Kristin stepped out of the kitchen and smiled as she crossed the living room to the playpen where her year old twins Mikayla and MacKenzie were playing noisily. Kayla looked up as Kristin leaned over the edge. She flashed her mother a toothy grin "Mamma, mamma, mamma." she chanted, as she pulled herself up and holding on to the top railing of the playpen began to bounce up and down. MacKenzie followed his sister and pulled himself up beside her, grinning as though flashing his new teeth would make him more desirable than her.
"You two monsters want up?" Kristin laughed as she picked them up and pulled them close.
With a child tucked into the curve of each arm she headed down the hallway. She frowned slightly as she neared Lucas' room: the music he was playing was so loud that she could hear it through the closed door. Knowing he would never hear her knock over the noise she opened the door.
He was sitting at his computer, back to the door oblivious to all but the music and the data on his computer screen.
"Lucas!" she called out. When he didn't reply she repeated her call and yet again received no answer. With a heavy sigh she reached out and flicked the light switch on and off several times.
Almost immediately Lucas turned down the music and spun around to face the door. "Doc?"
"Are you very busy?"
"Ah no, not really. I was just going over the data for the sQ mainframe. What do you want?"
"I need you to keep an eye the twins for about a half-hour while I run to the market."
"Ah, okay..sure." he nodded and got up from his seat.
As he approached them, Kayla grinned and held out her arms to him. "Lu... Lu." she called and Lucas couldn't help but smile as he took her. He reached out and took Kenzie too tucking him under his other arm.
Kristin watched as he turned, and set the twins on the floor beside his desk chair.
With a half smile she left them, grabbed her purse from the hall table just inside the door and left the house.
A little more than a half-hour later Kristin pulled her car into the driveway. Grabbing the grocery bags from the back seat she carried them up to the house.
Opening the door, she stepped inside and immediately heard Kayla crying fiercely. Dropping the bags she rushed into the interior of the house.
As she entered the living room she found him holding a screaming Kayla, trying unsuccessfully to settle her.
"What's wrong with her?"
"She won't stop crying."
Kristin took Kayla from him and pressed a hand to her forehead to test her temperature.
"She's warm, but I can't tell if it's from a fever or because she's been crying so hard. Where's Kenzie?" she questioned.
"Asleep in the playpen." Lucas replied
She nodded and set Kayla on the sofa, she looked up at Lucas. "Watch her while I go get my bag."
Kristin was just returning with her medical bag when she heard Lucas' panicked call.
"Doc, she just threw up!"
Rushing to the sofa she picked up Kayla. As she lifted the baby she noticed something- a spot of lavender in the small puddle of vomit on the sofa.
"What is this? She swallowed something."
"What?!" Lucas choked.
"It's a pill fragment. Oh God, Lucas call 911!" She called out, setting Kayla down again and pulling out her stethoscope.
Lucas turned and made a beeline back down the hall.
"Lucas!" Kristin yelled after him. "Dammit!" she swore as she picked up the baby and crossed over to the vidphone.
The call was just going through when he rushed back into the room.
"Oh my God." he muttered as he held up a small clear bag filled with identical lavender pills.
"What are those?" Kristin asked anxiously
"They were in my room... she... she must have..."
"How many are gone?!"
"Dammit Lucas! HOW MANY..."
"Oh My sweet God. Did Kenzie...!" she left the sentence drop as she rushed to the playpen, her heart clenching when she saw him lying listlessly. Instinct told her he was not sleeping but unconscious.
"Oh God, Oh God." she cried as she hauled him from the playpen
Kristin rushed back to the dispatcher on the vidscreen
"I have 12 month old twins with a methamphetamine overdose."
"You're address Ma'am?"
"1259 Oceanview Drive."
"All right Ma'am I have a unit on the way."
"Doc... Doc... I'm sorry... so, so sorry."
Kristin looked away from the vidscreen to the babies who now lay listless, one in each arm.
"Oh God Lucas." she cried, tears streaming down her cheeks. "I don't know how you could be so careless. How could you bring that *shit* into this house when you know there are babies here. They could die Lucas. Do you realize that! Your carelessness could have killed my babies."
The young UEO Lieutenant rushed down the hall to one of the building's main conference rooms and after a quick knock he stepped into the room. He glanced at the faces around the table then singled out the one he was seeking.
"Captain Bridger, Sir. Sorry to interrupt but there was an emergency call from your wife. She's taken your twins to the Pediatric Emergency at NCQ General."
"Why?" Nathan asked anxiously.
"I don't know, Sir."
Nathan got up from the table. "Take over Jonathan." he said absently as he rushed out the door.
Nathan rushed into the hospital and saw Kristin pacing outside the closed door to a trauma room.
She turned at his call and rushed into his arms. He held her tightly as she sobbed.
"Kris...Kris. You have to tell me what happened?"
She took a deep breath "I asked Lucas to watch the twins while I went to the market. When I got home...."
"Oh God Nathan. Lucas brought Bliss into the house and the twins swallowed some."
Nathan paled. "God." he whispered and pulled Kristin back into his arms. "They'll be okay. They have to be all right." he whispered into her hair.
"But they may not." she replied, her voice muffled against his chest. "Even if they live through this, neither of them may be all right ever again."
They held each other and after a long moment Nathan asked.
"Where is Lucas?"
"Back at the house. At least he was when we left in the ambulance."
