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Thread: Unforgettable (Sheridan/Luis, Gwen/Hank)

  1. #1
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    Oct 2000
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    Post Unforgettable (Sheridan/Luis, Gwen/Hank)

    The story that started it all.

    Hope you guys enjoy the repost. Like my other older fics, I'll get as much of this one up as I can when I can until I find the time to do more (how'd you like that mouthful? lol).



    Chapter One:







    "Doctor! Doctor! Come quickly! She's waking up! The patient's waking up!"

    The nurse's words made Dr. Nick Taylor's heart pound. It couldn't be. The patient in question, a Jane Doe the staff affectionately called Jenny, had been comatose for years. Unresponsive since the night the man first brought her in over three years ago. The night of the worst storm their small town had ever seen.

    But it was possible, he thought as he found himself staring into two of the most gorgeous blue eyes he'd ever seen. Jenny was very much awake. And very confused. He stared at her dumbly as she asked, "Where am I?"

    Nurse Molly Jenkins answered her question when it became apparent that he wasn't going to. "You're in a small town just an hour's way outside of Boston, sweetie. How are you feeling?"

    She raised a hand to tuck a strand of her shoulder-length blond hair behind her ear and said, "Okay, I guess. Just a little tired, though." She looked down at the hospital gown she was wearing and met his eyes again. She smiled slightly at his inability to form two words in her presence. He felt his cheeks redden with embarrassment as he realized he was standing there, mouth hanging open like a fool. And that fact amused her. This woman he had tended and cared for all this time. "Why am I wearing this? Am I in a hospital?"

    Molly looked to him before answering. "Yes, dear. You're in a hospital. Do you remember what happened?" They waited with baited breath as she furrowed her brow in concentration and grew agitated in a matter of seconds.

    "The snow. It was blinding. I told him we shouldn't have been out in such conditions. But he insisted. Said it was very important I see something. He wouldn't tell me what. The car hit an ice patch on the road. Spun out of control. I remember screaming for someone. Oh, I can't remember the name."

    Molly moved to the side of the bed and laid a comforting hand on the young woman's arm. "Shhh. It's okay. Don't get upset. You're probably just a little groggy still."

    "Groggy?" she questioned, searching Molly's kind brown eyes. "Why would I be groggy?" Receiving no answer from her, she turned to him and said, her voice rising in panic, "What's going on here? Why are you both looking at me like that? Answer me. Someone tell me what's going on."

    Finally, he found the words and said, "Calm down, Ms..." He looked to her to supply a name. He watched, horrified as tears welled up in her beautiful eyes and spilled onto her cheeks. "What's wrong with me? I can't remember my name. Who am I? Help me. Please."

    She became frantic. All Molly's efforts to calm her were in vain. Especially after they could offer no answers to her questions. The realization that she didn't know anyone in the entire world frightened her so. He couldn't think of anything short of sedating her. He wouldn't do that. Couldn't. It had taken her far too long to wake up already.

    He went to her bedside and pulled her into his arms, desperate to calm her fears. And stop her tears. Molly looked on in sympathy. "Call him. Now. Tell him she's woken up."

    He rubbed soothing circles on her back as he whispered to her softly. Finally, she calmed somewhat. Exhaustion crept over her pretty features and he watched as she slipped into a fitfull sleep.

    A shadow fell upon him, and he turned his eyes to the doorway. Standing there with a look of shock on his weathered face was the man that had carried her through this hospital's doors over three years ago. The man who visited her every week without fail. He looked one last time at her beautiful face. Dreams of a past she didn't remember haunted her. Then he moved to join the man watching them in concern.

    "Martin."




    Chapter Two:







    He sighed deeply. Today was the day. The day he'd lost her. Three years ago the light had diminished in his life when she plunged to her icy death. He closed his eyes against that image. He refused to think of her that way. In his mind's eye, he pictured her brilliant smile that could light up any room. He could deal better this way.

    He turned the car's engine off as he pulled up at the cemetary. He felt a jolt of surprise at the sight of a familiar vehicle. Grabbing the bouquet of roses from the passenger seat, he got out of the car and made his way to her final resting place.

    "Eve," he said quietly, "are you okay?" Eve rose from her knees abruptly. She tried without success to hide her tears, but the tracks were still visible. "Luis." she said in surprise. "What are you doing here, Eve?"

    "I came to pay my respects to Sheridan, Luis. It's been three years since the accident. I brought her some flowers." He looked down to the ground at his feet and said, "I know. I still remember that phone call like it was yesterday, though. It's real good of you to bring her some flowers. She really liked you, you know." He raised his head to meet her eyes and in them he saw kindness and empathy. "I liked her, too," she said softly as she placed a consoling hand on his arm. She hugged him. Then left him there. Alone.

    He knelt by her grave and poured his heart out to her. Something he did all the time. He always talked to her in his mind. Imagined what she would think or say about everything he did. He missed her so much.

    Finally, he said goodbye. And laid the flowers beside her stone. He didn't see the flowers Eve had mentioned. He found them resting on Julian's grave. Maybe she made a mistake, he thought. Still, he didn't remove the flowers. They stay where Eve left them. Sheridan wouldn't mind. She'd want him to leave them, he thought. She wouldn't begrudge her brother this one small kindness. With that thought, he rose to his feet and turned to go. With one last whisper of "Goodbye, Mi amor."

    He drove in silence to the Crane Mansion. His throat constricted with tears as he drove past the cottage. The place of so many of their battles. So many of their happy memories, too. He pushed away the tears when he parked the car near the stables and got out of the car.

    He raised a hand in greeting to Theresa who leaned on the fence gazing out at the picture in front of her. He hugged her close and offered her a shaky smile. "I love you, Luis," she breathed as she reached up to wipe away the lone tear slipping down his cheek. He pulled her to him again and hugged her tighter. He didn't know what he'd do without his family. "I love you, too, sis. Hey, let's quit this crying. Sheridan wouldn't want this. I know it." They turned back to the scene in front of them.

    Her blond hair streamed behind her as she rode the pony. Her giggles were audible even from this distance. He felt a smile come over his face as he watched her. He waved back at Ivy. He saw her point him out, and a minute later, she was waving wildly, a huge grin on her adorable face, the familiar blue eyes sparkling.

    This is my reason. My reason for going on. My reason for living, he thought as he held her in his arms moments later. He breathed in the sweet scent of her hair. This little girl in his arms was the reason the light in his light hadn't diminished completely three years ago. Sheridan lived on through her. His wife lived on through their daughter.




    Chapter Three:





    He gazed out the window with a wistful expression on his face. That could be him. He could have a family now. If only he hadn't been so stupid. Made his choice sooner. Before it was too late. He cringed whenever he remembered that time. No wonder Luis couldn't stand him. He was nothing but an arrogant snob. An arrogant snob stringing two women along.

    The memories haunted him. He could still picture Gwen's face. Still hear her words. "I deserve better than this. For goodness' sake Ethan. We--me and Theresa both--deserve better than this. I've had it. I'm through with you. Make your decision. I don't care anymore." And she walked out of his life. He still saw her in social settings. She was polite to him. Quite the lady. But there was no more warmth in her eyes for him.

    He'd gone to her. Theresa. And gotten the door slammed in his face. He'd waited too long. Cost her too much. She looked at him, and the love in her eyes was tempered with something else. Something he couldn't name. He lost them both in one night. And realized what a fool he had been.

    She left for New York a month later. To follow her dream. The next time he saw her was Luis and Sheridan's wedding. He knew he was only there per his aunt's wishes. Luis couldn't forget the past. With good reason. Her brown eyes were sparkling with laughter as she congratulated the newlyweds and made a toast. The guilt he felt when that light dimmed was too much. He slipped away unnoticed minutes later.

    It couldn't be avoided. Their paths had passed numerous times over the past years. Luis was never impolite to him. For Sheridan's sake. But he was always wary. Always on guard. Daring him to hurt his sister again. He hoped to someday win his respect. Luis had already won his. For making Sheridan so happy. And giving her Ali. But especially for allowing them to be a part of that little girl's life after Sheridan's death.

    Three years ago, they had come to an understanding. Three years ago as they said goodbye to a woman they both adored. And Ethan said goodbye to the only father he had ever known. They came to realization that they weren't as different as they once thought. As they laid to rest two people who had had an enormous impact on both their lives. Ethan didn't expect friendship. But he was honored to have Luis's respect. No matter how grudging. They came to a compromise. Ali was still a part of their lives. She brought them together. And always would.

    And gradually, he was winning Theresa's respect back as well. She was very close to her niece. They shared a special bond. A bond forged because of their loss. He looked forward to their visits. They gave him a welcome respite from his otherwise empty life. Life as the Crane heir was a lonely life. If only he could travel back in time and do it all over again, he thought as he watched them drive away. If only.




    Chapter Four:





    She heard the bells tinkle announcing a new arrival , but she didn't turn around. Julie could get it. She was busy. She grew annoyed when she heard someone clearing their throat. Couldn't they see she was busy? If she ignored them, surely they would go to someone else. Please let them go to someone else. She had so much work to do.

    But they didn't. A throat cleared again, and she heard soft, barely contained laughter. They were getting a kick out of this. Well, she was going to give whoever it was a piece of her mind. With that thought, she whipped around prepared for war. And all her anger and ire fled as she met three pairs of very amused eyes.

    "You look so funny," Ali giggled from her father's arms. A smile spread over her face as she took in her twinkling blue eyes and cute little grin. "Oh, you. How could I be mad at you. Now your daddy here. That's another story. Luis, why did you guys sneak up on me? And Theresa. Why did you let them?"

    Theresa laughed and said, "You know my brother. Nobody's going to change his mind." Except one person, Beth thought as she tucked a loose strand of brown hair behind her ear. "So Luis. Ali. Theresa. What brings you guys by?" "Blueberry muffins!" Ali squealed. "Okay, your wish is my command, Miss Ali. Why don't you guys go find a place to sit, and I'll bring your muffins to you in just a little bit."

    She watched them as they ate the muffins, laughing and talking. Just enjoying themselves. Or so it seemed. To someone who didn't know him, Luis seemed to be perfectly happy. But it was obvious to her and anyone else who had ever loved or cared about him that wasn't true exactly. He was coping. But he missed her so much. His sadness on this the anniversary of her death was plain as day to her. She was glad he had his sister and his adorable little daughter to help him through the tough times.

    She was so focused on the picture in front of her she didn't hear Hank come up behind her. She jumped when he asked, "So. How's he doing?" Glancing back to where Theresa, Ali, and Luis sat, she said, "He's handling it pretty well. Putting up a good front. But he still misses her, Hank. It's finally sunk in just how much he loved, no loves, her. I never thought I'd live to see the day when I would wish Sheridan was here, laughing and having a good time with him. Enjoying their beautiful daughter. It's so sad. She'll never see Ali grow up, have her first boyfriend, get married, have her first baby. They didn't deserve this, Hank. Neither one of them. Why couldn't they be happy?"

    She looked into his brown eyes and saw the same feelings that were threatening to overwhelm her at this moment. "I don't know, Beth. I don't know." She was grateful for his hug. "Thanks, Hank. I really needed that. You're such a good friend to me." She kissed his cheek and left without another word. He smiled at her retreating figure as she climbed the steps to her apartment. Then he joined his friends. Greeted by Ali's squeals of "Uncle Hank!"




    Chapter Five:





    He watched her as she dreamed. Tossing and turning. Never still. It was as if she were running to escape the nightmares. Tears streamed down her face in her slumber. He wondered what tormented her so. Was it memories of the accident? The accident that had brought her into his life.

    He still remembered that night so clearly. Still hear the awful scream of the brakes as the car careened out of control right before his very eyes. Crashing through the guardrail and plummeting into the icy water below. It was a horrifying image. An image forever burned into his memory.

    He didn't have time to think. He just reacted. Dove into the frigid waters. After the sinking car. There were two passengers. The man was dead when he reached the driver's side. He never saw his face. He was thankful he didn't. The memories were bad enough without a face.

    And there was the woman. She was unconscious when he got to her. He pulled her from the car just moments before it sank from sight. He had to use all his rapidly fading strength to keep from getting pulled into the black waters below himself. He didn't know what possessed him to risk his life for this woman. But something within himself shouted it was the right thing to do.

    He watched her restless sleep. What now? She had no family. No loved ones. In the three years since he'd rescued her, no one had come forward. Searched these parts for her. She was simply another Jane Doe in this sleepy little hospital. A staff favorite the nurses wove fanciful romances about. Surely they told him each time he visited her, their "Jenny" was too beautiful to be all alone in this world.

    But they were so wrong, he thought to himself. His wife, the woman he'd been forced to leave behind, was beautiful. And she was alone. Tragedy struck the beautiful ones and loneliness befell them the same as it did ordinary people like him. And like Nurse Molly who poured all her energy the last few years into taking care of the young woman that lay in the hospital bed in Room #3.

    He turned to look into Molly's compassionate brown eyes when he felt her hand on his shoulder. "She's going to need a place to live, Martin. Are you prepared to take her in? You are the one who found her. Just until she lands back on her feet. Gets her bearings. I'm going to miss her. To think, I love her as if she were my own daughter, and she only woke up today. Three years I've taken care of her. Three years."

    He glanced at the young woman now laying with her back turned to them. Could he do it? Could he take her into his home? He didn't know if he could, but he felt he needed to try. "If she's open to the suggestion, yes I'll open my home to her. But only till she's gained her strength, found someplace better. My cabin's in the middle of the woods. She'll be sick of it after a few days, I'm sure. But I'll do it, Molly. You don't have to worry. I'll take care of her."

    She kissed his cheek in thanks and left them alone. Martin didn't know how long he sat there. Minutes, hours. The sound of her voice made him jump in surprise. "You saved me." That was all she said. He could say nothing as he looked deep into her blue eyes. All he was capable of was a brief nod. She offered him a small smile of gratitude.

    His heart ached for her as she whispered in a little girl's voice "Stay with me. Promise you won't leave me. Don't leave me alone." He took her hand in his and said as reassuringly as he could, "I'm not going anywhere. I promise. Now. Close your eyes. Get some rest. When you wake up, I'll be right here. Okay?" She searched his eyes for the truth of his words. Finally she was convinced of his sincerity. He held her hand long after her breathing deepened. Long after she shut her lids. He fell asleep with her hand in his.

  2. #2
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    Post Re: Unforgettable (Sheridan/Luis, Gwen/Hank)

    Chapter Six:





    "Noooo! Don't go, Auntie Theresa! Don't leave us! Stay here with me and Daddy! Don't leave," Ali wailed pitifully. Theresa hated this part. Saying goodbye. Especially to her adorable little niece. "Ali, sweetie. Sweetheart," she said as she tucked a strand of Ali's long blond hair behind her ear, "I'm so sorry. But I have to. You know I don't want to leave you. I hate leaving you. I really, really do. I love you," she murmured, looking into Ali's tear-filled blue eyes. Hoping she would understand.

    "No you don't. You're a liar! If you hated it, you wouldn't leave. If you really loved me, you would stay," Ali yelled, her chin quivering and more tears gushing down her cheeks. Theresa felt horrible when the little girl turned her back on her and ran to her grandmother. Her mother. Pilar didn't say the words, but Theresa knew a small part of her felt the same way. She could see it in her eyes.

    Pilar lifted her distraught granddaughter into her arms and rubbed soothing circles on her back. Whispered nonsensical words of Spanish into her ear. Hoping to calm her. Ali was a wonderful child. Normally well-behaved. But she had a hot temper--just like both of her parents, Pilar thought to herself with a small smile. Goodbyes weren't Ali's or Luis's strong suits. She stood in the background so that her two children might say their own farewells.

    "I'm sorry about Ali. She doesn't mean it, you know. She loves you so much. You're her favorite person. The only person she likes more is Ivy," Luis said quietly. "Because she tells stories about her mother when she was little," Theresa said. More to herself than to anyone else. "Um, yeah," Luis said quietly staring at his feet. "Oh Luis, I didn't mean to..." Theresa apologized. "Shhh. It's okay. Instead of bedtime stories, I tell Ali stories about her mother. She loves to hear about her. And my memories are so vivid. It helps, you know. Keeps her alive in our hearts."

