Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chapter 23



“I can’t leave them.” He amazes himself when he says it but, at the same time, there is not a single doubt in his mind that he is making the right choice. Marc nods and doesn’t question him, more evidence that he is doing the right thing. 

“I’ll tell Dan and Mario. They’ll know what to do.” Sid knows if he was any other player he’d be expected on the ice they next day after the birth of his child, and he knows that he is abusing his position but he realizes that he doesn’t feel any guilt about doing it. 

“I hope V understands,” he says, changing the subject somewhat. Marc glances over his shoulder at his girlfriend who is leaning against their SUV, her long, dark hair hiding the disappointment they both know she is feeling.

“She’ll get over it, with time,” Marc says quietly but there is a certain amount of despondency in the keeper’s voice as he says it. Sid makes a mental note to speak with someone in the legal department when he gets back. It seems unfair that their not being married yet and being ‘young’ should be held against them when it comes to adoption, especially when he can see now the hope draining from them both. 

“Still, give her a hug and a kiss from me,” he tells his friend quietly. Flower nods and then reaches to offer his hand. 

“F√©licitations √† vous deux mes amis,” he says sincerely. 

“Thanks Flower,” Sid replies, taking his friend’s hand and pulling him into a hug. They pat one another’s back as friend’s do but hold on a little longer than usual. There are things they cannot say now, things they might say later, or not that a hug can say now. 

“Bonne chance,” the finely boned goalie whispers and Sid notes the barely in check emotion in his voice as he does. He nods and then gives his friend’s hand a squeeze before Marc turns to go. He hopes things might be able to go back to the way they were before all of this, but he doubts it and he can see the same thought in his teammate’s eyes before he turns to go. He watches him walk away, watches him gather Vero against him. It will be a long drive back home for the two of them but he cannot linger here in the pre-dawn half light. It’s time to go back to his own family. 

By the time he returns to the NICU, she is there. She is in a wheelchair, a blanket across her lap. One of the nurse’s is bent low and by her gestures he can tell that she is explaining the wires, the tubes that lead from their son to all of the monitors around the incubator. Her eyes are wide and the expression on her face is unmistakably one of terror. 

He makes his way to her side and reaches to peel one of her hands from where it has a white knuckle grip on the arm rest of the wheelchair. Her hand disappears into his and she holds onto him with a death grip. 

“He’s so tiny,” she whispers, her gaze still locked on the tiny pink form in the plastic box in front of them. He watches the fragile looking chest struggle to rise and fall and gives her hand a squeeze.

“He’ll be fine,” he tells her, though he is not at all sure of that himself. “They said he might not look like it but he’ll be just fine.” 

“Thirty-two weeks for a preemie really isn’t so bad,” a nurse in Barbie pink scrubs and blonde pig tails appears at the side of the incubator and picks up the clip board and then adjusts one of the leads. “A lot of the complications that can happen are more likely to happen in babies under thirty-two weeks. Mostly he’s just a little bit skinny, so he has trouble staying warm, which we’re helping him with and he’s having a little bit of respiratory issues, which we’re monitoring but honestly, he’s looking pretty good, he’s keeping his blood pressure up and the fetal ultrasound didn’t show any abnormalities so everything is looking good so far and if he keeps up like this, in the morning, mom, you’re gonna feed him and help him fatten up. How does that sound?” He feels as if his heart is going to swell so much it is going to explode and when he looks down, tears are welling in her eyes. 

“Sounds great,” he whispers hoarsely, giving her hand another squeeze. “Right?” She nods but he is fairly sure if she tried to actually speak she will  just cry. 

“Okay, well my names Kammy and I’m the Pedes Resident here and I’m going to be here until the morning shift comes on so if you guys want to go and get some rest, I can come get you if there’s any change at all.” He lets out a breath of relief he had not realized he was holding. He had been assuming they would send him home and he would have to leave them behind. “You both look like you could do with some sleep,” she adds with an encouraging smile. 

“Just...just a minute or two more,” Fern says quietly and leans towards the incubator, a tear slipping down her cheek. 

