Callum is sat in the waiting room, anxiously biting his thumb. Ben was supposed to be here 20 minutes ago. When they got the call that Allison had gone into labour, Ben had been even more excited than Callum. He started rushing around making sure they had everything ready for when they could bring their son home. Callum had headed to the hospital straight from the flat, Ben would have gone with him but Lola was out of town with the girls from the Salon and so Ben had to fetch Lexi from school and then drop her at Kathy's for the evening.
Callum pulls his phone from his pocket and calls Ben.
"What's wrong? Has something happened?" Ben's tone is rushed, like he's out of breath.
Callum scratches his chin, "No. No, I'm still in the waiting room. They haven't called me in yet." He says Ben, where are yo-"
"Good." Ben cuts him off. "I'm just sorting something out. I'll be there in 5." Then the line goes dead.
Callum huffs and shoves his phone back into his pocket. He glances round the private ward. The atmosphere is completely different to the rest of the hospital. The air has a perfumed scent and the seats are plush. Every surface is dustless. Callum studies several nurses that pass through, they're unhurried and they seemed to move with a serene purposefulness. There is a vase of flowers on the table in the centre of the room and there is several framed pieces of art on the walls. In the corner of the waiting room is a water dispenser, Callum had already had three glasses in an attempt to calm his nerves. Now his leg is uncontrollably bouncing up and down as he awaits news.
A few minutes pass and a young doctor comes through the double doors. She's dressed in what Callum would describe as a hazmat suit, just without the head part.
"Mr Mitchell." She calls out.
"Highway-Mitchell." Callum says as he shoots up from his chair and heads towards the woman. Just then, the entrance doors swing open and a Ben rushes in.
"Sorry I'm late." He says heavily. Ben's out of breath and Callum can't think of any words to scold Ben for being late.
"Ben. Where have you been?" Callum asks.
Ben catches his breath for a moment and then grins. "I had to get a few things."
It's then that Callum notices the gift bag that Ben is carrying.
"If you just follow me." The doctor smiles and signals for Callum and Ben to follow her through the doors.
Callum and Ben follow the doctor in silence for a momet. They pass several rooms along the way, the faint sounds of tv's echo through the corridor.
"Alright?" Ben whispers to Callum.
Callum nods gingerly.
Ben reaches for Callum's hand and intertwines his fingers with his. "Everything’s gonna be fine, Callum." He squeezes Callum's hand.
The reach the hospital room and the doctor turns round to them. "You can go in whenever you like." She smiles.
Callum's breathing grows rapid and his face pales. Ben studies Callum with a furrowed brow.
"Can you give us a minute." Ben asks.
The doctor nods and heads inside the room.
Callum steps back and begins to pace back and forth behind Ben.
"Hey." Ben says softly. Callum continues to pace behind Ben, ignoring his attempt to comfort him.
Ben steps back and stops Callum in his tracks. He raises his hand to Callum's cheek. "Hey, look at me." Callum looks down into Ben's eyes. "Talk to me."
Callum's face softens and his mouth slips into a frown. "What if I'm a bad dad?" Callum says quietly. "I've never had a proper dad, Ben." He looks away. "And Phil Mitchell is your dad. What if we're dooming this kid to a life like-"
"Callum," Ben interrupts. "We are not our dads." He says, turning Callum's head so that he's locked eyes again with Ben. "You're gonna be a great dad. Just look at Lexi."
Callum's eyelashes grow wet and he shakes his head slightly. "That's different she's-"
"You're her dad, Callum." Ben says. "She loves you. Genetics don't mean anything."
"But this is different. This is a baby, Ben. Callum says tearfully. "I just-"
Ben runs his thumb underneath Callum's eye, wiping a fallen tear away. "Look, you ain't gotta do this on your own, alright. You've got me." Ben raises his other hand to cup Callum's other cheek. "We're gonna work this out and everything is gonna be fine."
Callum's bottom lip trembles slightly and Ben drops his hand from Callum's cheek and then throws his arms around his husband. "Come here."
Callum falls into the hug, putting most of his weight into it. "This is a whole life we've bought into this world, Ben." Callum muffles.
"Yeah and we're gonna do everything we can to raise him right." Ben says. "We're gonna do this properly, alright?"
