Angela pulled up the railing of the bed and reached down to caressed his cheek on last time. As she brushed his still warm lips with her thumb, a smile came to her face as she remembered what he truly looked like now. Even though his spirit was gone, she felt as if being reunited with Charlotte and Anne had restored him some how. Body and Soul.
"You ready to go now, Mom?" Jonathan asked as the nurses came in to wheel Peter downstairs.
"Yes, Sweetheart." She took her son's arm and paused at the door before walking out. "And Peter. . . no more tears. I promise." She blew a kiss as she turned the corner.
It wasn't until she left the room, that she realized it was really over. Her time with Peter, her time of putting on a brave face for friends and family when they asked how grave his condition was and her time of hiding behind the walls that he had helped to build.
It was a freeing moment and yet one filled with regret. She wanted to be at peace, knowing that he had given her his blessing to move on with her life. But that freedom also came at a price. One of struggle, of renewed questions, frustrations and old memories of the past.
It was only a few short steps down the hallway to the ICU waiting room. Jonathan started to steer her toward the long hallway to the elevators, but Angela's mind was elsewhere.
"Do you mind if I take a moment to myself, Sweetheart? I'm not really ready to go home yet."
"I don't mind." He let go of her waist and quietly watched as she made her way over to the wall of windows that looked out over the city. "All the people down there, I wonder if they know. . . "
"Know what Mom?"
"I'm sorry, I was just thinking of something Peter said yesterday."
"Oh. . .listen, Mom. I hate to do this right now, but I haven't been able to get through to someone I've been trying to call all morning. Would you mind if I left you alone for a few minutes? Are you going to be okay?"
"I'll be fine here. It's not like I have anything. . .else to do now." The words left her lips before she had a chance to think about them. They stayed hanging in the air for a moment until Jonathan touched her elbow.
"I'll be right back, Mom. I promise."
She watched as her son started down the same white hallway she was facing. His thin frame grew smaller and smaller until he finally seemed to disappear behind the sliding glass doors in the distance. Finally left alone, she pulled out the locket and held it in her hands as she turned towards the window again.
Tony got out of the car and walked up to the entrance. As he approached the receptionist at the desk, he asked, "Uh, hi. Could you tell me where I could find Peter Gerber's room?"
"He's in ICU sir, on the third floor." She gave him directions to the elevator and Peter's room number. He started down the hall to the elevator.
The elevator seemed to take forever as it reached the second and then third floor. As the doors opened, he took a step out as Jonathan was taking a step into the elevator to his left. Tony turned to look toward the elevator, but the doors closed before he could see who had entered it. Turning ahead, he found himself looking into in the middle of a long white hall with sliding doors at each end. Slowly, he started walking in the direction that led to the ICU waiting room.
The hall seemed to go on forever. Just then, the sliding doors slid open before Tony had reached them to reveal a blond woman standing in front of a row of windows directly in front of him. Her hair was a bit shorter than shoulder length and looked like it had been air dried without being combed through. Her shoes appeared to be mismatched and the yellow sweatshirt that looked older and faded, now appeared two sizes too big for a frame that just seemed a little shorter and more delicate than he remembered. Tony's heart sank. He stood still for a moment. Taking in a deep breath, he started walking slowly towards her.
Tony stopped about five feet from her. A tear slid down his face without him realizing.
Angela took in a deep breath as she continued to daydream out the window.
"He'll be here soon." The words of the dream kept replaying in her mind. In the distance, she could hear steps coming up behind her, but she didn't have the will power to turn around. That was until she heard the voice.
A tired grin came to her lips as she took in another deep breath. He was here, the man that Peter had said would be coming. The man whose love she had secretly carried around for all those years. There he was standing behind her and the weight of the world was on her shoulders. Yet as she turned, her smile became brighter. In that fleeting moment, her eyes met his and her burden was gone. In that one moment, all the regret and pain of the past had disappeared. She took two giant steps forward and fell into his arms.
As he caught Angela in his arms, he knew. He knew that his shoulder would be the one she'd shed her tears on. He knew he would be her strength. Many moments passed as he held her close. He never wanted to let her go.
"It's okay, Angela. I'm here." Tony didn't know what else to say, but it seemed to be enough. The longer he held her in his arms, the tighter her grip became. Tony didn't care. When they finally loosened their grip on each other, Tony found himself still holding on to her slightly clumsy frame. So many minutes seemed to pass as they looked into each others eyes. Tony started to say I'm sorry, but she stopped him.
"Peter's. . ."
". . . gone"
She nodded, with glazed eyes.
Even after all the years of being apart, they could still finish each other's sentences. As the concern in his heart grew for her, Tony helped her over to a row of chairs and he took the seat next to her. He held her hands as tight as he could without hurting her.
"Tony, I'm so sorry for everything. I don't even know. . ."
"It's okay, Angela." He brought her hand up to his lips and tenderly kissed it. "I'm sorry, too," Tony said sincerely. He knew his heart wasn't in Iowa and it never had been.
Looking down a little awkwardly, Angela seemed to be battling a sea of emotions inside her. She was feeling remorse for a loved one now gone, but also the butterflies of a love rekindled. She hated herself for being happy, but in a strange way almost felt like Peter, Charlotte and Little Anne were cheering her on from the sidelines. As she fought her desire to gaze into Tony's eyes, she looked down and saw his cargo pant's pocket move.
"Tony. . ." she said pointing to the vibrating pocket. "I think something in your pocket's trying to get your attention."
"Oh, my phone." Tony said as he reached down and unbuttoned the flap to retrieve it from his pocket. He flipped it open and saw Jonathan's name and phone number on the Caller ID.
"Jonathan? You'll never guess where you caught me at?"
"Let me guess, you're sitting next to a pretty, although tired, blonde with mismatched shoes and blue jeans."
"That's incredible. How did you know that?"
"Because remember me? I'm the guy who's walking right toward you."
Tony got to his feet and watched the young man from the elevator make his way towards him. He had seen him regularly over the years, but with the birth of his daughters, traveling had become difficult and the visits were fewer and farther between. He had matured into the role of a father and Tony had missed so much of it. The thought of that pained him most of all. When he was within a few feet of him, Tony gathered his son up in his arms and hugged him tightly.
"It's been too long." He said embracing him in the "butterfly flutter."
"Yes, it has Pop."
"And Emma and the girls."
Tony stepped back for a moment and stood watching his son fawn over his delicate mother. He knew he was exactly where he needed to be.
"Mom, you look exhausted. How about I have Tony take you home? Maybe Emma and I will can meet up with you both tonight for dinner at Peter's favorite restaurant." Jonathan spoke the words before thinking about the implications. "I mean, if that's okay with you, Mom."
Tony stood looking at Angela, wondering if the words he wanted to hear so badly would escape her lips.
"DiFara's Pizzeria," she said smiling as she took Tony's hand in her own. "They have the best pizza in Brooklyn. We'll eat, we'll drink. . ."
"And we'll toast to Peter." Tony as he let himself get lost in her eyes.
The End. . . (or is it just the beginning?)
Look for Part 2: "Love Remains" coming to a monitor near you.
Chapter End Notes:
I want to thank BigWTBfan for putting up with me during the ride. I want her to know that I think she did a fabulous time the first time out. She's an awesome writer and I hope she continues to write. (And she'll kill me for telling you this, but all the Tony POV is her.) Love ya, Bekka!