Torn: Ready or Not
Disclaimer: Not mine, never has been and never will be.
A/N: And finally... the conclusion! Thanks to all who reviewed - I know I didn't get to each of you individually this time, but I thank each and every one of you! :) Thanks to everyone who stuck around and reviewed/alerted/placed in faves/or just read each chapter. Much appreciated! :)
Until next time... :)
Chapter 4: Aftermath
"About time." Henry grumbled from his chair as Frank walked through the door, Jamie leaning on him as he hobbled inside.
"Your car is fine, Pops," Frank sighed, shooting Jamie a look. Jamie smirked. "Jamie and I needed to have a discussion before we got home."
"It's not the car, Francis," Henry grumbled again, putting down his paper. "You're keeping me from my grandson." He turned to Jamie, smiling warmly. "Jamie, how do you feel?"
"Tired, sore, the usual," Jamie answered, giving his grandfather a smile. "I'll be fine."
"Did you get the pain pills your doctor prescribed for you?" Frank cut in.
"Yeah, I grabbed them earlier." Jamie told him, patting his jacket pocket. "If you don't mind, I think I'll go take one and lay down for a bit."
"That's fine, Jamie," Frank answered. Henry nodded in agreement. "Get some rest. Come on, I'll help you up to your room."
"Thanks, Dad." Jamie sighed, already dreading the stairs. "I'll see you later, Gramps."
"Have a good sleep, Jamie." Henry smiled again.
Jamie leaned heavily on his father as they eased up the stairs. Frank gently pulled on his arm half way up, causing him to stop. "What's wrong, Dad?"
"This is hurting you, Jamie. You shouldn't be climbing these stairs right now. Let's get you set up downstairs…"
"No, Dad. I'll be fine once I get up there. I'll be most comfortable in bed, not on a couch. I just need to catch my breath."
"Alright," Frank sighed, knowing his son was right. "Stop whenever you need to."
Jamie nodded. "Let's go, I just want to lie down."
Frank held on tightly as they slowly made their way upstairs. He led Jamie into his room, gently sitting him down on his old bed. Jamie's face was pale, a thin sheen of sweat visible on his forehead. "Just relax, son. I'll be right back."
"Sure." Jamie puffed, fumbling around in his jacket pocket. He placed the pill bottle on the nightstand and started to struggle out of the jacket. His father took it from him as he re-entered the room, placing it over the back of the desk chair. He pressed a glass of water into his hand.
"How do you feel?"
"I'm getting my breath back," Jamie told him. "But now I'm exhausted."
"I'm sure you are." Frank answered, watching as Jamie shook a pill into his hand, swallowing it with a mouthful of water. He replaced the glass onto the nightstand beside the pills. He stood shakily, pulling back the covers. Frank smiled. "Cold, son?"
"Yes," Jamie grumbled. "I must have worked too hard climbing the stairs."
Frank chuckled. "You'll get your feet back under you soon, Jamie," he said, helping him lay down. "Just rest now."
Jamie eased himself onto his uninjured side, his eyes already closing. "Thanks, Dad." he mumbled.
Frank sat next to him, watching him for several minutes as his breathing evened out, a soft snore filling the room. He ran his fingers gently through Jamie's hair, the guilt still eating at him. "I'm so sorry, Jamie." he murmured softly, knowing that Jamie was fast asleep. "I love you… and that's not going to change. I just hope you can forgive me."
He got up, careful not to jostle him. He stepped out into the hallway, noiselessly closing the door behind him.
In the room, Jamie stirred, briefly opening his eyes. He was sure he'd heard his father talking to him, but didn't know what he said. He had no time to dwell on it, for sleep quickly claimed him once again.
Jamie slowly awoke, his brain activating as his nose sniffed out something new. He frowned, stretching carefully. His father and grandfather must be making dinner. He glanced at his watch; sure enough, it was after five in the evening. He had slept for a few hours, not even waking up once.
Slowly he sat up, trying to clear his foggy head. He desperately wanted a shower. His doctor told him that quick showers were okay, but he had to wear waterproof bandaging over his stitches, and he had to mind said stitches when drying off. He shrugged out of his shirt, leaving it on the bed before hobbling out into the hallway. He closed the bathroom door behind him.
