Advisory: This chapter deals with a Traumatic Brain Injury, which many people in today's society suffer from.
Brody had texted his mom and spoken to her a few times since Levi’s attack, she had promised to return to support her son and his boyfriend as soon as she could. Maria had to make various arrangements for the care of her mother who had suffered a stroke a few months ago, she believed it was her responsibility to provide care for her mother beings she was the only child of the family. Maria’s sense of responsibility has her being torn in multiple directions over her mother and Brody. She has booked a flight back into Boston, in a few days.
“Pop, can you please take me to the airport on Thursday to pick up mom?” Brody asked excitedly knowing he’d get to see his mom in mere hours.
Looking up from the crockpot after throwing in a few herbs Blu smiled at the young man. “Of course, buddy, let me know her flight details.” He gently tapped the stirring spoon on the side of the pot before throwing it in the sink. “Tell the boys dinner will be in thirty minutes. And can you guys let Cody shower first after dinner? It’s his turn to see Levi with Dad tonight.”
“It’s alright if I see him for a few minutes first, though, right?” Brody brow furrowed dejectedly.
“You know it. Now scram!” Blu smirked as he snapped the dish towel at the teen.
Kyle walked into the kitchen following the aroma that has filled the house, “Mmm… What smells so good?” He made a sniffing sound that had Khan looking to see if the family had traded Bella’s cat for a friendlier companion without claws. Picking up the lid from the pot Kyle inhaled deeply, grabbing a fork to taste the pot-roast. “Oh my god Blu, I think you have outdone yourself.” He said before chewing the hot tasty morsel.
“Hey, Blondie,” Blu waited for Kyle to stop chewing before giving him a quick kiss, “feels like forever since I’ve seen you.”
Sighing Kyle turned to look at his husband, “Blu, I’m sorry. I know we barely get to see one another, it’s either one of us is at the school or the hospital.”
Giving Kyle a quick peck again, his hand reached cupping the side of his husband’s face. “It wasn’t a complaint, just a matter of fact. I was telling you I miss you that’s all. We’ve got our hands full at the moment and once Levi wakes up it might be a little easier. Though, I doubt it,” he said with a morose chuckle. “You want to help me get dinner set?”
“Sure,” Kyle said with a smile. “What would you like me to do? Slice the roast or get the place settings out?”
“Uh,” Blu hummed looking around making a plan on the fly, “you start cutting the pot roast, I’ll get Jonathan and Cody to set the table. While you guys do that I’ll plate the rest. How’s that sound?” He winked at Kyle.
“It’s a –” Kyle was cut off by Lincoln.
“Yo, Pop, Dad. Who’s playin’ taxi tonight for me to get to the parenting class?” Link glanced up from the book of baby names he’s been studying lately.
“That would be me, sunshine,” Blu said putting his phone down from texting Jonathan and Cody, “I’ll drop you off on my way to the hospital to drop off Cody and pick up Brody.” Blu put the roast vegetables he’d just pulled out of the oven, throwing the oven mitt at Lincoln’s head. “Put that on the table, free-loader.”
“Watch it, Grandpa,” Link closed the book, “You rip the book and I will be forced to humiliate you.” He placed the potholder on the table.
Blu barked a quick laugh, “Grandpa, that ain’t me.” He pointed to Kyle. “That’s him. I’m not old enough yet.”
“Oh god,” Link rolled his eyes and sighing, “First, Dad will be Grandad.” He turned and pointed at Blu, “You drive too slow and almost make me late for class, so you’re Grandpa,” Lincoln chuckled as the last words of the little speech left his mouth.
Kyle snorted, “He should be called, Grampy, it’s so close to his usual grumpy state.”
Leaning up behind Kyle while he was slicing the pot roast, Blu bit into his shoulder with a growl and in a low voice said, “I’ll show you grampy.”
Blu pulled up at the curb in front of the clinic running the night time classes.
“Thanks, Pop.” Lincoln opened the door on the Escalade.
“Hey, hey, Link?” Blu called out before his son slammed the door.
