Rating: NC-17 (for lots of things)
Summary: Starts with the infamous scene with the OPT Pregnancy Test. Spins off from there into its own little universe.
Disclaimer: CBS, P&G, Telenext et. al. owns these characters; I'm just taking them off the shelf and playing with them for a while.
WARNING: I'm told this chapter is monster intense. If you are at all sensitive to violence, stay away. I'M NOT KIDDING. Please note that any medical errors are my own.
If they hadn't been in shock, things might have gone differently, Olivia remembered thinking when it was over and done. But they'd been far too startled by the sudden reappearance of a man all but a few of them had been certain was dead and gone. Most people reacted with shock; some with terror and not a little horror. After all, Edmund Winslow was not a person you wanted with a gun in his hand — especially when it was pointed at you. And in that moment of disbelief, their chance was lost.
"I'm sorry," Edmund said, holding his gun out to the side as if he were about to lay it down. It was a Walther PPK, Olivia noted; the same gun James Bond used, because Edmund would, of course, use the same gun as his favorite fictional superspy. He probably has a rented Aston Martin sitting outside, Olivia thought. The sad bastard does at least have some style.
"Were you concerned that I might use this?" Edmund asked as he snapped the gun around, the barrel of it trailing over the crowd. His blue-green eyes narrowed, boring into them with a visceral hate. "I'd prefer not to, enjoyable as it might be. But I'll be needing something from you first."
Olivia shifted her footing, her body blocking Natalia's as best she could. "Stay behind me," she whispered, feeling Natalia's fingers thread through hers, Natalia's other hand lifting to rest against her hip. "Stay as still as you can, but find Emma." Then her attention was focused back on Edmund, who had advanced forward a few steps, his back to the support rail that held up the overhang of the Bauer porch. From that angle, it would be virtually impossible for anyone to creep behind him, Olivia noted. The son of a bitch always found a way to make the most of his situation, no matter how impossible it seemed.
"One of you tried to kill me," Edmund said, his face twisting in distaste. "Which isn't entirely true, of course. One of you killed someone who looked like me, because as you can see, I'm alive and well despite your best efforts. And while I was inclined to not take the murder of my lookalike personally, I am upset that something of mine was taken in the process. Some diamonds which, as it turns out, have belonged to my family for generations. They're mine, and I want them back."
Out of the corner of her eye, Olivia saw the heroes in the crowd gathering themselves. Mallet was inching his way forward to her right, Josh and Shayne gearing up to her left. How many bullets? she thought, doing the math. He'd have been smarter to have a Glock, that had a larger mag. A Walther had, at most, seven or eight rounds. That limited him; he'd only be able to take out a few people before the crowd rushed him. If the crowd rushed him. She wondered just how many people had the balls to go after him if it came to that. Herself, Josh and Shayne, Mallet, probably Phillip. Reva would be charging him with a badminton racquet if she were here, but of course Reva was at Cross Creek, playing the martyr as only she could. Scratch that gratitude that Reva was a no show, she thought in the general direction of Natalia's God. But if You could find a way to get my family out of this in one piece, I might even start believing in You.
"So which of you was it?" Edmund ran a hand through his shock of thick gray hair, a wounded look on his face, and in an instant Olivia knew that he had taken the murder of his double quite personally, no matter what he might say otherwise. "Which of you hated me so much that you had to smash my skull?" He aimed the gun straight at Josh and said, "Was it you, Mr. Lewis? Decided to end it once and for all?" He looked over at Beth, his face filled with pain. "Or you, my darling Beth? Did you want to erase your memory of our life together by eradicating me from this earth?"
"Edmund," Beth said, her voice choked with emotion. She held her hands out in supplication. "Please. Don't do this."
"Don't do what?" Edmund asked. "Insist that what was stolen from me be returned? Demand retribution for the sin of murder which hangs over this gathering? Don't think I don't know how much you all rejoiced when you thought I was dead." He shifted, and Olivia felt his eyes on her, the gun aimed straight at her chest. "I know you rejoiced, Olivia. Don't lie and say you didn't."
