"I'm here." said Wally soothingly as he held Kuki's hand. "It's okay. It's okay."
He's glad that looks can't kill, or else he'd already be six feet under.
"Damn it Wally, it hurts."
They're sitting in a hospital room, Kuki panting from exertion, gripping Wally's fingers so tight they were starting to turn purple.
"Try to relax." said the nurse soothingly as another nurse and a doctor worked near the foot of the bed. "Just think about the beautiful new baby you're about to meet."
Kuki's grip on Wally's fingers loosened slightly, and her breathing calmed.
"Much better." said the nurse approvingly. "Now just – "
Kuki's scream ripped through the air, and the sheets near her legs turned bright red.
"Check her blood pressure." said the doctor tightly as he frantically examined Kuki. "And get Hannah in here. She needs a blood transfusion fast."
Wally felt himself being pushed aside as a nurse quickly examined Kuki.
"It's way too high." said the nurse. "And her heart's weakening."
"What's happening?" said Wally frantically, panic settling deep into his stomach.
"She's losing too much blood." said a nurse as she reached for the phone. "She needs a transfusion. And we need you to leave. Now."
"No." said Wally angrily. "I'm not leaving my wife."
"Sir," said the nurse angrily as she dialed a number, "you don't have a choice. Hannah? Yes, room 435. She's not looking too good."
Wally didn't move.
The nurse turned to face him. "Mr. Beatles, you need to leave right now."
Wally nodded his head jerkily and headed over to Kuki. Her breathing was labored, and her eyes were fluttering.
"I love you." he whispered quietly, his voice choking up.
She managed a grin. "Hey now." she said softly. "This isn't goodbye you know. I'm not going anywhere."
"I know." said Wally softly as he kissed her cheek. He turned around and left.
The last thing he heard was Kuki's scream of pain.
"What's up?" said Hoagie anxiously, jumping up from his seat in the waiting room. "How's Kuki? Has she had the baby yet?"
Wally silently shook his head as he collapsed into a chair, his head in his hands.
Time ticked by as Wally sat unmoving, willing Kuki to be all right.
Wally's head snapped up, as he stared at the doctor, his eyes begging for good news.
"I'm so sorry." said the doctor quietly, and Wally felt his heart sink. "We had to make a choice – her or the baby. She insisted we chose the baby."
Wally felt tears begin to run down his face.
No. No. No. No. No. No. No.
"Your son is fine." continued the doctor sadly. "But I'm – I'm afraid Kuki didn't make it."
They saved the baby, but they couldn't save her.
Beside him, Wally could hear Hoagie's gasp of disbelief and sadness.
Dammit to hell, he's not ready to be a father and a mother.
"Kuki – " said the doctor, his voice cracking. "Kuki asked me to tell you that she loved you. And she asked me to make sure you promised to take care of the child to the best of your ability. It was very important to her."
Wally nodded, and began to sob.
Hoagie reached out and wrapped an arm around Wally, tears streaming down his face.
"Do you want to see your son?" asked the doctor gently.
Wally nodded numbly.
He was still in the same position when the doctor returned.
The doctor gently handed Wally the baby – wrapped in a bright blue blanket - without a word.
Wally stared at the baby as he ran a finger over his black tufts of hair. He got Kuki's face and his nose, and he's absolutely perfect.
"Hoagie! Wally!" The two men looked up to see Abby walking towards them, a smile spread across her face. "How's Kuki?"
Wally dropped his head back to the baby, desperately trying not to hear Hoagie's explanation. The last thing he wanted is to relive Kuki's death again.
For a moment he stares at the sleeping bundle in his arms, hate filling his core. If it weren't for the baby, Kuki would still be alive. Instantly, Wally feels unbelievably guilty. What kind of a father is he? Despair fills him as he tries to picture raising this delicate thing without Kuki.
She couldn't be dead. She couldn't be.
"Oh no." Abby's voice breaks Wally out of his thoughts, and he realizes she's crying too, Hoagie's arms wrapped around her.
He feels like a stranger as Hoagie and Abby attempt to comfort themselves and him, but he brushes their words off, because they know nothing. They can't understand the pain he's feeling, because in the end, they have each other to go back to.
He doesn't have that anymore.
"This isn't goodbye you know."
Kuki's words rush back into his brain, and suddenly he can't stand it anymore. He hands the baby to Abby and runs out of the hospital, never once looking back.
