A/N: after I wrote Ch 1 of this story, I started wondering what kind of person the moron was, and why he getting drunk and taking on strangers in a barroom. I was rather surprised by what I found out.
Oh great. Just jackin' awesome. It wasn't bad enough my girl was on stork watch and feeling crappy and my car just up and died flat dead ten minutes from the hospital and it was starting to rain. No, plus all that, instead of the help I was hoping for when I heard the other car pull up near me -
"Hey, y'need some help?"
- I looked up from around my open hood and right at the tallest of the two lumbering lumberjacks that I was jacked enough to mess with the other night. My head still hurt from where he bounced me off the floor. I recognized him and he recognized me, the way his face messed from interested to irate just like that. I guessed I wasn't going to get that help, even if I'd been inclined to take it.
"Guess I can handle it."
That didn't send him away like I expected it to. He looked at me, he glanced at the hood, he seemed to be thinking about things for a few seconds. I wondered if he was wondering about ripping the hood off the car. Because he sure looked like he could do it if he wanted to.
Then his friend, the one I clocked with the chair, walked up to my car and looked in the window.
"Sam - the girl."
He sounded serious. Sam looked in through the windshield, then was around the car in four strides and grabbing at the latch. Lumberjacks or not, they weren't messing with my Jenny. I hurried around behind him and grabbed his arm and was ready to give him the fight of his life. But he shook me off like nothing and nearly on my butt and sounded scared when he told me,
"She's having a stroke."
He reached in and scooped my Jenny out like she was nothing, never mind that being in her last month she'd put on an extra hundred pounds. He scooped her out and nodded at his friend who opened the back door of their car.
"No - no she's not having a stroke." I answered him back and followed him to the car. Old people get strokes. Not my Jenny. "Jenny -." I tried to get her attention. She looked at me over his shoulder and he slid her into the car and - oh great God - the left side of her face was drooping.
"K-nny?" Her voice was slurred and spit ran out the corner of her mouth. "Wassappenin?"
Oh great God.
"GET IN." I don't know which one of the lumberjacks hollered that at me. I jumped in next to my Jenny and let her lay down with her head in my lap and somebody slammed the door and then two more doors slammed shut and Sam demanded,
"Where's the closest hospital?"
"This road." I managed to stutter out. "Ten minutes straight down this road."
He looked back at me over the bench seat and at my Jenny.
"I'll make it in five."
I been back and forth down this road all my life and it never went by so fast as it did right then. Sure enough, one second I was looking down at my Jenny, wiping the spit off her face, the next second I looked up and we was at the hospital, stopping right at the ER door.
Before I could hardly move, Sam yanked the back door open and reached in to scoop my Jenny out again, running for the door, carrying her like she was nothing in his arms. I ran in behind them, he was shouting,
"Help! She's having a stroke!"
And in no time flat Noreen was there, racing a stretcher and dragging two assistants, and Sam set my Jenny on there and I tried to follow. But Noreen wasn't having it.
"You set there." She pointed me to the waiting room benches. "I'll let you know."
And then the swinging doors swung shut between me and my Jenny, and I was left with nothing to do but wait and pray and wait some more.
I was a couple prayers in before I realized that Sam was still standing next to me. I took a step away from him before I tried for eye contact with him. I wondered what he was waiting for.
"Um - thanks. For getting us here." That was probably what he was waiting for. "You didn't have to. I know - I know I'm a jerk. But thank you for saving my Jenny."
He looked at me. He was thinking about something. Not the rage of the night before, something else.
"You got anybody to call?" He asked. When he wasn't angry, he had a quiet voice. It was weird.
"You mean anybody besides everybody who'd say, 'told you to get rid of it'. Like my baby is an 'it'. So - no. Nobody to call."
He nodded and then looked right over the top of me toward the door. And his lumberjack friend came into the lobby.
"How is she?" He asked Sam. He sounded like he cared. Like they both did.
"They took her back. Other than that -." Sam shook his head.
His friend looked at me then.
"You're wife's pregnant and sick and you're out getting drunk at night? What are you? An idiot?"
Yeah, I was. I wasn't about to admit it to him, though. Didn't have to then when Noreen came back out.
