To Breathe Again: Second Wind

The continuation of "To Breathe Again"

by LM

Disclaimer - I do not own any rights to, nor am I in any way affiliated with the television show "Hunter", its staff or characters.

[Rated: T] - Suitable for teens, 13 years and older, with some violence, minor coarse language, and minor suggestive adult themes.

Summary: When Dee Dee experiences extreme life-altering events, she must decide if returning to an old life and an old friend is the best thing for her in order for her to survive. Will she follow her heart, her mind, or neither?

(Chapter One)

Nearly an hour had passed before Mark returned to AJ's room. "Dee Dee? Do you need anything?"

Dee Dee raised her weary head from the bed. "Come and meet my baby." She extended her hand to Mark. "Come see my little boy."

Mark moved tentatively toward the bed of the frail child. "He's beautiful." He noted the resemblance of Dee Dee in the child's face, along with a few remaining stray dark curls peeking from the edges of the bandages on his head. "He looks like you."

"Thank you." Dee Dee mustered a faint smile. "He has my dark eyes, too. But he's got his daddy's nose and his stout frame. He's my little tough guy." She noted how delicate he truly was. "I love him so much."

"I'm sure he's crazy about his mom, too."

"Yeah, I know he is. I must admit that I do have him spoiled to a certain extent. He's not spoiled as in being a brat, mind you. He's had minor swats on the bottom when he's tried to be the parent and defy me or his father." Dee Dee smiled a little as she shook her head. "You should hear him when he really gets going. He's very smart and loves to talk. Though he can't pronounce every word perfectly, he's quite advanced for two years old. He's so active…runs, jumps and climbs up on anything and everything. He loves chasing ducks in the park, which means I have to chase after him." As quickly as she smiled at the idea, the thoughts and visions of the past were too much for her to bear. "My baby can't play, now. He can't laugh…he can't…run, he can't…he can't do anything." She buried her face in the covers and sobbed.

Mark stood with sorrow in his heart and gently placed a hand on Dee Dee's shoulder; wishing he could do more for her.

The door opened slightly and a gentle voice was heard. "Mrs. Turnan. I hate to disturb you, but visiting hours are over. You can return early in the morning."

Dee Dee wiped her tears and looked at the nurse. "Can't I stay with him tonight? He needs me."

"I'm sorry, but we don't allow overnight visits in this unit." The nurse tried to be as sympathetic as possible. "We have a hotel adjoined to the hospital, and we do have a large sitting area for the parents down the hall. The chairs are recliners; quite large and comfortable."

Dee Dee looked at the clock on the wall, noting that it was still before midnight. "Today's his birthday….his second." Her voice quivered while the tears streaked her face and she turned to Mark. "You didn't know that, did you? He and his Daddy share a birthday and we were leaving their celebration dinner when…when it happened."

Mark's heart began to break at hearing the news. "No, I didn't know. I'm so sorry."

"His birthday." Dee Dee whispered. "I have to stay with him."

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Turnan, but you can't." The nurse reminded her. "We have rules."

"I don't care! Don't you understand what I'm saying?" Dee Dee became irate as she stood up. "The doctor told me that he's already…he's….if not for the machines…" She pulled in a gulp of air and steadied her wobbly frame. "My baby boy was born on this day, two years ago! And now…his life is over on the very day he was brought into this world!" Her body shook as she sobbed. "How can you make me leave him? How? How can you?"

A second nurse offered her condolences. "I'm so very sorry, but we can't do anything about it."

Before Dee Dee could step closer to confront the nurses, Mark intervened and spoke to them. "May I speak to you ladies outside, please?"

They glanced at each other and followed him out into the hallway as Dee Dee returned to her seat.

"Listen, I know you have hospital rules, but that woman in there is suffering." Mark said sternly. "Her two year old child isn't going to wake up again. Can't she have just the one night with him?"

"Sir, I understand, but there's nothing we can do." One of the nurses replied. "It's because the baby's in ICU. There are no exceptions for anyone. The ward is for those who are very ill and we can't have family members in the way if there's an emergency for any of our patients. I'm sorry."

