"Merry Christmas, Mrs. Austin," Steve said, raising a wine glass as a toast.
"Merry Christmas, Mr. Austin," Jan replied. They clinked their glasses, and then took a sip.
Josh looked up at the happy couple, rolled his eyes, shook his head, and then turned his attention back to the barrel of building blocks Santa left for him.
The couple laughed at the response. They sat side by side on the new leather couch Steve's parents gave them for Christmas, arms entwined around each other. They were at peace. Finally.
They built a house off base, not wanting to hear the roar of jet engines 16 hours a day. Steve found a nice, secluded wooded area, a rarity in a desert environment. Of course, the water bill was a killer. He and Jan liked the privacy, away from prying eyes so it was worth the expense. Josh thought it was great, having plenty of places to hide and climb. The two-story house, with basement, was set well back from the street, included a two-car garage and a private gym out back, well secured. Steve figured he'd need a place he could exercise without being seen.
The gym included the customary workout equipment, and the not so customary. A treadmill and computer from Rudy's California lab resided on the far wall, along with an enclosed weight system with up to 1000 pounds of metal bars, the lowest weight being 300 pounds.
The house, built for the times, boasted five bedrooms, three full baths, one half bath, a living room, family room, large modern kitchen, dining room, a library which served as Steve's office, and a huge playroom over the garage for Josh and all his toys. The finished basement served many purposes. Currently, Jan had taken it over for an ever-expanding rock collection from recent expeditions.
"Time for bed, Josh," said Steve. He placed his glass on the side table and stood. "Come on, let's get moving."
"Aw Dad…" Josh whined.
'Dad' Steve thought. The sound of it still struck a cord in his heart. He smiled. "Sorry Josh, but you've been up an hour longer than normal."
Jan had decided Steve should handle the bedtime ritual, since Josh needed to realize that Steve wasn't just his friend, but a part of the family to be respected. They had explained to Josh that Steve will never try Dale's stop, but will just add to the memories.
Josh scrambled up and went to Jan for his goodnight kiss.
"Come here munchkin," Jan said, giving him a big hug and kiss. "Sleep well."
"Good night, Mom," Josh replied. He headed down the hall and up the stairs with Steve following.
"Be right back," Steve said with a wink.
"You better be," Jan commanded.
She leaned back on the couch, content. Her memories drifted to the prior day, their wedding day.
The couple awoke to a cloudless sky on Christmas Eve morning, separately. The bride, staying at the Elgin's ranch, the bridegroom, at a friend's house in town. The weatherman promised a bright, sunny day with the temperatures hovering in the mid-60s, perfect weather for an outdoor wedding.
Jan scrambled out of bed when the alarm sounded, bolting for the bathroom to begin preparations. Scheduled to start at 1 PM, Jan had a mere 5 hours to prepare.
Guests trickled onto the Elgin ranch shortly before Noon. Every few minutes, Josh would bolt inside and announce the newest arrivals. Jan paced the living room floor, fully dressed and extremely nervous, her white flowing dress trailing behind her.
By 12:30, Jan felt as if she would die before the ceremony had begun. An eruption of butterflies within her stomach caught her off-guard. Second thoughts were non-existent. The nervousness stemmed from the knowledge that she'd finally be marrying the man she deeply loved.
Jim entered the room shortly before 1 PM, announcing that everything was on schedule and the ceremony would begin shortly. He had the honor of giving away the bride on this joyful occasion.
Promptly at 1 PM, Steve turned toward the house in time to see his father leading his bride out of the house. Oscar stood at Steve's side, beaming with pride. Jan glanced toward the men for a moment, and then returned her concentration to the task at hand; walking down the 'isle' one step at a time while strains of the wedding march floated through the air.
Jan stood at Steve's side, facing the minister. She barely heard the vows, almost missing her cue to say, "I do." Jan didn't realize she was holding her breath as Steve slid the ring on her finger. She let out a slight gasp as he lifted the veil to kiss his new bride. After a short, lingering kiss, cheers erupted from the crowd.
The loudest cheer coming from a fellow O.S.I agent, whom had worked with Steve on several occasions. She had pestered him to settle down for ages, and was pleased to hear he was to marry. Looking at her watch, she politely excused herself from the crowd. Unfortunately, a plane waited at the Air Force base to take her back to D.C.
After cutting the cake and opening gifts, the newlyweds circulated through the crowd for a brief while, accepting congratulations. When the chance presented itself, the happy couple escaped to a secluded cottage on the outskirts of town, the honeymoon to occur the first week in April.
