AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is set literally right after the Balmoral garden cottage scene in season two episode ten when Philip gets his act together. I know that obviously the next scene after the garden cottage one is when he finally is with Elizabeth when she gives birth (which might be my favorite scene in season two because they were finally happy). But I couldn't get this fic idea out of my head.
The title is from "Need You Know" by Lady Antebellum.
It's a quarter after one, I'm all alone
And I need you now
Said I wouldn't call but I lost all control
And I need you now
And I don't know how I can do without
I just need you now
As Philip kneels before Elizabeth with his forehead resting on her hands, rain slides down the windowpane.
She thinks nothing of it. Scotland gets more rain than even England does, and she's never been afraid of storms. What does get her attention is the distant thunder and the flash of lightning in the heavy, swollen clouds. She's been feeling like those clouds lately, and especially today. Ever since she woke up this morning, she's felt ready to burst. But Elizabeth has had three children before this one, and feeling generally uncomfortable is no cause for alarm. It's the norm. But then the baby kicks, hard, and her hand releases Philip's to go to the curve of her stomach.
Her husband looks up at her. "You alright?"
"The baby kicked, that's all," she replies, trying not to wince when their child does it again.
"Let's go to the sofa. This window seat is as hard as a rock," Philip says, standing, and holds out a hand to her. She accepts it, and lets him help her up. She's well into the stage of the pregnancy when even getting to her feet is a struggle, and she's not going to turn down even this small gesture. He might not have made much of an effort recently to look after her, but he's doing it now, and she's not about to turn him away.
He keeps her right hand in his, and his left goes to the small of her back as they head for the sofa. After everything, she is hypersensitive to his touch. During their courtship and early marriage in those golden days in Malta, she had been keenly aware of it for altogether different reasons. But now his touch is rare, and she has missed it.
She has missed him.
It is not as if she has stopped seeing him completely. There are always charitable engagements and state affairs to attend together. But with him always dashing away to who knows where, she misses him being just her husband, and everything that entails.
So when they sit down together on the brocade sofa and he does not pull away, she takes the opportunity to lean against him. His body is strong and sure, and her eyes flutter close as she listens to the steady thrum of his heart. When was the last time she's been able to listen to his heartbeat? To know that the organ pumping blood to his veins belongs to her and her alone?
The storm picks up outside, but she knows she is safe here with the man she still loves. As the wind buffets Balmoral's garden cottage, he puts an arm around her shoulders. She breathes in the scent of his cologne, hardly able to remember when she was last close enough to him to do so. But then a sharp pain hits her pelvis, and she tenses with a hiss.
His heads snaps to look down at her. "Lilibet?"
She savors the nickname as she shifts, trying and failing to find a vaguely comfortable position. "Just some more Braxton Hicks."
"Wait, more Braxton Hicks? When did you start having them?"
She puts a pillow behind her back and tosses it aside after a few seconds. "This morning. Around four thirty."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
The words "Because we weren't exactly sharing a bed last night" fly out of her mouth before she can stop them.
Maybe she doesn't want to stop them. Maybe she's not always a good Christian wife. Maybe she wants him to feel an iota of the pain he has caused her. But that feeling last for only a moment. If she wants him to work at their marriage, then she can't be driving him away at the same time. "Sorry."
"I suppose I deserved that," he says in a low voice, and she knows he understands she's not referring to just a mattress. Philip has never been an apologizer, but she can hear one in his tone. She would savor his admitting to his wrongdoing if another pain didn't hit.
She tries to stay calm. You're thirty seven, and you've done this three times before, she tells herself. No need to panic.
Thunder is starting to rumble again, closer and louder than it had before. The rain is no longer a light shower, but a strident downpour now, and there's a quick flash of lightning illuminating the room. The lamp flickers on the ornately-carved end table.
