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Brian nodded, smiling as he tried to keep up with Baylee’s story. The kid talked incredibly fast and with the amount of painkillers in his system, Brian couldn’t entirely figure out what the point of the story was.

Something about a mistaken order at a reststop.

Still, he laughed when he was supposed to and turned serious when it was necessary. Of all the people around him, Baylee seemed to be coping with the situation best. It had more or less just turned into a routine for him to spend the day at Howie’s home and then going with his mother to visit his father in the hospital for a few hours. It made Brian wonder if anybody had told the young boy what was really going on.

Probably not. Baylee sat on the bed, entirely oblivious he was sitting right on the spot where Brian’s leg would have been if…

Brian shook his head slightly. He had to focus on his son’s story now, and not dwell on stupid things like that. He did his best to keep his expression light as he listened to his son describe how his coke was not supposed to be coke at all, but whatever.

“Yeah, so?” Nick’s voice came from the opposite side of Baylee, “You took it anyway.”

“Well, they already made it, so… I mean, you would have taken it too, right Dad?”

Brian blinked, pausing just a second too long before he answered, “Uh… yeah. I guess.”

Baylee looked at him with narrowed eyes for a moment, but then continued his story. Brian smiled at him before leaning back, feeling his wife squeeze his shoulder as she sat on the bed behind him. “You okay?” she whispered softly.

He nodded tightly. He just wanted people to stop worrying about everything. He caught Nick’s suspicious look as well and gave him a reassuring smile too. Nick was less easily fooled as he couldn’t help but notice the built up tension in his friend’s demeanor. He’d known Brian long enough to know that he could be a ticking time bomb sometimes. He was about to say something when the door opened and a hasty looking doctor walked in. The conversation suddenly non-existent, all heads in the room turned to look at the doctor.

The young physician stared back for a second before springing into action, “I’m very sorry, I meant to be here earlier, but there was an emergency on the way over. Hi, my name is Phillip Michaels. We haven’t officially met, but I have been your orthopedist since you’ve been here. I would like to discuss the options at hand, if that’s alright with you.”

Nick noticed the slightest twitch in Brian’s face as the older man nodded stiffly. The doctor looked at Baylee for a few seconds and the twelve-year old stared back, challengingly. Nick took the hint quickly and stood up, motioning for Baylee to do the same.

“Come on, let’s see if we can get anything substantial to eat in the canteen.”

“I never get to stay,” Baylee grumbled, indignant.

“Maybe we can bring your parents something too,” Nick continued, ignoring Baylee’s remark.

Baylee was about to protest, then thought about it for a second and eventually nodded, sighing dramatically.


Doctor Michaels waited until the two had left, then took a seat at the end of the bed, spreading out some files on top of the blankets, “He seems like a handful.”

“Baylee’s alright,” Brian mumbled, staring at the doctor intently, “Nick… definitely a handful.”

He heard Leighanne laugh softly behind him and saw a grin appear on the doctor’s face as well, but couldn’t bring himself to smile too. He waited anxiously for the orthopedist to start the conversation, although he knew the man did not have anything to say that he wanted to hear. He watched silently as the doctor hooked some X-rays onto the light board and wished that his wife would stop squeezing his shoulders like he was about to fall off the bed or something. Like he was even able to do that.

“Alright,” Michaels said, facing the board, “So, as you can see,” he pointed at the screen at various points, “there are some very severe fractures. I would have recommended surgery directly after the accident, but unfortunately, your condition did not allow it.”

Brian nodded, pressing his mouth into a thin line when he felt his wife squeeze him again. It was steadily becoming a main source of irritation. When he didn’t say anything, the doctor continued, “Okay, I think the best plan of action at this point is to plan the surgery within two days to repair some of the damage.”

Doctor Michaels looked at him for a reaction. Brian stared back at him, expressionless. After a few seconds, he took a breath and raised his eyebrows, “You don’t have to sugarcoat it,” he grumbled in a low voice, “I know it’s a mess.” He stiffened as he felt Leighanne’s squeezing again, and tried to keep from snapping at her.

