"That was one sweet nightcap, huh?"
Derian spoke to the three-hour-old baby girl who was gripping the shoulder of the nurse who was gently burping her. Bubbles of creamy milk blossomed at her tiny pink mouth.
Her hair was the color of freshly brewed coffee...but her eyes were dark gray pearls. Time would tell if they would transform to turquoise blue, like Derians own...or dark velvet brown, like Jamies.
"Takin her for a nap now?"
The words crept from Jamies mouth. His eyes were already shut, smudged with exhaustion beneath the lashes.
"Yeah, Jamie." Derian reached down and ruffled Jamies satiny, slightly sweaty hair. "Dont you fret. Its all under control." He draped a fresh, dry towel over Jamies bare chest.
"Shes already asleep now," said the nurse. The babys closed eyes were tiny hairlines interrupting her face, still pink from the stress of birth.
"Ill carry her to the newborn ward." It was not a request. "I want to be the one to tuck my daughter in for the first time."
The nurse handed the baby to Derians waiting arms, and Derian smiled to reveal his gapped teeth...something he only did when he was ecstatic.
* * *
Derian was just as aware as he needed to be as the nurse led him to the newborn ward. The rest of it was focused on the bundled bean he cradled in his arms.
He should be used to this by now, he thought. Hed gone through this four times before...but this time, it was different.
In his arms now, he held a child born of the flesh of him and his one true love...a child who had defied the laws of biology to get here.
"Marshmallow Flu-u-u-uff," he crooned at the baby. Thats what Jamie had coated his hips with one night many months ago, making a sweet, tasty brief for Derian to lick off...right before they dropped to the bed for an act of unbridled lust that very likely resulted in the miracle he was holding right now.
Marshmallow Fluff...a sweet spoonful of Marshmallow Fluff, that was what he carried in his arms.
He and Jamie had decided that they would name their baby after their fathers, because they never imagined that two men would produce a girl. But, they should have known better...life was full of surprises.
Marshmallow Fluff...a unique name for a little girl with a one-of-a-kind genesis.
Only the creaking of an opening door alerted Derian that they had reached the newborn ward. There he found three rows of ten glass cribs each, about three-fourths of them occupied, a small collection of white bundles with blue caps and pink caps.
Derian searched for the empty crib with the cleanest, softest-looking sheet. Nothing but the best would do for his little Marshmallow.
The nurse gave him a pink cap, and he carefully covered Marshmallows tiny bulb of a head with it. He placed the baby in her bed for the night -- he had briefly considered asking if he could have the crib in the hospital room, but it wasnt a good idea. Tonight, Jamie needed sleep, and lots of it.
"Good night, Marshmallow Fluff." He bent down to kiss her tender cheek. "Welcome to the world. Youre going to love it here."
Each crib had a card with its babys first name tucked in a clear plastic slot. Derian took a card, wrote the letters "M-A-R-S-H-M-A-L-L-O-W F-L-U-F-F", and tucked it into the slot.
"Anybody gives you trouble for that, little one, just tell your Daddy Jamie or Daddy Derian, and well take care of business."
He gave a warm smile to the nurse. "Thanks for letting me have this moment."
"If only every new father cared this much."
* * *
Derian opened the door to Jamies room. Jamie was in a deep sleep now, his head sunk into the pillow, his lips slightly parted in the dim light, for hospital rooms never completely went black.
He walked around the bed to the narrow cot which the hospital provided for tired new fathers. It wasnt quite big enough for his tall, powerful frame, but hed rather be here with Jamie than in a king-sized bed alone.
But before he got into the cot, Derian looked down at Jamie...remorseful over the uneven division of labor.
Its not fair, he thought. One person got the fun part...the other was stuck with all the hard work. And because this was not a "natural" birth, "hard" wasnt just a figure of speech.
I promise Ill make it up to you, Jamie. He bent down to kiss the lips of the man who had become his soul. I love you so much.
Derian crawled into his cot, finally releasing the exhaustion hed held at bay. His limbs sank into a leaden heaviness, his eyelids snapping shut at once.
Wed better sleep well, Jamie, was his last thought before sleep. Were in for a helluva ride...you, me, and our new bundle of Fluff.
* * *
Derian squinted as he opened his eyes. Damn, it was bright in the bedroom. Too damn bright. He should have closed the curtains last night.
He pushed himself upward -- and froze, because he'd come that close to falling off the narrow cot he'd slept on last night.
