Safe & Sound

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​I remember you said,
"Don't leave me here alone."
But all that's dead and gone and passed tonight.


9. All this time I was wasting, hoping you would come around.

The morning is too early and Kennedy's eyes are still stinging with a never ending exhaustion. Falling back asleep last night was impossible even after Addison was sound in her bed. She could do nothing but stare at the dark ceiling above and check her phone more times than necessary, awaiting the time to get up and ready to meet Harry.

Once he arrives, the trip is uneasy. Behind Kennedy in the car, double-strapped into a protective seat, Addison naps with her head hanging down and to the side. Harry's concentration is set on the road ahead as he drives with one hand set casually on the wheel. If he knows the severity of what he's gotten himself into, he doesn't show it. He looks relaxed, almost as if this could be a simple check-up at the pediatrician. But when he nearly misses the turn into the parking lot of the hospital, Kennedy fears he's hiding more than meets the eye.

''You ready?'' she asks before she reaches for the door handle after the car is parked.

He nods nonchalantly, getting out and meeting Addison in the back. She crankily awakens when he reaches for her.

''I don't want to go,'' she whimpers into his neck.

Kennedy's heart aches every time she hears the routine words of the child dreading her treatments, but she’s not burdened with thinking of a way to coerce her into going in. This time, it’s Harry’s job and he seems unfazed by it. He merely smiles at her before shutting the car door, telling her to think of the stickers.

''It's just the doctor, Addie,'' he says, ''He's here to make you feel better.''

They enter the large building and Kennedy leads the way, having memorized every elevator floor and turn of the wide ivory halls needed to get to the right department. The moment she reaches the front desk, she feels that familiar stomach-churning sickness build in her stomach and the thick smell of bleach in the air doesn't help one bit.

“Hello, Ms. Ellis,'' one of the too-bubbly nurses greets her. She smiles but it seems out of place considering the circumstances. ''How are you?''

''Good, thank you,'' Kennedy forces a smile back. Too quickly, she fills out the necessary paperwork while Harry sits with Addison murmuring soft complaints against his shoulder. Once finished, the nurse hands Kennedy a folded up gown and motions to a room in the back.

Kennedy beckons Harry to follow her and leads him to the room where she takes Addison from him and sits her on the bed.

''Look, it's blue today,'' Kennedy grins, waving the fabric in her hands.

Addison isn't impressed. ''I like the pink one better.''

Once she's properly changed and the lilac dress she arrived in is neatly folded into her mother's tote bag, Addison lies back against the bed and starts to play with Harry's phone, which seems to cheer her up enough to give up on her protest.

''You're getting pretty good at that game,'' he chuckles at her, ''Better than me, even.''

Addison giggles but doesn't break her concentration on the pixels of fruit she's destroying at the touch of her finger.

''Hey,'' Kennedy quietly turns to him, ''Can I talk to you for a sec?''

''Yeah, sure.”

Harry turns away from the child, following Kennedy out into the hall where she stands before him with her arms folded around her torso.

''What's up?'' he asks.

She takes advantage of the moment to properly examine his face. If he's nervous, there's no sign of it. If anything, he's happy to be here. There's nothing to suggest the least bit of fear in his eyes and that scares her.

''Are you okay?'' she asks him. Perhaps he's just gotten better at hiding his emotions, but she knows him well enough to know he never has been able to.

''Yeah,'' he nods, a bit perplexed by her question, ''Why?''

''I just... I just don't know how you're so calm right now, that's all. The first day I came here, I couldn’t sit still. I thought you'd be worried.''

At first, he looks down, suddenly deceivingly interested in his shoes. But when he looks back up, he's sincere and it's obvious.

''I'm alright,'' he tells her, ''I'm trying to be as positive as I can for her so she doesn't get scared. I thought that maybe if I don't let her see how this bothers me, it won't bother her as much.''

For a moment, Kennedy's surprised. It wasn't the logic she was expected, but it's good logic. Nearly perfect logic, in fact. She wonders if she'd done that all of these months, maybe Addison wouldn't kick and scream every time the idea came up.

''You've been a parent for a few weeks and already you're better than me,'' she tells him.

''No, I could use a lot of practice to get on your level. Believe me.''

''We'll see,'' she tries to laugh.

The heel of his foot is tapping uncontrollably against the tile floor. He's restless. His heart is going a million beats a minute. It's the worst feeling he thinks he's ever experienced and the last thing he expected today.

The doctors wheeled Addison into the treatment room a while ago and he's sitting back in the first room, alone, unable to get the sight of her being whisked down the hall out of his mind. She whimpered first when he had to take the cell phone from her. Then she cried when the prep nurses came in. She begged him to go with her, sobbing into Kennedy’s embrace all the while. But he could do nothing. He could say nothing except the meaningless remarks of ''it will be okay'' and ''be strong,'' to which she responded with nothing but more tears.

Now, he's sitting with a brown fuzzy Charlie clutched in his hands, hoping that in whichever stage of her treatment she's in right now, it's drawing to a close so she can be brought back to him soon. Kennedy's been in the bathroom for God knows how long. She excused herself the moment she had to reluctantly pry Addison's tiny arms from her neck and Harry's been by himself ever since.

