A Hero in Yellow Ch. 06bytaylorreed©
I have to say a little something first. I don't usually let silly little comments like the last negative one bother me but that's a real person you're talking about. Someone who puts their life on the line every day so dick heads like you can walk around safe. So next time you want to put something down, think twice and act like a decent human being.
Ok..I'll get off my soapbox now! I think this will be the last chapter but not sure. You'll just have to read and see!
I don't know how long I sat there on the floor with Taylor holding me but I think I was waiting to wake up and for it all to be just a nightmare. I realized that I didn't know if Shawn had any family. We hadn't ever talked about them so I guess I just assumed he didn't have any. Taylor assured me that his Captain would take care of informing his next of kin.
Mike came over and scooped me off the floor and placed me in a waiting chair. I had to steel my heart against loosing Shawn. I wouldn't let myself totally loose control and bring on any public embarrassment. Shaking my head at my own stupidity I couldn't believe I was still holding on to my old ways. What was wrong with freaking out? I certainly had every right to! The one person whom I let all my guard down for was lying in ICU and would quite possibly die and here I was worried about making a fool of myself!
I felt a hand on my shoulder and looked up. It was Captain Whalen. "He's going to be ok you know. He's been in plenty of scrapes before, although never quite like this. He's always managed to fight his way back so don't give up hope son. Give him some credit." I could see the tears starting to well in his eyes and had the feeling that he didn't believe his own speech. "I need to go be with the other families but you have my number if you need anything and I've told them to keep me posted with updates." I nodded my understanding and managed a weak smile as he moved quietly away.
It was so quiet and most of the other firemen had gone..Home to their families I guessed but some from Shawn's unit refused to leave for which I was very grateful. They were still black from the fire and a nurse came over with some scrubs for them to change into and ushered them off to clean up. Mike and Taylor sat close together holding hands and I longed to touch Shawn like that. "Anthony." Taylor nudged my arm. A nurse appeared and asked, "Are you Anthony?" I nodded yes. "Mr. Hughes is starting to wake a little and is asking for you." I jumped up immediately and started towards the door to the ICU. The nurse grabbed at my arm to slow me down. "Wait. I need to talk with you first. He looks...different from what you may expect. There are tubes and machines to monitor his heart and breathing plus his chest and torso are badly burnt so there are a lot of bandages. He will be able to hear you so talk to him and you can also hold his hand."
I swallowed hard and willed my legs to keep moving. Taylor and Mike were right there beside me. "Do you want us with you?" I looked at them both. I was so incredibly lucky to have them in my life. "No. I think I can do this. But could you wait around for a while?" I turned and followed the nurse in and tried hard not to look at the other patients. There were no walls only curtains and families were sitting around bedsides holding hands and some were weeping. They looked at me as I walked past. I saw sorrow and a certain kind of kinship in their glances. We were the chosen ones. The ones who had to sit and wait and pray that it would all work out ok but not quite believing that it would.
My breath caught in my throat and came out as a sob when the nurse led me over to Shawn. As big as he was, he looked so frail in that bed. His chest and stomach were covered in bandages and the nurse was right about all the tubes and monitors. "God give me strength." I whispered. I sat on the hard chair and took Shawn's hand in mine. It was ice cold and lifeless.
I only just managed not to scream out my despair and rage that life was so bloody unfair! I looked into his face, silently begging him to wake. His face was swollen and bruised but still so beautiful to me. One eye fluttered open just a little. A very small groan escaped Shawn's lips. The hand that I had been nearly crushing came to life and squeezed back. Maybe his injuries weren't as bad as they thought? I held onto the small scrap of optimism I had left.
I lifted his hand to my lips and kissed the knuckles. Standing slowly I lent in so he could see I was here. "Hey there baby. I'm here and everything is going to be ok." I winced at the lie. Well as far as I knew it was going to be ok! Shawn squeezed my hand again in what I hoped was understanding and drifted off. A nurse stopped by to top up his pain drugs and checked his dressings. Some had started to ooze a little and she mentioned she would come back with new ones. "Anthony?" I looked around and saw Taylor and Mike hovering near by. "We're going to get some coffee and I'll run back to the apartment real quick and grab some of my clothes for you to change into." Not waiting for a reply they left as quietly as they came. I guess Taylor knew I wouldn't be going anywhere soon and he was right!
They would have to drag me out kicking and screaming. As long as Shawn was here then I was too!
