Chapter 7: Okay – that's not good.

Late October, 2002

After so many times when they thought Drew would be coming home only to be disappointed, it had begun to feel like he'd never be on his way. But finally, at the end of October, Drew got on a transport plane at Kandahar and began his long journey back to Canada.

Elaine was beyond excited and had suddenly decided that rather than wait for Drew she wanted to get the nursery completely ready, as a welcome home surprise for her husband. Of course, being eight months pregnant wasn't conducive to many of the activities required to turn a cluttered spare room into a baby's paradise. And so it was that Evan found himself once again stepping in. He'd agreed to two days only – anything they could get done during that time would have to be enough because his work schedule didn't allow more time off. Besides Drew's arrival time only gave them another day beyond that, maybe less if he managed to get good connecting flights from Europe to the States. Elaine had been so happy that Evan was helping she hadn't even thought to try and wheedle more time from her brother.

"Lainee, are you sure this is the colour you want for this wall?" Evan looked at the newly opened can of yellow paint - sunshine bright yellow paint - dubiously.

"Is it yellow?" Elaine yelled from the living room where she was sitting on the couch folding and sorting impossibly tiny baby clothes. She felt enormous already – holding up a white bodysuit with the phrase 'I get my looks from Daddy and my brains from Mummy' printed on it she assessed its size and then looked down at her tummy. "I think this will already be too small by the time you get here," she told her unborn child with a small smile.

Evan looked at the paint again and then shrugged. "Yeah," he called back, dipping the brush in and then turning to the bare wall. It had been a plain cream colour before he'd applied the white undercoat late the day before. That was after he'd spent three hours lugging everything that was in the room out of the room. Blocking out the edges around the skirting and cornices he hummed under his breath as he let the act of painting absorb him. It didn't take long and Evan had to admit that Elaine had been right. It was a bright yellow but it lit up the room and turned the other walls into a pleasant contrast. Cleaning up he made his way back to the living room.

Elaine had finished with her organising and was reading a pregnancy magazine when he walked in. "Finished already?" she asked.

"I'm multi-talented," he told her with a smug smirk. "Anything interesting in that?" he gestured to her reading material.

"Not unless you want to hear real life stories from women who've given birth," Elaine replied, "with all the gory details."

"I'll pass," Evan said lightly. "That wall will take a couple of hours to dry enough for us to risk doing anything else in the room. So – what do you want me to do next?"

"There's a changing table storage unit and the crib to put together," Elaine suggested.

"Okay," Evan rubbed his hands together with enthusiasm. "This I can do!" He narrowed his eyes at her as he continued. "You're forbidden to tell Drew I actually enjoyed this, you know that right? I'm suffering for my Uncle-hood here, okay."

"Of course you are," Elaine smiled at her brother fondly. "Did I tell you how much I appreciate this?"

"Yeah, but you can tell me again," Evan returned with a faint smile. Turning to the corner of the room he grabbed the first box – the changing table - and started unpacking it. He'd laid everything out and was reading the instructions, such as they were, before looking up at Elaine again. "This one will fit through the door," he commented. "We'll have to wait for everything to dry before we do the crib."

Elaine watched him for a time ... he was so focussed and methodical as he worked. He'd discarded the instruction sheet with a mumbled complaint that it was useless and was constructing the item by working out what each piece was for. Again she felt that rush of pride that her brother was so smart and capable. "You really are enjoying that aren't you?" she commented fondly.

"Yeah," Evan grinned. "What do you think so far?" He had the base done and was just finishing up installing the top which acted as both a lid for one of the storage sections underneath as well as the 'table' part of the unit.

"It looks great," Elaine yawned before she could say more. "Sorry," she apologised. "I was this tired for the first trimester but then I felt great. The past couple of weeks it's been back to tiredness again - I can barely make it past lunch without falling asleep."

"Why don't you go have a nap," Evan suggested. "I can finish this up and start on something else."

