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counting our time in dog years

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You push past a group of people with cameras and rush into the chaotic ED toward the reception desk. You take a breath and the words pour out. “Hi, I was called about a patient you have, Chris Evans? They said he was in an accident and to come to this hospital but wouldn’t tell me what happened.” Your fingers tap on the wood, and your jack-hammering heart is so loud in your ears you’d wonder if it were drowning out her words if your wide, impatient eyes aren’t already staring at the woman’s thinly-pressed lips, traces of her pink lipstick stuck along the edges and in the creases of her lips.

She scrutinises the rumpled sleep clothes under your coat with agitated, weary eyes. “I’m sorry, but I cannot disclose that information. He’s a VIP—”

“Oh, please. Please, he’s my—I’m not some pap or random fan, I can prove it.” You dig for your phone and show her the lockscreen wallpaper of you and Chris pulling faces. “See? And I can show you the call—”

She sighs, it’s long and suffering, and you’d feel for her if she isn’t the one person in this whole universe who’s on your hit list because you’d be damned if—“Fine. ID.”

You clamber for your wallet and hand it over.

She slides over a visitor pass and directs you to a room on the top floor, and you take off toward the elevator bank, throwing a quick “Thank you!” over your shoulder.

On the ride up, you pace across the large elevator, glancing up at the numbers slowly ascending. It slows to a stop with a ding, and the doors part at a glacial pace. You hurry out as soon as the space is big enough for you to fit through but stop short.

Was that lady messing with you? It’s as if you’ve somehow transported into the quiet hallway of a fancy hotel, from the ugly patterned carpet to the framed artworks and softly-lit lights. The only possible indication this is a hospital is the wooden hand rail that lines the walls and a hand-cleaning station under the sign above that directs you to the left where room 6041 is.

You reach the correct dark wooden door and swallow. What if he’s so badly hurt you can’t recognise him? What if there’s a machine breathing for him or keeping his heart going? You press your ear against the door, but there’s no sound—no beeping or muffled cries of pain. Nothing.

Knocking, you open the door without waiting for an answer, and you almost topple from the violent flood of relief that slams into you.

On the hospital bed in the middle of the room, Chris grins at you, pushing aside a rolling laptop stand. “’Eyy.”

“Chris,” you say on a breath and stagger over to him like a baby animal first learning to walk. “Oh my god.” You reach his side, fingers itching to yank him into a soul-crushing hug—but that would hurt him even more than he is. He’s a little banged up; superficial scratches on his face, a bandage around his left wrist, and the blanket’s pulled back to reveal his left thigh with an ice pack taped around it. “You’re okay—Are you?”

“Yeah. Car rammed right into my side of the car”—Your throat closes in on itself—“But check this out!” He leans to his right and attempts to lift his hospital gown with his right hand, where an IV is attached to the back of it. “I got this massive bruise on my ribs.” He tsks. “This dress isn’t working.”

You gently stop him, the back of your nose pricking. “It’s okay.”

“But I wanna show you,” he says, his accent curling lazily around his words. “It’s amazing—I don’t feel a thing. These drugs are great. Can you ask where they get it? We should stock up.” His dilated eyes meet yours and his brow furrows. “What’s wrong?” He runs the back of his fingers along your clenched jaw.

You huff out a weak laugh, shaking your head. The person on the phone told you he was fine, but: “I thought you were dying.”

“Don’t be silly. I’m not gonna die in a hospital where the nurses aren’t even hot.”

You pull his hand away and place it on his stomach. “High Chris is kind of a dick.”

“Really?” He pouts. “Do you still love me?”

“I do.”

He shuffles over and pats the space.

“Are you sure? That’s your injured side.”

“Oh.” He chuckles. “Right.” He shuffles to the other side, and you round the bed to climb in on the right.

You take off your coat and throw it at the foot of the bed before settling as close to the edge of the bed as you can without falling off.

They’ve designed the room with comfort in mind; it feels more like a place to relax from a day of travel than a place to recover from a trauma. Even the typical hospital stench has been replaced with a soothing lavender from the plant on the wall-mounted table across the room, above which is a plasma screen.

Muffled sounds of a squeaky wheel fades in and out from the door you walked through. The match door beside it you presume to be the bathroom. Opposite, the Boston night pours in through the big windows over an empty couch.

