He wondered if it was too late to play dead or pretend he was a clone. She had probably already poked him to check he was breathing without him realising, but now the look on her face anything but relieved. Chris was relieved that she didn't seem to have any items or implements in her hands, or he may have found himself with them shoved in uncomfortable places. "Can you yell quietly? My everything hurts," he told her huskily, clearing his throat as he rested his forehead back down on the pillow so his eyes were level with her kneecaps again.
Serena really didn't know how to answer Chris' husky murmurs. She was angry, and she had been scared for him. Any other time she might have thought he was adorable with his face squished up against the sofa cushions, but not right now. She rest her elbows on her knees and just let her head sit in her hands for a long moment as she tried to make sure what she said did come out quietly. "Do you have any idea what kind of risk you took? I mean, really. Do you? You scared the absolute shit out of me, Chris, when I went to visit you and you weren't there." Tears pricked the backs of her eyes as a lump of emotion lodged in the back of her throat and she tried to swallow it down. "You didn't say a word to me. To me, Chris. Me... Do you know how that makes me feel? I would have just helped you if this is what you wanted, but instead you pull a disappearing act and I have no idea what's happened to you! You could have collapsed somewhere, you could have busted the wound open..."
When Chris shifted to sit up, it was slow and awkward as he held his stomach so it didn't hurt too much. When he finally got up, he just looked at her for a long few moments, words actually failing him. "You're seriously going to pull the guilt card on me? Seriously?" he finally asked. "You wanna talk about words, huh? Where were your words telling me that my own mom and brother were freaking out, hey? Where were they, Serena? Oh sure, let me guess. You were protecting me. Do you know how fucking sick I am of people keeping secrets from me to try and protect me? Yeah, I left. I got out of there as quickly as I friggen could and by the time I managed to get myself to stop panicking that Rick was going to be at home slashing his wrists with pieces of broken mirror, you were in surgery. I wasn't going to wait, Serena, and I wasn't going to let anyone stop me from coming home here to him. With everyone fucking lying to me all the time, do you really think I was going to take anyone's word when they told me he was fine? How do you think it made me feel when I waited for you to come and tell me what you had just heard, when all you did was come let me know you had to go back to work? So don't pull the goddamn guilt card on me, Serena. And don't even begin to tell me that you wouldn't have done exactly the same thing for Drew."
Serena looked at him with her head still in her hands and all the fight went out of her. How could it not? She gave a shake of her head as she started to feel the tears roll down her cheeks silently. "I'm sorry, you just really scared me, okay? And I wasn't lying to you... I can't help but protect you." Serena sat up a little straighter and reached out to take Chris' hand. "Do you have any idea how much it hurts when you hurt? How much I just want to do anything I can to stop you hurting, to keep you safe? Hearing that Rick was in pain, I knew you'd want to do something, but what were you going to do when you were supposed to be in hospital? I wish I'd told you, but I didn't and then I was in surgery and it all just went wrong. And you went missing! I'm not playing the guilt card, but just please don't ever disappear on me again. I wouldn't have stopped you from coming home. I just said that! I just needed time to actually talk to you without having to go back to work."
"I was going crazy in there! Do you know how hard it is to be a qualified surgeon like I am and having nursing assistants talk to me like I'm five years old? To have other surgeons come in and explain in fine detail about sutures and wound dressing and post-op diets? I know I was sick and I know I was in danger for awhile there, but that was just getting ridiculous when I am dating another fully qualified surgeon and half my mates are doctors or nurses! Why did I have to be stuck in there with their bullshit opinions when I'm fully capable of my own? Stuck in there when my brother is at home freaking the fuck out about facing a second round of chemo and trying to deal with losing his hair and the fact he is going to be a father? I didn't piss off to screw you over! I did it because as soon as I heard Rick was here and how bad he was coping, I just needed to get here and make sure he was okay." Chris shook his head as he pressed his lips together, fighting off the emotion and failing miserably. "He's not okay, and I'm not sorry for what I did. I didn't have time to talk, Serena. Rick was in a bad way. I didn't want to do anymore damn talking!"