"Do you want to go back to the main house?" he inquires softly, hand going again to the small of her aching back even though she hasn't asked for it. He slips his hand under her cardigan and blouse, and rubs circles into her skin with his thumb. Even though it doesn't actually help, she lets him continue.
"No, I'm quite alright-" She's interrupted by the worst pain yet, and her eyes squeeze shut until it passes.
"You don't look alright to me."
"I'm fine," she says stubbornly, and tries to heave herself to a standing position. Her attempt fails, of course. "Could you help me up? Braxton Hicks are supposed to get better with exercise."
He stands and carefully pulls her up. But when she is on her feet, she realizes they're standing almost toe to toe, and she can't remember the last time they were this close. They stare at each other, the air between them growing as electric as the lightning outside, but another Braxton Hicks stabs her low in the gut.
"Breathe," he murmurs, running a hand up and down her arm.
She smiles faintly before going around him, and she starts to pace. He stays standing, hands in his pockets as he watches her every move like a hawk. She runs her own hands over the curve of her stomach, hoping it will soothe the baby, and tries to calm herself with deep breaths. It almost works, and for a few minutes, all she does is walk back and forth.
Philip looks out the window at the loudest crash of thunder so far. "Are you sure you don't want to go back?"
"I told you, I'm fine- ah."
She has to stop, reaching for the end table to steady herself. There are spots in her vision as the pain sears into her like a white hot poker. Her Braxton Hicks had never been this bad right before Charles, Anne, and Andrew had been born. But that's all it is. Just false contractions. Right?
Philip goes to her side, fingers on her elbow. "You're clearly not fine."
She blinks hard, trying to clear her vision. "Let's go back to Balmoral."
"Finally," he sighs, but lets her set the pace to the door.
The Braxton Hicks get worse as they move at a snail's pace. By the time they reach the foyer, they've had to stop five times. He quickly shrugs on his coat and helps her into hers as she struggles to breathe through another pain. It's so all consuming she has to just stand there and ride it out, vaguely aware that he is gently tying her headscarf into a knot under her chin. She has to take a moment to catch her breath, and walks forward on shaking legs. But just as he reaches for the door handle, her water breaks, liquid gushing between her legs to splatter onto the floor.
"Yes." She looks down at her now ruined skirt. "Maybe those weren't Braxton Hicks after all."
Thunder booms, seemingly right above them as he opens the door. The wind and rain slams into them as they look out into the night. Branches are being ripped off trees by the wind, and she thinks she sees an oak about to fall.
"I… I don't think I can make it in that," she admits.
He turns up his collar, ready to head out into the storm. "Of course you can."
She bites her lip. "The trail is too long."
"I'll carry you if it comes down to it."
She suddenly grabs a fistful of his sweater with a cry. If she was lucid enough to call the pain a true contraction she would, but she literally can't see anything for a terrifying moment. When the darkness fades, she sees Philip in front of her.
"I can't," she gasps, trying to catch her breath.
"We'll make it back in time-"
She looks up at him. "I refuse to have the baby on the trail."
For the first time, she can see panic in his eyes. "Are you that close?"
"Not quite, but with how long that trail is, I might get that close. I can't go outside, Philip."
He shuts the door and turns back to her. "What do you need?"
"To sit down, honestly."
If the pace to the door was slow, the way back to the study is glacial. But they finally make it, and as Philip hovers by her side, he asks, "Do you want to lay down?"
Elizabeth shakes her head. "Not yet."
She sits down gingerly, leaning against the back of the sofa and feeling like a beached whale. Her legs fall open, and for once she doesn't close them or demurely cross her ankles. It feels better to do so, actually, and at that realization, fear runs like ice through her veins. That means the baby might be coming sooner rather than later. But she's not in a hospital or Buckingham or even Balmoral. She's in Balmoral's garden cottage in the middle of a storm with only Philip. And now that she thinks about it, he'll have no idea what to do. It's not as if he was in the room for the first three births, and if he has to deliver this baby-
Pull yourself together, she orders herself.