    "Ali's right. I'm terrible. Leaving you guys. I hate this. The goodbyes get harder and harder," Theresa cried. The tears threatening since the scene with Ali finally spilling over. Luis pulled his little sister into his arms and hugged her tight. "It's okay. We understand. You're a very busy young woman. Ali knows that. And in a few days, she'll be fine. It's just tough. Saying bye to her favorite aunt." "Her favorite, huh? I AM very busy," Theresa said with a slight smile as her brother wiped her tears from her cheeks. She loved him and the rest of her family so much.

    Luis watched in puzzlement as that slight smile grew into a full-fledged grin. Uh oh! His little sister was cooking up one of her grand ideas again. Theresa laughed aloud at the look of pure terror on Luis's face. Clapping her hands together, she exclaimed, "Luis, I just got the most wonderful idea! What do you say about a little trip to Boston next month? You, Mama, and Ali." Luis peered at her curiously until she offered an explanation.

    "I'm opening up a new shop there. Remember? Anyway," she went on breathlessly, "you and Mama and Ali can come for the Grand Opening and celebrate with me and we can take in a game or something. Show Ali around. Have some fun. What do you say?" Luis looked at his sister, her dark brown eyes sparkling with barely contained excitement. And to his mother and young daughter who had rejoined him. Pilar arched a brow at him and shrugged her shoulders. Ali pouted at him, tear tracks still visible on her little cheeks. He couldn't say no to that face. Just couldn't. So he did the only thing he could do. Said "yes." He knew he'd made the right decision as he watched his daughter launch herself in his sister's open arms squealing with joy. Maybe it WOULD be fun. In any case, it made Theresa and Ali smile again. And that alone was worth it.

    He hugged Ali's little body tight as they waved goodbye to Theresa. Waved until they could no longer see her. Continued waving until her plane lifted into the air and soared into the clouds. Then they returned home. And began making plans. For Boston. Ali couldn't wait. He couldn't help but feel a bit excited, too. Something was drawing him there. Pulling him. He didn't know what it was, but he couldn't wait to find out.



    Chapter Seven:







    "So," Molly said with a flourish, "how are you settlin' in at Martin's cabin? Everything okay?"

    "Everything's fine," the young blond woman walking beside her said. A little too cheerily for Molly's liking. She didn't miss the quietly mumbled "But I still don't have my memory back." She decided to let it go. She didn't want Jenny on the defensive again. A wall seemed to go up whenever someone asked her questions about her memory. Or lack thereof.

    But she worried about her. Too much, she guessed. She couldn't help it, though. She so wanted to restore the sparkle to Jenny's beautiful blue eyes. Wanted to help her remember her past. Martin reported that the nightmares still came. Actually, they had never stopped, he said. Jenny cried in her sleep.

    He was worried about her, too. That's why he'd suggested Molly get her out and about for a few hours. And that's exactly what Molly had done. Even though it was only a trip to visit the children at the hospital. They needed cheering up just as much as Jenny did. Maybe they could help each other.

    Later, as she watched Jenny talking and laughing with a dark-haired little charmer named Josh, she knew she had made the right decision. Josh watched her young friend's every move with adoring brown eyes. Jenny had a new admirer.

    Josh wasn't Jenny's only admirer, thought Molly as she watched Dr. Taylor gazing at the graceful blond as she tickled Josh's tummy until he practically shrieked with laughter. The look in his eyes was a familiar one. It was the same look she'd seen for years now. She sighed deeply.

    She loved both of these young people dearly. She didn't wish hurt or harm to either. But that's all she saw when she comtemplated the future. Jenny may not have realized it yet, but her heart was already taken. The great love of her past haunted her. And teased her. She was never quite able to grasp her memories fully, but the day would come when she would.

    And that day, Nick Taylor's heart would be broken. She ached to think of the pain in store for them ahead. Because nothing could stop him. Sometime in the past three years, Dr. Nick Taylor had fallen in love with his patient. It didn't matter that he had fallen for his ideal of Jenny. He was falling in love with her for real now. Disaster loomed. Molly could feel it in her bones.

    This was a complicated mess, she thought as she watched Nick comfort Jenny later when just the mere act of holding a crying toddler made her burst into tears of her own. She watched the young mother take her bawling child from Jenny's arms and back away in confusion and slight fear. The child clung to it's mother much like Jenny clung to Nick. And much like Nick stroked Jenny's soft blond hair, the mother stroked the baby's wispy blond curls. It made a striking picture. As tears flowed from two sets of gorgeous blue eyes.

    A picture that made an impression on Molly's mind. It nagged and nagged at her. Jenny's reaction was so strange. So emotional to holding the blue-eyed blond child in her arms. It was almost if...

    She shook the thought out of her head as she rushed to pull Jenny into her arms and away from the hospital. Take her back to Martin. Home. At least the only home she had known since her awakening. She didn't leave until Jenny was safely tucked in bed. Asleep. She kissed her forehead and said goodbye. Martin waved at her from the door as she drove away. She said a prayer for them all. That God might see to it that things would work out. For the best.






    Chapter Eight:





    Luis grinned over Ali's shoulder at the look on his mother's face. Pure exhaustion. She was at the end of her rope. Of course, that was to be expected after spending the entire day with the precocious four-year-old currently hugging his neck so tightly she was blocking off his air supply.

    "Ali, honey," he choked, "you can let go now." He took a deep breath of air as he set his daughter on her feet and got his first REAL look at her mud- streaked face. "What have you been up to today?" he asked, wiping a smudge of dirt off her nose.

    "Nothing," Ali giggled. He arched an eyebrow at her response. Causing her to giggle harder. He looked to his mother for a straight answer. "She and Jake thought it would be fun to make mud pies. You're lucky, Luis. Jake looked like he'd wallowed in a mud puddle."

    He tried not to smile as he said, "I bet Gwen hit the roof." "Actually," Pilar said with a smile, "I don't have a clue. Hank took Jake home." She cringed in sympathy as she said, "Unfortunately, Jake didn't have a change of clothes here like Ali did. There's not an inch on that child's body not covered in mud, Luis. Poor Hank."

    "Jake looked like a pig!" Ali squealed. "Well, AliCat, you don't look much better," Luis said as he threw his giggling daughter over his shoulder and kissed his mother's cheek. "Bye Mama. Thanks for having the patience of a saint and taking care of her for me. I love you. Ali, say goodbye." "Bye Nana," Ali waved. Upside down. "See you tomorrow."

    "Bye Mija. Mijo. I love you both. Now go home. And get cleaned up. That's an order," Pilar said as she waved goodbye from the front door and watched Luis's car drive out of sight. Then closed the door behind her before collapsing in an exhausted heap on the couch. Already preparing herself for tomorrow. Another day with Ali. Who had immeasurable amounts of energy.

    "Dios Mio. How will I ever make it until her teenage years?" she groaned. "That child is wearing me out. God give me--and Luis--the strength to survive," she said as she flung an arm across her eyes. "Please."





    Chapter Nine:







    "Come on, Ali. Let's get you cleaned up. Wait a minute. Have you had your dinner yet?" Luis asked. Hope in his eyes. It'd been a very long day at the station. He released the breath he'd been holding in relief when his daughter informed him she had already eaten. "Good. Go pick out your pajamas while I run your bath."

    He adjusted the temperature of the water and added some of Ali's favorite bubble bath. "Ooo, bubbles. Thank you, Daddy," Ali said, big blue eyes sparkling. "Come here," he said, holding his hand out to Ali. "How did you manage to get so much mud in your hair?"

    "Jake put it there. He's so mean. But I got him back, Daddy," she said excitedly, tossing her long blond hair back off her shoulders. "I..." "Shhh," Luis silenced her with a finger to her lips. "Not right now, Ali. The water's getting cold. We still have to wash your hair." "Oh, okay," Ali pouted. Rather dejectedly as she pulled her shirt over her head and rid herself of the rest of her clothes and climbed into the tub.

    Luis smiled as she sang made-up songs to herself as she bathed. Continued singing at the top of her lungs--her disappointment over not getting to share her revenge against Jake forgotten--as he washed her hair and rinsed the rest of the shampoo out. He shook with silent laughter when she ordered, "Turn around, Daddy," as she dressed in her favorite pj's. Made especially for her by Theresa. She was a pink and white angel. He wiped the grin off his face when she said in all seriousness, "You can turn around now, Daddy. I'm decent." But it was hard. Very hard.

    The grin was back to stay as she challenged, "Race you, Daddy," and he chased her to her bed. Scooping her wiggling, squealing little form up into his arms like she weighed nothing at all and kissing her silly. "Stop," she pleaded breathlessly as he tickled her tummy. "Please," she begged through fits of giggles. He finally relented. Out of breath himself. And pulled the covers back for Ali to crawl into bed.

    He couldn't refuse her when she patted the bed for him to join her and lay back against the pillows as she snuggled up against him. A picture of her mother clutched in her tiny hands. "Tell me a story, Daddy. About Mommy. The first time you met," she said, gazing up at him with those familiar blue eyes so full of life and love. "How I met Mommy, huh?" he asked, stroking her still damp hair back from her face. "Let's see. How does that story go again?"

    "Daddy," Ali admonished in exasperation, "you remember. Mommy crashed into your police car. And it was love at first sight." "Love at first sight," Luis repeated under his breath. Lost in the memory. The words at their first meeting echoing in his head. He smiled to himself as he said to his daughter--their daughter, "You've been talking to Aunt Theresa about us again, haven't you?" Ali's grinned widely and giggled. Despite shaking her head 'no'.

    "Love at first sight?" he repeated a second time. "I guess you could say that, AliCat. Even though me and your mommy weren't very nice to each other at first, I guess your aunt Theresa's right. I started falling in love with your mommy's spirit from that moment on. But I had myself convinced I hated her."

    "You hated Mommy!" Ali gasped. "No, sweetie. I didn't. I just pretended to. I was kind of mean. But the more I got to know your mommy, the more I loved her," he reassured her. He continued the story of his and Sheridan's first meeting, only to realize Ali had fallen asleep sometime during the middle of it.

    He kissed her forehead and tucked the covers snugly around her. And whispered "I love you." He placed Sheridan's picture back in place on the nightstand. "And I love you. Always," he whispered tracing her beloved face with his fingertip. Then he turned the lamp off. Went to his own bed. To visit her in his dreams.



    Chapter Ten:







    Hank smiled to himself as he remembered the look of pure horror on Gwen's face when she laid eyes on Jake last night when he took him home. Covered in mud from head to toe.

    Obviously, Gwen had never known the joy of making mud pies as a child, he mused. Getting down and dirty. No, he guessed wallowing in the mud was frowned upon at those high-priced boarding schools. He was relieved Gwen had rejected the idea of sending Jake thousands of miles away. For his education. And to refine him, Rebecca Hotchkiss always said with such disdain. He couldn't stand that woman.

    Rebecca had been aghast to learn of Gwen's pregnancy. By Hank Bennett. A commoner. But Gwen stood her ground. And it didn't matter to her that Jake was the result of a one-night stand. A night where they took comfort in each other. Gwen was looking to banish her hurt over Ethan's callous treatment. He was just drowning in self-pity. What a perfect pair they were. Both running from their past hurt. Past mistakes. Maybe their actions had been wrong. But Jake was most definitely not a mistake.

    He'd proposed out of a sense of duty. Compelled to not screw up. Yet again. But Gwen had seen right through him and turned him down flat. Determined to make it on her own. Not to make the same mistake twice. So...they became friends. And parents.

    Jake had two loving parents. Two loving parents too afraid to fall in love. For Gwen, a second time. He'd never really fallen in love. Until he met his son. The love he felt for Jake was more fulfilling than any romantic love could be, he reminded himself everytime Rebecca lined up a new suitor for Gwen. To erase the damage she'd done to her standing in society. An attempt to make people forget about her indescretion.

    How did a man go about telling the mother of his child he thought he could be falling in love with her without sounding like a fool? He was dying to know the answer to that question. Surely, she'd laugh in his face. They were great friends. And as unlikely as it seemed, greater parents. Could they have more?



    It was all too much. Too much for him to handle. Too much for him to risk, he thought as he watched Gwen walk through the Book Cafe holding their son's hand tightly. He forgot all his troubles when he saw Jake's toothy smile. Saw his brown eyes light up at the sight of him. All his worries washed away--if only momentarily--as he hugged Jake close. He would think about it later. Right now was all that mattered. He had to make the present count.

  3. #3
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    Post Re: Unforgettable (Sheridan/Luis, Gwen/Hank)

    Chapter Eleven:





    "Martin," she said. Quietly. Hesitantly. "Tell me what happened. The accident. I know Dr. Taylor asked you not to. To let me remember things on my own. But I can't. I can't recall anything from that night. And so much time has passed. What if I have a family out there, Martin? People who love me. Miss me. It's been so long. Please, Martin. Please tell me," she pleaded.

    He looked into her blue eyes and saw the pain there. The need and desire to know. He wanted so much to help her. In any way he could. But he knew so little himself. And surely, knowing that her only link to her past was dead would do her more harm than good.

    No. He couldn't do it. Couldn't hurt her anymore. "No. I'm sorry, Jenny, but I can't do that. Go against Dr. Taylor's wishes. He said it's best if you remember things on your own. With no prodding. I can't just ignore his instructions."

    Tears filled her eyes. Tears of hurt. Anger. But mostly frustration. She'd already known he'd refuse her request. Martin--in the short time she'd known him--never went back on his word. She respected that. Still, she had to try. Her stubborn nature.

    "Alright," she said, not daring to meet his eyes. She didn't think she could bear to see the pity, the ever-present concern in them. "I understand. I need some air," she told him. He watched her through the window as she walked away. Looking so desolate. So alone. Until she crossed paths with Dr. Nick Taylor further on her way.

    Trouble, he thought as he watched the two of them. Nothing but trouble. But he decided to leave it alone. Nick Taylor made Jenny smile, and precious little made her happy. Made her grace him with her brilliant smile. Maybe it wasn't wise to let the good doctor be encouraged. The way he saw it, though, the man was already attached. Already head over heels.

    He put a smile on his face when the pair came back inside the cabin. Jenny was beaming. "Dr. Taylor, I mean Nick," she corrected with a smile, "invited me to go with him and some of the kids from the hospital to Boston in a few weeks. Isn't that wonderful? I just love Boston. It's been so long since I visited. Molly was going, but she had to go out of town and doesn't know when she'll be back."

    She continued on, unaware of what she had said. But Martin had heard it. And so had Nick Taylor, he thought as he looked into the younger man's gray eyes. He had heard it, too. Martin couldn't help but feel sorry for him. Because, along with the immediate joy that leapt in his eyes at the possibility of Jenny's memory returning, there was sadness that she might leave them. Leave him. It was only a matter of time. Only a matter of time before the dam burst, and Jenny's memories came flooding back. They had to prepare themselves. The best way they knew how.





    Chapter Twelve:





    "Ali, I want you to be a good girl. No fighting with Jake. Okay?" Luis implored his young daughter. Hank was taking Gwen and the kids to a movie. Hank denied it was a date, but Luis had his doubts. A smile of amusement came over his face. They were taking in the latest Disney flick. Not your typical date movie. "You promise?"

    "I promise, Daddy," she solemnly vowed. And hugged him tightly about the neck. He closed his eyes. Breathing in the scent of her. Her soft hair. A knock sounded at the door, and he crossed the room to answer it. Ali still in his arms.

    "Hank. Jake. Gwen," he said, nodding his head in greeting. "Are you sure you know what you're getting into, Gwen?" he questioned. "Trust me. Going to a movie with these three is quite an experience," he said with laughter in his voice. Gwen smiled at him. "It's just a movie, Luis. What can happen?" He looked at Hank with a grin. He opened his mouth to tell her that so much could happen. Disaster for one. But Hank stopped him. "Luis, buddy. We'd love to stick around and chat, but the movie starts in less than an hour."

    He raised his eyebrows at Hank's quick diversion. He held his laughter until they were gone. Hank was right. It wasn't a good idea to tell Gwen just how much trouble a little movie could be. She'd run screaming in the other direction, he was sure. He watched Hank's car drive away and turned around. Left the window. And only then realized how alone he was.

