"Not that I've known since I haven't been around to offer any support. None of us have." Cord looked at him with anguished eyes. "The worst part is when I hear Mom's voice in my head: I raised you better than this, Cord West McKay. Your father needs you. Jesus. You've been there every goddamned time I've needed you. Even sometimes when I haven't wanted your help. And when you need me-you need us-you're forced to go it alone. How in the hell are you ever gonna forgive us?"
"I'da been alone in this even if you'd all been here. In some ways, this was my choice." He raked a hand through his hair. "Look. I ain't one for that psycho-babble crap, but I think there's more to how you reacted than you wanna admit. Yeah, I know you're scared for your mother. I know you're scared for your kid. Ky is bucking your authority, so the way you deal with it is by bucking mine."
"That's the definition of mature," he said dryly. "Ky said he talked to you. You told him that he needed to ask me about when I up and moved to Seattle. Did you really admit to him that you'd handled the situation wrong?"
"I told you I was in the wrong back then and I'm tellin' you now. You were right to go but it was hell when you left. I swore I'd never do to my kids what my dad done to me. But I did it to you. And because I'm a stubborn fool, I didn't learn my lesson, I did the same thing to Colt."
Cord rubbed the back of his neck. "What goes around, comes around, huh?"
"Yep. So I'm askin' you to be the bigger man and the better father. Don't make the same mistake with Ky that I made with you."
"What if he goes off to college and he doesn't ever come back here?"
There was the real fear and Carson remembered it clearly. "You'll survive. We did with Carter. I miss seeing him as often as I do you kids that live around here, but we keep in touch. Carter is doin' what he's meant to do. Ky will too. You'll find a way to deal with it. For now, let him decide where he wants to spend his college years. Your job is to enjoy the time you've got left with him here. And I will point out that you did come back."
Cord sighed. "When did you get so damn smart?"
"Learned it the hard way after years of bein' stupid."
He laughed. "I resemble that remark. You gonna tell Ma that I was a total dick to you?"
"I ain't gonna lie to her. She'll find out, but it won't be the first thing I tell her. And it shouldn't be the first thing none of you tell her neither."
"I ain't here only on my own behalf. Colby plans on comin' by in a few hours. As does Cam when he gets off shift. I don't know about Colt and Carter."
Probably wasn't the best time to tell Cord he'd talked to Colt and Carter the past two days. He'd never played favorites with his kids; there were just times when he had closer connections with some than others. This was one of those times.
"You will call us?" Cord prompted.
"As soon as she's awake."
Cord stood in front of him. "Give me a hug, old man."
They did the back slapping, man-hug thing and it was all good.
Hospital, Day 7-late afternoon
The doctors approached Carson in the ICU waiting room twenty-four hours after he'd last spoken with them.
"I hope you're here with good news."
"Yes. The swelling is down and her EEG is within the normal range. The wound on the back of her head has healed quicker than we expected. We've determined it's time to bring her out."
Carson bowed his head and said a silent prayer of thanks.
"There are a few things you need to be aware of as she becomes conscious."
His head snapped up. "What?"
"She will be confused. Possibly agitated. She will have memory lapses."
"You told me this was the safest course of treatment for her and now you're tellin' me when she wakes up she might not remember…" Jesus. What if Carolyn opened her eyes and looked at him like he was a stranger?
His lunch threatened to come back up.
"Mr. McKay, this was the safest course of treatment. Any treatment has risks. But the memory lapse I'm speaking of is related to the day of the injury itself."
"So she won't look at me and not know who the hell I am?"
"Highly unlikely." Dr. McMillan leaned forward. "She will be very disoriented immediately upon waking. Some patients are angry, some are frustrated, some don't speak at all and remain in that dazed state for days. Other patients can't separate hallucinations from reality; unfortunately nightmares can sometimes be a side effect of being sedated with that particular cocktail of pharmaceuticals."
He froze. "You mean she might've been havin' nightmares the entire time she was under?"
Dr. Vincent nodded. "Before you start ripping into us, there is no way for us to accurately predict how this procedure will affect each individual."
"I've had follow up visits with patients who remember absolutely nothing of their time in the coma; they literally thought they'd been asleep for a few hours. And others who recall exactly what people said while speaking to them. And other patients who can recite specific medical progress and problems from physician's conversations."