Through All the Dust
Chapter Seventy-Six: Welcome to the Family
Lauren was an absolute mess. She'd been sobbing in the corner for well over six hours. Every time I'd think she was finally pulling it together, she'd collapse into another emotional outburst, citing over and over again "he's just so perfect". While I couldn't have agreed any more, her outbursts were getting on my last nerve.
"Can you get her out of here?" I groaned to Matt with an irritated smile. "I'm going to push her out the fucking window soon."
"I'm sorry!" Lauren whined loudly, fawning over the baby in Brian's arms. "But look at that face! He has your nose! Oh my god!"
And then she started all over again.
"Come on," Matt snickered quietly, dropping an arm around Lauren's shoulders and leading her out from the danger zone.
Lauren pleaded with him as they walked, "Have you seen him, Matthew? He's the most perfect thing!"
As the door clicked softly behind them, I sighed with relief, leaning all the way back into the flat pillows. I let my gaze find Brian, who was entirely enamored with the new life we'd created. It was a picture perfect scene; his bright arms, usually so strong and demanding, now humbled and delicate. Our tiny little being was tucked away safely somewhere within them, sporting the Deathbat onesie I'd commissioned into existence to surprise my husband.
Our baby had come into the world at exactly 3:16 in the afternoon, May the 7th. It seemed like the perfect day to have a baby.
Brian had made it back in tons of time. I'd been to the hospital and sent away again before his plane had landed. It was a slow process but once Brian was by my side, things seemed to take a turn for the rushed. I was sure I'd somehow worked it out with my biology that we absolutely had to wait for Brian.
And so, I did.
"Hey," I said quietly.
Brian grinned as he looked over to me, giving his head the tiniest of shakes, "He really is perfect you know."
"I know," I grinned back. "Bring me our boy, would ya?"
Brian happily closed off the distance, climbing into the small bed and carefully handing our son to me. He nuzzled into my arms, his breathing soft and nearly inaudible. My heart was absolutely full.
I'd never known a love like this; it was instant and all-consuming. From the sound of his very first breath, I knew I'd be hooked on him forever.
"Can you believe he's here?" Brian thought aloud. "All of this because you were pouting up on a rooftop all those years ago."
I scoffed, "I was not pouting."
I didn't bother to get into that debate again. We'd had it constantly for years; I was over it.
"I'm so glad you met Jimmy," he smirked. "Without Jimmy, I wouldn't have you...or Brody."
"He really was a saint," I noted warmly.
A comfortable silence fell over as as we internally gushed over our creature.
"He really does have your nose," Brian cooed, running his tattooed finger along our baby's bridge.
I laughed, "He lucked out."
"Fuck you!" Brian gasped with a laugh.
"I wonder if he'll end up with brown eyes," I thought aloud. "Like yours."
Brian shrugged, "Doesn't matter. He's perfect with any colour."
"Not if they're red," I opposed quickly. "Ever seen an albino rabbit, Bri? They're not fucking perfect. They'll fucking get you."
Brian's laugh was shallow as he casually breezed passed my fear.
"I love you, B," Brian decided to address instead, leaning over to kiss my cheek.
I smiled, "I love you more...But...It could just be because of all the drugs pumping through me at the moment. I have to say, I've really missed this shit. Drugs are great."
He chuckled, "Yes, Blair. Drugs are great."
"I'm sad," I thought aloud, settling into my newfound motherhood.
Brian's brows squeezed together, "Sad? Why?"
"The same reason you are," I noted, casting an all knowing glance his way.
He just nodded.
A knock at the door disturbed us from the looming gloom that seemed to follow us around every corner. Even on the happiest day of our lives, that constant pecking of loss was always at our shoulders.
"Hello," Carolyn smiled as she poked her head around the door. "Can I come in?"
I laughed, "Of course you can."
She approached the bed with more haste than I'd ever seen. Her movements had always been slow and calculated; she never rushed for anything. But for my son? She was practically sprinting.
"May I?" she asked me, her eyes fixated on the beautiful baby in my arms.
I passed him over to her, my heart lurching as it did whenever anyone would take him from me. But she was so damn gentle that for a second I didn't recognize her. Her lips curved into a smile as she ran her fingers across his tiny chest.
"He's beautiful, Blair," she told me without looking. "Truly."
