Fear


AUTHOR: Topsy
EMAIL: topsy_m@lycos.com
CATEGORY: Doug Ross/Carol Hathaway
RATING: PG-13
ARCHIVE: Ask my permission first, please.
SUMMARY: Carol has to run away from Chicago to save herself and her daughter.



+========++========+

April 2nd, 01.

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I made up a lot of things in this story, such as hospitals or cities. There is a two-year-old in this story, so beware of toddler talk

+========++========+ 

Carol's eyes water with tears and her cheek stung where Nathaniel had hit her. She was leaning back against the counter in the kitchen, gripping the edge for balance.

"Nathaniel, I'm sorry." Carol says quietly, looking at him, her body rigid with fright. Carol caught a quick movement out of the side of her eye. Her two-year-old daughter Emma was standing in her pajamas, holding a teddy bear.

"Mama?" Emma's little voice rings out. Carol looks at her.

"Emma, baby, go back to bed." Carol says. Nathaniel looks back at Emma.

"What are you doing up?" He asks, his voice harsh and stern. Carol freezes, seeing the dangerous look in his eyes.

"Emma, go back to bed." Carol says, trying to get her daughter out of his range.

"Mama, I'm tursty." She says, walking into the kitchen towards her mother. Nathaniel steps forward.

"Emma, I asked you what you were doing out of bed!" Nathaniel says, his voice growing louder with every word. Emma looks up at him, too young to be frightened.

"I'm tursty, Daddy." Emma says.

"Nathaniel, let me get her a drink..and then I can take her back up to," she is cut off as Nathaniel reaches down, picking up the little girl by her shirt.

"Daddy?" Emma asks quietly, her little brown teddy bear dropping to the floor as she dangles helplessly from his arms.

"Your mother told you to get back to bed!" Nathaniel says.

"I said I was tursty, Daddy!" Emma exclaims, not knowing her words anger him more. Carol steps up to Nathaniel, touching his arm. He shrugs her off and grips Emmas little arms in his big hands. "Daddy, you hurting me!" Emma exclaims.

"Nathaniel, let her go, please, let her go!" Carol begs.

"Shut the hell up!" Nathaniel yells. Emma looks at him, her eyes wide with a new found fear.

"Mama?" Emma says quietly, looking at her mother and whimpering in fright and pain.

"It's okay, baby." Carol says, looking at Nathaniel. He is staring down at the two-year-old in his arms as she whimpers.

"No, it's not okay, you little whores!" Nathaniel says. He throws Emma to the ground and whirls on Carol, slapping her hard across the face. Carol barely feels it as she looks past him at Emma, lying whimpering on the ground.

"Oh God." Carol whimpered. Nathaniel looks at her in horror before turning around to look at Emma.

"Oh God, oh God, baby, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." Nathaniel says, scooping Emma up into his arms. She whimpers.

"Are you alright, Emma?" Carol asks, moving quickly to Emma's side.

"Mama.." The little girl holds out her arms, reaching for Carol. Carol picks the girl up as she looks up at Nathaniel. He had never hurt Emma before and Carol had always swore if he ever touched her she would leave. Her mind was already formulating a plan of action.

"I'm sorry, Carol. I don't know what I was thinking. Please forgive me." Nathaniel begs. Carol nods slightly, cradling Emma to her chest as the little girl clings to her mother.

"It's okay." Carol whispers. "We're okay." She hates how he apologizes every time he hurts them. Nathaniel wraps the two of them in his arms, pulling them into a small circle. Carol lets him hold them, even though she hates the feel of those arms around her, trying to comfort her from the pain they had brought. She shuddered and was lucky he didn't feel it, or at least mention it. She was getting away from this, even if it got her killed. She would do anything to protect her child from this hell. Anything

+========+ 

Carol crept quietly into Emma's room at three o' clock in the morning. Nathaniel was a sound sleeper and he was sleeping right now. Since the incident in the kitchen last week, Carol had been planning her getaway. She was finally ready. Earlier that day when Nathaniel was at work, she had packed the trunk of her car with clothes of hers and Emma's, enough to last them long enough so they could get far enough away. She had taken all the money out of her bank and savings account that morning and was ready to go. She picked up Emma quietly, grabbing her blanket and little teddy bear that she took everywhere.

"Mommy?" Emmy asked sleepily.

"Shh, baby. Go back to sleep." Carol whispered. Emma nodded, her little body resting against Carol's. She rested her head against Carol's shoulder and closed her eyes. Carol peeked her head out of Emma's room and looked down the hallway. It was clear. She made her way to the edge of the stairs and peered down. The living room was clear. She just had to make it down the stairs and out the front door. She crept down the stairs so slowly that it felt like it took an hour to make it down. She avoided all the places she knew there were creaks. She stepped onto the floor and swiveled her head, looking towards her and Nathaniel's bedroom. She opened up the first door, looking towards the room the whole time. She slid slowly through the doorway and into the small cubicle. Carol opened up the front door and walked into the cool air, cradling a drowsy toddler to her chest.

She ran as quickly as she could to the car, opening up the passenger side. She gently laid Emma down inside, covering her quickly with her blanket and tucking Elmer, her teddy bear, into her side. Carol closed the door quietly and looked back at the dark house. She ran around to the other side of the car and jumped in. Once again she shut the door silently and started the car, wincing at the noise. She quickly took off down the street, looking in the review mirror to make sure no lights came on in the house.

"Mommy?" Emma asks, looking up at her mother. Carol smiles.

"Hey baby." Carol says, her stomach churning with nerves.

