For the Love of a Princess


AUTHOR: Carolina
EMAIL: super_carolina1@yahoo.com
CATEGORY: AL
RATING: pg-13
SPOILERS: None
DISCLAIMER: None of the er characters belong to me, I'll put them back on the toy box when I'm done, I promise.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Yes this is a sappy one, haven't written one of these in a while. This story takes place after 'Dear Abby', so Abby and Luka are together, but it's not an Abby/Luka fic. The important thing is that sentences or words enclosed in these () are flashbacks. Thanks to Katie for helping me with the editing. Enjoy
SUMMARY: After an important phone call, Abby goes back home to her family.



Abby Lockhart came out of the trauma room 2 and leaned on the wall that sustained the edifice. They had just pulled the sheets over a pregnant woman and her baby, the husband still waiting to hear the news on chairs. She looked over at the desperate man, his hands shaking while little beads of sweat ran through his face, stains of blood still visible on his shirt. She felt a hand on her shoulder and turned her head towards the body in front of her

"I'll tell him" said Luka, hearing her nonverbal plea. She smiled a weakly and mouthed a 'thank you', her hand holding on to his for a little support. She watched as Luka approached the man and sat next to him, his face full of that sympathy and self control she admired so much. Not wanting to be a witness to the man's reaction, she turned around and entered the room she had just walked out of, evidence of their hard work scattered all over the floor.

She walked slowly and carefully towards the body lying on the table, as if she would wake the woman up with her loud presence. She stared at the face of the body for a while, traces of pain and struggle still evident on her motionless muscles. Abby's eyes traveled down to the woman's womb she looked at the woman's face again 'Abby?' "Abby?!" she turned around at the realization that the last voice was not in her head.

"Are you okay?" Luka stood at the door looking at her, his hands resting on his hips.

Abby looked down, at the woman in front of her and then at him "Yeah" she said, trying to sound as casual as she could "How did he take it?" she said looking at the woman again

"Ohh" Luka thought for a second "You know." he said, walking closer and wrapping his arms around her waist, his head resting on hers, both looking at the scene in front of them "We did our best" he whispered into her hair

"I know" she said

-----------------------------------

Luka laid sitting on the bed reviewing some charts as Abby laid asleep next to him, the soft light of a nearby lamp illuminating his work. He had asked Abby to move in with him 2 months ago, and after she said yes they decided to find a new apartment, they found a two bedroom house instead. It was far enough to be located in a nice neighborhood, yet so close they could be at work in ten minutes. Luka had persuaded Kerry into allowing them to work the same shifts, with the legitimate argument that the train did not stop anywhere near their house and he didn't want Abby walking home alone. With a little reluctance, Kerry promised to take it into consideration when making the schedules, but sometimes it didn't pan out or one of them had to work a little later than the other, in which case Luka would leave Abby his car.

He was about to put the charts down and go to sleep when the phone rang, surprisingly not waking Abby. "Hello?" Luka whispered into the speaker and listened. "She's asleep" he said looking over to Abby "Can I ask what this is about?" After a few seconds, Luka put the phone to his chest and turned to Abby "Abby" he whispered into her ear "Abby?" only getting a moan out of her "Abby?" he repeated, this time a little louder and making her open her eyes "It's your brother" he showed her the phone "He says it's important"

She sat up a little abruptly and grabbed the phone from Luka. "Hello?" she said in half a moan as she held the phone to her ear

"Hey Abby, it's Steve" Abby's brother said lowly

"Steve, what's going on?" she said a little concerned

After a few seconds of silence, he finally spoke up "It's dad Abby, he..." he took a deep breath "he's dying" Abby held on to the phone as he mind drew on a blank "he doesn't recognize anyone, but he's asking for you, he wants to see you" her brother explained, his tone revealing a hint of jealousness "Are you there?"

"Yeah" Abby said, her voice coming out stronger than she thought it would "I'll be there as soon as I can" she added, not waiting for an answer before she hung up the phone and dialed another number "Yes? Can I get a cab to 215 Madison Street?... Thanks". She bolted out of her bed and started to take some clothes out of their drawers.

Luka, who had been watching her carefully, got up from the bed and walked closer "Is everything ok" he asked while watching Abby grab a bunch of random clothes

"No... I have to go to Long Island" she said as she put the clothes in a bag

"What?" Luka said, still confused and walking to and fro behind her

"It's my dad" she stopped for a moment "He's dying" her voice trembled as she spoke the last two words, and she was amazed they even came out. Luka stood there for a few seconds, processing the newly acquired information and watching Abby struggle to remain collected. He knew she was really close to her dad, she talked about him all the time. The last he heard, her father had had a mild stroke, nothing serious, at least that's what she was told.

He suddenly snapped and moved to open another drawer "I'll go with you"

"No" Abby protested "I think I should go alone" she said without looking at him

"I'm not gonna let you go to Long Island by yourself" he tried to convince her, and was about to continue when he was interrupted

"Luka please, don't make this harder than it already is" she pleaded. He always had this way of persuading her into letting him be a part of everything she did, letting him take care of her, but the look in her eyes made him realize this time, it was an argument he would not win. He looked at her as she took her night gown off and slipped into a pair of jeans and a shirt, his hands resting on his hips between the edge of his boxer shorts and his white t-shirt

She was almost ready when he grabbed his wallet from his night table and chased her to the living room "Here, take my credit card. Spend whatever you need" he said as he put it on her pocket "Let me drive you"

"I already called a cab, they're on their way" she said while grabbing her purse

Luka was about to protest again but one look from her prevented him to go any further "I'll call you as soon as I get there, I promise" She turned around after opening the door, held his face in her hands, and gave him a long kiss

"Take care of yourself, ok? I'll let Kerry know where you are" he said as he touched his forehead with hers, his arms held on to her waist, not wanting to let her go

"I love you" she said in a moment of serenity

"I love you too" he retaliated before he kissed her again and she walked out the door.