But then her entire body goes rigid when the newest contraction begins, and it's so bad she can't see or even hear anything. Only pain exists until she can see her terrified husband's face, and his voice is nearly drowned out by the ringing in her ears.
She blinks, breathing hard, and can hardly form a coherent thought, let alone string together a sentence.
"What?" she says in a pale voice.
"I'm going to get a doctor."
That instantly snaps her out of her fog. "What? No!"
"You need medical attention."
"No, you can't go-"
"You need a doctor-"
"I don't care!"
"Send Michael, send a carrier pigeon, I don't care." She locks gazes with her husband. "I need you here with me." Tears well in her eyes. "I can't do this without you."
As her words hang in the air, they both know it's not just about the baby, or the storm, or a doctor. But then the moment is shattered by another contraction, and she grabs Philip's hand and lets out a strangled sob.
"I'm going to call Michael," he says when she comes to.
He cups her cheek. "I'm only going across the room. I'm not leaving, alright? I just have to make the call."
He goes across the study, and tears spring to her eyes for an altogether different reason. The words I'm not leaving echo in her mind.
"This is Philip. Get me Mr. Ardeane right now. It's an emergency." Lightning turns the room a stark white, and instantly thunder seems to crash right above them. "Michael, Elizabeth is in labor. We're in the garden cottage. Bring a doctor-"
The windows rattle as the lightning and the thunder come together. Then the lights go out, and the room is plunged into darkness.
"Michael? Michael, are you there?"
More lightning and thunder arrive simultaneously. They are clearly in the heart of the storm now.
She hears the phone slam down into the receiver. "Bloody hell."
As if her body decided she had too long of a break, the next contractions is the worst one yet. She can't even form words, only able to groan, and her husband races to her side.
"Philip," she says faintly, "Philip, since the doctor's coming here, take off my knickers. I don't want to have to do it when he gets here."
He starts by taking off her low heels, setting them out of the way under the sofa, before reaching under her skirt. He takes the time to run his hands over her thighs, but again the moment is interrupted by a contraction. When it passes, he takes off her underwear matter-of-factly and stuffs the garment into his coat pocket.
"I'm not exactly going to leave that lying around," he says with a smirk, and she lets out a breathy laugh. It feels almost like Malta again.
"Leave the skirt." She doesn't want Michael or any other servants seeing… that.
But once again, she doesn't have time to even think about being embarrassed. She grips the edge of the sofa cushions so hard her knuckles turn white, and she's out of breath by the time the contraction ends.
As the pain ebbs and flows, she waits to hear a car outside or a knock on the door, but Michael's voice does not come from the hall. She's lost count of how many contractions she's had, but knows her private secretary should have been here a long time ago. Elizabeth is in so much torment she barely notices the storm outside, but the few times she does, it seems to be only getting worse.
But then after an eternity, she feels the urge to push.
When Charles was born, she had been scared as an inexperienced new mother in her first labor. But even though her body knows what to do by now, this scenario could not be more different. A hundred disasters flash behind her eyes. She shifts closer to the edge of the sofa, now barely remaining sitting on the cushion, and spreads her legs wide.
"I have to push," she says tightly.
He raises an eyebrow. "Isn't that what you've been doing this whole time?"
Her frayed nerves go haywire. "No, I wasn't. Now just help me!" she snaps, and immediately regrets it. "Sorry."
"Yell at me all you like," he says easily, the corner of his mouth turns up. "What do you want me to do?"
"Wash your hands," she blurts out, mentally kicking herself for forgetting.
It's his turn to look at her nervously. "Are you sure you want me to leave right now?"
"Go! And hurry!"
He leaves, glancing back at her, and she remains behind alone in the study. Silently begging God for help, she takes a deep breath and pushes for the first time.
As with the births of her other three children, this is the part where the pain become ten times worse. She can't hold back her guttural groan as the baby descends into the birth canal, and Philip sprints back through the door.
