When Justin woke up the first thing he was aware of was how sore and dry his throat felt. Then he realized that it wasn't just his throat that hurt, it was everything. And he couldn't see. He couldn't fucking see! He tried to sit up but the pain was incredible and there seemed to be things holding him in place. He felt panic rising in his throat, but then he heard Brian's voice and blindly he reached out towards it.
He felt strong fingers grip his, and some of the panic at least receded. "Sunshine!"
Brian's voice sounded strange hoarse and unsteady.
"Brian! I can't see! Where am I? What "
"It's okay, Sunshine. Don't fucking freak out on me, or the nurses will throw me out for upsetting their little angel."
Nurses. Okay. He was in a hospital then. But why? And what was wrong with him. He tried to work things out, to remember.
Then his heart seemed to be squeezed in an ice cold vice.
He'd been in the car. With Brian. And with Gus. Gus!
He seemed to remember Gus screaming in fear and pain and a sense of terror as the car was rolling
He'd been driving.
JR had some kind of phobia about flying and screamed if they even went near the airport so they'd all been driving down from Toronto for Christmas. He, Brian and Gus in a hired car. The girls following behind them with JR.
"Gus?" he croaked.
But he didn't get an answer, because suddenly the room seemed full of sound and movement and Brian was swept away from him while fingers prodded him and then a wave of dark relief flowed over him as the pain receded and he subsided into unconsciousness.
Brian allowed himself to be elbowed aside and took the opportunity to update the people in the waiting room that Justin had at least woken up.
He shrugged off the well-meaning advice that he needed to eat, get some rest, take care of himself and all that shit.
He was fine, it was his two Sonnyboys that he had to take care of, and they were by no means out of the woods yet.
Gus had woken this morning, after nearly a day of unconsciousness, but he'd been confused and scared and the doctors had told them it was too soon to see if the significant bump to his head caused, ironically, by the back of his head re-uniting too hard with the neck support on his booster seat when the car rolled, had caused any permanent brain damage.
Justin had also been confused and scared, and Brian hadn't even had the chance to explain to him that the reason he couldn't see was because his eyelids had suffered some cuts from the windshield glass. They were confident that there was no damage to his eyes, but they'd put pads on to keep them closed and allow the lids to heal.
The fucking glass was supposed to be shatter-resistant, but Brian supposed that didn't include the intrusion of a 10 ft long fucking tree branch.
There had been a sudden pile up on the freeway just outside Pittsburgh. Justin had been driving when all of a sudden the truck in front of them had slammed on his brakes, slewing across the road. Fortunately they'd been in the right hand lane because their exit was coming up and Justin had dragged the steering wheel to the right which had prevented them from crashing into the truck; but on the icy roads they'd skidded and wound up cart-wheeling off the shoulder.
On the way, they'd somehow collected the tree branch.
Brian had come out of it with nothing worse than mild whiplash and bruised ribs from the air bag, but both his
He had to take a deep breath to overcome a recurrence of the sheer fucking terror he'd felt when the car finally came to a stop and he'd realized both Gus and Justin were injured.
The car had been on an awkward angle, half in, half out of a ditch, and he'd had to fight to get his door open so that he could get to the back of the car and reach Gus. He'd heard the sirens approaching and some kind of sense had kicked in and he hadn't done what he desperately wanted to do and pulled Gus out willy-nilly and then done the same for Justin. He'd just held Gus's hand and reached out to stroke the blond hair with a hand that came back spotted with blood.
Then the girls were there, screaming and strident, and then the emergency crew and next thing he knew he was in an ambulance, holding Justin's hand this time, because Lindsay had gone with Gus.
That had been nearly twenty-four hours ago and he'd felt himself imploding ever since. He should have been fucking driving. Although, fuck knows that he didn't think he could have done any better than Justin had, because at least their side spin had taken them out of the worst of it.
If Justin hadn't pulled them off to the side, they would have been caught between the car behind (a huge fucking SUV) and the truck. And in that case, he didn't think any of them would have come out of it alive. Because the SUV had also skidded, but they'd been going faster, apparently, and their momentum had meant that they plowed straight into the truck; both the driver and passenger had apparently "died on impact" as the police fucking put it.
Police interviews were among the many minor irritations that he'd had to deal with right along with fucking doctors wanting to check him out and their well-meaning fucking friends trying to force feed him and nagging at him to go home and get some sleep.
Sleep! They had to be fucking kidding.
How the fuck was he supposed to sleep when Justin and Gus were
But they were going to be okay. He kept telling himself that.
The doctors were a little concerned about Gus; they said there was no reason at this stage to believe that he'd suffered any brain damage or internal injuries, but they wouldnt be able to be sure until he was properly conscious. He had a broken arm and bruises to most of this little body, but the biggest concern was the knock to his head. But overall they were very positive.
