A Friendly Hand
Disclaimers: I don't own any of the characters. John Wells and his friends do. Let's not get into the debate as to who owns the ideas and all that; cause let's face it, you'll lose. Enjoy the story anyways.
Summary: "It's only the beginning."
Note: This is my final chapter for this story. I've had so much fun writing it and this epilogue was no different. I wanted to keep it light so expect some unusual things in it. This is going to be my fun chapter, so the characters may play slightly out of character. Sorry about it.
Author's Note: Thank you everyone for reading this story. Hoped you enjoyed reading it half as much as I've enjoyed writing it. Now, I'm going to go read other people's work.
"I still think it would be wiser if..."
"No way, I refuse to believe that we're not..."
"But Matt, the baby is due in like three weeks and we still don't have..."
"It'll be here with plenty of time to spare. I promise, Jules, it will be here."
"And if it isn't?" She dropped the one measly clip she's allowed to carry, since Nick saw her topple a stack of them on her toes two weeks ago and Harriet immediately ordered everyone to make sure she didn't carry more than one at a time, onto the countertop at the nurse's station and planted fists on her disgustingly thin hips for someone who is more than eight months along.
You couldn't even tell she was pregnant from the back until you notice the waddling strides that Matt teased her mercilessly about. The crazy man announced that he liked her pregnant so much that he was already thinking of when they can have the next one... between his bi-monthly marriage proposals that is. She would have said yes a dozen times now if the man had been smart enough to buy a damn ring. She was, after all, a traditional girl at heart and really did not prefer to pick out her own.
"Where the hell is the baby going to sleep if your mother cannot find that crib?" she demanded with a huff.
"With us if necessary," he announced, handing over several charts to the attending nurse and took her elbow. Leaning over, he kissed her temple, more than use to the short-lived explosions she's been prone to having lately. "Mother is sure that she had it stored in the London flat but apparently the servants said that..."
"She sure it was in Kent and in Bath and in Scarborough as well but no one seemed to have found it yet!" she pulled her elbow away. Her mood had been rotten all day and it hasn't improved so far. Didn't help that the baby seemed to be enjoying playing soccer with her bladder either. "Matt, I say that we just buy a crib so that I..."
"MATTHEW! JULIA!" the excited and heavily accented voice only served to irritate the neonatal specialist even more. The glare Dr. Slingerland got from her had him wincing. His brother, most assuredly, had the worse possible timing in the world.
"George," Matt rebuked when his brother came close enough so he did not have to shout down the hall. "Kindly remember that this is a hospital and that loud and sudden noises are hardly appreciated unless it is a life and death situation. Now keep bloody your voice down before security decides to have you removed for disturbance."
Completely un-offended, George embraced Dr. Keating with all the affections of a beloved sister-in-law. Jules had endeared herself infinitely to George during the New Years when she put down George's most recent ex-wife sharply with a few choice words after a snide remark by the bitter witch of a woman. "Julia, my dearest, you are looking positively radiant. How are you feeling? And how is the little tike?" patting Jules's softly round stomach that tented the pastel dress that was worn under her lab coat.
"Hands off," Matt warned with a frown, slapping his brother's hand off. He didn't particularly like his brother's overly affectionate nature; at least not when it concerned his girl, much to his mother and brother's amusement. His father was still chilly in his reception of Jules but was slowly thawing under the mother-to-be's unflagging sweetness. Plus the prospects of a grandbaby... it has him seeing stars plus a business empire to carry on. "And what the bloody hell are you doing here?"
"Mother sent me over with a present for you and a warning that she wants to see a wedding shortly following the birth," he grinned at Jules overly bright. "Though she didn't mention who the groom need be."
Jules laughed as Matt slapped his brother upside the head and scowled at him.
"Well, what did you expect?" George replied disgruntled. "If you're not going to make an honest woman out of her, someone has to!"
Jules grabbed Matt before Dr. Slingerland can deplete his brother of any more brain cells that the executive playboy could not afford to lose. "What did Mrs. Slingerland send?"
"You can call her Mom you know," George reminded her. "She'd really love it if you did."
"I have a mother, thank you very much. Now answer the question," she replied crossing her arms over her chest and rested her elbows on her tummy just as her little bundle of joy kicked her kidney, causing her to wince.
