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    zanoGreen
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WARNING: This story contains graphic content such as sex, violence, death, and derogatory slang.  

Imprisoned - 16. The Sergeant

I rubbed my sleepy eyes, picking my head up off the rough comforter. The slow rhythmic beep of monitors filling the room almost makes me fall back asleep again, but then the door to the room slides open.

I jerk my head up and glance towards the direction of the door, my eyes adjusting to the bright fluorescent lights.

"Sorry hun, I didn't mean to wake you." The nurse, Sarah I think her name is, says to me in her sweet southern accent.

"It's okay, I was already awake." I grumbled.

She tsks at me as she checks the IV pumps and does her hourly rounding.

"You should really go home and get some rest, we can call you if there's any changes." She urges.

For the past three days they have been trying to get me to go home, but I can't bring myself to leave.

I look over at Elliott, tube down his throat to help him breathe, endless IV lines going every which way. What would he do if I were in this bed? Wouldn't he stay?

"I just can't bring myself to leave him." I say, gripping his hand tighter hoping that maybe that would be enough to wake him up.

My mind flashes back to the warehouse where he slowly lost consciousness in my arms, my heart shattering into a million tiny fragments. Once help arrived his heart had stopped, but thanks to the excellent medics and the superb surgeons who stitched him up good as new, he was still alive.

The unfortunate thing though, is that he had to be induced in a coma. The Doctors and Nurses said that it was the best way to help his body heal from the trauma it had endured. What they hadn't expected was for him to not wake up after they took him off the drugs. So here he was, still in the ICU, not wanting to wake up. Why didn't he want to wake up?

"He's lucky to have you." She smiles at me and I force myself to smile back at her. "You should at least take a break, go get some coffee or food. There's a cafeteria in the South Tower on the first floor." She informs, hugging her tablet close to her chest, giving me a sympathetic look.

I give her a slow nod and pick myself up out of my chair. I lean down and give him a kiss on the cheek, the scruff on his face tickling my chin.

"I'll be back." I say in a low tone. The nurses say that talking to him will help, that he can still hear his surroundings. I hoped that was true, I hoped that he knew I was here with him.

I stepped out of the room and slid the door closed behind me, the hustle and bustle of the ICU floor drowning out my thoughts slightly.

I walk past the desk and make eye contact with Elliott's nurse, she gives me another warm smile and I return with a wry one, not really having the energy to give her a full smile.

I make my way down the hall towards the elevator bank, hitting the button a little harder than necessary causing the man next to me to shoot me a nervous look. I give him an apologetic look and he nods his head in understanding. I wonder if he had a loved one laid up in a bed like Elliott?

The thought of Elliott sends a pain through my chest and I choke back a rather large lump in my throat. The elevator doors swing open and I step inside, leaning against the railing and hanging my head so as to avoid eye contact with the various other people on the elevator.

I can't remember the last time I had ever felt so down and brooding, oh wait, yes I do, it was when David died. I felt like my chest had a hole punched through it and the only thing that could make it better is if Elliott were to wake up .

I stepped off at my designated floor and crossed the sky bridge over to the South Tower, following the signs for the cafeteria. I could practically taste the coffee, as I entered the brightly lit space. A nice tall cup of liquid gold might just be the thing I need right now to keep myself from coming apart. I eye the coffee machine and shuffle my way towards it, not paying much attention to the people buzzing around me. I grab a cup and tap the button, reveling in the smell of fresh Columbian coffee that comes pouring out.

My phone buzzes and I reach into my pocket, staring at my screen. It's my mom. No doubt she heard about the almost destruction of half the city, and I was sure to hear an earful from her about how I haven't returned any of her phone calls.

"Hey ma." I answer in a friendly tone, hoping to soften the blow.

"Joseph Ryan Riggs, why haven't you returned any of my phone calls?" Her voice comes through the phone stern, and I wince at her use of my first name, something I never go by.

"Mama I'm sorry-"

"Don't you Mama me, do you know how worried I was?"

I sigh and stare at the coffee machine, the slow trickle indicating it's almost done.

"I know, my mind's just been… Elsewhere." I skate around the topic of Elliott's current condition. Not wanting my mom to worry too much about me.

I had told her about Elliott and she was really happy for me, even going as far to tell me that she was excited to meet him. Although now, I was hoping that plan was still in our future. I shook the thoughts from my head, that damn lump starting to form in my throat again. The last thing I wanted to do was lose it on the phone with her.

She sighs and there's a rustle of the phone shuffling around. "I'm sorry honey, I saw the news yesterday and I've been so worried."

I couldn't blame her. Images of my brother David begin shuffling through my head, David and I at the shooting range, me whooping and grabbing him up in a bear hug because he hit the perfect mark three times in a row. David and I celebrating my finishing the Police Academy, and how hungover we both were the next day… Finding David dead.

That last one never ceases to send chills over my body and make my breath catch. I've been to multiple therapists over it, but none of them seemed to help. The only thing that helped was lying in a hospital bed some five floors up. Elliott made those bad thoughts disappear, and ever since the warehouse they've slowly started to creep their way back in, festering inside of me like a virus.