After an evening of slow, passionate lovemaking, the couple returned to the Elgin ranch to celebrate their first Christmas together with Helen and Jim. Josh had been playing with the toys delivered by Santa, waiting to open his wrapped gifts underneath the tree.
Morning blended into early afternoon, when Steve announced they needed to return home to Edwards. Hugs and kisses were exchanged as they headed out the door. Early evening arrived as they pulled into their driveway. Josh took the keys from Steve and opened the front door. Steve carefully carried Jan over the threshold, into the house that had now been transformed into their home, the home of Steve and Janice Austin, and son.
Jan set the memories aside as Steve entered the room. Resuming his seat, Steve picked up his wine glass, took a sip, and then leaned over to give Jan a quick kiss.
"He's asleep," Steve whispered in her ear. He took Jan's glass out of her hand, and placed both glasses on the table. Jan turned to face Steve, looking forward to another wonderful evening of passionate love.
Steve leaned forward, lying Jan back on the couch when the phone rang. The couple stared at each other, the mood having dissipated. Steve sat up and reached over the couch, grabbing the phone on the third ring.
"Hello?" Steve barked.
"Merry Christmas," replied the disembodied voice.
"Merry Christmas, now go away," Steve commanded.
"Sorry, Pal, can't do that," Oscar replied. He hated calling Steve at this time, but an emergency was brewing.
"Oscar, you promised," Steve whined. "Rudy? You on the line?"
"I'm here Steve," Rudy replied. "It's legitimate."
Steve sighed. Oscar and Steve had struck a bargain months ago when they reached an impasse regarding Steve's retirement. Steve's temper flared. He struck out at Oscar, breaking Oscar's right arm.
While setting Oscar's arm, Rudy proposed a solution to which Oscar hesitantly agreed. If Oscar required Steve's assistance, Rudy would have to "approve" the assignment. Of course, Rudy would never say "no" to an assignment, but Steve didn't have to know all the details. Oscar promised Rudy to only call upon Steve when no other option exists. And when Oscar placed the call, Rudy was to be on the line as well so Steve could talk to him. Steve didn't like the idea, but figured it would be the best he could do for the compromise.
This evening is the second such call since the agreement had been finalized.
"Are you sure?" Steve asked.
"Yes. Oscar and I have been over the details. You should only be gone for a few days," Rudy replied.
Steve sighed, looking to a disappointed Jan. "Alright Oscar. Have you contacted my Superior?" Steve couldn't just disappear as in the past. His job at the base prohibits it.
"Yes, I've contacted your Commander and apprised him of the situation. You've been turned over to me until further notice," Oscar replied. "I need you to fly here to Washington tomorrow afternoon, 3 PM Eastern time. Preliminary preparations should be complete by the time you arrive. I'll meet you at Andrews Air Base and you'll be briefed in flight."
"Fine, talk to you then…" Steve said, as he replaced the phone on its cradle.
"Well?" Jan questioned.
Steve smiled. "We still have tonight," he replied, picking up where they had left off.
"Wonderf…" Jan tried to reply, cut off in mid-kiss.
Steve rose early the next morning, preparing breakfast for his wife and son. He smiled at the thought. While working on his second stack of pancakes, he heard small footsteps thumping down the stairs.
"Morning," Josh said through a yawn, plopping himself down at the kitchen table. "Smells good."
"I'd certainly hope so," Steve replied. "My Mom taught me how to cook them."
Steve heard the upstairs shower. He hurried to complete his task, wanting the pancakes to come hot off the griddle onto Jan's plate. He wanted to make this as enjoyable a breakfast as possible before he left for Washington.
Minutes later, Jan entered the kitchen. Steve having placed the hot stack on the table, turned to give Jan a hug and kiss.
Josh groaned. "Gross…"
The couple glanced toward the boy. Steve continued to hold Jan. "You won't think it's gross in about 7 or 8 years." Jan gave Steve a quick peck on the cheek, and then broke the embrace. They seated themselves and proceeded to devour the food.
"What time do you have to leave today?" Jan asked, not really wanting to know the answer.
"Leave?" Josh questioned. "You have to leave? That's not fair. It's the day after Christmas…" he whined.
"I know, I know," Steve replied. "I don't want to leave, but I have to go to Washington. I'll only be gone for a couple of days." Steve hoped it would only be a couple of days. Oscar's 'couple of days' has been known to drag on for weeks. Answering Jan, "Oscar wants me there at 3 PM his time, which translates to, um, ah fudge. I have to leave soon."
