Disclaimer: Come on, have I ever owned this stuff? I'd love to, I really would, but…no.
Sam Hall gritted his teeth as his wife uttered the shriek. He felt as if he were the one in agony, mainly because she was gripping his hand firmly enough to snap the bones. Laura Chapman-Hall was arching back against her hospital bed, clutching his hand as if it were life itself and screaming the most random curses.
"Damn it!" she yelped. "Shit! Damn! Bloody hell!"
Across the room, Brian Parks cocked his head to the side. "Did she just say 'bloody hell'?"
Laura's large, usually sweet, chocolate eyes sprang open and she used the hand not currently breaking Sam's to hurl a box of tissues at their friend. Brian ducked and shot Sam a wounded look.
"Control your girl, man!"
Sam gave a helpless shrug, trying to keep himself from giving an unmanly cry of pain. He stroked Laura's curls, hoping to bring her some sense of comfort.
"Is there anything I can do?" he asked, panicking slightly. One of the three nurses gave him a sympathetic smile and shook her head.
"You're doing great," she told him.
"I've got something you can do," Laura hissed, reaching up with her free hand and yanking her husband down aggressively by his collar. They stared at each other for a moment, noses just touching. Then she snarled in a very un-Laura-like way: "Have the damn kid for me!"
"Sweetie," he mumbled, "don't insult the poor child."
"Your fault," she muttered back, releasing him. "Totally your fault. You will regret it, I promise."
Brian gave a high-pitched squeal of laughter. "Better make a run for it, Sammy, boy."
"Shh," Sam told them both, keeping his tone gentle. He lifted Laura's hand to his lips and kissed it softly; her grip relaxed ever so slightly. "It'll be all right," he promised. Laura shut her eyes and gave a short nod.
"Right. Right, I'm sorry. It just….hurts! God, it hurts!"
Labor always hurt, Sam supposed. Still, it nearly killed him to see his love in so much agony.
"Shouldn't be much longer," the doctor told them. Sam closed his own eyes and prayed.
"Happy thoughts," he murmured. "Just remember happy times and it'll be over before you know it."
He took his own advice. Happy times. There was the time, years ago, at a meeting of the Decathlon team…
Sam was bored. He wasn't much for teams—never had been. In fact, he usually did everything in his power to avoid the insane drudgery of human contact, to keep himself shrouded from the idiots he was forced to share a school with.
Then she came into his life. She changed everything.
"Sam, are you even listening?" Laura demanded, kicking him lightly under the table. The team—consisting of only three members—was gathered in the art room, crowded at a table. Books and notes were strewn across the desktop and Laura was bent over them, dark eyes roving from sheet to sheet. Her pen moved at swift random, marking mistakes that Sam himself would never have caught. So caught up in watching her, he'd barely realized that she was even speaking to him.
"Of course," he lied quickly, attempting to look as innocent as possible. She lifted her eyes to meet his for a brief moment, frowning at him as though she were trying to decide if he was being sincere or not. She shook her head, clearly irritated.
"You've turned in your slip, right?"
The slip in question, allowing him to go with the team to New York, had been signed and turned in the first day, but he didn't think she desperately needed to know that.
"It's in," he answered simply. Brian gave a soft snorting sound from beside him, a noise that quickly turned to one of pain as Sam's foot connected with his shin.
Laura's eyes flicked to the other boy. "And yours?"
"In," Brian answered, shooting Sam a glare.
"Good." Looking satisfied but by no means less flustered, Laura gathered half of the pages in her arms in one swift motion. "Sam, come with me."
He jumped. "Where?"
"I need to drop these in my locker," she told him briskly, though a light flush lit her cheeks.
"And you need an escort?" Brian asked dryly. She shuffled one sneaker against the tiled floor.
"I feel…uncomfortable in this place when everyone's gone," she explained. "It feels like a ghost town…like…"
"Like a phantom's going to swoop down on you at any moment," Sam supplied, getting to his feet. "I've always felt the same way."
Gratitude shone in her eyes. He offered a small smile. Brian rolled his eyes.
"Perfect pair," he mumbled, ignoring the way Sam twitched. "Go on, then, we don't have all night here."
The two left the room, Sam taking some of the escaping papers from Laura's arms. They walked slowly down the empty hallway in silence.
Suddenly, Laura said, "Thanks."
He jumped again. "For what?"
She shrugged. "For joining the team. Brian and I don't exactly…well, he's nice enough, but I'm not all that comfortable around him. Not when it's just the two of us."
"Why not?" Sam asked, interested. She lifted and dropped her shoulders again, stopping at her locker and fiddling with the lock.
"He's just really hard to talk to. Normal talking, I mean, like human conversation. He's like a machine, just rattling off those facts like his very life depends on it."
Sam chuckled. "That's Brian. I can't remember a time when he wasn't like that."
The locker opened and Laura took the papers from his hands. "He's a good person for the team, but…well, don't tell him I said this, but I like hanging out with you much better." Her face burned, making her look more adorable than ever to Sam.
"I won't tell him," he informed her, placing two fingers over his heart. "Scout's honor."
