You and me
We used to be together
Everyday together always
I really feel
That I’m losing my best friend
I can’t believe
This could be the end
It looks as though you’re letting go
And if it’s real
Well I don’t want to know
Don’t Speak: No Doubt
Songwriter(s): Gwen Stefani, Eric Stefani
Copyright: Knock Yourself Out Music
Hospitals are not the most restful places in the world. The noise is constant, even now, at 3 in the morning, the continual beeps and hissing, the endless footfall and murmur of voices, make it difficult to tune out. Every hour or so, the door opens and a nurse comes in to take obs. He is oblivious to it all, still in the post op drug-induced sleep that he needs so badly.
While we were all so quietly worried about the injury to his back, the immediate danger was four inches of flat metal blade that sliced into his inner thigh, right near the main artery. That little gem required three hours of surgery late last night. The rest,I was told, was on the wait and see medical plan. So here I am, waiting, in the dark on so many fronts, and hating it.
This ceiling is ugly. A series of slightly discolored tiles punctuated by even less attractive light boxes and and ineffective air ducts. I’ve counted the holes in the tiles, worked out that each one has around 360 and that there are 88 tiles minus the two ducts,four lights and 8 half tiles worth of bulkhead. That is roughly 28,000 holes. That little calculation took me the better part of half an hour to work out in my head. Elliot will do it in under 5 minutes. Tears pool in my eyes as I try to fathom what he will spend the rest of the hours doing while he stares up at this God-awful ceiling.
Elliot would design a ceiling of beauty. A masterpiece. Brilliant in its simplicity, effective and fifty-thousand shades of interesting so that a body wouldn’t focus on their ailments and would instead, focus on sharpening their perception and honing their imagination. Everything would be a subtle play of shadow and light painting works of art with the shifting sun.
The sun comes up bringing with it more frustration. I interrogate the doctors until the fear shows in their eyes. I’ve got them spewing forth information on the basis that if they don’t get in first I might not shut the fuck up. While Elliot is still unconscious Grace gets them to run every test under the sun and then some, in an effort to find all the what’s-wrongs and troubleshoot the what-ifs. Every time they try to put up a brick wall, Christian knocks it down with threats to withdraw substantial donations.
By the time we’ve finished with the medical team every possibility has been exhausted, every eventuality planned for and they are no longer viewing Grace as one of their own. No, Grace has crossed to the dark side; she’s a mother on a mission. But it’s not just the medical possibilities that I’ve given a workout. My mental calisthenics extend to every possible reaction that Elliot might have when he wakes up.
“If I know my son, he will carry on stoically, making the best of a bad situation with a ready joke and a smile. He’ll be thinking of how it might impact on everyone else.”
“And that is the problem, Grace, he’ll put everyone ahead of himself.” In my head I add that means me too but I don’t want to come across as petty. To my intense embarrassment she reads my thoughts.
“No, darling. He loves you. That won’t change.” Spoken like an eternal optimist. I almost don’t say what comes out of me next. It would be easier to have her believe everything will be alright except for that look on Christian’s face. He knows exactly what I am thinking and he doesn’t disagree. And doesn’t that just complicate the issue? I shake my head sending him my patented shut the fuck up memo. He responds with a grim nod and a silent hint of ‘the only one she will hear this from is you’. The telepathic stand-off goes on for another few seconds before I cave.
“Grace, I love your son unreservedly and for the rest of my natural life but you know that he is altruistic to a fault.” I’m choosing my words carefully but how the hell do you tell a mother that her son is about to reject the world in some warped attempt to protect everyone he loves? Christian looks away from us. Looks like I’m on my own. “Elliot will make this about protecting me. His first consideration will be how this will affect my life and then he will worry about himself.”
“Is there anything wrong with that?” She’s honestly perplexed and I wonder how different her understanding might be if she had worked in something other than pediatrics. Christian runs his hand through his hair and looks up at me from his seated position. His stillness and silence a juxtaposition to my pacing and constant babble. Meanwhile Grace is doing exactly what Elliot would do. Smoothing the waters. Only she does it with calm and refined reasoning as opposed to the jokes and diffusion that are part of Elliot’s arsenal.