Jan laughed. Steve didn't have problems translating time zones, but he knew that she did, so Steve would tease her about it whenever possible. Jan only cared about the time zone in which she lived.
"Can we go to the Base with you?" Josh asked. "And watch you take off?"
"Sure thing," Steve replied.
"You bet, munchkin." Jan proceeded to clean off the table, putting the dishes in soak. "I'll do them later."
Josh hurried upstairs to change clothes, while Jan did the same. Within the hour, the trio was out the door, heading for the base in Steve's station wagon.
The winding road to Edwards provided a few spectacular views, so Jan and Josh were occupied while Steve concentrated on the road. On a down slope, Steve looked in the rearview mirror in time to see a tractor trailer rig barreling down on them, out of control.
He did his best to avoid the collision, but the big rig rammed the wagon. Steve tried his best to maneuver the car out of the path of the truck, but when the cliff loomed ahead, their luck ran out. The wagon flew over the cliff with the occupants. The car rolled on the way down the incline, landing on its roof. The tractor-trailer rig also went off the cliff, but the load in the trailer shifted enough to miss the wagon.
The driver of the rig survived long enough to call in the accident to the local authorities. By the time they arrived, the driver was dead. The rescue personnel turned their attention to the inverted wagon.
"There's no way anyone could have survived," commented one fireman.
Oscar paced the hallway, waiting for news, any news, on Steve and his family. Eight hours had passed since the accident. He thought back to the phone call.
The phone rang, interrupting a meeting with Rudy and several other agents. Annoyed at the interruption, he grabbed the receiver and barked "Goldman."
Standing by his desk, listening intently to the voice. His knees began to buckle, so he leaned against the desk.
Rudy stopped in mid-sentence, turning his attention to Oscar, knowing something was wrong, but not sure what. Oscar motioned him to pick up the other receiver and listen to the one sided conversation.
"… coma. Colonel Austin is in critical condition, having multiple internal injuries, a closed head injury, broken bones, and, well, issues with his special equipment."
Rudy cut in, "Dr. Rudy Wells speaking. Is Colonel Austin stable at this time?"
"No sir. He's in surgery. The doctors are trying to stabilize his condition," the Nurse replied.
Oscar let Rudy continue the conversation while he arranged transportation to Edwards Air Force Base.
Within the hour, they were airborne. Oscar secured two separate lines, one for Rudy to keep in contact with the hospital, the other for Oscar to execute damage control for the aborted mission.
Oscar wasn't sure where the time went. Before he knew it, the pilot announced the beginning of their decent into Edwards. The pilot would taxi into the closest hanger near the hospital.
When the door opened and stairs dropped, Rudy hit the ground running, with Oscar following behind.
By the time Oscar entered the building, Rudy was nowhere in sight. He approached the Nurse's Station.
"Mr. Goldman?" questioned the nurse.
"Yes, where can I find…"
"Down the hall, first door on the left. Dr. Sampson is waiting for you," the nurse interrupted.
Oscar bolted down the hall and through the open door.
Dr. Sampson stood, "I've been expecting you. Please, sit."
"I'm not sure who to ask about first," Oscar admitted, taking a seat across from the doctor. He was concerned about Steve, but also extremely worried about Jan and Josh.
The Doctor shuffled the folders on his desk, picking three from the top of the pile. "We'll start with the boy, Josh. He is in critical condition, suffering from multiple internal injuries, multiple fractures, and most notably, both legs broken below the knees. He has yet to regain consciousness."
"Where is he now?"
"Josh is in ICU; Colonel Austin's wife, Janice," the Doctor started, closing one folder and opening another. "is suffering from severe head trauma. She also has multiple internal injuries and fractures. At this time, Janice is in a coma."
"Colonel Austin?" Oscar questioned, when the Doctor closed Jan's folder.
The Doctor folded his hands over the folders and sighed. "Our staff did the best we could, considering his injuries and low blood volume. An average person…"
"DID?" Oscar interrupted.
Oscar, jarred out of his memories, turned toward the voice.
"I'm Colonel Wilson, base security. Here's the report on the accident," he said, handing the report to Oscar.
"Thank you," Oscar said, opening the report. He began pacing again as he read the details of the accident. Colonel Wilson walked away, realizing he had been silently dismissed.
After the first read, Oscar stopped pacing, staring out a nearby window. "My God, how did anyone survive?"
