This story is loosely inspired by the song "The Color of Your Eyes" from the musical Daddy Long Legs. It was entirely written from initial idea and beginning plotting, all the way through to the last line of the final chapter over the course of four days, and will be updated every day until it is finished (10 days including today).
The Colour of Your Eyes
Stephanie knew that she should be paying attention to whatever Tank was prattling on about. He'd called her into his office for a reason. Probably an important one. But she just couldn't concentrate. Her eyes kept flicking from the group photo on the corner of the big guy's desk, to her watch, to where her cell phone sat on the table in front of her. Any minute now.
"You're not paying attention," Tank said, irritation edging into his tone as he snapped his fingers in front of her face. "We need to figure out this roster so we're not caught off-guard."
"Of course," Steph agreed. "Yeah, I was just thinking about the problem, that's all. I was trying to-" She cut herself off as she snatched up her phone from the desk as it started ringing. "That'll be Lester. I have to take this." In the next second, she was on her feet with the phone pressed to her ear, diligently ignoring Tank's eye roll as he collapsed back in his chair. "Lester?"
"Hey, Beautiful," he greeted warmly. "How're you hanging?"
"We're all fine," she clipped. "How's Carlos?"
Lester's sigh crackled down the line causing the near constant clench of anxiety to tighten in her stomach, bringing with it a wave of nausea and vertigo that she really could have done without. She plopped back down in the visitor's chair she'd been occupying as a preventative measure. The last thing she needed was to pass out.
"Pretty much the same as yesterday," Lester explained, confirming her fears.
She knew what that meant but couldn't stop her next question from stumbling out of other mouth. "Has he…" she swallowed back the lump in her throat as Tank pushed a bottle of water across the desk towards her. "Has he mentioned me yet?"
"He's making good progress," Bobby said, letting her know that they had her on speaker phone between them. It was good to know that the medic was there to offer accurate medical information and look out for him, just as it had been a comfort to know that he'd be joining Ranger and Lester on the mission they'd been contracted for, but his words in this case did little to comfort her. He was avoiding saying the words that he knew would disappoint her.
She shook her head, blinking as that tell-tale stinging started up behind her eyes. "That's a no, then," she uttered quietly, disappointed nonetheless.
"He has amnesia, Beautiful," Lester reminded her gently.
She knew this. She'd known this for a week now, ever since the three of them had emerged from the misty shroud of being in the wind. Like always, she had no idea where they'd been or what they'd been tasked with doing, but Bobby had explained that they'd had to fight their way to their extraction point and in so doing Ranger had received an absolute beating. Lester had had to drag his limp form the last hundred metres to the chopper after he was knocked unconscious. Back state side he'd been taken straight to hospital to get his head and his broken ankle seen to, undergoing surgery and close observation. Twenty-four hours later, his handlers and commanders had crowded into his hospital room for a debriefing and it quickly became apparent that the blow to the head he'd received had done more than simply knock out.
Lester and Bobby had called every day with a status update, but so far the news was not good. He couldn't remember the mission. And he hadn't even alluded to the fact that he knew Steph existed.
"He remembers you guys," Steph pointed out bitterly.
"The brain can be a fickle thing," Bobby said, not for the first time. The whole conversation was just a remix of yesterday and the day before that. There was no new news to discuss, just the same worrisome notes that Ranger had failed to remember anything at all. "And he's known us longer. According to the doctors he's missing his memories from about the last ten to fifteen years."
That familiar jealousy swirled with the anxiety filling her body and she had to fight back another wave of nausea. "Conveniently just a little longer than he's known me," she managed to mutter, tipping her head back to stare at the ceiling as the prickling behind her eyes became more insistent. She didn't want to cry. She wanted to be brave for Ranger's sake, but it was getting difficult to maintain the same level of optimism she'd had at the beginning of the week.
It didn't stop Lester from trying, though. "Maybe he needs a visual reminder to jog his brain," he suggested brightly. "Maybe you should come down and –"
"I can't leave," Steph said firmly. "Tank needs me here."
Tank, who'd been listening intently to the one sided conversation and keeping a watchful eye on Steph's wellbeing while he also attempted to fill the hole in the roster that had cropped up that morning, leaned his elbows on the desk and called loudly enough for his friends to hear on the other end of the line, "No he doesn't!"
