Over the next several months, John grew stronger. He and Mary dated and John bashfully asked her to go steady. They were frequent guests at the Desoto's. John made sure to set aside time for his and Jen's tea parties and model making with Chris. John knew Mary was special but he was glad others could see it too. It wasn't every day you got invited to one of Jennifer Desoto's famous tea parties.
Mary wore the hat John usually wore to these events. She even brought home baked chocolate chip cookies. They sipped and dunked until Mary nearly choked on her cookie when Jen asked a very blunt question.
"So, what are your intentions toward my Uncle Johnny?"
Everyone stared at her.
"What? I saw it in a movie once. The dad asked the guy what his intentions were with his daughter and I figured dads must do that with their sons too and my Uncle Johnny doesn't have a dad anymore, well he has my dad but I don't think my dad is brave enough to ask that…"
Gage was speechless. He stared from Jenny to Mary, longing to be in the garage with Roy or even helping Jo prepare the supper.
"Well, your Uncle is a very special person. I want to help him keep getting stronger so he can go back to doing what he loves and be there for him …"
"How old are you?"
Gage about died right there and then. In all honesty he'd never thought to ask.
"I'm twenty-three," she stated, looking at John as though just realising that she'd never told him that she was two years older than him.
"That's okay. My mom is one and a half years older than my dad. Don't tell him this, but sometimes she says she feels like she has three kids when my dad doesn't put his clothes in the hamper or his dishes in the dishwasher."
"Dinner's ready," called Joanne from the dining room.
Saved by the beef!
Mary smiled genuinely at Jennifer. Jen took her hand and led her into the kitchen, satisfied that she had her Uncle Johnny's best interests at heart.
Roy looked across the table at his partner. His face had filled out to where it had been before the accident. He looked … happy.
After cake and coffee, John excused himself and came back to the table with an envelope.
"I wanted to share this here … with all of you, because you've all been there for me." He withdrew a letter and passed it around the table.
Roy whooped in joy and hugged his partner.
"Two weeks. I'll be back in two weeks."
Mary stood and planted a huge kiss on John's lips.
"I love you," John whispered into Mary's ear.
Mary leaned out from his embrace, making sure she'd heard him right, that he wasn't just swept up in the sheer joy of the moment of sharing his good news.
"I love you," he said again.
"I love you too," she whispered back.
Knowing John was going back to work in two weeks, Mary took a week's holidays to be with him. They drove along the countryside up into the mountains and visited Nina and Andy at the winery.
Mary had met the couple when John had been gravely ill so had never been properly introduced. Nina took an immediate liking to Mary, there was nothing not to like. The four of them went out and visited with Strayboy for a bit.
"He's beautiful, John," Mary told him.
John chuckled. No one but Jennifer had called Strayboy beautiful before. Strayboy seemed to sense the words. His huge head lowered onto Mary's left shoulder, nostrils tickling down the fabric of her sweater, inhaling a strand or two of hair in his inspection. Mary ran her hands down Strayboy's mane and fed him a sugar cube.
"I can see why you picked him," Mary told John. John had told her what little he knew of Strayboy's past and slowly over time he told her more and more of his past, praying each time he was able to gather the courage to share more, that she wouldn't see him as a freak or want to leave him.
Mary saw only true strength of character when John opened up about what he'd been through. She admired the way he was able to still recall with fondness some of his memories of his real dad and mom. A part of her cried with him when he admitted to some of the harder times from his past but he never dwelt there. He told her point blank about what Dr. Fenwick had done to him, what he believed for awhile about himself and how he was able to climb away from that with help from his friends and Hollis.
While eating dinner, Andy told John about a small parcel of land with a barn and a house on it that was coming up for sale in two day's time.
Two days later, Nina, Andy, Roy, Joanne, Mary and John stood on the wraparound porch.
John asked everyone what they thought.
"Well, Junior, the foundation's sound. The roof's in good shape. It needs painting and cosmetics but you know the guys will all pitch in and help out. You've always wanted a place with a barn for the horses, but ultimately this has to be up to you and, well … whoever you're going to live here with."
Roy smiled fondly as his partner led Mary to the other side of the porch behind some climbing ivy for privacy.
