|Forever and Always
Author: erm31323 PM
Sequel to Maybe - As Oliver, Grace and Annie settle into becoming a family, obstacles keep popping up, threatening their happiness. Will they all make it through? Begins after the movie ends.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Chapters: 28 - Words: 153,327 - Reviews: 80 - Favs: 19 - Follows: 13 - Updated: 02-29-12 - Published: 09-26-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7414215
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N - Here it is, last chapter. I have alot to say, but I'll put it at the end so as not to keep you from the chapter. Tissue warning for this one, parts of it are quite angsty.
For a moment, with the exception of Annie's quiet crying, there was silence in the room as Drake's words faded away. Mrs. Pugh had come in with the dessert plates just as Drake had delivered his message and she stood, frozen, with the platter held in front of her, slowly tipping forward as the plates began to slide. Oliver looked at her and saw that the plates were about to slip off to the floor, but said nothing. His body seemed to have stop working, all except his head which continued to sweep around the room, taking in the faces of everyone present. No one else seemed able to move either, not even Drake, the most stoic of them all. It wasn't until the plates fell from the tray, the china splintering, as the pieces of cake upended frosting side first and splattered onto the floor, that anyone made a noise. Sandy, who had been lying under the table, only whined, instead of running to gobble up the spoils as he normally would have.
But the small noise from the dog seemed to push Oliver into action more than anything else. He turned and looked at Drake, opening his mouth and then closing it again, repeating the action twice more before he could get any words out.
"Who?" he asked, so quietly he wasn't sure that Drake could hear him. Drake turned to him then, the man's face tortured, a look Oliver had never seen him wear before.
"B-both," he managed to stutter out and Elizabeth sucked in a breath so large and gasping, Oliver glanced at her to be sure that she was still breathing. Annie's head rose from the table at this one word and the terror in her eyes was like nothing that Oliver had ever seen, not even when she had been kidnapped and hanging from the railroad bridge. Mrs. Pugh clutched at her heart, able to sink into a chair by the very nearest of margins, barely managing not to fall completely to the floor. For the briefest of seconds, Oliver hung his head in agony. And then he stood, pulling Elizabeth from her chair and looking to Annie and Mrs. Pugh.
"Let's go," he said and before anyone could react, he strode from the room.
Less than a minute later, all four of them, along with David, were in the cars, heading to the hospital. Oliver and Annie sat in silence, driven by the Asp. Elizabeth had David, along with Mrs. Pugh and Punjab, and they were following behind. Oliver looked at Annie again, surprised at the calmness on the little girl's face. It was shock, he supposed, or confusion about what exactly was happening. Oliver could not bring himself to say anything or do anything that might help his daughter, as he had no idea what that might be. All he could do was reach out and take her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. For the moment, it seemed to be enough as she squeezed back, continuing to look out the window.
When they arrived at the hospital, Oliver led the way down the hall to Grace's room, his bodyguards following at the rear. He was stopped before he reached it by a rather harried-looking nurse.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Warbucks," the nurse said. "But the children aren't al-," but Oliver cut her off with a snarl, leaning in close to her face.
"My wife is dying, is she not?" he asked quietly so Annie would not hear. The nurse nodded. "Then her children will be in the room to say good-bye to her." The nurse seemed on the verge of arguing, but with a pitying look at Annie, she simply moved aside. As they approached the door, Oliver paused, taking in a shuddering breath. He looked back at Elizabeth who nodded, understanding what he wanted. She pulled Annie and Mrs. Pugh aside for a moment, as Oliver entered the room.
The doctor was there, examining Grace. Henry stood on the other side of the bed, lightly holding her hand. Oliver's heart clenched painfully and it was all he could do to hold back the roar of anguish he wanted to release. Henry looked up as Oliver shut the door behind him and quickly crossed the room.
"I'm sorry, son," he said quietly, putting a hand on Oliver's arm. Oliver simply nodded and took Henry's place at Grace's side. Oliver looked up expectantly at the doctor, who merely shook his head.
"I'm sorry, sir," the doctor said. "There's nothing else we can do. I don't think that she'll make it through the night."
"And my daughter?" Oliver managed to ask. The doctor shook his head once more. "She's just too weak, it happened at almost the same time as your wife, curiously enough." The doctor had a thoughtful expression on his face, as if he were trying to puzzle something out, but shook his head a moment later as if dismissing whatever thought he had been contemplating.
"I want her brought here," Oliver said, looking up at the doctor. "My daughter, I want her with her mother."
"I don't know if that's a good idea," the doctor said.
"Why not?" Oliver asked. "If she's going to, if they're both going to," he paused, swallowing down a sob.
"I suppose you're right," the doctor agreed. "I'll have the nurse bring her down."
