Disclaimer: I own nothing :)
Summary: Hannibal is forced to cope through a terrifying situation.
Warnings: a little language, nothing too graphic by way of descriptions.
I thought it would be fun to torment Hannibal, with whom I have the most difficulty, with a little harmless nonsense. This is experimental for me in more ways than one, so feedback good or bad would be especially welcome here. Thank you for reading :)
Hannibal was not used to overwhelming panic. As a soldier, the emotion was not entirely unknown to him of course, but he rarely allowed himself to submit to it. He was the best; he always had a plan or was able to formulate another plan should the first, second or third go sour. No matter what happened, even if he became separated from his unit, he still had his ingenuity and years of training and experience to fall back on. He was confident that he could think and fight his way out of almost any tricky situation.
He had gone inadequately equipped and undermanned on dangerous missions before and managed to complete whatever task had been expected of him. This time, however, was spectacularly something else: he had nothing but himself, a hunting knife, three colourful sweaters and a flashlight that helpfully turned into a lantern if you twisted the bottom then pulled the top by way of personnel and equipment, and frankly he was having waking nightmares even contemplating about what might be expected of him.
Right now, he was thoroughly screwed.
More specifically, about nine months ago, their latest client had been thoroughly screwed by her husband. And right now Hannibal was trapped alone with her in a caved-in mine to deal with the consequences of what he now believed to be the most terrifying combination of four words in the entire English language: "My water just broke."
Next time a pregnant woman said 'uh oh' he was going to just allow the comment to pass without enquiry.
It had now been about six hours since Mrs Millie Pattison had uttered those dire words just after the mine entrance had collapsed, and contrary to the adage, time had not healed in this case. Not one bit. In fact it was safe to say the situation had been gone downhill faster than a fat hippo in a shopping cart ever since. He had tried to think of something constructive to do but his brain had apparently become incapable of formulating any sort of useful plan that did not involve exacting revenge upon Mr Pattison, who he blamed entirely for his current predicament.
He was fairly sure his lapse in higher mental functions was due to the fact he hadn't had a cigar for over six hours and the knowledge he would not be having one in the near future either. Not usually one to take orders from anyone, especially when it came to cigars, he had decided discretion was the better part of valour when it came to Millie Pattison. The woman was not rational. Being 5-foot-nothing and built like a bamboo stalk except for the temporary swell of her belly, he was not afraid of her, but there was very little to do to stop her shouting every time he so much as reached for his lighter other than humour her no-smoking request or belt her one; there was no way he could do the latter to a woman, let alone a pregnant example of the species.
Hannibal pushed down the unease and, not for the first time since this mess had started, set about reviewing the situation and its circumstances with a view to forcing his mind to come up with something workable.
The case had seemed easy enough to begin with – the Pattison's owned a little dairy farm that a local property developer, Clive Brendan, who also happened to be the brother of the local sheriff, wanted in order to build a mall – and things had gone brilliantly for the first two days in spite of Brendan stepping up from paying the local goons to pull nasty pranks on the young couple to more direct methods and Mr Pattison having gained a busted arm between the time he had set out to hire the team and their arrival at his farm.
Murdock had named and conversed with every cow on the farm, BA had set to repairing all machinery that had been wrecked before the team's arrival and Face had infiltrated Brendan's office to plant a bug via his especially winsome secretary.
Through the bug they had learnt Brendan's plan for the next day and Hannibal had sent the team off to make preparations for what he was pretty sure would be the final showdown and the end of the case. Face and Murdock had been tasked with scamming a crop duster, BA with fixing a generator and Hannibal had remained to prepare the house for an attack with the Pattison's and invite the state police to attend as the final cleanup crew after the team would be long gone. It was then that the first disaster had occurred.
Mrs Pattison had been struck with a craving for beetroot.
They had none in the house and with Mr Pattison's broken arm he couldn't drive her to the store. Hannibal had tried, but the woman would not be reasoned with: she had to have beetroot, she had to have it now, Hannibal had to drive her and she had to go with him in case she decided she wanted something else as well. Maybe it had been down to the understated tones of the case – largely only taken at all due to Mrs Pattison being pregnant and more than one poorly hidden soft heart in his team – but Hannibal had decided to oblige her against his better judgement.