He looked at the bandages covering his wounds. The leg cover would be easy enough to change later on, but he'd have to get his father to help him with the one on his back. He turned on the water, stepping into the tub. He turned, facing the shower head in order to keep his back out of as much water as possible. He washed, wishing he could stay under the warm stream soothing his aching muscles, but he knew that the longer he stayed the soggier the bandages would get, waterproof or not. He turned off the taps reluctantly, stepping out of the tub and taking care not to lose his footing. He dried off quickly, the water rapidly cooling on his skin. Gently picking at the bandage on his leg, he peeled it off, wincing at the angry looking mark on his leg. It was healing, but he shuddered at the thought of how deep it had been. He quickly grabbed the clean, dry bandages from under the sink and replaced it, pressing gently along the edges. He reached around, feeling the bandage on his back; it was damp, but not soaked through. It would dry, and he could get his father to help him replace it later.
Feeling refreshed, he wrapped the towel around his waist before heading back into his room. He rooted around, pulling out a clean pair of pants and a shirt. He and his siblings made sure that they brought an emergency overnight bag with a few changes of clothes in it, as well as a few toiletries. That way, if they ever had to stay overnight, they'd have something to change into. He pulled out a pair of socks, easily slipping one over his left foot. He sighed as he struggled with his right. Stupid Mother Nature…
Finally dressed, he padded back out into the hallway, staring morosely at the stairs. They were bad enough coming up. Why didn't he just listen to his father and stay downstairs? He seriously contemplated sliding down on his butt. Shaking his head, he grabbed the railing, leaning on it heavily as he inched his way down the steps. Going down was easier than going up. He reached the bottom, less winded than earlier.
Jamie nearly lost his balance as two blond figures raced over to him, grabbing him in a hug.
"Ease off, boys!" Danny hollered from the living room. "What did I tell you?"
"Sorry, Dad," they called. "Sorry, Uncle Jamie." Jack apologized.
"It's not a problem." Jamie told them, wincing slightly. Sean had managed to crash right into his injured leg. "How are you doing?"
"We're fine, Uncle Jamie." Sean answered. He leaned forward again, gently wrapping his small arms around his uncle. "We're just glad you're okay."
Jamie hugged them back. "I'm going to be fine, boys. Don't worry, okay?"
They nodded, giving him one last hug before racing off to find Nicki. Jamie could hear talking in the kitchen, but he made his way into the living room where his brother sat, cast-laden leg resting in an upright position.
"How are you doing, Danny?" he asked.
"Probably better than you… though at least you can use the stairs." Danny smirked. "I haven't slept with Linda in over a week."
"Too much information, Danny." Jamie groaned.
"What, you thought I meant…" Danny laughed. "Get your head out of the gutter, kid."
Jamie reddened. "This is you we're talking about," he defended himself. "Sex and food and beer are about equal with you."
It was Danny's turn to redden. "Well… sex comes first…"
Jamie groaned again, mockingly covering his ears. "Shut up, Danny… really don't need to hear that."
Danny laughed. "Whatever, Jamie. You doing okay?"
"Yeah," Jamie answered. "Still sore, but the pain meds help."
"They do." Danny agreed, glaring at his cast. "I just wish they'd take away the itch…"
Jamie laughed again. "Use a ruler."
"I'm likely to cut myself with the edge of it… I'd really be screwed then." Danny grumbled in response, smiling at his brother's laugh. At least everyone seemed to get through the ordeal in good spirits.
"What's everyone doing here, anyway?" Jamie asked. "It's not Sunday."
Danny shrugged. "We're just glad everyone is together, safe and sound." Jamie nodded, not quite believing him but unsure as to what else it could be. He looked up as his father walked into the room.
"Hi, Jamie." Frank greeted. "I didn't know if you were up or not."
"Yeah. Showered and everything." Jamie answered casually.
"Are the bandages okay?"
"I changed the one on my leg. I'll need your help later with the one on my back."
"Sure thing." Frank agreed, willing to help with anything his family members needed. "I know you probably just sat down, son, but I'd like to talk to Danny alone."
"What did I do?" Danny asked, wearily watching his father.
Frank smiled. "Nothing, son. Just want to chat."
Danny frowned quizzically. "You can talk in front of Jamie, Dad."