Olivia felt Natalia surge forward, moving as if to protect her. She planted her feet, her free arm coming around to hold Natalia in place behind her. Her palm was sweating, and she felt Natalia's fingers tighten against hers, her thumb stroke the back of Olivia's hand. Willing her voice steady, she rasped, "Edmund, I haven't given a damn about you one way or another for longer than I can remember."
He gave her a sardonic smile, and for a moment she was reminded of his brother, the man who she had once dreamed of marrying. "The unvarnished truth to the very last," he said with a soft laugh. "How I have missed you, my dear Olivia."
Fear gripped Olivia as he straightened his arm, and she heard Natalia gasp out "No!" behind her. But before Edmund could decide whether to fire, he was interrupted by the clatter of young feet. "I swear to God, he totally hit on me," Daisy was saying, her attention on Ashlee as the two of them entered the backyard. Edmund's attention shifted, and in that moment Olivia saw Mallet start to run forward. Before he could get very far, Edmund lunged to the side, grasping Daisy's arm and pulling her against him. He jammed the gun against her temple, his free arm locking around her neck while she cried out in shock. Her cries were echoed by familiar voices — Marina, Billy, James — all gasping their horror as the young girl became Edmund's primary bargaining chip.
"Not so fast, Officer Mallet," Edmund sneered, his attention focusing on the detective. "Unless you want this pretty young one —" He traced a fingertip over one of Daisy's unruly curls. "This very pretty young one, I should say, to die a very unpleasant death."
"Edmund," Shayne said, his hands stretched out in front of him. "Edmund, look. You have every right to be angry at some of us. But don't do this to her."
"Why not?" Edmund asked. "We of all people know that it's the innocent who are slain, while the guilty live on. Don't we, Shayne?"
"She's my niece," Shayne said, his voice ragged. "Please, Edmund. You want to take this out on someone, take it out on me."
Edmund shifted his gaze to look down at Daisy. "More Reva spawn?" he said in a disbelieving voice. "I swear, this entire town is infested with her whelps." He turned his gaze on Daisy, pressing the muzzle of the gun harder into the young woman's temple. "Sad, isn't it? That you might die for the sins of your family?"
"Fuck off," Daisy snapped, aiming an elbow at Edmund's solar plexus.
He pivoted, avoiding the blow, and jerked Daisy's head around. "Ah yes, definitely one of hers." Turning to face the crowd, he said, "I don't believe you're bad people, not really." His eyes trailed back over Olivia, and he smirked. "Well, most of you. The rest are just narrowminded and provincial. But if any of you has my diamonds, then I suggest you surrender them to me. Now."
Every person in the yard stood frozen in that instant, waiting. The silence stretched, the air thick with tension and fear. Even if one of us had them, it wouldn't be enough, Olivia thought, gripping Natalia's hand tighter. At this point, he's liable to start shooting just for the fun of it.
She drew in a breath, then another, trying to think past her fear of the nine millimeter in Edmund's hand and what he might be provoked to do just to demonstrate that the onetime pretender to the throne of San Cristobel was still a force to be reckoned with and not the sad, deluded man she knew him to be. Don't, she thought, her soul crying out to whatever force might be listening. Don't let him do what I know is coming next.
Edmund shifted to his right, leaving the relative safety of the porch. He moved onto the path that led to the front of the yard, dragging Daisy with him. "Whichever of you has my diamonds, be warned," he said. "There will be no peace in Springfield until I have what is mine."
"Edmund, please," Shayne pleaded. "There has to be another way."
"But somehow there never is," Edmund replied, and Olivia could almost hear the sorrow in his voice, the pain of that lonely, despairing man who was forever denied what he felt he deserved. She felt a stab of pity for him, but it faded quickly, turning to hatred as he edged backwards, Daisy still locked in his grip. Olivia saw his wrist flex, the gun swinging in the crowd's direction, and she pivoted, pushing Natalia backwards as the report of the first bullet hit her ears. There was a second, and a third, and all Olivia could do was try to cover Natalia's body with her own while chaos broke out all around them.
