Sorry about the delay – real life plays havoc with the muse. Thankfully, it came to me tonight and I would not ignore it. I know that this next bit isn't very long, but considering how long you've been waiting, I thought this was better than nothing. Thanks for all the reviews and requests for more!
Adam drove the Jeep as fast as he dared down the driveway and onto the road. If his wife and younger brothers weren't with him, he'd have easily driven a little on the reckless side – trading speed for caution. He'd done it many times before… before Hannah, before the responsibility of being the oldest had caused a different mindset to rule his life. He knew these roads like the back of his hand. He could drive them with his eyes closed. Hell, he actually had, once or twice, in youthful stupidity driving around with Brian and their high school buddies. Brian…
Now was not the time for foolish nonsense. Now was the time to get his family reunited. So it wasn't poor driving skills or carelessness that caused him to slam on the brakes in the middle of the road, swerving to the left…
"Adam!" "Watch out!" came the cries from the other occupants of the Jeep as Adam avoided hitting… something… that had run across the road in front of them.
"What the hell was that?" Adam whispered, catching his breath, looking at the others, making sure they were okay.
Hannah was the first to reply, putting her hand on Adam's forearm, saying, "I don't know and I don't want to know. Right now I just want to get to Brian."
Adam nodded his head and put the Jeep into first gear. He looked behind him, saw as Daniel and Evan were also looking around them, and started them off on the road again.
"That was him," Daniel said. "That was who was out there."
"That was no who!" Evan countered, fear in his voice. "That was not human!"
"Then what was it?" Daniel asked, refusing to believe that the pale figure that had just run across the road could be anything but human.
Adam glanced at Hannah, saw the fear in her eyes as she gripped the dashboard, felt his own uncertainty. "Quiet!" he shouted to his brothers, eyeing them in the rearview mirror. "No more!"
"But Adam!" Daniel argued before getting cut off by his older brother again.
"Enough! We got enough to think about right now: Brian," he told them, but subtly nodded his head toward Hannah.
Evan and Daniel got the hint and quieted, not saying anything more. No one did. But just because they didn't say anything aloud, it didn't mean any of the four weren't thinking of what they'd just seen: something with pale skin; hairless; muscular, yet emaciated; human looking, yet… there was something almost monstrous about it; inhuman. Evil.
Adam felt Hannah's hand on his leg and he reached down to hold it tight, steering the Jeep with his left hand.
Crane looked up at the sound of familiar voices entering the waiting room.
"Crane? How is he?" Hannah asked, rushing to meet him.
"Doc thinks he'll be okay," Crane replied, looking at each newly arrived brother in turn, moving to put his hand on each one's shoulder, as if reassuring himself that they were okay, too.
"He's in surgery," Ford added.
"Surgery?" Adam asked, worry back on his face.
"Some of the blood vessels in his leg got blocked or broken," Crane explained simply. "They had to call in a vascular surgeon to fix them, to get circulation back."
"What about his back?" This from Daniel.
"It's broken," Crane told him, but quickly added, "But it'll be fine."
"He's not paralyzed or anything," Guthrie spoke up from Hannah's side, where he'd quickly gone when she had arrived. He wanted to be part of the conversation, too.
His older brothers and sister-in-law smiled at his enthusiasm, grateful for the innocence in their midst
Crane went on to explain in more detail, his tone obvious that he'd memorized and practiced this part: "He's got three lumbar transverse process fractures."
"In English?" Evan asked.
"Meaning he'll be flat on his back for a week, pumped up with pain killers."
The group turned around to see Dr. Wagner smiling at the group.
"I take it these are more brothers and a sister?" she asked.
Crane quickly introduced the rest of the family to the doctor before asking about Brian.
"He's fine. Just got out of surgery and in recovery," she told them. "The orthopedist will get him next, to take care of his back and then he'll be settled into a room."
"When can we see him?" Daniel asked.
Dr. Wagner saw the desperation in the family – having been separated from their brother for so long has obviously taken its toll in worry.
"I think I can sneak a few of you in to see him while he's still in recovery," she said, adding, "How about Evan and Daniel? He's been very worried about you two."
Daniel was ready to go. Evan looked to Adam first, getting permission. Adam nodded his head and the two were quickly gone, following Dr. Wagner out of the waiting room.
Adam felt Hannah's hand on his arm, pulling him toward the couch. Crane, Ford and Guthrie were already sitting down again. He followed tiredly. After the past few hours of adrenaline rush action – riding to find Brian, worrying about what they heard out there, then what they saw… He felt himself slowly crashing and easily dropped down onto the couch, leaning his head back. He wanted to tell Crane about what they saw. He needed another, objective opinion. But not in front of Ford or Guthrie. It would wait.
He looked to the wall across the room, saw the clock ticking away. Could it really be 12:30am?
"I already called Vic Foley," Crane told him. When Adam just looked at him blankly, he said, "He's gonna send a couple of his guys to the ranch in the morning to start the chores."
Adam nodded and said, "Thanks. Didn't even think that far ahead."
"I'll probably take these two back with me soon anyway," Crane added, nodding at Ford, who looked ready to fall asleep, and Guthrie, who looked like he already had, his head nodding against Hannah's shoulder.
Adam was about to agree, when Hannah said, "Wait until it's light. We can all take a nap here. We just got here."
Crane looked confused, but looking at how Adam and Hannah now were eyeing each other… he nodded his head.
"I'll tell you later," Adam told him.
"Just a few minutes," Dr. Wagner told Evan and Daniel. "And don't get him excited. He needs to keep calm and rested."
The brothers nodded and moved closer to Brian, flanking him.
"Hey, Bri?" Daniel called gently. "Hey, buddy, wake up a little."
Brian's eyes fluttered at the familiar voice.
"You're gonna be okay," Evan told him, putting a hand on Brian's left shoulder.
"Ev?" Brian whispered hoarsely.
"Yeah, Brian. We're here," he replied. "Heard you were giving people a hard time."
Dr. Wagner had told the brothers about Brian's one-track mind, calling for them while he was in the emergency room.
"You okay? Dan?"
It was hard for Evan and Daniel to listen to the pain and confusion in Brian's voice, as much as it had been in the woods. But at least they were safe here. As if thinking the same thing, Daniel and Evan both looked up at each other.
"I'm here, too, Bri," Daniel replied, returning his gaze to Brian's.
"I saw… I saw…" Brian tried to gather his thoughts; couldn't.
Remembering Dr. Wagner's orders, Evan was quick to change the subject. "Hey, Brian – I saw that doctor of yours – she's hot! And, man, I hear the nurses here are something to look at, too!"
"And you've got at least a week of sponge baths coming your way, bro!" Daniel added, making Brian smile.
"Time to go, boys," the recovery room nurse told them, coming to stand next to Brian, ready to check his vital signs again.
"Hey, take it easy, Brian," Evan said.
"We'll see you later, Bri," Daniel said.
Both brothers gave Brian a final pat on the shoulder before leaving and heading back down to the waiting room.
On the walk back neither was ready to broach the subject of what they had seen and by unspoken agreement, they didn't.