    The house was so lonely, so quiet, without Ali. Ali brought a light, an energy, to this place. She'd only been gone two minutes. And Luis was terribly lonely. He settled back against the sofa and turned the television on. Countless channels and nothing was on. He sighed heavily. What was he going to do when Ali grew up? Moved out on her own? He shook those thoughts from his mind. He couldn't deal with that right now.

    He turned the television back off and got up. He had to do something to occupy his mind. He decided to go up to the attic. Clean out some of the junk. It was something he'd been meaning to do for the longest time. Might as well get started.

    He thought otherwise when he turned the light on. Saw just how much work he had ahead of him. Sheridan was right. The attic was attrocious. He felt bad then that he'd never gotten around to helping her. He'd thought she wasn't going anywhere. Neither was he. The attic could wait.

    He walked over to the small window that overlooked the backyard. Noticed the ancient desk he'd found her sitting at too often to count. A smile on her face. Always writing in that journal of hers. He always kidded her about that. Teased her, saying he thought they had no secrets. Why'd she have to come all the way up to the attic? She'd just laugh softly and put the journal away. He hadn't thought about that journal until today. He wondered if it were still here.

    The thick dust covering the desktop and the worn books lying on it made his nose tickle. He sneezed as he shuffled through them. Opened all the drawers. Finally, he had success. He pulled out the leather-bound book. Ran his fingers over her name on the front cover. Even though she was gone, he felt like he was intruding on her privacy. Guilt crept up on him. But curiosity won out. The need to feel close to her again was too much. He took a deep breath. Said "I'm sorry, baby." And opened the journal.




    Chapter Thirteen:





    A lump rose in his throat as he stared at the familiar, neat handwriting. Oh God, he thought, I can't do this. Not right now. This is too much. He closed the journal and looked around at all the things they'd collected. Mementos of their short time together. All the things gathering dust. Forgotten. But only for a little while. His eyes watered. He told himself it was from the dust. He knew he was lying to himself.

    He tucked the journal under his arm and turned the light off. Then he went back downstairs. Back to the bedroom they'd shared. His eyes scanned the room. Pictures covered the walls. Pictures of him and Sheridan. Pictures of the three of them together. A family. Pictures of Ali.

    Sheridan had all of Ali's milestones documented. All of Ali's milestones she lived to see. His favorite photo was of his wife and his baby daughter on Ali's first birthday. He'd taken that one. Chocolate cake covered their faces. Twin pairs of blue eyes sparkled. It was the last picture he had of Sheridan. The last photo of Ali and her mother together. The accident happened the week after the party.

    He looked to the journal again. And made his decision. Settling back against the pillows with the lamp casting a soft glow about the room, Luis began with the first page. Christmas. The Christmas he'd thought he'd lost her. The Christmas she came back to him. His miracle. He remembered it so well. As he read, he could hear her voice. See the look in her beautiful blue eyes. She was here with him. He could feel her.

    He skipped ahead several pages. Valentine's Day. That same year. That night, he knew what it meant to be completely, utterly happy. She was so beautiful that night. The night they first made love. He remembered every look. Every touch. Every kiss. If he hadn't known before then, he certainly knew that night. He wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. Holding her. Making her happy. Making her smile that brilliant smile. For all eternity. He read on.

    "It's me again. Tonight the most wonderful thing happened. Luis and I made love for the first time. I've never felt this way before. I didn't think I could love anybody this much. Love Luis more than I already did. I was wrong. So wrong. Luis is the sweetest, most loving man."

    "I want to spend forever with him. Be his wife. Mother of his children. I can see our children. Our children of the future in my heart. They're so beautiful. Luis is beautiful. I love him. I don't think I can say that enough. I'll never get tired of saying it. He has to know. How happy he's made me. How I feel. I've already said the words. But I wonder if he realizes, truly realizes, that now he's a part of me. I can't let him go. Ever again. I won't."

    A tender smile lit his face. Tears pooled in his brown eyes as he read her words. The entry ended with her signing goodbye. He remembered waking up without her. The panic he felt. The joy when he saw her. In the moonlight. Wearing his discarded suit shirt. Scrawling away. Looking so thoughtful. So serious. But so happy. He'd called out her name.

    She'd looked up. Smiled at him and said, "I'm here, Luis." He'd held out his hand. Beckoning her. Took her hand in his as he pulled her back against the pillows. Back into bed with him. Her soft laughter filled the room. Her eyes shone in the darkness. He kissed her. Slowly, gently. Eased the buttons of her shirt--his shirt--open and bared her to him once more. She was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. They made love again. Their happiness so great, their feelings for each other so clear in their eyes. He didn't have to tell her he loved her. She didn't have to tell him. They just knew.




    Chapter Fourteen:





    "Gwen. Gwen? What? You not speaking to me?" Hank asked the woman sitting in the passenger seat beside him. He chanced a glance at her out of the corner of his eye. Her lips were in a tight line, and she had her arms crossed around herself. Oh great, he thought, she's still mad. Maybe I should have warned her.

    Who knew Jake would throw Milk Duds at that old man? He couldn't help it. The corners of his mouth turned up as he remembered their disastrous 'date' to the movies. Ali was right. That old man was scary-looking. Ancient. With beady eyes and gnarled hands. Frown on his face as he stared at the screen ahead of him. What was he doing watching a Disney flick anyway? He had the look of a classic villian. Jake was just protecting Ali. That thought had him laughing out loud. He was sure Gwen didn't feel the same way. He forced the laugh down as Gwen shot a glare his way.

    He peeked at the kids in the mirror. They were too quiet. Especially considering they'd consumed countless dollars worth of sugar and caffeine. He guessed they were scared of the way Gwen was acting. She was scaring him. Luis was going to kill him. Ali had talked throughout film. When she wasn't giggling. Or fighting with Jake. Not to mention the fact her clothes were ruined.

    Five bathroom breaks during the movie. A short movie. And of course, Gwen had to be the one who took her. It wasn't like he could go in the ladies room with her. He only made it worse by buying her as much soda as she wanted. But that was only after Jake caused her to spill her entire soda on herself. Tears welled up in her big blue eyes, and she pouted for a while, but she wouldn't allow Jake the satisfaction of making her cry. Whoa, but she was one mad little firecracker. Hank had no doubt his son would pay. Someday very soon.

    He could go on and on. Jake topped himself tonight. As soon as the movie was over, the manager had politely informed him they were banned from frequenting his theater. Gwen had been mortified. She stalked off in the direction of the car dragging Jake and Ali each by the hand. Come to think of it, he hadn't heard a peep out of them since. He tried to joke his way out of the doghouse. But that was such a mistake. The two steps back he'd made this evening were two colossal steps.

    He sighed as he stopped the car in Luis's driveway. He got out and walked around to help Ali out of the car. "I'll be right back," he called out as he walked up the sidewalk holding Ali's little hand. He knocked on the door and was surprised when no one answered. Even more surprised when he bumped into Gwen behind him. He knocked again, then turned the knob in concern. He motioned for Gwen to stay behind with Jake and Ali and went inside.

    "Luis? Luis, buddy? Are you here?" he yelled. "Luis?" He walked quietly down the hall to Luis's bedroom where a soft light glowed. He found Luis there. On the bed. Reading. And totally surprised to see him. "Hey Hank. What's wrong? Why are you looking at me that way?"

    "Luis. Man. Did you not hear me knocking at the door? Yelling your name? That must be some good book you're reading, buddy. It better be. You scared me. For a split second, I was afraid Ali had lost her other parent." Regret contorted Luis's features. "Look Hank. I'm sorry I worried you." "That's okay, buddy, now what's that book in your hand? If it's that good, I might have to borrow it sometime. Cause Gwen's giving me the silent treatment. Man, she's so mad at me. I'd have to say that at this moment she hates me."

    "Hank," a voice called out. A voice laden with concern. "Hank, are you okay? Is everything alright with Luis?" Luis looked at his friend pointedly. "I don't know about that," he said quietly as he closed the book and got up from the bed. Walked down the hall to where his daughter stood beside the woman in question, clutching her hand tightly in fear. "Sorry to alarm you, Gwen," he said with a small smile, "I see you survived." That smile grew as he watched relief flash through her eyes at the sight of Hank. Safe and in one piece. But it was only a very brief flash. Soon her eyes glittered in anger.

    The smile on his face vanished, though, as his eyes lit upon his daughter. Ali's chin trembled, and a tiny teardrop trickled down her little cheek. "Hey, AliCat," he said in a voice so quiet it was almost a whisper, "what's wrong, Baby?" "Oh Daddy!" she wailed as she launched herself into his arms. "I was so scared, Daddy. Don't leave me." A pain tore through his heart as she sobbed in his arms.

    Hank and Gwen quietly took their leave, barely noticed. Luis carried Ali to her room and held her until her tears subsided and her breathing deepened. "Never. Never, AliCat. I'll never leave you, sweetheart. Daddy'll always be here. Always. I love you, Baby. And nothing's going to take me away from you. Nothing." He watched her as she slept. Afraid to let her out of his sight. It was hours later before he could tear himself away. Hours before he returned to his room and lay down on his own bed. He meant every word. He'd do everything in his power to keep his promise. Everything, he thought as he fell into a fitfull sleep.




    Chapter Fifteen:





    He smiled warmly at the scene in front of him. Jenny and Josh. Talking and laughing. Josh's mother told him Jenny was a godsend. Josh wore an infectious grin every time Jenny visited. And Jenny visited often. Lifted Josh's spirits when he got down. Made him feel better, not so blue, about the gradual loss of his dark brown hair. His brown eyes shone with happiness whenever he was around her. Happiness and love. One look into Jenny's sparkling blue eyes, and anyone could tell the feeling was mutual.

    He walked over to Josh's bedside when the boy looked up from his handfull of cards and grinned. Waving him inside with an exuberant "Dr. Taylor. I'm winning!" "You are, are you? That's great, Josh," he said smiling down at the young boy. "So, Jenny. How does it feel?" "How does what feel? Losing? I HATE it," she said dramatically. "But if I have to lose, I'm glad it's to Josh, here. He's a pro at this." Josh beamed at her words of praise. She knew just the right things to say, Nick thought.

    He joined them in another round of cards. And they had a grand time. Laughing and teasing each other. They played until a nurse came by and glared at them. Shocked to see one of the doctors, gasp, was making so much noise. That fact only dazed her for a moment before she kicked them out of Josh's room so she could check his vitals. He stood at the door while Jenny and Josh said their goodbyes. Waiting for her.

    They made their way down the halls and outside the hospital's doors in comfortable silence. She was a vision of beauty in the sunlight. He couldn't stop staring. "What? Do I have something on my face?" "No," he admitted. "I'm sorry for staring. Very rude of me." "Oh," she breathed in relief. Another smile lighting up her face. "Good. I was afraid there for a minute. Um...you're doing it again." "What? Oh, I'm sorry. Man, do I feel like an idiot. Such a stupid thing to do..." "Nick. Nick. It's alright. Really. No need to apologize. I need to be getting back. Martin will be worried," she said with a smile. Slightly uncomfortable but wanting to ease his nerves.

    "Bye. Tell Josh I'll see him later this week, okay," she said as a farewell. And turned to leave. She got no more than two feet away before his voice stopped her in her tracks. "Jenny." She turned around. Slowly. Met his gray eyes with her blue ones. "Jenny, I was wondering, well I was hoping..." he stumbled over the words lodged in his throat. "What?" she asked quietly. Moving closer to him. Almost unbearably close. Staring at him with those impossibly big, luminous blue eyes. In expectation.

    "Would you like to have a cup of coffee with me sometime?" he blurted. The woman in front of him was the only person capable of making him feel like a complete idiot. And he loved that. The way she made him feel. She hesitated. But only for a moment before squaring her shoulders and giving him an answer. "Yes. I would." He couldn't stop the silly grin that stole over his face. He was stunned she had accepted. But obviously not as stunned as she at what he did next. Without thinking, he bent down and kissed her lightly, sweetly on the cheek. He apologized profusely when he saw her eyes widen in shock. She waved him off and said her goodbyes again. And walked away. He could kick himself. But...he was so happy she said 'yes' he soon forgot all about it.

    But Jenny didn't forget. The memory of his lips caressing her cheek stayed with her. Well into the afternoon. Something about his gesture felt familiar, she thought. But then she ridiculed herself. A kiss on the cheek was hardly anything out of the ordinary. Hardly enough to go on. Enough to remember her past. But why did it affect her so? Why did she imagine an oddly familiar voice asking in nervousness if he could kiss her? Kiss her goodnight. And why, as she lifted a hand to her cheek in remembrance, did she think of the most beautiful brown eyes? Shining with love. At her. When Nick's eyes were gray. What was happening to her? Who was she? And who was the dark, hazy figure in her mind with the beautiful eyes? She would give anything to know. Anything.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
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    489

    Post Re: Unforgettable (Sheridan/Luis, Gwen/Hank)

    Chapter Sixteen:





    "Guess what, Aunt Ivy!" Ali squealed with happiness and excitement. "Me, Daddy, and Nana are going to Boston next week. To visit Aunt Theresa. I can't wait. It's going to be so much fun." Ivy smiled at her enthusiasm. You just couldn't help yourself when you were around Ali. Whether she was being an angel or a little devil, you loved her all the same.

    "Yes, sweetheart. I'm sure it will. You love your aunt Theresa. Don't you?" Ali's eyes sparkled as she said, "Uh huh." "I bet you do." I know someone else who cares for her, maybe even loves her. Just as much as you do, Ivy thought to herself as Ethan walked into the room. His face brightening at the sight of Ali. He held out his arms, and she laughed as Ali flew into them.

    "And just what are doing here today, Princess Ali? I thought you were staying with your grandma Pilar," he said as he released her and looked into her blue eyes. "Nana had to go to the hospital." Worry creased his brow, and he turned to his mother. He still loved Pilar like a second mother, though their relationship since the whole Theresa situation had been strained.

    "Don't worry, dear. Pilar's fine. Why don't you tell him what's going on Ali?" Ivy suggested. Ali scrunched up her face in concentration. Huffed in annoyance at the bothersome strand of blond hair that kept escaping her ponytail. "Uncle Miguel and Aunt Kay had to go pick out a baby." Ethan's brow shot up at this information, and he had a hard time keeping a straight face. He snuck a look at his mother on the sofa. She was trying desperately to stifle her laughter.

    "What do you mean, Ali?" he asked in amusement. "You know silly," she scolded. "They went to pick out a baby." Ethan looked to Ivy for help. But all she offered was a smile. She was enjoying this conversation entirely too much. "Don't you mean your Aunt Kay went to the hospital to have her baby? Your cousin?"

    "Nope," she qualified with a shaking of her head. More hair escaping the ribbon that held it back. She pushed it away in aggravation. "Everybody goes to that window. The one in the hospital. And they tell the nurse which baby they want. Isn't that right, Aunt Ivy?" Ivy was too far gone to answer her. Ethan finally lost his own battle and couldn't stop laughing himself. Ali's blue eyes flashed in anger. Her chin stuck out defiantly, and she crossed her arms.

    Ethan knew that stance. So did Ivy. And Ali's resemblance to her mother at that moment was almost enough to sober them up. Almost. Ivy still sported a smile as she went to Ali and gathered her unyielding little body up into her arms. Hugging her tightly until she relaxed in her arms. "I don't like it when you laugh at me," Ali pouted. Her blue eyes wet with unshed tears.

    "I'm sorry, sweetie," Ivy said as she brushed Ali's blond hair back from her forehead. "Me, too," Ethan agreed. Sitting down beside them on the sofa. "Do you forgive us?" he asked. Ali studied him from beneath her lashes and cast another glance Ivy's way before answering. Then she somberly said, "I forgive you." She hugged Ethan's neck tight as if to prove her words. "Now," Ethan said locking eyes with her, "what do you say I show you all your mommy's favorite places to play? All her hiding places? Then we can go look at some old pictures of her when she was little. Around your age. Would you like that?" Ali's blond head bobbed up and down. A smile lighting up her sweet little face. Ivy waved to them as they disappeared upstairs. Ali's giggles floating down behind them.



    Chapter Seventeen:





    Luis quietly slipped away. A wistful look on his face. He had a nephew. A beautiful new nephew. Certainly cause for celebration. And he was happy. For his brother. For Kay. Sam and Grace. Mama was so proud to have a grandson. He felt guilty for not totally focusing on the happy event. So he told Mama to say his goodbyes for him. And slipped out the door.

