BURNING LOVE

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Crying her

When the paramedics reached them, Sawyer was already, and desperately, doing CPR to her. Reluctantly, he moved away to let them do their job. “What happened?” one of them asked Sawyer.

“Gunshot,” he simply said.

The men didn’t waste a second. They kneeled beside her and began cardiopulmonary resuscitation. One tried to get her heart beating again while the other one put a mask on her face, squeezing the ambu bag with a steady pace.

Sawyer was kneeling on the ground, with his hands dripping blood and his clothes completely drenched and covered in dirt. He blankly stared at Lizbeth, her beautiful and angelic face covered with the mask.

The wet hair stuck to the skin of her neck. Her lifeless body lying on the ground, sightly moving as the paramedic compressed her chest down.

The kids crying inside Jim’s car became a background noise as his world stopped rotating.

His heart was palpitating in his temples, deafening him. With his mind thousands of miles away, he fought to process what had happened. Why couldn’t he stop it?

“She’s got a pulse!” one of the EMT yelled. Sawyer’s eyes darted up to them, coming back to life again. “It’s weak, but she’s still alive,” he repeated as he looked at him.

“Great!” the other one exclaimed as his colleague started to cut the clothing around her wound.

“It must have lacerated the iliac vein or the artery… Partially at least. There’s so much blood,” the paramedic mumbled as he pressed her abdomen with his knee and a bunch of gauzes under it as his partner kept getting oxygen into her lungs. The pads and his light blue gloves already dyed red.

“It’s a clean wound,” Sawyer told him as he inspected her back with his left hand.

“Good.” He nodded. His eyes flicked to his hands for a second as he shoved his in the bag again.“You might have saved her life,” the man stated as he finally got an iTClamp.

He grabbed more pads and stuck them in the hole on the left side of her back, then took off the ones over her stomach and pinched her abdomen, closing the wound between his fingers to pull the tissue together with the toothed clip that looked like something out of a horror movie. “Done, let’s bring her to the hospital.”

The young man that was getting oxygen in her lungs, stopped, taking the mask off her face to help his colleague to put her on the stretcher.

“She might be pregnant,” Sawyer let out without thinking.

“What?”

They stopped what they were doing and looked at him, sadness filling their eyes. He knew that the chances of her being pregnant were very low, that her sickness could be just that, sickness. He knew that if she was pregnant there was no way the baby would have survived, but they had to know. “She might be pregnant,” he repeated, wishing she wasn’t.

“Okay. We’ll let the doctors know,” one of them nodded before continuing what they were doing.

When she was perfectly tied the ran toward the ambulance. “Coming with us?” the youngest one asked him as he followed them, still feeling his mind a little foggy.

Sawyer looked over his shoulder, the kids were staring at him with confusion and concern covering their faces. “We’ll be right behind,” Jim declared glancing over at the firefighter.

“Good,” the paramedic said before closing the doors of the ambulance. Right after, the sirens and lights slowly faded as they drove away.

“Clean yourself a little before you go to them,“ Jim gently told him as he handed him a towel and a clean t-shirt he always kept in the trunk of his car. Sawyer looked down, his hands and his clothes stained red.

“Yeah… Thanks,” he responded, still in shock. Adam and Sophia were already scared about everything that had happened, so hugging them all covered in blood wouldn’t have been the best idea. They had been kidnapped for two hours. Then, in less than five minutes, they had literally flown with a car into a lake, been rescued, and seen the woman they loved as a mom almost bled to death.

He thoroughly scrubbed his hands with the towel without being able to wash off the dried blood from his fingernails. He cringed when the images of Lizbeth literally dying in front of him replayed in his mind.

He wanted to scream and let everything he was feeling out, but the kids had already seen enough. He needed to put himself together for them and go to the hospital.

Shaking his head, he took a deep breath while looking at the sky and the sun shining brightly upon it. It was so ironic, it was the worst day of his life yet his surroundings looked beautiful. He rolled the wet and reddish white t-shirt over his head and put on the one Jim lent him.

When he was ready, he let out one last languid exhale and walked to the car. Jim opened the door for the kids and they ran towards him without giving it a second thought.

Sawyer crouched to be at their level. With a knee on the ground, he opened his arms to receive them. Adam and Sophia jumped over him with so much force he slightly faltered.

They had stopped crying while they were inside the car but as soon as he circled his arms around them, their weeping swamped the world around them and cracked Sawyer’s soul a little more. They were disconsolate, shaking, scared, confused.

Sawyer caressed their backs, leaving soft kisses at the top of their heads as he pressed their little bodies against him. He wanted to cry too, but he needed to convey his feelings to them, he needed to let them know they were not alone and that he’d die before anything like that happened to them ever again.

Losing his sister was horrible, but what all of them just went through caused them such overwhelming grief and deep contrition he was simply speechless. His mouth unable to get any words to come out.

After some time, they seemed to calm down a little. Their sharp breaths and their sobs slowly getting lost in the light breeze swirling around them. “Is she going to die?” Adam asked as she rubbed his eyes, sniffling.

