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Playing With Fire (Chapter 6) 
30th-Jun-2007 11:14 pm
Candle
Title: Playing with Fire
Author: Jules venus_fiction (previously known as saturnine_tears)
Rating: PG13
Genre: Romance/Action/Adventure
Summary: A fallen beam in a busy downtown office complex left firefighter Lindsay Doucette trapped inside the building with paramedic Jason Gardener’s little girl in her arms as flames erupted around the pair, threatening to take both of their lives...
Beta: Dani sirius_starr
Word Count: 4078
Notes: Click here for a chapter listing for my series! List of terms at the end of the chapter for the medical jargon I couldn't resist tossing in there.






Chapter 6

Jason walked down the hallway at the hospital, headed for the medical observation ward with a tray of coffees in one hand and a small box with some pastries from the café down the street in the other. He’d known from the moment he’s called ahead to talk to his sisters that morning and got an answering machine that they were sitting with Lindsay. He glanced down to his side where Faith was skipping along with him, carrying a bouquet of flowers for Lindsay and looking curiously around the hallways as they passed through them.

He was deep in thought as he wandered through the hallways with the practiced ease of someone who’d spent more than enough time walking them in the past. He was startled out of his reverie by a tugging on his trousers and a soft, bubbly voice. Pausing for a moment, Jason smiled and looked down at Faith who clung to his leg, pointing at an open door with a brightly colored hospital room beyond it.

“Daddy!” She said insistently. “Look! That’s the room where I was!”

“Yes it is,” Jason said warmly with a nod. “It’s a nice room.”

“Not as nice as my room,” Faith said with a grin.

“Definitely not,” he agreed. “Come now, we’re going to go visit Linz. Do you remember her?”

Faith’s eyes brightened immediately and she clapped her hands together, jumping up and down a couple of times in excitement.

“She’s the one that found me in the fire,” the girl recalled.

“That’s right,” Jason replied. “She helped you when you were hurt. Now she’s hurt and we’re going to go make her feel better.”

“Okay!” Faith said brightly.

With a nod they continued walking and Jason’s mind drifted back to Lindsay. He’d wanted to come and see her, but he hadn’t wanted to make it look like he was there just for her alone, so he figured that bringing his sisters coffee was as good an excuse as any to stop in and visit. He didn’t know whether Linz was up for any more company, especially his, but he figured that even so much as seeing her for a brief moment before she asked him to leave would be time enough to ensure that she was recovering.

That thought in mind, Jason headed towards the room the clerk at the admitting desk in the lobby had told him Linz was in, Faith in tow. The two of them reached it fairly quickly and paused just outside. Jason peeked his head around the corner and was met with the sight of Trish and Kyla sitting on either side of Lindsay’s bed, talking in hushed tones over her sleeping form. He smiled softly at the sight before him and stepped forward, lightly nudging Faith so that she’d follow him.

“Hey there you two,” he said quietly. “Please tell me you haven’t been here all night.”

“Okay then, we won’t tell you,” Trish said with a wry smile.

“I thought so,” he chuckled. “Which is why I brought sustenance.”

Jason stepped forward and held out the coffee and the pastries, handing them to Kyla. He glanced over at Faith, reaching out to take the flowers from her. He nodded towards Trish and Kyla and watched the grin consume Faith’s features as she launched herself at her aunties, hugging them each in turn.

As she whispered dramatically to them about the butterfly she’d chased around the lawn that morning and about the pretty flower her daddy had bought her when they were at the florist, Jason stepped away and picked up the empty vase on Lindsay’s bedside table, swiftly filling it with some water from the adjacent sink and placing the bouquet of brightly colored gerbera daisies inside of it. He approached the bed once again and set the flowers down on the table before stepping back to take in the sight before him.

He was as much oblivious to his sisters and his daughter as the three of them were to him. All he could focus on was Lindsay. She looked so peaceful, so vulnerable in her sleep. Her features were relaxed, her expression a calm one as her eyes fluttered beneath closed lids, painting some sort of dreamscape in her subconscious.