"It's okay Mom, you don't have to worry." I put a little chuckle on the end to give it some oomph, but even I knew she wouldn't buy it.

"What's wrong buddy?" She asks, and I curse myself for not getting her off my tail.

"Nothin' Mama." I lie. I pay for my coffee and dodge people on my way out of the cafeteria, heading in the direction of the elevator bank.

I hear a huff of air on the other side of the phone, signaling that she's growing impatient.

"I have been your mother for thirty-six years, I know when you're lying and I know when somethings wrong, spill."

"Nothings wrong." I argue.

"Joseph." She warns, and I cringe again at the use of my first name.

"Mama." I whine.

There's a pause and then another huff of air.

"Fine. If you won't tell me then I guess you leave me no choice."

There's more shuffling on the phone, followed by a thud of her setting the phone down and then clicking along with the clacking of keys. I listen intently, trying to figure out what the noise is.

"What are you doing?" I ask nervously.

"Well, since you won't tell me what it is, then I guess I'll just have to come out and pay you a visit." She responds.

"Haha you're very funny." I respond with a nervous chuckle. When it came to her son, Sarah Riggs was anything but a joker. She wouldn't really fly all the way out here just to figure out what was wrong. Would she?

"Ohhh look at that, nonstop to LA. You know how I hate layovers." She teases.

"Mama c'mon, I'm not buying it." I wasn't so sure though, my Mom has done crazier things in the past.

"Save thirty dollars when booking first class, yes please. Maybe I'll get a mimosa."

A panic begins to rise up in me at the realization that she is one hundred percent being serious. I couldn't have my mother flying all the way out here for something so trivial. Even though to me it wasn't that trivial, but to her, whatever she thought had me so down was enough to warrant a trip out here.

"Mama stop." I respond in a defeated tone.

"Do you think I should get the travel insurance? I know some say it's a waste of money, but you never know."

"It's Elliott…" My voice breaks this time, the lump that forms in my throat making it hard to swallow.

"Oh. Did something happen with the two of you?" She asks, that motherly concern traveling through the phone and hitting me right in the chest, where I swear it would make me collapse into a heaping, bawling, mess of a man.

"He's hurt Mama, pretty badly." I say my voice cracking as I start to cry. Luckily I was the only one in the elevator, crying in front of complete strangers was not something I liked doing.

"Oh honey," Her voice goes soft. "I'm so sorry."

The elevator doors open and to my embarrassment there's people standing on the other side. I dip my head and pass by them, not wanting to see any sympathetic stares.

I approach a wall and rest my head against it, leaning into it, it's about the only thing keeping me upright at this point. Between the lack of sleep, worrying over Elliott, and now the crying, I didn't know how much more I could take.

"I just don't know what to do." I choke out. "He's just lying there, and I want him to wake up but he won't. I can't lose him Mama."

"Take a deep breath, love." She orders with a warm tone.

I take a deep ragged breath, and then another, and then another, slowly starting to feel my heart rate slow.

"You remember when you were in the hospital after your accident?" She asks, and I nod my head even though I know she can't see it. "When you were in that coma I was so worried that you would never wake up. I thought that you were just tired of fighting and you had given up, but then I realized something. You're a fighter, and stubborn, and there wasn't anything in this world that you couldn't overcome. You just needed some time to yourself, to sort things out in your head. Maybe that's what Elliott needs, maybe he needs some time in his own headspace to make sense of things."

Was she right? Was Elliott just refusing to wake up because he wasn't ready yet? I imagine him in a dark empty vastness, mulling over everything that has happened. Maybe she was right, maybe he just needed some time to process. I mean no one really knows what happens while people are in comas, so it isn't too far fetched. It still didn't ease the pain of him not waking up though.

"Ryan?" She asks, making sure I'm still there.

"Yeah, maybe you're right." I sniff and gently knock my boot against the wall.

"Just try and keep your head up honey. Go home, take a shower, and get some proper rest. I know you don't want to leave him, but he's in the best place he can be right now."

I nodded my head in agreement, and wiped my eyes. She was right, I knew she was right, it didn't make it any easier though.

"Okay." I agree shortly.

I hear her give a pleasant hum, no doubt at the fact that I took her advice for once.

"I'll let you go sweetheart. Give Elliott my love."

"I will." I respond, another lump forming in my throat. What if she never got the chance to meet him? I shake the thoughts from my head, and begin walking down the sky bridge.

"I love you Mama."

"I love you too."

I hang up the phone and stuff it in my back pocket, thinking about the conversation. It gave me a lot to think about, as if I needed more of that. Though it wasn't unpleasant, actually it gave me hope that he would wake up, I just hope it's sooner rather than later.

As I'm passing the front desk I stop and realize something, I had been in this hospital for three days and not once had I checked on Cody. I give myself a reprimand, feeling guilty, but I'm sure they would understand right?

