CHAPTER FORTY SEVEN
When he closed his eyes, everything disappeared into a black oblivion of nothingness. Gone were the angry flashing lights that surrounded him and the cries and shouts that dazed him and hurt his head. Gone also was the pain that had plagued him and attacked every part of his body.
The only thing he missed was the reassuring presence of his cousin and his gentle eyes that were such a relief after the evil depths he had witnessed in Liam’s dark orbs.
When he heard the voice calling him, he was afraid to return to it. He did not want to go back to that disorientating reality of fear and pain.
Reluctantly he opened his eyes and to his surprise he found himself lying in a white room, not on the road with the bright, dazzling lights as he had been before.
His eyes swivelled in his head about the strange room and he suddenly noticed that all the pain was gone. There was no headache, no thumping ache in his stomach and no terrifying fear. It was all gone and hew knew from his quiet, beating heart that he was safe. Finally the fear was gone.
He tried to move, but that immediately bought aching throbs to his legs and arms and he moaned slightly at the tenderness of his limbs.
“It’s all right, don’t try to move yet,” a soft voice said.
Brian closed his eyes for a moment, still puzzled at the change of location and then he opened them to gaze about him, until he focused upon a dark haired woman staring down at him with her loving eyes.
“Mom?” he whispered faintly.
She smiled at him and Brian saw the tears sliding down her face. “Brian… thank God…” Her eyes flickered upwards as though she was saying an inner prayer to the one upstairs. She looked back down at him and Brian realised that her hand was clasped tightly about his own.
“Where am I?” he whispered. His eyes stared about him and then he groaned as he recognised the familiar white walls that were typical of all hospitals. “Not again.”
“It’s okay,” Jackie said gently. “You’re going to be fine.”
“I don’t remember how I got here.”
“Don’t you remember the accident?”
He closed his eyes and immediately he was faced with the terrifying sight of the brick wall coming closer and closer. He had been screaming as he tugged at the door, until it had opened and he had hit the road below with an awful thump that shook his entire body. He had turned his head just in time to see the orange whirl of the explosion.
He shuddered and nodded. “I remember.”
It all felt so far away now, like a dream. The fear and the sickness did not seem real to him anymore. Thinking about what had happened, he wondered how he had survived. How could he still be alive after such an ordeal if it wasn’t a dream?
“You passed out and they bought you here. I’m so glad that you’re okay.” She rubbed his hand with her fingers and Brian weakly linked them about hers, trying not to wince as her fingers pinched his skin slightly through the bandages upon his hands.
“How long have I been here?”
“Almost two days.”
“Two days?” Brian said aghast. To him, he had just closed his eyes on the street and opened them again to find himself here.
“You did wake up once, but you were very groggy. You fell back to sleep straight away.”
He had woken up here before? He couldn’t remember that. All he was aware of was that moment of blackness when he had closed his eyes on the street. He could not even recall any dreams…
A person who does not dream has no conscience.
That was what they said. People like Liam didn’t dream or have nightmares because they never had any doubts or unanswered questions in their mind. Liam had always been certain that what he was doing was right. Brian felt a cold shiver rippling through him as he found himself comparing him to Liam. Brian had a conscience because he could still feel awful guilt in his heart about Adam, Peters…
“Peters,” Brian said suddenly. “Is he all right?”
His mother frowned slightly. “Who?”
“Peters,” Brian said, croaking with a dry mouth. “The police officer who found me.”
His mother’s eyes softened and Brian saw them fill with regret. In that second he knew that Liam’s bullet had been fatal to him. “I’m sorry,” she said.
“He saved my life. I’d be dead if it wasn’t for him,” Brian murmured. He dismally remembered Peters talking about his little girl and now because of Brian she had no father. He shouldn’t have been the one to die.
“His family is proud of him,” Jackie said softly. “He died to save another.”
“It should have been me,” Brian whispered. “He had a family…”
“And so do you!” Jackie said, pressing a hand against his face. “It was Peters’ job to protect people. He was a police officer. He couldn’t just turn his back on you.”
Brian hung his head. He still felt no better as he remembered the gunshot and Peters falling back into the mud. He had been so brave to tackle Liam by himself and he had saved Brian from being thrown in front of a train.
“His daughter came in and left you these.” Jackie pointed to a vase of flowers and a card upon the desk. Brian’s eyes lingered upon the beautiful blue flowers and he reached out to brush his fingers against the soft petals. “They don’t blame you… and you shouldn’t blame yourself. His wife is upset but she is proud of him for rescuing an innocent person who was being tortured.”
