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Pushing the exam room door open, the doctor turned to look at Hannah and Alex.
"A nurse will be here in a minute to take him for his scans so you'll have to keep it brief," he reiterated.
Alex nodded and Hannah swallowed hard. The last time she had been in a hospital had been when Jack was born. On that day, she had wanted more than anything for Nick to be there. On this day, she wished he was anywhere else.
The doctor moved aside and Hannah stepped past him into the room. Nick lay on a bed against the back wall, a blue cotton sheet pulled up to his chest. His neck was covered by a rigid plastic brace and an oxygen tube snaked across his cheeks and under his nose. Running out from under the sheet, thin plastic-coated wires connected to a heart monitor beeping regularly beside the bed. His eyes were closed and he made no movement as Hannah and Alex moved to his bedside. Hannah licked her lips and tried to swallow, her mouth like cotton wool. Taking one of his hands, she brushed his blonde hair away from his face with her free hand and bent to kiss his forehead.
"Nick? Baby?" she whispered.
Nick's eyelids flickered and opened, finding Alex first before locking on Hannah.
"Baby..." he rasped. "Where's Jack?"
"He's with Leighanne," she replied. "Don't worry about him."
Nick closed his eyes again, licking his dry lips.
"I was coming home... There was a truck..."
"It doesn't matter what happened," Hannah interrupted. "What matters is that you're okay."
Nick opened his eyes and fixed them on her.
"I'm okay," he confirmed. "But, Hannah... What have the doctors told you?"
Unsure what the doctors had and hadn't told Nick, Hannah cast a sidelong glance at Alex before she replied.
"Only that they need to run some scans to check your neck and spine. They said your head is okay."
Nick smiled and squeezed her hand.
"That's good," he said. "That's what they told me, too. Listen, can I have a minute to speak with Alex? Men's stuff."
"Sure. I'll be right outside."
"Okay," Nick replied, smiling again as Hannah bent to kiss him. "I'll see you in a bit."
"I love you," Hannah whispered.
"I love you too, baby."
Hannah smoothed his hair one last time before turning away. The door swung shut behind her and Alex raised an eyebrow was he moved closer to the bed.
"Men's stuff?" he asked. "Dude..."
"I couldn't think of anything else," Nick replied. "Is that all the doctors told you? What she said about the scans?"
Alex hesitated and Nick stared up at him from the bed.
"They said it looks like you have neck and spinal injuries," he began. Nick's eyes closed and Alex was quick to continue. "But they won't know until you have the scans."
"They know already."
Alex frowned.
"What are you talking about? How can they know?"
Nick opened his eyes.
"You can't tell Hannah, Alex. You swear?"
Alex nodded.
"They know because I can't feel my legs," Nick said matter-of-factly. "I can't feel my fucking legs."
"Are you serious?"
"Is that something I'd joke about?"
"No, I guess not."
The room was quiet as Nick lay staring up at the ceiling and Alex shifted his weight, not sure what to say or do. The uncomfortable silence was broken when the door opened and a nurse walked in.
"I'm sorry but it's time for Nick's scans," she said.
"Yeah, sure," Alex replied, stepping aside. "Hey, I'll see you when you're done, okay?"
Nick reached out, grabbing onto the bottom of his friend's shirt.
"Not a word to Hannah," he hissed. "I mean it, Alex."
"Okay, Nick. I get it. Not a word."
Nick let go of the shirt and Alex left the room, closing the door softly behind him. In the corridor, Hannah was leaning against the wall, her arms folded across her chest.
"What was that about?" she asked, falling into step beside Alex as he walked away from Nick's room.
"Nothing," he lied. "Men's stuff."