“What?” Lincoln asked hurriedly, “I don’t want to be late.”
“Uh, what time do I need to pick you up, buddy? I don’t want you waiting out here by yourself, it’s a crappy part of town at night.” Blu voices his concern.
“Pop,” Link whined looking over his shoulder to make sure nobody listened to his father in protective mode. “I’ll call when it seems like class is slowing down. I’ll even make sure to call before your evening nap time,” he chuckled to himself, “love ya old man.” He threw a wave to his dad and smirked as he closed the door.
Blu waited for a beat before honking the horn and yelling through the closed window at the back end of his son as he attempted to walk away. “Link, Link?” he waved him back to the car.
Link turned around looking thoroughly annoyed, he rolled his eyes before tromping back to the SUV and throwing the door open. “What?”
“Uh… how far would you have gotten if I didn’t call you back?” Blu deadpanned.
“OH.MY.GOD! Pop what is wrong with you?” Lincoln shook his head slamming the door closed as he stormed off to get to the classroom. He burst through the door practically mowing over a quarter of the class, and ending up on his ass in front of all these soon to be parents.
Link fumbled to get to his feet full of embarrassment mumbling to himself or so he thought, “Jesus, could somebody shoot me?”
A tall lanky dark-haired hippyish looking teen with a neon green streak in his hair offered a hand, “Wow man you know the class isn’t worried about punctuality, no need to execute ya.” The hippy boy laughed at himself.
Link took the proffered hand and got up off the floor, never letting go of the boy’s hand. “I… Uh… hmm… well, see my umm pop made me late.” Lincoln looked down at the hand in his, “You have nice hands.” His eyes got real big, “I swear to god my brain isn’t working,” releasing the young man’s hand. “Thanks, I’m Link?” He stared in the boy’s pale blue colored eyes.
The boy laughed at Link’s indecisive responses, “Sage. Sage West.” Flicking his head to a female version of himself, “That’s my sister Thyme. I swear to god my parent’s done too many drugs when they were young. OH! An’ it’s that losers kid,” He pointed to some jock looking kid, “He felt like being a dad for a day I guess,” he grumbled giving the jock a death glare. “So you need a partner?” Sage rolled his eyes at himself, “A partner for class, that is. You’re contagious with ‘foot in mouth’ conversations.”
“Hmm.” Link rubbed his chin staring at Sage, “Yes to both.”
“To both?” Sage chuckled, “I’m not easy. I don’t put out after a first parenting class.”
Link had a mortified look on his face, “I. OH.MY.GOD–”
Sage placed his hand on Link’s shoulder laughing hilariously, “I was jokin’ dude. You really need to chill.”
Wiping his face with both hands trying to rid himself of his barrage of embarrassing moments, and he’d only been in the building two minutes, he huffed a breath to release the tension.
“Sure, if you don’t mind. My brother was going to come with me but…” Link cleared his throat keeping the rest of the statement to himself because he wanted to forget all the crap that’s been going on for at least the next hour. Sage, tilted his head waiting for Link to finish. “That would be great, thank you.”
“No problem,” Sage walked alongside Link, “So you’re havin’ a kid? Huh. Where’s the baby-momma?” He chuckled to himself as he used the worst New Yorkish accent he could come up with.
“She doesn’t want my kid,” Link stated in a huff. “We got drunk and well, you know.”
Sage quirked an eyebrow, “No, what?”
“You’re just messin’ with me aren’t ya?” Lincoln studied the boy’s face, “you’re not gonna make me say what happened are you?”
“Holy shit,” Sage bumped shoulders with him. “You act like talking about sex will make you burst into flames dude.”
“You know how humiliating it is to have to tell your Dads that you got somebody preggers?” Link slouched in his chair.
“Dads?” Sage nodded his head letting the information sink in. “Dads as in two, right?”
“Ya,” Lincoln looked into his new friend’s eyes looking for any malice. “Why? Is that a problem? Because I don’t care if you’re taller than me I will kick your ass. We’ve been through enough bullshit.” He said hastily.