"Where we going?" Emma asks.

"We are going on a little trip." Carol says.

"With Daddy?" Emma asks. She had seemingly forgotten all about Nathaniel throwing her across the room the week before.

"No, baby, not with Daddy. Not this vacation. He had to stay home to work." Carol said.

"Okay. Can we see Mamaw?" Emma asks, referring to her grandmother, Helen.

"Nope, not this time, baby." Carol replied.

"Okay." Emma replied sadly. Carol bit her lip nervously.

"How about you try to go to sleep and we'll talk about it some more in the morning." Carol suggests as Emma yawns.

"Kay. Night Mama." Emma says.

"G'night baby. I love you." Carol says. Emma turns in her seat, snuggling down under her blanket, snuggling Elmer to her face and letting out a sweet sigh. Carol nearly choked on the sudden tears. She blinked rapidly, trying desperately to fight them. She needed to be strong, if not for herself, then for her daughter

+========+ 

The next morning, Carol pulled up into a gas station. She shook Emma slightly.

"Emma? It's time to get up." Carol said. Emma opened her eyes, rubbing them gently with her hand.

"Where we at, Mommy?" Emma asked. Carol look at the window at the gas station.

"We're at the gas station, baby." Carol said, looking around at the unfamiliar surroundings.

"I'm hungy." Emma said.

"Okay. We'll go get dressed and get something to eat. Does that sound okay?" Carol asked. Emma nods, smiling at her mother.

"Yea." Emma said. Carol grinned, her heart fluttering slightly with a hope ignited by her daughter's smile.

"Okay, let's go." Carol said, getting out of the car

+========++========+ 

Carol and Emma had traveled around for a week or so, settling in different hotels in different states. Carol had been registering her name under Caroline, and changed her last name frequently. She stayed at small hotels, who were glad to receive cash. She moved from state to state, weaving in and out, hoping she wouldn't leave any trails. Carol had just bought a cell phone under the name Caroline King and was dialing her mother's number with shaky fingers.

"Hello?" Helen Hathaway's tired voice answered through the phone. She had given up on hearing from her daughter and was sick with worry.

"Ma." Carol said.

"Carol? Oh God, Carol, where the hell have you been? Where are you?" Helen asked, her voice sick with worry.

"Ma, I'm okay. We're okay, Emma and I." Carol said.

"Where are you?" Helen asked.

"I can't tell you, Ma, I'm sorry." Carol said.

"What's going on, Carol? Why did you just leave like that?" Helen asked.

"Ma, if I tell you anything, you have to promise to keep your mouth shut. If Nathaniel finds out, he'll kill us." Carol says. Helen gasps.

"Nathaniel?" Helen asks.

"Yes, Mama, do you promise not to say a word to anyone? Not Nathaniel, not any of my friends from work. Don't even tell Javier very much." Carol says.

"Okay, I promise." Helen says.

"For about a year now, Nathaniel has been beating me." Carol says. Helen gasps. 

"A few weeks ago, he threw Emma across the room. Lucky for the both of us, she wasn't hurt. But I knew if he ever touched her I would leave. So I left about a week ago in the middle of the night. I found a place where we can stay. I even have a few interviews for jobs." Carol says.

"Oh God, Carol, why didn't you tell me? I could have helped you somehow." Helen says. Carol can hear her mother crying.

"Ma, there was nothing you could do. Nothing anyone could do. If I would have gone to the cops, it could have taken weeks for them to do something and in that time I, or Emma, could have died. I had to get her out, Ma." Carol says. Helen nods.

"I understand, Carol. If there is anything I can do, anything." Helen says.

"Don't tell a single soul. There will probably be some media or something. Don't tell them anything. Don't tell my friends, don't tell Nathaniel, don't tell anybody. If anyone thinks you have even the slightest idea, Nathaniel will hurt you too, Mama." Carol says.

"I won't. I won't even tell Javier. He's not here right now, so if you ever call again and he's here, then I'll tell him. But not until then, I swear. And I still won't tell him everything." Helen says.

"Thank you, Ma. I love you so much!" Carol exclaims.

"I know, baby, I love you too." Helen says.

"Emma just woke up, do you want to talk to her?" Carol asks. Helen swallowed a sob.

"Will I ever see you again?" Helen asks.

"I hope so, Mama, I hope so. Pray for us." Carol said, then handed the phone to Emma.

"Mamaw!" Emma exclaimed happily. Carol listened to Emma's side of the conversation for a little while before she took the phone back from the little girl.

"I'll call you soon, Ma. Remember, don't tell anyone. We love you." Carol said, then hung up. Emma smiled up at her mother.

"I got to talk to Mamaw." She says happily. Carol grins.

"Yes, you did. She was happy to hear from you." Carol says. Emma nods and jumps up onto the bed. She had stopped asking about Nathaniel for which Carol thought was odd. Maybe the little girl hadn't had as strong of a bond with Nathaniel as she did with her grandmother. She hadn't stopped asking about her grandmother since they had left, but she hadn't asked about Nathaniel for a couple of days. Carol shrugged. The less she thought or talked about him, the easier it would be for her two-year-old mind to forget him. All of a sudden, Carol watched in horror as Emma jumped and missed the bed with her left foot, falling onto the floor in a crumpled heep.

"Oh God, Emma." Carol said, rushing to her daughters side. She immediately begin sobbing.

"Mama.." She wailed.

"Em, where are you hurt?" Carol asked.

"My arm..." She managed to get out between her yelling.

