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Ever After University

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Fletcher tempts fate when he runs into his first day late with his professor. Will his unraveling get the best of them as he fights to overcome the obstacles in their paths?

Erotica / Romance
Age Rating:

You're Late

A quick, firm hand emerged from the frame of the door and stops you in your tracks while your chest lightly cascades into the limb that is blocking you from taking any further steps. The cologne that trails up to you fogs your brain and intoxicates you all at once. Please don’t let him be attractive, too. All hot guys smell nice, though, unfortunately. You could smell them from a mile away. You look up at the illuminating red digital clock on the wall, two minutes past nine. You’ve got to be kidding, and you’re still late, after all this.

“You’re late. Did you not read the syllabus? I don’t allow late students into my lectures – especially on the first day.” A velvety voice deeply rolls and sends a shiver immediately down your spine, enveloping you for a moment in something other than pain. If he wasn’t so aggressive with the situation, it almost felt as if the professor was giving you a good up and down without trying to be obvious, but painfully so.

Panicking for a good cover, you quickly wipe the sweat that is forming from your brow as it furrows, grimacing from the pain that you try to hide as it’s running in all pathways along your body. Sweat drips down the sides of your face as you try to concentrate on not concentrating fully on this man on display in front of you. You hesitantly will yourself to look up as the hair on your neck softly raises and goosebumps form, prickling all along every inch of your body – meeting a tall, devilish man in a burgundy suit that sternly holds your gaze under your halfhearted attempt to flee the tension he’d built around you both. God, he’s perfect, well, if he dropped the dickhead complex. You can see his breath hitch feverishly as he prepares his comeback, his eyes meet yours darkly. Okay, so you have an upper hand in a potential attraction here.

“I did read the syllabus, professor. I can explain, see…” The man holds a hand to your face as you begin to try and make sense of the whole situation yourself. You feel confused and you don’t really remember feeling that way until now.

“I’d be sweating profusely, too, if I were in your position. Fletcher, right? My only tardy student. I don’t need an explanation, tardiness simply isn’t allowed in my classroom.” Maybe the advantage you thought you had isn’t there, go figure, doesn’t come as a complete surprise given the morning you’ve had so far. His knowing glance tugs a little at his authority over you. You almost catch the corners of the professor’s mouth turning up into a sly, warm, and mysterious smirk as he gazes on, taunting you. What the hell is his deal? What kind of person can be an asshole this immediately into an introductory conversation? And this early in the morning, at that. A psychopath, for starters. Take Ted Bundy for example.

“It’s literally just two minutes. I’m really sorry professor. It won’t happen again, I uh – I...” You carelessly stumble over your words, stammering, and realize for the first time that you are huffing, out of breath. Your head is throbbing immensely with deep internal pain. The more you start to panic your rugged breathing turns into deep wheezes, fuck, why right now. You frantically pull your backpack up to your chest and fling it open searching your bag for your inhaler that you fumble with to push rescue breaths into your lungs. “Oh fuck.” You shakily breathe out, trying to take deep breaths.

“What are you doing? I’m not falling for any tricks, someone literally did this exact scenario to me last year and I still didn’t let them in.” Your eyes meet his again, his questioning gaze intensifies as he sees briefly that you aren’t trying to get out of being late. With each breath you take you feel your lungs weakening and it feels like you’re trying to breathe out of a straw.

“I have asthma, asshole.” You wheeze out, realizing your breathing problems might be deeper than just your asthma currently. Either that or he thinks you are taking it to the extreme to get passed into class.

“Well, I’ve heard every bullshit excuse for students to try to bend my rules, and not one of them to date has been allowed to enter my lecture hall late, so let’s hear it.” The professor crosses his arms. Is this guy serious? You are pretty well known for being a skeptical dickhead sometimes, but he is for sure a chart-topper, and very forward with it.

“I can’t fake an asthma attack, you can hear this shit a mile away. But this is the least of my problems, currently.” You cock your head to the side, your eyes slanting into a flat-out glare. You try your inhaler a second time, hoping to get some form of relief. He sharply offers a pointed finger that lingers toward your forehead, where you knew you had been bleeding from just mere moments ago.

“Wait, let me guess, you got mugged?” He raises an eyebrow, testing you as if you already didn’t have enough going on.

“What the fuck? No, I wasn’t mugged. Now you’re the one just making up stories.” You strain to keep yourself collected, giving him a look of being taken aback before pushing his finger away from your face. “I was in a wreck?” You mutter out, defeated at how lacking in compassion and understanding this guy apparently is.

“Wow, Fletcher, an original one. Is that a question or a statement? Honestly, I kind of was expecting something more from you, your creativity is disappointing. You can try again tomorrow, provided you can make it on time.” He scoffs, rolling his eyes as he is displaying a mockingly cold thin smile while he still blocks you from moving forward.

He crosses his arms tightly and you watch the muscles flex under the constriction of the fabric of his dress shirt. You shake your head and laugh under your breath to yourself, irritated by his attractiveness and running out of patience at the same time. And after all this shit, you are going to snap.

“You can’t be serious, right? Your ability to conclude a truth from obvious factual evidence is astounding. What a fucking joke.” You bite harshly into the air, pissed and suddenly fuming. “In all honesty, I’m not one to lie just to get into a class. I have much more rewarding things to do with my time. You know what, professor, why don’t you go outside and take a look around? My crumpled car is still totaled next to that big, pretty hard-to-miss fire truck with the massive flashing lights!” You throw your arm out in disgust toward the door you just came into before being questioned by the head of the FBI here.

“Oh, this is a good one.” His strained laugh booms against the walls around you as he claps his hands in a round of applause, clearly becoming irritated as well. “You must be really committed. They usually give up by now. The pleasure is all mine, I’d love to waste more of my time on you. I’m almost tempted to let you in now just for how dedicated to this excuse you are.” He snips back unapologetically as he sharply makes his way past you and toward the door. He swings it open with haste and then stops dead in his tracks, the door swinging back to softly hit his body, halfway outside.

“Yeah, you see that? What you are looking at would be my black Dodge Challenger, smashed to fuck like a ball of foil! If you still thought I was lying, that is.” You press your gaze into a thin smirk in his direction, declaring you have an obvious upper-hand advantage now. He glances back at you with confusion and then again toward the mangled mess of a car that you no longer have. Bingo, the mindfuck has just set in. His demeanor seems to change in an instant as the door quietly clicks back shut and he walks quickly back to meet you, face to face.” That’s what you get for being an egotistical shithead.” You tire out suddenly, leaning against the wall for support.

