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Sense Memory

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Eddie was rudely jerked from his doze about thirty minutes later when an orderly returned with a still unconscious Richie and the missing hospital bed. The young, husky, blond man yanked open the privacy curtain and began wheeling the hospital bed back in place, completely ignoring Eddie. Eddie shook his head to clear it from sleep,  rubbing his eyes, and slightly readjusting his medical mask over his mouth.

The orderly had a goatee, a ponytail, and two tattoos on his thick neck. One was of a melting clock, reminiscent of Salvadore Dali artwork, and the other was a shooting star. He also had a piercing in his upper lip. Silently,  he set the locks on the bed to keep it from rolling. He took some wires from the wall and connected them to some leads on Richie's chest and one to his finger to monitor his vitals, he double checked Richie's IV and nasal cannula. He fiddled with a monitor until rhythmic beeps sounded and then he nodded once at Eddie and pulled the curtain closed behind him. Eddie watched him go,  eyes wide. 

Immediately,  Eddie turned back to the occupant of the newly returned hospital bed. There was a large bandage covering the top of Richie's head, he had bruises on his face,  and he was just as pale as he had been when they pulled him out of Neibolt. There was a fresh plaster on his cheek right below his right eye. His lips were chapped. 

Eddie reached out a shaky hand,  sliding it slowly up Richie's arm. He sighed when he felt the warmth there,  the scratchy arm hairs tickled his palm. 

"Rich, hey, Rich, can you hear me? Richie? You're safe now,  buddy, and you made sure I was safe. Everyone is safe. Please wake up. I need you to wake up." He begged,  tears once again filling his eyes. 

Richie remained eerily silent. It was abnormal for him to be so still and unmoving. Eddie didn't like it,  not one bit. He moved his hand down and slid his hand into Richie's. It was a small comfort to simply hold his best friend's hand. 

 Another nurse came by and checked Richie's vitals,  making notes in her iPad. She was a pretty Hispanic girl, with long curly dark hair, whose name badge read Elena. She gave Eddie a little smile and told him that the doctor would be by soon to report on the results of Richie's tests. He thanked Elena and watched her fuss with Richie's bandages before she left quietly, closing the curtain. 

"The others are here. Bev,  Bill, Mike, Ben,…they're worried about you. I'm worried about you." Eddie wiped the tears from his cheeks. "You saved my life, Rich. You can't go. Not now. We were just getting to know each other again. If you die,  I don't know that I'll make it. I don't want to live in a world without your stupid jokes and those dumb voices you do. Please, Rich. Please open your eyes and call me Eds." He heard himself sob and pressed his other hand to his mouth to muffle the sounds.

"Mr. Kaspbrak?" Eddie jumped as a young female doctor with short honey blonde hair in a pixie style cut quietly came in through the curtain. "I'm Dr. Baynes. We ran a couple of tests on your husband's brain and those tests show that he has a grade 3 concussion and a mild skull fracture as well as some slight bruising. However, the good news is, we don't see any sign of free flowing blood in his brain. He is breathing on his own, which is great."

"Great." Eddie echoed,  faintly. He rubbed Richie's arm as if to soothe him. 

"We want to keep him overnight. Possibly two nights just to see how he progresses. We're giving him IV fluids and a mild painkiller. We can't give him…"

"Because of the concussion." Eddie interrupted,  nodding. He knew that people with concussions shouldn't be given narcotic pain relievers. Those made you sleepy and then they might never wake up. 

"Correct. I'll be by again to check on him in a couple of hours. If you need me before then, hit that button and a nurse will get me for you. If you feel up to it,  I can offer you clean scrubs and there is a washroom with a tub down the hall." 

Eddie looked down at himself and wrinkled his nose. He looked and he was sure, smelled gross. He looked back at Richie,  indecisive. 

"I don't want to leave him. If he wakes up…"

"I promise you,  your husband is in good hands. The nurses are only a few feet away." Dr. Baynes smiled sympathetically, her brown eyes understanding. 

"Yeah,  okay." Eddie reluctantly mumbled,  gently untangling his hand from Richie's. 

"Come with me." They exited the curtain,  pulling it back to give Richie privacy. Dr. Baynes led him to the nurses' station and she asked a male nurse there named Clay to check in on Richie in a few minutes so that Eddie could wash up. She got a pair of mint green medium men's scrubs, from another nurse, that matched Clay's, and handed them off to Eddie along with a large fluffy towel. 

Removing his medical mask,  Eddie clutched the scrubs and the towel and watched Dr. Baynes walk away to visit other patients. Sighing, he listened to Clay's directions to the washroom. Giving the man a tight smile, he headed that way. 

The washroom was sterile and unnaturally bright. Eddie blinked as his eyes adjusted. There was a cubicle with a privacy curtain that had shower stalls and across from those was a small Jacuzzi tub. 

Placing the scrubs in a dry place and the towel where he could reach it,  Eddie began filling the tub with steaming water. He undressed methodically,  even though he planned on burning his filthy clothes later. He saw a new bar of Dove soap still in its wrapper in a small basket on the counter and placed it on the edge of the tub. Once the water was at a good level, Eddie turned off the taps. He stepped in,  groaning at how amazing the hot, clean water felt on his skin. Sinking into that heat, made him purr like a cat. He quickly unwrapped the bar of soap and began lathering himself up. He rubbed until his skin was pink. He scrubbed between his fingers, under his nails. He soaped away all the nasty grime he felt on his chest and his shoulders, down his arms. He would have gladly dunked himself but he knew he couldn't risk getting his stitches wet. The water was starting to turn grey and was beginning to gross Eddie out. He stood and stepped out onto the soft blue bath mat,  patting himself dry,  and wrapping the large, fluffy towel around his waist. He grimaced as he reached into the tub and pulled the stopper. He quickly wiped his hand off on the towel. 

