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Biological Imperative

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“Didn’t you say you weren’t worried?” Angela said lightly, though the way that Moira was fussing at her tie in the reflection of the toaster did make Angela somewhat anxious.

I’m not,” Moira grunted before she gave an exasperated sigh and pulled the strip of fabric completely away, tossing it onto the counter in the officer’s lounge.

“If you’d take off the glove you could probably tie it easier,” Angela pointed out, though Moira was already making her way to the couch to settle next to her. It didn’t bother Angela either way, and considering it was the weekend she thought Moira looked quite dashing after she’d popped open the top button of her shirt.

“Mmmm,” was all Moira said at first, but when she noticed Angela eyeing up the flesh-toned glove she only sighed, looking at her gloved palm as well, flexing her discolored hand beneath the fabric, “I just . . . this isn’t about me. Well, not about this,” she turned a sullen, apologetic half-smile to Angela, “I don’t want to talk about . . . what happened. Not with them, not tonight.”

Angela didn’t hesitate before nodding and sliding her fingers into the cool, soft glove, and Moira closed her fingers lightly around Angela’s.

“I understand.”

They both smiled, sad and sweet.

Angela thought she understood, anyway. They’d not talked extensively about the problems, the rough edges, the things they’d rather forget about that day. For Angela it still gripped her heart with hands of ice, and it was all she could do when the terror gripped at her and she was sitting in that hospital bed again, cold and alone and afraid . . . the only thing she could do, all that would chase it away, was to hold Aibhlinn in her arms, feel her warm and healthy and happy.

No, Angela hadn’t talked to Moira about it much, and what little she knew about what Moira had done she’d mostly gleaned from reading Nora and Brad’s medical records after the fact. But she knew that she saw that same fear in Moira, that same hurt. And when Moira would place her long, thin fingers over Aibhlinn, hold her own breath and take in the steady rise and fall of the baby’s tiny chest, Angela knew why.

No, they didn’t talk about it, not yet, when the memories were still so raw and biting.

But they understood.

“What do I call them?” Angela asked, suddenly more nervous as her eyes flicked to the closed door, to the large screen with the word “standby” blinking around on it, to the tiny camera lens across the coffee table from them.

Moira gave an infuriatingly uncaring sound as she shrugged, but before she could voice an answer a pinging noise brought both their attentions to the screen, and “standby” was replaced with “connecting…”

Angela gulped so hugely it hurt and she thought she might choke, and she pulled her hand back to smooth over the soft pleats of her dress. Oh, how she hoped she’d chosen well. It wasn’t a business meeting, so her blazers and skirts were too much. But this was their first meeting, and she was an adult, and so where they. But Moira had just stripped off her tie, and oh God had she overdressed? Of course not, how could she? It was a sundress, after all. Oh god, she was underdressed, and they were Catholic what would they think of her showing so much skin? What an idiot she’d been to—

“Stop,” Moira’s voice pulled her from her spiral, and she looked as though she was holding back a laugh, “Whatever it is that you’re worrying about, stop.”

Angela nodded and swallowed again, feeling sheepish. Moira was lifting Aibhlinn out of her carrier, and once she was free Moira pushed the basket aside with her foot, “Here, hold her, you’ll feel better.”

And she did; she always did. Aibhlinn was awake, and she blinked in apparent confusion at being suddenly lifted out of her comfortable carrier, but as Angela brought her down into her lap Aibhlinn only gave a small, contented coo before closing her eyes again. Cradling Aibhlinn against her, Angela took the angel quilt that Moira offered next and wrapped her snugly inside it.

“Eh, ter she goes,” A triumphant, almost incredulous, voice, deep and gravelly, brought Angela’s attention to the screen ahead. The connection screen had gone and in its place were two blinking brown eyes with the slightest hint of thin, grey brows above them. As the speaker stepped back she saw a wrinkled, weathered face, thin and a bit tan, and combed-back, thinning grey hair. An older man, with a flat face but a smile uncannily familiar as he grinned, then abruptly scowled at the screen.

Moira only huffed as she settled down to sit beside Angela. When she passed her arm around her, when she pulled Angela against her, Angela knew the confidence had been for show. She could feel Moira’s nervousness, in how rigid her arm was, how stiffly she sat.