“Hold on, wait, you’re serious aren’t you?” His tone becomes increasingly lighter.

“Really? Are you fucking kidding me? No, I definitely made this up. Isn’t it obvious by now that this isn’t some ploy to get into your class?” You snort out a hateful laugh, shaking your head in disgust. He is taken aback as he glares at you initially at your response, mapping your face for truth, and then for the first time it’s almost as if both of you together finally realize how disheveled you must look. His eyes soften with questioning and the tension washes away.

Breathe Fletcher, you internalize to yourself.

You can feel your heart racing in your chest as the sound of chairs scraping and whispers begin within the large class behind the door that once was blocked from you. Your forehead stings as sweat drips down from your face and the ringing that has been slowly becoming louder in your head buzzes so heavily that you try to calm it by running your hands shakily across your temples. You take a deep breath to try and steady yourself.

“Some drunk asshole smashed into my driver’s side door at the light as it turned green going into the university drive. I was trying to make it to your class on time because it’s my first day, so this exact issue wouldn’t happen with the syllabus shit, and...” He cuts you off from your frantic flow of details as you try to explain yourself again.

“Fletcher...slow down...” The professor gently says – looking back inwards to the class as he softly gives a reassuring squeeze to your shoulder. You feel awful, so intensely as you haven’t before, but somewhere his touch is still able to register sparks in your body. You certainly can’t decipher yet if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

Remember, this guy is Ted Bundy the second. Don’t get captivated, he’s already turning out to be a problem and you’ve only just met.

“Oh, seriously? You want to be friendly, now?” Scoffing, you look over to his hand resting lightly against your sweat-soaked hoodie as you feel him staring at you. He slowly recoils his hand back inwards and away from you and it’s almost shocking to feel the sense of touch leave your body.

“I’m not some heartless monster. I’m only a stickler about my classroom because if I’m not then everyone could do as they wish and not as they need. It’s supposed to be a teachable moment.” He sighs, rubbing a hand against the back of his neck. “I’m sorry Fletcher, I didn’t mean to come across as so unapproachable. It seems I’m not making a very positive lasting first impression. I just got stepped on as a new teacher for so many years when I first started that I get very defensive when that threat rises again in the back of my mind.” He leaks sincerity in his apology and you briefly question if his unruly behaviors prior to this were just merely a front for self-protection.

Your eyes feel heavy, almost out of focus and your breath hitches, causing you to try and steady your next actions. You use the wall as a means of holding yourself up, lazily resting your body against it. You relax your eyes for a moment before looking toward him again, your vision feels like it is tunneling, and fast.

“Really – I won’t let it happen again. Just please let me come in, it’s really important to me. I can prove that to you.” Your voice strains, almost cracking, and embarrassingly plead to your professor as something warm begins to run down the length of your neck. “What the fuck now?” You mutter, running your hand along your neck which returns as two hands in your doubling vision. It is covered in beautifully dark maroon blood from trying to wipe the sweat you had thought was actually the culprit, to begin with.

“I think you should sit down.” He offers, his eyes searching you for some level of control over how badly things are unfolding.

“Oh shit.” You barely mumble out, your breath catching again in your chest before it can even escape your lungs. All at once you feel your knees wiggle and begin to buckle. You frantically look toward this stranger you’ve been thrown into this chaos with and he looks back with the same level of concern. You laugh to keep yourself calm. “There is absolutely no way today could possibly get any worse.” You huff, realizing the severity of your concerns and how the possibility of this actually becoming a lot worse is starting to take place. You might have maybe fucked up by refusing medical treatment to hastily make it on time to class to in turn only be late. Oh, the irony.

“Okay, this is definitely not good.” He says as he tries to steady you, you can feel your legs become shakier like Jell-o under as they threaten to no longer hold you up. “Class is postponed until tomorrow, please check your school emails later today to look over your classroom fact-check off instructions from the syllabus and class schedule. You can begin to look over notes for the first chapter to dive into things.” You didn’t notice the man turn to dismiss the class as you manage to messily slide yourself down the wall with his help where you slump into a half-sitting position. “It’s okay, you’re good. Just stay here, all right?” The professor calmly, but sternly instructs you, clearly confused on what to even begin to do with what is unfolding before him.

“Okay, Dad.” You grumble with a heavy sigh, trying to keep the nausea that is creeping up at bay by clenching your jaw. You claw for your backpack strap and slide it across the floor toward yourself from where it was thrown, pulling out a pack of gum. You begin trying to clumsily open the pack, becoming frustrated as your fingers don’t cooperate with you. “Come on!” Your hands shake in frustration and defeat. You suck in a rushed breath, warm hands cover yours as they pull the pack from you. You move your eyes from your own hands and look toward the professor squatting in front of you as he flips open the top, pulling out one of the green sticks of gum.

“Here.” He says softly, folding back the wrapper, and offering it to you. “But gum, right now?” He questions with slight humor.

“So you can be genuinely nice.” You force a humorless chuckle. “I’m really nauseous, it’s a mind trick, the gum.” You breathe out, groaning deeply by trying to coax your stomach into the trick. Your hand is trembling as you struggle to even grab it from him, so he lightly unfolds it the rest of the way and pushes it into your grip. “Thanks.” You close your eyes tightly as you begin to try and chew the mint gum to ease your stomach, but the churning is ever-present and threatening. You keep your mouth in a tight thin line as you breathe out of your nose.

“It looks like we’re about to lose.” You hear your professor say from somewhere close to you and you nod in agreement and defeat.

“Fuck.” You frantically panic as your breathing picks up and in a split second, your eyes crack open again. Your face flushes with heat as your mouth goes from completely bone dry to over-secreting. There it is. The initial heave brings a wave of vomit over you that is so forced by your own body that you feel like you are suffocating. In the same instant that it begins, you are thankful to see that instead of going all over you it’s all going into a small metal trash can. The professor’s hands have been holding it up for you as you fight to keep yourself propped up against the wall the more tired you become. “I’m so sorry.” You try to gasp out an offered apology between leaning over the trash. You retch again, unable to even form the words completely before it continues.

“Please don’t be sorry.” The professor watches you intently, a nervousness filling the space between you that wasn’t present before. Students quickly file out and pass you, no one is directly looking toward the two of you together, but you can feel your face burning from sideways glances to see what is going on. You groan low in pain as your chest burns from forcing so much out so quickly. Your body is sensing pain receptors all over the place that you had no knowledge of before this point which makes you wonder what the accident has caused that is wreaking so much havoc.

