I head down one level to the entrance, but Jake is nowhere to be found and none of the staff have seen him either. I scan quickly to see if there are any uniforms milling about, but they must have all returned to the station. I head back to the stairs and walk the five flights to the roof. Peeking in on every floor, just to make sure that he hadn't installed himself in any of the waiting rooms, but I'm pretty confident in his destination - close enough to keep an eye on things and far enough away that he could have the space he needed.
The door to the roof was propped open by a coffee can half-full of cigarette butts. I felt the breeze and heard the whistle of the wind once I had reached the fourth floor.
I pushed open the strong metal door to a wintery scene - snowflakes danced in the beams of yellow service lights, and the ground was already covered in white. Jake stood unmoving at the railing overlooking MUN's lit up buildings. Walking carefully, I reached his side, and tried to ignore how the cold was seeping through my thin blazer.
"You OK?" It was a stupid question, but I couldn't think of anything better.
He surprises me with an honest "No."
I nestle one of my hands in the crook of his elbow, partially to comfort but also for warmth. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"The fact that my father's an arse? Or that I got a kid shot?" Anger simmers just below the surface of his voice.
I'm torn between provoking him to let his feelings out and wanting to comfort him any way I can, and settle for a non-committal. "Either? Both?"
His chuckle reeks of scorn. "Why do you suddenly care so much anyway?"
I drop my hand from his arm, missing the warmth immediately, but needing to distance myself from him as I try to explain my actions without giving anything away.
"I've always cared Jake. I can't seem to stop."
"Well you have a shitty way of showing it." His anger is there full force now, but I can't bring myself to feel anything but remorse for how I've been treating him, so I just watch the snow as it falls softly to the ground. In the distance, the shrieks of students having a snowball fight mingle with the sounds of sirens from below.
It's a few minutes before he tugs on my arm and turns us both so that I'm looking up at him. "Look Leslie, I'm grateful for what you did downstairs, but I don't understand why you did it. Something's been up with you for weeks."
I can tell that he is pushing away his thoughts of Des to try to deal with the one thing that we might actually be able to fix, not knowing that this line of questioning opens a whole other can of worms.
"I've been selected for a long-term assignment." It is just a kernel of the full truth, but it is the truth. "I thought it would be better to not leave you wondering about us." My mind flashes back to two nights ago when we shared a drink in his office. If Christian hadn't walked in, I might have given in to feelings I shouldn't have been having.
I shiver against the cold and Jake finally seems to notice that I'm out in the snow wearing nothing but a pantsuit. "Jesus Leslie, what the hell were you thinking?"
His question could have been directed either to my clothing or my career choices, but the haste with which he pulls me to the propped-open door leads me to believe that he was talking about the clothes. Once the door is pulled securely shut, and his pea coat is draped over my shoulders, we sit on the top of the concrete steps in silence.
I'm beginning to wonder if he forgot about my confession when he speaks again. "This assignment is a dangerous one I take it? Something for you to do to get your career back on track? Something away from here?" His 'away from me' goes unspoken, but I hear it anyway.
"Yes." I don't even want to think about how easily he has figured it out, or how resigned he sounds about the whole thing. "I need to go to Halifax for training."
His brows furrow slightly at this news. "When do you leave?"
"Three days." The truth sounds harsh even to my own ears, especially now given the circumstances.
"If this mess hadn't happened were you even going to tell me?" I try not to feel hurt by his words, knowing that it is my own actions that caused them, but that doesn't make it any easier.
He nods half-heartedly as if he needs to believe that there might still be good intentions in me, even if I hardly believe it myself. Doubt creeps into his eyes all too quickly. "You sure about that?"
I can't bring myself to say the words that I should say so I just look down at my hands encased in soft black wool. Jake sighs once, resigned, yet he makes no move to leave my side. The silence is smothering, oppressive as the minutes pass by until I can't stand it anymore.
"It doesn't matter now." I mean to say that we have other things to deal with, that I can't handle having this conversation right now, and that I don't think that Jake can either. But, the moment the words leave my lips I realize that I mean something else entirely.
Jake seems to be able to read my mind, and I look up just in time to see his eyes widen in surprise then narrow in determination.
"I won't let you do this."
