“Doucette!” A man’s voice somewhere in the throng of people cried out.
It was a familiar voice at that.
“Doucette, for God’s sake!” The man called again.
It was at that moment as she turned around that Lindsay noticed a very familiar form indeed striding swiftly towards her, arms outstretched, a look of glorious relief on his features. She raised an eyebrow and pursed her lips smugly; glad to see that she’d managed to get a reaction out of the one man she never thought she could trouble.
“Nice to see that you’re concerned, Gardener, but I assure you I’m fine,” Lindsay said with a grin.
Jason could only roll his eyes as he stepped up to her and reached out, scooping Faith out of her arms and hugging her tightly, pressing a firm kiss to her forehead and cradling her in his arms.
“In your dreams, Linz,” he said distractedly, turning his attention to Faith. “Oh, princess, thank God you’re alright.”
Faith squirmed in her father’s arms, tears streaming down her cheeks as she looped her arms around his neck and clung tightly to him. Now Lindsay was confused.
“What’s this?” She asked.
“This,” Jason snapped. “Is my daughter; Faith.”
Lindsay was taken aback. She’d always known that Jason had a daughter; she’d known he was a widower, but it never would have occurred to her that Faith was his.
Of course, she thought. She looks so much like him. Why didn’t I see it before?
Shaking off her straying thoughts she focused back on Jason and Faith, watching the pair of them. They were reunited, they were happy; there was nothing more she needed to do. That thought in mind, Lindsay went about stripping off her silver and the heavy yellow fireman’s jacket she wore. Setting them aside she was about to go and help with containing the disaster when a hand on her shoulder stopped her. She turned around and stood face to face with Jason, one arm of his still supporting Faith against his chest.
“You’re not going back in there,” he said firmly.
Lindsay arched one perfectly manicured eyebrow.
“Oh really?” She said sarcastically. “And I suppose you’re going to stop me? You’ve got your daughter to take care of now. I’ve got things to do.”
“You’ve got smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide toxicity,” Jason commented. “And you’ll be lucky if that’s it. You’re out of commission for now, Doucette. Of course, if you won’t listen to me, I can always call Martelli over here.”
Lindsay was just about to protest when a hand on her other shoulder cut her off. She spun around and came face to face with her chief, Scott Martelli.
“Do as he says, Linz, we’ve got it covered,” he said firmly. “We can spare you. Go on and take care of yourself.”
“But chief I,” she argued and was interrupted.
“No buts,” Scott enforced. “You let Jase take care of you, that’s an order!”
She glared at the back of her boss’ head as the older man strode away toward the smoldering building. Sighing lightly and groaning inwardly she turned back to face Jason and noticed that he’d disappeared. She glanced around and finally spotted him sitting Faith down on a gurney in one of the rigs.
A sudden pang of concern made itself known in the pit of Lindsay’s stomach and she took off at a jog for the rig. She hoped that Faith was alright. She looked fine, aside from terrified and traumatized, but there could have been a thousand things wrong with her that were too subtle to pick up on with a quick visual assessment. Lindsay focused her attention on Faith as she reached the ambulance and caught only the last snippet of whatever it was that Jason had been saying as she made her way over.
“Okay sweetheart, I know it hurts, daddy’s going to take a look at you,” he said softly. “I’ll make it better.”
A frown tugged at the corners of Lindsay’s lips as she noticed a fresh batch of tears welling up in Faith’s eyes. She stepped up into the back of the rig and perched herself at the foot of the gurney, meeting the little girl’s eyes as she turned her head to look at Lindsay. She really did have her father’s eyes and Linz was once again amazed that she hadn’t noticed the resemblance before. She smiled softly and reached out to the little girl, taking one of her small hands.
“I’ll sit with you, sweetheart,” Lindsay said reassuringly. “Okay?”
Faith nodded and squeezed Lindsay’s hand, shifting herself over so that she was closer to Linz and cuddling up to the woman. In the meantime, Lindsay glanced up at Jason who nodded his consent and reached for the pulse oximeter.
