"Ready when you are," he told her, assuming the midwife was in charge of the wheelchair, rather than him, but willing to push if that's what they wanted him to do.
Libby nodded to him, turning the wheelchair to head inside, with Nat clinging onto Colin's hand as they went. It was a matter of a few minutes to get her to the labor ward and changed into a hospital gown, inspected to find out how far along she was. Then Libby left them to it, promising to return when they needed her next.
Nat lay on her side, looking over at Colin. "She put her whole hand up there," she breathed in mild horror.
Colin presumed this was only the first of the indignities Nat would have to suffer before bringing their child into the world. Maybe they should have just adopted, he thought to himself, but it was too late for that now, and he was looking forward to welcoming their baby daughter. It was his job, he thought, to be supportive and optimistic. There really wasn't much more he could do than that.
"I'm sorry, love," he murmured, frowning. "I'd trade places, if I could."
"Coco would never forgive you," she murmured, holding his hand. "I guess I should get up and moving around again. Lucy said something about gravity being my best friend."
He couldn't help but chuckle at that. "Why's that?" he asked, regarding the remark about his dog. "Do you think she'd be jealous?" In a few days, they'd presumably be bringing home a baby who might prove competition for Coco's affections, but he didn't think that was what she meant. Meanwhile, he took her arm to help her to her feet, frowning in concern and warning, "Careful." He didn't think she should be on her feet, but if Lucy thought it would speed things up, who was he to argue?
"She loves your smell," Nat pointed out, letting him help her up and onto her feet with a groan of effort. "She who sticks her nose in your crotch at every opporunity would be mortified if a baby came out of it." She grinned, her breath stolen by a fresh contraction.
Colin shrugged, smirking. "Is it my fault she adores me?" he asks of the dog. In a way, she'd been his first love, and he'd worried the two women in his life might become jealous of each other, but so far, so good. He wasn't sure what would happen when they added a third female to the equation. "Are you sure you should be on your feet?" he asked, with obvious concern.
Rolling her eyes, Nat shook her head, breathing through the contraction before she answered him. "Now is not the right time to be second-guessing every decision I make," she warned him as gently as she was capable, still leaning on him for a moment before straightening up again. "Lucy said stay on my feet until the last possible second."
"All right," he said, taking her word for it. He might have bristled at her warning, but he knew it was the pain talking, the pain setting her teeth on edge. "What can I do?" he asked, not just wanting but needing to be useful in some way.
Nat blew out a slow breath. "This is going to sound really weird, but can you rub your knuckles against my spine?" she asked hopefully. "Down here." She took his hand, drawing his touch to where the ache resided.
"Whatever you want," he replied, moving closer so that he could do what she asked. "Tell me if I'm rubbing too hard," he said as he pressed his knuckles against her spine in hopes of massaging away the pain.
A knock sounded at the door, rapping twice, interrupting their moment of privacy.
Nat groaned in relief, glad he wasn't treating her like a breakable doll. He could have barely touched her, but the pressure he chose was perfect. "Oh, god, that's almost orgasmic," she mumbled, glancing toward the door.
"Uh ..." an uncertain but familiar voice murmured as the door cracked open. "It's me ... Steve. Is it okay to come in?" he asked, uncertainly having overheard the word "orgasmic" and wondering what exactly was going on in there.
"Only if you brought the bag," Nat called toward the door, bending forward to press her back further into Colin's rubbing knuckles. "Oh, right there."
"How's that?" Colin was heard saying, as he rubbed his knuckles right where she was pressing her back against his hand. "Better, love?" he asked, as Steve popped his head into the room.
"I've got the bag!" Steve said, holding it up as proof.
"So much better," Nat groaned happily, wriggling her fingers in hello to Steve before letting her head fall forward again. The contractions were getting closer together and longer, but it was still going to be a while before the baby was ready to join them.
"Set the bag anywhere," Colin told Steve while he continued to rub Nat's back.
Reluctantly, Steve stepped into the room, feeling as though he was intruding somehow. "Sorry," he said, setting the bag down on a chair and somehow managing to look as uncomfortable as he felt.
"You know how this goes, old man," Nat reminded her friend. "It's not like I'm mooning you or anything." She flashed him a pained grin as she straightened up, twisting a little to lean sideways into Colin.
"It'll be okay, Nat," Steve assured her, having gone through this already with Lucy, though he knew every birth was unique and different. "Keys," he said, setting those near the bag, too, before moving back to the door, not wanting to overstay his welcome and feeling very much like the third wheel. "Keep in touch, okay? Lucy worries," he said, though in truth, he worried, too.
"Like you're not going to be the first person to know what happens," Nat pointed out with a wry smile. "Closest thing to a brother we've got, you know." She bit down on another groan, letting her head drop forward.
"Just do me a favor and don't name her Stephanie," Steve remarked, smiling at last. He moved over, almost shyly giving Nat a quick kiss on the cheek. "Take good care of her," he told Colin and then he was out the door and gone.
Nat rolled her eyes, chuckling faintly. "He didn't mean that to sound threatening," she assured Colin fondly. "And we are not calling her Stephanie. Or Lucille."
"Actually, I was thinking about Alia," Colin said, with a small shrug, unsure what she'd think of that name. It was similar to her second name, but not quite so Russian.
She eyed him almost suspiciously for a moment, recognizing the similarity. "You like that?" was her only question. She might have declared no Russian names, but Alia by itself was not actually Russian. And Nat had decided a while ago that Colin deserved to name their firstborn himself.
"I do. She's our daughter, Nat. What better name to give her than one that reminds me of you? Besides, it's pretty. Don't you think our little girl deserves a pretty name?" he asked, smiling sincerely. He wasn't going to insist on the name, but he'd been thinking about it awhile and had grown rather fond of it.
Nat smiled, leaning her head against his chest. "Alia it is, then," she murmured, letting out a sudden gasp as a flood of warm liquid soaked her thighs and feet. "Okay ... I think that qualifies as broken water."
Colin smiled as she rested her head against his chest, an arm going protectively around her to hold her close. He touched a kiss to her forehead, just as she gasped and he paused to take a single step back at her declaration. "Shall I summon the midwife?" he asked, trying to remember their training.
"Uh ... yeah." If for no other reason than to help her get dried off and changed. Nat managed another awkward smile for Colin. "Maybe we'll get lucky and this'll speed up now."
"The sooner our daughter is born the better," he agreed, for all of them. But there was no need to leave the room, when all they had to do was buzz for the nurse's station. "Excuse me, but my wife's water has broken," he told whoever had been lucky enough to answer the call.