"Hey Buddy, Mommy's going to stay here with the doctors tonight, but we'll come back and see her tomorrow," Matt promised his frightened son.

"But, why? Why does she need the doctors?" Brandon wailed, his bottom lip trembling.

"Well, right now Mommy's a little sick. The doctors want to keep her here, where they can watch her, so she doesn't get sicker." It was very difficult to explain to his son, when Matt barely understood it, and wanted to throw a chair across the room.

"Because of the baby?" Emily was thirty-five weeks along in a very difficult pregnancy.

The first trimester had been shockingly easy, and so smooth. Things started getting problematic in the second trimester. She was always exhausted, not just a little more tired than usual, but barely made it through a day of work without falling asleep at her desk. Then her blood pressure starting appearing high, and at first the doctor wasn't worried. But, it kept getting higher, just a little each time it was taken. It didn't go back down after she got into the third trimester either, it kept getting higher, and the doctor got worried.

Their doctor put her on meds to lower it, and they stabilized it for a few weeks, but started rising again during the past month. Her legs and feet were swollen much worse than with Brandon, and in the last couple weeks, her body aches got worse in certain places. She'd been on bed rest for the last two months, and hadn't complained, worrying the hell out of Matt. Then earlier today, a sunny Sunday afternoon, she developed a horrible headache, and her vision became a little blurry. Matt rushed her to the hospital for a diagnosis of preclamsia, in the severe stage.

The doctors were keeping her for the foreseeable future, to monitor her and the baby, and try drugs to keep her blood pressure down. So far tonight, the one they picked seemed to be working, much to the couple's relief.

"Yeah, because of the baby." Matt was crouched down, speaking to his son in the hospital cafeteria, where the boy had been waiting with Cheryl.

"Why is the baby hurting, Mommy?" Brandon was scared, and Matt didn't know what to do to fix it. He was scared too.

"The baby isn't hurting Mommy, it's just a lot of work for mommies to carry babies in their bellies, and Mommy is very tired."

"But, she'll be okay?" Brandon asked hopefully.

"Yes, she's going to be fine, and I promise to bring you to see her tomorrow. Okay?" Matt pled with his son, trying not to let the boy see the worry in his eyes.

Brandon nodded, but still looked like he was on the verge of crying.

"Okay then, let's go say good night to Mommy." Matt stood up and took his son's little hand in his, leading the way to the elevators, Cheryl followed behind them. She'd gotten the call just after they got to the hospital, Matt wanted to be with his wife, but didn't want Brandon there in case something should happen. So, he'd called Cheryl, and she stayed with her nephew the last several hours.

Matt sent Brandon scrambling into Emily's room so he could say goodnight, and stood outside a minute with Cheryl, decompressing.

"Are you okay?" Cheryl studied her friend of fifteen years worriedly.

"Yeah, just kicking myself. This is crazy, I've should have gotten a vasectomy years ago." Matt let his head hang.

"What? Why? You guys wanted another baby so badly?" She didn't understand, they'd been so happy when they found out Emily was pregnant again.

"Yeah, we do...But, she's forty-three Cheryl, there's a reason they tell women to have kids young. Because, it gets harder the older you get. I mean, Jesus Cheryl, they said if it gets worse, she could start to seizure, I could lose them both."

"Matt, I know hard as this is right now, Emily wanted this baby so much, this is well worth it for her. She's strong, she'll be fine. Besides, high blood pressure issues can affect women at any age." Cheryl squeezed his hand. He looked miserable and exhausted, guilt, worry, and fear plaguing his eyes. But, she was right; Emily's age wasn't making the pregnancy any easier on her, but preclamsia affected younger women too.

Matt had difficulty getting Brandon to sleep that night, he was still worried about his mother. Matt had carried him, crying big silent tears, out of the hospital. Truth be told, Matt hadn't wanted to leave either, he wanted to spend the night in the chair beside her bed, holding her hand. He wanted to be there, so he knew the second it happened if anything went wrong. If something should go wrong, he didn't want Emily to be alone. But, she shushed him, told him she didn't want Brandon to know anything was wrong. She was right, he'd been upset enough just knowing she had to stay at the hospital.

He'd be kidding himself if he said he wasn't still hopelessly in love with her. As a younger man, he never imagined it would happen to him, never imagined he could love someone that much. He didn't think he could be with someone eight years, and not grow tired of them, nine and a half if he counted before they were married. He never imagined when Cheryl introduced his new partner almost eleven years ago, that they'd be married one day, waiting on their second child.