“Sometin’s wrong wit it,” the man huffed with a continued scowl.

“It’s fine here,” Moira said in that clear, loud way that one does when there might be reception issues, that way that wouldn’t help in the first place but somehow makes you feel like you’re doing something

“’s fine, Tom,” a small but insistent voice was heard, and he only looked back a moment before looking to the screen, motioning to one side of it.

“Well tat side’s fine,” he beamed a wide smile, and from the way his eyes moved Angela knew on his screen he looked to Angela, then to the baby, “Grand, I’ll say. How ya, dear?” His face fell as he waved his hand dismissively in the other direction, his voice full of disgust, “But over here, look, it’s gone all manky.”

“Oh, feck off, Tom, who invited you, anyway?” Moira snapped as Tom gave a loud, barking laugh.

“Oh, be nice to yer sister, Tom,” the small voice insisted, and this time Tom gave it his full attention as he stepped aside, “It’s working fine, go on now.”

Angela looked to Moira, who simply scowled at the screen. If not for the pursed lips and the daggers she glared at Tom, Moira would look quite a bit like the frail, elderly woman who was smiling and shooing Tom away.

While Tom’s age had given Angela pause, uncertainty over who this man too young to be Moira’s father was, there was no question who the two people sitting center screen were. Moira definitely took after her mother, at least in her features. The woman’s wavy hair had a hint of red and gold still peeking around a sea of white, though where Moira’s ended so quickly after it had begun, her mother’s hair flowed down, disappearing behind her angular, smiling face.

Tom, on the other hand, took after their father. Connor O’Deorain had the same flat face as his son, but where his son’s hair was thinning, the elder O’Deorain had no hair to speak of save bushy white eyebrows over small, spectacled eyes. He seemed to shake a bit, and it wasn’t until his wife swatted his arm that she realized he was laughing.

“Oi, how’d you expect Ma to set one of these up herself, eh? Good thing I came round, no need to eat my head off.” Tom called back to the screen with mock indignation, but when he shifted his attention to Angela he winked, “Just coddin her, dear, ye got to do it some times. Takes herself too serious if ye don’t every now an again.”

Angela bit her lip to hold back too wide a smile, doubly hard when she felt Moira shift beside her, annoyed.

“Alright, it’s set, leg it then,” Moira huffed, and Tom gave a mock salute.

“Right, right, I’m off then, just wanted to take a gander at the little one,” he smiled again in what was apparently Angela’s direction on their view screen, “See you all soon, dear?”

It sounded like a question, but he didn’t wait for an answer as he turned, bending over to kiss his mother’s cheek, and she smiled as she turned her head up to accept it, whispering a quiet thank you.

“My brother, Thomas,” Moira grunted quietly as he left, though Angela had found those dots easy enough to connect, and only nodded.

“You must forgive my unruly children,” Moira’s mother was saying quietly, with no hint of apology and an air of amusement, “I’m hoping they grow up soon.”

“He started it,” Moira grumbled, and Angela and Connor both laughed more visibly than audibly.

“I, ah—Hello,” Angela’s voice cracked and squeaked when she spoke up, and she found she had no idea what to say. ‘Here’s my baby? I made this! I hope you like it and like me too! I love your daughter! Do you love my daughter?’

“Angela,” When she said her name, Angela’s heart thumped so hard she could feel it in her chest. Her tone was soft and kind, and her watery blue eyes sparkled as she beamed at Angela, “It’s so nice to finally speak to you, I’ve been hoping you would call.”

Angela dropped her head for a moment, ashamed. She’d been sending over photographs and videos of the baby nearly on the hour, of course, but she’d never had the courage to call. Not to mention she wanted Moira to be with her when they met, complicating things. When she looked up, she smiled apologetically, “I’m sorry, we’ve been . . . busy.”

“Yes, getting busy, that’s usually how these things happen,” Connor interjected, and began to laugh before being shushed quickly by his wife. Angela still laughed, and Moira only huffed with annoyance, and when Angela smiled up at her she saw pink across her ears.

“Well, we’re here now, let’s meet her, dear,” The elder Moira encouraged, leaning toward her screen with anticipation.

