Sunset
Sunset

By Mady Bay – [email protected]

Written – Summer, 1998

Disclaimer – No, I don't own any of the ChiPs characters, nor do I make any profit from this. If only…

Author's note: "Warning! Warning Will Robinson! There be mushy stuff ahead!" Now, you can't say I didn't warn you, so don't complain if you wind up puking later! ;-)

*****

"Hey Jon! Ponch!"

Jon and Ponch turned around seeing Bear heading toward them. They turned their motors off to hear what he had to say.

"Hey Bear, what's up?" Jon asked.

"You guys coming on Saturday?" Bear asked.

"Wouldn't miss it," Ponch replied. "Can we bring anything?"

"No, I've got it all set up, thanks," he said.

"Does Sindy suspect anything?" Jon asked.

"I don't think so. Though she almost caught me with a car load of party supplies yesterday on my way out of here," Bear answered with a grin.

"How are you gonna get her there?" Ponch asked.

"I guess I'll just tell her I have some chores to do for my Dad or something," Bear replied.

"Sounds good. We'll see you there," Jon said, starting his motor.

The three headed out to the highway for their respective patrols. Bear had an average day. In between his thoughts and plans for Saturday's party, he stopped a few speeders and took a couple of accident reports. But mostly he thought of Sindy. She'd transferred back to Central a few months ago. It didn't take long to renew their friendship. They had been good friends before she left for Sacramento, and now they wanted to try for something more. This weekend was her birthday and Bear had a surprise party planned. He'd invited practically the entire shift to the party. His Dad offered to let him have it at his place. The small airfield was big enough for the picnic/barbecue he'd had planned. And if by some chance the weather happened to turn foul, they could move the party into the hangar. He and Turner had set up a volleyball net yesterday and his Dad already had a horseshoe pit next to the house. The tables and chairs he rented were being delivered this afternoon. But what Bear really couldn't wait for, was his present for Sindy. He'd planned to take her on an airplane ride to the mountains to see the sunset. He'd mapped out a route already and flown it a few times, picking out some beautiful sights to show her along the way.

*****

Saturday came and Bear went to Sindy's apartment to pick her up.

"So, what do you have planned for today, birthday girl?" Bear asked, giving her a hug and kiss hello in the doorway.

"Oh, I don't know. Maybe a picnic, a matinee or a trip to the beach with my favorite CHP officer?" she replied.

"Well, whatever you decide is fine with me. Your wish is my command," he said with a flourish.

"Well, well. If that's the case...," she started, thinking some wild, lavish thoughts.

Bear laughed.

"Just one thing, though," Bear said, interrupting those thoughts. "We have to stop at my Dad's place and check on Buster. Dad's away for the weekend and I told him I'd feed him."

"Okay," Sindy replied.

Sindy liked Bear's Dad, and Buster the dog, too. Even before she'd left for Sacramento, Pete Baricza had treated her like she was his own daughter. Now that she and Bear were dating, it was no different. They left her apartment and headed to Pete Baricza's house/crop dusting business. When they arrived, Sindy knew she'd been had. She saw all the cars parked out front, recognizing most of them.

"Beeeaaarrr?" she said, looking at him, smiling.

"What?" he replied, trying to act innocent, but not doing it very well.

"You know what," she said, playfully punching him in the arm.

He parked his car outside the hangar. Sindy's friends all came out to greet her, shouting "Happy Birthday!" and "Surprise!" They each took turns giving her hugs and/or kisses and birthday wishes.

"Thanks everybody! This is great!" she shouted above the noise. "Now let's get this party rolling!" she shouted heading for the volleyball net.

The party was a huge success. Everyone had a great time. By 3 PM, most people had gone on their way. Sindy approached Bear, who had been talking to Jon and Ponch, and gave him a big hug.

"Thanks Bear," she said. "This party was a wonderful birthday present!"

"I'm glad you liked it," Bear said, giving her a kiss. "But I have one more present for you," he said, a hint of mischief in his voice.

"Really?" she replied. "What? What? What?" she cried, playfully jumping up and down, like a small child, holding Bear's hands.

"Come on," he said, laughing, taking her hand and leading her toward the hangar. "My next gift," he started, as they stopped next to his plane, "is an all expense paid, trip for two around the mountains, ending up with a gorgeous view of the sunset."