John's palms sweat. Words jumbled in his head but he forced them into organized thought. Mary was examining the climbing ivy, her hand clasped lightly in his.
It was like standing naked and vulnerable to every force in nature and man as he began to speak, never as open to hurt and pain except for once when he had to come clean about his age and his past.
"Mary … Could you see yourself living out here … with me … I mean, not just living together, I mean married … will you m-marry me?"
John closed his eyes, afraid of the hurt that could come from such a vulnerable position. The hurt never came.
Mary's lips brushed his, her hands clasping the back of his head. She then stood on her tiptoes and put her forehead to his, something she found comforted him, made him pay attention, stopped the hurt. But this time the hurt never came.
"I would love to be your wife," she whispered.
John opened his eyes, wishing he hadn't closed them and missing her say yes. She read him like a book.
"Yes, I will marry you," she said again, looking him straight in the eyes.
The sold sign went up on the house that very night.
John entered station fifty-one two weeks to the day later as an engaged man. The wedding was set for June with Roy as best man and all of his brothers from the station as ushers. Mary's sister and Jen were to be flower girls.
There was a welcome back banner hung over the door to the common room in the station and a cake on the table. John heard his shift mates talking in the locker room. Chet stepped away from his locker quickly as John entered.
The guys clapped him on the back and left him to change. Roy remained behind as John opened his locker. John ducked out of pure instinct but he didn't need to. Nothing exploded or spewed. When John reopened his scrunched eyes, a lump formed in his throat. Smokey the Bear was back, two fresh uniforms in his size hung in his locker along with a new helmet that was way too shiny for his liking. He would scuff it up before they took off; no way was he going out looking like a boot. Words were painted on the wall inside the locker on both sides of his helmet. On one side 'wherever you hang your' and on the other side, 'is your home.' Welcome home!
Of course the Phantom couldn't resist. Chet laughed heartily when Gage found the pair of ruby slippers he slipped in there. A note attached said 'there's no place like home'.
John came out into the kitchen in his uniform and his friends clapped in genuine welcome. A few tears were wiped away. John caught sight of a growth chart hung on the wall. That was new.
"Oh you noticed," Chet teased. "We have to keep track of your growth for your records, Gage."
John was about to protest but his mouth clamped shut when he found out Cap had put up the chart, not the Phantom.
"It's true, Gage. Have Roy measure you once a month and send in the stats to HQ. Also to Rampart. It all makes a difference and Kel wants the results too," Cap said. "Roll call after cake."
The tones sounded during roll call and Gage slid in the seat beside his partner. The sirens filled him with the familiar surge of adrenaline as they sped off at the speed of … life.
Author's notes: Dear readers. Epilogues are hard to write! Does anyone else find that? Sooo, I have the one you just read and … a rated M or slightly higher depending on your taste in case you want to read further. So, yeah, warning for mature content as it gets a little steamy toward the end. Feel free to skip if you don't like … steamy stuff. I'll thank you here in case you don't continue. Thanks for reading!
John and Roy found their rhythm working together right away. The guys were a little over protective of John at first but John took it in stride, secretly – very secretly pleased to be so well loved.
The wedding was approaching rapidly. Mary's background was Scottish and her dad had accepted Gage with open arms, especially when Gage didn't automatically say no to having he and the groomsmen wear the family tartan on kilts at the wedding.
"Come again?" choked Roy, barely swallowing his coffee as he and John stood beside the nurse's station in Rampart.
"Kilts. Mr. Clary's Scottish. Mary's grandparents will be at the wedding, also Scottish. So … they asked if I would mind, you know, wearing a kilt and having the guys wear 'em too…"
"The things I do for you, Junior, I swear."
"Squad fifty-one, what's your status?" barked Sam Lanier's voice from the HT in Gage's hand.
"Saved by the Sam!" Gage exclaimed, pressing the button. "Squad fifty-one available from Rampart."
Roy wrote the information on their next call down on a slip of paper Dixie handed him with a smile and they took off for their next call up in the canyon.
