This is something I wrote for my dear "daughter" Moonlessmondays (breakingunbreaking on Tumblr) last Christmas because she asked me and - yes I know- I've been foolish enough to agree to write it. I wanted to publish it for her birthday last week but alas...life happens sometimes. Since I still have to decide what to do with this story (I'm not sure if I should expand it to a short fic or if I should write a collection of one shots) and she seems to think that I should keep writing, please let me know what you think.

Hysterectomy, the word still sounded foreign in her ears as she looked outside the hospital window. The sky, still dark and covered with thick clouds, seemed to reflect her gloomy mood. In a few hours she would be deprived of her womb, she would be deprived of 'being a woman'. The last physical connection with her three daughters will be gone and she was already feeling empty. She wasn't a fool and she knew that she had to undergo the surgery, her fibroma had increased so rapidly that all the doctors she had consulted seemed to agree with Dr. Ryder. It's not that she was still hoping for other children. She was not that young anymore and since her separation from Robert she hadn't looked at any other men. She simply couldn't.

Yet, she was feeling sad. That small goblet of flesh had contained and protected her children's little lives even before she had known they were there, even before she could listen to their tiny but strong heartbeats.

She smiled to herself with teary eyes, as she caught her reflection in the window.

Robert's reaction to all her pregnancies had been a utter delight to watch. With Mary, despite it had been him who suggested they could try to have children in the first place, she could still recall his panicked "What are we going to do now?" as she broke the news.

When Mary was four months old and she whispered in his ear there was another baby in the way, their bodies still entangled in the bed sheets, it took him several minutes to process her words and she still laughed at his bewildered face when he asked her "How?".

With Sybil he had suspected there was something amiss because of Cora's morning sickness, since he had found her bent over the sink several times and had to hold her head. His reaction had been as glorious as the others,in fact, after the confirmation of her 'delicate state' he had lifted her and spun her around.

And then there had been their boy conceived, like their girls, out of the deepest love and even more so because they were already in their forties and none of them would have thought they could actually be parents again. Their special boy... so special that the news of his arrival had made Robert's head spin so much he had to sit on the edge of their bed while Cora had told him. Her hands trembling as she looked at her words sinking into her husband. She was so afraid of his reaction. She didn't even know if he wanted another child and she was already three months along.

She watched in slow motion as one million feelings clouded her husband's face. "I don't understand what we've done differently" had been his reply, and it still made her smile. Then, oh..he was so pleased. He spent an entire month glowing, he couldn't stop talking about the baby and how much he loved her and how everything couldn't be more perfect. But then, then it happened...she slipped on the wet floor of the bathroom and fell on the hard floor. Robert had found her still unconscious half an hour later, her body cold and rigid in a puddle of blood.

She still could remember very clearly the three days she spent in agony on the hospital bed, every scan, every I.V., every test, hoping against hope in a miracle.

Robert had been her rock when the doctor had unceremoniously asked them whether they wanted to interrupt the pregnancy or to wait for the inevitable development of the ordeal.

One look at his wife and he knew that she would have never for the life of her deprived her children the chance to survive, even if it was a very tiny one, an infinitesimal one. She had to try. No matter how much more painful it could be later, she simply put their child's life in God's hand. It was not their decision to make.

It took another three days and other numerous tests to declare that the pregnancy was over and to start her labour. Robert had been next to her for the entire time, despite his aversion for medical details, blood and whatever has to do with hospitals in general. A couple of days later they were home empty handed and with their hearts broken into a million pieces.

The grieving process had been hard on them and thinking back about it all now, she could define this moment as the starting point of their separation.

The months that followed had been a tentative attempt to mend the broken parts of their relationship, but too many words were left unsaid, too many feelings were hidden deep down in their hearts trying with every strength

that was left in them not to hurt the other. It did not work. Cora immersed herself in her job and came home often late at night. During her free time she was totally absorbed by the girls. Robert, on the other hand, didn't know how to reach her anymore and suddenly stopped trying.

They finally split up when Robert's "distraction", whose name was Jane and worked for him as his secretary, had casually informed Cora of her husband's dalliance with her. All this happened because Robert, who had spent a night with her, had immediately regretted it, but Jane didn't take his dismissal very well, apparently.

Now as she was standing in front of the window, running her hands up and down her arms to warm up a bit, she was asking herself the question she had been tormenting her for almost one year.

Twenty years of happy marriage gone down the drain. Robert was her only soul mate, of that she was absolutely sure. "Could it be that she had made the wrong decision when she told Robert she wanted a divorce?"

She sighed, her hot breath creating a little circle of vapour on the cold window glass. She turned towards the door as she suddenly heard some muffled sounds behind it and then a soft knock.

"No...Papa..." she could hear Edith's voice as the door opened revealing her middle daughter pulling at her father's arm as to prevent him from walking in.

Robert's face was still turned to Edith and couldn't register the surprise look on Cora's face as she observed the scene. She saw Robert's head fall slightly forward as he whispered their daughter's name as a plea. She reluctantly let him go, her white hands caressing her papa's sleeve before nodding in his direction and finally loosening her grip.

They finally stood facing one another and Robert was feeling uneasy. Maybe their daughters were right. Maybe she wanted to be alone, or that was what she asked the girls when they had begged to be there with her during the surgery. Maybe he should have listened to them, when they suggested he stayed away, but he couldn't. She was his wife, the prefix "ex" was of no importance to him. His feelings had always been the same. He did a mistake she could not forgive – and he couldn't blame her – that's why he left. Because she had asked him to, not because he didn't love her.

He cleared his throat as the image of the love of his life was standing before him. She seemed so hurt and sad and he had to refrain himself not to run to her and hold her in his arms.

"Robert?" she asked with a tentative smile on her lips, unable to hide her surprise.

The door was still half open and she could see the nurse and the doctors walking the corridor to reach her room. It was probably time for her to prepare for the operation, but she wanted to know why he was there.

" Cora...I just..." he muttered, his heart beating so fast he thought the people out of her room would be able to hear it.

Suddenly the door flung open and a couple of nurses walked in and reached Cora's bed, completely not minding the two people in the room "Mrs. Crawley, it's your turn now. Everyone leave the room, please".

Robert looked again at his wife, her eyes glassy and her face scared. He had never seen her like that. She seemed so fragile, wrapped in that hospital gown with the gray light filtering from the window behind her.

He covered the space between them in three quick steps and put his left hand on her upper arm. Then he turned to the nurse who was standing closer to them "We need only a couple of minutes, please"

"Alright. We'll wait just outside the room" she nodded in his direction.

He didn't notice he was still rubbing his fingers on her arm, she was so cold, but she didn't say a word.

"These are for you" she swiftly extracted from behind his back a bunch of white and bright pink roses wrapped in a light silver fabric.

She blushed and took the flowers inhaling the scent. She lifted her gaze "Thank you, Robert. You shouldn't have..."

A resolved knock at the door soon followed by a high pitched " Mrs. Crawley?" interrupted whatever Cora was about to say.

When the nurses entered the room again he leaned towards her and kissing her cheek whispered "I will be right here when you're back".