Jack was in an immense amount of pain. His side was bursting and his chest felt to be on fire. He was quite sure the skin on his front was burnt to a crisp and he couldn't remember a time in his life where he had been more over heated. The endorphin rush was overpowering his senses as he heaved in huge lungfuls of air.
It was better than he had felt in days.
Sure he hurt like hell but he could feel energy coursing through his veins. Energy that had been absent for the past four days. It was like resurfacing for the first time after being submerged in water for far too long. Perhaps it was only because of the near death experience that he felt this way, but Jack was willing to take what he could.
He was alive, and it was amazing, and it was all thanks to Jamie.
Jack concentrated every ounce of that newly found energy and pushed himself into a more upright position, groaning as heaved himself up.
And there he was, Jamie of all people. The boy who had saved his life right in front of him, crying.
Jack did not understand Jamie's tears as he, himself, was elated. Finding himself short of breath, Jack could only think of one way to express his gratitude.
Jack draped his arms clumsily around Jamie, holding the shaking boy that wasn't a boy anymore. Jamie was much bigger than Jack, and he hung over Jamie's shoulders like a child.
Jamie was startled when he felt Jack's weight fold over him in a hug. It was weak but the gesture seemed to envelope Jamie fully.
For a split second the brown haired man froze, so overcome by just, Jack. It took a moment to find his bearings and finally return the hug. Jamie did not squeeze the undoubtably fragile winter spirit but he gripped Jack's blue hoodie in his fists like a life line. His tears began to flow even more thickly as Jack's ragged, labored breathing sounded so close to his ear.
"Thank you, Jamie," Jack said scratchily in between breaths. They were the most sincere words Jamie had ever heard in his life. He was beginning to doubt he would ever regain his composure as only more tears brimmed and fell.
Jamie could have cried all morning, just holding Jack close, knowing he was alive. It was only his concern that had him slowly guiding Jack to lean back against the couch where the winter spirit obligingly rested, still sucking air, but so much better than before.
Jamie straightened his shoulders, feeling exhausted.
With very much self control, he finally managed to stem the waterfall of tears. He brushed the remaining droplets out of his eyelashes and sniffled audibly. He tried to take a deep even breath but choked instead, stifling a sob.
"Shit Jack, that was close," Jamie said heavily.
Jack nodded with a weak smile. His lips and face were definitely a healthier color, but not exactly back to normal.
Jamie cleared his throat and wiped at his eyes again, this time successfully taking a full breath without breaking. "I need to listen," Jamie said, not surprised his voice sounded pitiful after the recent outburst. He gestured to his stethoscope which had been discarded roughly onto the side table in his hast.
Jack nodded in consent.
With shaking hands Jamie popped his stethoscope into his ears and placed the diaphragm under Jack's shirt and onto his chest. Fortunately, Jamie heard definite lung sounds from the right side where they had previously been absent. They sounded rather broken and watery, but they were there.
"Jack, cough for me," Jamie said pulling the stethoscope out of his left ear to reduce the echo of his own voice as he spoke. Jack could see the ware on Jamie's face. It was nearly 5:15 in the morning, and a combination of sleeplessness and tears had Jamie's eyes puffy and rimmed with red.
Jack took a deep breath and tried his best to cough. It was thick and weak but Jamie nodded in approval. Jack did this three times before becoming too tired and pained to continue. His side was still very discomforting.
"That's it," Jamie said, pushing the dislodged ear bud back into place and listening again. Jack's breaths were still congested but definitely improving. If he could have Jack continue to cough he might even find them clear.
"It's sounding better. I just want you to relax and focus on breathing for a second, okay?" Jamie said very seriously "If you have any more chest pain or shortness of breath you need to let me know right away"
Jack nodded, letting his head drop onto the back of the couch. Jack watched as Jamie let his face fall into his hands, rubbing at his eyes roughly. The brown haired man was starting to look worse as the minutes passed.
Jack was slowly coming down from his temporary high. He felt his body set into its aching fatigue once more. On top of that, guilt began to consume his conscience. Jamie's face was etched with dark circles of worry Jack knew he was the cause of.
"I'm sorry," Jack said.
Jamie lifted his face from his hands and looked at Jack with deep brown eyes. "Why are you sorry?"
Jack shrugged his shoulders "For causing you trouble,"
A smile split across Jamie's face. "Damn straight you are. Nearly gave me a heart attack," Jamie chuckled, rubbing the spot above his heart. He stopped joking though once he realized Jack was completely serious. The winter spirit looked just about as weary as he felt.
"Jack, don't be sorry. Seriously. I'm happy that you came to me...or, that I found you. You know what I mean," Jack didn't respond immediately so Jamie continued, "I was really scared there for a while. I thought I was going to lose you,"
Jack flipped his eyelids up to meet Jamie's gaze. It was his turn to crack a smile, "I've got to be honest, I didn't think I was going to make it either,"
Jamie sighed loudly, dropping his face into his hands and giving it one last rub, as if trying to wake himself up. "Shit," Jamie said under his breath
"Jamie," Jack said. His voice was scratchy and his lungs ached. "You need to get some sleep,"
"Jack, I can't I need to make sure the treatment is working and the ice is all melted before-"
"Jamie, It's fine. I'm fine. We just need rest. You included," Jack said brokenly. He was finding it rather difficult to speak because of the raw feeling in his chest. He was sorry Jamie could tell.
"Look, Jamie." Jack started. He paused to cough. "You've done enough already. Just go sit down for a while and then we can continue where we left off later,"
Jamie looked hard at Jack. It was so tempting but Jamie wasn't about to abandon the project at hand.
"No. We have to finish this now if we want to do it right,"
"Are you serious," Jack groaned. Letting Jamie rest also meant he would get a break too. He would not even be granted that small token.