The store was roughly an hour away from the farm and about thirty minutes into the journey, Millie had announced the second disaster. She needed to pee.
Shortly after she had exited the vehicle to relieve herself in the bushes, she had screamed and Hannibal had gone running to her aid. She had been mercifully decent at the time of his arrival, though slightly embarrassed that she had been frightened by a rabbit. They had walked back just in time to witness the third disaster: an unidentified idiot in the process of stealing the Pattison's truck.
Probably one of Brendan's goons meaning only to inconvenience them, he had driven off so fast that a small canvas bag had fallen off the back of the pickup to land at the feet of a deeply unhappy Colonel. He had discovered that the bag contained only a torch and three hideously patterned jumpers after the fourth and final disaster had hit them; they had found and entered the abandoned mine seeking shelter as a light rain had begun to fall and, just to complete the already full day so far, the entrance had spontaneously decided to collapse.
His team were good and were almost certainly out looking for them right now, but given the circumstances it was unlikely they would be found any time soon and there was little Hannibal could do to speed up the process from here. They certainly wouldn't know just how urgent things were.
Hannibal had checked the cave-in and found that he wouldn't be able to clear a path himself and he couldn't get a message out. All he could do was wait and put his faith in his team. And pray they were rescued before he had the miracle of birth thrust upon him.
"Hey, Mr Smith?" Millie's strained voice cut through his thoughts and he glanced down to where she was currently sitting on the ground, propped up in an awkward-looking position against the cave wall. She had been slowly migrating downwards over the last six hours as the contractions had started kicking in. The speed at which they had been increasing and intensifying was not helping his nerves and he dreaded to think what they were doing to Millie's. "Have you thought of anything yet?"
He grimaced. He had indeed thought of something – forty-two unique ways to maim her husband and well over a hundred places he would rather be right now – but the best plan he had come up with to date involved a large cork. It was a testament to just how desperate he was that if he had a large cork in his possession, he would have used it.
"The guys would have missed us about three hours ago – it shouldn't be long before they come looking for us. Just a little while more and I'm sure we'll be out of here."
Her face, ghastly pale in the bluish-white torch light, scrunched up. "We didn't exactly leave an easy trail to follow... didn't know we'd need one. You think they'll find us in time?"
"Sure they will!" he lied with a big, reassuring smile even as he wiped cold sweat from his brow. As a military man, reassuring civilians was second nature to him; Face would have been proud of him. The very real possibility of them being trapped here overnight was something for him to deal with; Millie had quite enough to cope with already.
"The contractions are coming harder and faster – I don't think it'll be long before..." she trailed off and Hannibal was obscenely glad she didn't complete her sentence. "I'm two weeks premature. I'm scared."
"It'll be alright." he said in as confident a voice as he could muster. "You'll be fine, try not to worry and relax. You'll be out of here in no time."
Millie let out a small chuckle and turned a wan smile on him. "You lie beautifully."
"I'll take care of you. I promise."
"Strange, but that I'm actually inclined to believe."
Hannibal smiled even as he wondered how he was ever going to keep the promise. And more distressingly, what he was going to have to do in order to keep it. He was not unaccustomed to pain and suffering, or comforting those experiencing the sensations, but this was unknown territory. He had more compassion and protective instincts than he liked anyone to know about, but his experience ran more to massively injured soldiers and not frightened young woman about to give birth.
That was a whole other animal altogether. Your average soldier, for example, was usually comforted just by the fact it was a Colonel telling them to hold on and even took it as something of an order, while pregnant women appeared to have no regard whatsoever for military rank. To Millie Pattison he was not an all conquering authority figure she could believe in and follow without question; he was just some white-haired cigar-smoker who couldn't even come up with a plan.
He sighed in muted anger and pure frustration. Just as he was wondering if yelling for help would do any good, Millie seemed to read his mind and let out a wordless shriek. He turned to her slowly and watched frozen as she slid to lie fully on the ground.
"I'm scared." she said again in a tiny voice, and Hannibal believed her. He was crouching at her side before he made the conscious decision to move.
"It's okay, kid, you're not alone. I'm here." he said softly, the words also coming automatically, and was glad that some phrases were applicable in more than one situation.
