I have a headcanon that, if WWI were to break out in this universe, Matt would instantly go fight for Canada, and we all know that Kate would want to do her duty. Since women did not fight, I imagine that she would have joined as a nurse/aid in the war effort. This story explores that.
There's a little bit of mature content, but nothing overly explicit. It's a hard T rating.
Also, the title of the story is based on the fact that Canadian WWI nurses were often called bluebirds due to the blue outfits they wore.
The last year has brought her nothing but death, its stench permeating the air around her, more foul than the smell of blood that has come to surround her. She has looked into each of the men's eyes as they came in, seeing the agony, the suffering, but she hasn't seen him yet, and if she clung onto the glimmer of hope still left inside her, maybe it meant that maybe he is still alright. She has lost count of how many men had passed by, how many had left the hospital in wooden boxes or white bags, but it is far more than the ones who were sent away to convalesce.
Every time another man is sent home, cold, white, tags clean and outlining his name, she berates herself for her stupidity. She thought she'd wanted a life of adventure, but God, if this was what adventure meant, then she wants nothing to do with it.
She is changing the bandages of a man without an arm when the chaos of another arrival makes her look up. Two soldiers in uniform are carrying the stretcher, and the painful cries of the man on it make her wince. Two nurses hurry over, blue aprons stained with mud and dirt and blood, and show them where to place their new charge. One of the men- the pallbearers, she thinks to herself- looks up, and his eyes meet hers.
She drops the bandages. No, it can't be. But it is! His face, muddy, covered in weeks' worth of grime, and his cheekbones, sharper than they had ever been before, but those eyes… She would recognize them anywhere.
He is looking at her, his lips parted, forming her name. But she can't hear him, sound has stopped completely, time has stopped completely. He is here, alive, safe, and that's all that matters.
Somehow, her feet carry her over, her patient forgotten. Somehow, his arms wrap around her, the stretcher no longer in his hands. Somehow, their lips meet, and the intensity of it all makes her dizzy. Her heart pounds in her ears, he's here, he's here, he's here.
They break apart, and the bubble pops. Sounds of groaning and crying, the smell of blood mixed with antiseptic, the air, heavy with death, permeates them, drawing them back to the world.
"I thought I'd—" his voice is thick with emotion.
"Shh." Her hands reach up to his lips, and she shakes her head. "When do you have to go back?"
"They'll- they'll expect me back by the morning, at the latest."
"Can you stay tonight?" Her own voice, begging, shocks her.
A voice breaks through, calling out "De Vries, we need you over here!"
"Coming!" she shouts back. Turning back to him, she whispers, "Wait outside tonight."
With a squeeze of his hand, she turns away, back to her duties, back to the stench of death.
The afternoon crawls at an agonizing pace despite how busy she is, but once the sun sinks below the horizon and the next shift of nurses come, she runs outside the makeshift hospital, finding him sitting on a log in the field behind it. His face is clean now, and she can see that it really is him, despite the changes that he's gone through, the tormented look in his eyes, his hollowed out cheeks. She's had no time for vanity, but she can only imagine how different she looks, too. At least, she feels different.
He stands up, hurrying over to her and gathering her in his arms. He kisses her deeply, and she pushes back against his lips, his body.
When they draw apart for breath, there is no need for words, only hands moving over fabric, over skin. They sink into the grass, and she pulls him on top of her. No, this is not what a lady is supposed to do, but she wants this. She wants this more than she's ever wanted anything in her life, and judging by the hardness against her thigh, he wants this just as badly. His hands run up and down her body, her thighs, and when he settles between them, everything feels right again.
With a groan, he sinks into her, but unlike the groans she hears daily, his is full of life. If there's pain, she doesn't notice. All she can think of is him, around her, above her, inside her. His breath comes in ragged pants. She feels herself ripen beneath him, her chest pressing against his, her hips reaching up. She longs for more, more contact, more heat, more him. Her heartbeat is deafening: he's here, he's here, he's here. Her hands grip his shoulders, his neck, his hair. Her legs are wrapped around him, so tightly that she feels as though she'll never let him go. He's rocking them both, quiet moans slipping through his lips until she crushes them to her, mouths opening, tongues sliding along one another. She can feel him shuddering, and then… then she can feel him pulsing, spilling into her.
After a few moments, he moves to lie next to her, and takes her in his arms again. He kisses her, one of his arms supporting her head and caressing her shoulders, and his other hand trailing up and down her waist.
No, she hadn't reached her peak, but this, feeling him against her, tasting his lips, feeling his skin… This is bliss, it is perfection. The moon makes his skin gleam, and her hands can't get enough. She runs her palm through his chest, his collarbone, his shoulders. His body has changed, widened. His muscles are bigger, his bones far more defined. He is thinner than she has ever seen him, yet he seems bigger, so much bigger than he has ever been. She urges her mind away from thinking of why— tonight, nothing comes between them, not even a war.
The hand that was absentmindedly caressing her hips reaches between her legs. Adoringly touching her thigh, his fingers reach up, and a breath escapes her throat. His lips join hers, and she moans. He has reached that spot—the spot that makes her coil in pleasure, and his featherlight touch teases her until she is whimpering, begging him to, please, oh God…
Once her shaking has subsided, laughter comes, and then tears. "Matt, I was so afraid—"
"Hush, darling," he whispers into her hair. "I'm here now."
"You are." Her voice is weak, tainted by cries.
He holds her close, and they come apart together.