Hours later, Rudy emerged from the operating room, drained emotionally and physically. He leaned against the wall, wanting a moment to himself before facing Oscar and Steve's parents. He wasn't sure what to tell them. The next 24 hours would be crucial if Steve were to survive. Pulling himself together, he headed down the hall toward the waiting room. Jim rose from the couch, motioning Rudy outside the room. Oscar and Helen had both sacked out on the furniture.
"How is he?" Jim questioned. "Is he alive?"
Rudy nodded. "Barely. He lost a massive amount of blood. Too much for a normal person, way too much for him." Rudy stopped, looking toward Oscar. "How long has he been asleep?"
Jim glanced to Helen and Oscar. "Four hours or so. I promised them I'd stay awake. We better wake them."
Rudy agreed. He roused Oscar with little difficulty, and Jim gently woke Helen, not wanting to panic her. Rudy suggested going to the cafeteria. He desperately needed some coffee.
Once seated, the trio focused their attention on Rudy, waiting for him to begin.
"How's Jan and Josh?" Rudy asked, not knowing if they were dead or alive.
"Josh is in bad shape, but the doctor seemed cautiously optimistic. Josh woke for about 5 minutes or so before lapsing back into unconsciousness. Jan is worse off then Josh, and is in a coma," Oscar replied. "Tell us about Steve."
"Like I told Jim earlier, Steve lost a lot of blood. We came close to replacing his volume twice. I'm not going into all the details, but suffice it to say we've repaired the soft tissue injuries. He took a severe blow to the head; from the cuts on his forehead, I'd say he hit the windshield at one point." Rudy continued to rattle off the list of injuries, including a fractured left shoulder and arm, cracked ribs, and a broken nose. Looking around to assure they were alone, "I had to disconnect the nerve endings to the legs, which took a beating. Repairs are possible. His arm will require minimal repairs. His eyes are swollen shut, so I'm unable to determine if there is any damage to his eye." Rudy stopped, unable to continue. He was exhausted.
The silence that fell on the table spoke volumes. Emotions were raw. No one dared speak.
Helen sobbed, leaning against Jim's shoulder. Jim put his arm around his wife and kissed her on the head. "He'll be fine," Jim said. "We need to be strong for him."
"When will he be awake?" Oscar questioned.
"Don't know," Rudy replied. "I just don't know. With the head injury…" Rudy stopped, not wanting to continue his train of thought. "Look, we're all tired. I need to stay here, but will get some sleep somewhere. The three of you need to get some sleep, Doctor's orders."
Oscar nodded. "You're right, of course. I'll make the arrangements." Oscar found the closest phone.
"I don't want to leave," Helen sobbed.
"If there are any changes, good or bad, I'll call," Rudy promised.
They sat silently until Oscar returned to the table. "Everything is set," he said.
Jim nodded. "Come on Helen, let's go get some sleep."
Oscar stayed behind as the couple headed to the door. Turning to Rudy, "Call. Any change. Call."
"Don't worry, I will. Go get some sleep," Rudy said.
Oscar strode toward the door, catching up with the couple.
Rudy lagged behind, pouring another cup of coffee. He left the cafeteria, wanting to check on Jan and Josh before retiring to Steve's room in ICU. Knowing he'd be staying at the hospital, he had a chair/sleeper moved in so he could stay close by.
Rudy entered the room, surprised to see Josh awake. He moved quietly to Josh's side, "Josh? Do you remember me?"
Josh looked to his right, confused. He was stilling working out what happened. Staring at the man beside his bed, he searched his foggy memory. "Dr. Wells?" he questioned.
Rudy smiled, "Yes Josh, it's me. Do you remember what happened?"
Josh thought hard, but couldn't drag the memory to the forefront. "No. Where am I? Where are my Mom and Dad?"
Rudy sighed. It is not uncommon for an accident patient with head trauma, so he wasn't surprised when Josh said he couldn't remember what happened, but Rudy wasn't sure how to answer the question about Jan and Steve. Avoiding the question, "Josh, you are in a hospital and need to rest. You had a rough day. We can talk more in the morning."
Surprisingly, Josh didn't argue. He closed his eyes, and in a matter of minutes, he was asleep.