-----------------------

(Daddy the star fell down!)

(It's a shooting star Abby, make a wish)

("I wish I was a princess" she whispered)

(You are a princess, my little princess)

"Excuse me, miss?" the stewardess repeated once more as Abby came back to the present

"Yes?" she said, shifting on her chair

"Would you like a drink?" the woman said as she managed to balance her cart on the narrow isle

"Um, no thanks" Abby smiled. She somehow managed to doze off for a couple of minutes until the airplane hit the ground. The silent airport looked different every time Abby came home, dozens of useless stores covered every space available. 'Who the hell would buy bean bag in an airport' she thought. After getting lost a few times, she finally found her way out to passenger pickup and hailed a cab

"Where to?" the foreigner cabby asked

"Marquis Care Center" Abby replied, setting her only bag next to her and resting her head on the window

The cab driver looked at her through the rear view mirror "You from around here?" he asked her

"Yeah" she said automatically, more out of custom than interest. The man kept talking about the weather, how things were not the way they used to be, New York taxes, 'God' Abby thought 'Don't these people know that their only job is to drive?' She stared out the window to the pinkish hue that was forming in the horizon, looking at her watch she sighed, it was 6:43 am. It suddenly occurred to her that everyone at the home might be sleeping, and that maybe she should go straight home, but she wanted to see her dad right away. Suddenly, her brother's words came back in a flashback

(He's dying Abby)

(Daddy please do something)

(I'm sorry honey. He's in doggie heaven now... We all die someday)

"Hey lady" the man sitting at the wheel said "Marquis Care Center" he said, pointing to their final destination

Abby gave him a bill and stepped out of the car "Thanks, keep the change" As the man drove away Abby stared at the melancholic place sitting in front of her. The sun was halfway out and her watch indicated it was 7:24. Nurses walked in and out of the building as the smell of eggs, toast and orange juice intermingled with the fresh morning air. Abby pushed the door open and came face to face with a large front desk, a very conservative looking woman sat behind it. She smiled at the image of Randi working in a place like this.

"Can I help you?" the woman looked up through her glasses

"Hi, I'm here to see a patient" Abby felt like a schoolgirl talking to the principal

"Name?" the receptionist said as she moved in front of the computer

"Michael Lockhart" she smiled at the way it sounded coming from her, after years of calling him dad, daddy.

"Mr. Lockhart! He's quite famous around here" the woman said in a cheerful tone. She analyzed Abby's face for a moment "You must be his daughter Libby"

"Abby" she corrected her

"Of course, Abby. You look just like him" the woman smiled, so did Abby "I still need to see some ID, it's policy." Abby searched through her purse for a while before she pulled out her license and showed it to her "Ok, here's your pass, wear it at all times. He's in room 203, there's the elevators" she said as she pointed to her right

"Thanks" Abby said as she clipped the 'Visitor' pass to her shirt and stepped into the elevator The doors opened to reveal a long hallway followed by some kind of waiting area. As she walked through it she recognized a man sitting alone on a chair

"Steve" she called out

The man with light brown hair and green eyes looked up at the mention of his name. "Hey Ab" he said as he walked closer and gave her a kiss and embraced her for a few seconds

"How is he?" she said, pulling away

Steve crossed his arms in front of him as he looked around the room "He's ok now. He's been disoriented for a while. The doctors say it's normal. He comes out of it periodically, but most of the time he's just talking nonsense" he looked at her carefully "God you look dead" he observed.

Abby laughed "Let me take that compliment and give it right back" she actually managed to make him smile

"Yeah, well, I've been here all night. I don't know how you can work in a hospital, I hate this place" he said while looking around

"Why all night?" she asked

"He has nightmares sometimes. Wakes up crying like a little kid." He paused for a moment "Listen, I'm going home to get some sleep, you look like you could use some too, why don't you come with me?"

"I wanna see him first. Is he awake?"

"Yeah, I think he's eating now. I'm gonna go downstairs to get some breakfast. Let me know when you're ready" he said as he touched her arm and walked away

"Ok" Abby said as she turned around to look for room 203. As she walked down the hall she could see some of the other patients through the windows. Some of them were asleep, some were watching television, others were just cradling back and forth. She began to walk slower and slower, struggling to mentally prepare herself for what would come, terrified of the fact that her own father might not recognize her. Her time ran out when she found herself facing a door labeled '203' She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, from the inside she could hear people talking. Well, more like one talking and the other protesting. Turning the door knob carefully, she poked her head inside the room and smiled at the scene: a nurse trying to feed her dad while he pushed the spoon away like a baby, neither of them had noticed she had walked in.

