Adriel would look to his daughter in Louis' arms, consider the awful truth to Louis' words: that Adriel was very lucky to have such a brilliant daughter. He’d consider Danielle, think back to her excessive drug use, how often Adriel would have found her unresponsive, how Avery would show up after Adriel had administered CPR and Danielle was throwing up in the recovery position. Adriel would have been left shaking, terrified for the child he knew to be growing within her. He and Avery would have done everything within their power to get and keep her clean, but the withdrawal would have dragged her to the brink, would have had her as sick and weak as the drugs did. It would have been Avery who had talked him into giving up on Danielle, who had told him to focus on his child.
'You’re not going to change her, Adriel,' Avery would have said. 'You’re not going to save her. But you can maybe save your kid. So get your shit together and be a goddamn father.' and then Danielle would have gone missing. Would have been missing for weeks. Adriel and Avery would have torn up the town looking for her. They’d have found her half-starved, disoriented. Adriel sometimes wondered if Danielle ever knew she'd been knocking on death's door, wondered if she was too high or too far gone to have felt any pain. The doctors would have induced labor when Avery and Adriel had taken Danielle to the hospital, would have sliced her open when her body didn't respond. And Cayla was weeks early, weeks early and hardly able to survive on her own. She’d have been sickly, addicted to the substances her mother had pumped into their joined bodies. It would have reduced Adriel to desperate prayers. No, he wouldn't have wanted to be a father, but he'd have felt his daughter kick in response to his voice in those fleeting moments when Danielle seemed happy to be expecting, believed she could be happy with Adriel, when she was sober and Adriel had performed enough verbal acrobatics to keep her home for a few days. Adriel wouldn't have mourned Danielle--he'd have long disconnected and considered her little more than a vessel for his child--but he'd have mourned for Avery’s loss.
It was Avery who told him to suck it up, who would have pointed out that they both knew it was coming, that Danielle would eventually kill herself, that no amount of rehab or intervention would have saved her. Avery would have told him to be grateful for Cayla’s survival, and Avery wouldn't have cried. Meanwhile, Adriel would have wept whenever Cayla’s health took a turn for the worst, whenever he'd see her and be convinced he'd only be a father for a few weeks. But Cayla had proved to be a fighter, would have overcome the addiction, the withdrawal, the knife-edge of organ failure and would have finally been released to Adriel to take home. He’d have slept with her bassinet beside his bed, waking repeatedly throughout the night to make sure she was breathing, to make sure she was okay, sometimes just to reach out and touch her. Cayla. His daughter.
The doctors would have warned about brain damage, possibly retardation, learning disabilities, and stunted growth. They would have warned Adriel that she might last very long. So each day would have been a victory, a blessing, and he and Avery would have made the best of it. The few times Cayla got sick, had to be hospitalized as a baby, Adriel would have been beside himself, but he wouldn't have cried. Avery would have been there, and he wouldn't crumble just to be told to get his shit together. But as Cayla grew, it would have been at a normal rate. She would have been an average little girl, curious, happy, beautiful, save for her intelligence and her development. She’d have started walking earlier than anticipated, started talking earlier than anticipated. She’d have been stringing sentences together soon enough for Adriel to be spooked by it. And now, she was learning French from Louis, learning Spanish from Adriel, able to communicate effectively with three languages before her peers were mastering even one. She was perceptive, offered Adriel comfort as often as he comforted her, could sense his moods as if they were connected by more than blood, and acted accordingly. Sometimes Adriel would wonder if Cayla understood and remembered the words he whispered to her in the dark during her infancy, how he'd confessed his fears, his love, his aspirations for her--because sometimes she would seem to understand how terrified he was, and reassured him that it was okay. That she was okay. That they would be okay. So yes, Adriel would be very lucky to have such a brilliant daughter.
Adriel would take a trembling breath, lace his fingers with Louis' and kiss his knuckles. "I love you," he'd murmur. He hadn't chosen to be Cayla’s father, not really. But he'd chosen to offer the role to Louis. It might have been one of the few things he did right by his daughter. "You’re perfect for her. You’ll be perfect for her."