The instant the warm heat from the sun hit his face, he breathed a sigh of relief. He sucked the fresh air into his lungs, happy to be free for a short while from the confines of the thick walls of the hospital. The weather had improved considerably since the rain storm they had seen pass through the area days before, and he was at least thankful for the opportunity to venture outside, despite the extra physical stress he could feel weighing down on his body. He sat quietly, listening to Leighanne's footsteps pad softly behind him as she pushed the wheelchair in which he sat. His wife hadn't said a word since they had stepped outside, and for the time being he had been content with the silence, allowing himself to enjoy the warmth. Now it sent his nerves running wild, and suddenly the silence wasn't so comforting anymore. "Leigh..." he spoke out, unable to do anything but stare straight ahead. "Baby, talk to me."
"I'm sorry," Leighanne apologized as she leaned forward and placed a soft kiss atop his head. Yet the show of affection wasn't nearly as friendly or heartfelt as Brian had expected it to be. He found it laced with a tense hesitation and he didn't like it one bit. "I was just thinking."
"Want to tell me what about?" Brian questioned, grimacing as Leighanne wheeled him up over a bump and onto the path that lead into the courtyard in the outside center locale of the hospital. The path curved to the right, taking them further from the opening. "Frankly speaking, the silence is becoming a little deafening, if you know what I'm saying."
"I find it kind of peaceful," Leighanne answered absentmindedly.
"You know what I mean," Brian said, his brows creasing. "I don't like it when you're this quiet. I just wish you would talk to me." Once again Leighanne didn't answer. She moved them slowly along the path, curving again to the right when it split off in opposite directions. Strategically placed bushes lined the path on both sides, the shades of green varying from dark to light, an attempt to provide peaceful privacy and comfort for the patients of the medical facility. Periodically they passed by an eloquently designed half moon stone bench, flowers the hues of purples and pinks littered the grass in perfect setup. As much as he hated to admit at that very moment, Brian couldn't deny the fact that he was in awe of the design of the development. He just wished he was there for a different reason, or not there at all.
Then just as quickly as they had started moving, Leighanne brought them to an abrupt halt. The movement sent a shock of surprise through Brian's body, so much so, that he twisted in his seat to stare at his wife, only to find her hastily turning her head in the other direction to avoid his stare. "Leigh..." he whispered, reaching out to lightly graze her arm with his fingertips, but she shied away from his touch.
"I...I don't know what to say," Leighanne stuttered, hugging herself against a non existent draft. She furiously tried to blink back the tears that were burning at the corners of her eyes, but from the single tear that had slipped down her cheek, she had already failed at doing so. "I don't even know what to think," she continued. "Everything was ok when I left. You were fine. How could this be happening? How did it happen?"
"I don't know," Brian struggled to answer, twisting further in his seat, hating the way it seemed that his wife continued to inch further away from him. "I never knew anything like this was going to happen. I didn't want anything like this to happen. I didn't mean for it to happen. Leigh, please...don't stand so far away-"
"Oh Brian," Leighanne whispered, raising a clenched fist to her mouth to stiffle a soft cry. Her bright eyes glistened over as she took a faltered step forward. She watched him intensely, her body visibly trembling. Stopping at his side, she leaned down and cupped his face in both her hands. "I didn't mean it like that," she mustered, "But you have me so worried right now. What are we going to do about this? How are we going to fix this?"
Brian stared at his wife in a dumbfounded state of stupidity. He had been asking himself the same questions since everything had happened and he had still yet to come up with an answer that would solve it all. "I don't know, Leigh. I honestly don't know," he answered quietly. "I haven't even had the chance to grasp the fact that this is even happening-"
"But certainly we musn't just sit back and let you fade away-"
"Don't say that," Brian recoiled in an awed shock. His wife's fearful words struck an awful chord in his chest and made him physically sick to his stomach. He heaved a deep breath into his lungs, his heart palpitating wildly. "I-I'm not gone yet. I'm not going anywhere."