"Okay, I think I will," Elaine got up and leaned down to press a kiss into his hair before disappearing down the hall.

Evan completed the changing table and carried it quietly into the nursery. The first furniture in the room, apart from the built-in closet already there. He stood looking around for a few moments before his eyes fell on that built-in again, and more specifically the white painted floor to ceiling doors.

It was so ... white. And despite the blandness implied, it kind of clashed with the newly painted yellow wall and it's adjacent cream ones. As he continued to look around the room, Evan began to smile. He had an idea.

Heading for the living room corner where he'd stacked some of the stuff that used to be in the nursery he grabbed what he needed and then went back to the baby's room. Laying the items on the floor, he stood again, letting his eyes lose focus as he looked at the doors speculatively until he had a full picture in his head of what he wanted to do. Nodding, he got to work.

Elaine slowly returned from sleep, rubbing her eyes as she turned to look at the bedside clock.

5:10! She'd been asleep for over four hours!

Manouvreing herself out of bed she went to freshen up and then hurried to the living room to check on her brother. Frowning when she saw the empty room she turned and went to the nursery. Stopping abruptly in the doorway, she took in the scene, her hand to her mouth. "Evan," she said in a low tone, taking a couple of unconscious steps inside.

"You're up," Evan straightened, wiping his brush on a cloth as he walked to her. Assessing her closely he smiled. "You look better."

"I feel better," Elaine said distractedly, her eyes still on the wall behind him. "This is ....," she trailed off, meeting her brother's eyes.

"You don't mind?" he asked uncertainly. "I would have asked you but you were snoring so loudly I don't think you would have heard if I'd decided to take out a few walls and build an outdoor area for the baby."

"I don't snore!" she protested.

"Maybe it was the baby then," Evan suggested, tongue in cheek.

"After you've carried an extra 20 pounds of baby related weight around for eight months then you can comment," Elaine retorted. She stepped closer to where he'd been working, her eyes tracking every detail. He'd painted a mural of sorts, crossing the sliding doors of her built in closet. It had an element of fantasy about it ... the colours more vibrant than nature would use. There was ocean because he knew she still missed the Bay, and trees with leaves that on closer inspection turned out to be shaped like jungle animals. The sky was streaked with pinks and yellows and the sun's rays kissed the surface of everything – Evan had made them all glisten as though touched with pixie dust. A playground of equipment any kid would long to play on was tucked inside a grass filled clearing and there were other surprises hidden in various places over the whole picture. It was a magical landscape for a child but so much more, the details emerging the closer she looked. Animal shapes made up many of the larger objects, butterflies blending in with the flowers, dolphins and fish doing the same in the ocean. Everything had a kind of blurred and indistinct feel to it too, the edges of one thing blending into the next adding to the mystery and charm of the mural.

"I can't believe you did this so quickly," Elaine told him quietly.

"Me either," Evan admitted. "It really captured me .... I completely lost track of time. Is it okay?" he asked her uncertainly.

"It's better than okay Evan," Elaine turned and put a hand to each of his cheeks. Pulling him down she pressed a kiss to his forehead. "It's wonderful."

"And you haven't seen the best bit yet," Evan said excitedly, moving forward. "See, with the doors closed like this everything travels over the middle join, but if you close them the other way," he moved each door until they'd swapped positions, "it still looks like a complete picture. That way it doesn't matter which way you close them."

"Very clever," Elaine admired that extra detail with an amused smile. His excitement was just so ... cute!

"I just need another hour to finish the details," Evan offered. "And maybe another hour for the crib and then it's done – ready for you to bring in all the baby paraphernalia you've collected for my nephew."

"Or niece," Elaine corrected automatically. 'And it's not paraphernalia!" she added insistently. Looking at the mural again her eyebrows rose pointedly. "I'm surprised you didn't paint a fleet of planes and cars in there."

"Who says I didn't?" Evan grinned. "Look closer Sis," he advised.