"Damn." Carol swore softly as she looked at the toddlers arm. The way her daughter was holding it and screaming, she could tell it wasn't just a bump. She'd have to go to the ER. Carol sighed, knowing it would be costly. Money and identity wise. She scooped her daughter into her arms, making sure to be gentle with her arm. "It's okay sweetheart, we'll make it all better." Carol said. The little girl cried, burying her face into her mother's shirt. Carol hurried out of the motel and into her car

+========+ 

Carol walked quickly into the entrance of Charles Truman Memorial's emergency room, carrying Emma, who was still crying.

"Can someone help me?" Carol asked, walking straight to the desk. She looked around, picking out the differences from this ER and Cook County's ER. A short man looked up at her.

"May I help you?" He asked.

"My daughter is hurt. I think she broke her arm." Carol said.

"Follow me." The man said, walking around the desk. She swallowed, her stomach becoming more panicky with each of her daughter's whimpers as she followed the odd looking man. Oh God, oh God. "Stay here, I'll send the pediatrician in immediately." He said, exiting the room quickly. Carol sat on the gurney, cradling Emma in her arms.

"Shh...shhh, baby, it's okay." Carol said, stroking her daughter's very pale cheek.

"It horts." Emma whimpered.

"I know, baby, I know. Carol cradled Emma closer as she heard the door behind her open.

"Hello, I'm Dr. Ross, what seems to be the problem?" A man's voice fills the room. Carol freezes, her eyes widening in horror. She doesn't move, her body rigid as Emma whimpers. "Ma'am?" Dr. Ross asks, coming around to Carol's side of the bed. When he sees her face, he freezes also.

"Carol?" He asks. She looks up at him, her eyes wide. She swallows.

"Doug." She manages to whisper. He looks from her face, down to the whimpering child in her arms.

"Well, what happened here?" He asks, smiling at the little girl, seemingly shaking it off. Emma looked up at him curiously.

"She was jumping on the bed and she fell." Carol says, shaking her head and thinking of her daughter, trying to pretend this man in front of her was not Doug. Doug smiled.

"Well, now, don't you know that beds are not made for jumping on?" Doug asks, bending over the little girl. Emma nods weakly.

"Uh huh. My arm horts." She says. He smiles.

"I'll bet it does." He says, he pulls her up, sitting her up in Carol's lap.

"How long ago was this?" Doug asks Carol quietly.

"About half an hour ago." She says. Doug begins to feel Emma's arm. She begins to whimper as he presses the sensitive area.

"I'm sorry, sweetheart. Let's see." He says, trying different ways of feeling her arm. She watches him, her face red, her nose running, and her eyes wide and wet. Carol trembled and not all from her daughter's injury. Doug looked up at her and smiled gently. "She's going to be okay, Carol. I'm pretty sure it's just a broken arm. We need to get her up to radiology." Carol nods.

"Okay." She whispered.

"You get to wear a cast. It can be any pretty color that you want." Doug says, confident of his diagnosis enough to let her pick out the color she wanted.

"Green?" Emma asks, hopefully. Doug nodded.

"We've got green." He says, smiling. She grins.

"I want that." She says. He nods.

"Okay, we'll have a green cast." Doug says.

"Now?" She asks. He chuckles.

"Not quite yet. Soon." Doug says. She nods, satisfied before looking up at her mother.

"Mommy, I get green." She says. Carol smiles and nods.

"Yeah, you do, baby." Carol says, and looks up at Doug. He smiles warmly.

"Well, are you ready for radiology?" Doug asks. Carol nods, biting her bottom lip, once again nervous

+========+ 

"Thank you so much, Doug." Carol says, holding Emma on her hip. Emma's arm is propped against Carol's chest, covered in a green cast.

"Hey, no problem." Doug says, smiling at the two of them. Emma is nearly asleep in Carol's arms. "How about we take Emma to get something to eat somewhere, real quick. We can catch up on everything." Doug says. Carol swallows nervously.

"I uh, we should get back." Carol says.

"Aw, c'mon, Carol. We can just get her a kid's meal at McDonald's or something. I haven't seen you in awhile. Let's just catch up with each other." Doug says. He is nearly desperate for her company. He is so lonely here in the small town of Greysville, working at the small Charles Truman Memorial Hospital. She shrugs.

"I suppose that'd be okay." Carol says. Doug smiles.

"Good." He says, taking her arm

+========+ 

Emma sat down beside Carol in a booth at McDonald's. Carol got her Chicken McNuggets and french fries ready to eat. Emma smiled and licked her lips.

"Do you like McDonald's?" Doug asks, grinning at her excitement. She nods.

"Where's the toy, Mommy?" Emma asks. Carol grins.

"Eat first, then you can have the toy." Carol says. Emma sighs, rolling her eyes. Doug laughs.

"She's what? Two and she already rolls her eyes?" Doug asks, popping a french fry into his mouth. Carol smiles.

"I'm going to have a handful when she's a teen." Carol says. Doug chuckles, sipping through his straw as Carol sneaks a fry from him.

"Yeah, so what are you doing in these parts?" Doug asks.

"Oh, uh, well.."

"We on a trip!" Emma exclaims. Doug chuckles.

"A trip, huh?" He asks. Carol looks down at her hands.

"Uh, yeah." Carol says.

"Anywhere in particular?" Doug asks. She shakes her head.

"No, just everywhere, I guess. We've just been visiting the little towns and things." Carol says. Doug raises his eyebrows slightly. 

