We were waiting for Josh to wake up so it would be clear what happened. I was at the garage when Jason called to tell me the news. He wasn’t on duty at the time of the wreck, but a close friend of his who had responded to the call had called him so he could make the notification. Professional courtesy and all that. Jason had shown me the pictures from the scene and seeing it… there was little more horrifying than seeing an accident that could have killed your child.
I was grateful that he was still alive, and from what the doctors were telling me none of his injuries would leave him permanently disfigured or disabled. He was lucky.
Blessed; he was blessed.
I sat beside his bed after Madi went home with her sister. She was going back to Eric’s house for the night, which I understood. She would have been at the guest house by herself, and with the way she was feeling I understood why she left with her sister. I felt awful that her mom wasn’t there for her. I knew I wished my mother was there for me. Even if she was concerned about Josh I wouldn’t let her near him.
It didn’t surprise me that Ben was nowhere to be seen. First of all, I didn’t call him, but I knew even if I had it wasn’t likely he would have come. Ben only came around if there was a chance there was something in it for him. He wouldn’t have given a single fuck about whether or not Josh was going to get better.
I had more important things to think about than my scumbag ex-husband.
Josh had a laundry list of injuries that had been pretty shocking to Madi when she first walked into the room. In addition to the surgery he needed to stop some internal bleeding, the airbag deploying had caused some injuries too. Josh’s nose was broken, for starters. The force of the airbag had caused a collapsed right lung, so he had a chest tube in. His left ankle was broken. Since he hadn’t regained consciousness yet there was no way to know for sure if he was experiencing any neck pain, although none of the scans he’d been put through showed any damage to his spine.
Crash investigators were looking at the scene to try and piece together what happened before the accident. I was angry at myself for not pulling rank as a boss/mom hybrid and cutting back his hours at both jobs. I knew how exhausted he was and I had been warning him for days that he needed to actually sleep on his days off, but he hadn’t listened. I was angry at him too for not listening. It was bad enough that he hurt himself, but it was even worse that he could have killed someone.
If Josh had hit a family with a baby in the backseat or a pregnant woman who ended up losing her baby because of the accident he would never forgive himself for it. His ambition and dedication were great, but it was also deadly. I hoped that the accident would teach him that he wasn’t Superman.
My eyelids were drooping and I was starting to nod off a little. The adrenaline was finally wearing off. Josh had been moved to a room in the ICU once he was off the anesthesia. He had woken up very briefly, but had essentially gone right back out. It was the best thing for him. He hadn’t been awake enough to talk, but at least he had seen my face before he went back to sleep so he knew I was there. I was sure he knew I wasn’t going to leave unless someone physically removed me from the hospital after a court order was issued or I was handcuffed and forced out of the building.
I didn’t care if I had to sleep in a crappy, uncomfortable chair; I wasn’t leaving.
A warm hand touched my shoulder and I jerked awake. I looked up to see Eric standing over me, holding a giant Starbucks cup and a paper shopping bag from a nearby grocery store.
“What’s all this?” I asked as I sat up.
“Coffee and real food. If you’re going to be here you need to keep yourself healthy,” he said. “I’ve also talked the nurses into getting you a more comfortable chair.”
“You’re a saint.” I never thought I would say that about him. It was nice of him to do those things. He sure didn’t have to, especially considering how rude I’d been to him in the past. I accepted the coffee and the food. “Did you get yourself something to eat?”
“I did. I stopped while I was out. I’ll stop and get you a change of clothes the next time I go out,” he offered.
“Thanks,” I said. “The nurse said his vitals are good.”
I reached into the bag and found a dinner thrown together from their a la carte section. Some brisket, roasted potatoes, broccoli… Eric did good.
“The girls picked up Opie and took him back to my place when they stopped to get clothes for Madi. She should be back in a little while.” He took a seat in the other chair in the room. It made him look like a giant.
“She shouldn’t be here overnight,” I said. “I completely understand why she wants to be, but that baby needs her to get good sleep.”
“She’s just going to visit,” he told me. “I pulled the Dad card and told her she can’t stay the night here.”