"Still scared... God, please let the baby be alright..." she said, her tone laced with fear. "Will you hold my hand?" she asked and held up a shaking arm in his general direction.
Hannibal forced a gentle smile and took her hand. He regretted it a very short time later and he winced, half at the unholy scream Millie suddenly unleashed upon the world and half at the exquisite pain her grip channelled into his hand at the same time. A young woman was terrified and hurting and he had no idea what to do. He was an expert, but not at this, damn it, and he would give almost anything to have a doctor in here with them. The idea of Maggie Sullivan being trapped with him in a caved-in mine would never be unappealing to him, though never had he considered the possibility with quite such desperation as now.
He was a man of the world and knew the basic logistics of this sort of thing, but was it meant to happen this quickly? A quick check of his watch told him it had only been six and a half hours now since her water broke. Wasn't labour supposed to be a long, drawn-out affair that your mother held against you for the rest of your life? Didn't they need hot water and towels? There was some kind of panting involved somewhere, wasn't there? How was he supposed to tell if everything was normal or if something was going wrong?
What the hell should he do?
He shook his head to clear it in a quick, jerky movement. This was not the time to panic or wish for the impossible while reality rolled past him. If he had to be in command of this birth, then he would do his duty to the best of his abilities, he would support his troops and he would not run away.
"Jesus Christ!" Millie screeched, exerting a superhuman amount of force on his hand. "P-please... can you check my dilation?"
Mentally, he retracted the part about not running away as he watched Millie's knees slowly rise and part. Dilation... he shuddered. He was clued up enough to know that would involve him inspecting something that would leave him unable to look her husband in the eye ever again.
"Uh, honestly I wouldn't know what to look for, or how to report my, uh, findings." he fumbled his way through the sentence, unable to tear his eyes away from her knees.
She surprised him with a deep belly-laugh that trailed off into a whimper as she gritted her teeth and mutilated his hand further. "Guessing this is your first baby too?" she asked breathlessly once the contraction passed.
"I can confidently say I have never given birth before."
She gave a shrill laugh and closed her eyes for a few moments, apparently concentrating on her breathing though without much success.
"I think I'm further along than I should be... hasn't been that long, but the contractions... they're coming every few minutes now... shouldn't be happening this fast... not for my first baby... the midwife said it could happen... but I never thought it'd be this quick... And I'm two weeks premature..." she panted suddenly, head rolling slowly side to side, and sounding almost delirious. "Wasn't expecting that... guess I got induced early by the cave in... maybe it was the shock... if I'm at ten centimetres... then I'm fully dilated and the baby... the baby should start coming soon... I think I am, I shouldn't be but I am... feel like I have to push... contractions are coming about couple of minutes now... and lasting for twenty years it feels- ARGH!"
Hannibal steeled himself as she rode out another contraction and chose not to point out she had repeated herself a few times.
"IT HURTS!" she bellowed and Hannibal bit back a conditioned response that almost escaped. 'Suck it up, kid' spoken in a gentle and encouraging tone worked okay on soldiers but was probably not appropriate for this situation. Brave though he was, Hannibal was not going to tell her that while she still had hold of his hand.
"I wish Bob was here with me..." Millie almost sobbed.
"If I could switch places, believe me I would." he said with a grin, but apparently she was no longer in the mood for humour. The change in her demeanour almost made him jump.
"Get my skirt up and check my dilation, now!" she roared, narrowed eyes flashing and lips pulled back in a snarl. "And tell me if you can see the baby's head crowning." she added in a weak, little-girl voice that left him flustered at the sudden personality shifts. For one crazy moment he wondered what Murdock would be like in labour, shuddered, and in another even crazier moment resolved to forbid the pilot from ever getting himself pregnant.
"Hurry up!" she snapped and he moved, bracing himself for the horrors to come as he grabbed the lantern, deciding he needed the light more than her right now. He barely shuffled a few inches though before her grip on his other hand stopped him.
"Ah, you're gonna have to let go if you want me to... inspect the southern fortifications."
"Ugh! Useless! Absolutely useless!" she yelled, practically throwing his hand away as her face twisted in disgust and pain.
Hannibal couldn't help but bristle. "Hey, lady, I'm doing my best here, okay? I can't hold your hand and do what you're asking me to do at the same time."