Angela fought the urge to push the baby to the camera like some offering to please her new matron. Instead, she carefully pushed herself forward holding Aibhlinn at a better angle for the little camera, “Ah, she’s fallen asleep just now, but she’s—”

“Oh!” She exclaimed excitedly, “She looks just like Moira did, doesn’t she, dear?” Connor nodded and moved forward a little bit too, if only to stop his wife from excitedly patting his knee. They’d have both seen . . . hundreds? thousands? of photographs of Aibhlinn by now, of course. But when Angela looked to Moira and saw her nervousness had vanished, that she smiled shyly and her face was pink, Angela knew it was for Moira, “Oh, she’s lovely, a perfect angel.”

Angela beamed, first at Aibhlinn, in absolute agreement, then back to the screen, “Thank you, M-Moira? She’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of.” Angela held her breath, testing the waters. Was Mrs. O’Deorain more appropriate? Was this too familiar? Not familiar enough? Oh, this was not something Angela was good at.

“Mmm, and God bless, ye got a wee girl, so much easier, girls are,” a gravelly voice shouted from far off-screen, and Moira groaned.

“Oy, crack on!” Moira’s shout quickly faded to an admonished whisper as she stopped herself, her eyes darting to the sleeping baby in Angela’s lap.

“I’m goin’” Tom’s voice echoed from somewhere even further away, and they heard a door shut moments later, and his mother just sighed, never losing her smile.

“Tom has six kids, all boys,” Moira explained off-hand, and the very thought made Angela’s eyes grow wide.

“That’s so many,” Angela gasped quietly, quite forgetting that she was still on a video call with the heads of a very large family.

“Mmmm, had te make up for his sister. Didn’t tink we’d ever get one ow of her, did we, Moira?”” Connor sighed toward his wife, who batted him on the knee.

“Oh stop, ‘s no wonder she never calls, ye all tease her too much,” she insisted.

“It’s fine,” Moira’s voice had lost its nervous stiffness, and Angela saw her Moira coming through in her slight, soft smile, “And I was just waiting for the right time.” She squeezed Angela’s shoulder, pulling her firmly against her, running a gloved thumb across Angela’s bare shoulder.

“Ye did grand, dear,” was all Connor said with a nod, fixing his eyes ostensibly back to Aibhlinn, who Angela still held to face the camera, and when Aibhlinn opened her eyes, blinking sleepily, both of her grandparents’ smiles grew wide, “With both your girls.”

Angela’s face warmed. All of Angela felt warm, and she was happy.

“And Angela? Moira told us ye didn’t need us to come out, you’ve got your family helping with the baby?” The older woman inquired, not taking her smile from the Aibhlinn on the view screen in front of her.

As such, she missed Angela’s stilted, uncertain frown, and her curious look to Moira, who was clearing her throat.

“No, I said Angela has—we have people here.”

“I, ah, that is, my parents were k—my parents passed away when I was a child,” Angela added, “But my—our coworkers. We’re close. They’ve been very helpful.”

Coworkers?” The elder Moira seemed as though she’d been slapped, “Nonsense, we’ll come out, won’t we, Connor?” She didn’t look to him, didn’t wait for an answer. Angela got the feeling nothing he said would have mattered anyway as she turned back, “Thomas? Tom, are ye still here? I need ye t’ help me with the flight ordering, dear! Thomas?”

Moira had jolted forward, and was motioning with her hands as though she could somehow stop her mother who wasn’t even looking at the view screen, “N—No, ma . . . Ma, ye can’t—MA!”

The older woman’s attention snapped back to the view screen, and two Moira O’Deorains stared at each other with equal levels of visible exasperation. Aibhlinn began to fuss, likely at having heard Moira shout for the first time, and perhaps that’s why the younger woman gave in first. She dropped her shoulders apologetically, adding with quiet, loving sincerity, “We’ve been over this, Ma, remember? You and da shouldn’t be travelling—”

“At our age?” her mother finished accusatorily, daring Moira to say it herself.

Moira was too scared, and her father came to her rescue as Angela pulled Aibhlinn close, bouncing her lightly to calm her.

“T’ girl’s right, Moira,” Connor laid a big, weathered hand on his wife’s shoulder, and she seemed even smaller, more frail, as though if he gripped too hard he might break her, “Y’eve got enougha t’ little ones runnin round here, and they’ve not any room for the likes of us.”

Angela nodded sadly, but added an encouraging offer, “But we’ll come visit, when we can—if that’s alright.”

