A/N. Three days in a row of posting something! This is where the streak comes to an end haha. I have finals coming up. . .
Anyway, this story is dedicated to my beautiful best friend and wife, Brittni. I've talked with her off and on ever since I started writing Fan Fiction, but this year, the last few months in particular, I've grown even closer to her. When I think about it, those lousy months were actually some of the best months of my life. It's all a matter of how you look at it. Now, that I look back on this past year, even with everything that happened, I really did have a good year. I got closer with wonderful people, including Brittni.
Brittni, you have been an absolutely wonderful friend and you've always been there for me when I need you. I hope that I've returned the favor at least a little bit because you deserve the best. Thanks so much for listening to my rants and fears and worries and somehow always knowing just what to say. You, like all of my other friends, are a unicorn, because you're beautiful and magical and I love you so much!
I don't own anything.
Logan had wanted to be a doctor ever since he could remember. He had always loved helping people and making them feel better. After all, he had met Kendall, one of his best friends, by giving him a band-aid to put on his cut finger. They had been five at the time and it wasn't the first time he had helped someone like that and it wouldn't be the last either.
He never regretted his career choice either. It took years of hard work, but he never gave up. A diagnosis of leukemia at seventeen had only made him more determined to one day be able to help people the way the doctors and nurses had helped him. He wanted to save people. But in all his years, Logan never thought for one second that he would be put in the position of saving one of his best friends.
The call came into the hospital at 9:35 on a Wednesday morning. There had been a shooting at the local high school and at least eighteen students were coming in by ambulance with different degrees of injuries. Logan and the other doctors and nurses were preparing for the onslaught of new patients when a second call came in, telling them that an ambulance would be bringing in three police officers who had been gunned down as well.
"Logan? Are you okay?"
Someone was talking to him, but Logan could hardly focus. He stared at the nurse who had given him the news and tried to form words with everything, especially his mouth, felt numb. "Did they say anything else?" he finally whispered.
The girl shook her head and glanced at the second doctor, the one who was trying to get Logan's attention. "No," she told him, looking confused. "All they said was that three police officers had been shot and that they all required immediate medical attention.
The fear had yet be truly justified, but it doubled all the same. Logan felt the color drain for his face and his heart rate sped up a little bit. "Excuse me," he mumbled, starting to walk away. He pulled out his cell phone at the same time and pressed the speed dial to an often dialed number.
"Logan, what's going on?" Jeff, the other doctor, followed after Logan, his expression an mixture of concern and annoyance. "Logan, we have to be ready for when the ambulances come. Can you make that phone call another time?"
Logan paid no attention to Jeff and held the phone tight against his ear, holding his breath. One ring. Two. Three. Four. Then a voice mail that he couldn't stand to listen to but he needed all the same. "Carlos," he said quietly. "Carlos, it's Logan. Listen um, call me back when you get the chance, okay?"
A hand gripped him on the shoulder and Logan turned to see Jeff. "Sorry," he mumbled, brushing past the other man, walking back to the door. "I'm on my way." Jeff was right. He tried to focus that one fact because he felt like he would fall apart if he thought of what might be. "I'll take the one with the officers."
Jeff stared at him for a few quiet seconds before the silence was broken by several ambulance sirens. "Are you going to be all right?" he asked. "Logan, we need you to be at your best right now. All those kids. . . and those police officers. . . they're going to need you today, Logan."
"Right," Logan nodded, staring ahead as the red lights flashed into view. "I'll be fine, Carlos."
"Carlos?" Jeff repeated. "Logan-" But there was no time for him to finish. The first ambulance was flying into the parking lot and screeching to a stop. Paramedics were already leaping out of the vehicles and yanking the back doors open.
Logan stood back out of the way of the other doctors as they rushed forward to help. He stared with wide eyes at the bodies laid out on stretchers. There was blood everywhere. It was the kind of scene that no one hoped for. The kind that was only in nightmares. They were just kids and they were dying.
"Logan, we need you over here!"
Snapping out of his frozen state of horror, Logan jogged to the side of one ambulance, afraid to breathe. "What is it?" he asked, trying to prepare himself for the worst.
There was no way he could have ever really prepared himself though. As the paramedics in the ambulance unloaded the first stretcher, it took all of Logan's strength to stay on his feet. He stumbled forward and gripped onto the rails on the stretcher. "I've got it," he said breathlessly. "I've got him."
Carlos was unconscious, blood coating his chest from a bullet wound close to his heart. His face was pale and lifeless looking. He was hardly breathing on his own. If Logan hadn't known Carlos for all his life, he wouldn't have even recognized him.
"Twenty-eight year old male, bullet wound to the left side of his chest. His pulse is getting weak, and he's going to need an oxygen mask soon." the paramedic reported. "It's not looking good, he's losing a lot of blood."
Logan felt like slapping the other man. "He'll be okay," he said, not taking his eyes off of Carlos. "I know him. He's. . . he's really strong." As he spoke, he placed his hand on the wound, keeping it there firmly. "We just. . . we just have to stop the bleeding and-" He never finished the sentence, instead leading the way into the hospital.
On the way into the operating room, Carlos' eyelids fluttered and opened into narrow slits. Pain and confusion was the only expression Logan saw, taking away the good natured and happy person he had always known. "Carlos," he said, pushing his feelings of dread aside. "Hey, Carlos."
He sounded so weak. Tears blinded Logan for a split second before he blinked them away. "Don't try to talk," he said gently, shaking his head. "Save your strength, buddy. You're going to be fine, all right? I'm going to take care of you. Just hang in there. You're going to be just fine."
Carlos' breathing was already getting worse and panicked tears filled his eyes. "I. . . I can't-" He choked and blood trickled out of the corner of his mouth. There was a rattling noise inside his chest with each inhale and exhale that he was fighting for.
"He can't breathe!" Logan shouted. "I need an oxygen mask!" His hand slipped over Carlos' wrist, feeling for a pulse that was hardly there. "Come on, Carlos. Just hang in there. Stay with me."