"There's nothing interesting here in Greysville." Doug says. Carol shrugs, watching as Emma bit into a nugget.

"It's a beautiful little town." Carol says. Doug nods.

"That it is." He says, chewing on another fry.

"So, what are you doing here?" Carol asks.

"Well, my Mom moved out here about a year and a half ago and so I moved 10 months ago to come live by her. Seattle, well, it kind of sucked. I didn't work in an ER anymore and I was really bored. My mom was looking for jobs for me around her area and found one here at the local hospital, so I applied and got in." Carol nods.

"That's great." She says. He nods.

"Yeah."  

+========+ 

They made small talk through the evening, staying at the small restaurant, long after they were finished eating. Doug looked at Emma who was snuggled against Carol's shoulder, sleeping quietly.

"She's beautiful. She looks just like you." Doug says. Carol smiles and nods, looking down at her daughter.

"Yeah, she does." Carol says.

"So, do I know the father?" Doug asks. Carol looks up quickly, caught off guard. She looks at him, her heart pounding nervously.

"Uh, I, no, you don't know him. After you left he came to the hospital. His name was Nathaniel Merrow." Carol says, shifting uncomfortably. Doug nods.

"Hmm." He pauses. "So when is her birthday?" Doug asks.

"Thanksgiving. November 25th." Carol says. Doug grins.

"A turkey baby, eh?" He asks. She nods, clearing her throat.

"Yup." She says. He nods, shrugging.

"You don't have to hide from me, Carol. I left you and I've come to terms with that. So if you have another man's child, you shouldn't be ashamed." Doug says seriously. Carol looks up at him.

"Yeah, uh, I know." Carol says, shaking her head and looking down.  

"Are you still with him?" Doug asks. Carol looks up at Doug, once again startled by his questions.

"Nathaniel?" She asks. He nods. "Uh, well, not exactly." She says. He raises his eyebrows. "No, we're not. I actually moved away from Chicago. We're not vacationing. We've been traveling around, looking for somewhere to live and I found an apartment here in Greysville." Carol says. Doug raises his eyebrows.

"Oh, is that right?" He asks. She nods.

"Have you found a job yet?" He asks. She shakes her head.

"I've applied for a few." She says.

"Where?" He asks.

"Um, actually, CTM and another private practice." Carol says. Doug nods.

"That's great. Maybe we'll end up working together again." He says. She nods, looking down at Emma.

"Maybe. I uh, I need to get her home and into bed." Carol says. Doug nods, looking at her.

"Yeah, you probably should. She's zonked." Doug says. Carol nods, picking the little girl up in her arms.

"Thanks for the dinner Doug." Carol says.

"Huh?" Emma asks, looking up at her mother, awakened from her change in positions.

"We're leaving, Em. Tell Doug bye bye." Carol says. Emma turns and looks at him. She smiles.

"Bye Dug." She says. He chuckles.

"Bye Emma." She smiles as Carol stands.

"See ya." Carol says and turns.

"I can walk, Mommy." Emma says. Carol smiles and bends down, placing Emma onto the ground. As she does, Carol's shirt moves up, exposing her lower back. Doug's eyes widen at the sight. He jumps up from the booth.

"Carol, wait." He says. She turns, looking at him.

"Yeah?" She asks.

"Just wait a minute, would you?" He asks and begins to gather up the trash on their table. Emma and Carol look at each other, waiting. "C'mon." He says, moving towards the trashcan. He dumps the tray into the trash before heading outside. The girls follow him, Carol puzzled.

"Doug, what're you doing?" Carol asks.

"I need to talk to you about something important, Carol." Doug says. Carol nods.

"Okay." She says, hesitantly.

"Come back to my place with me. You can bring Emma and we can bed her down on the couch while we talk." Doug says.

"I don't know, Doug, I really shou--"

"This is important, Carol." Doug says. Carol nods. 

"Okay. I suppose we could." She says.

"Good, follow me." He says, waiting for them to get into their car before getting into his

+========+ 

Emma was now asleep, laying on the couch. Doug had put two couches together in the living room so she wouldn't fall off.

"What is this all about Doug?" Carol asks as they head into the kitchen to get coffee. He is silent as he turns on the coffee maker, before turning around.

"Tell me, Carol, what really happened with you and Nathaniel?" Doug asks. Her face pales.

"What are you talking about?" She says, her voice shaking.

"I want to know everything, the whole truth." Doug says.

"That's none of your business." She says icily. He shrugs.

"Maybe it isn't, but you damn well better be telling me how the hell you got that big bruise on your back." He says. She freezes.

"What are you talking about?" She asks.

"When you bent down to put Emma on the floor at McDonald's, I saw a huge bruise on your back." Doug says.

"I fell on the porch and landed on the edge right on my back." Carol says. Doug steps forward, overpowering her. She shrinks back, her eyes widening with fear. Almost immediately he recognizes it and steps back, shaking his head.

"Carol." He says softly. He then looks up at her. "What the hell did he do to you?" Doug asks.

"I told you--"

"Don't lie to me." He says. "Even after these years, I know you're lying to me." Doug says.

"I'm not lying." Carol says. He stares at her, shaking his head.

"Is that why you left Chicago? Did he hurt you? Did he hurt Emma?" Doug asks, his voice hardening and his jaw setting. Carol looks away.

"No, I--" She stops. She knows Doug knows. She looks up at Doug, her eyes watering. "I can't do this." She says, stepping back. She heads into the living room to retrieve Emma, but he pulls her back gently, his hands on her shoulders. She stops and he moves his hands down, surrounding her hips gently.

