“Baby,” Mikey claims, small hand scratchy with sand touching Sara’s still flat belly.
“Baby,” Sara confirms, stroking the child’s soft hair and looking at Michael above his head. Quiet happiness and a barely-there hint of regret she can never totally help, and Michael averts his eyes for half a second.
“I’ll be here, this time,” he promises, emotion thick in his voice.
“I’ll make sure of that,” Lincoln seconds. “I’m not doing it for you again. She almost broke my fingers. That pretty mouth of hers? She knows curses and expletives I would never say aloud if I knew them. Good thing she didn’t swear in Spanish or she would have scared the doc away.”
Michael hardly pays any attention to him, eyes trained on Sara’s stomach. Dying to touch it and not daring to, even though he doesn’t know why.
“Every single minute of every single hour,” he adds.
“Oh, God!” Sara jokes. “You’re going to hover so much, aren’t you?”
“Baby,” Mikey says again, leaning in to kiss his mom’s belly. Michael watches and wishes he has the gut to do it too. He’s frozen, for now. “How baby gets in there?”
Lincoln looks down at him and scrunches his nose. “Shit.”
“Uncle Linc said shit!” Mikey bellows in way too obvious delight.
* * *
It takes him the whole day, and Sara grabbing his hand at the end of it, to finally touch her. He lays his hand on her bare skin as she’s on her back in their bed, and starts shaking uncontrollably.
She hugs and comforts him for a while. Then, with a wicked grin... “Really, Michael, at this point, it’s nothing more than a bunch of cells.”
He kisses her. He loves it when she tries to be the tough and bad-ass one; mostly because it’s only half an act.
* * *
He doesn’t drink coffee anymore because the smell makes Sara nauseous, and he rolls along with her sudden love – crave – for ice-cream topped with mustard and for chocolate chip cookies. Doesn’t go as far as sharing her odd culinary tastes and eating what she eats, though. Moreover, he thinks that chocolate chip cookies might just be indulging her perennial sweet tooth. She says he might be right.
* * *
He mans up and answers his son’s question about how babies get ‘in there’. He leaves out of the explanation any crap about roses and cabbages. They’ve had enough lies, shams and half-truths in their lives already.
How babies get out of there, though, he’ll leave that one to Sara.
* * *
When he reappeared, he entered a small house on the beach in which Lincoln and LJ and Sucre had already done all the heavy and not so heavy work that was needed. It had been both heart-warming to see they’d been there for Sara, and disconcerting to feel invited in his own home.
Sara taking out Mikey’s crib and buying paint to freshen it up is a breath of air. He steals sand-paper and brushes from her – “I can repaint the crib, I painted the whole damn house!” she protests – and puts him into gear to cut, nail, build, paint...
“You’re nesting, Michael,” Sara informs him formally, eyes crinkling with laughter.
He does. He loves it; and her.
* * *
“I’m not going to break. Promise.”
He lies on his back, still and worried and – damn – horny with Sara straddling his lap and towering over him. Naked. Round belly and slightly bigger breasts and skin as smooth as silk. His mouth waters, his lower stomach twists in want, and he doesn’t dare move.
“We already talked about that, Michael,” she insists, wriggling a bit impatiently above him.
He knows. He made love to her so, so cautiously the first time – first times – after they found out about baby girl she laughed against his neck and pointed out he hadn’t been so wary even on their very first night together. She told him he’d better get used to it because she wanted him, and eventually he did. But her belly is rounder now, the apprehension is coming back with renewed force, and he just can’t move.
“You don’t want me to finish without you, do you? Because I’ll have no qualms.”
She clenches around him. He jolts.
* * *
“Rose or cabbage?” Lincoln asks.
Michael blinks at him.
“Michael already went through the PIV thing with Mikey. Should we start again with you?” Sara offers.
“Penis in vag...”
“Girl or boy?” Lincoln cuts her off, wincing slightly.
“You know you saw mine when you looked over the doctor’s shoulder when I was in labor, right?” Sara says with a smirk.
Michael blinks at her.
“I don’t think I needed to know that.”
“It hardly looked like anything even remotely familiar,” Lincoln reassures him.
“I think I didn’t need to know that either.”
“Girl,” Sara answers to stop what could become an escalation. “It’s a girl.”
Lincoln smiles. “She’s going to be as pretty and smart as her,” he tells his brother, pointing at Sara with his thumb, “and will have gutted you ten times by the time she’s twenty.”
Sounds like a plan he can live with.
“Are you calling her Sara Junior?” Lincoln asks only half joking.
* * *
Her bag is ready and he almost doesn’t panic when she wakes him up at five A.M. to let him know that “It’s time, Michael.”
He does stay with her every minute of every single hour; doesn’t care that she yells at everybody even when she does it in Spanish and bosses around the nurses and the doctor; hardly notices the red trails her nails leave on his wrists and swears he’s never ever pissing her off again given the strength she can pack in a punch to the face; moves down a bit to peek and admits Lincoln was right about things not looking even remotely familiar down there.
Baby girl is pinkish and slimy, eight pounds, ten toes and ten fingers of absolute perfection that only Sara can beat; not by much.
In the hallway, he holds onto Mikey’s little hands and doesn’t even bother pretending he’s not tearing up.
* * *
Sara is breastfeeding when Lincoln casually enters her room with Mikey in one hand and an absurdly huge fire truck toy in the other. Michael’s pretty sure his brother wanted the truck as much as Mikey but whatever.
He goggles because Linc sits on the edge of the bed and smiles fondly at baby girl, Sara and Sara’s half-exposed breast.
“It doesn’t count when there’s a baby stuck on it, Michael.”
“Any other parts of her anatomy you’re excessively familiar with?”
Lincoln doesn’t answer, doesn’t say he massaged her back and her feet when she was expecting Mikey, because that would definitely ruins the moment. Michael is aware of that, swallows back his question and makes a mental note to thank Linc later – again.
Sara couldn’t care less about their fake argument. She strokes baby girl’s downy head with a delicate finger and makes room for Michael. His chest is oddly too small to contain his heart. He lifts up Mikey and settles him on his knees.
Mikey leans in and examines the baby with something between curiosity and awe. Michael understands his awe all too well.
“Hi, baby sister.”