They slammed against the picnic table, and Olivia heard Natalia let out a startled breath at the impact. Catching Natalia against her, she pulled her to her feet as pandemonium broke out around them. People were clutching together, panicked and crying, some searching desperately to find their loved ones. She could hear Daisy screaming obscenities as she was dragged away, others yelling as they ran after her and Edmund, still more shouting that someone should call 911. Olivia felt her senses narrow, her hand clutching at Natalia as she turned, scanning the crowd for Emma. She had last seen her with Bill and Lizzie by the children's games, which meant their baby was near the woods. Emma was a smart girl, Olivia reminded herself. She would know to hide in the trees, wouldn't she?
Of course she would, she thought, her grip on Natalia's arm tightening. Our baby would know better than to put herself in danger, and besides, Phillip was watching over her, and both he and Bill would protect her with their lives.
"Olivia?" Natalia's fingers clutched at Olivia's sleeve, the grip loosening as her hand slid down Olivia's arm. There was a question in her voice.
Olivia turned, hearing the note of uncertainty. "Do you see her?" she asked, the last word trailing away as she saw the look on Natalia's face. Her eyes were wide, her face pale, and there was a tiny splash of blood at the corner of her mouth.
That doesn't belong there, Olivia heard herself think. It almost felt like someone else was thinking it, someone else who was watching, as if from a distance, as Natalia's hand clutched weakly at Olivia's elbow. She started to lift her hand to press against Natalia's back, to steady her, because Natalia was frightened, that had to be it, it couldn't be that —
Natalia's legs gave out from underneath her and she dropped, plunging downward like she had simply decided to sit down, very abruptly, on the slightly damp grass. She kept falling, her arms limp at her sides, and Olivia just managed to get a hand behind her skull and prevent it from striking the turf.
"Sweetheart?" Olivia said, cradling Natalia's head in her arms. "Natalia?"
Natalia's eyes went wide, as if she were surprised to find herself staring at the leaden sky. The question in her voice was even more uncertain as she whispered, "Olivia?" She took a ragged breath, her face tensing as she inhaled. "I can't —"
That was when Olivia saw the blood staining the cotton of Natalia's turquoise shirt. This can't be happening, she thought, shock freezing the blood in her veins. No. Please no.
There was a flurry of movement, and then Rick came lumbering toward them, dropping to his knees on Natalia's right side. He pressed one hand to Natalia's neck, the other peeling the bloodstained shirt away from her abdomen. Natalia let out a wail, a sudden cascade of tears pouring down her cheeks as Rick's hands ran over her abdomen and across her ribs.
"Sweetheart?" Olivia looked into Natalia's eyes, brushing at Natalia's cheeks with her fingers. She found Natalia's left hand, clutching it to her chest, their fingers twining together. "It's okay. Dr. Rick's here and he's going to stop hurting you and maybe, maybe we can even get him to stop hitting on you because God knows if he hasn't gotten it through his thick head yet that you're taken then I'll have lost all confidence in him and —"
"Remy! Blake!" Rick bellowed.
There was fear in Natalia's eyes, Olivia could see it, but what was worse was the pain radiating from Natalia's gaze. It crawled across Olivia's skin like a swarm of bugs, and she resisted the urge to claw at herself, instead continuing to cling tightly to Natalia's hand as person after person arrived: Remy, off to get his paramedic's kit from his car, then Blake, tasked to get Rick's medical bag from under the kitchen counter. Lillian ran up, her hair disheveled, and a moment later Mel was beside her, both of them kneeling beside Rick and listening intently as he rattled off a long list of medical jargon that sounded like a bunch of dialogue from ER.
"I think she's got a tension pneumothorax," Rick said. "We need to get a chest tube in place, secure her airway, and then —"
The cry echoed across the yard, a startled murmur erupting from the pockets of guests. They all seemed to step back as one, collectively clearing the way for Emma, who was pounding across the grass, eyes wide, hair streaming behind her.
Natalia clutched at Olivia's hand, whispering, "Don't let our baby see me like this."
Olivia nodded at Natalia, tears brimming in her eyes, and then turned, drawing breath to call out for Phillip. Before she could, she saw him break away from Beth and Mindy, his long stride carrying him forward on an intersecting path toward Emma. He scooped their daughter up in his arms, pulling her head into his shoulder and turning swiftly so that Natalia would be blocked from her view.
