Chapter 24

A siren in the distance chorused with Fiona's cries, and Michael stood behind Sam and Gina, staring at the scene, unable to do anything. Frustration bubbled up inside along with disappointment. He should be the one in there, taking care of his wife and child. Why wasn't he there? He moved closer and bumped against Sam's leg.

His friend glanced up at him briefly. "Mike, get on the other side." Sam turned his attention back to Fiona. "Come on, Fi, you can do this," Sam said forcefully, yet with a calm in his voice that helped her focus. "I know you, you can get beyond the pain and just push. Come on!"

Another contraction hit and she worked harder. Gina waited with her hands ready to catch the baby. She took a peek and said, "You've got a ways to go yet, Fiona. Just another push or two, and this baby will be saying hello to her mommy."

Michael heard footsteps running up the steps and a pounding on the door. He made his feet move toward it, opened it, and gaped. "Campbell?" Michael stared at him with wide eyes.

"Michael?"

"Where..." Fiona's cry clued him in to where she was. "It's okay. We've got this."

Campbell and his partner hurried over to the bed as another contraction caused Fiona's eyes to slam shut and she pushed with all her might. He whispered, "Fiona..."

Sam's head whipped around. "Campbell!" He returned his attention to Fiona when she clawed into his shoulder. "Easy, Fi! Easy!"

"That's good, Fi, just one more push!" Gina looked up at the paramedic that everyone seemed to know. "The head's almost out. It's a really bad time to change up here, Campbell."

He nodded as he put on a pair of gloves. "But it's my job."

Fiona screamed again. Her hand dug into Sam's shoulder one more time while the other took hold of Michael's hand and she pushed again. Gina looked under the shelter of Fiona's skirt, her face beaming with wonder as the head came out. "Hang on, just have to turn her a little bit, and yes... there we go. Come here, sweetheart."

They heard a sound and then a cry as Gina brought the squirming little body out from hiding and up for everyone to see. "Here she is, Fiona. Your daughter."

Fiona was speechless as she reached out and took her. The cord was still attached. Campbell pushed Sam and Gina out of the way while he mumbled an apology. The couple backed away and stood next to Michael, and Sam laid a hand on his friend's shoulder.

"Congratulations, Mike. You're a dad now."

He didn't say anything at first: he was too much in awe at the sight of his little girl. A sob came out of him and his eyes overflowed, sending small streams down his face. He watched Campbell and his partner put Fiona on the gurney and wrap the baby in a blanket before handing her back to her mother.

"I want to go along," Michael said firmly and sniffled.

"Sure, no problem, Michael. Come on." The paramedics pushed the gurney to the stairs and Michael took a step to follow.

"We'll see you at the hospital, Mike."

He turned briefly. "Thanks, Sam." He glanced at Gina, and the tears started flowing again. "Thank you, Gina."

"You're welcome, Michael. Now go enjoy the first new minutes of your daughter's new life!" She grinned at him and gave him a little shooing motion. He quickly turned and ran to catch up to the paramedics.

Sam and Gina stood and watched from the landing as the ambulance pulled away with lights but no siren. It was half way down the block before either one of them could speak. "Wow. Never saw anything like that before. How'd you know what to do, Gi?"

"You forget I've experienced childbirth from the other side. Plus, in my career, I've had to deliver a couple babies, believe it or not."

He locked eyes with her. "You never told me that!"

"It never came up!" She shrugged. "Well, now you know." As she turned back to the loft, she said, "I better get cleaned up, and then we can go see the baby and Fi."

While Gina washed her hands and arms, Sam grabbed a towel and did a quick cleanup of the floor, took the sheet off the bed, and put both in the tub to soak. The plastic sheeting he tossed into the dumpster downstairs.

"Gi."

"Yeah, Sammy?"

"I think your car is going to need some serious interior detailing." His gaze was locked on the seat where Fi had been. The white leather was wet and stained.

"Thank God for removable floor mats, so at least I don't have to worry about the carpeting. I think you better drive, and we'll leave my car here for now."

