QUILT OF HOPE
As Tim sits by Abby's bedside, all he has left is hope.
An established relationship story.
Written: October 2010. Word count: 2,300.
The ringing of the phone awoke Ducky from a very pleasant dream. A quick glance at the clock made his suspect it would be Jethro, dragging him out into the cold night's air to confirm a death. He quickly put his glasses on and picked up the phone. "Dr. Mallard." He always used his title when the phone rang in the middle of the night.
"Ducky?" The voice at the other end was quiet, little more than a whisper, broken, unsure.
It took Ducky a moment or two to recognize it. "Timothy," he said, when realization dawned.
"Yeah. Ducky, can you come to the hospital, please?"
Ducky felt a chill of fear run through his body. "What has happened, Timothy? Has someone been hurt?"
"Abby." Again the word was barely more than a whisper. "She went into labor. Please, Ducky, come." And before Ducky could say anything else, the phone went dead in his ear.
Ducky hurriedly pushed back the covers and moving as quickly as he could hastened towards the bathroom. He relieved himself, brushed his teeth and splashed cold water on his face before hurrying back to his bedroom to dress. He forewent his usual shower, telling himself he had only been in bed for slightly over an hour.
Ten minutes after McGee had called, Ducky was in the Morgan heading towards the Washington Hospital Center. More than once he tried to call McGee, but his phone went unanswered. He decided against calling anyone else until he knew exactly what had happened - besides he didn't know who else McGee might have called.
The combination of his doctor's ID, the mention of NCIS, the name 'Abigail McGee' and a forcefulness he rarely employed got him into the Maternity area. He scanned the hallway and finally saw McGee sitting on a chair, his head in his hands. Telling himself not to react until he knew what had happened, Ducky hurried towards him.
"Timothy?" he put his hand on McGee's shoulder. McGee raised his head and looked up at Ducky. His face was ashen, his eyes red, his lips pale and he shook slightly. "Tell me," Ducky said gently, sitting down next to the distraught young man and taking his hand. "Is it the twins?" he asked, when McGee seemed incapable of speaking.
McGee shook his head. "They're both fine." His voice was still broken. "It's Abby," he whispered.
Ducky now took McGee's hand between both of his. "What has happened?" he asked.
"She's . . . She's . . . She's in a coma, Ducky. The doctors don't know why. Everything was going so well. She was doing fine. Talking to the babies, telling them they'd be born soon, letting them know their mommy and daddy were here waiting for them. You know Abby."
Ducky nodded. "Yes," he said softly, so softly he doubted McGee heard him.
"Then the next second the machines went crazy. Everything started to beep or scream or - Then they pushed me out, Ducky. They wouldn't let me stay. I stood out here and watched as more and more nurses and doctors rushed in and out, but no one would tell me anything. Finally, one of the younger nurses appeared and told me the twins, both boys, had been born by Caesarian section and were perfectly healthy. They'll be monitored, but, even though they were three weeks early they were fine. But Abby . . . She . . . She's not fine. Ducky, I can't lose Abby. I can't." Tears were running down McGee's cheeks; Ducky took one hand away to pull out a handkerchief and hand it to him.
"What happened?" he asked.
McGee wiped his eyes and blew his nose. "That's just it, Ducky. No one knows. None of the doctors can figure it out. There were no signs that anything was wrong. All her vital signs were fine, but suddenly - Ducky will you talk to them, please? They aren't telling me anything."
Ducky nodded. He was glad McGee had asked, because it was what he intended to do. "Of course I will, Timothy," he said. "Now have you called anyone else? Jethro maybe?"
McGee looked at him and for a moment seemed not to understand Ducky. Then he shook his head. "I didn't like to. I didn't want to disturb you, but -"
"Please do not worry about that, Timothy. Who else would you call than I? You need people here with you."
McGee gave a shrug. "Do you think I should call Gibbs?" he asked.
