"Oh God, I f*****g hate this..."
As Roxy looked at her swollen stomach in Mac's bedroom mirror, she let out a bitter groan. The last eight-and-a-half months hadn't exactly been a walk in the park for her. First, there had been all the weird cravings and morning sickness - which had the least appropriate name in the world, as it seemed to occur at every hour of the day. Then came the mood swings, which had made her fluctuate from giggling girl to hell-bringing harridan in a matter of seconds. And, worst of all, her hard-earned slender, athletic frame had ballooned into a puffy, pudgy trainwreck - sending her self-esteem crashing into the ground.
Still... at least it would be over soon.
As he was passing the doorway, Mac heard his dear friend muttering various curses as a long-endured ache began to flare up in her back once again. After a moment's hesitation, he decided he'd better go in and check on things - just to make sure Roxy was OK. (She was carrying his baby, after all.)
It alarmed him greatly, therefore, to realise that this tough, no-nonsense detective was now on the verge of tears.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"Jesus, Mac, just look at me!" Roxy snapped back. "I haven't slept right in days! I can hardly eat anything without hurling it all back up! I have aches in every possible place you can have them! And to top it all off, I'm plumper than a prize pig!"
"What, you think your belly's big?" Mac chuckled. "You should see mine! Doctor reckons it's quads."
Roxy had to giggle at that.
"Well... all right," she said, calming down slightly. "I suppose I'll drop the weight, in time. Still, I'd feel a lot more attractive if I didn't have all these hideous stretch marks."
"Oh... is that what they're called?" Mac said, intrigued. "I thought those were your stripes."
Roxy turned to him - her mood a mixture of puzzled and irritated.
"'Stripes'?" she asked.
"Yeah," Mac replied, taking hold of Roxy's hands. "Your tiger stripes. Because that's what you're going to be soon, right? A fierce, brave tiger mama - strong and tough. Only a man with a death wish would mess with you."
Roxy blushed, touched by Mac's poetic compliment.
"'Tiger mama'... I like that. Just like the one on my belly. Only that's all stretched out now, too."
"Nah," Mac told her. "It's not stretched... it's grown. It got bigger so it could protect our precious baby. Just like its mama will."
Stepping forward, Mac wrapped his arms around Roxy's waist - bringing his hands to rest on her baby bump.
"You really are beautiful, you know," he told her lovingly. "Look, I know this pregnancy hasn't been easy for you, but... I really do appreciate what you're doing for me. And just think - a few weeks more, and our little one will be here. Everything you've been through will have been worth it. I promise."
Before the month was out, Roxy would be severely questioning Mac's statement.
"Ow! OOWW! Oh, sweet Jesus, ow!"
It was a Monday morning, and although she herself was now on maternity leave, Roxy had gone into Mac's room to make sure he was up for work. He had a terrible habit of snoozing the alarm clock so many times in a row that he damn near woke up in the afternoon instead. As she had approached the bed to rouse him, Roxy had suddenly felt a flood of water rushing out from between her legs, swiftly followed by pain coursing through her mid-section.
The baby was coming.
Half an hour later, Roxy found herself lying on Mac's bed: legs spread and her bottom half stripped, with a blanket covering her for modesty. As the mother-to-be groaned and gasped, Mac stood by her side and held her hand, doing his utmost to keep her calm - and desperately hiding his own panic in the process.
"No!" Roxy wailed. "No, Mac! No doctors! Please!"
"But, Roxy - "
"I don't want a doctor here!"
Mac didn't know what to do. His father was at work, and his mother was out shopping. The only person in the house - apart from Roxy - was himself.
"All right," he said, realising what the only possible course of action was. "I guess I'll have to deliver the baby myself. Just... just let me call my father for help, OK?"
"Mac - "
"I need help here, Rox. This isn't exactly my line of expertise."
"All right. Phone your dad. But please - hurry."
Mac whipped his phone out of his pocket, and hastily dialled his father's number.
Over at the hospital, Milo was on his morning coffee break. Upon seeing his son's name flashing up on his phone screen, he put his drink to one side and took the call right away.
"Hello, son. What's up?"
The response he got was rushed and frantic.
"Dad - it's Roxy. She's having the baby, but she doesn't want a doctor, and Mum's not here, and I - I have to..."
"Whoa, whoa, Mac - calm down. It's OK. Stay on the line. I'll tell you what you need to do."
Over the next few minutes, Mac put his father on loudspeaker, and, as instructed, went to kneel at the end of the bed to check on Roxy's progress. It soon emerged that she was fully dilated, and ready to bring their baby into the world.
With his father's assistance, Mac prepared himself to deliver his first born. He made sure Roxy stayed calm, giving her clear instructions about when she should push, and when she should rest - constantly reassuring her, and praising her courage and strength.
The next twenty minutes felt like an eternity. Roxy experienced pain beyond all description, and Mac had no choice but to watch her suffer: he needed to stay focused on the imminent arrival. As the moment drew ever closer, Milo gave Mac some final guidance - which Mac immediately passed on to Roxy - and the exhausted woman put all of her remaining energy into one final push.
A loud cry pierced the air.
As Roxy slept, Mac seized his chance, and got a doctor to check on his newborn son - just to ensure that he was healthy. Thankfully, Milo was all too eager to meet his newest grandchild, and had rushed home from the hospital the moment he had heard the infant crying through his phone. Besides, checking the little one over offered several opportunities for cuddles and snuggles.
"He's fit as a fiddle," Milo told Mac proudly. "As well as being cute as a button."
"Thank goodness," he replied. "And I must agree with you. He's one handsome little boy, all right."
"Have you chosen a name for him yet?"
"Well, I - "
Before Mac could answer, Roxy turned and wriggled in her sleep.
"He's my son," she mumbled weakly. "I want to name him."
"But, Roxy," Mac began, "We've a tradition in this family. All boys' names must - "
"Marcel Rhodes Miskin. That will be his name."
With those words, she rolled over, and nodded off once again. No-one could have blamed her. Having a baby was tiring work.
Mac sighed, relieved. The name began with an M. And more importantly - he liked it. Filled with joy, he approached his son's cradle, and scooped the newborn up into his arms, cuddling him close.
"Hello, Marcel," he said softly. "I'm very, very happy to meet you."