"Thank you," Oliver said, sitting down on Grace's bed and taking her hand. "Dad, would you?" Oliver indicated the door with a nod.
"Of course," Henry replied and went into the hall to collect everyone else. They all shuffled into the room, except the Asp and Punjab, who stood in the hall on either side of the door, stoic guards to the grief going on inside. Annie clung to Elizabeth. Mrs. Pugh was holding David and she immediately crossed the room and handed him to Oliver. Mrs. Pugh took Grace's other hand and smoothed her hair from her brow, smiling down at her.
"Would you like a few minutes?" Oliver asked, but Mrs. Pugh merely shook her head, tears running down her face. She leaned forward and kissed Grace's forehead, squeezed her hand and then turned and abruptly left the room.
"Annie," Oliver called, but Annie held tighter to Elizabeth hiding her face in Elizabeth's side. Oliver rose and handed the baby to Henry, then approached his daughter. He squatted down in front of her and took her hand from Elizabeth's waist. "Don't you want to see your mother?
Annie shook her head, looking as if she was trying to bury herself in Elizabeth. He managed to pry her away enough to pick her up and he took her back into the hall. Annie clung to him, much as she had to Elizabeth and Oliver rubbed her back and murmured soothingly to her.
"Annie, I don't know if your mother is ever going to wake up," he said quietly into the little girl's ear. "This might be your last chance to see her." While he appeared calm, inside Oliver was screaming. He shouldn't be saying these things, shouldn't have to tell his daughter that her mother was dying. His little girl shouldn't have to do this, shouldn't have to say good-bye. But Oliver could not give in to the rage that was burning inside. He had to make sure that Annie was all right, that was the most important thing now.
Annie hitched in a shaky breath and pulled back to look at Oliver. Her eyes swam with tears and her entire face was wet from her crying. Oliver fumbled in his pocket for his handkerchief and gently wiped her face.
"You don't have to say anything," Oliver said. "You can just hold her hand and give her a hug if you want to." Annie nodded and Oliver turned to carry her back into the room.
When Oliver had left with Annie, Elizabeth turned to Grace. The tears were flowing freely down her cheeks and she did nothing to stop them. She took the other woman's hand, squeezing it as she studied her sister-in-law. She could hear the labored breaths Grace was taking and Elizabeth's heart contracted at the thought that Grace truly was going to leave them. Elizabeth had not known her for long, but she loved Grace as if she were her own sister. Grace had given her something that she never thought she would have again, her brother and ultimately her father as well. There were no words of gratitude powerful enough to thank her for that.
"I promise you Grace," Elizabeth said. "I will take care of them, Oliver and the children. Frank and I, we'll move here to New York. They won't be alone." She leaned down and kissed Grace's cheek, just as Oliver and Annie came through the door. Annie took one look at Elizabeth and began crying again, although from the looks of it, she had never really stopped. Oliver set her down on the bed next to her mother and Annie sat motionless for a moment, then lay down and curled herself against Grace's side. Elizabeth pulled in a heaving sob and ran from the room. Henry turned to Oliver, handing the baby over and Oliver nodded as Henry followed Elizabeth.
Turning back to his wife, Oliver sat on the other side of the bed. Imitating the movement Elizabeth had made the previous week, he pulled Grace's arm gently from her side and laid David in the space he had created. He held the baby fast to her and took Annie's hand, so the four of them were connected. Now they just needed to wait for Maggie and their family would be complete.
The irony of that was not lost on Oliver. The five of them had never been in a room together since the babies were born and now it was only because they were losing two of them that they were allowed to be at all. He once again fought back the rage and anguish that threatened to make its appearance known. There would be time for that later when he was alone.
Alone. Five little letters that terrified Oliver to his very core. The fact that he and Grace had been together for less than a year was incongruous to the fact that he felt as if she had always been there, that they had always been together. He couldn't imagine life without her. But, it seemed that after the vast amount of his life he had spent alone, fate was determined that he keep it that way. Not that he would be completely alone. He would have his children. But there would never be another Grace for him. No one could ever take her place, of that he was certain.
He looked at David, who lay awake, but quiet, as if he sensed the gravity of the situation. His eyes, so like Grace's and his hair, the exact same shade as hers, meant that Oliver would have a piece of her with him forever. He smiled at his son who turned his head toward his mother, seeming to burrow into her side, as if searching for comfort.
Oliver looked to Annie, who was curled up on Grace's other side. Her eyes were closed, but Oliver could tell she wasn't sleeping. He knew she was probably saying her good-byes silently. He wondered what would happen now to his happy, exuberant daughter, once her mother left her. As close as Oliver was to Annie, he knew that Grace held a piece of her heart that no one else could touch. It was Grace who had rescued Annie from the orphanage, even if it had ultimately been Oliver that adopted her, Grace was the first one that had ever cared for Annie, the first one to love her. No matter how much Oliver loved his daughter, that bond was something he could never replace.
