Deep in the bowels of Los Angeles County Hospital, a woman released a final, agonized scream as her son came into the world. It wasn't the usual scream of a woman in labor though. There was more to her pain than that of childbirth. Anyone who heard that cry couldn't deny that it wasn't from physical pain, but from a deeper, unrelenting emotional ache.
A tense older nurse brought the crying infant boy from the exam table over to his mother, and gently placed him in her arms. Tears were streaming from the mother's face, blending with the sweat that glued her hair to her head. Her chest heaved as her lungs worked to keep up with her over-exerted body's need for oxygen. She barely looked at the boy, because one quick look undid the illusion she'd lived for months.
She began to sob.
Her face collapsed in a mess of pain and tears, and her body shook with the force of her gasps. Cheryl took the brown-eyed baby boy into her own arms, and passed him to Lia with barely a look herself. With a few quick words, she instructed the young IT tech to take the baby outside, and introduce him to the guys. Lia nodded, and carried her friend's newborn son outside the delivery room where Frank and Duff waited. Half of FBI-LA was parked in a waiting room down the hall, but the guys chose to wait outside the delivery room.
Cheryl wrapped her body around Emily's, and let her heart-broken friend dissolve into her. Emily had been remarkably stable throughout her pregnancy, enough so that they too had the illusion that everything was alright.
Nothing was alright.
Cheryl had been afraid of this, afraid that Emily's careful strength would crumble at the sight of her child. Carrying the boy had given her a definitive purpose the last several months, a reason to keep that delicate veneer she wore intact. Rather than show her a whole new purpose to keep herself together, her baby's birth brought up the emotional turmoil she hadn't really dealt with.
Emily didn't say anything as she cried. She didn't ask for her son, she didn't scream about god's injustice, and she didn't beg to see her child's father. She only choked, coughed, and gasped as tears ran down her cheeks and into the turquoise scrubs Cheryl had donned for the occasion. Lia was walking around in a matching pair.
When it became obvious that Emily wasn't having the average new mother cry, and wasn't going to calm down soon, the doctor nodded toward a young nurse. He nodded back, reached into a draw and pulled out a syringe. After digging into a second drawer he came out with a tiny bottle of clear fluid. He filled the syringe a quarter of the way, returned the bottle, and injected the fluid into his patient.
The OBGYN knew Emily's history, and wasn't completely surprised by her post-delivery reaction. The drug would knock the FBI Agent out, and when she came to in a few hours, hopefully calmer, they'd give her the baby again. The doctor figured she'd also have to send in the hospital shrink for a consult, and pray her patient didn't succumb to postpartum depression. Emily was at a higher risk than the average new mother.
Cheryl watched Emily close her eyes as the drugs took affect, and backed up from the bed. She pulled the plastic hair cap from her head, and ran her hands over her face. This wasn't good. This wasn't how this should have gone for Emily. It wasn't how it should have gone for Matt.
She wandered outside to see Lia coming back up the hall after bringing the baby to the full visitor's room. Frank's and Duff's heads came up from where they were staring tensely at the floor. Duff rubbed his hand along his girlfriend's shoulder and back. Lia looked as if she might cry. Frank looked at Cheryl.
"How did they like baby Matthew?" the SAC finally asked, brushing the baby boy's cheek, and allowing him to grab her finger.
"They said he was beautiful, and asked how Emily was…I lied and said she was fine," Lia sighed tiredly. The whole office didn't need to know her friend's business; they knew enough already.
"Is she going to be okay?" Frank asked.
"I don't know. They sedated her...she should have been in counseling this whole time. We just didn't see it."
"She seemed like she was coping, Cheryl. Emily has always been strong and independent, she didn't let anyone see it. Probably didn't even let herself see it," Frank said.
Cheryl nodded half-heartedly, and then held out her arms. "I'll take Matt Jr. back to the nurses."
Lia eased the baby into Cheryl's arms, looking into his big brown eyes the whole time. They were unquestionably his father's eyes, but with all the innocence the grown man aged out of.
Cheryl held her former partner's namesake securely in her arms, and walked back into the delivery room. He could have been born into a better situation, experienced a happier birth, but his mother did love him, even if right now, she couldn't show it. Cheryl handed him to the older nurse, but not before leaning close and whispering softly to him.
