Chapter Twenty: Warm Glow of Life
Greg pushed on regardless. “Look, I know it's difficult; believe me, I do. But you've got nothing to lose by trying, and Kriss potentially has everything to gain.”
Reggy felt his resolve weaken slightly. He knew all too well how much Kriss was still hurting from the forced separation. Damn Greg and his logic.
“Fine,” he huffed, scowling at his partner's attempt to hide his victorious expression. “You find me the number and I'll make the call. Just once, though,” he added sternly. “This is their last chance.”
Greg nodded, already halfway out the door. “You got it.”
A few hours later, sooner than Reggy expected or would have liked in all honesty, Greg returned; triumphantly clutching a slip of paper.
“Hardly tested my detective skills at all, dude,” he grinned; pressing the number into Reggy's hand. When Reggy merely eyed the slip of paper distastefully, Greg clapped him on the back. “Come on; no time like the present. I'll get Kenney to sit with Kriss and I'll be your moral support.”
Reggy's stomach clenched uncomfortably as he dialed the Idaho number, but he put the phone to his ear decisively. He was doing this for Kriss.
A pleasant sounding woman answered the phone after a couple of rings. “Hello?”
Reggy took a deep breath, and put on his most polite voice. “Hello. Is that Mrs. Brekheart? Mrs. Alyssa Brekheart?”
“Yes. Who is this?”
At least he was speaking with the right person, at any rate. “My name's Reggy Kistoff. I'm a police officer in the Harris PD, and a close friend of your son's.”
“You're one of Graeme's friends?” she asked, sounding a little puzzled. “What's he been doing down there?”
Reggy swallowed. “No. I meant Kriss.”
There was a brief pause, and when she spoke again her tone was considerably cooler. “So you're one of his lot, are you? I don't think we need continue this conversation.”
“Please,” he interrupted, ignoring the clear insult. He needed to get the desperate state of Kriss's situation across. “He's been badly injured, and-”
“That's no longer our concern,” her callously cut across him.
Reggy bit back an angry retort; his fist clenched around the receiver. “He's your son.”
“Not anymore,” she replied firmly, and the line went dead.
Reggy stared at it in disbelief for a few seconds, before slamming it back into place. He couldn't remember ever being this angry with anyone before, even the bomber. How could a mother turn her back on her own son like that? It was amazing that Kriss had grown up to be such a kind, generous, and loving man, with family like that. They didn't deserve him.
Greg stood a little way off, looking sympathetic. He could tell by Reggy's reaction that it hadn't gone well.
“You tried, man,” he sighed. “That's all you can do.”
“Yeah, for all the good it did,” Reggy fumed; heading back the way they'd come. “They're lucky that a thousand miles separates them from me.”
Greg had to walk a little faster to match Reggy's long strides. “It's like you said, Reg. We're his family now.”
They turned the final corner, and Reggy's steps faltered as he heard the sound he'd been dreading. All the blood drained from his face as several members of staff rushed into Kriss's room, and he had to force his feet to move.
“Reggy!” Kenney called anxiously, as soon as he saw him approaching. “I don't know what happened; the alarm just suddenly went off.”
Reggy wordlessly rushed past him to head into the room, but found his way barred. He caught a brief glimpse of Kriss, surrounded by doctors, before a member of staff politely, but firmly, pushed him back and closed the door.
The next few minutes passed by in a dazed blur for Reggy, the sounds and voices around him sounding strangely muffled, as if he was underwater. Comforting words and touches were offered, but he was unable to respond or move an inch from his place beside the closed door. Every fiber of his being was focused on the small room beyond; willing, hoping, praying.
Part of his brain registered Brad's arrival behind him and the low rumble of his anxious questions before the door in front of him abruptly opened. His heart rate trebled as the medical staff filed out and he locked eyes with Doctor Roberts, who paused and dropped a hand onto his shoulder.
“Relax; it's okay.”
