A/N: Okay, this is it! Thank you all for staying with this story. I appreciate it. A.J. And Rick are not mine (darn!).
Regaining her breath, she could still feel her chest was tight, only allowing for short, small breaths. Her fingers tightened around her friend's hand. Maggie shook her head. "Emily, if you don't relax, you will have difficult breathing again. You don't want that do you?"
Emily shook her head. Maggie looked over her shoulder at the two men standing in the doorway. "I need help sitting her up."
Grabbing Emily underneath her arms, Rick sat Emily up. Maggie dabbed the sweat from Emily's face. Maggie looked at Rick. "The fluid in her chest keeps her from breathing deep. When she sank down in the bed, she was literally drowning in her own fluids."
"Well, well, what do we have here? Emily, how are you doing?" Without waiting for a response, the tall, elderly man dropped his bag on a chair, just inside the doorway. He slipped out of his London Fog coat. A.J. studied him for a moment, wondering if he had ever played as Burt Lancaster's double. Taking a stethoscope out of his bag, he walked over to the bed. He placed it on her chest, commanding her to breathe deep, then on her back with the same instructions.
He looked at the two men, as he wrapped the blood pressure cuff around Emily's arm. "Doc Grady. I have known Emily, and Maggie for that matter, nearly all their lives."
A.J. introduced both himself and Rick. Rick was intensely watching the doctor. "So, so you have something in that black bag of yours that can make her better?"
Doc Grady gave Emily a look of reproach. "No son, I can't. The best I can do is make her comfortable. I think we need to clear the room so Emily and Rick can talk."
He got up from the bed, and expanded his arms out as if he were moving sheep out of the room. Closing the French doors behind him, he sighed. "She's worse than last night, Maggie. Her heart and lungs are not moving out the fluids. Coffee?"
Doc Grady shot a syringe of clear liquid into the IV. "That'll help you relax some, young lady." His smile was warm and sympathetic.
He nodded to Maggie, who glanced at the group on the bed. Following the doctor out, she set the bag on a small side table. Opening it, he pulled two more syringes out. "I don't think you'll need both. It's Valium." Doc studied Maggie's face. "She's drowning in her own fluid, at some point tonight, she won't be able to take a breath. You understand that, right?"
A.J. had slipped out of the room, listening quietly to what was being said. He reached around Maggie, taking the syringes from the doctor. Doc Grady eyed the young blonde haired man carefully. "Maggie didn't call you here to do this. It's a miracle that she is even still 'with us' tonight." The Doc looked at the French doors for a moment, shaking his head. "It would be better that Maggie handles the syringes. Your brother might not fully understand."
Maggie nodded, taking the syringes from A.J. "As easier it would be for me, he's right A.J. This is something that Emily, Tim and I have discussed." Andrew started to object, but closed his mouth.
The fear on Rick's face intensified as he lifted her back up into the sitting position, and the gasping did not stop. Her hand tightened around his, her eyes searched his for help. "Come on Emily, relax, you'll be able to breathe if you relax."
His voice was hoarse from trying to talk to her. Maggie stirred in the chair across from the bed. She had watched his struggle throughout the night. He had almost banished Maggie from the room when she suggested the Valium.
A.J. had left the room. He could not bear to see his older brother fighting for something that he could not possibly win. Standing in front of the modest bookcase, he noted the number of first editions. A low whistle escaped his lips. Hearing the commotion coming from the bedroom, he blindly grabbed a book from the shelf and headed towards the French doors.
Emily was still gasping in Rick's arms when A.J. entered the room. She looked up at Rick, then over at Maggie. He gave her a squeezed. He sputtered out, "I can't"
Emily closed her eyes for a moment. Opening them, she firmly nodded, and looked a Maggie. Maggie moved towards the side of the bed. Andrew watched as his brother propped Emily up and that in one stride he was blocking Maggie from getting any closer to the IV.
Rick extended his hand out towards Maggie. She hesitated only a moment, handing him one of the syringes. Injecting all of the fluid into the IV, Rick dropped the syringe into the trash. He quickly took his place next to Emily, gently holding her in his arms. A.J. took a spot on the foot of the bed, while Maggie studied the scene from near the doorway.
Andrew cleared his throat as he opened the book. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…." His voice cracked and he stopped.
Eight Months Later…..
A.J. was cleaning out the cupboards, dumping some containers of what he imagined to be the remains of bait that his brother had placed on the shelves months ago. He didn't dare open any of them.
Rick, of course, was oblivious to the look of disdain his younger brother was giving him, as he was wrapped up in the football game between the Packers and the Stealers. The bells outside the door rang. "Rick, could you get that?"
He could see Rick's hand come over the couch, slightly waiving at him. "After this play."
A.J. growled. After this play, then it will be after the next play, then after the next… The bell rang again, as he headed for the door. Opening it, he found a young woman in a brown uniform with a hand truck holding several packages. She smiled brightly. "A.J. and Rick Simon?"
Andrew opened the door wider. "Yes, come in."
Rick had made a trip to the fridge for another beer. He looked at A.J. "You ordered something?"
Before A.J. could answer, the delivery woman handed him a clipboard, "If you'll sign the areas I marked."
Looking at the packages, Rick grabbed one. "Hey, this one is for me!" Getting out his knife, he cut the string and the tape on one side. Pulling out a small-framed painting, he flipped it over and found an envelope on the back of it. Taking it off, he set the painting on the counter. Rick looked over at A.J., clearing his throat. "It's from Emily."
The woman lifted the painting, studying it, as A.J. opened one of the boxes marked for him. He whistled. "These are the books from her library."
Quickly reading the note, Rick placed it back in the envelope and tucked it in his back pocket. The delivery woman set the painting back on the counter. "Last I heard, her paintings were going for near half a million." She eyed Rick critically. "To get one of these paintings from the artist, you'd have to be pretty special."
A.J. looked up at his big brother with an odd grin on his face. Rick shook his head. "She sure was."
A/N: Well, I hoped you all enjoyed it. Thanks for taking the time to read it.