“That’s good,” I nodded as I opened the container with my dinner. There was plasticware in the bag, along with a bottle of water. “Dinner looks really good, by the way. Thank you for getting it.” Lord knows I didn’t ask him to. I thought he was taking off for the night.
“You’re welcome,” he said with a small smile. “If you’re not staying fueled up you’re no good to him when he wakes up.”
“That’s true,” I agreed. The brisket didn’t even need a knife to cut through it, it was so tender. For being grocery store hot bar food, it was pretty good.
“They should be in within the hour with the better chair. I can get out of your hair after that…”
“I don’t want to keep you here. I’m sure you have better things to do, and I’m sure Madi would rather have you at home with her,” I said. I’d be fine on my own. I was used to being by myself, keeping everything under control.
“She has Gracie. They’re probably cuddled up with the dogs right now,” he chuckled. “I don’t have anywhere else to be for a while. I’m fine here.”
I concentrated on my food while it was still mostly hot, not that I had much of an appetite. Eric was right, though; if I didn’t eat I wasn’t going to be very useful to Josh whenever he woke up. Seeing him lying there looking so broken was one of the worst moments of my life. No mother wanted to see their child clinging to life. There was still the possibility that something could go wrong.
Of course I had made the mistake of going online and looking up the statistics on sepsis or post-op infections. That was a stupid move.
I ate what I could, which was about three-quarters of what Eric had picked up for me. It was more than I thought I’d be able to eat. I tossed the rest of it since there was nowhere to keep it cold. I went to the bathroom to wash my hands, and caught sight of the raccoon impression I’d been doing. Washing my face was kind of a tricky thing to do, but I managed. There was a bench window seat in Josh’s room, but it wasn’t a comfortable spot to sleep.
“Am I being illogical by staying here?” I asked Eric when I came out of the bathroom.
“To most people, yes. To any other parent, not at all,” he said, shaking his head. “Tomorrow you may want to go home so you can shower and take a short nap.”
“Well, I probably won’t want to, but the staff will make it indirectly obvious it would be greatly appreciated if I did,” I said with a humorless little laugh.
“Yes they will,” he agreed. “Maybe when Madi comes for her visit tomorrow you can take that time to go clean up. I can take you if you need a ride. I didn’t see your truck out there.”
“I drove a different car,” I said as I took a seat again beside Josh’s bed. I was so out of it that I grabbed the nearest set of keys when I got the call, and I ended up driving the yellow Cobra over.
“Okay. The offer stands if you’re too tired or don’t feel like you should be driving for any reason.”
“Thanks. I appreciate it.” I really did. He didn’t have to do any of the stuff he was doing for me. Yeah, Josh was the father of his granddaughter, but that didn’t mean he had to be so nice to me. I told myself it was just because of the baby, and because if something worse happened to Josh it would be absolutely devastating to Madi. The only thing worse than being a teen mom was essentially being a widowed teen mom.
For a while the two of us sat there quietly. Eric played with his cell phone, and I sipped my coffee while I stared at my son. Despite the coffee on board, the adrenaline wearing off and the full tummy I was sporting had me drifting off. For the second time I was on the verge of falling asleep when I was woken by a voice I didn’t expect to hear behind me.
What the fuck is Michelle doing here?
My head snapped up and I turned to look at her. It was like looking at myself in thirty years, except my mother looked more like what most people would probably think a stereotypical Texan looked like. She had big hair, big boobs, and did her makeup like Tammy Faye Baker had taught her how to apply it.
“What the hell are you doing here?” I hissed. She was the last person I wanted to see.
“I came to see my grandson. Just because you’re a sinner, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to see him. You’ve been keeping him from me,” she accused.
“You said he’s an abomination,” I reminded her. “Why the hell would I ever let you near him again?”
“It’s not my fault you can’t handle the truth, Sookie. The boy needed his father and marriage is supposed to be for better or worse, not until you decide you don’t like it anymore. I hope your divorce was worth the eternity you’ll be spending in hell.” She stepped further into the room. Eric stood up, blocking her view of Josh. “Who the hell are you? Do you have a bodyguard now, Sookie?”
“No, but I wouldn’t mind watchin’ him dropkick your ass back to the hell dimension you came from,” I retorted.
