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Ever After University

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Welcome Back

Part 2: Welcome Back

Your body feels like cement when you try to open your eyes, like they feel plastered shut. When they finally do manage to open, everything is blurry above you. You feel something blocking your mouth from opening and you can’t move anything easily as you panic with frantic, low, gravelly moaning as you feel like you are choking. You’re dead, right? This is just the nightmare of the waiting period before you realize you dropped into hell?

“Honey, oh God. Someone, please, he’s awake!” You are definitely in hell, you know it now. You hear a well-known distressed voice, but your eyes are still unable to focus to make anything out around you yet. Nope, somehow still alive, unless your mother is set to haunt you after you die. Which is entirely possible. You tell yourself in your head that you had asked them to get the information for your cardiologist, not to have your mother actually show up.

Your overpowering and suffocating gagging to use your own body to move air begins to dull out and you relax back into the bed that swaddles you deeper to a calm. Though you are comfortable enough to sleep, you fight the feeling and work to keep your eyes open. You are determined to stay leveled and present with calmness as you begin to make out the outlines of moving and talking above you while you blink slowly in succession to improve your vision. Your mom cries out with the same panic that she always carries in tense situations, and you hear the voice of your twin sister, Benny.

“Let’s give them some space, okay mom? They are sedating him again, he’s comfortable. Let’s take a walk.” Benny softly suggests as lips are planted against your cheek before she ushers her out the door where she convinces her to find the cafeteria together down the hall to get a coffee. No, this is certainly not comfortable.

You feel overwhelmed and realize you must have lost a substantial amount of time, but the panic recedes when you feel hands gripping you with care at either shoulder. Your eyes are welcoming to the darkness as you allow them to close and take in the feeling for a moment before steadily opening them again to find who now hovers where your sight can start to register it -- just as they become extremely heavy and are testing you to keep open.

Your panic stricken state is resolved nearly entirely as your eyes lock with concentration to Taylor on your right and Maddox on your left as you move your eyes from one to another. They are blurry, but from what you can see they must look as bad as you must feel and it allows sadness to leak into the groaning that you try to let out. You hear a monitor steadily beeping in the background and noise in the distance as tubes and cords are rearranged. The blood pressure cuff on your arm gets excessively tighter as it begins.

“Fletcher, look at me.” Taylor gently demands, and your eyes follow up where his hand rubs against your shoulder to meet his own looking back at you. A tiny smile forms, but just as quickly as it appeared, it fades to a tight line. “Your pacemaker malfunctioned and failed from the impact of the wreck, Fletcher. You ended up having to be coded on the way to the OR, and then again in the OR. We had to shock you six times, and really, it didn’t look promising for a while. They were able to place a new implant and surgically repaired your ulna and radial fractures while they were doing the procedure. They had to put pins in to help secure the break. You had a laceration to your spleen and they repaired that, too. But you lost a lot of blood, so you’ve gotten a couple of transfusions. You have a head injury, too, so they want to keep you as sedated as you can tolerate to let it heal with the swelling, but your memory is going to be pretty fuzzy about a lot of this from the area the injury has impacted. Do you understand all of what I’m telling you? You’re gonna be here for a while, buddy, alright?”

Taylor talks slowly and with ease to make sure you are following him. Basically, you fucked up. You nod, ever so slightly, but he gives the same nod back to you and puffs out a shaky and long held breath.

“The tube in your mouth is helping you breathe for now until the doctor is comfortable to take it out to ensure that you are able to fully recover and stay calm right now. Do not fight it, you need to allow your body to rest. I am putting this call button right here in your hand, when you feel like you did earlier, when you need someone or something, you press it right away. I somehow feel like we’re all friends now in a really fucked up “almost witnessing death” way, so I can’t quite seem to pull myself away from this one like I am supposed to do with my job. So thanks for that and due to it unfortunately for you and Maddox, the staff here in the ICU, and your mother and Benny they have to keep putting up with me until I know you are back to giving me that shit eating grin that was plastered on your face when you refused transport initially. I knew there was a reason I was saving up my PTO and vacation stock. I just thought it was more along the lines of the Bahamas and not…the hospital like usual. I’m getting tired of the food here after so many years.” He softens up, and you tightly wrap your hand around his as he pushes the call light into your palm. You could probably marry this man. Well, maybe not. He’s so proficient with drugs and needles that he could be one to get you in your sleep. Yeah, that’s gonna be a hard no.

“You apparently have made a lot of friends very easily with this unfortunate chain of events and made a lot of people worry about you very much, in hindsight. I’m sure you are the life of the party if it’s ever anything like this shit.” Your eyes travel to find Maddox at your other side who is leaning over the railing of the bed to get closer into your view. Though you are deep in shit right now, he’s just as intoxicating as before. Can you marry both? Kidding, you’d just take this one alone.