Matt frowned. "What's wrong?"
"Your son just kicked me," she grunted as she took a deep breath. The baby has been acting up all day now. A bundle of energy her little one was.
"It's a boy?" George's eyes practically lit up like a Christmas tree.
"Down George," Matt replied dryly. "We still don't know yet. She calls the baby a boy when she's annoyed with it and a girl when she's happy. It's still 50/50 either way."
"It's a boy," George announced. "Mother says it's a boy and you know that mother is never wrong about predicting the genders of babies."
"You're avoiding the question again," Jules said deciding that she didn't like where this conversation was going.
George grinned at her. "We found the baby crib along with the bassinet and matching stroller."
"Really?" Matt was probably triumphant as he looked down at Jules. If he didn't think she would hit him, he'd be rubbing his hands with glee right now. "Where is it, George?"
"It was, believe it or not, in my London flat."
"No, I meant where is it now."
"There are two very burly characters downstairs in the parking lot that can deliver and assemble all of it in your flat if you would like to hand me your keys." He held his hand out expectedly.
Matt dug into his pocket and pulled his keys out, separating his apartment keys from the rest of the bundle he needed. "Second bedroom. And don't touch anything else."
"Yes sir," saluting him before turning to Jules. "Dinner, my dear?"
Dr. Keating rolled her eyes and look at Matt who sighed and nodded his head reluctantly. It's not as if they can avoid their families forever though they've been doing a pretty good job since January. Heck, they even avoided them during Easter and Independence Day weekend. "All right, dinner.... At seven thirty?"
"That late?" George asked, a little surprised.
"Relax," Matt said with a sigh. "She's got her feet up by six, or I sic Dr. Mom on her. Seven-thirty is for me."
"Oh good," George replied then turned about smartly. "See you at seven-thirty then luvs."
Jules watched him as he disappeared around the corner then turned to Matt with a woe-begotten look. "Do we have to?"
He smiled sympathetically and kissed her on her nose. "I'm afraid so."
Nick dropped his chart off and picked up a note at the receptionist desk for him. A quick read and he was off to the fourth floor. It took several tries but he finally found his quarry once Anita immerged from the romance novel she was secretly reading between the covers of a medical journal.
"You wanted to see me?" he asked in the way of announcing his presence.
"Nick," Jules looked up from her notes and struggled to her feet before the Greek doc could get across the room to help her. "Relax, I can still get around without a forklift."
"You should be home and off your feet," Nick advised as he smiled at her. She was positively glowing. Motherhood became her. "How are you doing?"
"Why does everyone keep ask me that when they see me? Do I look sick to anyone?" She wanted to know as she walked toward the nurse's station. "And for your information, I'm feeling just dandy. But I've got a six year old that isn't doing so good." She paused in the hallway, one sweaty palm against the wall for support and one against the side of her belly. "The little guy is really kicking up a fuss today."
Nick grinned as he took her elbow. He watched as she took deep breath and ran her hand along the side of her belly. He'd seen her with Slingerland in the hallways a few times now, their hands linked over the swell of her tummy, riveted by the wonder they had created. "Dr. Keating, I was wondering... Could I... Would you mind if I..."
She guided his hand to where the baby was kicking up a storm. The little bumps against his hands had the impassive and ultra cool Dr. Kokoris at awe. His breath caught in his throat as he felt the little life from within move against his land. Miracles really do happen everyday.
Jules smiled even as she bit back the hiss of pain. "Enjoying yourself there, Doctor?"
Nick let out the breath he hadn't realized that he had been holding. "That was..." Breathless with overwhelming wonder, he smiled at her, thanking her for sharing that small bit of joy with him. "Words cannot begin to describe..."
"I guess you don't get to see this side of medicine as much, do you?" she laughed as he looked at her with such incredible joy. "You look like Matt when he wakes up in the morning and feels the baby kick."
"He's a lucky man and he knows it well," as they continued down the corridor. They were in the pediatric ward when she had to stop again and lean on the wall for support as she breathed through the pain. Frowning with concern, "Are you sure you're okay?"
"The baby's been moving a lot today," she pressed her hand to her belly again. "I'm hoping he settles down before six." She smiled and shook her head. "Then again, maybe I can use the baby to get out of having dinner with Matt's pain in the ass of a brother." She took a deep breath and straightened slowly, supporting her back with her hand gently massaging the muscles there slowly.