"It's 'kay, Logan." Carlos murmured, more blood coming from his mouth.
"No. No, it's not okay, Carlos. Not yet. But it's going to be okay. You'll see. You're going to be fine." Logan worked as he talked, lifting an oxygen mask over his friend's face. "I promise, Carlos."
He wondered briefly if this was how his friends ever felt when he was dying. The deep, drowning despair that was threatening to pull him down and make him absolutely useless. He was watching Carlos die, Logan realized. His best friend. Someone who had stood by him through everything. Carlos could easily die at any second. His pulse was getting weaker with each beat, it seemed. Logan could hardly feel it now. Sometimes it skipped and with it, Logan felt his own heart pause briefly.
Carlos was trying to say something around the oxygen mask over his face. He reached up with a shaking hand, trying to remove it himself. "Logan," he mumbled, trying to avoid Logan's steadying hands. "I need to. . . ask you somethin'."
"Carlos, no. You need to rest." Logan tried to replace the oxygen mask on Carlos' face, but his friend's grip was surprisingly strong. "Don't talk, Carlos. Just relax right now, okay? Please, Carlos."
"You need to. . . help me." Carlos pleaded, tears filling his eyes again. "Please, Logan."
Logan wondered how either of them were still alive at this point. Carlos' face was a deathly shade of gray and the light was leaving his eyes, little by little. Everything was a struggle. And Logan could just barely breathe himself. It felt like his lungs were giving out. "I am going to help you, Carlos. You just have to let me, okay?"
But Carlos shook his head, prying Logan's fingers away as he tried to take hold of the oxygen mask. "No. Logan, I'm not going to make it." The full sentence made him cough, and blood spurted out, coating his chin.
Logan took the opportunity to place the oxygen mask over Carlos' face. "Okay," he breathed. "Carlos, we're going to help you now. We're going to stop the bleeding and get you home eventually. It's just going to take a little time, that's all."
He could see Carlos' eyes, pleading him to let him talk. Logan took a deep breath, as if he was breathing for both of them and took the oxygen mask of one last time. "Okay, you have a minute." he said with a half smile. "Just while we get you ready." There was time. There wasn't a doubt in Logan's mind. Carlos was strong enough to talk while they prepped him for the surgery. The surgery was the risky part.
"I need you to. . . take care of 'em." Carlos said, his words beginning to slur again.
"Take care of-"
"Stephanie," Carlos explained weakly. "Stephanie 'n baby. Please, Logan."
Logan gripped the rails of the stretcher so tightly that his knuckles turned white. "Baby. . ." he whispered, his heart sinking lower and lower.
"Please?" Carlos sounded like a little boy and it broke Logan's heart to hear.
"Carlos," Logan's voice cracked but he didn't stop talking. "Carlos, you're going to be fine. Everything is going to be fine. You're going to get through this just fine and then you're going to get to go home where you belong. And Carlos, you're going to meet your baby boy or baby girl, I promise. You're going to be an amazing father, okay? Just like your own dad. You'll see."
"Promise-" Carlos mumbled gripping Logan's hand in his.
Logan gave Carlos the oxygen mask again and smiled through his tears. "I promise, Carlos." he said, unsure of what he was promising by this point.
Something was wrong with his left hand. Logan dimly realized this as he sat on the floor with his back against the wall. His hand was throbbing and the pale skin was all sorts of wonderful colors like black and blue and purple. There was a little red too from a small gash by his knuckles. He couldn't move it.
He also realized that someone was sitting next to him and talking to him. But he couldn't distinguish the voice for female or male and he couldn't make out any words. Logan felt like it was taking all of his concentration to breathe properly and yet he wasn't sure he wanted to.
"Every doctor loses patients, Logan. You did everything you could."
Somehow he heard those words. Logan's head snapped up so suddenly that the person next to him jumped, pulling their hand off of his shoulder. "He wasn't just a patient," Logan spat out, his entire body shaking. "He was my best friend."
It felt like something had wrapped around his lungs and was squeezing all of the oxygen out. His chest was almost unbearably tight, each breath getting harder and harder until his vision started clouding up with black spots. In an effort to remain conscious, though Logan wasn't exactly sure why he wanted to stay awake, he lowered his head again and shut his eyes, focusing on breathing.
"Logan. . . I'm really sorry, man. I didn't know."
Who was talking to him and why couldn't they just leave him alone? Logan wanted to be entirely alone to sink deeper and deeper into his despair where no one could ever reach him again. He wanted to be numb so he never had to feel anything. Then again, he really doubted that it was physically possible to survive this much pain. Sooner or later-
A blast of pain shot through his hand and he jerked it away from the person who was trying to look at it. "Don't," he said, shaking his hand. "Don't touch me. Just leave me alone."
There was a hand on his shoulder and then it left. Logan heard footsteps and a door open and close. He sighed and lifted his head, letting it smack against the wall behind him. There was a small part of him that was still trying to organize his thoughts with the most recent events, seeing if they lined up and made sense. They always stopped at the same part:
Carlos is dead.
Logan's stomach twisted up into a mess of painful knots until he found himself on his hands and knees, throwing up into a trash basket that happened to be nearby. He didn't even know where he was, but he also didn't care. He didn't really care about anything right now and he wasn't sure he would ever care again.
Finally, when he had nothing left inside of him, Logan laid down on the hard floor, his cheek pressed to the cold surface of the room. He shut his eyes again. Maybe if he laid here long enough without moving, he would just. . . cease to exist.
It wasn't fair. It wasn't fair at all. This never should have happened. Carlos should not be dead, shot by some monster and then-
Logan wondered if this was how Carlos and everyone else felt when he had died. But he had only been dead for a short period of time. Logan still didn't understand why he had been given the choice between life and death. He had never understood what was so special about him. There were better people than him. Carlos for example. Carlos who was supposed to become a father.
