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Far From Perfect

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Bright headlights inexorably getting closer. The tremendous impact of the inevitable crash. Then nothing but darkness.

 

The first thing Mick realised was a beeping occurring in regular intervals, as well as a weird bubbling sound. Paired with the stale, clean smell of disinfectant, it slowly started dawning on him that he must be at a hospital. He seemed like in a haze, his head was dull, his eyelids heavy and his whole body felt like he had been run over repeatedly. Most of the pain he felt in his ribcage and in his right leg. Everything seemed incredibly difficult to move, so he didn't even try it. After a while, it could have been five minutes or fifty, eventually he managed to open his eyes. The light flooding into the room was way too bright and he immediately pressed them shut again because they were stinging and his head started aching quite badly. Only after a while he managed to take another probing look, just slowly adjusting to the brightness of the room. From what he could gather, however, it seemed like he was in the ICU, at least all the monitors made him think so, as well as the fact that he was in a single room. Only now he noticed the cable draped over his face, assisting him with breathing by blowing oxygen into his nose. He didn't know where exactly the bubbling was coming from, apparently from somewhere to his left, but it must be the oxygen being processed.

"Mr. Jagger, you're awake!", a nurse, who had just entered the room to check on him, all but yelled, looking quite astounded.

"How are you feeling?", she asked him as she came closer, pressing his right hand. He didn't quite know what to say, hadn't even a clue why he was there, at least he didn't have time to think further about this before the nurse had walked in.

"Uh...water", he eventually managed to croak as he realised how dry his mouth felt. Like he hadn't drank anything in days. The nurse was quick to offer him a plastic cup that he didn't manage to hold himself because he could barely lift his arm. He simply was too weak and it was like his muscles didn't comply to what he wanted them to do.

"What happened?", he wanted to know once his mouth didn't feel like sandpaper anymore.

"I'll let the doctor know that you woke up, she's gonna tell you", the nurse meant. "Just a moment", she added before leaving the room again and Mick was left with the beeping machines of which one was connected to him via some odd plastic thing on his finger and another by cables that were connected to his chest.

There wasn't even time to think about what exactly happened, how he got there, in that hospital bed, before a doctor stepped into the room and introduced herself as Doctor Sterling. He couldn't quite recall what had happened to him, his mind felt heavy and incredibly slow, it already was a huge challenge to even keep his eyes open.

At first the doctor did some checks on him, testing reflexes, how hard he could press her hand, checking the dilation of his pupils and if he could feel her poking the soles of his feet. Everything seemed to be to her liking because she looked quite pleased, but Mick felt way too exhausted to pay attention to everything the doctor was saying. She told him something about breaking his right leg and a couple of ribs, of which one punctured his lung and he had to get surgery for that. In addition to this he suffered from a severe whiplash and concussion.

"I'm going to need to ask you some questions next to test your memory", Doctor Sterling explained and Mick just nodded, though immediately regretting it because it didn't do too well for his aching head.

At first she just asked him easy things, like his full name, what year it was, what street he was living in. He didn't have any trouble answering these questions, even though it was getting increasingly tough for him to keep up enough focus to follow her.

"What's the last thing you do remember, Mr. Jagger? From before you woke up here?", Doctor Sterling asked him next.

"I…", he started, completely confused, because he actually hadn't even asked himself this question yet and didn't have time to think about it so far. He was way too out of it. Must be the morphine he was getting, according to the doctor.

"There was...I don't know...what happened?", he wanted to know, wishing he could just go back to sleep, because it was so hard to concentrate on anything.

"There has been a car accident...do you remember that? Or anything else?", the doctor helped him out and at these words, Mick's poor, battered mind started racing, his thoughts galloping away from him, too fast for him to keep on track with his words.

"Bright lights...Tessa? Oh god, what about Tessa? And the baby? What about them?", he all but panicked as everything came down on him all at once.

They'd been on a weekend trip to the countryside, wanting to leave London and the bustle of the big city behind for a few hours. Mick had wanted for his fiancée to come down a little, just relax, go for a walk, have lunch at a nice local pub in some small village. He'd thought that she totally could need that, after all she was almost eight months pregnant and their first baby would be due in a few weeks. Then they'd both have more than enough on their hands.

They hadn't planned on having a baby yet, it just happened. But after they found out, they'd both been so incredibly happy and excited and couldn't wait to become parents and raise their kid together. Mick had proposed to Tessa when she was in the second month, because he wanted to do everything properly, wanted to get married, be a good father. But she'd wanted to wait with the wedding until after the baby was born, joking that otherwise it would be even harder to find the perfect dress.

Their little trip had been a lot of fun, during their walk among beautiful wildflower meadows they'd come across a family walking their dog. Tessa had found it so incredibly cute that she basically had begged him to get a dog as well one day so their kid could grow up having that experience like she did herself as a child. Obviously she wouldn't even have needed to persuade him that profoundly because as soon as he'd seen how happy and eager she was about that prospect, there was not a single thing he could think of saying to turn her down. He remembered looking at her beautiful, smiling face, thinking how much he loved her and that he couldn't wait to spend the rest of his life with her. The next thing he recalled was driving back to London and then nothing but darkness.

"Mr. Jagger, please, you've got to stay calm. I'll give you some of these, it'll help calming you down", Doctor Sterling meant, putting a hand on his shoulder, while holding out a little white pill for him with her other hand. He opened his mouth, then she helped him to drink some water to flush it down, but obviously it didn't work that quickly. So he still felt panic rising inside of him. Because he had no clue what happened to Tessa, and what about their baby? He had to know that they were alright and safe. He needed to see them.

"What happened? Where's my fiancée?", he kept on asking, the sudden rush of adrenaline drowning out his fatigue, making him all antsy.

"Mr. Jagger...you had this car accident about three weeks ago. You've been in a coma ever since", the doctor told him and he couldn't believe what he was hearing. It couldn't be right.

"What...what ...three weeks? What did I...what happened?", he stammered, getting dizzy from this new piece of information overwhelming him and he felt sick in his guts. It was barely comprehensible that he should have been out of it for three whole weeks. But it would at least explain why his muscles felt this stiff and useless and why he was so incredibly drained of energy. Yet he couldn't believe that he was just lying around for three weeks, not able to do anything or realise what was going on around him.

"I'm so sorry to have to inform you about this, but your fiancée passed away due to her grave injuries", Doctor Sterling mentioned further and even though Mick clearly understood her, he didn't get it. There was no way this actually happened. Tessa couldn't be gone. It all had to be a dream. Maybe he'd fallen back asleep, or back into coma, or maybe all of this was just a really bad dream. He just knew that this couldn't be right, this couldn't be happening. There needed to be another explanation.

"But your daughter is fine, Mr. Jagger. We could deliver her in time. She was a few weeks early, but by now she developed really well already", she went on, but Mick could only hear her voice faintly, as if she was in the next room and not right beside him. It was like his brain was working in slow motion all of a sudden and that nothing he came up with as an explanation made sense in the slightest. The only thing he was thinking over and over again was 'This cannot be right, this isn't true, Tessa cannot be gone'.

 

"Mr. Jagger, do you need us to call someone? Some family members?", the nurse asked now, but Mick didn't care. There was no one he wanted here right now, no one who could make it anyway. He didn't have any siblings, his dad was long gone, left him and his mum when Mick was still a little boy. And his mother had health issues that prevented her from making the four hour trip down to London. She couldn't even leave the house and walk to the bakery down the street without popping some pain killers first. That's why she lived at her sister's in Manchester so she could assist her. Because they'd always been very close and because Mick's mother didn't want him to arrange his whole life around her. She hadn't wanted to be a burden for him when he was about to get married and have a baby.

"Where's Tessa?", he heard himself asking, not aware that he'd even opened his mouth. He had to be dreaming. It was the only logical explanation. There simply was no other way, she couldn't be gone. He would know it, feel it if she wasn't there anymore. She couldn't be gone. Not like that. Not without him even knowing about it. He had to see her again.

"Her parents came down from Glasgow and took her home to bury her there in her family's grave", the doctor informed him and his chest painfully contracted at these words. This couldn't be true. None of this could be true.

"No...no, no, this can't be", he vehemently shook his head, even though it was already aching worse than before. "Please, she's gotta be here. I've got to see her, please let me see her!", he all but begged while it became increasingly harder for him to breathe. It felt like the air was being crushed out of his lungs and his chest tightened more and more.

"I'm so sorry, this isn't possible...what can we do for you, is there anyone we can inform? We already called your mother but she let us know her knee problems make it too difficult to travel here. She calls twice a day, though, asking how you and your daughter are because she is so worried about you", Doctor Sterling told him but he didn't care.

"I need to talk to Tessa's parents. This...I...I don't believe this", he started sobbing now, his body trembling with nerves and he still couldn't breathe properly. It almost felt like he was hyperventilating.

"I...I cannot breathe…", he only got out, as the doctor already requested the nurse to go and fetch her some syringe.

"Here, this will help you", she explained, taking his arm in order to inject him with whatever medicine she thought could help. However, Mick thought that there wasn't a single thing in the world that could make this any better. He was still crying, trying to make sense of what he'd just learned, but it was incomprehensible. There was no logic, no reasoning that could explain why all of this had happened. He simply couldn't, didn't want to believe that his fiancée wasn't with him any longer.

"Is there anybody else we could try reaching for you?", the nurse piped in after a moment. Mick felt incredibly tired by now, whatever had been in that syringe actually might have done its work. It already had been tough keeping his eyes open before, but now it was getting a real challenge to not just fall right back asleep.

"What about our baby?", he mumbled instead of answering, actually yawning. His eyelids were so heavy. He couldn't stay focused any longer. Nothing made any sense.

"She's on the pediatrics station. Do you want us to bring her to you later?", Doctor Sterling offered.

"Can I...can I talk to...Tessa's parents first?", he wanted to know, blinking his eyes back open, not able to think straight anymore.

He could barely recall all the things that had just been said to him. The only thing he knew, but couldn't understand, was that Tessa was gone. Also he'd heard the doctor's prior reply but hadn't processed it yet. He had been in a coma. Their baby was fine. Tessa was gone. It had been three weeks. They'd had a baby girl. Tessa was dead. But the baby was alright. While these thoughts were whirling through his mind, too intense and too overwhelming to understand, he lost consciousness, drifting off into nothingness, being engulfed by sweet oblivion.

 

When he next regained consciousness again, for the first few seconds he didn't recall where he was or what had happened. This state lasted way too shortly though and soon it all came crashing down on him again. He'd been in a coma for three weeks. Tessa wasn't there anymore. They couldn't save her. He was a father now, but he'd have to raise their baby girl by himself. It couldn't be true. He didn't want it to be true. Before he could do or say anything else, he was overpowered by tears once more. He was sobbing heavily, his body rocking in bed even though he was lying down and he just couldn't calm himself. His cheeks were wet and his eyes were burning, he could barely lift his arm to reach for a tissue on the nightstand beside the hospital bed to blow his nose. The worst was that the tears simply didn't stop, his breathing became shallow and his throat started aching but he couldn't stop. As long as he was crying, he felt nothing else but this endless desperation engulfing him. But eventually he could sense a hand on his upper arm and a soft voice talking to him in a calming manner. He didn't understand a word that was said, but then someone - apparently another nurse - made him swallow another little white pill. After some more minutes spent drenched in tears, he eventually realised that he was starting to get calmer.

"Is there anything I could do for you? Bring you a cup of tea? Do you want to try some food? You missed lunch earlier but I could…", the nurse babbled after a while, but Mick didn't really care to listen. He wasn't hungry anyway. Getting some food probably was the last thing on his mind.

"...or do you want to see your daughter? I could bring her to you if you'd like?"

"I...no, not now…", he meant because he didn't feel in any condition to meet his baby girl yet. He was so shaken up by everything that he couldn't even be excited about the first time he'd get to see his daughter. Not when there was something else he needed to do first that he just couldn't get off of his mind.

It was unnerving, making a phone call while the nurse had to hold the speaker for him because he couldn't manage on his own yet. He was way too jittery, his arm muscles still didn't do what he wanted them to. Also he was in complete disbelief and denial. He wouldn't, couldn't, accept that Tessa was gone. He had to hear it from her mother or father to believe it. Even though logically seen there was no reason why the doctor and the nurses should be lying to him. But he just couldn't grasp it. He didn't understand. It was incomprehensible. There was no way this could be happening and he felt like sleepwalking in a nightmare.

"McCullough", Tessa's father answered the phone after the fourth ring.

"Richard...hey, this is Mick", he managed to say, his voice still stained with his prior tears.