She stops in the middle of the floor and watches me stride the length of the corridor. When I turn, our eyes meet and hers widen with sudden insight. “You’re worried that he will end it with you.” I pause and keep looking at her.
“I know that he will. He will have some ridiculous notion that this will ruin my life and that’s before we even know what ‘this’ is.”
“Kate, my son won’t give up. He doesn’t have it in him.” Great, now she’s pissed at me. Fuck! I turn to Christian throwing my arms wide. He rises from the seat realizing that he’s been tagged into this wrestling match.
“Mom, that’s not what Kate is saying.” Christian stands behind her, his hand on her shoulder as he looks across at me. “Elliot will do everything in his power to put everyone else first and if that means breaking it off with Kate and disappearing to spare us all his misery then you know that’s what he will do.”
Grace’s hand covers her mouth as she suppresses a cry. Her shocked body sinks into the chair Christian has vacated. All I can do is chew on my already orally-manicured nails as I try to work out how to make this stop. At least Christian seems to finally get the type of guy is big brother really is.
“I don’t believe it. He wouldn’t really try to shut us all out, would he?” Christian squats down in front of her as he hands her a handkerchief from his suit pocket. What kind of guy carries a handkerchief in this day and age? What is he 60?
“Mom, Elliot has been like this all of his life. You know that he will throw himself in the firing line just to deflect attention away from a bad situation. He has always cared about everyone else first. I never realized just how much until recently but now I’m kicking myself for not seeing it before.” He glances at me for a moment. “Kate has this absolutely nailed. I can guarantee that he will make sure that she is taken care of before he stages his own exit.”
“You don’t think he would take his own life?” Grace is tearing up with worry and although I have wondered this myself, I don’t think that he would. Only I am too choked with doubt to speak. Luckily Christian fields this one, too.
“No, Mom. I just think that if there is any long term injury, that he will make arrangements to disappear from our lives so we don’t have to watch him.” Grace starts to cry for real. My heart is breaking for her, hell, it’s breaking for me. I don’t really think this is anything that she doesn’t know but like any mother, she didn’t want to see this as an inevitable possibility.
“But he doesn’t even know if this is long term. Surely he will wait to find out. He won’t do anything rash.” Oh God. There is so much about Elliot that is laid back and considered but when it comes to loved ones and their safety and well-being, he can be fairly black and white.
“I want to believe that Grace, I really do, but Elliot is decisive. You know, he knew on the day that we met that we were meant to be together. Everything from that moment on was about how to make that happen, even when it seemed that my father was set against it. God, even I fought it but he just knew. So, you see, if Elliot has decided to bow out of our lives in a worst case scenario then he is halfway out the door already.” Oh God, I feel like the worst kind of bitch for even thinking it and the only thing stopping me from biting my own tongue off is the look of complete agreement coming from Christian. And he knows because he would be exactly the same. One day I am going to have to warn Ana about this patently stupid gene that the Grey men seem to carry. As soon as I think of her, she appears at the door of the waiting room.
“Unless you change his exit strategy.” Ana and Jason, like angels of mercy, are making their way towards us with fresh coffee. She smiles at me as she hands me a cup.
“What do you mean?” Opening the lid, I blow on the hot liquid before taking a sip. God, I need this. I shift my focus back to Ana who has gained everyone’s attention.
“I just mean that he has already agreed to marry you and if I know you at all, Kate, you already have the date set and most of the wedding planned.”
Yes, our beautiful Caribbean wedding will have to go on hold now. If that were the worst thing to come out of this whole mess then the words ‘eternally grateful’ would be tattooed across my ass. Something that must look like disappointment flashes across my face because Christian spins me around to face him.
“Kate, has he already agreed to a date?” I nod mutely. WTF? What does it matter? Until he is well there will be no wedding. “Then there is already intent there. Why can’t we just sneak it forward a couple of months?”
“Have you lost your ever-loving mind?” I break over the top of whatever ridiculous thought Ana is about to have.