Sawyer stared deep into his innocent eyes for a few seconds, noticing the small cut beside his left brow, probably from the glasses he had lost in the commotion of the accident. “I don’t know…” he honestly said as he brushed his dark dirty blond hair from his big blue eyes. He didn’t want to lie to them. “She’s really badly injured…” He lowered his head and kissed him in the cheek as he tightened the hug.

“But she’s strong, right?” Adam said as if he was trying to convince himself. Sawyer looked at Sophia, who was just staring at them, her beautiful and big hazel eyes red and watery.

“That she is,” Sawyer admitted, giving him a small smile.

“Then… Then…” Adam’s voice quivered. “She could live, right?”

“Yeah… She might survive, but we don’t know yet…” He paused and softly touched the butterfly stitches the police officers had put Sophia after cleaning the cut on her forehead. “Why don’t we go to the hospital so we can ask the doctor?” he suggested.

“Can we?” the little girl asked.

“Of course,” he said as he kissed her nose. “Besides, we have to call uncle Liam and aunt April so they can come and tell Liz to get good, right?” Sawyer tried lightening the mood. They were kids and they shouldn’t be worrying about people dying or not.

Adam nodded as he fiddled with Sawyer’s t-shirt. “Okay...”


Sawyer and the kids had a long session with the psychologist in the hospital. After making sure they were fine —within the normal for a situation like that— they went to the cafeteria to meet his parents.

The doctor said they were in shock and their brains were still trying to process everything that had happened and that was why their emotions were like a rollercoaster at the moment.

He told him they would need therapy after what they had been through because they still didn’t comprehend what had happened but the memories could come back from time to time.

After half an hour of bouncing his leg nervously, his parents told him that it wasn’t good for the kids seeing him in that state, that they were safe and he needed to focus on Lizbeth.

Still worried sick about his children and how they would deal with the aftermath of such a traumatic event, he reluctantly went upstairs, to the waiting room.

He was sitting with his head hanging low and his elbows resting on his knees, his hands together in a silent prayer, when Liam called his name. “Sawyer!”

He raised his head and saw him running towards him, followed by his parents and a very pregnant April. “Hey, man…” he said as he got up. Liam threw himself on Sawyer, hugging him. He circled his arms around him and gripped his shirt in his fist, trying to hold the tears in.

“How’s she?” Liam asked as he put some distance between them, his eyes moving all over Sawyer’s face, studying him.

“I don’t know…” he sighed. “She’s been in surgery for three hours…”

“Fuck!” Liam swore under his breath. “I’ll ask the doctor to show me her report later…”

“I don’t know if he’ll show you, Liam. You’re family,” Sawyer reminded him.

“But I’m still a surgeon, and I don’t want him to leave anything out.”

“How are the kids?” Julia, Lizbeth’s mother, barged in as she pulled him in for a hug. He had known them since he was in college. He was Liam’s best friend and they spent a lot of time at their house whenever they had no classes, and they always treated him like another son, inviting him on vacation with them, giving him presents on his birthday, even attending Beth’s funeral.

“They’re scared and in shock, but they’ll be fine. They’re with my parents in the cafeteria,” Sawyer told her. “They’ve cried a lot… God…” he sighed, not wanting to relive that moment.

“My poor babies…” She said in a low voice with a hand in her chest. After meeting them during Christmas, she instantly fell in love with them.

“And how are you holding on, son?” Finn asked him as he hugged him.

“Fine, I guess…” Sawyer shrugged before hugging April.

“Hey, S…”

“Hey… You look great.” He gave her a small smile as he glanced at her seven-month bump.

“Thanks,” she smiled back. “Dylan and Aaron said they won’t make it today, but they’ll come tomorrow with Lauren and Erin.”

“Yeah, Dylan said he’ll bring the kids over so Adam and Sophia can forget about all this for a while,” Liam added.

“Good to know,” Sawyer slightly smiled. Having so many people around at that moment would have been a bit too much because there was nothing they could really do, but knowing they weren’t alone lightened his burden.

“Why don’t we go down to the cafeteria with the kids?” Julia suggested.

“I‘d rather stay here,” Sawyer said as he ran a hand through his hair. “Besides, my parents already kicked me out since I’m so fucking nervous,” he snorted.

“Then, we’ll go to see them and your parents and bring you something, okay?” Julia commented as she motioned her husband to walk with her.

“Sure, thanks.” He nodded as they walked out of the waiting room.

As soon as they left, Sawyer sat down again and huffed. Liam and April mimicked him.

After some minutes of being quiet, Liam finally broke the silence. “How the fuck did this happen?”

Sawyer sighed. “We thought Maggie was obsessed with me, and at some point she still is, but it turns out that the man Lizbeth helped to put in prison last year was her brother.”

“The one that had been missing for years?”

“Yeah…”

“So?” Liam asked, his voice full of anger.

“Li…” April sweetly called his name as she squeezed his hand in hers, rubbing his back at the same time with the other.

“Sorry.”

“It’s fine…” Sawyer completely understood what he was feeling. When they received his call, they had to drive for more than two hours without knowing why any of that was happening to their family or what had really happened to his sister. “Maggie was unstable from the beginning, she was kind of broken. I think that being with me helped her overcome all that… Like her wounds healed, somehow. But losing everything she ever cared about made her completely lose her mind.”