He really was dying. He was having a heart attack and suffocating all at the same time. Logan felt like his chest would explode at any moment. They would find him here, wherever here was. When he Logan thought back to when he was still a teenager, still sick with cancer, and Carlos had told him that he died, he found himself wondering if it was really possible to actually die of a broken heart. Maybe that's what was happening to Logan right now.
The door had opened again and someone else was here with Logan, trying to talk to him. It was a more familiar voice though, and Logan glanced up. Through blurry eyes, he saw a face hovering above him, green eyes full of sorrow and worry. "Kendall," he breathed. So maybe he hadn't gone mute after all.
Kendall touched Logan's shoulder gently. "Hey," he said softly. "I was looking all over for you."
"Carlos is dead," Logan had no idea what possessed him to say that. It was the truth, but it still should never be spoken about. "He died, Kendall."
Kendall was crying when he answered. "I know, Logan. I know. Logan, I'm so sorry, buddy."
Sorry. Kendall was sorry. Kendall. Why was Kendall sorry? It wasn't his fault that Carlos was dead. It was his fault. Logan's fault. Kendall had nothing to be sorry for. It was Logan who had absolutely everything to be sorry for.
"He told me-" Logan broke off and waited for the feeling of his lungs being crushed to go away. "Kendall, he told me that. . . that he and Stephanie. . . they're. . . they were-"
"I know, Logan." Kendall said quietly. "Steph just told us a little while ago. Logan. . . you know that it's not your fault, right? I mean-"
"I'm a doctor, Kendall." Logan told him lifelessly. "I should have been able to save him. It's my job to save people and Carlos is- was one of my best friends. I let him down. I let everyone down."
"Logan, no!" Kendall gripped Logan by the shoulders and pulled him into a sitting position on the floor. "Logan, listen to me. What happened to Carlos was not your fault. At all. It-" Kendall suddenly choked and looked down, hiding his tears from Logan until he could compose himself. "It was a horrible tragedy," he finally whispered. "And nothing about it is fair or right. It's all wrong. So wrong. But it was not your fault."
Logan looked away and shrugged. "I don't believe you," he said simply. "I should have saved him. And I'll never forgive myself for this, no matter what you say, Kendall."
Apparently he had punched a wall when he lost Carlos. Apparently he had broken his hand with that punch. But Logan didn't think of his hand. His thoughts were so far away from his hand that he was not only unaware of its brokenness, but he was also unaware of its existence all together. He was unaware of everything except for where he was and what he was doing. Ironic since those were the two things he didn't want to know.
He was at a funeral. Carlos' funeral. Saying goodbye to Carlos. His best friend. Somehow it just didn't add up or make any sense to Logan but here he was all the same. Along with everyone else.
Kendall was there, trying to be strong for everyone but hardly holding himself together. James was there, looking dazed and in shock, like he was questioning the reality of everything. Stephanie was there, sitting between James and Kendall. Logan couldn't look at her.
He had only been to one funeral in his entire life. His mother's funeral when he was six years old. To be perfectly honest, Logan didn't remember much about that day. The one thing that he did remember was asking repeatedly where his mother was and crying for her. That's what he felt like doing now. Except for Carlos.
Logan shifted in his seat and he immediately felt Kendall's hand on his knee. He ignored it, the way he had been ignoring all of Kendall's attempts to reach him. All of everyone's attempts to reach him.
Camille was sitting on his other side, holding his hand tightly. His good hand. The hand that wasn't broken. Logan wanted her to hold the broken hand. He wanted her to grip it as tightly as she possibly could. Maybe the physical pain would distract him.
A minister was up on the podium taking. Logan heard nothing of what the man was saying. He couldn't hear anything. Because just behind the minister was a coffin. And in the coffin was Carlos.
He looked like he was sleeping. Like if Logan could somehow find his voice, he would be able to wake him up. He had been cleaned and dressed so that it was impossible to tell he had ever been hurt. But he was too clean and dressed. He looked like he did on his wedding day.
The thought sent Logan's heart tumbling downwards all over again. Carlos looked exactly like he did when he married Stephanie. Except he was a little pale. And he looked like he was asleep. Carlos didn't sleep at all the night before his wedding. So that was wrong too.
It's all wrong, Logan thought. This was the fifth funeral in a week that had been held for the high school shooting victims. Seven kids, a teacher, and Carlos had died that day. As for the shooter, a senior, he was locked up in jail, awaiting a hearing.
There was a movement to his left and out of the corner of his eye, Logan saw Kendall get up and walk to the front of the church. No. His posture stiffened and Logan tore his gaze away from the coffin to look at Kendall.
"Carlos Garcia was one of my best friends. We met when we were five and. . . and for twenty-three years, he was an enormous part of my life."
The grief had punched a hole in his chest. A hole that went straight through whatever was left of his heart. Logan forced himself to listen though. He deserved the pain and so much worse.
"When you're as close to someone like I was to Carlos, they literally become a part of you. And I know that's how it was for all four of us. Carlos, James, Logan and I went through a lot together. The only reason we got through some things was because we were together. When one of us flew, we all flew. When one of us fell, we fell together."
"Losing Carlos-" Kendall's voice broke and he looked down, silent for several long seconds. "It's the worst kind of pain I've ever felt in all my life. Because it's permanent and we all lost a part of ourselves. And now we don't know how to move on. We're lost."
Kendall didn't know how to move on. Kendall was lost. Logan never imagined Kendall feeling like that. He imagined James feeling like that because James had never been emotionally stable. He had felt like that a number of times himself, including right now. He even imagined. . . Carlos feeling like that because Carlos had always been extremely sensitive toward others and their feelings. But Logan had never imagined that Kendall would feel lost.
"I don't know very much these days," Kendall admitted. "I don't know why such a senseless act of violence would happen to all of us and take away so many loved ones long before their time. I don't know why someone as good and genuine as Carlos would die like he did. But I do know one thing."
Here, Kendall paused to collect himself once again. He shut his eyes and took a deep breath, gripping the podium with white knuckled hands. "I know one thing," he repeated. "I know that the ones we lost. . . Carlos and all of the others. . . I know that they loved us as much as we loved them. And that a bond as powerful as that could never truly be broken. Not even by death."