    Only to run into Eve. Who wore a strangely similar look on her face. The moment was bittersweet for her, too. He didn't know why. He didn't know how he knew. He just knew. Maybe it was something in her voice when she said his name. Looking past him into the hospital room then quickly meeting his gaze again. "Luis."

    "Good to see you, Eve. I'd like to talk to you more, but there's some things I have to do," he said as he brushed by her. "Bye, Luis," she called after him. But he was already gone. Heading out the hospital doors. Heading home. Heading to her.



    He reached the Crane Mansion. In one piece. A miracle, really, considering he didn't remember leaving the hospital. Didn't remember the drive. Memories of Sheridan assaulted him. Memories that would not stop. Not that he wanted them to. He'd never wish that.

    Sheridan. Telling him she was pregnant. Looking worried but so excited at the same time. The look of pure happiness in her blue eyes as he'd whooped for joy. Twirled her around and around. Then set her down. Afraid her may have hurt her. The baby. Her soft laughter as she reassured him she was fine.

    Her mortification as her belly grew. And grew. She'd never looked more beautiful. More radiant. And he'd told her so. She'd scoffed at him in disbelief then tears would spring to her beautiful blue eyes. Realizing he meant every word. Her giggles as he kissed her tummy--their baby-- goodnight. Every night. The look of absolute joy and adoration as she first held their daughter in her arms. Their Ali.

    Why did God have to take her away from him? When she finally knew real, true love and happiness. Why did He do that to her? To Ali? To him? He didn't know if he'd ever be able to comprehend it all. He just knew Ali helped him survive. The beautiful little angel now asleep in the passenger seat beside him kept him alive.

    He stopped the car in their driveway and went over to the other side of the car to get his daughter out. Ali sighed sweetly in her sleep but didn't wake as he let them in their house and carried her back to his bedroom. His and her mother's. Only snuggled closer. Content in his arms. Tonight she wasn't leaving his sight. His arms. Not for a moment. He fell asleep with her clutched in them. Almost fearful she would vanish. Be a figment of his imagination.

    As exhaustion stole over him, a leather-bound book fell from his hands. Hitting the floor with a thud. Open to the page that brought tears but also comfort to his eyes. Sheridan's voice echoed off the walls, resounded in his dreams as he slept.

    "One person doesn't deserve to be this happy. As happy as I am. Married to the most wonderful man in the world. And carrying his child inside of me. A precious little baby."

    "We're going to be parents. I can't believe it. The baby kicked for the first time today. The look of awe on Luis's face was priceless. This man, this man I love with all my heart and soul, is going to make the most wonderful Daddy. I'm not too sure of myself as a mother, but with Luis by my side, I feel I can do anything. He's going to be the most perfect father for our baby. Our baby girl. Our gift from heaven."





    Chapter Eighteen:





    Gwen tapped her fingers nervously on the tabletop. She didn't know what possessed her to do this. After all this time. Where was he? He'd promised to meet her here this afternoon. She looked at her watch. He was late. Five minutes to be exact. A war raged in her head as she debated whether or not to give him five more minutes. She was so busy silently arguing back and forth with herself that she didn't notice his presence. Until he cleared his throat.

    "Gwen," he said. Politely. Curiousity lacing his voice. "Ethan," she breathed, getting to her feet. Standing there awkwardly. Wondering what to say. Trying to force something to come out of her mouth. Anything. WHY had she done this? she wondered again. Asked him to meet her. She didn't know why. She just felt it was something she needed to do. Something a long time coming. "Would you like to sit?" she finally asked. He looked wary as he settled opposite her.

    She opened her mouth to speak, but the words stuck in her throat. "Want some coffee?" she forced out. That wasn't what she wanted to say. Not that at all. "Okay," he agreed. Answering her slowly. They gave their orders to Beth. Not making eye contact with each other until she was gone. Ethan waited until Beth set their steaming mugs of coffee in front of them and left to go back to the counter before he asked, "Why did you call me, Gwen? After all this time. What is it you want?"

    She reached within herself. Deep within herself and said the words she knew needed to be said if she were ever to be free. "Ethan," she began haltingly. "Ethan, I asked you to come here today so I could say goodbye to you." Ethan's brow furrowed in confusion as he said, "What are you talking about Gwen? We already said our goodbyes. Years ago. When you told me you had had enough and wanted nothing more to do with me."

    "Yes," she said. Her voice gaining strength. Her words more forceful. "At least I thought I had. But I realize now, that I was lying to myself. The truth is, I've never let go, Ethan. I've never let go of the memory of our time together. Over ten years, Ethan. Over half my life I loved you. Letting go of you was harder than I thought. Hanging on to that memory has kept me from being happy. Truly happy."

    "Gwen, I'm so sorry. I was a jerk. I see that now. I never meant to hurt you. Either of you," he said quietly. She smiled sadly at him as she covered his hand with her own and said, "You weren't always such a jerk, Ethan Crane. You used to be the most wonderful man in the world to me. I loved you. I think a small part of me always will." Ethan looked up into her eyes and saw the sadness in the them. The sadness he had caused.

    "But only a small part. My heart belongs to someone else now. My son. Jake is the love of my life, Ethan. And if you hadn't been such a jerk," she said with a smile, "I wouldn't have him in my life. I guess what I'm trying to say, Ethan, is thank you." "What?" Ethan said in disbelief. "Did I hear you right?" "Oh, you heard me right, Ethan, so wipe that stunned look of your face," she said with a laugh. "Yes, I'm thanking you for being a jerk. Stranger things have been known to happen."

    "Gwen," he started. But realized he no longer had her attention. Her whole face brightened with a smile. And her eyes shone with happiness. Love. He turned around slowly to see what made her so happy. Eyes landing on two people who had just walked through the Book Cafe's entrance. Two remarkably similar figures. Jake Bennett was the mirror-image of his father. He saw Hank's eyes narrow as they settled on him. Then shift to Gwen in concern. He turned back to meet Gwen's gaze. "So this is goodbye? Goodbye, Gwen. I always valued your friendship. Maybe we can be friends again someday. I wish you all the happiness you deserve."

    Gwen rose to her feet and hugged him. For the last time. And sighed in relief. Finally. Finally, she had closure. She waved to him as he walked away. Watched as he said something indistinguishable to Hank. Said hi to her son. Then he was gone. Gone from her life forever. She thanked Beth as she passed her. Smiling warmly at her. And walked up to the two most important men in her life. Then she took one of Jake's hands as Hank took the other. And together they walked out the door.







    Chapter Nineteen:





    "You know," she said, looking into his gray eyes, "you could have just told me the truth. That it was just going to be the three of us." He stuffed his hands in his pockets and turned around. He couldn't look at her. He felt guilty for misleading her. The trip to Boston wasn't just a way to spend time with her. He wanted to show Josh a good time. He really admired the kid's toughness. He was so sick. But he was a fighter. Just like Jenny.

    He decided to tell her the truth. Not an easy decision. But the right decision. He turned when he felt her hand on his arm and met her blue eyes. "Jenny. I'm sorry. It was wrong of me. I know that. But the truth of the matter is..." He paused. Unsure of how to go on. Afraid of her reaction. "What? You can tell me. Anything. I won't judge you." She implored him to open up to her. Be honest.

    "Okay. I'll tell you the truth," he said. "I knew if I told you that it was just me, you, and Josh, you probably wouldn't have agreed to go. You would have turned me down. And I wouldn't have blamed you. You don't really know me. And for all the time I cared for you as your doctor, I guess I don't really know you. But I do know that you're a beautiful person. Inside and out. I like to spend time with you. You make me happy."

    He went on. Despite the look of astonishment on her face. He had to get it all out. "So I invited Josh. Got the okay from his mother. Josh really loves you, you know?" She smiled at the mention of the little boy who had stolen her heart. "I really love him, too. He's so brave," she said softly. "At first it was just because I wanted to make sure you didn't back out on me. But the more I got to know him, really know him, the more I liked him. I want to do something good for him, Jenny. And if you still want to go with us, well...that's just an added bonus."

    They stood there. Neither saying a word. He ridiculed himself for being so stupid. For scaring her away. "I'm sorry," he said gruffly as he walked past her and back down the hall toward Josh's hospital room. "I'll go tell Josh you can't go." She stayed rooted to the spot. Dazed. She hadn't known he cared for her so. Only that he was a good and kind man. All the nurses loved him. He was well-liked. It never occurred to her his feelings went further than concern of a doctor for his patient.

    She waited a few more minutes before she went after him. Went to Josh's room. Entered quietly. Careful not to disturb their fun. Their card game. "Hey, Jenny. I'm beating Dr. Nick. He's so bad at cards. You're much better." She returned his smile and crossed the distance to stand by his side. Her eyes stayed locked with Nick's as she said, "How are my two friends doing today?" Understanding--and a tiny, momentary flicker of disappointment--washed over Nick's face. Josh, however, beamed at her and said, "Great! I'm really looking forward to going to Boston with you guys. We're going to have so much fun. Even if Dr. Griffin gave me a lecture on what to do and not to do." She listened to his excited chatter. Praying she hadn't lost Nick. He was an important person in her life. A dear friend. She only hoped that was enough.





    Chapter Twenty:





    "Oh Daddy! Look at that!" Ali said breathlessly. "Can we go there?" Luis and his mother exchanged smiles over Ali's blond head. She didn't wait for an answer. Just continued chattering. So happy that this day had finally come. She was so excited. She just couldn't be still. Or quiet, he thought laughing to himself. His mother's patience was wearing thin. And he caught their driver rolling his eyes.

    Sometimes he saw a bit of his little sister in her. Just a little. Her excitement about things. The way she would carry on. But Ali didn't take fairy tales at face value. She always wondered what happened next. He chuckled to himself as he remembered the way she always badgered Theresa with questions when she read to her. Ali always demanded an explanation.

    She looked at him. Blue eyes wide with wonder. He ran his hand over her soft hair and pulled her into his arms. Settling her on his lap so she could see better. "Daddy, when are we going to see Aunt Theresa?" she asked. Her tiny hands framing his face as she stared into his eyes. "Soon, AliCat. Soon. Isn't that right, Mama?"

    "Yes, Mijo. Mija. Theresita said she'd meet us at the hotel. Then she's going to take us out for dinner," Pilar said. Pride in her voice. "And tomorrow, AliCat, she's going to take us to her new shop. And a day on the town. Think you'll like that?" "Yes, Daddy," she answered. Laying her head on his shoulder. Yawning despite herself. She fought to keep her eyes open. But she didn't succeed. She was fast asleep when they reached their destination.

    Luis grinned broadly as they walked into the lobby and found Theresa waiting. Theresa rushed to hug Pilar, and they clung to each other like it'd been years since they'd lain eyes on one another. She took in her niece. A tiny Sleeping Beauty in her brother's arms. "Aww. Luis. What did you do to her? I was certain she would be wide awake. Drinking everything in," she whispered. Stroking Ali's long blond hair back from her face and placing a kiss on her forehead.

    "Nothing. I did nothing to her. She wore herself out. Hardly slept a wink last night. Too excited," he said with a smile. "She couldn't wait to see you. Come on," he ribbed goodnaturedly. "You know she's been looking forward to this day for over a month." Theresa looked lovingly at Ali and said, "I know. I've been just as anxious to see her again. I've missed you guys so much. Talking on the phone just isn't the same." She hugged Luis loosely about the neck. Careful not to wake Ali.

    Then pulled away and said, "Come on. It's time to get you guys settled in. You're in a suite. Right down the hall from me." She laughed at Luis's look of surprise. A look that matched her mother's. "Mama, Luis, don't worry about it. It's no problem. I can afford it. I'm a successful designer after all. And don't even think about paying me back," she warned. Luis opened his mouth to protest. But shut it right away at the look on his baby sister's face. "Okay," he muttered. "You win." Theresa's dark eyes sparkled as she beamed with pleasure. "I knew you'd see things my way."

    "Tada!" Theresa said dramatically as she opened the door to the suite they would be sharing. Pilar looked around in awe. A hand held to her mouth. Theresa put her arm around her and led her inside. Quieting her protestations against spending so much money on them. Luis left them to their discussion. And carried Ali off to bed. Poor little thing slept the night away. Dinner for Luis was room service while his mother and sister painted the town. He watched his daughter sleep and wondered what the new day would bring for them. Somehow, he knew it would change his life--their lives--forever. He just prayed it was for the better.

  5. #5
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    Post Re: Unforgettable (Sheridan/Luis, Gwen/Hank)

    Chapter Twenty-One:



    Voices sang out to her in her dreams. Voices she could not recognize. But voices she knew. How did she know them? Who did they belong to? She was desperate for answers. Answers just out of her reach. She was afraid. Afraid she would never find her answers. And in her dreams, she cried. They were so close. So close. Only to be ripped from her as she woke from slumber.

    Jenny woke with a start. Sweat beading her brow. Panic in her heart. What if she never remembered? Never put the puzzle pieces back together? She threw the covers aside and crawled out of bed. Walking to the window to watch the new dawn. She hoped for a good day. For herself. For Nick. And especially for Josh, she thought with a smile.

    And for Martin, she amended as she walked into the cozy kitchen. Catching him unaware as he studied something in his hand. A photograph it looked like. She moved softly across the room and came to stand just in front of him. "What makes you so sad, Martin? What is it in your past that won't let you go?"

    He looked into her eyes. And she saw the inner struggle. The struggle over telling her or not telling her. He didn't answer her. Only gruffly told her that her breakfast was ready and wished her a happy trip. She sighed as he closed the door behind him. Escaping outside. Away from her prying questions.

    She ate her breakfast. All the while wondering what the day held for her. She didn't know why, but today she felt confident she would learn something. Something perhaps about her own past. Maybe she would find the man with the golden brown eyes. The dark man of her dreams. Without a face. Without a name. His beautiful eyes haunted her. And she knew he was the key to her past.

    She held on to that hope as the car pulled out of the drive, and she could no longer make out Martin's figure. Waving goodbye. She smiled brightly at Josh and listened to his excited chatter about all the things he wanted to do. To explore. She laughed as he and Nick sang off-key to the songs on the radio. And at their incredulous looks when she joined them. It was a happy beginning to their day. A day Nick promised would be full of surprises. And somehow, she knew he was right.



    Chapter Twenty-Two:



    "So," Luis said with a smile, "my little sister is a big success in Boston. How does it feel?" "Luis," Theresa laughed. A blush creeping into her cheeks. "Well, it's true. Isn't it Ali?" "Uh huh," Ali replied before popping another french fry into her mouth. "There were so many people there, Aunt Theresa," she said. Mouth full. "Mija," Pilar scolded. "It's not polite to talk with your mouth full."

    "Sorry, Nana," Ali apologized between bites. Luis and Theresa burst into laughter at the disapproving look their mother gave Ali. That look only lasted a moment before it was replaced with a smile as Ali grinned at her grandmother. Ketchup all over her face. "What am I going to do with you? You are so much like both your parents. Incorrigible," she said. Ruffling Ali's blond hair fondly. Ali's blue eyes twinkled as she giggled at her grandmother.

    Luis leaned back in his seat and sighed. Happily. He'd needed this. To get out. Enjoy time with his daughter. His mother and his sister. Though he had to wonder at their particular reasoning for choosing to grab lunch in such a crowded place as this. A mall no less. He should have expected nothing less from Theresa, he thought. Despite it all, nothing could ruin his mood. He was happy, almost carefree, for the first time in a long time. He hadn't been this happy since the last time he'd held Sheridan in his arms. Why was it that he felt so close to her today?

    His breath caught in his throat. Three years had passed, and his heart still stopped beating. His breath still ceased when he thought--no, imagined--her walking past him. He couldn't stop himself from doing it. It was second nature to him to scan the crowd wherever he went and look for her. Three years, and he was still searching. For her incredibly blue eyes. Her bright smile. Still searching. Yet he had his own mirror-image of her sitting before him. Causing his mother to laugh helplessly at her silly antics. As his sister gazed on them with love.

