The Angel,The Devil,The Nerd

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Chapter 60 - Mama,be happy

a/n: in the pic,Noah

let me know what you think :)

CHAPTER 60 - MAMA, BE HAPPY

NATALIE'S POV

"Natalie, why don't you get some sleep? Things are stable now." Jake asked from beside me, hand on my shoulder. I was sitting beside the bed, head resting on the side, next to his arm, arms hiding my face. It was both because my head felt too heavy and because I wanted closeness, but also because that way I thought my cousin would think I was sleeping and he'd let me be, considering he's been asking me the same thing for the past two hours.

Two hours ago I was in Jake's arms, crying all my tears desperately because Eric had gone in shock and he was ... leaving me. For real. When Dr. Cox turned to me, Kyle and Charles and gave us the news, I couldn't take it, I crumbled down to the floor, Jake holding me as much as he could.

But I didn't even want to go on. Just one word, a very simple "sorry" said by the doctor was enough to drain out all the remaining strength. One moment I was talking to him, to try and see if he could hear me, like I have these past days, the other ... the other I hear the machine beeping louder and nurses and doctors rush inside, sending me away ...

When Dr. Cox said "sorry" I felt like my life too had come to an end. I couldn't believe it. Those were the longest and worst moments of my life. But, right when they were all going out, leaving us there to grieve, Dr. Cox froze in his spot when he heard the beeping of the machine again. We all froze. None of us could believe it. Nurses, doctor, Jake, Kyle ... we all couldn't believe our eyes and ears.

As Jake said, things are stable now. But that doesn't mean anything. Eric is technically out of the danger. But that doesn't mean anything if you consider that he's still laying on this damn bed, unconscious. So, since two hours, I've been sitting here, head resting at his side, not even able to cry anymore because I've run out of tears and in any case if those drops do leave my eyes, it hurts badly because they're bloodshot. Such a déjà vu. Only four years ago I felt the exact same. The only difference is how close I've been to losing my love for real, not just because he was out there in his dark world.

My cousin squeezed my shoulder and I slightly raised my head, but looking at Eric, barely listening when Jake repeated, for the thousandth time: "You need rest."

Not even blinking, I replied dryly: "What did you say to your friends when they wanted you to do the same after five days of Silvia being on a coma?2

Jake sighed, predictably, as he retrieved his hand, as predictably justifying: "That's different, Natalie, and you know that."

I snorted. "Is it? How? Because you're a grown man and I'm a little girl?"

He cursed lowly as he grabbed my arm harshly and spun me around to make me look at him, his expression both exasperated and grave as he spoke: "No, it's different because I had nothing else but her. You have Noah to think about and he's been asking about his mother."

I opened my mouth to argue that my son was fine, I'd purposely left him with mom so that he wouldn't have to stand the sight of his mother being so shattered and in any case, since they got here a few days ago, Noah has never once set foot in this room and he never will. At least not till his father is in these conditions and in any case not if I can help it. My son can't have memories of his dad. It'd only hurt more when he'll leave.

Because I know he will, just like I know he will wake up. Despite having been clinically dead for a minute just two hours ago, Eric is out of danger, Dr. Cox said, hence, he will wake up, it's just a matter of when, just like it's a matter of when will he leave me again.

And if I that I'm adult already can't stand the idea, how would it feel for a 4-years-old? What should I do, have them face to face and say "hey, Noah, say hi to your dad", only to add, just a bit later "hey, Noah, there's your dad that leaves you again, this time forever".

Cynical, I know, but I haven't been sleeping since I don't know when and I'm completely worn out, frustrated, aching ... hence, I don't even care about my cousin's sermons, but, like I said, I opened my mouth to argue, but Jake had his comeback ready: "Penelope is not his mother, Natalie. For how much he likes his grandma, Noah needs and wants to see his own mom. It's been a whole day."

"He was out in the park this morning and then he was sleeping, I ..."

"It doesn't make a damn difference. Just get that ass up and go see your son. And to sleep. It won't change a damn thing if you let yourself go like this. And before you argue, it didn't change anything for me either."

"But you did it anyway."

JAKE'S POV

Jeez, the Watsons DNA couldn't be any clearer in this girl, I swear. Hell, she's the exact same as I was. So stupidly stubborn. Of course I understand her, hell, I did the exact same when my Silvia was in this situation, but it didn't change a damn thing. Now I see that Tess was right, I was only harming myself like that, like my cousin is now.

But there's a huge difference: "I did it because I couldn't see my life without Silvia. And I had nothing else to grip on other than her. She was-she is my life. But you ... I hate being so harsh, but Natalie you've moved on from him."

I knew she wouldn't take it well, and that wasn't the huge difference between us, I mean, to allow me to let myself go like that as I watched over my unconscious love seven years ago there was the very simple fact that I had nothing to lose, maybe my friends would miss me, Serene too, but they didn't need me, not like that kid needs his mom now, for God's sakes.

