Fear and dread crept into him as he stood in front of the large third story window. The traffic below him was moving at its constant, steady pace much like the clock on the wall that continued to count second after second. The world outside had not ended, time had not stopped, but Chris Irvine's world felt like it had just crumbled to dust around him. There was a light rain falling outside the window and Chris traced the path of the water droplets down the glass with his eyes, in an attempt to think about absolutely nothing else. He didn't want to think about what he now had to do. He didn't want to think about what had led him to this point. He didn't want to think period. He simply wanted to stare out the window until the world made sense to him once more.
As the air conditioning unit kicked on again and he felt the blast of cold air, he absently realized that he was still just wearing a t-shirt and a loose pair of gyms pants over his wrestling gear, even though his match had ended more than ten hours before. Chris let out a humorless snort at the thought. Ten hours ago he had been on top of the world, ready to take on anything the world threw at him. Ten hours ago he had no idea what he would endure before the night was out. He looked down to the coffee in the Styrofoam cup he was holding, wondering when he had been handed coffee and quickly dismissing it before taking a small sip. It had grown cool in the amount of time he had been holding it, but it still tasted fine. He looked out the window once more, ignoring the emotions swirling around inside him, slowly losing himself in the memories of the night once again.
"Mr. Irvine?" The doctor asked him, stirring Chris's focus from that of his wife's pained face to the man standing next to her bed. "We need to get her prepped for surgery. We have to move her now." Chris nodded and turned back to his wife, kissing her on the forehead.
"I promise I'll be right outside." He said to her. She looked up at him, the slightest amount of fear entering her normally calm gaze.
"Promise me everything will be all right." She told him, grabbing his forearm before he could pull away from her. "Promise me."
He promised her it would and he held her hand until they wheeled her through the swinging double doors, where he could see the heads of the nurses and the doctor beginning to move around like pistons in a well-oiled engine, doing what they do best. He stood and watched them for a few moments before sitting in the chair across the hall.
The seconds felt like years in that chair, so he wasn't entirely sure how long he spent sitting there, watching the other nurses in the hospital as they hurried past him, looking through the small window of the sliding door to see what progress they were making. Only twice did he get up from the chair – once for a restroom visit and the second when a nurse had emerged from the room, only to rush past him into another.
By the time the doctor re-emerged from the operating room, fear had started to grip him. He stood up and met the doctor halfway. The doctor pulled off the surgeon's mask he was wearing, and the expression on his face didn't appear promising.
"How is she?" He asked the doctor. The doctor looked at him solemnly before answering.
"I'm…sorry to have to tell you this Mr. Irvine." He started to say as Chris felt himself tense. "Your wife didn't make it." He felt as if all of the oxygen in the room had suddenly vanished.
The small bundle in Chris's arms started to wiggle around at this point and he quickly set his coffee on the windowsill before gently rocking his newborn son. The baby blinked his eyes open sleepily, as if to reassure himself that his father was still there, before letting them close again. He wiggled around a little more and Chris shifted him in his arms to hold him a little closer. He was surprised at how fast he had picked up the ability of just knowing what to do and what he thought his son would want. He knew it wouldn't extend to everything, but he was grateful that there was some sort of parental instinct kicking in. Upon hearing his son take a deep breath and slide back into sleep, he found himself mesmerized by that tiny little face he almost didn't get to see.
His heart leapt in his throat as he tried to ask his next question.
"The…the baby?" He managed to choke out. The doctor still held a solemn expression.
"He's having some complications right now, but I've got the best this hospital has to offer working with him." He promised, placing a reassuring hand on Chris's shoulder. "If you'll excuse me, I have to get back." Chris nodded aimlessly and stared at the tiles on the floor as the doctor entered the operating room once more.
"She's gone." He whispered to himself, having every moment they had ever spent together flash before his eyes. He couldn't believe it. It wasn't supposed to end like this. They were supposed to grow old together. They were supposed to live long, happy lives together and have several children and even grandchildren before one of them left on that long train goodbye. She was not supposed to leave him on the night that their first child was born. More than that, his child, his son – since the doctor had said 'he' – was not supposed to be having complications right after birth. Losing her was bad enough, but losing them both…when his world had started to revolve around both of them so much…he didn't think he could handle that.
In his spare time he had taken to pacing, refusing to acknowledge the loss of his wife until the panic of his son had passed, one way or the other. He would have plenty of time to grieve and feel sorry for himself afterwards. He instead focused all of his prayers and thoughts on his little boy in the room with the double doors. On one of his rounds down the hall, he caught sight of the window that he was still standing in front of now and decided that he would stare out at the traffic in an effort to calm himself.
"Chris?" A woman's voice asked from behind him. He turned around to see none other than Stephanie McMahon-Levesque walking towards him. He gave her a tight smile as she engulfed him in a hug. She hugged him for only a few seconds before pulling back to look at him.
"How are you holding up?" She asked him seriously. He shrugged and looked away from her.
"As good as can be expected, I guess." He admitted.
"Any more news about Ash?" She asked him. He shook his head, still staring out the window.