Justin was another story.
He had escaped any broken bones but as the doctors insisted on explaining to him, like he was a fucking moron and hadn't immediately grasped the fucking problem any knock to the head after "his previous significant head injury" was a cause for major concern.
The fact that he'd lapsed into coma hadn't allayed that concern in any fucking way.
Once they'd been processed through the ER both his son and his lover had been put into the Neurology ward to monitor their head injuries and Brian had spent the hours since stalking from one room to another, sitting with one of them till the medical personnel moved him out and then stalking off to the other.
Linds had finally gone home to try to get some sleep to Deb's, or Michael's, he wasn't sure.
Mel had barely made an appearance because "someone had to look after JR". Brian was trying not to resent that. Michael, Deb or Ben could have looked after JR. There was nothing fucking wrong with JR. But "her son" was in the fucking hospital and needed someone to sit with him in case he woke up again and was fucking scared finding himself in such a strange place and in pain and Mel didn't seem to give a shit.
At the moment Deb was with him, because Brian couldn't be in two places at once.
This was supposed to be fucking Christmas.
Where was all the fucking "comfort and joy" when you needed it?
He sank onto a bench in the corridor till the med staff had done whatever they were doing with his partner and tried to pray not for himself, never for himself. But for Gus, for Justin; for those two he'd even try to humble himself before the God he blamed for the minor Hell of his childhood and the way his mother's religion had fucked up any chance he'd ever had of her ever coming to love him.
But his mind was too weary and all he was conscious of was a deep, soul-deep, longing for his son's laughter and the warmth of Justin in his arms.
They were the only comfort and joy he wanted, the only kind he'd ever allowed himself to need.
He felt a hand on his shoulder. It was the nurse what the fuck was her name? Jo-Anne.
She smiled at him and Brian was caught between an entirely irrational desire to slap the smile off her face, and some kind of relief, because surely she wouldn't be smiling if there was bad news.
"Your partner is sleeping now," she said. "We gave him something to help with the pain from his bruised ribs. But your son is beginning to wake up again. Would you like to sit with him for a while?"
Brian found himself nodding and had to force himself to stop so that he could stand and follow her down to Gus's room.
Deb gave him a shaky smile and moved towards the door. "I'm going to get coffee and something for you to eat and you will fucking eat it, you hear me?"
He was used to being nagged by Deb, especially when she was worried, so he simply ignored her and sat beside Gus. The poor kid had one arm in a sling and the other hand hooked up to some kind of intravenous drip. Unable even to take his son's hand, he simply rested his own hand against Gus's cheek and as he did his son's eyes opened.
It had been a while since Gus had called him that. His son had decided it was too baby-ish once he'd started school. It made Brian feel like laughing and weeping at the same time to hear it now.
"I hurt," Gus complained. "I'm thirsty."
The nurse, who'd followed Brian in handed him a cup with a straw and Brian held it gently to his son's lips. Gus drank thirstily.
Gus nodded, but then winced. "My head hurts. And my arm."
There was a slight stir behind him and then one of the armies of doctors was on the other side of the bed. For once, he didn't wave Brian aside, he simply took Gus's pulse and then shone a light into his eyes.
"Hello, Gus," he said. "I'm Doctor Collins. I'm going to be helping you to get better as soon as you possibly can, okay?"
"Okay," Gus said in a very small voice. "Why do I hurt? Why is this thing in my arm?"
"You were in a bit of an accident," the doctor said. "But you're going to be fine. The needle in your hand was giving you plenty of liquids while you were asleep and couldn't drink."
He smiled across the bed at Brian then, and repeated, "You're going to be just fine."
Then said to Gus, "How good are you at counting?" and held up three fingers.
"I'm real good," Gus stated firmly.
"So how many fingers am I showing you?"
Gus looked scornful. "Three," he said. "Which means you've got another five fingers and two thumbs that I can't see."
The doctor laughed. "I can see that you really are good at counting," he said.
Brian felt a wave of pride wash over him. It had a strangely invigorating effect; combined with the relief that his Sonnyboy really did seem to be fine, he felt like he'd just received a whole new lease on life. He was almost looking forward to eating whatever shit Debbie had dug up from the cafeteria, although he knew from past bitter experience that it would be total crap.
The doctor checked out the back of Gus's head and nodded with satisfaction.
"You've got a great big bump there," he told Gus, "which is why your head hurts so much. But we're going to give you something to make you feel better and then you can have something to eat."
"Ice cream?" Gus asked hopefully.
"Well, maybe not ice cream," the doctor replied (while Brian resolved to get one of the fucking family to take a drive to get some), "but maybe soup and Jell-O."
