This can't be happening. It's not supposed to be like this. I can't…I can't lose her. We're supposed to… No, this is just a bad dream. I'll wake up...I'll wake up...
Thoughts and images raced through John's mind as the medical response team fought to bring Rose back to them. Mickey had managed to soothe Martha's hysteria enough to where the only sign of her anguish was her body shaking from silent sobs as he held her in his arms. Even though they had long since ended, Martha's screams still resonated in John's ears. He forced himself to turn his focus to the couple next to him, and not on the organized frenzy within Rose's room. He couldn't watch Rose's body being assaulted with repeated compression. Couldn't watch her—
"I watched them die…"
Recalling Rose's revelation caused the echoes of Martha's screams to immediately cease. All he could hear was their last words to each other playing over and over again. He remembered the agony with which she had uttered them—the sorrow etched in her features. John was terrified at the prospect of that being his final moment with her—a moment, not of love or promise, but one of pain, sorrow, and anger. His heart was shattering at the possibility that he just witnessed the woman he loved slip away from him.
John was suddenly pulled from the fearful wanderings of his mind by the appearance of the Dr. Bradley at Rose's doorway. The man's expression was indecipherable as his gaze traveled between each of them. The doctor made his way over to them. John had never known such small journey to take such a long time. After what felt like ages, the Dr. Bradley was in front of them, yet still remained silent. John and Mickey helped Martha to her feet, and all of them looked at the doctor in anxious expectation.
Sighing deeply, he finally spoke. "She made it through. We're going to run some tests. See if there are any new developments or complications in light of this. She's still critical. No doubt about that. But, she's a fighter. She held on," he said with another heavy sigh of relief.
As the doctor continued to explain to Mickey and Martha what the next step was in the plan of care John went to the loo and locked the door. He braced himself on the sink, taking several ragged breaths. Every emotion bubbled forth, and he finally snapped. He lashed out at everything in his path—throwing the trashcan, punching the towel dispenser. Completely spent, John flung himself against the wall and sunk to the floor, silent tears trailing down his face. He sat there for a few moments—void of thought but full of emotions that needed to be released. Finally collecting himself, he went back towards Rose's room to find Martha and Mickey.
The two of them were sitting in the small lobby area that was directly in front of Rose's room. Martha's head was on Mickey's shoulder while his arm remained around her, stroking her arm comfortingly. John sat himself down in one of the chairs directly in front of them. Each one of them looked the epitome of exhaustion.
"Y'ok?" Mickey asked, turning to John.
He let out a heavy sigh and, deciding he didn't have the strength or desire to deny the truth, said, "No. No, not at all. But then, neither are you two, are you?" Taking another steadying breath, he continued, "Did the doctor say anything important while I was gone?"
Mickey shook his head. "Just explained the few tests they were gonna run. They took her downstairs a few minutes ago—said she'd be gone for a lil' while. We…we're gonna go home while she's gone. We need to see Tony and tell 'im what's happened. Plus, she needs to rest," he answered, gesturing to a clearly exhausted Martha. "And, I'm not gonna argue this with you. You're goin' home and you're gonna rest—at least for a few hours." Martha nodded faintly in agreement, clearly struggling to keep her eyes open. Turning his attention back to John, Mickey said, "Ya should get some rest, too."
John adamantly shook his head. "No. No, I'm staying. I mean, if you need me to stay with Tony or do something, then I will. Otherwise, I'm staying her...with Rose".
Mickey shook his head, giving a slight smirk. "Givin' Martha's stubbornness a run for its money, yeah? No… I understand and it means a lot."
Martha finally spoke up, though her voice was hoarse from her screams and lack of sleep. "Actually, if ya could watch Tony tomorrow that would be great. Maybe we could do it in shifts? I just… I just don't wanna leave Rose alone, but I don't wanna leave him alone either, y'know?"
"Absolutely. You just let me know when and I'll be there," John assured them.
After they exchanged numbers, Mickey and Martha left and John went into Rose's room to wait her return. The room was still in slight disarray from the earlier chaos. John pulled the recliner near the vicinity of where her bed would be and sat down in the empty chair. A very short time later, the transporters wheeled Rose back into the room. As soon as she was within his reach, John tightly laced his fingers with hers. Even now, their hands entwined felt natural and helped to soothe his aching soul as he sat in silent vigil. However, silence is not always a kind companion, as John soon discovered. It allowed all his disquieting thoughts to relentlessly bombard him. So many "if only" and "what-if" scenarios played on a continuous cycle, and they were not regarding Rose's actions—they were purely about his. If only I had… What if I had…? Maybe if I… These were the thoughts on his mind as a fitful sleep finally overtook him.
John was awakened in the early morning by the shrill ringing of his mobile. Reluctantly, he let go of Rose's hand and stepped outside of the room.
"Hello?" he answered half-asleep.
"Hey John," replied an equally tired Mickey. "Any change?"
"No. Nothing," he said and rubbed his eyes, trying to rid the sleep from them. "How's Tony?"
"Not great," Mickey wearily sighed. "He doesn't fully understand everythin', but it still has 'im pretty closed off. Do y'think you could come over and stay with 'im so we can stay with Rose for a while? Martha's anxious to get back to her, and maybe 'im seein' you will help."
"Yeah, I'll leave now. Be there shortly." Hanging up, John went back into the room, and studied Rose's still form. Walking up to her, John brushed her hair back gently, trying to avoid pressing on the multiple cuts present. Then, somewhat hesitantly, he closed his eyes and softly kissed her forehead. "I'll be back soon," he whispered and then quickly left to be with Tony.