"What do you want?", came the rough answer, making him get a little confused and self-aware. Tessa's father could never really stand him, but he'd never been that stand-offish with him before.

"What about Tessa? Is it true?", Mick got out eventually, though he didn't even want to think of this possibility. But he just had to ask. He needed Tessa's father to tell him. But he didn't get a reply at first. Instead just silence at the other end of the line.

"Rich?"

"I can't believe you dare asking me that…", Tessa's father finally answered and Mick could literally feel the lump forming in his throat that made it hard for him to swallow.

"Is it true?…", he still repeated, he knew it probably was rather challenging, but he needed to hear it.

"We brought her home, buried her, after you...", Richard's voice broke in the end and Mick could literally imagine him trying to keep his composure. At the same time he felt new tears stinging in his eyes, because now he finally had clarity. He knew that this would be the reply but he'd still hoped it wouldn't. Nevertheless his comprehension was lacking. There was no way he could understand this, even though it clearly was the truth.

"No...no…", he stammered, unable to say anything else. It couldn't be. Not Tessa. Not now. Not like this. It was hard for him not to outright start sobbing again, as tears were already streaming down his cheeks.

"You took our girl away from us", Richard finally accused him and Mick almost forgot how to breathe. It was a blow like a heavy punch right in the face.

"No...Rich...I didn't...I...I couldn't do anything...I'm so sorry", he tried to argue and explain but there wasn't really a lot he could say. He didn't recall what happened. So far he hadn't even thought about this possibility. What if it actually all had been his fault? What if because of him, his little girl had to grow up without her mum now? What if he had injured even more people? All these thoughts were almost too unbearable to even think about them and he noticed his head starting to spin once more.

"You're the reason our daughter is dead", Richard outright accused him now and Mick felt sick in his guts, like he almost was about puking. What if he was right?

"I didn't know...I didn't...I...I'm so sorry…", is all he could stammer, there was nothing be could reply to an accusation like that.

"Your sorry doesn't bring her back to us!", came the angry and frustrated reply.

"I couldn't do anything about it…", he cried, feeling as horrible as he'd never felt before in his whole life.

"You were driving!"

"I...I don't know what happened...I'm so so sorry, Richard…", he tried again, as his mind was still spinning, trying to figure out or remember what actually had happened. But he just couldn't recall it.

"You'd better be…"

"I loved her...I love her...I could never hurt her", Mick cried even harder now, not sure if his words could actually be understood. By now he didn't even care anymore that the nurse was right there beside him, still holding the speaker for him. He also didn't even realise the worried look on her face because his eyes were blurry with tears.

"Well, you killed her", Richard finally said, before Mick heard the clicking sound of the phone being put down.

"...Rich?", he dared asking after a moment, although he knew that the line was dead.

If he held the speaker himself, he probably would have dropped it. Since the nurse was doing it for him, he just shook his head, pressing a hand to his face as he broke out in desperate sobs yet again, not able to hold back any longer. It was all too much, way too much and he couldn't bear any of it. He was crying and shaking so hard now, starting to scream everything out, all of his pain and desperation and sorrow. He screamed so much his throat started hurting and he tossed around until he could feel more than just one pair of hands on him, trying to hold him down. Then, he felt the sting of a needle and something getting injected into his upper arm. After this, everything around him suddenly seemed like clouded in cotton and eventually it all faded to black.

Chapter Text

He couldn't remember waking up next, all he knew was being in tears again as soon as his brain started catching up on the things that he'd found out earlier that day. It was insane, come to think of it, that he didn't even know, nor really care right that moment, what date or what time it was because nobody had informed him of that, he only knew that he'd been in a weeks long coma. Therefore he'd been completely unaware of the fact that there had been a fatal car accident that cost the life of his fiancée, but he was a father now.

"What happened? I need to know what happened...did I...did I cause the accident?", he choked out, tears and snot running over his face and he was glad for the tissue some nurse handed him. He had no clue when she had appeared at his bedside, everything was a total haze. It all felt completely surreal, maybe also due to the pain medication in his system and all the tranquilizers he'd gotten before.

"I need to talk to the police...they know right? They know what happened? What about the other car? Did I kill anybody else?", he felt new panic rising inside him as he spoke out all these questions that had formed in his mind during the prior phone call with Tessa's father. Mick could still hear his accusing, bitter voice in his head. The absolute worst thing about it was that he simply didn't know whether it was the truth, since he couldn't remember anything at all about the accident. It was like the most cruel torture, not knowing whether he was responsible for all of this. Whether he was the reason that Tessa was gone and that their little girl would never get to know her mum. But even if it hadn't been his own fault, how could he ever get over this? How was it fair that he was still here, while Tessa wasn't? That she'd never get to see their daughter growing up.

"There is no need for that, Mr. Jagger. You didn't do anything wrong. It's been proven that the driver of the other car lost control over his vehicle due to having an asthma attack. If you want me to I could organise you some newspaper articles to read about it?", the nurse offered and Mick only understood half of it.

"I didn't...I wasn't responsible?", he finally got out, his mind still racing and his head already started aching again. It all was too much.

"It was an accident", the nurse affirmed him.

"But why…", he started, not really sure what to say or how to formulate his question.

"It all was just the worst coincidence. It's nobody's fault…", the nurse continued to try and calm him down.

"But Tessa's father…"

"Oh, Mr. McCullough...it was really bad when they came here to take their daughter home. He was completely under shock and insulted everyone around. We almost had to call security because he went after the surgeon who performed the operation and couldn't save her", the nurse explained and Mick nodded lightly even though he still couldn't comprehend it. He couldn't wrap his head around the fact that Tessa should be gone, that there shouldn't be a possibility for him to ever see her again.

"I still don't understand...I want to see her...I just want to see her again…", he mumbled, pressing his hand flat against his forehead because his headache was getting worse.

"I cannot help you out here...but I could bring your daughter. Do you want to meet your little girl?", the nurse offered in a lighter tone.

"I don't know…", Mick muttered, indifferently. Actually he didn't want to do anything at all. There was only one thing he wanted. To see Tessa. But he couldn't. Not anymore. Anything else didn't really matter. Not anymore. He didn't know how to go on from here. He was still bound to the bed due to his injuries, but once he would get released from the hospital he'd have to take care of an infant by himself and had not a single clue how to do it all alone. At the moment he didn't possess the energy to figure out how. He didn't even have the energy to sit up in bed for longer than a few minutes.

"I understand that all of this is very tough for you, Mr. Jagger. A loss like that is always painful, but…"

"No, you don't understand...I didn't even know! I couldn't do anything, I couldn't help her, I couldn't even be there, when she...I was just lying here, completely bloody useless and I didn't know anything and couldn't do anything…", he disrupted the nurse, getting more agitated. Deep down he knew that it was her job to calm him down and reassure him, but he didn't want to hear any of it.

"You should talk to a psychologist about this. I'll inform one of those we have around at the hospital so that someone will stop by soon, once you were transferred from the ICU to the ward for inner medicine", the nurse suggested next.

"I don't need a shrink", he returned almost stubbornly. It didn't occur to him how it would make him feel better to talk to someone about all of this. There was nothing that could make any of it better. The only thing he wanted, he could never have again.

"It will help you", she meant, but it only made Mick get angrier.

"Don't tell me what will help me", he all but snapped, wishing he could just turn onto his side, facing away from her to show her that he was done here and she should leave him alone. But he couldn't do so without any assistance since his ribs were aching and he felt way too weak to move around that much on his own. The doctor had explained to him that during his coma he had been slightly moved every couple hours in order to not develop bedsores.

"Maybe it will be good for you to see your baby", the nurse tried further as if she wasn't impressed by his mood in the slightest.

"Don't tell me what would be good for me either...", he just grumbled, putting both of his hands over his face, sighing in annoyance, wishing she'd just leave and give him his peace. All he wanted was to be left alone. He'd lost the person he loved the most and he didn't even have some space or time yet to properly think about it or try to process any of what had happened. Yet he wasn't sure whether he actually could and wanted to think about any of it. It was already bad enough as it was and he was feeling incredibly miserable without diving deeper into it.

"Mr. Jagger...your daughter is almost three weeks old now, she only weighed 1800 grams when she was born and we didn't know whether she'd make it at all for the first few days. But she pulled through so far and she's growing and she's beautiful, but she's all alone…", she now told him.

"Yeah because her mum's gone...and she'll never get to know her", he replied as he felt new tears stinging in his eyes.

"But her dad is right here. You're right here and she needs you. Please, just let me bring her to you", the nurse tried to persuade him and as her words finally got through to him, stirring a nerve, he eventually nodded slightly in agreement. Tessa might be gone, but their baby survived. The little one was as much a part of her as she was a part of himself and maybe the only remaining connection he had left to his fiancée.

 

When the nurse pushed in a small baby bed a short while later, Mick actually sat up in his own bed as far as he could, his healing ribs stinging in his chest. As she was close enough for him to see, his breath caught in his throat at the sight. In this small baby bed, wrapped up in white linen, a tiny little being was peacefully sleeping, her little hands formed to lose little fists.

"She's so small", he whispered almost in awe, as a warm feeling was spreading inside his chest and he actually felt the tiniest of smiles tugging at his lips. His baby girl was alive and well and so incredibly beautiful.

"Do you want to hold her?"

"I...I don't know if I can...I don't want to let her slip or hurt her", he returned, feeling a bit insecure about it. He didn't quite trust his arm muscles yet, after not having used them in weeks. His baby was the most important thing in his life now, he knew that with an unprecedented certainty, even though he'd just seen her for the very first time. It was his responsibility to be there for her and protect her, always.

"If you don't feel well enough, you could rest a little more and try tomorrow?", the nurse suggested and Mick only nodded in reply.

"Did you and your fiancée get to pick out a name for her?", she wanted to know next, as Mick couldn't tear his eyes off his sleeping daughter. She was perfect in every way and it was almost like a wonder that she was there, that she had survived.

"Yeah, we did", he remembered fondly, but already felt new tears welling up in his eyes at the memory. "It's Mona...we want to call her Mona." It had been Tessa's idea to name their baby like that if it was a girl and he'd loved it right away. For a boy they'd agreed on Leo.

"It's a really pretty name."

"Thanks...could you..maybe hold her closer? I'd like to see her closer", Mick asked then, trying to shift into a better sitting position, but it only made his chest hurt.

"Of course", the nurse smiled and carefully picked up the baby, stepping closer to Mick's bed with her, holding her so that he could have a better look.

Almost anxiously and slow from exhaustion he lifted up an arm and stretched it out, softly running only two fingers over his daughter's tiny head. She had a few little strands of blonde hair and seemed totally unfazed by everything happening around her. He started smiling lightly as he studied Mona's facial features, figuring she had his full lips. But only a moment later, the smile faltered on his face again as he realised something else.

"Tessa...did she get a chance to see her?", he wanted to know, looking up at the nurse for clarification.

"I'm not familiar with her medical history, I'm sorry. But I'll let a doctor know to inform you and answer all of your remaining questions", she gave back and even though he wasn't satisfied at all with this reply, there was nothing he could do about it. It was too late now anyway. Even though he still couldn't completely comprehend it, deep down he knew that Tessa wasn't coming back anymore.

As he continued to observe his sleeping daughter, gently trailing over her tiny hands with just his index finger, she actually started stirring awake. At first she only made soft little noises, then she actually grabbed for his finger with her tiny right hand, before slowly opening her eyes. Mick's heart almost skipped a beat, looking at his baby looking back at him for the first time. Mona had her mother's hazel eyes, exactly the same form and shade. While this was probably one of the most amazing and wonderful experiences he has ever made in his life, simultaneously it also was one of the worst. It made his heart ache in pain, knowing that even though their baby had Tessa's eyes, he'd never see hers again. He'd never see her again.

"Hey, baby girl", was the only thing he got out before bitter, desperate tears were streaming down his cheeks and he couldn't suppress a sob escaping him.

"I can't...I can't do this…", he choked out between even more sobs, putting a hand over his face.

"Do you want me to take her back to pediatrics?", the nurse asked as Mona started getting a little restless, apparently startled by Mick bursting out in tears.

He simply nodded in reply because he couldn't get out a word. His throat felt like he was being choked and he thought that he'd never felt more miserable and more lonely in all his life. Meeting his newborn child for the very first time should have been a special, an extraordinary moment. And it was, it definitely was. But at the same time, it was a reminder as well that he was all alone with her. That all the plans and all the dreams he had with Tessa were crushed now. They'd never be the family they so excitedly had wanted to be. There wouldn't be yet another kid anymore. Mona would be an only child and never have a mum. Mick hadn't only lost his fiancée, his lover, his best friend. It felt like a part of him had forcefully been removed and now was missing forever, leaving a hole in his heart that he wasn't sure could ever be filled again.

