she says in a soft voice.

“They’re as thrilled as you are,” she says about the teasing. “Thrilled for you.” Hell, Nicole is thrilled for her, and it’s her baby. Threading her fingers with Colette’s, she turns her head on the pillow to look at her better, the thumb of her free hand brushing over the fine dusting of blonde hair on her daughter’s head. “I remember when you were this little. I remember holding you at the hospital. I wish I still had those photos.” They were lost in the bomb, like so many good things about their lives together.

They have other good things now. They’ve already mourned the past, accepted, and moved on. It’s nostalgia at this point for Nicole, rather than grief.

Ignoring the topic of her birth, Colette slips to a different topic with a more mild smile. “It's still not too late to name her Colette Jr. It's a good name.” She smiles, fondly, and reaches up to trace delicate fingertips down the side of her niece’s cheek. “An’ yeah. They're all really happy. We never had much of a family before, an’  now look at us? Look at the lil’ damn life you made.”

Dark brows furrow, and Colette watches her niece with a distant stare. It's always hard to tell just how focused she is on any one thing with her eyes the condition they are. Focus means something different to her. But Nicole feels her focused, feels her watching her newest family member with quiet pensiveness.

“You're gonna be an amazing mom.” Colette adds after a long moment of silence. The world may be burning far outside, but here there's something more hope-like to concentrate on. No matter how much it reminds her of some of life’s more complicated truths.

“She’ll always be Colette Junior in our hearts,” Nicole teases, “but Pippa among the rest.” There’s no feminine form of Howard, so she had to make do with the surname of his chosen pseudonym when it came time to honor him. He gave his life so they could save their families. So she could save Colette. It was the least she could do. It felt like the right thing to do. She wishes he had managed to hold on to see her. Somehow, she’d have found a way for him to see her. A tear slides down her cheek at the thought and she lifts her hand from Pippa’s head to wipe it away from her face quickly.

“I hope you’re right,” she says of Colette’s assessment of her potential mothering skills. “I… never thought I’d have this. We only ever had each other, you know?” she echoes the earlier sentiment. “Now look at all this family we’ve got.” Nicole and Ben may have split up almost two months ago, “I’m an honorary Ryans now, so that means you’re along for that ride too.” Her brow furrows, an expression not unlike the kind that would accompany a query like did I leave the gas on? “Did… I had someone send word to Ben, didn’t I?” The last couple days have been a blur.

“No,” Colette confirms with a side eye to the wall, “but I tried for you anyway. I don't know if he ever got it. It's…” Her eyes find Nicole again. “You know. Mail’s slow.” Because the world is ending.

But then, Colette thinks about the implication of something. “Honorary?” Her blind eyes look to Pippa, then her sister. “You aren't keeping that last name?” The notion seems sensible, all things considered, and Colette wrings her hands in her lap.

“Caiati, then?” It's a smaller voice in which Colette asks that. Hopeful, if not pleading.

“Why wouldn’t she have my name? She’s my daughter.” And she’s not marrying Ben. But Colette makes a different suggestion and Nicole looks a little hurt. “The name of a woman who wasn’t real? I… I hid behind that name.” That’s what that name is good for, in her mind. Reminders of her life as Stephanie Caiti are reminders of her life at Allen Rickham’s side. They’re painful, even if they are treasured.

“What’s wrong with Nichols?”

She knows the answer to that as soon as she asks the question. Her stomach churns a little and she frowns. “I worked hard to make my name, Sissy.”

Colette nearly snaps over Nicole’s words when she asks that question. But she relents, mouth shutting, waiting for her to finish. The look she has is answer enough, and one Nicole anticipated. But, in spite of that, she elaborates.

“Nichols isn't a real name either. It belongs to two people who’re better off dead.” Blind eyes avert to Pippa, then down to her lap. “People I'm not related to.” Teeth tug at her bottom lip, and Colette looks back up to Nicole. “I've been going by Demsky since we got to Canada. It— was an alias first. But now,” she brings a knuckle up to the corner of one of her eyes briefly.

Nichols is poison,” Colette adds in a mumble. “Don't— make her take that name. It shouldn't be forced on anyone else.”

The words spat like vitriol feel like a burn on some intangible part of her. Pride, perhaps. The tears start to flow again. She can’t blame Colette for any of that, for the way that she feels about their surname. If she had someone in her life she cared about as deeply as Colette cared about Judah Demsky, Nicole would probably take their name in a heartbeat.

Well, that’s not entirely true. There is someone, but calling herself Nicole Rickham would be in incredibly poor taste. The former President-Elect is a ghost of too-recent past for her to get away with that kind of tribute. And, he rejected her three times. Nicole smiles sadly through her tears. “I don’t blame you for changing it. I think you should. But… I live and die by my name in my profession.”

It sounds absurd to her the moment the words tumble from her lips. Her eyes roll upward to regard the ceiling. “What profession is that anymore, Nickels?” she asks, mimicking how she thinks her sister would present the question. Everything’s falling apart out there. What mob boss is she going to work for now? What politician? She isn’t.

“All right. So what do you suggest?”

