Closure: Chapter 14
Everything hurts. My body feels like lead. Only being alive can hurt this much. It's safe to assume that the surgery was successful, then... I remember what happened. How much time passed?
what time is it?
Cis never went to the bench that night. He must be so upset. Any hope he had left must be dashed by now. I couldn't make it to the bench. I promised you everything would be better. I'm so sorry, Keith.
Something twitched in my hand.
Immediately, the world started falling into place around me. I was laying on a soft-ish surface. Something was in my hand; squeezing tightly. I squeezed back trying to figure out what it was but to no avail. I couldn't quite open my eyes yet though.
A ticking clock could be heard from across the room. Along with beeping and... breathing...? The breathing wasn't natural. It sounded like... a machine... I was stabbed in the lungs. When I realized there was a hard pressure on my neck, I felt a chill run down my entire body. Am I hooked up to an... iron lung?
My eyes flew open and I shot up. The beeping of the heart rate monitor accelerated to an unimaginable pace.
"Ivan! You're awake!"
The voice reached my ears, but I heard nothing. I tried to look down but I couldn't. I started hyperventilating, but it didn't feel like it normally should. It wasn't my air... The squeeze on my hand left and two strong arms slowly pushed me back onto the bed.
"Ivan! Calm down!"
Keith?... I couldn't make a sound. I tried to call out but there was no comprehensible language. It just came out as chokes and gasps. The heart monitor continued to skyrocket.
I looked at his face hovering over mine. Tears began to pour down my cheeks as everything hit me at once. I couldn't cry out. All I could do was just make disgusting choking sounds.
He gently shushed me before continuing. "It's okay. You're in the hospital and everything's okay." He smiled gently. It was clearly a lie, though. A nurse quickly made her way to my side. I was so focused on Keith that I hardly even noticed the syringe in my arm. His appearance started to form properly. His hair was messy and undone, His breath smelled awful, his stubble started growing back, and he had enormous dark circles under his eyes. How many times will I have to see him like this before my life ends? With a quiet hush from the glowing aura of a man, I immediately felt tired again and sleep took over before my body could argue. The world was gone again.
Of course of all people, the one that's here is the one that makes me feel the guiltiest. I deserved to be hooked up to an iron lung. If I had it my way, I wouldn't even breathe the same air as him. The cause of everything spawns out of my own obsession with this person anyways. It only got this bad because I couldn't stay away from him... It just felt so impossible not to see him everyday...
My thoughts took hold of me again. Slowly, the sounds from before came back into earshot. I heard some mumbling but I couldn't make out exactly what it was they meant. Again, I couldn't move, but it was calm this time. A glowing warmth was present all around my body. It felt nice.
The tick of the clock across the room came back. But this time, it felt soothing. Everything started coming into focus. When my eyes finally began to open, my whole body tensed up at what I saw. Keith's face was only an inch or two from mine. When I gasped in surprise, his watchful eyes flew open. Strong arms wrapped tightly around my body and pulled me close to himself. I was completely immobilized.
"K-Keith, what are you-" My voice! It was my voice. I could speak again! Relief began to wash over me. No iron lung, nothing wrong.
"Listen. We're still in the hospital. After you woke up before, they were gonna tie you to the bed because you kind of hurt yourself. I begged them for another way and they let me sleep next to you as long as I kept you from moving when you woke up." He stopped to stroke my hair before continuing, causing warmth to rush to my face again. "Sorry for scaring you. Just thought this would be better than being tied to the bed. I'm so happy you're awake"
The image of the nurse's shocked faces made their way into my imagination and I couldn't help but laugh quietly to myself at the thought of Keith convincing them to let him sleep next to me in the hospital bed.
"How you feeling, Ivan?"
"Actually, I feel kind of good..." I wasn't lying. Sure, my chest ached from whatever the painkillers couldn't quite get to and this wasn't the most comfortable bed in the world. I hated being in the hospital gown and it never quite feels right when you know you've been opened up in surgery. Despite everything though, just the fact that Keith was with me made the pain meaningless. That he was here had such an impact on how I felt and that horrified me.
I couldn't see his face but I could feel his voice vibrate in his chest. "Glad to hear it."
"You can let me go, you know."
"Doctor's orders, Ivan."
He wasn't being serious, was he? "Keith, I won't struggle. You really can let me go."
"I promised I wouldn't let go of you. This way I get to see you after visiting hours, too." He was so stubborn. Whatever. I don't really mind being held like this I guess. As the thought went through my mind, the guilt began to come back. All of it.
"Don't you have work?"
"I took the last two days off. I stick to my night patrol."
"What about John?"
"Kotetsu's taking care of him."
"How long was I asleep?"
"Hmm. That's a hard question! It's been on and off for the past two weeks. You had to go into major surgery twice. Last time when you woke up and panicked, you broke the breathing aid they put in your lung to prep for the second surgery. It's fine now though. You're gonna make a full recovery." Well that's a relief. That also explains the hard pressure on my neck...
He thought for a little before speaking again. "When I got the call from Karina in the ambulance, I was so scared." When the memory became clear to him, I felt his body tense up and hold me closer. "She said you were stabbed. Your ribs were broken and they weren't sure if you were gonna pull through." I must have scared him badly. He seemed shaken simply talking about it even though I'm in his arms; alive and breathing.
"You talked to me while I was almost gone. It was over the phone, right?"
His grip loosened slightly and he tilted his face down to see mine. His eyes were his usual light blue aside from a light pink in the white of his eyes. Probably from a lack of sleep. "You were awake?"
"Umm, yeah..." Both of our faces flushed a little in embarrassment. "Th-thank you. You said things that I think helped me pull through it all in the end."