Jamie shook his head. "It's fine, Danny, I can go. I'll see if I can snitch anything from the kitchen." He replied jokingly, shooting a knowing look at his father. He had a feeling it would be something like their discussion earlier that day.
"Okay…" Danny trailed off, looking confused.
Jamie smiled again, hobbling his way into the kitchen, where he was greeted enthusiastically by Erin, Linda, and his grandfather. They immediately set him to cutting up vegetables for the salad. He regretted entering the kitchen as soon as the knife was pressed into his hand and the cutting board placed in front of his nose.
"What's up, Dad?" Danny asked.
Frank sighed. "I had to make a decision a week ago… one that could have ripped this family apart."
Danny opened his mouth, but didn't speak. His heart thumped. He cleared his throat. "Well, I know you had to debate on whether to send anyone into the library… the thought of leaving Jamie behind really did cross your mind, didn't it?"
"Yes." Frank answered, looking down. "I had to look at the situation professionally. The last thing I wanted was to lose another son… but I couldn't willingly send in a group of men and women when I knew they'd likely be sacrificing themselves."
"I still can't believe…" Danny muttered, not looking at his father.
"That building was going to collapse… it did collapse into itself… Danny, that decision killed me! And rightfully, I should have stopped you and Tony and Phil from going in."
"I would have gone in anyway." Danny answered defiantly.
"Would you really? Knowing that Linda and your boys were waiting for you?"
"I…" Danny started, the stunning realization hitting him that no, he likely wouldn't have gone in. "God, Dad… I would have left my brother behind… no, I would never do that!" he argued with himself, frowning.
"I let you go in in the selfish hope that you'd be able to get Jamie out of there… I let you go even though I knew I could lose both of you." Frank paused, scrubbing a hand over his eyes. "Danny… I could have sent you to your death… I am so sorry. It was bad enough having lost Joe, the thought of losing Jamie pushed me to the edge… after I realized I could lose both of you…"
"Dad…" Danny whispered. "Don't. Just don't."
"I'm not angry, Dad." Danny said, sadness written on his face. "I never realized what hell you went through that day… I fought with you because there was no way I was going to leave my brother behind to die… it was only after I got in there that I realized that it may have been a bad idea, and the building collapsing around us minutes later only confirmed it… but we got out alive. We managed to beat those odds and got out alive."
"I'd rather walk in a cast the rest of my life than give up on Jamie. I still stand behind what I did."
Frank watched him as he seemed to struggle with something. "Danny… I'm so proud of you, son. That day scared the hell out of me, but I'm proud of you."
"Thanks, Dad." Danny said. "If Jamie ever finds out that I even considered leaving him in there… he'll hate me forever."
"I don't hate you, Danny."
Both Danny and Frank looked up, startled to see Jamie standing in the doorway with an odd look on his face. Frank motioned him in, watching as Jamie moved slowly to the couch before easing himself down.
"No, Danny. I don't hate you." Jamie repeated. "I mean, yeah… it feels really weird that two of my family members considered leaving me to die, but I understand. Danny, you've got a wife and kids that love you and need you around. Dad, you've got an entire city to look out for, and many lives rest on your shoulders. If you'd made the decision to stay out of the building, and Dad, if you'd made the decision to order Danny away from the building… I would have made peace with that. I understand why you'd do it that way." He looked at each of them in the eyes. "I'm not angry with either of you, and there's nothing to forgive."
Danny watched his brother in wonder. "Thank you, Jamie… but I'm still so sorry that I even thought it. And Dad… you allowed me to go in even though you knew you might not see me again… and that's okay. I'm not mad. Like I said, I'd probably rush in there anyway, even if you had ordered me to stay away."
Frank smiled softly. "You probably would, son. I just can't apologize to either of you enough…"
Jamie and Danny shared a look. "I forgive you, Dad." Jamie told him. Danny nodded.
"So do I."
Frank nodded, silently calming the pounding in his heart. "Thank you, boys… that means so much."
They smiled, each of them taking in the calm silence, lost in their own thoughts.
Erin poked her head into the room. "Dinner's ready," she announced, noting the subdued looks on their faces. "It'll take you two a while to get there, so that's why I'm letting you know first." she teased, pointing at her brothers. They laughed, the somber mood evaporating.
"Bet'cha I can still get there before Danny." Jamie mocked.