"I don't see why the hell not! If women have to go through all this because of them then a man ought to be able to do that much! Useless creatures! If Bob even thinks about coming anywhere near me again he can go jump! Bastard, this is all his fault! I hate him. I hate you. I hate them all! I HATE MEN!"
The last three words blended into a single thunderous roar that seemed torn from the darkest part of her soul and were expelled with a special kind of mad fury on the cusp of particularly intense contraction. Hannibal decided, just this once, a tactical retreat would be okay.
He positioned himself silently between her feet, took a deep fortifying breath, then another for good measure, and lifted her skirt. Wow. Now, it wasn't like the general terrain was new to him, but Lord Almighty how the landscaping of imminent childbirth could change a vista. It was like looking at a fondly remembered garden paradise after it had been shelled. He decided not to share this thought and tried to be clinical as he reported her approximate dilation; no way in hell was he going in for any more of an exact measurement. Not without a medal.
And then something amazing happened that froze him in place and at least briefly made him forget about everything else.
"I can see the head." he said softly, mostly to himself in wonder as he watched a new life began making its laborious way into the world right in front of him.
"Is it... definitely the head?"
Millie's sharp words jolted him out of his near trance-like state and he realised she was worried about a breech birth. "Yes ma'am, this baby is following proper procedure and coming out the right way round." he said, hoping his joking tone would be taken in the spirit intended as he threw her a grin over her knees.
"Thank God." she managed to grit out through a clenched jaw. Her breathing became shallow and rapid, punctuated with the odd grunt or cry of pain as Hannibal watched more and more of the baby's head materialise at a painfully slow pace. He rambled out a constant stream of gentle words of encouragement, not even sure of what he was saying most of time but determined to keep her mood as good as possible now she wasn't yelling insults at him and men in general.
"You're doing great, just hang on a bit longer, you're almost there now." he was finally able to report as a tiny nose came into view.
"Shoulders... next... then... the rest... is easy... so they say..." Millie said around her panting breaths and obvious discomfort. "Watch... for the... cord..."
"Gotcha." he said, eyes scanning for any sign that the umbilical cord might be wrapped around the little neck.
"Oh hell, the cord!" she wailed. "You have to cut it... clamp it in two places... cut it in between..."
"It's okay, Millie, I got it. You just take care of things up north, I'll deal with the south. Don't worry, between us we've got everything under control here."
Suddenly it hit him hard enough to leave him breathless that he would soon find himself in possession of a newborn baby... A newborn baby that was unlikely to be clean on arrival or able to keep very warm. Getting itself back into gear, his mind flashed instantly to the three jumpers and he lunged for the nearby bag in which they were stuffed.
They appeared to be unwanted Christmas sweaters – the sort of thing a dotty aunt might give that you had to wear once in her presence so as not to offend her then threw out as soon as she was gone – though their exact pedigree was unimportant, he decided, as he set two aside on top of the canvas bag and spread the last out on the floor in the line of fire – just in case he fumbled the pass.
Millie screamed a scream to dwarf all those that had come before and the pace picked up; the head became fully visible, mercifully not wrapped in the cord, followed by a shoulder and Hannibal made a grab as the rest of it – now definable as a 'he' – shot out into the world like a shell from a Howitzer. It actually took a few minutes before he was completely born, but given how fast it was happening in relation to everything up until now, he supposed his perception of time was skewed.
Then, for a good few seconds all Hannibal could do was stare down dumbly at the tiny human life he now held in his hands. Then one of the chubby, miniature arms moved a little and prompted him to reach for a jumper in a daze. He gently cleaned the baby and his own arms up with one – he'd postpone feeling nauseous over that until later – and wrapped the moderately clean result carefully in the other. Just one thing left to do before this mission was concluded, and blessedly this was one thing he had instructions for.
Hannibal carefully laid the infant down and reached for his hunting knife followed by one of his boot laces. Cutting the lace in half, he tied the two sections tightly around the cord a few inches apart in lieu of proper medical clamps, then cut the cord itself between the laces. That should do it, he hoped.
Scooping up the bundle, he carried the child the short distance to his mother's arms and watched as her tired face smoothed out into a mix of wonderment, relief, pure love and a few other emotions he wasn't sure he could identify.
"He's beautiful." she said in a whisper, trailing her finger over her son's face as she cradled him with her free arm.
