A/N: Thank you to everyone who has left reviews on here and on twitter throughout this entire story. Thank you for all of your PM's, favourite story and author adds and for all of your kind words. I appreciate it more than you could ever know and I am so grateful to each and every one of you.
Thank you as always to three ladies who have become my dearest friends and who I couldn't ever be without. Purdy's Pal, DaisyDay and Jedi Skysinger, thank you for reading through my stories and for your encouragement even when I doubt myself. Your friendship is my foundation and you all get me through some of the toughest days. I love you all so much.
Lastly thank you to everyone who has stuck with this story right through to the end, and to my new friends on twitter for being just utterly wonderful.
Caitlin held onto Michael's hand as he moved the shopping cart around the Super Target store and helped him place things inside the metal cart. It had been eight months since she'd come to live with her real parents and in that time she had never once asked about the family she'd left behind in Ireland.
Since that night when Fiona had all but broken ties with her mother they had settled into family life with relative ease. The new house had become a haven and the loft just a place where Michael and Sam planned jobs that they didn't want Fiona to know about. She had become even more short tempered than usual with the pregnancy hormones playing havoc with her moods, but after everything she had been though, the people around her shook it off and let her volatile moods slide.
Looking up at her father Caitlin watched the concentration on his face when they walked down the baby isle to see all the various items that only made his eyes grow wider. Placing a hand over her mouth she tried to hide the giggle that erupted when she saw his panic stricken eyes.
"Mammy said we need ta get nappies," she told him as she lowered her hand when they came to the diaper section. Lifting her eyes to meet his she broke out into a smile when he looked down at her in confusion, her mother's words echoing inside her head.
"Tell daddy which ones we usually buy baby, and make sure he gets the right ones."
"You mean diapers?" he asked with a slow smile when he saw the sparkle in her eyes. So far her accent had slipped between American and Irish, American slowly becoming more dominant since she had started attending the neighbourhood school.
"Daddy why do you call tham tha'?" she asked seriously, shaking her head. "Why do ya call tham diapers? Tha's a silly name."
Her voice brought his attention back down to her and he looked at her thoughtfully when he considered her question. Reaching out for two different brands he looked down at them and couldn't for the life of him see what the difference was.
"Mammy said ya had ta get those one's," Caitlin told him when she came around to point at the smaller pack in his hand.
"These?" he asked curiously when he looked down at the pack with a huge teddy bear on the front. "Are you sure?"
As soon as he'd asked the question he saw his daughter transform into her mother right before his eyes. Looking up at him the little girl put her hands on her hips and shook her head only to sigh heavily at him when he watched her in amusement.
"Daaaaadddy, I'm five," she told him holding up her hand to spread her fingers and thumb wide. "Mammy said I had ta tell ya tha ones we needed."
"Okay," he nodded when he replaced the others on the shelf. Looking back down at his daughter he couldn't help but melt a little when she offered him an adoring smile. "But if they're wrong I'm blaming you!"
"Thay're tha right ones," she told him confidently. "Mammy showed me."
"Okay I believe you," he laughed as he looked along the rest of the isle. "What else does your mom usually buy from here?"
Caitlin's eyes lit up when she saw the various baby clothes and grabbed his hand to pull him towards them. The racks held lots of tiny socks and little outfits, all of them so small that for a moment Michael felt a little daunted by it all.
Reaching for a pack of socks Caitlin pulled them off the shelves and handed them to him. "Mammy said we needed ta get lots a these."
"Lots of socks?" he asked when he took another two packs off the shelves.
"Yep," Caitlin beamed before she headed towards the vests and pointed to them. "An' these."
Michael shrugged his shoulders and picked a pack off the shelf and held it against his hand, the tiny item causing him to look down at it in wonder. This was for their baby, the tiny little life that was growing inside the woman he loved. She was cranky and her moods slipped from happy to explosive in a matter of seconds but whenever he looked at her and her expanding stomach he found himself more enraptured by her every single day.
"Do ya think I was tha' little?" Caitlin asked when she saw his eyes lingering over the garment in his hands.
Michael's eyes dropped down to her and for a moment he could feel himself slipping into the deep well of guilt. He couldn't answer that question because he hadn't been there for either of them, and that cut him more deeply than he could ever admit. Placing the baby things in the cart he moved forward and laid his hand on her head before he smiled down at her. "You were."
"But I'm big now," she grinned. "Aren't I daddy?"
"Yes you are," he nodded, still not quite understanding how his life had changed from being a spy to totally revolving around this little girl. "Your mom said we could pick up some new books while we're here."
"Yep," Caitlin nodded distractedly as her eyes wandered over the various little outfits that were arranged in various colours. "Can we get tha babby some a these?"
Michael glanced to where she was looking and felt his heart sink a little when Caitlin had moved across to the little dresses and frilly outfits. So far she hadn't even entertained the idea of having a brother, and he just hoped that when the baby came along that she wouldn't be too disappointed if it was boy.