"Don't laugh, kid." Danny grumbled. "You know you're right this time. But once this cast is off… you'd better watch yourself!"
Jamie laughed again, allowing his father to help him up, turning to watch as Frank then helped to ease Danny's leg off of the stool it was resting on. Danny grabbed his crutches, grumbling the whole time.
"Stupid cast… stupid crutches… why me?" he moaned pitifully.
Jamie laughed again, accepting Erin's arm as she grinned at her male family members. He hobbled out into the dining room, Erin's warm hand and arm firmly planted around his shoulders. He didn't really need the help, but he didn't want to lose the warm feeling that was surrounding him.
Jamie sat in his usual spot at the table, Danny two seats down from him. The rest of the family filed in, with Frank and Henry taking their usual places. Erin, Nicki, and the boys sat on the other side of the table while Linda sat between Jamie and Danny. Jamie tried hard to catch Nicki's eye; she kept glancing shyly at him before looking away. He frowned slightly, glancing at Erin, but Erin was busy chatting with Linda across the table and wasn't paying attention.
The family dug in as soon as they said grace, and soon all that could be heard was the clinking of forks and knives on plates and the occasional slurp from a glass. Jamie soon realized that all of the foods that were on the table were his favourites. He was about to ponder that further when Erin put her cutlery down.
"I'd like to say something."
"Go ahead, Erin." Frank responded.
Erin fiddled with her wine glass. "I just want to say thank you… Jamie, if it weren't for you our kids might not have survived. You saved them."
Jamie felt his cheeks heat up. Now he knew what this dinner was for. "I'm not…" he stuttered quietly.
"You're our hero, Jamie." Linda continued ahead of Erin, barging on as if Jamie hadn't started to say something. She gently grasped his hand that was resting on the table. Jamie looked around; everyone was staring at him, some looking teary, all of them proud. Nicki was looking teary herself, but she was smiling at him. Jack and Sean looked slightly confused at the attention their uncle was getting, but they knew it must be serious. Jamie pulled his hand discreetly out from under Linda's, starting to feel uncomfortable. The room was getting too warm and stuffy.
"I'm… I'm not a hero," Jamie stuttered uncomfortably. "I mean, if it wasn't for Danny, I wouldn't be sitting here… If Dad hadn't let him go in, I wouldn't be sitting here. They're heroes too…" Jamie finished weakly, feeling the awkward air surrounding the table.
Henry broke the awkward silence, lifting his glass of water. "To the family of heroes." he smiled. The rest of the family nodded, lifting their glasses. Jamie followed suit, still feeling uncomfortable. He glanced at his father, who gave him an understanding look. Jamie glanced back across the table at Nicki, who was staring at her empty plate. Jamie frowned, knowing something was bothering her.
Dessert passed quickly, and the cleanup began. Everyone jostled around in the kitchen, reaching for dishes to put the leftovers in, finally snapping at Danny when he bumped one too many knees and shins with his cast. Danny happily hobbled out into the living room, content to leave the cleanup to everyone else. Jamie spotted Nicki quietly placing a few dishes in the fridge. He needed to sit anyway, so he ambled over to her.
"Nicki, can I have a word?"
"Sure, Uncle Jamie." she responded, turning to face him.
"Let's step outside onto the patio." Jamie told her, gently taking her arm. He waved her ahead of him as he limped after her. They walked past Danny, who had made himself comfortable on the couch.
"Where are you going?" Danny asked, looking confused at the somber looks on their faces.
"Just having a chat." Jamie answered casually. "We'll be back in soon."
Once outside, Jamie gratefully plunked himself down in one of the patio chairs, motioning for Nicki to sit next to him. He looked at her seriously.
"What's wrong, Nick?"
She fiddled with her fingers. "Nothing."
"You know I don't believe that."
"Really, it's nothing…"
"Nicki…" Jamie trailed off, a note of warning in his voice. "I want to know." He softened as he watched her eyes fill with tears. "Nick, please? Something is bothering you, and I know it has to do with what happened to us. Please talk to me."
She wiped her eyes. "When you told me to leave… after you realized you wouldn't fit through the space left in the debris covering the door… you didn't think you were getting out, did you?"
It was Jamie's turn to look away. "The thought crossed my mind."
"Why would you give up?"