''Excuse me?''

A soft voice startles him from the open door of the room and he looks up to meet the eyes of a woman dressed in scrubs recognized as one of the nurses who came in before.


She enters the room with a clipboard and a pen, smiling at him when he respectfully rises to meet her, keeping the stuffed bear held protectively in the crook of his arm.

''I just wanted to clarify some information,'' she tells him, pointing to the form on the board. He skims over the lines, trying to find at least one thing he can answer for, but there’s nothing.

Thankfully, Kennedy appears in the doorway before he has to stall and humbly apologize for knowing nothing about his child, stuffing some things into her already cluttered bag.

The nurse directs her concerns to her instead and Kennedy answers with precision, making Harry feel inferior that he knows so little. She seems to have memorized all the treatments, medications, symptoms, everything to the last detail of Addison's height and weight as of this morning.

''Okay, that's all I needed,'' the nurse smiles, ''Thank you, Ms. Ellis. And thank you...''

''Harry,'' he finishes for her, extending his hand for a shake, ''Harry Styles.''

''Nice to meet you. Are you Dad?''

''Yes, I am,'' he proudly accepts, smiling a bit too large.

Kennedy fights the urge to look annoyed by his choice to tell her.

''She has your smile, if you ask me,'' the nurse comments before bidding them goodbye and leaving them to their privacy.

Kennedy takes a seat, holding her head in her hands.

''You alright?'' Harry asks her, ''You were gone for ages.''

''I needed some alone time, that's all,'' she mutters, ''Can you believe they won't sell you pain medication here without a prescription?''

He creases his eyebrows. ''What kind of pain medication were you trying to buy?''

''Something stronger than these jokes.'' She shakes a nearly empty bottle of Panadol. ''Listen, why'd you tell her you were Addie's father?''

''Because I am?''

''What if she mentions it around Addie? Is that how you want her to find out?''

He realizes her point. Even though the idea of how he'll go about telling Addison hasn't yet been decided on, he knows that's not the way he wants it to happen at all.

''Sorry,'' he sighs, ''I should've realized. I'll ask her not to mention it, alright?''

Kennedy nods, returning her forehead to the spot against her palms.

''Where does it hurt?'' He notes her slouching back and tense shoulders bunched around her neck.


He debates his chance for a moment, finally deciding that what he's about to do is just to help her out and unless she refuses there's no harm in offering.

''I can see if I can help,'' he says, ''I mean, if you want me to. If it's okay.''

Slowly, she makes eye contact. He can't decipher her expression, but on the inside neither can she. She remembers how skilled he used to be at shoulder massages, especially when she'd come over after a girls' football match and he'd rub her sore muscles for nearly an hour just because he wanted to make her feel better. His hands were comforting and saying yes to finding out if they still are right now is tempting.

''Only if you want to,'' she tells him quietly.

In her own way, he knows that means “I want you to but I’m afraid to admit it.” So he crosses the room and pulls up a chair to sit behind her. Deep down, he's happy to be here, closer to her rather than by himself in the corner, alone with his maddening thoughts about Addison. A human touch makes him feel less alone and he needs that.

She moves her hair to one side for him, freeing her back and most of her neck. He's hesitant at first. More hesitant than he expected. This will be the first time he'll be purposely touching her just for the sake of touching her in years. It feels different and he silently appreciates the fact that she can't see him right now.

His fingers graze her shoulder blades and she gets the first gentle hint, closing her eyes involuntarily. She waits for more, but his hands are gone too soon and he's drawing her attention to the door as they bring Addison in.

Each of them springs to their feet instantly, watching the toddler's bed being wheeled back into its original position. Their stomachs fall when they see that she's still crying, her face pale and wet with an hour’s worth of tears staining her cheeks.

Kennedy goes to her immediately, running a comforting hand through her hair and kissing her forehead. The child calls out to her even though she's already with her.

Harry is frozen in his spot by the chair. He wants to move. There's nothing he wants more than to go to her right now. But neither his legs nor his head are working, not even as one of the doctors turns to him and tells him about what they did and what it should do for her. He hears almost none of it. His body remains completely unmoved until a breaking, high-pitched voice says his name.

''Harry,'' she cries.

''Harry.'' This time it's a voice much different but no less painful. ''Get over here.''

Somehow he finds the muscles in his legs and commands them to move, making him almost run in a burst of energy toward the free side of the child's bed. She stares up at him with big, watery eyes, the exact color of Kennedy's. She wants to raise her arms and reach for him, but out of weakness she can't. So he meets her halfway.

''I got you,'' he says after leaning down into her, clutching her body against his chest, ''I'm here.''

''Don't go,'' she begs.

''We're not going anywhere. Look, neither is Charlie. See? Charlie's here.''

She watches as he reaches for the bear with the arm she's not holding onto for dear life and sits it next to her. She clings to him harder and he can do nothing but hold her back, resting his chin atop her head.

Kennedy swears she sees a tear fall down his cheek before he quickly wipes it away so Addie won't see it. She realizes this is the moment. This is the very second that everything became real for him. It just dawned on him. He knows how serious it is now, and the storm is starting.


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