Love, Rehab, and Mutant Turtles (Epilogue)
The recovery room was just as white and pristine as Nick had imagined it. Profound thirst gripped at his dry throat. Careful to shield his eyes from the blinding light, Nick looked for a nurse call button. He couldn’t find one and tried to call out instead. “Nurr—” was all he could manage. His throat felt raw and abused. So, they had to intubate me, that can’t be good. With a weak hand, Nick lifted the bedsheet to look down at his sides. A series of white bandages crisscrossed his abdomen, covering all evidence of his healing or lack thereof. On the bright side, they weren’t soaked with blood.
“Oh good, you’re awake.” Sean stood in the doorway, propped against it like a high school coach about to give a pep talk.
“Oh god, I’m in Hell.”
Sean laughed. “Well, at least your sense of humor is intact.” His eyes were full of kindness and creased with a bad night’s sleep.
Nick wanted to rage against the patronizing niceness but couldn’t find the fire he needed. “How long?”
“Only a day or so. You’re lucky we got to you when we did.”
“How did you manage to do that?”
Sean clucked his tongue. “I’d say a magician never reveals his secrets, but I’m just a rehab shrink, right?” There was a subtle raise of an eyebrow, but that was the end of the biting sarcasm. “We bugged your clothing when you got here. It’s a security precaution when we’re dealing with people who run into the woods in the middle of the night. I think you know as well as I do that there are a lot of things waiting on the edge of that barrier that would do our patients harm.”
Nick nodded, feeling immense pain in the motion. “And Cass?” his voice choked at the mention of her name. Despite what she had done, the fire inside was still lit.
Sean shook his head. “I’m not sure how a siren got into our facility. That’s on me for not screening better.” He softened, seeing the lingering question. “We tried to save her, but by the time we fought off the final beast, it was too late.”
A cold lump of fear and sadness settled in Nick’s chest. Shame filled every pore and fiber of his conscious being. “Why are you here?”
The bright light caught a twinkle in Sean’s eye as he came to sit down next to Nick. “Because I see myself in you.”
Even the mere thought of a scoff sent pain shooting through Nick’s ribs. He winced.
Sean chuckled. “You deserve that. Look, you might not believe it, but I used to hunt monsters with a revolver in one hand and a bottle of Jack in the other.”
“Probably couldn’t aim worth shit.”
“Better than you might think, but that’s not the point. This might not be your bottom, but it could be. Take this as an opportunity, get back up, and let’s do the work. You took down a mutant turtle by yourself tonight. That makes you one of the greats. So, why don’t you try to live to remember that?”
There was a trap in Sean’s words, there had to be. Nick turned the sentence over in his mind.
“There’s no trap here.”
Creepy psychic bastard.
“When the nurses release you from that bed, you can either go back to your room at the facility or leave free and clear. The choice is yours.”
Nick thought about James. The kid had been more than crystal clear; it was him or the bottle. Apprentices these days, thinking they can run your life.
“Just think about it. You’ve got some recovery time to mull things over.” Sean stood and moved for the door.
Thank you. Nick wanted to say the words out loud but couldn’t manage them.
Sean nodded like he had heard them anyway and left.
The room spun at the concoction of pain meds flowing into Nick’s arm. He put his head back on the pillows. Start new tomorrow. Exhaustion flooded his limbs, and he closed his eyes.