My head is throbbing and my chest hurts like a motherfucker. My throat feels raw, like someone rubbed it with coarse sandpaper for hours. I hear beeps and voices and… Mom? When I take a deep breath the air doesn’t seem fresh but it feels good in my lungs.
I make a noise and then hear the sweet sound of my girl’s voice. What’s Sookie doing at the firehouse? Wait, am I at the firehouse? I search my memory, trying to remember the last thing I did.
Sookie at the counter, sipping coffee and pouting about my leaving for the next thirty-six hours. Kissing goodbye for almost twenty minutes… Mmm…
“Eric?” Mom calls my name and I feel my hands being held.
“Babe,” Sookie whispers. I can smell her sweet scent as she rubs circles over the top of my hand.
I tell my eyes to open but nothing happens. I try to talk but I’m not sure real words come out so I just squeeze her hand.
I feel her lean over my body so she can press a kiss to my forehead. “I’m here when you’re ready,” she whispers.
Good. I don’t want her to go. I’m not sure where I am or why she’s holding my hand. There’s this big black hole where missing memories have been scrubbed from my recollection. I keep squeezing Sookie’s hand so she knows I’m with her.
After a few more minutes of issuing commands to my eyes to get with the program, they finally open a little. The bright, fluorescent light is painful and the pain in my chest and throat hasn’t eased up. Blonde hair and the prettiest blue eyes I’ve ever seen come into focus.
“Hi,” I rasp.
“Hi, handsome,” she replies. I can see tears streaming down her face.
“Hi, sweetheart,” Mom says. I turn my head a little. She looks worried but she’s not as shaken as Sookie.
“Hi,” I whisper. “Why’s she crying?”
It still hasn’t hit me where I am.
“You gave me a scare,” Sookie answers.
“Only thirty-six hours,” I reply. My eyes close because I can’t take the light anymore.
“Babe, do you know where you are?” she asks me.
“Firehouse? I’m dreaming.” I must be. Why else would Mom and Sookie be holding my hands while I sleep in an uncomfortable, too small bed?
“Sweetheart, you’re at Bossier Memorial Hospital,” Mom tells me. “You were hurt on a call. You’ve got a nasty concussion and your mask got knocked off somehow so you inhaled a lot of smoke.”
Why don’t I remember that? Oh yeah, the head trauma probably cleaned my clock. I definitely don’t remember the fire or what happened in the building. Having to be pulled out is never good. Herveaux must have done it. Pardloe isn’t big enough to haul me out. At least I don’t think he is.
“Lights off,” I croak. Those lights feel like a thousand suns.
Suddenly there’s a click and the light dims. Much better.
“There you go, honey,” Mom says. “I’m going to go get your nurse and I’ll let Herveaux know you’re awake. The boys are out in the waiting area.”
I’d nod but it would hurt.
“Thanks,” I say quietly. I can hear Sookie sniffling to the side and I squeeze her hand again. “I’m okay, babe.” I think I am, anyway. I can survive a concussion.
“It’s still scary,” she replies quietly.
“Come closer.” I tug her hand. I want her to get in this uncomfortable bed with me but I don’t know if that’ll work.
I feel her slight weight on the edge of the bed. She helps me move my arm without tangling the lines and curls up next to me.
“I love you, Eric,” she whispers. I can feel her tears hitting my chest.
“Shhhh…” I try to put my arm around her. It’s as close to a hug as she’s getting right now. “I’m okay,” I whisper. I might have a gnarly headache for a while but I’ll survive.
“I don’t think you get what it’s like sitting on the outside watching the person you’re supposed to spend your life with so… it’s just terrifying and I’m aware of what could have happened,” she says. “I know you’re okay, I need my time to cry before everyone comes in.”
“I’m just telling you I’m okay.” She’s right that I don’t know exactly what it’s like to be in her shoes, but I have spent my share of time waiting to find out if a friend is going to recover from an injury. I sat in a waiting room holding my mom’s hand for three hours while Dad was in surgery, only for the doc to come out and tell us he coded on the table.
Mom comes back in with a nurse, forcing Sookie to get up. The nurse – Belinda – does a quick neurological exam and then helps me sit up some. I’m going to be in here for a night or two until things with my head even out some. I can live with that. I’m alive, that’s what matters.
“Honey, Chief Quinn is here. Can he come in and talk to you?” Mom asks.
“Yeah,” I answer. The nurse is getting me more pain medication. She might be my favorite person right now.
“I’m going with Mom,” Sookie says, kissing my forehead. “I won’t be far.”
“Okay. Love you.” I close my eyes. I’m so fucking tired right now.
I hear their feet as they leave the room. I open my eyes and look around the room. At least it’s a private room I’m in. Maybe I’ll get some sleep after the guys leave.
Belinda comes back with a syringe full of relaxation and relief. She uses a portal in my IV to give me the meds. Yep, my new favorite person.
“Hey, man.” I hear Chief Quinn’s deep voice as he enters the room.
“Chief.” He’s dirty and got a somber expression on his face. I wouldn’t say he’s a barrel of laughs kind of guy but he doesn’t usually look so… distraught.
“There’s really no easy way to put this… We uh… we lost Godric today. He didn’t make it out of the fire,” Chief says as gently as possible. “He got stuck under a beam and some other debris. The smoke took him when he lost his mask.”