"Everyone who met her loved her. It was hard not to, she was so bubbly and happy and full of life."
Wally stood quietly over Kuki's coffin, a light breeze blowing over him as he held his child tightly. The priest continued to drone, and Wally felt himself wishing he would stop.
"She died from a hemorrhage, caused during the birth of her only child Andy."
Andy stirred in Wally's arms, whimpering slightly in his sleep. Kuki had wanted to give the child a Japanese name, and Wally had agreed. But when he had stared down into his baby's eyes for the first time, he couldn't do it. He felt weak and pathetic, but it hurt too much to give the baby a name that would remind him so much of her. So Wally had picked the most un-Japanese name he could come up with.
It hadn't helped as much as he'd hoped it would.
"We can draw comfort from the fact that we know she is in a better place with God in Heaven."
Tears ran down Wally's face as he glared at the priest. He doesn't really care whether there's a heaven or a hell because it doesn't change the fact that she's dead, and she isn't coming back, no matter how much he needs her to.
"Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust." said the priest quietly, and suddenly it hits Wally that Kuki is well and truly gone.
The rest of the day was a blur of condolences and sympathy, but soon Wally was left alone in the new apartment he'd uprooted to – the house reminded him too much of her – with a baby and a heart that was far too broken to heal.
And life went on.
Every Monday night his parents call him. They'd moved back to Australia three years ago.
"We'll visit soon." says his mother every time. "We don't have enough money to come yet. But I promise you, we will soon."
"I know." says Wally.
He spends the rest of the conversation talking about Andy, and telling his parents that he's fine.
He's never felt less fine in his life.
Abby comes every Tuesday, a bag of take out in one hand, and a bag of necessities in the other. She forces him to shower and change; carefully examining Andy to be sure Wally hasn't been neglecting him.
They sit at the kitchen table making small talk about the weather and Abby's new job at the hospital while Andy gurgles happily in his seat, and Wally can't help but imagine how different this scene would've been if Kuki had survived.
When the sun has set, Abby stands, joking that she better get home before Hoagie and the kids burn the house down. She gives him a hug as they stand at his door and whispers "take care of yourself."
He smiles weakly as he half-heartedly promises, knowing internally that the instant the door is closed he's putting Andy to bed and opening his fourth case of beer that week.
Every Wednesday morning Hoagie wakes up Wally with two aspirin and a glass of water. He stays with Wally throughout the morning, taking care of Andy while Wally works through his hangover from the night before. He leaves promptly at noon to pick up his kids from morning preschool, hesitating at the door, before quietly asking Wally if he is still against going to a therapist.
The door in his face is all the answer he needs.
Nigel visits him every Thursday. They never say anything, and they never need to. They simply sit, the baby sleeping on a blanket in front of them, the silence heavy.
Mushi comes every Friday afternoon, sometimes with her daughter Kimi, sometimes alone. They sit in Andy's room as Kimi plays quietly with the toys on the floor, and Andy sleeps peacefully in his crib.
"You're not the only single parent in this world." Mushi reminds him every time, her eyes straying to her own daughter.
"Kuki wouldn't want you to live like this." she says, and Wally merely grunts as he stares at the bottom of his beer glass.
"Andy needs you to be a dad. This," says Mushi, her voice steely, gesturing to his unkept state and his empty beer, "isn't what a dad's supposed to do."
"I know." says Wally every time, his voice cracking with emotion. And Mushi nods, not quiet satisfied, but she knows she won't get a better answer then that, so she gathers Kimi and goes home.
Joey comes every Saturday, bags under his eyes – the natural consequence of being a college student – a wad of money in his pocket and a present for Andy under his arm.
Joey nods hello before walking straight to Andy's room. He lays down the present and picks up the baby.
"C'mon Wally." he says firmly. "We're going for a walk."
Wally protests every time, but Joey just shakes his head as he straps Andy securely in his stroller.
"You're not getting out of it." says Joey as he digs through Wally's closet and throws a pair of clothes at him. "Go get dressed. Or have you forgotten how to?"
Wally grumbles about annoying little brothers, but eventually he changes his clothes.
They leave his apartment in silence, Wally pushing the stroller, Joey walking beside him, his hands shoved in his pockets.
"University's going well." says Joey to break the silence. "Although Professor Johnson is an asshole."