“Christmas.” Moira added, covering over her mother’s “of course, dear” but not able to cover what came after.

“Christmas? Nonsense, sooner than that.”

Moira shook her head animatedly, “Can’t, ma, I’m working.”

When her mother glowered, Moira just kept her eyes averted, looking instead to Aibhlinn who was calming quickly.

“We’re moving in August,” Angela explained, hoping it might appease her, “And there will be a lot of new employees then, so we’ll be busy . . . but Christmas would be wonderful.” Again, Angela’s mind went to a house full of O’Deorains, but now some had faces, voices, personalities. She wanted more.

While she seemed to be able to stare daggers at Moira for days, the old woman seemed incapable of turning a sour face to Angela or Aibhlinn, and she just sighed, “Aye, dat it will, dear.” She seemed pensive for a moment, and when she spoke again her eyes shone, “But if ye need anything, dear, help with the baby, someone, anything . . .  ye know ye have family here.”

And Angela cracked then, dropping her head and shutting her eyes tight, fighting the sob that had come so suddenly, and when she opened her eyes again her daughter was blinking back up at her, snaking a small, chubby fist clumsily out of the folds of the quilt.

“Thanks, ma,” Moira said for the both of them, squeezing Angela to her tightly, and Angela knew she understood, “We appreciate it.”

When Angela felt composed enough to lift her head once more, Aibhlinn’s grandmother wore a quiet smile and kind eyes fixed on her, and after what seemed like a long while she grinned, “Well, a new baby is a lot. We should let ye rest, Angela.”

Angela didn’t know what to say. She wanted to stay on the line. She wanted to get off the line and maybe if they hurried they could get Aibhlinn’s things packed up in time for the 2300 personnel transport. She wanted to hug this woman, this man, and sit on the couch beside them as they all took turns adoring Aibhlinn together.

And some day she would, but that wouldn’t be today, and so she just nodded, suddenly sleepy as the nervousness, the uncertainty dissipated.

“I’ll call you tomorrow,” Moira promised, already looking around for the controls for the camera and screen.

“Yes, you will,” her mother responded in a way that was almost threatening, and Moira just chuckled nervously. When she spoke to Angela her tone was much lighter, “And you call any time, too, dear.”

Angela nodded again, mumbling some combination of “of course” and “thank you” and “I will,” though she wasn’t sure if she would. Somehow this frail, small, welcoming, loving woman intimidated her. Not in a way that made her fearful, nor even uncomfortable. Simply . . . intimidated.

“Love you, good night” Moira half-sang as she gestured with the controls she was about to end the call, and Angela hurried to prop Aibhlinn up slightly, and she helped Aibhlinn wave her tiny hand at the screen. Aibhlinn, for her part, just continued to suck on the corner of her blanket and blink at nothing in particular, gurgling happily.

The older couple on the other end both waved as well, and quiet murmurs of love, good byes, and missing yous were the last thing Angela heard before the screen went dark.

Then, a groan and a woosh as Moira fell back against the couch, tossing the remote to the side as she sighed, rubbing her gloved hand down her face.

“That wasn’t bad!” Angela insisted, settling Aibhlinn back down into her lap.

“No, no it wasn’t,” Moira agreed, sounding exhausted, and she grinned down at Angela, “I told you there was nothing to worry about.”

Angela nodded, “It was nice,” she agreed, “They’re nice.”

Moira hummed her agreement, leaning heavily against Angela, half laying to rest her head lightly against Aibhlinn’s bundle of blankets. Aibhlinn quickly abandoned her quilt tasting to paw at her new toy, grasping Moira’s soft hair with tiny, chubby fingers.

“Your accent isn’t as thick as theirs,” Angela stated matter of factly, but with a hint of a question.

Moira hummed again, and when she mumbled into Aibhlinn’s blanket Angela could hear her smile as Aibhlinn tugged lightly at her hair, “Living abroad, sorry to disappoint you.”

“You never disappoint me,” Angela cooed, and joined Aibhlinn in running her fingers through the short hairs just above Moira’s neck.

“We should go,” Moira eventually grumbled, “I think Co—Jack reserved the room after us.”

Angela sighed wistfully, wishing she could spend the night here, relaxing with her family. Though their quarters weren’t far, and Aibhlinn would be hungry soon.

