Warnings: None that I can think of… oh, wait a second…
I’m not a doctor, I’m just going on information gleaned secondhand from
a friend who went through this. Thankfully, all worked out fairly
well in the end.
Notes: 1) This takes place early in season three,
before Megan’s arrival. 2) The muse insisted on first person, so please
forgive the present tense. 3) Minor OFC’s male and female.
How do you explain the most important part of your life? Sitting here in this waiting room, I am without hope. There is no reason for me to expect to survive the night. No, I’m not hurt – not even a scratch, but how can you live without your heart and soul? And this is all because of one, little, itty-bitty thing – some idiot decided he could drive home from a party even though he was so drunk the proverbial skunk in a whiskey bottle was sober in comparison. If Rafe had not been there, holding me back -- if Ellison had not beaten me to that idiot – well, I know I would have killed him. Instead, I sit here, waiting.
Poor Rafe. Two weeks as my official partner in Major
Crimes and he gets to watch me lose it. Bet he never thought he would ever
see me like this. Working together, just like back when we were on
patrol. Back then Rafe was always at my place or at Mom and Pop’s.
Then I transferred to Vice and he went to S.W.A.T. – but we stayed friends.
He is always checking on Sheri and Mom and Dad – not every day but at least
once a week. Oh, God. I think this hit him as hard as it hit me.
I hate waiting rooms.
<Henri? I brought you some coffee. >
How can Joel expect me to drink coffee? How can he expect me to be normal when my soul has been ripped out of my chest? I can feel the huge, bloody wound there, even if I cannot see it. Between that wound and the pure desperation running through my veins I think I am going to go mad.
“Daddy? I’m scared.” Akisha’s voice breaks
into my reverie. I know the hand that takes the coffee away is Rafe’s.
As soon as it’s gone, the little girl is in my lap, weeping her fears onto
my shoulder. She has already lost one family and is afraid of losing
this one too. She’s so big now, seven-years-old, no longer the little
baby she was just a few years ago. How do I explain what happened?
No one, not even the loquacious Hairboy, can make this right. A blanket
is settled around us as I rock her. As far as my partner is concerned
we’re family and he is in concern overload.
After a while, I look up. The waiting room is full.
I see officers in uniforms, detectives in suits, and my entire department
– still in the flack jackets from the stakeout we had been on when the
news came. The first thing dispatch did after the bust went down
and we turned on our radios was order me to the hospital. No one
on the team went home or back to the station, instead we left the prisoners
to S.W.A.T. and Vice and raced here. I vaguely remember Ellison taking
my keys and handing them to Rafe – he said something about it would not
do Sheri any good if I wrecked on the way. But that was, I check
my watch in disbelief, six hours ago.
Oh, my God! Why hasn’t anyone come out here and
told me anything? What is happening behind those doors?
<Henri? Let me take Akisha. I’ve made a bed over here. She can sleep there until we know something. >
I hold her close, silently refusing Hairboy’s request.
I know my friends are worried about me, but right now I cannot answer their
questions. I almost lost Akisha, how can I let her go? The
bandages on her face, the tiny cuts from the shattered windshield, they
remind me how close I was to losing her. Only God and the seatbelt
kept her alive. I still have not been told about the others, how
can I risk letting go the one piece of my life that remains?
I ignore their questions and comments. Why? Because if I open my mouth, I am afraid I will begin to scream – to rail against God, against mankind, against fate. I cannot afford to lose my hold on my sanity. The tight grip on my vocal chords is the only thing holding me together. If I lose control, I am afraid I will lose the thread that holds those precious items to this world. If I lose that thread, I lose my soul and all will be lost.
I feel Rafe pat my shoulder and look up. He has gotten Mom and Pop to come. I let them pull me close. Mom is crying – for me, for Akisha, for the two in the operating room with the grim faced doctors. Pop is silent, holding me and Akisha with one arm, and Mom with the other. A moment later I feel my brothers join the embrace. I do not want to know how he did it, but he got them here from Seattle in record time. I will have to remember to thank Rafe later – I know he called them because I did not and no one else has their numbers.
While I let Mom and Pop comfort me, my partner relieves
me of the sleeping weight of my daughter. But he does not put her
down. He seems to understand I am afraid she will disappear if she
is left alone. So, my white, South African, always dressed to the
nines partner tucks my iodine painted, oil-smudged little girl under his
chin, against his brand new silk shirt and croons one of the weird Afrikaans
lullabies he always sings her. Just like nothing out of the ordinary
was happening. Just like nothing was wrong and we were in my house.