Matt pulled out the silver locket he'd gotten for Emily months ago, he hadn't gotten around to putting a picture of Brandon in it. He'd been planning to give it to her after she had their new baby, which was looking like it could be any day now. No time like the present, Matt decided, pulling out their photo albums. He knew which pictures were Emily's favorites, and he plucked a few out so he could see which resized best. Cleo rubbed against his legs, purring and nearly tripping him. Matt picked her up, and sat at their computer, sitting her on his lap. She seemed pretty happy; Matt was still her favorite.

An hour later, he had one of the photos looking pretty good, and cut it to fit in the locket. It was just Brandon's face, anything more and you wouldn't be able to tell who he was. It was past midnight, and he was yawning, but he was almost afraid to sleep. What if he did, and the hospital called? Sure, the phone would wake him, but still, he wanted to jump in the car the minute it rang. He didn't even know if he'd be able to sleep.

He stripped down to his boxers and threw on a t-shirt, plopping heavily on his side of the bed. Their favorite picture from their wedding was on the night table on his side. It was a candid, taken in one of the brief moments they'd actually been sitting during the reception. They were turned toward each other, inches apart, laughing at something. Their noses were practically touching.

Matt held the photo in his hands, and thought seriously, for a moment about the possiblity of losing her. With her side of the bed empty, it was easier than he'd like it to be. This is what it would be like, her side empty for the rest of his life. Matt didn't feel the tears prick his eyes, but he felt them slide down his cheeks. He didn't bother brushing them away, there was no one here to see them anyway. He set the photo back down, and went to hit the light, when a ball of fluff jumped off the floor and bounced on him.

Cleo rubbed against him, purring again, nudging him, staring up at him, with those eyes she never seemed to have grown into. Matt stroked the silky fur along her back, and scratched under her chin, her favorite spot. Then he shut out the light, and got under the covers. Cleo turned around several times, before all of her eight pounds flopped against his stomach, and curled into a ball there. This was her new spot to sleep, since there hadn't been room by Emily's stomach for a few months.

Emily was kind of annoyed to be woken before eight in the morning, especially since they were so adamant that she rest. Then why the hell were they waking her with all their running around, and poking her? She was barely barely blinking her eyes open, when a rushed nurse grabbed her arm, and wrapped a blood pressure cuff around it. Her eyes burst open wide as the cuff seemed to squeeze the life out of her thin arm, before the nurse slowly let the pressure rescind. Damn it, it was way too early for this, and before coffee?

"It looks fine this morning, Mrs. Flannery. The medication seems to be working." She smiled and left, much to Emily's relief.

Over the last few months, "fine" had been far away from good, but better than bad. "Fine" meant it hadn't shot up again during the night, but she could live with fine, and so could the baby. According to the doctor, "bad" could cause her to seizure, and she or the baby, maybe even both, might literally not be able to live with that.

Emily was frightened. Compared to this, Brandon it had been easy. Alright, maybe not easy. There's no such thing as an easy pregnancy, but this was just a nightmare. She'd wanted this baby so badly, they both had, and now it seemed to be telling her that she'd pay for it too. Emily never thought for a moment about the possibility of dying in childbirth, or through complications carrying the baby. It was the twenty-first century, all those worries died with modern medicine, right? Apparently not.

The thought of leaving her little boy without a mother made her want to cry. Of course, Matt had lost his mother young, and he turned out alright. Still, she knew it was a loss he never got over. And, she wanted to be able to watch her son grow up, graduate high school, go to college, take a girl out, all those things, all those milestones. She couldn't bear the thought of missing him grow into the looks he'd gotten from his father.

And, what about Matt? The look in his eyes when he left last night, it was the same look she'd seen in Mexico, except worse. He was afraid, terribly afraid of losing her, of losing the baby. She couldn't imagine losing him, the thought was too terrible, too frightening. They deserved more time together. Nine years was great, but she wanted so much more. She vowed to grow old with him, and that's all she wanted, that opportunity.

Emily's thoughts were interrupted when her breakfast arrived--two rubbery pancakes with a little tub of syrup, runny eggs, and a little carton of cheap orange juice. Emily shifted the eggs around on the Styrofoam tray, very unappetizing in her opinion. She moved her fork to the pancakes, which were worse than the kind you find in a grocery store freezer section.