She smiled down at the two girls resting in her lap, “Alright, let’s go home.”

 


 

 

Angela sighed heavily as the office door slid shut, muffling the typical din of nurse chatter, ringing comms, and squeaky wheeled carts that filled the central hub of the medical wing. The noise was a distant buzz now, and when she took a deep, slow breath it was loud in her quiet, sun-lit office.

She drummed her fingernails once on the door, and that sound was loud too, and when she rested her forehead on the metal with another tired sigh it was cool against her skin.

Today was much more difficult than she’d anticipated, and she’d already known it’d be a feat. She didn’t have to be here today, she could be home changing nappies and feeding Aibhlinn, but she’d convinced herself and all the nay-sayers that she should at least come by once a month to handle administrative duties and keep the trains running on time. And she thought it would be good, to not lose touch with the outside world. One day a month, she could handle that.

Once a month. Aibhlinn was already a month old. Angela smiled, sliding her hand into the pocket of her white coat as she pushed herself bodily away from the door. She’d intended to tap her way through to the album of hundreds, possibly thousands, of photos she’d taken of Aibhlinn, but she frowned when she saw a series of alerts from Moira.

She knew if something was wrong, if Angela needed to come home, she was to call twice in a row to get through. Her heartrate spiked as she tapped the first alert, but her held breath left in a whoosh of relief and a quiet laugh. She skirted her desk without taking her eyes off the screen, thumbing through the newly delivered photos of Aibhlinn sleeping against Moira’s chest as Moira smiled at the camera, Aibhlinn reaching curiously for the unseen camera as Moira held it out to her, Aibhlinn laying on her tummy, ever-so-slightly able to lift her head already, peering with her unfocused eyes toward Moira with her hair falling over her face as they both lay on the floor.

Another sigh from Angela, much less exhausted and much softer in nature as she set the comm unit on her desk and set about her task. The pump was simple to set up, and it reminded her of her time spent volunteering at milk banks when she was younger. When women would return the bank-provided pump it had been Angela’s role to clean and sanitize everything, and it all came back to her pretty easily. She’d been pumping for a few days in preparation for her day back at work, to be sure Moira couldn’t possibly run out while she was gone. Though if she had, well, Angela had to admit she’d have loved to have Moira call her back home.

She squared her shoulders and stood straight, reminding herself it was one day. Someday she’d truly return to work and she’d be dropping Aibhlinn off at daycare. Someday she’d see Aibhlinn off to her first day of school. Someday Aibhlinn would leave for university. She could handle this one day.

She pulled an old requisition form from the recycle basket near her desk and wrote “Do Not Disturb – Pumping” in large block letters. It wasn’t clear if today were uncharacteristically busy because she’d been gone a month and things had piled up, or if people simply were happy to finally have someone to bring every little matter to once more. No matter the reason, it was go-go-go, and this would hopefully earn her some respite.

When the door slid open there was a blast of noise and activity, and she quickly fixed the sign to the door pad as she shot a smile of acknowledgement toward any staff that happened to notice her. Once the door had slid shut and she’d adjusted the blinds the room was dim, quiet, and cool. And empty. She shook her head, scooping up the comm unit on her desk and thumbing through the photo albums once more as she sat.

Angela chuckled as she waded through photo after photo, chiding herself. She couldn’t help it, though, she was too perfect. And with all the demands for photographs from friends (not to mention Moira’s family) Angela felt justified being so enamored with the baby. After some time, she finally found her goal; she’d specifically taken a photograph of Aibhlinn last night as she ate, hoping it would assist in the let-down without the actual girl in her arms.

The pump was quiet, the room dark, and with the photograph Angela could lose herself fairly quickly, imagining being home, on the bench under the window, with the baby in her arms.

When the door chime sounded she grunted unhappily, her eyes stuck fast to the picture of Aibhlinn as she sang sternly toward the door, “Come back later, please!”

Another chime in response earned a scowl and she looked up, exasperated, as she turned off the pump. This had better be good.

She took care to put the bottles upright so the flanges wouldn’t get dirty, and it was with a very unamused march that she rounded the desk, adjusting her shirt as she went. As she reached for the door release the chime sounded again, in unison with the start of her impatient lecture.