Truth to be told, even without ever knowing him, I've never liked this guy. When my cousin came to Boston she was so distraught, so different from the girl I'd talked on the phone to other times, she was a whole different person and all because he left.

I did my best to find him after the first three months, I even summoned my uncle for this one, and you know what he told me after months of research? That after much persuading (whose details I didn't want to know, because my uncle isn't exactly a saint and his security chief, that Dimitri, isn't exactly known for being an angel), he was able to have his guys spill out that they'd indeed found the boy, but he'd paid them to keep the secret.

Of course I didn't say anything about this to Natalie, my uncle suggested we just let it slide, because apparently the kid was involved in a quite dangerous circle and there wasn't a chance that he'd make it out alive, so we may as well just convince her in advance that he was gone. Of course, I didn't like that rough idea one bit, I mean, not uncle Keith's way of suggesting it, but the general lines: namely, if he wanted to be believed dead, then let him be believed dead.

Yeah, one problem, though: three years later he reappears out of nowhere and impregnates my cousin. As my wife reminds me, I should be the first to understand him, given my past, but every time he reappears, my cousin falls back into that obscure abyss I know all too well and I can't stand that. I know how the hell it feels like to be so hopeless, so lost, so desperate, to the point that there's barely an inch to keep you from embracing the Grim Reaper.

I've brushed that inch so many times, even if involuntarily, that only reminding myself that my sister needed at least one member of her family to be still alive kept me from giving up. Then I see that the Watson curse hit my cousin too and she might have not attempted to her life, but she was slowly letting herself go, just like I did, in a more chaotic way.

And even if at first, when Natalie came to me and told me she was pregnant, but the baby wasn't Chase's, I had to force myself to be gentle as I truthfully offered her all the help she needed, my wife knows I lost it for that reason, because we were back to square one, with Natalie not even trying to fight her depression. But, even if the beginning was irate, I thank God for that kid, because in these four years he's been the only reason for his mother to hold on despite unbearable pain, just like my sister and then Silvia were for me.

And now here we are again, my cousin's been letting herself go again because of this mess while her son whines that he wants his mother and Penelope has no idea how to calm him down anymore. My wife has been reminding me that I should understand how Natalie feels, and really I do, but there's a kid involved, while I was alone apart from my sister, and even then, I knew our uncle and my best friend would take good care of her.

My best friend who's now my brother-in-law, but those are just details, and Fitz knows that till he treats Serene right he has nothing to fear from me. Even though, I've once nearly thrown him out of a window during one of my fury fits, so he doesn't really fear me anymore, I mean, he knows what a jackass I am, hell, he's known me since we were kids.

But that's not the point. The point is, Noah. He needs his mom. That's why I was so harsh with her, I knew she'd react when I'd poke her weak point. It's mean, I know, but other than her own son, her ex is a very sensitive topic for her. Hence, at my words she leaped to her feet, showing me that she's a real Watson by barking against me that I didn't know anything about all of this, which is pure nonsense, considering I know everything about this story, but I let her vent.

Hers were bitter and pained words, but for experience I know that letting them out would help her throat hurt a little less than holding them back. Venting out always works, even if just for a while, be it punching a wall till your knuckles bleed or the wall cracks, be it yelling all the worst things you could ever think of, like Silvia did when we broke up years ago, for my fault even, or simply crying your heart out on someone's shoulder, like my wife used to do when she'd have her breakdowns, before having our kids, that is. I mean, Leanne and Mike did good for both of us, considering we are two broken people that found the fix, both figuratively and literally, in each other.

Now, Natalie yelled against me that I knew nothing, because: "I have never moved on from him! Never! And I never will! Because I can't! I've been holding on because my son needs me, but that doesn't mean I've moved on from Eric!"

I realized she was really at her worst when tears didn't even come out, despite her voice sounding so broken. I know how it feels like to behold the love of your life lying on a damn bed, profound coma to keep her from you, I know how it feels like to know that life has no sense without that someone.

I can understand my cousin all too perfectly, that's why I'm here. But she needs to react, and if to do that she needs a little push, then so be it. My uncle used the same strategy with me and it worked, I mean, hadn't I listened to his threats, I wouldn't have set foot in Boston after years, I wouldn't have met Silvia, my angel, my savior, the light of my life along with our kids.

That's why I played a little dirty and, when in the middle of Natalie's rant the door was swung open and she heard such a familiar voice, she remained speechless.

"Mama!" Noah nearly yelled, all but jumping into her arms. Even if puzzled and trying hard to hide her real shattered state, Natalie embraced her son, hugging him just as tightly as he wrapped his little arms around her shoulders. The little boy is smart, just as his mother, so when he kept whining that he wanted to see her and I proposed him a way for him to do that, he listened carefully and acted just as I'd told him to: wait outside the room, hidden behind the not too far bench he usually sat on with his grandma, only to dash into the room when he'd see his mother standing up.