"I think mom wants to wait until the baby arrives before we buy any of those," he told her gently. "What about some onesies instead?"
"Mammy got those already," she sighed. "But we didn't get anythin'pink."
Shaking his head, Michael reached out and tugged her against him, holding her against his side. "Well if we have a girl I'll bring you here and you can choose anything pink you want."
"I don't want a brother," Caitlin told him adamantly. "Boys a yucky."
"That's because they're not your baby brother," he smiled. Looking down at the little girl by his side he was usually accustomed to seeing her bright smile beaming back at him but this time she looked positively solemn.
Smoothing his hand over her hair he waited until she lifted her head before he felt his voice dry up in his throat. "Hey," he asked her worriedly. "What's wrong?"
She was silent for a few moments before she fixed him with her wide beautiful eyes. "Daniel said ya wouldn' want me if I had a brother."
"Daniel?" he asked in confusion before the realisation suddenly dawned. More of Marie's poisonous words had been finding their way into more and more conversations over the past few months. They still didn't know the full extent of the damage she'd caused, but they had just taken every obstacle and removed them all one by one.
"He said ya left mammy because I was a girl."
Closing his eyes briefly, Michael tried to control the angry burst that wanted to find its way to Ireland and tear into Marie Glenanne. Taking a breath he opened his eyes and looked down at his little girl feeling nothing but love.
"You and your mom are everything to me," he told her, not quite knowing if he'd spoken in words a five year old would understand. "The new baby won't change that, okay."
"Will ya still read ta me if I have a brother?" she asked when she contemplated his words. "An' can we still go ta tha beach with Uncle Sam?"
Relief swamped through Michael's senses and he felt a little piece of triumph that he had been the one to make this small breakthrough with his daughter. Crouching down on one knee her pulled her against him and lifted her up into his arms as he stood up. He felt himself melt a little more when she wrapped her arms around his neck and held him tight.
"I'll always read to you," he told her reassuringly as he broke out into a smile. "And when the new baby comes we'll have to look after mommy, you and me, okay?"
Pulling back Caitlin looked into her father's eyes and nodded slowly as she moved forward to kiss him soundly before she wrapped her arms around him again. "Okay."
Michael held on to her for a few more moments before he placed her back onto the floor and smiled down at her when they moved back to the shopping cart that was a little way behind them. Caitlin looked around at the various outfits and sighed when she looked over at the soft toys that were arranged on different shelves.
Noticing her unusual quietness Michael followed her eyes over towards the display and tapped her on the shoulder. "Is there something there you'd like?"
Caitlin's eyes grew wide when she turned to look up at him, a slow smile forming on her face. "I like tha cat."
"The cat?" he asked as he looked over the stuffed arrangements until he spotted a white toy cat on the top shelf and made a beeline towards it. Plucking it off the shelf he held it up to her. "This one?"
The smile on Caitlin's lips grew wider and she simply nodded her head in wonder when her father handed the toy cat to her. Taking hold of it she looked down at it and hugged it against her before she looked up at him with bright eyes. "Is it mine ta keep?"
There were very few things that caused Michael Westen to become emotional, his girlfriend and daughter being the only ones who saw this side of him. The little girl before him had interwoven herself within him so tightly that he couldn't ever see a day when he would ever not love her. Nodding his head, he watched in wonder when she looked up at him like he was the most important man in the world. Nothing could have ever prepared him for the love her felt for her, not even if it had been written down for him. He was a spy, stoic and able to hide his emotions, but he was finding that hiding anything from his little girl was virtually impossible.
Caitlin looked down at the toy cat once more before she propelled herself towards him to wrap herself around his legs as she looked up at him adoringly. "I love you daddy."
For a few seconds Michael was immobilised and found the battle with his feelings becoming almost impossible to hide. Grinning down at her he felt his heart melt a little more when he repeated the same words back to her, trying not to let her hear the hitch in his voice.
"Can we get tha babby a teddy bear?" she asked suddenly, unaware of her father's crumbling exterior. Looking over towards the small bears she unwrapped herself from around him and moved towards the lower shelf and bent to pick up a tiny white bear and held it up to him.
"The baby will love it honey," he nodded, pulling himself back together. Looking around the rest of the isle he tried to remember if there was anything else he had to buy when Caitlin squealed in excitement and sped off towards the man who knelt to scoop her up to cover her face in kisses.
"Well hello to you too li'l darlin'," Sam grinned, his eyes catching his friend's surprised gaze.
"Sam?" Michael asked when Sam approached him, Caitlin still in his arms. "What are you doing here?"
"Oh you know…shopping," Sam told him innocently and averted his eyes when Michael looked him over before he shook his head.
"Okay," Michael nodded. "So where is it?"
