Amanda and Lee found themselves back in the same waiting room they had paced just days before. The same cheery pictures were on the walls. The same teddy bears graced the sofas. This time they shared the space with a group of boisterous people, expecting the birth of the first grandchild of the family. Lee paced restlessly, while Amanda stared out the window in deep thought. Phillip merely sat on the edge of a sofa, head in hands. He hadn't spoken since they arrived and neither Lee nor Amanda knew what to say to him.
Natasha had been whisked away once again by a crew of paramedics. She hadn't regained consciousness and had continued to bleed heavily. Upon arrival to the emergency room, the agents had been informed that Natasha had been taken directly to surgery. The bullet had grazed her heart and deeply nicked her aortic artery. She was bleeding internally and had indeed been having contractions as well. In response to the assault, her body had triggered the labor process. The medical teams were attempting to stop the contractions while repairing the damage to her chest.
The operating room circulator nurse had told them, that if she survived the surgery, she would be moved to the high-risk labor and delivery unit and for them to stay in that waiting area for further news. Seeing, Dr. Mahone enter the room with clipboard in hand, they rushed to his side for news of Natasha's condition. The doctor consulted the chart briefly, then began to explain her condition to them.
"She survived the surgery. She's unconscious and on the ventilator. Her vital signs are very weak. She lost a tremendous amount of blood. The damage to her aortic artery was more severe than we thought. She's in very grave condition."
Lee and Amanda exchanged helpless looks. Before they can speak, Phillip interrupts, "What about the baby? Did it‰Ûº." His voice trailed off. He couldn't finish the thought.
Mahone shook his head slowly. "The baby is alive, for now. We haven't been able to completely stop the contractions. This trauma was simply too extensive for her body to cope with. The human body acts first and foremost to protect itself. Her body views the pregnancy as a danger to its survival. We're going to control the contractions for as long as possible, but we will have to deliver this baby, today."
"How?" This came from Amanda, who now leaned against Lee for support.
"Most likely by cesarean section. I hope to allow her a few hours to recover from the first surgery, allow the blood transfusions to finish. She is about six weeks from the estimated due date. The baby still has a good strong heartbeat and we've given Natasha an injection that will hopefully encourage more rapid development of the baby's lungs."
Lee held Amanda close and reached out with his other arm to pull Phillip to his side. "Can we see her? Is she awake?"
"She's not awake. Even if she were we would have her sedated so as not to aggravate her condition. One of you may go in for five minutes. No more."
Lee, Amanda, and Phillip stood together for a few moments. Phillip would go to her. He followed Dr. Mahone to the unit, dressed in scrub cloths and entered the room quietly.
He swallowed hard at the sight before him. She looked so small, surrounded by tubes, wires and monitors. A large machine next to the bed beeped and hissed in time to the rising and falling of her chest. Another at the head of the bed fluctuated with her heartbeat. Still another showed him the heartbeat and activity of the fetus in her womb. He kneeled next to the bed and carefully took her hand in his. Both hands were covered in tape, holding needles in place. He felt the coolness of the patch of skin left uncovered on the palm of her hand. Her eyes were closed and the tube in her mouth was taped securely to her upper lip. He saw the moisture from his tears dampening her gown and quickly dried his eyes.
"Natasha, it's Phillip. I'm here, so're Mom and Lee. We're right here. I love you, Tash. No matter what, I love you. It's going to be okay, I promised you that and it is. You're going to be fine. You're going to have that baby today. Your baby. It's going to be beautiful just like it's mommy." His voice cracked with the tears that just wouldn't stop. "Oh god, Tash, I promise, no matter what, I'll take care of your baby. Somehow, I will." He rested his head against the mattress and his hand on her swollen stomach. He felt the smooth muscles contract, hard. As he raised his head to look at her once more, the machine next to him that was monitoring the baby's heart began to beep loudly.
The numbers began to fall. 130, 120, 105, 90, 80. . .beeeeeeep! The door to the room flew open. Dr.Mahone rushed in followed by several nurses dressed in the ceil blue scrubs of surgery.
