Ray Connor never considered himself a lonely man until he found himself lying in a hospital bed from smoke inhalation. As a firefighter he had never come this close to his own demise. It left him bereft to an extent. He'd almost suffocated from that fire, and it had taken everything out of him. He'd never been sick in his life, that he knew of, except for having the measles and chicken pox. But today, he felt lonely, he wished someone would come and see him. His siblings all worked and wouldn't be available until much later in the day. His sister had called him and reassured him she'd be by. But this was a different kind of loneliness.
He had an on and off girlfriend, but it wasn't her he wanted to see so badly. Oddly enough it was his working partner, Kelly Price, because she was the one that saved him. He felt awkward, he knew the guys from the fire station would tease him, being saved by a woman, but he really was grateful that they both made it out alive. He couldn't believe Kelly had been strong enough to pull him out of that fire. Heavy beams from the roof were crowding his mind. They could have both been killed.
He had to admit it was embarrassing to be saved by a woman, but he was also grateful.
"Hey, you're awake, how are you doing Sleeping Beauty?" Kelly smiled brightly, as she set the flowers on the shelf in his room and came up to his bedside. She put her warm hand on his arm and smiled at him. That warm hand melted something inside his heart, and he couldn’t' explain it.
Ray's glance slid all over her as she came close, he could almost smell that delicate perfume she wore every day, and she was dolled up too. God, he wished she wouldn't doll up, she certainly didn't have to for him. His libido was always stirred when he was around her, and it was that constant attraction he fought so very hard not to acknowledge. She was still wearing pants, but she had a pretty white blouse on that showed her cleavage and black dress pants with what looked like heels. He wondered where she'd been, or where she was going.
Ray had ignored how her touches and smiles affected him before, but now somehow things had changed. He couldn't define what kind of change, but he suddenly felt differently about Kelly. Saving him, he felt there had been more during that fire than he could possibly explain. In that overheated building she pulled him from they'd bonded in those few minutes. But he couldn't quite put his finger on why it had been so intense. He tried to remember the scene, and how it played out, but all he knew was that something had happened. Something very important.
"I'm fine," he blushed profusely and tried to smile.
"I guess you know you scared the wits out of me, don't you?" She chuckled.
That was Kelly, keeping it light hearted.
He stared for a moment, "Sorry. It wasn't intentional."
For only a split second, her face went serious, but she soon wiped that away and smiled again. He saw it in her face, for the briefest of moments. She knew things had changed too. He couldn't explain it to her or to himself.
"I'm just glad you are alright." Her voice lowered to a whisper now.
"Thanks to you," he sighed a bit too hard, and she stared at him now.
Their eyes met.
"Okay out with it, Ray. I know you hate the idea of being saved by a woman. But I was there, and you were in danger. I had to act. It's my job. Besides, you'd have done the same if it had been me," she quickly informed him.
"Yeah," he tried to laugh. "It couldn't have been easy for you, though. I'm not exactly a light weight."
"Easier than it was for you at the time. You scared the daylights out of me. I mean I thought you were gone. I honestly did. You'd somehow lost your helmet. If you'd been there a little longer, you wouldn't be smiling now. So, how do you feel?"
"I'm alright, having to use one of those nebulizers three times a day, and wear this oxygen thing, but my lungs are clearing out now, last report I had. Hey, you don't have to come up here every day, I'm okay, really. Although it sure makes my day when you do."
Another look passed between them.
"Good, how soon you gonna be back to work?" She asked taking a chair at the side of his bed, and not looking directly at him.
"A few days. Miss me?" He asked.
"Of course, I do, I'm working with Chuck right now and he's as grouchy as you used to be when I first became your backup."
He chuckled at that. "Tell Chuck to grin and bear it."
"Is that what you do?" Her brow shot upward.
"I used to." His words trailed off.
She shook her head with disgust. "What's the big deal, so I'm a female, what's so hard to get used to?" She frowned now. "You're not so alpha male you can't get over a woman saving you, are you?"
"If you were old an ugly, I might have gotten used to you sooner. But you are young and beautiful, it's a little hard to see you as a man." He grumbled and moved his arm so the IV wouldn't tangle.