A woman with a white apron with red liquid splashed down the front was waving a dishtowel at them when they pulled up to the two-story brick home. John leapt from the squad as it rolled to a stop at the unknown type rescue address prepared to treat the terrible blood loss evident on her clothing.
"Now, just take it easy ma'am, what happened?" John began to sooth before finding out that the blood was in fact raspberry jam.
"It's not me, it's Lester, my son, he fell down the well!"
It wasn't the first well rescue they'd been on and John had to wonder at that … later, when they had more time to think. He couldn't help his brain sneaking out one snide, what the heck is wrong with people and leaving their wells uncovered! But it wasn't his job to judge. He grabbed some rope and gear while Roy did the same and they ran after the frantic mother to the back of the house.
"I was making early raspberry jam from the berries the kids picked up in the hills and I told them to wash them before eating any themselves. I'd yelled at them earlier for traipsing in the house with dirty shoes so they … oh god, they uncovered the well and tried to bring water up to rinse the berries instead and Lester fell." The woman leaned over the well as John gently pried her back feeling sorry for his earlier thoughts. Sometimes kids just did things that ended up in their getting hurt.
"I could've washed the floor again. They were so proud to bring the berries for jam …"
"Listen, it's gonna be okay but you have to keep back for us to do our job okay?" Roy gently said, turning to a little girl standing next to other slightly younger siblings.
"Has Lester said anything since he fell into the well?"
"He cried for a few minutes and said he was standing on the bucket down there and we all ran to get mom," the girl explained. Roy could only wish they'd thought to leave one child behind to keep talking to Lester.
Roy shone his light down the well, which seemed to go on forever. The sirens of Engine fifty-one relieved him and soon huge spotlights were shone down into the abyss. Lester was alive, clinging to an ancient looking rope attached to a wooden bucket. He was shivering and even in the spotlight they could see how cold he was. His lips were tinged in blue and his body was submerged to the waist in cold ground water.
"If he was more with it, I'd say we could just draw him up on the bucket but then again, I doubt that rope would hold the weight," Roy said thoughtfully.
"Well, I'll just have to go down and get 'im," said Gage.
"Lester," called John once he was harnessed. "I'm gonna come on down there and get you out; your mom's waiting here and your sisters and your brother. It's gonna be alright."
John stood on his hands, Roy watching for any winces of pain. There were none. The guys grabbed his legs and lowered him through the hole so he wouldn't hit himself on the rim. Once his body was fully inside the circular well, the rope tightened around his ankles and he was lowered down. Lester said nothing. The place was like a tomb and John had the unfortunate memory of being trapped in small places so he knew how Lester felt.
John reached the boy and felt for a pulse. Too fast but strong.
"Okay, Lester, I'm gonna slip this rope around your armpits, then I'm gonna take your hands and my friends up there are gonna pull us up."
Lester nodded. It was better than nothing. John called up the pulse rate on his way up and Roy marvelled at his calm demeanour. He didn't even sound like he was upside down in a dank dark well … not that Roy knew what that would sound like.
Lester as it turned out was fine, nothing broken miraculously. John and Roy taped up a few minor scrapes to his elbows and knees and bandaged the ends of his fingers. Rampart recommended a hot bath to warm him up and to see his family doctor if anything came up.
Lester's mom grabbed John into a huge hug and the young paramedic stepped away looking pleased but covered in red berries and still soaking wet from the walls of the well. All the guys watched as she led her children to the house. In a second she came running out and handed each man a jar of homemade jam. Strictly speaking they weren't' allowed to accept gifts but if anyone was going to say something about a jar or two of jam well … raspberries to them.
Roy called the squad in as unavailable and John stared at him.
"What? You're soaking wet. We're going back to get you a new uniform. It's cold out."
John had time for a quick, warm shower before being called out again to see to a grandfather who'd broken his ankle roller-skating with his grandchildren.
"I ain't as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was," the old gent chuckled, in remarkably good spirits for someone who had to be in considerable pain.
"Well that's good to hear Mr. Henderson," John said as he started the IV with pain meds ordered by Brackett on the bio phone.
Roy couldn't help but think the old man reminded him of his partner. While he iced the ankle and John made arrangement for transport, the man's main focus was on his grandkids. His granddaughter had tears in her eyes but they were quickly wiped away by the kindly old guy.
