"Steve! Wake up!"
Steve bolted upright, best he could since he was trapped in a sleeping bag. As the last wisp of sleep drifted from his brain, he glanced around for the source of the voice. He noticed Rudy leaning against a boulder, waiting impatiently.
"Are you just going to sit there on your tin butt all day or are we going to fish?" Rudy questioned. It had taken a bit of effort, but he finally convinced Oscar that Steve needed a break; a fishing trip would do the trick. Rudy decided to drag Steve up into the Montana mountains, away from civilization. All methods of outside communications were left back at the lab.
"Yeah, yeah," Steve replied while fighting with the zipper. He heard Rudy chuckling at his dilemma. "How the heck…" The zipper finally broken loose, allowing Steve to cast off the bag and scramble to his feet. He cast a dirty look at the doctor while rolling up his bedding.
In the meantime, Rudy poured coffee for both of them and seated himself in front the of fire, offering a cup to Steve.
Steve reached across the fire, accepted the cup, and then seated himself. "Thanks," he replied before taking a sip. He was still trying to relax after having spent a week in the mountains. The peace and quiet is what he's needed, but he was becoming a bit antsy.
After several minutes of silence, Steve said "I hope you don't mind, Rudy, but I'm going to give the fish a chance to live another day."
Rudy finished off his coffee and put the cup down. "What do you have planned?" Rudy suspected that Steve was getting restless when he started pacing through the campsite the other evening.
"See that mountain?" Steve questioned, pointing to the looming peak behind Rudy.
Rudy glanced behind him briefly. "You're going to climb it?"
"It's there to be climbed, so that I'll do."
"As long as you stay out of trouble, fine with me. That will just mean there will be more fish for me to catch." Rudy replied.
Steve laughed. "Right…"
Rudy just rolled his eyes. This was a long-standing argument… who's the better fisherman. "Be back in time for dinner," he said while gathering his fishing gear.
"Will do." Steve started off at a slow jog toward the tree line.
By Noon Steve had made it about a quarter of a way up the mountain. He found a ledge to sit on, wanting to enjoy the view before needing to head back down to camp.
Minutes later, Steve thought he heard the sound of a twin-engine plane. Looking around, he spotted the small plane flying just above the tree line, much too low to clear the mountaintop. Using his zoom, he noticed the plane carried two, maybe three occupants. He decided that if there were a third occupant, it must be a child. Steve stood and watched in horror as the plane smashed into the trees, crashing to the floor below.
Quickly coming to his senses, Steve barreled down the mountainside toward the site of the crash. Despite a few glancing blows to the head with low tree limbs, he arrived at the crash site within minutes.
As the plane fell through the trees, the wings and tail had broken off. Pieces were scattered over a small area. The fuselage was intact. The pilot's door was wide open, and from a few feet it was obvious the pilot was dead, just by the sheer volume of blood loss, and the fact that part of his head was attached to the windshield. Steve quickly confirmed his suspicion, and then rounded the wreckage to the passenger side.
He ripped off the door and tossed it aside. The passenger, a woman, had been buckled in so she avoided hitting the windshield. Steve checked her pulse, weak but there. He then checked the back. A young blond-headed boy, maybe 6 or so, lay unconscious, still buckled in. Other than bumps and bruises, there were no apparent injuries.
Smelling gasoline, Steve unbuckles the boy and carries him to a safe distance from the plane, carefully laying him down on the ground. Flames appear from the engine. Steve quickly unbuckles and extracts the woman from the cockpit.
"My son," she moans.
"He's safe," Steve replies while running from the fire. An explosion rocks him, sending him stumbling to the ground with the woman still in his arms. As he hits the ground on his side, he rolls onto his back to prevent further injury to the woman.
She let out a loud groan. "My husband…"
"I'm sorry," Steve replies, checking her over for injuries. Other than a huge knot on the side of her head, presumably from hitting her head on the door, and a couple of small cuts, outwardly she appeared fine. He was concerned about internal injuries, though.
"Daddy… Mommy!" exclaimed the boy, trying to sit himself up.
Steve moved to his side. "Take it easy, just lay back. My name is Steve. What's yours?"
"Josh," replied the boy. "Josh Tanner."
"How old are you, Josh?"
"OK, Josh, I need you to help me. I want you to stay where you are while I finish checking your Mom over. Can you do that for me?" Steve asked.
"Do you know your Mom's name, Josh?" Steve asked.