He softly stroked Annie's hair and she opened her eyes, giving him a wan smile. She tightened her grip on her mother's waist and sighed, tears making their way down her cheeks again. They sat this way for a few minutes more until a nurse came into the room with Maggie in her arms. Elizabeth and Henry followed behind.
"Elizabeth, can you take David please?" Oliver asked hoarsely, as if he hadn't used his voice in days.
"Of course," she said and came and picked the baby up. He whimpered a bit, as if knowing he was losing contact with his mother, so Elizabeth remained next to Grace. Oliver took Maggie gently from the nurse and gasped at the sight of his newborn daughter. She was deathly pale and so very, very small. Tears welled in his eyes at the thought that he had been the cause of some of this, neglecting her for the last two days as he had. Annie sat up to look at her and gasped as well.
"She's so tiny," Annie whispered and Oliver nodded.
"Yes, that she is," he replied quietly. He could hear her labored breathing, sounding much the same as Grace's. "Do you want to hold her?" he asked Annie. But Annie shook her head vehemently.
"She's too small, I might break her," Annie said. Oliver couldn't help but smile at this and he leaned forward and kissed Annie's forehead. And then they all fell silent, all lost in their own thoughts about the two people that they seemed about to lose. The adults took turns holding the babies and sitting with Grace. Annie didn't leave her mother's side and eventually Mrs. Pugh returned to the room as well. She cooed over Maggie for a few minutes, then sat in a chair at the foot of Grace's bed. The silent vigil went on well into the night until Oliver saw that Annie had actually fallen asleep. David was asleep as well, the nurse having brought a bottle down from the nursery for him a bit earlier.
"Dad," Oliver said. "I think that you should all go home. The children should be in bed." Henry nodded and Elizabeth and Mrs. Pugh stood. Elizabeth handed David off to Henry and Oliver gave her Maggie while he went to rouse Annie. She was disoriented when she first awoke, but when Oliver told her that it was time to go home, she immediately began to cry.
"No, I don't want to leave Mom," Annie wailed, awakening David who also began to cry. Henry began to shush him and Oliver picked up Annie, holding her to him.
"I'll be here with your mother and you can come back in the morning," Oliver said, knowing that there was a very good chance Grace would be gone by then. But he didn't relay these thoughts to Annie. She seemed to already know them herself though, as she opened her mouth to protest. "Please sweetheart, do as I ask," Oliver said quietly. Annie looked at him for a moment, then nodded, hugging him tightly around the neck once more. He returned the embrace, then set her down and she took Mrs. Pugh's hand. Oliver hugged the woman, who patted his cheek before she turned and left the room with Annie.
He then turned to Henry and kissed his son, who was now sleeping once more, and hugged his father, careful not to squish the baby between them. Henry clapped him on the back and Oliver was surprised to see tears in the older man's eyes when they stepped back from each other.
"Oliver," Henry rasped out, but Oliver just nodded.
"I know," he replied.
Henry left the room with David, leaving Elizabeth standing holding Maggie. She kissed the baby's tiny forehead and gently laid her at the end of Grace's bed. Then she stepped forward and pulled Oliver to her. He hugged her for a few moments, feeling her tears dampen his shoulder. He kissed her cheek and she looked up at him, the raw grief visible on her face.
"Do you want me to stay?" she asked and he knew she would if he asked.
"No," he replied, his voice a bit shaky. "I need you to look after Annie and David. I don't think Annie will want to be alone tonight." Elizabeth nodded and put a hand to his cheek.
"I'm so sorry, Oliver," she said. "I love you."
"Me too," he managed to reply. She smiled sadly at him as she left the room and when the door finally clicked shut, Oliver walked back to Grace's bed and picked Maggie up. He laid her on her mother's chest and then he climbed into bed beside them. He gently wrapped Grace's arm around Maggie and then covered it with his own, anchoring the baby between them. The misery that he had been suppressing all night finally made its appearance and Oliver began to sob as he lay next to his wife and daughter. Once he was spent, he propped himself up on one elbow and carefully lowered the oxygen mask from Grace's face. He kissed her softly on the lips before he put it back and then he lay back down to wait.
Oliver did not want to sleep, he didn't think that he could, but his exhaustion from the last few days along with the emotional duress of the last few hours overcame him. He slipped slowly into sleep and dreamed of Grace. She was chasing a little girl who looked to be 3 or 4 through the gardens in the backyard. The little girl was squealing in delight, her long blonde hair streaming out behind her. When she turned to look over her shoulder, Oliver saw that her eyes were the lightest shade of green. He smiled in his sleep and tightened his hold on Grace's arm. And as the bonds of sleep pulled him down further still, he did not feel the slight twitch of fingers against his arm, nor did he notice the slight change in the two other occupants in the room.