Your head throbs and you wish you could smash it into the wall to just finally get it over with. All the commotion at once with all the students peering at you while you suffer is striking a match that explodes your anxiety into an inescapable flurry of panic. You didn’t think that you could be breathing any faster than you already were, but you are now. Your heart pounds in your head.

“Fuck, I think I’m dying. It’s a shame it’s here with you.” You groan in pain, your sense of humor still shining bright. You feel other students watching you now, you just know it, and it’s making everything ten times worse.

“Don’t look at them, look at me, and don’t say that either. You’re not going to die, Fletcher.” The professor must feel your anxiety skyrocket as he levels face-to-face with you while he pulls out his phone. He calmly places it to his ear and begins to show his waver in concern as you notice yourself becoming comfortable and tired so much that you lean your head back to rest for a moment. The cold of the wall is soothing and you wrap your arms in a loose hug to stop your body from shaking as your teeth begin to chatter with chills. Another violent wave of nausea pools in you and it’s merely seconds into it that you are vomiting and heaving, head deep into the trash can again. You attempt to wrap your arms around it to hold it in place as you feel more vulnerable than you’d like to admit.

“God, make it stop, please.” You pant, trying to catch a break as he holds the trash by your face. Your attempt to hold it for yourself fails while the sweat secreting from your hands just causes them to slide down it. You find his other hand placed with a heavy comfort on your thigh.

“Hey, it’s Maddox in room twenty-two, can you send the health clerk to my room urgently please, and have them route in an ambulance, too? I’ve got a student here that was just in an accident and didn’t want to be late for my class – but it’s apparent that he needs to be seen, like ten minutes ago.” He sternly gives you a sideways glance as you peer at him from the rim of the vomit-filled trash he’s still holding. His look doesn’t hold the same agitation as before and seems to have turned into fear, which causes you to chuckle gently into the next wave of nausea.

Fatigue sets in immensely as your professor pockets the phone. You realize how much of an idiot you feel like from this occurring to begin with. He sits more comfortably on the floor next to you as he carefully places stacks of gauze over your forehead and somewhere along the back of your head. He follows it with a wrapped cold pack that he quickly compiled from a first aid kit from the wall above you. He’s watching you with the caution of a prison guard and it makes you question just how bad you must look right about now.

“Impressive first aid, professor. Did you learn that boy scouts?” You heave again, willing yourself to hold it in, but feel like you are greatly about to fail.

“Nope, we’re not done.” He grabs his hold on you a little tighter and you force yourself to focus on it. By the third quick succession of flowing vomit, you break and he can sense it. There is an urgency now to the situation that was present before but is clearly evident now. Your head is so heavy, the best you can do is to let it hang loosely off to the side of the wall attempting to find another cold area to rest your face. You feel freezing and clammy.

“I threw up more than this, once. I had a Big Mac, I think I had food poisoning.” You say, attempting to lighten the tense tone of how quickly this spiraled out from under you. The trash can is pushed to the side and his hand pushes your chin up so that you make eye contact as you try to adjust your position with his offered help. You feel his fingers press firmly but lightly into the side of your neck as he holds it there for a moment, his eyes flickering toward his watch.

“Do you ever stop making jokes?” He questions, his panic seems to be higher than yours.

“No, but joking makes me feel better. I feel, like, really shitty right now.” You say, your breath increasing rapidly, sweat soaking your clothes the clammier you become.

“You look, like, really shitty. So I’d imagine that you do. I don’t think I’ve had this much concern for a stranger in my life, Fletcher.” He says, giving you a stern one over.

“I’ll take that as a compliment.” You mutter out, your eyes closing to rest for a moment.

“I’m no doctor, but your pulse is abnormally fast. If you lost any more color I’d think you were a ghost. I can’t help but wonder how I’m more fearful right now than you while you’re over here having a late-night comedy special like it’s nothing.” He smiles with force at you as you laugh dryly, peeling your eyes back open.

“World’s greatest coping skill, I know.” You nearly yawn, before finally letting yourself slouch down into more of an almost laying position the more difficult it becomes to use your energy to hold yourself up against the wall. You are finally getting comfortable. The professor rushes away from your side and you feel cold and abandoned, but within the same moment the dread hits you he returns with a large quilt-like blanket that is doubled over itself. He effortlessly pushes it down behind you to aid in keeping you propped up.

“I bet I can crawl in there to see if the rest of your room is as comfortable as this blanket is. Please just drag me in at least, just a foot in the door.” You joke, unable to do anything more at this point to keep your own fear at ease. “Fuck, this is so bad.” You bite into the air around you, chewing on your bottom lip to keep it from being obvious that it’s wavering. You won’t let yourself cry, but it’s all you want to do. You are defeated, exhausted, and unsure of what will even be next at this point.

“Will you forget about being late for one second, Fletcher? What the fuck is wrong with you? I will count you as present so you can shove that concern out of your mind. When this is all over you will come back here to see the inside of this room. I don’t think anyone could ever possibly top an excuse like this.” He seems upset with himself, and you can see layers of exhaustion and stress registering on his face as well. “Well, not even an excuse really. It’s an excused absence! Just let it go…take care of yourself.” He grumbles to the ground, seeming defeated by the situation and your unwillingness to see how dangerous it could end up becoming.

“Is my creativity any less disappointing now, professor?” You muster to throw another joke out but realize just how awful he must actually feel about this when his face loses color – and he thought you were paling. “You’re the one that looks like a ghost, now.” You snort a painful laugh at yourself.

“Will you just call me Maddox, please?” This feels like we passed the point of formalities and are on a first-name basis now. Somehow you are the one teaching me currently, anyway. And yes, Fletcher.” He gives you a stubborn fleeting glance. “Your creativity is extremely daunting, to say the least, I’ve learned.”

“I’m really sorry about this on the first day of class – talk about a first impression, right? Not only was I late, but then I interrupted the entire class and made you hold a bucket of my vomit. I can’t go to the hospital though, it just isn’t an option. I hate hospitals, we don’t get along anymore. That’s literally the last thing I need right now.” Images replay in your mind of your younger brother laying sunken in the massive hospital bed, a skeleton of himself before he passed away from the aggressive cancer that they found.

You try to shake those images away to tuck them back again and seem aggressively set in your mind on the intention of not going as you almost immediately soften. Your body feels worn considerably more as the moments pass. You are barely able to contain the dry heave you feel pressing daringly at the corners of your mouth. He chokes back an uneasy sharp laugh of defeat.

