"... not sure he'll even survive the night. This is the most critical patient on the unit, so he's here on the corner. I'll need all of you to keep an eye on him, but honestly, there's not much more we can do. The rest is up to him."
"It's such a shame. He's so young. Do they know how it happened?"
"That's not something they shared. Dr. Grant just said it had been 'touch and go' for several hours. Honestly I'm surprised he managed to save that leg." There was some noise... paper rustling and the squeak of a hinge. Metal scraped against metal for a few moments. "I'm not sure if he's going to wake up, but I had a mentor always insisted patients hear things we wouldn't believe possible. So I'm going to tell you and Mr. Polk both, I believe he's going to make it... Just getting to this point had to be a bigger challenge."
"From your mouth to his ears, Dr. de la Hoya."
"Well, that's why this is a Catholic hospital, right Joyce?" There was feminine laughter; the rustle of fabric almost hidden by the squeak of metal on metal. And then silence. Taylor Polk lay wondering what had happened. Were they talking about him? He wanted to raise his head, but everything seemed so heavy; his body felt like water logged cotton. There was a dull ache, somewhere, but he could not focus on it.
Summoning his will, the 28 year old architect forced his eyes open. He immediately wished he had not, wincing at the bright light flooding the room. He moved his eyes, seeing only sterile foam ceiling tiles, from which posts extended. He saw a flat panel monitor extending to either side of the pole nearest his head. There were moving squiggles and numbers that he did not understand. A bag of clear liquid and a second smaller bag filled with something dark, the bag wrapped in a cream sleeve of some sort hung from a ring on the second smaller metal bar which ended in a series of 5 open metal loops.
He blinked in time with the drip, drip, drip of the fluids in the bags into the small clear bulbs below which tubing snaked beyond his field of view. He swallowed, feeling fear blossom somewhere in his gut... It was a hospital! What had happened? Where was Jane? Oh God! Jane?!
"Shhh," a soft feminine voice murmured, close to his ear, "Welcome back to the land of the living, Mr. Polk." Taylor's eyes rastered to the other side. He saw blonde bangs, dark eyebrows, his view only partially showing the speaker's eyes. Bright blue eyes. He felt himself relax. "I'm guessing you're kind of scared," he heard her continue, though the rest of her face was outside of his field of view. "You're at St. Francis, in the ICU. You were involved in an awful motor vehicle collision—we don't call them accidents, since that's a legal definition, isn't that ridiculous?" Somehow he knew she was smiling. He tried to nod his agreement, anxious for her to keep talking. What about Jane?
And something was in his throat. He tried to cough it out... Something unyielding made him cough again and again. He clenched his fingers, terrified he was going to suffocate.
"Shhh," cool fingers caressed his forehead, "That's the endotracheal tube... When the doctor sees your reflexes are back they'll take it out." He tried to relax, but the sensation of the tube was awful. And it did not answer the more terrifying questions still pinging through his mind. "It was a one vehicle collision," the soothing voice continued, "I heard something about a tree at the bottom of the hill. Don't waste your energy worrying... You were the only one hurt." Taylor sighed in relief. Jane had not been hurt. The fingers moved to his face, catching a tear that had slipped from the corner of his right eye. "No need for tears," his nurse shifted, "You're going to be fine. I guarantee it."
Taylor believed her. When she told him to rest, he managed a small nod, closed his eyes, and let the darkness claim him again.
Beep... Beep... Beep. Taylor started awake, then groaned at the swell from a throbbing quiet pain to something just short of tearing agony. He lifted his head, the movement serving to increase the pain until he gave up, panting quietly until only the constant ache was there, almost lost in the narcotic fog. He licked his lips... at least the awful tube was gone.
The lights seemed intolerably bright, but after a few minutes he found he could turn his head. Squinting, he was embarrassed to realize his room was only dimly lit, compared to the bright hall beyond the curtain. His eyes checked the blinking monitor over his head. Glancing to the other side, to the corner of the room, he felt the tension ease in his chest, seeing the blonde nurse from before. Her head was bowed over a book... a textbook, he realized, not a best seller. As if she sensed his attention, her head lifted. He tried to answer her beaming smile with one of his own.
