The door opened quietly to the hospital room at Minot General. Mike peeked around to check how Steve was doing before he walked in.
"It's about time you got here," Steve growled. "They aren't going to release me until a 'responsible adult' signs me out. When did I become a five year old?"
"Good to see you, too, Buddy boy." Mike chuckled. It had been three days since Mike last saw his partner. "Didn't anyone tell you where I was?"
"No. I can't get the time of day from anyone."
"I went back to San Francisco." Mike responded confidently.
"And then you came back here? That wasn't very long to be home. Did something happen?" Steve's temper quickly cooled with worry.
"You forget why he came here. John Rollins went back with me to provide a statement and to finger Whitaker Nelson as the shooter. He and his attorney are working with the DA's office. I think we're going to get a deal worked out. Nelson doesn't want to go in for the long haul alone. He's going to pull down the guy that was with him as well as people from Sheffield Waste Management. It's going to be a good conviction with at least a couple more busts to come."
"And not only that, but the ballistics test came back positive. We've got him six ways to Sunday! But Rollins statement and ID was really what sealed the deal and made Nelson think hard about turning testimony to save his own rotten hide."
"What changed Rollins mind? If my memory is correct - which right now I'm not so sure - he wasn't too keen on going back."
Mike smiled at the young man. "It wasn't 'what changed his mind', it was 'who changed his mind'. You, Buddy boy. The way you tried so hard to save his little girl and the old woman. You reminded him that sometimes a man has to do the right things, no matter what the consequence. You could have died out there - and you nearly did." Mike's voice became shaky at the end.
Mike quickly thought of the frantic drive to the hospital in the police squad car. He fast forwarded to the emergency room stay and how long it took to admit his partner in the midst of the post-tornado chaos. There was an operation on this leg and the countless hours waiting on x-ray for his head injury and broken shoulder.
On top of that, Steve was overcome by exhaustion from the earlier beating he had taken from Nelson and it all caught up. But Mike didn't have the luxury to wait for the young man's recovery, and instead headed back to his home base of San Francisco with John Rollins. He asked Deputy Perkins to keep an eye on his partner while he took care of the homicide case.
Mike looked a million miles away. Before Steve could say a word, the older man jumped in. "I'm fine. I just need some water." He found the hospital issued pitcher and Steve's cup. Filling it up, he gulped down a few swallows and wiped his mouth.
"Anyway," Mike continued, "he said that after you did what you could to save those two, he realized what he needed to do. He said that not only did he fear for his family, but he actually feared for himself. He said he could only imagine the fear that you went through during that tornado and then to do what you did in the name of saving other people… Well, let's just put it this way, it was a clarifying moment for him."
Steve was quiet. "I'm glad it worked out," he whispered. "I'm sorry that Mrs. Wade died, though. I tried to help her, but I couldn't. During the worst part of the storm, I think she told me to save the girl, so that's what I did."
"I don't want you to spend a moment feeling guilty over her death, do you understand?"
"Sure, Mike. I will try not to," Steve was suddenly very somber. He looked out the window.
"Steve, are you okay? Tell me about it." Mike asked. He was fearful of the answer because Steve's face was covered in emotion.
"It's nothing. I had a crazy dream, that's all."
"What was it about?"
"I was in the field with Mrs. Wade. Her son was a soldier from Korea and he was there. Connie were there, too. Connie looked beautiful - better than ever. I couldn't stay with them and so I left the field and headed back to the house. The dream ends there, but I have to say the images are so clear and the feeling I had of total peacefulness still overwhelms me."
"You were blabbering about something when we found you near the squad car. I remember you saying that 'she was with her boy'. I thought you had lost your marbles."
"Nah, I just wanted to go back to the field."
"How did you know Mrs. Wade had a son? I just learned today that had a son who was killed in Korea."
Steve shuddered and Mike realized that there was something more to the dream. They sat in silence.
Steve finally said. "She's okay, you know?"
Steve wasn't sure if he was going to answer. "Yeah."
"I know. Just like Helen is. I've always believed that."
Steve hesitated again. "I do, too."
Mike walked over and put his hand on Steve's shoulder. "Let's go home. Do you need help getting dressed?"
"I'm fine," he winced and then quickly tried to compose himself as he attempted to move off the bed.
"Yes, I'm aware of your standard pat answer for any question related to your well-being. I'll help you get dressed. I think the Rollins would like to see you before we head back, so we'll stop over there before we catch a plane out of here."
"Have they buried Mrs. Wade yet?"
"They did that this morning. I went with John to the funeral before heading over here." Mike responded.
Steve nodded his head. "Mike, maybe I can talk to Lenny when I get back. I know you've been after me to do that."
"I'm sure that will help. You know what else might be a good idea?"
"Only if you are ready - but perhaps you could go back to Tahoe and recuperate there."
"Perhaps I could also join Maya on her Sunday morning visit," Steve cracked a crooked grin.
"I think that would make her day."
"It would be good for me too. I have a lot to be thankful for," Steve said. It was a sentiment that Mike swore was a long way from his partner's mind only three days ago.
"Sounds good to me. Let's go, Buddy boy."