"Jan," replied Josh. "She's my step-mom." Josh looked around at his surroundings, then at the plane. "Is my Dad…?"
"I'm afraid so. Sorry," Steve replied, really sorry that he couldn't give the boy a bit more comfort at this time. Steve left the boy alone and return to the woman, who was still unconscious.
"Jan? Wake up. Come on, wake up," Steve said while slapping her gently on the face. Steve turned her face toward him, getting his first good look of the woman.
"Jan? Oh my God… Jan!" Steve recognized the woman as his former fiancé, Jan Richards.
"Jan!" Steve started to panic. She wasn't responding, and he hadn't a clue as to how he was going to get her and the boy out to safety. The first thing would be to get them to camp and hope that Rudy hadn't gone too far. He'd then be able to head out to civilization to get help.
Steve assessed the surrounding brush. Deciding a one-man litter would be the best way to transport his lost love, he quickly gathered the materials and constructed it.
Josh sat quietly, watching the stranger gather sticks, vines, and leaves. He was scared and wanted his Mom and Dad to hold him. He hoped the stranger would get them out of the woods and to safety.
Within the hour, Steve had completed the litter. He carefully loaded Jan onto the litter, trying to make her as comfortable as possible. He turned his attention to Josh, who was sitting watching him.
Steve stooped down in front of the boy. "Josh, do you like piggyback rides?"
The boy nodded.
"Okay, I need you to climb onto my back, put your arms around my neck and hang on as tight as you can. Can you do that for me?"
"Yes," Josh replied. He stood and moved around to Steve's back. Steve helped him get positioned.
"Hang on tight," Steve said as he stood up. "I need to pick up your Mom's carrier." Steve carefully stooped down to pick up the litter handles. He straightened up and started off in the direction of the camp.
He hoped to find the smoothest route and prayed that Jan would survive.
Rudy spent the morning, leisurely casting, enjoying the peace and quiet. Although he enjoys the company of friends, it is a rare occasion that he spends time alone, doing something he enjoys.
By lunchtime, he had caught enough fish for dinner that neither he nor Steve would go hungry. He put the fish on a line and attached it to a tree, dropping the fish back into the water to keep them alive and fresh. After settling down against a boulder, he pulled out a soft drink and a medical journal to catch up on some of his reading.
As Steve approached the camp, he yelled out for his friend, hoping he was nearby.
"RUDY!" he bellowed.
Rudy, just finishing the journal, was startled by the shout. He scrambled to his feet, hoping Steve was not injured. He scanned the tree line, trying to spot him.
"STEVE!" he yelled back. A moment later he spotted Steve approaching the camp, with a young boy on his back. It appeared he was dragging something behind him.
He ran ahead to meet him. "Steve, what happened?" Rudy asked while stopping to check the woman on the litter. "JAN!" he exclaimed, finally recognizing the woman.
"Plane crash," Steve replied, putting the boy down. "I need to get help."
"Go on, I'll watch them. Call for a chopper once you get to the car." Rudy urged, not looking up at Steve as he bolted from camp.
Steve escaped the mountainside in record time, not having a clue how fast he ran or how much space he had traversed. He reached the car and almost tore off the door when he first couldn't find his keys, but after a moment of fumbling with his pocket contents, the keys appeared.
Once in the car, he grabbed the phone, dialed the operator, and asked for a line to Malmstrom's air base hospital. A Sergeant came on the line. Steve explained the situation and their location, and then requested a medi-vac chopper. The Sergeant kept Steve on the line while he relayed the information. Steve impatiently waited for about 15 minutes before the Sergeant returned to the phone.
"Colonel Austin," the Sergeant started, "a Medi-vac has just lifted off. ETA, 30 minutes."
"Thank you Sergeant. Please radio the chopper, informing them that I'll stay nearby the car. There isn't a clear area between here and the camp for the chopper to land," Steve said.
"Yes sir, I'll notify them immediately. Do you require anything else at this time?"
"No, Sergeant. Thanks for your help. Good bye," Steve said. He hung up the phone and got out of the car. He felt useless. The woman he loved was back at the camp, in trouble, and he couldn't do a thing. He began pacing the parking lot, letting his mind drift back to the day of the crash.
It was early morning, approximately three years ago. The sun had risen into the cloudless sky, promising for another hot day on the dry lakebed. He had just finished suiting up, and had started the walk out to the plane. His assistant motioned him to stop. Steve turned around to see a beautiful young lady with flowing brown hair running to join him. Jan had to tell him once again how much she loved him. The wedding was scheduled for noon the next day at the base chapel. They had agreed on a short party afterward, and then planned to disappear on their honeymoon for as long as possible.