"Welcome back again, lazy bones. I see you're more alert now. Do you remember waking up before?" Taylor tried to speak, but his throat felt as if he had swallowed an entire desert. He shrugged, cautious about what the movement would do. "You got another..." she checked a watch on a dainty wrist, "Four hours of sleep. Do you remember what happened?" He managed another shrug. It felt as if something inside of him shifted then. His next breath was more difficult. And the breath after that... He fought not to panic as the number above him on the right lower corner of the monitor began to drop. His blood pressure began to climb. A shadow passed over her eyes. She stood up, moving purposely to the bed. Her hand was cool even through the thin sheet, where she touched his chest. "Taylor?" she asked, "Taylor," an order, "Look at me. He did, eyes moving to her chest, not out of a brutish chauvinism, but to locate her name tag. Hope. He tried to smile at the image of the young woman in the proper nurse's hat. Looking at her again, he noticed the picture was new. There was laughter in her eyes when he brought his gaze up. He felt himself blush.
"Well, it's good to see you can focus, but that may be a little ambitious for right now." She winked, "The doctor will be relieved you're alert and oriented." She turned more serious, "Do you remember talking to me before?" Had he said anything? She patted his shoulder calmingly, "It's OK, the ET tube was still in the last time you were awake—you couldn't talk. I just meant did you remember my talking to you." He nodded. "Good... Sometimes I have to explain what happened three or four times... That's also good news." She moved along the bed. He gasped, as her hand dipped expertly under the sheet, barely touching the top of his thigh before her fingers closed around his manhood.
"I apologize," she said calmly, as if this was a common procedure, "I'd try to help you more... Well, let's just say there's still a tube in the way." He frowned, unsure what she meant... Oh, a catheter. He shuddered at the thought. And shivered as he felt her hand steadily working at him. He tried to lift his head despite the pain. "Relax, cowboy," she insisted, "I'm worried about your O2 level... It was falling, looked like it was getting hard to breathe." He managed a nod. "This should help... we have to get your heart rate up to get any little clots broken up. Did you know the interventionalists call your lungs the great filter in the chest?" He shook his head. "They do... Little clots aren't a problem. We just have to keep a big clot from blocking the main arteries." He tried to lay quietly, embarrassed at how easily she got him hard. She kept it up until he knew it was about time. A low groan escaped his lips. He tilted his head, to see her staring intently at the monitor.
It felt strange... not painful, but unusual when he climaxed with the catheter in place. Her hand kept moving for another minute or two, before she nodded in satisfaction. She released him, slipping her hand out from under the sheet.
"Breathing better now?" He considered, then nodded—he was. "Good. Now rest. You're safe." Still embarrassed, Taylor nodded, closing his eyes. He was not sleepy, though. He needed some questions...
"Mr. Polkr?" He opened his eyes to find the doctor leaning over him again. The slightly heavy clinician smiled, "I'm sorry for waking you, I'm Dr. de la Hoya. I'll be taking care of you. You were in an accident, but things should be fine. You made it through the critical phase. Do you understand me?" Taylor nodded.
"Good nursing," he managed, opting not to elaborate.
"Yes, it is," the man agreed, listening to Taylor's chest with a stethoscope. "They'll take great care of you, and hopefully we can get you down to the ortho ward in the next day or so. You're really doing very well," He moved to the foot of the bed, "Can you feel this?" Taylor waited. The physician's brow furrowed. He looked over at the dark haired nurse holding Taylor's chart. "How about this?" Taylor jumped, biting back a groan as the twitch of his muscles sparked mild pain. The doc had dragged something down the sole of his left foot. Moving up the side of the bed, the physician paused patting the bed... no, Taylor realized with some alarm it was his right knee. But he did not feel a thing.
"You lost your spleen, and there's bruising around your kidney. There were rib fractures, but your lung is up," the clinician spieled off the list of Taylor's injuries, "A concussion, of course, but no blood. You lost consciousness, so a headache wouldn't be surprising... Does your head hurt, Mr. Polk?" He shook his head. "Great. Don't worry about the leg; you had a bad fracture. Comminuted and compound, you're lucky you didn't lose the leg. But now there's swelling and the nerves may be asleep for awhile... which is probably a good thing," he patted Taylor's leg again, "We'll watch it, but trust me, that's not uncommon. You'll be up before you know it."
