When Mike was finally back home, he failed to realize that time had sped by, and his birthday was rapidly approaching.
He had been too sick to really care. He refused to watch TV while he was recouperating, and avoided the Sports section
of the newspaper. After he burst into tears when he received the new photo of Brin in her lounge at the track, he couldn't
bear to see or hear anything else about horse racing.
Dr. Brackett read the riot act to Mike's former crew after his discharge. The men had to come up with a telephone
schedule so someone was in touch with him daily. Someone had to physically visit at least once a week. Hank realized
it was his duty to do more, and promised to do so.
About a month after his discharge, but he was still depressed, Mike was trying to get some sleep when the smell of smoke
reached his nose. At first, he thought the problem was his own house, but the alarm wasn't sounding, so obviously the situation
Mike meandered to the corner. A house up on a hill was fully involved about a quarter of a mile down the street.
He sat on his heels and watched. An engine dropped a line and drove on.
Now he knew he was in bad shape--he saw what they were doing, but his brain didn't comprehend the action. He still
felt woozy from having been so sick, and now the excitement was almost too much for him. The firefighter working the
hydrant recognized him and suggested he get back to the house. Sid saw him in the crowd, and escorted him back
He felt awful and had no problem falling asleep, especially after remembering lunch with Mundelein.
Something the detective said had gone great lengths to ease Mike's mind: Mundelein's years in the monastery
had lessened his ego and taught him to listen to his heart. Therefore, the detectives didn't go after Mike.
Coupling that statement with Tristin telling him that there was no getting over what had happened, and he'd
just have to learn to deal with the situation, helped him handle the pain. Now he needed rest--and a lot of it.
His dreams wandered back to when Brin was still with him. It was her night to cook, and walking up behind
her, he put his arms around her and put his chin on her right shoulder.
"I'm gonna burn supper," she said.
"Not on my watch," he said.
She set the burner on low and turned to him, placing her hands on his cheeks. He leaned forward, and she met him
halfway. After a lingering kiss, he whispered, "Did I ever tell you how much I love you?"
The dream started fading. "Don't go," he mumbled and wept as he was waking up. "Please don't go. Please
don't leave me."
"I'm here," he heard Brin say.
Mike felt a hand on his shoulder and he rolled over. Brin stood next to the bed.
"Brin," he breathed. His joy was so great at seeing her he felt as if he'd go a zillion directions at once.
He sat up on his heels to face her. Her silks this time were glittering gold. She was as solid as if she'd
been raised from the dead, so he reached for her.
"Don't touch me; it'll kill you," she said, leaning back slightly.
"Oh, Brin," he wept. "I want to be with you! My grief is sometimes too much for me to bear."
"Nothing comes your way that you're not able to handle."
His eyes soaked in the compassion from her face, sending it down to his sun-parched roots. He was drawing as much
love from her as he could to get him through the next 364 days.
Before he knew it, he felt her lips on his, and her arms around him. The peace she gave him drove the aches and
pain from his body.
She backed away. "It is not good for a widower to be alone," she said.
"But. . ."
"You are thawing out. You will be needing another wife."
"But. . ."
"She will be found at the site of one of your passions. You will know her when you add emeralds to sapphires."
"Your feelings for her will somewhat replicate what you have for me. The one thing you're never going to get over
is that you let yourself get as close to me as you did. That is why my body's death was so overwhelming for you."
That made sense. Another burden was lifted from him.
"Do not fear another relationship. I will not be jealous. When I return next year, she will be with child."
"As for your job, ask my uncle for some of his trade magazines. Ride with him when you can to help you remember.
See whether or not you can call the shots from afar before actually setting foot on the fireground. Be forewarned:
your first day back will not be fun."
"Ah, nice!" he said, rolling his eyes.
"You will know to return to work when I lower the sword."
"Lower the sword?!"
"Military term, dear. Military term. And please do not forget how much more I love you now that I am where
As if he had to prove something, he said with great feeling, "AND OH, HOW I LOVE YOU!!!"
"You have questions."
"Was that really you telling me that help was on the way when I was so sick?"
"Yes, I was there, despite your fever making you delirious. You know I would not abandon you, particularly in life
or death situations. Regarding your rescue, Johnny has a star on his forehead. Roy has one, too, but it's
smaller. Johnny is part Native American; Roy is part Irish. In this case, I was visiting Johnny with the urgent
message regarding your condition. The stars indicated communications portals. You were closer to death than
Brackett thought you were."
"Why didn't I die, then?"
"You were put on this Earth to do a job that only you can do. Please stop shirking your responsibility.
Your former crewmates would never have forgiven themselves if you had been found dead. My passage was almost too much
for my uncle, as we had an uncommon bond. If he lost you, it would debilitate him. Not the kind of battalion chief
you need, now is it?"
"I suppose not."
"My aunt was surprised by his reaction. He took it very, very hard. I try to let him know that I am with
him, too, but he is too focused on Earth. He needs to sit in a quiet place with his eyes closed for at least 30 minutes
whenever he's not at work."
"What about your family?"
"They have let me go, as they have found strength in their faith. My blowing dad's siren is their reward."
Mike found himself craving her physical affection again.
"Remember I love you," she said as she touched a spot on his chest, and he passed out. When he awakened, he was
A few weeks later, Mike dreamed of Brin dressed as St. Joan of Arc on horseback, with her soldiers around her.
Brin held a sword upright, then lowered it, pointing it forward.
Don't be late for roll call.