Not wanting to intrude on the almost magical scene before him, Hannibal agreed silently. He just watched for a while, allowing his emotions free reign without analysing them too closely.
Quietly he moved the lantern to a better position and shrugged out of his jacket, placing it around Millie's shoulders as he helped her sit up. He sat down behind her and allowed her to use him as a pillow regardless of how his back protested leaning against a rock wall. Clearly exhausted, she sagged against his chest, still unable to tear her eyes away from her baby.
"Thank you. I don't know what I'd have done without you." She finally broke the silence, speaking so softly he barely heard her.
Hannibal smiled. "You're welcome; just don't ask for a do-over."
"Don't worry, I have no immediate plans. And I'm sorry for yelling at you."
"Ha! You call that yelling? I've been chewed out worse than that by my agent. Frankly I'm more insulted by those sweaters."
"Awful, aren't they? Nana Hartwell's Christmas sweaters... every year she sends us new ones. Bob was supposed to throw them out last month; he's been stockpiling the things for years. He hates throwing things out though, probably planned to use them for some weird purpose around the farm. God knows what; winter warmers for the calves or something I bet." she said with such fondness in her voice that Hannibal supposed she may have forgiven her husband.
"Well I'm glad he didn't toss them out or that pipsqueak would've messed up my jacket."
"Pipsqueak? That's my beautiful baby boy you're talking about."
"He wasn't so beautiful when I had to deal with him." Hannibal muttered. He settled back, his arms moving on their own to wrap loosely around the mother and baby he now had in his care. He almost rolled his eyes at his own protective urges.
"At least you'll know what to expect for when your kids are born, if you plan on having any."
The comment caught him off guard and a muted longing bloomed somewhere in his chest unbidden; it was a purely instinctual want, not a conscious desire, and was easily subdued almost as quickly as it had appeared. He was wise enough not to let himself dwell too long on the path not taken, and honestly he couldn't afford not to concentrate on the path he had been forced to take anyway.
"I've already got three sons, and that's more than enough for me." he replied, half joking but also half serious. "And if they don't hurry up and get me out of here I'll ground them all for a month."
He glanced down to find that both mother and child had fallen asleep. "I'll take first watch then." he said quietly, and tried to get comfortable without jostling about too much. Galling though it was, all he could do now was wait for rescue and hope his team were quick about it. He knew that trying to stay fully alert in the wake of a fading adrenaline rush was largely futile when there was no immediate threat involved, and allowed himself to fall into a light doze.
It was gone midnight before he was awakened by the sound of voices calling his name, and another two hours before a path through the cave-in was safely cleared. Having reported the basics of what had happened in the mine, Hannibal was not surprised to see an anxious Mr Pattison leap through the new entrance the second BA secured the last wooden support in place.
Deciding that he had gone above and beyond quite enough for one day, he called BA over to take the baby while Bob tended to his wife and unashamedly made a brake for freedom.
Once out in the open again, the very first thing he did was light a cigar. He savoured it, only half-listening as Face and Murdock updated him on how the team had managed to locate the Pattison's truck in town after they had not returned from their outing in a timely manner and persuaded the car-jacker, none to gently Hannibal was delighted to hear, to give up everything he knew. With a starting point, the mine had been found quickly and measures taken to free the trapped absentees.
"Good work." Hannibal said simply when they quieted and looked to him expectantly, then turned as BA slowly exited the mine, the baby lost somewhere in his bulging arms and an uncharacteristically gentle expression on his face. This morphed back into his usual scowl though when a grinning and overly excited pilot bounded over.
"Get back, Fool, he don't need none of your craziness."
Unfazed, Murdock propped himself up on one of BA's muscular shoulders and leaned in to coo and make faces at the sleeping infant. He spoke too softly for Hannibal to make out the words, but whatever he was saying he was going to pay for it later if the way BA was snarling was any indication.
Hannibal looked away from the strangely touching scene – and possibly the safest baby in the entire state – as Face appeared at his side, absently fingering his good suit jacket and eyeing the newborn in much the same way he might regard a cache of unexploded ordinance.
"Looks like you had an interesting day."
"Well, it's like my superiors have often said of me: it may not always be elegant and hardly ever subtle, but... Hannibal delivers!"