Something’s missing.

“Where’s your mom?”

His eyes widen. “Oh shit. She’s gonna be soooo worried.”

“They haven’t called her?” You grab your phone. “Isn’t she your emergency contact?”

“They asked me who to call ’n’ I said you.”

It’s almost 4AM, but she picks up on the second ring.

After you reassure her no less than fifteen times that Chris seems completely fine, just a little bruised and scratched, you hang up. “She’s on her way.”

He sighs. “The doc said I’m a lucky son of a bitch. It easily could’ve been much worse.”

You swallow down the nausea. “Then why are they keeping you overnight?”

“He said just to make sure.”

That his injuries won’t worsen or that there’s a higher chance his presence here would drum up some free publicity? Speaking of which. You send a quick text to Susan and hop out of bed. “I’m gonna get security and—”

“No, wait.” Desperation fills his eyes, absolutely breaking your heart. “Don’t leave me.”

You cup his cheek and press a kiss to the tip of his nose. “It’s okay, I’ll be right back. I need to make sure your mom gets up here without issue.”

“Hurry back.”

“Promise.”

You ensure there’s a visitor pass at the ready with her physical description given to the receptionists at every entrance, and vigilante security personnel on the floor. By the time you get back to the room, Chris is passed out, your coat blanketing him from his neck.

A yawn stretches your smile, and you take residence on the couch.

“Come back,” he murmurs, eyes droopy and hand held out to you.

You settle on your side and kiss his forehead, gliding fingers through his hair. “What were you even doing out so late?” you whisper.

He snuggles further into you and pulls your coat tighter around him. “Tyler wanted to hang at the bar.”

You pull away as a fierce frown slams down on your eyebrows. “You were drinking and driving?”

“I didn’t drink, swear. The cops gave me a breathalyzer before the paramedics drove me here. Hundred percent sober.” He blinks. “Not anymore.” His eyes flutter as he stares at the ceiling. “It was so scary.”

“What, the cops?”

“The crash.” He shudders, and you push close. His warm, damp breath puffs against your collarbone. “It was so loud, and for a second I though… I thought you were in the car, the passenger seat, and I panicked.”

“I’m right here. We’re safe.”

He clutches you, shoving his face in the space between your neck and shoulder.

 

~&~

 

On Monday, you’re at work when your phone buzzes on your desk.

chrispy hevans 🐛: Askfndldjgkfojahdk
chrispy hevans 🐛: Mom dropped by unannounced
🌻 Baby: ?
chrispy hevans 🐛: Living alone has given me unrealistic expectations of pantslessness
🌻 Baby: ?????
chrispy hevans 🐛: I was butt naked from waist down
🌻 Baby: 😂😂😂
chrispy hevans 🐛: Clearly Dodger is an inadequate watchdog. I need you here
chrispy hevans 🐛: It hurts when I bend sit move or breath
🌻 Baby: 🙁
🌻 Baby: I’m sorry babe
🌻 Baby: I wish I could make it better
chrispy hevans 🐛: Come by after work?
🌻 Baby: Promise x
chrispy hevans 🐛: ❤️❤️

The night of the accident happened on a Friday, so you were able to stay at his place all weekend to fuss over him. His mom was there for every meal time, cooking and cleaning, while you took on the role of switching his ice pack, bathing and dressing him, and acting as a human walking stick. Every time he grimaced or shifted on the couch, you were both on him, asking him what he needed and if he wanted the painkillers he refuses to take.

It annoyed him so much he forced himself upstairs, limping and wincing all the way to his bedroom. It was unpleasant to watch him climb the steps, but any attempt to help him was met with a death glare that would’ve been twice as scary if his expression weren’t twinged with pain. He’d stopped halfway up, sweating and bracing the banister. You placed a glass of water several steps above where he could easily reach and returned to the living area to watch.

(He spent the rest of the weekend upstairs; the steps too big an obstacle right now.)

You use your key to his industrial loft and no sooner do you step in does Dodger come barrelling into you. You greet him with quick scratches and soft words, and call out, “Chris?”

Movement flashes between the steps of the staircase in front of you. “Kitchen!”