My thoughts go back to the warehouse and the moment they found out that Elliott had accidentally killed Alex. The look on Riley and Cody's faces were hard to shake, in that split second I could see hate and pain mixed in there. Did they care if Elliott died?

"Don't be ridiculous Ryan, he's their best friend of course they care." I roll my eyes at myself and approach the desk.

"How can I help you sir?" A petite younger woman with her blonde hair styled in a side-swept braid looked up at me nervously as I approached. Probably thinking I was some crazy person stumbling off the street by the way I battled with myself moments ago.

I give her a wry smile and adjust my hat. "Yeah, um, I'm looking for Cody Park." I inform.

She turns her attention to her screen, typing away, her eyes darting over the screen. I couldn't imagine how many patients were in this massive hospital, let alone how many Cody Park's were here. But after a few moments she looks back up at me with a less nervous smile plastered to her face.

"Room six-fourteen, IMCU." She informs me.

"Thank you." I give her a warm smile and walk back towards the elevator bank. I have no idea where I'm going, but I figure there should be signs. I've never heard of an IMCU, but if the room number was any indication it should be on the sixth floor.

I walk into one of the elevators and stare at the directory on the wall. I find the button labeled IMCU, which happens to be on the sixth floor and press it. The elevator gives a delightful ding as the doors close and then it starts climbing.

Apparently IMCU stands for Intermediate Care Unit, which I didn't even realize was a thing, let alone what it meant. Nevertheless I walked through the doors and walked around the unit until I found Cody's room.

I stood outside the door which, like the ICU, was a glass slider. I could see Riley and Jon in there talking to Cody, who looked better than he did three days ago. Why hadn't any of them been to see Elliott?

I pulled the door open and they all whipped their gazes towards me, a smile forming on their lips.

"There he is!" Riley exclaims, jumping up and wrapping me into a hug. I return the hug, it felt nice to hug someone who could hug back.

"How's Elliott?" Jon asks hopefully.

"Same as the past few days, although you guys would know that if you paid him a visit." I stated, with a little bit of acid to my tone.

They all shuffled around uncomfortably, averting their gazes and looking rather ashamed.

"We've been meaning to come visit-" Jon begins to explain but I just wave him off.

"I didn't come here to fight, or guilt trip you guys. I haven't slept for shit in days, but I wanted to see how Cody is doing." I turn my attention to Cody, who gives me a deer in the headlights look.

"Me? I'm fine. Their saying I should be able to go home tomorrow." He states cheerfully.

"That's great." I respond, and a little pain forms in my chest at the fact that Elliott won't be able to go home either.

There's an awkward silence and I take a drink of my coffee, perching myself on a stool next to Cody’s bed.

"Seriously though, how is Elliott?" Riley asks. The answer must have been written on my face because Riley's expression quickly turned grim. "That bad huh?"

I drop my gaze to my coffee cup and begin picking at the lid, that annoying lump re-emerging in my throat. I close my eyes and breathe, not wanting to fall apart all over again.

"Get your shit together Riggs."

I feel a warm hand grasp mine and I open my eyes to see that it's Cody's hand. I raise my eyes to meet him and he gives me a sympathetic look.

"He hasn't woken up yet, they don't know when he will." I inform in a low tone.

"He'll wake up. It's Elliott." Jon replies optimistically.

I want to believe him, I want to have that same optimism that he has.

"What if he doesn't?" I reply in just above a whisper, my voice thick with emotion.

"He will." Cody urges, giving my hand a squeeze.

I wish I could have Cody's strength right now. Here he was lying in a hospital bed, the woman he loved having been killed, healing from gunshot wounds, and he was still seeing the bright side of things. What a lucky bastard.

“Did you hear about the new General at the base?” Jon asked, giving me an excited look.

“Oh god, here we go.” Riley groans.

“What?” Jon looks offended.

Riley rolls his eyes and scoffs. “You have a hard on for the man in charge.”

Jon’s cheeks turn bright red and stammers over himself. “I do not.”

“You so do.” Cody teases.

“What’s so special about this new General?” I ask, my interest piqued.

“He’s like forty-two, and a decorated soldier. I’ll give Jon credit; he's a hot piece of ass, but it’s not going anywhere.” He shoots a stern look at Jon.

“It’s not just about that!” Jon argues.

“Mmhmm. That’s why I caught you staring at his ass during a meet and greet.”

“There was something on his pants.”

“Yeah, his ass.” Riley shot back.

I had never seen this side of Riley before, responsible and keeping his fellow soldier in line. That wasn’t something Riley ever did, he was always the clown, down and ready to get into trouble at a moments notice. I give out a long yawn and stretch, groaning at my tense muscles.

"You look like shit." Riley teases, and they all laugh, even I manage a chuckle at that.

"Yeah, I feel like shit too." I admit, taking another drink of my coffee, which at this point isn't doing anything but sending a bitter taste across my tongue.

"Where are you staying?" Jon asks.

I gesture around the hospital. "You're looking at it."

"You've been sleeping here the whole time?" He clarifies.

"I haven't wanted to leave him."

