Sgt Riley quirked his eyebrow and said, “I’m not really sure what you mean …”

Nurse Howser sighed, told herself she’d tried her best and blurted out, “They couldn’t save,” glancing down, “it.”

As he held her gaze, it was the almost exasperated compassion in her expression more than her words that finally got through to him. They couldn’t save it …

Riley started laughing. Nurse Howser, used to all sorts of reactions from injured soldiers, remained very still. The laughter was usually followed by screaming or crying. Privately, she bet on crying. She jumped a little when the Sargeant took hold of her hand and leaned in very close and whispered, “Thank You.”

“Whatever for?” She whispered back, her mouth only inches away from his.

Riley smiled, gave a gentle laugh and then rather playfully, as though Nurse Howser a child and not a handsome 60something, tweaked her nose before reclining into his pillow. He did not answer her however, but immediately fell asleep.

It was Howser’s turn to smile.

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