"I'm not eating this," Emily mumbled to herself, grimacing at her breakfast. She grabbed her abdomen as the baby kicked hard, protesting her refusal to eat.

"Alright, alright I'll eat it, for you." She rubbed her swollen belly, and swallowed, preparing to eat the hospital food.

"I guess I should have brought you breakfast." Emily turned to see her husband walk through the door, and smiled.

"You're enough, and apparently the baby will eat anything, so I'm set." She accepted a soft, but passionate kiss, and pulled him back into a hug when he tried to pull away.

"You okay?" He asked her quietly.

"Yeah, just missed you last night." Emily kissed him again, and kept her arms around him a while longer. Matt would have held her all day, and been happy.

"Hey, why don't you make good on that statement, and eat something." He gestured to her less than appetizing plate of food.

"Easy for you to say, you don't have to eat it." She scowled playfully.

"I'll make you a deal, you eat that...stuff now, and I'll bring you something good for lunch." He waggled his eyebrows. Emily tried to look serious, but had to smile at him. Reluctantly she nodded, she'd eat the barely edible breakfast if Matt came to visit her at lunch, he didn't even had to bring food.

Lia waddled in the hospital room door, she was so big, the only movement she was capable was a waddle. Well, if she was in bed, she could roll, but generally she waddled. She couldn't even get up without help, not that she didn't have plenty, at least when Duff was home. He was so damn nervous, he didn't want her to lift a finger or move a muscle. But, god could she get used to those back rubs, and the foot rubs. Every piece of her body felt sore lately, but especially her back and feet. She was eating Tums and Rolaids as if they were going off the market, because her heartburn really was that bad. But, she knew her troubles were easy compared to her friends.

Cheryl had called them last night to tell them, after Matt had called her. She kept them updated on Emily's condition while she was at the hospital, watching Brandon. Emily was in emergency care, Matt was scared, and Brandon was confused. Before they went to bed last night, they knew Emily was staying in the hospital for a while, at least until they could get her blood pressure to stay down. They also knew if the doctors weren't able to lower her blood pressure, things could get much worse, and Emily may not get the chance to leave the hospital. But, Cheryl had assured them, the new medication the doctors prescribed was working, and Emily was doing just fine.

She was sleeping when Lia walked in, because really that's about all they'd let her do. Daytime TV was always garbage, and everything had been going so fast, neither her nor Matt thought about reading materials. So, she slept. And, if Lia's considerable mass didn't make moving about so difficult, she may have continued sleeping. Lia eased herself into the chair beside the bed with a loud groan, she was getting tired of being so huge.

"Hi." Emily greeted, eyes still blinking in the light.

"Hey, how are you?" Lia's brow was furrowed in worry, eyes narrowed.

"I'm okay. Bored, a little scared, but they say the medication is working, so I'm alright." Emily rubbed her big belly, biting her lip. She wasn't as big as Lia, though she remembered being that big with Brandon, and knew Lia probably hadn't been comfortable for over a month.

"Really? I'm sore, unpredictably emotional, and I feel like a beached whale. But, you're alright?" Lia grinned at her. When you were pregnant, you were never really alright, something always felt off.

"Okay, so I have the usual complaints, but crisis-wise, I'm doing well."

"Good, Cheryl scared the hell out of me when she called."

"Did you and Duff pick names yet?" Emily didn't want to talk about how scared she was, so she abruptly changed the subject. Lia gave her a look, but then relented; she wouldn't want to talk about it either.

"I think we've settled on Alana for a girl, and Corey for a boy, but we keep going back and forth." Lia shook her head, it was an ongoing discussion, had been for months.

"Don't worry, we debated over half a dozen names, right up until the day Brandon was born. We didn't completely settle on one until we saw him." Emily could close her eyes and picture the first time she held baby Brandon in her arms. She was driping sweat and tears, her chest still heaving, and Brandon was covered in blood and goop. Matt had brought him to her, and wrapped his arms around them both. She hoped they got that moment again.

"Are you guys still undecided on this one?" It wouldn't surprise Lia. The couple considered debating foreplay.

"We're supposed to still have a month left, so we don't have a clue. Maybe Joshua if we have a boy, I think we both liked that one." They were interrupted by a nurse swooping in with a very determined look, and headed straight for the monitors. It was almost noon, of course they had to check her blood pressure again.