“What do you mean?” April asked.

“She was pregnant with Nicolas’ child.” He looked at them and waited for their reaction.

“You mean Liz’s ex?” April asked, surprised.

“Yeah,” he snorted, still trying to understand that.

“Okay, that is fucking twisted,” Liam stated.

“I know… The thing is… She lost the baby and with him any possibility of ever becoming a mom. Nicolas told us they had to remove her uterus and everything because of a massive loss of blood she suffered…” He paused for a second and sighed, remembering the years he shared with her. He didn’t get how the sweet girl he once knew had turned into such a twisted bundle of hatred. “If there was one thing she wanted in life was to be a mom and have a big family because she never had one. Something that won’t be possible for her anymore, not in the traditional way…”

“I still don’t see where you’re going,” Liam told him.

“She always was obsessed about me feeling something for your sister, and I never wanted to have kids when we were together. And now I’m with Liz and have kids, and the only thing she’s got left, her brother, has been taken away from her because of Liz too —that’s what she thinks, anyway.”

“But it’s not that simple…” April said with a concerned expression on her face. “Liz didn’t do any of that on purpose.”

“Yeah, and the kids are not even yours, biologically yours, I mean,” Liam added.

“I know, but she’s sick and her way of rationalizing isn’t the same as ours. Her brother was put into prison and Liz was working on that case. She’s with me and we have kids, and Nicolas still had feelings with her… Then she lost the baby. It’s like her whole world crashed down and Lizbeth is the one to blame, at least in her head.” Sawyer shrugged, not wanting to talk about her anymore.

The FBI had explained everything to him after talking to her. At any other moment what they told him wouldn’t have made any sense, but living with a psychologist specialized in trauma for some time had opened his mind and made it easy for him to understand what they said. However, that didn’t change the fact that he still hated her.

Silence.

“Why are you defending her? Liam asked out of the blue, clearly angry.

“What?” Sawyer stared at him, clenching his jaw.

“You’re too calm for almost having the kids and my sister dead,” Liam noted with a tint of venom in his voice. His brows furrowed as he stared back at him.

He had never talked to him like that, ever. And the fact that he doubted him, even if it was just a tiny bit, hurt him beyond imagination. How could he imply he wanted any of that happening to his family?

“Liam…” April gently warned him. “I don’t think—”

“Shut the fuck up, Ackerman!” Sawyer grunted not being able to hold it in anymore. “You have no idea what I went through. Liz literally died in my fucking arms!” He growled as he stood up, making the other family in the room turn to them. “Don’t tell me that I’m too calm or shit like that. I had to put my shit together for the kids and because this state of mind doesn’t help anyone!” His whole body was trembling with frustration and anger. “Maggie wanted to talk to me before but I told the FBI agents that I couldn’t. If I ever see her again I don’t know what I’d do. Sick or not she almost took everything from me!”

Liam stood up and tried to approach Sawyer, who was pacing up and down the small waiting room like a caged animal. “Man, I’m—”

“She knew it was bad, she knew she was dying… She told me she loved me and asked me to kiss her while she was bleeding out!” His voice quivered at the end. He stopped walking and turned to Liam, who looked taken aback, already regretting his words. “You have no idea how hard that was for me!”

Sawyer knew he was just scared for his sister. She had always been his best friend and his biggest support. They were really close, as thick as thieves, just like he was with Beth. They lived in different cities but they still talked almost every day and the idea of losing her had him freaking out like never in his life.

Sawyer understood his feelings better than anyone else, he had been there, but he couldn’t control his emotions anymore and let them explode. “Fuck!” he growled as he punched the tiling wall in front of him. It hurt, but the pain he felt in his knuckles wasn’t even close to the one wrapping around his heart since the moment he heard they had fallen into the lake.

“I’m so sorry, Sawyer,” Liam said as he pulled him in for a hug. “I didn’t mean that… I’m a fucking idiot. I’m so scared… I know you love her and you’d die for those kids,” he said with a shaky voice as he tried to act strong for his friend.

“I wish it was me and not her…” Sawyer hugged him back and swallowed hard. “I need her, Liam… I really don’t know what I’d do without her… I...”

“She’d want you to keep living. For yourself, for the kids, for her,” Liam told him, staring deep into his eyes as he separated from him, lightly squeezing his shoulders.

Those last words pushed Sawyer to the edge.

He sat down again. The pressure in his chest and the lump on his throat growing bigger with every second that ticked in the clock. Not knowing if she was still alive or not was slowly killing him. He covered his face with both hands as the tears started to run down his cheeks, his heart shattering into small pieces. “I fucking need you…” He breathed between sobs.

Liam and April sat beside him, one on each side. Liam put his hand on his back while April rested her head on his shoulder as she tried muffling her sobs with her hand.

Sawyer had never cried like he did that day, not even when Beth and Matt died. And he knew that if she didn’t make it he wouldn’t be able to do it anymore because a part of him would die with her.

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