 

Exhaustion and desperation had eventually knocked him out. The next time, he realised a nurse coming into the room to check on him, it was the next morning. He only figured so because outside of the window it was lighter than it had been before he drifted off into a dreamless sleep. And also because the nurse greeted him with an encouraging: "Good morning, Mr. Jagger!"

He had no clue how anybody working at a hospital could be that enthusiastic, but he didn't particularly care either. As an answer, he just mumbled something incomprehensible.

"How are you feeling today?"

Mick just shrugged in reply. There was no way he could put into words how he was feeling, there was no way to describe the emptiness and despair that had settled in his chest like a heavy burden. There was no easy way to expect of him to simply accept that his fiancée was gone forever and there wasn't any possibility at all for him to ever see her again. He'd never be able to talk to her, or touch her again. He could never see her beautiful smile or hear her voice again, never see the wind messing up her auburn locks anymore. He'd never again hold her hand, or kiss her, or hug her close to himself while lying wrapped up in bed after making love. The only thing left of her were memories that would become less accurate and pictures that would also fade with time. Saying that he felt anything but incredibly sad and deeply unsettled would be an outright lie.

"The doctor will be coming around soon to check on you and answer all the questions you might still be having", the nurse let him know but he didn't really listen.

He already could feel tears stinging in his eyes once again just from remembering Tessa's smile. She hadn't been flawless, of course not, but who ever was? She'd been perfect in her very own way and when thinking of all the little things that made her who she was, he could barely stand the knowledge that everything would be over now. That nothing would ever be how it used to be. That there were so many things she wouldn't be a part of anymore and that he would have to go on without her by his side. It hurt so much he almost couldn't breathe and he didn't give a damn what the nurse was telling him because it didn't matter to him anyway.

"In the meantime, would you want to get a little washed up and then have some breakfast? You don't need that intravenous nutrition anymore now that you're awake from the coma", she added.

"I'm not hungry…", is all he got out, his bottom lip quivering as a tear ran down his cheek.

"Should I bring you a face cloth and water so you can try to wash your face by yourself, and then maybe also brush your teeth? You need to get your arms working again." He just shrugged once more because he couldn't care less.

"What day is it?", he asked instead. Knowing it wouldn't make much of a difference either, but he felt like he needed to get some grip back on reality. Everything seemed oddly surreal. Like the world around him had suddenly stopped turning, even though he knew exactly that obviously it hadn't. Outside of his mind, outside of this room, this hospital, life was going on as usual. But for him nothing would be anymore as it used to.

"Tuesday, 17th May", came the answer and he simply nodded.

"When was Mona born?"

"I don't know, you'll have to ask the doctor that", the nurse gave back and he just hummed in reply. "Do you want me to help you with washing?", she added then and Mick sighed.

"Will you leave me be then?", he wanted to know, mildly annoyed.

On one hand, it was outrageous, having to lie there in that hospital bed, not really able to do much by himself. On the other, he almost didn't care. If it were up to him, he could just be lying there, doing nothing at all, it didn't make a difference anyway. It wouldn't bring Tessa back to him. A little voice in the back of his head tried to persuade him, however, that he needed to pull himself together for Mona. But for now it was being drowned out by the utter desperation he was feeling which left him almost paralysed.

Once he was all cleaned up nicely with the help of the nurse and dressed in a new hospital gown, he didn't feel any better, just worse because everything was hurting from moving around. After the nurse had offered him some more water to drink and asked him if he needed anything else, which he declined, she finally left the room. He wasn't left alone with his spiralling thoughts for long, however. Soon after, a doctor stepped inside, carrying a small folder under his arm. He introduced himself as Doctor Orson and then asked him some general questions about his condition, before doing some routine checks on him, taking some notes.

"Everything looks okay so far, actually you'll get to leave ICU today and be placed into the ward for internal medicine", Doctor Orson explained. "Later a physiotherapist will check on you and try to show you first exercises to mobilise you again. We want to get you out of this bed and into a wheelchair as soon as possible."

"Can you tell me about Tessa? Are you the doctor who performed surgery on her?", Mick wanted to know, not even having properly listened to what the doctor had explained before.

"I am, yes. I'm sorry for your loss, Mr. Jagger. My team and I tried everything to save your wife's life…"

"We weren't married yet...we never will be…", Mick disrupted him, a heavy lump settling in his throat at the realisation. He'd never get to stand in front of the altar with Tessa, never see her in her wedding dress, never exchange rings and call her his wife.

"I'm sorry. She had severe internal injuries and already had lost a lot of blood by the time she got here. It's truly a wonder that your daughter wasn't hurt either. She was five weeks early, though and way too light. But during the past three weeks she developed quite well. Did you get to see her yet?"

"Yeah...she's beautiful", he whispered, his voice thick with held back tears. "Did Tessa get to see her?"

"She was unconscious and then under narcotics the whole time we were trying to save her. We first delivered your baby and then continued the surgery to stop the bleeding in her abdomen but it was too much...she bled out and we lost her", Doctor Orson told him and it felt so odd to Mick, almost disengaged, like listening to someone else's story, not to what happened to his fiancée.

"What day was it?", he continued asking after a moment he took to take some deep breaths because he felt his heart getting heavy.

"28th of April."

"So that's Mona's birthday?", he figured, a lonely tear slipping from his eye and rolling down his cheek.

"Yes. Once we put you in the other room, do you want to see your daughter then?", the doctor suggested next.

"Will she stay with me there?", he wanted to know.

"She'll be better cared for on the pediatrics ward. We've got everything there that she needs and there are especially trained nurses who only care for newborns. But you'll be able to see her every day if you want to. And once you're out of the bed and able to drive around in a wheelchair, you can go visit her there."

"I'll also send a psychologist up to check on you eventually. It might help you to talk to someone about everything that happened", Doctor Orson concluded.

"I don't need a shrink", Mick gave back, quite stubbornly. He didn't like the thought of having to break down every single one of his emotions to somebody he didn't even know.

"We just want to offer you some help in this situation. It'll get easier with time. You've got your daughter to care for, focus on her, she needs you", Doctor Orson reminded him, before leaving him in the ICU room and Mick sunk back onto his pillows feeling utterly desperate and confused.

Chapter Text

The room he had been brought to after they dismissed him from ER was disgustingly bright. Sunlight was flooding inside through the huge window and the walls were painted in a sunny yellow tone. Keith actually had to ask one of the nurses who'd pushed his bed to please close the curtains a little, or otherwise his head might explode. All his senses were still very sensitive and everything felt too much, like a complete overload. He was having the worst headache, was feeling sick in his guts and was incredibly sleepy. They'd hooked him up with some infusion, containing liquids he'd last heard of in chemistry class at school, telling him it should help with all the effects he was experiencing due to his overdose.

The last thing he remembered before opening his eyes in the ER, some doctors leaning over him, was that he'd been tripping with his best mate, Ronnie and some other blokes the night before. They'd already been trying out stuff together for ages, whatever they could get their hands on. Starting out with hashish, acid, amphetamines, LSD, coke, eventually they had ended up with morphine and heroin. Although this had been a more recent development, it was a treacherous, very dangerous one. They'd definitely underestimated what they'd get themselves into and it got harder and harder to stay in control. He couldn't quite recall all the events from the previous night. All he remembered was being desperate and worked up and so badly in need and then he'd shot up some stuff. His muscles started cramping up and spasming, before he'd blacked out almost immediately. Ronnie, or one of the other lads, must have still been clear enough to call an ambulance, since a doctor told him that he'd been very lucky to have been admitted this fast or otherwise the overdose might have been fatal.

He was way too exhausted from the shit still in his system to remember exactly what the doctor had told him. But it certainly had involved an urgent plea to go through rehab and something about getting him started on substitute opioids for now to slowly wear him off the real stuff. Keith had almost drifted off into some state between sleep and haze, as the door to the hospital room opened and some nurse said something about him getting a roommate. Actually he couldn't care less about it, so he didn't even bother opening his eyes and just let himself get overpowered by fatigue.

The next time Keith came to his senses, he could hear a bloke talking, explaining something he couldn't quite grasp in his dazzled state. Upon lightly turning his head to the left, which almost made him get dizzy and feel nauseous, he could see a male nurse or doctor with the other patient in his room, making him lift up his arms. His foggy mind was way too slow to put together that it wasn't in fact a nurse or doctor, but apparently a physiotherapist, working with the man in the other bed. Since he felt like absolute crap and the light in the room was still too bright for his likes, he simply closed his eyes again, unnoticed by the two other men. It didn't take too long until a sleepy haze had engulfed him anew.

The noise ripping him out of his dreamless sleep was ongoing crying. The cries of a small baby, as he recognised after a moment. For his battered brain, it was way too loud and way too annoying and he wished it would just stop so he could go back to rest. Thankfully, the next thing he realised, was someone stepping inside the room, probably a nurse. He heard her talking to the other patient and then to the baby, but couldn't quite focus on the words she was saying. A short moment later, the crying softened. However, Keith's mind was feeling too mushy to comprehend whether it was because the baby had calmed down, or was being taken away. The only thing he cared about anyway, was that his headache was quieting down as well and he simply let himself drift off once more.

 

It was dark outside and all very quiet when Keith awoke because he felt like his bladder was almost bursting. Disoriented, he sat up in his bed, looking around in the dark room. There was only a weak streak of light falling in through the slit at the bottom of the door to his right, the curtains of the windows apparently closed. He needed a few seconds to remember where he was and what had happened. As he rubbed his tired, heavy eyes, he realised that there was still an infusion needle sticking in his right arm. Sighing, he sat up and tangled his feet out of the bed. Maybe it was a good thing, though, that he'd have to shuffle along the drip. At least like that he could lean on something because his legs felt quite weak, like they couldn't support his full weight. Slowly, he pushed himself up from the bed and grabbed the stand of the intravenous drip, starting to make his way over to the bathroom.

Once he was done taking a leak, he stared at himself in the mirror, while cold water was running over his hands. He looked like absolute crap. Pale like a corpse and incredibly bony, with his dark-circled eyes hollow, sunken in. His hair was a total mess and he couldn't remember the last time he'd shaved, it probably had been a few days back. In a weak attempt to make himself feel a tiny bit better, he scooped up some water with his hands, splashing it onto his face. Actually he felt a little less drowsy by now, but he doubted that it was the effect of the cold water and rather guessed it had to do with whatever was in that infusion. After he'd taken some gulps of water and then dried his face off with some paper towels, he tumbled back into the hospital room, ready to fall asleep again.

However, once he'd managed to drag himself back to bed, he noticed the agitated groans and whimpers coming from the other side of the room. It sounded like the man in the other bed was having a nightmare. Keith tried to ignore the sounds, but since he wasn't quite as exhausted anymore as he initially had been, he couldn't just go right back to sleep. As he was lying there, trying not to focus on that other bloke's agitation, he soon found that the harder he tried, the more he became aware of it. Just as he wondered whether he should ring the bell so a nurse would come to check on his roommate, he could hear him mumbling incomprehensible. After a moment, Keith thought he could pick up words and realised that the other one must have woken up, because he could hear him shift and turn in his bed. Keith contemplated that he probably wouldn't have to call a nurse after all and nuzzled his face closer into his pillow, as he caught something that awfully sounded like: "Fuck's sake…", followed by something dropping down onto the floor and an annoyed sigh. From the noises made, Keith guessed that the other man had accidentally knocked over his cup of water from the bedside table.

"God damnit…", he heard him swear and then a moment later, to his absolute astonishment, Keith could make him out silently crying. Was he bawling now because he had spilled his water? Maybe, Keith thought, he should actually ring for a nurse. In his attempt to press the emergency button beside his bed, he pressed the light switch instead, turning the ceiling light on. Blinking against the much too bright light and actually lifting a hand to shield his eyes from it, he could hear a surprised gasp. And as he could finally see through blurry eyes, his roommate was halfway leaning onto his elbow, looking over at him almost in shock. Like a deer in the headlights. As far as Keith could assess in his own groggy state, the other man appeared to be even worse than he was himself. His light brown hair was completely messed up and he seemed incredibly pale and almost frightened. In addition, his eyes were red-rimmed, probably from crying even more than he just did right before Keith turned the lights on. Also it was quite obvious that he couldn't move around too much due to whatever injuries he was having.

"Uh...are you okay?", is all Keith could think of saying, staring at him, feeling a bit awkward. "Do you need a nurse?", he added because he didn't know what else to do.

