Over The Edge

The Delirium Threemen

December 2011

Don't own the copyright to any of the characters depicted in Emergency they are the property of Universal Studios/Mark VII Productions. Content from the show is the property of the original creators. No copyright infringement intended.

All original characters and story content is the sole property of The Delirium Threemen and may not be used without permission.

Parts of this story are based loosely on an actual incident.

People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates.

-Thomas Szasz

Chapter 12

"Start IV with Normal Saline and administer 125 milligrams of Solu-Medrol, IV Push. Transport as soon as possible." Dr. Joe Early turned from the Base Station and looked over as Nurse Dixie McCall moved the yellow magnet labeled 'Medical' indicating that Squad 36 was in transport on the Squad Status Board. "Setup Treatment Room 4."

Dixie locked eyes with the Dr. Early for a moment. She could almost read his mind for she was having the same thoughts. It fits, the area, the amount of time the accident victim had been in the ravine. It just has to be him. "I'll make sure it's ready," she said with a hint of hope in her smile.

Joe followed her as she exited the cubicle that now served as the Base Station for the last year. The enclosure offered more privacy and kept the noise from the rest of the Emergency Department allowing his thoughts the freedom from the usual chaotic distractions. At least five days, maybe six. Possible. Definitely possible. His eyes followed her down the hall and he couldn't help noticing the sparkle of hope that had flickered in Dixie's eyes as she took notes from the call.

"Dr. Early." A young nurse approached him with some charts in her arms. "I need you to sign off on these," she requested politely.

"Ah…sure." He looked but the young lady's name tag was hidden behind the charts. "Just give me a few minutes to go through them." He took the charts from her and set them down on the counter. He opened the first chart and started to quickly glance through it. He had signed off on three of the charts when Dr. Brackett approached the nursing station.

"What's up with Dix?" Dr. Brackett asked. "This is the first time this week I've seen that little spring in her step and a genuine smile on her face."

"I'll know for sure in about 10 minutes." Dr. Early grinned at his colleague.

"You too!" Dr. Brackett's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Something's up. I can see it in your face."

"Not sure. I'll-we'll have to wait and see what 36's is flying in for us." He looked back down at the chart, a part of him afraid that if he expressed his suspicions he might jinx them.

Dr. Brackett crossed his arms as his eyebrows slanted downwards. "AND just what is 36's bringing in?"

The sound of buzzer to the Base Station went off and the red light at the top of the door turned on. "Figures." Dr. Brackett scowled as he opened the door to the room and walked in, followed by the young nurse who had given Dr. Early the charts.

Dr. Early let out a breath of relief. Neither he nor Dixie had spoken their suspicions out loud, but he sensed she had the same gut feeling he had over the call. He spent his next several minutes going over the remaining patient charts before he finally got up and headed down the hall towards the treatment room. Any moment now 36's would be bringing in their patient.

"Coming through," Frank Lincoln called out as they brought the gurney through the doors. He had to admit; he enjoyed the Moses-like power it gave him as he watched people step out-of-the-way or move closer to the walls to clear a path for them.

Norm Burton was on the other side of the gurney holding the I.V. bag up. It was the same reaction every time they brought a patient in. People would stand aside, trying to get a glance at the patient or their eyes would be fixed to the color of the I.V. solution.

Dixie stood back as the paramedics from 36's wheeled their patient around the corner, averting her eyes from looking directly at the patient. "Treatment Room 4." She directed them into the room before following them in. She took a deep breath and started to walk over to the patient when a voice from behind her spoke.

"What'd you guys bring me?" Dr. Early asked as he positioned himself beside Dixie as they watch the two paramedics transfer the patient to the examination table.

"Would you believe we found Grizzly Adams?" Frank Lincoln said as he pointed a thumb at their patient. "Spent several days in the great outdoors. Dehydration, heat exhaustion, multiple wasp stings, broken arm, lacerated leg."

Dixie walked over to the patient and peered down into his face. Despite the matted hair, dirt, swollen eye, and a ballooned out top lip, there was no mistaking who the high cheekbones and snub nose belonged to. A smile danced across her lips. "Roy DeSoto, you look like something the cat dragged in," she smiled in spite of the stern tone of her voice.

"I don't know, Dix, you're sure it's not Grizzly Adams? Resemblance is uncanny," Dr. Early quipped as he dodged an elbow aimed at his gut from the nurse.

"Where's Jo? Promised to be here," Roy whispered up at the two faces that peered down at him.