Had he been aware, he may have noticed that their breathing became slightly less labored. And he might also have noticed that the color in their faces became slightly less pale. He may have seen the way the baby's mouth began to work as if she were drinking a bottle and felt the way her mother's arm tightened ever so slightly around her. But Oliver, exhausted as he was, noticed none of these things and instead, slumbered on, dreaming his wonderful dreams of Grace.
Oliver shifted in his sleep, shrugging a shoulder against something that was tickling his neck. He mumbled when the sensation didn't stop and shrugged a shoulder up again. He was stuck in that place between sleep and wakefulness, his body aware, but his mind still sluggish. He could feel something against his arm, something that was moving slightly and the same soft movement at his neck. Slowly, the rest of his senses seemed to awaken. He heard a soft mewling sound which caused him to frown in confusion. As he opened his eyes, he saw that it was nearing dawn, the sky outside still gray, but starting to lighten.
He lay still for a moment, closing his eyes again and straining to hear the sound and then there it was. It seemed to be coming from, but no, that couldn't be. Perhaps he was still dreaming. Oliver froze, afraid that moving would break the spell of the dream and bring him crashing back into the tragedy that was his reality. But then he felt the movement at his neck again and heard the sound once more.
He carefully opened his eyes and looked at Maggie. She was wriggling in her blankets and the sounds were coming from her. He took in a breath and held it, staring at the baby who just hours ago he was certain would not make it through the night. She continued to move and fuss and Oliver could not help the tears that sprang to his eyes. And then he felt the tickling at his neck again.
He slowly turned his head, looking out of the corner of his eye and saw Grace's hand on his shoulder, her fingers poking at his neck. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then opened them and looked again. Grace's hand was still there. And then he realized that Maggie was not the only one making noises. He turned and lifted his head to look at Grace's face. The oxygen mask which covered her mouth and nose was moving, as if she were opening and closing her mouth.
With a shaking hand, Oliver reached toward her and lifted the mask away. Her mouth was indeed moving, but if she was speaking, it was so quiet that Oliver couldn't hear her. He shifted himself up onto an elbow, being careful to keep his other arm around Maggie and got closer to Grace's face. Her eyes were closed, but she was definitely trying to say something. Oliver put his ear close to her mouth and waited. The next time Maggie made a noise, Grace poked him again.
"Ba-, O'ver, up, ba-" she mumbled and Oliver realized she was trying to wake him up to tend to the baby. He stared at his wife and saw that she had a bit of color back in her cheeks and when he listened to her breathing, it sounded deep and even. He glanced at Maggie and noticed the same about her. Oliver pulled the mask back on Grace's face and then covered his eyes with his free hand, the tears coming in earnest now.
He was still unsure if he was awake or this was all just a dream. He knew he should get up and find the doctor or a nurse, but he didn't want to move. He didn't want to break whatever spell they all happened to be under. But when Maggie let out a louder cry, he could no longer ignore her and he sat up. He picked her up and saw that she too was nowhere near as pale as she had been earlier. He also noticed that her mouth was working as if she wanted to eat. Oliver gently cradled the baby to him, his tears returning and falling gently down onto Maggie's blanket. And then Grace poked at him again, in the side this time.
He looked over at her and her eyes were open, those beautiful deep blue eyes that Oliver never thought he would see again. She fumbled at the mask on her face, but Oliver took her hand in his and shook his head. He tried to speak, but couldn't manage it, all he could do was smile and sob. Grace looked at him, confused, and he just leaned forward and kissed her forehead, his breath hitching as he rested his forehead against hers. She slowly brought a hand to his face and laid it against his cheek. He turned and kissed her palm and she let her hand drop back to her side.
"I need to," Oliver pulled in a breath, trying to get himself under control. "I need to get the doctor." Grace nodded, her eyes closing again and Oliver's heart stopped for a moment. But no, her breathing was still steady and even, her cheeks still tinged pink. Oliver stood and tried to soothe Maggie, who was getting a bit louder in her protests, and then walked to the door of the room. He opened it and looked out, calling to a nurse who was coming down the hall.
"Please," he said, tears still running down his face. "Please, my wife." The nurse crossed the hall to him and misunderstanding, put a hand to his arm, her face sympathetic.
"I'm so sorry, Mr. Warbucks," she said solemnly.
"No, no, you don't understand," he said, shaking his head. "Please, just, please." He took the nurse's arm and brought her into the room. The nurse, still assuming the worst, went to Grace's bed and as she leaned down to take the mask from Grace's face, Grace's eyes opened. The nurse gasped and jumped back a step, looking at Oliver. At that moment, Maggie let out a rather loud cry.
"And, the baby?" the nurse asked, still in obvious shock.
"I think she's hungry," Oliver said, laughing and crying all at once.
