Jayden didn't know how long he'd been asleep, but he knew that it must have been a long time. He didn't feel tired, which was a surprise. It seemed like it had been a long time since the last time that he hadn't felt tired. He also knew that he was in the hospital. There was something about the too sharp smell of purified oxygen that screamed 'sanitization' in his brain. His right arm itched and he reached up to scratch it only to find that his left arm couldn't move.
That's a little odd…
He tried one more time, just to satisfy his curiosity. Sure enough, his left arm was completely immobile. His right arm seemed to work, but moving it only made the itching worse. Judging from past experiences, he was fairly certain it was nothing more than an obnoxious number of needles and tubes stuck haphazardly into his flesh that was bothering him so much.
Still, doesn't hurt to have a look.
The light bothered him, but he forced his eyes open, patiently waiting while the world pulsed blearily into focus. Warm fingers wrapped around his wrist and a soft, hopeful voice whispered, "Norman…?"
His vision still wasn't cooperating very well, but he was sure he knew that voice. He squeezed the fingers that held his hand. They were smooth and delicate, a woman's hand. The voice repeated itself, "Norman...? Norman, can you hear me?"
It would have been nice if he could have answered her, but getting his eyes open was difficult enough. Accomplishing much more than that, for the moment at least, was out of the question. He squeezed the fingers again and was rewarded by a delicate touch to his forehead, the comforting feeling of his hair being gently brushed back. It was pleasant. The tenderness and affection from just that one touch were enough to make him try harder to get his eyes open. Brown doe eyes stared hard into his own and suddenly it was easier to focus. The worried expression on the woman's face melted into a smile.
"There you are, Galahad."
With a final effort, the world settled into focus and Jayden could see Madison smiling down at him.
"D...Drea...?" His throat closed up before he could finish the word and he choked off the last few syllables.
"No, you aren't dreaming. At least not right now. I guess it must seem like a dream after being out for so long."
Jayden tried to speak again. "H...how...?" He broke off coughing again.
Madison frowned. "Let me get you some water." She leaned away from his view for a moment and Jayden closed his eyes. The light was too bright after being asleep so long and his eyes were beginning to water from the irritation. It was only a moment before he felt a plastic straw pressed against his lips. He sucked down some water. It was lukewarm, but it still felt nice to his sore throat. He swallowed a few more gulps of water before Madison's soft voice broke the silence. "Hey, easy there, Galahad. Not too much at once, okay?"
The straw was taken away, but Jayden already felt much better, though his voice still sounded oddly rusty when he spoke, "How long?"
"It's been about five weeks. Five or six, something like that. Long enough..." Madison bit her lip as if she was about to say something and thought better of it. "Long enough for the news anchors to get bored. They've gone onto bigger and better things. NOT long enough for my cast to be off, yet, though, so I guess you get bonus points for that."
"Five weeks? Beat my record... Last time... s'only three weeks." The hand that gently gripped his fingers pulled away and Madison disappeared from his view. Sudden panic at being left alone flared up in his chest and he tried to reach for her but his fingers couldn't seem to find her. "Joking, Maddy."
Worried eyes returned to his field of vision and his hand was taken again. "Oh, I know you were joking. I was just pressing the call button. The nurse is going to want to poke and prod you a bit. Did you think I was leaving?"
"Was... a little worried."
Madison smiled. "You're not getting rid of me that easily, Galahad. If your mother can't scare me off, your sarcastic humor doesn't stand a chance."
"Mom was here?"
"Yes, she was. She was worried about you."
Jayden couldn't help a soft groan from escaping him. "Please, please tell me she wasn't… wasn't feeding you some ludicrous… sob story about me..."
Madison couldn't help but smile. "She seems very sweet."
"She does, but, don't believe any of it." His throat was beginning to feel much better and Jayden let Madison take the cup away. "I mean, she IS sweet, but she's also a shiesty, manipulative, she-creature who seems to have made it her mission in life to ensure that I never get laid again."
"Oh, I don't think she was that bad."
Just then, a nurse came hurrying in with a smile and a clipboard. Jayden's face twitched uncomfortably. Nurses always carried clipboards. Clipboards always meant unpleasant things. He sighed in resignation, though refused to relinquish his grip on Madison's hand. Any moment, the cheerfully empty words would start pouring forth.