You place your things on the living room couch as you pass by, but leave your coat on. With half the walls being exposed brick, it’s a little colder than you’d like, even with the gas fireplace turned on. You find Chris at the sink, a bottle of Bud Light on the window sill in front of him.

He’s got on a pair of baggy basketball shorts on and a red and black flannel, that’s revealed to be half buttoned as he turns. He smiles. “Hey.”

“Hi.” You reach him and peck his cheekbone, careful of the inch-long scratch under it.

“Dinner’s in the oven. Mom made risotto.”

“How you holding up?”

“I tried to do some light jogging like the doc suggested, but it hurt like a motherfucker.”

You slide a light hand down his neck and rest it on his left pec under his shirt. “He also suggested taking painkillers.”

He pulls a face. “I don’t need them.” He leans out for his beer and grunts.

“You clearly do.”

He takes in deep, slow breaths. After the tenth one, he says, “It’s fine. See?” He lifts the beer to his mouth for a sip.

You shake your head. “Chris, please. I hate to see you like this—if not for yourself, then for me, okay?” You frown pleadingly into his eyes, gripping the fabric of his shirt on both sides. “Please.”

He sighs and cups the side of your face, tenderness softening his own. “Okay.”

Triumph lights your smile, and a reluctant one stretches his mouth. You press your smiles together and take his full beer to place on the counter. “How much have you had to drink?”

“It’s my first, barely took two sips.”

“Have you eaten yet?”

“Not since lunch.”

You check the clock. You’re not hungry, and Chris usually eats dinner after seven. “How ’bout a snack?” You search his fridge for something easy.

“There’s Oreos next to the fridge.”

“I think not.” You grab an apple from the fruit tray and rinse it.

“How was your day?” he asks before taking a bite and offering it to you.

“Busy. The office wishes you a fast recovery.”

News got out about his accident and photos of you rushing into the ED have surfaced. Susan called at 6AM on Saturday, startling the both of you awake. She was frantic, but once Chris convinced her he was fine and coming to the hospital wasn’t necessary, she got right down to business. They drafted a statement together for the media, and Chris sent out a quick tweet reassuring his fans and thanking them for the well wishes.

Chris even got a gift basket sent to him on Saturday evening from RDJ. A ‘pamper hamper’ filled with soothing goodies.

Between the both of you, the apple is consumed quick, and throwing the core in the trash, you reach for his hand. As he laces them together, you lead him to the staircase. “Think you can manage?”

“Just go slow. Like, really slow.”

You climb the stairs together, with Dodger running up ahead of you. He whines at the top of the stairs and scampers back down, only to zoom past you again.

“Show off,” Chris mutters with a slight laugh.

You almost reach the top when he wheezes. “You want to rest?”

“No. It’s fine.” He grumbles. “Renner broke his arms and kept on filming,” he says, petulance in his voice. “He said he never once took painkillers.”

You roll your eyes. “He was posturing. I’ve seen your group chat. You guys are always trying to one up each other.”

When you reach the top of the stairs, Dodger’s gone, having gotten bored and left for the bedroom.

“This must be what it’s like when we’re old,” you say.

He lets out a breathless chuckle, squeezing your hand. “We’re gonna be so fucking cute.”

“There’s nothing cute about arthritis.”

“Another reason to exercise more.”

“Shut up.”

In the bedroom, you flick on the light.

To the right, the his bed situated under a cute farmhouse-styled arched window much shorter than the ones downstairs, with Dodger’s bed tucked in the back corner. You lead him to the en suite on the left.

You put down the toilet lid for him, and he gingerly lowers himself onto it while you grab the Ibuprofen from his medicine cabinet and fill up a glass. You glimpse his expression from the corner of your eye and turn for a proper view.

There’s a slight smile on his face almost hidden by his scraggly beard as he gazes at you with soft eyes.

You hand him two tablets and the water. “What?”

He pats his right thigh, but you shake your head and take a seat on the rim of the bathtub across the way. “C’mere. You won’t hurt me.”

Your eyes flick to the pills in his hands, and he sighs. After he swallows them, sets the half-empty glass on the counter.

“Happy?” This time when he beckons, you go willingly and carefully perch yourself on his leg.

You hook your wrist over a shoulder and fit your armpit over his deltoid. “Is this okay?”

“More than.” He presses a kiss just before your ear. “Thank you for taking care of me.”