    He shook his head in amusement as Ali scampered off ahead of them. He kept one eye on her as he emptied their garbage into the bin and cringed as he turned his full attention back to his daughter. Ali was on a collision course. Theresa's shout of "Ali, look out" and Mama's "Mija! Watch where you're going!" were useless. It was too late. Ali crashed into a complete stranger. And fell to the floor.

    Luis didn't hear his mother's gasp. Didn't hear Theresa's sharp intake of breath behind him. He paid no notice to the face of the stranger--the woman- -Ali had collided with. His only worry was making sure his daughter was alright. He rushed to her side to help her to her feet. "AliCat, are you okay? Are you hurt?" he asked. Almost frantically. A minor accident. But he couldn't bear the thought of her ever being in pain. No matter how little.

    Ali paid him no mind. Her eyes were focused straight ahead. Her impossibly big blue eyes. Brimming with tears. "Ali?" he repeated. And received no answer. "Ali, what's wrong baby?" He watched in confusion as her tiny chin quivered, and the first tear spilled. Trailing down her cheek. He grabbed her by the shoulders. Still she paid him no notice. He looked past her. To his mother and sister. Their faces held the same look. Astonishment. Confusion. He didn't dare turn around. Until he heard a word that made his world turn upside down.

    "Mommy?"











    Chapter Twenty-Three:



    Jenny's mouth hung open in shock. Her blue eyes were wide. Mommy. She called me Mommy. She lifted a trembling hand to tuck her blond hair behind her ear and stared. There were no words. They just wouldn't come out. Was it possible, she wondered as she searched the child's eyes. The hope she saw there made her heart pound.

    Was it true? Her mind wasn't so sure, but something in her heart was crying out to her. Telling her it was. She felt her own eyes begin to water as she looked deep into those beautiful blue eyes. Everything in her was screaming she's yours. Your baby. She held her hand up to her mouth to muffle the sob that rose in her throat.

    Her eyes shifted then to the man who had come running. Running to the rescue. The man whose voice held so much concern for the little girl. So much love. Her breath caught in her throat as he slowly stood and turned to face her for the first time. Oh god, she thought. His eyes. The eyes from her dreams.

    She felt faint. And would have fallen were it not for Nick's steadying hand on her back. She rushed to assure him--and Josh--she was fine. And her eyes met the stranger's once again. Only...only she knew him. Her heart knew him.



    He looked down at the little girl beside him and said with a catch in his voice, "Ali. Go to Nana. Okay baby?" The little girl looked back and forth from her to him in confusion before solemnly nodding her head and obeying his orders.

    Without warning, she turned around and came running. To her arms. "Oh Mommy!" she cried. Over and over again. And Jenny's tears mixed with hers as the little girl hugged her neck tight and trembled in her arms. Clinging desperately to her. Afraid to let go.

    Jenny didn't want to release her either. Holding her felt so right. Like it was what was meant to be, she thought as she buried her face in her soft hair. Breathing in her scent. She smelled so sweet. She felt a wave of love wash over her. And with that feeling came a flash of her.

    Another time. Another place. Holding the same little girl. As a baby with the biggest, brightest blue eyes imaginable. She pulled back in surprise and looked into the tear-filled eyes. Stroked her cheek. Before crushing her in her embrace again.

    She rose to her feet. Still clutching the little girl. And looked into his dark eyes. Gazed at his face. "Your eyes," she said quietly. "It's you. You're the man that haunts my dreams. Your eyes are the eyes I can't forget."

    He looked at her. Just stared at her. And his face crumpled. The protective mask fell apart. "Sheridan? Is it really you? Tell me this isn't some insane dream of mine," he pleaded as he stepped closer. "Tell me this is real," he said. Raising his hand to her cheek. Wiping away her tears.

    She had no answers for him. His name was a mystery. Her past still eluded her. She still had so many questions. So many questions that needed answered. She could only cry as he pulled her into his arms. This was right, her heart told her. She may have forgotten a lot of things. But she remembered this feeling.






    Chapter Twenty-Four:



    "You okay?" Nick asked Josh with a tug on his baseball cap. The boy looked the way he was feeling. Like the rug had been pulled out from under him. "Josh. Champ. It's okay. I know you're sad," he said. Trying to get Josh to meet his eyes. "You don't have to pretend with me." Josh looked up then. And Nick noticed the wetness of his brown eyes.

    "I'm sorry, Dr. Nick. I'm glad Jenny found her family," he said quietly. Casting a glance to where his favorite person in the entire world sat. "But I don't want her to leave us," he said in a wobbly voice. "I don't want her to go." Neither do I, Nick thought as he hugged Josh. Neither do I.

    He leaned back on his heels and gave Josh a friendly smile and was relieved to see Josh's toothy smile again. Even if it didn't quite reach his eyes. He nodded his head politely at Jenny's--no, Sheridan's--husband. Her husband. The words stuck in his throat. Luis. The man who had everything. Everything he had ever wanted, he thought as he watched Jenny with her daughter. Getting to know each other. She would always be Jenny to him. Not Sheridan.

    But he couldn't hate him. Couldn't bring himself to do it. Especially after hearing his heartfelt thanks following the story of how Sheridan came to be "Jenny." The man loved her too much for him to hate him. He felt guilt instead. Guilt for his thoughts. His feelings. Guilt that his heart had sank upon the realization that his Jenny was indeed Luis's Sheridan. It gnawed at him. Because a small part of him still wished to win her heart. Despite it all.

    He smiled as Theresa--that's what she had introduced herself as--tried to lift Josh's spirits. Her efforts finally paid off. Earning a genuine smile from his young friend. He turned to Luis in surprise when he heard his voice. "Will he be okay? He loves her. Adores her. It's plain as day. I can see it all over his face when he looks at her. And I can tell she loves him. Just as much."

    "I think so," he replied, turning back around to the scene in front of him. Josh. Laughing. Enjoying himself. Playing with Jenny's daughter. While Jenny looked on with a content smile. Happy. They were happy. "It'll take him a while. He'll miss her like crazy. All of us will. She means a lot to us. But knowing she's happy will make it easier. Keep her that way."

    Something he couldn't name flashed through Luis's dark eyes. Just a flash. Lasting only a few seconds. Then he held out his hand, and Nick shook it firmly. And watched him cross the room to Jenny. Soon she stood in front of him. Looking a bit overwhelmed, but happiness and hope shone in her blue eyes. She hugged him in gratitude. And goodbye.

    He closed his eyes tightly as he held her one last time. Memorizing the feeling. "Thank you," she whispered. "For all that you have done for me. I'll never forget it. Never forget you," she said with a smile. A kiss to his cheek. The moment was too fleeting. Then she was on her knees. At Josh's feet. Gazing up into his dark eyes. Trying to make him understand.

    "I'll visit all the time. I promise you," she said to him. Holding his hands in hers. Josh sniffled as he said, "It won't be the same. Not without you. I wish you could stay with me." "Oh, sweetie. I can't. This," she said looking around the room at Theresa, Pilar, Ali, and Luis, "is my family. I still don't remember a lot of things. And I may never remember everything. But I know I belong with them."

    "I know," Josh said softly. "You'll visit? You promise?" She smiled at him and cupped his cheek in the palm of her hand. "Of course I will. We'll have to play a few hands of cards here and there." "You'll never win," Josh said with a grin. "I'll always beat you." She matched the grin on his face with one of your own and said, "We'll see about that mister." Josh laughed and threw his arms about her neck. Whispered something to her. And Jenny beamed at him as she waved goodbye.

    In the car on the way out of Boston, Nick asked Josh what he had said to make Jenny smile so. Josh smiled a secret smile and told him, "I can't tell you. That's my secret. Mine and Jenny's." He laughed and gave him an affectionate pat on the shoulder. And turned back to the road in front of him. The road home.







    Chapter Twenty-Five:



    Luis checked the rear-view mirror for the upteenth time. He couldn't believe it. She was alive. He had his wife back. Ali had her mother back. Sheridan was alive and breathing. And at this very moment, listening attentively to Ali's excited chatter. Ali had talked non-stop. Hardly stopping for a breath since they left Boston. He looked at them. Together as they should be. He couldn't erase the goofy grin that adorned his face. It felt like a permanent fixture.

    Not even his disappointment over not being able to meet and thank the man who had saved Sheridan's life three years ago could dampen his spirits. They'd driven to the small town. Driven to the cabin in the woods. To let Sheridan say her final goodbyes. Luis was struck by how close she had been all those years ago. In a little hospital not too far from the winding road where the accident occurred.

    The cabin was empty. No one there. Only a note. Addressed to Jenny. Sheridan had opened it. Reading it slowly before folding it back up. A single tear slipping down her cheek. He'd wanted to take her into his arms. Comfort her. But he didn't want to frighten her. Make her uncomfortable by rushing things. He understood she needed time. To recover her memories. All of them. He was willing to give her all the time she needed. They left the cabin behind them. To return home. To Harmony.

    He smiled as their home came into view. Squeezed his mother's outstretched hand. "We're almost home, Mommy!" Ali sounded. "I can't wait to show you my room!" His mother laughed softly. He stopped the car and breathed deeply before opening the door and getting out. He grabbed his giggling daughter in his arms and set her on her feet. Then took Sheridan's hand and helped her out of the car.

    He looked into her blue eyes. She was nervous. "It'll be okay," he whispered. "I'll be with you. Every step of the way." She gave him a small, grateful smile. Told him "Thank you." And held on as he led her inside. She barely had a moment to catch her breath before Ali grabbed her hand. Dragging her off to her bedroom. "AliCat, slow down, baby," he yelled. Only to have it fall on deaf ears.

    "Luis. Mijo," his mother said. "I'm going to go home. Give you and Sheridan and Ali some time alone.

    I'm so happy for you son," she said. Hugging him goodbye. "Tell Sheridan I said goodbye. I'll see her and Ali soon. Okay?" "I will, Mama," he said. Kissing her cheek. Walking her to the door. He watched her. Made sure she made it to her car safely before shutting the door behind her. Closing his eyes as he leaned against it and thanked God for bringing Sheridan back to them.

    He walked silently to Ali's room. Following the sound of their laughter. He stood in the doorway watching them. Mother and daughter were having a tea party. Wearing identical hats. They were all smiles. His heart was so full of love for them at that moment. He was sure it would burst. "Daddy!" Ali called. Noticing him spying on them. "Come have a tea party with us." He looked to Sheridan. Gazing into her eyes. Looking for an answer. And finding one. "Come on, Luis," she said almost shyly. Blue eyes twinkling with amusement. Just like Ali's.

    So he did. And they had a wonderful time. After their tea party, Ali demanded a story. Just like every night. But this time, she looked to her mother. Smiling sweetly. "Goodnight Daddy," she said as he kissed her forehead and ruffled her blond hair. "I love you." He turned to Sheridan. Wanting to kiss her so badly. Like those nights so long ago. He leaned in. His lips drawing ever closer to hers. His heart pounding. Her breath almost stopping. Meeting her blue eyes and staring into them. He closed his eyes and kissed her softly on the cheek. "Goodnight," he breathed.

    He listened from their bedroom to the sound of her voice as she read to their daughter. The tale more magical. More enthralling than ever. He listened. His heart in his throat. He hoped to never wake up from this beautiful dream. Never to wake up and have it all disappear. Have her gone from their lives again. He smiled tenderly hearing Ali's sweet voice. "I love you, Mommy." Hearing Sheridan a moment later. "I love you, too." And when he checked in on them some time later finding them fast asleep and snuggled in each other's arms, he hoped that if this were a dream, it would never end. He had his life back, he thought as he covered them both with a blanket. He said one last quiet goodnight, one last 'I love you' to them both and turned the light off. His whole life.

  6. #6
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    Post Re: Unforgettable (Sheridan/Luis, Gwen/Hank)

    Chapter Twenty-Six:



    He sat there. Alone. Fingering the small golden band in his hand. Wondering why he had never suspected. Wondering how one man could be so cruel. All those years. All those years he hadn't visited. Hadn't pretended to care. Because he didn't. Didn't care at all. Alistair Crane was an evil man. If he could be called such.

    He'd let his daughter lie there. Year after year. Without letting her family--the ones who truly loved her--know she was alive. Still breathing. Still with them. Eased their pain. Martin didn't know what would have happened had they known. Would Jenny--Sheridan--have woken up sooner? He didn't have an answer. He never would have an answer. Alistair Crane had seen to that.

    Anger filled him. Consumed him and wouldn't let go. That ruthless monster had ruined a lot of lives in his lifetime. He missed so much with his own children--his wife--because of him. Gone so long. He closed his eyes remembering the last time he saw his family. How they looked. How they felt in his arms that evening as he said goodbye. To answer Alistair's call. Just like he always did.

    But that summons was nothing like the usual. Not at all. That evening was the beginning of the end for him. And only the tip of the iceberg for young Sheridan. The pawn of her father. And her weak-willed brother. He couldn't forget the image of her as a little girl. Hands bloodied. Horror in her eyes. They lied to her. Like they lied to everyone.

    That image morphed into an image of her as he had last seen her. All grown up. Beautiful as ever. Pain of not knowing her identity and concern for him in her eyes. He studied the small golden band in his hand again. Lifted it closer to read the inscription once more. "To Sheridan. Love always, Luis." He gripped the ring tighter in his hand. Closing his eyes and damning Alistair Crane silently.

    He'd stood here only a day earlier. Taunting him as he gave him the ring. Laughing evilly at the shock written plainly on his face as the realization overtook him. He'd thought he'd hated the man before. But that was nothing compared to the hatred he felt for him at that moment. Nothing compared to what he felt as he looked at a picture of his son. With his daughter. A daughter who looked so much like her mother. His granddaughter. And Alistair's.

    Fear for them all had kept him from saying goodbye to her the following day. So he'd left a note. Hoping she'd understand. He watched from the shadows, from the forest surrounding the cabin. His heart pounding at the sight of his son. Luis. And his Pilar. Holding a tiny, blond-haired girl in her arms and watching Luis and Sheridan in concern. His family, he thought. So close, yet he couldn't touch them. Take them into his arms. He couldn't break his promise. Couldn't let Alistair tear the little family apart again.

    It almost killed him. Almost. But he was determined, now more than ever, to find a way back to them. Back to them all. And until then, he would lie low. Lull the monster into a false sense of security. Somehow, he'd do it. Somehow. He slipped the ring in his pocket as he rose from his seat and went outside.





    Chapter Twenty-Seven:



    She awoke slowly. Unsure of where she was. Disoriented. She ran a hand through her tangle of blond hair and sat up. Taking in her surroundings. Remembering the night before. Coming home to this place. Playing with Ali. Her daughter, she thought as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes and searched the room for her. Where was she?

    She jumped when his voice answered her unasked question. "Ali's at my mother's. Playing with Jake." She fixed her blue eyes on him. Stared in confusion. "I'm sorry," he said. She thought she heard him swear under his breath. "Jake's the son of some friends of mine. Ours," he hurriedly corrected. "Um, I guess I'll go and let you get dressed. I made you some breakfast." She smiled at him as he pulled the door shut behind him.

    She found him sitting on the sofa. With boxes and books at his feet. A simple breakfast tray waiting for her on the coffee table. He watched her expectantly as she took a bite. "These are good," she said after taking a sip of orange juice. He beamed at her and said, "I thought you'd like them. Considering you practically lived on them when I first met you. Scrambled eggs was the extent of your cooking expertise."

    She laughed softly. "An accident. I seem to remember you calling them an accident." His whole face lit up in pleasure at her snippet of memory. "You remember." "Only bits and pieces. Here and there. Fleeting, really. It's so frustrating." His face fell somewhat as he took in her words. He reached for one of her hands and held it in his. Gazed into her eyes. "But you'll remember more and more. I know it. Starting today," he said as he squeezed her hand. Then let it go reluctantly to grab the first of the many books that rested at his feet.

    "Here," he said. Offering the book to her. "Pictures of you. Us. Family and friends. I thought it wouldn't hurt. It might even help jog your memory." His brown eyes shone with hope that his wish might come true. Slowly, she eased the book open. And saw a picture of herself. With Luis. They were dancing. The corners of her mouth turned up as she looked at the picture. A laugh stole forth from her lips. She met his dark eyes in surprise when she heard his own soft chuckle.