He noticed how pale she was, how drawn her features were in the harsh hospital lighting. He noticed the stark contrast of a large, deep purple bruise on the side of her face from where she’d struck the table at the restaurant on her way down when she’d fainted. Her hair was unkempt and the wires leading away from her body, hooked up to monitors tracking her progress, made her seem smaller than her usual six feet. It was distinctly unnatural and all Jason wanted to do at that moment was to take her fragile, angelic form in his arms and carry her away from it all.

A sudden giggle distracted him from his reverie and he glanced over at his sisters, noticing the smiles on their faces.

Great, Jason thought with an inward groan. They’ve noticed. There’ll be no living with them now.

“You’ve got that dreamy look on your face,” Kyla said pointedly. “Should we leave you two alone for a bit?”

“Oh stop it,” he said lightly. “I’m just concerned for her. I can’t help but feel partially responsible for all of this. If she hadn’t gone into that fire…”

He trailed off, not wanting to clue his sisters in to the fact that he felt guilty for what Lindsay was going through. It was the truth, though. If she hadn’t rushed into the fire to save Faith, she wouldn’t have gotten injured and she wouldn’t have suffered the critical incident stress she was having to cope with. He was more grateful than he could ever express for her having saved Faith, but at the same time he wished it could have been someone else. He hated seeing Lindsay so weak and vulnerable, and hated even more being somehow indirectly responsible for her condition.

Thankfully, neither of his sisters seemed to have caught on to where he was really going with anything, or if they had they decided to keep quiet. He sighed lightly and shook his head to clear his thoughts a little before focusing back on the scene before him.

“How has she been?” He asked. “Have the nurses told you anything? Did you talk to her doctor?”

“They gave her something to help her sleep through the night,” Trish replied. “She’s been fine. The nurses say she’s stable, anyway. I’m not entirely sure that equates to fine, but you get the picture.”

Jason nodded lightly and took a moment to glance around at the monitoring equipment that sat beside the bed. Everything looked like it was within normal limits, but that was only half of the story. The other half would have to come from Lindsay whenever it was she decided to rejoin them in full consciousness.

At that moment, a soft, almost inaudible groan echoed throughout the room and Jason’s head snapped down to where Lindsay lay in her bed, her features having gone from relaxed to furrowed with something akin to confusion. He stepped forward and rested his hands on the rail which was raised at the side of the bed, looking down at her as she turned her head from one side to the other before finally becoming still once more and slowly opening her eyes.

“Good morning, Linz,” he said softly. “How are you feeling?”

Lindsay simply groaned at first, but managed a few hoarse words soon thereafter.

“I think I’m having a nightmare,” she said groggily.

“Nope, sorry, I’m afraid this is as real as it gets,” he said with a chuckle. “Come on now, how are you doing?”

“Fine,” she replied sleepily. “I’m thirsty.”

“I’ll get you a glass of water,” Kyla piped up from her bedside.

Lindsay nodded and slowly let her gaze drift to Jason, meeting his eyes.

“I thought your job was only to get your patients to the hospital,” she said lightly. “Not to follow up on their progress. Are you playing the naughty nurse to my bad girl patient now?”

God, the woman could be irritating. Jason just rolled his eyes and gave an exasperated sigh. He sidestepped Kyla to move a bit closer to the head of the bed as she brought back the promised glass of water, setting it on the bedside table before stepping back.

“I came to see them,” he said with a nod over at his sisters. “And brought someone who wanted to say hi.”

As he spoke, Jason unlocked the rail at the side of the bed and pushed it down, motioning for Faith to climb up. He watched her do so, helping her get herself up and stepping back while she took a moment to chat with Lindsay.

“Hi,” Faith said quietly, shyness evident in her voice.

“Hey there,” Lindsay replied with a tired smile. “You’re looking better.”

“Daddy took good care of me,” she said a little more enthusiastically. “Maybe he can take care of you and make you feel better too.”

