Nothing can explain the pain Rob felt upon waking up. Everything in his chest still hurt. It felt like his torso had been diced into fine slices of meat then sewn back together.
He tried to remember what had happened, but he was coming up blank. He remembered… nothing.
There was Alessa, he remembered her attacking them. He remembered burning, but these weren’t burns.
He opened his eyes and tried to focus. This was a different room than the one he’d been in for the burns, well the lack of burns since being a pyromaniac he quickly learned how to heal burns. He tried to move his head, but pain arced through his chest – the type of pain you want to scream out for, but can’t because that would make it hurt more. After the staggering agony passed, he prepared himself as he gingerly moved his head, searching for the morphine button. He had to be hooked up to morphine after whatever had happened to him.
He found it and just held it down for a moment. As the pain receded he started to drift back asleep – he hadn’t even realized how tried he was.
“Rob?” said someone in the room, desperate. Rob turned his head, and dimly noted that Ethan was sitting at his bedside. He looked different somehow. Hard to place, maybe it was just the accelerated growth he’d been experiencing.
“Hi.” Rob replied, finding even that much talking to be difficult. Maybe it would be easier with some more time.
Ethan had been crying, and Rob’s flinch of pain seemed to start him up again.
“I’m sorry” he said leaning against Rob’s shoulder. It didn’t hurt too much.
“i don’t really remember what you’re apologizing for.” Rob admitted, trying to breath without hurting himself.
Ethan looked up to see if he was serious. Deciding he was he said, “I broken your ribs and everything else in there.” he nodded to Rob’s chest.
“Oh, so I was opened up and put back together like a puzzle.” Rob said, half to himself.
“It took two days.” Ethan informed him. “Everything was broken and punctured and and…”
“I died.” Rob said, “I remember dying. Not before, not after. I just remember being dead. I remember talking to people as I was leaving and then…” he shook his head, “Nothing.”
“Helena brought you back.” Ethan explained, “She opened a Gate to the Other Side and shoved you back into your body.”
Rob glanced around the room, noting how dark it was outside. Still, Helena had revived him, he’d had thought she’d be there. Instead the only other person there was Ric. He was collapsed on a sort of pull out chair couch. It looked like the sleep of exhaustion not a conscious effort to rest.
“Where is she?”
“Next door,” Ethan said, “Matt’s Valkyrie struck her with lightning to make her close the Gate. She told Captain Haynes Helena would be alright, but she hasn’t woken up.”
Rob felt the tears start before Ethan even finished speaking. He wanted to go to her, but he couldn’t move. Soon though. If it was soon enough. Before… “Is the baby okay?”
“Baby?” Ethan asked stunned, “what baby?”
“Helena’s pregnant. She keeps thinking she’d hiding it but she’s failing at it miserably.”
“I…” Ethan flustered, “I don’t know. I haven’t been… I’ve been here.”
“It’s fine,” Rob replied, trying to think, “Did Tyler leave something here?”
Ethan nodded and leaned back – awkwardly, his leg was in a brace, and picked up a envelope and handed it to Rob who shook his head, “Open it.”
“How did you know it was here?” Ethan asked.
“I didn’t. I guessed.” Rob said, trying to maintain some semblance of calm. Less because he didn’t want Ethan to see him cry, but because he didn’t want to think how much sobbing would hurt with this many stitches.
“I told Josh I wouldn’t accept it. If he emailed it to me or shared it with me I was going to delete it,” he rambled on as Ethan pulled out the small drive, “Play it.”
Ethan looked at him, his heart breaking, “Josh is dead. I killed him.”
“I know. That’s why Ty brought that. Play it.”
Josh sat at his desk, not the one at his office near The Forge, his office at his apartment that looked completely unused. It wasn’t. It was used far more than his professional office. You needed a professional office to show prospective clients, but you didn’t necessarily want to keep sensitive information in a less than secure building that was empty for sixteen hours a day.
“Hi Ethan. If you are watching this I’m already dead.” He smiled, flushed, “I tried to come up with something less trite, but Rob refused to help.”
“I knew this was coming. I know how this works. You needed someone to die for you to be free and I am happy to make that sacrifice to you.”
Josh’s hands slid around his desk trying to find something to distract himself with, but found nothing.
“I couldn’t possibly say everything I want to say, just that I love you and you are the perfect son. You are the most thoughtful, strong young man I have ever known. You’ll do great in whatever you choose to do with your life. I’m sorry I won’t be there to see it. I wish I could stay, but I guess that wasn’t meant to happen.”
He choked up, cleared his throat and continued rapidly.
“I don’t know if you remember this, but Rob is technically your godfather. I’m holding him to that and when I’m gone, he’s going to take care of you for me. Don’t be too hard on him. He’s still just a kid too. Stick together though and you’ll make it out of this okay.”
Tears streamed down his face, “I love you Ethan. Don’t forget. Take care of yourself.”
Rob watched Ethan’s reaction, not the video. He couldn’t look at it. He heard Josh’s voice echoing in the room and wondered how much he’d already cried for him.
“How are we going to do this?” Ethan asked, after the video stopped the room turned quiet.
“One day at a time.” Rob replied, “Life goes on. We have funding for Ric’s idea. I have a fairy I owe a favor. Matt’s uncle isn’t going to commit seppuku as convenient as that would be. Helena’s going to be in trouble with the Gatekeepers when she wakes up.
Rob started to doze off and Ethan started reaching for his phone, “I should call your parents. Tell them you’re awake.”
Rob nodded slightly frowning, “Ever play old video games?”
“Depends on the game.” Ethan answered.
There’s a phrase that keeps coming to mind. I don’t know if it means anything.” Rob rambled on.
“What is it?” Ethan asked.
Rob struggled to stay awake for a little longer, “One of you is close to someone that needs help.”