"Now, Sarah, in a few months I'll be as good as new and this won't even get in the way of us going sky diving in August."
"I just want you to be okay, granddad," Sarah smiled.
Roy re-checked the information the man had given to relay to Rampart. He was eighty-two years old! Yep, definitely reminded him of Junior.
John took the treatment room while Roy went to get coffee. Roy smiled when he saw why Gage was so happy. Mary was on duty. She still didn't have a permanent assigned floor or ward in Rampart but she was promoted to full time.
John hung the IV on the pole and wished the old gent well as Mary set about getting a fresh set of vitals for the doctor. She winked at John but got caught by the patient. She feigned something in her eye as the old man chuckled.
"I don't think any amount of wiping or eye drops are going to get that out of your eyes young lady," he said knowingly. Mary and John both cringed. No one frowned on their dating or upcoming marriage but professionalism was of the utmost importance.
"Because that in your eyes is love," the man went on. "I'd know it anywhere. My Mabel was in my eyes for sixty-one years. She's gone now but I have a little living portrait of her, my granddaughter, Sarah. You met her at the roller-rink."
John thought back to the beautiful little girl with the blonde ringlets and blue eyes.
"She's beautiful," John agreed.
The man looked at Mary. "And you're very lucky, sonny. Treat her well."
"I will," John promised from the bottom of his heart. The old man didn't seem to want to complain about the wink so John sighed in relief and wished his bride-to-be a good night shift and made his way back out into the hall as the old man proceeded to tell Mary about how he'd met Mabel.
Roy pressed a cup of coffee into John's hands. John sipped appreciatively, feeling a little chilled still from his trip into the well earlier despite the warm shower.
Mary stepped out just as John and Roy finished their coffee so the X-Rays could be taken.
"That was close," Gage laughed, his eyes lighting up, wanting to reach out and just hold Mary.
"Too close," she sighed, taking her fiancé's hand and leading him down the hall. She stole one quick kiss and sent him back to his partner telling him to be careful.
"Earth to John," Roy waved his hand before his partner's face.
Snapping back to attention, John knew exactly how Stoker must have felt at the retreat when he missed Beth so much. Well, not exactly like Stoker. I mean, how can you miss something you never had. But he had a pretty good idea. If the dreams were any indication but we won't talk about that now. Or Ever. John and Mary had decided to wait until the honeymoon night to appreciate each other.
"Do you have the list of supplies we need?"
"Uh, yeah, here it is." John produced the note and Dixie filled the order and sent them on their way. John nearly tripped three times looking over his shoulder for a glimpse of Mary on his way out.
Junior's got it bad, Roy mused to himself, smiling. It was easy to see how wrapped up and devoted he was to Mary. Young nurses who used to shun John but secretly find him attractive and want to date him were practically in mourning. Those who had dated him thinking he was an experienced Casanova seemed a tad jealous that someone had finally landed him. And John was blissfully unaware of all of it.
John's probation was going well but he still felt bad that it meant more paperwork for Cap and Roy. John had to read and sign each form before it was sent off to HQ but it felt good to read the glowing reports. He'd just finished signing a report when the tones sounded. It was gonna be a big one. The tones kept sounding for an eternity.
Brown swirls of dirt tinged with orange glowed in the skies showed where a company had dumped slag into a small lake. The tang in the air was invasive on the way to the chemical refinery fire.
It was never a good sign when cars were racing away from the scene in droves without official evacuation orders.
Pulling up to the plant, they were met by a frantic man in a suit and tie wearing an oxygen tank on his back. He had his car keys in his hand and quickly informed the men that all hell had broken loose on the last dump of slag. The man was about to get in his car and drive off when Gage stopped him.
"Are there people still trapped inside?" he yelled, dawning his scba as other engines and squads wailed in the distance.
"If there are, heaven help 'em' the man said, breaking away and getting in his car and peeling rubber.
John and Roy did the first logical thing that occurred to them before the other engines got there. They counted the number of cars in the employee lot. There were two left. Either someone had jumped into another employee's car or there were people trapped inside.