"You think I'm beautiful?" She gasped.
"You know you are," he laughed.
"Never heard you say it, though." For only a split second their eyes met, but she quickly distracted herself.
He extended his hand toward her, she clasped it, but when she heard a noise she let go. Just then a young vibrant woman with long brown hair and big brown eyes came in, dusted his lips with a kiss and waved at Kelly.
Ray smiled obviously loving the attention of two women at once.
"How's my fella?" she cooed, bending over him, and letting Kelly know exactly who she was.
"I'm fine. Why aren't you at work Debra?"
"I'm on lunch. I thought I'd swing by and see if I could bring you something to eat later. What a question to ask."
"Oh, that sounds good, pick up some chicken later, will ya?" Ray told her.
"Chicken!" she exclaimed. "I was thinking more along the lines of sushi."
"You know better than that, I don't eat that crap." Ray hollered.
"Have I introduced you to Kelly before?" Ray asked glancing at Kelly.
"Yeah, I met her at the Fireman's ball last year. Well, look, I can't stay, but I'll bring you some fried chicken this evening." She promised.
"Great," he smiled, and she kissed his lips once more before she left. On a hind thought she turned at the door and stared at Kelly, "Nice seeing you again."
"Yeah, same here." Kelly responded trying to sound flippant as she had.
Kelly had folded her legs under her in the big, wide chair and gotten comfortable. She'd brought both of them a cold drink and she dug them out of the sack on the floor beside her.
"Oh, you remembered. Dr. Pepper, huh?"
"So, you off today?" He asked.
"Yeah, and tomorrow."
"What day is it?"
"Friday. You lost track of time I see."
"What day did they drag me in here?"
He nodded. He remembered the fire alarm going off, getting into the firetruck with Kelly and Ted. He barely remembered seeing the building going up in flames. It was a rare thing to see a multi-story building burning like that, and all three of them stared like they couldn't believe it, then Ted called for backup.
There were shouted orders, and men going every which way, and people standing around watching like it was a circus. As Ray and Kelly got their equipment and headed for the front door, they slid on their oxygen protective gear. They found the bottom floor taking in smoke, but the flames hadn't reached that floor yet so they moved forward slowly. They'd gone up the stairwell to the second floor, it was just taking flames in, and using their hoses they began trying to snuff the fire, but it had reached the second floor quickly, and they knew the fire must have started on the third or fourth floor. It was walking through the third floor when they thought they had it secure when a beam from the ceiling hit Ray in the head and knocked his helmet off, and he lay there for several minutes as Kelly went on ahead to secure the next floor. When Ray didn't join her, she went back down and found him laying on the floor, not moving, and barely breathing. He couldn't remember much else.
"Just so you know, the other guys that are off are coming too. They stopped to get you a Whataburger." She said watching his face.
"You are kidding They know how I love Whataburgers."
"Yeah all of us do, they'll be here any minute."
"Glad you got the drinks." He winked. "Glad I could thank you before they all pile in here and start a laugh-in."
"You don't have to thank me, it was my job. So cut the crap will you?"
"I know, but I feel indebted to you. And if Debra really cared, she should have too."
"The last thing I want is you indebted to me."
She relaxed in the chair, took a sip of her drink and leaned back. "They gave you a private room, huh?"
"Yeah, say…do you know how long I was out?"
"All that night, they gave you something to help you rest, put oxygen on you and I don't know what else, they were very busy with you for a while. I think they took some x-rays."
"I've never been in a hospital, except when I was born."
She looked at him squarely, "You are kidding?"
"Nope. First time. And I've decided hopefully my last. It's lonesome in here."
She giggled. "You have that big family, and a girlfriend, how could you be lonesome?"
He looked at her, "I've missed everyone from the station."
"Just be thankful you're alright. You sure gave me a scare."
"Sorry, I didn't mean to. So, tell me, how the hell did you get me out of there?"
"I don't know how, you don't do much thinking when you have a situation like that. I'm sure you already know that, though. But I'll admit, you are so much heavier than I thought. But I managed to drag you most the way, then Ted found us and together we managed, just before everything collapsed." She told him. "I wasn't sure we were going to make it. Part of a beam fell in front of the exit door and I had a time getting it open. Ted came up though and with his help I managed to drag you to safety."