"A plane ride?" she gasped.

"One planned just for you," he replied, lifting her chin up with his fingers so he could look into her eyes.

Sindy reached up and pulled Bear down, bringing his mouth to hers, kissing him deeply.

"You guys better get going if you want to see that sunset," Jon said, interrupting the two.

"Yeah, have fun, you two," Ponch added.

"You guys sure you don't mind helping out?" Bear asked.

They had lost track of time at the party. Bear knew if they were to see the sunset view he had planned, they'd have to leave soon. So he asked Jon and Ponch if they'd stay and help his Dad clean up. They readily agreed.

"Don't worry. You two, go and have fun," Ponch replied.

"Thanks, guys," Bear said, opening the door to the plane for Sindy.

Bear checked the plane over and called in his flight plan to the local air traffic control center.

"Ready?" he asked Sindy.

"You bet!" she replied with a smile.

They were soon headed down the runway, watching Jon, Ponch and Pete wave them on.

*****

"Oh, Bear," Sindy began. "This is wonderful! I mean, we've flown before, but...," she hesitated.

"But what?" Bear asked.

"I don't know. I guess this is just extra special because it's my birthday," she replied.

"I'm glad you like my gift," Bear said, giving her a shy smile. "Look, over there," he said, pointing out her window.

Below was a small stream, leading to a waterfall. At the bottom of the waterfall was a pond surrounded by a meadow just teeming with wildflowers.

"Bear! That is so beautiful!" she exclaimed. "How did you find this place?"

"Just by chance. I had been following a dirt road, looking for a place we could ride dirt bikes some weekend. Then I saw the waterfall in the distance and checked it out," he replied.

"Can we get closer?" she asked.

Bear checked his watch.

"Sure, we have time," he said as he slowly banked the plane, turning it back toward the waterfall. They flew low, just above the treetops at the top of the waterfall. Then Bear headed toward the meadow.

"Is there anyplace near here we could land?" Sindy asked. "So we could come back here someday for a picnic?"

"I'm afraid not," Bear responded, turning the plane back again. "I already thought about that."

"I guess we'll have to come here by bike then," she responded. "One more pass?" she added, puppy-dog look on her face.

Bear shook his head at her, smiling.

"How can I turn down that face?" he remarked, heading back toward the falls.

This time something else caught Sindy's eye.

"Hey, what's that?" she asked, pointing to an area just south of the meadow.

"Looks like camouflage netting," he replied, guiding the plane towards it for a closer look.

"Oh, shit," Sindy started. "That's one hell of a pot farm," she finished.

"I'll say," Bear said, writing something down on a notepad mounted near the instrument panel.

"What are you doing?" Sindy asked.

"Writing down the coordinates, so we can find this place again, and so we can give them to the Sheriff's Department's drug unit, too," he said.

"Good idea," she replied.

Bear and Sindy decided to take one more look at the farm, just to make sure. But their curiosity turned into trouble when they found themselves being shot at. Someone below, on the farm, had taken the intrusion seriously. The windshield shattered.

"Hold on!" Bear yelled, trying to get the plane out of range.

But the engine had been hit and was faltering.

"Sindy! Get on the radio and call in those coordinates! We're going down!" Bear ordered as he tried to control the plane.

Bear couldn't get the plane to climb and they were still too close to the large farm. He heard more bullets hit the plane as he looked desperately for a place to try to land. He absently listened to Sindy as she called for help.

"...We're being shot at. Our plane is damaged. Our coordinates are: latitude...," he heard her say, and then Bear didn't hear any more.

The plane lurched forward, starting to nosedive. Sindy looked over at Bear and screamed.

"Bear!!!"

Bear was slumped forward, the back of his head covered with blood. Sindy looked forward only to see the tree line in front of them, coming up fast. She grabbed the control stick from Bear. She tried to pull it back. She prayed that the tree line wouldn't be the last thing she ever saw.

*****

Pete, Jon and Ponch were finishing the clean-up job inside the hangar, putting the rented tables and chairs away until they could be returned. Pete dropped everything when he heard Sindy's "mayday" call over the radio.

"Oh my God!" he cried, heading for the radio desk.