"I'm sure she's on her way," Dixie assured him. "How about we get you cleaned up a bit before she gets here?"

"Oohh…yeah. 'mm a mess, huh? Don't wanna her see me like this."

"Nothing a little soap and water won't cure." Dixie nodded affirmatively at him and winked.

"Dix, get a fresh set of vitals. Draw some blood for a Chem 7, CBC, type and cross. I'll also need an X-ray of that arm."

"I'm gonna warn ya', he gave Bellingham and Brice a bit of a hard time. You might wanna have some backup before sticking any needles in him," Norm Burton informed them as Dixie gave Dr. Early a new set of vitals.

"Okay Roy, I'm just going to draw a little blood. Promise to behave."

"Dunno what he's talkin 'bout. I never give you a hard time," Roy said as he watched her stick the needle into his arm, watching each vial fill up with blood.

Dixie handed the vial to a nurse that had entered the room. "Roma, take this to the Lab and bring me back a double basin of warm water."

"I'll send Kim in with the double basin while I run this to the Lab," Roma answered and waited for Dixie's nod of approval before heading out of the treatment room.

"Doc, you need us anymore?" Frank Lincoln asked.

"We can handle it from here." Dr. Early replied before turning to his patient. "Hey Roy, you finally decided to turn up. How are you feeling?"

"Tired…and…" He began scratching at his chest. "Itchy. Itch all over."

"Must be a reaction to the stings. Do you remember what stung you?" Dr. Early asked.

"Yellow jackets…a bunch of 'em." He continued to scratch as Dixie pulled his arm back to his side. "Somethin's funny 'bout my foot," he mumbled.

Dr. Early looked up at Dixie. "Give him 50 milligrams of Benadryl, IV push now and continue every four hours."

He turned back to Roy. "I've noticed the laceration on your leg. It's a little deep, but it looks good so far. No sign of infection."

"Not the leg. My foot…other leg. Can't walk right on it. Not since the crash."

Dr. Early wrinkled his nose as he examined the filthy appendage, thankful that he had slipped on a pair of rubber gloves a few minutes earlier. He noted some swelling on the upper part of the foot. "Does it hurt when I do this?" he asked as he palpated the area.

Roy nodded.

"Okay, we'll take an X-ray of the foot when we do the arm."

Kim walked into the treatment room with a double basin as Dr. Brackett followed her inside the room. She wheeled it over to the head of the patient. She dipped a couple of wash cloths into the one basin containing warm, soapy water and wrung them out. Giving one of the cloths to Dixie, they started to clean Roy up

"I just ran into Lincoln and Burton on their way out. Said I might be interested in what they brought in." Dr. Brackett said as he crossed his arms and stood beside Dr. Early.

"Well…aren't you a sight for sore eyes," he chuckled as he stared down at Roy. He wrinkled his nose and patted Dr. Early soundly on the back. "I think you're gonna need a lot more soap and water to get through this one."

"Be careful, this truck is a little high off the ground," Johnny said as he was answered by a slamming door. He hadn't even had time to pull the key out of the ignition when she hopped out of the vehicle.

"Never mind," he sighed as he reached over and pushed down the lock on the passenger door.

"Whoa, Nelly," Johnny panted as he finally caught up to Joanne a few feet from the Emergency Entrance.

"I'm sorry, Johnny. I'm just afraid Roy's gonna cause them some grief because I'm not there like I promised," Joanne said breathlessly.

Johnny gently grabbed her forearm and guided her through the automatic doors. "You underestimate the power of Dixie McCall when it comes to handling problematic patients."

Joanne let out a laugh. "You're speaking from firsthand knowledge no doubt."

"Now wait a minute!" Johnny looked down at her as they rounded the corner into the main hallway of the Emergency Department. "Are you insinuating that I'm a difficult patient?"

"Hold it right there, John Gage!" Johnny abruptly stopped coming within a fraction of an inch of colliding with Dr. Mike Morton.

"You can tell me about it in Treatment Room 2." Dr. Morton pointed a finger in the direction of the room.

"Now wait a minute Doc," Johnny protested. "I'm not here..." He snaked his arm behind Joanne and pulled her to his side. "We're here to see Roy."

"Roy?" Dr. Morton raised his eyebrows.

Joanne nodded her head vigorously.

"You mean you haven't heard?" Johnny asked as he noticed the perplexed expression on Dr. Morton's face.