"Hi dad" she said nervously

The old man looked up at her, with an expression on his face that scared her to death. She could tell his brain was trying to process the information his eyes were sending it, and she could tell he was also struggling to remember. She smiled when she saw a sudden sparkle in his eyes

"Abby, princess" he opened his arms and laughed with excitement. Abby dropped her bag on the floor and walked over to his embrace. She planted a kiss on his forehead as a tear began to fall down her cheek, she wiped it imediatelly. Pulling back, she stared at his wrinkled face for a few seconds, later grabbing up a chair and sitting in front of him, her hand holding on to his. "It's my Abby" he said, looking at her carefully "Abigail was the name of my grandmother, she was, she was a secretary, for the president"

"I know dad, you told me that story" Abby smiled at him and looked up at the nurse in front of her "Hi, I'm Abby"

"Abigail Adams, she was a feminist, nice legs" the man went on

"Nurse O'Connor" she said with a bowl of cereal on her hand

"O'Connor, I knew a man O'Connor, he was a spy for the IRA, 58374 was his license number" he kept mumbling while the nurse took a spoonful of cereal

"Mr. Lockhart, how about we finish your breakfast and then we can watch some television down in the entertainment room?" the nurse tried to reason with him

"Cereal, I don't eat cereal. My mom was a neighbor of the Kennedy's, they gave me a bowl of cereal when I was five and I got hives" the man protested

"Mr. Lockhart, we eat cereal once a week, you're not allergic to cereal. Now if you open wide, maybe tomorrow we can have eggs and ham"

"I do not like green eggs and ham, I don't eat them anywhere" he said

Abby laughed "Here, let me try" she said, taking the bowl from the nurse

"Ok, well, I have to go feed other patients. Do you have everything under control here?" she asked as she walked to the door

"Yeah" Abby said without looking back. "Ok dad, you have to eat the cereal now, open wide"

"Mom I don't like cereal, give it to Mike, he likes it" he tured his face away

"No dad, look, it's not cereal, it's stuffing. Remember how you used to make that turkey stuffing on Thanksgiving? Here, have some and tell me if it's ready to go into the turkey" she said as she reached out a spoonful.

He stared at it for a while and looked up at her "Abby don't go to Chicago" he said like a little boy "You can't marry that man, he's no good for you"

"What man dad?" she asked him with a serious expression

"My daughter is going to marry a man, his name is Chris. I had a dog who liked to run in the rain, he died of pneumonia last month..." he kept talking. Abby leaned back on her chair and stared at him seriously while he went on, the bowl of cereal resting on her lap.

-------------------------------------

"Can you believe that?" Abby spoke as her brother drove towards their old home "He knew about Chris. He knew, and he never said anything. Why didn't he try to warn me?" she explained in amazement

"Chris was a jackass Ab, you were the only one who didn't see it"

"But fathers are supposed to scare boyfriends away. He never chased him down the street with a gun or scared him to death with one of those 'If you touch my daughter, I'll kill you' speeches."

"Maybe he knew you'd come to your senses, or maybe he just wanted you to learn from experience" her brother explained

Abby grew silent for a while, trying to collect her thoughts. "This is too much Steve. I mean, one minute he's coherent and cheerful, the next he's talking about dogs and IRA spies. He's never even been to Ireland, where does he get those things."

"You're a doctor Abby, you know all about aging and Althzhimer" he said

"I know" she said "It's just different cause, it's dad" she looked out the window as they pulled over the garage of the house they grew up in "I can't believe he kept this place after all these years" she looked around as they stepped out of the car. It was a house with two floors, the gates to the backyard covered with dead leaves. They parked next to an old car, "God he loved this piece of garbage" Abby said while feeling the vehicle with her palm. At the end of the yard, traces of a once lively and beautiful garden laid next to an empty pool. Steve opened the door as the smell of history crawled out and into Abby's system. She watched him use a different set of keys "You're not living here anymore?"

"No, I got my own apartment. I hired someone to fix things a little, but she never showed up. I tried to sell it once, but there's just too many memories" Steve explained, but Abby seemed to be in a trance, inspecting every corner of what once was her home. Everything looked just the same, but with a coating of experience. She stood in front of the stairs which made their way up to the second floor and walked up slowly, one step at a time. The handrail had a small skin of dust, and small spiderwebs laid between the crevices of the lamps hanging from the ceiling. She made it up and imediatelly walked towards the end of the hallway. At the end of the corridor, the word "Abby" laid across the last door to the right. She smiled as she traced the pink letters with her fingers, moving her hand down, she turned the knob and opened the door

(How about 'The Three Little Pigs?' that one's your favorite, or 'The Little Red Riding Hood'? You like that one too right?)

(Daddy, when is mommy coming home?)

(She's not coming back Abby)

(Why?)

(I don't know princess)

Sad memories flooded out of her mind as Abby tried to concentrate on the happy ones. She sat on her old bed and grabbed a teddy bear that was resting on the pillow, God she loved that bear so much when she was little, she loved it still. The old books her father used to read over and over every night still laid on the shelf. In front of the window, an old telescope she had received for her 8th birthday still glanced up at the sky. She went over and had to bend down in order to look through it, the clarity of the day making it impossible for her to see something. With one last glance, she walked out the door and into her father's room.

The bed was made and everything looked exactly how she remembered it. She laid down and put her head on a pillow, trying to touch an invisible being next to her. She couldn't remember how many times she used to sneak in the middle of the night and silently laid next to her sleeping father, running away from imaginary monsters and wizards. She glanced over at the dresser in front of the bed, framed pictures decorating the wooden table. From right to left, they captured vivid scenes of memories past; one of her and her brothers, a snap shot of her father in front of his old and dear car, a picture of Abby on her 4th birthday, and many more of her brothers at different ages. Abby's eyes concentrated on a black and white picture framed on at the very end. She walked over and carefully picked it up, analyzing the two people on it. It was a picture of her mom and dad on their wedding day, her mother dressed in a beautiful white gown and her father wrapped in a black tuxedo. They were drinking champagne, their arms intertwined as they each drank from their own glass.