Maddox smiles brokenly at you, his eyes sunken in and stress is just as apparent on his face as it was registered on Taylor’s. Taylor, who had to physically keep you alive with his own hands pumping the blood in and out of your heart. Maddox, who was also there every step of the way to nearly be a witness to your death and a calming new presence you didn’t know you were missing in your life. You couldn’t have asked for better people to be around in a terribly timed situation of emergency.

“So, also unfortunately for all of you, I’m staying as well. I have taken time off work, as has Taylor, and your mother and sister. We discussed taking turns with one another so that you always have familiarity around until you are back on your feet. I hope you understand and can stand by this.” Maddox says softly as he trails off, his voice velvety like honey.

Their voices tremble, foreign to how they have been up to this point, and you realize seeing all of this traumatic display of events has kind of really fucked them up. You fight to keep tears back and shake your head as you press your eyes shut tightly until you can muster up enough courage to look back at them.

Assumably a nurse comes into the room and talks with grace and kindness to you as she explains taking your vitals before she gives you some more medications in your IV to relax and to keep your pain under control. As she leaves to have the doctor come in for an assessment now that you are trying to wake up, your eyes haze over again with the same happy contentment that filled you before that threatens to lull you to sleep. Lessening pain is an immense game changer.

Chairs glide quietly against the floor as both Maddox and Taylor take their seats closer on either side of the bed railings where you are able to comfortably see them enough to feel safe.

Taylor takes a long satisfying drink from the coffee cup that he is now holding and finally lets out a tremendously fearful and exhaustion tinged laugh. He shakes his head, tossing the Styrofoam cup with a steady hand into the trash across the room, nodding his head proudly at himself. He has had to have practice with many coffee cups before this one, it seems.

“Fuck, guys. I could seriously be alright with never having to do that again. I don’t know about either of you, but I’ve not really formally had the pleasure of talking and joking with a fucked up patient one minute and then having to force myself to not lose every ounce of shit I had left when they almost died after I promised they wouldn’t. You’ve literally been my worst nightmare and I say that with complete sincerity, Fletcher.” Taylor halfway jokes and Maddox joins in on the uneasy laughing that actually seems to brighten the atmosphere of the room. People joking and laughing around you, talking with you, these are such new and almost exciting endeavors that are welcoming to have around for once.

“There would never be a day that I could do what you do and do it repetitively knowing it would happen and will continue to happen as my career. I couldn’t even deal with that and just leave it at the door. To not carry that around and take it with you always, it has to be heavy. I can’t even let go of a student that comes to me crying and on the verge of suicide, telling me their plans and their faults while we wait for a counselor. It’s heartbreaking and terrifying all at once to be in a situation like this. It’s never again for me, too. Seeing that was…wild, to put it mildly.” Maddox shudders and shifts to find the right position in his chair as he sighs and looks up at all the monitors and medications surrounding you. So many poles, pumps, cords, and machines that it’s almost overwhelming to try and take in at once. “I’ve literally, honestly never been or seen a situation like this before and it’s really changed my perspective on some things in my life.” He says deeply, almost reflecting in thought as you peer around to try again and take in everything in the room around the three of you.

“Well, it pays to have a really dark sense of humor. Plus I’m pretty fucked up too, to begin with. So that makes it a little less daunting. But you basically have to be fucked up already, with a dark, twisted sense of humor to even attempt this dumpster fire of a career.” Taylor stretches into the air as he chuckles under his breath to himself, mostly. He’s probably thinking about how fucked up he is, which isn’t necessarily always a bad reflection to take a ponder at.

“One thing is for certain, whatever happened, brought all three of us together for a reason. I can’t really wrap my mind around what reason that could possibly fucking be right now, but I think we are definitely all stuck together moving forward. One day in a sports bar, surrounded by empty beers, this will be laughable. Quite the impression for a first day, Fletcher. But let’s not do this again. Ever, again.” Maddox gives you a fleeting half joking glare as he flashes his teeth in a worn smile.

You try to smile around the tube giving you air and instead groan in pain as you push your head back onto the pillow behind you. You are realizing whatever they have pumped into you so far isn’t really even being consistent to cut the pain for long. Both men become tense on the edge of their seats and Taylor stands steadily before the next groan escapes the back of your throat. A forceful hand covers yours and pushes down on your thumb on the call light that is shakily sitting in your hand. You look down to it, Taylor’s hand on yours, and realize you forgot it was even there to begin with.

