Author's note #1: My dearest readers, my sincerest apologies for the delay. Warning: Minor Language. Please enjoy.
Disclaimer: I do not own Big Time Rush and I am not profiting from writing this story.
Chapter 12 - Knowing Your Weaknesses, But Showing You Your Strengths
Gabriel shook his head once again as he tried to figure out how his night turned out like this. He had planned to wear out the snowstorm in his little cabin like he always did. He had plenty of wood for the fireplace, enough candles and blankets for warmth, and a supply of food that would last him for a month. He had been prepared for anything that this storm could bring him. However, he had not been prepared for the four injured car accident victims that had found their way to his front door. Yes, there was no level of preparation for that. Fortunately, Gabriel's years in the army had prepared him to expect the unexpected. These four kids were definitely unexpected, but he welcomed them into his home, providing them shelter from the storm and any assistance to their wounds. He knew he would be in for a long night.
As Gabriel left the side of the raven haired boy who slept on his bed, he was thankful to see that his breathing remained free of any sign of distress. He visibly cringed as he remembered the look of pure fear in the boy's brown eyes as he struggled for breathe, the air in chest cavity keeping him from breathing properly and the copious amount of blood occluding his airway. Thankfully, the chest tube was successfully working, collecting the blood that was affecting the kid's breathing. While he was alarmed at the constant rate and the large amount of output, he tried to remain positive of the boy's prognosis.
Turning, his eyes fell on the blond haired boy who had been so worried of his friend's well being. Gabriel was fortunate that he caught the kid in time before he collapsed to the ground as dead weight. He currently rested on the old wicker chair that stood in the corner of his room. He couldn't tell if the boy collapsed from his ensuing panic attack, out of pure exhaustion, or if it was the delayed reaction from a concussion; Gabriel had noticed a small amount of dried blood around his temple. No, it was the kid's shoulder that worried him. Several bones jutted out from under his skin and his arm laid against his body in an awkward angle. Though he knew it would be better to set the bones as soon as possible, he decided to let the kid sleep, choosing to put the arm in a sling for added support until he could fix the broken bones. The boy needed his rest, Gabriel thought as he placed a pillow securely behind his head and a sheet over his body before he left the room.
He closed the door behind him and turned to the blank stare of the tall brown haired boy. He seemed to stare aimlessly into the space directly in front of him as he cradled his sleeping friend in his arms. Gabriel's attention immediately went to the unconscious smaller boy who had a bandage wrapped around his head, clearly indicating he had suffered a head injury. The fact that he was not awake, however, was even more troubling. A sleeping concussed boy was never a good sign.
Seeing as the brown haired boy was the only other person awake, Gabriel approached him. The kid was clearly in shock. His current demeanor wasn't the same as when he first appeared at his doorstep. At that time, the boy was erratic, hard to tame, and vocal. Now, he sat emotionless and bore a flat affect. Yet, Gabriel didn't hold that fact against him; he was pretty sure that all these kids had been through, shock was probable reaction.
"Hey, kid, why don't you get some rest? You must be tired," Gabriel asked softly as he walked toward the sitting boy.
"No, I'm fine. Thank you," was the only response, the kid's mouth barely moving to release the words.
"How about food? You must be hungry. I can bring you something to -"
"No, I'm fine. Thank you," he said once again, barely acknowledging the older man's presence.
"Okay, well, it looks like you have a nasty cut on your leg. I could take a look at that if you want."
"No, I'm fine. Thank you."
And with that, Gabriel was sure his earlier prediction would be true. This was going to be a long night.
Kendall's senses were aware that something was wrong even before he had opened his eyes. Still resting peacefully in the realms of unconsciousness, the soft pillow under his neck, the warm sheet against his skin, even the sweet scent of the fabric softener that encased him - they all felt nice, which he knew was wrong. He shouldn't be feeling like this. He and his friends were in a horrible car accident. They were in the middle of a snowstorm fighting for their lives. Carlos had succumbed to his concussion and had lost consciousness. James's leg continued to bleed. Logan had a tube sticking from his chest, helping him to breathe. Even he had to admit his injuries were taking a toll on him; he was losing feeling in his right arm by the minute and was certain that it wasn't attributed to the cold temperatures. With all those horrible truths, Kendall couldn't imagine how he could feel so safe and sound in his unconscious state. He couldn't understand how he could welcome the sense of security it was offering him when in reality he had lost his hold on rational thought. However, in the recesses of his mind, he knew why he welcomed those feelings, why they ignited in him such a sense of comfort - it reminded him of the one place he longed to be. It reminded Kendall of home.