"I've been tied up with a cardiac case for over the last hour. You mean…you're not here to be…I caught the tail-end of your conversation and you mentioned something about a difficult patient…I just assumed…" Dr. Morton interrupted by appearance of Dr. Brackett leaving Treatment Room 3.

"Joanne. Johnny," Dr. Brackett greeted them. "How about you go down to my office and wait while I track down Dr. Early."

"Have you seen him?" Joanne blurted out.

"A while ago, when they first brought him in." Dr. Brackett put a hand around her shoulder as he walked down the hall directing her towards his office. "I'm not sure if he's still in a treatment room or up in X-ray."

"X-ray?" Joanne questioned.

"According to Joe, he's got a broken left arm, a possible broken bone in his foot, cuts, scrapes, and bug bites. Otherwise, Joe thinks he's gonna be fine."

Dr. Brackett held the door of his office open for Joanne. "Dixie'll probably be down shortly to take you to see your husband."

"Thank you." Joanne smiled up at him as she sat down in one of the chairs in front of the desk.

Johnny started to follow Dr. Brackett out of the office and lingered in the half-open door for a moment. "I'll be right back. I gotta let the guys at the station know what's going on. Want me to bring you back a coffee or something?"

"I'm fine. Thanks…thanks for everything Johnny."

Billy Hanks answered the phone before the second ring. "Hello Station 51, Fireman Hanks speaking."

"Hey Johnny. No they've been called out to an industrial fire."

"Unfortunately you're right. They could be there for several hours." Billy remained silent, not sure if he should ask about Roy or not. If it was bad news he didn't want to be the one to break it to the other guys.

"So-uh, you want me to pass on message from you to them or do you want me to have Cap call you back"

Billy eyes widened as he listened to Johnny 's excited chatter. "That's great." He looked over at his partner Jake Turner and mouthed the words, "They found him."

"Hey… was that the scene we were watching on the news earlier?"

"Well yeah, they were watching it, but there really weren't many details they gave out…the guys left thinking it was a recent accident."

"Chet thought he saw Dwyer's truck there."

"Good. You gave them the slip for now."

"I'll make sure they get the message. I'll also leave a note for Captain Stanley just in case we're not here when they get back."

"Yep, I'll let Cap know he can reach you or Joanne at Rampart."

"Hey Gage. I'm really glad you found him…and he's gonna be fine."

"Okay, talk to you later."

Billy hung up the phone and walked over to the chalkboard in the Rec. Room. Picking up a stick of chalk from the ledge, he held it in his hand for a moment before deciding what to write on the slate board. A tap resonated in the empty room as the chalk made contact with the board. The occasional squeak of friction between the chalk and board could be heard as he scrawled his message in big letters.

"Think that's okay?" Billy asked Jake.

Jake grabbed the chalk off the ledge and added to Billy's message. "That should take care of it. Hurry up and leave a note on Cap's desk before we get toned out."

Billy nodded and walked briskly out of the Rec Room. Jake could hear his footsteps in the bay area heading towards the Captain's Office. He stood back and reread the message.

"Yep, that should work if we're not here when they get back."

"Dang!" Jim swore out loud. "They must have changed radio frequencies. I can't pick up anything now."

"I'm sure Johnny'll fill us in later about what happened." He muttered to himself.

Harriett silently stared into the cup of tea in front of her that had long grown cold. Both of them had felt more of their hope crumble away at the end of each day as they headed back to the campsite along with the increased aching in their hearts. Harriett quietly wept herself to sleep each night as he made futile and helpless attempts to soothe her. That was the frustrating part for him was the 'not knowing.'

Jim grabbed the thermos from the counter and poured himself a cup of coffee from it and sat down beside his wife in the kitchenette. He slowly twirled the cup around in a circle, wishing it was within his power to give his wife their son back, safe and unharmed.

He understood the brotherhood between Roy and his fellow firefighters. It was similar to the bond he had shared in the Air Corps with his fellow pilots. When one went down, they all felt the loss. They would all pull together and carry each other through it.

Realistically, he knew with each day that had passed the likelihood of his son being found alive became more unlikely. He had begun to wonder this morning when the volunteers for the search would start to slowly dwindle away. He had no doubt these men would stick with it for as long as possible, however they couldn't put their lives on hold forever. They also had their own families and loved ones that depended on them.

He felt Harriett nudging his arm. "Jim, sounds like somebody's here."

He got up and heard the crunching of gravel outside of the trailer. He helped Harriett climb down from the trailer. He was surprised to see Charlie Dwyer and Dom Barberi getting out of Johnny's Rover. Craig Brice and Bob Bellingham exited the green Suburban parked behind them.