She turned her head slightly to look up at him, a small smile playing at the corners of her lips. "Why doesn't it surprise me that you were a Boy Scout?"
He laughed again, surprised at how at ease he was with her, just talking. Any other time he'd tried to be normal, he'd tripped over himself…
"Sam?" She was smiling a bit more freely. "Sam, we can go back to the classroom now."
He nodded, too quickly. "Right."
Sam smiled to himself. "That was a good day."
"What was?" Laura gasped around her own question and squeezed his hand.
"I'll tell you later," he told her. "Just…just think of something good, okay?"
"You said that already," she grumbled, sweat beading furiously on her brow. "Good Lord…"
Sam shivered. Mexico wasn't cold—at least, not as cold as the hellish wasteland of New York—but it wasn't quite as boiling hot as he'd thought it would be. Fingers trembling, he zipped up his jacket and stuffed his hands into the pockets.
At least I can't see my breath, he thought tiredly. As it was, he would have been happy to never again see another winter.
"Hey," Laura said from behind him. He turned and smiled.
"Hey." He reached out and took her hands. "How are you?"
She pulled a face. "Exhausted. Mom's bent on making the house look perfect using the two bags of goodies she managed to rescue from home. You?"
"Been better," he said honestly. She smiled.
"Well, for one, I'm cold." He grinned slyly. "But that can be amended very easily." He bent his head toward hers; she laughed and pulled back.
"Not just yet, Sam Hall. It was quite a trip over here; I'm still catching my breath."
He groaned in mock agony. "Laura, your house is two down from mine!"
"Ah, whining already. I have the loveliest effects on men." Her eyes twinkled as he pouted. "Oh, stop that. You know that will get you no where with me."
"Really?" He thought for a moment. "Well, I have very few modes…I may have to resort to my last."
"Last what?" she asked curiously.
"Resort." With that, he lunged forward, tackling her to the ground and sitting on her, keeping one hand behind her head to keep her skull from smacking against the soft grass. She gave a shout of surprise and reached up to smack his chest.
"Sam, what are you doing?" she demanded. "Get off of me right now!"
He grinned. "Let's see. You've taken away my adorable kicked-puppy offense and my charming James Bond offense. Really, this is the only one left and you've brought it upon yourself."
"Sam!" His name left her lips amid a burst of giggling; his fingers were probing her ribs, finding all of her most ticklish places and exploiting them mercilessly. She wriggled and bucked against him, but he was a great deal stronger than she. He grinned more devilishly.
"There is no escape," he intoned in a purposely-deep voice. "Not from Sam, Master of all ticklishness!"
"Oh really?" She pushed against him once more, futilely, then fell back and lay still for a moment. He poked her in her most ticklish spot and she squirmed, then reached up, grabbing his face with both hands and hauling him down against her lips. He relaxed for a second—only a second—and…
"Ah ha!" she cried triumphantly, flipping him over and straddling him. "Victory is mine!"
"You can't honestly believe that I'll let you stay up there—ah! Ah! No, no, that's not fair!" It was his turn to squirm through laughter as her hands slipped underneath his jacket and tee shirt and tickled him. "Stop! Stop! Mercy!"
"What do you say?" she asked evilly.
"Ah! I don't—ha!—know! Anything! Anything! Just—hah!—stop!"
"How about 'Laura, you are smarter than I will ever be and you have bested me once and for all in the art of tickling'?"
"Fine!" He screwed up his eyes, trying to keep track of what she had said. "Laura, you…you are…the best…smartest…most amazing gorgeous woman I will ever meet and you are a far better person than I'll ever be!"
Her hands stopped moving. He opened his eyes to slits, looking up at her hopefully. She was still grinning, but the evil glint had disappeared from those fascinating brown eyes. She leaned down, crossing her arms on his chest and resting her chin on them, looking down at him.
"That'll do," she informed him. He smiled, reaching up to brush back a wayward curl that had somehow found its way into her eyes.
"I meant it too," he told her. "I don't know where I'd be without you."
"Dying of hypothermia, probably," she replied, tone light to keep the morbidity out of the true statement.
"Probably," he agreed. "But to be fair, you would be under all that snow without me."
"We make a pretty damn good pair." She turned in his arms as he sat up, holding her tightly back against his chest.
"That we do." He nestled his face against the back of her neck, kissing his way down the porcelain column. She made a soft sound of happiness.
"I love you." The words were out of his mouth before he could even register them. She looked up at him from under tangles of soft brown hair.
"You know what?" she asked, sounding for all the world like a little girl.
"What?" he asked, slightly apprehensive.
"As fantastic as it seems…I love you too."
Sam's heart was full as he mentally relived that memory. He had felt more like a hero than ever before at that exact moment…
Laura was gasping. He kissed her hand again.
"Have you ever seen so many stars?" she asked. Sam shook his head silently.
