"We're losing her!"

"Try again! Clear"

The morbid hum of the monitor ended the efforts of the men and women in the room and placed a period on the life of the woman lying motionless on the table.

Mar's Bistro – Two hours later…

He passed his normal limit three drinks ago and he caught the bartender eyeing him no doubt ready to call his night to an end. He needed to forget the past twenty-four hours, the race to the old dilapidated house on the outskirts of town and…her.

He'd promised the small face with the big sky blue eyes that he'd bring her mommy home safely. Her curly light brown hair a messy halo that framed her face was so like her mother's and like her mother, she trusted him to make good on his word. But he was too late…again.

He couldn't go home to an empty house; the silence would accuse him of all sorts of crimes and he wasn't in the mood to hear the shouts of pain and accusation. Not tonight. She'd been a good woman, loving a good mother to the little girl and surely she would have cherished the little boy that still lay within her. He'd tried his best but it wasn't good enough and now all he had to show for it was a broken promise to a child that would always have questions, and would never understand that he didn't keep his promise.

"Sam, hit me again!"

His vision was getting blurry and he knew he'd have to call a cab to get home. Right now all he wanted to do was…He couldn't say the words it would make him weak…to say he wanted to die to trade places with the woman now laying on a cold steel table as her family said goodbye on the other side of a glass window her body too mangled to hold for one last time.

He'd seen death too many times, seen too many children left without a parent's love, wives and husbands left to live life alone but this one was too much and he knew instantly after promising the big blue teary eyes looking desperately up at him, that he would not be able to keep the promise. But for a moment it brought peace…and hope.

Hope, he had no use for it, none! It had fooled him into believing his own words and now here he was drunk out of his mind because he'd allowed himself to be sucked into the temporary high that hope gave. It didn't change anything, it never did and the woman, Jill Craven, thirty-three mother of Amy, eight years old, wife of Steven was dead and there was nothing he could do about it.

"I'm cutting you off, Buddy."

He drained the glass and set it on the bar pushing it away and rubbing his face. Her blood was still on his hands even though he'd washed them repeatedly in the hospital men's room; the blood shown brightly in his mind's eyes and he felt nauseated. The light tap on his shoulder sent a cold shiver through his body and he prayed that it was the Grim Reaper but it was a friend who'd answered a call from a concerned employee of the place that had always been a safe harbor after those cases that had nearly driven them all mad.

"Let's go kid, you've had enough."

He turned and looked at the older wiser man who'd become like a father over the last ten years and he felt ashamed that he'd become this pitiful drunk on a bar stool unable to stand without help. Almost as important as saving the lives of innocents was being strong and invincible; he didn't cry, he didn't wallow he simply saved lives, brought down bad guys, denied and shook off the dust that the others admittedly brought home with them. He pretended the nightmares didn't matter, just a part of the job, no big deal but they did matter and they were a very big deal and he couldn't remember the last time he'd spent a night alone. He'd become intimate with the horrors and the hauntings of the evil that seemed to creep into his nights and that was the real reason he was afraid of the dark.

As his friend eased him off the stool and steadied him on his feet he felt his armor crack and shift hanging from him with its last thread of pride and resolve and the steps to the door felt like a lifetime's journey. Each step sent the armor crashing to the floor bit by bit and tired of the façade he let his body lean on the sturdy frame of the one who'd been summoned to rescue him.

They all knew he'd take it hard the loss of another innocent especially this one. It was not surprising that he'd latched onto the little girl crying and clinging to his arm and his every word. Each one of them were suddenly stilled in their tracks when he'd uttered the words, "I'll bring her home, I promise." They were words never to be spoken but in the heat of the moment as her small tears scalded his skin he had no way of stopping the words from tumbling from his lips and so this death would hurt him in more ways than one and it would add to the many nightmares that he was sure they didn't know about.

The drive to the large mansion was quiet as expected and he wasn't going to push him to speak after all, he'd been there in that seat himself countless times. As he looked at his friend next to him he thought how amazing that he hadn't received this call before. Their job was brutal and it ripped them to shreds and he often seemed to walk away unscathed. He was so strong, stronger than all of them it seemed and that fact scared the crap out of him. That very strength would one day betray him because sometimes you needed to be weak, to cry, to scream for help, but his young friend would never allow such things…never in a million years but he'd been late today, just a few seconds late, that's all but it was enough to make a difference that turned a promise into a lie.

He'd finally gotten him settled in the first floor guest room and managed to chuckle knowing that his young friend wouldn't remember much of this evening in the morning and maybe that was for the best. The weight of the world had finally gotten too heavy; no one understood why he insisted on carrying it alone. That was who he was and now whether he liked it or not it was up to them to dig him from the rubble, tend to his wounds and allow him to heal in his own way.

As he watched him sleep under the expensive Italian linens he felt a sense of relief at the thought of the many times this same scenario had played out for each of them; the only thing that had changed was perhaps where the injured warrior landed to sleep it off. It was his turn now to host the battered and war weary knight who had learned the hard lesson that they'd all learned before him…that he was human, just a man- one of noble character with a noble cause perhaps, but a man nonetheless. He wanted to smite the dragons but sometimes the dragons won because there life wasn't a fairytale and the story's end was always up for grabs.

Quietly he closed the door and allowed the knight in crumbled, dented armor to sleep in peace. This was just one of those days that made them all rethink their path and to question what really mattered. It was a day of heart break and reality checks and reminders of their humanity…but it was just one day and even though it had not been promised, tomorrow surely offered another chance to get up and drag old weary bodies and spirits to a new day and meet face to face whatever may come.

No one had promised ease nor profuse declarations of gratitude and they'd learned to find those secret places to drown for a little while until someone came and threw them a lifeline. That's what they did every day and it was who they were and nothing or no one could ever convince them that things should be any other way.

The End.