“There can’t be more in there.” Maddox’s raise in tone shows how panicked he must be internally as he messily grabs for the trash he put to the side earlier and meets it under your face again just as you can’t hold the vomit in your mouth anymore. “But there is.” He finishes, looking down into it to assess the vast amount of bloody vomit you somehow keep producing.

You feel like you are hyperventilating with how much you are forcing yourself to try and breathe as you wipe your hand messily across your mouth. It drops down to your lap with a smear of blood that has collected at the edge of your mouth. He looks down at it carefully calculating his thoughts in his mind before gently wiping it off of your hand with a tissue he pulls out of his pocket. It almost seems like it’s difficult for him to try and register the blood that is present, probably just as much as it is for you. He looks up at you, the softness of his eyes pleading with you to get your shit together.

“Fletcher, this is bad. This is so very bad. You have to go, you don’t have a choice in my opinion – and you look like shit, don’t be ridiculous. I mean, are you fucking kidding me? This is unquestionably not a choice scenario. I’m no medical professional but something very wrong is going on. Don’t you have somebody that can go to meet you there so you can feel safer or something?” Maddox says, shifting his weight to adjust his legs beneath him, stretched uncomfortably tight in his dress pants.

Maybe too tight for a situation like this, but you wouldn’t complain. You feel your eyes linger a moment too long at his body angled on the floor next to yours and you wish it was under different circumstances. You huff to yourself, not a time to think about sex. You bring yourself back to the question at hand.

“No, I don’t have anyone here, and I certainly don’t need anyone. I’m alone, just the way that I prefer it.” You say and it comes out more of a defeating whisper than you really meant it to. You look over at a wall against the hall from you, trying to not concentrate on feeling him staring at you. Maddox clicks his tongue and nods his head to himself as if he was making up his mind about something.

“I will go with you. Maybe you don’t want that, but you can’t be alone right now. So I will make the choice for you, I just can’t allow it.” He stands up, grabbing for his things around him as you watch a woman hastily heading toward the pair of you in a frantic panic. There are two men with a stretcher following her closely at foot, followed by four more men in fire gear surrounding everyone as well. Well, now it’s a party.

“Yeah, we got the other victim, captain. It’s him.” One of the men says into a radio and you look over to Maddox.

“What the fuck is he talking about another victim?” You question, looking over to everyone else coming over as well.

“What do you mean another victim?” Maddox asks, out of concern for you. The first guy to approach you looks at you both together, a stray smile crossing his face.

“Well, Fletcher here was able to talk himself out of care, but it turns out that the drunk driver that hit him at the light was deceased on scene, so now he has to go to the hospital. It’s not a choice, now we are required to force you to go. Our friend here was in such a rush to get away from the accident that he basically fled the scene before we could get an assessment on him.” The guy says, crossing his arms and smirking at you like he’s won.

This felt as cornering as their first encounter when the wreck initially occurred. You don’t know how you can get out of it a second time, but you are damn sure going to try. The man talking to you with a large red bag on his shoulder bends down to kneel to you, placing his hands confidently on his knees as he smiles knowingly toward you. He begins to pull supplies out of the bag but remains watching you intently in front of him.

“I’m not going with you.” You grumble out, glaring at him intently to make your point.

“Fletcher, we meet again, remember me?” Taylor softly chuckles as you read his name sewed neatly on his shirt. He looks you over quickly with a rush of urgency and takes in the details about you that are becoming more obviously emergent. “Do I have to beg you to go now, the first eloping patient of my shift? You ran away so quickly the first time I didn’t get a chance to get to know you better. It looks like this time it’s an offer you can’t refuse.” He casually begins to work at a fast pace to pull a tight blue band around your upper arm as he pushes the sleeve of your hoodie up while someone else removes the ice pack from your head and begins wrapping something else around it as a clean replacement. There is another person beginning to take your blood pressure and it’s all so much at once that you feel yourself panicking again.

“Taylor and guests, welcome to the party. This really isn’t necessary, though.” You fumble with your hand, trying to pull it away from him as Taylor gently flattens it out again under your nervousness. You become uninterested to fight him off as Maddox returns swiftly with his belongings as he locks the class door, listening in on the conversation.

Quickly, one of the firefighters begins to unwrap the gauze that Maddox had placed on your head. Taylor unveils a bloody gloved hand in front of your face, the back of your head burning from the throbbing pain he caused by touching it. He gives a disgruntled look toward you again and you lazily peel your eyes back open as they grow heavy, not remembering how they even closed to begin with. The most you can do is offer an uncomfortable moan that seems to cause an uneasy blanket over everyone around you.

“That was already there, before the wreck.” You try to force the words out, but it comes out more of an incoherent mumble.

“Right. This really is necessary, Fletcher. This is what we like to call a true emergency. Your blood pressure is tanked at 84/60 and your heart rate is going at 142 beats per minute. You are breathing 38 times a minute, which by my standards is really going in the wrong direction of bad to worse. Your body is exhausted trying to fix something that clearly...” Taylor trails off, pointing intently with his arm toward your head before scanning it down your body as his concerned glare deepens. He counts to three simultaneously as he does this and something stings in your arm, and you follow your gaze to the pain associated with the needle he is shoving there. “Isn’t going to fix itself, which I think you know.” He finishes, watching you in question.

“God, you don’t ask before the first date?” You scoff, your vision fuzzy, but keep yourself entertained with jokes to aid in your anxiety.

“A comedic genius, I like that.” Taylor smirks as he continues to work. “A lot of what I do is care without consent. I don’t suggest trying it.” He jokes back.

“Sorry about that.” He says almost under his breath to himself but resumes as you watch him advance the IV into your arm successfully. “Something happened that we can’t see fully, so we really need to get you seen. I wouldn’t tell you this if it wasn’t necessary. I’m worried about how much you’ve seemed to go downhill since seeing you at the accident initially when I should have made you go then.” He finishes his initial thought finally as he runs a bag of fluids with tubing and connects it to your arm where he placed the IV. He moves so quickly, you feel it’s a ploy so you can’t escape it.

“You can’t make me do anything.” You slur your words as your eyes close again softly. You feel his hand rub sternly on your chest, forcing you to open your eyes again to the pain.

“I mean, we can play the waiting game until you lose consciousness because then your consent becomes mine, but please don’t make me do that. Because I’m betting you by the looks of it, that could happen relatively soon.” The look that he flashes you is the same one you see Maddox giving you, too.

“Told you.” Maddox holds a threatening tone as he shakes his head in disbelief.