All of the plans evaporated within an hour when the ship slammed into the dry lakebed. Thinking about it now, Steve wanted to kick himself. He couldn't believe he never asked what happened to Jan. Why she disappeared? Where did she go?
The steady WHUMP, WHUMP, WHUMP of the chopper blades brought Steve back to the present. He jogged over to the edge of the clearing where the chopper would make its landing. He patiently waited for the rotor blades to stop before approaching the chopper.
The door opened and a medic stepped out. "Colonel Austin?"
"They are about a half mile from here," Steve interrupted. "I can carry the boy out, but the woman will need a gurney. Dr. Wells is with them, but we need to get to the hospital immediately."
"Yes sir", the medic replied. A second medic appeared, hauling the gurney out of the chopper, as well as a medical bag. "Lead the way," said the first medic.
After what seemed like hours, the trio arrived at the camp.
"Steve, we have to get out of here, fast!" Rudy said. "Her vitals are dropping. I suspect internal injuries, but without medical equipment..." He stepped aside as the medics positioned the gurney next to the unconscious form. Turning his attention to the medics, "Easy, gently," he urged.
Steve went to the boy's side. "Josh? Ready for another piggyback ride?"
Josh nodded. "Is my Mom going to die?" he asked, while getting on Steve's back.
"Not if we can help it," Rudy responded. Rudy helped Josh get settled so he wouldn't strangle Steve.
"We're ready," said the first medic.
"Let's go…" Rudy replied.
By late afternoon, Steve paced the waiting room at the base hospital. A supervisor in the admitting office first balked at the civilians being admission to a military facility. After a looks-could-kill glare, along with some choice words, the supervisor quickly permitted it, even finding a private room large enough for a second bed for the boy.
They first went through ER; Rudy allowing the military doctor's to take over. X-rays and a quick examination confirmed that Josh was merely suffering from bumps and bruises. He was moved to the room, where a nurse sat with him, volunteering for "babysitting" duty until she was no longer needed.
In the meantime, Rudy contacted local authorities, notifying them of the crash and the location where the father's body could be found. He filled them in on the details and promised to keep in touch. He joined Steve in the waiting room, seating himself with one of his journals.
"What's taking so long?" Steve asked, more to himself than anyone else.
"Steve, it's only been an hour. You can't rush the surgeons."
"I know, I know…" Steve replied, resuming his pacing.
Rudy put down the journal and sighed. He knew what he had to do, but dreaded telling Steve the truth. He had no idea how Steve would take the news of why Jan had disappeared after the crash.
"Steve, we need to talk," Rudy said.
Steve stopped his pacing in mid-stride. "About what?" he questioned.
"Sit." Rudy motioned to the chair across from him.
Steve hesitated a moment, then took a seat. "What's wrong? You look like some has died."
"In a matter of speaking…. Look, have you ever considered why you never saw Jan again after your accident?" Rudy asked.
"Not until this afternoon," he replied. "I don't know why I never questioned her absence." Thinking about it, he knew, but wasn't willing to admit it. He couldn't stand the idea of a woman being around during his rebirth, and then even after he was out of the hospital. As time passed, Jan had faded from memory.
"I drove her away, Steve."
"What?" He wasn't angry, just confused. "Why?"
"Why do you think? Do you really think you would have wanted her around at the time? We assumed you would be a cripple for the rest of your life, probably in a VA hospital." Rudy paused, waiting for Steve to say something. Steve remained silent, so Rudy continued. "I gave Jan all the facts, a complete list of your injuries. She didn't want to go, Steve. We fought. I'm not sure if she'll forgive me, especially when she sees you, er, intact." Rudy had worried about Jan waking while at the camp. The last thing he wanted was for Jan to become upset, making her condition even worse.
Steve sat, staring at his friend. With hindsight, he knew Rudy did the right thing but it still hurt. He shook his head, "Rudy, I can't be mad at your for a decision made during that time." He stood and resumed pacing. "You did what you thought was right, and I can't fault you for that."
"Thanks," Rudy said, relieved. He felt that Steve had taken the news too well, but wasn't about to say another word on the subject. Picking up his journal, he resumed reading an article on medical advances for heart repairs.
Approximately three hours later, the surgeon entered the waiting room. Rudy intercepted the surgeon, not wanting to wake Steve, who had worn himself out from worry.
