Sorry for the delay Real Life happens. And I had to put this aside till I dealt with them. Now they are dealt with here is the next chapter I hope you enjoy and please review I enjoy them and they help in keeping the chapters comming.
oh and thank my beta for the encouragement and pushing to get me to finish this chapter.
Two men jogged through the rain keeping their coats closed tightly around them and heads bowed to ward off the downpour that had started the minute they pulled into the hospital parking lot. Once inside the hospital they made their way to the bank of elevators shacking off the water they had accumulated during their trip from the car to the entrance.
"Man it is really raining cats and dogs out there Ralph," Bill groused pushing the call button for the elevator then ran a hand through his hair then frowned when he pulled it back soaking wet. "Once we get the Counselor sprung from this Cracker Jack box, we are going to have to use a boat just to get out of here."
Ralph chuckled looking at his own attire wishing he had brought an umbrella or something instead of listening to the weather report - which said sunny skies and warm weather. The song "It never rains in Southern California" ran through his head.
"Never rains my foot," he grumbled under his breath as they waited for the elevator. His friend who seemed to take sudden pleasure in the man's discomfort did not miss the grumble.
"I told you it was going to rain Ralph," Bill chortled as the doors opened and they stepped into the waiting elevator. "You should have listened to me Kid. Yep could feel it in the old.. bon.. I mean gut..." Bill quickly corrected his wording from "old bones" to keep Ralph from having any ammunition to use against him, especially when the agent did not consider himself as old anything.
Ralph, not willing to let an opportunity to jab his friend go by quickly picked up on the slip "Well I don't know Bill, I mean if those old bones, keep acting up we might have to put you out to pasture," Ralph smirked as he pushed the button for Pam's floor. "Maybe you need to start thinking about retirement…"
"Would you can it Ralph? I'm not retiring, so don't get your hopes up, you and the FBI have me for the long haul Kid. I still got fight, and I'm not leaving 'til I am pushing up daisies."
"I'm sure you will Bill," Ralph chuckled as he shook his head watching his friend go into full rant mode. It was not hard to get the agent to that level - just push the right buttons and poof off his friend went. The elevator stopped after one floor letting an orderly board before continuing, cutting off any further rant from Bill.
Ralph leaned back against the wall, as Bill glared at him when he realized his young friend had once again had suckered him. With a smile Ralph closed his eyes, satisfied with his game, though nothing could make him happier right at that moment other than the fact Pam was being released today after nearly four weeks in the hospital. Two of those had been spent in ICU to keep Pam from relapsing into her illness before she was moved to a regular room.
The elevator slowed, bringing Ralph from the wall to get ready to exit. He let out a sigh when he saw it had only gone two floors since the last stop and the floor was not the one they wanted. The door opened letting the orderly out they closed again continuing the journey as Ralph bounced nervously on the balls of his feet.
Bill reached over stopping Ralph mid bounce by placing a hand on his shoulder. "Ralph, would you quit it, you're making me seasick here. Geeze how much coffee did you have this morning?"
Ralph grinned sheepishly. "Guess I am a little excited…."The elevator chime announcing their arrival to Pam's floor cut Ralph off and he was out the door before they completely opened.
"Oh yeah... just a little..." Bill smirked to himself shaking his head as he followed Ralph joining the younger man who was waiting for him in the hall.
"Thanks for picking me up at the house Bill," Ralph said as they continued down the hall "I just don't understand what happened to the wagon. I took it in just the other…."
"I'll tell you what the problem is Ralph… it's old. It's time for the automobile graveyard. Along with that circus go-cart the counselor calls a car."
Ralph smirked at Bill's observation choosing not to comment considering the agent's own government issued car was a much better candidate for the "automobile graveyard" than his. Besides, Ralph thought to himself, his car was working fine, but it would work even better though if he had put gas in it yesterday, but he wasn't about to admit this mistake to Bill.
"Mr. Hinkley," a voice called as they passed the nurses' station. Both men paused and Ralph turned to the station as the man, whom he recognized as Pam's oncologist Dr. Moss, came from behind the station. He was short, skinny, and had green eyes that peeked out from behind thick dark rimmed glasses that were too large for the doctor's ruddy face.
This along with the bright red hair and his habit to wear very loud ties and colorful clothing under his white lab coat gave the man a comical appearance. All Moss needed was a cigar and a bushy mustache to complete the image of Groucho Marx in Ralph's head.
"Mr. Hinkley, I'm glad I caught..." Moss continued.
"Dr. Moss," Ralph interrupted, a little concerned as he shook the doctor's hand. He was slightly apprehensive at Moss's presence at that moment - most of Pam's last week in the hospital had been filled with tests to determine if she needed to continue with the last two treatments that had been postponed because the doctors felt it would compromise her already weakened health. They had favorable results right before she got sick, and Ralph believed their luck was still good and that they would be able to forgo further treatments and the test showed total remission. At least that is what he hoped.