“You bet,” Kammy grins and then turns to go and check on another baby. He pushes the wheelchair closer and he can feel the heat coming from the little box. 

“Hey there Simon,” he whispers, the sudden urge to run his fingertips over the tissue thin pink skin is so overwhelming that his hand hovers over the box. 

“Oh my god, look at his hands,” she whispers, her own fingers fluttering like a moth near a flame. He guesses that she is also feeling the need to touch and comfort the tiny delicate form on the white and blue blanket in front of them. 

“I know, long fingers,” he replies and looks down at their entwined hands. 

“Just like his daddy,” she whispers and looks up at him, her eyes wide and pleading. He smiles and nearly laughs. She does not have to ask. 

“I’m right here,” he whispers, cradling her cheek with his other hand. “I’m not going anywhere.” 

______________________________________________________________

She wakes sometime in the early hours of the morning, when the entire world seems to be holding its breath and even the usually noisy hallways of the hospital are still, quiet and dim. He is sleeping in a chair in the corner of the private room, his cheek on his bunched up suit jacket, his breathing slow and deep. She watches him for a few minutes, wondering if she should wake him, just so that she will not be alone, but decides against it. 

Wrapping her robe around herself and wincing as all of the muscles that have been so recently abused complain at being moved so soon, she slips out of the room and down the hallway. 

She stops at the window outside the nursery and looks at all of the pink, cherub cheeked healthy babies whose mothers will be able to take them home in the morning. She smiles as they stretch and suckle in their sleep and imagines how warm their little bodies must be and how they must smell like baby powder and warm milk. 

She only pauses there a moment or two before she moves down the hall to where nurses move between the brightly lit incubators like shades, silent and swift as they check temperatures, monitors, adjust tubes and administer life saving medicines. They lift their eyes to greet her with a smile as she makes her way to that incubator housing her son. No one raises an alarm or tries to stop her. Other mothers must feel like this, she thinks as her hand hovers above the warm little cube of light, the need to be near, to watch, to wait. 

One tiny, fragile little hand uncurls and reaches into the air before curling back up. Her own hand twitches with the need to put her finger into that little fist, to feel his strength, to be reassured by it. Instead she wraps her arms around herself and stares down at his delicate little body with its delicate bones almost visible through his paper thin skin reminding her of a baby bird. 

“Hey little boy,” she whispers as his tiny toes curl, toes she longs to press against her mouth and blow on, use to tell the story of the little pigs and have him squirm and giggle as she does. 

“He’s holding his own,” Kammy appears like a spectre at her side and nearly makes her jump. 

“I...I just want to touch him,” she explains, knowing at the same time she’ll be terrified of breaking him, of damaging him with her clumsy hands. 

“Sure,” she says, pointing towards a round opening in the side of the incubator, which she carefully and slowly unlatches. “You’ll wear these for the first while,” she explains, handing a pair of surgical gloves to Fern, “and then it’s a good idea to rub your hands together, so they’re warm and then just reach in and speak softly and let him know that you’re just going to lay your hand very gently on his head, like that,” the Resident says softly but encouragingly. Fern’s hand trembles as she slides it through the opening but as her fingers meet the tiny cap on his head and she feels the soft heat coming from him, her knees almost give way beneath her. 

“Right behind you.” She leans back into his chest and feels his arm snap around her waist like a security latch on a fairground ride. The heat from him, the solid feel of him behind her and the way Simon’s body becomes very still as she strokes him makes her feel better than she has in months. “Hey big guy,” he coos from behind her, “that’s your mom and I’m right here. We’re both here buddy,” he adds and she is forced to bite down on the inside of her cheek to stifle a sob that tries to escape. 

“Do you want to hold him?” Kammy says suddenly and both of them turn to look at her. “We call it Kangarooing and it’s good for a preemie’s temperature regulation,” she adds, inclining her head towards a rocker in the corner of the NICU. “Mostly we get dads to do it, ‘cuz they don’t mind having their shirts off in front of all us girls,” she adds with a playful grin. Fern raises an eyebrow at her, thinking of course they all want to see him with his shirt off, but when he doesn’t protest, she shrugs and stands back, watching him makes short work of his rumpled dress shirt. 