(I can't do this anymore Michael! 5 children is too much, it's not a life! It's not the life I want!)

"Hey" Abby turned around when she heard her brother's voice. She put the picture down and sat on the bed "What are you doing?"

"Did you ever hear from mom?" she asked him without looking up

"Not since she left" he sat next to her "I did see her once, walking down the street"

"You never told me that. Did you talk to her?"

"Nah, I figured if she wanted to hear from us, she would have at least called" he said as he put his arm around his little sister

"She really screwed up dad" she said, her brother just nodded. They both laid down on the bed and stared at the ceiling. Abby broke up and started laughing "Remember when we told Sam that he could fly if he wore a cape like Superman?"

Her brother joined her laughing "I can't believe he bought it"

"I can't believe he actually jumped from the roof into the pool" Abby said between laughs

"We were grounded for like a year, even though it was Jack's idea" he added

"Yeah, I don't remember ever seeing dad so upset". She suddenly turned serious and turned to her brother "I'm sorry Steve, I know I should have been here to take care of him too. It wasn't fair for all of us to leave you here with him"

"It's ok" he said

"No, it's not. God, when I heard he was in the hospital, it was like a thousand daggers into my heart. I never thought this would happen, not to dad. Jesus Steve, he raised 5 kids on his own. He worked, he came home, he cooked, he helped with homework, he put up with Jack, with adolescence, girlfriends, boyfriends. And he NEVER complained about anything" she looked at the ceiling again "I used to think he was a super hero" she smiled "I still do"

Her brother took a deep sigh "I'm not scared. Of him dying. He never complained Abby, but you could see the sadness. I used to spy on him, when none of us were around he was just lost. And now it's almost over, and he'll finally be in peace, and content. That's the happy end, right?"

Abby thought for a second "Yeah." she paused and continued "The sad end is that, I love dad to death, you know? I'm his princess" She said sadly

They stood quietly for a minute when Steve broke the silence "What was that song he used to sing to us before we went to bed?" he asked, still looking at the ceiling

Abby thought for a moment, and a smiled appeared on her face. Without a warning, she began to sing.

"O-O-Oh child, things are gonna get easier
O-O-Oh child, things will get brighter

O-O-Oh child, things are gonna get easier
O-O-Oh child, things will get brighter
Someday yeah, We'll put it together and we'll get it all done
Someday when your head is much lighter
Someday yeah, we'll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun
Someday, when the world is much brighter"

----------------------------------

"Em? Emily?" Michael Lockhart whispered into her daughter's ear as she laid asleep next to him on a chair, her head resting on a small pillow. "Emily?"

"Dad?" Abby said as she came out of a deep sleep

"Em wake up, I have to tell you something" he kept saying

"What is it?" Abby decided to play along for a while

"I met this girl today, at school. She's very pretty" he said sounding like a schoolboy

"Really?" she smiled at his sudden innocence "What's her name?"

"Ellen. She's in my english class" he smiled

"Mom?" Abby asked, the smile on her face vanished

"I wanna ask her to the dance, she's a good dancer. Should I ask her?"

"Well dad, considering the fact that I know the outcome, I think maybe you shouldn't" she said sincerely

"Don't tell mom, okay Em?"

"Dad, I'm not Emily, I'm Abby, your daughter. Emily was your sister, she died a while ago. And mom, she left, remember?" she tried to make him snap

The smile on her father's face suddenly faded to a sad expression "I wanna see her Abby"

"Who?" Abby looked into his eyes "Mom?"

"She's a good dancer, a good kisser, yeah. I miss her" he said sadly while staring at the wall in front of him. All of a sudden, he rested his head on the pillow and fell asleep in a matter of seconds. She took his hand in hers and inspected it for a while. Long wrinkles covered his strong fingers and green veins pushed his skin upward. She brought it up and gave it a kiss.

(Come on daddy!)

(Abby slow down, you're gonna pull my arm off. The beach won't go anywhere, wait for your brothers)

The door to the room fell open and a man walked in. Abby looked up as she recognized the figure in front of her, she smiled. "Jack" she said as she walked over to hug her oldest brother

"Hey sis" he returned the gesture and sat opposite to her on the other side of the bed his father slept in. He leaned over whispered "Hey dad" grabbed a cup of coffee and sat back "When did you get here?" he asked Abby

"Yesterday. Steve called me"

"Steve. Always making things look worse than they really are" he said as he looked at his coffee

"I'm glad he did" she said "Although he did gave me a hell of a scare. Sam and Gregory, do they know?" she asked

"Sam is in England, some kind of business trip. And Greg was here last week, he said he'd be back soon" he took a sip and stared at her

Abby looked down at her father "You wouldn't believe all the things he talks about, it's like he's going back in time"

"I know. We've learned a lot of family secrets he blurts out" he smiled

"Like what?" Abby asked

"Like you were a mistake" he joked with a serious expression on his face

Abby laughed "Shut up" Her smile vanished all of a sudden "He wants to see mom"

Her brother became serious as well "Forget it Ab"

"We can at least try to call her" she insisted

"I said forget it!" he said in a fatherly tone "She's not gonna come" he looked at his dad, then at her and added, "So don't even think about it"

Abby looked at him and knew there was no argument. Jack was a goof, the prankster of the family, but he was also the authoritative figure, when he had to be serious, he was serious, and he meant business. He was the one in charge when their father was not home, and every one of his orders were expected to be followed. That was always implied. So she decided to change the subject. "How are *you* doing?"