Captain Stanley approached. "What do you have boys?"
John and Roy were ordered to go search the offices on the main floor since the two remaining cars were parked near the office entrance.
Captain Stanley called in to dispatch to try to find out what this plant manufactured since it was listed on the logs he'd checked as vacant. HQ's records also indicated an abandoned factory.
Chet and Marco went to check what appeared to be the manufacturing level of the plant, which was not fully involved yet. Most of the flames seemed to ghost on the surface of the small lake behind the plant.
Chet and Marco appeared minutes later holding various containers of commercial pesticides and other household pest products. Cap quickly called in the products names as Marco and Chet confirmed the building housed huge vats of the stuff. HQ would relay the information so guesses could made as to what purpose the plant had and what chemicals were being combined for what purpose. Until they got an answer, everyone would be in full protective gear.
Figuring the fire was actually on top of the small lake and assuming the original content of the lake was water, which appeared to do nothing to quell the fire, Cap opted to try foam first. Every truck that had foam was utilized and more was called for.
Smoke poured into the office part of the plant. Roy and John decided not to split up as they usually did because it was getting thicker and there was no floor plans or signage of any kind. This was a fly by night operation if there ever was one. Gage pulled some files from a drawer he passed and shoved them in his turnout. It was obvious to he and Roy that this was an illegal operation.
Marco and Chet found Roy and John. Together they searched for victims holding very little hope of finding anyone alive in the thick smoke. They could hear the foam pouring out over the lake.
Walking into a wall of steam and toxic smoke from the foam hitting the chemical laced lake, John tripped over a huge barrel that appeared to be solid steel once they got a look at it. Marco and Chet helped Gage up and they realized they could go no further because there was a mountain of freshly manufactured steel barrels stacked floor to ceiling, some empty, some full.
The men paired up and went different directions. John snugged his facemask up tighter. He could not only smell the metallic tang but could taste it on his tongue. The handy talky crackled to life ordering them out of the building. Cap had gotten word from HQ that the chemicals in the plant were incompatible with life if breathed for any length of time. The police had picked up the man who had been fleeing the scene when squad fifty-one arrived. The man confessed that the plant had been manufacturing steel barrels and were testing them for corrosiveness, hoping to gain a niche market in stainless steel durability and chemical storage, hence the chemicals, toxic sludge and slag dumping.
Before Cap could act on recommendations from specialists with HQ and douse the lake with water and foam alternately, a huge bubble appeared on the far side of the small lake and exploded sending spews of dirty water and fireballs into the air and toward the ramp of the open building.
Chet and Marco followed a path around the barrels while Roy and John went back the way they came to search another little office they spotted. Suddenly fireballs were flying through the air incredibly mixed with water in a huge wave that swept into the small office knocking Gage and Desoto off their feet.
Marco and Chet weathered the wave of hellfire behind the huge steel drums and when the water that looked like lava rivers retreated they ran calling for their friends in controlled panic.
John and Roy had been shoved to the far wall of the office. Their masks had been ripped off and they both batted frantically at small fires that had ignited not so much on their turnouts but on the sludge that stuck to them. Each time the little fires were put out, they re-ignited until Chet and Marco found them and helped scrape the sludge away.
John and Roy latched onto their friends, trusting them to lead them from the doom they felt in their very hearts. They did their best to hold their breath as much as they could feeling as though the fire had licked their throats already.
Marco and Chet led John and Roy to where Bellingham and Brice were set up. Roy's eyes watered and burned as he took in two yellow blankets covering two very dead bodies. In full paramedic mode, Roy started ordering Marco and Chet to get their water filled boots off and get hosed down. Marco and Chet did as they were told but the looks on their faces told of the worry.
Brice and Bellingham practically wrestled Desoto's coat from him. The senior paramedic was all ready to check John out himself and make sure Marco and Chet were okay. Cap hastened up to the four firemen ordering a full hose-down. Cap huddled for a minute with Brice and Bellingham who leapt into action stripping all four men down to their boxers. An engine drove over and the cleaning began.
