Author's Note: Thank you again for your reviews. I've been so surprised at the response to this storyline, and I'm so thankful for the feedback!
Chapter 35-Come Back to Us, Kiddo
As Hank laid eyes on Erin for the first time, he couldn't help the stream of tears rolling down his face. He didn't know how he had tears left after the morning at the cemetery, but as hard as he fought, he didn't have the strength to hold the tears in any longer.
Before coming to the hospital, he hadn't allowed himself to think about what Erin would look like, but somehow the reality was worse than he imagined. The bandages, the tubes, the monitors were almost too much for him, and for a few moments, he didn't know if he'd be able to take another breath.
Jenna sensed Hank's struggle, so she decided to step in and try to ease the situation a little. She walked over to Erin, gently kissing her forehead.
"Good morning, Sweetie. Jay told me that you had a good night. I sent him home to get some rest, but he'll be back up here later. I have a feeling that today is going to be a really good day." She looked over at Hank, who was still standing by the door. She motioned for him to come over and said, "It's ok. Come talk to her."
As Hank slowly walked to Erin's bedside, Jenna said, "Erin, there's someone really special who came to see you. I'm sure it's going to make you feel a lot better."
Hank picked up Erin's hand, cradling it between his as he sat down next to her. "Hey kiddo." He raised her hand and held it to his cheek. "I'm sorry I'm just now coming to see you. We've been working hard trying to figure all of this out, but I…I should've been here, and I'm sorry. I'm so sorry Erin."
On the other side of Erin's bed, Jenna was shedding her own tears. After a few minutes, she didn't think she could take any more, so she excused herself to the hall, giving Hank some time alone with his daughter. When she stepped outside, she leaned against the wall, sliding down to the floor, and crying into her knees. Her heart ached for so many reasons, and she desperately wished she could go back in time to the previous week, when things were easier, when life was normal, when her family was healthy and happy.
Back in Erin's room, Hank continued to apologize to Erin for not being there. "I got scared, Erin. It was all too much too fast, and you know I don't do well with feelings and things. I wish you were awake to talk me through how to fix all of this. I yelled at absolutely everyone. Jenna is mad at me, Jay is mad at me, and if you were awake, I'm sure you'd be mad at me too."
He sighed. "I deserve it. I've been a jerk about so many things, but especially for not being here for you. Erin, we need you to get better. Me, Jenna, Jay, the unit…we need you to come back to us."
Another few tears fell from his eyes. "I'm scared that I'm losing Jenna. I've treated her worse than anyone, and I'm worried we won't be able to work through it. I don't deserve her, Erin." He covered his face with his hand for a moment. "I shouldn't be laying this all on you, especially now."
He leaned over and kissed her head. "Just come back to us, kiddo. We miss you." He kissed her head again. "I love you," he whispered.
Later that day, Jay returned, and the three of them sat together in Erin's room, watching her sleep, mostly silent except for the sound of the machines keeping Erin alive.
Will and the rest of Erin's medical team joined them to discuss the results of Erin's tests from the previous day. They were relieved to hear that the brain swelling was decreasing, and they were overjoyed to find out that she still had significant brain activity. It was the best news they could've hoped for, and for the first time, they all finally felt a little bit of hope. While they knew Erin still had a long road ahead of her, they took a moment to breathe, to relax, and to celebrate.
As evening came, it was time for Hank and Jenna to leave. Jenna kissed Erin's cheek and hugged Jay.
"I hope you both have a good night," Jenna said to Jay.
"Thanks Jenna. I'm glad we got good news today. You'll be here in the morning?"
"Bright and early," she said.
Jay looked over at Hank, who couldn't take his eyes off of Erin. "Hank, will you be coming back tomorrow?"
Hank tore his eyes from Erin, looking back and forth between Jay and Jenna. His heart was already breaking at the thought of leaving her, even if just for the night. "If it's ok with the two of you, I'd like to spend tomorrow here with her too."
Jenna smiled for the first time in days. "I would love for you to be here, but I'm going to leave that up to Jay."
Jay nodded. "Erin would want you here, so it's fine with me."
"Thank you Jay." Hank kissed Erin's forehead and whispered goodnights and promises to return the next day.
Hank and Jenna walked slowly down the hall together. When they reached the front doors, Hank hesitated.
"So, I…guess I'll see you tomorrow?" he said uneasily.
Jenna turned around to face him. "Are you serious? You're not coming home again?"
Hank shrugged. "I didn't know you wanted me there."
Jenna sighed. "Ok, I know that we have to talk about a lot of things, but after the last few days of being alone, all I want tonight is to go home and sleep in my husband's arms. So please come home."
Hank nodded, and Jenna slipped her hand into his as they left the hospital together. When they got home, Jenna took Hank's hand again.
"Shower with me?" she asked. Hank raised his eyebrow at her, surprised by her request, especially considering they hadn't had a chance to really talk. "Just a shower," Jenna said. "I just…" she stopped, sobs coming unexpectedly, surprising them both. "I just really need you to hold me. Please Hank."
He took her in his arms, holding her close, rubbing her back and kissing the top of her head over and over. When she was able to hold herself up, he took her hand, leading her to their bathroom. They silently undressed each other and stepped into their shower. They stood in each other's arms, Jenna crying into Hank's chest, until the water ran cool.
