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Chapter Thirteen: Recovery

"And Ryan 'The Terror' McCarthy lands another left hook to Jake Tyler's face! Look at those two go! McCarthy's going in for the kill...But wait! Jake's got the upper hand! Look at this! Look at this! Could it be 'The Terror's' being subdued? Impossible but true! Unbelievable!"

The voices filtered into Ryan's mind as he slowly roused, his body in amazing pain and a dull throbbing in his head as he gradually came to full consciousness. He also had this terrible feeling that he couldn't lay still. His skin was crawling, rippling like an innumerable amount of insects were crawling over him, and he groaned softly as he tried to move, but his body was killing him. And why on earth was he hearing Max's voice recounting his last fight with Jake Tyler as he woke up?

"Ryan?" a soft voice asked, and Ryan turned his head towards the sound. For some reason, he didn't want to open his eyes; almost afraid that something bad would happen if he did.

"Kayla?"

"Hey. Don't open your eyes. They're probably a bit messed up. How are you feeling?"

"Like I've been hit by a truck..."

He faded out as sudden images flashed through his mind. Headlights, blaring horns, a huge rush of wind...

"Kayla! I wasn't hit by a truck, was I?" he gasped, sitting up abruptly and being hit with a wave of nausea. He couldn't hold it back, but threw up, and he heard her voice trembling as the fabric of the couch shifted next to him and a warm rag found his mouth.

"You weren't hit by a truck," she whispered. "You got in a fight last night, I'm assuming with Eric, and got a good shot of heroin. Nick found you outside our apartment."

"Don't sell yourself short," he groaned, putting a hand out to try and find her. "You saved me. I know you did. And you were going to go out and hunt Eric down. I heard you, somehow."

Her fingers intertwined with his own, and he raised her hand to his cheek, feeling her soft skin against his own burning face. He raised his free hand to her cheek and felt the tears trickling down, dripping off of her chin.

"I had you really scared, didn't I?" he asked.

"Ryan, you looked like you were already dead!" Kayla cried, her lips trembling as tears trickled across them. "I already saw one person get killed by Eric. I couldn't bear to see you fall under that same fate."

"I'm here now, and I'm sure that in a little while I'll be just fine. I do need to take you up on your offer for more training, however. If I'm going to get up to that state-wide competition or whatever, I am definitely going to need to be in better shape."

Kayla laughed and rose from the couch.

"I've been cooking breakfast. I don't know if you want to eat, though."

"Not yet," Ryan smiled faintly. "Let me get my stomach back, first."

"Right," Kayla nodded, moving towards the kitchen.

It took Ryan an hour to get to the point where he could open his eyes without getting dizzy and could get up and walk. As soon as he stood up, he made a very sloppy beeline for the bathroom, needing to throw up again. He saw that Kayla had laid out a toothbrush and toothpaste for him, and so he brushed his teeth and then got into the shower, wanting some cold water to help his body recover. He had a good look at the damage, as he was in the bathroom, noticing that almost every bit of his skin was bruised or had been bleeding, and he had two magnificent black eyes. This was certainly not something that a woman had any desire to see, as far as men were concerned, and he sighed as he toweled off, disappointed that he hadn't heeded her warnings and upset that she had seen him in such a terrifying state.

He had only been left in his pants, when Kayla had found him, and she had no clean clothes for him, so he got back into the ripped, bloodied pants that he had originally come in and then stepped out of the bathroom. He saw that the door was open to the outside balcony, and he quietly made his way there, only stopping once to grab hold of the couch and right himself before he fell over. He found Kayla sitting in a chair, her legs stretched out so that her feet were resting on the balcony railing. She had a cup of coffee in hand, and her hair was blowing about softly in the wind. She didn't notice him step onto the balcony, for she was deep in thought, and he took that opportunity to move to her side and press a kiss to the corner of her lips.

"Hope you don't mind being kissed by Freddie Kruger," he murmured against her skin, and she laughed before turning her head so that she could look up at him.

"You look much better," she commented.

"It was the makeup. I borrowed some foundation and a bit of concealer..."

"You did not!" she gasped, playfully slapping him on the shoulder.

"No," he laughed, grabbing her offending hand and pulling her to her feet. He pulled her against him, so that he could feel her warmth, and then smiled as he put his hands gently to her face. "Pajamas today?" he asked, noticing her tank top and sweatpants.