"Carol..." He trails off. She closes her eyes as a tear slips out of one. He lifts the bottom of her shirt gently and swore under his breath at the bluegreen bruise on her back. She shuddered. Doug kept lifting her shirt in the back, finding older bruises and scars. "What the hell did he do to you?" Doug asks, seeing that her entire back is covering with bruises. She hangs her head, her back trembling. He places her shirt back down before stepping around to face her. Doug lifts Carol's chin with his finger, bringing her head up. "Tell me what he did to you." Doug says. She closes her eyes, tears slipping down.

"He's hit me a lot over the past year. The first year that Emma was born, he was normal, he uh, he barely hit me." Carol says. Doug grits his teeth, feeling the pain from his childhood resurface, along with this whole new pain for Carol. She keeps her eyes closed. "A couple weeks ago, he was hitting me around some in the kitchen when Emma came downstairs. She wanted a drink. She was thirsty." Carol begins to sob now. Doug pulls her closer, stroking her cheeks gently. "He picked her up and threw her across the kitchen. She wasn't hurt, but I knew I had to get the hell out of there. I made a promise to myself that if he ever laid a hand on her, I would get her out. She's the most important thing to me. I had to get her out, even if he killed me. So, I left in the middle of the night with Emma. I picked here for us to live yesterday. I had just called my mom for the first time today. She was worried sick. She adores Emma and vice versa. Emma was so excited about talking to Ma, that she jumped and fell on the bed, landing on her arm." Carol says. She then steps forward, burying her face into the soft skin of Doug's neck. He wraps his arms around her gingerly, scared of hurting her.

He let her cry in his arms until she stopped and pulled away, embarrassed. Doug smiled weakly at her, her eyes and face were red and puffy.

"Why did you let him do it, Carol?" Doug asks.

"Emma." Carol said easily. Doug nodded, understanding.

"I hate knowing that you were in that same situation as my mother. And I hate knowing that once more I could have prevented it." He says.

"What are you talking about?" She asks.

"If I hadn't have left, you would never have been with him. Or at least, I don't think so. But then, you wouldn't have Emma, either. So I guess, it doesn't matter." He says. She hangs her head, the tears welling up again. 

"I don't blame you, Doug. I never have. I blame myself." She says. He nods and leans his forehead against hers.

"I want you to be safe." He says. She nods.

"I'm trying my best to keep her safe." Carol says. Doug nods.

"Stay here tonight. You two can sleep in my bed and I'll sleep on the couch." Doug says. She shakes her head.

"No, Doug, we can go home, it's okay." She says. He smiles.

"Don't argue with me, Carol, you know it's useless." He says. She grins, letting out a soft giggle.

"Yeah, I suppose it is." She says. He smiles and pulls away from her.

"Come back with me and I'll get you some pajamas and lead you to the bathroom." Doug says. Carol nods and follows him

+========+ 

Carol lay in Doug's bed, Emma curled up to her side. Being here, lying in his bed and knowing that he was only a room away made Carol's heart hurt. She had never really stopped loving him. She was sure of that. She had always been sure of that. If anything she had grown to love him more everyday. She snuggled further into the covers, pulling her child closer to her side and smiling softly in the dark. He was back

+========++========+ 

A few days later Doug knocked on the door of Dr. Jeffrey McDowell's office. Dr. McDowell was the chief of staff and he was in charge of hiring new people, including the position of an ER nurse, which included Carol.

"Come in." Doug heard from the other side. He opened the door to find the stout man sitting behind his desk, with glasses on as he bent over a pile of papers.

"Dr. McDowell, I'm sorry to interrupt, but there's something I wanted to discuss with you." Doug says.

"Oh? Come have a seat." Dr. McDowell said. Doug nodded and moved into the office, taking a seat in the brown leather couch. Dr. McDowell looks at Doug, giving him his full attention.

"I'd like to know if you have made a decision on the new nurse in the ER, yet?" Doug says. The man nodded.

"Mm, and this interests you how?" Dr. McDowell asks.

"Well, if you haven't made a decision yet, I'd like to give you my opinion and if you have made a decision and it is not the person I hoped you would have chose, I would like to tell you who I think you should have chosen." Doug says, shaking his head and hoping that all came out right. Dr. McDowell nodded.

"I see. Well, yes, we have chosen a candidate. A very strong candidate I may add." He says. Doug nods.

"Okay, I uh, well, I'd like to recommend Carol Hathaway for the position. I know she applied and...well, I worked with Carol back in Chicago when she was head of nurse management in the ER. She was the best nurse I've ever worked with and the best nurse I ever will work with. She completely deserves this position in our ER." Doug says.

"And Dr. Ross, this Carol Hathaway means something to you, personally?" The man asks. 

"Yes, Dr. McDowell, she does." Doug says.

"Call me Jeff, please. Please elaborate." Jeff says. Doug clears his throat, holding in a nervous chuckle.

"She was my old girlfriend, uh, twice." Doug says. Jeff nods. "Anyways, we were in a serious relationship, but I blew it when I moved to Seattle and left her alone. For some unseen reason I ran into her here in Greysville and she and her daughter are now staying with me until she finds out where she is going to work, so she can buy an apartment in the appropriate location." Jeff nods. 

"And you want to try and maybe rekindle this relationship...."

"Try and maybe would be appropriate choices of words." Doug says, grinning. Jeff nods.

"Well, Doug, just to reassure you, Carol was our first choice. She by far beat out our other candidates and now with your input, I am more assured that she was the right choice." Jeff says. Doug smiles widely.