Jenna got into bed first. Hank stood at his side of the bed, but waited, unsure if Jenna really wanted him next to her. Jenna looked at him over her shoulder and said, "Just get in bed. We'll talk later."
Hank carefully climbed into bed next to her, keeping his distance. Jenna scooted back toward him and reached behind her, searching for his hand. When Hank took her hand, she pulled his arm around her, and when he was settled close, curled up behind her, she let out a contented sigh. Within minutes, they both fell into the best sleep they'd had in days.
Hank and Jenna woke the next morning in the same position they fell asleep in.
"Morning," Hank said softly into Jenna's ear.
"Hi," Jenna said.
"Did you sleep?"
"Surprisingly well, for the first time since all of this happened. I didn't realize that I wasn't able to sleep without you next to me," Jenna said, pulling his arm tighter around her.
"Same here," Hank said, kissing the side of her head. "I've missed this."
"Me too, Hank," she said, turning over and burying her face in his chest.
They both closed their eyes again and laid in silence for a few minutes, just enjoying the feeling of being in each other's arms. It was the longest they'd gone without sleeping next to each other, so neither wanted it to end.
Hank was torn. He didn't want to kill the moment they were having, and he wanted to see Erin again as soon as possible, but he wondered if now would be the time to have a talk with his wife. Although they'd been able to put aside their issues the previous day and night, instead focusing on Erin and her needs, he didn't know how much longer they could go with the cloud of their own issues hanging over them. After awhile, Hank decided to take a chance, and he broke their silence.
"Jen, I know we have plans to go to the hospital this morning, but since we're here together right now, do you think maybe we should take some time to talk about us?"
Tears came to Jenna's eyes as she buried her face farther into Hank's chest, shaking her head.
"No?" he asked.
She shook her head again, and Hank felt her tears dropping onto his shirt. "Jenna," he said softly, kissing the top of her head several times. "Talk to me, honey."
Jenna sat up, pulling away from him as she wiped at her tears. "I just don't want to do this right now," she said softly, trying unsuccessfully to stop her tears. "I just…if we try to talk now, and it goes badly..." she stopped, trying to gather and refocus her thoughts. "Hank, our attention needs to be on Erin right now, without any distractions. We just need to go take care of our girl, and we can deal with the rest of this later."
Hank sat up next to her, slipping his arm around her waist. "Ok. Whatever you think is best. I just know that I want to fix this sooner or later. I screwed up, and I want to make it right."
"I know," Jenna said, "And we will. Just not today, ok?"
He nodded. "Ok."
"Let's go see Erin."
The next few days found Hank finding his place in Jenna and Jay's hospital routine. Jay continued to take a few hours to get away, leaving Hank and Jenna time alone with Erin. Because they weren't certain of Erin's capabilities, they refrained from discussing their personal issues in front of her, just in case she could hear. They worked hard to keep the atmosphere as light and stress-free as possible, hoping somehow that it would help with Erin's healing.
Surprising to everyone, Hank was able to hand the reins of the investigation over to Antonio and Al, who managed to track down the CI who intentionally gave wrong information, leading the team into what could have easily been the death of the entire unit. When Hank found out about the arrests of the CI and the unit's original targets, he wanted desperately to serve his own brand of justice down in the cage. Jenna and Jay held him back, demanding that he remain at the hospital, knowing Erin needed him, and the unit could handle what needed to be handled.
Nine days after the explosion, nine days after their worlds were turned completely upside down, they received the news they feared would never come. Erin was showing signs that she was breathing over the ventilator, so the doctors determined they would begin lifting her sedation in order to allow her to breathe for herself, and to start the process of waking her up. Due to the unpredictability of Erin's type of brain injury, there was no way to predict how long it would take for her to wake up, and there was a possibility that she might not wake up.
When the doctors were gone, Jenna, Hank, and Jay spent a few minutes in silence, each of them processing the news on their own. While there were no guarantees, hearing that progress was being made, that things were moving in the right direction, gave them each a new level of hope, one they hesitated to grasp up to this point.
Jenna broke the others out of their thoughts as she covered her face with her hands and laid her head over on Erin's bed, tears of stress and relief flowing down her face. Both men quickly moved to her side.
Hank put his arm around her, gently stroking her back, as Jay knelt beside her. "It's gonna be ok, Jen. She's going to come out of this," Hank said, softly kissing the side of her head.
After a few moments, she sat up, wiping her tears. "I know. I feel it. She's coming back to us. I'm just…nervous, but I'm relieved, and I just…want her back," she said, dissolving in tears again.
Jay, still kneeling in front of Jenna, took her hand. "I want her back too. We all do. I have been talking to Will a lot through this, and he said Erin has the best team of doctors in the city doing absolutely everything they can, and he's confident that she'll pull through this. We may have some obstacles to overcome, but she's coming back. I refuse to believe anything else."
Jenna squeezed Jay's hand. "Thank you Jay."
They all turned back to Erin, watching her sleep, willing her to come back to them. Finally, Hank stood up, kissing her on the forehead.
"We know you're fighting, kiddo. We're so proud of you, and we miss you so much. We know you're in there, and we know you're going to come back to us soon. Keep fighting, ok? We're going to be right here, and we're going to help you through whatever happens once you wake up. We just need you to wake up."
"We love you so much, sweet girl," Jenna said through her tears.
"We do," Jay said. "We love you, and we miss you, and our lives aren't the same without you. We need you, Er. Come back to us."