"Well once I know how the twins are doing then I'll go and have a talk with him."
Kristin nodded and then they both turned when the door to the treatment room opened and a doctor stepped out.
"Mr and Mrs. Bridger?"
"Yes. How are they?" Kristin stepped forward.
"Well with your little girl, it was touch and go for awhile but you got her here in time. We were able to flush the drug from her system. Time will tell if there was any permanent damage but for the moment she's doing fine. I want to keep her overnight to watch for any lingering side effects."
"And Kenzie?" Kristin choked out, afraid to hear what he had to say and at the look that crossed his features she cried. "No!"
"I'm sorry we did everything we could but we just couldn't save him."
"NO!... no, no.. OH God no!" She screamed and Nathan caught her as her legs gave out pulling her tightly to him, his tears soaking her hair as he held her.
After a moment the Doctor stepped forward. "I'm sorry for your loss." he said quietly.
"Thank you.." Nathan murmured over Kristin's head.
"Kayla is being moved up to the Pediatric ICU. You can see her just as soon as she is settled."
Kristin pulled back and looked up into his face. "Nathan, I want to see him?"
"Are you sure?" he asked softly, fingertips brushing the tears on her cheeks.
"Yes... Don't you want to see him... To say goodbye?"
Nathan nodded then turned to the Doctor. "Can we see him?"
"Yes, of course. I'll have the nurses get him ready." he said quietly and turned away.
Doctor Hayes returned minutes later and led them back to the treatment room.
"Take all the time you need."
"Thank you." Nathan replied then grasped Kristin's hand tightly and walked with her into the trauma room.
"Oh God..." Kristin sobbed as the approached the table and saw the still little form that had been their son. "He's really gone." she cried as she reached out to pick him up. Pulling him close to her she turned into Nathan's embrace and they held him between them.
Nathan reached out to tenderly brush the top of Kenzie's head. Leaning down he pressed a kiss to his forehead. "Good bye my son." he choked out, closing his eyes to the tears.
Looking up he met Kristin's equally anguished gaze. "I'll be back.. I have some things to take care of."
"Where are you going?"
"To the house."
Kristin's eyes grew cold. "He killed our son Nathan. I don't want him in our house when we bring Kayla home. I don't ever want to see him again." she finished, her tears starting anew.
"I know baby." he said softly then pressed a gentle kiss to her lips. "I'll be back soon." he added and strode from the room.
Nathan turned to see Doctor Hayes approaching. "Doctor? Is Kayla all right?" he asked fearfully.
"Yes... she's still fine. I need to ask you a few questions. Your wife was too distraught when she brought the twins in."
"Well to begin, the obvious question is how did your twins get a hold of Bliss?"
"My ward... He's 17 he brought it into the house without our knowledge. He's never done anything like this before so we never thought to ask. Anyway he was supposed to be watching the twins while my wife went to the store. He obviously wasn't watching them close enough."
The doctor nodded. "I'm going to have to file a police report especially since it resulted in the death of your son."
"I know. You can have them meet me at the house." Nathan told him.
Lucas sat huddled on the sofa watching Bridger pace back and forth, waiting for the explosion he knew was coming.
He was sick about what happened... and he didn't even know how the babies were.
Nathan had entered the house minutes earlier... taken one look at him, got that look in his eyes that Lucas knew was him trying not to give into the impulse to take his anger out on something, or someone, and started pacing.
Finally he gathered up enough courage to speak. "Cap....oh God, Cap I'm so sorry. Are the twins......?"
Nathan spun to face him and Lucas cringed at the fury in the older man's eyes.
"Don't..." he threatened with a pointed finger. "Do you even realize how absolutely furious I am with you right now. Oh My God. Do you know what you've done! I had already lost one child. A hell I never wanted to ever go through again and because of you.. Because of YOU I have and you've put Kristin through that very same hell!" He choked on the last word, grief surfacing once again.
"They're.. They're dead!." Lucas sobbed out.
"Kenzie is.. You killed him Lucas! Kayla's alive But she may not be all right. She may never be all right."
"What.. What do you mean?"
"Do you know what a methamphetamine overdose can do to a 12 month old infant? It killed Kenzie, but if they survive it can cause brain damage, kidney and liver damage! She may end up having seizures for the rest of her life!"
"I didn't think..." the boy murmured in shock
"That's right, you didn't think.. Did you?" Nathan yelled. "What the fuck possessed you to bring that *shit* into a house where there were toddlers? What possessed you to even take it in the first place? I thought you were happy here.. I thought you were happy with us? How could you betray us like this when we've loved and cared for you as we would have our own son? First there was the getting drunk every night and now this. Oh God Lucas I thought you were smarter than this."
"I... I was just curious." he offered, knowing it was a lame excuse.
"Well Kayla and Kenzie were curious too, weren't they? And look where it got them! My son is dead and my daughter may never be all right again." Nathan stated sarcastically then turned on his heel and stormed from the living room and into the master bedroom.
He was still furious and fighting back his grief as he yanked a duffel bag for himself and Kristin's overnight case from the closet shelf. He gathered up the clothing and toiletries and fairly threw them into their respective cases. Once the bags were filled he moved over to the cribs in the corner. His heart clenched and tears sprang anew as he looked at Kenzie's crib then moved to Kayla's.