She shifted from the coffee table to kneel on the floor so she could touch her hand to the side of Chris' face and then hug him as gently as she could. She had seen the pain and discomfort on his features when he'd tried sitting up and didn't want to make it worse for him. She just really wanted to touch him. She still needed to know for herself that he was alright. "I'm sorry, Chris. I'm sorry. I really would do the same thing for Drew. Is Rick any better now for having you home? Where is he?"
"No, he's not. I... don't know where he is. Around, I guess. I think I fell asleep when I was talking to him." Chris sighed and hugged her back, even if it sucked to have had the guilt trip dumped in his lap. He would have handled the yelling way better. The yelling would have eventually stopped, the guilt trip lasted a lot longer. "Look, I feel alright. Okay? I probably overdid it coming here, but I really don't care. I couldn't be there any longer. I had enough. If I get sick again, it's on my own head so at least I finally get to make some of my own decisions. I have no appetite, I hurt all over, and it feels like someone is stabbing me in the temple with a fork. But I still feel better out here. With my bed, and my toilet, and my shower, and my family."
Serena brushed her hand over his hair and studied his face quietly for a moment. "You need to eat, Chris. You can't just stop now. I know you don't have an appetite, but you need to put something in your system. Especially if I give you pain killers. Did they give you any meds when you discharged? Do you want me to help you get to your own bed so you're not stuck out here?" Serena wet her lips as she gave him a small smile. "At least we can both properly fit in your bed. What about your mom, is she here? Do you want me to look in on Rick?"
"No... god, no. I don't want to go to bed. I want to be out of bed. I'll eat soon, I will. I just don't feel so great right now. I'll eat when I know it's not going to make a return trip. Please, Serena, don't ride me, okay? Let me call the shots and make the choices. I'm not stupid, even if it looks like I am. Don't be like everyone else and forget I'm a doctor. Not you. I got Oxy and Vicodin if I need it, and right now, I can handle it. I don't want to get hooked on it, and I also don't want to get constipated." Chris scrunched his nose up a little and then gave her a hint of a smirk. "Oh look, the doctor remembers doctor things. Shock, horror! I don't know where Mom is, I don't know where Rick is. You can look in on him if you want, but he's probably just brooding. It's fine. It's probably what he needs."
Serena raised her hands defensively. "I wasn't riding you, I was just asking. I'm a doctor too. Too many doctors spoil the broth... Or whatever our version of that saying is. I just want to help... But I'm stopping now, okay? I have the doctor hat off and I'm totally the girlfriend now. And you don't look completely stupid. Maybe just a little bit," she teased with a grin. "Truth is, I'm glad you're home."
Chris looked at her wryly and let out a heavy sigh. After a moment, he started to rub his eyes slowly. "Four of us in this tiny apartment, me post perfed Aorta and post coma, and Rick post chemo. Mom thinking we don't need her. This is going to be a real hoot," he mumbled. "One bathroom. If Rick starts exploding with bodily fluids again, we might need to start peeing over the balcony. I have no idea how I got home, by the way. I vaguely remember the trip, but it's all a big blur. I do remember swearing a lot at the doctors when they tried to stop me going. Sable giving me the evil eyeball and Aimee giving me the wounded puppy look."
"She was just trying to help you out, and Sable is just being like every other doctor. We hate when our patients walk out when we're trying to look after them." She rubbed at her lip as she watched Chris before her gaze dropped to her feet and she leaned down to take her shoes off. "I could always go back to stay with Drew. I know I'm supposed to be living here now, but maybe for the moment it's better if I do just go back to my apartment. I don't want to be stepping on your mom's toes or anything."
"No. Fuck it. This is our normal. We've gotta deal with it. No more dancing around with secrets and trying to protect each other. No more worrying about stepping on toes. Family step on toes, plain and simple. We'll just have sore feet. Sore feet I can deal with," Chris resolved with determination, even if he was coming off sounding the prick in the process.
Serena gave him a mock salute. "Yes, sir. We really need to start work on getting that second toilet in, though. Only there's no point in construction work while Rick's going through the after effects of another chemo round. Is the apartment next door up for sale, or rent? We could always put your mom in there. Then at least the bathroom problem's solved.