“You can’t ambush your brother with a surprise wedding!” Grace zones in on what they are saying at the same time but the three of them are just looking at us like this is the most reasonable solution in the universe served up with a side of ‘why didn’t you think of this earlier’.
“Hell, no, he won’t agree to it.” I push Christian away but he steps in close again. I look at Ana willing her to call her dog off but she just has a stupid grin on her face. She’s nuts! They’re both nuts! And Jason Taylor is the chocolate sauce holding them on this fucked up sundae of an idea! Christian grabs my shoulders.
“Kate, you and I both know that once he hears about his prognosis that he is going to shut us all out. I am asking you, no, I am begging you, if you love my brother half as much as I think you do, you’ve got to marry him as soon as possible. It’s the only thing that will keep him here.”
Now it’s my turn to sink down into a seat, only I’m nowhere near as graceful as Grace when I do so and hot coffee splashes down my shirt.
“What if he says no?” God, how mortifying. To be cast aside at the alter in front of our closest family and friends. Shit, friends! Would this mean getting married without the boys being here? Jason hands me a napkin to wipe my shirt.
“Miss Kavanagh, Kate, you don’t have to do this.” Jason looks intently into my eyes while I sense the tension and anger in Christian. Jason is crossing a boundary here on behalf of his old friend. In that moment, as our eyes lock, I know he is willing me to do exactly what Christian is suggesting. Is this really the answer?
“And if I don’t, we all lose him? Shit! Sorry Grace.” It’s my turn to do the patented Grey sweep through my hair. “I don’t know. The last thing I want to do is ambush him when he is fragile.”
“He won’t turn you down, Kate. We’ll make sure of it.” Ana sits down next to me and takes my hand. What happened to the days when I used to reassure her? When it was my job to prop up her self esteem. Now she has all the strength of Christian’s love behind her and that quiet confidence of someone who has already won life’s lottery. That thought has me feeling petty and small in her presence.
“No, he won’t refuse …and how much of that will be about him doing the right thing by me rather than the right thing for us? No matter what I do, I’m screwed unless by some miracle he can get himself out of that bed.”
“Would you feel trapped by his condition if he didn’t?” I’m not naive enough to think it would be easy or that there wouldn’t be a lot of resentment for what might have been taken from us. Life is unpredictable like that. But…
“Maybe, I don’t know, but I won’t ever walk away from him, if that’s what you’re asking. When I said yes, it was forever. In sickness and health and everything that goes with it. No,I won’t be the one to walk away.”
“Then why don’t we see what his reaction is when he wakes up? Play it by ear. There is no reason to stage an intervention if there is nothing to intervene in.” Her smile is so warm and reassuring. I look from her to Jason to Grace standing in Christian’s arms.
“No matter what happens, we will all be there to support both of you in whatever way you need, Kate.” Somehow I sense Christian would buy Elliot’s recovery if he could. After sitting with me all night, ensuring that Elliot was never left alone for a moment, I know that whatever happens next, it is going to be Christian who I rely on and part of me can’t quite reconcile that thought with where we were a few months ago.
“Come with me?” Christian takes my hand and we enter Elliot’s room.
An hour later, Jason has taken Ana home to rest, Grace is chasing down the specialist and Elliot wakes up. His face is puffy and bruised, covered with bandages. The doctors have already told us that there is not likely to be any permanent hearing damage and that his eyes, while sore and full of grit, will also most likely not have sustained any lasting damage because of the helmet he was wearing. I am still concerned as I watch the nurse remove the dressings and ointment from his face. When he gives me some indication that he can see me I start to breathe again but he is confused and reaching. I figure he can’t see clearly and he probably isn’t hearing us so I kiss him gently, giving him the sense of touch to keep him grounded. It helps us both for a moment.
Our communication with him is short-lived and it is twenty-four hours before he wakes properly again. This time there is discussion with Grace about the options that the specialist has laid out and I can see him closing up. When I go into my Pollyanna act he kicks us out of the room and I know we’ve lost him. My heart cleaves in two. When we get out of the room I break down and Christian holds me up.