"Good plan. You better start keeping a kit in your car with some rubber gloves and stuff, just in case you have to deliver another baby."

Gina laughed and swatted his arm playfully. "You're such a jokester, Sam. I really don't plan on doing that again any time soon."

"Yeah, well, you didn't plan on doing it this time either, did you."

"Good point." She shook her head. "I'll take that under advisement. Happy?"

"Happy. And proud of you." He kissed her, opened the door for her, and once she was inside, he drove them to the hospital to see Fiona and the baby.

When they arrived and found her room, Michael stood outside with Maddie. Alarm bells went off in Sam's head and he took Gina's hand and trotted down the hall to them. He skidded to a stop. "Mike, what... is Fi okay? The baby?"

"Everything's fine, Sam," Michael replied with a puzzled expression. "The doctor's in with Fi, and the baby is in the nursery right now. They're both being checked out." He paused and his eyes watered again as he looked at them. He could barely get the words out. "Thank you. I don't know what happened to me, it was like I was frozen and I couldn't move."

"It's okay, Michael." Gina came forward and hugged him. "It happens. I've heard of tough guys who served as medics getting all weird and queasy when their wives give birth. It has a strange effect on men, apparently." She grinned at him before turning to Maddie. "And how is Grandma Westen doing?" The women hugged.

"Excited. And grateful that you were able to take charge."

"Well, I was really glad to have my assistant along." She glanced at Sam, who backed away from giving Michael a congratulatory hug and moved on to Maddie.

"I heard you had to survive Fiona's claw-like grip," Maddie said with a chuckle as she squeezed him.

"Yeah, and I survived!"

The doctor emerged from the room with a smile on his face. "Fiona will be just fine."

"Doc, why did you let Fi go home," Sam asked, stepping up into the man's personal space. "Didn't you see how far along she was?"

"Actually, no. One of the midwives examined her, and she was only at two centimeters dilation. She had a long way to go."

"Obviously not."

"Sam, lay off," Michael warned as he grasped his friend's arm.

"No, Mike. I wanna know how anybody could let a woman suffer like that and send her home when she was clearly in labor."

"Mr..."

"Axe. Sam Axe."

"Mr. Axe, with first time mothers, it usually takes awhile for things to progress. But sometimes, a woman surprises us. We can't choose when a baby is born, unless it's a c-section, and even then strange things can happen." He shifted his position, looking for a way to make a clean escape. "If you'd like, I could talk to you some other time about this. Right now I have another birth to attend to. Sorry." He hurried away.

"I suggest Fi get a different doctor. That guy's an idiot." Sam turned but Michael was nowhere in the hall. Only Gina stood with him.

"Michael and Maddie went in to see Fi. A nurse said she's going to get the baby. Come on, let's go inside." She curled her hand around his arm and smiled up at him. "That was really sweet how you chewed out that doctor for Fiona's sake. But he was right. Nobody could have seen this coming."

"Sorry if I looked like a jerk. I was just really concerned about Fi and the baby. I mean, anything could have happened to endanger their lives!"

"True. But Sam, women have been giving birth at home for thousands of years. Fiona was in good health, so unless something odd happened, she was perfectly safe. And even then, we could have handled it until the paramedics arrived. So relax. It's over and they're both fine."

Soon after they entered the hospital room, a nurse wheeled in a plastic bassinet that contained a tiny pink-wrapped bundle. She made noises and wriggled under the blanket, not used to the light and sounds of this new world. Fiona took her into her arms as if she'd always been there, and her face glowed with love as she looked down at her.

"Everyone, I want you to meet our daughter, Michaela Erin Westen." She looked up at Sam and Gina and smiled. "It's so hard to believe that she's here."

"She's a sweetie," Gina gushed as she gently caressed the baby's cheek.

"She's so... beautiful," Sam breathed. "She looks like she got the best of you and Fi, Mike."

"Thank you, Sam. I don't know who she looks like," Michael said. "I'm just happy she's here, and now we have our own child to love. No one can take her away." He sat on the edge of the bed, put his arm around Fiona, and rubbed the back of his fingers over the baby's cheek. A tiny fist escaped from the blanket and waved around. "Look at that." He took her hand and she curled her fingers around his.