Akisha’s eyes close again and she drifts back to sleep. She is used
to Rafe singing her to sleep when he visits our house. It does not
matter that we are in a hospital waiting room, waiting to find out if our
world has come to an end. When he sings to her she always goes to
<Has there been any word? >
< Nothing. I’m getting worried about H. >
<Let it go, Chief. Everyone handles stress
I catch Ellison’s eye as he leads Sandburg and Captain
Banks farther away from the small huddle of my family. I do not know
how he knew I had heard them, but he did. Now against all precedent,
he is buffering me from his partner’s well-meaning concern and our boss’
I force myself to disengage from my father’s hug. I have to move. I cannot be still, not now. I check on my little girl. She’s sleeping. Silently, without me having to ask, Rafe walks with me. I am glad my oldest is away with the school choir. I do not want her here, not yet. I want her to have a little bit of normalcy – she’s only been with us a few months. I do not want to cut her trip short. But I am afraid I will have no choice. Nevertheless, having her here to wait for the news is more than I can contemplate bearing.
I must have made a sound. Rafe has given Akisha
to Sandburg, making him promise to hold her, not to put her down and is
pushing me into a chair. A minute later and that new guy – Lance
– hands him a fresh cup of coffee. Pop is sitting beside me, helping
Rafe talk to me. God, my chest hurts so bad.
“Detective Brown?” I recognize the voice.
Like a ship entering a sea lane, the head nurse cuts through the sea of
my friends and family. I had not realized how often I visit this
hospital until now. The fact that I know Lynne’s voice and recognize
her on sight is a frightening comment on the frequency of my visits.
The idea that she has come for me is terrifying. Lynne does not come
to the patients’ family members, she sends her underlings.
“Come on, dear.” Lynne neither smiled nor
frowned as she gestured me to stand. She looks as tired as I feel.
I know she works first shift, she should have gone home hours ago.
“Dr. Kriesler needs to talk to you.”
I follow her, noting that she signals the others
to stay in the waiting room. We move from the odd green hallways
that mark the ER area, to the white and gray of the main hospital corridor.
Then we are in the private hall that leads to the offices. She opens
the door to a small private office.
Dr. Kriesler is leaning on his desk, paler than
any white man should ever get. He looks like a corpse. I shudder
at the thought. His eyes look like some perp belted him pretty hard
– deep brown circles mar the skin under them and make them appear sunken.
The lines of his exhaustion make his nose seem twice the size it was last
week. But then the doctor – the best in his field in the city – smiles.
It is a bit grim, but it is satisfied. Maybe my life is not over
“Detective Brown.” His voice is cheery enough
to lift my spirits. “I have good news.”
I do not say a word. I simply stand there,
waiting, trying not to hope. Lynne shuffles uncomfortably beside
me. Neither of them is comfortable with my lack of reaction.
“Detective?” There is deep concern in Kriesler’s
“Heard it on the radio.” I murmur, wincing
at the raw sound of my voice.
The doctor looks confused.
“Paramedics said no heartbeat, using defibrillators.” I could not believe I finally admitted to hearing it. I could feel the scream building in the back of my throat again.
“No, Henri.” It was the first time Kriesler had ever used my first name. “You misunderstood. There were three cars involved in the accident. Sheri is going to be fine.”
I feel as if the weight of the world has been lifted
from my shoulders. I can feel the smile on my face. “She’s
Kriesler smiles at me, a little sadly, but it is a smile. “In time. But you are going to have to take very good care of her. And Henri, you should know – there will be no more pregnancies. I know how much the two of you wanted children of your own, to add to the ones you foster, but it is not an option anymore. I did all I could, but there was just too much damage.”
I let that sink in, but it does not matter. Sheri is alive. That is what is important. We have two beautiful little girls who we love dearly. I do not care that they are not my flesh and blood. If I had to choose between Sheri and a woman who could give me sons of my own, I would still choose Sheri.
“Thank you for saving her.” I try to let him see my gratitude. I think I manage it because I see some of his worry leave him and his shoulders straighten.
“Henri,” the doctor hesitates. “About the baby. Do you want to see him?”
I nod and follow him out the door. To my surprise they lead me the pediatric ward. At first, I do not understand. Then I see the tiny form with all the wires, tubes, and other uncomfortable looking things hooked up to it. There is a nurse sitting with him, her hand dwarfing his.