“Are you sure it was him?” I don’t want it to be. He’s my best friend. He’s only thirty-four. Fuck.
“Yeah, man, we’re sure. This isn’t news I ever wanted to give to anyone. He’s a good man.” I hear Chief sniff.
Tears sting my closed eyes and I feel them roll down my temples. This is part of the risk we take. Anything can happen on a call. We take all the precautions we can but sometimes it’s still not good enough. I want to know how it all happened. I’ll have to ask Eggs since he should have been with Godric at the time.
I’m in shock enough that I don’t know what else to say, other than, “I don’t remember the fire.”
“Honestly, that’s probably for the best. It was a nasty one that almost took you too,” he tells me.
I figured as much. Doesn’t mean I don’t want my memories back.
“Everyone else okay?” I ask.
“Yeah, barely. Everyone is really shaken up right now.”
“Have you told Edgington?” He’s Godric’s adoptive dad and a lieutenant over at 78.
“Yeah, he was the first call I made.”
Russell took Godric off the street. He was the first person to give a shit about a kid who had been shipped around and treated like trash for most of his life. Godric wasn’t the easiest guy to get to know, but it was worth it.
I don’t want to attend another funeral. I really don’t want to attend one for my best friend. Goddamnit.
“I should let you get some rest,” he says.
I nod slightly. I don’t know what else to say. I want to tell him to send Godric in, but I can’t. That’s not going to work.
Quinn leaves and a few other guys come in to see for themselves how I’m doing. None of them stays long but it’s obvious they’re mourning Godric like I am. I know I’ll be out of the hospital in time for the funeral. I want to call Russ and tell him how sorry I am.
Sorry he lost Godric.
Sorry I couldn’t save him…
I don’t even know if I tried. I do know, thanks to Eggs, that he was taking an old lady out of the house when the second floor collapsed after a load bearing wall burned through. Godric was found because of a puppy on his chest that wouldn’t stop barking. The homeowner was in her eighties, had emphysema and lit a cigarette too close to her oxygen tank. It was a hoarder house to boot, so the place was a fucking deathtrap. I was knocked out by a falling, fully loaded bookshelf. The homeowner had a heart attack and died when she found out the fire department wouldn’t be able to save her junk.
Yes, because her worthless back issues of the local newspaper are worth more than another human life.
Later that night I try to convince Sookie to go home and get some sleep, but she’s not having it.
“I’m fine right here with you,” she tells me.
“It’s too loud here. Our bed is way more comfortable.” I’m going to have at least six weeks to lay around on it until the doc clears me for duty.
“It’s going to stay empty until you’re home. I’m not going anywhere, Eric,” she states firmly.
“You sound like Mom,” I tell her.
“I’ll take that as a compliment.” She takes a seat on the bed next to me. “A couple nights on a recliner isn’t the end of the world. I’m exactly where I need to be, babe.”
“Godric… Godric’s dead.” I’m sure she already knows. She probably knew before me.
“I know, baby,” she whispers. Sookie shifts on the bed so she’s lying next to me, curling her body around me the best she can.
I still don’t know what to say. It’s too new, I think.
“Did you tell Jessica?”
“Yeah,” she sniffles, but leaves it at that.
“Is she okay?” I don’t really know her. I know what Godric told me. He liked her. He was excited to see where things went. She was like a breath of fresh air to him with all of her standards and values. He didn’t see them as prissy or pretentious, but as someone who knew her worth and that, more than her appearance, made her sexy to him. He was a still waters kinda guy.
Talking about him in past tense is so not okay.
“I think she will be. She’s still in shock, just like the rest of us.”
“Are you okay?” My worst fear is that this is too much and she’ll leave.
Sookie tilts her head to rest on my chest so she’s looking up at me. “I will be. It’s quite a scare getting a call that your boyfriend is unconscious. It’s even worse knowing the fire took more than one life. I have you, though, so I’m going to hold on as tight as possible.”
“You’re going to have me for at least six weeks, you know? I might have to apply to be your sex slave,” I smile.
She gives me a weak smile and says, “No application needed, the job’s yours.”
“Are you sure? The bump on my head could have knocked out my mojo.”
“The fact that you’re already offering to be my sex slave tells me you still have it.” She rests her hand on my cock, making me twitch. “Yeah, you do.”
“Maybe it’s because your face is the last thing I remember and it was the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes.”
“Charmer,” she whispers, pushing up to give me a soft peck on the lips.
I want to tell her not to worry about me but I know it’s useless.
“I love you, babe,” I whisper.
“I love you too, more than anything,” she whispers back.
“More than double ovens?” I smile.
“Don’t push it, Mister,” she chuckles.
“I had to ask.”
“I know you’re worried this might be too much, but it’s not,” she assures me. “I wasn’t going anywhere, but I had a long talk with Mom and she gave me some good advice that helped, or will help in the future.”
I feel myself relax a little more. Knowing that makes dealing with all this much easier.
“I really love you, Sookie.”
“I know,” she smiles. “I really love you too.”
My eyes close again and Sookie settles on my chest. As I’m drifting off to sleep I’m pretty sure I say, “You’re all I need,” but I could be wrong. I’m definitely thinking it.