Richie walked into his dressing room and reached for his phone just as it rang. He smiled and flipped it open. “Hey angel. How are you feeling? Are you and Charlie staying out of trouble?”
“Rich I need you to come home.”
“Yeah, we just finished the show and we’re leaving tomorrow. I should be home by dinner.” They had been doing a few summer shows, but had nothing scheduled for the next few months.
“No. I need you to come home now. I can’t wait until tomorrow.” Tori fought to keep the anxiety from her voice.
“I miss you too angel. But I’ll be home before you know it. How’s Peanut?”
“He’s tired out. Ava and Karin spent most of the day in the pool with him.” At two years old, their son’s favourite activity was playing in the water. He preferred the beach, but the pool would do in a pinch – especially if his big sister, his parents or one of his many aunts and uncles were there to play with him. “But never mind that now. I’m serious. You need to come home.”
“I’ll be home tomorrow. I’ll see if Jon will drop me off first and I’ll be there early afternoon. I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to do for my birthday next week.”
“That’s great. You can tell me when you get home. Tonight.”
“Relax angel. Just a few more hours.” He grinned. He’d only been away for a week and Karin had gone to stay with her, but ever since they’d almost lost each other a little over two years ago due to him being stupid, they both felt any separation very strongly. Especially since she’d become pregnant almost nine months ago.
“RICHARD STEPHEN SAMBORA! UNLESS YOU WANT TO MISS THE BIRTH OF THIS CHILD TOO, TELL JON TO FIRE UP THE JET, AND GET YOUR ASS THE FUCK HOME! NOW!” Tori slammed the phone down, dug her fingers into the arms of the chair and focused on breathing while a contraction gripped her body.
Karin came into the living room from the kitchen with a glass of water. “Okay. I’ve....now?” At Tori’s nod she looked at her watch. “That one was eight minutes since the last one. They’re getting closer. Did you get a hold of Richie?”
“And is he coming home?” She wasn’t sure why she even asked. She knew that Richie would move heaven and earth to be present at the birth of this child. Especially after missing out on Stevie’s.
Tori smirked. “He didn’t say for sure, but I think it’s safe to say he’s on his way.” She rubbed her belly. “Hang on Sweetpea. Daddy’s coming. Wait for him.”
Back in his dressing room in Milwaukee, Richie stared at his phone, stunned that she had yelled at him and then hung up. Then her words sank in. “FUCK!” Jumping to his feet he ran out the door and down the hall to Jon’s dressing room. “JON!” He pounded on the door. “JON! Open up man!” He pounded again.
The door jerked open to reveal a very annoyed frontman wearing only his pants. “Jesus man, I was just about to hit the shower. Where’s the fire?”
“I’ve got to get home. Tonight. Now.” Richie started to strip off his shirt while he spoke.
“You’ve only been away from the wife a week. What’s the matter? Are you so horny you can’t wait until tomorrow?”
Richie flipped him off. “When it comes to your sister I’m always horny, but that’s beside the point....or the cause of the point. Whatever. Tori’s in labour.”
Jon’s eyes widened. “Fuck!” He turned into the room to grab his phone and started dialling. “Yeah. Get the jet ready to leave ASAP. We’re going to LAX. Tell the pilot we need to get there as fast as possible.” He snapped the phone shut. David, Tico and Hugh had stuck their heads out of their dressing rooms to see what all the banging was about. “You guys got fifteen minutes to shower or whatever.”
“What’s going on?” David was the one to finally ask.
Richie was already on his way back to his dressing room, stripping clothes as he went. “The baby’s coming.”
“Yeah, but...” David didn’t get a chance to finish.
“The baby’s coming NOW Shirley.” Richie bit out.
The other three stared at each other. “Fuck!”
As one, all five men disappeared to make preparations for a hasty departure. In record time they were ready and boarding the plane. It was all Richie could do to sit still for takeoff. As soon as the pilot gave the go ahead he was up and pacing. The other’s watched him sympathetically.