Shaking his head Michael turned away and smiled when he started to push the cart further along the isle. "Never mind Sam."
"Hey it's not like I'm followin' ya Mikey," Sam told him with a grin when Caitlin wrapped her arms around his neck.
"Daddy brought me a cat," she told him excitedly when she held the toy up to show him. "An' we got a teddy bear fer tha babby."
"Well aren't you goin' to be the best big sister," Sam grinned. "So you're just out with your dad today?"
"Yep, mammy's tired so we're goin' ta make har dinner," she grinned. "Do ya want ta come too?"
Sam's eyes sparkled with love when he moved forward to press a kiss onto Caitlin's cheek. "I think your mom might need some rest honey."
"Fi won't mind if you show up for dinner Sam," Michael told him with a smile when he looked at them. Caitlin had Sam effectively wrapped around her little finger and he knew if she asked him for the moon his friend would do everything in his power to get it for her.
"Well maybe I'll stop by later," Sam nodded when he squished his lips against Caitlin's cheek again to kiss her.
"I'm goin' ta help daddy make pancakes fer mammy," Caitlin told him as she readjusted the cat and teddy bear in her arms so that she could hold onto Sam better.
"Pancakes?" he asked in surprise. "For dinner?"
"Yep, tonight. Mammy likes tham."
"Okay then," Sam chuckled. "How's your mom today, is she…happy?"
"Of course she's happy Sam," Michael told him with a sigh when they made their way to the checkout and he began to load the items onto the conveyer belt. Turning back to Caitlin he smiled when she handed him the stuffed cat and the teddy bear so he could pay for them.
The woman who was behind the checkout smiled up at him when he handed them to her, her smile brightening when she saw all of the baby items stacked before her.
"Oh how adorable," she gushed when she looked from Michael to Sam and then to Caitlin. "You're getting ready for a new baby."
The smile on Michael's face dropped suddenly and he subconsciously took a step away from Sam. "Oh, yeah…but not…" waving his hand between the two of them his mouth opened and closed before he tried to explain but it only came out as babble.
Sam's eyes sparked with amusement when he saw his friend tripping over his own words. Shaking his head he looked towards the woman's name tag and turned on his charm when he took the toys back off of her when she'd scanned them, to hand them back to Caitlin.
"Barbara," he smiled, keeping his eyes fixed on her while Michael hurriedly placed the items she'd scanned back into the cart. "He's about to become a daddy again so he's a little…flustered…"
"Oh?" Barbara looked to Michael who stopped what he was doing and shot a glare towards Sam before he started packing the items again.
"This beautiful young lady here," Sam told her as he quickly kissed Caitlin's cheek before he pulled back to grin at her. "She's his little girl."
"Yeah, my wife is having our second any time now," Michael told Barbara quickly, making sure she saw the flash of gold on his hand.
"Oh," Barbara gushed hiding her embarrassment behind a smile. "Well congratulations."
"Thanks," he told her curtly when opened his wallet and handed her a stack of bills, just wanting to escape from there as fast as he could.
"I on the other hand don't have any kids, or wives," Sam grinned, flashing his flirtatious smile at the woman who was blushing profusely. Winking at her he turned back to Caitlin who grinned at him and wrapped her arms around his neck.
"Uncle Sam's comin' ta dinner with us," she told the woman who looked at the two of them and smiled.
"Well you both have a good day," Barbara told them brightly as Sam flashed her another smile before he followed a fast moving Michael out of the door.
Barbara watched him as he disappeared out of the store and shook herself before she turned to offer a cheery greeting to the next customer, her day feeling somewhat brighter now.
Fiona was in the kitchen when Caitlin arrived, running through the door like a burst of sunshine. She didn't wait for her father to follow her through and forgot all about him in her haste to show Fiona what they'd brought. Fiona's face lit up into a smile when Caitlin raced forwards and held a tiny teddy bear out to her before laying her ear against her swollen stomach. The little girl giggled when a tiny foot kicked against her, her sibling objecting to the pressure against it. Lifting her head she pressed the teddy against her mother's stomach before she leant in a little closer and held her hand against it.
"Me an' daddy got tha babby a teddy bear," she grinned as she showed her mother the little bear. "We got a white one."
"I can see baby," Fiona drew in a sharp breath, her eyes squinting slightly when she felt a spasm in her back. Shaking it off just like she had since they started last night, she gazed back down at her daughter and took the little bear from her hand, looking down at it with a smile. "It's perfect. Why don't you go and put it in the baby's crib?"
"Okay," Caitlin beamed when she took the teddy bear back from her mother and lifted her toy cat. "An' Daddy got me a cat."
"I love it," Fiona told her, trying to sound enthusiastic even though her lower back was aching. "It looks just like a real one."
"I know," the little girl grinned when she held the toy to her face and nuzzled it. "I love it."