Wally nods slightly, and Joey rolls his eyes.
"You never talk anymore." says Joey, a statement not a question. "Pretty soon you're gonna lose your voice from lack of use."
Wally only shrugs, his gaze fixed straight ahead.
"What happened to Wally?" asks Joey. He gets the same answer every time.
"He died when she did."
"Did he?" asks Joey, repeating the same lines he uses every week. "Or is he just hiding? Kuki would've wanted you to live bro. This isn't living, and you know it."
Wally says nothing.
As they walk back to Wally's apartment, Joey presses a wad of money into his hands.
"I can't take this." says Wally robotically, no emotion in his voice. "You're a university student."
"Too bad." says Joey "Get a job will you?"
"I will." says Wally.
He never does.
After they've settled Andy back in his crib, Joey stands in the doorway as he stares sternly at Wally.
"Would Kuki be proud of you?" he says every time "For giving up? For living like this?"
And Wally says nothing, his jaw clenching and unclenching.
"Take care bro." says Joey, closing the door behind him.
And Wally goes to his room, wrapping himself in the covers that still smell like her and cries.
He doesn't stop crying the rest of the night.
Rachael comes on Sundays. She enters the apartment panting, softly rubbing her large belly as she tells Wally that if the building doesn't fix their elevator and fast, she's not coming back.
Wally knows she's joking.
She goes straight to the kitchen to make him a home cooked meal, as Wally sits glumly in front of the television. When she calls him to eat, he comes quietly, shoveling the food into his mouth without a word, but Rachael doesn't mind because he eats it all, and that's good enough for her.
After lunch they sit in the living room, Andy cradled in Rachael's arms as she rocks him gently.
Wally watches quietly, anger and hurt bubbling in his stomach. It should've been Kuki sitting in the chair, rocking her baby. It's too painful for Wally to watch, so he closes his eyes, feigning sleep.
They don't speak much, and when Rachael pushes herself off the chair and hands him Andy he gives her the same goodbye.
"Don't come back Rachael."
She nods as she quietly leaves the apartment.
But she comes back.
"This isn't goodbye you know."
Kuki's final words to him echoed through his brain, invading his sleep. He tosses and turns, unable to put her face, her smile, her scent out of his mind.
"This isn't goodbye you know."
But it was a goodbye, and it wasn't good enough. Not by a long shot. Wally shivered, and pulled the covers around his shoulders.
He couldn't do this.
He didn't want to do this anymore.
Would it really be so bad to die?
Andy's earsplitting cry snapped Wally from his thoughts. Throwing back his covers, Wally walked into his son's room. He picked up the baby and started humming quietly.
"Nakunayo, nakunayo," sang Wally softly. "mitegoran konohoshizorao kowaimonomo nayamimo kieteyuku nanzennenmo maeno hikari."
It was a Japanese lullaby that Kuki had loved to sing, especially when she was pregnant. He didn't have a clue what it meant in English – Kuki had giggled when he'd asked and told him when their baby was born she'd translate it.
It didn't hurt as much as he thought it would to sing it.
Andy's eyes snapped open, and Wally flinched, expecting him to cry.
But he didn't make a sound.
Wally sighed with relief and turned his head to look at his son. Looking into his son's bright green eyes – so similar to his own – Wally scolded himself for even considering dying.
Andy needed him.
And he needed Andy.
"I love you." said Wally quietly. Andy gurgled happily.
"This isn't goodbye you know."
"I know." whispered Wally quietly to himself, his first genuine smile in a while spreading across his face.
Maybe tomorrow he'd take Andy the park he and Kuki used to spend their weekends. And then maybe he could get Hoagie to watch Andy while he looked for a job.
After all, he had a life to live.
A/N: So, this is a long-awaited request story for bbarracuda.
She requested a story in which either Wally or Kuki died, and the other one had to cope. So… here we are.
Little point of interest: a hemorrhage is a very real problem that can happen during childbirth. More or less, you die from blood loss. It's very rare nowadays because they can usually transfuse enough blood into you to keep you alive.
And yes, I am aware that I do switch tenses half way through the story, and I just want to say that that was 100% on purpose.
In case anyone is interested, this is the English translation of the lullaby Wally sings:
don't you cry, baby
don't cry, baby
look up and see the sky-full of stars
fears and worries will disappear soon
the light that traveled
for a million years.
Codename KND © Mr. Warburton