“How’s she doing?” Hugh broke the silence. They were all concerned, but afraid to ask. She wasn’t due for another week or so.
Richie shrugged. “I don’t know. She sounded fine. A little irritable, but that’s to be expected. I don’t want to call her and bother her. She’s got bigger things to focus on right now.” He spun around. “Shirley, call your wife and see how things are going.” David and Karin had gotten married the year before.
David was already dialling. “Hey babe. How’s everyone holding up? Yeah, we’re on our way.” He glanced at Richie. “I’m not sure. At the rate he’s pacing the aisle, I think he might walk all the way to L.A.”
“Asshole.” Richie ripped the phone from David’s hand. “Charlie? How is she?”
“Relax Richie. She’s doing fine. Her contractions are still just under ten minutes apart, so you should have plenty of time. Just.....get here as soon as you can. She’s coping okay, but she’ll be better once you’re here with her. She doesn’t want you to miss this one.” Karin could hear the anxiety in his voice.
“I’m doing my best. Tell her......tell her I love her and I’ll be there as soon as is humanly possible.”
“I will. Deep breaths Rich, you won’t be any good to her if you’re a basket case when you get here. Oh, hang on a minute.”
“Hi angel. How are you holding up?”
“I’m okay, but....I need you Rich.”
He closed his eyes. A couple years ago she would never had admitted her weakness. She would have pretended to be strong enough to do it alone – if only to make him feel better. They’d worked very hard to let down all barriers and be completely and totally honest with each other, to rely on each other for help and support when they needed it. Despite his concern – and if he was being totally honest with himself, his fear – for her and the baby, it warmed his heart to hear those words. It also doubled his impatience to get to her. “I’m coming as fast as I can, angel. Hang on. Just a couple more hours.”
“Tell that to Sweetpea. She’s the one who needs to wait.”
He chuckled. “So it’s a girl today is it?” She changed back and forth on a regular basis. Ava, in naming the baby Sweetpea, was sure it was a girl, and after she was right about Stevie, they were inclined to believe her, but Tori didn’t want to offend the baby if it was a boy so she tried give both genders equal time.
Tori shrugged. “At the moment. I guess we’ll find out for sure soon.” He heard her suck in a breath. “At least I hope it’s soon.”
Richie gripped the phone tighter. “Breathe angel. Like we practiced.” He started panting with her, coaching her through the contraction. For once his bandmates didn’t tease him, they just smiled. “That’s my girl. You can do this. I’ll be there real soon.”
“Fast as I can angel, I promise. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Hanging up the phone, Richie handed it back to David, blew out a breath and continued pacing. “Hang on Sweetpea. Daddy’s coming. Wait for me.”
“Okay, Tori, that’s it. It’s time to go to the hospital.” Karin had been trying to get her to go for the last hour, but Tori refused, wanting to wait for Richie. But now her water had broken. “I’ll call and tell Richie to meet us at the hospital.”
Tori had no choice but to agree. “Okay. Let me call Rosa to come stay with Stevie and wake Ava.”
“Already done.” The gate beeped. “There’s Rosa and Ava’s getting dressed.”
“Okay. Let’s go.” Tori made her way to the door, while Karin gathered suitcase and purses and called for Ava.
“Okay Tori. You’re not quite fully dilated. We’ll give it another fifteen minutes, then we’ll try pushing.” Dr. Crandall stripped off her gloves as she stood.
Karin walked with her out the door, leaving Ava to feed her stepmother ice chips and rub her back for a few minutes. “Is everything okay?”
Dr. Crandall smiled and nodded. “She’s progressing normally, just slowly. She’s fighting it. And so is the baby.”
“They’re waiting for Richie. How’s her blood pressure?”
“Her pressure’s fine. Tell Richie to hurry. She can’t hold off for much longer.”
Karin’s phone rang just as she was about to go back into Tori’s room. “Hey honey. Where are you?”
