Deb nearly choked on her beer, which after four years of being kegger queen in college wasn't an easy thing to make her do. "What?"
Rita was sitting across from her at the table, looking like she might pop at any second. She hastily handed Deb a napkin.
"I said," she repeated, with that slightly too-bright tone that always made Deb think of schoolteachers and this one dominatrix she met while she was working vice, "I was wondering if—well, really, hoping that you would be part of my birthing team."
Her. In one of those caps, boiling water or some fucking thing while Rita panted and heaved on a table and threatened to cut Dexter's nuts off if he ever went near her again. That seemed a little weird. "Isn't that, y'know, Dexter's job?"
"Oh, Dexter will be there. It's just...you know how distracted he can get sometimes. I want someone who will be cool under pressure."
Cool. Under pressure. Deb just sat there and looked at her until she flushed and laughed a little.
"All right," she conceded. "Maybe cool isn't the word I'm looking for. Take-charge. I'm trying to do this with as few interventions as possible and I want someone who will yell at the doctors if they try to push things on me. Dexter's a guy, they always give in when the doctors want to do more."
"Ooh, yelling at doctors. That does sound like fun."
Especially if they were cute. She hardly ever got to yell at Anton. She kind of missed the yelling, throwing things, make-up-sex part of relationships.
"It won't take much of your time," Rita said quickly, "except for the day of, of course. And there will be a few prenatal classes."
Oh, what the hell. At the very least, Dexter was bound to do something goofy she could hold over him for the rest of his life.
"Can I swear?" she grinned.
Rita hesitated, then smiled back. "I'm kind of counting on it."
Deb stuck out her hand. Rita shook it. Her hand was tiny in Deb's.
Yeah, this could be fun.
The next day at work, Deb had just started googling childbirth, which was gross even on the legit sites and world-record-shattering-gross on the porn ones, when Masuka said over her shoulder, "Oh, tell me you've got a pregnancy fetish now."
"What? No!" she said, closing the browser.
"Because I could totally help you out with that, if you know what I mean."
"Me, pregnant? Ew. I'd look like a goddamn grasshopper who swallowed a bowling ball."
"Yeah," Masuka said, with a faraway look in his eyes. "You would."
"I'm on Rita's birthing team," she said. "Go away before I put a bowling ball—"
"Hey, Dexter," he interrupted her hastily, calling across the room to her brother, who had just wandered in carrying some papers, "your sister's on your wife's birthing team? Kinky!"
He didn't look up. "I don't know anything about kinky, but yep."
"Dude, your sister will be looking at your wife's love canal!"
"Uh-huh. So will the doctors and the nurses. Maybe the physician's assistants, too."
Masuka looked back and forth between them. "Morgans. So much potential, so little fantasy."
He fled before Deb could bean him with the stapler.
Dexter started to follow him into the lab, but Deb stopped him. "Dexter. You're okay with this?"
He finally looked up, but his face had that blank look meant Clueless Dexter had saddled up for a long ride. "Sure. I'm glad Rita asked you. I kept forgetting."
"It was probably better coming from her, anyway."
"Probably. It is kind of—girl stuff." He batted her lightly on the shoulder with the papers and headed into the lab.
"Dexter," she called after him.
"I'm going to make my first executive decision now. Don't bring donuts to the delivery."
"Don't doctors like donuts?"
He tipped her a salute with his index finger. "No donuts. Got it."
The pre-natal class wasn't so bad, except people kept assuming that Deb was Rita's "partner" and it took three times before Dexter realized what they meant.
Also, everybody was kind of sensitive. When she said, "They split you open down there? Like a fucking chicken breast?" the room got really quiet.
After that, she went out for a smoke. When she came back in, a grim-looking redhead asked weakly, "Can I just—sniff your jacket?"
She was never going to have a bowling ball of her own. It made you too weird.
Later, she and Dexter went out to get more of the five thousand things Rita thought the baby absolutely had to have. "A baby-wipe-warmer?" she laughed at the cafe where they'd stopped to get some sweet, life-affirming caffeine. "Can you believe that shit? Mom would have laughed her head off."
"Yeah," he said, a little uncomfortably, and she realized he was probably thinking that he didn't know what his mom would have thought.
"How do you think Dad did in the delivery room?" she asked hastily.
"I don't think he was allowed in. In the olden days the father paced in the waiting room with the cigars."
"I guess doctors like them," he mused. "Maybe they're the hospital equivalent of donuts." He sighed. "You can't escape donuts."