"We've found Roy alive…"

Jim didn't hear anything after those four words; they were the only words that resonated in Jim's ears, especially the last word 'ALIVE.'

Dr. Early perched on a stool near the end of the gurney dressing Roy's leg wound while Dixie ushered Joanne into the treatment room to a metal stool closer to Roy's head.

"He's awake," Dixie whispered as she and Johnny took a few steps in Dr. Early's direction.

The nerve-racking pain that had plagued her heart over the last several days was finally cured by the sight of her husband. She'd agonized over the last several days wondering if she had lost him forever. Joanne inhaled deeply to control the feelings swirling inside of her. The last thing she wanted to do was dissolve into an emotional puddle in front of her husband. She'd deal with those feelings later and privately without her husband's friends or coworkers as an audience. Dixie had done a good job of cleaning him up. She could make out the tracks of a comb in his still damp hair and winced at the sight of his swollen eye and lip. The white hospital gown emphasized the sunburnt ruddiness of his face and right arm. She wondered what scrapes and cuts the gown kept hidden from her. His eyes were closed, but she knew by the sound of his breathing he was awake.

"Roy…honey," Joanne cooed tenderly to get his attention as she placed her hand on top of his.

Dr. Early had forewarned her he might still be somewhat incoherent. She sucked in her bottom lip in anticipation as she waited for a response from him, fighting the urge to throw her arms around him. Maintaining her composure was tantamount at the moment. She recalled the numerous times Roy had expressed his frustration over the years with family members exacerbating a patient's condition by becoming overemotional with their behavior.

He squinted at her with his left eye. "Jo…really you," he whispered.

He recognized the unique sensation emanating from her hand as it rested on his. It wasn't just his body that felt battered and weakened over the last several days; his spirit had also been exhausted. He could feel the essence of her human current coursing through him in a manner akin to the I.V. in his arm that was replenishing his body with fluids. His life-force depended on her love, fortitude, and unconditional sacrifice as one of its main sources of strength.

"Huh-huh, it's me, the President of your Fan Club," Joanne lightly joked with him.

"Mmmm…my one and only member."

"Forever lifetime member."

Joanne ruffled the growth of whiskers on his face. The tips of her fingers felt a slight warmth radiating from his skin. "How's my guy feeling?"

"Fine…just fine. Just need some clothes and you can take me home."

Dixie raised her eyebrows and glared directly into Johnny's guilt-ridden brown eyes. "I bet my sweet knees he's learned that line from you," she whispered in a low-deadpanned voice.

"I have a feeling, Dr. Early wants to keep you here for a few days." Joanne squeezed his hand reassuringly.

"Wanna go home with you," Roy protested as he failed at his attempt to sit up.

"I hate to tell you mister, but your Fan Club has grown in membership over the years." Dixie positioned herself beside Joanne. "I know this fan would be awfully upset if you didn't stay for a few days."

"Well honey, I don't think either of us wants to argue with your fans," Joanne added.

"Mmmm…wanna stay with you?" Roy attempted to cajole his wife with a smile, but his puff-out upper lip only succeeded in making him look like a freshly caught fish flopping around on the deck of a boat gasping for air.

"Hey pally, that trout-pout you're sporting makes you look like you went a few rounds with Muhammad Ali." Johnny chuckled and took some light punches at the air in front of him. "You know, float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."

"Remind me to revoke his membership," an unamused Roy whispered to Joanne.

"I'm sure Johnny's been kicked out of worse clubs," Dr. Early quipped as he got up from his stool and walked over to join the others.

Dr. Early peered down at Roy. "Besides I think the general membership has unanimously agreed that you're staying."

A beep from the intercom phone on the wall interrupted any counter argument Roy could make. Dixie walked over and picked it up. She nodded her head as she listened.

"Thanks. He'll be there in a few minutes." Dixie turned to the group on the other side of the room.

"That was Ortho. Dr. Anderson is ready to take care of Roy's arm and foot. There should be a room on the floor ready for him by the time they finish up with him. Joanne can fill out the admitting forms while Roy's getting casted."

Joanne gave her husband's hand a squeeze as Dixie went to round-up two orderlies. "I'll join you right after I fill out your paper work."

She got up from the stool as two orderlies followed Dixie into the room. She bent down and kissed her husband on the forehead. "I'll see you soon."

