He was sprawled against the floor.
“Cole?!” I threw myself to his side, checking his pulse. “Oh my god, he’s…” I looked up to Alphonse. “Quick! We’re losing him! Call a medevac!”
The medical helicopter appeared within fifteen minutes, and paramedics jumped out to move Cole onto a stretcher. Once they were firing up the rotors to fly him back, Alphonse and I took the elevator down to the ground level, hopped into Cole’s Audi, and raced to the hospital side by side.
Overwhelmed, I sobbed during the entire ride, running through the gears and putting the sports car through its paces. I didn’t even care that Alphonse Megami was only feet away, a grave expression on his face. This man had been the entire cornerstone for everything that Cole had been trying to do in these last few weeks. He was here, and everything had hinged on this one final chance to curry his favor…but none of that mattered.
I didn’t try to play up the tears, or my anguish; my point had been made. In his self-righteousness, he had burdened us both, and now it was time to accept what was coming.
But part of me held onto hope.
This can’t be how it ends.
Alphonse didn’t say a word about our terse argument. He simply sat and contemplated. I hoped that I had gotten through to him. He’d changed my life for the better with his stupid expectations, but he’d also introduced the deepest wound I’d ever experienced.
After about thirty minutes, we arrived at the closest hospital. I didn’t even bother to find parking, bringing the Audi violently up and over the curb and leaving it running on a hill of grass just outside the emergency room doors. Time mattered more than the inevitable fine I would incur for my transgressions. I leapt from the car and left Megami in my wake as I burst through the hospital doors.
Despite my shouts, I was directed to a waiting room while Cole was behind closed doors, tended to by a qualified team of emergency responders. We weren’t given any notice of his condition – for all I knew, he was dying behind those doors.
And it killed me on the inside.
* * *
After about an hour, the doors finally opened, and Cole was moved to a patient room. In an unsurprising lack of coordination, we weren’t notified until he was already settled in, so we flocked towards the nearest elevator, across the hall, and to his temporary lodgings.
Cole turned as soon as the door opened. Stripped of his formal attire and vigor, the sight of his weary, aching body in patient robes was absolutely heartbreaking to see.
“You came,” he murmured as I reached down to hug him, holding myself together. Over my shoulder, he added: “…You both came.”
“Of course, honey,” I told him. “There’s no way I wouldn’t be here with you.”
I pulled aside so that he could straighten himself up in bed. It was now that I noticed his breathing was laborious, and I spotted a stack of napkins at his side, with a few already crumpled into balls – the white material stained with patches of dried reddish-brown.
“Alphonse…I didn’t expect you to…see me like this…”
“I have put you through much hardship, haven’t I?” He asked contemplatively.
“You sure as…hell did.”
“Forgive me, Cole.”
“You have redirected…valuable weeks of my life…my last weeks…to this wild chase…just to secure…my employees’ very futures…” Cole grunted painfully. “Living up to your…archaic demands and traditions…robbed me of my last days…”
Our guest grew visibly disturbed at the words.
“But despite this…I found something…in your misguided directive,” he continued on. “I found…my Kiona…and although we will be parted soon…I am…happy to have met her.” He paused, conserving his breath, and waved me away when I tried to hand him his glass of water. “She has…greatly enhanced my…final weeks…and for that alone…I will forgive you, you…stupid, misguided bastard.”