AN: Sorry for the delay folks, I've had this chapter written since right after I posted chapter twenty-two, but I've been waiting to post it until FF has it's alerts working again. I wanted to make sure that everyone who is following the story will get the notice that this last chapters been posted. I've finally started getting emails from FF again so I'm going to go ahead and post this now, and pray it works.
Also, taking this final chance to say that you are all absolutely amazing. I've loved hearing from you through this whole thing and I've especially loved getting to know those of you who I've corresponded with. It's been a really amazing experience and I look forward to hearing from you all again as I continue to hopefully keep writing more for this incredible fandom! Happy Holidays everyone!
Epilogue – Six Years Later
As I sit at my desk and tap my pencil against the computer keyboard, I can't help but focus on the weird twisting in my stomach. For some reason I've been feeling all morning like there's something else I should be doing, but whatever that thing is won't come to me. I sigh heavily and double-time the pace of my pencil.
"Powering down for the weekend already, Art?"
I glance up in surprise as someone steps into my office. It's one of my co-workers, Tyler, a man about five or so years older than me who I made fast friends with after starting work for his graphic design business three years ago. We now run the business as partners. "Yeah, must be," I reply with a laugh.
"I know what you mean, I can't keep my brain on the work either," Tyler says and he comes around to sit on the corner of my desk, facing me. "Going to take the family camping this weekend, and all I can think about is 'did I pack that' or 'do we have enough of those.' It's driving me crazy."
"Have fun with that," I say, tossing my pencil down onto the desk before I start drumming so hard I break my keyboard. "Where are you going?"
"Just up around the–"
We both jump as my office phone suddenly rings, cutting off his sentence. Giving him an apologetic look, which only makes him laugh, I reach for the phone. "Artie Abrams' office, can I–"
"Artie, it's Maggie." I fall silent at the rushed voice of Mrs. Cohen-Chang. She sounds almost like she's panting and I can hear a slightly hysterical ring in her tone. My heart starts beating doubly fast at the possibilities. Oh God no... "You've gotta come, it's Tina. She's just gone into the ER."
"I'll be right there," I say immediately and then toss the phone back onto the receiver. "Sorry, Ty, I gotta go," I say breathlessly, grabbing my bag and swinging it around over the back of my chair. "It's Tina."
As I'm rolling out the door, I hear Tyler shout, "Run, Forrest, Run!" If it weren't for the fact that I'm so insanely panicked, I might have laughed at the irony in that. However all I can think about is Tina in the hospital and I don't want to spare the brain cells for anything else.
My specialized manual car is parked in the employee lot, and I secure my chair into it before turning on the engine. It's a miracle that I make it out of the parking lot without hitting anything, because I'm so distracted. As fate would have it, since I'm in such a hurry I manage to hit not only every single red light in Lima, but also the lunch hour traffic. By the time I finally make it to Lima General, I'm almost a complete nervous wreck.
Dad is waiting for me outside the hospital and he reaches down to squeeze my shoulder as I roll up.
"We don't know yet, Sport," Dad answers my unfinished question. "They haven't told us." He must see the fear in my face, or maybe he's just saying it reassure himself, but he adds, "Don't worry, I'm sure everything's fine."
We make our way up to the fourth floor waiting room and I see Mom and Mr. and Mrs. Cohen-Chang sitting there as well. All of them look just about as nervous as I feel, and I find myself receiving a lot of hugs that don't necessarily make me feel much better. What I really want is news. Information. Anything.
It feels like hours, even though my watch says it's only five long minutes, that we're sitting there in the waiting room, looking up hopefully at every single doctor and nurse that passes through the room but getting nothing from it. I'm on the verge of a full-blown panic attack when a nurse enters the room and says, "Mr. Abrams?"
"Yes?" I say, turning instantly and rolling to meet him halfway. "Tina, how is she?"
"She's holding out alright for now," the nurse explains in a steady voice. "We've managed to stop any complications from getting worse, but it's definitely still going to be a risky venture. It's gotta come now and fast or else there's going to be serious complications."
I can feel my body shaking and I'm really grateful I'm already sitting down or I might have fallen over at that. I run an agitated hand through my hair, trying to keep myself calm and failing miserably. "What are you going to do?" I ask feebly.
"We're having her prepped for emergency surgery right now," the nurse says and I feel my stomach drop. "She wants you there."
"Of course," I agree instantly. I turn back around to tell my parents and hers what's going on and they all say something along the lines of, "Give her our love and let her know we're here." Dad takes my work bag and jacket, and I hastily remember to also pull off my gloves and hand them to him before going back to the nurse.
The nurse leads me into a side room and helps me to put on a set of oversized medical scrubs, covering every inch of my street clothes. It's complicated work, but we eventually manage it. I'm then outfitted with a papery face mask and a weird sort of bandana that keeps my hair out of the way before she decides I'm sterilized enough to go in.
The journey down to the room where they've put Tina feels like the longest trip of my life. I'm hit with a blast of sterilized air when the doors open, and in an instant I take in the sight. There is the ring of doctors and surgeons and nurses, all crowded around the bed, and they are arranging trays of tools and green surgeons' sheets. I can see Tina, pale and shaking as she lies there, and as I watch she winces and gasps. The sound of the door gets her attention and she looks over, and my heart flies at the look of relief on her face when she sees me.
"Artie," she pants and I roll forward to take the hand she's holding out to me. I'm unfortunately barely above eye level with the mattress of the bed, but I reach up and squeeze her hand.