"They'll never be gone as long as we don't forget them. As long as we keep them right here." Kendall laid a hand over his heart. "And I know that with their help, one day the light will come back to us. One day, we'll be able to breathe without it hurting. One day, we'll wake up and not want to go right back to bed. One day, we'll laugh and smile again. One day, we'll move on."
"But we won't move on without them. Because we'll always keep our memories of them with us, in our hearts. And we'll take them with us wherever we go."
Logan didn't hear the rest. He was standing and his feet were carrying him down the church aisle and to the doors. His feet were carrying him through the doors and outside where a light rain had been falling all day. Logan made it all the way out to the curb where he sat down again and let the chilly rain soak through his clothes and into his bones.
"I'm sorry," Logan whispered. "I'm so sorry, Carlos." He bowed his head low to the ground until everything below was blurry and indistinguishable. He let the wind pick up his words and carry them far away. Maybe one day they would find Carlos.
Whoever said that time heals all wounds was either in denial or lying. Logan wasn't sure. He wasn't sure about a lot of things lately.
Someone had once said that guilt is perhaps the most painful companion of death. Logan knew this to be true. His guilt had come with Carlos' death and he had yet to shake free from either of the burdens that weighed him down. He didn't think he ever would be free.
They were worried about him. He heard the concern in their voices when they whispered about him and saw that same concern in their eyes when they glanced at him every once in a while. But he couldn't reassure them this time. If Logan wasn't absolutely positive that he deserved to suffer as much as he was, then he might even have been worried about himself.
He had taken a leave of absence from the hospital and a month and a half later, had yet to return. Logan couldn't stand to return to the place where one of his best friends had died. Suddenly, the hospital was no longer a place that filled him with determination and energy. It became a place that emptied him of everything.
He didn't do much. Mostly he ran. Logan had always been fast. Nearly every day, no matter what the weather was like, he stepped outside his front door and started to run. He would run as fast as he could, as far as he could, for as long as he could. Then, when his lungs were burning and his chest was aching and his heart was pounding so hard that he thought he could hear it, Logan was forced to collapse to the ground and let everything catch up to him. That was the worse part.
Running always helped Logan. Because he felt like he could leave everything behind. It worked until he had to stop. Then everything came crashing back to him all at once. He was actually surprised that the strain hadn't killed him by now.
Today especially. Logan lay flat out in the grass, with no earthly idea of where he was. He had left over an hour ago and having collapsed a short time ago, was still trying to get his breath back. It was taking longer this time, black spots dotting his vision, a harsh rattling inside his chest when he breathed. It didn't help that it was raining.
It was probably the pneumonia. Logan had caught a cold that had gone straight to his chest, resulting in a lovely case of pneumonia. He should probably be in bed like Camille had ordered him. But then Camille had gone to visit with Stephanie.
She didn't want to leave Logan alone, so Logan lied to her. He told her that he had talked to Kendall earlier and that his older brother had agreed to stop by and keep him company. In reality, Kendall was. . . Logan didn't even know.
He was losing track of everyone.
Where they were, what they did, the things they said. He couldn't keep up with any of it. Simply getting out of bed sometimes seemed to take all of Logan's strength. He figured that since he could hardly manage to take care of himself, it would be best for everyone if he just stayed away.
"Logan, there you are!"
Unfortunately, they didn't see things the same way. Logan turned over to his side, away from the voice. "Go away, James." he mumbled, his voice hoarse and rough.
"No way!" Logan could practically see James shaking his head, full of disbelief. "Hey," he said suddenly and it took Logan a few seconds to realize that he was talking to someone else. "I found him at Jackson park. Near the benches. Yeah, I'll bring him there. Okay, see you, Kendall."
Logan groaned and sat up slowly, ignoring the pounding in his head. "Why did you call Kendall?" he asked.
James removed his jacket and laid it over Logan's shoulders, fighting between concern and disapproval. "You're soaked and frozen and-" he cut himself off and leaned closer. "Logan, are you sick too?"
Logan nodded, the effort to speak proving to be too much. Everything ached and he couldn't stop shivering violently. He teeth were clanking hard together, making his headache even worse.
With a sigh, James wrapped an arm around Logan and helped him stand. "Come on," he said quietly. "My car is right over there." He nodded to the small parking lot several yards away. "Let's get you warm and dry."
Logan tried rather feebly to pull away. "I'm not six, James."
James tightened his grip and pulled Logan closer. "Then stop acting like it."
He marched Logan to the car and gently shoved him into the passenger seat, retrieving a wool blanket from the trunk before getting in himself and blasting the heat. "I'm taking you to Kendall's and Jo's house since you can't take care of yourself right now." He tossed the blanket at Logan and pulled out of the parking lot.
Logan pulled the blanket off his head and glared at James. "You're being ridiculous, James. I don't need any help. I'm-"
"Logan Mitchell, don't you dare say you're fine." James snapped, gripping the steering wheel so tightly that his knuckled turned white. "That's the biggest lie you could ever tell. You're not okay. You're so far from okay that it's not even funny. Don't even bother denying it, I know you better than you know yourself. We all know each other better than we know ourselves. I know you're not okay."
Logan felt his mouth open slightly, as if he was trying to say something. He didn't know why he even bothered because James obviously wasn't done talking.
"You know what, Logan? I'm not okay either. Kendall isn't okay. Stephanie isn't okay. But we're trying. . . we're trying so hard to pick up the pieces and move on because we know that it's what Carlos would want. And you. . ." James' voice caught in his throat and he had to pause and steady himself. "You're scaring us, Logan. It's like we're losing you too. Except really slowly and we can't do a thing to stop it."
"I'm sorry," Logan muttered, tears filling his eyes. "I just don't know how to move on."
James pulled to a stop in front of Kendall's house. "You can't do it alone, Logie." he said softly. "You have to let is help you. And you have to stop blaming yourself for something that was completely out of your control."