After the initial greeting a nervous silence fell between the three, Ralph who sensed the smaller man had to discuss something, but didn't want to in front of his friend broke the silence. "Uh Bill, why don't you go see if Pam is ready while I talk to Dr. Moss and make sure all the papers are settled?"
Catching the hint Bill excused himself, once the older man left Ralph turned back to Moss, who took him aside but not too far from his wife's room. "Mr. Hinkley," Moss started clearing his throat slightly before continuing. "As you know the reason for the extra week here was for tests. Now I have already discussed these results with your wife…."
"What do you mean you already discussed them with Pam?" Ralph interrupted the doctor with a glare a slight edge of irritation could be heard in his voice. "I thought it was agreed that all results be discussed together…"
"I understand that Mr. Hinkley," Dr. Moss interrupted the man. "But your wife insisted she be consulted before you were brought in. I am sorry but my job is to the patient first then to the family. And I am obligated to them first. If that was her request, which it was, then I have to follow it."
Ralph lowered his head submitting to what the doctor said and nodded. He didn't like it, and would talk to Pam about it, but for right now he knew he had to agree with Dr. Moss.
When Moss saw he had the man's undivided attention he continued.
"As I was saying Mr. Hinkley, we kept your wife an extra week to run some tests, mostly to confirm something we found on the scans we took in December, and convince your wife to continue treatment. I was hoping you can convince her…."
Whatever else the doctor was going to say was cut off by the storm brewing in the eyes of the man glaring at him. "What do you mean confirm what you found in December?" Ralph growled through clenched teeth, he held up a hand stopping whatever reply Moss had and continued. "It is the end of January and you're just now telling me of something you found in December? Last time I heard anything it was everything was fine and going as planned and now I'm finding out that it's not the case…"
Dr. Moss took a step back only to find himself backed up against the wall, "I take it your wife failed to mention this…" he swallowed and smiled nervously. Even though he was a small man he didn't normally get intimidated, but everything about the blond curly haired man standing in front of told him to be wary and he nervously looked around for help as Ralph took a step closer entering the smaller man's personal space.
Ralph stared at the man standing in front of him not sure who or what he was most furious with. Dr. Moss, his wife or fate and the hand it had dealt them. Maybe it was all three, all he knew was anger and frustration, and right now the quivering doc was a convenient outlet for that storm.
A firm hand on his shoulder stopped him from doing any harm and Ralph quickly turned around to face the intruder, only to find Bill, whom he hadn't noticed come up behind him, staring at him like he lost his mind, which Ralph vaguely wondered was true. Maybe he had lost himself and this was just some nightmare that he couldn't escape from.
"Ralph, what's going on?" the agent asked slightly concerned as to where his partner's actions was headed if he hadn't stepped in. "I helping the Counselor and I hear World War Three going….
A glare from Ralph cut off the older agent as he looked between the two men then at the door. With a small growl of frustration Ralph turned on his heel without another word and headed in the direction of his wife's door. Bill watched the younger man walk away, pause a second at the door then enter.
Once Ralph was inside, Bill turned his full attention on the doctor, fully ready to pin all the blame of what he just witnessed on the man. Bill brought his hands to his hips, and the fact that he slightly pushed his jacket to the side revealing his gun did not go unnoticed by the Moss. "You mind explaining that response doc?" He asked with his best glare that he usually reserved for criminals. Dr. Moss swallowed hard, wishing for the first time in his career he had chosen a different profession.
Ralph stopped in front of Pam's door to collect his thoughts before entering. He wasn't sure how to handle what he just heard. He was both angry and grief stricken at the same time. The doctor's words had hurt like a blow to the stomach, but what hurt more was that Pam had kept this information… in his eyes very important information ... from him.
With a sigh, Ralph placed a hand on the door and pushed it open revealing his wife packing the last of her items in the overnight bag he had brought the day before. With a heavy heart he walked over as Pam looked up.
"Oh Ralph good you're here," she smiled leaning over slightly to give Ralph a kiss before continuing to pack. "I'm almost done packing, and I could use your help I decided to give the flowers to the other patients..."
"All right," Ralph simply nodded running hand through his hair, his mind still on what he had learned and not really paying attention to what was being said "Um, Pam we need to talk…"
"So I need you to take them to the nurses' station. They should know what to do from there…" Pam continued talking over Ralph. After several attempts to get her attention Ralph finally had to place his hands on hers stopping what Ralph could easily recognize after five years of marriage as nervous energy.
Ralph knew everyone else; including Bill just saw it as excitement for finally being released. And in some ways that might be true. He was happy too that they would be leaving this place there was no denying that. But he had spent many nights with her before the start of a big trial to know the difference.