She squinted at him. "You need more coffee or something." She picked up her own cup. "So, Dad was pussying out in the delivery room while Mom did the real work. That just means you'll get to blaze your own trail."
"And that always works out so well."
"Come on. It's going to be awesome. Team Morgan takes on serial killers and blood-dripping, slime-spewing, screaming-your-head-off contractions. No job too big..."
"No description too gross," Dexter said, getting up. "I'd better get back to work."
"Dick," she said, and smiled at him. "Better get used to it."
"The checklist!" Rita yelled, wobbling down the sidewalk.
"I'll get it!" Dexter, already loaded down with what looked like thirty diaper bags (Deb hoped there wasn't a baby-wipe-warmer in there), turned and ran back into the house, leaving Deb to support Rita towards the car.
"Yes, I drew one up for the delivery."
"You need a checklist? Step one: go to hospital. Step two: scream like a motherfucker. Or, an actual mother, I guess. Step three: have baby."
Rita glared at her wildly and grabbed her arm. For a minute, Deb regretted ever encouraging her to "be strong." "We've got to have the checklist, or—"
"Got it!" Dexter ran out of the house, waving a piece of paper. "Let's go!"
"I'm driving," Deb said, gratefully handing Rita off to him.
"No buts. You're hyperventilating. I've got this."
The high-speed chase that resulted, she always swore, was a total accident.
The checklist was completely useless, of course. Deb could have told Rita that from the beginning. In the big crises you had your gut or you didn't have a damn thing.
Rita was tough, though. She paced around and sweated and sat on the ball and was hardly even snappish (at least by Deb's standard) until just before they decided to go for the epidural. Then she laid back and looked dishevelled but calm and satisfied, like the woman the week before who'd just murdered her husband after the three thousandth hour of having to watch the bowling championships on TV with him.
It was actually Dexter Deb was more worried about. He kept getting grayer and grayer, and he was sweating at least as much as Rita. Rita was talking to him about who he should call and when, but he obviously wasn't hearing her. After the third time he didn't answer one of her questions, Deb said, "Excuse us" to the nurse, grabbed him by the ear and hauled him out into the hallway.
There, she clocked him in the shoulder.
"Ow!" he said. "What was that for?"
"For being a total space case in there!"
At least he didn't try to deny it. "Do you think Rita noticed?"
"Well, she's trying to push a giant baby head out of her vagina, so she's a little distracted, but, yeah, I think she's gonna sooner or later!"
He had a tiny, trapped look of panic in his eyes. "You don't understand, Deb! I'm...I'm feeling two emotions at once! Maybe more! I can't even tell!"
She glared at him. "Did the doctor give you some narcotics, too? It doesn't matter what you're feeling! You're here for Rita! And the baby! If you can't deal, then just...fake it!"
He sighed. "You're right."
"It's a good thing I'm here for you, you moron. Now let's get back in there. You don't want to miss any of this."
"No," he said.
And he did try; he went back in and took Rita's hand and smiled at her. Rita lost interest in conversation not too long after that, so it got easier for him. Then the baby started coming in earnest.
"He's crowning," the doctor said.
Dexter and Deb both hustled down to watch the little guy pop into the world. To be totally honest, Deb had never seen such a goddamn ugly thing in her life—tiny, red, wrinkled, covered in what looked like ectoplasm, screaming—but she still had to blink away a few tears. The next generation of Morgans. Mom and Dad would have been so proud.
"He looks just like you," she said hastily to Dexter.
Dexter didn't answer. He was staring fixedly at the little guy as the doctor lifted him up.
"Come on, it wasn't that bad a joke," she said. "He—"
And then her brother, Dexter Morgan, who had gone to med school, who was a blood spatter analyst for Miami Metro PD, who had seen more corpses than your average serial killer, fainted right onto the delivery room floor.
"Shit," she said.
A couple of the nurses dragged him out of the way.
"What's going on?" Rita called.
"Your baby looks perfect," Deb said. "His father is kind of a dink, though."
"I knew I made the right decision," Rita said to the ceiling.
"Since the father is...unavailable," the doctor asked, "would you like to cut the cord?"
The doctor flinched a little, and she beamed at him.
"It's okay," she said. "I'm gonna be the cool aunt." She looked over at Dexter, who was being propped up with an oxygen mask by a nurse, and up at Rita, whose blonde hair didn't obscure her flinty gaze. "He's gonna need one."