"They're taking her to surgery. You're having the baby right now." Then she looked at the lumberjacks. "Who're your friends?" She asked.
Together all three of us managed to say at the same time,
"We're not friends."
Noreen put her hand on her hip and pursed her lips.
"Then who are they?"
Noreen is wide, old, black, and the closest thing to anything I've had like a mother since fourth grade. If I didn't tell her the truth, she was gonna know I wasn't telling her the truth. And that'd be worse.
"I hit him with a chair last night in the bar." I admitted to her, pushing a shoulder toward the lumberjack I didn't know the name of. Turns out that was a good answer because it got Noreen to stop glaring holes in my head and she turned to the lumberjack and glared holes in his head.
"I guess I was getting a coffee when you came in here last night then to get looked at."
"I'm fine." He said. He didn't know yet that Noreen's word here was law.
"You're fine when I say you're fine." She jerked her thumb over her shoulder. "Get a move on."
Sam and his friend exchanged a fast look, then the friend walked where Noreen was pointing and she followed him out. And then it was just me and Sam and an empty waiting room.
He turned to the hard chairs and had a seat and picked up a magazine, fast and thoughtless like he was totally used to waiting in a hospital waiting room. I wasn't used to it and I didn't know that I wanted to have to wait the while with him, seeing as how he was there waiting on his friend only because I'd broke a chair over the friend's head.
But I didn't know where Noreen had sent my Jenny and I would've gone looking for her, but if Noreen came looking for me and couldn't find me, I'd never hear the end of it.
So I found a chair not too close to Sam's, and I picked up a magazine but didn't open it. Somewhere my Jenny was bringing our little girl into the world. I was gonna be a Dad. I ran into the ER Kenny, but I was going to walk out Daddy.
"You got kids?" I asked Sam. He didn't even look up at me.
"Your friend got kids?"
He made a noise that sounded like he thought I was a jerkwad and I remembered what I'd said to them last night about them being boyfriend and girlfriend. I'd been really drunk to mess with lumberjacks.
"He's my brother." He said, and he still sounded like he thought I was a jerkwad. But then he said in a more normal sounding tone, "No, he doesn't have any kids, either."
He still hadn't looked up from the magazine in his hands and I figured I should just shut it and leave him in peace and wait for Noreen to come get me, but my mouth just took off on its own.
"We weren't planning it, the baby. You know? But still it's the best thing that ever happened to me, my Jenny and my baby. Was hardly no good in my life 'til my Jenny smiled at me, and when she told me she was expecting, I felt like I owned the world."
I was babbling, I knew it. I could stop it. Sam didn't seem to be paying me any attention but I couldn't stop babbling.
"I just don't know if I can do it. You know? Be a Dad. It's so much responsibility, all the bad stuff in the world to keep her safe from. Poison and electric outlets and dirt bags and - ."
Well, I shut up talking then because Sam was glaring at me over his magazine.
"Getting drunk and taking on strangers in bar fights isn't going to help you figure out being a good parent." He said.
Yeah, well - duh.
"I know. I only done it a couple times. I'm not – I'm not that stupid. I just – I just get scared that I won't be any good at it. At raising a baby."
I hadn't told anybody that, not Noreen, and sure not my Jenny. Why I was telling this guy, I had no clue. Guess he didn't have the clue either, the look he was giving me over his magazine.
"My Mom died when I was a baby, and Dean pretty much raised me. If a four year old can figure it out because he has to, you can figure it out if you want to."
Dean, lumberjack number 2.
Sam was still sounding annoyed, like I was a jerkwad. He went back to reading his magazine and I went back to not reading mine and shut up altogether.
After a while though, he set his magazine aside.
"Look," he said and he didn't sound annoyed anymore. "The most important thing is to be there for her, with everything you've got. When she's scared, you tell her she's safe. When she's pissed at you, you don't go so far that she can't find you when she's not pissed at you anymore. When she's crying, you hold her, when she's hurt you give her a hug. When she does well, tell her you're proud of her. When she screws up, make sure she knows it's not the end of the world. When she makes you happy, tell her you love her. When she makes you unhappy, tell her you'll always love her. Trust me, it's not as hard as the experts make it out to be."
He picked up his magazine again then and went back to reading. I tried to not stare at him. All that, he learned from his brother?