"Sorry, little guy. Your mommy's having a rough time, but it'll get better."
A few hours later, Emily batted her eyes awake to the morning sun. Her son had come into the world when the moon was still in the sky, that she knew. She also knew that they gave her something to make her sleep, but for how long, she wasn't sure. The light was still subdued, so she assumed it couldn't have been for too long.
She surveyed the room. Small, only one bed—so it was private—chair beside the bed, TV high up in the corner opposite her, window to her left, and door to her right. No sign of the guys, or her girlfriends, who'd held her hands as she gave birth. No Matt. He should have been there, in that chair beside her. He had the right to be in that chair. It was his right to be the one holding her, and cheering her on as she birthed their child. But he wasn't.
Matt hadn't been with her for the last eight months. He hadn't brushed hair from her face, or 'accidentally' bumped her foot under their desks at work. He hadn't kissed her lips, or run his hands along her curves. His body hadn't laid beside hers in bed, wrapping her in his warmth. His hands never settled on her swollen belly, and felt the delicate flutters of their son's little feet kicking out. And only hours ago, was the first time Emily had seen his eyes in eight months.
Matt would never hold their son.
Emily was startled out of her sad reverie as a nurse entered the room, wheeling the plastic bassinet that held her son. The same older nurse from before, who after decades of working in neonatal, hadn't been startled by Emily's earlier sobbing. She parked the bassinet beside the bed, and lifted newborn Matthew Hayden Flannery out and into his mother's arms. The birth certificate wasn't filled out yet, but Emily had been clear that her son was going to be named after his father, except his middle name; she'd wanted that to be his own.
Seemingly convinced that Emily wouldn't dissolve into hysterical sobs again, the nurse left the new mother alone with her son.
Emily's throat tightened as she held her son, and she released a long, shuttering breath. She ran a hand over his soft, dark hair, and a tear slid down her cheek. He already looked like his father, and already part of her loved that and part of her hated it. Having a constant reminder of him would help her heal, while still managing to tear her heart apart.
Matt was dead.
Their son and memories were all she had left of him, all she had of the best two years of her life. That was the thought that propelled her beyond her grief enough to be a mother to her son. As much pain as she was still in, and as much as she'd be in the rest of her life, she had to care for their child. Matthew Jr. was more precious to her than anything else in the world.
Emily brought her knees up, and rested Matthew, still in her arms, in front of herself, against her legs. He was still wrapped up, and wore that mildly stoned look newborn babies often get—he was a little sleepy, but not asleep yet.
"Hi Matt--Matty," Emily corrected, tears already seeping from her eyes. He wasn't Matt and she couldn't bear to address him with his dead father's name. To speak his name allowed made her chest tighten painfully.
"I'm sorry...I'm sorry that I'm the only parent you have. Your daddy, he--he can't be with us. He was a really good man, and I loved him very much. He loved us too...so much, Matty. He should be here with us, and I know he'd want to be, but it just isn't possible..." She sniffled, but let her tears fall freely down her cheeks.
She remembered the day she told Matt she was pregnant, well, night really. It was a Friday, and they'd driven up the coast and east to a cozy little cabin near Mount Shasta, one of California's volcanoes. They'd had a crisis that Wednesday morning through Thursday evening. Rather than go home, they went back to the Bureau building and passed out in the little room of cots they kept. Paperwork got finished in the early morning, and Cheryl told them to go home. They couldn't go fast enough.
Emily had told Matt that she was pregnant that night, as they sat comfortably by a fire. He'd been stunned, confused, overwhelmed, and upset for a full thirty minutes. Then he pulled her into his arms, practically in his lap, and held her awhile, not saying a word. When he'd finally spoken, it was to say that, that wasn't what he'd envisioned for them, but he loved her and would love their baby. He placed a hand on her stomach, and it stayed there for half the weekend. Even though there was really nothing discernible there, he liked to rest his hand over where their baby lay.
The following Monday, Matt left work to testify at a trial, and on the way back an Explorer careened into his SUV. His smaller SUV bounced off a guardrail, then into the back of a transport truck, before rolling down an incline toward the other half of the highway. He died before the paramedics arrived.