Eddie touched his hair and frowned. He wished he could wash his hair. He, then, realized that he didn't have any clean underwear to wear and gave an annoyed sigh. He stepped into the scrubs. He regarded himself in the mirror,  shrugging. It wasn't obvious. He pulled the top over his head. He looked like a nurse or a med student. He snorted and rolled his eyes. He stuffed his dirty clothes in the trash can, after snagging his phone, his prescriptions, the antibiotic ointment,  and Richie's glasses from his jacket pockets. He washed his hands and dried them. It was way past time to get back to Richie. 

He walked back to the ICU. Clay wasn't at the desk. Eddie didn't really think much about it until he heard raised voices and wild beeping from where Richie's "room" was. He ran,  pulling back the curtain and freezing as he saw Clay struggling to calm Richie down. He had a restraining hand on Richie's chest. His other hand was trying to keep Richie from yanking out his nasal cannula. 

"Mr. Tozier!  Sir, please! You have to calm down! You're in the hospital!  There was an accident and you hit your head..." Clay hit the call button. The heart monitor was still going crazy. 

"Who the hell is Mr. Tozier?!" Richie was yelling. He winced and grabbed his head with both hands as pain spiked through his brain. "Oww! Fuck!" 

"Rich…?" Eddie gasped, his voice squeaky. Clay spun around at the sound of his voice and pointed to Richie. 

"He obviously woke up a few minutes ago and is a little confused, Mr. Kaspbrak. I've called for Dr. Baynes."

"Who is he? Who are you?" Richie glared at Eddie,  hands still pressed to his head. "I'm practically blind over here."

"It's Eddie,  Rich. I'm your…" He froze at Richie's blank expression,  staring over at Clay. "He doesn't know me?" 

"I'm afraid he doesn't recognize his own last name either." Clay said softly. 

"Quit fucking talking about me like I'm not here!" Richie seethed,  crossing his arms over his chest, pouting. Eddie hadn't seen that pout since high school. Richie seemed to have finally settled back down. 

"Your name is Richard Tozier,  you go by Rich or Richie. You were in an accident and have a grade 3 concussion and a mild skull fracture. My name is…" 

"Eddie,  yeah, you said that already,  sweetheart. So, you're what,  my nurse?" Richie's eyes swept him from head to toe. "God, you're adorable. If my head didn't hurt so bad,  I'd ask you for a sponge bath. I bet you're really good at those, Eddie." Richie gave a wink and a pained smile. 

Eddie opened his mouth to correct him,  but was interrupted as the curtain was drawn back. 

"So,  I see you've decided to wake up. How are you feeling,  Mr. Tozier?" Dr. Baynes swept in and started checking Richie's vitals. She nodded as Clay began whispering to her. 

"Like my fucking head is about to explode." Richie gritted out. "Eddie, here, said I have a concussion. I'm guessing that means none of the  good stuff, huh, Doc?"

"I'm sorry,  Mr. Tozier. The strongest thing I can offer you is extra strength Tylenol. We have to monitor you tonight. Clay tells me you are having some memory lapses. Do you remember this man?" She indicated Eddie with a slight wave of her hand. 

"He's my…nurse? He said his name is Eddie." Richie looked confused. 

"Mr. Tozier, do you know what year it is?"

Richie's eyes moved back and forth as he desperately wracked his brain. 

"2016?" He guessed, sounding unsure. 

"Okay,  that is correct. Can you tell me who the current President is?" 

"No." Richie whispered,  looking lost. 

"OK. Once again,  you don't recognize this man?" She pointed at Eddie. Richie just stared helplessly at Eddie, not sure of what he should be saying. 

Eddie's eyes filled with tears as he saw how confused and scared Richie was. 

"Please…he doesn't remember." He choked out. "Don't confuse him anymore." 

"I'm sorry, Mr. Kaspbrak. I have to ask. I need to assess his functions. It's possible the head injury he sustained is causing retrograde amnesia. He may be able to stand and walk,  dress himself, etc but his short term memories may be affected."

"Does that mean he won't remember things at all? Like events or people he reconnected with? We have five close friends in the ER waiting room who are eager to hear that he's awake."

"I'm still right here,  Eddie and I can fucking hear you!" Richie growled at him. He looked pissed. 

"I'm sorry,  Richie. I just need to know some things that I'm afraid you can't answer right now. Please,  please don't be mad. You don't know just how happy I am that you're finally awake." Eddie cupped Richie's stubbled cheek, thumb stroking his face. Richie looked surprised,  but pleased at the last part. 

"How am I supposed to stay mad at someone as cute as you?" He sighed,  sinking back into the pillow. 

"How do you know I'm cute? You're practically blind, right?" Eddie smiled,  teasing him. He put his hand in the pocket of his scrubs and touched the frame of Richie's glasses. He debated on giving the cracked, bloody spectacles to him and decided against it. 

Richie scoffed, a corner of his mouth lifting in a little smirk. 

"It's an instinct. You're a cutie,  I can tell." 

"Well,  you married him." Clay cut in, freezing as he realized what he'd revealed. "Sorry." He muttered,  looking over at Dr. Baynes. 

"Why are you sorry? It's the truth,  isn't it?" Dr. Baynes said. "We're not keeping secrets from Mr. Tozier. We just don't want to overwhelm him with too much at once."

"We're married? Really?" Richie sounded stunned. Eddie bit his lip,  nodding. Damn Bill and his big mouth. He hated lying to Richie. How in the hell was he supposed to keep this charade up?