Like I said, I played a little dirty, but my uncle did too when he threatened not to let me have contacts with my sister and look where that brought me: I grudgingly started working for him and there I met my wife. Could it be better than that? Uncle Keith has sometimes thrown the jab about that, I mean, at my wedding, when he was supposed to give me a pep talk, he went out of his way and even joked, asking "well, don't you thank me? it's my merit if you've found the saint that puts up with you".

I smiled at the memory and the sight in front of me, of mother and son cuddling, even though I could see my cousin doing her best to hide the person on that bed. She doesn't want Noah to have memories of his father, and it might be fair, I mean, I can understand she doesn't want him to go through the same she has, but while I don't really like this guy, I think he at least has the right to know he has a son. If he'll leave anyway, then it's his choice. Well, if he wakes up, that is. Doctor says he's out of danger, but, the man admitted to me only, not wanting to alarm Natalie, never say never.

This guy might wake up in a minute or lie on this damn bed for the rest of his life, leaving it up to his father to unplug him, or, in the worst case, he could have another shock that might be lethal. Dr. Cox carefully avoided to tell these things to my cousin, but I pressed him.

Eric's father and brother know that too, after all Kyle is on his way to be surgeon, he knows how it works, actually, as he recounted me, he was there when they operated his brother. Such a horrible night that must have been. He was just signing in for his night shift when the ambulance arrived. Kyle couldn't believe his eyes. After seven years, there he was, his brother, barely conscious, covered in so much blood that it was a pure miracle he hadn't bled to death yet.

Now, we all know what the odds are, the only one to know just half of the truth is Natalie, and both her mother and I agree that it's not necessary for her to know more than that. She needs at least a glimmer of hope. So, till she can believe he'll wake up, why should I take that away from her? Maybe he will. No one can tell. He was clinically dead for a minute and yet he came back, who says miracles don't happen? Well, ok, the one believing in miracles is my wife, not me, but I guess she's right.

Now, as I beheld mother and son cuddling, I decided it was better for me to step aside. Besides, it was six pm here, so eight in Boston, and I promised to Leanne to call by that hour, so I silently got out of the room and headed to the vending machine, to grab a coffee and call my wife and kids. Even after seven years and a lot of stress due to combining our schedules, it still feels ecstatic to call Silvia my wife, I swear.

NATALIE'S POV

"Who is he?" Noah asked, inevitably, as soon as I sat down, partly because I was too worn out physically to stand and keep him in my arms, but that gave him sight to the person lying on that bed ... my cousin will pay for this, I swear. I had been categorical: Noah was not to enter this room, for no reason, ever. And yet Jake goes behind my back and pushes my son in here. I'm starting to realize my cousin made me mad on purpose.

Now, how do I explain to a 4-years-old that the man lying on that damn bed is his father and he might not see him ever again?

Sighing, I encircled my arms around Noah as I kept him on my lap, his small hands holding mine tightly, as if he was afraid I'd leave again. "Uh ... he is ... that friend I told you about." I tried to explain without giving details and he craned his neck to look up at me, my heart skipping a few beats at the nth reminder of how identical my baby boy is to his father. They've got the same way of perusing me to see if anything's wrong even. Every time Noah's blue eyes fix on me I feel my heart both flutter and drop, because I recall how his father's blues used to pierce through my soul so easily ...

I remember when I was afraid of him. I remember all that confusion of when I started liking him and then falling for him. Even more I remember our perfect moments together, starting from that very first time he kissed me for real, till that night at the cabin, before hell broke loose. I remember every single moment with him and while I don't want to forget, I've sometimes found myself wishing my son didn't resemble his dad so much. At least it'd be easier to look at Noah without being constantly reminded of what I lost. But I'm also glad, because at least I have something left of my love.

"Why does he sleep so much?" Noah asked me as his eyes turned to the person on that bed. I let out a shaky breath, trying to sound calm and posed as I explained: "He ... he needs a lot of rest." A very stupid explanation, but I didn't know what else to say.

Noah remained there watching Eric for a long moment, possibly trying to figure out the reasons for his conditions, but in the end he asked: "When does he wake up?" I sucked in a breath. That's a good question. When will he wake up? I pushed back the other query: will he wake up at all? Because I am sure he will. It's just a matter of when.

Entwining my fingers in Noah's as I distractedly played with his hands, I responded with a simple: "Uh ... soon, I think." More like hope. But it'd be hard to explain to a child, wouldn't it?

My son and I remained there sitting for a few moments, Noah being oddly quiet while normally he bombards me with questions, though this time he had a more interesting object to observe: his blue eyes wouldn't leave that bed, he was perusing Eric as if he was trying to figure out something and in the end he spoke: "Mama, may I tell him a story?"

That startled me. A story? Where does that come from? Frowning, I asked why and Noah explained that I normally invent a story for him when he needs sleep or when he's sick, and when I do, he feels better, so maybe if he told a funny story to my friend, he'd feel better and wake up.

I smiled at my son's sweetness and, hugging him tightly, I agreed, asking what story did he want to tell, and of course, he picked Po's one, so I remained there listening as Noah recounted to an unconscious Eric the plot of Kung Fu Panda. Maybe he could hear it too. He wouldn't know who that was, but maybe he could hear it.