"Still looks fine, Mrs. Flannery. It's good to see the medication is working. Do you girls need anything?" She was nicer than the one from the morning, and smiled happily at them.

"No, thank you. We're fine." Emily and Lia smiled back at her, as she finished making notations on Emily's chart and left them alone again.

"Oh god, I have to pee, again!" Lia threw up her hands. She was damn tired of battling her bladder. Emily couldn't help but smile, though she sympathized.

"The tiny little door right there opens to a bathroom about the size of one in an airplane, so careful maneuvering." That little room was the only reason Emily was allowed to get up, and she visited it often.

"Why put tiny bathrooms in the maternity wing?" Lia asked annoyed. Emily shrugged, she'd asked herself the same thing while trying to pee in the itsy-bitsy room. Lia worked herself out of the chair slowly, and with some difficulty, and headed to the bathroom.

Emily was still smiling with amusement when Lia came out of the bathroom, cursing the tiny space. She waddled her way toward the chair, stopping suddenly as the room spun, and laying one hand on the wall, and one on her head. The world started going dark as she turned toward Emily's concerned face, then she collapsed.

"Lia? Lia! Lia!" Emily cried, watching her crumble to the ground like dead weight. Eyes wide, and heart-racing, Emily slammed the call button again and again. Satisfied she beat the button enough, she crawled out of bed, ripping off the two monitors, and rushing as much as her belly allowed. over to Lia. The equipment had started screaming, and Emily ignored it, as she eased herself to the floor by her fallen friend.

"Mrs. Flannery?!" A nurse demanded frantically, followed by her doctor and other nurses.

"My friend, Lia, she just, just collapsed." Emily looked at them with fear in her eyes, and then back at Lia. "Oh my god, she's bleeding..."

"Alright, Mrs. Flannery, we'll take care of your friend, but you need to get back into bed." A nurse helped her up, and worked to pull her away from Lia.

"What's wrong with her?" Emily asked, her voice high and small.

"We don't know, but we'll find out. Do you know her husband's number? Or her doctor's name?" The nurse wasn't quite forcibly maneuvering her back to bed, but it may has well have been. Emily looked past her to were there were loading Lia on a gurney, and wheeling her out.

"Her doctor is Cynthia Patterson, I don't know her number. I'll call her husband myself." She was already reaching for the phone with shaking hands.

"Alright. But, I need you to stay calm, we can't afford your blood pressure rising. Just stay in bed, and I'll make sure you know what's happening with your friend." The nurse had reconnected and reset the monitors, and laid a hand on Emily's shoulder before leaving.

"Gonzalez." Duff answered, sounding almost chipper.

"Duff, it's Emily. You need to drop whatever you're doing and get to the hospital, Lia just collapsed, she's unconscious. I don't know anything else." Get it all out at once, like pulling off a bandaid.


"She collapsed, Duff. I don't know what's wrong, she was fine one minute, and then she fainted. You need to get here." Emily was trying not to cry, but with everything lately, and haywire emotions to boot, it was damn near impossible.

"I'm on my way." She heard a click, and then let her tears flow. She waited five minutes, and then called Matt.


"I heard, I'm on my way, and I'm not leaving that damn hospital until you do." After hearing about Lia, they were going to have to forcibly detain Matt if they wanted him out.

"What about Brandon?" Much as she'd like Matt with her, she didn't want Brandon to know how serious things were.

"Binder's going to pick him up, said his boys like to teach him basketball, and Cheryl said she'd take care of Cleo." Binder had two teenaged sons who got a kick out of Brandon, and showing him how to dribble a ball.

"Okay...I love you."

"Love you too, I'll be there soon." They both hung up, and Emily curled up as much as her bloated belly would allow her. She had tried to tell herself everything would be fine, that nothing was really wrong. But, Lia had been doing fine. Her doctor said everything looked great, and suddenly this... Emily was very scared, for Lia and her baby, for herself, and for her own baby.

A nurse looked sternly at Emily as she took her blood pressure. It was up again, and regardless of how valid the reason, the nurse wasn't happy. Matt was sitting beside her, holding her other hand in both of his. He saw the look the nurse was giving her, and wasn't happy at all. It made his heart jump into his throat.

