Chapter 29

Sophie approached Nates bed slowly. This would be the last time she could talk to him, the last time she would be able to tell him how she felt. They were going to turn off the machines and kill him. All he needed was time, he would come back to her she was sure of it. She wanted to refuse them permission to do this, she wanted to bolt the door and keep him safe and alive, but she knew she couldn't. Nate wanted this, this was his wish and she could not do it.

"Nate." She said softly taking his hand in hers. "Your friend is here. He wants to, to turn the machines off. Nate please you said you would never leave me. I can't let him do this. I know it is what you want, I know it is your last wish but you were wrong, just like you were wrong six months ago, just like you were wrong three weeks ago. Please don't, don't do this Nate." She begged the Mastermind. They had just broken through, they had just admitted their love for each other, this could not be happening.

"Nate, you promised." Parker said simply.

"Yeah man you promised." Hardison said softly.

"Nate we are all here. We all love you. Please Nate don't do this. Don't go. You can fight, you can fight your way back. When you put your mind to it you can do anything. You have cheated death so often, you can do it again." Sophie begged him. "Why did you want this anyway, why not give yourself a chance, why do you want to die, why, why, why…" Sophie said starting to cry inconsolably.

Then silence fell and they all just stood there watching the man. Eliot had not said anything. There was nothing he could say. The man meant more than he could explain, more than he could vocalise. Nate Ford has saved him in more ways than one and if could he would take his place but he couldn't. The only thing he could do for him was honour his wishes.

Jonathan returned to the room a half hour later to find Sophie crying as she clung to Nate's hand and Eliot standing at the foot of his bed as if he was going to defend him against death which was coming for him. The other two sat on the opposite side of the bed to Sophie with Parker holding Nates hand and Hardison holding her.

"It's time." He said softly. "I truly am sorry."

Then he moved aside to let the doctor in. Sophie looked up at him and the doctor and for a moment Eliot thought she was going to do something to stop them but she didn't, she simply nodded and then stood and kissed Nate on the forehead gently. Eliot moved to her side putting his hands on her shoulders as much to steady himself as to offer her support. He watched the doctor approach the ventilator ready to switch it off and closed his eyes waiting for the screaming alarms that would follow his actions.

"Mrs Ford, I am sorry, but this is your husbands' wishes." The doctor said. He could see how much this was hurting her, he had seen it before but it still affected him and although he was still angry with her, he also felt for her.

"Goodbye Nate my love. Go be with your son. I love you and will always love you." Sophie whispered as the doctor turned the ventilator off.

Once the ventilator was off they could see Nate fighting for breath trying to get the oxygen he desperately needed. Finally after what seemed like hours but was only seconds he stopped. The heart monitor slowed and then finally the monotone sound of the flat line cut through the room. The doctor reached over and turned off all the machines. His patient was gone.

"I am sorry." He said. "I need to do this please." He said to the two youngest members of the crew asking them to move so that he could pronounce.

Taking out his stethoscope he put it to Nates chest, he had to confirm no heartbeat to be able to pronounce, it was hospital policy. Sophie barely noticed him, Hardison was holding Parker tight, her back to the doctor and the innate form of the Mastermind and Eliot closed his eyes fighting back the tears he refused to shed.

"Nurse, nurse get in here now." The doctor called out suddenly. "Please can I ask you all to leave?" The doctor said. "Nurse get them out the room now please."

The nurse ushered them all out of the room and lowered the blinds after closing the door.

"What's happening, what's going on?" Sophie asked. The doctor should not be behaving like this. Why can't he just leave her to spend her last moments with the man she loves? Nate was dead, he had taken him from her, why did he want to punish her too.

Eliot just looked at her but said nothing shaking his head at the other two members of the team as well. Obviously the doctor had picked up a heartbeat or something otherwise he would not be behaving in this way. But it might be momentary and he did not want Sophie to think Nate was alive when he had actually died.

It was five minutes later that the doctor came out the room and approached the group.

"Mrs Ford." Sophie looked up at him with tearstained eyes.

"It appears Mr Ford is not ready to leave us yet. He has a heartbeat, very weak but there and he is breathing on his own." He told her.

It took a second or so for the news to sink in. Nate was alive. Nate was alive she told herself, he is telling me he is alive. "I knew he would never leave me…" She whispered to herself.

"How?" Hardison asked incredulously.

"Don't be an idiot Hardison, because he is Nate and he promised." Parker replied.

"Doctor?" Jonathan said in the form of a question.

"It is not unheard of Mr Jones. The patient started spontaneously breathing on his own. It does not happen often but it does happen. Mr Ford has a will to live. Now I don't know how long it will last but he is still alive. You can go in to see him." The doctor said his last words meant for Sophie.

Sophie rushed passed him and into the room. She walked up to the bed and placed a chaste kiss on Nates lips. Without the ventilator his face was open. He looked pale but he was alive. She took his hand and sat down in the chair Eliot had brought for her.

"I knew you would not leave me Nate, not after telling me you loved me. Finally telling me you loved me." Sophie said lifting his hand to kiss it gently.

Eliot looked down at the Mastermind. He never ceased to amaze Eliot. He had a fighting strength that he did not know where he got it from. Every time you thought he was down he would come back at you. He was not sure how long this would last but somehow he too believed that Nate would come back to them.

Jonathan stood and took in the scene. Nate was a wonder. Even as a child he did things that Jonathan thought unbelievable. He was indestructible. "Well my friend, I hope this time you take the chance offered to you." He whispered almost to himself. Then left the little family alone.

