Rogue was due three days prior, but their baby wasn't interested in when Hank had scheduled her birth. The pain started late into the night, waking Rogue up as she lay fast asleep beside her husband. Scott was startled awake by her squirming and the noises she seemed to be trying to muffle. She was scared, he didn't have to be a genius to figure that out, which is why she hadn't immediately woken him up. She'd been excited for their first child, but when it finally came time to give birth, she'd panicked. He did too. The pained moaning coming from her was enough to send his heart racing and his eyes widening with fear. He'd chased down Hank, banging on his bedroom door frantically, shouting nonsense that the good doctor thankfully figured out.
Rogue was in too much pain to be moved. She was sweating profusely and clutching the firm roundness of her stomach as another contraction hit her. "Ah gawd," she cried, shaking her head back and forth. "Ah can't take it. Ah can't…" She sobbed loudly, tears mixing with the beads of sweat on her flushed face.
Scott sat beside her, stroking her face with a cool cloth and breathing quicker than she was. This was their first and he'd been anxious from the moment she'd told him. They'd been married two years and hadn't wanted children until the world was more stable. It didn't look as though that would be on the near horizon however, and when he entered his classroom one morning to find a wrapped box holding a pair of booties in them, he'd nearly shouted with excitement. Forgetting that he was supposed to be teaching a class of grade elevens, he ran out of the room and chased her down to hers, lifting her high up into the air and twirling her around, kissing her hard and deep. Chanting his gratitude against her mouth.
"Deep breaths, Rogue," Dr. McCoy advised.
Scott tried to practice the breathing exercises he'd read about and that the woman at their Lamaze class had taught them, but he was nearly hyperventilating and her hand gripping his tremulously wasn't helping. He was fairly certain bones were breaking, but he didn't care whether he was going to be out of a hand in the end. If it meant she wasn't feeling as much pain then he'd gladly let her break both hands and his feet.
The mansion had been woken by the excitement and were all seemingly waiting to hear the good news. Boy or girl? How big? All ten fingers and toes? He'd heard Ororo vow she was happy with the children she taught and wasn't looking forward to becoming a mother after Rogue let out another loud scream. He was beginning to worry that something wasn't right, but excused it as the natural fear of a man who could only watch as his wife was put through pain.
He remembered when he fell in love with her. A few years after Jean's death and Marie had been the only person he could lean on. She was understanding without being intrusive. Sympathetic without being pitying. Caring without being coddling. She stood by him through the hard times and held him up when he was ready to fall. After Wolverine left to track down his past, she decided to stay on as a teaching assistant and become a full time member of the X-Men. Before long, she was like his best friend. She came out with him to visit his grandparents and his brothers, spent her holidays with him, went through strategies for their work as X-Men together, and spent her off time visiting with him. He was the first person she touched when her lessons with Ororo had paid off and she had the control she'd long since searched for. It took awhile for him to realize that they were leaning on each other for support. She, because Wolverine was gone and her friends had graduated, and he because Jean had been the closest person in his life.
He fell in love with her when she was laughing. He couldn't remember what was said or who said it. He just remembered looking at her, her head thrown back, her back arched, her beautiful laughter filling his every molecule. It was a sweet, friendly sound that made his mouth quirk in a smile as it rang in his ears. Her face was flushed, her mouth curved in a grin, her delicate hands were placed on her sides. She was beautiful. In that moment, every single second they'd spent together seemed to add up and smack him in the face. They were only friends, but his affection had been steadily growing.
He'd always found her attractive. He couldn't pretend he hadn't noticed the way his body tingled when she leaned against him, or how his heart sped up whenever he caught sight of her creamy white skin. She was beautiful. A Southern belle with flawless ivory skin, an hourglass figure, pouty pink lips, almond shaped brown eyes, and soft brown hair with defining white streaks. He always excused his attraction as that of a natural man. Who wouldn't find their body reacting with her in the vicinity? He'd seen it numerous times in the many men of the world whenever they were out together. She was simply someone who automatically attracted eyes and his had magnetized to her easily. He relied on her as a friend, a confidante, but he wasn't blind to her beauty. There was sexual tension buzzing through him whenever she was close, he'd just gotten use to it.