John and Roy coughed viciously and soon began to claw at their own throats as if they couldn't breath. Once they were sufficiently hosed down they were wrapped in thermal blankets … yellow ones. Roy shivered thinking of the bodies covered in yellow. Oxygen masks were fitted over their faces and Roy nudged John's shoulder in solidarity. Rampart ordered huge doses of atropine and other drugs used in anaphylactic shock and IV's in both arms of each man.
Chet and Marco were sent off in one ambulance with Bellingham and Brice rode in with John and Roy. Roy picked up on Brice's tense demeanour. The man had chilled over time but right now he was all business with a side of worry for newfound friends.
"Spill, Brice," Roy said tiredly through his mask as John rasped in agreement.
Brice sighed and made them promise not to panic. This of course did the opposite but the men were grateful for Brice's trust. Firemen don't lie to each other.
"You're going to experience temporary paralysis. Possibly bad enough to warrant respirators. That place wasn't a chemical refinery as such but they were testing steel drums they made for corrosive properties and some of the testing material included PCB's, ammonia, and a whole host of other things that Cap's getting the guys to gather and send in."
"Ohhhh man," was all Gage could manage as he allowed himself to sit back. He was hoping the tingling in his feet was just from the cold water in his boots and from the cleaning.
Roy and John looked at each other as they were separated into two different treatment rooms.
Roy lay on the gurney as he learned what was going to happen next. He asked Dix to call Joanne.
Brackett's face appeared above him with a guarded smile.
"Roy, we're going to pump your stomach of its contents in case you swallowed some of that water that swept you away."
The tube was inserted, Brackett coaching Roy to swallow to assist in its journey to the stomach. With the horrible feeling Roy was pretty sure he could have accommodated emptying his stomach a much easier way. Bile threatened to rise around the tube and the sucking sound added to the misery and nausea. He knew Gage would be experiencing the same thing on the other side of the wall.
Roy must have passed out because when he awoke he was staring up into Joanne's face. She held his hand but he could barely feel it. He lay upon a hard table now and a nurse prepared a showerhead on a long hose. He would have widened his eyes in horror if he could have. The table reminded him of an autopsy gurney.
Brackett appeared beside Joanne, good thing too because his neck was stiff and he couldn't turn his head.
"We're going to shower you off again, Roy. Don't worry, pal, this time the water isn't coming from Big Red.
Jo kissed him and was ushered out as water poured over his body. He heard brushing noises but didn't feel the nurse's motions.
Half an hour later he was transferred to a bed. The dreaded ventilator stood by as sentry just waiting for his respirations to cease. He was pumped full of atropine yet again and D5W and ringers on full flushed his system. Mercifully he passed out again before he could feel the ventilator replace his spontaneous breathing.
Mary was only allowed to see John for a few minutes. She had the fortune or misfortune however you wanted to look at it of knowing exactly what every piece of equipment in the room was for. She'd watched patients in similar circumstances recover. She'd also watched some die.
John looked at her like he was painting a portrait in his brain, something to remember her by.
"Don't, John. This is just one of those things you warned me about. And don't think for a minute this will get you out of wearing that kilt. You know how Mike said Beth promised him something special in his kilt? Well … it'll be our wedding day, so you're pretty much guaranteed…"
John smiled, ever so slightly, the movement feeling pinched and forced but so, so genuine. He lost his fight to breath quicker than Roy did and wasn't afforded the mercy of passing out as his chest failed to rise. Dr. Early guessed his previous injuries likely had something to do with that but the respirator was attached and doing its job and the flushing processes had started. Now came the waiting.
Chet and Marco were spared. They would have numbness and tingling in the extremities and headaches and would have to spend a few days under observation but were expected to fully recover in a week's time.
In the meantime, John and Roy would experience two weeks worth of hell.
Dear readers, once again, we enter a portion of first person account. As before, the name of the person thinking and speaking is above their part. Let the steam begin.
I walk into the room and past Roy who is sleeping. Joanne must be home with the kids for a little while. It's so nice to see the ventilators gone and the guys breathing on their own.
I peel the curtain that separates the room back and slip in to see John. His eyes are open and he's staring at the ceiling. What else can he do for now? The doctors are quite sure this paralysis is temporary but its unnerving to sit and have one sided conversation with someone who you know wants to tell you a thousand things all at once.