Reggy released the breath he'd been holding; trying to concentrate, despite his overwhelming relief, as the doctor continued to speak. “His level of consciousness rose which, in turn, caused his body to start fighting the machines supporting him. He's now stable and well, come and see for yourself.”
As soon as he reentered the room, Reggy sought out Kriss's face and his breath caught in his throat when he saw blue eyes blinking groggily back at him.
“Kriss.” he breathed, his feet carrying him forward on auto-pilot.
“Hi,” Kriss rasped, a hint of a smile lifting the corners of his slightly open mouth.
Reggy sank onto the edge of the bed beside his lover, drinking in the sight of him, and was forced to restrain himself so as not to aggravate his injuries. He settled for a feather-light kiss to Kriss's dry, cracked, lips, and his heart leapt when he felt it returned; albeit very weakly.
The sensation proved to be his undoing, and everything that he'd kept bottled up somewhere deep inside seemed to catch up with him at once. Choking back tears of relief, he shifted to press his cheek against Kriss's and closed his eyes; relishing the contact, and the warm puffs of breath gently caressing his ear. Distantly he heard doctor Roberts discretely excuse himself from the room to allow them a few moments, but he couldn't reply or even acknowledge it. He'd been in a state of extreme tension for so long that now he felt like a puppet with all his strings cut.
“It's okay, Reg.”
He tried to compose himself and lifted his head to meet Kriss's tired gaze. “You scared the hell out of me, Kriss. I really thought that I'd lost you.”
Kriss's eyes moved across his face slowly, and Reggy realized that he was mapping every part just as he himself had done only moments before. When his eyes locked with Reggy's once more, there was a little more strength within them.
“I heard you,” he whispered; his voice hoarse with disuse. “Everything was cold and dark, but I heard your voice telling me to hold on.”
Reggy reached up to run his fingers down the side of Kriss's face. “I wasn't gonna give you up without a fight.”
Kriss gingerly moved his hand to cover Reggy's, a wince crossing his face as his sore body protested against the movement. Reggy's brow immediately furrowed in concern.
“Are you okay?”
Kriss gave him a slightly incredulous look, and he smiled back sheepishly; bringing Kriss's hand up to his lips and kissing it. “Sorry; stupid question. Seriously, though; how are you feeling?”
“Like I've been repeatedly trampled by a herd of elephants,” Kriss croaked, and then attempted a small shrug. “I'm just glad to be out of that building.”
Reggy suddenly remembered what the doctor had told him earlier on. “What about your legs?”
“I can't feel anything at the moment, but that's to be expected,” Kriss replied, exhaustion tugging at his eyelids as his body demanded rest. He caught Reggy's anxious expression, and squeezed his hand reassuringly. “Don't get ahead of yourself, Reg. Let's just take one day at a time; okay?”
Reggy nodded resolutely as Kriss allowed his eyes to close. “Okay.”
Reggy strolled into the hospital a few days later, clutching a couple of Styrofoam cups and a brown paper bag. It had been the week from hell, but he was finally feeling a little more like his old self; with the benefit of some much needed sleep. He walked the now familiar path to the elevators and jabbed the button absentmindedly, his thoughts drifting back over recent events.
Kriss had been moved out of ICU the day after he regained consciousness, and was now in a private room on the floor below. The swelling around his spine was continuing to show signs of improvement and, although he hadn't regained proper feeling in his legs yet, he had occasionally felt a pins and needles sensation which, the doctors assured him, was a very good sign. They were cautiously optimistic that, with time and physiotherapy, he would make a good recovery.
Kip was still unconscious in ICU but his latest MRI scan had shown a marked improvement, which was very promising, and they were looking at reversing the coma within the next few days. Kriss had been up to his room a few times in a wheelchair; not just to check on Kip's condition, but also to lend his support to Brad who hadn't left his side. Reggy knew only too well what he was going through, and prayed for as positive an outcome.