“Bob, let’s get a 12 lead on him please quickly, can we? I don’t like where my numbers are trending. We don’t have a lot of play time here, I’m sensing.” Taylor concentrates on his next task as he gives orders to the others.

Next, he casually begins unbuttoning straps on the gurney next to you and bends back down with a monitor as he carefully tugs to pull your hoodie and shirt up, a pack of stickers in hand, and stops as he begins to feel your chest to place the stickers. He looks at you sternly like a disapproving parent as his hands continue to feel around your chest. His gloved hand feels so weighted while you try to breathe out that you can’t fight the fatigue much longer.

“Look, just let me sign the refusal, I’m not going to the fucking hospital.” You try to push his hands away from your chest, knowing damn well what he’s found.

“Did I mention I’ve been doing this for fourteen years? I can sense the bullshit running from you.” Taylor threatens you with his look, his eyes squinting as you huff out an exhausted breath. “No cardiac history, huh? What in the hell is that for then?” He cuts the nearly awkward tension with the rush of his question as his fingers feel around the implanted pacemaker and you feel your face burn red with embarrassment. “This must be the answer to your evasive nature for medical history questions as you were running away, I’m assuming?” He pins your eyes to him with his intently focused stare, you’ve been caught.

“Um, well. I have a condition that developed when I was younger, I think from an infection or something. My heart rate would drop and eventually, it occurred so often that part of a node malfunctioned and it wouldn’t keep up enough. I haven’t really had any problems though, so it’s nothing, like I said.” You grimace as your head throbs so deeply it feels like a strike of lightning. Fingers snap at your face causing you to focus again and stickers quickly get placed on your chest with two large sticky patches you’ve seen come out plenty of times before.

“I think you’re lying and I think you know that, too.” Taylor threatens you with another dirty glare.

“Fucking great.” You mutter out, looking up at Taylor who has a cross look on his face now.

“Okay, listen. You know you have to go now – especially with that. I know nobody likes to be the one in this predicament, but the severity of the situation is highly rising, and your health is my biggest concern. If you had any trauma in the vehicle and then if this was to fail and you didn’t go, do you know how that would make me feel? Like I killed someone, because I did, and didn’t do my job. Plus, we have no idea of knowing the extent of your internal injuries and if the impact was enough to kill the other driver then it’s enough that your injuries could be fatal as well. So let’s go, buttercup.” He hastily works to connect wires together as the others work to help you situate on the stretcher they have moved next to you at the same time. Your body feels like it is giving out right from under you even though you are hardly doing any of the work to move yourself.

“How’d this happen to your forehead, Fletcher? Do you remember? We have indenting on this laceration, boss. There is another pretty big lac on the back of the head by the base of the neck, we also have unequal pupils.” One of the men carefully assesses the bandaged area on your head to check on it again. Someone is shining a tiny light into your eyes and you bat at it to make it stop. “Wheezing in all lung fields, too.” They verbally check off together the injuries that are obvious as one of them seems to be collecting it all in a report on a tablet that he is quickly typing onto.

“Well, actually, you see it’s a funny story. I was taking my seatbelt off quickly so I could just jump out and go while I was turning into the school because I didn’t want to be late on the first day. My head just kind of tapped the side window a little or something maybe. I don’t remember. But I know I was putting my arms up trying to brace myself so really it was nothing. I think my arm broke most of the impact.” You state factually, chuckling nervously just as the face of Taylor narrows in on you and his eyes feel like they are daggers burning into your soul.

“We need to go. Now.” He sighs into the air. He seems frustrated, but really calm in a sense of how frustration generally appears. “Bob, radio me in the fresh set of vitals – Tom will you look at the strip printout for me and then give the call in for my trauma? There is no fucking way I’m going to look bad in there with those distasteful nurses looming over me. They will have a real hay day with this one, Fletcher, I have to tell you. I will seriously have no problem throwing you under the bus to them.” He laughs with an upset nature to himself, shaking his head slightly before looking back at you as he runs off his orders to his team.

Another firefighter is talking to the side with a slightly more frightful-looking Maddox about the decision to ride with or if he should follow and you can see him glancing nervously at you from the side. It’s humorous how a complete stranger can suddenly have so much compassion and kindness toward someone they wanted to kick out of their lecture hall twenty minutes ago.

“I have to let this go, I tried not to cut it earlier, but it has to come off. I don’t know what other injuries you could be hiding now. I’m sorry, I hope you aren’t that attached to it.” Taylor pulls sheers from his side pocket as he softly grasps at one of the sleeves of your hoodie. He seems to be waiting for your approval, even though you know damn well it’s not really even a yes or no question at this point.

“What do I have to lose now? I did just get it, but I guess it doesn’t matter really, you seem pretty dedicated already in your decision.” You let a long sigh out, exhausted, and tired of trying to fight everything to begin with when you knew it would end up here. Taylor begins to cut the sleeve of the arm with the IV running before he moves over to the next side as Bob starts buckling the straps on you. You can feel your panic rise, closing in on your throat as your chest tightens with each click and tightening of a strap.

“I’m gonna need some meds, quickly, please. Fletcher, I need you to breathe for me. Nice big deep breaths, all right? I’m going to loosen the straps now for you, okay?” Taylor gracefully loosens the straps on you and glances down to cut the sleeve as he reassures and comforts you.

He stops short as he begins the cut and he clenches his jaw, looking down at his knees in a defeated manner. He bounces his gloved fist on his knee a few times before speaking, seeming to level out his frustration.

“Fletcher, man. I can’t take another surprise and I don’t think that your body can either.” He strains in his facial expression as his look guides you down to your arm that is loosely in his hands. “I’m assuming your adrenaline kept you from being made aware of this, among all the other many issues we are happening upon. Bob, tell them to get consults ready, too. I need a level one trauma, and can you get me 150mcg of Fentanyl on the report when you call? Tom can you draw that up for me please with some Zofran and Dylan get him on a non-rebreather mask at twelve liters.” Taylor’s orders start to immediately get carried out as you look at your limp arm in his hands.

“Oh my fucking God.” You interrupt as your stomach lurches at the part of the bone obviously and casually sticking out of the skin around your wrist. “Fuck me.” You panic as your voice raises drastically, a new level of distress threatening to overturn your stomach as well as your mind now.

“It’s better if you don’t look, just keep taking those deep breaths, okay? Tom, I need those meds, buddy. I can see the tossed cereal look approaching and these are my new pants.” Taylor jokes and doesn’t break concentration as he holds your arm – grabbing syringes from another hand in your view.

