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41 Weeks and Counting

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1.

The first thing he tries is castor oil. It’s the classic labor-inducer, something Malcolm heard about years before he was in a stable enough relationship to even consider becoming pregnant. He feels a little guilty slipping out to the store to buy some while Gil is at work, but really, he’s forty-one weeks along and sick of it. The day that he can finally hold his daughter in his arms and not feel her smacking his kidneys is looking more and more like the ultimate unattainable goal. He was plenty patient for the first forty weeks. Now, his well has run dry.

Unfortunately, his doctor was insistent that they wait to induce labor the medical way. She sees him frequently now to make sure everything’s alright, and according to her, everything was peachy keen as of yesterday. Gil agreed with her, too. He spent the rest of the night trying to distract Malcolm from his foul mood, roping him into looking at the files from Major Crimes’ most recent case and massaging his aching feet.

Malcolm didn’t talk to him for the better part of an hour. At that point, his husband’s talented fingers softened him up quite a bit.

It may have also helped that he made brownies and let Malcolm have all of the middle pieces.

Unlike the brownies, the sight of the thick oil in the bottle makes him want to gag. The color of it reminds him of canola oil, but it’s much more viscous. He can already feel how nasty it will be going down. He brings it to the counter anyway and resolutely ignores the chuckle the old woman behind the till lets loose at the sight of him, heavily pregnant and buying a single bottle of castor oil.

“Good luck,” she says and hands him the receipt.

He gives her a tight smile.

 

Once he’s safely ensconced in the townhouse he and Gil share, he cracks the bottle open and fishes a spoon out of the drawer. He grimaces as he pours it. It really is thick. There’s a smell to it, too, something vaguely oily. Raising the spoon up in Sunshine’s direction as if to toast, he shoves the whole thing in his mouth.

Fuck, it’s vile. Vile and gross and the best way he can think to describe the taste is something akin to Vaseline. That’s it. He feels like he’s swallowed a heaping tablespoon of warm petroleum jelly. He slaps a hand over his mouth and tries to keep it down.

Water proves to be a very disappointing chaser. In the end, Malcolm eats the last few edge brownies, making a note to send an apology text to his husband.

 

Four hours later, he starts to feel the effects of the castor oil — but no contractions. Spending the rest of the afternoon in the bathroom is far from compensation for the foul taste that lingers in his mouth.

 

2.

The next option on his list is spicy food, another classic. He’s wary of what that will do to his stomach, honestly, but it shouldn’t be too bad. For months now he’s been eating slightly spicier dishes as a result of his cravings. His daughter was proving to be her Papa’s girl long before they even found out her sex, which works in his favor two nights later, when Gil doesn’t blink an eye at his request for Indian.

His husband does level him with an odd look for the heat level he requests, though. “You sure you’ll be able to eat that?”

Malcolm gives him a soft peck on the lips. “Your daughter’s craving it.”

That softens Gil’s expression just like it always does. He places a hand on Malcolm’s bump, rubbing gently and grinning wider with every jolt of her welcoming kicks. “Someone knows good food when she tastes it,” he teases.

Malcolm sputters. “I have good taste!” The longer kiss he gets in response doesn’t dispel his pout, but he feels confident in assuming his husband has no idea what he’s actually trying to do.

 

When their food arrives, he really does try to enjoy it. His dinner is the same dish he gets every time they order Indian — a simple chicken curry. He even used to order it before his pregnancy, although he always got it mild then. In the last few months, he kicked it up to their spicy level. Today, he asked for extra spicy.

The first bite isn’t bad. The next few sting a little. It’s still not bad. The fourth or fifth bite, however, is when the buildup of heat gets to him. His nose is running, his eyes are tearing up, and his throat burns. He lets his mouth hang open as he fans himself.

Gil chuckles across the table, brushing his foot against Malcolm’s ankle. “Too hot?” he says innocently. His eyes give away the mirth he feels.

“Your daughter,” Malcolm reiterates even as he pushes on. He wants her in his arms by tomorrow at the latest, and he’s desperate enough to eat the entire container if he has to.