Jason groaned inwardly and watched as Trish and Kyla exchanged amused glances. He looked back over to Lindsay and noticed the teasing smile that had come to touch her lips, replacing the tired one from moments before.

“Your daddy already helped take care of me yesterday when I first got sick,” Linz explained. “Now all of the nurses are taking good care of me. Your daddy’s busy with his work and taking care of you.”

Faith seemed to think it over a bit before nodding, a serious look crossing her elfin features.

“We brought you flowers!” The girl exclaimed brightly.

“I see that,” Lindsay replied with a chuckle.

Jason watched her as she reached out to lightly ruffle the petals of one of the daisies. Even though she was as stubborn as ever, he could see the subtle appreciation in her eyes. It shone even through the vulnerability and hollowness that had taken up residence in them ever since the day of the fire. He only hoped that one day those things would once again be replaced by the usual enthusiastic sparkle that he’d gotten so used to seeing there over the past few years.

He shrugged off his straying thoughts and focused on Lindsay and Faith once again, watching his daughter reach out curiously to touch the thin gray cord that trailed from the pulse oximeter that was attached to Lindsay’s fingertip. He’d told her during her own hospital stay what everything was for, but he figured that seeing it on someone else brought new luster to everything. Faith was very much her father’s daughter; just as inquisitive as he’d always been.

Lindsay’s voice drew him out of his reverie and he watched as she pulled her hand back, glancing over at Faith once again.

“Thank you,” she said softly with a quick glance over at Jason. “They’re beautiful.”

“Alright,” Trish’s voice interrupted. “I think it’s time for some ice cream. Come on, Faith, you can visit Linz again later!”

Faith’s eyes widened at the prospect of ice cream and she grinned from ear to ear, eagerly hopping down from Lindsay’s bedside and rushing towards her aunts. She reached up and took hold of one of each of their hands, dragging them towards the door. The two sisters giggled and exchanged glances before looking back over at Jason and Lindsay.

“We’ll be back in a little bit,” Kyla said brightly. “You two behave yourselves, now, you hear?”

With that the three girls turned and were gone before either Jason or Lindsay could get a single word in. The two of them were motionless in awkward silence for a long moment before they finally allowed their gazes to meet.

Jason sighed softly and slowly approached Lindsay’s bed, settling himself into the chair which Trish had occupied only minutes before. He looked into Lindsay’s eyes and noticed quickly that the walls were up again. He wished that she would let him in, but he knew it wasn’t going to be nearly that easy. He’d have to work to get her to open up, let alone to let him in. He was willing to work for it, however. After all, he did feel partially responsible for what had happened and he wanted to be there for her while she recovered, perhaps even longer.

Shaking off his thoughts, Jason cleared his throat to speak.

“How’d you sleep?” He asked softly.

“Well enough,” Lindsay replied. “Better than I have been sleeping lately, anyway. Maybe this whole thing is some blessing in disguise.”

“I wouldn’t call it that,” Jason said, pursing his lips in concern. “You need to keep on top of these things, Linz. You could get seriously hurt.”

He was going to say it. With a woman like Lindsay Doucette, he needed to be blunt. Beating around the bush wasn’t going to get him anywhere. She was a lady who liked the truth, and he’d go right out and give it to her before she could say a single word.

“You’re suffering from some critical incident stress, Linz,” Jason began. “You need to talk to someone about it. Have you mentioned any of this to the doctor?”

He could tell that he’d hit a nerve by the way she glanced away almost nervously, her lips thinning into a severe line for a moment before she could gather her thoughts in order.

“It isn’t anything worth mentioning,” she said with a shrug.

So she wanted to be argumentative. He could handle that.

“It’s already psychosomatically manifested itself,” Jason argued. “You can’t let it get any worse. It’s okay to admit that you need help.”

“I don’t need help!” Lindsay spat.