Fiona watched Caitlin in amazement when she turned around and ran right past Michael, waving to him as she disappeared towards her room. Shaking her head she met his eyes and felt herself falling into his gaze. Ever since they had found out about the new baby he'd been watching her more and he never let her go far without hovering close by. At first his constant presence had started to grate on her nerves, but as she became bigger and the tiredness crept in she was grateful to have him beside her.
"We ran into Sam at the store," he told her as he placed the bags onto the table. "Caitlin invited him over for dinner tonight."
"Really?" shaking her head she couldn't help the slow smile that crept over her lips. Looking behind him she waited for a few seconds before she caught Michael's gaze. "I thought he would have come back with you."
Shrugging his shoulders Michael decided not to tell her of the incident in the store and instead focused on the items he'd brought home with him.
"Caitlin told me these were the right ones," he announced when he averted his gaze onto the pack of diapers he pulled from the bag.
Fiona looked over at the packet in his hand and was in the process of nodding when a sharp pain shot right through her, causing her to gasp in a breath. Moving her hand over her abdomen she closed her eyes and leant against the kitchen table for support, waiting until the pain wore off enough so that she could focus on him again.
"Fi?" he asked worriedly, the packet in his hand thrown aside when he came to stand beside her. "What's wrong?"
"I'm okay," she told him through a strained voice as she tried to calm him even though she was timing the tightening in her lower body. Blowing out a slow breath she straightened back up and grasped hold of his hand, as much to reassure him as to steady herself. "It's the practice pains."
"You're sure?" he asked worriedly, unconvinced by her explanations especially in light of what Sean had told him when she was giving birth to Caitlin. Stepping closer he smoothed his hand down her back until he rested over the base of her spine, hoping the heat from his hand would ease the pain. "Remember the doctor wants you at hospital as soon as you feel anything, especially after what happened with Caitlin."
"I know what she said," she told him softly as she leaned into him. "And I know after what happened with Caitlin that this baby won't rush either."
"I just don't want the same thing to happen," he sighed smoothing his hand over her back as he looked down at her adoringly. "How are you feeling?"
"I'll just be glad when this is over…" she huffed, irritability creeping into her words. "I'm tired of being fat."
Michael knew he was treading on dangerous ground and thought carefully before he answered. He remembered earlier in her pregnancy when she'd complained about being bigger and he'd made the mistake of telling her she wasn't. He'd learned the hard way that that wasn't the right answer when she'd stormed off in a foul mood until his mother had explained to him just what he'd said wrong. He was still learning that a pregnant woman didn't want to be told she wasn't showing in the early stages of pregnancy, so he took a breath and held it before he braced himself for her reaction.
"You're not fat, you're…" he watched her closely when her eyes shot to his, ready to duck out of the way. "…Beautiful."
Whatever reactions Michael had been expecting, Fiona dissolving into tears wasn't one of them. Reaching forward her turned her around pulling her in closer but couldn't quite make his arms reach around her because of her protruding baby bump.
"I can't even get my arms around you anymore," she wailed miserably as she lowered her forehead onto his shoulder. "I'm huge, I can't see my feet anymore and you can't even hold me…"
Michael was mortified and for a moment he wished he knew what to say to make her feel better but her sudden gasp forced every other thought to evaporate from his mind.
"Fi?" he asked cautiously when she suddenly grew very quiet. Smoothing his hand down her arms he stood back slightly and whispered her name when she didn't answer him.
"I'm…" she started, but her words came to a sudden halt when she felt a pop followed by a trickle coming from beneath her. "Oh," she gasped, her eyes growing wider with surprise.
"What?" he looked down at her, trying not to let his anxiousness creep into his voice. "Fiona?"
She looked up at him then, a nervous smile forming on her face, still not quite believing what had just happened. "I think my water just broke."
"What?" he gasped, panic already sparking in his eyes. "Okay…you stay there…"
"Where am I going to go?" she asked him incredulously as she reached down to her swollen stomach to spread her fingers wide. Taking a deep breath she was surprised by her own calmness. After what had happened when she went into labour with Caitlin, she had expected to experience that same level of complete terror, but so far she hadn't felt afraid.
"I'll call my mom," Michael's voice rose when he patted his pockets in a panic as he looked around for his phone. "Where—"
"Michael," Fiona drew herself up straighter and pointed to his phone that was sitting beside his keys on the table where he'd placed it when he'd come in.
"Right…you sit…" his voice came out in a rush as he moved with lightning speed towards the bedroom hitting his knee against the door along the way. Cursing quietly he pressed his mother's number while he frantically tried to remember all of the things they'd planned for when this happened.
Fiona stood in the same spot; her amusement with Michael's panicked state causing her to momentarily forget that her waters had just broken. Letting go of the table she looked behind her towards the couch and started to head towards it, instantly regretting her decision to move when another sudden wave of pain tore through her abdomen bringing her to her knees. She tried to control her breathing, holding the panic inside to a minimum as her insides gripped tighter causing agonizing ripples to wash over her to slowly subside a minute later.