"Okay," Gus sighed, his drama queen inheritance clear from his whole demeanor.
The doctor grinned, and beckoned the nurse who quietly slipped the needle from the back of Gus's hand, and covered the mark with a brightly colored bandaid.
Then she helped Gus take a couple of tablets, and settled him back against his pillows in a position where they weren't pressing directly on the bruise at the back of his skull.
Brian saw all that from the corner of his eye, while he did his best to give the doctor his full attention.
"All the signs are that he's going to be fine, Mr. Kinney," he said, and Brian had difficulty following anything after that. "As you know we took a CT scan earlier, and that showed nothing that gave us any reason for concern. Since he's clearly demonstrating no cognitive problems, I believe that we can rule out any kind of brain damage. As you know, however, concussion of any kind is not to be taken lightly, and we'd like to keep Gus in for another night for observation. If all goes well, you should be able to take him home tomorrow."
Brian nodded. Tomorrow. Christmas Eve.
Tomorrow he'd be able to take Gus home and tuck him into bed in the bedroom he and Justin had
"Have you heard anything about my partner?" he asked.
The doctor shook his head. "I'm sorry, no. I specialize in pediatric cases. Have any of the medical staff spoken to you about him?"
"Not since last night," Brian said. "He woke up a little while ago, but I think they gave him stuff to put him back to f to sleep again."
The doctor nodded. "It's possible they felt that it's best to keep him sedated and allow his body to have rest in order to facilitate the healing."
Brian nodded. "I get that, but his eyes his eyelids were badly cut from the fucking windshield. He he's an artist "
He couldn't get any more than that out. Could not bear to vocalize the thought that Justin might have damaged his sight. His fucking hand was bad enough, but
The doctor touched his arm, his face actually showing some of the sympathy he felt.
"I'll find out who his primary doctor is and have him paged for you," he promised. "In the meantime, try to have something to eat and ask the nurses to contact the support volunteers. They will be able to show you where you can rest for a while, maybe have a shower. Is there anyone who can bring you some clothes?"
Brian nodded, feeling an unusual but profound sense of gratitude to this guy who wasn't trying to tell him to leave, or advising him to sleep, but was offering somewhere close by where he could maybe rest for a few minutes and at least get clean.
"Okay, then," the doctor said decidedly. "Nurse, can you make sure that one of the support volunteers looks after Mr. Kinney and shows him where he can rest and shower?"
"Of course, doctor. I think that they're already waiting outside to speak to Mr. Kinney. And there's someone there with some food for him, too."
Brian sighed a little, resigning himself to force down the dry sandwich or whatever Deb had managed to find in the actually-worse-than-the-diner Hell of the so-called fucking cafeteria.
But there, at least, he was in luck. Or something. Because out in the waiting room, he found Emmett, complete with insulated baskets and bags containing not only some of Brian's favorite Thai foods, but also some chicken soup for Gus and a small container of ice cream. Not to mention a change of clothes that apparently Michael had fetched from the loft before he'd had to go open his store.
Brian surprised everyone, himself included, by giving the kind-hearted queen a smacking kiss.
Then he made his way back into his son's room, where Debbie had once more taken over the Gus-sitting duties, with the soup and the insulated cup of ice cream.
"Soup first, Sonnyboy," he told his son who was making faces at the tasteless shit the hospital was trying to foist on him, "and then Auntie Em's brought you some ice cream."
He was rewarded when Gus's eyes lit up and he left him happily slurping his way through what looked suspiciously like Deb's chicken soup recipe, with one eye on the ice cream container sitting on the bed-table.
The "support volunteer" who was still patiently waiting for him turned out to be an old guy of around ninety. But he happily took Brian down the hall, and round three corners into a small "family suite". There were a couple of beds, a TV and most importantly of all to Brian, a shower.
Once he'd showered and changed, he took the containers of Thai food into Justin's room and settled down to wait for his lover to wake again.
That didn't take long.
Brian swore later that it was the smell of food that did it, but before he'd made much headway at all with the Pad Thai, Justin's voice interrupted him.
"Are you seriously sitting there eating in front of me when I'm starving and sore all over and fucking blind?!"
His voice wavered a little hysterically on the last word and Brian reached out a hand to grab the one that was frantically searching for him.
"Fuck what a drama queen!" he said snarkily. "You're not blind you've just got pads on your eyes."
Before Justin could frame the question about why, he went on, "Your eyelids got a little cut up when the windshield shattered, but the docs can't find any damage to your eyes at all so let's shelve the hysterics, alright, Sunshine?"
Justin felt the tears that threatened to flood out from beneath the eye pads recede a little.
"Are they sure?"
"They seem to be. They're more worried about that thick skull of yours. And your ribs," he added. "You seem to have bruised those pretty badly, maybe even cracked a couple."