Riley shakes his head. "No-no-no, you can crash in our hotel room. You need a real bed, a shower and some food." He echoes my Mom's earlier advice.

I grunt and shrug my shoulders. Why does everyone want to take care of me? I don't need it, Elliott needs it, hell even Cody needs it, but not me.

"Come on brother, I'll drive you." Riley says, standing up from his chair.

"I'm fine." I grumble.

"That's funny, I don't remember asking how you are." He counters with a stern expression. I'm too tired to argue back though, so I pick myself up off the stool.

I lean down and give Cody a hug, and then Jon stands up, wrapping me up in his big arms and squeezing the air out of my lungs. I groan and he just chuckles, releasing me from his iron grip.

I follow Riley out of the room, giving Jon and Cody one final look and waving before closing the door.

The walk out to Riley's car felt longer than it actually was, an awkwardness drifting between the two of us. Maybe it was just me being the awkward one, but I highly doubted that. Riley opened and closed his mouth several times, clearly wanting to say something, though not having the courage to do so.

Once we were in his car and pulling out of the parking garage, he finally broke the silence.

"I'm sorry."

I shoot a puzzled expression at him. "For what?"

"For not being there."

I don't know why he was apologizing to me. If anything he should be apologizing to Elliott, his best friend lying comatose back at the hospital.

"I'm not the one you should be apologizing to." I reply bluntly.

He nods his head slowly in agreement, coming to a stop at a red light.

"Why haven't you gone and seen him?" I ask, the question festering inside of me since I stepped foot in Cody’s room.

"I have." He replied.

"I never saw you."

"You were sleeping," The light turns green and the car begins to move. "I didn't want to wake you, so I stayed outside."

"Oh, I'm sorry." I replied, a wave of guilt beginning to wash over me.

"It's okay. I mean with how we reacted in the warehouse to finding out Elliott killed Alex, I'm sure you thought we hated him."

He wasn't entirely wrong at that statement. I did think they hated him, after all, they weren't there, they didn't see what happened. If someone had told me that Riley killed Elliott, I wouldn't have given a second thought at my hatred.

"Why hasn't Jon gone and seen him?" I ask.

Riley cocks an eyebrow at him and chuckles deeply. "They may be friends now, but given their history he didn't think it would be a good idea to interrupt you to visit his old booty call."

"I wouldn't have cared." I reply flatly. I wasn't lying, I wouldn't have cared. I know that there's nothing between Jon and Elliott.

"He just wanted to be respectful. Regardless if there's nothing going on between them, there was still history." Riley explains, turning into a parking lot for a Comfort Inn. He turns towards me and holds up a room key between his fingers. "Room three-twelve, take a shower, get some rest." He orders with a stern expression in his eyes.

I take the key from him and flick the plastic card against my fingers.

"I don't think I can even sleep right now." I admit with a bleak tone.

"Then don't sleep. Relax, meditate, chill out to some Zeppelin-I don't care. Just take some time for yourself."

I stared at him for a second. Besides my Mom and Elliott, it had been a long time since someone actually expressed caring and concern for me. It sent warm and sappy feelings straight to my heart, and I didn't do sappy all too well.

"Thank you." I reply, finding my voice again.

He gives me a warm smile and claps me gently on the shoulder. "No problem brother. Elliott is my family, and Elliott loves you, so that makes you my family too."

I swallow hard at that statement, nodding my head instead of speaking words which would probably fail me anyways. Elliott had always said that the team was like family, though I always thought that was just something people said. Now I realize with the look that Riley is giving me, that it wasn't just some bullshit statement. It was real.

I open the door and climb out of the car, making my way towards the entrance to the hotel. I look back in time to see Riley exit the parking lot and back onto the street, the engine of his Camaro making a loud roar.

I walk inside and manage to find the stairwell, trudging up each step in pure exhaustion. Maybe I should just skip the shower and go straight to bed. I sneakily take a whiff of my armpit and immediately retreat at the smell. No wonder Riley was so adamant on me taking a break, I smell like a hog that just got done rolling around in a pile of its favorite slop.

Once I get to the room, after struggling with the door for a bit, I make a beeline for the bathroom and immediately begin stripping out of my clothes. It felt like I was shedding a second skin and I had to admit, it felt nice.

I turn on the shower and stand outside the curtain, waiting for the water to warm up to a desired temperature which for me was scalding. Once I'm satisfied I step inside and let the hot water cascade over my head. I let out a satisfied groan and rest my hand on the shower wall. It was probably the most satisfying shower I've had in awhile.

I just stood there, letting the water pour down me and wash away all the grime and negativity from the past few days. After a few minutes of standing there I figured I should probably clean myself off. I grab a bar of the generic hotel soap and begin running the bar over my skin. It smelled like Irish Spring, which brought up memories I'd rather not think about.

I wash the soap off and instead turn my thoughts to Elliott. I think about the future, a house in the suburbs, and the two dogs. I smile to myself as I think about mornings with Elliott. Making breakfast in the morning and him sitting at the breakfast bar, sipping sleepily on his coffee, looking sexy in nothing but those shorts and slightly messed hair.