Taylor watched the monitor upside down as the doc and his nurse or aide or whoever she was talked and made notes in his chart. He looked over, and was relieved to see Hope sitting in the corner, alternately watching the doc and him. She made some notes about whatever it was the others had said, and then the others left again. The doctor paused at the doorway,
"If you're up to it, you have visitors." Taylor nodded, puzzled at the frown that touched Hope's face for a moment. "And if you're okay we'll remove that pesky catheter." Taylor nodded gratefully. The doctor smiled sympathetically, "Just drink lots... we want to make sure you can use that, or we'll have to put the catheter back." He left, the other nurse staying behind. She efficiently donned gloves, collected fluid with a small syringe, and tersely warning, 'This may burn,' yanked the catheter out. Taylor's breath hissed at the decidedly unpleasant sensation that continued several seconds after she had stepped away, holding the limp yellow tube. He glanced over at Hope, wishing she had removed it—he was confident she would have managed the job more comfortably. From her empathetic expression, he was sure he was right.
"Just relax, Mr. Polk, we'll take good care of you," the other nurse assured him, and then she was gone, to catch his doctor, Taylor guessed.
Jane and Peter, his best friend, were in the room a few minutes later. Jane's face was puffy—she had been crying. Peter clasped Taylor's shoulder, asking if Taylor was OK. Aware that his voice was raspy, he assured both he was, then tried to answer the questions they peppered at him. No, he did not remember what had happened. Yes, he had been told it was a car accident. No, he did not know how much longer he would be there, they had mentioned moving to the ortho ward. The most dangerous time seemed to have passed. He told them he was glad the tube in his throat and 'down there' were out, assuring them he was fine.
After they had milled around for a few more minutes, Taylor asked after them... Neither had been home since learning about the accident. Taylor insisted they should go home and get some rest, pointing out he would be there for quite awhile. Jane reluctantly agreed, and Peter guided her toward the open sliding glass door, assuring Taylor he would make sure Jane did not just pace the house until they could come visit again. Jane stopped, glaring at Peter, then assuring Taylor she would be back later that day.
The day passed slowly. Taylor slept frequently. His pain was well controlled—there but not something he was focused on. Before lunch the news and sports were running through bits he had already seen. He wished he had asked Peter and Jane to bring his laptop and a book, but figured Jane might think of that herself. If she did not, he could ask her to bring them the next morning.
The police visited after lunch. There were some 'irregularities' they said, without elaborating. Taylor assured them he had his Prius serviced only at the Toyota dealership, and always on schedule. He also assured them the vehicle had not run away, although he could not, he admitted, tell them just what had happened. It was marginally unsettling when the older officer asked if Taylor had any enemies or anyone who might want to harm him. Puzzled, he assured the man... had he said he was a detective? He was not wearing a typical uniform... He knew of no one who was out to get him. He did not have a business partner, and had not had any contentious jobs with the firms that he had done work for recently.
The officers assured him the car had been totaled. One allowed it was a miracle he had survived. They left their cards on the adjustable counter by the bed, wished him luck, assured him they would inform him when the investigation was complete, and left. Through it all, Hope stayed at her position, watching and listening when someone was visiting, studying, getting up every fifteen or twenty minutes to check on Taylor. Twice while the police were there she threaded herself between his 'visitors' and the bed, checking vitals or the flow of his IV. She patted his arm reassuringly when it was obvious the comments about someone being after him were making him anxious.
The food was not good, but it was not bad. At Hope's insistence, he drank three times the water he normally would, and both were relieved when he managed to empty his bladder shortly after the police had left. He almost asked when Hope's shift would end, but her calm presence... just having someone there with him, was so reassuring he chose not to tempt the fates.
While he was picking at the remains of his dinner, Peter and Jane returned. Jane had his laptop, as well as a bag of snacks, a Suduko book, and the thriller he had been reading at home. Frowning, having assured herself Taylor was going to live, she pointed to the new Dell and told Taylor she had not been able to get into it to see if the gas and electric bills had been paid. He apologized, assuring her they had been, and scrawled the password on the nearest piece of paper—one of the policemen's business cards.
