The family he had never known he ached for.
The scenes he had conjured in his mind. Sunday morning pancakes, family triathlons, first day of school, piano lessons.
It had all vanished into thin air.
He didn’t know how and he didn’t know why. He did know that it was his fault.
The agony that tore through his abdomen had nothing on the crippling sorrow ravaging his heart.
He despised himself for not recognizing the signs. This could have been prevented but now he curled in upon himself and fought the urge to throw himself over the edge of a cliff.
Death seemed far too simple for an ignorant failure such as himself. He deserved nothing more than to live in constant grief.
He had done this. He had betrayed the trust his lover granted, trusting that he would protect their joy, the gift that evidenced their undying love.
No longer undying, he reminded himself. Forgiveness was not granted to ones as careless as him. Not even by his one true love.
He was exhausted and in more pain that he cared to acknowledge but he deserved no mercy. His eyes continued to burn with tears, hitching breaths preventing him from drawing life-saving oxygen into his aching lungs.
The door flew open and his love staggered towards him, all manner of emotions gracing his features as he took in the sight before him.
“No,” the newcomer whispered, eyes staring pleadingly at a nurse standing beside his obviously distressed partner’s bed.
The nurse shook her head slightly and a cry tore from his throat as he rushed to his lover’s side, pulling him into his arms and peppering his face with light kisses in an attempt to soothe him.
“I… I’m so sorry, Danny… So sorry…” Steve cried, holding himself still despite his body screaming at him to fall into Danny’s embrace, to accept the comfort his partner wanted so desperately to give.
Danny pulled away sharply and he couldn’t help the cringe, Danny had realized it was Steve’s fault.
Steve looked down, unwilling to meet Danny’s gaze and he interpreted his partner’s silence as anger. He turned away and prepared himself to hear the door slam shut.
Danny quickly composed himself and walked to the other side of the bed so he could face Steve.
“Where’d you even get that, hmm?” Danny asked quietly.
Steve opened his eyes slowly and glanced up at Danny who continued as gently as possible, “You were on desk duty from the moment we found out; you ate even healthier, which I honestly didn’t think was possible; you resigned your commission. All of that, for the life you carried, for the life we made.
“I don’t know why this happened but Steve, please, I need you to hear me, this was not your fault. Not in any way. I can’t lose you, Steve, not after this.”
“I could’ve done better,” Steve’s voice cracked, “I lost our baby, Danny. Our child.”
Danny climbed into the bed beside Steve, lifting him slightly so his head lay on Danny’s chest. Both his hands were positioned protectively around Steve.
“I know, babe, I know. She’s gone but she wasn’t ours to keep. It wasn’t your fault,” Danny whispered.
A brief moment of silence later, Steve said, “He.”
“Hmm?” Danny asked, confused.
“The doctor said… he…” Steve said through fresh tears.
Danny held Steve tighter and waited for his breathing to even out.
The nurse found them in the exact same position the following morning, tear tracks staining both of their cheeks.
Both mourned the loss of their child; the loss of that which could have been.
Steve ached from his inability to protect their child. He couldn’t forgive himself but Danny, the light of his life, refused to allow him to bear such a burden and he soon found himself succumbing to his exhaustion, drawing strength from the strong arms that held him.
Danny, though, lay awake as emotion built. He couldn’t quite find a name that befitted the heart ache that threatened to destroy him.
Danny would never forgive himself for not being there in Steve’s greatest time of need.
Steve had writhed in agony on the floor of his office for almost an hour before a cleaning lady had screamed for help. The amount of blood he’d lost by then was enough to drain both the life he carried and his own.
Those who fail to protect the ones they love deserve no such privilege.