Reaching inside he picked up the small white, floppy eared bunny. The first present he had ever bought his daughter and her most well loved and adored possession. Tucking the bunny under his arm he picked up the cases and strode from the room.
He opened the front door to find two police officers on the door step.
"Yes. He's in the living room. If you'll excuse me I have to get back to the hospital. Just close the door on your way out."
With that he moved past them, down the steps and headed to the car without a backward glance or another thought.
Nathan returned to the emergency room and crossed to the nurse's station.
"Mr. Bridger." the nurse acknowledged him with a compassionate smile.
"I was looking for my wife.. Is she still...."
"No sir, she's gone upstairs to the Pediatric ICU."
He stepped off the elevator moments later and after checking in he moved down the hall to the private room where Kayla and Kristin were.
He paused in the doorway. Kristin sat in a chair next to a crib where Kayla lay, still sleeping.
He set the bags down before crossing to stand by her side.
"How's she doing?" He asked quietly as he rested a hand on her shoulder. She covered it with her own and turned to look at him.
"She hasn't woken up yet, but Dr. Hayes is hopeful." she said quietly
"Good." he replied and took a step towards the crib, setting the bunny down next to her.
Reaching out, he brushed a gentle hand over the top of her head. "Come back to us, lil' bug." he whispered.
As Nathan moved another chair close to sit beside Kristin she turned to look at him. Her voice was tight with anger and grief when she asked. "What happened?"
"The police arrived just as I was leaving. I filed charges. You know.. Despite all this I still love him." he said quietly.
Kristin shifted and leaned her head against his shoulder. "I know, me too.. That's part of what is making all this so difficult not only have we lost Kenzie but we've lost Lucas as well. But it had to be done, he was already way out of control." she whispered tearfully as she reached out to take his hand, interlacing their fingers, she brought it to her lips to brush a quick kiss across the back.
Kristin dozed, with her head resting on Nathan's shoulder while he kept a silent vigil over his sleeping child.
Some time later Dr. Hayes stepped into the room.
"Mr. Bridger." he said quietly.
Not wanting to wake Kristin, Nathan did not get up and spoke softly.
"Doctor. Is there a problem? Is Kayla all right?"
"I just wanted to take her to get some tests done. An MRI and a CAT and I want our Pediatric neurologist to take a look at her."
Nathan nodded, and watched as the doctor motioned to two nurses standing outside the room.
They approached the crib and he watched carefully as they unhooked the monitoring equipment and wheeled her from the room.
With a heavy sigh, Nathan rested his head against Kristin's and began the long anxious wait. It was several minutes later when she stirred.
The first thing she saw upon opening her eyes was the empty space where the crib should have been "Oh God, Nathan...!" she began in a panicked voice.
"Shh.." he soothed and took her face between his palms. "Everything is all right. They just took her for some tests." he explained quietly and pressed a kiss to her forehead.
"What kind of tests?"
"Uhm an MRI, A CAT and Dr. Hayes said he wanted the Pediatric neurologist to look at her."
Kristin nodded and got up from her chair. She moved to stand where the crib had been and then began to pace. Nathan got up and intercepted her. Grasping her shoulders gently he stopped her and pulled her tight to him. "Talk to me, Baby. " he whispered against her fragrant hair.
"Oh Nathan I'm so afraid. We've lost Kenzie and I just couldn't bear to lose Kayla as well." she breathed, hiding her face in the warm comfort of his neck and shoulder.
"I know Babe, I'm afraid too, but we're not going to lose her."
"But what if she's not all right?" She asked, looking up at him with tear-filled sable eyes.
Nathan cupped her face between his palms. "We'll face that when it happens. But she's still our baby girl Kris... no matter what happens."
"I know, I'll love her anyway... But I just want all the best for her and now that may not be possible. And God, she's so little she's not even going to understand why Kenzie's not there anymore... She loved him so much."
"I know." he said softly, tears in his eyes, and drew her close for a tender kiss then pulled her into a comforting hug.
An hour later Dr. Hayes strode into the room followed by two nurses pushing Kayla's crib. Kristin immediately rushed to it the moment the nurses had it in place. She reached down to stroke her daughter's still sleeping head. "She hasn't woken up yet?" she asked and worriedly met Hayes' gaze.
"I gave her a light sedative for the procedures." he explained and Kristin nodded then caressed Kayla's head one last time before moving back to Nathan's side.
"What did you find?" she questioned fearfully.
"Her scans looked good. Very good in fact. We couldn't find any apparent damage. Dr. Fielding, the Pediatric Neurologist, looked at her, did some tests and she says that in her opinion Kayla seems to be completely fine. But Kristin, you being a doctor know as well as the rest of us that we can't be 100% sure. We just have to wait and see but the odds are good, very good that she'll come through this unscathed."
"Thanks." Kristin smiled and looked up at Nathan as he slipped his arm around her shoulders and gave her a one armed hug.
"Thank you, Doctor." Nathan smiled.
"You're both very welcome. I'm just sorry we couldn't do more for your son." he finished and then quietly slipped from the room.
Immediately after the doctor had gone, Kristin turned into Nathan's embrace and he pulled her tight against him.
"Oh, thank God." she murmured against his chest and felt him brush his lips over the top of her head.
"Hungry?" he asked after a long moment.
"Yah, I guess..." she nodded.
"Well why don't we go down to the cafeteria and grab some dinner?"