"I'm good…", the other one returned in a low voice, sounding quite sheepish. As if he was uncomfortable that Keith was awake.

"You spilled your drink", Keith only observed in reply, his gaze shifting from the other man to the floor where the empty cup lay in the middle of a water puddle.

"I don't need a nurse", he gave back, almost sulky now.

"Okay, then…I'll go back to sleep", Keith announced, ready to turn the awfully bright lights off and finally rest again.

"Wait", the other one piped up, just as Keith reached for the light switch.

"Hmm?"

"I'm thirsty", the guy in the other bed admitted, averting his gaze.

"So you want me to ring a nurse, or what?", Keith wanted to know because he started getting annoyed. His headache was back and all he wanted was to finally shut down the light.

"Whatever…", the other one just shrugged and Keith rolled his eyes, before pushing down on the red emergency button.

"Well, I just pressed the button, but suit yourself…", he meant in mild annoyance, not understanding what the other's deal was, but also not really caring about it either. Keith simply turned away from him, lying back down and pressing his eyes shut. Only a short while later, the door opened and a nurse entered the room, quietly asking what happened. Meanwhile, Keith tried tuning out the hushed voices of the nurse and his roommate, hoping that fatigue would overcome him soon.

 

As he opened his eyes the next time, it was light outside. Surprisingly, his headache was gone and for once he didn't feel completely wasted, only slightly exhausted. Whatever they put into these infusions seemed to work wonders. Turning on his other side, he could see that his roommate was still sleeping, at least it looked like it. For a moment, Keith wondered what had brought the other man there, whether he was seriously ill, or had had an accident, or what had happened to him that he ended up in that hospital bed. But he dismissed these thoughts, his mind shifting to more pressing matters. His mouth was so dry that he could barely swallow, so he turned into the other direction and then slowly sat up in order to take some gulps from the plastic cup on his nightstand. Just as he put the cup down again, a nurse came to check on them.

"Good Morning, Mr. Richards", she greeted him upon seeing that he already was awake. Keith only nodded curtly, sitting up further and swinging his legs out of bed.

"How are you today?", the nurse wanted to know, stopping by his side.

Keith simply shrugged in return. He didn't really feel one way or the other. The nausea and headache had faded, he could properly breathe again instead of dreading to suffocate, and he actually felt more or less rested for once. On the other hand, he just felt empty and he couldn't find the words to describe his current state if his life depended on it. There was nothing really he did or didn't want to do. If he wasn't that emotionally numb from all the months of heavy drug use, his complete indifference and total disinterest might actually have scared him. But as things were, he really didn't care about anything. The nurse could have told him that World War III had started and he probably just would have shrugged as well.

"I'll take that infusion bag off, it's empty by now. Do you maybe want to take a shower before I hook you up with the new one?"

Keith considered the nurse's suggestion for a moment, as she plugged off the infusion cable from the aditus on his right arm, and decided that maybe it might not be the worst idea to get a little cleaned up. Actually he couldn't even remember when he'd last taken a shower.

"Do you need help getting to the bathroom?", she wanted to know, but Keith just shook his head.

"Can I get some new clothes?", he asked instead and, of course, the nurse was happy to provide him with a new hospital gown.

Keith hated these things, they reminded him of nightgowns old ladies were used to wear. But in order to get some of his own clothes, he'd have to ring someone up and ask them to drop by with something. Apart from Ronnie, who probably was lying around somewhere, high as usual, he couldn't come up with anybody who'd do that for him. Most of the other lads he used to hang out with where probably high, either. And he didn't know them that well. If he'd been in a clearer state of mind, able to access the whole extent of this completely fucked up situation that addiction had got him into, he probably would have realised how utterly lonely he was. First he'd lost his girlfriend, who eventually left him once he got overtaken by his drug habits that she didn't want to be a part of. Then he'd lost his job as a baggage handler at Heathrow airport, and a while later, when he couldn't pay rent anymore, he'd lost his flat. He'd moved in with Ronnie on his house boat on a channel near Camden Town, it was the only place to go. But at that point, he already had not cared anymore. All that mattered, all that always mattered, was the next shot.

With his arm not stuck to the infusion anymore, he could move more freely over to the bathroom while the nurse crossed the room to check on the other man, who apparently was still sleeping. When he'd managed to lock himself in the bathroom and undress himself, Keith felt physically exhausted, even though he just had to pull the old hospital gown over his head. Seeing his lean, haggard body in the mirror, his ribs clearly defined under much too pale skin, he quickly averted his gaze, stepping into the shower cabin instead. The stream of water pouring down on him felt way too hard and way too hot. Maybe his senses were still messed up, he couldn't tell. After a while, the warm water started feeling quite agreeable, though, so he stayed under the shower for another few minutes after he'd only managed to wash his hair. It seemed too big of a challenge for him to take the provided soap and actually clean himself off properly.

Once he was finally done drying himself off and putting that new gown on, all he wanted was to crawl into bed and sleep for the rest of the day. Leaving the bathroom, with his hair still damp, he could see that his roommate was awake by now. Apparently the nurse had helped him with washing and now was trying to persuade him to eat something.

"Breakfast was brought in while you were taking a shower, Mr. Richards", she informed him, pointing to the food tray on his nightstand. It contained a few slices of toast, some cheese, butter, jam and a cup of tea. He didn't feel particularly hungry, yet he sat down on his bed, taking a slice of toast, buttering it. Meanwhile he tried not getting annoyed over the nurse's continued efforts to make the other bloke take some bites of his toast as well. Keith didn't even manage half of his toast before he felt nauseous again and decided to rather lie down and get some rest.

 

He must have dozed off after a while, at least he didn't remember anything up to the point where he was woken, once more, by a baby's cries. Hoping it would soon calm down, he just stayed lying in his bed, realising that he'd been hooked up to a new infusion dripping into his veins. Since he wasn't a doctor and had absolutely no clue in which way the substitute drugs flooding his system worked he only was glad that they prevented him from going cold turkey. It must have been a good day and a half since he had last injected some smack or used anything else. But considering the way he felt, he mused there might probably be a light dose of morphine in that infusion bag.

The baby didn't stop crying and after a while, Keith got just plain stressed out by it, already feeling another inflight of a headache. He sat up, looking over to his roommate who was talking to the baby in its small bed standing next to his own, trying to calm it down.

"That your kid?", Keith asked, irritated by the ongoing screaming. "Can you make him shut up?"

"She's a girl...and I'm trying", came the somewhat tight reply, whereupon Keith just creased his brow in annoyance.

"Just call a nurse", he suggested in a gruff voice.

"I cannot press the button. Don't you think if I could get up, I'd hold her?", the other man threw back at him, sounding almost offended.

"For fuck's sake…", Keith muttered, turning over and stretching his arm out to press the emergency button on the wall. Then he leaned back onto his pillows, hoping the matter would be resolved soon.

"Could you...maybe hand her to me?", his roommate quietly asked him after a moment and Keith only rolled his eyes, because he sure as hell wouldn't get out of this bed right now.

"Wait for a nurse", he gave back curtly.

"Please, she's been crying for minutes straight, I don't know what's wrong with her…", the other man pleaded now and it evoked a heavy sigh from Keith.

"Fine...just make her shut up, my head's exploding", he eventually settled, pushing himself up from the bed and tumbling to the other side of the room, leaning on the infusion stand once again.

Coming to a halt in front of the baby bed, he got a first real glimpse at the small human being lying inside. She actually was tiny. And her little face was all red from crying so hard, waving her tiddly arms. Keith couldn't help but feel quite sympathetic at that sight, as he slowly stretched his hand out, gently touching the screaming, pitiful infant.

"Hey there, little one", he whispered in a low voice, before proceeding to carefully picking the baby up, bringing her close to his chest so she wouldn't slip through his arms. He had no clue about such small children, wasn't really ever around any of them. But this tiny baby screaming her soul out certainly shook up his compassion. And he wished that they could just calm her somehow, not because he was annoyed or had a headache, but because he couldn't stand that she was so entirely helpless.

"It's okay...you don't have to be afraid", he mumbled towards the baby, cradling her against his chest as he stepped closer to her father's bed. He softly started rocking her a little and to his utter surprise and disbelief, the crying started quieting down until just little hicks escaped the baby's mouth.

"What did you do?", the baby's father wanted to know, staring at him with a mixture of shock and surprise in his blue eyes and for a split second Keith had the impression that he was scared.

"Nothing...just holding her", Keith all but stammered in return, looking down at the tiny human in his arms and then back to the other man, equally astounded. "What's her name?", he added in a low voice, intent on not startling the baby into yet more crying as he kept on slowly rocking her.

"Mona", the other one replied, quietly as well.

"It's a nice name", Keith whispered, wondering how on earth someone like him, all scruffy and basically looking like the human impersonation of death, could end up making a frightened little human feeling comfortable enough to just stop screaming her lungs out.

"Thanks."

"Do you want to hold her now?", Keith offered to Mona's father, stepping a little closer towards him so that he could take his daughter.

"Could you...maybe hold her for a little while longer now that she finally stopped crying?", he asked him to Keith's total astonishment.

"Yeah…yeah, okay", he muttered after a moment, carefully holding Mona close to himself. By now it seemed like she had dozed off, just lying in his arms, all quiet and peaceful.

"Thanks…", the other man repeated, actually sounding somewhat relieved. As Keith shifted his gaze on him, he realised that he looked equally exhausted as Keith himself was feeling.

"It's okay…she's beautiful", he mumbled, as surprisingly, a small smile was tugging at the corners of his mouth.

"Very much so", the baby's father agreed, sounding just a little proud.

"Why are you guys here?", Keith wanted to know then, still cautiously holding Mona, as the door opened behind them and finally a nurse came to check in on them.

"You've been ringing the button?", she asked, before Keith could get any reply from the other man.

"Mona was crying and didn't stop", her father explained, almost gladly looking at his sleeping daughter in Keith's arms.

"It's alright now", Keith added.

"Should I take her back to pediatrics? Maybe she is hungry", the nurse suggested.

"I guess that might be for the best, yeah", Mona's father nodded in agreement. "I...I couldn't really take care of her like that…", he added in a quiet voice, sounding almost ashamed.

"Do you want to take her for a moment before I bring her to pediatrics?", the nurse asked, but the man declined.

"Could you...just hold her a little closer to me, please?", he said to Keith, who bend down a bit so the other man could gently run a hand over his daughter's small head and face, cooing to her in a soothing tone, before leaning in closer to press a kiss to her forehead.

"Sleep tight, little one", he whispered, before signaling Keith that he could hand the baby to the nurse now.

Once the nurse had put Mona back into her baby bed and Keith had his arms free again, he grabbed the infusion stand, finally making his way over to his own bed. The nurse had left the room with Mona by the time Keith had reached his bed and was lying down again.

"Hey", his roommate called out to him, just as Keith was trying to find a comfortable position.

"Hmm?", he made, turning onto his left, to look over to the other one.

"What's your name?", he wanted to know. "I'm Mick, by the way", he added.

"Keith", he only gave back, feeling pretty worn out from standing around so long.

"Thanks for helping me out with Mona, Keith", Mick replied.

"No worries", Keith meant, stifling a yawn, before adding: "I really need a nap right now."

"Sure", Mick only said, but Keith already didn't pay attention to him anymore. His brain felt way too hazy and his eyelids were getting incredibly heavy. Quietly sighing, he turned onto his other side, pressing his face into the pillow, peaceful oblivion awaiting him.

Chapter Text

"Your mother really would love to finally talk to you now that you're awake and on the mend, Mr. Jagger", yet another nurse informed him for the second time that day.

It was the fourth day of Mick being awake from the coma. The fourth day of having to live with the knowledge that he had survived a fatal car crash while his fiancé didn't and now he'd have to raise their baby girl all by himself. Thinking about Tessa being irrevocably gone was like listening to someone saying something but not quite hearing it. He registered it, but didn't understand it. Never being able to see her again, talk to her, touch her, it all was completely incomprehensible to him. He'd found himself drenched in tears dozens of times a day since he woke up. When thinking about everything for too long, or when just remembering some small, endearing details about his relationship with Tessa. How they met for the first time, totally random at a supermarket around the corner when he'd bumped into her shopping cart, only to figure out a couple days later that Tessa had newly moved into a flat across the street from Mick's. How they went on their first date together, totally cheesy and predictable, going to the cinema. How afterwards they'd grabbed a drink at a nearby pub, before Mick had walked her home and she'd kissed his cheek, waving him goodbye with a sweet smile as he turned back to her on his way over to his own flat. There were so many little memories popping up in his mind, completely random things like the kind of biscuits that were her favourite, the beautiful dress she'd worn when they went out for dinner on her last birthday. How baffled, and absolutely ecstatic they'd both been at the same time when finding out that they were having a baby together.