"Phillip, you'll have to leave. We're going to have to take the baby now. It's heartbeat is dropping. It can't tolerate the stress anymore. Please, go back to the waiting room. We'll let you know as soon as we can."
Phillip found himself pushed into a corner as they swarmed around the bed, adjusting monitors, changing IV bags, preparing to wheel her bed to the OR. They pushed the bed past him and into the hall, out of his sight. He slowly removed the scrub apparel and headed for the waiting room and the comfort of his family.
He was at the doors of the labor and delivery unit when a voice called to him. "Mr. King? Phillip?"
He turned to see a nurse approaching from the desk. "Yes?"
"Well, Phillip, you see, last week when Natasha was here the first time, she asked me to do something for her. I thought it was rather strange, but I guess she knew somehow. She asked me to give you something if she, well, if she died. Mr. King, I'm so sorry but I'm going off duty for several days and I'm afraid it may too late when I return."
"I understand, Nurse Bonham. What is it?" Phillip sighed.
"This. She wrote them while your Mother was sleeping and wanted me to keep them for her and make sure you got them." She held out two envelopes. One addressed to him, one to Lee and Amanda.
Phillip took the offerings with trembling hands and thanked the nurse once again. He looked at them, then clutched them in his fist. He exited the unit and went to rejoin his Mother and Lee in the waiting room.
He arrived just in time to hear the explanation from Francine and Billy about the day's happenings. They had arrived just after Phillip left with the doctor and after being informed of Natasha's condition, had started to brief Lee and Amanda about the outcome of the case.
Billy was speaking to the two agents and paused briefly when Phillip returned but decided he was entitled to know the whole truth. "So, Rominav is in custody, Kellet is dead, and the ringer was just an innocent typist Kellet convinced to help him. She said he told her that Smyth requested her specifically and felt she just couldn't refuse. She knew nothing about the case or Rominav. Rominav admitted to the attacks on the delegation planning and the murder of the liaison. He also admitted to the killing of Andre. We're going to hold him here for now, but he will probably be sent back to Russia to face treason charges."
For a few moments, the group allowed the news to sink in then turned to Phillip. "How is she?" Amanda hugged her son briefly as she asked.
"Not good. They're taking the baby now. Something about it's heartbeat falling too fast. The doctor said he would let us now as soon as he could." He handed her the envelope addressed to her and said, "She left these for us, before‰Ûºbefore all this."
He turned away from the group and headed out the door. Amanda called after him in alarm, "Where are you going?"
He looked at the letter in his hands and just shrugged. As he left, she started to follow him but Lee stopped her, "No, give him some space right now. He'll come back when he's ready."
She nodded and handed him the letter she held. "Do we read it now or later?"
"Now. I don't think it's going to be much difference."
Sobbing her agreement, she walked with him to the sofa in the now empty waiting area. Thankfully the boisterous family had left to visit with the new mom and baby. Billy and Francine stood a respectable distance away and allowed them the privacy to read.
Lee tore the seal open and began to read aloud.
Dearest Amanda and Lee,
By now, I must be dead or dying. I know this will end badly. Im not sure how I know, I just do. Perhaps it is my punishment for betraying everything I know and believe in but nonetheless, I fear that I will not be allowed to see my child, nor raise it or love it as I long to. I hope that you can forgive me for the terrible things I've done. I had no other choice, or at least I didn't think I did. I know now that I could have turned to you sooner. I beg of you now, please, take care of my baby. It has no one else to love it or show it right from wrong. Phillip is wonderful but he has his whole life ahead of him. He will be a great brother, but he doesn't need to be a father right now. If you can't forgive me enough to love my child as your own, please make sure it has all it needs, a good home, food, clothing, shelter. I beg of you, please.Natahsa
Lee wrapped his arms around the now openly sobbing Amanda. "SHH, it's okay. It's okay. It's all gonna work out."
"Oh, Lee how can we ignore that? She is giving her life to stop that madman. She saved our son's life. She‰Ûº" She laid her head on his chest and allowed the tears to flow unchecked.
He held her tight and thought about the life they had. They had it all, love, family, security that they would always be able to work out any problem they faced. He thought of Natasha's pleas and knew what he had to do, what they had to do.