I didn't have the chance to ask him anything else though when Noreen brought Dean back to the waiting room.
I stood up.
"How's my Jenny?" I asked her.
"It'll be just a little while now." She said. She sounded like I should've known that I didn't have to ask her. "I'll let you know."
"All right, Sammy. You're up." Dean said.
"Me? Why? I didn't get hurt last night."
"You did throw your back out in the cellar at Bobby's the week before last. That took almost a week to heal up. We're here, Noreen's willing, we should just take the opportunity."
"Sam - now."
That sure sounded like an order and boy did it make Sam cave. And Sam caving made Dean smile. Sam stood up and followed Noreen to the swinging doors. He slapped his magazine against Dean's chest and then looked at me.
"Ask him about it." He told me, just before the swinging doors closed behind him.
"Ask me about what?" Dean said. He wasn't looking or sounding happy at all.
"Um – S-s-sam and me was talking about kids, about raising kids." I managed to get out, even though Dean was giving me a withering look. "I just – I just – it just seems a lot harder than maybe I'll be good at."
"Getting drunk and getting stupid isn't going to make you good at it."
"Yeah, uh, yeah. I know."
I sat back down. Dean was probably gonna chew right through me, and I deserved it. The night before I was drunk and I was stupid and maybe right now my Jenny was paying for it.
Dean sat down a few seats away from me. He looked at the magazine Sam had put in his hands and then he tossed it onto the next seat.
"Don't you have anybody you can ask?" He asked me. Same as Sam, when Dean wasn't pissed, he had a quiet, normal, voice.
"Nah, not really. Never knew my Dad. My Mom skipped when I was in fourth grade. Wasn't nobody but Noreen willing to take me in. I got some friends but – can't say any of them'd be whiz geniuses at it."
"What about Noreen?"
"I've asked, but – " I shrugged. Noreen raised me and she saved my life probably and she's never been mean to me, but ain't nobody like her can make me feel like I can't do anything right. "I've asked her and pretty much her only answer is that I'm to come to her all the time, every time, and she'll take care of it, whatever it is."
I figured Dean would agree with that. He had to agree with that. I was a jerkwad dumbstick, and he'd agree with Noreen.
Only he didn't.
"Okay, right there? No. Nobody – nobody – tells you how to raise your kid. Not the schools, not the government, not the little old lady nosy busybody next door, not even Noreen. You're gonna make a ton of mistakes with your kid, but it's better that they're your mistakes, and nobody else's. Your wife and your baby – that's your family, and you're the head of that family. You protect them, you provide for them. You. Nobody else."
The way he said it, I almost felt like I could do it.
"But – what if I'm not sure?"
"Then figure it out. You and your wife - figure it out."
"You make it sound easy."
"Hell, no. It's not easy. It's the hardest thing you'll ever do. The hardest, scariest, sloppiest, most annoying thing you will ever do. But you will do it, and gladly, because you're a husband and a father and that is the most important job anybody in the world can have. And you don't let anybody or anything get between you and that job. Not friends, not drinking, not Noreen. Your wife and kid need you more than they need anybody else in the world, so you got one job now – to be there for your family. Everything else you do in your life is only to help you do that job."
I didn't say anything to that. He was sounding so absolute, I wasn't sure anything I said wouldn't take away from it. I let the feeling of it roll around in me though. I was a husband, I was a Dad. I needed to be there for my family.
"You got a name for the baby, yet?" Dean asked.
"Jenny." I told him. "I want to call her Jenny, for her Mama, my Jenny."
He nodded, and even smiled like it was a good choice. He was being so considerate, never mind that I broke a chair over his head the night before, that – same as with his brother – I found myself telling him things I never told anybody else.
"We wanted to give her a name she'd be proud of, you know? And my Jenny is the best, sweetest, smartest girl there ever was. I want my little girl to have a name she'll be proud of."
"I'll tell you one thing more important than you giving her a name she'll be proud of – and that's you keeping a name she'll be proud of. My Dad was a lot of things that weren't maybe all the best things, but I was never ashamed of him. Whenever you find yourself wondering if you should do something, anything – you think about how you'd feel if your little girl found out about it. Or if you'd want her to see you doing it. And if the answer is no, then the answer is no."