"Thank you." Doug says.

"If you'd like you can take the day off and go tell her about her new job. It'll save me a call." Jeff says.

"Really? Great, thanks!" Doug exclaims

+========+ 

"I've got good news for you." Doug says in the kitchen.

"Why are you home so early?" Carol asks.

"Oh, Dr. McDowell let me off a little bit early. Anyways..." Doug is cut off as Emma comes into the kitchen, carrying her teddy bear.

"I'm tursty." She says. Carol freezes, her mind remembering the night she decided to leave. In Doug's place she suddenly sees Nathaniel. Doug, not noticing the look on Carol's face, smiles at Emma.

"You're thirsty, are you?" He asks. She nods. He bends down, swinging her up onto his hip. "Well, then, let's see what we've got in the fridge." Doug says. He opens it up. "We've got milk, water, orange juice, apple juice, and tea. What do you want?" Doug asks.

"Juce." Emma replies.

"Orange or apple?" He asks.

"Orenge." She replies. He smiles and pours her some orange juice in a sippy cup and hands it to her. He holds onto her as she drinks from the sippy cup. She hands it back to him when she is finished.

"Tank you." She says. He smiles and kisses her cheek quickly.

"You're welcome." He says. He looks at Carol who is staring at him in disbelief. "I'm going to go put her back down for her nap, is that okay, Carol?" Doug asks. Carol nods.

"Uh, yeah, yeah." She says. Doug nods. He comes back into the kitchen a few minutes later.

"Are you okay, Carol?" He asks. She nods and smiles at him, finally recovered.

"Oh, yeah. I'm great. Now what were you saying?" She asks.

"Oh, right! Anyways, I was talking to McDowell to ask him who he hired for the nursing job. He wouldn't tell me until I told him why I was interested. So, I told him that I thought you would be the best choice and blah blah blah. Anyways, to make a long story short, he told me that you had been his choice even before I went to go talk to him, that you were by far better then all the other candidates, but he was glad he had my approval. You got the job!" Doug exclaims. Carol's jaw drops open.

"I did? At CTM?" She asks. He nods.

"Yup, you got it. You start work Monday." Doug says casually. Carol jumps up and hugs him excitedly.

"I've got a job!" She exclaims. Doug chuckles.

"Yeah, you do." He says, watching the excitement in her eyes. He was so happy, just to be near her again even if he never had a chance with her again. He was so in love with her that it hurt. He was even falling in love with Emma although she was not his daughter.

Carol began dancing around the kitchen. She had no idea why she was this excited. She couldn't believe she was starting a new life, with her daughter, without Nathaniel. And even if she and Doug could never be together again, she knew they would be friends. She smiled.

"I think we should celebrate." She says.

"Do you?" He asks. She nods.

"I'm going to fix us something for dinner! I'll fix us.....spagetti and breadsticks. Emma loves spagetti. But I need to go to the store!" Carol exclaims.

"Shouldn't I be doing the cooking?" Doug asks, grinning at her excitement. She shakes her head.

"Nope, I will!" Carol says. Doug chuckles.

"Okay then." He says.

"I'll go to the store now then. Will you watch Emma for me?" Carol asks. "I don't really think it's necessary to wake her up just to go to the grocery store."

"Sure, I'll watch her." Doug says. Carol grins.

"Thanks Doug." She picks her purse up off the table before heading towards the door. Doug watches as she slips her shoes and coat on. "I'll be back." She says, smiling at him before walking out the door happily

+========+ 

Carol looks down at the grocery cart she is pushing along.

"Sauce, breadsticks, wine...." She begins ticking off items for the dinner. "Ah, noodles." She says and looks up, beginning to head down the aisle when she stops dead in her tracks. Her face turns ashen and her fingers grip the handle of the cart, making her knuckles turn whiter than her face. Standing on the other end of the aisle is Nathaniel, wearing a jacket, jeans, and a grin. He begins walking towards her. She backs up slowly but he comes upon her too quickly.

"Well, hello, darling." He says. She doesn't reply. "Happy to see me?" He asks, chuckling lightly to himself. Oh, the power of it all. 

"What are you doing here?" Carol asks quietly. He smiles and throws his arm around her shoulder carefully.

"Claiming what is rightfully mine, sweetheart." He says, smiling at her.

"How did you find me?" She asks.

"You're not the brightest person in the world, Carol, darling. I had your mother's phone tapped and knew you called her. Although you were smart enough not to tell her where you were, you didn't realize I had connections. My cousin hacked into the phone company's records and found out where you were. It took a little longer then I would have liked, but I found you anyway." He grins evilly as he looks down at the cart in her still gripping hands.

"Looks like spagetti night." He reaches down into the cart, picking up the bottle of wine. "Hmm...what's this for? Hot date?" He asks. She swallows, not answering. He looks back at her, the anger flashing in his eyes once more. "What is this? You can just leave me in the middle of the night, expect me to forget all about you and not care? And then, go behind my back and drink wine with someone else?" He asks.

"It's not a date, Nathaniel." She says. The arm around her neck tightens.

"I don't care what the hell it was. There's another man involved and that's all that matters." Nathaniel says. Carol tries to wiggle out of his grasp, but he just surrounds her neck tighter. "You're mine and you always will be." He says, his voice hard as stone. He begins to walk away, moving away from her cart.

"So where is Emma?" He asks, his voice returning to normal.

"She's with a friend." Carol replies, looking around as if to find a way to escape, but his arm is secured around her neck.