Innocent. Brian did not know if he could call himself innocent. He had killed Adam. He had always thought it was an accident, but then he had tried to shoot Liam. It still scared him when he thought about what he was capable of and who he could easily become…
“I can’t help it. So much has happened… and I feel responsible somehow.”
“It wasn’t your fault. It was just bad timing and bad luck… you could never have stopped any of this from happening.”
Unless he had given up and died… but he hadn’t wanted to give it all up. He had wanted to live for the sake of his friends and family. It was hard to know what was best for them sometimes.
There was a light cough from the doorway. “are we interrupting you, aunt Jackie?” a familiar voice said.
Jackie glanced towards the door and then shook her head as she smiled. “No Kevin. You and Howie can come in.”
Brian turned his head and he smiled as he saw the look that passed over his cousin’s face when he realised that Brian’s blue eyes were open. Kevin gasped slightly whilst Howie’s eyes lit up with delight.
“Brian, you’re awake!”
Brian smiled and tried to sit up, but he had to grit his teeth as his bruises complained at the pain. His mother slipped an arm around him and gently helped him to prop himself up against some fat pillows so that he could see his friends better.
Kevin came forward and took Brian’s hands in his own. “I was wondering if you were ever gonna wake!”
He meant the comment to be light hearted, but Brian’s stomach twisted slightly as he imagined it himself. He had never known he had even been unconscious. That moment upon the road looking up at Kevin could have been his last and he would never have known it.
“How are you feeling?” Howie asked.
“Tired,” Brian replied. “It feels like I haven’t slept at all.” He moved to tilt himself further towards them but winced at the pain it caused.
“Are you in pain?” Jackie asked anxiously, watching her son’s movements with worried eyes.
“It’s the bruises,” Brian said glancing down at his bandaged hands. He stared down at his arms which were covered in bruises and faint red marks. He stared again at the white cloth that bound his fingers. “Why is there -”
“You cut them quite badly when you hit the road falling out of the car,” Kevin said. “That and there were some burns from the explosion.”
Brian prodded the cloths, but felt no flicker of pain at all. He pressed a hand to his face and found that both his cheeks were covered in tender, sensitive skin that cried out at the contact.
“I’m going to get your father and brother. They’ll be so happy to see you awake,” Jackie said as she stood up.
“Harry’s here?” Brian asked smiling. “How is he?” He was still haunted by the image of Harry lying in the hospital bed, looking so weak. Even though he had spoken to Harry on the phone afterwards, it would be a huge relief to see him healthy again.
“He’s fine, just worried about you. I’ll get them.”
Brian watched her go and then turned to Kevin and Howie. There was one question that he wanted to ask so badly that it was burning his soul up inside, but his heart didn’t want his moth to form the words in case he heard a response he didn’t wish to hear. Why hadn’t any of them mentioned Nick?
“Everyone is going to be so happy,” Howie said. “The doctors said you were going to be okay, but you look awful with the bruises on your face. We were worried.”
Brian smiled at him, but his happiness at seeing his friends was fading rapidly as his mind filled with his younger, blond haired friend who had taken such good care of him while he was distressed before. Nick was like his little brother, a little brother that he felt obliged to protect…
“Brian, what’s wrong?” Kevin asked, sensing that his cousin wasn’t completely at ease.
Brian gulped slightly. Now. He had to ask them now. “Nick…”
“He’s fine,” Howie said gently.
Brian’s eyes closed and the water began to seep through to his cheeks. “Really?” he whispered, hardly daring to believe it.
“It was touch and go in the operating theatre,” Howie said. “And we were worried sick when they bought him back. They said he would be fine as long as he came out of the anaesthetic. He slept for much longer than the doctors thought he would, but then he woke up. He’s been getting better every moment since.”
Brian smiled. “I was so worried… I thought he was dead.”
“He was asking for you,” Kevin said. “But we didn’t tell him how bad the situation was. He was weak and we didn’t want to upset him. Even now, he thinks you were just kidnapped and in a road accident. I didn’t tell him… the rest.”
Brian nodded. The rest of the story and Liam’s desire to see him ripped apart by a train would not have been helpful for Nick’s recovery, and at least it would stop him from worrying.
“He is going to be all right isn’t he?” Brian asked, not liking the way they said Nick was weak.
Howie nodded eagerly. “It was a lucky shot. He’s still tired, but he’s out of the woods. They just want to keep him in to make sure there’s no infection. If that happens though, it shouldn’t be fatal. Nick’s young so the chances of that are very, very low.”