I nodded and thought about all the things in my life I wouldn't want my little girl to know about.
"It's gonna be hard." I said.
"Yeah." He agreed immediately. "But love is sacrifice. Love is a choice. Either you choose to love your wife and daughter, and choose to do the hard thing, or you choose not to love them and do whatever the hell you want. And yeah – you'll make mistakes. But you if you love them, you won't let your mistakes drag you down permanently. No matter what, you get back up and keep going. Because your family is counting on you."
Anything else that might've got said got stopped right then when Sam reappeared through the swinging doors, Noreen close on his heels.
"Get back in here right this second." She scolded him, hot and serious. "I didn't say we were done."
"No." Sam answered her, not even looking back. He was pulling his shirt on over his t-shirt and turning the collar right side out.
Dean stood right up and went to him.
"I don't want x-rays, I don't want to be touched, I don't want anything."
"He left before I said he could." Noreen answered, not giving Sam the chance to. "So he's gonna march himself right back there right now -."
Dean took three or four steps that put him between Sam and Noreen.
"He said no." He told her, right to her face. "So we're done."
And Noreen backed down.
"Well…all right then. I got some samples of painkillers and muscle relaxants you can take with you. You will stay here, until I bring them for you?"
"Yeah, we'll wait." Dean said, but not backing off from his protective attitude. When Noreen was gone again, he turned back to Sam. "What happened?"
"It just – it just started getting claustrophobic. It got too hot and I couldn't breathe. I couldn't stay there."
"All right. That's all right." Dean said. He tapped Sam's arm and I thought about everything Sam had said about being there for your kid. It seemed maybe Dean could've been pissed that Sam was making trouble, but he only was reassuring Sam that everything was okay. "We'll just wait for Nurse Ratchet to come back with the samples and then we'll get back on the road."
"Noreen's really okay." I told them. I felt like I had to. "She really cares about people and taking care of them. I know she lost a lot of people in her life too and I think she thinks she'll lose more if she don't keep a hold of everything that goes on."
"Yeah, well – somebody needs to tell her the difference between holding on and strangling." Dean said. "Trust me, I've learned that the hard way."
I looked to Sam, because I figure Dean had to be talking about something with Sam. And Sam looked at Dean and just kind of shook his head, like whatever Dean was talking about was done and gone into the past.
Noreen came back out then.
"Here you go." She handed a couple of boxes to Dean. "You follow the directions to the letter, you hear me? And if your back gets worse -." She said that to Sam over Dean's shoulder because Dean was still in front of him. She didn't sound angry or bossy anymore, just concerned. " – you come on back and we'll find a way to take care of it. Okay?"
"What about my Jenny?" I asked.
"She's fine." Noreen said and smiled. "She's in recovery now and your little girl is up in the nursery."
"When can I see them?"
"I'll let you know." She said, using that 'why did you even bother asking?' tone. Dean gave me a look, a 'didn't we talk about this?' look and from someplace I didn't know I had inside of me, I heard myself say to Noreen,
"No, you'll take me to them now. I'm that little girl's Daddy and she needs me, now."
I didn't know what Noreen was going to say to that and I didn't care. I was gonna see my little girl or this hospital was coming down brick by brick until I found her myself.
Noreen only smiled.
"My, my. 'Bout time you got you a spine. You come with me and I'll take you there right now."
She started to walk away and I started to follow her but I stopped and turned to Dean and Sam.
"Would you come with? You're the reason both my Jennys are alive right now. I'd really like you to see my little girl."
"Sure." Dean said and in a few minutes we were all three standing outside the nursery window, looking down at my beautiful, strong, precious little girl. She was so tiny and looked so vulnerable.
"I'll hold her now." I told Noreen. I still didn't know where the new attitude was coming from, but I liked it. Seemed Noreen did too. She smiled again instead griping at me.
"All right then. C'mon this way."
"Hey - here." Dean stopped me before I could move away. He handed me a piece of paper with a phone number on it. "You let us know when she takes her first step, okay?"
"Yeah – I will. I will."
We all said goodbye then and I watched them walk down the hallway to the exit. Just before they turned the corner, I saw Sam reach out and give Dean a one-armed hug.
I followed Noreen to my little girl then. I was ready to be a Dad.