Just the thought of home brought images of the Palm Woods and the apartment 2J to flood his dream like state. The apartment looked exactly how it had the day they left, only neater, his mother picking up all the clothes they had managed to throw around while they packed. He could picture his mother behind the stove pulling out a platter of fish sticks and corn dogs, a smile on her face as she awaited the arrival of her boys after their long drive home. Katie was there, too, sitting at the kitchen counter, formulating her next get rich scheme off of the band's success. Camille and Jo sat on the orange sofa each awaiting the arrival of their respective boyfriends; Camille sitting impatiently, ready to propel herself into Logan's arms and Jo counting the seconds until Kendall walked through the door. Gustavo and Kelly were there as well, demos and schedule changes in hand to inform the band as soon as possible. All his loved ones' was in that little apartment waiting eagerly for the band's arrival, waiting for the final pieces of their dysfunctional family to return home.
That was how Kendall imagined his friends and family at home, but in the back of his mind, he knew that wasn't reality. It couldn't be. He and the guys were expected back hours ago; after informing his mother of their plans to leave the ski lodge early, she had probably expected her boys home by late afternoon or early evening. While Kendall didn't know the exact time, he was well aware that they had surpassed their time of arrival hours ago. His family and friends were probably sick with worry at their absence. The serene and tranquil images of home that arose in his subconscious were just cruel figments of his imagination. Yes, now the true images of home were coming to fruition in Kendall's mind. While before the scene was happy and bright in 2J, the scene now was sad and dreary.
In this dream, he stood aside watching the horrible scene in front of him. He was forced to watch the tears flow down his loved ones' faces and hear their worry filled voices question their whereabouts. Kendall wanted so badly to reach out to his mother, to yell at her that he was okay, that they were all okay. He wanted to let her know that they were trying everything in their power to get back home. But, in this twisted form of his imagination, he remained invisible, his shouts falling on deaf ears. Momentarily shocked at his own invisibility, Kendall could only look on in sadness at his worried loved ones as his imagination played out.
"Where are they?" His mother cried, as she looked at the clock for the hundredth time just to see that only two minutes had passed since she last checked the time.
"Mom, I-I-I'm sure they're okay," Katie replied, though her voice betrayed the confidence she hoped to portray for her mother. Looking younger than her years, Katie blinked the tears from her eyes, willing them not to fall.
"Yes, Mrs. Knight, they probably just got stuck in that snowstorm and Logan is being cautious and just driving slowly through the storm," Kelly added.
"But, Logan would have called!" Camille screamed, as she rose from the couch in anger. For hours, she sat frozen on the couch, too scared to move until her boyfriend came home. But, she had finally reached her boiling point, where she couldn't take the uncertainty any longer. "He wouldn't keep us worried. He wouldn't keep me worried. His phone wouldn't be going to voicemail. Something's wrong. They should be home by now."
"Camille!" Jo shouted, standing beside her emotional friend, and forcing her to end her tearful tirade. "You can't think like that, okay. We have to stay positive. They'll be home before you know it."
"No, Camille is right," Mrs. Knight whispered. "Something is wrong. I can feel it. Something happened to them. They're in trouble. I should probably call the police to -"
"Jennifer, that is not necessary. I'm sure everything is okay," Gustavo replied.
"No! I know my boys. I know there is something. Call it a mother's intuition, but I know that they need me. Kendall needs me. They are in troub-"
A knock on the door forced his mother to stop mid-sentence. Time seemed to stand still as all the occupants in the room stared at the wooden door, each hopeful and yet fearful of who or what was on the other side. Mrs. Knight was the first to move out of the momentary paralysis and made her way over to the door. With a shaking hand, she grabbed hold of the handle and, with a deep sigh of courage, she pulled the door open.
"Bitters! You almost gave me a heart attack," Mrs. Knight said, with a soft chuckle to herself at the crazy things she allowed to enter her head at the sound of the unexpected knock. She chastised herself for being so dramatic with her thoughts. "Is everything okay? Why don't you come in? We're just waiting for the boys to come back from their ski trip. They're running a little late, but they should be here any min-"
"Jennifer," Bitters cut in. "There are a couple of people who want to talk to you."
He stepped aside revealing two grim faced police officers. It was then that Mrs. Knight realized her crazy foolish thoughts were indeed real.
"Mrs. Knight?" One of the officers asked, taking the hat off his head to address her. However, stoic and frozen by this change of event, Mrs. Knight was unable to respond to her name as she stared unblinking at the officers in front of her. She was barely able to nod her head as affirmation, allowing the man to continue. "I am so sorry to inform you, but there has been an accident."
Glass shattered to the ground as Katie lost the grip of the glass of water she had been clinging to for hours. Just like the fleeting hope she had for her brother's safe return, the glass laid broken and shattered on the floor.
"We found your son's car wrecked on the side of the road several miles from-"
"N-N-No... You're - you're wrong. My son - my son is okay. My boys are fine. They - they are fine."
"Mrs. Knight, it appears the car slammed head on into a tree and a resulting gas leak caused the car to explode."
"Oh, God! Logan!" Camille screamed, as body racking sobs consumed her. Jo was unable to offer any comfort this time; as she processed the officer's words, she herself became overcome with emotion.
"The car was deserted. There was no sign of life. We are currently searching the area around the crash site for any and all survivors," the officer continued.