"I meant it. I really meant what I said." He made sure I was looking him in the eyes before he said his next few words. "You're more important to people than you think you are. People care about you... and people love you."
His phone call made its way into the foreground of my memory. 'Don't leave me! I need you!' Instinctively, I looked down. How can he say things like that so easily?! It's nice to say, but it's not as true as he says.
"And it's true." I froze. How did he know- "Why would you use sacrifice yourself so quickly, though?"
"She was about to be stabbed."
"So a human shield is the only option? Ivan-"
"I stand by my decision! What else was I supposed to do? I can't fight! I thought that maybe someone else in the world is better off being alive. A little girl, Keith. She hasn't lived her life. She could grow up to be happy and..." A focused pain began forming in my chest. I couldn't tell if it was from the wound or from what I was saying.
"Ivan, you haven't lived your life yet." But what else is there for someone like me other than being hurt all the time? "And are you saying there's nothing left in the world that makes you feel happy?" Keith's face flashed in my mind before I looked up at the man himself.
"Because I remember when I felt like that. It was only for a little, though. After Cis stopped showing up, I felt really sad." I forgot about Cis... his face turned somber as he thought about her. My heart sank a little. "And even though I think I scared her off forever, it's okay." His eyes began to water but he forced it back with a smile like he always does. I don't know how much of this I can take before I'll just start to wish I died two weeks ago.
"It's okay because there are still things in the world that make me happy. I have my job, I have John..." He hugged me again to hide his face. I felt his tears though. He must have done a lot of thinking for himself while I was unconscious. My arms crept around him and I held him tight.
"It's okay, Keith. I'm here." Over the past few months, I've learned that my presence can be comforting to him. I guess that's a reason to live all on its own? We stayed like this for a while. He wouldn't show his face but that was okay.
People walked by the room but awkwardly left when they realized that two men were closely entangled on a hospital bed. If Keith didn't care, I could get over random strangers thinking I was a fag.
Eventually, Keith wiped his eyes and looked at me. "Why is it so easy for me to open up to you?"
"I-I don't know. Probably because I opened up to you first...?" A silence hung in the air until I mentally prepared myself for something I should have done a long time ago. "Keith, There's something I have to tell you."
"You can tell me anything."
"This really isn't easy for me to say... but around this time a few months ago, I noticed how depressed you are and it was killing me.. so Kotetsu-san and I-"
"Hey! Keith! How's Origami- OH." My embarrassment initially froze me. I quickly managed to burrow myself under several blankets to ride out this scene.
My energetic friend didn't seem to be phased at all. "Hi, Kotetsu! He's awake and seems to be doing fine!"
"Th-that's... good..." He laughed nervously to himself. This must have been very strange to walk in on. I don't care if strangers see us but co-workers are something else entirely. "Anyways. Now that Ivan's okay, I was wondering when you want to pick up John. How long do you usually walk him for?! He never gets tired!"
"Umm, I'll pick him up later tonight I guess. Duty calls, anyway." Keith smiled as if he wasn't crying just a few minutes ago. He's amazing like that. He tousled his blonde hair as he rose to a sitting position. "Is the nurse coming? I'm not supposed to leave Ivan alone..."
As if on cue, the nurse walked in with a tray of medication. "Mr. Karelin, It's good to see you're awake and well." Her friendly gaze turned icy when she looked at Keith. "Sir, you don't have to restrain him if he's calm."
"Oh! Sorry, and sorry again." His warmth left with his body as his feet planted themselves on the ground and he stood up off the bed. He turned his sincere smile to the nurse which melted even her frigid attitude. "When will he be able to leave, ma'am?"
"Well if he's recovering this well, my guess is that he should be able to leave in a little under two weeks."
Kotetsu smiled. "Well that's good!"
"However, there will be strict parameters to follow as he makes a recovery. I know he's a hero but he'll need at least another two weeks after his hospital time before he can get back to work. Even then, he'll need to take it easy."
The darker man sighed and ensured he would make sure I take it easy. Keith seemed sad to think it would take me that long to be back to normal but agreed with Kotetsu.
I thought for a minute before speaking. "That's a pretty quick recovery considering I almost died..."
"Well, your company provided us with more than sufficient funds to make sure your hospital time was shortened exponentially." She rubbed the back of her head. "They really seem to care about you."
The words took me aback. "Really...?"
"They call almost four times a day and ask about your condition or if there's anything they can do to help."
Maybe Keith was right... My family lived on the other side of the globe but there were people here who cared about me. I could see that now...
"I'll see you tomorrow, Ivan!"
The nurse turned to Kotetsu before speaking. "He needs to take his medicine and rest, Sir. So if you could make this brief, I'd appreciate it."
"Y-yes, Ma'am..." He waited for her to leave before continuing. "So, Ivan... How are you really feeling?"
"Happy if nothing else." He thought for a moment. "Kotetsu-san, I have a favor to ask of you." Knowing full well he would do it made it a little bit easier to ask. "I need the file for Cis."
His face turned serious. His dark eyebrows lowered before looking at me. "Are you sure about this, Ivan?"
"He needs to know what happened. He deserves that much."
Kotetsu lowered himself onto the fool of my bed without breaking our eye contact. "He might not want to see you anymore if you tell him."
The thought alone sent an instant shock of dark pain coursing through my body. Keith became my light when the world around me always seemed shrouded in shadows. He helps me see things in a way that makes everything seem okay. Losing him was not something I would handle easily, but he needs it. If he lives his whole life believing that despite his best efforts, the woman he fell in love with was scared by his vulnerability, he won't ever recover properly.