    "This was taken at my mother's birthday party. Right after we met. We got off on the wrong foot when you crashed into my police car. Twice," he said. His beautiful brown eyes dancing with amusement at her gasp of surprise. "I'll tell you about it one time," he promised. "Anyway, this is at my mother's birthday party. We sort of challenged each other to a tango. I was so sure you'd make a fool of yourself. You sure proved me wrong. It was like we'd been dancing together our whole lives."

    She matched the smile on his lips with one of her own. And leaned in closer to him as he thumbed through the book. Explaining each and every one of the photos. She recognized Pilar and Theresa in some of them. And another young man who Luis revealed was his younger brother Miguel. He patiently told her the identity of each and every person in the pictures. She committed all their names to memory. Hoping not to embarrass herself whenever they should meet again.

    Sometime later, she realized he had stopped talking. No longer looking at the album. But at her. Her breath grew shallow as she felt his eyes on her. She was afraid she'd quit breathing as he tucked a stray strand of her hair behind her ear. "I always wondered what you'd look like with long hair," he whispered. She swallowed nervously and turned slowly to look into his eyes. "You're so beautiful," he said seriously.

    Her eyes fluttered shut as his face inched closer to hers, and she sighed softly as she felt his lips touch hers. Light as a feather. She opened them to find him staring at her. Tears in his eyes. "You are real. I was so afraid it was a dream. But it's not. You're here. With me," he said. Caressing her cheek. "I'm here. With you," she said. Leaning into his touch. "Oh, Sheridan," he sobbed brokenly. "I've missed you so much." Tears stung her own eyes, spilling over and trailing down her cheeks as she held him. Held him tight. Determined not to let go.






    Chapter Twenty-Eight:



    "Whoa! Hey, buddy. Where's the fire?" Hank said. Taking Jake by the shoulders. "Daaaaddd! I have to go. I got to hide before Ali finds me. I can't get beat by a girl. Especially Ali," Jake said in disgust. Hank smiled as his son scurried away. Intent on finding the best hiding spot.

    He laughed aloud as Ali scrambled by. "Hi, Uncle Hank!" she waved. "Which way did Jake go?" "You know I can't rat on my own son, Al," he said, grabbing her up and tickling her until she giggled helplessly. He whispered something in her ear before letting her go. Causing a wide, impish grin to stretch across her sweet face.

    "Hank Bennett. What am I going to do with you? Tattling on your own son. Just because a pretty girl batted her lashes at you," Pilar said in amusement. Hugging him in greeting.

    "You know me so well," he teased her. Smiling at her soft laughter and taking her arm as they went inside. "I heard the good news," he said. Settling himself in the chair she indicated while she fixed them both a drink and checked to make sure the children were okay once more.

    "Dios mio!" she exclaimed. He jumped up to see what had her so excited. Payback wasn't always a pretty thing, he mused as he watched Ali giving it to Jake in the back yard. He laughed. He'd known it was coming sooner or later. He just wished it'd come on Gwen's watch. She was never going to let him hear the end of this.

    "Ali! Mija! Put that down. Now," she yelled to her granddaughter outside. He only laughed harder. Earning a disapproving look from Pilar. "Sorry," he sputtered. "Ahem. I'm sorry," he said soberly. His attempt was in vain. Ruined the moment she burst into laughter herself. Happy laughter.

    "So...where's Luis? With Sheridan?" he asked. Wiping the tears from her eyes, she answered him. "Yes, he is. Hank, he is so happy. Happier than I have seen him in a long time. It almost doesn't matter that Sheridan doesn't have her memory. He's too happy to let it daunt him."

    He digested that information before he said, "She really doesn't remember? Anything?" "She remembers bits and pieces. But nothing major. You should have seen the way she held on to Ali. She just knew Ali was her daughter. I can't explain it." "Well," he chuckled. As Ali marched through the door. A triumphant smile on her face. Jake following her. His own face so black with dirt he was almost unrecognizable. "Our Miss Ali is unforgettable," he laughed.

    Pilar buried her head in her hands and groaned. Hank winked at Ali as he took Jake's hand. "Come on, Jake. Might as well get it over with," he said with humor in his voice. "Then we'll see if your mom wants to go get a pizza with us." "Pizza," Jake taunted. Sticking his tongue out at Ali. "So," she said. Crossing her arms and glaring at him. Trying to look mad but the twinkle in her blue eyes betrayed her.

    "See you two lovely ladies later," Hank called as he and Jake went out the door. "Bye Uncle Hank! Bye Jake!" Ali yelled. Waving until they were out of sight. "Nana?" she asked. Patting Pilar's arm. "Can we have pizza, too?" "Oh, Ali," Pilar said laughing. Pulling her into her arms. "We can have whatever you want. Now. Give me a hug, Mija." "Like this," Ali giggled. Squeezing her neck tightly. "Just like that."



    Chapter Twenty-Nine:



    "Jake, buddy. At least try to wipe some of that dirt off. Your mother's going to kill me. Remember last time?" he said. Looking into his son's brown eyes. Trying to get his point across. "I already tried, Dad. It's not working," Jake said. Just picturing his mother's reaction. He wasn't really afraid of his mom. She was all bark. No bite. It was his grandmother he was worried about. The same thought was running through Hank's head.

    They pulled up in front of the Hotchkiss Estate, and Hank killed the engine. Then turned to his son. Trying one last time. Deciding it was useless. And shaking his head. Man, they were in trouble, he thought as he rang the doorbell. Jake stood beside him. Nervously shuffling back and forth on his feet. The door flew open, and Hank cursed his rotten luck.

    "Oh good Lord! Bennett! Must you always bring that child home looking like he's been playing in the city dump?" Rebecca screeched. He ignored her. Winking at Jake. "The dump is the coolest place to play. Isn't it Jake?" "Yeah, Dad. The best," Jake played along. His grin shining brightly from his dirty little face. "Oh my god!" Rebecca exclaimed in horror. Bringing her hand to her chest and rushing off. Leaving them standing on the doorstep.

    "That was so much fun, Dad," Jake giggled loudly. Hank laughed with him. "Did you see your grandma's face, Jake? It was priceless." "Grandma's too easy," Jake said between breaths. Hank slapped his son affectionately on the back and led him inside. "Oh. Hello Mr. Hotchkiss," he nodded politely. "Grandpa!" Jake gleefully yelled. Running to his grandfather's outstretched arms.

    "Well," Jonathan Hotchkiss chuckled. "This is what sent my wife screaming to the other end of the house. So, Jake--my boy--was it worth it just to see the look on her face? What about it Hank?" he questioned. A amused smile playing at the corners of his mouth. Jonathan Hotchkiss, Hank thought, wasn't all that bad. He was saved from answering when Jake piped in. "She had steam coming out of her ears, Grandpa." Hank shook with silent laughter. Answer enough, he guessed. All three of them laughed at Rebecca's expense.

    "Daddy, what's wrong with Mother? Why was she so upset? So horri....Oh. Nevermind. Hank Bennett," Gwen said shaking her head. Sighing as she looked at her son's filthy face. Hank immediately sobered. Or at least tried to. But it was extremely hard while Jonathan Hotchkiss still rumbled with laughter. "Jake," she scolded as she took him from her father's arms. "Go upstairs and get cleaned up. I'll deal with you later."

    "But Mom," Jake whined. "No but's, Jacob Henry. Get upstairs. Now," she warned. "I'll be up later," she said. Softening her tone and ruffling his unruly brown hair. She watched him ascend the stairs. A loving smile on her face. Then she turned back to Hank. Arms crossed. Face a blank mask. "Look, Gwen. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to let him get so dirty again. I swear," Hank rushed. "Go easy on him, Darling," her father said. Kissing her cheek as he passed by.

    She stood there. Silent. Making Hank suffer. But inside she wanted to laugh out loud at the look of panic on his face. She listened to his excuses. Waiting to see what he came up with. She had already been warned. By Pilar via telephone. She had to give it to him. He sure was a good spinmeister. "Save it, Hank," she said. Totally catching him off guard as she came closer and closer. Now he really looked scared, she thought as she came to a stop in front of him.

    Downright terrified. "But Gwen," he tried to say. "It wasn't really my fault. Ali was..." He couldn't get another word out of his mouth. Because she was kissing him. And he was so stunned he couldn't think straight. "Wow," he breathed as she pulled back and smiled at him. Smiled at the confusion in his eyes. "Wow," he repeated once more. Rubbing his finger across his lips. "What was that for?" "Oh, nothing. Just felt like it." "Well. Anytime you feel like it, just lay another one of those on me. I don't mind. Not at all," he said with a cocky grin.

    She rolled her eyes at him and turned to go. To follow her son upstairs to get ready for their pizza date. She laughed softly to herself imagining the look that must be on his face. "And Hank. Shame on you. Trying to pin the blame on a four-year-old little girl. At least be man enough to take responsibility," she called out behind her. Grateful he couldn't see the enormous smile on her face. And wishing she could see the look on his.





    Chapter Thirty:



    "Hey, Gwen. Where's Sheridan?" Luis asked in curiousity. Looking around the living room and noting her absence. And Ali's and Jake's. "Gwen," he asked again. This time worry creeping into his voice. He'd only had her back for such a short time. Only a month. He couldn't bear the thought of losing her again. "Luis," Gwen soothed. "She's just in her room. She'll be out in just a minute."

    "Oh," he said. Settling himself against the soft cushions of the sofa next to her. "So, where are the kids? It's awfully quiet around here." Gwen smiled. It was true. It WAS quiet. "Hank has them. In fact," she said, glancing at her watch, "I'm supposed to be meeting them in about ten minutes. Bye Luis," she said. Kissing his cheek and rising from the sofa. "Tell Sheridan to call me tonight and let me know how her surprise went," she said with a smirk.

    "Surprise? What surprise? Gwen?!?!" he yelled. Growing annoyed at her refusal to answer him before she shut the door behind her. He crossed the room to look out the window. Watching her car pull out of the drive and disappear down the road. He was so lost in thought about the last few weeks that her quietly spoken "Luis" made him jump nearly a foot into the air.

    His jaw fell open at the sight in front of him. "Luis. Say something," she pleaded. Running a nervous hand through her hair. Her short hair. "You cut your hair," he said. Staring at her in shock. She looked just like she had three years ago. Exactly the same. If he didn't know better, he would think the last three years were a dream.

    "You don't like it," she said. Casting her eyes downward. "I thought..." "Sheridan," he said. Coming to stand just in front of her. Tilting her chin up with a finger. "Sheridan. Look at me. I love it. Just a bit surprised. That's all." "Really?" she asked. Blue eyes alight with so much--he couldn't name what was in her eyes. "Really. You look beautiful." He wanted so much to believe the look in her beautiful eyes was love.

    "I thought," she began. "I thought it might help. You know. If I looked the way I did all those years ago. Maybe help me remember the way things were. I want so much to remember, Luis. Everything," she said earnestly. "Not just flashes here and there. I want to remember it all." "I know," he said. Taking her hand and giving it a comforting squeeze.

    "So," he laughed, "was this the surprise Gwen was talking about? Your hair?" "Part of it," she said. Pulling him into the kitchen. And proudly showing him the candlelit table. A table set for two. "Um, I wanted to do something nice for you. Pay you back for being so sweet and understanding. Don't worry," she giggled. "I didn't cook the food. Pilar sent it over. All your favorite dishes." She gasped in surprise when he pulled her into his arms. Hugging her tightly. "Thank you," he breathed.

    He pulled back. Conscious that he was practically crushing her in his embrace. "Sorry," he apologized. "And before you ask, I love your surprise," he quickly said. Earning a brilliant smile from her. He returned her smile and pulled her chair out for her. Then he seated himself. He poured them both a glass of wine and lifted his glass in celebration. "To second chances." The look in his dark eyes made her shiver as their glasses clinked together. "Second chances," she repeated. Softly. Taking a sip of her wine.

    They enjoyed their meal. Talking. Laughing. Going over the events of their respective days. But mostly they talked about Ali. And Luis thought back to a night so long ago. When Ali came into existence. A night so much like tonight. Sheridan blushed at his admission. Sometimes--she wasn't sure if it were dream or fantasy--she imagined being in his arms. Waking up together. She nearly spilled her wine when he said, "Penny for your thoughts." He hid his smile from her. He was falling in love with her all over again tonight.

    He rose from his seat and offered her his hand. "Dance with me," he said. Not an order. But a request. She slid her hand into his and stood up. Blue eyes locked with brown. He tucked her hand away and led her into the living room where he turned the radio on. Soft, romantic notes filtering through the air. A woman's voice weaving magic around the words. He pulled her body close. And they began swaying to the music. Moving closer and closer. Sheridan sighed. Relaxing in his arms completely. Luis responded by holder her tighter. Burying his nose in her hair as she melted into him.

    He couldn't pinpoint the exact moment they stopped moving. The exact moment he pulled away to look into her eyes. Drowning in their blueness. All he could remember was the way she sighed as he ran his knuckles across her cheek. The way she closed her eyes as he planted tiny kisses on her brow. Her eyelids. The way she slipped her arms around his neck. Pulling him closer. Trembling as his lips descended on hers. How sweet she tasted. Their kisses growing bolder. More intense. Until the flash of a car's lights shattered the moment. And she pulled away. Her eyes a mixture of surprise. Confusion. Desire. The moment was over as soon as it began. He ran his hand through his hair as he went to answer the door. When he turned around--Ali's sleeping body in his arms--she was gone.

  7. #7
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    Post Re: Unforgettable (Sheridan/Luis, Gwen/Hank)

    Chapter Thirty-One:





    She leaned back against her closed door and shut her eyes. Tightly. Willing her heart to stop racing. Her breathing to slow down. What had happened? What had happened just moments ago with Luis? Her thoughts were muddled. Cloudy. So confused. She opened her eyes and looked around the room. Searching for answers. Clues to her identity. Wishing so hard she could just remember. Remember things the way they were.

    She flipped the lamp on her nightstand on. Bathing the room in a soft glow. Reached for the photo and held it up. Studying their faces. It was a picture of her, Luis, and Ali. A family. Taken just a week before by Pilar. She ran her finger across Luis's handsome face and whispered, "Why? Why is it so hard?" She clasped the photo against her heart as she imagined the hurt she was sure was in his dark eyes the minute he discovered she was gone. She didn't want to hurt him.

    But she couldn't help it. Every time she pulled away, every time she had to question him about something that held special meaning for them--as a family, as husband and wife--it hurt him. He tried to hide it from her, but she could see it in his eyes. Tears seeped from underneath her lashes. Tears of frustration. Would they ever have the love that she saw so clearly in all those pictures again?

    She jerked at his soft knock. Clutching the picture closer. "Sheridan?" he called. Quietly. He didn't want to wake Ali. "Sheridan? Are you okay? Can I come in?" She tried to swallow around the lump in her throat. Tried to wipe away her tears before she answered. "Okay. I guess not," she heard him say to himself in a sad voice. "Goodnight."

    "Luis. Wait," she called. Pulling the door open. "Don't go." He stopped in his tracks and turned around slowly. "You're not okay," he said in concern. Standing in front of her and tracing the path of one of her tears. His concern and tenderness only caused her to cry harder. "Shhh," he soothed. Taking her into his arms. Running his hands up and down her back in an effort to calm her. "It's okay. Go ahead and cry."

    She buried her face in his shoulder and sobbed. Grateful he was there to hold her. Feeling selfish for being grateful. "Why do you put up with me?" she asked. Stepping out of his warm, comforting embrace.

    He just smiled at her. Took one of her hands in his own. Threading his fingers through hers. "Easy," he said as he brushed her blond hair back off her face. "Because I love you," he answered steadily.

    She gasped in surprise. The man standing in front of her was too wonderful. Almost unreal. "Even if I never recover my memory?" "Even if," he answered back seriously. "Luis," she whispered. "I'm sorry I ran." "It's okay. I'm sorry I let things get carried away so fast." "It wasn't just your fault. I let you kiss me. I wanted you to kiss me," she admitted with a shy smile.

    "Oh, you did, did you?" he teased. Enjoying the blush that crept into her cheeks. "So...what do you say? Was that the best kiss in memory or what?" "Luis," she laughed. Blue eyes twinkling as she playfully punched him in the arm. "That was the only kiss in memory." "Well, we can fix that," he said pulling her close. "And how might we do that?" she said breathlessly. Gazing into his brown eyes. "Like this," he said. Planting a sweet, lingering kiss on her lips. "Luis," she called to him as he walked to his room just down the hall. "That was the best kiss in memory." He laughed. "Goodnight, Sheridan. I love you." "Goodnight, Luis." I love you, too, she thought with a smile.