“Get out of my way,” she barked at Eric.
“I don’t think so,” he replied calmly.
“Who do you think you are?” Michelle demanded like she thought she had a snowball’s chance in hell of taking Eric down in a fight.
“Eric Northman,” he replied politely. “And I think you should go now, Mrs. Stackhouse.”
“Josh doesn’t want anything to do with you, Michelle, and neither do I. The only reason you’re here is to make yourself feel better,” I said. She hadn’t spoken to me or even tried to reach out in years. Hell, she wouldn’t even sign a Christmas card or come to Thanksgiving at my house out of protest.
“That’s because you’ve poisoned him against me, just like I’m sure you’ve done with his father,” she hissed. “I’m here to see him and I’m not leaving unti–” She stopped talking when Eric gently turned her around and marched her out of the room.
“I’ll have the nurses call security,” he told me.
“Thank you.” The last thing I needed was to get all upset, but I couldn’t help it.
The situation was stressful enough without Michelle deciding to make an appearance. The only thing that could have sucked worse was if she’d brought Ben in with her, trying to get us back together. I really couldn’t understand what my father still loved about her. She was poison to anyone who didn’t see the world exactly the same way she did. I shuddered to think that it was because their physical relationship was still good enough to keep him on the hook. If that was the case, I really didn’t want to know.
When Eric came back to the room I was wiping away angry tears from my cheeks.
“Sorry about that,” I apologized to him, even though I really didn’t have anything to apologize for. “Michelle and I don’t have the best relationship, and now you see why.”
He closed the small distance so he could pull me into his arms.
“She won’t be back,” he promised me. “You don’t have to apologize for her.”
“I wish that was true,” I sighed. Whether I liked it or not, she was still my mother.
“Well, she won’t be back to the hospital,” he replied as his strong arms tightened around me.
What really helped was when I heard Josh make a noise behind me. I let go of Eric and turned to see my son’s eyes were open.
“Josh? I’m here,” I raced over to the side of the bed. I wasn’t sure how good he could see me with his face as swollen as it was. I picked up his hand gently and gave it a little squeeze.
“I know,” he whispered.
Eric left the room to call the nurse in.
“How do you feel?” I asked him.
“Sore,” he answered. “Water…”
“Of course, sweetheart.” I picked up the little pitcher on the bedside table and poured some into the Styrofoam cup nearby. I added a straw to the mix and then held it up for him so that he could wrap his lips around the straw. He took a few sips before he was done. “Madi is coming back. She went home to get a little rest. She was pretty worried about you, and we didn’t want her to stress out the baby too much.”
Josh nodded his head a little bit, and winced.
“Do you remember what happened?” I asked, even though I wasn’t sure he would. The doctors advised that he might not remember. The only way to find out what he knew was to ask.
His nurse came in, however, to ask him some questions about his pain and all that. He was still pretty sore so she promised to be back with some more pain medication so he would be able to rest comfortably. She checked everything she needed to check, and then she left the room.
“Eric’s here?” Josh asked.
“Yeah, he even went to get me dinner since I almost decked Jason when he told me I should just go home,” I replied.
“They’d have to call out the National Guard to get you out of here.” My son knew me well. I thought my brother knew me better.
“Do you mind if I take a picture to send to Madi so she’s not so worried about you?” I asked him.
“Sure. I don’t want her to worry anymore,” he said.
Of course we both knew she still would.
“I heard Michelle’s voice,” he said as I was turned around to get my phone.
“Eric escorted her out,” I told him. I hoped he didn’t hear what I said to her.
“He’s a good guy.”
I hated to admit it, but he was sure proving to be a lot more decent than I wanted to believe he could be.
Josh gave me a thumb’s up when I aimed the phone at him. After taking the picture I sent a text to Madi so she knew he was awake and feeling okay, at least for the moment. I sent the same text to Dad, Jason and Hadley so they wouldn’t worry about him. Well, they’d worry a little less.
“I’m sorry I scared you,” he said apologetically.
“I’m just thankful you’re going to be okay,” I told him. I put my phone down on the table next to the bed. “Do you remember what happened?”
