The next day Clay and Justin went to visit Bryce. After Clay said his hellos he let Justin and Bryce have some time alone. They talked a lot. They both apologized. They both felt awful.
Then they talked more. They laughed. They discussed the past. Then they discussed the future. They discussed hanging out. Wanting to get back to having fun together.
Having Super Smash tournaments like they used to.
Justin came to the hospital every day to visit, whether it was for ten minutes or five hours. This made Bryce happy. Clay came every day as well. Sometimes he just sat there a Bryce slept.
Sometimes they watched TV together. Clay's parents also came all the time. His dad snuck in some good food while his mom brought Bryce the latest season on The Good Fight for him to watch.
Things slowly started changing. Becoming a new type of normal.
It's been a week since Bryce woke up in the hospital. The doctors have agreed to release him home as long as he has 24 hours of supervision and goes to daily counselor sessions.
On his first day back home he called Clay to come by. He said it was something urgent.
"What's wrong?" Clay runs into Bryce's room, sweating and panting.
"Nothing. You're evil." Bryce's mom says to him before walking out.
"I just wanted to see you quickly."
"Oh lord." Clay plops down on the desk chair, trying to slow his heart rate.
"Sorry. I just really wanted to talk."
"Sure. What about?" Clay sits up.
"Well. My mom and I have been talking a lot this past week."
"Yeah. It really is." Bryce sits up a bit more in bed.
"First things first, because of all of the school I've already missed this year and everything that's happened to me, my mom,
and the school all agree that it would be best if I repeat my junior year again. Which means I'll be going into junior year with you next year. And graduating with you."
"And that's... good?" Clay doesn't want to celebrate just yet.
"Yeah. I think it's perfect."
"Me too!" Clay jumps up and sits on the bed with Bryce. "This means we have two more years of school together. Then maybe college together."
"Wait." Bryce places his hand on Clay's. "Since this year is already scrapped, my mom and I are going to go away for a while."
"My mom found this great facility in Colorado. It has people that can help me and my mom as we try to heal and move on to the next step in our lives." Clay is nodding.
"Basically it will be reconnecting with nature, talking to counselors, hiking, camping, singing, all the campy stuff." Clay laughs.
"Well, that sounds good. It sounds helpful."
"Yeah. I think it will be. But..." Bryce grabs both of Clay's hands. "We're going to be there for a while."
"How long's a while?"
"Until school starts back up."
"So you'll be gone all summer? That's fine. We'll still have the next three months before summer starts."
"Actually... we're going to leave in a couple of days." Clay just sits there frozen. "Five days to be exact."
"What?" Clay jumps to his feet. "That can't be. This must be some twisted joke."
"I'm sorry, but it's not. Come here." Clay walks over and Bryce grabs his hands again. "I know this is insane and very last minute... but I've been thinking hard about this."
"It's six months though... I can't do this for six months without you."
"That's why..." Bryce's eyes start watering. "That's why I don't want you to. I... I think it would be best if, while I'm gone, we aren't' together."
"What? Are you breaking up with me?"
"Yes, and no. I don't want you waiting around for me for six months. I want you to live your life. And if you meet someone who makes you happy, go for it. Don't worry about me.
You need to live your life and heal as well."
"But I don't want to heal without you." Clay begins to cry.
"No. No crying." Bryce wipes away his tears. "This is a happy moment. We're both alive. We have love. And we still have five days. We can make the most of it. Make them count."
"How is any of this going to work? There is no way I could find someone to replace you."
"Then you don't. Then when I come back we continue where we left off. But I simply don't want to hold you back while I'm gone."
"Then I'm going to miss you for six months, but nothing's changing."
"Whatever you say. But I want to put in a few ground rules."
"Rules for what?"
"The next couple of days. The time I'm gone. When I get back."
"I'm not sure if I'm going to agree with them, but I'm listening."
"Well for when I get back if either of us is with someone else, we promise to try and be friends."
"That won't be a problem, because I won't be with anyone else."
"Whatever. Just in case." Bryce loves Clay's determination. "Oh and here's a rule for while I'm gone... I want you to have fun. And take care of yourself.
I want you to go and have fun with Hannah and Tony. Let them in. Let them help you if you're feeling bad. Talk to them. Don't bottle it in."
"I should be telling you that." They laugh a little.
"And now, for these last few days. I've already talked to my mom about it and she's fine with letting me out of her sight as long as I'm with you the whole time.
She knows how important these next few days are."
"Wow. It sounds like we're about to do some crazy stuff."
"We are. Rule one, we do something we've never done before each day. We do something we've either always wanted to do or something we've been too afraid to do.
Rule two, we don't talk about me leaving or the future. After this conversation, we focus on each other and having a perfect time together."
"So far I'm agreeing with you on the first one, but the second..."
"I know. We can't avoid it completely, but we cant try."
"Maybe not talking about it until the last night before you leave?"
"That sounds perfect." They kiss. "That's really all I've come up with."
"Okay. So when does this all begin?"
"About ten minutes. I need to go to the bathroom then change." They both laugh.
"Well, get going." Clay helps Bryce to his feet. "We can't waste a single second."