He changed his tone "Ok. You know, work keeps me busy. I try to come every week though"

"How's Meredith and the kids?" she continued

"Eh, you know. Connor took his first steps last week, and his first bruise when he fell down the stairs" He smiled

"Aww, is he ok?" she remembered the last time she saw her baby nephew, just 2 months old

"Yeah, you know kids. They spend most of their time falling down." He looked down at his coffee and asked without looking up, "So this Luka guy, it's pretty serious?" He always had a presumptuous approach

Abby smiled at the mere mention of his name "Yeah," she laughed "It's kinda serious"

Her brother loved to see her blush like that. He remembered the time when he used to interrogate her about boys at school when she was a teenager, always being overly protective when it came to his little sister "Yeah? He treats you right?"

"Like a Queen" Abby said honestly

"Well, he better. Otherwise I might have to go all the way there and kick his ass" he wasn't joking

Abby laughed at the image "Like you did with Paul Trister in 9th grade?" she remembered

"Nobody looks up my sister's skirt and gets away with it" he said with a semi serious expression on his face

"Well," she added, "I don't think you have to worry about anything this time"

"'This time'? So I hear wedding bells?" He opened his eyes wide

"No, no. Not 'this time' as in marriage. I mean 'this time' as in..." She shook her head "God Jack! you know what I mean" She hated it when he played with her mind like that

"But you *are* living together" he asked

"Yeah" she said, suddenly realizing something "Wait a minute, how did you know his name?"

"I called you once and you weren't there, we got to talking," he put his empty cup of coffee down

A terrified expression appeared on Abby's face "Oh God Jack, what did you say to him?"

"Nothing!" he said sheepishly and looked at her devilishly "You were always a sucker for accents" he winked at her. Abby gasped, grabbed a pillow from her chair and threw it to his face.

----------------------------

Abby walked out of the kitchen and into the backyard of her old home. She had been cleaning the house all day, her old overalls covered in dust. She wrapped herself up when the early November chill hit her bare arms. Looking around the pool and the old garden she realized she would have to hire someone to fix the outside of the house. She walked back in and closed the sliding door behind her. After preparing a bucket with water and soap, she grabbed a couple of cloths and headed for her father's room. Everything looked organized, but exhausted. She sighed, put the bucket down and decided to open the curtains, the glare of the sun pouring into the old room and scaring the darkness away. Next to the bathroom was a small closet Abby often overlooked. She walked closer and opened it carefully, not knowing if saturation would lead to her ending up buried in a pile of memories. Inside, the small space was filled to the top with blankets, papers, figurines, an old camera projector on the floor, trophies, medals, newspapers, and many other things Abby didn't recognize. She removed a rather heavy box out of a shelf and placed it carefully on the bed. Inside, there were baby shoes, pictures, albums, and on the very bottom, an old film. She took it out carefully and put it up against the light, trying to see if it was damaged.

In the living room, she stripped a wall bare and set up the projector, which was incredibly well preserved. After putting the film on the reel, she made it run and sat on the couch facing the wall as familiar scenes danced in front of her one after another, she smiled as they became fresh in her memory once again. Her two oldest brothers, Jack and Greg, chased their dad around a park as their mom laid on the floor with a big belly; a newborn Sam being brought home for the first time; Steve chasing Abby, tackling her down, and tickling her to death. Her face went from happiness to wonderment as the next scene came up. It was her dad, filming her mom as she slept on their bed. The scene went on for minutes and after watching for a while, Abby grabbed the keys sitting next to her on the table. She was about to leave the room when a sound coming from the film made her turn around. She leaned against the wall as in front of her, a younger version of her dad, dancing slowly with a 6 year old Abby, her feet standing firmly on top of his, her head looking upwards as her eyes concentrated on her father's as he mouthed the lyrics to a song long forgotten. Suddenly the film ended and the wall went back to it's bare and lifeless white color. Abby turned around and left the room

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The engine of the car became louder and louder as Abby drove farder from the house. "Oh don't fail me now, you piece of crap," she said to the car and picked up a piece of paper sitting on the passenger seat next to her. She looked around the place she was driving, not a luxurious neighborhood, but not nearly as bad as some of the projects of New York. She read the information once again, an old address written below the name 'Ellen Caldwell.' She found it on her father's belongings, and a part of her prayed that it was still accurate after so many years. The other part just prayed.

She parked in front of a townhouse and as soon as she turned the engine off, the car made a coughing noise. Ignoring the illness of her father's car, she went up a small flight of stairs and walked to the front door of the house. She took a deep breath and knocked on the door, waiting for an answer. When none came, she knocked again, her hand trembling with a little nervousness. She mentally kicked herself for having come here in the first place and regretted not listening to her brother. Giving one last glance at the place, she turned around to leave, but came face to face with an old woman instead

She stood quietly for a minute, recognizing those green eyes and light brown hair, now half white, from the many pictures her father still kept inside the house. She was looking at her mother, the woman who left her and her dad when she was only five, the woman who never called, or visited, or showed any interest in them whatsoever. At that moment she felt like running away, she felt like walking into her father's bedroom and laying next to him, after all, what was so different between her mom and a monster?