"I can't believe," the nurse said, bringing a hand to her chest. "I mean, I don't," she broke off, unable to articulate how she felt about the situation.
"Yes, I know," Oliver said, smiling.
"Let me just get the doctor," the nurse said, finally recovering from her shock and bustling from the room.
Oliver crossed back to the bed and sat down next to Grace. She was fumbling with the mask again and Oliver helped her to pull it down. She was still groggy and disoriented, but she was very concerned about Maggie.
"Ol'ver," she said. "Baby, she's hun-, hungry." Oliver smiled through his tears and leaned down and kissed his wife.
"I know, sweetheart, I know," he said. "The doctor is coming." She looked up at him then, seeing the tears on his face and frowning in confusion. She reached up a hand and brushed at his cheek.
"Why," she said, her voice breaking from the weeks of disuse. She tried to clear her throat without much success. "Why are you, why are you crying?" Oliver just shook his head and picked up her hand, bringing it to his lips. He kissed her fingertips and her palm, the back of her hand and her wrist. He wanted to gather her up in his arms and never let her go again, but he knew the doctor needed to examine her and he really needed to feed Maggie.
Seconds later, the doctor ran into the room, a look of incredulousness on his face. The nurse followed shortly behind, a bottle in her hand which she gave to Oliver. He sat down in the chair next to Grace's bed and began to feed his daughter while the doctor began to examine Grace. To Oliver's amazement, Maggie took the bottle immediately and ate for longer than she ever had, before spitting the bottle out and twisting away. But when Oliver put it back in her mouth, she took it willingly, continuing to eat until the bottle was almost completely gone. Oliver brought her to his shoulder and she let out a small burp, then closed her eyes and went back to sleep.
The doctor had finished looking Grace over and turned to Oliver, wide smile on his face.
"Well Mr. Warbucks, it looks like you've gotten your miracle," he said and Oliver held his breath. "Your wife seems to be fine and your daughter looks to be doing better as well." Oliver let his breath out in a loud whoosh.
"But what," he paused, trying to collect himself. "I don't understand. What? How?" But the doctor just shook his head.
"I am not entirely sure either," he said. "Sometimes things happen that even I can't explain. We will want to run a few tests, but I think those can wait for just a bit." He smiled at Oliver and gestured to the bed, where Grace was now sitting in a semi-reclined position, the mask gone from her face. Oliver immediately stood and went to her side.
"I'll be back later," the doctor said, smiling at the two of them again.
"Thank you," Oliver said and the doctor nodded and then left the room. Oliver sat down on the bed and looked at his wife. She still looked drawn and a bit pale, but she smiled at him and Oliver's heart soared. He picked up her hand and kissed it again and she motioned to Maggie.
"Let me hold her, please," her voice was cracked and raspy, but Oliver thought he had never heard such a beautiful sound. He gently handed the baby over and Grace snuggled Maggie to her, nuzzling her face with her nose as she had in the car after her birth. A sob caught in Oliver's throat as he looked on at the scene he thought he would never see. After a few moments, Grace looked at Oliver in puzzlement.
"What happened?" she asked. "The last thing I remember was talking to you about names for this little one."
"Her name is Margaret," he said, his voice cracking a bit. "Margaret Grace. Maggie." Grace looked up at him, her brow furrowed.
"But I thought you didn't like Margaret," Grace said. "And why is her middle name Grace? Why not Ellen?"
"It's a very, very long story," Oliver said, brushing a hand along her cheek. "A story that can wait, for now. All that matters is that you're all right. That you're both all right." Grace looked up at him and smiled and Oliver leaned in and kissed her.
"I need to go and call the house," he said, standing. "Will you be all right with her for a few minutes?"
"Of course, we'll be fine," Grace said, smiling at him again. Oliver kissed her one more time and walked to the door. He turned back, reluctant to leave them, as if they would disappear if he turned his back. Once he was in the hall, he turned back again, opening the door a crack and looking in at them, just to make sure they were still there. Then he turned and made his way to the desk to call home with the good news.
Drake answered the phone when Oliver called and Oliver immediately asked for Elizabeth. She must have been very nearby for it was only a few seconds before she came on the line.
"Oliver, what's happened?" Elizabeth asked, fear in her voice.
"It's Grace, she's," Oliver paused as the tears returned and he drew in a shaky breath.
"Oh, Oliver, oh no, oh no," Elizabeth began sobbing and Oliver almost cursed out loud at his stupidity.
"Elizabeth, no, listen to me," Oliver said, but Elizabeth continued to sob and then Oliver heard noises in the background. After a few seconds of trying to get Elizabeth's attention, someone else came to the phone.
"Oliver," his father said. "Oliver, I'm so sorry son. Do you want us to come back to the hospital?"
