"Scott?" There was blood, so much blood. "Scott." she sobbed, clutching her belly. "Scott, please." `
"Shhh, it's okay. I got you, it's going to be okay." He grabbed the nearest thing to him and wrapped her shaking form up as best he could. Slowly, carefully, he lifted her in his arms.
She hooked an arm behind his head, the other still holding her abdomen. He carried her swiftly but gently down the hall and into the entryway. Setting her down he grabbed his keys and wallet, checked his pocket for his phone.
"I'll be right back I promise. I'm just going to go get the car okay?" She nodded weakly, skin pale and cheeks shining with tears. It broke his heart to see her like this, but he wasn't strong enough to carry her that far.
He practically ran out the door, down the steps and into the street, ignoring the steep California incline of the road. In what felt like no time at all he had the beater of a car he used out front, passenger door open and engine running. He bounded up the steps, chest heaving just as another terrible pain racked through her body.
Hope groaned clutching the fabric around her desperately. Her breathing was heavy and her hand shaky. He brushed the swat soaked hair from her forehead, soothing her with his touch. "I've got the car. We will be there in no time and whatever this is will be over."
Fresh tears welled up in her eyes, beading on her lashes and falling like heavy rain. "That's exactly what I'm afraid of."
Unsure how to respond, Scott lifted Hope once more, carrying her down the steps and securing her safely in the passenger seat. He bounded back up the steps, locked the door and then they were on their way, screeching down the street lamp lit streets.
It wasn't until the wee hours of the morning that they got some answers. Hope was lying in a hospital bed, her hair messily tied back in the remnants of last night's ponytail. The hospital gown was itchy against her skin. Scott sat next to her, having commandeered the room's only chair; a rickety piece from the 70s. All lacquered wood and rough coral coloured cotton. The cushion so worn there was a permanent indent on the seat.
He was snoring softly, head tilted back. He had tried desperately to stay awake with her, but after repeated assurances that she would wake him for anything important, he gave in. Despite that, his hand remained clasped with hers on the bed. Even in sleep he refused to let her go completely. She gently squeezed his palm and gave him a little shake when the doctor came in holding what she assumed was her chart.
"Hmmm?" mumbled Scott, starting to come too. "What is it? Oh, doctor, hi."
"Hello." She replied. The woman was older, but not quite old enough to be classified as senior. Grey streaked her otherwise honey auburn hair. Little lines spread across her forehead, the sign of many hours of concentration or frustration having taken its toll. Yet there were also signs of joy, signs of laughter there too. In the way her eyes crinkled, in her smile. Though it was not quite full and bright, it held warmth.
"Ms Van Dyne?" asked the doctor looking over at Hope. "I take it you wish for this man to be present for your news? Unless he is immediately family or a partner of some degree I would suggest..."
"Yes." she replied, giving Scott's hand another squeeze. "I want him here." He smiled at her softly, bushing his thumb over the back of her hand. "He's the father."
The doctor nodded in understanding, seeming to not notice the floor opening up and consuming the only man in the room.
His vision narrowed and the room spun around him as the words he's the father echoed over and over in his brain. Memories of last night came back to him in rapid flashes. Hope complaining of a stomach ache over dinner. Hope, coming in and out of the en suite bathroom, looking more and more worried as the evening wore on. Hope, crying, clutching her stomach on the bathroom floor, blood soaked through the crotch of her sweatpants, little smears of it on the toilet and the sink where her hands had been.
How had he not seen it? How did he not realise what was happening the moment he found her there? Oh God, the mission. Hope had gone down hard. Several times. They both had. But that last blow, a steel pipe to her abdomen. Their suits were plated with armour but that didn't stop hits like that leaving bruises. He'd been wearing the suit when he last broke a rib. If that could happen through the armour then this….oh god Hope. What had she been thinking?
"I take it then that you are aware of what happened last night Ms Van Dyne?" asked the doctor.
"I, sort of guessed."
"Then you are also aware of the most likely cause of the miscarriage then too."
Hope closed her eyes, fighting back fresh tears. She bit her lip and let out a shaky breath. "Miss Van Dyne, do you or have you ever felt that you were in danger?"
"The bruising on your body indicates severe hemorrhaging in the abdomen, suspected liver damage and judging by the bump on the back of your head, dizzy spells."
Hope just nodded.
"Ms Van Dyne, the nurse wrote here that you seem to have several scars and markings of former injuries. Were any of these gained while in the presence of the father?"
"Yes." the doctor scribbled something on her chart.
"Ms Van Dyne, I strongly suggest you ask the father to leave the room before this conversation continues for the safety of all persons involved. Mr….
" I suggest you go quietly and calmly. An officer will be here to deal with you shortly."
"Woah, woah." Scott jumped out of his chair. "Do you think I have something to do with this? That I'm the one putting her in danger? That I…" he couldn't say it, not out loud. The mere thought of it brought bile rising up in his throat. "I would never!"
"Sir, please calm down or I will call security. They would be more than happy to escort you from the premises before SFPD arrive." What warmth had been in her expression was now gone, replaced with a stare so cold it could freeze ice.
