Marcie was in surgery for a few more hours. When the doctors finished, they reported to Ron and Michael that sheíd made it through the surgery, but the next 48 hours would be crucial. Michael took a deep breath and moved to lean against the wall.
John moved to support his brother. Heíd sent Evangeline home earlier. Sheíd told him to expect her back and she would bring real take-out back for them.
"Mikey, are you okay?"
"Iím fine Johnny. I just know how bad this could be and I donít know what Iíll do if I lose her."
"Youíre not going to lose her. Sheís going to be fine. She made it through the surgery. Now, itís only a matter of time before sheís up and around."
"You canít be sure of that. Look at what happened to Caitlin. There are no guarantees."
"Michael, what happened to Caitlin was completely different. She was killed instantly. There was never a chance for her. Marcie is going to make it."
"I want to believe that."
"When did you become Mr. Optimism?"
"I donít know. Last few weeks, maybe."
"Evangeline has a good effect on you."
"Yeah, she does," he said with a speculative look.
"How do you deal with her being so independent?"
"I donít have a choice. Thatís who she is. If I want her, Iíve got to take the whole package. That is frustrating some times, because she will put herself in harmís way without realizing it."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, sheíll put herself undercover or show up at a crime scene. I havenít even talked to her about the latter because I know how itíll go over. Sheís definitely her own woman. I like that."
"Well, youíve never had that before."
"I donít think I know what youíre talking about."
"Both Caitlin and Natalie were needy. I mean I loved Caitlin and I like Natalie but they depended on you a lot. Evangeline doesnít do that. Even when she was attacked, she was still planning to handle it on her own. I mean I could tell that she appreciated all the care you gave her, but she was determined that she would have been okay with or without you."
"Yeah, I know. That is my greatest frustration with her."
"Whatís her greatest frustration with you?"
"My friendship with Natalie."
"Are you sure itís your friendship or is it the way you go off to save her at her every call?"
"Michael, I donít do that."
"John, are you serious? Do you really believe that you donít react when Natalie calls?"
"I do react, but she doesnít have anybody who understands her."
"Do you understand her?"
"I understand what itís like to lose someone you love. Thatís all."
"Well, you better be careful, before you lose someone else you love."
"Thanks for the advice, Mikey."
"Anytime. Iím gonna go check on Marcie. They said she should be out of recovery pretty soon. I want to be with her if she wakes up."
"I know," he said and patted his brother on the shoulder. "Go ahead. Iíll be here."
"Thanks, for coming to stay with me."
"Where else would I be?"
Evangeline got back to the hospital about a half hour later. She was carrying a bag from Rodiís with hamburgers and fries for the men. She had changed clothes and was now wearing her favorite jeans and a red top with her leather jacket.
"Hey," John said as he rose when he saw her enter the waiting room.
"Hey," she responded leaning up for a brief kiss. "Howís Marcie?"
"Sheís out of surgery, but she hasnít woken up yet. Sheíll be in recovery for a while."
"How are Michael and Ron?"
"Worried. How are you?"
"Iím fine. Iím worried about Michael. He really loves Marcie and I donít know how heíll handle it if Marcie doesnít make it," she said as she glanced to where Michael and Ron stood talking near the nurseís station.
"Heíll make it. I know. Iíve been there. I donít ever want to go there again."
"I can only imagine, but do you regret having loved Caitlin?"
A shocked look covered his face at the question. "Of course not. I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with her. Why would you ask that?"
"I guess, because Iím realizing that even if you lose someone you love, itís worth it. You canít go through life avoiding loving people because you might lose them. My dad was the most important person in my life for a long time. I mean, I love my mom, but we donít have the same kind of relationship that me and my dad had. When he died, it hurt like hell, but I didnít regret the good times or the bad. I just decided to remember the times we shared and that made it all worthwhile. I wouldnít trade any of the time I had with him, in order to escape the pain of losing him." With that, she turned away from John to give Michael and Ron their dinner.
"Michael and Ron, I have your dinner," she said holding up the bag from Rodiís. "Burgers and fries."
"Evangeline, thank you. You are a godsend," Ron responded.
"Thatís what people keep telling me," she teased back. Ron took the food that she offered and sat down in a nearby seat.
"Evangeline, I donít know how to thank you," Michael said in a quiet voice.
"You donít have to thank me. I care about you and Marcie. I wouldnít want to be anywhere else. If there is anything I can do, you just let me know. Iíll be here. I even brought work."
"You do care about me. You brought work so you could stay," he teased.
