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The first time he woke up, he felt nothing. He couldn’t think and around him was only bright whiteness. It took a whole of six seconds before he faded into darkness again. Nobody noticed.

The second time, the bright light was back. Shining into his eyes without mercy. Only this time, it was followed by someone’s face. He could tell the man was smiling, even despite the mask in front of the guy’s face. He was talking to him, but the muffled sound and the rapid tempo of the words made it hard to understand. It took a whole of two minutes before he gave up and closed his eyes again. Brian didn’t recognize AJ.

The third time was only thirty minutes later. He felt warm. It was a foreign kind of feeling, something he could remember from a pretty long while ago. Before he knew what was happening, a blinding kind of flashlight was glaring into his eyes. He tried to glare back, but God, it hurt.

“Sorry about that,” someone mumbled, who couldn’t be anything else than a doctor.


“I gotta tell you, you have a way of knowing how to build up the suspense,” Doctor said, as he took a step back, “We thought we lost you there for a while. You gave everybody quite a scare.” Brian just blinked. The words didn’t make sense to him, but it was nice to hear somebody talking to him.

“Brian?” He tried to turn his head at the sound of his name, but it was hard, so hard. The guy with the mask from earlier was standing behind Doctor- who apparently also had a mask- and his smile was greater than ever.

Brian just blinked again. His eyelids were getting heavier by the second, it seemed. It took a whole of four minutes before he succumbed to unconsciousness.

The fourth time, his leg was itching. His whole body had been taken over by a comfortable kind of numbness, except for his lower right leg. It didn’t take long before Doctor was back with his flashlight. Brian gave him an angry stare after the light-in-the-eyes routine.

Doctor just smiled.

“That’s the spirit,” he muttered, “My name is Doctor Jonah Ferris, you’re in the hospital. Can you understand me? Just blink.” After a confused second, he blinked, carefully watching the doctor’s every move.

“Good,” Ferris nodded, “Do you remember you’ve been in an accident?”

Oh yes, that was it! He had so many questions to ask, but in the end, he only blinked again. The doctor seemed satisfied with his reaction, though, “Alright, that was four days ago. You’ve been hurt pretty bad, and with the current condition of your lungs and liver, you’re definitely not out of the woods yet. That’s why you’re on a respirator right now. But we’re gonna take good care of you, alright? You’ve come a long way, considering where you came from, so let’s just take it easy from here on out.”

Brian pressed his eyes shut, trying to process the information. It wasn’t very easy when your head felt like it could explode at any moment. Doctor looked at him for a moment, frowning. “I’m talking too fast, aren’t I?” He nodded when Brian blinked again, “I’m sorry. I have a tendency to do that sometimes. Can you squeeze my hand? Good, very good.” Doctor kept talking and Brian slowly tuned out, his vision blurring a few times before sharpening. The irritating itch in his lower right leg was gradually turning into a nagging kind of pain. He wanted to inform Doctor about that, but actually letting the man know seemed like a task way beyond him. To his relief, the pain stopped when he slowly welcomed the darkness that was creeping up on him. Brian didn’t know that there was no lower right leg.

The fifth time he woke up, he panicked. The light was too bright, the voices too loud, the pain too much. But above all, he couldn’t breathe. Before he knew what he was doing, he was squirming, thrashing weakly against all the things that seemed to hold him down. But the more he moved, the more the burden seemed to weigh down on him.

He was trapped. And if there was anything he hated, it was being trapped.

He could feel strong hands, heard loud voices. They were dizzying him and he couldn’t see anything besides faded colors and shapes. Someone let go of his arm and he reached up to his face, to the thing that was successfully blocking his airway. He grabbed blindly, trying to pull it away from his mouth before someone got a hold of his arm again. He gasped and wanted to scream. He couldn’t possibly make a sound though.

Would he die this way? Unable to breathe while people held him down? Were they trying to kill him?

“Hey! Brian! Look at me!” someone yelled, close to his face, “Come on, look at me!”

He blinked, twice, three times before The Smiling Man with the Mask swam into his line of sight. The Man wasn’t smiling now though, and his mask was gone. AJ grabbed his arm and squeezed it, “You gotta calm down, alright? You can breathe, it’s just the machine. You gotta try and work with it, it’ll be alright.”

Brian gave him a confused glare, still gasping for oxygen that didn’t seem to be there. His legs hurt and fire and ice seemed to be shooting through his body both at the same time. AJ’s face became blurry again, dark spots dancing in front of Brian’s vision. He didn’t want to die like this. So…so helpless. He could feel himself quickly running out of energy and felt his head swimming. Someone yelled something and there was a sharp pinch in his arm before everything went dark all of a sudden.

The sixth time, he could only wake up half. He couldn’t open his eyes; his eyelids were too heavy and could only flutter at best. He could feel the tube in his throat though, but now knew better than to try and pull it out. He felt his lungs rattle with every deep, painful breath he was forced to take.

How pathetic was that?

A total numbness had embraced him and he had gladly accepted that. People were speaking softly and he had to put all his efforts in to be able to make out what they were saying.

“This is… so unfair… didn’t do… nothing wrong. No need… sedate him,” somebody that sounded a lot like AJ, grumbled.

“For… the best… tear… stitches out again?” another voice, Kevin’s was his best guess, answered.

“Wouldn’t… have those stitches… wasn’t for you,” AJ spat angrily.

A short pause, then a third voice, closer to him, female and soft, “Alex, don’t talk like that.’’ She sounded tired, as if she had said those words a thousand times already, “We all know what would have happened if Kevin hadn’t done what he did. I’m glad he did it.” He only wondered briefly what Kevin could have done that had AJ pissed off so greatly. He could feel her hand on his, her touch reassuring and familiar.

Kevin and AJ were silent, and for a moment it was just him and her. She squeezed his hand and he did his best to squeeze back.

“Hey sweetie, you can hear me, can’t you?” The smile in her voice was audible and he squeezed again, feeling that that was the only currently available way to communicate. His eyelids fluttered wildly as he tried to open them. It was hard though, so hard. Then he felt her soft lips on his brow, her hair tickling his forehead, her hand running through his hair. With a sigh, he leaned into her touch, trying to make it last.

It had been a long time since he’d felt this helpless.

Her voice sounded far away and a floating kind of feeling took over. She kissed him again, whispering soothing words into his ear. He stopped trying to open his eyes.