Jane paled when she saw the card. Holding it up, she asked where Taylor had gotten that. Peter and Jane were as alarmed as Taylor had been when he explained the police had said something about 'irregularities.' Hope came over, patting Taylor's shoulder as the other shared a look of shock at the thought someone would have tried to hurt or kill him.
Taylor assured them both he was safe, and had told the police as much—no one was after him. He asked Jane to touch his toes, hoping the feeling had come back. His wife was clearly less then happy, and Taylor could understand why; there was dried blood on his skin, and the foot was swollen, looking nothing like a real human foot. He glanced over, where Peter was standing by the hanging bags. Chuckling, Peter asked Jane if she was trying to give her husband a complex that he'd become a hideous deformed creature. Jane stared daggers at their friend, then moved up, touching first Taylor's big toe, then the bottom of his foot, and finally his shin. To Taylor's immense relief, he could feel something... prickly, like the pins and needles from sleeping on his hand. He pumped his fist and cheered, glancing back at his friend.
He was puzzled to see Peter fussing with the clear IV bag.
"Uh, Peter? Since when are you a doc?" he teased, glancing at Jane, who had stepped up, watching what Peter was doing, as well. "Hey!" he said in mild alarm, "Stop fooling around... That's hooked up to me!" He shook his arm. Peter pursed his lips, then nodded.
"Sorry, I was just looking at the thingie here with the bubbles," He tapped the little reservoir, "It reminds me of that lava lamp we had in the dorm in college." He caught hold of the plastic box on the tube beneath the bubbling window, "I think this is how they control the rate, see?" He turned the wheel down, "That stops it," the wheel went back up to the top of the box, the bubbles moving more rapidly in the little bulb, "And that lets it run." Taylor turned to Hope, whose eyes were wide as she stared at Peter. Taylor swallowed, fear blossoming in his gut. Hope was scared. Her hands caught his arm under the sheet. A strange tingle also began in the center of his chest.
"Peter? What'd you..." Suddenly speech was impossible. His lips tingled. He turned to Jane, who was watching him calmly. He tried to turn his head back to Hope, but found he could not move.
"Grab his hand," Peter told Jane, "In case he tries to call the nursing station." Taylor managed a feeble whimper as his wife caught his free hand. He had already tried to reach the call button, but could not move his fingers.
"You're sure no one will notice?" Jane asked Peter across Taylor's taut, immobile form. He was aware of Hope's hands massaging the arm on Peter's side, up and down, up and down all the way to the elbow. He was barely able to move his eyes to focus on her face. There was a mixture of rage and horror distorting the pretty blonde nurse's features. Taylor was relieved—she obviously was not in on it. So why wasn't she calling for help?
"You have to keep your heart beating," she told him, ignoring the others, "Help is on the way, but we HAVE to keep your heart beating." Taylor tried to nod, but none of his muscles seemed to be working right." Hope's hands moved to his crotch. Taylor closed his eyes as she began to work him feverishly with both hands.
'At least you'll go out getting off,' the thought flitted through his fading consciousness, and he almost giggled.
"See, a smile. I told you it's peaceful. It's what I use on lots of dogs," Peter told Jane. "Now we should get out of here before..."
"I agree..." Jane and Peter moved to the foot of the bed, ignoring Hope, who pushed his sheets aside, he could tell, the moment before her mouth engulfed his erect cock.
"Help me," she urged from his waist a moment later, stopping for breath, "You have to keep fighting, Taylor... Fight to live." Taylor tried to nod. Tried to swallow to say a word. He was aware of his heart racing, but unsteadily. It was so hard to breathe... He was panting, amazed at the ferocity with which Hope was going at his cock. He wanted to run his hand through her hair, to thank her for what she was doing, even if it didn't work...
He was dimly aware of a commotion outside of his cubicle. The urge Hope had stoked to a need consumed his focus, though. He shouted as he came, flooding the young nurse's mouth with his seed—no catheter in the way. It couldn't be standard treatment, he thought as she kept working at him, or every man in the world would spend every waking moment in the ICU.
He realized it was easier to breathe. And he could move... His hand had settled gently onto the back of Hope's still bobbing head. Urgent voices were approaching. Hope straightened up, covering his body with the sheet again. Wiping her mouth self-consciously, she moved back to her seat at the corner as the doctor, nurse, and one of the police officers rushed in.