I didn't go back to the hospital for three days.
I'm not proud of that fact, but I didn't need to go. Shawn didn't need me, and his constant yelling over the last month had made it pretty clear he didn't really want me there.
I guess I just finally starting believing him.
I was planning to go back. Really. I couldn't have stayed away much longer, even if Henry hadn't called me on that third morning.
"Gus, he's back in surgery."
That's all he said to me. No introduction, no instructions. Just, "He's back in surgery."
Of course, I didn't need instructions. I was already heading out the door.
"What happened?" I asked, already halfway to my car. .
Henry sighed. "One of the rods they put in his leg isn't healing right, so they have to go in and re-set it. They said he's pushing himself too hard…damn kid doesn't know when to stop."
I couldn't help smiling to myself, but I didn't actually dare point out that he shared this trait with his father.
Something told me Henry wouldn't find that observation as funny as I did.
"I'm on my way."
Henry was still waiting for him to come out of surgery when I got to the hospital, pacing the floor like he had the night they'd brought Shawn in.
He stopped when he saw me, our eyes locking across the room. "Where the hell have you been?" he demanded.
I froze in place like a deer caught in the headlights. I knew he wasn't asking why it had taken me so long to get there. He was asking why I hadn't been there in three days.
"I've been busy."
Henry's sharp eyes sliced through the lie as it traveled through the air, ripping it to shreds before it even reached his ears.
He didn't buy it for a second.
Oddly enough, however, he didn't call me on it. For the first time in my life, he just let me lie to his face.
He sighed and sat down, his eyes still following me as I crossed the waiting room and sat next to him.
For a moment, neither of us spoke.
Finally, he sat back in his seat, crossing one leg over the other. "He was asking where you were," he said quietly. "Before he went in. He wanted to call you."
I looked down at the floor, the guilt-knife twisting even deeper in my back. "He said that?"
"No," Henry snorted. "His exact words were that he didn't give a damn if Captain Poopy-pants was here or not."
I laughed despite myself. It was the first Shawn-like thing he'd said since the accident…even if it was a dig at me.
"I'm sorry," I mumbled.
Henry shrugged. "Why?"
"I should have been here."
"Gus, you've always been there. Ever since he dragged you home with him after the first day of Kindergarten. You stood by him through every stupid stunt he's ever pulled. And he's pulled a lot of them. Even when he took off for three years and never looked back, you were still here. You called me every damn day to see if I'd heard anything from him. You're entitled to day off every now and then."
"I didn't want a day off!" I insisted. "He's my best friend! I just--"
I stopped. There just wasn't any way to finish that sentence.
Henry nodded. "I know. You saved his life, Gus…even though he'll never say it. You saved his life."
"Yeah," I snorted, rolling my eyes. "I did. But he doesn't give a damn."
Henry's eyes locked with mine, his intense gaze seeing straight through to my soul. "Maybe not…" he agreed. "But I do."
Shawn finally came out of surgery an hour later. I was by his bed when he woke up.
Henry hadn't argued at all when the doctors told us only one of us could go in.
"Hey, Gus…" he grinned weakly as he finally blinked his way into consciousness, his eyes still glazed from the anesthesia. "Where have you been?"
I just shrugged. "Never mind."
"Dude," he grinned, arching a suggestive eyebrow at me. "Was she hot?"
I laughed. "Yeah. She was hot."
He stopped laughing, suddenly looking serious even in his barely-awake state. "I forgot…" he murmured after a moment, his words slurring together into a single, drug-induced syllable. "I'm not talking to you. Abandoner."
"Yeah," I nodded, sitting down in the chair across the room from him. "Your dad told me. Captain Poopy-pants, Shawn? Really? You haven't called me that since third grade."
"Actually, ninth grade," he corrected me, raising a single finger. "That may be the reason Stephanie Nelson wouldn't talk to you…"
"You told me she said I was too short!"
He grinned, for the first time since the accident looking something like himself. "I lied."
I rolled my eyes. "You're a jerk, Shawn."
"Yeah, yeah…you're an abandoner…er…er."
His voice trailed off as a nurse walked into the room, carrying a silver clipboard. "Mr. Spencer?" she asked, making some notes on the chart as she walked over to his heart monitor.
"No," Shawn shook his head, his eyes sparkling as he glanced at me from across the room. "I'm Barnaby St. Gloster. This is my colleague, Slick McNichols."
The nurse lowered the clipboard, staring at Shawn with a look of complete bewilderment. "How many painkillers did they give you?" she asked.
"Why?" Shawn blinked. "Are you going to give me more?"
I just laughed.
For the first time since I noticed Shawn was missing, the horrible lump in my stomach that told me something was very, very wrong was starting to fade away.