Here is the next installment of Forty Weeks, slowly coming to end.. Second to last chapter. Give me a bit to decide how to end it- I don't want to disappoint..
Marshall's eyes fluttered open, exhaustion determined to keep them shut. The shrill, far less mature wails of the younger Mann-Shannon babies echoed in his ear drums. Mary was out cold, groaning for a few seconds, rolling over and ultimately losing her battle with sleep. He smiled, it was his turn tonight if they were keeping track, but it was hard to keep a schedule in his mind. Mary was usually woken up anyway because it was unusual that their daughter would take a bottle or only need to be changed.
Norah, as the weeks progressed became better and better at snoozing through the screeches of her younger sibling and for that, both the Marshals were thankful.
He stretched, realizing this was mellow compared to everything else that had happened the past two weeks. This was boring in the least boring way compared to her entrance in the world, he thought as he made his way down the hallway and into her nursery. So many things could have happened; everything could have gone incredibly wrong on the side of that road. It gave him the chills wondering what could have been.
"You did an absolutely amazing job Mr. Mann." Doctor Reese smiled, examining the half asleep Mary. "On both Mom and baby." She grinned. "Once we get your little one all checked out, you can have your Daddy and Mommy time and we'll be out of your hair." She glanced at up at Mary dozing in and out. "Mary, it's perfectly fine if you want to shut your eyes and get some rest. It's safe now." She rolled away. "And if you want to get into more of a comfortable position that is okay with me. Just be easy on yourself, you do have a few stitches"
Marshall cringed. "Was there anything I could have done to prevent that from happening?"
"For what? Future reference?" Mary cut in groggily. "In your dreams, Marshall."
"You did everything you could, Mary did her part, and you did yours by doing your best to prevent any further tearing, it could have been much worse. She owes you one. You've spared her a few more weeks of pained waddling." chuckled. "Let me go get your little girl."
Once she disappeared, Marshall still felt jumpy, wringing his hands and wiping the sweat from his palms on his dress pants, his white shirt splotched with miniscule blood stains, which were barely noticeable. Mary looked over at him, her brow furrowed, "You all right?" She croaked, her tiredness coming through in her every word.
"I should be asking you that." He said nervously, sitting down beside her. He grabbed her hand. "Are you?" Marshall questioned.
"I'm fine." She yawned. "I just want to see her again before I fall asleep." Mary squeezed weakly at his large paw. "Just to make sure I wasn't imagining how perfect she was." She smiled.
"Of course she's perfect." He stated adamantly. "Just like Norah." He pecked her hand gently.
"Okay, don't go all soft on me." She teased, her head moving to the opening door and his eyes pouring into the clear, plastic bassinet they wheeled the squirming pink bundle in.
"Here she is. Baby Mann happy and healthy, ready to see Mom and Dad." Doctor Reese, announced, hitting the brake to park and, grabbed the child from her slumber. She was pink, her eyes were squeezed shut and face was scrunched up in fuss. The doctor laid her in Marshall's arms. His heart swelled with pride.
"Look what we made." He grinned, tears trickling down his cheek.
He braced himself for a cunning retort, perhaps a diddy she'd been saving for this very day when he got emotional, but she only smiled back. "Thank you, Marshall." She whispered, swiping the bottom of the child's bare foot with her fingertip before drifting off to sleep.
He looked down at the angry baby. "What do you need Lou?" He questioned soothingly, rocking her back and forth. "Huh? What's making you so upset?"
"No way, Marshall! Nuh-uh, we are not naming our baby Rae! Damn it, that's a no!"
"It was just a wild card… I wasn't expecting you to say yes…" He sighed, taking another peek at their little girl. "I thought you said you liked the name 'Lucy'?" Marshall asked, looking up at his wife. She was sitting up in the hospital bed, her face a little red due to an abnormal increase of her blood pressure shortly after delivering. He didn't want to make her anymore upset than she was already.
"I know… But she doesn't look like a Lucy!" Mary whined, scratching around her I.V.
Marshall held his head in his hands; it's not easy to name a human being- they had to live with it for the rest of their life. It would be a hard burden to bear if a tricky choice now caused any heart ache for their child later. "Mary?" He asked, scooting closer to her. "How about Louise Shannon?"
Mary rolled her eyes, preparing to scoff, but stopped. "Louis Shannon Mann." She said quietly, staring down at the wiggling bundle just feet away. "You sure do look like a Louise Shannon." She smiled, raising her eyebrows. "Louise… Lou Mann."
"Lou… I like it." Marshall stated. "I think we've got you a name, little girl!" He cooed, taking her gently into his arms.
"Do me a favor, Lou, please don't be hungry." He strained his neck to smell her bottom, cringing he tried not to gag. "Boy, that is ripe. Well at least we don't have to wake up mommy."
"Thanks for the thought, Marshall. But, you're attempts are in vain." She yawned from the doorway.
"God, I'm sorry Mare." Marshall responded. "I don't think she's hungry." He said, laying the baby onto her new changing table.
"Stan, I need your help." Marshall asked in a panic.
"Anything for my best inspector, what do you need?"
