Chapter 33

EJ watched with uneasiness as Nicole writhed around on his bed in a semi-conscious but unresponsive state, crying and repeating the same phrase over and over again.

"Xander! Xander, no!"

He'd tried on several occasions to wake her from this state but she never once opened her eyes. It was as if she was stuck in some perpetual nightmare where she was being held prisoner and she would never be able to wake up unless she was able to somehow break free in the dream itself. Although he would admit it to no one, Xander's criticism about the way he handled breaking the news to her had been cruel, and more for his amusement and desire to get even with Mr. Kiriakis than anything else. Sure, she did in fact mutter the words that she wanted to kill him, but only in the same, innocent way that the expression was used by thousands daily to express the extremity of their anger. She was completely incapable of pulling the trigger for real which was exactly why he would have to do it without her as soon as the doctor showed up to examine her.

It was the third time in little more than eight hours that she had passed out on him. It wasn't unusual for her to faint when sick or overwhelmed, he'd seen her do so on several occasions under both circumstances, but never more than once within such a small time-frame. This latest episode had him extremely concerned for her well-being since she refused to wake up.

His cell phone rang. He was hoping it was the doctor to say he was on his way but it was Marco, one of this men that was immediately in charge of guarding Xander.

"Sir, I'm sorry to bother you but we've run into a bit of trouble down here. We let the bastard out for one of his bathroom breaks and he got a hold of Rocco and snapped his neck. He's dead, Sir!"

"Wonderful! What is his situation right now?"

"I managed to get him back in the chair after I gave him a good whack to the head with my gun. I didn't want to do anything more to him since I figured you'd be down soon to finish the job. I know how you personally wanted to take care of this."

"Yes, don't do a thing. I'll be down there in a minute to finish him off myself."

Great...just, superb! If he wasn't already worried enough about Nicole now he had to deal with this mess. Oh well, how long could it really take to simply aim the gun and fire? He'd already had his fun with the poor bastard. Maybe too much fun.

"Where are you going?"

He stopped in his tracks upon hearing her voice. "Nicole, sweetheart, oh thank god! You had me scared to death!" As he rushed back to her side, she was already pulling herself to the edge of the bed to sit up. "No, no no, you...back into bed!"

"Where were you going just now?"

"Shhhh, don't worry about it," he said as he grabbed her by the shoulders and began forcing her to lay back down. "You just lay down and relax. I will be back in five minutes, alright?"

"OK," she said with a forced smile as she cooperated with all his requests. At least until he was out of the room.
She gave him a thirty second head start, then bolted from the room to follow after him, her heart pounding at the rate of about a million beats per second. She had overheard enough of his conversation to put two and two together. He was on his way downstairs to kill Xander.

She had managed to successfully fly under his radar until he reached the entrance to the basement. She knew there was no way now that she could pass through undetected so she was left with no other choice but to surrender herself to him and pray that she would be able to schmooze her way in.

"Nicole! What the hell-"

"I know what you're about do. Don't you dare go in there without me. I need to see this for myself."

EJ couldn't help but to smile. His little plan hadn't been so disastrous after all. "If that's what you want, but darling, are you sure you're up for this right now?"

"Yes, I'm sure."

"Alright," he nodded. "Follow me."

"Mr. Kiriakis," EJ greeted his doomed prisoner smugly. "I owe you an apology, sir. It seems the last time we met I swore to you it was the last time you'd see Nicole, but she insisted that she be here to bid you your final farewell."

Oh god, not again, she thought to herself as the room began to spin around her. Focus, Nicole, focus. Take deep breaths and relax. You can do this. Oh shit! He's already aiming the gun.

"Sweetheart? Anything you would like to say to Mr. Kiriakis?"

She had no words for Xander, at least for the moment. It was EJ she needed to talk to but her damn mouth was not cooperating.

"I guess not. Oh well, bye-bye dickhead."

This time, she reacted the instant she saw EJ's finger began to squeeze the trigger. "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO," she screamed, as she threw herself directly in the bullet's intended path by hopping onto Xander's lap and throwing her arms around him. The gun went off. Xander and EJ both screamed out her name in horrified unison. It was one of those moments where it took everyone involved quite some time to comprehend exactly what had just happened.

Xander let his cheek collapse against the top of Nicole's head. He could hear her sobbing softly but the reason for her tears was still unclear. Did she get hit? Was she hurt? Was he hurt? He didn't even know the answer to that.

"Nicole, please love, say something. Are you alright?" It was beyond frustrating that he couldn't touch her and evaluate her condition for himself.

EJ sighed with relief. He had reacted quickly enough to miss her head by a mere few inches as indicated by the fresh bullet hole in the wall just to the left of them.

"I'm OK," she finally said softly as she burrowed her head deeper into the crook between his shoulder and chin. "Are you OK?"

"I'm OK," Xander said reassuringly, pressing his lips firmly to her forehead as his only means of showing physical affection for the moment. "My God, love, what the hell were you thinking?"

"Yes, Nicole. What the hell WERE you thinking," EJ said, echoing Xander's sentiment.

Her response was directed to EJ but it was Xander who had her full attention as she spoke. She pulled away from him just enough so that she could look him in the eyes while she delivered her reply. "I was thinking that I can't let you kill the man I love. The man who's going to be a father to our children very soon."

Xander smiled, genuinely happily for the first time in weeks. "Does this mean you've forgiven me? I guess the fact that you still want to have children with me is a good sign, right?"

"Yes, I've forgiven you," she said gleefully as she grabbed his face in her hands and kissed him full on the lips passionately, though she kept it brief for the time being. She realized he wasn't fully grasping what she was trying to tell him, and she couldn't wait to see his reaction when he realized that she was actually pregnant. "And I guess the fact that you're excited about me still wanting to have children with you is good news considering the fact that we should be having two of them in less than seven months."

His eyes were twinkling with delight though slightly cloudy with a hint of confusion. "IS there something you didn't tell me, love? It does take nine months to make a baby, right?"

"Yes of course, but considering I'm already nine weeks along, be prepared to meet your children on or around April 23rd."

"YOU'RE nine weeks along? You're PREGNANT?"

"Yes! I'm pregnant!"

"Wait a minute, did you just say chil-DREN? As in more than one?"

"Yes, twins," she said, nodding emphatically. "I've already seen our little peanuts. I'm so sorry you weren't there to see them too, but the doc says they're doing great. Why wouldn't they be, right? Their big brother was born perfectly healthy."

"Nicole, you do believe I was going to tell you, right?"

"I do," she nodded, cupping his face in her hand while she gazed into his eyes hoping to convey every ounce of forgiveness she felt in her heart. "I also remembered a few times when I did some really stupid things to hold onto someone I loved and how grateful I felt for being forgiven. Especially when I never meant to hurt anyone."

Neither one noticed EJ slip out of the room at this point, leaving the two of them trapped inside, and frankly, neither one cared. Between making up for lost time sharing intimacies and sharing excitement over their little ones to come and their future together as a family, it was hours before they began to realize that if it was left up to EJ, there may be no future for them to speak of.