"How is she?" he asked.
"Stable," replied the surgeon. "Five ribs are cracked, one of which did minor damage to the liver. Another punctured her left lung. We had to remove her spleen. The force of the impact caused her organs to slam forward, causing other minor injuries. Overall, she's a very lucky lady. The seatbelt saved her life."
"When can we see her?" Rudy asked.
"She'll be in recovery for another hour or so, then she'll be moved to her room. More than likely, she'll sleep the night," the surgeon replied.
"Has the staff been informed of her husband's death?" Rudy was concerned she'd come around, asking for her husband, and no one would be around to give her the emotional support when the news was broken. He was unaware that Steve had already broken the news to her.
"Yes, they've been informed. Are you and Col. Austin going to wait here all night?"
Looking over to Steve, Rudy debated the answer. They should go to a hotel, but he knew Steve would argue, wanting to stay at the hospital. "We'll stay here. He's already sleeping so it'll be best to leave him be. Col. Austin can be a bear when woken," he replied.
The surgeon chuckled. "Alright, I'll tell the head nurse that if Mrs. Tanner wakes to let you know."
"Thanks," Rudy said.
The surgeon headed for the nurse's station to relay the instructions.
Rudy looked at his watch and sighed. It was almost 10 pm. He decided to stretch out on the other couch and catch some sleep.
Steve awoke with a start, disoriented. He looked around and saw Rudy sleeping on the couch. After a moment, he remembered they were at the base hospital. He sat up and swung his feet to the floor, stood and stretched. Glancing at his watch, he was surprised to see it was roughly 5 AM. Steve let out a yawn, louder than he expected. Rudy didn't stir.
Steve headed for the cafeteria in search of coffee. He found it sparsely populated, the morning shift just arriving. Fortunately, the coffee had already been made. He got himself a cup, and grabbed an apple, suddenly feeling hungry. He seated himself at the closest table, contemplating what he'll say to Jan when she awakens.
"Sorry honey, you're husband's dead, but your step-son is fine. I'm still single and available, wanna get married?"
Steve shook his head to get the horrendous thought out of it, not knowing where it originated. He knew the chances of them getting back together were slim, after having been told of his injuries. She'll know something isn't right, and may not accept him for what he is now.
"Besides, she's long over me…"
Steve took a sip of his coffee. "One step at a time, ol' boy" he muttered to himself. "One step at a time."
He chomped on his apple, thinking of what might have been. Jan had wanted a large family, having come from a large family herself. Steve, being an only child, found the idea of a large family appealing. Although his parents raised Jamie as their daughter when her parents were killed in a car crash, it just wasn't the same as having a real sibling around at all times.
Steve looked up in time to see Rudy coming through the door. Rudy headed for the coffee machine without saying a word, joining Steve at the table a moment later.
"Morning," Rudy said, seating himself.
"Morning. Hope I didn't wake you with my yawn."
"Heaven's no," Rudy replied, in between sips of coffee. "I've overslept as it is. You know I'm an early bird…"
"How's Jan?" Steve asked, knowing that Rudy would have first stopped to check on her condition before doing anything else.
"Better than the Styrofoam cup you've shredded," Rudy replied.
Steve had already finished his coffee and had torn the cup into little pieces. He looked down at the remains, "Yeah, well, I'm more than a little nervous."
"I understand. I'm also concerned how Jan's going to take all of this," Rudy sighed. He had considered Jan a friend and felt horrible when he drove her away. "I just hope that she'll be able to forgive me for what I did."
Rudy filled Steve in on the details of Jan's injuries, stressing that she would be okay.
Steve left Rudy sitting at the table while he fetched another cup of coffee. He wandered over to the window, watching the sunrise over the mountains. "Beautiful, isn't it," he commented. He heard the scrape of a chair and a moment later, Rudy stood by his side, also gazing at the sunrise.
"It's amazing how we take the little things in life for granted," Rudy said. "We can mimic the function of human limbs, send men to the moon, down to the depths of the ocean; such great feats, yet the simplest, like a sunrise, is the most spectacular of all."
Steve glanced at his friend, not quite sure how to take the statement. "You really need to get out of the lab a little more often, Doc."
"Yes, I do," Rudy chuckled. Seriously, "I'm going to call Oscar and let him know what's happened. No need for him to send a chopper into the mountains looking for us when we aren't there." Rudy looked to Steve in time to see an evil smile play across his face.