“Woah…” Sage held up his hand to calm Link. “Dude, I’m gay why would I say anything against your family? Even if I wasn’t it wouldn’t matter. Love is love, man.”
“Okay,” Lincoln unclenched his fists that had become balled without realizing it. “Sorry, Sage.”
“Dude, do you take martial arts or kickboxing or something?” Sage looked at him skeptically, “if so, I’ll make sure I don’t piss ya off.”
Lincoln shook his head with a slight smile, “I could beat you with my guitar.”
“Oh you’re violent,” Sage joked, “I’m a lover. You could woo me with a love song.”
“Barf…” Link shook his head, “Woo? Really? Who even says shit like that?”
“I do dick,” Sage jabbed a finger lightly into Lincoln’s chest, “definitely not getting any of this fineness dude.”
“I… I wasn’t tryin’ to be an asshole.” Link said worriedly, “Lifes just been crazy man. I don’t know who is trustable anymore.”
“Dude, I am harmless,” Sage placed his hand on Link’s knee. “You’re cute when you get that perplexed look on your face. If ya feel like talkin’ about whatever is eatin’ at you, I’m here.” He squeezed his friend’s knee.
The class was quite informative, it provided each couple with an electronic controlled type of doll which acted authentically like a true to life infant. It had sleep cycles, varying feeding times, and diaper changes.
Link had calmed down being around Sage. He looked at their baby, “You wanna talk to Momma-Sage?” Lincoln cooed to the doll.
“Momma? Dude, so not cool.” Sage glared at Link. “Daddy Lincoln got his granny panties in a wad,” he chattered to the doll.
“Granny panties,” Link laughed, “Nan would have slapped you for that, she loved her thongs as gross as that sounds.” He smiled sadly, “things have changed so much over the last few years.”
Sage sat quietly studying Lincoln for a few seconds. “Times change Link,” He said seriously. “What has you looking like somebody kicked your dog?”
“Let’s see,” Lincoln looked at boys dreamy blue eyes. “A few years ago Grandpa Steven was murdered, then Nan died of a broken heart. She was the coolest old lady you could ever know.” A tear trickled down Link’s face, which Sage wiped away with the pad of his thumb. “Then a few weeks ago, some cowardly homophobic prick tried killing my twin brother,” he grumbled through clenched teeth.
“Dude, I’m so sorry.” Sage slid his arm around Lincoln’s shoulders.
“Thanks, Sage,” Link reached up touching Sage’s arm that was draped around him. “I feel like a part of me is losing control of myself. Hell, Brody, my twin’s boyfriend is ready to take on the whole school to get answers about the attack. The really crazy part I want to get my hands on whoever done it.”
“Link, there’s nothin’ crazy about wanting to catch somebody that does that shit. You’re human, and your emotions are running rampant,” Sage squeezed his friend’s shoulder, “so if I’m your baby-momma does that make us a couple now?” he joked to Lincoln.
“Let’s exchange numbers,” Link smiled. “You’ve got night shift and so baby needs to do it’s dirty diapers during that time too.” He handed Sage his phone to enter his number who handed it promptly back. “There I texted ya so you got mine too. Shit, I almost forgot to get a hold of my Pop, for a ride home.”
“I’d offer to drop ya off but Thyme and the loser shit for brains needs a ride,” Sage shoulder bumped his friend.
“No problem,” Link jostled Sage right back giving him a light elbow to his stomach before dialing Blu, “Hey Grandpa, the class is almost out.” He said as soon as Blu answered his call without even getting a chance to say anything beforehand.
“Okay. See you in a bit Grampy,” He chuckled as he disconnected from the call.
After the class was dismissed, Link and Sage made their way to where Blu was parked.
“Well,” Sage kicked a rock around. “I guess I’ll see you next week in class?”
“I thought you were takin’ night shift with the baby?” Link joked. “You know, it’s part of the baby-momma creed or something.” He punched Sage lightly in the shoulder.
