A/N Okay guys. This is the FINAL CHAPTER… And I am about to cry! I had so much fun writing this story, even though it's different than what I usually write being it was in first person the whole time. It was an awesome challenge and I am actually really happy with the way this story turned out, it was exactly how I planned and honestly, it's perfect to me because usually my stories just drift off and explode into weirdness after a while lol. So I am really happy I got to finish this as planned and I am so happy you all liked this story and supported it! Okay enough cuteness onto the finale ;)
I'm not sure what happened after everything went black. All I knew, was that I was not dead. I could not move or speak, but I could feel so much. I was very vaguely aware of the icy cold feeling rushing through my veins after nearly freezing to death, and then I was warm, but the coldness was replaced by unbearable pain. If I really were dead, I would not be in the tremendous ordeal of pain that overtook all of my senses. Soon though, the agony faded away and I felt nothing, nothing but fear. I was searching through a dark oblivion, although I wasn't moving-I couldn't, it was as if I was paralyzed, for Carlos. I knew he was nearby, but I couldn't see, hear or feel him. I was so scared for my brother. Sorrow filled my heart as I wondered if I would ever get to see his angelic face again. Would I be left here forever to worry if Carlos was okay or not? Had he died? Was he in pain? Or was he just as lost as I was? I was not scared for myself. Carlos was the only one on my mind.
I wasn't in the oblivion for very long. It had felt like a short nightmare. I had prayed it was only a nightmare, and I guess for once my prayers were heard, because I started becoming aware of some things, like a distant beeping noise and a soft feeling beneath my body. I was, for the first time in so long, comfortable. I somehow knew that I wasn't in the snow anymore. I was somewhere warm and safe. I could actually feel the blood pumping through my veins, spreading warmth throughout my body, rather than that frozen feeling I had become so accustomed to.
As these things became more and more intense, more real, I opened my eyes-
Only to be met with more darkness.
Panic rushed through me as I gasped for air, which was for some reason, hard to do. Something was in my throat! I began to cough and gag and my hand automatically went to my mouth to yank whatever was blocking airflow away from my throat. I tugged harshly and the thing was removed, but I felt like I literally ripped my throat out! A warm, iron-tasting liquid trickled down my throat. I let out a dry sob and tried to call out for my mom from the extreme pain, but no sound came out. I couldn't cry for help. I was alone, just like I had been all this time, but I wished I was still where ever I was before I woke up, because that place was strangely peaceful, while here I felt hysterical with pain and panic.
He was still lost. However confused and delirious I was, I still managed to roll off the bed I was lying in, desperate to find him since I knew could move. But as soon as my feet touched solid ground, I collapsed as if I really were still paralyzed. I could not hold my own weight, let alone get up from my sprawled-out position on the floor.
Someone said my name, and it was so familiar and sweet that I immediately calmed down despite the fact I was silently crying my eyes out on the floor. The room I was in was suddenly washed out with whiteness. I blinked rapidly as the white burned my eyes. I tried to scream, but it was raspy and barely audible and only made my throat burn even more. I coughed and more of that mystery liquid spewed from my mouth. I was nearly choking on it.
"Ssh, ssh, calm down," the voice told me, and the familiarity was killing me. He was stern yet soothing and when large arms wrapped around my trembling frame, I leaned into them and wept openly.
"Jamie, you're alright. Look at me, it's Kendall. I'm right here."
Tender fingers were placed beneath my chin and the voice willed me to open my eyes into tiny slits. I ignored the brightness of the lights and focused on the eyes that looked like two green gems staring at me.
I clung onto Kendall as if he was my lifeline. He was talking to somebody, even though his eyes were focused on mine, but I couldn't see who in the room with us.
"Call in a doctor! He ripped out his breathing tube and he's bleeding! James, you need to calm down, you're okay. You're going to be alright, buddy."
Memories of me holding Carlos in the exact same way and saying the same things to comfort him flooded my delirious mind. I had to find him. Was he dead? Had only I made it out alive?
"Cuh-Cuh," I choked out. It felt like knives were in my throat, cutting me open each time I tried to speak.
"Ssh, don't speak James. Do you remember what happened?" When I didn't answer, just continued to sob for Carlos, Kendall explained to me where I was. "Listen to me buddy. You were lost in the woods for nearly five days. By some miracle, an old woodcutter living nearby found you and Carlos…" Kendall's voice cut off, and I realized he was crying. It dawned on me that he was probably as scared as I was. I leaned into his chest and kissed his neck, silently urging him that it was okay to go on since I couldn't speak. Kendall wiped crystal tears from his eyes-I was so happy to see those emerald eyes again- before he went on.
