Jared nodded again, not trusting himself to speak at the moment. “Okay, you’re going to put the end of the stethoscope there. Now you'll tighten this screw here and then squeeze the bulb until this gauge is about 160, or about 10 above the last time you heard my last heartbeat. Then you’re going to slowly loosen this screw and let the gauge drop. When you hear the first beat, remember that number, and when the sound stops, remember that number too.  You got it?”
He couldn’t remember any more words after that. Just the pain and the struggle and the warm, strong bulk at his back. It held him up, rocking with him as he fought to push his baby out. The voice was there, he could remember hearing it but there were no more words, just the soothing tone of it. Merlin fought with all he had to stay awake, to strain, to push. Finally one last push and a scream of effort and it was done. He could hear his son crying and he sagged back against the warm, firm cradle of the body behind him and knew no more.
It didn’t come but he could hear the doctors and nurses voices take on a note of alarm. He saw Jason’s face, blurry above him, and knew he was urging him to hold on even though he couldn’t hear the words. He felt the doctor’s hands leave his body but before he could be grateful another pair landed on his abdomen, grazing the tip of his bloated penis, and started pushing down.
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