The traffic was moving sluggishly by now as people began to head home from their days at the office. Stores were starting to close, their lights being turned off, plunging the interior into darkness, and their signs switching to ‘closed’. I breathed a sigh of relief at having managed to time my last minute trip to the shop perfectly. Leaving with my purchase in hand, I heard the door lock behind me and was halfway back to my car when my phone began to ring, and fished it out of my pocket.
“Sam, what’s up?” I asked.
“Hey man, we gotta go now. Alex called in back up, that shout took a turn for the worse.”
Panic, fear, dread. They all hit me with the force of a truck as my heart felt like it stopped as one person swam in my mind…. Lacey.
“On my way.” I said, pocketing my phone and reaching for the car door.
Before I opened it, I glanced at the road. Traffic was worsening, cars piling up nose to tail. There was no way that I’d be able to get there by car. I looked up and spotted the station up ahead. Deciding there was nothing else for it, I pocketed my keys, took a breath, and ran.
People dove out of the way as I raced along the pavements, faster than I think I’d ever ran in my life. The air that I gulped in, seared my lungs, but I didn’t care, pumping my arms harder needing to speed up. My footfalls thudded in my ears, each hard slam of my feet against the ground rocking through my body. As I got nearer, I saw the shutters opening, and heard the siren begin to wail. I gave myself one last push as I glanced both ways and dove across the road, narrowly missing a car that was beginning to pull away, and sliding over the bonnet of another, landing promptly in front of the appliance as Sam began to pull out. He stopped it there whilst the cars began to part, and I flew for the door, yanking it open and jumping inside.
Jax playfully shoved me as I took my seat next to him, and the truck overtook the row of cars that had previously been in the way.
“Any news?” I panted from the back, dragging on my uniform.
“No, control didn’t give much.” He shouted back over the siren.
I closed my eyes as I tried to catch my breath, and in that moment, I prayed. I prayed that when we got there, they’d all be okay, and that I wouldn’t be too late.
When we finally arrived on scene, there were four other appliances already there. Crews from Shaxbury and Wilsdon were there, along with our other Farwood members. Paramedics were on standby, thankfully free of casualties as everyone appeared to have escaped without harm, from what looked like an ablaze, Bed and Breakfast. Seeing the severity of the fire did nothing to calm my rising concern for the others. I scanned the area, and saw no sign of any of our own, which could only mean one thing.
Wasting no time, me, Sam and Jax ran to the Incident Commander to get our orders, and to attempt for some answers too.
“Ma’am?” I called on approach, coming to a stop before a familiar middle aged woman.
Her sharp features were elegant, yet fierce, and she exuded authority. Soot marks covered her uniform, and marked her dark skin, showing that she’d been in the thick of action here. She turned her attention to us, a flash of relief on her face for all of a second before the professionalism snapped back.
“Farwood?” She asked.
“Yes Ma’am, Firefighters Knight, Tate and Jackson.” I replied.
“Where do you need us?” Sam asked.
“You two, on the ALP. We need this under control asap, so when I give you the clear, get that water on it from above, let’s see if we can tame this beast.” She said clearly and to the point, indicating to me and Sam. “And Jackson, you’re with me, I need your assistance with another task.”
She was about to walk away when I stopped her, I had to ask, and I could see it in Jax and Sam’s eyes too, they needed to know.
“Our team… is everyone okay?”
For the first time, there was a flicker of emotion in her eyes, and she seemed to click who we were.
“Lets get on and get them out shall we.” She said firmly, nodding to Jax and departing.
Sam and I exchanged looks, her avoidance of the question didn’t leave us much comfort, but we understood that this kind of fire could be unpredictable, at any second the tables could turn. There was no way of knowing how it was going in there, and our best shot was just to get them out of there.
“C’mon, let’s get our family back.” Sam said firmly, poker face in place as he clapped me on the shoulder.
“Yeah, let’s go.”
Aboard the ALP, we rose up in the air, the sky now much darker, the flames glowing orange against the night sky. Once in the right position, we prepared to start.
“Firefighters Knight and Tate in position, over.” I radioed in.
