Chapter 8 – Self Destruct
“I want to see Nick... and Kevin.”
Brian stared into the face of Dr. Westin. His parents and his brother were sitting in the chairs in his room, having finally been granted entrance by their son. Even now, their presence was of little comfort. They had been able to do little for him. He had spoken to them, they had hugged him, and they had offered their support to him, but none of it really seemed to matter to him. There was only one thing he needed right now.
He was honestly glad his family there. He knew that his refusal to see them when he was awake had been a horrible thing to do, and that they would never understand why he had shut them out. He couldn’t even explain it to himself. All he knew was that he was helpless, helpless to save Nick and Kevin, and helpless to stop the pressure that closed over his chest and at the mercy of lungs that refused to breathe. The anxiety attacks were almost a routine. If he could just see them. If he could just reassure himself that Nick and Kevin were there, maybe they would stop…
“I want to see Nick and Kevin,” he repeated again, using as much strength as he could muster.
“I’m afraid that’s not possible.”
“Why not?” he demanded.
“Because you are not strong enough. I do not want you to move from this bed until I say it is ok.”
“But I need to see them!”
“Brian, I’m sorry. I can’t let you. Please understand that, it is for your own health.”
“My health doesn’t matter! Don’t you understand?” His voice broke as tears of rage streamed down his face. “I have to see them. I have to see if they are ok.” He took in a few short breaths.
“I’m sorry,” Dr. Westin said quietly. “They are getting the best care that we have to offer. We are doing absolutely everything we can for them; you just have to have faith in that. It is better all around if you stay put.”
“They need to know I’m there,” Brian said with so much despair that it crushed Westin’s heart. He had never seen someone so broken as the man who lay before him. Sighing heavily, he forced himself to meet the intense gaze of his young patient. “I can’t let you, Brian.”
The tears came with a vengeance, and Brian balled his hands into fists.
“You son of a bitch,” he cursed, and then covered his face with his hands as a terrific sob shook his body. “Son of a bitch.” This time he said it with despair rather than hatred.
Mrs. Littrell gripped the shirt of her husband tightly. She couldn’t stand this. Her son was carrying pain that went far beyond the extent of his injuries. She thought she had cried until her eyes had run dry, but now found fresh tears covering her cheeks. She gasped in panic when she heard her son wheezing.
“I have to see them,” he gasped out, desperate for breath. “You have to let me see Kevin. I have to find Nick… Oh God where is Nick? Nick! Answer me!”
Dr. Westin wasted no time calling in support and ushering the Littrells out of the room. “It’ll be all right, he’ll be ok, but I need you to leave and give us some space to work,” he told them shortly.
Once outside, Mrs. Littrell broke down sobbing in her husband’s arms.
“Why did this happen?” she asked tearfully. “Why did this have to happen?”
* * *
Dr. Westin pulled the oxygen mask encircling Brian’s head away and replaced it with one that covered his nose and mouth. It was a difficult task, for Brian had begun thrashing about in his frenzy. He jerked his head backwards and arched his back in an attempt to get air. The gashes in his back screamed out in protest, wrenching a cry of agony from his throat.
“Brian!” Dr. Westin shouted, trying to get him to focus. “Take my hand. We’re going to help you, but you have to stop! Take my hand, squeeze my hand! Come on!” he growled.
Brian seized the doctor’s outstretched hand with a grip that almost made him cry out. In his weakened state, there was no way he should have that much strength. He stared straight into Westin, his deep blue eyes wide with panic and desperation as the sweat beaded on his brow. The look in his eyes spelled one thing out in perfect clarity for the doctor to read: He was not going to die. Not while his friends were still fighting. Those eyes left an imprint on Westin’s soul he wouldn’t forget until the day he died.
The sweat dripped down Brian’s face as he breathed in and out at a furious rate. Westin snapped out of his trance and barked some orders out. This young man was going to survive even if he had to fight the Grim Reaper himself for him.
After a few minutes that threatened to last an eternity, Brian’s breathing began to return to normal. His pulse came down, and his vitals began to stabilize. Not once did he tear his gaze from Westin until his eyes closed in sleep. His grip loosened on the doctor’s hand and fell away. Westin discovered that he was bleeding from the nail imprints Brian had left on him. When he left, the young man was sleeping peacefully.
Dr. Westin went out to give his report to Brian’s family. He still felt a little shaky himself. Westin wasn’t sure how much more of this Brian’s body could take. If he continued like this, it was likely to kill him.
“How is he?” Mr. Littrell asked anxiously.
“He’s sleeping now.”
“I must say he is certainly not helping his recovery any. Each one of these anxiety attacks just wears his body out more.”
“What can we do? Can’t you just let him see his friends? That’s all he wants!”
“Right now, I really can’t let him. It might help him, but he is definitely not ready for a wheelchair right now, and to see Nick and Kevin in their current state may shock him. Mr. Dorough is the only one of them that I am allowing to move about. As long as A.J. handles things well and feels up to it, I may let him come visit your son, but Brian is simply not ready. As soon as he can handle being out of bed, I will have him taken up to see Nick and Kevin. But right now, it would be very dangerous to do so, especially while he is still having these anxiety attacks.”
Westin patted Mrs. Littrell’s arm reassuringly. “Just stay strong and be there for Brian when he needs you. He may not realize it, but he really does need your support. It’s the best we can do for now. The rest is all up to him.”