“Why are you so adamant about your being alright after all that’s happened?” Jason asked softly. “It’s a lot to deal with. You could have died in that fire. You saw a piece of our heritage being destroyed from the inside out by that blaze. It’s impacted a lot of people, and its hit hard. Men twice as strong as you aren’t being half as stubborn about admitting they need some time off and some help dealing with it all.”

Jason was amazed by the fact that Lindsay was silent. He’d expected a violent comeback as soon as he was finished, but it didn’t come. For a few long, painfully uncomfortable seconds, Lindsay simply turned her gaze downward and fiddled absentmindedly with a corner of her blanket. He waited a few more seconds, still hoping for a response, but none came.

Moving closer, Jason reached out, impulsively tracing his fingertips gently over the periphery of the dark purple bruise which had formed on her cheek and had clawed its way up into her hairline. He felt her shiver when he did so and pulled back swiftly, hoping he hadn’t hurt her.

She shivered again and Jason’s eyebrows furrowed concernedly. Leaning closer still he realized that she wasn’t shivering but rather shaking with what looked like silent sobs. The tears that were streaming down her cheeks, tears he hadn’t noticed since she’d turned away, were evidence of that.

Impulsively, Jason found himself reaching out once more to take Lindsay’s face in his hands. He stood from where he sat in his chair and moved closer, settling himself on the side of her bed so that if she completely broke down, he was near enough to take her in his arms and tell her that things were going to be okay. She might not believe him in the long run, but he would do it anyway because it was something she needed to hear and needed to take to heart.
“It’ll be okay, Linz,” he said softly. “I know it doesn’t seem like that right now, but you just need some time. You need to let me help you. You need to let us all help you. We all want you to be okay again just as much as you do. We all want you to be back out there and fighting fires with the rest of the boys as soon as is reasonable, but you can’t do it on your own. Please listen to me, Linz. Let me help you. You’ll be okay again in no time.”

Silence permeated the ambient air once again and Jason was beginning to think that he wasn’t ever going to get through to Lindsay when she looked up at him slowly, tears shining in her eyes. She reached up with a shaky hand to wipe them away and took a long, shaky breath. Jason gave her a moment to collect herself, gently stroking her cheek with his thumb.

“What if I’m not okay?” She asked helplessly. “What if I don’t recover? Or what if I do but I decide I don’t want to be a firefighter anymore, Jase? What then? It’s all I’ve ever dreamed of being. I don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t go back to it.”

“I know you well enough to confidently be able to say that with your stubbornness and determination, you’ll get back to it no matter what,” Jason comforted. “You’re a very passionate person. I know how much you love what you do and I know that nothing could ever stop you from doing it.”

He knew that she was having trouble believing him, but it was only because she was so distraught by the events of the past week. He knew that if he gave her some time to think about it, gave the words some time to sink in, that she’d believe him. At least he hoped she would.

“But I don’t want to have to go back,” Lindsay said thickly, tears choking her once more. “I want to keep doing it. I can’t just take time off. I can’t let go like that.”

“You know that the entire department can see what’s going on,” Jason said quietly. “They’ve all seen it before, if they haven’t each personally experienced it to some degree. You’re no less of a woman for having to take some time to sort things out. They’re not blind, Linz, nor do they want you to suffer, or to quit. You’re a part of the team, they need you, but you can’t work up to your full potential in this condition. You’re putting your own life and the lives of your crew mates in danger. They all see that. The chief sees it. If you don’t step up and take some time off for yourself to clear things up, Martelli’s going to make you take time off. I know you, Linz. I know how much you need control, and by taking initiative and taking some time off on your own terms you can retain that control. Don’t let Martelli take it away from you.”

Jason knew he’d struck a chord within her when the heaving of her chest eased a little and the tears seemed to slow a little. He knew she was a woman who liked her control and being given that might have been just what she needed.

