A/N Sorry for updating that late, but I really do have some trouble with this story. With this chapter I tried to somehow give a vague explanation for things? On the other hand, how to explain emotions? Since I really want this story one, you guys deserve I need some more time for updating, so please don't be mad
Sandy watched his son sleeping. His heart felt heavy at the sight of the pale boy, who must've been so cold that his lips and fingers were light bluish. He sighed frustrated and once again pushed the call-button. It took a while for a nurse to come.
"Mr. Cohen, what can I do for you?" she asked him kindly, although obviously she was stressed.
"Yeah, sorry, but I already asked three times for a second blanket for my son. He's awfully cold," he phrased his request for the felt hundredth time.
"Oh dear, I'm sorry Mr. Cohen I forgot, but there has been a multiple accident and now the chaos broke out in our emergency unit. They need every helping hand. But I'll get you another blanket. I'll be right back," the nurse apologised. She visibly felt uncomfortable about the incident. When the nurse left, he leaned back in his chair not taking his eyes off his son. He watched single drops rhythmically drip from the bag into is son's IV-line from where the liquid flowed through a port into his son's body. Sandy shivered at the thought what his son had to endure again and watching him submitting to it without complaints tore him apart between relieve and worry. Ryan's body was shifting uncomfortably on the bed, but he didn't wake up. Sandy reached out for his son, gently putting his hand onto his son's shoulders. He could feel the light tremors going through Ryan's body. This was a nightmare, probably one of those which hunted him since his mother's death. He took his son's cold hand and stroked over the bony knuckles. He would get his son through this. He had no idea how, but he would. He had done his son wrong by leaving him alone dealing with his mother's death and his health way too often; he had done his son wrong by not being there, leaving Ryan with the jobs he as father was supposed to do. After the time slinked by Sandy gave up his hope for another blanket for Ryan. It already had gotten dark outside when Ryan started to slowly wake up. Tired, dazed eyes blinked at him.
"Hey, kid," Sandy whispered. His son tried to answer with a small smile which broke off nearly immediately.
"How are you feeling?" Sandy asked his son.
"Tired and…strange," his son answered, his voice hoarse and nothing more but a whisper.
"Probably the meds," he answered softly. He didn't want his son to worry about what was going on with him.
"You still here?" Ryan asked, looking questioningly at him.
"Of course," Sandy replied, brushing off the undertone of surprise in his son's question.
"You…look tired. Go home," Ryan offered him an emergency exit for this unbearable situation, but he wouldn't take him up on his offer.
"Not yet. Maybe later, when I'm sure that you'll be better," Sandy declined.
"Then go and get a coffee. You look miserable," Ryan countered, attempting to joke.
"You shouldn't talk so much," Sandy cautioned his son and earned one of his son's trademark glares and Sandy knew that it was time to give in. If he stayed, his son would only grow restless with bad conscience. Sandy had trouble to make his son understand that it was a matter of course that he took care of him and that there was no reason for having a bad conscience. On the other hand, Sandy knew where that came from and thus took this as his punishment for his negligence.
"Alright, I'll be back soon, so don't try and run," he replied and got off, his legs protesting at the sudden movement.
He sat in a silent and deserted cafeteria, nursing a hot steaming cup of coffee. He felt lonely and wished for someone at his side, but after the fight with Kirsten, he was sure that he'd stay alone for another while. She had hurt him, but on the other hand: could he really blame her? He was a single parent himself and could relate to the difficulties a new relationship could cause for a teenager. He felt grateful for Ryan's patience and understanding, and maybe having a son like Ryan was making it impossible to relate to the trouble of normal teenagers. Still, Ryan's selflessness scared him. But her selfishness and her cold-heartedness not only blind-sided him, but thoroughly hurt him. And worst of all: he couldn't make the cut he was supposed to make. He was still debating whether she truly meant what she had said. His heart wanted it to be nothing more than an uncontrolled explosion of pent up emotions. On the other hand, he didn't need a woman who had trouble controlling her emotions. Somehow, he couldn't handle a woman with a son as sensitive as Seth seemed to be. It was obvious that Kirsten had enough on her plate and it was unfair demanding from her dealing professionally with his baggage. It also was unfair to ask Ryan for handling such a messy situation. He, of all, needed peace and a stable daily routine. Sandy sighed at the realisation that he must have been dumb thinking that this relationship could work for Kirsten and him. He felt a sting in his heart, but eventually he'd get over it.
He sat there for a while, not thinking further about what could have been, but about what could become, which, in fact, wasn't a lot.
"Sorry, is this seat already taken?" He suddenly heard a soft and familiar voice from behind him, dragging him out of his thoughts. He turned around and looked directly into her beautiful, bright, blue eyes. Well, they were red rimmed and puffy, but that didn't do any harm to her overall beauty.
"Uh…no," he replied unaware of her reasons for turning up in the hospital's cafeteria. She silently took a seat across from him. The atmosphere was filled with tension. Nobody of them dared to speak. Sandy didn't know what to say after she had behaved so out of place. He didn't have the heart telling her that it was probably better if they left things as they were.
