Author's Note: Just when I thought my mind was becoming a less depressing place, this story idea popped into my head and refused to go away until I let it manifest onto the page. Like with my other epic, Fade to Black, this story, too, will be trying, and its themes will be even more so. There will be loss, and emotions will be rife. But I can promise you; reading and reviewing this story will be worth your time, because I fully intend to make it as beautiful as can be. It will seem sad at times, and yes, maybe you'll cry...but the ending will be happy, and I hope that's all that matters. As always, thank you so much for reading! Feedback would be much appreciated.
Disclaimer: I do not own Criminal Minds or any of its characters.
Lying back in bed, her eyes shut and her lips curved into a placated smile, Emily absentmindedly ran her fingers through her husband's thick hair, sighing as he continued what he had been doing for the past half hour - showering her pregnant belly with reverent kisses.
"You doing okay?" he asked for what seemed to be the hundredth time.
"Mmmm, Aaron…I'm absolutely perfect," she said, her eyes fluttering open. She managed a quiet laugh. "Granted, I would love it if this little one would just come out already."
Hotch chuckled. "Someone didn't get the memo that his due date was yesterday," he said lightly.
"Tell me about it."
"Come on, Michael," Hotch coaxed lovingly. "How about we give Mommy some time off?"
Both husband and wife erupted into laughter as their son responded with a swift kick.
"Michael," Hotch chided, grinning. "You silly boy."
"Michael?" Emily echoed, tears coming to her eyes. "I thought you wanted a James."
Moving up the bed to lie beside her, Hotch lazily kissed her lips. "I gave it some thought, and realized that your Michael sounds better than my James. Or…he could be Michael James Hotchner," he suggested, smiling at the thought of sharing his middle name with his soon-to-be born son.
Emily bit her lip, deep in thought. "What about James Michael?" she countered softly. "I like the way it sounds," she said wistfully, smiling once more.
"James Michael? I like it," Hotch said, nodding. "We'd still call him Michael?"
Emily grinned. "Of course."
They shared one last kiss. "Then I think it's perfect. James Michael Hotchner; it's a good name. Strong. It's a man's name."
Emily breathed out a little laugh. "It sure is." Resting her head against Hotch's shoulder, it seemed that she was drifting off to sleep until she spoke once more. This time, her voice was more…hushed. "Everything's going to be okay, right?"
Unwillingly, the same frightening memory came to mind for both of them. Emily, six months pregnant, on her last week of active duty, going into a house without backup…their unsub, appearing seemingly out of thin air…tackling her to the ground…pushing her gun far away…kicking her, over and over and over again. Her chest, her ribs, her stomach…
Even almost four months later, Emily instinctively brought down a hand to shield her stomach. There had been so much blood… "Michael's going to be okay?" she asked again.
Hearing the innate fear in her voice, Hotch pulled Emily as close to him as possible, needing the reassurance himself. "Remember? We visited Doctor Harper that night and she said you were absolutely fine. The ultrasound showed nothing but a healthy, beautiful baby." He rested his forehead against hers. "Everything's going to be okay."
At that, Emily managed a smile - albeit a small one. "I'm glad."
The surprisingly spacious hospital room was filled with yet another startlingly loud scream.
"You're doing so well, Emily, sweetheart," Hotch crooned in encouragement as he hovered beside her. He could hardly think straight; he hadn't been able to since Emily's water broke a mere hour or two earlier. "That's it," he nodded as she took in a deep breath and held it, bracing herself for her next contraction. "Just like that, sweetheart."
Emily's eyes, which had been fluttering closed at the sound of her husband's placating voice, immediately shot open once more. "God!" she yelled, her face scrunched up in pain. Her grip on Hotch's hand tightened exponentially. "Oh, God, oh, God, oh -"
"You're dilated more than nine centimeters now, Emily," a kind young nurse informed with a smile on her face. "Only a few more minutes until we start pushing, alright?"
Hotch grinned. "Did you hear that, sweetheart? Only a few more minutes until you get to see Michael," he said appealingly.
"Michael…" Emily breathed. "My sweet Michael."