    Chapter Thirty-Two:





    Nick sat on the bed's edge. Marveling at the joy written all over Josh's young face as he talked to her on the phone. Talking to her was the highlight of his week. Since she'd left them over a month ago, Josh's health had steadily declined. They were running out of options. The cancer was winning. Taking over his little body. Dark circles rimmed his dark eyes. And his already slight form was diminishing. Nick willed himself to push away his own sad thoughts. Determined to put on a happy face for his young friend.

    "Oh, that's great! A few weeks? That's too long. No. I don't mind if you bring her. I can't wait!" he happily exclaimed. "Josh, honey," his mother admonished. "Not so loud. I'm sure Jenny doesn't appreciate you screaming in her ear." "It's Sheridan, Mom. And she said she doesn't think I'm screaming," he said, putting a hand over the receiver. "Anyway, I have to talk loud. Ali's friend Jake is over there. Sheridan said when they're together stuck inside on a rainy day like this, she can barely hear herself think."

    Nick smiled to himself as he tried to picture the angelic-looking child he had met in Boston going wild and causing so much commotion. He had a hard time believing it. He bet she had her father--and his Jenny--wrapped around her little finger. He looked up when he heard Josh say, "Dr. Nick. Dr. Nick. She wants to talk to you. Wait a minute. I have to tell her something else."

    He exchanged smiles with Josh's mother Christine as Josh whispered something that sounded suspiciously like 'I love you' into the phone. He wiped the grin off his face when Josh turned back around and handed the phone to him with a huge grin on his face. "Thanks Champ," he said. Giving his baseball cap an affectionate tug. A gift from Jenny. "Hi," he said into the phone. A bit nervously. He hadn't spoken to her in so long. Always busy before when her calls came.

    He turned his back to Josh and Christine. Not wanting them to see the emotions he was feeling just from hearing her voice again playing over his face. "It's good to hear from you," he said softly. Closing his eyes as he imagined her. Standing before him. Looking up at him with those big blue eyes. He missed her. He laughed as he heard her yell something indistinguishable, and the racket on the other end quieted. But only a tiny bit.

    "How's life treating you? Good, I hope," he said. Pleased when she answered him. In a voice filled with happiness. He wanted nothing but the best for her, but his heart twisted a little when he heard the words. Told him Luis was so kind. So patient. With love in her voice. She loved him. Even though she didn't remember all of her life with him. She never sounded that way when she talked to him, he thought with a pang. And she never would.

    They made plans to meet for lunch when she visited with Ali in a few weeks. She asked about Molly. Asked him to check on Martin for her. And with a final goodbye, she was gone. He held the phone in his hand for a brief moment before replacing it on its receiver. A bittersweet smile on his face as he said goodbye to Christine. Looking at Josh. Fast asleep with a content smile on his lips. He was losing them both. And he didn't know how he was going to deal with that.








    Chapter Thirty-Three:





    "Bye Jake!" she waved at the mischievous little rascal. Smiling at the wide grin he sent her way. "Thank you so much for watching him, Sheridan," Gwen said. Hugging her. "Since Ali wasn't at Pilar's today, I didn't want to bother her. Jake can be quite a handful. He drives Mother crazy," she said with a smile.

    Sheridan shuddered at the sudden image of Rebecca Hotchkiss screeching her head off that popped into her head. Wonderful, she thought. I can't even remember my own husband, but that, that woman stuck in my memory. "Call me later," she called to Gwen as she got into the car with Hank and Jake. "I promise."

    She closed the door behind her and let out the breath she'd been holding almost all day. "Mommy," Ali giggled. "You look like Nana does when Jake goes home." "Ali," she laughed. "What am I going to do with you?" she said scooping her up in her arms and kissing her silly. "What do you say about a nice, relaxing bubble bath, sweetie?"

    "Oh Mommy!" she squealed. "I love bubble baths." Grinning at her adorably. Then hugging her neck. Extra tight. "A bubble bath it is," she said. Setting her down on her feet and taking her little hand in hers. And leading her down the hall to the bathroom.

    She sighed in pleasure as she sank into the warm water. A smile threatening to take over her entire face as Ali mimicked her every action. Right down to the expression of complete contentment on her little face. "Come here, baby," she whispered. Pulling her tiny body closer and squeezing her tight.

    "I love you, Mommy," Ali said sweetly. Cuddling up against her. "I love you, too," she answered. Wiping bubbles on her cute little nose and laughing when she did the same. Soon they were engaged in an all-out bubble war. They were having so much fun neither one noticed Luis standing in the doorway. Sporting an amused smile.

    Until they heard his soft laughter. "Daddy!" Ali squealed in delight. "You're home." Holding her arms out for a hug. He looked at her, into her eyes as if asking if it were okay. "Hi Luis," she said. She felt her heart speed up as he closed the distance between the tub and the door. Kneeling on the floor and hugging Ali's soapy little body close. Her heart pounded as he kissed her cheek.

    "Missed my girls today," he whispered. Dark eyes sparkling. She blushed under his intense gaze. Looked away unable to meet his brown eyes any longer. Ali happily sang to herself. Blissfully unaware. She sighed in relief when the phone rang. Grateful he went to answer it. She was afraid her heart was going to beat right out of her chest if he didn't leave soon.

    She washed Ali's long blond hair and her own. Then got out of the tub. Wrapping Ali's little body in a towel and laughing at the picture she made. The towel practically swallowed her whole. She slipped on her robe before picking her back up into her arms and carrying her to her room. "I'm so tired, Mommy," Ali yawned. By the time she finished putting her pyjamas on her, Ali was out like a light.

    Softly she padded into the living room. Expecting to see Luis. Waiting for her. Waiting to tell her about his day. Hear about hers. About how she survived a day with Ali--and Jake--all by herself. She found him on the sofa. Fast asleep. She smiled at him tenderly. Running her fingers through his hair--a feeling of familiarity coursing through her veins. Then she switched off the lamp. Curled up against him. And closed her eyes letting sleep overtake her.






    Chapter Thirty-Four:





    "Mmm," she moaned lightly. Rolling over onto her side. "Luis. Luis. Ali's crying again. Will you..." She left the question unasked. Gazing hopefully into his dark eyes. He sighed. Before swinging his legs over the side of the bed and leaving her. Walking down the hall to get their daughter from her crib.

    She rolled back over on her back. Staring at the ceiling above her. Listening. Ali's cries quieted, and she could hear her husband's deep voice whispering assurances to her. A feeling of complete contentment washed over her. Despite the sleepless nights. Despite her fear that somehow she would mess things up. She closed her eyes and made a wish. A wish that she would always be this happy.

    She opened them to find Luis standing in the doorway to their bedroom. Their four-month-old daughter in his arms. Pinning her with her impossibly blue gaze. "Awww," she said. Reaching for her daughter. "Mommy hates to see her angel cry," she said as she cuddled her daughter close to her body and wiped the remainder of her tears from her tiny cheeks.

    She kissed her sweetly on the forehead before leaning back in Luis's embrace. Sighing softly. Before she began to sing. A lullaby that always calmed Ali. A lullaby she remembered her own mother singing to her when she was afraid. Luis stroked Ali's downy blond head. And kissed her shoulder while she soothed their baby.

    Ali's little eyelids drooped from exhaustion. She fought sleep the entire way. She smiled at her tenderly as she ran a finger across her tiny features. Her baby. Her and Luis's baby was stubborn to a fault. She laughed quietly when she heard Luis whisper in her ear. "Just like her mommy. She's one determined little girl. But I love that in her. And you."

    She turned her head to meet his kiss. "Like her daddy, too," she whispered. Careful not to wake their now sleeping daughter from her slumber. He smiled at her in the darkness. "I love you, Luis. So much. I love you and our little girl. And I'll never forget this moment. Not as long as I live. It's unforgettable."

    "Unforgettable," she mumbled. Instinctively cuddling closer into his warm body. Sighing against his neck as he hugged her closer. He stared down at her. Thanking God for the millionth time for bringing her back to him. And Ali. He loved her with every breath, every fiber in his being. Nothing was ever going to come between them again, he thought as he placed a kiss on the top of her head.

    He looked up. Startled to find himself gazing into his daughter's confused blue eyes. "Daddy," she whispered. "Why are you and Mommy sleeping on the couch?" He smiled at her appearance. Her tangled blond mane and the too-big pyjamas. Before answering her. "I don't know, AliCat. I guess I was so tired I just fell asleep on the couch without noticing it."

    "Did Mommy fall asleep with you?" she asked. Running a tiny hand across her mother's hair with love. "Yes," he answered with a smile. Not believing that this was really happening. That it was real. "Daddy..." she began again. But he quieted her with a finger to the lips. Rising to his feet. Lifting his wife in his arms.

    He carried her into his room. The bedroom they had shared so long ago. Laid her down on its softness and reached a hand out to Ali. Beckoning her to come closer. "Daddy?" she whispered. "Can I sleep with you and Mommy?" He nodded his head and pulled the covers back for her to crawl under them. She snuggled close to her mother. Kissing her cheek. And shut her eyes. Sighing happily. He ran a hand down her soft hair, hers and her mother's, and lay his head down. The last thing he saw before falling into a deep sleep the beloved faces of his two girls.









    Chapter Thirty-Five





    "Gwen. Gwen? Are you listening to me?" Rebecca asked. "Gwen," she said again. Waving her hand in front of her daughter's face. "Oh. I'm sorry, Mother. What did you say?" Rebecca's rolled her eyes in disgust. "Don't tell me you're thinking about that lowlife." Actually, she was, she thought with a smile. "I can't believe you had the stupidity to get pregnant by him."

    "Mother!" she exclaimed incredulously. "How dare you!" She stared at her mother coolly. Her feelings about Hank had always been clear, and she had ignored them before. But she wouldn't stand by and let her put him down this way. "I won't sit here and listen to another word, Mother. I can't believe you would say such a thing. I know you don't like Hank, but Jake is your grandson. My son."

    "The son of a Bennnett. Gwen, dear. I had such high hopes for you. You already disappointed me by giving up Ethan without a fight. Then you had the poor judgment to sleep with that, that," "Stop it right there, Mother. Don't say another word. Or I will lose the last shred of respect I have for you." "Gwen!" "I mean it, Mother," she warned. "Don't make me do this."

    "Do what?" her father questioned. Looking back and forth between the two. His grandson's hand in his own. Rebecca's eyes narrowed as she took in the look on her daughter's face. "I was just telling her she deserves better than Hank Bennett. She's ruining the Hotchkiss family name through her association with him."

    "That's it," she said. Crossing the room and taking Jake by the hand. "I'm sorry, Daddy. I'll call you later. Let you know we're okay." Heading for the door. "Gwen! Gwen! Come back here this instant!" Rebecca shrieked. The only answer was the slamming of the door. "Hmph. She'll be back," she smirked. "I wouldn't be so sure of that, my dear," Jonathan Hotchkiss said. Passing by her. "I wouldn't be so sure." She stared at the front door. The truth of his words sinking in. Wondering where she'd went wrong.

    Gwen glanced over at her son. Smiled into his brown eyes. "It'll be okay, Jake." "Are we not going to live with Grandma anymore?" "No," she answered gravely. She was totally caught off-guard by Jake's whoop of joy. "Yes!" he shouted. Causing her to laugh. "Jake!" "What?" "Nothing," she said. Shaking her head. Wondering what she was going to do with him. "Where are we going to live?" "I don't know." She really had no idea, she thought as the car slowed to a stop. Right in front of Grace's Bed and Breakfast. But all roads led right to Hank. She smiled as Jake ran straight to his father's outstretched arms. Smiled at how her worry left her the moment he smiled back at her. They were going to be alright.

  8. #8
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    Post Re: Unforgettable (Sheridan/Luis, Gwen/Hank)

    Chapter Thirty-Six





    "He's finally asleep. Man," he said. Rubbing a hand over his face. "Why didn't you tell me how tough it was to get that kid into bed--sleeping?" he asked. Taking a seat beside her on the steps and studying her profile. She laughed softly and said, "I thought it was some shared Bennett trait." A smile on her lips. He chuckled in embarrassment. Remembering that night. Holding her in his arms. Talking to her. Listening as she poured her heart out.

    "You still haven't told me why. Why you and Jake just showed up here. With just the clothes on your back. Why Gwen? What happened?" he asked. Waiting patiently for her answer. Giving her all the time she needed. He watched in concern as the smile left her face, and she clasped her hands her knees. Staring. At something only she saw in her mind's eye. "You," she said finally. "It was you."

    He took a moment to compose himself before he spoke. "Me? What do I have to do with this?" She took a deep breath. Turned to face him. Eyes boring into his. Before she answered. "Don't you know?" she said in a shaky voice. "It's all about you. It has been for a while now, Bennett. I left because of you." He was shocked. Speechless. He felt as if the wind had been knocked out of him as he looked into her eyes. Seeing the truth and sincerity in them.

    She continued. Her voice gaining strength with every word. "I couldn't take it anymore. Mother said some things. Awful things. Against you. I couldn't let her talk about you that way. Because she's wrong. You're not everything bad like she thinks. You're everything good in my life," she revealed with a smile. He felt a lump develop in his throat at her words. He was the king of flippant remarks--the joker. And this woman nearly had him in tears.

    "You've given me so many things," she said. "Your friendship. Helped me find myself. And most importantly you gave me Jake. This little boy I adore. This little boy who is so much like his father it isn't even funny," she laughed. He laughed with her. It was true. He saw so much of himself in Jake.

    "I love him so much," she said. Taking his hand in hers and giving it a gentle squeeze. "And I think...I think," she paused. "What do you think?" he asked. Barely a whisper. Afraid to trust the hope he felt rising in his chest. Searching her eyes for an answer. "Gwen?" he asked quietly, wiping the single tear that had escaped from her eyes away with his thumb.

    "I think I love you," she said quickly. Panic in her eyes. Panic and hope. "Just think," he said. His brown eyes twinkling. A grin appearing on his face. One he found impossible to erase. "A girl ought to KNOW when she loves Hank Bennett. He's a pretty special guy." His grin grew even bigger when she burst into laughter. Shoving him playfully.

    "What do I have to do to convince you that you DO love me?" he asked. His laughter dying down. And they were serious once more. "Oh, I don't know," she replied with a slight smile. "Do I have to list all my hugely appealing qualities to remind you?" "No," she laughed. "Besides, you tend to be a little full of yourself at times." "Who? Me?" he asked in mock indignation.

    "We have to get to the truth of the matter. Any way we can," he said. Leaning closer. Closing the gap between his lips and hers. Smirking at her when she replied. "Yes. Any way we can." Breathlessly. Her huff of annoyance when he stopped just inches from her lips only made him smile more. He loved teasing her. He loved her, he thought as he kissed her. Pulled her closer. Threading his fingers through her hair and kissed her for all he was worth.

    He pulled back reluctantly. "So...what's the verdict? Did that convince the lady of her true feelings?" He waited expectantly. And was rewarded a moment later. "Yes," she said seriously. Leaning her forehead against his and closing her eyes. "There's no doubt. I love you," she breathed. Placing a gentle kiss on his lips. He sighed in relief and happiness.

    "Sure took you long enough to figure it out," he joked. "I knew you wouldn't be able to resist me too much longer." "Hank," she groaned. Rolling her eyes. "Sorry, babe. You're going to have to learn to live with it. Comes with the territory. I knew there was a reason I loved you." This time she kissed him. Senseless. From the window a voice rang out. "Yes! Alright!" They broke apart. Laughing. Rose to their feet. And went inside. Hand in hand. "I should have known."




    Chapter Thirty-Seven





    "You doing alright back there, sweetie?" she asked. Glancing at her daughter in the rear-view mirror. "Yes, Mommy. Are we there yet?" She smiled at Ali's question. She'd already asked the same question countless number of times since they left Harmony this morning. "Not yet, baby. Just a little farther I promise." "Mommy, why didn't Daddy come with us?" "Daddy's really busy. He couldn't get away from work," she explained patiently.