Johnny started to follow Joanne and Dixie. "Johnny…can I talk to you for a minute?" Roy requested as he was being wheeled out of the room.

"I'll catch up with ya'," Johnny said to the two women.

He caught up with Roy at the elevator. "What can I do for you, pally?"

"I just wanted to thank you for sticking by Joanne and looking out for her."

"It's what best friends do." Johnny bowed his head down modestly.

"I hate to think about what the last several days were like for her."

"I won't lie to you. It was pretty rough on her not knowing where you where or what happened to you."

Johnny looked down and noticed the furrowed brow on Roy's face. "I'll tell you one thing that's for sure; that's one tough gal you have there, Roy."

"She's tough, but sometimes things can take a toll on her. Looks like she lost some weight," Roy commented.

"A few of us made sure she took care of herself," Johnny reassured him.

A ding filled the air, indicating that his ride had arrived.

"You don't know how much I appreciate you being there for her," Roy said as they wheeled him into the elevator.

"HEY! Does that mean you're gonna reinstate my membership?" Johnny called out as the elevator doors closed.

Mike backed the engine into the bay. He noticed the empty spot where the squad was normally parked. Nobody hopped out of the engine in a rush to the showers. One by one, the sound of each pair of feet hitting the cement signaled each man exiting the vehicle. They strode wordlessly towards the entrance of the kitchen.

It was finally Captain Stanley that broke the silence. "Mike you hit the shower first. Marco you heat up the casserole you brought in this morning."

Marco turned his soot-smudged face towards his Captain and nodded affirmatively. Chet headed towards the sink and washed his hands before opening a cupboard and taking out a stack of plates.

Mike noticed Captain Stanley slowly walking towards the Rec Room, and staring at the far wall. Instead of heading off for his shower he walked over to see what had caught the Captain's attention. He sidled up beside Hank Stanley, stared at the message scrawled on the blackboard. Both men looked at each other. Mike could see the mixture of anticipation and anxiety in Hank's eyes.

"Hey!" Chet's voice broke the silence. "What are you two waiting for? A giant jug of talking Kook-Aid to come bustin' through the wall?"

Marco gave Chet a slap on his upper arm and pointed to the blackboard.

"I've seen it already, Marco." Chet threw him an annoyed look. "It looks pretty straight forward to me. There's a message on Cap's desk."

Marco crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes. Chet responded with a loud sigh and pointed to the bottom right corner of the board. "I doubt they'd draw a smiley face on the board if it's bad news."

Captain Stanley locked eyes with his Engineer. Chet was right. He hadn't noticed the drawing in the corner. He turned abruptly and walked briskly out through the kitchen door and made a bee-line towards his office. He heard three sets of footsteps echoing behind him in hot pursuit. He had barely sat down in his desk chair as he found himself surrounded by his engine crew. Picking up the paper he read it to himself.

"Johnny called," he said stoically.

"AND?" The normally reserved Mike Stoker called out impatiently.

A huge grin formed on Hank's face. "They found Roy. He's alive. Johnny and Joanne are at Rampart with him."

"Well it looks like the Big Fireman in the Sky came through after all," Chet exclaimed as he patted Marco heartily on the back.

Jim watched the scenery go by the window in a blur of greens and browns as he sat in the backseat of the white Land Rover with his wife. He had given the keys to the trailer and the Woody wagon to Brice and Bellingham. They would park the trailer and vehicle behind Station 51 and would meet up with him and his wife at the hospital later to return the keys. They had given them a quick rundown on Roy and assured them he was going to be fine.

He knew they had found a fatality before finding Roy. He was overjoyed that their son was found alive and his grandchildren wouldn't grow up fatherless, but he couldn't help wondering about the family of the other victim. Although it hadn't been officially confirmed, in all likelihood it was the young mother who had disappeared before Roy. He wondered if her husband and two children would have the support that Joanne would have had if things had turned out differently.

What are the odds of two vehicles going off the road within the same stretch of road? Why does one survive and one doesn't? Jim looked over at his wife and gave her hand a tight squeeze. He knew he was going to drive himself crazy pondering questions that were unanswerable. Still, as grateful as he was that his son's life was spared, he couldn't help but feel for the family of the one whose wasn't.

He looked over his wife and gave her hand a squeeze. Her outward appearance displayed a middle-aged woman who was the epitome of patient composure, but he knew better. Inside she was feeling some of the same conflict he was.