"They all are okay. They are fine. They are on their way home. Safe and sound. They are coming home. I mean, I have their favorite foods waiting for them and - and their girlfriends are here. They're coming home," Mrs. Knight repeated, making her way to the kitchen, hoping to distance herself from the horrible truths that were being told to her. She refused to believe those words. "They are okay."
"That might very well be true, Mrs. Knight, but you need to be prepared for the worst. There is a very great chance they didn't survive the accident."
At that, Mrs. Knight resolve broke. As tears cascaded down her cheek, she whispered, "Oh, Kendall" as she fainted to the ground.
Kendall awoke from that nightmare with a start. His forehead was drenched with sweat and his breaths came in quick pants of air. It took a few minutes to settle his racing heart and calm his fast breathing. It took even longer to control his jumbled thoughts. The thoughts were fleeting but Kendall knew it had something to do with home and he couldn't stop the pang of longing that stabbed at his heart from the memory. Yet, a cold breeze tickled his skin and alerted his nerve endings that he was presently miles away from home.
He sat up gingerly, careful not to aggravate his shoulder, even though it still managed to sting in protest at the movement. Sometime while he was asleep, his arm was placed back in a sling; he was grateful for the added support. He doubted he would have been able to move otherwise. Sitting up, Kendall took in his surroundings. In his haste to reach the cabins to save Logan, he didn't have a chance to get a look at the environment. The room he was currently in was large with few furniture to take up the great deal of space it had to offer. Instead, all that resided in the room was a large wooden king sized bed, a matching wooden night stand, a large antique looking chest that rested on the wall opposite the bed. There was no light in the room, the lone lamp either bulb-less or broken to provide any illumination to the room. The only source of light came through the small square window that allowed the moon's orb to brighten the entire room with a eerie blue hue. In the light, Kendall could make out the only other occupant in the room, Logan lying on the bed and like a moth to a flame, he felt himself pulled toward his resting friend.
Logan rested peacefully on the bed, the face that was once etched with agonizing pain, was now void of any emotion as he laid unconscious. In his sleep, Kendall noticed that Logan had been cleaned up a bit, the remnants of dried blood removed from his face and he slept tucked in securely with blankets that made him look like a small child lost in the oversized bed. However, a part of his chest still remained exposed, revealing the site where Gabriel had placed a tube to help Logan breathe. Kendall had to physically close his eyes to stop those horrific images from resurfacing even though he knew they would stay with him forever. The tube, though covered with gauze and tape, looked grotesque and out of place to Kendall. It was connected to an even bigger tube that drained to a small bag. The small bag contained a large amount of dark red liquid and it was then, that Kendall realized that fluid that was being pulled out Logan's chest was blood. Kendall's heart dropped at the sight, not wanting to believe such a horrible fact. He was glad that Logan remained unconscious, while he would give anything to wake him up and make sure his friend was alright, he would be satisfied with the slightly uneven rise and fall of his chest that meant he was still breathing.
"You're going to be okay, buddy. We made it and now, you are going to be just fine," Kendall whispered, as he used his injured arm to stroke a few hairs off of Logan's forehead. The action surprised him, he had feared he had lost mobility in that arm from the injury. But he didn't have time to bask on that success, his attention remained fixed on Logan. "You just got to keep breathing for me, Loges, and then once you're feeling better and are well rested, you can fuss over us again. You can fix up James's leg and get Carlos to w-wake up-"
James. Carlos. His mind had been so focused on Logan when he had needed him earlier that he had left his other two friends. Similar to the pull that brought him toward Logan, Kendall couldn't fight the magnetic force that drew him to the door within seconds toward James and Carlos. It was the fact that he couldn't see them, that their fates were unknown to him that forced to swing the door open with a sense of urgency.
His eyes took a few minutes to adjust to the brightness of the new room. While the small bedroom had been cloaked in darkness, light overpowered the living room and overwhelmed his sensitive eyes. As soon as his eyes settled, Kendall could see the room was illuminated by a large raging fire that enveloped the equally large fireplace and dozens of candles that were placed throughout the room.
"K-K-Kendall!" James said, intending it to sound like a shout of joy, but the immense relief he felt at seeing Kendall caused it to come out with a tone of fatigue and sadness. James had been paralyzed in fear with little news about his friends. While the man who helped them tried to offer comforting words, they did little to ease his fear since he needed to see that his friends were okay. Finally, seeing Kendall gave him that comfort he needed and he was able to release the deep breathe had been holding since Kendall had entered the room.
Kendall didn't care how James sounded, all that he cared about was that his friend was able to call out his name at all. Rushing toward him, Kendall sat beside him on the floor next to the couch. If he had two working arms, he was certain he would pull James into an embrace and never let him go. He couldn't help the tears of relief that came to his eyes, now his heart could beat again, now he could breathe with ease.
"James... Thank God, James. Are you okay, man?" Kendall asked, looking him up and down, making sure no other hidden harms had found away to hurt another of his friends in his absence. Fortunately, aside from the bleeding leg, James remained unchanged in his state, albeit he looked much paler and a thin sheen of sweat seemed to have appeared on his forehead.