He listened closely to Sindy's call for help, shakily writing the coordinates down. Jon and Ponch were right behind him, their own faces filled with fear for their friends and fellow officers. Pete started to head for his plane.

"Pete! Wait! Where are you going?" Jon called.

"I'm going to find them!" he replied.

"You can't go after them!" Jon argued.

"Why not?! Pete yelled, still heading for his plane.

"Because the same people who shot down Bear and Sindy will shoot you down, too!" Jon replied, grabbing Pete by his shoulder.

"My son is out there!" he shouted. "And I'll be damned if I'm gonna sit here and do nothing!"

Ponch arrived just then, running from the hangar.

"I just got off the phone with the Sheriff's Department," he started. "I told them what happened. They said there's a pot farm near those coordinates. They've had it under surveillance. They were planning to raid it with the FBI next week," he finished.

"I guess Bear and Sindy got too close for comfort," Jon remarked.

*****

The plane crashed through the tree branches. Sindy had grabbed onto Bear and ducked down, covering their heads and faces as best she could, hoping for the best. She felt the plane jolt violently. She felt herself get scraped in a few dozen places at once as a tree branch came through the windshield. Then she was thrown to the side as the plane turned sideways. Her arm hit the inside of the cabin and she cried out as she heard and felt the bones of her forearm break. Absently, she realized one of the wings had been torn off. Finally the plane came to a stop. The sudden silence was overwhelming. It took a few minutes for Sindy to catch her breath, to let go of her fear and be thankful she was alive. Then she looked at Bear and her fear returned.

"Oh God! Bear?!" she cried. "Bear?" she called again.

She managed to crawl over to him and after a moment's hesitation, checked for a pulse. She sighed, relieved to find one. She looked around the wreckage surrounding her. She couldn't believe they survived. Then she saw one of the bullet holes in the plane, remembering what caused them to crash to begin with.

'Oh God,' she thought. 'We gotta get out of here. They might come after us.'

Then she started to panic. There was no way she'd be able to get Bear out of there and to a safe place, even with two good arms. She remembered her service weapon in her purse - she always carried it. She managed to get it out of her purse and put it in the waistband at the small of her back. But looking around the outside of the plane, there was just no way of knowing which way the gunmen would be coming from or how many there were. There was no way she could defend them from the plane. They had to get out of there, and fast. She had a fleeting thought of leaving Bear in the plane, going for help, hoping the gunmen would think Bear was dead. But she knew she couldn't take that risk. She couldn't leave him. Her thoughts were interrupted by a soft moan from Bear.

"Bear? Bear can you hear me?" she called softly.

"Sindy?" he answered with a moan. "Sindy," he repeated.

"I'm right here, Bear," she said, caressing his face. "Are you okay?"

Bear moaned again, rolled his head side to side and finally opened his eyes. She saw Bear's eyes, trying to focus, unsuccessfully.

"Sindy?" Bear called again. "Oh man, my head. Everything's spinning," he continued, trying to get up.

Pain and dizziness washed over him at the action and he laid back down.

"Ssshh, easy Bear," Sindy soothed. "Now listen, I need to know, are you hurt anywhere else?" she asked.

"I...I don't think so, I'm just sore all over," he moaned.

Then he reached for the wound on the back of his head. He sucked in a breath as he touched it.

"We better bandage that up," Sindy remarked, reaching for her backpack.

She'd packed extra clothing for the day, not knowing their exact itinerary. The movement brought her own cry of pain.

"Sindy are you okay? Are you hurt?" Bear responded to her cry, becoming more alert by it.

"My arm is broken. Other than that just some bumps and scrapes. Nothing serious," she replied. "You think you can walk?" she asked. "We gotta get out of here."

Bear was about to protest, remembering the old rule about staying with the plane so your rescuers can find you faster, when he remembered why they crashed.

"Yeah, I think so," he finally said, determinedly.

"You have your gun with you?" Sindy asked.

"In my backpack," he said reaching for it. "You?" he countered.

"Yeah," she answered, trying to open the door.

Between the two of them they were able to muscle the dented door open and get out. They started to walk when Sindy stopped.

"Wait. We have to let the good guys know which way we went, somehow," she said.