But his husband’s specialty is tempering his more rash decisions. Well, when he’s there to stop him in time. Gil stands up and takes the cheap plastic dish away from him, replacing it with another one from the bottom of the bag Malcolm assumed was empty. He lays a hand on the back of his pouting pregnant partner’s neck and strokes his hairline with a calloused thumb. “I got your usual, just in case.”

Defeated but grateful, Malcolm leans into the caress. “I love you, Gil.”

His husband snorts. “Love you, too, kid.”

 

The burning in his mouth dissipates. The contractions never start.

 

3.

His third option is one he finds on a desperate google binge. According to more than one pregnancy blog, red raspberry leaf tea could be his savior. They claim it can do everything from soothe morning sickness to shorten labor. Some of them recommend drinking it throughout the entire pregnancy to get the most benefits.

Too late, Malcolm thinks, glancing down at the bump that obscures his feet. He switches over to the shopping results and finds the closest store that carries it.

This time, the cashier doesn’t find his visit amusing. Probably because he’s less of a stereotype now and more just a pregnant man buying himself some tea. It’s a weight off his back, which, in his opinion, is already too strained from his daughter’s continued presence. The combination of her and the growing guilt he feels for doing all of this behind Gil’s back is more than enough for one man to handle. Resolutely pushing the guilt aside, he looks at the steeping instructions in the taxi back to the townhouse. It looks simple enough. All of the blogs recommended a cup or two a day.

 

Gil comes home as he’s working on his second cup. He stops before taking off his shoes and smiles, eyes crinkling. “Are we out of honey again?”

Malcolm shakes his head. “I bought more,” he says sheepishly. Two boxes of the tea and two bottles of honey for good measure. It’s not like he doesn’t own up to his sweet tooth. This tea needed it, too. There’s nothing gross about it, not like the castor oil. It just doesn’t taste like much. The name proved to be misleading, and if he had to describe the taste, he’d say it was similar to black tea. Good, but nothing fruity or special. Naturally, he doctored it up with quite a lot of honey.

Gil hangs up his jacket, takes off his shoes, and joins Malcolm at the table. He reaches for the warm mug and takes a sip himself. His eyes squeeze shut at the sheer amount of sugar in the tea.

It’s Malcolm’s turn to laugh. He gets a good few chuckles out before his husband cuts them off with a honeyed kiss.

 

Although it tastes nice and leads to a good, long makeout in bed, the tea ends up being the third failure of the bunch. The box stays on the counter anyway, just in case.

 

4.

His fourth attempt is a little harder to hide. Worse yet, it requires him to lie, which makes the guilt grow from a nagging sensation to an uncomfortable squirming sensation in his gut. Many of the pregnancy blogs that recommended the tea also recommended acupressure. Although Malcolm’s had acupuncture sessions before, he’s never tried its less squeamish counterpart. Acupressure is exactly what it sounds like — pressure. As simple as it seems, however, he decides he needs to go to someone who actually knows what they’re doing instead of following the tutorials on the blogs by himself.

He books an appointment with a highly rated professional. Of course, he’s scheduled for a day when Gil offers to bring him to the precinct to look at a case. His husband knows him well enough to recognize when he’s getting twitchy, and it’s days like those that he extends the invitation. He won’t let Malcolm go into the field, but going over evidence in his office with the team is safe enough.

Malcolm bites his cheek, genuinely disappointed to miss the opportunity. It’s been weeks since Gil last offered. “I have a massage,” he says, shaking his head.

Gil brushes the hair out of his eyes. “Good.” He’s been encouraging Malcolm to relax and enjoy himself for months now. If his husband can’t run after murderers with him, he can’t see why he can’t do something else good for himself. “Do you need a ride?”

“I’ll be fine,” Malcolm insists. “I’ve used taxis for years, Gil.”

“I know.” Gil pulls away to slip his shoes on. “I’ll see you tonight.”

 

The man who calls his name in the waiting room seems nice, if not a little bland. Malcolm carefully stands from his chair and follows after him with a hand on his bump. Although he has a wardrobe full of maternity suits, he chose his softest and most comfortable shirt and pants for this appointment, which means that he lays down on the massage bed with a happy sigh.

