Breathe Me

Takes off where the finale left us. LS, of course.

Right, this is totally not what I do, but I'm starting to post this before I've finished writing the story... this is unusual... So, as it's still in progress, and I'm quite busy, I think you're going to get about one chapter a week. I hope you enjoy this, I've been working on it for two years now!

Disclaimer: I don't own. No one does, not anymore :(

One

She's never liked hospitals, for one reason or another… the smell gets right down her throat and the ringing silence into her ears, and the bright light stings her eyes. She's had a fair few run ins with the hospitals over the years, being the patient herself, everything from a broken arm at age five – her mother had been too busy flirting with the man working at the ice-cream stand to watch her on the swings – to the near fatal gunshot wound from a few years before – she'll never forget how the cold felt washing over her. But being in the waiting room, that hadn't become so common to her, and somehow, in some inexplicable twist, it is almost harder.

She can't get the grey tinge of Christina's face out of her head, the weak, starving cries of the tiny baby girl, the bruises on her sister's side she'd seen when Scotty lifted her and the hem of her T-shirt raised slightly. She can't seem to stop the nausea rising in her throat as she imagines the possibilities – what if she hadn't gotten there in time, what if she'd been too late, what if she hadn't heard the baby crying?

And then there's the darker imaginings, almost, the ones she knows she'll torture herself with for the foreseeable future – what if she'd been better to Christina her whole life? What if she hadn't helped to drive her away? What if she'd been less sheltered, less naïve, when she'd first seen her in the diner, what if she'd realised what was wrong then – might she have got there in time? What if she'd turned up at Christina's motel room earlier? Scenarios fly wildly in her, and without noticing, she's clenching and unclenching her fists.

"Lil…" she hears Scotty say, his voice low, almost like he's scared to speak. She'd almost forgotten for a moment, that he was still there with her. Once he'd driven them to the hospital she'd offered him his way out, told him to go home, but he'd done nothing but laugh dryly at her and follow her inside. She turns her face up to his, and there's pain in his eyes, they look as she imagines hers do, his eyebrows furrowed, his eyes tired and full of bewilderment, fatigue. She can't even bring herself to say anything, simply holds his gaze for a moment, lets her hands relax, realising the concern in his voice is for her as much as for her sister and for the baby.

He's pacing, and she wishes he would stop pacing, because her eyes are following him up and down the waiting room, and she can't seem to get her thoughts in order whilst she's watching him.

Then again, maybe that's a good thing. She can't imagine a pathway her thoughts might take right now that would lead her anywhere painless, anywhere peaceful. He glances at her every few seconds, resumes his pacing, looking around as if an answer to one of his questions might appear out of thin air, out of the silence. The waiting room is almost deserted, it's nearly eleven at night, and they're not in the ER anymore, but in the on-call OBGYN department. Lilly can hardly focus the memory from only about an hour before, when the doctors, all stern, emotionless faces and concerned eyes, took Christina in one direction and took the little girl out of her arms and in the other direction, one of them asking her something about calling the police, to which she'd been unable to answer until Scotty pulled out his badge and said something in a hushed tone that she hadn't quite been able to hone in on, either.

Everything is crumbling, she decides, she's finally going mad.

At last, he sinks into the hard plastic chair beside her, resting his hands on the arms of the chair, tapping his fingers slightly.

"They'll be alright…" he whispers, and she nods her head… too quickly. They don't look at one another, but he reaches out a hand and places it on her arm. "We got to them in time, Lil. They'll be fine."

She isn't sure where the turning point was, any of the turning points for that matter – she isn't sure when he stopped being the mildly irritating ex-narcs cop, and started being her partner. She isn't sure when he stopped being just her partner and started being her friend, and she sure as hell doesn't know when he stopped being just her friend and started knowing exactly what she was thinking, and exactly what she needed him to say. But she breathes slowly, his touch calming her slightly, bringing the threads of her thoughts into coherence again, and nods slightly, this time more sincere, as if Scotty telling her something would make it true.

They sit like that, neither of them saying anything, for minutes, and they both watch a heavily pregnant woman leaving one of the consulting rooms, flushed in the face and gripping the hand of a child no older than two, slightly stooped with the extra weight.

"What happens now?" Lilly manages to breathe, and they turn their heads at the same moment, their eyes meeting. The vulnerability in her eyes shocks him into silence for a moment, but there's pleading in her face, like she needs his answer more than anything.

"One step at a time, Lil." He murmurs.

He suddenly has a thousand things to say, in that moment, with Lilly Rush beside him, looking far more open than she had in the seven years he'd known her, but he is interrupted.

"Ms Rush?" A tired looking balding doctor stands in the doorway of one of the consulting rooms, eyes scanning the waiting room. Lilly turns away immediately, standing up, walking towards him.

"How is she?" she breathes, heart thumping in her chest, fists tense and clenched again.

"Not bad, given the circumstances. You can come through and see her now." The doctor says, his face still grave, giving nothing away. Lilly glances back at Scotty, and he gives her a small smile.

"I'll be right here." he says, as if she was asking for his reassurance, and she walks into her sister's hospital room.

The first thing Lilly thinks is how small Christina looks, attached to the IV and swamped in an oversized hospital gown. For a moment, she looks no different to the six-and-a-half year old that brought her big sister a roughly hacked ham sandwich the day after her attack, which she couldn't eat anyway with her broken jaw, but she crumbled up and threw it out of the window for the birds, so as not to hurt Christina's feelings.