“You’re too cute,” Sage smiled. “Thyme and jock boy is at the car glaring, I gotta go.” He started to walk away but turned around making the motion to call him.
“I will,” Lincoln said with a dreamy look as he opened the SUV door.
“Wow, you look besotted. Did they let you play with a real baby?” Blu asks as he pulls away onto the road. Blu gave his son a quick glance focusing back on the road.
He looked over to Link seeing the kid happily sinking into the seat with a smile he couldn’t explain. It was like the boy had love hearts floating from his eyes.
“Link,” Blu said again.
“Lincoln,” he sang clicking his fingers in front of the kid's face.
“Huh? Sage is cute,” Link shook his head trying to make sense of things.
“The herb?” Blu smirked.
“Herb?” Link got a puzzled look on his face. “What?” he scratched his head. “Did you see him? He has the cutest blue eyes and dimples.”
Blu chuckled a little confused. “You’re gonna have to explain, Link.”
Link huffed, “Didn’t you see him? I walked out with him Pop.”
“The lanky kid, who had at least ten years on you, as well as a foot taller?”
“He’s seventeen Pop,” Lincoln stared at his dad. “I just haven’t hit my growth spurt either, maybe I’ll be taller than Sage eventually.”
Laughing Blu shook his head, sobering quickly then narrowing his eyes on the road as it wasn’t safe to do it at Lincoln while he was driving. “What was he doing at a parenting class?” he asked cautiously.
“Thyme his twin sister has one in the oven,” Link glanced at the stars through the window. “But jock boy the baby-daddy decided to be daddy finally.”
“Ok-ay,” Blu said still thoroughly confused. “Don’t forget you’ve got homework when you get home. If you need any help let me know. I’m not saying you’re not capable or smart enough, but your focus is split in so many directions at the moment it’s got to be hard to concentrate.”
“Oh ya,” Lincoln turned to face Blu, “you wanna watch the baby while I do my homework?” He uncovered the electronic baby doll, holding it in Blu’s direction.
Turning in the driveway as the garage door lifted, Blu looked over. “Wow, cute kid. No time like the present to learn how to prioritize your time.” Completely changing his tune. “Good luck,” he said to Lincoln as he turned off the engine and exited the vehicle hastily.
“But… Pop, it eats, pees, and other god-awful stuff,” Link called out as he pursued his father.
“Lincoln!” Blu yelled from the kitchen. He received no response but kept on making a to-go coffee for himself.
“Pop,” Bella said with a panicked pitch, “I’m gonna miss my flight.”
“LINCOLN!” Blu screeched again losing his patience. “We’ll get there Bella, take this ridiculous creepy 'Chucky' thing to your brother. Tell him, and I quote, “Hurry the fuck up.”
“Pop!” Bella gasped in surprise ending with a chuckle.
Lincoln scrambled into the kitchen holding little ‘Chucky’ in one arm trying to smooth his hair down, grabbing his dad's coffee. Taking a large swig of the black liquid, “Thanks, Pop, I swear to god this kid woke up every hour on the hour either wanting to be fed or needing a diaper change. What age does that stop and they like sleep?”
Blu snatched his coffee back, “I’ll let you know.” He griped. “Next time, leave the brat with someone else when you want a shower, or wait until it’s asleep. I swear you kids.”
“Pop,” Bella whined holding up her phone to show him the time. “I’m gonna miss my flight.”
Her pop jogged his chin at the cat. “You going to take the hell-cat with you?” he asked for the fiftieth time since she’d left for college. He’d even tried to sneak Scarlet O’Hara into her luggage.
“Bella? Do you wanna babysit your nephew,” he held out little ‘Chucky,’ “til it’s like old enough to be outta diapers?”
“As soon as I finish college, and get a job, and get married, oh, and raise my own kids. Ask me then?” she laughed.
“You people are no help,” Link grumbled, “Sage will help.”
“What’s a sage?” Bella asked curiously.
“It’s a herb.” Blu retorted with a smirk at Link.
