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I was glad to be waking up; the bad dream was over. But a wave of confusion washed over me. I was alone in the bed, and in the more than two years Ryan and I had been sleeping together, he'd never once woken up first. For a boy that grew up on a farm, he didn't wake up without a lot of coercion.
"Welcome back," I heard a voice say. More confusion -- it wasn't Ryan's deep baritone voice; instead it was Tracer's lighter tenor.
"Hey, Sleepy Head, how you doing?" I heard Erik's deep bass say.
"Huh?" was all I could muster. I tried to sit up.
"Take it easy, Will. You're coming out from under the anesthesia," Tracer said.
I closed my eyes and took stock of things. Anesthesia? So it wasn't a bad dream. FUCK! I kept trying to piece things together.
"You OK?" I heard Erik ask.
"Uh, yeah," I stuttered. "What's going on?"
"You and Ryan were in an accident. You've just come out of surgery. Give it time," Erik advised.
"Where's Ryan?" I asked. My mind was panicked but I couldn't get my voice to show it.
"He's in your room," Tracer said.
"Huh?" I asked.
"You're in the recovery room right now," Tracer explained. "It's gonna take some time, but you'll be fine."
"What about Ryan?" I asked.
"Same thing, it's gonna take time," Erik answered. "He went through his surgery first, so he's ahead of you at the moment."
"Just lie there and relax," Tracer said. I felt his hand take mine. "Mom and Dad will be here in a few hours and you'll need your energy!"
"Ugh," I groaned.
I let my head rest into the pillow and just tried to remember. We'd been driving home for the break between second summer session and the fall semester. Ryan had pulled off the highway to get gas. I pointed out a gas station just beyond a stop-light at the bottom of the ramp. The light was green and... Nothing.
I kept my eyes closed; maybe everyone would leave me alone for a few minutes.
"Hey, Sweetie," a woman's voice said. "Let's see how you're doing."
Keeping my eyes closed, I listened for noises.
"How's the pain," the woman's voice asked.
"I'm fine," I replied.
"Open your eyes, Sweetie," she ordered.
I opened them to find a motherly looking nurse standing over the left side of the bed. I turned my head and saw Erik and Tracer sitting to my right.
"On a scale of one to ten, with one meaning nearly no pain and ten meaning unbearable, how bad is the pain?"
"I kinda hurt all over. Ummm... maybe a four or five."
"Pain-killers are still holding up good," she said, not really to me. "All his vital signs are good. I'll check on him in about fifteen minutes. If things continue we should be able to send him back to his room soon."
"Wide awake this time?" Tracer asked.
"Yeah. What's going on?" I asked.
"What do you remember?" Erik asked.
I told them about coming home, seeing the gas station, and then waking up here.
"The doctor said that all the pain-killers would mess up your memory," Tracer explained. "The part you don't remember is a tractor trailer hitting Ryan's truck. The driver ran the light and plowed into the bed of the truck, which is damn lucky. I don't think you two would have survived if he'd hit the cab."
"How's he?" I asked, somewhat concerned.
"Bruised and sore, but he'll be fine -- except for the reckless driving and other charges against him. They say he had to be doing seventy in a thirty-five zone to create the skid marks he did," Tracer explained.
"How do they know so much so fast?" I asked.
"Will, it's Saturday mid-afternoon. The accident was `bout twenty hours ago. Like I said earlier, Mom and Dad will be here in a few minutes. They left early this morning."
"Damn," I mumbled.
"How's Ryan?" I asked.
"He's recuperating. He had surgery first, so he's about five hours ahead of you in recovery."
"What's... What's... What's wrong with him?"
"Let's see," Erik started his answer. "He has a concussion, cracked left cheek bone, broken right wrist, broken left knee, and severe bruising across his chest. He also has a black eye on the right side and other miscellaneous cuts and bruises."
"Oh, God!" I said.
"Everything is set where it belongs, so he just needs time to heal," Erik explained. "Just like you."
"OK. I'm ready, what was wrong with me?" I asked.