"Mich-ael," she moaned when she could already feel another wave of tightening that was slowly causing beads of sweat to form on her forehead. "You need…to call…the hospital."
"I already did," he breathed as he came running back into the kitchen, almost tripping over when he saw her bent on the floor. Everything they had been preparing for was suddenly forgotten when panic took over to push everything else aside.
"Fi?" he gasped, his fear stricken eyes shooting to Caitlin's when she hovered in the doorway.
Fiona drew in a sharp breath and manoeuvred herself around so that she could climb back to her feet, her eyes fixing on her little girl.
"It's…okay baby," she breathed, forcing a smile to her face as she tried to hide the pain in her eyes. "Nana's…coming to stay with you."
"Mammy…" Caitlin looked at her mother before she cast wide worried eyes onto her father.
"It's okay honey," Michael told her softly, forcing himself to display an essence of calm for their daughter's sake. "Your nana's on her way over while I take your mom to the hospital."
Caitlin's eyes landed back on her mother and she slowly moved into the room, moving towards Fiona to take hold of her hand. "Do ya want me ta read ta ya mammy?"
Michael opened his mouth to say no but Fiona surprised him when she nodded to the little girl and offered her a tight smile. "I'd love you to read to me…you can come and sit with me while daddy waits for your nana."
Caitlin nodded and turned back around, running out of the kitchen and towards her room. Fiona closed her eyes and blew out the breath she'd been holding. She knew Michael's eyes were on her before she lifted her head towards him. He had that same expression of total disbelief on his face just like when he'd first found out about Caitlin.
"I don't want her to be scared," she told him softly when he came around the table to take a hold of her hand. "She's already been through so much."
Michael stepped a little closer towards her and smoothed his hand over her rounded stomach. He loved this woman more than he'd ever loved anyone in his life and maybe it was the raw emotions rampaging around his body, but he had never been more proud of her than he was right in this moment.
"What can I do?" he asked her softly when he felt her grip his hand a little tighter and lean into him. He knew she was in pain but he felt completely helpless when he knew he couldn't do anything to stop it.
Fiona held onto his hand and closed her eyes tightly, burying her head against his shoulder. The gripping pain tore at her insides and she could feel herself teeter on the edge of crying out but she gritted her teeth and held on to him until the pain began to subside.
Michael rubbed her back, smoothing his hand up and down her spine until she relaxed against him and lifted her head. Her whole lower body was burning and she could feel her previous calm state slowly slipping away when she remembered how this had felt the first time around.
"I think I need to..." she gasped again as another wave of pain shook her body, making it hard for her to catch her breath. She found herself leaning into him again wishing that his touch could ease the pain away.
Caitlin came running back into the room with her book tucked under her arm but stopped when the front door flew open. Madeline came charging through, her eyes already watering when she saw Fiona leaning against her son. She spotted her granddaughter watching her and instantly granted her a bright smile, diverting her attention away from her mother.
"Hey sweetheart," she beamed as she moved towards her. ""Are you doing okay?"
"I'm goin' ta read ta mammy," Caitlin told her as she pulled the book out from under her arm. "See."
"Well how about you read to me instead?" Madeline asked softly when she placed a hand on her head. "Uncle Sam's on his way too."
Fiona lifted her head from Michael's shoulder and pulled herself upright when she addressed her little girl. "Your baby brother or sister wants to come and meet you," she told her calmly as she held out her hand. "That means you have to stay here with nana."
"Is tha babby comin' now?" Caitlin asked excitedly when she rushed forward to take her mother's hand. "Can I see it?"
"Not yet baby," Fiona told her, her voice breaking a little when she felt the beginning of another contraction tightening her lower body. Gasping in a breath she leant back against Michael and grasped for any part of him she could find. "I have to…"
Madeline moved forward and turned Caitlin around to look at her and pointed to the book she was holding. "Shall we read your book sweetheart?"
"It's me new one," Caitlin told her brightly as she lifted it to show her. "Daddy got it fer me."
"Well why don't you kiss your mommy and daddy goodbye and we'll go and read it," Madeline told her with a smile, over exaggerating her enthusiasm of reading about the cat and her new adventures.
Caitlin nodded enthusiastically and turned back around to her parents, wrapping her arms around Fiona's lower body and kissing her belly before she turned and ran back towards her grandmother.
"The hospital's expecting us," Michael whispered when Caitlin disappeared with his mother. Smoothing his hand over Fiona's lower back he held onto her and helped her to walk towards the door, grabbing the bag she'd packed weeks ago before he pulled the door closed behind them.
