Chapter 6: Civilian

12:00 p.m.

George Washington University Hospital, Intensive Care Unit

A man pressed his nose up to the glass enclosing Michelle in a protective cocoon away from the world. He was an attractive individual in his 30s, with a tousle of carefully- styled jet black hair and blue eyes so dark you could drown in them. His face was angular with a prominent square jaw, hinting at Mediterranean roots. Beneath the drape of his suit jacket, cut slightly looser than the popular style as if to accommodate sudden movement, one could tell he maintained his physique. He walked with an acrobat's ease and a dancer's grace. Michelle lay quiet, her breathing assisted by the machines surrounding her. He felt a pang of guilt that he was helpless to stop her suffering. He reached up and pressed his hand against the glass, trying to reach out to her. It was no use. Seeing her brought back so many memories that he was helpless to block them all out. He knew it was her the moment he saw the figure in the bed. It wasn't that she looked the same, it was that she looked intimately familiar, as if he could step into old roles and continue on, ignoring the day when it all ended. Her dark hair was shorter, more professional he supposed. Smiling, he recalled lazy days spent entwining his fingers through her long, thick, wavy locks. She always thought him odd, his fascination with her hair, but she allowed him his one indulgence. A few more lines presented themselves around her eyes. If they would only open and look at him. Just for a moment to feel her gaze, to feel that comfort in the love of another. They remained closed, twitching ever so slightly. Could she be dreaming of him? He directed his stare and followed the outline of her body from her slender arm prodded and invaded by needles and tubes to the faint outline of her legs. Hungarian gymnast legs she called them. He thought them lovely, she thought them too short. More powerful than slender, he drank in the sight of her when she wore a miniskirt. His brother had a thing for leggy blondes, but he knew he had a thing for her.

"You came."

He turned to face the voice, recognizing at once the face of Michelle's sister, Sarah. "I came as soon as I was able." Sarah eyed him with distrust. He knew she had never forgiven him for what had happened, that she thought his reasons were timid and hollow. Maybe she was right but Sarah could never truly understand his situation, not like Michelle did.

Sarah turned to look at her sister and he had chance to observe her profile. Sarah was, objectively, the more striking of the two sisters. Slightly taller, slightly thinner than Michelle, she possessed the physique lauded in fashion spreads. He could appreciate beauty, even if he did not find himself personally attracted to it. In this case, Sarah was just an attractive package. He wasn't interested in packages the way his brother was. Michelle had a habit of complaining that she was the more concentrated version of the two. He always laughed. There was nothing concentrated about Michelle. She was kind and thoughtful, quiet and astute. Sarah was just used to flaunting her looks to get her way. It obviously was not working in this instance because he could sense the frustration in her stance, feel the indignation in her voice. There was more though. Sarah loved her sister and was scared. If she wasn't sacred he would never have known what happened. Not right away when he still may impact future events.

Sarah leaned her forehead against the glass and addressed him again, "I don't know what to do Tom. No one will tell me anything. All I know is what I told you and it's not a lot. I can't help feeling that it's bad, really bad." She wiped away a tear threatening to fall down her left cheek.

He continued to look at her, "I will find out."

She tipped her head towards him, never losing contact with the glass panel, "It's bad isn't it?" Her voice was plaintive, looking for reassurance he knew he couldn't provide.


"Does he know you've come? Do I have to worry about that?"

"No. We've had some, difficulties, lately."

"It killed her when you left."

"I know."

"But you left anyway. How could you?" Sarah turned away from him again, her face starring into the darkness of Michelle's room.

"Are we here to start this again or do you want my help?"

Sarah sighed, it was too easy to slip into the role of Michelle's protector. It was too easy to hate him again. She brought her hand up, petting the glass, trying to offer comfort and reassurance across the distance. "No, we need you. She needs you."

He turned back to Michelle, reaching his hand up to grasp Sarah's, clenching it tight, he fought against the waves of emotion threatening to break his calm exterior. He had to be careful to hide his feelings, not just from the outside, but from the inside, especially the inside. He was needed and he did no good if he exposed his plans. "I will figure this out. Michelle will come back to you." He said it, those words he couldn't deny. Michelle would pull through, but for Sarah, not for him.