Steph glared at him. "You just got finished telling me that we're six men down between the guys down in DC and the injuries and illness list as of this morning," she said, pointing to the computer screen she couldn't see from her position but knew held the lists she was referring to. "We need all hands on deck, which means you need to be out in the field kicking ass and taking names, and I need to keep up with the admin and paperwork."
"It's all digital anyway, right?" Lester pointed out helpfully. "Bring your laptop with you and work on it remotely down here while Ranger's in his many daily therapies."
Bobby obviously agreed with the idea because he added a fairly convincing statement to Lester's suggestion. "I think it would be good for him to see you. It might be the push he needs."
As much as she wanted to see Ranger, and help in any way she could in his recovery, she couldn't deny the overwhelming apprehension at the same time, nor the fact that she was needed here. She had responsibilities, appointments, people were counting on her. "What about-" she tried to protest, but Tank cut her off with a shake of his head.
"We have it covered," he stated in no uncertain terms. "Go home and pack for a couple of days, I'll get you on a train first thing tomorrow morning. Write a list of anything that needs to be done here and I'll get it done."
She hesitated aware of just how much extra work Tank was offering to take on for her. "Are you sure?" she double checked.
Steph bit her lip. "Even-?"
A slight smile softened Tank's severe features. "Yeah, why not?" he said. "It'll be fun."
Lester met Steph at the train station and, after hugs and a once over to confirm he was as okay as he'd claimed to be for the last week, they were on our way to the hospital. The trip was only long enough for the nausea she'd been battling all morning to take it up a notch and then we were standing outside the hospital room that contained the love of her life. The same love of her life that apparently had no clue she existed.
She was going to be sick.
She needed to sit down before she fell down, but there were no seats in the hall, so she settled for leaning against the wall as Lester stuck his head inside and announced, "She's here."
"Who's here?" The rumbling sound of her husband's voice, filled to the brim with curiosity and suspicion, drifted out into the hall and her stomach did a little flip. The action did not help to settle the ill feeling.
"I'll be right back," Bobby assured Ranger, avoiding his question and probably earning him a glare of annoyance as he appeared in the hall beside her. His smile was quick and genuine as he locked eyes on her, his arms following a second behind as he pulled her into a bear hug. "It's good to see you, Bomber," he murmured, genuine emotion in his voice hitting her hard so that when he pulled back she probably looked even greener than she'd felt before he stepped out. The change wasn't missed by the eagle-eyed medic, his hand coming up to rest on her cheek and then her forehead. "Are you feeling okay?"
Steph took a deep breath, hoping to it would settle her stomach. "Just nervous," she said quietly.
"He's still the man you love," Bobby assured her. "He's just a bit behind the times."
"Yeah," Lester agreed, throwing an arm over her shoulder and passing her a bottle of water he'd retrieved from god only knows where. "And considering he was obsessed with you from the first time he clapped eyes on you're the first time around, I'm confident he'll fall just as readily in love with you this time around."
Bobby sent him a look that was full of all sorts of messages, but Lester seemed oblivious to their power as he encouraged her to take a drink to calm herself down.
Steph looked from one man to the other, mentally thanking the powers of the universe that they'd been there with Ranger when he'd gone down, and that they'd been here for him every moment since. She couldn't have asked for better guardians for the main that possessed her heart, but right at that moment she was most grateful for the fact that they were here for her just as much. Any minute now, she was going to step into that hospital room and she needed to know what to expect so she could control her reactions.
Bobby must have been following the thoughts as they displayed themselves on her face because he answered a couple of them before she had to. "I'd like to see if he remembers you on his own," he explained. "Olfactory memory is the strongest, so being in the same room as you and absorbing your scent may trigger something. That, along with the visual reminder may be what he needs to breakthrough his block."
"And if he doesn't?" she asked.
He shrugged. "That's up to you," he said apologetically. "I'd like you to give him today for any memories to surface, but after that we'll follow your lead. Tell him, or don't, it'll be good for him to spend time with you."
"Ready?" Lester asked, squeezing her shoulders a little tighter.
She took another deep breath, screwed her courage to that elusive sticking place, and straightened her spine. "As I'll ever be," she confirmed. "Let's do this."