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I was going to talk about mutual aid today, but I think I’ll put that as part of another day’s post. Instead, I want to talk about another character in my Flames series who took on more life than I ever expected.

At first, I think I wrote Mark Young into Flames of Redemption simply because obviously Kayla couldn’t be the only firefighter at the station. Then, he started giving her a hard time. At first, I thought it was simply because he was grieving a friend, a brother, even more than a colleague. Then, I learned he’d been giving her a hard time even longer than that. And I realized there was even more behind why he did this, and little of it actually had to do with her. More of his background started to come through until I realized he had a story to tell as well. Well, it wasn’t so much I realized it as he demanded I let him tell his story. And he didn’t stop demanding, until I’d finished writing it.

Name: Mark Young

Age: 34

Parents: Timothy & Monica Young

Siblings: older sister – Maura, younger brother – Patrick

Occupation: firefighter

Background: Mark grew up as the middle son but never felt like he belonged anywhere until he joined the Marine Corps right out of high school. He served for almost eight years before being seriously wounded. While in the Corps, he met and became friends with Nolan Hunter(more on him tomorrow). After recovering, he moved to Crystal Glen(fictional town set in NW Pennsylvania) and ended up joining the fire department there with Nolan. He’d found another place he belonged, but traumas from the last several years still rode with him.

Mark had just lifted the bar over his head when he heard the sharp rap on his front door. He groaned as he set the bar back in the bracket and sat up. He was only halfway through his weights routine and hated being interrupted. But he grabbed the towel he kept near his weight bench and wiped the sweat from his face as he headed for the door. He’d taken his shirt off when he’d returned from today’s run and didn’t bother putting it back on. So, he answered the door in just a pair of track pants.
“Damn it, Mark. You could at least put a shirt on.”
Mark just grinned at Nolan. “Grow a couple inches, and you could just look me in the face.”
Nolan pushed against his shoulder. He could look him in the eye, but straight on, his gaze landed right at his collarbone. Mark just turned and walked back into the apartment, leaving the door open for his friend. He didn’t put his shirt on, dropping back onto the weight bench and reaching for the bar again. “I know you didn’t come here to spot me,” he said as he started another set of lifts.
“You never got my keys back to me.”
“On the kitchen counter. I tried to take them by your place and even brought them to the station yesterday, but you’d switched shifts with McCorkel. How’ve you been getting around?”
“Walking. Hopping rides with the other guys. Cork’s wife went into labor Saturday night. Hadn’t planned on working Sunday.”
“How is she?”
“Good from all reports,” he said, hopping up on to the counter as Mark settled the bar in the bracket again.
Without sitting up, he put his knees over the padded bars of the leg developer, hooking his feet onto the bottom of it. He started doing leg lifts and just turned his head toward Nolan. “The baby?”
“Good too. A little girl, Lorna Caitrin.He’s taking my next shift. I’m sure he’ll have pictures for you.”
Mark nodded, but his jaw tightened as he counted each lift in his head. It clenched tighter as his leg twinged. But, he pushed past that. He felt like he was always pushing past it. “Damn it, Mark. You don’t have to do this to yourself.”
“I’m not doing anything to myself,” he said, the words grating out through his teeth as he forced himself to do a few more lifts. “I’m doing it for me. I won’t go back to what I was.”
“What you were? You were fucking wounded. You were lucky to be alive, let alone keep your leg. Give yourself a fucking break. Being wounded isn’t a sign of weakness. The fact you’re still around and moving on your own should be a sign of your strength.”
“Didn’t feel that way to me when I couldn’t do a single thing for myself. I won’t go back to feeling that way again.” He let the equipment drop back into place and sat up, reaching for the towel. “Can you get a water out of the fridge? Since you seem determined to stay.”
“You’re in a nasty mood today, Mark. I figured that fairy would have taken care of that.”
He nearly snarled at that before pulling himself back. “She has nothing to do with it. It was a rough night. We got that warehouse fire and that pile-up.” He wiped the towel over his face again, as if that could erase the memory of the little boy he’d pulled out of the car. He was still alive even if his legs were mangled. They could fix that. He knew a leg could be fixed. So, he tried not to think about all the pain the boy would go through to get them working again.
At least he was still alive.
“What did happen Saturday night?” Nolan asked as he handed him the bottle of water. “You didn’t come back down before I left, and you never responded to my message.”
“I was a little busy.”
“So, you did get some. Why aren’t you in a better mood then?”
“I told you. It was a rough night.” He dragged a hand over his head though.
“We’re used to rough nights, Mark. What the hell is going on with you?”
“Hell if I know,” he muttered, taking a pull from the bottle. Then, he wrapped the towel around his shoulders. “I didn’t want to leave. She was wrapped around me, and I just wanted to stay there.”
“Maybe you should have.” The teasing tone and aggravation had left Nolan’s voice. “You could have given yourself that.”
Mark shook his head and leaned against a wall. “I haven’t even fallen asleep with a woman in over a year, Nolan. I never have trouble leaving. So, why was this so hard?”
“She have her claws in you already, brother? You going to start calling her when you’re done with work?”
Mark’s eyes snapped open, but even though Nolan was smiling, it didn’t quite reach his eyes. He knew his friend was worried about him. “No. It’s not like that. I don’t do relationships. Not anymore.”
“I’m not going there with you again. You already know my opinion about you still punishing yourself for that. You made a mistake. You’re human, Mark. You’re allowed.”

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