Love Among Ruins
Alarms jolted her awake. It took her a moment to realize what was happening. She looked over and spotted doctors surrounding Billy.
"What's wrong? What's happening?"
She then leaped from her chair, headed toward the bed, but was stopped by a sympathetic nurse.
"Tell me what's happening!" Adele demanded though it was less a command than a plead.
"It's the fever, it's spiked again and he's convulsing. We're trying to cool his body down to prevent damage to his organs and especially to his brain."
"No! He was fine! We were talking about the future, of our being together. No…NO!"
Rick saw how hysterical Adele was becoming and gave the nurse a knowing glance as he gently walked her out of the room.
"Adele, it's okay. Let the doctors do what they need to do. He'll be okay," Rick said, hating to lie to her because he didn't know that for sure himself, but one of them had to be calm and positive and he knew that Billy would want him to comfort her.
"No, no!" Adele said as she tried to push back against Rick to get back into Billy's room. "Billy..."
Rick took her into his arms and held her. He felt her quiver in uncontrollable sobbing, repeating Billy's name over and over again. He felt his own heart break inside his chest both for her and for his friend.
The setback had been life altering for Billy, for them all and especially for Adele.
Though Billy was still alive, he was barely that. The machines were no longer helping him. They were supporting him. The only good news was that his heart was beating strongly and his brain function active. No brain damage, small comfort, but it gave them hope.
In essence, Billy was teetering towards falling into a persistent vegetative state.
And Michael, Casey and Rick found themselves trying hard not to fall into complete despair for Adele's sake who was staying by Billy's side almost 24/7, Rick only able to convince her to eat, arguing that when he woke up, Billy would hate to know that she had gotten ill on account of him. Still, sleep had been elusive for all of them and Adele was particularly petrified that if she did fall asleep, Billy would slip further away or die.
He had never seen her this way and it scared him. It scared him that if Billy didn't survive she wouldn't either. He wouldn't be enough to save her and at that moment, he would have given anything to trade places with Billy.
But he couldn't so all they could do was wait and hope.
Hope and faith were Billy's strengths and often he was the one everyone turned to when theirs were tested or waning.
His absence was a vortex of deprivation that depleted all of them.
A month had passed without any progress only setbacks: a pulmonary embolism, pneumonia, and another infection. It was just blow after blow and though Billy would always rally, the hope of recovery dwindled with every assault on his compromised body.
Still all of them clung and clawed for any purchase Billy gave them with his survival of each setback to keep hope alive, especially Adele.
She had taken a leave of absence. Rick, Michael and Casey continued on their missions, but being short by one man was keenly felt by each of them.
Michael found it difficult to mathematically work out mission roles for three men versus four. He'd address Billy before he realized that he wasn't there. He had felt disoriented. A kind of human vertigo had seized him.
Casey had to fight harder to keep his 100% intact, his mind easily diverted causing him frustration and an admission he dared not to reveal to his fellow comrades, but he missed Billy's nattering. He hadn't realized that by trying to ignore him, it focused him.
Rick had become the caretaker for them, but he had nothing to offer them. The responsibility was less a burden, as it was just feeling completely helpless that he couldn't make things better.
He was the new guy to Michael and Casey and though he knew their idiosyncrasies, he didn't know how to fulfill their abandoned purpose. He had been Adele's lover and confidante, but the thing that had been missing in his relationship with her, Billy had filled with his special lightness of being and it was what Adele needed the most.
He had nothing to offer to help them. For all of this training and skills, he had nothing that could compare to having Billy back.
His own void was developing its own vortex, a black hole that was becoming bigger and wider, the expanse frighteningly dark and foreboding.
The joy of Billy's life's lessons was now a cancelled master class. The reassuring advice that had never been condescending, but that had been eloquently culled from Billy's own life experience had been cut short of revealing all of the answers to the mysteries of living life and living it well; how to overcome adversity and obstacles, how to build new foundations for the future. Rick missed them terribly and found himself, needing a method to move on from losing Adele. He didn't want to consider having to find one for losing Billy.
While Adele slept in a nearby room, Rick, promising her that he would get her if things changed, sat next to Billy, a part of him begging for silence from the sounds of the beeps and whooshes of all of the machinery, and strained to find other sounds from Billy himself that would drown out the unfeeling mechanics in the room.
A moan, a choke, anything that told him Billy was struggling back, not being controlled, not being held down in the darkness.
Desperation was a guest that had overstayed its welcome and he wanted so much to boot it out of the room.
Instead, the doctors told them that the likelihood of Billy waking up was slim to none that he had crossed over into that feared vegetative state and wasn't coming back. Disbelief and rebellion took immediate hold on all of them, but as the days wore on with Billy still silent, so did the belief and rebellion wear down. Adele resisted the longest. It made perfect sense, but the discussion had to be had, Billy still had a chance to live on as an organ donor, give life in other ways, ways they knew he would gladly bestow. If they hung on to him much longer, then so that chance would dwindle and all he would be was an empty vessel without a soul. Billy would never want to live that way. They all knew that, but knowing it and letting him go were two very different states. Altruism and selfishness vied for attention and inevitably one of them would win.
Adele was already starting her downward spiral as the decision was made to turn off Billy's life support and it scared them all, especially Rick. The woman he loved, still loved, was slowly dying with Billy and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
So he visited Billy, likely for the last time, to say goodbye. Michael and Casey weren't believers in the metaphysical, didn't believe Billy could hear or feel anything anymore so though they had promised to be there when the machines were turned off, they had already said their good byes.