"Yep, she's a Westen," Sam cracked. "She's trying to escape already. Just wait until she's old enough for boys, and she starts sneaking out of the house."

"Thank God that's not for a long time, yet," Maddie piped up.

"Well, if you and Gina intend to be godparents for Michaela, you better get ready to help me protect her from those guys."

"I've always had your back, Mikey. We'll have hers too. You can count on it."

Michael gave Sam a wink. "I knew I could."

Sam grinned and said, "It'll be smooth sailing, nothing to worry about with her daddy and me watching over her."

Maddie gave him a look. "Making trouble is something the Westen boys do best, Sam. So if little Michaela takes after her father, you better get ready."

"Thanks for the warning, Maddie." Sam and Gina spent some time visiting with everyone and taking turns holding the baby. He wasn't as well versed in the practice as Gina was, but the experience he'd had with Kira at least gave him the confidence that he wouldn't do something wrong and drop her.

Michaela was so small, he couldn't get over her. As he felt her chest moving under his hand when he covered her after she loosened the blanket, he thought about the baby that he and Gina would never have. He wondered if it was his fault. For a moment he wished he could turn back the clock to when he and Gina were younger, and their chances of having a safe birth and a healthy child were much greater. Until this point in time, he never even gave a thought to being a father, but now he did, and he regretted throwing away his chances.

"Hey, Sam? Sam!"

"Huh?" He looked up at Michael, who stood over him with an anxious look on his face.

"I'd like my daughter back, if you don't mind."

"Oh, sure!" He finished wrapping Michaela in the blanket and handed her to her daddy, all the while a sharp pang of jealousy pierced him. Michael took her, snuggled her close to his body and started whispering things to her. Sam couldn't handle it. He stood and said, "We should probably take off, let this family get some rest." He moved toward the door and saw the odd look Gina gave him. She quickly hugged Fiona and said goodbye to everyone before following him out the door and into the hallway.

"What was that all about?"

"What?"

"You were in lala land there with the baby, and then when Michael took her away, you had this really weird expression on your face. Then you just jump up and say we've gotta go." She stopped him in the corridor, well away from the room. She looked up into his eyes, saw a sadness in them, and immediately, she understood. "It wasn't in the cards for us, Sam. We've just got to get used to it."

"I know." He put his arm around her and started walking toward the exit. "I just can't help but wonder why we couldn't have some baby wind up on our doorstep like Fi did? Only we'd get to keep it."

"There are a lot of other kids out there who need homes and parents. They're not babies, but I'd have no problem with that. And they might not be easy to work with at first, but Sam, I know we've got a lot of love for some kid out there who really needs it!"

He sighed deeply as they stepped out into the blazing heat and humidity. "I'll think about it, Gi."

"Don't wait too long."

"I promise, I won't." As he drove them home, neither one spoke for awhile. "How long do you think it would take to adopt an older kid?"

Hope welled up in her sunny expression. "I don't know. We'd have to look into it."

"Okay, by the time we get it figured out, maybe I'll be ready to take the plunge."

"Somehow, I've got a feeling we won't be sorry." Gina smiled at him and squeezed his hand.

"I hope you're right, Gi. There have been a lot of changes in our lives lately, and it's going to take some getting used to everything. I guess it would be nice to have a little time for things to just be normal for awhile."

Gina laughed. "Sam, you and your friends wouldn't know what to do if someone or something wasn't stirring up trouble. That's the way it is. And I'm okay with that, too, because I love you and we're in this forever. It's been quite the ride so far, and we've got a long way to go yet."

He kissed her hand as he held it in his. "I can hardly wait to see what happens next. But for the time being, I'll settle for dinner, dancing, and a little late night dip in the pool. Now, how's that for making waves?"

"It sounds great." She caressed his arm and leaned into him as they continued on their way home. The way things had been going since she met Sam, if their plans actually succeeded, it would be a really good night. She could only hope.