“Holy shit, my tardy email really must read too harshly.” Maddox pales at the sight and just as you heave again, a gloved hand is holding a bag under your face and you feel a hand rubbing soft circles on your back. Taylor leans out of your view for a moment and returns with a little bit of rage showing on his face.

“I’m going to take a wild guess that all this vomit is from you?” He raises the trash can to meet your gaze and you nod slowly as your eyes start to close again. “I should have known when we first pulled up on a scene like that and I see you self-extricating from a car on its side that you’d be trouble.” Taylor concludes, his face twisted in defeat.

“Yup. That would be mine.” You feel a hand rubbing into your chest at your sternum and you try to raise an arm to fight it off, but it’s pushed back down quickly against your lap.

“So you’ve also been throwing up? This is full of blood, Fletcher! This is a head injury waiting to be unearthed if I ever saw the signs. Any other secrets you’ve kept to yourself that you want to let me in on?” Taylor seems very frustrated at this point but doesn’t let it distract him for a second.

“Well, I do have a joke, would you want to hear it? The punchline is great.” You close your eyes again as you laugh to yourself. You are too tired to keep fighting them off now.

“Welcome to the comedy hour that I’ve been front row to. He used an inhaler earlier, so I know he has asthma, too.” Maddox shakes his head and lets out a stiff grunt of tension-tinged worry as you can tell you are the only one finding yourself even slightly funny.

“Hey, that’s called double-crossing me, Maddox.” You peer weakly at Maddox, the humor even beginning to finally fade from you.

“No. No more jokes right now.” Taylor says, pulling your eyes back open and shining a light into them. He shakes his head, his jaw tightening as you squint your eyes back at him. “We have to go, this is getting bad Fletcher. Do you have any allergies to any medications? Please don’t lie about this, I don’t want to deliberately kill you this early into my shift.” He flicks the syringes quickly in succession as you shake your head sleepily for a no and he proceeds to push them into the line that runs into your veins. You then immediately warm up in your entire body and your eyes haze. You suddenly forget what the problem even was.

“Bro, I don’t even know who I am right now.” You laugh out. “Oh shit.” You mumble out, able to relax for the first time in this whole event and you sigh out a long, but restless breath.

“Yeah -- that’s the face I like to see. Also, I’d definitely check into altering the tardy part of your teaching, just a suggestion we could all learn from today. You feeling better, bud?” Taylor adjusts himself so that he is able to better grasp your arm in his hands and adjusts the mask on your face blowing cold air at you. He quickly, but with extreme caution and mastered proficiency, bandages and stabilizes it and you nod completely zoned out in agreement.

“Ouch.” You whine out, trying to pull your arm again back toward your body for protection, but you are met with a gentle force that keeps it where it is.

“No, don’t move. I’m sorry, I know it’s painful. Just try to relax for me, okay?” Taylor says, flinging the bag over his shoulder.

“No, yeah. I’m doing much better, handsome emergency personnel.” You almost immediately try to cover your mouth with your hand and start laughing carelessly and madly as Taylor gently pushes it back down to rest on your lap. “Oh my god, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say that – I mean I did, don’t get me wrong. But you know, also not.” You mutter, instinctively going to cover your face back with your hands where you meet with resistance, yet again.

Taylor is smiling down at you and also flipping a blanket up to cover your hands as he guides them back down over your chest. The oxygen mask that you somehow knocked off is reapplied. Just as you begin to become anxious again and feel the pain begin to resume, the warmness runs over you again like you are basking at a beach on the hottest day of the summer.

“I’ll take any compliment I can get, but you know, later when this doesn’t take precedence over it. Fletcher, if you move that goddamn arm one more time, I’m putting restraints on you, and I’m only half joking at this point. You’re worse than the grandma I picked up with dementia yesterday. Look, I’m not super happy with your vitals and they are getting worse, not better with our minimal interventions available out here – so we’re going to get things moving pretty quickly, okay? I just gave you some more medications in your IV to control your pain and started more fluids so we can keep you as stable as we can. A lot of people are going to be around when we get to your room at the hospital, it’s a really big and kind of offsetting room, all right? They are going to start doing things and asking you questions at once and I want you to try and answer what you can.” Taylor gives you a quick glance, making sure you are actually listening to him.

“However, I foremost want you to focus on me, can you do that? If you feel like you need someone, come back to me, and I will be here to meet you. If your heart rate lowers though, I’m shocking you – and I know you know I’m not fucking around with you. And God willing, Fletcher, if I ever see you again that isn’t on your offered date – don’t tell me no when I ask if you have any medical history, which includes the extensive cardiac and pulmonary history you forgot to mention. Bob, get me a code three, run me rapid with lights to the trauma bay entrance at Wilton East with an ETA of ten minutes.” Taylor instructs his team as Maddox’s face comes into view after what feels like a lifetime. He bends to sit next to Taylor on the bench seat with all of his equipment spread out in the back of the ambulance.

Taylor gives you a reassuring smile as he makes sure you are comfortable and starts the blood pressure cuff again. He seems to be perking up now that things are on the road, which you can’t quite complain about after the looming feeling of death that is starting to roll over you.

“Well hello again, pissed off professor.” You grin as you push your head back down to the pillow and try to move to get comfortable. Your body feels like it’s caving in on you with pain and pressure as you find yourself groaning again. “I can’t do this.” You bite into the air with frustration, your eyes rolling back as you get sleepier. “I’m so tired.”

“Yes, you can, and you will. Keep your eyes open for me, you have to stay awake.” Taylor says, pushing again on your chest to challenge you to stay as alert as you can manage. A warm hand touches your arm with caution and you move your head to the side where you meet Maddox staring back at you with fear in his eyes, but a sad smile on his face. He’s trying to distract you from yourself.

“I thought it was me that you were casually eyeing this morning to get into the class, but it turned out it was apparently just traumatic internal blood loss and a hint of shock.” Maddox pauses in thought and you smirk sleepily, willing yourself to muster the strength to shut the hell up for once in your life.

“Oh no, it was an intentionally lustful stare. But I think I’ve already clearly crossed far too many lines today.” You keep your head hovering slightly over the pillow that feels like it’s made out of cardboard behind you as you watch him between your eyes closing. You blank off into a snore, trying to keep your eyes open whenever you feel Taylor’s hand softly but sternly rubbing against the middle of your chest to keep you aroused.

“I know you’re tired but keep your eyes open for me.” Taylor becomes fixated on the monitor as he sighs distastefully.