"It's okay, you and Roy are gonna be fine soon, you know that, right?"
John can't even nod so it's blink once for yes, twice for no. He blinks yes but it isn't hard to see that he's scared to death. The truth is, so am I. Tomorrow I'm supposed to be Mrs. Mary Gage. It's not going to happen. I knew what I was getting myself into marrying a fireman, especially this fireman if legends are true, but I stand by my decision. I love him and one day soon I will be his wife.
A calendar hangs across from the bed where John can see it. It's standard in cases like this or with stroke victims and things like that where mobility issues are so severe that they can impede with the perception of time passage. A bulletin board holds photos of Chris and Jen and John and I from happier times. I followed John's line of vision to the calendar. He knows the wedding was supposed to be tomorrow.
"It's okay," I sniffle despite my best efforts as John's eyes tear up. "Francis said he'll hold the kilts no extra fees, and surprisingly, Kristy and a couple of other reporters covering the fire have convinced the hall and catering company to drop their … cancellation fees, so we can rebook when you're on your feet again. Apparently you sell a lot of newspapers, Mr. Gage."
I sit down and hold hands with my fiancé, refusing to let the despair take me over. My mentor comes in and takes vitals from both of the guys. I've already done it out of old habit but of course I'm not on shift.
"When I said you'd learn to love me, child, I didn't mean for you to love me so much you keep coming back," she said kindly to John. She pats him on the shoulder and gives me a hug.
"You can bathe him tonight if you want to, Mary. I know it's not technically allowed but I'm swamped in paperwork," she winked.
I smile at her and go get the basin and cloths as she leaves us alone.
"Well, sweetie it seems I have to strip you again, so I have to go back to calling you Mr. Gage. I warned you," I say as I uncover his body.
She called me Mr. Gage. She smiled when she said it. I wasn't sure I could even feel touch so acutely in this state but when Mary douses me in warm water I feel like I'm on fire, in a good way.
Mary caresses the cloth over my chest and trails of heat and excitement light over my whole body.
"Like that huh?" she says playfully, leaning over and kissing me. At first I was afraid I'd do nothing but drool in return from that fresh-from-the-dentist Novocain feeling in my mouth from the chemicals but I can feel every probe of her tongue. My mouth seems to have a mind of its own and I feel like I could recite Shakespeare if I had to. I can't, but it's a good feeling.
I know I shouldn't be teasing him like this. His heart monitors have sped up and I'll have to be careful I don't end up with a crash cart on my heels if I don't stop. I pull up gently, realizing that I'd dropped the cloth and pinned both his shoulders under my palms. John's lips are parted and full, his eyes are round and wide and he's panting softly as the monitors slow a bit. I kiss him again a little chaster this time and resume soothing his body with the lavender scented water. As I uncover him a bit more I can't help but think about the honeymoon night that we looked so forward to. John's gorgeous. The wait hasn't been an easy one.
I linger a little longer at John's waist, appreciating his abdominal muscles that he's been building slowly over the last three months. His legs are so defined. His eyes close in pleasure when I pay special attention to his hips and thighs. A pleasured groan escapes his lips and both of us know that's an improvement because he hasn't been able to make a sound since the fire. He looks at me with desire and his eyes dart to the calendar in disappointment. I cup his face in my hands leaving the warm cloth where it lies over his groin. I part his lips and kiss him deeply and he groans again. His tongue explores my mouth for the first time and I want to shout with joy and tell the docs he has some movement again . This is an improvement. For now though, he's all mine. After all, I'm a nurse, and this is … healing.
My hand reaches for the warm cloth and I slowly lift it to perform some very extensive and important … neuro checks, yes that's it.
I open my eyes and it's good just to be the master of them again. My right eye's still a little hazy as I look toward the curtain separating John and I. I have only seen him once when the docs were doing something to his chest, other than that the curtain's been closed. I try as I always do when I first awake to speak but I can't. God this is so annoying!
