A Baby for Tinabyprincessmaryann©
This is a work of fiction, and a collaboration between me and my fantastic husband, Brian. I wrote the first part, and Brian contributed everything from the beginning of the Bahamas section to the end of the story. I did my best to blend the two parts together as seamlessly as possible, but if the story seems like it was written by two separate authors, that's because it was. If you like one part better than the other, now you know who to blame for the part you didn't like. Brian took the story in a slightly different direction than what I would have, but I still like the way he wrapped everything up. We hope you enjoy the finished product.
(As a humorous aside as you read the story, I should point out that the character Tim's loathing of feet is taken directly from Brian's real-life opinions on the subject. When you get to the sections about toe sucking and footjobs, keep in mind that I wrote those specifically to sort of playfully tweak Brian's nose and make him squirm.)
This story is dedicated to the fearless men and women of Fire and Rescue worldwide who, like Brian and our friend Matt once did, wade through the fires of hell into places everyone else is running out of, hoist their hoses onto their shoulders, and charge.
Brad looked at the beauty sitting across the table from him. Tina Miller truly was beautiful: thirty-four, tall, long-limbed, fit, a natural blonde, with stunning blue eyes, perfect skin, and a beautiful smile. More than that, though, her beauty was not merely skin deep. She was one of the kindest, sweetest people he had ever known, and in spite of the stereotype of blondes being not too bright, Tina was easily the smartest person he knew. After all, Johns Hopkins Medical School wasn't exactly known for awarding medical degrees to idiots. His brother was a lucky man.
Had been a lucky man, he corrected himself. He grimaced at the last memory he had of his twin brother: a polished-oak coffin being lowered into the ground on a bitterly cold winter afternoon, surrounded by firefighters with black bands over their badges, as a bagpiper played "Amazing Grace".
"So, Doc," he smiled, taking a sip of his wine. "What brings you to town?"
Tina's own smile slowly faded as she laid her silverware delicately across her plate and pushed it away. "I'm here to ask a favor," she said quietly. "A really big favor."
His reply was immediate. "Name it."
"You haven't heard what it is yet," Tina observed, trying a weak laugh. She had barely touched her dinner, delicious as it was, yet her stomach scolded her for eating as much as she did. There was barely enough room left for the butterflies, which felt like they were rapidly turning into vultures.
Brad shook his head. "Doesn't matter. You're still a part of this family, as far as I and everyone else is concerned. Tim loved you more than you'll ever know. The fact that he died doesn't change a thing."
"Thank you," she whispered, listening to the sincerity in Brad's voice and knowing that it was genuine. A small tear trickled down her cheek and she swiped it away, embarrassed.
"Now, what can I do for you?"
Tina took a deep breath through her nose, and under the table her hands balled into tight fists in a futile effort to stop them from shaking. Here we go, she told herself, a second before leaping into the abyss.
"I want you to make me pregnant," she said, doing her best to look at him as she said it. She felt slightly better now that her words were out. But now the real fear began: waiting for his reply.
Brad managed with great effort not to choke on his wine. When Tina said she was asking for a favor, his brain rapidly ran through the possibilities. This, however, was not one of them. Not by a long shot.
"I beg your pardon?" he managed to ask. It sounded better, he decided, than the initial kneejerk response his mind had come up with: "WHAT?"
Tina sighed deeply. "I don't know how much your brother talked to you about our relationship, so excuse me if I touch on things you already know.
"When Tim and I got married, we didn't want kids. I had just finished my residency, but I was just starting my two-year fellowship, which is almost as bad. Simply put, I didn't have time to be pregnant, and I certainly didn't have time for a baby. We didn't know if we'd ever want kids. Maybe, maybe not. Tim was already pushing up against forty, and he didn't know if he had the patience for children.
"Several months before Tim's accident, we started talking seriously about kids. We eventually decided that yes, we wanted two, maybe three kids to carry on our legacy after we were gone.