"Good morning, Mr. Jayden! It's so good to finally meet you!"
And there they are...
There were a million and a half things that Jayden would have rather been doing than listening to nurses and their idle chatter.
Jayden couldn't help but smile, glancing over at Madison in the seat next to his bed.
Listening to Nurse Paige chattering about anything and everything might be an enjoyable endeavor.
"Mr. Jayden, can you understand what I'm saying?"
Jayden's attention snapped back to the one with the clipboard. "I could if I was bothering to listen, I suppose."
The nurse's smile turned almost brittle, but to her credit, did not quite falter.
"Mr. Jayden – "
"No, you're right. That was rude, I'm sorry."
"I know it may not seem like it, Mr. Jayden, but you did have brain surgery while you were asleep, it would be nice if I could tell your doctor that you aren't suffering any lasting damage. I can only do that if you take my questions seriously."
Jayden squeezed Madison's fingers quickly while schooling his features to a look of perfect seriousness.
"Madame, you have my undivided attention."
Jayden patiently answered her questions as truthfully as he could, wishing that he was anywhere else but where he was at. Finally, when being on the wrong end of an interrogation room with Carter Blake was just starting to seem like an improvement, the nurse finished her questions, wrote a few notes on that clipboard and left. Jayden breathed a sigh of relief and quirked a smile at Madison accompanied by a teasingly reproachful glare.
"This is your fault, you know..."
Wincing at each twinge of pain, he struggled to sit up so that he could have a normal conversation where he wasn't lying flat on his back.
Madison raised an eyebrow in challenge. "Oh, really? I would love to hear your reasoning. I seem to recall insisting that you check into the hospital well before your brain started to fry."
"You called me Galahad..." Jayden smiled, his eyes sparking with humor while Madison frowned, struggling to make the connection. "You jinxed me. Galahad dies after he finds the Holy Grail. I would have been just fine if you hadn't jinxed me."
"I jinxed you? You really think that argument's gonna fly?" Madison couldn't help grinning. "Even if you hadn't gotten your head all screwed up with the ARI overload, you still would have been pulverized by that junkyard guy. AND there was getting skewered by a katana. I had nothing to do with either of those."
Jayden chuckled. "Yeah, but there's that sword connection. If you hadn't called me Galahad, the cosmic irony of the universe wouldn't have needed to pull a sword on me, of all things. Do you know what the chances are of a field agent getting attacked with a sword? Both of those instances can be attributed to you jinxing me."
"May I remind you that you got hit with a baseball bat BEFORE you even met me? You don't have a very good track record of being 'just fine'."
Jayden shrugged the only shoulder he was capable of moving. "I only got hit by the bat because I was looking for you because YOU got tied up by that creepy psycho doctor guy."
"I was perfectly capable of getting out by myself, thank you, but your assistance was both gallant and appreciated. And it wouldn't have been necessary if I hadn't had to investigate on my own because you official types were barking up the wrong tree and trying to arrest Ethan. Furthermore, I maintain that you wouldn't be in nearly so bad shape if you had gone to the doctor in the first place."
Jayden snorted. "If I had done that, we wouldn't have had a very happy ending. Ethan would have died to save Shaun. Scott Sheppard would have gotten away and would have kept on killing. But, in the interest of being gallant, I shall concede defeat and allow you to keep your illusions. You are correct, I should have gone to the hospital. You get to say 'I told you so' and gleefully bask in my contrition."
Madison stroked the smooth skin on the back of his hand before wrapping her fingers around his palm and squeezing. "I'm not so sure that I'm in the mood to bask gleefully over you being in the hospital, but compared to the alternative...? It's not as much fun when you're saying 'I told you so' to a tombstone. I'm just thankful that you're alive enough to acknowledge my superiority in this matter."
Jayden sighed, eyes crinkling slightly. "Superiority duly acknowledged."
"Alright then. Now that that's settled..." Madison squeezed his hand again, reassuring herself that he was here, he was awake and talking, and everything was going to be alright. "How are you feeling?"
Jayden's eyebrows shot up. "That a rhetorical question?"
"Well... aside from being fed through a grinder. How's your head feel?"