An hour later, Fiona was in the delivery suite in the throes of full blown labour. She shifted her legs uncomfortably, modesty long forgotten as the pain began to slowly get worse and worse as time went on. She was tired, in agony and switched from anger to tears in a matter of seconds but no one around her seemed to mind.
Michael stroked her hair as he sat by her side. His eyes kept drifting to the screen that monitored her contractions and he found himself leaning forward wrapping his hands around one of hers when he saw another peak on the screen.
She drew in a sharp breath and gripped his fingers tighter. Scrunching up her face in pain she tried to even out her breath, but it was becoming difficult to even breathe.
Michael held his breath when his knuckles turned white. Fiona was squeezing his hand so hard that he lost the feeling in his fingers, but he didn't care. He just needed to stop the pain for her. He needed to do something, anything that would ease it.
"Hello Mrs McBride," the doctor smiled cheerily when she walked into the room. "How are you doing?"
"She's in pain," Michael snapped, his voice breaking when he smoothed his hand over Fiona's hair. "Can't you give her anything?"
"I'm afraid your wife is already too far into labour," she told him sympathetically when she came over to rub Fiona's leg as she watched the monitor, noting that another contraction was peaking. "Tell me when the contraction has eased and we'll have a look to see how far you've dilated okay?"
Fiona nodded through clenched teeth, letting out a slow breath as the contraction started to die away. "They're so…fast."
"That's good, the strong ones work the best," the doctor smiled as she came to examine her quickly before another contraction overtook her body again. "You're almost there Mrs McBride, only 2 more to go and then you'll be ready to push. Seems this little one is ready to come and see the world."
"Yeah…" she nodded, in the midst of a smile only to have it die away as another strong wave of pain caught her. She panted heavily as the agony ripped through her insides, so strong it took her breath away making it hard for her to breathe.
"You're doing great Fi," Michael urged her, desperate to ease her pain. "We're almost there...we—"
"SHUT…UP," Fiona yelled, shoving his hand away. "This is…YOUR fault…YOU…"
"Fi?" he asked urgently when she reached for his hand again, sobbing his name when she pulled him closer.
"I wanna…PUSH…" she managed to groan as the overwhelming urge overtook her. Throwing her head back she gripped Michael's hand, her voice breaking when she sobbed his name.
Before the doctor even had a chance to look another contraction came in the wake of the first, taking over Fiona's body like she was something possessed. She squeezed Michael's hand hard and groaned painfully, her voice breaking on a sob when she turned to watch him with tear filled eyes.
"I won't," he felt his voice breaking when he saw the pain in her eyes. He'd never felt so helpless in his whole life. Smoothing his hand over her hair he felt his own emotions slipping when he saw her writhing on the bed and there wasn't a damn thing he could do to stop it
"I don't want…you to leave," she sobbed into him. "Don't leave us again."
"I'll never leave you," he told her gently, holding her close to him as much as he could. "Never."
"You said that BEFORE," she told him angrily shoving him away, only to pull him back to her as another powerful wave overtook her body.
The doctor bent to examine her again, trying to be as gentle as she could. "You're fully dilated, so on the next contraction I want you to take a deep breath and push."
"We're almost there, Fi?" Michael told softly, rubbing her shoulder. He stood up to let one of the assisting nurses come over to check the contraction monitor only to have Fiona's grasping for him.
"I'm here," he told her, moving quickly back to her side. He saw her breathing coming erratically again and he held onto her tightly as she pushed hard with the contraction, groaning through her teeth as she pushed.
"Okay, that's good," the doctor told her excitedly, giving her all the encouragement she could. "You're almost there now. I can see you baby's head…come on honey, we need another big push."
Doctor Davis met Michael's worried eyes and offered him a reassuring smile. Her encouraging voice reached through Fiona's pain fogged mind and she took a deep breath and pushed hard. Michael rubbed her back, his words of encouragement no longer grating on her nerves as she drew every ounce of strength from him.
One powerful contraction was followed closely by another until a few minutes later a baby's cries erupted into the room. Fiona fell backwards to rest on Michael's chest totally exhausted as the doctor laid their baby onto her stomach and wiped the blood away from its tiny face.
"Hello," Fiona sobbed to the little baby who was wriggling and mewing against her, its tiny cries causing both parents to dissolve into tears. Fiona looked up and saw Michael, tears pouring down his face as he gazed down at her and their baby in awe.
"Congratulations mommy and daddy," Doctor Davis beamed when she placed a blanket over the tiny baby. "You have a beautiful baby girl."
Michael's lips found Fiona's holding her in a gentle kiss before he slowly drew away to kiss her temple. He was totally consumed with love, his eyes watering uncontrollably.
"Thank you," he whispered into her hair as he moved down to their daughter to place a soft kiss on her head before he came back towards the woman he loved. He'd seen so many things over the years but nothing had ever compared to seeing his child being born. "That was…you were…"
"Does daddy want to cut the cord?" The assisting nurse asked, her own eyes glowing with emotion when she saw Michael and Fiona gazing at each other with complete and utter adoration.