When she bears down again, tears leak out of the corner of her eyes. The next time, she lets out a noise somewhere between a sob and a scream, and Philip looks terrified. She almost asks to hold his hand, but she needs his hands whole and able catch the baby, not broken by her grip.
So she remains on the sofa. She's in so much agony that it doesn't even register that Philip is kneeling before her. Elizabeth has never been a crier, but she openly weeps now, and screams aloud when the top of the baby's head leaves her body ever so slightly.
"Get ready to catch the baby," she rasps through her flood of tears.
Philip looks under her skirt. "I can sort of see the head, but-"
"Just do it!" she screeches, past caring about apologies, and gathers what little strength she has left to deliver the baby's head.
She officially enters the ring of fire stage as the head descends. She can't even think straight as she struggles to push the head out, but through her tears, she sees her husband's expression. She's done this four times now, but tonight is the first time he's seen this. He stares at the top of the baby's head in awe, and for a split second she can almost forget the pain.
"I've seen a lot in the war, and the Navy," he breathes, "but this beats all."
A scream is torn from her throat as the baby's head finally passes through, and she allows her body a moment to rest. But she has to force her mind to think coherently.
"Is the cord around the neck?" she asks through gritted teeth.
"It looks like an intestine," she says, about to curse everyone who says men should be taught nothing about female anatomy or childbirth. Society might still be prudish, but Philip being innocently unaware of what an umbilical cord looks like could mean their child's life or death.
"There's nothing around the neck," Philip assures her. "It looks normal."
A contraction decides her rest is over, and she starts to deliver the shoulders. He reaches under her skirt to cradle the baby's head, and all she can do is weep as she pushes.
"Use," she gasps, "use your coat to catch the baby."
He obediently removes his raincoat, but sets it aside to peel off his softer blue sweater. He quickly rolls up his shirtsleeves and reaches under her skirt again with the sweater. "I have the baby."
But she can't answer. Her entire world, her whole existence, her everything is pain and the baby's torso between her legs. There is nothing but those two sensations. All she can do is push and cry and scream as the torso slides out so slowly she thinks it might kill her.
Then, in a gush of fluids, the baby falls into Philip's hands. Elizabeth collapses.
Their child's first cries fill the room as she drags air into her lungs. When she has enough strength to lift her head, she sees Philip cradling their newborn – a boy, they have another son – to his chest. His hands and arms and shirt might be covered in blood and mucus now, and the infant is still attached to his mother by a pulsing umbilical cord. Nevertheless, an enraptured Philip gazes down at their fourth child. When her husband looks at her with a smile, she can see tears in his eyes.
As their son quiets, there's a rumble of something outside, and she initially thinks it's just more thunder. But she realizes it's an engine just before car doors are heard slamming shut, and then footsteps race to the cottage. The front door bangs open without a knock, and she hears Michael's voice.
"In the study," Philip calls, his back still to the study door as it flies open a moment later. Michael and a man Elizabeth assumes is a doctor burst in, and she realizes she's never seen her private secretary scared until this moment.
"Your Majesty?" Michael repeats, and she sees his expression turn from terror to relief when he realizes she isn't dead. And then the newborn prince cries, and Michael puts a hand over his heart.
"Tha' must be ye new wee bairn," the other man says in a Scottish accent so thick he probably bleeds Loch Lomond lakewater. He's got bushy red hair and is wearing an honest-to-goodness kilt, but he carries a medical bag, and that's all that matters.
Michael nods, and the doctor remembers to bow. This is one day where Elizabeth is fine with ignoring formality. "Dr. Mackintosh, Your Majesty," Michael says as the Scotsman goes over to Philip. "He has a practice in the village of Crathie."
"Looks like ye did me job for me, Your Royal Highness," Dr. Mackintosh says with a grin.