"No, I mean yes, come back," Oliver began, then made a noise of frustration deep in his throat. "Dad, listen, I gave Elizabeth the wrong idea. Grace, she's fine, she's going to be all right."
"She's what?" Henry asked, sure that he had misunderstood.
"Grace woke up this morning and she's going to be fine," Oliver was grinning widely now.
"But how? How is that possible?" Henry asked. Oliver began to laugh.
"I don't know and neither does the doctor," Oliver said. "But that doesn't matter, I don't care how it happened or why, just that it did."
"And Maggie?" Henry asked tentatively.
"She's doing much better as well, she's with Grace right now," Oliver said, his grin growing impossibly wider. And then he heard Henry talking to Elizabeth and Elizabeth was back on the phone. She was crying and laughing and Oliver could barely understand a word she was saying, but he laughed along all the same.
"Oh Oliver, I can't believe," Elizabeth said, taking in a breath.
"I know," he replied. "Just come, please just come and bring Annie and David."
"Of course, we'll be there as soon as we can," Elizabeth said and she hung up the phone. Oliver smiled and walked back to Grace's room.
Grace was still holding Maggie and murmuring softly to her as Oliver walked back into the room. He stood in the doorway watching the two of them, his heart clenching at the thought that a mere eight hours ago, he thought he would lose them both. His eyes filled once again at the thought and he sniffed quietly, but Grace glanced up at the noise. Her expression instantly turned from happiness to concern as she watched her husband make his way slowly to the bed. When he sat down and took her hand, giving her a watery smile, she looked at him anxiously.
"Oliver, please tell me what's going on," she said. "Why is it that whenever you look at me, you look as if you never expected me to be sitting here?"
"Because I didn't," he said quietly, rubbing small circles with his thumb on the back of her hand.
"What are you talking about?" she asked, completely confused.
"Grace, last night," Oliver stopped and cleared his throat. "Last night the doctor told us that you probably wouldn't see another morning. You or Maggie." Grace stared at him, her mouth hanging open. "You've been in the hospital for almost two weeks now, in a coma."
"Two weeks?" Grace asked, flabbergasted. Oliver merely nodded and proceeded to tell Grace all that had happened since she had given birth in the back of the car. When he finished, she looked up at him with tears in her own eyes.
"And we almost lost Maggie too?" she asked, the tears beginning to roll down her cheeks.
"Yes," Oliver said. "And I don't think she's out of the woods just yet. She's still awfully small, Grace." Grace looked down at her tiny daughter and held her more tightly. Small though she was, Grace knew she was a fighter. She had fought her way back to them after all, Grace wasn't about to let her give up now.
"She'll be all right," Grace said with conviction. "We're both here to take care of her now. She'll be fine." Before Oliver could say anything, there was a commotion in the hall. He looked up as Annie burst through the door. She stopped in her tracks, frozen at the sight of Grace sitting up in the bed. Oliver reached forward and gently took Maggie from Grace's arms and then turned to Annie and nodded. Annie took a slow step forward and then another before she stopped again. Grace smiled and held out her arms and Annie studied her for a second and then ran, scrambling up onto the bed and flinging herself into Grace's arms, sobbing. Grace pulled the girl onto her lap and rubbed her back, kissing her head and murmuring soothing words to her. Annie wound her arms around Grace's neck and held on tightly, her eyes shut, but tears still leaking from them.
Oliver turned as Elizabeth came through the door holding David. She was followed by Henry and Mrs. Pugh. Helen took one look at Grace and Annie on the bed and she slumped back. She would have fallen to the floor had Henry not been there to catch her. Grace gasped and Oliver strode forward, taking Helen's arm in his free hand and helping Henry get her into a chair. She woke a minute later and looked at Grace again. Grace reached out a hand to her and Helen rose and walked to the bed, grasping Grace's hand in both of her own and squeezing tightly. Grace smiled and Helen nodded and there was nothing that needed to be said.
Elizabeth slowly approached the bed, still carrying David in her arms. Her own tears were flowing freely down her cheeks as she studied her sister-in-law. Grace's color was slowly returning and she obviously had no problems breathing anymore. As Elizabeth glanced back at Maggie, she saw that the baby also seemed to have made the same recovery, her cheeks and lips were pinkening and there was no sign of the labored breath that she had seen just the day before. It was nothing short of a miracle, Elizabeth thought, but then again, the bond between a mother and her child was a very powerful thing.
Elizabeth thought back to Oliver's suggestion a few days before, that he bring Annie and David to the hospital so Grace would know her family needed her. She supposed that he had been right, that having all of them here the night before had helped bring Grace back to them. Although, a part of her suspected that it was the separation from Grace that had kept Maggie in such a state of limbo and she wondered if it hadn't been the same for Grace. That having the baby near to her she somehow knew that she was needed, that she alone was the one that could bring her little girl back.