He had no idea how she felt about him, but that night while they were watching a movie together, he wrapped an arm around her shoulders as she lay against his side. They'd often cuddled, no questions asked, as if it were the most regular thing a couple of friends could do. But that night when he walked her back to her room, instead of kissing her cheek or forehead like he usually did, he swooped down and pressed his lips against hers. She stilled at first, shock marring her face. He thought for sure that he'd made a mistake. That her feelings weren't the same as his and things were going to get awkward. But then her shock wore off and she was kissing him back, arms wrapped tight around his neck and tongue duelling with his. She tasted hot and sweet.
Things intensified quickly and the unresolved sexual tension that had been building up over the friendship seemed to steamroll over them. She stumbled back into her bedroom and he followed, kicking the door shut. They tumbled onto her bed, clothes quickly being lost in the shuffle. The room was lit faintly by the moon and he didn't have enough restraint to turn on a light so he could see her. He could feel her though. Every soft curve, the firm swell of her breasts, the anticipated shivering of her taut body. He kissed her from head to toe, lavishing every inch his mouth could find. Her hands roamed all over, trying to feel all of him at once. They joined together in a frenzy, quick and hot and deep. Her hips lifted without any set pattern, just thrusting up frantically to meet his hard heat. They rolled around the sheets, limbs tangled, sweaty bodies writhing against each other. When it all came to an end, they were cuddled up in each others arms, panting against each other.
Fear set in then. What if she didn't want more? What if she thought it was just a friends with benefits thing? "I…" He trailed off. He didn't want to scare her with a sudden declaration, but he couldn't exactly explain it away. "I love you, Rogue," he whispered against her hair, his eyes tightly closed, fearing her rejection.
"Marie," she told him, her nose nuzzling his chest. "I want you to call me Marie."
He swallowed his surprise. "Marie," he murmured, the name sounding sweet and soft.
"And ah love ya too, sugah," she informed him before yawning. "Took ya long enough. Been waitin' for months now."
He chuckled, his arms tightening around her.
They'd only grown closer after that. Dated for two years before he asked her to marry him, which didn't surprise anybody but her. Wolverine had returned when he found out and he wasn't happy about the union. Firmly told her she was nuts for wanting 'the tight-assed Scooter,' but she'd simply hugged him, kissed his mutton chop and told him to enjoy the festivities. He walked her down the aisle, shook Scott's hand so hard he nearly broke it, and told him if he ever hurt her, he'd be skewered without a chance for explanations. Scott believed him, but didn't back down. They were married at the mansion, in front of friends, family, and a few watching students. It was the best decision he'd ever made.
"Ah can't… Ah can't…" Rogue's trembling voice called him out of his thoughts. She stared up at him from tearful eyes, her mouth shaking. "Ah'm sorry."
"There's nothing to be sorry for," Scott told her, leaning forward to press against her forehead. "You're going to have this baby, Marie. And when it's all over you'll tell me it wasn't as bad as you made it. You're strong. You can do this. I know you can."
"Ah love you," she told him, squeezing his hand and tipping her chin like she always did when she wanted a kiss. He pressed his mouth against hers for a chaste but deep kiss. "Ah love ya so much," she whimpered.
"I love you, too," he told her, stroking her flushed face. "You're going to be okay," he promised, before turning to see Hank at the end of the bed. "When does the pushing start? How much longer does she have to be put through this?" he asked, hoping his anger wasn't as obvious as it felt.
"Soon," Hank informed him helplessly. "Not much longer now, Rogue, and you'll have a healthy baby to hold."
She nodded, her eyes closed tightly. "I-If it's a girl," she panted, grabbing Scott's attention again, "I want to call her S-Samantha."
He nodded agreeably, "I like it. Samantha Summers."