She twists her ring as the doctor gives her day's duties. The feeling in her abdomen is undeniable, not that she needs yet another clue. She knows precisely what is happening, and she is thankful that the blue dresses are loose and that the apron adds another layer. It has recently started to show, and now, the quickening…
She's just over four months along, four glorious months. Four months of carrying him with her wherever she went. But at the same time— four months of having to hide her sickness, the nausea, the lightheadedness. She supposes that she could get sent home, but then, what? Her parents would not take her in, of that she is sure. She wasn't yet married, and they didn't even like her fiancé… they would not accept an illegitimate grandchild, whatever the circumstance.
But maybe, maybe his mother— No, she couldn't ask that of her. Her stomach gave another turn. But maybe, maybe she would understand. It was her grandchild, after all… Maybe the only one she would have from her son— No, no point in thinking that.
She looks up at the doctor. "I'm not entirely sure that I can continue that much longer. You see…"
She sips her tea at the table, getting ready for the day. She insists that she wants to help Moira with her chores around the house, but Moira refuses to listen to her and tells her to rest, especially in her condition.
Moira is standing at the sink, washing the last few dishes from breakfast, and sighs. Kate looks up at her.
"Is everything alright?"
"I suppose. The mailman just passed our house again."
"No news is good news, right?" She feels the baby kick at this.
"No news means no letters either," Moira replies, her eyes downcast as she turns and sits at the table, facing Kate. "Do you think he has received any of the letters we've sent him, at least?"
Kate shrugs and shakes her head, her hand absentmindedly going to rest where her child has just kicked. Every time she thinks of him, the baby kicks, moves. She thinks that maybe, even if the worst has happened, the life growing inside her keeps him alive. She shouldn't think these things, not when there has been no news, good or bad.
She has lain awake many nights pondering her fate. She is engaged, yes, but not married. And now, her fiancé, her child's father may never come home. She may have to raise this child alone. But she wouldn't be the only woman raising a child alone now; so many have died in the War, so many children have been left without fathers. But her child may have a father, he may still be alive. There have been no letters for six months, and she can't even be sure that he has received any letter she has sent since. He may not even know that he is about to be a father, he may never know.
She feels Moira's hand on hers, the warm, dry skin bringing her back to reality, to her wet cheeks. Their eyes meet, and her stomach flutters for a moment. Moira's eyes are green, not blue, but she has seen the concerned look on her son's face.
"It'll all be alright, child. You'll see."
Kate frowns, but nods nonetheless. Moira doesn't know; it's impossible for her to know. But she's trying to comfort her, and that must count for something.
She feels as though she is about to burst, every movement taking far more strength than necessary. She is constantly hot, sweaty, the feeling of comfort is far too foreign now. Even so, a cup of tea in the morning, with real milk and real sugar… she had spent a year dreaming for the comfort of a cup of tea, and now she is lucky to have one every morning, without fail.
Lucky… oh, how she would give up tea for the rest of her life if her Matt were to be lucky. Lucky enough to survive the war, lucky to come home in one piece, lucky to meet his child. What she wouldn't do for such a privilege, for such luck.
There are rumors now, rumors that the war will end soon. The Belleau Woods have been taken back, but even so, people have been talking about peace for the last four years, and what has happened so far? She has seen more death, more injuries than anyone should ever have to see in their lives. But now, anytime now, she should be seeing life. They say she has one more month left until the baby comes, but how could that be? She is already huge, and her back pain is unimaginable. The simplest of tasks have become burdens, and she's not sure if she can withstand another month of this.
She still has not heard from him; it has been eight months since she last saw him, six since she last heard from him. She writes him every week, telling him the most menial things, but she is quite sure that none of the letters have made it to him. There hasn't been a letter from the government, however, nothing claiming that he is missing in action, taken prisoner, injured, or… At this point, she is hoping, wishing, praying for a miracle. All she wants is for him to be there, to be able to hold his child when it is born. At this point, she is beginning to wonder if there is anyone out there listening to her prayers, or if they are simply wasted breath.
She hears a motorcar pull up on the gravel path, and a knock on the door a few minutes later. They all look up at one another, and Isabel stands up to get it. Moira goes back to her sewing, Sylvia to her magazine, and Kate takes another sip of tea. A scream pierces the air, and the three women stand up, Moira in front of the two younger ones, holding out her arm, signalling them to stay back.
The sight of a young man hugging Isabel is the last thing they expect to see, especially not a blond man in an army uniform…
"Oh, thank you, God!" Moira's voice cries out and she hurries to hug her son, Sylvia following closely behind.
Kate cannot believe her eyes. He's here, really here. His arm is in a sling, and he is even thinner than he was eight months ago, but he's here, alive, safe. She feels her hands shake, but brings them closer to her body, cradling her child. Her child would have a father, someone to hold it right as it was welcomed into this world.
Above the women's heads, brown eyes meet blue.
He lets them go and reaches out to her, hypnotized by her gaze. Her cheeks feel wet, her smile making them ache. She hasn't smiled like this in years.
When his arms wrap around her and his lips meet hers, she never wants to let him go. A sob escapes her throat, and he gently draws himself away from her lips, his hands coming up to wipe the tears. He looks down at her, eyes widening.
His hands drop down to her abdomen, cradling the hard belly that envelops his child. He falls to his knees and presses his lips against it, eyes closing before meeting hers.
"Eight months?" His voice cracks as he speaks.
She nods. "I'm due anytime now."
Laughter, a sob, escapes his throat. He presses his lips back to her navel, and she feels the baby kick. He looks up at her in surprise, his eyes brimming with tears. In one fluid motion, he stands up, a hand holding her jaw, another feeling his child kick. He holds her close, and they come apart together.