"I-I-I'm okay... I guess. The leg won't stop bleeding, but at least it doesn't hurt as much as it did before. I don't know if that is good or not," James replied, with no emotion in his voice. He could see Kendall's attention turn to his leg but there were more pressing matters to discuss than his bleeding. Before Kendall could ask him any questions about his leg, he continued. "How's Logan? He's okay, right? He has to be okay. Please, Kendall, tell me he's okay."
James looked up toward Kendall, with his brown eyes wide with anticipation, waiting for the words that would quell his dread at the situation. Kendall knew words like, "I don't know" or "We'll see" would not be good enough to calm his panicking friend even though those were the most realistic words he could say. He knew very little about Logan's well being, the only proof he had was the fact that he knew he was breathing. While he was thankful for that visual confirmation, it provided him with little proof of whether Logan would be okay or not. But he's breathing, that's all that matters, Kendall thought, As long as he's breathing, that means he'll be okay.
"Yea, buddy, he's okay," Kendall said, through an unnaturally hard lump that appeared in his throat as he said those words. James let out a deep sigh of relief at the words and Kendall couldn't help but think he had just given his friend false hope. Trying to forget about the overwhelming sense of guilt slowing overcoming him, Kendall turned his attention back to James and his wounds. "He's just resting. You should be resting too, James. After all we've been through, we have to rest to gain our strength."
"No, I'm good. I don't - don't need to sleep," James replied, shaking his head in refusal.
"What?" Kendall questioned.
"I don't need to go to sleep. I-I-I- can't go to sleep," James answered, simply.
"What do you mean? Of course, you can sleep."
"No, I have to stay awake. I have to be awake when Carlos wakes up."
"James..." Kendall began, but the lump in his throat that seemed to increase in size in a matter of seconds, stopped any other words from coming out. At the mention of Carlos, his eyes were immediately drawn to his unconscious friend lying on the couch across from them. His face remained expressionless, not a wrinkle of the forehead or a grimace of pain to signal any sign of distress. If the situation were different, if they hadn't been in a car crash and Carlos didn't suffer from a serious head injury, Kendall could really just convince himself that his friend was merely sleeping. That the slightest touch of a shoulder or the gentle murmur of his name could awake the usually light sleeper. But, things being as they were, Kendall knew better and the sight before him broke his heart. Carlos remained comatose and his body was either unwilling or unable to wake up. He looked so still, his face so void of emotion that Kendall couldn't help the thought that Carlos might already be gone.
Kendall physically shook his head to erase those thoughts from his mind. He knew he couldn't think like that. His friends needed him to remain strong. Clearing his throat, he returned his attention to his conscious friend.
"James, I know you are worried about Carlos, but you need to get your sleep too. You have been running on adrenaline all day. Your body needs some rest."
"No, I need to stay awake. Carlos - Carlos is going to be scared when he wakes up. He won't know where he is or what's going on. He's going to be so scared. I have to be awake to comfort him. I have to be awake for Carlos," James continued, unwavering in his determination to stay awake. However, the drooping of his weary eyelids and the look of pure exhaustion through those eyes, betrayed that determination.
"Of course, you need to sleep, buddy. Believe me, you look horrible. You have dark circles under your eyes and the beginning of at least three pimples. You obviously need your beauty rest," Kendall replied, hoping to appeal to James's vanity to get him to see reason.
"I don't care! None of that matters! All that matters is Carlos. I have to be here for him. He needs me and I have to awake for him."
James voice carried such a tone of finality, Kendall didn't know whether he should admire his friend's strong will or curse him for being so stubborn. Fortunately, Gabriel walked into the room to solve that problem.
"Oh, I knew I heard voices talking in here," the older man said, as he placed the tray full of food on the small table in front of the couch. "Knew I wasn't going crazy just yet. I see you are up," pointing to Kendall.
"Yea, I feel better. The rest really helped."
"All two of hours sleep, huh?" Gabriel said, not believing Kendall's words, however, he continued before Kendall had a chance to speak further. "Well, at least I got you to rest. This one of here won't close his eyes long enough to blink. I've been trying to get him to rest for awhile."
"And like, I told you I have to stay -"
"Yea, yea, yea. I know you, you want to stay awake for your friend over here. And like I told you, we won't know when he'll wake up. It might be hours, it might be days. There is no way of telling if - I mean, when he's going to wake up."
The slip did not go unnoticed by Kendall, but he quickly took the attention off of Gabriel's words as he came up with a compromise to get James to go to sleep.
"How about I stay awake? Yea, I mean I'm pretty rested. I'll stay awake and be there for Carlos when he wakes up. Then he won't be alone."
"No! You don't get it! I'm supposed to stay awake. It's my job to protect Carlos. It's always been my responsibility to look after him and keep him safe. And I failed. I let him fall asleep and now, he won't wake up. So I have to be here when he wakes up. I have to make sure he stays okay. I have to - I have to apologize. Please, just - just let me stay awake," James pleaded, his voice breaking at the revelation.