"Thank you," I breathed.
"He has your nose," she noted.
Brian snickered, tossing me that infamous 'I told you' stare.
"Is my nose really that distinguishable? That's the fourth time I've heard it today."
"It's a cute nose," my aunt answered simply. "It's your mother's nose."
My mind sort of...stopped. I'd never heard that before; I'd never really noticed. My fingers absently found the sloped peak, trying to imagine what my mother's looked like. What a strange thing to be examining.
"I'm going to go grab a coffee," Brian told me, climbing out from the bed. "Should I bring the whole pot back for you?"
I nodded, "Yes."
He laughed, "Want anything, Carolyn?"
She shook her head, still absolutely entranced by the baby in her arms, "No, thank you. I have just about all I need right here."
Brian melted at the words; he was still adjusting to her newfound heart. I was too, in a way. But she'd been so great over the few months that I'd been in Lenox that I'd almost forgotten what a snake she'd been most of my life. Something about babies seems to mellow people out.
"So what do you think?" I asked lazily as Brian escaped through the door.
She smiled at me, "He's perfect."
"Isn't he," I exhaled, trying to sneak a peak at him without any luck.
"What's his name?" she asked curiously.
With all the love in the world, I replied, "Brody."
Carolyn's eyes found me and for a split second, she understood my pain. We stared at one another for that second, connecting for the first time ever.
"I'm sorry he isn't here," she said oddly. "It must be difficult for you."
Biting at my lip to hold back the tears, I just nodded. She'd never acknowledged my heartache. She'd never even acknowledged what Tyler's death had meant.
"He would have been so in love with this boy," she told me like she knew him. "So would your mother...She would have so loved to be here for this."
"But," Carolyn noted more chipper, "you have a whole family out there that will love you up. And, for that, I'm relieved."
The entire Avenged family had flown out for the occasion. They'd been holed up in the waiting room for the past twelve hours, waiting for Brody's arrival and then waiting for the chance to see him. I'd been letting people in slowly, between my infinite naps. Mostly I just wanted to be selfish; with Brody and with Brian. But they'd all been great and had taken the wait with grace.
"And I have you," I noted. "Grandma."
Carolyn's face lit up for a second before falling, "Can I be Nana? I don't wish to be called Grandma...I'm too young to be Grandma."
She was back.
I just laughed, "Sure."
When Brian finally returned with coffee, I was surprised to find he'd brought stragglers along with him. Tom and Marge...and Barb and Joe Sullivan. I was pretty sure Brian had assembled that particular herd on purpose and I tried not to let it stress me out.
But it did.
"I'm going to go," Carolyn told me, passing Brody over to Brian. "I'll come back for dinner. What would you like? I'll bring whatever you'd like."
"Tacos!" I cheered happily.
With a dissatisfied nod, she agreed.
"Can you text me her order?" she asked Brian quietly. "I've never ordered a taco in my life."
"Sure," he laughed lowly.
With a polite wave to the mass in my room, she took her leave.
My poor baby was swarmed with affection right away. Everyone took their turn holding and fussing over the tiny life. I felt weirdly outside of it all, shackled to my bed like some sickly prisoner. Brian came to keep me company, watching everyone with his hand in min.
"He's so precious!" Barb announced, giving Brian a congratulatory staredown.
Joe passed the baby along to his wife before coming to wrap me up in his arms. I leaned into him like he was Jimmy--letting myself pretend just long enough to get through. Sometimes I could really see Jimmy in his father, and other times Joe was just a painful reminder of what once was. I loved the man dearly, don't get me wrong; but...It was difficult to see him after Jimmy died. It was difficult to see everyone.
"Congratulations," he told me happily as he pulled away. "You guys make cute kids!"
Brian was smug as shit.
"So," Marge cut us off. "I'm dying over here. We can't call him baby boy forever. What's his name?"
I'd lied for months to them. I'd fed them false names and feigned uncertainty any time the name conversation came up. Marge wanted me to name him Raymond. Raymond...I don't think so.
Brian and I exchanged excitement, but I ultimately urged him to do the honors. I was already choking up with the anticipation--I blame it on the drugs.
"His name is Brody," Brian said proudly.
Marge and Tom latched onto one another.
"Saint James," I added, too jealous to let Brian shed the impact.
