By the time they’d finished talking both Tabitha and Cary were exhausted. She offered him the sofa so that he wouldn’t have to make the drive home and possibly fall asleep at the wheel, or though she didn’t say it to him, get into a fight with Hugh because he was coming home so late.

Cary had accepted gratefully, telling her to wake him when she got up and he’d drive her to the hospital. As it was the weekend he didn’t have to go into work so he planned on spending the whole day there with Preston whether the man, or the hospital, liked it or not.

Eight hours later, feeling as if he’d at least gotten some sleep and wearing a pair of Preston’s sweats at Tabitha’s insistence, he was parking in the hospital lot. They hurried into the hospital, stopping only long enough for Tabitha to check in and find out what room Preston was in before they headed up.

The charge nurse on Preston’s floor started to protest that Cary could not go with Tabitha until Tabitha pointed out that Cary was listed on Preston’s charts as being the one person the doctor specifically noted was to have full visitation rights. After huffing a bit about doctors that didn’t follow hospital procedure the nurse went back to her duties and Cary followed Tabitha down the hall to Preston’s room.

“You get to wait out here until I’ve checked on him,” Tabitha told him with a smile as she opened the door.

“In case he’s…In case there’s something wrong?”

“That too, yes, but mainly because I want to make certain he’s up to having a visitor, if he’s even awake that is. It’s only been a little over ten hours since the surgery.

“I understand.” He watched as she went into the room and then leaned back against the wall drumming his fingers on his leg impatiently. It seemed like forever before she opened the door and stepped into the hall again.

“He’s sleeping and very heavily medicated so he’s not going to know you’re here but come on in.”

“But he’s OK? I mean…he’s going to be OK?”

“Yes Cary, he’s going to be fine. All his vitals are good. Just a warning though, he’s on a ventilator and still has chest tubes to suck out any remaining blood or fluid. He’ll stay on the vent until he can breathe on his own. Don’t worry,” she said when she saw the look of panic on his face. “This is all very normal and I’ll be with him, and monitoring him, as much as possible. The tubes will stay in until all the fluid has been drained and his lung has fully re-expanded. That takes around 72 hours.”

“OK, I understand. Now can I see him? Please.”

“Impatient much,” she joked as she let him into the room.

“Very,” he said softly as he crossed the small room to Preston’s bed, swallowing hard as he looked at his friend. “He’s so pale.” Gently he reached to touch his face. Every scar stood in lividly against his wan completion but Cary barely noticed them, seeing only the Preston he knew beneath them. The man he hadn’t truly understood he loved until a few hours ago. “I’m here, Pres,” he whispered. “And I’m not going anywhere until you wake up and maybe not even then.”

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