"Oh you!" She laughed, seeing planes and boats and cars in abstract hidden in the clouds he'd painted travelling across the sky.

"Hey, I balanced it out with the flowers and butterflies," Evan pointed out. He looked at the mural with an amused grin, as much for his own whimsy as for his sisters reaction.

"Are you hungry?" Elaine asked, putting a hand to her back in a futile effort to ease the weight putting pressure on her spine.

"I didn't really notice but yeah, I am," Evan admitted. "I can go out – get something," he offered. He'd done the same thing for her yesterday, anything to spare her from necessary chores.

"No, that's okay," Elaine put a hand on his forearm fondly. "I can still get around the kitchen and after all your work the least I can do is make you something to eat."

"Okay, but don't do anything elaborate," Evan agreed. His sister nodded before turning and waddling from the room – he used that description in his head but never to her face, even though she was kind of swaying from side to side as she walked. Grinning, Evan dipped his clean brush into the yellow paint and added a fluffy duck to the pond, stepping back to consider what else he wanted to do before the picture was finished.

He'd added a few details, smoothed out a couple of things, and was almost finished putting all Elaine's paints away when he heard her calling for him.

"Evan!" That sounded .... urgent. Dropping the stuff he was holding to the floor, Evan ran from the room, down the corridor and into the kitchen to see Elaine standing in the middle of the floor, her expression disbelieving.

"What's wrong?"

"I think the baby's coming," Elaine revealed, a hand to her belly. Her expression shifted to pained, her body tensing. "Okay – that's not good."

"Now? You're in labour now?" If someone had asked him to describe his current feeling Evan would have struggled to be articulate. Nerves, fear, worry for Elaine – they were all there for sure. But along with all those predictable thoughts were other, less logical ones. Chief amongst them was why him? Couldn't Elaine have waited another day, when he was safely back on the job? Of course that would have left her alone which wasn't good either ... although Drew would have been back by then.

Damn! Drew!

"Yes, I'm in labour now," Elaine confirmed grimly, unaware of Evan's thoughts.

"Right," Evan took a deep breath and focussed on the priorities. "Four weeks early .... that's common, right? So – we call your Doctor?"

"The baby can't be early!" Elaine moaned low, tensing again. "Oh God."

"Listen Sis, I don't know much about labour but if those are contractions, aren't they a little close together?" Evan asked with a frown, finally moving in and putting a hand to her back.

"Yes, which is why I said it wasn't good!" Elaine shot back irritably.

"Where's your doctors number?" Evan asked quietly.

"Top drawer, over there," Elaine pointed, putting a hand to her tummy and rubbing in a circular motion.

Evan found the number and grabbing the phone made the call himself. He explained the situation briskly and succinctly, listened to the instructions and then confirmed that they'd be there soon.

"She'll meet us at the hospital," he told Elaine. "Where's your bag?"

"Ah – in the bedroom," Elaine's eyes filled with tears she struggled to contain. "I can't have this baby now Evan ... not until Drew gets home!"

"I know Sis," Evan moved forward and put his arm around her, squeezing tight in comfort. "Let's get you to the hospital first, see how far along you are. Then we can worry about the rest, okay?"

"Okay," Elaine sniffed, pressing her face to his shoulder before stepping back with a brave smile. "I'll go get in the car."

"Take it slow and I'll help you," Evan ran a hand over her hair before turning and hurrying to her bedroom. He found the bag easy enough, thankful Elaine had already packed one so he didn't have to rummage through her draws himself. Grabbing the bag he ran from the room, pausing to grab wallet and keys on the way to the front door. He'd locked up and was at the car before Elaine could attempt to get in by herself, helping her settle herself awkwardly in the front seat.

And then they were driving, with him just barely keeping to the speed limit and tensing every time Elaine went through a contraction. The ride to the hospital was thankfully short and they were met in the foyer by a nurse who'd been sent down to help Elaine.

"This way," she urged, taking Elaine's arm.