All four grieving parents were elated; pain and ecstacy warring for dominance on their faces. Brian was pulled immediately into Joe's arms as Tom practically jumped me as well. The women held back, holding their shit together far better than the men.
The conversation took a turn for the Jimmy. We talked about him with the Sullivans for a while, using the stories to somehow connect him to the day. The Brodys listened curiously to all the tales we had of the man I'd loved so much. Marge had always been disappointed that she hadn't had a chance to really meet him. He'd died before she'd had the opportunity.
"He was the world's best person," I sighed, finally taking my baby back from Joe.
Barb nodded, "Second only to the two of you."
Brian's lip quivered like a sad boy.
"We love you both," she told us firmly. "All three of you."
After a few solid minutes of bawling my guts out, the Sullivans took their leave. Brian walked them out, leaving me with a sappy kiss and a few extra tears.
Silence fell over the room as Tom and Marge pulled chairs up to my bed. I distracted myself with Brody's stirring so that I wouldn't have to discuss the elephant in the room.
"Blair," Marge spoke.
I dared to look at her.
"I didn't think I should bring it up today," she told me. "Because today is supposed to be happy and I know how Tyler makes you...feel."
"Mhm," I hummed defensively.
"But he would have been so thrilled," she told me sternly. "He would have been obsessively caring for that baby there...And for you...He would have been bossing everyone around, making sure you had the finest of everything...He would have been so...Happy."
I blinked back a few more tears. I was pretty fucking tired of crying.
"And I know that the loss is yours," she continued glumly. "But I think you're doing great. I think that you're inspiring...and that this little boy has just won the lottery."
Tom reached out to hold my arm, reassuring me with a smile.
"I'm sorry he isn't here," Tom told me quietly. "I wish that I could take that pain away from you...I wish that I could bring him back just for today."
I tried to speak but couldn't.
"We love that you've named your son after our son," Marge whimpered. "It's...It's perfect."
Clearing all sentiment from my throat, I finally spoke, "It isn't just about Tyler...It's about the two of you."
They looked confused, which confused me.
"You guys didn't have to take me in like your daughter," I told them, adjusting Brody's head against my elbow. "But you did. Any time I felt unloved, I knew I just had to go and spend thirty seconds with either of you...You guys are my home. You're my family. I didn't have the surname to grace him with," I almost laughed. "So...Brody is everything. He's Tyler, he's you...He's Jimmy...He's me...He's Brian. He's everyone I love. He's everything. I couldn't imagin a more suiting name for everything than Brody...You know?"
Tom sucked back an ugly cry, "When did you get so sentimental?"
I groaned with a laugh, "I'm fucking not. It's the drugs; swear to god. Give me another twelve hours and I'll be back to my apathetic self."
Tom laughed, "We love you."
"I love you too," I smirked. "Now where do we stand on grandparent names? Carolyn has insisted that she's Nana...Because she's pretentious as fuck. Are you guys too good for Grandma and Grandpa?"
Marge smiled, "I think Grandma is perfect."
"I'm not old enought to be a grandpa," Tom mumbled, earning a rough jab to the ribs from his wife. "Ahem...I mean, Grandpa is fine."
Before they had the chance to really overwhelm my emotions, the entire Avenged family came pouring through the door. Brian was frantically trying to stop them but they pushed passed him like an angry stampede.
"We've had enough waiting!" Zach told me loudly, earning a 'yeah!' from the crowd.
"Fine," I laughed. "Come meet the baby."
The nurses were pissed; apparrently ten people in my room was a bit of a stretch. I didn't care. This was Brody's family and no way was I sending them away.
As Brody was passed around like a hot potato, Brian slid back into the bed by my side. I imagined what Jimmy would do with the baby, how he might fall in love. I imagined his cheeky grin as he told me, for the thousandth time, that Brody had my nose. I imagined what he'd think when the baby grabbed at his thumb for the first time.
He'd missed it with his own son...and now with mine.
But as Lauren stepped into the room with Owen in her arms and Brody made his way back to me, the two boys were introduced for the very first time.
"Kind of full circle! Huh, Gates?" Matt smiled.
Brian, for the first time all day, made no attempt to bite back his emotions. As Owen's crystal blue eyes fell onto our son, Brian broke apart.