Marie smiled tiredly, her eyes thinning as she winced. She bit down hard on her lip as another contraction hit her. She held tight to Scott's hand, stifling the sobs that begged to escape. As she calmed, she told him, her breathing heavy, "If it's a boy, w-we'll call him Chr-Christopher. After your father." She nodded, blinking rapidly as sweat and tears pooled in her eyes.
Scott kissed her, breaking away as she was already out of breath, trailing up her cheek to her temple. He pressed his face into her hair, silently thanking her.
"Okay, Rogue, it's time to start pushing," Hank's voice broke through the moment.
Marie nodded jerkily. She clenched her teeth, wrinkled her nose, furrowed her brow and bore down hard. Scott dabbed her forehead with the cloth and whispered soothing words as she let out a whooshing breath and cry. "Ah can't… It… Ah gawd…"
"It's okay Rogue, take deep breaths," Hank calmed. "Now, you're going to have to push again."
Marie shook her head, panting heavily. "Ah can't… Ah…" Turning to Scott, she stared up at him with teary eyes. "Lahfe shouldn't hurt this much," she murmured.
"It'll be over soon," he offered, though he worried it wouldn't. She looked so pale, so tired, and he really wished he could take on the pain for her, but he couldn't. He stumbled for some way to distract her from the pain. "You remember the swing I put up in the den for the baby to sit in? You know how it went missing a couple months ago?" She nodded. "I never told you, but Wolverine accidentally tripped over it when he came back from the bar. He thought he was being attacked and shredded it."
She laughed, the sweet sound he loved filling him up again. She had calmed some and her tears weren't as plentiful.
"You have to push now, Rogue," Hank told her.
She nodded, throwing her head back and doing as told.
"Good," he praised, patting her foot comfortingly.
She shook her head. "It hurts. It hurts so much," Marie cried, her throat tightening as her neck arched up in pain.
"Just keep pushing," Hank directed.
Scott suddenly remembered all the time they'd spent buying baby clothes and setting up the crib. He remembered each stage of her pregnancy, watching her stomach balloon, and feeling the first kick. Her weird urges for odd foods and her sudden mood changes. The way she always wanted him to hold her and how her feet were constantly aching. The midnight runs to the bathroom because her bladder couldn't hold anything and the morning sickness that had her shouting at him between her heaving. He remembered the hot showers she liked and how she always asked him to rub her back. He thought of all the hours he spent rubbing her belly and watching her sleep. All the time spent going through books for baby names and scouring stores for the right wallpaper for the nursery. Her love of chamomile tea and her sudden hatred for all citrus fruit. Even the smell of it made her nauseous.
"The baby's crowning," Hank announced. "Stop pushing, Rogue. Just hold on."
"Ah can't. Ah can't," she told him, her voice hiccupping.
Scott could hear him cursing at the end and was momentarily surprised as the man had never used any vulgar language in their presence. He wasn't sure what to make of it, but his thought dwindled away soon after. There was a sharp cry at the end of the bed and then Hank was lifting a baby into the air. "I'd like you to meet Samantha Summers," he told them, grinning happily.
Scott felt his heart leap out of his chest. She was red and squirmy and looked like a wrinkled bean, but she was beautiful. Hank moved to wash her off in the basin of warm water while Scott tried to collect himself. Tears were rolling from his eyes and a smile threatened to split his face in half. He couldn't form words, could hardly breathe.
"Scott," he heard, Marie's voice hoarse and quiet.
He turned to her, sniffling. His happiness faded just as quickly as it came. "Marie, baby, you okay?" he asked. She looked paler than before, her eyes were fluttering and her hand was loosening around his. Her breathing was becoming shallow and he didn't know what to do. "Marie?" he asked, but she didn't answer. "Hank?" he called out frantically.
He looked over to the doctor to see him turn quickly and then he was shouting. "Ororo!"
The weather witch entered the room quickly, her expression excited, but the people's faces around her made her pause.
"Come, Ororo, take the baby for me."