"Evan?" Elaine looked to him worriedly.

"It's okay Lainee," Evan reassured her. "I'll just fill in whatever they need and be right behind you."

"Okay," Elaine hesitated for another moment and then followed the nurse.

Evan took care of the paperwork – which wasn't much given Elaine had already booked in to have her baby at that hospital months before. And then he took out his mobile and made a call.

"Cade, it's Evan," he said as soon as it was answered. "Is there any way you can find out where Drew is right now?"

"Ah .... maybe," Cade offered. "Why?"

"Elaine just went into labour ... four weeks early," Evan revealed grimly.

"Damn," Cade murmured. "Okay, I'll call the base he was supposed to lay over at, find out what flight he went out on. Then we can get a call through to him."

"Thanks Cade," Evan returned. "You've got my number but I'll have to switch the phone off once I'm in with Elaine. Call the maternity desk as soon as you know anything," he gave Cade details on the hospital before hanging up.

Waiting outside while Elaine was examined by her obstetrician, Evan considered ringing their Mom but decided to hold off until he knew the full situation. Plus that was probably something Elaine would want to do herself.

"You can go in now," the nurse appeared with a friendly smile.

"Thanks," Evan walked in, zeroing in on Elaine straight away. She looked ... calmer.

"This is my brother Evan," Elaine introduced him. "Drew's still on his way back from Afghanistan. Evan, this is Doctor Julie Grant."

Evan nodded to the doctor and nurses and then looked at Elaine. "What's the status?"

"Your sister is definitely in labour," her obstetrician, Doctor Grant, explained. "Only a centimetre dilated though and thankfully the contractions have dropped off as well." The Doctor smiled over at Elaine. "Your baby is keen to make an appearance but it will probably be a while yet. Settle in and I'll come check on you again in a few hours."

"Thanks Doctor Grant," Elaine returned. Evan moved closer and she took his hand, squeezing tightly. "I can't believe this is happening," she said quietly.

"You heard what the Doc said," Evan reminded her. "Still going to be hours yet ... Drew's on his way home and we just have to pray that he'll make it here in time."

"I just ... I'd feel better if I knew when he was going to get here," Elaine's eyes filled with tears again. "He can't miss this, not on top of everything else. It's just not fair!"

"I know," Evan sat on the edge of the bed and pulled her into a hug. "I know."

He let her cry for a few moments and then leaned towards the bedside table to grab her a couple of tissues. "Listen, I called Cade and he's finding out exactly where Drew is right now. He'll call here as soon as he knows something."

"Okay," Elaine settled back and then abruptly stiffened again.

"Contraction?" Evan offered her his hand and then tried not to cringe when she held on really tightly, nodding. Moments later she was relaxing again. "Do you want me to call Mom?" he asked.

"No ... I'll do it," Elaine took the phone he handed her and dialled quickly. "Mom," she said tearfully a moment later.

Evan listened as she spilled out the story of their current circumstances, handing her more tissues she used gratefully while continuing to talk.

"She's taking the first flight she can get here," Elaine told him once the call was done, handing him back his phone.

"You gonna call Drew's parents?" Evan asked curiously.

"Not yet," Elaine replied. "It'd take them even longer to get here than it takes Mom - I don't want to put that kind of pressure on them." Matthew and Helen Rider had retired to Prince Edward Island a couple of years back - Elaine loved visiting them there, loved imagining the presence of one of her favourite girlhood fictional characters in the sprawling fields and quaint houses. Elaine got on well with Drew's parents and they'd kept in touch the whole time Drew had been away. It wasn't the same level of comfort, the same sense of belonging that she had with Evan and her Mom but their support had certainly helped her get through some pretty tough days in the past month. "Drew will call them when he gets here."

"Right," Evan stood for a moment, comtemplating the situation. "So now we wait," he concluded.

"Now we wait," Elaine confirmed.

There was silence for a few moments and then Evan spoke again. "Got anything to do in that bag?" he asked hopefully.