Remembering all of this and more made his heart ache so badly that he felt he couldn't properly breathe anymore, then he'd burst out in tears, sobbing almost uncontrollably, his whole body shaking. And he just didn't know how to stop. How to not bawl his eyes out every time he thought of her, or when he got to see Mona. Their little girl was quite perfect and so very precious, he couldn't be more thankful for her being all well and healthy, but she reminded him so much of her mother that sometimes he could barely stand looking at her without ending up weeping once more.

That day, so far they hadn't brought her to him, but then again, it wasn't even lunch time yet. Apart from his physiotherapist with whom he'd worked for half an hour during each of the past days, slowly regaining some strength in his arms and back, trying to mobilise his legs as well, he'd only been confronted with some nurses. He also hadn't talked more to Keith, his roommate, since he had helped him with Mona the day before. Mick couldn't quite tell only from looking at him what he was in the hospital for, but he surely didn't look healthy in the slightest. All pale, shabby and shockingly bony, barely able to keep on his feet, and always incredibly tired. He didn't think the other man had as much as spoken five words so far that day, all he did was lying in bed, sleeping. But despite his rough exterior and obvious moodiness, he'd turned out to be able to handle Mona surprisingly well. Admittedly, Mick had been almost dumbfounded when his little girl had simply stopped crying, almost as soon as Keith had picked her up. It seemed quite unbelievable but as long as she had calmed down, he was really glad about it and he certainly had appreciated his roommate's help.

At the same time, it had become clear to him, what a hard way was lying ahead of him. He couldn't even get up from the bed yet, how would he be able to take care of his baby once they could leave the hospital? Actually he was pretty afraid of this prospect, he wanted to do everything right, wanted to be the best father for Mona that he possibly could be, but he didn't quite know how to. Not when he was so utterly left alone with Tessa not there anymore. He had no clue how he should deal with coming to terms with her death and trying to raise a baby at the same time. It seemed completely impossible.

"Mr. Jagger, your mother is on the phone, again. She just wants to talk to you and see how you're doing", the nurse meant, ripping him out of his depressing thoughts. "Let me put you through to her, will you?", she added, holding out the phone speaker to him.

Mick sighed, heavily. He didn't feel like talking to his mum, didn't know what to tell her. Hearing her voice, her being shocked and worried, would only make him cry again. The last thing he wanted was for his mother to worry too much, or to be a burden for her. She already had her health problems to deal with which were a huge obstacle for her, making her life quite inconvenient. But eventually he realised that he should talk to her, if only just for a moment, like that he might be able to make her worry some less. So he finally accepted the speaker from the nurse, his arm now strong enough again to hold it himself.

"Mum?", he asked, almost coyly, then waiting for her reply, which came almost immediately.

"Micheal! I'm so relieved to finally get to hear you!", his mother all but yelled into the speaker, she truely sounded more than relieved. "How are you?"

"I don't know...how am I supposed to be?", he just mumbled in return, stifling another sigh. He really couldn't describe how he felt, hadn't been able to tell his doctor either when she dropped by to examine him earlier.

"How's the baby?", Mick's mother kept on asking and he was glad to be able to answer at least this question for her.

"She's fine...she's amazing. Her name's Mona, mum. She's the most beautiful little thing…her eyes...she's got Tessa's eyes...", he told her, his voice almost breaking in the end.

"It's such a pretty name, love. I'm so glad she wasn't hurt", his mother pointed out and he nodded with tears in his eyes, before realising that she couldn't see this.

"Yeah...yeah, me too. Mona's doing quite fine by now", he assured her.

"Micky...we should come down to stay with you for a while, your aunt Sarah and I", his mother mentioned then. It wasn't only a suggestion and there was obvious worry in her voice.

"Mum...you don't have to do that. I know how rough travelling is on you", Mick tried to appease her, though to no avail.

"But you shouldn't be on your own right now, darling. And I want to meet my granddaughter, obviously! Let us help you out a little. Just for the first couple of days once you'll get to leave the hospital?", she proposed now and Mick couldn't deny that this actually sounded rather persuasive.

Although he hadn't been told yet when he would get to leave the hospital, he was very aware that he probably wouldn't be able to properly handle himself and Mona for the first while. Even if he could walk on crutches by then, everything would be rather complicated. They didn't even put up the baby crib in Mona's nursery yet. Actually he'd wanted to do that before the birth, but then the car accident happened. Not everything was ready for him to take his daughter home and he felt absolutely horrible about it. As much as he didn't want his mother to go through all the trouble it would be causing her to come to London, he knew that he desperately could need some help. Otherwise he probably wouldn't be able to handle things too well. It would make him feel even worse if he couldn't properly care for Mona even though he had the chance to. So he finally agreed.

"Okay...yeah", he meant, nodding a little as if to underline his statement.

"Fine. We'll be there for you and Mona, don't worry, Michael", his mother reassured him and he had to admit that this actually made him feel a lot more at ease.

"Thanks", he just mumbled, a single tear running down his cheek. This wasn't at all how he'd imagined things to be. But it was what he would have to deal with now. Somehow his life and Mona's must go on. Even if it was tough, but there was no alternative.

"You don't have to thank me, not for this", his mother gave back and he suppressed a sob.

"I just...I don't understand it, mum", he stammered, more tears welling up in his eyes.

"What do you mean, love?"

"I don't understand why Tessa is gone...or that she's gone. I just...I don't comprehend it…", he outright started weeping now, almost dropping the speaker.

"I'm so so sorry, Micky. I really cannot tell you how sorry I am about all of this. And I know it won't bring Tessa back again, but you've got your little one now. She survived, she's a part of Tessa and she's there with you. I know it's not what you want to hear right now, love, but through Mona, Tessa keeps on living", his mother tried to calm him down, but it only made him cry harder.

"I...I cannot...I cannot do this right now", he got out between sobs, meaning he couldn't keep talking on the phone, or listening to his mother's consoling words. It just was too much for him.

"I'll be calling again soon, darling", his mother promised and Mick only nodded, completely drenched in tears, before dropping the speaker onto his bed, while still sobbing uncontrollably.

Mick just missed Tessa so much that he couldn't even start to describe it. It almost felt like a piece of his heart had been ripped out and like there was no way to ever replace it again. He obviously was aware that he had Mona to take care of now and he was aiming to be the best dad she could have. It was the least he could do for her since she had to grow up without ever knowing her mother. But he simply didn't even have a clue how to and where to start. He could barely move on his own, and he was in a horrible state of mind. Mick felt like there was no way he could ever get over this, ever make sense of it. Additionally, even though he knew that he didn't cause the accident, he was still blaming himself. For not being able to help her, for not being there in her last moments, for not even being there for her funeral. It was completely insufferable.

"Hey...hey, Mick", a voice eventually got through to him over all his crying and snivelling. Only after a moment he registered that it was Keith, his roommate, trying to talk to him. As he finally lifted his gaze, his vision blurry from tears, he could see him standing there, in the middle of the room, leaning on his infusion stand and looking quite undecided.

"Do you need me to ring a nurse for you?", he wanted to know once Mick's teary eyes met his.

"I don't want a nurse…", he gave back, his voice hoarse from crying so much.

"I just thought…", the other man started, but Mick disrupted him.

"I don't want or need a bloody nurse", he repeated, quite annoyed. There was a lot he wanted and needed but a nurse wasn't on that list. He wanted to be able to get out of that hospital bed, he needed to be there for Mona, he wanted Tessa back...

"Alright, man", Keith lifted his left arm in an appeasing gesture. "I just wanted to help", he mumbled in addition.

"I don't need your help", Mick snapped because he was so completely hopeless and utterly dissatisfied with this whole damn situation he found himself in.

"The other day you didn't complain about my help", Keith muttered in a low voice.

"Just piss off, man!", was all he could think of returning to that, feeling quite annoyed. Why didn't people get that he just wanted to be left alone? He needed some time to get his thoughts straight, come to terms with everything that happened, it didn't really help at all that everybody just kept bothering him.

"Alright, whatever…", the other one shrugged, simply turning around, shuffling back towards his bed, while Mick felt even more terrible than he did before.

OoOoOoOo

Keith simply shrugged at the other guy's snub answer, steadying his grip on the infusion stand, before making his way over towards his bed. He really just wanted to help, but if his roommate didn't appreciate that, there wasn't anything he would do about it. It wasn't his responsibility after all, he had his own stuff to take care of. The only reason why he'd got up in the first place, was because he'd woken up and needed to go to the loo. Like this, he'd overheard the other's phone conversation, apparently talking to his mother. And as he was done in the bathroom, Keith had found Mick completely drenched in tears, sobbing heavily and his whole body shaking. Admittedly it had shocked him a little to see his roommate in such a bad state, almost not able to catch a breathe. So he just wanted to make sure that he wasn't going to hyperventilate or break down. But apparently, Mick was still well enough to be upset at him. Keith didn't care about that, he had just wanted to be polite and do the right thing. He still didn't really know what exactly had happened to the other man, why he was at the hospital and why he was always desperate and weeping almost every time Keith was in a state to notice.

But from everything he knew, he'd heard and seen, Keith guessed that maybe Mick had lost his wife. An accident, probably. Or otherwise, she surely would be around, come visit him, be there with the baby. It seemed a reasonable enough explanation, though he didn't know for sure and also didn't really care enough to find out. At least not anytime soon. Not while his roommate was in his current state and while Keith himself was in this miserable condition. He felt so weak and drowsy the whole time, could barely keep on his feet for longer than a couple minutes without getting totally exhausted. The next time a doctor showed up, he probably should ask them what's going on with the medication in his infusion bag. And all that other stuff. Like how they planned to proceed, when he'd be able to leave the hospital.

Actually he didn't have to wonder about some of these questions for too long. Just as he had settled into his bed again, pulling the blanket around him, the door to the hospital room opened and some doctor stepped inside.

"Good morning, Mr. Richards. Mr. Jagger. My name is Doctor Oldman and I'm a psychologist here", the doctor greeted them, introducing herself. Keith had the impression that she actually was there for him, since she'd walked towards him at first, but as she noticed the poor and hysterical state Mick was in, she rather turned into his direction at first.

"Do you need anything, Mr. Jagger? Has there been a problem, are you in pain?", she wanted to know, approaching his bed, putting a hand out to touch his upper arm.

"It's...it's okay, no, I'm not in pain…", he choked out and Keith observed how he was still crying silent tears.

"So, you don't need me to call one of my colleagues for you?", the psychologist kept on asking.

"No", was all Mick replied.

"Okay. Actually I've been assigned to talk to both of you. I was thinking that I'd first take Mr. Richards with me to have a chat with him at my office, and then return here for you, since you're bound to the bed. But I don't know, do you feel the need to maybe talk right now, Mr. Jagger, or would you rather wait until I'm finished with your roommate here?"

"I...I don't wanna talk…", came the tearstained answer.

"Then let's wait, alright?", the doctor meant, before turning back to Keith. "Mr. Richards, do you want to come along with me and maybe have a little chat?"

"Do I have to?", he gave back, sounding quite annoyed at the prospect of having to get up, moving to another room, and then have a conversation with some shrink.

"Well, considering the reason why you're here, I'm strongly advising for it. It certainly won't hurt you, we don't have to talk about anything that's making you feel uncomfortable", Doctor Oldman reassured him.

Keith sighed at that reply. He didn't really know why talking to a shrink would help him. But maybe it would get him out of the hospital sooner, because he obviously didn't enjoy being there. He had no real clothes, the food tasted disgusting, also he wasn't allowed to have beer. Furthermore, he missed hanging out with Ronnie and even though his symptoms of withdrawal were suppressed by substitute opioids, he wouldn't mind just smoking a little spliff. Because it calmed him down, but didn't make him feel as tired and fucked up as that medication did. So after a little consideration, he eventually agreed to talk to the doctor.

Since he was too weak on his legs to walk all the way to her office, Doctor Oldman got a wheelchair for him, wheeling him down the aisle, while he held onto the infusion stand, rolling next to him. Keith felt somewhat ashamed about it. After all, he wasn't some elderly person who truly needed assistance. And he wasn't even really injured either. He did not have a broken leg, compared to his roommate, actually he should be able to walk on his own. If only he was not that fucked up. Once they arrived at the doctor's office, she wheeled him inside, closing the door and then deposited the wheelchair next to a normal chair, facing the one she took a place on herself.

"Tell me why you're here", she started the conversation, looking at him encouragingly.

"You know why", Keith simply returned, wondering why she'd be asking him that.

