Nick could barely wait for the doors to slide open before bursting into the elevator bay of the Intensive Care floor, his feet skid across the polished white floors as he turned and bolted toward the junction to more hallways. He slowed down only slightly to read the sign and the room number he was looking for. As he found the direction he needed to go, he charged around the corner, his hip slammed into a medical cart while weaving around patients and hospital staff. Medical supplies clattered to the floor like silverware as he ignored the scolding coming from nurses making their rounds. He continued to run while ignoring the pain in his hip. The silhouette reflected faintly on the tiled floor as he rushed down the corridor, panting like he was approaching the finish line to a marathon. His heart leapt through his body, certain he had triggered every speed camera from the Rainforest District to Savanna Central on the way to the hospital. If Nick was going to lose his license, he didn't care. He only slowed down as the hospital room numbers got warmer and warmer. Stopping as he looked at one of the room numbers.
Nick stepped back for a moment as a gurgling maw of excitement, fear, adrenaline and anticipation stewed within him. He was afraid of what he was going to find. He was on the edge of a high dive, his eyes going blurry as he looked out upon the uncertainty that he was about to step into. His breath was rapid. Sweat soaked through his collar and irritated his skin. Nick glanced back to see hospital staff picking up the supplies that he had knocked off the medical cart in his haste to get to where he was now. It was the only thing he wanted the past three nights. It was the only thing that could make him believe that this was not some wild hallucination. He tried imagining was she would have done in his position. She would have been tough. She would have charged in. She would have been brave. After working up the courage, with one foot at a time, he turned into the hospital room.
He gripped the door frame as he felt his knees buckling. The privacy curtains were pushed back, allowing Nick an uninterrupted panorama of the clean and polished of the room. He looked over to a two cushion couch where Stu and Bonnie sat, holding each other. Bonnie's face was buried into her husband's shoulder, faint gasps echoing through the room as Stu held her. Judy's father focused stoically ahead, doing his best not to make any noise as he massaged his wife's back. The dry-erase board behind the rabbits had the names of the nurses on shift this evening and some basic care instructions. Against the wall was a bookcase, presumably for flowers and notes from well-wishers. The dark night was visible through the window, with lights from the opposite wing of the hospital shining through leaving shadows on the floor.
And there she was. Her ears folded down, eyes closed. A monitor beeped rhythmically as Nick traced different wires and tubes to her body. A tube protruded from her mouth like a long drinking straw, attached to her face with medical tape. IV lines traced their ways from her arms up to plastic sacs. Various bandages covered her face and extremities, Nick could make out the outline of some more underneath the hospital gown.
This is not what he wanted. Not like this. He wanted her to walk through the front door of the apartment, wiping her brow and tossing her cap on the rack across the room. It was supposed to be like those movies where the hero supposedly dies only to emerge victorious. This was not victorious. He wanted to shake her. Scream at her. Somehow, this was worse than what he had imagined.
"Good evening." Nick could have jumped onto the next floor as the large black bear made his way into the room.
"I'm sorry! Did I scare you?" The doctor's voice rumbled as he saw Nick jolt.
"No, no, you're fine…" Nick replied quickly as he tried to settle his breathing down.
"I'm Dr. Dennison, and you are?" The doctor said warmly as he offered his paw.
"Nick Wilde, Judy is my fiancé." The fox said as he shook the bear's paw.
"Pleasure to meet you. And you two must be Mr. and Mrs. Hopps, correct?" He said as he turned to the two rabbits.
"Yes… I'm Stu, this is my wife Bonnie." The male rabbit croaked as he also shook paws, Bonnie simply nodded her head in acknowledgement.
"Mr. Wilde, please." Dr. Dennison beckoned him into the room as the bear went to close the door to the hallway. Nick's heart began to race again as be braced for the information that was about to come from the doctor.
"Judy's prognosis is very uncertain right now…" Dr. Dennison said gently as he held his clipboard in his hand. "The priority is dehydration and preventing GI stasis." He read from his papers. Out the corner of his eye, Nick saw the two rabbits wince as the doctor mentioned GI stasis. "She has a lot of broken bones, and we are monitoring her for any nerve damage in her spine. We are also concerned about internal bleeding."
"Is she going to be okay?" Stu asked as he consoled Bonnie.
The doctor took a deep breath before speaking. "It's too early to tell."
A rush of emotions surged inside Nick. He was finally face to face with Judy, but no closer to knowing if she was going to be okay. It was like he was back at the Arcade, screaming her name into the dust and debris of the fallen shopping center. Frustration simmered as he listened to the doctor, he wanted an answer, and he deserved to know if Judy was going to come home. Their future together was being stripped away. The feeling of helplessness was too much, he had to know.
"You don't know anything else?" Nick asked. Desperation started to peak through as he tried to restrain his emotions.
"Keep in mind, she was only admitted a few hours ago." The doctor emphasized.
"You haven't done anything?" Nick's heart started to race like he was being backed into a corner. A cacophony of thoughts battled each other inside of him. How dare he? Where did this know-nothing doctor come from? He has no business being anywhere near her!
"The priority is getting her stable." Dr. Dennison replied calmly as his eyes scanned the fox.
"So she's just going to lay there?"
"Look, she's sustained a lot of trauma—"
"—oh I know she has!"
"I know this has been a trying time—"
"You don't even know…" Nick hissed as his mind went into overdrive. He couldn't stop himself. He knew he was going overboard. Who does this bozo think he is? What third-rate medical school had the gall to let this guy practice medicine?!
"Mr. Wilde, please, we're doing everything we can." The doctor replied, trying his best to calm the fox down.