"I want to be here when Kayla wakes up. She'll be afraid if one of us isn't here."
"I know.. But the doctor gave her a sedative so that means she'll sleep for awhile yet, right?"
"Yes." Kristin agreed.
"Then why don't we go. We can have the nurse call up if Kayla shows signs of waking up. Kris you need to eat something, and you need to get out of this room even if it's only for half an hour."
"And Kris.. We have to leave sometime to make arrangements for Kenzie." he said softly.
"I know. But please let's do it tomorrow.. After we take Kayla home."
The room was quiet, filled with the pale light of dusk. Nathan could hear the soft sighs and murmurs as Kristin slept on the cot behind him.
He took a sip of his coffee and grimaced at the bitter taste. A quiet utterance from the crib had him setting the cup down and quickly approaching.
He looked down to see Kayla shift then look up at him with sleepy blue eyes.
"Papa." she grinned.
"Hey there lil'bug." he smiled as he reached down to pick her up and pull her close, fighting back his tears.
She snuggled her head on his shoulder, her thumb sneaking into her mouth just as a nurse stepped into the room.
"Well." she smiled. "I was just coming to check on her. I'm glad she's awake. How does she seem?"
"Fine." Nathan smiled. "She recognized me."
"That's a very good sign." the nurse grinned and stepped forward. She gently caressed Kayla's back as she tilted her head to look in her face. "Still sleepy little one?" she crooned. Then stepped back.
"Is it all right that she's still so sleepy?"
"Yes.. she'll be drowsy for a little while longer... until the sedative wears off totally. And I suspect she's probably gonna be hungry soon. Let me see if I can scare up some graham crackers."
"You're welcome." the nurse smiled and slipped from the room.
Nathan returned to his chair, sitting with Kayla on his shoulder and softly began to sing to her. He lifted his head moments later when someone appeared in the doorway.
Upon seeing it was Katie he gave her a smile.
"Hello sir." she said quietly "I just heard about Kenzie..." her voice choked as tears appeared in her eyes."I'm so sorry sir."
"How is she doing?" she asked as she moved further into the room.
"Much better. The doctors say she's going to be all right."
"That's good. Uhm... I stopped by the jail on my way over. Lucas wants to see you."
"I can't just now Katie... Not now. It's too soon. Maybe later."
"I understand sir. Is there anything I and the rest of the crew can do for the both of you?"
"Has Lucas' father been notified?"
"Yes sir. I took care of that before I came here."
"Thank you... There is something else?"
"Uhm.. Lucas' room......" his voice trailed off.
"I'll take care of it Sir."
"Good. I'd do it myself but..."
"I understand, anything else?"
"Yes. Kristin and I would like to ask something of you?"
"I know you don't do it much.. But we'd very much like you to sing at Kenzie's service."
"I'd be honored, sir." Katie said through her tears.
"Thank you." Nathan replied and settled his head on Kayla's.
Just then the little girl opened her eyes. "Kay.." she called.
"Hey there." Katie smiled and knelt beside Nathan's chair. "How's my girl?" she asked as she reached out and brushed her cheek.
Kristin stirred on the cot and opened her eyes, sitting up when she saw Katie.
"Hi Kristin." the younger woman said as she got to her feet. "I'm so very sorry." She added as they shared a hug. "How're you doing?"
"What's the saying, as well as can be expected under the circumstances." she said softly then turned to look at Nathan.
"Is she awake?" Kristin asked as she crossed to him.
"Yah..she's a little dozy right now." he said softly.
She knelt beside the chair and reached out to tenderly stroke her daughter's soft russet hair. At her mother's touch her eyes opened. "Mamma." she said around her thumb.
Kristin smiled and choked back her tears as she said. "Hello angel."
Kayla reached out her arms and she took her from Nathan, hugging her tight, pressing soft kisses to her. "Mamma..hungee." Kayla told her.
Kristin grinned. "Well let's go get you something to eat."
Katie watched her leave then turned to Nathan as he got up. "How is she, really?"
"Oh Katie, you never really get over something like this. I know, I've been through it before. But having Kayla helps."
"And how are you?"
"Surviving. I've been though this once before." he shrugged his shoulders.
"But that doesn't make it any easier to deal with."
"No, no it doesn't, in fact I think it's worse this time. At least Robert had the chance to do all his ‘firsts' first love, first kiss...first... Kenzie never had that chance." he said softly and turned his back.
Kristin returned with a plastic bowl in one hand and Kayla munching happily on a graham cracker.
"Well," Katie smiled "Looks like somebody is happy." as she approached them and upon seeing her juggling both Kayla and the bowl she said. "Why don't you let me hold onto that."
"Thanks." she said and passed the bowl over then cast a worried glance at Nathan who still had his back turned.
"Papa...ook" Kayla said brandishing the soggy cracker in his direction.
Nathan turned immediately and crossed to them. "Whatcha got there lil'bug?" he smiled but Kristin could see the tears still in his eyes. She reached out and laid a hand along his cheek meeting his gaze and sharing silent message.
"Some." Kayla chimed and held the cracker out to him in an indication that she wanted him to eat it.
He chuckled and gently guided the cracker back to her mouth. "You eat it." he told her and she flashed him a grin before munching on it again.
Nathan stepped closer, slipping an arm around Kristin's waist pulling her tightly to his side. Leaning down he rested his cheek against the top of Kayla's head. "My precious girl." he whispered softly. She bent her head to rest her forehead against his.