“Hi babe. We’ve landed and we’re on our way to the hospital. We should be there in about twenty minutes.” David assured her.
“Good. The sooner, the better.”
“How’s she holding up?”
“You know Tori, she’s a trooper. The doctor says that she’s fighting it though, waiting for Richie, so move your asses!”
“Yes dear. Luckily at this time of night there’s not much traffic.” He chuckled. “How are you holding up?”
“It’s hard watching her in pain, but I know the goal is worth it. It’s just one more sacrifice we women make for the survival of the species.” She heard him snort. “Oh right, Mr. Ow-I’ve-got-a-sliver–I-think-they’re-going-to-have-to-amputate-my-finger. We both know that if men had the babies humans would be extinct within a generation.”
“See how smart God is? He gave that job to woman because he knew she could handle it.”
“And what job did she give man?”
“Him big hunter. Him protect wo-man and little ones. Beat big rock into little rocks.”
It was Karin’s turn to snort – and chuckle. “You’re a nut.”
“That’s why you love me.”
“Mmmhmm. One of the reasons anyway.” She heard Tori cry out. “Honey, I’ve got to go help Tori. Please. Get here as fast as you can. I love you.”
“I love you too babe. Tell Bela we love her and we’ll be there in a few minutes.”
“Okay Tori, it’s time to push.” Dr. Crandall looked up at her stubborn patient.
Tori shook her head and panted against the pain. “No. Not yet. I’ll wait for Richie.”
Dr. Crandall turned her glance to Karin who checked her watch. “They should be here any minute.”
“They?” Tori raised a brow.
“Richie and the guys.” At Tori’s surprised look she chuckled. “You didn’t think that your brother and your might-as-well-be brothers would let you two go through this alone did you?”
Tori sighed as the contraction eased. “To be honest, I hadn’t thought about it. All I thought about was Richie getting home, but you’re right.” She grimaced as the next contraction started.
“Come on Tori, you have to push!” Dr. Crandall tried again.
Tori shook her head. “No!”
“No! I made him miss Peanut’s birth, I won’t let him miss this one too!”
Karin wiped Tori’s face with a cool cloth. “Don’t take all the blame for him missing Peanut’s birth. He deserves a big chunk of it. He knows that. He doesn’t blame you at all.”
Tori groaned. Ava winced as her fingers felt like they were being crushed by her stepmother’s grip. “I’ll go wait by the elevator for Daddy.” At thirteen, she was excited to be part of her sibling’s birth, but at this point she just wanted it to be over.
“Thanks Bean.” Karin winked at her.
“Oooh shit!” Tori squeezed her eyes shut. “Not yet Sweetpea. Wait for Daddy. Just a few more minutes.”
“Come on Richie, move your ass!” Karin muttered as she watched her best friend fight through another contraction.
Three minutes later the door flew open and Richie rushed in. “I’m here! I’m here! Am I too late?”
“Thank God! No, you’re not too late.” Karin moved to the far side of the bed to let Richie have her seat.
Tori reached for her husband’s hand. He took it and his eyes widened in surprise at the strength of her grip. “It’s okay angel. I’m here now. I’m here. I love you.” He waited until the contraction eased, then bent to kiss her.
She smiled weakly. “Hi. I love you too.”
“Now will you push?” Dr. Crandall winked at Richie.
Tori nodded. Richie helped her into position and helped support her. “Okay Sweetpea. It’s showtime.”
With Tori – and Sweetpea – working with her body instead of against it, events progressed quickly. In about half an hour Richie watched his new daughter enter the world. “It’s a girl!” He didn’t realize he was crying until Tori wiped the tears from his face. He hugged her and returned the favour. “I love you!” He kissed her thoroughly, but briefly. She was still trying to get her breath back.
When they handed him the scissors to cut the cord he found that his hand was shaking. His eyes welled up again when they placed the baby in his arms. “Hi Sweetpea. Welcome to the world.” He kissed her tiny cheek and handed her to her mother, then cuddled them both.