Sighing softly, Lindsay glanced to her left, looking out at the commotion as she cradled Faith to her side. In a city of only seventy five thousand people, the loss of even one person was big news. She could only imagine how many people would be touched by the loss of the woman she’d stumbled over, how many would grieve and be devastated by her untimely death. Knowing luck, Lindsay herself worried that she might have somehow known the woman.
As her thoughts swirled around in her mind, Lindsay found them straying to Jason. He would surely be upset by the death of his daughter’s sitter. He’d lost his wife to terminal cancer only two years before. She wondered how he would take finding out. It made her sick to think that she had to be the one to break the news to him. Of course she couldn’t be sure that the young woman was indeed the nanny, but she still had a duty, an obligation to voice her concerns if for no other reason than to prepare him for the worst, to cushion the blow in case it really was the sitter.
Sighing lightly, Lindsay coughed. The pain the reflex elicited in her was plenty more than enough to snap her out of her reverie and focus her back on the situation at hand. She reached up with her free hand, rubbing at her itchy eyes for a moment before turning her gaze back to Faith at her side. She seemed to have calmed down in the few minutes that Lindsay’s mind had been elsewhere but she still clung to the firefighter’s hand as Jason continued his assessment. If the frown on his lips had anything to say for it, Lindsay figured he wasn’t exactly pleased by what he was finding.
“What is it?” She asked lightly.
“Looks like she cracked a few ribs, among other things,” he replied. “Can you tell me what happened in there?”
Lindsay nodded and acquiesced.
“I went in and found her in the gallery, pinned at the chest between two beams,” Lindsay explained. “She was conscious and alert. I gave her my oxygen mask while I pushed back the beam holding her down. As soon as she was free we hit the deck and waited for the boys to get us out.”
Jason seemed to think it over for a moment before nodding, apparently satisfied by her explanation. Lindsay watched him in silence as he got back down to work. He was good at what he did, she would give him that. It didn’t mean she had to like him. Sighing softly, Lindsay allowed her thoughts to stray again, her gaze becoming unfocused.
Lindsay’s memory flashed back to being inside the complex. She could still feel the heat adhering to her flesh through the layers of her fire retardant suit. She could hear the hiss of the flames as they licked up around her body. She imagined that being caught in a blaze like that was something akin to hell. If that was the case then Lindsay wasn’t so terribly afraid of death. Not that she believed in heaven or hell in the first place; religion had never held much interest for her. It was just a thought.
She thought ahead to the aftermath of the disaster. There was just so much to be done. Besides all of the paperwork that would be involved, all of the incident report forms, all of the follow ups on the casualties, Lindsay’s crew would spend days, perhaps even weeks cleaning up what was left of the wreck. Once the rubble cooled off enough and posed no threat of restarting the fire, the crew would have to assess the damage, determine the cause of the blaze and search for bodies before the clean up crew moved in to pick apart the wreckage and haul it away. It was her least favorite part of the job, being there to look for the leftovers like some sort of a vulture, but she was tight lipped, taking it all in a stride.
Lindsay was recalled to herself when Faith cried out miserably and tightened her grip on Linz’s hand. Instinctively she pulled the girl a little closer and heard a disapproving groan from Jason. Looking down Lindsay realized that her reflexive action had jarred Faith a little as Jase tried to get an I.V. line in. The poor girl at her side looked mortified and Lindsay leaned in, pressing a gentle kiss to the girl’s forehead. She reached out with her free hand as she pulled back, cupping Faith’s chin in her hand and forcing the girl to look at her. She smiled warmly even as her mind reeled with questions as to how she’d just managed to bring up some wellspring of maternal instinct like she had. How had she summoned it? For Christ sakes, Faith wasn’t even her child! She was Jase’s child which Linz figured should have been a powerful deterrent for the maternal instinct, not a magnet for it. Still, all lineage aside, Faith was a child, a motherless one at that, and Lindsay could understand that she felt compelled to comfort the girl. Shaking off the questions she returned her attention to Faith.
“Faith,” she said softly. “Why don’t you tell me about some of the stuff you do at kindy?”