After a moment Katie set the bowl of graham crackers down on the small table behind her then cleared her throat.
"Well, I'm going to go now." she said quietly.
Both Nathan and Kristin lifted their heads.
"Thanks Katie, for everything." Kristin said and reached out to take her hand.
Katie gave it a friendly squeeze then said "Don't mention it. And sir," she added, turning her eyes to Nathan. "I'll have that matter taken care of before you go home tomorrow."
"Well, good night then." She finished and slipped quietly from the room.
Once Katie had gone Kristin turned her head to look at Nathan. "What matter?"
"Oh." was her only reply.
"Mamma...more." Kayla chirped.
"I'll get them." Nathan smiled and crossed to where Katie had left the bowl. He picked one out and moved back holding it out in front of him. She immediately took it and began chewing on it.
"That good?" he chuckled and leaned forward to press a kiss to her forehead. "Kris, "he frowned "I think she's running a bit of a fever."
"I think it's just because she's getting another tooth..." Kristin began as Dr. Hayes stepped into the room.
"Well. I can see she's doing much better." he smiled.
"Yes." she nodded. "But she is running just the slightest of a temperature. She's getting another tooth."
"Well let's rule that out, shall we." He smiled.
"Everything looks fine. Her temperature would appear to stem from her teething. But I'll have the nurses keep a watch on it tonight and you can take her home tomorrow."
"You're welcome and try and get some rest, both of you. Let the nurses keep an eye on her tonight."
"We will. Thank you Dr. Hayes." Nathan said and shook the man's hand.
Nathan sat in the chair and quietly watched Kayla and Kristin playing on the cot and a soft smile crossed his features. Grief for Kenzie was still prominent.. But as long as he had Kristin and Kayla he would survive.
As he watched Kayla reached up with a chubby fist and rubbed at her eyes.
"I think somebody is sleepy." Nathan said softly.
"I think so too." Kristin smiled.
The baby crawled closer to her mother and pulled herself up, one hand tugging on the front of Kristin's blouse. "Mamma."
Although the twins had been weaned for several months now, Kayla still had the habit of wanting to be nursed when she was very tired or not feeling well. Knowing they both needed the closeness tonight Kristin settled back on the cot and opened her blouse then the front clasp of her bra. Pulling her daughter close, the baby latched on and began to suckle.
Nathan watched them for a moment with a tender smile then got up and moved to sit beside them, slipping and arm around Kristin's shoulder and pulling her close to his side. Tilting his head he rested it against hers then lifted his free hand to lay it gently on top of the little girl's head, eyes watching her intently until she fell asleep.
The cot the hospital provided wasn't much bigger than a bunk on the old seaQuest but they managed to snuggle together on the small bed and try to sleep.
Kristin tucked her head into the warm curve of his neck and shoulder and Nathan pulled her tight to him.
After a moment he felt the warm wetness of her tears against his skin and heard her soft sobs.
"Oh, God, Nathan.. I miss him so much. He was such a little life.. such a sweet soul and we've lost him."
"I know." he whispered softly, his own tears starting.
"I don't know how I can go on. It feels like there's this big hole in my heart and I don't know what to do." She sobbed.
"I know, Babe... I know... I feel it too. You never truly get over the loss of a child, you never forget and that empty space in your heart never goes away but I do promise the pain and the loss will get better." Cupping her face between his palms he gently tilted her face up so he could meet her gaze. He saw his own grief and loss mirrored in the depths of her teary sable eyes. "And as long as I have you and Kayla I will survive. If I lost the both of you too.. I wouldn't want to go on. We'll get through this Baby... As long as we're together, we'll get through this." He finished in a soft whisper and brushed gentle kiss to her lips.
Then gently pressing her head back to his shoulder, he said. "Sleep now."
He lay there listening to her breathing until its cadence told him she was finally asleep.
Pulling her more tightly against him, Nathan gently kissed her temple "I love you so much." he said softly. "I don't think you'll ever know how much. I could survive anything but losing you."
The nurse stepped quietly into the room and cast a quick glance at the sleeping couple before moving silently to the crib. She smiled when she looked down and saw that Kayla was awake.
"Well hello there little one. You should be sleeping."
Kayla pulled herself up, and began bouncing on her toes. "Up... Up." she cooed.
The nurse chuckled lightly. "You're going to wake up your mom and dad." she said softly and reached down to pick the child up. As she turned around she saw that Nathan was awake.
"Mr. Bridger." the nurse said softly. "I didn't want her to wake you."
"That's okay." he whispered so as not to wake Kristin... "I was already awake."
Gently extricating himself from Kristin he got up from the cot and pulled the blanket back around her before crossing to the nurse. Immediately upon seeing him Kayla chimed "Papa.." and held out her arms.
Nathan chuckled and took her from the nurse pulling her close. "You should be sleeping lil bug" he whispered as he pressed a kiss to her forehead. "Let's go for a walk before we wake mommy."
Quietly he carried her out into the hallway walking with her until she fell asleep again. He settled her gently in the crib, brushing a hand tenderly over her head before moving back to the cot and climbing back in beside Kristin. She instinctively rolled toward him, snuggling against his body.
Nathan smiled and pulled her tight against, brushing a quick kiss to her temple then closed his eyes and joined her in dreams.