"That's right," Hotch said, squeezing her hand in support. A tender beat of silence passed. "I don't know if I've told you this before, but…" he swallowed thickly, "you're going to be an amazing mother, Emmy."
Tears sprung to her eyes. "You really think so?"
"I know so."
"But what if I - oh, holy shit!"
"Alright, Emily, it's time," the nurse announced, situating herself at the foot of Emily's bed.
The moment Emily was preparing to push, however, something unexpected happened.
Emily clutched at her heart in pain. "Oh, God, it hurts," she moaned, her expression shocked as she struggled to take in a steadying breath of air.
"Emily?" Hotch's eyes were wide. "What's going on?" he asked; to himself, to her, to the nurse.
"I…can't breathe," she managed, wheezing at the same time. "Aaron -"
"Move aside, sir," a doctor urged as he came rushing in the room.
Hotch barely heard the nurse calling out for epinephrine over the ominously slowing beep-beep-beep of the heart monitor when suddenly, the doctor was plunging a needle into Emily's thigh.
"What are you - "
And suddenly, as if nothing at all had happened...Emily could breathe again.
Hotch felt his heart rate gradually return to normal. Grabbing onto an armchair for much needed support, he willed himself to calm down. However, with the knowledge that anything could have happened to Emily in the split second that had passed...
...it was just too much.
Slowly but surely, her eyes fluttered open.
He stumbled forward. "I'm right here, Em," he breathed, his eyes wide with apprehension.
"What happened? Oh my God, Michael," she gasped.
"Let's have one big strong push, alright, Emily?" the nurse asked, her smile somewhat more guarded this time.
They were all on edge, and understandably so.
"One push?" Emily echoed. "I can do that," she told herself. "I can -" The resulting pain from the contraction knocked the wind out of her.
Hotch pressed a kiss to her sweaty forehead. "One more push, sweetheart. One more."
She grimaced. "But...what if I can't?" she asked quietly, her voice almost scared. She wanted to be able to do this; she had to be able to do this. To prove to herself that, despite her one missed chance in Rome, she really could have the future she wanted. She really could have the baby she wanted.
"You can; I know you can," Hotch assured. "Emily, I love you so much, and I am absolutely confident that you can do this."
"I love...oh, Jesus Christ!...you, too, Aaron," she cried.
"I can see the head!" the nurse cried out jubilantly. "Once more, Emily; that's it." Unbeknownst to both Emily and Hotch, the doctor who had previously come dashing into the room was still there, standing in the corner of the room anxiously, hoping that nothing would go wrong. Her near heart failure had been a scare, and the health of the baby...
"Just one more push," Hotch echoed.
"You said that last time!" Emily protested, barely able to think through the haze of pain wracking her body.
"I know, I'm sorry, sweetheart. I mean it this time, though, I really do," Hotch pleaded.
"I can't do it," Emily screamed in a passionate combination of both exasperation and frustration. Tears were now streaming down her flushed cheeks. "I just can't."
Hotch took both her hands in his. "Please, baby; for me? For Michael. You can do it."
And just like that, with one last scream, one last push...James Michael Hotchner was born.
Emily's head fell back against the pillows in exhaustion, her chest heaving with the sudden onslaught of oxygen flooding her lungs. "Oh," she sighed, smiling weakly as the nurse cradled Michael in her arms. Her and Hotch's gazes met. "I did it," she gasped, almost in disbelief.
"You did it," Hotch said proudly, his eyes shining with unshed tears and absolute adoration.
"We did it," she amended, the lines in her forehead smoothing out as she made an effort to relax. "Look at him," she gushed.
"He's beautiful," Hotch said in awe, his voice hushed.
They were enjoying the brief moment of perfection when, suddenly, Emily realized that something was off. Despite the hushed clamoring of nurses as they hovered over Michael, it was eerily quiet.
Emily's next breath came out in a stifled sob that had Hotch rocking back on his heels in worry. "Why isn't my baby crying?"
Author's Note: Thank you sincerely for taking the time to read. If you have the time, please leave a review; no matter short or long, signed or anonymous, they are the best motivation and inspiration for me, and I treasure them like the finest gold. Stay tuned for the next chapter!