I laid my head on the bed and held his hand tightly. I let my mind wander off to our future together and all the things we still had left to do. It was then I made a deal with the Big Guy. Still keeping my head down I began to talk quietly. "Ok here's the deal. If you want someone then take me. I know that Shawn's no angel but he's certainly been more useful to have around than me. See here's the thing. I love this man more than any other person I have ever known so please, I'm begging you take me instead." I let myself cry then too.
It was hard not to regret the time I had wasted hiding my heart from love. If I had been more open to the possibility then maybe Shawn and I would have met sooner. I knew it was a silly pointless game but I felt the need to torture myself. I needed to feel some pain too.
I didn't hear the guys come back but I felt someone touch my back and rub my shoulders. Taylor bent down to whisper in my ear. "Will you be ok if we go? I have a shift in a couple of hours and I need to try and sleep. I will come back as soon as it's over."
I knew Taylor was agonizing over leaving me but I also knew he had patients counting on him to do his job. I stood and wrapped both of them in a hug. I felt the tears coming again. "Thank you for everything you guys. I love you." My voice went hoarse with emotion. They hugged me and left. I felt so drained and my eyes were grainy from exhaustion.
I resumed my post in the hard uncomfortable chair and let myself drift away. I jerked a little as a wailing sound seeped into my dreams. It took a few minutes but I managed to wake up enough to remember where I was. Someone had slid my chair away from Shawn's bed and propped me against the wall. It was Shawn making that horrible sound!
I leapt to my feet to see what it was they were doing to him. One nurse stepped in to stop me from coming closer. In spite of the pain medication they gave him, changing the dressings must have hurt like hell! Every time they peeled away a bandage, a sheet of dead skin went with it. The smell was appalling and I felt my stomach heave. They cleaned the entire area with sterilized water and laid clean dressings on the burnt skin. I wanted so badly to stay but I also wanted to throw up. I ran down the corridor to the nearest bathroom and emptied what was left in my stomach from lunch earlier that day.
Splashing cold water on my face I looked at myself in the mirror. "Stop being such a baby dammit! Shawn's hurting and probably scared to death and he needs you!" I muttered angrily. Finding courage inside somewhere I made my way back to the ICU.
Before I went inside I cornered a nurse. I wanted some answers. She was going to give me that "I can only talk to immediate family" bullshit but the look I gave her froze those words in her throat. I wanted to know just how bad things really were. She told me that most of the burns were bad but not full thickness, which was good news. However he still could die from infection or shock. His back was another matter. They needed to wait until some swelling went down to run more tests but if they were correct with their diagnosis his spinal cord had been severed just above his tail bone. This meant paralysis from the waist down.
I think I said something but I couldn't tell you what it was. Most of her words came out like the teacher in Charley Brown...Whah Whah Whah. Everything went kind of fuzzy and lost some color. The nurse guided me to chair and I sat heavily because my legs wouldn't stop shaking. My God! This is going to devastate Shawn! Being a fireman is all he's ever done. It was his passion and now it's been cruelly ripped away. The nurse retreated and left me to my thoughts.
I rose unsteadily and went back to my vigil over Shawn. They could be wrong! Doctors made mistakes all the time my mind reasoned. I wasn't prepared to give in just yet. And if it was true then Shawn was going to need me more than ever and I was not going to let him down!
Fast forward about a week*
I rounded the corner of the ICU ward and heard a sound that was music to my ears. Shawn laughing groggily with Taylor and Mike. I grinned and wanted to dance with joy. It had been a little over a week since the accident and Shawn was recovering well from his burns. He would need several skin grafts and would always have scars but I teased him and said it would only add to his rugged good looks! The doctors hadn't discussed the prognosis of his back yet because they wanted him to be strong enough to cope with the news. The swelling had subsided somewhat and the scans and MRI had indeed shown us that his spinal cord had been severed beyond repair. So there it was. The end of his career. He was still drugged to the gills and lying flat on his back so he hadn't even mentioned his legs something which I was very grateful for. I knew if he had asked me if something was wrong I would have told him. He knows every time if I'm telling a whopper.
Just before I got to his bed, his doctor caught up with me and drew me side. "It's been over a week now and he seems to be doing very well. Anthony we really need to tell him the truth about his condition. He's becoming more aware every day and it's only a matter of time before he guesses something is not right."
As much as I didn't want this day to arrive I knew the Doctor was right. Shawn may have been high on pain pills but he certainly wasn't an idiot. And it was so hard to skate around the issue. I had been waiting for one of us to slip up and mention his back so this way it would be out in the open and we could finally deal with the aftermath.
