Beyond the Pines (Part 2)

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[07]

With Diego’s full weight over me, my arms around him to make sure he was standing, I barely realized the Uber driver arrived until he beeped and opened the window. “There’s towels in the back!” he said, which was just as well, because we were drenched thanks to the nonstop rain.

“Thank you!” I yelled back and managed to somehow drag Diego into the back seat while also spreading said towels over the cushions.

But before I could completely dump him over the seat, he suddenly regained some consciousness and grabbed my arms, his eyes clear and hard on mine. “Not the hospital,” he said with a hard breath.

“Just get in,” I said urgently, trying to get him to release me.

His hold tightened. “Take me home,” he gritted out, before he closed his eyes, panting hard, unable to speak anymore.

As gently as I could, I made sure his tall, muscular body was cramped in the backseat and rushed to take the passenger’s seat. The Uber driver looked at me, frowned, and asked, “Hospital or home, ma’am?”

I looked back at Diego, who was now lying on his side with his back to me, shivering from cold and pain. He should be in the hospital, I knew that, but something about the way he spoke, his refusal to go to the hospital, gave me a pause, and so I acted on pure instinct when I said, “Home. It’s on Beacon Hill.”

The driver started the car and I rattled off my address, sneaking a glance at Diego every few seconds, my heart beating loudly in my ears. I had no idea what was going on, and my mind didn’t seem to compute just yet who it was I was helping out, probably because I was full of adrenaline, and there were more pressing things to think about.

Like how the hell did he get into this state.

I’d seen Diego fight. It was only one time, and I remembered how he managed to handle more than five people at once. He was probably the strongest man I knew, and yet he was beaten to a pulp like this? This didn’t add up.

And why the hell was he in Boston? After our paths diverged almost six years ago, I’d heard through various people that he left the city, and ever since, I hadn’t seen or heard a whisper of him around here, and I’d been under the impression that he would stay gone.

Because I would’ve known if he was back. I was still in touch with Ivy, my friend and roommate from uni. It was a distant kind of friendship, but we did talk in a few months, and I had attended her wedding to Maya, her long-time girlfriend, last year in Chicago, where the two lived now. Ivy was still friends with Hestia, a former friend of mine, and whose boyfriend, Milo - the guy she broke up with to be with Diego, and when that didn’t end up well, she went back to him - was still in touch with Diego, supposedly. So Ivy knew things I didn’t, and she knew Diego was still nowhere near Boston. She’s made sure to mention it even when I didn’t ask, but she stopped in the past year, and I hadn’t bothered asking.

And here he was. In the heart of Boston, beaten up badly, found by me of all people.

If this was a cosmic joke, I wasn’t laughing.

Minutes later we arrived at my place. I wired the cost to the driver, and went out of the car to help Diego. But Diego was even worse than before, and in the end, the Uber driver, who was super kind, helped me lift Diego at least to the elevator.

I thanked and tipped the driver, who gave me a small bow, and pressed my floor number of five. The elevator shot up, and I realized I was breathing heavily, my hair a mess, my clothes as soaked as Diego. He was currently leaning against me again, barely conscious.

When we reached my floor, I managed to get him to my door before I knocked. “Peter, open up!” I called.

The door unlocked and Peter opened it, his eyes widening when he saw Diego draped over me. “What the - “

“Help me out!” I snapped.

Peter blinked and then put Diego’s arm around his shoulders and helped me drag him to the living room sofa. “Get towels,” I instructed, and Peter did just that, covering the cushions with towels before I dropped Diego over them. Peter handed me more towels, some of which I put over Diego, and one I wrapped around myself.

My brother and I stared at Diego, then at each other. “Who’s this?” he asked me, voice low and warning.

It just hit me that Peter wouldn’t recognize Diego for who he was. He’d barely been conscious when Diego saved his - and my - life, and then, at the hospital, he wasn’t able to visit him, first because he was still recovering, and then, when he was fine, because Diego was already gone, transferred to another hospital out of the city, most likely.

The only thing Peter knew about Diego Rivero was that he saved our lives at that barn, and that I…

Shit.

Taking a deep breath, I looked at Peter and said slowly, “Don’t freak out.”

Peter folded his arms. “Spill it.”

“Promise me you’ll be rational about this first,” I said, needing him to be sane after I told him.

He scowled. “Fine, I promise. Now shoot.”

Giving him a careful look, I said, “This is Diego Rivero.”

My brother froze. Then he whipped his head to look at the unconscious man. “What?”

“I don’t know why he’s in this state,” I said, crouching next to Diego’s head. “It’s by pure chance that I found him. And we have to help him, Peter.”

“Why?” my brother spat, and I turned to look at him. His eyes were full of worry and anger. “Why should we help him, after how you…”

My chest squeezed with that old pain again. “He saved our lives,” I said firmly, ignoring the pain, “we need to save his life now.”

“So why did you bring him here?” he asked, looking at Diego with that deep rage. “Why not the hospital?”

Because the way he looked at me and told me not to take him to the hospital… It wasn’t like a person who was throwing a tantrum because they were afraid of hospitals. It wasn’t even about fear. It was something else, something I couldn’t point my finger on, and that something told me that to bring him to the hospital would be as bad an idea as Diego seemed to think.

“Doesn’t matter,” I said, and put my hand to Diego’s forehead. “He’s running a fever. Get me the first aid kit, a cold towel, a glass of water, and Advil. I’ll try to help him as much as I can until he’s awake.”