"Go – buy a book or something," Elaine said with a laugh. "I'll be fine by myself for a while."

"You need anything?" Evan asked, turning towards the door.

"No," Elaine smiled.

"Okay – I'll switch on my phone so call me if you ...," he began.

"You're going downstairs Evan," Elaine pointed out. "I hardly think anything will happen before you get back."

"Right," leaning down he kissed the top of her head. "Back soon," he promised.

Evan wasn't sure whether Elaine or his Mom had said it or he'd seen it in a movie but somewhere he'd heard that first babies were prone to taking a long time to arrive. In Elaine's case that turned out to be true and while he was glad from the point of view that it gave Drew time to get there before the baby was born, having to watch his baby sister sweating through contraction after contraction with grim faced purpose wasn't something he wanted to repeat any time soon.

He'd checked back at the front desk periodically until he'd gotten a message from Cade.

"Boarded C-130J Hercules at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. ETA Cold Lake 0610 hours. Message re Elaine's status was received. Good luck."

That had been hours ago. By Evan's estimation Drew was still about four hours away. As for Elaine, well you just didn't get ETA's on babies so that one was anyone's guess.

It was an unusual position for Evan to be in – standing in for Drew like he was. Part of him was actually kind of chuffed to be in on the start of his nephew ... or niece's life. There'd be stories he'd be able to tell after this the kid would never live down. But it came with a level of intimacy that was a little on the uncomfortable side ... he kept feeling the need to explain to every new nurse that came on shift who he was. Elaine thought it was hilarious, teasing him mercilessly by trying to teach him that ridiculous breathing even he knew was only used on TV – just in case he had to actually help her deliver the baby. He'd flat out drawn the line there, telling her there was no way he was sitting in on the business end of the proceedings – he'd let her squeeze the crap out of his hand and yell at him if she must but that was it. Yeah, he didn't mind being there for Elaine but he'd much rather be sitting out in the waiting room while Drew sweated it out in the hot seat.

Things continued in the same vein, the minutes merging into each other until time began to lose meaning. The last check from the nurse put Elaine at 8 centimetres which meant it wouldn't be long now. Her contractions were coming at regular intervals, only a few minutes apart, which made conversation kind of interesting. They'd fallen into a rhythm where she'd just pause, work through the pain while Evan held her hand and felt useless, and then continue talking as though the interruption had never taken place. It was disconcerting how even something like that became routine after enough hours.

"Evan, stop pacing!" Elaine's voice drew him back to the present. "It's distracting."

"Sorry," he moved back to sit beside her. She'd been doing a combination of walking around and resting in bed, more of the later than the former because the nurse had told her standing would hurry along the labour. "How are you doing?"

"How do you think I'm doing?!" Elaine shot back irritably. "I've been at this for hours ... I'm tired and my hair's a mess. Oh, and the man who got me like this is God only knows where."

"Right," Evan struggled not to laugh - now was hardly the time. "So, about the same as last time I asked."

"Don't mess with me pal," Elaine warned. "If you're gonna be like that you can just clear out."

"Huh, you'd miss me," Evan ruffled her hair before stepping out of the line of fire. "I'll just go stretch my legs though," he added quickly when she looked like she was going to start yelling. "You'll be -,"

"Don't," Elaine interrupted impatiently. "I can handle having a contraction or two by myself!"

"Of course you can," Evan smiled, risking pressing a kiss to her cheek before leaving her with a smile on her face.

Outside, Evan walked across the road to the small park, leaning his back against the seat and looking up into the sky. It was still dark but he could see traces of light slowly appearing .... the sun would be rising soon, hopefully bringing with it the arrival of his brother-in-law. He was kind of drifting when the phone buzzed in his pocket.

"Evan Lorne," he answered briskly.

"Evan, it's Drew."

"Buddy! You're here?" Evan grinned, delighted to hear his friend's voice.

"Almost," Drew answered. "How's Elaine?"

