|Somewhere a Clock is Ticking
Author: Joey51 PM
Post finale season three. Ryan handles the situation in a way that has the Cohens running circles in panic.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Angst - Ryan A. & Sandy C. - Chapters: 12 - Words: 37,636 - Reviews: 106 - Favs: 38 - Follows: 27 - Updated: 01-23-07 - Published: 06-14-06 - Status: Complete - id: 2991225
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Thanks to muchtvs and Sister Rose for all the help with this. Dedicated to the wonderful Beachtree.
Somewhere a Clock is Ticking
"It's weird," Seth says as he plunks himself down into the waiting room chair between me and his mother.
"What?" I ask, thinking that all of this is too weird for my liking.
"That all he does is lie there with his eyes closed."
The look Kirsten shoots him compensates for the lack of words. It says "Shut up" and "I love you" all at the same time.
Seth pays her no attention, staring straight ahead at the poster on the wall that simply preaches "Smoking Will Kill You" in big red letters.
"It's like he's awake, you know? Like he's faking it or something."
"Seth," Kirsten admonishes, verbally this time, her voice louder than the hum of the vending machine against the wall, the only other producer of noise in our secluded little corner of the hospital. She glances at me for backup, but I can only shrug; I can't be bothered. I'm actually kind of curious as to what our son's going to say next.
If he even takes notice of the warning, it doesn't show. "I don't mean physically…just everything else. Obviously there's stuff wrong; I just don't think he's really asleep."
It's then that I notice how tired Seth is. He's speaking softly, his eyelids weighted and drooping, the corners of his eyes red and puffy. He sniffs and sighs, leaning back in his chair and running both hands through his hair quickly – a last-ditch effort to stimulate his fading mind.
If Kirsten was at all angry at Seth's comments, the emotion is gone now. She reaches over and squeezes his knee, letting her hand rest there.
"Why don't you try to get some sleep," I tell him. "You can go home and shower and get some rest. I'll call you a cab – I don't want you driving."
"S'okay," he mumbles, his eyes closed for now, head resting on the back of the plastic chair. "I'll wait until Ryan wakes up again. Just to be sure"
Kirsten glances at me worriedly. I know what she's thinking. Ryan has awoken several times since we've been here. But he's not really awake. He's not really there. He opens his eyes and answers questions and forces his lips into a tight, reassuring smile every time Kirsten looks his way. There's something about the way he's dealing that's unnerving. Not that he's doing anything that would be considered out of character for Ryan; being quiet, reserved and emotionally distant are things that come naturally to him. It's not like he's acting. He's just barely reacting. And I know exactly what Seth means. Ryan's hardly with us. He shouldn't be that tired.
I watch their backs as they walk through the large double glass doors and disappear into the darkness. I brace my hands on my knees, stand up slowly and meander toward Ryan's dimly lit room at the very end of the hall.
I drop into the only chair in the room, pushed into a corner and behind a wall of wires and machines that I fear are responsible for Ryan's vitality, even though I've been told otherwise. Without Kirsten and Seth—especially Seth—the difficulty of staying awake increases tenfold.
While they're gone, Ryan wakes up four times.
First, he quietly asks for water. I jump up from my seat, grab the cup by the sink, and contemplate navigating around the wires—quickly changing my mind, approaching from the other side of the bed. He takes one long sip, and falls asleep again before I can return the cup to the counter.
The second time, a nurse gently rubs the back of his hand and asks him a series of questions to which I'm sure Ryan has already memorized the answers. "Do you know where you are? What's your address? What are the three words the doctor told you to remember earlier?"
He responds obediently, correctly, and slowly. My heart leaps up in my throat when he pauses before reciting the last of the three all-important answers, his brow scrunching up, eyes squeezed shut. "Parrot," I say under my breath," and the nurse shoots me a look of disapproval.
Ryan nods, relaxing his face. "Right." He takes a deep breath and holds it for a few seconds. Letting it out, he whispers, "Parrot." Before the nurse can make a note on his chart, he's asleep again.
The third time he wakes, I have one foot through the threshold of sleep. Before I can process what is going on—why I'm awake so suddenly—I'm out of my chair, this time immediately boycotting the wires, working my way to the far side of the narrow hospital bed. But a nurse is already there, holding a hideously pink container—like they can cover up the crudity of what they represent by making them the color of bubble gum or roses—under Ryan's chin as he chokes and coughs. I must have been later to the punch than I assumed because as soon as I can shake off the cobwebs, it's over. The nurse, apparently a multi-tasker, uses her free hand to stack three flat pillows at the head of the bed.
He leans back onto the support, a sweaty sheen covering his pale face and neck. I can't think of anything to say, so I run my hand up and down his forearm, stopping just above his watch tan, where three small stitches are holding shut a small laceration. Ryan had actually looked somewhat devastated when I explained to him that his wrist would be fine, but the watch didn't make it.
The stitches are stretched and strained, and if it wasn't for the subtle giveaway of his hands clutching bunches of stark white linens, I would say he looks calm. Completely serene, to the untrained eye. The nurse briskly goes about cleaning up in the small bathroom just off the room.
"Are you okay?" I ask him, reaching around the machines to pull my chair over so I can be close without running the risk of collapsing. Wouldn't that just be the icing on the cake….
"Can you…?" He lifts his hand up just enough to point to the blanket that lay folded neatly at the foot of the bed.
"Yeah, yeah. Of course," I answer. I'm just happy to be able to do something. As I'm unfolding the blanket and pulling it up under his chin, he falls asleep again. And suddenly it's perfectly clear what Seth was trying to tell us earlier. Ryan shouldn't be this tired. It really is like he's faking it. Like, even for Ryan, he's too okay and too detached and too unemotional considering what he has just experienced, if that makes any sense at all.
I watch him for as long as I can force myself to, but the nurse has once again dimmed the lights and the hum of activity in the halls has faded to silence and it's then that I realize I'm too tired. Genuinely, undeniably tired. I settle back in my chair, positioned so that I can see Ryan by simply opening my eyes, not having to move at all.
The fourth awakening somehow manages to slip under my radar. And as soon as I open my eyes, I know I'll never forgive myself for giving in to exhaustion. Because the fourth time Ryan wakes up, he leaves.