"But how to do it without telling the bad guys," Bear countered.

"I got it," she said.

She dug into her purse and pulled out a pen. She wrote something down on the notebook on the instrument panel and then put it on the seat.

"Okay. Let's go south," she said, already heading in that direction.

Bear followed her, keeping his eyes and ears open for signs of the men who had shot them down.

*****

Three men in their late twenties were riding dirt bikes near the woods. All were heavily armed. They stopped as they came to a split in a trail.

"Are you sure Mike?" the first asked.

"Yeah, I'm sure Jimmy. It's the same plane I saw two days ago," he replied. "I remember the ID number on it."

"So its either cops or competition," Jimmy deduced.

"And neither one is good," Mike finished.

"Look guys," the third interjected. "Someone's gonna be looking for that plane, no matter who's in it! I say we just bug out while we can!"

"Frankie, we had a great thing going here," Mike started. "I'm not going down without a fight," he said, pointing his gun at the third man.

"Hey, Mike, I got into this for the fringe benefits. The free weed," he started. "I didn't say anything about killing nobody."

"You want out, Frankie?" Jimmy asked. "Go."

"I'm sorry, man. But I gotta draw the line somewhere," he responded, turning around. "It was fun while it lasted," he said, starting his bike up.

He got about ten feet away when the shot rang out. The last thing he saw was the ground coming up fast.

Mike turned to Jimmy.

"One down. Now, let's find that plane," he said restarting his own bike.

*****

Ponch, Jon and Pete Baricza were at the Sheriff's Department. Jon had called Joe Gatraer and filled him in on what had happened. Joe arranged for Jon and Ponch to assist the Sheriff's Department with the rescue. They borrowed vests and duty gear from a couple of deputies and readied themselves for the chopper ride to the crash site area. Pete did not like being left behind, but Jon finally convinced him that it would be better and safer for all concerned if he did. A friend of Ponch's in the department arranged for Pete to be able to sit in the dispatch area so he could at least listen to what was going on.

"So what do you think?" Ponch asked.

"I don't know," Jon replied. "These have got to be some heavy duty pot farmers if they're willing to shoot down a plane."

"Yeah," Ponch said with a sigh.

*****

Bear and Sindy were making their way through the trees when they heard the gunshot. They'd been hearing the hum of dirt bikes, but they couldn't pinpoint where the sounds were coming from. But the single gunshot grabbed their attention. They stopped in their tracks and looked around.

"I think we can be sure that the bad guys are on bikes now," Sindy said.

"Well then at least we're headed in the right direction," Bear replied. "Come on. Let's stop for a minute. We can splint your arm up, too."

"With what?" Sindy asked.

Bear opened up his backpack and took out a newspaper.

"I brought it so we could check out movie times later," he said sadly.

He took out a tee shirt from the pack and ripped it into strips. After folding the newspaper, he put it around her forearm and hand and tied it.

"I don't remember learning this in the academy first aid class," she remarked.

"Just something a paramedic friend taught me a few years back," he said, finishing the job off by making a sling with the rest of the tee shirt.

"Here, take this one and wrap it around your head, it's starting to bleed again," Sindy said, pulling out another shirt from the backpack.

He tied a strip of the shirt around his head, bandana style and packed the remainder up.

"Let's get going. It's going to get dark soon. We should try to find a place to stay for the night," he said.

Bear stood up and was about to start walking when a wave of dizziness overcame him. He staggered, arms flailing about, reaching to grab onto a tree or something to prevent him from falling. Sindy grabbed him as he slid down the side of a tree.

"Bear? You okay?" she asked, worry obvious in her voice.

Bear didn't answer her. Sindy crouched down next to him and watched as he put his hands in front of his face.

"Bear? You okay?" she repeated, her concern growing.

"No," he finally answered, with a tremor in his voice. "I can't see."

*****

"So what's the game plan?" Jon asked.

"We're waiting for the other teams to finish securing the farm," Sergeant Parker, of the Sheriff's Department started. "We don't want our rescue people shot down too."

"Bear and Sindy may not have time to wait anymore," Ponch interjected, clearly agitated at having to wait any longer to reach his friends.

"I understand that, Officer Poncherello," Sgt. Parker replied. "But like any rescue, we don't want more victims than we started with."