Jamie looked at her, shocked by the anger in her voice. "Nicki, I didn't give up!" he defended himself. "I tried to get myself out… I moved some of the debris, but that only caused it to fall in towards me. I wanted out, trust me. But I also knew that there was a very good chance that I wouldn't make it out of there. I had to rely on other people to get me out."
"They said it was too unstable and that they weren't going to send anyone in because the building was already collapsing." Nicki told him, her voice thick. "They were going to leave you in there. Grandpa was going to leave you in there! Why would he do that?"
Jamie reached towards her, grasping her hand tightly. "Nick, he didn't want to but he has an entire city to look after. It's what he does; sometimes he has to make decisions that are not always the best sounding, but they're the right ones."
"How is leaving you to die the right decision?" Nicki snapped.
"Don't, Nicki," Jamie started, squeezing her hands. "Don't be angry. He had to make a professional decision that day and he couldn't send in a dozen men and women to their deaths for one person who was in really bad shape… even if he wanted to. He had to keep his own feelings out of it."
"He has to do that a lot, doesn't he?" Nicki sniffed.
Jamie smiled sadly. "Yes, being PC can't be easy…"
"No, it probably isn't." Nicki agreed. "Why won't you accept that you're a hero to us?" she asked. "You did keep us alive…"
"I had to. My priority was getting you kids out of there. I was already in there with you… I just don't see myself as a hero. It's not like I flew in there like Superman and plucked you out."
Nicki leaned over to hug him. "I don't care," she told him. "You still got us out, and you're still alive. You're a hero to me, even if you can't accept it."
Jamie had to smile. He hugged her back. "Thanks, Nick."
"I love you, Uncle Jamie." she mumbled, teary. "Don't ever do this to us again."
Jamie chuckled. "I love you too, Nicki. You might have to ask Mother Nature for that one, though."
Frank gently knocked on the patio door before stepping out. "Everything okay out here?"
"Yeah." Jamie answered, looking over at Nicki. "We're good."
"Are you sure?" Frank asked, watching Nicki. Jamie opened his mouth to say something when Nicki suddenly burst into tears. Jamie looked at her in surprise; never mind women in general, teenagers were even harder to figure out!
"Nick, what….?" Jamie started, watching helplessly as Nicki suddenly got up, rushing at Frank. Frank looked startled, but quickly grabbed her in a hug as she flew into him. Jamie half stood, unsure as to whether she was going to attack him or just hug him. Frank motioned him back into his seat.
"Sweetheart, what is it?" Frank asked, concern radiating from him. He hugged her tightly. He looked shocked when she suddenly pushed him away from her. She took a step back, glaring at him. Unsure, he glanced at Jamie who wore a concerned expression, yet he didn't look nearly as confused as Frank felt.
"You were going to leave him!" she yelled at him, unaware that the rest of the family had rushed to various windows to see what the commotion was about. "You weren't going to send anyone in and you were going to just leave him in there to die!"
At this point, Linda, who had been holding back her boys at the patio door, pulled them away into the house. Danny took over to do his best to explain to them what Nicki was talking about.
"Nicki…" Jamie protested weakly, embarrassment colouring his features. Frank looked ashamed.
"You're right, Nicki… I did consider it. I had to consider it. It's part of my job."
"Uncle Jamie said that you couldn't risk others lives when it was unlikely that his life could be saved."
"That's part of the professional decision making that I have to go through," Frank agreed. "It's not something I wanted to do, honey, but I couldn't put my own feelings ahead of others lives. And I would have rushed in there myself, consequences be damned."
"I know you would, Dad." Jamie cut in, struggling to get up. He pulled on Nicki's arm, but she shook him off.
"I'm so angry with you!" she snapped again, quieter this time, her words cutting Frank like knives. "But I get it."
"I shouldn't. I should hate you for thinking of leaving him, but I get it. And I don't hate you, Grandpa." she sobbed, running for him again. He caught her in another hug. "I wish you didn't have to make these choices."
Frank smiled grimly. "I wish I didn't have to either, honey."
"I love you, Grandpa…" Nicki sniffled. Frank kissed the top of her head.
"I love you too, sweetheart." he replied, looking over at Jamie. He smiled softly. Jamie looked teary as he watched them. "You okay, Jamie?"
"Sure." Jamie replied, trying to sound casual. "Do I smell onions?"
