Closing the door behind Dr Barnett, she pulled herself up to sit on the edge of Nick's bed, leaning towards him as she took his hand.
"What did he say?" she asked, her thumb moving back and forth across the back of his hand.
"I don't want you to freak out, okay?"
Hannah looked at him and her thumb stopped moving.
"If you have to warn me about it, I'm probably going to freak out," she replied. "What's going on?"
Nick squeezed her hand.
"I don't want you to freak out because it might not be permanent," he went on. "But I can't feel my legs. The doctor says they're paralysed."
"You can't feel your legs?" Hannah repeated. "Since when?"
"Since right after the accident," Nick replied. Seeing the look on her face, he hurried on. "But the doctor says it's only partial and it might be temporary."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I didn't want to worry you."
"But you're telling me now. You don't think I'm going to worry now?"
"Hannah, baby..." Nick said, squeezing her hand. "You're freaking out."
Hannah looked at him.
"I am not freaking out. This is not freaking out. I am nowhere near freaking out."
"So how come you're doing that weird Grey's Anatomy thing you do when you're freaking out? Saying the same thing a bunch of different ways?"
"Ok, so maybe I'm freaking out a little," Hannah said with a sigh. "How are you not? Aren't you scared?"
"Sure, I'm scared," Nick replied, pulling at his neck brace. "I'm terrified. But, Hannah, when they brought me in here this afternoon I had no feeling anywhere below my waist..."
"And you didn't tell me?" Hannah asked incredulously.
"Let me finish," Nick replied. "When they brought me in I couldn't feel anything. When the doctor was in here just now I could feel him pressing on the bottom of my feet."
Hannah was silent, biting her bottom lip as tears clouded her eyes.
"That's good news," Nick said quietly, squeezing her hand again. "Come on, baby, don't cry. Come here."
With his free hand on her back, he pulled her towards him. Puckering his lips, he closed his eyes and waited.
“Kish me, Hannah.”
Smiling through her tears, Hannah bent her head to kiss him and Nick wrapped his arms around her, pulling her in.
“I need you to be strong, okay?” he said quietly when the kiss ended. “Because I don’t think I can be strong without you.”
“I’m not strong, Nick.”
“Yes, you are. You’re the strongest person I know,” Nick replied. Hannah rolled her eyes and tried to pull away from him. “No, come on. You are. Maybe you don’t see it but I do. I see it all the time and I need you to share it with me because I'm scared, okay? I need you to be strong."
Hannah nodded, tears brimming in her eyes again as Nick pulled her back towards him.
"Hannah? Hannah, do you want something?"
Jolted from her thoughts, Hannah stared blankly back at Brian. Through the window behind him, a McDonalds menu board glowed in the darkness.
"We're grabbing some burgers. Do you want something?" Brian repeated.
Hannah shook her head and sank back in her seat as Brian and Alex exchanged glances. Turning in his seat, Alex looked back at her.
"You haven't eaten all night," he said. "How about some fries?"
"No, thanks. I really just want to get home and check on Jack."
Alex turned back to Brian and shrugged.
"I'll have a number eight, Rok."
Nick's arms were still tight around Hannah when the door opened and a nurse stepped into the room. Pulling away from him, Hannah wiped her eyes and looked at the nurse.
"Mr and Mrs Carter? I'm Leah, Nick's primary care nurse while he's with us at Bayview."
Hannah opened her mouth to speak but Nick silenced her with a squeeze of her hand.
"Primary care? What does that mean?" he asked.
Taking the clipboard from the end of the bed, Leah flipped through the pages as she spoke.
"Primary care means I'll be around to help you out with your personal cares - washing, going to the bathroom, using a catheter - all those sorts of things," she explained.
Nick blinked at her.
"A catheter?" he repeated.
Leah slipped the clipboard back into it's holder and looked from Nick to Hannah and back again.
"I'm sorry... Dr Barnett should have discussed this with you," she said.