"So, I guess I owe you and Ted!"
"Of course, you don't, you big ape. If it had been me, you'd have done the same. Ted and I just did our jobs."
"Kind of embarrassing that a woman had to save me, though."
"So, get over it. Why, what difference does it make?" She challenged.
"A lot, if you are a man. The guys will rib me forever now."
She laughed. "That's your misfortune."
"Well don’t look so pleased about it." He put on a fake pout.
"So, when are you getting married?" She asked out of the blue.
He stared at her for a long moment.
"Married? Who said anything about marriage?"
"You've been going with that girl a while now. Don't you think it's about time you thought about it?" She offered.
"No, I do not!"
"Well, I bet she does."
He shot her an arrogant glance. "Say did you come here to fight with me or what?" He shot her a flirtatious smile.
"At least fighting gets your blood to pumping." She informed him. She got up and walked to the window, so she could see the nurses station. "I like this place. It doesn't smell like a hospital. It just smells clean."
"Well come here, you can have the bed, and I'll take the chair." He chuckled.
"That's okay, the boys are here, I want my chair back." She sat down once more.
That's when Ted, Calvin, Donnie, and Mark came in with a load of food, and smiled.
"Hey there, you look a lot better." They all chimed and handed him his food.
Ray stared at all of them. He was glad to see them and Kelly noticed with a smile.
Ted was a slim and fit man, but he was older than everyone else. Calvin was totally out of shape these days and working out everyday to get the extra pounds off. Donnie was a young kid greener than Kelly about his work. And Mark was the playboy of them all, he dated every girl he ran into, Ray was sure of it, except maybe Kelly. Kelly didn't date any of the guys. He had wondered about that many times. She was certainly a looker.
Ray sat up and smiled at all of them. "Took you guys long enough to get here, she's been talking hamburgers for a half hour now."
Laughter floated around the room as the guys razed him about being rescued by Kelly. He took it in his stride, but she saw him grip the mattress a time or two.
"Well, I should go," Kelly stood up and started for the door.
"Leaving so soon?" Ray asked with a frown.
"Yeah, I got stuff to do." She informed him.
"Hey," He looked straight at her now, "Thanks…"
She smiled and waved them all goodbye.
"Must have a date or something, she was all dolled up." Calvin remarked.
"Is she dating someone?" Ray asked.
"Yeah, his name is Charlie Rippo and he's a pretty rough guy." Ted informed them. "I don't know what the hell she sees in him."
"What do you mean, rough?" Ray asked
"He was in jail for beating his ex." Ted explained.
"How'd she get mixed up with him?" Ray rasped.
"He stopped to fix her flat tire one night in the rain and I guess that impressed her. She started seeing him then."
"Doesn't she know better than to run around with a no accounts?" Ray protested.
"She's a grown woman and can make up her own mind." Mark chimed in.
"She's one of us now, and I don't want to see her get hurt." Ray informed them, his voice raising a bit.
"Just how close are you two?" Donnie asked with a laugh.
"Hell, she saved my life Donnie, what do you expect, man?" Ray frowned. "I don't take that lightly. We both could have been killed. Along with Ted too. Just glad Ted was there to help her pull me out."
"I guess she didn't tell you that she had a little smoke inhalation herself. She kept offering you her oxygen." Ted told him.
"You're kidding? She didn't say a word about it." Ray's face mirrored his concern.
"Captain's got her up for an award."
"No kidding? That's good, she deserves it." Ray smiled, wondering why she didn't mention that she had any problems that night.
Everyone looked at each other. "Yeah, we all agree. Makes us feel kind of like heels for razing her so much when she first started. She's turned into an ace firefighter."
"Ya'll need to quit giving her grief. She knows her job and she does it. She cooks for us, cleans for us, and does her job to boot. It's time we gave her a little credit." Ray told them with a slight smile.
Ted changed the subject and laughter went around the room for another hour before the nurse came in and ordered them all out while she gave him another breathing treatment.
"Thanks for coming guys, I'll see you soon. And thanks for the Whataburger too." He smiled and shook hands with them all.