“Hey, Fletcher, relax for me. I’ve pressed your call light so we can get the nurse back in here. For now you’re going to keep needing a boatload of medications to be comfortable is all, okay? It’s normal. Just let the machines do their jobs, try to focus on just being present, on being here. I know you have to be hurting. I wish you could tell us, but your help is right here with you. Your rescue is coming in the door any second so that we can get you more relief. I promise. Remember to come back to find me when you can’t find anything else right now. Maddox is here for the same reason, just hold on, okay?” Taylor’s rush of words fills the room and bounces off the walls as he tries to recollect his own unwavering sense of calm and caretaking. He stands up swiftly, pacing towards the door before coming back near the bed, watching the monitors and your comfortability -- or lack thereof.

“Hey Fletcher, I’m coming in now with some meds for you.” You hear another voice across the room and your eyes dance around in chaos as panic fills your chest while you wait under the hope that someone is coming to save you. “Taylor?” The man questions with an embarrassed tension as you feel him pulling on your tubing to connect syringes to cascade you into a medication stupor. He’s trying feverishly to help you match your frantic hyperventilating breaths that become caught in the tube so that you can slow down to match it while you wait for some fraction of relief.

Relief from pain all over that envelopes you so deeply it doesn’t feel real, immense pain from tubing and wires and cords attached to monitors that surround you. You are gagging so forcefully you feel like you could pass out.

“Fletcher, relax okay? Let it breathe with you, I’m here to help. You are doing so great.” The new voice coaxes you to try and pace all the commotion into letting it go. A phone rings that he quickly places to his ear but doesn’t let it distract him from ensuring the medications are getting taken care of. If you wouldn’t gag, you wouldn’t panic, and if the pain wasn’t so damn unforgiving then you’d maybe be able to relax for five seconds.

“Okay, yeah. I can hang the next one before I go on break, I’ll make sure that Sarah does the fifteen minute monitoring. Yep, thank you.” He pockets the phone and looks down cheerfully towards you. His kindness is radiating and fills the room with something that was once a void.

“That was your doctor, the labs they ran recently still show your blood count is down pretty significantly, so he wants to hang another transfusion. I’m going to get that started now, and Sarah, another one of your nurses will monitor it for you.” He leaves the room for only a moment before he returns with a dark red bag in hand, replacing the empty one that resembles it on one of the pump poles.

“Oh, fuck. Matt, what a pleasure to see you again. Why don’t you just focus on doing your single necessary job a little quicker, huh?” Taylor grunts out in a sigh of hatred as your eyes crack open to find him as his glare narrow watching the nurse above you, presumably Matt. “Fletcher here is dying for some blood product and you are over here brooding over cock blocks.” Taylor huffs an extremely annoyed sigh as you watch him start to unravel.

“I haven’t seen you around, you didn’t give me a chance to explain anything.” Matt pops his head over yours to watch your groggy state take back over and he smiles with compassion as he nods at you like some kind of a secret to monitor that his medications are filling you. Fucking finally, too. “Big deep breaths, okay?” He instructs you calmly, but sternly, as he shines a light in each of your eyes. You’re tired of the fucking lights in the eyes.

“Yeah, and for good reason.” Taylor’s voice deepens with authority, but his tone is hushed. He points a single, defying finger towards Matt’s chest. “Look, this isn’t the time or place. Neither Fletcher nor Maddox want to hear your bullshit.” Taylor bites with disregard into the air and you feel it like a knife. He shoves half a floppy turkey sandwich in his mouth, fuming. You imagine Matt is registering that, too.

“Taylor, please.” Matt begs out, his voice breaking as if he’s barely holding it together.

You can’t help imagining how the sandwich must be feeling, caught in the middle like this. Taylor laughs darkly, his jaw clenching in frustration.

“Fine, you want to play the game? When was the perfect time for you to explain that shit, huh? And what even could you possibly have to explain that now? When I walked into my home, getting off early to take you out to dinner, only to see you fucking someone else. In my goddamn bed, at that! Your moans are disgusting and haunting to me.” Taylor’s low voice is filled with rage and he snapped on this guy like he has waited for this moment for quite a while now. You’re so glad he’s a person that can’t handle keeping his mouth shut.

Matt looks horrified scanning around the room, trying to focus on anything other than being the center of attention now. Check and mate. How’s it feel to get gunned down like that, cheater?

“Oh shit.” Maddox is succumbing to not being able to hold his laugh in. “I mean I think I speak for Fletcher since he can’t, along with myself, that we’re kind of invested into this situation now, too. I mean, it sounds pretty fucked up.” Maddox sheepishly shrugs, and you know you’d throw in a joke too if you could even talk.

Taylor glares with an attempted murder level of hate towards Maddox as he rolls his eyes, getting fed up. Clearly him and Matt are not a good combination. But you know it’s definitely an unspoken rule to not bring someone else to fuck in your partner’s home, so he kind of seems to be deserving of this public display of events. He did also basically ask for it.