There was a short pause, before the radio crackled back into life again and she responded with the all clear below, and gave us a green light to proceed. The jets of water streamed in from all angles, and the sound of rushing water seemed to echo around us. It was hard work, and every second made me want to run in there until I could find every one of them and drag them out. But slowly, the fire began to shrink, the flames lessening, and the smoke starting to thin. Once we were cleared to return to the ground, I practically leapt out of the cage, heading straight for the house.
Dragging my helmet off, I searched the scene for them, diverting my attention to the door when I still saw no sign. My heart was in my mouth, my life on pause as I waited… Then they began to appear. Alex… Cain… Will… Pixie. A small sob passed my lips when she didn’t follow them. My knees shook beneath me. She had to be here, I couldn’t be too late. It just couldn’t go down like this.
“Lace.” I muttered, “C’mon Lacey, c’mon…”
I could have collapsed with relief as she finally stepped out, pulling her BA mask and helmet off. I couldn’t hold it in as I ran forwards, ignoring the fact that there was a crowd, that there was anything else going on, I just ran to her, shouting her name over the noise. Her eyes found me as I drew nearer, and her bemused expression soon changed to a smile as I crashed into her and held her as though we’d just been reunited after a lifetime apart, pulling back only to claim her lips in the fiercest, deepest kiss that I could ever give her.
“How come he never greets us like that?” Cain said sarcastically behind me.
I heard the others laugh, and Jax muttered something that I didn’t care to catch.
“I thought I’d lost you there.” I whispered, pulling apart.
“I’m not going anywhere.” She said softly, her breath skimming my skin.
“You better not. Because I don’t ever intend on letting you go again.”
She looked confused by my admission, but I didn’t address it, instead I just carried on, pushing out the rest of the words that I needed to say.
“I was wrong to let fear determine our path together. I thought that living alongside you as friends was better than fearing losing you as my soulmate.” I admitted, my hands sliding down her forearms and intertwining with hers.
“But with a little help from a friend, I realised that a life where I didn’t get to cherish every second with you, and make the most of each day on this earth with the woman who owns my heart, wouldn’t really be living. It would just be an empty existence in the darkness, because you Lacey, are my light. You’re the dawn after the darkest hour, the rainbow after the storm,” I waved an arm at the smouldering building behind her, “The torch that leads me through the smoke.”
She laughed at the reference, her silver eyes getting watery and shining blue in the continuous flashing of the lights from the emergency vehicles.
“And I’d be a complete fool if I let all of that go, because of the fear of a day where it may be lost.” I thought of what Em said, and let out a breath, “Some people would do anything for another second with the person that they love, and if they can feel that way after being dealt the hardest of blows, then I have to believe that whatever comes our way, our love will be stronger than it all.”
“You’re such an idiot.” She said.
I searched for some idea of what she was thinking, but there was no giveaway.
“But you’re my idiot.” She finished with a laugh, bringing her lips down on mine and kissing me tenderly.
“I’d like to be your something else too.” I said playfully leaning back slightly, locking my eyes with hers and dropping down on one knee.
There was an audible gasp from the guys, and a squeak from Cassie. Right there, surrounded by our family, and numbers of our colleagues and onlookers, I pulled the box from my pocket, and opened it to show her the princess cut, yellow diamond ring that I’d taken a detour for. Her eyes bulged as she stared in shock, her hand quivering in mine.
“Lacey Rose, I don’t want to waste another single second of our lives, I love you and I want to be with you. You broke through the wall I’d built around myself, and I couldn’t be happier that you did. So will you do me the honour of being my wife?”
Her lips trembled before breaking into a huge smile as she nodded enthusiastically.
“Yes!” She answered delightedly.
There was a huge cheer that rose from the entire crowd around us, followed by clapping and even the horns on the trucks being sounded in celebration as I slid the ring onto her finger. The yellow diamond glittered like a flame in the light from the torches on our uniforms, and the triangular accenting diamonds twinkling brightly on either side. Lacey beamed down at it, tenderly tracing the three stones with her fingers before pulling me to her, kissing me lovingly until we were suddenly pulled into a huge group bundle as every other member of Red Watch smothered us with congratulatory hugs. Even though this was the happiest I’d ever been, there was still sadness in the air as a brother that should have been here, was missing. But as I pulled my bride-to-be closer, I looked up at the star strewn sky, and I knew that he was watching. And in that moment, surrounded by our family, I thanked him for never giving up on me, and for being the one to lead me to the woman that I never knew I needed, but now would never be without.