“Come here, sweetheart.” I can’t hold it back. After barely shedding a tear for the past couple of days, the floodgates open all over Christian’s linen shirt. “Shh, Kate. Katie, it’s going to be alright.”
Grace is no better snuggled in on his other side and I wonder for a moment who is holding him up. Once the specialist is finished with him the nurse lets us know that he doesn’t want to see us right now. That big lug is making plans and none of them will include me. Correction, none of them will include us. I go from upset to angry in a heartbeat and he’s lucky I don’t march in there and knock some sense into him with his own hard hat.
By this time Carrick has arrived to check his son and take Grace home. She refuses.
“Grace, listen. We’re going with Christian’s plan.” Carrick looks from one face to the next confused by what is going on. Christian just strokes my back, offering support. “I need you to go home and coordinate with my mother. She has our dresses underway already and I’ll need the two of you to get the window dressing of this shindig organized. I don’t care what we have as long as it feels like a wedding.”
I turn to Carrick. “I’m going to assume that in the next twenty-four hours he is going to contact you about wills and money. If I know Elliot, he will try to sign the house over to me. Either that or the company.”
“Kate, I’m not sure that he can.” My eyes must say don’t be an idiot because he stops speaking and shuts his mouth.
“Not the point. I want you to play along as if it is the easiest thing in the world.”
“Okay, but are you going to tell me what this is about?”
“Dad, we’re going to have a wedding.”
“What? Are you mad? He is in traction, he is in pain and on medication. If he challenges it, hell, if the hospital challenges it, then there isn’t a court in the land that will uphold the marriage contract. You can’t coerce a heavily medicated person into a marriage.”
“No, we can’t. But I am hoping that if we front up with all the doings of a wedding ceremony then he will get the message that he can’t push us all away. I want him to get a very strong message that I am not going anywhere.”
“We could just take him off meds.” Christian shoves his hands in his pockets as he says this. I want to laugh. In the past I would have torn him a new asshole for being a prat but today I see it as him trying to get his way like the little boy he is capable of being. It is kind of cute. Grace, on the other hand, is not impressed.
“Christian Trevelyan Grey, that is medically unethical and I will not be party to it.”
“He’s joking, Grace. Honestly, he doesn’t want to see his brother in pain.”
“Might.” I turn around and thump him on the shoulder just for good measure.
“Ow.” He rubs his arm. “Bully.”
“Kids! Seriously, you two are worse than three year olds. So we stage a fake wedding. Then what? What if he tells us all to go away?” Carrick is doing that voice of reason thing that Elliot likes to do.
“Carrick, I’m not going to pin my hopes on this working but if I don’t try he is going to ban me from his hospital room anyway. He is pulling away from us already.”
“You know, he has given me power of attorney. I guess I could play that card.” Christian’s voice is quiet but firm.
“He’s not incapacitated, he’s just a little drugged up. For heaven’s sake, all of this talk about surprise weddings and ambush and power of attorney. You can’t do this to him. For heaven’s sake!”
She’s right, I know Grace is right. I’m about to pull the plug on the whole thing when the doors open and in strides a tall leggy blonde. Gia ‘fucking Matteo, the stuff of nightmares. As she walks towards us I take in the perfect pencil skirt, the sheer blouse, the five inch heels and the carefully groomed hair and face. All I can think is that I slept on the floor next to Elliot’s bed last night in my sweats and I haven’t washed my hair for two days. She completely ignores everyone and walks straight up to Christian.
“Christian, I just heard the news. How is he?” She leans in for a peck on the cheek and Christian, God love him, steps back making her movement just a little awkward which causes Grace to giggle behind her hand.
“Miss Mateo, you remember my mother and father.” She is all charm as she turns to Carrick and takes both his hand and Grace’s. “Oh yes, of course. I am so sorry. You must both be so terribly worried.”
“And you know Elliot’s fiancee, Kate Kavanagh.” Gia turns to me and in one of those surreal moments she pulls me into a hug. I shrug over her shoulders at the others who are mixture of bemusement and shock.