Michael looked over at the Doctor dubiously, her encouraging nod the only thing that convinced him to leave Fiona's side. Moving to their baby he watched the nurse carefully when she directed him, and guided his hands to the right position. Watching his daughter intensely he held his breath when he cut, ready to pull his hand away if she showed any signs of distress. Before he really knew what had happened he was given a pat on the shoulder before he looked across to Doctor Davis who nodded her approval. He had never felt so elated before in his life as he came over to sit beside two of the most precious people in his life.
The assistant nurse had moved around to stand beside Fiona and lifted the baby away from her mother to rub all the blood away from her hair and face, before weighing her, and then wrapping her in a blanket before handing her back.
Fiona gazed down at this new life in her arms; mesmerized by the love she felt bursting from her heart. She gazed up at the man she loved again, feeling that same love flowing from his eyes as he leaned down to lift his baby daughter into his arms.
"She's beautiful," he whispered as he looked down into his daughters sleeping face, so much love brimming in his eyes. Moving back towards Fiona he came to sit down on the chair beside her, leaning over to kiss her lips again. "We have two little girls."
A few hours later Fiona was settled into her room, changed and refreshed, feeling sore and exhausted but too happy to sleep. Looking towards the chair next to her bed she smiled when she saw Michael holding their tiny baby, the look of wonder still present in his eyes.
Feeling her eyes upon him he lifted his head and smiled up at her adorningly. "She has Caitlin's chin."
"She does," she nodded with a smile and lay back against the pillows. "Did your mom tell you what time she was bringing her?"
"She's on her way," he told her softly as his eyes returned back to the sleeping baby in his arms. "She's going to love her."
"Well she wanted a baby sister," Fiona chuckled when she thought back to their eldest daughter's pleas and sighed wistfully when she relaxed back against the piled up pillows.
Getting up from the chair, Michael lifted the baby towards her and laid their tiny daughter back into Fiona's arms only to stand back and gaze down at her in awe.
He was so amazed by her and unbelievably proud. She had coped with it all and even after everything she'd been through before and after the baby's birth, she was still looking completely radiant. He hadn't thought it was possible to love her any more than he already did, but his feelings had only grown stronger, solidifying everything he couldn't put into words.
Moving towards the edge of the bed he perched on the side and leaned across to place a kiss onto her forehead before he pulled back to nuzzle her hair.
The door opened slowly to reveal Madeline, Sam and Caitlin, all three of them looking tentatively around the small room. Seeing her parents, Caitlin let go of Madeline's hand to run towards her father who was off of the bed in seconds and scooped her up in his arms.
"Hi," he grinned happily as he kissed her cheek. "Do you want to come and say hi to your baby sister?"
Caitlin looked down at the tiny little face before glancing back at her mother. "Is she ours mammy?"
Fiona couldn't help the soft chuckle that escaped from her lips when she grinned up at her daughter. "Yes baby, she's ours. Do you want to come and sit next to me?"
Nodding cautiously Caitlin waited for her father to lower her so that she could scramble next to her mother and sit up on her knees. Leaning across she kissed Fiona soundly and nestled against her as she slowly reached out a hand to stroke her baby sister's hair.
"She's soft," she whispered as she looked up at her mother with awe filled eyes. The baby started making soft mewing noises before she slowly opened her eyes, blinking slowly before closing them again. "She looked at me mammy."
"Of course she did," Fiona whispered softly when she kissed Caitlin's cheek. "You're her big sister."
Madeline moved closer to the bed and peered over for a closer look. Her eyes filled with happy tears and she made no attempt to brush them away when she looked up at her son. She had never seen him look so blissfully happy in all the years she'd raised him. He was a good father and a wonderful husband, even though he and Fiona hadn't made their marriage official.
"She's beautiful," she gasped at last, her eyes shifting back to Fiona. "She looks just like her daddy."
Fiona smiled up at her and lifted her daughter, offering the child to her grandmother. "Michael thinks she has Caitlin's chin."
Hearing her name, Caitlin looked over towards the baby in her grandmothers arms before she sat back down to snuggled up against her mother.
Sam who had remained silent since they came into the room moved to stand beside Madeline, gazing down into the baby's face, immediately bending to plant a gentle kiss on her head.
"Hello baby," he cooed, his voice sounding so unlike what everyone was accustomed to hearing.
Michael sat back against the bed, his arms holding his family close as he watched Sam become more emotional than he'd ever seen him before. When Madeline passed the baby across to him, Sam took her with such a delicate hold, lifting her until he adjusted to her weight. He gazed down at her for a long moment, trying to fathom how only yesterday she wasn't even here. Swallowing the lump in his throat he turned his face to her parents, unable to hide the emotion in his eyes. "She's perfect. What are you going to call her?"
