Eve Russell saw the utter panic on Luis' face and was quick to reassure him. "Luis, she isn't dead. But it
is very serious."
All Luis could focus on was that Sheridan wasn't dead. He silently thanked God and tears of relief trickled down
his face. Ethan jumped up and approached, with Ivy on his heels. He shoved his way in front of Luis, bombarding
Eve with questions.
Eve did her best to answer, with the three intently listening. Julian was still sitting in the corner, gazing intently
at the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. "Now, the bullet entered at an angle, much more so than we'd first
thought. We managed to remove it, but it was very close to the spinal cord and there may have been some damage."
"What do you mean? Paralyzed?" Ethan said incredulously. "She's paralyzed?" "Now, we don't
know for sure Ethan. She hasn't woken from the surgery yet. It's just that typical in cases like this there is
usually damage. Now also, even if there is some paralysis, it could be only temporary. I don't mean to alarm you
but I felt we should be prepared." Eve looked intently at them. "When Sheridan wakes up, if she is paralyzed,
she will need you all to be strong."
Luis nodded numbly, and Ethan did the same. Ivy looked stunned. "Can we see her?" Luis asked. "Not
just yet... once we get her settled into a room. It will be a little while."
Eve left and Ethan and Ivy retreated to Julian's corner, where Ivy began to berate him for his lack of interest.
Luis sunk into his chair and sighed deeply. Poor Sheridan. As far as his love for her, this changed nothing. He
would always love her, no matter what and he would stick by her through anything.
But he couldn't help thinking about how Sheridan would take this. He'd seen her face when she was running... the
pure joy. And he knew she loved working out and doing her gardening... all that could be gone. At least the way
she knew it.
He also knew something else... she would push him away. He knew this without a doubt. Sheridan was very insecure...
even more so than he'd expected. He'd learned horrible things about her past and he understood why she had this
deep rooted fear of being unloved. She would decide that she was even more unlovable if she couldn't walk.
A few hours later they were allowed to see her. Ethan played his family card and managed to see her first. Ivy
was going to see her next, but she saw Luis and in an uncharacteristic display of kindness she lay her hand on
his arm and said, "You go Luis. She needs you." Luis gave her a weak, but genuine smile and went down
the hall. He past Ethan and the younger man scowled at Luis. "She isn't awake yet." The tone was accusatory
and made Luis flinch just a little. He didn't need Ethan to tell him he was to blame. He knew it full well.
Outside the room he paused and took a deep, ragged breath. He swung open the door and stepped inside. Actually,
it wasn't as bad as he'd thought. She had an IV and was hooked to a monitor, but she was breathing on her own and
she looked almost peaceful. She was sleeping, her hair spread around her beautiful face like a halo and Luis ached
to hold her in his arms. He had to settle for holding her hand, and he did, sitting on the chair beside her. He
kissed her hand softly and whispered, "I love you Angel. Everything is going to be just fine." He sat
there for a while, holding her hand in both of his, stroking it between them and talking softly to her, about nothing
Then, she moved. Her hand twitched and she began to come out of the anesthesia. Sheridan moved her head and struggled
to open her eyes. She could feel someone holding her hand and when her eyes focussed they confirmed her thought
that it was Luis. He sat there, his eyes moist, smiling at her like she was the crown jewels. "Hi there."
"Hi." She replied, her voice weak and fuzzy. She managed a smile too and squeezed his hands. "What
happened?" "Remember, in the basement? You got a little shot Honey."
"A little shot?" Sheridan smiled at him. He looked so happy and relieved. "Did I get shot in the
leg? I can't feel them..." Luis' heart sank. "I'm gonna get Eve. She can explain everything better."
Sheridan frowned as Luis hurried from the room. Luis was hiding something and she was scared. She couldn't feel
her legs... maybe she was paralyzed. A wave of icy cold fear washed over her and her lip trembled.
Eve walked into the room, closely followed by Luis. "It's true... I'm paralyzed, right?" Sheridan asked,
her voice cracking. Eve replied, "Now, lets not jump to conclusions." She lifted the blankets from Sheridan's
legs and performed a few simple tests, none of which Sheridan felt.
"Now, there's nothing to say that this isn't just a temporary thing Sheridan. The body just needs time to
heal in many instances." Sheridan nodded numbly, her eyes far away and glazed. Eve left them alone and Luis
took her hand. Instead of squeezing back, it hung in his hands limply.
"Sheridan, you heard Eve... It'll just take some time." Sheridan shook her head. "No, Luis. Things
don't work that way for me. I thought I was finally going to have a chance at happiness, and whoosh... fate pulled
the rug out from under me again." "Sheridan, fate didn't do this to you... I did." Luis felt terrible
and her blaming her own rotten bad luck only made him feel worse.
"It's not you Luis. It's me. I've never been happy... it's just not meant to be. I am supposed to be alone
and miserable..." "Sheridan, you aren't alone. I'm here." "For now." she agreed. "For
ever..." he insisted. "Luis, you won't be tied down to a cripple... I won't do that to you."
Sheridan looked away, pulling her hand from his. "You will find someone else... like Beth. Someone you can
share a full life with." It was breaking her heart to say the words, but she knew they had to be said. Luis
was glaring at her angrily. "You have no right to decide what I need... or what I want. I don't want Beth...
I want you! And it doesn't matter to me Sheridan... I love you, no matter what!"
Sheridan cringed. The words she'd been waiting her whole life to hear and she couldn't accept them. She dug deep
down inside herself for the strength to deliver the only reply she could. She hated to do it, but she had no choice.
She forced out a little laugh, a cold one. "You love me? Well, thats real sweet Luis, but come on! We had
sex when we thought we were dying. You didn't really think that meant something did you?"
Luis looked at her, pain in his eyes. Did she mean what she was saying? Or was she just trying to drive him away?
"You don't mean that Sheridan?" "Oh, believe me, I do. Think about it... I'm Sheridan Crane. Crippled
or not, I can still do much better than a small town cop." She forced herself to look into his eyes, her gaze
hard and distant.
Luis saw nothing to indicate she was lying. Her eyes, her posture, the set of her jaw... they all showed conviction.
He shook his head. "I can't believe I was so wrong about you..."
His voice and eyes were anything but cold and they were almost Sheridan's undoing. The only thing that kept her
from retracting what she'd said was her intense love for him. She wouldn't let him devote his life to caring for
her... he deserved better.
Luis turned away and headed for the door, looking very much like a broken man. Just before he walked out he turned
back and there was a single tear rolling down his face as he said, "Well, it meant something to me... and
I won't stop loving you."
If he had come back into the room seconds later he would've seen Sheridan, sobbing into her hands, certain that
her heart was broken and that it would never beat right again. It was the hardest thing she'd ever done and she
hated herself for it. But she also knew it had been necessary. Eventually Luis would get over her and one of them
would be happy.