"Yes," Jamie said firmly. "I can't take the risk of any more complications. We need to finish what we started." Jack nodded, though he did not look happy about the arrangement.
"Good," Jamie said, "First I need to check where we are at. Let's measure,"
Jack drew in the deepest breath he could with his newly sore chest and let it out in a tired sigh. "Sure, whatever you say doc," He began rolling his shirt to expose the still nasty looking bruise on his abdomen.
"That's nurse, thank you very much," Jamie said curtly. Jack rolled his eyes.
"Let's see," Jamie muttered to himself, taking the hoodie out of Jack's hands and pushing it further up his torso. He sucked in a sharp breath at what he saw. Jack's chest was in fact very burnt from the hot pack. His pale skin was red and beginning to blister.
"Don't beat yourself up over it," Jack said even before Jamie could start. "I deserved it...and it worked,"
Jamie shook his head, "I am so sorry."
"The apology is not accepted if it isn't necessary to begin with. Jamie, this saved my life," Jack said gently. Jamie nodded, but remained stoic. He felt horribly about harming Jack.
"Jamie, get that guilty look off of you're face! I mean it," Jack said cracking a smile. Jamie couldn't help but grin with him. Being friends for over 17 years allowed the two boys to read each other perfectly. Jack had just about every emotion matched to Jamie's demeanor perfectly.
"I can't help it! This wouldn't be here if it weren't for me. I'm gonna feel bad," Jamie rationalized. It was true too.
"Forget about it, I'll heal. Let's get on with it,"
Jamie frowned, but with no further comments, he began his assessment. He listened, and, prodded and palpated and percussed. Jack tried his best to stay relaxed and ignore the pain these actions still caused. When Jamie was finished he pulled his shoulders back, sitting straight and facing the winter spirit.
He showed no expression. Jack looked at him quizzically, waiting for the next direction.
Jamie kept his face blank. He was so tired and weary he could barely bring himself to believe the enormity of his finding. It was such positivity his boggled mind would not believe it.
"It's gone," Jamie said
"What?" Jack asked, not quite sure how to respond as Jamie had been so unreadable.
"The ice mass, it's cleared. There's nothing there any more," Jamie said. His tone was stronger but his facial expression still betrayed his words of good news.
"Really? Isn't that a good thing?!' Jack said, perking visibly.
Jamie did not respond. He simply shoved his stethoscope into his ears and pressed the diaphragm down purposefully on Jack's lower abdomen. Jack held his breath, waiting for any sign from Jamie. Good or bad.
Jack watched his friend intently as the RN moved the stethoscope from side to side, pausing for long intervals over each spot. Jack chewed his lip nervously. Slowly, and almost unnoticeably, Jamie's lips began to pull upward in a small grin. Jack waited for Jamie to finish, barely keeping patient.
"Activity in all four quadrants," Jamie said pulling the stethoscope from his ears completely. He took a deep breath and finally, after much too long, let a huge smile spread across his face, showing all his teeth. "The obstruction is gone, Jack. We've done it,"
"You're not kidding?! I'm all better?" Jack said, with a youthful smile playing on his lips as well. "Yes!" Jack exclaimed. He tried to sit forward but failed miserably, yelping in pain.
"Careful!" Jamie said pushing Jack gently back into the couch. "Not all better, just ready to heal properly."
Jamie couldn't keep the smile off of his face. The brown haired man stood form the wooden table and plopped down on the couch next to Jack. He put an arm over Jack's shoulder's in a side hug and squeezed gently before removing it and placing his fidgety hands back in his lap.
"Now you're going to show me some of that super fast guardian healing right?"
"You betcha," Jack said, though he looked exhausted. "Can we take a break now?"
"Yeah," Jamie said, stifling a yawn. Looking out the window, Jamie could see the sun beginning to peak over the trees in the distance.
"Good," Jack said, gingerly lowing himself back into a lying position.
"Good," Jamie repeated tiredly, this time yawning fully. He thought about getting up and going to his bed but found his eyes closing before he could even make the move.
Soon enough they were both passed out on the couch, the sun beaming in through the clear window.
Jack had no idea how long he had slept but when he woke up he was uncomfortably warm. Beads of sweat were forming at his hairline. Not even thinking, Jack pushed himself into a sitting position. It was painful, but then again, he was able to do it. Jack smiled wearily, wiping the sweat from his brow and looking around.
Jamie hadn't moved an inch, Jack noticed. He looked over at the sleeping man who hadn't even bothered to lie down. Jamie was slumped awkwardly in the couch, his arms splayed out loosely by his sides.
Jack took in a deep breath and coughed quietly, trying his best not to wake Jamie. Slowly, Jack stood himself up and carefully straightened his knees until he was standing fully upright. He was stiff as a board. Jack groaned quietly and cursed his sore muscles.
In a clumsy manor, Jack made his way to the front door where his staff still rested. He grasped the familiar object in his hand and relished the feeling of power flowing from himself into the ancient wood. He was definitely not 100% but he was getting there. It was amazing.
Jack looked back to the sleeping man. Despite his own over heated feeling, Jack thought of how it was usually the norm to sleep with a blanket. It was the least he could do at the moment. Jack used his staff for balance and moved to grab the knit blanket from the back of the recliner and draped it over Jamie easily.
Jamie subconsciously snuggled into the blanket. Jack's lips turned up into another smile.
The winter guardian used his sleeve to wipe more sweat from his face. His legs were beginning to shake. Without another moments hesitation, Jack let himself out of the apartment and into the frigid winter air. The cold breeze entered his lungs and stung his aching chest.
Jack found the nearest snowbank and cuddled himself into the cold.
He fell instantly back to sleep.