A/N: I hope everyone is staying healthy and safe in these strange times! I've been working on this chapter for weeks now, and although it still feels a bit rambling, I think it moves forward the plot points which I wanted moved. So, here it is! We're getting closer to some big stuff in the next few chapters; in the meantime, please enjoy!
"Are you ready?"
Viki shook her head as she looked over at Kevin standing next to her and felt him squeeze her hand.
"No," she said quietly. "But that doesn't matter right now, does it? Let's go."
Kevin nodded and reached his free hand forward to push open the door to the hospital room and stepped back to let his mother walk in first. Viki took a few steps into the room and seemed to freeze, standing completely still as she stared at the woman lying in the hospital bed in front of her, bright white bandages wrapped around her head, tubes and machines coming from seemingly every angle.
"Mom?" Kevin asked gently, stopping a step behind her. "Are you okay?"
Viki took a breath and shook her head again. "I know it's her, I do," she said, not taking her eyes of her daughter. "But it doesn't look like her, Kevin. I just…what happened? How did she go from my fiery, spirited, stubborn girl to this? Machines breathing for her, tubes everywhere…how is this her?"
"You heard the doctors, Mom," Kevin said. "She made it through the brain surgery, but it was hard on her. It's going to be a long road ahead. But her fever's coming down, the infection seems to be improving, and they've got a drain in so the swelling doesn't build up again in her brain and…"
"I understood what the doctor said," Viki interrupted. "But none of this makes sense, Kevin. She's already been through so much, and now this? If I close my eyes, I can see the last time I saw her. I can see her eyes and her smile and her hair. And I open my eyes and I don't see any of that."
"You will," Kevin said. "She's going to wake up, Mom, and when she does, you'll see all of that again."
"If she even wants me here," Viki said.
"What are you talking about?" Kevin asked.
"She knew I disapproved of her recent choices," Viki said. "She thought that meant I had picked Jessica over her. She stopped trusting me, Kevin."
"You know that's not true," Kevin said. "Natalie loves you more than anything, Mom."
"She came to you," Viki pointed out. "My daughter was hurt and scared and needed someone who she trusted would be on her side no matter what. She was a ten minute drive away from me, but instead, she got on airplane and flew thousands of miles to you. She stopped trusting that I would be on her side, and that's the same thing as not trusting me. And don't get me wrong, I am so grateful that she has that sort of relationship with you and with Joe, that she felt that she could come to you boys…but that doesn't mean I don't still wish she'd known she could come to me."
"The last few months have been complicated for everyone," Kevin said gently. "But Mom, that doesn't change the fact that she's your daughter, and she does love you, no matter what's happened. And when she wakes up, it's going to mean the world to her that you're here, and nothing else is going to matter to her."
"I hope you're right," Viki said, shaking as she slipped her hand into Natalie's and sat down at her bedside.
Kelly sighed wearily as she slowly approached the staircase at Mayfair later that afternoon. She paused at the base of the stairs, her eyes immediately drawn to the spot where she'd found Natalie less than twenty-four hours earlier. The two women had never been particularly close, and they definitely hadn't been on good terms when Kelly was last in Llanview, but it had still shaken her to see her lying there. She'd been putting on a brave face for Joey and Kevin and Viki, but as she stood alone at the foot of those stairs, unable to tear her eyes away from the faint remnants of blood Neville hadn't yet been able to remove, she felt the tears welling up in her eyes.
Kelly jumped slightly at the unexpected voice interrupting her thoughts. Turning around, she quickly wiped the tears from her cheeks and stared in disbelief at the sight of her son standing in the hallway.
"Zane," she said in surprise. "What are you doing here?"
"We're on school holiday," Zane said. "We've been talking about this for week, remember?"
"Oh sweetheart, I thought that was next week," Kelly said. "I'm so sorry, I can't believe I forgot, I…"
"It's okay, Mom," Zane said. "Neville was scrubbing blood off the floor when I got here, I figured it had been a big couple of days."
"It's still not okay," Kelly said. "I should have been there to pick you up at the train station."
"I was fine taking a taxi," Zane said. "Is Aunt Natalie okay?"
Kelly hesitated. "It's too soon to say," she said, shaking her head. "Come on, let's get a snack and I'll catch you up on everything that's going on."
Kelly raised an eyebrow as they walked into the ktichen and she saw the stack of papers sitting on the table. "You're working on homework?" she asked skeptically.