"This could be a whole new career path for you, I hear there's a lot of money in this sort of thing. How would you feel about doing this everyday for the sake of the team fund?"
Before Hannibal could reply – and it wasn't going to be polite – Mr Pattison, supporting a shaky Mrs Pattison, made his way out of the mine. Murdock stepped back as the young woman shuffled over and BA handed her the child with such careful tenderness it made Hannibal smile. Apparently it revealed a little more of his true feelings than he had intended.
"You're not getting broody, are you?" Face asked in a teasing voice.
Hannibal almost bit through his cigar and turned to favour his second in command with a particularly sour look. That could not pass unpunished. He sniffed contemplatively before shrugging. "If I am then your duty would be to hurry up and make me a grandpa, wouldn't it, Lieutenant?"
Face responded in a fascinating way to this; he went both deathly pale and blotchily red at the same time. It was not a good look for him, especially when his expression squirmed so quickly in and out of such conflicting emotions. He seemed to be torn between being horror struck at the implication and touched that Hannibal would even jokingly consider the conman's offspring as his own grandchildren. In the end, horror struck won out.
"Ah, no, on second thought you don't look broody at all, Colonel."
Hannibal chuckled softly and returned to watching the young family in silence for a moment. He shouldn't dwell on the path not taken, really he shouldn't. He knew this, but couldn't help a brief dalliance into ponderings that were probably best left unpondered. Marriage and fatherhood were things he had always vaguely planned on doing after he set the world ablaze with a brilliant military career, but becoming a wanted fugitive had rather fluffed that and many other aspirations of his right up.
He had felt it keenly when first on the run, all the things he and his team would be denied, but while most were still just as sharp or even sharper now ten years later, the desire for this one aspect, fatherhood, he realised had dulled instead of intensified over time.
He sighed an odd little sigh, filled not with the usual negative emotion associated with the gesture, but something muted and almost contented. He doubted the longing would ever fade entirely, but at the same time he also doubted it would grow. Maybe they weren't blood related, but he had a family.
The transition from Commanding Officer to whatever he was now to them had been long and difficult. As a CO, he had come to realise, he dealt largely with the big things. The dramatic; and he was good at the dramatic. A CO knew his men, their strengths, weaknesses and personality, inside out and supported them through Dear John letters, hellish nights in festering conditions and sucking chest wounds. However, a CO was first and foremost an army man; he had to bear in mind that even despite his best efforts, any one of his men could be lost at any time, and keep a certain distancing barrier in place between himself and them.
Fathers, on the other hand, dealt with the little things that he would have once written off as unimportant but now viewed as vital to the overall health of the unit. A father knew his children's likes, dislikes and general preferences, and supported them through trifling girl troubles, nightmares and runny noses. A father was first and foremost a father, and there was nothing he would not sacrifice to protect his children. There was no distance, no barriers, and not a single loss could be permitted. The role of CO and the bond between a CO and his men was not any more inferior to him now than it ever had been, just that the role of father was so much more complicated and intimate.
It had taken a long time for them to start coming to him with the little things, and mostly he thought only because they had no one else to go to, and even longer for Hannibal to adjust to receiving them. Eventually he had fashioned a new role for himself, a merging of Commanding Officer and father, which seemed to work out well for them all. He maintained his authority as their Colonel, still did the big things, but also sat up with them through mild fevers and played agony aunt to their woes, both monumental and insignificant.
The sound of an engine turning over knocked him from his reverie, and he noted that the Pattison's were driving away in their truck – probably to the nearest doctor he thought. With the team left alone with their van now, BA turned on Murdock, who hid behind Face, apparently seeking retribution for everything he had said earlier with impunity due to the presence of a baby.
He felt a kind of warmth in his chest as he took in the familiar scene – his 'eldest' trying to broker a peace before his short-tempered 'middle' son strangled his crazy luck-pushing 'youngest' – and indulged the sensation only a moment before shoving it down.
That was quite enough sentimentality for today, and they still had work to do.
"Well, time to head back to the farmhouse; Brendan'll be turning up there in a few hours and I'd hate for him to miss his welcoming committee."
They obeyed his order instantly, like the good soldiers they had always been. And squabbled quietly amongst themselves as they did so like the dysfunctional family they had become.