The ambulance arrived too slow. The police sent their speedboat to pick them up from the beach instead of a helicopter that was occupied somewhere else. It didn’t matter, the damage was already done and where used to be Reed’s smallest finger was now a gashing wound and the finger was barely hanging on through piece of skin. Valery nearly fainted, when Garret pulled the towel away to replace it with a dry one as it soaked through almost instantly.
When Reed saw her waver, he could care less the role she played in it. He sat up and pulled her against his chest, hugging her, pushing his hand behind her so she wouldn’t see it. He was still angry, his pulse so loud he was sure every person in ten feet radius could hear it, but even the thought of her being upset made him ache. His arm muscles flexed involuntarily as Garret pushed the new towel around his hand and it pressed Valery more into him. He felt his focus shift from the sharp pain from his hand to the body pressed against his. She was warm, so invitingly radiating that he had hard time staying angry. He should have never left, he realized, when her next jumpy intake of breath jolted through his chest. Her hands were hanging by his sides, trembling.
“Hug me?” he pegged in her ear, pressing his mouth back against her neckline and breathing in her familiar scent. Her hands came up and timidly moved around his back, her fingers digging in the back of his shirt. The scent took him back to the morning they’d spent together and he felt his nerves uncurl in her presence, drugged by the scent of chamomiles and he imagined sitting in the middle of a field full of them with her by his side.
“I-I think he’s going into a shock!” He heard Valery shout and realized his own body had began to tremble. The world came gushing back with every bruising on his body stinging out of the blue.
“No!” He protested, shaking his head against her neck, glaring Garret down, who was reaching for her. They’d take her away if he fell in shock. “I won’t, I promise!” He closed his eyes, falling back into the dreamy state she put her under and concentrated on nothing else. He breathed in and out slowly to show them, he would stay awake.
There were more people gathering around them, the news of their fight probably making rounds. There were shouts, someone asked if police had been informed and how much more time it would take for the ambulance to arrive, but he could care less as long as Valery remained where she was, in his lap, her warmth blanketing him from everything.
In the end he didn’t hear the men arrive, who finally coaxed her away from his hold. It took him time to get back with the living. He woke when the pain surfaced in his brain and the warmth had disappeared. He’d fallen asleep.
His eyes immediately started searching for her and locked on her standing few feet behind him, standing alone in the middle of the street. Why did she look so sad? He tried to turn around, but the man holding him up wouldn’t let him, guiding him towards the docks. He saw the badge of policeman hanging on the man’s belt. The other man was that tourist again, neither would let him turn back.
He stared at her over his shoulder while his feet were forced to move away. Couldn’t they at least hug her? He let out a groan. On one minute he wanted no one to touch her and then he was worried when nobody did? He had to be out of his mind. He turned, searching around for familiar faces, and saw Tomas shaking in Roy’s hands while the tourists just stood around them with stony faces.
“Where’s Garret?” He could ask Garret. They were friends, Valerie and him, he would help her.
“Who?” The policeman asked. “You concentrate on walking, sir. Hey!” He warned next. “Eyes on front!”
“Where are you taking him?” Someone asked from the crowd.
Couldn’t be local, he nearly laughed at the woman’s stupid question – there only was one hospital here! If you’d been here for more than a week, you’d probably knew that little fact. He heard the policeman answer and then felt the man shove him to look where he was going, he saw Garret already running towards her. He wanted to shout to him to look after her, but saw him settle a coat on her shoulders before ushering her further.
He had to look away, feeling the surface fall lower under his feet and he realized he was on slope heading towards the boats. His partner had remained behind, he saw the second badge on the older man’s belt. He came off the boat to help him on board.
“I can’t…” he let out a whine when he was settled on the seat, the tourist remaining behind as the policeman took over holding his hand in place and coached him to add to the pressure. It hurt.
“What happened?” The older policeman asked after he pushed them away from the bridge. “Hey, do you need to lay down?” He turned his attention at Reed. He shook his head and closed his eyes.
“That’s like watching two thunders in a night sky.” Valerie sighed, leaning against the ER’s green wall, where Roy and Tomas were huddled together on the floor. He’d been patched up by someone while they sat there, waiting. Tomas was still curled up, tracking the blood into his hair as he kept a death grip on them while Roy was trying to sooth his lover the best way he could think of without much result. “Don’t do that again, I peg you.” She added, serious.
Roy looked up. “It’s, well…” he tried to smile, but he seemed a bit lost, which was fine as far as Valerie was concerned, “I’m Roy Hadfield.” He waved him with his half-blooded hand he’d just used to press his man against his chest. For a big man, Tomas knew how to make himself very small against Roy, who wasn’t that tiny either.
“He failed to mention you.” She gave him a polite smile. He must have read it from his eyes that she had no idea, who he really was, because Roy patted the floor next to him.
“I would move, but I don’t think Tomas is capable of that yet.” He whispered. It sounded as if it was meant to be a joke.
She hadn’t cried since the police arrived. Her thoughts kept rolling around it while she watched the empty place.
“Yeah, well,” he continued from the previous, “we didn’t think you’d agree with the plan if you knew.”
“I wanted him, not Tomas. It just… came as a sock, that’s all. All this because I wanted him back?” She sounded withdrawn. “I didn’t -” her voice cracked, but she didn’t continue as the policeman, who had accompanied Reed from the island stood suddenly in front of them. He opened his notebook and crouched in front of the trio, eying them suspiciously.
“I’m sorry I have to ask this now, but we’ve talked with most of the witnesses on the island and they say the man attacked you.” He said calmly, keeping his leveled on Tomas. “Thus I’m afraid I have to ask you – do you wish to pull charges against Reed Bradenton?”