"Well, Mary and the baby are going home tomorrow and I don't even have the crib set up, or the changing table, the border isn't-
"No worries, Marshall, we have it covered." Stan winked, reaching up to pat him on the shoulder. "Now, let me meet your new little girl."
"No worries." She crept over to the crib, hanging onto Marshall's shoulder as he worked to grab some wipes and a clean diaper. "Norah sure has learned to deal with her, huh?"
"Yeah, she's a heavy little sleeper." He replied, chucking the diaper into the special mechanism Stan had purchased purely on the whim that it looked 'neat'. It came in handy and they were both grateful. It banished the smell of nasty diapers, a smell they didn't enjoy being in their kid's room.
Mary stood behind him, her arms crossed covering her still, oddly shaped bulging stomach and she shuddered. Marshall looked over his shoulder. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing.." She answered. "It's just.." Mary made her way to the rocking chair she had firmly made clear was too cliché to be in a nursery, but sat in it anyway. "When I had Norah… I was so relieved to feel that emptiness in my gut. I mean, it still wasn't pleasant to feel your insides scrambled all to hell, but it felt better than it does this time." She seemed to admit it with shame, looking down at her feet as she gently rocked back and forth. Marshall listened intently, nodding as she went on.
"That's normal, Mare." He said sweetly, lifting the child from the table and swaying to console her wiggling. She looked as if she was attempting to climb up Marshall's pajamas, but slowly she calmed, allowing him to lay her back in her place.
"Yeah, but…" She fought back tears. "Damn hormones…" She cursed.
Marshall frowned, taking a few steps toward her. "But, what?" He looked down at her, his eyes glazed over with worry.
"But I feel…so wrong. I don't feel like me right now and I can't stand it." Now the tears worked their way down her face and her lip quivered and Marshall knew this wasn't his Mary at this exact moment. She was a hormone casserole, swimming through these unfamiliar emotions, trying to find her way out. Trying to be U.S. Marshal Mary Shannon again and get away from the overwhelming take-over of motherly instinct every moment of every day. He enjoyed the way she was with their kids. He never realized it before, but Norah and Louise looked so content in her arms, so natural and comfortable. And she melted while the babies lie in the curvature and crooks of her arms and her tummy. The evenings had gone the same way the past three days. Mary would feed Louise in her arms, Norah would gum on her bottle and fall sound asleep in her legs. All of his girls were usually sound asleep on the couch when he arrived home from the office. He would coax Mary awake after he had taken Norah and put her to bed and grab Lou from her arms, when he was finish settling the smallest one in, Marshall would go back for her. Lately, she'd hold him down the hallway, being dragged by the tired Marshall to their bed. He would toss a few times, awaiting any cries from the little ones, usually getting a few winks before he was beckoned.
"Wrong… Well, Mare." He hadn't an idea what to do, how to console her. "I don't know what to say. Nothing about you is wrong." He smiled tiredly. "You're good at being a mom… What else can you be?"
"I feel like I'm losing who I was, Marshall. I don't regret the girls. I don't." She said adamantly.
"And losing who you were, that's upsetting you?" He pried gently, stepping closer and crouching to be level with the woman in the chair.
"No. That's what scares me."
Marshall cocked his head confusedly. "What do you mean?" It was a dumb question, he saw it in her face, the rolling of her eyes, the drop of her shoulders.
"I miss it. Don't get me wrong, I miss it. But not the way I.. used to." She was seemingly afraid to admit this.
"That's not a bad thing. You shouldn't be ashamed. I know you love being a Marshal, Mary. You're one of the best and that's undeniably so, but it's natural. You have babies at home."
"But, I don't want to be that stereotypical 50's housewife with an apron and the fifteen kids at her heels!" She argued.
"You're not. Not at all. I would never expect that from you. I expect you to be you. I expect to spend time with my girls, and go to work with my wife in the morning and come home with her at night. Everything's the same, but with an extra person." He smiled this great smile. "Of course you're rattled, Mary. We're not just U.S. Marshal's Shannon and Mann with baby Norah anymore, we're The Mann-Shannon's, with two little girls Nor and Lou." He beamed proudly at the idea of it, at the mere mention of it out loud.
She was silent, her breathing loud and steady. He grabbed her hand. "I get that it's scary… But, we're scared together, you got that?" Marshall pulled her up into his arms, feeling the extra Mary that had become so familiar in the last eight months.
"I don't like being scared, you know that." Mary stated with a pout, staring at the child in the crib, watching the slow motion of her chest ride up and down in her PJ jumper.
"We shouldn't fear." He stated. "We're partners… at everything." He added with his usual cheesy-ness. "And that concept couldn't please me anymore." Marshall kissed the top of her and then her neck and then her lips. "Bed?" He asked, his hands pressed to her cheeks, looking into her pools of exhaustion.
"After you, Partner." Mary responded playfully.
"Stan, I'm telling you, snap her up." Marshall Mann said to his boss.
" Is this some kind of Stockholm syndrome?" Stan joked, looking up at his best Inspector playfully.
I pride myself on being able to tell when a relationship won't work, and normally I love being right more than anything. More than Blue Moon beer, Exxon on Main Street, food smothered in mole sauce….
But sometimes it's good to be wrong.
What do you think? Please Review with some suggestions on how you would like to see this end!