He gave her a few moments to collect herself, his hand slipping down from her cheek to rest on her shoulder, giving it a comforting squeeze. Linz leaned into him slowly, apparently accepting the gesture of reassurance, and for that he was glad. He slowly took his hand away from where it was resting on her shoulder, wrapping an arm around her instead to pull her closer still and hold her while she thought on what to do.

Glancing down at her, Jason could see that she was opening up. Granted, it was probably only temporary, but it was better than nothing and he appreciated it all the same.




Lindsay never thought she would find herself in Jason’s arms, let alone a second time in as many days. She sighed softly, closing her eyes and deciding that while she was there and being held, she might as well take advantage of the comfort he was offering her. She hadn’t had anyone there to hold her like that in a long time and she missed it on occasion, especially in particularly difficult times like the one she was experiencing at that time. Sure, it was great having friends like Trish and Kyla around, but there was something distinctly more reassuring about having a man there to hold her and tell her everything was going to be okay. Besides, she couldn’t find it in herself to be strong and argue with him anymore.

He’d hit the nail on the head when he’d brought up the control issue. She was fiercely independent and had always been in control of her life and her emotions. It was difficult enough losing control of her feelings and Jason’s mention of the chief forcing her to take some time off to recover being another loss of control was almost unbearable.

Begrudgingly, Lindsay silently admitted that he was right and that she needed to step up and take initiative if she ever wanted to be alright again. She did love what she did, and she knew she’d get back into it someday. One day. Hopefully sometime in the near future. She knew she couldn’t stand to be away from it for long. If she was, she’d grow fearful of going to a call one day and being faced with something similar, something that would finish her career for good. If she grew fearful, she’d never go back. She couldn’t afford to be scared; she loved firefighting too much for that.

At that moment she decided that it was time for her to get it together. She knew she needed to ask for help, needed to let someone help her, and she figured that someone might as well be Jason. He seemed to understand what she was going through, seemed to care. Maybe he wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe she was just jaded and used to too many medics pushing her around and not giving her the benefit of the doubt on their turf. Maybe he wasn’t the stereotypical EMS alpha male shark. Maybe it was her turn to give him the benefit of the doubt.

With a long, deep sigh, Lindsay pulled back just enough to look up and meet Jason’s gaze, reaching up once more to wipe the last of her tears away.

“Okay,” she said quietly. “You’re right.”

She watched as he relaxed his features a little, giving her an understanding nod and gently embracing her for a moment longer before letting her go, settling for simply holding her hand since she’d settled down. He was silent, she noticed, waiting for her to speak.

“What happened that day bothered me, and it hasn’t gotten any easier to deal with,” Lindsay continued lightly. “It’s only been a few days, but I know it won’t get any better even if I give it more time. It might get worse. I need help. I want your help. I don’t know why I suddenly feel like I trust you, like I need you, but I do. I’m not the type to trust just anyone, so I know that some part of me must know that you understand, and I’m willing to go with that. I’m going to call the chief later, book some time off, and I’m going to do whatever I need to do to work this out.”

A silence, distinctly more comfortable than the last one, hung in the air between them for a moment before Jason broke it.

“I knew you’d come around,” he said softly. “I’m glad. I’ll help you, Linz. You’ll get through this and you’ll be a better firefighter for it.”

“Thank you,” Lindsay said, closing her eyes and swallowing thickly to hold back a fresh wave of tears.

She was amazed that after all she’d said to him in the past, that after all she’d done, he was still willing to be there for her. At that moment she knew she’d been right to think he wasn’t like the other guys. He had a heart of gold, and she planned on giving him the credit he deserved for it. She would let him help her because at that point she knew he could.

Things were going to be very different from then on; for both of them.




Terms

Pulse Oximeter: a monitor that attaches to one’s fingertip (or earlobe) to measure oxygen saturation in the blood.
Psychosomatically: a psychosomatic manifestation of something means that physical symptoms of a mental process are being exhibited. For example: stress may manifest as a rapid heart rate, palpitations or headache. Lindsay’s critical incident stress manifested itself as a fainting spell.






Cross-posted.

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