Frank chuckled as Nicki pulled away, wiping her eyes. She couldn't help but crack a grin at Jamie's attempt at being funny.
"I didn't say this before, but… I thought…" Nicki struggled with the words, trying to come up with the best way to say it. "When we fell, I told you that you had been out for a few minutes. It was nearly ten minutes before you started moving and I…" A few tears fell and she quickly wiped them away. "I really thought you were dead!" she finished, her voice thick and shrill. "I was so scared!"
Jamie stood, slowly hobbling over to her before pulling her into a tight squeeze. She hugged him back tightly while Frank looked on. "I get it, Nick… and I'm really sorry for everything you had to go through. If I could change it all, I would," he told her quietly. "But I can't. It happened, but we'll get through it. We've survived already! We can keep surviving."
Nicki nodded against his chest. "Thank you, Uncle Jamie."
"Anytime, Nicki." he replied softly, giving her one last squeeze before pulling away. "Now, I don't suppose you could go get your crippled uncle a cup of coffee, could you?"
Nicki smiled, stretching up to give him a kiss on the cheek. "Of course. I'll be right back." she replied, hurrying back into the house. The rest of the family had drifted off ages ago once they'd realized that no one was going to come to blows.
"Don't mention it, Jamie." Frank smiled.
"But would you really have run in there?"
"Yes," Frank answered firmly. "I would have ordered everyone else to stay out to keep them from dying. I would have ordered Danny to stay away to protect him, Linda, and the boys. But I don't have to listen to myself. Yes, Jamie… without a doubt, I would have gone in to get you myself."
"But what if it turned out to be hopeless?"
Frank shrugged. "Then at least I tried." He looked at Jamie seriously. "A father should never have to bury his children," he told him. "Once is one time too many…"
Jamie nodded, his throat too tight to say anything. He cleared it, smiling as Nicki popped back through the door with a cup of coffee in her hands. She handed it to him.
"Just how you like it." she smiled.
"Thanks, Nicki." Jamie smiled, trying to keep his voice normal.
"I'm going to go help the boys with some last minute homework. I promised I would…" she grumbled, regretting that promise once she learned how much they still had to do. "I won't do it for them, though…"
"Good," Jamie told her. "They'll only learn if they do it themselves."
She nodded again, disappearing back into the house.
"You coming in?" Frank asked.
"No… not right now."
"It's getting cold."
"I'll be okay, I won't stay out long." Jamie assured him. "I just need some fresh air."
Frank nodded. "Then I'll see you soon, son."
"Sure thing, Dad."
Jamie watched at Frank re-entered the house, sighing. Mother Nature really had a way with people.
Frank wearily sat down in his chair, jumping when a cup of coffee was placed in front of his nose. He glanced quickly at his father.
"Pop, don't do that!"
Henry smiled. "Sorry Francis. I just thought you might need this."
Frank took a suspicious sniff before smiling. "You've added some 'adult coffee cream' haven't you?" he asked, always aware that the youngest members of the Reagan clan could be listening.
"Don't mention it, Francis." Henry replied, sitting in his own chair. He looked seriously at his son. "Francis… were you really thinking of leaving my grandson in that building?"
"Pop…" Frank groaned. "Really? Do we have to do this now?"
Henry snorted. "I think you forget, Francis, that I've sat in the exact same seat as you. I know what decision making is all about."
Frank looked sheepish. "I'm sorry, Pop. You're right… I did forget."
"You made the right one."
"I would have gone in there myself."
"I mean… I'm the PC, I don't have to listen to myself, do I?"
Henry shrugged. "The mayor might have your head, but no, you don't have to listen to yourself… you can disobey your own orders."
"Danny had every intent on doing that anyway."
"Of course he did. He gets it from you." Henry smirked. Frank shot him a look before cracking a smile.
"I think I'd have to blame you for that, Pop." Frank told him, making Henry laugh.
"That department shrink's going to be ecstatic over the size of his paycheques over the next little while…" Henry sighed, sobering up.
"As much as I hate it, I have to agree with you." Frank grumbled. Never mind that he'd be ordering most of the force to go see him, but he'd have to make some of his own appointments as well.
"We'll be okay, Francis." Henry told him firmly. "This city will be okay."
Frank looked at him, smiling. "Agreed." He leaned back, taking a sip of his doctored coffee, listening to the murmurs of the rest of the family.