"Billy, this isn't the way it was supposed to end up. You were supposed to fully recover and live your new life with Adele. Be happy as opposed to giving it to everyone else. You do deserve it, you know. Leave it to you to make it difficult. Adele needs you, Billy. I won't be able to make her happy. Only you can. Maybe telling you that she won't make it without you will bring you out of this...because it's what you would do, see what's needed...see that you're needed and give whatever it takes to make things happen. You say I have the heart of a hero, well, then you have the soul of one..." Rick said, feeling his own heart breaking. "And none of us will ever be the same if..."
Adele then walked into the room a few moments later, wiping tears from her face then sat on Billy's bed.
Rick, Michael, Casey and the doctors left the room to give Adele space and privacy to say her goodbye.
She took Billy's hand into hers, stroked it, held it as if trying to memorize how it felt, the warmth, the strength that had once possessed it, the generosity of its unselfish touch to give comfort, the power it had to harm or bring to submission an enemy or anyone seeking to hurt someone he cared about. All of it was there and she wanted to soak it all in before it turned cold and lifeless. It made her shiver at the thought. Billy had never been lifeless. She knew she would ache for that touch long after it was robbed from her.
She didn't want to let go of him, but she knew that if he could, he would tell her to let him go, that he wanted release from the prison that was his failing body.
Knowing that selflessness only made her selfishness that much more painful.
"Billy, I...don't know if I can do this...letting you go. I know you'd want me to, but I don't know how to do that.," Adele felt her sobs escalating and knew there was nothing she could do to stop them any more than she could let him die. "We just found each other. How can fate be so cruel as to take that away from both of us? I know you'd find some romantic literary rationale to understand the cosmic cruel joke, but I'm not that open minded or that forgiving. I want our time together. I want our love to have every chance because I know in my heart that we were destined to be together. How can someone rip that from our grasp? I don't...I can't accept it."
Adele took in a breath.
"I know you fought for us...fought for me...every time you..." Adele's voice hitched and whimpered with tears as she spoke remembering each time Billy had came back from a setback.
She also she knew that once she stopped talking to him, they would stop the machines keeping him alive and end the life of the man she loved. She wasn't ready for that. She would never be ready for that.
"You fought hard so hard...and I know that if you could...you'd be with me so...I'll let you go...because I know...you'd want me to...but I will never forget you..." she said. "I'll miss your smile...your laugh...your voice..."
Adele was sobbing uncontrollably, unable to imagine a world, her world without Billy in it.
"I will never accept...this...I will never forgive fate for doing this to you...to us. You don't deserve this. You deserve to be with me...Don't make us do this..."
Adele then cried out, "Please be with me."
The moment seemed to have ended with only the machines and her sobbing as the symphonic soundtrack to Billy's end of life, but she then felt a weak squeeze and the shock made her think she was going mad with grief, imagining what she felt, but then the squeeze came again, a little stronger this time.
She looked over and saw that Billy's eyes were open.
"Billy?" She asked then she squealed, "Billy!"
Miracle was a word best said in hushed tones at the CIA. It was almost bad luck to utter it, superstitious at best, but there was no other way to describe Billy's emergence from his coma. They had been ready to disconnect him from the machines let him die. Leave it to Billy to change the ending of the story, from one that would have left everyone in tears to a happy one where they get their friend back, snatched from death.
It was the kind of dramatic ending worthy of Shakespeare, worthy of Billy.
Though he was far from normal, breathing on his own was a good first start and everyone didn't take that for granted and would help Billy along until he was back to on his feet again.
Adele was the first to see him and there was no better salve to his body and soul than to see her.
He looked so weak and tired, even his voice, always filled with energy and joviality had been tempered with hoarseness from the ventilator as well as a lack of stamina.
She felt relief and concern colliding. Billy wasn't out of the woods until he was out of the hospital. Further potential setbacks loomed and she was worried. She saw how weak and frail he had become over the last month or more, so vulnerable against more attacks to his fragile immune system. She would always be a glass half-empty woman, hurt by too many things in her life to turn to optimism. So it seemed yet again, karmic that she would find Billy, a man who had had enough misfortune in his life to bury optimism, yet he hadn't and not only was his glass half-full, it overflowed, a male version of Pollyanna with his own set of rose-colored glasses. He could pull off paranoia and cynicism as part of the act he had to play in his role in the ODS, but deep down, he had optimism to spare, ready to dole it out where it was needed. True to form, he was once again, projecting positivity to ease Adele's anxiety.
Billy saw the concern and beckoned her over by waving his hand and then when she took it, holding her hand as tightly as he could muster to reassure her that he was getting stronger and stronger. She then sat in a chair near the bed, happy that this time she was gazing into his eyes.
"Ah, a feast for my weary soul," Billy rasped.
"I guess you're getting better, you're sounding like Shakespeare again," she teased.
"I fear I have a long road ahead of me."
"As long as you're not..." she choked again. "Damn it, I just can't seem to hold it together these days."
Billy caressed her hand lovingly.
"What's to come is still unsure/In delay there lies not plenty/Then, come kiss me, sweet and twenty," Billy said with a small smile.
She giggled softly as she wiped her tears away.
"Clearly, you're better and there's no brain damage."
"I'm so sorry I brought such sorrow to you all, but I credit you for bringing me back from the brink, love and plan to stay firmly on this plane from now on."
"Good, because I don't think I could go through this again," her voice cracking again.
"I adore you, darling," Billy said simply. "Nothing in heaven or on earth could take me from you now. Not without a fight."
Adele gave him a soft smile.
"I know," she said, her heart full. "I know."
He pulled her hand to bring her closer until she knew what he was trying to do and made it easier for him. Their lips met in a gentle kiss and both sighed with the passion that lay beneath.
"I promise you with everything in me that you will never regret taking me on," Billy said, his smile, weak, but filled with hope.
Adele smiled back.
"And I promise that I never will," she said.
FIN - Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed the romance. I know I did.