"Keep it up and Iíll make you pay. You know Iím a fighter."
"Iím sorry. Iím scared now," he chuckled.
"You better be."
John watched her interact with his brother and smiled. She was something else. For the past few years, heíd been so caught up in the pain and guilt of losing Caitlin, that he hadnít taken the time to appreciate what heíd had with her. Heíd missed what he shared with her, but he was afraid of experiencing that kind of loss again. Had being with Caitlin been worth the pain heíd felt when he lost her? Yes, without question. Why hadnít he realized that?
In five minutes, Evangeline had broken down what heíd been using to protect himself. How could he have been so stupid? Yes, heíd needed to find the killer and yes heíd been in a place where he hadnít cared if heíd lived or died, but he hadnít taken the time to celebrate that heíd had time with Caitlin. How could he have overlooked the time and love theyíd shared like that? He wouldnít trade that time for anything.
What was he doing with Evangeline? She was so much more than he thought he deserved and yet, he was the man she wanted. How was that possible? What did he really have to offer her? She could take care of herself financially and from what sheíd shared New Yearís Eve, she could take care of herself physically. Sometimes she needed help but those times were few and far between. When heíd told her that she wasnít like anyone heíd ever met, heíd meant that.
While Caitlin had been a strong woman, doing her own thing, she had depended on him. Heíd grown used to her leaning on him. Natalie was like her in that respect and maybe thatís why he felt obligated to her. While she did have family, she still felt like the outsider and oddly enough he felt that way sometimes as well. He understood that about her and wanted to be there for her, but not at the expense of his relationship with Evangeline. He was learning more and more that Evangeline couldnít live with believing she was second. He had to make sure that she understood that she was second to no one in his life.
"Hey, youíre staring. Whatís up?" Evangeline asked after moving back to him.
"I was just thinking. What are you doing now?"
"I donít know. I thought Iíd hang around here with Michael. I brought some work with me. I figured that youíd have to get back to work."
"I do need to do some paperwork, but I want to be here for Michael."
She smiled at him. "You are here, but Iím sure heíll understand if you need to get back to the station."
"He would, but I donít know if I should leave him."
"He wonít be by himself. Ronís here and like I said, I brought work with me."
"Okay. Iíll see you later. If you leave here, give me a call. I just want to make sure youíre safe."
"Thanks. Iíll be fine, but Iíll call you."
He leaned his head down and kissed her lingeringly. He didnít care if his brother or the world saw him. He needed to enjoy whatever time he could get with her. Just like it was Marcie in recovery, it could just as easily be Evangeline. Things happened everyday that people have no control over and he had to remember that.
"Hey, what was that for?" she asked when the kiss ended.
"Just because Iím happy to be with you," he said and smiled in response to hers.
"Iím happy to be with you, too."
When John was back at the station, he got a call that the DNA results would be in the next morning. Cris or whoever was scheduled to go before a judge tomorrow as well. Evangeline was at the hospital and Cris was in his cell. He did have paper work to do, but he couldnítí concentrate. He heard footsteps at his door and looked up seeing Natalie.
"Hey," he said.
"Hey, John," she replied. "Do you have a minute?"
"Sure. How ya doing?"
"Not good. I was so angry, but I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for always being here for me."
"Thatís what friends are for."
"Well, you are one of the best. I can always depend on you to be there."
"Natalie, I am here for you, but I need you to understand that Iím involved with Evangeline. Sheís the only woman I want to be with. I care about you and Iím going to help you as much as I can, but I might not be able to be there anytime you call. I just wanted to make sure that you understand."
"John, I do," Natalie said with a slight tremor in her voice. "I understand that you and Evangeline are serious and Iíd never want to do anything to come between you." She looked away and blinked the tears from her eyes.
"Thatís good, because it would just cause problems in our friendship. Besides, thereís nothing you could do to come between us. Iím just sorry that youíre going through what you are."
"Itís not your fault. Itís mine. I should have listened to you," she said and glanced at him. "Iím going to find Uncle Bo now. Thanks for listening."
John had seen the pain in her eyes and heíd wanted to comfort her, but he couldnít. Sheíd lost Cristian again and he couldnít be the main person he depended on. He had another woman depending on him and he wasnít going to let her down. What he had with Evangeline was worth more to him than any of his other relationships. Thinking of Evangeline, he wondered what she was doing. He knew that she was scheduled to be in court tomorrow with Antonio and that she would probably go to the hearing for Cristian or John Doe or whoever. He missed her. He knew she was still at the hospital and decided to go back.
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