Michaels nodded in agreement, “Yeah,” he admitted, “I’ll be honest here, it doesn’t look very promising. The left leg is our main concern. The fractures seem quite complicated and some of the bones have splintered quite badly and there seems to be a significant amount of scar tissue already. I can almost guarantee that one surgery won’t be enough. At this point, we can try to set the bones as well as possible. We are still very apprehensive of Deep Vein Thrombosis, which is a blood clot in the…”

Brian knew he should be feeling angry or sad, but couldn’t feel anything beyond the numb emptiness that had settled in his stomach. He felt like shrugging the entire time the doctor was talking about surgery and shattered bones. Fact was; it wouldn’t bring them anywhere anyway. He wanted to yell that at the doctor.

He wanted to assure him that he was wasting his time.

What did it matter if you were patching up one leg? It wouldn’t make the other grow back.

Yeah, like Brian didn’t notice they were strictly avoiding the amputation at this point. He clenched his jaw and folded his arms across his chest as he studied the young doctor’s lively movements thoughtfully. The guy talked with his hands. Interesting.

“What about the other leg?” Brian interrupted the string of jargon that was spewed over them in the explanation of what was going to be done during surgery, “Are you going to grow it back?”

Michaels silenced immediately and gave him an uncertain look, probably trying to figure out whether his patient was serious or not. “Though the bruising may seem very alarming, fortunately… the femur was not broken in the accident.”

“Fortunately,” Brian snorted sarcastically.

“Yes,” the orthopedist answered, a bit annoyed, “All we can do about the right leg is monitor the healing of the wound. It hasn’t caused any problems up until now.

I understand it’s not easy to accept, but I’m afraid there’s nothing more we can do right now.”

Brian took a shaky breath to steady himself and keep his calm. He shook his head slightly, but didn’t say anything. The doctor studied him for a few moments, then sighed and moved to sit down in a chair. “Look. I know it seems like the end of the world at this moment,” he said softly, trying to ignore Brian’s eye roll as the wounded singer looked away, “But I can assure you, it’s not. It’s going to take a lot of time, certainly. But I have had a lot of patients that have gone through similar situations; you are not the only one with this fate.”

Brian sniffled and bit his lip as he stared at the window, refusing to say anything at first. Leighanne continued to squeeze his shoulders and he grabbed her hand, putting it down. He turned to look at the doctor once more with a stern expression on his face, “Just tell me this; how many of those patients have been able to walk properly again, like nothing happened?”

He felt his heart sinking as Michaels took his time to answer his question. The orthopedist looked away, seemingly studying the files on the bed. “Some of them,” he sighed after a few seconds.

Brian nodded slowly, feeling an annoying pounding ache start to form in his left leg as a reminder, “Some of them,” he repeated, defeated.

“I’m afraid I cannot give you any satisfying answers right now, I’m very sorry. We have to take this one step at a time,” Michaels said, cringing at the word ‘step’. “I can recommend a few excellent physical therapists, that have had a few very surprising results. We can only do so much though, mr. Littrell, I’m sorry.” He stood up slowly, “If you will excuse me, I have to continue my rounds now.”

Nodding absently, Brian watched him leave; trying to fathom the news he’d just been given. He jumped slightly when he felt his wife move behind him. “Hey,” she whispered, laying her hand on his shoulder again, “It’s going to be okay.”

“Don’t!” he snapped and she shrank back immediately. “Just… don’t.”

Leighanne nodded in understanding, “I’m sorry,” she mumbled.

“Can you… could you…” Brian stammered, desperately trying to keep the tears from falling as he bit his lip until he could taste blood, “Would you leave me alone for a second?”

“Brian, I-” she protested softly.

“No, just go… please. I’ll be okay, I just need to… to think.”

“You sure?”

He nodded stiffly, not moving as she kissed his head, “I’ll be back in thirty minutes,” she muttered.

He sighed, watching her walk to the door. Right when she opened it, Nick and Baylee poured back in and Brian had to suppress a frustrated sigh. Could he never have a moment of peace here? Leighanne knew immediately what was coming and to avoid it, she grabbed Baylee’s arm and muttered something in his ear. Baylee’s eyes grew wide and a flash of anger surged through them. Still, he followed his mother out into the hallway. “I never get to stay,” Brian heard him mutter before the door closed.