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*** This series was awarded Best Lesbian Story, as well as Most Literary/Genre Transcending Story in the 2019 Reader’s Choice Awards. Thank you to all who voted. ***

Welcome, friend, to Chapter Six. If you haven’t read Chapters One through Five, you’ll be lost, but you probably don’t hate me as much as people who read to the end of Chapter Five then yelled “Are you kidding me, Broken?!” or worse at their screens. Sorry for that, friend.

There is no update for the Spotify playlist this chapter. Shout out to those who’ve given me a “like” on that, though.

Many thanks to my editor, ThisNameIsntTakenYet, who is the Jack to my Rotors. He totally saved me on this chapter when I was lost.

~~ Adams Morgan, Washington, DC, April ~~


“I’m riding the highs, I’m digging the lows, ‘Cause at least I feel a-l-i-i-i-ve.

I’ve never f-a-a-a-c-e-d, so many emotional d-a-a-a-y-s!

But my life is good! I’m feeling y-o-o-o-u-u-u-u!”

Of all the songs on our playlist, I sang I’m Feeling You to myself most often.

The day she’d left, I’d watched Jo go through the security checkpoint at BWI airport, dressed in her fatigues. She’d picked her backpack up off the x-ray belt, thrown it over her shoulder, and then she’d waved and blown me a kiss before turning to walk off towards her gate. I stood on my toes, trying to get a last glimpse of her cap as she moved through the crowd.

After I’d lost sight of her, I’d sat in my car in the parking garage and started building a playlist of every song I could remember the band having played on the beach tour and the songs we’d sung to each other. Celebrity Skin. Left Behind. Falling For You. I’m Just A Girl. Jet Airliner. I’m Feeling You. Summer, Highland Falls. Even the Weird Al cover of American Pie I sang at the beach jam.

I texted her the link to the playlist from my car.

(Blue) I made this for us

(Blue) I called it The Set List. Download as much as you can before you board.

(Jo) The last 24 hours were all I could have wished for

(Jo) Thanks

(Jo) For giving me another chance

I sat looking at her text, smiling for a moment.

(Blue) Always

A few minutes later she texted me again.

(Jo) They’re closing the door

(Jo) I’ll call you from Frankfurt

(Jo) I love you

(Blue) Love you too

(Jo) My Blue Girl

(Blue) My Jo

On my way home, I’d assumed I would listen to Falling For You most often, the one Jo had sang to me. But after one listen to the original, I realized I never wanted to hear it again from anyone’s lips but hers. I found myself wishing Jack had recorded her that night for me. I left it in the playlist so Jo could see it, but I started skipping it every time it came on.

Instead I was constantly singing I’m Feeling You, the Michelle Branch-Carlos Santana duet I’d started to sing to her in the barn, right before the moment things went sideways. The one she’d then asked me to sing to her at the bar. Begged me to sing to her. I’d picture myself at the mic, Jo ripping out the guitar solos in front of me, our eyes locked as I sang. Her coming up to the other side of my mic to sing harmony with me on the chorus.

My routine had settled into a comfortable one after she’d gone back to Afghanistan. I’d wake every morning and check for an email to see if she was going to be able to get time on video chat during her evening, my mid-morning. If she could, we’d talk as long as her time on the system allowed. Jo looked cute in the headset and microphone when she was on Skype, like an adorable Army gamer girl.

If we couldn’t get video time, we’d trade a bunch of emails. Snarky, playful, loving. The rest of the day, I’d do my client work until I knew Jo was probably asleep, then I’d go running through Rock Creek Park.

I hoped to be able to run with her when she got back. I was getting better at it; up to more than three miles a day now. I wanted us to have as many things to do together that I could think of when she returned. I’d started using the MapMyRun app on my phone and sending her screenshots of my times.

My hair was still the dirty blonde I’d gone back to when I had been moping, before she came back to me, but I’d already made an appointment at my sister’s salon for the week before Jo’s unit was scheduled to arrive back at Ft. Bragg. I was going to have my blue hair back for her when she stepped off the plane in October.

I was working on a client’s website that morning, sitting at my little table by the window and waiting for my first email of the day from Jo. I hadn’t gotten one yesterday, but that happened at least once a week. She’d get called out for a night mission or the base’s Internet would be down.

When our song came on, I turned it up and started belting it out to my empty apartment. I’d begun fantasizing about recruiting the band to come with me to the airport when Jo travesti porno came back and serenading her again, in front of the world this time.