"What's going on?" she asked worriedly.
Scott looked back at Marie, but his face paled. The blanket that was thrown across her was soaking through with blood. His breath left him and his heart clenched. "Marie," he whispered.
Her eyes were closed now, her lips turning blue.
"She must've torn something when Samantha was crowning," he heard Hank mutter to himself as he quickly began trying to stop the bleeding.
"Marie, sweetie," he whispered against his wife's cheek. He shook her hand, his other moving to cup her cheek. Tears swelled in his eyes, no longer those of a new father. "Sunshine?" he croaked, his voice breaking off. Her eyes fluttered to barely open and he felt a pang in his chest. "Stay with me?" he asked, a cry escaping him.
"Ah love you," she told him slowly, her voice dragging it out. "Ah love ya so much Scott Summa's."
"I love you, too," he choked, tears streaming down his face.
"She needs a hospital. I can't give her a blood transfusion here," Hank said, his voice dim and far in the background as Scott paid all of his attention to his wife.
"Ah love yer smile and yer voice and yer hair," she told him, lifting a tired arm to weave her fingers in his dark sleep-mussed strands. "Ya know what ah love most about ya, though, sugah?" she asked, lifting a brow. He shook his head, sniffling. "Ah love how you make me laugh. Ah love how yer always tryin' ta make me laugh." She sighed, her eyes fluttering closed again.
"Marie, baby, stay awake. Don't close your eyes," he told her frantically, his voice wavering. "I need you. Samantha needs you. Please, don't leave me," he begged, sobbing.
"Ah'll never leave ya, Scott," she whispered through her blue lips. "Tell mah baby girl her momma loves her."
"No. No, please. You have to tell her. You have to… You have to…" He trailed off, burying his face against her shoulder. "Oh god, Marie, please don't go. I can't… I can't do this without you. I can't… Please."
"Shh…" she expelled, running a hand through his hair. She began humming lightly, a soft noise he could hear reverberating through her chest. It was the same tune she sang each night, trying to soothe the baby enough so she could get some rest herself. It only made his tears come harder.
Her heart was slowing and her voice was fading. Her hand was barely moving in his hair.
"We're losing her," Hank's sad voice said.
"There's nothing…?" Ororo asked, her voice hitching.
"I'm so sorry," the doctor replied, his voice heavy with emotion.
"Marie… Sunshine," Scott murmured, his tears pooling against her nightgown clad chest. "I need you."
Her hand was still, her heart stopped, her breathing ended, her soothing humming faded entirely.
Scott shook his head, his arms clutching at her body. "Come back," he pleaded, sucking in air and letting it out in body wracking sobs. "Please…" He cradled her against him, the sweat cooling against her skin. Her hair was limp, her head fell back, lifeless. She lay in his arms like a rag doll. He clutched her back, fingers pressing into her, as if trying to merge his body with hers. He buried his face in her neck, cried so deeply no noise could be heard from him. The faint snores of Samantha were all that was heard as she lay in Ororo's arms.
That was one week ago.
Scott hadn't left his room since. He hadn't held his daughter. Hadn't spoken out loud. Hadn't done more than blink and breathe and even then it was shaky. He sat where Marie had been laying. Her body had long past been taken away, despite the way he clung to her. Ororo had been taking care of baby Samantha while Scott mourned. Hank brought him food three times daily. The professor had been in to talk to him but hadn't gotten a response and so left him until he was more ready to deal with it all. His grandparents were coming back to see him, his brothers were due to arrive the next day. He'd been informed by Hank but didn't reply.
From where he sat, he could see her dresser. There was a wedding picture sitting almost directly in front of him. Her perfumes and make up layered the top. A chaotic mess that she never cared to clean up. Being a stickler for having everything in it's place, he'd always wanted to organize it, but she never let him. It was her own private area and she liked it the way it was. Her jewellery box was open, a necklace pooled over the side. He remembered he bought it for her two Christmases ago. She looked stunning in it. One of her nightgowns was hanging over the rim of the laundry basket. A green silk one that only reached to her knees. It was her favourite during her pregnancy. She said it made her look beautiful even though she felt fat. He had told her, over and over, that she always looked beautiful. But she just shook her head at him, pretending to be annoyed, while really loving him for his words.