Noah had been talking for a few minutes, moving his hands in sync as he excitedly recounted about this panda that everybody underestimated till they found out he was the chosen one to become member of the group of the Furious Five, when I heard a knock on the glass of the window and, turning around, I saw two familiar faces, one of which gestured for me to come out.

I didn't want to leave Noah alone and I silently explained just that, but Jamie rolled her eyes, once more gesturing for me to come out, so, sighing, I interrupted my son and his animated storytelling: "Sweetie, I'm going out for a moment, ok? Don't touch anything, just sit tight till I come back."

Noah nodded and asked if he could keep telling the story, because now was coming the great part, and I agreed, smiling at how lovely my son is. Standing up, I placed Noah on the chair beside the bed and reminded him once more not to touch anything, especially not the bed, I would be back in a moment, and, like the obedient kid he is, he nodded, restarting to tell his story as soon as I'd opened the door, which I kept half open, just in case, I mean, he's a smart kid, but he's only 4, still needs constant guard.

Now, when I came out, a doubly weighing Jamie jumped in my arms, hugging me tight, saying she was sorry and if I needed anything she was there and ... well, you know, the same things I've been hearing all the time since all of this happened. Being six months pregnant, my best friend was much heavier than her normal, but being skinny of her own, she wasn't putting on weight as much as I did when I was expecting Noah. Though I guess it's true what they say about pregnant women, because she really looked more beautiful in her state. When she pulled back, I was greeted by a quite familiar sight, even after seven years.

She hadn't changed one bit, except for the slight dulling of her bubbly character, but I guess that to make her so wary was also the situation itself. Giving me a small smile, Aisha hugged me tightly, out of the blue, saying Jamie had told her about my predicament and she couldn't keep her distances anymore.

In these past years she'd been hassling our mutual friend to know about me and she knew about Noah even, but she'd been keeping her distances because she knew I wanted that. Sighing, I apologized sincerely. I've been really mean to her and Kyle. I've so easily locked them out ... Aisha said it was everything ok, but she wanted to be there for me now, that's why she'd agreed immediately when Jamie proposed they come over.

They explained that Jamie's husband, Hunter, didn't want to let his wife go alone, but he couldn't tag along because of work, Jamie pointed out he didn't need to, she had company already, but even when she told him Aisha would come with her, Hunter didn't agree, saying that two women on the road was still dangerous, but you know how my best friend is, she only agreed to take the plane instead of the car, as he suggested, so that it'd be safer and quicker.

"Oh, Hunter sends you his hellos." Jamie informed me and I forced myself to give her half smile as I thanked them and told her to greet him back. Then my eyes settled on Aisha. Really she was the exact same as seven years ago.

We remained silent for a moment and when Aisha peeked into the room, she couldn't retain from asking: "That's Noah?" I only nodded and her lips twitched into a small smile as she pointed out absentmindedly: "All his father indeed."

My lips barely twitched but I nodded. Turning around I saw my baby boy still animatedly recounting the story. It felt odd to watch them together, even if Eric was unconscious. I actually never thought the day would come. Squeezing my hand, Jamie proposed we go grab a coffee at the machine, to catch up a little and so that I could relax too, but I argue that I couldn't leave Noah there alone.

"I'll keep an eye on him." A male voice injected from behind us. We all three turned around and greeted the melancholic sight of a pretty stressed and exhausted Kyle in his green hospital uniform, giving us a really tight smile.

Only when I noticed how him and Aisha looked at each other it clicked inside me that they weren't together anymore, which figures, considering he lives here in Denver while she's in Los Angeles. Their looks said it all ... even in my desperate said I couldn't be blind to it: there was longing, so much longing in their eyes, they'd probably hadn't seen each other since so many years and yet they'd never forgot, had they? I never supposed they'd split. I mean, they seemed to be a great couple. Maybe their mutual plans got in the way.

Awkward silence reigned for a few moment, we could faintly hear Noah in the room telling Eric the plot of Kung Fu Panda 2, saying it was even better than the first one. Jamie and I glanced at each other and nodded, so she faked needing to sit down a little and we moved away, though they barely heard us, as lost as they were in their stare contest.

You could sense there was much they needed to tell each other just by the way they looked at each other, as if there were words hurting their throats. So we left them alone and headed to the vending machine, only to find my cousin pacing the hall while talking to the phone.

When Jake saw us he gave us an encouraging smile, winking at me when I gave him a dirty look for the trick he'd played me with, but in the end I guess that maybe it can't be that bad, I mean, after all Eric is unconscious, Noah doesn't know who that is, it can't go bad, can it? Yeah, I know it's mean, but again, I know what it's like to torment yourself by wondering why did your father leave you, and I don't want my son to feel as unwanted and abandoned as I have. That's all.

KYLE'S POV

Gazing into those deep browns might have been tough after seven years, given how we left each other, but, given the odds and exactly because it was after seven years, gazing into those same browns felt refreshing. It felt like a breath of fresh air in this mess, with my brother on a profound coma, my father distraught, my girlfriend accusing me of neglecting her ... add that I've just started my residency and you get a really shitty period.

