Word Count: 2,137
"Are you sure you do not want me to contact your father?"
"Positive," she said curtly. Not that he could blame her. There wasn't anything her father could really do anyway.
"Look, don't say it, all right. Please, just let's get this over with. I can't believe I had to wait three days!"
She'd been little more than a zombie during that time. She wouldn't eat, he had to force her to take a shower this morning, and he was pretty sure he'd take to burning the clothes she wore since her visit to the doctor's office three days ago.
He stopped at the front doors to the hospital. She paused, her hand on the door handle, refusing to look at him. Something else she hadn't done much of the past few days. He was beginning to feel invisible. What was more, accustomed to speaking very little, he prayed, wished for the right words to say this time. None came to him.
"You don't have to come in."
Was she insane? Were the hormones making her that delusional that she truly believed he'd drop her at the door and just leave her here? He left those questions unasked, realizing she would only get more upset if he actually asked them.
"Obligation has not entered into one decision I've made pertaining to you. And it's not going to start today."
"All right," she whispered, opening the door.
He parked the car and found her sitting on a bench by the doors when he walked from the parking lot. She wasn't looking at anything in particular, just staring off into space. It was something he'd grown oddly accustomed to the past couple of days as it was all she did. The television would be on, but it may as well have been tuned to a channel with nothing but static for all she paid attention.
"Claire," he said, knowing that asking if she was ready was the wrong question. Her scheduled appointment was for less than ten minutes from now. Not that it would matter if she was late, but there was no sense prolonging the inevitable.
"I know," she said, standing then. She took his offered hand, clutching it as if he was the only thing keeping her from falling. And he may have been at the moment.
She was checked in, tagged with one of those ID bracelets and up in the private room in no time. The clothes he'd carefully chosen less than an hour ago were shed in favor of a hospital gown. The nurse was talkative while explaining the various devices and getting the IV ready, but she knew the mood in the room was somber so wasn't overly chatty. It helped, he imagined, that he said nothing in response to her various statements or comments.
She patted Claire's hand once the IV was in and the machine distributing the chemical to her body was working.
"If you need anything, just let me know. I'll be your nurse all day."
All day? He hadn't thought it would take that long. Perhaps she had said so, but he hadn't really believed it would.
"Thanks," she whispered, settling on the bed.
He had to wonder what sort of sick joke it was putting her on the maternity wing, but he imagined that was standard protocol for any baby delivered.
She didn't talk much, but he was never far from her bed when she wanted to. Sometimes she just seemed to want to know he was there. He saw a look in her eyes he didn't understand and wasn't in the position to ask about it. At least not today. If their relationship had been more secure, not seemingly based on the very reason she was here today, he might have been.
"I'm so sorry," she whispered when the drugs were well on their way to doing as intended.
He sat on the edge of the bed. She shifted a little to accommodate him and he lay next to her as best as the bed would allow. He slid an arm around her, kissing her temple.
"You have nothing to apologize for."
"You changed your life for nothing."
He shook his head. "You are not nothing and are well worth any change in my life."
"But if there'd been no baby…"
"Perhaps things would have progressed at a slower pace, but I'd still be here."
She wiped her eyes before he could get her a tissue for the tears.
"You're not just saying that?"
"I understand you feel as though you failed or did something wrong. Your doctor told you that is not so. These things happen, Claire. We will have other opportunities to make a baby. Later when the timing is better. You heard him as well as I did, even if it had been born it may not have survived."
"You can change your mind on the autopsy."
"No!" she said adamantly.
"I do not want one either, I assure you, but I realize this is more personal to you than it is to me."
"I know it was ours, but you were the one carrying it and felt it kick before I ever could."
He moved from the bed when the nurse came in. He glanced at the clock, realizing hours had in fact passed. He couldn't imagine how she was going to recover from this. Too far along to be a miscarriage, their baby had to be delivered in the usual way. He had made arrangements for a plot and a service to be conducted. For that, he would contact her father. He respected her wishes about not wanting him here at the hospital, but Rene felt the other man deserved to know.
She had asked him a question the night after the doctor appointment when they'd found out the baby had not survived. She wanted to know what if she wasn't meant to have children. He couldn't provide an answer for her beyond telling her that they would then adopt if that were the case. He didn't understand, if her body was going to reject a pregnancy, why it would wait so far into it to do so. So, he believed that it wasn't her ability that had caused the death, but something else altogether. He would never know barring an autopsy, and neither wanted that done. It was horrific to think of someone so tiny being carved up to ease their minds that they had not inadvertently done something wrong.