Nick moved behind her, one hand on her shoulder and the other nudging her hand aside to help her ease the pain of the overly used muscles that were still unused to the extra weight. "You really do need to put your feet up more often."
"Tell that to my patients. No, I second thought, Matt tells it to me enough for a dozen people." She chuckled softly as she allowed him to message her muscles for a moment before slowly pulling away. "Thank you. Now how about helping out my six year old with tonsils like Godzilla's."
"I think I can do that," Nick said as he entered the patient's room with a smile for the concerned patients and the little guy that was currently having jell-o and rather enjoying his stay at the hospital. "Good afternoon, I'm Dr. Kokoris. I'm the resident surgeon. Dr. Keating has asked me to..." he had turned to consult Jules but found her not there. Frowning, he turned back to the anxious parents, "Excuse me a moment," and walked out.
Jules was leaning against the wall, her hand expertly moving over the top of her stomach as she huffed a little and counted on her watch. "Of all the freaking luck!"
"Dr. Keating?" Nick asked as he moved to look at her. Her face was flushed now, apple cheeks a little too bright for his liking.
Giving him what she hopes to be a reassuring smile, "I need Dr. De Santos paged to have him cover the rest of my shift. Danny in there needs his tonsils out and I have all the notes in his charts. Parents have been told already. After you get De Santos, page Dr. Lenning and Matt. Looks like I'll be leaving work earlier than I thought, that should make them happy once Matt gets over the anxiety part of this procedure."
Nick blinked blankly at him. "You're in labor?"
She threw him a look that practically shouted 'good guess, genius,' and shook her head at him. "Get me a wheelchair."
"What do you mean she went into labor?" Matt demanded as he and Nick trotted down the corridor in something near a dead run after Nick has searched half the internal medicine wing of the hospital.
"She went into labor," the surgeon repeated for what seemed like the umpteenth time. He had gone through the same routine with Jackie Colette, Rae and Dr. Jordon when he passed them respectively in the hallways. "I don't know how else you'd like me to put it."
"How could she have gone into labor? She's got three more weeks!" He bypassed the elevator since he knew the stairways would be faster in his pace.
"Babies tend to keep their own schedules, you should know that by now," taking the step two at a time.
"Well I must say that the little tike is starting its life out at a bit of a shock," Matt complained as he yanked opened the fourth floor door and nearly ran over two nurses gossiping in the hallway. "Oh, excuse me."
"Pardon us, Ladies." Nick replied as he followed the hurried Dr. Slingerland with a grin.
Maria and Jessie stared after the two doctors and sighed with much regret. It really was true, the good ones, the smart ones, the ones that were gifted with faces that can make a girl swoon were always taken. With Slingerland and Keating all but married, the rumor mills have begun to pick up speed over the recent frequent sightings of a certain pair of surgeons. The betting pool were already collecting on how long the relations was going to last and whether it was going to end up like Slingerland and Keating's.
"Get the reverend from the chapel," Matt said as he stopped Nick at the door.
"What?" confusion clearly on his face.
"Just do it," he replied and gave the guy a good shove to get him moving. After making sure Kokoris was going, Matt took a deep breath and step into a room full of chatty women.
"Deep breaths!" Letty ordered sternly.
"Just relax, you're doing beautifully," Rae said in her soft murmuring tone as she wiped Jules's already sweaty brows.
"I am so adopting," Jackie announced as she held Jule's hand as another contraction rolled over her. "Ow.... My hand!"
Jules held in her pain, forcing herself not to scream or do anything drastic before Harriet got there. As the pain receded and Jackie managed to wretch her hand free from the death grip Jules had on it, Dr. Keating opened her eye to see Matt leaning over her, hand pressed to her belly. "It's about time you got here!"
"Yeah!" Jackie said, shaking her bruised fingers and reminding herself that she's got a chin lift at three.
"You could have had me paged instead have Nick run about the building looking for me," Matt replied quite calmly for a man whose heart felt like it was about to jump out of his throat.
"He didn't page you?" Jules gave a pathetic laugh as she reached blindly for the bottle of water by the bed stand. "Why do men become stupid when confronted with a pregnant woman?"