"Why not?" Steve asked.
Rudy shook his head and walked away. He knew good and well that if the decision were left up to Steve, Oscar would be clueless for weeks as to their whereabouts.
Steve stayed a moment longer, watching the skies brighten. He turned on his heel, dropped his coffee cup in the trashcan and returned to the waiting room.
Josh slept fitfully through the night, despite the sleeping pill. The nurse tried to comfort him the best she could, but he continued to dream. The dream was the same each time.
Josh was awakened early morning by his father, telling him they were going to fly to Oregon to see Josh's grandparents. Josh loved flying, and Grammy and Gramps even more. He had fun visiting them on their farm, riding horses with Grammy and fishing with Gramps. After what seemed like forever, he, his Mom and Dad piled into the little twin-engine plane and took off. He played with his toys, safely strapped into the back seat. A sudden loud "POP" distracted him from his metal airplane, a replica of the one his Dad owned.
"Daddy, what's that noise?" Josh yelled over the sound of the engine.
"It's okay," his Mom said as she strapped herself into the seat. "We'll be okay."
Josh could see his Dad quickly flipping switches and turning dials. Looking out the window, he could also see the trees coming up fast. Before he knew it, they hit the trees and dropped to the forest floor.
Josh woke with a scream, looking around the room, disoriented. "DADDY!" he cried. He wanted to get out of bed and go to his Mother, but bed rails prevented his escape.
"Shh," the nurse said while lowering one bed rail and seating herself next to him. "It's okay. I'm here and your Mom is right there, still sleeping." She hugged Josh, who had started crying.
While holding Josh, the nurse reached for the call button when she heard Jan moan.
The doctor entered as Jan's eyes fluttered open. She gazed around the room. "Where am I?"
"You're at Malmstrom Air Force base hospital," the doctor replied while checking her vitals.
"Josh?" she called, hearing his crying. She looked to her right and saw him being cuddled by the nurse. "It's okay, Josh, I'm right here."
Josh looked up at his Mother. "Mommy, Daddy's gone!" he cried.
Jan sobbed; vaguely remembering being told her husband had died. The doctor finished his exam. "How's Josh?" Jan asked though a sniffle.
"He's fine, other than some bumps and bruises. He's a tough kid," The doctor replied.
"He takes after his father," Jan sniffled. Josh had always imitated his father, from the morning shaving routine to the evening newspaper, insisting he would grow up to be just like his Daddy.
"And you," the doctor continued, "will be fine, with some rest. You were lucky; the seatbelt saved your life."
"I just got it on in time. My husband was too busy trying to stabilize the plane to get his on…" her voice trailed off, thinking that if he had got his belt on, he too might have survived.
"You were fortunate. If you hadn't been rescued in time, it's possible..."
"Who rescued us?" Jan interrupted. She remembered being helped by someone, but couldn't remember whether she had seen his face or not. "The voice…" She couldn't quite place it, but she felt she remembered the voice.
The doctor and nurse exchanged a glance, having been ordered not to say anything. He didn't want to lie, but he had his orders. "You'll find out soon enough. Get some rest. You need it. If you don't mind, and Josh feels up to it, I'll have the nurse take him to the children's wing for a little while so he can play with some toys."
"Josh? Do you want to go and play?" Jan questioned. She really didn't want him to leave her side, but felt it might do him some good.
Josh nodded. "You will be here when I get back?"
"Yes, of course silly. I don't think the doctor will let me go anytime soon," she replied in a reassuring voice.
Josh looked up to the doctor. "Is that true?"
"Yes it is. I'll tell you what; I'll consult with you when it's time for your Mom to leave the hospital. That way you'll know not to let her out of your sight," the doctor replied, giving a wink to Jan.
"Okay," he said. "Do you have neat toys?" he asked the nurse.
"Let's find out," the nurse responded. She picked up a pair of slippers they had found for Josh, put them on his feet and escorted him out of the room.
"I'll check back on your soon," the doctor said as he left the room.
Jan nodded, drifting back to sleep.
Rudy was passing along a message from Oscar to Steve when the doctor entered the waiting room, carrying a medical chart. Both men stood, dropping their conversation.
"Doctor, Colonel, she's doing fine. Mrs. Tanner woke about 15 minutes ago. I checked her over and found all vitals to be normal. She did ask who rescued her and Josh," he said.
"And…" Rudy started.
"All I said was that she'd find out soon enough," the doctor answered.