“I want to hold him.” I am staring through the thick glass, trying to see him.
“It isn’t a good idea to get attached.” The words are spoken in a pained tone, almost as if the doctor does not want to say them. “We don’t hold much hope for him. He’s premature and he was hurt in the accident. You’ll only hurt yourself by getting attached.”
“Where’s Sheri?” I ask quietly, still watching my son struggle to breathe.
“I had to sedate her.” Kriesler did not look happy about the way the conversation switched tracks so quickly.
I turn to Lynne. “Could you find Rafe?” My voice is soft. “Tell him to stay with Sheri for me. I need to stay with the baby since she can’t.”
“Henri.” The doctor’s protest fades at my glare. I have been practicing, trying to perfect something similar to the patented Ellison glare. It must have worked.
“Is there any harm in me holding him? Letting him know I’m rooting for him?” I hear myself ask.
“Not really.” He hesitated. “The lights are to keep him warm. They need to be left on him, otherwise his slim chance disappears completely.”
“If I hold him, and you point the lights at us, will that work?” I know they think I have lost it, but I have an idea. Over the past few months I have been listening to Hairboy – a lot. He keeps going on and on about the importance of family bonding and touch in the health of infants and children. I have seen enough neglected children to think he might be right. If it will not hurt my son, maybe it will help him.
“Henri…” Kriesler tries again.
“I will hold my son. Even if he does not survive the night, I want him to feel loved for the time he is here.” The doctor looks away, but he acquiesces. One of the pediatric nurses helps me change into sterile pants and iodines my chest. Skin is warmer than cloth, she explains but I understand.
I have held newborns before, but this is different. My nieces and nephews were all big, healthy babies. This baby on my chest is not. He barely weighs four pounds and cannot maintain his own body temperature – so his skin is cool and he feels weightless to me. He is so very fragile, so very thin. The tiny bandages and splints on his limbs make me afraid I will hurt him with my rough hands. But he seems to relax when the nurse places him against my chest, just over my heart. I close my eyes as she focuses the heat lights on the tiny body resting against my heart.
I am not sure how long I sat there, rocking slowly and praying over him. To me time did not matter. I could not let him lie in that plastic bed, all alone. If I did not hold him, I was afraid he would become the statistic the doctors claimed him to be. No one, not the nurses who checked us every quarter hour, not the specialists who murmured in quiet surprise when they found me cradling him, not the technicians who came to adjust the monitor, was going to make me leave him alone. Babies are not meant to be solitary creatures, Sandburg was right, they need constant contact and interaction to survive.
“Henri.” Joel Taggart and Pop were in the unit with
me. I have no idea when they joined me, nor do I know how they managed
“Son, let me hold my grandson.” Pop’s voice was gentle, almost a broken whisper. It bothers me that he is so upset, so cowed, but not enough to ask him about it.
Joel caught my attention. He looked strange
in the hospital scrubs. “Henri, Jim says Sheri will be waking up
“I can’t leave him alone.” I whisper, my hand gently smoothing its way down the baby’s back.
“That’s why I’m here.” Pop answers my unspoken
question. “I promise, he will not be put in the incubator.
Me or one of your brothers will be right here with him.”
I nod and carefully settle my son against my father’s chest. He is so tiny against my father’s brawny chest. It is hard for me to leave the room, but Ellison has an uncanny habit of knowing when someone is coming out of sedation. If he says Sheri is waking up, she is. I know Sheri needs me – just as much as I need her. Pop can care for the baby. He understands.
As Joel escorts me to Sheri’s room, I wonder, briefly, how they managed to get permission to enter the pediatric/neo-natal ICU area. Then I notice all the familiar faces and I realize my friends have invaded the maternity and pediatric wards. No doctor is crazy enough to challenge all of them. Those Sandburg cannot talk down, Ellison can stare down, my partner can bribe and/or blackmail, or Banks can intimidate. The rest of the PD can and will follow their example.
Ellison and Sandburg are flanking a door. It has to be hers. They look like an honor guard, worn and weary but at attention, as they watch my approach. Sandburg smiles at me, but it is a subdued smile.
“Mama Brown took Akisha home with her. She wants you to call her after you get some sleep.” Jim does not smile as he passes on the message. Instead he looks me over, as if to make sure I am worthy of entering. Finally, he nods to himself and reaches for the door handle. “She’s not awake yet, probably about ten more minutes though.” He glances away as he says that, but for once I am not asking how he does it. “If there is anything I can do… just ask.”