Zane glanced guiltily at the papers. "Sort of," he said, reaching out to grab the pages off the table before Kelly could pick them up.
Kelly frowned and didn't say a word as she held out her hand until her teenage son eventually sighed and handed the paperwork to her. Looking down, she furrowed her brow in confusion as she skimmed through the first few pages.
"Where did you get these?" she asked.
"They were on the fax machine in Grandpa's office," Zane admitted. "I got curious. I was gonna put them back, you just came home before I thought you would."
"Zane, these are Natalie's medical records," Kelly said, looking up at her son. "You had no right to be reading these, they're personal."
"Right, but Mom, I found something," Zane said. "According to these papers…"
"Why were you in Kevin's office anyway?" Kelly asked.
Kelly tilted her head and stared at him silently again.
"I, uh, I thought those might be my school reports," Zane said. "I was, um, I was going to bring them to you."
"Zane Buchanan, do you think I was born yesterday?" Kelly asked.
Zane sighed. "I failed a class," he admitted reluctantly.
"I know," Kelly said. "You failed algebra. I just wanted you to say it."
"What? How do you know already?" Zane asked in surprise.
"Your school reports come by email now," Kelly said.
"Email? Since when?"
"Since your school finally joined the twenty-first century about three months ago," Kelly said. "Now, I'm going to put these records back in Kevin's office while you think about what an appropriate punishment should be."
"Mom, you still need to see what's in those papers," Zane said. "Trust me, it's big."
"Zane, these are Natalie's records," Kelly said. "Viki had them sent over in case they're needed by her doctors here. They're none of our business."
"Right, but Mom, just hear me out," Zane said. "Maybe I shouldn't have read them…okay, fine, I shouldn't have read them. But I did, and I can't unread them. And something's not adding up, Mom."
Kelly sighed. "Alright, what are you talking about?"
"Aunt Natalie's records from when she had her kid say that she's got O-negative blood, and her son has B-negative."
"So there's another record from her ER visit a few days ago, when Aunt Jessica beat her up," Zane said. "And I don't know if this is common knowledge, or if I'm just blowing all Natalie's secrets out of the water right now…"
"Are you talking about the fact that she had a miscarriage?" Kelly asked.
"Oh good, you know about that," Zane said.
"I know, and Kevin and Joey know, but as far as we know, that's it," Kelly said. "So let's keep that one quiet."
"Right, okay, so my point was in that record, the doctor asked Natalie what the baby's father's blood type was," Zane said. "And this baby supposedly had the same father as Liam, right?"
"Brody Lovett, yes," Kelly said. "So what?"
"So she told the doctor that his blood type was A-positive," Zane said.
"So if Natalie's type O, and Liam's type B, Liam's father has to have type B," Zane said. "Or I guess AB, but there has to be a B in there, that's the important part."
"Are you sure?" Kelly asked. "They had a DNA test done that proved Brody was Liam's father."
"I failed algebra, not biology, Mom," Zane said. "I'm sure. I don't know what happened with that DNA test, but the blood types are pretty clear. Besides, have you looked at the track record for that lab in Llanview? I mean, I live an entire ocean away, and I know that I wouldn't trust any test they did."
"Okay, but Natalie works in forensics," Kelly said. "She'd know that the blood types didn't match up."
"So maybe she's lying," Zane said.
Kelly shook her head. "I'd assume a lot of bad things about Natalie, but not that," she said. "She's been in love with John McBain for years, she'd never pretend his son wasn't his. Liam's paternity ended their relationship, there's no way she would lied about Liam not being John's."
"Then maybe she didn't know," Zane said. "It's in the records, but I'd bet most parents don't know their kid's blood type. What's mine?"
"I rest my case," Zane said. "So, what do we do now?"
"What do you mean?"
"We have to tell someone, right?" Zane asked. "I mean, this is big. We have to tell the family."
Kelly shook her head. "They have enough to deal with right now," she said. "Besides, we don't know that there's anything to tell. Maybe Natalie got Brody's blood type wrong."
"Zane, that's enough," Kelly said. "Let me handle this. We're not going to rush into something and cause any more stress for anyone until we know for sure."
"And how exactly are we going to do that?"
"We aren't going to do anything," Kelly said. "I will take care of this. You will keep your mouth shut while I figure out what an appropriate punishment for failing algebra is."