Well, nothing compared to the last three months of high school, when I had to accept the fact that the brother I'd refund after years was gone again, my friend was out of town, losing herself in the depression spiral, my dad too was blaming himself for what happened ... only the deep brown eyes I was gazing into right now gave me a life line back then. Only knowing that Aisha was there with me allowed me to face those horrible months.

But then things went south and I don't know what the hell happened, but we just drifted apart, till we decided it was time to split. Now there she was, after seven years, as gorgeous as ever. None of us knew what to say, though, so we just stared at each other for a few long moments, faintly hearing Noah in his father's room babbling about some panda.

It's absurd to think that Eric has a 4-years-old son and he doesn't even know it. It's already absurd to conceive that Natalie gave birth to a child, but to think that my brother doesn't even know ... I knew nothing either, so when the other day I saw this kid jumping in my friend's arms, I was startled. I knew she was only child, so there was no way that would her nephew, so I thought it might have been her brother, after all he was with Penelope and she's still in her ... reproductive years ... I think. Ugh, not really nice to think about that.

Anyway, I thought that was Natalie's brother, but the resemblance struck me hard. I mean, you don't need to know who is his father, it's just so clear by looking at Noah. Well, if you know Eric, that is. Though it was dad to point that out to me. We were silently grabbing a coffee at the vending machine when we saw the scene and he absentmindedly pointed out that that kid looked like the exact copy of our Eric at his age. We both widened our eyes as realization struck us, the kid calling "mama" referred to Natalie only confirming.

It felt really weird, I swear. With my brother lying on a damn bed unconscious, barely a few steps away from death, it was weird to know realize he had a son he didn't know about. Because, I was dead sure Eric had no idea Noah even existed, because if I know my brother one bit, he wouldn't have left them alone. Though I also thought he'd never leave Natalie and yet he did, so ...

Although, that choice was forced. He couldn't do else, as he explained when that night at the cabin he woke me up. I swear, I remember it like it was yesterday.

**************

FLASHBACK

As I rolled over, I unconsciously gripped onto those perfect mounds that my girlfriend calls ass cheeks, like I do every time, not always completely involuntarily, I'll admit. I mean, my girlfriend's so hot, it's hard to keep myself from fondling every moment we're together, even in my sleep.

We fell asleep after our fun hours, Aisha comfortably snuggled up to me as it should be, as I've come to find impossible to do without. I mean, I wake up to her face, could there be anything better than that? She's so incredible, so ... awesome.

During our first date, when we ditched the lovebirds to remain alone, we talked about us and what was ahead. She confirmed she really liked me, but said she also knew I had a crush on Natalie, so it was fine with her if I wanted to cut it there, she even thanked me for the great night, which was a bit absurd, considering we'd spent half of it with my brother and his girlfriend, that same girl I thought I was falling for.

And that's the key word, I think. I thought. I thought I was falling for Natalie, and maybe I was, but I also really liked Aisha, and that I told her, so she warily asked me what would we do. I simply shrugged, and, being completely honest, I said that I needed to forget about Natalie anyway and I really liked her, so we could just stick together for a while and see what happened.

Never knew that would change everything. Never knew that my thoughts would be completely devoured by that amazing and sexy but also funny and incredible mix that my girlfriend is. So here we were. Last night, as we stumbled into our room, as I was undressing her and she was doing the same to me, her tongue slipped and she told me those three magic words ...

We froze immediately and her deep brown eyes widened as she realized what she'd just confessed, she even wrapped a hand around her mouth, shaking her head, saying she didn't meant to blurt that out, she knew it was too soon to think about that, but, after I got over the shocked moment, I pulled her back into my arms and kissed her, feeling lighter as I truthfully whispered into her ear a very simple: "No worries. I think I love you too, babe."

At first she was shocked, she didn't even bat her eyelashes, as thunderstruck as she was, but in the end she mustered the nerve to ask for a confirm, given what I felt towards our mutual friend. I didn't even need to ponder, every moment with her brought Natalie farther and farther from my heart in that sense, and while only a couple of weeks ago I'd been so close to falling, now I saw her for what she was: a great friend I was really fond of and my brother's girlfriend, plus, most certainly my future sister-in-law, I joked, though being dead sure about that, especially because Eric himself the other day confessed me that he's perfectly convinced: as long as she wants it, as soon as they've settled and she's got her career, he'll marry her.

So, I assured Aisha that what I felt for her was sincere and real and ... well, I don't need to tell you how did we celebrate, do I? Hence, now there we were, lying on bed naked, sheets covering us, but I heard a loud knocking on our door, persistent even, clear sign that it was important.

For how weird that sounds, I was sure it could be only one person, especially because there was only one boy with the nerve to come knocking to our door at ... damn, past 4 am in the morning. Ugh, I'm gonna kill my brother. Yes, I'm gonna ... wait, why did it feel different to grip on Aisha?