Mark thought for a moment. He didn't want to sound morbid, but his possible solution may cause him to sound as such. "Listen to me. You know all the details of the baby's medical state. He's already gone. You know well enough that he's only in that room because that machine is breathing for him until his family arrives and his mother says it's time to let him go. Why not ask the doctor to place him a room away from the ward, where his mother and the family members can be with him when the machine is turned off? Take the machine into another room for him." Mark's pleading eyes were filled with anger and grief. "Help Mrs. Turnan. Help her spend a few more hours with her child. She needs this and you know it. She lost her husband today, too. What more can she stand? Wouldn't you plead the same if you were in her shoes? Please. Help her."

Both nurses stood with tears in their eyes and one told Mark she'd speak to AJ's doctor about the plan. She also told Mark that Dee Dee had a great friend in him.

When the three parted ways, Mark returned to Dee Dee and told her not to worry about leaving just yet. Within fifteen minutes, Dr. Benson arrived and gave Dee Dee the news that AJ would indeed be moved to another room which contained a convertible chair/bed for her to sleep in. She would be able to stay beside her baby until it was time to say goodbye.

Dee Dee mustered a soft 'thank you' to both men and turned her attention back to her son. "I'm here, precious." She stroked AJ's cheek. "Mommy's going to sing to you, okay?"

With tears in his eyes, Mark quietly moved toward Dee Dee and placed his hand on her shoulder. "I'll be in the waiting room."

She nodded, but kept her focus on AJ.

As Mark began to leave, he heard Dee Dee begin to sing 'You Send Me'. His heart ached for her and he wished he could find a way to ease her suffering.

After singing the song twice, Dee Dee kissed little AJ's cheeks. "You're mommy's most treasured gift, my sweet boy. I love you so very, very much." She began to shed tears as the reality grew stronger. She lay her head down on AJ's bed and stroked his fingernails with the tip of her index finger.

"Mrs. Turnan?" The nurse called softly. "We're ready to take little Alexander to his new room."

"Come on, Dee Dee." Mark had come in behind the nurse. "I'll walk with you."

"Okay. Just a second." She replied tearfully as she turned to her son. "I'll be back with you in a few minutes, Sweet-pea. Mommy loves you." Due to the baby being connected to the machines, it was difficult for Dee Dee to hug him, but she did her best. "You're mommy's big boy." A tear dropped from her eye and fell above AJ's chest. "I'll see you in a bit."

Mark extended his hand, and Dee Dee reluctantly left her child's side after kissing his cheeks and forehead again. With their hands linked, Mark and Dee Dee were silent as they walked to their destination.

After little AJ was placed in his new room, Dee Dee and Mark entered, and when Dee Dee sat beside her son and placed her hand on his little chest, Mark remained at her side. When he suggested she try and eat something, she told him as he expected…that she wasn't hungry.

"I'll get you some soup, anyway. It's not heavy. Maybe you can handle a little of it."

Mark left the room while Dee Dee continued to talk quietly to her little boy while she rest her head beside his; feeling weary and mentally drained, her eyes began to flutter shut. When Mark returned, he quietly entered the room and placed the bowl of soup and a package of crackers on the counter. He didn't want to intrude, so he turned to walk to the waiting area.

"Alex?" Dee Dee called as she slowly lifted her head.

"No, uh…it's me, Mark."

Gathering her senses while looking around the room, Dee Dee realized she wasn't at home with her family. A cold chill ran across her body.

"Oh, Mark. I thought…you were Alex and that we were…" She stopped and looked at AJ. "My baby. Oh, my baby. I thought we were home and we were safe." Her heart broke all over again as she began to whimper. "AJ…oh, baby. I'm so sorry."

Mark moved timidly to her side again and placed a hand on her shoulder. Wishing he had more to offer.

"I don't want to be here alone." Dee Dee sniffled. "I'm scared."

"I know, and I won't leave you."

Dee Dee looked up at Mark gratefully. "Are you sure?" She asked. "Do you have family that you should be with? Someone must be worried about you."

"No, I'm fine." Mark answered. "I'm actually here in London alone. I'm taking a little time from things back home in the states."

