As sunlight filled the room Mike jerked awake. Confused his eyes swept the room, where was he? Through the window he saw the larger house and with that memory returned.
"Who are you?"
At the sound of the small voice Mike turned around to see a small boy of about three his dark eyes were filled with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion. This must be Brian's son Ian. He wondered how many other cousins he had and if any were near his age. "I'm Mike."
"How come you're on our couch?"
"Your dad said I could sleep here. You're Ian aren't you?"
Ian nodded. "Where's your mommy and daddy?"
Mike swallowed hard, blinking rapidly to hold back the tears. He was too old to cry. He was trying to figure out how to respond when Becky swept into the room, distracting the toddler from his questions.
Becky had heard Ian's innocent question as she opened her bedroom door. She hadn't slept well, visions of Crane lying on the floor in a pool of blood keeping her from the sleep she needed. Hearing voices she had decided to get up and start the day, everybody needed to eat and chores would have to be done no matter what else was happening.
Scooping her son up she carried him towards the kitchen. "What do you want for breakfast bug?"
"Pancakes!" Ian shouted.
Becky winced, one day she would learn to wait until Ian was in his chair to ask questions. "Pancakes okay with you Mike?" she asked with a glance towards the living room.
"Ma'am makes me feel old, think you could try Aunt Becky or just Becky?" Setting Ian on his booster seat she began to pull out the ingredients for pancakes.
"Sausages too?" Ian asked.
Becky smiled and tweaked his nose. "Sausages too bug."
Mike got up and started folding the bedding Brian had brought out last night. He wondered what the other relatives would be like? Would they hate him for what he'd done? Stupid question, of course they would. He sank onto the couch, bedding clutched in his arms, he never should have come here. Why hadn't he just accepted Jeff? If he had...
"Penny for your thoughts," Brian sat down next to the boy. "Guess they're probably worth more than a penny."
Mike shrugged. "Not worth that much."
Brian frowned. "Yeah? Looked like pretty serious thoughts, those are usually worth more than a penny."
"They're going to hate me."
"No they won't."
"They should, you should, he should," Mike's voice broke.
"Hey," Brian wrapped an arm around the boy's shoulders, "nobody hates you and that includes your dad."
"He tell you that?"
"So he could hate me."
Brian sighed. "No Mike he couldn't."
Mike glared at his uncle. "You don't know that."
"Yeah I do, want to know how?"
Mike shrugged. He wanted to believe the man but wasn't sure he dared.
"Crane is my brother and I helped to raise him, I know him almost as well as I know myself. There is no way on this earth that the brother I know could ever hate a child, especially his own."
"But I shot him," Mike whispered miserably.
"You didn't mean to and Crane knows that. Everybody knows it, well except the kids. I don't know if they told them why Crane is in the hospital." Brian turned towards the kitchen, calling to Becky who soon appeared in the doorway.
"You bellowed?" she teased.
"I was just wondering what the kids know?"
Becky glanced behind her but Ian was absorbed in patting out sausage patties and paying them no attention. "Not much, we only told them that Crane had an accident and is in the hospital. None of us thought they needed to know more than that, at least not until they go back to school. We'll have to tell Sam and Davey then, at the very least."
"What about me?"
Brian turned to the boy, "What do you mean?"
"Ian asked where my folks are, the other kids will too won't they? What do I tell them?" Mike had never had cousins before but he'd always thought it'd be cool to have more family. He didn't want to lie to them but if they knew the truth he was sure they'd hate him, no matter what Brian said.
"We tell them the truth," Becky replied.
Mike paled, "But..."
"You've been living with your mom and came to visit your dad now that you're older," Becky offered the boy an understanding smile.
"Mommy sausages are ready," Ian called.
Becky sighed dramatically, eyes twinkling with humor, "Duty calls."
"I guess that's not really a lie is it?"
Brian shook his head. It was obvious Mike didn't want his cousins to know the full truth and he couldn't honestly blame him. "You have been living with your mom haven't you?"
"And you came here to see Crane?"
Another nod was Mike's only response.
"Then it isn't a lie."
"But I'm why he's in the hospital, isn't it lying not to tell?"
"I guess some people would say it is but would it do anybody any good to tell your cousins the whole truth?"
Mike considered the question carefully. "Guess not," he finally answered.
"We won't lie to them Mike, but they don't need the whole story yet."