The little girl seemed unsure of what to do for a moment. She was turned to face Lindsay but her eyes were still focused off to the side where Jase was looking for a vein in her hand. Linz cupped her chin firmly to keep Faith’s attention away from what her father was doing, to keep her calm. She waited until the girl finally gave in and looked at her, giving Jase room to work uninterrupted.
“We paint lots,” she replied shakily. “And Ms. Elliot tells us stories and we getta go on lots of fieldtrips.”
“Really?” Faith continued. “What was the last one you went on?”
“We went to the zoo,” she replied. “I got to see the kitties and the birds and stuff, and Jimmy pushed me so Ms. Elliot gave him time out.”
“That sounds like fun,” Lindsay said warmly with a smile.
She glanced over for a moment and noticed that Jason was finished putting the line in place. She let go of Faith’s chin and watched as the girl turned back to look at her father. She could see now that the adrenaline had worn off that the girl looked more than simply worse for wear. She looked like she was in pain, but she was good at hiding it. At least she was going to be okay with time.
Lindsay watched as Jason finished everything up. She smiled inwardly when she saw how gentle he was being with Faith. When he leaned in to kiss her on the forehead and had her lie back on the gurney to rest, Lindsay almost forgot how much she hated him. She was almost tempted to let herself be drawn to him for the paternal air he seemed to sustain around Faith. Snapping out of it Lindsay physically shook herself off, determined not to change her mind about Jason or change her feelings toward him. She turned her head to look at him as he spoke.
“Earth to Doucette,” Jason said with a laugh. “Man, you’ve gone and hypnotized yourself there. Snap out of it.”
“Yeah, yeah, laugh all you want,” Lindsay said wryly. “Not my fault I’d rather daydream about being out there doing what needs doing than in here with you.”
“Gee, thanks,” Jason said sarcastically, rolling his eyes. “Now give me your arm. The sooner you behave and let me do my job the sooner you can get back out there with the rest of the boys.”
Lindsay raised an eyebrow and held out her arm to him.
“The rest of the boys?” She asked sharply. “What are you implying?”
Jason chuckled as he wrapped the blood pressure cuff around her bicep.
“I wasn’t implying anything,” he replied. “Why are you such a stick in the mud?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Lindsay snapped.
“You don’t have to be such an ice queen all the time, Linz,” Jason said lightly. “It’s gotta be awfully tiring always hating everyone. Cut yourself some slack. You could stand to let a few people in.”
“I’d thank you not to give me suggestions on who to be or how to be,” Lindsay said with a grimace as the cuff inflated around her arm. “I don’t need your directives, I’m happy the way I am, thanks. However, if I ever do decide to change, you’ll be the first to know.”
Jason laughed lightly and continued on with his survey of Lindsay’s condition. She was going to be a tough nut to crack. She reminded him a lot of his wife before they’d gotten together. Sheila had always been harsh, abrasive and fiercely independent. He didn’t know why he was drawn to women like that and he didn’t rightly care. It suited him just fine.
Lindsay had only managed to stay focused on Jason and his ministrations for a few moments before her thoughts plagued her again. Why are you such a stick in the mud? She’d asked herself that same question a thousand times before and she’d never really found an answer. She’d given up on ever figuring it out; it was just the way she was. She didn’t mind, really. Being independent made her strong, if not lonely at times. She didn’t need anyone, though. She’d grown up without her mother, she was used to it. She didn’t want anyone new coming into her life and changing everything she’d ever known. For that reason she kept up her defenses.
Deciding that silence was getting them nowhere fast, Lindsay piped up.
“Your daughter told me she was with her babysitter today,” she said lightly.
“Marin, yes,” Jason replied. “She’s Millie’s niece. Millie’s our usual babysitter but she’s out of town for a couple of weeks with her husband so Marin volunteered to take care of Faith.”
“Have you seen her since the fire?” Lindsay asked.