Though unaware of what Mark was taking a break from, Dee Dee felt better at knowing that she wasn't keeping him from anything of importance. "I'm glad you can stay."

"So am I."

The nurses were kind enough to bring extra blankets and pillows for Mark and he managed to make himself fairly comfortable in the large chair across from Dee Dee and AJ.

Dee Dee's mind and body could only take so much from the events, and though she fought against it, exhaustion began to settle in. She turned down the offer for a light sedative; telling the doctor that she wanted to be able to remember each moment spent with her baby. After Mark converted the little sofa into a bed for her, she pulled off her shoes and stretched out; lying on her right side and reaching across to place her left hand on AJ's left hand. Sleep did come to her, but not strongly enough to keep her in deep slumber or even to sleep lightly for any more than a half hour at a time.

Mark slept lightly. He felt guilty that he may be able to sleep when Dee Dee couldn't. He was tired, drained, but knew it was nothing like what the woman he tended to was feeling. He slept for a few minutes at a time, sometimes being awakened by nurses entering and exiting the room to check on AJ. He was surprised that Dee Dee seemed to have taken some control over her tears. Maybe she was too tired to cry. He sat quietly, wondering just who she really was. He knew that she was much, much more than just a woman he'd met several hours ago; a woman whose life has taken a most tragic turn. He thought that if she pulls through all of this without a mental breakdown, she's a very strong woman and that something or someone in her past had made her that way. What was it? Who was it?

A soft knock came from the door and a nurse entered. "Mrs. Turnan?"

"Yes." Dee Dee looked up.

"I'm sorry to bother you, but we need to know which funeral services you'd like us to call for your husband?"

Dee Dee shivered as the words traveled through her like ice water. "I…I don't know." She and Alex hadn't had to attend any funerals while in London, so they weren't familiar with what services to use. They never even discussed burial for themselves, only the insurance funds that would take care of the surviving family member or members. "I thought…we thought we'd have more time for that, I guess." She almost laughed at how absurd the explanation sounded. "I just don't know."

"I have friends who may be able to help." Mark announced. "I'll give them a call."

"Thank you." Dee Dee replied gratefully.

Mark left moments after the nurse and placed the call. Within half an hour, he was back at Dee Dee's side and the two of them gave the nurse the information she needed. He then tried to encourage Dee Dee to eat something for breakfast, though she wouldn't have more than a cup of coffee. Mark ate a breakfast sandwich and drank orange juice, though his own appetite wasn't at its usual peak for the morning hours. He knew he'd need to keep up his strength to provide the support Dee Dee would need. Several hours went by and he listened intently to Dee Dee as she spoke and sang to little AJ. He was in awe of her strength and compassion. He couldn't imagine himself in her shoes and hoped and prayed he would never know the feeling. He sighed and Dee Dee turned to him.

"Is something wrong?" She asked.

"Oh, no. I'm okay." Mark answered. "I'm just going to stand up and stretch my legs. Is there something I can do for you?"

"I don't think so. Thank you for asking." Dee Dee smiled softly.

"She's worried about me? With all that's crashing down around her, she's concerned about me?" Mark questioned silently, feeling guilty as he stood and looked out the window; slowly taking a look over his shoulder. "She's an amazing woman."

Moments later, a soft knocking came from the opposite side of the door. "Come in." Dee Dee replied softly.

"Dee Dee?"

Dee Dee turned to the familiar voice. "Rick." She slowly stood to greet him.

"I'm here, sweetheart." Rick moved closer, put his arms around her and pulled her close; his eyes burning with tears as he looked over at his Godson. "Oh, AJ." He whispered.

"I'll leave you guys alone." Mark started across the room. "If you need me, I'll be in the waiting room."

Rick wanted to say something; to at least introduce himself, but didn't want to disturb Dee Dee as she held onto him. He nodded to Mark and quietly mouthed 'thank you' to him.

Dee Dee looked up. "Mark. Wait." "I want to…I…"

"Dee Dee?" Rick felt her body go limp in his arms. "Dee Dee, honey?"

"Nurse, we need help!" Mark called from the doorway. He glanced back and saw Rick had scooped Dee Dee up into his arms.

(Continued...)