"Abigail" the woman said without a tone of either amazement or regret

It took Abby a while to come to her senses and she was finally able to remove her stare from the woman's face "Hi..." she was about to say 'mom', but something inside of her stopped her, so the sentence culminated there. It was then that she noticed the bags her mom was carrying from the supermarket.

Her mother gave her one of the bags and took her keys out of her pockets. She opened the door slowly as Abby walked behind her "What are you doing here?" her mom asked as they went down the stairs.

Abby thought of that question for a while. Obviously she was here to tell her that her father was dying, but a part of her was always curious to see this woman again. "Um, I found your address on dad's stuff and.." she stopped in mid-sentence when her mother opened the door to a small apartment and set the bag on a table which sat solitarily in the middle of the living room

"And you thought you'd just stop by?" her mom said in a ridicule tone, trying to make Abby realize how unbelievable that sounded

"Um, no" Abby said, her hands in her back pockets. She looked around the room, a kitchen, a living room and what she thought was the bedroom. She wasn't surprised when she didn't see any pictures around "How did you recognize me?" she suddenly blurted out

"Your father sent me a picture once, of all of you in front of a Christmas tree. Of course you look younger in it" said her mom as she put two glasses of juice on the table and some cookies on a plate. "Do you still like oatmeal cookies?"

Abby looked at the cookies sadly "I never liked oatmeal cookies," she said in disappointment

"Oh," her mom said casually. "Must've been one of your brothers" she said as she took them away

"Dad's dying," Abby said, looking at her mother while she went to the kitchen and came back "And for some reason he wants to see you." Her mother gave her a look Abby recognized, and began to clean up the kitchen counter. Her brother was right; she wouldn't come. She could feel the tears forming on her eyes, and tried to stop them from falling but to no avail "God, would you at least call him?" her voice trembled and the sobs quickly began "You have no idea how hard it was for him"

Her mother stopped abruptly and looked up "Abby, when I married your father everyone was overjoyed, because he was such a good man, a good job, came from a good family. I knew it was the right thing to do, he had gotten me pregnant before we were married. It was the right thing to do, but it was not what I wanted. And I was miserable"

"Why didn't you just leave with Jack?" Abby asked as more tears began to fall down her cheeks

"It's different for women now Abby. It wasn't that easy back then. I never wanted to be a mother, I never did. And I felt guilty about feeling that way, that's why I stayed." she said calmed. Abby just stared at her as she spoke, finally hearing the real reason why all of her friends had moms and she didn't. She was crushing her heart with every word, and yet she continued "I saw the way you looked at your father, the way all of you did. One night I made the decision, and I left. Was I wrong to leave? Maybe. Do I regret it? No. I knew your dad would always be your knight in shining armor. None of you needed me around"

Abby felt the anger inside of her swell up and run through her veins "We needed you. Dad needed you. *I* needed you."

"No, you didn't. That's why I left, and it was better that way for you"

"BULLSHIT! Bullshit! You have no idea what it was like, because you were never around. Dad was crazy about you, and so were we! And you just packed your bags in the middle of the night, you didn't say good bye or even look back. No explanations, no notes, no nothing! If you didn't want to be a mother, why the *fuck* did you give birth in the first place?! So don't just stand there and talk to me about women's rights! Don't stand here and talk about what was best for us because you have no right to make that assumption" Abby didn't care if the neighbors or the entire state of New York heard her scream. She had assured herself that she would try to retain her sanity, but that promise was thrown out the window as soon as she walked into the apartment.

"You're right, I don't. There are some things you'll understand when you become a mother Abby"

"Oh, don't you talk to me about motherhood. A mother doesn't leave her children. You wanna know about motherhood? Ask dad, because he is ten times the mother you'll never be. And now he's dying and the only thing he wants is to see you. God knows none of us wants you there, but he does, because he's so crazy about you. He wants to see you. What do you have to say about that, *mom*" she said more calmed, but mostly clenching her anger on her fists

Her mom looked at her, her face still radiating indifference. For a moment, she felt like touching her daughter, see if she still had that baby smell, if her skin was still as soft as she remembered, if her hair was still as soft and shiny. Without so much as a warning or a reason, she looked her in the eyes intensely for the first time "I always knew you'd grow up to be beautiful," And headed for the kitchen again

Abby stood there in shock, looking at her so called mother. A tear fell down her cheek out of disappointment and anger, tracing the same path the others had taken not too long ago. She shook her head and looked away "Fuck you" she said as she opened the door and walked away without looking back

----------------------------

Jack stood in the kitchen with a bag of Chinese food in one hand and a six pack of beer in the other. He had promised to have dinner with Abby and Steve, but Steve was still at work and Abby was nowhere to be found. He walked out to the living room and stared at the mess she had left when she was watching the home video. He was about to play the film when the door fell open and Abby stormed in, immediately running up the stairs

"Ab?" He said as he started to go up the stairs after her. He saw her shadow walk into their dad's room and he followed her in. Inside was Abby, throwing all the framed pictures of their mom against the wall, her eyes were red and puffy and her face soaked in tears. He knew what she had done. No matter how many times people told Abby not to do something, she always went right in and did it anyway, the result was almost always a mess. He walked over and grabbed her by the shoulders, trying to shake her back into reality. She looked at him for a moment before breaking down into tears and sobs and falling to the ground. Her brother sat next to her and put both his arms around her, stroking her back and forth like a baby as he did so many times when she was a little girl. "So I take it she's not coming," he said

Abby clung on to her brother until she calmed down and the sobs subsided. "She said she never wanted to be a mom, and that she doesn't regret leaving" Her tears kept falling down and soaking her brother's shirt.