"It's a Saturday tradition," she smiled. "I don't want you leaving until tonight, Ryan."

"I have no intentions of doing so. What shall we do for the whole day?"

"You are going to rest," she said firmly. "You can make yourself at home on my couch and we can watch movies or something, but I don't want you going home until I'm certain that you're safe."

"Really?" he grinned, cocking his head to the side so he could look better into her eyes. "So concerned."

"Of course, we could always study," she said, stumbling a bit. Despite his black eyes, he looked gorgeous like this.

"I appreciate the concern, Kay," he said, softening his grin into a smile. "I haven't really had anyone be concerned for me much before. They've just walked out on me."

"Unless you push me away, Ryan, I am not leaving," Kayla said, taking his arm and bringing him into the house. "Are you hungry? Do you think you can eat?"

"I think a drink may be better than eating just yet," Ryan said, suddenly tired. He swayed slightly, and Kayla guided him over to the couch.

"He gave you a good shot, Ryan," she said sadly, grabbing a blanket from one of the recliners and handing it to him. "I was really scared."

"It's alright," he yawned, stretching slightly so that he lay across the couch. "I certainly don't make your life any easier." He slurred slightly at the end of his words and his eyes drifted shut.

"You need to drink something, Ryan," Kayla's voice came from far away.

Ryan didn't respond, already nearly asleep again, but he did feel liquid trickle down his throat before he was entirely unconscious.

He was startled awake when, hours later, someone knocked on Kayla's door. He opened his eyes to see Kayla moving to the door and noticed that her hair was a bit of a tangled mess, due to her having taken a nap that afternoon as well. She opened the door and then stepped back as a large man walked into the apartment, speaking somewhat loudly as he did so.

"Hello, Kayla. I came to see my grandson. Where is Nick?"

"Dad," Kayla answered. "We agreed that you wouldn't come here unless you were sober."

"I am," her father answered quietly. "I am trying hard to stop drinking, Kayla."

"Nick isn't here."

"No? Then where...?"

Mr. Fisher trailed off when he saw Ryan lying on the couch.

"You've brought another fighter into your bed, have you?" Mr. Fisher growled, turning to Kayla. "One wasn't enough?"

"Nick found him outside last night. Someone had shot him up with heroin."

"And the fact that he's Ryan McCarthy has nothing to do with it," Mr. Fisher scowled.

"Your daughter did nothing wrong, sir," Ryan spoke up, trying to sit up but his whole body was aching again. "I was hurt and she took me in. We did nothing worth getting angry about."

"What are you going to do about him?" Mr. Fisher asked, turning to Kayla again. "Are you keeping him here until he's well?"

"I'm bringing him back to his apartment tonight, and then we're going to start training. He wants to go into the MMA championship, and I'm going to teach him," Kayla answered quietly, trying to get her father's good graces.

"Since when have you been qualified to teach that?" Mr. Fisher questioned.

"Since I was born and became your daughter," Kayla replied. "Can I get you a drink, Dad? I was just getting dinner ready. Do you want to stay and eat with us?"

"No, but thank you. I'll leave you two alone," Mr. Fisher frowned, turning and leaving the apartment.

"I didn't think I'd ever meet the Iron Tiger before, nor that he'd be so grumpy," Ryan commented after the door had shut.

"The alcohol has pretty much ruined him," Kayla sighed tiredly, gathering some plates from the kitchen and setting them on the coffee table next to Ryan. "I miss the way things used to be between us, but it seems God had other plans for our relationship. Now listen. You have to eat tonight. You haven't eaten all day."

"What did you make?" Ryan asked, watching her as she worked in the kitchen.

"Spaghetti with meat sauce. I hope you can stomach it," Kayla said, bringing the pot of food over to the table. "And I have a glass of water for you here that you need to drink."

"I wish that I had had a mother like you, Freckles," Ryan said, taking his plate into his lap.

"That was random," Kayla laughed lightly.

"You are so good at taking care of people, and really caring about them," he explained. "My mother left me."

"Why?" Kayla asked. "Why would she do that to you?"

"My father hit it big and got filthy rich. He took on mistresses, starting with his secretary. My mother, as was understandable, couldn't handle that, and so she left. She just packed up and left, never telling me anything. I haven't heard from her since. I was twelve. That's why I took up fighting," Ryan explained, staring at his plate. "It helped me get rid of stress. I wanted to be the best to convince myself that I wasn't entirely worthless, that it wasn't my fault she had left."