Jayden took a breath and let it out, staring up at the ceiling while he evaluated. "Hmm. Well... I suppose not as bad as it could be feeling all things considering. I thought I wasn't coming back from that last trip."
"You almost didn't. It was pretty bad."
"I'm sorry I put you through that."
Madison nodded. "Just, erm... just don't do it again, alright?"
"I'll try not to." Jayden coughed and didn't even have to ask for the water this time before Madison held it for him. He took a long sip from the straw before his eyebrows drew together in a purely contemplative frown. "So... uhm."
"So... does the fact that you're here mean that you... uh, want to, erm..." Jayden looked up at the ceiling. "Are you still interested in meeting my cat?"
Madison grinned. "Well, since I already got the 'Be good to my boy or I'll skin you alive' speech from your mother, I may as well meet the rest of the family..."
"Oh, no. She didn't..."
"Yeah, she did."
"Christ... She didn't tell you about Sandra, did she?"
Madison tilted her head and brushed the fringe of her bangs out of her face. "She might have mentioned somebody named Sandra."
Jayden groaned and closed his eyes, sinking back into the pillows a bit. "Could you just..." He winced and shifted again. "Could you do me a favor and ignore everything she said about me? I guarantee it wasn't quite as much of a sob story as she made it out to be."
Madison leaned forward, intrigued in spite of herself and genuinely interested. It had nothing to do with her reporter's instinct trying to get to the bottom of the story. "Really? So, Sandra didn't call off your engagement to run off with your physical therapist?"
Jayden laughed and rubbed his hand down over his face. "No, she did. That is exactly one hundred percent true. But what you don't realize about that story... Have I mentioned that I love my mom?" Jayden smiled, but it was a bit strained with fond exasperation. "I send her flowers every mother's day and not a moment goes by that I'm not infinitely grateful for her in every way, but you have to understand that there's a certain amount of manipulative deviousness that runs in my family."
Now Madison was really intrigued. "Why would she lie?"
"She didn't lie... she just didn't tell you that my physical therapist was a woman."
Madison blinked. "That's..."
"Like the punch line of a really terrible joke? Oh, believe me, I know." Jayden chuckled, trying to move his hand to run through his hair, forgetting for a moment that it was immobile and the other wasn't much better. "When did my life turn into a soap opera?"
Madison rubbed his hand. "Hmm... I don't really think so. I mean... if it WAS a soap opera, we would have found out that... maybe that Ethan had an evil twin that was committing the crimes and that I had cancer which was diagnosed before my sister died giving me a bone transplant and that you have an inoperable brain tumor, but that's ok because you have a wickedly handsome cousin that looks just like you and after you died I could cry in his arms and then have Carter Blake's babies which nobody will find out about until next season. I think we made out considerably better than the soap opera crowd."
Jayden blinked. "Thanks, Maddy. Now I have to scrub my brain out with bleach. Blake? Seriously? You had to go there?"
Madison grinned. "Consider it a down payment."
"A down payment? On what?"
"On all the ways I'm going to pay you back for what you put me through this week."
Jayden sighed. "Christ. Can't this wait until after I get through rehab?"
She shook her head. "Revenge is a dish best served cold. Just be grateful that I'm sticking around long enough to serve it to you." She squeezed his hand and Jayden smiled.
"So you are? Sticking around then?" Jayden could feel his energy flagging, but he was afraid that if he shut his eyes, Madison would use the opportunity to run screaming from him and his issues.
"Of course I am. Why wouldn't I?"
Jayden yawned, eyes beginning to flicker as they drifted shut against his will. "Therapy. Lots and lots of therapy. Then rehab, then more therapy. Won't be much fun."
"Getting chased up a crane by Scott Shelby wasn't much fun. Carrying you back down? Definitely not much fun. Chasing the silver lining in this shit storm? May not be much fun, but it's worth doing." She brushed his bangs back so she could kiss him softly on the forehead. "Get some rest, Galahad. We've got plenty of time to hash this out."
Jayden nodded, gaze focusing on the window and the raindrops trailing down the glass. It was still raining, but for some reason, that didn't bother him anymore.
A/N: I am sooooooo sorry this took so long to get posted! Endings are hard =/ It always seems like you can never get it quite right.