"I don't know if Tim had some sort of premonition that he was going to die soon or what, but he talked very frankly about how he had had some close calls over his career and how he had seen buddies killed or maimed. He used to talk about how, 'When your number's up, it's up'. He asked me how I would feel if we had a child or two and something happened to him while the kids were little, if I was prepared to raise them on my own. My answer was that if that ever happened, I'd cherish the kids even more because they were a part of him that I would still have to love.
"A few months later, I weaned myself off birth-control and we started trying to get me pregnant. It never happened, obviously. I hope not, anyway, because that would just be too cruel."
Brad frowned in confusion. "What do you mean?"
"We were keeping pretty close track on my menstrual cycles, and the day before Tim died was the day I should have started my period that month. I didn't. There's nothing unusual about being a day or two late or early, so I didn't let myself get my hopes up. I didn't tell Tim, either, because I didn't want to get his hopes up, either.
"The next day was the newspaper warehouse fire." She flinched as she said it, as if she had just been slapped. "I was at the hospital when I got the news about Tim, and I didn't react well, as you can probably imagine.
"Over the next several days, my skipped period was about the furthest thing from my mind. Two weeks later was when things finally started showing a hint of getting back to normal, and that's when my period started." She shook her head. "Stress can make a woman skip a period, and God knows I was under enough of it to make the worst days of my residency look like a picnic in comparison. Stress can also cause a woman to miscarry, especially early on. I'll tell you, I'm always going to wonder if what happened two weeks after the funeral was a menstrual period or a miscarriage that maybe failed to implant because of everything that was going on. I tell myself it was just a routine period, but mostly it's because I tell myself the universe could not possibly be so cruel to let my beloved husband be killed and then allow his child to miscarry. Obviously I could have answered that question with a simple test. But I didn't order it, because I was afraid it was going to tell me that yes, the universe really is that cruel. As they say, denial's not just a river in Egypt." The catch in her voice finally erupted in full-blown tears. Brad reached across the table and laid a comforting hand on her arm.
"Brad, there's not a day that goes by that I don't wish I was carrying Tim's child. It's been six months since he died. I look at pregnant women who are in their sixth month or so, and all I can think about is that could be me. It should be me, dammit. Just a week or so ago, there was a patient at the hospital that I asked another doctor to take for me, for one simple reason: she was pregnant. The reason I was supposed to see her had nothing to do with her pregnancy, but you know what? I was jealous. I was so jealous that I didn't know if I could be fully objective, so I did what a doctor's supposed to do if we can't be objective: I excused myself from the case.
"This is terrible, and I wish I didn't feel this way, but I'm angry. I'm angry at myself that we didn't start trying to have a baby sooner, I'm angry at Tim for the same reason, and I'm angry at Tim for making a mistake and dying because of it. I don't know what happened in that fire, but I know he must have made a mistake of some sort. He used to tell me that he was in no danger, as long as no one made a mistake. I don't know if that was true, or if it was something he told me so I wouldn't worry. Mistakes happen; no one knows that better than me. When I was a senior resident, I made a mistake that killed a patient. I was on duty too long, I'd been awake for more than twenty-four hours, but that's no excuse. I thought one thing was wrong with her and it was something else. Problem was, the drug I ordered was the absolute worst thing we could have done for her, considering what was actually wrong, and she died. I was cleared by a review board, because they agreed that, under the circumstances, they might have made the same call I did, so yeah, I know mistakes happen, and sometimes they're serious enough mistakes that people die.
"But Tim made a mistake and it was him that died, and that's not okay. Or maybe he didn't. Maybe he did everything right and he still died, because stuff just happens sometimes. Either way, he's dead, and all I've got left of him is videos, pictures, and memories. It's not fair, dammit!"
Tina took a deep breath, realizing she was letting herself get out of control, then held it and let it out slowly. After a moment of quiet meditation, she was calm again.
"Tim was in a fairly unique situation: he had an identical twin brother. You. I realize there were differences between the two of you. Just as an example, I say this in love, but Tim was a slob, while you're probably the most obsessively neat person I know. But you're more alike than you were different: you're both kind, loving, and handsome. What's more, the thing I remember best about Tim was his fantastic sense of humor, and you're the same way. More than anything, though, you and your brother share the same DNA.
