Wow, this story has been a bit of a struggle. But I'm enjoying writing it, nonetheless. It took a while for me to find the right diagnosis (and if I screw it up, I'm only human. I did a crap load of research, but I'm no doctor). But I hope it's worth it. So here it is, the third chapter of The Beat Of The Heart. Enjoy, everyone!

For Podie1, cause she begged... and begged... and begged... ;)

Disclaimer: Not mine!

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It seemed like a lifetime passed before the door opened again, and Carolyn jerked her head up. "How is he?" she demanded anxiously, pushing herself off of the wall. "Can I see him?"

"It was touchy there for a few minutes, but he's stable now," Dr. Andrews replied. "You can go back in there."

Her shoulders slumped with pure relief, and she barely remembered to thank him as she hurried back into Mike's room.

The first thing that she noticed was that the cannula had been replaced by a full mask, and she trailed her finger lightly over the side of his face.

Her right hand came to rest lightly over his heart, reassuring her that he was in fact still with her. Every few moments, she stole a glance at the heart monitor, willing it not to break into the cacophony of shrill tones again. She didn't think that she could handle it.

A nurse smiled gently at her as she walked around the bed and slid a needle into his IV.

Carolyn watched her uneasily. "What is that for?"

"It will help him rest easier, without putting any strain on his heart." She looked at Carolyn sympathetically. "I'll bring you a blanket and a pillow. I get the feeling that you won't want to leave tonight, and your husband will probably sleep through the night." She slipped out of the room.

Carolyn didn't feel the need to correct her assumption that she was Mike's wife. In reality, even though they weren't legally married yet, she was the closest thing to family he had.

The door closed, and she carefully sat down on the edge of his bed, beside his waist. Sliding her hand into his, she squeezed it gently, unaware of anything else.

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"Mike, if one more nurse comes to me and tells me that you're flirting with them..." She let the threat hang in the air, unfinished.

He smiled charmingly at her. "You know I only have eyes for you, babe."

Chuckling, she reached over and adjusted his pillows, then dropped a gentle kiss on his forehead.

He reached out and caught her wrist with his hand, rubbing it gently as he studied her tired eyes. "You need to sleep..."

"I did sleep." She ran her fingers through his hair. "Don't worry about me, hon. I'm fine."

He huffed as the door opened, and Dr. Andrews walked in, a file in his hand and a frown etched into his forehead.

Almost unconsciously, Carolyn reached down and slipped her hand into Mike's, squeezing it tightly. "Hello, Dr. Andrews," she greeted him, but there was a touch of wariness in her voice.

He opened the file. "We have your results back, Mr. Logan."

Carolyn squeezed his hand again, as though to anchor him to her.

"I've consulted with several of my colleagues, and after looking at your scans... Your diagnosis isn't good."

Fear clutched at Carolyn's heart. Wasn't good? Was he dying? Oh please God... She struggled to steady her breathing.

"You have a atrial myxoma, which is a non cancerous tumor growing on your atrial septum, the wall that separates the two sides of your heart. It's fairly rare, and it's what caused your palpitations."

Carolyn swallowed hard. "Is he... going to be okay?" she finally asked. "What are you going to do about it?"

Andrews closed the file. "I've already booked an operating room for tonight." He looked at Mike. "We'll sedate you and open your chest cavity, then remove the tumor. Best case scenario, we'll get all of it, and you'll be able to go home in a week, with strict instructions for your diet, exercise, and work."

"And the worst case?" Mike wondered quietly.

"The tumor could grow back, or we may not be able to remove it." Andrew took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. "In that case, your symptoms will continue, and an embolism, or even sudden death could occur."

The last part caught Carolyn's breath in her chest. Sudden death... That meant that if untreated, this thing could kill the love of her life at any time. She closed her eyes, her stomach lurching.

"We'll come back in a few hours to prep you for the surgery." Andrews turned around and walked out of the room.

Mike could barely believe what the doctor had just told him, but Carolyn's trembling interrupted his train of thought. Grunting softly, he gathered her into his arms and pulled her against his chest, gently stroking her thick hair. "Shh, honey. I'm going to be fine. You heard the doctor. They're going to get this thing out of me, and I'll be home in a week." He kissed her head.

She clung to him fiercely as her tears fell. She couldn't lose him. If she did... She shuddered. She couldn't even think about it.

He held her closer. "Come on, Carolyn. Don't waste your tears on me. I'm going to be home before you know it, and you'll be taking better care of me than these nurses ever could. I know it."

His words were spoken with confidence, and she buried her face in his neck, hoping that he would be right. But she had to believe it. She had to believe that in a week, he would walk out of this place with her. If she didn't, she would lose her sanity.

He gladly held her, unaware of the passing hours until the door was open and a gurney was pushed in. Very reluctantly, he released Carolyn, watching as she pulled back, but remained close to his side.

"Okay, Mr. Logan," a cheery nurse said as she slid a needle into his IV. "This is going to make you drowsy."

He reached his hand out, thankful when Carolyn took it.

Carolyn watched on with apprehension as they carefully moved her partner onto the gurney, and she walked with them as they pushed him out of the room.

He looked up, reassured by her presence. He squeezed her hand. "Love you, Carolyn," he murmured.

She leaned down to kiss his head. "I love you too, Mike. And I'll be there when you wake up. I promise." She gently smoothed his hair back, an action they both took great comfort in.

She followed along until they reached the OR, and one nurse gently said, "I'm sorry, ma'am, but you can't go any further."

With obvious reluctance, she kissed Mike softly. "Please... be okay," she whispered, watching as his eyes slid shut. The only answer she received was a gentle squeeze, and she reluctantly released his hand.

"He's in good hands," another nurse promised as they wheeled Mike out of her sight, and she felt, out of her protection. She nodded numbly.

"You can go sit in the waiting room," the nurse said kindly, pointing to an open door a few feet away. "Someone will be there with information as soon as they can."

"Thanks..." The nurse disappeared, and Carolyn turned around, though she didn't go into the waiting room. She couldn't. Her feet carried her somewhere else, and she promised herself that she would be back in an hour, even though she knew that nothing would be known then.

The sunshine warmed her on the outside, but on the inside, she was cold. And only knowing that Mike was okay could warm her again.

TBC...

A/N: I hope that was worth the wait to ya'll, and with any luck, the next chapter won't be so difficult. I had started this with the intentions of Mike needing a heart transplant, but I didn't have it in me to do it to my Mikey. Or do I...?