“Oh, Kate. Is there anything I can do?” Just for a fraction of a second I wonder if she is being genuine and then she pulls away from me while simultaneously giving me a shove with her hands and screwing up her face. To everyone else it would look like I pushed her. The vicious bitch all but snarls at me before the mask of concern falls over her features and she turns back to Elliot’s parents. “I couldn’t believe it. It has been all over the news. He is such a hero.”
I know exactly what has been on the news because I drafted the media release with Christian last night. We haven’t mentioned heroism or bombs, instead we implied it was a site accident. Mia’s boss wanted us to keep the details quiet so they could follow some leads. We don’t even have the assigned FBI agents present guarding Elliot’s room. Instead there are two CIA ghosts floating around pretending to be outpatients and suddenly that seems like a really stupid decision. The word hero coming from Gia’s mouth is sending up all sorts of alarm bells.
Christian schools his face, pulling on his dominant stance. Cow face doesn’t seem to realise that she has just made an enemy of the most powerful man in Seattle and the guy who is paying her bill.
“What are you doing here, Gia?” Christian’s voice is so cold I expect to see her face frost over.
“I thought I could help. I wanted to see if there was anything I could do. I know Elliot has speaking commitments, I thought I might be able to step in with those and the management of your renovation.” Her eyes never leave Christian’s which is a good thing because she misses Grace leveling her with eyes like daggers and Carrick’s mouth gaping like a stunned goldfish.
“That won’t be necessary.” Christian is not giving her an opening but she’s too stupid to realise the door just shut in her face.
“You’ll need my expertise.”
“Kate, is there anything that you can’t handle in the next few weeks?” Christian speaks to me while keeping his eyes on the ice maiden.
“I don’t think so. TJ has the project management sewn up, James is on his way back from Haiti and all of the presentations are written and can be delivered either virtually or I would imagine that John or I can present on Elliot’s behalf.”
Now it is Gia’s time to do the goldfish. “But you don’t even understand his design.”
“And you do?”
“Kate, I’ve worked with Elliot for a long time. I understand it from a professional point of view that with all due respect, you could never begin to understand.”
“Miss Mateo.” Carrick cuts in. “What you fail to understand is that Kate has co-authored all of Elliot’s academic papers. I think she understands those designs in the best possible way.” He’s lying. My name is not on the papers and I would flounder if I was put under any scrutiny.
“It’s a moot point, Carrick. Elliot will rally very quickly and once we’ve had our honeymoon, he will be back at work very quickly.”
“Honeymoon?” Had the wind knocked out of you, love? I’m about to respond, hoping that I don’t piss Grace and Carrick off too much when Grace pipes up.
“Yes, it’s wonderful, Kate and Elliot are going ahead with their wedding, right here in the hospital. In fact, darling we had best go and get organized. I need to meet with Kate’s mother this afternoon.” Now I am doing a little goldfish of my own. Gotta love the way Grace speaks to Carrick while sticking the knife into Gia on my behalf. God, I love this woman. “Miss Mateo, it’s lovely to see you again. I’m so sorry that you won’t be able to see Elliot but we will tell him you called by. Would you like to walk out with us? Kate, sweetheart, I will phone you later.”
Gia looks about ready to argue but then she sees that she’s been effectively dismissed. Grace and Carrick both hug me goodbye and then Christian actually puts an arm around my shoulder and starts shepherding me back to Elliot’s room. Gia has no choice but to leave or look like the giant twat that she really is.
“Are you okay?” His concern is touching. His body tense. I guess he might hate her more than I do.
“Nothing I can’t handle.” I glance back over my shoulder at the trio as they leave the building. I’ve never been more thankful for the love and support of the Grey family. “Can you do me a favor?”
“Sure, name it.”
“Elliot’s not going to wake up for a while. Can you take me back to the apartment? I need a shower and a change of clothes. And then I have another favor to ask of you.”
After I’ve freshened up and we’ve had a meal I pick up the phone and dial St Brigid’s parish. By the time I’ve finished I have convinced Father Kelly to be ready for Christian to pick him up. Now all we have to do is convince the groom.
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