"What I'm asking for is something I have no right to ask you for, and you have every right to tell me to go to the airport, get on the next plane, and never come back. But something that Tim taught me is that sometimes the only reason we don't get something we want is simply because we don't ask. I'm asking. If you say no, that's fine, I understand. I just hope you'll understand why I asked and what it took for me to come here and ask you this, and not hate me for doing so.
"I don't expect an answer right now. I know I'm asking for the moon, and you need time to make a decision you're sure about. I'm flying home in the morning, and when you make a decision, you know how to get in touch with me. Call me anytime; I don't care if it's 3:00 in the morning.
"If you say yes, I'll agree to anything you want, and I'll sign anything you want. If you tell me you don't ever want anything to do with the child, fine; you hire an attorney to draw up paperwork that says whatever you want, and I'll sign it. I'll even pay for the attorney. If you want to be a part of the child's life, that's fine, too. I hope you'll want to, but it's up to you. Also, when the child is an adult and asks about their father, I give you my word, I'll tell him or her whatever you want me to: I can either tell them you're their father, or I can tell them that they were the product of sperm that Tim had frozen just in case anything happened to him."
Brad shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "So, um, if I say yes, how do we go about it? I'm assuming I make a sperm donation, like I would at a sperm bank, and then some doctor takes it from there."
"That's one way," Tina nodded. "I know you aren't married or engaged, but it's probably the best way, if you have a girlfriend. But if I can be blunt, I'd prefer not to hang a picture of a turkey baster on the wall with 'Daddy' underneath it, or get to feeling all warm and fuzzy whenever I walk down the cooking accessories lane at the supermarket. I'm ready for you to make me pregnant the same way billions of women have gotten pregnant since the beginning of time. After all, the least I can do is make sure you have a good time in the process. And if I can continue to be blunt, it's my preference. On the other hand, I don't know how you feel about sleeping with your brother's widow, so..."
After they both said no to dessert, the waitress delivered the check. Brad reached for it, but Tina deftly palmed it with the skill of a professional pickpocket. She signed it, and smiled at her dinner companion.
"I know I've given you a lot to think about. Take your time, and call me when you make your decision. Whatever you decide, I promise I'll respect it." She slowly slid a plastic swipe card printed with the hotel's logo across the table.
"I'm in Room 1003 upstairs. I'm leaving for the airport sometime after 6:00 in the morning to catch my flight home. Until then, that's where I'll be. If you would like to talk some more, visit for a while and reminiscence together about your brother, or, ah, do anything else, I'd love to have you visit," she said softly.
Brad slowly shook his head and gave her a small apologetic smile. "Tina, I..."
"No," she said slowly, in a voice just barely above a soft whisper. "I know. I show up, drop this in your lap, tell you to take your time making a decision, and then I turn around and look like I'm trying to seduce you up to my room to do the deed right here and now. The truth is, you're right, I am trying to seduce you, but not for the reason you think. You look so much like your brother that it's breaking my heart all over again. I'm going up to my room because I don't want to break down here in the restaurant, and if I stay any longer, that's what is going to happen.
"If you join me, I'm going to ask you to hold me while I cry on your shoulder. Anything that happens beyond that, as far as I'm concerned, is between two consenting adults and is no one's business but our own. If that means you and I end up in bed together, fine, but I'm not trying to lure you into my bed because I want a child. Whatever decision you make, I want you to be sure it's the right one, and I know you can't decide something like that on the spot. No one could, which is why if anything happens tonight, I'll insist on a condom. Stop by the hotel gift shop and buy some on your way upstairs. I don't have any, and besides, I want you to be satisfied that I haven't tampered with them." She slid her chair back from the table and stood, and Brad did the same. She kissed him on the cheek then hugged him tightly, placing her lips right next to his ear.
"Please don't leave me to cry alone," she whispered. Then she released him, and without another word, turned and quietly walked away toward the hotel lobby and elevator bank, leaving him alone with his thoughts.
