Zai stood guard outside of the hospital creche, keeping her eye on the hallway that could have stood in for any hospital hallway in any movie she’d ever seen. She hardly knew what to watch for as nurses and techs went from room to room as quietly as they could. Even though it was the middle of the night, no-one had slowed down, they’d only dimmed the lights.
The odd quiet and low light of the maternity ward made her nervous, but she didn’t want to leave Leah’s new baby in the hands of the hospital unsupervised, however willing they seemed to be to care for the little squid.
With one last glance down the hall, she turned and pressed her face to the glass of the viewing window. Leah’s little boy was easy enough to spot, sleeping like a tiny swaddled buritto in his plastic baby bucket.
She smiled to herself, a fond little smile. Where the other babies were had scrunched skin and ugly little faces, he had violet skin - the rich color of darkness and the chasm - and gently twitching tentacles that sprouted from his jaw to curl around his chubby arms and grip at the edges of his blanket.
“Some guard you are.” Leah startled Zai as Georgia wheeled her chair up to the window. Trailing them both, a rather dazed looking Nikki completed the quartet.
“Sorry.” Zai apologized, her gaze returning to the window and the baby beyond. “Have you decided what you’ll name him?”
Nikki spoke up when Leah shook her head. “She was trying to decide between something bog-boring that won’t get him teased, like Henry, and something weird enough to fit his face.”
Georgia tried to hide a smile and said, “Nikki suggested both Taicarilon and Cthuhlu.”
“Really, Nikki, really? You’d saddle a kid with Cthulu?” Zai gave her a look.
Nikki shrugged, her dangly earrings reflecting the green from one of the exit signs, “I was brainstorming. I only said that they share the whole ‘chintacles’ thing, so it would be more or less appropriate.”
“I might go with Zane. With a Z or an X. I haven’t decided.” Leah said, pressing her hand to the glass and staring off into the middle distance.
Never taking her eyes off the baby’s crib - Number #16. It had been a busy night for births - Zai teased Nikki, “The hell did you find Taicarilon? Was it in the glossary of one of your fantasy novels?”
“I made it up, if you must know. I told you, I was brainstorming. If you want something truly weird, go with something old and British.”
They all chuckled quietly at Nikki’s indignation, except for Leah. Zai was the first to notice the ripples in the glass radiating out from where her friend’s hand met the pane.
“Leah. Not here, sweetie.” She wrapped her fingers gingerly around Leah’s wrist and pulled her away, the ripples and tiny spiderweb cracks disappearing the moment her skin left the surface. “They’ll probably let us break protocol for him if we ask. He can sleep right next to your bed. I can bring him.”
“Sorry.” Leah began to cry and Nikki was on her knees next to the wheelchair with tissues as soon as she heard the tears in the apology. “Ask. Zai - ask, please. I don’t want to be this far from him right now.”
Zai nodded at Georgia, sharing a glance, and Georgia slipped away to find the doctor. Placing her hand on the glass beside her, Zai ran her fingers over the pristine surface. “Don’t worry.” She said. “Don’t worry. We’ll tuck squidbaby right into your arms and you can drift off to dreamland holding him.”
“Xavier.” Leah said, laughing as she blew her nose, producing the most unholy noise. “I’ve decided. Not squidbaby, but Xavier.”
Nikki made a small sound of approval. “Xavier.”