After a moment, the men break apart and Callum wipes his eyes with the backs of his hands. "I'm sorry." He says to Ben.
"Hey, it's alright to be scared, Callum. I remember when Lexi was born. I think I tried to skip town." He chuckles.
Callum laughs and studies Ben as he picks the gift bag up off the floor. "What's in the bag?" Callum asks.
Ben smiles to himself and his cheeks grow slightly warm. "I, uh, I stopped by the baby shop on the way here." He says and he opens the gift bag. "I picked this up for him." Ben reaches into the bag and retrieves a small yellow bear with a blue heart at the centre of it. Callum studies the bear and his face softens.
"Ben." He says softly.
"Bit cheesy, I know. But I never had anything like this when I was a kid and, well, Lexi has her rag doll and I thought he should have something too." Ben rambles.
Callum places a hand on Ben's shoulder. "It's perfect. He's going to love it." Callum leans down and kisses Ben's cheek.
Ben puts the bear back into the bag, hoping to hide his flushing cheeks.
Callum interlocks his fingers with Ben's and lets out a deep breath. "Let's go meet our son."
Hand in hand they walk through the door and head across the hospital room. Callum and Ben round the bed and they're stopped by a blue curtain that's closed around the area. Ben lets out a shaky breath and Callum feels Ben's body tense up. He squeezes Ben's hand with his own and gives him a reassuring smile.
The curtain is drawn back to reveal Allison in the hospital bed, without the baby.
"Hi." She smiles at the boys weakly.
"I'd ask how your doing but given the circumstances." Ben says and Allison blows air out of her mouth, her attempt at a laugh.
Just then, the doctor that came to collect Callum from the waiting room walks slowly towards them. She has a small baby wrapped in a white blanket in her arms.
"Is that?" Callum begins, his hand dropping from Ben's.
"This is your son, Mr Mitchell." The doctor smiles. "Sorry, Highway-Mitchell." She corrects herself. "You can hold him if you like."
A widespread grin stretches across Callum's face and he looks down at Ben, who returns the grin. Ben winks at Callum, signalling him to go ahead and hold their son.
Callum extends his arms and the doctor carefully places the baby inside Callum's waiting arms. Callum clutches the baby close to his chest and smiles down at him. Rocking the baby slightly with his arm, Callum holds out a finger and strokes the baby's cheek.
"Ain't you just perfect." Callum sniffs, trying to stop any tears from spilling from his eyes. He lowers his finger to the baby's chin and then to his tiny hands. Just then tiny fingers curl around Callum's finger. He watches as the newborn peers through brand new eyes at what must be such a stranger holding him. When he stretches, his hands barely rise above his head and his mouth opens slightly, searching for something to latch on to.
Callum looks over at Ben, his eyes glossy and he lets out a sigh that's filled with joy. "He's perfect, Ben."
Ben laughs as he steps towards Callum holding the baby. He looks down at his son and his face softens. "Got your looks, didn't he, Cal." Ben says, his voice softened by the tears filling up his eyes.
"Do you have a name?" The doctor grins at the new parents.
Ben looks at Callum and raises his brow. Callum gives Ben a reassuring nod.
When they found out they were expecting a baby boy they had been searching non-stop to find a name. Both Callum and Ben wanted to steer away from naming him after either one of their trash dads or any of the men in their families as a matter of fact. Their child deserved better than that. They finally decided on a name when they were curled up on the sofa one night. Callum had been stroking Ben's hair whilst he scrolled through a list of baby names. After several moments, he stopped scrolling and turned his phone to Callum. Callum had kissed his head and that was that.
"Eddie." Ben smiles. "Eddie Highway-Mitchell."
The doctor's smile reaches her eyes. "Well, I think Eddie's going to be well looked after with you two."
Ben's eyes glisten as he watches Callum whisper sweet words of adoration to their son.
Suddenly, baby Eddie starts to stir in the blanket and lets out a small cry, just to test his voice it seemed because then the cries of the newborn fill the room entirely. Callum can't help but feel relief.
"I'll fetch him a bottle." The doctor says.
Time stops for Callum and Ben as they soak in every second of their moment of pure happiness, a smile stained upon their lips for eternity.