“I’m riding the highs, I’m digging the lows, ‘Cause at least I feel a-l-i-i-i-v-e.”

There was a knock at the door. I got up to open it, still singing as I walked to the door.

“I’ve never f-a-a-a-c-e-d, so many emotional d-a-a-a-y-s.

But my life is good…” I flung the door open.”Hey Sara! What’s—”

Sara was crying, twisting her fingers together. Steve was behind her.

“What’s wrong? Sara?” She flung herself at me and wrapped her arms around my neck. “Steve?” His eyes were wet too. “What happened? What’s wrong?!”

“Jo’s helicopter crashed, Jill. Yesterday her time. She’s alive, but she’s hurt. All we know right now is that it’s really bad, and that they’ve stabilized her at Bagram and are airlifting her and the other survivors to Ramstein Airbase in Germany right now. There’s a hospital there.”

I’d sunk to my knees, Sara still wrapped around me. I couldn’t breathe. “What—?”

“You need to pack a bag. Do you have a passport? Ok good, I got you a ticket. We have a flight out of Dulles in less than three hours so we have to hustle. Dad is meeting us at the airport.”

Henry met us at the gate and gathered us all into a hug. Since Steve had gotten our tickets at the last second, we were spread out all over the airplane.

I ended up at a window seat near the back, with some businessman sitting next to me. He tried to make conversation at first but he gave up when I never turned away from the window or acknowledged his presence.

All I could think about was the moment Jo had turned off the engine in her dad’s helicopter to auto-rotate us to the ground when she had taken me flying. Except I kept imagining Jo was flying it by herself, in her camouflage uniform, and everything was on fire and she couldn’t slow it down this time and she was screaming as it barreled into the ground.

The flight to Germany was the longest eight hours of my life.

~~ Ramstein Airbase, Germany ~~

Steve had spent the entire flight on the plane’s WiFi, texting Larry and Suzanne, who were calling Jo’s unit at Fort Bragg, trying to find out something. Anything. Nothing…

We went straight from the plane to the rental car; none of us had checked any bags. At my apartment I’d thrown my MacBook and chargers into my backpack, along with the first handful of clean underwear I could find, two extra shirts and a toothbrush. I’d pushed Steve and Sara back out my door to take us to the airport less than five minutes after they’d knocked.

Ramstein was a two-hour drive from Frankfurt, even with the autobahn having no speed limit on sections of it. I had been staring out the window for most of the drive.

“Where’s Hank?” I finally whispered, almost to myself.

“What’d you say, Jill?” Sara asked me.

I cleared my throat and tried again. “I said, who’s looking after Hank?” I couldn’t say why I suddenly had thought of Henry’s dog.

Henry turned his head in the front seat and said, “He’s with a neighbor. He’s okay. Thanks for asking, Jill.”

When we arrived, it took nearly an hour to get us cleared to drive onto the base to the hospital. I don’t know how I managed not to scream at the poor airman guarding the gate to just let us in already.

We were directed to a waiting room, where we waited. And waited. Then we were finally told she was here, but she was in surgery, and it would be several hours before they could tell us anything.

“Well, we have our base passes now. I’m thinking we should go check in to our hotel and eat something, then we can come back later,” said Steve. Ever the practical one, Jo’s brother.

“You guys go ahead. I’m going to stay here,” I said, pulling my feet up onto the chair and hugging my knees.

“Jill, there’s nothing we can—” Steve started.

“I’m. Staying. Here.”

Sara walked over and started whispering with Steve.

Henry sat down next to me and patted me on the shoulder.

“Jocelyn’s strong, Jill. She’s stronger than anyone I know. As strong as anyone I ever served with,” he said to me. I just stared ahead. He squeezed my shoulder, then got up and left with Steve.

“Steel is strong, but it can be brittle,” I thought.

Sara took Henry’s place next to me.

“Sara, you don’t have to stay with me. You can go with Steve.”

“I’m. Staying. With. You,” she said, copying my voice. I laughed and sniffed at the same time. She gripped my hand and we waited some more.

“Chief Jocelyn Collins? Family for Chief Collins?”

I started awake and lifted my head off Sara’s shoulder. Steve and Henry had apparently come back while I was dozing. Steve raised his hand and we all stood up to be greeted by a woman in surgical scrubs.

“I’m Colonel Hatcher, would all please follow me?”

