He sat on the hard chair beside the bed. The tiny, pale hand held in his.
“Hugh? Are you there, Hugh? It’s Pete. I know it’s been a while, but I really need your help.”
He stroked the hand as he spoke. Fragile, delicate, cold.
“I’m sorry about what I said before. I was angry and scared and I shouldn’t have said what I said. Please, Hugh.”
Machines hissed and sighed. The cuff around that small arm gave a gentle ping, inflated and deflated again. He pressed the hand against dry, cracked lips.
“There’s nothing I can do. I’m sorry,” Hugh whispered. His eyes fell across the sleeping child. “It’s up to him now.”
For the first time, Pete noticed a new scent beneath the room’s harsh chemical odour, faint but unmistakable. His heart quickened and he regarded Hugh through tears.
“He’s only a boy. You have to do something.”
“I’ve done everything I can.”
“Is this because of what I said before?”
“No. None of what happened before has any bearing on this, just as nothing before had any bearing on Jasmine.”
Tears traced down his face; twin lines running all the way to his chin. He turned back to his son, squeezed his hand tighter.
“I love you,” he whispered.
A woman spoke and a hand touched his shoulder.
“I’m Doctor Lee, Mr Stevenson. It’s time…”
He nodded, glanced at Hugh with pleading eyes.
“Help him,” he said.
“We’ll do everything we can for him,” said Doctor Lee. “Come with me, I have some paperwork for you to sign.”
The hand on his shoulder moved to his back, coaxing him gently from the chair. He followed without protest, only numbness.
“Is this yours, Mr Stevenson?”
The Doctor plucked a small, silver coin from the bedsheets and held it out to Pete. He took it with a nod, feeling the cold metal against his skin.
“Saint Hugh,” Doctor Lee smiled. “If anyone can help now, it’s him.”