"Oh yes, because perfect solutions like that don't just happen in soap operas and romantic comedies," Chris said, sniggering. "It's not up for sale. All these places are wait listed, anyway. It's prime land by the beach. I put my name on the three mil Penthouse list... I was number four hundred and thirty three."
"Three million?" Serena asked as her mouth fell open just a little bit. "Why the hell would you pay that much for a house?! This one is amazing! And hey, I'm just trying to come up with ideas. You're just lying there being a bitch."
Chris poked his tongue out her. "Because it isokay to have dreams, Accountantette. Sitting in this place living on home made hot dogs with one arm chair and my bed as furniture and nothing else because I paid Mom's mortgage and bailed Rick out three times, it got me through the hard early days of my residency when my patients were dying and I was being called on for stupid errors. When you're a dude, you can't get away with turning on the tears and puppy dogs eyes. You have to walk around with your balls continuously in your hands looking confident. Thinking I could one day work my way up to the top just... got me through. I'm lying here being realistic."
Serena pulled herself back up onto the coffee table. "Hey, I'm not that bad! It just still seems huge to me, that's all. The idea of ever having that much money... I know we make heaps, but it's just never really sunk in like that before. I'm sure you could get away with tears and puppy dog eyes if you really wanted to. Kathy would be right in there with the tissues and comforting gropes." She tilted her head as she winked at him. "Well, now I got your balls in hand so that's one less job."
"See, that would make me feel so much better if I could actually have sex right now," Chris said with a wry snort.
Serena took his hand and kissed the back of it as she gave him a soft smile. "It's been a while, but not so long that I think we'll forget how to. It'll just be something special when you're, ah, literally up for it again."
"I could be up for it right now, I'm just not allowed yet." Chris pulled the hem of his loose t-shirt up and leaned forward to examine is operation wound closely. It had healed quite well, and it was starting to look scabby and gross now. It would be a hell of a scar once it was completely healed. "I can't believe I've only got one kidney in there now. It doesn't really feel any different. I think it affected me more psychologically than anything else. It's weird. I never thought I would lose a body part."
Serena leaned forward to get a look at Chris' scar as well. She hadn't had much of a chance to inspect it when Chris was wrapped up in the bed. Not since he'd first wanted to see it. She had to admit the surgeons had done a nice job of closing, but she still couldn't forgive them for making his heart stop. "Do you need to talk to someone about it? There's no shame in needing a shrink for something like this. It really is a huge psychological deal."
"I don't need a shrink," Chris said with a snort and a shake of his head. "I'm not mental just because I escaped. It was a kidney, not a piece of my brain. Everything seems to be okay without it. I eventually managed to pee, and that's all that matters. It just feels kinda weird to know it's not in there anymore. It's not like I can see it. You saw my kidney more than I did. I've never seen it. It's weird to be recuperating, too. You don't feel quite yourself. Faceplanting the carpet when I got home was a good reminder I need to take it easy."
"You fainted?!" Serena was trying not to get worked up again, but it was a bit impossible when Chris threw in that little tidbit of information. She glanced around before she got up and went to get two bottles of water from the fridge, and one glass. She came back and shifted Chris' legs she could sit on the sofa and rest them on top of her lap. She set one bottle down before she cracked open the other and poured it into the glass which she gave to Chris. "It's more than weird to know what your boyfriend's kidney looks like. Not that I'm in a hurry to be on the table myself, but I feel like you need to see my insides in return."
"I've felt them, does that count?" Chris returned with a smirk and took some small sips of the cold water. He rested his head back on the sofa and nursed the glass on his chest, even if his shirt was still hitched up a little. "I just overdid it. I know I did, but it got me home, and that's all I care about. I thought I was okay, but then the next I'm just out. It's why I'm feeling a bit shitty now. I can't wait to get some fresh air and chill out. To drink out of a glass and not a horrible plastic cup is heaven in itself."
Serena bit her lip after taking a sip of water from the bottle she'd opened. "Maybe tomorrow we can just try and get you out onto a sun lounge? Just forgive me if I have to slather you in sunscreen and make sure you have sunglasses and all the rest of it... Or I'll just make your mom do it so I don't seem like so much of a freak girlfriend. And yes, feeling them counts," Serena added with a smirk of her own. She rubbed her fingers lightly over his legs through the blanket. "Just take it easy for today, huh?"