You lightly rub his beard, fingers going against the grain and creating a scratchy sound. “It’s the least I could do after you took care of me last month. It wasn’t pretty.”

“Ugh, tell me about it. All that snot and phlegm.”

You laugh.

“I still thought you were beautiful.”

You push concern into your expression and glide fingers along his hairline. “You must’ve hit your head during the accident.”

He pokes your side, and you gasp, resisting the urge to grab hold of him.

“Careful!”

“No, come on,” he says, arm securing around your hips. “Really.”

“Oh, really? Snot turns you on?”

“Everything about you turns me on.”

“That’s both sweet and disturbing.”

He grins crookedly. “That’s the only way I roll, baby.”

The exposed pipes on the ceiling gurgles. “You shower yet?”

He shakes his head. “Learned my lesson yesterday.”

He tried to wash himself. You heard a shouted string of expletives and flew to the bathroom to find him hunched over and clutching his ribs.

“How ’bout a bath? You could join me.”

“Seriously?” You drop your gaze suggestively.

He scoffs. “Wow, head out of the gutter, you horndog. We can’t fuck; I’m injured.”

You laugh. “From your lips to God’s ears, Mr. Everything-About-You-Turns-Me-On.”

You run the bath, and while the water fills up, the both of you strip.

Chris unbuttons his flannel to reveal the angry mess of blueish-purple and black splashed across the side of his ribs.

Fire fills your chest and tightens your muscles. Texting while driving—how stupid could that driver be? He’s lucky Chris walked away with minimal injury and decided not to press charges. A hundred dollar fine and ridiculous year-long driving suspension is way more generous than you would have allowed, even without Chris paying for all his medical expenses on top of it all. “That idiot deserves more than he got.”

“Baby,” he whispers, the word almost lost in the thick burble of water flooding the bathroom.

Tears spring to your eyes. “You could have died,” you rasp out.

“I didn’t.” He thumbs your wet cheeks, blue eyes shining bright with empathy, and damn him for being such a good man.

If it were anyone else but Chris, you would’ve applauded their altruism, but he’s your best friend, the love of your life. After all you’ve been through—you’ve barely had enough time together.

He kisses your forehead. His touch slides down to your neck, where his thumbs rest against your pulse points, and it’s crazy to think it’s because he’s trying to reassure himself that you’re alive—or maybe your heavy thumps are to remind himself he is alive. “He’s just a kid. A scared kid who learned his lesson.”

You swallow thickly and drag in ragged breaths. “You’re not allowed to leave the house ever again.”

“I promise.”

You’re obviously being ridiculous, but you love him all the more for indulging you. You pull the shirt off his shoulders and kiss the skin above the bruise, and help him out of his shorts.

With the water still filling the tub, you straddle the edge of the tub and help him in. He waits until you’re situated in the warm water before reclining back against you, wrapping your arms around his broad shoulders. It’s barely big enough to fit you both, though he has to bend his knees to keep his feet in the tub.

You sniffle into the back of his head and trace the sparse freckles scattered across his shoulders.

His hands find the crus of your legs on either side of his thigh and he squeezes. “You want to know why you’re beautiful when sick?”

“Not this again,” you mutter.

He chuckles, leaning his head against your shoulder and turning to brush his nose against your jaw. “I like you soft and vulnerable. I love that you can take care of yourself, but sometimes when you’re scared or upset, the way you curl into me like you need me to protect you… It makes me feel like…”

“Your mother?”

“That’s…” He breaks off with a laugh. “Actually, yeah. Sort of.”

The water’s reached your shoulders, and he toes the faucet off. Silence deafens your ears.

“Where is she, by the way?” you ask, slipping hands over his shoulders and kneading the stiff muscles there.

“Home,” he mumbles on a groan, pushing into your touch. “Made her promise to at least text before she stops by again.”

“I thought you shared everything with her,” you say, the words light and teasing; a welcome contrast to the way the last conversation weighed on your vocal cords.

Some things are better left a mystery.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Can we stop talking about her?”

“Then what shall we talk about?”

“You, naked in my bath.” He catches one of your hands and guides it to his lap.

You touch him the way he likes. “I thought you said no sex?”

“This counts as light exercise.” He moans lightly, hips lifting. “I’ve had a hard day.”