Hope tried to sit up, reaching out a hand between the two of them as if to hold them apart. She cleared her throat, coughing slightly. "Doctor no please, you misunderstood." Scott handed her some water from the nightstand next to him. She gulped it down gratefully.
"What I meant was I sometimes work in very dangerous environments. Scott and I… well it's hard to explain, but it's common for us to get in...physical altercations with other people. We wear protection, but I guess…"
"...it wasn't enough to protect our unborn child." finished Scott, letting go of her hand for the first time since they arrived. "God, Hope what were you thinking?"
She looked at him, pain clearly wrought in her expression. He ignored her though, pacing around the tiny space, unable to stay still any longer. The doctor watched them both.
"Scott please. I didn't know for sure."
"But you did Hope. Or at least, you had an idea and you didn't tell me. You knew and you purposely withheld it from me because you knew I wouldn't have let you on the mission. You knew I would have insisted you stay home." He was angry now, furious even.
So was she, mixed with grief and pain, and guilt for what she had done. "And what good would that have done huh? We barely made it out alive Scott. If I had let you go in there on your own I would have lost you."
"You don't know that!" he cried.
"I will not have our child grow up without a father!"
"Well now there won't even be a child!"
Silence hit the room, thick and deadly. Both their chests heaved with effort while his words sunk in. Scott felt like shit. He regretted it the moment the words left his mouth but he was too wrapped up in his emotions right now to do anything about it.
Hope swallowed thickly, steadying herself. "You know how hard it was for me without my mom. How hard it was on Cassie when you were gone after the Vanishing. I will not let that happen is not the kind of future I want for us. For our family."
Scott sighed, hands dropping to his sides. "I...I need a minute."
He stepped out of the room and into the sterile hallway. He felt like he was suffocating, like the stale, sanitized hospital air was getting into his airways and burning whatever it touched. He needed air, fresh air.
"Scott!" he heard her call, He ignored it. He heard the doctor too. "Ms Van Dyne, stop. It's too soon for you to be out of bed. You need to rest."
He didn't hear anymore after that, though he imagined Hope ignored the doctor. She was stubborn like that; thought she was invincible sometimes. Like her years of training and hard work somehow made her immune to weakness. Tonight was certainly a lesson in humility for Hope. One that hadn't come without a price.
He pushed through the frosted glass doors and into the early morning air. He titled his head to the sky and breathed deeply, gulping like a fish out of water. He felt the moisture fill him, the weight of last night leaving his body with every deep, shattering breath. He didn't realize he was crying until his nose dripped onto his shirt. He sniffed, wiping it on his jacket sleeve.
"I know that look."
Scott looked up in surprise. He had thought he was alone. Another man sat on a bench nearby, looking at him expectantly. "I'm sorry?"
"I said I know that look. I see it every time I tell a patient their loved one is dead."
"Oh." was all Scott could say. He walked over and joined the man, settling onto the cold metal mesh of the bench seat. They sat for a moment in silence.
"It was our baby."
"Did they have a name?"
"What? Oh, no. It was a miscarriage. Early on I think. I only just found out."
"Yah, me too."
"Are you and the mother separated?"
"No, no nothing like that." The doctor nodded, as if he understood. "No, we're together. She just didn't tell me she was pregnant."
"Hell of a way to find out."
"You're telling me." The first hint of sun began to creep up onto the horizon, glinting off the glass structure of the hospital.
"Is she okay?"
"I think so." replied Scott. "I sort of left half way through."
"Well that doesn't help."
The old man sighed. "Look son, I've been doing this for sometime now and I know a thing or two about loss. Regardless of who it was or how it happened, the best way to get through it is with the people you care about."
Scot looked over at him, starting to grasp what the man was saying. "Right now, there are two people who lost that baby, not just one. Whatever her reasons were for not telling you, they don't matter now. What matters is the grief the two of you are feeling. The loss of what could have been. Her body is punishing her right now, reminding her with every cramp and drop of blood of the life she was unable to hold onto."
"Now you may decide that is too much for you as a man, but if you love her, and I mean really love her, you won't abandon her in this. You won't allow her to suffer in this alone."
Scott wiped his nose on his sleeve again. The doctor offered him a tissue which he gladly accepted, mopping up his face. "Is this how you spend your coffee breaks? Convincing idiots like me to fix their mistakes?"
The man chuckled, smoothing his mustache down with his fingers. "Technically it's only a mistake if you chose not to be honest with yourself."
"And if I don't?"
"Well son," he placed his hand on Scott's shoulder. "The choice is yours to make and yours only. I think I've made myself pretty clear." He gave Scott's shoulder a reassuring pat.
"Now if you excuse me, I only have 5 minutes left of my break and I am desperate to use the restroom. This old bladder of mine doesn't hold up like it used to."
Scott watched as the older man walked back into the hospital, the doors opening and closing behind him. The sun had reached the frosted partition on the glass, bathing it in rich golden light. Scott pulled out his phone and clicked the home button, watching as his lock screen came to life. It was a picture of the three of them, Scott, Hope and Cassie, that day after the battle when they had gotten together to watch the fireworks. The light then was golden too, though from a sun setting after a long day, rather than awakening to a new one.
He sighed heavily once more, locking his phone and returning it to his pocket. He knew what he needed to do.