My thoughts go from Elliott in nothing but shorts, to Elliott in nothing at all. Splayed on the bed, waiting for me to come home from a long day at work. Growling at me to ditch the uniform and join him.

I let out a frustrated growl, not sure if right now was the appropriate time to be having sex fantasies about my boyfriend. Though my cock begins to stir at the vision and my hand reflexively wraps around my girth. I can taste Elliott on my lips as I imagine climbing on top of him and kissing him deeply, him moaning in my mouth as I slide our cocks together.

I groan and my whole body shudders as I feel a wave of pleasure wash over me. I grab some body wash off the ledge in the shower and use it as lube, slicking up my length and moaning at images of Elliott flashing through my mind.

It doesn't take me long to start oozing pre-cum, gathering it up into the soapy mixture and using it for lube.

I brace myself against the wall, feeling my release building up inside of me. I can practically hear Elliott moaning my name as I slide my cock in and out of his warm opening. My balls begin to constrict and I let out a moan as I feel the warm sensation of my cum coat my palm and my fingers.

I drop my head and shudder as the last wave of my orgasm washes over me. I hope beyond hope that I get to experience those feelings with him again. Hell I would even just take having him here without the sex.

I wash myself off and step out of the shower, grabbing a towel and running it over my water drenched skin. I throw the towel over the shower rod to dry and walk out of the bathroom, not even bothering to put on boxers. The warm confines of a bed are calling my name, and I'm too exhausted to even fight it.

I climb into the closest bed, laying on my stomach and pull the blankets just over my waist. I don’t want to flash Jon or Riley my ass if they decide to come in. As soon as my head hits the pillow, I'm out like a light.

I jerk awake to the sound of my phone ringing. I look at the clock noticing it's now seven in the afternoon. Jesus, did I really sleep twelve hours? I grab my phone off the night stand and stare bleary eyed at the screen, letting my eyes adjust to the bright light. Once they do I notice the caller ID is flashing LAC+USC Med Ctr. The hospital Elliott and Cody are at.

My pulse quickens and I jerk my thumb across the screen to accept the call.

"Hello?" I ask nervously, trying to calm my racing heart.

"Yes, is this Ryan Riggs?" I hear a pleasant and warm female voice come across the phone.

"Yes." I ask in more of a question, dreading where this conversation was heading.

"Yes this is Heather, I'm the nurse in charge of Elliott Pierce's care. We need you to come down here at your earliest convenience." She replies in a calm tone, which completely contrasted my speeding heart rate.

"I'll be right there." I say quickly, hanging up the phone and throwing the blankets back. I rush into the bathroom throwing on my old clothes, not really paying any mind to the fact that they're dirty. But this is Elliott, I don't give a damn.

I order an Uber on my phone and bolt out the door, all but running down the corridor and clambering down the stairwell.

"Please be okay, please be okay." I plead to myself as I make my way outside. I curse at myself for leaving the hospital. I should have been there, what if something happened to him and he knew I wasn't there with him?

The weather is still warm, not surprising since its August in Southern California. I look around wildly for the Uber I ordered, but it wasn't here. I look at my phone and it says that Gary, my Uber driver, is five minutes out. Maybe I could just run there? It's only a little over a mile I could probably make it in nothing flat.

I decide against it, the last thing I need is to run into the ICU looking flustered, sweaty and generally like a hot mess. I pace impatiently back and forth waiting for Gary, who appears to be taking his sweet ass time getting here.

My phone beeps indicating that Gary is here. I look around wildly and spot a gray Toyota Camry approaching me. I don't even ask if he's Gary, I just throw the back door open and clamber inside.

"Where's the fire buddy?" He asks.

"I need to get to the hospital. There's an extra twenty in it for you if you get me there in five minutes." I inform, ignoring his comment.

"You got it." He says enthusiastically, whipping out of the parking lot and screaming down the road. You would think the Russian mob was chasing us with how erratic he was driving, weaving in and out of traffic and receiving honks from angry motorists.

We made it to the hospital in just under five minutes, and staying true to my word I tossed a twenty in the passenger's seat after paying him over the phone app.

"Hey thanks man!" He exclaims as I jump out of the car and sprint towards the hospital.

My mind was racing, my heart probably racing even faster. People stared at me as I ran through the otherwise quiet atrium, the sound of my dirty boots clambering against the pristine floor and echoing off the walls. I threw myself at the elevator button, pushing it repeatedly, as if that would make it go any faster. An elderly couple stood a short distance away from me, eying me nervously and probably thinking I was a mad man. I tossed an apologetic smile at them and they averted their gazes, the woman whispering something to the man under her breath that I couldn't quite catch.

The elevator door opened and I waited patiently as the elderly couple entered the elevator before me. I may be in a hurry, but I still respect my elders.

I tapped my foot impatiently in the elevator as it slowly climbed to the seventh floor. I don't remember the elevator going this slow before, it was maddening. The elderly couple exited on the fifth floor, the man giving me a nervous smile. I give him another apologetic stare at my rudeness, and he just gives me a look of understanding, signaling that he had more than likely been in my shoes before.