“No he’s not,” Lincoln got a dreamy look again, “he has long hair, the cutest blue eyes, and dimples.” He swooned at the thought of the boy.
Blu snorted, addressing Bella, “He’s about eight feet tall, weigh like ten pounds and is probably almost my age.”
“Sage is seventeen Pop,” Link glared at him, “You were born like before they invented the wheel right?”
His pop swatted at him. “Move your ass kid, your sister has a flight to catch.” As they passed the staircase he yelled for Brody, Jonathan, and Cody. Blu held the door open counting the seconds out loud until he heard the thunderous clapping of feet not wanting to miss their ride to school.
Blu dropped the boys off at school, then Bella and himself continued to the airport. Once they checked in they received her boarding pass and gate information. Bella and Blu had said their goodbyes and she made her way to the security check.
Blu’s phone indicated he had a text from Kyle, so he opened the app to read it.
Kyle: Babe, he’s awake. They are doing some tests on him now.
Bella stepped forward in the security line fanning herself with her boarding pass. Looking over her shoulder to see if Blu was still waiting for her to go through security, she felt a pang of regret for choosing a school so far from home. Her pop’s head was down looking at his phone, she noticed his shoulders shuddering up and down like he was crying. At that very moment, his head popped up gazing directly at her. He held up his phone yelling, “He’s awake, baby girl, he’s awake.” She covered her mouth with her hands almost in disbelief, tears automatically fell from her eyes. Bella picked up her bag barging her way back to her father.
“Let’s go,” Bella told him.
Her pop looked pained. “You have to get back to school, Bella.”
“No,” she shook her vigorously. “I’m not going back until I see Levi for myself. I want to talk to him, hug him, then I’m going to stay with him until he’s better.”
“You can’t Bella, school is too important. He’s awake.” He smiled. “He’s going to be okay.”
She stuck her chin out defiantly taking the handle of her suitcase and walked off back to the car without another word, and, of course, her father chasing her down.
The Trauma-Surgeon completed Levi’s assessment along with multiple Neurosurgeons and then asked for Kyle and Blu to meet with them in a consultation room. “Misters Waters’,” the surgeons shook both men’s hands. “We’ve determined what deficits Levi will face from the TBI – Traumatic Brain Injury. Levi has some blind spots along with intermittent blurred vision, along with difficulty reading, and spatial awareness. Traumatic Brain Injury patients also tend to suffer from anxiety.” The doctor paused, “we agree these will most likely be lingering side effects of the TBI.”
A therapist stepped forward offering a pamphlet to Blu, “Levi, is going to need therapy. Probably extensive. Not only to adjust to his new everyday life, along with coping from the original trauma.”
“Is there anything we can do to help him with the TBI?” Kyle asked the group of doctors.
The therapist nodded his confirmation. “Levi is a strong young man, however, his life is going to change from his previous expectations. He will need a lot of support. There are many ways of treating him, but in my opinion, he’s a lucky kid. His physical injuries could have had catastrophic effects. We will help him adjust to his new life. I have some literature here about different services available also a pamphlet that offers information about service dogs, I believe that one could help Levi resume his everyday life. I’m giving this to you now so you can research what methods and services you think will help him. Also a list of therapists who specialize in trauma counseling.”
Kyle took Blu’s hand, “What do you think, Babe?”
“I… I…” he shook his head trying his best to keep his emotions at bay. “He’s… he’s an athlete doc, what the hell is he going to do?”
“Mister Waters, there are special baseball leagues for the visually impaired,” one doctor offered. “It will be an adjustment, patience is the key with TBI’s.”
“Is there any chance he will recover more than you thought, I mean, I can’t…” he held his fist to his mouth, “We can’t go in there and tell our boy that he’s lost everything he’s worked for,” Blu let out a sob, “we just can’t.”