"I'm not even sure where Mom is. Probably trying to figure out where the hell she went wrong breeding two assholes like Rick and me. We didn't realise we were fucking up so badly," Chris murmured and sipped the water again. "I'm not sure I can do anything but. I had these idealist prospects that getting out of the hospital would miraculously make me feel fine, but that really didn't work. A lot of it still feels surreal, I guess because it happened so quickly. Rick in Miami, Rick in Miami with cancer, Rick gone, Rick back with cancer needing a kidney, giving a kidney, not giving a kidney, then giving it again, then on an op table giving it, then nearly dying, then being stuck in hospital with a tube up my dick, then Rick nearly being a father. My head still spins over it all."
"At least now things might calm a bit. Jesus, I hope they'll stay calm. I feel like I'm about to go grey from all of it, so I can only imagine how Dave, Aimee, your mom, and Rick might feel. Even Bella. I can't imagine the stress is helping her out, or the baby. I still can't believe she's pregnant. I can't believe I met your mom... And that hopefully she does like me even after I screamed at her." Serena set down the water bottle and laughed a little. "And I can't believe you fixing my clicker led to all this..."
"Hey, I'm stressed out too! I can't lean over far enough to see if I have any grey hairs sprouting down south. I tried in the shower in and nearly fell over. It takes me long enough to reach my butt to wash it. It's all in the process. I'm just too busy concentrating to be able to sing anymore. It's a real tragedy," Chris decided with a nod. "Dave, Aimee... I don't know. I'm not so sure Dave's so stressed out. I haven't seen Eva. I've seen Proctor more collectively than both of them put together. Then the whole Bella thing, Rick's all messed up about it."
Serena walked her fingers up the inside of his leg lightly before she hooked her fingers into his waistband. "Want me to take a peek now? And you know I'm always happy to give you a sponge bath when you want one. No sex, promise. Strictly a professional sponge bath. I can't believe you've seen Proctor more. Or that I saw Proctor and your mom in the hall together the other day have a pretty intense chat with some smiles and hair flicks. Eva's barely talking to me at work as it is... Dave keeps it professional. I don't know what's happened."
Chris was watching her hand on his waistband before he looked up sharply. "Are you seriously implying what I think you're implying. You better take that back. My Mom does not hair flick. She's my Mom, and Proctor's my boss, and that gives me indigestion just to even think about that, so stop it right now. I mean it. Stop it," he warned with a point and then his eyebrows shot up. "I'm getting a boner." He pulled the waistband of his pants out further and looked down into them.
"I'm implying that your mom's definitely hot and Proctor always had the English charm, so maybe it's just some subconscious stuff that doesn't mean anything, but there was total hair flicks and smiles. No touches, though. They're not up to that stage. I'm stopping, but hey, you still have a boner... Not that the two are related." Serena leaned forward to try and get a better look. "Well, well... hello stranger," she said to his crotch.
"Stop! Stop! Don't even go there! It's not even funny. Proctor wants Sable, end of story," Chris said, shooting her a warning look. He really didn't have the head to consider anything beyond that right now. "And she's just talking to him because Dave has stopped helping. She needs information. Am I allowed to have a boner? I can't remember anything on the discharge summary about that."
Serena had to laugh, but she kept it low, and quickly stopped when she caught his look again. She ran her tongue over her lips as she looked back down at the erection. "Does it hurt?"
Chris shook his head. "Uh-uh..." he replied and then shoved his hands down the front of his pants and cupped himself just to make sure. It wasn't like it was a raging boner or anything, but at least it was working. That was a start, and man, it felt really nice to have his hand on it. His head dropped back and he closed his eyes with a soft hum, his tongue coming to rest on his lower lip.
Serena's eyes flicked up to watch Chris' face, and she tried not to wriggle in her seat and disturb his legs when arousal started to kick in. She couldn't help it. She had no problems with her boyfriend touching himself in front of her. "Not hurting is good... very good," she said quietly. "Should I maybe leave you two alone, or take my top of for a little visual stimulation?"