It's a fair question. Colette immediately responds with “Colette Jr.” She wrinkles her nose, tries to lighten what is admittedly a tense and emotional topic for both of them. Leaning closer, Colette lays a hand on her sister’s arm.

“But seriously,” Colette’s voice quiets so as to not disturb the baby. “Ruskin, Kjelstrom, Rourke, Doyle, Varlane,” her eyes avert to the side. “There's a lot’f people who've died t’make sure people like us get t’sit here and have this conversation.”

Colette’s expression is dead-serious, even if Nicole was only ever peripherally in their same movement. “Honor someone who died making the world a better fucking place. Not two dead assholes.”

There’s an immediate bubbling laughter that follows the suggestion of Colette Jr., the kind that comes with nervous energy. She has to hold her breath to keep her shoulders from shaking and jostling the baby.

Colette continues, and Nicole listens, solemn and respectful. The majority of the names mean nothing to her. Rather, she doesn’t understand the gravity of the sacrifices made. Ruskin, of course. Kjelstrom is that woman from the radio? “I don’t know, ‘Letty.” She holds up one hand placatingly, she’s not dismissing the idea, so don’t snap. “Chesterfield,” she says with breath of laughter, “but I think Catherine might side eye me out of existence.” She still misses Jenn terribly.

Gravity. Varlane. Nicole closes her eyes and remembers the horrifying scene at the Mount Natazhat facility. That poor man. “Pippa Varlane?” she coos down to her sleeping child, trying out the name, glancing to her sister for approval.

Colette leaves the thought there, a seed planted to grow into something worth memorializing, rather than trying to polish a piece of rusted metal. “It's a cute name,” is her only endorsement. “M’not gonna make that choice for you, or even try to. But, you’n her deserve a better start.”

That look in Colette’s eye is there again, an unfocused stare at Pippa and fingers toying at the edge of her sleeves. Nicole doesn't see that in Colette much anymore, hasn't since they were little and had to share a room when times were tough. It's jealousy.

“You're really lucky,” Colette says in a hushed voice. Quickly amended with, “You both are.”

“So’re you,” Nicole insists. She can mull over the name silently. Right now, assuring her sister that her life is nothing to be envied is what’s important to her. “You have people who love you so very much right out there in the next room. You have me. Now, you have Pippa. You have your whole life ahead of you, ‘Letty.” With one arm to gentle hold the newborn in place, Nicole shifts closer to the edge of the bed so she can rest her hand on Colette’s cheek.

“You can have this too, someday.” Assuming she means a baby. This kind of family. “I’m doing things in the reverse order. Baby before partner.” And she’s aware that the baby is now going to make it that much harder to find a partner now. The thought would have — did bring her bitterness just a few weeks ago. But now? This is how it should be. Nicole and her baby. Anyone who can’t accept them both doesn’t deserve her.

“Yeah,” is Colette's favorite disagreeing agreement. There's a breathy, empty way she says it when it's just a platitude. Nicole’s known her long enough to know that right away. “S’just—” Colette closes her eyes and shakes her head, shoulders hunching forward. “S’stupid. M’just bein’ a dumb jealous baby.” Blind eyes alight to Pippa. “No offense t’babies in the room.”

Wringing her hands together, Colette looks at the ring she wears. “S’different for me. I couldn't— do it the way you are. It's them or nothing. And— ” she just waves a hand, as if it explains the basic biological impossibilities. “N’seein’ you with Pippa’s just got me thinkin’ about the future. All’a the things normal people do that we,” excluding her company in the room, “can't.”

But she realizes how she sounds. How it feels. Colette knows she's being petty, but she also knows she's being honest. It's the most real conversation the sisters have had in a while. The most open she's ever been about her fears with her sister. There's a time for everything, it seems.

It was like this for her when she explained how she thought she would be her father’s daughter. Still, in the back of her mind, she worries, but knows that as long as Colette is there, she won’t let that happen to her. Won’t let it happen to Pippa. “You’re not dumb, Sissy,” Nicole says gently, brushing her thumb over Colette’s cheek. “If I hadn’t been too drunk and excited to make sure Ben Ryans wore a fucking condom, I wouldn’t be here right now.”

There it is. That’s the romantic story of the love that made the babe in her arms. Nicole did one of the things she’s so very good at: got drunk and made a bad decision regarding a personal relationship. It’s one of the things Colette always criticized her for. “Pippa isn’t luck, ‘Letty. She’s a consequence.” It’s maybe a callous thing to say, but romanticising her accidental pregnancy isn’t something Nicole wants her baby sister to do. “And I’m not saying I’d change that? But I’m saying you make way better choices than I do about these things.”

Crying, just a little, Colette brings one sleeved hand up to her eyes and dabs away the threat of tears. She smiles, warmly, and takes one of Nicole's hands in hers and kisses the side of her palm. “Thanks,” she says with red cheeks and the subconscious inability to ever look Ben Ryans in the eyes ever again.

For all that Colette struggles with the complexities of her own atypical family unit and its place in the world, Nicole is there to provide grounded contextualization for another perspective. She squeezes her sister’s hand, looks adoringly at her niece, and puts the thoughts of her own future away for the time. Right now is about Nicole.

“I love you, sis.”

And she couldn't be any happier for her.

“I love you, too.”

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