“Not really. The last thing I remember is a big yawn on my way to work,” he sighed with a wince.
I shook my head. I wasn’t going to give him too much crap about the whole ‘I told you so’ angle, because I was pretty sure he knew I was thinking it.
“Your car is totaled,” I warned him. “It’s a good thing you got full coverage on it.”
“Damn it,” he muttered. “It’s my own fault, isn’t it? I was doing too much. I’m sure I’m going to get an ass chewing from Madi.”
“She’s just happy you’re alive. You probably won’t get an ass chewing,” Eric chuckled behind me.
“When you’re feeling better you might get one from me,” I warned.
“I’ll be waitin’ for it. Why do I hurt everywhere?”
“Because you’re pretty much hurt everywhere.” I showed him the picture I took. “You’ve got quite a few injuries that are going to take a while to heal. You needed surgery to stop some internal bleeding and you punctured a lung when the airbag deployed. Jason said that if it wasn’t for the airbag you would have gone through the windshield.”
“Oh wow. I look horrible,” he muttered. “I’m sorry, Mom.”
“You’ll be sorry when you have to wheel your ass around in a chair for a while,” I replied. “You’re not going to be able to work for a while either. As of right now you are on a forced vacation for at least six weeks. That also means you won’t be going back to school next week.”
“But I’m never going to graduate if I don’t go back. I have a baby to support–”
“I’ll talk to the school about the accident, although I wouldn’t be surprised if you made the news,” I told him. “You’re going to be on painkillers and you need time to recover. You might be able to go in a few weeks, but I’m not letting you rush through your recovery. Not listening to me is what got you in this mess anyway. I might be gettin’ older but I’m not dumb.”
“Fine,” he huffed and winced again. “Please don’t say ‘I told you so’ I know I messed up.”
“I don’t even want to see any attitude out of you right now,” I said. I loved the boy but I was pissed, too. “I know I didn’t raise a dummy who isn’t capable of learning from his mistakes.”
“Okay. No attitude,” he promised. He didn’t really have much of a choice.
There was a light knock on the door before Madi and Gracie came walking into the room.
That was quick. Gracie must have floored it to get to the hospital that fast.
“How’d y’all get here so fast?” I asked.
“We were already on our way when the picture came in,” Madi told me as she brushed past me to see Josh.
I decided to give them a minute alone, and stepped back.
“Let us know if you need anything.” I let Gracie stay since it didn’t seem like she was going anywhere until Madi told her to leave.
I walked out of the room and went across the hall to where there was a little waiting area meant for families that needed more space. It wasn’t occupied, so I stepped inside. The lights were out, but I didn’t need lights to sit down on a chair and cry.
I knew how lucky I was that Josh was okay. Things could have turned out much, much worse than they did. He could have ended up paralyzed or with irreparable brain damage that completely altered him from the person we knew. Of course I would have loved him anyway, and I absolutely would have done whatever it took to help Josh find his way in life. For Madi it probably wouldn’t have been so simple, especially if Josh had been mentally altered. A teenager being a father was tough enough, but if Josh was permanently pegged to being mentally eleven or twelve-years-old? That would be nearly impossible, and Madi would essentially be a single Mom, even if Josh still insisted on being in the baby’s life.
Eric sat down next to me on the little love seat I had plopped down on. He pulled me close and let me cry for a few minutes. I probably didn’t need to explain why I was crying. If there was one thing I knew he understood, it was how much I loved my child.
It took a few minutes for me to get myself under control again, but when I did, I tilted my head up and pressed my lips to his. For the first time the rest of the world disappeared. Something in my heart shifted, and I didn’t feel that usual doubt I felt when I kissed him. It actually felt like the right thing, and it was scary but in the good way. As soon as my lips parted he took full advantage of it.
Technically, it wasn’t our first kiss, but for me it was the first kiss that really meant anything. It was definitely the first time it made me feel something on more than a horny, hormonal level. There was real emotion connected to that kiss, connecting us to each other. We probably would have kept going if the lights wouldn’t have gone on, followed by the sound of giggling. The kiss broke and I turned my head to see Eric’s daughters standing in the doorway.