"Is Nicki okay?" Linda asked, absentmindedly stirring her coffee. Erin sat opposite her in the kitchen.
Erin sighed. "She's getting better, but she's been waking up with a few nightmares over the last few nights. I think most of them are about the building collapsing on them… I think a few were specifically about Jamie. She hasn't said much to me, but she was really afraid that he was dead… I think she still wakes up thinking that he is, at least until it sinks in that it was just a dream."
Linda nodded. "When the building collapsed after Danny had gone in… I thought that was it."
"I know," Erin replied softly. "I thought we'd lost them both."
"I wake up, too… and Danny's never there because he can't use the stairs; I feel sick thinking that he's gone. He doesn't know it, but most nights I go downstairs just to watch him sleep, just to reassure myself that he's really there. After an hour or so, I go back to bed."
Erin grasped her hand, watching as Linda wiped her eyes. "I know, Lin. Several nights now, I've had to stop myself from phoning both Danny and Jamie in a panic… I wake up thinking they're gone…"
Linda snorted. "The shrinks in this town are going to have a field day…"
Erin had to laugh. "I'm sure they won't mind much. You can't beat being well-paid."
"True." Linda laughed. "Everything's going to be okay, isn't it? We'll get through this, won't we?"
"Of course!" Erin assured her. "We're Reagans. And this is New York. We'll be fine."
Linda smiled at her. "Hey, Erin, before I forget, I brought that magazine you wanted…"
Jamie looked up as Danny stumbled out the door, complaining as usual.
"Damn crutches…" he grumbled, sinking down into the chair next to Jamie's. Jamie smiled at him.
"You're never going to get out of that cast if you don't rest."
Danny snorted. "I'm going to get out of this cast earlier than expected!"
"Whatever, Danny." Jamie smirked.
"Just you wait," Danny told him. "I'll be running around long before you can get out of bed on your own!"
"I can get out of bed on my own just fine!" Jamie defended himself, making Danny laugh. "You can't even get to bed!"
Danny glowered. "Shut up, kid." he grumbled. It was Jamie's turn to laugh, making Danny smile in response. Danny smile slipped.
"What a night…" he sighed.
"I'll say." Jamie grunted, leaning back in his chair, his coffee on the table beside him.
"I was scared that day, too…" Danny mumbled.
"Join the club." Jamie remarked, giving him an odd look. "You okay, Danny?"
Danny shrugged. "Sure… but I really thought you were a goner. When I finally got in there, when I saw you lying there in your own blood, I thought I was too late."
Danny shrugged again. "That's why I fought to get you out of there first."
"Danny," Jamie sighed. "If you'd convinced them to get me out first, you know you could have died in there yourself, don't you?"
"Yeah, but at least I would have known you'd be okay."
"Danny, you're more important…"
"Don't say that, Jamie! You're important, too!" Danny argued harshly.
"I'm not saying that my life isn't worth anything, Danny!" Jamie argued back. "But you've got Linda and your boys… more people depend on you."
"This entire family depends on you, Jamie." Danny told him, ignoring Jamie's look. "This city depends on you."
Jamie nodded. "I know that, Danny."
"Besides, we all got out just fine."
"Maybe we wouldn't have... it could have been worse."
"But we got out." Danny repeated.
Jamie nodded again, staring at his hands. Danny nudged him, causing him to look up. "It's nothing, Danny… but when you fell on me to cover me, and when you didn't answer Tony when he asked if we were okay, I really thought you were hurt badly…"
"Just my leg, Jamie, that's all." Danny answered. "It hurt like hell, but that's all it was."
"Still scared me…"
"I know it did, kid." Danny answered. "Actually, when I heard you hiss I thought I'd hurt you even more. That scared me, too, because I knew you couldn't afford more injuries."
"You did, Danny," Jamie told him. "And to be honest, the pain was what I concentrated on first, but the worry that you were going to die and there was nothing I could do about it soon took over…"
"And obviously I'm fine… mostly… and I'm still here." Danny interrupted, giving him a small smile.
"You are." Jamie smiled back.
"Are we going to be okay, Jamie?" Danny asked softly, staring at his hands in his lap. Jamie regarded him seriously.