"Doesn't look like it if you're just letting her lay there!"
"Nick, stop it!" Stu barked. Nick was snapped back to Earth and caught the stern glare of Judy's father. The fox felt the same rush of shame like when his mother had scolded him as a kid.
"I need coffee…" Nick said quickly as he left the four of them in the room. He huffed as he stormed down the corridor, passing some of the same staff that reprimanded him for running earlier. He found a small lounge with vending machines lined against the wall and rummaged for change as Nick approached a vending machine selling coffee and other café drinks. He pushed a coin into the slot and mashed the button for a black coffee.
Nick looked down to see the small metal flap dancing to and fro. He reached through it and pulled out the coin that he initially put in, trying again to insert the coin into the slot.
The fox growled as he dug in his pocket again, looking for another coin. His fingers gripped the new coin as he pulled it out and examined it, making sure it was flawless before inserting it into the coffee machine.
"Come on…" Nick snarled as he extracted the coin.
The same coin was rejected a second time as the metal flap waved again, taunting the fox as he searched for more change. He shoved his fist in his pocket and grabbed every coin he could get a hold of.
Tink! Tink! Tink!
Nick thrust random coins into the machine, all of them being rejected. He growled and swore after one coin after another was denied entry. Clinching his fist tightly, he turned around and stepped away from the machine, only to turn back around and pelt the coffee machine with his paw full of change. The coins smashed against the machine, ricocheting across the room in every direction.
It wasn't enough to soothe him as his jaw began to send jolts of pain as it was clamped shut, his lips curling in an angry growl. Air rushed furiously in and out through his teeth as he tried to find something to focus his anger on. Without a second's hesitation, he grabbed a chair that sat innocently in the lounge and began beating it against the vending machine. BANG! BANG! BANG! The chair bounced harmlessly off the plastic and metal of the vending as he struck the vending machine countless times. As the fox pulled the chair back for another swing, he lost his footing, stumbled, and fell backward into a table and chairs, causing them to scrape across the floor as they were pushed out of the way. A sharp pain surged up his backside as he landed on the hard floor. The chair he was using as a weapon clattered on the floor behind him.
His eyes caught his reflection in the plastic of the vending machine. He saw the young Nick, trying to get the muzzle off of him as he collapsed against the concrete stoop of the Junior Ranger Scouts den. Panting loudly as he held back the flood gates that was ready to spill forth at any moment. He rested on the floor of the lounge in nearly the same position as he landed. Transfixed at his reflection, lost in a daze, trying to find something to focus on that was not Judy clinging to life in a room down the hall. Nick listened to his breath rush in and out of his mouth as he stared at the machine. He turned quickly as his ears picked up footsteps approaching him.
Bonnie stood quietly in the doorway. The whites of her eyes reddened and her nose still runny as she sniffed. She held her pocketbook in her paws as her violet eyes, Judy's eyes, locked with Nick's emerald green eyes. The fox looked away quickly in shame, ashamed of assaulting a vending machine, ashamed of accosting the doctor, ashamed that he didn't do enough to stop Judy from rushing into the mall. As he looked away from her, he could feel her coming closer. The corner of his eye following her feet as she got closer until she was right next to him. He continued to try and look away from her as she knelt down until she was near eye-level with Nick. He swallowed, trying to maintain a rigid composure, not letting on any sign of weakness. His brow furrowed as he began following the tiles on the floor, tracing the lines with his eyes, trying to think about something else. Anything else. He gasped suddenly as Bonnie put a paw on his arm, his mind went back to the gondola with Judy the night they tried to meet with Mr. Manchas. Nick locked his lips together tightly as he narrowed his eyes even further.
"Nick…" Her voice was barely above a whisper, watching as he chewed on his tongue. He rested his arm on his knee to put a barrier between the two of them. Bonnie pulled her paw away from him and rested it on her denim pants, still watching his face as he tried to pretend she wasn't there.
"I should have stopped her…" Nick said quietly, trying to make imaginary patterns with the floor tiles.
"It's not your fault, Nick." His paw moved to hide his face away from her.
"Yes it is!" He said angrily, his eyes darted around as he began thinking about the car chase. "I knew we should have called the chase off!" Nick's teeth tightened together like they were trying to stop him from talking. "It's my fault for not stopping her! I should have stopped her, but I didn't! I let this happen!" Bonnie just sat there and listened as he spoke, listened to every angry inhale, she watched his eyes as his the circuits in his mind began overloading.
"Nick…" Bonnie pleaded.
"She is in there because of me!" Nick thrust a finger at the doorway before aiming the same finger back at him.
"Nicholas!" Bonnie grabbed his shoulders as he turned away from her, waves of his warm breath washing over her face as she watched him panting. Taking quick swallows and trying to avoid her eyes. "It's not your fault!" She repeated desperately.
"She's in there…" Nick started, taking a massive gulp of air as his eyes began to flood. "… and I can't do anything for her…"
Bonnie unclasped her pocketbook without looking down; only glancing to make sure she was reaching in the right fold. She turned Nick's face toward her as she started dabbing a tissue under his eyes, which were developing a familiar pink hue as his nose began running.
"I'm scared, Bonnie."
"I know you are." The matriarch of the Hopps clan watched a choppy ocean as a storm swirled in Nick's eyes, waves crashing over the breakwater and down the forest of red and orange hairs.
"I don't know if I can do this…" Nick said quietly.
"Come here…" Bonnie said softly, pulling Nick into a motherly embrace, her cheek resting on his head while he listened to her heartbeat. "It's going to be okay."