"This isn't good news, Mrs. Flannery. I'm going to get the doctor in here, just please, try to relax." The stern look was one of subtle pleading now.

"I might be able if I knew what was happening with Lia." They'd been waiting thirty minutes with no word on her.

"The doctor can tell you that, just be a patient a little longer." She gave a restrained smile, and left the room.

"You heard her Em, I know you're worried about Lia, and you can't really relax right now, but just try...okay?" Matt's beautiful brown eyes were filled with fear, leaving Emily no choice, but to nod.

"Hello Emily, Matt. So, your blood pressure has gone up again..." Her doctor trailed off, studying Emily's chart, unreadable expression on her face. All doctors have to perfect that expression, or risk panicking patients.

"The nurse said you could tell us what's going on with Lia?" Emily bit her lip nervously.

"Of course. There's been some complications, the placenta detached, and the baby is in some distress. They've taken her in for an emergency c-section. But, you shouldn't worry, her husband is in with her, and Cynthia Patterson is talented both as an OB/GYN, and an obstetric surgeon. Lia is going to be just fine." She believed it too. This wasn't an unusual complication, and Cynthia, at 57, had performed more c-sections than anyone she knew.

"Good, good," Emily breathed, smiling at Matt. Lia and her baby would be alright, and she had Duff with her.

"As for you, Emily. I'm not happy your BP went up again, it shouldn't have with the medication. So, I'm going to up the dosage a bit. If it doesn't go back down to what it was, or you experience another headache or vision problems again, then I'm going to induce you. It's early, yes, but the baby is developed enough that it would be safe." She stopped their protests before they came, she knew what they would say.

"You're sure that's really the safest thing to do?" Matt asked, not trusting.

"Yes, if it comes to that. It's much safer than waiting for her to seizure and removing the baby by emergency c-section, which is what would happen." Matt swallowed and nodded, kissing Emily's hand. But, she was staring blankly at the doctor in shock. It was really possible their new baby could come a month early. She might be in labor tonight.

Duff stood beside Lia, wearing green-blue scrubs, a plastic shower-cap, and a mask over his face. He held her hand, and watched her closed eyes. She didn't wake up before they took her into surgery, and now was completely sedated, rather than just give her a local and risk her waking up terrified in the middle of surgery.

The sheet over her still body was raised up just below her breasts, acting as a curtain, so he couldn't see what the surgeon was doing. That was fine by him, he didn't think he could see Lia sliced open like a fish without vomiting. All he saw was some blood on the sheet, an occasional glimpse of the surgeon's and assistants bloody purple gloves, and some blood on their yellow poncho-looking things.

He still wasn't quite sure what happened to get them here. Everything had been fine with Lia and the baby, aside from them being nervous as hell. Then Emily's frightened voice on the phone, the longest car ride of his life, and a flurry of nurses and doctors running around. Dr. Patterson said something about the placenta detaching, and the baby couldn't live without the placenta. They had to remove the baby ASAP or risk losing it. He signed the consent form in a haze, and barely remembered changing into the sterile clothing.

Duff didn't know before now he was capable of being this patient, let alone calm. But, what else could he do but wait? He wanted to run his fingers through her long, blond locks, but the plastic cap covered all of it. Instead, he ran the back of his hand along the soft skin of her face. He closed his eyes and tried to picture her the day they got married, her radiant smile just for him. He tried to imagine when they were finally home with their baby, tried to imagine what it would be like if everything turned out alright. He was so lost in his mind, he almost missed the doctor announcing they almost had the baby out.

His eyes flew open, his head turning sharply toward the bloody curtain, as he watched shadows of hands move behind it. Very calmly the doctor held up a tiny, red, wrinkled body, and handed it off to the nurse. She smiled at Duff, even through her mask he could see it, and told him he had a son. A nurse motioned him over to where they were cleaning the baby, and he saw her shove a thin plastic stick down his son's throat, and pull it back out with goop.

His baby boy cried.

He was so enthralled watching, he barely heard the nurse ask if he wanted to cut the umbilical cord. He nodded and took the scissors, straining to keep his hands from shaking, and delicately cut the cord. The nurses quickly tied it off, and wrapped the baby in a blanket; he was still covered in blood, and stiffly dried white goop. They handed him the baby, and Duff cradled his son.