"He found you boys at the last minute. You both were severely hypothermic. Nobody thought you would make it… They assumed you were dead b-but I knew better. I knew you could do it, James. I knew you would make it. Y-you have frostbite pretty bad, that's why your legs are bandaged and you can't walk. It's worst in your feet and legs, because you were soaking wet on your bottom half, somehow. I have no idea what kind of hell you went through James but I am so, so sorry and I am so grateful you are awake."
Kendall began to weep on my shoulder and we held each other as I tried to take everything in. My brain was starting to clear and I didn't so much feel like I was having an out of body experience anymore. This was real. I was alive, and awake, and I had survived being stranded in a frozen wilderness. So many questions raged in my suddenly buzzing mind, but only one stood out more important than the rest. Where was Carlos? How could he still be alive, after everything he had gone through with infections, hypothermia, exhaustion, starvation and pneumonia. What kind of condition could he possibly be in if he wasn't dead?
Though I wanted to continue to comfort Kendall, I pulled back slightly and placed my hands, which were bandaged as well, on his biceps, praying he'd be able to read my questioning expression. Kendall looked like he was trying to decipher what I was trying to communicate with him, and it didn't take long for him to realize what I was trying to say. Though he looked solemn, he opened his mouth to speak, right when doctors flooded the room. I looked up, frightened by their sudden appearance. They took me from Kendall's arms and I let out a scream of terror that ravaged my abused throat. I was too weak to cling to Kendall. They took me from him and it felt like my entire world was crashing down because of it. I needed his arms, I needed that safe place after such a terrifying, living nightmare.
"It's okay, they're going to take care of you James. Don't cry!"
Logan was speaking now. I looked into his chocolate brown eyes, his sweet eyes that I never thought I'd see again, and broke down even more.
"Logie," I rasped out.
"I'm here," Logan assured me, and it was all I needed for my heart to stop pounding so wildly in my chest.
"Don't speak honey," a female doctor told me. "You ripped out your breathing tube and it caused damage to your throat. He's going to need stitches, guys. Get him prepped for surgery, stat."
I shook my head. I couldn't go into surgery. I couldn't be asleep again! What if I didn't wake up this time? I needed to find Carlos!
"Carlos!" I yelled out, trying to avoid the pesky doctors from working on me as if I were their pet. "P-please…" I began to cry, dreading the news that was most likely coming. But I had to know.
"He needs to know where Carlos is!" Kendall said, finally catching on. Suddenly, he was in my line of vision rather than the doctors. His warm hands were on my forehead, stroking my hair back rhythmically. "James, he's alive. Carlos is alive, buddy."
I closed my eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. The pain in my throat was threatening to blacken me out, and I could hear frantic beeping, but I didn't realize that it was my heart monitor going crazy. When I opened my eyes again, Kendall was staring back at me with tear filled eyes. I knew it, and it was like a knife being shoved in my gut. Carlos was not okay. How could he be okay? He may be alive… But for how long?
"He's in a coma, James," Kendall told me, choking up. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry!"
Logan came into view, tears flooding from his chocolate eyes as well as he held Kendall by his quivering shoulders. This wasn't fair. My beautiful friends were crying so much and it hurt as much as my throat did. I didn't know why it was Kendall who was saying he was sorry, when it was my fault Carlos was almost dead. It was my fault he had to go through so much. I was supposed to protect him!
"He's becoming too excited, we need to put him to sleep now," a doctor announced. I shook my head. I tried to say no over and over again, but all that came out were raspy croaks.
"It's okay, we'll be right here when you wake up."
I continued to chant "no" over and over again in my brain, thrashing around as a mask came closer and closer to my face. I didn't want to face the darkness again, but it crept around my vision like flooding ink and my body finally relaxed…
The next time I awoke was much less terrifying. I felt like I was floating on a cloud, and my first thought above anything else was "Am I high?" Because that was how it certainly felt like. I was also very warm, lying against something solid and… Breathing?
I opened my eyes to find I was snuggled in Kendall's arms. He was sleeping beside me, tear streaks across his flushed cheeks indicating he had been crying. Logan was curled up at the foot of my bed like a tiny kitten. He even let out mewling sounds once in a while. It was so cute. I was comfy, although I felt so disconnected that I couldn't even move a muscle. They must have knocked me full of pain medication because I literally felt nothing but warmth.
The emotional torture had yet to kick in. Now, I was content with my friends surrounding me, the way it should be. Maybe one full minute had passed before I realized Carlos was missing. Before I remembered he was in a coma, probably to never wake up again. And then I had that stabbing-in-the-gut pain again, despite the fact I was unbelievably high. I must have been crying, because Kendall and Logan woke up immediately and began to comfort me.