"I want you to tell me about it, though", she meant and Keith sighed once again.

"Why?"

"Because I want to better understand you", Doctor Oldman explained and Keith almost rolled his eyes. What was there to understand?

"Well...I did drugs...OD'd, I guess...that's what brought me here, I guess", he replied as if it wasn't plain obvious from his medical data that she certainly must have read.

"Which drugs are we talking about?", the psychologist wanted to know.

"Smack…"

"You mean heroin?", she asked for clarification and Keith only odded.

"Were you by yourself or with someone else at the time you OD'd?"

"My mate Ronnie and I were hanging out at that other guy's flat...I don't really know him, but Ronnie does. There were...two other lads as well, I think", Keith was thinking back of what happened that night a couple days ago.

"Do you know why it went wrong this time?", Doctor Oldman continued with her questions and Keith started to feel like being interrogated.

"What do you mean?"

"Was it adulterated, the heroin?"

"No...no that wasn't it...one of the other blokes had shot up before me, he just...no, I guess he was fine…", he tried to remember, wondering why she kept asking him all of that.

"So you...took more than you did before", the psychologist suggested next.

"I guess? Look, I was...I really needed that...I just wanted to finally shoot it up and...be good", he almost felt like he needed to explain himself.

"It was an accident, then?"

"Are you implying that...I OD'd on purpose? Why would I do that?", Keith asked, his brow creasing in wonder. He hadn't thought about that consciously. All he wanted was to finally score again because he'd almost been on cold turkey already.

"I don't know, you tell me", the psychologist meant.

"I just wanted to score…"

"For how long have you been taking heroin?"

"I don't know...a few months, I guess", he sighed, not quite remembering. It probably were around three or four months. About the time when Lucy, his girlfriend of almost two years, had left him. Because she couldn't take living with an addict any longer who didn't care about too much else but when he could get high again.

"And before that?", Doctor Oldman continued her question-answer game.

"LSD, coke...the usual shit…", he meant, quite unfazed by the things he actually was admitting to. As if it didn't concern him in the slightest that he had one hell of a problem with being a drug addict.

"For how long has this been going on?"

"I don't know...it's just something I'm doing when hanging out with mates…", he shrugged, almost casually as if it wasn't a big deal. As if the drugs hadn't slowly but gradually ruined his whole life up to the point where they almost killed him.

"So you got into drugs because of friends?"

"Doesn't everybody?", he asked in return, rhetorically, not directly looking at her but at a picture on the wall behind her instead.

"Tell me about your life before the drugs", the psychologist prompted then and by now he got somewhat annoyed by her.

"Why do you wanna know all of that?"

"As I said, I want to understand who you are so I can better help you", she explained and he sighed.

"Will this make me get outta here faster?", he wanted to know. It basically was the only reason he'd agreed to talk to her in the first place.

"Depends. Do you want to leave the hospital because you feel the need to score?", she asked him, looking at him almost curiously.

"What do they give me here?", Keith inquired, thinking of the liquor in the infusion bag that slowly was dripping into his veins.

"It's methadone...it suppresses your symptoms of withdrawal and will be reduced gradually over the next few days. However...it's only a temporary solution. The goal here, obviously, is to get you clean. That's why I'm talking to you, Mr. Richards. I need you to be clearly aware of your current situation and actively willing to change it. Do you want to get clean, Mr. Richards?", Doctor Oldman told him, giving him an intense stare, as if she wanted to x-ray him with her eyes.

It made Keith feel pretty uncomfortable, because he didn't really know what to reply to that. What would happen if he didn't take that chance, if he just continued like that? Would he end up at the hospital again in a few weeks, or would he go directly to the morgue? On the other hand, what use would going through detox, getting clean, do for him? Getting the chance to find another underpaid job that he hated? Going back to Ronnie's while he couldn't get a flat og his own and being dragged right back into that shit? Would all the struggle of going through detox even pay off in the end, or would it just be a waste of time and his energy? He truly couldn't tell and it made his head ache just thinking about it. He really didn't want to deal with this right now.

"I...I don't remember anymore what it feels like not being high…", he settled for as an answer after a moment and shockingly it was the truth. He'd started smoking hashish as a teenager, then eventually taken some amphetamines, LSD when out clubbing in his early twenties. Coke hadn't been far either, so he stuck to that for years. But the real hard and addictive stuff like morphine and heroin had been a more recent development. If it hadn't, then he probably already wouldn't be around anymore.

"What's your job?"

"I...I used to be a baggage handler at Heathrow...well and I just wanted to play music, the guitar...got a small band with some mates…", he told the psychologist.

"What are you playing?", she wanted to know and he had no clue whether she actually was interested or if it was just her method of gaining his trust and making him talk.

"Blues, rock, some country…", he gave back, his thoughts drifting to his band for a moment. They hadn't properly been playing together for months. Which wasn't surprising seeing that three out of the five of them were junkies, not getting their shit together. Before he could get too nostalgic though, regretting that he hadn't played anything fun in ages, the psychologist disrupted him with yet another question.

"What about your job at the airport?"

"I lost it...bout a month ago", he shrugged again, because he truly didn't care. He'd hated that job anyways, it was dull and the salary sucked.

"Because of the drugs?", she kept digging and Keith only nodded.

"What else did the drugs cost you?"

"Uh...my flat...had to get outta there last week", he meant. This actually was something he really regretted, because now, essentially, he was homeless. If it wasn't for Ronnie, who'd gladly taken him in.

"Where are you living now?"

"Crashing at Ronnie's. He's got a houseboat on that channel between the zoo and Camden Town…", Keith said.

"What about family?"

"My parents split up when I was about thirteen, I lived with my dad then...moved out when I was seventeen. Haven't really heard too much of either of them since...", he told her the short version because he really didn't want to get too deep into this. It wasn't something he liked discussing, especially not with people he just met.

"Do you have a girlfriend?", Doctor Oldman asked next and he was relieved that she didn't keep asking him about his parents.

"I was with a girl, Lucy. She was really smart and really pretty, great girl, funny…", Keith mentioned, letting out a little sigh as it became obvious to him that he actually missed her.

"What about Lucy?"

"She left me...cause of the drugs. Was a few months ago…"

"Didn't you ever think of stopping the drugs and getting her back? Or before she left, getting clean to stay with her?", the psychologist suggested.

"I guess...I didn't love her as much…", he started, stopping himself because he wasn't quite sure how to express himself.

"As the drugs?", Doctor Oldman finished his sentence for him and he supposed she wasn't that far from the truth.

"I guess", he agreed, realising for the first time how fucked up that sounded. That he gave up on a bright, beautiful girl who really liked him a lot, because he couldn't get his shit straight.

"Would the prospect of being able to tell Lucy that you got clean encourage you to go through detox?"

"She probably doesn't even care...a mate told me he met her and she's with some other bloke now…", he gave back, sounding somewhat defeated. There wasn't really much incentive to get off the drugs. As long as he was tripping, at least everything seemed alright.

"How does that make you feel?", the psychologist inquired.

"I don't know...how long do you want to keep asking me these questions? Cause I really am getting sick of that shit…I don't wanna talk about that stuff any longer", he finally meant, pretty stressed out by now. He felt exhausted by all these questions and also didn't he lead a conversation as long and demanding as this for what felt like ages. It simply was too much.

"Okay, sure. I think we've talked more than enough for today, you're right. We can continue this tomorrow if you like", the psychologist agreed with him.

"Maybe…", he meant, not sure yet whether he actually wanted to. Right now he just wanted to get out of this office and away from this woman. She made him get all stressed out and anxious.

"Would you mind me taking you to the cafeteria for a while? Thirty minutes tops, I really would like to get a word with your roommate as well", she suggested to him as she got up.

"Yeah, whatever…", he shrugged, yet once more, as Doctor Oldman wheeled him out of his office.

Chapter Text

When the door to the hospital room opened Thursday afternoon, exactly one week after Mick had woken up from his coma, he expected another nurse or doctor to come in to check on him or his roommate. But to his utter surprise, it was Charlie, his friend and colleague, who entered the room and walked up to his bed. They both were music teachers at a secondary school, but had known each other since university. While Mick taught some additional afternoon classes about playing the piano to interested students apart from his regular schedule, Charlie was also leading the big band. He was a sublime saxophonist and even more of an exceptionally gifted drummer. Together with a bunch of other colleagues, Charlie and Mick had actually put together a teacher band that they played with during school events or the Christmas party.

"Charlie", Mick only got out, by way of greeting, because he hadn't expected him in the slightest. His sight was surprising but certainly not unwelcome. It was really good, finally seeing a familiar face.

"Mick, I'm so sorry. I didn't know what happened. You know, I was away on the trip with the band kids and then...", Charlie started to explain but Mick was so glad to see him that he cut him off right there.

"It's okay, Charlie…", he meant by way of calming him down because he seemed to be quite upset.

"I should have come here sooner, but…", Charlie continued, but Mick shook his head. He didn't want and need to hear any of this now.

"Charlie...it's fine. You're here", he reminded him, directly looking at him, just waiting for him to catch his breath.

"How are you?", Charlie eventually wanted to know, after holding his gaze for a moment. He then stepped closer towards the bed, putting out a hand to press Mick's arm.

"I don't know…", he replied what had become some kind of a standard answer to most of the people asking him this question. He was as far from being good as could possibly be. At the same time, he couldn't find the proper words to describe how incredibly miserable he still felt. Replying like this just was the easiest way.

"I'm so sorry about Tessa...I don't know what to tell you", Charlie offered and Mick nodded lightly. There was nothing to say, really. Nothing that could be said could undo things or bring her back anyway.

"Yeah, me too…", he mumbled, defeated.

Slowly, the complete extent of his whole situation had started dawning on him during the last few days. Talking to Doctor Oldman, the psychologist, wasn't as bad or useless as he'd thought when he first got to know her a couple days ago. Actually, it was quite calming getting to talk to her about what happened, about how it made him feel. Because in that way, he could sort out his thoughts and feelings and even if he always ended up drenched in new tears, surprisingly he felt calmer afterwards, not as disturbed. The psychologist never grew tired of reminding him that what he was going through at the moment was a long process and it would take him a while to get to terms with everything and accept things as they were. It wasn't really what he had wanted to hear at first, but by now he started to understand that there was only one way to tackle this, by looking forward. Things could never be anymore as they used to, but it didn't mean that the world had stopped turning. Quite to the contrary. Everything around him kept going relentlessly and he had to go with the flow or otherwise it would destroy him. He couldn't continue his life living in the past, keep replaying all the memories and thinking about things that never would be. Instead, he needed to focus on what he still had in his own hands, what he could influence himself. Tessa's death had been a tragic accident, a series of unfortunate events, all leading to this irrevocable ending. There was nothing that could have prevented it because it was completely random. But everything that happened after, all the things which still could happen and that he could actively influence, he could turn to the better. That's what he needed to understand because that was the only way to keep on living and to be a good father for Mona. At least that was what Doctor Oldman had tried to make him realise the last few days.

"What about your baby?", his friend wanted to know then, disrupting Mick's thoughts.

"She's fine. She's doing great. Her name's Mona. Actually, she just was here with me but then they brought her back to pediatrics because she needed a change of diaper", he explained, his mood getting a little lighter. If it wasn't for Mona, he honestly wouldn't know how to keep going. She was the only reason for him to want to keep on living and not go be with Tessa again. Mona needed him, he couldn't give up just like that when he had his little girl to take care of.

"I'm so glad to hear she's alright", Charlie agreed, actually looking relieved and he pressed his arm once more with his hand.

"She's perfect", Mick nodded, the tiniest of smiles tugging at his lips.

"Mick, listen...if you need anything…", Charlie started, but yet again, Mick was quick to disrupt him.

"I don't want or need anything from you, Charlie. The only thing I want I cannot have anymore…", he turned down Charlie's unspoken offer to help him out.

"I'm sorry, I just want to help", Charlie explained, looking a little uncomfortable now.

"I know…", Mick gave back, averting his gaze to the blanket because he started feeling quite horrible once again. Everything he said or did always came down to Tessa. How was he ever going to get over this loss?

"When will they let you out of here?", Charlie's question startled him out of his dark thoughts.

"My ribs are almost fine by now...the leg, I don't know", he just shrugged. Nobody had told him anything so far. Probably they'd also want to make sure that he could have some more chats with Doctor Oldman, to see that he was mentally stable enough before they let him leave.

"Will they send you to rehab?", his friend wanted to know and Mick shrugged again. Nobody had told him about that, either.

"I just want to go home...I need to be there for Mona", he gave back. His daughter was the only thing he currently truly cared about. Even though he still didn't know how to handle everything by himself. Especially with his leg not healed yet.