Perhaps, Elizabeth thought, perhaps it was the same as the mother who awoke in the middle of the night knowing something was wrong before her baby ever made a sound. Perhaps it was like the mother who instinctively reached for her child, knowing he was going to fall before he had even tripped in the first place. Perhaps it was the same as knowing your child was up to something, without even having to look at or hear them. Perhaps it was that intuition, that just "knowing" that could never really be explained, but that mothers possessed all the same. But regardless, it didn't really matter how it had happened, because Grace was back with them and little Maggie looked like she was well on her way too.
Elizabeth sat down on the edge of the bed and smiled at Grace. Annie had calmed somewhat, but still had a death grip on the front of her mother's gown, so Grace merely shifted Annie to one side, keeping an arm wrapped around her. She held out the other to Elizabeth and Elizabeth placed David into it. Grace smiled at her son and kissed his forehead, then turned and kissed Annie's as well. This seemed to break Annie's silence, for she began to chatter to her mother all about David and his daily schedule and habits. Grace smiled widely as Annie proudly discussed her new brother. After a few minutes, Grace looked over Annie's head to Elizabeth and mouthed a silent "thank you". The tears returned and Elizabeth simply nodded as Oliver stepped behind her and put a hand on her shoulder. Mrs. Pugh and Henry had moved to the chairs at the foot of Grace's bed and as Annie's chatter died away, they all just sat in comfortable silence, each thinking how very lucky they were.
It was a few hours later, when everyone had left and Maggie had been taken back to the nursery for a bath and a nap that Oliver finally had Grace to himself. She was tiring, he could see, but that was all right. He was content to hold her hand and just look at her. She smiled at him, squeezing his hand and then yawned.
"You should get some rest," Oliver said, returning her smile.
"From what you've said I've been doing nothing but resting," Grace returned.
"Yes, I suppose that's true," Oliver chuckled. "But still, I don't want you to wear yourself out."
"All right, I'll rest," Grace agreed. "On one condition."
"And what's that?" Oliver asked, a twinkle in his eye.
"That you give me a proper hello," she replied. "After all, I have been asleep for almost two weeks."
"I think I can oblige," Oliver said and he leaned forward and gently pressed his lips to hers. The kiss began slowly and lightly, Oliver didn't intend for it to go too far, but then Grace's arms were around his neck and he found one of his hands in her hair, the other at her waist. He deepened the kiss and he felt as if he were drowning in her. He poured all of the grief from the last two weeks and all of the joy of the day and all of the love he had always felt for her into that one kiss. He pulled her to him, clinging to her even as he continued to kiss her and when he finally released her, they were both breathless.
"Well," she said, still panting. "I think I might need that oxygen mask again." And then Oliver began to laugh and shortly after Grace joined in. He hugged her as they laughed until they were spent. And then he laid her back against her pillows and kissed her softly one more time.
"Rest now," he said, twining her fingers with his. "I'll be here when you wake up."
"Promise?" she asked.
"Always," he replied. "Forever."
Two months later
Grace stood in the nursery, gathering diapers and extra clothes, bottles and blankets for the outing they were about to go on. The babies' first picnic in the park. Now ten weeks old, the two were alert and smiling, and had everyone in the house wrapped around their little fingers. Maggie had grown almost as big as her brother and seemed to have no ill-effects from her less than auspicious beginning.
As Grace pulled out the two sweater sets she had made for the babies, she wondered again about her time in the hospital. After she had awoken, the doctors had run more tests and had found nothing wrong with her. No one could explain just why she had taken so long to wake up or why she had given them all the scare that she had. Maggie's decline was easier to understand, but no one could explain her near miraculous recovery. Well, Grace thought, there was no "near" about it, it was miraculous, that was certain. Elizabeth had told Grace her suspicions and Grace supposed it was as good a reason as any. Sometimes at night when she dreamed, Grace came very close to grasping some of those memories from her time away, as she liked to call it, but they always seemed to slip from her grasp as she awoke. She supposed she would never really know how it had happened.
The thought of Elizabeth brought a smile to her face. She and Frank had decided to move to New York after all, the few visits a year not enough for Elizabeth now that she had found her family once again. Frank had gotten a job teaching at Annie and Molly's school. All six of the children would be attending the school in the fall, the four Moretti children able to attend for free as a perk of Frank's job. Henry had been overjoyed by this news as well. He had stayed to help Oliver with the children even after Grace had returned home from the hospital. They had offered him a permanent room in the house, but he preferred his quiet cabin in the woods, with frequent visits into the city to see his grandchildren. Grace thought that he just might reconsider their offer by next week, however. Frank and Elizabeth and the children were coming to New York for the weekend to look for a house and the children were going to remain behind at the mansion for the summer while their parents packed up the house in Boston. Grace smiled at the thought of the house being full of children as she had always wanted and brought a hand absent-mindedly to her belly.