Logan flinched away from the hand that James set on his shoulder. "You make it sound so simple," he whispered, shaking his head. "But James," Logan's hand fumbled for the door handle and he finally escaped back out into the rain. "I don't know if I can."
Kendall opened the front door before Logan could even knock. He lifted one arm to wave at James and wrapped the other one firmly around Logan's shoulders. "Inside," he ordered. "You're soaked."
"I know," Logan muttered. "You're going to be soaked too now, you know."
Kendall rolled his eyes and shoved Logan to the stairs. "Get in the shower and some clean clothes."
Logan stares at him, shocked. "Kendall-" he started.
"Just. . . go, Logan." Kendall prompted. "You obviously need some direction in your life right now. We'll talk when you get out."
But as soon as he was clean and dry, dressed in some of Kendall's old clothes that Jo had forced on him, Logan felt beyond exhausted. He stumbled down the stairs, holding tightly to the railing. "Kendall?" he called out uncertainly.
"Shoot." Kendall was suddenly at his side, guiding him to the couch. "I don't know if you look worse or better right now. Lay down, Logan. Try to get some rest, all right?"
This time, Logan obeyed without question. He didn't know if he was doing this because he was so sick and exhausted so that he had no energy to protest, or if he was just losing even more control of himself.
He didn't know how long he had slept. He didn't even think that he would fall asleep in the first place. But as Logan opened his eyes and saw only white walls, he had to wonder if his sleep had been a little something more. Why else would he be in the hospital?
He knew without turning his head that Kendall was sitting next to his bed, half asleep with utter exhaustion, but half awake with frantic worry. Logan took his time dragging himself out of his deep unconscious state and back into the land of the living, or in his case, the land of the living dead.
He was hooked up to a heart monitor and there- Logan froze for an instant before reaching up and grasping at the oxygen mask over his face. The movement pulled at the IV in his arm and he winced. Before Logan could try anything else, he heard Kendall's voice.
"Hey, relax, Logan. Let me help you." Kendall appeared in his blurry vision and slowly removed the mask for Logan. "Just relax for a few minutes. You had us all really scared for a while there."
"Wha-" Logan started to ask what had happened, but broke off into a painful coughing fit. His chest felt like someone was beating on it and he could hardly breath. Tears burned his eyes and he felt like he was going to pass out until Kendall handed him a small paper cup of water. He took a small sip, the liquid already beginning to soothe him.
"You fell asleep at my house," Kendall began to explain, sitting back once Logan was breathing clearly again. "I was relieved at first because you were exhausted and sick. But then after a while, I noticed that you weren't breathing right. I tried to wake you up but. . . I couldn't. Kendall ran a shaking hand through his already tousled blond hair. "I panicked and I- I called 911."
"Anyway, the EMTs came pretty much right away and they put an oxygen mask on you and took you in. Jo and I followed in the car because they said there wasn't any room in the ambulance. I was afraid, Logan. I was afraid because it reminded me of before. I was afraid that we might lose you too and that it might be the last time I saw you. . . alive."
Kendall cleared his throat and swiped a hand over his eyes. "When we got to the hospital, we had to wait, but not too long. We called James and we stopped by and picked up Camille and Stephanie." He ignored the way Logan flinched at the mention of Carlos' wife and kept talking. "When the doctor came out, he said you would be fine but that they were keeping you over night just in case. Basically you were already suffering from pneumonia and on top of that you got really exhausted and you already weren't taking care of yourself." Kendall glanced at his watch. "You've been out since James got you to my house yesterday after soon and it's 3:47 in the morning right now."
"Kendall-" Logan started to protest.
Kendall shook his head. "Don't say it, Logan. It's pointless. I convinced to stay with Stephanie after she was sure you would be okay, and James took the two of them and Jo home for me. I didn't want you to be alone when you woke up though."
"Why are you all treating me like I'm completely helpless?" Logan asked, fighting to keep his voice steady. "I'm an adult, Kendall. It's not like I'm a little kid or- or sick again."
"But you're depressed," Kendall emphasized. "Really depressed, Logan. I've never seen you like this. No one has. You've always been strong even though you've gone through enough to make anyone go insane."
Logan avoided Kendall's gaze and stared at the white blanket over him. One of the edges was frayed and he concentrated on picking at the loose thread, pulling at it. "I've never been responsible for my best friend's death before." he said quietly.
"You're not responsible, Logan." Kendall told him firmly. "You're a doctor, you're not a superhero. I don't know much about. . . about how serious it was or how dangerous the surgery was, but I do know that the odds of Carlos- making it were slim. It was like when you went in for your kidney transplant surgery. You weren't supposed to survive, and at first you didn't. It was a miracle, Logan. We needed another miracle for Carlos and. . . and we didn't get it this time. But it was not your fault, Logan. Please believe me when I say that."
Logan listened to Kendall's rant, feeling as though his words should be making some sort of impact on him. But instead, he felt like they were going in ear and out the other, bypassing his brain and his heart completely. "Carlos deserved a miracle more than I did," he whispered. "I mean, what was the point of me dying and then coming back? Just so I could achieve my dream of being a doctor and then let Carlos die like that?"
Kendall was momentarily silenced, stunned by Logan's hatred of himself. "Logan," he finally said, fighting to think of something to say. "Do. . . do you really think that?"
"I know it." Logan crossed his arms over his chest and sighed, leaning back against the pillows. He still felt exhausted and sitting up without any support proved to be more effort than he would have ever he thought. "There's just no other explanation."
"Logan. . ." Kendall trailed off, completely stuck. For once, he didn't know what to say and he didn't think there was anything he could say. The only person who could convince Logan that Carlos' death wasn't his fault was. . . Carlos. "He wouldn't want you to feel this way, you know." he whispered helplessly.
Tears blurred Logan's vision and he turned away from Kendall. "I wouldn't be surprised if he hates me." he said so quietly that Kendall almost missed the confession. "He'll never know his baby boy or girl and it's all because of me."