"Of course we are, Danny," Jamie told him. "And we've been through worse." he finished, giving Danny a look. Danny nodded in understanding.
"You're right, kid." Danny agreed. He leaned forward. "So, how about I race you back into the house for more coffee?"
Jamie raised an eyebrow. "I really hope you're kidding…" he grumbled, watching in horror as Danny grinned and stood up. He struggled to his feet. "Tell me you're kidding!"
"Why would I do that?" Danny laughed, grabbing his crutches. He hobbled as fast as he could into the house, hearing Jamie laugh, relishing in the fact that Jamie was still there to torment.
"Things are going to turn out fine, Francis." Henry said, picking up a discarded magazine. He flipped it open.
Frank listened to Nicki and the boys arguing in the dining room as Nicki tried to help them with their homework. He could hear Linda and Erin discussing interior decorating in the kitchen. He turned to look outside through the window, listening through the opening at his sons' conversations and bantering. He could hear them laughing with each other. He smiled.
He was interrupted by Danny, who hobbled quickly through the door. He raised his eyebrow as Danny turned to look behind him.
"Jamie, you're not even trying!"
Jamie popped through next, limping leisurely, empty coffee cup in hand. He smirked. "I'm not the one that's going to be living in a cast the rest of my life because I'm too stubborn to rest."
Danny scoffed. "I told you already, I'm going to be out of this thing earlier than expected!"
"Says the one who keeps walking on it."
"I'm not walking on it!" Danny grumbled. "How do you walk on something that's not even touching the ground?"
Jamie snorted. "You're supposed to keep it upright. It's not going to heal if you keep moving it around."
"Thank you, Mom." Danny grunted. "Hey, Jamie?"
"So I can hit you."
"You let go of your crutches and you're going to lose your balance, dumbass." Jamie snickered, limping after his brother. Danny huffed, frustrated, and ambled slowly into the kitchen.
"Danny Reagan, you're supposed to be resting!"
"Jamie, you need to get some rest, too!" Erin snapped. "Come here and sit down."
"Erin, this is ridiculous. All I do is sit!"
"You don't sit enough!" Erin replied.
"Ow… watch it, Erin!" Jamie snapped.
"Danny, get back out there and put your leg up!" Linda commanded.
"I just want some coffee, Linda!"
"And just how do you expect to carry it out of here?"
"Go, sit, I'll bring it out to you."
"Fine…" Danny grumbled, nearly stumbling over his crutches. Jamie snickered again. "Shut it, Jamie."
Frank looked at Henry, giving him a smile. "Yeah, I think things are going to be just fine." he told him. He glanced fondly at the kitchen doorway, watching the commotion. Danny was struggling out of the kitchen, grumbling to himself. He could see Erin trying to force Jamie's leg up onto another chair, and Jamie, looking annoyed and sullen, fighting back like he used to do when they were kids and she got to be too mothering towards him.
"This is hardly comfortable, Erin," Jamie grunted, pain shooting through his leg. "My back's going to seize up in this chair."
"Then get your butt back out to the living room." Erin grumbled. "Or better yet, get to bed!"
"Erin!" Jamie sighed, exasperated. "I'm not going to bed! It's only seven-thirty! Besides, you just sat me down, now you're expecting me to get up again?"
"Men," Erin snapped. "They turn into babies when sick…"
"Erin!" Jamie whined.
"See, what did I tell you?"
Jamie just glowered at her. "Shut up, Erin." he fumed, causing her to laugh. She put a glass of water on the table in front of him.
"So you don't end up staying up all night." she responded, taking in the look he shot her. She turned back to the sink, not noticing when Jamie defiantly stuck his tongue out at her.
Linda followed her husband closely, reiterating to him the whole time how he needed to rest and keep his leg up in order to give it a chance to heal. Danny just rolled his eyes. There were a few shouts from the dining room.
"Keep it quiet in there!" Linda hollered to her boys. "How do you expect to figure out what you're supposed to do if you don't let Nicki help you?"
"Sorry, Mom!" they chorused.
Henry laughed, sharing an amused look with Frank. They both sighed contentedly. Things were already getting back to normal, the fear and confusion that Mother Nature can unleash already being forgotten. It was doubtful that they'd ever be ready for this type of situation – no one could be completely ready for it – but they were together, safe and sound. Despite all odds, they'd made it.