“He’ll be so pleased that you’re awake. He was staring to suspect something was wrong. We all were, even though the doctors assured us you were okay,” Howie added.
There was a knock upon the ward door and then AJ’s head appeared through the window. He grinned at Brian and then gestured to the door.
Howie was the one who jumped up from the chair by Brian’s bed to open it and Brian watched in puzzlement. He heard Howie’s gasp and then he smiled as he turned to face Brian. The second he stepped out of the way, Brian saw why. Nick was with AJ… smiling and tired looking… and in a wheelchair.
“Brian!” Nick called, his voice a little frail and dry. “Jackie said you were awake!”
Brian tried to slip out of bed to embrace his poor, disabled friend, but the second he tried to stand he felt the tight, burning pain in his chest and his legs wobbling. He felt himself sinking to the floor with a moan of pain before Howie and Kevin caught him by the arms.
“Brian!” Nick cried in concern.
“You shouldn’t try to stand yet,” Howie said as he and Kevin helped Brian back onto the bed and pushed the sheets over him. “You’re still weak from the operation…”
“Operation?” Brian asked and he saw Nick’s head snap up in shock as well.
“What operation?” Nick asked.
“You never told me I had an operation!” Brian cried.
Kevin shot a look at Howie and then sighed at Brian. “It was only a little operation. You had a tiny bit of internal bleeding and they needed to fix your broken rib.”
Brian glanced down at his chest. A broken rib would explain the burning pain when he tried to stand, but it was still frightening that he didn’t remember anything and that he had been so oblivious to everything that had happened to him. He didn’t like the sensation of not knowing what had happened to him. He didn’t like to think that he could have died without even knowing it. To die in sleep had to be one of the worst things. To not even know that you wouldn’t wake up again…
“It wasn’t serious,” Howie explained, distracting him from the disturbing thoughts.
“Internal bleeding? You told me he was fine! How can you call that not serious?” Nick said, distressed at having been kept in the dark.
“Nick, it was a small operation and they got to him in plenty of time to help him. He’s all right and I swear there are no problems now,” AJ said.
Nick was still clearly upset. He turned to Brian, his blue eyes full of fear and sadness. Brian stretched out his hand towards him and AJ wheeled him a little closer so that the two friends could clasp hands.
“I’m all right,” Brian assured him. “Just a little black and blue. I match our last album now don’t I?” he said, trying to prise a smile from Nick, even though his heart was bleeding at the sight of his friend in a wheelchair and unable to walk.
“It’s not funny,” Nick replied. “Geez, that accident must have been bad. You’re covered…” He glanced suspiciously at the others, his eyes narrowing.
‘He knows,’ Brian thought sadly. ‘He knows we’re not telling him something.’ He had wanted Nick to be unaware of the battle he had fought with Liam for his life. Nick didn’t need the gory details, not when he had his own battle to fight.
“Nick, you’re in a wheelchair,” he said sadly, staring down at his young friend with tears.
“Oh this,” Nick said, as if he had forgotten all about it. “Don’t panic, I’m not disabled yet. It’s only temporary.”
AJ patted Nick on the shoulder and then looked up at Brian. “He’s a little too weak to walk properly and - ”
“I am not!” Nick protested. “You just won’t let me walk anywhere!”
“We’re only using this because Nick’s still tired and he hasn’t the strength to walk properly yet. He really wanted to come and see you though so we had to use this to get him here.”
“It’s not permanent,” Nick said. “And I can walk, it’s just tiring, but I’m fine!” He could be so stubborn…
Brian yawned slightly, his eyes beginning to grow heavy.
“Brian’s getting tired,” Howie said. He patted Brian’s hand. “You get some rest. The sooner you get better, the sooner you’ll be outta here.”
“Where’s dad and Harry?” Brian asked sleepily. They were the only two he hadn’t seen yet and he badly needed to see Harry to make sure he was okay. He had to apologise for leaving him.
“They’ll be here soon. Your mom’s probably having a little trouble finding them,” Kevin said. “She shooed them off to get a coffee earlier. You go sleep and I’ll make sure they’re here when you wake up next.”
Brian didn’t want to go back to oblivion. It frightened him that so much time had passed last time his eyes closed and he didn’t want to lose any more of his life.
His body was of a different mind though as it sunk back against the pillows and shifted to make him more comfortable. He yawned again and found his eyes drifting shut, despite him desperately wanting to stay awake.
His wish wasn’t granted though as the darkness closed in and pulled him to oblivion.