"It's my decision to make."
I'm not ready for his hands to reach out and clasp mine in a firm grip, shifting my body so that my shoulders rest gently against the stair rail and our angled knees touch.
"Leslie a year ago I sat on your doorstep and listened while you cried your eyes out because you were kicked off the force. I'm not going to let you throw away a chance to erase all the trouble I caused, especially out so some misguided sense of loyalty."
I can't take the look in his eyes as he tells me he isn't worth my time, can't let him go on believing that all I feel for him is loyalty, but neither of us are ready for declarations of love. I pull my hands free just enough to trace my thumbs over the ridges of his knuckles.
"It's not just loyalty. There's no use in either of us hiding from the truth anymore."
It takes a few beats and I watch his face as he processes what I said. "Well then."
The shrill ring of my phone jerks us both back to reality. I take a second longer then I should to press the answer button after seeing Rose's name on the call display, suddenly unsure if I'm ready to hear news of Des.
The haunted look is back in Jake's eyes, and I can see his demeanour shift as the weight of guilt settles heavily back on his shoulders.
"He's alive for now. They just moved him to an operating room. The doctor said he would be down to talk to us in ten minutes can you get back here by then? How's Jake?"
I breathe a huge sigh of relief. "We'll be right down." I hang up quickly, choosing to ignore her second question.
"He's alive and they've taken him to surgery. Rose says that the doctor is going to come and explain his condition in ten minutes."
I stand and pull him to his feet beside me, trying not to dwell on how listless he's become. "He's going to be fine," I infuse my voice with far more confidence then I feel. "Let's go get you cleaned up."
The wheelchair bathroom on the fourth floor is as good a place as any for the task. Jake sits on the toilet seat, like a child, as I use wet paper towel to scrub the dried blood and salt from his face.
The hot water is almost too hot to bear when I stick his hands under the stream from the faucet, watching as the flecks of brown turn into swirls of red as they go down the drain.
"I almost forgot it was there." His first words in a while come out strained, barely audible over the rush of the water.
"Forgot what was there?"
"Des's blood on my hands."
"Jake." My voice carries so much emotion as I flashback to when Jake was shot and his blood seemed to stain my hands for days.
I turn off the water as Jake dries his hands with his back to me. His shoulders quiver slightly and his breath is uneven for a second before he turns around again, face squared and braced for what's to come.
I'm still wearing Jake's coat when we find Rose, Malachy, and Tinny, sitting anxiously in a waiting room down a corridor from where Des was first brought in. I feel Jake tense. Tinny's eyes track quickly between us and our joined hands before returning to her nervous study of her fingernails. Mal seems significantly calmer now that he at least knew that Des was alive, but he made no move to say anything to either or us while we waited. Luckily, we didn't have to wait long.
The doctor who greeted us was the same gruff man who had yelled at Jake to leave the trauma room, though he had changed into a blue scrub top and was without his white lab coat.
"As you know we managed to stabilize Mr. Courtney enough for surgery. The bullet nicked the large intestine upon entry before grazing the descending abdominal aorta and lodging between the T12 and L1 vertebrae. I repaired the damage to the aorta, which brought his blood pressure back up and eased the stress on his heart. Dr. Patterson will have a clear field to work with and should be able to safely remove the bullet and repair the damage to the intestine."
Rose and I gasped at the news of the news of the bullet's location, as Tinny started to cry softly curling herself into her grandmother's waiting arms.
"His prognosis is fair, if he pulls through the surgery as well as I expect, he'll make a slow but steady recovery. His injuries raise the risk of post-operative infection, but the concern will be his lower body function which might take months to return if it does return fully."
"So he might not walk again?" Malachy's voice is as steady as always, when he asks the question that all of us were thinking, but the look of pure dread on his face betrays his emotions.
"Only time will tell. I'm sorry that I can't offer a more definitive answer, but know that Mr. Courtney is young and strong and has pulled through remarkably well so far. I need to get back to work in the ER. The surgery is likely to take three to four hours. Once he is moved to the recovery room only one visitor will be allowed entry at a time. The rest of you might want to consider getting some rest and coming back in the morning."
The doctor left, as quickly and quietly as he had come, but we made no move to follow, there would be no rest for us tonight.