Author's note: Here we go, the last bits of Thirteen Days. A word of warning: Against all odds, there's some angst ahead. Just keep in mind that I've promised you a happy ending:) I want to thank you all for reading, and especially those of you who have taken the time to comment, too, it means so much to me. And of course, I want to thank Matt for his help with the first half of this story and, above all, Gayle, my grammar beta. She's bloody amazing.
Happy holidays, everyone!
10. Wednesday, July 27th, 2011
"Oh, crap," Elizabeth laughed as she glanced in the rearview mirror to see Char Lucas, nearly buried under a big heap of blue Ikea bags. "Will's going to kill me when he sees all of this!"
"Don't forget that half of these are mine," Char chuckled, rearranging the enormous bag on her lap so that she could see Abby, sitting in her safety seat next to Elizabeth, facing towards the backseat.
"That would be a slight consolation," Elizabeth agreed," if the boot wasn't full, too!"
Slowing down to stop at the traffic lights, she turned towards her daughter, smiling. "What do you think, Ab? Is daddy going to blow his top?"
"Da-da-da!" Abby cried excitedly, and both Elizabeth and Char laughed.
"A definite yes, I should say," Elizabeth chuckled. "I think I'm in big trouble."
"That's rubbish and you know it. I don't think that man is capable of being upset with you! And the same goes for you, I might add. It's quite disgusting, really."
"Please, Char, you sound like Richard! We do fight… occasionally."
"We do! Just the other week we…."
Five minutes earlier, Annie Alden, age 23, had rushed out of her boyfriend's flat, his car keys in hand. Her left cheek was red and swollen where her boyfriend's palm had landed sometime earlier, and though it was a weekday and she was supposed to go to work the next morning, she was so drunk that she could barely stand up. When, at a junction not far away from the flat she had escaped, the car swerved out of her control, she barely realized what was happening.
And so, Elizabeth never got to finish her sentence.
11. Thursday, July 28th, 2011
At 2:00 A.M., Will pushed himself up from the floor of the men's room in the intensive care unit of Meryton General Hospital. With shaky legs, he walked to the sinks, a new wave of nausea almost making him drop on his knees again. He splashed cold water on his face, drinking a few gulps, then spitting it out, trying to rinse the foul taste away from his mouth. When he lifted his eyes to the mirror, he barely recognized the haggard man looking back at him.
In the corridor, he was met with the worried gaze of his sister.
"No," he replied, simply. It was a stupid question.
Six hours earlier, he had been home, preparing dinner, waiting for Bell and Abby to return from a daytrip to Ikea. He had cut his finger when the phone had rung for the first time and, instead of answering, had rushed to the bathroom to find the disinfectant and a plaster. A few minutes later, it had rung again, and when he had picked up the phone, he had been greeted by a grave male voice asking him if he was the husband of Elizabeth Darcy.
A drunk driver, they had told him when he'd reached the hospital, had lost control of her car and hit the one Elizabeth was driving.
"Abby?" he had choked, his heart hammering in his chest. "My daughter?"
"The little one is fine, only a little scared," the nurse had told him, and he had breathed a sigh of relief.
"And my wife?"
The look on the nurse's face had been enough to tell him that his wife, indeed, was not fine at all. Having been seated on the side of the impact, she had taken the brunt of the collision. While Abby was as good as new and Char Lucas only had a few bumps and bruises, Elizabeth had suffered several fractures and some internal damage and, most worrisome, a head trauma that had left her unconscious. The next twenty-four hours, Will had been told, would be critical.
While Elizabeth had been in surgery, Will had sat with Abby, watching his daughter sleep, her thumb in her mouth, perfectly unaware of the fact that her mother was fighting for her life. The utter relief of knowing that Abby was okay had tangled in Will's chest with the suffocating knowledge that Elizabeth was not, forming a knot so tight that he barely had been able to breathe. What would become of them if she did not make it?
"Could you go sit with Abby in case she wakes up?" he asked his sister. She was the only one left of the horde of people who had surrounded him earlier in the evening. Ed and Maddy Gardiner had taken Mrs. Bennet and Elizabeth's younger sisters home several hours ago, as it had become apparent that Mrs. Bennet's nerves only served to add to the general distress. Jane and Charles had left a short while ago, promising to come back first thing in the morning. But Georgiana had remained, staunchly refusing to leave when Will had suggested that she might want to get a few hours of sleep. He had been thankful.
"Of course. You'll let me know if there's any change?"
He nodded, turning towards the room he had exited some fifteen minutes earlier when the wave of nausea at the thought of never hearing his wife laugh again had overcome him.
"Love?" he asked, stepping into the dimly lit room. But of course, there was no answer.
Pulling a chair next to the bed, he swallowed hard, trying to fight the lump that threatened to rise in his throat. She looked so pale and fragile, lying there, her chest rising and falling at a slow, even pace. Gently, he reached for her hand, cradling it between his palms.
"Bell, love," he whispered, "we need to have a serious discussion. I- I've been thinking, and I can't let you do this. Do you hear me? I won't allow it. You must come back to us. You- you know I don't know the first thing about dresses and dolls and all that girly stuff; Abby's going to need her mother for that. And I- I-"
His voice broke as an involuntary sob escaped his mouth. Squeezing his eyes tightly shut to stop the tears from coming, he leaned his head against their joined hands.