“Does Sweetpea have a name yet?” The nurse asked as she filled out the chart.
“Lauren.” Tori replied.
“Lauren Victoria Sambora.” Richie added. Tori frowned and shook her head, but he insisted. “Yes. Peanut’s named after me. I want Sweetpea named after you. Besides, it’s a beautiful name.”
Tori smiled and gave in. She leaned against him and felt him kiss her head as they gazed down at their daughter – who briefly looked back at them. Karin quietly followed the medical personnel out of the room to give them some privacy.
Richie snickered. “Your Aunt Dot’s going to love you!” At Tori’s look he nodded towards the baby. “The dark side won this time.”
Tori looked back at the baby, who blinked at her parents and went back to sleep. Suddenly, Tori understood and chuckled. While she could see the imprint of her own features on the tiny face, those brief glimpses had shown her that her daughter wasn’t going to inherit her mother’s eyes. “That’s okay. I happen to love the Sambora brown eyes.” She turned her head to stare into those eyes, caressed his cheek with her free hand and kissed him.
Down in the waiting room Karin filled everyone in. Ava cheered. “I told you it was a girl! Maybe now that I’m not the ‘baby girl’, Daddy will quit calling me that.”
David chuckled. “Sorry Bean, but it ain’t gonna happen. Take it from someone who knows. You are his firstborn. No matter how old you get or how many sisters you have, you will always be his ‘baby girl’.” Ava sighed.
Tori and Richie looked up at a knock on the door. Ava stuck her head in. “Can I come in?”
“Sure Bean. Come meet your sister.” Tori waved her in. “Thanks for all of your help earlier, by the way.”
“You’re welcome.” Ava leaned over to see the baby’s face and touch her cheek. “Hi Sweetpea.” She glanced between the baby and her stepmother. “She looks like you.”
“Yes, she does.” Her father agreed. “Except she got the Sambora eyes.”
“And you are so screwed with two beautiful daughters to protect.” Karin reminded him from the doorway. “Are you ready for company?”
Tori barely had time to nod before the door opened fully and the guys filed in. “We’re not company, we’re family.” David admonished his wife. “Come on Bela, show us the new addition. Lucky kid. She looks like her mother.” Karin gave him a swat. “What? That was a compliment!”
“With you, sometimes it’s hard to tell. You need to work on that.”
“Congrats to all of you.” Hugh kissed her and shook Richie’s hand.
“Felicitaciones nina. She’s beautiful.” Tico bent to kiss her cheek. Straightening, he clapped Richie on the shoulder. “And thank you for not scaring us half to death like you did the last time.”
“Amen.” Echoed around the room. Richie squeezed her closer.
Tori smiled wryly. “Yeah. I will admit that I feel much better this time.”
“So that makes two girls and a boy. Are you going to try to even things out or are you done?” David couldn’t resist.
Tori looked at Richie. “I hope three’s enough for you. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting too old for this.”
Richie chuckled and kissed her. “Three’s plenty angel. Sorry Shirley. If you want an even number it’s up to you and Charlie.”
David and Karin exchanged a look. He grinned. “Hmmmm. There’s something to think about. After all, we are younger than you two.” Richie flipped him off.
Jon was the last to approach the bed. Bending he kissed both his sister and his new niece. “Congratulations. She’s beautiful. Dot’s calling the rest of the family. They’ll be here by tonight.”
Tori nodded. “Thanks.”
Jon reached out and clapped Richie on the shoulder. “Looks like you got an early birthday present bro.” Richie grinned and nodded.
Tori turned to him. “You said you knew what you wanted to do for your birthday. What is it?”
Richie’s smile gentled and he looked at his baby daughter. “I wanted to see my baby enter the world. I got my wish.”
Tori gazed into his dark eyes now shining wet and full of love. “Happy birthday.”
He kissed her, then bent and kissed the baby. “To both of us.”