"Oh Ryan, it wasn't," Kayla said gently, reaching up to touch his face.

"Nick's really lucky to have you, Kay," Ryan said, putting his hand over hers and closing his eyes.

"You have me too."

He chuckled, and squeezed her hand gently. "Thanks."

"I want to start your training on Monday," Kayla said, pulling back so that they could eat. "If you're feeling up to it."

"I imagine that I'll be fine," Ryan smiled.

"Good. Come to the gym after school and we'll get you started."

Kayla brought Ryan back to his apartment that night, and the first thing he did was shower again and change into some black shorts. He asked Kayla to stay and make herself comfortable in his living room, and when he came out of the bathroom, he found her stretched out across one of his leather couches, flipping through a sports magazine. He smiled at the sight of her. She looked like she belonged here, all comfortable on his couch. He moved over to her and then sat at the edge of the couch, picking up her legs and putting them in his lap so that she didn't have to change her comfortable position.

"How are you feeling?" she asked, putting the magazine aside.

"Much better," Ryan grinned, leaning back on the couch and stretching his arms. "Care to stay for a bit and watch a movie?"

"I think I can do that. Nick wants to stay with Red for another night. He said they're going to the movie theater with Art and Becky," Kayla nodded. "What did you want to watch?"

"Let's see," Ryan said, grabbing the remote control for the TV.

He flipped around through the channels a bit and then found "Forrest Gump."

"Mind if I get a little closer to you?" he asked as the movie started.

"I don't mind," Kayla shook her head, and Ryan moved so that he was leaning against her, his legs alongside hers on the couch. He wrapped an arm around her and then rested his head on her shoulder. He could feel that she was a bit stiff, uncertain, but then he took her hand, lacing his fingers through hers, and spoke, his breath warm on her shoulder.

"Tell me one of your deepest secrets, Kayla."

"One of my deepest secrets?" she asked, surprised. "Why?"

"Because I want to get to know you better. So far, you seem perfect to me, but I want to get to know who you really are. Deep down inside where it counts," Ryan answered, resting a hand over her heart.

He could feel her heart pounding wildly beneath his touch and imagined that he had probably crossed some boundary line in touching her there, but she didn't fight him. Instead, she looked in his eyes and spoke softly.

"You tell me one of yours first."

"Very well," he nodded. "I hate fighting. I've hated it ever since I started. It's just the only way I know to prove to people, and to myself, that I'm not a loser. To make matters worse; it's something I'm good at."

"You are very good at it," she nodded. "I'm sorry I asked you to help with Arthur. I didn't realize you don't like fighting."

"I like the adrenaline of it, but that's all. And as for Arthur, I want to help," Ryan said firmly. "I'll get to the championships, but after that, I'm done. I'm going to school to hopefully become some sort of assistant coach for football. I'm ready to get away from the ring fights. So tell me," he smiled, massaging her fingers gently with his. "What is Kayla Fisher's deepest secret?"

"Alright," she breathed deeply, looking down at their hands. "This is going to sound terrible, but I wish I hadn't done what I did with Stephen. Don't get me wrong," she said hastily, "Nick is my son and I love him with all of my heart. I wouldn't get rid of him or replace him for all the money in the world, but..." She bit her lip, shaking her head uncertainly. "I gave away my greatest gift, my body, in less than five minutes, and now I'm scared to ever do it again. It was painful, and it was wrong, and I feel so guilty every time I think about it. I know it's common these days for teenagers to...to do that, but I had never wanted to do that until I was married. And now I've given that up, and my husband isn't going to have a pure wife if I ever marry. That, and I'd be scared to give him my body again..."

"Kayla, whoever gets you is going to be one lucky man. And if he doesn't see that, then he isn't worth your time."

"I know that," Kayla smiled. "But it's hard to believe that after the wrong I've done. Who is going to want to marry a woman that already has a son?"

"There are those guys out there," Ryan answered, kissing her forehead lightly. "Thanks for sharing with me."

"Thanks for asking me. I needed to get that off my chest. I haven't told anyone that before," Kayla whispered, snuggling into his side.

He didn't answer, but kissed her forehead again and wrapped his arms around her.