“I’m going on my break, if you’d care to listen to what I have to say.” The nurse, Matt, nearly whispers as he takes your blood pressure again. It almost felt like he was talking to himself. “Fletcher, I will be back shortly. One of your nurses, Sarah, is right outside your door taking notes on your chart. Okay? She is going to come in shortly to check the transfusion. Are you feeling any better?” He looks at you with very openly displayed concern as you nod towards his direction, trying to stay awake for the show to play out. Taylor’s hand rests on your leg for a moment long enough to transfer his heat and then he gives you a couple reassuring pats.

“Fletcher, I’ll be right back. I just need a minute, I’m sorry to abandon you.” His glare intensifies towards Matt, who he really speaks the last part of his sentence to. “Matthew, relentless, as you always are.” Taylor snips, standing up so jarringly that he all but storms out of the room with one of your nurses on his heels. You turn to find Maddox, who’s eyes spread so wide as he raises his eyebrows and glances at you.

“Uh-oh.” His laugh is short lived, but full of the same wonder that you carry without being able to say it. He crosses his legs as he leans back in the chair, resting his arms behind his head for a moment. “D-R-A-M-A.” He spells out tauntingly, coming back to lean on the railing as you watch one another. You rustle your hands around under the blanket as you fight to uncover them again and search for Maddox’s hand that becomes outstretched towards you.

“You scared me, Fletcher.” He mumbles into the air next to you, his voice hushed behind continuous beeping machines all around. You realize you had the ability to communicate all along as your memory starts to become clearer. You actually also remember what it’s like to be on a ventilator after how bad your asthma attacks had gotten before. You look over to Maddox and hope he is as smart as he makes himself out to be.

You start slowly signing as your fingers are still blurry in your own vision, the pain searing down your limb as you try and navigate the cast placed on your arm, “I don’t want you to leave me.” As you finish signing your plea, his head comes more into focus as his jaw seems to drop and it’s now his eyes that are filled with a panic and fear that he can’t seem to tell he is in charge of as he grabs your hand in his.

He bounces his closed fist lightly against his knee before coming back to meet your fleeting stare, his eyes welling with tears that threaten to fall along his tired face. So he has emotions? He grabs along the railing of the bed so tightly that his fits turn white. Apparently his emotions are very attached to you.

“I’m not going anywhere, Fletcher. I promise.” His answer and tone holds so much meaning to you, ensuring you are able to see his verbalized commitment as he locks his eyes with yours so intensely that you feel a surge of something race along your body and you meet his stare back as deeply as his has pierced you. “Here, I’m right here.” His hand instinctively gets lost in yours again and this time when his eyes meet yours, you see that he feels the same connectivity that you do.

You feel safe enough to rest for a moment while his hand traces lightly against yours as comfort for both of you. You beg with your body to allow yourself to stay awake to get the scoop on this bullshit between your cheating nurse and lifesaver of a paramedic. It’s like your mind is being read when Maddox’s low voice breaks the silence.

“I know, I’m waiting to hear the rest of it, too. Impressive and kind of ballsy if we are being honest. I like the effort, but I think he fucked whatever up that he was trying to un-fuck. I’m intrigued, I’d totally be fighting my necessary sleep for recovery too, if I were in your position.” He jokingly hums as his face rests against the rail to watch you carefully.

“Get some sleep, Fletch.” He softly, and nearly intimately brushes fallen hair from your clammy face as he hums to himself with a continuous glowing smirk that tells you he knows he already has you right where you both want to be. This tube better be pulled quick, you’d much rather use your words than your fingers and eyes to try and communicate on the new level. “Sleep.” He gently lulls again and with such fondness at your attempt to remain awake and keep your eyes focused on him.

***

The doctor must take some time to come to do an assessment on you or didn’t bother to think it would matter with your condition. You feel like you have woken up a lot later than you remember it being because now you just feel groggy, sore, and not drugged up anymore. You don’t really feel like you are in a constant panic either. Okay, you can do this. The doctor is at the bedside, smiling down proudly at you. Your eyes though are still heavy, but you are able to concentrate a hell of a lot better for whatever took place.

“How are we doing, Fletcher?” He shines a light in each of your eyes like they did before, squinting towards you as he looks at them. He nods, noting something mentally to himself.

“I want this out.” He backs away from you momentarily to see the signs in his side vision. He chuckles lightly as he pulls the little light away from your face and watches your monitor for a moment before parting his lips in a slight sigh -- almost as if to determine something he battles internally.

“Fine, but it goes right back to this if there are any signs of struggle.” He calmly says, watching you nod while looking towards Maddox as he prepares supplies out in front of you.