"Cause they're men," Letty said with a smile. "Slingerland, word of advise."
"Shoot," sitting by the bedside where Jackie had just vacated and took his darling's hand into his.
"Don't look when the baby comes."
Everyone turned to stare at her. "He's a doctor, for pete sakes," Rae managed to get out when everyone else knew not what to say.
"Yeah, that's what my husband said before he passed out," Letty informed them quietly with a smile. "I've got patients and you've got him." She waved her goodbyes as she walked out. "I'll check in later. Page me when the baby finally comes. Good luck."
"Thanks!" Jules called after her as she rubbed her tummy.
"I've got to go too. Chemo patient at in fifteen minutes," Rae said with a smile as she touched her friend's forehead with a towel against before handing the clothe to Slingerland. "You hang in there and I'll be back to check on you later." She pointed one warning finger at him. "Take good care of her."
"Wouldn't dream of anything less," Slingerland replied as he leaned close and kissed Jules on the cheek.
"Where's Harriet?" Jules asked her brows wrinkled with distress. "And has anyone called my parents?"
Jackie got up slowly, "I'll do it. And I'll see about where Dr. Lenning is right now." Patting her friend's hands, she went out and left the two to their privacy.
"I told you to start maternity leave earlier," he said quietly as he adjusted the blanket around her.
"Schedule was too tight," reaching for his hand again. "Matt, I'm scared."
"Me too," he admitted with a smile and held her hand tighter. "But I know that you're stronger than me and I know that Dr. Lenning is the best OB there is on this side of the Western Hemisphere and I know we are going to get through this without any complications."
Jules laughed weakly. "I'm glad one of us knows that." She squeezed his hands gently... or at least she meant to before the next contraction hit her hard.
Dr. Slingerland just managed not to disgrace himself by yapping like a Chihuahua as his girlfriend's hand tighten painfully around his. "Boy," he gasped out as Jules's hand began to loosen its grip. "They weren't kidding when they say that women are strong when they're in pain."
She gave a pathetic sob of agony.
"Oh darling, don't cry," he murmured softly, shifting his position so he was holding her against his side. "I've got a surprise for you."
"I've had enough surprises for one day I think," she replied, taking confront in being his arms. "And I have a confession."
"A confession?" not sure he liked the sound of that considering he had just asked Kokoris to call the reverend.
"Yeah," she sniffled. "I lied. I do know what the baby's sex is. Harriet told me weeks ago."
"Really?" happy as a clam either way. "What is it?"
"No I told you so's," she warned.
"It's a boy!" he said with a grin that hurt his face. "It's a boy!"
"Don't look too gleeful about it," she laughed softly.
He kissed the top of her head and thought of the magnificent train set he saw in the toy store the other day when he went to pick up yet another teddy bear for the crib-less nursery. "Next time we'll get you a girl, I promise."
"Next time?" she laughed weakly. "I'm having a baby not and you're already talking about next t..." another contraction took hold of her. This one left her gasping for air.
"Easy, easy, remember Lamaze," he said careful to let her hold the bedrail while he wiped her forehead.
Muttering something along the lines of 'that crap never works,' she closed her eyes and tried to picture pretty birds and rainbows and the epidural that she so desperately wanted but knew that she couldn't have. "Matt?"
"Yeah?" looking around for the ice chips he was sure was standard procedure to have around for expecting mothers.
"You said something about a surprise?"
"Oh yes, yes," giving up his search for the ice chips, since he didn't see any, and fished into his pocket for the little something he had picked up that morning after lying about going for a jog. Glancing down, he made sure it was the right one before opening the black velvet box one handed, he held it in front of a very shocked Dr. Keating's face.
Staring at the sparkling diamonds, "You bought me a ring?"
"Yes darling, I bought you a ring," he said dryly of the obvious. "I know that I wanted you to pick out something you'd like but honestly Jules, you were taking too bloody long to get around to it. And frankly, I was getting rather tired of waiting."
"You bought me a ring," she repeated with awe at the pretty shiny thing in front of her.
"It's a three caret marquis diamond set in platinum gold. I didn't think you'd like the traditional yellow gold since I haven't really seen you wear much of it. Come to think of it, I don't really see you in much jewels either unless we go out."