"We won't ignore her. We'll do what she asks." He pulled his wife up to look her in the eyes. "We'll do it."
"Oh, yes. Yes. Are you sure? I mean I know I'm sure. I couldn't live with anything else."
"I'm sure. As long as it's okay with Phillip, we'll be that baby's parents." Lee held her hands in his and nodded. "It's going to be okay. She did what she had to do for us and we're going to do what we have to do for her."
"Lee, you don't become a parent because you have to."
Sheepishly, Lee ducked his head and agreed, "I know. Amanda, I've dreamed of having and raising a child of my own, of ours for years. I'm not doing this because I have to. I want to."
She smiled a watery smile and hugged him tightly. "I love you, Lee. I love you so much."
Phillip spoke from his position at the door, "Thank you, both of you. She's right you know. You are wonderful parents. Both of you." He held out his letter from Natasha. : I think you should read this." He watched as they read the letter quickly then returned it to him. "I know she's right. She was right all along. I'm too young to be a father. I had great examples, but this baby would be better off with the real things, not just me trying to follow your example. I promised her I would make sure the baby was cared for. Now I know it will be. I love you both." He joined them in a group embrace and they sat together waiting on the news from the operating room.
Thirty minutes later, Dr. Mahone entered the room, still wearing his operating scrubs. He nodded solemnly at the group before him. "I'm sorry, she didn't make it. We tried everything. She was just too weak to survive the second surgery." He waited for several minutes as Amanda sobbed and Phillip desperatly tried to control his own tears. Lee had known, in his heart, that this was coming, but still the knowing didn't make it any easier.
Lee held his wife and son tighter as he asked, "What about the baby?"
A small smile tugged at the corner of the physician's mouth. "I think the baby has a great chance. She's just under 4 pounds, good color and movement, nice strong cry. She's breathing on her own and just on a moderate amount of oxygen, about 2 liters. She has a real good chance. Would you like to see her?"
"Yes, please." Amanda gasped out as she latched onto Lee's hand and turned to Phillip. "Are you coming?"
He shook his head, "Not just yet. Go ahead. I'll see you later at home." He left the room and headed down the hall.
Billy spoke up from the distant corner. "Go ahead, Lee, Amanda. See your daughter. I'll keep an eye on him."
Francine spoke up hesitantly, unusual for her, "Amanda, what about your mother and Jamie? Should I call them?"
"Oh yes, will you? Just ask them to join us. We'll explain." She then joined hands with her husband and followed the waiting doctor to the nursery window. He entered and spoke to the attending nurse. She smiled and pulled an isolette to the window where they stood. Inside a tiny, red, crying infant lay wrapped in a pink blanket and an impossibly small diaper.
Amanda and Lee gazed down at the newest arrival to their world and Lee said, "Welcome home, little one."
Lee stood in the freshly painted white and pink nursery watching as Amanda fussed with the blankets covering the baby. She was almost seven weeks old and had been in her new home for just two hours. She would have the room her brothers grew up in.
She had come into the world in a traumatic manner and had done surprisingly well. She gained weight as expected and had been weaned from her oxygen after just three weeks. A fairly serious bacterial infection had delayed her homecoming by several weeks but now she was home and safe and loved more than Lee ever dreamed he could love such a small creature. Jennifer Tatiana Stetson had the great Scarecrow wrapped around her tiny finger.
"She's asleep." Amanda whispered. She stepped closer to her husband and hugged his waist. "So, who's getting the first round of 3AM feedings?"
"Well, I thought we would swap off." He gave her his best disarming smile.
"Uh huh. I bet you did." She chided him softly. "How about if we just take them as they come and do it together?"
"Sounds perfect. Just how I like to be, together, with you." He kissed her softly on the nose and started to lead her out of the room.
A tall, young man stood in the way. "So, how's my baby sister today?"
"Hi, sweetheart. She's great. We got home just a couple of hours ago."
"Could I see her?"
"Of course you can."
He walked to the crib and looked at the small blond baby lying there. "Hey, kid. Welcome to the family."