"Hmm, and is this friend male?" Nathaniel asks. Carol doesn't answer. "Is it?" His arm tightens even more. She winces.

"Yes." She whispers.

"The man you were going on a date with tonight?" Nathaniel asks. Carol winces and nods once more, knowing he knows she's not lying.

"Well, we're going to go retrieve her from your friend's house." Nathaniel says.

"What are you going to do with her?" Carol asks, anger and fear building up. 

"I am going to take her, and you, back to Chicago with me." He says. Carol knew she would have to go. She would just stay with Nathaniel until she got the chance and then she would report abuse and runaway once more. If she could. All she knew was she had to get Emma away. Maybe Doug could take her somehow...Carol had to think of something fast

+========+ 

Nathaniel drove the car straight to Doug's apartment, never asking her how to get there. Apparently he had known where Carol was for longer than he had let on. Carol knew that just made matters worse, because he knew that she had been staying with a man. He would not let her get away with it.

"Let's go get Emma." Nathaniel says.

"They might not be here." Carol tries.

"They're here." Nathaniel says. Carol hoped they weren't because she didn't want him to take Emma, but she knew if they weren't there, Nathaniel would also beat her.

Upstairs, Doug was looking out the window and he saw a blue car pull up. He didn't think anything of it until he saw Carol walk out of the passenger side. As he watched in confusion, the man went around to her side and hooked her securely to him. Doug realized he was making sure she didn't run. Nathaniel. Doug ran into the guest room where Emma was sleeping. He picked her up, teddy bear and all. She shifted in his arms but didn't wake up, her little head resting against his shoulder. He opened the door as quickly as he could and ran next door, banging on the door. Within seconds an elderly woman opened the door. Doug rushed in.

"Watch Emma. Do NOT come out of this apartment until I, or Carol, come and get you, alright?" Doug asks. The old woman nodded. "Thanks Ruth." Doug said and ran back out the door. He saw shadows on the floor and knew that they were almost there. He ran into his apartment and shut the door as quietly as he could. Then he ran into the living room and plopped down on the couch, turning on the TV. Within seconds he heard a knock on the door and Carol's voice called out.

"Doug, I need some help with groceries." She called out. Damn him, Doug thought. He stood and walked to the door, acting like he was opening it to just Carol.

"Carol...Oh, hello." Doug says, putting on his best quizzical face. He looked from Carol to Nathaniel, pretending to be surprised. "And you are?" He asks, smiling.

"I'm Matt." Nathaniel replied. Carol looked up at him in surprise.

"Where's the groceries?" Doug asks. Nathaniel pushes Carol into the apartment and follows her.

"There are none." Nathaniel says. Doug looks at Carol and sees the stricken look on her face.

"Okay. What's going on here?" Doug asks.

"Where's Emma?" Nathaniel asks. Carol watched as Doug's face turned to one of confusion.

"Emma? Who is Emma?" He asks. Nathaniel's jaw drops, completely surprised by this answer. Carol doesn't reply but her insides nearly melt with relief as she realizes Doug knows. Doug's going to save us, she thinks.

"Don't you even give me that bullshit. Where is she?" Nathaniel asks.

"Who the hell are you talking about?" Doug asks.

"Carol's daughter." Nathaniel replies. Doug looks at Carol, a look of shock on his face.

"You have a daughter?" He asks. Nathaniel stares at Doug, confused. Nathaniel shakes his head.

"I don't know what the hell you are trying to pull." Nathaniel says.

"I'm not trying to pull anything! I don't know who or what you are talking about." Doug says. Damn he's good, Carol thinks. Nathaniel straightens and pulls Carol towards the hallway.

"We'll find her." Nathaniel says. Carol's stomach dropped.

"Find who, dammit?" Doug asks, following them. Give it up, Doug, Carol thinks. Nathaniel peeks his head into Doug's room. Nothing there. He looks into the bathroom and immediately moves on. Then he walks into the last room and finds a bed, rumpled up as if someone slept in it. Carol's eyes widen as she realizes Emma is not in the apartment.

"She was here! Where the hell is she?" Nathaniel asks.

"Who? The last person to sleep there was my niece Michelle!" Doug exclaims. He doesn't have a niece.

"I know Emma was here. Dammit, Carol, where is she?" Nathaniel asks.

"I don't know!" She exclaims. He slaps her. Doug immediately steps forward but Carol shakes her head. "I don't know where Emma is, I swear." Carol says. Doug is still fuming from Nathaniel slapping Carol.

"She, whoever she is, is not here." Doug says. Nathaniel lets go of Carol and steps up to Doug.

"You better tell me where the FUCK you put her." Nathaniel says.

"I didn't put her anywhere, Nathaniel." Doug says, making sure Nathaniel knows Doug knows very well who he is. Nathaniel punches Doug hard in the jaw. Doug immediately jumps back into the fight, punching Nathaniel hard in the stomach. Nathaniel groans but the two of them continue throwing punches, Carol looking at them in horror. Soon enough, she gets her mind together and begins to attack Nathaniel from the back, hitting and scratching on her own. Nathaniel flings her back, but she comes right back in for the attack, having waited for this moment for a long time. Doug, encouraged by Carol's help, throws his arm back and rushes forward, knocking Nathaniel right in the jaw. He staggers back, knocked to the floor. Doug grabs Carol, whispering frantically in her ear.

"Ruth's." He says, just as Nathaniel makes his way to his feet.

