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Truly a Trooper

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Adam looks up at the doctor and swears he's God. His vision has this sort of dreamlike quality to it, where the edges are a bit fuzzy, but the doctor is in focus. He doesn't look like God, not in the way he's depicted in pictures - there's no round belly or bald head or majestic white beard - but he's crisp and clear, and he's smiling down at him. He's saying something, but despite the image being sharp, the sound is like he's underwater. Bits and pieces are getting through, but Adam hopes somebody else is around taking notes.

Adam comes to again, the doctor is talking to somebody. His neck hurts when he tries to turn his head, and there's a nurse by his side in an instant, telling him, "shh, shh, don't move".

The doctor comes over, explains he popped his hip into place and there are stitches in his head.

"How many?" Adam asks, his voice raw from lack of use, from the pain killer-induced sleep, from the way they cleared his stomach of all the alcohol he'd consumed.

"A lot," he answers, a smile on his face, and he cracks a few more jokes, gets Adam smiling.

*

Adam hasn't been to his father's house since before he left to be in a band. The relationship is rocky at best - Adam having left without telling his father, going weeks without even calling him sometimes. But Phil shows up to every show, he posts on the message board, he pays for the collect calls.

Adam can't make it up the stairs. Without medication, he can barely sit without extreme pain. He's relegated to his father's couch, and John tags along. John doesn't want Adam alone on his birthday. It's in two weeks, and considering the way Adam left town,stayed away from town, he doesn't have many friends in North Carolina.

Adam stays on the couch until he can move more than five feet. He's on crutches and manages to make it to the guest room. He sleeps most of the day, and John is good. John plays with Nathan - plays video games, watches movies he doesn't particularly care about, gets into epic pillow fights that end with a picture frame falling off the wall. Phil isn't angry because he's so relieved that somebody cares for Adam.

Night after night, John and Adam watch reruns on TV. They make it through Boy Meets World and Will & Grace. They watch countless movies - Fight Club more times than they can count. Adam's in a half-drugged stupor most of the time, babbling about Brad Pitt's abs, about how he's glad John came home with him. John just smiles at him, pushes the hair out of Adam's face as he drifts off into sleep.

John trails behind Adam, just in case he falls, when he hobbles out for a smoke. He stands on the porch while Adam leans against the rail and takes his time, eyes surveying the neighborhood he grew up in. "Dad hit that basketball hoop with his truck when we moved in," he points out, motioning to a bent basketball hoop. He has little stories like this to tell. John listens and appreciates them. When Adam talks like this, it sounds like he's going to be okay.

*

John remembers it happening. He watched the whole thing unfold from side stage. He watched Adam drink all that whiskey. He watched him dance his way onto stage during Midtown's set. And he watched the fall in what seemed like slow motion. John watched security scramble to get him, his body twisted in some position it probably shouldn't have been. He sat in the ambulance with his friend, saw all the blood. He stayed until the doctors shooed him away because he wasn't family - not technically, even though he and Adam lived in a 15-passenger van together and shared mix tapes and wrote lyrics together. Even though they were "brothers", John couldn't stay.

John isn't dumb. He knew things were bad. He could hear it in the way Adam's voice cracked during certain songs, or the lyrics he'd quickly flip past in his notebook. They shared a small bedroom up on Long Island. John knew the drinking was getting bad. He just didn't know Adam would take it this far.

*

When Adam wakes up, John isn't there. And there's this brief moment where Adam panics. John must have left him. John must have gone back to his friends and family on Long Island, leaving Adam stranded with his father, brother and stepmother in North Carolina. Wincing, Adam reaches over for his pills. Dislocating a hip is more painful than he would have imagined. Apparently, the body relies heavily on the hips.

Adam slowly, carefully makes it to the bathroom. For a kid that hardly showered, Adam had never appreciated them as much as he does in this moment. When he finally rinses some of the dried blood out of his hair, he feels cleaner than he has in years. He feels slightly healthy and strong. He stays in the shower until the water runs cold and he's shivering. Dressing is somewhat a painful process, unable to bend himself at the waist like he wants to. But he manages to get into a clean pair of flannel pants and an old shirt of his father's. Everything is worn in and comfortable. Everything has that feeling of love in it.

Adam manages to shuffle-crutch himself into the kitchen, hungry and slightly nauseous from taking pain killers on an empty stomach. He figures he'll have his dad scramble him some eggs or something.

Adam isn't expecting to see John there.

"Happy birthday," John sings out, faint smile on his face as he holds out an iced pink donut on a paper plate - candle lit and stuck in it. Adam bites his lip, completely surprised, because he'd honestly thought John had left, caught the next flight back home. He is grateful for the crutches to lean on.

Adam blows out the candle, at a loss for a 'wish', because what more does he need? His best friend chose to spend the month on the couch with him, so he wouldn't be alone on his birthday. Adam has a message board full of well-wishes from fans. He has people that care about him enough to call. He manages to lower himself into a kitchen chair and tears hungrily into the donut, offering a bite to John even though pink is Adam's favorite flavor and he doesn't ever share food.

John makes some scrambled eggs, toasts some toast, makes some bacon. He makes enough to feed the family and makes sure Adam's coffee cup is topped off. He sits with him on the front porch, eating sloppily made breakfast sandwiches. Adam smokes and eats, not minding the silence between them as the morning turns into the afternoon. 

*

When Eddie pulls into the driveway, 15-passenger van also carrying Mark and Shaun, Adam is relieved. His life is about to resume. John carries his bag and Adam's, watching as Adam hobbles his way into the van, laying out on the backseat. He stores everything in the trunk and makes sure Adam has his pain killers and cane (from Genovese) and prepaid phone card so he can call his dad.

Phil waves good bye from the porch, and Nathan is a little bummed out because his newfound friend is leaving with his brother.

"You ready to go?" John asks, buckling in next to Adam. Adam just leans his head on John's lap, nods a little before slipping off into sleep, the sounds of Lifetime drowning out his thoughts.

John is relieved.

 

This is normal.