"I know" he whispered

Abby looked up "What?"

"I went to see her once, not long before she left. She said the same thing to me, gender flipped" he tried to joke. Abby chuckled as he wiped her tears with his sleeve. "That's why I didn't want you to go. God Abby, you're like a fly against a light bulb" he gave her a kiss on her head "You know, we're all so different from each other. I was thinking about that the other day, when I found out about Dad. I'm the joker, Greg is the quiet one, Sam is the gullible wuss, Steve is the emotional, and you're the mature one. But you know what? No matter how funny, patient, innocent, emotional, or mature you are, there are some things you can't change. And you can't save everyone, Abby, even when you're a doctor, sometimes you have to let others fight their own battles. I think it's time you learn that lesson" he said

"I think so too" She smiled

"Good" he said while hugging her tighter "You know, I might be the law and the entertainment, but sometimes I crave a little of that independence of yours"

----------------------------

"Hi dad," said Abby as she walked into her father's room and set a bouquet of Daisies into a vase "How are you?"

"I don't like this place, Abby, don't leave me here" He looked up at her

"I know dad, I don't like it either," she said as she sat in front of him. "But we have to keep you here for a while, just for a little while ok? Cause the doctors wanna make sure you're gonna be okay."

"I have a daughter who's a doctor, and she says I'm ok. Where's Steve?"

"He's working dad, he's gonna come by later"

"Abby don't leave me" He suddenly grew sad

"I'm not leaving dad, I'm right here," she said getting her chair closer to his bed and holding his hand

"No!" he said, taking his hand away from hers "Why can't you go to nursing school here, what's the difference, what's the hurry?" he said angrily

"I'm not going, okay dad, I'm staying with you this time" He let her hold his hand

"Everyone's always leaving," he grabbed a phone from the night table and gave it to Abby "Call Ellen, tell her to come back"

Abby looked at him sadly and took the phone from his hand "Dad, she's not coming back"

"Why?" he asked in the verge of tears

"I don't know," she said quietly. "It's my fault, she needed some space and I didn't give it to her. But she says she loves you and that she's sorry she left. It was my fault dad, not yours" Abby repeated the same speech her father had given her when her mom left. "I know you're scared of raising us by yourself. But you don't have to because I'm here and I'm not leaving you, okay?" she hugged him tight and gave him a kiss on his forehead, feeling his lungs struggling to breathe. She held him tight while trying to comfort him back to safety. After a few minutes, she set his head on his pillow as he fell asleep. She wiped some tears away from his face, while her own began to make their way down.

------------------------------

"Hey Sam, look," said Jack as he came down the stairs, holding a Super Man cape over his shoulders

"Very funny," said Sam, having just arrived from London, as everyone laughed. "You know, you can laugh all you want, but at least I was able to watch television for 6 months"

"Yeah, like we didn't sneak around," added Abby, taking a sip from her beer

"You didn't sneak around, it was easy for you to get away with everything because you were always dad's favorite," her brother Greg said as he sat next to her

Abby gasped, "I was not! Everyone knows he liked Steve the most. God, you were such a brown noser," she said turning to Steve, who was in the kitchen making some hamburgers

Steve winked at her "If you wanna win the prize, you gotta know how to play the game" Everyone looked at him in amazement

"I knew it! I knew it was all an act! Nobody enjoys shaving their grandmother's back" Jack said as he remembered the time his brother volunteered just to receive a new bike

"That was disguisting. Didn't we make a wig for the dog with all that hair?" said Abby as they all laughed at the memory, she suddenly became half serious "I miss Boogaboo"

"Oh God, Ab, he was like 23 when he died. Dad and I had the shut gun loaded in case he made it to the next year," Jack said

"That is not true, dad loved that dog" she added

"We all loved him at first, towards the end we appreciated his presence from afar. I don't know which stunk the most, his corpse or his final years," Steve shouted from the kitchen.

"That's the year we got that 'doggie heaven' talk," Greg remembered

"Which I could have easily exchanged for the sex talk," Jack added. Everyone moaned at the memory

"Yeah, well, at least you didn't get the 'when girls become ladies' talk. He must've bought every kind of pad they had at the pharmacy," Abby said looking at the burning fire on the fireplace

Steve walked over, put a plate full of burgers down and sat on the floor "You know, I think we were pretty lucky, you know, considering. He did a great job."

They all sat in silence for a minute, until Jack grabbed his bottle of beer and raised it in the air, "To Michael Lockhart, the bravest son of a bitch if there ever was one" they all raised their bottles and clinked "Hear, Hear!" shouted in unison

They all began to dig into the burgers as Abby managed to show the film she had discovered in her dad's closet just a few days ago. The fire slowly died as they all stared at the images in front of them, one by one gradually falling asleep. As the film came to a stop and a frosty chill entered the house through the window, the phone rang and everyone jumped up. Jack pulled Abby away from his embrace as he was the only one strong enough to be willing to hear the inevitable news

-------------------------------------------

In a cold hospital bed, four brothers and a sister circled the bed in which their father laid fighting for the last seconds of his life. Abby sat next to her dad on the left as Jack sat on the right. Greg and Sam stood by the foot of the bed and Steve leaned on to the frame of the window silently crying.

