CHAPTER 19

He was running.. Faster than he had ever run before, his heart pounding in his throat and his blood seeming to explode in his ears. Every breath was a prayer, a desperate plea for her to be all right. He could bear no other alternative.

He burst through the doors of the hospital, frantic green eyes searching. He longed to see her walk through the doors that led back to the emergency room, a sheepish smile on her lovely face and her dark eyes guilt-ridden at having caused him so much fear. But she was nowhere to be found. It didn't even sound like his voice when he stopped at the information desk and told them her name, Allie's name and he nearly wept when assurance did not come from the nurse at the desk. Instead he was led to a small room and all his experience as an Angel of Death reminded him that these rooms in hospitals were only used for bad news. His hands clenched and unclenched as he struggled to keep some control over his emotions as he waited for someone to come into the room and tell him that his world would soon return to normal; that his wife and tiny unborn child were going to be fine.

Everyone knew everyone in the little town of Hambleton and Dr. Barlett greeted Andrew by name when the door finally opened ten minutes later. Everyone frequented the diner at some point and the angel had spoken to the doctor on several occasions. The grim expression in the man's eyes now did little to comfort him and Andrew nearly forgot to speak. When he did, it was one single, hoarse word.

"Monica…"

Sitting down, Greg Bartlett faced the young man from the diner that he had met on several occasions, along with his sweet, Irish wife. The young couple was very obviously in love and Greg dreaded the news he had to deliver.

"She's in surgery, Andrew. So is Allie," Andrew's face was nearly expressionless though he paled considerably. He longed to be able to tell him something positive, but the situation was incredibly grim right now, "The accident was bad. The other driver ran the light and Allie wasn't able to avoid being hit. The other driver hit the driver's side of the vehicle and the air bags did deploy, but the driver didn't stop and Allie's car was run off the road and into a guard rail…on Monica's side of the vehicle."

Andrew only needed one tiny bit of information but Greg wasn't telling him what he needed to hear, "Will she be all right? Please tell me she will be all right."

"Andrew, I don't know yet. Monica's critical. She has internal injuries and a deep head laceration. She has a few broken ribs and one pierced her lung. It was a miracle she came to us alive."

Andrew's eyes looked away as his jaw tightened to ward off the cry that longed to escape him. How could this possibly be happening? He only wanted to turn back time to that morning when the little angel had woken up in his arms, her sleepy dark eyes finding his as color rose in her cheeks at the realization that he had again been watching her sleep. Would that be the last perfect moment he ever spent with her? It could never last him the rest of eternity. He was sure this could not become anymore of a nightmare until Greg uttered the next words.

"We delivered your daughter. Monica's body had undergone so much trauma and we had to deliver her by cesarean in order to save her. Her organs are not yet fully developed and it's too soon to tell if she can pull through. She is in an incubator and is being tube-fed."

Starring at the doctor, Andrew's green eyes burned with unshed tears, "A girl? We had a baby girl? Monica knew she would be a girl though we never found out…"

Andrew's words were the rambling of a man in great shock whose mind was unable to comprehend all he was being told so he had fixed on the one thing he could handle, "Yes, a girl. Andrew…I can't begin to tell you how much I want to be able to give you something more, but I just can't. They are both critical, but Monica should never have been alive when she got here, so she has to be fighting. Don't let go of your hope. She has already given you two miracles today; she is alive and so is your baby."

Andrew struggled to clear his mind; to focus on the questions he needed to ask, "Monica is still in surgery?"

"Probably for awhile yet. Your daughter is in the intensive care nursery. You won't be able to hold her or touch her, but you can visit with her."

"And Allie?"

"Her condition is serious but not critical. The driver hit further back on the driver's side so her situation is not as dire. We are confident she will wake up in a day or so." Rising to his feet, Greg laid a fatherly hand on the angel's shoulder, "I have to get back to your wife. Andrew, go see your daughter, the nursery is on the 7th floor and I will get you as soon as Monica is out of surgery."

The blond angel remained seated as the doctor departed. He felt rooted to the spot and all Andrew could do was to drop his head into his hands. He couldn't even pray he was so numb to the news he had just received. This morning, he'd had his heart's desire and now he stood to lose them both. The pain was almost too much to bear. The heaviness in his chest was almost physical and he had to stagger to his feet. He was on auto pilot as he found the elevator and hit number 7.

After choking out who he was to the duty nurse, he was asked to put on a gown and green coverings for over his shoes and every action reminded him of how bleak the situation was. When he was led to the incubator that housed his baby girl, Andrew could only sink helplessly into the chair that had been provided.

A tiny miniature of her mother, the baby could have fit into one of his hands. She was quite still, a tube taped near her mouth and an oxygen tube in her small nose. The pain in his chest tightened. He knew if she survived, she would not remember any of this but right now she was so helpless and fighting to live that Andrew's heart physically hurt at the sight of her. All he wanted was to hold the tiny being close to his chest; this little angel that was a result of the love he and Monica shared.

"Little angel girl," His voice was a choked whisper as his fingers touched the plastic that separated them, "We love you so much, your mom and I….hang on, little baby."

Andrew's eyes burned but remained dry as he sat with his newborn daughter for the next two hours until Dr. Bartlett came to get him. He had never felt so powerless.

XX

Monica had survived the surgery but outside of that, there was very little good news. She was breathing with the help of a respirator and other machines monitored her vital signs. There was concern that she would not wake up but would instead fall into a coma, though the doctor advised that a coma might be a blessing in disguise due to the extent of her injuries. It would keep her free of pain while her body attempted to heal.