With the help of one of the nurses, Kammy lifts the incubator lid and with two hands gingerly lifts Simon from the blanket and carries him to where Sid has slid onto the rocker. His eyes are as big as saucers as he watches her very, very carefully place her tiny burden onto Sid’s bare chest, respirator and all. 

For a long moment it seems like no one dares to breathe and then one tiny little hand wraps itself almost around Sid’s thick one and then everyone in the room lets out that held breath, and smiles. 

_________________________________________________________________

“Can’t remember ever being so tired,” she sighs as she climbs back into the hospital bed and scrambles under the blanket. He’s also tired but the kind of tired that is past the point of sleep being a cure. It’s the kind of tired he gets when he’ll lie awake and think about a game, go over each play in his head, analyze each pass, each shot. Only tonight it won’t be the game, it will be his son and the way his little body felt pressed against his chest. He can still feel it, lifts his hand to press it over the still warm spot where that tiny body had slept. 

“I came here to tell you something,” he begins before he’s even thought about what he’s going to say. She looks alarmed and then guarded and he knows without having to ask or be told that she’s anticipating the worst. He would take that fear from her eyes if he could but he isn’t sure he has the words to do it, but he squares his shoulders just as he has the few times he’s known he has to drop the gloves and lifts his chin. “I want him, Simon...our son. I want him but I want you too.” His first words had made her dark eyes darker but his last words make them big and round. “I missed you. When I got back to the house...you not being there...I didn’t like it and before you say anything else,” he adds in a softer tone, taking that step that brings him to the edge of the bed with its crisp white sheets, “I missed the smell of you and the way you laugh and...and your face,” he adds in an almost whisper as he reaches out to cradle her cheek in his hand. 

“If this is some kind of ploy for custody,” she hisses like a snake about to strike and he has to fight his first instinct to draw back. Sometimes you just have to stare down your opponent, show them you’re not gonna back down. 

“I know we didn’t do this the right way but we can make it right now. We can be a family, you, me and him,” he adds, stroking his thumb along the tense line of her jaw. “That’s what I want Fern. That’s what I’m asking. I want us to be together, properly.” That look is back, the stray dog that’s been poked and hit too many times, as she looks up at him, distrust mixed with a craving to be stroked, to be loved. 

“And when he cries at two in the morning and you have a game the next day, will you want us then?” she asks, like it’s a challenge, her gaze searching his face for any little tic that will give his true motives away.

“Even then,” he promises. She narrows her eyes and her lips thin out and he can tell she’s trying to think of something gory, something truly frightening that will trip him up but while that little form lay on his chest, he’s thought of everything and then some. “Diapers, feeds, coughs, colds, blisters, scraped knees, all of it Fern. I want it.”

“Okay, so you want him but c’mon...not me. You don’t want me,” she sighs and starts to turn her face away but his other hand captures her face and he sees the look of shock on her face right before he presses his mouth over hers’. 

“I do,” he whispers against her cheek before pressing his mouth tenderly to the bridge of her nose. “I want your sarcastic comments and your sweet laughter and your old movies. I want you and I don’t really know how you got under my skin woman but you have and that’s all there is to it,” he tells her and means it. “I won’t go back to Pittsburgh without both of you and that’s all there is to it.” Tears fill her dark eyes as she looks up at him. The apprehension is still there but even though he can see she is still fighting it, the need to believe him is beginning to win out. “You’re in here,” he whispers, taking one of her hands and pressing it to the same spot, over his heart, where their son had lain. “Both of you are in here,” he adds and then shrugs because he’s not ready to say the words that are there, on the tip of his tongue, because now it’s his turn to be afraid. He’s dropped the gloves now all he can do is wait.

__________________________________________________________________

“Stay,” she says quietly and scoots over on the bed. It’s not a yes or a no and probably not the answer he is looking for at all but he looks relieved all the same as she makes room for him in the single hospital bed. He cradles her gently against him and she lets herself relax into his arms. 