Jason simply shook his head as he continued examining her. He’d wondered where the woman was and why she hadn’t come to him immediately to tell him that she’d lost his daughter somewhere in the commotion, but he’d been too busy to really think on it. He glanced up at Lindsay for a moment as he checked her capillary refill.
“I asked Faith who was with her when we were in there,” she continued softly. “She told me about Marin. She told me she’d seen her run off toward the exit and trip. Taking Faith’s account of what happened and the fact that I tripped over a casualty when I was in there I’m afraid that Marin may not have survived. I’m sorry, Jason.”
His frown deepened for a moment and he held her gaze for just a second before glancing away again. He hadn’t known Marin that well, he couldn’t rightly have said he missed her or felt a terrible loss, but it was still an awful thing to happen. Of course there was a very good chance that the casualty inside hadn’t been Marin, that Marin was just fine somewhere, but it was still possible. He couldn’t know until the body was identified, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t wonder and worry. Jason pushed a sudden wave of grief to the back of his mind and shook it off. He’d have time to mourn later. His mind jumped to his usual sitter. Millie would be absolutely devastated. Sighing lightly at the realization that he’d most likely have to break the news to her he continued about his work.
“Thanks for the heads up,” he said quietly.
Lindsay watched him closely. He didn’t look particularly affected by her words and she didn’t know whether it was a good thing or a bad thing. It really wasn’t up to her to judge him and his reactions. She sat stiffly, alternating her attention between Jason and her straying thoughts. Her gaze wandered over to Faith who seemed to have fallen asleep where she was resting at Lindsay’s side. It had been a long day for the girl and it was sure to be even longer for both Linz and Jason. They both still had most of their shift ahead of them and time in Kinsoo Ridge didn’t stop for disaster, no matter how terrible it might have been. Other things that would require their attention were sure to happen even in the wake of such a tragedy. They had to be ready to go regardless of how stretched to the limit they were; physically or otherwise.
“Well, looks like the smoke inhalation’s pretty bad on your part, Linz,” Jason commented as he stowed away his stethoscope. “Your oxygen saturation’s in the mid eighties and there are definite expiratory wheezes in your breath sounds.”
“There’s no way I’m going to the hospital,” Lindsay deadpanned.
“If you were any less strong willed then I’d wear you down and coax you into it,” Jason said lightly. “But considering I’m pretty sure you could take me, I don’t want to push your buttons. No, I’m just going to suggest you get back to the station and rest. I’ll drop by in the evening to check on you.”
“I don’t need rest and I definitely don’t need you checking on me,” Lindsay argued.
“Well what do you suggest?” Jason questioned.
“I get back to my duties and you get back to yours,” Lindsay replied. “If you’re really adamant about someone checking on me, I’ll have Spaheck do it later.”
“Nice try,” Jason said with a snort of derision. “Dean’s up in the mountains patrolling the cross Canada bike race and the BMX competition in Kicking Horse Pass. None of your other buddies are qualified enough to do it either. Besides, I’d feel better knowing for myself that you’re alright. Believe it or not, Doucette, I am concerned about you.”
Lindsay opened her mouth to say something when Jason cut her off by holding up a hand.
“Believe me, there are a thousand things I’d rather do later than come by to check on you, just like you could do without me, but it’s for your own good,” he said softly. “Do yourself a favor for once and agree with me. Don’t make me call Martelli on you.”
She pursed her lips indignantly and crossed her arms over her chest giving a little cough. A few moments of tense silence later she finally agreed. How bad could it possibly be? It wouldn’t take him long and once he was reassured that she was fine they could go their own separate ways and she could be rid of him for good. It was a win-win situation, really. Sighing lightly she glanced over at Jason and waited for him to wave her off. He did so with a grin and the second his dismissal reached Lindsay’s center of understanding, she was gone.
As she hopped out of the rig and into the warm sunlight, Lindsay took a long, steadying breath and reassured herself that her feelings for Jason hadn’t warmed up any even after seeing how sweet he could be. She glanced around at the firefighters milling about and collected the heavy yellow jacket she’d worn earlier, slipping back into it and settling a helmet on her head. She had a lot of work to do and only so much time in which to do it.