“Um, isn’t this a really fucking bad idea?” Maddox laughs nervously, staring between your deadly glare and the doctor’s mildly concerned faint and tired smile. “Like, how did he so easily persuade you to just pull it?” Dox questions, watching him with caution.

“Probably, I mean it could be. I’m not going to fight him though. He knows it will be by my rules if this doesn’t work out and then the recovery is in my hands alone. But for some reason I have a feeling he might just do alright. Let’s just say this isn’t your first ventilator rodeo, huh?” He cheerfully says, snapping on a pair of gloves.

“Oh boy.” Maddox says, his hands running down his face and back into his hair with stress and tension. The doctor begins to carefully pull and remove the tape around the tube, wrapping it around itself to get it out of the way.

He applies a small suction catheter down the tube to clear anything that could obstruct the removal. With every step that he is taking he still takes the time to explain it as if this is your first time and it brings ease over you.

“Where the fuck is Taylor?” Dox panics, his knees bouncing with anxiety. “He’s going to absolutely hate this. We will never hear the end of it.” Maddox continues to lose his shit on his own.

“Okay Fletcher, after the intubation you put me through initially, I know you’ve done this a handful of times after getting my hands on your records. So I know you know what to do here. A deep breath for me and then I’ll have you cough forcefully for me, sounds good?” He nods and you comply, closing your eyes.

You feel a warm, strong grip against your hand that had pulled it from where you were grinding it to sand on the railing and it holds you tight. The light musky smell of the ever present cologne reminds you that this is Maddox. You open your eyes to look up at him as the doctor tells you to breathe in and you close them again shut tightly as you take the biggest, deepest breath ever.

He then tells you to cough and you forcefully commit to making yourself display the loudest, most disgusting cough in your life -- which really just turns into a cascade of gagging. You can almost hear Maddox breathe out with you as the tube is fully and quickly pulled from its temporary home inside you.

You gag and gasp repetitively as your lungs try to regulate the overload of oxygen and usage again and you feel clammy as panic rises inside you, but you push it back down. A mask is pulled down over your face that has a bag attached to it full of delightful oxygen, but also a fine mist that you know is going to give your lungs help to breathe as the medicine soothes your alveoli, allowing you to let your lungs expand and start to work more efficiently on their own again.

“Better?” A voice says, as you look up towards the doctor in your haze of blurry vision again, tears from the friction of the tube being pulled blinding you temporarily. You nod slowly, relaxing into the pillow for a moment to take a break. “I’ll be back, watch him.” He says gently towards Maddox as he hums to himself leaving the room briefly with your file in his hand to begin some charting.

Maddox scoffs and stares at him in disbelief until he has walked all the way out of the room. When he is certain he isn’t coming back, he’s bringing his full attention to you as quickly as it had left.

“Dox.” You breathe out, hardly any volume to your scratchy tone. Your throat is full of pain and aches, a dull comparison to what things were like before though, so you really can’t complain.

“Oh Fletcher.” His tone raises many levels quickly and then he is softly scooping you up against his arms. You can feel him taking in the smell of you in the nape of your neck as he holds you for a moment before he is letting go and peering back at you closely. “I didn’t think I’d hear your voice again so soon or realize how much I missed hearing it.” He holds your hand up as it rests against his mouth. He seems like he wants to be closer but is cautious in his position while you are still considered a student.

Or at least his hesitation seems to be there somewhere. It’s a little too harshly obvious when you feel yourself longing for him, too. “Dox?” He mumbles the nickname out into your fingers, his warm breath spreading over you like electric lava. “I like that.” He hums, letting your hand go to rest at your side, his own still pressing lightly as it dances on yours.

Are you losing oxygen, or has his demeanor and likability completely changed since this all started? Oh, to dig in.

“How long has it been since I was awake last?” Panic enters your voice and his fingers run playfully against yours, bringing your concentration to him to keep yourself occupied.

“Three days, Fletcher. Three terribly long days of watching you thrash around in uncontrolled pain, suffering while we are just sitting around helplessly.” He stares down at you for a moment, before sucking in a sharp breath and letting it go slowly as he looks towards the wall, out the window, and then back to you. Three fucking days? What did they finally give you, a horse tranquilizer?

“Shit.” You grumble, looking around lost now that you realize you had three days pass by that you won’t ever remember.

“Can I ask you something?” He says, his fleeting glance towards the window again while he can’t seem to concentrate on staying in the conversation tells you this isn’t the world’s greatest question that he has coming for you. However, you nod slowly towards him, watching as you wait for him to go on.

He gracefully slips up the sleeve of your hospital gown, showing silver rows of scar tissue in neat, perfect lines that run from your shoulder down your upper arm and that trails down each forearm to the wrists. He delicately runs a single finger over a few of them, slowly making his way down your wrist from the top. He is shakily cautious as if he’s going to hurt you. He sends a tantalizing shiver down your spine and you’re hooked.

