Author's Note: Thanks to Guardian Angel for the continued hand-holding, early morning and late at night and as the two fade together. Thanks to everyone who stuck around to see this baby come to term (so to speak). Your kind words and open eyes have been a balm to my poor insecure soul.
Also, apologies to Elizabeth Stone, from whom I stole unabashedly :)
"So, should we call you Grandpa Josef?" Beth's voice was barely audible to the vampires over the smack of the blades. Mick almost choked on Josef's emergency bag of blood, licking the spill from his chin as he tried not to waste a single drop.
The noise of the helicopter quashed any reply, so Josef rolled his eyes instead.
With enough blood to dull the ache in his gums, if just barely, Mick wrapped himself around and under Beth in a cushion of flesh, kneading circles against her aching back and listening for trouble.
"Mick," Beth tilted her face up to him and he bent to meet her, to hold her to him. Mouth and nose nestled in the curve of his neck, he counted her breaths. Solid and steady. Her whispers rushed over his skin.
"Send someone for Andi. They have her family. Or had her family."
Mick nodded. The pierce of the sun shut his eyes. He had to trust the sounds of her heart, of their son's, the feel of her warm skin against him. He tried to ignore the sigh of blood beneath her skin, the tempting flow just inches from his hungry teeth.
One minute, two minutes, five. Ten. Finally, the hospital helipad glimmered blue beneath them. Scurrying figures in yellow, filled with red, he knew, came into sharper focus.
They hit the roof and Beth was out of his arms, her hand still reaching for him, but body being probed by others. He heard Josef making sharp announcements about a car accident, numbers shouted over the engine noise and the squeak of a gurney being wheeled over the tarmac.
But above the din, he heard it. Blood. The pretty nurse and her throbbing veins, the well-muscled doctor with his blue, blue wrists.
Then Beth's groans slapped him. Mick's eyes snapped to her.
"Mick?" He pushed through and stood at her shoulder. "I want to push. Can I push?"
"She's fully dilated," the doctor announced from between her legs as they paused for the elevator. A nurse was changing Beth into scrubs, the bloody dress and underwear in a plastic bag, and Mick's hands twitched. He could squeeze the liquid out, into his mouth, blood and cotton on his tongue.
"We need a room, fast. Next contraction, ma'am --"
"Beth, Beth St. John." Mick wiggled into his own protective clothing, concentrating on each step.
"Okay, Beth. Next time, you can push."
"Don't worry, dad. She'll be fine," the nurse put a hand on Mick.
The elevator doors closed. Sweet bouquets of blood filled the air. Silver and tears filled his eyes.
It wasn't supposed to be this way.
They should have been home, Beth waking him with the news. Mick frantically grabbing the suitcase, the wife. A debate over the Benz or the Prius, a call to Josef, Beth breaking his hand over and over while hurling invectives as they waited for their son.
Mick grabbed Beth's hand and held tight to what mattered.
The elevator doors split and the entourage spilled out. So much blood, inside and out. Mick felt a hand on him.
"You'll never make it like this," Josef held him back and as the busy hallway winked out of view.
"I have to," Mick crashed against him to open the doors.
"You will. But not like this," Josef pricked open a vein. "Don't argue. Drink."
A moment of hesitation and then the smooth of Josef's skin was between Mick's lips, the kaleidoscope taste of secondhand women in the cool copper tang.
"Are you okay?" Mick wiped his mouth, better already. He jabbed the button to open the doors.
"I think I need a nurse," Josef grinned. "And you need to hurry."
Mick sped through the hall, faster than a human would have, Beth's scent pulling him. And there she was.
"We're crowning, Beth," the doctor's voice urged. "You're going good, very good."
A thatch of black bulged from Beth in the most surreal moment, the baby inside Beth about to be out. Mick's breath caught. Their son. There.
He was at Beth's side, eyes on the strange image in the mirror facing the bed.
"Almost there," he put a cool hand on her head. "Almost, Beth."
Mick took her hand, pulled it down and brushed the tips against the shock of hair. Her eyes widened against the new pressure.
"That's him," Mick watched her face flit from wonder to joy until it screwed tight again and her hand slipped to grip the edge of the bed. Every muscle busy.
A shoulder. Arms. Legs. Feet.
"Congratulations, it's a boy!"
The room blurred. He smelled Beth's tears with his own.
Then he was in her arms, their son. Hiccuping sobs from Beth as her hands ran over him, nurses wiping, squeezing, cleaning.
The first whoosh of air into tiny lungs and the heartbeat picked up. Mick held his breath, afraid as blue skin became pink.
His clear cat-cry rang out, the most beautiful sound since his name on Beth's lips.
He placed fingertips against his son's skin. Eyes of the pale blue peeked at him as Beth shifted his tiny body to lay against her warmth. Mick's arms itched for him but he stepped away.
"I'll tell Josef," Mick headed for the door where he could breathe again without chancing the smell of his son. "I'll see you in the room."
An hour later, clothes changed, calls made and veins full, Mick paced outside Beth's room. He heard the sigh of her sleeping and the echoing beat of a heart next to hers. He could read the little card, scrawled in a careful lettering, "Matthew Turner St. John, 6 lbs, 10 ozs., 19.5 inches. Michael and Elizabeth St. John." And beneath it slept his son.
When the third nurse asked if she could help him, he finally pushed himself through the doorway, leaving it open a crack.
The terror, absolute terror, bit him. Worse than her eyes on his bloody mouth, worse than the seize of her breath and tremble of her arm against him in the desert. But not even his own fear could keep him from this child. He wanted to see this little person he and Beth had made, the part of him outside of him. He wanted his miracle.
He laid trembling hands over Matthew, slipping his pinkie into the tiny grip. Mick smoothed the dark hair, so small head in his palm.
He took a breath, ready for thirst and crushing despair, for the world to fall, for the vampire to scream out for blood and make Mick a monster in his son's eyes.
Nothing. He smelled fresh, familiar and faintly of Beth. Another breath – antibiotics, cotton, a sweet unknown. There was blood, he could hear it pumping, but nothing Mick was hungry for. Nothing.
He eased him into his arms, wishing he could pull this moment inside himself, cocoon them against the world.
"Matthew. My Matty," Mick tried as the eyes opened to him, tracked his face, his smile. His arms were made for this moment. He leaned down and settled lips against so soft skin. "Hey, buddy, I'm your daddy."
Beth's heartbeat ticked up. Mick caught her sleepy eyes on them and shifted to face her.
"Hi, daddy," she smiled.
"Look, Mommy's up. You tired her out," Mick curled him closer. "Of course, you had some help. But Uncle Josef and I took care of that."
"Where is he?"
"Probably getting the marching band ready. Or buying out every florist in L.A. Having the girls break open those diaper cakes. He'll be here soon."
Mick couldn't stop touching his son, a reassurance he was really there.
"It's the strangest feeling, isn't it?" Mick gave her a confused look. "Having your heart suddenly outside your body?"
The smile was inescapable.
"Mine's been somewhere else for more than 20 years," Mick moved toward her, reluctantly handing Matthew to her. "But I know what you mean."
Beth pulled her child to her, inched to the edge of the bed and pulled the vampire to them. He held her, holding him, and didn't think he could ever let them go.