"Her daddy's got her," Olivia said as she turned back to Natalia. It was strange to say such a thing without a hint of panic, it was incredibly strange, and yet it felt right, and miraculously, Natalia smiled, a beaming, full-dimpled smile.
"I love her." She tilted her head, the look in her eyes intensifying as, in a thick, rasping voice, she added, "And I love Rafe. They need to hear it."
"They will hear it," Olivia insisted. "They'll hear it when you see them. You're in the hands of the most competent medical professionals Springfield has to offer, which isn't saying much, I realize, but somehow they manage." There were tears pouring down her cheeks, and they dripped down to her chin, clogging her throat and spilling into her mouth. She wiped at them with the back of her hand, taking a ragged breath. "Stop saying goodbye."
"Okay, we've got to roll her," Rick said, his voice sounding very far away. "Olivia, help us out and hold her neck steady, will you?"
Olivia could barely process what he was saying, so strong was the intensity of Natalia's gaze, but somehow her free hand was moving to cup the back of Natalia's neck, anchoring her while Rick and Mel pushed Natalia up on her side, pulling the back of her shirt up. "Dammit, it's still in there!" Rick exclaimed, but all Olivia heard was the strangled scream Natalia let out as they moved her and the second, more excruciating one that she choked out when they eased her flat once again.
"You're okay," Olivia murmured, pressing Natalia's hand to her lips. "You're okay, baby. Just hold on."
"I love you," Natalia whispered, but there was barely any sound coming out of her mouth. Blood frothed at her lips as she gasped in a breath. "I love you," she repeated, and this time it was silent, but Olivia could hear it as clearly as if Natalia had shouted it from the rooftops, so strong was the love radiating from her eyes. The force of it was like a living thing, driving into Olivia and stealing the breath from her lungs, and all she could do in the face of it was hold on to Natalia's gaze, feeling Natalia's fingers clutch at her with what little strength they had. Olivia willed everything ounce of love she had into her own eyes, unwilling to let Natalia see anything but that should this be —
No, something inside her screamed. No no no no no.
"Okay, we gotta go," Rick said as Blake arrived with his medical bag. "Glove up, counselor."
"Rick," Mel said as Lillian dug frantically through the bag, holding out a pair of gloves to each of them. "It's been so long."
"Don't think, just do," Rick snapped.
Olivia saw it all out of the corner of her eye, heard the words peripherally as she watched the color fade from Natalia's face, the light start to dim from her eyes. She was slipping away, fading so unbelievably fast, and Olivia could do nothing except whisper words to her like a mantra. I love you. Hold on for me and Emma. Please don't leave me.
Natalia looked up at her, the light in her brown eyes flickering as her lips curved in the gentlest of smiles. She pressed her arm upward, her hand finding and cupping Olivia's cheek. "I love you," she mouthed one last time, and then her hand dropped, going limp, and Olivia caught at it, clutching the fingers tight between her own, unwilling to acknowledge to herself how cold they felt. Natalia's eyes fell shut, her face going slack as her head lolled sideways.
"Baby?" Olivia whispered, pressing her free hand over Natalia's forehead, her fingers threading through that thick dark hair. "Natalia?"
There was nothing, not even a flicker of a response, just the sound of Rick and Mel murmuring to each other and Lillian as they huddled over Natalia's side. Olivia felt Josh crouch behind her, heard him murmur, "Olivia, step back and let them work." She felt his arm slide around her waist.
"I love you," she whispered, clutching Natalia's hand to her lips. "I love you so much."
Remy came running up with his kit, the paramedics hot on his heels. "About time you got here," Rick said, shifting around so that he was kneeling behind Natalia's head. "I need an intubation tray now, and let's get the defibrillator charging."
"Olivia," Josh repeated in her ear. "Come on, let Rick take care of her."
"No," Olivia said, feeling something crack inside her when she saw one of the paramedics crouch beside Rick, helping him to prepare the long tube that they were about to force down Natalia's throat. Like Gus, she thought. Like me.