“I saw them, some. When you were still getting checked out at the school, but not as closely as I have been able to now, here in the quiet. You don’t have to tell me right now or at all, I just...I just want to know about it I guess. Just some time, just think about it. I just, it hurts me to see that you’ve been hurting alone so much it seems.” He eloquently stumbled over his words and you let a slow, comfortable smirk sneak across your face as he blushes a deep scarlet seeing how unscathed you are from his asking.

“I did it once when I was younger. I was really upset about my youngest brother’s death. I couldn’t stop after that, it just became part of me.” You whisper out, feeling his eyes intently on you, guilt spreading across your body. “It’s disgusting, I’m sorry.” You try to pull at your sleeve, intending to make it longer than it is, but his cradling hand wraps yours up in comfort and rests with it.

“Don’t say that.” He says, cocking his head to the side and staring at you with pain. It almost feels like he’s leaning in and you swear you can feel the heat of his mouth against yours. “It’s not disgusting and you’re perfect in every sense.” He mockingly gets so close you can feel his heart pounding relentlessly in his chest. His lips hover just slightly above yours for a moment and you want him to test the waters further out from shore.

“What the fuck?” You hear the familiarity of Taylor crudely questioning something from the frame of the door, just as he has been doing thus far. You watch him from beside Maddox as he leans his hands against either side of the door and shakes his head turning out back towards the hallway.

“Oh thank God you are here, where the fuck have you been?! I’ve been calling you for days and this!” Dox shoves his hands towards you. Taylor has missed a lot.

“I’ve been working…I had to pick up this shift because they didn’t have anyone else.” Taylor grumbles, looking down at the floor while he sits in the chair, his famous coffee cup in his hand. “Sorry guys.”

“I’d like to consult your expertise on why they so easily agreed to take that tube out.” Maddox says blankly with aggression towards Taylor. All of you know that Taylor will fuck anyone up if he can explain his way medically into it.

“Why in the fuck is he extubated? Does anyone remember the days leading up to this shit? You’ve got to be kidding me, Hank! Pull up his chart for his past oxygen saturations and vital checks. I don’t believe this shit, you motherfuckers.” You hear his grumbling voice becoming fainter and you can only imagine who he’s chasing down now. He has to be getting on every last nerve of any of the staff that he has encountered with advice, hate, and a bad attitude that he keeps tossing around. But you have to admit, it’s kind of likable, shows that little bit of drive that he must have deep down somewhere. Really, really, deep down.

You hear Maddox chuckle and you turn back to focus on him. He’s still leaning just as close to you as he was prior — maybe even a little closer, if possible. His eyes search intently in yours for something and you feel an intense heat seem to rise from his body. You feel all of your body tingling with anticipation and excitement. Just do it already, because if he doesn’t, then you will.

His lips part slightly, as if he wants to say something, but then closes again before letting out a nervous sigh.

“Yeah?” He softly asks in question to you, and you nod sleepily towards him, the moment you’ve been waiting for since you first saw him. Slowly he closes the small distance between you and leans in towards meeting your face with his. He pauses for a moment, taking in every inch of you as his mouth hovers over yours as before. His lips part gently and carefully they trace against yours. You feel his breath catch in his throat and he hums into your mouth, contentment starting to creep in.

“You’re a dangerous addiction.” He gravelly moans into your mouth and you melt. He pulls back slightly from you before coming back for a little more and watches you watching him. You can see him formulate whatever is in his mind for what he’s preparing for next.

“I talked to your care team, family, etc. I’m hoping you would want to discharge and come home with me, for a while. Just temporary, I promise. The doctor said for a while you will need some rehabilitation and that it is an important part of the process. I’d love for you to agree to the plan, but I know how you are. I’d love to have you in my home as my guest so that I can ensure you are doing alright. I do feel partially responsible for all of this, actually. I’m sorry I even questioned you like that to begin with. It just keeps replaying in my head. How could I have been so stupid and reckless, careless even, too?” He flatly says, but almost in a pleading kind of way. You could definitely go with him to his house, being taken care of by Maddox. Please, God, let it work in your favor this time.

That sounds like the life, honestly. He plants one gentle kiss along your forehead and you are all the more infatuated by his presence taking over you. This man is something else entirely.

“Yes, please.” You weakly say, trying to move to sit up some, but pain grips tighter in your body bringing you back down into the slab of a bed. You groan, clenching your jaw and feel the tension rise inside of you. “You’re not stupid, either.” You mutter out, afraid if you raise your voice that the deep ache in your throat and chest will become too unbearable. You feel nausea creeping up on you and you get a little dizzy staring up at the hanging bag of blood above you. You can’t retch right now, it would kill you. Hold it in. “I don’t feel good.” You breathe out forcefully, trying to focus on flinging the oxygen off your face to get a real breath for once.