Was this how Simon felt, she wonders as she presses her cheek to his chest and listens to the slow, steady rhythm of his heart beat. ‘Safe’ is the word that comes to mind as his arm slides across her back and over her shoulder. Other words sneak into her consciousness but she bats them away like shuttlecocks as her eyes droop and sleep sneaks up on her. Those are words for later, when their son is not hooked up to tubes and wires and machines that breathe for him. 

So many things can happen to change everything, she knows as she listens to his breaths slow and deepen and feels his mighty chest rises and falls more slowly. Not least of all, his father, Mario, the league, the press....

But those are thoughts for another time she tells herself as she covers a yawn with her hand and snuggles closer to the warm, solid form that is the man that holds all of their futures in the palm of his hand. Now she needs sleep and for just a little while, to believe that dreams just might come true after all. 


**oh and please check out a story I'm doing with my friend Shannon, it's a Canucks fic called the Specialist and you can find it  at http://thenuckspecialist.blogspot.com/


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chapter 22


I'm super sorry this took so long to put up but my stupid computer ate my stupid chapter and when I tried to get it from another computer...anyway, had to start again so here goes

It was a long drive.

He spent the first half of it arguing with Marc while he vehemently denied that this had been his goal all along. The rest of the ride Marc either played devil’s advocate or they’d sat in a sort of charged silence, both blaming the other for the predicament they were in. 

He knows his own part in all of this mess is far from innocent but he had thought they had been turning a corner when Troy stuck his size twelve’s in. He accepts that looking at it from the outside in that he might not look like he is in control of his own destiny and as much as he wants to he knows he can’t blame her for jumping at the first opportunity to wipe the slate clean and rid herself of this whole disaster.

He is reminding himself with each step he takes down the hospital’s sterile hallways that she has reasons for offering up their child to Marc and V and that he will get nowhere by judging her for acting out of fear. He reminds himself that she did not run to the nearest bank with the cheque his father handed her and that is to her credit. Still, his teeth grind together as he sullenly follows behind Marc who bobs his head as he passes nurses and orderlies, smiling at each and every one of them while he, himself, keeps his head down. He is in no mood to smile and sign autographs as if he hasn’t a care in the world and he knows too well the consequences of taking out his personal issues on innocent bystanders to chance so much as making eye contact with anyone when he is in this kind of mood. 

Besides, he is doing his best to come up with just the right words to say when he sees her. Not that he’s very good with words. If he was he wouldn’t be skulking down this brightly lit hospital corridor with his guts churning like he’s waiting to hit the ice for the third period of game seven and they’re down by two. 

“This one, I think,” Marc says, looking down at his phone and then up at the number on the closed door of the room. Sid’s heart hammers like a jackhammer in his chest. He lifts his hand and presses it over the spot where the unruly organ feels like it’s trying to chisel its way out. 

“Jeezus,” he wheezes, “feels like we’re heading for overtime in game seven now.” Marc affords him a sympathetic smile before lifting his hand to knock softly on the door. The sound of a cat being slowly strangled answers his knock and the two young men exchange an indecisive but worried look. 

“Nooooooo, it’s toooo soooon.” It’s her voice. He doesn’t need to hear more to reach past Marc to twist the door handle and push open the door to find her rolling her head back and forth on the pillow, her dark hair affixed to her sweat soaked forehead and cheeks, her teeth clenched. 

“You have to push,” the nurse holding one of her hands says in that matronly way that’s supposed to make you listen to her. Fern grimaces and shakes her head again. 

“No, too soon. Noooo,” she pants with the obvious effort of doing the exact opposite of what her body is asking her to do. 

“The baby’s coming, right now. You’re only making it worse on both of you by doing what you’re doing,” the woman in the blue scrubs that suddenly appears from beneath the sheet draped over Fern’s midsection says patiently and with a thin lipped smile. “He’s gonna tear you from stem to stern and then where will you be?”  she adds, placing a blood soaked glove on Fern’s knee. “Now, c’mon, give me a good push.” Fern stares daggers at the doctor and he believes, right in that moment, that she will get up off of the bed and rip the doctor stem from stern and he feels kind of proud of her. 