"Can I see her now?" Steve asked, anxious to explain the situation, hoping she didn't tell him to go to hell.
"She's sleeping. I had the nurse take Josh over to the children's wing so he could play with the toys. He's been plagued with nightmares through the evening, and his last one woke both him and his mother," he explained.
"Can I sit with her?" Steve questioned, wanting to be in close proximity to the woman he loves.
"Not a good idea, Steve," Rudy answered. "Imagine the shock when she wakes and finds you sitting at her bedside."
"I agree," the doctor added. "Dr. Wells gave me a brief overview of your accident, and from his explanation I don't think it would be good for either you or Mrs. Tanner." The doctor knew that Col. Austin had a serious accident, and due to the circumstances at the time, Mrs. Tanner had been reluctantly driven away, with the knowledge that the Colonel wouldn't want to see her again. The doctor felt there was a huge gap in the story, but being a dutiful Air Force officer, knew better than to ask.
Frustrated, Steve started to pace the room again. He knew they were right, but he wanted to be there when she wakes. For Steve, patience is a virtue that needs improvement. He hated waiting. He turned back to the doctor, who was going over Jan's chart.
"Where's the children's wing?" Steve interrupted. "I want to go see Josh." Neither Rudy nor the doctor was going to stop him from visiting the boy.
Rudy gave a slight nod to the doctor, who in turn gave Steve instructions to the play area.
"Find me as soon as she wakes," he instructed before starting down the hall.
Once through the double doors, out of hearing, Rudy turned back to the doctor. "Strike that order. I want to be the first one to see Jan. I have a lot of explaining to do, which might ease the situation when they first see each other."
Rudy returned to the waiting room, trying to figure out his next move. He wasn't going to let Jan blame Steve for not contacting her after he was better. If she were to blame anyone, Rudy planned to make sure it was himself. The knowledge of what he did to Jan on that day still haunted him.
It was four days after the accident. Rudy and Dr. Ashburn, resident neurosurgeon-genius, had been in surgery with Steve for almost every hour of the time. Although Steve had stabilized, no one knew for sure that he would survive, and if he did, he would be a changed man. Rudy waited in an office at Edwards for Jan's arrival. The task at hand meant he could no longer be a friend to her, the crueler the better, for her sake and Steve's.
Upon entering the office, Jan asked about Steve's condition.
"He's alive," Rudy replied.
"Alive? That's all?"
Rudy questioned her about how much she knew.
"I know he was hurt badly and may lose a leg."
The next 30 minutes was unforgivable, as far as Rudy was concerned. He flatly told Jan of all Steve's injuries, stressing that if he lived, Steve would not be the same man that she knew and loved. At one point Jan called him a "cold hearted bastard." The comment cut through to his heart, but Rudy knew he wasn't finished.
Jan insisted on hearing it all, so Rudy started with the most serious injuries, and continued down the list. By the time he finished Jan sat in the chair, silent.
A moment later Rudy asked, "Do you love this man?" Before she could answer, he continued. "Do what you think Steve would want you to do… leave and don't ever come back."
Having had his fill of the conversation, Rudy walked past Jan, leaving the office. It was the last time he had seen her.
"God, is she ever going to forgive me?"
After one wrong turn, Steve had made his way to the play area. The walls were brightly painted, mainly in primary colors. Pictures were hung on a corkboard, presumably from other young patients, past and present. At the moment, only Josh and the nurse occupied the room. They were sitting at a table, playing with Legos.
"Josh?" Steve called, waiting at the doorway.
Josh turned around. "Is my Mom awake?"
Steve approached the table and sat down across from him. "No, she's still sleeping." He picked up a couple of Legos and put them together.
"Oh." Josh stared at the little building he constructed and sighed. "I miss my Daddy." Tears started to form in his sparkling blue eyes. He tried to fight them back, but couldn't.
The nurse moved to comfort him, but Steve got to Josh first. Steve picked him up and held onto him, letting Josh cry on his shoulder. He moved to a rocking chair against the wall and carefully sat down. He slowly rocked while trying to comfort Josh.
Josh continued to cry for a while, but he cries softened and finally stopped. Steve had rocked him to sleep.
"Colonel, I'll take him back to his room if you'd like," the nurse offered quietly.
"He's fine," Steve whispered. "We'll stay here."
Steve continued to slowly rock Josh, all the while thinking of what might have been. He longed to talk to Jan, to tell her how much he loved her and missed her. Steve remembered the first time they met as if it were yesterday.