He could still smell her on the pillows. The scent that was all her. Her body wash, her favourite perfume, her shampoo. He missed her so desperately. Wanted nothing more than to throw himself out their bedroom window, close his eyes until the pavement met him. He hadn't so much as looked at his daughter. Hadn't seen her face since she was born. Hadn't heard her cries or touched her skin. Some part of him wanted to hate her. Wanted to blame her for killing his Marie. But then he'd hear her voice in his head, reminding him to tell her baby girl that her momma loved her and he'd feel guilt eat away at his stomach. He was blaming her for something she had no control of. But he couldn't bring himself to move. Couldn't accept that she was really gone and not coming back. It was as if he was destined to be alone. First Jean and now his beloved Marie. He couldn't take it.
Wolverine came back. He'd been away for a few months, had meant to be back for when the baby arrived but admitted he was never much one for girly stuff like that. He showed up with a congratulatory cigar in his pocket, only to be informed of what had happened. He'd been in his old room since. Recently though, Scott heard him pacing outside the bedroom door, knew it was him by the heavy clomp of his boots and steady stream of curse words that exited his mouth. But he never came inside. Five days he'd been back and three hours he'd spent outside of the door. Scott wasn't sure if he wanted him to leave or stay. Then decided he wasn't going to care either way. If he died in their bed because he didn't eat or drink or sleep, was it still considered suicide? Or could he go to heaven to be with his Sunshine?
He remembered when he gave her that nickname. She'd never been much of a morning person. They were only friends then, ignoring the way they seemed to gravitate to one another. How her hand always found his, how his arm seemed to slip around her waist as if it was meant to be there. He was used to waking up early; classes, Danger Room exercises, just generally being the leader of the X-Men. But after spending a few summer weeks sleeping in, she'd forced herself out of bed earlier than usual for the beach Scott promised to bring her to. She walked in sleep mussed, her hair all over the place, her eyes half-lidded, a grumble of coffee on her pouty, frowning mouth. He'd smiled at her as if she was the most ravishing creature to walk through the door and without thinking about it beforehand, greeted, "Good morning, Sunshine."
She scowled at him, rolling her eyes and muttered about "freaky morning people." From then on, it was a natural pet name that slipped off his tongue without forethought. He noticed a few of the students teasing her about it, or the younger girls giggling over how "cute" it was. He ignored what others thought, if only because while she pretended she hated it, he never missed the small smile that curved her sleepy frowning lips. She admitted much later, when they finally admitted to wanting more and were in a lasting relationship, after a lazy early morning rolling around in their bed together, with her chest heaving and her eyes still glazed, that she loved when he called her Sunshine. That it was the reason she kept getting up early, even though she didn't have to.
To him, the name fit her perfectly. While her skin was still just as pale and unkissed by the sun, she represented sunshine to him. The heat of her kiss, the warmth of her body, the freedom her smile gave him, the tingling that her laughter caused. She washis sunshine. Always. And now his days were dark. His every minute was. His every breath felt shallow and waterlogged. As if a shadow was permanently covering him and he wasn't sure he wanted to break away from it. It would be admitting defeat. Admitting she wasn't coming back. And while he knew that she wasn't going to live once more, that he'd never fall asleep to the sound of her breathing, the rhythm of her heartbeat, never hear her sweet laughter or hold her again in his arms, he simply couldn't let himself accept that it was really over. Couldn't get up off their bed and walk into a mansion that she'd never grace with her presence again. Couldn't go out to the grave she lay in now. Couldn't see the daughter that would never be held by her mother. Couldn't even speak her name. He felt dead, but he still kept breathing. The tears kept burning at his eyes. The tightness in his chest was always present. The regret and the pain ate away at him like a poison. But he didn't stop it. He let it consume him.