Once the elevator stops on the seventh floor I all but stumble out after tripping on my boot laces, which I realize in my hurry that I hadn't even laced up. God damn I was a hot mess.

I stop and kneel down, tying my boot laces and remembering to take some deep breaths. I need to calm myself down before I walk in there, whatever situation I was about to walk into I needed a clear mind to get myself through.

I walk into the ICU, my muscles stiff as I brace for the impact of horrible news. I spot Jon, Riley, and Cody outside of his room and they all make eye contact with me, their eyes going wide with some emotion I couldn't pinpoint due to my anxiety.

"What's going on?" I ask, catching my breath.

A million scenarios run through my mind. Is he worse? Did something happen to him? Is he dead? I swallow a lump the size of a peach down my throat as Riley begins to form words with his mouth, but I can't hear him. My pulse is thundering in my ears and the only thing I can seem to focus on is Riley.

"Ryan?" I shake my head, my surroundings coming back into focus. Riley, Jon and Cody are looking at me with concerned expressions.

"What?" I ask.

"He's awake." Riley reiterates, tacking a small grin on at the end.

"What?" I gasp out, stepping around Cody in his wheelchair to see Elliott. He was awake, the head of his bed sitting him upright. I shake my head, this has to be a dream right?

Elliott looks away from the Doctor, who is trying to get him to follow a light with his eyes, and his gaze lands on me. His eyes go wide and I see a pleading glint behind them, telling me to get in there. It was crazy how we could communicate with each other by just a look.

I slide the door to his room open and a Nurse whips her head over to meet me, a smile spreading across her face.

"You must be Ryan."

I nod my head in confirmation, my eyes still stuck on Elliott who was also staring at me. Tears begin to silently slide down my face from the joy of seeing him awake.

"He's been asking for you." The Nurse begins ushering me further into the room until I'm practically standing next to Elliott. He glances up at me and grabs my hand, rubbing his thumb across the back. Even though I had held his hand earlier, it was different now, more responsive, and dammit if that didn't feel good.

He opens his mouth to try and speak, and nothing comes out but a squeake of air. I look over at the Nurse nervously and she gives a reassuring smile.

"His throat is just sore from the breathing tube." She explains, pulling a small notebook and pen out of her pocket and handing it over to me. I hand the items to Elliott and he grabs them, flipping the notebook open and scribbling down a frantic message.

I peer over his shoulder and read the message. It takes me a little bit to decipher his chicken scratch and doctor scribble, though I manage after looking it over a few times.

"What am I doing here?"

I give him a confused look. "You don't remember what happened?"

This gets the Nurse and Doctors attention, whipping their gazes over toward us from the corner where they were talking in hushed tones.

Elliott shakes his head slowly, a concerned look crossing over his eyes.

The Doctor, who couldn't be any older than Cody, steps up to the bed. "Doctor Pierce, what's the last thing you remember?"

Elliott begins scribbling on the page again, turning the notebook so I can read it.

"Waking up and drinking my coffee on the porch swing.”

Porch swing? The way it was written seemed so nonchalant, like it was something he did every day. But Elliott didn’t have a porch swing, I had been over to his place several times and not once had I spotted one.

“What porch swing?” I ask, the confusion in my tone apparent.

Elliott gives me a perplexed expression and then scribbles out another message.

“The porch swing you built me, for our anniversary.”

He gave me a dumbfounded look, like I should have been aware of this supposed porch swing, or the fact that we had been together long enough to celebrate anniversaries. I was at a loss for words, trying to find something to say but having it lost before the words could form on my lips.

"Let's order a STAT CT scan and make sure everything is in order. I also want a full lab workup done." He orders the Nurse, who nods her head and begins typing away at her computer.

“What’s going on?” I ask the Doctor who begins walking out of the room. He turns to face me, his face expressionless.

"I’m not sure, but once we get the results from the CT back, we should know more." He steps out of the room and I follow him, apprehensively dropping Elliott's hand.

“I’ll be back.” I assure him after seeing the look on his face, he didn’t want me to leave, and I didn’t want to leave him, but I wanted answers.

I step out of the room, Riley, Jon, and Cody all shooting me confused looks. I approach the Doctor who is standing at the nurses station, tapping away on a tablet.

"Why don't you give me your honest medical opinion." I ask. I hated waiting, and even more I hated when people didn't give me straight answers. I could understand if he didn’t truly know what was going on, but I could see it on his face for a split second that he knew more than he was letting on.

He turns around to face me, his expression that of impatience. He lets out a huff of air and closes the tablet he’s working on, tucking it underneath his arm. Out of the corner of my eye I also see Cody wheel up to my side, followed by Riley and Jon.

“If I had to give you an answer right now, I would say that he's probably suffering from some form of amnesia."

I give him a blank stare, not quite understanding what he's telling me.

"I thought amnesia was where people forget things? He's remembering things that haven't even happened."