"A lot of similar, but opposite side injuries," Tracer explained. "Your concussion was on the right side, while Ryan's was on the left."
I must have looked puzzled.
"Think side-impact accident," Tracer explained. He used his hands to show one hitting the other in the side. "The initial impact sent both of you towards the passenger side; thus you have a concussion from hitting the passenger window. After the force of that, you were both flung back the other way, so Ryan has a concussion on the left from hitting the driver's window."
"Your shoulder dislocated when you slammed into the door. You have a broken right elbow and a broken right wrist. You have severe bruising on your legs. We think the glove box must have come open and slammed into you. You also have bruising on the chest from the seat belt, like Ryan. Finally, a list of miscellaneous bruises and cuts,"
"I must look mighty handsome!" I replied.
"You're typically mutt face!" Tracer jabbed back.
"Thanks," I replied seriously.
"Why?" Tracer said.
"If I was too bad, you wouldn't be teasing me."
"Ryan's really OK?" I asked again.
"He's on par with you," Erik said. "I won't lie to you; you both look like hell."
"SCHOOL!" I nearly shouted.
"I have a feeling you're going to miss the fall semester," Erik answered. "You're both going to need time to recover and lots of help. Face it. With his wrist broken Ryan can't even use crutches to help himself walk with that broken knee, and you're going to have to do PT for that shoulder again."
"Oh, fun! More physical therapy!"
"I'll call Tech on Monday and see what has to be done," Tracer said.
"What about the truck?" I asked.
"We haven't seen it yet," Erik said. "From the pictures I saw from the Trooper, it's pretty much totaled."
"Ryan's gonna be pissed," I answered.
"He is, but he'll get over it."
"You're looking a lot better there, Sweetie," the nurse said as she walked up to my bed. She looked at the different monitors around my bed and then checked a few spots on my body. "We're going to move you up to your room."
"Can I see my friend on the way?" I asked.
"You and Ryan are in a double," Tracer interjected.
"The orderly will be here in a couple minutes to move you up," the nurse finished. She wrote something on my chart and walked off.
I lay there quietly for just a minute or two when a gentleman in scrubs walked up. "Ready to go back to your room?" he asked.
"Sure!" I replied with as much strength as I could muster.
Erik and Tracer left as the gentleman got everything set to roll me back to the room. A few turns, a short elevator ride, a few more turns, and I was wheeled into a room. The orderly pushed me past Ryan's bed and I saw his face; shock and disbelief flooded me. He smiled at me but didn't say anything. The guy got everything settled, asked if I was OK, and left the room.
Ryan mumbled something and it took me a minute to process it. "How ya doing, Baby?" he had asked.
"I'm feeling fine right now, but I hear I'm on good pain-killers! How about you?"
Again, his speech was slurred and hard to follow as he said. "I've been better. But I'm improving, now that you're here."
"You don't look too good," I commented, more concerned about his condition than worried about his actual appearance.
"Look in a mirror; it looks like you walked into a cast-iron skillet a few times," he said.
I chuckled. "Well, you look like you went a few rounds in the boxing ring and lost."
He started to laugh and then winced.
Tracer and Erik had been standing quietly at the foot of Ryan's bed. Tracer's cell phone started to ring.
"Hello," he said into the phone. He paused a few moments. "I'll come down and lead you up to the room." He closed his phone. "Mom and Dad are here. I'll be right back."
"Dad, go with him," Ryan ordered as best he could. Erik looked like he was about to say something, but Ryan continued in his broken speech. "Hey, I want two minutes alone with Will."
"OK," Erik answered.
They left to find my folks.
"Damn, Will. I'm so sorry about this," Ryan slurred.
"Why are you sorry?" I answered. "It wasn't your fault that the trucker ran the red light."
"I should have seen him coming," Ryan answered.
"Baby, I don't remember much after I pointed out that gas station. But I'm sure you did everything you could. You had a green light. We're alive, and after some time, we will be as good as new."
"I fucked up our fall semester," Ryan said.