"Sandy," Kirsten made the first move, "I need to apologize. I…can't tell what has gotten into me. It's… my fault. I should've talked to Seth earlier, saving you that trouble. I…shouldn't have burdened you with that and…asked for your support, while obviously you're in the need for support yourself," she explained herself. Sandy listened carefully, but wasn't sure what to think about it. He wanted to believe her, because it would make it so much easier for him, but how could he? It felt as if she had revealed her true self during that encounter and Sandy knew by experience that people tended to unmask themselves in strenuous situations. What was he supposed to do? His heart was jumping, telling him to take the newly offered chance, but his logical sense warned him. He couldn't ask Ryan for dealing with the usual ups and downs of a fresh relationship, especially not with those of this one. Kirsten and Sandy were carrying way too much baggage as if this relationship could thrive and blossom smoothly. "Sandy, say something," Kirsten begged, her voice shaky with emotions. He only shook his head. He was stuck in a one way road.
"How's Seth doing?" Sandy eventually asked. After witnessing Seth' outburst, he was concerned about him. He had underestimated the emotional outbursts a teenager was capable of.
"He's still mad at me and after I told him that I'd see you this evening, he ran off again," Kirsten sighed. Her eyes were reflecting the sadness she was feeling, Sandy thought.
"Should we go, looking for him?" Sandy offered automatically, as if it was a natural thing to ask.
"Uh…no, thanks, but he's going out with some friends. He asked permission already days ago. He was so nervous about it I doubt that he blew the invitation," she replied.
"It's important for kids to have friends. You know, being understood by the others, talking to them about the parents and so on. It'll help him deal," Sandy assured her.
"Let's hope so," Kirsten's words were carrying barrels of sadness. Suddenly he was reminded of his wife, but it weren't memories of a love-drunken man. After the fight, he started analysing what went wrong between him and his deceased wife, rather than thinking back to the good times they had. The callous thing which got between him and Laura could easily grow between him and Kirsten, too. He was a magnet for all crises a couple can go through, so how could he possibly have a healthy relationship? He couldn't do this to his son. He couldn't sow the seam which raised the hope of a real family in his son and then, after a while, tear this hope down again. He doubted he was ready for this adventure. A relationship needed time and effort, which he was willing to invest, but wasn't sure whether he had enough of it. He was scared that he was getting far over his head with this.
"What are you thinking about?" Kirsten asked, taking his hand. He gently disentwined from her hands. He needed space: space to think, space to breathe. Suddenly, he felt like suffocating. All events started breaking down on him. It was like standing in the centre of a collapsing building.
"I…I can't do this," he finally spat out. It was useless keeping his thoughts for himself. He'd been lying to Kirsten, about his son and his capability of being a companion. From the very beginning, this relationship got no chance to grow on stable grounds. It was built up on lies and nobody needed to have magic power to foresee that this relationship couldn't work out.
"Then, that was it? One fight and we break up?" She was disappointed, but what did she expect?
"We need to be honest to each other. We didn't know what we were getting into," he tried to stay calm.
"After all those conversations and the trust we've built up, you're sure that there isn't more behind this?" Her eyes were pleading for an explanation which could satisfy her. He had fallen in love with her. She could fill the hole inside of him, making him whole again. It felt good. He had forgotten how it felt being a whole person. But this was frightening him. It had been so easy for Laura to rip out important pieces of him and who was he to tell that Kirsten wasn't capable of even the same thing?
"Sandy, I'm sorry if you…got the impression that you're son being so seriously sick might deter me away from you one day. That's not true. I'm honest, I…have no idea how to deal with it and I'm scared, but I don't want this getting between us. I'm ready to fight these fears, for you," she told him, and again it felt as if she truly meant what she said.
"I wanted to keep it away from you and that's why I lied about his condition in first place. I love you," the last three words slipped out of him. He hadn't thought about them, hadn't had it in mind. It was expressing something he deeply felt.
"But if you do love me, where's the problem then?" she tried to coax him out of the claws he was caught in between.
"That is the problem, because at the end I'd mess it up," he replied. She took his hands back again, squeezing them reassuringly.
"Sandy, don't you understand? I have doubts and fears too, and that's only naturally after what we've already gone through. Still, I want to give it a try." she said.
"It's not only because of our fight. I lost my wife far before. I only didn't notice it and when I did, it had been already too late. It can easily happen again," he told her. He had to be honest to her, because he wanted to protect her and his son. His son didn't have the strength to live through the nightmares of yet another dysfunctional relationship.
"This can happen, but it doesn't mean that it has to happen."
"What makes you that sure?"
"I'm not sure about it, but I know what you're talking about. My marriage was broken, our whole family was, but when I the guts doing something about it, it already had been too late. But should I let this restrain my feelings?"
"It might protect you and Seth from getting hurt like that again," he suggested.