"I'm here," John called out as he entered the house. Under normal circumstances, John would have waited to be let in, but these were by no means normal circumstances. Just as he walked in, Martha came into the entryway, clearly haggard. She gave him a small smile and, to his surprise, hugged him.
"Thank you," she said, stepping back to meet his surprised gaze. She sighed and ran "It's...it's just that we've been doin' things 'just us' for so long. We don't really know any other way. But, you being there yesterday, staying with her, coming here now...it just…I can't tell you how grateful we are," she said as tears rimmed her eyes.
John pulled her into a tight embrace. He felt himself starting to be overcome with emotion again, and cleared his throat to help keep himself in check. "You don't have to thank me. I'm where I want to be, and you'll always have my help. No matter what," he assured her. Looking around, he asked, "Where's Tony?"
She looked upwards in the direction of the stairs, her eyes becoming troubled as she returned her eyes to John. "He's in his room. Ya can go up, of course."
Just then, Mickey came down the stairs, said a quick hello to John, and then he and Martha left for the hospital. John made his way up the stairs to Tony's room. The door was fully open, and he saw Tony on the floor looking absentmindedly through some books. On hearing John's approach, he looked up at him, but for the first time since meeting him, Tony made no attempt to greet John. Rather, he went back to silently turning pages. John joined him on the floor, unsure of how to proceed.
"A book," Tony said without looking up, his voice small.
John's heart broke a little more at seeing the normally exuberant little boy filled with such sadness. He didn't know what to say, didn't know what to do. So, he decided to just be there with him and for him.
"Can I read with you?"
Tony responded by moving the book so that it was between him and John. They passed most of the morning in silence, either looking through books or building racetracks. At lunchtime, they both went downstairs and John put in a movie for Tony while he went to the kitchen to make them something to eat. As he entered the kitchen, John was hit with the recollection of that Sunday morning, and for one minute he could have sworn Rose was in front of him, gently swaying to the melody of her own humming. The moment faded as quickly as it came, and he quickly returned to making their lunch. John took the food into the living room and sat with Tony on the floor. A few more moments of silence passed, when suddenly Tony turned his sad and frightened eyes to John and spoke.
"Rose is gonna die like my mum and dad, isn't she?"
John was taken aback by the boy's candor, and his jaw slacked. Before he could reply, Tony continued: "I heard Aunt Martha and Uncle Mickey talkin' last night. They didn't know I was listenin'. I heard 'em say she almost died."
Tears pricked the back of his eyes, and John pulled the little boy into his arms, hugging him tightly against his chest. "Your sister is the strongest person I have ever known. She loves you all so much and I know she's fighting to get back to you."
"Ya think?" Tony asked, looking up at him with hopeful and questioning eyes.
John smiled and kissed the top of his head. "I know it."
"I love you, John," he said, nestling further into John's embrace.
A few silent tears fell as John hugged him tighter and said, "I love you too, Tony."
After that, Tony became less detached and began to act more like his normal self. They watched a couple more movies and played with Tony's action figures until Mickey and Martha returned that evening. John said quick goodbyes, eager to return to Rose. As he was driving back, his mobile rang.
"Why didn't you tell me about what happened to Rose?"
"Because I had more rather preoccupied with more important things," was John's frustrated reply.
He cut her off. "Donna, I love you, but I'm really not in the mood to be read the riot act. So if you have something other than that to say, then I'll hear it; but if not, then I need to go."
There was a brief pause, before she asked gently, "Do you need anything;? Anythin' at all?"
John released a soft sigh. "No, but thanks. I just need to get to the hospital. I'll feel better when I'm with her."
"Call me later, yeah? Let us know how she is, how you are. "
"I will. I promise."
"I love you, Stick."
John smiled at the use of her childhood nickname for him. "I love you too, Red."
Not much had changed in Rose's condition since his departure that morning. John was comforted to find out that her vitals were slightly stronger than earlier. He took his post at her side, instinctively taking her hand, ghosting his lips across her knuckles. Several hours passed in familiar yet painful silence. He missed hearing her voice, missed talking to her. The persistent silence finally became too much for John to endure.
"I don't know what to say. Imagine that," he scoffed. "Me not knowing what to say. Right about now, you'd have some cheeky comeback. I'd pretend to be offended but you'd know better than to believe it. You'd probably give me one of those smiles. You know the one where you poke your tongue out just enough to make my head spin. I never got to tell you, did I? That I'm completely mad about you. I mean completely gone. That I can't get you out of my mind, either. That I want you with me more than I've ever wanted anything in my life. That…that I feel a purpose when I'm with you." His jaw stiffened with his next statement. "No. Instead what I did was yell at you. Accuse you of toying with me. I hurt you. And I-I…I did this to you. I did. I should've gone after you. Should've never have let you run away. But I did. I just let you turn away in pain...pain which I caused. I just stood there watching you, too much of an idiot to know what to do." Tears began to fall as he continued. "And now? Now I'm terrified. Terrified that I'll never see your eyes light up. That I'll never hear your voice...hear your laugh. That I'll never get to hold your hand. I'd even miss your yelling at me. I'd relive that first day over and over again if it meant that I'd get to be with you again. Please, Rose…please don't leave. Don't leave me. I-I…I need you. I do. I know it sounds crazy, but I've never been more certain of anything in my life. I'm begging you...please," he closed his eyes and rested his forehead on her temple, "Please come back to me," he whispered in her ear.
John laid his head on the bed as silent sobs claimed him. But in an instant, he jerked his head up, looking at Rose's face before looking down at her hand. The hand he had taken to pull her out of danger. The hand he had taken as he kissed her. The hand to which he now clung. John was utterly fixated on that hand. Because now…right, now that hand was tightening around his own.