Ducky was about to say 'yes', when he thought. Did he think that? What if . . . ? Jethro had already lost one daughter, to lose Abby whom Ducky knew Jethro loved like a daughter, would it be fair? Maybe Ducky should find out a little more first.
However, before he could decide, a doctor came towards them. "Mr. McGee?" he asked.
McGee stood up. "That's me. This is Dr. Mallard," he added, nodding towards Ducky.
"I'm Dr. Clarkson." The doctor held out his hand first to McGee then to Ducky.
"How is Mrs. McGee?" Ducky asked.
"Stable. She's doing well. Her vital signs have returned to normal. There's no reason why she shouldn't come out of the coma very soon now."
Ducky briefly closed his eyes, opening them when he felt McGee take his arm. "Do you know what happened?" he asked the doctor.
The doctor shook his head. "I'm afraid we don't. There are no signs of pre-eclampsia or indeed anything else that could account for what happened." He took his glasses off and polished them. "I know it's not an easy thing to hear, Mr. McGee," now the doctor glanced at McGee. "But sometimes things just happen. Do they not, Dr. Mallard?"
"Ducky?" McGee also turned to Ducky.
Ducky nodded. "I'm afraid Dr. Clarkson is correct, Timothy. Sometimes things do 'just happen'."
McGee seemed more reassured by Ducky's confirmation than by Clarkson's explanation. "Can we see her?"
"Of course. She is no longer in any danger. We will monitor her continuously of course. But yes, do go in. I am sorry, Mr. McGee. I wish there was some satisfactory explanation I could give you."
"Could it happen again?"
Clarkson glanced at Ducky, then back at McGee. "We really don't know," he said. "Why don't you go and see your wife? Maybe we'll know more later."
"Come along, Timothy." Ducky took McGee's arm and together they went into Abby's room. She had several machines attached to her monitoring her every breath, every beat of her heart.
"Abby," McGee whispered. "Oh, Abby," he sat down next to the bed and took her hand. "I'm here, Abby, I'm here." He lifted her hand to his mouth and kissed it. Then he looked at Ducky. "Is it okay to touch her?"
Ducky nodded. "Yes, and talk to her, Timothy. Tell her about the boys. Tell her anything. Just talk to her. Let her know you are here with her that she isn't alone."
McGee nodded. Ducky could see how much easier it was now McGee had his orders. He stood and listened to McGee tell Abby how much he loved her, how beautiful the boys were, how they'd all be home together soon, before he slipped out of the room and called Jethro.
THREE WEEKS LATER
"Why hasn't she woken up, Duck?"
"I do not know, Jethro." It was a question every member of the team asked him every day - sometimes more than once. And every day he gave the same answer. He didn't know; the doctors at the hospital didn't know. Abby was in every way but one perfectly normal and healthy; she just didn't seem to want to wake up.
"The longer she's unconscious the harder it'll be, right?"
"It's only been three weeks, Jethro. That really isn't enough time for anyone to worry." He spoke calmly, reassuringly. But deep down he was worried. There was no medical reason for Abby not to regain consciousness, none whatsoever. But then there hadn't been any reason for her to slip into a coma in the first place.
During visiting hours she was never alone. If McGee wasn't with her, one of the others was, they had a rota honed down to the last minute. They sat with her, talked to her, joked with her, held her hand, stroked her hair, told her stories, Ducky had even once arrived to find Ziva singing to her. But still she hadn't regained consciousness. The twins had been released and McGee's mother had arrived, moved into the McGee home to look after them.
"Can't we do anything, Duck?"
"Jethro, we are doing everything we can do. There is - She will regain consciousness soon, Jethro. I'm sure she will."
"Are you? Are you really, Duck?"
They were alone in Autopsy, it being Palmer's turn to visit Abby, while McGee worked. It had been Gibbs who'd 'suggested' McGee return to work for at least a few hours each day. McGee had seemed grateful, relieved even to have something concrete to hold on to, to focus on.
Ducky just looked up at Jethro, letting his gaze say the words he couldn't. Jethro gave a curt nod, squeezed Ducky's shoulder and headed out of Autopsy.