“I’ve seen that look before.” Maddox warns with caution as he moves with haste towards the door to lean out of it just in time to smack into Taylor’s chest. “T, he’s got the look.” Maddox says, glancing back at you to see sweat forming on your forehead as you pale while Taylor takes a quick look, too.

“Yo, can we get some zofran, like stat?” Taylor raises his voice down the hall and you panic as you try to push the urge back down again. This doesn’t feel right. You begin to sweat more continuously and Maddox is at your side in a second, his hand tracing small circles on your arm, stopping almost immediately as he had started. Maddox places his hand across your forehead, resting it there for a minute, a look of true concern crossing his face quickly.

“You’re burning up, Fletcher.” He says to you, watching with anticipation while there is nothing more he can do. The blood pressure cuff constricts tightly against your arm and you feel weak and extremely tired. You let the panic rise now, your skin flushing and you try to take deep breaths. You can tell it’s going nowhere good when you begin to wheeze. There isn’t time for this bullshit to be happening. “Oh shit.” Maddox mumbles, looking at your hand in his and he pulls back your covers to expose your arms and legs. You begin to itch more when the cool air hits your skin and realize it was bothering you for a while, but not as intensely as it is now. “You’re covered in hives.” He says blankly, in an apparent state of shock that something more is even occurring at this point.

You look down to your arms and turn your hand over and see your skin covered in tiny red dots that are multiplying quickly. Alarms start going off and you look up to realize your heart rate is steadily increasing. Taylor squints from across the room to see the screen displaying your fresh set of vitals.

“Does that say 82/60?” Taylor questions, trying to concentrate more urgently on your vital trends. “Your heart rate is skyrocketing, your blood pressure is low as fuck. You are clammy but sweating. You are wheezing now and covered in hives.” He spouts off information, almost seeming to be pulling together puzzle pieces as he calculates the problem internally.

His head snaps up quickly from the place he was looking down at to think, his eyes tell you something is definitely wrong and he absolutely puts the puzzle together.

“Fuck, he’s reacting to the blood product.” Taylor crosses the room in a split second and he’s clamping the IV tubing off to stop the blood from furthering into your body. “Sarah, it’s a reaction.” He yells back towards the door of the room, frantically grabbing for supplies around him.

“Not today, motherfucker.” He says, trying to fling gloves on so quickly that one rips and he just throws them to the ground in spite. “Worthless pieces of shit.” He grumbles as Sarah and Matt both race into the room.

“Shit.” Matt says, entering the room as they make their way with urgency to you. “Sarah, can you draw up some epinephrine, let’s also get a steroid on board if we can please, and some Benadryl.” All three of them work feverishly to ensure things are in control even though it feels like you are way past that point and entering chaos.

“It’s going to anaphylaxis, isn’t it.” Taylor says blankly, and you can see him try to refrain from his emotions. Matt just looks over to him briefly and nods going back to work. Sarah returns within moments and they start immediately slamming meds and fluids in the other IV line. You feel yourself getting heavy, but not in a good way.

“I feel like I can’t breathe.” You huff out, trying to keep yourself calm, but your body feels like it’s in ruins. God, why another thing right now. The oxygen mask goes back over your face and you feel hands all over you, trying to examine the damage so far.

“Yes, Fletcher, you can breathe. Just keep taking deep, slow breaths for me. You are doing great.” Taylor says, flushing your tubing as he scans your body, looking for worsening signs. You feel a warm hand slip into yours and you grip it tightly for support.

You look up, trying to catch your breath and see Maddox peering down at you with fear. Taylor cycles your blood pressure again and Sarah comes back into view entering the room and pushing a large cart towards the bed.

“63/40, we need to do more.” Taylor shakes his head in agitation, quickly pulling supplies together to change out the blood and tubing and reconnect new tubing with more fluids running fast. “Listen to me, have you ever had an allergic reaction to anything before?” He asks as you wheeze nodding your head. He starts the oxygen higher, changing the face mask to an open venturi mask and you feel clearer.

“Only peanut butter, shellfish.” You wheeze out, feeling like breathing is becoming a more difficult task to keep up with now.

“Fuck, that’s why it hasn’t happened with any of the transfusions up until now, this person had to consume it prior to donating blood and you are reacting to the antigen. Shit.” Taylor says, watching your blood pressure continue to drop. “Sarah is going to give you some more epi now and hopefully this will help to even things out. Just stick with me.” He rushes around, going from task to task to keep up with the ever changing symptoms you have going on. Maddox leans down close to you and you try to focus on his cologne that follows you around.