Leighanne stared at her husband. He appeared so tattered and torn, as if his whole self being had been shattered from his ailment. He resembled nothing of the man she had left behind a month before. It terrified her. His eyes drooped to hint at his exhaustion and his skin had paled so considerably that it hinted nothing towards its normal golden hue that Leighanne adored so much. "I don't want to lose you period," she stressed unevenly, her voice faltering with nearly every word. "This just isn't right, Brian."
"You aren't going to lose me," Brian said and instinctively reached out to grasp his wife's hand, only to be left in surprise as she pulled away. "Leigh-"
"How can you say that?" Leighanne returned sharply. "How do you know? Have you even listened to what your doctor has been telling you? This isn't something that is just going to go away. It's your heart, Brian. Your heart."
"Then how can you just sit there and deny the options that are available to you? Why are you refusing the help?"
"It's not that easy."
"What isn't that easy?"
"You think I want this to be happening? God, Leigh, my mind is racing right now! I can't process anything! I'm scared to death because I don't know what is going to happen to me!"
Leighanne lowered herself to her knees in front of her husband, forcing the tears to remain at bay. She placed both hands upon his knees, feeling the way he shook beneath her touch. "Then why are you so against that hospital Dr. Henrich mentioned? If it can help you, why-"
"Because I don't want to lose you and Baylee. I am scared of being taken away from the both of you," Brian attempted to explain, but all he could manage were a few feeble sentences and his voice failed to project further. His vision blurred as he watched the distress intensify within the beautiful features of his wife's face. He had missed her when she was away more then anyone could have understood and he had never imagined their reunion would be anything like it was at the present. Brian had imagined welcoming his wife home into his open arms where he would be allowed to make up with her the time they had been missing. Instead he found himself struggling to make his wife, and himself, understand just what was happening before them.
"What about us though?" Leighanne pressed. "Have you thought about what it would do to us if we lost you forever? Your parents? Your friends? Myself? What about your children?"
"Baylee is-" Brian opened his mouth to answer but found himself falling silent as he searched Leighanne's eyes for what he assumed he had just heard his wife speak. His heart raced further as he fumbled to grab her hands tightly. "Y-you just..." he stuttered, swaying slightly. He wasn't sure if it was from the heat or from the dizzying revelation he was trying to clarify. "My children...I don't understand?"
"I'm..." Leighanne hesitated.
Leighanne glanced away briefly before offering a short nod.
"When did you find out?"
"Maybe a week after I left?" Leighanne answered meekly. "I had my suspicisions...I had overshot my period by several weeks, but I figured it was probably due to all of the stress leading up to the final filming process. But then...I started getting sick frequently in the morning. I knew what the test was going to say before I even took it. I was having the same symptoms that I had before we found out about Baylee..."
"All those times we talked...why didn't you tell me?"
"I wanted to surprise you when I finally made it home," Leighanne attempted to explain. "I'm naturally worried sick because this is happening to you, but don't you see now there is someone else being affected by this?"
"Leigh, I...we're going to have another baby?"
"Does anyone else know?"
Brian sunk into the wheelchair, pulling Leighanne up into his embrace. He held her close, ignoring the pain that surged through his body. Suddenly everything became all the more complicated and he couldn't help but let the tears start to fall once more.
The buzz around the hospital that a high status patient had been admitted on one of the floors had spread like a wild fire, much faster then Marge could have cared for. She could hear the hushed whispers as she passed by the younger female nurses, but she paid not a bit of attention to the gossip. She kept strictly to her daily duties, the job for which she was being paid. However, Marge couldn't help but notice the stares of envy she received each time she prepared to walk into Brian Littrell's room, the man causing all of the excitement. Not many were permitted to enter due to strict orders, and being she was one of the many few on the hospital staff overlooking his care, she saw to it that his privacy remained well respected.
Carefully balancing a medical chart atop the lunch tray she carried in her grasp, Marge paused shortly just before his closed door. She reached out to twist the handle, and upon hearing it click, she leaned her hip into the large door and pushed her way into the room. "Good afternoon, Mr. Littrell," she called out politely to make her presence known. She looked over the stack in her arms to find her patient lying on his side, his back facing her direction. He was the only one present in the room, a change from the group of family that had congregated to his side recently. When she didn't receive a reply, she moved closer, stepping to the opposite side of the bed. His eyes were open, but he seemed to be staring rather blankly out the window. "You are awake. I was afraid you may have been sleeping," Marge mentioned, placing the tray down and opening the medical chart to shortly glance at the scrawls of writing. "I brought your lunch."