TWO WEEKS LATER
McGee looked up. "Ziva." He managed a faint smile.
"I . . ." she trailed off and looked away from him. She seemed uncertain; something Ziva rarely was. "I have something for you, for Abby," she added quickly. McGee realized she was holding something in her hands. She held it out towards him. "It is a hope quilt. My grandmother made it many years ago. It is . . . It was . . . My father sent it to me when I requested it. It . . . Grandmother always said . . . Here." Her cheeks had turned red as she pushed the quilt into McGee's hands.
He let it fall open. "It's beautiful, Ziva," he said. "But I can't -"
"You can. Take it the hospital. Put it on Abby's bed. Let it give us hope," she said softly.
McGee swallowed hard. He could only begin to understand what it had cost Ziva to contact her father to ask for the quilt to be sent and to give it to him, to believe in what it signified. Ziva who didn't believe in things she couldn't see, couldn't touch, seemed to believe in her grandmother's hope quilt. "Thank you, Ziva," he said, leaning forward and brushing her cheek with his lips. Her flush grew deeper, before with a nod and what he guessed was some kind of Hebrew blessing she hurried away.
LATER THAT NIGHT
"Well, Abbs, here I am again. I've got something for you. Something special," he said, spreading the quilt out over the bed. "Actually, it's from Ziva. Her grandmother made it; it's a hope quilt." He pulled the chair towards the bed, sat down, took her hand and began to talk to her telling her about the boys, the team, what he'd been doing at work, telling her he loved her, how much everyone loved her. Telling her she was going to wake up.
Hour after hour he talked to her, before finally his eyes grew so heavy, his throat so sore, he felt he had to rest his head on the bed, just for a minute or two. Nurses had popped in and out during the time he'd sat there, but no one had told him he had to leave. Sometimes they did; sometimes they didn't. Part of him thought they might be under instruction from Ducky to make sure he did go home some nights, so he could sleep.
"Tim? Timmy?" Abby coughed. Her throat felt so dry, her mouth tasted horrible. Her hand felt heavy and all she could hear were beeps, annoying beeps. The room was poorly lit and she blinked in the darkness. She tried to move her hand, but it was under something solid, she wriggled it until finally with a grunt the heavy object moved so she could pull it out. She winced as blood raced to her fingertips.
After a moment or two, she put her hand on the heavy object and began to examine it. "Timmy!" she exclaimed, only slightly louder than before. She frowned at how quiet her voice was. Where was she? Why was Tim asleep on her hand? Why could she hear beeps? And why could she smell antiseptic? Of course she must be in the hospital. She remembered; she'd gone into labor three weeks early, Tim has rushed her to the Washington Hospital Center. And she'd - And she'd what? What had happened next?
She prodded Tim's shoulder, hard. "Tim! Wake up, Tim." She cursed her quiet voice, cursed how weak she felt, cursed how feeble she knew her touch was. She gave up prodding Tim and instead reached out, finding the nightstand, groping her fingers over things on it.
The next second McGee sat up with a start as a metal bowl hit the floor and spun round and round. "What . . . ? Who . . . ? Where . . . ?" he fumbled for the light next to the bed, blinking as his gaze focused on . . . "Abbs?" he whispered, blinking again and rubbing his eyes, shaking his head, certain he was dreaming. "Abby?"
"Hey, Timmy," she whispered, smiling at him. "What's going on?"
It was several minutes before McGee was able to press the call button and let the nurses know Abby had finally regained consciousness.
Despite all the monitoring and tests, the doctors never did discover why what had happened to Abby had happened; nor could they give any assurance that it wouldn't happen again. And finally McGee had to accept it.
A week after she'd regained consciousness Abby was allowed to go home. Home to her boys; home to Tim; home to the family.
Abby tried to give the hope quilt back to Ziva, saying it was hers, it belonged to her family. But Ziva had refused, telling Abby it was with her family.
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