"That's not always the case." Cody spoke up and we all turned our gazes towards him. "In Med School I had read case studies where patients in comas would create whole worlds based on their subconscious desires. Then when they would wake up they would think it was real."

"Yes, but that's rare." The Doctor rebukes. "Which is why I want to do a CT scan to rule anything else out."

"Doctor Miller to ED bed two, Doctor Miller to ED bed two." The intercom rings out.

"I have to go." Doctor Miller hands the tablet over to a Nurse who takes it from him with a warm smile. As he's passing by me he stops and places a hand on my shoulder. "He's going to be okay. Just remember that it's fortunate that he remembers you."

I give him a wry smile and he jogs off in the direction of a stairwell.

"Did any of those people ever regain their memories?" I ask Cody, fearing for the worst response.

"Don't think like that man." Jon urges.

It was hard not to. What if Elliott never regained his memories, what if he led the rest of his life believing in this world that he had created for himself. Granted that wouldn't be the worst thing considering what he, what we, had all been through.

"He'll remember." Cody reassures me. I glance down at him and give a nod. I had to believe that.

The next few hours were torture as we waited for the CT results. How long could it take them to examine a picture of his brain?

Riley slaps his hands against his thighs, sighing heavily. "Stop pacing, you're making my skin crawl."

I let out a frustrated growl and plop down in the seat closest to Elliott, whipping my head over to make sure I didn't wake him. It's funny, the man spent four days in a coma and now he's taking a nap.

The Nurses forced Cody to go back to his room despite him pleading to stay. Jon went back to Bakersfield to round up some clothes for all of us after a Nurse commented that we smelled like a herd of alpaca.

“Sorry I’m just-”

“Anxious?” Riley finished the sentence for me.

I nodded my head and let out a sigh, staring at Elliott as he slept. He looked peaceful, his dark hair ruffled slightly, his chest rising and falling in a rhythmic manner. You would almost think he wasn't healing from a severe abdominal wound.

"I just…" I trail off and Riley turns his gaze to me.

I just what? The rest of the sentence gets lost in my mouth. Every time I close my eyes I'm right back in that warehouse. Every time I'm holding a dying Elliott. That wasn't Riley's burden to bear.

"Just what?" Riley asks.

"It's not important." I lie, releasing my gaze from him.

"Somehow I don't believe that's the case." Riley counters, giving me a sly grin.

I give a soft chuckle and nod my head. "You would be right."

"Then why don't you tell me?"

I snap my eyes up to meet his, his blue eyes swimming with a comforting glint, forcing the words out of my mouth.

"Every time I close my eyes, it's like I'm right back there. Holding him as he bleeds out, and the worse thing is, I can't shut it out. Usually I can control my emotions, I've learned to block things out. But with him," I nod my head in Elliott's direction. "I can't."

Riley nods his head in understanding, leaning forward in his chair.

"I know exactly what you mean."

"You do?" I ask flabbergasted. Riley didn't strike me as the type of person to lose control. Then again, the man did have a notorious temper.

"It's how I felt whenever I was around Gray, like there was this force that seemed to make me bring my guard down." Riley explains.

I hung onto his words like glue. What he was explaining was exactly what I feelt around Elliott.

Riley flashes me a smile, clearly reading my thoughts. "Just embrace it. You won't regret it."

I nod my head in understanding and turn my gaze back to Elliott. Letting myself go completely around Elliott couldn't be the worst thing.

******

I listen to the conversation that Ryan and Riley are having. They were both blissfully unaware that I’ve been awake the entire time. It was nice to hear them bonding though.

The door slides open and I open my eyes to see Doctor Miller walk through them. He was a handsome man, probably no older than Cody, with a lean body and a tan complexion that only comes from spending time in the sunshine. The sunshine, now that was something I wanted to get back in.

"Well, I have good news and bad news." He begins, coming to stand at the foot of my bed.

"Umm, bad news first?" I respond in a hoarse tone, wincing at my sore throat.

"We got the results back from your CT scan, there's no evidence of damage or anything that could cause you amnesia."

"That's bad news?" Ryan asks, raising an eyebrow.

"When we don't know what's causing his amnesia, yes."

"So what's the good news then?" I ask, hoping for a little ray of sunshine.

"Your amnesia should be temporary. Thanks to your friend Doctor Park, I was able to read up on some case studies from patients with similar experiences as yours. All of them experienced full memory recall after a few weeks."

"Doctor who?" I ask, scrunching my eyebrows together.

"Cody babe, your apprentice." Ryan explains, shooting a concerned look between me and Riley, who looks just as equally concerned.

Cody, of course. How could I forget about Cody? I make a frustrated noise and Ryan grabs my hand, bringing my emotions back down to earth.

"It's okay." Ryan reassures.

I shake my head. "No, it's not."

"It's going to be difficult, but you'll slowly start to remember things. Just don't lose faith." Doctor Miller gives me a soft squeeze on my foot for reassurance. "Let the Nurses know if you have any other questions. But with how well you've healed up during your coma, I would expect a discharge in a couple days."