I meet his pale eyes and I can see the pain he is feeling for me and for Sheri. No matter how stubborn and grouchy he got, Ellison never snapped at my wife. She treated him like a cherished brother from the day they met, when he pulled her out a ditch, not knowing who she was, only knowing she was a woman in need of help. After Jack disappeared and his marriage to Caroline broke up, she insisted that he remain her friend, and to my surprise, he obeyed her command. It did not take long for me to realize that her matter-of-fact acceptance of him, no matter how surly or happy he was, endeared her to him. Some of my other friends say I trust them too much – I know better. Sheri and I are in love, Sheri loves Jim like she loves my brothers – with a switch in hand just in case it is needed.
“Could you find Tabitha for me?” I know he can do it. “She went on a trip with the school choir. She needs to know what’s happening, especially if…”
“I’ll take care of everything.” Jim does not
make me finish that sentence. I know he will get her here as fast
as he can.
I step inside the room and watch her sleep. Her breathing is calm and even. Only a couple of worry lines mar her face. Not a single bruise or scratch above her shoulders. The seatbelt protected her face and head during the accident. But the cost was high for that protection – broken collarbone, flailed chest, bruised spleen, bruised kidneys, cracked pelvis, broken femur, a nasty case of whiplash, and several torn internal organs that had to be removed to save her life. But she lives and that means I live and the children have half a chance at a good life.
With the same infinitely gentle touch I used on the baby, I pick up her hand. Her fingers are swollen so badly that she still wears my rings, even though it is against hospital policy for a patient to wear jewelry. Her rings are so beautiful compared to mine, decked out with her favorite stones; small peridots and moonstones that flash like newly opened flowers beside the vines on the wedding ring. Her hand trembles in mine and I look up to see her eyes are open.
I feel the smile building, as I gently wipe away her tears. My life is not over. My soul has not gone home to heaven to wait impatiently with her. I sink into the chair next to the bed, and lay my cheek against her hand.
“I was so scared, baby. I was so scared.” I murmur, pressing a kiss to her palm. She curls her hand up, safeguarding the kiss, just like she did the first time I did that – at the Junior High Dance.
I see the tears start running down her cheeks and I know what she thinks and I know what she does not know. “Shh. Evan is alive, baby. Don’t give up on him.” She gasps. It was only a week ago that we decided his first name would be her father’s. The second name, that we have not decided, but there is no rush. The room is slowly brightening with the dawn. “Pop is with him now. I held him all night, showing him he was wanted. If God lets us keep him, we will take him home. If God wants him in heaven that badly, at least He isn’t taking you too.”
“Henri.” Her voice is just a bare whisper of a protest.
“Listen to me, baby. If it is Evan’s time, I will let him go, peacefully. If He say it is your time – I will fight every doctor, every nurse, every angel in heaven to keep you with me.” I lay it all on the line. “You are my heart, my soul, my sanity, and I can’t lose you.”
Sheri smiles, one of those heartbreaking smiles a woman gives when she is torn between happiness and sadness. “You fight for him for me.”
I nod, still holding her hand to my cheek, and watch as she slides back into sleep. Her body has so much healing to do. So does mine from all the stress I have been under. I feel the call to sleep and drift away, holding onto the most precious thing in my life. Oh, I have other things I need and hold dear, but Sheri, Sheri is my mainstay. The others would hurt to lose. Sheri’s loss would kill me.
But I do not have to worry about loss right now, I realize dimly. My friends are here, quietly and firmly taking over on my behalf. They brought my family to me in my time of need. And they will protect me and mine while I rest. I know, somehow, against all directives and orders, that when I wake up Rafe will be in the neo-natal unit crooning his Afrikaans lullabies to my son. Sandburg will be giving the doctors all kinds of proof that it is necessary for the baby’s health. Ellison will be standing guard over his partner’s words and my partner’s actions. The Taggarts will be working out schedules with my folks. My brothers will be arguing over who keeps the girls the rest of the week. It is safe to sleep now. And so, holding her hand in mine, I do.
Note: Evan’s full name is Evan Lashon Brown and he is seen in my previously posted fics: Buried Treasure and Rafe’s Tale. I used secondhand, whispered (and so not very accurate because it was hard to understand then) knowledge based on what happened to a couple of friends of mine for this story. KCJ, I promised you a happy ending for Evan Lashon – here it is. I hope it goes as well for you and yours.