“There are more lines we could cross” Maddox lightly mumbles as Taylor is busy talking into his radio and you wonder if you really heard it. The tension-tinged playful grin he displays for you negates the fact that you thought it was medication high induced and that he definitely said it out loud.

“Nope, I’ve seen that face before.” Taylor pauses on the radio, quickly rushing over to push and unbuckle the first couple of straps as you get enough momentum to arch your body and lean to the side as he pushes you over the rest of the way. He pulls the mask off over your head in just enough time for you to start to heave again as you vomit waterfall-style into another bag. This went from blood-tinged vomit to mostly just blood you are forcing out. “Bob, if we can get there any faster I’d like it.” Taylor yells up to the front over the sound of your retching.

“This is stupid.” You huff out between the dry heaves as your body realizes you have nothing left to give.

“I’m sorry, Fletcher. It is stupid, I can agree with that.” Taylor says, tossing the bag into the trash bin and placing another one next to your side. He adjusts the oxygen back to you and you try to focus on just breathing.

“I read your book, Maddox, Ph.D.” You lay your head back down against the pillow as pain cuts through parts of your body you didn’t even know existed.

“It’s not published yet.” Maddox crosses his legs as he makes way for Taylor to stand over you – staring down intently with question on his facial features.

“We’re pulling in, so I’m going to give you a last dose of this medication to help for pain when we move you around until they get you settled.” Taylor says, gently placing a hand on your shoulder before he pushes the meds. “Get ready to party.” He bends down to get one last set of vitals as the sun beams in when the doors open in front of him.

“Scout & Fletcher, ring a bell for you?” You say, watching Maddox’s face daringly as you try to focus on the features that become extremely blurry.

“That’s my publishing company. They were highly rated by my colleagues and my sister who regularly publishes her works with them.” You grin at his response – a sly smile that quickly fades as pain sears through your arm as each bump makes contact with the ground as they lower the stretcher out.

“For fucks sake, this is awful.” You mutter to yourself as you grimace in mind-shattering pain. “It’s the publishing company my mother had invested in with me when I was younger finishing my bachelor’s degree. So I would say that they are definitely highly rated.” Maddox chuckles almost in disbelief and before you can try to see his response register you are blinded by a large light over you from the sun that continues to glare down at you with immense heat. Taylor’s head almost immediately comes into view and you lock eyes.

“Atta boy, follow me.” He reminds you, moving his gloved hand from in front of your face to your chest and begins to unstrap buckles as they move quickly down a hallway where you watch the lights above you move so fast that they run into a single blur that your eyes no longer can try to keep focus with.

“All the lights.” You try to bend to sit up and it’s Maddox this time that pushes you back to the gurney as he walks hastily to keep up where he is in your view. “I’m dying.” You muffle your near cry and close your eyes tightly.

“You are not dying, don’t say that. Keep your eyes open, Fletcher. Take some deep breaths for me, use the oxygen I’m giving you.” Taylor rubs again against your chest, but harder until you can open your eyes again as you swallow.

“Yes, I can feel it.” You say as you breathe out a very shallow breath.

“Please don’t, man, not right now.” Taylor says, his pace quickening to force the others to pick it up as well. “My patients always die when they do that shit to me. You aren’t going anywhere but to this room to get help.” He says, as a matter of fact. “Don’t fortune tell, it’s not your time.” He finishes as he walks quickly beside you.

“Level one trauma, bay two, patient arrival with EMS.” A loud alarm resembling a howl sounds over the speakers in the halls and in the room as you arrive at it. Maddox’s face grows pale again as you both realize how quickly things start to really happen. A new oxygen mask goes back over your face as you see Taylor lean over you again as a friendly companion.

“Remember, keep your eyes here.” Taylor points to his face. “Let me tell your story. Relax and take some deep breaths again so we can focus together.” His voice raises from your conversation to that toward the room of people flooding in as you nod and barely hold back tears you didn’t even know was trying to escape. You don’t want to cry, you idiot. “We move on three from head count on me. One, two, three.” He yells, taking complete control of the situation as everyone in the room listens to him and his eyes find yours as you are slid from one bed to the next. A groan leaves you as worsening deep pain and hands are all over your body and you panic again, the fear rising undeniably high from your comfort zone as you lose control over your own situation.

“No, no, no.” You cry out in defeat, as hands are all over, you pushing you back down while you thrash around uncomfortably. You feel yourself trying to leave your own body.

“Someone get me some Ativan.” You hear a new voice calling out over you as they shine another bright light into your eyes.

“Right here, buddy.” Taylor’s face is above yours once again and you weakly smile in comfort. Your eyes become a new type of groggy and your breath catches suddenly in your throat while the room around you that is so busy feels as if it begins to slow drastically and you swear you can hear your heart beating while everything else is zoned out around you.

“Something’s wrong, Taylor…this is not a joke for once.” You force a heavily labored breath out in deep fear, trying to reach an arm out toward Taylor for help just as his hand wraps around yours to meet the need.

“What’s going on, Fletcher? Maddox, why don’t you squeeze in on the other side, it might be helpful to get some more familiarity closer.” Taylor says above you as a nurse next to you jabs another needle deep into your arm, while you wince in pain and let out a very defeated sinister-like laugh while you struggle to catch a full breath again.

“Enough with the fucking needles.” You helplessly plead out and Maddox is at your side in a second while he matches the defeat on your face as he runs his hand into yours gracefully. It feels like it belongs there.

“Guys, hey.” Taylor is concentrating heavily on the monitor above you as his hand grips yours a little tighter. “I think we’re losing his pacing function.” And with a surge of overwhelming heaviness, you begin to feel sweat dripping down your face and arms. Taylor readjusts the leads on you to ensure it’s accurate. You can feel him triple-checking the pads that he put on earlier to commence the shock in the event this actually did happen. Your body drains of warmth and you feel yourself shivering uncontrollably just as layers of warm blankets cover you to make up for the heat that you are quickly losing.

“What’s that mean, what’s going on?” Maddox looks around frantically, watching everyone work just that much faster, cueing in on the fact that things are about to get dirty.

“Well, are you grab the popcorn type or grab the trash can type of person when it comes to a medical emergency?” Taylor talks to him as he works with the others on the team. “If you’re the latter I’d probably recommend you head toward the waiting room and grab a coffee. If you won’t pass out and can be an extra comfort out of the way, I’ll let you stay, but I’d grab your ass because this is not going to be fun to witness. Which we generally don’t allow, but this is an exceptional experience for all of us I’d say. Fletcher could really use all the help he can get right now.” Taylor instructs Maddox who doesn’t even hesitate to acknowledge that he’s staying for you.