Brian shifted ever so slightly under the layers of blankets and mumbled a small reply, not once removing his gaze from the window.
"I'm sorry dear, but I'm afraid you will have to speak up a little. I have become a bit hard of hearing in my old age," Marge chuckled, looking up from the papers. She found a pair of clouded blue eyes staring back at her, although vacant of all expression. "I suppose you will be pleased with today's selection for lunch," she continued. "Dr. Henrich has promoted you to solid foods."
"I'm not hungry," Brian grumbled in reply, looking away once more.
"But you must eat, dear, so you can regain your strength. You haven't eaten a thing since you were admitted. Certainly you aren't feeling well-"
"Exactly. I don't feel well, so I don't want to eat."
"Is your medication making you ill again?"
Marge frowned, lowering the medical chart. "Why so blue today, Mr. Littrell?" she questioned and began to busy herself in checking Brian's vitals. She motioned for him to sit up and placed a blood pressure cuff around his upper left bicep. "I figured you would be smiling non stop since your wife arrived. Charming woman she is."
A small smile teased the corners of Brian's mouth, but the sign of emotion was gone almost as fast as it had appeared. Brian sighed, feeling the pressure against his muscles as the cuff tightened around his arm. "I'm ecstatic," he answered quietly.
Marge removed the blood pressure cuff from Brian's bicep and set it aside. She placed the end of the stethescope against his chest and listened intently for a moment."Then where is that smile of yours that I have seen a time or two since you have been here?"
"It's on vacation?" Brian answered meekly.
"I doubt that, dear."
"Sorry, I just have a bit on my mind right now."
"Anything you need to talk about?" Marge offered.
Brian shook his head. "No. It's just something I need to be able to process. Haven't been able to do so yet."
"Well, if you need to talk, between the needle poking and vitals checking, I have two ears I can lend you."
"I appreciate the offer, Marge. Really."
There was a disturbance towards the door at that moment as Marge straightened her posture and removed the lid from the lunch tray. The aromas from the meal inside immediately wafted into Brian's nostrils and sent his stomach twisting into tight knots of disgust. He looked back up at Marge as she smiled apologetically. "Sorry, dear. It's hospital food I'm afraid."
"Am I interrupting?" a voice called out from the doorway. Both turned their heads just in time to see Kevin stepping into the room, hesitantly moving forward. He peered towards his cousin's bed, finding the nurse beginning to prepare the meal before him. "Ah, I see I'm just in time for lunch," he attempted to joke, noting the look of disgust upon Brian's face.
"Help yourself," Brian grimaced, motioning to the tray.
"I think I may have to pass," Kevin declined. "Kris and I stopped for lunch before coming here."
"I don't blame you for not wanting to eat this sludge," Brian grumbled in return. "I thought you said I had been promoted to solid food?" he questioned Marge.
"Baby steps, Mr. Littrell," Marge replied with a smile and turned to Kevin. "Very nice to see you again, Mr. Richardson."
"And you as well," Kevin answered politely with a nod.
"I'll leave you and your cousin to visit," Marge said. "I know your lunch appears unpleasant, Mr. Littrell, but do try to eat."
"So that is what they try to feed you here?" Kevin joked lightly as he took a seat.
"I'd hardly call it food," Brian said, replacing the cover on the tray.
"Well, good news is my lunch was decent."
"Ha ha...you're funny."
"I know I am. Just ask me."
"I'd kill for a Big Mac right now."
"I'll keep that in mind."
"In the cafeteria getting juice and peanuts."
"That's not the worst of it. You don't even want to know about the craving she woke up with last night and made me run out to get at four in the morning."
Kevin chuckled. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say she's pregnant."
Brian withheld a gasp as a certain pang struck him in the core. He tore his gaze away from his older cousin, unaware of the bewildered stare that cast across Kevin's face. Leighanne's revelation echoed in his mind as he took a deep breath and squinted at the window. "You never know," he drawled slowly. "You guys have been trying for a while now?"