She led us into a smaller alt yazılı porno waiting type room, with a plaque on the door that said ‘Counseling’.

“I just got out of surgery on Chief Collins. Let me give you a rundown of what’s going on with her. She’s suffered some pretty extensive injuries. At this point we don’t think they are immediately life-threatening; however, we can’t say what her long term prognosis is going to be right now.”

I drew in a ragged breath and took Sara’s hand. Steve held her other one.

“She has five broken ribs, all on her left side. We aren’t concerned about those, they’re non-displaced fractures. They’ll heal up on their own with no treatment other than rest. She sustained breaks to her left radius and ulna, but they were clean, and they were able to get those bones set and her arm cast at Bagram before she was airlifted.”

She looked at the chart in her hands.

“The bullet wound to her left leg is extremely serious.”

“Bullet?!” I yelped, then stopped and looked around embarrassed.

“Yes. Apparently, her helicopter came under enemy fire from a concealed heavy gun emplacement on a mountainside near an outpost where she was picking up an ill Afghan Army soldier.”

“So, she was shot down. It wasn’t a mechanical failure,” Henry said.

“Yes, sir. The injury to her left ankle is, well… catastrophic is the term I’d use. I’m an orthopedic surgeon and I’ve been working on her leg for the last six hours.”

“What does ‘catastrophic’ mean, Colonel?” asked Henry.

“It means, all I’ve been able to do for now is to try and stabilize it. The round was high caliber, and it passed through her leg near the ankle joint. I’d say about seventy percent of the bone in the lower six inches of her tib-fib is just gone. It’s a miracle her foot’s still attached at all, really. We’ve put in pins and rods to hold what’s left in place, but if she comes around, we’ll have to have a discussion about next steps.”

“If she comes around?” said Steve.

“You said her injuries weren’t life threatening!” I said, a little too loudly.

“This is the part where we get to the bad news,” she said. “She received a pretty serious skull injury during the crash. There was bleeding in her brain, and they had to take out a section of her skull at Bagram, both to relieve the pressure in her cranium and to fix the bleeder.”

I started sobbing as Sara turned and embraced me.

“They inserted the piece of bone they took out into a flap in her stomach muscles to keep blood going to it. Probably tomorrow or the next day we’ll take it out and put it back in her skull. Her cranial pressure is already back to normal levels.”

“But what does that mean? There’s a hole in her head right now?” I said, crying and trying to wipe my nose with my sleeve.

“This is not an unusual procedure in this situation. This injury is unlikely to be fatal at this point in her recovery. However, due to the nature of the brain injury—”

“You don’t know if she’ll wake up,” finished Henry.

“It’s probable she will wake up, Mr. Collins. But no one can predict when, or what the damage to her cognitive functions might be. She could wake up in a few days and be the exact same person you knew. In a few months you might never know anything happened except for the scar on her skull.”

“Or?” asked Steve.

“She could wake up four months from now and be fine. Or she could wake up in a couple of days and not recognize any of you, or not be able to speak or perform any basic functions. I’m not trying to be cruel, I just want you to understand we have no idea what to expect, except that it’s likely she has a hard road ahead of her. The percentages are… Well, there are no percentages. Every brain injury is different and there’s no predicting what’s going to happen until it happens.”

“So, what’s next?” Steve asked.

“Not much for now. We have her sedated, and like I said they’ll probably take her into surgery to put the section of her skull back in tomorrow. That’ll take about an hour.”

“Can I see her? I mean… can we see her? Please?” I tried not to sound too desperate.

“I can take you back but I need to warn you, she’s non-responsive and her appearance will be shocking.”

Dr. Hatcher led us all back to the ICU. Jo looked so… small in the bed. Her entire head was swaddled in gauze and she had a tube in her mouth with tape on her bruised cheeks holding it in place. Her beautiful apple cheeks.

Her left arm was in a cast up to her elbow, resting on a pillow. Her left leg was… awful. Her leg was uncovered up to her mid-thigh and there was some sort black metal contraption encircling her leg from her knee to her foot, with pins radiating out from it into the skin and, I guessed, into the bone inside. The whole thing was suspended by cables attached to a frame suspended over her bed. Her leg was bruised almost black from her toes to üvey baba porno her knee and her ankle was deformed and seemed like it was nothing but stitches.

The doctor stood with us for a while until Steve turned and asked her, “Did any of her crew come with her?”