"Hey Tee, hold in there for me," I say. As she winces again her grip on my hand gets painfully tight. I feel utterly helpless, sitting there, but I reach up and gently stroke her hair as best as I can.
"Artie, what if…?"
"Don't think like that," I say quickly, holding onto her hand more tightly. "Everything's going to be fine. I'm here now. We'll be okay." I have to be the confident one for the both of us. She's so scared right now. I haven't seen a fear like that in her eyes in years, not since the time I nearly died back when we were in high school. I can't let her know that I'm terrified too. This time I'm going to have to be the strong one.
Tina lets out a strangle yell and I'm fairly certain she just broke the knuckle of one my fingers. My heart is seizing painfully. I hear the doctors saying, "We've got to do this now," and I look over just in time to see him pick up the scalpel.
"Tee, look at me," I command, wanting to keep her eyes away from that. Her dark eyes fix onto my face and I move my hand from her hair to her cheek, keeping her face turned to me and away from the knife descending toward her. "Hey, focus on me, okay?"
"Artie, it – ow," she tenses and I feel her pain like my own as her eyes close and she grits her teeth. The paleness in her face is hastily being replaced with red and she's panting, almost gasping for breaths. "It hurts," she finally says when her muscles relax.
"I know, but you've got to hang on," I say earnestly. "Just a little longer, Tee, and then it'll stop. Just keep looking at me. I'm here for you."
It feels like ages that I just stare back at Tina, doing everything in the world that I possibly can to keep her calm. I brush my thumb over her sweaty cheek and forehead soothingly, kiss her hand through my paper mask, and just keep talking to her. I try to ignore the doctors behind me, try not to think about what they're doing and what could be happening.
"Everything's gonna be okay, Tee, I promise you," I assure her. She nods, giving me that look that says her love beyond words, and I stare right back, trying to convey the exact same thing to her.
And then a high scream splits the room.
My heart stops.
"Artie," Tina gasps weakly.
"Oh Tee," I say and I can feel tears in my eyes as I squeeze her hand. I cling onto her grip and pray, sending every possible plea for safety and protection and mercy skyward.
"Mrs. Abrams?" We both look up as a doctor approaches Tina's other side, and there's a smile on her face. My heart leaps into my throat. "It's a boy."
"A boy," I breathe in awe. Tina slips her hand out of mine, and the doctor places the little blue blanketed bundle in her arms. She stares down at it in disbelief, and even though her hair is a mess and she's red-faced and sweating, she's never looked so beautiful as she does when she smiles.
I tug the paper mask down below my chin, having a hard time breathing through it. "Is he okay?" I ask, trying to sit up straighter and see. The doctor smiles across at me and nods.
"You've got yourselves a tough little boy right there," she says. "Three weeks early and still perfectly healthy."
"Thank you," I say, because it's the only thing I can think of. These people helped to save Tina and the baby, and I am pretty sure there's no way I can thank them enough.
"Artie," Tina says quietly, and she shifts on the mattress so she's closer to my side. I meet her gaze and there are tears in her eyes. "He's so beautiful. He's got your eyes."
"Can I?" I ask hopefully. The doctor comes around to stand next to me, and after Tina hands the bundle of blankets to her, she lowers it into my arms. "He's so tiny," I say.
"He's just the right size," the doctor informs me, and then backs away. I'm almost afraid to move my hands, in case I somehow drop him, but I need to see his face and know for sure that he's really real, and he's really here.
Slipping my one hand up carefully, I brush the blanket away from his face. His skin is red but he's stopped crying. There's a fine patch of dark hair across the top of his head, and when he opens his eyes and looks up at me they are wide and round and bright blue.
"Hey baby boy," I say quietly, brushing my thumb against his cheek. I don't even care that I'm crying as I lean down and press a light kiss onto his warm forehead.
Seven hours later, Tina is settled into a new room, stitched up and recovered from her emergency cesarean, and I've already made myself comfortable on the bed with her. Our family has filtered through already, and now it's just us – me, Tina, and our little baby boy. She's holding him to her chest, and I've got one arm around her shoulders.
As I look at the situation, I can't help but think about how our lives came full circle. It had been years since then, but once again Tina and I are lying together in a hospital bed at the exact same hospital and just enjoying the feel of being together. It's sort of weird how things can be so much like last time, and yet so radically different. This time there's no questions, and no uncertainty. Tina and I don't just think we're in love, we know. And that's only reinforced by the little sleeping bundle in her arms.
Our baby. Two years of trying, and now we're finally here. My mind is still reeling from that. I stare down at his peaceful little face and my heart feels like it's too big for my chest. "What are we going to call him?" I ask Tina in a whisper.
Tina stares at his face for a long time, like she's expecting it to just appear on his forehead. Then she smiles and says, "Kevin?"
"Kevin," I echo, looking at his face. For some reason, in some inexplicable, illogical way, it just seems to fit. "I like it." I reach a hand out and lightly run my finger down his face. "Hey Kevin," I breathe.
Kevin stirs and blinks those huge blue eyes at me, and then he sort of smiles a funny little toothless grin. My heart melts and suddenly it doesn't feel like there's enough air in the room anymore.
"You know Artie," Tina says, smiling down at Kevin, "things like him might just keep happening to me the rest of my life."
I muffle my laugh so I don't startle the baby, because somewhere out of the recesses of my memory I can remember another conversation we had in this same hospital that sounded a lot like that. The topic was entirely different, but the point she's driving home makes me smile.
"And you know, Tee," I say and I meet her gaze, seeing in it that look that I love so much, "I think I can be okay with that."