"Stop it!" I ordered. "You're not at fault, and I'm not going to let you claim the blame. Stop it right now! Tracer and Erik said we were hit and the other driver was charged with reckless driving, and maybe more. It's not going to do either of us any good if you try to blame yourself!"
"I'm still sorry," Ryan said quietly. "I'll just be sorry that we're both in this position."
"That's better. But it's not your fault. Yeah, we're going to miss a semester of school. But hey, you wanted to be on the farm more. We'll get back to school and finish up fast!"
"Deal," Ryan said. It was the first word I'd heard him say clearly since I got to the room.
Before I could say anything else I could hear my Momma's voice as she came down the hallway. As she entered the room, I saw a look of shock spread across her face.
"Baby, you don't look too good," Mom said.
"I'm going to be fine, Mom."
She looked over at Ryan. "Actually, you both look like you did ten rounds."
"Funny, we were saying the same thing earlier. We really did in a way. Ten rounds with a semi!" Ryan explained.
Mom looked at me kinda funny. "I want to hug you, but I don't think I should," she said. Instead she leaned over the bed and kissed me lightly on the lips.
"You two have had us worried silly," Dad said. "Thank God, things aren't awfully bad."
"A few broken bones, concussion, bruises, cuts - they'll be back to normal in no time," Tracer said.
"Well, I don't know about `no time'," Mom replied. "But they are young and will mend quickly!"
"Do you remember any of it?" Dad asked us both.
"Not really," Ryan answered. "Will pointed out a gas station off the road. I remember the light was green. Then I'm waking up from surgery earlier this morning. Dad and Tracer told me I was off-and-on awake before surgery, but I really don't remember any of it."
"Same for me," I added.
"Probably for the best," Dad said.
Mom and Dad continued to pepper us with questions for a short while. I kept yawning as I answered.
"Why don't we let these two get a little sleep?" Erik suggested. "We can get you two checked into a motel, grab a bite to eat, and then come back later."
"That's sounds like a good idea," Mom responded.
Everyone kissed us both goodbye and left. A few moments after the folks left, a nurse walked in and checked on us, then left. Finally, we were alone.
"I'm so tired," I said.
"Me too. I wish we could curl up together and sleep."
"I'd like that too. Well, I'll just have to bore you to death with my voice to put you to sleep," I replied.
"You could never bore me. I love listening to you talk."
I chuckled at that. "Don't make me laugh too hard; it hurts!"
That made Ryan laugh, then groan with a bit of pain.
"See!" I yawned again.
"Get some sleep, Baby," Ryan said.
I yawned, "OK."
I must have drifted off. When I woke, there was a nurse in the room checking on Ryan.
"Hi," I said.
"Oh, I didn't think you were awake," he said. "I'm just checking in on both of you. I'll be your nurse this evening."
"Cool," I responded. "I'm Will."
"Mark," he responded. "Getting hungry?"
"Just a little."
"I'll bring your dinner in now if you want."
"Thanks," I replied.
"Chatterboxes," Ryan mumbled.
"Sorry," Mark and I answered in unison.
"It's OK. I'm hungry too," Ryan said.
"Dinner for two," Mark said.
He brought our trays, helped us get the beds set to a more upright position and then disappeared. We were just about finished eating when Mom and Dad walked in.
"Good dinner?" Mom asked.
"Not like your cooking," Ryan replied. "But it is filling me up."
"Yeah, Mom, you could go to the kitchen and teach them a thing or two!"
"I don't think so. It's awfully hard to cook for large volumes of people. Plus, they have all the dietary restrictions."
"Aw, shucks," Ryan teased.
Erik and Tracer walked into the room.
"Feeling any better?" Erik asked.
"Not really," Ryan responded. "Sore. Achy. Tired. You name it, it's pretty fuckin miserable."
"Understood. I thought maybe a nap would help."
"Naw. I don't sleep well on my own anymore," Ryan answered.
"True, I'm in the same boat."
The folks had spent about two hours with us when Mark walked in.
