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Stepping Stones

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14 year old Rob Dawson stood set back from the rest of his family as they gathered in the hospital room. He dug his hands into the pockets of his jeans and turned pointedly to stare out of the window.

"Rob?" his Mum called softly, so as not to disturb the bundle sleeping in her arms "C'mon darling, come and say hello?"

Reluctantly the teen looked back to see his relatives all smiling at him expectantly and he resisted the urge to roll his eyes, caught up in his teenage angst.

He didn't want a sibling, for years it had been just him and his parents and now he felt like he wasn't enough for them, like they were bored. When he found out that his Mum was pregnant, he lashed out and acted up in any way he could. If he could find a way to persuade her to get rid of the baby then he would do all that was possible.

Alas, he had failed. So here he was standing sullenly in a cramped hospital room surrounded by happy relatives, being coerced into holding his new baby sister.

It wasn't even a brother.

Gutted.

With a sigh that told the onlookers he wasn't fussed, he sauntered over to his Mother's bedside to finally catch a glimpse of the newest addition to the Dawson family.

"This is Jodie" his Dad told him, resting a hand on his son's shoulder "Your baby sister"

It seemed odd to Rob, that the words 'your baby sister' had such an effect on him. He stared down at the tiny pink bundle clutched to his Mother's chest, and suddenly he didn't feel quite so angry - try as he might.

"She's so small" he said dumbly, blushing at his choice of obvious words.

Sheron laughed, rocking the baby gently "So were you when you were this young" she smiled fondly at the memory, lifting her gaze to meet his "Would you like to hold her?"

Rob instinctively took a step back, attempting to remove himself from the situation.

"It's alright kid, she won't bite" his Grandad chortled "Not yet anyway, just you wait till she's got teeth!"

Rob rolled his eyes and hesitantly returned to the bedside. He slowly reached out a finger and tapped Jodie's tiny balled up fist.

As if by magic, she unfurled it and clasped her brother's finger, an act which caused a lump in his throat while the adults around them cooed at the sickeningly cute first interaction between the siblings.

"She likes you" Billy told his son, settling down on the edge of the mattress.

"She's not even a day old Dad" the teen pointed out, though he couldn't prevent the small smile tugging at his lips as he stroked his thumb over his sister's hand as she clutched his finger tightly.

"Incredibly perceptive, babies" His Grandmother hummed, rifling in her bag for what would undoubtedly be a packet of cigarettes "When my Sheron was born she puked all over her Father - must have known he'd be a waste of space from the get go 'ey love?"

Sheron rolled her eyes "Mother please, this is supposed to be a happy occasion" she gave the woman a brief glare before returning her attention to her newborn daughter.

"I'll hold her" Rob offered quietly, looking up as he cleared his throat "I mean...if you like? I'm not really bothered" he shrugged and pulled his finger from Jodie's grasp.

Sheron beamed at her son, tucking the blanket round the baby before carefully passing her over "Just support her head and neck" she told him softly "There you go"

The teen was surprised by how light his sister was as she lay gurgling in his arms. He was almost certain he could hold her in one hand, though of course wouldn't dare try for fear of dropping her.

Yes, in that moment of cradling his new sibling in front of their family, Rob Dawson felt the anger of no longer being the only child melt away.

Jodie was perfect to him, ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes all wriggling as she stared up at her big brother in wonder.

"Hi" he murmured with a laugh "I guess I'm your brother"

Billy wrapped an arm round his wife, noticing tears welling up in her eyes as they watched the encounter.

"Still hate me?" the woman asked quietly

Rob turned, dragging his eyes of his sister momentarily "No" he whispered "I'm sorry"

Sheron held out her arm and ushered him over, and the boy sat on the edge of the bed between his two parents, the three of them gazing down at Jodie as she drifted into sleep.

"My babies" the woman sighed happily, placing a kiss to Rob's temple as Billy did the same atop her head.

"Jodie Dawson you're the luckiest girl alive" the man said softly "You've got the cleverest, funniest, most loving big brother in the world, and he's gonna look after you"

Rob stared down at his sister, feeling everyone's eyes on him.

"Yeah" he whispered at the sleeping bundle in his arms "Always"