HERE AND NOW
Rachel lay open on the operating table. "Look at that, Branson. A beautiful healthy liver, just perfect for her daughter. When the child recovers, this liver's gonna serve her fine."
The surgical intern nodded. Dr Mendez sliced a piece of Rachel's liver, and gently placed it into the red plastic box of shaved ice. Intern Branson closed the lid and carefully carried it next door, where Dr Montgomery and her surgical team stood waiting. Dr Montgomery nodded in approval at the slick plump liver piece before her. She removed Emma's shredded liver, and eased the new liver into place.
"Emma Geller, you've come a long way," she muttered under her breath.
Emma and Rachel lay side by side in the recovery room, eyes closed, blankets pulled up to their chins. Ross watched the steady rise and fall of their chests, his heart expanding with the infinite love. Emma looked absolutely beautiful. Her usually pallid skin had lost its jaundiced colouring, and was now returning to its previous warm peachy colour. Her cheeks were flushed rosy. It didn't take a rocket scientist to see that the child was thriving on her new liver. Rachel's eyes slowly fluttered open, a long moan of discomfort escaped her lips. She glanced around the room, confused and disoriented. Ross placed a hand gently on her cheek, directing her gaze towards his. He took her hands in his.
"Rach, honey, the surgery went really really well, Dr Montgomery said both you and Emma are gonna be okay. Emma's taking to her new liver really well; she looks amazing, you should see her, her cheeks are so rosy!" Ross said breathlessly.
Rachel tried to sit up to peek at Emma, but winced in pain as she did. Lying back down onto bed, and smiling weakly, a single tear of relief slid down Rachel's cheek and onto her pillow. Rachel reached gingerly over her bed, across to Emma's, and stroked her daughter's hair. Soon Emma would come to, and they would be a family again. Finally, Ross and Rachel were seeing a light at the end of this very long dark tunnel; Emma was finally making her way out of the woods. Ross's chest tightened as waves of overwhelming emotions washed over him.
Ross felt overwhelmed by the gut wrenching love he felt for Rachel. He was so grateful, so thankful for this new lease on life she had given their beautiful daughter. The love he felt for Rachel had, over the years buried itself so deeply into his soul, it had become part of his very identity. Sitting right here, at the hospital, next to his beautiful girls, he was consumed with a single thought. It had been plaguing him for years, but he never had the courage to try again, there never seemed to be a right time to start over.
He was always waiting for the perfect moment. Vegas had left as nasty taste in his mouth. And then it hit him. It took almost losing his daughter forever to make him realise how fragile and transient life is. There is no such thing as the perfect moment. There is only here and now, and if you feel something, by God you should say it. Ross entwined Rachel's fingers in his, and planted gentle kisses on each of her fingers. Rachel closed her eyes, enjoying the sensuality.
Ross and Rachel were trapped in a cold sterile hospital. It was by no means a lily-covered, starry-skied Planetarium, but it was more than enough. With dark eyes blazing, Ross leaned into Rachel, and whispered the words she had been waiting an eternity to hear.
"Rachel Greene, will you marry me?"