They were standing on the balcony of a hotel. Jack Hall had just received some prestigious award—Sam wasn't sure which one, though he knew that his father had been incredibly giddy all week because of it—and Sam and Laura only just escaped the reception. Now they stood, staring up at the sky, in perfect contentment. Laura was leaning back against him, one hand snaking behind his head to tangle in his already-messy hair. Her other hand held one of his, her thumb gently stroking his palm in short rhythmic motions.
Both of his arms were curled around her waist. He felt like a knight in shining armor, as cheesy as it sounded, and he couldn't quite explain why. All he knew was…
"It's time," he murmured, more to himself than anyone else. She glanced at him, turning slightly.
"Time for what?"
His stomach was oddly calm. His hands weren't shaking at all. He released her waist and turned her by the shoulders.
"What?" Her eyes took him in, worried and loving. "Is something wrong?"
He sank down on one knee, his hand reaching into the pocket of his neatly-ironed black trousers. Laura blinked, her own hands resting just over her heart. He took a moment to steel himself and to appreciate just how beautiful she looked in that black dress…
"Laura Chapman. I know we're only nineteen, but I also know I've waited long enough. We've faced more than any other couple I know and we love each other so much…I can't live my life without you." He drew the tiny blue box from his pocket. "Laura, will you marry me?"
Tears were dripping down her cheeks and for a split second he worried that he'd just made the biggest mistake of his young life. Then she lurched somewhat clumsily forward and hurled her arms around his neck, kissing him hard enough to convey what measly words could not.
"Yes!" she cried against him and he felt the word reverberate through him, warming him to the core.
"Help me," she pleaded. "Sam, please. I love you. Help me."
His heart broke. The doctor smiled over at them.
"You're fine, Laura, you're fine," he told her. "You'll be done in just a few minutes."
"Promise?" she asked weakly.
"I do," Sam practiced. "I do. I do."
"Yeah, yeah, you do." Brian rolled his eyes. "You're getting married, you sap, and you're afraid that you'll forget to say 'I do'?"
"Don't sweat it, man," J.D. said, straightening his tie. "She loves you, you love her. We all love you both. Lots of love. Nothing will go wrong."
"Wrong?" Sam's heart gave a terrified leap. "What could go wrong?"
"Nothing," J.D. answered, patting his shoulder. "Relax."
He didn't relax. Not as he paced the back of the church. Not as he tried not to fidget at the front of the church. Not as those pairs of people came ambling down the isle…
Only when he saw her, dressed in traditional white, did his pulse slow slightly. Only when she took her place beside him and smiled that wide, warm, Laura smile did he find the courage to smile back. And when those words were spoken and the priest asked that question, Sam had no problem remembering his line:
"I do," he told the entire congregation confidently. Out of the corner of his eye, he distinctly saw his father sniffle.
He kissed her, deep and long, and she grinned against him.
"Mrs. Sam Hall," she murmured, quietly enough that only he could hear. "Has a pretty nice ring, doesn't it?"
"Mrs. Sam Hall," he told her, bending down and pressing his lips to her forehead. "I love you so much."
"Sam…" Her voice was hesitant. He looked up to find his wife standing just at the bedside and looking pale. Pale, but very, very happy.
"What?" he asked, reaching for her. She snuggled under the blankets with him.
"You're going to be a father," she told him proudly.
"I…" He stared. "Are you serious?"
She nodded. He said nothing for a moment. Then, just as she looked about to comment, he jumped up and bounced like a little boy on the bed.
"A father! A dad! A daddy! A padre! I'm going to have a kid!" he cried excitedly. She laughed, leaning against the pillows.
"That you are."
He bounced one last time, landing on his knees. "A dad. Me. Oh my God."
She had been amazing over those nine months, Sam reflected as he watched her. He had been expecting everything—tantrums, mood swings, weird cravings that would likely dive them both insane. Yet she had still managed to shock him. She'd been so calm, more so even than she usually was. She was perfect.
He kissed her now, as she gave one final scream and fell back. A new wail filled the room and Sam's eyes filled with tears.
"Congratulations," the doctor proclaimed. "A healthy little boy."
"Eric," Laura gasped quietly, her fingers still clenched around Sam's. He nodded breathlessly.
"Eric Samuel Hall."
Eric was tiny, even smaller than Sam had expected. Practically drowning in what seemed to be a humongous blue blanket, he yawned and stretched. Laura gave a tiny sob as she held him carefully. Sam grinned like a fool.
"I love him," he said.
"I know." Laura grinned as well. "He's got his daddy's eyes. Gloriously blue eyes."
"And his mommy's curls." Man, this kid had a lot of hair. Sam couldn't stop beaming.
Something struck him as odd. "Wait…what happened to Brian?"
The young man was splayed on his back on the floor. One of the nurses grinned.
"I think your friend's got himself a tiny fear of blood."
Laura snickered. Sam leaned his forehead against hers, letting their noses brush.
"Thank you," he whispered.
A/N: Fluffiest fluff that ever fluffed. And I'd like you to keep in mind that I've been listening to Phantom of the Opera music all day long, pretty much without pause, so in the back of my mind I've been seeing Laura singing to a man with a mask…interesting, no? lol, enjoy the insane fluff.