Rudy quietly left the room, heading for Jan's room. He stood in the doorway, watching the night shift nurse perform her duties with the motionless patient. As the nurse left the room, she handed Jan's chart to Rudy, knowing he was part of the medical team responsible for Jan's welfare. Rudy silently looked over the chart, his eyes stopping on one piece of information. He stared at it for a moment longer, and then closed the chart. Tucking it under his arm, he moved to Jan's bedside. Holding her hand, Rudy said, "I'm so sorry, Jan. Don't give up the fight. You have a little boy and husband who need you." Rudy stayed a moment longer, then left the room.
Stopping at the nurse's station, he glanced up at the clock. It was almost 1 in the morning. Pickup up Steve's chart, he read over the most recent vital signs, pleased to see a slight improvement. He returned the chart to its hanger. Turning his attention to the nurse, "I'll be sleeping in Colonel Austin's room. If there are any changes to him or his family, wake me immediately," he instructed.
"Will do, Doctor Wells," the nurse responded.
Rudy quietly entered Steve's room. After a quick check of his patient, Rudy settled into the "bed", previously folded down by one of the nurses. Within minutes, Rudy was sound asleep.
As the sun appeared through the blinds, Rudy awoke to a low groan. He scrambled out of the bed and approached Steve's side, checking Steve's vital signs. A moment later, he attempted to rouse the unconscious patient.
"Steve? Can you hear me? Nod your head if you can," Rudy commanded in a quiet, but firm voice.
A moment later, Steve nodded ever so slightly.
"Good. Do you remember what happened?"
Steve hesitated, and then nodded.
"Good, good," Rudy said soothingly. He could see Steve starting to struggle. "Steve, listen to me. I've disconnected the nerve endings to your legs, which can be repaired, but I didn't want to take a chance of feedback causing you pain. Your nose was broken, so your eyes swelled shut. Your left shoulder and arm were fractured; you are in traction. Your right arm has minimal damage; you should be able to move it without a problem." Rudy stopped, figuring Steve had enough details for the moment.
Steve relaxed, flexing his right hand. He slowly bent the arm, and then returned it to a resting position.
"Jan… Josh…" he whispered.
"They were both injured and are here in the hospital. I've spoken with Josh. He doesn't remember what happened, which is normal for his condition, and he asked about you and Jan," Rudy replied. "Jan is still unconscious, but is holding her own. As for you… you need to rest. No doubt your parents will want to see you ltoday, so save your strength."
Steve nodded, in no mood to argue.
Rudy waited a few minutes until Steve's breathing fell into a gentle rhythm, indicating his patient had fallen asleep. Rudy left the room in search of coffee, breakfast, his overnight bag, and a shower, in that order. The call to Oscar could wait for another hour.
Oscar knocked on Jim and Helen's door, knowing the couple had been up for an hour or so. When the door opened, Oscar stepped in, shutting the door behind him. "Did either of you get any sleep?" He seated himself in a chair.
"A little," Jim replied.
"Any word?" Helen called out from the bathroom.
"Rudy called a few minutes ago. Josh woke briefly shortly after we left. Steve woke a couple of hours ago," Oscar replied. He fussed at Rudy for not calling earlier, but quickly dropped the subject when Rudy started in on him. "Have you eaten yet?"
"No," Jim replied. "Neither one of us are hungry, but I know we need to eat." Jim picked up his car keys and money, pocketing them, anticipating to leave shortly.
Helen stepped from the bathroom, ready to go.
"We'll eat first, then head for the hospital," Oscar said. "No arguments…"
"Yes sir," Helen replied, snapping to attention.
The trio laughed for the first time in a while. They headed out the door for the local eatery.
By mid-morning, Rudy permitted Jim and Helen to see Steve for a few minutes. Steve, drifting in and out of sleep, was pleased to hear his Mother's voice. He questioned them about Jan and Josh, but received very little information, being told that Rudy will fill him in with the details.
Tiring quickly, the visit ended when Steve fell asleep. The couple left the room quietly, returning to the waiting room. Although relieved, they were still quite concerned about Jan, who remained in a coma.
Seating themselves, they filled Oscar in on the conversation with their son.
"I'm glad to hear he's recovering," Oscar said. "Unfortunately, I have to leave for Washington. I just got a call a little while ago; something has come up which requires my attention." Rudy had already been informed of Oscar's impending departure. Oscar wanted to tell the couple in person.
"We'll let Steve know you were here," Helen said.
"Thanks," Oscar said. He strode over to Helen, and gave her a peck on the cheek. He turned and left the room, heading down the hall and out the double doors.
"Rudy said it would be okay if I sat with Josh," Helen said to Jim. "I'm going in there for a while."