“If you would just wait for me to finish pump—“ Angela stopped mid-thought, too happy having her gaze drawn upward to meet Moira’s.

“Seems strange to do that when there’s a hungry baby right here, but suit yourself,” Moira gave a small lift of the basket she held at her side, and Angela’s eyes instantly snapped to the baby within, her bemused smile turning to one of absolute adoration as she stepped aside to let Moira in.

“Ah, my beautiful girl,” Angela was already lifting Aibhlinn out of the carrier while Moira held it still for her, “I’ve missed you.”

“Yes, and the baby’s here, as well,” Moira grinned, and Angela just rolled her eyes.

“Cute,” Angela forced a dry tone, difficult to do as she lay the baby with her warm body and soft fleece onesie and wispy copper curls and meandering little fingers against her chest and began instinctively to bounce slightly.

“Full of compliments today,” Moira added with that same small, cheeky grin as she stepped fully into the dim office, allowing the door to close behind her.

“Is everything alright?” Angela knew everything was alright, or Moira’s mood wouldn’t be so light. Gingerly she sat back onto her couch, the photograph and pump forgotten behind her desk.

“She’s absolutely beside herself,” Moira sighed with an exaggerated shrug, letting her palms slap against her thighs before settling down beside Angela, “Absolutely cannot get on without you.”

Angela just hummed as she shifted Aibhlinn down to cradle her properly, looking the girl’s calm, interested face over, her clean clothing, her bright eyes just like Moira’s.

“You see, there, completely inconsolable. She’s been like this all morning,” Moira sniffed, stretching a long arm and a gloved right hand over Angela’s shoulders.

The baby was already grumbling and fussing at Angela’s shirt, but aside from her expected hunger cues, she was right as rain. Angela turned her smile up at Moira, who just smiled warmly back.

Thank you,” Angela whispered quietly.

Moira gave a small shrug, lightly squeezing Angela against her in the process, before adding in a tone just as soft and carrying every bit of understanding, “The first days back at work for me were . . . it doesn’t feel good to leave her.”

“No, it doesn’t,” Angela agreed after she’d rearranged her blouse for the third time, and she sighed with contentment, leaning slightly into Moira after Aibhlinn was situated and feeding properly, “But,” this sigh was much less comfortable and much more apprehensive, “I’ll need to get used to it eventually. You shouldn’t spoil me like this.”

“I like to spoil you,” Moira pressed a soft kiss into her hair, “Both of you.”

“Mmmm, well, we’ll work on that,” Angela couldn’t really hold it against Moira that she’d come. Today had been so much harder than she’d thought. Baby steps were required, and not just for Aibhlinn.

She refocused her gaze back down to Aibhlinn, watching her peer back up toward her. Nora needn’t have reminded Angela that it was important to watch Aibhlinn while she ate, that the face time with the baby was important. Angela was mesmerized each time, and Moira seemed no less enamoured.

After a long, comfortable silence filled only with Aibhlinn’s small noises that warmed both women’s hearts, Angela asked with a bit more seriousness, “Everything’s alright though? Truly?”

“Everything’s fine,” Moira assured her with a small squeeze to her shoulders, “She’s been simple. It was good we tried the bottles the past few days, so she’s already somewhat used to them. Still, obvious she prefers you,” she grasped Aibhlinn’s little foot lightly, giving it an affectionate squeeze.

“Who wouldn’t?” Angela grinned as the baby hiccoughed quietly, and Moira just let out an amused huff and certainly didn’t seem about to argue the point. Angela turned a bright, encouraging smile to meet Moira’s softer one, “And you?”

Moira blinked, then cleared her throat, forcing out with mock embarassment, “Yes, if you must know, I prefer you as well.”

It was Angela’s turn to laugh, and she shook her head before turning her attention back to the baby, “I meant are you doing alright? Your first day looking after her by yourself.”

Moira was nodding, “It’s been nice.”

Angela regarded her for a while, studying her face carefully while Moira watched the baby.

Once upon a mountain cabin vacation it had occurred to her that no one here at Overwatch knew the Moira that Angela knew. Those outside this room had long regarded Moira as someone to be avoided, someone cold and uncaring, rigid.  Perhaps, Angela was ashamed to admit, she’d assumed the same. But she knew better now, and slowly others were seeing it, too.