"I'm scared to have an orgasm. This is good for the moment," Chris said, exhaling softly. It was true, though. He was scared. He couldn't exactly burst any wounds open now they were healed over, but he still felt pain internally when he overexerted himself. It would have looked like a hell of a sight if anyone walked in and found him with his hand down his pants and Serena shoving her bare boobs in his face, though. That would take some explaining.
Serena smiled as she just continued to watch him, her teeth chewing on her bottom lip for a moment. "Baby steps, right? At least there's some sign that everything below is working pretty much at operational speeds. You haven't suffered like Rick has, but he's had the chemo to kill that part of him. Think he'll ever recover it? I know Dave's been having trouble. Aimee's so supportive of it, but he's pulling away from her now too. I don't ever want that to happen to us... I want to be able to talk about things."
"Dave had something like four or five rounds of chemo. Maybe more. It was some really intense level. He also didn't react well to it, so it might take longer to recover that. I don't know what's going on with him. He won't answer my calls, he stopped coming to visit me. He came that one afternoon, but he didn't stay long and he was just acting strangely. I've done something to upset him. I have to have. What else would explain it? Plus? It's easier to say that, but when push comes to shove, it doesn't always work like that. I promised Mom I would call her if anything went wrong, or go to her if I needed anything when I moved to Miami, and look how that turned out," Chris said with a small shake of his head, losing his momentum with the topic of conversation and yanked his hand out of his pants again.
Serena clenched her jaw slightly as she watched him take out his hand, kicking herself mentally for the stupid change in topic. She reached out to take his hand, feeling the warmth radiating from it. She gently brushed her thumb over his skin. "I know, baby... But we all make mistakes. She's still your mom, and she still came when you needed her. I just don't know what you've done to upset Dave, though. It's not like you've had much of a chance to say anything. Unless he really hates working on Alpha Team so much he would stop talking to you."
Chris gave a slow shake of his head. "No... that's not Dave. That day he came to see me, it was just strange. He wasn't angry at me, or pissed off. It was like he couldn't wait to get the hell out of there. I tried to get him to stay, but he just left anyway. Do you think it's because he's having problems with Aimee? I just thought that would be something Dave would talk to me about. And he hasn't said a single thing about the whole... southerly problems thing, either. But he's a strong guy. That wouldn't just make him start acting weird, would it?"
Serena pressed her lips together briefly. "It depends on how long the problems have been plaguing him. He seems to have at least had them since Aimee. And from what I know she's the first person he's slept with since the cancer, right? Maybe he's just starting to feel the weight of it all, to get depressed that even if he's in remission it's still affecting him. I don't know. It's all guess work. Like I said, he's been keeping talk to just patients and cases with me. Hopefully he'll come visit you here once he gets word that you're out."
"Or not. I was an elevator ride away over there, and he stopped coming. I can't hold my breath. Every time I call him, I get his voicemail but he doesn't call back. I didn't even see Lisa towards the end there. I wasn't Oncology, so I had other nurses. She is the first. That much I know. His last girlfriend split after he was diagnosed when she couldn't face the thought of taking care of him. Seeing first hand how sick someone is with chemo, though... I don't think that's really something you can blame a girl for. Not entirely, even if it sounds like a pricky thing to do," Chris said quietly.
"It's a huge test. Bigger than the puke test. Being with someone who has cancer is emotionally and physically draining. At least we know Bella can handle it with Rick. There's no walking away there." Serena sighed quietly as she rest her head back against the sofa. "I still can't see how you've done anything that would make him stop talking to you. I just can't."
Chris nodded a little. "Except, she needs to take care of herself above all else. There's a chance she might lose the baby. I really don't understand any of this. None of it. It's like I woke up after the op and the world was spinning in a different direction. It took me days to find my bearings. Everyone asking me if I was okay, it was confronting when I didn't know if I was or not. Waking up from that coma was the weirdest thing I've ever experienced."
Serena looked at him. "I can't tell you how fucking relieved I was when you woke up. I really can't. I know it must have been strange, weird... But you came back, you came out of it. And for that I am just so grateful. I just don't think things are going to settle down just yet until everyone remembers their place. Maybe... Maybe it's just time for changes all around? Do you even remember anything? Voices, sounds? Dreams?"