Early the next morning Nathan was returning to Kayla's room with coffee for himself and Kristin when he saw Bill and Janet step off the elevator.
"Nathan," Bill said softly as he and Janet moved towards him. "I just heard. God, I'm so sorry."
"Where's Kristin?" Janet asked.
"In with Kayla. We're waiting for Dr. Hayes to release her."
"Is there anything we can do?" Janet asked softly.
"Katie is taking care of... Lucas' stuff but..." Nathan began
"There is still... Kenzie"
"What can I do."
"His stuff needs to be... I... I don't want Kristin to have to deal with packing all that up...it's going to be hard enough with the arrangements."
"Would you like Bill and I to take care of that for you. We'll pack it up.. Put it in storage."
"I'd appreciate it." Nathan said quietly.
"It's the least we can do." Janet replied and gave him a comforting hug. "Now, I'm going to see how Kristin is doing." she added and moved away.
Once Janet had gone Bill turned to Nathan. "How are you doing?"
"As well as can be expected Bill."
"Well... take all the time you need Nathan. The seaQuest will still be there whenever you are ready to come back."
"It's the least I could do Nathan." Noyce said quietly.
Three days later, on a bright and sunny morning, family and friends gathered together at the cemetery to say goodbye to little MacKenzie Bridger.
Cyndi Westphalen stood at the back of the assembled mourners holding her little sister in her arms, her eyes riveted on Nathan and her mother who sat on the front row. She knew her mother had tried to be strong today but the moment they'd approached and had seen that tiny rose draped coffin she'd completely lost her composure, collapsing against Nathan.
Cyndi could tell that Nathan was trying to be strong for her mother and not fall apart himself and was barely succeeding in the attempt. With a sigh, she pressed her tear wet cheek to her little sister's soft hair "Ah Kay..." she whispered.
The little girl giggled softly and wrapped her arms around her sister's neck. "Down... Cee... down."
"Not right now baby." Cyndi crooned softly... "Look..." she pointed. "Aunt Katie is going to sing."
Katherine Hitchcock moved silently to stand beside the minister. She nodded to the young woman sitting behind a piano keyboard and took a deep breath as the soft music began.
Fly, fly little wing
Fly beyond imagining
The softest cloud, the whitest dove
Upon the wind of heaven's love
Past the planets and the stars
Leave this lonely world of ours
Escape the sorrow and the pain
And fly again
As Katie's soft soprano filled the air, Cyndi pulled her little sister closer, her tears dampening the little girl's hair as the words touched her. She held Kayla close and her eyes scanned each of the assembled mourners, finally settling on Nathan and her mother. They were holding tightly to each other, clinging together, both sobbing in their grief, Nathan finally losing what little strength he had had left.
Fly, fly precious one
Your endless journey has begun
Take your gentle happiness
Far too beautiful for this
Cross over to the other shore
There is peace forevermore
But hold this mem'ry bittersweet
Until we meet
Katie's voice was full of emotion as she softly sang the song, the words a tender goodbye to the little boy who had touched them all in his all too brief time.
Fly, fly do not fear
Don't waste a breath, don't shed a tear
Your heart is pure, your soul is free
Be on your way, don't wait for me
Above the universe you'll climb
On beyond the hands of time
The moon will rise, the sun will set
But I won't forget
Fly, fly little wing
Fly where only angels sing
Fly away, the time is right
Go now, find the light
As her voice trailed off Cyndi could see that everyone, herself included, was crying. Katie moved quietly back to her seat and there was a moments pause before Kristin got up from her chair. She squeezed Nathan's hand before moving toward where the minister stood. As she reached the end of the row, she stopped and looked toward Cyndi and Mikayla.
Cyndi knelt down to set Kayla on her feet and the little girl toddled to her mother. Kristin picked her up and gave her a quick hug before moving to stand beside the minister. She turned to a spot just behind him where, tied to a pole, was a large bunch of bright red balloons. With a trembling hand Kristin reached out and took the end of the main ribbon that held them in place then at her soft urging Kayla too took ahold of the ribbon and together they pulled.
The helium filled balloons, now free, immediately began to fly... floating higher and higher as the slight breeze caught them.
"Good-bye my son." Kristin choked as she watched the balloons soar far away and bit back a sob as Kayla reached up a tiny hand and waved to the departing colorful array saying a quiet "Bye, Bye".
Kristin turned her eyes to the minister and he gave her a nod and a compassionate smile before turning back to the group. He cleared his throat and spoke quietly. "That concludes our service. The Bridger's would like to thank you all for coming, and request that you return to their home where a light lunch has been prepared."
Holding Kayla tightly, Kristin moved back to where Nathan was now standing in front of his chair. He crossed to them and pulled them both into a tight embrace. They held each other for a long moment then together, turned and approached the coffin. Each of them took a white rose from the casket spray, then Kristin took one for Kayla and gave it to her.
Pressing a kiss to the soft petals, Kristin lay the rose back on the coffin. "Sleep well, my baby." she said in a tearful whisper.
Nathan repeated her action, laying the rose next to hers. He whispered a soft "Goodbye my son." and then stepped back moving close to Kristin's side. Mimicking her parents actions Kayla brushed a sloppy kiss to the rose she held then dropped it onto the casket.
She turned to her mother and asked "Zee gone?"