Andrew leaned against the door to her room, his pain filled eyes taking in the sight of his beloved angel. Nothing Greg said could have prepared him and it wasn't even the machines that terrified him. It was how still she was. It was the deep bruising around her eyes, all the tiny cuts on her delicate skin caused by the airbag deploying, it was the bandaging around her head and the cast on her left arm and the knowledge that beneath the blanket and the hospital gown that there were stitches from two surgeries; one to save his daughter and one to save Monica.

The tears he had held back with their baby now refused to be contained as they coursed down his face. Andrew never could have imagined loving someone so much but the little angel had stolen his heart so long ago and that love had only grown over the years. Without her, he was sure he would cease to exist. He wouldn't want to exist.

Suddenly, he couldn't get to her fast enough. Falling to his knees beside of her bed, he took her hand that was not in the cast into his own. She was warm; alive and he had never been more thankful. Bringing her hand to his lips, he kissed her knuckles, his lips lingering on each one as he tried to convey his great love for her. He wanted to tell her how much he loved her, how he wished he was the one in the bed, how their baby daughter looked so much like her, but none of those words were his first.

"Don't you dare leave me. Do you hear me, Monica? You fight this and you fight hard. You will not leave me." Andrew's voice trembled and emotion threatened to overtake him. He steadied himself by bringing his other hand up to her face, his touch feather-like, afraid of hurting her, "You have no idea how much I love you. I know you don't. Angel, I can't exist without you, so fight this, baby. Please fight this." His hand came up to wipe at his face, silently cursing himself for not remaining strong for the little angel, "Come through this for me and I will spend the rest of eternity making sure you know exactly how I feel about you every moment of every day. But you rest now. I don't want you to feel any pain. I will be right here with you. I promise."

Bringing her hand back to his lips, he held it there and closed his eyes, his prayers finally coming fervently for his wife and his daughter and as the hours stretched into night, Andrew never let go of her hand.

XX

By morning's light, the news of the accident had spread through the small community and though flowers were not permitted in the Intensive Care Unit, other well wishes began to arrive in the way of silk arrangements, stuffed animals and cards and Andrew was again reminded of the lives the little angel touched on a daily basis.

Guilt had been tearing through him as he knew he should go visit with his daughter but the thought of leaving Monica's side was nearly unbearable. He had been updated throughout the night that their baby was holding her own and for that he was eternally grateful.

His back ached from sitting in the chair all night at Monica's bedside though he had managed to doze off once or twice for brief periods. He was angry with himself when it happened, afraid that she would slip away while he slept. Her condition did little to calm his fears. The bruises on her pale face were deeper now, shades of black and purple and to anyone else, Monica's face would probably be unrecognizable. The official word came the next afternoon that she was indeed in a coma and it both relieved Andrew and terrified him. He knew were she awake that she would be in horrific pain so he was relieved she was being spared. But a coma also meant she may never again awake.

"Andrew, you need to go get some air and something to eat," Greg remarked two nights later when he came into the room to find the angel in the same position he had been in the night before.

"I can't leave her," Andrew replied, a hint of harshness in his voice that the doctor would even suggest such a thing.

"Listen to me," Greg approached and met the angel's eyes with his own, "She is stable right now and this is going to be a long process. You cannot spend weeks in this room and never leave it."

"Weeks?"

Drawing in a deep breath, Greg nodded his head, "Andrew, Monica has suffered terrible trauma. Even without the coma, she is going to have a long recovery…"

"If she recovers…" Andrew whispered, stating what he knew the doctor was leaving unsaid.

"I am cautiously optimistic but yes, Monica is still critical. You need to get out of this room at least once a day or you will not be of any good to her. Go get a bite to eat downstairs and go outside and get some air. I promise it will refuel you and you are going to need that."

The angel's eyes lingered on Monica's face, knowing the doctor was right but hating to leave her, "Baby, I'll be right back. You just keep sleeping and remember how much I love you," Standing, Andrew leaned up and brushed a gentle kiss against her cheek, "How I love you."

Though he got a sandwich in the cafeteria, he only ate part of it and what he did eat felt like lead in his stomach. Being away from Monica was pure hell for him and he finally settled on drinking a large cup of coffee before getting up, intent on returning to her room.

"Andrew?"

The sound of Misha's soft voice caused him to turn around and his expression softened, seeing the tears in the girl's eyes, "Misha."

"I need you to come with me," She stated simply, shyly reaching for his hand.

"Misha, I need to get back to Monica…"

"This won't take long. Please."

Andrew consented with a nod and allowed his friend to lead him to the lobby and out the sliding doors of the hospital. What greeted him there nearly took his breath away.

Gathered in the small park next to the hospital were dozens of people; patrons from the diner, the staff, friends from church. Everyone was holding candles and in the waning light, Andrew could make out every face, but it was the two faces directly in front that pushed the angel to his breaking point.

Rafael and Adam.

Andrew felt familiar arms enfold him as silent sobs escaped him. He hadn't realized how alone he had been feeling until he had seen and had felt the years of friendship that stood between them and brought them together.

"What are you doing here?" He uttered once he was able to speak once more.

"We've been watching over your daughter," Adam replied softly, watching as his friend nearly crumbled once more at those words, "Don't feel guilty, Andrew. It's why we were sent."

"You need to be with your angelita," Rafael added, keeping a hand resting on his friend's shoulder.

"Who sent you? Tess? Sam?" His red-rimmed eyes searched their faces.

"No, my friend, much higher up than that," Adam grinned sadly as he glanced briefly to the sky before looking back to his friend, "The candlelight vigil was Misha's idea. So many are praying for all of you and for Allie."

"I could lose her." Andrew's words were choked out, his mind barely even able to wrap around what he was saying, "If I lose her…my existence…it won't mean a damn thing."