The door slammed open and Wolverine stomped in, his face twisted in something resembling pain and anger. "Okay Slim, we need t' talk." He waited, staring at Scott as if he was going to turn around and tell him to get out.
But Scott didn't so much as flinch, just continued staring out, his eyes resting on the wedding picture perched on her dresser. She was so beautiful, surrounded by silk and lace, her smile grander than any he'd seen. And him, looking down at her so lovingly, as if the world lay before him and he'd finally wrapped his arms around all the answers to it's deepest questions. They were so happy, so right together, so fucking perfect until a week ago. A part of him wanted to scream, to cry and yell and ask what the fuck he ever did to deserve losing her. But he kept it inside, let it fester and eat at him. Let it slowly kill him.
"Ya can't keep doing this, Scooter," Wolverine grumbled, his arms crossing over his chest. "The school's waiting for you, the world needs savin'. The X-Men won't lead themselves, bub." Scott didn't have to look at him to know he was cocking his brow. Wolverine sighed as his words hadn't seemed to make so much as a dent in the man before him. "Your kid's been hollerin' all week for ya. Best shut 'er up before I get fed up with the noise." His pitiful warning, of which would never come to fruition, went unanswered. Exhaling in exasperation, he tried a more heartfelt route. "She wouldn't want you t' be like this. Marie-"
"Don't." His voice was hoarse, croaky and low, warning and dark.
But instead of heeding him, Wolverine took it as the chance it could be. "Marie wouldn't want you wastin' your life away in this room, One-Eye. She'd want you t' take care o' her little girl. Go on and make her proud. Raise the kid right, just like she would. She'd-"
"Don't tell me what she'd want, Wolverine," Scott spat, his mouth tightening. "You think you know her so well? You think you know what this pain is? You think you can come in here and snap moapy Scott Summers out of his funk?" he snapped.
"I'm not sayin' that, Summers. I'm just…" He sighed, shaking his head. "Ya can't sit in here, surrounded by her and think it's okay. You have to get past this. Keep goin'…" He muttered, the lame statement hanging in the air.
Scott let out a humorous laugh. His anger and pain evident in the choked sound. "What? Act like it was nothing? Like I'm just going to go back to classes? To the X-Men? To Samantha? Like it doesn't matter? As if she wasn't here? Can't miss her if I never think about her, right? Just put it behind me and pretend she never used to sleep beside me?" His voice was raising with his anger, choked and vicious. Cutting into Wolverine and nearly making him flinch. "Pretend I can't still smell her on the sheets? Marie who, right? I never kissed her. Never touched her. Never held her. Heard her voice. Her horrible singing in the shower. Danced with her. Made love to her. Married her," his voice wavered. "Heard her laugh." The last word came out a whisper as his voice gave.
"I'm not sayin' forget her-"
"Then what, Wolverine? Put her away and tend to my pain later?" he asked, turning to him, not caring that tears were pouring down his face. "I can't do it. I can't just act like it's another day. You weren't here. You have no idea how much a part of my life she was. She was everything, Logan," he admitted, his mouth shaking. "I don't know what to do without her. It's like… It's like a part of me is missing and I know that I can't find it again." He shook his head, leaning back against the headboard. "I have nothing without her."
"You have a daughter," Wolverine reminded, his voice gruff. "You have a week old baby that doesn't have a mother and needs her father. You have a part of Marie sittin' down the hall, waitin' for you. That part that's missing, you can fill it with somethin' just as precious." He walked closer to the bed, exhaling heavily with the emotional subject. Kneeling down, he stared up at Scott, half-frowning. "Marie was like a daughter to me, Scott. That kid was the most important person in my life." He swallowed, quickly covering his own pain. "And I miss her. I miss her a damn lot. But she wouldn't want us sittin' 'round on our asses cryin' over her. She wasn't like that. She'd want us out there, livin' it for her."
"So you go. You live for her," Scott said tiredly.