Two more days of this place? I groan and rest my head back. I hated being the patient, feeling helpless and completely at the mercy of other people. I can feel Ryan rub the back of my hand with his thumb making my worries and anxiety slowly start to dissipate.

I look back up at Doctor Miller and give him a wry smile. "Thank you Doctor Miller."

"Of course." He nods his head and turns around, sliding the door closed behind him.

"He's like a baby Doctor." Riley teases with a chuckle.

"Yeah like Doogie Howser." Ryan chuckles, which makes me crack a grin.

A memory flashes through my mind, there were gunshots and Cody was hit, Alex drenched in his blood. Then Cody lying on a table while I stitch up his bullet wounds.

"Elliott?" I hear Riley's voice.

"How is Cody?" I ask.

"He's good, should be discharged tomorrow. He would have stayed but the Nurses forced him back to his room. He would have signed AMA forms just to stay up here but Ryan talked him out of it." Riley shook his head, grinning from ear to ear.

"He's a stubborn little shit." Ryan also shakes his head, chuckling softly.

"Well, at least Alex can handle him." I tease and they both fall silent, their expressions turning dour. Why were they looking at me like that? "What?" I ask.

"You don't remember." Riley's tone indicates that he's pieced that part together.

"Remember what?" I ask sternly.

"It's not important right now." Ryan urges.

"No, tell me." I shoot him a stern look. He gazes back at me, chewing on his bottom lip, clearly something eating at him. I turn my gaze over to Riley and he looks no better, his complexion turning pale as if he's about to hurl right on the spot.

"Alex," Ryan begins with a somber tone. "Alex is dead Elliott."

Another flash of memory hits me, this one I wish I could have never experienced again. It was a little choppy, but from what I was recalling Alex and I struggled with a gun. I tried to get it away from her so I could talk some sense into her, but it went off.

"I killed her." I croak and Ryan squeezes my hand tighter. A flood of emotions hits me at once, anger, sadness, regret, all of them slamming into my chest like a freight train. I drop my face into my free hand as tears slowly start to roll down my cheeks.

I feel Ryan's other hand work its way behind my neck, pulling me into him. His warm breath dusting over my ear as he plants a kiss on my temple.

"It's okay babe. Everything's going to be okay."

Somehow I didn't know if that would entirely be the case. I wish I could just slip back into my coma, back into my world that I had created, a world that was blissfully perfect. A world where Ryan and I were married, with two dogs, and a cute little bungalow five minutes from the beach. It was sunny everyday, no clouds in sight. There was no suffering, there was no death, it was what I imagined heaven to be like if I believed in that sort of stuff.

But no, I had to wake up, had to come back and face my true reality. No matter how much that sucked. The more I thought about my coma reality, the more it seemed to make sense that it was in fact a coma. There were little things, like when Ryan would tell me to "wake up" even though I was awake, and the sounds of a hospital when I was cuddling with our dog Rudy on the couch. In my coma I just thought they were my mind playing tricks on me, but now I realize that my coma reality was in fact the biggest trick of them all.

As I sit here, wrapped up in Ryan's comforting arms, I wonder if I could have that reality. I found it sad and frustrating at the same time that I miss that reality, that I would give anything to go back to it. But maybe I can have that in the real world, this world, which was tragic and maddening. Although at the same time it was also beautiful, and full of love if you found it.

"I love you." I say to Ryan in just above a whisper.

He grabs my face in his hands, his eyes glistening with small tears. "I love you too baby, so-so much." He brings his lips to mine in a soft and gentle kiss that travels straight to my heart and makes me feel like everything is going to be okay.

"Gah, get a room you too." Riley teases.

Ryan and I chuckle as he rests his forehead against mine, rubbing our noses together delicately.

Everything would be okay. As long as I had this amazing and wonderful man by my side, anything was possible.

Copyright © 2020 zanoGreen; All Rights Reserved.

Thank you for reading! Please comment below and let me know where you would like to see the story go or what your favorite parts are so far. Please note that this story does not revolve around a killer virus, that's just what sets up the events that lead to the story.

If you enjoyed what you have read, please leave a reaction and/or comment for the author!

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Chapter Comments

I have never heard of the phenomena of someone waking up and remembering things that they dreamed up while they were unconscious, sounds different but actually totally plausible.  

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Another good chapter. :read:

I unfortunately have heard of people who developed a new, 'safe' life while in coma to protect themselves from the harm of their 'real' one. My late father did while recovering from a near death illness. When he woke up "all the way" he suffered from depression because as he said: "This isn't how 'better' was in the coma."

Elliott will work though this and recover with the love and help of his friends. :hug:

Looking forward to coming chapters (and possibly a next book, or continuing series of books?). 

Stay safe, 2m / 6 ft apart, and yes, Wear the damn mask. (be inventive, photo-shop and print your smile on the mask).

:thankyou:

 

Ps: if you haven't yet gotten a flu shot, do so to boost your overall immunity. My Dr said "Fluzone Quadrivalent is what we take as it offers 4x the protection". He said ask for it by name, ask to see the vial it's your right and it costs no more than generic flu shots and works much better. 

 

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