Adele had known something was wrong with Face the moment she saw him holding the phone with both hands, shaking like a leaf with glassy eyes; a few seconds later he collapsed but she was ready to catch him before he landed face first on the hard wooden floor. Bosco was shouting at the other end of the line, clearly worried; once the woman was sure Face was safe, she briefly explained the situation to her son, assuring him she knew what needed to be done and she hung up.
The next call she made was to the Institute: a young secretary asked her several questions before telling her an ambulance would be at her house in 15 minutes. Adele thanked the girl and waited for the longest quarter of an hour of her life; the younger man, whom she was now holding in her arms, was still unconscious; there were no visible signs he was hurt but with the pregnancy she couldn’t tell if he really was alright.
When the paramedics arrived, she was praying for Face and Hannibal to both be ok; the equipment they carried into the small sitting room was a little scary but she knew they were all necessary to determine and to stabilize the young man’s conditions: luckily they knew about his “state”, they checked his blood pressure, his saturation, his pulse and they auscultated the baby’s own pulse. At that point, the paramedic with the stethoscope exchanged a worried look with his colleague, who was near Face’s head, checking his pupils. Adele asked if there was something wrong but the man gave her a vague answer. “We are going to get him on the gurney now, Madam. If you want you can come with him in the ambulance.”
The older woman hurried to retrieve a few personal items she thought she would need and followed them, sitting in the small space near the hatch in the back of the vehicle. She kept holding Face’s hand even though he never regained consciousness during the journey; at some point one of the paramedics spoke to the driver, who nodded seriously and stepped on the gas. She understood it was something bad because they kept checking the baby’s pulse every minute.
Finally they arrived at the Institute and Adele lost track of Face, who was hurried inside the E.R. and disappeared behind a double door with a big “PERSONNEL ONLY” sign above it. She waited nervously until the secretary whom she had talked to on the phone asked her if she needed anything and gently made her sit in one of the armchairs in the waiting room. Two hours later nobody had told her anything yet and she kept pacing the room, holding her rosary in her hands and chanting prayers for another hour until Doctor Lipinzski himself came to her, still dressed in the green gown she had seen the medics wearing on TV shows. His expression was very serious and when he asked her to sit down she complied, feeling suddenly dizzy. She had a million questions to ask but she couldn’t find her voice to speak and so she simply listened to the doctor’s words.
“Mrs. Baracus. I’m sorry we have to meet again in these circumstances. First of all, Face is stable and he is going to be moved into a regular room as soon as my colleagues are finished treating him. I must ask you if he was hurt?”
The woman watched the doctor with a surprised look. “Hurt? What do you mean? No, he was fine…”
“Do you know if, for example, he fell or he had any complications lately?”
“He did not fall. And yes, he kept having abdominal cramps because of the nausea but he came here less than two weeks ago for a scan and he was fine. Fine considering that he’s pregnant, of course.”
The doctor nodded and relaxed a fraction. “I see. Apart from his physical condition, how was he handling the separation from Hannibal and his friends?”
Adele didn’t know why the man was asking questions of which he should already know the answers. “I am honestly surprised by your questions, doctor.” She said in an annoyed tone. “You know perfectly well he is seeing a therapist, if I remember rightly it was you who suggested it would be helpful. She is a member of staff here, Gloria Miller. Didn’t you talk to her?”
“I suggested Face see a therapist, in fact, because I thought it would help him to deal with the psychological aspects of the pregnancy but I didn’t read his files. I should ask Doctor Miller’s permission to and she is not here, and I can’t reach her on the phone, unfortunately. So I need to ask you…”
“Well, Face didn’t really like to talk about himself with me,” Adele started, her voice low and sweet. “I think he was ashamed to talk about particular aspects of his life.”
“Such as…” Lipinzski encouraged her, knowing the situation was hard on the woman too.
“About Hannibal, for example. I knew they were lovers since the first time my son came to see me last year and they all stayed for a week…”
“Face, Hannibal, your son and Captain Murdock?”
The woman sighed at the memories of the happy days they had spent together. “Yes. The four of them. The whole team. Scooter – my son – is very proud to be a member of Smith’s unit; they are really close to each other. The first month or so was really hard on Face, he was missing Hannibal badly, I heard him crying at night… he was desperate, he sounded absolutely terrified at being separated from him… I tried to help him but it seemed nothing worked. I started to worry but then something happened, he didn’t tell me what exactly but he came here to see Gloria one day, he was completely depressed and angry when he left me at home; when he came back he was another person. I don’t know what she told him but since then he changed and showed more interest in things, and I really thought he was alright.”