He had failed his best friend. He should have been more vigilant in his observation of Carlos, should have been on high alert to make sure he didn't close his eyes. But he wasn't, and now Carlos couldn't wake up. The immense sense of guilt James felt at fact that he allowed Carlos to fall asleep was overwhelming. It had a choke hold over him and he would do whatever he had to do to make that he made things right. He just had to make things okay again and in his mind, that meant staying awake until Carlos woke up.
"James, you don't -"
"Alright, kid. You can stay awake," the older man cut in.
"Wait, what? No, he can't! He has to sleep, Gabriel. He's going to make himself worse if he doesn't let his body rest," Kendall replied, taken aback by Gabriel's surrender on the issue. He couldn't believe how one minute the older man had sided with him on the importance of resting and in the next breathe condoned James's staying awake.
"Believe me, I know that but your friend here is as stubborn as a doornail. What do you want me to do? Knock him out? That wouldn't do anyone any good," Gabriel said, washing his hands clean of this predicament. He had added his two cents, if the boy didn't want to listen that was his problem. "If he wants to stay awake, let him stay awake." However, even as he said those words, he couldn't help the pang of sympathy he felt as he looked at the tired boy's pale complexion and the dark circles under his eyes.
"Finally, some one agrees with me. Thank you," James said, with a ghost of smile on his minor victory. "Hey, wait, your name is Gabriel?"
"Yea, why? You have objections with my name now, too?"
"No, it's just interesting. Gabriel. It seems fitting," James answered, shrugging.
"Yea, well, since we can't convince you to get some sleep, you might as well eat something to keep your strength up," Gabriel said, as he uncovered the forgotten tray he brought in minutes before. "I didn't have much that didn't require a stove, but I was able to keep a flame long enough to make some soup to warm you boys you."
Absentmindedly, Kendall's stomach growled at the sight of the two large bowls in front of him. He couldn't remember his last real meal, even though his stomach remembered it being almost a day ago. Aside from the granola bars and trail mix he snacked on during the ride home, Kendall was starved. He gladly placed the bowl of steaming hot soup in front of him, and gulped two spoonfuls of the scalding liquid before he felt the pain of his scorched tongue. However, Kendall didn't care, the warmth it provided was more than any coat or blanket could offer. It helped ease the cold dread that still occupied his thinking about what else this day had in store for him and his friends. It wasn't until his mouth screamed in protest did he slow down enough to see James's bowl of soup untouched.
James stared at the clear broth, uninterested. Unlike Kendall, food was not a priority for him. His stomach didn't yearn for it, his mouth didn't water in anticipation. In fact, his insides turned at the sight and the scent of the soup overwhelmed him with a powerful wave of nausea.
"James, why aren't you eating?" Kendall asked. "Aren't you, hungry?"
"Uhhh, no...not really," James answered, hoping that would be the end of that discussion; he wasn't in the mood to have another argument about his well being. But, of course, Kendall had other things in mind as he pressed the subject.
"What do you mean you aren't hungry? We haven't eaten anything substantial in more than a day. You must be starving," Kendall said, dropping his spoon in his bowl. His appetite was lost as he became consumed with worry.
"I'm just not hungry. Not right now anyway. Maybe a little bit later," James said, dismissively.
"Are you serious, James? Come on, you have to eat. You need food to give you strength. You can't starve yourself,"
"I'm just not hungry, Kendall. Please just drop it."
"But, James - "
"Stop! Just stop, Kendall. Stop trying to fix everything. Stop trying to make things right because you can't. Resting. Eating. It's not going to fix anything. Nothing you do right now can fix this. Carlos will still be unconscious. Logan will still be hurt. Everything will still be effed up so just stop. Please," James added, as he finished his rant. It pained him to unleash such harsh words at Kendall especially when he was trying to help, but James had reached his breaking point. He had tried to be strong like Kendall had asked him to be, but he couldn't do it anymore.
There was no denying that Kendall was hurt by James's sudden outburst. He knew James was frustrated and obviously tired, both conditions that would make him cranky, but the words that were said stung. They hit at the same thoughts that were running through his own mind. Kendall did want to fix everything. After all they had been through, he just wanted to make everything better. Maybe he was trying to hard, but this was job; this was what he was supposed to do for his friends.
"James... I didn't - I was just trying to... If I upset you -" Kendall couldn't seem to get the words out, as for once in his life, he was at a loss for words.
"You know what, I think, we should just forget about the soup. I lost my appetite anyway," Gabriel cut in to diffuse the tense situation in the room between the two friends. He could tell that Kendall was just trying to help, but James needed a little less of the comfort he was providing. James was hurting in a way that Kendall couldn't fix and Gabriel was sure that bothered him. "We'll just save these bowls for later; for when the other two boys wake up." He noticed the small smile that appeared on James's face at the sentence, but Kendall merely nodded his head absentmindedly, still reeling from James's words.