"I haven't even seen him yet." He mused. "God only knows if I'll get to." Stephanie placed a hand on her best friend's shoulder.
"He'll pull through Chris." She reassured him. "He'll be okay." Chris swallowed thickly and looked at her with misty eyes.
"Don't promise me things you can't, Stephanie. I've made that mistake once already tonight." He told her. She didn't have to ask him what he was talking about. She'd been his first call once he sat back down. She had threatened that she would make him feud with Carlito if she wasn't the first person he called after his child was born – both his and Jessica's parents were already deceased and they were both the only children in their family. She'd been beaming with excitement when she answered the phone, but knew that something was wrong the second he opened his mouth. No sooner were the words "She's gone" uttered, Stephanie was in her car and on her way towards him.
"I don't know what the hell I'm going to do if he doesn't pull through." He admitted to her quietly. "Hell, I don't know what I'll do if he does." She turned to face him.
"What are you talking about?" She asked. He moved his gaze from the window to her face, but she could tell he wasn't really focusing on her.
"I don't have the first clue about how to raise a kid, Steph." He said to her. "Jess was the one taking the classes and reading the books…I mean I understand the basic idea of what to do… But I just…how am I supposed to take care of him and do this," He gestured at his clothes "at the same time?"
"We'll figure something out." She told him. "Don't worry about that."
"It's more than that, Steph…" He said to her, really looking at her this time and she could see how much of a toll this night had taken on him already – how haggard his face was beginning to look and the dark circles that were starting to fill in around his bloodshot eyes.
"It's…I just…" He stumbled over his thoughts. "I just don't think I can do this by myself." He admitted. "I mean, I'm not going to give him up or anything crazy like that, but I just don't feel like I'll be able to…raise a child on my own. I mean, what if I screw him up for life?" Stephanie felt the corners of her mouth turn up.
"Chris," she said, putting a hand on his arm. "It's perfectly natural for you to feel like this. All new parents have the same fear – Shane was completely terrified when his first was born." She told him.
"Shane also had Marissa with him the whole time." Chris pointed out.
"If there is anyone in this world who is capable enough to raise a decent child on their own, Chris, it's you." She told him seriously. "You juggle fifty different activities as a hobby, why would raising a child be that much of a challenge to you?" He snorted humorlessly and looked down towards the "double doors of doom" as he had started to call them in his head before taking another sip of coffee. Paul wandered up behind Stephanie at that moment.
"Sorry it took me so long, parking was a nightmare." Paul said to her before turning and placing a reassuring hand on Chris's shoulder. "I'm really sorry about Jessica, Chris." He said, in an attempt to be civil. Chris nodded and muttered his thanks as he saw the doctor walk back out of the operating room.
"Hold this." He said to Stephanie, quickly passing the coffee off to her before jogging down the hall to meet the doctor.
"How is he?" He asked the doctor, his voice clipped from anxiety and exhaustion. This time the doctor smiled at him, clapping a hand on the same shoulder Paul just had.
"He's going to be fine." The doctor told him. Relief washed over Chris instantaneously. "We thought we were going to lose him for a little bit there, but your son's a fighter." The doctor said. Chris managed a smile, and turned to give Steph a quick thumbs up.
"Can I see him?" Chris asked. The doctor nodded.
"Just as soon as I can get a name to put on his tag." He said, handing Chris a clipboard with the birth certificate on it.
That had been four hours ago, and Chris hadn't let his son out of his sight since then. He had finally convinced the nurses to let him hold him an hour ago, and the moment Ash Edward Irvine was passed into his father's arms, the world had almost reached perfection. The only thing missing was his wife. He had kept the thought of her death at a distance – trying to focus on the positive rather than the negative, but he knew that sooner or later he would have to deal with it fully. Standing here, holding this infant, he was more scared than he had ever been in his life - knowing that he had to suddenly provide for it and take care of it and that it was completely defenseless and helpless without him. It was an overpowering thought to deal with while still coming to terms with the loss of a loved one. Stephanie wandered up beside him, smiling over his shoulder at the infant in his arms. He turned to look at her and found himself smiling at the grin on her face.
"Hey there little guy." She said softly to him, not wanting to disturb him. "You're a natural at this whole dad thing." She commented, turning to look at Chris. He shrugged.
"Thought you and Paul had left." He remarked.
"I told him to go ahead and go." She said. "Thought you might like a little moral support…and someone else to drive you home to finally take a shower." He looked back down at his son again.
"I don't know if I can bear to let him out of my sight." He told her. "Even though holding him feels so perfect, it's just…not right without her here, you know?" The thought dawned on him that he now had a funeral to plan in addition to taking care of a newborn son and he took a deep breath.
"Don't you start thinking about all of that, Chris Irvine." Stephanie said to him, reading his thoughts like usual. "And don't you start thinking that you're in this alone." She lightly punched his arm. "You're crazy if you think I'm going to let my best friend deal with two of life's biggest changes without standing by your side." He gave her a grateful smile and she wrapped an arm around him as they both watched the first light of morning pour through the window in front of them, unaware of what the future had in store.