I nodded and hugged them both before heading out to my car. It was warmer than it had been the day before, a little more than sixty degrees, and the sun felt good on my face. I went back to work and spent the rest of the day doing welfare checks with Rachel. When we made it back to the office, it was already after five and I packed my stuff up to head home for the night. Instead of actually going home, though, I drove towards the hospital.
Once I was buzzed into the NICU, I washed my hands and left everything outside the door. I pushed open the door and Kara immediately grinned at me.
“I saw you on TV. You did great.”
I chuckled and shook my head. “That was gross. I never want to do it again.”
“You’re working that outfit.” She gave me a once over and winked. “It must be nice to wear clothes that accentuate your shape every day.”
“You look hot in those scrubs, Kara.” I gave her a serious look as I went over to Chris’s bed. His eyes were open as he stared to his left at nothing and I immediately smiled.
“Hey, sweet boy.” My fingertips ran across his forehead and he just wiggled in his bed. “How’s he doing?”
“Great,” Kara said as she tapped a screen next to another baby. “He is eating a little better than he was but still not as well as we’d like.”
The tiny baby let out a small, angry squeak and I looked back down as he scrunched up his eyes. His little face relaxed before he got angry again and I couldn’t help but smile.
I didn’t waste any time scooping him to my arms like I had in the days before. I was careful of his wires and I covered him with a blanket even though the NICU felt like it was ninety degrees already.
His little cheek pressed to the skin above my shirt and he immediately settled down. I bounced on my feet a little and pressed my nose to the top of his hair.
“This child is intoxicating.”
“Why don’t you try feeding him again?” Kara asked as she handed me a small bottle of formula. “The doctor really wants him to drink at least twenty milliliters in one sitting. Even if he doesn’t, the practice is good for his suck reflex.”
I took the bottle from her and settled into the rocking chair. Chris’s deep blue eyes stayed on me as I brought the bottle to his mouth and we rocked together while he attempted to eat. After about twenty minutes, he was completely asleep and I held up the bottle to look at it.
“He drank almost an ounce. What is that in milliliters?”
Kara took the bottle and looked at it herself. “An ounce is thirty milliliters so I’d say he drank about twenty-five. Good job, Steph.”
We kept chatting off and on as she helped parents who came and went. I undid my blouse, knowing damn well I’d picked button-up ones all week because of the baby, and cuddled him up to my chest. His little cheek pressed against my skin and he looked comfortable where he was.
When Kara had a particularly fussy baby, I let her work while I sat in my bubble with Chris. He slept with his little lips parted and I couldn’t help but run my fingers through his fuzzy, blonde hair.
I stared at him for so long, and it was so warm in the NICU, that my eyes began to feel heavy and I blinked several times to wake myself up. Suddenly, someone shook my shoulder gently and I opened my eyes. I blinked again, trying to figure out where the hell I was. I felt something move against my chest and looked down to see Chris shift in his sleep. My grip tightened on him and I looked up to see Kara staring down at me with a smile.
“I fell asleep holding him? I’m sorry. That’s so dangerous.”
She shook her head. “We’ve been here the whole time watching. You were fine. I didn’t want to wake you up but the detectives are here and they wanted to talk to you.” She carefully took Chris from me and I stood up, stretching my stiff muscles as I did.
“How long did I sleep?” I asked as I re-buttoned my blouse, my chest now sweaty from where the baby had been sleeping. Kara let out a small laugh and looked at the clock.
“Over an hour. You must be tired.”
“I’m always tired,” I replied with a yawn while slipping my feet back into my heels. “I’ll be right back.”
I walked through the door of the NICU and spotted Kevin and Valerie sitting in the waiting room. Valerie smiled when she saw me and they both stood to greet me.
“What’s going on?” I asked, rubbing my still-kinked neck as I sat in a chair across from them.
“We’ve received several hundred calls but ten of the tips seem legit,” Kevin said as he handed me a cup of coffee and an unopened bottle of water. I took of drink of the warm, caffeinated liquid and savored it as he continued. “We’re going to run them down tomorrow. We were told to let DCS know that as soon as we have a name, you can begin proceedings to have phantom parental rights terminated.”
I swallowed another mouthful of coffee and nodded again. “Good. I put in the request to have his birth certificate created today, but it’ll be easier if we know who the parents are. We named him Christopher Banner for now.”
Valerie started to say something but someone interrupted us before she could.
“Excuse me. Are you the people working the Baby Boy Doe case?”
The fine hairs on the back of my neck stood on end and when I turned my head, along with Val and Kevin, my eyes widened in surprise.