“No more scares after this.” Maddox whispers to you as he pulls your hand softly up to his and lightly kisses it, holding it there to his lips for a moment.

“Fletcher, you have to quit doing this to me.” Taylor looks from you to the monitor as he chuckles dryly watching your blood pressure finally rise a little instead of drop. You feel your chest opening up and some of the tightness seems to dissipate into the air around you. “I can’t take another near death experience with you, fuck.” He lets out a shaky breath while Matt and Sarah work around the both of them on the sides of you to get you more comfortable and ensure things continue to improve.

“I’m ready to get out of here.” You croak, trying to get used to the tightness in your throat still.

“Well, I think you have physical therapy tomorrow. They want to assess where you are at. I know the team talked about you doing in-home health services with Maddox, so depending on how the night and day goes, you may be able to get out of here pretty soon I’d say. The doctor will round tomorrow after your physical therapy.” Sarah says, looming over you as she gives your arm a gentle squeeze. “For now though, the doctor placed an order for some Versed so that you can relax and keep recovering especially your airway after the reaction so we can better monitor you. Don’t worry, it seems your friends here won’t be leaving your side.” She smiles, heading just outside the door to scan her badge to grab the medication and supplies she needs.

“I don’t want to sleep. I want to stay awake, I don’t want that medication.” You say, the nervous tension ringing in your voice as your strain to keep your breathing slow and steady, but the shaking of your plea is apparent.

“I promise I won’t let anything happen to you, we won’t. We will both be here. Just get some rest, Fletcher. You need it if you’re ever going to get out of here to come with me.” Maddox smiles with an angelic softness as usual. Your gown is soaked in sweat and while Sarah prepares the medication, scanning your band. Matt helps to swiftly change your gown and replace the blankets with fresh, warm ones so that you can get more comfortable.

He dims the lights and refills the water with ice next to your bed, leaving a couple Jell-o and applesauce cups next to it. “I forgot in all of these experiences leading up to this to let you know before you are drugged up how I didn’t imagine your body would be this sculpted, but I’m entirely impressed.” Maddox says in a low mumble next to you in your ear, causing the hair on your arms to prickle and raise overlying the goosebumps that are forming.

He places one single, lengthy kiss on the side of your face at your temple where he sighs and breathes you in with contentment. Sarah rechecks your vitals after she has given you some medications and Maddox laughs gently against your skin as he pulls back, watching your eyes glaze over and become heavy.

“I’d like us to get to know our bodies sculpted together. So getting the fuck out of here would be great.” You grumble, leaning your head back against the pillow. Sarah softly pulls the door closed with a crack left open, letting a small fraction of light illuminate Maddox’s face as it slowly comes over your view from where you smacked your head down in frustration. She giggles in the darkness of the door as she leaves you to the privacy of your conversation.

“Well sleep so that you can do just that then. Just kick the physical therapy’s ass tomorrow and we’ll bust out of here. I already have every appointment and all the supplies ready at the house.” He leans down over you, his mouth lingering hesitantly as it hangs above yours.

“And the lube, right?” You chuckle to yourself watching his face blush deeply in the speckles of light in the room. You decide to do the work and close the space between your mouths, parting your lips slightly in anticipation.

“And the lube.” Maddox just laughs deeply into your mouth, his tongue trailing against each of your teeth as he softly bites back on your bottom lip before pulling away to look at you. You find your head meeting the pile of pillows behind you and huff, out of breath. Your brain a mess of lust and hormones.

“You’re captivating, Fletcher.” He breathes you in a moment more before kicking back to rest in the chair, his legs crossing over one another. His hand finds yours through the bed rail and he traces his fingers lightly over yours.

“I’m tired.” You rush out with hot air, looking up to the ceiling as you try to keep your eyes from drooping down. Maddox laughs at you, closing his eyes as he enjoys the darkness.

“That’s the point, silly. Now just take a nap. Tomorrow will be here before you know it.”

“I want you to lay with me, please. I promise I won’t fondle you, yet.” You mumble out, pulling your eyes to look towards Maddox and you outstretch your arm assertively. He laughs, standing up with ease, and kicks off his shoes. He crawls lazily up against the side of the bed, pressing against the railing. You scoot over in a sloppy display but make enough room where you are still comfortable and Maddox has enough room to breathe. “Is this okay?” You say, yawning. Your head is pressing into his chest as he runs his hand in your hair, massaging you tenderly.

“This is perfect.” He says, pressing his lips against your head before he loops a warm arm above your head, closing the remaining space between your bodies. His slow breathing and quiet heartbeat against your ear lull you closer to a deep sleep and you become comfortable and relaxed immediately. You can’t help but to let your eyes close with heavy peace and safety.

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