    "Oh," Ali replied quietly in a sad little voice. Then brightened up considerably as the car slowed to a stop. "We're here, Ali. You ready to go see Josh? You remember I told you he's very sick, don't you?" She paused. Letting Ali digest this information. Continuing after she nodded her head gravely. "We can't tire him out, okay?" "Okay, Mommy." "Come on, sweetie," she said. Helping Ali out of the car and taking her hand. Stepping back into the past as they walked through the hospital's doors.

    In the hallway she came face to face with a dear friend. A dear friend she hadn't had the chance to say a proper goodbye to. "Molly!" she exclaimed. Hugging the older woman tightly. Then pulling back from the embrace to look into her kind brown eyes. "Jenny," she said. Cupping both sides of her face in her hands. "My sweet Jenny. Oh, how I have missed you. We all have. Terribly," she said with tears in her eyes.

    "Actually, Molly, it's Sheridan," she told her with a smile. "Oh," Molly gasped in embarrassment. "Foolish, foolish me. I'm so sorry. Sheridan," she said. Testing out the foreign name. "It's okay," she rushed to assure her. "Would you look at you?" she said. Holding her at arm's length. "You cut your hair." "What do you think?" Sheridan asked. Running a hand through her blond hair self-consciously. "You look beautiful."

    "And who is this adorable little girl here?" she asked. Noticing Ali for the first time. Ali giggled as she took Molly's offered hand and shook it. Just like a grown-up. "Molly," Sheridan said, voice laced with love and pride, "this is my daughter. Ali. Ali, sweetie. This is the woman who took care of me all the time I was away." Ali's bright blue eyes shifted from Molly to her mother and back. "Thank you for taking care of my mommy," she said. Shyly. "Oh. Aren't you the sweetest little thing. Come here. I want a hug." Ali willingly went into her arms. Kissed her cheek. As Sheridan smiled at them both.

    "You're here," a voice called out. "Josh will be so happy to see you. So...this is Ali," Christine said. "I've heard a lot about you. Don't tell your mom, but I think he's looking forward to seeing you more," she said. Eliciting more giggles from Ali. "I promise." Then she hugged Sheridan. Whispered in her ear. Causing her to grow serious all of a sudden. Causing Molly's smile to disappear as well. Ali looked on in confusion. But didn't dare say a word.

    Until they came to Josh's room. "Josh!" she squealed. Rushing to his bedside. "Ali," he said. "I'm so glad you came. I have something for you," he said between labored breaths. "You have something for me?" she asked in excitement. "Dr. Nick," he said. Reaching his hand out and taking his favorite baseball cap from Nick's hands and giving it to Ali. "Here," he said. "Your mom got this for me in Boston. I want you to have it." "Thank you," she said sweetly. Giggling as Nick put in on her head. Backwards.

    "Look, Mommy." "I see, sweetie. It looks great on you. How's my buddy doing?" she asked. Settling on the edge of Josh's bed and smiling brightly at him. "Not too good. But I'm so glad you're finally here. I thought you were never going to get here." "Nothing and no one could have stopped me from seeing you," she said. Kissing his forehead. Then trying to wipe away the smudge her lipstick had left. "Mommy," Ali giggled. "You got make-up on him." "I know," she laughed. "I'm sorry, Josh," she said sheepishly. Josh only smiled at her in response.

    "Miss Ali," Molly said cheerfully. "What do say me and you go for a walk? Meet some of the other kids?" "It's okay, baby. You can go. I'll be right here waiting for you. Molly might even let you meet some of the babies," she said. Tucking Ali's long blond hair behind an ear. "Bye, Josh. See you later," Ali waved. As Molly led her out of the room. And Christine followed them. Leaving Sheridan and Nick and Josh alone.

    "Okay, Josh. Your wish is my command. Just name it. What do you want to do? Play cards? I'm sure I could beat you and Dr. Nick both." "Could not," he boasted. "No, I think I could beat you both," Nick bragged. "What do you say, Champ? Want to prove us wrong?" "No," Josh said. Shaking his head. "I don't want to play cards." "Well, what about cartoons?" Sheridan ventured. "Nope." "Checkers?" Nick asked. Again he shook his head no. "I'm running out of ideas here, Josh," Sheridan laughed.

    "A story," he said. "A story," Nick replied. Dumbfounded. A smile lit Sheridan's face. "A story. Sounds wonderful. Any particular story in mind?" "Uh huh," Josh nodded. Producing a well-worn copy of a familiar book. One they had been reading together. Before Boston. She crawled into the hospital bed beside him and slipped an arm around his shoulders as she read. Taking turns with Nick at various times throughout the story. She felt tears clog up her throat when she gazed upon his small form. He was so tired. So worn from his battle. She forced the tears back down. Squeezing Nick's hand. Kissing Josh--who slept peacefully--goodbye. Her lips lingering on his forehead. "Love you," he mumbled. Only breaking down once she left the room. Falling apart in Nick's arms.




    Chapter Thirty-Eight:





    "Mommy?" Ali asked worriedly. "Mommy, what's wrong?" Her mommy was crying. She saw the tears. Saw her wipe them away as she drove. "Nothing, baby. Mommy's just sad." "About Josh?" "Yeah. About Josh." "Mommy? Is Josh going to go to heaven?" Her voice sounded funny when she answered. "Yes, sweetie. Soon Josh will be an angel."

    She thought it over a minute. "Then he won't be sick anymore, will he?" "No, Ali. He won't," she said with a sad smile. Turning around to face her after she cut the car's engine. "He won't hurt anymore." "Don't cry, Mommy. Please don't cry." "Oh, sweetie," she said. Getting out of the car and opening Ali's door. Taking her in her arms. Holding her tight. "Mommy needs a hug right now. Real bad." "Shh, Mommy. It's okay," Ali whispered. Kissing her mother's cheek sweetly.

    Sheridan hugged Ali's tiny body as close as humanly possible. "Mommy loves you so much, baby. So much." She leaned back and looked into Ali's big blue eyes. Then hugged her again. Smiling when Ali wrapped herself around her. "What would I do without you?" she sniffled. Then smiled. She didn't have to worry about that. Not anymore. She had her family back. Getting her memory back suddenly didn't seem as important. Because she had them back. They could make new memories. But first she had to say goodbye. Once and for all.

    She kissed Ali lightly on the nose. Earning a giggle. And set her down on her feet. "I'm okay," she promised. Ali smiled in response and took her hand. "Where are we, Mommy?" she asked. Looking at the woods around her. "This is the place I stayed at when I first woke up, baby. I want you to meet a very special person. He took care of me. Like Molly and Nick. He was my friend." "What's his name?" "Martin." "Like Daddy's Papa?" she asked.

    Sheridan stopped in her tracks. Stunned. No, she thought. Luis had mentioned the name Martin before. When he was going through the old photo albums. Telling her about his family. But there were no pictures. Nothing to remotely suggest that his Martin was one in the same as her Martin. "Mommy?" Ali asked. Frowning at her expression. "Like Daddy's Papa," she conceded. Her brain working overtime. Trying to make sense of her jumbled thoughts. She gathered her senses and raised a hand to knock on the door.

    The door opened. She and Martin were face to face again. "Sheridan," he said. Her mouth hung open in confusion. She hadn't seen him since that morning. The morning before Boston. How did he know her real name? He seemed to sense her thoughts. "Nick's been keeping me updated," he supplied. And for the moment, she was satisfied. He looked at her strangely. Making her feel uneasy. But it was his reaction to Ali that baffled her. Tears pooled in his eyes. Sadness. Love. She didn't understand.

    His voice shook as he kneeled. Eye level with Ali. And said "Ali?" Ali nodded her head. "You're beautiful. Just like your mother always was." She grinned at him. Pleased to know he thought she looked like her mommy. "Thank you," she shyly replied. Then did what she did best. Offered him a hug. If he held her a little too tightly, a little too long, Sheridan didn't notice. She owed this man so much. She owed him her life.

    They stayed. Until the sun faded in the distance. Until dusk fell. Visiting. Catching up. Ali took to Martin immediately. And Sheridan was struck by an overwhelming sense of familiarity watching them together. Watching them interact. She knew surely her mind was playing tricks on her. Her eyes were deceiving her. But Ali's words rang in her head. Refused to give her peace. It was a relief when they parted ways. Said their goodbyes. A temporary relief.

    Ali waved at Martin until she could no longer see him. No longer see his cabin. Not noticing her mother's preoccupation. She was too tired. Too happy they were going home to Daddy to really notice. She didn't see the look of horror on her mother's face. Couldn't see the images that flashed before her mother's eyes. Hear the screams that echoed in her mother's head. "No," she heard her mother whisper. Then say in a louder voice. "No." "Mommy," she said. Scared. "Mommy," she yelled. But her mother didn't hear her. Couldn't hear her. All she heard was the screaming. Julian! She couldn't see anything but images from that night over three years ago. Couldn't see the oncoming car's lights until it was too late.

    "Mommy look out!"






    Chapter Thirty-Nine:





    He'd held his granddaughter in his arms. Talked with her. Played with her. He wondered if it was real. Hoped it wasn't a cruel trick of his imagination. No, he thought. It was real. True. Her sweet scent lingered on his clothes. Her mother's perfume hung in the air. Real, he thought with a bittersweet smile. But he couldn't reveal to them his true identity.

    He crossed the room. To the place he kept the precious few reminders of his past and studied the picture again. Like he did everyday. "I met your family, Son. You've raised a fine daughter. Chose such a wonderful, caring woman to share your life with. I'm so proud of you," he said to the smiling face of his son. As he had been so many years ago. "I just wish I could tell you. Face to face. I..."

    His thoughts, his words, were interrupted by the sound of frantic knocking. His heart pounded at the noise. Something was wrong. Terribly wrong. He could feel it. His worst fears were confirmed when he opened the door to find a woman. So distraught she could hardly get the words ut. "A car...nearly hit us...head-on...swerved off the road into a tree...woman...little girl."

    He grabbed her by the shoulders. Trying to calm her when he felt anything but calm himself. "Where? Can you tell me where?" Her green eyes looked tortured. Guilty as she told him. Confused by his reaction. "Just up the road. A mile or so..." She tried to yell. Catch his attention. Ask what she should tell the paramedics. The location. But he was already gone. Running in the direction she had just come from. She found the phone. Dialed 9-1-1. And shakily said, "There's been an accident."

    He heard her desperate cries. Louder and clearer the closer he came. "No! Mommy! I want my mommy! No!" she screamed. Kicking. Frantically trying to escape the man's arms. Go back to the car. Where her mother slumped across the wheel. Unconscious. No, he thought as he saw the blood trickling from a gash in her forehead. Not again. God let her be alright. "Martin!" Ali wailed. Finally succeeding in breaking the man's strong hold.

    "Martin! Help my mommy! Please!" she cried. He grabbed her up in his arms. Squeezed her tight. Then pulled back. Gently wiping the tears from her big worry-filled blue eyes. "Listen to me, Ali. Your mommy's going to be fine. I won't let anything happen to her. The ambulance is on its way, and the doctors will make her all better. You hear me, sweetheart? I promise. You believe me, Ali?" She looked at him with trusting blue eyes and nodded her head. "I believe you," she whispered. He hugged her tightly once more and left her in the man's care as he hurried to Sheridan's side.

    Sheridan, he thought as he felt for a pulse. Hang in there. You're a fighter. You've come this far. "Don't break my son's heart again. Don't leave him to raise my granddaughter alone." "Oh," she moaned softly. Coming to. "It hurts." "That's it," he said with a smile. "Wake up, darlin'. Show Ali her mommy's okay. Don't make a liar out of me," he laughed. "I promised her you'd be fine. I don't want to break her heart. I can't stand to see tears in those pretty blue eyes of hers. Did I tell you how much she looks like you at that age? You could easily pass for twins."

    "She was right," she whispered. Gasping as though the mere task of talking, breathing, caused her pain. "What's that?" he asked. Keeping her talking. Lucid. "Daddy's Papa," she grimaced. "Smart as a whip that daughter of yours. Proud to call her my granddaughter. Proud to call you," he said, brushing her blond hair off her forehead tenderly, "a daughter of mine."

    "How? Why?" "Shh. Later," he said. Moving away to let the EMT get to her. "I promise," he said as her hand slipped from his. And they loaded her into the ambulance. I promise, he thought. As he took the cell-phone offered by a concerned bystander and dialed a number from memory. Praying it had not changed. His heart lodging in his throat as a much loved voice answered.

    "Sheridan? Is that you, Mija? Are you and Ali okay? Sheridan? Sheridan?" Please protect them, he thought as he took a deep breath. And spoke to his wife. For the first time in a very long time.








    Chapter Forty:





    "Luis, it's your mother," Sam had said with a grim face. "There's been another accident." He vaguely remembered taking the phone from Sam's hand and listening. As his mother sobbed out the whole story. His mother was a strong woman. She didn't cry over nothing. He didn't let her finish the whole story before he was off. Gone out the door. And on his way to them. His wife and daughter.

    He drove like a madman. All sorts of crazy thoughts invading his mind. Refusing to let him have peace. No, he thought. This couldn't be happening. Not again. They had found each other. As improbable as it might seem. They had found each other again. They were slowly putting the pieces back together. Becoming a family. Rediscovering love. This could not be real.

    He'd only had her back, in his life for such a short time. Not enough time. He could never have enough time with her. Eternity would be too little. And Ali. He didn't know what he'd do if anything happened to his baby girl. His eyes stared straight ahead at the road in front of him. But his mind was somewhere else. Lost in memories. Memories they had made together since Boston.

    "It'll be okay," he whispered. "I'll be with you. Every step of the way." She gave him a small, grateful smile. Told him "Thank you." And held on as he led her inside. And later...they were all smiles. His heart was so full of love for them at that moment he was sure it would burst. "Daddy!" Ali called. Noticing him spying on them. "Come have a tea party with us." "Come on, Luis." "I wanted to do something nice for you...Don't worry. I didn't cook the food." "Why do you put up with me?" "Easy," he whispered as he had that night. "Because I love you," he said. Wiping angrily at the tears he felt escaping from his eyes.

    He didn't bother to shut the door as he jumped out of the car and ran into the emergency room of the small hospital. Barely had enough conscious thought to cut the engine. At the end of the hall he saw a familiar figure. Nick Taylor. Sadness in his eyes. Tear tracks still visible. Weariness plain in his features. "Where are they?" he shouted. Running down the hall toward him. "Ali and Sheridan. Where are they?"

    "Luis, calm down," Nick said in a tired voice. But he didn't listen. "Don't tell me to calm down. I got a call telling me my wife and daughter were in a car accident. I need to know where they are." "Dr. Taylor," a timid voice said behind him. He followed the other man's gray eyes to the woman behind him. A woman with kindly brown eyes. Kindly brown eyes filled with tears.

    "What's going on here?" he demanded. Looking back and forth between them. Growing more desperate by the moment. "Why won't anyone tell me anything?" he yelled. "Luis," Nick warned. Placing a hand on Luis's arm. "Lower your voice. Now. Or I'm going to have to have you thrown out of this facility." "The hell you will," he said. Angrily shaking Nick's restraining hand off his arm and stalking down the hall. Ignoring Nick's warnings.

    "Don't go in there. There's something you should know first. Mr. Lopez- Fitzgerald. I'm warning you. Don't..." But it was too late. Luis opened the hospital door to something he never expected to see. He stared. Open- mouthed. In shock at the sight before him.

    "Oh, Daddy! I thought you'd never get here," Ali exclaimed as she launched herself into his arms. Planting sweet little kisses on his cheek, his neck, everywhere she could reach. Hugging him tight. "I was so scared, Daddy. But Martin helped Mommy. Just like he did last time, Daddy. He saved her. Daddy, what's wrong? Daddy?"

    Ali's blue eyes looked to her mother's in confusion. Then they returned to her father. And to the man she knew only as Martin. She slid from her father's arms and quietly crawled into the hospital bed. Into her mother's comforting arms. "Mommy," she whimpered. "Shh, baby. Everything's going to be alright," Sheridan said. Running her hand soothingly over her long blond hair. Her blue eyes widened in shock at the next word out of her father's mouth.

    "Papa?"



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