"I'm glad to let you take over," Philip admits with a shaky laugh.
"My sincerest apologies for the delay," Michael adds. "It took time to locate Dr. Mackintosh, and a tree had fallen and blocked the trail, and then we got lost on the shortcut-" He clears his throat. "Very sorry, ma'am."
"You did your best," Elizabeth says, voice hoarse. "And Philip did an excellent job." When she smiles at her husband, she sees the blood on his hands that had soaked through the sweater. "Michael, would you find some towels?"
"Of course, ma'am." Michael nods, as if bowing more than necessary will make up for being late, and leaves.
Dr. Mackintosh looks under her skirt. "Looks like ye haven't delivered the placenta, Yer Majesty."
She shakes her head. "Not yet."
"Why don't I take a look at ye bairn, Yer Highness," Dr. Mackintosh says to Philip. As the Duke of Edinburgh carefully puts the squalling infant into the doctor's arms, Philip looks down at the cord.
"What exactly is a placenta?" her husband asks as he goes to Elizabeth's side. He looks like he's been to battle with how much blood he's covered in, but she has never loved him more than this moment.
"It's a temporary organ that helps the baby-" She cries out at another pain.
"I thought the delivery was over," the instantly-worried Philip says.
"The placenta has to come out after the bairn," Dr. Mackintosh corrects in a gentle tone. "That's it, Yer Majesty. Keep breathing."
Elizabeth fumbles for Philip's hand. The pain is nowhere near as bad as before, but her overtaxed body doesn't take kindly to more sensations of any degree. The placenta falls out and hits the rug with wet splat, and Philip looks at it in revulsion. "That's disgusting."
"Well, this laddie looks perfectly fine to me. I think it's time to cut the cord, Yer Majesty," Dr. Mackintosh says. "Yer Highness, would ye mind holding yer laddie again?"
"I'd be glad to," Philip says, taking the sweater-wrapped infant from the Scotsman. The doctor opens his bag and takes out silver instruments, and when the clamps go on the umbilical cord, the newborn wails.
"It's alright," Philip croons. Their son's screams are ear-splitting when the cord is actually cut. His father, however, isn't fazed by the blood dripping onto the carpet from the end of the shortened cord. "I know it hurts. I know. But you're alright, see?"
Dr. Mackintosh looks over at Elizabeth and sees her longing expression. "Have ye held yer laddie yet, Yer Majesty?"
Her throat closes up. "Not yet."
When Philip carefully places the infant in her arms, Elizabeth starts crying all over again. She can't remember the last time she cried tears of happiness, but it's a welcome change.
Michael returns with what is likely every towel in the entire cottage, and Philip wipes as much blood as he can from his skin. Dr. Mackintosh steps aside as the prince goes to his wife's side, and Philip bends down. The doctor and the private secretary look away when Philip drops a kiss to their son's head and another to Elizabeth's temple.
"You did it, Lilibet," he says against her hair. "And so well, too."
"We did it," she corrects when he pulls away. "I could never have done this without you."
He rolls his eyes good-naturedly. "The most significant thing I did was catch him."
"Which was vitally important," she insists.
"You did everything else," he counters lightly.
"Of course I'm glad Dr. Mackintosh is here," she begins, "but I could have been in the world's finest hospital surrounded by fifty doctors, and all I would have truly wanted was you."
He hasn't looked at her this tenderly since Malta. "I'm afraid you're stuck with me, then."
She smiles. "You're all I need."
The infant gurgles, and his father looks down at him in wonder. Philip smiles at Elizabeth, truly smiles, and she reaches for his hand. He grasps hers, and she knows somehow, some way, that they will be alright.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I know this was quite… descriptive, to say the least. But this would definitely be bring them closer together, and goodness knows Philip and Elizabeth (the fictional versions, anyway) need that. There's a major difference between Philip standing by, as in the actual tv show, versus delivering their child himself. Now that would be a bonding experience.