Fiona smiled up at Michael before she smoothed her hand over Caitlin's arm causing the little girl to look up at her. "Do want to tell Uncle Sam and nana what your baby's name is?"
Caitlin gasped when a beaming smile lit her face. "I can tell tham now?"
At Fiona's nod she gasped in an excited breath and looked up at her family and smiled proudly before she felt her father's hand on her other arm.
"We're goin' ta call har Meaghan Madeline," she told them, instantly hearing a gasp from her grandmother who was looking back down at the baby in awe.
"Oh that's so..."
"She's got yer name nana," Caitlin told her proudly. "An' I've got me Auntie Claire's."
Madeline stopped to wipe a tear from her eyes as she came towards the bed, holding her arms out for the little girl who knelt up on the bed and hugged her tightly before she slowly released her to sit back down with her parents again.
"Thank you…I…" Madeline started, her voice catching as she spoke. Reaching out to her son she grasped his hand and squeezed his fingers, unable to find the right words.
"It's okay mom," he told her with a soft smile, his eyes sparkling with the same kind of emotion as hers. "We do too."
Sam rocked back and forth as he held Meaghan in his arms, his eyes roaming over every inch of her tiny face. He couldn't believe how something so small could stir these kinds of feelings inside him and for a moment he felt a pang of regret for the life he could have had if he hadn't chosen his job.
The baby in his arms moved and opened her mouth as she screwed up her face. Sudden panic flared in his eyes and he swiftly moved towards Fiona to lower the restless baby back into her arms.
"She wants her momma," he told Fiona with an embarrassed smile when he took a step away before she could see how much this was affecting him. He'd never cried…well almost never, and that wa something he'd never shown anyone, ever.
The door to Fiona's room opened slowly and a nurse popped her head around the door. Keeping her voice low she looked towards Madeline and Sam and smiled apologetically when she nodded towards Fiona. "I'm sorry to throw you out so soon but Fiona needs to rest…"
"Say no more," Sam nodded, relief flooding his eyes when he was finding it harder to hold back from dissolving into a quivering heap. Looking towards Fiona he nodded slowly and offered her a wide smile, his eyes telling her everything he was too embarrassed to say.
"Thanks Sam," she nodded, her eyes filling with tears that almost tipped him over the edge. To her surprise he came towards her and tapped her shoulder before he bent to place a soft kiss onto her head. Stepping away just as quickly he coughed uncomfortable and nodded to Michael, still not trusting his voice to break if he spoke.
"Get some rest honey," Madeline's voice brought a welcome intrusion and if she could see Sam's discomfort she certainly wasn't showing it. Leaning over she kissed Fiona's cheek before patting her face affectionately with the palm of her hand. Moving back she placed a kiss onto Caitlin's head and then on Meaghan's before coming around the bed to pull Michael into a tight embrace.
"Look after your girls, Michael," she told him softly, her voice catching when she smiled up at him. "I'll call your brother and let him know Meaghan's arrived."
"Thanks mom," he nodded. "For everything."
Nodding, Madeline offered him a watery smile before she took a step back and looked at her eldest granddaughter. "Do you want me to take you home sweetheart?"
Caitlin shifted on the bed and shook her head emphatically until Michael laid his hand on her head. "I'll bring her home with me."
"Okay," taking a step backwards, Madeline turned to follow Sam out of the door but looked back into the room before she left. Her son had found his purpose in life and she couldn't have been happier. "I'll see you tomorrow."
Michael nodded slowly his eyes meeting hers before his lips blossomed into a smile. He watched the door close and returned his attention back to the three most beautiful women he'd ever known in his life. Perching on the tiny bed he leant his head against the woman he loved and pulled Caitlin back against his chest. This was how he wanted to spend the rest of his life. He wanted to keep this moment forever in his memory because it was one he would always remember. Lowering his lips to Fiona's ear he closed his eyes and whispered the three words he'd never been able to say.
Fiona's gasp brought his eyes down to hers and he could see the brimming tears that welled in her eyes. Holding her two girls close to her she smiled up at him and allowed him to wipe an errant tear away before he bent to seal those three words with a kiss.
Caitlin yawned and snugged against her mother as she lowered her head to rest against her baby sister's arm. Closing her eyes she reached up to touch Meaghan's tiny hand and kissed her head when the baby gripped her finger.
Michael nestled his lips against Fiona's hair when he saw his two daughters already creating their own unique bond and he couldn't have been more proud. His life was complete now and this was all he'd ever wanted, it had just taken a beautiful Irish woman to show him. Closing his eyes he smiled against Fiona's hair and held on tight. It had been a rollercoaster ride since the moment he'd met her with so many ups and downs but he knew he would never tire of being by her side. Their ride was only just beginning…
Thank you for reading