Emily would have given anything to have Matt with her then, holding her and playing with the baby he put inside her. She could still feel him laying beside her, his hand moving gently over her flat stomach. His voice continued to play in her head--the only place it could play--whispering that he loved her. If she closed her eyes and concentrated very intently, she could even taste his kisses.
Matty gurgled and cried out, his little face scrunched in frustration. Emily brought him close to her body, cradling him, stroking one soft cheek. Matty cried louder and harder, still unsatisfied. She checked his diaper, which appeared to be dry, and finally came to a conclusion.
"You're hungry then, aren't you?" She didn't wait for an answer, but began unbuttoning her pajama top.
It took only the top few buttons to give him access to his breakfast, which he refused. He wailed harder. Emily pinched her breast until she saw a dollop of milk, wiped it off with her finger, and brought it to Matty's mouth. She brushed it across his lips, and watched his little tongue lick it off. She eased him back to her breast, which he now took, eagerly.
"Good boy," she breathed, tears still hanging in her eyes.
Emily relaxed, tensing occasionally at the gentle pulls as Matty fed. Holding him snuggly in one arm, she rested her free hand on blue cotton cap that was keeping his head warm. She ran her hand over his back, and could just barely feel his body under the blanket. Touch, she'd read that babies need a lot of human contact to thrive properly. She'd have to give enough for two people.
Matty finished, and Emily grabbed the towel the nurse had left beside the bed, laying it over her left shoulder. Laying him against her shoulder, she gently tapped the infant's back until he burped. Then she settled him against her chest, tears trickling down her face. She tucked the blanket tighter against his body, and kissed his head.
"Hey," Cheryl greeted softly, standing by the door.
"Hi," Emily looked over and smiled, nodding her over.
"You seem better." Cheryl ran a hand over Matty's head, looking more at him than Emily.
"I'm sorry…earlier…I just miss him."
"I know. If you didn't, I'd be worried."
"After Sam died, how did you…" Emily trailed off, looking down, sniffling.
"I just woke up the next day, and went on with life, but that was different. We'd been broken up for years, and we didn't have a baby." Cheryl took her free hand and squeezed it.
"What do I tell Matty about his father, when he's older?"
"Matty? I like that." Cheryl smiled, looking at the baby, then sighed. "You tell him that you love him, that Matt would have loved him, and just tell him what Matt was like…Tell Matty that his dad was afraid of dogs."
Emily laughed. "Matt would never forgive me if I told him that."
She swallowed down the lump that formed at saying his name. She hadn't said his name out loud in months.
"Well, I don't know about never. I think eventually."
The two women sat in silence, watching Matty rest against his Emily's chest. His eyes were still open, but the lids were drooping over them, getting closer and closer to closed.
"Cheryl?" Emily suddenly spoke, her voice cracking as her eyes began watering again.
Cheryl looked up at her.
"What if I can't do this without him?" Her voice was low, but it pierced Cheryl's heart.
"Then you call me or Lia, or the guys. We'll be there in minutes."
"Thank you." She spoke so quietly, Cheryl almost didn't hear her.
She smiled, and squeezed Emily's hand again, before rising from her seat. "You'll call me if you need anything?"
"Good, I'll come by tomorrow." She grinned at Matty, whose eyes had finally closed, and walked out the door.
Emily rubbed Matty's back, and kissed his head. She pressed the button on the control to lower the top of the bed just a tiny bit, and brought the sheet up around her body. When she was satisfied that both she and Matty were comfortable, she kissed the top of his head.
"I love you." She looked away then, toward the window, and released a strangled sigh.
"I love you too, and I miss you so much."
She didn't get an answer, but then she didn't expect one. She rested her cheek against the pillow, and drifted off to sleep with their child tucked asleep on her chest.
I disappear for a few weeks, and suddenly everything looks different! So, sorry for the delays in updating, it's been chaotic since I got back from vacation. I should be able to get something up for at least Falling soon, though, I hope.
Does anybody happen to know a good printer for high volume projects? The one I just bought is a piece of shit, so I'd appreciate any assistance.