"Dad?" Abby whispered to his ear

He turned his head slowly and smiled at his daughter. "Hi princess," later noticing his sons. He seemed more oriented now than ever, although he could hardly move or speak. He motioned for them to get closer, and they all did to listen better and surround themselves with his last heartbeats. Their father took a deep breath and let it out with his last words "I never regretted it" he said as at the same moment, tears began to fall everywhere and the long beep of a machine filled the silence of the room.

------------------------------------------

The sun hovered proudly in the early November sky as the last flower was set in on top of Michael Lockhart's grave. Relatives and friends began to disperse as they silently gave four brothers and a sister their condolences. Yet none of them were crying, rather deeply concentrated on the mound of fresh dirt in front of them. Jack Lockhart put his arm around his sister as she took a deep breath of fresh air and looked around the cemetery. A mysterious black car pulled at the bottom of the small hill in which they stood, Abby smiled as she recognized the person who stepped out and made his way towards them. She walked up to Luka Kovac, all dressed in black, and wrapped her arms around him, the steepness of the ground equalizing their heights. She remained that way motionless as his fingers traced their usual patterns around her waist.

"What are you doing here?" she whispered

"I couldn't sleep without you" he felt her smile against his neck and grinned himself

She pulled her head back and grabbed both sides of his face with her hands, giving and receiving that kiss she had been craving for the last week. He touched his forehead with hers, a gesture that had become their trademark. As she ended it she commented "Why is everything so much better when you're around?" not expecting an answer. "How did you get here?" she asked him

"Your brother," he answered simply

"Which one?"

Luka gave her a weird expression, "I have no idea" They both laughed and turned to Abby's brothers, who were all looking at the adorable scene in front of them, Jack gave Abby a thumb's up. She and Luka walked over and as her brothers surrounded Luka like a flock of vultures circling their prey, Abby knelt down in front of her father's grave and transferred a kiss from her mouth, to her fingertips, to the engraved stone which read:

Michael Lockhart
1921-2000
Beloved son, father, inspiration


-------------------------------------------------

Abby looked out the window of her father's room down to the backyard and smiled. There were her brothers and Luka, filling the pool with fresh water and fixing the garden while goofing off. The day was incredibly warm, a forecast not even the best weathermen could explain. She remembered the day they had built the pool, 9 CPR rescues altogether. She retrieved her body from the window and let it fall on the bed, staring at the ceiling. She missed her dad, but a part of her was glad he had finally found his way back home. Steve was right; it was a happy ending

"Hey, it's not fair that we are working out there while you're in here resting" Luka joked as he stood on the doorway with a smile on his face

"Women don't do any hard work" she shot him a smile

"Aahh" he said as he walked closer and laid on the bed next to her, resting his head on her chest and his arm around her waist.

She played with his hair and planted a kiss on his forehead "Thanks for coming"

"Thanks for letting me stay," he looked up and gave her a quick kiss on the lips. With her free hand she reached out and grabbed a pillow that was resting next to him, knelt on the bed and hit him with it. Luka stared at her with a look of disbelief as she smiled devilishly. "Oh, you didn't want to do that" he warned. Before she could react, he grabbed the pillow away from her.

"Ahh!" she screamed as she ran to the other side of the room, but before she could make it to the door, Luka pinned her arms, bent down a little, and threw her over his shoulder "No! I take it back, put me down!" she said between chuckles.

He walked out of the room and headed down the stairs "You said women don't do any hard work," he said as he tried to stop her from moving around. He opened the sliding door and walked outside "Boys, what do you say we have someone test the water, huh?"

Abby's brothers looked at each other like they were back in grade school "I say throw her in" shouted Jack

"Throw her in! Throw her in!" they all began to sing in unison

Luka put Abby down, her back to him, he still kept her hands pinned to her body with his own. She was terrified out of her mind, but she couldn't stop laughing. He lowered his head to the level of her ear "Sorry baby, mob rules" he said as he picked her up with enough altitude to swing her back and then forth, back and forth, back and "splash!"

All of her brothers shouted like monkeys on a cage waiting for their food. She came to the surface and looked up in time to see Luka jump in after her. Jack approached Steve "Oh, I like him," he said

All of a sudden the shouting was interrupted when a figure appeared on the roof of the house, wearing a cape "To infinity, and beyond!" he said as he jumped from the second floor and into the pool

"Oh my God, Sam!" Abby yelled as a big splash soaked the three remaining brothers

"This didn't happen when he was 45 pounds" said Jack while water dripped from his face

"Oh well, what are you gonna do?" said Greg as he joined the rest in the pool, soon followed by Steve and Jack. They all began to wrestle each other, remembering the times when they could stay under water for long periods of time

Abby swam towards Luka and put her arms around him, his feet were touching the ground, hers weren't. "You are so gonna pay for this later," she said in a seductive tone

"Oh yeah?" he said in the same tone "I can't wait." and began to kiss her but was interrupted by a splash of water

"Hey, save that for tonight, alright?" Jack said, with the head of one of his brothers pinned underwater. As Abby went to save the poor soul, Jack released him and went to pin her.

The shouting became more and more distant as the landscape took on another shape. In a cemetery miles away, a woman knelt in front of a newly dug grave, a bouquet of roses in her hand. She kissed her fingertips and touched the grave gently, as if asking for forgiveness "You were the right choice"

The End




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