Wolverine's jaw tightened. "Marie'd never forgive me if I let you waste away here, Slim. So you gotta get your sorry ass out of this bed and go pick up your daughter." He stood up from the side of the bed. All was silent for a moment before Logan reached out, dropping a heavy hand on Scott's shoulder. "I'm sorry." He left before Scott could respond, shutting the door tightly behind him and walking off. It wasn't long later that Scott heard his motorcycle start up and Wolverine was gone. Off to let the roads heal him, to escape the pain that had found him once more.
Scott sat in the bed, staring out in strangling silence once more. He listened as the rest of the mansion went to bed. Students slipping into their rooms, ready for the next morning of classes. He didn't know who was watching his math class, didn't much care. The world wound down again. Another day passed. Soon it would be eight full days. Eight days since he'd lost her. Since he'd heard her voice. Kissed her lips. Held her hand. Told her he loved her.
"You shouldn't have left," he whispered into the dead silence of the room. He waited, as if she were going to respond. "I don't know how I'm going to do this without you." Her voice never came. Never reassured him. Her arms didn't wrap around him, hugging him tightly in comfort. Her lips didn't press against the back of his neck how she liked. The pressure assuring him that she was there, that she cared, that she understood. There was nothing. Just him. In a lonely, cold room. Her presence no longer lingered. She was just a memory now. A picture sitting on a dresser. A fading scent on the pillows. A feeling in his heart that ached.
"Tell mah baby girl her momma loves her," her soft voice whispered through his mind.
Swallowing the pain building in his throat, Scott swung his legs off the bed. They were wobbly from not being used, but he trudged on. He crossed the room to the door, his hand shaking as it wrapped around the cold metal handle. He closed his eyes tightly, gathering his strength. He opened the door, his footsteps slow as he made his way to Ororo's room at the end of the hall. He paused outside the door, listening for any sounds but hearing none. She was likely fast asleep. The rest of the mansion had gone to bed hours ago. He opened the door stealthily, careful not to wake the weather witch inside. He slipped in, letting the beam of light from the hall guide his way.
A crib lay against the wall and his feet stilled as he gazed at it. He and Marie had bought that together. Had searched through store after store for just the right one. He walked closer, his hands shaking by his sides, his body shuddering. He wanted to turn around, run away, pretend he'd never even tried. But then he was there, gazing down into the crib. She didn't look much different. Still a wrinkled little bean. Her nose was scrunched up as she lay on her stomach, covered in a small white blanket with a unicorn stitched into it. He reached out, his fingers grazing her back. He could feel it rise and fall, could hear the steady rhythm of her breathing.
He reached his other hand out, picked her up carefully. The weight of her surprised him. Somehow so light and yet so heavy. She curled into his arms, still asleep, snoring lightly. He made his way to the chair by the window, sitting down in it slowly, so not to wake her. She squirmed slightly in her sleep, her nose pressing against his shirtless chest. He hadn't changed since she was born, only wearing his old plaid pyjama pants. Her small mouth opened, letting out a small gasp-like noise. She was beautiful.
He felt a tear roll down his cheek, but ignored it. "Your mom loves you," he whispered, his voice shaking desperately.
He rubbed his thumb over her soft head, the tuff of brown hair soft beneath his fingers. He stroked the curve of her chubby little cheek with his knuckle, tracing her tiny nose. Her hands moved around in her sleep, grasping at nothing, fingers curling against his chest. He leaned forward, kissing the small palm of her right hand. He smiled slightly as her fingers curled around his lips.
"I love you," he added, rubbing her back soothingly as she slept peacefully.
Hours later, day would break upon them as they sat in the chair. Scott was still wide awake, despite the fact that he was desperately tired. His eyes hurt, his insides still ached, and he had no idea what the future held for him. But he had his daughter. And he needed her just as much as she needed him.
He stared out the window, holding a snoring Samantha Marie Summers in his arms.
"Good morning, Sunshine," he said, watching the sun rise in the distance. He hoped, somehow, his wife could hear him.