Kristin choked back her tears and pulled the little girl into a tight hug. "Yes baby." she whispered, meeting Nathan's equally grief stricken gaze over Kayla's head. He moved closer, enclosing them both in an tight embrace. After a long moment he met her gaze. "Let's go home." he said softly and when she nodded he slipped his arm around her waist pulling her tight to his side and walked with her to the car.
Though the beach house was filled near to capacity, the conversations were hushed and quiet.
Janet Noyce stepped out of the kitchen carrying a platter of food and moved to set it with the rest on the near overflowing dining room table. As she was heading back to retrieve another Nathan approached her.
"Jan.. Have you seen Kris?" he asked quietly.
"She said she was going to put Kayla down for a nap. That was about 15 minutes ago."
"Thanks." he replied and brushed a kiss to her cheek before moving toward the master bedroom.
He quietly opened the door and stepped inside. The curtains were drawn and the room was dim. He closed the door and paused a moment while his eyes adjusted to the darkness. His heart clenched at the scene before him. Kristin lay curled on her side on top of the comforter, clothed only in the camisole and slip she had worn beneath her skirt and blouse. Kayla was tucked into the curve of her body, one arm clutched around her bunny, the thumb of the other hand in her mouth. Both appeared to be sleeping soundly.
With a soft tender smile, Nathan moved to the bed and picked up the neatly folded colorful blanket from the foot. Unfolding it he covered them both, tucking it in around them then leaned down to brush a kiss to Kristin's cheek. Quietly he headed back to the door and slipped from the room.
Seeing him move from the bedroom back to the living room, Katie approached.
"Is everything all right, Sir?"
"Yes, they're both sleeping." he told her quietly. Katie nodded then said.
"Are you all right?"
"I'll be fine."
"You don't look fine."
"What can I say." he began softly. "Yes, I'm upset, grief-stricken, furious. All the things I'm supposed to be because my son is dead. But I have to be strong... strong for Kristin.. For Mikayla."
"Sir, you and I both know that Kristin doesn't expect that of you... none of us do. I know I've never been through this before so I'm not one to give advice. But it seems to me that both you and Kristin have to take turns being the strong one."
"I know. I'm just worried about them Katie. Kayla really is too young to understand what is going on so it Kristin I'm more concerned about. I know from past experience that something like this either breaks you... Or... I just don't know how we are going to get through this."
"Sir, if I learned anything that first year on seaQuest.. It was that you or Kristin can accomplish anything you put your minds to... especially when you work together. You'll both get through this I know you will."
Nathan nodded and looked away just as Cyndi approached them. She gave him a soft smile and touched his arm gently.
"Dad, have you eaten anything?"
"No.. Uhm... nothing"
"Come on then. Let's get you something." She said and led him into the kitchen and over to the breakfast nook. "Sit and I'll fix you a plate."
"Cyn.. I can get my own food." he grumbled lightly.
Cyndi chuckled. "I know you can." she said and brushed a kiss to his cheek before heading out of the kitchen.
Katie stepped into the kitchen to find Cyndi at the counter putting away food.
"Cyndi, have you seen Nathan?"
"Not for awhile, no... Is there a problem?"
"No it's just that most of the guests are leaving and I thought he might like to say goodbye."
"He probably would." Cyndi replied and crossed to the door leading out onto the deck. "He's not outside." She said after a quick glance revealed the deck empty.
Together the two women left the kitchen and began a search of the house. After finding him no where Cyndi said. "Maybe he's with Mom."
Stopping at the door to the master bedroom she knocked quietly. When there was no reply she opened it and peered into the dim room. Once her eyes had adjusted to the darkness she found Nathan spooned up behind Kristin, holding both her and Kayla tight to him. All three were asleep.
Cyndi turned her head to look at Katie standing just behind her. "I was worried about them, but I think they are going to be okay just as long as they have each other."
"I think you're right." Katie replied with a smile and stepped back.
Cyndi quietly closed the door and went to see to the guests.
Epilogue- 6 Months Later
"Stop wriggling...." Kristin laughed as she tried to zip up Kayla's sleeper. Minutes later she closed the top snap and pulled the baby up from the bed and into her arms, giving her a quick hug and kiss before setting her on her feet. "Go find Papa."
Kayla giggled and toddled off to find her father. Kristin smiled and followed behind her, watching as the little girl ran down the hall to where Nathan stood in the living room.
He picked her up and began tickling her eliciting a stream of giggles. Kristin grinned and moved to join them just as the doorbell rang. Turning around she moved to answer the door.
Minutes later the house was filled with their friends who had arrived for a night of poker and socializing. Nathan, Bill, Jonathan, Ben, Tim and Miguel settled down to play while Kristin and Janet headed out onto the deck.
"Isn't Katie coming tonight?" Janet asked as they moved to the railing.
"Yes.. But she said she was going to be late."
" Hmm." she nodded then asked "So, have you seen Lucas?"
"No, I just can do it, not yet but Nathan has been to see him."
Nathan reached down to pull Kayla up onto his knee and out of the corner of his eye he saw Bill reach into the pocket of his shirt and pull out a cigar.
"I wouldn't if I were you." He warned as he brushed a kiss to the top of Kayla's head.
No sooner where the words out of his mouth when Kristin and Janet returned to the house. Upon seeing the cigar in Bill's hand, Kristin moved to stand beside him, her hands braced on her hips. Noyce nearly cringed upon being on the receiving end of the infamous ‘Westphalen death glare'.