"I know," Ponch sighed. "I'm sorry. It's just that-,"

"I understand," Sgt. Parker interrupted. "And don't worry, we'll find them."

*****

Jimmy and Mike knew they were getting close. They were finding freshly broken tree branches and a few plane parts scattered on the forest floor where they rode their dirt bikes. Mike stopped and checked his gun again.

*****

"Okay! Let's go!" Sgt. Parker ordered the chopper pilot. "The farm is secure. Intelligence states that only three suspects are missing at this time. The odds are as good as they're going to get," he said to Jon and Ponch.

The chopper had been positioned a mile away from the coordinates Sindy had called in. Close enough for a quick rescue response, but still out of immediate danger from the farm until it was secured. The pilot flew a standard search pattern as all inside looked for the plane wreckage.

"Down there!" Jon yelled, pointing out his window.

Below him he saw a strip of broken trees. At one end he saw the shiny white metal of the plane's wing poking out from underneath them.

*****

"Up there!" Jimmy said, pointing.

Mike looked and saw the plane wreckage ahead of them. He started his bike again and with a grim smile headed toward it. They stopped when they heard and saw the rescue helicopter approach. They moved their bikes into the woods again and watched as three men were lowered down to the plane.

*****

"What?" she asked, fear in her voice.

"I can't see," Bear responded, his own fear coming out in his voice.

Sindy cupped his cheek and caressed it. She brought her forehead to his and sighed. The sound of the dirtbikes in the distance got their attention again.

"Come on," she said, grabbing Bear's hand. She pulled him up and started walking again, albeit a lot slower. Bear reached out with his other hand, trying to keep his balance and bearings as he held on tightly to Sindy.

*****

Jon, Ponch and Sgt. Parker were lowered out of the chopper down to the crash site. After disengaging their harnesses they made their way to the wreckage. They prepared themselves for the worst as they peered inside the plane. They were surprised, but relieved to find it empty.

"They must have survived," Ponch remarked. "But where did they go?" he asked, looking around.

"South," Jon said definitively.

Ponch and Sgt. Parker both looked at him questioningly. Jon handed them the notebook. They looked at the paper and smiled.

"South," they said, simultaneously.

Sindy had drawn a compass. But instead of the four directions, she wrote four names down. Norman, Edward, Wendy and Sindy. South it was, and south they started walking. They hadn't gone twenty feet when two men on dirt bikes approached firing weapons. Jon, Ponch and Sgt. Parker all ducked for cover, rolling and returning fire. Ponch hit the second biker and Jimmy and his bike went down. Jimmy got up and started running for the woods with Ponch in pursuit. Jon in the meantime had taken the bike and headed after the first biker. Sgt. Parker radioed the information to the chopper and the other teams in the area.

*****

Bear and Sindy heard the fire fight. They'd heard the chopper in the area earlier but were too far away to be seen. They assumed that the gunmen on the dirt bikes had met up with the rescue team when they heard the gunshots. After the gunshots stopped they heard the dirt bikes getting closer to them. They started walking again, hoping to find cover. Another dizzy spell brought Bear to his knees. He brought his hands to his head, trying to lessen the headache pain. Sindy stopped and eased Bear the rest of the way to the ground.

"You okay?" she asked, getting worried again.

Bear nodded slightly, wincing. Sindy made a decision.

"Stay here. You're in good cover," she started.

Bear started to protest.

"It's time to go on the offensive," she said.

Bear heard the click of her gun as she switched off the safety. He reached for her. She took his hand and brought it to her cheek.

"I'll be alright. I promise," she said. "I'll be just to the right, about twenty-five feet."

She reached behind him and got his weapon. She put it in his hand.

"Just stay put, and you'll be fine," she said.

She gave him a kiss and ran off before he could protest. Bear didn't dare call after her for fear of alerting the gunmen to their locations. So he just sat there. He was alone with the darkness, his fears hitting him full force now. His mind was racing, his senses alert. He heard the dirt bikes getting closer. Sindy said he was in good cover, so he just stayed as still and quiet as he could, hoping she was right. Despite this, he was sure the sound of his heartbeat as it pounded in his chest would give them away. Bear heard several gunshots. He tensed, checked the safety on his own gun. Then there was silence.