"But who's there for you, Mick?", Charlie prompted as if he'd read his mind.

"My mum...she's coming down from Liverpool…", he informed him. Obviously, his mother didn't back down from her plan. She'd continued to call him every day since he first spoke to her on the phone and had let him know that they were arranging things.

"She is?", Charlie asked, almost surprised. Of course he knew about Mick's mother and her health condition, so it was a reasonable question to pose.

"Yeah and my aunt", Mick mentioned.

"I'm glad they do."

"I'm pretty certain they'd turn up on my doorstep even if I told them to stay away", he mused, sighing a little. That's exactly how his mother was and he didn't know whether it was a good or bad thing in this case.

"It's good, though. You shouldn't be all by yourself", Charlie reminded him and Mick silently had to agree, even though it was tough to accept. "You can always call me if you need anything, you know that, right?", his friend added and Mick nodded lightly.

"Thanks, Charlie."

"There's nothing to thank me for, Mick", he meant, naturally.

"It's good to see you, mate", Mick said, he honestly meant it.

He'd felt so lost and lonely for most of the time during the last week. Safe for Mona, who obviously couldn't reply to him since she was only a month old, there hadn't really been many people around him without it being their profession and getting paid for it. Except for his roommate, Keith. Who'd actually helped him out with the little one a couple more times during the last few days. They'd even started to chat a bit every now and then. Mick still didn't know what Keith's deal was and he didn't want to outright ask him, because neither did Keith ask him why Mick was here. Oddly, it was quite alright like that, not knowing this about each other. Mick didn't need his roommate to feel sorry for him about Tessa, it would only bring him down again if Keith looked at him all pitiful and told him he was sorry. They'd just ended up talking about music after Keith had hummed some songs to Mona to calm her down, which surprisingly had helped quite well. Despite being a music teacher, Mick had been way too overwhelmed to come up with that idea himself, until Keith reminded him of it. As it turned out, he loved the same kind of music as Mick did, mostly R&B, and was playing guitar, jamming with some mates or in the streets, trying to get a band started. That's all Keith could tell him before the psychologist had disrupted them the other day to take him to her office and have a chat with him. Afterwards, she'd returned by herself, as she always did, to talk to Mick for a while.

"And you", Charlie replied, smiling a little.

"How are things at school?", Mick wanted to know then.

"Don't worry about any of that. You're a teacher, mate. Just take your time getting fit, and taking care of your daughter. The job will be there still waiting for you afterwards", Charlie reminded him and Mick knew he was right. There were already so many things he was worrying and wrecking his mind about, but his job really wasn't one of them, luckily.

"I don't know how to make it, Charlie…", Mick eventually admitted. It always boiled down to this one thought. How would he be able to keep going on? Obviously, he was aware that he had to care for Mona and he wanted nothing more than that, but at the same time it always reminded him that he'd need to do so by himself. Even if he got help for a while, by his mother or friends, it would never be the same as raising his kid together with the woman he loved.

"You can always call me, Mick. No matter what, just give me a call", Charlie assured him once more and Mick just nodded. A lump had formed in his throat again and he could feel that he was close to crying.

Just as he was looking for words to express how grateful he was to Charlie, the door to the hospital room opened anew, and this time Doctor Oldman stepped in. Since she'd been talking to his roommate before, Mick knew it was his turn now.

"Good afternoon", the psychologist greeted them. "Would it be alright if I borrowed you for half an hour or so, Mr. Jagger? Or should I come back later?", she asked then, also directed at Charlie.

"Do you want me to wait outside, or rather come back tomorrow?", Charlie suggested, looking at him expectantly.

"You don't have to wait up, it's alright", Mick gave back with a shrug. It was great to see his friend, but talking to Doctor Oldman always was emotionally drenching and he rather wanted to be alone and maybe sleep afterwards.

"Do you want me to come see you again tomorrow?"

"I don't know...just come around again when you've got time to", he meant. Of course it had been a nice surprise to be able to talk to Charlie, but he didn't need this every day. The prospect of it alone was already too much for Mick. Seeing the psychologist every day, talking to her, spilling his feelings out was enough. He didn't need Charlie to do the same.

"I'll come back in a while then. Do you need anything from your flat, new clothes?", Charlie suggested and Mick was pretty glad that he did.

"Actually...it would be really great not to have to wear these hospital gowns all the time…"

"Okay, I'll bring you some clothes then", Charlie said, smiling at him encouragingly.

"Thanks, Charlie", he repeated, but his friend didn't even want to hear it.

"Don't mention it. I'll see you soon, Mick, get better!"

"See you, mate", Mick returned by way of goodbye, as Charlie lifted up a hand in greeting.

Once Charlie had left, Doctor Oldman took a seat in one of the chairs, as she'd done the few days before as well.

"Was this a friend of yours?", she started their conversation after a while, looking at him eagerly.

"Yeah, he's also my colleague", Mick offered.

"This was the first time you've had a visitor. Did you enjoy your friend coming around?"

"It was good to see him", he simply replied because it truly was.

"It's great that you've got all these social contacts, family and friends, who want to help you. It surely might make things a little easier for you", Doctor Oldman stated then, making Mick sigh.

"I don't want to be a burden for them…", he meant. It felt horrible being this helpless. Even though by now he'd made quite some success with his physiotherapist and had sat in a wheelchair for a while the other day, he still felt quite useless.

"They're your family and friends, even if you feel like you're being a burden, in most cases they're glad they can help you. They're worrying about you", the doctor explained and Mick simply nodded.

"I know…"

"How are you feeling today?", she kept on asking.

"I liked that Charlie was here…", Mick replied for a change. It was the second day in a row that he didn't have to reply to her with his standard "I don't know". The day before he'd admitted that he had enjoyed holding and talking to Mona.

"I didn't want to throw him out, you could have told me", Doctor Oldman backpaddled.

"No, it's alright…"

"How is Mona?", she wanted to know next.

"I've had her with me earlier…she was a little cranky today", Mick told her. She'd been screaming again, but he supposed it only was due to needing a change of diaper. This was another point which really upset him. Except for trying to feed her with a bottle once, so far he had done, or could do, none of the things new parents usually had to do for their babies. It made him feel completely useless.

"I've noticed Mr. Richards is helping you out with her sometimes…", Doctor Oldman mentioned.

"Yeah, he...he's quite good with her…", Mick had to agree. It was utterly frustrating. Mona was his daughter and apparently some random stranger could stop her from crying more effectively than Mick did. "Sometimes I think he can handle her better than I do…", he mumbled, staring onto his hands almost in defeat.

"Why is that?", the psychologist wanted to know. By now Mick wasn't that annoyed about her poking questions at him anymore. Actually he was glad she did, because it made him reflect his feelings. Even though at first he didn't want to talk to her at all, after a few days of regularly seeing her, he had to admit that just chatting to her helped in some way. At least he felt a bit calmer, not always on the edge of tears.

"He always manages to make her stop crying...I don't know...he just...he just knows how to handle her", Mick admitted with a shrug. He really had no clue how Keith did it. Maybe he wasn't as agitated as Mick was and had something like a calming aura or whatever. It was quite odd and Mick didn't understand it.

"How does that make you feel?", came the doctor's question.

"Quite miserable, actually...cause...I have to be able to take care of Mona once I get out of here...but I'm afraid that I won't be…", he mumbled, speaking out what had been haunting him for days.

"You will get help from your mother, though", Doctor Oldman reminded him.

"Yeah, but...she can't be there for too long...and I don't always want to rely on her. She's not getting younger, sadly…", Mick gave back thoughtfully.

"You've also got friends who can support you every now and again", the psychologist said then.

"I guess...it's just...here, I've got the nurses helping out with everything...because I can't do too much yet…", Mick thought out loud.

"But you'll get out of this bed soon and have more freedom again, your leg will heal, you'll be doing fine, Mr. Jagger", Doctor Oldman gave back, trying to sound encouraging, but it didn't quite help him.

"When Mona is crying and I cannot figure out why, or cannot manage to make her stop...I won't have Keith's help", he mentioned then, surprising himself with this statememt. It was insane, relying on a guy he didn't even know, especially when it came to his baby daughter. He didn't even have a clue why Keith was in the hospital, all he knew about him was that they had a mutual interest in music and that for some inexplicable reason, he could manage to stop Mona from screaming.

"He talked about you and Mona, you know", the doctor told him and Mick looked at her, baffled. "I asked him whether I could mention this to you and he said he doesn't mind. But earlier he told me that he is astounded. That he never really had to handle a baby before and he couldn't explain to himself why it seems to come naturally like this to him. Though, he thinks that looking at Mona, or holding her, makes him feel more grounded, calmer, and that it seems like a good thing to him", Doctor Oldman told him and Mick didn't quite know what to do with this information.

"Why is he here?", he asked the psychologist, because it was the only thing he could think of.

"I'm afraid I cannot tell you this. I only mentioned that because Mr. Richards allowed me to. But you'll have to ask him that yourself", the doctor explained to him.

"Why did you want me to know?", Mick questioned then. He had no clue why the psychologist had told him this. Other than that it made him feel even stranger about this whole thing.

"Because I had an idea. It's pretty unconventional and you don't have to like it, but I wanted to at least mention it to you. See...from everything that I've heard during the last few days, I know you're struggling a lot at the moment, are having a really rough time. And so is Mr. Richards", she started, but Mick still didn't get what she was up to.

"What do you mean to tell me?"

"Well...you need help with Mona, he is being quite good with her. And Mr. Richards...he needs something to keep him grounded, to show him he's needed and…some actual purpose in his life", Doctor Oldman meant and eventually, Mick caught on to her thought process.

"Are you...suggesting me to ask Keith to help me out with Mona?", Mick wanted to know, staring at her, completely flabbergasted.

Chapter Text

It was insane. Mick couldn't believe he was actually considering Doctor Oldman's suggestion. After all, he had no clue who his roommate even was. For all he knew he could be a felon or a crook. Even if he didn't look as rough and edgy anymore as he had when Mick first got to meet him, since by now, Keith had started shaving again and he'd even cut his own hair. He didn't seem like a bad guy at all, but it was something else being in a hospital room together, or having Keith over at his flat. Mick felt completely ambiguous about him. On one hand, he secretly was glad that Keith had been willing to try helping him out with Mona when she was crying and Mick couldn't calm her down on his own. On the other, it made him feel horrible about his qualities as a father, relying on some random stranger to stop his daughter from screaming, rather than managing to figure out something by himself. Even if Mick had been completely persuaded that Keith was totally alright and that he was an earnest person, he still couldn't ask him for help. It would make him feel even worse about everything. Also he didn't understand how he would do him a favour by letting him help out with Mona. Or why he even needed this. Why, according to Doctor Oldman, he needed a purpose. It was a total paradox to him.

Keith was sitting in a chair, holding Mona in his arms, while Mick was practising some muscle exercises with the physiotherapist. It would help him to soon be able to stand again on his own, moving around with crutches. Until his leg would be completely healed, it would take another couple of weeks, the doctors had told him, since apparently it was quite a complicated fracture. Every now and then his gaze drifted over to his daughter, sleeping in the other man's arms. She was completely calm and Keith looked almost content. It was an odd sight, Mick could barely come up with words to describe how it made him feel. He was almost glad that he had to focus on his exercises in order to not slip and fall, because like this he didn't have time to overthink everything too much.

The work out with the physiotherapist went pretty well that day, Mick managed to get out of bed and sit in the wheelchair almost by himself. And he barely felt any pain in his chest anymore when moving, by now his ribs were as good as healed again.

"Well done, mate", Keith commented, as Mick wheeled the few metres over to him, he sounded quite encouraging.

"Can I hold her?", Mick gave back, holding his arms out for Mona.

"Of course", Keith replied, carefully handing him the baby and Mick gently took her from him, cradling her against his chest, hoping she wouldn't wake.

"Do you want to stay in the wheelchair for a while, Mr. Jagger?", the physiotherapist disrupted them and Mick only nodded in reply, without really taking his eyes off his sleeping daughter. She looked amazingly adorable and quite perfect, sleeping all peacefully.

"Okay, just ring for a nurse when you want to get back into bed, I'll see you tomorrow then!", the physiotherapist meant, Mick returning his goodbye before he left.

"Why are you doing this?", Mick wanted to know after a few silent moments, not looking up from Mona's sweet tiny face. She was so precious.

"What do you mean?", Keith asked, pretty much oblivious.

"Helping me out with Mona. We're not your responsibility", he explained, finally lifting his gaze to direct it at his roommate. Keith didn't hold his eye contact for too long, after a moment, he averted his gaze, staring at his own hands instead, as looking for a proper answer there.