He was also pretty sure his wife heard "World War Three" as Bill put it. Even if she didn't hear the words, he knew that Pam figured out what it was about and that Ralph was not going to let it go.
Pam cut him off by pulling her hands back before turning the window she stood looking out staring at nothing in particular. "Dr. Moss told you," she said matter-of-factly.
Ralph took a step toward Pam, but her body language told him she didn't want him near so he sat on the edge of the bed facing her instead. "Yes, what did you expect..."
"I expected was that little thing called Doctor-Patient confidentially"
"Don't throw that legalize crap around Pam. It may work in the court room or that Doctor I just chewed out but it doesn't work on me." Ralph ran a hand threw his hair the continued "He thought you told me… that I already knew… I mean that isn't such a wild assumption - we are man and wife after all we are not expected to keep secrets like this from.…"
Ralph paused realizing his was letting his anger get the best of him. He continued forcing his voice low much like he would when controlling a unruly classroom "It's his job to keep me informed especially when you don't."
Pam turned "Ralph you don't understand…"
"You're right Pam I don't understand." Ralph interrupted as he stood, jamming his hands into his pant pockets and started to pace. "I don't understand why you didn't tell me, why I had to hear it from your doctor weeks after the fact. Can you explain that to me Pam: Why I had to find out that way?"
"Ralph, I'm an adult and I have the right to choose what I want to do. Why are you being so unreasonable about this - it was my choice."
"Unreasonable..." Ralph stopped his pacing and stared at his wife "I'm told my wife has refused treatment that has kept her alive months after she was diagnosed with cancer and I am unreasonable. Pam this isn't like you went out and bought a car and forgot to tell me. This is our life, what you choose to do with that life effects both of us not just you Pam.
"It's my life" Pam nearly shouted back emphasizing her point with her hand over her heart. "My choice Ralph…"
"Wrong..." Ralph cut her off coming around the bed to stand directly in front of her "Wrong Pam... it stopped being just your choice when we said 'I do'."
"You're not the one who's going through this," she pushed by him and continued as she started to pace much as Ralph had before. " I am. I'm the one who has to go through this..."
"No WE ARE Pam. WE - you and I... are the ones going through this."
Pam stopped mid-stride and glowered angrily at her husband. "No, I am - I'm the one going through chemo, the one who was here in the hospital nearly dying of pneumonia and the flu and then find out I would have to do it all over again. Ralph I already did it and it didn't work and I am mad as hell that it didn't and I don't see the point if six months or even five years down the road we are right back here."
"So you are just you're giving up?" Ralph shot back as he crossed the room grabbing her by the shoulders "What about us...you're just going to throw it all away because of a bump in the road. What happened to what you said at Thanksgiving about having something to live for…"
"It's not the same..." It came out barely as a whisper as she bowed her head then shrugged out of Ralph's hold to walk back to the window. Her back stayed turned to Ralph.
"Tell me how it isn't the same Pam," He followed her. "Make me understand- tell me what you had to live for in November but now you don't," Ralph almost pleaded with her. He wanted to understand, but couldn't wrap his mind around her change of attitude towards the treatment.
He could understand fear, or even the pain of going through all that again, but that isn't what he saw, It was indifference to it that he saw, that she didn't care either way what happened and that is what he didn't understand. Why she was willing to give up so easily especially when he knew she was much stronger than that.
Pam for her part was silent to the question continuing her vigil at the window.
"I'm waiting Pam...
"It's just different," she whispered, playing with the edge of the curtain "Things change."
"How is it different, what's changed?" Ralph pestered, as to him it was a poor excuse his normally strong wife gave.
Pam just looked up at the sky outside of her window shaking her head and blinking back the emotion she felt. She couldn't explain something she didn't know or understand herself. "I don't know," she whispered.
"What," Ralph asked more because she had said it so quietly and wasn't sure what she said. Pam swung around angrily out of exasperation from being forced to explain something she couldn't.
"I DON'T KNOW" She shouted "I don't know, all right is that what you want to hear?! I don't know why it's different... I don't understand any of it. ... I mean I was getting better everything was fine...and now it's not ... I fee ...feel like I am back to square one and there isn't a damn thing I could do about it," she turned back around wrapping her arms around herself, trying to calm her anger and frustration down.
"Yes there is, you can go through the treatment again..." Ralph answered stepping closer to wrap his own around her missing the signs that said to stay clear.
"Ralph don't…please," she growled, stepping away from him. "I don't want to be coddled...because this isn't something a hug is going to take away…it just isn't. Even if I continue it is always going to be there in the back of my mind wondering if it's back. And I don't know if I can do that...I can't live with the not knowing..."
"...And you think the alternative is better?" he said bluntly, his words tainted with bitterness.
