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Chapter 121: Before surgery

"Okay, Mrs. Collier," the nurse said as she finished setting up the intravenous drip.  "You just stay still and the drug will begin taking effect.  You might feel a little woozy."

Kim chuckled.  "Woozy?  Is that the official medical term for it?"

"Come on, Mum.  Don't give the nice nurse a hard time."  Andrew grinned and squeezed her hand.  Kim looked from him to Jeannie, who had a similarly amused expression.

"You're going to be fine.  I just know it."  Jeannie's expression turned serious.  "We're going to be right outside the entire time."

"Along with the cadre," Kim said.  "Do me a favor and tell Mama and Bo they can take a break to get some lunch.  Otherwise, Bo will be there when I wake up, grousing about how hungry he is."  Kim turned her attention back to Andrew.  "Marlena didn't hear from John, did she?  I mean . . . did he find out anything about your father?"

Kim thought Andrew shifted awkwardly, but it might have just been her imagination.  Or maybe the drug was taking effect.  He shook his head.

"Nothing. . . .  I'm sorry."  As he finished, he gave Jeannie a pointed look.

"I didn't say anything," Jeannie protested.

Kim smiled as she heard her daughter's voice.  The mock protest sounded so familiar.  She could hear the same tone of her voice responding to a dig from Roman.  Or Kayla responding to her brothers.  The drug was definitely taking effect, she realized.  "You two. . . ."

"I'm sorry," Jeannie said, quickly.

"No," Kim said, laughing weakly.  "Nothing wrong . . . You . . . You're such Bradys."

There was silence from her kids.  After a minute, she heard Andrew, who sounded like he was very far away. 

"I think Mum's stoned."

"Oh my god, I think you're right," came Jeannie's voice.  There was a pause, before she added, "Tell me you have video on your phone."

"I heard that," Kim said, her voice oddly distorted.  Maybe I am stoned, she thought.

Andrew took her hand and crouched down next to her.  "We're just kidding, Mum."

Kim nodded her head slowly.  She felt like she was floating and thought, I'm definitely stoned.

"Are you okay?" Jeannie asked.

Kim tried to nod, but she was not sure her head complied with the directive from her brain.  "Mmm, hmm."  That elicited giggles from her daughter.

"Heard . . . that, too," Kim murmured.  "Come here," she said.  She waited until she could feel Jeannie close by.  "Have . . . have I told you. . . ."  She paused to try to remember what she meant to say.  ". . . told you . . . so proud, so proud of you."

"She must be talking to me," Jeannie said.

"Both of you," Kim mumbled.  "Proud of both . . . . Shhhh. . . ."

"Shhh?"  Andrew sounded confused.

Kim shook her head.  "Shane."  Through the fog in her head, she could see him.  He was watching them, the love and pride so clear on his face.  "Your father," she said.  "He's . . . he's proud of you."

"This is where Mom gets all weepy, I guess."  It took a moment to process, but that obviously came from Jeannie.

"Don't be a cynic," Andrew said.

"No . . . no . . . no . . ."  Kim was struggling to get the words out.  "See him . . . Sh-Shane's here. . . ."  She fumbled with her left hand until it connected with Jeannie's hand.  Shane was watching them and he smiled softly.  "He's here and . . . he loves you. . . ."  She could feel Jeannie try to pull her hand away, but Kim held firm.  "He loves you," she repeated.  "Don't forget that."

Kim watched Shane.  She could hear him telling her that everything would be all right, that she would be fine, that their children would be fine.

"Be strong, my love," he said.

Kim murmured a response, "I will," but she knew the words never formed.  Still, she knew he could hear her.  He would be her strength and she would be his.  She smiled again and, still hearing his voice, let herself drift completely away.