A/N: This is a response to Ginger's Easter challenge. It's a sort of epilogue for a character who is underdeveloped in the series, and who simply disappears at the end of season 6. Ginger's challenge is based on the following:
"The darkest night is often the bridge to the brightest tomorrow." ~ Jonathan Lockwood Huie
Epilogue for an Engineer
Mike Stoker stood in front of the mirror over his dresser and straightened the knot in his tie. He put on his jacket, looked over the rest of his fire department dress uniform, and silently pronounced the overall effect to be satisfactory for a day in court.
Today's trial would be the first arson case where Mike had been the chief investigator. He would be a key witness, and his testimony could make or break the prosecution's case against a serial arsonist whose crimes—alleged crimes, Stoker reminded himself—had caused grave property damage, and, eventually, the serious injury of a firefighter at one of the fires.
The trial today came nearly three years to the day after a car had hit him while he was directing traffic at an accident scene. The impact had left him shattered, body and spirit, for nearly three months, and on light desk duty for another three months. Dr. Brackett had suggested he apply for medical retirement, but Mike was having none of that. If he couldn't go back to active firefighting duty, there were other things he could do that would satisfy his need to do good in the world. And sure enough, he found a different way to fight fire—a way that didn't care that he walked with a limp, and couldn't tell that his heart raced with anxiety every time he donned turnout gear to look over a smoldering scene.
When he was fully recovered from the accident—or, at least, as recovered as he would ever be, with a rod and four screws in his femur—he dove head first into completing the arson investigator certification he'd started several years before, at around the time he'd turned thirty and had started thinking about what would be next for him within the department. He knew he didn't want to be the captain of a shift, not at any station. He'd leave that kind of work for people like Gage and DeSoto—people who could talk to anyone, about anything, any time. That wasn't him, and he was fine with that.
While inspecting his reflection in the mirror, Mike did some reflecting of his own. While he wouldn't have asked for the accident that left him unable to go back to active firefighting, he found he didn't miss that work as much as he'd thought he would. In fact, now that he was a fully-fledged arson investigator for Los Angeles County, he didn't miss his previous work at all. He'd found the perfect career—one that required superb attention to detail, keen visual skills, and painstaking piecing together of shards of evidence into a cohesive and convincing case.
He'd surprised himself and all of his past co-workers in turning out to be a natural and polished courtroom speaker, who could deliver complex expert testimony in the courtroom without batting an eye, and could keep the jury with him the whole time. As long as the topic was technical, and not personal, Mike Stoker found he could wax eloquent with the best of them.
Mike looked at the calendar hanging in his kitchen as he poured himself the last of the morning's pot of coffee. He realized he could no longer remember the actual date of his accident—just that it was in early October, three years previously.
While he was at the calendar, he flipped the page to November, just to see what important things were coming up. He smiled when his eyes were drawn to a particular date in late November. Three years ago on that date, he and the love of his life had put rings on each other's fingers in a very small, very private gathering, right in the back yard Mike could see from the kitchen. Mike spun the wide gold band on his finger, remembering that day.
The wearer of the matching ring crept quietly into the kitchen as Mike finished his coffee. "You look great. Imposing, and sexy, all rolled into one. You'll have the ladies and gentlemen of jury eating out of your hand."
"Thanks, I think," replied Mike.
"Knock 'em dead, Mike. Nail that bastard to the wall."
"I will," said Mike. He grabbed his hat, and tucked it under his arm, and stole a kiss on his way out the door. "I will."
And he did.