I followed him into Shawn's little cubicle and glanced at the boys. I shook my head ever so slightly and they both read the look on my face. This was it. We all moved closer around the bed and I took Shawn's hand. Shawn's eyes traveled from face to face. I looked to the Doctor for guidance as to how to proceed and he took charge of the situation. "Shawn. Do you feel up to telling me what happened in that building?"
I wanted to step in on Shawn's behalf and protect him because I knew that he was being led towards a cliff and we were the ones that would push him over.
Shawn's face creased in concentration as he struggled to remember what happened that day. He began quietly, his words coming slowly because of the pain meds. "It's all kind of fuzzy but I remember the apartment building was on fire at the fifth floor. It was well on the way when we arrived. I went up with Jack and Marty and we started to clear debris and check for survivors. The next thing I know the windows blow out and something fell on me and Jack and Marty disappeared through the floor. Wait, where are they? Did they make it?" We all looked at each other. No one said a word. Shawn's face crumpled and he began to cry. I looked hard at the Doctor, willing him to read my mind and put this whole thing off for another day. He saw me looking but ignored me. I bent and took Shawn's face in my hands. "Please don't cry baby." I begged. "I know you're hurting but you're alive. Try and hold onto that ok?" I kissed his bruised cheeks.
"Shawn, I need you to hear me now." The Doctor started. Oh God, I thought. Here we go. "We are guessing that the "thing" that fell on you was actually part of a wall. We found particles of plaster buried in your skin. You have probably realized that you were burnt on your chest and torso. They aren't full thickness but most are bad enough to require extensive skin grafts."
Shawn's eyes widened as he took everything in. I squeezed his hand tightly against my chest. I knew what was coming. "I have some more news to tell you," the Doctor began again. "We have done several MRI scans on your back and I can say with 100% certainty that your spinal column has been severed in your lower half. This means that you are paralyzed from the waist down."
You could have heard a pin drop. No one moved or said anything. We were all waiting for Shawn's reaction. "Do you have any questions I can answer for you? I know this is devastating news but at least you survived. Two of your unit members did not." The Doctor waited for a minute then turned to go. "Please let me know if there is anything you need. There's more to discuss but I think I've given you more than enough to think about for now." And with that, he left.
Still, no reaction from Shawn. Was this normal? I mean this is the first time I've been around when someone was told they would be in a wheelchair for the rest of their lives but he was being way too calm. Then everything went to hell. He sat upright and in seconds had ripped his IV's out screaming at us to "fuck off" and "go to hell."
"We need some help in here." I screamed and tried hard along with Taylor and Mike to hold Shawn still so he wouldn't do himself more damage. Anger and shock had made him so strong and he tried desperately to get out of bed. Two orderlies and the same Doctor came running in. Shawn yelled and screamed at us as the Doctor gave him a sedative. It took effect quickly because I felt him go slack in my arms and his eyes glazed over.
"You need to leave me alone. Get out of here." His words stabbed at my heart. I had no idea what he was going through and I knew he didn't mean it but it hurt all the same. Tears streamed down his cheeks as he slowly went under and then sleep finally took over. The room looked like it had been hit by a tornado.
Antibiotic solution still dripped from the IV that Shawn had torn out, all the leads from the monitors hung uselessly from the machines and his chest and stomach leaked bloody fluid. The Doctor ushered us from the room. "You need to leave for a while and let us get him cleaned up. I'll keep him knocked out for a while now so his body can rest."
He left us in the corridor. I didn't want to leave but I felt like I was going to fall over. I wasn't going to be of any use to Shawn if I was a zombie. So I let the boys convince me to go home with them. Looking in on Shawn once more we left to go home.
In the taxi all of the events of the last few days hit me all at once and I sobbed like a baby. Taylor instantly wrapped me up in his arms and held me tightly against his chest. "It's ok Hun. You just go ahead and cry. When Shawn comes home, you'll just have to think of a new normal that's all."
I realized the truth of Taylor's words. He was right. Our lives would still be just that, ours but we would have to learn to think outside the box. All I could was that Shawn didn't give up on us and let his anger and hurt overwhelm him into thinking that it just wasn't worth it.
That's it for now. Sorry it's taken so long to get this chapter to you all but my schedule has been crazy.
I hope this one doesn't disappoint. Oh and to those of you, who emailed me and asked that I finish Wishful Thinking, I am going
to give it a try. That's going to be quite a long story too.