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Enough To Crush Your Veins

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"Jeff," the voice says. "Jeff, honey, can you open your eyes for me?"

The light is too bright, and Jeff squints and groans. He hurts.

"No, Jeff," the voice says. "Keep your eyes open."

Jeff lets out a sob without meaning to, or even realizing he's going to.

"Jeff, honey," the voice, and Jeff sees she's a nurse, says. "Here." She hands him a little button to hold. "This is your morphine pump. When you're in pain, you press here, okay?"

She helps him press a button, and soon he's floating away, closing his eyes and drifting back to sleep.

Later, and Jeff can't tell how much later, he opens his eyes again. Everything's fuzzy, but he knows where he is. He's in the recovery room, he had his surgery, his knee hurts so much he can't even describe it. He pushes the button again, and the pump by his head hisses and delivers another dose.

"Hi Jeff," a nurse says. "You look a little brighter."

Jeff vaguely remembers her voice, and she's smiling at him.

"I, uh..." The words are too much effort, and he relaxes back into his pillow.

"I'm Stacy, Jeff. I'm going to be keeping an eye on you here until we're sure you're ready to go back to your room."

Jeff manages to nod.

"Do you think you can manage a little water?" Stacy asks.

She holds a cup and helps him take a few sips through a straw.

"Okay, Jeff," she says. "That's great for right now. You close your eyes, and if you need me, I'll be right here. Your surgeon will be by in a while to have a talk with you."

"'Kay," Jeff manages, and closes his eyes again.

"Hey there, Jeff." Somebody shakes his shoulder gently, and Jeff opens his eyes to see Doctor Chen looking down at him. She's still wearing scrubs and a cap from theatre.

"Hey," Jeff says, licking his lips and swallowing a couple of times. His mouth is really dry.

Stacy helps him take another sip of water.

"We managed to fix the ligament," Doctor Chen says. "But the tear was a lot bigger than the MR-Arthrogram showed."

"Can I..." Jeff swallows again. "How long 'til I can skate again?"

"Jeff," Doctor Chen says. "I can't...You're going to have to wait and see. I'm not going to make you any promises."

Jeff closes his eyes again. "Oh," he says.

"I'm sure you'll be back on skates soon," Stacy says. "You were my favorite thing about the Olympics."

Jeff tries to smile.

"Stacy," Doctor Chen warns.

Jeff's stomach twists.

"We'll get you back to your room," Stacy says. "I know your mom's waiting to see you."

Jeff's stomach lurches, and he closes his eyes again. His leg is throbbing, so he clicks for another dose of morphine.

When he wakes up again, he's back in his room, and his mom is sitting in a chair next to him.

"Hi, sweetie," she says, smiling at him.

"Hey, Mom," Jeff says, and holds his hand out towards her. She takes his hand and squeezes it.

"You look terrible," she says.

Jeff manages a weak laugh.

"I have your phone, and I brought you a couple of books to read," his mom says. "They're going to keep you in until tomorrow at least."

"I think I'm just going to sleep," Jeff says.

"At least try and stay awake for a little while," his mom says. "Your dad's going to be here soon."

She hands Jeff his phone, and helps him adjust the bed so he's sitting up a little.

Jeff's parents got him a Blackberry when he qualified for the Olympics, telling him that it would help him keep in touch when he was at competitions and on tours all around the world. When he signed the two-year contract, he'd seen everything mapped out in front of him; now he's staring down retirement at the age of 17.

He has twenty text messages: from his siblings, from friends from school, and from the people at his skating club. His inbox is just as full, but he doesn't open any of them, until he sees the last one.

"What's that smile for?"

Jeff jumps as he sees his dad next to him.

"Nothing," Jeff says, opening the email.

Hey Jeff,

Good luck with the surgery. Let me know how it goes.

Eric

Jeff's hands are shaking from the effort of holding up the phone, so his mom plucks the phone out of his hands before he drops it.

"Oh," his mom says. "Eric Staal."

Jeff wants to complain that it's not like that, but his eyes are already drifting closed again.

"You can email your Olympics buddy back later," his mom says, stroking his hair. "You get some sleep. Everything will look better in the morning."