"She's fine," Evan reassured his friend. "You might want to pick up the pace a little though – I don't know for sure but it sounds like things are getting to the crucial stages now."

"Tell her I'll get there," Drew said urgently.

"Hang on and I'll take the phone to her so you can tell her yourself," Evan countered, already walking back across the road and into the hospital. He got a look from the desk nurse in maternity. "Husband," he mouthed with a pleading expression, getting a smile and a nod in return. Elaine had been there long enough that all the rostered nurses knew of her situation.

"That didn't take long," Elaine commented when he walked in. The way she was panting said that she was just coming off of another contraction.

"Here, say hello," Evan gave her the phone.

"Hello?" Elaine said uncertainly. There was a moment's pause and then her face was lighting up, tears filling her eyes. "Drew!!! Where are you?"

She listened, nodding, grinning. "Oh God, I've missed you so much. How long until you get here?"

Feeling a little like a voyeur listening in on a private conversation, Evan moved away.

"I hear Drew isn't far away now," Doctor Grant returned from her rounds to check on Elaine, stopping in the doorway where Evan stood to watch Elaine talk with a smile on her face.

"Yeah – hopefully he'll make it here before the baby does," Evan commented.

"It must be difficult," the Doctor said softly, "being separated for so long."

"It's not easy," Evan agreed. "Makes relationships hard but somehow Elaine and Drew manage." Evan paused and then glanced at her. "He is going to have the time to get here, right?"

"First babies are unpredictable," Doctor Grant replied with typical doctor evasiveness. "Once she's fully dilated it could be an hour or five minutes ... I need to check Elaine to see where we're at." Noticing Elaine lowering the phone with a wistful smile she added "and I'll do that right now."

Evan followed, taking his phone back and quickly moving out of range of all the 'personal' examining going on. He loved his sister dearly but no brother needed to know anything about the inner workings of his sister, even during child birth.

"You're really close now Elaine," Doctor Grant reported moments later, pulling off her gloves and disposing of them. "I'd say maybe another half an hour and then it'll be time to start working for your baby to arrive. How does that sound?"

"Ah ...," Elaine looked at Evan and then back to her doctor. "Drew, my husband, said he'd be here within the hour."

"It'll be close but we'll see," Doctor Grant said noncommittally.

In the end it turned out to almost too close. Evan had purchased a disposal camera from the gift shop downstairs hours before and had already gratefully handed it to one of the nurses so the 'main' event could be recorded for Drew to see at least some of it later. She'd smiled and reassured him that Elaine would have the pictures she'd need without Evan having to personally take them.

Elaine had been pushing for ten minutes, crying out with every effort while clutching at Evan's hands. The baby's head had just crowned when Drew literally ran into the room, breathing hard.

"Oh God, Drew!" Elaine started sobbing as soon as she saw him. Evan moved aside as Drew appeared, folding his arms over his chest as he watched the reunion, relief almost making his legs feel weak.

Finally Drew was there and everything that happened from then on no longer felt like it was Evan's responsibility. Drew didn't hesitate ... he was drawn to Elaine's side as though an invisible thread connected them, taking her face between his palms and kissing her deeply. Elaine smiled though her tears, seeming to almost forget for a moment that she was in the middle of giving birth.

Then the urge to push hit her again and she was moaning, clutching at Drew's arm and holding on grimly.

"Just a little half push this time," Doctor Grant instructed. "We want to deliver the head slowly."

"I'll try," Elaine shook as the desire to just push and push until it was over washed through her ... she was trembling with the effort of holding it in, doing her best to do what the doctor had told her.

"That's it," Drew absently took the seat Evan had vacated, smoothing a hand over Elaine's damp hair. "You're doing it E," a hint of wonder was in his voice as he absorbed all the hours of what his wife had experienced in mere moments.

"Well done Elaine," the doctor said, "we have the head. Just a few more pushes now."