Whoa. Where am I? Wait...oh.
Gentle laughter bubbled behind him. Derian rolled over on his cot.
Jamie was already wide awake, cradling a small dark-haired head in his hand. A tiny pink hand splayed its fingers and reached for Jamie's bare, rounded chest.
"Breakfast time, breakfast time," Jamie cooed to the baby. "It's breakfast time for daddy Jamie and newborn baby."
Derian sat up further. Now he saw the tray next to Jamie's bed, a tray containing a plate filled with scrambled eggs, hash browns, and pre-cut steak, so Jamie could have one arm free to nurse...
The more he thought about it, the more he felt she could have no other name. He wondered how hard it would be to convince Jamie. Maybe he'd already given her a name in his heart, too.
"It's a beautiful world out there, isn't it?" Jamie asked his daughter, who suckled noisily at his enlarged nipple. "Much better than being in a smelly ol' butt."
In the last two-and-a-half days since he brought Jamie to the hospital, Derian had seen profound and often disturbing changes in the young man's face. He'd seen the stark pallor when he feared he would not survive the first birth of a child to a male. He'd seen the gleam of tears as he told Derian that he loved him, apologizing for any hormone-fueled fits of anger. He'd seen the bright red flush of strain as Jamie crouched on the delivery room table, pushing the baby out of his anus.
But now...Jamie's face glowed. Glowed as if it had been dusted with pale gold powder. As if the crusty barks of terror had fallen away to reveal Jamie's true self.
You're joyous that you survived what you thought was unsurvivable, thought
Derian. You're joyous that you have your baby in your arms...you weren't
just a sperm donor this time; you actually grew her in your body...this time,
you really felt the miracle.
"Shes a very hungry baby, isnt she?" asked Jamie.
"It sure looks like it. But shes so incredibly tiny now. She needs that milk to grow."
"Big and strong, like her daddy Derian?"
"Well, not that big and strong. I hope." Derian chuckled.
Marshmallow stopped suckling and let out a hiccup. Jamie put her over his shoulder and patted her back.
"All done?" he asked.
"What do you think we should name her?" asked Derian. "We never picked a name for a girl. We were 100% certain of a boy."
"It was actually 50%. You have XY chromosomes, I have XY chromosomes. That means a 50% chance of XY, 25% of XX, and 25% of YY -- whatever that would have been."
"Yuck," Jamie chuckled. "But I would have loved him anyway."
Jamie placed Marshmallow back in the crook of his arm.
"Let me hold her for a while, so you can eat," Derian suggested.
"Okay." Jamie carefully transferred the baby to Derian. "You want me to order a breakfast for you when the nurse comes around?"
"Hell, yeah...the exact same thing, too." Derian looked down into Marshmallows gray eyes. "You didnt answer the question about the babys name."
"Hmmm...cant really think of any now." Jamie said between bites of breakfast. "My mind is kind of fried."
"I thought of one as I walked her to bed last night. I thought she felt as light as a spoonful of Marshmallow Fluff."
"Marshmallow Fluff? Man, thats good stuff...remember that night in the tool shed, out by Moose Lake?"
"Oh, God, yes...it tasted so good against your skin..." Derian sighed at the delicious memory...then blushed at the impropriety of erotic memories in the presence of a newborn. "Wait. We were talking about naming our daughter."
"You think we should call her Marshmallow Fluff?"
"Yeah." Derian shrugged. "Im sure there are many reasons why not...but I cant think of a single one."
"Marshmallow Fluff..." Jamie smiled at the baby. "I think its a wonderful idea. How about you, little one?"
"Jsdfk." Marshmallow spat out a little milk in reply.
"That sounds close enough to 'yes' to me." Jamie chuckled. "Hey...if we'd had peanut butter in the shed that night, would we have named her Skippy?"
"Nope. I'm strictly a Jif man."
The two men, Marshmallow's two fathers, laughed together, and anyone who would have heard it would deem it a beautiful sound. The laughter of two men who'd gone through torment -- the shock of the initial diagnosis, the never-sleeping media eye, two difficult divorces, the homophobic ridicule of opponents, the fear of how-will-this-end -- to reach this moment.
Derian and Jamie had love. Lots of it. More than enough to share with the tiny, pink faced girl who opened her toothless mouth in a yawn, then fell asleep in the crook of a brawny, blond-haired arm.