"Maybe, but I can't tell if it is just my own brain or anything that actually happened. It's all hazy. You gotta remember I was in so much pain, too. I woke up with a tube down my throat. Those few days, I can't remember much of what anyone said to me, or what I said to them. The first real clear thing I remember is busting those sutures, so I really hope nothing important was said to me," Chris admitted sheepishly. "Sick and in pain is about the extent of what I really remember."
Serena pulled her mouth to the side before she smiled at him. "Well, I don't remember anything important said. Me just crying, and telling you how much I loved you. Only when you started bleeding, I do remember Dave trying to talk to you and then he just had to get you in surgery."
Chris closed his eyes and shook his head. "Fantastic. So, instead of getting blind drunk this time, I bleed out. That's why he's avoiding me. I suck as a best friend, obviously. I do remember him being there. I was glad he was there. It's why I made him my proxy. I just never really expected that to need to come into force in anyway."
Serena shook her head as well as she gave his hand a squeeze. "Baby, you would have bled out no matter what. It was nothing he did, nothing you did really. It wasn't a way for you to get out of the conversation. I think it's maybe just starting to look impossible to Dave that he'll ever be able to talk to you. Too many poor coincidences."
"I know, so it's probably too much effort for him to try. Plus, I know Dave. If he thinks everyone else is good taking care of me, he won't step on any toes. Maybe that was why Aimee was giving me the kicked puppy look? Has she said anything to you about anything? I didn't have a chance to ask her. She was with her whole team and she left first," Chris explain when he put his hand under his shirt to lightly scratch his wound.
"No, she hasn't. I haven't even spoken to her since before you checked yourself out. I only found out because I went to see you and you weren't there. We had coffee together this morning and she was just bummed because Dave was pushing her away. He hadn't stayed over, hasn't even asked her to stay over in a little while. I don't know what's going on," Serena admitted with a helpless shrug. "I wish I knew so I could tell you."
"And it's just because of the issues with sex, right? I mean, I haven't ever really experienced that before, but wouldn't you just... snuggle? Get more involved with the whole oral thing, maybe? I don't know!" Chris through up his hands helplessly. "In saying that, it would probably make me feel like a failure."
Serena rubbed his leg and nodded. "Sure, absolutely. And there had been snuggling, and there had been oral. But he's probably getting more and more frustrated that he can't really give her anything in return if she tries to get him excited. It would have to get wearing... Especially when you just assumed it was a temporary thing, and then it doesn't seem like it's going to stop. He's infertile as well, right? So he might even be getting angry that he can't give her a life he thinks he wants. I don't know. I really don't. This all making assumptions. We're not going to know until Dave finally starts talking without getting interrupted, or without things going wrong."
Chris nodded, frowing deeply. "Yeah, he can't have kids. I do know that. I'm pretty sure that's a given. The weird thing is, I don't even think he's talking to Lisa. They were always tight. He was always tight with his sisters. They grew up close, like you and Drew. It's got to be something that he's pulling away from his own sister, right? Do you think he's in trouble or something? But he still shows up to work and gets to that. I'll try and talk to him again. Maybe I can go over to MT1 and intercept him..."
Serena arched her eyebrow at him. "Are you serious? You don't have the energy for that. I know you want to be back on your feet, and you want to do all these things... And that talking to Dave is important, but you really can't be running to MT1 just to try and intercept him. You're not up for that yet. Even just getting home has knocked you off your feet. Literally."
"Well, I was serious, until you gave me the evil eyeball..." Chris told her, looking at her warily like she might bite him or something. "That was just a one off. I could just go, and sit, and wait for Dave to appear. I could sit! Sitting doesn't take any energy. See, sitting is fine."
Serena kept giving him a look as she bit back any urge to yell, or treat him like a patient. "There's still getting to MT1. That's the part you can't handle. I'm not so sure it was a once off, so you can't blame me for being concerned."
"Then bring Dave to me," Chris urged, bordering on begging. "Talk to him, maybe? Convince him to come. You convinced the Ortho to play cards or whatever, can't you convince my best mate to drop by and talk to me?"
Serena shifted to lean forward and kissed his hand and then his stomach next to the wound. "For you, I can do anything. I'm your own personal Wonder Woman."
Word Count | 5,997