"This can't be..." She whispered, gasping for air. "I can't let her..."
"Olivia," Josh repeated, tugging her backwards.
"No," she moaned, fighting against his embrace. "No, Natalia, I love you."
Josh kept pulling her away, Natalia's hand slipping out of her grasp as she watched Rick fit the tube into place, the paramedic fitting a bag to it as soon as he was done, forcing air into it, breathing for Natalia because she couldn't breathe on her own, because she was —
Dying, her mind supplied, the word like a lash against her soul.
Mel had the stethoscope pressed to Natalia's heart. She ripped it out of her ears and looked up at Rick. "I've lost her heartbeat."
"Dammit," Rick muttered sliding around to take the stethoscope from Mel. He slipped it into his ears, running it over Natalia's chest while he listened intently. "Okay, defib, charge to 200."
Olivia watched them tear the remnants of Natalia's blood soaked shirt open, pressing the paddles against her chest and side. The machine beeped as it reached its full charge, and then it was sending its jolt through Natalia's body, trying to force her heart into functioning again. With every second that passed, Olivia felt her own heart move closer to shattering.
"Please don't leave me," she whispered, feeling her whole body shaking in Josh's grip. "Natalia, please."
They hit Natalia with a second jolt, and this time it must have worked because Rick said, "Okay, we've got her back. Let's go." Then they were lifting Natalia onto the gurney, one of the paramedics threading an IV into her hand while the other continued to compress the bag that was doing the breathing for her, and there was still blood, despite the gauze bandages and the blankets they were covering her with. The blood was everywhere, on the grass, on Rick's jeans, on Olivia's hands, and she just wanted it to be gone, for the clock to turn back and her life to be hers again because this couldn't be happening, the God Natalia loved couldn't possibly be cruel enough to take her away via some fucked up cosmic game of roulette and —
"No," she screamed, a surge of strength running through her limbs. She broke into a thrashing, desperate battle against Josh's restraining arms. "Natalia!"
Rick looked over at her, worry etched into his face, and he stepped away from Natalia long enough to crouch in front of Olivia. He caught at her wrist, clasping it between his fingers for a moment, then whipped his stethoscope around, pressing it over her heart.
"You need to calm down, Olivia," he said after a moment. "I'm going to have Lillian give you something, okay?"
"No," she shouted, but Rick was up and moving again, pausing to speak to Lillian briefly before jogging after the gurney that was carrying Natalia away from her. "I need to go with her!"
"Olivia." Josh shifted around so that he was crouched in front of her, his hands never letting go of her shoulders. "Olivia! Listen to me."
"No, Josh," she whimpered, trying to break away from him. "I can't leave her alone, she can't be alone if she —" No, she thought. Don't even think it.
Josh caught her face between his hands, forcing her to look at him. "Listen to me. Olivia, you can't do her any good, or Emma any good, if you end up in the ICU because of your heart."
She felt herself shaking, her chest aching as she struggled for breath. He's right, she thought, despair surging through her veins. I can't take much more of this.
"Natalia," she whispered. "Jesus, Josh, she was in so much pain."
"I know," he said, his eyes full of compassion as he stroked her cheek with his thumb. "I know, Olivia. Just, rest for a little while, okay? Just a little while, and then we'll get you to the hospital, and you'll be strong enough to be there with her for whatever she needs. All right?"
She stared at him for a moment, gasping in a sobbing breath while her mind processed whether it would be safe to trust him. If not him, who? she thought, forcing herself to whisper, "Just a little while."
"Just a little while," Josh confirmed, his eyes grave. He shifted his gaze up and to the side, giving a brief nod, and a moment later, Olivia felt Lillian at her shoulder, lifting her sleeve. She felt the familiar sting of the needle, and then a calming lassitude started to seep its way through her as she felt strong arms lifting her up. Then she was being carried through the Bauer house and up a flight of steps, worried voices floating all around her — Josh, Lillian, Blake, Michelle — and all the while, tears streamed down her face, tears that she couldn't even wipe away, they just kept falling on and on.
"Natalia," she whispered one last time.
And then she drifted away.