He steps up to where the nurse is at her side and reaches for the hand that she is holding. With a grateful smile she gives up her place and he slides his hand over Fern’s warm one. 

“Hey, now listen to me. You have to focus. It’s gonna be beautiful, you’re beautiful but you have to do this. You have one job to do right now and that’s to breathe and push, okay?” She looks up at him like she’s never seen him before or maybe she doesn’t think that he’s real and he smiles down at her before lowering his lips to the white knuckles of the hand that is currently trying to crush his. “Just breathe,” he tells her softly, “and try to relax and everything is going to be fine.” 

“You’re...but...?” She turns her head to look at where Vero had been. Marc has gathered his girlfriend into his arms and she is looking back at them, wide eyed as she anxiously chews on her bottom lip. 

“We can talk about all that later,” he promises her, softly, his heart swelling in his chest as he looks down at her. “Right now put all of that stuff out of your mind and concentrate on doing this okay? Everything else can just wait. You got me?” His gaze searches hers and after a moment of her studying his face she nods, just once. “Good. Now, when the doctor says push, you give it all you’ve got, okay?” 

 __________________________________________________________________


“I can’t....I can’t anymore,” she gasps, dropping back down onto the bed and closing her eyes. She can feel the sweat running down her back and between her breasts like rivulets and the sheets beneath her feel soaked, whether with her sweat or her blood she can’t be sure. What she does know is that she is bone weary and she feels like she is being split in two. “I can’t do it anymore,” she whispers to the man who is gently brushing her hair back from her face. 

“Just a couple more pushes and we’ll be there,” the doctor promises from between her thighs. Fern gnashes her teeth. When she gets up off of this bed...if she ever gets up off of this bed, she is going to murder that self important bitch with her bare hands. 

“Easy for her to say,” she says under her breath and opens one eye to see his boyish grin shining down on her like a ray of mid-summer sunshine, warm and golden. “This is your fault,” she adds, through clenched teeth, “you have a fat head.” 

“Can’t argue that,” he grins good naturedly, “I think I have the biggest helmet on the team,” he adds with a wink. She almost laughs but winces as yet another contraction rips through her body and steals her breath away. 

“Come on Fern, one big push, you can do it,” the doctor encourages and Fern aims another glower in her direction. 

“Couple more pushes and you can rest,” Sidney promises in her ear, his arm sliding up behind her back to support her as she bears down. It is no longer just sweat that slides down her cheeks as she cries out with the effort but tears of pain, of exhaustion both mental and physical. 

“I can’t, I can’t,” she cries, falling back against his arm and panting.

“You can,” he whispers and she feels the brush of his lips against her forehead. “You’re being really brave.”

“Are you kidding?” she breathes, trying to think if she’s ever been in this much pain in her entire life. “I’m scared to death.” 

“Good, then that makes two of us,” he tells her in his most earnest voice, his gaze holding hers. She blinks, wanting to look away and hide the hope that she feels leaking into her face from him but she can’t. “Just for the record,” he adds, unblinking, “what Troy...what my dad did...I didn’t know anything about it and I swear I had nothing to do with it.” She looks into the depths of cafe latte eyes and thinks it must be the pain but for the first time she doesn’t think he is hiding something from her. 

“Okay,” she whispers and the corners of his full, bubble gum soft lips turn up. “I believe you but that doesn’t mean he didn’t mean every single threat he made,” she tells him and his smile fades and his eyes darken.

“I can make threats too,” he promises, his eyes going cold, his expression grim. In this moment he looks like the Sidney she met that night in the club, not the one she thinks is underneath. For a moment she forgets her own pain and reaches up to run her fingers along the strong line of his jaw. He closes his eyes and leans into her hand. “I won’t let him take what’s mine,” he whispers before those long, black lashes flutter open again. “I won’t let anyone take what’s mine.” 

For just a moment she feels the tingling up and down her spine of hearing the words that she knows she’s dreamed of hearing and knowing in her heart that he means them and then her entire body goes rigid, as if struck by lightning and she screams. It’s as if the sound is a handful of razorblades cutting their way up her throat while a hatchet is brought down on her stomach and an axe is driven up between her thighs. The world is black and she can’t even hear the sound of her own screaming. Only a buzzing in her ears and then...silence.