Justin relaxed even more. "My head feels okay," he said. "It's not even aching much. I'm not sure I even banged my head."
He took a deep breath and asked the question he was dreading. "Is Gus okay?"
"He's got a clean break to one of the bones in his forearm," Brian replied, his tone of voice indicating that he was repeating verbatim what he'd been told by the doctors. "And a bump on his head the size of one of your balls, but aside from that he's fine. He's currently feasting on chicken soup and ice cream."
"What are you eating?"
"What does it smell like?"
"Thai," Justin said, longing clear in his voice.
"As soon as the docs give you the go ahead I'll buy a truckload of the stuff for you," Brian promised.
Justin squeezed his hand.
Then he said awkwardly, "I'm so sorry, Brian. I should have "
"You did fucking fine," Brian said sharply.
"No! If I hadn't swung the wheel so violently we wouldn't have skidded and "
"If you hadn't swung the wheel hard enough to get us out of there we would have been quite fucking literally the bloody filling in a truck and SUV sandwich," Brian said bluntly.
At Justin's puzzled look, he explained what had happened to the car behind them.
"Did they find out what caused the truck to stop so suddenly?" Justin asked, trying to take it all in, to believe that it wasn't all his fault that Gus had wound up in hospital at Christmas.
"Some dick-headed drunk tried to cut across three lanes of traffic to get to his exit. Two cars tried to get out of his way and wound up piling into each other. The truck driver was trying not to fucking plow into them."
The only reason aside from needing to be there for his two Sonnyboys that Brian hadn't personally gone hunting for the drunk driver was that the police had told him that the guy had misjudged the turn at the top of the exit ramp, and had somehow wound up on the wrong side of the road. An eighteen wheeler had hit him head on; it had taken the emergency crews over two hours to cut his body out of what was left of his car. At least, Brian thought vengefully, he wouldn't be causing any more accidents.
Justin was just about to begin a pitch to get access to at least some of the noodles when a nurse interrupted him.
"The doctor's on his way, Mr. Taylor," she said. "We know you must be anxious about your eyes, so I'm just going to remove the pads so he can check and make sure everything is alright."
His grip tightened on Brian's hand, and he was relieved when he felt Brian's warmth beside him.
"Calm down, Sunshine. I'm here. Everything is going to be okay."
Brian's voice sounded so sure and confident that Justin felt he could lean against it and find it as solid and strong as his lover's arms.
Then the nurse was fussing with the pads, and the doctor was there, and light, blessed light, was shining in his eyes and he knew that Brian was right. Everything was okay.
Well, Gus had a broken arm, that wasn't alright.
And his ribs were killing him.
And he was starving.
And Brian must have spent the past however long totally freaking out.
But aside from that everything was fine.
By the time he'd made it home the next day, he wasn't so convinced of that. Despite all his best cajoling, he hadn't been able to avoid a night in the hospital, "just to be on the safe side".
And getting home, with badly bruised ribs, turned out to be not so much fun as he might have hoped, although at least they'd removed the eye pads so he could fucking see. The small cuts on the lids were healing nicely, they told him, he just needed to keep using the antibiotic ointment and keep blinking to try to make sure that his fucking eyelids didn't stick together.
Then there were all the friends and relations and whatever that made up their fucked up little family. They were all milling around Britin as if they had no fucking homes of their own to go to.
But at least they'd brought food, he supposed.
So maybe it wasn't totally terrible that they were there.
They'd even set up the Christmas tree, while he and Gus lay back on the futons Brian had summoned from somewhere, and instructed everyone on where they'd wanted all the decorations placed.
That had been okay.
And now they'd all gone away, to somewhere else in the house at least, and he and Brian and Gus were all curled up on one of the huge couches in the media room together watching The Muppet Christmas Carol. Gus was giggling over Gonzo and the rat and Brian's arms were warm around him and just at the moment life looked pretty good. Well, at least until he had to move again.
Actually, he could think of worse ways to spend Christmas Eve.
On that thought, he found himself drifting off to sleep.
Brian, feeling Justin slump even more against him, looked down at him cautiously. When he realized his partner had fallen asleep, he filed it away under 'things to tease Justin about later', and concentrated on relishing the feel of him, warm and solid in his arms; and enjoying Gus's laughter over that dumb fucking purple thing and the skinny looking rat.
Both his Sonnyboys were here, safe and happy under his roof, and that made it a pretty fucking good Christmas Eve as far as he was concerned.
The words of the old carol floated through his brain:
Tidings of comfort-and-joy.
Damned fucking right, he thought as he too drifted into a light sleep, his son's laughter acting as a lullaby and his partner's warmth better than any blanket.
Damned comfort and fucking joy right.
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