Peter seemed torn. He knew I was right, that we owed him at least that, but he also hated the man. Still, this wasn’t a time for us to have this kind of conversation, so I said, “Now, Peter.”

My brother gave me a loaded look before he finally did as I asked.


It wasn’t before two in the morning that Diego awoke, if that’s what he did.

I was sitting on the floor, wrapped in a comforter, wearing my pajamas after I’d taken a shower earlier, a cup of hot green tea in my hands. I was determined to stay awake and make sure Diego was alright, so I sent Peter to sleep - he had school tomorrow, and his education was much more important than my work - and did everything in my power to stay up.

I was half-napping when Diego suddenly stirred, making me snap awake. Putting the teacup down on the coffee table, I went up to my knees and put my hand over his forehead. His fever still seemed to rage, and while I did my best cleaning the wounds he had over his face, and wrapped a bandage around the ugly wound at the side of his torso (with the help of Peter), it seemed that until a professional took care of him, his fever wouldn’t die down.

Just as I was about to take my hand off his forehead, his eyes flickered open, dazed dark brown irises aimed at me. “Harper,” he murmured, his voice raspy.

And suddenly, with that one word, with that unfocused look, it was as if he’d never left. As if we were in that Halloween-themed restaurant in Salem. As if we were at that bar in Manhattan, arm-wrestling. As if we were at the Commons, and he came for me, running and panting. As if we were buried under that rubble after he threw himself over me to save my life…

And just like that, tears came to my eyes. “Diego,” I said softly, giving in to this, to the vulnerability, the weakness, just for now, because I knew he wasn’t in his right mind. I knew he wasn’t truly awake. And so I let myself just… be. Just be what I’d always thought I would be able to be with him before everything went to shit and he pushed me away. Tomorrow, I would go back to hating him, would go back to being angry, furious, and hurt, even after all this time.

But tonight, just for now, just this moment…

Diego somehow raised his hand, and it cupped my cheek, his eyes filling with dizzy wonder. For the first time in probably forever, I’d seen Diego’s face without any masks. It was clear of all. Which meant he was hallucinating, but still… It was something I’d never expected to see, least of all in Diego Rivero, a man I thought would always remain as a bitter, painful hole in my past.

His hand fell a moment later, and he shut his eyes tightly, shaking his head, which made his face contort with pain. “Oz,” he said weakly, “call Oz.”

I had no idea who Oz was, but I snapped out of my stupor and started looking in the pockets of his trench coat, which I took off him and now lay on the table next to me. I found his phone, but it required a fingerprint to open. I grabbed Diego’s hands, put every finger on it until I got the right one, and found his contact list, which contained more than two thousands numbers.

When I typed “Oz” in the search bar, however, there was no result. “There’s no Oz,” I told Diego.

“Doctor,” Diego somehow got out.

I looked up “Doctor” and found one contact who fit, which read Doctor O. I called the number, pressed the phone to my ear, and suddenly wondered if they were even going to answer; it was almost three, and normal people usually slept at these hours.

But it seemed that Doctor O was not a normal person because he answered after a few rings. “Damn, Di,” came a man’s deep and amused voice, “it’s way too late even by your - “

“It’s not Diego,” I said quickly, and the man went silent. “It’s Diego’s - “ um “ - acquaintance,” I murmured, which made my heart squeeze in pain, but I focused on the matter at hand. “He’s at my place right now, and he’s badly beaten up. He didn’t want to go to the hospital, and only now he managed to wake up and told me to call you - “

“I’m on my way,” the man said at once, no longer amused, “text me your address.”

“Will do,” I said, hung up, and did as he said.

As I waited for the man to come, Diego lost consciousness again. About half an hour ago, there was a knock on the door, and I jumped to my feet and hurried to open up. The man who stood there looked nothing like I thought the doctor would look; he was in his early thirties, probably about the same age as Diego, and he was ridiculously hot, with golden-brown locks, light gray eyes, and a tall body roped with muscles. He entered without a word and took off his coat, which revealed the tee he was wearing underneath, and his muscular arms, which were covered with tattoos.

He settled next to Diego and took out an emergency kit that had things in it that seemed professional and way more helpful than my bandages. “Bring me a few empty glasses,” the man said in his deep voice.

I simply did as ordered and brought him the glasses. He settled them on the coffee table and got to work.

Taking my place at the loveseat, I watched as the doctor unwrapped the bandage from Diego’s side, and grimaced at what he found; it seemed the wound there had opened.

The doctor worked in silence for what felt like hours. First on the wound, then on the cut at Diego’s forehead, and by the time he was done, I could see through the living room window that the sun was starting to rise. I was tired, exhausted even, but I was too anxious to even blink.

Rising to his feet, the doctor wiped sweat from his head. “I’m going to call someone,” he told me, turning those gray eyes on me. “We need to get him to my place.”

I nodded, and he called that someone, speaking in a quiet murmur. Twenty minutes later, another man appeared, and this one, I vaguely recognized. Or, at least, he seemed familiar, as if I’d seen him somewhere before, a long time ago; he was Diego’s age, too, with slanted black eyes and short dark hair. The guy barely spared me a look, though, and simply helped the doctor hoist Diego carefully.

The doctor turned to me, then, and said, “Thank you for getting him. We’ll take care of him now,” before he and the other man left.

Silence filled the apartment after their departure. And the exhaustion hit me then, that I had to crawl into my bedroom, and only managed to reach the bed before I fell asleep.

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