"Well...you asked. And you weren't in a place to take care of her by yourself. Still aren't, really…", he gave back, sounding almost a little flustered as if he was embarrassed talking about it.

"You didn't have to, though...you could have just called a nurse...you don't have to keep doing this", Mick reminded him and Keith only shrugged.

"I don't mind", he simply stated.

Mick still didn't get it. Why he was being this nice and helpful without expecting to get anything back in return. He just wasn't quite sure what Keith was getting out of it.

"The doctor said this gives you a purpose. What does she mean? Why do you need one?", he kept questioning him, because he wanted to find out Keith's motivation.

"It's not that easy…", he drifted off, nearly sighing.

"Then tell me, I want to understand...why are you here?", Mick directly asked then. If he let him help with Mona, at least he finally wanted to know a little more about him. It wasn't necessarily that he didn't trust him enough, he seemed really nice and proper overall, but Mick wanted to know.

"Can I ask you something, first?", Keith returned and now it was for Mick to just shrug.

"Okay."

"Mona's mother...did you lose her?"

"She died the day Mona was born...it was a car accident. They couldn't save her...only Mona…", he told him, feeling his chest tighten again as he averted his eyes, fixing his glance on his sleeping baby daughter. She was perfect. But she would never know her mum...

"I'm really sorry, Mick…also for Mona...I'm sorry", Keith started, but Mick disrupted him.

"Sorry doesn't bring her back", he meant harsher than intended, just to rip himself out of the sadness that had overcome him once more. He didn't want to talk about Tessa now. It was more than enough having to talk about her to Doctor Oldman.

"Why are you here?", Mick wanted to know instead. He wanted to talk about anything else but the fact that Mona would have to grow up with only one parent.

"I OD'd", Keith quietly stated and Mick almost wasn't sure he heard him correctly.

"What?", he inquired, just to make sure.

"I…it was heroin…", his roommate stammered, not looking at him.

"You're...you're a junkie?", Mick abruptly disrupted him, not quite believing what he was hearing.

"I wanna get better...I didn't...I wanna get clean, okay?", Keith tried to explain, stumbling over his own words. But Mick didn't even want to hear his explanation. He felt betrayed by him, bullshitted, like Keith had pretended to be someone that he wasn't. This whole time he seemed and acted all nice and innocent, helpful and polite, when in truth he actually was a crook after all.

"I want you to stay away from Mona", Mick told him, angry now. Not only at Keith but at himself as well. For blindly trusting him, letting him get that close to Mona. He should never have asked for his help in the first place. It had been incredibly stupid and he really shouldn't be surprised about this. He should have known better. His sole and most important responsibility was to take care of and protect his baby girl and by letting someone like Keith, an actual drug addict, get close to her, Mick felt like he miserably failed at it.

"Mick…", Keith began, but he didn't want him to say anything.

"No, what the fuck is wrong with you, man?", he all but yelled at the other man, only then recalling that Mona was sleeping.

"I just wanted to help", Keith said, sheepishly, as Mick made sure that his daughter was still sound asleep.

"Fuck off, I don't need your help", he gave back, still as pissed, but not as loudly as before.

"Will you let me explain at least?", Keith tried again, sounding almost desperate now.

"I don't want you to touch Mona ever again", is all Mick had to return to this. He was so incredibly angry that he couldn't tell what he would have done if he wasn't holding Mona.

"She's crying", Keith piped up after a moment and Mick, to his increasing anger, had to realise that he was right. Mona actually had woken up and seemed a little cranky now about what was going on around her.

"Fuck you, I don't need you to tell me how to handle my own kid", he hissed at Keith before he tried turning around to wheel back to his bed. But obviously, with Mona in his arms, he couldn't manage to do so. He couldn't even turn the wheelchair.

"Fine...suit yourself, then…", Keith only mumbled, getting up to walk over to his own bed.

"Bloody hell...fuck...can you...could you ring a nurse for me, please?", Mick cursed after a moment, sighing in desperation. It was outright pathetic. He couldn't get along by himself, couldn't even move around. While the sole person who was there to help him was the same one he'd just yelled at to stay away from him and Mona because he was an addict.

"So that's what the junkie's good enough for, then?", Keith returned, snappy, and Mick couldn't even resent him for it. This whole situation was ridiculous and he'd have loved to get out of there as soon as he could, the only problem was that he couldn't even manage to get over to his bed which was a few metres away.

"Look…", he tried, a little calmer now, but Keith apparently was hurt.

"No, I get it...you don't want anything to do with me…"

"Please", Mick meant, softly rocking Mona, who still hadn't fully calmed down again.

"Fine...but just because of her", Keith replied, nodding at Mona, before eventually pressing the red emergency button.

 

The next few days were incredibly awkward. Keith could see exactly how his roommate was struggling with everyday things, even though by now he could at least get in and out of the wheelchair with just a little support by a nurse or his physiotherapist. Yet, he never said anything, never offered his help again, because Mick had made it quite clear that he didn't want it. They also didn't bring his baby to the room anymore, instead Mick would wheel over to the pediatrics ward to see his daughter.

Keith had felt stupid and empty at first for a day or two. Stupid, for getting so attached to this, helping Mick out with his little girl had felt like the only useful thing he'd done in ages. It had been amazing to be able to support him in some way, even if it was just holding Mona for a moment while Mick was doing his muscle exercises, or looking after her while he wheeled over to the bathroom. Empty, because now that Mick knew about his drug habit and wouldn't let him near Mona any longer, wouldn't even talk to him anymore, there wasn't really much going on for him. Though he still talked to Doctor Oldman every day, obviously she knew what was going on and that her suggestion had backfired, going totally into the wrong direction. She'd apologised to Keith for coming up with that idea and he knew that she'd also apologised to Mick as well.

Still, in Keith's opinion it hadn't even been such a bad thought. He would have enjoyed helping with Mona some more, at least until he was released from the hospital. But now Mick didn't allow him to any longer and Keith basically had nothing to do at all. Nothing this meaningful anyway. He didn't get any visitors, either, in contrast to Mick, who had friends coming over every other day now that he was on the mend. Obviously he'd known before, but the sight of Mick's friends, bringing him new clothes and food and toys for Mona, made him realise even more how utterly lonely he was. Since he'd lost his job, none of his colleagues cared, his girlfriend had left him, most of his friends were doing drugs as well and probably were too messed up to even remember what was going on with him. And those few people he still had left who weren't corrupted by any bad stuff probably had no clue at all that he even was at the hospital because he hadn't talked to them in months. Maybe it was up to Keith to reach out to them but he didn't have any energy or motivation for this. After Mick had yelled at him to stay away and that he didn't want his help, for a few days Keith was back to lying around in his bed again, just staring at the ceiling. The only times he got up was to go to the loo, or to Doctor Oldman's office.

Just now he was sitting in one of the brown leather chairs again, not looking at the doctor across from him, but out of the window instead. It was amazingly nice outside, a beautiful day in late May.

"How are you doing today, Mr. Richards?", Doctor Oldman repeated her standard introductory question that he hadn't answered before. He'd just kept staring out of the window, wondering for how long they still wanted to keep him there.

Keith only shrugged in reply. He didn't quite know what to say, couldn't describe how he felt. It was an odd mixture between indifference and annoyance. Annoyance about himself due to slipping down so far that getting up again seemed quite impossible now. Annoyance about himself due to getting this attached to Mick and Mona because they were the only people around who weren't doctors or nurses. Annoyance about the feeling of being stuck in the hospital because he didn't really know what else was out there for him.

"I wanna get out of here", he finally stated. "When am I finally getting out of here?"

"Well...this depends entirely on you, Mr. Richards", the psychologist returned.

"What does that mean?", he wanted to know, eventually looking at her instead of out the window.

"Are you willing to turn your back on drugs for good and go to rehab? Then you'll be released into a rehabilitation facility. Detox will take up to a week, when you get off the substitute meds. After that you'll have to stay for some therapy for a couple more days. And you'll have to agree to see a psychologist at least once a week and also get random check ups and drug tests. Do you want and agree to that?"

"What's the alternative?"

"We cannot force you to stay here, you're free to leave. But getting off the substitute opioids without proper detox...it's not advisable at all...you'd go cold turkey and feel the need to score again. Without the proper surroundings and support...I don't think you'll be able to resist. In the best case, in a few weeks or months you'll end up here again, another overdose. In the worst you won't make it…", she explained and Keith simply nodded.

"I don't want to die…", he said, so quietly he didn't know whether the doctor actually had heard him and he felt tears stinging in his eyes.

Except for this nice weather, there was nothing for him out there. No flat to go home to, no girlfriend, no job. Only friends who didn't actually care for him because they were too busy tripping. He could think of just a single person to call and ask for help. For a place to crash for a while. It was better than nothing. All he knew was that he couldn't stay in that hospital room any longer with a roommate who couldn't even look at him anymore since he found out about his background.

"Do you want to go to rehab then?", Doctor Oldman asked, giving him an expectant look.

"I wanna get better...I don't wanna be that guy anymore, I cannot…", he got out, choked by held back tears.

"What did make up your mind if I may ask?"

"I just…", Keith started, but stopped himself again. It sounded pathetic and silly, admitting that the only thing that had made him feel alive again after a very long time was holding Mona. And the reason he wasn't allowed to do this any longer was because he was a drug addict. He couldn't blame Mick for his reaction at all and he was aware that he would get the same reaction over and over again by people, for as long as he kept living like this. But he couldn't go on like this any longer. He didn't want to be looked at with disgust and pity anymore by everyone he encountered. There had to be more out there still. More than the drugs, more than a shitty job and people who didn't give a damn about him.

"I don't wanna die", he repeated instead. It seemed to be a good enough answer for Doctor Oldman. At least for the moment.

 

Everything was arranged rather quickly. Right the next morning, a doctor told Keith that in a few hours somebody would come to pick him up and drive him to the rehab centre. He didn't know what to expect from it. Whether it would be rough going through detox, how he'd feel after. He never actually had talked about or informed himself about the whole process but he knew how bad the cravings could get. And if he couldn't score then, he didn't know how to get through it. All he knew was that he had to do this if he wanted to keep on living.

And at least he finally got to wear proper clothes again that a nurse gave him. It was lost property, but a jeans and a t-shirt was better than that hospital gown. They also gave him back the old jeans and sneakers he'd been wearing on the day of his admission. His old t-shirt was cut open from when they had to perform CPR.

The day before, after talking to Doctor Oldman, Keith had called an old mate, Bill, to ask him whether he could crash on his couch for a while. They hadn't been in touch for ages, Bill was one of the few people Keith still knew who never wanted to have anything to do with drugs. This had been the doctor's condition. Staying with somebody who was clean and who'd help him stay away from drugs, who'd help him get on his feet again.

Talking to Bill after all this time, telling him his story, had been quite awkward. It was embarrassing, having to admit to his friend why he had grown distant, that drugs were the reason. That he had lost everything he had and needed help now. It had been the most uncomfortable phone call Keith ever made. But Bill was a good mate, he actually had been glad to hear from him. And even though he'd been shocked to learn about Keith's drug habits, he assured him he had his back and supported him wanting to get off drugs. He even asked whether he could visit him in rehab. Keith wasn't sure whether he was allowed to have visitors there, so he told him he'd call him back about it. In the end, it was more than he could have hoped for. At least he still had someone on his side.

As Keith emerged from the bathroom, dressed in street clothes, he could feel Mick mustering him. But as he looked over at him, Mick quickly averted his gaze. He'd figured that he would try to talk to Mick again before he left to go to the rehab centre. Let him know that he wanted to get better.

"Mick?", he asked, almost reluctantly, from the other side of the room.

"What do you want?", came the other man's answer, he sounded annoyed.

"I...I'll be doing rehab. I wanna get off drugs for good now...cause I don't wanna die", he told him, without really looking at him because he still felt like Mick was judging him.

"I don't know why you're telling me that, but good for you, I guess…", his roommate gave back, almost indifferently.

"I guess...I just want to do the right thing...", Keith shrugged, his shoulders slumping in disappointment. He didn't know what he had been expecting. Maybe a less hostile reaction.

"Bye then…", he added, not knowing what else he could say. He wanted to say so much actually. How helping Mick with Mona helped him to feel like a human being again. That even despite not really having anything to look forward to, he wanted to better himself. That he wished Mick all the best for him and Mona. But obviously, he mentioned none of that because he thought it would only sound pathetic. Instead, he turned around, grabbing his few belongings to go downstairs where he was to meet someone who'd bring him to the rehab facility.