"Hey, ssh, it's alright. What hurts?" Logan asked me, pressing his hand against my forehead and neck. I tried to speak, but no sound came out.
"You can't speak buddy, you had stitches put in," Logan explained. "You have to point to what hurts."
I shook my head, because it was the truth, nothing physical hurt at all. I had no way to communicate because my fingers weren't worth much as they were bandaged up, so I couldn't write down my questions. I wanted to know everything, like how long I had been out for, what Carlos' entire condition was, if my parents were staying sane.
I closed my ears and cleared my throat and forced words to come out. They sounded scratchy and broken, and even through all the pain medication I was hyped up on, knives seemed to tear at my throat. "Tell me everything," I said simply, hoping they'd get the idea.
Kendall and Logan each exchanged a glance with each other, mentally preparing themselves for whatever they needed to say. I knew that talking about it probably put them back through the hell they had gone through while Carlos and I were missing, but I needed to know.
"Okay, we'll start at day one," Logan said, mustering up the strength to speak first. I could see tears well hidden behind sad chocolate eyes. I wanted to hold him so badly, but I listened to his story first. "We both noticed you missing at the same time, but it wasn't soon enough. We first thought you and Carlos were playing a joke or goofing off somewhere so we yelled out for you guys, but you never answered. So we went on towards camp, figuring you guys w-would follow us," Logan looked down, guilt evident on his soft features. I frowned with sympathy. He was blaming himself for our disappearance, even though nothing he could have done would have prevented it. "I knew you both knew we're our campsite was and that you'd show up eventually. I had no idea you were lost, James. We waited there for two hours. We thought you'd come back, but you never did." A few tears escaped Logan's eyes and he stopped talking to sniffle and wipe the wetness from his pale cheeks. Kendall put his arm around Logan and picked up where the smaller boy left off.
"We were getting really worried," Kendall said. "Like, more worried than I ever have felt before, because it was dark out and you guys still weren't there. My stomach hurt so bad and I was sweating with fear. I knew something wasn't right, that you two weren't just playing a game. We walked around a bit, calling for you guys. All these scenarios kept replaying in my head that you guys were attacked by a bear or got hurt or bit by a snake or something. It was hard to search for you guys at night, so we headed to the ranger station and pleaded with them to help us find you. They denied us at first, because search parties don't usually leave 'til morning. But we threatened to start our own search party, and they saw we were serious. So they sent out a small search team and made us stay at the ranger's cabin. Well, tried to, anyway. We talked them into letting us come with. We were led everywhere, but only to dead end paths. Each hour was worse than the last. Just knowing you guys were out there alone, unprotected and scared… It was the first time I never was able to help you in some way. It was tearing me apart. I thought I'd never see you again."
Kendall suddenly leaned forward in an act of vulnerability I wasn't used to seeing. He pressed my face against my chest and wept, his salty tears soaking through my hospital gown. I didn't care though. I held him in the crook of my arms and buried my face in his golden hair. He was releasing everything he had been holding in the entire time we had been missing. Knowing Kendall, he probably didn't spill one tear while we were missing, for Logan's sake and for his own. Kendall was strange like that. He liked to be strong until he couldn't anymore.
"You ended up in Manitoba," Logan continued. "That's where you were finally found. God, we were still looking in Minnesota for you. We weren't anywhere near you guys. You trekked through so much wilderness, and you were finally near civilization before… Well, I don't really kno0w what happened, but before you almost died. The old woodcutter said he heard sobbing and came over on his range rover to find you and Carlos, practically frozen together. He thought you were dead at first, the both of you. He wrapped you in blankets and got you back into town as quick as he could. They had to um…" Logan scratched the back of his neck, looking a bit pained. "Y-you're vitals were brought up fairly quickly, though you were placed in critical condition for a while but Carlos… He was dead on arrival and they had to resuscitate him. His body temperature was only 80 degrees."
I felt an invisible hand punch me in the gut when Logan told me that. It was like all the breath was sucked out of me. How could anybody survive something like that?
"How?" I choked out. It was just one little word, but they knew what I meant.
"The doctors said that it's common to be able to resuscitate somebody from severe hypothermia. A body can stay alive for hours in that condition. But Carlos was on his last hour. His body is traumatized. He's been comatose since he was found. His body temperature was brought up to normal, but now he is running a fever from a bad infection in his arm and the pneumonia. They have him on all kinds of antibiotics," Logan told me. "It's been three days since you were found, James. You weren't in a coma, the doctors said you just needed time to recover, and you'd regain consciousness when you were ready. We were afraid you wouldn't wake up either. We were so afraid that even though we found you both, you guys would never wake up again and we'd just have to say goodbye…" Logan swallowed roughly, and I opened up my arms for him to join Kendall. I let their tears run out before kissing them each on the head and pulling away slightly.
