For two days, the three of them kept a vigil with Steve and Jaime taking turns at Rudy's bedside. Oscar couldn't bring himself to go into the room again, and he sat like a stone statue in the waiting room outside the ICU. Jaime was worried that Goldman might dissolve with the loss of Wells; it certainly looked like it. But deep down she knew he was tougher than that – it was going to be tough on all of them.
The cardiologist approached the three of them in the corridor after he had examined Rudy. "It is time for difficult decisions, I am afraid."
"What did you have in mind?" Steve asked.
"He cannot remain on the ventilator forever. It is simply keeping him alive by doing the work that his own heart and lungs should be doing."
"Are you asking us to disconnect him?" Jaime couldn't keep the horror from her tone.
"It is something to consider," the doctor responded.
Oscar stood then, anger coming to the surface. "Absolutely not. You're asking us to kill him. We're not doing that!"
Steve took ahold of Goldman's arms. "Easy Oscar, that's not what he meant."
Goldman looked incredulously at Sommers. "Jaime, you don't go along with this, do you?"
Jaime gently took Oscar's hands and pulled him aside. "It might be the kindest thing we could do for Rudy, babe." She could see the pain rise in Goldman's eyes, and she brushed his cheek. "Oscar, we can't let him suffer like this indefinitely."
Goldman's eyes dropped to the floor, the truth of it weighing them down. "I know," he whispered.
"Okay, Steve and I can take care of this. You don't have to do it."
"NO." The forcefulness of his voice caught Jaime off guard and he relented. "I'm sorry, babe, I'm not raising my voice at you, really… It's just, I should be the one to do it."
"Oscar, you haven't been able to bring yourself to go back into his room since the first night you got here."
He nodded. "Yes, because in my heart of hearts I knew this was coming, Jaime. I don't want you and Steve living with this; and I've known him the longest. It needs to be me."
They moved back toward Austin and the doctor. Goldman reached out for the clipboard with the form and signed it.
"We'd all like a moment with him first."
"Of course. Let me know when you are ready."
Goldman nodded and the doctor moved away. He turned to Steve.
"You ready, pal?"
"Yeah, I suppose."
Sommers and Goldman watched Austin walk into the room and waited.
Steve approached the bed and sat on the edge, taking Rudy's hand in his.
"Rudy, it's Steve, pal. I want to say thank-you, Rudy. For giving me a second chance at life; for taking such good care of me; and most of all for being such a good friend over the years." Austin swallowed hard. "You're very dear to me, Rudy. I'm gonna miss you more than you can know, and if I could trade places with you, I wouldn't hesitate. I owe you at least that. I love you, Rudy, and Godspeed."
Austin set the hand in his carefully down and walked out of the room, down the hall and into a private alcove. Goldman kissed Sommers on the forehead, and watched her walk in.
Jaime sat on the bed next to Wells and took his hand.
"Aw Rudy, it shouldn't have happened like this… I'd give anything for it not to have. My God I don't know what I'll do without you, Rudy. You gave me life again; you trusted me and held my hand when I was scared; encouraged me when I needed it, and loved me unconditionally. I want you to know that I have always thought of you as a blessing in my life." She kissed Rudy's hand, and covered it with both of hers. "I love you so much, Rudy; I don't think you ever realized how much." She stood and bent over, kissing his cheek. Then she leaned into his ear and whispered, "You'll always live in a special place in my heart, babe."
Jaime quickly left the room in tears and into Oscar's waiting embrace.
"Shh, Jaime, it's all right, babe."
He rocked her for awhile, then let her go. Goldman nodded to the doctor who was standing nearby.
"Let's go, doctor."
Sommers watched as Oscar walked into the room with the doctor in tow. Goldman stood by the bed, Rudy's hand in his while the doctor disconnected the tubes and IVs; all but the EKG monitoring his heartbeat. The doctor removed the ventilator last and then turned to Goldman.
"It shouldn't be long now. If it becomes difficult for him to breathe, we can give him morphine to stop the pain. Just let us know."
"Okay," Oscar said.
The doctor left the room, and Goldman sat on the bed, keeping Rudy's hand in his.
"I'm here, Rudy, and I'm not going to leave you. Don't be afraid."
Goldman waited as the blips on the monitor slowed. And little by little, Wells began to gasp for air, his primitive instinct to survive taking over. Oscar held his hand and then put a comforting hand on Rudy's chest.
"Don't fight, Rudy. It's okay to go. It's okay to rest." Oscar felt the lump in his throat constrict and he swallowed. "I'll take care of Jaime and Steve, I promise you. I'll keep them safe. I wish I could have kept you safe, pal. I'll probably never get over that, Rudy."
The gasping became worse and for a moment Goldman thought he might give in and call for morphine; but he remembered a conversation he had had years prior with Wells in which Rudy had said he always hoped he would face death head on, face to face without the mask of drugs hiding it. It was the last thing Oscar could do for him, and as painful as it was to watch, Goldman knew he owed Wells at least that final dignity.
Oscar rubbed a hand over Rudy's chest as the man gasped harder for air. "Let go, Rudy. Stop fighting now. You've done enough. Go to my brother Sam and tell him that because I had you in my life I was able to let go of the pain I felt over losing him." Goldman felt the sting of tears in his eyes, but he held true to the course, squeezing Rudy's hand. "Our duty done, brother, hear the call of slumber. Know at last peace, rest, interred again eternal. Shining and gleaming, I hath seen this before on the hand of my kin as death pulled him forth. In the stone alcove, where life ebbed away, we had hid treasure and summoned forth death. Now shall I rest, as my brother the same. At last at peace, at last to dream."
For the briefest of moments, Rudy's hand squeezed Oscar's and then he pulled his final ragged breath, and death's rattle in his chest overcame him. Goldman gently released the hand gripped in his own, setting it neatly down and adjusting the covers. He softly pressed his forehead for a moment against Rudy's, his eyes closed, saying a silent prayer. Then swallowing hard, Oscar straightened up, touched Rudy's hand one final time and whispered, "Ruht wohl…"