It’s as if the sound has been turned down on the entire room and every one in it is moving in slow motion. She can feel his arm still supporting her but she doesn’t think, even if she turns her head, she will see him. All she can see is the nurses and doctor with their heads down around something. Something she thinks should be crying or making some kind of sound. 

Maybe they only do that in movies, she tells herself as she watches and waits. Maybe it takes longer than you’d think to clear the airways. But maybe...but maybe....

“There’s something wrong,” she whispers and feels his arm tighten around her. 

“He’s a preemie, we knew that,” he whispers back as if he’s reminding himself more than telling her. 

“But he’s not crying,” she insists, barely forcing her words past a ball of emotion quickly filling her throat.
“Shouldn’t he be crying? Why isn’t he crying?” 

“Any minute now,” he tells her, but when she looks up into his face there is no conviction. There is only worry and he doesn’t look down at her, only stares at the backs of the hospital staff crowded around the tiny table with the bright light on the other side of the room.

“Why isn’t he crying?” It isn’t her voice though she thinks that it should be. The voice comes from somewhere behind her and for a moment she thinks it is only in her head until she remembers that there are other people, other interested parties in the room. She looks back over her shoulder, wondering that she can without falling to pieces, and sees Vero cuddled into Marc’s side, both of them staring at the same thing with the same expression of anxiety on their faces.

When she turns back the crowd of blue and green scrubs are moving towards the door, pushing the cart. She tries to sit up, but can’t. 

“Where are they going? What’s going on?” she asks, reaching uselessly forward.

“He’s in good hands. He’s having a little trouble breathing so they’re gonna take him upstairs to the NICU and get him some oxygen and keep a close eye on him. Mom, you’ll be able to go up in a while,” one of the nurses says calmly from behind her mask. “Do you want to follow him dad?” she asks, turning to Sid who is still staring at the now closed door through which they’ve just taken their son.

___________________________________________________________________

He knows, instinctively, that this is one of those damned if you do and damned if you don’t moments. There are things he needs to know, to talk about with Fern but on the other hand....

“Yes,” he says and lets go of Fern with only a quick, half hearted apologetic look over his shoulder as he follows the nurse in scrubs that he supposes are supposed to be cheerful, with colourful cartoon dogs and cats playing together. 

He’s grateful that neither Marc nor Vero follow him and he feels another pang of regret for leaving Fern with them and hopes that he’s done enough by being here, by being with her through this that she knows that they can’t give up their son to someone else, not even his good friend. He hopes Marc will be able to explain it to V. 

His shirt sticks to his skin and he suddenly feels cold as he follows the nurse into the elevator. He’s glad she doesn’t try to make small talk. He doesn’t know what he’d say. His emotions swing wildly from elation to gut churning fear and his heart is racing. 

When the mechanical doors of the elevator open he has to force one foot in front of the other to follow the nurse down the hallway, past the nursery window lined by friends and families with teddy bears and shiny balloons welcoming the newborns to their birthdays. His heart aches in his chest, wishing he could be happily handing out cigars to his teammates, but he puts his head down and follows the nurse into another room, a dimly lit one filled with anxious faces bent over brightly pods and surrounded by the mechanical sounds of life being supported. 

“Here he is,” the nurse says quietly when they reach one such plastic pod. Inside is a tiny, fragile looking doll with a tube taped into his mouth, tape over both of his eyes and a little blue knit hat on his head.
“Fuck me,” he whispers, feeling entirely inadequate. 

“He’s actually pretty big for a preemie,” the nurse tells him quietly, “the doctor thinks a few days...as long as everything else looks alright, and you’ll be able to take him home.” He stares at the alien looking creature in front of him, more spindly than any baby he’s ever seen, and can’t believe it. “Do you have a name for him yet?” she asks and Sid looks over to see her with a wrist band in one hand a black marker in the other. 

“Simon,” he says quietly, turning back to the tiny, fragile form, all pink and wrinkled, in the incubator. “Simon Crosby.”