Chapter 25

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Ben watched as everything started to fast forward until he was in front of himself in a wheelchair. Deep circles sat under his eyes. Dark and brooding just as his mood was. He had his head propped on his hand facing away from his leg slowly healing from the blast.

"You don't remember much from your stay at the hospital do you?" asked Nelson next to his former self.

"Bits and pieces."

Ben continued to stare at himself in the wheelchair. He remembered he was angry but this took a whole new meaning. He still barely recognized himself. He watched his jaw grow taunt as a nurse asked him a question.

"I'm in so much fucking pain," he heard himself mumble to the nurse.

"Sergeant, you can have some pain medications after your physical therapy."

She started to wheel him out of the room and down the hallway. Ben slowly followed. He stopped in his tracks when physical therapy came into view. Amputees scattered the room. Prosthetics, healing nubs, wheelchairs, canes......all the things he wanted to avoid. He jumped slightly when Nelson put his hand on his back and nudged him slightly to enter the room. Ben felt his breath hitch. All the memories he rather forget came back in full view.

"Do you remember some things now?"

"Yes, and I rather not."

"What do you remember."

Ben swallowed trying to find the words from the images flipping through his mind.

"Pain. Lots of pain."

An amputee missing his left arm was crying out in pain as the physical therapist pushed him to continue his exercise. The former Ben moved his head towards the cry of pain and the soldier in tears saying it was too much. The physical therapist started raising her voice in agitation with him. Ben stood up on his one good leg and grabbed the rail on the side of the wall. He slowly made his way to the therapist who was still downgrading the injuries sustained by the amputee.

"Fucking back off," Ben roared at her.

She shook from shock and took a step back. The amputee looked at the former Ben with grateful eyes.

"Sergeant Grayson, you are out of line," said another therapist in military uniform on the other side.

The former Ben didn't respond to the Sergeant who was now marching his way to him. He suddenly jerked his head towards him when he was moving too close.

"Don't get any closer," growled Ben.

The Sergeant stopped in his tracks and shoved his fist on his waist.

"Sit back in your wheelchair Sergeant until someone gets to you."

The former Ben continued to stand there staring at him with dead eyes. As Ben watched his former self, he remembered how much pain he was in standing there in one spot. His jaw was clenched holding it in.

"What do you remember now?" asked Nelson.

"I remember refusing all orders. I was defiant. And, I was in trouble all the time it seemed."

"Why did you refuse to sit in your wheelchair?"

Ben shrugged as he responded, "I didn't want to listen to anyone."

"There is something deeper going on than that."

Ben watched his former self grip the bar tightly still standing in one spot. He was refusing to back down no matter how much pain he was in.

"I was standing up for what I thought was right. But, I don't know. My judgment was clouded by pain."

"And grief," chimed in Nelson.

Ben stared at his former self. His dark eyes were dark with hardness he had never seen.

"I looked a mess," muttered Ben.

"You had a lot going on Gray."

Ben looked around the room with a shaky breath. He felt his hand tighten to a fist.

"So was everyone else."

Nelson stood in front of him with fierce eyes as he said with a steady tone, "What are you talking about Gray?"

"I couldn't fucking deal with anything but everyone else could," snapped Ben as he motioned to the others around him.

"No one went through what you did. No one can say if they were in your shoes they could have handled it better because they aren't you. Do you not remember the ones that did struggle?"

Ben's eyes widened. He remembered all too well.

"Don't worry. We have a few more things to see here first before we move on."

Everything started to fast forward again until he saw himself on the blue cushion table. He was staring aimlessly at the wall. A therapist walked over to him encouraging him to stand up to work on walking. He watched as his eyes grew darker with pain as he stood up, careful not to put any weight on what was left of his leg. As he hobbled to the rails, Ben cringed watching. He remembered the pain that was unbearable. The pain that would make his stomach become sick. It would make his whole body become rigid trying to hold on to the little sanity he had left. It would leave him groaning in his room at night and sometimes screaming in agony.

"Gray."

Ben blinked a few times and looked at Nelson. His blue eyes were staring at him with worry.

"Welcome back. You were dissociating."

"Sorry," mumbled Ben as he glanced back at his former self.

As he suspected, he watched himself grip the bars tightly with a face full of anger and pain. Ben winced watching himself put more weight on his healing leg. He turned to the nurse and barked at her as she pushed him slightly. He pulled back his arm and pulled his head forward to yell in her face but the pain in his leg from the lack of support stopped him short. He cried out in pain gripped the railing.

"I can't watch anymore of this."

"Why not?"

Ben snapped his head towards Nelson and pointed at his former self as he raised his voice, "I can't fucking stand the damn pain! I don't want to see it anymore."

"Why can't you stand the pain," asked Nelson calmly.

"It hurts."

"Besides the physical hurt. What else?"

Ben took a deep breath in trying to clear his senses. He closed his eyes and thought quickly.

"Why does the pain make you so angry?" urged Nelson.

"It's everything I hate. It's the war. It's what happened to me. It holds me back. It labeled me as 'broken'. The pain is always too fucking much to handle. I can't stand it."

Nelson smirked as Ben continued to heave thinking about it.

"It's the reason why you hate the hospital."

"I hate it for other things too," argued Ben.

"Pain is what everyone experienced in the hospital. Everything that triggered you about hospitals is related to pain. All your physical pain and grief. All the pain you witnessed. All the stories you heard from other wounded soldiers. And, the pain that some couldn't handle anymore."

Ben felt as if something clicked in place. That was exactly how he felt. He looked around for the first time able to look at the scene around him. The only female in the room was huffing in pain while laying on her back. He watched her angrily speak to the therapist who was putting her through more pain. Another soldier was cringing from the pain his prosthetic was causing him. All his memories were pain when it came to the hospital. He wasn't the only one.

"The hospital is a place for healing. For you, it was torture. Rightfully so."

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