"Carlos could never hate you," Kendall said quickly. "He was your best friend, Logan. He still is. Remember what I said at. . . at the funeral?"
There was a tight feeling in Logan's chest that was unrelated to the pneumonia, but it was making him feel even worse. The pain, both psychical and emotional was unlike anything he had ever experienced, even when he had been dying. He clenched his jaw tightly and gave a short nod, unable to answer Kendall verbally.
Kendall reached out and touched Logan gently on his shoulder. "I said that we never lose the ones we love as long as we don't forget them. Carlos is still with us. And I know that he doesn't want you to be hurting like this. If he could be here right now, really here, talking to us and everything, then I'm sure he'd being saying what I'm saying to you right now. That it wasn't your fault and that it's ridiculous for you to be blaming yourself."
"I wish it was so easy to believe you." Logan admitted.
That was when Kendall became totally at a loss for words. When they were younger, Logan would believe almost anything Kendall told him. He trusted Kendall that much. He had always trusted Kendall that much. But Logan was different now. He had changed and Kendall didn't like the change at all.
"Logan," he sighed, knowing that there was nothing else he could do. "I think that. . . I think that you need help. You know who you're reminding me of? You're reminding me of James when you were sick. Except this is what we were afraid of if you had. . . died."
"I wish you wouldn't worry about me," Logan told him. "I'm not the only one hurting."
"But you're the only one who is hurting in a way that you shouldn't be," Kendall protested. "Logan, of course we miss Carlos. We miss him just as much as you. But James and I aren't blaming ourselves for something that wasn't our fault. I think that's what's holding you back."
Logan wanted to go back to being unconscious. Losing Carlos hurt. Knowing that it wasn't his fault but being unable to shake the guilt was even worse. And knowing that everyone was worried about him was something he could just barely stand.
But Kendall didn't give him any time to say anything else. He looked even more worried than he did the day before. "Logie," he said slowly. "Why don't you lay back down and try to get some rest? Tomorrow- or later today, I guess, we'll get you some help."
Help was the last thing Logan wanted and felt he deserved. But he could see how desperately Kendall wanted him to at least try. He knew that James and Camille and everyone else felt the same. He could at least do it for them. "Okay," he finally said with a nod. "I guess I should at least try, right?"
A shadow fell across Kendall's face, as he heard the reluctance and the doubt in Logan's voice. But he masked his new fears and focused on the relief that Logan was agreeing with him. "Right. And it'll work, Logan. You'll see. Sometimes we just need a little extra help."
He had never felt so stupid in all his life. Logan was laying obediently on an unfamiliar couch in an unfamiliar room with an unfamiliar person sitting a few feet a way, staring at him. He felt vulnerable too, like he had split open and everything, all of his thoughts and fears were there for everyone to see.
He never thought once that he would find himself in such a situation. Therapy. It was something he had recommended to patients. The doctor has become the patient he though grimly. "What was the question?" he asked, realizing that the unfamiliar person was waiting for him to respond.
"I asked you how you were feeling today," the man said. Was his name Charlie or Greg?
"Um," Logan's fingers drummed nervously over his chest where Charlie/Greg had advised he put them. Apparently it was the best position to relax in. "I don't know."
"You don't know." Greg/Charlie repeated.
Logan shrugged and stared up at the ceiling. "I don't know how I feel because I don't know how to feel. Not anymore."
"Have you tried talking about it to anyone other than me today?"
"Kind of," Logan glanced over at the therapist. "I guess not as much as I should."
"Is there a reason for that?"
A bitter smile crossed Logan's face. "I guess I was never big on talking about my feelings." That much was true. Until his father had abandoned him, not even his friends had known the damage that had been done.
"Why is that?"
Such simple questions. Logan wished the answers were as simple. "I just don't like to. It makes it worse." He finally turned to the therapist, catching sight of the nameplate on the desk. Oh. His name was Ethan. "It doesn't hurt if I don't talk about it."
Ethan's eyebrows shot up. "Do you really believe that? You don't think that it might. . . come back to haunt you if you don't talk through it with someone?"
"Maybe. . ." Logan let his voice trail off into a whisper. "I've never really tried it before." He gave a half smile. "I usually let things build up until. . ."
"Until?" Ethan prompted.
Logan chewed on his bottom lip thoughtfully. "Until I wind up more screwed than I was to start." he said honestly. "I just can't seem to get it through my head that what I do. . . just doesn't work."
Ethan smiled and nodded in understanding. "You're not alone with that," he said encouragingly. "And you can always learn how to change that. Do you have people you can trust enough to talk to them about your feelings?"
Despite his promise to himself that he wouldn't cry in front of a guy he had just met, Logan felt tears cloud up in his eyes. He sniffed and returned his gaze to the ceiling. It was easier to have control of his emotions when he was staring at something inanimate instead of a caring face. "Yes," he said hoarsely. Actually, he was pretty sure that he had more of those people than most.
"Then why don't you talk to them?
"Because," Logan felt like a little kid, he was so close to tears. "I don't want to make them feel worse. They're already hurting enough. Carlos was their best friend too."
"Hm," Ethan acknowledged. "But you're the only one who feels responsible for Carlos' death, am I right? And Logan, I don't mean to make you feel worse, but I think you're in need of a reality check here. You're pushing them away and they're worried about you."
"I know." Logan felt useless giving such short answers, but they were all he had at the moment. "I feel like I'm holding them back. Like they're trying to move on and I want to but I don't know how to so we're all stuck." Talk about run-on sentences. Not that he cared.
Again, Ethan nodded. Logan wondered if he knew how much he resembled a bobble head doll. "So," the therapist said. "Do you plan to do anything about that?"
Logan stared back at him. "I am," he said blankly. "I'm talking to you."
Ethan surprised Logan by rolling his eyes. "You have to want to get help, Logan. It doesn't work if you get forced into it."
Sitting up, Logan faced the therapist. "I don't want to get help," he said in a voice that was suddenly shaking. "Because I don't think I deserve it."