Rolling over some more, I realized I was gripping her pillow instead. Oh, fuck, where is she? Wait, was Eric knocking because the girls had gone missing?! Nah, he wouldn't knock. He'd quite simply bring the door down in anxiety, considering that, as Aisha says, nothing get my brother's panties in a twist as his precious girlfriend's wellbeing. So it wasn't that. Maybe Aisha was just in the restroom.

You know, I think now I know how Eric feels when he holds his Natalie. I mean, I've beheld them more than once, often feeling like a creepy third wheel when Aisha wasn't with us, and every time Natalie is in his arms, even his eyes smile, it's like he's truly happy and blessed only when she's with him.

Even mom and dad have noticed that. His eyes brighten, mom says, and they shine of a very different light when he talks or even only thinks about his Natalie. True love, I guess. Well, I feel exactly as content when I hold Aisha in my arms, that's why I'm so sure I damn love that girl. As much as I never have. Damn, not even Allison gave me such sensations. But Aisha does. Oh, God, yes, she does.

The knocking on the door continued and I glanced around, feeling confused when I found a note beside me, written in Aisha's girly calligraphy. Said not to worry, she was with Natalie and Jamie and she'd be back soon. Ok, what the hell is happening?

I yelled to my brother, because I knew it was him, to open the damn door, but of course, he couldn't, I mean, I locked it last night, just in case, so I grudgingly but also anxiously covered myself with the sheets and went to open, finding a pretty anxious Eric at the door, completely dressed.

"What is it?" I asked, then, before he could reply, added: "Do you know where are the girls?"

He passed a hand over his face, clearly stressed and close to freaking out for real for once. "They're at the store downtown to grab a pregnancy test. Listen, I ..."

"Wait, wait, what pregnancy test??" Oh, fuck. Tell me it's not Aisha. Tell me it's not Aisha. Shit, I'm not ready to be father. Not a chance. Though they went together, so it could be Jamie or ...

"Calm down. It's for Natalie." Oh. So they made the mess in the end. Well, not voluntarily, but still. I was still trying to take in the thing when Eric pushed past me and reckoned the room for I don't know what, his car keys in hand.

"What's wrong? If they're just downtown, why ..."

"You said this was a hunt bungalow once for our grandpa. Do you know if there are still rifles here?" My eyes widened. What kind of question is that?? Though if he asks for weapons, the thing is serious, so I reached him next to the bed and asked him what the hell was going on, but Eric simply took his face in his hands and cursed, loudly even.

Foreseeing I'd need them, I gathered my clothes and started undressing, barely bothering about him seeing me naked, hell, he's my damn brother and we're both men. That was the last of my problems anyway. The point was Eric and how desperate he looked.

Recalling his question, once I was dressed, I mentioned that maybe there was a closet somewhere in the back of the house where I remember dad locked those rifles, considering he's not into hunting but didn't want to get rid of those things his father so much loved.

Eric frantically demanded I take him there and I agreed, but I also demanded an explanation. He was quick to sum it up, but left me panicking and freaking out as he just said: "My stepfather, he escaped and he's after me. He's probably around here with his lackey, Nathan and they're after Natalie too."

He froze as in his tracks and, as if all of a sudden he'd recalled something, so he ordered, damn serious: "Only this I ask, Kyle. Keep her safe."

Then he stormed off towards the door we'd just reached and, without much of a thought about the locks, he quite simply kicked it down and entered. I was still thunderstruck, so remained there like a statue for several minutes, trying to take in his words.

I barely acknowledged that when he came out he was armed to his teeth, with a hunting rifle in his hands, related pack of bullets in one hand, two huge knives that almost looked like freaking daggers. I've seen my grandpa fumbling with that stuff, but damn, Eric looked like he was in the remake of Rambo or something. I know he knows his way round weapons, but damn.

As he stormed off, I followed him, unsure of what to do. You could say I was close to freaking out. Once we were out of the cabin, he gave me his car keys and explained briefly, well, more like told me his last words, given his tone and how he patted me on my shoulder: "I'm not good with words and I don't have time, but this might be the last time I see you, so ... sorry for the years of hatred, it was nice having a brother for a while, so thanks."

I opened my mouth to argue but he shook his head. "Tell dad I ... uh ... well, thank him from my part and tell him I forgave him much ago. It wasn't his fault. And I know he'll think it, so remind him neither this is his fault."

I asked what the hell was this and he quite simply shook his head again, gripping my shoulder tighter. "This, is the last act of my war. I might not make it, but if I go visit Satan, sure as Hell Robert is coming with me."

My eyes bulged out at that and I sucked in breath. Eric left my shoulder and moved away, but before he could leave for real, while I still couldn't process all of that was happening, my mind, with view to the devastating chance he just foresaw, only pushed me to do one thing, so, unable to retain myself, I hugged my brother tightly, not wanting to believe it was for the last time, but pushing myself to speak up: "I'm glad I found a brother like you, Eric. Sorry for all the years of hatred."