Frank and Cheryl were sitting in the waiting room again, struggling to keep from pacing. Frank had gone to the hospital right after he left work, and Cheryl had come only a short while later. She picked up Cleo, and dropped her off at her apartment, after calling her husband and letting him know to expect two cats instead one. Nigel, her cat welcome Cleo by sticking his nose in her butt, and she reciprocated. The two felines seemed alright with each other.

They'd been in with Emily and Matt until about twenty minutes ago, when the doctor shooed them out, so she could examine Emily again. It was almost six o'clock, and they hadn't been there long. Lia was still in surgery, and Emily's blood pressure wasn't dropping. They hadn't seen Duff yet, but Matt was nervous and scared.

"You want kids, Cheryl?" Frank turned to her and broke their silence.

"No, not really. I love Brandon, but that's enough for me. I'd rather be the favorite aunt than a mother." She shrugged. Her husband didn't want the trouble of children either. "Why, do you?"

"I don't know, I kind of like the idea. I didn't realize how much could go wrong though...it's terrifying." He couldn't imagine watching the woman he loved grow their baby inside her for months, and then suddenly be worrying if he'd ever get to see that baby alive, if she'd even make it through it.

"It's usually a lot smoother you know, Frank. Not a thing went wrong with Brandon." Almost eight years ago, they'd waited in this same hospital, same waiting room, while Emily screamed her head off, pushing out Brandon.

They were suddenly startled to see Duff rush into the room, eyes lit up and searching frantically for them. They jumped up, and ran over to him, just as he spotted them.

"It's a boy, we have a little boy." He sounded almost out a breath, and both could see moisture in his eyes.

"And Lia?" Cheryl asked hesitantly.

"They said she's good, it went smoothly. They're wheeling her into a recovery room now, right next to Emily's room. The nurses have the baby, to clean him and check him out, but they'll bring him up soon." He watched his friends release the breath they'd stored up.

"Congratulations man, you're a daddy." Frank grinned at him. Duff was still wearing the scrubs they'd given him, and an excited glow.

"Thanks, I still can't believe it. He's so tiny, and so alive. I just can't believe he was the bump Lia's been carrying around for months." He was filled with energy, and began leading the way down the hall. "How's Emily?"

"She's alright. Her blood pressure seems to be stabilized, so the doctors are happy. Matt's with her, he's still scared the death," Cheryl explained walking beside him. Duff nodded solemnly, he knew how his friend felt.

They reached Emily's room, and with the door slightly ajar, they could see her sleeping. Her red curls were splayed in a shock over the stark white pillows. Her head was turned toward the side, facing the door; she'd fallen asleep looking at Matt. He still sat beside her, holding her hand in his, and staring distractedly at the TV screen. He started when he saw them.

"How's Lia?" He blurted, worried for the tech.

"Good, the nurses are getting her settled next door...her and the baby both came through the surgery alright." Duff was still smiling proudly, as the tension in Matt's shoulder's dissipated in relief.

He turned and leaned over, gently nudging Emily awake. She opened her eyes, squinting and blinking in the harsh hospital lights. She was still turned toward Matt, and hadn't noticed their company.

"Lia made through surgery alright, so did the baby," he told her, stroking her arm. Her eyes widened, and then she did look around the room, settling on the visiting triplet.

"Congratulations, Duff. Was it a boy or a girl?" Her voice was tired, but she was smiling.

"A boy, eight pounds, two ounces. Completely healthy according to the doctors."

Everything was quiet again until just after nine o'clock. Lia had woken up, scared at first because she didn't remember much, and had no idea she'd had an emergency c-section. But, Duff was able to calm her, and the nurse brought up baby Corey. Lia cried at the sight of him, and cuddled her son gently. Duff sat on the bed beside her, and arm around her shoulders, smiling at his baby boy.

Cheryl called Binder to check on Brandon, who was asleep in their guest bedroom. Binder's boys had tired him out on the basketball court down the street, and actually got him to make a basket. They went out with friends around seven, and Binder's fourteen year-old daughter and her best friend fussed over him. He'd only asked about his parents a couple of times, but didn't seem upset, so far.

Then she called home to her husband, who'd found the second cat just before her note, and nearly had a heart attack. Cleo and Nigel were curled together sleeping, finally after hours of chasing each other around the house. He flat out told Cheryl that they were never getting a second cat, making her laugh.