"Damn," he said quietly, staring at the key card in front of him, after she departed. She wanted him to father her child. Am I up to that? he wondered. Could he say yes? Perhaps a better question was, could he say no? If I say no, am I breaking faith with my brother, with my own flesh and blood? And what of Tina? Is she sincere, or is there some ulterior motive lurking deep inside? Brad was as cynical as any forty-one year-old, but he wanted to believe her and to take her at her word. It "felt" real, and he had never for a moment doubted that she was a good person, with her heart entirely in the right place.
More importantly, his brother had trusted her, and even after more than twelve years with her and nearly six of those years spent married to her, he had loved her to, literally, his dying breath. Brad knew something about his brother's death that Tina didn't. She had been told that Tim died instantly in the wall collapse that took his life, because what actually happened was simply too awful to tell: the truth was, he had lived for a few brief minutes after his buddies pulled him out. Burned beyond any chance of survival and nearly beyond recognition, in almost unimaginable pain, he asked for and was given the little picture of Tina that he kept tucked inside the liner of his helmet. Then, according to those who had been there, he had looked lovingly at her face, cradled the photo to his chest, and died with her name on his lips. With mere moments to live, there were so many things he could have asked for, but he hadn't; he had not screamed for morphine, had not cried out for his mother, or anything else. All he wanted was to look at his beloved wife one last time.
Was she sincere and worthy to be taken at her word? His brother thought so, and that was good enough for Brad. More than good enough.
Brad picked up the little plastic card and turned it over and over in his hands. What about tonight? She had taken a huge risk, baring her heart as she had, and she had suffered for it. She was suffering right now, ten floors above where he now sat. She had reopened a wound in herself that had barely started to heal, and she had done so because she felt it was what she had to do. Whether what she was asking for was a good thing or not was a matter that could be debated endlessly, but all that mattered right then was that she believed it was important enough to stake her heart. Now she needed comforting, and the question was not if she deserved comfort, but whether Brad Miller deserved to be the one to succor such a strong woman.
No, his mind told him. He did not deserve such a privilege. What she needed, what she deserved, was his brother. But his brother could no longer do so. Not in this life, anyway. Right now, Brad was all she had. He would have to do.
So what are you doing sitting here?
He dabbed at his mouth with his napkin and took a final sip of wine, then headed for the lobby. He stopped at the gift shop for a quick purchase, as she had requested, and rode the elevator to the tenth floor.
He stood outside her door and listened. He could faintly hear the heart-wrenching sound of her softly sobbing inside. It was the mournful sound of someone who had lost their closest and dearest friend, and was being torn emotionally inside-out because of it. With tears beginning to well up in his own eyes, Brad swiped the card in the lock and stepped inside.
She was lying on the bed, still fully dressed except for her shoes. She lay on her side in a piteous fetal position, with both arms wrapped tightly around a pillow. She looked up at the sound of the door opening. Her eyes were puffy and red from crying, and her ruined mascara made large black circles around her eyes. Her face pleaded for help, but there was the faintest look of hope there also as she looked at him.
"Brad, I miss him so much," she moaned quietly.
"I know. I miss him, too." He took the pillow from her grasp, lay on his side, and took her tenderly in his arms. She enfolded herself into him, burying her face in his chest, as the arms that were so much like Tim's, and yet so different, wrapped around her. She felt something she had not felt in a long time: safe. She had always felt so safe in Tim's strong arms, and now, for the first time since Tim had died, she felt that way again. She snuggled even deeper into Brad's embrace. It wasn't Tim, and a distant part of her brain reminded her it wasn't. But it was close enough that she could pretend. Unbidden, her mind told her that she could someday feel just as safe in Brad's arms, without pretending, and she wondered where the thought had come from.
Wrapped in Brad's arms, her tears began anew. He held her throughout, not saying a word but gently stroking her hair, just as Tim had once done, as her tears soaked his shirt. Slowly, she began to feel better, and eventually her tears stopped flowing. She pushed away from him a few inches, just far enough to look at his face, but she kept his arms safely around her.