Awkwardly, he hugged me back, patting on my back. It might have looked a little bit gay, but who cares, I mean, it was my freaking brother and he was leaving, most certainly forever.

"You don't have to do it alone. I can help." I offered as he pulled the rifle over his shoulder once we'd parted.

Eric shook his head, I insisted that he couldn't fight this so called war alone, two was better than one, but he didn't want to hear reasons, all he told me was: "Just do me a favor, Kyle. Keep my Natalie safe. It's all I ask. Take her away from here, far from the town, I've already talked to her mother, so she knows."

He sighed, passing a hand over his face. "Tell her I ..."

"She knows how much you love her." I cut him off and he closed his eyes, frustrated. Inhaling deeply, he nodded, defeated.

"She'll ask, you say you don't know." I frowned, confused, but he went on: "It's for her best." I nodded, even if not really convinced, and, patting my shoulder one last time, Eric concluded: "I'm glad I found a brother like you too, Kyle. I couldn't ask for anything better. Just do this last thing for me and keep my Natalie safe. Take care of her like I would."

Then he was gone.

*****************

I never knew that'd be forever. Or for years at least. Never knew I'd see my brother again after seven years and only in a damn stretcher, bleeding almost to death. Never knew I'd have to assist my boss as he operated my own brother because it was night and we were short on staff, so fuck the conflict of interests, I've had to witness my boss opening my own brother into two and extracting lots of damn bullets out of him.

I still have that damn image of Eric barely conscious shutting and opening his eyes as we take him straight to the surgery. I still have that damn image of my brother laying on that fucking bed unconscious as a nurse keeps a mask on his mouth to help him breathe while Dr. Weng operates him. And I still that damn machine beeping for the last time as he died clinically for a long damn minute.

This will never end. He's still there, on that damn bed, and he might remain there for the rest of his life, unless dad decides to sign the papers and let them unplug him. Being the closest family member, he's obviously responsible for it, though Eric's friend, that Heather, gave us a testament, saying they all write one down as they start the job, though she didn't want to say what job.

I've pressed her, but she wouldn't budge, now she's in a bed too, healing from the multiple wounds she was sporting too and that could have cost her, her life, but unlike my brother, she's still alive and kicking, while he, who like the damn moron he is, he took the bullets for her and saved her, so while she's fine, recovering, he's still fighting for his damn life. Well done, brother. You couldn't have been more stupid.

As I thought that, my jaw and my fists clenched by themselves and I realized I was glaring at nobody when Aisha grabbed my hands and pulled my arms around her slender waist, just as she wrapped her around my torso, leaning her head on my chest as she whispered that she was here if I needed her.

After a few moments of awkwardness, I hugged her back, tightly even, and leaned my cheek on her head, unable to retain the words before they slipped out of my mouth in a sigh: "I've missed you."

She cracked a small smile as she admitted: "I've missed you too." Only that brought back the less faint version of a real smile, the first real one since all of this mess started. Ah, that's it, Aisha and her hugs, always so comforting. I miss her so bad. Damn, no, wait, I've got Fanny now. Right? Well, sort of.

I mean, things haven't been going all too well lately, since I've started my residency it's been always worse, she keeps saying I neglect her, and considering I've spent this past week in here, without ever even going home, that only enhances her reasons.

Though I told her about my brother, so she knows I don't go back home for a reason, and she understands ... most of the times, the others ... well, since I started the residency and she once came over here and caught me taking a break with one of my colleagues, Nina, a great girl I've met the first day here, Fanny has been hassling me, implying I was neglecting her because I spent my night shifts having fun with Nina. I keep telling her that we're just friends and Nina is engaged anyway, but my girlfriend doesn't want to hear reasons.

We've been together since two years, have been living together since six months and I gotta admit, she's already a huge pain in the ass. But I care for her and ... kinda ... love her, I ... think. I mean, yeah, I do, but ... shit, it's a bit tough to be sure about that when I've got Aisha in my arms. God, I wish time would freeze.

When she looked up at me, my heart skipped thousands of beat and I honestly felt ... good. For the first time since ... I don't know, ages. With all this mess about my brother it's been hard to keep positivity, but Aisha, she ... well, damn, those eyes held such magic that I can never help but feel better.

We stared into each other's eyes for a long moment and when her lips parted, I squeezed her better against me, forgetting all about being in a damn hospital, having a girlfriend waiting for me at home ... everything. All I could think of were those lips and how gladly I wanted to capture them.

She seemed to read my mind, because she gave me her signature mischievous grin as she pressed herself better against me and, craning her neck, she pressed her lips on mine, but nothing too long. Just a very chaste kiss that lasted barely a second, leaving me speechless nevertheless.

Well, not speechless enough to keep my tongue from slipping as I stared into those deep browns, my hand moving by itself to caress her cheek: "I still love you."

I don't know why did I say that, I shouldn't have said that, not in such predicament, with my brother fighting for his life, Fanny waiting for me at home, possibly someone taking care of my Aisha too, but ... right now it felt just right and I couldn't hold it back. Because it was damn true.