Dr. Hatcher said, “Wait one second.” She left us alone with Jo. The left side of her face was one massive bruise.

Dr. Hatcher came back. “We also have a Sergeant Ehrens and a Specialist Charles. I’m afraid I can’t tell you anything about their conditions. Privacy, you know.”

“What about Chief Eric Nguyen?” Steve asked.

“Erhens and Charles are all we have here. All that means is that no one else was airlifted here. They could be fine in Bagram, or just have had minor injuries, or…”

Steve nodded, “I understand. Will there be someone who can fill us in on what happened?”

“I can try to have a family resource officer find out for you. You may stay here as long as you’d like. Familiar contact can help, you can touch her on her right arm if you want. But, stay away from her left side. As you can see most of the damage is there. This button will call a nurse if you need anything.”

Henry moved around the bed and grasped Jo’s hand. We all stood in silence.

After about half an hour, the nurse came in and asked if we needed anything.

“No, I think we’re fine. Should we go to the hotel and get some sleep? We’ve all been up almost twenty-four hours,” Steve asked.

“Probably a good idea, son. We can be here tomorrow if they take her back for…” Henry gestured to Jo’s head.

“Okay, let’s—”

“I’m staying here,” I said.

Sara looked at Steve, then came around to hug me. “Okay, Jill. Steve’s going to get SIM cards for our phones that will work here, so we’ll bring one back to you so we can all text, okay?”

“Okay.” I pulled the one chair in the space next to Jo’s bed and sat with my feet up and reached out for her hand.

I held her hand all night.

~~ Ramstein Airbase, Germany, May, Three Weeks Later ~~

“Why isn’t she waking up?” I knew my voice was sharper than it should be. They’d moved Jo out of the ICU and into a regular room ten days earlier. The attending doctor was visiting us during rounds. I forgot his name. There were so many doctors.

“Miss Doran, we simply can’t predict anything with this type of injury. The procedure to reattach the piece of her skull went very well, her cranial pressure is excellent, her CAT scans look good. The brain is a complicated organ, we don’t know how long it’s going to take for it to heal itself. We believe she will wake up. We simply can’t say when and we can’t say what she’ll be like when she does.”

“So, what do we do?!” I asked plaintively.

“There’s not much we can do but wait. Keep talking to her. Keep touching her and letting her know you’re here. I really believe that helps.”

“Thank you, doctor,” Henry looked tired. We were all tired.

They left to eat and I asked for them to bring something back for me. I didn’t want Jo to be alone. To not have someone touching her, talking to her. They’d taken her breathing tube out and she just looked… asleep.

Later sometime around midnight, after Steve had taken everyone back to the hotel, the nurses had turned most of the lights on the floor down. I was nodding off when I suddenly sat bolt upright in my chair. I thought I’d felt her squeeze my hand. I squeezed back and held my breath.


I stepped out of her room and looked around for nurses, but the hallway was empty. As quietly as I could, I went back inside her room and lowered the side rail on her bed. She looked so tiny lying there; there was plenty of room. I eased myself onto the edge of the bed and rested my head on her shoulder on her uninjured side, wrapping my hands gently around her arm. As I breathed in her smell, I was suddenly filled with a certainty that it was going to be okay. As certain of it as anything I’d ever been. She was going to wake up. Jo came back to me once. She’d do it again. I knew she would.

She had to…

Because I didn’t know what I’d do if she didn’t.

I don’t know how long I laid there before I drifted off. The next thing I knew was being awakened by Steve’s urgent whisper, “Jill!”

I opened my eyes to sunlight streaming in the window and I looked guiltily at him and Sara standing in the doorway. But they didn’t look angry with me. They looked… ecstatic.

“What?” I asked sleepily. Then I suddenly realized someone was stroking my head.

I turned my head up and looked into Jo’s eyes as she said, “Hey, Jill. What happened to your hair?”

Her memories were fuzzy. It took several hours for her to remember and understand that I’d changed my hair color from the blue she’d known months ago, before our reunion in January. Over the next few days, other things started to slowly come back to her. She remembered being hit, her copilot slumping over. She remembered trying to coax her Blackhawk over the crest of a hill. Nothing after that.

We’d had to tell her that Eric hadn’t made it. Neither had Sgt. Jackson. I held her as she cried.

Sgt. Ehrens and Specialist Charles had both survived, and were in the same hospital, albeit with serious injuries.

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