Summary: Pre-Series, Mary's POV as she keeps vigil at John's bedside. – For now the nurse's face is creased with compassion and weariness...and it's not really the right time to tell her that you don't know what I am...what I've done...that you have no idea my deal is coming due...that I will do what I must to stop it...that I will miss you when I'm gone.

Disclaimer: Not mine.

Author's Note: Time and circumstances change us, and before John became what we knew him to be, I think he was just this – a husband and a father, having no idea what secrets his wife kept that would eventually shape them all. But Mary knew, and I think she thought about them often, haunted by the fragility of the life she had built and the deal that would surely be its undoing.


"Is he your husband?"

The nurse is pointing to you.

And I sigh.

I've been here for hours.

And for hours I've returned my lips over and over to your warm forehead, as if to comfort you.

Or, perhaps, to comfort myself.

Death has a way of robbing heat, of making a body cold.

I should know.

I do know.

So, although your body is still in shock and your fever is high, I'll take it as a good sign...because heat means you're alive, means you're fighting as you always do, means you're still with me.

Still with me.

I'm comforted by the thought and yet anxious because I know how fragile life can be, how...in the very next moment...you can be taken from me.

Gone...forever.

No.

It was the first word I had said.

I had answered the phone at the house on the second ring, instantly seized with a feeling of trepidation at the sound of Mike's voice on the other end of the line because Mike wasn't in the habit of calling me to chat. I knew he would have been with you down at the garage, and if he was calling me in the middle of the day, it probably wasn't good news.

But I would face it.

When I said I do, I meant anything; I would do anything for you...including facing news I didn't want to face and being where I didn't want to be.

And I didn't want to be here.

I shouldn't be here; you shouldn't be here.

We should be home...with our kids...with each other...with our blessings that we forget to count until they're almost lost.

But we weren't there; we were here...and I was scared.

When Mike said that you had been hurt – that one of the car lifts malfunctioned at the garage while you were underneath it – I didn't quite know what to think.

Beyond the initial shock was the blur of activity, of getting our neighbor to watch the boys, of putting on a brave expression, of doing what had to be done.

Emergency surgery...ventilator...ICU.

In just a few days, you'll prove your strength. They will remove the ventilator, transfer you to a regular room, and I will finally put my lips to your forehead and feel a welcome coolness and peace.

But for now the nurse's face is creased with compassion and weariness – she is waiting for my answer – and it's not really the right time to tell her about your gentle strength...about how you captured my heart...about how stubborn we both were in admitting our love.

It's not the right time to tell her about how you proposed...about how I said no...about how we argued until I said yes and then made love, exhilarated with the realization that it was you and me...forever.

It's not the right time to tell her about how we tried to get pregnant...and failed...and then tried again.

It's not the right time to tell her about the way you rocked our baby in the sling for hours on end...about how you've rocked another baby four years later...about how babies have peacefully slept across your broad chest for what feels like my entire adult life.

It's not the right time to tell her how I love the way you look at me...how I love to watch you watch our boys...how you love them unconditionally, unconventionally, and unceasingly.

It's not the right time to tell her how I love it when your smile reaches your eyes...how safe I feel when I'm with you...how happy I feel when I find the notes that you hide around the house.

It's not the right time to tell her that despite our recent rough patches, I still love you...I'm still grateful to have found you...that you are my rock, my mystery, and the love of my life.

It's not the right time to tell her that you don't know what I am...what I've done...that you have no idea my deal is coming due...that I will do what I must to stop it...that I will miss you when I'm gone.

She doesn't know that in the midst of my fear and desperation, I'm strangely euphoric, sitting here thinking about how lucky I am to have so much to lose.

Mother...wife...hunter.

I will...I do...and I'm sorry.

But all I can say is...

"Yes. He's my husband."

The nurse nods, smiles encouragingly, and politely bows out of the room.

I sit in the silence, my fingers laced with yours, and I say it again to you, as much as a promise and an apology as the first time I said it on our wedding night.

"You're my husband, John."

For better or for worse...

In sickness and in health...

Till death do us part.

FIN

John co-owned a garage in Lawrence with Mike Guenther until he left town following Mary's death.