"So, since I couldn't get you to rest and you refuse to eat my food, you have to at least let me take a look at your leg," the older responded to break the silence that fell on the room.
"Uhhh, yea... No. My leg is fine," James insisted, his stubbornness returning with a vengeance at the idea of enduring pain.
"Sorry, kid. This is a fight you are not going to win. Your leg is not fine. You've been bleeding on my carpet since you came and I really don't want that stain to set," Gabriel replied, as he stood to grab his first aid equipment.
However, at his words, Kendall blinked out of his trance and stared at the small pile of blood that coated the carpet under where James's leg rested.
"Shit, James," Kendall whispered, all resentment toward his friend forgotten at the sight.
"Is it bad?"
"No, it's fine -"
"Yes," Gabriel blurted out, interrupting Kendall once again and ruining his attempt at making the look of fear disappear from James's eyes. He stared at the older man in disbelief at his bluntness. Covering, Gabriel added, "Well, it does look bad, but I can't tell you the full extent of the injury unless I take a look at it."
Kendall could see James's hesitancy about letting a stranger, no matter how kind, take a look at his leg and cause potential pain.
"Hey, it's okay, James. I'm going to be right here through it all. You don't have to go through it alone. I know you don't want to but he's right. He has to take a good look at it so we know how bad it really is. You're bleeding and that's not a good sign. And you're scared. Heck, I'm scared too. So, let's just be scared together and help each other out, okay?" Kendall asked, as he extended his hand for James to grab.
While the fear remained in his eyes, behind them was a little spark of determination that reminded Kendall of the James he knew and loved, not the broken James that was a ghost of himself. Grabbing Kendall's hand firmly, he nodded and granted Gabriel assess to his wounded leg as he lifted it to rest on the open table.
"Alright, kid. I'll be as careful and as painless as I can be," Gabriel said as he snapped his gloves in place, causing James to cringe at the sound.
"Why does everyone do that with the gloves?" James groaned, closing his eyes in anticipation of the pain. "And don't make promises you can't keep."
Whether he heard the comment or chose to ignore him, Gabriel focused his attention on undressing the wound. It was relatively pain free, Kendall stood nearby, clutching James's hand, waiting for the first sign of discomfort and offering words of encouragement.
As he broke through the last layer of clothing that protected James's wound from the clothes, Gabriel let out a sigh that didn't go unnoticed by the two friends.
"What? What is it?!" they both yelled in fear.
"Oh, it's nothing. It's just - this is quite an impressive pressure dressing you got here on this leg. Someone really knows their stuff," he replied, with a tone of awe.
"Logan did it. And yea, he does know his stuff. He's going to be a doctor someday. We're still in high school and he's already taking courses for that test," James said proudly.
"Yea, he reads medical textbooks for fun. I'm no longer going to make fun of him for that. Turns out it definitely came in handy," Kendall added.
"Ok, James, I have removed most of the gauze that was packing the wound, but there are still a few more in there that I need to pull out so I can fully control the bleeding and get you patched up," Gabriel said. Hesitantly, he continued, "I'm warning you. This can be very painful. Now, there is pain medication that I can give you that will knock you out so you won't feel -"
"N-No!" James shouted, shaking his head back and forth fervently in refusal.
"Wait! What?" Kendall shouted back, hoping that he had misinterpreted his response. There was no way James, who was fearful of even the smallest needle, would refuse medication that was going to prevent him from enduring excruciating pain. That was it, he had heard him wrong. But as James remained adamant and continued to refuse the sedatives, Kendall's confusion turned into anger. "James! What's wrong with you? Take the damn pain medication! It will take the pain away!"
"No. I-I-I can't be knocked out. I told you before, I don't want to go to sleep. I have to stay awake - for Carlos," James replied back to Kendall. Turning to face Gabriel, he continued, "I can handle the pain." While his voice tried to carry a strong conviction, his eyes betrayed him as they revealed more doubt than he was willing to show.
Though he thought the boy was crazy to go through this without any pain medication, Gabriel respected his wishes and much to Kendall's dismay, he returned his attention to James's leg and prepared to remove the remaining pieces of gauze. Kendall, on the other hand, was still having trouble processing how James intended on going through the whole procedure without pain medication.
"Buddy, you can't really be trying to -" he began, but his words were cut off by a horrible sound.
As Gabriel placed the tweezers into James's leg and began to pull the stuck fabric from the wound, James released the most gut-wrenching cry of pain that literally broke Kendall's heart. There was no question from that scream that James was in pure agony. His body shook fiercely in pain and his breath came in short gasps of air. He attempted to shut his mouth closed, hoping to prevent another outburst of emotion. He resigned to whimpers and groans and his gaze was glazed, focused on the ceiling, as if trying to keep the pain from entering his subconscious mind.
"Dammit, James, take the medication!"
"N-n-no! I-I-I'm okay. I can - I can handle the - Oh, God!" James screamed, as he closed his eyes to another wave of excruciating pain that seemed to overcome his entire body. Even his teeth seemed to hurt. "Ahhhh! I-I-I j-just need to take my mind off of it. Help me take my mind off the pain."