The shrug was evident in Kevin's voice. "Trying, yeah. Just not having any luck. Kris is a bit discouraged. She won't admit it, but I can see it in her face everytime one of us brings the subject up."
"You both deserve a child."
"So what's the latest news?" Kevin questioned casually, although he was sure his attempts at small talk weren't turning out nearly as well as he had planned. He couldn't keep his mind from returning to the moment he had watched Brian collapse to the ground and then the horrifying news they had all learned of shortly after. Kevin had a hard time believing it was even possible at all.
'I'm still dying' Brian thought with a grimace, but couldn't bring the shameful words to pass his lips. He turned to Kevin with an impish smile. "I've been promoted to solid foods," he giggled.
Kevin groaned. "Sounds like something Nick would say when he's supposed to be acting serious."
"I'm easily influenced," Brian shrugged with a grin. "What can I say?"
"Uncle Harold told me Nick stopped by to visit yesterday," Kevin mentioned seriously.
"Stopped by to visit?" Brian scuffed. "He practically ran out on me after five minutes."
"You sound like you were just dumped by a girl," Kevin replied, raising a brow in humor, even when the concern still coated his tone and he hated the dejection reflecting in Brian's demeanor.
"It was his choice."
"You can't hold it against him," Kevin answered quietly, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees. He fisted his hands beneath his chin and studied his cousin further. "He's just scared...we all are. You know how Nick is. He's never reacted well to things like this."
"You mean me dying?" Brian glared.
"Yeah, you're right. I've never reacted well to myself dying either."
"That's not what I meant," Kevin answered sullenly as he sunk back into his chair, allowing his voice to die out. The two locked gazes in silence for several minutes. Kevin found the tense pressure in the room nearly unbearable as the silence thickened.
"T-they want to send me away to some institution," Brian spoke moments later, catching Kevin off guard from the weakness in his voice.
"Send you away?" Kevin tried to clarify. "Who?"
"My doctor...mom and dad...Leigh," Brian answered, coughing roughly to clear his throat. "It's um...it's a cardiac hospital they want to put me in until a donor heart can be found."
"That's good then, right?"
"No, it's not."
"I don't understand."
"Kev, they want to lock me away," Brian snapped, his eyes turning a deeper darker shade of sapphire. He rubbed at his temples, grimacing towards the pounding that had developed and continued to elevate. "They are trying to send me to this institution where I will be locked up and kept away from my family. And there is a chance that a donor heart may never be found. Do you know what that means?"
"Why is this happening to me?" Brian trembled, his body shaking with the anxiety that plagued his very being. He drew his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms tightly around them. "Why now, huh? Why is this happening now? After all these years...?"
It was a question Kevin found himself unable to answer, no matter how far he searched the depths of his mind. He didn't understand it either and that scared him. "I wish I could answer that cuz, but I can't."
Brian scuffed with a strangled laugh. "Nobody seems to be able to."
"They're still running tests aren't they? Surely they will find some cause and be able to give you answers," Kevin suggested, although he couldn't even get the strong conviction to project in his tone. And it was obvious Brian saw the doubt in his eyes.
"Leigh's pregnant again," Brian blurted in such a low octive that he spoke in nearly a whisper. He released his arms from around his knees and pushed the blankets away from his body. Standing from the bed, he stepped towards the window to shield himself from the expression of shock that passed over Kevin's face.
"When did you find out?" Kevin asked.
"This morning after she got here," Brian barely answered, his shoulders slumping.
"That's great news though, cuz!" Kevin said as he rose from the chair and walked towards his cousin. He paused just a step behind him, hesitating. "Aren't you happy about it?"
Brian turned. "I find out I am dying and then I find out my wife and I are going to be having another baby. Where can I find the chance to be even remotely happy?"
"You're going to have another child though-"
"And I'll be taken out of it's life before it will even get the chance to know who it's father is," Brian stuttered, faltering where he stood. "I'm not going to get the chance to watch my son grow up and now another child is being brought into this?"
"But you don't know that for sure-" Kevin began to argue but fell silent as Brian let forth an agonizing sob of despair and all Kevin could do was wrap the shorter man in a strong embrace.