#13 A favor for Annabel
The night shift is exhausting. At least I’m in the ER, which is my comfort zone, and thank God I end up only doing sutures and doing easy tests, because I’ve been on my feet for so long now that I don’t know how I’ll make it through the night. It would have been wiser to get some sleep instead of going on a date with James, but I don’t regret the choice I made. I can still feel his lips on mine.
I feel my phone buzz in my pocket, and I realize I forgot to put it in my locker. It’s not prohibited to have my phone with me, but I know Dr. Martin frowns upon it, so I don’t look to see who it is. I’m busy anyway. Whoever it is can wait.
I get my break five minutes later and I grab my phone right away, more curious than I thought I was. I’m secretly hoping it’s James, even though that would be a bit soon since we only said goodbye a couple of hours ago and we’ve already got plans to meet up tonight.
It’s an unknown number, which is never good news. Although… I guess last time I got a text from a number I didn’t know, it was James, so maybe it is good news.
Oh no. It’s not.
I grunt as I make my way down to the cafeteria for a salad and a cup of coffee.
Hi Francesca, sorry to bother you. This is Annabel, her text reads. I’ve got a favor to ask you. I know it’s the middle of the night, but Theodore needs a kidney and I want to get tested to see if I’m a match.
Oh wow. That’s huge. And a long shot, really. I tap her number to call her, putting the phone on speaker so I can keep eating my salad. There aren’t maybe people in here anyway, so it’s not like I’m disturbing anyone.
“Hey,” Annabel says, sounding tired. “I’m sorry to wake you up.”
“You didn’t, I got pulled into a night shift,” I explain, chewing my tomato. “So, you want to get tested? Shouldn’t you wait for Jaxon and Aston to get their results back?”
“I figure the sooner we know, the better,” she argues. “Can I get a blood test in the morning?”
“Yeah, sure. Wait – do you know your blood type?” I ask. If it’s not the right one, she won’t even need to do a test to know she can’t give him a kidney.
I don’t know whether to be happy and sad about that. It’s the right blood type. Mine is B, which is the wrong one. Once again, she can give Aston something I can’t. Because… yeah, I’ve considered donating my kidney to Theodore as well, but since I know I’m not a match, I’ve never gotten tested or even broached the subject with Aston. I talked to Shaughna about it once, and she told me that I shouldn’t do it even if I could. I’d be doing it for the wrong reasons, hoping that it would get Aston to fall in love with me, and she’s right. That’s not a good reason to donate an organ. I wonder why Annabel wants to do it. Is it because she loves Aston? Or because he wants him to love her back? Surely she already know that he does, right?
“Okay, then we can go ahead and get you tested. My shift ends at 8 am, so if you show up right after, I can be there myself.”
“Great.” Annabel sighs. “I’m truly sorry to keep involving you in all of this. I just know that Aston will feel better having you there. He’s… going through something right now.”
“Yeah, I know, his dad has been sick for a long time.”
“Yes,” she says, but it sounds like she wants to say more. “Thanks again, Francesca. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
We hang up and I finish my salad, wondering what went on between her and Aston tonight that has her texting me in the middle of the night.
By the time my shift ends, I have to rush to meet Annabel and Aston. I still take a moment to stop by the ICU to check up on Leonard.
“Fran,” he says with a small smile. “I’m so glad you could make it. So sorry for pulling you out of bed again.”
“I wasn’t in bed yet,” I say with a yawn. “But I sure will go straight to sleep when I get back home. How’s the baby doing? And Teddy?”
“Still on bedrest.” He sighs. “I’m talking to the chief to see if I can work less hours the next couple of months, but I first need to find someone to cover for me here, or I’ll end up getting pulling into work anyway. Dr. Tennille can run the cardiac ICU without me, but not without someone else by her side. And I just don’t think we’ve got someone like that around right now.”
“Then get someone new,” I say, shrugging. I know it’s not that easy, but if he doesn’t get the process of getting another surgeon in here started soon, it’ll never happen in time. “I’m sure the chief gets that your family comes first.”
“You obviously don’t know the chief that well.” Leonard sighs and runs a hand over his face. He looks exhausted. “Anyway, thanks again. I’ll try not to bother you anymore when you’re not on call.”
“Chill, at least I get paid time and a half for shifts like these. Anyway, I need to get going. One more blood test before I go home.”
“Isn’t your shift over yet?” Leonard asks with a frown.
“Yeah, I volunteered for one more test.” I roll my eyes. “You know me. I can’t say no.”
“Oh, I know,” he says with a small smirk. “I remember that particular character trait of yours quite well.”
Is he seriously flirting with me? Referring to our sex life back in the day? Did he lose his mind?
“Yeah, erm, bye,” I say quickly, running off to the Nephrology unit. I spot Aston and Annabel standing in the hallway close to Theodore’s room, holding hands.
“See if you can forgive him,” I hear her telling him, her voice thick with emotion. “I’m going to try to give you a lifetime with him, but I can’t promise that I will be a match.”
