The hallway was filled with shadows, and through the large glass windows to his left, the tired man could see a dimly lit courtyard. He stopped for a moment to study the scene, the peaceful area now darkened as the last rays of daylight were wiped from the night sky. In the middle of the patio was a beautiful fountain, the water cascading from a small outcropping of rock had a peaceful look about it, and the man drank in the scene before him.
Continuing on his course, the weary man looked around. He noticed the corridor was empty except for an occasional nurse or orderly hurrying about their business; their only acknowledgement a quiet nod as they passed. His long stride slowing as he neared his destination, the fireman studied the plaques attached to each door. Although most of this level was dedicated to offices, there was an area set aside for family and friends of the patients. After several minutes, the proper area being located, Captain Stanley opened the wooden door and entered the room.
The interior was lit with a soft glow and as the door closed slowly behind him, Hank stood transfixed at the scene. In all his years visiting various friends and relatives at Rampart, he’d never entered this quiet room, and he wondered now, why he’d never taken the time. Not being a very religious man, the captain had naturally steered away from this spot, thinking that its confines were better suited for someone more devout than himself. Now, as he looked about the empty room, he realized with startling clarity, that this place was intended for anyone who would take the time to come here.
Settling himself in one of the wooden seats, Cap gradually relaxed as he continued to bask in the peaceful stillness. He tried to focus his conscious thoughts on inspecting this serene place he’d found, steeling himself against the heartbreak that awaited him upstairs. His time here would be short; he knew his men needed him to be there with them. It was his responsibility to remain calm and dependable, as they struggled to deal with their loss. But as he continued his visual journey around the room, the despair he’d been fighting over the past few days finally overwhelmed him and Hank dropped his head into his hands.
As his shoulders sagged, the man whispered a silent plea for help. His own body tired, his mind despondent, and his heart filled with anguish, Cap dreaded facing the people who depended on him. Sitting alone in this serene environment, never giving a thought to what he believed in or whom he was talking to, Hank simply begged for the strength to deal with what lay ahead.
Stepping into the waiting room, Marco looked anxiously about for his captain. The man in question was nowhere in sight, causing the fireman to turn quickly on his heels. Dr. Brackett had just returned from ICU, and had suggested they gather in the doctor’s lounge for his report. From the disheartened look on the man’s face, Marco was sure the news was not good, and now the rest of 51’s ‘A’ shift was on their way to meet with the doctor; only Hank Stanley was unaccounted for. No one had seen him leave or had any idea where he might have gone. Only Marco suspected where the man was. As he hurried to the elevator, he murmured silent prayers, both for his injured friend and the ones who were waiting to hear about him.
Marco was only a few feet away when the elevator doors opened, revealing a very quiet, but calm Captain Stanley. The fireman knew this ordeal had weighed heavily on the shoulders of their leader, and was happy to see that the man had found some relief from the strain. It made it all the more difficult to impart this new information.
“Cap, they’re waiting for us.”
“Who? What do you mean?”
“Dr. Brackett wants to talk with all of us as soon as possible.”
The two men hurried to the doctor’s lounge where the others were already assembled. It was a somber looking group and judging from the look on Brackett’s face, the news he had to convey wouldn’t be encouraging. It didn’t take long for the doctor to relay his patient’s condition, and the room was deathly quiet as the occupants dealt with the grim diagnosis. Oddly enough, it was Chet who broke the silence.
“You mean, you’re going to take him off the respirator? Even though you don’t know if he’s strong enough to breathe on his own?”
“Yes, that’s right. He’s been on the vent too long already, and the longer he’s kept on it, the harder it will be to wean him off.”
“So, what are his chances, Doc?”
The lack of a response was not the kind of answer he was hoping for, but Chet understood, as did everyone else in the room. No one was surprised when the other half of the paramedic team stood up, and with shoulders sagging, noiselessly left the room.
The tiny room was empty when Chet entered. He looked nervously around the quiet space, relieved to see that he was alone. Then, stumbling to a seat, he suddenly found himself reliving a scene from his past. In front of him, there now stood a white-robed priest. The dark-haired altar boy hurried around the altar, paten and chalice in hand. Chet almost laughed at the sight of the young boy, struggling to walk without tripping over his cassock.
The candles seemed to flicker and dim as the scene dissolved and once more the fireman was alone in the chapel. It had been a long time since he’d knelt to pray, but he suddenly recognized an overwhelming urge to do just that. Moving quickly to a kneeler placed discreetly at the side of the room, Chet found himself mouthing a litany of prayers he’d thought were long forgotten.