"Sindy?" he called quietly.

He listened, then heard a small cry. Bear stood up, staggered a few steps, holding onto the trees for support. He turned to the right and headed toward where he thought Sindy was.

"Sindy?" he called again, becoming frantic.

"Bear," he heard her call, weak and pain-filled.

Bear continued, tripping on brush and roots, eventually crawling towards her voice, hands groping ahead of him, searching for her. Finally he found her. He gathered her up into his arms. He felt the warm blood trickling from her side. He took off his shirt and pressed it to her wound, trying to stop the bleeding, never once letting go of her. He heard one of the dirt bikes approaching. It sounded as if it was coming straight for them. The bike stopped about fifteen feet in front of him. He heard the footsteps of the rider approaching. Bear faced the rider, and pointed his gun out in front of him.

"Drop the gun and lie on the ground right now or I swear I'll kill you!" he commanded through gritted teeth.

Jon stopped in his tracks, relieved to find Bear and Sindy, but confused by Bear's actions.

"Bear, it's me. Jon Baker," he said, lowering his own weapon, spreading his hands out.

Bear dropped his gun and collapsed to the ground, relief and guilt washing over him.

"Oh, God, Jon. I'm sorry," he cried before passing out.

Within a half an hour Sindy and Bear were in the chopper with the paramedics. The sunset created an orange hued backdrop to the silhouetted chopper as it made its way to the hospital.

*****

Jon and Ponch arrived at the hospital ER about an hour later. They saw Joe Gatraer and Pete Baricza in the waiting room.

"How are they?" Ponch asked.

"Sindy's up in surgery," Gatraer started. She's in critical condition."

"And Bear?" Jon asked.

When Pete didn't respond, Gatraer again spoke up.

"He's in radiology. They're doing CAT scans and x-rays," he said. "Looks like a bullet grazed the back of his skull. He regained consciousness briefly," he continued.

"He can't see," Pete interjected, his voice trembling.

Ponch and Jon sat down with Pete and Joe to await more news.

An hour later a doctor approached the group in the waiting room. Pete stood.

"Officer Cahill is still in surgery and holding her own," the doctor began. "But her body's taken quite a shock, due to the blood loss and trauma. We'll know more once she's out of surgery." he finished.

"And my son?" Pete asked.

"Officer Baricza is doing well. He's received a severe concussion. His vision has been impaired. Blows to the back of the head often affect the optic nerve, which has happened here. Unfortunately, in cases such as these, there is no way of telling if it will be a temporary or permanent condition," the doctor said.

"Can't you treat him?" Ponch asked.

"Right now the best thing we can do is make sure he gets a lot of rest," he said. "After a few days we'll do another CAT scan to see if there has been any improvement. The neurosurgeon will then determine if surgery is an option."

"Can I see him?" Pete asked.

"Sure, we've set him up in a room upstairs already," the doctor said, starting to lead Pete to the elevators.

Pete Baricza entered his son's room. He saw him lying in the bed, a bandage going around his head covering both his eyes and the bullet wound. He bent down and gently kissed his son's forehead, then sat down in the chair next to the bed and took Bear's hand. About an hour later Bear woke up.

"Sindy?" he called. "Sindy?" he called again, starting to get agitated.

"Ssshh. It's alright," Pete soothed.

"Dad?" Bear croaked. "Where's Sindy?"

"She's still in surgery," he answered quietly. "But the doctor's say she's holding her own," he offered, trying to allay Bear's fears.

Bear turned away suddenly, silence filling the room.

"It's not your fault," his father said, knowing what going through Bear's mind.

"Yes it is," Bear said, guilt in his voice. "I should have seen it on my first trips. I shouldn't have gotten so close. I shouldn't-," he rambled before Pete stopped him.

"Stop it. Right now," he scolded. "The only people to blame are those drug dealers that shot you down."

Bear turned away again. Pete saw the lines of pain etched into Bear's forehead, saw the tears falling from under the bandage as Bear began to cry. Pete sat on the bed and gathered his son into his arms and held him tight until Bear fell asleep, exhaustion finally taking him.

