Jon clawed his way back to consciousness and immediately became aware of three things: his head felt like a dozen little men with jackhammers were inside trying to get out, he wasn’t in his own bed; and he couldn’t move his right hand. Gradually, the memory of what happened returned, and he opened his eyes to look around. The cream walls and generic artwork proclaimed it a hospital room. The weak dawn light threw everything in shadow and he had to strain to see beyond it.
It took a few minutes for him to work out that the black shadow covering his right arm and the side of the bed was Veronica’s hair. And he couldn’t move his hand because it was pinned under her face.
He tried to wiggle his fingers. “Hey.” It wasn’t a surprise when she didn’t move, his voice was unrecognizable. He swallowed and tried again. “Nica?”
“Mmmm?” Suddenly her head jerked up. He could feel her hand trembling around his. Her smile lit up the room. “Hi!”
“How are you feeling?”
“Like a bunch of lights fell on my head.” He expected her to laugh or chide him for making a joke about it. He didn’t expect tears. “Hey sweetheart, don’t cry. I’m okay.”
“I’m so sorry Johnny.” She blinked, but the tears kept coming, overflowing and wetting her cheeks.
“It’s not your fault. I don’t know whose it is...yet....but it’s not yours.”
Veronica shook her head. “If I hadn’t been arguing with you you would have heard the warnings and moved out of the way.”
He squeezed her hand. “I was arguing right along with you, so I’m as much to blame as you are in that.”
“You could have been killed!”
“Guess we need to be a little more careful where we get into the knock down, drag outs.”
“Johnny, I.....” She closed her eyes and gripped his hand tighter.
He frowned in concern. “Honey? What’s wrong?” He tried to sit up and thought his head was going to fall off and fire streaked down his back. “Dammit! Nica talk to me!”
Veronica eased him back on his pillow, and brushed his hair off his forehead. She searched his eyes for a moment, then took a deep breath. “I love you.”
Blue eyes lit up. “Sugar, that is the best pain reliever I could ask for.” She looked down at her hand playing with his fingers. Obviously there was more. “What?”
“I should have told you that a long time ago. Instead I let my fear rule my heart and mind. And I’m sorry about that too. That wasn’t fair to you.”
“What were you so afraid of?” Maybe he’d finally get an answer that made sense.
“You...me....everything. Before Doc’s interference and Drew’s death, I was the happiest I’ve ever been in my life – before or since. And when it was all taken away it almost destroyed me. I was – am – afraid that if I let myself love you again....get close to your kids....I’d be in too deep, and if it was taken away again, this time I wouldn’t survive it.” She frowned. “But I don’t want to be afraid anymore. And I don’t want to be alone anymore.” She lifted shining eyes to his. “I want to try and have that happiness again Jon – or at least see if we can get something close.”
“We can and we will. I know it.”
She smiled. “Always so sure.”
“Of course I am. I know you and I know me and I know how good we are together – even if we do go ten rounds every now and then.”
“It doesn’t bother you that we fight?”
He shrugged. “All couples fight. We’re both passionate people with strong convictions. We’re going to butt heads once in a while. Loudly. But, for the most part, we share common goals. We just have different ideas how to get there sometimes. Besides, I need you to keep me on the right track.” He tugged on her hand, urging her to lie on the bed with him. “As long as we love each other we’ll be fine.”
Veronica laid her head on his shoulder, her hand automatically settling on his chest, one finger idly tracing the pattern on his hospital gown. They were silent for a few minutes, then she sighed. “I’m sorry Johnny.”
“I already told you, I’m as much to blame as you are. Not as much as the grip who was in charge of the rigging, but as much as you are.”
“But if you hadn’t been pissed at me you would have paid more attention to the warnings from the crew. But I wasn’t talking about the falling lights.”
“Oh?” He ran his fingers up and down her forearm. “What then?”
“I’m sorry I was so stubborn and that it took you getting hurt for me to admit – even to myself – how I feel. I haven’t been very considerate of you in that respect.”
“Sugar, with everything you’ve been through, it’s no surprise that you’re a little leery of love. And I know that trust is hard to regain, especially when it was betrayed in such a horrible way. I can’t change the past. I wish I could. All I can do is promise that I’ll do my very best to never hurt you again.” The edge of his hand lifted her face up to his. “I love you Nica.”
“I love you too Johnny.” Aware of his discomfort when he moved his head, she closed the distance and touched her lips to his in a gentle kiss.
They lay quietly for a few more minutes. Finally, Veronica forced herself to sit up and look for the phone.
“Where’re you going?”
“Nowhere. I’ve got to call everyone and let them know you’re awake.”
“How’d you get them all to leave?”
“I didn’t. Dorothea took Steph and Jesse home to get some sleep and check on Jake and Romeo and the rest followed.”
“Even Mom?” The look on Veronica’s face told him there’d been another altercation. He sighed. “What happened?”
“I’m afraid I kind of went off on her.” She gave him a word for word run down of their confrontation in the waiting room. “So she and your dad are at Dorothea’s waiting for my call.” She wrinkled her nose. “I shouldn’t have said that to her. It was mean.”
“And she’s been so pleasant and polite to you?” He scoffed. “She deserved everything you said and more. Maybe now she’ll really think about what you went through, her part in it and her treatment of you recently as well.” He shrugged, and winced. “Who knows, maybe something good will come out of this.”
“Maybe.” But she didn’t look convinced.
Just then a nurse entered the room. “Oh you’re awake. Good.” She lifted his wrist to check his pulse. “How do you feel?”
“Like a bunch of lights fell on my head.”
“I’ll get you something for the pain.”
“Just Advil will be fine. When can I get out of here?”
“The doctor will be in, in a couple hours, and we’ll see what he says.” At Jon’s mutinous expression she smiled and tightened the blood pressure cuff on his arm. “Probably right after he examines you.”
“Damn right it will be!”
“Jon.” Veronica looked up from dialing the phone and gave him a dark look. That look combined with her tone warned him to be nice.
“Sorry, I just have a lot to do....and I hate hospitals.” He apologized.
“That’s okay, I understand, I hear it all the time.”
When the nurse had examined his wounds and left and Veronica had finished her calls, Jon patted the bed. “Come lie here with me and soothe my pain until the invasion begins.”
“You’re such a big suck.” Nevertheless, she did as he requested.
His bottom lip came out. “I’m wounded! I could have died! Don’t I get any sympathy?”
“Aww, poor baby!” At his disgruntled look, she grinned and reached up to kiss him. “I love you.”
“Now I feel better.”