She knew who it was touching her without looking. How? Rene was beside her already, holding her hand. Keeping her from falling to her knees was more accurate. She still couldn't believe she'd gone through everything she had to this point only to have nothing to show for it. Nothing but a small little casket, ready to be settled in a small little plot in the cemetery.
She let her head rest against her father's chest, welcoming his comforting touch as if she was a child again requiring the safety his arms provided to keep a nightmare at bay.
He said nothing. No one did. The priest had left a while ago, leaving them alone with their daughter whom they'd named Aimee while Claire held her in the hospital. The workers were hovering nearby, waiting for them to leave so they could lower the casket. Oh, they were out of sight, but Claire knew they were there. Like vultures.
I have a daughter.
Only thing was, she would never get to do any of the things with her daughter her mother had done with her. Rene would never be able to do the things with her he wanted to.
"It's so unfair," she finally said. A grave marker would be added eventually. She had her father's last name, which Claire was fine with. Pierce wasn't her real last name and using Bennet could cause problems.
She turned then to face her father. It was the first time since the day at the movies she'd seen him away from the diner. She stepped into his offered hug and she wept. Her shoulders shook she cried so hard. The soothing way he kissed the top of her head and smoothed down her hair made her think that maybe, just possibly she'd get over this.
"I'm so sorry, Claire," her dad said when the crying wasn't so violent. "I know that doesn't begin to cover it."
"Thank you," she mumbled against his shirt.
"You're taking some time off from work?"
"Yeah," she said softly.
"I'll see you again when you come back. If you need anything…"
"I know. He'll get a hold of you."
She should wonder how he knew to be here, but one look at Rene and she had her answer. She hadn't wanted her dad at the hospital. It was too humiliating and painful to make him sit there and watch her go through what she had. She'd never thought that she'd come home from the hospital at this point with anything but a living, breathing infant. The very idea of losing it this far along hadn't entered her mind. Everything she'd read, everything she'd been told suggested the first trimester was the bad time and once you were past that you were pretty safe.
Her father let go of her. The Haitian's hand took possession of hers once again so she was barely without contact from one of the two of them for more than a minute.
He left then. She watched as he walked in the direction of his car. He'd leave with no chance of following them. He wouldn't endanger her for anything, coming to the cemetery today was as close as he'd come. She noticed that there were fresh flowers on a nearby grave marker and realized even coming here he'd had a plan, a cover story.
"Are you ready to go home?" Rene asked.
She sighed, knowing standing here staring at the coffin and the open ground waiting to swallow it up was doing her no good. She just felt like she shouldn't leave. She was abandoning Aimee, leaving her behind. Though, of course, that wasn't true.
"No, but I know I have to," she said finally.
She stared out the window toward where Aimee was, expecting to see the workers there already. They were not, so evidently they had some semblance of decency and were waiting until they were gone. She knew the next time she came the ground would be whole again, no sign of disturbance.
She let out a sob again, not at all surprised when he handed her a handkerchief.
"Thank you," she whispered.
He did not reply. He was a man of few words any other time, today was no exception. There was nothing he could say and he seemed to know that.
She changed when they got back to her apartment, tossing the dress onto the floor. She hoped to never see it again, though she imagined Rene would pick it up, hang it in the closet behind his things so it would be out of sight but not gone completely.
She fell into bed then. He'd done so much the past week since she found out she wasn't going to be bringing home a baby. He cleaned and did laundry and had put away all signs of the fact that she'd been getting prepared to bring a baby home. The only thing he'd left out was the stuffed Piglet her father had gifted to them. It was the only gift she'd received for the baby that was personal rather than furniture, clothes or books.
He closed the blinds and walked into the other room. She heard the click of the dead bolt fall into place. She heard him walk through the rest of the apartment, ensuring he hadn't overlooked anything. The place was dark and she realized he'd closed all of the blinds, something she didn't usually ever do.
He showed her his cell phone before setting it on the nightstand next to his side of the bed. It was off. She imagined it would stay that way for a while. He slid into bed with her and without a word took her into his arms.
"I can take it from you if you wish me to," he murmured in the dark.
"No," she whispered. The thought had occurred to her as soon as she'd found out the baby was no longer living. That wouldn't be fair, though, because he'd remember. "I couldn't do that to you. But thank you for asking."
"All right," he whispered.
She had to remember, he'd lost her, too. For today, though, she wanted to be selfish and take the comfort he was offering to her.
Info. on icons used for background:
The non-illustrated icon is courtesy of lay-of-luthien @ LJ. She's got some nice work, and did this and 4 others very quickly! The illustrated icon is courtesy of: julietbunny who gave me this in addition to some other great goodies for the Heroes_Holidays Spring Hiatus project.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com