"What can I do? Tell me, man, what do you need me to do," Kendall pleaded, ready to do whatever he had to for his friend.
"Just keep talking to him. Get him to concentrate on your voice instead of the pain," Gabriel answered.
Talking. That seemed easier said than done. He doubted there was any topic of conversation that could take James's mind off what he was going through, but Kendall was willing to try.
"You know what I was thinking before? Once we get home and we're all better, I say we throw another party courtesy of the two party kings. I think we deserve that after all we've been through, don't you?"
"H-H-Heck yea," James stuttered. "B-but what about B-B-Bitters?"
"Bitters will have to go through with it. We've been through a major ordeal, a party will help with our recovery. You don't worry about that, I'll think of something to win him over. You just worry about the guest list," Kendall continued.
"We'll just invite Al Contacts again," James chuckled, as he remembered Carlos's past mistake.
"Ha, you know, since that worked out so well for us again, you're right, we'll just do that again," Kendall said, with a smile as well.
"B-But we have to - ssss- we have to make sure we invite one of the Jennifers. I have to get one to date Carlos at least for the night."
"Make sure it's the curly haired Jennifer. I've heard she might be interested in our little Carlitos," Kendall replied. "And we're probably going to have to reserve a VIP section for Logan and Camille. We do not want another incident like last time."
"With Camille, Logan will somehow wind up in the pool again anyway," James muttered through a grimace of pain. The pain was etched all over his face and Kendall could tell that the diversion of his small talk was wearing off. Kendall stole a quick glance at Gabriel's progress and was thankful to see that he was finished pulling off the old dressing and apply a new one over James's leg.
"You're doing good, buddy. He's almost done," Kendall soothingly. With closed eyes, James nodded his head in agreement. He was trying whatever he could, using whatever mind tricks he could muster, to think of anything but the pain, but it was unrelenting in its strength and unwavering its presence. The excruciating feeling that his leg was being ripped apart slowly was persistent and nearly unbearable. James was beginning to question his own sanity at his previous refusal of the pain medication. There was no way he was in his right mind to willingly choose to put himself through this pain.
"Oh, God. It hurts, Kendall. It really hurts," James muttered under his breath, his voice sounding so small and yet, still speaking volumes at the same time. James was hurting.
"I know buddy, but you're doing so good. Just a little bit more. He just has to finish wrapping everything up," Kendall replied. However, as he saw James strain to take a look at the actions performed at his leg, he turned his friend to face him. "Hey, look at me, James. Just fight through it. You can do this buddy. I'm right here with you. Right here," squeezing his hand for emphasis.
At those words, at the look of pure friendship that Kendall emitted through his intense gaze, James knew he could find the strength to fight the pain that threatened to overtake him. Kendall was with him and with Kendall he could do anything. And then a pang of guilt hit him and overwhelmed him more than the pain in his leg as he remembered his words from his earlier outburst. He had basically told Kendall that he didn't need him to fix everything and yet, at this moment, his whole sanity, the only thing keeping him together was Kendall. He was wrong.
"I'm s-so-sorry, Kendall. I didn't mean what I said," James responded, his voice carrying an air of shame. At the look of confusion on his friend's face, he continued. "About what said before, I didn't mean it."
"Oh, that... You don't have to apologize. You were right, I was trying too hard to fix everything. I was just try -"
"You were just being a friend, trying to help me through a pretty shitty situation and I was a jerk, pushing you away. Truth is, I do need you because I can't do this on my own anymore. I'm trying to do like you said and be strong for Carlos and Logan, but I don't think I can do that on my own anymore. I don't think I can -"
"You don't have to be. I think history has taught us we work better together than apart. Well, I'm here and I don't plan on going anywhere. So, you don't have to worry about being strong by yourself anymore. We'll be strong together," Kendall reassured. He was grateful to see a genuine smile grace James's face as he agreed.
"All done, kid," Gabriel said, as he placed the final piece of tape over James's newly dressed leg.
"Oh, thank God," James exhaled in relief.
"I'm just going to leave your leg elevated on the table here to help with the swelling at the ankle, but, fortunately, it wasn't as bad as I thought. With the amount of blood you lost, I had really thought an artery had been nicked or there would be some tissue damage. Everything looks good so far and the fact that you felt the pain in your leg while I did everything is definitely a good thing too. No nerve damage."
"Yay, to the pain," James replied, sarcastically, wiping the remnants of the tears that had stained his cheeks minutes before from said pain.
"No need to be ashamed, kiddo. I've seen grown men on the battlefields cry like babies with wounds smaller than yours and a boat load of morphine. What you did without any pain medication was brave and should really be commended," Gabriel said, as he cleared away his supplies, staring at James with a look of admiration.
"Yea, buddy. You were great," Kendall added, giving his friend a light pat on the back. "I'll make sure I tell all the girls back home about your act of bravery."
"Just make sure you leave out the tears."