"You bought me a ring." She finally smiled and turned to kiss a startled Matt on the lips. "It's beautiful."
Matt watched her put on the ring slowly, marveling at the cut and style that fitted so well. He held his breath as he asked, "Does that me it's a yes?"
She looked at him, a smile lighting her face. "Yes."
The sun couldn't have been brighter that the smile on his face. And the kiss... whoa... could have scorched the earth.
"Okay, Harriet's is on her way in from..." Jackie halted at the door and grinned. "Please, don't let me interrupt you."
Jules grinned and wiggled her fingers at the plastic surgeon. "Look what Matt got me!"
The gasp was heard by the door a second before Jackie was across the room and by Jules's side examining the big rock on her friend's finger. "Now this is what I call a ring!"
"Where's Nick?" Matt asked, looking at the doorway again just as Jules gave a strangled cry and grabbed his knee in a death grip. He could only be thankful that it wasn't his hand again.
"Why?" Jackie said wiping Jules's brows. She had half an hour to go before the chin lift.
"I sent him to get... to get something."
"He's your personal messenger boy now?" Jackie asked with a laugh.
"I was in a slight bit of a hurry at the time," Matt explained as Jules panted out her breaths.
"Or I would not have been so quick to comply," Nick responded with as he came into the room, ushering a balding middle aged man in front of him. "As you requested."
"The reverend?" Jules whacked Matt on the arm when she finally caught her breath. "You brought me the reverend? Thanks for the encouragement, you moron!" then turned to the slightly shocked man of the church. "No offense Reverend Campbell but I do not need you right now. What I need is HARRIET!!!" at the top of her lungs in some vain hope that her friend would hear.
And that hope did not go unanswered. "I'm here, I'm here," pulling on gloves as she entered with a nurse following. Harriet smiled in that gentle way of hers that just seemed to always put her patients at ease. "Let's have a look."
"Wait, wait, wait!" Matt said, getting up and dragging the reverend to the bedside. "Jules, you've got it all wrong."
"Um... Matt," Harriet tried to interrupt.
"In a minute, Dr. Lenning," Matt said as he turned to his fiancée. "The reverend is here to marry us."
"What?" Jules exclaimed as she grip the bedrail.
"He's here to marry us," Matt explained again. "I want to marry you before the baby comes."
"Which is likely to be any minute now," Harriet interjected. "Boy for a first timer, you certainly do move along this at a faster pace than I would have expected."
Jules gave a cry as a contraction hit and everyone had to wait for it to pass. "We cannot get married now."
"Why not?" Matt wanted to know.
"Cause, cause..." she was looking for something, anything. "Cause we can't! And I'm in labor!"
"Jules, I don't see why we have to wait."
"I want my parents to be there. I want my brothers there. I want flowers and bad church music and ca....ke," another contraction hit. Her knuckles turned white from the amount of pressure she was exerting from it. "And I want a dress!" she panted out once the pain receded.
"We can still have all of that," Matt explained, wiping her brows. "We'll get married a second time, when you're up to it."
"But Matt, this is a little on the sudden side and I..." She looked down at Dr. Lenning. "Harriet, how far..."
"You're eight inches and ready to go."
Jules glanced at Matt, who was wearing that sad puppy dog look on his face. "Why?"
"Cause I want to be married to you," he explained simply. "I want to be a real family when the baby comes."
She gave a whimpering cry. "We don't have a license."
"Sure we do," pulling out the crumpled piece of paper from his pocket. "Been carrying it around for weeks now."
She made a distressing sound as the contractions started again.
"Better make a decision quick, my dear, your baby isn't waiting." Harriet warned, more than a little amuse by the byplays that were happening.
"How fast can you read, Reverend?" Jules asked as another contraction started and Nick came around the bed to help Jackie remove Jules' clawing fingers from her forearm and guide it to the bedrail.
The reverend read fast, stopping only for a moment when Jules let out a scream that echoed through the room.
"Faster," Matt urged as Harriet laughed and Jules cursed about never having any more kids.
"If anyone can show cause why these two should not be married, let them speak now or forever hold their peace."
"Does anyone look stupid to you?" Jackie asked with a laugh as Jules whacked her friend in the arm. "Ow... hey, I've got surgery in fifteen minutes.
