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The first thing he was aware of was pain--his back, his neck, his head. They were all telling him that something was wrong. Then there was the darkness. It was not frightening. If anything, he knew if he let the darkness take over, the pain would ease. But part of his mind told him he had to pull himself out of the murkiness.
He tried to inhale, but found he could not control his own breaths. It was frightening. He became aware of his right hand. Something was different. He tried to wiggle his index finger. There was something there, a clamp of sorts. He knew that feeling, but it was distant.
He tried to swallow and could not. His mouth was dry and he could not close his mouth because something was intruding and gagging him. He remembered Jim Harvey’s evil smile and was terrified. He tried to reach to get the thing out of his mouth, whatever it was, only to find that he could not move his arms. He panicked, feeling imprisoned by his past.
He let out a strangled cry that was heard only as a soft groan. He was aware of beeping as it intensified in volume and frequency. He had to open his eyes, but they were too heavy. He pulled against whatever was restraining him with more mental force than he could physically create. He had someone’s attention. Someone was calling his name from far away.
“Franco, Franco, calm down. You’re safe.” He felt a comforting, trusted hand on his wrist.
He tried to ask for Elizabeth, but that thing in his mouth wouldn’t let him speak.
“It’s Kiki, You’re in the hospital. You had surgery.”
He pulled against the restraints, wondering why he was captive this way and where his wife was.
Kiki rubbed his arm in a soothing manner. “Don’t hurt yourself. We had to restrain you so you wouldn’t rip out the vent. We can remove it now.”
He heard Kiki’s voice, but he still saw Jim Harvey. He was unaware of the tears streaking his cheeks. Kiki kept talking as the darkness threatened to envelop him again.
The next thing he knew, that horrid thing was gone and he was aware of how dry. his mouth was. He moved his lips, trying to create some moisture or at least ask for help.
“You’re waking up again,” Kiki’s voice was much clearer. He opened one eye and saw a blurry blond figure in blue scrubs. “Let me help you,” she said. “These help with dry mouth.”
He couludn’t exactly tell what she was holding, but felt something touch his lips. He recoiled. “Dad, I’m trying to help. Please let me. Trust me.”
Maybe she wasn’t his biological daughter, but she was in every way that mattered. He trusted her and soon his mouth filled with a relieving liquid that tasted like bubblegum.
“Eh--” was all he could say.
“Elizabeth is fine.” Kiki assured him. “She’s in the the pediatric department with Imogene. She bumped her head in the fall, but she’s going to be fine. Elizabeth has been running herself ragged between the two of you, so I promised I would stay with you. I know you would want her to be with Genie as much as possible.”
Fall? He had no memory of any kind of fall. Had he done something tog hurt his and Elizabeth’s child?
“Fall?” he whispered.
“It’s a long story,” Kiki said. “It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t hurt Genie.”
Even in his confusion, he knew that a fall would have to be very serious to have him in surgery and the baby also in the hospital. He had noticed he was a bit unsteady lately. He wondered if he had fallen down the stairs. How could Kiki say that was not his fault? “Baby?” he asked, but his eyes were heavy and closed again.
“She’s going to be just fine. She is just being observed as a precaution. She misses her daddy.” Kiki hid the pang of jealousy that she felt that Franco was Imogene’s real father.
He tried to open his eyes to thank Kiki, but the darkness was calling.
“I don’t think he remembers what happened,” Kiki said to Dr. Kevin Collins and Dr. Griffin Munro who were observing the interactions as unobtrusively as possible. She had called them in when he showed the first signs of waking up.
“Episodic memory loss is to be expected,” Griffin assured her.
“I believe his long term memory will be in tact,” Kevin added. He had not failed to notice the terror and tears as Franco tried to remove the vent tube, but he said nothing about it. As he had suspected, there were things that Jim Harvey had done to Franco when he was very young that he had kept to himself. “He knew you, remembers Elizabeth and the baby.”
Elizabeth entered the room looking care worn, tired, and limp. She was dealing with much more than being a mother of an eight week old baby and three older boys. “He’s awake?” She saw that he wasn’t. She looked at Kevin, “You sent me a text…”
”He woke up briefly, twice,” Kevin told her. “He wanted to know if you and the baby were okay.”
“Is he speaking in full sentences?” she asked.
“Mostly syllables, but we could understand his concerns,” Griffin answered. “How is Imogene?”
“She’s fine. She’s going to be discharged and I’m going to move her to this room so we can all be together.”
She saw that her husband was still restrained, even without the ventilator. She grasped the hand closest to her. “Take these off. Now.” she demanded.
“We don’t want him to hurt himself,” Griffin explained. “If he tries to get up and falls or if he has another seizure, he could be in worse shape than he is now.”
Elizabeth leaned over the bed, kissing her husband’s eyelids and running her hand over his bandaged forehead. “He’s going to be okay,” she told them, as much for her benefit as theirs. She caught Kevin’s eye, seething. “I’m going to kill Jason Morgan”