But it was times like these, when Moira sat, quiet and transfixed by Aibhlinn’s small balled fists, her little toes covered in by the soft fleece of her onesie, her unfocused and mismatched eyes, the tiny noises she made now and again . . . it was times like these Angela knew how soft Moira could be, when she knew who Moira was. When Moira’s whole world was Aibhilnn she was soft, and warm, and perfect. Her two perfect girls, her perfect family.

When Moira looked to Angela she must have caught something in her eyes, because she cleared her throat and looked away, the tips of her ears pink in the dim light sifting through the tiny cracks at the edges of the blinds.

“You know,” Angela coaxed, “If you ever change your mind, if you want to take leave, it’s not just my leave. You should take some too, to spend time with her. We can do it together, or split days on and off,” Angela suggested, though they’d had the discussion several times and Moira always insisted that she felt Angela needed the time with the baby.

This time, though, she didn’t necessarily veto the idea, “I, uh, was thinking about that, actually.”

Angela made a curious, inquisitive noise to indicate she was listening as she turned back to Aibhlinn, readjusting to move the girl to her other breast.

Moira shifted, “Most of the work I’m doing now,” she waved a gloved hand, gesturing to nothing in particular as she apparently indicated her work, “Well, some . . . enough of it, can be done remotely. Planning, analysis, reports, sequencing and mapping . . . When you’re ready to be back at work completely, I was thinking I might try to be home more.”

“You want to be a stay at home mom?” Angela grinned widely as she turned to Moira, and her ears were more than simply tinted this time as she shifted, but Angela wouldn’t let her be embarrassed over it as she leaned into her side, “I think it’s a great idea.”

Moira cleared her throat again, “It’d only be the afternoons, and I’d still be working, just remotely,” she insisted seriously, “But at least one of us could be with her more. My ma was always around,” she added quietly, much more softly, “It was nice.”

“I think she’d like that,” Angela nodded quietly, and she felt Moira sigh, “I think it’s a good idea, especially once we’ve moved,” she frowned at the thought, “I didn’t like the idea of her being so far away from us.”

Moira just squeezed her by the shoulders again, pressing a soft kiss into Angela’s hair, “Then it’s settled.”

Angela nodded, running the pad of her thumb softly along the top of Aibhlinn’s ear. The world outside had vanished, and only they three existed. Angela wouldn’t have it any other way, and she rested comfortably against Moira as they both listened to the small noises Aibhlinn was prone to making when she was nursed. When she eventually began turning her cheek away, pushing and squeezing at Angela’s nipple, Angela shushed her lightly, “Alright, I know, you’re full, I know.”

“I’ll take it from here,” Moira offered, already pushing up from the couch and readjusting the small angel-print quilt in the baby carrier, “I think we’ve already ruined your ‘back to work all day’ day.”

“You’ll never be able to ruin my day if you try,” Angela assured her as she righted her clothing then carefully placed the baby into Moira’s outstretched arms.

“Then I won’t bother trying.”

“See that you don’t,” Angela smiled against Moira’s lips, and felt Moira smile back, “Thank you,” Angela said quietly, sincerely, “For bringing her.”

Moira just hummed quietly, then did as she usually did as she secured Aibhlinn her carrier, mumbling quietly to the baby, “Alright, little love, I know you’ll need changing, let’s go home before you stink up mutter’s office.”

Angela smiled, taking Aibhlinn’s small hand between her thumb and forefinger and wiggling it slightly. Moira’s pronunciation was coming along as well as her German: Imperfect, but decent for a beginer, and endearing every time.

“Good bye, my girl, be good,” Angela whispered as she brushed her lips against Aibhlinn’s copper-brushed head.

“I will,” Moira smirked, and she opted to take her retaliatory swat on the arm and her goodbye kiss on the lips.

When the door had slid open the din of the medical wing beyond was alien and unwelcome, and Angela longed for Moira to step back in, or better yet, she wished to follow Moira back to their quarters. She wanted to do as they often did, curl up together, Moira holding Angela while Angela held Aibhlinn. She wanted warmth and softness and love.

In the cool quiet that filled the room, her comm was loud.

              modeorain.rd3.zurich: Only a few more hours, you can do it. We’ll see you soon.

Angela smiled as she slid her comm back into her coat pocket. She had everything she could ever want.