"You son of a bitch." He says, but doesn't move. Then he looks at Carol and charges at her. Doug jumps in front of Carol just before she gets hit and gets Nathaniel's head rammed into his stomach. Doug stumbles back but falls against Carol and she manages to hold them both up.

"The crotch." She mutters into Doug's ear and within seconds Doug's knee connects with Nathaniel's crotch. He doubles over in pain.

"Fuck." He mutters under his breath. Doug punches the side of his face, knocking him over.

"You son of a bitch. Don't you ever....ever hit her, ever again." Doug says and punches him once more. Nathaniel falls, hitting his head on the side of the table and drops to the floor, unconscious. Doug watches, his chest heaving. He turns slowly, looking at Carol as she looks back at him. "C'mere." He says, reaching one arm out. She rushes into his arms and he winces as she pushes a little too hard against his sore stomach.

"Oh Doug, oh God, I'm sorry." She says, and moves to the side, burying her face into his neck. Doug wrapped his arms around her and held her close, looking over her shoulder at Nathaniel.

"Go to Emma and stay there. I'll call the cops and make sure he doesn't wake up." Doug says. Carol steps away from him, torn between going to her daughter and staying to make sure if Nathaniel wakes up that Doug will be okay. "Go." He says. She shakes her head. 

"No. Emma's fine. She's with Ruth. If he wakes up, you'll be alone with him." Carol says. Doug nods.

"Okay, okay. Everything is going to be okay, Carol." Doug says. He walks to the cordless and picks it up.

"Here, you call. I'll find some way to hold him down." Doug says. Carol nods and dials 911, while Doug goes in search of a rope. He finds one under the sink in the living room and brings it back to the living room

+========+ 

The cops had taken Nathaniel away about four hours ago, but had stayed, questioning the two of them. Carol had been surprised when she found out that Nathaniel had killed a man while on his search for her. The man wouldn't cooperate, so Nathaniel killed him, or at least that is what the cops assumed. They had his fingerprints on the murder weapon, so it was obvious that he had done it, but if wanted a trial, he had a right by law. Ever since Carol had gotten Emma back, she hadn't let her out of her reach, let alone her sight. Right now Emma was asleep once more, cradled against Carol's chest and they were sitting on the couch in the living room. Doug was sitting beside them, resting back against the couch, his body sore. He sighed.

"What a day." He says. Carol nods.

"Mmm, yeah." She agrees.

"It's like something out of a movie. Only, we get to see the behind the scenes. Hell, we're part of it." Doug says. Carol nods, cuddling Emma closer to her.

"I am so drained." Carol says.

"Why don't you go to bed?" Doug asks. Carol's stomach flops nervously.

"No, Doug. I..there's something I need to tell you." Carol says.

"What is it?" He asks, turning towards her. She sighs.

"Please don't hate me." She says. He smiles and reaches over, touching Emma's head gently.

"I promise." He says. She sighs and squeezes her eyes shut.

"Emma is not Nathaniel's daughter." Carol says. Doug withdraws his hand from Emma's head.

"What?" He asks, shocked. Carol looks at him.

"She's yours, Doug." Carol says. He stares at her for what seems like hours, but is only a few seconds before he leans forward, propping his elbows up on his knees. He buries his face into his hands.

"She's.....Emma, is mine!?" He asks. Carol nods, tears welling up in her eyes.

"I didn't know how to tell you, Doug. I mean, we talked twice since you left Chicago and then I ran into you here, so unexpectedly. I didn't know how to tell you before and then when I ran into you, I was scared of what you would do when you found out. I know you deserved to know, Doug, but.....I was afraid." Carol says. A tear slips down her cheek and lands softly on Emma's nightie. "I'm sorry, Doug." She listens fearfully to the silence, staring down at her beautiful daughter, studying the dips and curves of her face.

"Why didn't you tell me, Carol?" Doug asks softly. "Why were you afraid?"

"I didn't tell you when you first moved because I was stubborn and prideful. But when that wore off, I didn't know how to tell you because it was so late. And then Nathaniel wouldn't let me call. He told me it wasn't a good idea and since he was hurting me, I didn't try to call you because I was afraid he would hurt Emma because of it. After spending two years of my life with Nathaniel, I was afraid to tell you because it's hard to trust men, even if he is the man you are in love with." Carol says softly, finally looking up into Doug's eyes. He smiles weakly.

"I guess it's hard to fault you with that argument." Doug says before reaching out and touching Carol's cheek gently, wiping away a tear that lay glistening there. "I know it's been hard for you to trust men your whole life, Carol, but I want to prove you wrong. If you'll let me." Doug says. She lets out a muffled giggle and smiles through her tears. He smiles and runs his thumb over his lips. "I know I betrayed your trust twice before, but I promise not to do it again, Carol. Those two years without you, made me realize how big of a fool I was. I've grown up since then, Carol. I want you to trust me but I want to earn that trust. Let me." Doug says. She nods.

"Please show me things can be different. I need it, Doug. I need you." Carol says. He smiles and leans forward, brushing his lips against hers gently.

"I will, I swear to you. And Emma." He says. The two of them smile and he bends down, kissing Emma's head gently. She snuggles further into Carol's arms, letting out a soft sigh. He smiled. "I can't believe she's mine." Doug says. Carol smiles and nods.

"She's the only thing that kept me from going insane without you by my side instead of Nathaniel." Carol shutters at the mere mention of his name. Doug smiles grimly and wraps his arms around Carol's waist. He lays back on the couch, pulling her and Emma along gently. Carol smiles, letting Doug hold her as she holds Emma. As a family, finally

+========++========+






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