Realising the baby was only moments away from arriving, and having lost his cushy place at the head of the bed away from the action, Evan started backing towards the door. He didn't want to see any of the gory details .... he really, really didn't need that kind of image in his head.

"Evan?" Elaine's hopeful voice stopped him cold.

"I'll just wait outside," he said casually.

"No you won't!" Elaine's impatient tone shifted into short groans as another urge to push arrived. Breathing through it audibly she gave into it, her face strained.

Evan backed up another step.

"Please," Elaine said when she could speak again. "You've been here the whole time and I really want .... I need you to stay. Please?"

"Okay, fine," Evan murmured, reluctantly walking back inside. "But I don't want to see anything ... and I mean anything."

"You can stand here Mr Lorne," one of the nurses said with an amused smile, motioning him to the other side of the bed across from where Drew was sitting.

Glancing away from his wife, Drew was smirking slightly. "Nice to see you buddy," he told Evan.

"Yeah, you too," Evan returned blandly. "Took your time getting here though."

"Traffic," Drew said simply, both men's attention drawn back to Elaine as she let out another low moan.

Evan became a part of the background then, a silent witness to the events as they unfolded.

"Okay Elaine, one big push," the doctor instructed.

Elaine's eyes were locked on her husband's as she gave it everything she had, crying out as she pushed for all she was worth.

It seemed like the world stopped for a moment and then returned to motion with the cry of a new born baby. At 6:37 am on the 2nd of November, baby Rider made a memorable entrance into the world.

"Congratulations," Doctor Grant looked at them with a smile, the baby held safely in her hands. "You have a boy."

"A boy!" Elaine cried, straining to sit up a little so she could see. The nurse quickly wrapped the baby in a warm towel and brought him to his mother.

Elaine's arms were ready ... it felt like she'd been ready for months ... and with a soft 'Oh' she welcomed her son, cradling him close to her chest. "Drew," she murmured, glancing up at her husband before her eyes returned to her baby. "Look!"

"I'm looking," he said simply, taking in the picture they made. "He's beautiful ... you're beautiful."

"Get out!" Elaine laughed. "I look like hell. You're right about one thing though," she brushed a gentle finger over her baby's cheek. He was smeared with the blood and vernix the nurse hadn't been able to completely wipe off and his little face was scrunched up in protest at being removed from his nice warm cocoon inside his Mommy. Elaine saw none of that. "He's perfect," she announced reverently.

"You did very well," the nurse said, Doctor Grant still engaged in all the after birth requirements of labour. "Do you have a name?"

"We do," Drew put his arm around Elaine, propping a hip up on the bed. They'd talked it over weeks before and come to an easily mutual decison. Looking down at his son he said "welcome to the world, Jonathon Evan Rider."

Evan had been watching the whole thing silently ... that moment when the baby had let out its first cry had been ... awesome. He'd felt so many emotions gathering, watching his baby sister become a mother, almost able to see the change that came over her. Being there for that ... watching the emergence of a family ... reading the emotions in Drew's expression ... he didn't have the words to describe what that meant to him. He was kind of lost in that moment ... hadn't really been listening specifically to Elaine and Drew until Drew announced the baby's name. He almost froze in surprise as it registered.

"Evan?" he repeated with a frown. "After me?"

"No, we just like the name," Elaine said sarcastically. "Of course after you, silly!"

"And Jonathon for your Dad," Drew said simply.

Evan nodded, speechless, swallowing down the sudden surge of ... not tears but as close as any man would admit to them. "Ah ... wow," he murmured, eyes on the baby ... on Jonathon.

"That's all you can say ... wow?" Elaine smiled, watching her brother fondly.

"You amaze me," Evan said simply, meeting her eyes.

The smile dropped from her face and her eyes glistened with tears. "You amaze me too," she managed to return.

"All I did was sit around letting you cut off the blood flow to my hands," Evan excused lightly. "You owe me for that one too buddy," he told Drew, wiggling his fingers and grimacing. "It's a shame you weren't here ... Elaine was ... awesome."