“What other aspects of his life did he avoid talking with you about?”
“The same ones my son doesn’t want me to know.”
“About his work?”
“I think so. He doesn’t do it on purpose, not to cut me off anyway; he does it to protect me. He probably thinks if I don’t know what he is really going through every day I would feel better… I guess Face believed the same.”
“So, after the first month, he seemed to be doing better?”
“Face? Oh, yes, he even took me to the cinema and was always very caring about me.”
“Did you notice if he was tired lately? More than usual?”
Adele concentrated before answering, not wanting to give the doctor a wrong indication. “Maybe a little, but I thought it was normal. He was entering the sixth month and…”
“So you supposed it was due to the pregnancy?”
“What about the phone call he received tonight?”
“You want to know if it caused him to collapse? It seems obvious to me! Look, doctor, can you tell me what happened? I’ve been here for three hours now and honestly I don’t think I can help you this way…”
Lipinzski sighed and rubbed his eyes. He looked tired. “It’s not so easy, Madam. In short, a woman is naturally programmed to carry a child and her body knows how to behave in that case. A male pregnancy is a very rare event. Basically the man’s body is not prepared for the changes he is undergoing and it causes many problems: abdominal cramps, for example, because the muscles of the area that supports the baby are not so “flexible” as women’s ones. Face had been under a lot of stress since the beginning and it certainly didn’t do any good to him or the baby…”
Adele didn’t want the man to continue, didn’t want to hear anything. What if Face had lost the baby? How would he react? How would Hannibal react? But eventually she found the courage to ask “Is the baby alright?” with a small voice, feeling it was hard to breath at this point.
“The baby is fine; we performed an exam and it seems he didn’t suffer from the accident… there was a risk Face was miscarrying, though. When he was brought in he was hemorrhaging internally and we didn’t know how serious the situation was. If the paramedics had been ten minutes later, they could both be dead now.”
With a strength she didn’t know she had, she didn’t faint as she believed she might but asked if she could see him.
“Once he is moved into his room, an orderly will come to advise you. I want to keep him in observation for some days, anyway, and I think he will be out of it most of tonight so…”
“Thanks, doctor, but I’m staying. I promised Scooter I wouldn’t leave him and I want to keep my word.”
Lipinzski nodded his agreement and left. Adele sagged in the armchair, feeling exhausted. Half an hour later she quietly entered the room where Face was sleeping: it was a single room with a large window, two comfortable chairs and a little table on the left, a closet on the right near the bathroom door opposite to the bed. The young man appeared a little pale and small, surrounded by machines the woman didn’t know anything about but they were constantly beeping and she assumed it was a good thing. There was an IV line attached to the kid’s right hand, another giving him oxygen through his nose and several electrodes on his chest all connected to a heart monitor through long wires. A light blanket covered him up to the waist, revealing his protruding belly. Not wanting to wake him, she sat on the nearest chair to the bed and held his hand, which was so cold. She spent almost all night praying for him and for his son and the whole team to be safe and alright until she fell asleep around 4 a.m..
Face never woke up during the night; the following day he rallied a few times, perfectly remembering the phone call he had received before collapsing, every time asking about Hannibal, but he was never lucid enough to understand what people around him were saying. He was aware of a sensation of discomfort but generally he wasn’t in pain. He knew Adele was with him, he recognized her despite the fact he couldn’t focus his vision and he was feeling extremely weak and tired.
Next time he opened his eyes it was Gloria who was holding his hand, he tried to talk to her but his voice was raspy and his throat dry. The woman offered him some water and then it was easier to talk; of course he asked about his lover and Gloria smiled back at him, suggesting that he rest and sleep. He didn’t want to sleep anymore, he wanted someone to answer his questions and he kept repeating his lover’s name like a mantra, but his body needed the rest and he succumbed to sleep once again.
The doctor came to see him while he was unconscious and the nurses came every 6 hours to administer his meds to him. He was asleep most of the time the following day also, Adele and Gloria stayed with him making sure he was not alone when he woke up. On the morning of the third day, he opened his eyes to the most beautiful sight he could think of: the blurry image of a silver haired man with light blue bright eyes; this time when he pronounced his name, the figure came closer to him and kissed him on the forehead. He still felt incredibly tired and it was impossible for him to keep his eyes open but he tried desperately to fight against it, squeezing the Colonel’s hand in a vain attempt to remain conscious.“Sleep, baby. I’ll be here when you wake up!” the sweet voice, tinged with emotions, murmured in his ear and Face let go, finally able to relax because now he knew Hannibal was back with him and alive.