Oliver had told her about the operation a few days after she had awoken from her coma. The fact that she would never be able to bear another child had devastated her and she had sunk into despair for quite a few days afterward. It was only the constant presence of Maggie in her room that kept her from being buried by it all together. It was only when she thought that, without it, she wouldn't have been here to care for her children at all, that Grace came back to herself. It still upset her whenever she thought about it, but as Oliver had said, they could always adopt again if they wanted to. There were always children that needed homes and parents to love them. And, Grace knew, they were already so very lucky to have the three beautiful children that they did.
As she folded diapers and put them into the babies' bag, she heard Oliver come up behind her. She smiled as he wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed her neck. She continued to pack the babies' bag, but as Oliver kissed her behind the ear, she hissed in a breath and turned to face him. He kissed her deeply and she felt the familiar flutter in her stomach she always got when he kissed her like this. As she pulled back from him, he smiled knowingly and she rolled her eyes.
"So, how was your doctor's appointment this morning?" he asked, mischievous glint in his eye. She bit back a grin, knowing why he was asking, and decided to tease him just a bit. Putting a disappointed expression on her face, she sighed.
"He wants to see me again, next month," she said, not meeting Oliver's gaze.
"Another month?" Oliver asked, clearly not liking what he was hearing. Grace simply nodded. "Why what's wrong?"
"Nothing, as far as he said anyway," Grace replied, shrugging her shoulders. "I just have to go back again next month."
"Grace, tell me exactly what he said," Oliver requested, pulling her more tightly to him. Grace bit the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing and did not make eye contact with him, knowing she'd never be able to keep up the charade if she did.
"He said that everything had healed as it should and that everything seemed to be fine. And then he said he would see me in another month," she paused and did look up at Oliver now, whose brow was furrowed, clearly trying to reconcile the first sentence with the need for another check-up. Grace laughed inwardly and then said rather nonchalantly, "Oh and did I mention that he said I could go back to all my regular activities?"
Oliver turned his head sharply at this, looking her in the eye. She began to chuckle then and without saying another word, kissed his jaw and then his neck. He shuddered and gripped her tighter.
"All your regular activities?" he managed to ask, as Grace continued to kiss her way down his jaw. She stopped then and took his face in her hands, looking at him with intensity.
"All my activities," Grace said and Oliver simply stared at her for a moment, before crashing his mouth to hers and kissing her. She began to go weak in the knees, but managed to pull back from him for a moment. "The children?" she gasped out.
"With Jack and Cecile, busy," he said, as he kissed her again, one hand at her waist, holding her firmly to him and the other running lightly up her back to the buttons on her dress.
"The picnic?" Grace said, moaning quietly as he grazed her neck with his lips.
"Plenty of time," he said, as he bent and picked her up, carrying her through the nursery and into their bedroom and laying her on their bed. As he crawled in beside her, she put a hand to his cheek and kissed him lightly on the lips.
"I love you," she said, as she stared into his eyes. He bent down and kissed her, so gently she thought she would melt.
"Forever and always," he replied and then kissed her again.
A/N - Always knew it would be a happily ever after! Sorry for torturing you all for awhile there. ;)
When I wrote my first story, Maybe, it began as a long one-shot, or maybe a 2 or 3 chapter story. When I decided to post it, I never imagined it would grow to 8 chapters. And when I first had a few threads of an idea for this story, I never imagined it would end up to be more than 150,000 words and 28 chapters. It took so many twists that I never expected and at times took on a life of its own. But I enjoyed writing it very much.
I want to thank everyone who has read, alerted, and put this story on their favorites list. Honestly, the favorites thing awes and humbles me and I am so very grateful to all who have done that. And I especially want to thank all those that reviewed. You don't know how happy I was every time I opened my emails and saw a review notification there. I know that many authors say this, but it's true, it did make me want to continue to write, as well as put a huge grin on my face. There are a few of you that reviewed almost every single chapter and to you I say an extra thank you, thank you and thank you again.
As of now, I have no more ideas for Annie stories. I do have a few Harry Potter ideas running around in my head. One in particular has been shouting extra loudly lately and I have actually begun writing a bit of it. I am going to do this one differently, however, and write the entire thing before I begin posting it. The weekly posting schedule that I put myself under for this story seemed to work out for the most part, but I have been neglecting many house projects around here as a result. Therefore, I need to be able to take care of those while I write. I don't like to let things go too long between updates, so writing the story first is the way I intend to go. If you are interested, put me on author alert and you'll get an email when I start posting.
And since this note has now become entirely too long, I'll just say thank you once again. I told my best friend today that after all of this I am actually starting to think of myself as a writer now and that is because of this experience and all of you. :)