The younger Rush sister looks up at Lilly through wide, scared eyes, and Lilly feels the pangs of guilt in her stomach, as if somehow there was something more she could have done.

"Chris…" she breathes, perching on the side of the bed beside her sister, half wringing her hands, almost at a loss as to what to say. Christina's face and arms, what Lilly can see of them, are black and blue, and it looks as if it's painful every time she breathes.

"I'm… I'm so sorry…" she manages to murmur, clasping her sister's hand in her own, staring down at their fingers, melded together. Lilly's slightly paler, slightly rougher, her fingers slightly longer and thinner. Unimpressive differences, really. Not enough to define quite why Lilly wasn't there to save her sister, why there's this rift between them she's not sure will ever close. A rift defined by so many things – a subconscious resent at losing a childhood mothering both a mother and a little sister, an unfaithful fiancé, money, taken without so much as a word, the man in the waiting room… that thought flits through her mind without leaving much in its wake, because today's gone beyond worrying about things like that.

When she looks up, there are tear tracks running down Christina's face, and she's chewing her lip like she always had done when she had something to say. Lilly opens her mouth to say something, but her sister gets there first.

"It's not your fault, Lil…" a tiny, bitter smile touches her lips, "It's never been your fault, not any of it… I ruin everything I touch, Lil… I can't seem to help it… I've always been the one that's ruined everything between us…"

"Chris, it doesn't-"

Christina holds up a hand, weakly. "Don't you go saying it doesn't matter. We both know that I've ruined more than one thing for you, and it's me who should be sorry, not you…" she takes a deep, shaky breath, broken ribs restricting her sighs. "She's the only good thing I've ever done… her name's Eleanor… Ellie Lilly Rush… she's almost eight months old…" Lilly watches her eyes well up, her fingers clench and unclench in a gesture she guesses is somehow genetic, "It scares me how much I love her, Lil… I've never understood Mom until now, but I… I love her, but I'm no good for her…"

"We'll figure it out, Chris. You'll be able to be a mother to her…"

Christina shakes her head, and Lilly sees her fingers shaking as they grip the thin hospital sheets. "Not like this. I'm not leaving this hospital 'til I'm clean. I've already spoken to one of the doctors… I can go straight from here to the rehabilitation ward…" those big wide eyes stare up at her sister, "I have to do this, Lil."

There's a silence hanging over the hospital room as Lilly realises this might be the first selfless thing her sister has ever tried to do, and Christina tries to figure out how to ask her sister for one more thing, when she's spent her whole life asking for favours she can't even pay for in sisterhood, in friendship.

"Will you take Ellie?" she whispers, and the last semblance of colour drains from Lilly's face, her heart thuds, her body goes cold.

Will you take Ellie? Christina had asked so much of her throughout her life, and nothing had ever come close to being as much as this.

"I don't know, Chris, I'd be terrible at looking after a baby…"

"Please, Lil, you're all she has… I can't stay here unless I know there's someone to take care of her…"

Lilly remembers tucking a blanket around her mother, passed out on the couch in a vodka-induced haze, before reading herself a bedtime story. She remembers the year her mother forgot her both hers and Christina's birthdays, and she let hers pass without a thought, but wrapped a bag of lollipops up in pink paper for her sister's. She looks at Christina warily, and for a moment, she sees the parallels to her mother, and a chill runs through her. No matter how hard it will be, no matter how terrible at it she knows she'll be, she can't condemn Ellie to the childhood she had.

"Ok…" she breathes, and her sister lets out a huge, shaking sob, smiling at Lilly through tear-filled eyes.

"Thank you." She breathes, and somehow it's not just for this promise, it's for the first fourteen years of her life being as normal as a sister could make them, it's about the thousands of times she's been undeservingly forgiven, it's about saving her tonight, it's about everything.

The sound of a throat clearing interrupts them. Lilly turns, and the doctor from earlier is standing in the doorway.

"Ms Rush needs to get some rest, I'm afraid." He says stiffly. "It's only a few broken ribs and some internal bruising, but she needs her sleep. You'll be able to visit when she's moved to the rehabilitation ward tomorrow morning."

She gives Christina a small smile; squeezing her hand in place of a hundred thoughts she can't quite form words with yet.

"I'll see you soon." She breathes. "I'll take care of her."

Tears roll down Christina Rush's face as her sister, her better half, walks out of the door.


He seems so natural, when she spots him as she turns the corner, holding Ellie, dancing his fingers in front of her face, whispering something in unintelligible baby talk. He looks up when he sees her, and his smile is infectious, no matter how long and trying her day has been. She sits, almost nervously, beside him, reaching out tentatively to stroke the side of her niece's face with one finger.

"She's been given a clean bill of health." He smiles, pulling faces at the baby, who simply stares at him with wide blue eyes. Lilly's eyes, he thinks, but pushes the thought away.

"Her name's Ellie." Lilly whispers, for a long moment unable to take her eyes off her niece. Scotty's eyes flick to her face, and he spots something there Lilly won't even recognise in herself for a long while. She already loves the little girl.

"I spoke to the doctors, and you're fine to take her home, you're her next of kin." He says, and as they stand up, Scotty passing the tiny, featherlike child into her arms, she wonders how on earth he could have known she'd agree to look after Ellie, when she didn't even think she would herself until Christina's eyes had begged her to. He gives her a small smile, teases his finger away from the baby's grasp and starts to walk towards the exit.

"I'll drive you home."

Hope you liked the start, there'll be more up soon! Any reviews are appreciated!