*****

Four days later Bear heard the door to his room open. He turned his head slowly toward the door. He did not ask who it was. He did not care. Over the past four days he had sunk into a depression. He was still feeling guilt, blaming himself for the plane crash. He blamed himself for Sindy's gunshot wound, because he couldn't see to help her. And he felt completely helpless and useless now, believing his blindness would be permanent. Believing his career as a California Highway Patrolman was over. Believing his relationship with Sindy was over, too. Sindy! They hadn't let him go to her. No one would tell him any more than "She's holding her own." Or "She's stable," when he asked about her. The visitor stopped at his bedside.

"Hi Dad," Bear said quietly.

"How'd you know it was me?" Pete asked.

"I can smell the airplane grease," he said with a half-smile.

"Come on. They said I can come with you for the CAT scan today," he said as a nurse brought a wheelchair into the room. "Ah, your chariot has arrived!"

Pete and the nurse helped Bear out of the bed, into a robe and into the wheelchair. Pete pushed the wheelchair as the nurse held the door open. He gave her a quick wink and headed down the hall.

Bear just sat quietly, not in the mood for idle chit chat as his Dad rambled on about everyone at Central sending their regards and about all the get well cards he'd gotten and would read to Bear later.

A few minutes later he came to a halt. Pete locked the wheelchair wheels.

"I'll be right back. I'll let them know you're here," Pete said, backing away.

Bear sat quietly. A hand reached slowly toward him. He jumped as it touched his cheek.

"Sorry. Didn't mean to startle you," a small voice spoke.

"Sindy!" Bear gasped, reaching for her, starting to cry.

She grasped his hands.

"Ssshh, it's alright now. I'm okay," she soothed, trying to reassure him.

"I've been so afraid," Bear started. "Afraid of losing you."

"I know," she replied, caressing his cheek. "But I'm going to be just fine now," she added softly.

Bear turned his head, leaned into her palm and kissed it.

"Okay, okay. Break it up you two," Pete interrupted, good-naturedly.

Sindy and Bear both smiled at the man.

"You really do have a CAT scan appointment to go to, son," he said, unlocking the wheels of the wheelchair.

"I'll see you later," Sindy said, giving Bear's hand a squeeze.

"Yeah," Bear responded, squeezing back.

*****

Bear woke up with a headache. He groaned as he turned over in the uncomfortable hospital bed. He listened to the noisy dinner carts as they banged the walls outside his room. He'd been in the hospital for a week. And every day, morning, noon and evening, never fail, those carts had woken him up, just when he'd been able to fall asleep.

'One more day,' he thought. 'One more day and I can get out of here. But then what?' he asked himself, his thoughts turning grim.

He swung his legs over the side of the bed and rose to make the short trip across the room to the bathroom. When he returned he paced the room, finding his way to the windows. He put his hand up, feeling the warmth of the evening sun coming through. He turned, needing to sit down again, when his headache suddenly got worse. He cried out as he grabbed his head, ripping the bandages off before collapsing to the floor.

*****

Pete wheeled Sindy down the hall. It was her first time out of bed in a week. She'd been getting claustrophobic and Pete convinced her doctors to let him take her for a ride. They agreed that she should start moving about. So of course, Sindy decided that a surprise visit to Bear's room would be the perfect destination. Pete opened the door.

"You have a visitor!" he announced, wheeling Sindy into the room.

"Huh. Wonder where he is," Sindy said, disappointed.

They moved further into the room and saw Bear lying on the floor.

"Pete, go get help!" Sindy cried.

Pete rushed out of the room, crying for help as Sindy climbed out of the wheelchair and crawled to Bear.

"Bear? Bear?" she called, checking for a pulse.

Bear moaned and slowly opened his eyes.

"Sindy?" he whispered.

Sindy smiled.

"Are you okay? What happened?" she asked.

When Bear didn't answer her right away Sindy started to worry. Then he smiled at her.

"You know, you are so beautiful with the sunset around you, reflecting off your hair, in your eyes," he said, reaching for her.

It took a moment for Sindy to realize the meaning of his words, before seeing the intensity in his eyes.

"You can see," she said simply, tears forming in her own eyes.

"Yes," he replied.

Pete returned with half the floor's nursing staff, only to find Sindy and Bear watching the sunset.