"W-wanna see… Carlos," I rasped. I winced from the pain in my throat and coughed. Kendall looked unsure and Logan shook his head, but I grasped their hands best I could pleadingly. Logan sighed.
"Okay, come on buddy," Kendall gave in first, naturally. He never could deny me anything, all it took was one look and a bat of my eyelashes and he'd cave.
I smiled my thanks, sighing with relief. Kendall stuck one arm beneath my legs and the other behind my back. I startled a bit and looked at him questioningly.
"Relax, you can't walk," Kendall said. He lifted me up swiftly. I nervously hung onto his neck, because he never was able to pick me up, seeing as I was much larger than him.
"Don't worry, I won't drop you. You lost a lot of weight while you were gone," Kendall told me. He carried me to a wheelchair and set me down gently, then wheeled me across the white-washed halls of the hospital up to where all the patients who were in critical condition were kept. Everyone was really sick over there. It was kind of frightening. I wondered if Carlos looked as bad off as some of those patients did.
Finally, we arrived at a small room. Kendall opened the door and wheeled me inside. I saw a lump on the bed, covered with a white blanket. Brightly colored balloons with happy faces that said "get well soon" decorated the room, and music was playing out of a radio from the corner of the room.
"They told us music might help him come back to us," Logan told me when he saw I was eyeing the radio. "They say to keep talking to him, hold his hand and give him kisses and stuff. It's all we can do to help him find his way back."
Kendall took me over to Carlos' bedside. Tears immediately pricked my eyes 'cause this was the first time I had seen him since the fateful night we had laid down to die. We had said our goodbye's, I had prepared to never see his face… I thought I was never going to see him again. Overwhelming emotion hit me as I peered at Carlos, who appeared smaller then I remember. He hardly looked the same at all. His skin was a pale gray color and his lips were white. I know a lot of comatose people look so normal, like they are just merely sleeping. But Carlos literally looked sick.
I wanted to stroke his cheek and run my fingers through his hair so badly, but I could hardly move my fingers at all. So I settled on easing myself out of the wheelchair to lay with him for a while.
"Careful," Kendall warned, helping me a little. I settled down next to Carlos and swung an arm over his middle, resting my head on his chest. I felt his small body move up and down with each gentle breath he took, heard the tiny, butterfly-wing sound of his heart beating against my ear. It was all I had wanted to hear, all that I feared losing. My prayers were answered, I got to see Carlos again.
Suddenly, I felt somebody lean against my back. I glanced over to see Logan sitting behind me, watching Carlos as he slept.
"You know, there's nothing stronger than brotherhood," Logan said softly. "Something I learned a long time ago. You're the reason he's alive. He wouldn't be here without you. I hope you know that."
I nodded, tears silently slipping down my cheeks as my body trembled. Kendall joined us on the small bed, curling up so we all fit together snugly. We were all together again, just as we should be, just as I feared we would never be again. Kendall and Logan hugged me as I cried, my tears landing on Carlos' pale face.
"I missed you so much," Kendall said, and I could hear tears in his voice as well. I nodded and sniffed, holding onto him. I missed him and Logan too, more than anything. Now that we were finally together again, I never wanted to let them go. It was the most powerful feeling ever, and it was almost healing. I felt so much better, so much safer, like everything was finally going to be okay.
I felt something stir beneath me, and I opened my eyes, confused. Kendall and Logan noticed this too, because they all sat up curiously.
"Carlos?" I rasped. It was too good to be true. Surely I didn't feel him moving, did I? It had to be my imagination, only because I wanted it so much. I needed it to be true.
Carlos let out a quiet moaning sound. My mind swarmed with relief and anxiety at the same time. Oh God, please let this be real…
"Carlos, I'm right here," I said shakily, wincing at the roughness in my throat. Long, black eyelashes fluttered momentarily, and two lost, innocent eyes stared back at me. I saw the little deer we had met the day we strayed from the path into the woods. I saw the little boy I grew up with and protected my whole life, the same boy who I thought for sure died in my arms. And by some miraculous grace of God, here he was in my arms again days later, blinking those precious brown eyes, full of life again. He threw his arms around me and sobbed in my chest and we all broke down together, four brothers reunited, because there really was no such thing stronger than brotherhood.
A/N IT'S FINISHED YAY! AH-HAPPY DANCE! I just thank all of you guys so much for reading another one of my stories and sticking with it 'til the end. I just love you so much. I hope you enjoyed this little story. It's just for you guys. 'Til the next story-xoxoxoxxoxoxo! And one last review? ;)