"You're not actually planning on smoking that around my child, are you?"
"Uhm... nope wouldn't dream of it... Just admiring it."
"Good." she finished and moved away.
"Told you." Nathan muttered with a smile as he moved some poker chips out of reach from Kayla's eager fingers.
Janet smiled and moved up to Bill. "Dummy." she mumbled as she leaned down and kissed his cheek while plucking the cigar from his fingers. Shaking her head she moved to where Kristin was sitting on the sofa.
"I fold." Ben muttered and tossed his cards onto the table. He looked down and found Kayla standing by his chair grinning up at him.
"Beat it, short-stuff." he smiled and gave her a dollar.
Kayla took the dollar with a giggle and bounced up and down excitedly on her toes. "More" she chimed. Ben chuckled and handed her another dollar. She took it then toddled over to the next person in line, Miguel who was equally done in by her seductive charms. When she reached Bill and giggled up at him he chuckled "Quite the heartbreaker this one."
"Just like her mother." Nathan quipped and laughed when Bill too gave her a dollar.
It was sometime later when Kristin looked up from her quiet conversation with Janet and Katie and saw Kayla still by the poker table. But she frowned slightly when she saw the bum of the little girl's sleeper nearly dragging on the ground and she seemed to be having trouble moving.
Getting up from the sofa she crossed to her and reached down to pick her up. "Good Lord." she mumbled when she felt that Kayla was heavier than she should be. Carrying her over to the sofa she lay the child down and began to unfasten her sleeper.
Nathan looked up to the sound of Kristin's laughter. "Kris?" he questioned and rose from his chair crossing quickly to her side.
Kristin was so seized with helpless laughter that she could only point. Nathan looked down at his giggling child and saw what Kristin had found so funny. The bottom of the little girl's sleeper was full of coins and bills. This was the money she had received from the men at the poker table and it was obvious that she had been stuffing it down her front and heading back for more. Nathan began to laugh as he leaned down and separated Kayla from her sleeper. He picked her up into his arms, giving her diapered bottom a pat as he pulled her close. "Oh Kay. What am I gonna do with you?" he chuckled "You're as much of a brat as your mother is?" he told her in a near whisper.
Kristin flashed him a mock glare. "And what is that supposed to mean?"
"It means I love you." he chuckled and blew her a kiss then turned back to the child in his arms. "Now Kay.. What are you going to do with all that money?" he asked her with a grin.
Kayla giggled and pressed a tiny hand to each of her father's cheeks. Leaning forward she said. "Buy."
"And what are you going to buy?" he chuckled.
"Baby." she supplied.
Kristin smiled and stepped forward, resting a hand on the little girl's back. "You want a new dolly, sweetheart?" she questioned.
Kayla looked at her mother and shook her head. "No... buy... new...baby... like Zee."
There was a tense silence.as both Kristin and Nathan were too surprised to reply. Finally Kristin forced back the lump in her throat as she moved to stand in front of Nathan so that Kayla was between them. She leaned down to rest her cheek on the top of her head.
"We'll see what we can do, baby." she whispered and felt Nathan tilt his head to lay it against hers.
Everyone had gone, and the house was once again quiet. Kristin took one last look at her sleeping daughter before turning away from the crib and crossing to the door. She turned out the light and left the door open as she moved across the hall to the master bedroom.
Nathan was already in bed as she stepped into the room.
"She asleep?" he questioned softly, his eyes following her as she slipped off her robe.
"Yes, finally." Kristin told him with a hint of a smile as she lay it on a nearby chair before moving around to her side of the bed.
As she slid in beside him, Nathan closed his book and turned off the light plunging the room into moon-lit darkness.
She slid across the bed, rolling into his arms and he pulled her tight to him. She sighed as she lay her head on his chest.
"You okay, Babe?" he whispered, his fingers combing through the silken strands of her hair in a tender caress.
"I will be. I've just been thinking" she told him, fingertips tracing lazy, idle patterns on his bare chest.
"About what Kay said?"
She lifted her head to look into his eyes. Reaching out she pressed a hand to his cheek. "Nathan. I've actually been thinking about this for awhile now. Kayla just brought the issue to the fore-front. These last six months haven't been easy, for either of us, and if they've taught me anything it's that life goes on despite our ‘broken hearts' and if he were able, our sweet boy wouldn't want us to stop living... in any way or form. And part of living is ‘giving life while we are still able. I don't know if I can get pregnant again but I want to try while there is still a chance but only if it's what you want."
Nathan smiled softly and tenderly took her face between his palms. "I want."
"I'm sure." he whispered and gently pulled her until she was stretched out over him. Threading his fingers through her hair, he pushed the silken strands away from her face and looked deep into her eyes. "And if this happens... great... If not well then we still have Kay."
"Okay." she smiled down into his eyes then lifting her hand she used a long, manicured nail to trace the outline of his lips. "So... Sailor wanna show a lady a good time." she purred.
Nathan smiled up into her whiskey-hued eyes, seeing amusement and desire commingled within their depths.
"It would be my pleasure." he breathed huskily. Bending his elbows he gently pulled her mouth down to his. "I love you." he whispered against her lips before kissing her with fervent passion.
The kiss swiftly escalated, enveloping them with sweet arousal, carrying them both into a sea of ecstasy.