"Running away can't keep you from getting hurt. You'll only hurt yourself." She had a point. Obviously, his son must have sensed as well that it was no good to run away from one's feelings.
"How did you lose him?" he plainly asked her, trying to find comfort in her words: words which covered those familiar emotions in him. Maybe her story could convince him that their relationship, though so burdened, could still work out.
"Phew, there are so many reasons for that. I guess it started with Seth's birth. Jimmy was disappointed, because the doctors told us that I might never become pregnant again. He blamed me for the complications which occurred during my pregnancy and Seth's birth. Jimmy is disappointed with Seth too, after he didn't turn out to be the athlete his father had once been. We ended up arguing about what was best for Seth: whether to force him into some kind of sports or whether to let him develop his talents naturally.
I noticed too late what his actual problem was. He couldn't get over me being the maintainer of the family. Jimmy wanted the lifestyle we had, but he didn't want it the way how we – I – earned it. Jimmy's ideal conception of a family looks like this: husband the maintainer, athletic boys, beautiful girls, a lot of money, a big house and a housewife. I never knew that this was what he wanted until he filed for divorce. I actually didn't know the person I was married to. At the end, we were fighting every day and saying things to each other we never could take back again," she opened up to him, poured out her heart and he felt honoured by it. It was not a mere gesture but a huge symbol of trust. She meant it, she really did.
The words she said where so similar to his story and at the same time their stories were so different. What they had in common were their broken hearts. Her words felt like warm rain extinguishing the conflagration which burned through his soul.
"I think," she started talking again. " I should have approached our difficulties much earlier. I could have saved Seth a lot of trouble and pain, but I…was just blind and deaf."
"What makes you sure that this won't happen to us?" he vaguely asked.
"Because you're different from Jimmy and I became a different person, too. I wouldn't let things spinning out of control again." She didn't break eye contact during the whole time she has been talking. Warmth radiated from her crystal blue eyes, as well as acceptance and understanding. Suddenly, he could gasp words for the reason why he fell for Kirsten so easily: it felt familiar, as if they knew each other ever since.
"I wouldn't be too sure about it. I messed up, big time too," he answered her, afraid of destroying the electricity bond between them this conversation had generated. He had to be honest to her. He owned it to her. She had to know what she was getting into. He had to protect her from another potential mistake, even if he himself was this mistake.
"Well, if you're afraid of messing it up, I can't give you any advice since I'm afraid of this relationship as well. But maybe, one day, we can overcome our fears. I'm sure it'll take time and a lot of trust, but here and now I promise you that you can trust me, whatever it is what is on your mind," she offered him a sympathetic ear and he wanted to take this offer, but couldn't as he was lacking of words and self-confidence. All of a sudden, the past was reloaded in his head. He started chewing the inside of his cheeks while figuring out what he was supposed to do or to tell. The truth was: he hadn't been a good husband or a good father. He had never played this part of the family until Laura has had enough of it, but then it had been too late for her. Finding out that being a father and a husband actually took more than just being the maintainer had been rough. She deserved to know about his failure, but he was afraid to mess this up too. While he was thinking about it, he came to the realisation that he was about to mess it up the one way or the other. The only difference was that if he told her straight away, he gave her a chance to leave immediately keeping further harm away from her.
"You know about Ryan. He needs my full attention. I've neglected him and his needs for far too long," he said.
"And I understand that…but you know, Jimmy never put his son first, you do. That makes a huge difference to me and gives reason to hope that…maybe we can make this relationship work. I'll need your help dealing with it, but then again, you'll need my help coping with Seth as well and that way we can support each other."
After their conversation he heads back to his son. She had given them another chance, but was he ready to give her another one? He was relieved to see that his son had finally gotten a second blanket. When he stepped inside, his son's eyes opened.
"Go back to sleep," he told Ryan stroking his cheek.
"Can't. You've been gone quite a while," Ryan noticed.
"Sorry, but Kirsten was here. We talked," he answered him honestly.
"Nothing to be sorry for," his son replied. Piercing blue eyes were staring at him.
"What?" he asked his son.
"Just trying to figure out what's going on with you," his son replied. Sandy should have checked his face in the mirror first. His son was a master in reading his face, like his mother had been.
"You shouldn't worry about that," he answered. Ryan shouldn't be concerned about his father.
"Are still not sure whether this…relationship thing was a good idea?" Ryan pointed out the fact. Sandy shook his head, what else could he say? His son wouldn't believe him if he started denying the obvious.
"C'mon Dad, what's the problem?"
"One dysfunctional is enough for a whole life time. I'm not going to make the same mistake twice," he answered while he dropped down on the chair next to his son's bed.
"That's true, but you know one of Mom's and your mistake was that you never talked to each other. You might have saved us all a lot of pain, if you'd just sat down and talked," his son spoke true words and Sandy was struck by how mature his son was. But people say that sickness and death make you grow up fast. His son just didn't have a choice.