The practitioner is kind enough to not say anything about it. Instead, he gets to work. He starts at Malcolm’s bare feet. With a gentle hand, he applies firm pressure to various spots on his ankle and foot, switching limbs between each one. He works his way up to the calves. Each and every spot he picks feels random, but the confidence with which he chooses them is enough to ease the tension in Malcolm’s body.

He lays there and enjoys it enough that he almost doesn’t notice when the practitioner moves to his palms.

“I’d like you to lay on your side if you can,” the man says eventually.

Malcolm blinks away the approaching sleepiness and complies.

For as quiet as he was for the rest of the appointment, the practitioner speaks up now. “This point,” he tells him, finding a spot on Malcolm’s lower back, right above his butt, “is said to trigger contractions. The previous points can aid in labor but aren’t as effective at starting it.” He holds the pressure for a short period of time and then steps away.

With a short yawn, Malcolm eases up to a sitting position and then slips off the bed. His daughter protests once he’s no longer on the comfortable surface. “Thank you.”

The practitioner smiles. “I hope it helps.”

At the desk, Malcolm makes sure to leave him a large tip. He catches a cab and crosses his fingers. If this doesn’t work, there’s not much more he can do.

 

“You look relaxed,” Gil murmurs, climbing into bed next to him, still in his outfit from the day.

“I am.” And he is. He hasn’t felt any telltale twinges, but he’s comfortable and hopeful. He has to be due a success at this point. He has to be.

 

When his contractions fail to start by the next day, Malcolm turns to the internet again in frustration. His mother always did say he was stubborn. Apparently his daughter is taking after him in that.

 

5.

At this point, even the pregnancy blogs are failing him. There’s little that he hasn’t tried, and of those, most of them aren’t useful for his situation. Go for a long walk, some sites suggest. Malcolm does walk. He’s never liked being cooped up anywhere, and more than once, Gil’s had to ask him to take it easy and remember that he shouldn’t be on his feet as much right now. Clearly, walking won’t help him. He’s nearly forty-two weeks along despite it. He’s even still drinking the tea.

Pineapple comes up quite a lot, too. The blogs claim one of its enzymes can trigger contractions. He’s desperate enough that he’d try it, if not for the fact that he’s allergic. Somehow he thinks that might be the absolute worst thing he could do to induce labor. Gil would certainly be horrified.

Speaking of Gil, there’s also no way he’d humor Malcolm with a bumpy car ride. Not only does he love his car too much to purposefully take it on a rough trip, he’s also taken to being even more careful whenever Malcolm’s in the car. There’s no world in which his husband could be convinced to go along with that one.

The next thing he tries is nipple stimulation. His doctor had mentioned it in passing once or twice. The blogs all liken it to nursing and claim it’s a surefire way to induce labor, but after so many failed attempts, Malcolm finds himself skeptical. Still, he lays in bed and pulls his shirt off. His chest has been sensitive for a while, so he makes sure to use a gentle hand. He massages his pec carefully. It doesn’t feel sexy, at least not this time. It’s awkward. The thought that Gil would be better at this floats through his mind, and he wishes his husband wasn’t in the middle of a case right now.

Gil has an appreciation for his body in a way that Malcolm can’t quite understand. He’s far from the worst looking person, but his husband loves to take his time with him whenever they have the chance, kindling and nurturing a small flame with every lingering caress like none of his other lovers bothered. Gil wouldn’t hesitate to make him writhe by paying attention to his chest alone. The problem is that he likely wouldn’t be comfortable trying anything without speaking to the doctor first.

Frowning in frustration, Malcolm eases off the bed and pads off to the baby room. They did buy a breast pump. He’s sure they did. When he finds it, he sits at the rocking chair in the corner and tries that instead. It’s still awkward, but he endures it until the first twinge in his back hits. He waits breathless until it passes.

He tries again, to the same success. And again.

 

By the time Gil gets home, Malcolm is more hopeful than he’s been all week.

The next two days pass with no noticeable change.