"Yeah, well he didn't," Nick replied, his voice creeping up an octave. "What do I need a catheter for?"
"Spinal injuries in the lumbar region - like yours - can cause bowel and bladder dysfunction. You could need a catheter if you find you're having trouble urinating. When did you last go to the bathroom?"
"I don't know. This afternoon before I left the house. About four o'clock."
"And have you had any accidents since then?"
"Only the one with the semi," Nick deadpanned and Hannah slapped him lightly on the arm.
"Don't joke about this, Nick," she said quietly.
"Do you feel like you might need to go now?" Leah asked, glancing at her watch. "It's almost eleven."
"I don't know. I guess I could go."
"I'll go and get a bedpan and we'll see how you go, okay?" she replied with a smile. "I'll be right back."
Hannah watched her leave before turning back to Nick.
"A catheter? A fucking catheter, Hannah. Do you know how those things work?" he asked, pausing as he drew his hand over his face. "I don't even want to think about it."
"She didn't say it was definite," Hannah said gently. "You might be okay."
Nick was silent, staring up at the ceiling while Hannah stood beside the bed.
"You should go home," he said after a moment. "Jack will be missing you."
"You don't want me to stay?"
"I don't really think I want an audience for this, Hannah," Nick replied. "Besides, you need to sleep."
"Are you sure you don't want me to stay?"
"No, baby, I'll be fine. I'll see you tomorrow, okay? Maybe you can bring Jack."
Hannah nodded, squeezing his hand as she bent to kiss him on the forehead.
"Do you want me to bring anything in for you tomorrow?"
"Just my boy," Nick replied. "And my i-pod. It's in my backpack."
"Okay. I'll see you in the morning. Try to get some sleep."
Nick tried to nod but the movement was restricted by his brace.
"Yeah, you too. I love you."
"I love you, too," Hannah said, moving away from the bed.
She had got as far as the door before Nick called after her. Stopping with her hand on the door knob, she turned back towards him.
"I'm sorry, Hannah. I promised you and Jack not one night apart and you're already going home alone."
"Don't worry about it. You just get better fast so we can go home together, okay?"
"Okay," Nick replied, a lump building in his throat. "See you in the morning."
Hannah left the room and the door clicked shut.
Pulling up outside Alex's house, Brian switched the engine off and opened his door. The porch light was on, lighting the steps leading up to the front door which opened as Alex and Hannah approached. Leighanne stood in the doorway, Jack in her arms.
"He's just woken up," she said quietly. "He's been a bit upset and asking for you."
Hannah took Jack in her arms, smoothing his blonde hair and kissing the top of his head.
"Thank you for watching him," she said sincerely.
"Anytime," Leighanne replied, moving aside to let Hannah and Alex past. "How's Nick doing?"
Brian kissed his wife on the cheek and took her hand.
"We're not really sure yet," he said quietly. "We haven't been told much other than that his spine was damaged in the accident."
"He's a tough kid," Alex added. "He'll be okay."
Staring up into the dark space above his bed, Nick swallowed hard. The door to his room had been left ajar and he heard the soft squeak of trainers on the linoleum as hospital staff passed by, their shadows dancing on the wall beside his bed. Somewhere along the corridor people were laughing and the noises carried to him in the stillness. Across town he knew Hannah would be climbing into bed, her blonde hair free of its tie and falling over her shoulders. Jack would be asleep, thumb in mouth, his breath like a whisper in the darkness. Staring up into the dark space above his bed, Nick let himself cry.
Hannah folded her arm beneath her head and looked at Jack, sleeping peacefully in the portable crib beside her bed. His blonde hair was a mess of tufts and clumps and his thumb was positioned firmly between his lips. She could hear Alex moving around in the next room, drawers opening and closing and a muffled curse before his door closed and silence settled over the house. Reaching for the lamp on the nightstand, she flicked the switch and the room was plunged into darkness. Rolling onto her back, Hannah let herself cry.