“Mm, was this before or after your mom came by?”

“Aw, man!” He pushes your hand off and throws you an exaggerated look. “Why are you ruining sexy bath time?”

You laugh, the brick walls greedily swallowing the sound.

He snuggles into you. “I love your laugh.”

You close your eyes. “I love your heart.” He’s a much better person than you could ever dream to be. You’d be worried about how recklessly he shared his heart, but he’s taught you so much about life. You don’t lose yourself giving out pieces of yourself—you become so much more.

He shifts, and something soft brushes against your bicep. “We should get clean before we prune.”

You take the foam bath sponge from him and pour some camomile-scented liquid soap from the window sill beside the bath. “Don’t you think it’s weird that he’s watching us?”

An Iron Man action figure stands on the window sill, an amusing surprise to find the little guy tucked into the gift basket holding a get well card among the bath products and treats.

Chris manoeuvres around to the other end of the bath and turns him around. “He can enjoy another view.”

Water cascades off you as you rise to your knees. Chris holds your hips and urges you between his thighs, staring up at you with hooded eyes as you soap him up, gliding the sponge over hard, bumpy plains and blunt ridges. You’re careful around his injuries, watching his expression for any sign of pain.

You soap up his beard and grin at the white suds. “Ho, ho, ho.”

He wiggles his eyebrows. “Naughty.”

As you help him to his feet to soap his lower half, the water surges off him, the sound heavy as he stands there like a powerful warrior.

His eyes flick to your heaving chest, and he wraps his arms around you to pull you into his slippery chest. The sponge drops with a muted plop. You slide against him and your nipples pebble. He must feel it too because his length jerks between you.

Dodger comes into the bathroom whining.

“Dinner time,” Chris says with a sigh.

You quickly rinse the both of you off in the shower, and towel off between sweet kisses.

“Stay the night,” he murmurs against your mouth, his beard soft on your skin.

You wrap the towel around yourself. “I didn’t bring an overnight bag.”

He kisses you one last time and pulls away, only for his wide hands to trailing along your body like he can’t get enough of you. “Use my stuff. If you really need something, it’s just a ten minute drive.”

“All right.” You stroke his jaw, and your heart flutters as the corner of his eyes crinkle with affection.

Dodger comes back, nails clicking against the grey tiles. He stares expectantly up at the both of you.

Chris laughs. “Okay, okay. We’re coming, buddy.”

You grab the pair of fluffy towels hanging behind the door. After helping him into his and shouldering your way into the other, you climb down the stairs faster than you went up.

Dinner is eaten on the couch with the humdrum of the TV murmuring in the background. Chris is propped up against the arm of the couch with a pillow cushioning his back. He can’t lean forward without hurting his ribs so every now and then rice falls into his beard or onto his robe, and you collect it in a pile on a tissue. Dodger finishes his meal and hops up onto the armchair for a post-dinner nap.

With your empty bowls on the coffee table to be dealt with later, you settle beside him with your feet tucked against your butt and elbow resting on the back rest.

Chris relaxes back and sighs. “That was a good bath. My muscles aren’t as achy.”

“Don’t forget the drugs.”

“Nah.” He rolls his head and blinks up at you. “It’s all you.”

“Plus the drugs.”

He chuckles and reaches for your hand. “If I say it’s the drugs would you cuddle with me?”

You’d cuddle with him regardless.

You lounge back along the length of the couch, and he snuggles up to you on his good side with his head resting against your left collarbone.

He channel surfs a little while you scroll through your phone and read aloud anything funny or interesting. He settles on a rerun of The Office.

The bottom of your robe parts, and he slips a warm hand inside, but he rests it innocently on your outer thigh.

“You’re a tease,” you mutter, shifting your legs.

“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” he says, words swift with mischief.

You reach for his phone on the coffee table and hand it to him for a distraction. The thing’s been lighting up all throughout dinner. All weekend, actually, from friends and family sending him messages and love.

You spend the quiet Monday night wrapped up in each other. He falls asleep on you, and you don’t have the heart to wake him up. He deserves a few mindless and painless hours.

You set an alarm to wake you in an hour and wiggle down for a more comfortable position. He burrows further into you, breath fanning against your neck. Wrapping your arms around him, you kiss his forehead and close your eyes.