"That's not fair."
"Fair…Fair" Ralph said wide eyed in disbelief, looking at the sky as if the green guys or the heavens could help out right then. "First she tells me I am being unreasonable and now I am being unfair..." he finished letting out a sarcastic chuckle as he walked to the other end of the room and back.
He did this a few times as if thinking or to calm himself down Pam wasn't sure which it was and at this point she didn't really care she just wanted to go home and forget the whole thing.
"You know what Pam," Ralph turned and started toward her as if he came up with a great idea and couldn't wait to tell her "You're right I am being unreasonable...maybe even a little unfair." He stopped in front of her waving a hand in the air "I mean it's not every day a husband gets to watch what is essentially his wife committing suicide."
The last word was said sarcastically and through clenched teeth almost making it sound like a dirty word. Pam responded to the insult by slapping Ralph soundly across the face. Ralph stunned as much as Pam by the action raised a hand in defense stopping short of the retaliation by clenching his fist and walking to the far side of the room where he let his anger out on the defenseless wall. By the sound there was no doubt Ralph did some damage to his hand as Bill walked into the room.
By the silent tension in the room and finding his friends in what was essentially their separate corners with Ralph holding his right hand to his chest. Knowing by what the doctor said it wasn't something he could help resolve, that this was something only Ralph and Pam could decide the older agent choose to ignore the tension and hoped to defuse the situation at least for now.
"Well boys and girls, I don't know about you but I am ready to blow this poop stand," Bill laughed nervously waving the release papers Dr. Moss had given him.
Seeing what Bill was trying to do and appreciating the gesture Ralph sighed, taking the papers from him as he jokingly corrected his old friend "It's Popsicle stand, Bill not…"
Bill waved him off "Pop... Poop all the same... now let's gets a move on... I 'm hungry..."
Ralph started and Pam finished then both shared a small smile before Ralph turned back to Bill though his eyes never really left Pam who now sat on the edge of the bed. "Look Bill why don't you take this stuff downstairs and give us a few minutes OK?"
Bill looked between the two. "Oh yeah sure Ralph, maybe I could put on my monkey suit and pull the car around for you too while I'm at it," he said with a mock sarcasm at being a "chauffer."
"Yeah sure, Bill whatever you say," was Ralph's reply as he sat next to Pam on her right, confirming to Bill he had been summarily dismissed. Just as he was out the door he called back over his shoulder. "You might get the Doc to look as that hand too before we leave Kid..."
Ralph just shook his head and smirked, watching the door close. He was sure he was successful in hiding the injured hand and how much it hurt from the field agent, but this was Bill and there wasn't much he could get by him.
Turning back to his wife, Ralph placed his arm across her shoulders and gently pulled her close until her head rested on his shoulder.
"Ralph, please don't," Pam resisted some by staying sitting upright but not shrugging off her husband's arm. "I've already told you this isn't going to be resolved by a few 'I'm sorry' and some comfort. I can't let it go that easily..."
Ralph nodded, laying his injured hand in his lap. "You're right Pam," he conceded looking down at his hand. "It's not going to be resolved that easily but I want you to hear me out OK?" He asked looking up at Pam.
When she nodded he continued. "This disease has been our life for a long time, but it isn't a life sentence handed down by some judge. Not yet anyway, and I can't let it turn into that," he said, reflecting on the fight. "I have already had a glimpse of what it would be like without you here over the last month. I didn't it like it and you are asking too much right now - you want me to accept what you decided. You are too much a part of my life I can't give you up that easily. Not after coming so far."
Seeing Pam glance away slightly, Ralph gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze. "You're right there is no guarantee it will work, but nothing in this life is guaranteed, even walking out the door is risk," he said. "But we don't let the fear of the unknown on the other side of that door keep us from opening it. WE can't let the fear of the unknown keep us from life Pam."
He paused looking at his wife's now bowed head, and placing a hand under her chin, he raised it. "I can't force you to change your mind. You have to want this for yourself as much as for me. I am just telling you my wants. But whatever you decide I will still be here."
Pam nodded she knew it hurt Ralph to say that, but he was giving her the space to decide. "OK then" Ralph smiled though it didn't reach his eyes as he ran hand down her cheek. "Let's blow this joint. Besides we wouldn't want the fancy chauffer to wait. They're liable to turn into a pumpkin" Ralph tilted his head then smiled even bigger "Besides, at the rate this is going, Bill's going to tire of people giving him quarters thinking he's some med student in need of a new suit."
"I heard that," came a protest from the other side of the door that could only come from Bill. He opened the door, sending the couple into fit of giggles. Seeing his friends laughing was a good sight to see something he hadn't seen in a long time, "Kids" he rolled his eyes in feigned annoyance then unable to resist it any longer joined in.