Reverend shook his head. "Do you, Matthew Sling...."
"Yes, yes, yes, I do, I do, I do," he kissed Jules's forehead as her hand nearly ripped the bedrail off. "Hang in here, luv. We're almost done."
"Do you, Jules... Is Jules your real first name?"
"JULIA!" she screamed as the contractions were getting closer and closer.
"Oh boy, here we go," Harriet announced with a laugh as she lifted the sheets to look at the baby. "Hum... He's got hair already."
"Does he?" Jackie asked, peeking around the sheets.
"Do you, Julia Keating, take..."
"I do, I do, I do!" She came a cry. "Can I push now?"
"Hold on," Harriet said as she placed her hand on Dr. Keating's stomach. "Just wait for it."
"I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may...Oh never mind," as Matt was already planting a happy big one of his bride who returned the kiss for only a moment before the contraction started once more.
"Push!" Harriet instructed.
Matt grabbed hold of Jules's hand. "Come on, luv. Push!"
Nick raised a brow and turned a little green. "Will you look at that!"
"Seven pounds, six ounces and nineteen inches," Matt filled out on the dozen little announcement cards on the serving tray. "Nathaniel David Slingerland."
"That was quite a unusual wedding," Jules commented as she watched the sparkles on the wall where the light had reflected off the diamond ring. Her son, who looked so much like Matt that it was scary, was nursing at her breast as her husband wrote out both the wedding announcement and birth announcement at the same time.
"Quite a remarkable birth too," Matt commented as he wrote 'Drs. Slingerland and Slingerland' with a great deal of pleasure. "I especially like the part where Kokoris passed out."
Jules giggled quietly so as not to disturb the baby. "Poor Nick. That should have been you, you know."
"Never," shaking his head as he slipped both announcements into a pale blue envelope and began the next set. "I would never disgrace myself in such an unmanly manner."
"Oh we'll see about that next time."
"Next time?" pen pausing over the wedding announcement. "I thought you swore never to have any more."
"Spur of the moment announcements in a delivery room doesn't count," she pronounced as she smoothed her baby's fine hair from his forehead. He smelled of summer, spring, goodness, snowflakes, beach walks and all the wonders of life. "God, he's beautiful."
Matt stared at them for a moment, reminded of paintings at galleries his mother used to drag him to. 'Madonna and Child' came to mind several times over. Leaning over, he pressed a kiss on her soft mouth. "You're beautiful." He looked down at his son, whose light brown eyes stared back at him just as fascinated by his father as his father was by him. "He's perfect."
"Yes he is," she smiled.
"Oh, I almost forgot," fishing his pockets. "With all that was happening, we didn't get to exchange wedding rings."
"We didn't have any, remember?"
"Who said? I want it known that you and I are officially off the market. No man comes near you without knowing that you belong to me and I belong to you," pulling out the burgundy velvet box and pried it open with two hands this time. "I had them made to match your engagement ring."
If she thought she could be happier at that moment, she would have burst. "Oh Matt."
"Yes," as he slipped the simple diamond and white gold band on her finger. "I want to do it," stopping him when he made to put his own ring on.
Shifting slightly but not releasing the baby, she managed to maneuver until she got to slip the heavy band around his fourth finger. Unable to lean forward, she pulled him to her instead. The kiss was lingering and as sweet as the innocent little being between them. "Thank you."
His wasn't sure what part of him was happier, his heart or his... well, none of that for a while. "For what?"
"No," he shook his head slowly, leaning his forehead against hers. "I didn't do anything," then looked down at his... their son. "But we sure as hell did."
She smiled as she too looked at their son. "Yes we did."
"Doesn't even begin to describe."
Jules grinned. "Boy, you're being really sentimental today."
"I think today of all days, I'm allowed." He grinned at her. "You know, the nurses are quite disappointed."
"Disappointed?" she asked.
"Yes," he nodded in mocking graveness. "They mark our marriage and the birth of the baby as the end of our rather torrid affair and their merry-go-round of gossips, although I did hear tid-bits on Jackie and Nick."
"The end?" She shook her head and kissed him again. "No, darling. It's only the beginning."
Matt smiled in return, getting into bed with his wife and child. "And what a beginning it is."
The End.... (really this time)