"Folks, visiting hours are over. Since the guys here are of legal age; technically, ya'll are supposed to leave. I can make an exception for a bit since you're the relatives."
"We should go and let the boys rest more," Mom said.
"We're going to drive home tonight," Erik said. "We'll be up here after lunch tomorrow."
"No worries, Dad," Ryan answered. "We're not going anywhere."
"I figured you two were already planning your escape," Tracer teased.
I just smiled.
Everyone said their goodnights and left.
"I'm not tired," Ryan said.
"I am, but I'm not ready to sleep."
Mark came in a few minutes later. "Time for your medications," he said.
"What are you giving us?" Ryan asked.
"Hmmm... let's see. Painkillers and muscle relaxants it appears. The good stuff - you two will sleep well tonight."
We took the medications and Ryan turned on the TV. I don't remember much after that. The next few days were more of the same -- doctors and nurses poking us and giving us pills, Mom, Dad, Erik and Tracer, visiting and a few of our friends from high school dropping over to see how we were.
Finally, the doctors announced they were discharging us. I hadn't really thought about what was next. We both got loaded into wheelchairs and were taken out to the curb.
"How about Will rides with us and Ryan rides with Erik and Tracer," Dad suggested.
"I want to ride with Will!" Ryan said forcefully. "I'm not leaving him."
"Mom, why don't you ride with us?" Tracer suggested. "We can put Will in the front seat of your car and Ryan can stretch out in the backseat."
I just beamed my biggest smile at Tracer in thanks.
The drive back to the farm was rough. Every bump and turn made things hurt. When we pulled up to the trailer, I groaned. I'd forgotten all about the fact that we'd be living in the trailer.
As I got out of the car everyone from the farm came over to see us.
"You two had us worried sick," Ezra said.
"Yeah, we're glad you both are doing so much better," Hank added.
"Can we help?" Randy said.
"I'm mobile, but not all that steady," I said. "Ryan's the one that's going to need help."
"Would someone get their bags out of the truck and put them in the front bedroom?" Erik asked. "Randy, how about helping me get Ryan into the trailer?"
Erik and Randy helped get Ryan to the edge of the back seat. Erik put his arms under Ryan on one side and Randy worked in from the other. Together they carried him into the trailer. I limped along behind him, and Tracer came over to help me. As I got close to the front door, I finally noticed that the steps had been replaced with a ramp.
"Burt's guys built the ramp earlier this week. The doctors said steps would be harder on Ryan than a ramp."
I turned and looked at the house. "Looks like they are moving right along," I said.
"Burt's trying to speed up delivery so we can get out of the trailer sooner," Tracer answered. "They are going to work Saturdays, and he's got everyone he can working on the house."
We got into the trailer. Even for what it was, it was good to be home. Erik had put Ryan down on our bed. I sat down next to him and smiled at him.
Alone in our room, Ryan said, "That was embarrassing."
"What? Being carried?"
"Well, you're going to have to get used to it for a few weeks. That kneecap of yours is going to take time to heal, and your broken wrist means crutches aren't in your immediate future."
"I know, I know. But I don't have to like it."
"No. The only thing you have to do is heal. Remember how you were when I screwed up my shoulder the first time?"
"Yeah," Ryan said timidly.
"Well, everyone's going to be on us both the same way."
"Argh!" Ryan replied.
"Yeah, my world... Welcome to it!"
That made him laugh. I lay down next to him and snuggled up the best I could. Between all the casts and splints, it wasn't much. But for the first time in nearly a week we were touching.
"I love you," Ryan said.
"Love you too!"
Copyright 2008, 2009 BndgDawg (BndgDawg@gmail.com). Do not reproduce or distribute this story without the author's permission.
NOTIFICATION LIST -- My notification took a hit due to a corrupt address book. I think I recovered everyone's address, but could be wrong. If you did not receive notification this time - please contact me.
This is Chapter Thirty-Six of Double Trails. I attempt to respond to all feedback. Contact me at: BndgDawg@gmail.com
As always, thanks to Chael and Rock for all they do to make this story more readable!