Chapter 10:

Josh woke up in the infirmary. He sat up quickly, panicking, and felt his head spin. Someone gently pushed him back onto the pillows.

"It's okay Josh." They said. Josh's eyes stopped producing the swirly dimension and cleared to focus on silver hair, blue eyes and a soft smile. Dad. Josh managed a half smile, although it seemed like more of a grimace. Kirkpatrick ran a hand through Josh's hair. His eyes were red-rimmed and there were deep shadows under them.

"Wha... app... en?" Josh chocked out. Now he was awake his throat was starting to hurt. It felt like just breathing through his mouth was tearing it in two. He felt pain, searing along his back, stomach and ribs. His arms tingled with the little cuts. He looked at his dad in panic.

"Don't worry Josh. Everything's fine." Kirkpatrick said. He was putting on a brave face. "You're going to be okay. It's just going to take some time to heal. The doctors said you'll make a full recovery." Josh nodded as much as he could. He slumped down further into the pillows and allowed his dad to continue stroking his hair. His other hand was holding Josh's. "Yoko and Brett found us, with Mr S. They noticed something was wrong and followed Zeechrom. He's in custody now. They're sending him to a more secure prison." Josh nodded again. He gripped his dad's hand and leaned into the touch.

Kirkpatrick watched his son go back to sleep. He didn't dare tell Josh everything. He didn't want to cause his baby any more pain. Josh had been in the infirmary for a week. The doctors had said it was partially the pain and partially him not wanting to wake up. Kirkpatrick had watched as they'd spent hours meticulously going over his son's body to be absolutely sure they had found every injury. Each time they found another one, Kirkpatrick's heart broke a little more. Just another thing he'd failed to protect his son from. He just wanted to cuddle Josh. Wrap him in bubble wrap and keep him close at all times. Or he wanted him in military school. Because they didn't send people on deadly missions and Josh would learn to protect himself. It was unfortunate really, that Josh was the most capable pilot in the school. If he wasn't so damn good at flying Kirkpatrick wouldn't feel it necessary to send him on difficult missions. But when you're the best and your team mates are just as good you can't help but think they can be relied on to get the job done. He would never tell Josh that he'd spent the two days before they found them sobbing hysterically because he thought his precious boy had died. He wouldn't tell him he'd spent the entire week by his bedside, not getting much sleep and trying to stop tears from flowing. He definitely wouldn't tell him how guilty he felt. The entire thing was his fault. All of it. From blaming Josh for something he didn't do to not stopping Zeechrom from hurting his baby. He'd failed as a commanding officer. But worse, he'd failed as a parent. He continued stroking Josh's hair until finally he conked out.

Josh woke up the next day feeling a fair bit better. He felt a weight next to him. His dad had fallen asleep right next to him, hand still in his hand and his hair. When Josh moved, Kirkpatrick woke up hazily. His eyes softened when he saw Josh and a half smile curved his lips.

"You're awake." His dad said. Josh sat up more, using his dad as leverage. "How do you feel today?" Josh didn't answer, his throat was still sore and he wanted to save his words. He slumped against his dad, using his shoulder as a head rest. It was nice to relax on his dad. A small comfort to him. Except, while Kirkpatrick usually smelled of old spice, coffee and ink, he also smelled of something else. Not strongly, but it was there and Josh knew what it was. He'd have to correct it. Kirkpatrick pulled his son close to him, a warm hug, hand in his hair, the other rubbing circles on his back. Josh just cuddled up to him.

"Dad." Josh started. His voice was croaky and hoarse. His dad hummed in response. "It's not your fault." Kirkpatrick tensed. He started to say something but Josh cut across him, snuggling closer as he did. "It's not your fault. It's that jerks fault. You tried your best. I know you did. It could have been so much worse. You could have never noticed I was gone." Josh paused. He needed to breathe and rest his throat. "I'm glad you were there, with me. And I don't blame you Dad. Not one bit." Kirkpatrick tightened his hug, letting a few tears go.

"Joshua." He breathed. "My boy, I'm so sorry. I should have done better. I'm so sorry." Josh hugged back.

"I know Dad. I know." He said. "But I don't blame you."

"I love you Joshua." Kirkpatrick said. Josh pulled away a bit, a happier smile forming on his lips.

"I love you too Dad." He said.

When the doctor walked in a few hours later she found Josh slumped on Kirkpatrick's chest, both sleeping peacefully in the bed. She thought it was about damn time too. They needed their rest.