The screeching of tired wheels on old tracks could be heard through the hissing of steam. It could be heard through the rhythmic chugging of the powerful old titan as the train rolled in. Then, for just a moment, the screeching could not be heard. A blaring whistle drowned out all other noises. The old, worn down train demanded respect, despite her battered state. The large white letters painted on her dark green sides said "UNITED STATES ARMY," and only a few hours before had she carried wounded young men and the nurses who cared for them. The whistle was a scream of defiance.
"I'm here, I will not fall," the train seemed to be saying. She had arrived in a place that appeared to be a graveyard, but in reality was a hospital for the metal children of an industrial age.
No one present was unaware of her arrival. The growing cluster of men standing on the platform all contributed their voices to the auditory chaos. Their anxiety was tangible. They felt their fears grow within themselves, and they saw it clearly printed on the faces of their fellows. Steam filled the area between the workshop and the station. It hissed in vast quantities from the sides of the old giant. It churned in the air, surging and seething, rolling over the men who stood waiting.
Hands encased in heavy gloves held boxes filled with tools. Standard issue shoes encased feet that moved in agitation. Oil and grease already covered the overalls of the men and their faces would be darkened as well, long before the day was over. These men were doctors, and their patients were a very sick steam engine and her long line of cars who had limped into the waiting arms of the repair facility.
Finally, the train came to a halt. She would rest, and the men who now eagerly surged towards her would make certain that her rest would not be permanent. One of these men was a very short fellow who was prematurely waving farewell to his youth, not to mention his hair. Although he had begun to elbow his way forward, a brief glimpse of someone standing in one of the cars caused him to change his mind. At the sight of the white clad form standing in the window, he separated from the group of men whose attention was devoted solely to the engine.
The steam quickly obscured the window and the someone was lost. This served to quicken his stride, and he soon reached the door to the car. Just as his hands reached for it, the long and rather strangely shaped handle turned. The door burst open outwards, nearly clipped him on the nose. The somebody who had been standing in the window now stood in the doorway, and the first thing the mechanic noticed was how long her hair had grown.
The woman surprised him by stepping down quickly and pressing herself into his arms. She very nearly knocked him over. Grease from his overalls soon smudged the starched white frock she wore. She ignored this, and buried her head in his shoulder. A gloved hand rose automatically to stroke her hair, to hold her, to just hold her, but it knocked off her hat. She ignored this, too.
"They told me to get off the train," she said. Though her voice was muffled, he could tell she had been crying. "but I wanted to see you."
"Oh, I love you," he said. He had wanted to chide her for staying on the train, especially since the repair grounds had received word that the train would be needing significant repairs.
"I was so scared," she said. She pulled away from him. Dark brown eyes stared into his lighter ones, and he hoped she would not see the fear that lay within his own eyes.
"Nothing will hurt you, I won't let it," he assured her. "I sure as hell won't let it."
"I was scared that they wouldn't let me come here, that they'd kick me off the train," she said. "That I wouldn't be able to see you and you'd get hurt fixing it, I was just so certain you'd get hurt fixing it, oh lord, the train made such awful noises. It got so hot in there, and they crammed too many people in, with all the stretchers there wasn't a bit of space to move in, and nobody would tell me what was wrong with the train so I thought maybe we'd derail or explode or-"
The mechanic kissed her. No other course of action had so readily presented itself in his mind, and no other course of action had seemed nearly as pleasing. He wrapped his arms around the young nurse who had, for some reason he had yet to discover, fallen in love with him. He kissed her with the passion of a man who had not kissed the woman he loved in far too long a time. He felt her fingers wrapping into his hair, felt the steam blanket them, heard the wolf whistles of his fellow mechanics. One by one, sound by sound, sensation by sensation, the mechanic shut everything out except the feeling of his heart exploding in an entirely good way.
After surfacing for air, the nurse took a step back. She straightened her clothes, minded her hair. For a few moments, she would not meet his eyes. Then she lifted her gaze to meet his, and he met her shy blush with a cocky grin.
"So you love me?" she asked.
"Enough to risk my job, at least," came the mechanic's glib reply.
"That's enough, I think," the nurse said with a smile. "Yes, that's enough."