"Don't worry, that stays our little secret. I won't tell a soul. Well, maybe Katie."
"No, not even Katie. She will never let me live that down," James said, with mock desperation. He let out a light laugh, before he sobered up and whispered, "Oh, I miss Katie. I miss home."
"I do, too, James. But, we'll be home before you know it," Kendall replied confidently.
"Yeah, I know," James yawned, blinking the fatigue out of his eyes. He tried to cover it with a cough, but Kendall recognized the look of tiredness in his friend's eyes.
"James, man, you should rest. You're tired, your body's exhausted after what you've just been through. You need to get some sleep," Kendall said, cautiously. Before he had a chance to refuse, Kendall continued, "I promise. I will wake you up at smallest sign that Carlos is waking. I just really want you to rest."
There was no denying James was exhausted. His eyelids were heavy, his mind felt slow and sluggish, and his body was weak and every limb weighed tons. He truly wanted to stay awake until Carlos woke up, but his body had other things in mind as it slowly gave into fatigue.
"You promise?" James muttered, his eyes closing on his own accord.
"I promise, buddy," Kendall vowed, as he watched James sink into the realms of unconsciousness. However, just when he thought James had fallen asleep, he heard his friend's small voice whisper, "Thanks, Kendall. For everything." And with that, James's breathing evened and he sunk into sleep.
Kendall could only stare at his friend in sadness at all he had to endure. The guilt. The pain. The pressure. It was truly too much for one person too. Interestingly enough, Kendall was going through the same emotions. Nevertheless, he would be true to his word, and take some of the burden off of James. He didn't have to go through this alone, Kendall would remind him of that once he woke up. But, right now, he was just grateful to see his friend resting. Asleep, his face looked free of worry, for a little while, he was at peace and Kendall was truly grateful for that little escape from reality.
"How did you finally get him to go to sleep?" Gabriel said, as he re-entered the living room.
"He was so exhausted he didn't even refuse when I suggested he go to sleep," Kendall answered, as he pulled the blanket under James's chin, tucking him in more securely from the cold. "I had to promise him, though, that I'd wake him if there was any change with Carlos."
At the mention of still sleeping friend, Kendall walked over to where he rested on the couch and kneeled beside him. "How is he by the way? Carlos, I mean?" He asked, looking up toward Gabriel. He could sense the hesitation in his response.
"Head injuries are very tricky. That's why it's ideal to keep the person awake as long as possible. When a person loses consciousness, it gets harder to tell the true extent of the head injury and the severity of any brain damage involved. Honestly, I don't know how he is doing. His vital signs are stable, he has good scores in the GCS, and he has no impairment in the testable neurological functions at this time, which are all good signs. But, when - or even if he wakes up, I can't tell you. I'm sorry."
Kendall could only nod his head as he processed the information he had just been told. While he knew he hadn't heard the news he had hoped for, he chose to concentrate on the good things.
"He's going to wake up," Kendall said, confidently. "He's young. He's healthy. And believe me, this isn't the first time he has hit his head. He's probably just tired, you know. After all we've been through, he's probably as exhausted as James. He's just sleeping and once he's well rested, he'll wake right up. He'll wake up."
Gabriel looked one with sad eyes. The voice spoke with such hope, but he could tell that Kendall's confidence was faltering. He wished he knew the words to say to comfort the kid, but his knowledge and expertise left him speechless. He just stood quietly as this young man dealt with the unknown fate of yet another one of his friends.
"You're going to be just fine, Carlos. You wake up once you're ready. Knowing you, it will be right when the ambulance gets here and a pretty paramedic is about to examine you," Kendall joked, as he squeezed Carlos's hand. He tried not to notice how cold the hand felt in his. Similar to what he did to James, Kendall tucked Carlos in, determined to keep the cold from reach him.
"Speaking of which, how long did they say they would be?" Kendall asked, his attention to still on the sleeping Carlos.
"How long did who say they would be?" Gabriel asked, genuinely puzzled at the question.
"911... The police...paramedics... I don't know. Whoever you spoke to when you called for help."
"Oh, dammit kid, I thought you knew."
"You thought I knew what? Help is coming right?" Kendall questioned, standing to face somber older man. His reaction made him dread Gabriel's response.
"The snowstorm knocked everything out. The power. The electricity. The phone lines. Nothing is working. I couldn't call for help. I'm sorry to tell you this, Kendall, there is no help coming."
Author's Note #2: I hope you take this long chapter as my peace offering. I hope you all do not hate me for the insanely long wait. Believe me, I am ashamed of myself for delaying this update as long as I did. Life has pretty much been in fast forward for me, so I had a lot of trouble finding time to write. Fortunately, I have two more weeks free from school and work, so I hope to bang out the next chapter in that time and update by then. Fingers crossed! Thank You so much for being amazingly patient and just awesome readers. I do this for you guys. Up next: the Kendall angst and Gabriel's backstory that I promised for this chapter (sorry about that too, this chapter just took a mind of it's own). I hope you enjoyed. Please don't hate me. And until next time.