My heart regained some beats when she grinned and rested her head on my chest as she confirmed: "I still love you too, babe." God, I've always loved the way she sounds when she calls me that. It was awfully wrong, but it was a damn glimmer of light in this damn mess and I ... well, I needed it, not physically, but emotionally.

I needed my babe. In every sense. I guess I've only pretended to forget her after all these years. But after all, how could I? How could anyone ever forget one like her? She's so amazing. And I couldn't resist, I pulled back abruptly, grabbed her hand and took her with me in the room where we residents sleep when there's nothing to do at night, knowing there would be anybody because tonight only Nina and I are on duty, and she never sleeps during the night shift.

My mind kept yelling it was wrong, but my heart kept yelling it was right, and Aisha seemed to think the same, because just as we stumbled into the room, she pushed me on bed, straddling me almost immediately as she eagerly slipped my shirt over my head. Well, that escalated quickly. Though it'd be one he of a remedy to my troubles. At least for a couple of hours.

***

ERIC'S POV

I'd been hearing a distant voice telling me something about a panda for a while when that voice became a bit louder. I had no idea who that was and why were they telling me about a panda, but I couldn't do else but listen, given my predicament. I'd been like floating for a while when I finally felt being blocked on a bed again, distant voices that after a few minutes became one to keep me company.

I barely remember seeing my uncle and rewatching scenes from my past, then it's all blank. Though there still was that voice in my ears, completely new. When it became a bit louder I was able to better tell that it was a male voice and he was asking something, but I had no idea what.

Though out of the blue I felt something like an electric shock coursing through my fingers, as if somebody was touching them, tickling me, but it was all so amplified that it felt like a shock. It's hard and weird to explain, but I felt like somebody was brushing my fingers for who knows what reason. Then I faintly heard a boyish giggle and the tickling ceased, so that person left my hand. Though he spoke: "You should wake. How can you sleep so long?"

What kind of question was that? Who would ever ask something like that to someone on a coma? Because I still was on a coma, I can remember that. I don't know since how long, but I still was on a damn coma. Though I felt slightly different from the first time. I mean, I could better feel my body now, in fact it was oversensitive, and my hearing was improved, though I couldn't hear anything else but that voice.

When I felt my hand being tickled again, I also felt the impulse to retrieve it, but of course, I couldn't, so there it remained, and I felt as if someone was studying it back and forth, as if to see what was wrong with it, in fact a moment later I could hear that voice again: "I should tell you another story. Stories work when I am not well."

The person, now I was certain, a he, because while being childish, the voice was certainly of a male being, that person huffed, a bit frustrated as he added: "I want my mama happy. And she is sad when she is here. Maybe it is because you are sleeping. You are her friend and she does not like that you sleep so much."

He huffed. "I don't know why, but she does not like it and she is sad, so you should wake, so my mama can smile again because I want her happy, you understand?"

I guess it was a child. But whose child? I mean, who was his ... oh, fuck. Out of the blue I felt the impulse to move my hands possible and my eyes fluttered open, coming in contact with a completely white room, but then I felt something on my hand and I looked down, only to meet the wide grin of a blonde little boy as he played with my hand.

Instinctively, I removed that hand and tried to sit up, succeeding, even if a bit painfully. That boy was still grinning at me and he clapped his hands as he commented on how his mama would be so happy that I was awake. I frowned, confused, but then I recalled and out of instinct I called: "Noah?"

He grinned even more widely as he nodded, his little hand squeezing mine as he tried to shook it, which I absentmindedly complied with, perusing him, confused. Noah. His name is Noah, uncle Sam said that time. Noah. He ... oh. He is ...

"Where ... where is your mama?" I asked, my voice hoarse as I obviously hadn't been using it since long. He shrugged, raising his hands in the air to say he didn't know. I looked down at our hands entwined then at him as I forced myself to better sit up, despite the pain, barely acknowledging all the gauzes all over my body. I was just lost in staring at him.

He looked so familiar. As if I'd always known him, but I guess it's normal, I mean, the resemblance was incredible. He was my exact copy. Same blonde hair, same blue eyes, even the same mischievous grin. Now I recalled everything, that scene I saw before walking through that huge wooden door ...

I kept staring alternatively at him and at our hands entwined, really not wanting to let go at this point, in fact I only squeezed his hand even more and he smiled at me, as if he didn't mind. God. This was him. The kid I saw in that scene. Noah. My son.

"Are you okay?" He asked me as he tilted his head to the side, blinking his eyes. I opened my mouth to reply, but I felt still dizzy and in a daze, so nothing came out, but Noah kept playing with my hand as he grinned, saying his mama would be so happy I woke and, as if on cue, the door was opened completely, out of the blue, and a gorgeous girl I recognized instantly came in, followed by other two, but I barely noticed, as focused as I was on that familiar face, whose eyes widened when they landed on me and she froze in her spot. The room was dead silent for a long second, before Noah excitedly pointed out: "Mama, be happy! Your friend is awake!"

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