In a motel several hundred miles to the north Carrie shook Jeff awake. "Jeff, wake up. We need to get on the road." She hadn't wanted to stop the night before and it had taken all of Jeff's persuasive skills to convince her of the need. He was too tired to drive and Carrie had known it was true, just as she'd known he was right in saying she was in no condition to drive. Still she had argued, right up until Jeff reminded her that if anything happened to her Mike would be left alone. But now it was morning and she was anxious to get back on the road.
Jeff moaned, forcing his eyes open. He had never liked mornings but for once he made no protest at being woke up. Glancing at the clock he saw it was five o'clock, was the sun even up this early? Rolling over he pulled Carrie to him, kissing her gently. "You okay?"
"Ready to get going."
"That isn't what I asked babe."
Carrie snuggled close, "As good as I can be."
"Guess that's all I can ask for." Jeff gave her one more kiss and threw back the covers. "Think we can have breakfast before we leave?"
Carrie wanted to scream no but she knew they both needed to eat. She wouldn't do Mike any good if she got sick and Jeff needed to keep his strength up if he was going to drive. She wasn't as shaky this morning as she had been yesterday but with only a little sleep she was in no shape to get behind the wheel. "Can it be quick?"
"Of course. You know I saw a diner next door when we pulled in last night, why don't I go get breakfast while you take a shower," Jeff suggested.
"I'd rather just stop at a fast food place," Carrie protested.
Jeff put his hands on her shoulders. "Carrie, babe, I love you but you look a mess right now and I don't think you want Mike to see you like this." Even a shower wouldn't do anything for the dark circles under her eyes but it would do a bit to revive her, that and a change of clothes would make her look more like the mother Mike knew.
Carrie nodded. "You're right," she conceded defeat with a heavy sigh.
Jeff kissed her soundly. "Of course I am," he teased. Before she could reply he made his escape thankful that he had slept in his clothes the previous night.
Hannah shifted on the small couch, nearly rolling off in the process. Sitting up she saw Adam slumped in a chair, his chin resting on his chest as he slept fitfully. She glanced at her watch, surprised to see it was already five. Standing up she stretched and went in search of a nurse and coffee, not necessarily in that order. She wondered if the doctor had come by while they had been sleeping. No, surely not or he would have awakened them.
Finding coffee took very little time but there were no nurses to be seen. They must all be busy with patients she decided. Carrying an extra cup for Adam she made her way back to the waiting room, nearly colliding with Dr. Atherton at the entrance.
"How's Crane?" she asked without preamble.
"Holding his own," Neil replied. Crossing the room he sat down in a chair across from the sleeping Adam McFadden. Before he could wake him Hannah had set the coffee aside and was reaching out, gently shaking her husband awake.
Adam jerked, for a second confused and then his eyes landed on the doctor. "Crane?"
"He's holding his own."
Neil sighed. "He's developing a nice case of peritonitis in spite of the antibiotics."
"I thought that was supposed to stop it," Adam's tone was almost accusatory and Hannah laid a hand on his knee. "Sorry, not your fault."
"That's alright," Neil waved away the apology. "I had hoped the antibiotics would prevent any problems, unfortunately it wasn't enough. We've added a few things to the treatment plan and upped the dosage on his medications, hopefully it'll be enough." Neil didn't think they needed to know all of the details of Crane's treatment.
"What if it isn't?" Hannah asked the question Adam couldn't bring himself to voice.
"Then we'll have to take him back into surgery. Surgery, any surgery, is risky and in Crane's weakened state it would be even more so. In this case an operation really is the course of last resort."
"Can we see him?" Adam asked in a voice that was much too small.
Neil sighed, he truly regretted his response. "Not yet Adam. He's had a rough night and needs to rest."
Adam nodded, he had expected that. "Doc, what does this do for Crane's chances?"
He had really hoped neither of them would ask that. He should have known better. "I wish I could tell you a comforting lie but I don't believe in giving false hopes."
Adam gasped, grabbing onto Hannah's hand and squeezing tightly. It was probably too tight but she never made a sound. "How bad?"
"At this point I'd say his chances are an even 50-50. If we can get the peritonitis on the run they'll go up." It went without saying that the longer the peritonitis continued the lower Crane's chance of survival would become. "I'll be back to check on him in a while and the nurses have orders to contact me if there are any changes before then."
Adam nodded. It was left to Hannah to thank the doctor whom she absently did. As it always was in a crisis her attention was on her husband first and family second, with the rest of the world a distant third.
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