Author: Regency

Title: Together or Not At All

Rating: PG-13/TEEN

Pairing: Mark/Bridget, implied Bridget/Jack

Warnings: references to active labor

Summary: Bridget is in labor, Jack is away, and Mark is panicking in a very dignified manner. Bridget and Mark try to make do.

(Possible spoilers/speculation for Bridget Jones's Baby.)

Author's Notes: Everything about this movie makes me slightly anxious, so I thought I'd try to alleviate my fears a bit. And I've decided Bridget is having a daughter. I don't know if that's the case but I'm going with it. Title from a song by the same name off the Doctor Who soundtrack. Felt appropriate.

Disclaimer: I don't own any characters recognizable as being from Bridget Jones's Diary (2001) and Bridget Jones's Baby (2016). They are the property of their actors, producers, writers, and studios, not me. No copyright infringement was intended and no money was made in the writing or distribution of this story. It was good, clean fun.

"You've been holding back on me." Bridget rests her head on the glass separating the corridor from the nursery where all the newborns lay in stunned bewilderment of the world they've joined. That will be her daughter soon, small and bewildered and perfect.

"I haven't meant to." Which while not strictly true is true enough.

"You can't lie to me, Mark Darcy. I've known you too long."

Strictly true.

His reflection in the window is pale and drawn, the ways he's been for months, but he smiles at her for that. Slightly ridiculous Bridget could always do that to him, soften him up, make him human.

"Would you like to walk some more?" He offers her his arm, which she takes just in time for another contraction to overtake her. He'll be covered in bruises before her first push, but he thinks it will all be worth it if things go his way. They'll be all he has if things go otherwise.

He takes her hand and lets her squeeze his fingers until they're numb and the contraction turns her loose. Her knees are shaking and she's curled over her rock hard stomach, panting like a racehorse. He wraps his arm around her; she leans on him. He's always been so easy to lean on.

"Bloody hell, Mark. If you did this to me, I'll kill you."

"Then, I'll be dead either way. You can't scare me."

Bridget hums and begins to shuffle anew down the hospital corridor. Somewhere Jack is finding ice chips and Googling breathing exercises and probably icing his nose. She loves his hippie-dippie big heart, his optimism, but when her child (his child? Mark's?) is trying to tear her apart from the inside it's Mark's wry pragmatism she needs. She doesn't need to be worshiped just now, she needs to be anchored solidly to the unmoving ground.

Just as he needs her to bring light to his oftentimes dark world.

"In some ways, I wish we could stay here forever, always on the precipice of the truth. This way I don't have to lose you both at once. There's still hope."

Bridget groaned. "If you think I'd rather stay in labor for eternity than hold my baby in my arms–"

"No, of course you wouldn't. Why would you when you're doing the hard part?"

"You bet your arse I'm doing the hard part," she grunted.

Counting down in his head, he holds off on their next pace to press a steady hand to the tight muscles at the base of her spine. She cries out and a sob sputters free against her will. She's perspiring and blotchy. She's the most beautiful she's ever been.

"It hurts. God, it hurts."

He steps behind her to support her weight for a moment and take the pressure off her aching back.

"You're a godsend."

"I have heard that."

"That might be how we got into this situation, Mr. Darcy."

He chuckles into her hair. She smells of hospital and fading perfume, her new shampoo now that the old makes her nauseous, of home.

She breathes a deep and cleansing breath as the contraction finally peters out. She lets him hold her anyway. All these years of them not working out, but his arms have always done the trick.

"I'm going to be a mum by morning." She confides this as if it's a secret and not a blatant, agonizing truth. Technically, she's already a mother, she's just in waiting. She gasps and rubs her stomach where her daughter is impatient and squirming. That makes two of them.

"Amazing, isn't it?" Mark is all wonder.

"Amazing, brilliant…" She giggles, exhausted and punch drunk, and settles back against his chest. He's immovable. "Terrifying."

He buries his face in her neck. "If there's any justice, she'll be just like you."

"You can't want that." She hadn't been enough when it came down to it, but two of her? Two of her would be much too much.

He squeezes her around her bulging middle. Her daughter kicks up a fuss and he hushes her with light, chary hands. "How could I want anything else?"

"All these months and I don't understand you." Why it never worked. Why she, quietly and with growing intensity, still wants it so much when it feels too late.

He withdraws with a sigh and resumes his place at her side. Their slow trawl continues.

"I'm not so complicated."

She's on the verge of an emotional breakdown brought about by pain and stress and sheer bone-weariness; she cannot play Darcy games tonight. She gives him a look. He concedes gracefully, as he'd like to be alive to meet Bridget's daughter, in any event.

"If this does not go my way, I lose you. I've lost you already, but this is a fait accompli. He is everything I'm not, has everything I don't, and will give you all that I don't know how. And then he'll give it to her. When it was you and me, there was hope that we'd figure ourselves out. When it was you and me and her, there was a chance. But you and me and her and him....This isn't some modern fairytale. If I'm not her father, I lose you both and despite the months I've had to think about it, I'm terrified that I've squandered all the time we have left. Right now, she's neither mine nor his; she's all yours. Call it the last refuge of a desperate man."

"Huh," is Bridget's rather brilliant reply. She's saved from concocting something more coherent by one more soul-searing contraction. This one brings tears to her eyes. "Mark!" She grabs for him to keep her standing as her knees are on the verge of giving out beneath her. She sobs into his shoulder, staining his shirt with the last traces of mascara that labor hasn't washed away.

"Keep breathing," he murmurs comfortingly. "Just keep breathing."

That's all she can do. Breathe and wait. Her respect for every person to give birth throughout human history grows exponentially the longer her labor persists. It's been hours, yet it could just as easily be years.

"I can't do this."

"You can do anything. You've proved that." He keeps a secure hold on her and begins to lead her back toward her room in the Obstetrics ward. Back to Jack and worried texts from her mum and her friends. Back to the last refuge of Mark and Bridget.

In the back of her pain-fogged mind, she recognizes some truth in what he said. If they couldn't endure with no obstacles but themselves, how could they ever hope to endure a child they don't share but both love, and a man who loves her enough to have some claim on her divided heart. And none of the baggage, she acknowledges. It's all brand new with Jack. None of the misunderstandings or disappointments. None of the dashed hopes. Wouldn't it be lovely to bring a child into a home like that?

And yet…

She stops. The pain isn't so low this time. It's higher, where her heart is. When she imagines telling her daughter what loves feels like, she imagines snow and bruised hands, blue soup and lovelorn diaries that never quite made it to the rubbish bin. She squeezes Mark's hand, looks up at his red-rimmed, worried eyes, and tries to smile. There's another contraction building, this one more powerful than any so far. Still, she doesn't look away, and he could never.

"Let's not go back yet." Her voice is stronger than she feels.

His mouth trembles, stiff upper lip faltering like he daren't hope. They're both hopeful fools when it comes to each other. Some things can't be changed.

"If you're sure…"

"I'm sure."

With his gentle, steady strength as guide they turn away from their last refuge to the long, bright path ahead, and they start again.

Together, as always.