The tall engineer sat quietly on a bench, his hands clenched tightly in his lap. The tension in the waiting room had pushed him to find a quieter place in which to think, and quite honestly, he didn’t think he could stand much more of Cap’s brooding silence, or Chet’s continual pacing. Mike knew his friends were past worried, but his personality demanded a break from that kind of strain.
Now, as he sat here alone, he found that his mind was filled with memories of ‘A’ shift. The Phantoms constant assaults on his Pigeon and the way he could drag the rest of the crew into his antics. Then there were the rescues they’d worked on together, numerous close calls that ‘A’ shift had struggled through, always dependent on each other. How would they function now, if part of the team were missing? And would the one paramedic be able to go on without his partner, his best friend, at his side? Or would it change him forever? So caught up in his thoughts, Mike didn’t hear the other man enter the room.
Marco moved silently along the row of seats, happy to see that his co-worker was finding some comfort here, but more intent on his own goal. Finding the kneeler that Chet had only recently vacated, the solemn faced Hispanic knelt down and drew a rosary from his pocket. Fingering the beads, the familiar meditation calmed him immediately. So engrossed was he in his prayers, that it was his turn to miss the movement of his shift mate. Later, as he exited the small chapel, Marco idly wondered when Mike had left.
The various monitors beeped and buzzed as the man slowly started to rouse. Worried eyes surveyed the numbers, lines and symbols of the machines while in his hospital bed the injured man slowly opened his eyes.
The worried paramedic was the first to notice that his partner was awake, and the huge grin that suddenly appeared on his face alerted the others to the good news. Dixie immediately paged Dr. Brackett as she began to record the vital signs, her eyes darting back and forth between the two men. The injured paramedic surveyed the room with half opened eyes, but the soft smile he wore told his audience all they needed to know; he was going to be okay.
The small room once more held a member of Station 51’s ‘A’ shift. The soft shadows conveyed a feeling of warmth and love, and the weary man sank down on the seat. Within moments, he dropped his head into his hands. It was this position the woman found him in a short time later. Moving quietly to his side, Joanne sat down and wrapped her arms about the man. He immediately returned her embrace, his silent sobs now joined by hers.
After several moments, the two pulled away from each other, and Joanne looked up into her friend’s dark eyes.
“He’s going to be alright, Johnny. Roy is going to be okay.”
“I didn’t think he was going to make it, Joanne. I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to give up on him. It just didn’t seem like there was any chance.”
“How can you say that? You were the one who stayed by him. You never left his side, and you kept encouraging me. I don’t know what I’d have done without you, Johnny.”
“I guess I just couldn’t believe it, here, in my heart.”
Joanne studied her husband’s partner, looked at his hand, which was still held splayed out across his chest. Gently taking his hand in hers, she held it firmly.
“Yes, you did. I think you were the one who truly believed he’d be okay. It was just your fears that tried to convince you otherwise. But I watched you with my husband, Johnny, and you’ll never convince me that you gave up on him. Thank you!”
With another hug, and a tender kiss to his cheek, Joanne stood to leave. Then, reaching out her hand to him, she waited patiently.
After only a moment, Johnny raised his head. Slowly clasping Joanne’s hand in his, he stood next to her. Standing there together, the two friends gazed about the room, each lost in their own prayers of thanksgiving. Then, with Johnny’s arm around Joanne’s shoulder, the two quietly left the chapel.
It was several days before Roy was moved from ICU to a private room. Once more, the members of ‘A’ shift were gathered together as they waited for the test results. On top of his other injuries, Roy had taken a severe blow to the head, and as he regained consciousness, it had taken some time for him to be fully aware of his surroundings. Dr. Early had run a full series of tests to determine if there was any permanent brain damage, and now, as he strode into the room, the group stared silently at him, willing the news to be positive. Stepping directly up to Roy’s bedside, Joe smiled as he met the patient’s worried gaze.
“Everything checks out fine, Roy. You’ll be back to one hundred percent before you know it.”
Joanne covered her face as tears of joy sprang from her eyes, and Johnny quickly enveloped her in a hug with one arm while reaching for Roy’s hand with the other.
Murmured thanks were heard about the room, and several floors away, a solitary figure sitting in a wooden bench, wondered why the candles suddenly burned a little brighter.
Thanks for the beta read, Kenda!