There's someone standing over Johnny from what I can make out of the weird shadow puppets on the ceiling and wall. His monitors sound kind of fast. I'm sure they'll do something to bring them down. I listen but they only speed up. Oh my god, what if a reporter is here and doing something to upset him? The shadows continue ominously, the person's straddling Gage!
I can't even press a call button! We can't move! Will no one come in and save him?
Piteous moans and gasps come from my partner. This is without mercy! His vitals are going crazy. He's dying!
My eyes clenched tight, barely breathing, I can hear rapid breathing now over John's monitors, so they're not strangling him. The straddled shadow puppet arches way back, its arms holding John in place as if that's even necessary and I hear … a woman moaning now. Mary!
Wait … no. Okay, so she wasn't trying to kill Gage she was … Nononononono oh, gross! I'd give a million dollars for a pillow to smother myself with right now.
La la la la la la I can't hear them. Oh heaven help me, I still can!
I didn't realize how tightly my bed was tucked in and how uncomfortable it is.
I try counting the ceiling tiles. But that's where the puppets are.
I try counting sheep. It doesn't stop it but it does occupy me until I hear…
"OUCH!" from John. He talked! Wow, Mary's rough. Serves John right for making me lay here listening to this … but wait, if he can … then probably so can I
They're still going. Holy hell you owe me for this, Junior, I keep thinking, remembering what he interrupted the night he showed up early to go look at he and Mary's house. Now he's getting what I missed that night! Oh, he will pay, that horse riding, long lasting … Ew, I keep counting sheep but it doesn't help, it only points out the obvious.
I cannot get my mind off this! All those nasty slideshow presentations they show you in health class are burning images into my mind. I did not need to see that! And what the hell is with those trains going through tunnels and flowers opening up and balloons lengthening and all that garbage? Ew! Did I mention my bedcovers are tucked in way too tight?
"Ouch!" rasps John again. Great, he's on his second word and I can't even manage to tell them to get a room; well not this room anyway!
"Did I hurt you? Do you want me to stop?" Mary moans breathlessly.
"No!" Joan moans.
Yes! Bloody hell make it stop! I scream in my head as the shadows shift to an odd pattern across the curtain as the light shifts.
There's a knocking sound on the door as I hear the doorknob being tried. Mary's locked the door. They probably think my partner's dying given his monitor readings. Well, if he doesn't from this I'm gonna kill him when I can move. Or better yet, I'll use this little incident let's just call it against him when I give my best man speech and torture Johnny and Mary with this for the rest of their lives … god let it be a hundred more years.
There's heavy breathing and few very slurred words from John. Peace at last! I'm so jealous he can talk but he sounds like he has marbles in his mouth … the monitors speed up again. Those are not marbles! Save me!
Now that's what I call physiotherapy! My mouth has lost that numb feeling and now tingles with satisfaction as I continue to nibble on Mary's lower lip. She wiggles a little bit on top of me and I gasp as my arm just automatically flies up to push against her lower back. I'm holding her!
I look up into her eyes feeling her warm, bare skin as she arches slightly from the cold of my hands. My hand slips up her back to her fiery hair that shines copper in the fading light from the window. Huh, I didn't even know there was a window in here. I can't help but put a little pressure on her silken hair to bring her closer to me again, to feel her body pressed against me again. Nothing separates us right now and nothing ever will again.
… except that infernal banging on the door.
Mary stands up, lowering her skirt and fastening her blouse. She caresses the cloth down my waist and thighs one last time, and covers me back up smiling seductively still. She smoothes her hair and walks toward the door.
How will she explain this? I still can't control my breathing and my monitors are going nuts.
…Oh, that's her game.
She opens the door to find a doctor, a nurse I don't know and an orderly with lock pick. She quickly fills them in on my vitals explaining that door was jammed and she couldn't open it from the inside either so she did what she could for me while she waited for backup.
Mary's lost to my view as my eyes are pried open and a penlight is shoved in my face. Soon another doctor is in my face listening to my breathing. Oh, this is so anticlimactic. But it was sooooo worth it I smile groggily … as a sedative calms me … My heart slows and I feel myself slipping away. Doctor Early's face is not the one you want looking down at you after you've just … had a honeymoon. Goodnight Mrs. Gage.