Frank went on a dinner run, and made sure everyone was fed. Lia was on a jello and broth diet for the next day or so, but Emily was especially grateful. The prospect of chocking down hospital food again didn't sit well with her. He bobbed between the two rooms, the nurses station where he was flirting shamelessly, and the waiting room with Cheryl.

Matt and Emily were sitting where they'd been the last several hours in her room. Unable to sleep they were watching TV, pointing out the flaws plaguing the show about FBI agents. It was all they could do to keep themselves interested.

"They would never allow that! They're partners, they'd be fired if they were caught sleeping together." Emily demanded, looking crossly at the TV screen.

Matt looked at her and raised an eyebrow, clearly amused at her statement. His eyes wandered to the ring on her finger, and swollen belly, before returning to her eyes, dubious look on her face.

"They don't have Cheryl for a boss, and they were getting friendly in the field. It's different. Besides, we weren't partners that long after we hooked-up," she insisted.

"Sure, but it's TV, they're allowed to be a little inaccurate." He smiled and kissed her hand, just as a nurse came in.

"Hello kids. Well, you look more relaxed than early, Emily, that's very good. Romeo's doing?" She grinned and nodded toward Matt.

"Undoubtedly, he's wonderful for frazzled nerves." Emily smiled as the nurse checked the numbers on the monitors, brows furrowing, unhappy about something.

Glenda had been concerned when the computer in the nurses station beeped, but when she saw Emily she figured it must have just been a glitch. She grabbed a blood pressure gauge from a drawer, and wrapped it around Emily's right arm. She pumped it up, and let it release slowly. Damn, that wasn't a glitch.

"Emily, your blood pressure is up again, I'm getting your doctor." Glenda didn't wait for her patient to respond before exiting the room in search of Dr. Marbry. They returned moments later, Keisha Marbry looking less than enthusiastic, studying Emily's chart.

"Emily, your blood pressure has risen way up again, and it's no longer safe to simply try more drugs. I want to give you an injection to induce labor. You're 35 weeks along, all his or her organs are fully developed, and I have great confidence he or she will be born perfectly healthy, if we induce." Matt and Emily looked at each other nervously, then at the doctor.

"Okay, lets do it then." Emily bit her lip and closed her eyes, she wanted to give the green light before she got scared and changed her mind.

"Okay, so you know how this works, I'm going to use Cervadil first. It's a gel that will soften your cervix. That might induce labor on it's own. If it doesn't, then I give you an injection of Pitocin, which simulates contractions. Any questions?" They shook their heads, willing to trust the woman who'd been with them through the successful pregnancy and delivery of their first child.

"I'll go tell the others what's going on." Matt pressed his lips to his wife's forehead, and went next door. Lia was still awake, smiling at her new baby, Duff by her side, and Cheryl and Frank were nearby talking to them.

"Matt, what's wrong?" Cheryl could sense something amiss just looking at his face.

"Emily's blood pressure is back up, the doctor's decided to induce." He was looking a little pale, and a lot nervous.

Emily started to feel contractions around midnight, pleasing the doctor immensely. By two o'clock she was almost fully dilated and her contractions were coming hard and fast. They were wheeling her into a delivery room as another one hit, causing her to grab Matt hard, and release a restrained scream. Matt held her tightly, feeling quite overwhelmed. This morning he had four more weeks to plan for his baby, but now the baby was minutes from being born.

"You're doing great Emily, this is very good." Nothing surprised Keisha anymore. Some deliveries took two days even with every induction method possible, other started naturally and took less than an hour. Brandon had been somewhere in the middle.

She screamed again as another contraction hit, squeezing Matt's hand in a painful grip. He winced , but was way too concerned about her to pay much attention to the pain in his hand.

"We've got a head! You're doing wonderfully Emily, just keep pushing," Dr. Marbry coached enthusiastically.

Emily screamed again as pain ripped through her lower abdomen, and again and again at short intervals as her body spasmed and worked with the contractions. She thought it would never end. Hot tears poured down her face, her body ached, even when the painful contractions weren't ripping through her, sweat glistened on her face and soaked her body, but still she pushed with all her might. The doctor shouted to her about a head, shoulders, a little body, and the finally, the words Emily had been dying to hear.

"She's out! It's over Emily, you did great. You have a healthy baby girl." The doctor smiled, and Emily nodded, too exhausted and spent to speak.