Ethan met his gaze calmly. "But what about your friends?" he asked. "If you really trusted them and really believed them, then this wouldn't be such a problem. Do they deserve to see you hurting like this?"
For the first time that morning, Logan actually thought about Ethan's question. "No," he said eventually. "No, they don't. Not at all. I think that if I were in their shoes, I'd be really. . . destroyed. Because I care about them so much. And I know they feel the same way about me."
Looking pleased at the progress they seemed to be making suddenly, Ethan grinned. "Exactly." But his grin quickly faded and he was serious again. "Your friends want to move on, but from what you've told me, I can already tell that they can't do it alone. They're not going to move on without you, Logan. They need you."
Logan nodded slowly. "I know they do," he said softly. "And I want to help them more than anything."
"You can help them one day," Ethan told him comfortingly. "But first you have to let them help you."
It was Kendall's idea. Typical Kendall. While Logan tended to avoid confrontations as much as possible, Kendall tended to do the exact opposite and rush headlong into them. Usually, neither of their approaches ended very well when they tried them out on their own. But if they worked together, Logan's caution and Kendall's bravery would compliment each other perfectly and things would work out. That was why Logan was hoping today would work.
They were at the pond. The pond where they had all met when they were five years old. Twenty-three years ago. It seemed like another lifetime. They had been whole, complete, and happy, wanting and needing nothing to make their lives better. They had each other and that was all they needed. Now things were very different. They were grieving a loss of one of their own.
Logan shoved his hands deeper inside his pockets and shivered. It was winter in Minnesota now and more than a slight chill was in the air. It was freezing, actually. He was losing feelings in his fingers and toes. "So," he said quietly, observing the puff of air that appeared whe he spoke. "What do we do now?"
Kendall and James had been watching him closely, as if waiting for a reaction. James bit his lip and glanced at Kendall. "Do you want to talk?" he asked softly.
No, Logan did not want to talk. But he had come to the realization that if they were to get any better, he would have to step out of his comfort zone and do things he didn't want to. He didn't want to be here at the pond, where memories of two on two hockey games assaulted his memory. He didn't want to talk about Carlos because he knew he would cry. But maybe it was for the best. "I don't know where to start," he admitted finally.
Kendall looked relaxed, knowing that Logan was more willing to open up than he ever had been before. "Remember when we first met?" he asked, receiving a sad smile for James and a small nod from Logan. Kendall's throat tightened up but he went on, determined to help Logan in any way he could.
"I remember how Carlos and I fought over being best friends with you," he said, choking a little on the words. "And how you, even at five years old, were as diplomatic and as fair as any grown man."
Logan surprised himself and his friends by laughing at that. A sob caught in his throat and he clapped a hand over his mouth, struggling to hold himself together. He felt very close to the edge of breaking completely and he still wasn't quite ready for that.
But maybe it didn't matter that he wasn't ready. Maybe it was just that it was completely necessary. So that was why Kendall took a deep breath and prepared himself for one of the most painful things he would ever have to do: Breaking Logan himself. "I always used to think you were the smartest of us," he began, his voice shaking. "But now I think that you're the biggest fool I've ever known."
James snapped his head around from where he had been watching Logan to stare at Kendall in disbelief. "Kendall-" he started, sounding like he was fighting with confusion and pure rage.
"Let me finish, James." Kendall said, not sounding any steadier as he went on. "Logan, you have so much knowledge and brilliance and common sense when it comes to almost everything. But when it comes to yourself, you could not be more clueless and- and stupid even if you tried. I just don't understand how you continually doubt yourself and tear yourself down after everything you've been through. After everything you've been through with us. And I don't understand why you can't just trust us and believe us when we tell you that you're a better person than you think."
"Do you have any idea what it would do to Carlos if he could see you now? It would kill him as much as it's killing us right now." Okay, maybe kill was a poor choice in words but Kendall couldn't help himself at this point. "I mean, just seeing how much you're destroying yourself over something that was not your fault. It's not just destroying you though. It's destroying everyone around you too. Because it's so hard to see you like this, Logan. It hurts so bad. How do you think it feels to lose a friend and then watch another one fade away?"
"Kendall-" James hissed, his eyes darting back and forth between the two brothers.
But Kendall didn't even hear him at this point. He was crying, tears filling his eyes and rolling down his cheeks. "It's like when you were sick and Carlos and I were not only watching you die, but we were watching James fade too. Except this is so much worse because we did lose Carlos and we could still lose you so easily. Remember how you told James that he shouldn't do anything stupid if we did lose you? You're just being a hypocrite now, Logan. Can't you see that you're just important as James in this situation and-"
Kendall finally stopped because it had worked. Logan had broken. He had fallen to his knees and was crying heartbreaking sobs, his body jerking so violently that it looked like he might literally break apart. James was already beside him, his hand rubbing gently on his friend's shuddering back and Kendall was quick to join him. "Logan," he said tearfully. "I'm so sorry, bro."
He understood fully what it meant when his mother punished him when he was little and said that it hurt her more than it hurt him. He had never seen Logan cry so hard in all his life, not when his mother died, or even when his father left or when Carlos had first died. He was crying so hard that he was barely breathing and Kendall could sense that if James wasn't trying to help him, then he would be beating him senseless.
Logan was no longer aware of the bitter cold or where he was to begin with. He was just barely aware of Kendall and James' presence. The only thing he was really aware of was that he no longer felt numb inside. The walls he had so carefully built up around him had come crashing down, landing on his chest and his heart, making it hard to breathe. He was crying so hard and uncontrollably that he felt sick to his stomach and lightheaded. He was also aware of how much he wished Carlos could be there.
But then, as he knelt on the frozen ground and cried harder than he had ever cried in all his life, something happened. It was something that Logan would always try to explain, but never fully succeed. Something that couldn't be fully explained.
All of the sudden, James and Kendall and Logan weren't the only ones there. James and Kendall weren't the only ones holding onto Logan for dear life so that he didn't slip away from them. Carlos was there too. Logan couldn't see him or even heard him in his mind. But he could feel him. He could feel his presence there. It was almost as if he had never left in the first place.