“It means I’m fucked.” You grimace as Taylor’s hand slips into yours again when he has checked the stability of the pad connection. You feel things slow down, too slow. “Is Maddox here, my dickhead professor?” You feel yourself try and slur the words out as confusion slams over you like an avalanche at full force. “My phone, I need him to get my...my uh... cardiologist’s information from it. My mom can...she can give it, too.” Taylor’s face crosses between yours and the screen of the monitor and then over to Maddox across from him while he tries to toss your phone as instructed toward Maddox.

“He’s right here, buddy. Remember? Open your eyes and look for me.” Taylor instructs, and you do. There he is, smiling down with a tight jaw toward you. He squeezes your hand in his.

“Oh, yeah.” You say clumsily, feeling yourself wake up by your own snoring.

The doctor beside you calls out medication orders to the nurses while he looks back at you with concern in his calm demeanor. Maddox is on your phone as he gets lost in a swarm of people that are filing in the room. Taylor’s face covers yours as the oxygen forcefully pushes harder when the mask is replaced by gloved hands squeezing a new mask with a bag connected to it that feels like it’s suffocating you.

It is suffocating you, you frantically try and grab toward your face and your arms are immediately pinned down with a very certain force.

From the corner of your blurry sight, you see Taylor grab and drag Maddox back to the side of you between others working on you quickly. His now trembling hand is a constant comfort that found its way to yours and you grip it as tightly as you can to stay present.

“Fletcher, listen to me. Don’t fight that, work with the rhythm on their counts to breathe in with it. You are not breathing well enough on your own right now so we need to help you.” Taylor’s face is right beside yours talking into your ear as tears begin to uncontrollably flow from your eyes.

Another new warmth blankets your body that feels so weighted that you can barely focus on anything anymore but trying to keep your eyes peeled open and Maddox’s hand in yours. It becomes extremely easier to allow the oxygen to be pushed into your lungs as you hyper-focus on the expanding feeling in your chest. One Maddox becomes a set of three in your blurry eyesight.

“I don’t want to cry.” You messily suck in a short burst of air, sobbing against the mask as you try to recollect yourself or even one singular thought. You feel Taylor’s hands grasp your shoulders firmly and he looks you directly at eye level.

“Hey, look at me, it’s okay to cry. This is scary and you are doing such a good job. Remember, eyes on me, Fletcher. Keep them right here. I’ll be here when you wake up, I promise. They are giving you medications now that are going to make you very sleepy and you won’t remember this, it’s okay to feel that and to let it happen. You don’t have to be afraid, we are all here with you, and no one is leaving. It’s just time to take a little nap, all right?” Taylor’s reassuring smile turns to focus as he looks to watch the monitor. “Time to get sleepy, bud.” His hand grips yours again and his comfort is sound and hits you like sunshine over your entire body. You gasp, struggling to get any air now into your lungs and your hands go limp in Taylor and Maddox’s grips.

“All right, we’re going to have to shock. We’re dropping too low, now.” Taylor demands as the team works to set up with haste in silent agreement. You hear a familiar long and shrilling beep of an alarm from the monitor charging up a shock at the same time that another alarm glares quickly with its own panic into the uneasiness of the room around you as your heart rate drops considerably closer to nothing. Your eyes close and you feel like you can’t open them again this time.

“Maddox let go of his hand. Everyone clear, we’re shocking.” Taylor’s voice dulls and it sounds like you are in a tunnel as it slips away further from you. A sudden silence envelops you and your body jolts as the electricity slams into you like a city bus. While you don’t recognize any real pain attached to it, you groan deeply as your eyes are able to get enough stamina to open again, stinging with tears.

“Please, stop.” You feel yourself weakly fighting to say into the mask as you hear the charge start up again. “I don’t want to die.” You slur out as your lungs are forced with oxygen you can’t provide again. You feel like you can’t take anymore.

“Fuck, let’s get some more Etomidate, please.” A voice booms out above all the noise. You recognize a familiar hand grip yours tightly as you relax into it, moaning as you try and weakly move any part of your body that you can. You fidget with the fingers that are lacing with yours that rub against them to soothe you to stop thrashing.

“Fletcher, it’s Taylor. I’m here right next to you. I promise you I’m not going to let you die. I know you want this to stop, and I want it too. We’re getting you a little more comfortable. This will all be over soon. You can take me out on that date after.” Taylor shakily forces out an uncomfortable low laugh next to you.

Your eyes are blurred with tears, but your glazed sight moves slowly to his voice and you see the determination and fear in his eyes when they lock with yours. His smile is forced with urgency as you feel yourself gasping for air with a suffocating demand that chokes you. “It’s okay, Fletcher. You’re doing great, keep breathing.” Taylor whispers low next to you, and you feel like you are going to die as your body goes completely limp.

“Guys, it’s time to get the hell going. The defib isn’t cutting it. We’re moving into an arrest very imminently. Taylor take the top of the bed for compressions to try and keep a rate going, let’s ride it with the monitor to the operating room. Nancy, call now to get it open for us stat. Tell them we’re rolling, or we are going to lose him. Push those meds and then Taylor start the compressions for me, please. Tell them to have anesthesia ready with that RSI so we can fix our problems, get an OPA in for now.” The white coat lingers in your sight for a second too long as you feel pressure on your legs and pelvis.

Suddenly your head rolls back against the sheet of the gurney as your pillow is pulled with force from under your head and throws your view with force to the side where you barely register Maddox still there, watching. He is frozen in fear, and before you can try to move for yourself to find him, hands are on either side of your head bringing it back to a straight position. The hands pull your head back flat as something hard is forced into your mouth. You gag weakly against it but begin to settle without hesitation.

“Don’t you give up on me, Fletcher. I’m not giving up on you. But we’re going to sleep now, okay? Let’s just take that comfortable nap.” Taylor’s voice appears again but you realize for only a moment that he’s the one on top of you. “I’ll come to find you.” Taylor flicks his gaze toward Maddox for only a second.

You can feel the bed start to roll as the team runs with it out of the door, leaving cords and a mess of supplies thrown all around in its place with Maddox standing alone as the fear travels with them down the hallway while they fight against time that is already borrowed.

You feel strong hands hover over your chest and you finally lose consciousness when everything fades to a deafening black the first time the hands make full contact and push down forcefully against your chest.

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