The death toll from the bombing now stood at thirty nine, twenty three of whom were police officers, including Taliesin. It was the single most devastating loss in Harris PD history. The search for possible survivors had been abandoned after forty eight hours, and it was now a simple recovery operation. Of course, pictures of the destroyed police bureau had been plastered over every newspaper and television channel, and several reporters were currently camped out at the hospital in an attempt to interview wounded survivors. Reggy had silently glared at them whenever they'd tried to question him, and they had eventually given him up as a lost cause.
The arrival of the elevator brought him back to the present, and he stepped inside; juggling his load in order to press the button for level four. His mood seemed to lift along with the elevator as it hummed its way past several floors, but it faltered slightly when the doors opened and he found himself face to face with Lamar. He knew that Lamar was frequently visiting his partner, who was recovering from his injuries on the same floor as Kriss, but they hadn't crossed paths until now.
Lamar looked momentarily surprised before he assumed his customary sneer, and wordlessly pushed past Reggy into the lift. Any hopes of this tragedy forging a fresh start between them flew right out the window, and Reggy shook his head with a sigh before setting off down the corridor.
As he approached Kriss's room, a few words drifted out into the corridor and he smiled; his mood instantly reviving. He'd know that voice anywhere.
“Cut it out, Greg,” he heard Kriss laugh, as he pushed the door open halfway, and stopped to take in the scene. Kriss was sitting upright on the bed, supported by several plump pillows. All his tubes and drips were gone, and he looked like a completely different man to the one who'd lain in intensive care only days earlier. He was currently trying to bat Greg away who was engaged in some kind of foot prodding exercise from his chair at the end of the bed. Reggy was forced to repress a snort at the picture they made.
“What about there?” Greg asked with a grin, as he prodded a different spot. He was plainly enjoying himself.
“Enough already,” Kriss laughed, supporting his healing ribs with one hand.
“Do I even want to know?” Reggy asked, his tone caught between exasperation and amusement.
They both looked up at him simultaneously. Kriss's face lit up with a smile, while Greg didn't even bat an eyelid.
“What can I say, man? I have a thing for feet. Get yours out and we can start a party.”
“You need help, buddy,” Reggy grinned, dropping his offerings on the bedside table in order to greet Kriss properly.
“Seriously, though; you've gotta see this,” Greg said, beckoning Reggy over once his lips had finally parted from Kriss's.
“What?” Reggy frowned, curiosity drawing him closer to Greg's position. “I have seen his foot before, you know.”
“Just watch. Show him, Kriss.”
Reggy followed Greg's gaze, looking thoroughly perplexed, and Kriss snorted in amusement at the pair of them. “You've built it up now, Greg.”
“Just do it, dude.”
Kriss sighed, then adopted an expression of intense concentration. Reggy was just about to question them further when he clearly saw Kriss's toes bend over a fraction, and his gaze snapped up to meet his lover's in absolute astonishment.
“You can feel them?”
Kriss slumped back against the pillows, looking a little drained but very pleased with his success. “Only a little, but it's a start.”
“Are you kidding?” Reggy asked incredulously, pulling him into a tight hug. “It's fantastic!”
“What did I tell you?” Greg said smugly.
“This call for a celebratory coffee and bagel,” Reggy grinned, reaching for the items he'd brought in, “and I happen to have both.”
“Real coffee?” Kriss asked with a smile, as Reggy handed one of the cups over and took a sip of his own.
“Of course; none of that hospital shit. This comes courtesy of Holly.”
“Hey; where's mine, man?” Greg called.
“West Fifth Street,” Reggy replied without missing a beat.
Kriss chuckled at Greg's expression and took a sip of coffee; closing his eyes briefly to relish the taste. “Mmm; I'd forgotten what proper coffee tastes like. Hey, can you thank Holly for the flowers next time you see her?”
“Sure,” Reggy said, looking round at the latest colorful addition to the room. It was just one of many which adorned every surface in sight. “You know, it's starting to look more like a florists than a hospital room in here.”
Kriss swallowed his mouthful and grinned. “What can I say? I'm much loved.”
“Yes; you are,” Reggy smiled, leaning in for a kiss, and Greg suddenly found something interesting to look at out of the window.