"Come back, love," he whispered, squeezing his fingers around her hand. "Come back. I can't do this without you."
12. Friday, August 19th, 2011
Gently, Will reached his hand between the cot bars to touch the face of his daughter, fast asleep next to him. One night some two weeks ago, he had dragged Abby's cot next to the big bed so that Abby could sleep closer to him. Or rather, so that he could sleep closer to her. His impulsive whim had left nasty scrapes on the hardwood floor, and he had later wondered why he hadn't been more careful or asked someone to help him. Richard would have come, no doubt, he had stopped by almost every day since Bell's accident. But then, he might have brought Caroline with him, and Will was in no mood for her insincere solicitude. The mere thought made him shudder. As often before, he wondered what Richard saw in Charles's high-maintenance sister. But then, he supposed, stranger things had happened.
He touched the tip of Abby's nose and smiled slightly as it wrinkled, a snuffling sound escaping her mouth. Looking at the clock, he realized that it was too early to wake her up and reluctantly pulled his hand away, turning over in the bed. As he looked at the untouched pillow next to his own, he felt his throat tighten in an all too familiar manner. Closing his eyes, he lowered his palm on the smooth, cool surface of the sheet, trying to imagine that it was Bell's soft skin he was stroking. It was a useless effort. Soon enough, he felt tears prickling in the corners of his eyes, and his fist clenched around the fabric of the sheet. Bloody hell, he would not cry. He had done quite enough of that in the past weeks. Today, of all days, was definitely not a day for tears.
Turning around again, he realized that he was being watched. Eyes wide open, quiet as a mouse, his daughter was looking at him with a puzzled expression. Quickly, he wiped his eyes and gave her a big smile, getting up and lifting her in his arms.
"Good morning, Abby Abbington," he said, kissing the crown of her head, smiling as she nuzzled her face in his t-shirt. Lying back on the bed, he settled her on his stomach.
"So, how are you this morning?" he asked. "Nervous? Impatient?"
Abby yawned, rubbing her cheek against his shirt and closing her eyes again.
"I suppose that's a no, then," he chuckled. "Well, you should know that daddy hardly slept a wink."
He looked at the clock again. Six-thirty. It was way too early. But perhaps, if he took a really long time dressing Abby up and making her breakfast? And then drove very, very slowly? Yes, he decided. He could not wait another minute.
"Come on, Abs," he said, getting up and giving her another kiss. "It's time to get going."
Taking a few dance steps, he lifted her on the nursing table. "Okay," he explained as he undressed her and took off her nappy. "First, we're going to take a shower, right? We wouldn't want anyone to think that we've become sloppy, would we?"
Slipping off his boxer shorts and t-shirt, he lifted her up again and crouched down to rummage through a basket of clean laundry waiting to be folded and put into the closet.
"See?" he said, lifting up a pink hooded towel with a snout and a pair of floppy ears. "Miss Piggy is back from her trip to the washing machine. Do you suppose she'd like to come to the bathroom with us?"
Abby reached her hands towards the pink towel, babbling happily, as if she had just been reacquainted with an old friend.
"Right," he chuckled, realizing that it would have been wiser to introduce Miss Piggy after the shower, instead of before it. Now that she had found her friend, Abby would not let go of it without a fight.
"Come on," he said, starting towards the bathroom. "Shower-time. And then, we're going to go and get mummy home!"
"Mum-ma," Abby replied, making Will stop in his tracks.
"Mum-ma!" Abby repeated, pounding Miss Piggy's snout against his chest for emphasis.
He started to laugh, lifting her high in the air, his eyes again filling with unbidden tears. "Yes! Mummy! We're going to get mummy home from the hospital!"
13. Sunday, December 25th, 2011
Leaning against the doorframe, Will looked at the three ladies sitting on the floor of the big drawing room of Pemberley. Their backs were towards him and two pairs of eyes were glued to the lights of the Christmas tree – and one pair greedily eyeing the pile of presents underneath it. Abby reached for the nearest parcel impatiently, and Georgiana grabbed her in her arms, laughing.
"Not yet, little lady! We must wait for your daddy!"
Will smiled. Bell was wearing the dark red dress he had presented her with that morning, the wrap that went with it carelessly tossed over the armrest of the sofa. Even in the faint light of the Christmas tree, he could see the long scar on her right arm, a painful reminder of how close he and Abby had come to losing her in the summer. He had never been a religious man, but he thanked God every day for saving his wife.
Unwilling to make his presence known just yet, he let his gaze travel over Bell's slender figure, a pleasant shiver running down his spine as he thought of the things she had done to him earlier, while Georgiana and Abby had been outside, playing in the snow. "Come on," she had laughed, when he had protested that his sister and Abby might return any minute. "Don't be such a sissy. They won't be back in for at least an hour. Besides, I talked to Jane today, and they're already planning on a second one. Team Darcy needs your efforts." And then, she had proceeded to undress him and made him call out her name.
Abby was the first to notice him.
"Daddy!" she cried, pushing herself off from Georgiana's arms and starting towards him.
His chest swelled at the sight in front of him. His daughter, determinedly walking towards him. His sister, giggling at the wobbly steps of her niece. His wife, looking straight at him, a mischievous smile on her face, no doubt thinking of the same exact thing that had been on his mind only moments before.