"No problem," Jim replied. "If you need me, I'll be here. I brought a book to read." He watched his wife walk away, turning down the hall toward Josh's room. He picked up his book, turning to page one, expecting to be reading for quite some time.
During the following week, both Steve and Josh improved, while Jan's condition remained the same. Knowing Steve would not permit himself to be transferred to Colorado for repairs, Rudy had his team pack the equipment and bring it to Edwards. By the end of the week, Steve's repairs were complete. He was anxious to visit with Jan. Rudy had informed Steve of Jan's injuries, and the fact she has remained in a coma since their arrival. Rudy assured Steve that Helen and Jim have been staying with Jan around the clock.
Attempting to keep Steve occupied, he arranged for Steve and Josh to share a room.
Josh, having both legs in casts, found it very frustrating not to be able to get out of bed without assistance. Having Steve in the room with him helped Josh's mood.
Seven days after the accident, Rudy allowed Steve to visit Jan, providing he used a wheelchair. Steve grudgingly agreed. Rudy wheeled Steve into Jan's room, positioning the wheelchair close to Jan's bed.
"I'll be just outside. Buzz when you're ready to go back to your room," Rudy instructed. Rudy left the room, shutting the door behind him.
Steve sat quietly for a moment, taking in the scene. Signs of the accident still existed, but were slowly fading away. Tubes leading to and from his love gave a hint of her condition, most notably IV's, feeding tube, and catheters.
Steve reached out and stroked the side of Jan's face. He fought back the tears in vain. They streamed down his face. "Jan, come back to me. We just found each other. I can't bare losing you again." Steve reached out and held Jan's hand. "Josh is doing fine. He's anxious to get out of bed, but the doctors won't allow it. We're sharing a room now, keeping each other company. " Steve lapsed into silence, sitting, waiting for a sign to indicate Jan was still with him. He hadn't a clue as to how long he had been sitting there when Rudy entered the room.
Steve didn't reply, knowing Rudy wanted him to return to the room.
"Steve, it's time."
Steve nodded. "Rudy, will she come back to me?" Steve did not face his friend, trying to stop the tears.
Rudy stood behind Steve, gazing at Jan. "I don't know, Steve. The swelling has gone down. We're to the point that time is the healer and the enemy. You know how comas act," he replied.
Steve nodded. "I know…"
Rudy wheeled Steve out of the room. "We need to talk," Rudy said. Instead of returning to Steve's room, Rudy wheeled him down the hall to an unoccupied conference room."
"Rudy?" Steve questioned as the door closed behind him.
Rudy seated himself in a chair across from Steve.
"I need to tell you something…" Rudy started.
"This isn't easy, and I'm sorry." Rudy paused before continuing, "Did Jan know she was pregnant?" Rudy asked.
Steve sat stunned. Jan hadn't said a word to him. "I… I… I don't know… I didn't know."
Rudy allowed Steve to sit quietly, to think things out.
A moment later, Steve's color drained from his face. He swallowed hard. "Was?"
"I'm sorry Steve…"
Steve cried for his lost child. He placed his head on the table and sobbed violently. Rudy shifted his chair to Steve's side and tried to comfort him. It took a while for Steve to control himself. After a few more minutes, he asked "How far along?"
"According to her chart, the doctor estimated Jan was a little over a month pregnant. Had she said anything about missing a menstrual cycle?" Rudy asked.
Steve shook his head. "No. Not a word." He continued sobbing. "It's my fault."
"Steve," Rudy said sternly. "This is not, I repeat, not your fault. You couldn't have known this accident would occur. You've traveled that route hundreds of times. There was no reason for you to think you would put your family in danger."
"If I hadn't said yes…"
"Steven Austin, stop it right now," Rudy commanded. "You need to stay strong for your wife and son. It's natural to mourn the loss of a child, but you can't blame yourself for the accident."
Steve's sobbing slowed, but didn't stop. Knowing Rudy was right didn't help. He still blamed himself for the accident. "I don't want to go back to my room. I don't want to upset Josh."
Rudy nodded. "I understand. Where would you like to go?"
"The hospital chapel," Steve replied. "Do my parents know?"
"No," Rudy replied. "I had to tell you first. It's up to you whether Helen and Jim should know."
Rudy wheeled Steve out of the room and downstairs to the hospital chapel. He left Steve alone, waiting outside the door.
Inside the chapel, Steve stared up at the crucifix. He was angry. "Why? Why did you let this happen? What do you have against me???"