“Your blood type being O negative is a good start,” I add, wanting them to know I can hear them before they start kissing or something. I wonder what Aston needs to forgive Theodore for. The man is a saint in my book.
Annabel turns and smiles sweetly at me. She looks nervous, and I get that. She wants to help Theodore, to be there for Aston, and she’s only just met his family. She’s in so deep that there’s no turning back. I wonder if she’s regretting choosing to be with Aston. Nah, probably not. No one in their right mind would.
“Franny…” Astons motions me over for a hug and I throw my arms around him, surprised at how much he seems to need the comfort. “Did Anna tell you what’s going on?”
“Just that she wants to see if she could donate a kidney to him.” I kiss him on the cheek, remembering a heartbeat too late that Annabel might not like that very much. I’m such so used to being like this with Aston that it’s hard to turn it off. “Is there more?”
“You could say that.”
They follow me to the examination room where I get my stuff ready, preparing the label and putting the info into the computer.
“Turns out that I’m not a match for my dad,” Aston says, looking like he might start crying. In fact, his eyes and red like he’s been crying already.
“The bloodwork isn’t even done yet,” I tell him with a frown. “You can’t know that.”
“Yeah, I can. Turns out my blood type is B. And Theodore isn’t my father.”
I have to force myself not to jam the needle into Annabel’s arm in surprise. I keep myself in check and very carefully draw some blood from her, putting a bandage on her arm right after.
“He’s… not your father? What does that mean?”
“It means that my mom had sex with someone else and then she and Theo lied to me my whole damn life.” Aston is trembling from all the emotions raging within him. “My dad – Theodore – he never even wanted me to know, not even now. Mom told us last night at dinner. That’s why Dad didn’t want me and Jaxon to get tested. He’s known all along that Jax is his, while I’m not.”
I put away the blood sample and the other materials, wash my hands and then drop to my knees in front of the chair Aston is sitting in, putting my arms around him. He buries his face in my hair and we stay like that for a long time. To my surprise, it doesn’t feel the way it used to. I’m not completely over him yet, but my resolve to stop pining over him is still in place. I’m not tempted to kiss him. This is just me comforting one of my best friends. Because he is. He’s still my friend, above all else, and I hate to see him hurting.
“Your dad loves you so much,” I say softly, pulling away a little so I can look up into his large brown eyes. “I’m sure there’s a good reason for all of this. And in a way… this means that he truly loves you. Not because he has to because you’re his, but because he wants to. Because he thinks of you as a son.”
“That’s what Anna says too,” Aston grumbles, wiping at his eyes.
I smile at Annabel over my shoulder. “You should listen to her then.”
“Okay, fine, I will go talk to him.” Aston pulls away from me, giving me a kiss on my forehead and then he gets up and extends a hand to Annabel. “Are you sure you don’t want to go home?”
“You need to go home?” I ask before I can help myself. Is she really going to leave Aston like this? Surely she gets that he needs her right now! What could possibly be more important than him? Aston never cries, and now he seems on the verge of tears the whole time. He needs her here.
“No,” Annabel tells me before turning back to Aston. “I do need to call in to work though. I was supposed to be there twenty minutes ago. Will you be okay talking to your dad?”
“Yeah, this is something I need to do on my own anyway.” He embraces her, looking a little calmer with her flush against him. He truly loves her, it’s so obvious.
Still, she’s busy right now, needing to fix something at work. She’s definitely doing the right thing blowing off work for Aston, but apparently she need to make a call. I don’t want Aston to be alone, though, so I feel like I should offer to be with him. “I could come with you if Annabel is too busy?”
Wow. Okay. The look Annabel gives me isn’t sweet at all. Her expression goes from worried to raging bitch in a split second, showing me a different side of her. Apparently, she thinks that I’m going to try and steal Aston from her. Like she needs to worry about that. Even if I tried, I never would succeed. Aston loves her.
“Nah,” Aston says, kissing Annabel again. “I’ll be fine. Jax will be here soon and he wants some answers too. I think this should be a family affair. Not that you’re not family, although well… you’re not, but you kind of are. Although well, I myself may not even be family anymore, so I don’t-”
She kisses him in the middle of his sentence, smiling at his cute rant. “Go talk to him. I’ll be in the cafeteria.”
And then they’re gone, calling out their thanks and goodbyes to me. I shake my head, worried about Aston, but at the same time a little glad that this is my mess. I can just go home and sleep now, like I’ve been wanting to do all night.
As I walk home half an hour later, I check my messages, smiling when I see that James texted me.
Looking forward to tonight, he sent me an hour ago. Been thinking about you ever since I dropped you off at work.
Me too, I shoot back.
You’re looking forward to tonight as well, or you’ve been thinking about me? He asks with a little winky face after his question.
Both, I text, yawning. I really need at least eight hours of sleep before he comes over. And a shower.
I’ve got to go and fight bad guys now, he says next. Save the world and whatnot. See you tonight. Sleep tight.
I smile and put my phone away, already looking forward to having that hot cop in my kitchen again, making me dinner. I could get used to that.