Peace was a funny thing. It came and went, but only when you let it. It had to be accepted willingly and let go willingly. Logan found himself with no choice but to accept the peace that had suddenly surrounded him. It wasn't a perfect peace. A perfect peace would have been Carlos there, alive and well. But it was more than Logan had ever expected, almost healing his wounds completely.
Kendall was right. He was right about everything. It wasn't Logan's fault and he had been a complete fool to think so for as long as he had. Losing Carlos had been a horrible tragedy, especially after everything they had already been through when they were so young. But Logan wasn't to blame. He had done everything he could have done to keep Carlos with them. Everything in his power. And it just hadn't worked.
It wasn't his fault though and Logan had only made things worse by blaming himself. He saw that now. "I'm sorry," he whispered when he could catch his breath. "I'm so sorry."
"Shhh," Kendall murmured gently. "Don't try to talk right now, Logan. Just try to relax." His worry began to ease a little when he saw that Logan was breathing better. "Just breathe."
Just breathe. For so long, that had been such a challenge. Getting up in the mornings. Breathing. Living. But now Logan could feel like he was returning to himself. To Kendall and to James. To everyone. To Carlos. Everything was working again. His lungs were taking oxygen in again, willingly for the first time since Carlos' death, and his heart was truly beating.
"Are you okay?" James asked, his eyes still wide with concern and a little bit of fear.
Logan lifted his head and looked at both James and Kendall. A smile twitched at his lips and then grew. It wasn't a huge, but it was real and it lit up his eyes. It made him look like the old Logan. "I'm okay," he croaked out. His voice sounded awful and it hurt his throat to speak. But he was telling the truth.
James sighed and hugged Logan closely to him, releasing him so Kendall could do the same. "Good," he said, relief not beginning to describe the emotions that he felt. "I was afraid I'd have to throw Kendall in the pond."
Logan laughed through his remaining tears. "No," he said, shaking his head. "He was right."
"I'm still sorry, Logan. I didn't want to hurt you like that." Kendall stared closely at Logan, searching for any remaining pain. There was still plenty left. Just because this had happened, didn't make everything okay. But it was still far better than the way things had been.
"It's okay, Kendall." Logan said wearily. "It was exactly what I needed." He sighed and swiped a hand across his eyes. "I should be the one who's sorry. For doing this to all of you. For doing this to Carlos."
"Logan, I think you've been sorry enough," James told him gently. "Just let it go now. We're going to move on from here on out, okay? Together."
The burden that Logan had been carrying all by himself for so long was gone completely. Yes, his heart still ached painfully, but the burden of being alone in his grief and his guilt was gone. He wasn't alone anymore. In fact, he never had been alone. It just wasn't until now that he realized his friends, including Carlos, had been with him every step of the way. And they always would be.
"Uncle Logie, are we almost there?"
Logan could feel the small feet kicking the back of his seat and he glanced in the review mirror to smile at the little boy in the car seat behind him. "We're here right now, buddy." he said. "I just have to park the car."
As he spoke, he pulled up against the curb and then shut the car's engine off. Taking a deep breath, he undid his seat belt with hands that shook only very slightly. "We're here!" he announced. "You ready?"
Without waiting for an answer, he got out of the car and then opened the other door. "Hey, little man." he greeted the small child, kissing him on the forehead before undoing the belts and buckles and lifting him out of the car. "Ready?"
The little boy nodded and clung tightly to Logan's neck as he walked down the familiar path. In one chubby little hand, he clutched a messy fistful of dandelions and daises that he had picked himself. His huge dark eyes stared ahead expectantly and he was completely silent until they reached their destination.
The headstone was clean and very well kept. Logan sank down into the grass and set the little boy down. "Hey, Carlos." he said softly. "We came for a visit."
One small hand held onto Logan's while the other hand reached out and placed the flowers on the grave. "Hi, Daddy." the little boy said, his face serious even though he was only five. "Me and Uncle Logie were missing you so we came to say hi. I picked flowers for you all by myself, see?" Receiving no response, the child sighed and backed up and sat down on Logan's lap. "I wish he could talk back to me." he said sadly.
"Me too, Benny." Logan hugged him close. "But you know what? I think that if your daddy could talk back, then he would say that he loves you very much and that he's very proud of you and that you're so special to him and that he loves being your daddy. He wouldn't want to be anything else."
"I'm glad Mommy named me after him. Benjamin Carlos Garcia." Benny said. "Because even though I never met him, I know that he was a really great person."
Tears filled Logan's eyes as he nodded. "He was really great," he whispered. "He still is. And we have you to remind us of how great he always will be."
"Uncle Logan takes good care of me," Benny said, talking to his father again. "He takes good care of me and Mommy. Just like he promised you that he would. He's the best uncle in the whole wide world."
A breeze rushed through the trees overhead and Logan heard clear as day, two words: Thank you. He reached into his pocket and pulled out two items, a piece of paper and a balloon. Carefully, he fit the paper, which was covered in writing, inside the balloon and then blew the balloon up. "Ready, bud?" he asked softly.
"Yup." Benny stood up again and held tightly to the balloon with Logan. Then he squeezed his eyes shut and counted very slowly. "One. . . two. . . three!"
At three, they released the balloon and together, watched it float into the sky, disappearing into the clouds. His head still tilted up, Benny spoke in a whisper, the wind carrying his words away with the balloon. "Happy Birthday, Daddy. I hope you like your letter."
Logan stood up too, lifting Benny in his arms. "Happy birthday, Carlos."
A/N. Okay, well I think I was holding myself together pretty well until the end. Which is ironic since that's when things were starting to look up. Brittni, I hope you liked this, I wrote the whole thing in the special Weeping Corner in the Palm Woods Well of Angst. I think I've just been committed to Angst Rehab again, except this time for life. It was all worth it! I'd do it again in a heartbeat! Lol. Merry Christmas, darlin'.