She leaned against Matt, her body still heaving, tears still rolling down her red face. Matt kissed her head, and rocked her, as she struggled to breath normally again. A nurse approached with the baby, and Matt took her, holding her against his chest a few minutes, waiting for Emily's breathing to slow and body relax.

Emily took her daughter into her arms, who was much smaller than Brandon had been. At full term, Brandon was born at nine pounds, six ounces. Their daughter couldn't be more than seven pounds.

Emily brushed her fingers gently against the baby's head, and settled her against her chest. She'd been screaming like a banshee when Matt took her from the nurse, but had quieted down considerably, as if she could just sense who her mommy and daddy were.

The nurse took the baby again a few minutes later, and they shooed Matt out, so they could take care of Emily and take her back to her room.

Matt ran into Frank and Cheryl first, who'd followed the screams earlier to delivery room, and decided to wait outside pacing. It was three-fifteen, and by all rights they should have been passed out in any semi-comfortable spot they could find, but both were too wired and worried to sit still, much less sleep.

"Matt?" Frank asked seeing him first.

"It's a girl...a perfect, beautiful, little baby girl." He finally released the breath he'd been holding since Sunday. "And, Emily is great, amazing really."

Three days later, two still very sore women were changing into real clothes--the kind that actually cover your ass, and involve two legs. Emily had actually been allowed to wear pajamas since the day after the birth, but Lia had been in the hospital gown the last few days. Both so the doctors could check her stitches, and have quick, easy access, should the stitches pop.

Cheryl and Frank were in waiting in the hallway with Brandon and a camera. As soon as they saw their two friends being wheeled out of their respective rooms by their husbands, Frank began to corral everyone for a picture. Cheryl flagged down a nurse, and politely requested she play photographer for them. She smiled at the crowd of friends and nodded, taking the camera from Cheryl.

Cheryl stood with the guys in the back, Duff and Matt behind their wives, with Frank and Cheryl on either side. Brandon stood between the new mothers, eyeing the babies in their arms.

Corey Manuel Gonzalez, whose middle name came from his paternal grandfather, looked sleepy-eyed out at the world. A blue cap covered his first sprigs of black hair, and he was wrapped tightly in the colorful pastel blanket crocheted by Lia's mother.

Jocelyn Alexia Flannery's green-hazel eyes were wide-open, searching the world and it's bright new wonders. She was wrapped in a white blanket with eyelet trim, and delicate embroidery done with silver thread, a gift her daddy had given her mommy long ago when it was Brandon in her belly. Emily had seen it in a magazine, sold out, and Matt made it his mission to get one.

The nurse snapped a few pictures, then paused allowing them to work out the cramps in their smiling muscles. Brandon chose that moment to turn to his parents.

"Hey Daddy?" He asked, big brown eyes looking up into his father's matching ones.

"Yeah buddy?" Matt crouched down, resting a hand on Emily's wheelchair. She'd turned and was watching the exchange beside her.

"I was thinking...I don't really want a sister, I'd rather have a brother. Can we switch with Aunt Lia and Uncle Duff?" His request was so innocent, so honest.

The adults around him just stared silently in disbelief for a few seconds, then as if on cue, the six friends all exploded in hysterical laughter. Baby Corey's eyes blinked sleepily, wondering what was going on, while baby Josie, as they'd already begun to call her, blew a spit bubble and flapped a hand in response to her mother's body shaking with laughter.

No one noticed the flashes going off, as the nurse continued taking pictures, capturing them all red-faced with tears trickling down their cheeks.

"Uh Bran, it doesn't work that way," Matt explained after he'd caught his breath.

"Yeah, you don't get to pick your relatives Bran. That's why you have friends, you actually get to pick them." Frank chortled.

"Then why the hell did we pick each other?" Lia asked, completely deadpan.

"Yeah!" Brandon piped in, looking very serious, just before they all started laughing again.

"Well Brandon, we're more like family now. No turning back, though there are times I wish we could." She turned looking pointedly at Frank and Duff, who chuckled. They were still pulling their dumb and dumber routine, and hosting all out battles in HRT.

Brandon looked puzzled, but realized he was stuck with a sister. Nobody was going to do the sensible thing and switch so he could have a brother instead.

The walked out of the hospital together, still talking and laughing; the babies remained blessedly quiet.

I know the last two stories haven't had much of Cleo, but the next one, whenever I get it written, will. Thanks for reading, and please review!