"Don't worry about a thing. Brice and Bellingham will get take good care of your trailer and the dog." Dom Barberi turned his head to talk to the couple in the back seat. "In about another half hour we'll be at the hospital."

Jim put his arm around Harriett. "We can't thank you boys enough for everything you've done for Roy, Joanne…and us. You put your lives on hold to pitch in and help find our son."

Dom Barberi's face flushed in modesty. "Roy'd be one of the first one to volunteer if it was any one of us that needed help."

"Jim and I are extremely grateful to you boys for everything." Harriett's voice cracked. "It's been almost overwhelming to know how many good friends our son has."

Jim pulled Harriett closer to him. She rested her head on his shoulder and dabbed at her eyes with a Kleenex as a few tears slid slowly down her cheeks. Their ordeal was over, while another family would be left coping with a loss. Maybe he'd have a chat with the spectacled young fellow about organizing something for that family. Nothing could replace the loss of a loved one, but perhaps meeting some needs, financial or otherwise, could help ease some of the burden of their loss.

Dixie helped Joanne lower the side rail on the bed. Joanne gingerly sat down on the edge and listened to her husband's light snoring. You always snore when you sleep on your back, she mused to herself.

Johnny leaned over and whispered to Dixie. "He always snores like that when he sleeps on his back."

Joanne felt a prickle of resentment at Johnny voicing this detail about her husband. She bit her tongue, reminding herself that Roy sometimes 'shared a room' with five other men who would also be privy to his sleeping habits. It would be natural for them to tease each other over their nocturnal idiosyncrasies. She reached out and tucked some of the stray hair at the side of Roy's head behind his ear. She noticed the swelling of the outer part of his ear as she tenderly traced it with her the tip of her finger. This was one trick she often used the nights he spent at home to get him to roll over on his side to stop snoring.

Roy felt something familiar brushing against the edge of his ear. He recognized the familiar action and something inaudible as he turned his head and cracked an eye open.

"Hmmm…missed you."

"Missed you too."

Dixie nudged Johnny. "Come on, you can wait in the lounge downstairs for Dwyer to arrive with your Rover."

"Yeah, I kinda think they need some time alone," Johnny answered as he followed her out of the room.

Joanne stared at the gleaming white cast that coated his left arm and waited until she heard the click of the door closing. "You had me pretty worried."

"I'm sorry I put you through all that." Roy let out a grunt as he moved over towards the rail on the left side of the bed to give her more room to sit.

"Dammit Roy, why are you pulling away from me? I didn't mean…" Joanne felt the words sticking in her throat.

"Jo…" Roy fumbled a bit as he sat up and held out his hand to her. "I wanted to give you more room to sit."

She stared at his hand noticing the ragged and torn nails, scraped knuckles, and the I.V. taped to it. She gingerly reached out her hand and let him grab onto it. Tremors started to run through her body as she felt a bandage on his palm.

"Jo," he whispered softly.

Joanne looked up at him and he saw the flood of tears filling her eyes. He knew what she needed without her saying a word to him. She had kept her emotions tightly sealed inside her for the last several days, only allowing a little to seep out here and there to prevent the pressure from blowing the lid off of them. He gave her the 'okay' she needed to release them.

"Jo, you're not gonna hurt my shoulder by using it." He required the warmth of her next to him.

She lowered her head onto his shoulder and felt his arm wrap around her. "The worst time was at night…I was so scared."

He could feel a slight shudder from her as she finally allowed herself the luxury of crying. "Me too. I was afraid I'd never see you or the kids, be there for you…"

He buried his nose in her hair, inhaling deeply, letting its scent reassure him this moment wasn't a figment of his imagination. He let his hand toy with the soft strands of her hair. As her sobs eventually turned to sniffles and several moments later her body had stopped trembling, she finally relaxed against him. He heard a few sniffs before wrapping her arm around his waist.

Roy gently rubbed her shoulder. "Hmmmm, I wanna grow old and silly with you."

"Sounds like a good plan to me. I'll be telling Dr. Early about that rattling sound in your chest." Joanne gave his side a slight squeeze as she let out a small yawn and closed her eyes.

There was no need for either to vocalize for what they were communicating to each other at the moment. Roy had a good idea of the fears that had been running through Joanne's mind over the last several days. The reassurances he gave her were spoken with a tender squeeze to her shoulder or stroking her hair from the side of her face. Her arm around his waist confirmed she'd always stand by him. The pattern of her breathing had changed and knowing she had drifted off into a slumber, he allowed the drowsiness to take over his body again and join her.