It was again early morning four days later when Nate cracked an eye, coming back to life even though he should not have. He felt like hell. He had a headache from hell, his mouth was as dry as the Sahara desert and his whole body was sore. He lay staring at the ceiling trying to recall what had happened. He had gone in for another operation and then he remembered nothing. His eyes finally settled on Eliot who stood like a statue at the end of the bed, not that he was surprised, that is where he always stood when Nate ended up in hospital.

"Eliot." Nate croaked out.

"Welcome back Nate." Eliot said quietly.

"What happened?"

"You died."

"Ah…" Nate said closing his eyes and falling back in unconsciousness.

It was another day before Nate surfaced again. This time the whole team was awake and standing beside his bedside.

"Nate." Sophie said as she saw his eyes open. "Oh God Nate." She said kissing him lightly on the lips.

"Mm Sophie." He said looking at her and smiling a weak smile.

"How you feeling man?" Hardison asked as the Mastermind looked at him and Parker. "You look terrible."

"Thanks Hardison." Nate smiled.

"Can I have some water?"

"Not just yet Nate, you ain't out the woods yet." Eliot said walking around and getting the man an ice block and holding it to his lips.

"Thank you." Sophie said softly.

"For what Soph?"

"For coming back to me." She said squeezing his hand gently.

"I told you Sophie, I will never leave you again, not willingly." Nate said as his eyes fell closed and he drifted back to sleep.

Three days later they were all sitting anxiously outside of Nates room.

"You know that man always amazes me?" Jonathan said trying to break the tension. "As a kid he would do things that, well were just plain stupid and asking for trouble, taking on kids and punching above his own weight, especially if somebody was in trouble or being bullied. He wasn't the strongest or the fastest but he was the smartest, and he mostly won no matter what or who he took on."

"Well he hasn't changed." Parker said happily.

"Yes he has." Jonathan replied brining all their eyes to him. "You know he fought so hard not to be like his dad. He fought so hard to have a normal life, with a son, a wife and a great house, great job and friends. He wanted to be normal. But Nate was never normal."

"Nothing so great about normal." Hardison said thinking the man was getting down on the Mastermind and wanting to defend him.

"Never not even when we were growing up." Jonathan continued ignoring the Hacker. "He took everything his dad threw at him and still he excelled. He lost his way when Sam died. I actually thought he had lost, for the first time in my life, and his, I thought he had lost and there was no coming back. I lost track of him after that, I tried a few times but Nate was, well he was just waiting to die I think. Then six months ago we reconnected when he came to see me. When I saw him then I knew something was different."

"What do you mean?" Sophie asked him.

"Well when he spoke about you lot. About you Sophie, and Eliot and Hardison and Parker, about his family, it was the first time I heard that sparkle that had been in his voice before Sam died."

Sophie smiled at that and the rest just stared at him.

"You gave him back something, you filled that hole that Sam left. I didn't think that was possible and I am so glad he met you. You saved him."

"Thank you Jonathan." Sophie said.

"It's the truth." Jonathan said softly.

Just then the doctor came out of the room and they turned anxiously towards him.

"Mrs Ford, Mr Jones good news. Mr Ford is doing very well and I think I will be able to discharge him at the end of the week. Of course on strict instructions to take it easy for at least the next two months. A remarkable recovery, remarkable."

"He is a remarkable man." Eliot said smiling at the doctor.

"That he is." Jonathan concurred.

"Well you can all go back in now. I will be around to see him again tomorrow."

Thank you doctor." Sophie said taking the man's hand and shaking it.

"Listen do you guys mind if I go in and see Nate alone. I won't be long." Jonathan asked as the doctor left and they started to return to Nates room.

"No, its fine we'll wait." Sophie agreed.

Jonathan nodded his thanks and went in the room closing the door behind him. They were not sure what Jonathan wanted to say to Nate but Hardison had listening devices in the room and they all put in their coms to hear.

"What? This is what we do man." Hardison said as Eliot gave him a look. Eliot shrugged and took the earbud.

"Hey Nate."

"Jon."

"You are looking good. A lot better than when I last saw you anyway." Jonathan said as he pulled up a chair.

"Thanks. Jon, thank you. I know it could not have been easy, especially after what Sophie pulled with the doctor."

"She was just looking out for you. She loves you, maybe even more than she ought to." He said watching as Nate raised his eyebrows at that.

"So Nate, you decided what you going to do now?" Jonathan asked him.

The team took a collective breath at that question as they listened in on the conversation. They heard nothing as silence settled in the room. Nate looked at Jonathan and smiled at him. He and Jonathan had had a long discussion the day before, and Nate had informed him that he did not think they would let him out of sight or earshot for the foreseeable future. They had taken a bet on it.

"Well Jon you know me I always do the right thing." Nate said mischievously. "I mean the reason for me leaving them in the first place has not changed, I am still reckless and am going to get them all in trouble one day and…"

Before Nate could finish his sentence the door flew open and four very angry people stormed into the room. Sophie was just about to go into a rant when Nate spoke stopping her in her tracks.

"See I told you, I am never alone." Nate smiled at his friend.

"Mm I see, you have some serious stalkers." Jonathan said seriously. "I can get a restraining order you know." He said and then burst out laughing.

"Nathan Ford." Sophie said all the anger gone from her. "You are impossible." She said laying a long kiss on him. "And no you will never be alone again. I am never letting you go."

"Promise?" Nate whispered pulling her in for another kiss.

"Oh, oh, oh, come on guys there are kids in the room." Hardison said smiling at the two older members of the team. Everything was back to normal, no, they were better than what they were, Nate and Sophie were officially together at last, their family was back together and all was well in the Hackers world.

Ok well I hoped you enjoyed the story. If you have any suggestions for another Nate/Sophie story for me please let me know. Thanks for reading.