“I understand your situation,” The doctor pulled at his tie, “I hope all of you realize how lucky of a young man he is to be alive. Honestly, when he was first brought into the trauma suite in the emergency department, I gave your husband a grave prognosis.” Kyle frowned. “I don’t know if he shared it with you due to you being on a trip.” The doctor tapped his fingers on the conference table. “Unfortunately, TBI’s don’t have a fix-it button we can flip and make everything all better. Every day your son will face challenges, be there to offer him whatever support you can. He’s going to need his family.”
“I… we’ve loved those kids before they even came to live with us, they’re our babies,” Kyle sniffled and wiped his eyes, “We will be by Levi’s side. He’s our son, he deserves nothing but the best of what we can provide. His brothers and sister will be there for him too. Brody is a great kid, he loves Levi with all of his heart.”
Blu stood cuddled into Kyle’s side each giving strength to the other. How are they going to get through this? Everything feels hopeless. Their son had done nothing to deserve any of this and for no fathomable reason, some asshole went out of their way to alter his life. Why? What could Levi have possibly done to deserve this? What? He’s a typical sassy, full of life teenager.
Kyle and Blu sat on both sides of Levi’s hospital bed, each holding a hand. They had explained everything the doctors had told them to the best of their abilities, waiting for a response from their son.
“What about baseball?” Levi quickly asked, “How am I to play when I can’t see right?”Levi got a blank look on his face, “So I’m done playing then. Brody and me can’t play in college together. I was a jock, now I’m a cripple. What good am I?”
“Levi, you’re still the same boy we love with all of our heart,” Kyle said as he squeezed his hand. “Your Pop and I would both give anything for you to not be laying in that bed. We’d gladly take your place for you if we could.”
Levi snatched his hands away from his dads, grabbing the little pitcher of water a nurse had brought him throwing it. The pitcher shattered against the wall sending ice and water across the floor. “Why would Brody want a cripple? I might as well be blind,” Levi cried.
“Son, Brody loves you.” Kyle tried to remain calm, “that boy has been to this hospital every day for as long as we would let him be here. There were nights we had to drag him out of here arguing.”
“Whoever shoved me might as well have killed me, they took every good thing from me,” Levi screamed with rage.
A nurse heard Levi’s shouting and hurried her rotund body in the door, “I think Levi needs some help to calm down, the doctor ordered him a mild sedative,” she raised the syringe to a port on his IV injecting the calming liquid.
Levi’s eyes became heavy, “Dad, Pop, I’m scared,” were the last words he spoke as he drifted off to sleep.
Back at the Waters residence Kyle and Blu had told the kids about Levi’s injuries and the deficits he now faces. There were many tears shed, and many questions asked by all of the kids. Each vowed they would always be there for their brother. Brody was filled with nothing but tender love for his boyfriend, and rage for the individual that had perpetrated such a heinous thing on Levi. The family went their separate ways after the family meeting to deal with their feelings some separately and some collectively.
Kyle had taken Blu by the hand practically dragging him into the master bedroom, closing the door behind them. Kyle’s emotions have been all over the place since the meeting with the doctors. “I get everybody’s emotions that were voiced downstairs.” Kyle sat down on their bed, “There were only three people I can say I ever hated up until now. How could somebody hurt our baby the way they did?” His voice cracked with emotion.
Lincoln sat in his room strumming his guitar for a while, not really sure of how to face everything that had occurred that day. Link rolled to the side of his bed placing his guitar on its stand. He slid the phone out of his pocket, dialing the one person that seemed to have a calming factor on him as of late.
“Sage?” Link sniffled.
“Lincoln,” Sage asked worriedly, “What’s wrong?”
“I dunno,” Link muttered, “Everything? Levi woke up today, but everything is different now.”
“I just… I needed to hear your voice,” Lincoln said the phone slipping from his hand as he wiped the tears from his eyes. “Can you just tell me everything will be okay?”
Sage was quiet for a brief spell, “Link, I can’t tell you that. I can guarantee I will be right by your side when you need me.”
Okay folks, now at least you guys have some idea as to what Levi has been facing. The family has a lot on their plate.
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We hope everybody is trying to remain safe at home.