Tomas head yanked up, his tear filled eyes staring wide-eyed at the policeman. “No! God, no! Oh my god, no, he didn’t mean it, I swear! I didn’t mean it! I-I grabbed for anything near to keep him away! I swear, it was self defense!”
“That’s why I’m asking – do you wish to draw charges?”
“It was stupid accident!” Tomas yelled. “God, I should have known, I only meant to get his attention, not-”
“He’s saying no.” Roy supplied the short version of his Tomas long rant.
“He can come to the station on Ostane street if he needs to.” The man nodded and sprung up, relieved. He lingered for a moment more, waiting any of them to say something, but after a minute, he left, shaking his head.
Just as he disappeared behind the front door, the automatic doors opened from the corridor the operation rooms were and they jumped on their feet, seeing Reed being escorted out by a nurse. One glance between the brothers and she knew, whom to turn to.
“He’ll be a bit out of it for couple of hours.” She said as she set him down to sit on the nearby chair while she talked to Tomas. “It would be good if you can lay him down for a day. When he wakes up, give him these,” he handed Tomas the small bag, but Roy took it away immediately, checking the medication inside, listening tentatively for every detail so he could retell it to Tomas again later after he’d calmed down, “he lost his left hand little finger and the ring finger might not gain the same range of movement, but otherwise he’ll be alright in time.”
“He lost his finger?” Tomas mumbled.
Valerie used the time they were occupied by the nurse and sat next to his slumped body. He immediately leaned closer to her, resting his head on her chest.
“Stupid brother…” He whispered, fisting her cardigan. She let out a snort, pulling him into a hug.
“Well, isn’t that a nice surprise?” Joshua loud husky voice echoed over the crowd in the waiting room.
Tomas nearly fell over, landing on few seats away next to the opposite wall while Reed began laughter was submerged by Valerie’s cardigan.
The young man made a beeline to Tomas first, checking him over quickly before heading to Reed, dismissing his eldest brother’s few bruises as somewhat normality.
“How did you get here?” There was clear terror in Tomas voice and the nurse stiffened, as if to hint that it would be best if they all now just disappeared and never come back. He glanced towards the front door, half-expecting the rest of the family to run through there at any second, but he seemed to be the only one for now.
“I heard two policemen talking about a big fight on an island and of course I came to check the ER! You made the news, boys!” Joshua shouted, clearly irritated and amused at the same time. “Sorry, mam!” He saw the nurse. “I’m gonna take them away now. Sorry ‘bout that.”
He then got to Reed and Valerie. “Hello?” He waved, stopping foot away and checked him over from there, leaning his body to get a better look around her.
“Who are you?” She followed him with her eyes, recognizing probably half of the big boy as of some sort of relative, but she was getting more confused by the minute. Reed soothed her for a long moment. Her quickened heartbeat was not helping him at all.
He sighed and looked up. “My brother Joshua.” He did the quick introductions and got up, pushing her aside.
“Well, you do look good!” Joshua’s grinned, showing all of his teeth, sending shivers down Valerie’s spine.
“Give us time before you go hollering it around, will you? Take care of Tomas, I’ll talk to him in a minute.” Reed pushed Valerie behind him and winced as he realized he did it with his left hand. It still hurt like hell, but the painkillers from the operation were still working. He started towards the door, pulling Valerie with him, keeping her on the side away from the rest. He didn’t wait others to follow or not, he needed a moment alone, in a quiet place. He had few things to say to the woman and he wanted no company.
The fresh air was welcomed change to the stuffy feeling ER. There was a small parking lot the front door, across the street, which he didn’t remember seeing when they arrived, but that’s where he headed. Valerie had been quiet the whole time, her breathing loud and hitched in his ears while they walked until they were far away from the waiting taxi line.
She was sobbing by the time he came to a stop. He used his bandaged hand to clear away her tears and leaned closer to her face before giving her a quick kiss. “Don’t be hard on yourself!” He tried to sooth her. “It’s over, I promise it’s over.”
“Yes you can. Hey, look at me.” He coached her chin up and looked straight at her, trying his best to sound assuring. “I’m alright now. I won’t go berserk, I won’t fight anymore, I promise.”
“Isn’t this a bit late? You’ve already lost your finger!” She whaled, her eyes fixing on the bandages.
“I think Tomas is having heart attack for both of us, so will you stop?” He snorted, stepping away. “I’d say we got off easy. I was afraid I’d kill him, to be honest.”
“God, you’re violent!”
“Only when I lose you.”
He’d had time, when sitting next to operation table, watching as the doctor did his best sewing the top together on what used to be the place for his finger. He spent half of the time laughing on his own, driving the man crazy, but he couldn’t help it. Only when he thought she was gone did he lose it, but right now, he felt like facing battalion of demons and still winning. She was her anchor and the only reason he’d been tossed around in this storm was his own stupidity. Losing the finger seemed the best prize out of it all. And perfect punishment for Tomas for his meddling ways and arrogant lies. He’d be forever reminded of it. They both would be.
“Hey,” he whispered, “I still have my ring finger, you know?” He smiled as her sobbing stopped immediately, and she looked up, just in time for a longer kiss. He had to stop, when the world began swimming in front of his eyes and he pushed up, his eyes never wavering from her. She didn’t answer, hesitating, but he felt no panic. The storm was over, he’d have all the time in the world to fix his harbor. “I will ask again, when I’m not stoned.” He chuckled, tapping her nose and pulling her into a hug. “Come on, I need some sleep before I face my family.”