Michelle Perry

Horatio sat in the waiting room trying not to fidget. It was nearly impossible to sit still. None of the magazines could possibly interest him at a time like this - not that Home and Garden or Cosmopolitan had ever interested him before. Eventually, he couldn't take it anymore, and he began pacing the floor of the waiting room, trying to believe that everything would be okay.

Finally, after at least thirty minutes of walking back and forth, nervously fiddling with his badge, his sunglasses, belt buckle and anything else that he could get his hands on, a doctor came and called his name. "Yes, doctor," Horatio said, walking eagerly toward her.

"So far, her body's responding positively," he said. "I thought you'd like to know right away."

Horatio allowed himself a sigh of relief. "Thank you very much, doctor. Can I see her?"

She nodded. "Follow me, please, Lieutenant." Horaio followed the doctor into the recovery area. "I know you may not be a stranger to hospitals," the doctor said, "but..."

"I understand. Thank you," Horatio said. They reached the bed at last, and the doctor gently pulled the curtain aside. Horatio had to stop a moment, even though he should have been prepared for what he saw. But despite years in the force, and having seen more than his share of victims in hospital beds, it was somehow different when the victim was his own flesh and blood, and on top of that, a child.

Horatio glanced at Suzie as he stepped closer to the bed. She looked haggard, and who could blame her? Madison's already pale skin was nearly as white as the hospital sheet she lay on. She was hooked to an IV and an oxygen tank, and her somber little face looked more worn and tired than any child's face should look. Suzie stood up and hugged Horatio tightly. "I don't know how to thank you," she said. "They said she'll be okay now. Ray Jr's blood was a match!"

"That's wonderful," Horatio said. "I told you things would work out, didn't I?"

Suzie nodded, and her eyes glistened with tears. "You always make it work out. I don't know how to pay you back for this. The operation, the room, I mean... I just..." Suzie couldn't finish. Her hands shook, and she was crying outright now.

"Shhhh," Horatio said, offering Suzie his handerchief to dry her tears. "You are my family," he said. "We have to stick together."

Suzie smiled and Horatio guided her back to her seat. He sat in a chair beside her and waited for his niece to open her eyes.


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