"I knew she would be," Drew said proudly, smiling down at his wife.

"You only just got here," Elaine pointed out simply, holding her new son close.

"Yeah, well if you'd had this little one on schedule I would have been back with plenty of time to spare," Drew retorted, a soft smile firmly in place as he watched his wife and son.

The doctor finished with Elaine and after promising to check on her that evening congratulated them again and then left them to it. The nurse was quickly ready to transfer them all to a private room and Evan took the opportunity to make his excuses.

"You guys need time together," he insisted over their protests. "Family bonding time." He'd kissed Elaine, exchanged manly hugs with Drew, and carefully brushed his lips to Jonathon's head.

And then he was outside the hospital, sitting on that seat across the road in the park. He didn't know what to think – it had been a big day – a big couple of days and suddenly he felt overcome with tiredness. He wasn't sure how long he sat there, the early morning light moving higher into the sky as he hovered in daydream mode.

"You okay?" Drew sat down next to him, stretching out his legs.

"Sure," Evan said lightly. "Just tired."

"Yeah, I can understand that," Drew agreed. "Elaine's having a shower while they check Jonathon over," he answered Evan's unspoken question. "Called my parents - they're booking a flight right now. And your Mom called from the plane – they'll be landing in an hour."

"I'll go get her," Evan made to stand, stopping only when Drew put a hand on his shoulder. "What?"

"I don't know how to thank you," Drew said simply.

"What?" Evan frowned. "She's my sister ... anyone would have done the same. I mean, of course it would have been better if you'd been there from day one but you weren't. We all do what we have to do," he concluded simply.

"I knew you'd say that," Drew slapped his friend fondly. "Elaine's been full of praise for weeks ... months. You went above and beyond – regardless of whether you think so. Elaine and I are both lucky to have you."

"Yeah, well the kid's middle name is thanks enough," Evan murmured, keen to get the uncomfortable conversation over with. "You guys are pretty important to me so you know .... what I did was as much for me as it was for either of you."

"Right," Drew smiled, standing when Evan did. "You can be the kid's favourite Uncle," he added as they walked back towards the hospital.

"Hey, I'm his only Uncle," Evan pointed out.

"Yeah, that too," Drew laughed.

"Funny," Evan chuckled. "I'll go get Mom. You – go, be a Dad."

Seeing his friend so happy ... back home and healthy, no hint of the hard times he'd gone through recently evident ... it had something inside relaxing. Something at the core ... the crucial details of life that represented Evan's centre. And suddenly everything was back to being how it should be, and all was right with his world.

The End!

Authors Note:

And there it is - hope you enjoyed my introduction of Evan as an Uncle! It was hard keeping Drew out of Canada for so long but I really wanted Lorne to experience this connection with his sister right up until the almost end - a chance for him to see the wonder of family life, that wife and kids and picket fences, because who knows, one day he might be in a situation where the opportunity presents itself and think back to this time. Research wasn't required for this chapter either (apart from minor details sourced from wiki) - I totally based the whole child birth thing on my own experiences. Doctor Julie Grant was my obstetrician for all my children's arrivals into the world and she was so great that I couldn't help but borrow her name for Elaine's doctor (hopefully she wouldn't mind!). Lastly thanks to MackenziesMomma for rightly pointing out last chapter that Drew's parents were strangely absent from the story. Yes they were, because the author totally forgot about them!!! So my minor mention of them in this chapter, a lame attempt to correct that oversight, is all due to you MM. Oh, and for the 'American' lessons too - I changed a few words here and there, like 'crib' instead of 'cot'. Thanks!

So, what next I hear you ask? *cringes* I have just one more background story before I let you all loose on Forlorn Hope again. I know, I know, I keep saying that but this time it's really true! And you'll like it, promise! It's called Science Fact and it's all written - I'll start posting as soon as I can!

Thanks for reading! Don't be shy in letting me know what you thought of the story.